Book Review: Signs of Life: A Memoir by Natalie Taylor

Amazon summary
Twenty-four-year-old Natalie Taylor was leading a charmed life. At the age of twenty four, she had a fulfilling job as a high school English teacher, a wonderful husband, a new house and a baby on the way. Then, while visiting her sister, she gets the news that Josh has died in a freak accident. Four months before the birth of her son, Natalie is leveled by loss. Continue reading

Blog Tour: Review and Giveaway of Eating Smoke by Chris Thrall

My review today is part of a Blog Tour for Chris Thrall’s Eating Smoke. I’m also giving away a copy of the book, so keep reading!

Amazon summary
Chris Thrall left the Royal Marines to find his fortune in Hong Kong, but instead found himself homeless and hooked on crystal meth. Soon he began working for the 14K, Hong Kong’s largest triad group, as a doorman in one of their nightclubs in the Wan Chai red-light district. Dealing with violence, psychosis and the ‘foreign triad’ – a secretive expat clique which, unbeknown to the world, works hand-in-hand with the Chinese mafia – he had to survive in the world’s most unforgiving city, addicted to the world’s most dangerous drug.

My Review
I have to confess that this is the first book I’ve reviewed on this blog that I have not read completely. It wasn’t because the book wasn’t fascinating, because it is. But life’s been crazy lately and although, theoretically, I should have had plenty of time to read the book, life didn’t really work out that way. The book is 417 pages and I read the first 250 (last night), then the last chapter (this morning). Which I never do. But I had some questions that I hoped would be answered at the end, because if not, it affected the review. It seems they were, though. 

This was an amazing read. Not so much because of what happens, but because of how the author tells it. Some people can just tell a good story and Thrall is certainly one of them. I did wonder before reading the book, and am still wondering, how can a person remember so much when they were constantly strung out on crystal meth. I know absolutely nothing about drugs, so I have no clue how meth affects people. It just seemed strange to me.

Wherever the story comes from, it’s a wild ride. I had no idea what to expect when I started reading, but Thrall is actually a very likable guy who is a serial bad-decision-maker. He even says, “Now I don’t think I’m a stupid guy. I’m just an average guy who does stupid things.” The action was interesting, and I can’t wait to sit down this evening and read the rest of the book, but what I loved were the emotions in the book. This is far from a dry account. It’s obvious that Thrall has a great sense of humor.

But that wasn’t all. Despite the crowds surrounding him, and the friends, some of whom he was actually able to count on when the going got tough, he still felt alone. At one point, his response to encouragement from a friend was, “It was a kind thing to say to a lost young man a long way from home.” And I loved this passage. It pretty much sums up the whole book. Thrall is a good guy with an addiction, and because of the drugs and to feed the addiction, he makes some really stupid decisions. (One could argue that the initial move to Hong Kong wasn’t the best decision, and he wasn’t even high then.)

“And don’t you feel a bit guilty, you know… like ripping people off?” the angel on my shoulder piped up. I don’t know why she was getting her knickers in a twist and acting all high and mighty all of a sudden. She’d just shut up and watched as I bought a boatload of drugs and shoveled them into my head.

The weird thing was how snakes kept turning up in the story. If there is really that high of a percentage of snakes in Hong Kong, they don’t have to worry about me (or Indiana Jones) ever visiting.

UPDATE: I finished the book, and it really does get even better. Wow. It is a little disconcerting reading about all the people and experiences, and not really knowing what’s real and what is a result of drug-induced paranoia. I can’t imagine living like that (the paranoia, not just the drugs) and I’m amazed that Thrall managed to hold it together as long as he did.

Enter below to win my copy of Eating Smoke. (Sorry, US only.) You fill out the form while I go finish the book. I’ve extended the giveaway until the end of the week because I didn’t have the full review posted.

About the book
Title: Eating Smoke: One man’s descent into drug psychosis in Hong Kong’s triad heartland
Author: Chris Thrall
Publisher: Blacksmith Books
Release date: October 16, 2011
Pages: 417
Where I got the book: From the author in exchange for an honest review.

You can purchase Eating Smoke at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Where to find Chris online
His website

Be sure to check out the other stops on the tour!

22nd Caitlin @ Chaotic Comprendiums
23rd Coral @ alchemyofscrawl
24th Sandie @ Booksie’s Blog
26th Zohar @ Man of la Books
26th Kathleen @ Celtic Lady’s Reviews
27th Chantale @ Geeky Girl Reviews
28th Mary @ Sweeping Me
29th Eileen @ Books R Us
Thanks to Stormi at Lightening Book Promotions for setting up the tour!

Continue reading

Diary of Two Motorcycle Hobos – Book Review

Diary of Two Motorcycle Hobos is the diary of Bill and Lois Wilson, co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, written as they travelled through the eastern U.S. on an occasionally-limping Harley Davidson motorcycle in the 1920’s.

I love books like this. Reading about real experiences from another time fascinates me. I’ve learned so much more from books like this than I ever learned from history textbooks in school. I just finished reading Memories of the Great Depression: My Personal Memories and the contrast in the financial situations of the two families is jarring. It was just coincidence that I read the two books back-to-back, but it was very interesting to see the 20’s from such varied perspectives.

I used to hang out with bikers and I had no problem imagining Bill’s frequent repairs to the bike. I actually laughed out loud as I remembered some of my old friends cussing at their Harleys for breaking down again. As far as that goes, consider that they didn’t make the trip on a luxury touring bike. They were on an old Harley (well, not old to them, but if you know bikes, you know what I mean) with no windshield, a sidecar, and a rigged trunk. The coolest thing? Lois drove the bike, too!

Hearing Lois’s accounts of growing cities, such as Atlanta, was fun. After she mentioned that the carvings on Stone Mountain were likely to go on for a long time to come, I had to go see just how long it actually had taken. Turns out plans began in 1909 and the carving was not declared officially finished until 1972.

Reading about the travelling is great, too. If you enjoy books like this, I recommend A Walk Across America and The Walk West: A Walk Across America 2 (Walk West) by Peter Jenkins about his journey in the 1970’s and Flight of Passage by Rinker Buck about two teenage brothers flying across the country in 1966.