Tag Archives: crime

Frightfully Ever After by Nick DeWolf

As is often the case I received this book free for the purpose of review but despite that I’ll be completely candid about it below.

The nutshell on this book is that it plays much like a cross between Breaking Bad and Cinderella. You’ve got drug deals, shoot-outs, lots of profanity, magic axes and Fairie Godmothers. It’s not very often you get all that between two covers.

To the positive, I was fairly giddy at the concept and remained so throughout the book. While it would be a bit of a stretch to call this all that original, I will say that this is the first book I’ve seen in which this was done so well and with such blatant grit. As the book progresses the protagonists/antagonists evolve into pretty frightful badasses. DeWolf has a talent for action scenes and his descriptions leave just enough to the imagination to engage the reader in total interest. The writing is solid, reasonably well edited and leaves little to be desired.

To the negative, many of the characters are pretty stereotypical and don’t enjoy fully proper development. This should, I think, be viewed as only a slight issue however, since the original genres from which the author draws aren’t exactly known for their deep character development. Faerie tales cop shows deal primarily in archetypes rather than fully-fleshed characters because they’re intended to teach a more generalized lesson that the reader can relate to by filling in the gaps with their own attributes.

In summary, this is a delightful and thoroughly entertaining book. I found myself wanting to know more about their history and what brought them to the various straits in which they find themselves. If the author has it within him, this milieu would make for a wonderful extended series that focuses on more details and fleshes out some of the gaps left in this narrative.

Find the book on Amazon.

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Movies: Bathing Franky byHenri Szeps

CaptureI picked this because it was unreviewed on Amazon. I’m glad I did, though more than a bit surprised along the way…

This is a strong example of an old standard. An older man and his demented mother meet up with a young ex-con. The two generations connect and learn something from each other and they’re both better off. Saying anything more would be spoilerific so I’ll shush on plot points.

To the positive, the characters are wonderfully likable. The older gentleman is nostalgic and funny and full of life. His mother, despite her issues, still has quite a spark in her. The younger, despite being an ex-con is eager to learn and swiftly comes around. Things get extremely weird, dark and “real” at the end in a very satisfying way. All is not as it seems.

To the negative,the middle bits seem far too easy as the characters slide into happiness, but it’s only a trick. Hang on until the end.

In summary, a cute and potently dark movie with series of huge twists. Can’t say I expected ANY Of that.

*** I started this review out as a minute-by-minute rundown of the action but it started to get interesting so I ended up actually watching it. That says something… anyway, original rundown for posterity

1:00 – Dude in flipflops flying a kite. Maybe wearing a clown nose? Unrelated dude leaving a building. Maybe prison?

2:30 – Looks a lot like two old people having sex. Really they’re just helping each other go to the toilet.

3:00 – Prison dude flashing back to some prison scarification scene… and now he’s making out with a girl. Um.

3:30 – a profound number of things in this movie are purple. Shirts, sheets.

3:45 – Now he’s having sex with the girl but…. she calls it off and yells at him . not clear why.

4:30 – Prison dude now filling out a form… ok, yes, he was getting out or prison. Going to work delivering meals to people.

6:00 – Back to the clown. He’s in his yard entertaining some kids. Prison dude delivering meals to him. Clown tries to chat him up but he resists at first…. starting to come together. I think this might just be a keeper….

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No Grey Areas: Inside Story of the Largest Point Shaving Scandal in History by Joseph Gagliano

As if often the case, I received this book in exchange for the simple act of reviewing it. As is always the case, I give my candid thoughts below.

The nutshell on this book is that it is the simple and straightforward first-person account of a gentleman who made a lot of money, broke a lot of laws, served some time and made a pretty wild ride out of his life.

To the positive, the author doesn’t sugar coat much and he lays things out very simply. The story is completely linear and first person and marches from point A to point Z without any complexity or diversion. He strikes an optimal level of detail that lets you know what he did, how he did it, but does so in a way that isn’t ponderous or tiring. By the end you don’t have the recipe to commit federal crimes but you know enough about the spirit of the act that you could recognize it when you see it. Gagliano, for the most part, takes responsibility for his actions and doesn’t give us a big sob story to deal with. In the last half of the book he does throw a bit of hate at the federal prosecutors but given that he’s going up the river, that’s not all that terribly surprising.

To the negative, while the first half of the book is almost entirely devoid of textual issues things do break down a bit in the second half. It feels like a book in which the editor just got tired and assumed nobody would be going past the middle. It’s a minor distraction but not a tremendous problem. The book’s only major problem, I suspect, will be the audience’s inability to relate to it. It’s difficult to feel much sorry for a guy who talks about millions in cash like it’s just so much dirty laundry. If the precise mathematics of this story are to be believed then this guy had a great lot in life and just managed to utterly and profoundly bungle it. Most people reading this would take the money he makes in the first quarter of the book and happily retire. The author manages to blow it all and end up in jail. Readers have little sympathy for such characters.

So all in all, if you’re one who likes the nitty-gritty inside story on how to live a life of white-collar crime then this book will appeal. It offers enough detail to keep one mentally engaged but not so much that you start taking notes to fulfill your own nefarious dreams of minimum-security prison stays. Do know that it’s not terribly glamorous and the characters don’t exactly endear themselves to you though.

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A review of: Strike a Poser – by Dylan Edward Asher

I received this title free for the purpose of review but despite that I’m completely candid so that other potential readers know what they’re getting.

The nutshell on this book is that it’s a rather convoluted con-game story with several primary characters that are only really loosely affiliated with each other. They come together to attempt a heist that will net them over a million dollars if they can make it happen.

To the positive, the book does have a fair amount of potential in that it is reasonably complex. The con is tangled and has a few amusing points and with the proper rendering and a bit more flavor could be pretty entertaining.

The negatives, however, far outweigh the positives. Despite the brevity of this book is took a LOT of effort to slog through. The first half is painful in its slow and rather plodding setup and by the time you find your way to the last half your eyes are glazed over and you don’t want to read any more. I did finally find my way through it just because it does have potential and you do want to know how things resolve themselves in the end but it’s a lot of work to get there.

In summary, there’s a nugget of goodness here but it’s bogged down in a lot of silly detail that just makes the reader’s mind wander. This feels like a much longer book than it really is and my eyes are still rather crossed.

*** Original Book Description ***

Professional con artist, Olivia, assembles a team to pull off a savvy, complex and perhaps borderline ridiculous scheme in the theme park land of Orlando, Florida. Foreword Reviews calls it “a successful combination of crime caper, humor, and social satire, as it simultaneously spoofs the consumerism of theme parks and conventions of the heist genre.”

Olivia, a professional con artist, is putting together a team. Along with her current accomplice, Jillian, she figures they’ll need two more as they case a millionaire named Jerry Mallore, having followed him to, of all places, the theme park land of Orlando, Florida.

Olivia quickly locates an old flame from way back named Jack. An ex-scammer himself, he’s long since gone straight, working as a bar manager of an Irish restaurant just outside the wacky theme parks. His uniform involves kilts. She knows he’ll be in.

Joining up with Jack, and ultimately his younger brother Kip, they set out to get between Jerry and his shady cash transaction. The plan? Savvy. Complex. Borderline ridiculous. But it’ll be flat-out brilliant if they can pull it off, creating the ultimate illusion in the land of illusions, and ultimately relieving Jerry of hundreds of thousands of dollars and leaving him, quite literally, not even sure what day it is.

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Book Reviews: The Passenger by Lisa Lutz

As is usual I received this book free for the purpose of review, this time from “Shelf Awareness.” Despite that abundant kindness, I’m utterly honest in my assessment.

The book describes itself as a thriller but I’m not completely sold on that assignment of genre. Really it’s more of a personal/crime drama. Our protagonist gets into some pretty tight spots and has to do absolutely anything she can to get out of them including… well, crime.

To the positive, the book is smoothly and well written. The text drips off the page like soft cream and you can get lost in the prose after only a few pages. The pacing is fast and pulls you along very steadily but never really reaches any huge crescendo. As you read you’re immediately plunged into a cloud of mystery on the very first page that’s not entirely resolved until very nearly the end.

To the negative, many of the plot-level details were rather implausible. Our deliciously strong protagonist pulls herself out of tighter and tighter spots until you can’t quite believe that any of it was possible. It is only the author’s writing skill that makes this palatable. In the hands of a lesser wordsmith the plot would have fallen to pieces like overcooked fish. As it stands, you take the gravy along with the lumps and never mind a bit.

In summary, this is a book for readers who like a strong and clearly empowered female protagonist who gets the job done but doesn’t feel hindered by the saddle of 100% credibility. “The Passenger” is a book to be gobbled down in one delicious bite on a cold winter day off. It’s not going to win any literary awards but it will keep you mentally engaged and interested in what’s going to happen on the next page.

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Book Reviews: The Siege by James Hanna (*****)

Firstly, and as usual, I received this book free in exchange for a review. Also as usual I give my candid thoughts below despite the delightful privilege of receiving a free book.

From the standpoint of narrative form the book is comprised of two parts. In the first 100 pages the narrator is in the midst of a hostage recovery effort but through the use of well-organized flashbacks we see the days that lead up to the incident in meticulous detail. The second part deals with the aftermath in a more straightforward narrative flow.

On the positive side, the writer quite obviously knows what he’s talking about. This is NOT the parboiled Hollywood version of prison drama; this is the raw, gritty and complex reality of life in a prison and the best of its genre that I’ve ever come across. The author’s style is rich and engaging painting a vivid picture of his setting and his very believable characters. If you want the truth behind life in prison administration this is probably the book you’ll want to pick up first.

The only negative that I would note isn’t really a negative so much as a caution to readers who might be looking for a guns-blazing action novel. This isn’t that. As I said, this is real life and real life seldom lives up to the idiotic standard set by the movies. There are moments of what one would call “action” but for the most part the novel is one of psychology and tangled mental interactions between the varied cast of characters.

In summary, highly recommended if you like your novels with engaging ideas over fountains of blood and violence.

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Of Ink, Wit, and Intrigue – Samuel Pepys meets Dorian Gray (4/5)

As usual I paid nothing for this book but instead received it for free in exchange for a review. This time it was from NetGalley. Despite that repeated and wonderful kindness, I give my scrupulously honest opinions below.

This book is, to put it loosely, a bit of an outlier in the modern literary world. It’s set in mid-1600 England and is the fictionalized life of John Wilmot, Second Earl of Rochester. It’s written in a diary format so the whole thing reminds me very strongly of a cross between The Diary of Samuel Pepys (who makes a brief cameo appearance) and The Picture of Dorian Gray.

To the positive, this is a unique and richly rendered exhibit of life during these times. The reader is treated to all the usual plagues and illnesses and their accompanying treatments as well as all the common entertainments of the day. As a work of crystallized history it is a wonder. The main character is also delightfully scandalous and easily and promptly disliked by the reader. This is a rich and very detailed verbal tapestry.

Unfortunately, to the negative, it comes across at times as almost impenetrably dense and shares many of the negative attributes one can ascribe to Pepy’s diary. It’s an abundantly curious historical artifact but it hardly makes for popular reading.

To summarize, this is a book that for some will be a miracle. It is that detailed historical period novel that you’ve always wanted that grinds all the way down to the daily choice of ‘vittles’ as the protagonist puts it. If, however, you are not prepared for what is at times a laborious grind of a read, then there are better choices. Only you can judge whether you prefer your history entertaining or overflowing with detail. Unfortunately it does not seem possible that both can occur simultaneously.

Visit our review on Amazon.com to let us know what you think and don’t forget to vote our review helpful if you find it so. If you don’t then that’s fine too but please let us know what we missed!

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Reviews: An American Outlaw

Click the image to visit my review on Amazon

As usual I paid nothing for this book as the author approached me with a free copy in exchange for a review. Also as usual though my absolute candid thoughts follow.

On the positive side, the author has a great grasp of his setting and his characters; I’d be unsurprised to find out he’s an ex-Marine from Texas. The book has a great air of believability and action and the author’s short, choppy, not-quite-sentences give the text a unique textual flow that works very well with the grim subject matter. His choice of characters in the person of an ex-Marine turned outlaw is innovative, relatable and timely.

To the negative, the book suffers from a rather typical lack of editorial polish. There are quite a few typos and misspellings and the author’s use of short action-oriented sentences can at times make the text rather disjointed and this leaves the reader wondering what they just read. Further, the language is very colloquial in nature and while this adds to the atmospheric feel of the work it can sometimes be rather befuddling.

To summarize, this novel stands out among its peers at this pricepoint but can’t quite earn five stars because it’s up against more refined competition. I could see this one picked up by a major house and republished with a bit more of the proverbial spit-and-polish.

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Reviews: Killing His Fear

Click the photo to visit the review on Amazon

As usual I received this book for free at the hands of the generous author. Also as usual, despite that great kindness, I give my candid opinions below.

On the positive side, the author has a keen grasp of psychopathic behavior and understands well the inner workings of the mind of someone suffering from schizophrenia. The narrative is also reasonably interesting and has a circumspect style told from the viewpoint of both the killer and the police who pursue him.

Sadly, the negatives far outweigh the positives of the storyline. At the simplest level, the grammar and typography is in need of a good, sound editing. Punctuation is misplaced, words are misspelled or misused, and most amusing of all there are two chapter 39s. The whole thing just seems rather slap-dash and it completely ruins the effect of story. Further, the dialog is unrealistic and childlike as characters go through stiff and unrealistic interactions with each other that just don’t sound like natural verbal discourse at all. The author seems to go through phases in which he will use a particular word (one jarring example was the word ‘gonna’ as a form of ‘going to’) 7 times in the space of one and a half pages and then never uses it again in the entire rest of the book. In another case he seems to decide that contractions are bad and just stops using them for several chapters resulting in almost robotic dialog.

In summary, the author knows his subject matter but his mode of connecting the pieces is just a shambles. His strength is portraying the mind of the mentally deranged but anything outside that realm just turns to improbable plot points that come to conclusions that are far too easy and predictable. At the heart of this novel there’s a real talent but it’s buried under rather a dark and murky bushel.

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Sweet Holy Motherfucking Everloving Delusional Bastard by Jerome Segundo

Sweet Holy Motherfucking Everloving Delusional BastardSweet Holy Motherfucking Everloving Delusional Bastard by Jerome Segundo

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As usual, I won this book from the author in what I would categorize as a quasi-GoodReads giveaway. Despite that kind consideration my candid opinions follow.

The story masquerades as a not-so-typical twenty-something memoir; our three protagonists, who could not be any more dissimilar, find themselves in a series of amusing and illuminating situations that reveal much about the mental state of men at this particular time of life.

On the positive side, once the reader is properly engaged with the novel (it did take a while for me to get into the flow of it) the story really is quite difficult to pull away from. While the specific hijinks engaged in are difficult for me to relate to personally, the story really does capture one’s attention. The author’s use of language and wordplay, along with the illustration of the relationship between the three male leads is both amusing and intellectually insightful. The group of three guys makes you rather pine for a trio of strong friends to hang out with (though one could do without the felony convictions). Lastly, the author includes some rather vivid descriptions of sexual encounters which are sprinkled throughout the novel at reasonably appropriate intervals. While I’m not typically one who seeks out such things, Segundo executes these descriptions with a wonderful and evocative realism that is rare in the genre.

The only real negative I would point out in any of this is that the book is so thoroughly provocative that it will be difficult for it to find any market whatsoever. Its title alone assures that it cannot make any uncensored appearance on the New York Times Best Seller List. The book has a lot to say and crystallizes well some key differences between the way genders view the world but sadly the whole thing is stuck behind a title that creates such a visceral reaction in many that the message is lost to the universe as a whole.

In summary, you can’t judge a book by its title. Segundo has delivered entertainment and also a strong sociological point that may sadly never make its way to any sort of popular consumption. The author’s use of language is playful, entertaining and well-executed. Another good book doomed to obscurity by insufficient marketing.

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