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Daniel M. - Reviews

1 to 9 of 9
American on Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot
Review Date: 8/23/2010
Helpful Score: 3

Like millions of others, I'm a tremendous fan of Ferguson's Late, Late Night talk show. His off-the-cuff humor is brilliant and his interviews are unlike any other talk show hosts'. And so, I was really looking forward to his book, which didn't disappoint, but wasn't the "wow, zing, bang" book I was looking for.

While there are definitely traces of his humor throughout ... and if you know Ferguson, you'll definitely be able to read some of this work picturing and hearing him deliver it ... for the most part I thought this book was a slightly maudlin. It was a serious, honest (some would say "open") look at a life that wasn't rosy, though for no particular reason other than that he's always seemed to prefer adventure over stability. There's nothing wrong with this, but it's not the Craig Ferguson we've come to know and love on television.

Some might argue that this is the whole point of the autobiography ... to show us who he really is, that what we see on television isn't the real person. I understand this, but there's just enough in the book to lead us to think that who we see on Late, Late Night is Craig Ferguson, and at the same, time, the book doesn't deliver that Craig Ferguson. Just look at that cover and tell me you're not expecting some fun, whacky humor.

If you like Ferguson, read the book. He's led an interesting and most definitely a charmed life. If you don't know who he is, this probably won't mean a thing to you.

Borderlands 1
Borderlands 1
Author: Thomas F. Monteleone (Editor)
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.1/5 Stars.
Review Date: 8/23/2010

I have always enjoyed taking a literary ride on the 'horror' train, though I haven't read as much dark fantasy lately as I did as a teenager. I picked this book up in an airport some years back when I had forgotten to bring along something to read, and while I read maybe two stories at the time, this book sat around on my shelves waiting for me to get back to it.

Mostly this book was a time-passer. Few, if any, of the stories really reached me. Nothing stood out as a story I'll remember for a long time. One story, as I was reading it, had me thinking ... oh good, a story that I can write about in my review, but as I look through the table of contents, it doesn't stand out. I recognize all the titles. I remember reading them, but none strike me as 'outstanding.'

At the same time, none of these struck me as terrible. In some cases, they were predictable ("By Bizarre Hands" "The Man in the Long Black Sedan" "Muscae Volitantes" "Stillborn" "Delia and the Dinner Party" "The Raw and the Cooked" "The Grass of Remembrance"). However, of these, some did stand out as being excellently written, specifically "Stillborn" by Nina Kiriki Hoffman and "Delia and the Dinner Party" by John Shirley and "The Grass of Remembrance" by John DeChancie.

If you enjoy the genre, then this book will probably be a welcome window to the dark for you. If you are new to this type of fiction, then better, perhaps to start with a true master of the field (find something by Robert Bloch or Robert Aikman or H.P. Lovecraft).

The Day Room
The Day Room
Author: Don DeLillo
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 2/5 Stars.
Review Date: 8/23/2010

I enjoy absurdist theatre a great deal and while the name Don DeLillo may have brought people in to watch a theatrical production who might otherwise never have gone to a play, I found very little that was original about this.

First of all, there's going to be an obvious One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest comparison. I caught myself making just such a note early as I was reading, but I also found myself thinking about Harold Pinter's The Hothouse, and in both cases the earlier play is a much more engaging piece. Of course the plots are vastly different, with The Day Room asking some rather metaphysical questions, such as "What is real?" "Who can you believe or trust?" It is a deconstruction of reality, whereas Cuckoo's Nest is a fight for reality and Hothouse is about abusive power.

But if you are going to deconstruct reality, you must be compared to another master playwright, Eugene Ionesco, who managed to do it over and over again.

Back to DeLillo...

The main problem I had with this script is "why?" Why tell this story? What was in it for me? I didn't finish it and think about my own life and what was real or not. I didn't feel compelled to see this on stage any time too soon.

I enjoyed the theatricality of this, and the humor, but found it lacking in story or purpose.

Hot Blood (Hot Blood, Bk 1)
Hot Blood (Hot Blood, Bk 1)
Author: Jeff Gelb (Editor), Lonn Friend (Editor)
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
Review Date: 4/14/2016

I've always had a passion for well-written horror stories, though they can be difficult to find as many authors (as in the horror films) make them more about blood and gore rather than a psychological horror. There's also a fine line between the adrenaline rush from being scared and the adrenaline rush from being sexually aroused, so combining the two makes for a twisted kind of sense.

Hot Blood is the first anthology in a series and features some well-recognized author names mixed with some that are new (to me, at least).

As with most anthologies, the quality of the stories varies a lot. I'm pleased that none of them stood out as real duds, but only two were noteworthy.

"Punishments," by Ray Garton adds a touch of religion to his sexually charged horror story, with a young boy discovering that the prudish church organist isn't quite the prude she seems to be, but her sexual desires aren't the only secret she hides.

My favorite story is "Aunt Edith" by Gary Brandner. When a young girl brings her new boyfriend home to meet her Aunt Edith, the aunt sends the girl down the street on an errand so that Edith can test the man's true intentions and his purity. What happens will send a shiver down your spine, but just as I did, you'll probably chuckle a bit, too.

However, the story begins with a brief prologue which is completely unnecessary and gives the ending away.

Overall, this was a nice diversion (I really enjoy reading short stories) from the many novels I've been reading.

This volume contains the following:

Introduction - Jeff Gelb and Lonn Friend
"Changeling" - Graham Masterton
"The Likeness of Julie" - Richard Matheson
"The Thang" - Robert R. McCammon
"Ménage à Trois" - F. Paul Wilson
"Mr. Right" - Richard Christian Matheson
"Blood Night" - Chet Williamson
"Chocolate" - Mick Garris
"Again" - Ramsey Campbell
"Bug House" - Lisa Tuttle
"Vengeance Is." - Theodore Sturgeon
"The Unkindest Cult" - J. N. Williamson
"Reunion" - Michael Garrett
"Footsteps" - Harlan Ellison
"Pretty Is..." - Mike Newton
"Aunt Edith" - Gary Brandner
"Daughter of the Golden West" - Dennis Etchison
"Meat Market" - John Skipp and Craig Spector
"The Voice" - Rex Miller
"The Model" - Robert Bloch
Carnal House" - Steve Rasnic Tem
"They're Coming for You" - Les Daniels
"Suzie Sucks" - Jeff Gelb
"Punishments" - Ray Garton
"Red Light" - David J. Schow
Author Biographies

Looking for a good book? Hot Blood is a nice assortment of dark, occasionally erotic, short stories. While nothing is outstanding, nothing is horrible, either.

Norse Code
Norse Code
Author: Greg van Eekhout
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3/5 Stars.
Review Date: 8/23/2010
Helpful Score: 3

My timing on reading this book turned out to be nearly perfect. I'd just finished a great deal of research on Norse mythology for a project that I was commissioned to write, and I was heading out for a week of vacation on the beach and grabbed this book as something small and 'light' for beach reading.

Having so many of the Norse gods and their relationships and places still in my head, this book struck me as extremely well researched and a fun take on the personalities. I knew immediately who each character was and of course I knew their relationship with the other characters. I did wonder, though, if I hadn't been as fmailiar with them before reading this, would I have enjoyed this book nearly as much? Probably not.

Although I gave this book four stars, based on my own enjoyment of reading it, I did have a few problems with the story.

First, while I really liked the idea of "Norse Code" -- a technologically modern center for finding appropriate people to bring to Valhalla to fight for Odin at the final battle, I felt that this gimmick was ill-used. Certainly not worthy of the title of the book. It came into play in the first couple of chapters and then was really nothing at all important to the story.

Second, we as readers had to take some giant leaps (pun intended) of literary faith to accept that everything that happens in the story is simply because one woman, a mortal who became a Valkyrie, wants to rescue her sister and a man she doesn't know (but whom she killed) from Hel. I don't think that the relationship with the sister was ever really established enough, and the guilt over killing the man was definitely not believable. Perhaps that's why both ... neither was strong enough motivation? Even so...for all that these people faced, marching into Hel, attempting to stop Ragnarok (the final battle), facing undefeatable foes, all to rescue two people... well, it just seemed a bit lame, quite frankly.

If I could have given this three and a half stars, I would have, but I stand by the four stars because ... well, I enjoyed it.

Notes from the Underground: The Most Outrageous Stories from the Alternative Press
Review Date: 3/15/2010

Journalism, the way it was intended.

Today's newspapers are little more than twitteresque reports and media splash -- hook 'em, tell them something dramatic, move on.

This collection of newspaper stories from "alternative" newspaper -- generally those free papers with lots of ads and night-club listings -- break the rules by actually going a little in-depth, reporting, interviewing, AND ... personalizing and offering opinions.

Not all of these stories grabbed me. Some still felt incomplete. Yet overall, these were much more interesting, and in many ways, still relevant, than most daily newspaper stories.

Ben Ehrenreich teaches us that riding the rails as a 'hobo' is still something that happens, though the days of the transient worker is a fading memory. Today's hobos treat it as an extreme sport, or a fun dare.

Glenna Whitley scars us with the in-depth exploration of a serial killer who manages to escape true punishment, and who threatens, again and again, to continue killing.

Although the television media had a field day with the polygamy and compound marriages to teens not too long ago, John Dougherty goes deeper into how a town and a state can keep polygamy on the fast track, and how hard it is for anyone to escape from the beliefs.

Not every story moved. "I Was Queen For A Day" didn't do a thing for me. Perhaps I've just never even considered dressing like a woman and going out on the town. Perhaps the writing just wasn't strong enough. either way, it was my first let-down in the book.

A number of stories seemed interesting, but I'd like a follow-up -- they didn't resolve it. Okay...not all stories get resolved, but newspaper stories, collected and published in a book...could we get just a little more, please? Some of those stories, for me, where..."Academia Under Siege" "What About the Kids?" "Quitting the Business" "Vanishing Act" and "The Last Executioner". All of these were interesting and I just wanted to read more.

Those that really didn't touch me include: "Blue Lines, Steel, and the Hour of Myth" "Good-bye to All That" and "A Village Transformed".

Even so, this is a collection worth reading. No collection will please 100%, but this is a nice way to start.

Shakespeare's Secret
Shakespeare's Secret
Author: Elise Broach
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
Review Date: 8/23/2010

** spoiler alert ** I was very 'into' this book ... I kept wanting to read the next chapter, which suggests to me that it was certainly well written. I'm not always an easy mark.

Hero, the lead character's name, struck me as a very normal, intelligent, young girl -- self-obsessed with her own little misery at being the new kid and with an odd name, but young enough to take advice from parents and teachers. Danny, the older, cool boy who seems to take a liking to Hero, also comes across as quite real. A bit of an enigma, he's popular but doesn't try to be. He's got some troubles, which he shares with Hero, but not with his posse of friends. Those troubles (an absent mom and a police chief father who tends to give him too much leeway) strike the reader as very real.

The mystery in the book, the search for a hidden object and what that object might imply, becomes a little heavy-handed. Hero and Danny find the object almost without difficulty, despite the police searching the place from top to bottom on more than one occassion. How convenient.

One thing that I didn't like ...


...was the author's suggesting, rather strongly, that William Shakespeare didn't write the plays attributed to him, but rather another historical figure of the era.

I know this is a popular theme, and many scholarly books have been written about this, but it annoys me more than a little bit that we plant this suggestion in the minds of our youth, whom we still want to have read Shakespeare.

As to the Shakespeare controversy itself, I've never held to the theory that the man couldn't have written those plays because he was so poorly educated and came from such a poor background. That theory doesn't sit well with me. Genius can come about in many forms and out of nowhere. If Albert Einstein hadn't lived in an era when things were so well documented, we might certainly believe that he couldn't possibly have come up with the brilliant theories that he did. He was a poor immigrant who failed at math in his elementary school years. How could he possibly have such brilliant theories later in life? So too with Shakespeare.

Fortunately, the author does write a note at the end of the book about the Shakespeare theories, which is nice, but when the author asks, directly "What do I think?" she cops out and answers to both, one as historian and one as novelist.

I say let's take the Shakespeare 'reality theories' out of the elementary and middle schools and focus on the writing by that author known as Shakespeare.

Spinning into Butter : A Play
Spinning into Butter : A Play
Author: Rebecca Gilman
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 2.1/5 Stars.
Review Date: 8/23/2010

I was not at all familiar with this play before reading it. Gilman's name sounded familiar but I couldn't name anything she'd written. I am sure that will change for me.

Judging simply by the title, I suspected that this play would deal with racial issues and I admit to having second thoughts because I just wasn't looking for a didactic lesson on race. Fortunately, what I got was not a lesson on race but a lesson on racism. And...surprise, surprise...from a "white" perspective! How novel! How daring! And, being Caucasian, it actually reached me in a way that a play never has before.

The play is about one individual on a college campus who is forced to face her own feelings of racism. Outward, she appears level-headed, intelligent, and very sympathetic to racial issues. But of course sympathy is perhaps not the right emotion to have. Inward, the woman struggles with her views on 'blacks' and admits that one of the reasons she took a job at a college in Vermont was to get away from the black population.

One of the most beautiful aspects of this play is that it takes a major issue, and brings it in to focus through one individual -- and a likable individual! It forces us to look at ourselves and how similar we may be to this character.

There are no clear answers, only lots of soul-searching questions, but the play does end with a spark of promise.

You Wish (Misadventures of Benjamin Bartholomew Piff, Bk 1)
You Wish (Misadventures of Benjamin Bartholomew Piff, Bk 1)
Author: Jason Lethcoe
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
Review Date: 8/23/2010
Helpful Score: 2

There were moments in this book that I found clever and even fun, but overall this book was tepid, uninspired.

I bought this book because the premise seemed real interesting -- a young boy makes the granddaddy of all wishes -- that he have an infinite number of wishes -- and because he did everything just right in the making of the wish, the wish came true, and of course, when a wish like that comes true, it wreaks havoc on those granting the wishes.

So, a good idea...what went wrong?

First, there's the story-telling itself. A lot of telling rather than showing. It came across as a lack of focus as to the age group that this was written for. On one hand, it seemed aimed at the youngest readers -- eight years old or so, but on the other hand, it had some themes that seemed targeted to the early middle-schoolers.

Although I rolled my eyes a little at the idea of the 'hated orphan' aspect, it didn't bother me terribly. Again, the basic idea seemed pretty good, but once we got into the war between the wish-fullfillers and the nightmare handlers, I couldn't wait to be done with the book.

The great war came from nowhere, but even more so was the idea that our hero was better at a weapon like a boomerang than any of the fairy folk who trained with the weapon. There was no lead up to this, no hint, no forshadowing (couldn't he have been playing with a boomerang in the fron yard of the orphanage when he first got yelled at?). And the attempt at creating a friendly rival not only came from nowhere, the rivalry fizzled out early and was a waste of time.

I had hoped to find a book that would keep my kids interested, but I think this one would intsult their intelligence.

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