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.

 

 

Book Review: Thin Air by Lisa Gray

thin air cover

From the publisher:

Private investigator Jessica Shaw is used to getting anonymous tips. But after receiving a photo of a three-year-old kidnapped from Los Angeles twenty-five years ago, Jessica is stunned to recognize the little girl as herself.

Eager for answers, Jessica heads to LA’s dark underbelly. When she learns that her biological mother was killed the night she was abducted, Jessica’s determined to solve a case the police have forgotten. Meanwhile, veteran LAPD detective Jason Pryce is in the midst of a gruesome investigation into a murdered college student moonlighting as a prostitute. A chance encounter leads to them crossing paths, but Jessica soon realizes that Pryce is hiding something about her father’s checkered history and her mother’s death.

To solve her mother’s murder and her own disappearance, Jessica must dig into the past and find the secrets buried there. But the air gets thinner as she crawls closer to the truth, and it’s getting harder and harder to breathe.

I was very pleasantly surprised by this book. Since it was from a first-time author and the title itself was slightly generic-sounding, my guard was a little bit up when I started reading it. However, that changed after just a few pages because I quickly saw what a talented writer Lisa Gray is.

I was instantly impressed with her very good descriptions of things. How a building looked, how a character reacted to situations they were in, how mysteries were revealed and unraveled, etc.

Author Lisa Gray’s skills as a writer and storyteller made it all very compelling. In fact, I was just a few chapters into the book when I realized that in addition to already becoming a fan of the author, I was also already a fan of the main character, Jessica Shaw. I knew that, unless this book flip-flopped and ended up disappointing me, I was going to be reading the future books in this series with no hesitation at all.

But it stayed very good throughout the entire book and my opinion didn’t change. I enjoyed this story a lot. Mystery is my favorite genre and I read quite a few mysteries every year. If you’re a fan of the genre, I highly recommend this book to you.

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

Book Review: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

darkmatter

Have you ever started reading a book that initially excited you, but then you read a little bit more of it and then you weren’t sure if you liked it enough to continue reading it? That’s how it was for me at first with Dark Matter. But before I go much further here, let me share this blurb of the book from the publisher, so you know a little bit about the story:

Are you happy with your life?”

Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.

Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.

Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

From the author of the bestselling Wayward Pines trilogy, Dark Matter is a brilliantly plotted tale that is at once sweeping and intimate, mind-bendingly strange and profoundly human—a relentlessly surprising science-fiction thriller about choices, paths not taken, and how far we’ll go to claim the lives we dream of.

Okay, that seriously sounds like a fantastic read, doesn’t it? I was very excited to dive into the book and get totally wrapped up in it. And I did – for a little while. The first couple of chapters had me totally hooked. But then, it started to lose me.

To be honest, I’m still trying to figure out why I began to lose interest in it. The writing was certainly good enough. This is the first Blake Crouch book I’ve read, but I was immediately impressed with his skills as a writer.

I think, though, that the problem was more with me than with the book itself.

I don’t read a lot of sci fi thrillers, so it probably took me a little longer to totally get into the story than it probably would for regular readers of books like this. Some of the more “scientific” parts of the story slowed it down for me towards the beginning and I wasn’t sure if I cared enough to keep reading.

But I did. And I’m very glad that I did. Like I said before, Crouch is a talented writer and storyteller. He made the book very compelling and I eventually grew to care a lot about the characters. Also, the story itself kept getting better and better as it moved forward. In particular, the last hundred or so pages were especially interesting, clever, and exciting.

So, my recommendation is to read this book. Chances are very good that you’ll love it all the way through. However, if you do struggle at all with it, well, don’t give up on it too soon. Stick with it and I bet you’ll like it.

As for me, I ended up liking it a lot. I’ll be reading another Blake Crouch book very, very soon.

Some Fun Things About Young Sheldon

ys cast

First of all, I’ve got to say what a great series Young Sheldon is. Like a lot of fans of The Big Bang Theory, I was a little skeptical when this spinoff was first announced. However, it didn’t take long for me to love it. I was hooked after just a few episodes.

In addition to it being very funny, it’s also very touching at times. I’m sitting here hesitating about using the word “sweet” to describe the show, but darn it, yes – it’s a sweet show.

Whenever I become a fan of something, I tend to geek out and read A LOT about whatever it is that I’m geeking out over. This often leads me to fun little nuggets of information and trivia.

I wish I hadn’t just used the word “nuggets” up there, because now I want Chicken McNuggets from McDonald’s. That doesn’t quite go along with the diet I’m currently on, so I’m going to fight that urge.

Anyway…here are some fun (non-chicken nuggetish) things I’ve learned about Young Sheldon:

Actress Zoe Perry (on the right) plays Sheldon’s mother, Mary Cooper, on Young Sheldon. Zoe is the real life daughter of Laurie Metcalf (on the left) who has the recurring role of Mary Cooper on The Big Bang Theory. So, Zoe plays a younger version of a character played by her own mother! That’s very cool casting, if you ask me!

(It’s also very cool even if you didn’t ask me.)

As for which version of Mary Cooper I prefer, I’m going to go with Young Mary. Laurie Metcalf is fantastic playing the Older Mary, but since she’s just an occasional character on The Big Bang Theory, we don’t see her all that often on that show. However, on Young Sheldon, the character is a major part of every episode. She’s not just Sheldon’s mother, but also a mom to two other kids, the wife of George Cooper, and the daughter of Meemaw (played by the fantastic Annie Potts.)

Zoe Perry is fantastic as Mary. I think her performances on the show have helped make Mary Cooper become one of the best TV Moms ever.

I mentioned George Cooper, Sheldon’s father, above. The actor who plays him is Lance Barber. In a very cool coincidence, Lance appeared on an episode of The Big Bang Theory six years before he got the role on Young Sheldon.

In that episode, he played Jimmy Speckerman, who was Leonard’s bully back in high school. I recently watched that episode and it was fun to see the actor on there playing scenes with Leonard and Adult Sheldon.

And this here is perhaps my favorite cool thing that I’ve learned regarding Young Sheldon. The theme song, “Mighty Little Man,” is written and performed by Steve Burns. If you don’t know that name, there’s a good chance you might know his face:

Steve is the one on the right. He was the original star of the popular children’s series, Blue’s Clues. Not long after he left Blue’s Clues, he released an album called Songs For Dustmites. The original version of “Mighty Little Man” was on that album…AND IT ROCKS!!! Here it is:

Did you watch it? Well, there’s no actual video there to watch, but if you click on the little “play” arrow, you can at least hear the song. I don’t want to be a blossy blogger, but hey, go and listen to it if you haven’t already heard it. It’s pretty awesome.

Speaking of awesome…

YOU’RE AWESOME for stopping by.

Probably for lots of other reasons too.

Thanks for your time. Go and do fun things now. Have a great day!

Buddy