Saturday, March 26, 2016

#BOOK #REVIEW: Special Circumstances


Debut author Sheldon Siegel bursts into the legal thriller arena with a riveting courtroom drama, exposing the world of big-time law firms and lawyers in a fresh, sharp-witted, wonderfully sardonic page-turner.

Meet Mike Daley. Ex-priest. Ex–public defender. And as of yesterday, ex-partner in one of San Francisco's most prominent law firms. Today he's out on his own, setting up practice on the wrong side of town. Then his best friend and former colleague is charged with a brutal double murder, and Daley is instantly catapulted into a high-profile investigation involving the prestigious law firm that just booted him.

As he prepares his case, Daley uncovers the firm's dirtiest secrets. It doesn't take long for him to discover that in this trial, ambition, friendship, greed, and long-standing grudges will play just as important a role as truth and justice.

Brilliantly paced, crackling with energy and suspense, Special Circumstances reminds us why we love to hate lawyers — but can't get enough of courtroom drama when it's done this well.

M & J's Review:
I know I may have said this a thousand times, but I have to say, outside of my favorite attorney-author, Pamela Samuels Young, Sheldon Siegel runs a very close race. This legal thriller is just what it suggests—a thrill that will keep you on the edge of your damn seat!

I absolutely loved this book. There were so many elements to this story, it’s hard to say where to begin.

Michael Daley is such a believable character. Mike is someone you feel you know personally, and after learning more about his character, you warm up to him instantly. He’s an ex-priest and an ex-public defender trying to decide what he would like to do next in his career. Unfortunately, his partners at Simpson and Gates make this decision easy—they decide to vote their partner out because he wasn’t bringing in the money the way they initially thought he would. Unfortunately, that’s standard practice for larger firms. After giving the firm five years of his life, they dismissed him like yesterday’s garbage.

But, no worries, Mike has a plan. He’s going to start his own law firm out of the most unlikely places—his ex-wife’s office building. Luckily for him, he and Rosie are still good friends even though their marriage didn’t last. Besides, he has a five-year old daughter, Grace, with Rosie, so something great came out of their marriage. This will give him more time to spend with her as well. Life was looking up for Mike, until his best friend has an unexpected visitor at his home. The police arrive to arrest him for the double homicides of Robert Holmes and Diana Kennedy, Joel’s and Mike’s former colleagues. Joel Friedman and Mike have been friends for years, so when Mike learns that Bob and Diana were murdered at an office party at his newly departed law firm, he’s shocked to say the least. Unfortunately, what was more shocking was finding out that Joel was the police number one suspect. Joel Friedman was a family man, an outstanding citizen in his community, a hard worker, husband and father. There wasn’t any way Joel could have committed this heinous crime. Or, has Joel got everyone fooled?

Mike hadn’t even gotten his new office organized, when Joel and his family seek out his help. Mike didn’t want to be involved since he was so close to Joel, but it was the act of some of his former colleagues that helped push him over the edge to take on Joel’s case for murder. Not only was his old law firm seeking to destroy Joel’s life—they wanted something more—special circumstances, which in this case was asking for the death penalty.

When Mike begins the grueling task of investigating what actually happened to Bob and Diana, the reader will be left in awe. You may think you know who the killer is, but Sheldon is a great writer because he got me. I was half right on some of the legal aspects of this story, but when I got to the end, I was stunned! I had no idea the story was going to go down like that! WOOOOW! The ending will make you question everything about the story and what would drive a person to commit one of the most horrific acts a human can make? When you discover the answer, it will give you pause. I was totally and completely blown away with this story. I could not get enough! When I would retire for the evening, I saw the entire story unfold like I was witnessing a private movie made only for me. 

There are some stories that stick with you for a lifetime, and I have quite a few books that I can recall with great detail due to the fact I enjoyed them that much, and I have to say this is definitely one such story. Brilliantly crafted and intelligently written. Sheldon is definitely a new attorney on the scene to watch. He draws you in and never lets you go. So my advice to any legal suspense seekers out there, hold on tight with this one because I guarantee you, you will not see the ending coming. This is an outstandingly smart read. If you love the law, this is damn sure the book for you! I hated that it ended, but the good news is, this is the first in a series of Mike Daley stories. I’ve already started downloading the rest. I can’t wait to get back to Mike and see how his life unfolds with his ex-wife Rosie and their new law practice. Mike is definitely famous now and will have plenty of innocent clients in need of his assistance.

Mello & June gives Special Circumstances a gazillion stars! I urge you to please put this book on your shelf and make sure you have plenty of time to read because you will NOT want to put this book down— ‘cause it’s that damn good! I’m a fan, Sheldon! You had me at the first paragraph!

Kimberly Ranee Hicks, Author/Poet/Reviewer

Many People Hate Attorneys. . .
That is, Until YOU Need One!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

#BOOK #REVIEW: Secondhand Smoke

"A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES meets THE CORRECTIONS in Friedmann's warm and wacky tale of family dysfunction and redemption" —Library Journal 
“The outrageous developments and swift pace make this novel hard to resist.” –Publishers Weekly 

…to just about everyone--particularly her adult children. Fortunately, poison is the very superfood of the satirist. Patty Friedmann, the reigning queen of black comedy, hits one out of the park with her family straight out of Tolstoy--unhappy in its own way, a uniquely twisted Southern way.

Meet the Baileys. Born and bred in a working class New Orleans neighborhood, Zib and Wilson think the thick cloud of cigarette smoke enveloping their mother is what probably killed their father. Certainly the toxicity of Jerusha’s dark, cynical attitudes has driven her children far from the nest. Wilson has escaped to Chicago, married a woman who hates him, converted to Judaism, and become a decorated professor of Organic Evolution. Zib, almost forty, has made it only as far as the Florida Panhandle, where she's an assistant manager at the local Winn-Dixie, doomed to fending off a sleazy boss given to late night phone calls. Only one person, obviously as isolated as she is, shows Jerusha any affection: Dustin Puglia, chubby, wise, and fearless, a ten-year-old living next door with a poisonous mother of his own.

Although Wilson and Zib have forged independent lives away from their mother—as well as each other—their father's death brings them back together for a darkly droll, yet heart-wrenching round of domestic insanity. Does it remind you of AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY? Or THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS? Patty Friedmann got there first! And she’s just as funny and observant.

Who Will Like It: Fans of off-beat dark comedies like AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY, THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS, family dramas with a lot more humor than THE CORRECTIONS, the incomparable CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES, and another mistress of the twisted, Flannery O’Connor. Not to mention Patty Friedmann's other books:

TOO JEWISH: THE NEXT GENERATION (formerly The Exact Image of Mother)
PICK-UP LINE (formerly Side Effects)

“Secondhand Smoke does not seek life in fancy words and clever euphemisms. It tingles because it’s raw and true … The way [Friedmann] carves a sentence gives you the sense that she’s always known how to do it.” –Critique Magazine

If you ever wondered what dysfunction looks like—meet the Baileys! This is the kind of story that I should loathe, but I could not get enough of this story nor of the crazy Baileys. Actually, they weren’t so different than many American households. The Baileys bring realism on its ass and keeps on stomping it until you have no choice but to wave the flag in defeat. I laughed so hard at this family I couldn’t stop. Jershua a/k/a Ru was a mean-spirited, delusional, ignorant bigot. She hates every race outside of her own—being white. Not only does she live in a smoke induced haze, she makes the worst racist appear righteous.

Ru is a 67-year old woman living in New Orleans with her very sick husband, Woodrow Wilson Bailey, Sr. He’s dying and driving Ru insane. She’s ready for him to die because his screaming and wailing half the night is driving her livid and she just wants her husband gone and out of his misery. Or should I say her misery. When Woodrow finally passes, she’s not sure if she’s relieved or saddened by his death that seemed to last a lifetime other than the 50 years of unwedded bliss she suffered with him. However, all was not lost since she gave Woodrow the best of both worlds—a boy, Wilson and a girl, Elizabeth, better known as Zib. Ru informs her ungrateful children of their father’s death, and neither of them seem to be totally shook up about it, except possibly Zib who was the spoiled baby girl.

Zib lives in Florida, unmarried and in a dead-end job as a manager at a Winn-Dixie store. She’s a forty-something going nowhere fast and now the only person in the whole wide world who seemed to give a damn about her is now dead. She dreaded going to New Orleans to be with her mother. When Zib learned her brother was leaving his Chicago home to be with their mother, that made her equally as mad.

Wilson is a professor and a husband with four kids. Two from his first wife and two with his current wife. Wilson teaches Organic Evolution and speaks like a scientist and book worm—in other words a nerd of the fittest! For Wilson everything has a reason. There’s nothing he can’t explain away which drives his baby sister and mother quite insane. They are left with a dilemma—what to do for their father’s funeral. The obituary had one sentence in the paper, and it was as sad as sad can be. But the Baileys weren’t ashamed for they forged ahead. Woodrow asked that his remains be cremated and when the UPS man delivered the heavy box to his widow, she all but freaked the hell out. Ru sends her kids back to their own corners of the world and advised them that since Woodrow was in the service, she wanted him to have a proper burial in Arlington, Virginia with the flag hanging over the casket and the sound of Taps playing in the distance. Wilson didn’t see what the big deal was, but they agreed to meet their mother in Arlington to pay their final respects to the man who had helped give them life. What happens at the ceremony had me laughing so hard, I cried. Those Baileys had me dying through the whole book.

After the dust settled, literally, Ru found herself back at home living next door to her daughter’s best friend since childhood, Angela. She detested the lifestyle Angela led because her biggest issue was the fact she was sleeping around with men, but not just any ole men, an African-American in particular. That nearly made Ru go bonkers alone. Factor in Angela has a 10-year old son, Dustin, who has to sit outside while his mother gets her groove on and this infuriates Ru to no end.

Wilson and Zib think their mother’s chain smoking for so many years contributed to their father’s death. Of course Ru has an answer for that so there wasn’t any wonder where Wilson learned to have an answer for everything. What surprised me is that her children didn’t become a bigot like their mother. They understood the ways of the world and all the differences with people, so when they grew up and was able to get away from their parents, they took the first thing smokin’ (no pun intended) and got as far away from their poisonous mother as they could. It was unfortunate the death of their father brought them together in ways they never thought possible. As you go through the lives of each family member, each has a sadness to them, but are quite humorous. Again, this is a story that one would think would upset anyone from the racist overtones, but I found myself quite drawn to Ru’s ignorance and felt sorry for her limited view of the world. What Ru later discovers near the end of the story is really quite justifiable, and even she would probably be shocked, if she were real.

This was an amazing story of an ordinary family, living very ordinary lives in all the dysfunction they could muster. You will be turning the pages as quickly as I had to find out what the hell those Baileys do next. There is so much humor in this story, you will be laughing out loud quite a bit. The story is definitely wickedly dark humor and if you’re not familiar with that type of humor, you may miss all the fun.

Mello & June gives Secondhand Smoke five stars and counting. Patty is an amazing author bringing to light a very touchy subject with such realism and humor. I couldn’t get enough of this family. It is so damn funny! I guarantee you will not be sorry to read this book. With the Ru’s of the world, you can’t help but to laugh because they are so pathetic. If you loved What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, get ready ‘cause you already know this family’s got issues. The Baileys make the Grapes look like normal people. Enjoy! I know I most certainly did.

Kimberly Ranee Hicks, Author/Poet/Reviewer