A Bloody Business by Dylan Struzan

business
Fun Fact: Dylan Struzan’s husband, Drew Struzan illustrated the cover art for this book. Drew Struzan is also the creator of art for Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Back To the Future, Harry Potter, and many other film posters. ON THE 100TH ANNIVERSARY OF PROHIBITION, LEARN WHAT REALLY HAPPENED.

**Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this novel by the publisher for the intent of an honest review. Sending me a novel will, under no circumstances, win the author a glowing review. It WILL win an honest one IF I like the novel enough to finish it, which sometimes doesn’t happen. **

In 1919, the National Prohibition Act was passed, making it illegal across America to produce, distribute, or sell liquor. With this act, the U.S. Congress also created organized crime as we know it. Italian, Jewish, and Irish mobs sprang up to supply the suddenly illegal commodity to the millions of people still eager to drink it. Men like Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky, Dutch Schultz and Bugsy Siegel, Al Capone in Chicago and Nucky Johnson in Atlantic City, waged a brutal war for power in the streets and on the waterfronts. But if you think you already know this story…think again, since you’ve never seen it through the eyes of one of the mobsters who lived it.

Called “one of the most significant organized crime figures in the United States” by the U.S. District Attorney, Vincent “Jimmy Blue Eyes” Alo was just 15 years old when Prohibition became law. Over the next decade, Alo would work side by side with Lansky and Luciano as they navigated the brutal underworld of bootlegging, thievery and murder. Alo’s later career included prison time and the ultimate Mob tribute: being immortalized as “Johnny Ola” in The Godfather, Part II.

Introduced to the 91-year-old Alo living in retirement in Florida, Dylan Struzan based this book on more than 50 hours of recorded testimony–stories Alo had never shared, and that he forbid her to publish until “after I’m gone.” Alo died, peacefully, two months short of his 97th birthday. And now his stories–bracing and violent, full of intrigue and betrayal, hunger and hubris–can finally be told.

As far as I’m concerned, the years directly before and after prohibition and the events leading up to and following prohibition are the most interesting in American history. There’s no mystery why there are so many books and movies written to take place in that time period. Obviously, those were hard times. But, no matter how much I learn about those years and the people who lived them, I am always more than willing to learn more and experience more–even through the mediums of fiction and art.

I can only imagine the things Struzan learned while researching for A Bloody Business. And, what a telling title, too! Being released 100 years after the National Prohibition Act  was passed was a happy coincidence, right? But, getting down to the grit of this review, I feel like I should warn you–the book is not what you might expect. It is less story, more historical account, but it isn’t as seamless as most would like it to be.

First, as most readers of historical novels would expect, there is language used within the text in both speech and expression that is unique to that era. There are lines like “Old Bill Rockafeller was a flimflammer,” tucked in here and there, which really made me think my granddad may have been telling me the story. I don’t mean that to be a negative, either, but it does take some getting used to at first if you don’t read a lot of stories from this time period.

I’m not sure if I should even mention characterization since Dylan Struzan actually met with a man who was called “one of the most significant organized crime figures in the United States” and listened to more than 50 hours of recorded testimony (see blurb above). I think she knocked it right out of the park. I think Dylan Struzan knew, probably within a week or two of research, exactly how her characters operated, what drove them to be the way they were, and got everything perfect, from mannerisms to thoughts, within the first few pages of a rough draft. I could be wrong, but I suspect I’m not.

There were bits of story here and there I feel could have been cut out during her first few rounds of edits and revisions, but those pieces are iffy, meaning they could have stayed or gone and nobody would have been the wiser. Usually in that case, a writer would cut those bits, but sometimes they get left and it doesn’t really change anything. It just takes a reader longer to read the story. Obviously, that can sometimes lead a reader to get bored and walk away and, because of this, I would urge the author to think about this next time she sits down to revise a novel. It’s not a deal breaker–but, it’s a slippery slope leading toward boredom.

I feel it worth noting, however, that the plot itself is little more than prohibition and organized crime itself. As a historical account, I feel like the story was delivered in an informal way (obviously), but an effective delivery was certainly given. After a few pages, you can imagine how Dylan Struzan may have felt whilst giving her interview of Alo. Maybe he said something like, “Well, ya see, what happened was…” and she began her notes. Probably not, but it’s very easy to imagine the story having formed that way. It certainly isn’t what I might call a campfire tale, but it bridges the gap between today’s more technologically advanced generations and the generation that our great grandparents grew up in. There are themes expressed that we can all relate to.

****

If you feel like this novel is for you, you can find it in most formats at Amazon.com.

If you’d like to learn more about Dylan Struzan at Titan Books, find out about previous releases, or just nose around, you should do that, too. 

 

 

 

 

After the Eclipse by Fran Dorricott

**Disclaimer– I was sent a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. This is my honest review.**

after eclipseSixteen years ago a little girl was abducted during the darkness of a solar eclipse while her older sister Cassie was supposed to be watching her. She was never seen again. When a local girl goes missing just before the next big eclipse, Cassie – who has returned to her home town to care for her ailing grandmother – suspects the disappearance is connected to her sister: that whoever took Olive is still out there. But she needs to find a way to prove it, and time is running out.

Available Now.

If you’re searching for books to read over the summer, buy this one. It’s available in most formats and I can honestly say that I will likely recommend it to everyone I know who comes to me in search of a good mystery. And, it’s apparently the author’s debut novel. Way to go, Fran Dorricott.

I don’t like to give out a lot of spoilers in my reviews, so I won’t because there is a lot I could tell you that would ruin the entire thing.

Fran Dorricott wrote her characters to be lifelike, enjoyable to get to know, and hard to forget once the book is over and done with. That is a quality I, personally, look for in an author I intend to keep reading. The elements of mystery and danger were ever present, whilst managing to tap dance all over the fine line between emotions.

I feel I should warn readers that the story goes from past to present quite a bit and sometimes that can feel a bit daunting to a reader. If that’s something you’re not into, maybe read something else, but why? The author handles this jumping quite well. There is no difficulty discerning which time frame you’re reading in (as some novels present).

Four stars, highly recommended.

You can buy this novel from Amazon in most formats. Links above.

*****

COMING SOON

Tomorrow’s Review is…

business

Zero Bomb by M.T. Hill

**Disclaimer** I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Here is my honest review.**

The near future. Following the death of his daughter Martha, Remi flees the north of England for London. Here he tries to rebuild his life as a cycle courier, delivering subversive documents under the nose of an all-seeing state.

But when a driverless car attempts to run him over, Remi soon discovers that his old life will not let him move on so easily. Someone is leaving coded messages for Remi across the city, and they seem to suggest that Martha is not dead at all.

Unsure what to believe, and increasingly unable to trust his memory, Remi is slowly drawn into the web of a dangerous radical whose ’70s sci-fi novel is now a manifesto for direct action against automation, technology, and England itself.

The deal? Remi can see Martha again – if he joins the cause.

The picture of the near future M.T. Hill paints in Zero Bomb is most certainly a worrying one. Even more troublesome than the automation and technology mentioned in the blurb (above) is the notion that this future laid out in broad strokes could nearly become a reality. It’s absolute brilliance and I loved it.

I did find characterization to be slightly less than I would have liked. Remi, as a father, is fully fleshed out, but I didn’t get to see much of him outside of fatherhood and I think a little bit of that would have gone a long way. Obviously, in a standalone novel, there isn’t time to write every single aspect of a character’s life and personality, but a tad more could have given the story a boost.

The story itself moves quickly, slinging the reader to a whole new world, much to the author’s praise. I sincerely hope M.T. Hill keeps writing great books, perhaps taking a tad more time to work out the main character’s lives before the novel takes place and presenting the relativity to the story in a more articulate way. I look forward to it and I hope M.T. Hill is up for the challenge.

**** Four stars, because it was–characterization aside–a wonderful (read: terrifyingly electric) book. 

You can find M.T. Hill’s novel, Zero Bomb, at Amazon in Kindle and print formats NOW.

The Smoke by Simon Ings

The SmokeQuick FYI before we begin this review…

You know when you’re a kid and you’re minding your own business, just sitting down somewhere behaving, and then out of nowhere your older sibling comes along and sideswipes your entire head with a giant, heavy, feather pillow, knocking you into the floor? And before you even knew what happened, they just keep hitting you with the pillow? That’s what this book will do to you if you’re not carefully paying attention. 

Simon Ings’ The Smoke is about love, loss and loneliness in an incomprehensible world. 

Humanity has been split into three different species. Mutual incomprehension has fractured the globe. As humans race to be the first of their kind to reach the stars, another Great War looms.

For you that means returning to Yorkshire and the town of your birth, where factories churn out the parts for gigantic spaceships. You’re done with the pretentions of the capital and its unfathomable architecture. You’re done with the people of the Bund, their easy superiority and unstoppable spread throughout the city of London and beyond. You’re done with Georgy Chernoy and his questionable defeat of death. You’re done with his daughter, Fel, and losing all the time. You’re done with love.

But soon enough you will find yourself in the Smoke again, drawn back to the life you thought you’d left behind.

You’re done with love. But love’s not done with you.

To be completely honest, there is a lot going on in those pages. This novel is not for everyone. However, Simon Ings has clearly grasped and delivered to his readers an unmistakable grief and the loss of any need to go on. Those are emotions I find hard to describe when I’m writing and I know other authors do too. To do this well is commendable, particularly in an alternative history setting.

But, reader beware. It is extremely easy to get completely lost in this book. As a matter of fact, I’ve had it on my night stand a few months and it has taken me a while to put myself into the right head space to read the story and be able to give it the attention it deserves. That does NOT mean I didn’t like it or couldn’t get into it, but alternately that after reading a fair bit I realized I needed to be able to concentrate in order to not get completely lost. Books with later release dates were finished before this one as The Smoke is not a particularly easy read. Not by any measure.

With most difficult tasks, though, I found the reward to be satisfying. Characterization and writing were both wonderful and I enjoyed the plot, too. The story will break your heart if you’re not careful.

For a reader only just beginning to enjoy the science fiction genre, if you’re looking for a novel to get your literary feet wet, maybe try something else until you’re ready. Or maybe buy it read it slowly in order to keep track of what’s really happening within the plot. I most certainly do give my recommendation, though. Well done, Simon Ings.

A Demon In Silver by R.S. Ford

20180619_192455.jpgReleased June 12, 2018
Titan Books

In a world where magic has vanished, rival nations vie for power in a continent devastated by war. When a young farm girl, Livia, demonstrates magical powers for the first time in a century there are many across the land that will kill to obtain her power. The Duke of Gothelm’s tallymen, the blood-soaked Qeltine Brotherhood, and cynical mercenary Josten Cade; all are searching for Livia and the power she wields.

But, Livia finds that guardians can come from the most unlikely places… and that the old gods are returning to a world they abandoned.

I thought this book was incredible. It lacked very little and the premise is captivating. This is the first in a series, if I’ve understood correctly. I certainly hope I manage to get the next book on pre-order so that I don’t have to wait for it. I dislike waiting and this is one story I would like to hang with until the very end.

I don’t want to go into too many details of my thoughts, though. I feel like in doing so I will be giving my blog readers too many spoilers. I can divulge that there are a few surprises that remain surprising, twists that remain twisty, and turns that lead places incredibly fun to imagine.

Four stars.

**********

REVIEWS COMING SOON!

bay
Review to post 6.21.18
synapse sequence
Review to post 6.20.18

Killing Town by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins

killing townAvailable NOW from Amazon.com
Review date: Soon

Mike Hammer steals a ride on a train upstate to Killington. But he is welcomed by a nasty surprise: he is accused by police of raping and murdering a young woman near the freight yards. Roughed up by the cops and facing a murder charge, Hammer’s future looks bleak. Only a beautiful blonde, Melba Charles–daughter of powerful Senator Charles–might possibly save him… if he pays the price.

But why would Melba help save a man she has never met? And, more to the point, where is the real murderer?

From a brittle, brown manuscript, the first Mike Hammer novel–begun by Mickey Spillane in the mid-forties and completed seventy years later by Max Allan Collins–is a gift to mystery fans on the occasion of the noir master’s 100th birthday.

*****

I’ve read from this series before, and I wasn’t blown away then, nor was I blown away now. I didn’t hate the story, but I just felt like it was more of the same old stuff. There was nothing in this book to stand out from what was in the last. That isn’t to say that someone who has been following these books wouldn’t like them–they’re really just not for me.

I will point out, however, that the writing is strong and the voice behind the book is definitely pronounced. Those who have been following the books will certainly enjoy them. Where hard case crime goes, I’m generally a  hit or miss kinda reader. Unfortunately, I believe the Mickey Spillane/Max Allan Collins books are a miss for me–but only by a hair. I feel like something is missing.

Infinite Stars

51ZVlFElFWL (1).jpg
The seductive thrill of uncharted worlds, of distant galaxies… and the unknown threats that lurk in the vastness of the cosmos. From Foundation to Lensman, Star Wars to Guardians of the Galaxy, space opera continues to exert its magnetic pull on us all.
INFINITE STARS
This is the definitive collection of original short stories by many of today’s finest authors, writing brand new adventures set in their most famous series. Herein lie canonical tales of the Honorverse, the Lost Fleet, Dune, Vatta’s War, Ender Wiggin, the Legion of the Damned, the Imperium, and more.
Also included are past masterpieces by authors whose works defined the genre, including a Miles Vorkosigan adventure, a story from the author of the Dragonriders of Pern, and a rare tale co-authored by the screenwriter for The Empire Strikes Back.
Nebula and Hugo Award winners, New York Times bestsellers, and Science Fiction Grand Masters—these authors take us to the farthest regions of space.

Every now and then, I enjoy anthologies. If I decide to have an anthology as a part of my book collection (instead of as a Kindle download), it needs to do three things.
1) Entertain me. EVERY story. When reading a print copy of an anthology, I like to be able to read one story and later–sometimes even months later–come back for another. Kindle anthologies are another story. I like to read those straight through. I know. It’s weird.

2) Be a good conversation starter. Because I’m a book person and we’re weird.
and…

3) Have enough lure to bring me back to it time and time again.

I feel like Infinite Stars was fantastic. I normally do not read the print copies of anthologies all at once (see #1), but since this was an ARC for a review, I did. And it took me a while because the book itself is HUGE. Super thick. I won’t get into how many pages because it may be different in the Kindle copies or final copies that went to print. But, it’s seriously humongous. And well worth whatever you may pay for it because the stories are amazingly entertaining.

If you enjoy the space opera genre, you will find at least half of the stories to be wonderful and the other half to be riveting. There is something in there for everyone, though. Not just space opera or science fiction fans. I feel like the anthology would be a really cool book club choice, too.

Obviously, I give Infinite Stars my thumbs up and recommendation to just about anyone.

*****

Also, I’d like to apologize for the review being a wee bit late. The official release was October 17th, yet here I am over a week later… I really only have one excuse. It’s a really large book and I got a little behind and overbooked lol. 

*****

NEXT ON MY REVIEW SCHEDULE:

BologhSomeone To Wed (A Westcott Novel) by Mary Bologh
Genre: Historical Romance
Release Date: November 7, 2017
Pre-order available at Amazon.com. 

*****
A very practical marriage makes Alexander Westcott question his heart in the latest Regency romance from the New York Times bestselling author of Someone to Hold.

When Alexander Westcott becomes the new Earl of Riverdale, he inherits a title he never wanted and a failing country estate he can’t afford. But he fully intends to do everything in his power to undo years of neglect and give the people who depend on him a better life. . . . 

A recluse for more than twenty years, Wren Heyden wants one thing out of life: marriage. With her vast fortune, she sets her sights on buying a husband. But when she makes the desperate—and oh-so-dashing—earl a startlingly unexpected proposal, Alex will only agree to a proper courtship, hoping for at least friendship and respect to develop between them. He is totally unprepared for the desire that overwhelms him when Wren finally lifts the veils that hide the secrets of her past. . . .

 

Wychwood by George Mann

whychwood.jpg
After losing her job and her partner in one fell swoop, journalist Elspeth Reeves is back in her mother’s house in the sleepy village of Wilsby-under-Wychwood, wondering where it all went wrong. Then a body is found in the neighbouring Wychwoods: a woman ritually slaughtered, with cryptic symbols scattered around her corpse. Elspeth recognizes these from a local myth of the Carrion King, a Saxon magician who once held a malevolent court deep in the forest. As more murders follow, Elspeth joins her childhood friend DS Peter Shaw to investigate, and the two discover sinister village secrets harking back decades.

I absolutely adored this book. After doing a little bit of research on the author, George Mann, I realize that this was a fit made in wherever perfect fits are made. The guy worked on Dr. Who and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle comics! I have to admit, I am a wee bit in awe of him.

I enjoyed George Mann’s writing style. I couldn’t put this book down and overslept because of that (but, that is neither here nor there). I didn’t feel like it was a chore to get to the end and, to be honest, some novels feel that way because of a lack in plot or character development. But, in Wychwood, I felt mostly fulfilled at the end. I say mostly because I feel like I’m still going to close my eyes at night and see some of the images Wychwood delivers to readers. I imagine that’s also a positive.

Mystery readers will delight in the story telling abilities displayed on the pages. There is an eerie realness in the characters and the need to either like or dislike them is strong.

Wychwood is available from Amazon, and Titan Books.  

Today is the official release date! I really encourage you to read this one.

 

Clade by James Bradley, A cautionary tale.

clade.jpgAdam is in Antartica, marking the passage of the solstice. Across the globe, his wife Ellie is waiting for the results of her IVF treatment. So begins the story of one family in a changing world, where the apocalyptic mingles with the everyday; a father battles a biblical storm; an immigrant is mysteriously drawn to the art of beekeeping; a young girl’s diary chronicles a pandemic; and a young man finds solace in building virtual recreations of the dead…

Let’s be honest, this book was bound to come to my view one day and I’m glad that it did because I happen to absolutely love time travel or alternate reality type stories. This goes beyond that–it follows a family through the expanse of time, so readers get to enjoy a great story that explores both science fiction and something of a family drama. As far as I can see, it isn’t part of a series, either, so for those who enjoy single stories (instead of having to read multiple novels in order to get the full view of the characters and their plights), this is a great fit.

I have never read any of James Bradley’s other works, but I feel like I might. My to-be-read pile is absolutely huge right now, but I’ll make room and I would imagine that after reading Clade, others will too. He’s a good writer, but some of the characters weren’t as strong as I would have liked. He did, however, deliver a great premise and he followed through until the very last chapter. The climate change cautionary tale James Bradley has written for us is certainly thought provoking.

If you would like to find out for yourself, I found Clade by James Bradley on Amazon, but you can also buy it from Titan Books.

Dark Immolation by Christopher Husberg

husbergA new religion is rising, gathering followers drawn by rumors of prophetess Jane Oden. Her sister Cinzia—once a Cantic priestess—is by her side, but fears that Jane will lead them to ruin. For both the Church and the Nazaniin assassins are still on their trail, and much worse may come.
Knot, his true nature now revealed if not truly understood, is haunted by his memories, and is not the ally he once was. Astrid travels to Tinska to find answers for her friend, but the child-like vampire has old enemies who have been waiting for her return. And beyond the Blood Gate in the empire of Roden, a tiellan woman finds herself with a new protector. One who wants to use her extraordinary abilities for his own ends…

Here’s the thing, kids. I read the first book in this quintet and wasn’t impressed. I didn’t even mark a review or rating on Goodreads or Amazon because I was that unimpressed with the story. Husberg is a good author. I like his style and I like his characters, but the plot in his novel, Duskfall, I disliked. But, I always approach novels with an open mind, particularly when I know the writer behind it can actually write and can create very believable characters. Characters were never an issue for me in Duskfall, FYI. So, with this all being established, I’ll get on with the review for the subsequent novel (the second in a quintet, I’m told), Dark Immolation.

As was true in Duskfall, Dark Immolation’s characters were great. That’s always key in a good story. I can’t read a book if I really could care less what happens to the people (or creatures) in it. If I can’t imagine them, if their dialogue is vague and generic, or if I just really dislike them, I’m not going to keep reading. One of Christopher Husberg’s strongest writing abilities (in my opinion) is that he can flesh out characters with an insane amount of skill. I’d like to buy him coffee and discuss this, but I’m sure that would border on stalker behavior and maybe he has a blog instead.

I feel like Christopher Husberg’s storytelling has improved since Duskfall. I enjoyed the feeling of dipping your toes into the waters of theology throughout this story and I enjoyed questioning my own thoughts as I read. I also like that when reading anything he has written (applies to both Duskfall and Dark Immolation) there is a good balance in the writing. Not too much dialog, but just the right amount. Not too much description, but just enough. Not too much this, nor too much that…See what I mean? He never lost my interest due to over stimulation or under stimulation. That’s important for me.

I would recommend this book. Heck, I’ll recommend the entire quintet (though, as of right now, subsequent books are not available yet). Just because Duskfall didn’t do it for me doesn’t mean it won’t some of you.

If you’re interested in seeing for yourself, hop over to Amazon and check it out. Read more reviews, if you so wish to do.