I’m Sorry…Love, Your Husband (Audiobook) by Clint Edwards, Joe Hempel: Would-be Humorous Essays on Marriage, Parenting, and Family

I'm Sorry...Love, Your Husband

I’m Sorry…Love, Your Husband: Honest, Hilarious Stories From a Father of Three Who Made All the Mistakes (and Made up for Them)

by Clint Edwards, Joe Hempel (Narrator)

Unabridged Audiobook, 4 hrs., 42 mins.
Tantor Audio, 2018

Read: September 23, 2019

The “Short Synopsis” for the book is:

In this inspiring and unconventional book of essays, Clint Edwards sheds light on the darker yet hilarious side of domestic life.

Which sounds pretty good, and is what led to my checking this book out. In the same vein, my “Short Response” is: nope.

The “Full Synopsis” is:

Marriage and Kids are No Joke

He may not win Father of the Year, but Clint Edwards has won the hearts of thousands—including the New York Times, Scary Mommy, and Good Morning America—thanks to his candor and irreverence when it comes to raising kids, being married, and learning from his mistakes.

Clint has three children: Tristan (the know it all), Norah (the snarky princess), and Aspen (the worst roommate ever). He describes parenting as “a million different gears turning in a million different directions, all of them covered in sour milk.” In this inspiring and unconventional book of essays, he sheds light on the darker yet hilarious side of domestic life.

Owning up to all his mishaps and dumbassery, Edwards shares essays on just about every topic fellow spouses and parents can appreciate, including: stupid things he’s said to his pregnant wife, the trauma of taking a toddler shopping, revelations on buying a minivan, and the struggle to not fight the nosy neighbor (who is five years old).

Clint’s funny, heartwarming account of the terrifying yet completely rewarding life of a parent is a breath of fresh air. Each essay in I’m Sorry . . . Love, Your Husband will have you thinking finally, someone gets it.

Which brings me to a “Fuller Response” (I’ll keep my “Full Response” up my sleeve). Those of you who are too young to remember the 1991–1999 Prime Time hit, Home Improvement, may not appreciate this, but I kept thinking of it as I listened to this book. In almost every episode, Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor does something that exasperates and/or disappoints his wife, messes things up with his kids or coworkers in the first act (generally it’s family, but occasionally it’s friends/colleagues). Things get worse during Act Two, leading Tim to get some advice from his wise neighbor, Wilson, and then implement this advice to patch things up with whoever he’s in trouble with and become a better father/husband/friend/colleague. Along the way, America laughed at Tim’s foibles and follies—and at some good comedic moments that had nothing to do with the main plot—and then had their hearts warmed by the ending. That equation worked well for 203 episodes (eh, probably 170 or so, really).

Every essay in this collection reminded me of that outline—except for the comedy. There’s no fictional Tool Time TV show to entertain, there are no actual laughs (maybe 3 bits that made me grin in the 4.75 hours), just frequently preachy lessons about how to become a better man/husband/father (most of which are repeated at least 3 times in the book, almost word-for-word).

The descriptions of his three kids that show up in the synopsis are repeated throughout the book, which is good—because otherwise, I wouldn’t have known this about them. He doesn’t show this at all in his essays.

Hempel does a fine job with this. My problems with this aren’t about him, it’s the content. I can’t say his narration is great, but it might have been. Everything’s colored by the content.

The amount of mild and casual profanity from someone who mentions church as often as he does was a little incongruous. Maybe today’s Mormons are just different from the ones I grew up surrounded by. This isn’t what led to my low rating, it’s just something that chafed a little while I listened to this (and really, it’s the only thing that stuck out to me about the book as a whole). My objection along these lines is that the phrase, “it was a d*$# move” gets tired as a constant evaluation/summary of his actions. If that’s all he can say, maybe he should focus a bit more on the writing and a little less on the self-improvement.

In the end, it wasn’t the triteness, it wasn’t the preachiness, it wasn’t the redundancy of these essays that turned me off (although none of that helped). It was that there was nothing in the essays to make me interested. It was just dull. I didn’t laugh, I didn’t get inspired, I wasn’t entertained. It just was. The only thing that got me through the book was a lack of options that day and a need for something to listen to at work. I’m sure Edwards is a nice guy and a swell father, but he’s just not funny or insightful. Or if he is, he’s left it outside this book.


2 Stars

2019 Library Love Challenge

Humor Reading Challenge 2019

Time Travel + Brain Stealing = Murderous Appliances and Good Times by Richard Steele is a Thing that I Read

Time Travel + Brain Stealing = Murderous Appliances and Good TimesTime Travel + Brain Stealing = Murderous Appliances and Good Times

by Richard Steele
Kindle Edition, 141 pg.
Tenth Street Press, 2019
Read: July 15, 2019

A few weeks back, I received a request to read/review this book, this is what Steele entered under “Tell me about the book”:

Time Travel + Brain stealing = Murderous Appliances and Good Times

Following the death of his parents, who died in a cliché’ [sic] and completely unimportant way, young Joe Brown is about to find out that living in a town conveniently named Doomsville, does have its draw backs [sic].

For reasons unknown, Joe now must face the demonic creations of a stereotypically bad villain known only as ‘The Master’, who has a penchant for pickled brains and poor puns.

Dumpsters of Doom, Toasters of Terror and the occasional Cheese Sandwich of Carnage all set out to hunt poor Joe and retrieve his brain to fulfil The Master’s destiny.

With the help of his best friend, a disturbingly gross Godmother and some random stalker he just met, Joe Brown is about to learn that what’s between his gunk ridden ears could be the key to saving the world and time itself.

Come and embark on an epic mind-bending, time-travelling quest full of confusing sub-plots, poorly constructed characters, science fiction that only a Flat Earther would believe, and every inappropriate joke you’ve ever thought of but couldn’t say out loud at your Grandmother’s funeral.

I take full responsibility for not reading that as closely as I should have. For example, that first line isn’t a tag line, or a quick synopsis as I assumed. That’s the title. I’ll tell you now if I’d realized that I would’ve stopped reading there. But no, I took it as a tag line and moved on. I ignored the inability to correctly use accent marks on “cliché” (that sounds persnickety, but there’s a pretty high correlation to typo-ridden submissions and bad books in my experience). This seemed just goofy enough that it might be a good way to spend a day or so, I could use some light-hearted fun.

I didn’t realize that “disturbingly gross”, “poorly constructed characters,” “inappropriate”, and “stereotypically bad” weren’t modest descriptions, but selling points in Steele’s mind. Then when he sent me the file, he ended it with, “Good luck, you’re a brave soul indeed…” This should’ve been a warning sign. I took it to be a little self-deprecating humor. Now I don’t think that’s the case, he really meant that this is a book not-for-the-faint-of-heart.

Now, throughout the process, Steele has been a pleasure to work with, and very accommodating—I want to be clear that this isn’t personal. It’s all about my reaction to his novella, not him.

The novella itself? “Self-indulgent twaddle” shows up in my notes at one point, and I think that pretty well sums it up. Juvenile. Vulgar (and not in an interesting way). Enough scatological humor to make a 13-year-old boy say, “Stop!” The plot seems unnecessarily convoluted, yet pretty simple. Although, plot isn’t what this novella’s about—it’s about the telling. They way that Steele tells the story, the voice, the manner, the attitude. That’s the star of the story.

And it didn’t work for me. At all. I couldn’t connect with the story, the characters, the narrator, the style, the voice, the vocabulary. Anything.

Steele clearly worked hard. You could feel on every page the effort to shock, disgust, and be stranger than he had been previously. Mark Leyner can do that kind of thing and make it seem interesting, effortless, engaging and fun. Steele just makes me want to find a new hobby.

The very chatty and fourth-wall ignoring narrator warns in the third paragraph of the Prologue,

Things are going to get stranger than having your sister accidently [sic] kiss you at a county fair kissing booth, only for her to line up for seconds.

Right there, I should’ve stopped and called it a day. Instead, I rolled my eyes and plowed on, little realizing that was going to be the high-point of the book’s figurative language.

I’ve already cited everything you need to know about the plot and characters in the first citation. I’m just going to leave it there…I try to find something positive to say about every book. But I just can’t here beyond saying that I can tell that Steele put a lot of effort into this. I just don’t understand why anyone would.

Your mileage may vary, obviously. If you find something redeeming/entertaining about this novella? Good on you. I’m curious about what you liked, but I won’t argue with you. But there’s just no way I can recommend this to anyone.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this from the author in exchange for my opinion and this post. Clearly, this didn’t keep me from speaking my mind.

—–

2 Stars

LetsReadIndie Reading Challenge

Humor Reading Challenge 2019

Carioca Fletch (Audiobook) by Gregory McDonald, Dan John Miller: A Bad Fletch Book — whodathunkit

Carioca FletchCarioca Fletch

by Gregory McDonald, Dan John Miller (Narrator)
Series: Fletch, #7 (#5 Chronologically)
Unabridged Audiobook, 6 hrs., 3 min.
Blackstone Audio, 2018
Read: May 21 – 25, 2019

Just in case people were thinking I’d drunk too heavily in the Fletch/Gregory Mcdonald Kool-Aid bowl, this should alleviate any concern. I just don’t like this book.

Following the events of Fletch, our now-jobless journalist is enjoying life in Brazil, he’s got a girlfriend, is making some investments and friends and is about to enjoy Carnaval. Quite by accident, he runs into the newly-widowed Joan Allen Stanwyk, and things get a little awkward for a bit. But before he can follow up with her, an elderly Brazilian woman claims that he’s the reincarnation of her murdered husband, come back to identify his murderer.

This distracts Fletch greatly and between that, and a new group of acquaintances who seem to be rich young men who devote all their time to wine and women, Fletch can’t deal with Joan. He first has to spend some time trying to deal with the problems of their debauchery, this supernatural claim and learning about the Brazilian culture in general.

This might, might, be an okay book if it was about any other American hiding in Brazil, learning about the culture and people. But it’s not a Fletch book. He doesn’t solve the mystery by being clever or interviewing anyone. It’s not a particularly funny book, either. It’s mostly Fletch bouncing from situation to situation with little control or agency for a couple of hundred pages, and then solving a decades-old mystery by a cheap stunt.

What redeems this book is the Joan Allen Stanwyk material that bookends it. Those are the only chapters that really feel like Fletch (and, they’re grounded in the rest of the series). Also, Fletch’s background in, interest in, and history of investing in art is shown here in embryo—as well as the other things he does to pay for his villa, GCN stock, racehorses, and so on. So that’s good, but we didn’t need to see it, the character was good enough without that.

Naturally, Dan John Miller had nothing to do with any of my problems, he does a great job as usual.

This was just a misfire for Mcdonald (not the only one in the series), and is easily forgotten—and should be.

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2 1/2 Stars
2019 Cloak & Dagger Challenge

The Blue Zones Solution (Audiobook) by Dan Buettner, Joe Barrett: Uninspiring tales about efforts to prolong longevity

The Blue Zones Solution (Audiobook)The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living like the World’s Healthiest People (Audiobook)

by Dan Buettner, Joe Barrett


Unabridged Audiobook, 7 hrs., 5 mins.
Blackstone Audio, Inc., 2015
Read: July 12 – 16, 2019

As part of some medical education I’m getting, The Blue Zones was recommended to me. I couldn’t find an easily accessible copy of it, but my library did have one of the follow-ups, The Blue Zones Solution on audio. So I gave it a whirl.

There are a couple of aspects to the beginning of this book, he does a quick pass through over some of the “Blue Zones” from his first book (areas with above-normal centenarian population) to extract some common principles. This was too-much of a follow-up on what he’d already done to be a benefit to those who hadn’t read the first book. He also detailed ways his foundation tried to create Blue Zones in the US following these principles for communities that requested it.

Something bothered me about the way that was carried out, but I can’t articulate it without having the book in front of me to point to specific passages.

Lastly, he talks about ways you can create mini-Blue Zones in your home. Most of the advice given here is better delivered in other sources (like say, How Not to Die by Michael Greger).

Most of the support for the principles—especially as described here, is anecdotal, and the mantra “Correlation does not imply Causation” that was pounded into my head in college kept running through my mind. Maybe the original book would’ve convinced me—this did not. There was certainly a cornucopia of anecdotes (and a couple were hard to follow from chapter to chapter, to be honest, but that might be due to my lack of interest).

One of the principles is a commitment to/participation in religious practices. Religious activity is recommended without any regard for the truth involved. That bothers me tremendously. His later treatment of “Adventists” as a group equivalent to an ethnicity or population of a city/island/geographic area—and again, it was only the lifestyle habits, not the premises, presuppositions, and beliefs that undergird those habits that were encouraged. Selling the tree without the root isn’t going to produce much fruit or shade.

I don’t have any strong opinions about this as an audiobook, although I found Barrett’s pronunciation of “plantain” annoying (however correct). But so much of the benefit of the book depends on looking at the PDF that came with it. That’s where some of the data and all of the recipes are. So much of the useful part of the book isn’t in the audio. That’s not a deal killer, but as I was pretty down on the book already, it didn’t help.

The book didn’t do anything for me at all. I’m just not the audience for it, maybe if I’d read the first book and was curious about applying the lessons, I’d be interested. But I just didn’t see the point of this one.

—–

2 Stars

2019 Library Love Challenge

So Let It Be Written by Mark Eglinton: A Disappointingly Delivered Account of a Rock Star’s Career

So Let It Be WrittenSo Let It Be Written: The Biography of Metallica’s James Hetfield

by Mark Eglinton

Paperback, 219 pg.
Lesser Gods, 2017
Read: October 29 – 30, 2018
Here’s the Publisher’s synopsis:

           The first and only biography of one of the best front men of the modern era.

With James Hetfield at the helm, Metallica went from being thrash pioneers to heavy metal gods. He overcame adolescent upheaval and personal demons—including his parents’ divorce, his mother’s untimely death and severe alcoholism—to become metal’s biggest star.

So Let It Be Written does justice to the many hats Hetfield has worn, with his strong leadership, signature vocal style, powerful guitar-playing and masterful songwriting. Author Mark Eglinton uses exclusive, firsthand interviews—with prominent rock stars and key figures in Hetfield’s life—to construct the definitive account of Hetfield.

There are many problems with this book. If it is a definitive account of Hetfield, it’s because there’s not a lot of competition. The firsthand interviews seem to be with people who knew Hetfield in school or shortly thereafter — or friends of former bandmates. For insights from people closer to him, Eglinton seems to rely on interviews published in magazines or done on TV or in a documentary. I could be wrong about that — there might be more original research performed by him, but given the utter lack of citation, it’s hard to say for sure.

This book is primarily about Hetfield’s professional life, following the account of Hetfield’s mother’s death, we maybe get two full paragraphs (scattered over chapters) about Hetfield’s family (but repeated statements that family is the most important thing to Hetfield), and his friendships outside the band aren’t given much more space.

Rather than a biography of James Hetfield, this comes across as the story of Metallica with a focus on the input, influence, and antics of Hetfield. With a special emphasis on glorying in the music and lyrics of the albums leading up to Metallica/The Black Album, and in denigrating everything from Load through the build-up for the release of Hardwired… to Self-Destruct, which wasn’t released in time for him to come up with a strong opinion about (with some okay words directed to the documentaries and films produced in that time).

It’s clear that Eglinton was a fan of early Metallica, and has a wide appreciation for and knowledge of the metal scene. He has the knowledge base and the passion to produce a strong book about the band — but he seems to lack the ability to focus on the life of one man. Somehow, the author wrote a similar looking book, James Hetfield: The Wolf at Metallica’s Door, seven years earlier than this — and it was longer. I’m not sure how he pulled that off — my guess is more analysis of the contents of albums and/or his estimation of their worth. I’m curious about the differences between the two, but not enough to put up with reading it to compare.

James Hetfield is a deeply flawed, incredibly talented, and interesting figure. A biography of him should be intrinsically and automatically fascinating, and it takes a certain kind of author to take that potential and turn it into a disappointment. Sadly, Eglinton is just that kind of author.

Don’t bother.

—–

2 Stars
2018 Library Love Challenge

✔ Read a memoir or biography of a musician you like.

Between the Shade and the Shadow by Coleman Alexander: A disappointing fantasy

Between the Shade and the ShadowBetween the Shade and the Shadow

by Coleman Alexander

Kindle Edition, 487 pg.
The Realmless, LLC, 2017
Read: July 24 – 26, 2018
There is some really fine writing, and some decent storytelling in this novel — maybe some of the emotions are overwrought, and there’s some poorly written scenes and whatnot. But on the whole this is an impressive work. The problem is, the only way I know that is because I forced myself to finish the book because I told Alexander I would. If this were a library book, I’d have been done with it by the 10% mark — if I’d bought it? I probably would’ve made myself go on to 20%. But I literally had to force myself to finish this — which was a pain until the last 20% or so, but that’s just because momentum had kicked in and my Kindle was telling me there wasn’t a lot of time remaining to finish.

That might have been mean of me to say, but what else am I supposed to say? I really didn’t like this book — I guess I can see where some would — I was reassured on Goodreads what patience would pay off. And you could argue it did — but I shouldn’t have to be that patient.

Here’s the thing: a reader needs a way in. We shouldn’t have to take notes and flip back and forth to see how an author it using this term or that — especially when some terms are spelled so similarly that it’s difficult to differentiate between them at the beginning. This is truer when you’re using terms that in our world or in similar fantasy worlds can be used to mean something else. I don’t mean you have to hold our hands and spell everything out in the first few chapters, because that can be really dull. But you need to bring us into this world and give us enough tools to figure out what we’re talking about — it shouldn’t be the case where I’m a few hundred pages into something before I figure out that half of my problem is that these characters are mispronouncing things — like elf!

It’s not that I’m stupid. It’s not that I’m lazy. I’ve read plenty of fantasy novels that are stranger, more arcane, less like our world or traditional fantasy than this — the difference is, those authors were able to bring the reader into the world so that I could get oriented enough to follow the story and not have to wonder if what you think you’re reading is anywhere near the story. Maybe if I’d read the description of the book on Alexander’s website, or Goodreads (or the form he filled out on my blog) just before starting the book I’d have been better equipped — but it should be in the book, not on the back-of-the book (metaphorically speaking) where I get grounded in the world.

I’m not saying that people can’t enjoy this, or shouldn’t, either. But it absolutely didn’t work for me in every conceivable way.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the author, it clearly didn’t bias me in his favor.

—–

2 Stars

Sixth Prime by Dan O’Brien: The beginning of a sweeping epic that came up snake eyes for me.

Sixth PrimeSixth Prime

by Dan O’Brien
Series: The Prime Saga, Book 1

Kindle Edition, 240 pg.
2016
Read: May 23 – 24, 2018
There’s a danger that most readers have familiarity with — a novelist oversharing the details of their worldbuilding so much so that it drags down the story and characters. The opposite danger isn’t seen as often — the writer withholding the details so much that you spend half your time figuring out what’s happening, rather than paying attention to characters and plot. It’s a tricky balance, no doubt — and sometimes a novel can overcome an author falling into either ditch. Sixth Prime was not one of those success stories — for whatever reason, to be careful, to be coy, because he didn’t notice — this book fell into the “not enough information” ditch, and couldn’t find its way out of it.

There are a few storylines, somewhat connected — it becomes somewhat clearer later how they are — there’s a murder investigation conducted by a corporation that supersedes the local authorities’ own investigation; a high-ranking military official on trial (and the strange aftermath of that); a jail-break leading to another jail-break on its way to an assassination; a scientific exploration goes awry; and a couple of competing treasure hunters hunt for an artifact. Somehow these all connect to an interstellar war and forces as old as creation itself.

The characters were lifeless, little more than names and job titles — with just a couple of exceptions. The characters in the murder investigation had promise — and if this book had just focused on that storyline, this’d be a much different post. At least one of the characters in the treasure hunting story have promise (but the more villainous one was so over-the top that literal mustache twirling wouldn’t have seemed out of place).

This entire novel seemed to be a set-up for the coming series — not a novel that’s part of a series. The various stories didn’t have endings, there wasn’t an overall arc to the novel that I could see — the stories stopped, or “resolved” by authorial fiat, nothing organic. This is a problem — I can accept not tying up everything in a tidy little bow, but there needs to be some sort of closure to a novel, some sort of point to that one thing. I’m not sure I’m being entirely fair here — 1 or two of the stories might actually have had a decent resolution, but by that point, I was out of patience with the entire endeavor. A dynamite ending, or compelling hook could’ve saved it (I think), but they were nowhere to be found.

Nothing about this really worked for me — one storyline came close — but being surrounded by the rest, it never stood much of a chance. A little more restraint, a little more discipline — maybe a longer book — I don’t know. There’s something missing, I’m not sure what it was, really.

Disclaimer: I received this novel from the author in exchange for my honest opinion as reflected above. Sorry about that, Mr. O’Brien, but thanks anyway.

—–

2 Stars