Book Review – Soldier Boy

TITLE: Soldier Boy
AUTHOR: Brian Burks
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHED: 1997

So, remember I said I went down the whole library? Well, that includes everything but picture books. I pulled this little children’s chapter book off the shelf pretty close to last (by this time I had 18 or so in my pile), and I had hopes for it.
It starts with Johnny “The Kid” McBane, a nobody without a family fighter in Chicago. His manager wants him to throw a fight, and he doesn’t, abandoning all the money and possessions he has to run away, hop a train, and then enlist in the cavalry. He ends up out west somewhere, part of Custer’s army.

So, the author’s note at the beginning of the book (which is the only thing in the entire 150 pages that puts the book in context of a year aside from the vague Custer reference), talks about how very little was written about under aged soldiers and he really wanted to show how amazing all of this was, etc.
Except that he didn’t show how amazing anything was.
I think the book suffered badly. The things that could have had amazing details didn’t, and the things that had details didn’t often need explained. And some of them were either wrong or extraordinary claims. “Thousands of dollars were bet on this bout…” Really? Thousands of dollars in post-reconstruction America? On a nobody kid who not a lot of people knew? (At the time of this writing, $5000 in 1876 is about $106,332 in today’s money)

I missed the richness that this story desperately needed. Even as a kid, I would have found this book boring as hell. Actually, as a kid, I probably would have given up on it and not kept reading.
The author also did a stupid nod to several pet peeves of mine. So, there was zero point to any of the stuff that Johnny said to another soldier they called The Scholar. (Pet peeve #1- this goes with the old adage of “if you aren’t’ going to shoot it, don’t show the gun”) There was definitely no point in sitting around discussing “But aren’t we being mean to Indians” because that wasn’t exactly the prevailing thought of the day back then. That was seriously only put there because a modern audience would have thought that when reading (pet peeve #2- not paying attention to the society of the time in historical fiction).

In the end, this book was a flop, and I’m amazed that I managed to see it through to the end.
It’s short, even by genre standards, and I think that it seriously could have used about 20% more words (mostly as description), and a bit of deleting when it came to Johnny, who hadn’t much opinion of anything, suddenly being upset about Indians.
Also, the story pretty much is a prologue that ends when you get to the meat of the story, and for that it really sucked. That battle could have been a really amazing chapter.
I’ll give it 2 out of 5. Read it when you’re bored, but don’t go out of your way to find it.

Book Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

TITLE: Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Avengers

AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ILLUSTRATORS: Steve McNiven, Sara Pichelli, etc
FORMAT: Graphic Novel/Comic Collection
PUBLISHED: 2014

This collection covers Guardians of the Galaxy 1-3 and 0.1, and also Guardians of the Galaxy: Tomorrow’s Avengers #1, and has bonus artwork in the back as well.

So, the story starts with Star-Lord’s origin story, where we meet his mother and find out who his father is, etc.  Then we have Star-Lord in space with the rest of the Guardians.  Earth is in trouble, they have to protect it, etc.  Oh, and Iron Man shows up.

The comic is a little different from the movie – for starters, the origin story is different, because Cancer makes a better movie apparently.  And I can totally see where the idea for the movie came from in this comic, although the comic is a little different.

But that’s not a bad thing.

Honestly, if they had been more true to these comics, I think the movie would have been better.  Iron Man was an interesting addition, and I kind of liked it.

I’ll give this one a 4/5.

Writer Wednesday – Steven Manchester

Let’s start with the basics.
Tell us (briefly) about you…

I’m a veteran of Operation Desert Storm, where I promised that I would chase my lifelong dreams of being a writer. When not spending time with my beautiful wife, Paula, or my four children, I’m out promoting my works or writing. Visit: http://www.StevenManchester.com

…and a bit about what you’ve written…
I’m the author of my new release, The Rockin’ Chair, as well as the #1 best seller, Twelve Months. I’m also the author of A Christmas Wish (Kindle exclusive), the heart-warming prequel to Goodnight, Brian. My work has appeared on NBC’s Today Show, CBS’s The Early Show, CNN’s American Morning and BET’s Nightly News. Recently, three of my short stories were selected “101 Best” for Chicken Soup for the Soul series.

…and what you’re working on right now.
I’m rewriting a manuscript that I finished some years ago, entitled, Pressed Pennies. I expect that it will be released early 2014.

What are your earliest book-related memories?
In Mrs. Parson’s 4th grade class, I had two poems published in a classroom anthology. This had an enormous impact on me; I really thought it was quite the accomplishment.

What are your three favorite books?
The Bible; To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee; Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt (amongst many others)

How many books to do you read at any given time? What are you reading now?
No more than two at a time, and right now I’m actually reviewing a manuscript for a fellow writer.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I __
lose myself to the world around me.

To re-read or not to re-read that is the question.
Re-read!

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?
Very likely—given that the recommendation comes from someone I know.

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
Very likely—especially when I know the writer (I’ll do whatever I can to help promote them).

What do you look for in a good book?
I believe that good books make people think, while great books make people feel. I look for raw emotion.

Why do you write?
I’d just returned home from Operation Desert Storm, and was working as a prison investigator in Massachusetts. Needless to say, there was great negativity in my life at that time. I decided to return to college to finish my degree in Criminal Justice. During one of the classes, the professor talked about police work but nothing else. I finally raised my hand and asked, “The criminal justice system is vast. What about the courts, probation, parole – corrections?” He smiled and told me to see him after class. I thought I’d finally done it! In his office, he explained, “There’s no written material out there on corrections or prisons, except from the slanted perspective of inmates.” He smiled again and dropped the bomb. “If you’re so smart,” he said, “why don’t you write it?” Nine months later, I dropped the first draft of 6-5; A Different Shade of Blue on his desk. From then on, I was hooked. I was a writer.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
A stand-up comedian (I’m joking, of course).

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
My wife and children!

What has writing taught you about yourself?
That my life will be spent in the quest of knowledge; that I possess the determination to make my dreams come true.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
I’ve been at it for nearly two decades now. I think that the people in my life enjoy sharing the journey with me. And for me, it wouldn’t mean nearly as much if I couldn’t share it all.

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?
Work ethic; there’s a belief that writers sit around all day—in the comfort of their homes—tinkering with words. In truth, I’ve never worked harder at anything my entire life.

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
The rejection rates are insane. I really enjoy working with new writers and this is what I share with them; things I wish I had known at the beginning of my career:
Be true to yourself, always.

  • Write constantly.
  • Keep the faith!!!
  • And NEVER, EVER, EVER quit. Most people in this industry would agree that more than talent or skill or even luck, perseverance is the one trait that will always get the job done.
  • Knock on every door you can, and keep knocking. I promise that eventually someone will open and the warmth you feel on your face will more than validate every hour spent alone in the darkness.

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?
Writing is a discipline as much as it is a passion for me, so as I continue to put in the work, my talent has developed. When comparing my recent works with my earlier work, I can’t help but to cringe at times. But I suppose that’s the nature of things and most writers feel the same.

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?
The Rockin’ Chair—as a film!

How do you deal with your fan base?
As personally as possible. I appreciate all the feedback and the support, so I go out of my way to share the same.

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know __ about me.
That although I write tear-jerkers, I’m really more of a clown in real life.

Anything else we should know?
My favorite saying: “If you can dream it, you can do it.” – Walt Disney

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