Category Archives: book review

Fifty Shades of …

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I am absolutely outraged! Just because I’m a small time author, some big movie company thinks they can steal my title, change a word and pretend it’s their idea. My Fifty Shades of Phil book came out in June 2013, so obviously I had the idea first. I’m considering legal action.

Because of this weeks movie opening of Fifty Shades Darker I thought I’d capitalize on all the people searching the web for info using the phrase #FiftyShades by putting my book on sale Many people may visit my site here from their smartphones and never see the link in the sidebar for my book Fifty Shades of Phil. I could tell you about the book that contains the best 50 humor essays from the first 8 years of #ThePhilFactor, but I won’t. I’ll let the reviewers do it for me:

Hilariously Funny! ~Narly Nuts Book Lovers: Phil takes us on a HILARIOUS ride of HUMOR and TRUTH! He says all the things we know to be true, but most of us likely don’t say out loud. We think it and know how we feel about the different topics. Yes, some of it is ego-centric and down right blunt, but what fun would it be if Phil wasn’t putting his spin on it.
All in all, this is a book I will recommend for laughs, wit and Phil’s oh so subtle charm. When Phil is elected President, or Sexiest Man Alive, I WILL VOTE PHIL, whichever comes first.:)

Author Sean Smithson (How to Lose a Girl in 10 Ways): “Perfect read for any commute. …snappy and entertaining reading. Perfect for a very recent and uncomfortable long haul flight. Definitely do not regret picking this up.”

Now for contrast, here is an excerpt of a review of Fifty Shades Darker from USA Today: There are a lot of negative things to be said about Fifty Shades Darker. But it does impress in one sense: The erotica lite sequel somehow manages to be worse than the stupefyingly bad Fifty Shades of Grey.”

To celebrate the movie #FiftyShadesDarker this week I’ve put my book on sale for just 99 cents for Kindle, Nook, or in the iTunes bookstore.  I’m not sure what it is in Euro’s or GBP but you can still find it in the Amazon bookstore in every country in the world and they’ll tell you how much it is.  What? You don’t have a Kindle or Nook? You don’t need one! You can download the free Kindle or Nook app to your iPad or smartphone and then download Fifty Shades of Phil. For 99 cents you can’t go wrong. If you can read the entire thing without laughing I’ll refund your money. If you go to Fifty Shades Darker and you hate it, I doubt they’ll give you the same offer.

Had I known 6 months ago about the current movie title, I’d have come out with a book titled 50 Shades Dorker, a collection of the fifty best humor essays from the last four years of #ThePhilFactor. You think there’s still a market for that?

Have a great Friday! ~Phil

A New Zombie Story From Marie Lanza!

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What? A zombie book on your blog on New Years Eve? Shouldn’t you be cracking jokes about the New Year or something? First of all, I love it when you talk to yourself about me, and second, of course there’s a zombie book on my blog if it’s written by Marie Lanza!

Some of you may remember my awesome interview with Marie in January 2014 and others will also remember her hilarious Top Ten list for #ThePhilFactor, The Top Ten Things YOU Need to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse. I’m not one to forget a friend of The Phil Factor who twice took some of her own time for me.

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Just two days ago Marie released book 5, Rising, of her short story e-series The Colony. To be fair, I haven’t read everything Marie has written, but I’ve read two of her books and thoroughly enjoyed them. If you’re a fan of the AMC’s The Walking Dead you’ll love Marie’s books. Here’s her Amazon page so you can see everything she’s written and follow the story line in order. Maybe order a couple to read on your Kindle while you wait for midnight tonight… What better way to ring in the New Year than thinking about desperately fighting for our lives?

Have a great New Years! ~Phil

Top Ten Tuesday! The Ten Best Books I’ve Ever Read. What Are Yours?

Like the title says, these are the ten best books that have ever read. They’re my favorites. Yours may be different. In fact, I’m hoping they are. Either in the comments or, in your own blog post with a link back, I’d like you to share some of your favorite books so that we can all maybe find a new favorite book or author from each other. Of course I won’t shamelessly plug my own books by putting them on my list, but if you want to, I won’t argue.

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10. The Vampire LeStat: by Anne Rice. Unbeknownst to most people (you know it’s serious when I use big words like unbeknownst) it wasn’t Stephanie Meyer who invented the vampire genre, but Anne Rice about fifteen years earlier. LeStat, referred to as the Brat Prince, is such a fun character you’ll want to become one of the undead just to hang out with him for eternity.

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9. The Da Vinci Code: by Dan Brown. The first in the series was easily the best. Don’t watch the movie because Tom Hanks stars in it with a ridiculously bad hairdo, but read the book.

8. How to Succeed in Evil: by Patrick E. McLean. Edwin Windsor is an Evil Efficiency Expert who contacts out his services to help supervillains be more villanous. Hilarious!  You end up rooting for evil!

7. Bite Me: by Christopher Moore, award winning, New York Times bestselling author who I interviewed for The Phil Factor about three years ago. Spoiler alert: This won’t be his only book on the list. Trust me on Christopher Moore. You’ll want to read so many of his books. Bite Me skewers the vampire genre with brilliant sarcasm.

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6. Dave Barry’s Complete Guide to Guys: by Pulitzer Prize winning Dave Barry, whom I interviewed for The Phil Factor in 2013. If you’re a woman, you’ll laugh as you read countless hilarious examples of the idiocy of men. If you’re a guy you”l see yourself in so many of the true stories.

5. 11/22/63: by Stephen King. I hope you didn’t watch the Hulu miniseries. They took some liberties with the plot that I didn’t think were necessary and detracted from the story. Read the book. It’s a surprising love story.

4. Good Omens: by Neil Gaimans and Terry Pratchett. Read. Laugh. Thank me later. Both authors are cherished titans of English literature, and their other solo works are brilliantly funny. Together they don’t disappoint.

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3. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy: by Douglas Adams. This book is a literary classic. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT watch the movie. Read the book. Your cultural education cannot be considered complete until you’ve read this book.

2. A Dirty Job: by Christopher Moore. Being the Grim Reaper is a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it. Hilarity galore. If you enjoy the absurdity of Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett, then you’ll also love Christopher Moore.

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1. Odd Thomas: by Dean Koontz. In general I consider Dean Koontz to be Stephen King lite, but Odd Thomas is his signature character. I read books from a first person point of view. I become the protagonist when I read. Some characters fit in my head better than others. Odd Thomas fit me like a glove. For me, he was one of those characters where I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be him or have him as my best friend. I read the first Odd Thomas novel at least a decade ago and was disappointed earlier this year when, after 16 novels, the series came to an end.
Those are my top ten. What are yours? Answer in the comments or create a post and link back so we can all find a few more good reads.

Have a great Tuesday! ~Phil

To Beat The Devil: Author Interview with M.K. Gibson!

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An author friend who has a small independent publishing company recently asked me to read and review a recently published first novel by a new author. Admittedly I was a little leery. I’m very picky about what I read. I’ve started and stopped three different novels over the last several months because I didn’t enjoy them. My friend told me a little about the plot and I agreed to try To Beat the Devil by M.K. Gibson. Remember those three novels I never finished? I flew through To Beat the Devil in a week and was disappointed the sequel wasn’t out yet. It is flat out fun. It may not be for everyone. For instance, if you’re a woman who likes Nicholas Sparks, move on. We don’t need your kind here. If, however, you’re someone who might like a book that is the equivalent of Star Wars, Blade Runner, and The Hobbit thrown in a blender with a dash or two of funny 80’s and 90’s pop culture references, then To Beat the Devil is your new favorite book. Let’s hear from author M.K. Gibson:

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TPF: For my readers who haven’t yet downloaded the book, without giving too much away, could you give them a quick plot teaser?
M.K.: Haven’t downloaded the book yet? Your words anger and confuse me! 😉 hah hah, just kidding. So the short elevator pitch is Bladerunner meets Dresden Files meets Supernatural. The slightly longer plot pitch is thus: To Beat the Devil is a quasi cyberpunk novel set after the biblical apocalypse. God is gone, Hell has risen and to combat that, mankind began augmenting themselves with technology. The novel picks up almost 200 years later. Our protagonist, Salem, is an immortal smuggler who a bit of an isolationist and a jerk. He has his world opened when he meets a mysterious client who helps him find his humanity, while together they investigate what’s happened to the human soul.
TPF: What did you do in the Air Force? How did your experience in the Air Force help you with this book?
M.K.: I could tell you but…
But seriously, I worked in Military Intelligence as an analyst for 20 years.
Did it help me? Not directly. But indirectly, 100% yes. In my career I’ve been all over the world and see places and things many folks don’t get the chance to outside of travel. Plus, I was blessed to have had the opportunity to meet many diverse and interesting people, learn their stories and watch every manner of human interaction. And, in my time, I’ve been at tremendous personal and emotional highs with horrible, wretched, tearful lows. As I write, I try and draw from those people and those experiences to hopefully infuse my writing with heart and believability (I swear that’s a word!), even in a dystopian, cyberpunk, Hell ruled future.
For example, back when I was stationed in Alaska, I did a lot of shift work. Over the winter, you would go weeks to months with no sunlight. I was single and recently promoted so my age peers were no longer my work peers. Thus, I was sad, alone in the dark for a good long time. I used those feelings when I write Salem who feels isolated from everyone and everything in this new, messed up world.
TPF: Since retiring from the Air Force, is writing your full time gig, or do you do something else? And if you could, would you just write full time?
M.K.: My current full time gig is as a military contractor. Basically doing the same thing I used to do when I was in the Air Force, but as a civilian. I like it, don’t get me wrong, but when the day comes when I can support my family with my writing, I will walk away from government work and never look back. I want NOTHING more than to write and entertain people until the day I die.
TPF: As unusual as some of your characters are, are some based on people you’ve known in real life, and are you Salem?
M.K.: Hah hah…you found me out. Yes, in many, many ways I am Salem. Similar build, appearance and manner. He is my avatar. My way of reacting in an insane, unique world. But, in many ways, he and I are vastly different. In my defense, a lot of first time writers with 1st person point of view books put a lot of themselves in their primary character. It not only makes the voice more personal, it strengthens their writing as they (we) learn the craft and practice.
And yes, I’ve used people from my life as templates for some my characters. But those templates evolve into, hopefully, fun characters to read.

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TPF: If you could choose anyone play your protagonist Salem in the movie version of your book, who do you think would be the best fit?
M.K.: When I originally came up with the idea and tinkered with it back in 2008, it would have been Jensen Ackles, Dean Winchester from Supernatural. Hell, I guess he could still do it. I’m sure Hollywood would want Chris Pratt, Bradley Cooper or Ryan Reynolds. I think it may actually be against Hollywood law that they are not in a movie at least once a quarter. Hmm…
TPF: So what’s next for you? How soon is the sequel on the way? Will there be other books not based on Salem and his Earth?
M.K.: Well, book 2 is slated for late summer. I’ve written enough material so far for 5 books, and I have a lot more ideas for where the series goes, ends, possibly picks up again and perhaps some one-shot spin-off novels. I recently submitted my manuscript for Villains Rule to my publisher. It’s my attempt at a Pratchett/Goodkind tongue-in-cheek comedic action novel, which follows a human from “the real world” who acts as a villain adviser to fantasy overlords.Of course, like all writers, I have a ton of great story ideas in my mind. I just need to the bloody time to get them out.
But, before this interview is over, I would like to take a moment and say Thank You to you Phil Taylor. Thank you for taking a chance and reading my book. Thank you for your review and lastly, thank you for this opportunity to talk to your readers. Writing has been a lifetime goal of mine. Starting from the bottom sucks. But, with good people like you, helping poor schlubs like me, each day is easier and worth sitting down at the laptop. To any reader who pick up my book and gives it a read: From the bottom of my heart, thank you. You are why I do this. In the immortal words of Henry Rollins: Live Long & Strong!

M.K., thank you very much for taking the time to talk about your book for my readers. You can find M.K.’s awesome, action packed and hilarious book on Amazon and you can follow M.K. on Twitter, and his website. For more great novels from other authors in this genre visit Amber Cove Publishing and JimBernheimer.com. Have a great Sunday! ~Phil

An April Fool’s Memory

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No, I’m not going to tell some outlandish story and end with April Fools! I’m am often a joker throughout the year. I know, shocker right? My April Fools joke is that I don’t pull any pranks on the day when all the amateurs are out trying to be funny.

The reason I posted that picture of the Stalkers cover above is that April Fool’s Day always reminds me of it because in March 2006 on my blog in the two weeks leading up to April Fool’s Day I wrote a series of posts as if I was responding to an online stalker. My readers were all up in arms and urging me to call the police and not to respond to the stalker. On April 1st I revealed that it had all been a prank and that only one reader had seen through my ruse.

Why the book? In 2013 the publishers of Stalkers asked for submissions of short stories involving stalkers. I used my blog stalker series as the basis for a story, but I wrote it in social media format. The entire story is told through blog posts, readers comments, Twitter messages, and e-mails. My story was accepted along with 16 others, and I was thrilled that it was positioned as the final story of the collection. It is seriously a great collection of suspenseful stories and I’m humbled to have been chosen to be included with so many great writers.

Stalkers is available on Amazon as an e-book for $3.99 or $18.99 for the enormous paperback. You already know me, but who knows, maybe you’ll find your next favorite author from one of the other stories. (P.S.: I don’t get a cent from the book sales. It all goes to the publishers) Have a great Friday! ~Phil

11.22.63 Book Review & Mini Series Preview

In honor of tomorrow’s premier of the 11.22.63 mini-series on Hulu, I’m re-posting my original review of the novel by Stephen King. Don’t worry, I don’t do spoilers.

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Yes, I realize that Stephen King doesn’t need my review to help his sales, but every once in awhile you read a book that captures your imagination so much that you want to tell everyone to read it. 11/22/63 is one of those books.

When it first came out in November of 2011 I had no interest in reading the book. I hated the title and the cover art. That’s usually enough to steer me away from any book. I’m a Stephen King fan though, so about 6 months ago when I hit a dry spell in finding a book to read I gave 11/22/63 another look. Two things helped to convince me to give it a chance. The new book price had come down after it had been out over a year and I read the synopsis and discovered that it was a time travel story. Anyone with an imagination has thought about time travel. Most of us have wondered about the great what ifs both large and small, whether it be correcting mistakes in our own life or changing the world for the better.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to give out any spoilers here. In 11/22/63 school teacher Jake Epping is a likable fellow but a little lonely since his divorce. When his elderly, ailing friend reveals that he has discovered a “rabbit hole” in the back room of his diner that takes a person back in time Jake is of course skeptical, until he tries it.

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Once Jake is convinced, his friend throws out the really big bait. What if Jake could travel back in time to stop the Kennedy assassination? Would the Vietnam war be avoided thus saving thousands and thousand of young men’s lives? What other positive changes to history might occur if John F. Kennedy hadn’t died?

The book is  historically accurate and painstaking in many of the details. Stephen King builds a fascinating tale around that framework, adding flesh to the skeleton of information we all know about the event.

Of course if everything went according to plan Mr. King wouldn’t have much of a novel here, and that’s where this story gets really fun. What if, when you travel back in time, every little thing you do has a ripple effect that leads to unintended changes that you can’t possibly foresee? What if your interactions with people changed the course of their lives? How would your future be different when you got back?

In the end 11.22.63 turns out to be a surprising love story with a  surprising ending that Stephen King credits to his son Joe Hill, who is a successful horror/suspense writer in his own right. As with any Stephen King novel, going in you have to know you’re making a significant time investment, but for this ending 11.22.63 is worth it. If the Hulu mini-series is half as good as the book, you’ll come away happy having invested your time in it.

As always, if you enjoy what you read at #ThePhilFactor please hit the Facebook, Twitter, or other share buttons below.

Four Books I Liked and One I Didn’t

These are quick reviews of books I’ve read this year. Unlike most people who read, I don’t read a whole lot of books. The reason is that I read to relax and empty my brain (yes, I know that probably seems like it would be a very quick job). I read to relax so I can go to sleep, so consequently other than blogs, I read about ten minutes a day before I doze off.

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Prince LeStat by Anne Rice: I enjoyed the first three installments in Ms. Rice’s vampire series, but then she put out a series of vampire novels in rapid succession that just seemed to be… well… not that interesting. The one bright, shining star of the vampire series however has been the character LeStat. It appears that she brought LeStat back one more time to close out the series and this final installment was a fitting finale to LeStat’s legacy. For my money you should read the first three books in the series, starting with Interview with a Vampire and then after the third just skip to this one

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I sometimes characterize Dean Koontz as “Stephen King lite,” BUT the exception is his Odd Thomas series. Odd Thomas is an unassuming fry cook with a habit of attracting ghosts of the dead who are not resting in peace. It’s a seven book series beginning with Odd Thomas and  ending with Saint Odd and I wholeheartedly recommend you read the whole series in order. It pains me to give such an enthusiastic review because I emailed Dean asking if he would interview for The Phil Factor and I got no response, so I’m harboring a little bit of a grudge. That being said, it’s impossible not to like Odd Thomas. He’s unintentionally funny and pithy at the same time. Each and every book in the series is thoroughly enjoyable.

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The Rules of Supervillainy  by C.T. Phipps: A flat out fun book from start to finish. Gary Karkofsky is a down on his luck regular guy in a very irregular world where superheroes and supervillains are everywhere. With an unusual stroke of luck but without any better prospects he decides to join the supers, but on which side? Gary stumbles and fumbles his way through supervillainy and super heroism much the way I think each of us probably would.

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Inferno by Dan Brown: From the author of The DaVinci Code comes the fourth  installment in the adventures of Professor Robert Langdon. I’ve gotta say, this one just didn’t do it for me. I abandoned it half way through. It was set up as The Hangover meets The DaVinci Code. Unfortunately it followed the same premise as the others in the series: Mystery, ancient symbols, finds a girlfriend along the way, everyone’s out to get him.

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Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore: Death isn’t supposed to be funny, nor is it supposed to have a face or a day job, but what if it did? Stop what you’re doing. Stop it right now and go buy A Dirty Job and read it. Then buy Secondhand Souls and read that too. If you are a Terry Pratchett fan you should also be a Christopher Moore fan.  You should also read Christopher Moore’s books because he did this interview with me back in 2013 right here on The Phil Factor.

Have a great Sunday! ~Phil