Book Review: ‘The Witcher: Blood of Elves’ by Andrzej Sapkowski

This book in The Witcher series is the first of the five books that form the primary saga. Before it, I read the two short story collections that were published later but have since been recommended by everyone, as the best place to start.

So I was excited getting into this one, as this is the beginning of the real journey for Geralt, Ciri and Yennefer, as well as the other core characters that come in and out of these stories.

Although, I have to agree that one should read the short story collections first, as they flesh out and beef up the core characters, which I thought was somewhat lacking, here, the book that was originally the starting point.

Having a lot more context going into this was a benefit, even if I already know a lot from the video games and television series.

However, as the television series only adapted stuff from the short stories, thus far, everything here was fresh and new for me and it was really cool reading this and sort of having the blanks filled between the origins of the characters and their later stories, which were used and adapted somewhat in The Witcher 3 game.

I really liked how much Triss was used in this book, as she is one of my favorite characters and it really developed her more than the short story books or the games.

I also enjoyed the stuff about Ciri’s training and how the other witchers had issues trying to raise a girl, as she was growing into a young woman.

Beyond that, I thought some parts of this dragged out a bit too long and even though there is some conflict and action, the book really feels like more of a set up to a larger tapestry than it does its own, solid body of work. That’s not necessarily bad, as this is part of a large saga but there’s not much here that stands out and gives this book its own identity.

This could also be due to the short story books sort of diminishing the overall effect of this one, as it was originally the origin of these characters for the readers who were there in the beginning.

All in all, this is still pretty damn enjoyable and it sets things up in a way that makes me excited for the other books.

I should have the review for the next one up in a few weeks.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Witcher books, comics and television shows.

Book Review: ‘Indiana Jones: The Ultimate Guide’ by Jim Luceno, Laura Gilbert

I remember this oversized hardcover coffee table book coming out around the same time as Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull back in the late ’00s. I wanted it but didn’t buy it back then, as it was a bit pricey and I was pretty damn poor then.

Recently, a copy popped up on an eBay search and I bought it, as it was really cheap and still in great quality.

While “encyclopedias” like this aren’t all that necessary in modern times with Wikipedia and lots of fan-made very specific Wikias, the larger than life presentation of this book and all of its great pictures, art and images, makes me yearn for a time when books like this were more common.

It’s one small part of the book but the thing I really liked most about this was how it provided three-dimensional maps of many of the tombs, temples and secret caves that Indiana Jones visited throughout the film franchise.

This book delves into a little bit of everything, though.

This doesn’t only cover the films but it covers The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles television show, the novels, the video games and even looks at the comics.

Additionally, it covers all of these things in as much detail as you can in the limited space of a book chock full of imagery.

For diehard Indiana Jones fans, I’d say that this is a really cool book to ad to your library. Especially, if you can find a good, affordable copy online.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other reference books and guides from other Lucasfilm blockbusters.

Book Review: ‘The Witcher: Sword of Destiny’ by Andrzej Sapkowski

Sword of Destiny is the second of The Witcher‘s short story collections, which serve as prequels to the regular novel series. These books give more backstory and context to the core characters and help build out the world that they live in. If you want to get into this series, I’d suggest starting with these.

Like the other short story collection, which I already reviewed, some of the material here was used for episodes in the first season of The Witcher Netflix series. There are a few fresh stories, though, and the literary versions of these tales are actually better with more plot and details.

The most important story here is the one that covers the fall of Cintra and how Ciri lost everything and eventually found her way to Geralt, her destiny (and his).

Ciri’s journey to Geralt is actually covered in the two short stories at the end. However, it’s much richer and more detailed than the television series, which also appears to have made up some of its own details. Granted, some of those things could pop up in later literary stories that I haven’t read yet.

The other stories in this are all pretty entertaining but they do seem less important than the last two. Still, they all add greatly to the mythos and give you a great sense of these characters before you even get to the first regular novel.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Witcher books, comics and television shows.

Book Review: ‘Gentleman Ed Francis Presents 50th State Big Time Wrestling!’ by Edmund C. Francis, Larry Fleece

The Hawaii wrestling territory is one of the old school wrestling territories that I know the least about.

Growing up in Florida, I was way too far away to have any sort of access to it and in the pre-Internet era, it literally existed as an island to itself.

Granted, 50th State Big Time Wrestling did attract massive stars because it was run by the great Ed Francis and who wouldn’t want to get paid to ply their trade in an island paradise?

I always hear stories about how many bottles of beer and wine Andre the Giant drank but I really want to know how many Tiki drinks he put down while on the island.

This is basically a coffee table book, as it is formatted into a large, hardcover square. Then inside, it is packed full of pictures on every page that perfectly compliment the stories and tales within.

Ultimately, this made me appreciate something I would’ve loved had I known about it other than blurbs in wrestling magazines when I was a kid. 

For those with a wrestling book library, this definitely deserves to be added in. Plus, it was actually pretty inexpensive for its size and quality.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other books on the history of the old school territory wrestling business, as well as biographies on the personalities who lived it.

Book Review: ‘The Witcher: The Last Wish’ by Andrzej Sapkowski

I have a friend that has been a massive fan of The Witcher for years. He always gave me shit for never reading the books, even though I love The Witcher 3 video game and also really dug the Netflix television show. So to appease him and because I actually wanted to read these anyway, I finally picked the books up in a fancy box set, which I got for a pretty awesome price.

This book in the series is the first of three prequels before the five-part regular book series starts. I figured I’d start with the prequels, as that’s the recommended reading order and because these stories are also familiar to me, as many of the short stories in this first volume were used as the basis of many of the first season episodes on the Netflix show.

I really liked reading these original versions of the tales. They exceeded what I thought they would be and I certainly enjoyed the deeper context and understanding the lore on a more intimate level.

I also kind of liked all the homages to classic fairytales that were thrown in, which the television show sort of ignores. I had no idea that the Renfri character was essentially Snow White. There are also homages to Beauty & the Beast and Cinderella in this collection.

There wasn’t a boring or dull short story in this book. Frankly, it was entertaining and I had a hard time putting it down. I blew through it in two sittings, which is pretty unheard of for me with my normal schedule.

That being said, I can’t wait to jump into the second and third prequel books and then the regular series.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the other Witcher books, comics and television shows.

Book Review: ‘Indiana Jones and the Interior World’ by Rob MacGregor

This was the last Indiana Jones book written by Rob MacGregor and also the sixth of the twelve ’90s novels published by Bantam Books.

I was kind of excited going into this one, as it featured Easter Island, a place that has always fascinated me. With that, I hoped it had some Tiki flavor and tapped into that stuff, which it did to a point, but then this gets more focused on what lies beyond the surface… literally.

The book also spends some time in South America and it draws some comparisons to my favorite MacGregor Indy book, The Seven Veils. But sadly, this didn’t match that one in quality.

I thought that the first few chapters in this were really good and it built up my hopes further, as I wanted to see MacGregor go out with a bang. However, it just kind of gets duller and duller as one reads on.

Overall this book turns into an acid trip and it doesn’t really embrace what makes the Indiana Jones franchise so beloved and that’s adventure.

I like that MacGregor ties his books together and the characters and MacGuffins bleed into other works but I just feel like the guy was out of steam here. Maybe he had a six book contract and he was just trying to get it over with, I don’t know. This just feels rushed and severely lacking.

Being that I’m now halfway through the ’90s Indy novels, I am going to take a bit of a break. I will review the other six in the near future but honestly, this one was just tough to get through and I have so many other books in my stack on my reading desk.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: other Indiana Jones novels from Bantam Books’ run in the ’90s.

Book Review: ‘The Disney Monorail: Imagineering a Highway In the Sky’ by Jeff Kurtti, Vanessa Hunt, Paul Wolski

I pre-ordered this and got it late last year. It sort of got lost in the shuffle of my stack of books needing to be read but I finally got around to it and I should’ve sooner because I really wanted to kick back and enjoy this.

I’m glad to say that this big, oversized coffee table book was a really neat read.

Growing up in Florida, it was hard not to be captivated by Disney’s magic, especially when trips to the parks were fairly common in my childhood and ’80s through ’90s Disney theme park stuff always hits me hard in the nostalgia part of my brain.

In fact, I loved riding the monorails as much as I liked riding the actual rides. It was always a cool, fun experience flying along the rail, a dozen or more feet above the beautiful grounds of the Disney parks and resorts.

I suspected that this book would be like many Disney books about the company’s history. It was full of large pictures throughout the decades, showcasing all the different monorails, it’s creation, construction and every other part of the vehicle’s long and colorful history.

This also featured a lot of concept art and promotional material about the monorail system.

The chapters were all really interesting a well-written and alongside all the imagery, helped to paint the full story of this great attraction from Walt Disney’s earliest vision of it to being the easiest way to get around the Disney parks since its inception.

For those that also have a burning nostalgia for the history of Disney’s parks, this is a must-own. Plus, it wasn’t as expensive as one would think. I paid something like thirty bucks for this pristine, thick, hardcover beast.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other books about the history of Disney parks or theme parks in general.

Book Review: ‘The Conquering Sword of Conan (Book 3)’ by Robert E. Howard

This is the third and final installment of Robert E. Howard’s Conan collections in this series. It’s been a fun ride reading his Conan stuff in its entirety and this book didn’t disappoint.

After reading all three books, the quality between all these stories is pretty damn consistent and the ratings on these reviews only really reflect my own personal preferences of the stories collected in each one.

Out of the three, this one fits in the middle for me. It’s not full of just short stories and poems like the first volume or just collects a few novellas like the second, this book collects a handful of stories that fit somewhere in the middle.

The stories collected here are The Servants of Bit-Yakin, Beyond the Black River, The Black Stranger, The Man-Eaters of Zamboula and one of my favorites, Red Nails. There are some other miscellaneous things tacked on at the end.

With these stories you pretty much get what you’d expect. Conan kicks the crap out of monsters, goes on epic adventures, hunts treasure and wins over the women. Most of these, if not all of them, have been adapted into comic book stories. While I love both versions of these tales, there’s just something really cool reading them as Robert E. Howard originally wrote them.

Reading through all the Howard stories was a great experience and I’m glad that it’s a mountain I decided to finally climb in its entirety over the last few months.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: other Robert E. Howard collections.

Book Review: ‘Indiana Jones and the Unicorn’s Legacy’ by Rob MacGregor

This is the fifth of the twelve Indiana Jones novels of the Bantam series from the ’90s. It is also Rob MacGregor’s second-to-last installment.

I found the previous book to be the weakest of the series from what I had read so far. Luckily, this one gets back on track fairly well and I enjoyed it more than its predecessor.

The setting of this book is primarily the American southwest. It also goes to Rome for the last few chapters but I liked the American setting and it gave the story a sort of western vibe and also drew some comparisons to the great opening of the 1989 film, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

MacGregor wrote the novelization for that film and maybe he was inspired by that opening and wanted to write something larger in that same geographical region.

The story revolves around Indy and a beautiful art historian colleague looking for the horn of a mythical unicorn. A villain from Indy’s past is also looking for the relic for sinister reasons. We also get Indy’s best bud, Jack Shannon, and my favorite Indy character that isn’t Indy, Marcus Brody.

As the story progresses, we learn that the girl might not be a love interest, as Indy had hoped, and that she might have her own nefarious reasons for wanting the horn. Additionally, all of this comes to a head when we learn of a conspiracy involving the Catholic Church and the possible overthrow of Italy’s fascist prime minister, Benito Mussolini.

The story has good action sequences and it’s well paced and there really isn’t a dull moment, even with some of the slower scenes.

I thought that it wrapped up really well with a solid conclusion and I hope this momentum carries over into MacGregor’s last Indiana Jones novel.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other Indiana Jones novels from Bantam Books’ run in the ’90s.

Book Review: ‘Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt’ by Michael Lewis

I’ve read several of Michael Lewis’ books but it’s been awhile since I’ve picked one up. However, with all the WallStreetBets stuff that started kicking off at the end of January, I heard someone draw parallels to the events of this book and its primary subjects to the events of the GameStopocalypse.

Sure, there’s some similar beats but this is a different story about a different group of people that really tried to stick it to the villains on Wall Street.

I mostly liked this but it wasn’t as energetic or as compelling as some of Lewis’ other books. Liar’s Poker is still my favorite and while this serves as a sort of companion or unrelated sequel to it, it read kind of dry, if I’m being honest.

That doesn’t mean it’s bad, it was still informative and it told an interesting story. I felt like there may have just been way too much backstory on the subjects and not enough of the good stuff I was hoping for.

I really wanted more of the intelligent revolutionaries disrupting the status quo and while that does happen in this book, I feel like it was sacrificed by the author spending too much time setting the stage for the revolt.

Still, this was a fairly quick read and it’s a cool tale about seeing giants getting taken down a few pegs.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other books by Michael Lewis, as well as other books about the finance industry.