Archive for books

My High Fantasy Month 2014 wrap up

Posted in books with tags , , , on July 3, 2014 by Paxton

If you’ve been listening to my Nerd-to-Dos on Nerd Lunch the last month or so then you know I’ve been in the middle of what I was calling High Fantasy Month.

high_fantasy

The idea for this is that for an entire month I would read a bunch of “sword and sorcery” books. High fantasy is not really a genre I read. I’m not sure why, but I just don’t. So there’s several popular and famous series I’ve never tackled like The Wheel of Time, The Sword of Shannara and the Sword of Truth.  I’ve read a few, most notably Tolkien’s The Hobbit, Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley and The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King, but as a whole, I just don’t really dip into the kings and knights sagas very often.

Well, I happened upon a pretty cheap copy of Sword of Shannara at a library sale so I thought, why don’t I make a fantasy reading marathon out of this? So I gathered a few other fantasy books I had lying around my TBR pile and made a reading schedule and started reading the first book on May 19. As of this week, I think I’m ending the first iteration of High Fantasy Month. I’ll do it again, but I want to move on to another genre. I don’t normally stick with one genre like this for so many books and I think I’m getting genre weary. I’m ready to read an action or sci-fi book now.

Here are some quick reviews of the high fantasy books I read this time out.


The First Book of Swords (1983) – Fred Saberhagen – I actually have all three of the original books in one giant omnibus edition.  But I only read the first book.  It’s good.  Saberhagen is a really good genre writer and he’s created a fascinating world with this series.  I’d definitely continue the story about 12 swords created by the god Vulcan and passed out to mortals.  Each sword has a different, terrific power.  The swords become lost for years but are eventually discovered and some unsavory characters do everything they can to get their hands on all 12 swords.  I’ve reviewed two of Saberhagen’s other books before, one was a sequel to Bram Stoker’s Dracula and one was a sequel to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.


Born to Exile (1977) – Phyllis Eisenstein – Book 1 in the Tales of Alaric the minstrel.  I discovered this book while reading about inspirations for Steven Gould’s Jumper books (click the link and check out the See Also section on Wikipedia). The book is about a traveling minstrel who discovers he has the ability to teleport.  It’s an interesting book in that Alaric is really the only consistent thread throughout the story which features essentially Alaric in a series of vignettes where he tries to not use his power, winds up using it, and then gets banned (or exiled) for using it.  It’s a fun light read that I really enjoyed.

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Making 7 Literary Classics More AWESOME

Posted in books, Classic literature with tags , , , , , , , on February 26, 2014 by Paxton

Bad Ass Book Report

I’m a reader. I love to read. And I sometimes enjoy reading classic literature. However, some of the old stuff is just flat out boring as balls.  I mean, have you actually read Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Frank Norris’ McTeague or anything by James Joyce?  Snoozeville.  Population…YOU.  I had to read those in high school and I needed to drink a case of Jolt Cola to get through just one chapter.

So, being the helpful guy that I am, I thought I’d take some boring classics you may have had to read in high school and college and make them better.  More AWESOME.  And easier to read.

So now, here are seven ways to make classic literature a lot more AWESOME. You are welcome, literature.

Don Corleone Quixote
Don Corleone Quixote – Old guard crime boss Don Corleone Quixote sets up shop in an old windmill with trusty right hand man Pancha.

Little Haunted House on the Prairie
Little Haunted House on the Prairie – A family is brutally murdered in their secluded old farm house.  Twenty years later, an unsuspecting couple purchases the old farm house looking for a serene retreat from their hectic lives only to find skin crawling terror and wheelbarrows of blood.

Grapes of Wrath of Khan
The Grapes of Wrath of Khan – The Joad family pick up a hitchhiker on their way to California.  Little do they know their new addition is a genetically enhanced super being from the future looking to overthrow and rule the human race.  Wackiness ensues.

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Year End Book Report: The Best Books I Read in 2013

Posted in Batman, books, comic books, movies, pop culture with tags , , , , , , on January 10, 2014 by Paxton

Year End Badass Book Report

How did this happen!?  It’s that time of year again where I pick my favorite books of the year?  Is 2013 over already?  WTF?!  Time is just flying by.  My son is 3, my daughter is 1 and I’m writing the fifth in my series of year end book reports.  THAT. IS. COCONUTS.

Anyway, if you’ve read this article in the past you know I keep my book log online.  Here’s the link to my Book Log on Google Spreadsheet.  There are tabs for every year since 2007.  Take a look on the 2013 tab and you  can see that I read 58 books/comics/graphic novels this year.  That’s way low compared to 2012 in which I read 80 books/comics/graphic novels.  However, having two kids will do that to you.  Those totals include not only books I read for the first time but anything I re-read for the second (or more) time.  For the list below, though, I’ll only take into account books I read for the first time in 2013.

And I actually have FOUR books on this list that were released in 2013.  That may be a personal record.

Below you will find, first, my list of favorite books and following that my list of favorite comic books/graphic novels.  Enjoy.

Books


Impulse (Jumper Book 3) – Steven Gould – I talked about this series on the Nerd Lunch podcast last year and I sort of reviewed the first two books on the blog back in 2009.  I enjoyed the movie for what it was but it led me to the books which were published first.  And the books are excellent.  There are three of them; the original Jumper from 1992, the 2004 sequel, Reflex, and then this third book which was released early 2013.  All three books are excellent, but you’ll need to read the first two before reading this book.  There’s a lot of continuity that flows throughout the books.  Oh, and if you hated the movie, don’t worry, other than sharing a few of the same characters, the stories are completely different between the two.  Just a warning, though, there is another “Jumper” book by Steven Gould called Jumper: Griffin’s Story.  That book is not really a part of this series, it’s a part of the movie series.  Confusing? Yes, but that’s the way it is.  Read my blog review above for a little bit more explanation.  All that aside, this is a fun read that I thoroughly enjoyed.  And hopefully we don’t have to wait 10 years for another Jumper book.


The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastards Book 1) (2006) – Scott Lynch – I forget how I first stumbled across this book, I think it was while I was searching the store on my Nook.  I was intrigued by the title and the premise. It’s somewhat like an Ocean’s 11 con man/heist story but set in a fantasy world.  Hard to explain, but the book is extremely well written, has a great world built up within and interesting, smart and dangerous characters.  Gun to my head, I would probably put this as my favorite book of the year.  Just really fun and well written.  I recently bought the sequel, Red Seas Under Red Skies, with holiday money and I’m eyeballing the third book, The Republic of Thieves, which came out in Oct 2013.  Lynch also plans a series of novellas based within this world.  If you like smartly written, character based fantasy with a nice helping of action, this book is for you.


Star Wars: Scoundrels (2013) – Timothy Zahn – Timothy Zahn is one of the best Star Wars EU writers. He wrote the Zahn Trilogy as well as the awesome books Star Wars: Allegiance and Star Wars: Outbound Flight (which made my favorites list in 2010).  This is a Han Solo adventure that also happens to include Chewie, of course, and Lando.  And it’s great.  I honestly hope that when Disney makes the Han Solo stand alone movie, they use this as the blueprint.  It takes place right after the first Death Star is blown up in the original Star Wars: A New Hope. Han gathers a team of expert con men and thieves in order to steal a priceless piece of art from a Black Sun boss.  Han hopes the proceeds from the job will free him of his debt to Jabba.  Lots of well written, fun dialogue and heist action.  There’s also a short story prequel to this book called Star Wars: Winner Lose All that focuses on what Lando is doing right before the actual book. It, too, is a lot of fun.


Star Wars: Kenobi (2013) – John Jackson-Miller – Oh wow, two Star Wars books get to make my list this year. Yay!  This book was very highly anticipated by myself.  I’ve said for years that a movie or book based on Obi-Wan’s “Tatooine Years” would be amazing.  When Disney was throwing out the stand alone movie ideas I said Ewan McGregor as Kenobi should get one.  And this book should be the basis.  It takes place just after Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.  Obi-Wan has dropped off Luke to the Lars Homestead and he’s setting up base in the Judland Wastes and starts getting acquainted with the denizens of a small moisture farming town who are being attacked by Tusken Raiders.  Great book.  Check it out.

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A review of L Frank Baum’s The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus (1902)

Posted in books with tags , , , , , , on December 23, 2013 by Paxton

Following the Yellow Brick Road

In 1902, just two years after writing The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, but 2 years before the first Oz sequel, L Frank Baum wrote The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. It was illustrated by Mary Cowles Clark.

Life and Adv of Santa Claus cover

This was Baum’s attempt to tell the origin of Santa Claus and explain the beginnings and reasons for all of our different beliefs and practices around Christmas time. It was a very ambitious undertaking.  But Baum does it in his usual dreamy, fairy tale-like manner and, for the most part, it works.

Baum sets up the world by describing all the magical immortal creatures that oversee various aspects of Nature.  We see creatures such as Fairies who watch over humans, Wood Nymphs who watch over forests, Gnomes who watch over the rocks and Ryls and Knooks who watch over the flowers and animals, respectively (along with many other creatures I’ll not name).  All of these creatures are presided over by the Great Woodsman, Ak.

One day Ak stumbles upon a lost child and allows a Wood Nymph, Necile, to adopt him.  Necile names him Neclaus (Nicolas).  Santa is raised by these magical, immortal creatures in the forest until Ak decided Claus must learn more about his own people and takes him on a trip into the human world.  Santa is shocked and frustrated by the wars, greed, child neglect and child abuse he witnesses.  Ak encourages him to not forsake the mortals as he is one of them.  Santa decides to do something about what he’s seen.

Santa moves to the nearby Laughing Valley where all the magical creatures help him build a workshop and get him started making toys.  The idea Baum posits here is that toys don’t currently exist.  Santa invents them when he makes his first toy which then transfixes the children.  So he continues to do it and his operation becomes bigger and bigger as he tries to help more and more children.

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I visited Barnes & Noble for Star Wars Reads Day with my son

Posted in books, movies, Star Wars with tags , , , , , on December 12, 2013 by Paxton

Star Wars Roadtrip

My 3 year old has been slowly getting into the concept of Star Wars. He hasn’t seen any of the movies, he just knows some of the characters because he has several books I read to him at night featuring the more popular ones. Not surprisingly, he gravitates to the more visually interesting ones; Darth Vader, Darth Maul, Chewbacca, Boba Fett, Yoda, etc. And, of course, he loves lightsabers.

So, back in early October, when I saw that our local Barnes & Noble store celebrated Star Wars Reads Day with costumed characters, book readalongs and lots of fun activities, I knew I had to take PJ.  He already loves Barnes & Noble, but to go there and see Darth Vader?  Yeah, this had to happen.

Star Wars Reads Day sign

We got there around 11:30am and there were several costumed characters. First PJ and I got a pic with one of my favorite types of stormtroopers, the Biker Scout.

Biker Scout

PJ was a little shy at first seeing these giant, life size representations of the characters in his book, but he was sort of giggling with happiness as well.

Next we saw a Sandtrooper.

Stormtrooper

And then finally, the man himself. Darth Vader.

Darth Vader

PJ was in Heaven at this point. He loved Vader. Later on he would walk up to Vader and the other stormtroopers and tell them that “his name is PJ”. So cute.

There was only one character PJ was actively afraid of.  That was the Jawa.  I don’t think he’d ever even seen a Jawa before, so it scared him.  Consequently, he wouldn’t get a picture with it.  However, afterwards, that’s the one he asked the most questions about.  He wanted to know more about the Jawa.

Whenever we’ve gone back to Barnes & Noble after this, he asks if Darth Vader and the Jawa are going to be there.  He also has been showing lots of interest in my Star Wars figures.  I have a bunch of loose ones on display upstairs as well as a bunch stored away in plastic divider boxes.  I’ve given him about 4 figures to play with; a stormtrooper, Darth Vader, Darth Maul and The Emperor.  He also wants a Boba Fett really bad, but I don’t actually have one at the house except for a vintage one that is on display.  I’ll have to dig into my stored boxes to find one.

I can’t wait until he can actually see these movies.  I’ll probably show them to him sometime in 2015 right before the new Disney Star Wars movie is released.  He’ll be five.  I think that’ll be PERFECT.

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