Friday, September 28, 2012

The Disintegrating Bloodline Part 1 by Louis T Bruno

Disintegrating Bloodline Part 1, TheDisintegrating Bloodline Part 1, The by Louis T. Bruno

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Chris Mangini, a young, powerful representative for the Mafia, has been hired by a gang-plagued high school to use his clout and muscle to pull the gangs into order. Corralling the rampant violence roaming the halls is a request Chris takes well to, and one fateful morning as he holds court in the high school cafeteria, he takes a bullied young student under his wing despite the misgivings of his faithful cohorts.

The young student, A.J., jumps eagerly into the arms of his dangerous new friends who not only offer protection and status, but they also lead him to cold, hard cash in amounts never before seen by the boy. This is where A.J. finds his crisis. He is a boy who both loves and respects his parents, and when the nature of his new lifestyle is questioned by them, the 16 year old is faced with the fateful decision--to hold onto what is left of his innocence, or to become the new favorite of Chris Mangini.

This tale, which is set in the 90's, is swift paced and full of dialogue and violence very reminiscent of the urban crime films from that period. Many of the scenes spare no dirty detail and the reader is immersed into this world of foul breath, angry sweat, smelly bathrooms, and the bloody reality of vicious assault and murder. A.J. is moved from scene to scene as he helps collect tribute from young gang leaders, deepens his bond with his new mentor Chris Mangini, and feels the throes of first love.

I especially found moving a scene between A.J. and his father over the meaning of what it is to be decent and moral. It's a poignant snapshot of a fraying thread between a loving father and son, and the war between spiritual ideals and the practicality of animal instinct.

Chris Mangini is also a fascinating character and as the story moves along, we catch glimpses of his past which helped to form his alternately brutal and magnanimous nature. He is a man who can kill with his bare hands, but at the same time show mercy to a bullied boy.

If there is a flaw to this story, it is far too short and I was left wanting to know so much more about A.J. and Chris. I would have also liked to have seen an expanded look into the various gangs that A.J. encounters rather than just a simple stereotype presented by the gang's leader. We do see glimpses into the minds of the doomed, their confused thoughts and resignations, and it served to whet my appetite for more.

In which case, I am happy to see this slim tale labeled as "Part 1".

I wholeheartedly recommend this colorful, violent tale to any fans of urban thrillers, organized crime, or unflinching coming of age tales. Fair warning though for the faint of heart--the dialogue is rough and raw, and the violence is harsh and unromantic.

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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Alice in Writerland by Elisa Hategan

Alice in Writerland:  A Writer's Adventures in the Ugly World of PublishingAlice in Writerland: A Writer's Adventures in the Ugly World of Publishing by Elisa Hategan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

For all writers who think if their lives were just THAT much more interesting (like being born into a crime family, or recruited into the CIA as a super-secret child assassin for instance) they'd have a ready made book to sell--then this book is for them. For all writers who feel locked out of the world of face to face networking at writing retreats and long for the magical blessing of their very own agent, this book is also for them. Hell, if you're a writer, then this book is for you.

Every aspect of this book is written from the heart throbbing on the sleeve of Ms. Elisa Hategan. In breathless, fervent prose very reminiscent of Anne Rice or a Victorian scribe, Hategan spills to us a story that is part memoir, part cautionary tale. A girl born in Eastern Europe to emotionally distant parents, she endures trials and tribulation under an oppressive government and has to scrape out an emotional life before being moved to Canada. Once there, no Western Utopia awaits. She falls under very harsh times and is lost into the clutches of a White Supremacist militant group. Her story unravels to reveal that as a young teen, she becomes double agent, working for both the militant group and turning on them to government officials in a case that roots out the very corruption eating away within the Canadian government itself!

For a girl who at that age is already a budding poet and aspiring writer, this is an instant book deal, right?


Ms. Hategan's fascinating life is only a small portion of this tale which is the tale of the making of a nonfiction best-seller that never came to be. After going into hiding for the remainder of her teen years, she breaks free of the physical clutches of her past, but can't quite outrun the emotional resonance of it as she tries as hard as anyone can to break into the glittering echelons of the world of The Published Writer. With ever growing disillusion, she chronicles the world of applying for writing grants, entry into college writer's workshops, acquiring the holy grail of all aspiring writers--The Agent, and even the thrill of finally sitting at a negotiating table with a legacy publishing house.

Nothing ever seems to quite work for Ms. Hategan and she pulls no punches, and names names (gasp!) as she bluntly states her disgust and disappointment with the people and the industry around her. This is where her book both works...and doesn't. She unashamedly pours her emotion into her prose and states upfront within the pages that she does not care whether or not this book offends, as the main reason for this book's existence is to purge once and for all the woes weighing her shoulders and heart down. She is quite a good writer so her voice comes through loud and clear, to the point where it really does feel as if you're sharing a consolation drink with a weeping best friend and doing your best to just BE THERE for her. For that very fact, this book will either resonate powerfully for you, or it won't, depending upon your readiness to be that best friend. Make no mistake about this, Ms. Hategan has done something interesting in that the very way she has structured and presented this book gives the reader absolutely no choice but to BE her best friend and shoulder to cry on.

Now I give this book three stars. It is well written and quite engaging, but at the same time, the emotional weight of it initially drew me in and then repelled me. I kept finding myself at first sympathizing with Elisa on her journey but at the same time feeling a need to nag and counsel in a way reminiscent of my own mother. Perhaps it is because I am following quite a different path than Ms. Hategan in my quest to be a writer, and the idea of hunting for writing grants, getting into workshops, or even being validated with a big book deal, has never really been my goal. Ms. Hategan's boiling bitterness with everything about the publishing industry seemed almost like wasted energy to me at times as I kept wanting to reach through the pages and pull her by the hand and scream, "Who cares about shining book shelves and rubbing shoulders with the high and mighty world of fancy writers? Just write and let them all be damned!" Something to that effect (but let's face it I would never say that to someone's face.)

I did not find a thing wrong with Ms. Hategan's tale to tell, but I did feel a certain need to pull back from it as the venom rose with each chapter. In fact, I have let this book sit for quite a long while before getting this review out so I could take the initial emotions out of my own thoughts. I am glad I did.

I can now truly say that her book is indeed an important one and especially so for anyone thinking of getting into the writing business with the idea that gold lines their path, and trying to fit in with cocktail parties, agents, editors, and workshops is the only way to go. I now know that it is my own personal taste alone that initially made me feel cold to the book. So I say--go read this book, give it a try! Just be prepared to have a lot of tissues handy (for your best friend's tears) like any good shoulder to cry on has.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Writing Update Post!

I have a few wee stories at the ever awesome Short Fast and Deadly.

My shorts "Scarecrow Cherry Roll" and "Lingering Fling" are in the July Issue.

My short "Dear Sir..." is available in the August Issue.

They can be read for free of course, but if you would desire your very own hard copy of these issues, the purchase links are also available at the site.

My very first chapbook is also live! It is published by Deadly Chaps. The chapbook "Broken Butterflies" is a collection of 33 small prose and poem stories that reflect snapshots in the lives of three fictional sisters, Mari, Alice, and Brennan from their childhood to death.

You can read it for free of course, but if you would like to own your very own copy, it is only seven dollars and the purchase link is on the page. So do me proud and support the small press! :)

Love and hugs!