Tag Archives: Relationships

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: http://horizondream.wordpress.com

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: http://www.amazon.com/The-Wrong-Feed-Unicorn-ebook/dp/B00BEBHMQY/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

Author’s homepage: http://christianknoebel.com/

Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/TheWrongWayToFeedAUnicorn

NEA Read Across America Day

I just found out today is the National Education Association’s Read Across America Day. In honor of this, I’m going to share one of my favorite children’s books with you. I love it so much, I found an old copy on Amazon and bought it. (I even bought it before today. That’s how awesome it is.) Luckily, I have a picture I can show you, which I’m 85% sure doesn’t violate any copyright laws.

Did you doubt my word?

How many friends do you have?

The King With Six Friends

The book is called The King With Six Friends, in case you couldn’t tell from the picture. It is the delightful tale of King Zar, who lost his kingdom. Sadly, as a king he is unfit to do anything but rule, so he goes off in search of a new kingdom. Along the way he comes across six unusual shapeshifting specters. (Really they’re people, but come on, the one guy can turn himself into a fire.) He saves each of these “people” from some terrible conundrum, like shoeing a mouse away from the elephant wizard. In gratitude for his bravery and ingenuity, each man offers to follow him.

After searching around with his buddies, Zar finds a few nice kingdoms (they’re kind of just laying around), but they all have kings. Eventually, he stumbles into the kingdom ruled by Invictus, a friend of his father’s, where he learns the king is having trouble marrying off his daughter. His first reaction, “Is she so ugly?” (Nice, Zar. We can tell you’re quite the catch.) He finds out she is actually very beautiful (score!), but her father is very proud and will only marry her to a king. The only problem is, every other king around is already married (polygamy anyone?). “Huzzah!” Zar cries (not really, but he should have), he is in luck. If there’s one thing he’s good for besides being a king, as he tells Invictus, it’s marrying hot princesses. Oh, but Invictus isn’t satisfied yet. You see, his daughter is very rich, and Zar doesn’t have jack squat! Not to be deterred when his eye’s on the prize Zar just says, “When I marry her, I will be rich, too.” He does have impeccable logic. So, the king agrees to let Zar marry his daughter if he can pass a few tests. Zar is no fool though, he demands to see his reward, I mean the princess before agreeing to any trials. After satisfying himself with her beauty (I assume he checked her teeth or something), Zar agrees to the trials, but only if his friends are allowed to help him. Invictus agrees, with the stipulation that if they fail, they will all lose their heads.

Zar and friends must pass six trials (hmmm, nothing convenient about that number.) As luck would have it, each of the trials seem uniquely formulated to be beaten through the use of a very specific kind of witchcraft which one of Zar’s companions just happens to be an expert in. After using his friends to win him the princess’ hand in marriage, there is a wedding and a great feast. At the feast the king’s steward asks one of Zar’s companions, “Each of you six had something he could do best. It seems to me that it was you who passed the tests, not Zar. What did he do?” The companion replies, with a twinkle in his eye, “Merry Christmas to all! Now you’re all gonna die!” Err. Sorry. I’ve had a Weird Al song stuck in my head for a couple days. He actually says, “He did what only a good king can do. He led us.”

The End.

What Can We Learn From This?

Well, as you may have guessed, the book is kind of misogynistic, a fact I completely missed as a child. There are only two female characters, one of whom is a barmaid and the other of whom is the princess who says nothing, just stands there and looks pretty. The princess is valued only because of her beauty and wealth. King Invictus and Zar bargain for her as they would a prize cow, and indeed she is treated much the same. I’m willing to give these things more of a pass because the book was written in the ’60s by a man who was already a grandfather. That doesn’t make it right in any way, but what it does mean for me is that the book probably isn’t intentionally misogynistic. That counts for something, I think.

Now, at the beginning of the post I referred to this book as one of my favorites, and it definitely is, despite all the problems with it. One thing I love about this book are the pictures, which are detailed but still childish in the best way possible. The story, despite being fairly archetypal, is creative and imaginative, and the illustrations bring that out beautifully. Another great thing is it has actual paragraphs, as opposed to many great children’s books which have one or one half of a sentence per page. While still an easy read for an adult, this provides a great (as in good, not huge) challenge for children who may not be used to lengthier texts.



Lastly, dealing with the content, the book is not about misogyny, which is why I can give it a little bit of a pass. It is really about leadership and the value of good friends. It brings these lessons across very well, and to that I say ‘Bravo!’ I think the book is valuable enough for these qualities to still be read to children. If I ever have children, I will read this book to them. Then, I’ll talk with them about the lessons they should get from this book and the lessons they shouldn’t get. Who knows, maybe I’ll make up a few extra bits to add in about how the princess set the trials herself because she knows her value, and how she had a long talk with Zar about why beauty isn’t the best measure of a potential spouse. Maybe he’ll just win the chance to date her, and after a long courtship they’ll break it off because they’re just not really compatible as a couple. Maybe if I have daughters, Zar will be a queen and she’ll marry the rich, dullard, handsome prince and she’ll rule the land. In the end though, The King With Six Friends really is a wonderful story for children. Just take it with a grain of salt.

A New Project Is Born: Can You See It?

So I was writing a blog post about how much I suck and how I’m super lazy, but then I realized something. I freaking rock! So instead of whining to the internet about how hard my life is (trick question: it also rocks!), I’m starting a fun new project. It involves my wife (although she doesn’t know how) and it’s very very simple. I’ve hidden some stuff in plain sight and she hasn’t noticed it yet. I’ve got a few pictures of the first thing, and if you find it I’ll give you a prize, like a lollipop or something. If you do see it, just send me an email or Facebook message because I really don’t want to spoil it for anyone else (especially Megan). Maybe later I’ll write a story or poem or something to commemorate the things I do when I’m bored. Anyway, here’s your first picture. Can you spot the hidden element?


How to Be A Decent Human Being: Reply to How to Meet Shy Girls

I recently received a tweet saying, “So this is a truly disgusting article. And it’s begging for a parody.” It linked to an article entitled “How to Meet Shy Girls” written by a misogynistic, racist, pathetic pile of a human being. Sometimes the stupidity of a fellow human angers me. Sometimes I want to grab that fellow human by the back of the head and repeatedly smash their forehead into a desk made entirely of common decency. Sometimes I just want bad things to happen to them. (It’s not very charitable I know, and I feel bad for wanting that, but sometimes I really do want it.) Reading this article just made me depressed. I want to show these people how wrong they are, but it feels so pointless. I do feel that some response is justified, so that’s what you’re getting here.

Let me explain this article to you as best I can. The gist of it is as a man you don’t want a woman who will be anything but entirely beneath you in every way. I’ll give you a small glimpse at the filth spewed by the sad excuse for a human being who wrote this. It ends with this thought, “When you finally do get in you’ll have the pleasure of saying, into her ear, ‘you’re my property now’.” If you feel anything less than revulsion and disgust at that, I don’t think I want to be your friend. There are people who are worth being friends with, even though they have faults, and there are people who provide no value to your life at all. I don’t know the man who wrote this article, but I feel that he is one of the latter.

Like this guy, only not good at expectorating.

Like this guy, only not good at expectorating.

This man describes the woman he wants like this, “If you are to have a girlfriend you should have one who helps you out and brightens your day, not one who is argumentative, bitchy, whorish or ‘feminized’.” This is a valuable point. A relationship, especially such an intimate one, should by all means brighten your day and help you out. And a partner who is argumentative, bitchy, or whorish is not a partner you want. I take issue with the idea that a ‘feminized’ woman must be any of these things. I won’t go into it except to say I take issue with that notion because it is simply not true. A much greater defect with this statement is its utterly juvenile one-sidedness. Call me crazy, but I truly believe if you want your partner to help you out you should also help her/him out. If you want a partner who brightens your day, it might not be too much to ask for you to brighten his/her day as well. If you don’t want your partner to be argumentative then I’d suggest not picking fights. This is one of the great issues with this whole piece. As previously shown, this is advice only to men about what type of woman to pick out at market. It says nothing about how if a man wants to find a good woman, he should make himself worthy of her affections as well. Overall, this is simply a selfish, childish view of the world and one person’s place in it.

Now, I understand some of the feelings which compelled the author to compile this garbage, but that doesn’t make it right. I understand the lust which drives date rapists to do what they do. That doesn’t make it right either. Everyone has the same basic feelings. We like to feel powerful, in control, loved, appreciated, useful. These are noble virtues which we should all strive toward. However, there are good ways to go about that, and there are bad ways. The author of the article suggests men should hunt women as prey (his words) and claim one as a possession. Let me be clear: THIS IS THE WRONG WAY TO FEEL GOOD! If you want to feel powerful do not, I repeat, DO NOT subjugate another human being to your will. This is shallow power, and it makes you a dick. (Although, to be fair, you were probably a dick before you actually subjugated anyone.) If you want to feel powerful, don’t find someone you can protect as your property. Be able to protect someone who might need it even though you have no claim on them at all. If you want to feel useful, don’t find someone who can’t function on their own. Make yourself available for use when it is needed or wanted. If you want to feel appreciated, be a decent human being and others will appreciate you for it. Lastly, if you want a good woman you can share your life with, don’t hunt her down, capture her, and subjugate her to your will. Be a good man who a good woman would be lucky to be with, and when you meet one develop a relationship based on mutual respect and admiration.

I don’t want to argue with the man, who is so clearly wrong, because I feel he is worthless. Let me say that again for emphasis; I feel like the author of this article is completely worthless as a human being. I don’t want to feel that way. I would like to love this person, and give him a hug and tell him there are good girls out there who are strong and independent and that’s okay. I would like to tell him he can find a good woman who can help him be a better person, and more importantly, who he could help be a better person too. I want to feel that way, but I don’t. I feel like he is not worth the effort it would take to help him be better, and that’s a really bad way to feel. I don’t want to completely write someone off. I generally want to help people see things my way (read: the best way), or at least help them grow by letting them show me how I might be wrong. After reading only a few paragraphs of this article, I tweeted back at my friend, “This guy’s not worth our time and effort.” It’s why I don’t feel angry at this article, just sad.

Here’s a link to the article. I don’t recommend clicking this link, but at least now you should be prepared for what you’ll find if you choose to do it anyway.