Tuesday, February 6, 2018


Below are a few (somewhat) brief, $.02 opinions about several books I've read or listened to recently but don't have time to review in full. Their appearance in this recurring piece generally has little to nothing to do with merit. Many of these books I enjoyed as much or more than those that got the full court press. I hope you'll consider one or two for your own TBR stack if they strike your fancy whether they struck mine or not.

The Devil At Your Door, by Eric Beetner

The final installment in the Lars and Shaine trilogy finds Lars leaving Shaine behind in Hawaii to perform one last hit. This time, it's about as personal as hits can get, with Lars determined to take out his former employer and the man behind the death of Shaine's father. That job is the reason Lars and Shaine ended up together, but Lars isn't sure how great that result was for Shaine. Maybe taking Nikki out will be a satisfying final act in Lars's professional life. Of course things go sideways and Beetner takes readers on another fun and violent ride through a gauntlet of bad actors. You think you might know how it all turns out, but you can never trust that Eric isn't going to pull a crazed rabbit out of his bag of tricks. The Devil At Your Door is a fitting end to a fun series, complete with snazzy new cover work.

Who Thought This Was A Good Idea?, by Alyssa Mastromonaco

I was not too familiar with Alyssa Mastromonaco when I decided to read this one, but it didn't take long to figure out she's a badass despite her mastery of self-deprecation. Deciding early on she wanted to be involved in public service, Mastromonaco started working for Barack Obama in his Chicago days and spent more than a decade with him, eventually holding the position of Deputy Chief of Staff (seemingly by the time she was about 12-years-old); this woman is seriously fabulous. She's also hilarious and glaringly open. Some of the fixes she found herself in feel straight from a situation comedy, yet she had to go through them with the President, White House staff and often the whole world watching. Super smart and inspiring, it's also a little depressing. It made me miss Barack Obama and wonder what the hell I was doing with my life when I might have thought about taking a shot at reading People magazine on a road trip with the President. At least now I can do it vicariously.

The Man In The Crooked Hat, by Harry Dolan

I've long been a fan of Harry Dolan, so I'm not sure why I was reluctant to read his latest. The cover, title and cover copy didn't really speak to me, but thankfully I let my history with the author do the talking and gave it a go. Dolan is a master plotter and this is one twisty ride. Former cop Jack Pellum's wife was murdered and the only clue he thinks he has is the sighting of a man in a crooked hat near the scene. Working privately, Jack is determined to find her killer. It may seem impossible to pull off an investigation with such a vague clue (probably part of what made me hesitant), but Dolan succeeds fantastically. I don't think I gave this even one minor eye-roll, which is no small feat when the plot is quite intricate and Dolan lets his readers know who the murderer is early on. He proves it's all in the getting there, and this is one great ride.

The 57 Bus, by Dashka Slater

This Young Adult non-fiction offering was on my radar for two reasons. First, it took place in Oakland, California, the city neighboring my own. Second, it deals with violence against the LGBTQ community, a subject that, while difficult to read about, screams to be given a voice. Subtitled A True Story of Two Teenagers And The Crime That Changed Their Lives, The 57 Bus is where the paths of high school students Richard and Sasha crossed each day for a matter of minutes. Richard is black and attends a public high school in a tougher neighborhood, but still in one of the most diverse and tolerant cities in America. Sasha is white, middle-class, and attends a small private school. Sasha, who is agender, is wearing a mix of clothing that includes a pageboy cap and a gauzy white skirt. What might have caused Richard to put a lighter to the edge of that skirt on a particular afternoon and the fallout from his crime is the subject of this emotional account of a senseless, random, and seemingly out-of-character act that changed numerous lives.

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About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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