Monthly Archives: July 2014

Frankenstein’s Monster is Kind of a Dick

Have you been watching Penny Dreadful on Showtime? It’s a new show that weaves together all sorts of famous characters from horror literature – Dr. Frankenstein, Dorian Gray, and Prof. Van Helsing just to name a few.

It’s a bit confusing but I suppose that’s the point. A “Penny Dreadful” was a type of sensationalized, trashy novel horror novel, usually printed in serialized form, from the 1800s. (It’s ok, I spent the first three episodes saying, “Well, when the heck is Penny Dreadful going to show up?” before I looked up what a Penny Dreadful was too).

I’ve heard some people say they love the show, others say they hate it. Personally, the best compliment I can give it is that it’s caught my interest enough to keep me watching. If anything else, Eva Green deserves an emmy for the scenes where she, perhaps a little too realistically, convinces the audience that she’s been possessed.

One part I find funny though is Frankenstein’s monster. (Spoilers ahead)

So, Dr. Frankenstein makes a monster who, for reasons we don’t have to get into (just watch the show and find out) has become a major jerk. He’s constantly complaining and whining about how hideously ugly he is – how he must hide in the shadows to hide his grotesque face, how he curses Dr. Frankenstein for giving him life so that he has to suffer being hated and despised for being so gross looking.

His ugly face has left him depressingly lonely, so he commands Dr. Frankenstein to make him a companion – a dead wife brought back to life – a “Bride of Frankenstein” if you will.

One catch, the monster notes – “She must be beautiful!”

Well, holy crap, that’s just the sad nature of life, isn’t it? Here’s a guy who knows everything there is to know about the pains of ugliness, and what’s he say about his bride?

SHE’s GOTTA BE HOT!

“Oooo look at me I’m Frankenstein’s monster, I’ve got stitches all over my face and I hide in the dark because I’m so ugly but no, no undead ugly chicks will be good enough for me, nooooo I need a hot undead chick!”

Come on, Monster. Ugly undead chicks need love too.

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Previously on Bookshelf Battle…July 2014 Wrap-Up (Game of Thrones Edition)

Here’s what I wrote about in July 2014, told in Game of Thrones style:

LORDS VARYS AND BAELYSH walk through the empty throne room, the IRON THRONE looming large in their presence.

VARYS: My little birds tell me there’s an idiot out there who doesn’t know how to run a book blog.

BAELYSH: Yes, he’s supposed to be writing about books, not about TV and movies. Why is he boring everyone with his rants about Fargo and Better Call Saul?

VARYS: I confess I know not. Perhaps he thinks he’s the next Roger Ebert.

BAELYSH: To aspire to be the next Roger Ebert is a dangerous goal – like a man reaching for the sun and forgetting to keep his footing on the treacherous ground below him.

VARYS: Even worse, he apparently thinks he’s some type of comedian – making light of Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull. Does he think he could do be better if Hollywood gave him a budget and a crew?

BAELYSH: My whores could make a better movie than that if they were given a budget and a crew.

VARYS: Stupid lowborn.

BAELYSH: Idiot eunuch.

MEANWHILE ACROSS THE NARROW SEA:

The KHALEESI sits on a throne inside a pyramid. SER JORAH is on his knees, begging.

KHALEESI: You spied on me! You sent information about me and my child to the usurper!

JORAH: The info was mostly about your brother and come on, my lady, let’s be honest – he was kind of a dick.

KHALEESI: Even worse, you subscribed to a book blog that ONLY REVIEWED ONE BOOK IN JULY! Only one single, solitary book! How dare he call himself a book blogger if he can’t be bothered to produce more book reviews?

JORAH: But surely everyone wants to read a review of Fletch, Khaleesi!

KHALEESI: Don’t call me that! Leave at once, or I’ll have your head! Don’t come back until you’ve found a book blog that reviews at least TWO books a month!

BEYOND THE WALL…

YGRITTE: You know nothing, Jon Snow.

JON SNOW: Not true. I know all about the poem, Invictus thanks to a poetry discussion on bookshelfbattle.com

YGRITTE: We never should have left that cave.

JON SNOW: We had to. There was no Diet Shasta Strawberry soda in there.

ACROSS THE COUNTRYSIDE:

THE HOUND: All your relatives are dead, nobody to pay me my money, what in Seven Hells are we to do now?

ARYA: I don’t know. Maybe we could sing some Batman Day Carols or watch a Weird Al Music Video

THE HOUND: I’d rather borrow another one of me brother’s toys without asking again.

AT TYRION’S TRIAL

TYRION: I wish to confess. I saved you. I saved this city – and all your worthless lives. I should have let Stannis lecture you all into boredom about whether or not life is a tale told by an idiot.

I didn’t make Joffrey read about “A Plague on Both Your Houses!” though I wish I had!

AT THE FIGHT BETWEEN THE RED VIPER AND THE MOUNTAIN:

RED VIPER: You followed @bookshelfbattle on Twitter! You followed http://bookshelfbattle.tumblr.com/ on tumblr! You liked the Bookshelf Battle page on Facebook! Admit it! I’ll hear you confess! Who gave the order?!

THE MOUNTAIN: YEAH I FOLLOWED ALL THE FABULOUS BOOKSHELFBATTLE SOCIAL MEDIA!!! AND I DID IT JUST LIKE THIS! (Smashes the Red Viper’s computer into a million pieces).

As always, thanks for reading. Looking forward to entertaining you with more booktabulous goodness in August.

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Comic Con – Game of Thrones Bloopers

Comic Con is underway in San Diego. Wish I was there. Here’s a look at the Game of Thrones Blooper real shown at the GoT panel:

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Batman Day Carols

Today is Batman Day. No, seriously, it really is. July 23rd has been declared a day to honor the Dark Knight – everyone’s favorite one-percenter crime fighter.

What’s a holiday without a carol? Here’s a couple I whipped up:

Oh Batman Day!

Sung to the tune of Oh, Christmas Tree!

Oh Batman Day! Oh Batman Day!
You never let the Joker get away.
Punch the Penguin, in his stupid face,
Vicki Vale, you will embrace.
Oh Batman Day! Oh Batman Day!
How lovely art thine Batcave!

The Caped Crusader’s Coming to Town

Sung to the tune of Santa Claus is Coming to Town

Oh, you better not cheat! You better not steal!
You better not kill or act like a heal!
The Caped Crusader’s coming to town!

He sees you when you’re naughty
He knows when you’ve been bad
He’ll chase in the Batmobile
His car is really rad!

Oh you better not rob, or make people cry!
You better be good
I’m tellin you why!
The Caped Crusader’s coming to town!

We would have also accepted:

Oh Little Town of Gotham

Silent Bat, Holy Bat

The Little Drummer Bat

Jingle Bells, Batman Smells…but that’s been done before. Can’t take credit for that one.

Robin the Yellow Caped Sidekick

Deck the Cave

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Quote of the Week – “A Plague on Both Your Houses”

Happy Tuesday, blogmeisters.

It’s time for the Quote of the Week. Like last week’s quote, this one also comes from Shakespeare:

ROMEO tries to break up the fight. TYBALT stabs MERCUTIO under ROMEO’S arm.

PETRUCHIO

Away, Tybalt.

Exeunt TYBALT, PETRUCHIO, and the other CAPULETS

MERCUTIO

I am hurt.
A plague o’both your houses! I am sped.
Is he gone and hath nothing?

BENVOLIO

What, are thou hurt?

MERCUTIO

Ay, ay, a scratch, a scratch. Marry, ’tis enough.
Where is my page? – Go, villain, fetch a surgeon.

Exit MERCUTIO’S PAGE

ROMEO

Courage, man. The hurt cannot be much.

MERCUTIO

No, ’tis not so deep as a well nor so wide as a
church-door, but ’tis enough, ’twill serve.
Ask for me tomorrow and you shall find me a grave man.
I am peppered, I warrant, for this world.
A plague o’both your houses!
Zounds, a dog, a rat, a mouse, a cat to scratch a man to death!
A braggart, a rogue, a villain that fights by the book of arithmetic!
Why the devil came you between us?
I was hurt under your arm.

ROMEO

I thought all for the best.

– William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

Poor Mercutio – just an innocent guy who got caught up in the middle of the Montague vs. Capulet feud and ended up getting stuck like a pin cushion. Well, scratched like a nickel on a winning lottery ticket would be more precise but as he said, a scratch is enough.

“A plague on both your houses!” Generally, this quote has become an expression used to criticize two warring factions, so hellbent on destroying one another, that they fail to realize that innocents are being hurt in the process.

Seems a bit relevant, given the news as of late, doesn’t it?

Here at bookshelfbattle.com (where the reviews are as awesome as the author’s humilty), I try not to get political. That’s because, whether you’re a Republican, or a Democrat, or a Libertarian, a Green Party member, or even a member of some odd party that thinks America should turn itself over to intergalactic space alien rule, all I want is for everyone to come together and partake in the joy of good literature.

Also, I want your clicks. Your sweet, sweet clicks. Click on a few links while you’re in here, will you? So far my only visitors are my cat and my Aunt Gertrude.

But I digress. There are some news stories that transcend politics. Stories where we can all agree, something really craptacular happened. Such is the case with the downing of Malyasian Airlines Flight MH17 over the Ukraine last week.

Pro-Russian separatists want to break off from the Ukraine and join Russia. Ukraine claims that the separatists aren’t exactly poor farmers turned rebels but rather are trained flunkies of Mother Russia. The passengers of MH17, a bunch of poor, innocent Mercutios, if you will, got caught in the middle of a brutal Civil War. They had nothing to do with the conflict. Most of them were on their way to an AIDS conference. They were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

All signs indicate that the plane was blown up by bumbling pro-Russians who mistook the civilian passenger plane for a Ukranian military plane. The rocket launcher used to blow up the plane isn’t exactly something you can pick up at the 7-11, and training on how to use one can’t be provided at the local community college, so Russia, now suspected of providing the weapon in question, definitely has a lot of explaining to do.

Russia points the finger back at Ukraine – claiming the appearance of a Ukranian fighter jet in the area needs to be explained. All facts need to be accounted for, but so far if the explanations are:

A) The separatists goofed and mistook a civilian plane for an army plane (or worse did it intentionally?)

or

B) The Ukraine government shot down a civilian plane in an elaborate attempt to frame the separatists and garner the world’s sympathy

Then Arkham’s Razor, which dictates that the simplest explanation must be true, yields that A is the safest bet.

It is an understatement of epic proportions to say that Russia and the rebels look bad here. And perhaps “A plague on both your houses” isn’t the most fitting of quotes in this particular situation, as it appears Russia and the Rebels hold the lion’s share of the blame when it comes to this particular tragedy. However, in the long run, if I may dare be sappy – it would be great if somehow all sides could come together and find a way to end the conflict before more innocents are hurt. It probably won’t happen – but it would be great if they could at least find a way to keep Mercutios from being caught in the middle.

We live in a world where it’s possible to beam any TV show you want to your phone. We also live in a world where girls being kidnapped in Nigeria and sold on the black market is a common occurrence.

We live in a world where it’s possible to think of something you want, order it on Amazon, and have it arrive at your house in a couple days. We also live in a world where parts of Iraq and Syria have been taken over by ISIS – a radical group so bad that Al-Qaeda has even basically said, “Whoa, hold on, don’t lump us in with those guys…”

We live in a world where it’s possible to create a website where the proprietor has little to no knowledge of website production techniques – kind of like bookshelfbattle.com, for example. We also live in a world where a long lasting peace between the Middle East and Israel is unlikely.

So much violence has taken over the world. People take sides, throw down their gauntlets, the innocent Mercutios be damned. It’s not my intention to start a debate over who’s wrong and who’s right. I have my views of who’s wrong and right in all these conflicts and I’m sure you do too. All I’m saying is that if the various warring factions of the world can’t to find peace, then maybe they can find a way to at least avoid hurting people who have nothing to do with it.

Wow, the mood got a little too somber in here. Luckily, that’s about as political as bookshelfbattle.com ever gets. Join us next time as we discuss which True Blood vampires are hot and which are not.

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Bookshelf Battle Quote of the Week – “Life is a Tale Told By an Idiot”

She would have died hereafter.
There would have been a time for such a word.
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

– William Shakespeare, Macbeth

Is life really a tale told by an idiot? That’s quite an indictment of the concept of life. Think about it. The Bard isn’t just saying that life is pointless. He’s saying that it is a tale told by an idiot. Imagine the most gaseous windbag at the end of the bar, three sheets to the wind, spewing out nonsense all night. His stories are about as coherent as life if you follow this point of view.

Sometimes it can feel that way. Days come, days go. There are good days and bad days. As Ferris Bueller would say, “Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you might miss it.” Today you’re having a blast. Tomorrow, you’re an old man in a wheelchair with an oxygen tank. Sometimes it feels like moves faster than a finger snap.

Obviously, the character of Macbeth engaged in some nasty business, so it is not surprising he felt low enough to become dissatisfied by life. But is it really full of sound and fury? Does it signify nothing?

Life can have its great moments, and those moments can vary from person to person. For some, it’s marriage or birth of a child. For others it may be the accomplishment of a long held dream. It’s better to concentrate on the good times, and forget the fact that, like a “brief candle,” life can be snuffed out at any time. That’s the sad irony of life – an alive person spends his life collecting one achievement after another and in the end, everyone, from the lowliest bus station bathroom janitor to the highest CEO ends up worm food.

Like a “player” with his “hour on the stage,” we all have those great moments. Life is meant to be lived. Enjoy your time on the stage, because a life spent worrying about the final curtain is a life wasted.

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Writing Advice from Weird Al

Weird Al Yankovic is having the best week ever. He’s releasing a new parody video every day this week and so far he’s spot on. For all you writers out there, here’s “Word Crimes,” Weird Al’s parody of “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke:

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Book Review – Fletch by Gregory McDonald

BASIC BOOKTOMETRICS

TITLE: Fletch

Author: Gregory McDonald

Publisher: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard

Publication Dates: First Published 1974; Published 2002 by Vintage Crime/Black Lizard

GENRE: Crime/Mystery/Humor

FORMAT REVIEWED: Paperback

NUMBER OF PAGES: 197

I have a new hero. His name is the late, great Gregory McDonald.

There are some books that are giant, unrelenting tomes. You break your back carrying such books around and yet despite the voluminous number of pages, the story goes nowhere.

Then there’s Fletch. In a little under 200 pages, McDonald, in his streamlined, use one word instead of ten, writing style manages to successfully provide the reader with a story about an anti-hero who solves not one but two complex mysteries.

If you’re old enough to remember the Reagan administration, then you may have seen the Fletch movies by Chevy Chase – Fletch and the sequel, Fletch Lives. Both were funny and gave Chase his moment in the sun. Sadly, after reading the novel, I’ve realized that the movies were really only loosely based on McDonald’s work. The films served as a vehicle for Chase to show off his multiple character talents. For some reason, the epitome of the gold star for a comic is to star in a movie where he gets the chance to do various accents and pretend to be all different varieties of people. As movie Fletch, Chevy puts on all kinds of goofy costumes and buffoons his way through solving crimes while tricking people into giving information to the various personas he takes on.

If you lived during the 80's, you'll remember Fletch.  Also, Destro.

If you lived during the 80’s, you’ll remember Fletch. Also, Destro.

The novel is a bit different. Make no mistake, on top of everything else, it is funny. But while the movies were zany funny, the novel could probably be described best as a dark comedy. The reader finds himself laughing at things that he probably should not laugh at in polite society.

The plot? Fletch’s real name is Irwin Maurice, or I.M. (I am) Fletcher. He’s an LA based reporter posing undercover as a bum, trying to trick various beach dwelling hoodlums into helping him find the supplier of a constant flow of drugs to the beach scene for a story he’s writing.

His cover is so good that he fools wealthy business executive Alan Stanwyck into thinking that he’s merely a degenerate drifter. Stanwyck picks up Fletch and makes him the following proposition, which I’ll post below so you can get an idea of the quick-draw, rapid fire pace at which McDonald writes:

What’s your name?”
“Fletch”
“What’s your full name?”
“Irwin. Irwin Fletcher. People call me Fletch.”
“Irwin Fletcher, I have a proposition to make to you. I will give you a thousand dollars for just listening to it. If you decide to reject the proposition, you take the thousand dollars, go away, and never tell anyone we talked.”
“Is it criminal?”
“Of course.”
“Fair enough. For a thousand bucks I can listen. What do you want me to do?”
“I want you to murder me.”
Fletch said, “Sure.”

Stanwyck claims to have terminal cancer and offers Fletch $50,000 to return to a week and shoot him in his study. He tells Fletch this will allow him to avoid suffering through a prolonged, agonizing death and as it will appear like a burglary gone bad, his wife will obtain a hefty insurance payment. Fletch may be a degenerate (he is haunted by his two ex-wives’ divorce lawyers throughout the novel) but he’s no dummy. Refusing to take Stanwyck at his word, he sets out on an investigation to find out whether or not Stanwyck is telling the truth. By posing as various people (insurance investigators, lawyers, “old long lost friends,” etc.) he manages to trick the people in Stanwyck’s life to give up the dirt. In the process, he even discovers the source of drugs on the beach along the way.

I really enjoyed this book. If you’ve seen the movie, you haven’t experienced the full story. It amazes me that in such a short novel, McDonald manages to provide the reader with a rich, in-depth experience. Rarely do I read a novel and want to read the series, but I think I might actually do it with this one. In case you are interested in the reading order for the Fletch novel series, I’ll post it below.

Note that while Fletch was McDonald’s first novel published introducing the Fletch character, he also published prequels, so Fletch is not the first novel in chronological order.

Reading Order for the Fletch Series of Novels by Gregory McDonald

Fletch Won

Fletch, Too

Fletch and the Widow Bradley

Fletch

Carioca Fletch

Confess, Fletch

Fletch’s Fortune

Fletch’s Moxie

Fletch and the Man Who

Son of Fletch

Fletch Reflected

McDonald was a newspaper reporter himself, so I imagine that he had an idea of the difficult life of a reporter that Fletch faced. It’s always interesting when authors write about environments they have personally experienced. I’m putting him next to Joseph Heller of Catch-22 fame as an author who can be funny and serious at the same time.

As always, Bookshelf Battlers, thank you for stopping by. Shameless plug – please follow this blog, and if you’re on Twitter, follow @bookshelfbattle I’ll keep writing reviews as long as somebody keeps reading them. May your days be filled with booktastic goodness.

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Poetry Shelf Battle – Invictus

The Bookshelf Battle Shelf is not a place for the feint of heart. Just the other day I saw The Grapes of Wrath give an uppercut to War and Peace over a prime piece of real estate on the bookshelf. All the other books looked on in horror.

Yet, despite all the chaos, once in awhile I find some time to put some poetry on the shelf. Whenever I feel down, this is a poem that helps me feel better:

Invictus

By: William Ernest Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance,
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears,
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

In other words, blogarinos, life is full of a constant, neverending slew of roadblocks and obstacles getting between you and what you want. You wake up one day. You say, “I wanna do X!” And you go along, you start doing X and then before you know it the world tosses a monkey wrench into the gears of your plans and shouts, “Ha ha ha, no you will do Y instead!” When you’re young, you think anything is possible – that you can be an astronaut, a champion football player, a famous actor, lead guitarist in a rock band, professional stunt car driver, whatever. Then you grow up and the realities of life get in your way. Work, responsibilities, family – so many things need your attention that you run out of time to practice that guitar or whatever it is you really wanted to do before you discovered how tough the world really is.

What Henley is saying is that no matter how difficult life can be, YOU are in charge of your reaction to it. Will you let it get you down, or will you try to find a way to achieve your dreams in the face of adversity? After all, as he says, you are the master of your fate, you are the captain of your soul.

Random tidbit of info – this poem was a source of inspiration for Nelson Mandela and he claimed it helped him get through the difficulties of his life. It was featured prominently in the Clint Eastwood directed film about Mandela and the South African rugby team, starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon, also called Invictus.

SHAMELESS PLUG – Thanks to all the Bookshelf Battle readers out there. Feel free to follow me on Twitter @bookshelfbattle for the latest updates in the world of awesome booktastic bookery.

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Barely Political – Key of Awesome – The Anti List – Must Read Books for the Summer

I love the Key of Awesome. If you’ve yet to see it, it’s a hilarious youtube channel where the people over at barely political (which also has a youtube channel) produce some funny song parodies. They also do something called “The Anti List” where, well, they basically make funny lists. They just made one lampooning a bunch of bestselling books turned movies/tv. Check it out. While you’re at it, look for their video”Booty Jam” on youtube as that is, in my opinion, their funniest music parody video. Please support these guys, check them out on youtube, follow their channels, etc. They’re always hilarious and it’s great to see such funny independent comedy.

Here’s the Anti List on Books:

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