Sunday, December 25, 2022

Fairy Tale

Fairy TaleFairy Tale by Stephen King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So my wife was listening to the audio book for this and wanted to talk to me about it so I wound up with a homework assignment.

The book started slow, with Charlie Reade looking after his injured elderly neighbor, Mr. Bowditch. For the first 200 pages, that's pretty much all the book is, though I enjoyed it. The rest of the book is Charlie going down the hole and getting involved in the affairs of another world.

Overall, I liked the book. King has lost none of his Shine over the years in the technical writing department. Charlie was a well crafted character, although I had a strong "Hello fellow kids" vibe from him at times. I think a degree of that is to be expected when a septuagenarian writes a teenager.

Radar getting old was a perfectly understandable motivation for Charlie to go down the hole for me. There was good dramatic tension at times and for once, I didn't feel like people sat around talking for hours and hours knowing that the world was about to end.

The meat of the book was a good fairy tale influenced fantasy story. I think the good guys got off a little light, though, as I have in many a book since Stephen King got hit by that van years ago. A lot of cool stuff went down but I get waiting for that final kick in the balls that never came.

Fairy Tale was a good read but I don't imagine I'll feel compelled to read it again any time soon. 3 out of 5 stars.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Player's Handbook (D&D Fifth Edition)

Player's Handbook (Dungeons & Dragons, 5th Edition)Player's Handbook by James Wyatt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I haven't played D&D since they brought out 3.5 edition way too soon after 3.0 and said piss on it. I've been eyeing this book from afar for a couple years and jumped on it when it got marked down to around 16 bucks for Black Friday.

I don't know when I'll ever get to use this with no gaming group and an autistic three year old running around but I enjoyed thumbing through it. Obviously, it's an RPG manual so I didn't read EVERY page but I read enough to digest the mechanics.

The book was organized fairly well, although explanation of advantage/disadvantage before they were repeatedly mentioned would have been nice instead of saving it for the abilities chapter. The art pretty good but not anything I feel compelled to get tattooed on my back. There's even a nice appendix of recommended reading material in the back.

Everything about this edition seems to be geared toward simplifying things and spending less time making characters and more time playing, which I love. So many hours of potential gaming have been lost when somebody can't decide what skills to take, etc.

There aren't as many skills and feats are optional so character creation is sped up quite a bit. I like that race, class, and background all contribute to a character's skills, languages, starting equipment, etc. I thought 3.0 had too many choices and this reins things in a bit. Hell, there's even a quick build if you really don't want to put much thought into character creation.

I was skeptical about the new Warlock class but it's different enough to be interesting now, a spellcaster who gets their powers from a pact with an extradimensional creature is right up my alley. The monk feels more like the 1st edition monk than anything else but also has some cool features as you advance. While I'm on the subject, the way characters have ability choices as they advance is pretty cool. Wizards and Sorcerors now have a d6 hit die instead of a d4 and rogues are now d8s. That should make for fewer deaths at low levels.

I'm not crazy about what Tieflings have become since 2nd edition but I guess it's not that big of a deal. The new Dragonborn race has potential for abuse but seems interesting enough. I'm sure there are more optional races and classes than you can shake a yew wand at in later supplements but I'll have to wait until those drop into my cheapness zone.

Four out of five stars.

View all my reviews

Monday, November 28, 2022

Don't Call Me Chico

Don't Call Me ChicoDon't Call Me Chico by Tito Santana
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Don't Call Me Chico is the biography of WWF wrestler Tito Santana.

One of my early wrestling memories is Randy Savage cheating to win the Intercontinental belt from Tito Santana so I had to snap this up.

Tito seems like a class act so you'd think his story wouldn't be that interesting but not so. Tito, aka Merced Solis, grew up the son of migrant workers and became a wrestler after his would-be football career hit the rocks. He knew Tully Blanchard from college and Tully was his foot in the door.

Tito is pretty humble when it comes to telling his story but has a good sense of humor so the book is pretty engaging. It talks about Tito's stints in George, Texas, the Bill Watts territory, Japan, the AWA, and finally the WWF. Tito wasn't a big partier with a wife and kids at home but there are still some great road stories in here.

Did anyone like working for Ole Anderson? I thought it was interesting that one of Tito's early names was Richard Blood, the real name of Ricky Steamboat, given to him as a way to connect him to Steamboat after he left the territory. I also thought it was interesting that when Jimmy Snuka had some legal woes, Santana got tapped to replace him high on the card on house shows before he was even a regular in the WWF. Tito also gives his account of backstage events such as Danny Spivey handing Adrian Adonis' ass to him and various ribs.

It gets a little sad after the Strike Force run when the WWF was running out of things to do with him. The Matador gimmick is covered. It's interesting to think about the WWF pushing into Mexico instead of Canada and pushing Tito Santana instead of Bret Hart.

The end has a silver lining, though. Tito got out of the business before it destroyed his life and left with enough money to start a new life as a teacher that also owns a hair salon.

Like all wrestling books, there's stuff that wasn't mentioned that I wouldn't have minded hearing about, like Tito teaming with Pedro Morales or Tito teaming with Danny Spivey. There were a good amount of road stories but I'd always read more. I really liked that the pre-wrestling chapters were interesting and not Tito patting himself on the back, though he doesn't seem like the type to do that anyway.

Four out of five stars.

View all my reviews

Friday, November 25, 2022

On the Savage Side

On the Savage SideOn the Savage Side by Tiffany McDaniel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Born into a hell of addiction and prostitution, can twins Arcade and Daffodil Doggs escape their fates and live a normal life?

I loved Tiffany McDaniel's previous two works, The Summer That Melted Everything and Betty, so I dropped everything when this showed up in my mailbox.

On the Savage Side contains everything I expected: characters with odd names, flowery prose, and soul crushing despair. Arc and Daffy meander through a hell created long before they were born, soon becoming mirror images of their drug addicted prostitute mother and Aunt Clover.

Born out of the unsolved murders of the Chillicothe Six, On the Savage Side is a statement both about the power of women and their place in a world made by men. Arc and Daffy are caught in a whirlwind spawned long before they were born, disposable women in a factor town. There's an undercurrent of hopelessness and powerlessness to the story. Poor Arc and Daffy never had a chance.

Even though I started reading this the night before Thanksgiving, I was finished before breakfast on Black Friday morning. The plight of the Chillicothe street girls was a gripping read. As they were pulled out of the river one by one, I wondered if any of them would be alive at the end.

Speaking of the ending, it's not cut and dry and I could see that disappointing people. However, this isn't one of those airport thrillers so anything goes. There's no unnecessary romantic subplot and no one gets carted off to jail. There's only grim finality. I'm reminded of Jim Thompson and Flannery O'Connor once again, both in the prose and the final fate of some of the characters.

Four out of five stars.

View all my reviews

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Vince McMahon and the Unmaking of America

Ringmaster: Vince McMahon and the Unmaking of AmericaRingmaster: Vince McMahon and the Unmaking of America by Abraham Riesman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ringmaster chronicles the rise of Vince McMahon, from his early life in poverty to working for his father to taking the WWF national and beyond.

I thought Riesman's book about Stan Lee was great so I got myself on the ARC list when the call went out. I read it in three long sittings.

First off, the Unmaking of America portion of the title is sensationalistic. Sure, Vince and Trump are friends and the McMahons worked to get pro wrestling deregulated and Vince manipulates the media but that's about all the Unmaking there is.

The format is similar to Riesman's Stan Lee book. Vince's early life as Vinnie Lupton is detailed, both from Vince's words and from the people who knew him, generating some conflicting stories. Vince didn't meet his biological father, Vince McMahon Sr, until he was 12 and took his name sometime after.

I've been a wrestling fan off and on for most of my life so I knew a lot of stuff about Vince's early days in the wrestling business but not nearly all of it. I didn't know the McMahons owned a hockey team or Vince was involved in Evel Kineval's Snake River Canyon jump, for instance.

Vince running the other promoters out of business is a well trodden road so there aren't a ton of pages spent on it other than the Georgia Championship Wrestling timeslot debacle. The sex scandals were detailed, like Vince allegedly raping female referee Rita Chatterson and all the ring boy unpleasantness. The death of Nancy Argentino was also detailed, forever derailing whatever Vince had planned for Jimmy Snuka in the longterm.

Once the first Wrestlemania hits, things are in full swing, including drug scandals, Vince and Hogan falling out, The Ultimate Warrior being a dick, Vince's various trials, and all that stuff. Vince's stint as a heel in the USWA was covered, something I've always wanted to know more about.

From there, the late 1990s and early 2000s are covered, Montreal Screwjob, Monday Night War, and Vince eating his two biggest competitors.

So what did I think? This wasn't exactly the book I was picturing, focusing primarily on Vince McMahon the person. I wouldn't have minded more backstage stuff or road stories but that's how I feel about most wrestling books. My opinion of Vince McMahon hasn't changed. I don't think he's a genius and the last good idea he had was turning heel in 1997. I also don't think he's a particularly good person. He does keep the wrestling business going on a national level, though.

It's a very well researched book. Riesman didn't skimp and consulted multiple sources on almost ever morsel of information. I don't feel like Riesman had an axe to grind and explored everything fairly. There was a lot more Bret Hart material, which is a plus in my book, and even that wasn't just shots at Vince. Like I said, I would have liked more backstage stuff but that's not the book Riesman was writing.

Anyway, this is an interesting look at Vince McMahon and his rise to power. Like the Stan Lee book, if you think Vince McMahon is a benevolent wrestling genius, you probably won't enjoy finding out about the realities of his rise to power and all the stuff he swept under the rug. Four out of five stars.

View all my reviews

Sunday, July 24, 2022

The History of EC Comics

The History of EC ComicsThe History of EC Comics by Grant Geissman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As the title indicates, this weighty tome tells the story of EC Comics. It's ordinarily expensive as fuck but Taschen had a sale, bringing the price down to expensive as shit so I was able to justify my purchase.

I already have Grant Geissman's Foul Play: The Story of EC Comics so I wasn't sure how much to expect in the way of overlap. Turns out, very little, surprisingly.

The History of EC Comics is a treasure trove of EC lore and artifacts, starting from MC Gaines at All-American Comics, and flowing through EC's humble beginnings, heyday, and dying years after the hysteria of the 1950s. Clearly a labor of love, the highs and lows of EC are explored in great detail.

Since this is a coffee table book, the visual presentation is a big part of the package and The History of EC Comics does not disappoint in that aspect. There is a cover gallery of every EC cover ever, a few stories are reproduced in their entirety, and there is original art galore.

I have to wonder about how American comics history would have went if EC hadn't given up on the New Trend books after Seduction of the Innocent had everyone clutching his or her collective pearls. Have comics ever really recovered from being spayed and/or neutered?

The History of EC Comics is a stunning look at one of the early high points of American comics. Five out of five stars.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Wrestling at the Chase

Wrestling at the ChaseWrestling at the Chase by Ed Wheatley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Wrestling at the Chase by Ed Wheatley is a coffee table book about Wrestling at the Chase, the legendary wrestling program that aired in St. Louis from 1959 to 1985.

I'm a wrestling fan from way back and have hazy memories of watching Wrestling at the Chase during its dying days. My in-laws gave me this for my birthday, unlike other relatives who don't like to buy me books for some reason.

Anyway, this book chronicles Wrestling at the Chase and the St. Louis Wrestling Club. Obviously, it covers much of the same ground as Larry Matysik's Wrestling at the Chase book. Since this is a coffee table book, the history of Wrestling at the Chase is explored at a much higher level.

In addition to a broad overview of the history of the St. Louis Wrestling club, Wheatley presents profiles of wrestlers important to the St. Louis wrestling scene during its heyday, like Dick the Bruiser, King Kong Brody, Lou Thesz, Harley Race, and Ric Flair.

What the book lacks in depth it makes up for in photographs. The book is jammed with photos of wrestlers, buildings, merchandise, vintage ads, flyers, and everything else connected with the wrestling business, even some of Sam Muchnick's notes.

Sadly, Wrestling at the Chase ended the same way here as it did in Larry Matysik's book, eventually run out of business by Vince McMahon's expansion in the early to mid 1980s.

I prefer Larry Matsik's book but this coffee table presentation is a good addition to any wrestling fan's collection. 3.5 out of 5 piledrivers.

View all my reviews

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Drawing Perspective

Drawing Perspective: How to See It and How to Apply ItDrawing Perspective: How to See It and How to Apply It by Matthew Brehm
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As I mentioned in some reviews for art supplies on Amazon lately, I've been trying to get back into drawing and cartooning after not doing much other than doodling during meetings for the past twenty years. I've taken art classes in the past but most of them were either time wasters or a learn by doing affair. I remember exactly one class period about perspective. Anyway, this book was highly recommended. Like writing, art is a "figure out what works for you and do that" kind of endeavor but there are still guidelines you should follow.

Instructional books are usually dry as hell. This book peps up what could be a yawn inducing subject. It's still a little on the dry side but that can't be avoided when you're talking about converging lines and such.

I found the book to be fairly engaging and the various kinds of perspective were explained in a way that easily made sense. Some of it took a little longer to wrap my head around than others but, conceptually, I think I had a grip on things by the end. Applying the knowledge will be a different matter. Luckily, there's a workbook section at the end if you want to practice. I plan on busting out one of my sketchbooks and experimenting when I finally get enough free time to do so.

Curvilinear perspective is some trippy ass shit, by the way. Since I primarily draw cartoony stuff, I doubt I'll use it, but the sections on one, two, and multiple vanishing points will be helpful. I like how the author acknowledges that the guidelines he lays out are just guidelines. While I was reading the book, I had to think that Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko were winging things 90% of the time.

I found Drawing Perspective to be a very useful resource for how to incorporate perspective into drawings. I look forward to referring back to it in the future. Four out of five stars.

View all my reviews

Friday, June 3, 2022

Dynamite & Davey

Dynamite and Davey: The Explosive Lives of the British BulldogsDynamite and Davey: The Explosive Lives of the British Bulldogs by Steven Bell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dynamite and Davey chronicles the rise and fall of The Dynamite Kid and Davey Boy Smith, the British Bulldogs.

I've watched wrestling on and off for my entire life and the first tag team that ever caught my eye was the British Bulldogs. When this ARC fell into my lap, I took it like a superplex.

Steven Bell put in the work on this. The book has a more scholarly tone than most wrestling books. While I was reading it, I suspected he did a ridiculous amount of research. The sources cited in the back proved me right. Dynamite and Davey contains more verified facts than a lot of wrestling books.

I've read and/or watched a lot of what transpired in the book but it was still like watching two trains getting closer and closer to a junction on the same track and seeing debris fly in all directions. Tom Billington's early life is chronicled from his early days in England to training to ending up in Calgary, wrestling for the Hart family. Davey, Tom's cousin, gets the same treatment as Tom and also winds up in Calgary. They don't team together for a while but when they do...

It seems like Tom's career had already peaked when The British Bulldogs formed and Davey's still hadn't hit its apex yet. Already, drugs were a huge part of both men's lives. Like I said, I knew what was coming but the WWF run and the sad decline of the Dynamite Kid were still painful to read at times. People say the ambush by Jacques Rougeau was the beginning of the end for Dynamite but he was already sliding downhill before then.

Not surprising, Davey's story is also sad, sometimes sadder because Davey seems like he was a nice guy, not the hateful shithead the Dynamite Kid seemed to be a lot of the time. Drugs, injuries, drugs, injuries, and drugs did him in. He got to share the ring with his son, at least.

I really like that Bell ended the book with an account of Dynamite's sons trying to follow in his footsteps as the Billington Bulldogs. Always send the crowd home happy, as one huckster is wont to say.

I've read or heard the stories before but Steven Bell tells them well and sieves out a lot of the bullshit. Five out of five stars.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

The Call of Poothulhu

The Call of PoothulhuThe Call of Poothulhu by Neil Baker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Call of Poothulhu is a collection of ten dark Winnie the Pooh tales.

Since my son was born, I haven't taken on many ARCs. When Edward Erdelac mentioned this one on Facebook, I knew I had to message the publisher.

Reviewing a collection is tough but here we go. All the tales are well crafted. The first, The Celery at the Threshold, is even written in A.A. Milne's voice. The tales are of varying strengths of Lovecraftian flavor but most of them are pretty dark. A couple have little to no Lovecraftian elements. Some link the 100 Acre Wood to HPL's Dreamlands. Sometimes Eeyore is the one with knowledge of the Mythos, sometimes Owl, sometimes Piglet. Some feature Christopher Robin grown up. One even reminded me of Cabin in the Woods.

If I had to pick favorites, I'd probably go with The Celery at the Threshold by John Linwood Grant and The Very Black Goat by Christine Morgan. In a lot of ways, The Call of Poothulhu is the spiritual successor to Scream for Jeeves. Four out of five Small Elder Things.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, March 9, 2022


Locklands (The Founders Trilogy, #3)Locklands by Robert Jackson Bennett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

8 years have passed since Shorefall Night. The world has changed in horrific ways, but it has changed in tremendous ones as well. Tevanne has enslaved much of humanity by conquering cities and taking over the minds of countless victims. However humanity still lives. Sancia, Berenice, and Clef have saved many people and become the founders of the nation Giva. Crasedes Magnus also resists Tevanne's advances through the strength of his permissions over the world. The time has come that running and hiding are no longer options. Tevanne intends to reset existence entirely and appears to have the means to do so. Sancia, Berenice, and Clef must venture into the heart of Tevanne's territory to save their nation and humanity itself.

Locklands is a fascinating tragedy. I wasn't sure how the book would go after the vastly different first and second books. Foundryside felt tangible with a touch of incredible magic with scrivings, while Shorefall felt as though scrivings had the power to do anything at all. Locklands merges the two styles for a heart wrenching conclusion.

I really appreciated the character work done in the book. The power Valeria granted Sancia has been slowly stealing her life away, but she won't quit. She's strong and capable even in the face of insanity. Berenice is much the same while having to watch her wife waste away. Clef and Crasedes however stole the show. It was clear there was more to the talking key and his monstrous son, but I never imagined how much more there could be.

I was glad to see scriving continue to evolve even though the descriptions of scrivings in action grew tedious. Watching Giva's growth with scrivings made Crasedes and Tevanne feel more grounded. It wasn't as hard to imagine how the two beings could gain such strength. I wish we could have witnessed more of that in Shorefall because at the time Crasedes and Valeria felt completely unbelievable.

Locklands was a solid conclusion to the trilogy and I'm glad to have read it.

3.5 out of 5 stars

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

View all my reviews