Friday, November 29, 2013

Book #58. W is for Wasted

W is for Wasted, by Sue Grafton. Unabridged audio.

I have read every book in Grafton's alphabet series, and have enjoyed almost all of them. This one definitely fits in with the majority of book in the series -- it is an very good mystery novel.

A homeless man turns up dead, with Kinsey Millhone's name on a piece of paper in his pocket. This brings her into the investigation, which involves medical research, family feuds, a dead private investigator, and a surprisingly large estate for a homeless man. Compared to most of the other characters in the novel, Kinsey's pure motives for wanting to find the truth stands out. Millhone is skilled in demonstrating her lead character's motivations, as well as putting us in her place. We finally learn more about the other side of Kinsey's family, and these plot points and insights are key to developing her character, as well as solving the novel's underlying mystery.

Many old friends are back for this novel, including Kinsey's ex-boyfriend Robert Dietz. The standout new character is a feline, although a few other human characters make debuts, as well.

The ending of the novel (not the solving of the mystery, but the aftermath) is expecially convenient, especially for Kinsey. It is a scenario that I have seen played out in other novel series, but I do admit that I am intrigued to see how Kinsey reacts to her new situation.

Continuing with a trend that Grafton started a half-dozen or so books ago, this is a longer than average detective story, and we get some scenes from the POV of characters other than Kinsey Millhone. Kinsey's chapters are still first-person, but there are other sections written in third-person, giving us as readers a few more clues as to the big picture of the case than Kinsey has. This is a popular authorial choice in thrillers, and is slowly gaining popularity among mystery writers.

source: public library.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


This is a reprint from last year, but all of this still applies:
In honor of Thanksgiving, which is tomorrow (in the US), I am listing book I am thankful for. These are not necessarily my favorite books, but books that have impacted me, books that I am glad exist, glad that I have read. There are listed alphabetically, so as to not imply an order:

The Complete Sherlock Holmes, by Arthur Conan Doyle. This was the first "real book" I ever owned. I assume it was a birthday present, from when I was maybe 10 years old or so. I still own it.

The Hobbit, by JRR Tolkien. I remember reading it at the school library. I don't think I checked it out, I just remember going there regularly and reading a few pages at a time. It opened my eyes to the world of fantasy fiction, a genre I read regularly to this day.

The Holy Bible. For inspiration, wisdom, and truth.

Superman from the Thirties to the Seventies. A hardcover collection of Superman stories, published in the early seventies. 

Tess of the d'Urbervilles, by Thomas Hardy. I read this in high school, and it was the first time I could not put a book down. I was up until almost 3 AM one night to finish it. I re-read it every 5 years or so.

The World of Pooh, by A.A. Milne. We owned a hardcover version of this volume, which contains both Winnie-the-Pooh and House at Pooh Corner. I loved these stories, from having them read to me, to when I was able to read them myself. Somehow, my older sister managed to snag this book for her kids.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Podcasting Update!

We have had done some terrific interviews with authors and audiobook narrators over the last few months for the Book Guys, but our editor's video-editing software crashed, and those episodes are still a few weeks away from being published. I will post the links when the shows are published.

Getting my (with my daughter) little podcasting network up and going over the last 3 or 4 months ago has been fun, as well. We recently had our first episode with a guest, and one of the podcast's released its 10th episode. Another show will be releasing its episode #10 soon, as well. The episodes are available at the podcast website or via iTunes.

I have been a guest on two episodes of another comic-book podcast, although those episodes have not been released.. And in a few days, I am scheduled to be a Skype-guest on another show. My experiences as part of the comic book podcast community have been universally positive.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Books #56 & 57.

Left Behind: The Kids, books 29 & 30, by Jerry B. Jenkins, Tim LaHaye, and Chris Fabry. Paperbacks.

As I have written here before, I am a completist, and when I finished the Left Behind series a number of years ago, I started working my through the Kids versions of the books.And once started, I don't want to finish. I read them two at a time, two or three times per year. Maybe some time in 2015 I'll be done.

As I have written before, there is a level of impressive work here, in being able to tie in this series to the greater "adult" stories, where events and plot has to coincide.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

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 the prologue of W is for Wasted, by Sue Grafton: "Two dead bodies changed the course of my life that fall. One of them I knew and the other I’d never laid eyes on until I saw him in the morgue."

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Comic Book Review: Static Shock 1-8

Static Shock, volume 1: Supercharged, trade paperback, collecting issues 1-8, by Scott McDaniel, John Rozum, and Andy Owens.

Static was the most successful character in the Milestone line of comics, which was DC’s attempt in 1993 to address the issue of minority underrepresentation in comics. He ended up with his own animated series, and was the only of those characters to find themselves with a book in the New 52 initiative.
Virgil Hawkins is a super-smart teenager with electricity-based powers, and a family that suddenly has an extra person in it; his sister seems to have been cloned, and nobody knows which is the original and which is the clone. This makes for a very strange and stressful family dynamic. In these stories, he goes up against a range of underground bosses, but these characters (such as Mr. Piranha and the Pale Man) are lackluster.

There was some talk that DC Comic’s “New 52” initiative from 2011 was about re-making their comics in the image of their arch-rival, Marvel Comics. Former Marvel executives were in charge, and many former Marvel writers and artists were hired for the reboot. Static Shock stands out from other DC titles in that it actually takes place in New York City, which is an interesting change for DC Comics. There are specific references to locations, and I imagine that this was pretty accurate. The risk of getting information like that wrong is just too high.

Another “Marvelized” aspect of this comic was Virgil’s similarities to Peter Parker, mostly in his humorous quips. But they seem stale and inauthentic, and the attempt to make a Spider-Man for the 21st century just fell flat.
The reception of the book was unenthusiastic, and sales were never strong. This collected includes all eight of the issues published before the book’s cancellation.

Source: public library

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Book 55: I Shouldn't Be Telling You This

I Shouldn't  Be Telling You This, by Kate White. Paperback.

Kate White is the former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan, and the author of  a number of novels. This is her fourth foray into the areas of self-help and business advice.Although pitched to women, most of the "51 gutsy secrets every woman should know" apply to men, as well. Perhpas the ones that relate to fashion and hair may be specifically for the ladies, but that type of advice were in the minority.

Some of the advice was basic and not earth-shattering, such as "go big or go home." But the strength of the book is White bringing her own experience to the book, telling us how she has worked her way through the magazine industry, landing the top job at a top magazine.

The tips on resumes and interviews were especially strong, and most of her "18 people principles" seemed applicable to me. In this category, I liked not dragging the boss into every inter-office squabble, and that even in the sanest workplaces, you can come face to face with a psycho.

The book is a quick read, organized into short chapters, ranging from 2 to 10 pages.This makes it esy to pick up and skim at any time, and the advice is given in reasonable-size bits. I mentioned in a review of another self-help / management book, that that author tended to indulge in "humble brags." White does that as well, and I am beginning to understand this as a trope of this type of book. If the point of the book is that this advice is her story of business success, she does need to regularly mention her business successes. Fair enough.

Source: received free from the the publisher, in preparation for an interview the author on the Book Guys show.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Book 54: Inferno

Inferno, by Dan Brown. Unabridged audio.

I have read all of Dan Brown's novels, and have liked them to varying degrees. This one moved (mostly) away from the religious world to the art world, but other than that, this book was similar to his prior novels. If that works for you, than you ought to enjoy this one, as well.

The epic poem The Inferno is the jumping off point for this novel, as are famous works of art inspired by the work. From there, the conspiracy runs to a cabal of trans-humanists who want to dramatically cut the world population. And they have an interesting method about how to do that.

There is a lot of problem-solving, puzzles, and a whole range of such brain-teasers that only Robert Langdon can solve. There are a lot of coincidences and moments of good fortune that occur, a few more than I would prefer.

One of the strengths of the novel is the pacing. The novel takes place over a very short period of time, and that certainly helps the reading experience. The fast-moving nature of the book helped me overlook some of the book's shortcomings.

source: public library

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Podcast Bids Farewell

As I have said here before, it makes me profoundly sad when a podcast just stops producing, or "podfades." So whenever a show has an official final episode, and wraps up its run in a planned manner, I like to "shout out" to that show and host.

Recently, Stephanie Weak (now Zimmer) wrapped her 80-episode run of From Darkness to Light, her personal journal podcast about healing, accepting love and learning to live life to the full. It is an inspiring podcast, and Stephanie is vulnerable and honest in relaying the aspects of her journey. Recently married, she decided that she had told enough of her story, and stopped producing the podcast.

Each of the 6-10 minute episodes discusses a specific aspect of Stephanie's journey. She talks about her past of abuse, aspects of her job, various spiritual retreats and practices she has done to aid her progress. She even spends a few episodes talking about what she learned from certain TV shows.

The episodes are all available on iTunes and from the show's website. Check them out.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Book #53: Guys Can Be Cat Ladies Too!

Guys Can Be Cat Ladies Too, by Michael Showalter. Paperback

I always thought of myself as a cat fella, or a cat dude, or a cat man. But none of those terms quite reflect how I viewed myself viz-a-viz the felines in my life. But now I know ... I am a Cat Lady Guy.

In his delightful and surprisingly informative book, comedian and actor Michael Showalter walks through the steps for any fellow to become a better-than-average cat caretaker. Every step of the process is covered, moving us from Beginner Cat to Intermediate Cat, all the way to Advanced Cat.

He gives key insights about what your cat is thinking about (eating and kocking things over), what your cat dreams about (eating and knocking things over), and what your cat's greatest hopes and dreams are (world domination, eating, and knocking things over, with the occassional 14-hour nap thrown in).

The writing is funny enough, but the charts and pictures are the highlight of the book. Pie charts, photos, quizzes, and diagrams are integrated into the book very nicely.

This book is a quick read, because it is so fun to read. Highly recommended for anyone owned by their cat, or anybody who would like to be.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

My Podcast Awards ballot

I will be voting daily in the Podcast Awards, until the balloting closes on November 15.

Here are the shows I will be voting for -- in some categories, I am listing alternative options, because in those categories, there are multiple shows that I am a fan of, and want to give them all their appropriate "shout-outs."

People's Choice:  Two of my favorite podcasts are nominated here, No Agenda, and Satellite Sisters. I have been listening to both of these shows for years, and you can't go wrong with either one, so I equally support both. But I'll vote for the Satellite Sisters, by a whisker.

Business: DH Unplugged. The absolutely best business and finance podcast available.

Culture/Arts I have been a long-time fan of Sword & Laser, so they are my first choice, but Major Spoilers is also very good.

Education: Grammar Girl is my first choice, although the History Chicks is very good, as well.

Entertainment: A Podcast of Ice and Fire, covering the George RR Martin books, and occasionally the related TV show, is a terrific podcast, getting better every episode. They won a Geekie Award earlier in the year, a well-deserved honor.

General: Satellite Sisters. 5 real-life sisters, talking about anything and everything. Lian Dolan is one of the sisters, and I have written about her podcasts and books on this site before.

Politics/News: No Agenda. A journalist and a former MTV DJ, analyzing the news and the media coverage of it. A great show.

Religion Inspiration: This is one of the topics where I was familiar with a lot of the nominees. I will be voting for Tyler Smith's film criticism show More Than One Lesson, although the The Break w/ Father Roderick is a terrific show, and the Sci-Fi Christian is very solid, as well.

Technology: This is another category where I am familiar with many of the nominated show. I am voting for The Waves of Tech, because I like what these "little guys" have been able to build over the years. Obviously, This Week in Tech is a very slick, professional podcast, and The Audacity to Podcast is a terrific show about the details of podcasting.