Blown Away (The Crimes of Passion Series Book 2) by Charlene Johnson is a romantic suspense thriller about Zackary Daniels, a homicide detective in the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police who also works as a security consultant at a hotel owned by his friend, where his past suddenly collides with his present. When a murder occurs at the Majestic Peacock Hotel and Casino, Zack must set aside his personal search for revenge in order to focus on his current case–discovering the identity of the killer and protecting the beautiful witness, Sonnet Banks. But Sonnet is not what she appears, and she’s not ready to reveal the secrets from her past. Can Zack gain her trust and stop the hit-man before he kills again?
I enjoyed thoroughly reading this book, but I had trouble getting into the story at the beginning. I felt that there were too many characters introduced in the first few pages (almost a dozen names were mentioned), and I struggled to keep them all straight. There were times when I had to go back and check who someone was when they were mentioned again because I couldn’t remember the details of that particular character. Part of the issue might have been that there was a lot of backstory explained all at once. I appreciated the detailed narrative of past events as it created an intricate and well throughout world, but it slowed the pace of the story prior to Sonnet witnessing the murder.
After this point the story accelerates with a consistently fast pace, engaging characters, and a gripping plot. I liked the surprises that were revealed about Sonnet’s character, which weren’t what I had been expecting and added much welcomed dimension to an already stand out character. There were several other unexpected twists in the story which kept things interesting and far from being your standard crime thriller. Charlene Johnson was able to make me care about Sasha Petrov, who seemed completely beyond redemption when we’re first introduced to him at the beginning of the story. But by the end of the book, when the truth about what really happened to Zack’s sister had finally been revealed, I wanted to read more about Sasha, and I was even hoping that there will be another story with him as the hero.
With well defined characters thrown into the middle of a perilous situation things naturally take off and go in unexpected directions. Anyone who enjoys a good crime thriller will find plenty to like.
Pages: 224 | ASIN: B087NSZJRG
Posted in Book Reviews, Four Stars
Tags: author, Blown Away, book, book review, bookblogger, Charlene Johnson, crime, crime fantasy, crime ficiton, crime fiction, ebook, fantasy, fiction, goodreads, kindle, kobo, literature, mob, nook, novel, read, reader, reading, romance, story, suspense, thriller, writer, writing
Truth and Authenticity
Executive Hoodlum follows the true life story of John Costello where he uses his harsh upbringing to move up the corporate world. What inspired you to put your story into a book?
Ultimately there were three reasons I wrote the book:
1. I wanted to pass on the story to my kids so they have an appreciation of their legacy. Why they enjoy certain privileges, and to make certain they remain humble knowing the sacrifices that sometimes need to be made to succeed in life and for the next generation.
2. As a volunteer boxing trainer for under-privileges kids I was able to give something back to my community. It was personally rewarding to me so I wanted to give something back in a bigger way. That is to reach a larger audience of would be under dogs to demonstrate they have the opportunity to succeed no matter what the circumstances.
3. I wanted to relieve the burden of my own guilt pertaining to the last words I spoke to my mother before she died. Those words haunted me for decades. I never reconciled my differences with my father prior to his death either. We were at terrible odds as usual but he was alive long enough to make an attempt at reconciliation but chose not to, not with me anyway. Consequently I do not carry the same guilt as with my mother. I did write most of the book and long overseas plane trips and found myself crying writing a couple chapters. Now that the truth is out there, I somehow feel better.
A little background will put the situation into better perspective:
Best Selling author Larry Elder is the one who put the book idea in my head as he is a friend for about ten years. In fact, he was originally going to be my ghost writer. However, it was decided the book had to be in my words due to my slang and other vernacular to be authentic. With my busy work schedule, I was going to drop the whole thing. Problem being, I hate to start something and not finish. Technically Larry inspired me to write as he brought up the original deal as described in my acknowledgements. Prior to beginning the effort in earnest, I contemplated the above three reasons.
Note – I never intended on writing a book because I would have to relive things in my life I was successful in suppressing. However, age and maturity helped me become more open with my early family life.
Additionally, there are individuals in Chicago, New York and New Jersey that I did not want to have to deal with when it comes to some of the content. These are friends I have maintained and kept in contact over many years. I personally spoke to each person, mob boss, made guy, associate and the outlaw biker leaders individually to let them know my intention. To my surprise, to a person they noted they respected my street savvy enough to give the thumbs up.
The characters in this book were well developed and interesting. How close did you stay true to real events and what did you take liberties with?
Thankfully, I did not have to manufacture any drama. The one upside to being born a Costello!
I took no liberties because my street and business credibility are important to me. I played down certain events due to statute of limitation consideration. Most of what is in my book can be authenticated via documents I kept (murder investigations, police reports, death certificates, pictures,letters. newsreels and other documents I collected when fact checking. Additionally, there are third parties I contacted that were with me during certain events I consulted to make certain my recollections were as accurate as possible)
I’m not a big fan of fiction. Truth and authenticity are of utmost importance. This stems from certain things I know that have been portrayed in both books and movies about people I personally know or knew, that were embellished.
John finds himself surrounded by constant turmoil with gangs, members of the underworld, murder, suicide, and drug addiction. What was the hardest thing for you to write about?
The ugly truth of my own family, especially the circumstances of deaths of my mother, brother and cousin.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
There are many entertaining stories I was reminded of by friends I did not include in this book. Consequently, there may be a part two.
Author Links: GoodReads | Website | Facebook
Meet John Costello, Vice President of Business Development and Government Relations for Microsemi Corporation, a $6 billion leader in the advanced-semiconductor market. Well known and respected in the industry, John Costello graduated from college in 1983 with a degree in Business Administration. John’s social circle includes high-level corporate executives, politicians, military leaders and movie stars. As a young boy he played Little League baseball and Pop Warner football, and went on to become an outstanding track and cross-country runner in high school, captain of his college rowing team, and an accomplished boxer in the Golden Gloves and other tournaments. With this wholesome All-American resumé, most would think that John Costello emerged from a solid middle-class family with all the usual privileges pertaining – though nothing could be further from the truth. Costello was born into a working-class neighborhood on Chicago’s north side and grew up under quite difficult conditions. His father was a talented Italian tenor with mob connections and a proclivity for violence; his mother, the daughter of an Irish street cop, was a straight-laced Catholic girl till she took to the bottle after falling victim to that violence. Surrounded by constant turmoil and hardship involving gangs, members of the underworld, murder, suicide, drug addiction as well as physical and emotional abuse, John eventually transcended his circumstances to obtain a higher education and pursue a profitable career that entailed all the perks of an executive lifestyle inclusive of the Hollywood party circuit.
Readers who might enjoy this book are those interested in true-crime stories, mob activity, murder and mayhem, as well as anyone seeking a no-holds-barred story that describes the resilience of the human spirit. Spiced with wit and humor and distinguished by the inimitable voice of tough-talking John Costello, his story touches our hearts while keeping us on the edge of our seats.
Other comparable books include The Truthbook: A Memoir by Joy Castro, which describes a similar childhood fraught with abuse and dysfunction. The theme of destructive behavior and personal downward spiral in the fight game and mobster milieu is also taken up in Raging Bull by Jake La Motta. Then there is the true-crime and gangster activity to be found in Family Secrets: The Case That Crippled the Chicago Mob by Jeff Coen, as well as in The Neighborhood Outfit: Organized Crime in Chicago Heights by Matthew Luzi. All these works taken together give some idea of the scope of John Costello’s life as recounted in his own book.
And that is what makes our book “unique” – John Costello’s life is unique. It has been a strange blend of two distinct worlds, but with one foot firmly emplaced in each. The fact that he is comfortable meeting with Senator John McCain in the morning to discuss government business, and can then enjoy the company of old friends from the streets of Chicago in the evening, is indicative of his parallel lives and will certainly be something readers find highly intriguing. We have an extensive collection of family photos, newspaper clippings, death certificates, court papers, and other supporting documentation for all claims made, as well as music recordings and video that would introduce the amazing voice of Johnny’s father to a whole new generation.
Posted in Interviews
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A good mystery novel is one that will challenge the reader, misdirect suspicion, and keep the reader turning the page to find the next twist to see if they were right. Accidental Killer by Tong Zhang meets all these requirements, as well as throws in some Chinese Mob style twists. The main character, Sarah, is a bright mid twenties writer that also has a degree in programing and seams to draw out the good in people. The book is filled with technology references and science information but this does not impact the reader’s ability to grasp what is going on even if they don’t understand the technology being discussed. There is a small amount of romance in the book that adds to character development rather than being the center of the plot.
This is a contemporary story that takes place in California’s Silicon Valley area, with some outskirt resorts and the mountains of Tahoe. One of the key plot points is on nanotechnology, but the author does not go so in-depth into the science that the average reader will be lost. The same goes for the genetics discussion that some of the characters have. What is nice about this novel is the strong female protagonist. Sarah is not a fluff character, and she is very relatable. She talks about finding balance between traveling the path that was expected of her, computer science/programing, and her passion, writing. She over comes personal tragedies of being left by her mother and later her aunt that raised. We learn a lot about many of the characters through their interaction with Sarah, she is able to bring out their best sides and show the readers passion rather than just flat characters that move the plot forward. Hardly any character brought into the novel is fluff. This is important because it means that Zhang is writing with a purpose and not just trying to fill the book up with pages on pages of meaningless content.
Accidental Killer starts as if you’re stepping into someone’s life as a spectator. There is no preposition so (without spoiling things) the beginning of the story is confusing, but becomes clear a chapter in and the realization of what is really going on is magnificent. Several other characters are mentioned as well with no clue as to who they are or where they fit in, Scotty, Ramsey and Mr. Bash being a few. You will eventually learn who they are and how they fit into Sarah’s life but it takes times. While confusing, it does add to the mystery aspect of the novel; who are these people and what are their stories. If you can stick with the writing through the first two chapters you will be engrossed and unable to put the book down. There are definitely some memorable characters that I can see making a repeat appearance if Zhang continues the series, namely Jake and Madam Wu. Both are left with the impression they have more stories to tell. Overall a good mystery novel, quick read, and entertaining characters.
Pages: 189 | ASIN: B01527IF84
Posted in Uncategorized
Tags: accidental killer, amazon books, author, book, book review, books, california, chinese, crime, detective, ebook, ebooks, fantasy, fantasy book review, female, fiction, mob, murder, mystery, nanotechnology, novel, publishing, reading, review, reviews, romance, san francisco, sarah white, sci fi, science ficiton, science fiction, science fiction book review, short stories, silicon valley, Sleuths, stories, story, tong zhang, urban fantasy, women, writing