Archive for Harry Potter

Year End Book Report: The Best Books I Read in 2017

Posted in books, comic books, movies, pop culture, Star Wars with tags , , , , , , on January 3, 2018 by Paxton

Year End Badass Book Report

Man, 2017.  That was a RIDE.  Kind of crazy it’s over.  But one good thing we get out of it is another of my semi-famous year end round up articles.

My book/movie logs have sort of gone through an upheaval the last two years. Back in 2008-2009ish I first put them up on Google Spreadsheet. Then, in 2016, I converted over to an online database tool called Airtable. I *really* liked the features and functionality of Airtable plus their iOS app was pretty slick.  However, I found out in early 2017 that the free version of Airtable only holds so many rows of data and that I had just busted up against the ceiling with both of my movie/book log databases.  If I wanted more, I’d have to pay.  Not willing to do that for these logs I once again searched for a replacement and wound up taking another look at Google Spreadsheet.  I decided to see if I could mimic some of the Airtable functionality in Google.  I was partially successful.  Through some fancy custom cell formatting, template sheet data validation and a little bit of script writing I was able to punch up the usefulness of my original Google Spreadsheets logs.  so I created a brand new spreadsheet, called it Book Log v2 and reimported all my data.  Now I have a visually nice representation of the books I read throughout the year including some cell highlighting for the current year and my rating system.  Here’s a quick look at the Book Log v2 in Google.

Book Log v2

All of this maneuvering and formatting is to make articles like this year end list easier to do.  So, let’s get on with it.

The rules, this list contains 5 books and 5-ish comics that I read for the first time in 2017.  No re-reads.  That particular rule really hampered the amount of books I could pick from because I did a lot of re-reads this year.  I’m re-reading the Artemis Fowl series and I did a few Star Wars re-reads this year so my “new to me” books in 2017 were much lower than usual.  But the comics were *also* hard to pick because I read a ton of them this year and there were some stellar entries.  So let’s see what I decide.  I don’t even know myself as I’m typing this.

Books


The Reckoners Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson – I picked up the first two books of this series on a lark in an Amazon sale for super cheap. I was aware of the author having already read one of his other more famous works, Mistborn, which made this list back in 2015. These books sounded interesting, sort of a dystopian future involving super heroes.  Several years before the books begin, a red sun called Calamity appears in the sky and causes certain people to gain powers.  These people are called Epics.  There are different levels of Epics based on the strength of their power profile.  Unfortunately, when someone gains powers and they start to use them, they change.  They become meaner.  More vain.  Paranoid.  It causes the Epics to essentially take over the world and create little fiefdoms in the larger cities.  The books follow a small resistance group called The Reckoners that work behind the scenes to undermine and even kill the worst of the Epics.
So I read the first two books, then there was a short story Sanderson wrote set in this world called Mitosis that I read, and I finally picked up the third and final book in the series and finished it all this year.  One of Sanderson’s strengths is world building.  He creates these super interesting worlds that work like our world but are different in many interesting ways.  Mistborn was the same way.  Just watching the mechanics of these books’ worlds happen is fascinating and he builds interesting characters in both regular humans and Epics.  So, this series is a winner.  Definitely give it a shot.


George Washington’s Secret Six by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger – I love reading hyper focused history books involving little known tidbits of US history, especially in the revolutionary war period.  I know the Culper Ring was a hot topic for a while leading to this book, a TV show, and also a fictional thriller series by Brad Meltzer which all revolve around the secretive spy organization (side note: I’ve read that fictional thriller, it’s called Inner Circle and it’s pretty good, if a bit long).  This book is a pretty great condensed history of the Revolutionary War that mostly focuses on the real life exploits of Washington’s Culper Spy Ring and it reveals who all was in the ring and what they risked and sacrificed to be a spy during the Revolutionary War.  It’s totally engaging and I really loved it.  I’m now very interested in reading more of Kilmeade/Yaeger’s history books.  The next book involves Thomas Jefferson and Tripoli Pirates.


Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling – I decided I wanted to read this book but I also realized it had been a few years since I’d read the original series in full, so I decided to do a re-read of the Harry Potter series first.  I started Sorcerer’s Stone on Dec 14, 2015 and finished Deathly Hallows on Dec 29, 2016.  I borrowed a copy of this book from a friend and with much trepidation I began to read it this past summer (I had no idea how this was going to come off).  I shouldn’t have worried.  It’s delightful.  Almost a celebration of the entire Harry Potter series.  It sort of Back to the Future II‘s the story of Harry Potter.  The story takes place years later.  It involves our heroes’ children and what they deal with having such famous parents.  We get kids that don’t fit in and fall in with friends other people think they shouldn’t have due mainly to parents’ old rivalries.  There are time turners and visits to events from the original books, but now we see them from another angle.  I haven’t gone out to see what the reviews on this are but I could see people possibly not being happy because there’s a lot of retread over the original book stories.  Maybe even a bit of fan pandering.  But honestly, that’s why I loved it.  The characterizations were spot on.  The events were fun and I felt “whisked away” into whatever adventures the book took me.  It was a surprise how much I liked it.  I wasn’t originally going to buy this book, but I liked it so much I wound up buying the paperback at Sam’s to put on my shelf right next to Deathly Hallows.  As good as the original series? No.  But it’s a fun revisit of these characters and a world I was happy to jump right back into.


Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige – I read and reviewed this back in February 2017 for my ongoing “Oz Reviews” that I do here from time to time.  It’s simultaneously a reinvention of Oz and a semi-sequel to the 1939 Oz film.  It’s kind of hard to describe.  I thought I may not like it due to how it may or may not reinvent Oz, but in actuality I quite liked the book.  It uses familiar Oz iconography and builds a world around it that seems both different and the same.  It’s new, but it’s familiar.  I mentioned before how good Brandon Sanderson is at world building in his books.  Paige does an admirable job world building in this series as well.  The sheer number of Oz deep cuts that show up are impressive between characters, objects and events that are mentioned.  And the story around it is interesting.  I’ve since read three of the prequel novellas as well as the sequel, The Wicked Will Rise.  I plan on continuing the series.

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Year End Book Report: The Best Books I Read in 2016

Posted in Batman, books, comic books, movies, pop culture, Star Wars with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 12, 2017 by Paxton

Year End Badass Book Report

Here I go, writing another one of these year end round up articles that I’m shocked to be writing every year. 2017. CRAZY. What a ride 2016 was. Hopefully 2017 will give us a bit of a break.

This past year was an interesting year for my book/comics list.  After so many years of logging my books and comics reading via Google Spreadsheet, I actually converted my logs over to an online data tool called Airtable. It’s similar to Access in that it is a relational database but the user entry interface is very simple to create and similar to Excel. Plus being able to link specific information between tables really helps in cross referencing and spelling.  You have no idea how many times I misspelled author names throughout my logs.

Here’s what my book log looks like now on Airtable.  I’ve converted all my logs back to when I first started in 2007.

airtable_books1

The blue colored fields in the screenshot are actually linked to another table.  I was able to also create the Rating field on the right with different color coded ratings to make it easy at a glance to see what is going to make my year end list and what isn’t.  Plus, Airtable makes all of this data entry even easier with a nice app for my iPhone or iPad that makes it easy to log entries on the go.  Google Sheets had one as well but Airtable’s works better.

So that’s all the behind the scenes stuff.  I had a better year for novels.  I was able to pick 5 this year.  Again, comics were booming and I had a tough time paring down to 5.  But I did it.

So, without further ado, here’s the list!

Books


The Old Man and the Sea (1952) – Ernest Hemingway – I don’t read classics as often as I used to.  I really need to remedy that.  There are two reasons why I read this.  #1, it was featured in the movie The Equalizer starring Denzel Washington as a book he’s reading. #2, Steph checked it out from the library with a bunch of other books and I, on a whim, picked it up to read.  It’s actually really good.  I quite enjoyed it.  I’m probably not going to pick up any other Hemingway, but I’ll definitely try to read more classic lit this coming year.  I’ve been wanting to re-read Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, so maybe I can get that done.


Steve Jobs (2011) – Walter Isaacson – I’ve now read two of Isaacson’s famous biographies and let me say that I’m hooked. Back in 2014 I read his biography of Benjamin Franklin and it nearly made my year end best of list.  This one about Apple founder Steve Jobs actually cracks the list. It’s not only a great portrait of a complicated man, but it’s also a great look at the beginnings of our technological age we live in now.  I would love for Isaacson to tackle Bill Gates in a full book, but I’m not sure that’ll happen.  Isaacson did write a book called The Innovators that really digs into the people who created the computer and the Internet; going as far back as Alan Turing and jumping forward to people like Larry Page and Bill Gates.  That will probably be next on my Isaacson reading list and the closest I’ll get to a full Gates biography by him.


Star Wars: Catalyst – A Rogue One Novel (2016) – James Luceno – The “New Canon” of Star Wars books since Disney has taken over has been very…hit or miss.  Since those books started in Fall 2014, only one has made my year end list.  And honestly, I think that one novel (Star Wars: Tarkin), also written by James Luceno, would work perfectly as a side-quel to this book.  This is the written prequel to the movie Rogue One and it’s pretty great.  It digs deep into the relationship between Galen Erso and Director Krennic.  It also explores a bit more the rivalry between Krennic and Tarkin all while adding in backstory to how the Death Star was built and how it works and what they use to power the planet killing laser.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.


Magic Kingdom for Sale–Sold! (Landover series Book 1) (1986) – Terry Brooks – I talked about this book earlier in my High Fantasy Month article back in March.  It’s a different setup for a fantasy series and I really enjoyed it.  I had bought the collection of the first three books in the series, but I’ve not delved into the second book yet.  However, it’s on the plan for this year.

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My top 10 movies featuring time travel

Posted in Back to the Future, Harry Potter, movies, pop culture, time travel with tags , , , , , , , on June 7, 2012 by Paxton

Time Travelogues

New League assignment this week.  We apparently were off last week, but Brian has thrown a very good subject for this week.  He wants us to create a list of 10 favorite movies.  We can pick the category.  There are so many ways to slice-and-dice a list of 10 movies.  It took me a while to really think about it but I think I came up with an appropriate angle for me.

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know I’m an aficionado of time travel in pop culture.  Some say I would be an “Internet authority” on said topic (I won’t argue that). I see the movies and TV shows, I read the books.  I study it.  I enjoy it.  Check out the numerous time travel articles I’ve written on this blog as well as Episode 3 of the Nerd Lunch podcast in which we discussed time travel (and our third most downloaded episode, btw).  You can see I have something invested in this subject.  So, I thought I’d list out my 10 favorite movies that feature time travel.

I realize there are going to be ones you’ll want on, but I’m giving you my list of favorite time travel movies.  I’ll also include some honorable mentions at the bottom.

So, let’s get started going back…..to the future….and past.  Whatever. Oh, and I don’t normally do this, but I’m actually ranking these 10 – 1. Much like time itself, the order matters.

Galaxy Quest(Via jovisala47)
10. Galaxy Quest – Time travel is really only used in this movie as a small plot device at the very end, but it’s used very well.  The Omega 13 is a nebulous and strange device, but it worked and both spoofed the original Star Trek’s version of time travel as well as created a fun version of time travel for the movie.  Plus, I love the s**t out of this movie. The perfect spoof of classic Star Trek while simultaneously being a really good stand along sci-fi movie.
HP time turner(Via Harry Potter Wikia)
9. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – This is another kind of a cheat. The movie doesn’t feature time travel, but uses it as a plot device towards the end. However, it’s used very well and the Time Turner itself is a fascinating little gadget.  This third movie in the HP franchise is so good and having time travel at the end and also realizing Hermione has been using it from the beginning of the story, just makes it that much better.

Time Crimes(Via best-horror-movies.com)
8. Time Crimes – This is a pretty great little suspense movie that has a plot that not only features time travel, but revolves around it.  It gets a little crazy at the end, and a little confusing as well, but I really enjoy the hell out of this movie.  It’s about a guy named Hector who stumbles upon a time machine and gets himself into several hairy situations when he’s sent back 30min into the past.

Groundhog Day(Via movieslist2010)
7. Groundhog Day – Not generally thought of by people as a time travel movie, but it is. Murray is trapped in what we call a “time loop” and has to live the last 24 hours over and over and over. Such a great movie even if the “time loop” is never really explained.

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Movie Board: My favorite movies of 2010

Posted in Academy Awards, Harry Potter, movies, reviews with tags , , , , , , on January 11, 2011 by Paxton

Movie Board

Here we are again.  It’s time for my annual encounter with The Movie Board.  We’ve been through a lot, Movie Board, and it’s time to do it again.  Let’s dance.

First off, let’s take a look at this year’s Movie Board.

Movie Board 2010
My Movie Board 2010

According to it’s all-knowing whiteness I saw 52 movies this past year.  Very close to last year in which I saw 53 movies.  I was on a tear throughout the summer, way ahead of my pace for last year, but the pace slowed to a crawl in September with the birth of my son.  However, I rallied and was able to get my movie viewing total back up over 50.  Actually, the number of movies I saw was probably closer to 60 as I also saw movies like True Grit (the original), Death Trap and Harry Brown, but they were all released before 2010.  And this list is for movies released within the calendar 2010 movie season.

Anyway, from this list I’ve culled my favorites.  And here they are in no particular order.

Inception
Inception – Mind bending.  Best way to describe this movie.  Leo is great in this.  I think I prefer this movie to Shutter Island.  I’d definitely watch Inception again before watching Shutter Island.  Sure, some of the dream mechanics are a little…ill defined.  Sure, Ellen Page’s character actually going into the dream made little to no sense.  But I enjoyed it all the same.  Fun and interesting story, action and a cliff hanger ending that usually SERIOUSLY pisses me off but didn’t here.  I love that rotating hallway fight sequence.  So awesome.

Salt
Salt – I was blown away by this movie.  It’s brutally AWESOME.  The action is intense.  I was not expecting the action and suspense in this movie to be as balls out awesome as it is.  Angelina is great and Liev Shreiber is also great (as usual).  So ridiculously good.  It’s like a female Bourne Identity.  I seriously think this is nearly as good as the first Bourne Identity (not the last one, the first one).

Harry Potter 7-1
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I – I have seen every one of these movie in the theater.  And dammit if every one of these movies hasn’t gotten better and better.  Prisoner of Azkaban is phenomenal, Goblet of Fire is pretty good, but then Order of Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince are nothing short of spectacular.  And this movie just continues that awesomeness forward.  However, many people I know have been saying they were disappointed with this one.  I think it’s all expectations.  This movie is much darker than any other of the movies.  Plus, it covers the section of the book where Ron leaves and Harry and Hermione are running/searching for horcruxes alone.  Many people thought that storyline was boring in the book but I loved it.  It shows just how difficult a time they had and just how cut off from the rest of the wizarding world they really were.  Makes what happens later mean more.  I love this movie and I can’t wait to watch the next one.  Oh, yeah, since this is a Part I, it sets up a lot of the story for Part II, which may throw people off also.

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Movies the Cavalcade is looking forward to in 2010

Posted in Harry Potter, movies with tags , on January 19, 2010 by Paxton

Coming Soon

Okay, so we’ve looked back at the best and worst movies from 2009 (Oscar noms and ceremony still to come).  Now let’s take a gaze into the future.  What movies am I looking forward to in 2010?  There are a lot.

Here’s a list of movies I really want to see in 2010, more will surely be added as the year’s movie release schedule becomes more concrete.

These first four movies have already been released and are currently in theaters.

Daybreakers (Jan 8 ) – A cool vampire movie similar in tone to Blade?  Thank you, Hollywood. Peep the trailer here.

Youth in Revolt (Jan 8 ) – I read this book a few years ago and it’s funny.  I can’t wait to see Michael Cera tackle this highly comedic but dark role. Trailer, my friends.

Book of Eli (Jan 15) – Denzel Washington vs Gary Oldman in a post apocalyptic world fighting over a book that can save humanity?  I’ll take two.  UPDATE:  Saw this on Sunday.  It’s pretty awesome.  Lots of action and a surprisingly deep story.

Legion (Jan 22) – Well, this isn’t out just yet.  It starts on Friday.  Paul Bettany is a fallen angel out to protect the would-be savior of mankind.  Demons and angels fighting a war on Earth?  Hells to the YEAH.  Trailer is here.

From here we look at future releases starting in February.

From Paris with Love (Feb 5) – Jonathan Rhys Meyers (The Tudors) pairs up with Travolta as FBI agents in Paris who attempt to stop a terrorist attack. It looks good, and Travolta plays an over-the-top “renegade” cop.  However, seeing Travolta play “over the top” in Taking of Pelham 1-2-3, I’m now a little nervous.  I’m just sayin. Here’s the trailer.

The Wolfman (Feb 12) – Universal re-launches a movie based on my favorite monster?  With Sir Anthony Hopkins?  You can count me my AIS (Ass.  In.  Seat.).

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Weekly Geeks 2009-05 – Alternate book covers

Posted in books, Harry Potter, pop culture, Weekly Geeks with tags , , , on February 12, 2009 by Paxton

Weekly Geeks

There’s a very cool blog site called Weekly Geeks. Every week it posts a theme that you can do on your own blog. I’ve somewhat passively watched this for a year or so and have debated about following along on this blog. I’ve enjoyed many of the themes they come up with and I especially enjoyed watching other bloggers execute the theme.

This week’s theme is called Judge a Book By It’s Cover. You pick one of your favorite books and talk about the different covers that have been released for that book. Here’s this week’s explanation:

This week it’s all about judging books by their covers! Pick a book–any book, really–and search out multiple book cover images for that book. They could span a decade or two (or more)…Or they could span several countries. Which cover is your favorite? Which one is your least favorite? Which one best ‘captures’ what the book is about?

the bookworm did a great job with Gone With the Wind on her blog. I thought it was a really fun idea so I’m going to try doing this myself. It’s pretty simple and easier to do than a full article, so I’m going to try it.

My pick is going to be my favorite book in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. I’m not going to show all the different covers, because we’d be here until I keeled over on the keyboard dead before we could finish it all, but there are some very interesting covers for this book. Here are a few of the coolest/most interesting.

American HP6
This is obviously the American version of the Harry Potter 6 cover. I like all the green and the scene depicted shows Dumbledore and Harry gazing into the pensieve.  A very ominous, but great looking cover.

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The Movie Board: My Favorite Movies of 2007

Posted in Academy Awards, Movie Board, movies, pop culture, reviews with tags , , , on January 10, 2008 by Paxton

Movie Board

Well, 2007 is over and the Oscar nominees are being decided as we speak (the 2008 Oscars are supposed to air on February 24). When the nominees are finally announced, I’ll be sure to let you know and I might even give a little review of how the Oscar committee did like I did for last year’s Oscars nominations. Did I get to see everything I wanted to see this year? No. Of course not. My wife and I love movies and there are several movies we missed this year. However, we did see a lot of movies in 2007.

In Dec 2006, I decided to keep track of all the movies released in 2007 that I got to see. Whether it was in the theater or on DVD. I started this because I would read all of these “Best Movies of the Year” articles and wanted to write my own. However, by the end of the year, I’d forgotten all the movies I’d seen except for a select few. So, I decided to keep a running record. I set up a white board in my cubicle and wrote down every movie I saw throughout the year. I called it “The Movie Board”. People would come over and check it out to see if I’d add any new ones over the weekend. It was fairly popular. Well, now that the year is over, let’s take a look at the final tally. Remember, these are only the movies released in the 2007 calendar year. My wife and I saw many more movies, these are just movies released within the current year.

2007 Movie Board

There it is above, The Movie Board (click the picture for a bigger view). According to its all knowing whiteness, I saw 57 movies last year that were released in 2007. Well, the board actually says 58, but I mistakenly put Knocked Up twice. And, well, crap, now that I look at it, the first two movies, Blood Diamond and The Good Sheperd, were released in December 2006, so that reduces the list to 55. That’s about 4.58 movies a month. Just over 1 a week. Not bad. That doesn’t include the older movies Steph and I rented and/or own that we watched.

So now it’s time to peruse this list and see what my top 5 favorite movies are for 2007. Notice I’m not saying these are the 5 best movies of 2007. “Best” is subjective. I’m not telling you one movie is better than another for whatever reason. Sure, I could wax philosophic about my favorite movie saying it’s the most important movie of the year. I could talk about how deep and profound the script is, how it tackles many issues on several different levels. I could discuss how lush and royal the colors and scenery are. I may even delve into the hearty tone, smart characterization and sweeping scope using flowery words that mean little but sound like I know what I’m talking about. The truth, I really have no idea what I’m talking about. You know it and I know it. The following five movies are the ones that entertained me the most. Period. I’m letting you know so that you may enjoy them too. Shall we begin?

Here they are in no particular order:

3:10 to Yuma
3:10 to Yuma– What a really good movie. Russell Crowe is a captured outlaw and Christian Bale is a poor rancher who is somewhat railroaded into helping escort Crowe’s character to the departing prison train of the title. Wonderful performances by Crowe and Bale as well as strong appearances by Peter Fonda and Ben Foster. Check this one out, seriously.

Stardust
Stardust– I wanted to see this in the theater because it looked fun, but I was surprised at how good overall it was. It’s a wild and crazy fantasy movie with many characters and a plot that is really hard to describe. I’ll try: A guy is in love with a girl who doesn’t love him. He promises to fetch her a fallen star if she would love him back. He goes to find the fallen star and his adventures in trying to get the star back to the girl is the main adventure. Such fun adventures with a lot of magic, witches, pirates, sword fights and danger. I highly recommend this. How old is Michelle Pfeiffer, by the way? She is still unbelievably beautiful in this movie (quick trip to IMDB tells me she’s 50 years old…WOW). See it.

Bourne Ultimatum
Bourne Ultimatum– This end to the first trilogy (hopefully there will be more) is a fitting one. Bourne returns to put a stop to the government’s dogged pursuit of him and what he knows. Damon was born (pun intended) to play this role. Exotic locales, unbelievable action sequences and smart dialogue make this one as good as the first Bourne movie.

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