Saturday, April 28, 2012

Book #24

Red Mist, by Patricia Cornwell. Unabridged audio.

I have read all of Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta novels. The majority of these have been excellent mystery/thrillers, and Red Mist is another solid novel. Following closely on the events of the last few Scarpetta novels, this one finds Kay and her crew (Marino, Lucy & Benton) travelling to Georgia to interview an inmate who claims to have information about Scarpetta's former employee Jack Fielding, as well as a string of unrelated murders.

As Scarpetta investigates, it becomes clear that there is a connection between the murders, and that perhaps the imprisoned woman is innocent. When a former colleague of Scarpetta (who had lured her to Georgia to investigate this case) is fatally attacked, the tension ratchets up. Again, Scarpetta finds herself a potential target as she tries to uncover what exactly connects these disparate cases.

I like that the last few Scarpetta novels have built on each other plot-wise, and how actions in one novel have consequences in the next. The end of this novel come a bit out of the blue for my taste, but that does not diminish the overall enjoyment of reading it. It was a very good read.

As always, narrator Judy Kaye does an excellent job narrating the audiobook version of this novel.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Not Back on the Book Guys :o(

At least not yet.

The scheduling fell through for our discussion this week. But you should still check out the Book Guys site regularly, as a wealth of posts about books, podcasts, comic books, etc ... are posted regularly.

And some of those posts are event written by me!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Back on the Book Guys!

Assuming I can find strong enough wi-fi for the required Skype connection, I will be appearing on the next episode of the Book Guys podcast!

If all goes well, you can hear me and Paul and the team talking about book news, comic books, and maybe even a little Doctor Who!

Books 22 & 23

Left Behind: The Kids, vol. 21 & 22, by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye. (and to be fair, Chris Fabry).

I have read all of the books in the LB series, and even the three prequel novels. And I am now more than halfway through the kids series. As I have posted here before, once I start a series, I am in for the long haul. The theology behind the novels is a bit wacky, and the stories are waaaay too stretched out (the original 13-book series was planned as a trilogy), but there is no denying their place in modern evangelical culture.

The kids series follows the youngsters involved in the events, some of whom are kids of characters that appear in the adult series. As the series has moved on, the overlaps with characters and events from the adult series have become less common. But the timeline is the same, and key worldwide events happen in the same order.

With these two, the same basic things are happening -- lots of running, lots of worrying, lots of faith, and a little bit of character development.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Book #21

Who Is The Doctor, by Graeme Burk & Robert Smith. Paperback.

I am a sucker for TV episode guides, having read them for 24, Alias, X-Files, Babylon 5 and many others. As a huge fan of Doctor Who, when I saw this book, there was no doubt I would pick it up. This one is different from the rest of those, in two key ways.

First, in addition to episode trivia and production details, this book includes critical analyis and reviews of all the episodes covered -- the book includes all the episodes of the New Series thru the end of Series 6, "The Wedding of River Song." This means that negative commentary is present where appropriate, and as any fan of the show knows, there are a few episodes each series where negative commentary is deserved. But this evenhandedness has the effect of emphasizing the positive comments. These review and analysis portions make up close to half of the text for each episode entry.

Second, the book is written by a pair of co-authors, and having a second set of eyes discuss the episodes adds depth to the analysis. Each episode entry has a main review written by one of the authors, and a "second opinion" section where the other author has a chance to rebut, disagree, or simply bring another perspective to the episode. Certainly they tend to agree on the best and worst episodes, but the cases where they disagree tend to be quite entertaining. Both authors are huge fans of the show, meaning they get into their fair share of petty arguments. And even where they do agree, the second perspective adds insight to the reviews.

This is one of the finer episode guides I have run across for any show, and highly recommend it for any fan of the ninth, tenth, or eleventh Doctor.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Book #20

Fables, by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, et. al. Volumes 9 & 10. Graphic Novel.

Fables is probably the best ongoing comic book series being written today. Bill Willingham's world of fables living in our world is rich, nuanced, and endlessly fascinating.

The "Sons of Empire" trade covers issues 52-59 of the series. The strong theme of this volume is fathers and sons, focusing on the Gepetto-Pinnochio bond. Bigby Wolf is also featured, the trained relationship with his father the North Wind contrasted with the strong relationship he has with his magical wolf children.

This collection also features a pair of great stand-alone stories, the "Jiminy Christmas" issue (#56), and a truly unique idea in comics, a short story collection (#59).

Issues 60-69 collect the terrific 9-issue "Good Prince" arc, a story featuring the Frog Prince and the ghost of Sir Lancelot taking on the Adversary on his own turf. The character moments are inspired, and the battle scenes (both the planning and the execution) are as good as I've seen in any fantasy work. The fact that the protagonists are names we recognize (Boy Blue, Shere Kahn, Bluebeard, Gepetto) just add color to what is already a exceptional war story.

The intermission issue (#64) is a terrific deversion, a weird story with a completely different narrative and art style. Willingham's skill is that this manages to be a stand-alone story, but fits perfectly in the chronology of both the "Good Prince" arc and the overall Fables arc.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Book #19

Inheritance, by Christopher Paolini. Unabridged audio.

When Paolini's first book, Eragon, was published, the author was as much of the story as the book itself was. He started the book at 16, after graduating from high school at 15. His parents' company published the book when the author was 19. He toured more than 100 schools promoting the book, after which he ended up with a bestseller and a movie deal.

That is a great story.

Eragon itself was an OK story.

Now that Paolini is pushing 30 years of age, he does not get the benefit of the doubt that he got as a younger author. Eragon, for all its flaws and overwriting, was an amazing book for a sixteen-year-old to have written. And although successive each book in the series is a bit better than the one before, he has rightfully moved out of being compared just to teen writers, and his books can be prepared to any other epic fantasy. And in that context, the previous books have been OK. Not great. OK.

Which brings us to Inheritance, the last book in the series. The fight against evil wizard Galbatorix is reaching its climax. Dragon Saphira is nearly killed in the early stages of the book, but recovers to join Eragon and the elf warrior Arya in the final battle. As was the case with the prior novels, there were many predictable moments in the plot.

To be fair, the manner in which Galbatorix is finally defeated was a surprise. And although the denouement was a bit too long for my taste, the final resolution of Eragon's relationships with Saphira and Arya were not what I was expecting.

This is a satisfactory conclusion to an epic that probably went on a little too long. I am curious about what Paolini will do next.

Friday, April 13, 2012

An Episode to Remember

This entry was cross-posted to The Book Guys blog.

The podcast episodes that come down the Two True Freaks! feed usually cover stereotypically geeky topics, like Star Wars and Star Trek, comic books and TV shows. But the "Titanic Remembered" episode from April 9 was something very different.

Scott Gardner does this episode on his own, as the Titanic is his own personal passion. A solo podcast running well over 2 hours could easily lose focus or become disorganized, but this one never does. Gardner keeps the episode organized, interesting, and very easy to listen to.

The episode covers the Titanic events from a wide array of perspectives. He talks about how the book "A Night to Remember" began his lifelong fascination with the topic, and then launches into a discussion of books and documentaries on the subject, as well as novels and feature films that use the events of April 1912 as a plot point or setting. Of course he discusses the James Cameron movie, and his response to it was not at all what I expected. Gardner even reminisces about a Titanic-themed Commodore 64 game he once played. To say the least, the subject is comprehensively covered.

Most of the Two True Freaks! podcast episodes are scored, as this one is. The musical bed underneath Gardner adds to the atmosphere of the episode. The clips and musical cues were cleverly integrated, setting appropriate emotional tones for various segments of the show.

If you are fascinated by the lore of the Titanic, or simply want to hear from someone for who is, I would encourage you to download this podcast episode.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Babylon Podcasts

This entry was cross-posted to The Book Guys blog.


One of my favorite TV shows ever is Babylon 5, the epic space opera created by J. Michael Straczynski. It ran from 1994 to 1998, first in syndication and then on cable network TNT. Despite being gone for well over a decade, the show has maintained a strong fandom. In addition to many blogs and fan forums, there are some excellent B5-related podcasts. Among these are:

The Babylon Podcast — This one is the “granddaddy of them all,” having logged over 250 episodes. Keep in mind that the TV show itself ran only 110 episodes, plus a few made-for-TV movies, and this podcast has covered them all. Hosts Summer Brooks and Tim Callender have been consistent presences on the show, with a rotating third host over the years. They have done a wide range of cast and crew interviews, including a long conversation with Straczynski himself. They have also interviewed Bruce Boxleitner, Stephen Furst, and Jerry Doyle, among others. At this point in their run, it seems like they may be running out of content to cover, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they figured out interesting things to talk about for another 50+ episodes.

The Babble On Project — British hosts Gillian and Matt analyze two B5 episodes per podcast episode, causing the podcast episodes to regularly run between two and three hours. They only put out a couple of episodes per month, so the episode length should not be a deterrent to listening. As of this writing, they have covered the first two seasons of the show. The best feature about this show is the clear separation between spoiler discussion and spoiler-free discussions. Given the long arc of the Babylon 5 story, this distinction is critical for people watching the show for the first time. They finished their Season 1 coverage with an interview with Straczynski, and wrapped their season 2 coverage with an interview with actress Pat Tallman.

SQPN: Secrets of Babylon 5 — This one is currently on hiatus, having gotten partway into season 2. There are a few unique things about this show. First, the hosts are newbies, going through the DVDs for the first time, and this perspective is a very nice touch. Second, one of the hosts is a Catholic priest from the Netherlands, who is also a huge geek. He certainly brings a different perspective to analyzing the show. I hope that new episodes eventually get produced, but I am not hopeful at this point.

Tuesday, April 10, 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 disk 18 of the unabridged audio version of Inheritance, by Christopher Paolini, the 4th (and supposedly last) novel in the Inheritance Cycle.

"The duplicate of Sapphira raised her head and spread her wings. Then she took flight and loosed a stirring roar."

Monday, April 2, 2012

Book #18

Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis, by Lauren F. Winner. Hardcover.

Winner has written some terrific books the last few years (including Girl Meets God and Real Sex), and this is another strong one. After writing spiritual memoirs about her conversion to Christianity, this one is about dealing with the disappointments of real life.

There are no salacious details given, but she talks about her divorce, and how disappointed she was in herself for her failed marriage. Finding herself in this "mid-faith crisis," she writes about being stuck and coming unstuck, the uncomfortable position of being a public Christian in the midst of a personal crisis.

The book is loosely structured, more like a series of related journal entries than an actual narrative story. It is a quick invigorating read, but certainly not a shallow one. There is depth and pain explored. As always, Winner is vulnerable, open, and insightful.