Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Book Review: Murder and Mayhem in the Big Apple

Still about murder and mystery, but it's non-fiction. Murder and Mayhem in the Big Apple chronicles the rise of the BlackHand group to the downfall (that we know of) of its successor, the notorious Murder Incorporated. The author has certainly done his homework for this short true crime book, including many comments from the actual bad guys, and this is where this true crime book doesn't quite do it all for me. As interesting as the events are, there is a flatness to the end of the individual stories. It's not a big deal, but it is there to me.

There were so many names (good and bad and stupid) that it was hard to following the main story at times. With a bit more character portrayal, I don't think my mind would have wandered as much as it did. Still, if you are into the history of New York criminals, this is a great place for resource material.

One thing it did show is that even for the bad guys, the pull of family and the familiar is strong. It was that pull that was the downfall of so many bad guys as they snuck their way home. I'm kind of glad for their downfall, but there is some kind of social statement that can be made there if I was a social scientist. I don't read much non-fiction, but this is a top shelf 4 to me.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Book Review: Tidal Surge

Read an ARC. Equal parts horror, suspense, romance, and paranormal mysticism, TIDAL SURGE is a heavily plotted, well-written novel that is captivating on several levels. While the main character, Liliha, searches for peace, that's the last thing that comes to her even with marriage to the love of her life and a hopeful attempt at reconciliation with her daughter from a previous marriage. All this occurs despite her empathetic prowess through ancient Egyptian artifacts that can elevate one's positive or negative impacts on the lives of others.

The author balances several characters effectively and breathes life into each of the diverse individuals, ensuring they come together in the horrifying conclusion that bodes a promise of more to come for some of the characters. The suspenseful plot twists and turns continuously and is enhanced by the moody British weather. (Is it ever not moody?)

This is a worthy sequel to STILL ROCK WATER. While I'm not big on the paranormal aspect of the story (a personal bias), others who like Egyptian lore, spiritualism, and paranormal effects on the here-and-now should find this an excellent read. I liked the crisp and clean language. The sub-plots held more interest for me than the main paranormal plot line. Liliha might try to influence me to give this a "5", but for my more reality-based taste, it's a top shelf "4".

Friday, July 19, 2013

Book Review: A Stallion to Die For

If you love horses with a dash of family saga, A Stallion to Die For is a 5-star read. I'm not a horse person. There--I said it--but I kept an open mind while reading this story written with barely a grammatical hiccup, which interrupts the narrative of too many self-pubbed novels. Well done. Read reviews from horse people with regard to the validity of the inside scoop into this elite and very subjective world. The action is crisp and precise even if I still don't know a canter from a trot to a gallop, or the cross country scoring methodology of this type of riding. The scoring logic did throw me a few times. And why are babies allowed on course where 1400 pound animals are going to be running with locomotive power?
Not "My Friend Flicka"

While the protagonist, Lexy, deals with her share of emotional baggage believably, some secondary characters felt more like window dressing, stampeding into a scene then dismounting into the sunset. Bo, the equine protagonist, is superbly drawn, even to a horse-challenged person. Hamp, Lexy's main squeeze, felt wooden, with only three emotional reactions to most situations: extreme rage, emotional detachment, or tender lust. His vague motivations were not enough. And considering this was also a mystery, the sheriff and her investigations disappear for far too many pages for this mystery lover. She plays a pivotal role around which she seems disengaged. Lexy's amateur detective excursions--some of which were motivationally handicapped--keep her in jeopardy despite my constant warnings to not go there.

The mystery was more about suspense in the mind of Lexy than this reader. Though adequately developed, I would have loved more build-up around the red-herring bad guy or even less certainty over the bad guy until much later in the story. That others were aghast over the character's emotional implosion in the end says a lot about family sagas where those closest to a situation are usually the most clueless. Well done. Most puzzling was the positive outpouring for the murderous and arsonist bad guy at the end. Tie it all together, and this is a solid read worthy of time on the front porch rocker sipping ice tea in Southern Pines. A top class "4" from me.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Guest Blog Interview with Abbe Diaz

And now for something different. This week, I'm feasting on a short interview with Abbe Diaz about publishing, eating in NYC, and her new series books. Her PX This book is free on Kindle, but only for a limited time. 

Abbe Diaz is the author of PX This. (Diary of the “Maître d’ to the Stars”) and PX Me. (How I Became a Published Author, Got Micro-Famous, and Married a Millionaire.) She is also a freelance commercial-artist, designer/dressmaker, and restaurant consultant. She has worked in the restaurant/bar industry for nearly 25 years, with numerous stints throughout the New York dining/party scene that include: Limelight, Palladium, Tunnel, Club USA, Coffee Shop, Spy, Cafe Tabac, The Strand (Miami Beach), Mercer Kitchen, Ilo, Lotus, and Theo. She served as the opening maître d’ for The Park, Smith, and 66.
One of several volumes.

What’s the one best improvement in self-publishing now over ten years ago?


Ten years ago eReaders didn't even exist. Basically, a self-published book was "print on demand" only. So although the process of publishing was relatively easy, the system of selling books was difficult because books which were printed "on demand" were very expensive, simply by virtue of the printing operation (not to mention the door-to-door delivery).

For example, my 468-page book retailed at $29.99— for a soft cover! That made it damned near impossible to market. I got so many complaints about it, and even my own family started demanding free copies instead of supporting a struggling new author like a loving family should. Most authors know it's hard enough to sell a book as it is; just imagine how challenging it is when you are charging an arm and a leg and a firstborn.

On top of all that, it turned out to be a double-edged sword. I declined a quasi-offer from a traditional publishing house, because I wanted to maintain creative control over my work. But then after I self-published, I reconsidered and spoke with several literary agents thinking I could find a publisher who could butcher enough trees and distribute so many copies of my book it would end up in the discount bin for 99 cents, but none of them were interested in representing me unless I'd sold "at least 5,000 units." Now I ask you, if I could have sold 5,000 units at thirty bucks a pop, what the hell would I need a literary agent for?

Now you can sell books for as little as 99 cents without all that rigmarole, if you want. Hooray!

What’s the one biggest disappointment in the lack of self-publishing progress?


Did you know that authors still cannot present their books in the specific font of their choice? They can't even control whether it's a serif or a sans-serif. I mean, yes there are expensive eBook conversion services which can "embed" fonts, but the Kindle devices themselves are not always compatible with the outcome.

Yea yea so what, you ask— who do I think I am, e.e. cummings? Well okay, let's assume I am e.e.cummings. Just imagine how frustrated I would be.

Are you still banned from restaurants?

Hey, I am not banned from restaurants; I am banned from one restaurant group. Because they're cowardly and cheesy. But if you were to ask any staffer that's below top-tier management all up in that mess, they would tell you what a hero I am.

All the other restaurants love me— I'm a great and frequent customer, I never complain, and I always tip really well. And besides, I never insulted any restaurateur who didn't patently deserve it.

Do you worry about retaliatory food in your orders? Skate disguised as flounder?

There are only handful of creepy chefs whose food I wouldn't trust. Believe me, I don't want to eat their food anyway. So no, I don't worry.
Dine On This Book 

The killer asteroid is coming. To which NYC restaurant do you put on your Jimmy Choos and run there to eat?

Can I pick two places and pedal in my Jimmy Choos from one to the other on a Citibike or something? Cuz right now I can't decide between Omar's and Maison O.

Oh okay, I pick Omar's. Especially since the food is great but I hear they're maybe about to lose their chef, Kenny Cuomo. Oopsie, I think that's probably supposed to be a secret, but "news" like that is forever falling right into my lap.

Ha, you should forward this blog post to Eater New York, they would kill for a "scoop" like that. Then again, don't hold your breath for any acknowledgement, because supposedly I am "blacklisted" now for delineating all their depravity in my second book, PX Me (How I Became a Published Author, Got Micro-Famous, and Married a Millionaire (available now on Amazon!) and for putting a photograph of their jerkfaced co-founder on my hilarious trailer video (viewable now on YouTube!

I would give it a try anyway, though. The experiment alone is fascinating, no?

Bill Gates offers you his fortune if you eat at the worst restaurant you have ever eaten in. Do you eat there? Why/why not?

His entire fortune? Oh hell yes, I would do it for a mere one-tenth of his fortune. I would even eat at one of those places operated by that handful of aforementioned creepy chefs. I wouldn't worry about being poisoned, because I would take Bill Gates's fortune and just buy the entire restaurant. And if the owners were stubborn and egomaniacal and refused to sell the restaurant to me, then I would just buy the whole fucking building.

More About Abbe Diaz

Abbe has been featured in various media outlets such as The New York Daily NewsThe New York Post, msn.comThe Morning Show (Australia), CBS’s The InsiderThe New York ObserverBlackbookTime Out New York, Perez Hilton, Gawker, LXTV-NBC, NBC Chicago, New York magazine, Mediabistro,, and, just to name a few. For more visit: Twitter: Facebook:

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Book Review: Long Doom Calling

Read the ARC for Long Doom Calling. The fourth book of the Higher Ground Series is the best at pulling all the various plots of the epic story together to bring the adventure to Long Doom to a climax for this version of what happens after the great flood many years in the future. Has mankind changed? Stayed the same? Retracted? Grown? Read it and find out. You won't be dissatisfied.
Is this humanities future?

The writing is very clean and tight--to my personal taste, a bit too tightly reined in at times when bridging scenes. The personalities of the large cast are well defined and the action uncluttered, easily followed. There is a bit too much serendipity for me--characters getting what they need, but rest assured, there's usually a price to be paid for the acquisition. Quibbles over the believability of the future of humanity is what makes books about Dystopian and Utopian futures rich fodder for discussion over tea, wine, or hard liquor. Whatever your take on the future, the authors have laid out a vision that is, for the most part, plausible in the literary world. The main plot winds its way with twists and turns worthy of a passing nod to The Bard in the making of kings and queens over the British Isles.

It is nigh impossible to determine where one author leaves off and the other one picks up the story--a significant accomplishment. There are enough strong characters for every reader to identify with one or another, and root for, boo, or hiss their heroes and villains. I'm giving this book the little toe into a "5" rating zone. And oh yes, I get the play on words for the entire series. Well done.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Book Review: A New Dawn Rising

A New Dawn Rising has all the elements of the lone wolf, ex-cop with old wounds story genre. It is well put together without a lot of self-publishing hiccups, but I had a tough time getting behind Sam, the protagonist, early in the story. While it starts off well in the opening chapters, it does fade a bit as the author attempts to engage our intrigue in the story line and develops Sam's character before the action picks up midway through the story. It's also nice to meet a flawed person, Sam, who doesn't have all the answers. But his detective skills phase in and out of the story causing him to stumble along occasionally, sometimes making baffling decisions and mistakes that only worsen his situation. Perhaps it was the alcohol, but at times I felt led by the author less by the action. Not a major issue though.

In my novels, I also have a lot of characters for the reader to come to grips with. It's tough keeping them distinctive for the reader. The author did a good job for the most part. But too many of the characters were fairly shallower, almost cardboard cut-outs we've seen before. It took too long to get a feel for some of the main characters, like Carl. At first, I thought someone in his late 50's, than early 30's, than trying to piece the timeline, he must have been in his mid-40's. The same was true with Sam's love interest. I thought a teenager at first, then she turns out to be in her late twenties. Why important? Their actions were at times confusing based on what they should or could have been doing. Carl, himself, was the most confusing person to figure out, and left me wondering if he could have been the portrayed mastermind in business and crime.

The ending did wrap up a twisty plot despite the fact that I beat Sam (and the police) by 100 pages with anticipating the big reveal. For a debut novel, this is a good read, but lacks a definitive punch to make it a great read. It does have the look of a positive series. It is a solid 4.