Matt Kelland

Books

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Smashwords book reviews by Matt Kelland

  • My Troubles With Time on Sep. 02, 2011

    I've always enjoyed time travel stories, particularly those with a good dose of comedy. if you take it too seriously, it's easy to get lost in paradoxes and quantum something-or-others, and get tangled up in the science, but if you just want to throw your characters around in time and have crazy adventures, you can have a lot of fun. This book is very much in the vein of old-school sci-fi stories such as Harry Harrison's Technicolor Time Machine, H. Beam Piper's Paratime Police, or some of Robert Silverberg's tongue-in-cheek novels. Not to give away too much of the story, it's almost a comedy version of The Final Countdown, that 80s movie with Kirk Douglas and Martin Sheen. The opening's a little slow, but the story romps along at a good pace once the time travel gets going. It's well-written and easy to read, and is sure to please fans of the genre. Well worth $3!
  • Home Organization, The Smart Guide ~ Make Room for Yourself in Your Home on Oct. 31, 2011

    Let's face it, cleaning out your house really isn't the most exciting thing in the world. It's a lot of work, and it involves getting rid of things you're fond of, so you find excuses to put it off, day after day, week after week, month after month... and one day you realize that your house is in total chaos, you can't find anything, and the whole job is too big to tackle. Sound familiar? Kathi's well used to this situation. She's a professional at sorting things out, both for businesses and individuals. This book tells you, in plain, simple language, how you can sort yourself out. Now, time for a small confession. I was, until today, in the process of writing a similar book. Now, I don't feel the need to finish it. Kathi has set out everything pretty much the same way I'd have done it, and she's done it with the advantage of being a seasoned professional. It's not too wordy, not patronizing, and just gets straight to the point. It covers every room in the house, including the attic, basement and garage, and, most importantly, it's realistic. For those who like "systems", there are simple acronyms (MAPP: Motivation. Assessment. Preparation. Planning), lists of rules, and straightforward strategies. Do this. Do that. Don't make this mistake. Follow the system, and you'll end up with a tidy house and more living space. However, what I liked most was the way she explained that having a tidy house isn't an end in itself. The real benefit comes from the change in lifestyle that comes with the attitude of getting rid of what's unnecessary. It's not merely the practical issues of being able to find things, and creating extra space. (Your dining room, for example. Do you use it as a dining room? Or is it a dumping ground for "muck", as she calls it? So reclaim it, and either use it properly or turn it into usable space.) It's the mental approach that says you're only focusing on what's important, not clinging to the past, and being decisive about what matters. A highly recommended book.
  • Bring Me the Head of John Grisham (Story) on Nov. 20, 2011

    If you like your thrillers oozing testosterone and tequila, this one's for you. It's an uncompromising hard-boiled, gritty read that feels like Hemingway, Hunter S Thompson and Elmore Leonard got drunk and decided to write a short story. It's full of violent twists and desperate turns, with a plot that doesn't stop moving and smacks you in the face every few pages, and then makes you laugh. The descriptions are terse, but highly evocative, with just enough detail to make the settings and characters feel authentic and believable, even though they're grotesque and unnatural. All the way through, I kept imagining it as a movie by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino - think Once Upon a Time in Mexico in a grindhouse style, and you've got it. It even feels like a screenplay in some ways - every time a new character is introduced, they're in capital letters, and it's almost structured into movie-type scenes. It took a little getting used to, but it works, and it works well. I hope he sells the movie rights to someone, because I'd watch this. John Grisham might not be so keen on the idea, though! Highly recommended for thriller lovers.
  • Rick Perry Prays for the Assassination Games (Story) on Nov. 20, 2011

    Two words of warning before you read this one. 1. If you're a Republican, then step away now. Put down the book, and go back to your normal life. You won't like this. Unless you're a Republican of the P. J. O'Rourke persuasion, and can handle people poking fun at you, criticism of your political beliefs, and can tell the difference between what Republicanism used to stand for and what it's become. 2. It's satire. It's not a political manifesto. It's part of a well-established tradition of political satire that goes back hundreds of years. It's in the same vein of writing as all those 1950s and 60s SF novels by the likes of Sheckley, Ellison and Brunner, where politics has been replaced by combat. It's a funny commentary on how shallow politics has become. People aren't interested in the actual issues: they want to see politicians ripping each other to shreds verbally. They want to cheer on their favorites and see their opponents humiliated. If you're ready for that, then you'll enjoy this story immensely. The writing is sharp and acerbic, and it's a perfect length. The ending was a little unexpected, but by that time Boscutti's point was well made. Any more would have been unnecessary, and would have taken the story to a place it didn't need to go. This is the second of Boscutti's stories I've read today, and I've enjoyed them both.
  • The Wedding Video (Screenplay) on Nov. 24, 2011

    The first thing you need to be aware of is that this isn't a novel. It's a screenplay, which makes for a very different reading experience, especially on a Kindle. I've been involved in film for the last few years, and I've been a film buff since my early teens, and I'm used to reading screenplays. However, this is the first one I've read on a Kindle. Screenplays generally have a standard format and page layout, and it doesn't translate too well to the smaller screen. It worked okay, but to be completely honest, I found it easier to read as a PDF on the computer where there's more white space. I'll admit I've never seen or read the Beaumarchais play this is based on, but I'm familiar with the Mozart opera. This is a really funny interpretation of the material - it updates this classic farce to a setting we can more easily relate to and simulataneously parodies a modern genre that's ripe for parody. One word of warning. As you might expect from a gangster flick, this screenplay contains the word "fuck" at something approaching Tarantino levels. If that offends you, then steer clear. However, it wins an award for funniest use of the line "Fucking Pussy!" since Cheech Marin in Dusk Till Dawn. The only real criticism I have is that it was too long - hence the 4 stars intead of 5 - but that's true of the original version as well, and indeed most farces of the period. By two thirds of the way through I've got the joke, and it's all starting to feel a bit laboured. Personally, if I were adapting this to a movie, I'd have recommended being less faithful to the original stage play and going for a tighter ending. In summary, I'd love to see this made into a film. It would be hilarious, even if you're not an aficionado of 18th century literature or opera. Read it, and you'll see why.
  • Lust Takes The White House on Dec. 02, 2011

    "It's fun being involved in a Presidential campaign, even one as screwed up as this one." This is the kind of political satire I really enjoy. It had me grinning all the way through, with more than the occasional out-loud chuckle, but underneath it all you know there's more than a grain of truth. Policies mean nothing except a way to get votes. "Will it work? Probably not, but who cares?" The protagonists lie, they cheat, and they'll resort to any dirty tactics to get elected. Political appointments are given out for campaign contributions. And the only thing they actually care about is getting a tame President who'll pass legislation so their companies make more money. Is it any wonder that everything's so screwed up? The only reason I gave this 4 stars instead of 5 is that the book could really use some editing. There were an irritating number of typos and punctuation mistakes - that big building in Washington is the Capitol, not the Capital, for example. The Kindle version opened on chapter 2. All this could be easily remedied, though, and doesn't take away from the fact that this is an amusing, entertaining, and provocative book. In the current political climate, this will strike a chord with many.
  • All Hallows Eve on Feb. 06, 2012

    This is a really fun read. It's clearly inspired by the comics and pulp serials of the 1950s - the Golden Age of comics - and the author's evident love of the genre comes through unashamedly. What I enjoyed most was the simplicity, harking back to the days when superheroes were the good guys and supervillains were plain and simple bad guys - none of this modern Dark Knight style moody moral introspection or politically correct psychological attempts to justify the villains' motives. As you'd expect from a kids' book, it's a straightforward, old style, easy to read comic book caper. Except, of course, for... no, I won't spoil it for you! The only real criticism I have is that the 1950s setting didn't really come across clearly enough. A little more period detail would have been cool.  But overall, a good, entertaining read, reminiscent of Kick Ass, but for younger readers, and I'm looking forward to the next in the series. 
  • Beginner Running Program: Running to Lose Weight or Event Training Techniques on Feb. 14, 2012

    Running isn't as simple as just going out every so often and running around a bit. If you do that, you're liable to end up skipping an occasional run and eventually giving up, or else injuring yourself. I speak from experience here! This handy book takes you through all the basics: the preparation and self-discipline you need to establish a running regimen, how to deal with muscle soreness and avoid injury, and how to combine sensible nutrition with your running plan, both during your run and in your daily life. For more serious runners, there are also tips on how to get involved in competitive running, and what to expect at a race. If you're starting out running - still trying to lose those extra pounds from the holidays, perhaps! - this is a really useful reference book. It's not overly detailed, but it's clearly written and tells you everything you actually need to know. The section on making your own sports drinks is perfect for those who don't want to spend money on expensive branded drinks - they taste better and cost less too!
  • WB & The 10 Good Things on May 08, 2012

    This is a great little book with an excellent lesson for kids about helping others. It's told in the form of an illustrated poem which is easy to read aloud and will also engage children who are beginning to read alone. The only criticism I have is that the PDF formatting doesn't work as well as it could: it comes across a little plain and would have benefited from a nicer typeface and layout, but I think that's a limitation of the Smashwords automated formatting. However, even though poetry is always problematic on e-books, it works very well on Kindle Fire. It's also pretty good on my basic Kindle, even though it converts the illustrations to black and white. Well recommended, if a little pricy for a 20-page book.
  • No Acne - The Dermatologist way to clear skin. on June 01, 2012

    Acne affects almost everyone - 85% of people will suffer from it at some point in their lives, whether in their teenage years or later. This simple, easy to read book does four things really well. First, it explains what acne is and why you get it. Second, it dispels some of the common myths about acne. Third, it outlines the common treatments available, whether they're home remedies, OTC medicines, or require medical assistance. Fourth, and perhaps most important, it gives you a useful list of simple do's and don'ts. I didn't know, for example, that shaving in two directions can break the hairs and cause a spot, or that leaving the shaving gel on for a few minutes before shaving reduces the chances of folliculitis. Even changing your toothpaste can reduce the severity of acne. Well recommended.
  • Boscutti's Elvis Presley (Screenplay) on June 01, 2012

    A drugged-up Elvis decides to head to the White House, meet Nixon, and get a Federal Drug Agent's badge. It's a great piece of comedy, made even more bizarre by the fact that it's a true story! There's something tragi-comic about Elvis's behavior: the way he doesn't see a problem carrying his guns onto planes, and thinks it's reasonable to ask the pilot to divert a commercial flight for his personal convenience. It's obvious that his personal life is a total disaster, yet somehow, he gets away with it - a true larger than life character. This would definitely make a fun film, something like a cross between Catch Me If You Can and The Men Who Stare At Goats. However, it's already been done (Elvis Meets Nixon, 1997) - I haven't seen that version, but I'll certainly look for it.
  • Boscutti's John Harper (Screenplay) on June 26, 2012

    Most of Stefano Boscutti's work is laced with humor, albeit often a dark, grim, humor. This screenplay doesn't have any of that. It's a disturbing, nightmarish thriller about a psychopathic preacher and two young children. If you're anything of a film buff, you'll immediately recognize the plot from the classic Robert Mitchum movie, Night of the Hunter. What you may not realize is that the movie was based on a novel, and the novel was in turn based on the true story of the murderer Harry Powers, hanged in West Virginia in 1932. John Harper draws more fom the novel and the real events than it does from the 1955 film. This is something I always enjoy about Boscutti's work - his ability to find true events that really are stranger than fiction and make stories about them. Take a look at his Elvis Presley screenplay, for example, which is about Elvis going on an insane drug-fueled jaunt to visit Nixon. The dialog throughout is magnificent. It captures the period and the region perfectly, and the characters speak with an authentic voice. Boscutti doesn't go in for anything too complex: he just writes it like they'd say it, and as a result you can feel exactly what he's conveying. When you're reading it, see if you can get hold of a collection of Blind Willie Johnson recordings. Almost every scene uses music by the old blues master, and it'll give you an extra sense of the atmosphere if you can listen to John the Revelator or Bottles, Knives and Steel as you go. This is perhaps Boscutti's most powerful work to date. If they ever remake Night of the Hunter, this would be a good script to start from.
  • 2094 on July 20, 2012

    2094 is a strange story. On the one hand, it has elements of Brave New World, 1984, Brazil, and William Gibson; a future society where the goverment controls information ruthlessly, and where cyberspace is prevalent. Nobody travels any more; they simply transfer their mind into a remote robot and experience another place as though they were there. The story's about a man who revolts against the propaganda. So far, so good. On the other hand, it's a male sexual fantasy. To control the population, few women are born, and their sexuality is highly controlled. Men satisfy themselves with highly realistic fembots. This is where the story doesn't work for me. When our hero spends an evening with a real woman for the first time, all she wants to do is to drink beer, watch sports, and talk about sex with him. Oh, and cook him dinner. When she takes him on a trip to a virtual world where he could be anyone and do anything, what he does is to make himself a stunningly beautiful female avatar and think about having virtual lesbian sex with her at a nude beach party. When he goes away on business, the first woman he meets introduces him to a swingers' club. Really? I kept expecting to find out that all the so-called "real" women were actually fembots, programmed to cater to men's every desire. Social commentary, sci-fi sex. 2094 can't really make up its mind what it wants to be. I don't mind that so much. A lot of sci-fi from the 50s through to the 80s blended sex with sci-fi. However, to make it work, 2094 needs much better editing. Like many self-published works, it's got too many typos in, and on the Kindle3 there were irritating formatting errors due to Smashwords conversion issues (though not on other devices I checked). Most importantly, 2094 doesn't quite find its voice, and the characters seem shallow as a result. The plot is good, and the setting is interesting, but the story-telling isn't as slick as it needs to be.
  • Extraordinary Customer Service on Nov. 18, 2012

    "Extraordinary customer service is when the customer declares “Wow—that was great!” It’s the difference between a transactional experience and a transformational experience." This, in a nutshell, is what the book's about. These days, when you can buy what you need from thousands of suppliers, often just the click of a button away, the difference between them isn't price - it's service. People will tell each other when they've had a lousy experience with a company, and it doesn't take much to make small complaints go viral on Twitter or Facebook. It's harder to get them to say good stuff about you, but it can be done. Good service isn't enough - it has to be extraordinary. J.M. Enage tackles a topic that's very dear to me. For my entire working life, I've stressed how important it is to do your best for your customers. That's what gets them coming back and bringing new customers to them. It's not just about politeness - it's about integrity and honest service. Two of his observations in particular resonated with me and the way I like to work: 1. Not bouncing from a mistake. When you mess up (and, let's face it, we all do), face up to it, and then deal with the problem honestly and rapidly. It may hurt, but it hurts a lot less than trying to make excuses (even if they're true) or fob your customers off with second-rate service. 2. Not recommending unnecessary work. It may mean a short-term loss of profits, but it builds long-term relationship and reputation. Packed with examples and well laid out lists, Enage's book is one that should be read by business owners, entrepreneurs, investors, and anyone who works directly with customers. If you can "go the extra mile" to transform your customers' experience with you from good to great, you'll transform your business.
  • Quantum Love: Twin Flames - Myth or Reality? on Dec. 02, 2012

    This book really resonated with me on a deep, personal level. A few years ago, I experienced for myself what it was to find your twin soul, and so I found myself relating intimately to many of the examples and themes Dr Cha~zay Sandhriel covers. As she points out, it's not a checklist to determine if you've met the right person. If you're not sure, then they're probably not. What I found most fascinating was the number of examples she gives of people finding their divine twin in another country, and how people had to make the decision to uproot themselves from everyone and everything they knew in order to be with the right person. I did that - and I know of many others who've been through the same thing. When you meet that person, you'll do literally anything to be with them, and the chances are you won't find them in your own neighborhood or in your normal circle of childhood friends and work colleagues. It's an interesting blend between science and metaphysics. I don't agree with all of her teachings, but I do like the way she approaches the difference between twin souls and soul mates: you can have a great relationship with someone, but that doesn't necessarily make them your twin soul. And, perhaps most importantly, she stresses that your divine partner does not "make you complete." If you feel incomplete, you can't provide what you need to sustain a relationship of that intensity. The only real issue I have with the book is that it definitely felt as though Cha~zay Sandhriel is speaking to women more than men. She does address some chapters to men, but the bulk of the book feels much more oriented to women. And, despite her note to the contrary in the beginning, it's definitely geared towards heterosexuals with the emphasis on the partnership of masculine and feminine energy. That's not a criticism, just an observation about the author's point of view. It's refreshing to see comments like "Men give gifts all day, but they go unnoticed. They can be as small and seemingly insignificant as holding a door or pulling out a chair," but to me, this emphasizes that men are "they" and women are the primary audience. Readers should also be aware that there's a lot of material about spiritual sexuality. Cha~zay doesn't shy away from talking about this - not in a tantric sex or salacious way, but more in the sense of being aware of how sex and love are related, and understanding issues like celibacy.