New Book Review: Bite the Bullet by Jim Woods

I could have given this 5-stars without feeling guilty about overpraising it.

However, I think too many look at a new book review with a 5-star rating as BS; and, therefore, do not read the review. Usually, when a first-time novel gets a 5-star rating, it is from friends or family. So, here’s my 4-star rating.

I was pleasantly surprised with Jim Woods’ first novel. I have read many of Jim’s articles on Medium, and although I found his writing inspiring and well-written, I have often read books by Medium writers who can’t pull it all together to make a splash with a book. It isn’t easy.

However, Jim’s dialogue was genuinely realistic. BTW, if you have an aversion to the F-word, you’d better pick another book. Think about it; this is a story about a Chicago drug enforcement officer. Of course, he is going to cuss like a drunken sailor’s parrot. I think that was one of the things that made it realistic but far from everything.

You know how you read someone’s first novel and think to yourself, would anyone really say that? That doesn’t happen with Bite the Bullet.

New Book Review Recommendation

There is a lot of dialogue between the cops primarily because Malone is a supervisor (Sergeant), so he directs these law enforcers where to go and what to do when they get there.

His first paragraph pulls you into Sergeant Malone’s world of drugs, informants, blood, and gore.

Sergeant Ryan Malone wanted to scream when reading the headline of the Chicago Sun-Times: ‘$500,000 in Heroin Confiscated.’ He scowled as he cursed under his breath…”

The story is gripping and down-to-earth. Malone is struggling to keep it together by using booze as a crutch. He is separated from his wife and son, but now the Cartel and street gangs are trying to separate him from his squad by killing them off one by one.

If you enjoy a good police drama, this is one you will gobble up in one sitting. I can’t wait for another.

This new book review was first published on Goodreads.

Read my other book reviews here.

Noon in Florida: My Short Fiction Review

Amazon Cover
Noon in Florida and Other Short Short Stories

Noon in Florida and Other Short-Short Stories by Jim Latham

Noon in Florida is your chance to get some of Jim Latham’s best short fiction all in one place. This is my short fiction review of his work.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This is my short fiction review of Jim Latham’s short stories. If you are a Medium subscriber, whether you read or write there, you have likely read some of Jim Latham’s short stories. Noon in Florida is your chance to get some of his best short fiction all in one place.

Short Fiction Review – Summary

Jim puts a dozen of his best stories in this collection. If you’re one of those, like me, who likes to read a short story or two before bed or takes a book to the restroom, it almost seems like this was written for one of those purposes.

Short Fiction Review – Setting

The setting changes from story to story, as does the genre and plot.

A Snapshot of Each Story

#1 — Keeping Time
Jim opens with a tale that looks at the death of a loved one. Although we know they will no longer be in pain, we also know that we can no longer hug them or hear their advice. All we’ll have is memories.

My favorite line is, “I put my hand on Dad’s wrist. His pulse feels like moth wings beating against my fingers.”

#2 — Mermaid Palms
Mermaid Palms is an imaginative tale connecting mermaids and palm trees.

#3 — Why I Don’t Like Neapolitan Ice Cream
A trip to Kroger triggers a painful memory.

#4 — Dog Saves Man
This is a cute little tale of aborted suicide, not that there’s anything cute about suicide.

#5 — Your Mom and Dad Are Trying to Save Kittles
A super short-short about a cat’s surgery.

#6 — Nothing Besides Good Milk
Evidence isn’t always what we expect it is. Some things are easier figured out if you know the person better.

#7 — Hammer and Nails
Did you ever do something really stupid when you were drunk? Silly question, right? That’s what drunks do.

#8 — Greener Pastures
Can’t you just picture this? I know I can. “The dog looks at me side-eyed while I fix myself another gin and tonic. I’m skipping the lime, and as a Jack Russell Terrier, she’s got standards.”

#9 — To Help Someone
Thinking about someone special?

#10 — Biscuits and Sun Shower
Biscuits and Sun Shower is about strange or odd sayings for natural yet slightly rare occurrences, like sun showers.

#11 — Bacon Sandwiches
When all you have is memories, your favorite sandwich, and a window to watch the world go by.

#12 — Noon in Florida
It is a good story about a smart little girl, a dumb father, a hard-working mother, and a tip.


From one to noon, these are all excellent stories. However, I consider Jim a friend, and he gifted me a copy of his book, which did not affect my review. What do you want for $.99? You probably can’t get a decent bacon sandwich for that.

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Courtroom Drama Book Review: A Time for Mercy by John Grisham

A Time for Mercy is book number three about the Clanton, MS attorney who John Grisham introduced us to in A Time to Kill in 1989.

A picture of Matthew McConaughey reading the subject of my courtroom drama book review of A Time for Mercy.

This is my courtroom drama book review of an immensely popular book that became a box office smash in 1996 starring Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson, Kevin Spacey, and Ashley Judd.

A Time to Kill starts right off with the rape and attempted murder of a ten-year-old black girl and quickly escalates to the vengeful, vigilante-style killing of the two white men charged with the crimes by the girl’s father, Carl Lee.

In 2013, Grisham took us back to Clanton in Ford County, MS, with Sycamore Row. The first thing he did in that book was suicide Jake’s client.

You can read my courtroom drama book review of Sycamore Row here.

What a way to reintroduce us to Jake and Carla Brigance, Lucien, Harry Rex, Judge Atlee and Noose, Carl Lee, Sheriff Ozzie Walls, and so many more that we hadn’t realized we missed.

In several other books through the years, he let us walk the streets of Clanton. He says, “I’ve written so much about Ford County that I can’t remember all of it.” I believe that. I know I’ve read most of these, and I continue to want more.

I read The Last Juror, The Chamber, The Summons, The Reckoning (although The Reckoning is more of a fictional history), and a collection of seven short stories about Ford County.    

In his epilogue, Mr. Grisham tells us, “As a young attorney so many years ago I was bound to follow them to the letter of the law. Now, as a writer of fiction, I feel no such bondage. Here, as before, I have changed laws, twisted them, even fabricated them, all in an effort to drive the narrative.”

I think we can all agree; he does drive the narrative.

An Introduction

Once again, the author wastes no time getting to the meat of the story. Drew Gamble, a meek 16-year-old boy, believes the drunken deputy who repeatedly beats on him, his sister, and his mother has finally killed his mother after breaking her jaw and leaving her lying in her own blood.

The deputy passes out on his bed, leaving his service revolver on the stand beside the bed. Thinking the deputy might wake up and kill him and his sister, he uses the lawman’s own gun to shoot him in the head, calls 9-1-1, and sits with his sister waiting for the police.

Kiera, his sister, cradles their mother’s head in her lap, all the time thinking she is dead or dying.

The Protagonist in This Courtroom Drama Book Review

The protagonist is Jake Brigance, the attorney who freed Carl Lee. The townsfolk in Clanton want a speedy trial, and most want the death penalty for Drew Gamble. However, Jake, the duly appointed public defender, who wants nothing to do with the trial, is “forced” to take it.

Well, technically not forced, he could turn it down, but a well-respected Judge up for re-election appoints him, saying, “The situation can get dicey and needs a steady hand. I trust you, Jake, and that’s why I’m asking you to step in.” He digs in and quickly discovers there is more to the case than meets the public eye. 

The Plot

Once again, the hero of A Time to Kill, Jake Brigance, is the court-appointed public defender of Drew Gamble. Jake must do what he does best, defend an indefensible client, and keep him from meeting the death penalty.

Jake puts his financial freedom, legal career, and family’s safety on the line to defend a kid being tried for first-degree murder as an adult. Jake is the one person between this kid and a lethal injection.

Many of the townspeople still think Jake Brigance pulled some underhanded tricks to get Carl Lee cleared of killing the two white men in A Time to Kill. This story is only five years after that trial in book years, even though it has been 31 actual years.

Like it or not, this is still Clanton, Mississippi, in the deep south. Black men are not supposed to get away with killing white men, regardless of their crime.

The Characters in This Courtroom Drama Book Review

Of course, Jake and Carla Brigance, the Gamble family, Drew, his mother, and sister, Kiera, are the central figures.

Other people you need to know about are Jake’s intern, Portia, Harry Rex, Lucien, Judge Noose and Atlee, the DA, and his team of prosecutors.

The deputy’s vengeful family is not happy with Jake trying to defend the kid and question every move he makes. When Jake orders a mental evaluation because the kid isn’t eating, the family thinks he will try to get him off on an insanity defense. 

There are also Sheriff Ozzie Walls, his deputies who aren’t exactly happy with Jake defending their fellow law enforcement officer.

John Grisham has the extraordinary ability to develop believable characters. You will feel as if you know each one personally.

The Summary & Recommendation

If you’re waiting for a fast-paced courtroom drama and murder trial, this is not it. This is a time for mercy! Grisham takes us through all the background information, research, and technicalities that we would find boring if told to us by anybody but him.

“Bursting with all the courthouse scheming, small-town intrigue, and stunning plot twists that have become the hallmarks of the master of the legal thriller, A Time for Mercy is John Grisham’s most powerful courtroom drama yet.” —Amazon

You might be disappointed that there is no last-minute crucial witness that comes running in to save the kid from the death penalty. But you enjoy a well-written courtroom drama that only Grisham could make interesting and suspenseful.

A Time for Mercy is a must-read for all Grisham and Brigance fans.

Twenty-one thousand, eight hundred and four verified buyers who reviewed A Time for Mercy, 91 percent gave it four or five stars, and an overall rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars. The NY Times calls it “riveting” and “suspenseful.”

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Best Damn Book Ever: A Review – Where the Crawdads Sing

Where the Crawdads Sing was an excellent read. The following is my no-spoiler, well
very few, reviews of the best damn book I’ve read since The Notebook.

An Introduction of the Best Damn Book

I had never read anything by the author before, but I was hooked right away. Several people had recommended the book to me, and when I looked for it on Amazon for my Kindle, I was astounded to see that it had nearly 70,000 reviews.
As of 2 September, that number is 73,063.

What’s more, 95 percent of those who left a review gave it four or five stars. That is freaking amazing. Very few books have those kinds of numbers.

Kya is the “Marsh Girl” who raises herself and learns to be self-reliant until a fisher boy,
Tate teaches her to read and a lot more. Eventually, she is charged with murder.
If nothing else, this is a story of survival—a story about a girl who provided for herself from seven onward.

The Protagonist

The protagonist is the “Marsh Girl,” Catherine Danielle Clark, or Kya to her friends.
Actually, Kya has very few human friends. She is more familiar with the gulls and heron than most other humans.

The Plot

Where the Crawdads Sing is a story about a young girl left to grow up pretty much on
her own from age seven after her mother and four older brothers and sister leave her
with her drunk and abusive father, who also leaves eventually.

He never stayed long anyway, but he did leave her a little money some Mondays when he was there to get some supplies. He liked to gamble and drink, so there never was
much money anyway.

The Characters in this Best Damn Book

The list of characters in Delia Owen’s masterpiece is short. Tate is the boy she sees fishing one day when she got lost in her Pa’s boat. He shows her how to get home. She sees him around the marsh a lot but usually just watches from a hiding place.

The story goes back and forth somewhat, linking background stories, but don’t worry;
you won’t get lost.

Kya’s older sister and two brothers leave, then her mom leaves too. All of them at one time or another got a beating from her Pa, a disabled Veteran, who most often pities himself and tries to find solace in the bottom of a bottle. When Jodie, her next older
brother, leaves, she and her Pa, who comes and goes, are all that’s left in the shack.

Eventually, Tate learns that she does not know how to read and teaches her. They spend a lot of time together, but Tate’s dad advised him to be careful and not get her pregnant, or it could ruin his future. Thinks cool between the two later when he goes off to college.

Once the relationship between her and Tate cools for a while, she meets the football player, rich kid, Chase Andrews. He toys with her affections, betrays her, tries to rape
her, and winds up dead.

Of course, the sheriff jumps to the conclusion that the “Marsh Girl” did it and arrested her for the murder, even though she has an alibi. She was in Greenville, hours away,
meeting her agent and publisher. Her only mode of transportation by bus leaves a
very narrow window of opportunity.

Besides Kya, Tate, and Chase, there’s Jumpin’, who runs the boat gas station (mariner
and convenience store for the fishermen) and his wife, Mabel.

Jumpin’ is the closest thing to a father she ever had, except for a few short months when her real Pa tried to act civil and took her fishing and out to lunch once or twice.
Then he fell off the wagon again. Kya says, “Jumpin’ has been my best friend, for years, my only friend. My only friend unless you count heron gulls.”

Mabel helped her when she became a woman and had no idea what was happening.
Mabel, a “colored woman,” gets her friends to help gather some things for Kya. They say it is in exchange for the smoked fish, but the fish really aren’t that good. Not good enough to sell anyway.

The murder trial has many twists and turns, and it nearly kills Kya to be out of the
marsh, away from the birds and wildlife.

The Summary & Recommendation of the Best Damn Book

You will love this book. The “Marsh Girl” grew up to be an intelligent and successful author. It’s kind of like a John Grisham courtroom drama, a ‎Nicholas Sparks love story,
and a Tara Westover success story rolled into one.

As I read this book, I laughed and I cried, mostly the latter. I shook my head, and I
cursed, but I couldn’t put it down. Even with writing deadlines looming, I plowed on,
looking for resolution, hoping for the best for this girl who had faced so much.

“I can’t even express how much I love this book! I didn’t want this story to end!”
Reese Witherspoon

So you see, even Reese Witherspoon thinks it’s the best damn book!

In case you’re wondering, the movie will be produced by none other than Reese
Witherspoon and Lauren Levy Neustadter, and Olivia Newman will direct it, but no
casting details have been announced.

As of July 2020, the book has sold over seven million copies worldwide.

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Fall of an Angel by Billy Leland Review

The Fall of an AngelThe Fall of an Angel by Billy Leland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fall of an Angel by Billy Leland
I love reviewing nonfiction books because there are no spoilers. Almost everyone that knows Billy, knows what happened to Billy. In this book, you will find out why. Billy has a lot to say regarding how law enforcement, lawyers, and the DA can use — and misuse — the guilty’s deposition to persecute and indict a person of “conspiracy.” Compared to the others the DA made deals with after being caught in the act, what made Billy’s case more critical? What crime did he commit than those who were caught in the act and ratted him out did not commit? Was he just a convenient scapegoat who was supposed to lead them to the demise of the Hell’s Angels and other biker clubs in Maine? Or, was he a political stepping stone for some members of the prosecution?
Don’t get me wrong; Billy accepts guilt for what he did wrong. However, nothing ever got proven by the State. In Billy’s case, there was no “smoking gun.” Billy never got caught with any drugs in his possession; there was never a urinalysis that proved Billy was a user, no hard evidence that he was a dealer. Just the testimony of people who were supposedly Billy’s friends and confidants. Most of that testimony is hearsay. He said, she said, which is not admissible!
I wish I had a dollar for everyone that said in their deposition words to the effect of, “Tony told me…” “Missy said…” “Billy was the biggest meth dealer on the East Coast.” Or, the prosecutor leads them in the direction they want them to go or say what he wants the Grand Jury to hear.
What’s more, he was kept in prison for nearly two years without a shred of evidence — denied bail because of his “risk of flight,” even though Maine has always been his home.

Our Friendship
Billy and I were good friends in high school. We were on the swim team together and did some crazy shit. It is a time I will always remember. Lee and Shirley, and Billy’s brothers and sister were like family to me that one year we hung around together before joining the Army under the buddy system.
One thing I learned while reading the book, was that Billy and I both lived on Kellogg Street in Portland, ME. Though, we must have lived in Portland five or more years apart. I lived there when I was 12 or 13, and Billy must have been younger. Another coincidence about that is one of my best friends in Portland, was Paul, a 350-pound lobster fisherman who was a member of the Hell’s Angels. One of the kindest, most gentle people I ever met.
It seems I fought every single day I lived there. Munjoy Hill was a tough neighborhood, and although I was small, I never backed down. Billy and I participated in a few fights in high school too.

Guilty Until Proven Innocent
The only way they even got a confession from Billy was to offer a ten-year sentence and a promise not to arrest his son on similar charges. How is that even legal? Shouldn’t everyone they have evidence of committing a crime get arrested and have their day in court. Evidently not, “guilty until proven innocent” seems more our injustice system’s mantra.
Most of those “friends” who made deals with the prosecution only did it to either get time off or “time served” for their sins didn’t even know Billy personally. Crimes they were caught red-handed committing, some were even sanctioned by law enforcement. How is it OK for law enforcement to allow someone to keep selling drugs, hurting people, selling their bodies, and entrapping others who might not even be a criminal if not for the State’s tampering.

“Conspiracy” the Catch-All
Conspiracy is the term the Federal government uses to put anyone they want in prison, with or without physical evidence. This book is an eye-opener for those who believe in the American “Justice” System. The DA got Billy to plead guilty and accept a 10-year sentence. Instead, he got a 21-year sentence and five years of probation.
You did know that the prosecution can use “hearsay” in a deposition (sworn, written and recorded testimony), particularly when the defense lawyer is not even present. When there is no defense lawyer present, the prosecution can use whatever “coaching” method they need to get the attestor to remember what the DA needs them to remember, true or false does not matter if it supports the State’s case. Who will object? Chances are your worthless lawyer is laughing all the way to the bank with your money and won’t have time to sit through hours of depositions. What can you do?
I’m not trying to rewrite Billy’s book because he did an excellent job of doing that. I am merely trying to convince you it is worth reading and you will enjoy it as I did.

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