Friday, January 4, 2019

Blizzard!: The Storm That Changed AmericaBlizzard!: The Storm That Changed America by Jim  Murphy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My local library's computer used some algorithm to recommend this book so it was completely on a whim that I ordered it (knowing a little about the devastating effects of this storm and wanting to know more). When it arrived, I was surprised to discover it's a book for young adults, as I was expecting something much longer and more detailed. Nevertheless, it's quite good and provides a nice summary of events while recounting several individuals struggles and deaths during the storm. It was a quick, pleasant read that I managed to finish in a day. It's kind of like watching a short documentary on the subject. I will seek out other books by author Jim Murphy.

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Thursday, January 3, 2019

Iron Maiden Legacy of the Beast Volume 1Iron Maiden Legacy of the Beast Volume 1 by Llexi Leon

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Sigh. I think it goes without saying that if you're reading this you're an Iron Maiden fan and I'm no exception. Unfortunately, this feels like fan exploitation. Very cheesy and yet not very tasty. I think the other fans are being generous with their ratings, but I can't be. If we're true fans, we can't be blinded by our fandom. We need to be honest and this simply isn't very good. One star.

(Aside: I can't help but feel as though Maiden is jumping on the merchandising band wagon heavy of late a la Kiss which is unfortunate. They're better than that.)

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Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Ronnie James Dio: A Biography of a Heavy Metal IconRonnie James Dio: A Biography of a Heavy Metal Icon by James Curl

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First, I have to say this was an amazingly quick book to read (I read it in two days and easily could have done it in one) and I really enjoyed it. However, it has a lot of problems, the main one being that it reads like a Reader's Digest version of Dio's life. There is only one chapter (roughly 10-14 pages long) that covers his time with Rainbow and another for Sabbath. Surely, there's more to tell. I've no doubt we're missing out on plenty of anecdotes and stories. The author kind of hits on Ronnie joining, putting out the first album and then rushing through the rest until his departure.

Also, one of the aspects of Dio's life that I've always been curious about is his relationship with Wendy and we get almost no insight into that here. The author discusses their marriage and a tumultuous time in their relationship when it seems as though they're breaking up, but that's it. Decades pass without hardly any mention of her or Ronnie's relationship to her. Obviously, they had a business partnership and they never divorced, but there's so much missing.

While the author seems to have done a good job interviewing Dio's friends and bandmates, he also quotes from Wikipedia. To me, this feels a bit lazy.

Lastly, for some reason about halfway through the book there were suddenly a fair amount of typos. They seem confined to the middle section so maybe someone didn't proofread as carefully. A rather minor point overall, but always worth mentioning since they do take you out of the work.

Despite these problems and even though I would much prefer a longer, more thorough biography, one of the things that prompted the author to write this book was that there were no other biography's of Dio. So I'll happily take this over nothing.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Imago Sequence and Other StoriesThe Imago Sequence and Other Stories by Laird Barron

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I would normally dislike anyone who writes in a library book, but in this case, whoever it was made some good points about Barron's writing. Here are a few examples starting with the quote from the book and then the penciled in notes (though I sometimes elaborate on those notes to make them clearer for you):

"Silence spread like a riptide..." (p. 178)
What does that mean? Riptides don't spread.

"I might as well have stared down the drain pipe of a gun..." (p. 182)
What? You mean the barrel since guns don't have drains.

"His truck dwindles and is lost when I round the bend." (p. 182)
No, the view dwindles.

"Jacob was feeling enigmatic when he called..." (p. 199)
People don't "feel" enigmatic; they act or seem it. Also, how would the narrator know what Jacob was feeling?

I wanted to like this book. I wanted to like the title story since it's one of his most acclaimed, but none of this worked for me. Okay, with one exception: I did enjoy the first story, "Old Virginia," but everything else failed. Even if I liked a story such as "Parallax", the ending was so bad I suddenly hated everything that came before it for wasting my time.

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Thursday, September 13, 2018

A Collection of Desires: 7 Tales of Modern HorrorA Collection of Desires: 7 Tales of Modern Horror by Shawn C. Baker

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I really wanted to like this. I did. And I thought the first story, "Scare Me" was promising, but fell apart at the end. Which is what I found to be the case in most of the stories. There's no doubt that this writer has talent, but his endings remained unsatisfactory throughout. I think plotting is, perhaps, his biggest weakness.

There are other problems, but they are mostly easily fixed. For example, in "The Apartment" the ending is revealed at the beginning. Fine in some cases, but not here. Also, the title is rather bland and could easily be better, more enticing.

The biggest problem I had was with the story arc of "In His Arms, She Felt Loved" which I thoroughly disliked. It's about a woman afraid of her boyfriend who ends up accidentally killing him. She then frets about getting rid of the body when it's easily self-defense. Immediately, I had trouble regarding the character's motivation, especially since they lived together. It's not as though eliminating the corpse would eliminate her as a suspect. I found the character's intelligence and reasoning deeply flawed, not that it mattered as the out of left field ending mostly rendered it moot.

I guess that would be the other problem I noticed. Many of the endings didn't seem earned. Often, they came out of left field, I suppose as a surprise, but really they're just happening because. It feels lazy. There are some good concepts here, that, if workshopped to their full potential, would make good stories. Instead, they are wasted as setups to endings that don't work.

I hope that the author takes more time on his next collection as his work has potential. But it's not in this volume.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Extra (Extra Trilogy, #1)The Extra by Michael   Shea

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This was absolutely terrible. I would like to write a longer review explaining why, but after just finishing the book, I feel as though I've already wasted too much time on it already. My biggest gripe was the unnecessary switch from first to third person for no reason. Not that there aren't much bigger problems, but this one bothered me because it felt so pretentious and pointless in a book about people fighting giant mechanical spiders.

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Sunday, August 5, 2018

Philip K. Dick's Electric DreamsPhilip K. Dick's Electric Dreams by Philip K. Dick

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you sat down to read this collection of ten stories, you could probably read it in a day. But you probably wouldn't want to do that. The point of short stories is to spread them out. So maybe it would take a week. It took me a long time to finish this book, but not because of the stories, because of the TV series. Each episode of Electric Dreams is based on one of these stories... and the stories are better.

Not that they are great. This is Philip K. Dick at his earliest, when he's still growing as a writer. But they're mostly fun; short stories he probably dashed off quickly to sell to the magazines. A few are quite dated (one story deals with a kid envious of the other families with a bomb shelter when he has none, and most of them have a male protagonist in a 50s America), but that's to be expected.

I would imagine that some of these stories might have been good TV adaptations for a half hour format (such as The Twilight Zone), but an hour is a long time and trying to adapt a short 10-20 page story into fifty minutes of television is rarely going to work well. Which is why the episodes borrow very lightly from the stories. For the most part, they're completely made up and yes, modernized. There were a few that I really enjoyed (I'm talking about the episodes here) such as Autofac and Human Is. But many were rather dull and boring. And then there's the adaptation of "Sales Pitch" which makes no sense to me. In the original story, Ed Morris complains about the increasing frequency of ads only to come home to find a robot in his living room who's trying to sell -- itself. And it won't leave until it's purchased. It's an incredibly imaginative and funny premise and it's completely ignored in the adaptation. It felt like a completely missed opportunity.

Each story has a brief introduction by the writer who adapted it, but they really add nothing other than some necessary padding to the book which would otherwise be even shorter than it already is.

Do I recommend the stories? Absolutely. Again, not P.K. Dick's best, but they're fun enough and some nice mostly light reading before bed. Would I recommend the series? Not so much. It was an absolute chore to get through and if there's a season two, I'll miss it. But I'll still read the stories they're based on.

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Friday, May 4, 2018

Han Solo at Stars' End (Star Wars: The Han Solo Adventures, #1)Han Solo at Stars' End by Brian Daley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After having just read Splinter of the Mind's Eye, this was a breath of fresh air. Loads of fun, action packed and Han Solo even admits he's the kind of guy who likes to SHOOT FIRST and ask questions later. Unfortunately, it bogged down a bit at the end and the climax felt a little too ridiculous, but still fun and worthy of any fan's time for a quick adventure. I'm sure this will be better than the upcoming Solo movie.

2.5 stars

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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Splinter of the Mind's Eye (Star Wars)Splinter of the Mind's Eye by Alan Dean Foster

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Yes, it took me over two weeks to read a thin 199 page paperback, but this book was GREAT! Night after night it helped me fall asleep after reading just a few pages. One afternoon I thought about powering through a section, but then I thought why? Why would I want to rush through the book that's curing my insomnia? Here's an example of the writing (p. 135):

    Exhausted, he fell back onto his back and stared at the pincushion ceiling.
    "You did it, Luke. You beat it off."

Sadly, that's about as interesting as it ever gets since I at least chuckled. This was horribly tedious. The sexual tension between Luke and Leia now seems creepy. The droids may as well not even be present since they take no active role whatsoever editing them out wouldn't change a thing. For some reason Luke, who grew up on a desert planet, knows how to swim, but Leia doesn't??? Huh? New characters are introduced that are as bland as their names (Halla and Grammel). After traveling for something like two weeks through the swamp, Luke and Leia are trapped in a pit and he wonders why the others don't go back in town to get a rope. I don't know, maybe because it would take them a month to travel both ways and our heroes would have starved to death in that time? Oh, there's more, but why? Why go on? Let's be honest, you're only reading this if you're a hardcore Star Wars fan to begin with which means you probably fall into one of two categories: One, you love everything Star Wars no matter what in which case you'll find some reason to enjoy this book despite all of its faults; or two, you grew up with Star Wars, still love the first two movies (that's right, I said two) and along the way you've come to realize that everything that's followed falls somewhere between bland and boring to downright terrible.

But seriously, this book helped me fall asleep for two weeks. So there's that.

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Saturday, April 14, 2018

"The Horrors of Hawaii" a short story about relationships and manipulations was published in Page & Spine and you can read it at the link below: