Book Review: ‘The Untold Legend of the Batman’ by Len Wein, Jim Aparo & John Byrne

This was a paperback book I had when I was a kid and it may have actually been the first Batman comic that I read, as I got this when I was really young.

This paperback is a collection of a three-issue comic book miniseries of the same name. Except, here, the comic is in black and white and reformatted to fit this medium, having just one-to-three panels per page.

The Untold Legend of the Batman is a bit strange, as its details differ from the continuity of the actual comic book series. Events in Batman’s past are slightly altered but it was still a fun read and the origin of the Caped Crusader wasn’t so different that it wrecked anything. At worst, it’s still more accurate than many of the film and television versions of the hero’s backstory.

I really dug the art in this, especially with it being presented in black and white, as it allowed the linework of both John Byrne and Jim Aparo to really standout on its own.

This was a really fast read but it was still worth hunting down and giving it a look again.

Rating: 6.5/10

Book Review: LIFE: Godzilla: The King of the Monsters

I love when LIFE and other similar magazines do special issues like this. I also like to review the ones I pickup and read through because magazines are dying and I’d hate to see editions like these fade away forever.

It should come as no secret that I’m a massive Godzilla fan. It’s one of my favorite franchises and I’ve watched the movies as long as I’ve been alive. I also know this franchise just about as well as anyone can.

So with that, this was a pretty fun and engaging read. Honestly, there’s nothing new here as far as information and history go but for those who aren’t as versed as myself or other hardcore kaiju lovers, this magazine is a good place to start your education. Granted, there are much better and deeper sources to delve into but you might not be that obsessed.

This has some good articles about the monster, his allies, his enemies and the film franchise they live in. It was all pretty solid and I took my time with this magazine, not wanting to rush through it.

It’s also chock full of images from all eras and it’s just a good presentation, all around.

Rating: 7/10

Book Review: ‘Layered Money: From Gold and Dollars to Bitcoin and Central Bank Digital Currencies’ by Nik Bhatia

A friend of mine read this and told me to check it out, even though I knew most of what this book contained.

That being said, it’s still a must read for those who care about these things and it’s the best quick primer on the history of money and where it’s going.

I like that this was about 150 pages without a single page wasted. It was a great, condensed but thorough history on the different eras of currency. For those just learning about this stuff, there is a lot here to peak one’s interest and inspire further research on the topics.

I especially liked the sections on the Federal Reserve, its role, and how due to its economic meddling, cryptocurrencies have risen from the ashes of their chaotic monetary policy.

This actually came out this year, so the crypto sections of the book are as current as they can be.

All in all, this is a solid, quick read and its certainly a great primer for those just waking up to the bullshit around us.

Rating: 9.5/10

Book Review: ‘The Club Dumas’ by Arturo Pérez-Reverte

After recently revisiting The Ninth Gate, a film I love for being a solid mix of neo-noir and occult horror, I decided that reading the book it’s based on was long overdue.

I’m actually surprised that I hadn’t read this a long time ago. I was also surprised to see that this was written by the same guy that wrote the novel that served as the inspiration to the hit television crime drama, Queen of the South.

This features the same core characters as the film but the two stories have some very big differences. This version alters the relationships of some characters, as well as their personalities. Corso and Balkan’s interactions are very different, here, and I feel like in the film, things were altered in a way that maximized the talents of both Johnny Depp and Frank Langella.

The book is more detailed and explores some territory that the movie did not. I don’t want to ruin it, though, and don’t want to point out every difference.

If you are a fan of The Ninth Gate, you should probably enjoy this. While I like the movie better, overall, a lot of that could just be due to my familiarity with it and now my nostalgia for it, being that it’s over twenty years old.

The book is pretty dense at times, though, and it assumes you have knowledge of classic literature. While that knowledge isn’t necessary in order to follow this, it does probably make the overall experience more interesting and engaging.

Like the film, it was fun seeing Corso try to solve a puzzle that would lead to some dark discoveries.

Rating: 8/10

Book Review: ‘The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard’

Well, I have reached the final book in this great looking Robert E. Howard collection by Del Ray. These Del Ray editions are my favorite Robert E. Howard collections, aesthetically, physically and in the way they’re organized and decorated with incredible art, giving the stories more life and some visual flourish that fits exceptionally well with Howard’s incredible and beautiful prose.

Since this book doesn’t focus on a specific character, a lot of the stories here are also in some of the other Del Ray volumes for Conan the Barbarian and Solomon Kane. Also, this shares a lot of stories with another similar book I reviewed about a year ago, The Cthulhu Stories of Robert E. Howard (see here), which tied many of Howard’s famous characters with the work of one of his best friends, horror maestro H.P. Lovecraft.

All in all, this is really f’n solid and it’s just a good collection of Howard’s more horror-centric tales.

The thing with this installment is that some of the stories are recycled from other Howard collections. However, even though I had already read much of what’s here, I was still captivated enough by it to read those stories again in an effort to really embrace this volume for what its theme is.

Honestly, more than anything else, these various Del Ray collections just showed me how easy it is to revisit and re-read Howard’s short stories.

If you want to get into the man’s work, this is one of the books that is a good starting point. That is, unless you want to jump into a specific character first like Conan, Solomon Kane or Kull.

Rating: 9/10

Book Review: ‘The Best of Robert E. Howard, Vol. 2: Grim Lands’

I found this volume out of the two Best of Robert E. Howard anthologies to be the better one. I figured they’d blow their load in the first one but they really saved some good stories for this volume and there was more diversity in these tales from Howard’s most famous characters and the different genres he dabbled in.

This had great sword and sorcery tales, some swashbuckling, horror and a whole lot of action and adventure!

This book features solid stories with Conan, Kull and Solomon Kane. Each of those characters have a hefty amount of good material to pull from, though.

And sure, my preferences are subjective but the stories here are just ones that resonate with me more.

Also, these can be found elsewhere in other collections and even free online but if you really want to hold a thick, beefy book in your hand and enjoy some of Howard’s best work, this is certainly a good place to start.

Granted, I’d start with volume one but I’m OCD like that.

Rating: 8/10

Book Review: ‘The Best of Robert E. Howard, Vol. 1: Crimson Shadows’

This is the first of the final three Robert E. Howard books I have to review in this specific collection.

These final three books are anthologies of various stories featuring various characters. With that, many of these stories were already collected in other volumes. Still, I wanted to get this entire collection because I didn’t want to miss anything and well, they look damn good on the bookshelf. 

I’d say that this is actually a good starting point for those who might be new to Robert E. Howard, as it features a good variety of stories, genres and some of Howard’s most famous characters like Conan and Solomon Kane.

Like the other books, this is thick and packed full of tales. Also, it features a lot of art that helps tell the stories with some stylish, cool visual reference.

This is a solid collection, through and through. As a long-time Howard reader, I personally prefer the character specific collections but I would’ve really loved having this when I was just starting out reading his literary work.

Rating: 7/10

Book Review: ‘The Witcher: Season of Storms’ by Andrzej Sapkowski

I’ve finally reached the eighth and final book in The Witcher series.

This one is an anthology of short stories, most of which happen in-between the short stories collected in the two prequel books before the main saga begins. However, the final chapter in this serves as an epilogue for the entire series.

This was my least favorite of the eight books but it’s hard to top the last few installments of the five that made up the saga.

That being said, I still liked this but if I’m being honest, a lot of it felt like it was written to beef up enough short tales to make a full book.

I liked the epilogue and seeing things come to a proper close, reflecting on everything, I, the reader had been through with Geralt, his family and his friends.

However, I felt like maybe Andrzej Sapkowski had a hard time letting go and this was a bit of him hanging on longer than he should have.

If you ever do read The Witcher saga, I think all the books are necessary for added context and to get the full experience. Plus, even if this one is my least favorite, that could honestly be me running out of gas on this series, as it’s been a really long ride. Still, Season of Storms is worth your time if you do finish everything else.

I also know that at some point, I’ll probably read all these again. I rarely do that with books, especially lengthy literary series, but The Witcher was pretty special.

Rating: 7.75/10

Book Review: ‘Bruiser Brody’ by Emerson Murray

I know, I know… I’ve reviewed a ton of wrestler biographies over the last year or so. There’s just so many good ones and I especially want to read through everything put out by Crowbar Press, as those are generally on another level.

Bruiser Brody was also a guy who I loved. I heard the legendary tales about the guy but due to him being murdered while still at the height of his career, I didn’t get to actually see him perform until I became a wrestling tape trader in the ’90s.

Once I saw Brody, I realized that the hype was real and the guy had an infectious charisma and a ring presence that made nearly anyone facing him look like the victim of a savage beatdown.

Over the years, I amassed a pretty big library of Bruiser Brody footage from all over the United States, Puerto Rico and Japan, where he did some of his most amazing work. I’ve studied the guy for a few decades now and have read a lot of old articles about him. But I never felt like I knew enough about the actual man behind the persona, until now.

This book does a superb job in showing you Brody’s life from his childhood, his life in football and his life in wrestling up until the night where he was stabbed in the showers before a wrestling event in Puerto Rico.

The best part of this book is that we get to read a lot of Brody stories through the words of other wrestling legends that worked with the man, were his friends and traveled with him.

I also like that this book is loaded with photos. But even then, it’s not so loaded that there isn’t a lot to read here. This is a good-sized book and it really lets you get to know this legend that passed way before his time.

Rating: 8/10

Book Review: ‘Düngeonmeister: 75 Epic RPG Cocktail Recipes to Shake Up Your Campaign’ by Jef Aldrich, Jon Taylor

I came across this kind of randomly and decided to check it out because it looked kind of neat and I’m always interested in new cocktail recipes.

I like that the book is designed and organized like an old Dungeons & Dragons guide. The art for the cocktails, as opposed to photos, was pretty cool and fit the overall aesthetic well.

At a party, friends and I decided to make a bunch of the stuff that we had ingredients for. Most of it was pretty good and there are a lot of recipes here.

However, if you have bartending experience, there are some recipes of classic cocktails that just have their names changed and sometimes a slight difference in ingredients. 

Nothing that I tried was mind-blowing but this was still a neat little book and a cool concept.

Rating: 7/10