Listen to my latest short story "Cue Bull"

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Flypaper Boy: Coming of Age by Philip Carroll | Book Review

Flypaper Boy is someone you'll grow to love. He's a great character that was really fun to root for as the story unfolded. I know, it sounds like he's a superhero with cheesy powers right? And he is, at first. As you read this, as titled, coming of age story it stretches out with the character into much more than you might be expecting from this book. I'm not going to give anything away in this review, but the story grows with the protagonist and reaches out into some very cool places.

I have a soft spot for coming of age books. They tend to be my favorite. I think that's because in a good book the main character goes through a big change and what change suits a life more than transitioning from a kid to an adult? Right off the bat you start with a great hook. Here's the opening line:
Jimmy lay in a car, probably in the trunk, his head resting against what felt like the wheel well, and his arms secured behind him.
The author Philip Carroll wastes no time easing you into the story world but instead leads with the inciting incident flinging you into action right as the story begins. You get some great breathing time after that as the character deals with his new and strange environment. The back story is sprinkled through so you get to know more about Jimmy as you see him begin to learn new things and grow as a person. You're not sure where the story is going to go and it seems like the protagonist is going to be stuck in his new home forever, then everything changes. As you're launched into act two you discover a whole new world with the main character. I don't want to give it away but if you look at the cover art, which I created by the way, there are clues. Jimmy makes new friends and some pretty bad enemies.

I was really engaged during the action scenes in this book and there were many. They became more fun and intense as Jimmy learns how to use his powers. The relationships between the characters were very important in this book too. It does a good job dealing with teenage love with the hormones and feelings teens have treated realistically and yet there are no inappropriate scenes. It doesn't ignore the tension felt between the male and female characters and there are some intimate scenes but never more than kissing. I appreciated that and it makes this book that much more appealing for parents to get this book for their kids. This was a great book for me, a guy in his early 30s, and it will be a great book for teenagers too. The main character goes through a lot of the stuff they're going through and if they're like me when I was a teenager the fact that this book has a character with super powers will really draw them in. Most dads like super heroes so they'll like it too just as I did.

There were a lot of characters in this book and I loved them all. In the case of the bad guys I loved to hate them. I liked how this book about teenagers was not void of adults. There were a lot of adult characters too and while most weren't main characters they still played a critical role in the life of the protagonist. I appreciated that too and I think most parents will be happy to read a story that is all about the teens but the adults aren't bumbling idiots who get in the way. More like real life they're there to offer help and advice when the teens are dealing with stuff. Grab this book for yourself and then buy a copy for a teenager you know. You and they will really dig it. I know I did.

Get the book at Amazon in paperback and Kindle.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Shipwreck on Shadow World by David R Beshears
Book Review

This book was an awesome adventure. A series of events unfolded that took me to strange places where I got to meet some very interesting characters. The main character Jim is on his way to see his family when his ship crashes onto a lonely planet. No one is there to accompany him, but as he begins to look for a way to survive he meets some strange creatures.

I really liked the way Beshears described the landscape and the way he painted an image of the two  suns of the planet in detail. It was some great writing. You don't get bogged down in the details though; they just enrich the story which is one great adventure. It starts a little slow but in a good way that helps you feel the way the main character does. He is desperate and lost on an alien planet just trying to survive by finding food and shelter.

There were some superb similes used in this book, and I love a good simile. I remember two tunnels next to each other being described as black empty eye sockets. That was a great and creepy image that added to the tension of the scene. Just the touch you needed as a reader to get you feeling the way the character was. The author does a good job building the atmosphere of the strange world the characters explorer. The alien creatures were described in a way that made them easy to picture and somewhat terrifying. Much different than anything we know here on Earth.

The last thing I'll hit on is that I listened to the audiobook version of this story. It was well produced. The narrator Benjamin Isaac Armstrong has a pleasant deep voice. He speaks clearly and his voice is easy to follow and understand. That is what's most important in an audiobook. Now here's where I'll get nitpicky. For my tastes I found his style a bit hard to get into. He over enunciates words in my opinion and his reading was a bit flat missing that dramatic sing song rhythm I've come to love from other narrators. That said he did a great job and if you go check out the sample I'm sure you'll love his voice. I'm probably just a bit of an audiobook snob being an avid longtime listener and a narrator myself.

Whether in paper, eBook, or audiobook you'll enjoy the adventure with Jim and his interesting companions and adversaries.

Get the book:

Paper & eBook at Amazon
Audiobook at Audible

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Moneymaker Effect by Eric Raskin

This isn't a topic we tend to cover on Dan Dan the Art Man's Book Reviews but it’s an interesting book in the respect that it documents how one man single handedly changed the landscape of poker in one foul swoop. Not only did he manage to change the dynamics of poker forever, he also enthused a whole nation with the belief that anything in this world is possible.

In 2003, Chris Moneymaker, a Tennessee resident won a place on the World Series of Poker Event via an Internet qualifying tournament – a qualifying system that had only just been devised. Through this mode of qualification, Chris Moneymaker, a virtual unknown in the poker world, went on to win a World Series Bracelet for the first time in the sport’s history. To this day, it remains the most important moment in poker history. As Moneymaker reveled in the fame and fortune of such a surprising victory against some of the world’s best professionals, the ripple it sent across the sport was phenomenal. For the first time in the sport’s history it was now gaining mainstream coverage, ESPN was once more screening the WSOP and the world of online poker became huge business.

It wasn’t until the 10th anniversary of the so-called ‘Moneymaker Effect’ – the moniker that was pegged on Chris Moneymaker’s WSOP triumph – that a comprehensive book was written about this dynamic shift in poker. Writer Eric Rankin was a journalist for Grantland at the time when he approached his editors about covering the monumental feat. After the article ‘When We Held Kings’ went down with his readership so well, he then went on to find a publishing company, in the form of Huffington Press, to publish his full version of the accounts that happened in 2003.

Not since the rather influential ‘Positively Fifth Street’ by Jim McManus had a book on poker so charmingly told the story of a rags to riches narrative in the way the Raskin captures the seismic shift in the poker world. Raskin enlists the likes of fellow poker luminaries Phil Hellmuth, Phil Ivery and Dan Harrington to add their thoughts to the proceedings. They voice their points on the influence that the “Moneymaker Effect” had on the sport, the uprising of online poker, with the catalyst being the first online poker since launched in the late 90s through InterCasino and the belief invested in your average Joe that anything is possible if you pursue your dream.

'The Moneymaker Effect’ epitomizes everything the ‘American Dream’ stands for and ultimately was the catalyst that made poker so popular. Even if you aren’t familiar with the mechanics of poker, or not particularly interested in the sport, Raskin’s detailed account of what happened on that monumental day makes for an enthralling read.

Contributed article by Ethan Moore, a self confessed poker and sports enthusiast.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Dan Dan The Art Man's Book Reviews | Episode 9
Virgin River by Robyn Carr

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In this ninth episode I tackle Virgin River Robyn Carr - my very first romance novel. Guess what? I actually liked it! Listen to hear why a guy who prefers action scenes, cool science fiction technology, or richly imagined fantasy stories liked a fun heart felt romance novel.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: 

Virgin River Written by: Robyn Carr Narrated by: Therese Plummer

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Settlers by Jason Gurley | Book Review

This was a cool book. Jason Gurley is a good writer. The ideas in this book are awesome. You will probably really like this book. So why did I give it 3/5 stars?

The narrative of the book felt disjointed to me. It was like reading a bunch of short stories that all took place in the same story world, and then parts of those short stories were broken up and shuffled around with other parts from other short stories. You might love the author's approach, but I found it hard to get to know the characters when the story would shift so often to another set of characters. Like I said the ideas in this book are really cool and actually sucked me right in from the start. When I read the first few chapters of this book I was hooked right away. Then I was forced to hop around between different narratives and I just kept waiting for them to become more connected by the end. I think if this book was simply reorganized a bit by shifting parts of the story around so they're more connected I would have given it 4/5 stars.

I get that this novel tackles a huge idea of people having to leave earth which calls for maybe more than one narrative, but I would have much preferred the stories to be more connected by the end of the book. The stories themselves were good and I enjoyed them, I just kept wondering why the author suddenly switched to a different set of characters. I never felt grounded in the story.

All that to say you might love the way this book was written, and Gurley is a talented writer. He has cool ideas and writes well. Maybe it's just me. A lot of people loved the book World War Z which has several accounts of different characters dealing with a huge event and that book didn't appeal to me either. I'm thinking this is more of a personal preference of storytelling style than that this book isn't a great read. For me it was at times a good read, but overall I felt like I was getting thrown all over the place as a reader.

So before I end this review I have to mention the audiobook. Listening to it is how I read the book. Maria Hunter Welles did an amazing job narrating the novel. She came up with great voices for the different characters and did a fantastic job delivering the lines of dialog. Her voice is just so genuine even while reading the narrator lines that you feel like she's sitting across from you at the bar telling you a great story. She's a real talent and I would jump at the chance to listen to another audiobook she has narrated. I think her performance made this book one I enjoyed much more than I would have if I were reading it in paperback or eBook format.

I'll end by saying that I would read another book by Jason Gurley. When he was focused on one set of characters for an extended part of the story he did a great job. It looks like he's written a lot of books too so I'm sure another one of his titles will find it's way onto my phone from either the Kindle store or as an audiobook from Audible.

Get the book:
Available at Amazon in Kindle eBook, paperback, and audiobook.
The audiobook is also available at Audible.