Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Book-Casts

I enjoy reading. I enjoy listening to podcasts. In a previous post, I discussed one combination of those interests, shorts stories and novels available via podcasts. In this post, I will look at another combination of those interests, podcasts about books.

A few of these relate to specific book properties, and a few are more general.

A Podcast of Ice and Fire. Dedicated to the George RR Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series, with episodes focusing on particular elements of the books, and also on an an ongoing re-read project. They did turn their attention to the HBO series based on the books ("A Game of Thrones") while it was airing, but they have since returned to discussing books. They are currently at the early stages of talking about Book #2, although the recently released Book #5 will be occupying their attention. Similar to the book series and the TV show, know that the podcast itself "can get quite base at times."

The Seeker Cast. Dedicated to the TV show "Legend of the Seeker," based on Terry Goodkind's "Sword of Truth" fantasy series -- my favorite book series ever. Now that the TV show is done, the hosts have begun a re-read project of the books. The podcast episodes currently alternate between book re-read episodes and TV re-watch episodes. I have contributed feedback to the show a few times.

Paul the Book Guy. A new podcast, only 4 episodes in at this point. But the related blog is very well-developed, so I have confidence that the podcast will continue. They talk book news, review books and play clips from audio books (yay!). I do a lot of my "reading" via audiobooks, so I appreciate this inclusion. They cover a wide range of literary genres, but do seem to have a geeky bent.

The Sword and Laser. Veteran podcasters Tom Merritt (laser) and Veronica Belmont (sword) discuss fantasy and science fiction books. They have a great rapport, the sound quality is excellent, and they have a well-developed community on Goodreads. In addition to talking book news, they run a book club of sorts, alternating between SF & fantasy books. These selections have included both classic and modern books. They have landed some impressive interviews, as well.

The Dragon Page. Although on a summer hiatus, this is the "granddaddy of them all," stranding at well over 400 episodes. Hosts Michael R. Mennenga and Michael Stackpole do an excellent job discussing book news, including how the digital revolution is changing the industry. They do a regular "library" segment, talking about new fantasy and SF books, as well as having regular author interviews.

Literary Views. This podcast has gone on hiatus, the last show having been released a few months ago, but the blog is ongoing and excellent. The podcast is brief reviews of great books, with a "why you should read this" perspective. The host is a Christian, which informs his worldview, but his faith does not overwhelm his reviews.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Book #48

More, by Simon Ponsonby. Paperback.

As I noted in Book Review #33 , Simon Ponsonby came to our church a few months ago to teach at a Holy Spirit conference. Which is what this book is about.

Ponsonby's main point is that as Christians, we need "more" -- more intimacy, more revelation, more understanding, more anointing, more gifting, and more service. And that this can only come from the Holy Spirit. He is careful to make the theological point that although we have everything in Christ, there is nonetheless "more" that we can have.

Ponsonby weaves in stories from his own uppringing in England and early career as an evangelical and pastor before becoming ordained in the Church of England. He was a chaplain at Oxford before his current position as the pastor of theology at St. Aldates Church. These moments keep the book from becoming just a dry theological tome; despite the occassional discussion of Greek grammar, the book is very readable by the educated layman.

Ponsonby's view of receiving the Holy Spirit is neither the traditional evangelical view of a one-time encounter, nor the standard Pentecostal tradition of a second blessing. He comes from the "third wave" of Holy Spirit theology, taking a view that we are filled at salvation, but need continual filling throughout our lives

Whichever of these views you hold to, you will find comfort and challenge in this book, as the focus is as much on exhortation and Christian living as it is on theology. That is where the challenge comes, the challenge for us to live in the Spirit more, to walk in more of what Christ has provided for us, and to live a more holy life.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Book #47

What's So Great About Christianity? by Dinesh D'Souza. Unabridged audio.

I have been a fan of D'Souza for almost a decade now, enjoying his outsider's view (he was born in India) of the American education, economic and political systems. In this work, he considers the topic of Christianity.

The book takes the form of a refutation of the recent trend of atheist writers taking down traditional Christianity. He most often goes after the works of Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, but other atheist writers are also regularly addressed. D'Souza is one of the first apologists to take these atheist objections to faith on their own terms, and argues from a place of reason as to the sensibility of Christ and the Christian faith.

D'Souza does not recount his conversion experience in detail, but does now consider himself an evangelical, after being raised a Catholic. His strong education and nimble mind are at work to their full here, as he addresses major objections to the faith. He talks about why Christianity explains the universe and origins better than atheism does, why Christianity and science are not irreconcilable. He also speaks to the historical sins of Christianity—the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the Catholic Church's treathment of Galileo.

D'Souza takes a "middle ground" on Biblical analysis an interpretation -- neither liberal nor literal, but serious and sincere, which is where I tend to be, but can be hard to find among academic Christians. I found the book refreshing and enjoyable, and extremely well-written.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Book #46

Helen of Pasadena, by Lian Dolan. Nook.

I have been a fan of Lian Dolan for nearly a decade now, following her radio & podcast career, as host of Satellite Sisters and Chaos Chronicles. I have posted on these show websites, emailed & tweeted with Lian on multiple occassions, and she has even mentioned me on her show a few times -- I may be the only male listener she has!

When she announced her plans to write a novel, I was psyched for her. It came out right around the time of my birthday, at which time I received a NookColor, so this was the first book I bought for that device. I do feel bad that it took me so long to actually read it, much less review it. Sorry, Lian :0(

Like her podcast, males are not the target audience for the novel. Although it is a much more literary version of chick-lit, it still fits that category. The males exist only in relation to Helen, the main character: dead husband, son, love interest. The fact that they are all well-developed characters was a pleasnat surprise.

At the start of the novel, Helen's husband has just died in a bizarre Rose Parade accident. This happens just hours after his confession to Helen that he was in love with another woman and intended to leave her. In the course of the story, she deals with the familial and financial mess that this man left behind, returning to the worlds both of work and of dating.

I did not get all of the Pasadena and Southern California references, but I was able to figure most of it out from context, and my lack of familiarity did not take away from my enjoyment of the book.

She is planning 2 more novels in the same general universe, and when they are released, I will gladly buy and read them.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Book #45

Frankenstein: Lost Souls, by Dean Koontz. Unabridged Audio.

This is the 4th book in Koontz's modern take on the Frankenstein mythos -- which is a little confusing, considering how the 3rd book ended. Suffice it to say that there are clones involved, so Koontz was able to extend the tale beyond what sure seemed to be a conclusion.

Two years have passed since the events of book 3, and many of the characters have tried to move on. But when replicants (of a slightly different nature) appear, Detectives Carson O’Connor and Michael Maddison, Erika 5 and Jocko, and Victor’s first creation, the tormented Deucalion, all jump into action to stop the plan. There are some truly Koontz-worthy horror moments, but also some subtle emotions appear, and these moments are a welcome respite from the suspenseful main thrusts of the story.

I like the basic nature of the plot -- that the replicants are starting small, with a small town in Montana, from which they plan to slowly "roll out" their takeover plans. This makes sense, but is a plan that most villains don't seem to think of. The book ends without an ending, and so book 5 has been added to my "to-read" list.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Book #44

Freddy and the Ignormus, by Walter R. Brooks. Unabridged audio.

When I was about 10 years old, I read as many of these books as my school library had, many I am sure more than once. Freddy the pig, Jinx the cat, Charles,Mrs. Wiggins, all of the animals on the Bean farm, I loved all their stories. When my family needed an audio book to listen to together on a family trip, and I found this at the library, it was an easy choice.

In this adventure, the old stories of the evil creature in the woods, the Ignormus, seem to maybe be true. The Ignormus, along with his rat minions, terrorize and threaten the Bean animals. Freddy rallies the troops to find the courage to fight back, both against the rats and against the Ignormus.

The sense of adventure, the sense of humor, and the well-told nature of the story make this just a fun book.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Book #43

Soon I Will be Invincible, by Austin Grossman. Hardcover.

I am a fan of the growing body of super-hero novels, novels not specifically based on actual comic book characters (or not necessarily) but that take place in a world with some powered individuals. Perhaps this golden age was kicked off with Michael Chabon's Kavalier & Clay novel, which won a Pulitzer.

This novel focuses not on the. super-hero, but on the super-villain, in this case Doctor Impossible. Told in alternating first-person POVs, this novel tells the dual stories of Doctor Impossible's lastest attempt to take over the world, and the cyborg woman Fatale's first job working with the reformed super-hero team, the Champions.

The world's strongest superhero, CoreFire, has recently disappeared, and everyone blames the recently escaped Doctor Impossible. They were nemeses, after all. But the villain didn't do the deed, and as a matter of fact, he wants to find out who did. The disappearance has caused the Champions to reform, with new member Fatale joining the team.

Grossman does a good job moving the plot forward, and he works backstory into the plot with only a few bumps -- the scene where Fatale watches a video telling her (and us) the history of the Champions was especially clunky. But the major characters have their moments, and we certainly get to know where both Doctor Impossible and Fatale come from, as they are telling us the story, but other characters have their moments, as well.

As an avid reader of comics for decades, the story itself did not tread new ground, but for someone coming to the story just as a reader of novels, the story may be more unique.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Road-Trip Podcasts

I am going on family vacation tomorrow for 9 days, and am not sure what wi-fi access I will have available to load new podcasts. So I filled up the podcast, and here is some of what I put on, in addition to the 1-and-a-half audiobooks that are on there:

The Jen & Dave Show-- the latest 3 episodes
Satellite Sistes -- the latest 2 episodes
Battleship Pretension -- 10 episodes from last summer ... still behind, but slowly catching up.
The Babylon Podcast -- the latest 5 episodes. Bummed that Father Roderick's new The Secrets of Babylon 5 has not hit iTunes yet.
2099 Bitmapped -- latest 5 episodes of a new comic book podcast.
Tom vs. The Flash -- 15 episodes.
St. Irenaeus Ministries -- 8 episodes, teaching on the Gospel of Matthew.
Miscellaneous episodes here and there from Escape Pod, Podcastle, Comic Book Noise, and a few others.

Looking forward to good vacation time, and good listening time.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Book #42

Against All Enemies, by Tom Clancy, with Peter Telep. Unabridged audio.

As I wrote a few books back, Tom Clancy has begun the common practice of "franchising" his books, cranking them out frequently, with co-authors. What role Clancy played in this book, if any, is hard to tell, as it lacked some of the tight scripting and character development that Clancy's prior books have had.

The book does not seem to take place in the "Ryan-verse," as I recognized to characters from prior Clancy works. The plot follows Maxwell Moore, a former Navy SEAL and current CIA operative, as he works to bring down a Mexical drug cartel. The cartel is being squeezed by Middle East terrorists, who want to use their border tunnel to smuggle weapons and personnel into the US. After that, there are explosions, attacks, gunfire, and all the trappings of a modern spy thriller.

I may have to be more selective of Clancy's books in the future, and not "have to" read every new offering he (and his co-authors) put out.

By the way, Steven Weber did an excellent job with the audio performance.