Category Archives: Reviews

From Pawns to Kings, by Eugene Brown & Marco Price-Bey

I first heard of Eugene Brown when I saw the movie Life of a King, which stars Cuba Gooding Jr. I thought it was a powerful movie. I agree with Gooding, what Brown does is heroic.

Eugene Brown and his son Marco Price-Bey wrote From Pawns to Kings together. Some chapters were written by Eugene and some were written by Marco. We learn about Eugene’s childhood, his upbringing and how he turned to crime and drugs.

Marco’s followed in his father’s footsteps and they both spend a lot of time behind bars. But now they’re both free men and they’ve turned their lives around.

There’s a lot of wisdom in this book.

A Life In Parts, by Bryan Cranston

Bryan Cranston is best known for his role as Walter White on AMC’s Breaking Bad. In his book, A Life In Parts, Cranston recounts his life from childhood to his time after Breaking Bad. We learn about his struggles with anxiety and his pain, and we learn about his work.

Although Cranston didn’t actually say so in these words, I felt that many times he was saying the same thing I’ve been saying: “Do the best you can, hope for the best and see what happens.” It’s been kind of a motto for me.

Cranston didn’t expect he would be a success. He didn’t know Breaking Bad would be the hit that it was. He just gave it his all and look what happened.

Another thing I came away with is that people at the top of the ladder, no matter how much experience they have, they are often wrong. Directors and networks, and so on. The people who sit at the long tables and make the big decisions. There were times they didn’t feel Cranston was right for the role or that his work sucked. But he got the part because someone would believe in him and fight for him.

Once in the role, Cranston would prove the higher-ups wrong. This was the case with Breaking Bad and it was the case with Malcolm in the Middle. Cranston showed those who didn’t believe in him that he was the best man for the role.

I apply that to writing, and pretty much anything else too. Some editors might think your work is terrible, but other editors might disagree with them. In the past, I would feel that if one editor didn’t like my work, the work was shit and no one was going to want it. I threw away a lot of stories that were probably fine. These days I keep my work on the market until it sells, because editors ain’t always right, just like directors, networks and producers ain’t always right. Not even doctors are always right.

The message I get from Cranston’s book is, if you want it, work for it and you just might get  it.

Don’t give up.

Berlin Embassy, by William Russell

The first edition of Berlin Embassy was published on November 30, 1940. At the time, World War II had been going on for over a year and would continue for another five years. The Holocaust had not yet begun, but it was getting underway. Adolf Hitler had been in power for six years and Nazi Germany was well-established.

William Russell was an American diplomat who lived in Berlin from 1937 until 1940. He shares his experiences and observations. Germany was a nation divided by those who followed Hitler and those who did not.  As a diplomat, Russell interacted with people who knew Hitler personally and their accounts make Hitler out to be a self-worshipping, egoistic monster.

Russell also interacted with many common people, members of the Nazi Party and the Jewish.

Remember, the book was first published in 1940. William Russell died in 2000. Berlin Embassy was not intended to reflect what’s happening in the United States today and yet it might as well have been. There’s the same attitudes, just substitute the Muslims for the Jews. Propaganda is everywhere. Donald Trump has the same personality traits that Adolf Hitler had.

Does this mean the United States will take the same path Nazi Germany did? Let’s hope not.

Siege, by Gustavo Bondoni

In the far future, what’s left of the human race is hiding beneath the surface of Crystallia. They have remained undetected by their enemies for seventy-five years. When an Uploader craft lands on the moon not far from Crystallia, old fears resurface and the colony prepares for war against the more advanced enemy.

Gustavo Bondoni‘s Siege is a fun book. The characters are believable and the story is well-developed. I can see a possible spinoff from the epilogue and I wonder if Bondoni will make it happen.

On Writing, by Stephen King

I read Stephen King‘s On Writing twice before. The first time was probably in 2003 and the second time would have been in 2006. Now that I have more experience in the business of writing and have a better understanding of the things King talks about in On Writing , I decided to give it another read.

I approach my writing projects pretty much the same way Stephen King approaches his. Like King, I usually don’t draw up an outline before I begin work on a project. I like to start the story and let it go wherever it wants.

King repeats a few times in On Writing, “the story is the boss.” I agree with that. It works for me. Other writers might use outlines and steer their characters like cars, and it probably works fantastic for them. That’s fine. Whatever works for you is great.

There are other things that King and I agree on, like story morals (Sometimes there’s a moral, sometimes there’s not, and so what?) and symbols (If there happens to be symbols, they might be lifted, but if not, that’s fine.). Stories do not require morals and symbols to be good stories. Stephen King and I would agree, anyway.

I don’t agree with everything King says in this book, but a lot of it is pretty similar to my own practices and believes about writing. Unlike some other writers you might meet, King admits that he screws up sometimes and I appreciate that honesty.

On Writing is a good read and I recommend it to anyone who is struggling as a writer. There are many useful tips.

Okay, so that’s another book knocked off my to-read list. I had three more nonfiction titles lined up before I got to read some fiction again. But I’m tired of nonfiction and I want a break from it, so I moved Gustavo Bondoni’s Siege to the top of the list. I’ll start on that tomorrow.

Finding Fish, by Antwone Fisher

I haven’t blogged in over a week. Been failing to get to the end of my check list. I just finished reading Finding Fish, by Antwone Fisher, so here’s my review..

Finding Fish is nonfiction. Antwone Fisher tells the story of his life as a foster child in Cleveland. From a very young age and until his late teens, Antwone was fostered by a family that abused him and two other foster children in their care.

It’s a very emotional story. It brought tears to my eyes. Thank God for the United States Navy. The Navy not only gave Antwone a home when he’d finally left his foster parents, the Navy also helped him recover.

Lucky Number Slevin (2006)

So, a few days ago, I discovered Lucky Number Slevin on Netflix and have watched it three times since. It’s another badass movie. Stars Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Ben Kingsley, Josh Hartnett and Lucy Liu.

Slevin’s luck has gone bad. All in one day, Slevin loses his job, finds out his apartment building is condemned, he goes to his girlfriend’s place and finds her in bed with another man. So, he goes to stay with his friend, Nick, in another town and gets mugged along the way.

Get the picture? Slevin’s not having a good day. But it’s far from over. Slevin arrives to find Nick isn’t home, but since Nick was expecting him and the apartment door was open, Slevin goes in and gets himself cleaned up. That’s when things go from bad to worse.

Turns out, Nick owes two different gangsters a lot of money. Men show up at Nick’s apartment and find Slevin. They think Slevin is Nick. Since Slevin lost his wallet when he was mugged, he doesn’t have his I.D. to prove he’s not Nick.

The two gangsters that Nick owes money to are at war with each other. Because Nick owes them so much money, the gangsters decide that instead of having Slevin pay back what Nick owes, they want Slevin to kill for them.

It’s a fun movie and hilarious.

Echoes of a Dream, by Melissa J. Lytton

51jpxlklm3lWhile reading Melissa J. Lytton‘s Echoes of a Dream, I kept thinking that the prose rolls like it does in Walter Mosley’s Devil in a Blue Dress. They’re completely different stories; Mosley’s is a noir set in 1948 Los Angeles and Lytton’s is a science fiction set in the future. But I feel the writing is similiar in that it just takes you in. I don’t think “grabbed me and held me” is the right way to describe it. It’s more like you’re comfortably settled into the story and it’s a smooth ride.

Eric Hudd is a drug addict, though he has been clean for some time now. He has a job and his own place, and it seems his life is on a better path. But something is wrong. When Hudd accidentally kills a man, he’s not sure it really happened or not. Soon he finds out that the factory near the building he lives in has something going on that tampers with people’s dreams and realities. Hudd decides it needs to stop.

Lytton did an outstanding job creating this novel. Her character development and world building skills are excellent, and she has a keen sense of story.

Generation War

imageshol0lpq5Recently, I watched Generation War again. It’s German-made series about World War II. There are three episodes, each one lasts an hour and thirty minutes.

I think it’s a good picture, but there are a couple things that I don’t feel are accurate, most notably are the partisans in Poland being anti-Semitic. That put me off. I looked into it and found out that, yep, the Polish partisans were most definitely not anti-Semitic. They are credited for rescuing many Jews from the Holocaust.

But otherwise, I really enjoyed this series. First time I watched it was about a year ago. I watched it again a month ago.

Generation War is about five friends from Berlin. Two are brothers and they’re in the German army. One is a nurse, one becomes a singer. One is a Jewish man who attempts to flee Germany, but finds himself swept up in the Holocaust.

So, each of the five have their own story. They thought the war would be over by Christmas and they would all reunite at their bar in Berlin. But the war dragged on much longer.

Horns, by Joe Hill

514s2pnk3zlSo, I finished and reviewed Joe Hill‘s Heart-Shaped Box a few weeks ago. I believe Heart-Shaped Box is the first novel Hill published. Yesterday, I finished Hill’s second novel, Horns.

Heart-Shaped Box and Horns are two completely different stories, but both were deep in music. Judas Coyne, the rock star who bled all over the pages in Heart-Shaped Box is criticized by a character in Horns. I guess not everyone is impressed with Jude’s music.

I like when writers pull that trick, mention a character from a completely different, unconnected story. It makes that character feel more real, alive, and it makes me feel like I’m being reminded of an old friend.

Okay, so… Horns. It’s a rather strange story, dipped in dark fantasy. Ig Perrish wakes up after a night of drunken raging and discovers he has grown horns. Now everyone is telling him their darkest secrets. Because of this, Ig starts to hear the truth of what happened to his girlfriend, Merrin, a year ago.

As usual, a good read and entertaining, even though the story touches on a highly sensitive subject. Hill showed very clearly how brutal and ugly rape is. I was uncomfortable as I read the scene where it happened.