Category Archives: Reviews

Book Review: Lud-in-the-Mist

I’ve wanted to do a review of this fantastic novel for some time, but I never really knew how to start. This review says everything I’ve wanted to, and does so in a particularly eloquent way.

Naturally, an Annotation

The first couple of pages of Hope Mirrlees’s novel are filled with deceptively charming descriptions of the quaint and picturesque Lud-in-the-Mist, a city of merchants at the confluence of two rivers, the Dapple and the Dawl, in the country of Dorimare. In the very first paragraph, though, we are told, rather matter-of-factly, that “towards the west, in striking contrast with the pastoral sobriety of the central plain, the aspect of the country became, if not tropical, at any rate distinctly exotic. Nor was this to be wondered at, perhaps; for beyond the Debatable Hills (the boundary of Dorimare in the west) lay Fairyland.” The surname of its protagonist, Nathaniel Chanticleer (= Rooster), Mayor of Lud-in-the-Mist, is a further hint that we’re in fable territory. We also discover that the Dapple has its origins in Fairyland. But very soon, the narrative takes a subtly menacing and sinister turn: Nathaniel Chanticleer, for…

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Acea and the Seven Ancient Wonders: A Preliminary Review

I recently got to read the sequel to Acea and the Animal Kingdom, which I review here. At least, I read a draft of the sequel. Through my mad connections, which I totally have you guys, author Kyle Shoop sent me an early draft to read and comment on. Because it was an early draft, the book that is eventually published will not be the same as I read it, and for that reason I don’t want to do a full review. I do, however, want to say a couple things about the book and the experience.

First, it’s really fun to get an early copy of something. Especially as a writer, looking at someone else’s work before it’s all polished and shiny is really interesting. I can’t wait to read the book in its final version to see what has changed. In addition to professional interest, it’s also just fun to have access to something most people don’t. It feels like being a kid again and joining a secret treehouse club.

Second, the book itself is immensely fun. It’s written for children, and that comes through in the writing. That is not say it’s bad writing, but simply that it’s not as nuanced or subtle or dense as say James Joyce. Think early Harry Potter style. Easy to read, and fun. You guys, so much fun. It was hard to stop reading. There are different views on art and on what constitutes good art. One thing many critics forget is that kids loved The Power Rangers, not because it was good but because it was fun. I’m not comparing the Acea books to the quality of The Power Rangers. God knows, they are so much better than the writing for that show. What I am saying, is that the strength of these books lies in just how imaginative and fun they are to read. For my money, that’s exactly what I want from a kids’ book.

Sorry, that’s veering dangerously close to actual review territory, but I hope you get the point. If you liked the first Acea book, you’ll love this one. Finally, I want to say thanks to Kyle for letting me read it, and trusting me enough to make suggestions and comments on it. One of the hardest things about writing is finding good people to criticize your work in the way you need it. I hope my suggestions helped, but even if they’re all rejected it was an honor just to be a part of Kyle’s writing process. Thanks Kyle.

Review: Gratitude for “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey”

I just finished watching the first episode of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. By the way, they have full episodes available online, and if you haven’t seen it yet you should definitely go check it out. So what are my thoughts about this new program? I’m glad you asked. (Note: I know you didn’t really ask, but I’m going to tell you anyway, so strap in.)

I never got to watch the original Cosmos: A Personal Voyage hosted by Carl Sagan on PBS. I’m aware of its position as a classic cultural phenomenon, but I wasn’t a part of it. I’m a little sad I missed out on it, but that just makes me all the more grateful that I’m able to take part in its current incarnation.

For those of you unaware of Cosmos in either or both forms, it’s a television program designed to introduce people to the science of, you guessed it, the cosmos! and humanity’s place in the universe. This post will focus on the new program, which comes to us due to the efforts of Ann Druyan, a writer/producer and Carl Sagan’s widow; Seth McFarlane of Family Guy fame; and host Neil deGrasse Tyson who spends his days running the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

In the first episode of the new series, Dr. Tyson takes us on a journey with him in his spaceship of the imagination. We visit all the planets of the solar system, the sun and travel back to the origins of the universe and all of these celestial bodies: the big bang. The episode is meant to introduce us to our place in the history and place of the universe, which is relatively insignificant. However, the show doesn’t intend to make us feel small. Rather, it shows us that we are part of something bigger. I can’t think of a better way to state it than Dr. Tyson already has many times over:

That clip is not from the show, but it is one of the most articulate and enlightening versions of the concept around.

Dr. Tyson brings his signature, and I would say poetic,  love and enthusiasm for science to this role, and he infects viewers with it as well. As I was watching, I considered changing my life goals from writing to astronomy. The real strength of the show, however, is that it doesn’t require such extreme fanaticism. I can be a writer, or a security guard, or a cashier, or an SEO content creator and still be enthusiastic and knowledgeable about science. The great strength of this type of program is that it is accessible and eager to engage viewers who don’t have a strong science background. After all, we’re all star stuff. We should all know where we come from and how we fit in the universe, even if we aren’t professional scientists.

Follow Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey on Facebook and Twitter.

Other (better) reviews of this program can be read here: “Ending the Tyranny of Knowledge.Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” “Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey – “Standing Up In The Milky Way” Review

The Verge “‘Cosmos’ review: making science cool again”

Badass Digest “SXSW Review: COSMOS: A SPACETIME ODYSSEY Is Wonderful”


Additionally, if you’re looking for more awesome science education, I can’t recommend Joe Hanson’s blog and YouTube channel enough, as well as the Science Is Not Scary YouTube channel and the I Fucking Love Science Facebook page. There are many more science education sources out there, but these are good ones to start with.

Finally, I just want to say that it is so freaking amazing that this is a program on primetime American television, FOX no less, and I can’t help but wonder how much we could accomplish as a society and a species if we keep heading in this direction. It truly is a great time to be alive.

Q&A With Author Kyle Shoop

Here it is at last. I asked Kyle a few questions about his life and writing, and he was very kind to respond in more than a few words. Below is the full transcript. But before we get to that, here are some things you should know about Kyle:

He wrote a book called Acea and the Animal Kingdom. It’s written for kids/young adults and is absolutely fantastic. Here’s my review of it:

You can check out Kyle’s homepage for more information about him and the Acea Bishop triology. (That’s right, Kyle is writing two more books!)

Finally, you can buy the book through Kyle’s homepage, or Amazon here:

BONUS: To coincide with this post, Kyle has bumped the ebook price down to $0.99. Go buy that immediately! Also, I know sometimes ebook versions are tricky and look really bad or don’t translate well. I own the kindle version of Acea and it works beautifully. SO GO BUY IT!

And without further ado I give you, Kyle Shoop:

Kyle Shoop


I know when I write a lot, it really takes it out of me. I mean, it’s really hard, exhausting work. How do you find the time to balance writing, lawyering, and a solid marriage?

You’re not alone! Though my wife may sometimes disagree with the “solid marriage” part of the question, I’d like to think I’ve found a way to balance those things. Really, it’s all about prioritization. Being a husband, father, and practicing attorney take up about 90-95% of my time. So, it’s with the other 5-10% I try to use to write.

But whenever I find the time to write, it’s something I genuinely look forward to. Oftentimes, I look forward to it so much that I find myself thinking of plots and characters during commutes and church (shh, don’t tell!). Because if you think about it – writing a good novel requires more than just finding time to write – at least for me, I have to spend a large amount of time thinking about the story and researching things I don’t know about. At the end of a writing period, I usually am mentally exhausted. In fact, when I do write, I normally write until I’m exhausted. But it’s the type of exhaustion I look forward to because of the satisfaction I get from creating something. I imagine it’s kinda like the exhaustion that people who enjoy working out (not me) get – only I really have no clue about that for sure.


Do you ever experience writers’ block? How do you get through it?

Yes. I do something I think a lot of writers tell you not to do – I stop writing. To me, the worst thing that I could do is continue writing if I genuinely don’t know where the story is going to go. I’d hate to have to go back and change so much of the story, because much of what I’ll continue writing in the future depends on what I’ve already written. Waste of time. I stop writing and start thinking a lot about it – and talk to people about what different avenues the story could go down.

This actually happened to me in writing Acea and the Animal Kingdom. I experienced a mental block about ½ way through the Terrarium room. I stopped writing for about a month and just thought through what the plot should be in great detail and how it fit into the larger story. Then, once I decided I was ready to begin writing again, the story just came to me a thousand times easier.

Luckily, I have the ending of books two and three already planned out and I can’t wait to share it!


Why write for children? Do you want to continue with them as your audience? Are there any plans for an adult oriented novel?

I write for children for three reasons. First, because my wife has been a teacher for young kids for so many years, that age group is just organically what I’ve been influenced by. Second, it’s a welcome change from my day job of legal writing. Third, I actually started putting pen to paper (keyboard) after I read a couple chapters of another popular book in this genre. After having read those chapters, I decided my time would be better spent writing the plot I’d been developing in my head instead of reading.

Yes – I love having that age group as my audience! One of my favorite reactions I constantly get is from parents who say they read Acea with their kid at bedtime. I can only really get that reaction that from this audience.

With that being said, though, I’ve often developed plots for more-adult oriented novels, such as horror and love novels (yea, crazy, I know…). In general, any time I find myself really enjoying a movie, I get inspired for that genre. But at this time, I’m so focused on making the Acea series as entertaining, intriguing and rewarding as I possibly can that I can’t even see past it. But, who knows – maybe when I’m done with the third and final book I’ll write something totally different.


You self-published. Any particular reason why? What did that entail?

It’s just the way I roll. I did contact some agents about representation but in the end decided against it. Just wasn’t my thing. I even used to self-record music back in the day – where I played all the instruments and sang on it. Maybe my prior creative independence played a role in my decision.

Self-publishing does take a lot of work, though. You only reap what you sow. I did my own book cover, website, etc. In fact, I’d say making a website was way more laborious than writing. In the end, I’m open to traditional publishing if the right circumstance arises – it just hasn’t yet.


Do you consider all your various endeavors (musician/author/lawyer/etc.) careers/jobs or does one stand out there while others are hobbies?

Being a lawyer is definitely my career and job. But being a self-published author means I have to not only just enjoy writing, but I also have to treat the marketing like a job – which can be tough because writing is inherently an introverted profession. So it’s easy to say all I want to do is write and then write some more – and maybe if stars align people will buy it. I can’t do that – I’m always looking for more ways to bring Acea to more readers. Basically, I treat writing like a hobby – that way I’ll continue enjoying it; whereas I treat the marketing side like a job. 

The most common question I get from readers is “when is the next book coming out?” With how often I get that question, it does add a certain amount of pressure to make writing not just a hobby but a job.

Being a musician was always just a hobby. I used to write and record my own albums for personal enjoyment and never really tried to market it. I also like to think that writing music was my “gateway drug” to writing stories – it gave me experience in expressing myself in a way which allowed me to see how people would react to my ideas. If I was never a musician, my novels would probably not be as entertaining.


Where do you get your ideas?

My wife explained best once to someone we know – I guess I’m a dreamer (whatever that means). However, the ideas have to make sense – the plot has to be going somewhere, feel like there are real stakes, and that it pays off.

For Acea and the Animal Kingdom, I tried really hard to have every chapter end in a way that the reader would want to immediately start the next chapter. That actually was a challenge sometimes and I found myself coming up with new twists or raised-stakes that I otherwise wouldn’t have.  As I go back and re-read it, though, I’m surprised at how many different things – movies/tv/books – have influenced certain points and I didn’t even realize it while writing.  However, I really didn’t want to write a book that felt like it was just re-hashing a prior plot. It had to feel original to me.


How do you go about doing research?

For the first book, I actually visited a zoo and took copious notes about all animals – even ones I wasn’t sure would be included and ones that I’d seen a hundred times before. Then, I’d obviously research stuff online. I can’t tell you how many hours I spend learning about tarantulas and watching videos about them eating. Not fun.

For this second novel, the research is actually a reason why it’s taking longer to write. Instead of animals, it revolves around the 7 ancient wonders of the world. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t know much about them –I must have missed those days in school or something.

In general, I try to have the setting of the novels be based in things that require research. And hopefully I get most of the research based stuff right.


I’m sure you have bouts of “I just want to sit here and watch tv/play a game/eat my dinner and not write anything.” How do you get through that?

Yes, I certainly do. And I can’t say I get through that. I re-watched the last season of Lost with the excuse that I was trying to spark my creativity for the second book, but I think it was really just about re-watching Lost. (Lost-haters – don’t worry. The second book is nothing like the show.) In the end, I think it really boils down to prioritization and motivation.


What’s your favorite part of Acea and the Animal Kingdom? Why is it your favorite? Was it easy to write?

Gosh, so many! My favorite question to ask readers is what their favorite room is, even though I don’t really have one myself. I had to make each room be my favorite while writing it, so it’s tough to narrow it down – kinda like having to choose which child is your favorite.  Without giving too much away, though, I’d have to say that I really thought the part where the gorilla rips open the anaconda in the jungle room was an awesome idea.


Finally, why write?

For me, expression has always been a necessity – even if no one ever read a thing I wrote.

It started with writing and playing music and then expanded into storytelling. When I was doing my undergrad, I actually made a crazy goal that I never thought I’d ever follow through on. It was to record a music album, write a novel, and compose a symphony. Five years later, I completed writing/recording my third album and decided to let music-making just take the back burner. Without even thinking about my prior goal, I’d begun crafting the outline of a novel after having a certain dream.  One year later, I’d finished the draft of Acea and the Animal Kingdom.  Only, just as I ended up actually recording three musical albums instead of one, the Acea series is now planned to be trilogy! Writing – whether music or novels – is such a rewarding form of expression because it’s my own creation.

Thanks again!

If you have more questions, leave them in the comments section. I’m sure Kyle will be happy to answer them if he ever gets a break from his incredibly busy life. Thank you Kyle. This was immensely fun.

Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

On June 18th Neil Gaiman published his best novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. My wife had pre-ordered a signed copy for my birthday back in March. In May we moved unexpectedly, and we forgot to give the bookseller our new address. On June 18th I came home, very excited to get my book, only to remember our mistake. We checked the tracking number online and found, to our relief, the book had been delivered to our old apartment safe and sound. We hopped in the car and drove there only to find nobody home. We left a note with our phone number, and a plea to call us back. We got a phone call later, which went to voicemail, but the caller was kind enough to leave us the message, “We have your package.” Unfortunately, they did not leave us any information as to when they would be home, or a callback number, or anything and their number was blocked on the phone as well. Needless to say, I was beyond frustrated, especially as we continued to drop by and leave notes and receive no answer whatsoever. I could even see the package sitting there through the open blinds. I almost tried to climb through the window. Luckily, I suppose, my wife was there to stop me. Finally, I got a phone call a few days later, and I finally got my book!

I got my book!

I got my book!

He even signed it!

He even signed it!

Earlier this year Amanda Palmer, Mr. Gaiman’s supremely talented wife, gave a TED Talk entitled “The Art of Asking.”

In this talk she described her time spent as a living statue in New Orleans. She was called the Seven-Foot Bride, and when someone gave her money, she looked at them with her expressionless face and offered them a flower. Sometimes they took the flower, and sometimes they didn’t, but the point she made is that a flower was not what she was really offering.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane(which henceforth will be abbreviated to its twitter tag #OceanLane, except when it’s not) is Gaiman’s flower. Neil Gaiman has written many wonderful novels, stories, comics, children’s books, and just about anything else you can think of, but he’s never written anything like #OceanLane. It’s raw and powerful and entirely unabashed in its delivery. It’s not just a novel. It is the titular ocean, big enough to fill the whole universe and small enough to fit in a bucket, “if you ask it nicely.”

What makes #OceanLane so different from Gaiman’s other works is not is imagination (all of them have that). Nor is it the childlike perspective, or the magic, or the wonder, or the specific words (they all have that too). #OceanLane is so much better because it is a connection. It’s the flower. In a somewhat ironic twisting of the narrative roles, Gaiman becomes Lettie Hempstock and the reader becomes the frightened, nameless narrator. He gives us his hand and tells us we’ll be safe as long we stay with him. Only, that’s not true. But it also is. The Ocean at the End of the Lane takes you on a journey through the frightening world of the imagination, and unlike most books, it doesn’t save you at the end. At the end, everything is still big and scary, and even grown-ups can’t understand it.

You might get the idea, reading that last paragraph, that #OceanLane isn’t worth your while, or that it doesn’t deliver. Nothing could be further from the truth. It doesn’t have a happy ending, or even a pleasantly satisfying ending. In fact, the ending will leave you downright distraught. But it is a good ending. It is worthwhile. It will change you, probably for the better. And even though you might forget, or not understand why, the Ocean is still there and it will put things right.

I will not tell you the story. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is not about the story. It’s about the journey, and I will not deprive you of that. I know there will be people out there who don’t enjoy this book as much as I, or who don’t even enjoy it at all, but I might hazard to say, a bit impertinently even, “They are wrong.” #OceanLane is a gift, and like all good gifts there is some assembly required, but it will be worth any amount of toil and hassle and frustration and rage and sadness to taste the simple joy of being human in a big, scary world and knowing you are not alone. Thank you, Mr. Gaiman.

Neil Gaiman Official Website

Mouse Circus: Neil Gaiman’s website for young readers

Other (better) book reviews:

Amanda Palmer’s own review (the best one you’ll read)

The Guardian


taking a break

For Purchase:

You can search it on the internet, and I’ll leave that up to you. But what you should really do is find a local bookstore and buy it there because those are great places and they should be supported.

Also check out your local library.

I’ll give you this one though…

Audiobook: (narrated by Neil Gaiman)

Upcoming Q&A With Author Kyle Shoop

Acea and the Animal Kingdom

A few months ago I reviewed the book Acea and the Animal Kingdom by Kyle Shoop. It’s a middle grade novel about a young boy who wakes up in a strange place one morning. He discovers he is in a magical kingdom where everyone has been transformed into animals. He has to fight and think his way through the different animal habitats to find the items left by a great wizard so he can break the spell and return home. The book is the first in a planned trilogy, with the second coming out next year. More info on the page linked to above.

Anyway, now we can get to the real exciting news. I am sitting down with the author of the Acea series in a couple weeks to have a little chat. I’ve got some questions of my own for him, but I’d like to hear if there’s anything you want to know. Submit any questions you have through the comments here, or through the Contact Me page.

If you haven’t read the book buy it here:



Or if you happen to live near the Salt Lake area you can purchase it at the Holladay, UT bookstore The Dog Eared Page

Finally, if you really have no money whatsoever, send me your Amazon account name, and I will buy you the Kindle version. This is not a joke. I will pay the $3.99 and send it to you as a gift because it is a fantastic book, and it’s totally worth it. Then after you read it, send me some questions. It’s not extremely often this happens, and it’s an opportunity you don’t want to miss.

Book Recommendations

I really like doing book reviews on this blog, and I hope others appreciate them as well. Every review I do is also a recommendation, pretty much because I don’t want to put effort into reading and reviewing books I don’t like. Now, I’ve always been an avid reader, but in the last few weeks I’ve especially read too many to do a review on each, even when I really really want to. Here are a few books I’ve read that deserve a mention, but that I’m too lazy/overwhelmed to do reviews for.

Note: clicking on the pictures will take you to the amazon page for each book.

Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi

Agent to the Stars

John Scalzi’s Agent to the Stars is a captivating story of the Hollywood agent picked by the Yherjak, an alien species of smelly jello-like blobs, to represent them to the world. Along the way he struggles to find the way to introduce them without causing panic, as well as dealing with his own Hollywood stars and starlets as well as a relentless snoop reporter with a grudge. It’s a heartwarming, and sometimes sad, story that won’t leave you alone. Be prepared, if you start reading this, you may not be able to stop until its done.

Icarus at the Edge of Time by Brian Greene

Icarus at the Edge of Time

Icarus at the Edge of Time is a book I’d be surprised you wouldn’t finish in one sitting. It’s a picture book for children from renowned scientist Brian Greene. The pictures are all amazing space photographs, and the story is a delightful reimagining of the Greek tale of Icarus, who flew too close to the sun. Well in Greene’s story it’s not the sun you have to worry about. Icarus instead decides to become the first person to brush the edge of a black hole in his spacecraft. Only, he forgets about the effect the black hole’s immense gravity has on time. It’s a fantastic book for children, an delightfully fun for adults as well.

Skulduggery Pleasant: Scepter of the Ancients by Derek Landy

Skulduggery Pleasant

Skulduggery Pleasant is a skeleton mage detective trying to solve the murder of his friend. Along for the ride is the deceased’s niece Stephanie who has just learned about magic and monsters, and who may be the key to stopping the evil mage Nefarian Serpine from destroying the world. This is one of the most fun reads I’ve had in a while. Written for young audiences, it masterfully blends wizardry, horror and comedy in a way that will leave you on the edge of your seat without getting into anything too gruesome or adulty. Still, its themes include growing up, family, dealing with loss and defeat, good and evil; not the usual fare for young readers, but written in a way they can understand. I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone with some kind of imagination.

Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman

Smoke and Mirrors

Ah, at last we come to Neil Gaiman, who for the moment seems to be my favorite author. Why? For his twisted sense of…everything. Smoke and Mirrors is a collection of, as Gaiman puts it, short fictions and illusions. The story topics range from a venereal disease one gets without actually having sex, and an amateur magician who makes a grandmother disappear, to an angel trying to solve the first murder. This is not my favorite collection of shorts from Neil Gaiman, but it is definitely entertaining and imaginative and well worth a read.

M is for Magic by Neil Gaiman

M is For Magic

M is for Magic is another collection of shorts from Neil Gaiman, and it is also not my favorite (that would be Fragile Things, which is not on this list because I read it some months ago). By not my favorite, I mean I loved it. Again, the stories in this volume are all twisted in a wonderfully charming way. There is a story about tourists from very far away, and one about the months of the year telling stories around a campfire (possibly my favorite Gaiman short of all), and a short story that would later become a chapter of The Graveyard Book, which we’ll talk about in a minute. Again, I highly recommend this. The wonderful thing about short stories, is they don’t take any commitment. These collections, as well as others, can whisk you away for ten minutes, one hour, days. The timing is all up to you. In my opinion, everyone should have at least one book of short stories by their bed or on their table at all times.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman


One of the most famous Neil Gaiman stories, Coraline is the tale of a young girl who goes through a door in her house to another world just like this one except better in every way. There she meets her ‘other mother’ and ‘other father’ and makes a friend of the cat who prowls around her house. The world behind the door, although wonderful at first, is an evil place, and Coraline must play a game with her ‘other mother’ to rescue her real parents and the souls of children trapped there. This is a book I tried to read to fall asleep to. Then, I had to make myself put it down. Then I had dreams that didn’t scare me until I woke up and thought they might be real. Then I stayed up way too late again the next night finishing the book. Then more creepy dreams. It was all worth it.

It was made into a creepy, fun animated movie in 2009. I like the book better, but the movie is worth a looksee too.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book

Ah, The Graveyard Book. One of the best books I’ve ever read. Both this and Coraline were written for children, but I still enjoyed them better than most adult novels I read. In The Graveyard Book every chapter is a short story detailing a significant experience in Nobody Owens’ life. Nobody’s, called Bod for short, family was murdered when he was a baby. He was taken in by the spirits of the graveyard who raise and protect him. One day, the man who killed his family returns hoping to finish the job. Before I read this book, I was reading a lot of other stuff that just wasn’t holding my interest very well. Stories I enjoyed reading, but after half an hour I’d be done with them. I picked up The Graveyard Book and didn’t put it down. There is good literature, and there are fantastic, wondrous, captivating stories. This is one of the latter.

A film version is in the works by the same man who adapted and directed Coraline.

The Playground by Ray Bradbury

The Playground

Ray Bradbury is one of the all time greats when it comes to fiction. He excels in all mediums, but I think none quite so well as the short story. The Playground is a short fiction by Bradbury, released in this version alone for Kindle. It is the story of a widower who wants to protect his son from the evils of the other children on the playground. He’ll do anything to protect his boy, including making a deal with the Playground that might cost him his soul. This is a fantastic story, one of the best I’ve ever read. It’s intelligent, creative, unique and horrific. You cannot go wrong reading this.


I have lots more books I can recommend, but for this post we’ll stick to those I’ve read in the last month. Also, if this number of books in four weeks astounds you and maybe makes you feel like a lesser human being remember a couple things: First, you probably have more friends than I do. Second, many of these books are short books and many are written for children or young audiences. Third, I work as a security guard right now, which means I have LOTS of time to read. Probably more than you do. Now, if you still feel bad just visit your local library. You can even rent eBooks from most libraries now, which is such a perfect system when you’re laying in bed at 10:30 pm with nothing to read. Until next time.

Book Review: The Truth of Rock and Roll

Life is hard for a struggling young artist. The arts aren’t a real industry, in a lot of peoples’ minds. When you introduce yourself as a writer working as a security guard or a paralegal for the time being, people generally just shake their heads. Actually, people are fairly polite. They usually say that’s really cool while secretly being thankful they don’t have to depend on you for anything. Matthew Keville is one such writer. He self-published his first novel one year ago, and, as is the case with so many self-published works, it hasn’t gotten nearly the amount of attention it deserves. Let’s do what we can to fix that, hmm?

The Truth of Rock and Roll

The Truth of Rock and Roll is an astoundingly good novel. It has a unique, yet still familiar premise. It begins with a young man who doesn’t want to go to business school arguing on the phone with his father. After the conversation, a middle-aged man approaches him and begins to talk. The young man stays and listens (against his better instincts) and is treated to a story about youth, love, rebellion, small town prejudice, courage and the magic of rock and roll, which in this story is not just a figure of speech. Rock and roll is literally magical.

The Truth of Rock and Roll is not a long book, nor is it an intensely intellectual read. It can be easily devoured in an hour. Devoured is the right word for how one should read this book though. Keville recently began releasing it in serialized form on his blog in an attempt to simply reach more readers. After just the first section I wanted to buy the book. After the fourth I needed to buy it. The characters had quickly become my friends, people I cared about and wanted to win. I couldn’t escape the story, or the world. It’s the world I want for myself, where life is magic and love conquers all, though not without some serious annoyance along the way. Keville shows his skill in telling a wonderfully cheesy tale while making it new enough and good enough that you don’t care if it’s cheesy or a little old hash.

It’s possible this book appealed to me so much because I grew up in a small town and know all too well the kinds of trials and prejudice Johnny and Jenny (what else would our rock and roll lovebirds be named?) come up against. He’s a rich boy, she’s just white trash from the wrong side of the tracks. It’s the same in Footloose and Grease and The Notebook and thousands of other stories. Yet The Truth of Rock and Roll brings something these other stories don’t. For one, it starts with an old man telling how he threw it all away. It is a testament to Keville’s skill at storytelling that when he gets to the part where Johnny rejects the rock and roll angel (yes, there’s really, seriously a rock and roll angel, and it’s just as awesome as it’s possible to be) we feel cheated. Keville anticipates this perfectly with our young man listener/narrator who interrupts, “You did what?” only to be met with “Hey, kid, I told you early on.” He is correct, but it only serves to make this departure from the standard tale more frustrating. That is not to say it makes it bad. In fact, the story is all the more poignant for it.

The Truth About Rock and Roll is a message to anyone who has ever had a dream, “it’s about rockin’, not remembering.” You don’t have to be a writer, an artist, or a rock and roller to appreciate the message. Dreams are worth fighting for.

Matthew Keville is fighting for his dreams with his book. As all authors he is concerned about the sales of his book, but moreso that people simply read it. To that end, he is releasing the whole thing on his blog, in serialized form, for free. It’s definitely worth a look.

I always recommend the books I review. You may understand the reason for this in different ways, but the fact is if I’m going to spend my time reading, reviewing and promoting a book, you can be damn sure I feel it’s worth it. This book is different though. I don’t just want to recommend it, I want to ask you to buy it. It’s $2.99 on Amazon, and it’s worth every penny and more. It is a book that can, and should, change your life. I think that’s worth supporting.

Matthew Keville’s blog is here:

The free version of The Truth of Rock and Roll starts here: Forward

You can buy his book buy clicking on the Bookstore tab at his blog, or on Amazon directly here: The Truth of Rock and Roll

The book is brand new up on Goodreads.

Also, go like his Facebook page. It doesn’t cost anything and it might save your soul.

Book Review: Acea and the Animal Kingdom

Acea and the Animal Kingdom

Have you ever heard of Kyle Shoop? That’s okay if you haven’t. He’s a young attorney/author with his first novel just recently published. Acea and the Animal Kingdom is a middle-grade novel about a boy who loves (most) animals. He wakes up one morning in a strange and somewhat frightening place. He soon learns the truth about where he is, a magical realm known as the Animal Kingdom because every person there has been turned into an animal by the angry wizard who ruled the kingdom. Now, it’s up to Acea to traverse each area of the Kingdom seeking keys, gifts, and the truth if he is to break the curse and return home. Some of the animals want to help and return to their former lives, but some have sided with the evil Sorcerer Vesuvius and will do anything they can to keep Acea from reaching his goal.

Even though it only Shoop’s freshman endeavour Acea and the Animal Kindgom is one of the better novels for young readers I’ve seen. Shoop is already a terrific storyteller, with a wonderfully vivid imagination which will suck readers into the novel for a fun, slightly scary, always exciting, emotional ride. This novel is clearly written for a young audience, and more specifically for Shoop’s wife’s elementary school students. It is not surprising then to find this novel is fun, exciting, a little scary, imaginative, unique, relatable and educational; in short, all the things you want from a middle-grade novel.

A very famous author, who I constantly refer to on this blog (sorry guys, I just really like his stuff), once said, “Writing imaginative tales for the young is like sending coals to Newcastle. For coals” (Neil Gaiman, M is for Magic). That said, Acea and the Animal Kingdom perfectly captures the imaginative nature of the young audience for which it is written. It succeeds in this because it does not create imagination for readers, rather it invites them to share in the author’s and Acea’s own imaginative adventures. During these adventures readers can experience highs and lows, excitement and fear, danger in the face of adversity and shelter in the comfort of good friends.

One of the absolute necessities of a good story, is the relatability of its characters to readers. Acea is definitely not the typical 12 year-old , but then, he doesn’t need to be. He is curious, good-natured, and brave. He accepts the reality of the magical kingdom he is thrust into with the perfect mix of wonder and practicality, noting things with a childlike simplicity like, “These magical aquarium tanks are huge!” (p. 21) He is what I believe most children wish themselves to be. This is not to say he is perfect. Acea makes many mistakes along his journey, and he only succeeds through the help of various friends, which is exactly what makes Acea a great hero. He is a special boy, no doubt about it, but he is imperfect in many ways just like every other 12 year-old, and not 12 year-old, alive.

Last, but certainly not least, this book is great for kids for its educational value. There are literally dozens of fun facts about various animals scattered throughout the pages, the knowledge of which helps Acea achieve his goals. For example, did you know that bats actually have great eyesight in the light? Or that the blue whale is the largest animal ever to exist on Earth? I didn’t before reading this. The educational value of this book is not surprising given it was inspired by elementary school students, and it is woven into the fabric of the story so well it doesn’t even seem like learning. Not only is it educational in terms of school and facts, it also teaches about friendship, family, believing in yourself, and never giving up. All lessons readers of any age could use in their lives.

I recommend this book to any children interested in animals, magic and adventure (who am I kidding, what kid doesn’t like those things?). But don’t get discouraged if you’re an adult (let’s face it if you’re reading blogs you’re at least adultish), Acea and the Animal Kingdom is a fun ride and an easy read, which will take you back to simpler times when your only worry was saving a magical kingdom of animals from evil sorcerers so you could be reunited with your family. And who hasn’t been there?

Check out the author’s page where you can get more info, read a sample and purchase your own copy of Acea and the Animal Kingdom:

Or you can buy the book here:



There’s also a Facebook page, or check it out on Goodreads.

Book Review: The Wrong Way to Feed a Unicorn

The Wrong Way to Feed a Unicorn

This short book is, in two words, surprisingly heartfelt. In just a few short pages Knoebel creates a fascinating world populated by a cast of strange yet wonderful characters all of whom readers will alternately hate and love throughout the story. It asks the question ‘What is important in life?’ without disparaging any particular path. In the end, it reveals a world where people just get by the best they can. In any other story it would be incredibly easy to view the characters as flat, single purpose tropes, e.g. Charles as the uptight, workaholic deadbeat dad. Knoebel does such an excellent job of revealing the humanity in each of his characters though, it is impossible to box any of them in so crudely.

Let’s start with a look at Charles. Charles is, in fact, an uptight workaholic deadbeat, but underneath he is worn out, loving, and just incredibly devoted to his daughter. Likewise, at first Christina comes off as the typical ‘live in the moment, free-spirited woman who will help our hero realize what’s important in life’ trope. Again, Knoebel does a fantastic job of cutting through the bullshit to show that she does have a real heart and worries and problems and deep down she just wants to help. The Chef is a dick, but also a romantic who loves his girlfriend deeply and worries for her safety. He is a dick because that’s how he knows how to help. If I could sum up the characters of this novella in one sentence, it would simply state that all of them are decent people trudging through life the best they know how. They all have flaws, but ultimately they mean well. Except maybe the unicorn. I’m still not sure what to think of him.

The world itself is vibrant and fantastic without undermining the reality of it. Charles goes to the Flats and learns to look beneath the grime and criminal reputation of the district revealing a community of real live people just like him. However, the Flats are still dangerous and dirty, and I still don’t want to live there. The meshing of magical and reality creates a world and a story that on the surface conforms to every Hollywood trope out there, then rips away all preconceived notions of what this place is and what this story means. Yes, the Flats are magical. No, they are not really what Charles has been missing in his life.

The wonderfully passive deconstructive aspect of the writing alone makes this novella fully worth the $0.99 it costs for Kindle and more. It holds more about life in its 46 pages than many books ten times that length. If you have a half-hour to kill, there aren’t many better ways than to do it than with The Wrong Way to Feed A Unicorn.

Note: The unicorn is potty mouthed and the story is made for adults, but there is nothing I would consider inappropriate content for children in this book. It simply may not arouse their interest as well as it will an adult’s.

You can buy it for Kindle here:

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