Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Stay Gold, Sodapop

Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe
Reviewed by Diane K. M.
My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This was a surprisingly enjoyable read. I generally avoid celebrity memoirs, but I saw a nice excerpt from Rob Lowe's latest one, "Love Life," about how emotional he was when his son went away to college, and decided to give his first autobiography a chance.

I am a child of the 80s, so I grew up with Lowe's movies and those of the so-called Brat Pack. The Outsiders was popular when I was a kid, and I also liked St. Elmo's Fire and About Last Night. Lowe's book had good behind-the-scenes stories about those movies and others, and he was frank about his womanizing and drinking problem back then. One sobering story occurred when Rob was about 14 and he met John Belushi at a party. When Belushi heard that Rob wanted to be an actor, Belushi said, "Stay out of the clubs." Rob wrote, "I should have listened. Instead, I got my first agent."

Lowe also describes how he got his start in acting, and his early friendships with Charlie Sheen, Emilio Estevez, Tom Cruise, C. Thomas Howell, and every other 80s movie star you can think of. One of my favorite chapters was about making The Outsiders, in which Rob played Sodapop, and how close the cast became during a long shoot in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Unfortunately, a lot of Rob's scenes were cut from the 1983 movie, but 20 years later, Francis Ford Coppola made a director's cut that restored a lot of that footage, and was more faithful to the S. E. Hinton novel.

Rob admits he had a reputation for partying in the 80s, but his redemptive moment came after he met Sheryl, the woman who has been his wife since 1991. He went to rehab and maintained his sobriety, and he has continued to do good work in movies and TV. (I thought he was great on The West Wing and Parks & Recreation.) 

Overall, this was a nice, diverting read -- an excellent start to summer.

500 Ways to Tell a Better Story

500 Ways to Tell a Better Story500 Ways to Tell a Better Story by Chuck Wendig
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sometimes, the stars align and magic happens. Like when I happened to be chewing through the second draft of something I wrote years ago and Chuck Wendig makes one of his writing books free for one day only in honor of his birthday. 500 Ways to Tell a Better Story is a collection of writing tips told in Chuck Wendig's trademark humorous style.

- 25 Lies Writers Tell
- 25 Realizations Writers Need to Have
- 25 Reasons I Hate Your Main Character
- 25 Reasons Now is the Best Time to be a Storyteller
- 25 Reasons You Should Quit Writing
- 25 Things All Writers Need
- 25 Things I Learned While Writing Blackbirds
- 25 Things I want to say to So-Called Aspiring Writers
- 25 Things to Know About Writing the First Chapter of Your Novel
- 25 Things Writers Should Know About Creating Mystery
- 25 Things You Should Know About Creativity
- 25 Things You Should Know About Transmedia
- 25 Things You Should Know About Word Choice
- 25 Things You Should Know About Writing Fantasy
- 25 Things You Should Know About Writing Sex
- 25 Things You Should Know About Writing Short Stories
- 25 Ways to Earn Your Audience
- 25 Ways to Fight Your Story's Mushy Middle
- 25 Ways to Unfuck Your Story
- 25 Ways to Write Full Time

As with 250 Things You Should Know About Writing, Chuck covers a wide range of writing topics in a style that's very similar to the one he uses on his blog, complete with copious penis references. If his blog makes you want to strangle him, you probably won't dig this.

There's a lot of overlap in this, both between topics and with the topics covered in 250 Things You Should Know About Writing. I thought the selection on Writing Fantasy was the shining star of the book, thought useful writing nuggets could be unearthed in every chapter.

I wouldn't say this book was essential but if you're into Chuck Wendig and need some writing advice, you could do a lot worse.

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Doctor Who: The Silurian Gift

Doctor Who: The Silurian GiftDoctor Who: The Silurian Gift by Mike Tucker
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

In a future where the petroleum supply is nearly exhausted, an industrialist is extracting a mysterious superfuel called Fire Ice from a lake beneath Antarctica. But what is the super fuel and what is the beast that is attacking workers? That's what The Doctor and a journalist named Lizzie are trying to find out...

This one started out great. There were greedy businessmen, short-sighted environmentalists, dinosaurs, a mysterious hairy beast, and Silurians. Then things started getting unnecessarily complicated.

The Doctor as well written and I liked the Silurian plotline, as I always do when the scaly ones make an appearance. Then the Sea Devils showed up and things got a little cluttered.

It had its moments but The Silurian Gift fell a little short for me. 2.5 out of 5 stars.

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