An interesting if flawed bio on the Stones, not that the Stones need another bio. Told from the perspective of 50 songs from their vast catalogue, Roc...moreAn interesting if flawed bio on the Stones, not that the Stones need another bio. Told from the perspective of 50 songs from their vast catalogue, Rocks Off chronicles the band's humble beginnings to their status as rock n' roll monsters and elder statesmen. Each song, from "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" to "Sympathy to the Devil" to "Wild Horses" to "Start Me Up" document both the song creation process and where the band was at the time, especially the often stormy yet fruitful relationship between Mick and Keith.
If anything, Rocks Off suffers greatly from overkill. 50 songs seems a lot of songs to cover the band's illustrious career. Honestly, there are a lot of stinkers in this book that are given too much thought over. Essays on "The West Coast Over-Assistant Man" and any song after 1981's "Tattoo You" are pretty much forgettable. Conversely, the Mick Taylor years, covering 3 of the Stones' greatest albums, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street aren't given as much consideration as they greatly deserve. A scant 100 of the nearly 400 pages, in fact. Exile only merits four songs. Unacceptable.
Still, it's a commendable effort from Bill Janovitz, the former Buffalo Tom frontman and unabashed Stone fan. His book is impeccably researched, and it's lovingly written, but its focus is all over the place, when it really merits its focus on a specific core of songs.
Published in 1953,Casino Royale marks the introduction of one of the most enduring pop culture characters of the past halfh-centu...more"Bond...James Bond."
Published in 1953,Casino Royale marks the introduction of one of the most enduring pop culture characters of the past halfh-century (and, by the looks of it, this century as well), as well as the emergence of perhaps the finest author of the spy thriller, Ian Fleming.
Casino Royale takes us back to the height of the Cold War, when the counterintelligence agencies of Western and Soviet governments waged a nasty battle of one-upmanship against each other. Having been a survivor of the earliest skirmishes of the Cold War, Fleming does a masterful job of painting the scene, of parlaying the importance of giving the enemy false information, and being on a completely heightened state of awareness that danger always lurked around the corner. In creating James Bond, the Double O agent with a license to kill, Fleming sows the seeds of not just one of the great heroes of literature, but possibly one of its greatest anti-heroes: Bond is a charming sociopath, quick witted, refined, ruthless, callous, misogynistic, and ready to kill at a moment's notice. It's only when Bond survives the most gruesome torture that his hardened heart turns sentimental, and the callous misogynist learns to fall in love. Enter Vesper Lynd, of Section S, a gorgeous, raven-haired beauty sent by M to assist Bond in his mission to bring down "Le Chiffre," a dangerous SMERSH (KGB counterintelligence) operative with a lust for violence and a weakness for gambling.
The novel centers around the ongoings at the title location, a ritzy hotel in Paris, where Le Chiffre holds court at Casino Royale, blowing millions of francs. MI6 (British Intelligence) and the CIA would love nothing more than to see Le Chiffre lose every penny, and have SMERSH put a bullet in him so as to spare them the embarrassment of a Soviet agent engaging in decadent excesses. James Bond, a master cardsharp at baccarat, is sent with a cache of millions to try his luck against Le Chiffre and bankrupt him.
But Bond's enemies are on to him - Le Chiffre's two goons have made him - and 007 survives a bomb blast by mere seconds. Worse yet, his luck at baccarat may be running out. Can Bond draw the right cards to bankrupt Le Chiffre, or lose millions and bankroll Le Chiffre's counterintelligence activities?
The bulk of the novel takes place during the baccarat game, and while it's not important to know how the card game is played, Fleming keeps the pace going at a brisk tempo with the right blend of exposition (he explains the rules of baccarat without slowing the story down) and tension (there's an attempt made on 007's life during the game that's pulse-pounding).
At less that 200 pages, Casino Royale moves along very quickly, even when the novel falls into sentimentality, when Bond loses his hardened edge and falls madly for the vexing Vesper Lynd. The action is fast and furious, and while Casino Royale doesn't contain a lot of the brutish violence that would later become a trademark of the Bond novels and films, there's still enough action to satisfy the action junkie in everyone.
The triumph of Casino Royale is Ian Fleming's prose, taut, yet sprinkled with passages that are both flowery and prosaic. Fleming balances the two worlds Bond lives in, the refined, elegant world of Bentleys and expensive champagne and Beluga caviar, and the gritty, savage world of being a government assassin with a possible short life span. Fleming's Bond at first isn't as assured as we'd come to expect, but the final page, when we begin to see Bond not as James Bond but as 007, suggests a man becoming comfortable, perhaps too comfortable, with the brutal nature of his nasty industry.(less)
I'm done with books on writing craft, but I'll read anything Chuck Wendig has to say. This collection of foul-mouthed yet soul-nourishing essays may o...moreI'm done with books on writing craft, but I'll read anything Chuck Wendig has to say. This collection of foul-mouthed yet soul-nourishing essays may or may not improve your writing style, but they'll constantly serve to remind you that you want to write, goddamn it, so here's how you fucking get to get at it.
If you're reading Chuck's blogs at Terrible Minds, then you're already familiar with his essays.(less)
Every once in a while, there comes a tome that takes into consideration the darkest recesses where people dwell when they feel they've been wronged. L...moreEvery once in a while, there comes a tome that takes into consideration the darkest recesses where people dwell when they feel they've been wronged. Let's not mistake The Goodreads Killer for Crime and Punishment, but we can take it for what it is: a taut, hilarious satire that dares to ask if revenge against a reviewer who penned a terrible review of your book is indeed sweet.
Self-published author Thomas Ultorem is at his wit's end: he's failing as a writer, even as he churns out fiction after fiction. His work keeps getting rejected by online reviewers, specifically one Goodreads reviewer, who suggests that pigs write better than this. Into his life comes Mr. Pasco, a mystery man who presents Thomas with a once-in-a-lifetime offer: the chance to murder the Goodreads review who has tormented him for so long. That reviewer must pay for his insolence!
Crazy, huh? Yup, bat-shit crazy, and I enjoyed this.
Clocking in at just under 60 pages, Dave Franklin manages to take the piss out of Goodreads, bad reviewes, Authors Behaving Badly, self-publishing, fan fiction, U2, and one very kinky and hyper-literate sex kitten. It's a breezy, violent satirical romp, and if you're one who prefers their literature soaked with a very dark sense of humor, The Goodreads Killer is worth your read. (less)
Like a lot of "how-to-write" books, The Plot Whisperer is a well-written and well-intention book that breaks down the fundamentals of story structure....moreLike a lot of "how-to-write" books, The Plot Whisperer is a well-written and well-intention book that breaks down the fundamentals of story structure. But the age-old adage of the road to hell is paved with good intentions applies at times to this book. Martha Alderson bombards you with a lot of hacky New Age-jargon and an overly strict, overly reliant emphasis on story structure that feels more like work than actual writing.
There's nothing really wrong with this book, per se. It's simply overwhelming at times. I admire Martha Alderson for what she's accomplished and what she's taking on her, but she does come across as an overly-talky guru that spends way too much time talking theory, and not enough time getting you, the writer, to do the practical nuts-and-bolts things that make you a better writer. It's like the hitting coach that spends hours and hours and hours talking theory, and tinkering and tinkering and tinkering with your swing. Your head is filled with all kinds of ideas that are pulling you into a thousand directions, which is bad, and your mechanics are totally off. Sometimes, all you need to know is "see the ball, hit the ball."
Okay, forgive the baseball analogy.
My point is, sometimes, you just need to write the damn thing. If The Plot Whisperer helped you (and I did glean some tips), then three cheers for Martha Alderson. But a lot of writers would be better served if this book didn't come across as something akin to the manual to an air conditioner.(less)
The Stones' 1969 American tour, as seen through one of the few journalists embedded with the band at the time. In this Kindle Single, Michael Lydon re...moreThe Stones' 1969 American tour, as seen through one of the few journalists embedded with the band at the time. In this Kindle Single, Michael Lydon recalls the chaos and thrill of the Stones' first full-length tour of larger arenas and stadiums across the States. He doesn't really offer anything new in terms of insight, nothing that hasn't been written about countlessly by now. But his final word on the clusterfuck that was Altamont is worth reading.(less)
Think of the sports rivalries you know: Ohio State-Michigan; Duke-North Carolina; Yankees-Red Sox. All rivalries that have written chapter after chapt...moreThink of the sports rivalries you know: Ohio State-Michigan; Duke-North Carolina; Yankees-Red Sox. All rivalries that have written chapter after chapter into the history books, and will continue to write chapters. All of which continue to inspire passionate debate.
None of which hold a candle to the rivalry that is Real Madrid versus Barcelona, the sporting world's premier rivalry. In Elliott Turner's concise history of the first 100 years of the Spanish soccer giants' rivalry, he discusses the social, political, and economic aspects that defined both the rivalry and the teams individually. At its core, the rivalry speaks of a division, both real and imagined, that exists between Castilian Spain (as represented by Real Madrid) and Catalonia (represented by Barcelona). It's a rivalry defined by identity and by power struggle, and Turner does an excellent job of painting the picture, and introducing the characters - the legends on the pitch (DiStefano, Kubala, Cruyff, Raul) and in the board room (Santiago Bernabeu plays a massive part in this rivalry) - that came to define their teams and the rivalry.
At less than 150 pages, The Making of a Rivalry does suffer from being too short. There's a sense that Turner is rushing through the history of this rivalry, and perhaps that's by design. This great rivalry does deserve far greater coverage, and other books have been written on such a topic; Turner is keenly aware of that, and simply adds his objective take on it, even if he does reveal his Real Madrid loyalties in the introduction to the book.
One final note: because the book discusses the first 100 years of the rivalry, it does end at the dawn of the 21st century. Therefore, the most compelling, and most heavily publicized era of both the rivalry and the respective teams is left out of the book. The era of Los Galacticos (Zidane, Ronaldo, Figo, Beckham, and Roberto Carlos, to name a few) at Real Madrid; Pep Guardiola and the transformation of Barca into a feared yet beloved juggernaut; the rise of Lionel Messi into the greatest player seen in several generations; and the rivalry gets heated - the war of words between Guardiola and RM's Jose Mourinho - and goes global. Millions of words have already been written on such. An objective overview of this brilliant, caustic, and controversial era must wait. And surely Elliott Turner will pen those words.(less)
Not quite his best novel, but definitely his most personal. This was written for everyone who's experienced the joys and terrors of childhood.
I shoul...moreNot quite his best novel, but definitely his most personal. This was written for everyone who's experienced the joys and terrors of childhood.
I should write a better review, and this book deserves one, but my short words will have to do. If you've read Gaiman before, you won't be disappointed in the least bit. In fact, you may be struck by how deeply personal "The Ocean at the End of the Lane" truly is. Highly recommended.(less)
A sweaty, delirious, bare-knuckled, filthy, badassed, shit-stirrer of a dirty boot across your stupid neck of a brilliant novel that'll leave you exhi...moreA sweaty, delirious, bare-knuckled, filthy, badassed, shit-stirrer of a dirty boot across your stupid neck of a brilliant novel that'll leave you exhilarated and thirsty for a bracing shot of Old Grand Dad. Donnybrook announces the arrival of Frank Bill as a writer worthy not just of the praise for the likes of Chuck Palahniuk and Daniel Woodrell, but for the praise of that singular poetic chronicler of mankind's depravity, Cormac McCarthy himself.
If this doesn't make Frank Bill a star, he'll probably beat the shit out of you. Be warned.(less)