Subscribe to My Mailing List for a free book of your choice!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Joyland by Stephen King | Book Review


I loved this book. It made me cry three times. Twice out of joy for a character, and once out of sadness. It's hard to describe why this book is so good because from a plot perspective, there's not much there you haven't seen before. I didn't see everything coming before it happened but there was plenty I predicted. But it was still so good!

I guess I would say that it's a book that pulls you into its world right alongside the protagonist and when you finish reading it you feel like you're still there - and you want to go back. As with most Stephen King books the characters were so good in this book. This was an intimate book. You're very much with the main character the whole time. It's told in first person of course which lends itself to this kind of coming of age story. In a lot of ways this story can be described like many other stories, but it was much different than anything I've read before. It was slow moving in a way, but never boring. I was always enjoying what was going on in the book even when it was just the character getting a job at the theme park and finding a place to live. There weren't that many locations in the book either, but that was a cool part of the story. You got to know these places. Joyland is the obvious one, but I felt like I was sitting at the window looking out at the water on the second story in the little room with the main character when he pondered on his life. I could hear the ocean when he walked along the shoreline. I could smell the park Joyland as the character walked down it's decorative streets.

This was a really well told story with characters I loved, locations I grew to love, and a main character I really enjoyed hanging out with. Devin is one cool dude.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien | Book Review

The things they carried was a great book. I read it back in high school but remember none of it. I think I would have liked it back then too, but I simply can't remember feeling one way or another about it. Maybe it was even a book others read while I read For Whom the Bell Tolls or some other war novel.

I read by listening to the audio book. It's narrated by Brian Cranston, which is the real reason I picked this book up. He did an fantastic job narrating it. That man can tell a story, and his gritty voice was perfect for this book. He did a fine job with the different characters too.

At first I thought this book was pure fiction and so I didn't like it because it just kept listing off "The Things They Carried." Then I saw that it was a bit of a memoir or autobiography, and a bit fictional stories drawn heavily from real things that the author or one of his friends went through.

This book is valuable to America as it shows a slice of what it was like for some soldiers to go to war in Vietnam. There is startling imagery in this book. Many times you see it through the eyes of the soldiers who sometimes make light of things like corpses just so they can get by.

There were great descriptions of what the soldiers went through and though the book is comprised of many short stories, it's kind of tied together with on long narrative of Tim's time at war as well. It also cuts to him going back as a Father with his daughter and visiting Vietnam to the sites where he saw atrocities.

If you want to know what it was like for many soldiers in Vietnam I highly recommend this book. It was a great read and one that I'm not ashamed high schoolers have to read because they'll learn history and I think enjoy it.

The last thing I'll comment on is the writing itself. Yes these stories are important and should be read - but besides that Tim O'Brien is a great writer. He knows his way around words and pushes them into place in a way that really makes the stories shine. You can see, hear, sometimes even smell the experiences he's describing - and his prose is really a joy to read. Great book.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The XJ7 Experiment: Hostile Grey Aliens
A New Audiobook I Narrated and Produced is Live!

I had the pleasure to narrate and produce The XJ7 Experiment for Drac Von Stoller. It was an absolute blast. This audiobook was a very different animal. While it was very short, there was a lot of production involved because the author requires that his stories have sound effects to enhance his audio books. I love producing these kinds of stories in audio! Although this is another Science Fiction story for me, it's also my first horror book. It gets pretty gruesome and the sound effects only add to the intense scenes. Have a listen to the sample, and hey why not support a couple indie guys and buy it to hear the rest. It's only $3.95 and although it's short - it really packs a punch. The two of us have partnered up again on another one of his stories called Airpocalypse that I'm really excited about. It really shines in audio and I can't wait for you to hear it. It's another one with sound effects and will be one of those audiobooks you'll want to listen to in a quiet place with really nice headphones on so you can hear all of the intricacies and texture of the sound. That one should be out in just a couple weeks and I'll be sure to post about it when it goes live. Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Nerd's Guide to Being Confident by Mark Manson | Book Review

First off, I chose this book among several others about sappy love stuff because Audible was cool enough to give me the pick of a free audiobook for Valentines Day. Most of them were love stories which I'm not really the target audience for but I am a nerd so I figured I'd choose this book. Turns out I wasn't the target audience for this book either, especially since I'm a Christian, but hey, it was free so I read it.

There were a few good things in this book that I gleaned from it but most of it wasn't for me. It was well written, though I think it was just a bunch of blog posts made into a book. You can tell but it lends itself well as the tone is less formal and made for a nice authorial voice has. That said it was a very hard book for me to read as a Christian. Several times it goes off the rails and in subtle and not subtle ways just bashes Christianity. It gets into a lot of Eastern religion stuff and pscycology with I very much disagree with, but like I said I got a few good things out of this short book. Here are some of them.

There were a lot of cool statistics and studies that showed me just how privelaged I am and how I should always try and be thankful instead of complaining. If you went to college you are part of the lucky 7% worldwide elite. You're unlikely to live at a subsistance level like almost 60% of the world population, or to be starving like 25% of people in the world. That kind of stops and makes you think. One thing that stood out to me was when it said:
"For decades research has tied gratefulness and appreciation to happiness. People who are happier tend to be more grateful and appreciative for what they have. But what they've also found is that is also works the other way aroud. Consciously practicing gratitude makes one happier. It makes one appreciate what one has, and helps one to remain in the present moment. Practicing gratitude leads to increasing accountability which directly leads to higher self esteem and happiness, not to mention it makes one more pleasant to be around and creates a more magnetic personality."
and
"Choose to be greatful. Remember who it could be worse. It could always be worse."
Those were things I was happy to hear in a book about confidence. The author made some good points. Okay now for some of the stuff I didn't care for.

Much of the rest of the book was about loving yourself first and condoning sex outside of marriage as a great thing. Those are two things I completely disagree with. I didn't like hearing about them or the reasoning behind why they're good. If you're a Christian I would not recommend this book. If you're looking to find confidence, read bible stories about men like King David. Check out the book of 1 Samuel chapter 30 where in verse 6 it says this:

Image by Jason Engle: http://www.jaestudio.com/
"6 David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the Lord his God."

I don't know about you, but if I heard an army of men talking about stoning me, I think I'd get a little weak in the knees. David knew, however, that you don't go inward and love yourself first etc. to gain confidence, you get it from a greater power outside of yourself and for me that's God. Okay I'll get off my soapbox now. Thanks for stopping by! Next review is a book I really enjoyed: The Things They Carried by Tim O'brien read by Brian Cranston.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

LOTR Haiku | The Fellowship of the Rings, Chapter 20


My friend Laith Preston, who has guest blogged here a couple times, asked if I'd like to participate in a really cool project he has going on his website. He previously posted a haiku for each chapter of The Hobbit, written by himself and others, and called it Hobbit Haiku. This time around he's doing The Fellowship of the Ring and has again invited other writers to pick a chapter and write their own haiku for it. I've done others and the final chapter I chose was twenty, Farewell to Lórien. Here is my haiku: 
Farewell to Lórien

Cloaks given from elves.
In boats down the Great River.
Gifts; elf bread and more.
Now go to Laith's post and check out the rest of them! Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Music, Writing, and Inspiration

Music used to be a big part of my life. It was THE creative passion of my life much like writing and audiobooks seem to be now. I listen to audiobooks so much now that it doesn't leave much time for music, but every once in a while I'll just spend my entire hour commute to work with some music cranked, belting it out along with the band. I used to play in rock bands, punk rock in high school and heavy metal after college. I gave that all up once I got married so I could spend all my time with my wife and now family. I figured I'd shift my creative output from hours of band practice and playing shows to quiet hours I could snatch here and there typing away at a keyboard. A transition from the loud and assaulting sounds of cranked electric guitars screaming from half stacks to the calm clacking of keys under soft fingertips. I really miss playing music, but I'm having a blast writing and narrating audiobooks now and there will always be music. Someday, especially now that I have a great microphone for it, I want to record an acoustic album of songs I've written. You can hear a few crappy recordings of them on my Myspace page.


Anyways, all that said I originally just wanted to post a video of my favorite band Thrice playing a live show because they are so good. I got an iTunes gift card and used it to buy their last album Major/Minor, recently they ended their career as a band but the singer Dustin Kensrue is still making music. Check out his latest single:



Pretty amazing music if you ask me. It inspires me to make my own music the way reading a great book or listening to an amazing audiobook inspires me to want to write and record. So be inspired! Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

LOTR Haiku | The Fellowship of the Rings, Chapter 13


My friend Laith Preston, who has guest blogged here a couple times, asked if I'd like to participate in a really cool project he has going on his website. He previously posted a haiku for each chapter of The Hobbit, written by himself and others, and called it Hobbit Haiku. This time around he's doing The Fellowship of the Ring and has again invited other writers to pick a chapter and write their own haiku for it. I chose chapter thirteen, Many Meetings. Here is my haiku: 
Many Meetings

A needed long rest.
Old friends met, new ones are made.
Elves and dwarves from old.
Now go to Laith's post and check out the rest of them! Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Green Mile by Stephen King | Book Review

I really liked this book. It was great from start to finish. I listened to the audiobook which was masterfully narrated by the late great Frank Muller. He's the king and when he reads King magic happens in your earphones. Whenever I find myself typing these words: I was never bored, I know that I'm reviewing a book I'll cherish and probably read again someday because it is that good. If you just think about it for a second, it wouldn't be easy to write a story about a death row section of a jail with characters that you fall in love with. I mean really? A bunch of jailers as the heroes of the story? But it works so well. John Coffey is a character you'll never forget if you read this book. Characterization. That's where I think Stephen King shines and why he is one of the best writers of fiction of our time. He writes characters you feel for. You worry about. You love getting to know. You understand. They become like your friends even though in most cases, at least for me, they would never be your friends in real life.

This story had terror and it had heart. I'm not a big fan of horror and believe me there are some gruesome scenes in this book, much more so than the movie if you've seen it, but most of it is real heart. You really root for characters and love to hate others. The characters stand out so well from each other. They're each their own person, not just stand ins to fill out the story because it requires them. I could read on about other times in the lives of every one of the characters in this book they were all that interesting and real to me.



I'd seen the movie a couple times long ago before having read the book, but it in no way ruined anything for me because the book was so much better. Ever since I saw the movie I've been saying "I should read the book," and now I finally have. I really liked the movie and think they did an outstanding job at telling the tale but you just can't get as down deep into the characters in a movie as you can in a book. I keep saying book, but I learned in the forward that this was actually a story that Stephen King wrote and published serially in installments instead of as a complete novel. I wouldn't have been able to tell that just as I can't tell when I read a Charles Dickens novel which is partly where Stephen King got the inspiration to write in such a way. But it makes the story that much more impressive.

Stephen King is not a plotter or outliner. He's a seat of the pants writer as they call it. He just sits down and writes the story as it comes to him, discovering it as he writes it. I don't think most writers can do this and craft as fine of a tale as Mr. King can. I also think the skill of writing with no outline helped him to succeed so tremendously in writing it serially. It makes it much harder to write - even compared to writing it without an outline but then not being able to say go back and rewrite parts in the beginning of the story to make later parts make sense. You know what they say writing is rewriting. I'm sure he rewrote and had the parts he was working on edited before publishing them, but it makes this book all the more impressive still that he couldn't go back and fix things after the fact. I wonder how many drafts he wrote of each section before it was published as the next installment.

I wouldn't be surprised if I revisit this story as I have with Stephen King's "The Body," which is probably my favorite book. The story really was that good. It held onto me the whole time. Instead of looking to see how far along I was until the end I didn't even notice how many chapters had gone by and only wanted there to be more story so I wouldn't have to stop hanging out with the characters in this book. Five stars without question!

Links:
The Green Mile on Amazon
Stephen King's Website

Saturday, February 8, 2014

LOTR Haiku | The Fellowship of the Rings, Chapter 8


My friend Laith Preston, who has guest blogged here a couple times, asked if I'd like to participate in a really cool project he has going on his website. He previously posted a haiku for each chapter of The Hobbit, written by himself and others, and called it Hobbit Haiku. This time around he's doing The Fellowship of the Ring and has again invited other writers to pick a chapter and write their own haiku for it. I chose chapter eight, Fog on the Barrow-downs. Here is my haiku: 
Fog on the Barrow-downs

Through the barrow downs.
Imprisoned by Barrow-wights.
Tom saves, new daggers.
Now go to Laith's post and check out the rest of them! Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

LOTR Haiku | The Fellowship of the Rings, Chapter 6


My friend Laith Preston, who has guest blogged here a couple times, asked if I'd like to participate in a really cool project he has going on his website. He previously posted a haiku for each chapter of The Hobbit, written by himself and others, and called it Hobbit Haiku. This time around he's doing The Fellowship of the Ring and has again invited other writers to pick a chapter and write their own haiku for it. I chose chapter six, The Old Forest. Here is my haiku: 
The Old Forest

The Old Forest, lost.
Old Man Willow traps hobbits.
Tom Bombadil saves.
Now go to Laith's post and check out the rest of them! Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Free Fantasy Fiction by Michael J. Sullivan FREE in audio!

Have you read author Michael J. Sullivan's awesome and super fun Riyria Revelations fantasy series? If not you are in for a treat. Epic fantasy that's more fun. Think of most epic fantasy novels as things you need to wade into, thick jungles with so much going on that you have to stop to check the notes on names and places in the back of the book every once in a while just to remind yourself what's going on. Well Michael wrote a beautiful complex world with rich characters, but he eases you into it. By the last book you'll look back and think how did all of this happen? I was just having a blast reading!

Michael planned the whole series before writing it so that it could become gradually more complex and he set out to have each book kind of one up the previous one. It's great stuff and I highly recommend his work. That said, if you want to dip your toes into his work for free then you're in luck! His short story with the two main character from his series called The Jester is available for free in audio over at Audible. Check out Michael's post about it to get all the cool details. You can also get another short story set in his world for free as an eBook called The Viscount and the Witch. So there you go, some fantastic free fantasy fiction for you both in eBook and audiobook formats from Michael J. Sullivan. Enjoy!