This novel was one of the books I chose to review from the Blackthorn Tour group. This was a novel that I enjoyed reading. This story is, in my opinion, a new take on typical paranormal activity mixed with the kind of slow but steady suspense that keeps you turning page after page. There were a number of nights that stayed up way later than I should have just to keep reading.
There are a few instances where the author gets a little long-winded, very similar to the style of Stephen King in the novel IT. There were more than just a couple of areas where the author repeats the same information multiple times, almost as if it were some sort of reminder or recap, which is fine but, not necessary.
I also felt that the length of the novel was a little long for the actual story content it possesses. I felt that there was a significant portion of the background and filler content that could have simply been omitted and the story would have been just as impactful, if not even more so. Other parts of this kind of content could have been condensed to avoid repeating the information so much. Plus, I found the characters a little, I don’t know, disjointed maybe. They seemed hard to relate to a lot of the time. Even though their personalities where well represented by their dialogue, the rest of the details about the characters seemed kind of faint and eventually seemed to get lost in the body of the plot.
All that being said, I did enjoy the story. I found the descriptive and creative writing completely conveyed the shattering imagery that left vivid and often very eerie pictures in my mind as I read on. This talent alone made the story worth reading. However, I must say that for pure horror lovers I think this novel is a fifty-fifty shot as to whether it will be well received in that audience. I think this would be more popular in the suspense/thriller drama type of genre.
I have long found fascination and abundant interest in not only law enforcement and forensic science but also the practice of law. As the daughter of a police officer I was fortunate enough to see a number of facets in our law enforcement and judicial system in action. I also got in trouble as a teen so I saw both sides of the law (and no, my father being a cop didn’t get me out of anything, I was treated the same as anyone else in that court). But, because Dad was a cop and I was around law enforcement all the time, and because one of his former partners on the force (the only female partner he had while a police officer) went on to become an Assistant District Attorney for our county, and later a judge where she still presides today, I was well exposed to the reality of the world we live in. And I was fascinated. Although I would later discover that careers in these fields would be too overwhelming for someone with my particular personality and health issues, the fascination remained strong. And thus began my consistent interest in true crime. So, when the opportunity to read this book came my way, I jumped at the chance.
Blurb for book:
“For almost a decade, Backpage.com was the world’s largest sex trafficking operation. Seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day, in 800 cities throughout the world, Backpage ran thousands of listings advertising the sale of vulnerable young people for sex. Reaping a cut off every transaction, the owners of the website raked in millions of dollars. But many of the people in the advertisements were children, as young as 12, and forced into the commercial sex trade through fear, violence and coercion.
In Taking Down Backpage, veteran California prosecutor Maggy Krell tells the story of how she and her team battled against this sex trafficking monolith. Beginning with her early career as a young DA, she shares the evolution of the anti-human trafficking movement. Through a fascinating combination of memoir and legal insight, Krell reveals how she and her team started with the prosecution of street pimps and ultimately ended with the takedown of the largest purveyor of human trafficking in the world. She shares powerful stories of interviews with survivors, sting operations, court cases, and the personal struggles that were necessary to bring Backpage executives to justice. Finally, Krell examines the state of sex trafficking after Backpage and the crucial work that still remains.”
This is a true story written by the prosecutor herself. Nothing can top a first-hand accounting of a case or situation other than being there and involved yourself. In this book, Prosecutor Maggy Krell tells the story of her long and arduous battle within the bounds of the law and the walls of the courtroom. But, she’s not telling about just any random old case that might be interesting or entertaining. This case is about taking down literally the largest sex trafficking ring in the world, Backpage.com.
Backpage was a website that, on the surface, looked like any other website that collects and runs personal ads. It was supposedly like the newspaper’s version of the personals section, publishing ads for things like handyman work, furniture sales, various services and items for sale including actual personal ads where people were looking to meet new people to date. It quickly became obvious that this website was mostly in the business of publishing the personal ads. But not all these ads were just regular personals, they were ads for sexual services. Girls and women of varying ages, some as young as twelve years old, with pictures of them in scantily clad clothing (if you can call it that) and suggestive poses advertising dates and services, quoting prices and providing contact information to schedule a purchase. A purchase, mind you. As if these human beings were material possessions. This is the very essence of sex trafficking.
One must realize the difference between sex trafficking and sex work as a chosen profession. The ones that choose this work are exercising free will. But a large portion of the ads on this site were selling services of those who were not given the choice. These are girls and women that have been kidnapped from their homes and hometowns, smuggled into the country, found as runaways, etc. and then forced into selling their bodies to pay their captors for whatever these morons think these girls owe them for. They are often kept like prisoners in warehouses, basements and homes. They are forced to have sex with people they don’t know and don’t like for money that they don’t get to keep for up to twelve or more hours each day, constantly having “dates” scheduled the whole time. The people that pay money to violate these women are allowed to do anything they wish with them, so long as they have negotiated what both parties would perceive as a proper and agreeable price with the handler or pimp. And that’s the life these ladies are forced to lead. Forced to start doing the sex work, forced to live in the abusive and dangerous hell and forced to do whatever it takes to survive.
Now, you would think if the owners of this website were helping traffick young girls and women for sex and getting money in return, it would be relatively easy to arrest them and shut them down. However, this is not the case.
Within the pages of this book you’ll read about how the owners of Backpage, which I have personally dubbed the BP3 for easy reference when reading this book, operated with impunity under the protection of a general publishing indemnification act called the Communications Decency Act. The BP3, which consisted of James Larkin, Mike Lacey and Carl Ferrer, which basically states that they as publishers are not responsible for the content that is posted on their site nor are they responsible for the activities that stem from said content. So, they can basically let anything get posted on their site (sites, explained in the book) and anything can happen from that and they are just publishers. If I understand the Act correctly it basically means that if you see something on let’s say a social media website and it offends you, under the protection of this Act the owners of that social site cannot be sued or held liable for anything that is posted on the site nor any illegal or offensive activities resulting from any of those posts.
Prosecutor Maggy Krell tells the experience she had in fighting this particular piece of legislation that was being exploited in order to commit horrendous crimes against women and avoid any liability or accountability. She expertly breaks down and through all the legalese that frustrates so many people and explains the events that occurred so clearly that there is no room for confusion. Something I’m sure she did while presenting her case in the courtroom as well.
Krell skillfully tells of overcoming the painstaking obstacles, hurdles, mindsets and ignorance involved when bringing together a case of this magnitude. The pushback from so many sides would have been enough to wear on any prosecutor, any lawyer really, and yet she continues in her fight for justice for these exploited and abused survivors and to get the laws changed so the trafficking of human beings into sexual slavery wouldn’t be so easy and convenient for the bad guys. Ms. Krell also truly realizes the significance of sex crimes against women and the enormous impact such things as being trafficked can have.
Prosecutor Maggy Krell is a rare type of person. She is truly a soldier of justice, speaking for the victims and survivors, helping to tell their stories to the world and tirelessly working for the protection of all crime victims, regardless of their current apparent circumstances or what led them to that situation to begin with. It is clear that she is a compassionate woman with a firm belief in getting justice for those who have been violated in some of the most vile ways imaginable. And what this one woman accomplished by leading the charge against Backpage.com and their owners and publishers is nothing short of heroic and historic.
Anyone who is looking for a little glimpse of reality not only into the world of a prosecutor’s life and work, but also to what the victims and survivors of sex trafficking actually go through. This book is also quite the eye-opener in what lengths some people will go to in order to avoid the law, avoid prison and avoid going broke by continuing to commit these heinous offenses over and over and over again.
This is definitely a true crime book for the true crime lover. Any person who is passionate about stopping sex crimes and abuse towards women and children will find this book quite informative as well as motivating to get involved in the fight to stop human trafficking.
Get your copy at the link below:
Stories of the World’s End
Author: Fran Lewis
This was another short story I chose to read from Blackthorn Books Tours’ “Quick Bite” for December. (For any new readers in my audience, these are short stories instead of full-length novels available for review.) My curiosity was piqued when I read the blurb and saw that it was a short story about the end of the world. I seem to always find doomsday type stories, movies, etc. fun, interesting and exciting but also horrific and terrifying at the same time.
As I started reading this, it’s only about twenty pages, I was thinking it had real potential. And I must state before I give my actual review that I still believe it has great potential. So, at the start of it, I was pleased and eager to turn pages.
The author describes multiple scenarios in which the world’s population has decreased to zero or near zero. Some scenarios have nothing living on the planet. No humans, animals, plants, nothing. Others there are some signs of life but still rather desolate and fairly void of signs of living inhabitants. All of these worlds could be considered a version of Hell on Earth. Lewis describes the emptiness, the loneliness, the profound damage and destruction all around. She can convey emotional traits these worlds bring forth in very vivid ways. The death and destruction, the pain and suffering, the danger and isolation, desperation, sadness and emptiness flooding the reader as the turn the pages of a number of possible futures.
However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t discuss two particular things that I found somewhat…bothersome, I guess would be a good way to describe the feeling that I started having. Each chapter is only a few pages long. The first issue I had with this short story was how repetitive the writing seemed to be. For example, in one section of the story there are three chapters back-to-back, all describing the exact same kind of world. It seems that the author was trying to give us different points of view through various characters at assorted times in the story. So, let’s say the first chapter (in this set I am talking about) would be a general description of the new world. The next chapter is a more detailed description with causation added. The third would then be the same world being described but from a character’s point of view. Yet, even though we are talking about three different chapters, it was as if the same chapter repeated three times, varying only in vocabulary. Even at only twenty pages this became very tiresome very quickly.
My second observation really had me feeling rather uneasy and uncomfortable. And here’s why:
During the description of each world there is a “soap box” preaching type of feel embedded in what could be a great story. Covid-19 is mentioned multiple times throughout the whole work and whether or not people get vaccinated seems to be a key issue here. It also seems that the writer automatically assumes that whoever is reading this is against or doesn’t believe in things like Covid, the vaccines, global warming/climate change. The way things are worded at many points in the story there is almost a shaming aspect geared toward the people who exercised their right not to get the vaccine. There also seems to be some righteous indignation towards people who decline to conform to the mandates and rules set down as the pandemic hit and throughout its global run. We are given multiple scenarios of the world’s end and they all seem start with people not being vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus and other viruses that would follow. It’s almost as if this author is using this short story as a warning to the reader and implying that this is what will happen if you don’t get vaccinated.
Now, if you are someone that doesn’t have issues with the mask mandates or the vaccines and you wear your mask and got your shots, the kind of thing I just described probably wouldn’t really bother you. You’d probably just find it a little heavy handed on the preaching and a little light in the plot. But, if you are a person that is against the mandatory masking, against places of business or education requiring vaccination or if you don’t believe in or trust the vaccines or you feel that the government has done this on purpose to the population…you may very well likely be offended while reading this story.
I feel that the author has a great base for a fantastic story. Such emotionally vivid descriptions set the stage perfectly for the end of the world or a world after people. Also, this story has enormous potential for the ultimate amount of creepiness and eeriness already rooted with huge gusto in the core of the story. But when the repetitive chapters are combined with the “shame on you” and “this is the fault of the unvaccinated” kind of attitude, it can actually become quite annoying rather quickly. If the preaching had been significantly toned down or, better yet, completely removed this story would have been one hell of an eerie and creepy tale of life beyond mankind. More time and effort could have been spent on developing the story’s imagery and actually building and nourishing the characters’ personality profiles. This would also allow the author to unveil much more intricate descriptions, resulting in the story and its characters having a fuller feel with a lot more body and impact. Unfortunately, we don’t have any idea who is telling the story and when we do meet characters, they are only referred to by letters, such as “S” or “M”.
And one question kept being asked over and over and over again throughout the entire story. In fact, this one question seemed to be on about a third of the pages. “Would you want to live in a world like this?”. That question or some slight variation of it permeated the story from beginning to end. This made it feel almost like you were ten years old again and getting a lecture from your mother about something you did wrong. Again, if this was not so prevalent and so ‘in your face’ the story would have been much better. In my opinion, if the preaching and indignation were removed this story would most certainly be a huge hit amongst those horror lovers that like doomsday end of the world storylines. But as it stands now, it seems to be more like a public service announcement warning of tragedy to come if all people do not conform. That in itself is a little creepy to me. So, I can’t just tell you guys that you’ll love this. I honestly am not sure at all how any random person would respond to this. I would assume some would naturally like it, some naturally wouldn’t, some wouldn’t care about the preachy side of it and some would be incredibly offended. I don’t know which one of those groups any of you as my readers would fall in to. This is one I have to leave up in the air as far as recommendations go. But my rating of the story is still an honest rating. I just can’t say for sure who to recommend this one to.