Tag Archives: Goodreads Firstreads

Review: The Darkening Sky by Hugh Greene

mystery bookThe Darkening Sky by Hugh Greene

Createspace (2014), Paperback, 204 pages
I love British Mysteries, and The Darkening Sky is no exception. Well written, with great development of characters; I felt that I knew Power & Lynch personally. I enjoyed the suspense of not knowing what was coming next; sudden twists and turns, along with unique characters kept me stuck to each page. In my view, Greene is bringing an updated, and fresh voice to the mystery game, and I look forward to further volumes in this highly entertaining and somewhat edgy series. Hugh Greene is a writer to start paying attention to in my opinion. Highly recommended.


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Review: The Politics of Deception: JFK’s secret decisions on Vietnam, Civil Rights, and Cuba~ by Patrick J. Sloyan

The Politics of Deception: JFK’s Secret Decisions on Vietnam, Civil Rights, and Cuba

by Patrick J. Sloyan

Thomas Dunne Books (2015), Hardcover, 320 pages


The Politics of deception


Growing up as a kid in the 60s, I would hear the grown-ups telling stories about President Kennedy, mainly concerning the Marilyn Monroe connection, with the occasional mention of the Mob and the Bay of Pigs fiasco. Reading Patrick J Sloyan’s The Politics of Deception, I get that same feeling I had as a kid- the feeling that I am being let in on something that I shouldn’t know.

Sloyan, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, was a wire-reporter during the Kennedy administration. Unlike Seymour Hersh’s “The Dark Side of Camelot” back in 1998, Sloyan steers clear of the more tawdry aspects of JFK’s tenure as President, focusing instead on Kennedy’s deceptions, his power over the press at the time, and his disdain for Martin Luther King jr and the Civil Rights movement for starters.

Much of what he puts forth is information that many of us may have never heard before. Such as Kennedy’s fixation with eliminating Castro, the lie that the press corp perpetuated, stating that Khrushchev blinked first during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the President’s role in the assassination of South Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem, leading to our involvement in Southeast Asia for a decade.

The Politics of Deception may very well shock some readers, while some may not believe any of it. Having said that, Sloyan has furnished citations, and official documents along with first hand knowledge to build another level to the Kennedy Bibliography.   The writing is concise, and fast-moving; Sloyan has constructed a compact, yet highly detailed account of the back-room deals that went on within the Kennedy White House. After a half century, it is a reckoning of the truth in many ways. I highly recommend The Politics of Deception.

Upcoming reviews: Infamy by Richard Reeves, How Gone We Got by Dina Guidubaldi and Without You, There is No Us by Suki Kim.

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May 10, 2015 · 6:59 pm

Book Review: The Marauders by Tom Cooper

Show your all-American face. Smile your all-American smile. Commiserate. Apologize, promise, lie. Anything. As long as they take the money and sign on the dotted line.


The Maruaders

by Tom Cooper

Crown (2015) Hardcover, 320 pages

Set in the Bayous of Louisiana during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill, Tom Cooper offers up a gritty, realistic, yet surreal portrait of the people involved in the shrimping business, as well as the oil company sharks intent on getting away with the ruination of a centuries old way of life. The battle for compensation is the backdrop behind the many smaller, yet equally important stories that weave across each other throughout the book.

Cooper has developed characters that are complex and believable, – from the one-armed shrimper who has wasted half his life in a search for fabled pirate treasure in the Barataria, the two hapless pot-head day laborers who think it a great idea to pilfer the harvest of the murderous twin Tchoup brothers, to the oil company executive who comes back home in order to rob his former neighbors and family out of their rightful compensation. All of these characters will eventually cross paths with varying results.

The story is reminiscent of Elmore Leonard, with a touch of Faulkner-chock full of violence, as well as pathos. The climax leaves many broken and ruined, with a bright spot that even Norman Rockwell would enjoy. The Marauders is one of my favorite reads of 2015 thus far, and I look forward to reading more by Tom Cooper in the future. Highly recommended.


Thugbrarian Set-List: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds- The First Born is Dead

Nick cave

I can’t think of a more appropriate album to listen to during my time reading the Marauder by Tom Cooper. the Southern Gothic vibe, the reverb drenched guitars, and the dark subject matter make for a fitting soundtrack to the story. This is a recent repress of the original on 180gm vinyl. A truly amazing album.


April 12, 2015 · 3:39 pm

Book Review: Beijing Bastard: Into the Wilds of a Changing China by Val Wang.

This is my first book review of 2015. I started this book in 2014, but with all the frivolity of the holidays, and being involved with the opening of the new main Library here in Norfolk, Va., I just couldn’t get much reading done. Make sure to check out the link to the Deadbolt-Hobo Babylon album on youtube, Embrace the Voodoobilly. Enjoy.



Beijing Bastard: Into the Wilds of a Changing China

by Val Wang
Gotham (2014), Hardcover, 352 pg

This is a memoir by a young American woman of Chinese descent; Val Wang takes us through her journey to her Parent’s China, complete with excellent descriptions of her family, the architecture, her friends and co-workers, as well as some vivid illustrations of the political climate. Val basically decides that the best way for her to escape her immediate family’s iron grip on her life would be to move to China, the country her family fought so hard to escape decades earlier, relocating to America to give their kids a better life.

Val wants to make a documentary film, and lucks out by becoming friends with directors, film makers, and various artistic types, who are totally bizarre in some instances. Between the black teeth due to pollution, the brushes with police that she encounters all too frequently, and the shady landlords, she paints a picture of Mainland China that may be quite different from what you might have envisioned it to be. The author introduces us to the Chinese underground art scene, as well as the nightlife, aspects of China that I was not aware of. The years long interview process of a prominent Peking Opera family is the heart of the story-  Wang’s description of each member of this quirky family left a photographic image in my head that afforded me the illusion of actually being in the same room. She comes away with something much different than what she was looking for, but learning some valuable lessons about life, and the creative process.

The gist of the memoir however, speaks more about Val’s relationship with her family, and her finally understanding her parents point of view. This is at heart, a coming of age story- one that also offers the reader an inside look at the similarities between people, families and the distinct life-force of a major city, in this case Beijing. The title of the book references a Chinese Movie that Val was enamored with titled Beijing Bastard. Ironically, once she watched it again, after many years, she realizes that it was actually a crappy film, and that perhaps she should rethink her motivations. In my opinion, this was an entertaining read, I learned much about modern Chinese city life, and just how alike we all are. This last point is also a large part of the story- she realizes that she left a life of being the outcast in America, surrounded by freaks and goofballs, to pretty much be an outcast in China, surrounded by freaks and goofballs.

Beijing Bastard was an easy to follow read, peppered with all manner of weird and wonderful characters. Val Wang puts together an entertaining story, a story of her escape from home, to make her own way in a faraway place. It took guts to do what she did, and to get a book out of it is one way to make it a worthwhile voyage. It had some adult situations that were actually quite awkward, which only added to the appeal in my view. It is not a novel, so the few issues with style and rhetoric should be ignored, as this is a true story, and should be accepted as it is offered. In addition to the entertainment factor, it is also an excellent education on how  people in Beijing live, work and play, something that really appealed to me.  Highly recommended.

****  (out of 5)

Deadbolt- Hobo Babylon


I have been listening to Deadbolt for many years. I never understood why so many supposedly cool music listening people never heard of them. Guess that makes me super cool. Anyway, these guys throw down some sweet Voodoo-billy, with funny stories and slick guitar lines. Hobo Babylon is my favorite album, basically because my favorite Deadbolt song is on this album, titled One Day I Will Kill You. Check out the Youtube Vid, and buy the album if you like them.


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January 12, 2015 · 6:18 pm

The Thugbrarian Review Top Ten Books of 2014

Welcome to the first Thugbrarian Review Top 10 Books of 2014 list. Since I am the lone writer for this blog, I can only speak for the books that I have personally read this past year, because there were a load of great books published that I didn’t get to read. I was able to read 60 books from cover to cover, another 15 that I skimmed through, and about 20 that I just couldn’t bring myself to finish- the latter are what we here at TR call poopers. I have picked the 10 books published in 2014 that I liked the best, for one reason or another.

I  have a mix of mostly fiction, and some Non-Fiction (all History), with one graphic novel; some I read as E-book arcs, with the rest being advance galley editions furnished by LibraryThing, Goodreads, Netgalley and directly from publishers and authors. Be sure to follow the links under each book cover to read my reviews. Feel free to use the comment section to name your favorites of the year, or even to deride my choices.

I am looking forward to the new books I will be reading throughout 2015, so follow the blog and read my reviews. Lastly, once you have gone through the list, check out the Thugbrarian Review Top Albums of 2014 List in the music section of the blog.


Last Winter we parted

1. Last Winter, We Parted – by Fuminori Nakamura (Soho Press)

Nakamura is one of the newer master storytellers to come out of Japan. The ending is what made this my favorite book of the year. Japanese crime-noir at its best.

Read my review from September 17th HERE



cry father by benjamin Whitmer
2. Cry Father – by Benjamin Whitmer (Gallery Books)
Cry Father delivered a dark, and tense story of fathers and brothers, alcoholism and violence. A lot of violence. If Cormac McCarthy and Flannery O’Connor had a child, it would be named Benjamin Whitmer.

Read my review from September 7th HERE


Harry August title


3. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August  -by Claire North (Redhook)

I love a good time-travel yarn, and this one had it in spades- action, history, the occult and great storytelling make this a sure bet for an excellent read.

Read my Review from June 9th HERE


Fame Whore by Mike Hudson
4. Fame Whore – by Mike Hudson (Power City Press)
Written by Mike Hudson, singer of  early Punk Icons The Pagans,  and packed with insights into the Los Angeles Twitter culture, alcohol abuse and delusion, wrapped inside a twisted story of true love. I found Fame Whore to be entertaining from the first page to the last.

Read my review from August 11th HERE


Latticework by Libby
5. Latticework – by D.B. Libby (Createspace)

A quirky science fiction crime story with a bit of awkward romance. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again, the ending is what really makes a great book to me, and Latticework’s final pages will blow you away with shock and surprise.

Read my review from September 22 HERE
Love Me back
6. Love Me Back-by Merritt Tierce (Doubleday)
This book surprised me, as I was expecting a weepy “Girly” book. What I got was a gritty, brutally honest view into the life of a waitress at a steak house. Teirce does not hold back, the tale of drug and alcohol abuse. oblivious sex and depression will grab you from the first page.

Read my review from December 20th HERE



Broken Monsters
7. Broken Monsters – By Lauren Beukes (Mulholland Books)
Broken Monsters is a captivating mix of Horror, Crime/Thriller and the Occult. A tough Detective, who balances being a single mom and the search for a serial killer with an artistic streak is the center of the story. The final pages will leave your head spinning.

Read my review from August 25th HERE



The Harlem Hellfighters
8. The Harlem Hellfighters – by Max Brooks & Caanan White (Broadway Books)
This beautifully illustrated Graphic Novel tells the story of the all African-American 369th Infantry regiment during  WWI. Caanan White‘s black ink illustrations are some of  the best art I have seen in a graphic Novel, somewhat reminiscent of  Frank Miller’s style. Max Brooks‘ (World War Z, The Zombie Survival Guide)  story is riveting as he tells an accurate, historical account while keeping it entertaining.

Read my review from May 26th HERE



Glorious War

9. Glorious War: The Civil War Adventures Of George Armstrong Custer – by Thom Hatch (St. Martin’s Press)
While most of us are all too familiar with Custer’s last stand, there is more to George Armstrong Custer than his one failure (as huge as it was). Glorious War chronicles Custer’s rise through the ranks, as well as his multitude of heroic acts during the Civil War. You may well see Custer in an entirely different light.

Read my review from May 26th HERE



Hanns and Rudolf
10. Hanns and Rudolf: The True Story of the German Jew Who Tracked Down and  Caught the Kommandant of Auschwitz – by Thomas Harding (Simon & Schuster)

There have been many books written about the Holocaust, and I have read quite a few of them; Hanns and Rudolf by Thomas Harding adds a new dimension to the bibliography, in that it chronicles the lives of two Germans in parallel-one a German Jew who along with his family, barely made it out of Nazi Germany alive, and the other the Kommandant of Auschwitz. What makes this story unique is that it offers the personal perspective of each man’s experience, allowing the reader to view the horror in detail through the eyes of each man.

Read my review from June 30th HERE

As always, I thank the small, but elite group of people who have followed and supported my blog, it means a lot to me. See you in 2015.

Go to the Thugbrarian Review Top Ten Albums of 2014 list HERE



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December 28, 2014 · 11:53 am

Book Review: Latticework by D.B. Libby

Latticework by Libby



by D.B. Libby

Createspace  (2014) Paperback, 268

An entertaining Sci-Fi/Crime Thriller set in the not too distant future. After the Great Weather Change, new cities are built atop the old,  and citizens are not required to work, having their basic needs, such as food and shelter, provided for by the government. Adjunct Investigator Rennard and Prime Investigator Clair are paired together in a case that centers around the tampering of official records. Rennard was chosen for this particular case because he has a gift for identifying Origines, a human hybrid that is a remnant of the Mine Wars on the Moon a decade earlier.

The descriptions of the landscape, daily life  and the industrially fabricated food reminds me of a scaled-down Blade Runner. There is a bit of fun as well, as Rennard and Clair slowly become attached sexually, where they travel from the slums below the line, all the way to the man-made tropical paradise on the Moon. I would liken the story to a Science Fiction Romantic Comedy-that is, until the end, where Rennard learns some hard lessons about his past, as well as the finer points of being set-up.

This is an excellent story that kept me engaged; I particularly enjoyed Libby’s description of the future, and I can actually envision some of his ideas coming true one day. I really didn’t see the ending coming, which in my opinion is a hallmark of a great story. Highly recommended for fans of Lovecraft and the film Blade Runner.

**** (4 out of 5)



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September 22, 2014 · 11:28 am