Every now and again my teen reader writes a book review that I enjoy way too much to not share with the world (or, you know, the people who read my blog). Today he has a rip-roaring take on a Weird Al biography. I typed it as he wrote it, excessive use of italics and all. Enjoy!
Recently, I read Weird Al: Seriously by Lily E. Hirsch and I enjoyed it! Here are my thoughts and opinions on what I think might be the first-ever biography I’ve read and reviewed! Don’t quote me on that, though; I could be wrong.
So first off, because this is a biography, my review might be a little different. It is pretty hard to talk about the settings and characters when the whole book is about a real person so I’m going to focus on the writing itself instead. Just thought you should know before we get started.
Okay! So now that I’ve done the introduction and all that, it’s time to start talking about the book! I personally thought it was really interesting, and not just because I think Weird Al is funny. I think the author did a pretty good job having a serious discussion about Weird Al’s music and life, although there were some tougher topics mentioned…(but that’s just par for the course with a biography, especially one with a political chapter. Even if that chapter is about how the subject of the book doesn’t actively share his political opinions).
But we all know what this book is really about: Weird Al’s trademark parody songs! But the question here is: did Lily E. Hirsch actually do a good job writing about Weird Al and his songs? Well, the answer to that question (at least in my opinion) is yes! A lot of the chapters had entire sections highlighting a different song and explaining some of what it took to write and perform. And sometimes there’s funny jokes! That’s a pretty neat bonus in my eyes.
One of my favorite parts of the book was a silly little section highlighting several times where Al’s parody was so well known that the original song actually got confused with the parody! I just thought it was really funny hearing about how the person who made “American Pie” (the song “The Saga Begins” is a parody of) almost started singing the wrong song because of how often they heard it; thankfully they (presumably) sang the right song in the end.
However, no review is complete without at least one negative opinion. And so I’m afraid I have to share some things that I wasn’t that much of a fan of.
First off, while I do enjoy a good pun, there were one or two parts where there were just too many bad puns, and it made it a bit tough to read at times (I guess you could say I found it pun-funny! Get it? Because it sounds like unfunny…I’ll see myself out).
Another thing I wasn’t sure about was some of the more serious chapters. I understand that it has the word “serious” in the title, but I just expect a bit more silliness from a book about Weird Al, I guess. Aside from those two things, though, I didn’t really have any problems with the book. I found it extremely interesting, and it occupied my time for a good while. Overall, a pretty positive review!
One more thing: the book did a great job illustrating just how nice Weird Al is. It definitely seems like he’s the one celebrity you would actually enjoy meeting (although, I don’t know that many celebrities to choose from in the first place…). It doesn’t really matter to my review, I just thought it was some fun information. All in all, this one is pretty simple! If you like Weird Al enough to buy a book, then buy this one! And if you don’t I’m assuming there’s at least one person out there who is completely outraged. I am not that person, though. I won’t judge you!
Thank you to the author for gifting this book to my son. Lucky Jack is available now.
Lucky Jack is the memoir (dictated by Jack to a reporter) of Henry “Jack” Rodgers. This little book spans a remarkably large span of time because Jack lived to be over 100 years old! And by lived, I mean he really lived. He didn’t just exist. Jack had a zest for life that comes through the pages loud and clear, making this book a captivating and often rollicking taste of history from a new perspective.
As an American, the majority of my knowledge of British history is confined to the “big” names and events. Lucky Jack makes things much more personal and, in that respect, more familiar. There were a few things here and there that my tragically American sensibilities didn’t quite understand (beef drippings, for example) but I was able to easily infer.
The book included small anecdotes about Jack’s life. The chapters were short and would work very well as a history curriculum supplement (homeschool mom here). While the entire book was interesting, the parts involving Jack’s experiences in World War I were extremely powerful. It can be easy, I think, to relegate things to history books, making them seem a little removed. Lucky Jack gets rid of that invisible barrier, making historical events less separate from the day-to-day grind.
The way the book is organized by author Sue Bavey makes for a quick yet engaging read. It’s told in the first person and feels like nothing so much as a good conversation with a friend. My oldest son said, “Jack came across as a kind, somewhat goofy person who was probably a joy to be around in his lifetime”. I think that Jack was one of those delightful people who share their “luck” with everyone they meet. The reader is definitely lucky to be able to peer into the life of a remarkable man who truly lived.
Teachers and parents: make sure to read Lucky Jack with your older elementary and up children. Everyone else: read this for an enjoyable trip through someone’s life.
I like lists. I know, that’s a weird thing to have strong feelings about, but I do. I often have trouble sleeping and, while making lists doesn’t help with that, it’s a fun way to pass the time when I’m laying in bed overthinking something I said in the seventh grade. But I digress.
I’ve been working on a list of great indie books I’ve read for quite a while now. This is far from complete and I’m sure I have several favorites that I’ve forgotten to add. However, since yet another odd take on indie books is circulating online, I’m sharing this list today. I’ll keep adding to it as the list of indie books I enjoy grows.
Tell me what some of your favorite indie books are! Let’s show indie authors some appreciation!
*If I have mistakenly added a non-indie book to this list, please let me know.
Adjacent Monsters by Luke Tarzian
The Archives of Evelium by Jeffrey Speight
Around the Dark Dial by JD Sanderson
Blade’s Edge by Virginia McClain
Burn Red Skies by Kerstin Espinosa Rosero
Constable Inspector Lunaria Adventures by Geoff Tangent and Coy Kissee
The Dragon’s Banker by Scott Warren
Dragon Mage by ML Spencer
Duckett and Dyer: Dicks for Hire by GM Nair
Fairy Godmurderer by Sarah J. Sover
The Flaws of Gravity by Stepanie Caye
The Forever King by Ben Galley
Frith Chronicles by Shami Stovall
The Gifted and the Cursed by Marcus Lee
A Good Running Away by Kevin Pettway
The Hand of Fire by Rolan J. O’Leary
Henry by Christopher Hooks
The Hero Interviews by Andi Ewington
The Heroes of Spira by Dorian Hart
The Hummingbird’s Tear by CM Kerley
Justice Academy by Rob Edwards
The Legend of Black Jack by A.R. Witham
Legends of Cyrradon by Jason and Rose Bishop
Lexcalibur by Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik
Little White Hands by Mark Cushen
The Maer Cycle by Dan Fitzgerald
Mennik Thorn series by Patrick Samphire
Messengers of the Macabre by LindaAnn LoSchiavo and David Davies
Mirror in Time by D. Ellis Overttun
Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons by Quenby Olson
Oil and Dust by Jami Farleigh
The Part About the Dragon Was (Mostly) True by Sean Gibson
Path to Villainy by SL Roland
The Return of King Lillian by Suzie Plakson
The Royal Champion by GM White
Sacaran Nights by Rachel Emma Shaw
Shadowless by Randall McNally
Sherlock Holmes and the Remaining Improbable by Susanne M. Dutton
Thank you to Aconyte Books for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Everybody Wins: Four Decades of the Greatest Board Games Ever Made is available now.
I love games of all kinds, from video games to board games. I grew up with the usual suspects: Clue, Monopoly, Risk (my nemesis!). As an adult, I’ve discovered some fantastic new games, ones that are unique and loads of fun. I’m lucky that my family loves to play board games too. We’re also often joined by some friends who have introduced us to some excellent indie games that we might not have seen before.
I expected Everybody Wins: Four Decades of the Greatest Board Game Ever Played to be a bit of a guidebook with popular games listed alphabetically with suggestions as to who would enjoy them. Sure, there are games listed with suggested ages, but this book is much more comprehensive and fascinating. It starts with an explanation of the Spiel des Jahres “Game of the Year” award: its inception and its criteria. I was surprised by how interesting even the background was. I’ve played and loved many games, but I have to admit that I had never really given much thought to what makes one game worthy of an award over many others. This lens was a new way through which to view some of my favorite games.
Everybody Wins then goes through the years, detailing the winners, both the gist of the game itself and the background of its creation. I was delighted to see so many of my favorites, such as Azul and Dixit, listed and even more excited to see my list of new games to try grow by leaps and bounds. I see many great game nights in my future.
The language of the book is far from dry. It’s engaging and accessible. Despite the vast amount of information available, I read through it fairly quickly. That being said, I will be using Everybody Wins to find the perfect games when I go Christmas shopping this year. I’d love to read a book with a similar setup all about table-top roleplaying games as well (the reason the Spiel des Jashres isn’t focused on ttrpgs is also explained).
Everybody Wins: Four Decades of the Greatest Board Games Ever Played is a highly engaging book that made me smile. Pick this book up, then grab some friends and family members and play a board game!
I feel like doing a giveaway! I read an amazing bunch of books in 2022, so I’m going to give one lucky winner their choice of a book from my favorite reads from 2022. All you need to do is take a look at my 12 favorites below and comment with which book you’d like to win. I’ll announce a winner Sunday the 26th.
Well, another year has come and (mostly) gone. It was another amazing reading year, making coming up with a list of favorites a delightfully difficult task. I kept thinking that I would only write a top ten, but after agonizing over which books to leave off, I told myself, “Self, it’s your blog, dash it all! You can have a top twelve favorites list! No one can stop you!” It was around this point that it occurred to me that I should probably stop talking to myself (although I am a very witty conversationalist) and just write the darn list. Without further ado, and in no particular order, I present my top TWELVE books of 2022.
The Shadow Glass by Josh Winning
“This book was a love story to the wonderful, imaginative things I grew up with, and I enjoyed every moment of it.”
Coming up with this list was incredibly difficult! I love giving books as gifts, but I have a tendency to pick ones that I think will appeal specifically to the person I am shopping for. However, there are a few that I think will be great gifts for the majority of my friends. I’ve included some that I would love to receive myself (assuming I don’t already own them). You can find my previous lists here: 2021, 2020.
Empire of Exiles by Erin M. Evans
Good gravy, I loved this book! The writing is phenomenal and the magic system is breathtaking. This would make an excellent book for a reader who is experienced in fantasy and loves being sucked into a book. Just don’t expect to hear from them until they’ve finished: it’s too engrossing. Review
The Shadow Glass by Josh Winning
The Shadow Glass would be the perfect gift for people who grew up loving The Labyrinth or The Dark Crystal. It’s an urban fantasy with fantastic nostalgia lacing throughout. The character development is amazing and anyone lucky enough to receive this book will be cheering by the end. Review
Dragonlance Destinies: Dragons of Deceit by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
If you know me at all you’re not even remotely surprised that I’d add Dragons of Deceit to the list. Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman came back to the world they’ve created with a bang. While this can be a jumping-off point for anyone new to the world, I strongly recommend giving the Dragonlance Chronicles as a gift as well if the recipient hasn’t yet read them. This book will be even better if they know the original story. I guess that means I’m sneaking in multiple suggestions under the guise of one. I’m a slyboots. Review.
Small Places by Laura Owen
For this suggestion, I’m veering from fantasy into spooky territory. Small Angels never crosses into straight-out horror, but instead uses descriptive language to paint an eerie picture. This was very enjoyable and will suck in any reader. Review.
The Hero Interviews by Andi Ewington
This hilarious book would make an AWESOME gift! I’ve guffawed my way through it multiple times now and each time something different makes me snort-laugh. The Hero Interviews releases on kindle the first week of December, so give it to friends who like ebooks (I think that’s most people). Go ahead and snag it for yourself too. You’ll love it. Review.
The Withered King by Ricardo Victoria
This is the first book in the Tempest Blades series. I really love the tones of hope and second chances that run through both The Withered King and its sequel, The Cursed Titans. I don’t know why, but I get a bit of a My Hero Academia vibe. I think it’s that both that show and these books have great character development, complex storylines, and a lot of action. That’s a lot to finagle at once and author Ricardo Victoria manages it wonderfully. Review.
Slaying the Dragon: A Secret History of Dungeons and Dragons by Ben Riggs
Okay, this is a gift for a very select type of reader. Not everyone is going to give a fig about the history of D&D or what happened to TSR. This is for those of us who look forward to diving into imaginary worlds and using our imaginations. However, I argue that not only is it absolutely fascinating, Slaying the Dragon is ridiculously well-researched and written in a way that is engaging and flows well. Grab this one for your TTRPG friends. Trust me, they’ll love it. Review.
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
My oldest son has just dipped his toes into Agatha Christie’s writing. And Then There Were None is my favorite of hers. It would make a great gift for mystery lovers old and new.
Dragons of a Different Tail Edited by Marx Pyle
I loved this highly entertaining collection of dragon stories! It’s so creative. Each story is so different from the one before it, from tone to genre. Any fantasy reader would be delighted to add these dragons to their collection. Review.
Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldtree
This book is absolutely delightful! It’s a hug in print. It would be such a great gift for anyone who could use a happy ending right about now, and I kind of think that’s everyone. I really wish this coffee shop existed in the real world but, since it doesn’t, the book would make an excellent gift along with a cute mug.
What books are you planning on gifting this year? And how many are you going to gift yourself?
I actually bought Blood Feud: Detroit Red Wings v. Colorado Avalanche for my husband but, being a huge Colorado Avalanche fan myself, I decided to read it when he finished. Full disclosure: the majority of this took place before my time. I was young enough to prefer Power Rangers and Buffy the Vampire Slayer at the time and it was hard to watch the games on TV since I didn’t live in either Detroit or Colorado. That being said, most hockey fans at least know the bare bones of the legendary (and ugly) rivalry between two top teams.
For those who don’t know, the whole thing can (depending on who you ask) be traced back to a bad hockey hit made by Avalanche player Claude Lemieux on Kris Draper of the Red Wings. It sent Draper to the hospital where he was found to have several serious injuries including a broken jaw and shattered cheekbone. The following season saw Bloody Wednesday, a game that saw more brutality and fighting than actual hockey playing. From there, a feud the likes of which hasn’t really been seen since developed between the two teams. It was intense. It was violent. And it was an example of what happens when players cross a line.
The videos and images are bad. Like, really bad. I don’t mind a good ol’ hockey fight, but these two teams took it to an ugly level. I don’t think I would have ended up being a fan of either team if that feud was my introduction to hockey, to be honest. That being said, the story of what happened, how everyone felt about it, and how the media on both sides fanned the flames, was an interesting one.
Adrian Dater, the author, was a reporter covering the Avalance and has a fascinating perspective. The information he gave added to what I already knew, and I think many hockey fans would enjoy the book, but with some conditions attached. First of all, there are no introductions to the people involved. If you don’t already know who most of the players are, you’re going to be pretty lost. As it was, there were a LOT of statistics thrown around and I got confused a few times. I think part of that was the way the book itself is presented.
It isn’t necessarily written in chronological order, instead seeming to be a bunch of collected memories woven into book form. I think a little more editing might have made an already riveting story more cohesive. There was one section, in particular, where I was completely thrown: it mentioned Lemieux being married to his first wife, then he was abruptly mentioned as being with his second wife, then it went right back to talking about his first marriage again. All of this happened on one page. It was a bizarre thing to read.
I really liked the quotes. There was a cool combination of bits from articles written at the time and players’ reactions both in the middle of the rivalry and years later. The amount of information and research gathered was impressive. Coaches were spoken to and Dater mentioned the media’s part in stoking the flames of the feud. Actually, I thought a lot of what the media did was disgusting at best and horrible at worst (I don’t mean include Dater in this opinion. He didn’t spread the vitriol other journalists did). He even wrote about some of the run-ins he had with different people involved at the time and how even he wasn’t above the emotion and anger that made those games so intense.
What’s incredibly interesting is how, years later, many of the coaches and players are at least friendly with each other. Well, minus a few people who were most affected. That is completely understandable. Blood Feud was an intensive look at a battle that spilled off the ice, perfect for people who want to know both the impetus and the mindset of everyone involved. That being said, if you don’t know much about what happened but are intrigued, this might not be for you. A better introduction, if you can handle the nasty visuals, is the excellent documentary Unrivaled: Red Wings v Avalanche.
“You are in a darkened room, a shadow of its former glory. Around you huddle the remains of your party, their weapons dangling from tired hands. Danger besets you on all sides. The door slowly opens, revealing an unspeakable horror. What do you do?”
This could be setup from a Dungeon Master at any late-night D&D session. It could also easily describe the situations in Slaying the Dragon: A Secret History of Dungeons & Dragons, although the “weapons” were creative minds, and the “unspeakable horror” was financial ruin, mismanaged products, and mistreated employees. I was fascinated and heartbroken in equal measure, reading the history of TSR, the company that once owned Dungeons and Dragons (as well as Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms, among other things).
Every story has two (or more) sides. So many times, the narrative is “big, bad, Wizards of the Coast devoured the little guy”, but of course there’s more to it than that. This book delves into the state of TSR and explores why on earth it was in a position to be bought out anyway. It had so much going for it: a plethora of creative ideas, artists that are still seen as some of the best in the fantasy art genre, and a passion that many workplaces just don’t have. Sadly, it also had some of the worst financial management I’ve heard of and some higher ups that just didn’t understand what TSR was trying to do.
In many ways, it was a trainwreck of epic proportions, although it didn’t start out that way. The mess made for an incredible tale, though. As the saying about train wrecks goes, “it was impossible to look away”.
Slaying the Dragon is written in an easy-to-understand way. It’s well organized and doesn’t meander. There are a few parts that I would have loved to see expanded a little (the section on the Satanic Panic, for example, since there is a lot to unpack there), but it moved at a good pace. About halfway through, I wished it would slow down, just because what happened was so darn sad. It was hard to watch the book walk toward a disaster like that.
There were interviews throughout the book, which were fascinating and added a new level of clarity. It also broke up the author’s narration and kept it from ever becoming too dry. That personal angle was always there. I have to give Ben Riggs credit: he went above and beyond to get as many opinions of what happened as possible, and dug deep into his research as well.
Slaying the Dragon: A Secret History of Dungeons & Dragons was a riveting look at the rise, fall, and reincarnation of TSR, the most honest one I’ve seen to date. I recommend this to anyone who remembers going into Walden books and seeing a treasure trove of creativity, and to D&D fans of all ages.
If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’ll know that I have been lucky enough to read many indie/self-published. I love the creativity and uniqueness often found in self-published books. Last year was the first ever Self-Published Authors Appreciation Week, during which I was joined by many amazing bloggers, podcasters, and Youtubers, all sharing their appreciation for great self-published authors. Well, guess what? We’re doing it again this year!
This year Self-Published Authors Appreciation Week will run from July 24th-30th. How can you get involved? Read self-published books, review self-published books, shout about great self-published authors. You’re welcome to use the above banner (created by the awesome Fantasy Book Nerd) and if you tag my Twitter @WS_BOOKCLUB, I will add your posts to a blog hub and share those posts on my Twitter. On Twitter, you can the hashtags #SPAAW, #SuperSP, and #IndiesAreAwesome.