Dead Boys

I came across this as an Amazon Short and was intrigued by it. It’s a quick read obviously but I felt it was moving and thought-provoking in its way. The author, Adriana E. Ramirez relates losing her brother at a young age when she was five and he was six in 1989 when he was violently killed in a horseback riding accident she witnessed. She describes it as breaking her family, which I can understand as things like that can tend to have that effect on families, regardless of how they are handled afterward.

Ramirez then talks about other dead boys/men she comes across in her life in other circumstances and then put into stories, she explains her Colombian and Mexican background and how her family has traveled between those countries and the US, coming from Mexico to the US when she was just a few months old. I liked her use of quotes leading off the different essays and have given a couple of them below. I look forward to seeing more of her work. She won the inaugural PEN/Fusion Emerging Writers Award in 2015 for an early draft of this work.

The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.
Marcel Proust

Violence isn’t always evil. What’s evil is the infatuation with violence.
Jim Morrison

I recommend this until a full-length work comes out.

Little A 49 pages
Pub: Nov 1st, 2016

RATED: 4/5 Stars


Shots in the Dark: The Saga of Rocco Balliro

This is the story of Rocco Anthony Balliro, a man who makes his living as a criminal, earning his money by breaking the law. Then he meets a beautiful woman named Toby and is instantly smitten with her, though she happens to be married with two children. But her husband is in jail a lot and doesn’t help her at all. Before long Rocco and Toby are living together, and Rocco begins to think of getting a job and going straight for this woman, so that they can have a real life and by a real family. He doesn’t want to keep risking being separated from her by going back to prison. Especially after a close call he has nearly getting caught by the police one night.

When Toby’s husband gets out of jail, they know she has to see him and get things straight about a divorce. She plans to only be gone a short while and when it takes much longer, Rocco goes looking for her, thinking she’s in trouble and needs help. When he goes to the apartment house to rescue Toby with his brother and a friend to help him, they end up in an unexpected ambush shootout and they hightail it out of there after returning fire. As they turn and run, they hear more gunfire coming from inside the apartment, which puzzles him. After a couple of days, and learning that his beloved Toby and her son Mark were both killed in that apartment, and that it was police in there shooting, not the husband and his cohorts, Rocco turns himself in to police. He knows he hasn’t killed anyone and wants to clear his name. Police are trying to charge him with murder. The murder of Toby and little Mark. It results in nearly 50 years of incarceration, and escapes, 2 marriages, and Rocco doggedly working to clear his name.

Such a haunting tale of ruined lives and lost love that left me saddened by it all. I try not to read anything about the book beforehand, coming to it clean. I was so shocked when Toby and Mark were killed that I kept thinking, maybe hoping it was a police trick, and that it wasn’t really true. I finally had to accept that it was true, as much as I hated it. I can only imagine how Rocco felt. And being accused of killing them and serving all those years for it, can there be anything worse? What a story. My thanks for the advance electronic copy that was provided by #netgalley, author Daniel Zimmerman, and the publisher for my fair review.

WildBlue Press
Pub: Sept. 25th 2018

RATED: 5/5 Stars

The King of Con: How a Smooth-Talking Jersey Boy Made and Lost Billions, Baffled the FBI, Eluded the Mob, and Lived to Tell the Crooked Tale

How a Smooth-Talking Jersey Boy Made and Lost Billions, Baffled the FBI, Eluded the Mob, and Lived to Tell the Crooked Tale. That’s quite a sub-title and a mouthful all at once I’d say. This book was intriguing from the start and only got better. It tells the crazy story of how Tom Giacomaro a smooth talking guy from Jersey, who started out in the mob-heavy trucking business and learned as he went. He took that wisdom with him as he moved on, soon making money like he never dreamed of as a salesmen getting accounts because he was so good at it. He could talk anyone into anything, and his lifestyle changed drastically along with his income.

Soon he had a new Cadillac, he was wearing a Rolex and wore expensive suits. It made him feel good after his father telling him all his life that he was nothing and never would be anything. But, as many guys like him do, they get too slick for their own good and Tom develops problems as he is also cheating on his wife, and he starts selling coke on the side too. Soon the money begins pouring in, so much he begins filling shoe boxes with it at home and stacking them up. But his performance at work begins to suffer and he’s rarely at home anymore.

He changed jobs and took one for even more money, serious money, an even better car and an unlimited expense account. He made his mom proud finally. But his dad said he was still nothing. Things keep escalating and just get more out of hand, a very wild ride indeed as he gets involved with the mob as a partner.

This true crime book is very readable and I enjoyed it a lot. I got pulled in and didn’t want to stop to sleep at spots where it got good. That’s always too much temptation for me. My thanks for the advance electronic copy that was provided by #netgalley, authors Thomas Giacomaro & Natasha Stoynoff, and the publisher for my fair review.

BenBella Books
Pub: Sept 25th, 2018

RATING: 5/5 Stars

She Survived: Anne

Anne Bridges was visiting at a friend’s place when she ended up getting shot in the back for wanting to leave. The man then held her hostage for hours as she was bleeding and getting weaker. He finally called someone to take her to a hospital but insisted that it be one far away from where he lived so he would not be involved. Fortunately for Anne, the man didn’t listen, and took her to the closest hospital, so she got the fastest care. I really enjoy these survivor stories by M. William Phelps. Look forward to more of them.

Pub: Aug 28th, 2018

RATED: 5/5 Stars

The Fabulous Bouvier Sisters: The Tragic and Glamorous Lives of Jackie and Lee

I originally read this in July, then lost my first review when I went to post it. So this is just what I could remember. I found this to be very much to my liking for the most part, as I’ve always enjoyed reading about Jackie and wanted to know more about her family and her sister Lee. This book provided that and quite well. During their heyday these two ladies were always fascinating as they were in the news, dressed in something noteworthy, dating someone noteworthy and usually up to something just as noteworthy. They were always up to something you wanted to know about, or just had been or were about to be, it seemed like. They just had fascinating lives, compared to ours. They couldn’t help it, that’s just how it was going to be. They were born for it to be that way.

There were times the sisters were close and got along well, but not long ones. There was just too much rivalry over men pulsing between them. And Lee didn’t like all of the power that Jackie’s position as First Lady gave her. It made her feel ‘less than’ and like just a hanger on all the time. Though she did like the perks that came with being part of Jackie and the President’s entourage could bring at times. Lee had her own talents and liked having her own friends and circle of influence, away from the Kennedys. She had a mind of her own and often just did her own thing, including infidelity, `not caring who liked it. My thanks for the advance electronic copy that was provided by Edelweiss, authors Sam Kashner & Nancy Schoenberger, and the publisher for my fair review.

Harper Collins
Pub: Sept. 25th, 2018

RATING: 4/5 Stars

Accused: The Unsolved Murder of Elizabeth Andes

I found this to be a fascinating true crime book based on a podcast about the cold case murder of Elizabeth Andes that was being reinvestigated by journalists Amber Hunt and Amanda Rossman. Andes was 23 and just days after graduating from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio when she was found murdered in her apartment on December 28th, 1978. Her boyfriend, Bob Young, had come home and found her in the darkened apartment under an overturned dresser. She was bloody and had no pulse. The phone had been disconnected in anticipation of moving, so he ran to other apartments trying to find someone home. With it being a holiday break most students were away, and he had to run to another building before he found someone to use a phone to call police.

The police were quickly suspicious of boyfriend Bob, and after taking him in for questioning, despite his cooperation, allowing police to take hair samples, prints, etc. and repeated statements without asking for a lawyer, and even consenting to going to another town to take two polygraphs, they started coming down on him with suspicions and accusing him. After 15 hours of questioning, they got him to break and “confess”. Once he had some time to think alone quietly, he realized what a mistake he’d made, and he quickly recanted the confession and stuck to his claim of innocence thereafter. Once he was finally allowed to speak with his parents again, they got him a lawyer.

The police never looked at anyone else, despite there being several very good suspects, even after Bob Young was acquitted in a criminal trial, and again later in a civil trial brought by the parents of Beth Andes on the advice of their lawyer.

The case just lay dormant for nearly 40 years until these two journalists took a look into it after the family of Beth Andes kept trying to get the police interested repeatedly with no result. Why they pursued this story:

There are a lot of investigations out there – some with podcasts even – examining whether people were wrongly convicted of terrible crimes. This isn’t one of those. This is an investigation of the aftermath of an innocent verdict. How law enforcement — so sure that they had the right man despite two juries saying they didn’t –  gave up looking for the person who strangled and stabbed Elizabeth Andes, a young woman in a college town. It wasn’t that there weren’t other people to look at. There were plenty. But no one bothered.

Thirty-seven years later, we did. If you have information you’d like to share with the Oxford Police Department about the death of Elizabeth Andes, call the department’s tip line at 513-524-5268 or email
To reach out to The Enquirer about this project, email

My thanks for the advance electronic copy that was provided by NetGalley, authors Amber Hunt & Amanda Rossman for my fair review.

Diversion Books
Pub: Sept. 18th, 2018

RATING: 5/5 Stars

Surviving Execution: A Miscarriage of Justice and the Fight to End the Death Penalty

Surviving Execution: A Miscarriage of Justice and the Fight to End the Death Penalty by Ian Woods, is another timely subject about the death penalty/ execution. It seems to be a hot topic lately with states struggling to find a tolerable cocktail of drugs that will work in an effective manner to kill the death row inmates, be easily obtainable and pass muster with the courts and lawyers and everyone involved. A new one recently was approved and used for the first time as part of a cocktail that is an opioid, Fentanyl (Etomidate) was used by Florida in August to execute Mark Asay and it remains to be seen if others will now follow suit and begin using it too. Etomidate replaced midazolam, which became harder to acquire after many drug companies began refusing to provide it for executions.

This book has reporter Ian Woods of London’s Sky News following the story of convicted murderer Richard Glossip, sitting on Oklahoma‘s Death Row as his case makes its way through various levels of appeals etc. Then at one point, he gets his case overturned and is granted a new trial, but then despite having a decent attorney this time around, is convicted all over again. He finds himself right back on Death Row again and his only hope now seems to be clemency or a stay due to the problems with the death cocktail issues. Likely of interest to true crime or death penalty readers. This was quite an interesting book for the times. My thanks for the advance electronic copy that was provided by #netgalley, author Ian Woods, and the publisher for my fair review.

Atlantic Books
Pub date: Sept. 1st, 2018

RATING: 4/5 Stars