Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Review of A Case For The Psalms

Book #35. The Case for the Psalms, by N.T. Wright. Unabridged audio.
Most of N.T. Wright’s long bibliography is made up mostly of academic and semi-academic works, focusing on life in first-century Israel. He has made great strides in explaining the world that Jesus and Paul came from.
But in this small book, Wright is more reflective. He turns his attention to the Psalms, the Hebrew book of prayer and worship, the great hymnbook of the Bible. He calls for modern Christians, whether they worship in a liturgical manner or not, to include regular reading of the Psalms in their daily lives. He takes a broad swipe at modern worship music, calling musical leaders in church to write more songs that incorporate or reflect content from Psalms.
The subtitle of the book is “Why They Are Essential.” In answering that question, Wright talks about his own devotional practices, giving many examples of how Psalms have been meaningful in his life. This is perhaps the most time that Wright has spent in any of his books talking about himself and his life.
The walks through the Psalms, section by section. This structure enables Wright to bring his academic expertise to the material. He provides historical, literary, and spiritual contexts for reading these hymns, but is able to do that in a highly readable manner.

Source: HOOPLA.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

This Week in Reading

Confessions of an Introvert, by Meghan Wier, pages 24 – 103.
Mars, Inc., by Ben Bova, COMPLETED. Reviewhere.
The Case for the Psalms, by N.T. Wright, pages 1 – 72.

Brave and the Bold 147
Constantine 10
Crash Comics 1 & 2
The Daring New Adventures of Supergirl 1 & 2
Empire of Blood 1 – 4
Green Arrow 7
Nomad 1, 8 & 21
Wonder Woman 6

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Podcast Guest Appearances

Over the course of the last month or so, I was able to appear as a guest on some great podcasts, hosted by a couple of great podcasters. There are a few more in the planning process, but here are two that recently came out.

I have joined the Two True Freaks' "Fear the Walking Dead" panel show more than once in the past. This year, the show has its own dedicated feed, and I appeared recently to talk about episode 11 of season 2. Host Scott McGregor had me on, along with Brian & Beth Hughes.

I was also invited by Chad Bokelman to appear on the third episode of his new podcast that covers the Action Comics Weekly comic book. He and I spoke about the third installment of the Blackhawk story, which continues to be ... interesting. Because this series of comic books began at issue 601, this third episode is presented on the website and your podcatcher as episode 603.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Review of Mars, Inc.

Book #34. Mars, Inc., by Ben Bova. Unabridged audio.
I was browsing the sci-fi selections on the Hoopla app, after having returned “Rocket Ship Galileo,” and found this one. It seemed a reasonable follow-up to that prior Heinlein novel, as it broadly covered similar material, a trip into space. I was curious what a more modern take (Mars, Inc. was published in 2013) on the topic would look like.
Similar to Heinlein, Bova tells the story of space travel without NASA or other federal involvement. In this case, it is a well-financed private business that is making the attempt, which is a trip to Mars. Richard Branson is name-checked in the novel, and serves a good model for the lead character in the novel, Art Thrasher. With a little Elon Musk of Tesla Motors thrown in, as well.
I was impressed with the “realism” of this novel. The story takes place over 5 years, because space travel is hard. I imagine that it would take a while to work out the details and build the equipment necessary to achieve this goal, to say nothing of the financial aspects. And as a business professor, I have to say that Bova gets the business aspects of the novel pretty well. The corporate intrigue and the proxy battles had enough realism in them to satisfy me that Bova had done his homework in this area.
Bova is a multiple Hugo Award winner, and so knows how to tell a great story. The characters are strong, the relations seem realistic, and the plot moves logically from step to step. All in all, this was a highly enjoyable read.
The only minor technicality I had was that there is already (in real-life) a company called Mars, Inc. They make candy bars. Lots and lots of candy bars.
Note: Bova has written a number of books about Mars. This book is not related to those other Mars books, that are part of The Grand Tour series.

Source: HOOPLA.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

This Week in Reading

Rocket Ship Galileo, by Robert A. Heinlein, COMPLETED. Review here.
Strength for the Journey, by Diana Butler Bass, COMPLETED. Review here.
Confessions of an Introvert, by Meghan Wier, pages 1 – 24.
Mars, Inc., by Ben Bova, pages 1 – 114.  

DC Comics Bombshells 17, Annual 1
Deathlok 5, 16, & 26
Gotham Central 26 – 31
Lumberjanes 5 – 8
Magnus Robot Fighter 18

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Review of Strength for the Journey

Book #33: Strength for the Journey, by Diana Butler Bass. Hardcover.
Diane Butler Bass is an author, retreat leader, and seminary professor. In this book, she combines her personal church history with sociological and theological insights to present this look at the present state and future of mainline churches in the United States.
Bass’ main point is that although mainline churches have spent the last few decades losing members (hemorrhaging, some may say), that there is in fact renewal taking place in those denominations. Her focus is on the Episcopal Church, of which she has been a member since her twenties, but she believes that what she sees there applies to other mainline American churches.
Bass talks about her post-college drift away from Evangelicalism, and being drawn towards the Episcopal Church. She spent a few decades moving from city to city for career and family purposes, giving her experience at a number of different congregations. She was able to experience shrinking and growing congregations, older and younger congregations, and stable and changing congregations. All of this experience is woven skillfully into the work.
Her conclusions are interesting, and counter-cultural. I am not convinced that she will eventually be proven right, and that mainline churches will recover a leadership position in society, but her arguments are interesting. Bass has an academic background, but the personal aspects of the narrative help keep the book easily readable. She saves the most traditionally academic analysis until the last few chapters.

Source: public library. I sought out a book by this author after hearing her interviewed (in relation to a different book) on the Nomad Podcast. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Review of Rocket Ship Galileo

Book #32: Rocket Ship Galileo, by Robert A. Heinlein. Unabridged audio.
This is first of Henlein’s “juvenile stories,” a successful series short novels that would fit today somewhere between the “middle grade” and “young adult” categories. The story was published in 1947, and served as a loose inspiration for the 1950 film “Destination Moon.
A few years after the end of WW2, three teenagers have dubbed themselves the “Galileo Club,” and manage an almost successful backyard rocket launch. One of the boy’s uncle is a physicist who had worked on the Manhattan Project, and he like the boys’ attitude and ideas. They convert a “mail rocket” into a vehicle that takes them to the Moon, the rocket ship Galileo.
As soon as the four arrive on the Moon, they attempt communication with Earth. But the first contact they make is with another ship that is already there, and has been for some time. In hiding. After this secretive crew attacks them, the four Americans learn that they have stumbled onto a secret Nazi moon base, who still plan to being the Reich to Earth.
Yes, “Space Nazis” have become a bit of a trope over the last few decades, but I imagine it was a fresher idea when Heinlein first developed this story. And after the drama of the Moon flight itself, readers are as unprepared for this attack as the astronauts are. The tension is high as the Americans struggle to defeat the Nazis, much less return home.
Heinlein does a good job keeping the proposed science of his novel within the realm of the reasonable. Or at least within the realm of “that sounds reasonable.” And each of the boys is given enough of a different personality to make the book an enjoyable adventure yarn.
Note: Science fiction writer Spider Robinson narrates this audio version of this novel. He was a longtime friend and supporter of Heinlein, and the pair collaborated on a series of novels. Robinson’s does a good job bringing a sense of youthful exuberance to his narration.

Source: HOOPLA. 

Saturday, September 10, 2016

This Week in Reading

Rocket Ship Galileo, by Robert A. Heinlein, pages 134 – 185.
Strength for the Journey, by Diana Butler Bass, pages 232 – 263.
Dragon Token, by Melanie Rawn, pages COMPLETED. Review here.

The Apparition, omnibus, COMPLETED.
Archie 75: Archie & Me
Green Arrow 6
Lumberjanes 1 – 4
Vision & Scarlet Witch 1 – 4

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Review of The Dragon Token

Book #31: The Dragon Token, by Melanie Rawn. Paperback.
This is the second novel of Rawn’s Dragon Star trilogy. This is the follow-up trilogy to Dragon Prince, making it the 5th of 6 books set in this world. It has been a long time sinceI read the prior novel, Stronghold, reviewed here, but I was glad to spend a lot of time this summer journeying back to the land of deserts, princes, and dragons.
At the end of the prior novel, our lead character for four novels was killed in battle. This novel deals with the aftermath of this loss, for his family, his armies, his allies, and his enemies. Rohan’s son Pol becomes High Prince, but is uncertain of his abilities to be the leader that his father was. He has to prove himself, not just to his military leaders and the enemy swarm, but to the other princes, as well.
Rawn does a great job balancing the multiple storylines, as we bounce back and forth between a number of locations, seeing the effects of war from a range of perspectives. The movements of troops and descriptions of battles are clear, and the scenes are describing in gripping ways. She manages to strike a balance between the action scenes and character development. Tensions are building, and I want to know how the epic wraps up. I expect that I won’t let as much time pass before picking up the next book, as I did before reading this one.
These are books to consider picking up if you’re wondering what fantasy epic to read before the next George RR Martin tome comes out, if it ever does. These novels are nowhere near as intense as The Song of Ice and Fire in terms of violence or other content, but the series have many elements in common.
Source: A student gave me the six novels that comprise both the Dragon Prince and Dragon Star trilogies.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Review of Tarzan of the Apes

Book #30. Tarzan of the Apes, by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Unabridged audio.
A month or so ago, I ran across an audio version of the second book in the Tarzan series, “The Return of Tarzan.” As I wrote in that review, I believed I had enough knowledge of the character from movies and general cultural osmosis to understand that sequel. But shortly thereafter, I ran across an audio version of that first novel and gave it a listen.
I still stand by the notion that reading the second book was a viable choice. But it is certainly true that reading this one gave valuable context for the story told in that novel.
The story begins in 1888, with a young aristocratic couple on a diplomatic mission to a British colony in Africa. Lord and Lady Greystoke are marooned on a remote coastline after a deadly mutiny on their boat. Lady Greystoke dies not long after giving birth to their son, and, after a giant ape kills Lord Greystoke, Kala, a female ape who's recently lost her baby, adopts the human infant and calls him "Tarzan," the word for "white skin" in the ape language. As Tarzan grows, he's torn between the world of the apes and the secrets of a shoreline cottage. The conflict only grows more intense when another group of English passengers are abandoned on the beach. This group includes an absent-minded American professor and his spirited daughter, Jane.
There is a lot that I liked about this book, including the subtlety involved in describing Tarzan teaching himself to read. And later, to speak. The scenes describing him working through his emotions regarding Jane were also strong. The inclusion of rudimentary personal identification technology (via fingerprinting) was a surprising element.
As with any book from the turn of the last century, there are moments that may make a modern reader cringe. But these do represent some views of the age in which the books take place, and serve to contextualize and characterize the novel’s protagonists.
I understand that as the series progresses, there are many ups and downs in terms of quality. But I have enjoyed both of these first two books, and expect to read the next few, if not more.
Source: HOOPLA. This is a “borrowing” app that operates through many public library systems.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

This Week in Reading

Rocket Ship Galileo, by Robert A. Heinlein, pages 1 – 134.
Strength for the Journey, by Diana Butler Bass, pages 197 – 232.
Dragon Token, by Melanie Rawn, pages 559 – 602.

The Apparition, omnibus, pp 1 – 108.
Astro City 23
Gotham Central 19 – 25
Madam Zero Secret Files
Spawn 1, 6, 7 & 8
Wonder Woman 5