The Mediterranean Love Plan

The Mediterranean Love Plan
Steve and Misty Arterburn
(Scheduled for release April 2017)

It comes at a price, but this book offers great, fresh ideas. The shelves are full of books and magazines filled with suggestions for your love life, but I really did find creative, practical fun ideas in this book. It’s the kind of book you will want to keep handy so you can refer back to the tips at the end of each chapter for new ideas.

The downside is the amount of time you have to spend floating down Ego River. You will hear about the boats he has owned, the awards he has received, his speaking engagements, his radio interviews, the ministries he has founded, his musical talent, his artistic talent, the extravagant vacations he has had, and the perfection of his family. You will learn that you should go to Spain, and Italy, and France. Look past all of that, and you will find great thoughts and ideas.

The free advance reading copy that Zondervan sent me had a lot of unsubstantiated claims that I hope will have citations in the final version. In this Internet era of false news, you can’t say things like “studies show” without naming credible sources, but I’m sure that will be cleaned up.

All in all, this is an impressive collection of great ideas that go beyond the typical fluff in modern relationship resources. My wife has already benefited from a couple of things I picked up, and I haven’t really begun to apply it proactively. These are great thoughts that are appropriate for everyone who is in, or who wants to be in, a loving relationship.

Doctor Who: The American Adventures

IMG_0955.PNGThe free advanced reading copy that the publisher, Diamond Book Distributors, sent me was incorrectly labeled as a graphic novel. It is, in fact, more of a novella.

It still baffles me that with all of time and space to explore, the Doctor’s adventures seem so frequently to occur on earth and within a relatively narrow span of time. Having said that, it’s refreshing that it wasn’t within 100 years, either way, from present-day London. Rather, it takes place in the United States in the mid 1800’s, during the Gold Rush–at least initially.

This adventure involves the Twelfth Doctor, as portrayed by Peter Capaldi. And for the most part, it captures his character well. I would say, though, that this proper Scottish Doctor would say “Yes,” not “Yeah.”

A key factor in the dynamics of any adventure of Doctor Who adventure is the identity of his companion. In this book, however, there is none. I do think the story lacks something from the great by-play between the Doctor and his companion of the moment–in the case of the Twelfth Doctor, usually Clara.

The feeling is a bit more matter-of-fact than we expect from the Doctor’s adventures, without the character interaction and development of the others involved. It feels like a disconnected set of vignettes, which is implied by the title of “Adventures” plural. If you stay with it, though, the author does bring them back together into a coherent story…or at least that was my hope until the last page.

I hope that when this book is released they make it clear that this is a collection of short stories. I found them a bit too straightforward for my tastes, but diehard Whovians might find it worth their time.

Book Review: The Wrong Unit

Released July 4, 2016

CoverThe Wrong Unit is one of the best sci-fi adventures I’ve read in a very long time. It contains 85 chapterettes of excitement, humor, and character development—both human and non. The only reason I’m not giving it five stars is chapterette 86, which is a jarring, out-of-place dose of cheesy epilogue that ruined it for me. I definitely recommend you read this book, but stop after chapter 85—which is a perfect ending.

Rob Dircks’ imagination is fantastic, bringing a strong premise and throwing in just the right amount of action, challenges, and humor to its development. I might suggest he paint the scenery just a bit more vividly in future work, but not to the point of distraction as some authors do. This is definitely a page-turner, with good use of plausible sci-fi tropes without falling into a pedantic effort to explain them to us.

Well done, Dircks. Next time, don’t listen to the editor who tells you it needs a Disneyesque ending. (Full disclosure: I received a free review copy from Goldfinch Publishing.)

Book Review: Bloom County Episode XI: A New Hope

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(to be published September 27, 2016 — available for preorder at https://www.amazon.com/Bloom-County-Episode-XI-Hope/dp/163140699X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473464696&sr=8-1&keywords=bloom+county)

You should know up front that this is not an unbiased review. It couldn’t be. I was a fan of the Bloom County and Outland comic strips decades ago, and I was one of the most excited people when Berkeley Breathed decided to post occasional new strips on Facebook last year. In fact, I confess that I am one of those who posted supportive replies to those much-appreciated additions to the Bloom County universe. The fact that Breathed has even included some of those fan tributes from Facebook in this volume makes it even more impossible for me to be unbiased. Then IDW Publishing offered me the opportunity to review this pre-release version free! Deal with it.

Before we even get to the strips, we have to see the artist behind them. I was really moved by a young person like Berke’s words for the great Harper Lee, and the influence that her writing had on him–especially her encouragement to him that Bloom County shouldn’t end.

Breathed speaks of the ways in which the newspaper deadline fervor didn’t fit his creative style, much like Bill Watterson and his beloved Calvin and Hobbes. In a different age, we might have lost Breathed’s insights altogether. In the Internet age, he has been able to find a vehicle that has worked perfectly for his genius.

Yes, all of this review so far is based in his incredible history and a single page at the front of this new collection. It’s important, though, because Breathed’s work is so much more than a highly entertaining comic strip. It’s a movement of the heart. It’s a way to speak truth without the snark (and bias) of Doonesbury. It’s reminiscent of the insight of Calvin and Hobbes packaged in the lovable forms of characters like…penguins (now revived after a 25 year nap). Binkley’s anxiety closet is newly relevant to the things we all see in the world around us.

Thank you, Berke, for finding a new communication vehicle that fits your working style and allows us all be looks at your view of the world. This book is a treasure for anyone willing to take an honest look at the world. Treat yourself to a few hours in this wonderfully insightful universe.

Book Review: The Water Knife

The Water KnifeWell, let’s get the negatives out of the way first. The last thing the scifi genre needs is Yet Another Climate Change Dystopia. And this one comes with the tired sermons about human stupidity and climate change deniers. I was also disappointed that Bacigalupi threw in a gratuitous declaration of one character being gay, when his sexuality contributed absolutely nothing to the story. You’re better than this formulaic stuff, Paolo.

Having said that, the book is a good thriller with very nice character development and a great twist at the end. In my opinion, Bacigalupi is one of the better voices in today’s scifi generation and this story keeps your attention well. So well that I stayed up later than I should have last night because I had to finish it.

Book Review: Bedlam & Belfry: Intergalactic Attorneys at Law

imageBedlam & Belfry are attorneys with rather low scruples, high ambitions, and devious minds. In some stories that leads to interesting contrivances. In others, such as Bedlam & Belfry: The Musical, they aren’t even relevant to the story. Regardless, the reader should approach this book with thoughts of humor, and nothing at all “intergalactic.”

Most anthologies are of the “Best of” variety, where an editor has the ability to select his or her favorite stories of a particular type. In this case, the author has only written 12 so this collection is both the best of and the worst of. That’s why you find really enjoyable stories such as Bedlam & Belfry go to the Dogs beside such clunkers as Bedlam & Belfry Get Elected.

As in the days when people bought entire albums rather than individual tracks, you don’t have to enjoy all 12 to think the album was worth it. But when you made a mix tape, you only selected a few from the album to make the cut. On balance this book (full disclosure: review copy provided free by Rocketship Press) is enjoyable, but don’t approach it with the lofty hopes raised by reviewers who compare this to Monty Python and Douglas Adams.

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