Scott W. (Rev) - Reviews

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100 Bullets, Vol 1: First Shot, Last Call
100 Bullets, Vol 1: First Shot, Last Call
Author: Brian Azzarello
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.2/5 Stars.
 27
Review Date: 9/8/2007
Helpful Score: 1


100 Bullets is an ambitious crime drama comic series, of which this graphic novel reprints the first five issues.

These first two story lines, "100 Bullets" and "Shot, Water Back", set up the premise the series is built upon. Individuals from all walks of live are approached by a mysterious man bearing an unusual gift; a suitcase containing a gun, one hundred untraceable bullets, and evidence pointing them to someone who has wronged them in the past.

But the offer of unpunished retribution is far from simple than it sounds, as the people suddenly faced with this blank check for revenge suddenly find themselves dealing with the concepts of Justice, Innocence, Morality, Loyalty, and Retribution.

Azzarello not only brings these philosophical dilemmas into the light, but also enhances them with mystery surrounding 'Agent Graves' and his offer. A chance at vengeance is a tempting offer, but what are the ulterior motives of the man with the briefcase? Does the chance to settle a score outweigh the risk of being used as a weapon for someone else's battle? What is truly at stake here, and who is really pulling the strings?

The first two story lines in 100 Bullets take us from crooked cops and greedy gang bangers in the urban jungles, to internet crimes and corporate power brokers. The stories and situations are modern, yet there is an undeniable Noir tone throughout, an unrelenting mood that never lets you forget that, despite the occasional moments of brightness and levity, there are no happy endings when violence and vengeance become a part of the background.


13 Eyes
13 Eyes
Author: Joseph Ryan
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 1/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 9/22/2007


It is more than obvious after the first chapter that this book is a young author's first attempt at a finished novel, and while it is a good attempt, it is still not a complete success.

The main focus of the story is a troubled young man suffering from strange visions and uncontrollable emotions, and the disjointed narrative is meant to convey his confusion while simultaneously setting up the readers for a number of shocking surprise twists that never truly shock or surprise.

The premise is valid, it is the execution that falls flat. This is due mainly to the writer's use of a non-linear format riddled with hallucinatory imagery, a combination that even seasoned veteran writers botch regularly. Also fumbled are the inner monologues of characters, and maybe even the characters themselves, as they come across as overly simplistic in their thoughts and actions.

All of these mistakes help detract from the story, but it is the author's own epilogue at the end that puts the final nail in the coffin. His explanation of why he wrote the book and what it means to him emotionally and psychologically is somewhat touching, but ultimately unneeded and somewhat heavy handed. All writers have personal agendas behind their works, but those feelings and philosophies should be reflected in the prose. If you have to explain to the reader how the book was supposed to make them feel, then you haven't done your job as a writer.

A good effort and a worthy project, but with a couple years more work and a couple hundred more pages to help flesh out characters and story points, the end product would have more faithfully reflected the author's intentions.


1984
1984
Author: George Orwell
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 165
Review Date: 9/15/2007
Helpful Score: 4


"He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past."



My definition of a truly classic novel is one that is so talked about and referenced that you can know all about the book and it's message without having ever actually read it. 1984 is one of the most glaring examples of this, as terms such as "Big Brother" and "Doublespeak" are now mainstream concepts that no longer require explanation.



The book itself gained its popularity, however, by successfully reaching a broad audience by exaggerating and reducing the complicated debate of the illusion of free will and freedom of thought in any kind of government structure that strives to control and manipulate the populace for its own benefit in an almost unbelievable science fiction setting. The extremes that are reached in 1984's may seem only possible in a work of fiction, yet there is a truth beneath the pulp novel trappings that most readers can not avoid recognizing.



Note: For those who have already read this, I have a suggestion. Read 1984 again, only assume that the book actually takes place in our modern times, and that the narrator is a paranoid schizophrenic.


20 Years of Censored News
20 Years of Censored News
Author: Tom Tomorrow, Project Censored, Carl Jensen
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 8
Review Date: 9/15/2007


Excellent reading material, especially if you ever have a free afternoon and an overwhelming urge to completely depress yourself. The truth may be out there, but its never going to get airtime without corporate sponsorship.


21st Century Advertising for New Home Builders
Review Date: 7/16/2008


The cover of Preston John's book on 21st Century Advertising for New Home Builders features a digital representation of a house on a sleek new laptop, visually promising a book full of information on utilizing today's technology to its fullest potential when selling homes in today's marketplace.

What you'll find inside, however, is a brief little refresher on the basics of marketing and advertising, the kind that you might find yourself subjected to at an overpriced motivational seminar. With its small novelty book dimensions, the book looks, feels, and reads like something you might receive in a goody bag at such an event.

The book opens with an eight page comparison of the housing market to buying eggs, and the level of usefulness never really rises above that. The selling of new homes is neatly broken down into "The 5M's" (which I will not reveal out of courtesy to prospective readers), which are listed and explained in great detail, but with as little actual detail as possible.

All of the advice and information given is done so in the broadest of general terms. For example: the chapter titled "Questions & Answers" contains only three questions spend over six (little) pages, and the answers are overwhelmingly self-explanatory. "How should I handle TV advertising?" The answer given, of course, is that you should hire a professional advertiser.

The author urges new home builders to purchase and utilize the proper computer software to chart and analyze their market research, but makes no attempt to recommend any specific programs. The chapter dedicated "Online Advertising" does not site a single website. Not even willing to offer the proper documentation for the definition of "Market", the author forgoes an actual dictionary and instead offers his own definition of what you might find "If you were to look it up in a very conservative dictionary."

If you were to look up advice in a very informative book, you might actually find detailed examples and lists of sources for further research. Unfortunately, this isn't that kind of book.


253: The journey of 253 lifetimes
253: The journey of 253 lifetimes
Author: Geoff Ryman
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 7
Review Date: 9/22/2007
Helpful Score: 2


There are 253 passengers on a seven car Tube train that is about to crash. Every person, along with their thoughts and actions on their brief train ride (and including footnotes explaining their direct and/or indirect relationships with other people on the train), is described in exactly 253 words each.

While on the surface this may sound like nothing more than a mildly interesting experiment in constrained writing, the book manages to reach a deeper meaning than you would expect. Whether you read the book from beginning to or flip around to random parts at your leisure, the overall effect is the same; allowing you to freeze a moment in time and examine the lives and deaths of 253 people with more in common than they will ever truly realize. Contrasting and comparing their personalities and motivations affords the reader an almost God-like chance to examine the fantastic and mundane worlds of a train full of strangers as an intrinsic whole.

But don't let that scare you away. If you rather enjoy as a distraction rather than a perceptions-enhancing experience, it easily works on that level as well. No matter how you attack 253, it remains a truly unique book in both structure and subject matter, and equally enjoyable whether read in short bursts or cover to cover.


The 2,548 Best Things Anybody Ever Said
The 2,548 Best Things Anybody Ever Said
Author: Robert Byrne
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 11
Review Date: 9/15/2007
Helpful Score: 2


Throw enough stuff at the wall, and eventually something is bound to stick. There are so many quotes in here, you are sure to find something you like. Not the best compilation of quotes out there, but definitely not the worst.


27 Short Plays (Contemporary Playwrights Series)
27 Short Plays (Contemporary Playwrights Series)
Author: Christopher Durang
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 4
Review Date: 9/22/2007
Helpful Score: 1


Not being an avid reader or attender of stage plays, I had never heard of Christopher Durang until five or six years ago, when I stumbled upon a cable-produced adaptation of his play "Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You." Irreverent humor lampooning religious belief systems is a favorite genre of mine, along with gun-wielding nuns, so I wasted no time in picking up this collection of short plays.

While Durang is basically a humorist, many of his plays involve the lampooning of other plays. This can be a detriment to a reader who, like me, is unable to pick out the subtle stabs at the set design and dialog patterns of other well known playwrites. But it is a minor stumbling block, and not a mjor obstacle to enjoy Durang's offbeat sense of humor.

If you aren't hip to the stage scene, but still enjoy humor with an edge, do what I did. Pick up this collection for "Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You", then peruse the rest with an open mind.


5 Novels : Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars; Slaves of Spiegel; The Last Guru; Young Adult Novel; The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death
Review Date: 10/7/2007


This collection of young adult fiction by Daniel Pinkwater offers a generous sampling of the author's favorite subject matters. Aliens, misfits, weird people, rebellious students, and fat men all have places of honor among these tales.

In Alan Mendelsohn, Boy from Mars, Leonard Neeble is such an outcast at school that even the nerds make fun of him. Just when he's given up hope on ever being happy, along comes Alan Mendelsohn, a new kid who seems to enjoy annoying teachers and blowing off the cool kids. Leonard and Alan become quick friends, and in no time at all Alan is showing Leonard how to skip school, smoke cigars, lift objects with his mind, contact alien races, and learn to enjoy who he is without the approval of others.

Slaves of Spiegel, simply put, is about a race of fat people that forces other races into a cooking contest, while The Snarkout Boys are a group of young lads who "snark out" at night and have many bizarre adventures. The Last Guru, is about, well, the last guru. Go figure.

My personal favorite, however, and the grand example of Daniel Pinkwater's bizarre brand of genius, is Young Adult Novel. The story revolves around Wild Dada Ducks, a self-proclaimed dadaist group consisting of Charles the Cat, the Honorable Venustiano Carranza (President of Mexico), The Indiana Zephyr, Captain Colossal, and Igor. They spend their time performing dadaist plays and acts of pointless revolution at their high school, and writing parody young adult novels featuring the fictional character Kevin Shapiro. But when they discover that there actually is a student in the school named Kevin Shapiro, they immediately take him under their wing despite his protests, ignorant to the possibility that their own creation might rebel against them. After all, that is dada.

Very few children's authors, past or present, can successfully inject this much original wackiness into their stories while simultaneously teaching much needed life lessons that many books never touch on. Granted, not all of his young adult novels are meant to inform, but even the ones meant purely for entertainment can't help but leave you feeling better for the experience. Children, young adults, and even some grownups could do with a little Pinkwater influence.


58 Minutes
58 Minutes
Author: Walter H. Wager
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 2.5/5 Stars.
 5
Review Date: 9/9/2007


I would not have picked this novel up if it weren't for the giant "Basis For The Movie DIE HARD 2: DIE HARDER" plastered across the front cover. Not that I'm a huge fan of the movie, either, considering its the worst example of cookie-cutter-sequel garbage, far worse than the two films that followed it. However, I'm always interested in how novels differ from their big screen counterparts.

The first two chapters are pretty much what you expect. Flowering scene-setting description of the Big Apple in the winter, and a sharp and brutal introduction to the villains. The lead bad guy and all of his henchmen are what you expect, and are handled competently. They are cold and calculating, diverse and colorful, and most of all, deadly and ruthless.

Then we meet the hero, and it all falls apart.

The irony is bittersweet. In the Die Hard series, the selling point of the John McClain character is his lack of superhero credentials. He isn't the best there is at what he does, he's just the wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong time, an ordinary man under extraordinary circumstances surviving by the skin of his teeth with a lot of luck and determination.

Now meet Captain Frank Malone. In just one six page chapter, we learn that Frank Malone is; a handsome blue-eyed blond,instantly intimidating, two-year best Ivy League Quarterback, an expert hand-to-hand combatant, NYPD pistol champion, cool under attack, admitted to both Harvard and Columbia law schools, a highly decorated hero, the youngest captain in the force, and recognized by all New York cops as a first-class commander, and powerful yet merciful role model.

Bored yet?

This kind of over-the-top jack-of-all-trades Super Cop, clones of which can be found littering Clancy-Lite terrorism thrillers like this by the dozens, are barely recognizable as human beings, let alone realistic characters that lend themselves to the reader's sympathies. When Doc Savage wannabes like Frank Malone swagger onto the scene, there's no doubt that the bad guys don't stand a chance. But where's the fun in that?

Thrillers usually work because we like to watch someone prevail against overwhelming odds, but stacking the chips in favor of a nearly perfect hero caricature leaves the reader betting on a sure thing, which assures a happy ending but destroys any real tension or suspense.


Act of Love
Act of Love
Author: Joe R. Lansdale
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 3
Review Date: 7/20/2007


Compared to Lansdale's typically high-quality output, this novel is pretty substandard. The characters never quite gel, the dialog is rough around the edges, and the plot's "guess which character is the killer" is the kind of stuff best left to made-for-tv movies. Even the violence and brutality lack that hard edge one expects from Lansdale's books. His later novels delve into the horrors of the criminal mind and the sadness of the troubled soul much more effectively than this rather hackneyed attempt. I would only recommend this to a Joe R. Lansdale completest, and even then, hesitantly.


The Alcoholic
The Alcoholic
Author: Jonathan Ames
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 3
Review Date: 8/28/2008
Helpful Score: 1


The danger with autobiographical works like The Alcoholic is that they tend to run the risk of forgetting about the audience. Some author/artists (Milk & Cheese creator Evan Dorkin springs easily to mind) delve into this territory with good intentions, but invariable end up obsessed with nothing more than their own shortcomings and failings. The reader is reduced to nothing more than a reluctant therapist, or even worse, a captive audience to one artists obsession with hating himself.

Not all works of this nature fall into this trap, however, and The Alcoholic manages to maintain a level of entertainment and engagement from beginning to end. Author Jonathan Ames exposes his life long struggles with love, friendship, relationships, and drugs, but always with an eye towards examining human nature as well as his own motivations.

Dean Haspiels art, angular and classic without abandoning realism for style, is the perfect compliment to Ames story, and never distracts from the books focus by battling the author for the readers attention.

Much like American Splendor (on which Dean Haspiel also collaborated), The Alcoholics narrative comes across as a self-explorative train of thought as, the author explores the path his life has taken. Ames bares his soul to himself as well as the reader, and examines his past mistakes and blunders without ever sounding preachy or whiny.

Ames also manages to keep a level eye on his life as a whole, and doesnt hang too much significance on any one event. As a resident of New York during 9/11, Ames shares his experiences and emotions about that tragic event in US history. However, he doesnt make it the focal point of the book, nor does he use it to bookend the narrative. He displays it for what it was; a traumatic world event that affected him directly forced him to reevaluate his personal behaviors yet again, but than eventually moves on with his life. An event like 9/11 is an easy device for a writer to manipulate an audiences emotions with, but Ames treats it with the respect and perspective that it deserves.

An autobiographical graphic novel about heartbreak, depression, self-loathing and addiction, The Alcoholic winds up being a tad more uplifting and inspirational than one might expect, and possibly more than the author intended.


Amberville
Amberville
Author: Tim Davys
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 4
Review Date: 2/10/2009
Helpful Score: 3


Eric, now an adult and a successful advertising executive, has been successful in putting his reckless and somewhat criminal youthful indiscretions behind him. At least, that's what he thought. But then the local kingpin he once worked for shows up with a non-negotiable proposition. Find the hit list that his name is rumored to be on, and remove it from the list. Otherwise, he will kill Eric's girlfriend. Now, Eric must get the old gang back together and track down the "Death List" at any cost.

A compelling and straight-forward plot. The big twist? Eric, the crime boss, and all of the other characters in the book are stuffed animals. They live in a world completely populated by stuffed animals, in which the young and old are delivered and taken away by pick-up trucks. It is definitely an interesting plot twist. But is it necessary?

The idea isn't completely original (The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, The Big Over Easy: A Nursery Crime, Meet the Feebles), but that doesn't mean it isn't good. It just means that the author might want to approach the concept from an original angle.

Tim Davys does, but he unfortunately decides to play it straight. The idea of stuffed animals in a detective mystery novel begs for plenty of sarcastic tongue-in-cheek humor, but Amberville avoids silly humor and instead relies on the subtle absurdities (a small stuffed dove as a crime kingpin, for example) to deliver the humor on their own, which they never really manage to do. Even the author's approach to the way characters are named in Amberville (simply a first name followed by the type of stuffed animal they are), shows a lack of desire to truly have fun with the concept. In short, things that should be comical or farcical are just as boring as they would be in the real world.

The result is a story that could easily be translated into a realistic, non-fantasy setting and written as a straight hardboiled noir novel. Amberville doesn't necessarily fail at making the concept work, it just doesn't fully convince the reader that fantastical setting was crucial to the story.

Amberville is supposed to reveal truths about human nature, morality, religion, and the concepts of good and evil, by having stuffed animals act out the scenarios in which these philosophical debates occur. This is where the book does fail, much in the same way that White Man's Burden failed. Changing reality in some ironic or absurd way might seem deep and meaningful at first. But unless there are other connections on multiple levels, all that you are left with is an overused gimmick.

Amberville is a good book. It has a compelling story, interesting characters, and enough twists and turns to keep a mystery lover interested until the end. It just doesn't quite manage to be what it wanted to be, and that's what keeps it from being a great book.


Angel Loves Nobody
Angel Loves Nobody
Author: Richard Miles
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 2/18/2009


Sometimes it is amazing what books manage to fall through the cracks.

Chances are you havent heard of Angel Loves Nobody. I hadnt when I stumbled upon it at a book sale a few years back. But the description on the cover caught my eye - In the locker rooms, in the parking lots, a brilliant student plans his ultimate protest: kill the faculty of Betsy Ross Junior High.

Considering the paranoia and cautious preventative measures taken after the tragedy of Columbine High School, as well as the number of school shootings since then, you would think a book of this nature would gain a small resurgence of attention. Considering the way the subject matter is handled by the author, the fact that it didnt borders on a tragedy all its own.

Richard Miles is actually the pen name of Gerald Perrau-Saussine. Born in Tokyo and raised in Los Angeles, he spent his early years as a successful child actor (under the name of Peter of Richard Miles), appearing in films such as Passage to Marseille and The Red Pony, and TV shows including Maverick, Perry Mason, and The Lone Ranger.

In between his childhood acting and his adult career as an educator, Gerald Perrau-Saussine took a brief shot at being a novelist. In the short span of ten years he wrote poems, short stories, and three novels. Two of those novels, Angel Loves Nobody and That Cold Day in the Park, won the Samuel Goldwyn Writing Award. That Cold Day in the Park was later adapted into a film directed by Robert Altman. His third book, The Moonbathers, was briefly received.

It is obvious when reading Angel Loves Nobody that Perrau-Saussine was inspired and informed by his experiences as both a student and teacher in the lower-class educational system. He spends an equal amount of time with both sides, exploring not only the origins of their motivation, but in some instances, the frailties of their beliefs.

In the book, Tim Nielson is the new art teacher at Betsy Ross Junior High, a ghetto school with a poor reputation. Mostly poor minority students, many of the kids are troubled youth, almost as convinced of their lack of a future as the bitter and jaded teaching staff. Hes picked a bad time to start his new career, however. One of the schools most brilliant yet troubled students, Angel Martine, has found a focus for both his intelligence and his inner rage. He has figured out a way to kill the entire staff of Betsy Ross Junior High and get away with it, and has enlisted the entire student body as foot soldiers in his deadly vision. But Angels plan is as intricate and delicate as the lives and relationships of those involved. As Zero Hour grows near, the reality of the plan takes its toll, exposing many students to hidden emotions and desires they had previously been ignorant of.

This is a long way from The Cross and the Switchblade. None of the characters are simple plot devices or paper thin stereotypes. Many of the troubled teens are dealing with the harsh realities of inner-city life, compounded by indifferent and even hostile home environments (the existence of incestuous abuse and peer rape is examined on more than one occasion). As for the teachers, their indifference and occasionally hostile behavior is not due to overt malice, but to the personal demons they face in their own lives.

One of the most interesting dynamics in the story is the relationship between Angel and Tim. These two characters barely communicate until the books climax, but these two intelligent people from different worlds see something in each other. What they see evolves with the story, and their reactions actually manage to influence each others opinions. These are complex characters battling complex emotions, and their inner struggles spill effortlessly onto the page. Perrau-Saussine handles the myriad of characters with this level of detail and intensity, continuously reminding the reader that these are real people with real problems, the real solutions to which never come easy.

Angel Loves Nobody is as relevant today as it was in 1967, and is in desperate need of reprinting. Writing of this caliber, and this heartfelt, should never fade with time.


The Argyle Sweater: A Cartoon Collection
The Argyle Sweater: A Cartoon Collection
Author: Scott Hilburn
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.3/5 Stars.
 5
Review Date: 3/17/2009


Cartoonist Scott Hillburn and I have a lot in common. We both share the same first name and we were both exposed to dangerous amounts of radiation as children. We also have all our teeth, a weird sense of humor, and a strong affection for puns. Unlike me, however, Hillman is also a talented artist, and a hilarious cartoonist.

The Argyle Sweater is a collection of Scott Hillermans single-panel cartoon by the same name. The influence of Gary Larsons Far Side comics is easily noticeable when enjoying Hillermans work, yet it never feels like he is attempting to copy or mimic Larsons work. Hillermans humor is his own, a laughable blend of bad puns, unfortunate antonyms, and other fun examples of humorous wordplay.

This is where a book review would normally give a more detailed description of the contents, but I simply refuse to be the guy who sits there describing cartoons and ruining the joke. All I can tell you is that I will never look at the Pillsbury Doughboy the same way again. You can count on laughing out loud every so often, in between the giggles and chuckles that will no doubt follow any reading of The Argyle Sweater.

The Argyle Sweater is a great collection of Scott Hillermans past work, but theres no need to stop there. You can also view his newest creations at theargylesweater.com, many of which no doubt comprise another wonderful collection in the near future.

There are so few cartoons left that are worth reading, let alone worthy of open laughter. Do yourself a favor and dont miss out on this one.


The Army of the Republic
The Army of the Republic
Author: Stuart Archer Cohen
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 3
Review Date: 12/10/2008


Stuart Archer Cohens new novel is, to say the least, polarizing. His world view and philosophical outlook inform both the message and the tone of the book. So, needless to say, some readers are not going to be pleased with what they find between the covers. But, if you can put your firm and unwavering convictions aside and allow this tale of dictatorship and dissent to speak to you, you might actually enjoy the ride.

One way in which the book will not change some minds is through the hyper-realistic settings and events. When writing a cautionary tale about modern-day events and politics, most authors will either keep the narrative grounded firmly in the real world. Some, however, will make their point by taking real events and situations and exaggerating them to an almost absurd degree. The latter, while sometimes distracting, does not necessarily discredit the message within. 1984, A Brave New World, and Atlas Shrugged are just some examples of philosophical theses successfully encapsulated in a science-fiction or fantasy shell. The Army of the Republic may seem farfetched in some spots, and may occasionally overreach in others. But those perturbed by this might be better off reading a Clancy or Grisham paperback. Deep (and sometimes radical) beliefs occasionally need to be shouted from soap boxes bigger than the real world can currently afford us.

Cohen may not be successful in converting the unconvinced with his spectacular tale of ruthless corporate oligarchs, Blackwater reminiscent death squads, and radical underground movements. But he makes his argument loud, clear, and most importantly, highly entertaining.


The Assignment
The Assignment
Author: Jack T. Chick
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 8/9/2015


Angels and Demons manipulate humans like little soul puppets in this Chick Tract, as Heaven and Hell compete for the immortal soul of Charles Bishop, a decent yet unsaved man who only has 2 1/2 weeks until a massive coronary takes him out. The angels and demons both focus on two religious people close to Bishop that might convince him to accept Jesus as his savior, his Assistant Dobbs and his daughter's friend Cathy. The race is on!

The demons take the indirect route and decide to get to Dobbs through his shrill non-believer wife Ethel (who of course is hideously ugly, complete with hair rollers), and distract Cathy with a new boyfriend, Buz Adams. Dobbs is convinced by Ethel not to witness to Bishop ("I won't have you jeopardizing my security just because you want to be a fanatic!"), but the angels manage to provoke Buz into bullying a kid while Cathy watches, and so she dumps him and stays on track to visit the Bishop household.

The demons spring a backup plan and convince am insurance agent to schedule a meeting with Bishop on the day Cathy is visiting, but the angels give the insurance salesman a flat, giving Cathy the opportunity to witness to Bishop and convince him that he should receive Jesus as his own personal savior before it's too late. Bishop is swayed by Cathy's argument, but at the last minute decides to hold off on accepting Jesus:

"If I did give my life to Christ, I'd lose my friends -- NO! -- I think I'll wait a few years - There's plenty of time!"

But Bishop's time runs out that night. At 3:10 A.M. on November 22 (right on schedule), Bishop's immortal soul is damned for all eternity as he perishes in bed with a Chick Tract "YAAAA!"

Persecuted Christians, ugly heathens, invisible holy wars, and good people damned to Hell for not pledging allegiance to Jesus... This is what Chick Tracts are all about.


Atom
Atom
Author: Steve Aylett
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 7/20/2007


This is the third book I've read by Steve Aylett, the first two being (in order) Slaughtermatic and Gothic Hall. Both of these are personal favorites of mine, which I eagerly force upon unsuspecting friends and family whenever possible. Compared to these two, however, his newest novel Atom falls short.

Now, this isn't a bad book, not in the least. The basic premise is that of a retelling of The Maltese Falcon in the future-cyber-surreal city of Beerlight, except that the mysterious object everyone scrambles after is not a black statue, but Franz Kafka's brain. That alone should give you an idea of the lengths of madness traveled, and Aylett does so with his gifted ability to throw unforgettable one-liners and curt descriptions at you until you're bruised and bleeding and begging for more. For this the novel is not lacking.

My only real problem was the lack of depth achieved. The characters (including our hero, Taffy Atom) run around only half defined and barely memorable as individuals. And the storyline felt thrown together, as merely an excuse to throw around the players. That's not always a bad thing, mind you, but Aylett is capable of so much more, and has proven it in the past. Slaughtermatic (which was only 20 pages longer) not only felt real and drew you into the bizarre and complex storyline and characters, but he even succeeded in drawing out the individual personalities of two people who were essentially the same person!

So, as I said, I'm not saying this is a bad book. I enjoyed it, and I recommend it to others, although new readers of his may want to try the other two titles I mentioned first. It is simply not his best. But here's to hoping it is his worst, since as worst goes, it is still pretty good.


Better Homes and Gardens All-Time Favorite Casserole Recipes
Review Date: 3/10/2009


There was a time not too long ago, during the Kitchen Revolution of the fifties and sixties, in which casseroles were viewed differently than they are today. While today children whimper and grown men cringe at the mere thought of a modern household sitting down to a casserole dinner, families of that more enlightened age celebrated the casserole as a modern culinary innovation on par with sliced bread and s'mores!

Back then, in those innocent times, the casserole was seen as both economical and festive. For the housewife, the casserole was a miracle dish of time management and efficiency. Instead of slaving over several dishes for extended periods of time, the modern housewife could simply combine all of the mandatory food groups into one big dish and leave it in the oven for an hour or so, freeing up her valuable time to tackle other household chores.

For the family sitting down to an evening meal, the casserole was both decorative and entertaining. The colorful patterns that the baked cornucopia of mealtime starches and proteins created were much more festive and cheerful then fresh cut flowers or fancy centerpieces; with a casserole, your meal is the centerpiece! And what could be more fun than a mystery meal in a creamy sauce or flaky crust? Is it ham or beef? Are those peas? Casseroles are a filling and nourishing meal that will have the whole family guessing long after the dishes have been loaded into the time-saving automatic dish washing machine. This hide-and-seek game with the dinner's ingredients can also take the edge off of other mealtime chores. No more tedious arguments trying to make young Johnny eat his vegetables; he won't even know where to begin looking for them!

Yes sir, those were the days, when combining an entire meal in one big mixing bowl while the electric oven preheats was one of the highest culinary art forms a devoted wife and mother could achieve!

No one new this better than Better Homes and Gardens. This is why their collection of all-time favorite recipes is an endless repository for the wisdom of the one-dish dinner. The pages of this precious volume are simply overflowing with, as the cover says, mouth-watering casseroles '...for a quick meal or a gala celebration.'

Who could resist a Pork Chop-Fried Rice Casserole, or a healthy serving of Sweet-Sour Kraut and Chops? Spice up boring hot dogs in a Savory Frank-Noodle Bake! Dig into a Turkey Souffle! If you are entertaining at a large gathering, why not wow them with a mess of Sausage Au Gratin, or a round of Toad in the Hole? And who could resist asking for seconds of Caraway-Sour Cream Cabbage?

Just think of the Better Homes and Gardens All-Time Favorite Casserole Recipes book as a time machine of taste, destination: the land that cooking forgot! Your appetite will thank you for making the journey!


Black Lightning
Black Lightning
Author: John Saul
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 151
Review Date: 7/6/2005
Helpful Score: 2


A bit hokey, as far as these kinds of books go. This is the first John Saul book I've read, and while it was a quick and enjoyable read, I really hope this isn't the best he's got. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a hokey horror story as much as anyone, and I don't mind the plot device being a little far-fetched, hard-to-believe, and never fully explained. But when the other characters in the book figure out the mystery that is so out there that the reader himself (that's me) doesn't buy it, that kind of ruins it a bit for me. Again, not bad, just a bit hokey. I think Dean R. Koontz did a better job with Hideaway. Did I mention that I thought it was a bit hokey? That's right. Hokey.


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