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Book Review: Kevin Pollak – How I Slept My Way to the Middle

Kevin-Pollak-Comedy-Tour

I picked up this book because of two reasons. First I saw him on the Ellen show so I found out he had a book to begin with (don’t judge me for watching Ellen. She’s awesome).  Second because he did so well this year on the World Series of Poker and I saw his face many times. He was funny and I knew he was an actor, I just couldn’t place him. At least not until I read the book and had a lot of “That was him in that movie?” moments.

First off he’s a stand up comic and impressionist. That I was aware of because on the Word Series of Poker he did a lot of impressions. He’s a funny guy and made for entertaining television. I had to go back and watch some youtube clips and found a plethora of videos. Far more than I was expecting, but this guys been in the business for years so it shouldn’t have surprised me.

Then he starts to talk about a Few Good Men. HOLY CARP! That was him! Standing next to Demi Moore and Tom Cruise during all those court room scenes. Now I recognized him and all those scenes came back as he told story after story of being on the set.

Let me say right now, he tells a story and everything comes across as funny. Okay, almost everything. He’s never been a major star. He’s always been second banana. So if you’re thinking he’s the guy that went off and married a model or anything like that, well, no. What’s great is that he gives insight as to what’s it’s like to hang around some of these mega stars like Bruce Willis, Jack Nicolson, Tom Cruise, Steve Martin. His take on these people will give you more insight to these actors than any biography will as I’m sure they’ll exclude many things Kevin decided to keep in.

I thought it was funny, given the number of movies he’s been in, that he’s still just an average guy doing something he loves to do. It’s obvious he’s having fun and yet he still isn’t a mega star that’s hunted down by the paparazzi. He can go to get a burger anywhere he wants or play in the World Series of Poker and people aren’t clamoring all over each other to get to him.

There are a lot of moments in the book that hand me laughing out loud and the wife kept looking at my like I’d somehow lost my mind. If you like actors, movies, and a humorous behind the scenes look at what the big stars to and how the industry (on a minor level) works, then this book is loads of fun. If you’d like to read how one boy went from doing lip syncs to Bill Cosby records to being a minor movie star without ever being a star, check out his book. It’s filled with lots of good laughs.

Amazon | B&N

Book Review: Mustaine: A Heavy Metal Memoir

mustaine_cover

If you ask Dave Mustaine he will probably tell you that he single-handedly created the Thrash Metal genre we’re so fond of. He’s arrogant, rude, and considered by many to be a self-serving jerk.

I think this is why we find him so endearing, don’t you? Why else would I feel compelled to buy his book and read about his exploits?

It’s not like I hadn’t heard most of these stories over the years during interviews, VH1 Behind the Music, and other Metallica and Megadeth documentaries. If you’ve followed Megadeth and Metallica at all over the decades (wow, really? Decades? Man I feel old now) you’ll likely know most of these stories as well. From Dave getting kicked out of Metallica to Dave forming Megadeth to Dave doing drugs to Dave fighting to keep his band together to Dave’s sobriety.

Yeah, this is a book all about Dave from his highest highs (and boy did he get high) to his lowest lows. Even through his drug induced haze he’s always kept his stories consistent so it’s impossible to say he’s lying about the events that took place. It’s not like you can just make stuff like this up.

I would tell you to buy this book if you’re curious about the man behind Megadeth. I will admit that had it not been for Dave, Metallica wouldn’t have been the band they grew to be. I don’t think they would be the band they are or have gotten there in the manner they did. Dave was going in one of two directions, a rise to stardom or six feet under. As a fan of Megadeth, I’m glad it was the former.

The book does retell many stories that Dave has told before, but their told in much greater detail.  I don’t know if Dave has a mind like a steel trap and he could actually recall all the names and places in the book or if someone had to help research these for him. The amount of drugs he was taking and as high or as drunk as he was during certain events, I’m sure someone had to assist along the way, but it’s great to see just what the band went through to get to where they are today. There’s no doubt in my mind that Dave is smart and brilliant, but drugs and attitude got in his way so many times and he could have been something greater.

Are you a fan of Megadeth? Are you a fan of Dave Mustaine? Unlike Ozzy’s book I Am Ozzy, Dave doesn’t have the stories that make you laugh so hard you think you’re going to pop an eye out, but the book is filled with a lot of stories that make you wonder how the man is still alive after all these years and still playing guitar at break-neck speed.

Amazon | B&N

Book Review: Frankenstein

So I just finished reading Frankenstein. My Favorite Daughter was reading it for school so I thought I might as well read along with her.

Yeah, not so much.

This is a very difficult book to get through. To be perfectly honest it was nearly as torturous as the torment the monster put Victor Von Frankenstein through. Seriously. The first part of the book is letters from a ship’s captain that picks up Victor. Okay, I was on board with this.

Then we get into Victor’s account of his life.

SNORE!

Then he creates the monster. This last all of two pages where he goes from reanimating animals to a man and then the monster is gone. Wait… I want to know more about this! Wait…where did the monster go?

Someone dies, Victor goes back home. A relative is put on trial for the death and another innocent dies.

IT WAS THE MONSTER! Yes, finally some action in this story.

Victor faces the monster and they talk. A lot. Ad naseum. The monster tells Victor everything and I mean everything he’d been doing since his creation. There are chapters and chapters dedicated to the monster watching this family. The see the monster and decided it’d be better to just leave.

Really? We never see or hear anything about this family for the rest of the book. Was it really that important? Were any of the events in the lives of these people of any import to the book? WTH?

The monster tells Victor, make me a wife and I’ll leave you alone forever. Mr. I’m so smart I can re-animate the dead, but I can’t see that this killing machine will ruin my life if I don’t do as he says… says no. <sigh>

What does Victor do after telling this monster off? He goes on vacation to get his mind off of things.

Wait a cotton-picking minute. He goes on vacation? This self-professed killer is out there, living near his family, and he decides to go on vacation? Is this where Stephanie Myers got her inspiration and logic for Twilight?

 SURPRISE! Someone else ends up dead. Victor gets blamed, but is released. So what does he do knowing this monster is still out there killing people?

HE GETS MARRIED!

OMFG! By this point I’m reading just to get to the end of this book. I’m waiting for Victor’s dearest Elizabeth to get whacked. I mean, seriously. Lizzy Frankenstein? She deserved her literary death.

Only then does Dear Doctor Victor Von Frankenstein decide it’s high time to kill this monster. For some reason the monster leads Vic on a merry chase through the artic north and we finally come full circle and we’re back to letters from the captain. Yes, letters again explaining in great, lengthy detail as the dear friend of the captain slides further and further into madness and poor health, yet they continue to chase the monster for him even to the detriment of the crew.

Finally good, old Vic dies and the crew starts home. The monster shows up and basically says “I’m sorry I made your life the hell you made of my life. Too bad you’re dead so you can’t hear me apologize. I’m going to go burn myself now that you’re dead.” And the monster disappears and we never really know his end.

I understand that this book is a classic. I get that the language used in the book is from a distant past. The concept of the book is creating life from death. I think that’s awesome. What I don’t get are all the side trails this book takes that are totally unnecessary and do nothing but make the reader sit back and wonder why. At least that’s what happened to me.

I know it was supposed to be the modern Prometheus. A creator overstepping his bounds and doing something only to serve his own ego. But Prometheus was punished by a higher authority than himself whereas Victor was punished by his own creation due to complete and total stupidity of the creator. All I could think was. AAAAA! MONSTER. Oh, good It’s gone. Now it’s someone else’s problem. Wait, it’s killing my family. I’ll deal with it later. Wait! It’s still killing my family. Oh well, I’ll go on vacation.

Do yourself a favor: Don’t read this book! I read it because I’ve seen all the movies related to this book. They spend time with the creation and the monster and the why and not with all the drudgery of all the mundane crap this book was loaded with.

If you read and enjoyed this book, good on you. I read it only to say I did. I will never revisit this book. It is not where it belongs, in my behind…er, my past.

Book Review: Flash Gold

I’ve read some stinkers in my years. With the glut of ebooks out there and so many people forcing free ebooks and eshorts into my hands these days, it’s easy for one to get lost in the shuffle.

But every once in a while…

As a Reader: I was in the mood to read a novella. I had seen this one out there for free and grabbed it up about a month or so ago. I was in the mood for some short steampunk and decided to give this one a shot. I had just gotten done with two other free ebooks and when I say done I mean I wasn’t even halfway through when I decided they weren’t worth the effort.

Then I started Flash Gold. Right of bat I was sucked in. Our hero was in trouble and needed to find a way out of it. People were out to get her. Yes, her. Been a while since I’d read a female protagonist done well so I kept going. My intention was to just read a little bit and go to sleep. I’m glad this was a read because I didn’t get back to sleep.

Unlike some stories I’ve read where the steampunk is window dressing, Flash Gold keeps it right there in the forefront. The technology of the Yukon is just as much a character as anyone in the story. From automotons to airships to steam powered dog sleds (minus the dogs). Even the mystery of what exactly is Flash Gold.

I got done with this one and immediately went out and bought the sequel. I know it’ll be as much fun as the first and I’m curious to see where Lindsay is going with this one. Check her out over at (http://www.lindsayburoker.com/).

As a writer: I hate it when I’m reading a book and I see the ending coming after page 1. That did NOT happen with this book. I really enjoyed not only Lindsay’s writing style, but her pacing and build up as well. We’re thrust into her world and kept there following our main protagonist all the way.

I liked the strong female protagonist. Her father is gone and she’s left to her own devices protecting the secret of Flash Gold. This made for great confrontations with villains and a race that she needed to win. My only complaint is there is so much story to tell here that I was sad once I got to the end. But it was a free ebook and I’ve already got the sequel lined up in my queue to read.

Recommendation: This is a free ebook and not just any free ebook. This one will be a gateway that will lead you into more of Lindsays work with no financial investment. It’s a fun, light read that you will get through quickly because so much happens in such a short period of time. Do yourself a favor and grab this one. You won’t be sad that you did.

Book Review: The Invisible Man

The Invisible ManThe Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

I listened to the audio version as read by Alex Foster (http://alexfoster.me.uk/). This is a classic novel and the Invisible Man has appeared in other works such as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The tale follows a man who has managed to turn himself invisible and made many of us wonder “What would I do if I were invisible.”

The character starts out invisible and is soon on the run before we go back to the beginning and figure out how the character became invisible in the first place before he goes back

As a Reader: This book takes an interesting look from several different viewpoints at an invisible man. He’s wrapped from head to toe causing people to think he’s disfigured in some way. He wants to be left alone with his books and bottles. His fits of anger are not appreciated by the landlady. He’s suspected of thievery and things only escalate further. There are several slow points in the book and the action rises and falls as the invisible man takes time to explain things to a friend. There’s a sudden shift in his attitude from “I need help to figure this out” to “I don’t need help until I take over the world” that caught me off guard. I understood that he was distraught, I knew how the story ended, but his sudden shift explaining how he became invisible and that he wanted to become visible again then suddenly took a nap and decided that he needed to take over the people who were inferior to him made me struggle with the end of the book

As a Writer: There are a lot of explanations in this story and even more ‘head hopping’. Even when in one person’s head there’s a sudden shift to someone else’s point of view then back into the other’s head .This causes a little confusion but the explanations really slow down the pacing of the story. Listening to this on audio (kudos to Mr. Foster on his reading) helped me get through the difficult parts. The sudden shift toward the end of the book seemed like a desperate grasp to make the story more compelling and it was at this point where the best writing in the book happens. It almost felt like someone else had written this entire section because the action is great, the descriptions flow well and there’s a limited focus on one character at a time.

There’s a lot technically wrong with this story, but overall an interesting read. If it hadn’t shifted as it did, the invisible man’s death would have been more tragic. As it was, there was no way to feel sympathy for the man. If the man had only wanted help in reversing the condition and became more anguished or even violent I could have bought into the ending. Having him suddenly want to use the condition to his advantage after so desperately spending the entire book looking for a cure just didn’t follow with the rest of the book. Almost as if an editor said “This book needs a more dramatic ending.”

Recommendation: Read this book or listen to it. There’s a lot in here that’s great information and the way he describes his experiments is fascinating. Even though it’s explanation via a character, it’s still neat to go through the process and the accusation once he completes the process. This is a classic book and a short read. Definitely worth the time.

Book Review: Rendezvous with Rama

Rendezvous with Rama

Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C Clarke

I listened to this book on audio. The narration did great with the accents of the many characters. If it hadn’t been for the audio I most likely would have given up on the story even though this is a classic. Not because I’ve read the book before and know what’s coming. In fact I think that kept me going. I think more because this book is really far duller than I remember. The premise is a cylindrical object has shown up in our solar system and is obviously not a natural occurring object. Therefore mankind is inclined to inspect and explore this strange object.

As a reader: I so wanted to like going through this book again. I honestly did. This book is a classic published back in 1972. I read it first when I was 10 or 11. It is one of our first glimpses of what is possibly an alien generation ship. I thoroughly enjoyed the descriptions of the interior of the ship. The way the world had been built on the inside and the science behind the gravity, the acceleration. Clarke was a brilliant scientist and everything he put into the story made Rama a fully realized place I’d love to visit. I felt sad to see the ship disappear as it had more character than the people telling the story

As a writer: A majority of this book is the classic “Telling” of a story. If you want an example of how to tell instead of show, this book does it. There are huge data dumps where nothing happens, chapters where the story is explained to us, and there is an inconclusive ending.

Sadly each character had little to no motivation and were the thinnest of paper cutouts. Any issue that arose could be resolved with little thought or challenge and absolutely no character growth. They work though the politics of a multi-planet system and figure out this alien world with little difficulty. At no time did I feel any sense that the characters were in danger and I could not find a climax to the story.

Recommendation: Overall I thought this book was downright bad. If it wasn’t a classic I would say avoid this book at all costs. As it is, this is a classic by a master in Science Fiction. For nothing else, explore this book to discover the premise and the technical explanations. There are little spots in the story where things actually happen, but they’re far and few between. For the most part it’s a told story and if you go in knowing that, you won’t be bored to tears. Just don’t expect drama. It’s almost like reading a science book about something that doesn’t really exist.

Book Review: The Book of Cthulu – edited by Ross Lockheart

Edited by @lossrockheart

Find the title on Amazon where you can also read a full description of the book and about the editor.

I read the kindle version of this book even though I had picked up a copy at WFC2011. I had the pleasure of meeting Ross Lockheart there and he tolerated my presence at his booth multiple times. I was given a copy of this e-book and I was not paid for this review. The opinions expressed are my own.

I don’t usually read horror, but I’ve read a lot of H.P. Craft and Stephen King over there years and I also enjoy Scott Sigler and Paul E. Cooley. I have always preferred horror that creeps me out instead of being over the top blood baths. If you want to entertain me, scare me. Don’t just try to make me jump.

I’m a sucker when it comes to reading a Lovecraft inspired stories because normally they’ll make you think hard about the horror. There is a lot of fiction out there allegedly inspired by Lovecraft and much of it is not good, sad to say. It takes a lot of reading to find those true gems.

With The Book of Cthulu, Ross has done that work for me. He’s taken the best of the past and added a couple new tales, combining them into a tome that when dropped could waken the old gods. This thing is huge and filled cover to cover with scary, creepy goodness that will have you itching your skin, clawing at the walls, and begging to be released from the mortal coil. Once you delve into the book, you’re thrown into a maelstrom of stories that runs the gamut of classic tales that you might have seen before or, if you’re like me, missed when they came around the first time.

Once inside you’re taken away from the normal day-to-day and swept across the globe with horror tales that will have the hair on the back of your neck standing on end, force you to look out the window from several feet away, and not wanting to open that closet door. Ross has done a wonderful job getting the best of the best together in one collection.

But wait, there’s more. I only recently noticed that there will be a second collection! Oh Ross, how I hate you as I have already pre-ordered my copy and will be along on a second journey back into the mind of Lovecraft. The Book of Cthulu II comes out in October!

Book Review: Conan the Barbarian

Conan the Barbarian by Michael Stackpole

Find the title on Amazon where you can also read a full description of the book and about the author.

I was not given my copy of the book. I was not asked to or paid to write this review.

I consider myself a Conan fan. I’ve read many of Robert E Howard’s books. I read the Marvel comics. I even read a couple of Robert Jordan’s Conan novels. And of course I’ve seen all the movies.

I’m a fan, not a fanatic. I know much about Conan lore, but I couldn’t recite the Hyborian Knowledge as many could. I just enjoy a good read and Conan can provide that.

I’m also a fan of Mike Stackpole. I enjoy his works and his writing style. I have read several of his books and have more on my to read pile.

I saw that the Conan movie was about to come out and I knew that Stackpole was going to write the novelization. I grabbed it for my kindle as soon as it was available. I love technology. I didn’t, however, start reading until after I had seen the movie. Too many times I’ve been disappointed by a movie after reading the book.

Sadly the new Conan movie was lacking. It was a shallow representation of Conan lore. It seemed like a minor transition from big fight scene to big fight scene. There was little development of the character. At least with the Arnold movies we had a running dialog to fill in many holes.

I worried that the book would also be lacking, but knowing Michael, I dove into the book. At first I was confused. It didn’t start where the movie started. I didn’t mind though. I didn’t need a long explanation of Conan being born on the battlefield. In great Stackpolean fashion, he brought Conan’s birth into the novel through conversation. Something the movie lacked a lot of was conversation and Michael brought that into the novel.

He also brought us the Conan history that Howard always had in his stories. That background needed to fill in so many gaps left in the movie. Where the movie failed, the novel succeeded. I finished the book quickly, finding it difficult to put down. It was such an enjoyable read. I can only hope that Michale Stackpole is allowed to revisit this universe and continue on the Conan tradition. After reading this book, he’s earned the right.

Book Review: ShatnerQuake



ShatnerQuake by Jeff Burk

Find the title on Amazon where you can also read a full description of the book and about the author.

I met Jeff Burk at WFC2011. Silly me, I bought the book from him and completely forgot to have him sign it. Ah well. This will push me to attend another con where I may be able to meet him again and have him sign my copy.

I was not given my copy of the book. I was not asked to or paid to write this review.

What prompted me to pick up this book was William Shatner? William Shatner. William Shatner! And a Captain Kirk holding a light saber. Well, that and speaking with Jeff was a lot of fun. I’m glad I picked up this book.

From start to finish this book was a fun romp. Yes, it was a quick read, but it was a fun, quick read. I’m sure Jeff had to do some research into all the variations of Shatner, but I’m getting ahead of my self.

The book finds William (Bill) attending ShatnerCon. A convention in his honor. Outside are Campbellians protesting. Those would be fans of Bruce Campbell. In the first couple of chapters, a fiction bomb is set off and every variation of William Shatner comes to life. Yes, in the middle of a convention. And the real William Shatner must deal with confused fans, Campbellians, and Shatners. More shatners than you can shake a bat’leth at.

I really enjoyed this book. Like I said, it was a lot of fun. I expected a funny, twisted tale and Jeff Burk delivered. If you’re a fan of the Shat, and you’re looking for more William Shatner than you may really want, check out ShatnerQuake. It’s just plain weird fun.

Book Review – Broken Time Blues: Fantastic Tales in the Roaring ’20s

Broken Time Blues: Fantastic Tales in the Roaring ’20s

Edited by @JaymGates and @ErikaHolt

Find the title on Amazon where you can also read a full description of the book and about the editors.

I read the kindle version of this book even though I had picked up a copy (and had it signed by at World Fantasy Con). I had the pleasure of meeting Jaym and Erika there as well. I was not given a copy of this book and I was not paid for this review. The opinions expressed are my own.

The idea of Spec-Fic from the 1920s intrigued me. At first, due to my own ignorance of the era, had assumed that each story would be filled with bathtub gin, rum runners, and speakeasys. Perhaps something about the depression.

I was wrong. Sure some of those elements were present, but the stories ran the gamut from magical to fantastic to out of this world. The authors (and editors) did their homework. I’m a stickler for details and when something feels out of place, I have a tendency to look something up. I only ran into a couple of snags that once I stopped, looked up the detail, I was pleasantly surprised to find the story accurate.

Aside from the details, the collection of stories were consistently different in tone, atmosphere, theme, and even locale. From the mean streets of Chicago, to a backwoods distillery, each story kept up a great pace to make the book a fun and fast read. Usually with a collection you’ll run across one story that runs across the grain, but with this collection I was surprised that each flowed well from one to the next.

I’d be hard pressed to choose just one story out of the batch that I’d call my favorite. As I look over the list I keep thinking, oh, I really liked this part of this story, and I liked this one a lot. This story was fun, and that story started out gritty, but gave me hope at the end. To be honest, I love this collection as a whole. I highly recommend this collection. For only $2.99 for the kindle edition, it’s a steal! Grab it. Read it. Enjoy it.