Category Archives: Reviews

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.

Glory Road (2006)

51kaepxgrrl__sy445_The other night, I watched Glory Road on Netflix. It’s another one of those historic sport movies. This one is about the 1966 NCAA Basketball Championship team.

Don Haskins is hired to coach basketball at Texas Western, a small college in El Paso. Haskins goes  out and recruits black players from different states, such as Indiana, Michigan and New York.

This is 1966 and in the south. Although some NCAA teams had a token black player or two, the black players were not given much time on the court. I guess Don Haskins’s 1966 team was the first NCAA team where the majority of the players were black and they were given the most time on the court.

A good movie. I paused it several times to look up something mentioned, so I would know more about it.

Heart-Shaped Box, by Joe Hill

510wu8jwz-l__sx330_bo1204203200_It’s hard to read Joe Hill‘s Heart-Shaped Box without thinking about the Nirvana song with the same name, but I suspect that’s what Hill intended. This book mentions several rock stars and bands. Hell, the lead character’s dogs are named after Bon Scott and Angus Young. It’s a horror novel that pays homage to rock ‘n’ roll.

Heart-Shaped Box is the first Joe Hill book I’ve read. I have to say, Joe Hill is just as talented as his dad. Their styles are pretty similar, a lot of free flowing wordage that keeps the reader engaged.

Jude Coyne is a rock star, though he hasn’t recorded anything in the last few years. He’s living in a farmhouse in New York with his girlfriend, Georgia.

Jude has a dark hobby. He collects occult items, like a skull, a noose that was used to hang a man, a witch’s signed confession, things like that. When Danny. Jude’s assistant, tells him that someone is selling a ghost online, Jude decides to buy it even though he thinks it’s a joke.

But the ghost arrives. Jude finds out that the ghost is the stepfather of his former girlfriend. The ghost wants Jude dead and anyone who tries to help him.