Book Review: MILTON IN PURGATORY by Edward Vass

Milton in Purgatory

From the publisher, Fairlight Books:

Milton Pitt leads an uneventful life, with a dull job and a secret longing for adventure. One morning, after he is hit by a speeding car, he suffers an out-of-body experience and awakens back in his bedroom. Everything is just the same – that is, except for the bloody footprints leading to the chimney…

Is this his chance to lead a better life? Was it just a dream? Or is he simply dead?

In this richly inventive and humorous novella, Edward Vass brings the themes of Dante’s Divine Comedy 700 years into the future.

From me:

As I first read the above description of Milton in Purgatory, I instantly became curious about the story. I was also very intrigued by the book’s cover and I immediately had several questions. Is there something evil going on with the sharp-looking objects above the person in the chair? Speaking of which, do people get comfortable-looking chairs like that in purgatory? Also, what’s going on with that butterfly in front of that person’s obscured face? Are there butterflies in the afterlife? I’m not too keen about butterflies as it is, so will I have to continue to deal with the nasty little things after I die?

My personal feelings about butterflies aside, I decided to press on and see what this book was all about. And I’m so very glad that I did. I can honestly say that I’ve never read anything quite like Milton in Purgatory before. I mean that in the most complimentary way possible.

This is one of those books that is quite difficult to say too much about without giving away too many things about the plot. It’s a very clever and highly original story and I feel that readers of it would be best served by not knowing too much about it before they begin reading it.

And they should definitely read it. You, the person reading this review right now, you should be part of the “they” that I just mentioned. If you read Milton in Purgatory, you’re going to be experiencing some very good writing from author Edward Vass, who is an incredibly talented writer. In this book, he gives us a unique story that is all over the place. It’s funny. It’s dark. It’s surreal. It’s uplifting.

A book has to be very special for me to already want to re-read it, directly after I read it for my first time, but that’s exactly how I feel right now about Milton in Purgatory. I think it’s brilliant. I loved it.

*This book will be published on August 1, 2019 by Fairlight Books. I received an Advanced Reading Copy of it from them, via NetGalley, in exchange for a fair review.

 

 

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Book Review: HOPE RIDES AGAIN by Andrew Shaffer

hope rides again

From the publisher, Quirk Books:

In the sequel to the New York Times best-selling novel Hope Never Dies, Obama and Biden reprise their roles as BFFs-turned-detectives as they chase Obama’s stolen cell phone through the streets of Chicago–and right into a vast conspiracy.

Following a long but successful book tour, Joe Biden has one more stop before he can return home: Chicago. His old pal Barack Obama has invited him to meet a wealthy benefactor whose endorsement could turn the tide for Joe if he decides to run for president.

The two friends barely have time to catch up before another mystery lands in their laps: Obama’s prized Blackberry is stolen. When their number-one suspect winds up full of lead on the South Side, the police are content to write it off as just another gangland shooting. But Joe and Obama smell a rat…

Set against the backdrop of a raucous city on St. Patrick’s Day, Joe and Obama race to find the shooter, only to uncover a vast conspiracy that goes deeper than the waters of Lake Michigan—which is exactly where they’ll spend the rest of their retirement if they’re not careful.

From me:

While I enjoyed HOPE RIDES AGAIN, I enjoyed it a little bit less than I enjoyed HOPE NEVER DIES, which is the first book of the Obama Biden Mysteries.

Even though I liked it less, this one is still good. Actually, there are even some ways in which I think it’s slightly better than the first one. For example, I think this one may actually be a little bit funnier than the first book. Also, the character of President Obama seems more well-rounded in this one. Not that I felt there was anything wrong with him in the first book, but there’s something in this one that makes him a little bit “better.”

I think it’s because author Andrew Shaffer keeps growing as a writer. He did an awesome job on the first book and has even stronger writing in this one. What I especially was impressed with was the many times he’d have Joe Biden refer to things that were going on in “the real world.” Even though this is a work of fiction, Shaffer kept it very much tied to reality. And he does it in a way that’s respectful to people in the real world too. There are some instances where Biden or Obama might refer to the current administration or to others in politics, but it’s done in a way that’s not directly slamming those people. For example, you might get the sense that the Joe Biden character doesn’t care for a particular person, but it’s done in a way that’s not rudely insulting them.

Considering how heated things often are in the real world of politics, I’m sure it could have been easy for Shaffer to write the book in that way, where it got heavily into the “nastiness” that we see daily coming from famous politicians. But since this is a humorous fiction story, I’m glad he avoided those kinds of things and wrote it the way he did.

Personally, I read books like this one because I want to have a fun journey into a story that I can get lost in and have a good time reading. That definitely happened for me here with HOPE RIDES AGAIN.

So, why did I like this one less than I liked the first book? Well, without giving away anything about the story itself, I felt that Joe Biden’s motivation for investigating the mystery here wasn’t as strong as it was in the first book. In that one, he had a very personal connection to the case and I could easily see why he got wrapped up in it the way that he did. In this one, he barely even knew the victim of the crime that he was investigating, so his reasons for doing what he was doing seemed a little less believable to me this time around.

Having said that, I’d still very much be interested in reading future books in this series. I’m also interested in seeing what other types of stories Andrew Shaffer writes later in his career. I think that he’s a very talented writer and I bet he’s going to be giving us many great stories for a very long time.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review. Thank you to Quirk Books and NetGalley.

Book Review: CLONING ELVIS by Brian David Floyd

cloning elvis better

From the publisher:

Music producer Cameron Ogilvie has hatched his biggest money making scheme ever — he’s going to clone Elvis Presley.

Obtaining a hair follicle of the late King of Rock and Roll, Ogilvie enlists the assistance of ground-breaking geneticist Dr. Victoria Hadley to turn his plan into reality.

But there’s a snag. And it’s a big one. Literally.

The hair Ogilvie bought came from Elvis only two months before the singer’s death in 1977.

Instead of having a clone of the slender, leg shaking, pelvis gyrating, rock and roll rebel of the mid-1950’s, Ogilvie has a clone who’s grossly obese, addicted to prescription drugs, and on the verge of a massive heart attack.

Can Ogilvie and Dr. Hadley convince Elvis to make the major lifestyle changes needed to stay alive?

If so, will Elvis be able to avoid the self-destructive pit falls of fame and fortune this time around?

And does the world of the early 21st century have a place for Elvis Presley 40 years after his demise?

From me:

This book was a very nice surprise. Up until two days ago, I was unfamiliar with both the book and the author, Brian David Floyd. My wife found the book online and thought it would be something I might enjoy, so she bought me a copy of it as a gift.

Well, she proved once again that she knows me PERFECTLY well because I loved this book! As soon as I started reading it, I was hooked.

A plot about cloning Elvis Presley could have easily ended up as an unbelievably ridiculous book in the hands of the wrong writer, but author Brian David Floyd proves here that he was absolutely the right person for the job.

CLONING ELVIS is very well-written and incredibly compelling. Some people might see the plot of this and think it’s some sort of silly comedy, but it’s definitely not. While there are some funny parts in it, this is far more of a serious story. It’s actually very moving in parts.

If you’re a fan of Elvis, I think you’d definitely enjoy this book. However, I don’t think being an Elvis fan is a requirement to enjoy this one. If you’re a reader who enjoys unique and cleverly told stories, you should definitely consider checking this one out. Personally, it’s one of my favorite books that I’ve read this year.

Book Review: THE UNEXPECTED VACATION OF GEORGE THRING by Alastair Puddick

George Thring

From the publisher:

George Thring runs away from home. By accident.

Depressed, lonely and tired of life, George Thring leaves work one night but never makes it home. Before he knows it, he’s driven over 200 miles in the wrong direction and finds himself in a strange little town, in the middle of nowhere, during their annual Elvis Presley appreciation festival.

As he stumbles from one mishap to another, George meets the woman of his dreams, unwittingly aids in a bank robbery and finds himself pursued by both the police and a gang of angry criminals.

With a big life decision to make, and a girl to try and win over, George is given the chance to become the hero he has always wanted to be. But is he brave enough to take it?

From me:

As you can probably guess from the description of this book, this is a very quirky story. Personally, I’m a bit of a quirky person myself, so I tend to enjoy stories that are on the sort of “far out” side, which The Unexpected Vacation of George Thring definitely is.

It’s a clever and unique kind of story. Author Alastair Puddick is a very talented writer. He does something here which I think a lot of writers of humorous stories fail to do: he makes you care about the characters, even when they’re in the middle of ridiculous situations. Humorous novels can sometimes be difficult to read because they often get too silly and then become ludicrous to the point that the plots become very unbelievable and the characters become almost impossible to relate to.

Is this story silly? Yes, absolutely. But it’s not too silly. It’s just the right amount of silly. At least it was for me. Your silliness mileage may vary, of course.

I was very entertained by this novel. However, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I thought it was totally perfect. There were some parts in the book that were a little too repetitive. Also, there were some scenes that went on a little longer than I think they needed to, sometimes to the point that I started to lose interest in what was going on and I then wanted to skip ahead in my reading.

But those kinds of things were very minimal and I happily kept reading. In fact, once I completed the book, I instantly searched for and then purchased the next novel from Alastair Puddick. He has a new fan in me.

If you enjoy quirky and clever stories, I highly recommend The Unexpected Vacation of George Thring to you. It’s a very fun read.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review.

Book Review: Baby, Don’t Hurt Me by Chris Kattan

babydonthurtme

From the publisher:

You may know him as Mango, Mr. Peepers, the gibberish-spouting Suel Forrester, or one half of the head-bopping brothers in A Night at the Roxbury. Maybe you remember him as the forlorn gothic kid Azrael Abyss, Gay Hitler, or the guitarist in the “More Cowbell” sketch. Whichever it is, Chris Kattan has earned a spot in the hearts of a generation of comedy fans.

Chris Kattan has defied comparison, expectations, and sometimes gravity with his inimitable style of physical comedy. By creating some of the most memorable Saturday Night Live characters, as well as his many roles in film and television, Kattan has remained one of the most fearless and versatile comedians in the world.

Not long after Chris was labeled one of the improv group Groundlings’ “must-see” performers in the company, he was cast on SNL—and within the first six weeks, Chris’s film career also took off.

Now, for the first time, Kattan opens up about eight seasons on SNL, performing alongside friends and future legends including Will Ferrell, Jimmy Fallon, and Tina Fey, and guest hosts from Charlize Theron to Tom Hanks to David Bowie. He also shares stories of his unusual childhood (involving a secluded mountain with zen monks) with Leonard Cohen and Alan Watts. Baby, Don’t Hurt Me offers an unprecedented look into Chris’s life, from his fascinating relationship with Lorne Michaels, a private Valentine’s Day dinner with Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, an unforgettable flight with Beyoncé, and even breaking his neck on live television.

Baby, Don’t Hurt Me is a candid, revealing memoir from a timeless comedian and a window into the world of millennium-era SNL, from the rehearsals to the after-after parties, as narrated by your hilarious and inspiring friend—who just so happened to be there for all of it.

From me:

First of all, I’m going to admit that I’ve been a big fan of Chris Kattan ever since he first appeared on Saturday Night Live. Right from the beginning, I thought he was very funny and incredibly talented. In addition to his work on SNL, I also loved his performance in the very funny and underrated movie, A Night At The Roxbury. It’s very silly, but I liked it a lot and I thought Kattan was hilarious in it.

When I heard about this autobiography, I was immediately interested in it. Even though I’ve liked Kattan for years, I really knew very little about him. I’d heard that he’d had some personal and professional hardships over the years, but I really didn’t know any specifics, so I thought it would be interesting to read about them from Chris himself.

And I was right. There were quite a few fascinating stories shared in this book. As soon as I started reading it, I got totally wrapped up in it. Kattan had a very unique childhood that was part showbiz in Los Angeles with his father, yet part very isolated on a mountain with his mother and stepfather. His later growth into a comedic actor was also fascinating to learn about, especially his days with The Groundlings and his early years on Saturday Night Live. It was especially fun for me to read the behind-the-scenes stories of some of his classic sketches and characters from SNL.

And it certainly doesn’t stop there with SNL. The book covers a lot. I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone and I’m reluctant to share too much of what Chris talks about other than to say that his good times, both on and off the screen, have definitely been mixed with some very hard times that I was unaware of.

If I have any complaint about this book, I’d say that I wish it had been longer. I’m not saying that in some sort of nerdy, super-fan way, like, “Ooooooh, I LOVED it!!! I wish there were a thousand more pages to it. More Chris! More Chris!! More Chris!!!”

No.

What I’m saying is that I wish it had been longer because it seemed that some of the stories in it were actually a little too short and should have been expanded upon. For example, without giving anything too major away, there was a story about a romantic relationship of his that had ended badly. It was told in less than a page and I feel that a few more details on how it had affected him would have made it even more compelling to read about.

In the same vein, I would also liked to have learned a little bit more about some of his more recent projects since he left Saturday Night Live. But I feel like I’m sort of nit-picking there. I don’t like to review things on the basis of what they do not include. That would be sort of like me giving a horrible review to a Blue Oyster Cult song because it didn’t have enough cowbell in it. Only the cowbell that is actually there in the song should be reviewed, right?

My point is to say that I very much enjoyed what is here in this book. I’m very glad I read it and I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning more about Chris Kattan.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.