Sunday, December 30, 2018

Brutus Beefcake: Struttin' & Cuttin'

Brutus Beefcake: Struttin' & Cuttin' - Official Autobiography (eBook)Brutus Beefcake: Struttin' & Cuttin' - Official Autobiography by Brutus Beefcake
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Brutus Beefcake: Struttin' & Cuttin' is the autobiography of Brutus Beefcake.

As I've mentioned in other reviews, I've been a pro-wrestling fan my entire life. While Brutus was never my favorite, I did dress up as The Barber for Halloween when I was 13. Thankfully, there are no surviving photos. One of my friends, Alex Davidson, recommended this to me two or three times before I finally gave it a read. I should have listened to him sooner because this was fucking great.

Brutus' career was derailed in the early 1990s when a parasailing accident destroyed his face and that's where the book starts. I was hooked from the first page. From there, we go to young Ed Leslie growing up in the Tampa area, meeting the boy who would be Hulk Hogan when they were both playing little league.

One early indicator of how much I'm going to enjoy a wrestling book is how quick they get to the wrestling part. Brutus was on the fringes of the wrestling business by the 10% mark so I sat back and enjoyed the ride after that.

Brutus covers all of his ups and downs, going from territory to territory, from his early days as Eddie Boulder to Eric Bischoff firing him via Fed-Ex in the late 1990s, and everywhere in between. We get Brutus' accounts of Andre the Giant, Danny Spivey kicking the shit out of Adrian Adonis, the infamous attack on Dynamite Kid by Jacques Rougeau, and lots of other backstage shenanigans. We also get hilarious road stories involving sex, drugs, drugs, booze, drugs, booze, and sex. I complain that a lot of wrestling books are light on road stories but this one is full of them.

It's not all hilarious, however. The story of Brutus' parasailing accident is not for the faint of heart. I read about it in the Apter mags not long after it happened but this version, from the Barber's own mouth, was so much worse. His life after WCW is no picnic, either, working indy shows for a fraction of what he once made. Fortunately, his life with wife #3 and a WWE Legends contract seems to have turned a corner for him.

I never thought I'd say this but Brutus Beefcake's book is the most entertaining wrestling book I've read in a very long time. Four out of five stars.

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Saturday, December 29, 2018

Review: Children of Time

Children of Time Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As humanity's fortunes fade, an engineered nanovirus, not finding the monkeys it expected, begins elevating the insects and spiders of an earth-like world. Will it be the humans aboard the space ark Gilgamesh or the spiders of the green planet inherit the universe as... The Children of Time?

One of the lunch talkers was gushing over this book a few days ago, the rare interruption of my reading I can tolerate. Fortunately, I already had this on my kindle despite no memory of buying it. Anyway, I dug in and was quickly ensnared in its web.

Childen of Time is told in two silky, sticky threads: the humans aboard the Gilgamesh, with Holsten Mason, a classicist, as the view point character, and generations of uplifted spiders on Kern's World. As such, we see the rise of the spiders, aided by a human-made nanovirus, across generations, as Holsten is awoken to find the Gilgamesh and its people in various states of decline.

The worldbuilding is exquisite. Adrian Tchaikovsky's spiders are alien yet somehow familiar, not just feeling like humans in different bodies. AT clearly put a lot of thought into his worldbuilding, extrapolating a lot from spider behavior, not just plopping giant spiders down on an earthlike world. The various Portias, Biancas, and Fabians over the generations showed a lot of development and nuances. The spider civilization unfolded in an organic way and I couldn't get enough of it, with its crazy gender politics and technology based around trained ants and genetically encoded information.

The humans coping aboard the Gilgamesh weren't quite as interesting to me, although some interesting avenues are explored. Life aboard an ark isn't easy, especially when you're repeatedly awakened to find things have gone pear-shaped. The Gilgamesh's crew and cargo undergo some interesting reversals of fortune, some expected, others not.

By the time the two narrative threads entangled, I knew which side I wanted to come out on top. Tchaikovsky kept me guessing, though, right up until the end.

Children of Time features lots of things I find compelling in science fiction: artificial intelligence, evolved bugs, and generation ships, albeit unintentional. For once, I'm glad someone interrupted my lunchtime reading. Five out of five stars.

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Friday, December 21, 2018

Review: No Home for Boys

No Home for Boys No Home for Boys by Edward Lorn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Eric Penderecki torches his science class with a papier mache volcanco full of thermite, he winds up in the Bay's End Home for Boys, run by famous writer Trey Franklin. Little does he know Trey's reasons for running the home...

Edward Lorn hit me up to read this a while back. I'm down with the Lorn and have called him the future of horror on several occasions. Anyway, I was between books and decided to read this. I wolfed it down in two sittings.

No Home For Boys is some fucked up, timey-wimey cosmic horror, the seeds Lorn planted in all the books in the Bay's End universe finally bearing fruit. It is one hell of a ride.

Parts of it are auto-biographical, I expect. Trey went through some of the same meat grinders as old Easy E from what I've gleaned from Ed over the last few years. Lorn probably hasn't lived several lifetimes, although I don't know him THAT well.

A wise burnout once said "Time is a flat circle." In the case of the Lorniverse, time is a pretzel. Humanity inhabits the infinity shaped piece and the loop below is home to all sorts of nastiness. No Home For Boys explores that notion and also tackles things like religion, the afterlife, time, the universe, and everything. And it will also creep the begeezsus out of you if you're not careful.

I don't want to give too much away. Suffice to stay, Ed stuck the standing. His writing has matured quite a bit in the however many years I've been reading him. A story like this takes a lot of confidence to attempt. Admittedly, I was in the dark for parts of it, given the pretzel-y nature of things but I'd say he pulled it off.

Now that the book is (probably) closed on the Bay's End universe, I'll be interested to see what Edward Lorn does next. Four out of five stars.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Review: Elizabeth

Elizabeth Elizabeth by Ken Greenhall
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Urged on by a ghost named Frances living in her mirror, Elizabeth's first victims were her parents. When she goes to live with relatives, will Frances help Elizabeth kill again?

Elizabeth is yet another book whose existence I would have know inkling of if not for Paperbacks from Hell! I eventually overcame my cheapness and nabbed the ebook.

I'd say Elizabeth is part of the "creepy kids" subgenre of horror, although at 14 and sexually precocious, she's at the upper end of the spectrum. A long dead ancestor named Frances who lives in mirrors is Elizabeth's key to power. Her lone obstacle is Miss Barton, a tutor her family hires after her family's dead, someone from the same bloodline.

Elizabeth is touted as a lost horror classic. I can kind see why that is. There's a feeling of creeping doom through most of it, a feeling that Elizabeth is an uncaring, unfeeling monster, witch or no witch. The fact that she's not relatable in the least makes her a chilling first person narrator. There's a pretty big ick factor when Elizabeth seduces male relatives which only adds to the horror.

The book is a breezy read and short, making it really hard to put down. I only stopped because my lunch breaks only last so long. It's a little like a train wreck, waiting to see what Elizabeth does next. The writing itself is pretty unexceptional, though. Nothing remarkable, though there were a few quotable lines.

While I didn't like it quite as much as I thought I would, Elizabeth is still a worthwhile read for horror fans everywhere. 3.5 out of five stars.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Review: We Sold Our Souls

We Sold Our Souls We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the 1990s, Kris Pulaski was the guitar player in a metal band called Dürt Würk. Now, she's broke and working the desk at Best Western. When one of her old bandmates announces the farewell tour of Koffin, his new band, Kris goes looking for some payback...

I'm a huge fan of Paperbacks from Hell and I liked My Best Friend's Exorcism so my interest was picqued. Fortunately, I won a Goodreads giveaway for this book a few weeks ago.

We Sold Our Souls is told in two parallel tracks: the wreckage of Kris' life and her days as a rocker. There's also the side story of Melanie Guttierez, a girl who wants to get to Vegas to see Koffin at any cost, but Kris is the star of the show.

Anyway, as Kris tracks down her old bandmates, she's forced to explore that fateful night, decades before, when Terry Hunt and his creepy new manager put some sinister contracts in front of the members of Dürt Würk.

We Sold Our Souls is part metal, part road book, and part horror. There were some frantic moments and one of the most claustrophobic scenes I've read. I had to stop for a few minutes and burden my wife with it. Lots of crazy, gruesome, unsettling shit happens.

For most of the book, I was planning on giving this five stars but I thought there were a few too many unanswered questions at the end. The ending was satisfying but felt like it was missing something just the same, like when you don't have any bay leaves and decide to make the soup anyway.

Not to hijack the review but I found myself comparing We Sold Our Souls to Todd Keisling's The Final Reconciliation quite a bit. For my money, The Final Reconciliation was the better music-themed horror novel.

At the end of the day, We Sold Our Souls was one hell of a great read. Four out of five stars.

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Thursday, December 6, 2018

Review: The Giver

The Giver The Giver by Lois Lowry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jonas' world seems like a utopia of peace and harmony with little conflict and everyone doing their job. That is, until Jonas is selected to be the new Receiver of Memories and learns utopia isn't all it's cracked up to be...

Once upon a time, sometime in the nebulous nineties when the only things I read were Star Wars and Anne Rice, my brother was assigned to read this in school. My mom read it after him and assigned it to me. Now, years later, my wife and I read it together. It still holds up.

The world Jonas lives in is one largely free of choices and free of strong emotions. People are assigned jobs, assigned families, and largely assigned lives. No one remembers the past or even realizes they're being denied freedom by no being able to decide things for themselves. No one except The Receiver of Memories, that is. As Jonas studies under the previous Receiver of Memories, the titular Giver, he sees all the things lurking under the surface of his perfect world.

I don't know much about Lois Lowry's influences but I see some Brave New World in this book's lineage with a dash of Handmaid's Tale. It's written as a YA book but I was an adult both times I read and enjoyed it. The book explores such themes as family, the value of choice, the importance of history, the dangers of blind conformity, and things of that nature. It's also a great story.

Two decades after I first read it, The Giver is still a great read. Once my wife recovers, we'll probably attack the other books set in the same world. 5 out of 5 stars.

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