Ranger Games: A Story of Soldiers, Family and an Inexplicable Crime

Ranger Games: A Story of Soldiers, Family and an Inexplicable CrimeRanger Games: A Story of Soldiers, Family and an Inexplicable Crime by Ben Blum
Published by Doubleday Books on September 12th 2017
Pages: 432
Format: ebook
Genres: Autobiography, Nonfiction, True Crime
See it @ Goodreads
four-stars


Synopsis


Intricate, heartrending, and morally urgent, Ranger Games is a crime story like no other

Alex Blum was a good kid with one unshakeable goal in life: Become a U.S. Army Ranger. On the day of his leave before deployment to Iraq, Alex got into his car with two fellow soldiers and two strangers, drove to a local bank in Tacoma, and committed armed robbery.

The question that haunted the entire Blum family was: Why? Why would he ruin his life in such a spectacularly foolish way?

At first, Alex insisted he thought the robbery was just another exercise in the famously daunting Ranger program. His attorney presented a case based on the theory that the Ranger indoctrination mirrored that of a cult.

In the midst of his own personal crisis, and in the hopes of helping both Alex and his splintering family cope, Ben Blum, Alex's first cousin, delved into these mysteries, growing closer to Alex in the process. As he probed further, Ben began to question not only Alex, but the influence of his superior, Luke Elliot Sommer, the man who planned the robbery. A charismatic combat veteran, Sommer's manipulative tendencies combined with a magnetic personality lured Ben into a relationship that put his loyalties to the test.

My thoughts on this book

Who would have thought that a newly minted Army Ranger would drive the get away car in a bank robbery. Why would a newly minted Army Ranger do such a stupid thing? Ben Blum, cousin to the newly minted Army Ranger spends a goodly amount of time trying to answer that question.

To be an Army Ranger was all Alex ever wanted. Two weeks before his scheduled leave for Iraq, and days after he finishes the grueling Ranger training he climbs into his car and drives three other people to a Bank of America in Seattle. They rob the bank of about fifty-two thousand dollars. Why would Alex have done this having just achieved everything he wanted in life.

That is the question Ben Blum tries to answer. In a rather long convoluted story Ben recounts his search to understand why his cousin would have done this. What makes this book interesting is Ben a mathematician by training, is also having a crisis of his own. Knowing that mathematics alone will not answer his own questions, he delves into his cousins misfortune to find out what made him do something so totally out of character, hoping to better understand himself.

It is an inmate study how a person ends up doing a totally crazy thing. I think each reader will need to decide for themselves why this happened.

About Ben Blum

Authors - Ben-Blum

Ben Blum was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. He holds a PhD in computer science from the University of California Berkeley, where he was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, and an MFA in fiction from New York University, where he was awarded the New York Times Foundation Fellowship. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and stepdaughter.

The Fact of a Body

The Fact of a BodyThe Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich
Published by Flatiron Books on May 16th 2017
Pages: 336
Format: hardback
Genres: Autobiography, Nonfiction, True Crime
See it @ Goodreads
four-stars


Synopsis


Before Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich begins a summer job at a law firm in Louisiana, working to help defend men accused of murder, she thinks her position is clear. The child of two lawyers, she is staunchly anti-death penalty. But the moment convicted murderer Ricky Langley’s face flashes on the screen as she reviews old tapes―the moment she hears him speak of his crimes―she is overcome with the feeling of wanting him to die. Shocked by her reaction, she digs deeper and deeper into the case. Despite their vastly different circumstances, something in his story is unsettlingly, uncannily familiar.

Crime, even the darkest and most unsayable acts, can happen to any one of us. As Alexandria pores over the facts of the murder, she finds herself thrust into the complicated narrative of Ricky’s childhood. And by examining the details of Ricky’s case, she is forced to face her own story, to unearth long-buried family secrets, and reckon with a past that colors her view of Ricky's crime.

But another surprise awaits: She wasn’t the only one who saw her life in Ricky’s.

An intellectual and emotional thriller that is also a different kind of murder mystery, THE FACT OF A BODY is a book not only about how the story of one crime was constructed―but about how we grapple with our own personal histories. Along the way it tackles questions about the nature of forgiveness, and if a single narrative can ever really contain something as definitive as the truth. This groundbreaking, heart-stopping work, ten years in the making, shows how the law is more personal than we would like to believe―and the truth more complicated, and powerful, than we could ever imagine.

My thoughts on this book

The Fact of a Body is billed as a murder and a memoir, at first glance I thought it was about someone who had personally experienced at murder within the family. But the book took a deceive turn. Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich was a freshly minted lawyer when her law firm her assigned her to a death penalty case of a convicted pedophile and child murderer, Ricky Langley. Marzano-Lesnevich whom until the time was a stanch anti-death penalty supporter, immediately after watching a video tape of the convicted murderer wants him to die.

The book then takes on a strange but interesting twist, Marzano-Lesnevich begins to intertwine her childhood with that of the murderer. As she researches the case she is forced to reconcile her own childhood, giving up practicing law to write. As a child she was molested by her Grandfather, once her parents were made aware of this, they stopped having her grandparents stay in the house. Alexandria and her sister were told not to speak of this, her parents never directly addressed the issue. The book moves between her own troubled childhood and that of Ricky Langley, how society refused to acknowledge the problem the both faced one as the abused and the other as an abuser.

The book is well written and engaging. The subject matter is very timely as we now have a political candidate running for office in the United States Senate that has been accused of molesting a fourteen year old girl. He is calling her a liar and is continuing to gain support in the Alabama election which is unconscionable.

About Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

Authors - Alexandria-Marzano-Lesnevich

Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich is the author of THE FACT OF A BODY: A Murder and a Memoir, named an Indie Next Pick and a Junior Library Guild selection; one of the most anticipated books of 2017 by Buzzfeed, Book Riot, and the Huffington Post; a must-read for May by Goodreads, Audible.com, Entertainment Weekly, Real Simple and People; long-listed for the Gordon Burn Prize and a finalist for a New England Book Award; one of the 10 best books of the year so far by Entertainment Weekly; and one of the best books of the year so far by Audible.com and Book Riot. It was published May 16th in the US and May 18th in the UK, to be followed by the Netherlands, Turkey, Korea, Taiwan, Spain, Greece, Brazil, and France. The recipient of fellowships from The National Endowment for the Arts, MacDowell, and Yaddo, as well as a Rona Jaffe Award, Marzano-Lesnevich lives in Boston, where she teaches at Harvard.

Black Edge: Inside Information, Dirty Money, and the Quest to Bring Down the Most Wanted Man on Wall Street

Black Edge: Inside Information, Dirty Money, and the Quest to Bring Down the Most Wanted Man on Wall StreetBlack Edge: Inside Information, Dirty Money, and the Quest to Bring Down the Most Wanted Man on Wall Street by Sheelah Kolhatkar
Published by Random House on February 7th 2017
Pages: 368
Format: hardback
Genres: Finance, Nonfiction, True Crime
See it @ Goodreads
four-half-stars


Synopsis


The story of billionaire trader Steven Cohen, the rise and fall of his hedge fund SAC Capital, and the largest insider trading investigation in history for readers of The Big Short, Den of Thieves, and Dark MoneySteven A. Cohen changed Wall Street. He and his fellow pioneers of the hedge fund industry didn t lay railroads, build factories, or invent new technologies. Rather, they made their billions through speculation, by placing bets in the market that turned out to be right more often than wrong and for this, they gained not only extreme personal wealth but formidable influence throughout society. Hedge funds now oversee more than $3 trillion in assets, and the competition between them is so fierce that traders will do whatever they can to get an edge. Cohen was one of the industry s biggest success stories, the person everyone else in the business wanted to be. Born into a middle-class family on Long Island, he longed from an early age to be a star on Wall Street. He mastered poker in high school, went off to Wharton, and in 1992 launched the hedge fund SAC Capital, which he built into a $15 billion empire, almost entirely on the basis of his wizardlike stock trading. He cultivated an air of mystery, reclusiveness, and excess, building a 35,000-square-foot mansion in Greenwich, Connecticut, flying to work by helicopter, and amassing one of the largest private art collections in the world. On Wall Street, Cohen was revered as a genius: one of the greatest traders who ever lived. That image was shattered when SAC Capital became the target of a sprawling, seven-year investigation, led by a determined group of FBI agents, prosecutors, and SEC enforcement attorneys. Labeled by prosecutors as a magnet for market cheaters whose culture encouraged the relentless pursuit of edge and even black edge, which is inside information SAC Capital was ultimately indicted and pleaded guilty to charges of securities and wire fraud in connection with a vast insider trading scheme, even as Cohen himself was never charged. Black Edge offers a revelatory look at the gray zone in which so much of Wall Street functions. It s a riveting, true-life legal thriller that takes readers inside the government s pursuit of Cohen and his employees, and raises urgent and troubling questions about the power and wealth of those who sit at the pinnacle of modern Wall Street. Advance praise for Black Edge A tour de force of groundbreaking reporting and brilliant storytelling, a revealing inside account of how the Feds track a high-profile target and, just as important, an unsettling portrayal of how Wall Street works today. Jeffrey Toobin, New York Times bestselling author of American Heiress Black Edge is not just a work of major importance, it is also addictively readable and horrifyingly compelling. Sheelah Kolhatkar pulls back the curtain on the cheating, corruption, and skulduggery that underlie large swaths of the hedge fund industry and some of Wall Street s most fabled fortunes. This book is as hard to put down as it is to stomach. Jane Mayer, New York Times bestselling author of Dark Money Fast-paced and filled with twists, Black Edge has the grip of a thriller. It is also an essential expose of our times a work that reveals the deep rot in our financial system. Everyone should read this book. David Grann, New York Times bestselling author of The Lost City of Z"

My thoughts on this book

Ever since the financial crash of 2008, I have felt that Wall Street is no longer part of financial institution of the United States. It’s like Wall Street went rouge and serves only a few who consider themselves Masters of The Universe (Bondfire of the Vanities). Stephen Cohen, the star of this book, is one of those Masters of the universe having built a multi-billion dollar hedge fund using insider trading. I always tell my husband, if he or I committed any of the acts the Cohen and his cohorts did we would be locked up for life, the rich are different.

Sheelah Kolhatkar details how Cohen and other traders used inside trading to amass vast fortunes, how the government is all but helpless to stop it and how it probably still continues today. I was totally disgusted when I finished reading the book. I kept wondering how can people be this greedy, what drives them to act in this fashion.

Today when I hear that the stock market has reached record highs, it doesn’t increase my feeling of security about our economic future, it actually worries me. When Trump says he is going to roll back regulations, I worry more about this countries financial security. This book reads like a financial thriller the only different being if it were fictional the bad guys would not have won.