Memoir of a Nerd, by Hank Mancini, is a personal account of the many situations Mancini has gotten himself into throughout his lifetime. From pranking his grandmother, Mormonism, and general lifetime shenanigans, Mancini writes from an upbeat and comical perspective. Memoir of a Nerd is a more detailed retelling of Mancini’s original book, The Cat That Ate a Thousand Bananas. What sort of antics can a self-proclaimed nerd get into? What exactly did a nerd do back in the 50s and 60s? Hank Mancini gives his readers a vivid retelling of the positive goings-on a nerd would partake in during that time.
This memoir is a good depiction of what life was like in previous decades and it gives its reader a clear window into the regular day-to-day happenings of the time. So often, we only hear about major life-altering events in terms of previous decades — JFK, the moon landing, Vietnam — it’s refreshing to read accounts of everyday life. Memoirs are meant to give readers insight into the author’s past experiences. Good memoirs will transport the reader back in time to each moment the author speaks about. Great memoirs will leave a reader wanting to go back and reread the book over and over again. This particular memoir was witty, humorous, and heartfelt and kept my attention to the very last page. I appreciate that each chapter was 2-3 pages long, but I would have liked more substance in each chapter. At the beginning of the book, Mancini mentions that he doesn’t want to dwell on the bad aspects of his previous memories, but I feel like that would’ve strengthened the story.
Memoir of a Nerd is a short but humorous memoir with a unique voice that makes this book stand out. It was nice to read a memoir from someone that does not aggrandize their life, but instead shares a life filled with humor and the same ups and downs we can all relate to.
Pages: 243 | ASIN: B096YRW48K
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Al Schnupp’s writing is witty, sharp, and distinct. The satire and humor organically embedded in this story makes it a stand out book of 2021 for me. You cannot go a page without finding the text to be entertaining or amusing.
We follow the story of Zero, a man who is not so wise but interesting to follow regardless. Zero has a wife, Maxine. His wife is sly, sometimes two-faced, and to some extent unethical. Maxine has a huge influence on Zero. She can convince her husband to partake in something that he was initially not confident about. Maxine may seem horrible to some, but there are parts of her character that I thought to be brave. She is unstoppable and a go-getter once she sets her mind to something. Horace is another major character that I found to be intriguing. Horace is a close associate of Zero and his wife, and they involve him in their ambitions. Zero is convinced by his wife to go for a political seat. Politics is not easy even for the wealthiest, most powerful, and experienced. Zero wants to vie for Icon of Groad, a top seat in his country. With the help of his wife, Zero strategizes and gets Horace, his campaign manager to help in his campaign spree. I enjoyed following this trio because of their diverse characters and how each complemented the other. Running a successful campaign is not a one-man show and Zero needed a support system to see his plan succeed.
The development of the plot and building of characters makes you appreciate how great of a writer Al Schnupp is. The author understands his readers and uses familiar examples when narrating the various occurrences and events. The style of narration is engaging and appealing to readers that enjoy satire. When reading this book, you realize how society is flawed to a certain degree as the author highlights issues that we face in contemporary society. The political theme in the book was significant and relevant especially for readers that are invested in policymaking and both local and international politics. Al Schnupp’s satire is top tier. I enjoyed how the author talks of the status quo. He is witty and uses distinct words and phrases when addressing societal issues through his characters and the storyline. I could not help but think of the many Zero’s we have in real life, as this character had a shady background, and yet he had ambitions to lead. Inspector Oodles was a favorite character. I liked the traits he was given and the process he took while investigating Zero’s father’s death. The detective work was another intriguing aspect of this story that I enjoyed following.
Zero is one of the funnest books I’ve read this year. I enjoyed the satirical storytelling, sharp by subtle wit, and the humorous detective work. If you’re looking for a light and fun story, look no further than Al Schnupp’s engaging political comedy.
Pages: 108 | ASIN: B093SXG461
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A Labyrinth for Loons follows a man who’s stuck in Malaysia during a COVID lockdown and begins to question his own identity. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?
This story was unique in that I really had no idea where it was headed. At first, I was simply going to chronicle daily life, as I was genuinely stuck in KL (from February to September of 2020) and couldn’t return to Japan—as I had to babysit the cat. The daily diary turned stale, though, and since I do write fiction, I began running ideas through my head on how to turn this predicament into something more adventurous than it actually was.
The set-up for the story, the characters, the location—it’s all true, as that’s where I was living. The cadaver that comes along, of course, is fiction. I’m not sure if this qualifies as an “idea” but I’d simply always wanted to write about a protagonist trying to hide a dead body—one that would not cooperate. I mean, what writers, don’t, right?
The chaos with the travel visa was inspired by a novel I read in May of 2020 called Transit by Anna Seghers. The issue of identity that plagues the lead, Leonard Smith, may have developed some from another novel I read that summer, The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith. And all the nihilism that permeates the story—well, that’s just me. But I’d be grossly misleading if I also don’t mention the impact of House of Leaves by Mark Daneilewski. (Hence, the minotaur.)
Leonard Smith goes on a transformative journey. Is this intentional or incidental to the story you wanted to tell?
I’d say that Smith’s journey is the story and everything else is incidental. As he struggles with the act of assuming the identity of someone who has died, he slips into a kind of psychosis, exacerbated by his isolation. He begins to see the cadaver that he’s agreed to store in his living room cupboard as not dead at all. What’s really happening is that he’s questioning his own reason for living, and this question must be answered by his metaphorical minotaur. His understanding of the influences of religion impacts his journey, too—the Islam of his host country and of the other characters; the Buddhist ideas within the Donovan song There is a Mountain, and his attempt to understand why the mountain disappears and then returns—a realization that comes from an understanding of oneself.
I find that authors sometimes ask themselves questions and let their characters answer them. Do you think this is true for your character?
Yes, definitely. Leonard Smith’s questions are mine. He’s on a journey, and his inner struggles with identity and core beliefs lead to a kind of psychotic crash. He survives it and comes away with a more contemplative outlook on his world.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
The next book is a sequel to my first novel called The Cuckoo Colloquium. I’m not sure what we’re going to call it, but it’ll be out on Amazon in January of 2022.
Writer Leonard Smith wants to go home, but he’s stuck in Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur during Covid lockdown, and the airlines seem haphazardly selective about who flies and who doesn’t, based on the type of travel visa one holds.
While waiting for the opportunity to get out, Leonard agrees to look after the belongings of another tourist—the Kiwi—who’s committed suicide. The dead man, also a writer, has written a bizarre manuscript concerning real-life accounts of a brutal minotaur housed within a labyrinth. Before he realizes it, Leonard finds himself in custody of the embalmed corpse, storing the dead man until he can be transferred for burial in another city.
Through a bureaucratic screw-up, Malaysian authorities confuse Leonard with that of the deceased Kiwi—who possesses just the right kind of visa. Is Leonard capable of assuming the false identity of the dead man for a chance to go home?
Getting desperate while holed-up with a wily cat, a 13-year-old house guest who could possibly be homicidal, and a dead man in the closet—that at times doesn’t seem all that dead—Leonard slips into profound questions of his own identity.
The only way to find answers is in the labyrinth—where the minotaur waits.
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Damaged And No Longer Under Warranty is book two in your Infinity’s Trinity series. What were some new ideas you wanted to explore in this book that were different from book one?
I think we all agree that nothing in this world is perfect. And if we believe in a creator, be it an individual or a force, does that mean the world was designed to be imperfect? Or did the creative force just have problems with all the details? I chose to explore that latter possibility. In addition, I often thought about what I would do to improve the world if I had the power of deity. I agree with Kurt Vonnegut, who believed that loneliness was humanity’s biggest problem. So, that became Paul Tomenko’s biggest challenge at the end of the novel.
I enjoyed the variety of characters in your story. Who was your favorite character to write for?
Allie Briarsworth was my favorite. She was the only character in the book who was “built from scratch.” I patterned everyone else in the book after a real-life character or celebrity. For example, Maggie Mae Monahan was an ex-girlfriend who required no embellishment. I still think she was the smartest person I’ve ever met. Whenever I wrote about Dr. Peter Lexington Townshend, I envisioned actor Peter O’Toole and that devilish smirk that he always seemed to display. But Allie was a patchwork of several women that I’ve known. She was a blend of intelligence, beauty, stubbornness, and sarcasm—someone who could easily embarrass Paul in public settings with sexual innuendos.
You tackle some grandiose scientific ideas in your story. What interests you in science and how do you bend that for your stories?
Some people believe that all science fiction writers understand such disciplines as astrophysics, biology, and chemistry. Certainly, there are those who could teach college-level courses in such areas. I tend to explore the “big picture” and not get bogged down in scientific detail. I’m the writer who will tell you the USS Enterprise used a warp drive for propulsion. Other writers will include a “word schematic” of the drive that includes all the parts and pieces. I don’t have the scientific knowledge to do that, but I’m smart enough to know that someone would shout “BS” if I tried. I like to focus on all the questions we have about our existence. No one really understands time and how it functions. We just assume that “yesterday you” and “today you” aren’t sitting in the same chair simultaneously. But then again, can we really say that isn’t happening? Hahaha.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
My next novel, Time To Split, is about an everyday man who discovers that his universe is a computer simulation created by an interdimensional race. Not only are they manipulating the lives of everyone, but a group within the simulation is creating their own alterations. It will raise some interesting philosophical questions. Should we actually care if someone is pulling the strings in the background? It’s not like we can do much about it. Or, CAN we?
The battle to preserve eternity continues …
For Paul Tomenko, relocating trillions upon trillions of life forms on Earth to the Paraverse wasn’t all that difficult. So easy, in fact, he does it in his sleep. After slipping into a coma, Paul uses his latent divine knowledge to create the Paraverse while imagining 50 more years of continued life on Earth. Then he dumps—no pun intended—an incalculable number of souls residing in his lower intestinal tract into the new domain with the simplicity of a bowel movement.
But preserving the promise of eternal existence comes with a cost. Forced to abandon Maggie Mae Monahan, one of his two lovers, and two neo-Neanderthal children (Gronk and Grita) in what becomes known as the Originverse, Paul travels to Neoterica to begin anew with Allie Briarsworth, his other lover.
As default caretaker of the new expanse, Paul discovers he has committed a string of blunders that endanger forevermore. He can’t remember how he structured the Paraverse, and the schematics are deep inside him, retrievable piece by piece only when he makes eye contact with Allie. Unable to summon a heavenly version of Home Advisor to repair his expanse, Paul reassembles the Bioprovidence research team to make the needed modifications. But the crew lacks three of its essential members who are still in the Originverse. Challenged to create duplicates of the trio, he reluctantly does so, worried that a replica of Maggie Mae will re-create the love triangle that tormented him on Earth. And if all that wasn’t enough, the Cassamarians, fire-breathing alien insectoids determined to destroy humanity’s standing as the chosen species, have breached the barrier separating the Originverse and Paraverse.
In this sequel to Damaged Beyond All Recognition, Paul discovers how the cosmos began and who created the first universe. In doing so, he realizes he might have the power to do what untold gods before him did not: eliminate the number one scourge for all life forms.
Most of the supporting cast from the first Infinity’s Trinity novel returns in this book: Cher the Gatekeeper and Katharine Ross the Librarian, figments patterned after two celebrities for whom Paul has lusted; Gronk and Grita, two “resurrected” six-year-old neo-Neanderthals who are the most intelligent humans on Earth; Tsutomu Yamaguchi, an innovative bioengineer named after a Japanese man who survived nuclear bomb blasts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki; and Dr. Peter Lexington Townshend, the former head of Bioprovidence now forced to assume a job he detests. In addition, some new characters join the ensemble: Dzhambo the Ukrainian Vodka-Drinking Circus Bear, Paul’s self-appointed bodyguard; a sassy Tina Turner-lookalike who patrols the most significant storage unit among the stars; and Rovert, an asylum-seeking Cassamarian who is desperately in need of dietary change.
Buckle up for an existential trip oiled with humor that glides across all that has been on the way to all that we hope will be.
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Pixie Van Dimple and the Wrong Kind of Artificial Intelligence is an educational picture book warning kids, in hilarious fashion, about the dangers of spending too much time on their phone.
After spending too much time on her phone Pixie Van Dimple suffers from AI Infiltration. Someone must save her, and they better do it soon, or else Pixie will certainly be doomed.
This fun children’s book is told in rhyme and every other page has brightly colored comic art that serves as fantastic eye candy while reading the book. I think this book is more for higher grade elementary students, but in either case, the lesson taught here is a valuable one for todays youth. I loved the fun rhymes and the beautiful art and the story was very detailed. I would love to have seen this story as a kids chapter book for middle grade readers because I feel like there are some hints at a larger world that would be fun to explore.
Pixie Van Dimple and the Wrong Kind of Artificial Intelligence is wonderfully representative of todays kids and provides a good lesson in a fun story that will surely keep children laughing as they eagerly flip the pages of the this whimsical picture book.
Pages: 28 | ASIN: B087BPDK11
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Michael A. Greco’s novel A Labyrinth for Loons first appears as a retelling of 2020 and the Covid-19 pandemic; however, something much more sinister is happening below the surface.
Trapped on the 22nd floor of his condo in Malaysia, Leonard Smith deals with the global Covid-19 pandemic on his own. With brief facetime calls from his wife and daughter, who are hundreds of miles away, an ill-tempered teenager Chuckie and various neighbours, Leonard is isolated and desperate to leave. When two individuals show up with a manuscript and insist he help return the deceased Leonard Smith’s belongings, the mind starts to play tricks on itself, and he begins to question his sanity.
While the story is based around the Covid-19 pandemic, the story still felt fresh while remaining relevant. The more I read, the more intrigued and entranced I felt. The main character is isolated in urban Malaysia, first appearing as an arrogant and stereotypical American, despite his insistence he is not, but then he morphs into other personas. While his narration and point of view are not trustworthy, I found myself enraptured by his inner monologue and the world of the Tomato Frog Building above the mall.
One would think you are reading about a dystopian world, but for those who experienced quarantine, the events of the book are undeniably plausible. As Leonard (aka Leon or Leoni) gets drawn into chaos, the readers find themselves falling deeper into the madness, as if following the white rabbit down its hole. This book captures every critical moment of the world’s time in quarantine, from Tik Tok to the troubles with face masks. It will serve as an important literary marker for society, most notably for its remark on the human mind in a state of psychological stress. Comparable to Stephen King’s The Shining.
“Monsters are real. Ghosts are too. They live inside of us, and sometimes, they win.”
Pages: 193 | ASIN: B09BKL3XLJ
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Signs of the Times reexamines classic nursery rhymes through a contemporary and humorous lens. What inspired you to write this book?
My mother was an English teacher and a great fan of humorous poetry. She introduced me to the light verse of Ogden Nash and the nonsense rhymes of Edward Lear, kindling my enthusiasm for their writing styles. I have also been fascinated by wordplay, of one kind or another, and have written about it in earlier books. The light verse style offers considerable wordplay possibilities. It struck me that classic nursery rhymes would lend themselves to reinterpretation in this style and that they could do with some updating as it were.
What is the most memorable nursery rhyme from your childhood and how does that speak to you today?
One of the most memorable, if not the most memorable, nursery rhyme from my childhood is “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” It speaks to me today because I now appreciate that a lamb represents innocence and purity and that the pure whiteness of the typical lamb’s coat reinforces the notion of purity. I now believe that this nursery rhyme emphasizes the faithfulness that a pet, endowed with the characteristics of innocence and purity, is capable of showing to a human companion. In the nursery rhymes, that faithfulness is reciprocated by Mary, to her enduring credit.
What nursery rhyme shocked you the most when reexamining it?
For me, the nursery rhyme “Goosey, Goosey, Gander” didn’t take much reexamination to reveal its shocking nature. It portrays someone throwing an old, presumably defenseless, old man down a set of stairs for the simple crime of refusing to say his prayers. For me, the shocking nature of the narrative wasn’t particularly dampened when I learned that what was being described here was likely the fate of a priest, hidden away in a “priest-hole” in a Catholic home, being rousted and punished for refusing to swear allegiance to the Protestant Queen. This would have been a not untypical occurrence in England during the Papist purge of the sixteenth century.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
My next book will be another collection of light verse for adults. It’s to be titled What If Jack Wasn’t So Nimble: Mother Goose Characters Reimagined. I’m currently looking for a publisher. One of the poems from this collection, entitled “Time’s No Fun When You’re Having Flies” has been published in the latest quarterly issue (Sept., 2021) of the British Webzine Lighten Up Online (see https://lightenup-online.co.uk/index.php/isse-55-september-2021/2174-colin-mcnairn-time-s-no-fun-when-you-re-having-flies).
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My Aunt The Vampire, by Paul Bird, is the sequel to One Mad Rooster and is a lively collection of short stories that follow the hilarious and heartwarming events of one boy’s life. Within this humors collection for young teens, you’ll find him convinced his aunt is a vampire, battling haunted fireworks, and trying to outwit his English teacher.
Paul Bird does a great job of getting inside a teenager’s mind. It allowed me to connect with the protagonist because he felt authentic. It is that awkward age between childhood and adulthood where you can believe one thing, even when logic is rearing its head and telling you that your belief is wrong.
At the beginning of each chapter there is a picture that is associated with tit. They are cute pictures without being too childish and really brings life to these stories. Author Paul Bird also starts each chapter with a paragraph or two in the middle of the action and then goes back in time a little to help explain what’s going on. This can be a little disorientating at first but he does handle it well and everything within the story connects with that particular story.
While this is a collection of stories, all of the stories do have the unifying thread of having the same protagonist. It is a little difficult to keep track of when the events happen in the protagonist’s life, as I was not sure when these things were happening. But otherwise these were entertaining stories that felt grounded but still imaginative.
My Aunt The Vampire by Paul Bird is a well written collection of fun stories that will appeal to anyone looking for a lighthearted read with organically humorous situations.
Pages: 155 | ASIN: B07MY2B8PX
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