Saturday, December 31, 2016

This Week in Reading

The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus, by L. Frank Baum, COMPLETED. Review here.
Prince Lestat, by Anne Rice, pages 1 – 107.
Boo Hiss, by Rene Gutteridge, COMPLETED. Review here.
Project Management for Dummies, by Stanley E. Portny, COMPLETED. Review here.

Archie Christmas Classics
Doc Savage 3 – 6
King Conan 8, 15
The Wicked + The Divine 1 – 11
Wonder Woman: A Celebration of 75 years, COMPLETED.
World of Archie Double Digest 64

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Review of The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus

Book 48. The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, by L. Frank Baum. Unabridged audio.
This is a wonderful imagining of the life of Santa Claus, telling the secret story of how he came to be the loving gift-giver we know him to be.
Published just a few years after the first Oz book, this book is written in Baum’s trademark style. Recasting the story with elements from fairy tales adds an eerie, odd sense to the story. There are forests, woodsmen, and evil beings who can turn invisible, just to name a few of these aspects.
In this telling, Santa is found as a baby by the immortal Master Woodsman of the World. As he grows, he becomes concerned about the poor state of many children, and begins to aid them by carving pieces of wood into things that he calls “toys.” With the help of other immortals, he delivers these toys to an ever-expanding group of children, eventually becoming an immortal himself.
All of the elements that are needed in a story about Santa are here. The traditional roles of chimneys, stockings, reindeer, helper elves and the impossible bag are all worked into the story. The presence of toy stores in the modern world is also explained.
This was a thoroughly delightful story.

Source: The Classic Tales Podcast. As always, BJ Harrison does a wonderful job narrating this story.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Review of Project Management for Dummies

 Book 47. Project Management for Dummies, by Stanley E. Portny. Paperback.
I read this book to prepare for a class I am teaching in the Spring semester. It is a class I haven’t taught in a number of years, so I read this to refresh my memory on the general topic. I like using non-textbook textbooks in class, mostly because they are so much less expensive that traditional texts. But I’m not going to use this formally in the class. As effective as some of these titles might be, students don’t like being called “Dummies.” They can be kind of touchy.
This was a very good refresher on the concept of project management. All of the basic topics are covered, including scheduling, budgeting, managing a team, and effective communication. Each of these topics is covered in two to four chapters, with plenty of checklists and diagrams.
The biggest problem with any book like this is that can become out of date very quickly, especially where technology is involved. Portny does a good job keeping references to technology generic, not focusing on specific features of specific software packages.
Like most “Dummies” books, this is organized to be a user-friendly reference. I read it straight through, but someone involved in an actual project can look up the specific topic that they need to review. If an introduction to the broad topic is what someone needs, this is a good place to get one.

Source: My wife purchased this for work, probably from Barnes & Noble.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Review of Boo Hiss

Book 46. Boo Hiss, by Rene Gutteridge. Unabridged audio.
Rene Gutteridge stands out among writers of religious fiction in that her books manage to be funny. And the “Boo” series, of which this is the third novel, have consistently managed this “light” tone. “Boo Hiss” is another fun, light read.
Like the prior two novels, this book takes place in and around the small town of Skary, Indiana, where famed horror novelist calls home. In this one, Boone is navigating his struggles as a horror novelist who has recently found religious faith. He hasn’t had a good idea since becoming a believer, and doesn’t even know if he’ll ever be able to return to that life.
But even without the mystery writer writing mystery, strange things still happen around the little town. Like the soccer fields that appear overnight on the outskirts of town, and the strange new coffee shop that opens. Throw in a missing two-headed snake and a maniacal community theatre director, and you have the makings for true shenanigans.
I am used to reading epic adventures, novels where the stakes are incredibly high, and it was refreshing to read a novel where the stakes were smaller, more personal. To the characters involved, the implications of the events of the story certainly mattered. Just because the fate of the world is not at stake,
Many of the funny moments in the novel involve comments about the publishing industry, including a few swipes at Christian publishing. Along with sly comments about modern suburbia and church culture, Gutteridge tells a story that is both entertaining and strangely self-aware.

Source: Hoopla

Saturday, December 24, 2016

This Week in Reading

Boo Hiss, by Rene Gutteridge, pages 1 – 39 
League of Dragons, by Naomi Novik, COMPLETED. Review here.
Project Management for Dummies, by Stanley E. Portny, pages 207 – 270.

DC Comics Bombshells 20
Doc Savage 1 – 2
Excalibur 17, 19 & 21
Green Arrow 13
Sarge Snorkel 6
Snake Woman 7 – 10
Superboy (starring the Legion of Super-Heroes) 203
Trinity 3 & 4
Wonder Woman 12
Wonder Woman: A Celebration of 75 years, pages 242 – 320.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Review of League of Dragons

Book 45. League of Dragons, by Naomi Novik. Unabridged audio.
Ending things is hard. Whether it’s a movie, a TV series, a comic book series, a novel, or a novel series, it’s always true. Ending things is hard.
With this novel, Naomi Novik ends her excellent Temeraire series on a high note. Many series of this length have a few clunkers along the way (Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes novels) or seem to overstay their welcome (Stuart Woods’ Stone Barrington novels), but this series managed to avoid both of those unfortunate circumstances. The series is faithful to its historical fiction roots, and as the Napoleonic Wars ended in the real world, they ended in these novels. Novik fills in the gaps of our history books by including the important role played by dragons in her telling of the tale.
Napoleon’s invasion of Russia failed. But even as William Laurence and Temeraire pursue the retreating enemy through an unforgiving winter, the French leader is raising a new force, and he’ll soon have enough men and dragons to resume the offensive. As a final gambit, Napoleon has promised the dragons of every country—and the ferals, loyal only to themselves—vast new rights and powers if they fight under his banner. It is an offer eagerly embraced from Asia to Africa—and even in England, whose dragons have complained about their poor and dispectful treatment.
The inclusion of dragons in various international cultures has long been a strength of this series. With this novel, Novik brings dragons into the English political process, as well. It is a story point I did not see coming, but given the context of the series, it makes a bit of sense.
I have thoroughly enjoyed this series, from start to finish. I will miss the series, but appreciate the way in which it came to a conclusion.

Source: Hoopla

Saturday, December 17, 2016

This Week in Reading

League of Dragons, by Naomi Novik, pages 81 – 231.
Project Management for Dummies, by Stanley E. Portny, pages 182 – 207.  

Action Comics 655
Adventures of Superman 462
Bizarre Adventures 34
DC Rebirth Holiday Special
Doctor Fate (1987) 3 & 4
Green Arrow 12
Journey into Mystery 520 & 521
King Conan 1, 3, 4, 11, 13, 14 & 18
Sherlock Holmes: Adventure of the Opera Ghost #1 & #2
Wonder Woman: A Celebration of 75 years, pages 175 – 242.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Late Great Shawn Engel

 A year ago, the podcasting community lost one of the good ones. Shawn Engel, from Just One of the Guys, Who True Freaks, and many other shows, passed away after a brief illness. It was a shock to us all, and his loss is still felt.

To commemorate the anniversary of his passing, Aaron Henley assembled a group of podcasters to talk about Shawn's legacy. I participated in part of that episode, which has recently been released.

I encourage you to listen to the episode, and remember the kind, talented man who left us far too soon.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Review of Scandalous Behavior

Book 44. Scandalous Behavior, by Stuart Woods. Unabridged audio.
This novel picks up right where the last one (Foreign Affairs, reviewed here) left off, with Stone Barrington still in Europe. Looking for peace and quiet in rural England, he falls into yet another mystery, another adventure. And as much danger as he usually faces.
Barrington does what he always does when he finds himself in a new country – he buys a multi-million-dollar house, buys a luxury automobile, gets himself a new girlfriend, and generates new business for his law firm. Unfortunately, one of his new British neighbors turns up dead. When the supposed killer also dies, Stone suspects more is going on than meets the eye. At the same time, Stone’s son has released a controversial movie about a controversial religious figure who has a habit of bringing physical harm to those who have crossed him.
The story moves very quickly, as (like the prior one) the action takes place over just a few days. There are some repetitive aspects to Woods’ novels, and the end result is never in doubt. But the journey is often exciting, and this one was dramatic enough to be interesting.
The novel ends with Woods returning to the States, and I assume the next novel will pick up right after this one does.
Note: As always, narrator Tony Roberts does an outstanding job bringing Barrington and his cast to life.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

This Week in Reading

Gutenberg’s Apprentice, by Alix Christie, COMPLETED. Review here.
League of Dragons, by Naomi Novik, pages 1 – 81.
Project Management for Dummies, by Stanley E. Portny, pages 114 – 182.  

Bargirl & the Birds of Prey 1 & 2
Betty & Veronica Double Double Digest 212                            
Green Lanterns Rebirth, 1 – 9
The Hellblazer 1
Nightwing Rebirth
Titans Rebirth             
Trinity 1 & 2
Wonder Woman: A Celebration of 75 years, pages 119 – 175

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Podcast Marathon

A day with no classes = a day to listen to podcasts. Here is what I listened to yesterday:

The Tony Kornheiser Show, 12/7. This used to be a radio show, but has moved recently to a podcast-only format. The former sportswriter and current ESPN TV host talks about sports, current events, and his own personal life.

Men in Blazers 12/6. A pair of British ex-pats talk about the going-on in Premiereship soccer.

3rd Degree Byrne, episode 13. Brian and Tim counted down their top 5 stories from comic book creator John Byrne. There was too much Fantastic Four talk for my taste, and not nearly enough Doctor Doom ;O)

Jaig Eyes and Jedi: Phantom Menace. After covering 2 seasons of the animated Star Wars Rebels series, host Hope and Chris recorded and very entertaining and interesting commentary of the first Star Wars prequel film.

The Tolkien Professor: SilmFilm Session 2-15: Host Corey Olsen and his compatriots continued their discussions of the Silmarillion TV show that they are fantasy-producing.

Salty Cinema #1. This is a new podcast I just discovered. Host Jacob Kindberg interviewed author / filmmaker / professor Craig Detweiler about the future of film education, mentoring young artists, and breaking into th screenwriting business.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Review of Gutenberg's Apprentice

Book 43. Gutenberg’s Apprentice, by Alix Christie. Unabridged audio.
I consider Johann Gutenberg to be one of the most important figures of the previous millennium. This novel tells the struggles that he and his team faced as he developed the technology that would eventually become the printing press, one of the most revolutionary advances in human history.
Peter Fust is a scribe in Paris, when his father Johann Fust calls him back to Mainz to meet his new business partner, Johann Gutenberg. He is a driven inventor who has devised a revolutionary method of bookmaking. Faust is financing the operating, and orders his son to become the inventor’s apprentice. Peter’s skills improve, and his admiration grows for Gutenberg, and Peter dedicates himself to aiding Gutenberg in creating his most daring venture yet: printing copies of the Holy Bible.
The novel includes interesting insights into the histories of religion, society and culture of Europe in this era. Some churchmen consider the new invention blasphemous, at least when used in printing religious texts. This technology would drastically change the role of monks, who served the church as scribes. The printers become caught in the middle of a number of struggles between governmental and church authorities.
The details of the printing process are explained well, as are the uncertainties of trying to harness any new technology. Gutenberg’s drive as a businessman is not portrayed in a necessarily positive manner, but the book does make clear that the financial incentives offered by the printing press were a driving force in its development.
This is a first novel, and Christie does a very good job weaving together the plots, characters, and settings. I look forward to what the author produces next. The website for thebook includes some interesting facts about the production of the Gutenberg Bible, the city of Mainz, and other historical items that were fictionalized in the novel.

Source: Hoopla, after seeing the book featured in a “historical fiction” display at Bexley Publuc Library.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

This Week in Reading

Gutenberg’s Apprentice, by Alix Christie, pages 1 – 165
Scandalous Behavior, by Stuart Woods, COMPLETED.  
Project Management for Dummies, by Stanley E. Portny, pages 82– 114.  

Amalgam books: Generation Hex, Legends of the Dark Claw, Lobo the Duck
Doctor Fate (1987) 1 & 2                                              
Nowhere Man 2 – 4
Power of the Atom 2 & 6
Purgatory 1 & 2
TMNT Presents Mighty Mutanimals: Invasion from Space 
Wonder Woman 11
Wonder Woman: A Celebration of 75 years, pages 1 – 119