Category Archives: Book reviews

Cover reveal – Death Before Daylight by Shannon A Thompson

DBDcover I am once again honoured to take part in the cover reveal for Shannon and her awesome Timely Death Trilogy. I could talk the hind legs off a donkey about how highly I rate Shannon as an author, but I’ll let her do the talking as she does it so much more eloquently than I, click here if you’d like to read my review of the book.

Letter from author, Shannon A. Thompson

It’s here! It’s here! The final cover of The Timely Death Trilogy has finally been released. A special thank you goes out to Clean Teen Publishing and this lovely Member of the Dark who is helping share this message today. Minutes Before Sunset, book 1 of The Timely Death Trilogy, re-releases on July 28 – with an all new interior and exterior – and both are beautiful. Seconds Before Sunrise follows on August 25, and Death Before Daylight (the only novel of the trilogy to never see the shelves before) is finally getting it’s day . . . hehehe . . . Well, it’s releasing September 15. Even more exciting? You can win prizes throughout all of these events and more by becoming a Member of the Dark . . . or a Member of the Light. Check out the details below! I look forward to speaking with you!

Shannon A. Thompson (a.k.a. SAT)


Two eternities. One ending.

“Harmony would only come with destruction.”

The moment Eric and Jessica are reunited, they are torn apart. After the appearance of a new breed of shades and lights, the powers shift for the worse, and all three descendants find themselves face-to-face in the Light realm. When Darthon is in control, the last thing everyone expects is to finally hear the truth.

While Jessica learns the reason of her creation, Darthon’s identity is exposed to Eric—and only Eric—and Eric can no longer defend himself. With the eternities of the Light and the Dark resting on Jessica’s shoulders, she must choose who she will be—a light or a shade.

In the end, someone must die, and the end is near.

Dark Activities:

Become a Member of the Dark (or Light) by emailing Your email will never be given out, and you are not required to do anything, but you will win more prizes the more you participate.

 Win a paperback of Minutes Before Sunset via Goodreads!

Pre-order Minutes Before Sunset:

 Stay Updated via The Timely Death Trilogy FB page:

Visit the Extras Page:

Pin your favorite photos from The Timely Death Trilogy Pinterest board:

But most of all . . .

Stay Dark,



Filed under Book reviews

Cover reveal – Seconds Before Sunrise by Shannon A Thompson

SBScoverI am delighted to be able to reveal the next cover in The Timely Death Trilogy: Seconds Before Sunrise!

Regular readers of my blog will know what a huge fan of Shannon I am and so I shall let her do the talking (my original review of the book can be found here):

Shannon A Thompson:

The Timely Death Trilogy began as one teenager’s nightmare and morphed into a real-life dream of authorship. The entire trilogy re-releases with new covers and new interiors this summer and fall by Clean Teen Publishing. I hope you’ll check out this dark vs. light trilogy (mainly because the “dark” side is the good side…maybe), and I especially hope you’ll consider becoming a Member of the Dark! Each time there is a special event, you can participate and win prizes—like spotlights on my website, books, and more. Simply email me at, and I’ll send a badge over to you. We might even have coffee together.

Thank you for reading about this dark journey,

Synopsis of Seconds Before Sunrise:

Seconds Before Sunrise (book 2 of The Timely Death Trilogy)

Two nightmares. One memory.

“Chaos within destiny. It was the definition of our love.”

Eric has weeks before his final battle when he’s in an accident. Forced to face his human side, he knows he can’t survive if he fights alone. But he doesn’t want to surrender, even if he becomes the sacrifice for war.

Jessica’s memory isn’t the only thing she’s lost. Her desire to find her parents is gone and so is her confidence. But when fate leaves nightmares behind, she decides to find the boy she sees in them, even if it risks her sanity.





YouTube Video Reveal:

pic1About the author:

Shannon A. Thompson is a 23-year-old author, avid reader, and habitual chatterbox. She was merely 16 when she was first published, and a lot has happened since then. Thompson’s work has appeared in numerous poetry collections and anthologies, and her first installment of The Timely Death Trilogy became Goodreads Book of the Month. She is currently represented by Clean Teen Publishing, and Minutes Before Sunset releases on July 28, 2015.

As a novelist, poet, and blogger, Thompson spends her free time writing and sharing ideas with her black cat named after her favorite actor, Humphrey Bogart. Between writing and befriending cats, she graduated from the University of Kansas with a bachelor’s degree in English, and she travels whenever the road calls her.


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Minutes Before Sunset by Shannon A. Thompson

Minutes Before Sunset

by Shannon A. Thompson

Giveaway ends June 23, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to Win


Filed under Book reviews

Minutes Before Sunset Cover Reveal – Shannon A Thompson

Cover Regular readers of my blog will be aware that Shannon A Thompson (a young author who I am a huge fan of) recently suffered the devastation of her publisher closing down, leaving her without representation.

While many folks may have given up there and then, Shannon continued on (with the support of her ever-growing fan base of readers) and has signed up with a new publisher: Clean Teen Publishing who will be re-releasing the first installment of the Timely Death Trilogy, Minutes Before Sunset on July 28th 2015.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Shannon and her work, let me say this: this young lady is a hugely talented author with a big future ahead of her. Still so young, she has achieved so much, which is even more incredible given the blows that life has dealt her along the way.

Shannon isn’t just an author, she’s a blogger who puts her heart and soul into sharing the ups and downs of being a writer and also life in general. Shannon is a warm and giving young woman who always makes the time to reach out and make contact with new bloggers and readers. Take it from this blogger, she reached out to me when I was a novice blogger and introduced me to the wonderful community of fellow writers and readers on WordPress.

I could probably wax lyrical about Shannon for hours, but I shall let her bio do the talking (it’s much more eloquent than I could ever be):

pic1Shannon A. Thompson is a 23-year-old author, avid reader, and habitual chatterbox. She was merely 16 when she was first published, and a lot has happened since then. Thompson’s work has appeared in numerous poetry collections and anthologies, and her first installment of The Timely Death Trilogy became Goodreads Book of the Month. She is currently represented by Clean Teen Publishing, and Minutes Before Sunset releases on July 28, 2015.


As a novelist, poet, and blogger, Thompson spends her free time writing and sharing ideas with her black cat named after her favorite actor, Humphrey Bogart. Between writing and befriending cats, she graduated from the University of Kansas with a bachelor’s degree in English, and she travels whenever the road calls her.

And if you don’t believe what I have to say about the wonderful Miss Thompson’s writing, check out the synopsis and reviews Minutes Before Sunset has already garnered on its first release:

Two destines. One death.

“Her kiss could kill us, and my consent signed our death certificates.”

Eric Welborn isn’t completely human, but he isn’t the only shade in the small Midwest town of Hayworth. With one year left before his eighteenth birthday, Eric is destined to win a long-raging war for his kind. But then she happens. In the middle of the night, Eric meets a nameless shade, and she’s powerful—too powerful—and his beliefs are altered. The Dark has lied to him, and he’s determined to figure out exactly what lies were told, even if the secrets protect his survival.

Jessica Taylor moves to Hayworth, and her only goal is to find more information on her deceased biological family. Her adoptive parents agree to help on one condition: perfect grades. And Jessica is distraught when she’s assigned as Eric’s class partner. He won’t help, let alone talk to her, but she’s determined to change him—even if it means revealing everything he’s strived to hide.

Awarded Goodreads’ Book of the Month in July 2012

Releases July 28, 2015 – Second edition by Clean Teen Publishing, new cover and new interior!

Current Rating on Goodreads: 146 ratings, 4.3 stars


  • “A magical, if slightly dark, tale.” – The Reader’s Review
  • “Wonderfully unnerving.” – Coffee Shop Reader
  • “This is a story of forbidden love, hidden love, and a war of love.” – Endless Reading
  • “This book was brilliant, original and romantic. This is a timeless love story with incredible character growth, action and twists of fate.” – Note to Selph Book Reviews
  • “Miss. Thompson twisted the concept of Light and Dark, reversing the well-known roles, changing the time-old dance and making it her own. Brilliant and true, “Minutes Before Sunset” is thought-provoking, bringing real-life lessons and morals from a world of the supernatural.” – Live. Laugh. Read

I hope I have whet your appetite enough for you to check out the following links to access more information on Shannon and her books:






A link to my original review of Minutes Before Sunset can be found here


Filed under Book reviews

Book Review – Death Before Daylight by Shannon A Thompson

Seconds Before SunriseAs a fan of Shannon’s ‘Timely Death’ trilogy, I was delighted when the author emailed me with an ARC of her new book ‘Death Before Daylight’.

Those of you who read my blog with any regularity will know that I have already read and reviewed the two previous titles in the series and loved them both. Shannon A Thompson is a talented writer with a big future, mark my words.

Death Before Daylight picks up at the aftermath of the showdown between the Light and the Dark. It had been prophesized that the battle between Shoman and Darthon would bring about the end of the war between the two fighting factions. It would be a battle that only one could survive.

Until Jessica came along.

Without giving too much away for those of you who haven’t read the first two books in the series, Jessica’s arrival in the small town of Hayworth has a devastating effect on the battle between the warring sects and a prophecy that has been set in stone for years.

Since the battle, everything has been turned on its head, leaving Jess and Eric confused and mistrustful of those closest to them. Members of both sides find their powers weakening, except for Shoman, Darthon and Jess. Since discovering that Jess holds the key to Darthon’s success or demise, the Dark have been on full alert as to the possibility of another attempt on Shoman and Jessica’s lives.

It’s not long until Darthon makes the first move, and with devastating consequences. Both Shoman and Jessica are forced to confront a reality which they would rather didn’t exist. Both discover that there is no being ‘normal’ when living life as a Shade. Life not only for Eric and Jess, but everyone in the town of Hayworth (humans included) becomes increasingly complicated and confusing.

With Eric acting erratically and Jess revealing a devastating truth, the lines between fact and fiction, truth and lie start to become blurred. Long-buried secrets as well as hidden identities are revealed as Death Before Daylight brings the Timely Death trilogy to a thrilling climax.

With Darthon confident of his position in his continuing confrontation with Shoman, the Dark seem to be a disadvantage, one which could see the Lights finally become victorious in the age old battle between the sects. Yet again, it is Jessica who holds the key as to which side will end up victorious.

Jessica finds her faith and trust tested repeatedly, leaving her confused as to which side she is truly on. With Shoman and Darthon each attempting to convince her to ally with their side, could their persistence in fact cause her to do the opposite of what they intended?

Jessica seems faced with an impossible choice – no matter which side she chooses, people will die.

From start to finish, The Timely Death trilogy has been a thrilling roller-coaster ride full of romance, suspense, mystery, intrigue and a healthy dose of teenage angst. Shannon deftly carries the story between two of the trilogy’s main characters (Eric and Jessica) and this dual point of view makes the unfolding story all the more intriguing. There’s something quite fun about having a greater knowledge of what is really happening than some of the trilogy’s characters do.

Even with the dual storytelling, Shannon manages to weave in a number of twists and turns that leave the reader guessing, right until the very end. Though the trilogy is classed as ‘Young Adult’, I would recommend this series of books to anyone who enjoys a tale woven with romance, angst and the supernatural.

Unfortunately, Shannon received some devastating news last year when her publisher went out of business. Thankfully, Shannon has now signed with a new publisher! This is fantastic news for fans of her work, Shannon’s books will be re-released by her new publisher later this year and you will be able to get your hands on the work of this up and coming writer!

Please visit Shannon’s site by clicking on the link. Shannon is offering a number of services to fellow writers and if her writing is anything to go buy, those who employ her services are likely to great value for their money. Even if you are not in need of writer services, please check out Shannon’s site and show your support for a talented young author.

Shannon A



Filed under Book reviews

Book Review – The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

462532f12b4e522201eefdf07c3f2378I have to admit that I committed the cardinal sin of buying this book without really knowing what it was about. The only information that I had to go on was that this book had won the 2013 Costa Book of the Year award. I figured that, if my favourite brand of coffee shop liked the book, it was probably a fair bet that the book might actually be worth reading.

Buying a book based on your favourite brand of coffee could have proved to be a recipe for disaster, yet I am delighted to say that this is not the case. This book, from start to finish, was a delight to read.

The Shock of the Fall is a story narrated by Matt Homes, a man who we come to learn suffers from mental illness. This much is obvious in the disjointed way that Matt narrates his own story, sometimes jumping from childhood memories to the present day and back again. Rather than being jarring, this actually makes Matt’s story all the more riveting and appealing.

Because of Matt’s jumbled thought processes, we only catch snippets of information, like pieces of a puzzle that we are slowly able to put together. It’s not until the last third of the book that the reader begins to understand what happened to Matt and his family a decade ago and how much that one event has shaped everything that came after.

Matt has a mental illness, yet it is also clear to see that has inability to grieve for his brother’s tragic passing has only served to exacerbate his condition, bringing him to the point that he becomes a ward of the state for his own protection.

Although my description of this book is frustratingly vague, I am wary of not giving too much away in terms of the plot. Instead, I would encourage people to know as little as possible about what happens in order to get a unique perspective into the workings of a disturbed mind.

Matt seems to define himself by his mental illness, yet he is so much more than a diagnosed condition. This is something that the author, Nathan Filer, tackles well and does in such a way that doesn’t seem moralistic. The book raises some fascinating questions about how mental illness is perceived, not only by the person diagnosed with a condition, but also their family and society in general.

Matt’s perspective gives the reader a unique insight into social care and its many benefits, while also not sugar-coating the fact that much more could be done to make the system more user-friendly. I defy anyone not to take a look at themselves and how they view those around them with a mental health condition and question whether they underestimate the real person inside – the person behind the illness.

This is a book unlike any other that I’ve read and its unique style is something that I really enjoyed. You would expect most books to go from A to B to C etc. yet The Shock of the Fall starts at R, heads back toward D and ends up somewhere near P. Rather than making the book impossible to read, it makes the reader desperately want to know what happens next and what happened all those years ago.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes quality, well-crafted fiction. Some may find the subject matter a little disturbing or outside of their comfort zone, but I would urge anyone to at least pick this book up and give it a try. You may find The Shock of the Fall a shock to the system, but that might actually be a good thing. Challenge yourself and your perspective on mental health and you may just end up surprising yourself….

Check out Nathan’s website



Filed under Book reviews

Book Review – Take Me Tomorrow by Shannon A Thompson


Shannon kindly sent me a copy of her new book Take Me Tomorrow to read and review. As many of my regular readers know, I am a huge fan of Shannon’s work and I believe that she has an immense talent – I would definitely tip her to become publishing’s ‘next big thing.’

I read a lot and I’d like to think that I know a good book when I see one, Take Me Tomorrow certainly lives up to the expectations that I had for Shannon’s latest release. A complete departure from her Timely Death trilogy, Take Me Tomorrow is the story of Sophia Gray and how her world is turned upside down by the appearance of a dishevelled young man called Noah in the back woods of her property – it seems that everyone knows who he is except her.

Noah brings trouble to what Sophia always thought of as a quiet little town. No sooner has he arrived on the scene than one of her closest friends ends up in hospital with the banned drug ‘Tomo’ in his system.

The society in which Sophia and her friends have been brought up in does not allow its people to question those who govern and rule the ‘States’, yet Sophia isn’t the kind of girl who will blindly follow the rules. It is Sophia’s thirst for a truth that the government would rather stay hidden that sets in motion a series of events that could change everything she and her friends had ever thought to be real.

While Take Me Tomorrow is a YA title, it should be noted that this book deals with themes that will not only resonate with younger readers but also gives food for thought on topics such as propaganda, immigration and drugs – all topics that are front and centre in today’s society.

The drug ‘Tomo’ plays a huge role in this book and is central to driving the story forwards while also raising moral and legal questions in regard to the creation, distribution, selling and using of drugs for practical, physical, and emotional reasons.

Take Me Tomorrow also raises the issue of drug addiction and how damaging such conditions can be not only the user, but those around them who love and care for them. While ‘Tomo’ undoubtedly has some benefits for those who use it, the drug is also capable of creating havoc and destruction with its use indirectly lead to thousands of people losing their lives.

Forced to work against a government that will do anything to wipe out ‘Tomo’ once and for all, Sophia, Noah, their friends and family find themselves fighting a battle that they seem destined to lose. Outnumbered and outgunned, it seems as if the small group stand little or no chance of beating a system that will go to any lengths to leave its people disoriented, compliant and without hope.

That’s really what it comes down to at the end of the day; it is not the drug itself that is important but what it represents: hope. In order to keep its people compliant, the government has taken away their right to move freely from state to state, attempting through threats of recrimination to control the masses and take away their free will.

Take Me Tomorrow asks a lot of questions around thorny issues in today’s society without becoming preachy in its message. While we all have our own opinions on such topics, this book does not try to influence the reader into making anything other than their own considered judgements.

As I have come to expect from Shannon, this book is well-crafted, engaging and very well-written (pretty much a given for this author). While the genre may be classed as ‘Young Adult’, don’t let that fool you; Take Me Tomorrow is an intelligent and thought-provoking piece of writing and one I highly recommend you check out.

Click on the following links to purchase Take Me Tomorrow:




And you should also check out Shannon’s fabulous blog:


Filed under Book reviews

Book Review – Escape by Mark Gardner

My fellow blogger and participant in Thain in Vain’s weekly flash fiction, Mark Gardner, kindly sent me a copy of his book Escape to read and review.

Starting at what appears to be the end of the story, we first come into contact with Zachary, a man on death row for crimes so greivous that he’s about to be executed by the state. With only a short while left to live, a journalist visits him asking to hear Zachary’s story firsthand, wanting to get to the truth behind what has become a legend. Zachary is a man who strikes fear into anyone he comes in contact with, just what is it that motivated him to commit such heinous crimes?

Zachary warns the journalist that he might not like what he hears and that knowing the truth would also place him in danger. The journalist is resolute in his position – he wants to hear the whole unedited truth about the man behind the myth.

As Zachary’s story unfolds, we learn the truth of how he turned into the monster the world believed him to be and the reality is always much more powerful than the fanciful myths that others have made up about him. Zachary’s story is one of heartache, terror, repression, fear, and the will and desire to survive against the odds.

Though many of his actions are questionable, one can perhaps understand why Zachary committed such crimes. Persecuted by the state and fed a string of lies as a child, it’s clear to see why Zachary holds such anger within him. Aware that he and his family had always been viewed as different, some of things that the ten year old Zachary witnesses are enough to change a person forever. While on the run from government soldiers with his family, he uncovers a shocking truth that the state will ultimately attempt to hide at any cost.

At times brutal and unflinching, Escape is a hard-hitting read about the complexities of society, the human intolerance to that which is different and the power of propaganda against an unwitting population. Although intended as a sci-fi piece, Escape’s message also translates well to our own modern day society. How many wars have been waged over the persecution of a person’s religion and beliefs? Sadly, the answer to this question is pretty much all of them.

Escape has a powerful message about persecution, religious intolerance and governments employing the use of propaganda in order to bend their people to their will.

Escape pulls no punches in its delivery and is a fast paced and clever piece of writing. I recommend that you check it out.

Mark Gardner’s book, Escape, can be found here


Filed under Book reviews

Book Review – I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes


As is a usual occurrence for me, I bought this book on a whim and mainly because an author I like had been quoted as saying that it was worth a read. Intrigued, I purchased a copy of I Am Pilgrim. The first thing that surprised me was just how big the book is. Coming in at a whopping 892 pages, this book is a mammoth undertaking should you choose to read it.

But is it worth spending so many hours on such a long book? Well, that would depend on whether stories about terrorism, espionage and good old fashioned police work are your cup of tea. This book is a mystery, shrouded in another mystery, and then another, and another…..

The synopsis on the rear of the book hardly gives much away either. I’ll admit that, when I began reading the book, I had little or no idea what I would find in the subsequent pages. All I had to go on was an extremely vague synopsis on the back cover, the only other clue being the orange circle at the bottom left of the front cover telling me the book was, ‘The only thriller you’ll need to read this year.’

But was it worth such praise or were the billboards promoting a book that was actually a dud?

Well, for once, I’ve found a book that does actually live up to its hype.

I Am Pilgrim begins in a cheap motel in New York and the discovery of a woman’s body decomposing in a bath full of acid. The book subsequently takes you on a tour of some of the most alluring and indeed some of the most terrifying places on earth. What begins as a number of seemingly unconnected events soon turns into a wildly weaving story of espionage, corruption, double agents, terrorism and one man who is single-handedly given the task of trying to avert a biological holocaust.

A word of warning: this book is not for those of a delicate disposition. As you would expect in a crime thriller, there are murders and dead bodies aplenty littered throughout the story and the manner in which their deaths are covered by the author lives little to the imagination, leaving the reader with some rather unappetising mental images. Many of the deaths are brutal and gory, yet despite the circumstances of such events, none of these scenes come across as being unrealistic.

As you would expect from a title which focuses on terrorism and espionage, there is a certain amount of the book dedicated to the unsavoury topic of torture and its use to rip vital information from helpless victims. Such scenes might make some readers uncomfortable, yet when the protagonist speaks of his own experiences of being complicit in the torture of an ‘enemy’, you never once get the feeling that he took any sense of enjoyment from it.

This brings me to another element of the book that I enjoyed: the fact that the book’s protagonist is somewhat of a reluctant hero. He’s damaged in ways that he cannot express, let alone understand, he’s a loner despite the fact that he has the admiration and affection of many of the people whose lives he touched. He takes no joy in killing anyone – even if it is necessary to save countless innocent people. The lying, cheating, deception and underhand tactics – you get the impression that he hates every aspect of his profession.

I Am Pilgrim is told from the point of view of one man yet encapsulates the stories of so many other interesting and engaging characters. We are shown why the story’s antagonist is so driven in his mission and almost feel a certain sense of sympathy and understanding for him – the most frightening aspect of his personality is that he comes across as completely normal, yet he’s playing a game of bluff and counter bluff of his own with the book’s central character.

I Am Pilgrim is a book about many things, yet one theme seems to run through its core. Above all else, this book is about the power of love and how it can be both your greatest strength and your biggest weakness. No matter where we go, what we do or the people we meet, all of us (in one form or another) are driven by love, it influences every thought, every action, every choice we make.

This is a book definitely worth reading. Get your hands on a copy of it. Now.


Filed under Book reviews

Book Review: The Devil’s Necktie by John Lansing


As part of my affiliation with PubShelf, I have been given a free copy of The Devil’s Necktie by John Lansing to read in return for an honest and fair review.

The Devil’s Necktie is crime thriller, its central protagonist a man by the name of Jack Bertolino, a retired inspector in the NYPD. After leaving the force, Jack relocates to California in the hopes of leading a quieter, more relaxed life away from the cut-throat world of drug cartels and gangsters. Jack wants nothing more than to enjoy the California sunshine, eat steaks from his beloved barbeque grill and tend to his tomato plants.

His seemingly idyllic existence is shattered by a call from an old informant, Mia. Jack immediately responds to her cry for help and agrees to meet her, surprised to find that she’s also made her way to California. The two of them end up in a passionate embrace, allowing years of pent-up sexual tension between them to overflow as they end up in Mia’s bed.

Jack leaves Mia sleeping, with the intention of questioning her appearance in California further the next day, not realising that once he leaves Mia that his world as he knows it will come crashing down around him.

Just minutes after he leaves, Mia is violently murdered in what looks to be a gang-sanctioned ‘hit’. The manner in which Mia is killed ensures that the message is clear – that someone has messed with the wrong people.

Due to being the last person to see her alive, Jack becomes the prime suspect in the investigation of her murder and it seems that not only the police are on his tail, hunting him down. Jack finds himself being set up to take the fall for the murder, while using every resource he has at his disposal to get to the bottom of Mia’s murder and just who it is trying to make sure that he goes down for it.

As Jack digs further, he finds himself getting deeper into an investigation that has far-reaching consequences. Old enemies return to haunt Jack, placing not only himself in danger, but the people he cares about too. Soon Jack realises that motives for Mia’s murder go much further than just a local gang hit, the people behind the brutal slaying have connections all the way back to the drug cartels of both Mexico and Columbia.

Bodies begin to pile up as Jack and his connections within law enforcement and government agencies try to track down the main players within the drug scene and it is not long before Jack finds himself on the hit list of some very dangerous people. He realises that this may be one hornet’s nest that he perhaps shouldn’t have kicked, but the cop within him refuses to let Mia’s death be in vain.

It’s a case of: ‘You can take the boy out of the NYPD, but you can’t take the NYPD out of the boy.’ Jack is a cop through and through, his instincts and thirst for the job will not let him drop the case, no matter who tries to convince him otherwise. Even Jack’s own family are placed at risk, yet Jack knows he cannot stop until the people responsible are punished.

This is a book full of thrills, spills, chases, gun fights, and explosions. The action moves well throughout the whole book and keeps the story going. The lead character of Jack Bertolino is a likeable guy, although one with a rather worrying dependency on pain medication. He’s a typical hardened cop and a man who sacrificed a happy home life in pursuit of results in the job. Jack’s a good guy without wandering too far into the realms of being perfect. He has faults and he seems to acknowledge them.

The cast of supporting characters are varied and help to keep the storyline engaging for the reader. The switching of perspectives between Jack and a number of the ‘bad guys’ worked well, it lent itself to giving a well-rounded understanding of the storyline as a whole, seeing through the eyes of several different characters.

From a personal point of view – I must stress that this is my own personal opinion – I found some of the violence and sex scenes to be a little too descriptive and too graphic at times and felt that the author could still convey the same kind of intention but with much less detail than was actually provided.

Another issue that I found with this book was the author’s tendency to ‘tell’ rather than ‘show’. I felt that, in places, too much emphasis was placed on describing the scene rather than what was happening in it. There were many mentions of roads, places, colours of cars etc. that – in my opinion – could have been cut to improve the overall flow of the story. I would have preferred to have less descriptive narrative and more emphasis on the action taking place, I felt that this would have made the story a touch sharper and provide the kind of impact that the book deserves.

I must stress that these are purely my own opinions, other people may think the complete opposite and enjoy the elements that I found distracting. The story is engaging, the characters relatable, this is the kind of book that will appeal to lovers of crime fiction and thrillers with its weaving plot and cast of many characters.

If you like crime thrillers and enjoy car chases, guns, explosions and lots of action then this book may very well be the one for you.

Profile of John Lansing:

John Lansing, author of The Devil's Necktie

John Lansing, author of The Devil’s Necktie

John Lansing started his career as an actor in New York City. He spent a year at the Royale Theatre playing the lead in the Broadway production of “Grease.” He then landed a co-starring role in George Lucas’ “More American Graffiti,” and guest-starred on numerous television shows. During his fifteen-year writing career, Lansing wrote and produced “Walker Texas Ranger,” co-wrote two CBS Movies of the Week, and he also co-executive produced the ABC series “Scoundrels.” John’s first book was “Good Cop Bad Money,” a true crime tome with former NYPD Inspector Glen Morisano. “The Devil’s Necktie” is his first novel. A native of Long Island, John now resides in Los Angeles.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book reviews, Music and media

Book review: Honest Sid by Ronald Probstein

Honest Sid by Ronald Probstein

Honest Sid by Ronald Probstein

As part of my ongoing affiliation with PubShelf, I have been given the title ‘Honest Sid’ by Ronald Probstein to read and review for my blog.

‘Honest Sid’ is the memoir of Sid Probstein, a happy-go-lucky chancer in Depression-era New York, told through the eyes of his son, Ronald (now a professor at MIT). The book begins with the rather humorous scene of Sid, his wife Sally, and young Ronald having to scarper from their current home through an outside fire escape after failing to pay their rent.

And herein lies the basic premise for the book as we see the type of up and down existence that Sid subjected his loving wife and son to. From the way the author writes his view of his father, it is clear to see that Sid was both a loving husband and dedicated father but that his love of chasing dreams and the ‘next big thing’ often put his family and their quality of life in jeopardy.

Sid Probstein, born November 7th 1894 and one of twelve children, was, in his younger years, a promising baseball player. Although naturally intelligent, Sid dropped out of school at the age of seventeen in order to chase his dreams of having a career in baseball. A gifted pitcher, Sid had a weakness for gambling on horse races, so much so that during his stint playing baseball for a semi-pro team in Texas he got in so deep with loan sharks that he had been forced to throw a game in order to pay off his mounting debts.

Sid was soon found out and summarily fired from the team, thus ending his baseball career before it ever really started. Yet Sid maintained a love for the game, even when he returned to New York, and soon turned his hand to scalping tickets to the big games as well as booking acts for the booming vaudeville scene on Broadway.

For a time, things seem promising for Sid Probstein, making an honest living through ‘dishonest means’, scalping tickets and generating enough profit along the way to keep his small-time operation going. In 1917 Sid enlisted for the United States Army, playing his part in the victorious Allied defence of Europe, earning a reputation for himself as a good and honest man, although rather a card shark when it came to his military buddies.

Although Sid never tells Ronald much about his time in the Army, his son gets the impression that his father saw much more than he ever let on to those around him and instead hid the horrors behind his eternally cheerful disposition. Throughout the book, even when times are at their toughest, it seems to be Sid’s optimism and ability to always look at the brighter side of life that pulls him through many of the tribulations he endured.

In 1925 Sid meets Sally, a woman who captures his heart and who he marries in 1927, with their son Ronald being born the following year. Again, things go well for Sid and his family for a time until Wall Street crashes and the Depression descends on New York, killing off many of the avenues that Sid exploited in order to generate the money needed to support his wife and child.

The main theme running through this book is Sid’s repeated attempts to make a living for himself by some less than honest means. Ronald paints a picture of his father as a man who would never be happy in a ‘9 to 5’ kind of job and that he was happiest being his own boss and master of his own destiny. Yet that kind of vocational freedom came at a cost, when things went well and profits were high Sid and his family were able to live a comfortable life, but when things went wrong it was Sid who took the hits and subsequent losses which at times had far-reaching consequences for his family.

Honest Sid is the tale of a man who seemed to know anyone who was anyone in Depression-era New York, from boxers to bettors, gangsters and loan sharks. Many people knew Sid Probstein with few ever having a bad word to say about him. Sid was the original good looking charmer who used his affability and approachability to his advantage, knowing that he could charm his way in or out of most situations, never losing his cool even when things seemed bleak or hopeless.

I read this book quickly and that is a testament to how much I enjoyed it. Ronald Probstein paints the picture of a man who he clearly holds a great deal of affection and respect for, yet the book does not spill over into sentimentality about his father’s escapades. The author shows Sid to be a good man but not one without his faults.

Sid’s lifestyle was often at odds with the kind of life his wife Sally wanted for their family, causing numerous arguments between them, many of which Ronald was subjected to. The family also had to move home dozens of times when Ronald was growing up due to his father’s fluctuating successes when it came to making his living. One gets a sense that this constant changing of scenery and bearing witness to his parent’s constant arguing affected the young boy who was stuck in the middle of it all.

I confess that I probably enjoyed this book so much because I am a sucker for anything on the subject of New York; to learn more about the Depression and Prohibition era was a chance that I could not pass up. The author excels in creating an exciting and vibrant Broadway scene while peppering the book with mentions of some of the more colourful characters of the time.

That is perhaps how I would sum up this book: full of character. The book is packed with interesting stories, anecdotes, people and places, and the author takes full advantage of each of them, helping to take the reader on an enjoyable journey back in time, ensuring that the characters of such a formative era of New York City live on forever through this charming and engaging book.

Purchase Honest Sid at Amazon

Amazon Profile of Ronald Probstein:

Ronald Probstein

Ronald Probstein

One of America’s foremost engineering scientists, Ronald Probstein is Ford Professor of Engineering, Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His undergraduate training was at New York University’s night school and his graduate work in aeronautical engineering and physics at Princeton. He has played a principal role in some of the most important scientific and technical achievements in the post World War II era, involving spacecraft and ballistic missile reentry physics, hypersonic flight theory, comet astrophysics, desalination, synthetic fuels, and the electrokinetic remediation of soil. For these achievements, he has been honored as a member of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, International Academy of Astronautics, and awarded an honorary doctorate from Brown University. Author, editor, lecturer, inventor, Professor Probstein has ten critically acclaimed scientific and technical books to his credit. Born in New York City in 1928, he lives in Brookline, Massachusetts with his wife, Irène. He has one son, Sidney, and three grandchildren.


Filed under Book reviews, Music and media