Book Review: NEW ADVENTURES IN H.P. LOVECRAFT’S DREAMLANDS Vol. 1-4

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Brian Lumley
Tor Books
1986-1990

By now, if you know anything about British author Brian Lumley by the book reviews I maintain on this blog o’mine, that one of his most obvious literary inspirations was H.P. Lovecraft. Not only has the lore inspired and influenced Lumley’s own blend of weird science fiction and horror hybrids; like many other authors have done before and since, he’s also gleefully frolicked in the mythos of the worlds Lovecraft built in his short career in speculative fiction. One of these was a four-volume set of books set in the Dreamlands from the Dream Cycle stories, featuring the adventures of erstwhile dream-questers David Hero and Eldin the Wanderer.

Each of these four books clock in at a surprisingly brief (for Lumley) 240-some-odd pages, really more of a set of four novellas. Normally, I would do a separate review for each, but in this instance , given the brevity of the books, I decided to read each one of them first, and review them all together in one review. You’re welcome.

1 hero of dreams

  • Volume 1: Hero Of Dreams

Something vital is missing from David Hero’s comfortable, ordinary existence. One day is much like the next, simple, predictable…boring. But the nights! Each night David Hero finds himself transported to a marvelous world where brave men and women battle terrible creatures possessed of cruel, dark powers. Despite his fears, the Dreamworlds tempt David, drawing him farther and farther from the waking world. Here he finds noble warriors; beautiful, loving women; and challenges almost greater than he can imagine.

2 ship of dreams

  • Volume 2: Ship Of Dreams

Once David Hero was an ordinary man living in the real world. Now he is trapped in the Dreamlands, cut off from the waking world. David Hero’s dreams and nightmares have become his only reality. Led by wickedly beautiful Queen Zura, the zombie armies of the dead are on the march. They will destroy the beautiful Dreamlands, making them a permanent, deadly nightmare. Unaware of the marauding zombies, David Hero and his friend Eldin voyage through the clouds in a wondrous skyship. their journey is interrupted by a pack of faceless nightgaunts, terrifying creatures, half-man and half-bat–and all evil! David Hero is one of Zura’s first targets. As a man of the waking world, he can withstand her terrible seductive power and shatter her shambling armies. David Hero must be the first Dreamlands hero to die.

3 mad moon of dreams

  • Volume 3: Mad Moon Of Dreams

Swollen, glowing oddly in the gloom of night, the moon hangs lower and lower over the Dreamlands. Its weird, unearthly light transforms beautiful landscapes into twisted nightmares and imperils the sanity of any who walk abroad after sunset. Beams of terrible power stab the unsuspecting earth, destroying the land, shattering buildings, and dragging people into the shrieking sky, straight toward the hellish moon! David Hero, once a man of the waking world, finds himself fighting side by side with his worst enemies–Zura and her zombie armies, the Eidolon Lathi and her termite men–against the slimy, many-tentacled moon monster.

4 iced on aran

  • Volume 4: Iced On Aran

Atop the Dreamlands’ most majestic mountain is an unusual sculpture garden, featuring statues of the Dreamlands’ legendary heroes. For generations insane artists have created and tended the glistening statues of ice. Each hero is represented by twin portraits–perfectly matched except for the expressions of horror frozen into one of each pair! Seated on a chilly rock, David Hero is the mad sculptor’s newest subject. He sees nothing to account for the fear and dread on the icy faces that surround him. Until he attempts to rise from his pedestal–and discovers that the rock is not the only thing shrouded in ice! Trapped by black sorcery, David Hero has only one chance at escape.

Overall…yeah, this entire series was kind of a slog to get through. I’m not really that big of a fan of the pulp style that Lumley utilizes in a lot of his mythos stories, and here it’s just about as purple prose and over-the-top as they get. After the first book, the two main characters–who were both members of the waking world–get permanently stuck in the Dreamlands due to their real selves dying off at the end of the first book. I would think that the saga would have been a bit more interesting had there been a kind of contrast between the two reconciling their waking and dreaming identities in their lives. But, apparently that kind of dichotomy was too much to explore. Keep things with the swashbuckling swords and sorcery daring-do and all that.

Truth be told, it took me far longer than it should have to get through this series. The first book I had to pick up as an eBook, as I couldn’t find it in physical form anywhere. Regardless, I probably won’t be reading these again any time soon.

 

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Book Review: DOCTOR WHO – City Of Death

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doctor who city of deathJames Goss
ACE Books
2015

The Doctor almost wished that for once he could sweep aside all the reversing the polarity of the death ray nonsense and just sit down for tea and natter over macaroons. If it wasn’t for the Count being a homicidal maniac, the two of them would get on famously. What a pity.

Back between September 29th and October 20th in 1979, the BBC broadcast one of the serials that sci-fi author Douglas Adams had a hand in writing; in that Adams heavily re-wrote an unfinished script that was originally titled “A Gamble With Time”. What resulted was a Doctor Who serial where the Fourth Doctor and is then-companion Romana run into an ancient alien while on holiday in Paris, an alien who inadvertently kick-started life on Earth due to an accident millions of years prior that killed off the remainder of his race, and is working to go back and prevent said accident. Also, there’s an Inspector involved. British wackiness ensues.

Over time, “City Of Death”, despite it being one of the more popular Doctor Who serials, was never given the Target Books novelization treatment initially. This was due mainly to Target offering the standard advance price to Adams for adapting the story, with Adams retorting, “I don’t want to be embarrassing but I do have a tendency to be a best-selling author,” and refusing to allow anyone else to write one.

It wasn’t until after Adams’ untimely death and long-time Doctor Who writer Gareth Roberts doing a bonny adaptation of Adams’ “Shada” script when we finally got an official novelization of “City Of Death”. Yeah, it was also supposed to be written by Roberts, but eventually the reigns were given to James Goss.

There. That takes care of the Obligatory History Portion of this review. Let’s get on the novelization, shall we?

As mentioned previously, the Fourth Doctor and Romana are on holiday in 1979 Paris, France, enjoying and relaxing in an outdoor cafe’, when the Doctor notices a lady scanning the security setup around the Mona Lisa with alien technology. So, along with an Inspector, they follow her back to a chateau owned by Count Scarlioni. There, they find equipment used in time experiments, along with several copies of the Mona Lisa. Romana and the Inspector continue to investigate things, while the Doctor zipps off in the TARDIS to visit Leonardo da Vinci, about the Mona Lisa copies. Romana and the Inspector are captured by Scartioni, with Romana pressed into building a working time machine by threatening to destroy all of Paris if she doesn’t; meantime, in the past, the Doctor is captured by an earlier iteration of Scartioni, who then explains that he is the last of an alien race that was wiped out by their ship exploding on Primordial Earth 400 million years ago, give or take a century. This explosion had the inadvertent effect of sparking life on the planet, which also created the concept of irony. Through the eons, Scartioni had been manipulating history to where, by the time the 20th Century rolled around, the technology was such that he could feasibly begin working on a time machine to go back to the beginning and stop the ship from ‘splodin’, funding the entire thing with selling off the several copies of the Mona Lisa he had commissioned da Vinci to paint. Of course, this plan doesn’t sit well with the Doctor, so he escapes back to 1979 Paris, which leads to a confrontation and showdown with the alien Count.

Like with the other Doctor Who serial novelizations I’ve read, I hadn’t seen the televised show this was based on before reading City of Death. I still haven’t gotten around to watching it; but based on this novelization, I probably will do so sometime shortly.

As a Doctor Who story in book form, City Of Death is written in that same kind of style that typified works by Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams…mainly Douglas Adams, probably because he wrote the script of the show itself, so it would make sense that James Goss would imitate his style. I haven’t really read anything of Goss’ outside of this and his other Doctor Who adaptation The Pirate Planet (also originally scripted by Adams), so I don’t know if that’s his natural writing style, or if he’s just imitating what he would think Adams would write, had he actually did the novelization himself. I might have to rectify that.

Regardless, reading this novelization of City Of Death was a blast. I recommend picking this up and checking it out.

Book Review: FLOOR FOUR

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floor fourA. Lopez, Jr.
Ace Hill Ink
2014

The old, abandoned Saint Vincnt Hospital is said to be haunted by the ghost of David Henry Coleman, the notorious serial killer known as The Mangler. Coleman died on the fourth floor after being shot by police. For the three Junior High boys, their curiosity gets the best of them as they explore the old hospital, despite “Old Man” Jake’s warning. No one knew of Jake’s warning. No one knew of Jake’s dark connection to the killer and the hospital. And now, on the anniversary of The Mangler’s death, a group of high school kids are planning a private party on the haunted fourth floor. Jake must keep everyone out and protect them from the true evil that lurks on Floor Four.

Another in my extensive list of Kindle edition horror fiction that were free, that I Immediately downloaded after receiving my first eReader, Floor Four is a brief less-than-100 page novella by author A. Lopez, Jr. Unsurprisingly, I was unfamiliar with Lopez, Jr.’s work, as this was my chance to branch out and discover new authors beyond my normal stable of go-to reads. According o his on-line bio on Goodreads, he published his first work–a collection of short stories — in 2011, and has been prolifically writing since, producing short stories, novellas and novels.His signature series is the Night Dreams line, a series of novellas in the supernatural horror vein.

Floor Four was published in 2014. It’s one of those standard Abandoned Hospital Haunted By Ghost Of Serial Killer kind of stories, complete with curious kids, stupid teenagers, and the old man trying to warn them away for their own good, dagnabbit.

That synopsis up there in the italics is only the first part of the story. Had it just been that, Floor Four would have been more of a short story. After the events there, we then focus on one of the three Junior High kids who finds himself haunted by the ghost of the serial killer and his mental spiral into madness. The story does take some twists and turns in ways that weren’t entirely predictable, but for the most part, there’s really nothing in Floor Four that breaks any intriguing ground.

Book Review: MY LIFE WITH DETH

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my life with 'dethDavid Ellefson / Joel McIver
Howard Books
2013

I really shouldn’t need to point this out, but in the interest of this blog post’s subject matter, I am a big Megadeth fan. Ever since getting my face sand-blasted off after purchasing Rust In Peace at the tender age of 17 — my first proper taste of the band, and it was a doozy — they’ve been very consistent with continually doing so, even during their low periods, more so than the Venom that spawned Megadeth’s Carnage, Metallica, ever did.

I think I popped something reaching for that mixed metaphor. Yeah, I’ll be feeling that for a few days.

Anyway, of the two Daves associated with the band, I’ve already read the biography for main man Dave Mustaine, and reviewed it quite a few years ago on my previous blog (it’s been moved here on this one, in case you were morbidly curious). A few months ago, while perusing the ebook selection on my Google Plus account, I came across the autobiography of the other Dave in the group, bassist and co-founder David Ellefson. I was rather jazzed to read this one; finally, we get the viewpoint of someone who had been with Megadeth and all the wackiness involved since the very beginning, save for a stretch where he wasn’t part of the band for…reasons.

Right at the start, Dave Ellefson writes in My Life With Deth that this was a book he really didn’t want to write. As he points out early on, these kind of biographies are a dime a dozen, and all contain the same tragic story. You read one, you’ve read them all. It’s the same kind of pattern you get with the VH1 Behind The Music series, really. Fine, understood. But, this book itself is only 256 pages long; 188 if you discount the final pages being a discography, an index (?) and the obligatory thanks section. That’s not a lot of pages to go into detail on a career that spanned three decades not only founding and playing in one of the legendary Big Four of thrash metal bands, inspiring generations to pick up the bass, but also the in-between times where he was broke and had to get a 9-5 type job just to get by. Mind you, this was with Peavey, so he didn’t exactly go back to slinging fries at a burger joint after he was first booted out of Megadeth. But, I’m getting ahead of myself, here…

In My Life With Deth, Ellefson takes us through his upbringing in rural Minnesota, first getting interested in music, and working up to playing gigs in and around the surrounding Midwest area; moving to LA and befriending some guy named Dave Mustaine, forming Megadeth, getting into drugs and the struggle to break free from his addictions, his career with Megadeth to his leaving the band, his post-Megadeth ventures and careers, his resulting fued with Mustaine and eventual patching up of the relationship. Oh, he also touches on his Christian faith.

Oh, yeah. Dave Ellefson’s a professing Christian. As such, not only does he talk about this, but each chapter ends with a brief “what I’ve learned from all this” takeaway. It’s definitely not something yo see in your standard rock n’ roll biography, here.

Overall, My Life With ‘Deth is rather brief, and quite frankly seems to be missing a bit of meat. This may be Ellefson’s design, as he tells his tale less as an excuse to dish dirt and cause controversy, and as more of a “these were the mistakes I’ve made, let’s learn from this” kind of story. If you’re looking for something like Motley Crue’s biography The Dirt, you’re going to be sorely disappointed, I’m afraid. If you’re looking for a rather detailed, point-by-point analysis of one of the greatest metal bands to ever have existed…well, again, you may be less than satisfied with this. But, if you’re looking for some light reading and have some time to kill, My Life With ‘Deth is a good way to fill the time.

Book Review: BRIEF CASES (The Dresden Files)

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brief cases dresden filesJim Butcher
ACE
2018

It’s been three years since the last book in the Dresden Files series was released. Three long years without our favorite Chicago-based wizard detective to experience exciting supernatural wackiness vicariously through. Fortunately, there’s been a recent publication of another short story collection by Jim Butcher, something that will tide me over until the next book in the series comes out. Loves me some Dresden Files.

Anyway, yeah, Brief Cases was recently released through ACE Books, collecting several short stories that Butcher wrote for other publications, plus one that was only released on this collection, if I have my information correct. Let’s dive in and see what we got, shall we?

  • “A Fistful Of Warlocks”

We take a trip back to the Wild West of the 1800s, where the warden Anastasia Luccio rides into the town of Dodge City, hot on the heels of a warlock, and teams up with a deputy sherif named Wyatt Erp to take on the warlock’s posse and their zombie horde.

  • “B Is For Bigfoot”

Harry Dresden takes a case from a Bigfoot named Strength of a River in His Shoulders (River Shoulders for short) to check up on his son, who goes to school in Chicago. The kid might be being picked on by bullies; only, it turns out to be more than that.

  • “AAAA Wizardry”

Dresden regales a class of young wardens in training with a tale of when he took on a case involving a boogeyman to illustrate the five “A”s of wizardly investigation.

  • “I Was A Teenage Bigfoot”

Once again, Dresden takes a case from River Shoulders, this time to check up on his son — who is now a teenager and attending a private school — and find out why he’s sick. On account of, the son of Bigfoot shouldn’t be getting sick, let alone lain¬†out in the infirmary. It might be black magic afoot…but you’d never guess for what ends.

  • “Curses”

Dresden is hired to try and get a curse put on Wrigley Field in 1945 lifted so the Cubs can actually win for once, darn it. This takes him deep in the realm of the Tylwyth Teg, to speak to the caster of the curse. Who knew the creatures of folklore were big baseball fans?

  • “Even Hand”

A story told from the point of view of John Marcone, the Chicago crime lord that’s a perpetual thorn in Dresden’s side. Here, Marcone is best upon by a rather nasty member of the Fomor — Cantrev Lord Mag — who’s there to collect a baby that was stolen by the White Court’s human servant Justine. Things go boom.

  • “Bigfoot On Campus”

One last case from River Shoulders, and this time he wants Dresden to check in on his now college-age son due to a premonition of danger. Which may hold some water, as Dresden discovers that the kid is dating the daughter of a White Court vampire.

  • “Bombshells

Told from Molly Carpenter’s point of view, from her post-wizard apprentice days, due to Dresden still being considered dead at this point; she takes a mission to infiltrate a Swartves stronghold to rescue Dresden’s half-brother Thomas Raith; only, she discovers things aren’t as cut and dried as they seem. To be fair, they never are.

  • “Cold Case”

Another one from Molly Carpenter’s point of view, this time as the newly-minted Lady of the Winter Court. She is charged with collecting a long-overdue tribute from the Miksani. After arriving at the small Alaskan seaport, she discovers the reason why they’ve been so tardy, and teams up with the young Warden Ramirez to get things back in order.

  • “Jury Duty”

Harry Dresden is summoned to jury duty in the case of a former bodyguard for a crime boss accused of the murder of a man one year prior. It seems fairly cut and dried only Dresden has that inkling that something’s not quite right. So he goes investigating, along with one of his werewolf friends. Wackiness ensues.

  • “Day One”

A story told from the perspective of everyone’s favorite polka-loving, Sword of Faith-wielding mortician, Waldo Butters; this one concerns Butters’ first case as a newly-minted Knight of the Cross, which involves a rogue baku that’s feeding off the fear of the children in a hospital ward.

  • “Zoo Day”

The final story in this collection has Dresden taking his ten-year-old daughter Maggie and his dog (and current guardian of Maggie) Mouse on a daddy/daughter/doggie day at the zoo to look at some animals. This one takes turns with the point of views, starting with Dresden, who encounters a young warlock; Maggie, where she faces off with some nasty haunts that are possessing other kids at the zoo; and finally Mouse, where he meets a dark figure from his past. Also, there’s french fries.

Of the stories in this collection, I believe I enjoyed “A Fistful Of Warlocks”, the three involving Bigfoot and his half-human, half-bigfoot son (especially the “Bigfoot On Campus”, as things really go boom there), and “Zoo Day”, as we not only get a good story involving Dresden trying to be something he’s not accustomed to — being a father — but also the three points of view, one being the ironically named Mouse. That was great, there.

Mind you, all the rest of the stories contained are all top-notch, containing the quality type of action, mystery and humor that comes with this series, only contained in easily digestible bite-sized pieces. I’m afraid I went through my Kindle edition of this a bit too fast, as per usual. It was that kind of engrossing. Recommended.

Book Review: STRANGE WEATHER

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joe hill strange weatherJoe Hill
William Morrow
2017

Joe Hill’s follow-up to his fantastic novel The Fireman is a collection of four novellas, titled Strange Weather. Of course, being a fan of Joe Hill, I purchased my copy of Strange Weather the same week it was released. But, in kind of a first, I got my copy as an e-book through Google Play. Not that this will become the future standard for my literary indulgences, mind you. Just went with this format for kicks and giggles.

So, four short novels collected in one binding. Let’s dive in and see what came out of Joe Hill’s brain droppings, shall we?

  • “Snapshot”

A successful middle-aged man reminisces back to the summer of 1988, where he runs into a creepy guy with a camera you really don’t want to have your picture taken with.

This was a pretty taught thriller with an object that seems to call back to the Stephen King novella “The Sun Dog” from the Four Past Midnight collection. But, “Snapshot” is far from a rip of that story. The two feature instant cameras that do weird stuff, and that’s where the similarities end. The camera in “Snapshot” is far more sinister. The story also manages to be emotionally wrenching, with the theme of losing your identity and saying goodbye to your past. I also found myself empathizing with the main protagonist, as I too was the fat young teenager back in ’88. What a year. No creepy gangly old men with cameras, though. That I know of.

  • “Loaded”

A disgraced mall security guard shoots and kills the jilted mistress of another mall store manager, a Muslim woman and her infant son shee was carrying, and a young man who witnessed the incident, thinking it was all a terrorist attack. He’s hailed as a hero of the community, everyone praising him, including his estranged wife and young son. Until a reporter from the local paper starts digging for the truth, and the “hero” finally snaps under all the pressure.

“Loaded” is one of those super tense thrillers where the real life terror depicted in the story is only amplified by the real life horror that plays out on the news at home, with shootings seemingly on the rise. Hill did a rather good job with making the antagonist¬†nunced and sympathetic to a point; though in no way do you really side with him, as what they’re doing is despicable, but you can kinda see where he’s coming from. Overall, a very good story that rather pissed me off with the ending, there. Well done, sir. Well done.

  • “Aloft”

A young man’s first attempt at skydiving, to honor the wishes of a friend that died of cancer, results in him getting stuck on a cloud that’s not really a cloud (at least, it doesn’t act like actual clouds do…which is an understatement), and he’s stuck trying to figure out how to get down, and the cloud doesn’t seem to want to let him go.

The fun thing about speculative fantasy fiction is the taking of an otherwise absurd-sounding concept, and spinning it into a yarn that makes it work. “Aloft” does just that, with a concept that sounds more like a comic strip gag — a guy skydives and gets stuck on a cloud. Joe Hill takes this and makes it right engrossing, giving things a nice mystery surrounding his situation, as well as working out some relationship issues.

  • “Rain”

One afternoon in Boulder, Colorado, it begins raining razor-sharp crystalline shards that kills or seriously wounds anyone caught outside in it. This includes the girlfriend of our story’s protagonist, who, soon after the first freak storm, sets out on foot to Denver to try and find her girlfriend’s father to inform him of his wife and daughter’s tragic demise from the freak storm, and try to make heads or tails of what’s going on, and try to survive.

In a note in the afterwards portion of this book, Joe Hill admits to writing “Rain” as kind of a satire of his own post-apocalyptic novel The Fireman. Maybe I’m not smart enough to get the satire part; it’s probably too subtle for a meathead like myself to notice the first time reading. I do, however, recall reading a story in a collection of youth-oriented science fiction stories back in grade school, one that involved a kid playing outside on a planet his human family have settled on, and almost getting caught in a flash storm that rained sharp crystals from the clouds, much like in this one. Only, that story wasn’t as nuanced or, you know, set on Earth as “Rain” is. A lot more plot, a lot more character development, and…well, let’s just say this is probably the best kind of kooky cult types you want to be stuck next to. Give or take singing Genesis songs in the middle of the night.

Once again, Strange Weather manages to solidify Joe Hill as one of my top favorite genre writers in the past ten years. He has one of the most fertile imaginations I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing, and this collection is further proof of that. Highly engrossing, time seems to just fly by as I read this. Highly recommended, this.

Book Review: WHEN WE WERE ON FIRE

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41S+K+dTvML._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Addie Zierman
Convergent Books
2013

To the general outsider, American Evangelical Christianity (TM) can seem, at best, rather odd. As someone who has spent the better part of a decade within this, shall we say, unique bunch of bright-eyed believers, I can attest that we can, at times, seem like an altogether alien sub-culture. That was a lot of alteration that I just used, there.Anyway, we have our own language (Christianese), our own music genre, our own movies and art, and so many stylized varieties of ministries and outreaches it’s a wonder why most of the world hasn’t been converted yet. Well, it’s not really that much of a wonder, but since this is a book review and not one of my annoying blog rants, I shall digress.

When We Were On Fire was the second book I purchased from Google Play, after testing the e-reader waters to see if it would be a good fit for this old-school bibliophile. I’m always interested to hear and read about other people’s’ experiences with American Evangelical Christianity (TM), and how it impacted their faith, for better or worse. And this title seemed intriguing, to say the very least.

Here, author Addie Zierman goes through her experiences growing up as an Evangelical teenager, an on-fire adolescent spearheading and getting involved with various student and youth endeavors in the name of Jesus evangelism, and traces her journey through college, when everything faith-related seem to fall apart, through to her finally rebuilding from the resulting debris, reforming her faith as an adult.

I absolutely adore When We Were On Fire. It has an inviting laid back conversational style, but is also unflinchingly honest with the narrative. Meaning, this isn’t an easy book to read, yet at the same time you won’t be able to put it down. For some, reading When We Were On Fire will be a look into a side of American Christianity they’ve never experienced; for many others–like myself–reading this memoir will trigger many flashbacks to our own experiences of a time that we remember as “The 90s”. Specifically, two things really stuck out at me while reading this: One was her recounting her first boyfriend in high school, which turned out to be rather toxic in that he would use God as a means of manipulation (I cringe, because I recognized my old self in the boyfriend, really), and her experiences with Youth With A Mission, aka YWAM, one of the many evangelical youth outreaches that have had their fair share of controversy come out of the woodwork. I remember specifically, I once went to a YWAM-affiliated event called Aquire The Fire, where I very narrowly avoided getting signed up with YWAM. Reading this (plus the stories of other former YWAM workers), it’s rather evident what kind of a bullet I managed to dodge, there.

Overall, reading When We Were On Fire, you not only grow to appreciate Mz. Zierman’s honesty with her journey, but also how she managed to maintain her sense of humor with all of this. I highly recommend this book, not only for those who’ve been through these things, but also for those who haven’t, to gain a perspective that can be lost with all of the hype. Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy.

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