Tag Archives: review

Boka Kantina Review

Last Saturday night I ate at Boka Kantina and it rocked.  I opened with the crab rangoon which were stellar — crispy and creamy, with a sauce that was out of this world.  The Asian taco with kimchi was the standout on my plate.  The Mexican, although it was the weakest link, was still very good.

I’m not a foodie, so don’t ask me to break this all down like some fancy critic.   Let’s just say this place is different.  Original, counter-intuitive combinations abound on their funky menu.  I mean, who puts watermelon on a taco?  Well I had a bite of my daughter’s fish taco with watermelon, and it was outstanding.  I don’t know how they make these combinations work, but they do.

What you need to know before you go:  Service was super, atmosphere relaxed, music loud enough to hear without making it hard to talk.  I found their stuff to be hot enough to have some zip, but not hot enough to put off most folks.   They like the truffle oil and the ginger, so if you don’t like either, options will be limited.   Our meal ran $50 for three people including tip.  They do not serve coffee, or at least it’s not on the menu, which was the only negative for me.

Zine Review: Trail Mix 3

Trail Mix 3

Trail Mix 3

At Richmond Zinefest 2013 I headed up a storytelling workshop.  One of the folks in the session was Megan.  Before the workshop broke up she handed me issue #3 of her zine Trail Mix.

Now, as fans of zine culture know, there are zines and there are zines.  Some are just thrown together, some are assembled with care; some are outstanding and some are horrid.  But when they are good they are very very good, and it is this fact that compels me (like the folks who sift through piles of junk at yard sales or purchase brown paper grab bags with unknown contents) to read zines.

Trail Mix is one of the very very good ones.

In terms of production value, it is in the classic cut’n’paste mold: there are black and white pictures snipped and glued, handwritten pages mixed with typewritten sections, and ransom note headlines.  It is relaxed and unstudied in its feel, but that doesn’t mean it is slapdash.  Relaxed doesn’t mean poorly constructed.  Trail Mix is organized and flows perfectly.  The time, effort and skill it took to organize the work of so many contributors reveals itself as art rather than artifice.

The centerfold is an autobiographical story Megan wrote called “Rookie.” A sweet and genuine piece, tender without being treacle, it is the work of a writer in control of story.  I was moved.

Maybe Megan should be the one leading the workshop next year.  Trail Mix is highly recommended.

The Best Band-Aid Ever

imageYou won’t find many product endorsements on my blog.  But this product is too good not to mention: Band-Aid Advanced Healing for Blisters, Fingers & Toes.

As a martial artist and outdoorsy kind of guy, I get dinked up a fair amount.  Yesterday I got a blister from swinging a cane for two hours (I was teaching a cane-fighting seminar).  A blister popped, but it’s not bothering me at all because I put one of these puppies on it.

They ain’t cheap, but if you have a small cut or a popped blister they are by far the best coverage I’ve seen.  And if you think about it, they aren’t as expensive as all that.  Considering you can put one on and forget for three days or more, you run through fewer of them than you do of the others.

I don’t care enough to run a detailed cost-analysis because it’s worth the extra bucks not to be driven crazy by sopping band-aids that fall off if you so much as look at ’em funny.  These things stick like nobody’s business, and are completely waterproof.  Which means if you can wash your hands and not have to worry about getting a band-aid wet.


Review: “Lady, Go Die!” by Max Allan Collins & Mickey Spillane

I finished the new Spillane book posthumously completed by Max Allan Collins.  And although it isn’t a great book with a capital “G” — it’s no contender for the Nat’l Book Award or anything — it is a great Mike Hammer book.

Everything you want is there.  Corrupt cops and politicians, evil mobsters, and psycho killers all cower in the dark, waiting to be rooted out of their holes, itching to be punched in the nose or plugged with a 1911 Colt by the incomparable P.I. known as Mike Hammer.  And yes, there are luscious dames, highballs at 10 am on Sunday, loyal friends, and aging heroes with scores to settle.  I can’t stand cliche — except in my hard-boiled fiction.  Here it’s an essential ingredient.

A tip of the fedora to you Mr. Collins.  Although I noticed your hand in the prose a few times, there was nothing there Mickey would’ve said was out of place.  You done good, kid.

Review: Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig

I really wanted to love Blackbirds because I’m a fan of your Terribleminds website.  Your advice to writers — your brass knuckled advice to writers — is great stuff.  You’re a no-nonsense kind of writer.

But I have to say “Sorry Chuck, I liked it but I didn’t love it.”  I’ll give you an “A” for originality because I haven’t read anything like it before.  It had a nice twist at the end, and I was really curious about how Miriam could possibly extricate herself from her predicament.  But overall I had to grade you down in the language department.  And I just wasn’t wrapped up the characters.  I wasn’t sucked into their shoes, and I think that goes back to the language (but I could be wrong).

Blackbirds has a sweaty-balled kind of beauty.  Like a rusty diamond plate bumper on a big rig, you slam the reader down the road and into the guardrail of literature.  You are a true artist in the realm of swearing.  But for me, this was Italian food.  There’s nothing wrong with Italian food.  Millions of people love it.  But me, I’m just not a fan of pasta.  I prefer pretty language.  I’m a sucker for it.  The Catcher in the Rye is raw, there’s sex and swearing, but it’s beautiful to read.

But I suppose we can’t all be Salinger, and you aren’t trying to be, so that’s not a fair thing to expect from you.  It’s a solid book, fun and fast-paced.  I’ll give you a “B.”  Not that you give a flying frick through a rolling doughnut what I think, of course.

The Templar Papers by Oddvar Olsen

I just read The Templar Papers edited by Oddvar Olsen, a compilation of material from The Temple magazine. Some of the articles are better than others.  The best ones don’t have the phrase “what if…” in every paragraph.  There are a couple of sections that chain together five or six “what ifs” to arrive at a “fact” which is then used as the launching point and a reference for one of the other writers.

I’m not sure, but my impression is that these writers are all in their own secret abbey somewhere trading bits of speculative information and nourishing each other’s ideas.  And although that sounds like fun, the level of speculation in this books puts it more the the realm of fiction than non-fiction.

It’s great to read as entertainment and it is valuable as such.  It excites the imagination into flights of fancy and its fun to read along and let your imagination run wild.  Unfortunately, it seems like most of what it contains is, well, just that.

Don’t pick it up for scholarship, pick it up for fun.

Write a Review and Get Free Stuff

Want some free stuff?  All you have to do is write a review of any of my books.   (preferably on Smashwords but I’m not picky).

Look people, I don’t have a staff of editors and a publishing house helping me polish my material.  I need feedback!  So I’m giving away four prizes — one for each of the four eBooks I have available.

The first review of each book gets a priority mail grab bag stuffed with a fat pile of my zines, a signed copy of the original perfect bound Cabal Fang Manual, and other miscellaneous items.  If you review Ghilan I’ll sweeten the deal and add a little something extra to the bag I think you’ll dig — a printout of the full 600+ word Ghilani lexicon (that’s the language spoken by the creatures known as ghilan).

Just write your review and post a link in the comments right here.

Someday, if I start selling more books than James Patterson, the stuff in this grab bag could be worth a gabillion dollars.  Think of it as an investment.  Sort of like buying up a ton of real estate back in 2008…