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!

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Max on Life – Book Review

Max on Life: Answers and Insights to Your Most Important Questions is written by pastor and author Max Lucado.  With chapter headings like Hope, Hurt, Help, Him/Her, Home, Haves/Have-Nots, and Here-After, the author answers some of the most common questions asked about God and Christianity. Addressing everything from forgiveness to angels to sex to baptism, Lucado gives biblical answers to our pressing questions. Scriptural references are given for most answers and there is a topical index and a scriptural index in the back of the book.
I’d never read anything by this author so I wasn’t sure where he stands on some topics. I had an uneasy few minutes when I read the question about how to be saved and he wrote that according to John 3:16, we only have to believe and we will be saved. Without getting into too much doctrine, I believe that the Bible calls for more than that for salvation, so I was concerned about how Lucado may interpret other passages in the Bible. However, later in the book, in answer to a question about baptism, he points out that it is indeed a requirement for Christians and that every conversion in the New Testament culminates in a baptism.

I enjoyed Lucado’s writing style and sense of humor. Life isn’t all fun and games, but it’s easier to receive a message if there is laughter involved. It’s like the spoonful of sugar. I believe God wants us to enjoy the life he has given us and humor and laughter are part of that.

My favorite quotes from the book:

On aging: “Getting old is inevitable. But are you going to hobble and groan your way to the grave or race your rickety old wheelchair downhill to your funeral? We’re all going to end up the same way, but we can have fun getting there!”

On hope: “If you accomplish a possible dream, then you get all the glory. But if you accomplish an impossible dream, then God gets all the glory.”

On denominations: “We are different. But if we’re in the same car, being driven by the same Father, headed toward the same place, can we not accept one another?”

On fighting in the church: “If love covers a multitude of sins, can it not cover a multitude of opinions?”

On balance: “When it comes to kids and family, it is a lot easier to make money than to make up for lost time.”

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.combook review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.


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.

Beautiful Mess: The Story of Diamond Rio by Diamond Rio with Tom Roland

Beautiful Mess takes us through the 20-year history of Diamond Rio, along with the personal histories of all six band members and the band’s pre-Diamond Rio days. By bouncing back and forth through the years, the book tells us how the band members changed for the first few years while being billed as the Tennessee River Boys until the present band members came along. We also get a detailed history of each of the current band members.

I like Diamond Rio, but this book still couldn’t hold my interest. I started reading it and got bored. It took me months to pick it back up and finish it.

I’m not sure if there is just too much information packed into the book or if it’s because of the way the book goes back and forth through time, but it was hard for me to read. I felt like I was ping-ponging through history and it was just too distracting. I did learn some interesting things about the band and the country music industry, but I’m not sure it was worth struggling through the book to do so.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own.