Archive for the ‘3 Star Books’ Category

Black Sugar


Black Sugar by Miguel Bonnefoy & Emily Boyce (Translation)

A prize-winning author’s magical realist fable about greed and corruption in Venezuela, Black Sugar gives a fascinating view of the country’s social and economic development throughout the twentieth century through the story of a family of sugarcane growers. It tells of buried treasure and the legendary privateer Henry Morgan.

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 Miguel Bonnefoy

Author’s Bio

Miguel Bonnefoy was born in France in 1986 to a Venezuelan mother and a Chilean father. In 2013, he was awarded the Prix du Jeune Ecrivain, which has previously helped to launch the careers of writers such as Marie Darrieussecq. Octavio’s Journey is Bonnefoy’s first novel, written in French.

My Review

3 stars

This story starts with a bang as we follow along as Captain Morgan dies clutching his gold. Three hundred years later, on top of the sunken ship, we meet the Oteros and their sugar cane farm. There we follow along as the family works the farm along with searches for the treasure.

This story is about the hunt for the golden treasure along with the treasure of family and love. Serena Otero is the heir to the family sugar cane farm but dreams of being swept off her feet. When Severo Bracamonte offers to help Serena’s family, she thinks he is going to be her prince charming. Serena is sorely disappointed in Severo while all he wants is the treasure. But a discovery brings them closer and they find that there is more treasure than just gold and emeralds.

I was quickly drawn into this story with Henry Morgan and the crash of his ship. But then we transition to modern day and the action comes to a screeching halt. From there it is a good story of love but I hate to admit that I wanted to get back to the action, adventure, and treasure hunting. I was also not expecting the ending but it did wrap everything up.

I loved the cover and the beginning but the pace of this book threw me off. I think it will appeal to many people. It was a good read but not really one that I would normally read.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. I voluntarily chose to read and post an honest review.

I would like to thank MZPR for the opportunity to review and share this book.


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The Black Painting


The Black Painting by Neil Olson

An old-money East Coast family faces the suspicious death of its patriarch and the unsolved theft of a Goya painting rumored to be cursed.

There were four cousins in the Morse family: perfect Kenny, the preppy West Coast lawyer; James, the shy but brilliant medical student; his seductive, hard-drinking sister Audrey; and Teresa, youngest and most fragile, haunted by the fear that she has inherited the madness that possessed her father.

Their grandfather summons them to his mansion at Owl’s Point. None of them has visited the family estate since they were children, when a prized painting disappeared: a self-portrait by Goya, rumored to cause madness or death upon viewing. Afterward, the family split apart amid the accusations and suspicions that followed its theft.

Any hope that their grandfather planned to make amends evaporates when Teresa arrives to find the old man dead, his horrified gaze pinned upon the spot where the painting once hung. As the family gathers and suspicions mount, Teresa hopes to find the reasons behind her grandfather’s death and the painting’s loss. But to do so she must uncover ugly family secrets and confront those who would keep them hidden.

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Neil Olson 

Author’s Bio

Neil Olson is the author of THE ICON, a novel of art theft and family intrigue, and the play DEALERS. His second novel, THE BLACK PAINTING, concerning the unsolved theft of a haunted self-portrait by Goya, will be published in January 2018. He lives in New York City with his wife and cat, and works in the publishing industry.

My Review

3 stars

Fifteen years ago the Morse cousins left the family estate after the thief of a cursed Goya painting disappears. The cousins has been summoned back to Owl’s Point. But when Teresa arrives she finds her grandfather dead. It looks like a murder and out of the four cousins, Teresa is the one that is going to find out what happened to both her grandfather and the painting.

But this is one messed up family. Kenny, James, and Audrey have a load of issues and Teresa has a medical condition that she is worried that she has inherited. She seems to be the most honest out of the bunch but she can be unreliable. It seems money is the key factor in both the robbery and murder but the question is who did it and why.

This story reminds me of a gothic mystery. Its dark, dreary, you have money grubbers, mental illness, and a cursed family and painting. There were several characters to keep track of but I found that I didn’t really get to know enough of any of them to really care what was happening to them. But morbid curiosity did have me finishing to book to find out who was the killer/thief.

This is not a bad story, just one that didn’t really draw me in. I think it will be one that you will either like or not.

I received The Black Painting from Harper Collins for free. This has in no way influenced my opinion of this book.

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Close to Me


Close to Me by Amanda Reynolds

Close To Me is a gripping debut psychological drama that will appeal to fans of Liane Moriarty’s bestselling The Husband’s Secret, Clare Mackintosh’s I Let You Go, and Linda Green’s While My Eyes Were Closed.

She can’t remember the last year. Her husband wants to keep it that way.

When Jo Harding falls down the stairs at home, she wakes up in hospital with partial amnesia-she’s lost a whole year of memories. A lot can happen in a year. Was Jo having an affair? Lying to her family? Starting a new life?

She can’t remember what she did-or what happened the night she fell. But she’s beginning to realise she might not be as good a wife and mother as she thought.

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 Amanda  Reynolds

Author’s Bio

Amanda Reynolds is an author and creative writing tutor. Her debut novel, published 2017 by Wildfire (a new imprint of Headline) as their first fiction title, is Close To Me.

Close To Me will also be published in the US, Russia, France and Italy and has been optioned for TV.

Amanda lives in the Cotswolds with her family and two very furry dogs.

She has worked as a goat milker, a teaching assistant and a sales trainer. More recently she was the book reviewer for The Cheltonian and taught regular creative writing classes and workshops.

She now writes full-time, taking a sabbatical from teaching to write her second book, due out in 2018.

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My Review

3 Stars

Jo Harding wakes up in the hospital and learns that she can’t remember the last year of her life. He husband, Rob tells her that she fell down the stairs but something seems strange to her. When she asks Rob or her children about events they are evasive in their answers. But the more Jo digs into the last year the more she learns that things were not as wonderful as she thought.

There are two timelines to this story. We follow along with Jo as she tries to remember the last year of her life. You are kept questing at what happened along with Jo as she keeps going in circles to figure out what happened. We also go through events prior to the injury and learn that this family is messed up, has secrets, and is nowhere near the great family they are trying to be.

I had a hard time with this story. I didn’t like any of the characters, it felt like Jo just kept going around and around and around with the same stuff, and the family drama did nothing for me. Now, just because I didn’t like the story doesn’t mean that it won’t appeal to someone. If you like the stories with family drama, spoiled kids, and infidelity I think you may find this a great story.

As for me, even the mystery portion was not enough to keep me interested. I think this is one of those books that will be either you like it or you don’t. Definitely give it a try, Amanda Reynolds may be your new favorite author.

I received Close to Me from Quercus for free. This has in no way influenced my opinion of this book.

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The Devils You Know


The Devils You Know by MC Atwood

Plenty of legends surround the infamous Boulder House in Whispering Bluffs, Wisconsin, but nobody takes them seriously. Certainly nobody believes that the original owner, Maxwell Cartwright Jr., cursed its construction—or that a murder of crows died upon its completion, their carcasses turning the land black. If anyone did believe it all, there’s no way River Red High would offer a field trip there for the senior class.

Five very different seniors on the trip—Violet, Paul, Ashley, Dylan, and Gretchen—have reasons beyond school spirit for not ditching the trip. When they’re separated from the group, they discover that what lies within Boulder House is far more horrifying than any local folklore. To survive, they’ll have to band together in ways they never could have imagined and ultimately confront the truths of their darkest selves.

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Praise for The Devils You Know

The Devils You Know is a must-read for fans of adventure horror. With plenty of creep and plenty of humor, plus some wicked origin lore, Atwood has crafted the perfect demonic fun-house ride. When can I go again?”

—Kendare Blake, New York Times bestselling author of Three Dark Crowns


“Creepy dolls? Check. Shameful secrets? Check. A sinister old house with a mind of its own? Check. I could keep listing The Devils You Know‘s enticing attributes all day long—ooh, can’t forget suspense, compassion, and deliciously wicked humor—but at some point you’ll just have to ignore me, pick up the book, and start reading. And once you do? Ha! Atwood’s got you. You’re trapped; you can’t escape. Or, I should say, you won’t want to.”

—Christine Heppermann, author of Poisoned Apples and Ask Me How I Got Here


“With The Devils You Know, M.C. Atwood proves to be a master at plotting insidious twists and turns—a Breakfast Club horror for the 21st century, albeit one best savored during daylight hours.”

—S.A. Bodeen, author of The Garden and The Compound


Author’s Bio

M.C. Atwood is a creative writing professor at Rowan University in New Jersey. She has been an active member of the kidlit community since 2000, speaking at conferences, leading writing workshops, and emceeing events whenever she can. She is a bona fide cat addict and a lover of all things horror. The Devils You Know is her first novel.


My Review

3 stars

The Boulder House in Whispering Bluffs, Wisconsin has a history of bad things, a curse, a death of a ton of crows, and many other creepy factors. But no one really believes them this why we find a bunch of teenagers on a field trip to the house to check out all the historical items that have been collected in it. This is the story of Violet, Paul, Ashley, Dylan, and Gretchen, all are teenagers from the different clicks in school that find themselves fighting together to keep from becoming one of the collections in the house.

You have five teenagers that are almost complete opposites with their own secrets and selfish desires. On the field trip they find themselves being targeted by the house and have to run for their lives. Like typical teenagers they are very drawn into themselves and their lives, what teenager is not, along with how popular they are and what others think of them. So, there were a couple I enjoyed reading about and others that drove me up the wall. But their interactions for the most part felt pretty basic for a horror story.

Now the story was pretty good but it seemed all the kids did was run and run and run some more. There were some startling spots but nothing that really scared the pants off me. This is a first book from MC Atwood and I think it was a good start. There is room for improvement and I will be keeping my eye out for future books from her.

I received The Devils You Know from Soho Press for free. This has in no way influenced my opinion of this book.

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The Atwelle Confession


The Atwelle Confession by Joel Gordonson

After discovering rare gargoyles mysteriously positioned inside an ancient church being restored in the small English town of Atwelle, the architect Don Whitby and a young research historian Margeaux Wood realize that the gargoyles are predicting the bizarre murders that are occurring in the town. Five hundred years earlier when the church is being built, two powerful families in Atwelle are contesting control of the region in the delicate backdrop of King Henry VIII’s dispute with the Pope over the King’s divorce. In the middle of these conflicts, the same bizarre murders are being committed in the town. Two stories of identical macabre murders five hundred years apart ─ One surprising solution in the mystery of the gargoyles and the Atwelle Confession.

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Author’s Bio

Joel Gordonson is the author of The Atwelle Confession (On Sale September 19, 2017) and That Boy from Nazareth: The Coming of Age of Jesus of Nazareth. Along with being a novelist, he is a successful international attorney. With law degrees in the United States and from the University of Cambridge, he has published scholarly works in legal publications while writing fiction on the side. In addition to writing, he has done extensive public speaking including decades of appellate arguments, seminars, speeches, and media appearances. “Home” is divided between the Pacific Northwest and Southern California.


My Review

3 Stars

Margeaux Wood is researching the Atwelle Church and Don Whitby is the one restoring it. They get talking about the history of the church and how it relates to King Henry and his argument with the Pope. While exploring the church Margeaux and Don discover some gargoyles in the inside of the roof. It seems that people are being murdered in the area in the same sequence as the gargoyles holding the heads.

At the same time we follow along as King Henry VIII’s is fighting the Pope over his divorce. We witness the balance we have has he decides what could happen with his breaking with the church. As we read about 1532, we learn that there are murders happening in the same sequence as the gargoyles too.

This was an interesting story. I don’t really know much about Henry VIII so I did enjoy learning about that. I think the mystery was well executed and I did not expect the killer at the end of the book so that was a plus. The story did start out a little slow but did pick up the pace. I just had a tough time with the dialog. It seemed rough, the interactions between the characters seems forced. I think this is what made the book tougher to read.

But I did like the story. It looks like this is Joel Gordonson’s second book so I do see things flowing better from here. I am interested in reading other books from Mr. Gordonson.

I received The Atwelle Confession from FSB Associates for free. This has in no way influenced my opinion of this book.

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Aphra Behn: A Secret Life

The Secret Life of Aphra Behn by Janet Todd

Aphra Behn (1640-1689), poet, playwright, novelist, traveller and spy, was the first woman to earn her living as a writer. This biography uses recently-discovered documents in England and the Netherlands to unmask this elusive author whose works include The Rover, The Fair Jilt, Love Letters Between a Nobleman and his Sister, and The Forc’d Marriage.

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 Janet Todd

Author’s Bio

Janet Margaret Todd is a Welsh-born academic and a well-respected author of many books on women in literature. Todd was educated at Cambridge University and the University of Florida, where she undertook a doctorate on the poet John Clare.

She is currently the Herbert JC Grierson Professor of English Literature at the University of Aberdeen. On 1 September 2008, Professor Todd took up the post of President of Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge. She is the seventh President of the college.

Janet Todd’s research concerns literature and culture of the Restoration and eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Over a long career, primarily in the US and the UK at Cambridge University, University of East Anglia, Glasgow University and University of Aberdeen, she has published and contributed to more than 38 books, mainly on women’s writing, cultural history and the development of fiction. She also edited full scale editions of Mary Wollstonecraft (with Marilyn Butler) and Aphra Behn, as well as individual works of women such as Helen Maria Williams, Mary Shelley, Mary Carleton and Eliza Fenwick.

She is the General Editor of the nine-volume The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Jane Austen, editing the volume Jane Austen in Context and co-editing Persuasion and Later Manuscripts.


My Review

3 Stars

Aphra Behn is the first woman to make her living as a writer of plays during the Restoration period. But the knowledge of her is very limited because over her years she had many versions of herself that she told from her parents, her name, and such. Janet Todd has done a great job of filling in the possibilities of Aphra’s life from what is known. But with intense review of her work, Janet Todd has done a great job of putting together a story about Aphra.

Aphra was many things over her years and a study in complete opposites seemed to be the main thing. She wrote plays, translated books, was a spy, loved both men and women, and although she was famous she also wanted her privacy. But the thing I liked the best about her was that she didn’t knuckle down to the critics and the men that expected her to write a specific way just because she was a woman.

Janet Todd does break down Alpha’s plays but I’m sorry to admit that I don’t mind reading things but when you start analyzing them like a high school English class my mind shuts off. I did think this was a well written story of Aphra Behn and it introduced me to an author that I had never heard of before.

I received The Secret Life of Aphra Behn from the publisher for free. This has in no way influenced my opinion of this book.

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The Trial of Prisoner 043 by Terry Jastrow

What Would Happen If George W. Bush Were Prosecuted for War Crimes?

On a glorious autumn morning in St. Andrews, Scotland, former US president George W. Bush approached the first tee of the world-famous Old Course to play a round of golf he would not finish.

Unceremoniously abducted off the course by a team of paramilitary commandos, he was transported to the International Criminal Court in The Hague to stand trial for war crimes in connection with the Iraq War.

The ICC had spent one year accumulating sufficient evidence to indict George W. Bush as the single person most responsible for the war. Would he be found innocent or guilty, or would something happen to disrupt the pursuit of justice?

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Chapter One: The Abduction

 Excerpted from The Trial of Prisoner 043 by Terry Jastrow (Four Springs Press) © 2017 by Terry Jastrow

 The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.

—William Shakespeare

Early on a glorious September morning in St. Andrews, Scotland, former president of the United States George W. Bush approached the first tee of the world’s most famous golf course to play a round of golf he would not finish.

Assembled around the first tee were a few hundred local residents and a handful of members of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club. Known simply as the “R&A,” the club is the governing body and custodian of the rules for all golfing countries except the United States, which has its own governing body. The occasion was the annual driving-in ceremony of the newly elected captain of the R&A. Mr. Bush arrived at the first tee, scanned the Old Course, which had been the site of many historic championships, and began to mingle with the members.

Precisely at eight o’clock, the retiring captain preceded the new captain as they marched out of the R&A Clubhouse, down the ancient stone steps, and onto the first tee. In typically understated R&A fashion, nothing was said. The new captain took a few modest warm-up swings, addressed the ball, and hit a lovely tee shot down the middle of the fairway.

BOOM. At the precise moment of contact, an ancient cannon situated off the first tee was fired to mark the occasion. A few dozen local caddies scattered about the fairway scrambled for the ball as it careened down the fairway, until the winning caddie scooped it up, raised it over his head triumphantly to the jeering of his peers, and proudly strutted up to the first tee.

When the caddie arrived, the captain shook his hand in congratulations and, as was the custom, gave him a gold sovereign coin worth about two hundred pounds.

If it sounds unusual, it is. No other club has such a ceremony, and it has occurred in exactly the same way since 1863, when the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, “drove in” as captain.

The tee times following the driving-in ceremony are traditionally reserved for former prime ministers, presidents, or other visiting dignitaries. And so it was on this occasion that George W. Bush and two club members stepped onto the first tee and were greeted by R&A secretary Harold Maxwell. “Gentlemen. Mr. President. Good day to you all.”

“It’ll be a good day,” Bush said, shaking hands, “if I don’t make a fool of myself by chunking it into the Swilcan Burn on the first hole, or yanking it into the Road Bunker at seventeen.”

“I’m sure you’ll do just fine.”

“You’re more sure than I am.”

Secretary Maxwell chuckled. “We were very pleased to welcome your father here as a new member after he finished his presidency.”

“Yeah, he loved golf and he loved St. Andrews, that’s for sure.”

“There’s a little-known story about your father that says a lot about him as a man. In December of the year he played his first round at the Old Course, he sent his caddie a handwritten letter thanking him for making his experience in St. Andrews so special and wishing him a Merry Christmas. I do believe that was a first.”

“He must’ve been a good caddie.”

“Must have been.”

“Guessing you fellows don’t allow mulligans,” Bush said, looking out at the fairway.

“No mulligans, but we can offer a swallow of scotch if that will settle your nerves?”

“Not my nerves I got a problem with. It’s my damn golf swing. Forsakes me every time when I need it the most . . . like now!”

The secretary commented, “That’s just about the widest fairway in the world, so it shouldn’t present much of a problem. Enjoy.”

It would be fair to say every golfer in the world dreams of playing the Old Course at St. Andrews. Bush approached the ball, took his stance, and then nervously jerked the club away and swung. Mercifully, the ball curved only slightly to the right and came to rest in the fairway.

Bush smiled mischievously. “Not bad for a broken-down ol’ president. What’s the course record around here anyway?”

“In the Open Championship . . . sixty-three.”

“Sixty-three, hell! I will’ve hit it that many times by the twelfth hole,” Bush said as he winked at the secretary and stepped aside to allow his playing partners their turn.

From a position three hundred yards away on a public footpath that bordered the fairway, a middle-aged man of generic features lowered his binoculars and turned to saunter away, whistling as he went. As he reached up to scratch his nose, he spoke quietly into a microphone buried inside the sleeve of his sweater. “Blue sweater, white shirt, gray pants, black shoes, no hat.”

In a secluded wooded area two kilometers from the golf course, a nondescript brown van and midsize blue car were parked side by side. Huddled inside the van were eight British paramilitary commandos. Sitting inside the car were four more commandos. Six of the twelve were carrying assorted weaponry. Hearing the description of Bush’s wardrobe, the driver of the van keyed his radio and answered in a noticeably British accent, “Copy that. Cowboy Justice a go.” The drivers of the van and the car exchanged informal salutes, started their vehicles, and sped away.

Poised with engines running on the edge of a runway at the Rotterdam Airport, pilots strapped inside the cockpits of a Hawker 800XP and Learjet 85 received the same message and answered back in turn: “Cowboy Justice a go. Hawker 1 copy.”

“Learjet 1, copy that as well.”

The Hawker took off in an angry roar, followed quickly by the Learjet.

The most famous hole on the Old Course at St. Andrews is the seventeenth, commonly referred to as the Road Hole. The green sits hard by a cobblestone road, on the other side of which is a stone wall that for centuries has presented unusual and difficult challenges for golfers.

George Bush, midway through a Cuban cigar, and his caddie, Oliver Croft, stepped onto the seventeenth tee along with his playing partners and their caddies. Bush tossed his cigar to the ground and considered his options as Oliver offered a word of encouragement. “Nice and easy does it, sir.”

“Nice and easy? Not my strong suit,” Bush said before pushing his tee shot into the right rough. “More or less like Jack Nicklaus did it.”

“More ‘less’ than ‘more,’ I’m afraid, sir,” Oliver responded.

Bush picked up his cigar and headed down the fairway, saying, “Let’s go see if we can birdie this bad boy.”

As Bush made his way along the seventeenth fairway, the brown van and blue car pulled into the parking lot of the Jigger Inn, a famous St. Andrews watering hole located short and to the right of the seventeenth green.

Just as Bush arrived at his ball, the twelve British commandos poured out of their vehicles and precisely according to a well-crafted and rehearsed plan, sprinted straight for the former president, his playing partners, and their caddies.

Immediately realizing what was happening, Bush turned and ran for his life. The much faster commandos quickly tackled him to the ground. With the former president lying facedown on the turf, one commando lifted his head back allowing a second commando to put a cloth soaked with diethyl ether over his mouth and nose to both mute and anesthetize him. Two other commandos strapped a leather belt around his ankles, slapped handcuffs on his wrists, and slipped a hood over his head. Once Bush was unconscious, gagged, shackled, cuffed, and hooded, the commandos carefully lifted him and carried him away.

Simultaneously and similarly, five commandos contained Bush’s caddie, his playing partners, and their caddies.

Immediately upon seeing the attack, three distinctly American-looking men dressed in Scottish golf attire rushed to Bush’s aid. Expecting Secret Service protection for the former president, the remaining commandos fired stun guns at the oncoming agents, who, one by one, stumbled and fell to the ground.

The commandos carrying Bush placed him in the back of the van and fled.

The entire series of events took less than six minutes and occurred with little commotion and hardly any noise. The stealth abduction of a former president of the United States from the world’s most famous golf course—against his will, in broad daylight—was a stark contrast to the peace and grandeur of this ancient town, the resting ground of Saint Andrew the Apostle.

Eventually, a few passing townspeople noticed the bound bodies strewn over the seventeenth fairway and rushed to help. Once Bush’s playing partners and the caddies were untethered, the lot of them raced up the eighteenth fairway waving their arms and yelling hysterically, “Help! Help!” “They abducted the president!” “Help, please, for the love of God!”

Author Bio

Terry Jastrow is a descendant of one of the pilgrims who arrived on the Mayflower and of American president John Adams. He was born in Colorado, grew up in Texas, and has lived his entire adult life in New York and California.

After graduating from college in 1970, Jastrow was hired by ABC Sports, and in December 1972, at age twenty-four, he became the youngest network television producer in history. He directed his first telecast in April 1974 and continued producing and directing at ABC Sports for twenty-two years. Jastrow was a producer/director of six Olympic Games, including the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, where he directed the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. He was a director of Super Bowl XIX and produced or directed sixty major golf championships and approximately fifty episodes of ABC’s Wide World of Sports. For his work in sports television, Jastrow won seven Emmy Awards (with seventeen nominations).

Next, he served as president of Jack Nicklaus Productions for twelve years. The company’s principal business was to create and televise entertaining events that ultimately generated over fifty million dollars for worthy charities.

Later, Jastrow studied acting at the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute in New York City, where he was invited to be in Mr. Strasberg’s Master Class. This led to an eventful few years as an actor, during which he did his share of theater, film, and television.

In 2015, Jastrow wrote, produced, and directed the feature film The Squeeze, which was released theatrically around the world and purchased by the Golf Channel for television. In 2016, he wrote a stage play, The Trial of Jane Fonda, which was produced at the Park Theatre in London and received a nomination for Best New Play (off West End).


My Review

3 stars

George W. Bush is out golfing on the Old Course when he is abducted and taken to The Hauge, Netherlands where he is brought in front of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges relating to his invasion of Iraq. But the deck is stacked against him with a prejudice counsel and with all the evidence it is not looking too good Bush.

This story is a great what if idea. What if Bush was held accountable for everything that happened when he invaded Iraq? Would he be found justified? Would he be sentenced? The possibilities are endless. It started out great. A former US president is out golfing when British special forces abducts him.

But then he is put on trial. Normal processes have been sped up and shortened and of course the opposing counsel is bias. But instead of having a top legal team represent him, Bush uses a family friend. What the heck?!? From there the story gets inundated with legal information, processes, etc.

This book was a great concept but got bogged down with the legal portion.

I received The Trial of Prisoner 043 from FBS Associates for free. This has in no way influenced my opinion of this book.

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