How Joe Killed A Book!

If you have come across the book Blaze In, Blaze Out by Joseph Lewis, but have not picked it up yet, be forewarned that you will get more than you think you are from the synopsis and less at the same time. It is literally 2 stories clashing all the way through. The clash is due to the divergence of the plots that would appeal separately to different audiences with such a minor overlap as to be negligible for true reader enjoyment.

The synopsis only gives you half the plot. Usually, that’s a good thing, you don’t want to know the whole story without reading. However, you do not want to pick up an action- thriller to find out it is all romantic comedy dialogue, nor do you want to pick up a sci-fi adventure to find that it is a real world drama. Most readers want to have mostly what they think they are getting when they pick up a book. So if you advertise a thriller or romance or sci-fi then the majority of your plot should be inline with that.

I honestly have been processing how I want to review the book for a whole week…..I really feel like the author intentionally ran a scam on readers….and I do not like how he presents the coming of age part of the book when the book is geared toward adults….there are some topics in the book that I feel are valid and important, but I think his tactics are appalling ……

Additionally, the story is unbelievable! It really is. It is like a really bad soap opera. You have to accept that Waukesha is the most unlucky city in America and that they have the highest concentrations of natural born heroes, while having the most violent disasters. It just makes you shake your head. The true art of fiction is to tell a tale so real as to make the reader believe in the truth of it. In that regard Lewis completely misses the target, I am not even sure that he found the range, he certainly didn’t stay in the proper lane.

The “action/thriller” part of the book apparently had a good enough outline to get Black Rose Writing to agree to a publishing contract, but the outline is really all that exists in that part of the plot. The whole story of the two local cops from Waukesha that are included in National Task Forces and their current dealings with an Ukrainian drug crime boss, who puts hits on them, is told in a very efficient manner so that it does not interfere with the author’s true passion, the boys’ story. This supporting plot of the story is where the author puts all his focus and attention, it shows and it terminally damages the supposed main plot and the book.

Almost from the beginning, the author starts inserting his preferred story into the marketed plot, confusing readers and repeatedly referring to “their story” and its events as something that everyone knows about. setting the self-destructive tone. I still do not have all the boys straight in the story, in spite of the fact the boys and their story seem to be Lewis’ primary focus. He does a disservice to the boys and their story, as well though. He does not seem to be a natural storyteller, he does seem to have a sincere desire to get some topics out in the open, in his mind at least. His delivery is tragically lacking and on some levels appalling.

I am not sure if Lewis has ever even read a good action thriller book, he doesn’t seem to have the basics of what readers of the genre expect. He includes too many details about weapons and “toys” that do not make up for the vagueness and shallowness of the thriller plot. He admits in his foreward or acknowledgments that he is neither a hunter or fisherman, he doesn’t seem to truly socialize with many that are, as his handling of those components are poorly related. Sure outdoorsmen might among themselves brag down to the serial number about a new “toy” they do not focus on that detail when they are “outdoorsing”. He should listen to more of their tales about actually hunting and fishing, which are more about the prey and the “actions” of getting or losing said prey.

In spite of his shallowness for the marketed plot of the book, his real plot was just as damaged as his pretense. His story of the boys, all of whom suffered trauma, mostly sexually, was totally exploited. All the boys that you actually meet in the story have all spent at least a few hours kidnapped into a sex-trafficking ring that, of course, these two cops were the heroes of bringing down, that is how Lewis’ gets to tell their story, they are the previous heroes. And honestly, maybe that is the story that he should have written instead of this one. Though it may be that the publishers turned down his stories of the boys, and I wouldn’t blame them.

This is not that stories of sex-trafficking of minors should not be told. Nor, is it that stories of gay adolescents coming of age shouldn’t be told. It isn’t even that those two topics can not be told together, it is in how the author chooses to tell the story that I find fault with. I felt like the scenes with the boys always had a sexual undercurrent to it. I felt that every physical interaction between the boys, regardless of sexual orientation, was sexualized. Most importantly, I felt lied to. The most the boys get mentioned in the synopsis is

“O’Connor planned on attending a high school soccer game and then head to Northern Wisconsin for a fishing trip with another cop, Detective Jamie Graff and four teenage, adopted brothers: George Tokay, Brian Evans, Brett McGovern, and Michael Two Feathers.”

There is no mention of their past traumas or their sexual orientations and coming of age aspect of the story, nothing that lets the reader know what they are really getting into when they pick up the book. If either topic were just a passing comment then no harm, no foul. But, when they are the focus of the book, that is at best lazy, irresponsible, inept or at worst deceitful, conniving, manipulative. Either way it is unacceptable. The author and publisher have done a disservice to reader and to the topics of the book.

*Copy Received For Review.

**Cover via Amazon.com

Can Gothic Modern?

Gothic is one of the most iconic all time genres of literature. Once in the realm of the genre almost any arguement could be made to name one master or another as supreme mastero or mistress. Probably the most iconic characters to come from the greats are Frankenstein’s Monster and Dracula, immortalizing Mary Shelly and Bram Stroker through to current day. Other greats include the Bronte sisters, E.A. Poe, O. Wilde and R. L. Stevenson. One might wonder how such works could have been produced so masterfully as to remain as popular today as they were during their contemporary era. That was easy, their cultures were still very much connected to the stories and lore of their past. These greats also lived in times of great change in the world around them. The world was getting larger and industrialization, just like colonization were bringing out the best and worst in society and mankind. All of this gave them much to ponder and question and investigate within the pages of their novels or the lines of their prose.

Cover via Amazon

Additionally, to have some excellent authors from across Europe and North America, there were and still are some places that are steeped in all the makings of gothic tales galore. Can some of those ideas and concepts find homes in the tech-savvy modern world of today? That is the idea that Mirko Markoviฤ‡ explores in his collection of stories Poppy Seeds On A Grave. Pulling from the rich legend and lore of the Balkans, Markoviฤ‡ weaves tales that do not have happy endings and delve into our peripheral shadows further than most would desire. In spite of our natural reluctance we follow owing to our curious nature being stronger than our caution at times. Or at least that has been the way of our nature for eons.

Poppy Seeds On A Grave is a collection of a dozen short stories set in the here and now that might tug at some long dormant fear in the readers collective memory of generations past. The collection gives the reader variety of stories so there should be at least one that grabs the attention of the reader. I will suggest that if you are like me and the first story begins to feel like getting a root canal….bare with it, or just skip it and move on. It is not, in my opinion, the best act in the book and certainly not a great opening act. Additionally, while this piece has gothic elements it is more post apocaylpse weird than gothic modern. Some may not like the fact that there are no happy endings, but life is not always about happy endings and sometimes the ending is more about how you see the world around you than what the world around you actually is, not sure what I mean, remember this when you read “In The Darkness.”

Confessing that I am an outsider Balkan girl, I would have liked to have seen more overtly Balkan lore themes in the stories, while I could see some of them in a few of the stories, owing to the title, I was expecting more undead and monsters of the dark forests to appear in the pages. Maybe that is some future work we will see.

Post Apocalypse In The Bible Belt…

What could go wrong with that, right!

Cover Art

In this post cataclysmic world, The Church is not just the law, but has declared itself God and created an existence where The Church is everything and everywhere. In true church fashion anyone whom The Church deems an enemy is labeled a witch or heretic and is handled in the same way witches and heretics have always been handled by Godly Men! Torture and burnings.

To maintain order, The Church, controls all aspects of the people’s lives, from their education to their occupation. Additionally, The Church is a vast and powerful entity with no equal and has been for a thousand years, now. Maintaining complete control means that The Church maintains a vast army of enforcers.

In that, Malachi seems to be The Church’s Rising Star. He is their best witchfinder. He is one of the most loyal members of The Church. His life seems complete and fulfilled. But everything is getting ready to change. Malachi finds himself in unbelievable situations and extraordinary circumstances. With that his whole belief structure will be challenged.

He will have to question everything he knows and everything he believes; and he still may not make it out alive. However, he is not the only one to face turmoil. The members of his team, which he considers his only friends, will also find themselves in precarious circumstances. Day-to-day existence becomes constant life and death situations. Yesterday’s enemies and allies will become tomorrow’s allies and enemies.

Malachi will be swept from one crisis to the next, each with its own horrors and pitfalls. Some of his charges and team will make it and others will not. But they will all have to face unimaginable realities that shatter the facade of The Church. The justice they imposed will become the justice that they face. Yet, justice is only as just as those imposing it. And truth is only that knowledge and wisdom that you seek for yourself. Their journey is long and arduous and only beginning by the closing page.

*Copy Received For Review.

Intellectual Prowess with Feminine Flair

While most of what I read is in the non-fiction section of the library…

I Love A Good Novel!

So, what makes a good novel for me? Honestly, it depends on my mood, but for sure the characters have to have depth and intelligence and the plot has to have enough challenges and interest too that I don’t already know the ending before the end of Chapter 1.

I must confess, also, that I really love having that in a series! And I like being a little late to the series party. Why, you might ask? Cause, I am a committed reader. Thus, if I get a hold of a really good book, I can finish it in a weekend (please read here, couple of days) if not a night!  Therefore, it is in my emotional reading interest that I have at least a couple, if not the whole series published first, so I do not have to feel let down to have to wait for the next one.

For any authors that might be reading this; do not take me wrong, I know that those of you, with a passion for your craft put a lot of time and effort into your finished works and that to publish high quality content takes time. And I do greatly appreciate the time that you take in creating such joy for the readers of the world!

Book cover of Stalking Jack The Ripper
Book Cover via LibraryThing

Another fact that I should state upfront, I do not believe in “age-appropriate” books! Do not get me wrong, I would not suggest the 50 Shades series to a 10 year old, but from what I have heard the writing of the story is sub-par, I do not know, I have never read any of it. I think I was turned off by the trending of it as “Mommy Porn”; what is that, even? Either it is porn or it isn’t. And if it was porn that made mainstream, good on it! But, I digress.

Back to our focus, I have read and continue to read many books and series that are labeled as Young Adult, such as the Harry Potter series and the Hunger Games series. So last year sometime, summer, I think, I discovered a series from  James Patterson Presents. The author is Kerri Maniscalco and the series is Stalking Jack The Ripper, also the title of the first book in the 4 book series. (I have bittersweet feelings about only 4 books in this series)

drawing of Audrey Rose Wadsworth
SJTR Character Card Teasers via author website

The main character is an intelligent, strong willed and minded, young lady from an affluent titled family in 19th century London, Audrey Rose. Maniscalco does a great job of not only weaving an intricate plot with twists and turns to keep the reader guessing and sometimes even second guessing their suspicions, but, also, providing great insight into the challenges of being an intellectual and a lady in Victorian England and the world for that matter then and now.

The plot stays mostly true to the known or accepted facts of the case, where Maniscalco shines is her filing in the blank spaces that have been supposed and hypothesized for decades. Her version of the unknown aspects of the most famous violent murderer of all-time is both plausible and captivating for the reader. There are plenty of secondary plots to give the whole world of Audrey Rose depth and substance, drawing the reader into the pages heart and soul. And after you get through all the meat of the story, Maniscalco presents extras including notes on the historic liberties she has taken in retelling the story as well as juicy tidbits that while mentioned in the story were not shared, like letters to main characters.

The whole package and delivery are just extraordinary and completely refreshing in this age of seemingly reused, recycled and reduced repeats of plots with shallow characters and poor editing. While self-publishing allows for some really good writers with some not so mainstream works to make it to the public, it has also created the illusion that anyone can be a best-selling author. And Kerri Maniscalco is the whole package of a best-selling author.