Mini Book Reviews

For the first time in a looong time I’m enjoying a three-day weekend (actually; I don’t remember ever having a three-day weekend, but I digress), so I decided to go on an autobiographical bender and read a few short books to keep me from losing my melon. Here are my thoughts on these short and easy reads.

My Seinfeld Year by Fred Stoller

This Kindle single delves into author (character actor and writer Fred Stoller), extremely lucky streak of becoming a writer on one of the most popular sitcoms in modern American TV history (Seinfeld), yet he wasn’t too happy about it. I can’t imagine that writing for TV is an easy gig, especially for such a stratospherically popular show. He describes the almost Darwinian elements of a competitive writing gig which, quite frankly, would give anyone nightmares. He did managed to write some memorable episodes for the show, such as the one where Kramer is forced to apologize to a monkey and the one about the suit for a meal, in which Jerry has to buy Benia a meal for a suit, but Benia only has a soup and a sandwich after which he declares that a soup and a sandwich is not a meal, funny stuff. His insight into the ‘real-life’ Kramer is very interesting because the guy comes across as a real New York hustler, just like the TV Kramer. Overall a good read. 4 out of 5

***

The Girl in the Photo by Gaspar Gonzales

The historical background on this short alone will have you glued. The author (writer and documentary film maker Gaspar Gonzales) has been obsessed with a picture of the brother he never met, and decides to trace the girl who’s posing on said photograph with his brother, a photo, presumably taken on prom night. And so begins a journey of forty plus years in the making. This is an immigrant’s tale intertwined with family, history, war and the love of one’s adopted country. I just wish the book was longer because, as it stands, it feels like a taste of a much longer story, a story which honors the legacy of the brother he never had a chance to meet, a shy and smart guy who became a quiet war hero. If you haven’t guess already; this short will hit you in the feels (is someone peeling onions around here?) 5 out of 5

Happy Fourth of July!

 

Mini Book Reviews

You’re in for a treat partner because we have, not one, but two opposing genres in this here review. First up; the always great Michael Connelly’s ongoing Bosch series, and a book I’ve been meaning to read ever since it first came out; the sci-fi action-adventure by Ernest Cline: Ready Player One. Let’s go…

If you want masterful set ups, delicious twist and turns; you can’t go wrong with Trunk Music which also packs a lot of procedural details, great characterization and the introduction of a new lieutenant in the excellently named Grace Billets (or Bullets, as per her nickname) plus, a new partner named Kizman Rider (or Kiz, who may or may not stay in the unit) we’re also re-introduce to Bosch’s old flame Eleanor Wish. The only cats missing here are Crate and Barrel (I really like those guys, this being book #5 of the ongoing series, I might’ve miss the why of their absentia in this story) In Trunk Music we are treated to a fun case with the killing of a movie producer found in the trunk of his car, hence the ‘mob-term’ trunk music. Corrupt cops, back stabbings and blackmail set in the City of Angels where homicide detective Hieronymus (Harry) Bosch and his partner Detective Jerry Edgar are the heroes every police department should have. 5 out of 5

Confession time, I’m not a fan of ‘hard sci-fi’ so this book was a treat. Think a dystopian future steep in the 1980’s and all its pop culture trappings neatly wrapped in an action-adventure story with 80’s video games, avatars, music, movies, TV shows and powerful enemies under the umbrella of an evil corporation, and you have what will, no doubt, become a huge Hollywood summer blockbuster at a time when tinsel town needs it the most. The story is a classic hero’s journey; David vs. Goliath with smart geeks at the helm of a twisty and funny ride. I for one enjoyed the hell out of this book. Great job Mr. Ernest Cline. 5 out of 5

The Hate U Give–Review

Reading YA is not my bag, I’ve got nothing against the genre, is just not my thing. I didn’t know this book was a YA novel, had I known I probably would’ve passed on reading it, I’m glad I didn’t because is much more than just a story about a sixteen year old girl growing up in the hood while also attending a private (mostly White) school.

The story’s core is the social issue of the day, a “torn from the headlines” if you will, meaning: white cops shooting young black men. It’s timely, it’s hard-hitting and it should be require reading for everyone, especially law enforcement personnel.  Here’s a quote from the young protagonist Starr Carter.

“When I was 12, my parents had two talks with me. One was the birds and the bees. The second was what to do if stopped by police. Keep your hands visible. Don’t make any sudden moves. Only speak when they speak to you.’”

A quote many in minority communities are very familiar with. This book is a mirror to some, a reality for others and—hopefully—eye- opening for all.

A solid 5 out of 5 Starrs ( ha! see what I did there?)

The Cartel by Don Winslow

A hefty book with a well- researched, powerful, dark, brutal and violent story. The passage which best surmised the story for me is found on pages 411 through page 412 the passage is being thought/narrated by Juarez journalist Pablo Mora:

Mexico—the land of writers and poets—of Octavio Paz, Juan Rulfo, Carlos Fuentes, Elena Garro, Jorge Volpi, Rosario Castellanos, Luis Urrea, Elmer Mendoza, Alfonso Reyes—the land of painters and sculptors—Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Gabriel Orozco, Pablo O’Higgins, Juan Soriano, Francisco Goita—of dancers like Guillermina Bravo, Gloria and  Nellie Campobello, Josefina Lavalle, Ana Merida, and composers—Carlos Chavez, Silvestre Revueltas, Agustin Lara, Blas Galindo—architects—Luis Barragan, Juan O’Gorman, Tatiana Bilbao, Michel Rojkind, Pedro Vasquez—wonderful filmmakers—Fernando de Fuentes, Alejandro Inarritu, Luis Buñuel, Alfonso Cuaron, Guillermo del Toro—actors like Dolores del Rio, “La Dona” Maria Felix, Pedro Infante, Jorge Negrete, Salma Hayek—now the name of “famous” narcos—no more than sociopathic murderers whose sole contribution to the culture has been narcocorridos sung by no-talent sycophants.

Mexico, the land of pyramids and palaces, deserts and jungles, mountains and beaches, markets and gardens, boulevards and cobblestone streets, broad plazas and hidden courtyards, is now known as a slaughter ground.

And for what?

So North Americans can get high.

Just across the bridge is the gigantic marketplace, the insatiable consumer machine that drives the violence here. North Americans smoke the dope, snort the coke, shoot the heroin, do the meth, and then have the nerve to point south (down, of course, on the map), and wag their fingers at the “Mexican drug problem” and Mexican corruption.

It’s not the “Mexican drug problem,” Pablo thinks now, it’s the North American drug problem.

As for corruption, who’s more corrupt—the seller or the buyer? And how corrupt does a society have to be when its citizens need to get high to escape their reality, at the cost of bloodshed and suffering of their neighbors?

Corrupt to the soul.

That’s the big story, he thinks.

That’s the story someone should write.

Well, maybe I will.

And no one will read it.

 

A Solid 5 out of 5 read.

Mini Book Reviews

Hollywood by Charles Bukowski  5 out of 5

In the novel Hollywood you get pure unadulterated Bukowski, even though his alter ego Chinaski gets to narrate a thinly-veiled first-person account of how he was persuade to do a screenplay by a Hollywood director which, I understand, became the movie Barfly with Mickey Rourke, a movie from the 80’s which I haven’t seen but I’m hoping to see in the future.

Now the novel itself is hilarious in that low-life Bukowski way which all Bukowskiuvites love. It deals with the human condition of a lifelong alcoholic and his artistry. His wife “Sara” makes an appearance here but more of a helper than an actual developed character. His bemusement at the Hollywood machine is something to behold, the ups and downs, the flakes, the money problems of doing art in a medium that doesn’t always understands or rewards the artist makes for an entertaining read.

 

Night School—A Reacher Novel 4 out of 5

By the time I read my fourth Jack Reacher novel; I’ve had a problem with the Jack Reacher character because he is that Übermensch Alpha male who hardly ever gets hurt, who’s smarter than everyone else and is always right, making him almost inhuman. Granted he is a fictional character but still, one would think about the wear and tear.

Night School is the 21st Reacher novel and it takes place in 1996 a time when Reacher was still in his Military Police (MP) days. This time the government takes him to Germany on the trail of a suspected terrorist cell, but things are not so black and white because a CIA asset, undercover inside the cell, becomes aware that there’s an American who has what the terrorist cell wants for “one hundred million dollars” (insert Austin Powers joke here), so Reacher and his new two friends from Night School are tasked with finding this American.

I enjoy reading Jack Reacher novels because author Lee Child is a fantastic writer, although in my estimation he’s out there with Stephen King when it comes to getting to the point. Lee Child’s research is impeccable and the ass-kickery never lets down, but like I said; when your character has the amazing ability of always making accurate leaps of fate and logic then things get annoying. Over all a good entertaining read. Will I read another? Sure, mostly because author Lee Child is a talented writer (21 books!) and he has Hollywood knocking on his door, plus A-list talent wants in on his projects, which in this day and age is what makes for a successful writer, I guess.

Zero Saints-Book Review.

zerosaintsA note to Author Gabino Iglesias: On behalf of a bunch of crime fiction writers out there,(Ok mostly moi) we would like to ask Mr. Gabino Iglesias author of Zero Saints; to please stop writing books under the crime fiction banner, failure to do so may destroy the writing ‘career’ of a bunch of us—thank you.

Pulling zero punches, author Gabino Iglesias plunges the reader into the hard, violent, funny and often bizarre world of barrio underground gangbangers, drug dealers, Santeria, Palo Mayombe, Santa Muerte and a dog with human eyes. This book is unlike any other book I’ve ever read, I came to it without any previous knowledge of Mr. Iglesias’s output, and man, I’m glad I did. This was a propulsive read and pretty damn impressive in every level, from the intellectual, to the poetic and scary as hell, add to it the deft touches of Spanglish, plus supernatural elements, and you’ve got yourself a classic—that’s right;  A Classic.

Ever read a book that makes you want to shout it out from every rooftop? This is that book! Why is this book not in the New York Times Bestsellers List? Boggles the mind. The only complain I can see about this tome is from folks who don’t speak Spanish and to those folks I say: This is America; learn to speak Spanish cabrones. (That goes for you too NZ, UK, AU, etc.). Seriously though; a lack of Spanish skills will not hinder your enjoyment of this unforgettable book.

One question Mr. Iglesias. What the hell is in that bucket?

Petrocelli-Book Review.

petrocelli-jpgRight off the bat I must say that this was not an easy read for me; very few things make me uncomfortable, this book did that to me, which is a testament to talented author John Rachel and his well-researched hard-hitting eye-opening novel.

Small time crocked low life ‘Lucky’ Lenny Petrocelli becomes embroiled in the sexual exploitation and trafficking of minors for an outfit operating out of Chicago; New Yorker Lenny is way over his head. And while the Djin Djin girls ply their trade in the dirty streets of Brooklyn, Bishop Mulcahy and a brutal serial killer with a messiah complex try to clean the streets. The Bishop by railing the community, the serial killer with brutality learned in the Vietnam War. Multiple story lines converge to make Petrocelli a compelling read worthy of a place in the New York Times Best Seller List as stories like this one are worthy of National attention, as the ‘Author’s Note’ reads in the introduction: … “It is currently estimated that human trafficking is annually a 36 billion dollar business worldwide. I have also read there are more than 25 million people in the world kept in bondage as slaves. I fear this is a low figure.” Another thing of note is that despite the subject matter; author John Rachel writes in a witty, world weary manner, with believable characters in a world where greed rules; profit above all else, even the lives of innocent children. Powerful stuff.

5 out of 5