Wednesday, February 18, 2015

2015 Reading Challenge Book 033 Old Flames by Jack Ketchum

TITLE-Old Flames
AUTHOR-Jack Ketchum
FORMAT-Paperback from Leisure Fiction

Pretty sure this was the 5th Ketchum novel I read. Again I found it at the shitty mall book store. Which is 60% Hallmark cards. And then the  books they do have are all cover price. So when I found this on the long discount table at the front I was damn excited. But after reading it my excitement had dimmed some.

What the novel actually is ,is two novellas. The first one is titled Old Flames. A late 30s woman keeps on thinking about an old boyfriend. Then she sees an advert for Flame Finders. A P.I. that specializes in finding old flames. She tracks down this ex. Finds out he is happily married. And proceeds to destroy his life.When I finished this novella I thought "Fuck this reads like a slight more violent than normal novelization of a Lifetime original movie." About a year later I was listening to a podcast with Mr Ketchum. Where he talked about how Old Flames started off as a script for a made for TV movie. When it didn't sell,which I figure is because first off it isn't that good.Plus it is way more violent than most Lifetime original movies are.He turned the screenplay into a novella.

So after being majorly disappointed in Old Flames I was hoping "Right to Life" would be better. And it was. Right to life is about a woman that is going to have an abortion. She gets kidnapped from in front of the abortion clinic. By a supporter of the Pro-life movement. Who then keeps her chained up in his basement. The plan is him and his wife can't have kids. So they are gonna keep her chained up until she has the kid. Then kill her and raise the kid themselves. Thinking that because she was gonna have an abortion that makes her evil. And they are not doing anything wrong,since their religion tells them that abortion is a horrible sin. Over the course of this fairly short novella,we get to see how mentally unstable the wife and husband are. And we get the normal Ketchum ultra violence. Right to life more than makes up for how bad Old Flames is.

I am tempted to give each novella a separate rating. But I won't. If it wasn't for Right to Life in this book I would have traded it in years ago.

Old Flames gets a 3.55 outta 5. And 3 of that 3.55 is because of Right to Life.

2015 Reading Challenge Book 032 She Wakes by Jack Ketchum

TITLE-She Wakes
AUTHOR-Jack Ketchum

This was the third novel I read from Mr Ketchum.I was wanting to read more Ketchum and with this being his only novel with supernatural elements I grabbed it while in the shitty ass bookstore in the nearby mall.

Set in modern day Greece. This is the story of some Americans over there. And how one of the guys runs into a gorgeous woman. Who we learn over the course of the novel might be the reincarnated version of an ancient Greek Goddess.

Normally when I read a new to me Ketchum novel I am expecting good writing and lots of gore and graphic violence. Plus plenty of shocking moments. Well She Wakes has violence and gore, But nothing shocking at all. The first time I read the book I kept putting it down cause I was bored with it.Before reading this book and after every other Ketchum book I have read I usually read in 2 or 3 days. This one took me over a week to read. And back then I was working a job where I had at least 8 hours each shift where I would read. On my second reading of the novel it took me almost 3 weeks to read this. I would read a chapter,think "Fuck this book isn't that good." then put it down and not pick it back up for a few days, As normal I give each book 2 chances. After the second chance if I am still not enjoying the book I sell/give away/trade in the book. I am tempted to do that with She Wakes.

She Wakes by Jack Ketchum gets a 1.25 outta 5.

2015 Reading Challenge Book 031 My Life in Wrestling by Playboy Gary Hart

TITLE-My life in wrestling
AUTHOR-Playboy Gary Hart

Ok first thing this book is out of print and selling for around $400 as of this writing. The co-author refuses to allow it to go back into print or releasing an e book version. Even after seeing how much demand there is for the book. When it first came out I was having money issues so didn't buy a copy. Figuring I could just wait a year or so and grab a used copy. Then about 3 weeks ago a e book version of the first draft of the book leaked out. Since I can not afford to pay $400 for a book I got the e book file.After reading it I am even more mad that it looks like this book will never go back into print.

I got to see lots of Gary Hart when he was in WCCW. And knew about his runs in JCP. But had no idea he had worked all over the world. With stints in Australia and Canada.

The book starts out with a young Hart discovering wrestling. Then he ends up getting involved with the Chicago mafia. He manages to get out of the area before anything majorly bad happens to him. I love how candid Gary is about this part of his life.

From there we get a great look behind the scenes at all kinds of territories.And as expected his behind the scenes stories from World Class are the highlight. I had heard about how wild the World Class locker room was. But after reading Hart's book I found out what I had heard wasn't even half of what was going on.Of course there is lots of stories of the Von Erich boys partying and drug use. And since Gary managed him we get all kinds of Gino Hernandez stories.

I have read around 13 wrestler bios. With Foley's first book,Jericho's first book and Bob Holly's being my faves. This book quickly jumped up to the front of that list. Gary pulls no punches. Gary is as hard on himself as he is on everyone else.

Now a few words about the e book copy. Since it is from the first draft,there is  a few changes between this and the actual printed version. Chapter 12 is missing from my copy. Which I am told deals with the first airplane crash Hart was in. Supposedly a few things in the chapter about Gary working with the Chicago mob are changed. Talking to people that have read both versions I keep getting told that while this first draft is really good,the final printed version is amazing.

As for how after all these years the first draft got leaked. I have heard that before the book was published Gary and his family sent out the first draft to prospective publishers. Most people seem to think that is how this version leaked. With a few people thinking it is someone inside the WWE that leaked it. I first heard about the leak at a wrestling forum I have been reading for 15 years. Someone mentioned reading it. So I PMed them asking where to find a copy. They sent me a link to where I could download it. The next day I mentioned to some friends at another forum about the book. Sent them a copy. And the next day the file showed up at a major wrestling torrent site.

Normally with stuff that has been legally released I prefer to get a legal copy. But unless a new printing of the book happens,this e book version is the only affordable way to read what I think is one of the best wrestling biographies.

My Life in Wrestling gets a 4.75 outta 5.

2015 Reading Challenge Book 030 Dark Horse Presents volume 3

TITLE-The Best of Dark Horse Presents Volume 3
FORMAT-Trade Paperback
COST-99 cents

I loved reading the black and white anthology comic Dark Horse Presents. It is a title that I always look for in cheap bins. Once again I was using an Amazon giftcard I received for X-mas.This is a 132 page collection of 20 one page and short stories.
What appealed to me with Dark Horse Presents was the collection of talent. You never knew who all would show up in each issue.Some of the better known talents in this collection are,Paul "Concrete" Chadwick,Matt "Grendal" Wagner,Timothy"Scout"Truman,Ed "Lowlife" Brubaker,Everett"Duckman" Peck,Eddie"Deadface"Campbell and Adam Hughes.

The stand out stories of the 20 in this trade are.

The Aerialist,written and drawn by Matt Wagner. This appears to be the first part of a multiple part story. Set in the future.Where relationships between men and women is outlawed. Just when the story is starting to get interesting it ends. Going in I knew that some of the stuff in this trade would be R-rated. But I wasn't expecting full frontal male nudity. I am tempted to track down the rest of this story.

Jungle of the giants by Tim and Ben Truman. This short science fiction tale has a father fighting off giant insects. And contains a nice O'henry twist at the end.

From Dark Horse Presents issue 36 we get a well drawn Aliens vs Predator story. Before we got two horrible AVP films,Dark Horse published plenty of really well done stories. This one while short is a good read.

Burning Man written by Ed Brubaker. Before Brubaker was at Marvel,he was getting lots of attention for his autobiographical comics. This tale is about a pre-teen Ed. Who with his friends sees a man get set on fire. And Brubaker goes into detail about how seeing this affected him through out his life.

Everett Peck does a very short Duckman piece. I wish there was a trade reprinting all the Duckman stuff.

Bacchus:a God and his Dog by Eddie Campbell. The Greek good of wine and revelry tells a tale of making wine and his loyal dog. I love Eddie Campbell's Deadface/Bacchus stuff.

And finally ,and also the last story in the colleciton.Hip-deep in the consciousness stream,Adam Hughes does the art. In this tale of the editor of Dark Horse Presents needs 8 pages to fill out an issue. They get Hughes to draw his normal gorgeous women.And play around with the conventions of cheesecake artwork.

The stories I didn't talk about range from great art but boring story to meh art but entertaining story.Just like how an anthology ,be it film,book or comic,you get stuff that you enjoy and stuff that you will never read again. The hit or miss ratio of this trade is pretty good. If it was a baseball player it would be batting 300 with a decent amount of RBIs. Hell this trade is the 1994 Frank Thomas of comic anthology collections.

The Best of Dark Horse Presents volume 3 gets a 3.85 outta 5.

2015 Reading Challenge Book 029 Nexus Archives volume 2 by Mike Baron and Steve Rude

TITLE-Nexus Archives volume 2
AUTHOR-Mike Baron
COST-98 cents

I have read scattered issues of Nexus.And enjoyed what I had read. But as far as I know these hardcover archive collections are the only non-floppy format collections. And this hardcover from Dark Horse comics is well done. The paper they use is great. It makes the art and colors look great,but isn't that super glossy paper I see in most trades. As you might be able to tell from the picture this is an ex-library book. The reason why I haven't bought any of these collections before is the cost. The hardcovers reprint 7 issues and cost $50. Which is way too high. Most of these issues aren't hard to find in cheap bins. So back after X-mas I was using an Amazon giftcard I had gotten from one of my aunts. Saw I could get this for 98 cents plus shipping.

This collection reprints Nexus volume 2 issues 5 through 11. Now most of the Nexus stuff I have read was either from way later in the series or some of the crossovers that were done,like Nexus meets Magnus Robot Fighter. I had already gotten the three trades IDW did of Mike Baron's other 80s indy series Badger. And I have been a fan of Steve Rude's art for years now.

The stand outs in this collection are the issues where Nexus meets up with Badger. Nexus and Judah Maccabee crash landing on a weird planet. On this planet they meet up with Badger,and the three had lots of wacky adventures trying to escape the planet. I really enjoy how each issue has small things happening that later on become major plot points.

After reading this I am going to track down the rest of the archives. I had found volume 1 for $1.95 plus shipping. I ordered it off Amazon Marketplace. But an hour or so after I made my order it was cancelled. I checked the the seller had relisted the book ,but now wants 10 bucks plus shipping. And that isn't a bad price. So I will end up ordering it soon.

Nexus archives volume 2 gets a 4.45 outta 5

2015 Reading Challenge Book 028 Console Wars by Blake J Harris

TITLE-Console Wars
AUTHOR-Blake J Harris

A friend got the e book version of this book last year. He doesn't like reading books on a computer so he gave the file to me.Having been a teen when the Genesis vs Nintendo war was going on I was pretty interested in reading this book.

The book is mostly told from the head of Sega of America's point of view.He had been working for Mattel when he gets hired to take over Sega's American office. And by doing stuff that made the Sega of Japan offices go nuts,he is able to bring Sega from having at the most 15% of the USA video game market to having 60%. But thanks to various issues with the Japan branch  we get to see why and how Sega went from being ,even if for a short while,the number 1 video game company,to being an also ran.

We do get to see parts of Nintendo's side of this war. And how thanks to them fucking over Sony they ended up indirectly creating the console that caused Nintendo from being a valid home console competitor to being 3rd place in the home console market.

Honestly there are plenty of parts of this book that got boring real quick. I had to stop myself from skipping over quite  a few parts.

The interesting parts are all well written. And even after having done lots of research on this era of video game history there is still bunches of stuff I had never heard about before. Like how Donkey Kong Country pretty much won Nintendo the 16 bit wars. Before it came out they were struggling. Mostly because Sega was marketing themselves as the system the cool kids play. And Nintendo was the console for kids.

Console Wars by Blake J Harris gets a 2.15 outta 5.

2015 Reading Challenge Book 027 Extinction Parade by Max Brooks

TITLE-The Extinction Parade
AUTHOR-Max Brooks
FORMAT-Trade Paperback

I was given this as a gift right before X-mas. Someone had found it at Walmart. Some quick info. This trade was published by Avatar. Who is known for their extremely violent and gory comics. With some of the stuff they publish being NC-17 levels of gore. So we were both surprised to not only find something like this at Walmart.where the only comics I see are manga,Walking Dead trades and the rare trade based on a Marvel movie. But that it was also racked with the kids books. So there was a book full of extreme gore sitting right next to Captain Underpants and Diary of a WImpy kid.I assume Walmart was carrying this because of Max Brooks.

The trade reprints the first 5 issues of this series. Set in a world where vampires and zombie exist. Our main characters are vampires. And over the first 4 issues we get the history of vampires in this world. And lots of double page spread of blood and violence. Then near the end of issue 4 one of the vampires realizes that the zombies almost outnumber the humans. And what is going to happen when all the humans are dead. So a small group of vampires start doing all they can to protect the humans.

While the idea behind this trade is interesting. It isn't executed that well. These 5 issues with some decent editing could have been 2 issues. There is way too many double page spreads that do nothing to help the story along. The art is good. But I have noticed that most stuff from Avatar has a similar look. Kind of like how in the early days most Valiant comics had a similar look. I am betting if anyone else had approached Avatar with this idea they would have been turned down. But now thanks to World War Z being a hit as a book and film Max Brooks is a big enough name that anything written by him has a good chance of selling well. If you can find this trade for $5 or less it is worth it. But at basically 17 bucks I feel like I didn't get my money's worth. Hell it took me about 15 minutes to read this. Not good,not good at all.

The Extinction Parade gets a 1.95 outta 5.

2015 Reading Challenge Book 026 After the Golden Age

BOOK TITLE-After the Golden Age
AUTHOR-Carrie Vaughn

We have 4 or 5 Dollar General stores in my town. At least 3 times a week I stop at one for a drink or a snack. And I always check their spinner rack of paperback books. Most of the time it is packed with lots of romance novels. But earlier this month I was at one of the DGs I am rarely in. I saw a copy of Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter,grabbed it and this book was behind it.

I had never heard of this book or the author before. But the cover looked interesting. And the synopsis on the back caught my attention.

Our main character is the daughter of the two most well known superheroes in the world. Her father is a Superman analogue. And her Mom comes off as a mixture of Wonder Woman and Sue Storm of the Fantastic Four. The daughter has no powers. And over her childhood and early teens she keeps getting kidnapped by her parent's super villains.

The novel starts and she is in her mid 20s. Hasn't talked to her parents in a long time. We find out that in her late teens she rebelled by joining up with her parents most hated villain. Since she was under 18 and it got ruled she was temporarily insane,her doing this betrayal is covered up. Now she is working for an accounting firm and is helping build a case against the same villain she teamed up with years ago.

But during the court case the public finds out about her turning evil years ago and this causes her life to goto shit.

I really enjoyed how the focus of the book was on how it would be to grow up with both your parents being world famous heroes. You get the feeling that our lead sometimes feels like a caveman surrounded by Gods who walk the Earth.

Doing a bit of research,IE looking up the author on Amazon,I have found out she has written another novel set in the same world. And it also seems to deal with ordinary humans dealing with living in a world with superheroes.

After the Golden Age gets a 3.45 outta 5.