A Fun Ride

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The Cost of Doing Business by Jonathan Ashley is the third book published by 280 Steps, and it is the third book I really liked by this publisher. It has certainly put 280 Steps onto my radar.

The plot for this novel made it a must read for me. When Jon, a local bookstore owner, lets his temper get the best of him and he kills a local drug addict, he needs to figure out a way to avoid getting caught for his crime. What is his answer to the problem of not wanting to go to prison? Well to become a big name drug lord of course!

Well, he actually doesn’t set out to become a huge drug dealer, but one thing leads to another and he is in over his head in the world of dealing drugs. Along for the ride is his friend Paul and the two of them get deeper and deeper into a world they never dreamed they would be in.

The book picks up speed quickly and the characters are memorable. I thought Ashley handled the plot well and I was invested in the story pretty quickly out the gate. The book was a satisfying read and put Ashley on my radar to seek out his next book.

Recommended

Wake Up…It’s Time to Read Rhatigan

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Wake Up, Time to Die by Chris Rhatigan was one of the most enjoyable reads I have had in a while. Rhatigan has a knack for making you laugh out loud, anticipate the next story yet hope the one your reading never ends, and make you wish he put out a book a day.

This collection had nothing but great stories. When every story is good, it is hard to pick favorites, but in the name of a good review, let me give it a try.

Creator/Destroyer: A great story about a very odd man who fulfills a fantasy to get a life he loves when he kills a man and moves in with the man’s wife and family. All is going well until he begins to get paranoid how easy it is to steal someone’s life and he begins to believe someone is plotting to steal his recently gained life. A great little trip through a paranoid mind.

Man Standing in Front: When the main character wakes up to find a hit man with a gun aimed at him, he imagines the worse. Only in a world created by Rhatigan would a hit man simply follow his intended victim through his day and share conversations with him. Rhatigan has a way of writing plots full of the totally unexpected and this story shows him at his best.

The Things I Need to be a Hitman: When a career change is needed, the main character decides that becoming a hit man is the way to go. The only problem is he has no idea how to make this career change. With careful research and a willingness to do anything to get his name out to those who may be in need to having someone killed for a reasonable price, it is only a matter of time until he is a renowned hit man. This story was a blast from start to finish.

The best story of the bunch is You’re Welcome. This story had me laughing out loud and realizing you never want to get into an insult contest with Rhatigan. This story has the greatest insults ever put to paper! A man becomes obsessed with an unworthy slob he sees in a local store using coupons and being a generally pain in the butt person who mooches off the hard work and good will of others. He makes it his mission to rectify this situation and spends his time following the man to put a plan of revenge into play. A great ending that had me laughing out loud.

I could not recommend this collection more highly. This has everything a reader will need to have a good time and spend a few hours in the warped worlds created by Rhatigan.

Highly recommended.

Sewerville is a great intro to a great author

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There is so much to like about Sewerville by Aaron Saylor. The characters have depth, the plot is one of lost chances, lost souls, and redemption, the story has drugs, murder, and double crossings, and there are plenty of plot twists to keep a reader flying through the pages.

The setting for this far-reaching novel is Sewardville and the town is controlled by the powerful arm of Walter Slone. He sits as the mayor of the town, his son is the Sheriff, and the crime and drug trade is under their control. Boone is the enforcer for the town and for the family and he is the main character. Nothing goes on in the town without the Slone family approval. But when events that are not condoned by the family begin to happen, the ripple effects begin to take on a life of their own.

Boone’s brother, Jimmy, kills a local deputy and wounds the Sheriff in a moment of rage. The distribution of consequences falls to Boone and he is tasked with the murder of his own brother. The ramifications for this action lead Boone to question his commitment to the town, the family, and to himself. The matter that complicates this internal struggle is Boone is married to Walter Slone’s daughter and this marriage has given them a daughter, a granddaughter that Walter Slone is furiously protective of and would never allow Boone to take from him.

Saylor’s writing has great depth and he has an ability to show brutality on one page and extreme heart on the next. That allowed this book to have a deep, heartfelt vibe that resonated with me. Boone’s internal struggle between what he wanted from his life, what he has done with his life, and his biggest struggle, what will he do with the rest of his life, is a beautifully crafted piece of writing and brought this story to life.

I am thrilled that this author got onto my radar. His writing is great and shows promise of even better things to come. I will be looking for more from him and you would be smart to grab a copy of this book and enjoy.

Highly recommended.

Watch You Drown by Chris Rhatigan

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I was going through my unread Kindle books and came across a book I had meant to read a while back and just lost it in my To Be Read pile. I am glad I came across the book because Watch You Drown by Chris Rhatigan was a great read. It is a collection of 14 stories that were all entertaining. There are a few pieces of flash fiction and a bunch of short stories.

The collection opened with a bang and I found In the Hard Nowhere to be a great introduction to the unpredictability of the stories that followed. This tale of a criminal with a conscious has an ending that was far from predictable and mundane.

The story Skinny Latte was a great tale of revenge against an overbearing parent and, again, had an ending that I didn’t see coming. This ending was as funny as it was shocking.

Anyone who has ever worked in the service industry will love Service with a Smile. Since I have worked in that industry, I felt for the main character and felt his patience slipping away with every interaction he had with the customers within the toy store he worked at.

My favorite offering in this collection was Kleptomaniac. This story is a great cautionary tale that proves your past is never to far in your rear view mirror.

All in all, this is a great collection of fast paced stories. I notice that it is not available on Amazon any longer and it doesn’t seem to be available on the publisher’s website either. This deserves a reprint and perhaps All Due Respect Books may put it out as a reprint in the future. I will keep my fingers crossed because this collection deserves some attention.

Recommended.

Murder Boy is a Great Debut

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Put yourself into this situation: You are Dominick Prince. You have worked hard at college and have a job lined up for after graduation. You are excited about the prospects that lie in front of you. The only thing that stands between you and your future is having your college thesis accepted by your advisor. Your college advisor informs you that he will not sign off on your thesis, a proclamation that will destroy your plans and will officially ensure you have a life devoid of any hope to be successful. WHAT DO YOU DO?

Well if you are the main character in Bryon Quertemous’ novel, Murder Boy, you would begin to plot to kidnap your advisor and get him to sign off on your thesis one way or another. The cast of characters that Quertemous has created are off the wall and more than up to the challenge of helping Prince get what he desires.

The story is so well written that I got lost in the plot. There were parts where I laughed out loud, parts where I wanted the chapters to hurry up so I could find out how situations would end, and parts where I was praying the book would never end. When you put all these emotions together, you can easily see why this book was a winner in my eyes.

I have read some of Quertemous’ work in some short story anthologies, but getting to read his work in a longer vehicle such a this novel, was a pleasure. He has a writing style that is suited for short stories or novels and that tells me he is an author to watch. This book is going to be talked about for a long time, it is that good.

Highly recommended.

A Killing Kiss is Well Worth Reading

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I am not sure why I have never had B.R. Stateham on my radar before reading A Killing Kiss, but this book has put him squarely in my sight and I couldn’t be happier. A Killing Kiss, the 6th book published by Number Thirteen Press, is my kind of book; quick plot, engaging characters, and lots of violence and action.

When crime boss Jacob Menten is killed, his wife and baby son are left in the middle of a potential mob war, as Menten’s underlies battle for his vacated throne. In one of his final acts before being murdered, Mentan had reached out to Smitty, an old hit man with a moral compass that refuses to allow the thought of an innocent woman and child being hurt pass by without rectifying the situation, and asked Smitty to protect his family should anything happen to him. When he is found murdered Smitty comes to town to protect the innocent parties and to find out what happened to his old comrade.

This book served a few purposes for me as a reader. First and foremost, it kept me entertained and engrossed in a story that had a lot going for it. The book is well written and pulled me in from the very beginning. Secondly, it introduced me to a new author that has good writing chops and I am interested in seeking out some of his older works. I was happy to see that he has other works that have Smitty as a character. Lastly, this book further cements Number Thirteen Press as a publisher that clearly has its eye on the prize. They have put out nothing but topnotch books that prove size doesn’t matter when it comes to great books. If the plot is tight, the characters real, and the writer writes what they love, the book will engage the reader and reader can feel it.

Recommended.

Crooked Roads Goes Straight to your Heart

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If one publisher could be said to be responsible for my renewed interest in the short story collection, it would have to be All Due Respect Books. They have been publishing some ass-kicking collections lately and their newest release, Crooked Roads by Alec Cizak, shows they are on top of their publishing game.

Crooked Roads is a collection of 15 short stories that have been previously published in some of the most well regarded noir magazines and collections available on the market. The beauty of this publication is they are all in an easily accessible volume that allows you the distinct pleasure of reading Cizak’s offerings in one sitting without hassle.

There is not a single story in this collection that didn’t leave me racing to the next story. Cizak has a style of writing that brings the everyday man to life on the page before you and he sucks you into each story line. To have 15 stories in a collection and have all of them be this high quality is a testament to the writing chops Cizak possesses.

Some of my favorites in this collection:

The Space Between: A great piece of flash fiction that shows us the instability of the narrator and hints at a breakdown that is just around the bend. Loved it!

No Hard Feelings: A great piece that shows the best-laid plans of men don’t always come to fruition. The ending to this one made me laugh and really tied the story together.

Katy Too: I loved the rawness to this story. A classic example of “Be careful what you wish for”. A young girl wants revenge on the boyfriend who cheated on her and doesn’t quite realize the potentially deadly plans which she has set in motion, until it may be too late. Gritty and awesome!

A Matter of Time: This story shows the old adage “Honor among thieves” can be a very good thing for the rest of us that live in a decent world. A meth dealer stumbles across a crime in waiting that offends his senses (as it should) and sets out to make things right with the world. Another brilliant piece.

My Kind of Town: Without giving too much away, this story is the ultimate “Watch your back” tale. Cizak just keeps pouring it on with this piece. I found this to be one of my favorite stories in the collection.

But without a doubt, the story that left the biggest impression on me, and it was my favorite of the collection, was the short story entitled Patience. I can’t give any synopsis of this one without ruining the brilliance of this story, so I will leave my comment at WOW! This one will stay with me for a long time and will be the story I measure other stories against. I LOVED THIS ONE!

This is a short story collection that is great for train commuters, beach goers, weekend readers, and anyone who will have a duration of time where they can lose themselves in the micro-worlds that Cizak has so brilliantly brought to life. This amasses collection will surely increase Cizak’s audience and bring his name to more noir readers.

Highly recommended.