Thursday, October 28, 2010

'The Confession' by John Grisham

Either I just ran twenty miles, Gabrielle Union just kissed me, or I just finished John Grisham’s new book. Seeing as I haven’t run since high school and Gabrielle doesn’t know me from Adam’s housecat, I’ll have to assume that this book is the cause for this unremitting, incessant beating of my heart. From the start you could tell that this wasn’t one Grisham’s “regular” novels. This was written with the same pain and passion as his first, but with a different soul. It’s is physically impossible to read this book and not get pissed. Yes, this book is about race relations and the South, that’s par for the course. What incensed me were Travis Boyette and the inept smugness of the judicial system in Sloan. The write-up about this book is a tad bit misleading. It implies that Mr. Boyette wants to confess to his crime after nine years of being a silent coward because he has an inoperable brain tumor. He wants to do the “right thing” before he dies. So he says. One problem… this guys wafts between stupid and unsure, almost like he’s a pathetic personification of both.

John Grisham doesn’t need any more weapons (than he already has) to make his stories memorable, but when you add brazen emotion to the mix it’s almost unfair. I enjoyed this book more than I probably should have. Am I the only one that compares his books to heroin? You wait for your fix, you get your fix, you savor your fix, and then you wonder how long you have to wait for your next fix and more importantly, why you were so stupid to rush through your current fix. Grisham paints a very disturbing picture of the “justice” system in Sloan, TX and how it could so blatantly and blindly push through the conviction of a man, even though they KNEW the confession was as fake as the chest on Pam Anderson. While some people take issue with Grisham preaching on the issue of the death penalty, I don’t. Make no mistake, I don’t agree, but when you write this well I can deal.

Travis Boyette and the Texas legal system combine to make a pile that you can smell all the way in Canada. We all know the system is flawed because humans are flawed. But when the idiots in Sloan deliberately chose to ignore certain halogen glaring facts, the justice system went from inadequately bad to feckless worse. Travis crawls from under his maggot filled sexual assault infested life FOUR days before Donte’ is scheduled to be executed to admit to the crime, and with a straight face wonders why no one believes him. The mad dash to clear Donte’s name while trying to piece together all the crap coming from Travis’s mouth is what really makes this book fun reading magic. Yeah, there is still that seething anger created by the story and her characters but you’ll keep reading because it’s impossible not to.

You feel the simmering hatred of the Black community toward the police, the monumental arrogance of the Governor, the shocking attitude of the Texas courts, and meet some unlikely heroes. You wonder what will happen and when something happens that you didn’t expect, you wonder what will be the next thing you didn’t expect to happen, happens. Suspense, anger, bitterness. You’ll feel it, you’ll taste it, you’ll be turned off by it, and you’ll grate your teeth at it. But one thing you won’t do is quit reading it. I’m a fan of Grisham’s books, yes, but I’m in admiration of THIS book.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

'Howard L. Bingham's Black Panthers 1968'

Remember how you felt watching Spike Lee’s adaptation of ‘Malcolm X’? Remember the uncanny metamorphosis of Denzel? Remember the end? The eulogy? When I was reading and looking through this book of our history I got that same feeling in my gut. No matter how brilliant the acting and production of ‘Malcolm X’ was, it paled in comparison to the man himself. Malcolm’s pictures and the unmistakable voice of the legendary (YES, legendary) Ossie Davis was the catalyst pride that swelled in each of our breast. For those of us too young to have missed the 60’s and 70’s and might have forgotten the stories of our mothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, and pastors; this collection is priceless.

No matter your stance on the Panthers, you had better concede one thing; they changed history for Black people AND for America. Trust me; I’ve heard all of the “bad” stories about the Panthers. Mainly from people who don’t have the first damn clue. I’ve also heard the good. Mainly from the people who were beaten by said clues. The Panthers were soldiers. Plain and simple. To call them anything less would be an insult, an injustice, and utterly contemptuous. They lived and fought in a violently severe time in America’s history, and that history must not be forgotten or watered down. The souls that had dogs sicced on them, fire hoses that tore away at their skin, and someone else’s saliva bathing their face deserve better. They demand it.

Mr. Howard L. Bingham’s pictorial anthology on the Black Panthers is one of those books that need to be on every Black person’s coffee table and in every Black person’s library. Am I militant? Hell no. I just know my history and I’m proud of my history. Those who lived through this time will recognize these pictures, the era, and reminisce. Memories good and bad will surface. For those (like me) who grew up listening to these stories, this book is an invaluable piece of much needed history.

Now… about the pictures. Powerful. Historic. Moving. Potent. Unique. Beautiful. Dominating. The radiant pictures of Kathleen Cleaver were enough to do it for me. Next to the raised black-gloved fist, is there anything so visual stunningly powerful? So stunningly beautiful? So stunningly dangerous? Had I not known better I would have thought that SHE was the reason it was called the ‘Panther’ party. Black. Strong. Intellectually savage. The incredibly cynical looks Bobby Seale gives the world captured on film makes you smile with a seething understanding of his thoughts. Throughout this book the power that is emanated through the lens of Mr. Bingham is glorious and vivid. Know that cliché; “a picture is worth a thousand words”? These are worth a thousand and one. By a factor of ten.

The short essays written by Howard Bingham, Gilbert Moore, Tessa Hicks, Mar Hollingsworth, Earl Ofari Hutchinson, and Bernard Kinsey are the Clubman to the perfect haircut. They said just enough without saying too much, and that is a talent in and of itself. While I can easily follow their work now because of the internet, oh how I wish I could have read/heard their words first hand. For some this will be a history book. For others; a diary. For me, it was a pleasure.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

'The Eagle's Conquest' by Simon Scarrow

I think I read ‘Under the Eagle’ about two years ago. I remember really liking it, but (as most book lovers can relate) I got caught up in reading other stuff and never made it back to Scarrow. Until now. Man, I didn’t realize how much I missed Macro and Cato until I started reading about these two again. I LOVE reading (fictional) books about Rome and it’s shouldn’t have taken me this long to get back into the series. I hope you don’t make the same mistake I did. This is a magnificent story within a magnificent series with magnificent characters told by a magnificent author. The "ending" was about as perfect as a lead-in to the next book as you would want. Absolutely perfect. Need I say more? Only this: ‘When the Eagle Hunts’… you’re next.

Friday, October 15, 2010

'Smooth: Erotic Stories for Women'

Unlike her last erotic book for women (which I loved) this one is truly for women. It was VERY sexual as all her books are, but it wasn’t… raw. Something about this one didn’t quite do it for me and I was trying to figure out what. I think I’ve narrowed it down to two reasons. 1. Different authors, which you would expect in collections and 2. It was a little tame for my taste. So why did I give it 5 stars? Because I can make the difference between good short stories, bad short stories, bad short stories that are just BAD, and good short stories that just weren’t my cup of tea but were good nonetheless. Most of the stories in this collection fall in the “good-but-not-my-cup-of-tea-but-still-good” category.

It just seemed that a lot of these short stories were very moderate compared to her other erotic “for women” books. Could be just me, and if so, I’m OK with that. Here are a few of my favorites:

‘Eden’ – this was a VERY interesting take on Adam & Eve.
‘This Night’ – my absolute FAVORITE!
‘Muscle Bound’
‘The Tea Party’


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

'American Assassin' by Vince Flynn

Ever wondered what it would be like to witness the beginnings of an F-5 tornado? Or a category 5 hurricane? Ever wondered how a Megalodon looks at birth? Beautiful destruction. A controlled chaotic force of nature. Mitch Rapp. What could have been the catalyst that helped create one of America’s deadliest assassins? After eleven years and equal as many books, Vince gives us one hell of a definitive look into Mitch’s past. And it’s so good it’s like watching… (insert the favorite thing you would like to see) here. Throughout his previous books we get bits and pieces of how Mitch was “created”, but not in one ecstasy induced adrenalin shot like this. Early on Rapp has to put up with verses. Rapp vs. Victor. Rapp vs. Hurley. Rapp vs. Lewis. And finally Rapp vs. the world.

Before you start reading one of the best books of 2010, Vince writes that he’s been waiting to tell this story for fifteen years. And it shows; on every damn page. Vince had fun with this one y’all. From Kennedy’s so called clandestine operation to scope out Mitch, to Mitch’s first run in with Hurley, to watching Mitch go through the toughest training this side of Parris Island. In the summer. Wearing wool. With Satan. With an abscessed tooth. With nothing to eat but jawbreakers. However, what makes Mitch so special is that he is that extremely special freak of nature who is equipped to go toe-to-toe with Satan in the heat and humidity of the deep South.

Most of us have skills suited to our job. People that love math steer toward accounting. People that love writing become authors. People that love figuring things out become engineers. People that love dishing pain become dentists. But in all these professions you don’t need to have “over the top” talent. You don’t need to be a prodigy. Study hard, practice, take out enough student loans to choke King Kong, graduate, interview, and get a job is the normal path. Not with Mitch. These cowardly terrorist were created and in order to balance yin and yang, the universe created Mitch. He is the Assassin prodigy, and he’s on our side.

Giotto drew the perfect circle. In 1991 the Andrea Gail was caught in the perfect storm. Zoe Saldana has the perfect body. Hillary Clinton is the perfect bitch. Popcorn is the perfect snack. Rootbeer is the perfect drink. Mitch Rapp is the perfect weapon to decimate the chickenhearted harbingers of “peace”. Vince is the perfect author to bring about such a character. When I recommend this book I’m not sure where to tell people to start reading. In series order or publication order? It’s actually really nice to see how Mitch started but I also got a kick out of hearing about Hurley. His parents must have given that name because it rhymes with ‘surly’. As you read, certain things start to fall in place from his previous novels and the storyline. So I guess it will be just preference as to where people will start. I, for one, am glad that I previously read Vince’s other books because it was nice to have that foreground to understand the background.

Mitch is one bad (shut-yo-mouth), I’m just talking ‘bout Rapp. Ya’ damn right! ‘American Assassin’ keeps with the thriller as only Mr. Flynn can create and like I said earlier, this will easily fit in your “best books of 2010”.


Monday, October 11, 2010

'Lipstick Hustla' by Allison Hobbs

Misty is back. The last time two words made me clinch my cheeks like I was a fish in prison was when the doctor said, “Yep, it’s yours”. You could search for years to find a literary character like Misty and NEVER succeed. Allison is one of the few authors who can write books that I love with a character that I hate. I know I know, hate is a strong word… so let me see if I can find something else... Nope. Hate works for me. I HATE, HATE, HATE Misty. This crazy chick is up to to her usual grime and deviant nature. I think what makes Misty so bad is that she doesn’t try to hide her dirt; it’s done right in front of your face. This modern day pimpstress has lost her main bread winner and is looking for someone else, actually a few someone else’s’. This chick picks up dudes from Burger King, steals them from a man-queen’s harem, recruits her very reluctant body guard into her repulsive debauchery, and test drives more guys than Madonna in her heyday. With her special brand of “Misty Mayhem” you know girlfriend has made some enemies. Got that right! I’m not going to tell you WHAT happens, but hell… I laughed.

The graphic sex is something that I look forward to when I read Allison’s books, even if it does have maniac Misty in it. She’s overpowering and seems to have the knack to find the weakest men with the longest… uummmm… organ. Her audacity and gall is beyond measure and you really do catch yourself from throwing this book at the nearest mirror. I know I keep harping on Misty, Misty, Misty but that’s because she is a trip and a third. She wants what she wants and she doesn’t care, and I mean she REALLY doesn’t care, how she gets it. Her vagina is a weapon and a tool, and apparently what she has is so good it causes men to lose their damn mind. Because they do. ‘Lipstick Hustla’ is Allison in true form. Carnal, animalistic, a slow penetration that violates every single one of your senses, words that arouse, and phrases that cause you readjust your clothing or makes you change them all together. Also, do yourself a favor and read ‘Double Dippin’ and ‘Big Juicy Lips’ before you read this one. You will want/need to know about the origins of Mad Misty.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

'The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey'

‘Last Days’ is the story of a ninety-one year old Black man named Ptolemy. He has dementia… of sorts. I’m sure most doctors would diagnose him as that, but I’m not as convinced. Seems to me this man had more life in his “last days” than most people do their seventy-one point seven years on this planet. Walter Mosley creates a beautiful story with some… provoking people. Ptolemy is a walking, dying encyclopedia of his Black experience. And many others as well. The man is dying, he knows he’s dying, and he’s OK with him dying. What hurts him most is that his mind is going away. His remaining family is like the rest of ours; some good, some bad, looking for a quick come up.

What happens, however, is what makes Walter Mosley one of the masters of this beloved craft. A mahogany colored beauty (Robyn) finds her way into the life of Ptolemy and she is one of the few bright lights to walk hand and hand with him in the end. While Robyn is his chaperone in “real life”, the person that guides him is someone we never really meet. Leave it to Mr. Mosley to create a (ghost) character that is more powerful than the (live) characters. Coydog McCann is the character of whom I speak. He’s a teacher, he’s a guide, he’s a mentor, and he’s a friend. Together, Ptolemy and Coydog have a deep, deep friendship that borders on the strongest type of brotherly love. This bond grows stronger over the years and Coy needs Ptolemy to help him complete a mission of sorts when he dies, and Ptolemy needs Robyn to do the same.

To help with this Ptolemy chooses to be a guinea pig for an experimental drug that will help him be lucid his final days. In spite of his dementia, this man is far from crazy and the drug doesn’t GIVE him clarity… it sharpens it. The name he gives to the doctor is classic. As with all of Mosley’s novels the surrounding cast is splendid. Every single one. Even Alfred. This man can not miss. Thank you Walter for yet another.


Monday, October 4, 2010

'Vlad The Impaler'

I was walking through our comic book shop in the back of my bookstore and this book was sitting face up on the table. Stop. Read. Shirk work duties. Everyone knows who Vlad is and how incredibly evil and disgusting this fool was... but still this book made it FUN. Barbaric and gory, this book is ripe with violence, rape, horror, sex, and enough savagery to satisfy even the thirstiest fanatic. If you’re looking for a *true* history book, then check out the Library of Congress. This is just a blood lusty, artistic jaunt through the life of one of history’s meanest and notorious butchers.

This is the type of graphic novel that you flip through (often) from time to time just for the sheer voyeurism of the drawings. “Vlad – The Impaler”; you wonder if they are talking about his erotic lust for blood or his erotic lust for women. Either way, both are depicted here… in all of the rapacious glory you would expect from Vlad. I looked around to see if there was more work by Sid Jacobson & Ernie Colon and didn’t find anything. I truly hope they change that.


Saturday, October 2, 2010


“… we need something here to read…” “Those books would definitely be a breath of fresh air…” What you just read are two snippets of a conversation I had with a friend of mine who is a soldier stationed in Afghanistan. His basic underlying beef was that they do not have anything to read. What the hell? They’re fighting to keep us safe and they can’t relax with a good book? Talk about un-American! So I got to thinking that I’m in the PERFECT position to help my boy out. Thus OPERATION: RUBICONREADER was born.

Here’s the deal. (At least) Once a month starting this Friday, October 8, 2010, I will mail a box of books to Chris and his soldier friends. It will be a mix of every genre under the sun. Except Romance. They’re already in hell, why make it worse. I’m asking for your help in sending our troops books. Here are a few ways for you to help:

1. Purchase the books from my store, Russo’s Books, and I will give you a 25% discount on the books and I will pay for the shipping.
2. Purchase the books yourself, ship them to me and I will mail them off.
3. If you are an author and would like to help, I welcome, and am very grateful for any of your books you would like to donate.

If you choose to help, I do ask that you purchase NEW books for our soldiers. There is something psychological about receiving something new from a stranger and I do not, nor will I, let this turn into a “a dump for my old books”. YES, I know our soldiers would appreciate any literature sent to them, but I am sticking by my plea to buy them a new book. Please.

This is a personal mission. Russo’s Books has nothing to do with this other than being a kick-ass independent bookstore that supports her employees, her community, and our soldiers. If you have any questions please direct them to and I will be glad to answer any concerns you have. Let’s make this fun, let’s make this great, and let’s corrupt the Middle East with TONS of Western Literature!

Jason Frost

Friday, October 1, 2010

'Natural Born Hustler' by Nikki Turner

This book was missing something… and at only 112 pages I can see why. There are some authors, some books that can pull off a wonderful story in such a short tome but this is NOT one of those times. This book went by way too fast and that wasn’t because I was pulled along by the plot. It went by fast because it was short as hell! Usually this doesn’t bother me because again, some short stories are great. But there was nothing in and around this book that said this was a short story and I think that is incredibly misleading. Especially since there is going to be a sequel! Huh? Seriously, what rationale do you have for writing a 112 page book and then have a sequel?

Anyway… about the book: Unfortunately my ire doesn’t stop with the length of this book. This is a typical hood story with your typical characters and typical plot. The one (small) bright spot was the Maraunder family. Now I would LOVE to read more about them fools! But I don’t know what happened with this one or who was smoking what in the board room when they gave the green light to publish this. I chose this book because I have been a fan of Nikki Turner in the past. But I’m not sure if even her diehard fans will go for this one.