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.

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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.

#BeingBuddy: What I want my first novel to be

Welcome to my first posting of Being Buddy. I’ll be sharing my journey here.

First up…Don’t Stop Believin!

But seriously…this is where I’ll be sharing my personal journeys as both a writer and as a person. What I’m going through both professionally and personally.

First up, I’d like to talk about what’s going on with my writing journey. As a lot of you know, I’m a fiction writer. As of this writing, all of my fiction works have been either short stories or flash fictions that I’ve shared online.

My main current writing goal is to develop and write my first novel. I’ve struggled a little bit with what exactly I’ve wanted my first novel to be. Many of you have heard me talk about various projects that I’ve been working on for the past few years, yet none have been published…or even totally completed.

Why has that happened, huh?

Well, my biggest realization lately has been that I’ve written quite a few things that probably wouldn’t appeal to me very much as a reader. For example, I had what I thought was a very good idea for a novella about zombies. I wrote a good chunk of it and was happy with what I wrote, but it wasn’t knocking me out the way I hoped it would.

Could it be because zombie stories are something that I can appreciate and even like, but I don’t normally love them?

Probably, huh?

The same thing happened to me with a vampire novel I was writing. What I wrote was good, but I didn’t love it. I’ll probably go back at some point and finish both of those books, but right now just doesn’t seem to be the right time for me to write them.

I want my first novel to be something that knocks me out. Something that I would go nuts over as a reader.

So, what will be right for me? How will I figure it out what I want it to be?

What I’ve been doing the last few days is coming up with a very, very loose outline that contains different story elements that I normally like. For example, I tend to love stories about underdog characters who are facing some sort of big challenge that most people would expect them to fail at, yet these characters have something special inside of them, something that will help them face the challenge and win.

So I put the above into my loose outline. I also included what I like about character romances and what I like about antagonists in stories. And so on with other things I like.

I also went the other way and wrote down things that I specifically don’t like in stories so that I’ll be sure to not include them in my own story. For example, I often get annoyed by supposedly clever or witty character names, like Justin Case. Names like that make me want to throw a book across the room.

Seeing this sort of thing in my outline will keep me in check. Coming up with a “clever” or “witty” character name would be easy and give me a good chuckle, but ultimately I would be mad at myself for having done it.

So, I wrote down all my likes and my dislikes and looked hard at them.

Then I started filling in the blanks a little bit. I’ve now got a few ideas for main characters. I’ve got some ideas of good challenges for them to face.

I’ve got some great ideas now for my first book. Most importantly, I’ve got some ideas that I’m very excited about. I know I’m going to write a book with the kinds of characters and plot that I enjoy the most.

I’m on my way and I’m happy about it.

My Most Favorite Thing

The day started like most days. We woke in our bed and she made a joke about how crazy I drove her with my snoring during the night. It was probably the five-thousandth time she made the joke, and I sincerely laughed for probably the five-thousandth time.

She smiled at me and then we leaned in close to each other and kissed. We pecked each other on the lips. Then quickly did it again. The next kiss came and it lasted much longer than the other ones did. We kept kissing and I did what I always do when we kiss…

I got lost.

bedLost in her and lost in us. Lost in the very real dream that is my life.

As we continued to kiss, it dawned on me that if someone were to ask me what my most favorite thing in the world is, I would say, without a doubt, that it was kissing my wife. It fills my heart each and every time.

We eventually made it out of bed and went about the rest of the morning. In the middle of the afternoon, we decided to lie back down in bed and listen to some music.

Before the first song had even finished, we were kissing again. It was even more incredible than it had been in the morning. It wasn’t long before we both got undressed.

This led to…well, exactly where you think it led to. I’m not going to say much more about it here. I love my wife entirely too much to share the details of those intimate moments with anyone other than her.

I’ll just say that it was absolutely amazing. It always is with us.

When we finished, I wondered if I’d been wrong earlier about kissing being my most favorite thing in the world. Maybe, what I’d just done with my wife, was my absolute most favorite.

Then again, why can’t it be a tie between the two things? hands

We drifted off to sleep. When we awoke a few hours later, I wrapped my arms around her and held her as tightly as I could. No words were spoken by either of us. None needed to be. Holding her like that was exactly what each of us wanted. Needed.

There’s nothing like holding her. I could never have enough time doing it. There’s never a point when I want to let go.

I wondered if this was actually it. Was holding her truly my most favorite thing in the world? It certainly felt like it, but so did the other two things.

I decided it was a three-way tie.

We laid there for a little while longer. She touched my cheek and looked into my eyes. “I love you more than anything,” she said.

Okay, so I guess that’s it. It’s a four-way tie for my most favorite thing in the world.

A Tower of Me

The park bench has mud all around it. I’m sure that there are other benches I could choose to sit on, but this one calls out to me. If my shoes get a little muddy, then so what?

Everything else about the bench is perfect. It’s away from the regular path that most people walk in the park. There are wonderful views in every direction I could look. Also, most importantly to me, there is quiet.

I sit and look at a large tree directly in front of me. I don’t know the names of the different types of trees. Is this one oak? A redwood? A fleetwood? Probably none of those, but I am sure it is wood.

I am also sure that it is beautiful.

Career-LadderI try to figure out how tall it is. My height is just under six feet, so I imagine myself standing in front of the tree. A small army of clones of me stand nearby. There is a ladder near us that is a little taller than the tree.

One of my clones climbs onto the ladder and steps off of it to stand on my shoulders. Another clone gets on the ladder and then gets on the first clone’s shoulders.

Each of the clones does the same thing and shortly there is a little Tower of Me. There are 13 of us and our tower is exactly as tall as the tree. I use the calculator on my phone and see that the Tower of Me is just under 78 feet tall.

My clones carefully climb off of each other and make their way down the ladder. We take down the ladder and I look at the side of it and see there is writing on it that says the ladder is 77.5 feet tall.

I very briefly get upset that I had not seen that earlier and saved us the trouble of making the Tower of Me, but I push away the frustration and let myself appreciate the time I had just spent with my clones.

It is so rare that all of us are able to get together at the same time.

One of my clones suggests that we all go out together for breakfast. Another suggests that we can split the check. I agree to it, even though I know I am the only one of us who has any money and I’ll end up getting stuck with the whole bill. Since they are identical to me, I know what they will all crave for breakfast.

I just hope we can find a place that has enough bacon and coffee to make us all happy.