I’d just like to say right from the start that I won’t be discussing politics in this review. I know some people think this book is all about Trump, but it isn’t—by a LONG stretch (and no, that’s not a joke relating to Comey’s height of 6ft 8”). This book is about being true—to yourself and what you believe is right. It’s about loyalty and integrity, and how none of us get it right all the time. And it’s about consequences.
I bought this book because of my writing. As many of you will know, the White Rose series main characters of Warren and Beth are closed tied to the FBI and the organisation plays a large role in the stories. The highlight of my trip to the USA last year was standing outside the J Edgar Hoover building—the FBI Headquarters. The FBI has come to mean a great deal to me. The recent attacks and accusations directed at the FBI have left me conflicted (read my blog post on that here). Comey was the Director when I started writing and he would pop up in my social media feeds, and I grew to like and respect him—without really knowing too much about him, I’ll admit. Because of these factors, I was interested in what he had to say in the book.
James Comey only spent three years as Director of the FBI. He has previously worked as a lawyer, in the US Attorney’s Office in Southern New York, and became the Deputy Attorney General. During this time, he tried to prevent, or limit, the use of torture by US organisations, which is written about in the book. Unfortunately, his objections were overruled. He left the Department of Justice to work in the private sector until Barack Obama nominated him as the Director of the FBI in 2013.
The book takes us through Comey’s early days, telling the reader about the moments and people in his life who have inspired him, and those, who by their dishonesty and lack of integrity, have strengthened his resolve to do the opposite. He talks about family, the loss of his infant son, and his own dilemmas, faults, and bad decisions. This I found to be interesting—the book isn’t James Comey telling everyone how wonderful he is. It shows the good and the not-so-good. No one is perfect, and Comey is very open about this. His life experiences have guided him to be truthful and transparent, to act with consideration and within the law, to be an ethical leader.
When Comey commenced as Director of the FBI he laid out five expectations he had of all who worked there: to find joy in their work, treat everyone with dignity and respect, protect the ‘reservoir of trust’ (the goodwill and trust built up by those who have gone before), work hard, and fight for balance in their lives. He was concerned that the expectations of the job and the employees drive would lead them to work long hours and ignore what was important – the people they loved and who loved them. As a family man (he has five kids) he firmly believes in maintaining work/life balance.
The book is called ‘A Higher Loyalty’ which neatly sums up Comey’s attitude to his role with the FBI. The FBI is an independent organisation and has no political affiliations. It has to stay separate to protect the integrity of the work it does. He makes it clear that the Director of the FBI works for the USA, not for the President, and it is to the USA that he gave his loyalty, not the President. I would like to note here that Comey worked with the Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations, and his opinion didn’t vary for any of them. The chapters dealing with the 2016 election and the investigation into the Clinton emails really show the complexities of the job and the fallout that can come from making a hard, by right decision (don’t judge until you read it, please).
There is so much more in the book than what I have mentioned. Yes, there are detailed chapters on Trump, as there are on Hilary Clinton, the Martha Stewart case, dealing with the Mafia, and more. I learned a lot from this book and I know I will read it again so I don’t forget those lessons.
There is a quote from the book I would like to share:
“I don’t love criticism, but I know I can be wrong, even when I am certain I am right. Listening to others who disagree with me and are willing to criticise me is essential to piercing the seduction of certainty. Doubt, I’ve learned, is wisdom. And the older I get, the less I know for certain. Those leaders who never think they are wrong, who never question their judgements or perspectives, are a danger to the organisations and people they lead.”
A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership, by James Comey
What is ethical leadership? How do you do what is right instead of what is politically expedient? How do you maintain loyalty to the values of the institutions you have sworn to protect, the values you have dedicated your entire life to upholding, even if that loyalty comes at your own personal expense?
I recommend this book to anyone interested in ethics, leadership, learning from life’s lessons, and US politics through the eyes of lawyers and law enforcement. It is a book for reading and considering what is said, not politics.
What a couple of weeks it’s been. I’ve launched a book that also completed a series and enjoyed a blog tour with The Code (thanks to everyone who joined in!).
So, what happens next?
Good question. I went back and looked over the goals I set myself for 2018 to realise—with quite a bit of surprise—that I’ve already met them! I’ve sent The Code out into the world, Writing Roundup is going along nicely, and I’ve done a course on book cover design. Not what I expected to find.
In which case, what DOES happen next? Perhaps I should put more effort into my reading list. Or maybe I should write some short stories with a view to publishing the anthology I want to do. Perhaps I could take a break from writing (as if!). I have a book awaiting editing and one I’m working on as well that could be next. Or maybe start a new story? The more I think about it, the more possibilities come to mind.
I guess taking a break is off the list then, or at least a complete break. I do feel the need to step back a little and give myself some space. Launching The Code was more emotional than I anticipated, and I also worry that if I push myself I risk taking the fun out of writing. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about writing it’s that I need to do what feels right at the time. If I’m not writing from the heart, with excitement and joy, then it won’t work. I can push myself, and have done so in the past, but it doesn’t yield the best results (that translates to ‘requires a lot more editing’). It’s not worth it.
The conclusion? I’m going to take a few days to think and consider in an emotional way the options I have. One will stand out—one always does—and then I’ll be off writing again.
For those who missed out on the great posts that made up the book tour for The Code, here are the links, starting with a lovely review:
https://www.facebook.com/SJsBookBlog/May 6 (and on GoodReads - see below)
And the rest:
Yes, I know, another Jack Reacher thriller. For those of you who are fans, you might jump for joy to see it, but those who don’t enjoy the full-on fighting and violence in some of the Reacher books, it might be worth giving this thriller a try.
The story has one of my favourite type of plot lines. It starts with something small—a little event that could easily be nothing. Then step by step it escalates into so much more. A personal mission to restore a ring to its owner becomes something involving an ex-FBI agent, military veterans, and government agencies. I take my metaphorical hat off to Lee Child—this story is excellent. It has the thriller elements, but it goes deeper than that this time and shows more of the humanity of Jack. Not to mention it has some fantastic humour, too. This is now one of my favourite Reacher books.
The Midnight Line - Blurb
A bad day. For someone.
Jack Reacher takes an aimless stroll past a pawn shop in a small Midwestern town. In the window he sees a West Point class ring from 2005. It’s tiny. It’s a woman cadet’s graduation present to herself. Why would she give it up? Reacher’s a West Pointer too, and he knows what she went through to get it.
Reacher tracks the ring back its owner, step by step, down a criminal trail leading west. Like Big Foot come out of the forest, he arrives in the deserted wilds of Wyoming. All he wants is to find the woman. If she’s OK, he’ll walk away.
If she’s not… he’ll stop at nothing.
He’s still shaken by the recent horrors of Make Me, and now The Midnight Line sees him set on a raw and elemental quest for simple justice.
Best advice: don’t get in his way.
I have a large collection of books I use when I write. I have books on poisons, forensic techniques, police techniques, real life anecdotes from FBI agents, legal guides, and so many more, and they have all come in handy from time to time. It seems whatever you need to learn about, there’s a guide available!
There are a few books I use regularly to check facts and learn how things work in real life. My favourite 7 are:
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Private Investigation
I bought this book as it had several reviews stating it is ‘more useful than private investigator course text books ‘. It covers a wide breadth of private investigation techniques and I use it regularly for the White Rose series of books.
7000 Baby Names
I need to introduce a new character, usually a minor one, and their name is….? A quick flick through my book of baby names and the problem is usually solved. Failing that, I turn to my Facebook followers who always come up with the goods.
Top 10 Washington DC (Travel Guide)
This is a handy reference with maps and general information. Need a restaurant for my characters to dine at? This has the answer.
Forensic Botany: A Practical Guide
This is an amazing book that explains the basics of forensic botany in terms that even I can understand.
Violence: A Writers Guide
An excellent resource for those, like me, who have never thrown a punch.
When that word on the tip of your tongue won’t appear or you’ve already used a word way too many times. This book has a permanent spot next to my laptop.
The Emotion Thesaurus
I may be able to feel what my characters are feeling, but putting it into words isn’t so simple. This book digs me out of that hole every time.
I’ve been looking forward to reading the third of the Orphan X books by Gregg Hurwitz since I finished the second. It has delivered all I hoped for.
The Orphan program was about recruiting orphaned children and training them to become killers. Evan was offered the chance to join the program and became one of the best of the Orphans – Orphan X. Evan’s handler did one thing that was not expected in Evan’s training – he kept him human. This led to Evan going rogue and becoming the Nowhere Man, someone who helped those who had nowhere else to turn.
But now Evan has bigger problems. In this book, Evan is forced to do something he has no experience of and the result is spectacularly funny, heart-warming, and shows the complexity and flaws of Evan’s character to perfection. It’s one of the charms of the Orphan X books, and indeed all of Gregg’s books I’ve read to far - the main protagonist has a depth rarely found in thrillers.
I love books that make me feel, and this one has emotion in bucket-loads: fear, grief, humour (that Target scene is worth buying the book for on its own), love, pride, determination, excitement, confidence, compassion, confusion, and more. And the end gives satisfaction and the promise of another brilliant Orphan X book to come. An outstanding book in it’s genre. It has twists, complications, and moments that make you want to shout ‘Yes!’. This is going straight to my favourite book shelf.
To some he was Orphan X. Other knew him as the Nowhere Man. But to veteran spymaster Jack Johns he was a boy named Evan Smoak.
Taken from an orphanage, Evan was raised inside a top-secret programme designed to turn him into a deadly weapon. Jack became his instructor, mentor, teacher and guardian. Because for all the dangerous skills he instilled in his young charge, he also cared for Evan like a son. And now Jack needs Evan’s help.
The Orphan programme hid dark secrets. Now those with blood on their hands want every trace of it gone. And they will stop at nothing to make sure that Jack and Evan go with it.
With little time remaining, Jack gives Evan his last assignment: to find and protect the programme’s last recruit. And to stay alive long enough to uncover the shocking truth…
Gregg Hurwitz is active on Facebook, so if you want to keep track of what this outstanding author is up to, check out his page here.
This ticks off one of the books on my 2018 reading challenge – A book written by an author who wrote one of your favourite 2017 books.
I'm a big fan of Gregg Hurwitz's 'Orphan' books, so I picked this one up to check out some of his other writing. Wow! Loved it! I'll be looking for more of his books from now on.
The Survivor by Gregg Hurwitz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Another brilliant thriller by Gregg Hurwitz! This was a roller coaster of emotions and the action never seemed to stop. Wonderful, relatable characters, and the ending delivered all that was promised. Highly recommend this to any lover of thrillers and action books.
View all my reviews
Under a Namibian Sky by Angelina Kalahari
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I loved this story! It kept my emotions swinging from happiness - that breath catching excitement - to heartbreaking sadness, and back again. The location and descriptions of Namibia are wonderful, and the glimpse of life in another country added to the story. Highly recommend this for anyone who loves a good romance with great characters, setting, and a feel of reality.
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I bought this book as it promised a short, exciting read. Wow! It started off gently, but steadily built, and built with suspense. Each time I thought I might have the end in sight and know the ‘who’, it would take off on a different line.
And then there was the incredible, not-at-all-anticipated twist at the end that stunned me.
A brilliantly crafted and well-paced story that certainly kept me turning the pages. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes something that gets the heartrate up with a twist in the tale.
Available on Amazon (AU) here
About the book:
Ellie is a normal teenager, wondering what to do with her life as her time at school gets close to finishing. The normal decisions for a teenager on the brink of adulthood are difficult, but nothing compared to what Ellie is about to face. A reunion with family gives her an unexpected and life-changing choice to make in the space of a few hours. What she doesn’t expect is the challenge of accepting her heritage and gifts, and the dangers of her forbidden connection with her familiar, a dragon shifter—Jayce. As Ellie learns more about her gifts and Jayce comes to terms with his new role, they have to work together to fight for survival—their own and that of the mortal realm.
I rarely read fantasy books. I loved Harry Potter, and I was into witches when I was around thirteen, but that’s about it. When I saw the blurb for Morwitch, I was eager to read it, having read other books by Jennifer Redmile and loving them. Ellie and Jayce’s story drew me in right from the start and I rapidly connected with this unusual couple.
The story is set in Australia, which as an Aussie I found appealing. The spirituality of the land sits comfortably with the fantasy story—the Australian outback a wonderful backdrop for the mystery of Ellie and Jayce’s worlds. I asked Jennifer about this and her concept for the story.
Where did the concept for Morwitch come from?
I had just finished writing the first book in my middle grade series, the children of when, and decided I wanted to ‘play with’ some older characters. I love writing about magical beings, but wanted to try something where magic existed in the ‘real’ world. I was torn between writing a book about witches, or dragons would could shift and be living right under us mere mortals’ noses. While researching about witches having an animal, or familiar, bound to them for life, I got the idea to make the book about witches and dragon shifters. Why not? Ellie and Jayce were dying to have their story told, so who was I to argue?
Why did you choose the Australian settings for the story?
It probably had a lot to do with the fact that I live in Australia. I really enjoyed imagining Ellie and Jayce in places I was familiar with. Besides, I already had to create three other worlds I’d never seen, The Witch and Dragon Realms, and the transitory planet Brevis. Setting the rest in place I’d actually been helped to stop my head exploding, lol.
I loved this book and recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good adventure, mixed with a romance and plenty of suspense. Like the Harry Potter books, its appeal is not limited to young adults, but can be enjoyed by all.
And guess what? There’s more! If you like Morwitch: Breaking the Rules, there is a sequel, Morwitch: Changing the Rules!
Morwitch: Breaking the Rules is available on Amazon: here for Aussies, and here for the USA
by Alison Clifford
It’s Friday again – they come around so fast! I thought this week I’d update you on my reading challenge.
To refresh. The last two years I set myself the goal of 52 books in 52 weeks. This year I’m cutting myself some slack and I’ve set the goal at 35 books, and so far I’m cruising!
First cab off the rank was James Phelan’s The Hunted, the second of the Jed Walker books. I read the first one, The Spy, a year ago and it’s taken a while to get hold of the second. It was worth the wait! James Phelan writes thrillers with a clear simplicity. There’s plenty of action and lots of dialogue, but none of it is drawn out or laborious. I’m a fast reader, so I don’t like having to slow down to be able to picture the scene. The Jed Walker books are brilliant, in my opinion. You may notice I’ve also read the third book, Kill Switch. Another fantastic story! If you like thrillers, then I think you’d love these.
Espionage was interesting to read. It’s relevant research at the moment, so I liked the stories and information it contained. I followed that with The Silly Side of Sherlock Holmes. Talk about a chuckle! The author has taken Sherlock Holmes illustrations from The Strand Magazine and added his own story to them, with hilarious results.
The other book I read was a memoir called That Fry Boy. This book has been on my to-be-read list for quite a while. It’s written by James Fry and takes you through his school years, the horrendous bullying he suffered and the devastating consequences. I can’t recommend this book highly enough—it’s a wake-up call to us all, and an incredible story.
My current read is Selected Stories by Henry Lawson. So far his descriptions and perspective of life in Australia in the late 1800’s is interesting. It is certainly highlighting the different attitudes we have today from those held many years ago.
I’ve added links to each book’s Goodreads page, in case you want to find out more.
That Fry Boy, by James Fry
Espionage, by David Owen
The Hunted, by James Phelan
Kill Switch, by James Phelan
The Silly Side of Sherlock Holmes, by Philip Ardagh
Do you have any recommendations for books to read? I'm always looking for something different and would appreciate any ideas!
What's it about?
My thoughts on writing, the research I do, and what interests and inspires me as a writer.
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