Book Log #52 – Myth

Myth by Roan Lucas [$0.00, written in Word]

It is a somewhat perfect confluence of events that I can complete my 52 books in 52 weeks on December 31, 2016 by reading my son’s first book.

He wrote it for the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November. Clocking in at 50,140 words according to the official NaNoWriMo counter, Roan wrote consistently every day, determined to make his goal, often skipping out on fun events or other distractions, and all the time keeping up with rehearsals and a heavy homework workload. I couldn’t be prouder.

But what of the book itself?

I have had the arrogance in the past to think of myself as an above average writer. But I’ve been humbled by this work, which leaves my comparable work of the 8th grade time frame in the dust. And quite frankly, I’m not sure I could do better in my current 39th grade status. I certainly haven’t tried, which is more than half the battle.

The story is a whimsical fantasy of witches, angels, demons and, occasionally, squirrels. While there are still the rough edges of a new writer, there is considerable accomplishment in the sense of story structure, character development, and, my favorite, humor. The story flows nicely, and the the characters motivations all line up nicely without feeling like plot machinations. All in all, a strong first draft.

I’ll look forward to book 2.

Books Read: 52
Week Number: 52
Achievement Unlocked.

Book Log #51 – The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer

I’ve read several autobiographies by comedians in the last few years– Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling, Faith Salie… hmmm, I felt like this list would be longer.

All of them have been funny, all have been interesting, all are good reads I would recommend… by Amy Schumer’s is the first one that also made me somewhat terrified for my daughter.

Ms. Schumer tells stories of her encounters with abusive or unstable boyfriends, and I’d love to say my daughter is too self-possessed, too smart, too self-respectful to fall for the crap a wrong person brings. But the fact is… so was Amy Schumer.

I’d like to think that we’re raising our daughter in a better environment, and maybe that will help, but you just never know.

Probably the best thing I can do is just let her read Amy’s book. When she’s much, much older, because this sucker is pretty raunchy and definitely R-rated, like most things Amy does.

Regardless, this was an excellent, funny, often poignant, sometimes cringe-worthy book. Definitely recommend.

Books Read: 51
Week Number: 52

This is it, folks. I need to knock one more out in three days. And I think I know just the book.

Book Log #49 – A Sneaky Little Snoop Like Me

A Sneaky Little Snoop Like Me by Anna Mildred Dunkle Meadows, Edited by Ryan J. Lucas

My grandmother wrote down some stories of her early life before she died, and those pages have been floating amongst family members for years now. I finally took the plunge and wrote them up and made them into a book, along with a batch of research on ancestry.com. As of this writing, 3 copies are being made and sent to my parents’ home in time for Xmas gifting.

So, I have to set the publish date for December 25, 2016. Many will cry out until then, “Why did you skip #49!??” but I can give them no answer… And after then, “Why is #49 out of order!? WHY?” And hopefully, this will explain.

Books Read: 49
Week Number: 49

Book Log #50: Sword Song: The Battle for London (Saxon Tales Book 4)

Sword Song: The Battle for London (Saxon Tales Book 4) by Bernard Cornwell

Another Saxon Tales book! This one like the others! Intrigue! Action! Barbarians! Norsemen! Etc!

I enjoy reading them, but… unlike A Song of Fire and Ice, I am not compelled to read the next one. I expect I’ll lay off these for a while, and return when the book well runs dry.

But I understand NPR recommended an unprecedented 300 books this year. I should check some of them out.

Note: Astute readers will note that no #49 has been listed. Not that I think my target person follows this blog, but it involves an Xmas present, and I don’t want to give anything away. So, #49 will be revealed at 1am, December 25. I’m sure you’ll all stay up to see.

Books Read: 50
Week Number: 49

Book Log #47 – The Upright Citizens Brigade Comedy Improvisation Manual

The Upright Citizens Brigade Comedy Improvisation Manual by Matt Besser, Ian Roberts, & Matt Walsh [Drama Bookstore, New York City, $25]

The last time I looked for books about improv, there were about three. Impro for Storytellers by Keith Johnstone, Improvisation for the Theater by Viola Spolin and some other book I’m forgetting that I didn’t read. Truth in Comedy by Charna Halpern and Del Close– I just looked it up.

There are now hundreds. Dozens in the Drama Bookstore in New York City, which is a great stop for the theatrically minded.

The UCB is strongly in the Del Close school. If I came from any school of improv, it was more Johnstone, who begat TheatreSports, which begat ComedySportz, which was my first exposure to Improv in 1985. But I have no cultish attachment to any of them.

I wish I had picked up Truth back when I was actually doing improv, it probably would have helped.

This UCB book is chock full of good stuff I’d heard bits and pieces of over the years. I was surprised at their aversion to actual storytelling, though. Their thought was that the plot or storyline is almost insignificant in doing comedy improv, whereas I (and Johnstone, I believe) have seen story as the cake you put the comedy frosting on. Johnstone’s title, was, after all, for Storytellers.

Is this a conscious wall they’re putting between the Haralders and the TheatreSportsers? Dunno. Don’t care either.

Though the book is needlessly repetitive in many places, it’s an inspirational read. It focuses on long form improv (which they capitalize LongForm), which I greatly prefer these days. Ironically, I have never actually seen a true Harald (the longform primarily described here), though I have heard people go on about it. It seems interesting, if rigid in structure.

Perhaps I’ll catch one next time I’m in Chicago.

Books Read: 47
Week Number: 47
Parity again!

Book Log #46 – Approval Junkie

Approval Junkie: Adventures in Caring Too Much by Faith Salie [Hardback, Little Shop of Stories, $27]

I knew Faith Salie a tiny, little bit.

Freshman year at my dream school, and her “safety” school (pg 224), we lived in the same 103 person dorm. We acted together in a video project, where I and two other guys sang (poorly, in my case) a serenade to her about art, or rather how “we have art for [her]”. We are not the heroes of this video, we are the jerks. She plays a being from another plane of existence, or something like that. I played a pizza delivery boy.

I know she took the Early to Bed, Early to Rise adage very seriously, to the chagrin of her suitemates, who were more the opposite and didn’t care much for shushing during Really Deep Conversations That We Have In College.

We once had a very nice conversation in a suite, the topic of which I completely forget.

She transferred to Harvard after freshman year, which I referenced in the dorm yearbook with a joke about “Faith No More”, a band I knew existed but couldn’t point out in a lineup. I stretch for the comedy.

But now she is part of the Golden Era of Female Comedians. Felicia Day, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Amy Schumer, Mindy Kaling, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, etc. etc. etc., many of whom have written memoirs. But not many of them are on Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me on NPR, which is her greatest achievement IMHO.

I love these books, and Ms. Salie’s is no exception. Very funny, very readable, and just the right amount of poignant. She’s got plenty of stories worth telling, even at her young age of mid-fortiesish.

I recommend it, even if she disses my alma mater.

Books Read: 46
Week Count: 47
Gotta… catch… up.

Book Log #44 – The Pale Horseman (Saxon Tales Book 2)

The Pale Horseman by Bernard Cornwell (Amazon, Kindle, $9.99)

Continuation of the Saxon series. Continues to be Game of Thrones Lite, but with actual history of England as the basis.

The author has notes at the end about where the story deviates from history, which is interesting.

There are echoes of plotlines from Game of Thrones… a healer/witch who heals the son of the king, which causes the death of another boy. Death for life, which is reminiscent of the “healing” of the Khalesi’s husband (Drago?) in GoT. There were other parallels I’ve forgotten.

All in all, a good read. I’ll probably continue in the series.

Books Read: 44
Weeks : 45
Ratio: 0.977

For the first time since starting this, my ratio drops below 1.0. Scary times! Desperate measures are called for! I need 8 more books in the next 7 weeks!

Book Log #43 – The Last Kingdom (Saxon Tales Book 1)

The Last Kingdom (Saxon Tales Book 1) by Bernard Cornwell [Amazon, Kindle, $6,99]

This was recommended by my buddy Curt (who is starting to rival Nick Hornby in level of responsibility for my reading list as of late) as a Since You Liked Game of Thrones sort of thing.

And he was right! It’s not as complex as GoT, but it does have the benefit of being the real world. Set in the late 800s in primordial England, we follow the story of the pagan Danes attacking the English Isles. I know scant little of this period, so everything came as a surprise to me.

The writing is solid and engaging, and it was one of those books that drags you in and doesn’t let you go until you finish. Had I the uninterrupted time, I likely would have absorbed it in a single sitting.

It looks like there are 10 books in this series, so I’ve got a good backlog to dive into at will.

Books read: 43
Week number: 43
Ratio: 1:1