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The Medici Iris: A Tale of Murder, Sex, Drugs...and Horticulture
The Medici Iris: A Tale of Murder, Sex, Drugs...and Horticulture
by Max Medford
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.99
17 used & new from $12.21

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A truly excellent adventure - The Medici Iris, July 8, 2013
In my early 20s I went through a period of boredom. I was dying for something out of the ordinary to happen. Typically, college and dating would be enough to keep things exciting, but I'd been living in a nice little suburban bubble for my entire life. I was craving some intrigue...something unknown. Comic books, movies, and episodes of The Twilight Zone and Amazing Stories strove to stimulate what I convinced myself was a stagnant existence. Eventually, here and there, things started to happen. Nothing earth shattering, but occasionally, some random amusing s*** went down and inspired me to write about it, although it was nothing quite as cool and bizarre as what happened to fellow Jersey guy Wes Barino in Max Medford's first novel, The Medici Iris.

During the the time I spent with this book, I got a few "what are you reading?" inquiries. Thinking of how to sum this book up and provide an answer to that was a bit of a challenge, but all I had to do was look right there at the bottom of page one: "A tale of murder, sex, drugs...and horticulture." If that's not enough of a description, here's a few key words for you:

Beer, bar trivia games, organized crime, drugs, mysterious monks, strippers, corrupt cops, and crimson colored flowers. More than enough to elicit your attention I gather.

The characters Medford embroils into these exploits feel familiar. From the get go, we become acquainted with Wes Barino, our chain smokin', sub makin' main character. Right away I put myself in his shoes and even though he's supposed to be twenty-something, I pretended he was thirty-something. Wes drives an old Chrysler LeBaron, a detail that I got a kick out of since that was my first car. He's also a master at the bar trivia game, Quiztouch, a diversion that he's perfected at a nearby Houlihan's while drinking with his best friend, Scott, who trolls the establishment for women.

To me, Scott wasn't as likable as some classic best friends like Stiles from Teen Wolf for instance. I always use that comparison, even though Stiles was occasionally kind of a douche as well. I pictured Scott to be played by Kevin Connolly a.k.a "E" from HBO's Entourage, sort of annoying, tries too hard, but a fiercely loyal friend. Scott, who drives an IROC, usually goes a little overboard and he's clearly a bad influence on Wes, who usually keeps his nose clean, well, not always.

You'll be able to relate to Medford's real dialogue, especially between Wes and Scott. Their banter sounds like it might have been transcribed from a conversation you had while hanging out with your friend the other night.

It comes to Wes and Scott's attention that the Quiztouch game is holding a grand competition to determine the national champion of the game in Texas. Before the big championship, they'll hold a regional tournament to see who advances. Wes enters. It's a chance for him to do something that he's really good at while possibly winning a small jackpot. And as Clark Griswold once said "Getting there is half the fun, you know that!" Since I think of everything in film terms, the quest to get to the big game tournament reminded me of "Video Armageddon" in 1989's The Wizard.

Before Wes and Scott embark on their quest, there's a whole load of other drama going on. Wes has to deal with his on-again off-again girlfriend who's made up of Italian stereotypes, Sam, but he can't keep his mind off her. She thinks Wes needs to quit the sub shop and do something more worthwhile with his life. Then there's also his sister who's having issues of her own with her husband who's a cop keeping tabs on Wes. As if that's not enough, there's mysterious messages forming on her fridge. Oh and one more, Wes has an enigmatic flower growing in his yard that is devouring his attention.

Wes can barely focus on all this stuff, but the Quiztouch competition requires ultimate mental sharpness. Piling on even more tension, Wes has been having weird blackouts which have him visiting the doctor. It can't seem to get much crazier until Wes and Scott get appointed delivery boys. They are bestowed with the precarious task of making a drop-off of a mysterious, locked duffel bag on their journey.

Geographical details of The Medici Iris obviously provide a nice frame of reference if you're from Jersey or even have a loose knowledge of it from seeing it on TV. Naturally, for a Jersey freak like me, the Garden State backdrop made me feel even more like I was right there with Wes and his buddy Scott in the book. The duo traverses New Jersey from Montclair and Newark all the way down to the Pine Barrens. The NJ newspaper, The Star Ledger, is also makes a few prominent appearances.

Also a regional thing, the usage of Sub/Hoagie in vernacular gets brought up. Personally, I've never actually heard anyone refer to a sub sandwich as a hoagie, but one of our convenience store chains, WaWa, which happens to be represented in the book, sells these sandwiches under the guise of Hoagies, NOT subs. I give them a pass because they make decent subs, even though they're clearly weirdos. What's weirder, one customer at the sub-shop in the book refers to a sub as a "grinder," and is appropriately scolded for it.

I had no idea what to expect The Medici Iris, especially since the plot synopsis sounded all over the place. I found myself tearing through the book just to see how the hell it was going to come together. I wasn't frustrated by all the twists, turns, and red herrings in the least, in fact, they enticed me even more. Medford methodically builds a mondo amount of suspense as the story ascends to it's rousing finale. All the while ancillary thrills and mini cliffhangers provide a lot fun along the way. Even after the first 50 pages I wasn't entirely sure where the book was taking me, but all I knew was that it was amusing and I thoroughly enjoyed the story that's constructed like a wild mouse roller coaster.

The Medici Iris satisfied my desire for "something cool to happen," while allowing me to stay out of trouble altogether. If you read this book you might wind up asking yourself "why can't this stuff happen to me?" Wes and Scott ran into a few of those surreal experiences - the kind of times where you feel like they may not really be happening, so you have to pinch yourself. Competently, Medford's intertwining plot unfolds in a similar way to an Elmore Leonard crime novel or in films like 1994's Pulp Fiction and 1999's Go, and even the slacker masterpiece Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle.

The style of the adventure incorporated stream of consciousness and it felt very cinematic. If you're a fan of films like 1985's After Hours and Into the Night, you'll dig this. While I definitely recommend this book to my fellow New Jerseyans, I also say that if you have an insatiable desire for never-ending stories, fantastic voyages, and excellent adventures, I suggest you read The Medici Iris. It may change the way you look at stuff.

Drinking with Strangers: Music Lessons from a Teenage Bullet Belt
Drinking with Strangers: Music Lessons from a Teenage Bullet Belt
by Butch Walker
Edition: Hardcover
37 used & new from $2.99

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pull Up a Stool and Have Drink With Butch Walker, October 26, 2011
Maybe the cover of Butch Walker's new book should've depicted a name plate that reads BUTCH WALKER: ROCK AND ROLL CHAMELEON. Who's Butch Walker, you ask? Really? Do I still have to explain that one? One way or another, chances are you know Butch Walker. He's reinvented himself more times than Madonna. He's gone from hairband member in Southgang, lead singer and guitarist in late '90s rock band Marvelous 3, an accomplished producer for the likes of Weezer, Katy Perry, Pink, and Avril Lavigne, to at the present moment, "just under the radar" indie rocker. If you're becoming acquainted with Butch Walker now, it will only take reading the 253 page Drinking with Strangers Music Lessons From a Teenage Bullet Belt, a book he wrote with Matt Diehl, to feel like you've known him forever.

Butch Walker's brief memoir does not recount explicitly epic rock star stories as printed in The Dirt or The Heroin Diaries. Perhaps Lifestyles of the Excessive and Eccentric is a more appropriate title for books about the lives of rock stars, but don't expect to read about week long benders from Butch, unless they involve songwriting. Occasionally he recalls messing around with a couple of girls, or drinking way too much, but it's not comparable to the exploits of Motley Crue. As much as he tries distancing himself from the hairband era, the best parts of the book turn out to be descriptions of random moments in his life, coincidentally with members of Motley Crue. For instance, the time he took a reckless helicopter excursion with his friend Tommy Lee. Walker even reveals a time he hung out with the Cruemaster himself, Nikki Sixx, and discovered just how over the top his lifestyle is. Walker's obsessive desire to be a better musician, songwriter, and producer has, for the most part, kept him from falling into the usual rock and roll indulgences.

My one main annoyance in the book was Walker's constant name dropping of Pink. We get it Butch, you're friends with Pink! Walker and Pink are friends and have worked together on music, but he tells us more about his relationship with Pink than anything about his actual wife and mother of his child, Nora. The most we learned about Nora is that she is a heavy sleeper. He rarely, if ever, gushed about his young son, although he did express how overwhelming it would be if he had lost them in the devastating wildfire that took his home California a few years back.

Even if Butch's career didn't go exactly the way he planned it, he's never given up. He's now considered a true songwriter and musician and it's taken over 20 years of hard work to gain that recognition. Aspiring musicians should use this book as a guide; it may change how they approach their career. Walker points out that if you can attain just enough success it will provide the ability to be creatively free, independent, and even financially secure enough to avoid kowtowing to major label bull. It seems to me that Butch should be more appreciative of his first taste of success - the hairband days, but he's way too in love with the present moment to waste time looking back.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 31, 2011 6:53 AM PDT

C.C. and Company
C.C. and Company
DVD ~ Joe Namath
Price: $5.69
27 used & new from $1.70

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars C.C & Company Review, June 8, 2010
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: C.C. and Company (DVD)
In his leisure time while not hawking pantyhose and tossing footballs around, Broadway Joe Namath actually starred in a few movies. One of his most memorable in my estimation is C.C & Company (1970) in which he plays, C.C, carefree biker who just wants to ride and enjoy himself.

C.C is the good guy who finds himself at odds with fellow members of his own former biker gang "The Heads" because of his attraction to the the extremely, unimaginably, sensuous, sexy, hot journalist, Ann (Ann Margaret.) During the film, C.C makes his move from biker gang member extraoirdinare to motocross competitor, it was quite a transition.

I expected to dislike Joe Namath in this movie since I figured he must be a big dopey football jock who wanted to become an actor, but I didn't. It's not unheard of nowadays for guys such as Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson to launch a successful film career. For others like Brian Bosworth, life hasn't been as fortunate. Joe Namath actually wasn't too bad in this film. He was natural and likeable and that pleasantly surprised me. Did I mention that Ann Margaret was in it? And Sig Haig? You know...good ol' Captain Spaulding!

The real star could be considered C.C's chopper which was a freakin' beautiful machine. I'm going to wager that at least half of you probably want to vomit when you look at his zebra bike pattern and helmet, but this is the exact shlocky kinda paint job that I love. It's simple, memorable, and it wound up being very popular in the '80s. Heck, it was even used on a popular pant line in the '90s. Big ups to Zubaz.

The film starts to take a bit of a twist going from what I thought to be a silly off the wall '70s movie to a guy stepping up and rescuing his girl from the evil clutches of his former biker gang. So if you're into stuff like kidnapping, brawling, hot half naked chicks, and bike races then C.C and Company is the film for you. It must also be said that there's at least 2 or 3 pretty exciting bike races. The end of the film doesn't drag or get corny, it accomplishes it's goal. I'd say that if you aren't a fan of bikes or motorcycle culture you probably wouldn't enjoy it as much. Look out for the finale where the rivals face off in a chopper race around a school track

Ride Your Life
Ride Your Life

4.0 out of 5 stars Toxic Heart's "Ride Your Life" Brings You Back, March 25, 2010
This review is from: Ride Your Life (MP3 Music)
How many of your favorite rock bands hail from Slovenia? If you answered "none," then TOXIC HEART is about to become your first. Their debut album "Ride Your Life" sounds like a modern version of THE SCORPIONS and GORKY PARK fused together with pop metal bands like POISON and WARRANT. I admit, I have a soft spot for TOXIC HEART's type of sound, but I haven't been overwhelmed by bands who have attempted creating new music in this style, so I was rooting for "Ride Your Life" to sway my opinion.

For an instant trip back to a more fun time in your life, all you need to do is listen to the opener "Ticket." On this track, TOXIC HEART makes cliched old school hair band lyrics like "get ready, this will be a wild night..." sound fresh. They're exposing this genre of music to a whole new international audience, and continuing the genre of pop metal without being corny or poking fun at it.

There's a positive, and energized vibe on "Ride Your Life" that radiates throughout its tracks. If you're looking for something dark or just different, go elsewhere because there's a familiar sensibility to TOXIC HEART and that's actually what makes them great. The fact that they can breathe new life into a genre that was pronounced dead nearly 20 years ago is enough to make them stand out without having to break too much new ground. "Ride Your Life" succeeds because it's songs are so well constructed, lively, and fun to listen to.

During the title track, "Ride Your Life," I pictured myself driving down a highway on a hot sunny day with the windows down and I could feel the wind blowing in my face. Packed with a catchy hook and a fine guitar solo, it's a quintessential melodic rock song. Also, on one of the albums harder tracks, "Big Time" is pumped with adrenaline as Mike's huge guitar riff skyrocketed through my speakers. It's a bit reminiscent of VELVET REVOLVER's "Set Me Free," and it made my arm sore from fist pumping for the entire duration of two minutes and fifty-six seconds.

Except for the mediocre filler track "Eyes of a Broken Man," all the songs on "Ride Your Life" stuck in my head, even the ones that I normally can do without...the love songs! Just listen to a few seconds of "Love is For Fools" and "The One" and you might think they were huge hits in the '80s. The soaring harmonies on these tracks are infectious and Axl's superb vocals sound like he's been a rock singer for 20 years.

TOXIC HEART doesn't get very angry, but on the all out assault "One Night Stand" they come very close. This track puts a girl in her place who thinks she's more than just a fling, but boy is she wrong! In the same vein, "Makin' Me Bad" is a great representation of how much the '80s rock era influenced TOXIC HEART. Even the love song, "Baby," is not lacking in the hard rock department. The track kicks off with a standard guitar riff and mellow beat that eventually merges with the chorus to lift the track up to the next level.

As impressive as it is to release a CD with only one or two duds, the crunching final track "Like The Way I Feel," left me sharing the same sentiment. Mogy, the bands former drummer, (who has since been replaced by GG) is the guy responsible for the albums pounding drum sound which adds a significant edge to TOXIC HEART's tunes, especially the final track.

Fans of melodic hard rock and pop metal will devour TOXIC HEART's debut. It left me waiting impatiently for their follow up. So, if the fact that the majority of these tracks could have easily enjoyed huge success on MTV back in the late '80s turns you on, then "Ride Your Life" should become an essential part of your music collection.

Green Lantern: First Flight [Blu-ray]
Green Lantern: First Flight [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Lauren Montgomery
Price: $8.99
42 used & new from $3.64

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Green Lantern First Flight on Blu Ray - A Must Own, August 4, 2009
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
As a kid in the early '80s, I knew all the major DC characters, but I was only submerged in the worlds of Batman and Superman because of their wild popularity. Since then, the world of comic books and heroes have finally infiltrated the mainstream and it's become much easier to delve deeper into the mythos of your favorite character.

Being able to watch an entire animated film about The Green Lantern is unbelieveable, not to mention the fact that it's on BLU-RAY! The success of the DC animated films is directly attributed to their quality production. Every aspect of the film is nearly perfect including the voice acting, the lush animation, and the packaging.

As with all the DC animated films thus far, the acting talent is carefully chosen. Christopher Meloni IS the Green Lantern. Even though he's one of my favorites, it's going to be difficult to to adjust to Ryan Reynolds after hearing Meloni do such a fantastic job at capturing Hal Jordan's occasionally rebellious and saracastic tones. It was great to hear BSG's Tricia Helfer and That '70s Show Kurtwood Smith, among plenty of other stars. GL: First Flight also includes the voice talent of Michael Madsen (Kilowog), Olivia D'abo, and John Larroquette.

The film combines comic book action and mixes in a little sci-fi, which satisfied the Star Wars geek in me. If you enjoyed the animated films Superman Doomsday, and Wonder Woman, I guarantee you will love this just as much. And as I mentioned, I was only a casual fan of Green Lantern before watching this film, but all it takes is one viewing and you'll consider yourself a fan. This is the best way to indoctrinate yourself into the Green Lantern universe. You'll witness the origin of Sinestro and how the Lantern and power rings function, which I was always a bit fuzzy about.

It's easy to wonder why some of the other DC characters haven't been exploited like this, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time. Green Lantern First Flight will get you primed for the upcoming live action film, so I highly recommend making it part of your collection.

Allow me to use my ring to create a big green thumbs up to DCU and WB!

No Title Available

4.0 out of 5 stars Bon Jovi Tattoo Logo Lounge Pants, September 8, 2008
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
You might want to find these Bon Jovi lounge pants in the female version and give a pair to your girlfriend. Then they'll be able to sleep with Bon Jovi every night. You'll score major points.

Price: $8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 1969 - Maya Review, April 26, 2008
This review is from: Maya (MP3 Music)
If you're even reading these reviews that means you're part of a fiercely loyal cult of fans who obsess and snort up everything Butch Walker. It's been said a million times that Walker is one of the most talented artists and producers anywhere. You can just google his name for more info. His latest record is with a band called 1969 which includes some of his bandmates from his touring band, "The Let's Go Out Tonites." If you're expecting a sunny, 70's type feel to the music then you'll be quite surprised. "Maya" is an album that stands up as music for the present time but while listening you can tell that this is the type of rock that will hold up years to come. Other reviewers have compared this CD to U2, and the Killers. You Butch fans will enjoy this album although it's not as "Butchy" as you may want it to be. As it compares to the last 3 Butch solo efforts, it's a very different sound. Either way, Butch is in top form and you'll still hear his stroke of genius all over this music. It's amazing to realize that Marvelous 3 was considered alternative rock and now many years later 1969 is considered the same and their sounds aren't similar at all. Any way you slice it, this is another must have for Butch fans. For me the standout tracks are "Wreck Me," "Wednesday," "Ready to Explode," and their excellent cover of James' "Laid."

Arrested Development: The Complete Series (Seasons 1-3 Bundle)
Arrested Development: The Complete Series (Seasons 1-3 Bundle)
DVD ~ Jason Bateman
Offered by I Zerbert U
Price: $59.99
9 used & new from $24.24

5.0 out of 5 stars Arrested Development Seasons 1 - 3, March 28, 2008
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
The Funniest, most well written Comedy Ever to Air on Television. Amazon is offering all 3 seasons of the show for a steal in my opinion. If you've never experienced Arrested Development you're truly missing out. This show had a SUPER talented cast, a quick pace, outrageous storylines, and Ron Howard as the narrator! I strongly urge you to buy all three seasons and pop them in immediately, you won't regret it. You'll want to watch them all without me! This show is priceless so 45 bucks for the entire run is a great buy.

CytoSport Muscle Milk Naturals, Natural Vanilla, 2.47 Pound
CytoSport Muscle Milk Naturals, Natural Vanilla, 2.47 Pound
Price: $27.89
14 used & new from $27.89

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Muscle Milk Natural Vanilla Creme, March 28, 2008
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I often break out the blender and mix up a protein shake with fruit, milk, ice and Muscle Milk. It's a good addition to the mix because it has a ton of vitamins and helps you gain lean muscle. Protein powders and shake mixes aren't always great tasting but Muscle Milk has made some really delicious varieties recently. I've tried the chocolate and chocolate peanut butter and they were enjoyable. As a fan of all things Vanilla, I figured the Vanilla Creme Muscle Milk would be right up my alley. I was wrong. There's not much of a natural or "creme" taste to it at all. In fact, the Vanilla taste is almost absent it's not definitive in any way. It's not horrible but if you're looking for a traditional vanilla flavored mix, then you might want to look at another brand. The only real positive thing I can say about this product is that it works well if you're looking to mix fruit or anything else because it's flavor isn't overpowering. I doubt you would want to mix alot of fruit with a chocolate peanut butter powder!

The Goonies Set of 5 Action Figures
The Goonies Set of 5 Action Figures

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mezco Toys Goonies Action Figures!, December 15, 2007
I can't believe what a good job MEZCO toys did with these Goonies action figures. They are amazingly accurate to their film counterparts and their accessories are well done. Mikey comes with his inhaler, Mouth his comb, and Chunk his pizza/milkshake among other accessories. Sloth is a huge, heavy figure and is made to scale. Buy the entire set because these are already huge collectors items. My only hope is that they release the Inferno pirate ship, Brandon, and Andi, etc.

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