Monday, September 28, 2015

FBI Agent or Mobster?

Making Jack Falcone: An Undercover FBI Agent Takes Down a Mafia FamilyMaking Jack Falcone: An Undercover FBI Agent Takes Down a Mafia Family by Joaquin "Jack" Garcia
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Part of me wants to be a mobster. Part of me wants to be an undercover agent. Most of me is scared shitless to do either, so I'm happy to live vicariously through the exciting life of Joaquin "Jack Falcone" Garcia.

FBI Agent Garcia spent two and a half years undercover infiltrating the Gambino crime family, specifically targeting capo Greg DePalma, an old school mobster newly out of prison and on the rise within the regime.

Garcia relates his exploits in a conversational fashion that is jovial and engaging. You almost forget he's working alongside ruthless, violent criminals who would likely end him if they discovered the wire he wore to record their every word. However, the tension is often high and, as a reader looking for a thrill, I was happy to find my nerves rattled more than a few times.

The life of a mobster sounds not entirely unappealing at times, if you believe what Garcia has to say about it. He seemed to fit right in, as if he was made for the role. In fact, though it's never stated, one gets the sense that DePalma saw in "Jack" the son he wished he'd had, as witnessed by DePalma's desire to have "Jack" made. That is flat out amazing, to have an FBI agent not only be able to work incognito with the mob, but to fool them so thoroughly that they wish to make the agent one of them!

Garcia was clearly unhappy with the FBI. For its part, the FBI may have jerked Garcia around a bit because they felt he was enjoying his assignment a little too much. Whoever was in the right, the fact is that some readers may be turned off by the amount of sour grapes vented through out the book.

For me, that hardly dampened my enjoyment. I got the chance to learn about the modern day mob and it felt like I was getting to be a good fella for a couple hundred pages, and that to me is a good read I can't refuse.

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Light Laughs With And About Amy Poehler

Yes PleaseYes Please by Amy Poehler
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An autobio from a funny lady I admire? Yes, please!

Of course I want to learn more about a woman who's made me laugh for a good long while. For a stretch of time there, Amy Poehler was the only funny thing SNL had going for it and then she created one of the more endearing characters in television on her hit show Parks & Rec. How can you not love a confident woman who makes you laugh?

Many have not loved her book, Yes Please. I blame the reader and high expectations. For one, readers, you shouldn't read a comedian's memoirs, you should listen to them via audiobook. Performance is their thing, so why would you think they'd translate perfectly through the written medium? Secondly, the high expectations of a book put out by a comedian on the top of their game leads the readers into thinking that whatever this person touches will turn to gold. Not always true, especially if said comedian didn't want to write the book in the first place.

...And Poehler definitely didn't want to write this book. In fact, she spends too much damn time at the beginning telling the reader how much she didn't want to write this book. That is a bad beginning. I'm often wary of memoirs that go meta. It tells me that the author is straining for things to write about and it also chimes a dissonant tone. Who wants to be involved in anything with an unwilling participant?

Once the rocky intro is out of the way, Yes Please gets down to the good stuff. Poehler gives her fans a smattering of her life's story, even divulging her occasional naughtiness. She's a middle class white girl from the New England 'burbs...very little drama there, but at least she's willing to dish a little dirt on herself, what little there seems to be. Honestly I don't read this for "the dirt". I'm more interested in their success story arc and how it all happened. Inevitably it comes down to hard work, but no matter how many times I read that, I find it reassuring.

I think that this is not a beginning to end tale of her life from birth to present has annoyed a few people. I didn't have a problem with that. I do however agree with the detractors who complain that the book goes off the rails once too often. For instance, long lists of not-so-funny alternative character names and the like could have been dispensed with. I would also add that not all of the celebrities called upon to contribute little bits and blurbs through out the audiobook were successful. My hero Carol Burnett, for instance, sounded sad and tired.

Still, I maintain that the audiobook is the best way to enjoy this. There's plenty of laughs that I just can't imagine being had without hearing them.

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