Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

From Page 8 of A Thousand Cuts, by Simon Lelic. It is a British debut novel that deals with the aftermath of a school shooting.

"Banks tried to get back in after that but I'm pretty sure he didn't make it. By the time we get outside there's tapw and more police and TV cameras and everything's being organised. The teachers, they're calling register and forming lines and that sort of thing. I stand on my own, to one side."

Friday, January 27, 2012

Nice Mentions!

I need to thank two folks for mentioning me very kindly of late; one is a blog and the other a podcast.

Chaos Chronicles -- Lian Dolan, host of the Chaos Chronicles podcast, mentioned me in her Chaos Chronicles blog. In a post on the college admission process, Lian nominated me to her "Talk Me Down" team -- mission accepted, Lian!

I recently named the Fire & Water Podcast, dedicated to comic book Heroes Firestorm and Aquaman, as my favorite new podcast of the year. In Episode 11,, they noted this and said very nice things about me. They have a good chance of winning another award next year if they keep that up.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

From Chapter 15 of V is for Vengeance, by Sue Grafton, the 22nd and latest detective novel in the Kinsey Millhone series.

"We went into the next office, which was plainly furnished and looked like it was called into on service in occasions when a mall executive was in town and needed temporary space ... she checked the date on the video and slid it into the machine."

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Book #5

The Limit: Life and Death on the 1961 Grand Prix Circuit, by Michael Cannell. Hardcover.

I was a fan of open-wheel racing when I was younger, following the Indy series and Formula 1. My fifteen years living in Richmond, Virginia turned me into a NASCAR fan, but I still have pleasant memories of following the older series.

This book covers the glory days of Formula 1, the postwar years of European economic boom, culminating in the dramatic 1961 Grand Prix season. The main characters are the drivers chasing the championship, American Phil Hill, German Wolfgand von Trips, and Englishman Stirling Moss. The great European car makers make appearances in the book, expecially members of the Ferrari clan. Cannell's use of diaries, contemporaneous reporting, and memoir enabled him to draw these individual portraits well.

The race culture of the time was vastly different from the safety-conscious attitudes of today, and injury was a constant threat to these drivers, as was death. It is this manly quest for speed at all costs, for victory at all costs, that set the stage for the drama that was the 1961 season.

Cannell sets the stage of the drama very well, and tells the story in an exceddingly dramatic way. A very enthralling read.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Book #4

Castle of Wizardry, by David Eddings.

Penultimate volumes of fantasy cycles tend to be slow affairs, moving the plot along just enough to get the reader to the last book. But in this book, the 4th of the 5-book Belgariad series, stuff happens! Lots of stuff happens!

Garion rises to the challenge of leadership, thrust upon him as his elders are incapacitated. The Orb is returned to the land of Riva, and its bright blue fire reveals that Garion is indeed the long-lost Rivan King. Before this revelation, Garion and Princess Ce'nedra had acknowledged their love for each other, and were planning a wedding. But Ce'nedra's reaction to his Kingship is anger, as the ancient accords now require the two of them to wed. And as much as Ce'nedra cares for Garion, she does not want to be forced to marry him.

The next part of Garion's quest calls for him to slay the evil god Torak, or die trying. He and a small band slip from the camp secretly for him to accomplish this task. In his absence, Ce'nedra choses to don armor and rouse the forces of the surrounding nations to her cause -- battling their main enemy kingdom as a distraction, so that Garion can safely reach the land of Torak.

These "Joan of Arc" scenes of the Princess becoming the Rivan Queen were stirring, and I found her character very fully formed. The showdown with her father is especially memorable. We are left with a standard fantasy scene, forces gathering on one front, and a main character questing on another. But this is not a problem, as the common scene is delivered to us uncommonly well.

This was an excellent read, and I am definitely picking up Book #5 soon.

Friday, January 13, 2012

2012 Listening Plans

In addition to keeping up with all the podcasts that I listen to regularly, there are a few I need to get caught up on.

In the pop culture space, I am years (literally) behind on Around Comics, and about 7 months behind on Battleship Pretension. The problem with BP is that they are relentless, with co-host David Bax never letting a week go by without a new episode. This is fine and dandy for sure, but there is never a "lull" whereby one can catch up quickly on back episodes. I am also going back into the Two True Freaks feed and picking up various episodes that I did not pick up one I statred listening to their shows.

I am also about 8 months behind on a trio of Christian/devotional shows: The Bible Study Podcast, Bible Study Podcasts (I know those two sound similar, but if you look closely they are not the same), and St. Irenaeus Ministries. I just need to listen to two weeks of these each week, and I will catch up.

There are also a few shows that I have not listened to yet, but plan to start this year. They include My Intercontinental Life and Comics Slumber Party.

That sounds like enough to keep my ears busy.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

2012 Reading Goals

I don't have as many specific goals for reading as I have in the past. For my job, I have a bunch of academic articles to read on two subjects that I am researching, but as far as books and comics go, here are a few of my plans:

Finish the Belgariad series by David Eddings. I am currently reading book 4 of the 5-book series.

Read 2 Terry Goodkind novels with my daughter. We are making our way through his Sword of Truth series, and are currently just at the beginning of Faith of the Fallen.

Read the first volume of Aquinas' Summa Theologica. I have it on my Nook.

Finish up (2 more books) of Karen Kingsbury's Above the Line series. I liked Book 1 well enough, but thought that Book 2 was a step back. Nonetheless, I expect to knock out Books 3 & 4 this year.

Read another book (or 2) in the YA Redwall series.

Finish the 40+ issues of the Doom 2099 comic book series. I have read through issue 7.

Keep up with DC's New 52 series Demon Knights and All-Star Western in individual isses. And I have heard so many good things about the New 52 Aquaman that I will purchase whatever trade paperbacks of that series that come out in 2012.

Finish Y: The Last Man. I have read the first 48 of the 60 issues.

Via the Daily Audio Bible podcast, listen to the entire Bible.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Book #3

A Princess of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Nook.

This is Edgar Rice Burroughs' first novel about John Carter, published 99 years ago. It was published the same year as his first Tarzan novel.

Civil War veteran John Carter finds a rich vein of gold, prospecting in Arizona. Evading Aoache pursuit in a cave, he is transported (or dreams he is?) to Mars (or as the natives call it, Barsoom). Carter has great strength and superhuman agility in his new low-gravity environment. Carter rises to a high position among the warlike green-skinned Thark tribe.

His tribe captures Princess Dejah of Helium, a humanoid red Martian, with whom he falls in love. Carter becomes embroiled in the political affairs of both the red and green men in his efforts to safeguard (and eventually marry) Dejah Thoris. This is where the action of the story ramps up, and the book rolls into what we think now of as an action-adventure tale.

The lead characters are well-drawn, although the lesser characters tend to be one-dimensional, and described only as they relate to Carter and his goals. The book is 100 years old, and is a first novel at that, and modenr standards of literary quality are not always accomplished.

You can see the influence of Burroughs on more modern writers, as aspects of this story resonates in fantasy, sci-fi, and comic books. It is sci-fi before sci-fi was an organized genre, fantasy before fantasy was an organized genre, and even a romance before romance was an organized genre. If it were written today, booksellers might have a hard time categorizing it. But it was definitely a fun read, and I am going to continue on with the series.

This is a public domain book, and I downloaded it to my Nook via Project Gutenberg.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Podcast Marathon

No need to go into the office Friday, along with an empty DVR, means I had a tomn of time to listen to podcasts. Here is what I listened to:

The Adam Carolla Show. This daily "morning-show" styly podcast is usually pretty strong. The guest on thiis episode was the head guy at

From Crisis To Crisis. Mike & Jeff are covering the Doomsday (Death of Superman) arc from 1993, and this episode (#122) covered Superman 75, the death issue itself. A very emotional episode, this 3-hour affair was a terrific episode. I started it yesterday, and knocked it in the. Very enjoyable show.

The Tony Kornheiser Show. News and sports from Washington DC.

Battleship Pretension, episode 222. Yes, I am about 6+ months behind. Very good show, by as they would say it, two guys who think they know more about movies than you.

Tales of the JSA, episode 69. Mike & Scott talk about an issue of All-Star Squadron that touches on the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII. They get into the topic a bit, but pull back before too many sparks fly.

Authentic Life Radio, episode 14. Glad that Sarah & Stephanie have gotten back behind the microphones. No particular topic, other than what is going on in the host's lives. Although the Full-Time Mom show continued after Sarah left, I consider this show a "re-boot" of that old OTM format.

Danger Room, episode 17. An X-Men comic book podcast, this one balances just the right amount of affection for these early stories, while also pointing out the incredible inconsistencies and illogic of these early stories.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Book #2

Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline. Unabridged Audio.

Think of this one as part futuristic SF novel, part 80s love-fest. In the near-future, the world's main pastime is The Oasis, a virtual world run by a beloved game designer. After his death, it is revealed that this designer has left The Oasis, and the multi-billion dollar company that runs it, to whoever can win his final game by solving puzzles, deciphering clues, and playing games. It is a virtual adventure that has very real-world consequences.

The game designer loved the 1980s, all of his clues relate to pop culture of the time. Among the many things referenced are War Games, Monty Python, Rush, and a slew of video games. My own personal favorite iconic moment of the 80's was also referenced. Another personal passion of mine, a particular Japanese TV show from the 1960s, also played an important part in the plot.

But these references, even to personal favorite things of mine, were not enoough to cover for the fact that the plot of the novel was seriously lacking. There were no surprises in the novel -- all the heroes were heroic, all the villains were villainous, only the expendable died, and the ending was entirely predictable.

There is a bit of a disconnect here -- there were seriously fun moments, but the story that took place in between those moments were lacking. Not a great book, but I admit that parts of it sure made for a fun read.

I listened to the unabridged audio version, which was read ably by Wil Wheaton, who of course has his own connections to 1980's pop culture.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Book #1

Mouse Guard: Fall 1152, by David Petersen. Graphic novel.

Life is tough for mice. There are predators galore, and of course the Weasel War of 1149 was traumatic. In its wake, the Mouse Guard was formed. Their duties range from soldiering to guiding common mice between villages, using their knowledge of hidden paths, weather patterns, and predator behavior.

Three of the Mouse Guard's finest -- Saxon, Kenzie, and Lieam -- are called upon to investigate the failure of a grainseller to arrive at his destination. In doing so, they encounter a potential traitor within the guard, and their lives are constantly at risk.

Petersen tells a fun story, but it is his artwork that causes this work to stand out. For one thing, the size is unique -- instead of the standard letter-size sheet in portrait orientation, his work was conceived on legal-size sheets in landscape orientation. Folded in half, this makes for nearly square sheets of paper, enabling Petersen to arrange panels in ways that are different from other graphic works. Most of the pages have either 3 or 4 panels, but they are arranged in a variety of formats.

The art and style is stronger than the story in this first volume, but both are well above average. I look forward to reading more.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

From Chapter 26 of Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline, a futuristic SF thriller.

"Recreations of the Tyrell Building were among the most common structures in the Oasis ... As I rode the elevator down to the 440th floor, I powered on my armor and drew my guns."

Sunday, January 1, 2012

My Own Podcast Awards!

Since I (1) listen to a lot of podcasts, and (2) have a blog, I believe I am qualified to talk about my favorites podcasts of 2011.

Favorite Overall Podcast
Runners-Up: From Crisis to Crisis, Battleship Pretension
Winner: No Agenda

Best Produced Podcast
Runners-Up: No Agenda, SQPN: The Break
Winner: Spirit Blade Underground, the excellent podcast by Paeter Frandsen, that is an original mix of movie reviews, video game talk, original audio drama, and Bible study.

Best New Podcast of 2011
Runners-Up: Nerdist Writers Panel, The Social Hour, Golden Age Superman
Winner: The Fire and Water Podcast, an excellent show featureing the exploits of the under-rated comic book characters Aquaman and Firestorm.

Back-From-The-Dead Award, for podcasts that returned after a much too-long hiatus.
Runners-up: Mad Money Machine, Authentic Life Radio (formerly The Full-Time Mom).
Winner: Super Future Friends, the funniest long-form comic book podcast out there! Glad to have Adrianna and Kristin back behind the microphones!

Gonna Miss You Award, for a show that ended in 2011.
Runners-up: Pete+Janet, SaintCast, Superman Fan Podcast
Winner: Amazing Spider-Man Classics. So sad to see this show go away, after 36 excellent episodes.