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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog Kings, Conquerors, Psychopaths: From Alexander to Hitler to the Corporation by Joseph Abraham A tough look at big historical figures, corporations, and more #RBRT #Non-fiction

Hi all:

I bring you a review for a non-fiction book. A pretty special one, another great offering from Rosie’s Book Review Team.

Kings, Conquerors, Psychopaths. From Alexander to Hitler to the Corporation by Joseph N. Abraham, MD

Kings, Conquerors, Psychopaths: From Alexander to Hitler to the Corporation by Joseph Abraham 

“I’ve always believed society to be a fundamentally rational thing, but what if it wasn’t?

What if it was built on insanity?”

—Jon Ronson, The Psychopath Test


Grand Prize Short List. 2021 Eric Hoffer Award

1st Runner-Up, Legacy Nonfiction. 2021 Eric Hoffer Award

Finalist, 2021 Montaigne Medal

Winner, Current Events2019 Indie Book Awards

Finalist, Historical Non-Fiction2019 Indie Book Awards


• • •


Conquest is murder and theft.

Conquerors are vicious criminals.

Vicious criminals become kings.

Kings designed civilization.

 

We are the products of civilization.


What if, before the modern period, all civilization was true crime?

Despite our romantic traditions, monarchs were never wise, just, nor generous. The briefest review of history shows that, without exception, kings were the most vicious criminals who ever lived. They were serial killers who preyed upon nations.

 

And the only path for survival in the ancient world required unquestioningly obeying— and blindly believing— anything the king said.


• • •

 

“…the book’s scientific analysis, which spans Darwin’s concept of evolution to cutting-edge psychology, is a welcome addition to historical conversations…”

Kirkus Reviews

“…concise, compelling, and challenging exploration of how humanity became what it is.”

Publishers Weekly

“Why do we excuse an act, unforgivable if committed by an ordinary citizen, if executed or ordered by a leader?”

The Los Angeles Review of Books

“The term ‘must-read’ has been so overused. But Kings, Conquerors, Psychopaths is a must-read… must-own… and, most of all, a must-ponder.”

San Diego Jewish World

“…this may be the most important book you will ever read.”

—Robin Levin, The Death of Carthage

 

“…wide-ranging research and an unflinching eye for detail…”

—Candice Millard, New York Times best-selling author, The River of Doubt, & the Edgar Award-winning Destiny of the Republic

“This book is a must-read…”

—Carol Beggy, co-author, award-winning Boston book series; Ted Kennedy: Scenes from an Epic Life; and former reporter, Boston Globe

 

“…a stark reminder of how fragile and vulnerable to exploitation our modern democratic societies are…”

MathValues.org, Mathematical Association of America

 

“A detailed and engaging examination of our haunted past and threatening future. Read it and weep.”

—John Mack Faragher, Daniel Boone, and The American Heritage Encyclopedia of American History


“…Dr. Abraham is a true Renaissance man… this book is a must-read.”

—Jim Engster, NPR affiliate WRKF


“…an insightful, novel argument based on both a keen clinical eye, and an exhaustive review of the literature… ”

—James Fallon, The Psychopath Inside

 

“…despite often romantic images, kings and conquerors were vicious criminals— and the fact that they were psychopaths, narcissists, and sadists became whitewashed, almost in a form of mass hypnosis.”

—Joe Gandelman, journalist, and blogger at TheModerateVoice.com

 

“For those who want their minds expanded and blown: Dr. Abraham is the man.”

—Pearson Cross, Bayou to Beltway, NPR affiliate KRVS


https://www.amazon.com/Kings-Conquerors-Psychopaths-Alexander-Corporation-ebook/dp/B08NWDKVB4/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Kings-Conquerors-Psychopaths-Alexander-Corporation/dp/0578680599/

https://www.amazon.es/Kings-Conquerors-Psychopaths-Alexander-Corporation-ebook/dp/B08NWDKVB4/

Author Joseph N. Abraham


About the author:

Joseph N Abraham, MD is an emergency physician (Tulane ’86), research biologist, and award-winning author.

http://bookscrounger.com/about-me/

My review:

I am writing this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you are looking for reviews, check here), and I thank the author for providing me an ARC copy of this book, which I freely chose to review.

This is an ambitious book, and one that is not an easy read, but it is a necessary one for anybody who wants to look at the history of modern civilisation through anything other than rose-tinted glasses. The author refers often to the Emperor’s New Clothes’ tale, and it is very apt, although perhaps it is not always a case of the spectators knowing what they are watching but trying to appear honest and compliant, but rather that the stories weaved around the emperor have become alive and true in the eyes of those seeing him (or reading about him in this case), or perhaps it is a combination of both, a self-delusion helped by years of whitewashing the facts or putting a romantic spin on things that are anything but romantic.

I have long held a pretty negative view of many of the famous conquerors and civilizations in history, although I must confess that I didn’t know many of the facts and figures Abraham quotes, at length, in the book, and it makes for a terrifying read at times. Although he does not cover all historical periods and all empires (I suspect it would occupy many volumes, and it would be a truly harrowing reading experience), he does a good sweep from classic times to Vietnam, not forgetting Alexander, Genghis Kahn, or the Victorians.

If you want to get a more detailed sense of what the book covers, I recommend checking the ‘look inside’ feature on your favourite store, and reading the list of contents, as that contains a good description of each chapter, but it would be too long for me to include here. As an indication, these are the titles of the chapters: Prologue: Fantasy and horror, Chapter 1: Kings (the comparison with gangster is very apt), Chapter 2: Conquerors (who are characterised as serial killers), Chapter 3: Psychopaths (where he diagnoses successful conquests and the monarchy rather than only the individuals), Chapter 4: The Breeding Program (we are all descendants of the conquerors or of the compliant victims), Chapter 5: The Noble Classes (hierarchies always work to ensure their self-preservation and dominance), Chapter 6: Privilege & the Double Standard, Chapter 7: The Authoritarian Personality (where the author looks at issues of compliance and obedience in the masses), Chapter 8: The Atrocino (if the conqueror is the Atrox, now we have the big corporations and political leaders who don’t quite reach their level, but are toxic nontheless), Chapter 9: The Modern World (prosperity and modernity arrived when the old order was questioned), Chapter 10: The Ugly Truth (the true cost of civilization), Epilogue: Response (education and early intervention can help us avoid similar excesses in the future).

I am a psychiatrist, have worked in forensic psychiatry, and was trained in using the PCL-R (The Psychopathy Checklist Review, which the author mentions). Psychopathy is not a psychiatric diagnostic as such (a diagnosis of antisocial or dissocial personality disorders would cover many of the traits that score highly on the checklist, although not all, and traits of other types of personalities can also score highly), but it is used because it gives a good indication of the risk a person might pose. The highest the score, the higher the risk. Having worked and met some people with high scores, I can say I do agree with the author’s assessment in general terms, although with the caveat that the sources of information, especially for the historical figures of ancient times, are limited and biased, so we need to take it all with a pinch of salt, but Abraham makes a good case, for sure.

I have already said that I had long thought along the same lines the author expresses in the book, and the more I read, the more examples came to my mind, even if the author didn’t mention certain names many of us might think about when we read it. (I, for one, can think of many atrocinos that grace the news very often, both in my country, Spain, and at an international level as well).

 I was intrigued by his comments about genetics and also about people who might fulfil the criteria for psychopathy (score highly in the checklist) but seem to have managed to control the most harmful aspects of their personalities. Evolutionary biology is not my area of expertise, but I felt that perhaps this aspect of the argument was less developed than some of the other ones, and I would have liked a bit more information, although I admit I would probably be in a minority here.

I also had some queries regarding his comments on compliance, because although I appreciate his overall argument, the validity of some of the psychological studies he mentions (Milgram still holds quite well, but Zimbardo’s not so much) has been questioned. (Last year I read and reviewed a book by Rutger Bregman called Humankind. A Hopeful History [you can check my review here], where the author manages to put a positive spin on human being behaviour, and he does a good job of criticizing many of the negative studies).

Regarding the format, I am not sure footnotes and endnotes work too well in e-book format (and the end notes and bibliography occupy 14% of the content), so people who want to dig into it and not miss anything might be advised to consider a paper copy. The book also includes illustrations (some of them are as harrowing as the descriptions of violence in the book, if not more), and the notes and the bibliography will help anybody interested in researching the topic in more depth.

I highlighted a lot of content, and I advise, as usual, that future readers check a sample of the book to see if it suits their taste, but I thought I’d share a few random quotes to give you a taster:

 Napoleón arrive in Egypt with a second army of scientists and historians. It is not surprising that innovation under his Empire produced far-reaching technical advances such as the modern ambulance, widespread inoculations, food canning, and others.

Napoleón was also a remorseless butcher.

 The conqueror is a thug. Rationalizing his crimes is a variation on blaming the rape victim. If she fights back, the rapist claims he is perfectly justified in torturing and murdering her. It is a variation of the exploiter’s defense: “Now see what you’ve made me do?!”

 We are always one demagogue away, we are always one angry, jaded electorate away, from letting Hitler sleep back inside the walls of civilization, assemble his brutalizers, and resume his slaughter.

 One of the reviewers commented on the USA perspective of the book, and that is true. Not that the conclusions are not relevant to all countries, but some of the solutions and further advice suggested seem tailor-made for the United States, although the overall message is easy to extrapolate and adapt to other countries as well, and the individual insight provided is priceless.

This is one of those books that make us sad as we read them, because we know full well that those who need to read them the most are unlikely to do so, but Abraham holds no false illusions and is clear that the most entrenched radicals cannot be swayed by rational argument.

 I don’t think one needs to be an academic to read and ‘enjoy’ (at an intellectual level at least) this book, but the amount of detail and the format might put some people off. Also, as I’ve said before, the book is not an easy read, and it might not be suited for those who shy away from violence or descriptions of extreme and cruel behaviour. Other than the minor personal queries, preferences, and warnings mentioned above, the book is a gripping, thought-provoking, and informative —although somewhat gruelling— read. I learned plenty of new information that disabused me even more about romanticized versions of the past, and some of the comments about politics in general (the importance of not confusing right and left-wing politics with conservatism and liberalism, for example) were right on target. Highly recommended, but be prepared to be challenged and shaken.

Thanks to the author, to Rosie and her whole team for their ongoing support, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to stay safe, to comment and share if you know anybody who would be interested, and to keep smiling. ♥

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog MOUNTAIN CLIMBING WITH DINOSAURS by Doug Goodman (@DougGoodman1). Anything is improved by adding a dinosaur, or more!

Hi all:

Here I bring you a book that’s not one of my usual, but I needed something to keep my mind entertained…

Mountain Climbing With Dinosaurs by Doug Goodman

Rise up. Take the next handhold. Stretch your fingers as far as they can go. Hundreds of feet above the ground, don’t look down. Keep climbing. There are dinosaurs nearby, hiding in the cracks and holes of this ugly mountain wall. New Profanity Peak, they call it. These nightmarish creatures may remind you of the mass shooting you survived and your dead friends, but don’t stop moving. Keep pushing upward. Rise up. Memorialize your fallen friends. When the big wall reduces to smooth glass, dig deep. When it shows you an impossible overhang, find a way around it, but hurry. Dimorphodons are called the Wolves of the Sky for a reason. Climb faster. Claw your way out of that deep dark pit in your soul, the one that knows the truth about the mass shooting. Don’t slip. Don’t fall. Don’t. Look. Down. And rise up.

https://www.amazon.com/Mountain-Climbing-Dinosaurs-Doug-Goodman-ebook/dp/B085KYM3NJ/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mountain-Climbing-Dinosaurs-Doug-Goodman-ebook/dp/B085KYM3NJ/

https://www.amazon.es/Mountain-Climbing-Dinosaurs-Doug-Goodman-ebook/dp/B085KYM3NJ/

Author Doug Goodman

About the author:

Hi! My name is Doug Goodman. I live in Houston but I was raised in Lubbock, Texas. I’m an animal writer. It doesn’t matter if the animals I write about are zombie-hunting dogs, dinosaurs, or giant kaiju monsters, I’m interested in that area where animals and humans intersect. I’m especially curious about the mind meld that happens with working animals. This is my point of view for examining human nature, and why I enjoy writing these books so much.

My website (dgoodman1.wordpress.com) says I’m a writer and an explorer. My wife and I are “often” travelers. Thanks to my work, I sometimes get the opportunity to visit extraordinary people in out-of-the-way places. In recent years I’ve explored parts of the Navajo Nation, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and I did a mesmerizing 20-state roadtrip with my supportive family. I’ve been to all but four states in the United States.

I live with two awesome kids (though one is having her own adventures in college), one amazing wife, and two white German Shepherds. Thank you for stopping by, and please check out one of my books. (They are all available from Amazon as paperbacks and e-books.) Since mid-2019, I’ve been donating twenty percent of my proceeds to charity. If you want to see where I donate, I update my donations via my blog.

https://www.amazon.com/Doug-Goodman/e/B00IHF1I8S/

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you are looking for reviews, check here), and I freely chose to review an ARC copy of this novel.

This is my first book by Goodman, and it was a ride on the wild side.  I suspect it won’t be the last of his books I read, either.

OK, from the title you probably guessed that the book is about mountain climbing. Check! It also has dinosaurs. Check! I chose the book because I thought that, in the current situation (Coronavirus, I’m talking about you again), I needed something that would grab my attention and  keep it away from what has become a reality that feels like a badly written dystopian novel. And yes, it did that, for sure, but it also did much more than that. I know very little about mountain climbing, and I’ve only attempted to climb a climbing wall once in my life (climbing wasn’t a problem, but I didn’t like the ropes and wasn’t good at handling them, in case you wonder), but I’m always intrigued by mountaineering adventures, and well, dinosaurs. I couldn’t resist the combination. But the back story of the climb was fascinating in its own right. The description only refers to it in passing, but the two twins who are the main protagonists of the story (Travis and Brady), are doing it for a very good reason. They have been climbers since they were children, recently survived a school shooting, and are doing the climb in remembrance of their dead schoolmates. Thirteen of their friends died in the shooting, and they’ve decided to climb thirteen mountains and leave a memorial on top of each one of the mountains, one of each of their friends. The book manages to touch on survivor’s guilt, and also on the feelings of those indirectly involved in the shootings, relatives of victims and perpetrators, while at the same time keeping the focus on the climbing and the dinosaurs (and these are not the friendly kind, believe me). It keeps a good balance between pure adventures and more serious topics, and although at times the most technical aspects of the mountain climbing got lost to me, that didn’t impede my enjoyment of the story. I don’t want to go into the plot too much, because although some of it you can probably imagine, there are subtler aspects that are best left for readers to discover.

I have talked about some of the themes of the book. The dinosaurs, that I guess will be one of the main attractions of the book, are not the best-known and most familiar to the general public, and the creatures, that in this story have been brought back to life by Big Pharma, seem well –researched (although I’m no authority on dinosaurs). Not being an expert in mountain climbing, as I said, I cannot judge how accurate the techniques and equipment mentioned are, but they rang true to me, and I again think the research has paid off. The book also deals in themes that I was more familiar with, like the psychological aftermath of a school shooting, and it does so with a fine touch and sensitivity. Although the writing style is completely different, it reminded me of Hunter Shea’s Creature. That also made me think that although the dinosaurs are “real” within the book, they could also be read as symbolising what the twins are going through, and so could some of the other strange events that happen within the novel (and I’ll keep my peace about that as well).

This is not a book with many characters, and most of the action is narrated in the first person by one of the twin climbers, Travis, so we get a very direct perspective on what is going on, and an insight into how he sees events, and also how he remembers the things that happened, and his understanding of his brothers’ actions and feelings. We also get some short inserts where the cameraman interviews relatives and friends of the twins, to help him create the documentary of the climb. These characters are not part of the action, but those fragments offer us a different and larger perspective into the twins, and also into their background and their previous stories. The two twins are the main characters, although the filmmaker and the photographer also play a small part in the main action. But there are other characters that also pertain in the story, because their memory is very much alive, and those are some of the other victims of the shooting, and though we don’t get to know them all individually, we feel them there every step of the climb. The dinosaurs are also characters, and we get enough information about them to get a good sense of their different outlooks and characteristics. I wouldn’t want any of them as pets, believe me!

The writing style is direct, and easy to follow (apart from the use of specific mountain climbing terminology at times), and there is enough description of the mountain, the climbing techniques, and the dinosaurs to allow readers to get a clear picture in their minds (yes, it would make a great movie, if the special effects were done well). There are some instances of telling rather than showing, necessary to provide the information general readers would need to understand the action and the behaviour of the dinosaurs, but they do not interfere with the flow of the story. As I said, most of the novel is written in the first-person, and I know some readers don’t like it, but I thought it suited it well. Some scenes are quite violent and graphic, so I wouldn’t recommend it to squeamish readers. As I always say, I’d recommend future readers to check a sample of the novel and see if they think the style suits their taste.

The ending is suitable to the genre of the book —I don’t think anybody would expect a conventional happy ending—, but I thought it worked well, considering the story and the events. And yes, the epilogue was very fitting. A quick word of warning. The story only occupies 90% of the e-book, and it’s followed by a teaser from another book, although I confess I wouldn’t mind reading Demon Flyer at all.

A solid read, with its scary moments (it did remind me of Jaws at times), and a deeper and more meaningful story than most readers would expect from the title. It demonstrates that any book can be improved by the introduction of a dinosaur or a few.  Recommended to lovers of mountain climbing, dinosaurs, and to readers looking for creature horror with a bit of backstory and depth.

I’d suggest to the writer and publishers the inclusion of a list of mountain climbing terminology, with links, and also a list of the dinosaurs and their characteristics, as that would avoid distractions and enrich the reading experience.

Thanks to Rosie and her amazing team, thanks to the author, and thanks to you for reading. Remember to keep safe and always, keep positive and smile!

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Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview THE BEAUTY OF BUCHAREST (A Clean Up Crew Thriller Book 1) by S.J. Varengo (@PapaV) (@northernlakepub) Recommended to fans of action and spy thrillers looking for a fun read #Internationalthriller #adventures

Hi all:

I am not a big reader of spy and purely action thrillers but when I read the description and the beginning of this book, I had to keep reading…

review of The Beauty of Bucharest by S.J. Varengo
The Beauty of Bucharest by S.J. Varengo

The Beauty of Bucharest (A Clean Up Crew Thriller Book 1) by S. J. Varengo

What would you do if you found a body in the trunk of your wife’s car?

This is the question facing Dan Porter as he stood in the parking lot and looked down at a man wrapped in clear plastic sheeting…a man with a tidy .38 bullet hole in his forehead. But finding the body is a mere curiosity compared with the twists and turns Dan’s life will take over the next few days.

International intrigue and edge-of-your-seat action abound as Dan and his lovely wife Nicole—who clearly has more than her share of dark secrets—risk their lives to rescue a stunning model and bring down one of the most evil men either of them have had the misfortune to meet.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Beauty-Bucharest-Clean-Crew-Thriller-ebook/dp/B07BLJSCYH/

https://www.amazon.com/Beauty-Bucharest-Clean-Crew-Thriller-ebook/dp/B07BLJSCYH/

About the author:

Scott James (S.J.) Varengo was born in 1960, in a city called New York. Two years later he formed a band called The Beatles [citation needed].

He returned to New York City to attend Fordham University (having been told it was a basketball powerhouse) before transferring to the State University of New York at Potsdam (having been told it was located in the tropics), from which he earned a bachelor’s degree in Art History.

Varengo loves to read (favorite authors include Craig A. Hart, Kurt Vonnegut, J.R.R. Tolkien and an up-and-comer named Ernie Heming-something-or-other), listen to music (when he writes, it’s usually jazz – the rest of the time it’s Tazmanian flute concertos), and walk along forested trails with his wife Kim. He lives in Baldwinsville, NY, a suburb of Syracuse, known for its picturesque setting and its friendly people. He has two adult children of whom he is obnoxiously proud.

His published works include a volume of short fiction, two fantasy novels, and an ever-growing list of spy/espionage novellas, which he co-writes with Craig A. Hart.

https://www.amazon.com/S.-J.-Varengo/e/B06XBCL1KR/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/S.-J.-Varengo/e/B06XBCL1KR/

My review:

Thanks to the publisher for offering me a free copy of this book, which I freely chose to review.

It is quite difficult to review this novel without revealing any spoilers, and the description does not help much (it is gripping although extremely discreet) but considering the genre, this is pretty understandable, and I’ll try my hardest not to spoil the fun.

I am not a big reader of spy novels but have watched a fair amount of spy movies,and although this is not a spy novel per se, it shares with them many of its characteristics. We have professionals working in an international team, taking up false identities, travelling all over the world to undertake dangerous missions, using weaponry and skills beyond those of most normal individuals. We have the goodies and the baddies (and they are very bad indeed, no question about it), we have secrets, risky situations, and a fair amount of violence. The novel also requires a great deal of suspension of disbelief but not more than is usual in the genre.

The story, as suggested by the title, takes place, in its majority, in Bucharest, and it involves a beautiful model, but also many other women who are at risk. The background of the operation and the individuals the two protagonists —Dan and Nicole, a married couple— are trying to get rid of are bad beyond discussion. We are not dealing with white-collar crimes or morally ambiguous matters. I don’t think any readers will find it difficult to root for the protagonists, who are also likeable and have an endearing, if somewhat idealised, relationship.

The novel manages to combine what might be some women’s fantasies (having plenty of power, running an international company that deals with and avenges those who do evil, helping make the world a better place, knowing how to use powerful weapons and possessing fighting skills, whilst at the same time having the perfect husband and children), with some men’s fantasies (having a gorgeous and younger wife, the perfect family life, retiring after having dedicated one’s life to creating a company that is fun to run [a company that designs computer games], becoming involved in fascinating adventures, and then being able to use his geek skills to save his kick-ass wife). It is a fast-paced adventure, exciting, and there’s not a moment’s boredom. Although we get a sense of what Bucharest is like, there are no lengthy descriptions to slow down the action, and we do not get lost in psychological studies of the characters either.

This is, first and foremost, a plot-driven book, and we do not get to know much about the characters or their motivations, although this is book one in the series and there are hints that we will get to discover some important secrets in future novels. The story is told in the third person but from the points of views of both of the main characters (and sometimes briefly from some of other characters, including one of the baddies), and, although as I said there is no deep analysis of the individuals, having access to their thoughts makes it easy to empathise with them. There is a degree of head-hopping (sometimes the narration quickly moves from the point of view of one of the characters to the other), but I did not find it confusing as it is quite evident who is thinking what. I am not sure the characters are always fully consistent, but they are confronting pretty challenging circumstances and that is not what the book is focused on. (I must confess to feeling quite intrigued by one of the bad characters, the female bodyguard. Not likeable but…) The writing is dynamic and fluid, and although there are some USA-based cultural references, they do not detract from the understanding of the story.

There is violence, some fairly explicit (although not extreme), and there is a scene that although very bloody, will be satisfying to most readers (just deserts come to mind, and I was close to cheering at that point) but the book is not a heavy read. Although it deals with serious matters, these are not the subject of far-reaching analysis but rather an evil that has to be fought.

In summary, this is a fun and quick read, full of action, with a degree of role reversal (strong and powerful females, and males who are side-kicks at best and distractions at worst, although they end up coming quite handy), in an interesting setting, with a very satisfying ending and a promise of more secrets to be revealed in future instalments. I could not help but think of many of the spy movies I’ve watched, and with the right cast, it could turn into a blockbuster. Recommended to lovers of action and spy thrillers looking for a fun, non-taxing read.

Thanks to Northern Lake Publishing and to the author for the book, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click, review and keep smiling!

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Book review Book reviews Rosie's Book Review Team Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog FREAKY FRANKY: Santa Muerte followers discover the horrifying consequences of worshipping with evil intentions by William Blackwell (@wblackwell333) #horror #RBRT

Hi all:

Today I bring you a book I have reviewed as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team. I was intrigued by the title (not sure it fitted into the genre, and wondered about the long subtitle that seems more a description than a title, but I checked the beginning of the story and I had to keep going) and it seemed very relevant to the book I just reviewed yesterday. And here it is:

Freaky Franky by William Blackwell
Freaky Franky by William Blackwell

Freaky Franky: Santa Muerte followers discover the horrifying consequences of worshipping with evil intentions by William Blackwell

When an enigmatic town doctor saves the life of Anisa Worthington’s dying son, she abandons Christianity in favor of devotion to the cult of Santa Muerte or Saint Death. Some believe the mysterious skeleton saint will protect their loved ones, help in matters of the heart, and provide abundant happiness, health, wealth, and justice. But others, including the Catholic Church, call the cult blasphemous, evil, and satanic.

Anisa introduces Santa Muerte to her friend Helen Randon, and soon one of Helen’s enemies is brutally murdered. Residents of Montague, a peaceful little town in Prince Edward Island, begin plotting to rid the Bible belt of apostates.

Anisa suspects Helen is perverting the good tenets of Saint Death. Before she can act, a terrible nightmare propels her to the Dominican Republic in search of Franklin, her long-lost and unstable brother, who mysteriously disappeared without a trace twenty years ago.

To her horror, Anisa learns Franklin is worshiping Saint Death with evil intentions. As a fanatical and hell-bent lynch mob tightens the noose, mysterious murders begin occurring all around Anisa. Unsure who’s an enemy and who’s an ally, she’s thrust into a violent battle to save her life, as well as the lives of her friends and brother.

https://www.amazon.com/Freaky-Franky-consequences-worshipping-intentions-ebook/dp/B077X41V9J/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Freaky-Franky-consequences-worshipping-intentions-ebook/dp/B077X41V9J/

I’m sure this is not William Blackwell, or at least I hope it isn’t but…

About the author:

William Blackwell studied journalism at Calgary’s Mount Royal University and English literature at Vancouver’s University of British Columbia. He worked as a print journalist for many years before becoming an author. Currently living on an acreage in Prince Edward Island, Blackwell loves to travel and write fiction.

He’s written many titles including: Brainstorm, Nightmare’s Edge, The Rage Trilogy, Assaulted Souls trilogy, Orgon Conclusion, Rule 14, Resurrection Point, The Strap, A Head for an Eye, Blood Curse, Black Dawn, The End Is Nigh and Freaky Franky.

To learn more about Blackwell’s work and read the musings of a meandering mind, please visit his website: http://www.wblackwell.com Twitter: @wblackwell333

Thanks for stopping by.

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you are looking for reviews, check here), and I freely chose to review an ARC copy of this novel.

I have been reading a book called Paperbacks from Hell (check my review here) and when I saw this book, it reminded me so much of many of the covers and topics I had been reading about that I could not resist, although I was not sure about the title (was it horror, humour, or something else entirely?).

The novel begins with quite a bang. A strong scene where we are introduced to la Santa Muerte (Saint Death) a religion/cult (depending on whose point of view you take) that has flourished in Mexico and is spreading to many other places. Although we all have heard about the Mexican Día de los Muertos, this might cover new ground for many of us, but the author is well informed and provides good background into the history and the various opinions on Saint Death, that is an interesting topic in its own right.

But don’t get me wrong. This book is not all tell and not show. We have a number of characters who are linked (unknowingly at first) by their devotion to Saint Death. What in the beginning seem to be separate episodes, which show us the best and the worst consequences of praying to Saint Death, later come together in an accomplished narrative arc. Whilst praying for health and good things can result in miracles, praying for revenge and death carries serious and deadly consequences.

The story, written in the third person, alternates the points of views most of the characters, from the main characters to some of the bit actors, good and bad (although that is pretty relative in this novel) and it moves at good pace. It is dynamic and full of action, and this is a novel where the plot dominates. The characters are not drawn in a lot of detail and I did not find them as cohesive and compelling as the story, in part, perhaps, because they are, at times, under the control of Saint Death (but this is not a standard story of satanic possession). Although none of the characters are morally irreproachable,  Anisa and Dr. Ricardo are more sympathetic and easier to root for. Yes, Anisa might resent her missed opportunities and the fact that she is stuck in Prince Edward Island looking after her son, but she goes out of her way to help her friend Helen and her brother Franklin and warns them not to pray for revenge. Dr. Ricardo threads a fine line between helping others and protecting himself, but he does the best he can. Franklin, the Freaky Franky of the title, is a much more negative character and pretty creepy, especially early in the novel. Although we learn about his past and the tragedies in his life, he is Anisa’s brother, and she’s also gone through the same losses, without behaving like he does. He uses Saint Death’s power mostly for evil, although he seems to change his mind and attitude after Anisa’s intervention (I was not totally convinced by this turn of events). I found Natalie, the American tourist visiting the Dominican Republic with her fiancé, Terry, difficult to fathom as well. Perhaps some of it could be explained by the love/lust spell she is under, but she clearly suspects what Franklin has done to her, and her changed feelings towards a man she has known for five minutes makes no sense, at least to me (sorry, I am trying to avoid spoilers). Much of the action and events require a great deal of suspension of disbelief, but not more than is usual in the genre.

The novel keeps wrong-footing the readers. At first, we might think that everything that is going on can be explained by self-suggestion and that all the evil (and the good) is in the mind of the believer. These are desperate characters holding on to anything that offers them a glint of hope. And later, when bad things start to happen, it seems logical to believe that the characters we are following have acted upon their negative thoughts and impulses (and even they have doubts as to what they might have done). But nothing is quite as straightforward as it seems.

Although there is plenty of explicit violence and some sexual references (those not as explicit), I did not find it frightening or horrific as such. However, it is a disquieting, dark, and eerie book, because of the way it invites readers to look into the limits of morality and right and wrong. Is revenge ever justified? Is it a matter of degrees? Who decides? It seems la Santa Muerte has very specific thoughts about this, so be very careful what you wish (or pray) for.

An eye-opener with regards to the Saint Death cult and a book that will be enjoyed by readers who don’t mind supernatural novels with plenty of violence, and prefer their plots dynamic and action-driven.

Thanks to Rosie and to her team for the great suggestions, thanks to the author, and thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click and REVIEW!

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#ReviewBlitz THE DEVIL’S BEAUTY by Airicka Phoenix (@AirickaPhoenix) #TuesdayBookBlog

Title: The Devil’s Beauty
Author: Airicka Phoenix
Genre: Dark Contemporary Romance
Expected Release Date: July 19, 2016
Hosted by: Lady Amber’s PR
Blurb:
Dimitri Tasarov has never had a choice in what he was. From infancy, he had been raised with the knowledge that he was a monster, an unlovable creature without a soul, until a single act of kindness threw his entire world into a tailspin. 
Ava Emerson had always led a reluctantly sheltered existence. Friendship was a luxury that came with questions she couldn’t afford to answer. 
They were an unlikely pair. He lived behind his mask and his roses, and she lived behind her secrets, yet they shared a bond that could get them killed if anyone ever found out. 
Times were changing. The city was in turmoil. The weak were unprotected and someone needed to make a stand. But Dimitri wasn’t the only one with eyes on the north, or Ava, and they will stop at nothing to claim them both. 
Can Dimitri keep Ava safe, or will the devil fall?

I must clarify a few things before I share this review. First, due to problems with the system I did get the book much later than I expected so I read it at quite a pace and didn’t have time to savour it. I’m also aware that I read an ARC copy and there were some issues I found with the book (that I won’t mention here as I’m sure they won’t be a problem with the definite version published) that might have affected my full enjoyment of the novel. The other thing I wanted to mention is that the novel, described as an NA book, is very sexually explicit (I’d say to the level of erotica, although I’m not a big fan of the genre and don’t read many books on it, so others might not agree). There are between five and six sex scenes (one is divided in two so I’m not sure if I should count is as one or two) some quite long and as I said very explicit, and one that is ‘rough’ although even the protagonist makes the point of saying that she does not enjoy S&M. The book is fairly long so the sex scenes are not a major part of the book, but for me they distracted me from the plot (and that together with my lack of interest for this type of writing and with what I felt was the uneasy combination of such scenes with the nature of some of the themes of the book didn’t work for me). In what I think it’s a standard of the genre those scenes stretched the suspension of disbelief for me personally, but I suspect nobody is too worried about what is biologically possible when reading an erotic fantasy. Putting all of that together I’m convinced I’m not the intended audience of this book, but I hope the review might reach the right people.

I was intrigued by the book because of the suggestion that it might have a link to Beauty and the Beast (one of my favourite fairy tales), and in a way it does, although a much darker version (well, not that a monster is not dark), that involves crime families, stormy and highly conflictive family relationships, danger, violence, murder (and murder attempts), sex trafficking, drugs, kidnappings, blackmail…

The story is told in the third person from the point of view of two different characters, Ava, a young woman whose mother, Charlie, is worse than most fairy tale evil stepmothers (although we only get a few scenes with her), and whose adopted dad (but not her official stepfather for reasons we learn later), Jean Paul, loves her dearly and is very rich. We later also learn that he is a big crime boss. The city where the action takes place is divided in five sectors and Jean Paul is one of the bosses. Dimitri, the man Ava loves, who’s been keeping away from her for eight years for reasons we learn later, is the son of one of the other crime bosses, a Russian woman called Elena. (And if Ava’s mother is a cold and horrible human being, Elena fits into a category of her own. I can’t think of many women who could compete.)  He also happens to be the biological son of Jean Paul, but his father wants nothing to do with him and insist he’s a monster. Jean Paul is also determined to keep Ava and Dimitri apart, and theirs is a very extreme version of the star-crossed lovers.

Things don’t work according to Jean-Paul’s plans and once Ava and Dimitri come together again, nothing can separate them, even if Dimitri’s reasons to go back to her are suspect to begin with (he kidnaps her to blackmail Jean-Paul into agreeing to his becoming the boss of the North sector). Everybody around Dimitri and Ava seem destined to get into trouble, as if their coupling created an eye-of-the-hurricane effect, and Ava gets stolen away from Dimitri and sent on a shipment with other women who are being sold away, ending up in Puerto Rico. The subject of sex trafficking is horrific and those chapters make for harrowing reading, even if we’re quite convinced that Ava will survive, because this is her story. She doesn’t get much of a break because she’s shot at, and the subject of many more attacks (that I won’t discuss as I don’t want to give any spoilers).

The action is fairly fast, and we are kept guessing as to who is doing what and even more as to their possible reasons, as there are those who unwittingly might help the bad characters, but also very devious evil people, and the cast of people involved is long indeed. The book flows along at good pace although at some points there are things that seem to be left hanging on to be eventually revisited and solved later. This is not a realistic and gritty book (there is violence, wounds, and fights, although the level of description of the violence is not as detailed as that of the sex scenes, but I think it might be too violent for those who don’t like any such subjects) although as mentioned some of the themes are raw and dark, and the way in which these criminals can buy their way out of all their troubles and sort out any difficulties stretches credibility, as it does the seeming indestructibility of the protagonists, but that’s only to be expected from the genre.

With regards to the characters I really liked some of the secondary characters like Penny, Frank or Sayeed, which deserve full books. I liked some aspects of Ava’s character (like her attachment and loyalty to her friends), and enjoyed the couple of times when she took control of the situation, but although no human being could go through her experiences unscathed, I wondered about her sense of morals and the easy way she accepts the situation, especially considering what she has lived through. She is always being rescued by the men in her life (not a plot device I like) and I wondered if the ending (that I enjoyed) quite makes up for the rest. Dimitri, in my opinion, although a bit one-dimensional is a more consistent character, even though his style of possessiveness is not to my taste, but I know I might not be in the majority in that respect. His stunts as ‘the Devil’, when he steals from the baddies to give to good causes, make him more sympathetic, and he’s an exciting individual, the forbidden bad-boy who is not quite as bad as he appears to be, although he’s darker than the beast of the fairy tale.

I didn’t realise until I started reading it that this book is part of a series, although it is not necessary to have read the first book to enjoy it, as the stories are completely independent.

In summary this is a thrilling book, that treats serious themes, although its focus is on the romance between the two main characters whose relationship brings chaos and danger to everybody around them (and to both of them).  It has sex and violence and it’s not my ideal kind of book (but that’s not the book or the author’s fault) and I’m sure many will enjoy it.

Airicka Phoenix lives in a world where unicorns, fairies and mermaids run amok through her home on a daily basis. When she’s not chasing after pixies and rounding up imps, also known as her four children, she can be found conjuring imaginary friends to play with. Airicka is the prolific author of over eighteen novels for those who crave strong, female leads, sexy alpha heroes and out of control desires. She’s a multi genre author who writes young adult, new adult and adult contemporary and paranormal romance.

For more about Airicka and the realm she rules with an iron fist–and tons of chocolate–visit her at: www.AirickaPhoenix.com

Author Links: Website: www.AirickaPhoenix.com

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1Ui1eCF

Buy Links:
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Robby broke the silence that followed. “What just happened?”
The buzz had regained through the room. Curiosity punctuated with questions and glances at Ava that she ignored.
“I need to go,” she whispered to no one in particular.
But she grabbed Robby’s hand and dragged him along with her through the maze of rooms, down the seemingly endless corridors. Her heels clacked in sync with the tempo of her pounding heart. It was his turn to run to keep up.
“Ava, what—?”
“Don’t ask questions,” she warned him. “Promise me.”
Robby frowned. “But what—?”
She skidded to a halt and faced him, her chest rising and falling rapidly against the front of her dress. “I’m about to trust you with the most important thing in my life, the biggest secret I have ever kept, and I am trusting you because you are my best friend and I need your help.”
The crease between his brows deepened. More lines appeared at the corners of his mouth. His gaze shot past her to the hallway leading to John Paul’s office, then back down to her.
“Tell me who that was first.”
His hand slipped from her grasp. She took a step back and his eyes narrowed.
“I can’t. I can’t tell you anything.”
“But you want me to trust you.” It wasn’t a question.
Ava nodded. “Yes.”
Thanks to Lady Amber’s Reviews & PR and to the author for this opportunity to read the novel, thanks to you all for reading, and you know, share, like, comment and CLICK!

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