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

Book Review: ‘The Witcher: The Lady of the Lake’ by Andrzej Sapkowski

At last, I have reached the final book in The Witcher saga! Well, technically there is one more that takes place after the saga. So, this is the fifth of the five saga books and the seventh of eight, overall. Regardless, it’s been a hell of a ride up to this point and I’m kind of bummed that there’s just one book left.

This book is thicc.

It’s the thickest of the series, anyway, and with that, a whole lot of shit happens.

In fact, this probably could’ve been split into two volumes and that may have made it easier to digest all the details but regardless, it’s still the strongest and best book in the series.

This taps into the King Arthur myth, as it features the knight Galahad and Nimue, the Lady of the Lake. The story starts with Ciri recounting events in her life, which sets up the novel’s story.

In this, we see Geralt and his party face certain doom and very, very few survive. But we also see Geralt, Ciri and Yennefer come back together to close out the series.

Before that, however, we see what happens to Ciri when she’s trapped in the magical realm she entered at the end of the previous book. While there, she grows exhausted of what’s expected of her by the elves that hold the power in that mysterious place. Eventually, she discovers the unicorns, who have beef with the elves and thus, help Ciri escape back to her homeland.

There are a lot of different plot threads weaving in and out and despite the complexity of the novel as a whole, it’s well organized and the story is well told.

In the end, there is a satisfying conclusion and Ciri gets to walk her own path in spite of everyone telling her what her destiny should be over the course of her entire life, up to this point.

This was a solid conclusion to the saga and frankly, the book was hard to put down.

I’m pretty happy that I picked this series up. It actually exceeded my expectations and lived up to the hype, which things rarely do.

Rating: 9.5/10

Book Review: ‘The Double Life of Fidel Castro: My 17 Years as Personal Bodyguard to el Líder Máximo’ by Juan Reinaldo Sánchez, Axel Gyldén

It’s kind of odd that I bought this book on Amazon and then later that same day, the large protests in Cuba started.

Anyway, I wanted to read this for awhile and I figured I’d take a break from all the fantasy fiction and wrestling biographies I had been reading and reviewing, lately.

Growing up in Florida, I’ve always had a fascination with Cuba, Castro, their history, culture and people. While I’ve grown up pretty immersed in Cuban culture in South Florida, I’ve heard countless stories from my childhood friends, their parents, grandparents and many other Cubans I’ve befriended and worked with over the years. I work in the cigar industry and have for two decades now, so even my career and livelihood is tied to what goes on in Cuba.

That being said, this book, written by one of Fidel Castro’s most trusted bodyguards, is pretty damn fascinating. I learned a lot about the guy, his life, his past, his family and the fact that what he does in private completely contradicts what he preaches in public. Granted, to those of us outside of Cuba, this isn’t a shock. Especially, after the past year seeing politicians break their own COVID rules.

Juan Reinaldo Sánchez really goes deep into the subject matter and paints a pretty rich and complex picture. He also discusses his life, though. He talks about where his mind set started to shift and how he eventually stopped buying into the propaganda and eventually fled Cuba for America.

I’d go into more detail but I sincerely don’t want to spoil the details of this book for those who’d really like to read it.

If this is a subject you’re interested in (or even if you aren’t), this book is damn enthralling and a warning to those who simply believe the things they’re told from those in power.

Rating: 9/10

Book Review: ‘Once Upon a Time In Hollywood’ by Quentin Tarantino

I didn’t realize that Quentin Tarantino wrote some of his own novelizations until he was promoting this one on Joe Rogan’s podcast.

When I was a kid, I used to love reading movie novelizations, as they were usually written with an earlier version of the script and often times featured deleted scenes, alternate scenes and a lot more context, as the writer could go directly into the characters’ heads and also flesh out the scenes a bit more.

So I figured that Tarantino would do the same and actually make a richer story than what we got with the cinematic version, which I liked on its own.

This was a pretty quick and entertaining read. It added a little color to the story but there wasn’t anything that stuck out as being totally new. However, I’ve also only seen the film once and it’s been a few years now.

I liked revisiting the story, though. The whole sequence at the ranch and the finale were both pretty great in this book, as Tarantino got to explore that territory in a way that you can’t just visually.

Ultimately, this was a pretty solid and engaging experience.

Rating: 8/10

Book Review: ‘The Witcher: The Tower of the Swallow’ by Andrzej Sapkowski

Man, this series doesn’t seem to be dropping off or getting stale.

This is the fourth book in the regular saga of five novels but it’s the sixth if you read the two prequels of short stories first, which is recommended.

This picks up where the previous book left off.

Ciri has to deal with the murder of her group of friends while also seeking answers to who she is, what her destiny is and what needs to be done to conquer the evil that keeps finding its way into her life.

Additionally, Geralt is with the same group he was with at the end of the previous story. They’re travelling with the queen and her army, who they fought alongside with. However, Geralt wants to locate a group of druids he believes can help lead him to Ciri.

Like the previous books, this one is really driven by the drama and the relationships of the characters and how they handle the hardships they face. It also has a good amount of action and high stakes.

This is the beefiest novel to date but it still reads like a breeze.

I found it hard to put down but luckily I read the bulk of it on flights to and from Vegas from Florida. It made that time pass pretty quickly in those tiny, uncomfortable ass seats.

Rating: 9.25/10

Book Review: ‘The Last Outlaw’ by Stan Hansen & Scott Teal

Well, this was a hell of an entertaining book but then Stan Hansen was an entertaining person when he was a wrestler. After reading this, he’s also very personable and well spoken, at least on paper.

I enjoyed this immensely and it’s one of the best professional wrestling biographies that I’ve ever read.

I’ve always liked Hansen and his place in the history of professional wrestling.

One thing this book did well, though, was talking about his early life before football and his long career in the ring. This part of most wrestling biographies is usually the weakest but Hansen kept my attention from cover-to-cover and his childhood life came across as interesting.

However, everything still picks up greatly when he starts getting into his wrestling career. Since he’s a guy that spent time in territories all over the United States and then spent extensive time in Japan, working with just about everyone in the business, Hansen has a lot to say about himself, lots of other people and all the places he’s been.

I liked this book a lot and it’s pretty damn high on the list of my favorite professional wrestling books.

Rating: 9/10

Book Review: ‘Sword Woman and Other Historical Adventures’ by Robert E. Howard

Out of all the Robert E. Howard collections that I’ve now read and reviewed, I’d have to say that this one was my least favorite, overall.

It’s certainly not bad and I liked that this featured the first non-comic book Dark Agnes story that I ever read. However, the overall quality of these stories lacked when compared to Howard’s best work.

This is a collection of what feels like random short stories that were thrown together because there was nowhere else to put them. They don’t specifically follow any sort of unified theme.

I think a lot of this stuff was unfinished work or, at least, work that Howard moved on from before actually reworking it to be at his normal level of quality.

This was also one of the more beefy collections and with that, it did feel like it was dragging in parts. Although, the best stuff in here was still rather good.

Ultimately, if I were going to recommend a Robert E. Howard book to a new reader, it wouldn’t be this one. This is something that’s more for the completist that wants to obtain all of the legendary author’s published works.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other Robert E. Howard collections.

Book Review: ‘The Witcher: Baptism of Fire’ by Andrzej Sapkowski

As I’m working my way through The Witcher books, this is my favorite installment of the regular “saga” novels, thus far. It’s also the third and middle chapter of the five.

I guess it’s actually my favorite, counting the two short story compilations that I started with and honestly, the first one of those is hard to top.

In this volume, we pick up where things left off with the previous book. The trio of Geralt, Yennefer and Ciri are split up and in different places, dealing with their own issues and adventures.

Ciri’s part of the story deals with her taking on an alias and running with a gang called “The Rats”.

Yennefer deals with the politics and issues following the fall of the Brotherhood of Sorcerers.

Geralt, on the other hand, really gets the bulk of the time in this novel but then he should, as he’s the title character of the series.

In this, Geralt wants to search for Ciri. He sets off to find her with his bestie Dandelion and a newcomer, Milva, who initially has a rocky relationship with Geralt. They also meet up with Zoltan and his dwarves and along the way they are shadowed by Cahir, who was the “black rider” that Ciri was having nightmares about in the previous book. Eventually, Cahir joins the group, as does Regis, a vampire, who the group doesn’t trust but he comes with valuable medical skills.

The big climax of the novel sees the Battle of the Bridge on the Yaruga. This is where Geralt’s chosen name of “Geralt of Rivia” actually becomes an official title, after his heroism and skill helps win the day.

Additionally, we also learn a big secret about Ciri’s lineage, which I won’t spoil.

This book had superb action, a great battle, shaky alliances, new friendships and loyalties forged and it was just one hell of a fun, badass adventure. Honestly, this was just great escapism and an enthralling epic tale.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Witcher books, comics and television shows.

Book Review: ‘Ted DiBiase: The Million Dollar Man’ by Ted DiBiase, Tom Caiazzo

“The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase is one of my all-time favorite wrestlers and honestly, he might be my top guy.

Although, there are a lot of old school wrestlers that I hold in really high esteem, most of them being heels because, even as a kid, I always loved the villains.

Wrestling villains were always more fun to me and there weren’t many that were as good at being bad as Ted DiBiase.

The first time I remember seeing DiBiase, or at least noticing him, was the WrestleMania IV pay-per-view, which I watched with my cousins, as it was our annual tradition until this year, where none of us could make ourselves care about the current WWE product to make an effort to watch the two-day spectacle.

Anyway, I also loved DiBiase’s earlier work before he went to WWF to become “The Million Dollar Man”. In my teens and twenties, I acquired a lot of DiBiase’s other work from Texas, other territories and All Japan. Once I really deep dived into his career, my appreciation grew even more.

So I was pretty stoked to read this book. And for the most part, it’s really good, as it’s a true biography that goes through Ted DiBiase’s life from childhood to the days after he retired from being a full-time wrestling personality.

However, this is a book put out by WWE and with that, the WWE stuff is a bigger focal point and even though this covers DiBiase’s life outside of that one company, I feel like I wanted a lot more of his Texas and Japan stories.

In the end, though, fans of Ted DiBiase should probably still enjoy this. It covers a lot of phases in his life and it also doesn’t get overly heavy on the religious stuff, as he put his focus on that part of his life after leaving the squared circle behind.

Rating: 7/10
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: ‘Bran Mak Morn: The Last King’ by Robert E. Howard

Bran Mak Morn is a Robert E. Howard character whose stories I’ve wanted to read since I first heard about him. He exists in the same universe as Conan and Kull but he’s different from the Cimmerian and Atlantean dudes that are really similar. Bran Mak Morn is actually a badass Pict that forged his own badass destiny while crushing enemies and monsters in his way.

The Picts of Robert E. Howard’s mythos aren’t the same Picts that existed on Earth in the time of our recorded history. However, Howard stories typically take place in pre-history, so you may want to connect the two.

Bran Mak Morn, like Conan and Kull, exists in a prehistoric age. His time doesn’t overlap with either of the other heroes but his people and their history are tied to both Conan and Kull.

Bran has a harder edge to him than Conan or Kull and I kind of like his temperament and personality. It’s that personality that really carries these stories.

Overall, though, I didn’t like the tales as much as the ones of Conan, Kull or Solomon Kane. However, I’ve known some of those stories for a long time and maybe nostalgia gives them a bit of an artificial boost.

I certainly don’t want to take anything away from this collection of Howard stories, as his writing is still top notch with this character and his place in the shared mythos.

If you’ve already read a lot of Howard’s other work but haven’t delved into Bran Mak Morn, this is definitely worth a look.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other Robert E. Howard collections.