Review: The Bookie’s Son

The Bookie’s Son
by Andrew Goldstein

Product Description (from
The year is 1960 and the place is the Bronx. All twelve-year-old Ricky Davis wants to do is play stickball with his friends and flirt with the building super’s daughter. But when his father crosses gangster Nathan Glucksman and goes into hiding, Ricky has to take over his father’s bookie business and figure out a way to pay back his debt—before the gangsters make good on their threats. Meanwhile, Ricky’s mother, Pearl, a fading beauty of failed dreams, plots to raise the money by embezzling funds from one of her boss’s clients: Elizabeth Taylor. Fast-paced, engrossing and full of heart, The Bookie’s Son paints the picture of a family forced to decide just how much they’re willing to sacrifice for each other—and at what cost.

My Thoughts:
The Bookie’s Son came to me from the publicist, who described it as a “coming of age” novel, which it is, in that protagonist Ricky Davis, whom we first meet when he’s borrowing his grandmother’s false teeth to play-act with (and what kid hasn’t been tempted to do the same?) goes through a lot of life lessons, including his Bar Mitzvah, over the course of the book, but to me, it read like a dark comedy as well, because even though the situations were often grim (Ricky watches his father collect debts on behalf of a crimelord, etc.) they’re treated with an all-too-human sense of humor.

That balance of humor and drama is one of the things that makes this novel sing, but another is the author’s use of language. I grew up in a culturally Catholic, New Jersey Neopolitan family. It’s a culture that speaks with a very specific rhythm, enhanced by the use of Italian terms and local slang. Goldstein’s book is set in the Bronx in the 60’s, in a Jewish family, but that, too, has a very specific linguistic rhythm, which can be difficult to capture on the page. And yet Goldstein has, to the point where the reader – or at least this reader – can hear that slightly nasal Bronx accent, hear the faint Eastern European accent in the Yiddish words, hear the kids using their street language among themselves, and slightly better language at home…and you are there. There among the clattering dishes, ringing telephones, guys (most likely in scary plaid pants) calling to place bets…sure, his descriptions are good, but it’s use of language that really puts you in the scene.

I have to confess, that it’s Ricky’s MOTHER I was most drawn to – maybe because I’m a woman, or maybe because I want to know more about the process that makes a person willing to sacrifice herself (not her life, but her SELF) for others. Sure, she’s drawn a bit like a comic character, and in other hands her job as the assistant to a theatrical lawyer who handles clients like Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe would be written for pure hilarity, but in Goldstein’s hands, she has this lovely pathos to balance the preposterous-ness, and comes across as vibrant and interesting.

While I wouldn’t necessarily have chosen this book from the shelf in a bookstore, I’m really glad I crossed paths with it, because The Bookie’s Son is a great story about people who are as real as any of us, leading gritty, funny, earthy, HUMAN lives. Also? It can’t be said enough: the dialogue is to die for.

Goes well with: blue Jell-o, or a chocolate egg cream, but not together because that would be gross.

BTT: Anything You Can Do…

Booking Through Thursday is a blog that asks a bookish question each week. This week, BTT wrote:

A while ago, I interviewed my readers for a change, and my final question was, “What question have I NOT asked at BTT that you’d love me to ask?” I got some great responses and will be picking out some of the questions from time to time to ask the rest of you. Like now.

Patricia asks a particularly insightful question:

Ever read a book you thought you could have written better yourself?

I don’t have titles falling of the tip of my tongue, but I know that there have been books where half-way through (or sooner) the dialogue has been so stilted or otherwise unrealistic, or the awareness of space and objects so bad, that I’ve entertained thoughts of writing it better. Ultimately, however, I end up either finishing the book and grumbling about it, or not finishing the book, and grumbling about it.

As much as I love the wide variety of free ebooks that are out there, I have to say that while many are very, very good, there are an equal number that were published by people who should never again be allowed near a keyboard without supervision.

When I interviewed Marsha Mason for ATG a couple of years ago, we talked about her memoir, and she said she believes everyone should write.

I agree. Everyone should write, whether it’s fiction, letters, or a diary.

But not everyone should publish, even on Amazon.

I should add, however, that sometimes a poorly written story still has an amazing or interesting concept, and when I do think, “Oh, I could do that better,” it’s generally the concept I’m responding to.

Review: Wyndano’s Cloak

Wyndano’s Cloak
by A.R. Silverberry

Product Description (from
Jen has settled into a peaceful life when a terrifying event awakens old fears of being homeless and alone, of a danger horrible enough to destroy her family and shatter her world forever. She is certain that Naryfel, a shadowy figure from her past, has returned and is concentrating the full force of her hate on Jen’s family. But how will she strike? A knife in the dark? An attack from her legions? Or with the dark arts and twisted creatures she commands with sinister cunning? Wyndano’s Cloak may be Jen’s only hope. If she can only trust that she has what it takes to use it…

My Thoughts:

While I haven’t been part of the target demographic for YA for decades, I still read a lot of it, because it tends to have such wonderfully written female characters – strong, smart young women that are not found as frequently in contemporary adult fiction. When I find such a story that is also set in a rich fantasy world, I’m usually completely happy. That was the case with A.R. Silverberry’s Wyndano’s Cloak, which I not only read in a single night, but stayed up reading (by Kindle-light) in the dark into the wee hours – something I rarely get to do anymore.

What I liked about Silverberry’s world is that while it’s a fantasy setting, he didn’t make it too farfetched. Like some of my other favorite fantasy works, the people speak in contemporary (though not slangy) English, they drink coffee (actually he had me at coffee), etc. Yes, it’s clear the world in question is based on a Renaissance setting, and that the darker Plain World is a much gritter version of a similar period, but it was completely its own place as well, and in fantasy, that’s important because the world is a character in its own right.

Protagonist Jen, and the other young women in the story – Bit and Pet – were all great girls with unique personalities, and their own journeys. I liked that they could be strong, and bright in individual ways, and yet still retain girlhood. Not all active girls are true tomboys, after all, and not all fashionistas are insipid fools.

The male characters were also well-drawn. Jen’s father, Jen’s brother – both privileged men with distinct personalities – and Blue, the trickster, who reminded me a bit of Gavroche from Les Miserables was a winsome rogue.

Jen’s mother was more a presence than a real character in some respects, but her presence was felt, and Naryfel – what a great name! – was a perfect witch/hag character, but with complexity that made her more than a storybook villain.

While the plot of Wyndano’s Cloak was a combination of a Hero’s Quest and “How do we get back home,” Silverberry’s treatment of two standard fantasy themes was unique and compelling. I’d happily read more of his work, in this world, or in any others.

Goes well with: a latte and a chocolate croissant.

Review: Tides of Love

Seaswept Seduction: Tides of Love
by Tracy Sumner

Product Description (from
He left all he loved behind…

Will he be able to return and win her heart?

An earth-shattering secret revealed in his recently deceased mother’s diary causes harsh words between Noah Garrett and his brother. Desolate and totally bewildered, Noah leaves Pilot Isle and has no contact with his family or even Elle Beaumont, the girl who has been his shadow all through childhood. Now, ten years later, Noah is a renowned biologist and returns to Pilot Isle to head up a research lab. Coming back home opens up old wounds and uncovers buried feelings. Hoping to have a few days to cope with all the old emotions welling up within him, Noah really isn’t ready to face anyone yet. However, it’s just his luck that the first person he literally bumps into is Elle. The only difference is, Elle is no longer a thin red headed mischievous imp who is constantly in trouble and always needing to be rescued. This Elle is a gorgeous, passionate young woman who sets Noah’s blood on fire.

Marielle Claire Beaumont has loved Noah since she was a child. As a sad little girl who’d recently lost her mother and couldn’t speak English, Elle met Noah when he saved her from taunts at school. Ever since then Elle has loved Noah unconditionally and followed him around like a little puppy. Her world was shattered when he left so suddenly. His silence all these years has been very difficult, and Elle is stunned when she slams into him so unexpectedly. It’s not long before she’s disrupting Noah’s life again as sparks of passion fly in every direction between the two.

My Thoughts:

I actually got this book at the end of February, but haven’t been able to post the review til now because my sites were hacked. Apologies to the author for the delay.

I’ve been reading a lot of books about women on boats, lately, so it seems only natural that I shifted to women on beaches. While I don’t read a huge number of romance novels, or historicals, I enjoy both when done well. Based on my recent reading of Tides of Love Tracy Sumner does them well.

Marielle-Claire (Elle) Beaumont is a smart, feisty young woman, but she’s also written in a manner that doesn’t make her seem jarringly out of period. She’s curious about sex, and appropriately innocent of certain facts, but not so naive that she doesn’t understand the theory. I like that she admits she wants love, that she knows herself that well, and I also applaud the author’s choice to give her not just the means for an education but the desire for one.

Likewise, romantic lead Noah, while prickly and clearly suffering from childhood trauma and innate sensitivity, is well-drawn as a scholarly, reasonably type in a place where sheer physicality rules the day. It’s a classic trope, but it’s one that works, and in this novel, it works especially well – as does the mystery of his real-world romantic experience.

The background characters were also nicely written. The teaser chapters attached to the back of the book show that there’s a sequel that focuses on one of Noah’s brothers, but all the of the townsfolk were interesting people I’d enjoy reading more about.

In reviewing a romance novel, you have to take a moment to discuss the sex scenes. Sumner’s writing in these scenes was a nice balance – not too clinical, not too comical, not too florid. While I’m personally opposed to sex on the beach (sand just should not go in certain places), I had no problem believing the passion that drew these two characters to it.

The plot itself is also decent. Yes, it’s obvious that Elle and Noah will eventually end up together, but we know that of every romance novel pair. What we don’t know is the specific journey, and with her attention to history and careful dialogue Ms. Sumner’s Tides of Love leaves nothing lacking.

It’s light reading. But it’s very satisfying light reading.

Goes well with: a tuna sandwich and lemonade; picnic blanket optional.

ATOPIA: An Update from Matthew Mather

An email from Mr. Mather this morning:

Many apologies, but after talking with a few people it seems there was a technical issue with the augmented reality target in “Atopia 1 – Blue Skies” yesterday that made it difficult for some people to view the augmented reality image.

I have corrected the issue with an updated version. If you had any problems seeing the augmented reality image yesterday (it should work very easily!) you can upload a new augmented reality image by downloading “Atopia 2 – Timedrops” (the 2nd part of the series) right now (it is $0.99 cents, sorry but I couldn’t get the promotion manager to make it zero for today)…

…or you can download a new copy of “Atopia 1 – Blue Skies” tomorrow (Saturday) by following the instructions below (I should have a corrected version loaded into Atopia 1 by this afternoon…sorry for delay, just frustrating slow refresh rates with Kindle system)…

To load a new copy of Atopia 1 you would need to erase your current version by following these steps

1) Type “my kindle” into search bar in
2) Cllick “manage my kindle” from list of options that appear
3) On list item “Atopia 1” that appears in your list of Kindle items, click “actions” and then choose option “delete”
4) Type “Atopia” in search bar and reload Atopia 1

Many apologies for any wasted time or frustrations…it is a very cool effect and I will make sure to test for thoroughly in the future…!

Augmented Reading?

Earlier today, I received an email that reads, in part:

Atopia novels first to use Kindle as augmented reality platform

The new Atopia series of novellas are the first to use the Kindle to view 3D augmented reality images of objects in the stories

NEW YORK, March 15th, 2012 – Today author Matthew Mather announced the release of the Atopia series of novellas, the first to use the Amazon Kindle or other reading device as an augmented reality viewing platform. Using augmented reality markers embedded in the stories, readers are able to view fully 3D images of the world of Atopia “floating” above their Kindle. Everything to experience this effect is available for free right now, including a free limited time offer (March 15th -18th) of the first Atopia story. To try it out for yourself, just click here to go to Amazon to download for free today, or type “Atopia” into your Kindle (or Kindle app on PC or iPad), download “Atopia 1 – Blue Skies” and then follow the instructions at the end of the story.

The book is available free through the weekend, so I downloaded it, but I won’t have time to read it til Saturday or Sunday. If you also download it, let me know: what kind of Kindle you have (Kindle3? New key-less Kindle? Kindle Fire? Kindle app on an iDevice?) and tell me what you think.