Book Review: ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Bitcoin’ by Matthew R. Kratter

I first discovered Matthew R. Kratter when, on a whim, I picked up his book A Beginner’s Guide to the Stock Market. After reading that, I started following his channel on YouTube and as he delved more into cryptocurrency, specifically Bitcoin, he became just one of two channels that I actually listen to and take their insight seriously. The other channel is Crypto Tips, for those who might be wondering.

Kratter’s stock market book was rather good so when he announced this one, I was pretty excited.

So this is a pretty short book and in fact, I read it in a single sitting.

However, for something only 60 or so pages, it is chock full of not just useful information but great information. Kratter knows Bitcoin exceptionally well and this is, hands down, the best book I’ve read on the subject, as it takes something that is complex and overly technical to the average person and explains it very simply and thoroughly.

My favorite part of the book was the section where he answers common questions and dispels common myths and concerns. While I’m 100 percent on board with Bitcoin, there are still worries I’ve had, even keeping up on it for almost a decade now. Kratter put some of those real concerns at ease and this is something that I’m sure I will continue to reference, as time goes on.

I enjoyed this so much and thought it was pretty close to perfect that I also got copies for friends who are interested in the crypto space but very apprehensive about it, even though they see my success with it.

Frankly, this past week has exposed major flaws and deep corruption in the Wall Street system, as hedge funds have fallen to Redditors with an axe to grind.

DeFi is the way of the future and the true road towards freedom. There isn’t a better time than now to get on board.

This book will help you get there.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: Matthew R. Kratter’s other books, online courses and his YouTube channel Trader University.

Book Review: ‘Barbarian Life: A Literary Biography of Conan the Barbarian, Vol. 2’ by Roy Thomas

The first volume of this book series covered issues 1-51 of the original Marvel Comics Conan the Barbarian series. This volume covers issues 52-100.

These two books are written by Roy Thomas, the legend that wrote the Conan comics. These basically serve as his commentary on his stories.

In fact, when I go back and read old issues, I’ve picked these books up to read his insight before revisiting them.

Thomas has always been one of my favorite comic book writers and the Conan franchise has always been one of my favorite IPs. So having these books is pretty damn cool and I’m actually pretty thankful that something like this was written, compiled and published.

I already reviewed the first one and all the positives I had to say about it also ring true for this volume.

All in all, these are great, resourceful books that allow you to understand Thomas’ inspiration, his stories and these characters on a level much deeper than just the comic book page.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: Roy Thomas’ historic run on Marvel’s Conan the Barbarian.

Book Review: ‘Indiana Jones and the Dance of the Giants’ by Rob MacGregor

This second book in the ’90s Indiana Jones novel series was better than its predecessor and Rob MacGregor seems to have found his groove a bit more with this one.

Like its predecessor, it feels more like an episode of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, as opposed to feeling like a story as epic as the film series. That’s fine but I hope these start to get more grandiose in scale.

This book also goes to less places than its predecessor, as the entire story is confined to the United Kingdom, only seeing Indy in London, rural Scotland and Stonehenge.

That being said, if you ever wondered what it’d be like for Indy to have a story take place around Stonehenge, well… this is it!

Even more than the first book, I liked the characters in this a lot. Especially, Indy’s returning college buddy, who got to be much more involved this time around. I also liked the love interest and her role in the bigger picture.

What I really liked, though, was the villain. He was a young, ambitious but evil member of British Parliament. He had his eyes set on unlocking the secrets of Stonehenge and Merlin in an effort to rule the world.

This story takes place after Indy has left college as a student and started his first teaching job in London. This aspect of the story was cool, as you get to see him uncomfortable and a bit out of his element, even though it’s well-known that he becomes a successful archeology professor. It’s these parts of the books I like though, as they serve to enrich the character and fill in some of the blanks from his long, adventurous life.

All in all, this was a lighthearted and exciting read.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other Indiana Jones novels from Bantam Books’ run in the ’90s.

Book Review: ‘The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian (Book 1)’ by Robert E. Howard

This is the first of three collected editions of Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Cimmerian tales. I’m reading these as they’re numerically numbered and I assume there’s at least a loose chronology to the placement of the stories over the three volumes.

This one features several of the famous Conan short stories that I’ve also read but about 40 percent of it was new to me.

Covering nearly 500 pages, this is packed full of a dozen or so stories, as well as alternate draft versions of many. The main part of the book has The Frost-Giant’s Daughter, The Tower of the Elephant, The Phoenix and the Sword and Queen of the Black Coast just to name a few.

Overall, this was a hell of a lot of fun to both revisit and discover stories I hadn’t yet read. Some of these were also stories I knew from the comics but hadn’t actually experienced the source material for myself.

All in all, a great, beefy book packed full of sword and sorcery adventure, heroism and monsters. What the hell isn’t there to love?

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other Robert E. Howard collections.

Book Review: ‘The Official Batman Batbook’ by Joel Eisner

When I was growing up in the ’80s, this was my introduction to Batman. It was the first version I really got to know because I discovered it a few years before the 1989 movie came out. That movie then blew my tiny little mind but it also never diminished or replaced my love for the ’60s television series.

In fact, I loved that series so much that I bought this book with my miniscule allowance money and read through it in its entirety at least a dozen times. The big reason for that was because we didn’t have streaming services, DVDs or even VHS tapes of this show. I could only catch it when it was on sporadically and therefore, didn’t get to see all of the episodes until a friend of my mum’s made me bootleg copies of the entire series in the early ’90s.

This book was special because it gave a synopsis and extra details on every single episode. I’d read through them like a novelization (or a modern Wikipedia article), envisioning the scenes playing out for myself. It made me love many of the villains and characters before I even got to see them onscreen. This also helped generate a lifelong obsession with all things Vincent Price.

At some point in the ’90s, after moving around multiple times, this book was lost. It wasn’t until recently that I came across another copy and had to buy it and revisit it.

Sure, this is probably nostalgia speaking but this was a solid book and once again, all these years later, I couldn’t put it down.

This is great because it gives you so much information on the show and if you’re a fan of it and have never read this, you probably should.

While I don’t think this is even in print, you can find copies on eBay and periodically on Amazon. There is a version with a different cover but nothing pops quite like the original.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: if you want more about the ’60s Batman television series, check out the Batman ’66 comic books. I’ve reviewed many of them already.

Book Review: ‘Indiana Jones and the Peril at Delphi’ by Rob MacGregor

I have always wanted to own all the Indiana Jones books that Bantam put out in the ’90s. Well, now I do, so I figured I’d start with the first one.

This book takes place just after Indy leaves college. In fact, it starts in 1920, as he’s leaving college and then fast-forwards to 1922 when he’s living in Paris and furthering his education there. Pretty quickly, his attractive professor sweeps him away to Greece to assist on a major archaeological discovery.

Of course, things are not what they seem and his professor has her own agenda that Indy isn’t immediately privy to.

The book really encapsulates the spirit of the Indiana Jones franchise but this adventure does feel a bit small and confined, as it primarily settles in, in one location and doesn’t move away from there.

This actually reads more like an episode of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles than it does one of the movies. That’s totally fine but I was hoping for something the scale of the films. Maybe the books will build towards that.

In the end, this was a fairly decent start to the series of twelve novels and I look forward to continuing on my quest of reading and reviewing them.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other Indiana Jones novels from Bantam Books’ run in the ’90s.

Book Review: ‘Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of ’70s and ’80s Horror Fiction’ by Grady Hendrix

If you grew up in the ’80s (and I’m assuming the ’70s), you probably remember walking into book stores and seeing amazing but terrifying artwork adorning the covers of hundreds of horror paperbacks.

Some of those images were burned into my mind for life. Some of them I forgot about. However, this book brought them all back and it was cool as hell seeing all these covers once again.

This book is more than just some art book full of classic horror novel cover art, though.

The author, Grady Hendrix did a superb job of outlining the history behind the art that decorated these book covers for a few decades.

He talks about his own experience and appreciation for these books but he also breaks down all the subgenres and discusses the history and details behind them.

There is a lot to digest here between the great chapters that Hendrix wrote, as well as the hundreds of pages of stupendous art.

Plus, this book is top notch with high quality paper, images and construction.

This will definitely be a book I pick up and reference over the years, especially when looking for inspiration for my own stories.

Rating: 9/10

Book Review: ‘The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane’ by Robert E. Howard

I have only read a few Solomon Kane stories by Robert E. Howard and that was a long time ago. I’ve always loved the character, however. Especially, when he appeared in issues of The Savage Sword of Conan, as well as his own classic comic book series from his original Marvel run. I also like the film adaptation, quite a bit, as it has grown on me since I reviewed it for this site a few years back. I may need to update that, as I have a higher opinion of the movie now than I did after my original viewing of it.

This nice, thick book collects a lot of the iconic Solomon Kane stories that Howard wrote. I’m not sure if this is all of them or most of them but it does feature the stories I’m either familiar with from the comics and from what I’ve learned about the character’s history.

I enjoyed this pretty immensely, which I kind of expected to, but it exceeded those expectations and as far as a big collected body of work, this may be my favorite book I own by Robert E. Howard. Granted, I plan on reading the collected editions of Conan soon, as I have only read about a third of his short stories.

Solomon Kane is a very different hero than either Conan or Kull, however, and it was cool seeing Howard writing what I still consider to be sword and sorcery but quite unlike his better known “barbarian” heroes.

I love that this takes place on Earth in a historical time and that it connects to the real world closer than Howard’s prehistorical fantasy stuff.

Additionally, every story here had purpose and serious gravitas. I also liked all the colorful characters that weaved in and out of these tales, as well as the monsters and the Lovecraftian influence on them.

The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane should definitely be in anyone’s library who enjoys fantasy, action and horror. It’s a perfect blend of these three things, written by one of the greatest American authors that ever lived.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: other Robert E. Howard collections.

Book Review: ‘Florida Mat Wars 1977’ by Robert D. VanKavelaar & Scott Teal

At this point, many of you know that I grew up in Florida and witnessed Championship Wrestling From Florida live and in-person, as a kid in the ’80s. My earliest and some of my fondest wrestling memories came from this great promotion.

That being said, I like to read every book that has ties or stories to the company. Since I wasn’t alive in 1977, I found this one particularly interesting, as it chronicles a full year in the company before I was born.

However, 1977 was also an incredible year where CWF was packed full of immense prime time level talent.

This book is a collection of photos, newspaper articles and promotional advertisements of every event the company held in the State of Florida that year.

By looking through this, the year takes shape as you see rivalries form, feuds ignite and what came next for the wrestlers involved. Also, I liked seeing where all these events took place, as I could pinpoint ones that I knew my father and my uncles would have gone to live.

This is just a really cool book to own and to thumb through if you’re a fan of the promotion and wrestling history in general.

Rating: 8.25/10
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: ‘Ghost In the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker’ by Kevin Mitnick

This was suggested by Amazon when I bought This Machine Kills Secrets, so I bought it as well, as I figured it’d also be a pretty intriguing read.

Well, I wasn’t disappointed.

Kevin Mitnick is now a computer security consultant but before that, he was the most wanted hacker in the world, who was arrested in 1995 and spent five years in prison.

Luckily for us, he’s also a good writer and had one hell of a story to tell.

The crimes he was charged with were 14 counts of wire fraud, 8 counts of possession of unauthorized access devices, interception of wire or electronic communications, unauthorized access to a federal computer and causing damage to a computer.

His story is pretty exciting even before all that though and this autobiography had me from the get-go, as Mitnick went all the way back to his childhood and explained how he got into hacking and all the shenanigans he did while trying to perfect his craft.

The stuff about his early years was pretty exciting and this was immediately better than most autobiographies, which just summarize fairly mundane or normal childhoods.

Once you go beyond that and into adulthood, things pick up even more and Mitnick wrote a compelling tale about a high-tech skill but told in a way that any layman could understand.

I don’t want to ruin all the details and spoil the book for those who may have an interest in it. All I can really say is that it’s damn good, one of the best on its subject and that almost anyone will probably enjoy it.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: other books about cypherpunk culture and hacking.