Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Astro City #48 by Kurt Busiek - Book Review

From the publisher: A tale of redemption and farewell, as G-Dog learns the secrets of his origin, faces personal tragedy and joins a very unlikely superhero team. Featuring the return of Kittyhawk and Rocket Dog, and the debut of Ghost Ferret. Part two of a special two-parter with art by guest artist Mike Norton (Revival, Battlepug). 

Astro City #48, by Kurt Busiek, finishes the story begun in issue #47. It's a story of a former criminal (Andy) turned hero (G-Dog) by teaming up, literally, with his pet corgi, Hank. Over the course of their hero career, Hank helped Andy find redemption and turn his life around. But when you have a symbiotic relationship with your dog, what happens when he comes to the end of his shorter life-span?

The magic of Astro City comes when Busiek takes a look at the ordinary, personal lives of heroes and villains. While there is always plenty of super heroics, it is the small intimate moments that add depth. The premise of G-Dog's story is a little silly, but when the action takes a back seat to Andy's relationship with Hank (man's best friend, you know), Busiek strikes a bittersweet but honest chord. This was a great story of redemption, and well worth a read.

I highly recommend Astro City #48, by Kurt Busiek; however, don't read it if you haven't read issue #47. This is for all Astro City fans, and anyone who is close with their pets.

I received a preview copy of this book from DC Comics in exchange for an honest review.

The Wild Storm #8 by Warren Ellis - Book Review

From the publisher: Jacob Marlowe told Angie Spica that he isn’t from around here. He is, in fact, from a long way away. And the story of how he and his friends got here is probably the oldest secret on Earth. The Wild Storm cosmology begins here.

Okay, so Warren Ellis is at it again. Just when I thought I was beginning to understand what was going on in The Wild Storm, issue #8 comes out. And I'm feeling lost again, but not without out hope that it'll all make sense eventually. Three things of note happen in this issue: One, Jacob Marlowe explains (however simply) his alien origin to Angie Spica. Two, the people at IO identify Cole Cash aka Grifter, from Marlowe's wild CAT team, and decide to form a plan. Three, we are introduced to the Doctor and Jenny Sparks, two characters from the old Stormwatch/The Authority title that Ellis wrote some 15 years ago.

I really enjoy The Wild Storm, partly for the craziness, partly to revisit old favorite characters (still crossing my fingers for Jack Hawksmoor), and partly to see just how all of Ellis's pieces will eventually fit together. Ellis is a master at taking gigantic ideas with insane potential and turning them into excellent stories. So, once again, I'm going to trust Ellis as he leads his readers along the trail that is The Wild Storm.

I highly recommend The Wild Storm #8 by Warren Ellis. If you aren't already reading it and it sounds intriguing, go back to the first issue (or the collected edition). I'm looking forward to seeing where this story goes.

I received a preview copy of this book from DC Comics in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Batman/The Flash: The Button Deluxe Edition by Tom King & Joshua Williamson - Book Review

From the publisher: The Watchmen begin their invasion of the DC Universe here in this deluxe graphic novel BATMAN/THE FLASH: THE BUTTON, complete with a lenticular cover!

The cataclysmic events of DC UNIVERSE: REBIRTH #1 continue here! The Dark Knight and the Fastest Man Alive, the two greatest detectives on any world, unite to explore the mystery behind a certain blood-stained smiley button embedded in the Batcave wall. What starts as a simple investigation turns deadly when the secrets of the button prove irresistible to an unwelcome third party--and it's not who anyone suspects! It's a mystery woven through time, and the ticking clock starts here!

Written by breakout stars Tom King and Joshua Willamson, with art by Jason Fabok (JUSTICE LEAGUE) and Howard Porter (SUPERMAN), this crossover is one of the most-talked about events in all of comics. This deluxe edition graphic novel features a lenticular cover and collects BATMAN #21-22 and THE FLASH #21-22.

DC's Rebirth event was a way to restore/correct their comics to a more traditional history. There have been so many different world-shattering events, that the continuity spun out of control. So, Rebirth was to fix all of that, while still making the books friendly to new readers. One of the great mysteries hinted at in the book was the return of the Watchmen to the DC Universe.

Jump ahead to Batman/The Flash: The Button by Tom King and Joshua Williamson. Batman and the Flash are investigating a mysterious smiley face button (with a blood stain on it) that showed up in the Batcave during the Rebirth special last summer. The button appears to be the same one the Comedian (of Watchmen fame) wore.  In the course of their investigation, Batman is confronted by Reverse-Flash, who grabs the button for the power it's emitting. Chaos ensues from there, with time travel, alternate universes/histories, and deaths all around them. And at the end, some questions are answered, but more are asked, as this story leads into the Doomsday Clock event (another Watchmen reference).

I enjoyed this book, and have liked seeing this mystery unfold. I'm one of those readers who didn't care for the New 52 or the results of Flashpoint, and I like the creativity that DC is using to restore some of the traditional history to it's line-up without erasing (again) even more continuity. Whether you are a fan or not, I also think using the Watchmen and bringing them into the mainstream DC Universe is a clever idea. King and Williamson have done a nice job with this story, revealing what they can, yet making it very personal to both Batman and Flash.

I really enjoyed Batman/The Flash: The Button, by Tom King and Joshua Williamson, and recommend it to fans of the Rebirth event. I look forward to seeing where this story continues to go in the future.

I received a preview copy of this book from DC Comics and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Wonder of Advent Devotional by Chris Tiegreen - Book Review

Image result for The Wonder of Advent Devotional
From the publisher: Rediscover the heart of the Advent season
As the year comes to a close and the stress and busyness of the consumer Christmas holiday grows, it can be easy to lose sight of what the season really calls us to: worship. In today’s world, is it even possible to slow down, to ponder, to wonder in the coming birth of Christ?

This Advent, recapture the mystery and beauty of the season with The Wonder of Advent Devotional. In this insightful and thought-provoking book, beloved devotional author Chris Tiegreen brings you into a deeper experience of this integral time in the church calendar. After completing a week of short readings to prepare your heart for the Advent season, you’ll journey through December with daily Scripture readings, prompts for reflection, and guided prayer to help you savor this remarkable divine story. With each day, The Wonder of Advent Devotional will reconnect you with what happened in Bethlehem long ago—and experience it anew in your life right now.

Chris Tiegreen's The Wonder of Advent Devotional is a nice little book designed for daily devotionals before and during the Advent season. There are short readings for the week preceding Advent, focusing on preparing for the season. Beginning with the 1st of December and running throughout the rest of the month, the devotions change a bit. Each reading gets a longer (approximately 4 pages compared to 2). Each day includes the following: A passage of scripture, with a specific verse or two highlighted; a devotional reading focusing on an aspect of Jesus, His birth, Mary, Joseph, etc.; a short prayer; some questions for reflection; suggestions for further reading; and a passage from various Christmas hymns.

Tiegreen does a nice job by taking a small part of the Advent and concentrating on it each day. The readings are short enough to be done in the morning before work, in the car on the way to school, during a break, or even before bed. They are straight to the point and help the reader to really zoom in on the Advent season.

I recommend The Wonder of Advent Devotional by Chris Tiegreen. This would make a good devotional to use alone or with your family during Advent time. If you're looking for a way to connect with God during the busy holiday season, The Wonder of Advent Devotional is a terrific way to do it.

I received a preview copy of this book from Tyndale in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Adored: 365 Devotions for Young Women by Lindsay A. Franklin - Book Review

Adored: 365 Devotions for Young Women  -
From the publisher: In an ever-changing world, we can be certain of one thing: we are beloved by God. Adored: 365 Devotions for Young Women tackles tough topics girls face, from bullying and social media to friendships and dating, all the while showing readers how infinitely precious they are in God’s sight.

Each day features an easy-to-read, relevant devotion paired with a scripture verse and journaling space to help readers reflect on the day’s message. With honest, poignant, and sometimes humorous text, every page will speak to the pressures and changes girls face, giving them real-world applications to find God in their hearts and in their lives. Perfect for everyday use, Adored will resonate with girls searching for truth and guidance. Gift givers will love this highly designed book featuring a beautiful, foiled cover, and two-color interior pages.

The new devotional Adored: 365 Devotions for Young Women, by Lindsay A. Franklin, is pretty nice. It is in the tradition of the 5-Minute type devotional books, and is structured to last a year. However, rather than start with January 1, it just numbers its devotions by days, ie. Day 1, Day 2, etc. For someone who likes to read a year long devotional, but wants to start at the beginning, this is a nice feature.

Each separate devotion begins with a a passage of scripture, anywhere from 1 verse to several, but no passages are too long. The devotion then focuses on an aspect discussed in the day's scripture. For example, how much God adores you; a massively powerful God loves you; the defining characteristic of a Christian is love, etc. Each reading is no more than a page long. Finally, the daily devotional ends with several blank lines for the reader to respond to the message.

As a father of girls, I appreciate that Adored is directed towards young women. It's important for them to find their self-worth in God and this devotional focuses on making that clear. To be clear, anyone can read this book, but it is written in a conversational style and with references that pertain to girls.

Finally, the design of the book is terrific. It has a nice, sturdy hardback cover (with no removable cover). The pages are a little thicker than normal paper, which would appear to make them more durable. The art on the page margins matches the cover, resulting in an attractive, girly design.

I highly recommend Adored: 365 Devotions for Young Women, by Lindsay A. Franklin. If you have a young woman in your life (daughter, girlfriend, niece, granddaughter, etc.), it would make a fantastic gift book.

P.S. If you're interested in a free sample or some other resources, please click here.

I received a review copy of this book from Zondervan and Handlebar in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

WILDSTORM: MICHAEL CRAY #1 by Bryan Hill - Book Review

From the publisher: Warren Ellis’ critically acclaimed relaunch of THE WILD STORM gets its first solo spinoff series! Michael Cray, professional assassin, has been betrayed by International Operations and has an alien life-form in his head that’s either killing him, transforming him, or both. The only thing that can bring sense to his life is for him to do what he does best: kill the wrong people for the right reasons. But Michael needs support and resources to hit back against I.O., and he gets them in exchange for working with Trelane, taking out her targets, his way. First up? A sociopathic Silicon Valley billionaire by the name of Oliver Queen! 

Bryan Hill's Wildstorm: Michael Cray #1 is the first spin-off title from Warren Ellis's take on the Wildstorm properties. Michael Cray is hired by International Operations to create a team to assassinate enemies for IO. His first target? Oliver Queen aka Green Arrow!

This first issue introduces the reader to Cray, a young man with a tendency towards using violence to resolve conflict. Thus, he was in the military, where IO recruited him. We meet his handler, Trelane, who encourages him to form a team. We also meet his father, who provides some background on Oliver Queen. Additionally, we are given a glimpse in to Queen's activities, which appear to be somewhat less than heroic.

Much like The Wild Storm (Ellis's title), Michael Cray starts off deliberately slow and a little vague. This is a series that looks to build as it moves along, where it's probably better to look at each story arc as a whole rather than individual chapters.

I'm significantly interested to find out what happens next, so Hill did a nice job with this initial issue. There was just enough characterization to hook me, and I'm looking forward to see how Cray and Queen resolve their coming conflict. I recommend Wildstorm: Michael Cray #1 by Bryan Hill to readers of The Wild Storm, fans of the former Wildstorm universe, and anyone interested in a more spy-type hero book.

I received a preview copy of this book from DC Comics in exchange for an honest review.

DARK NIGHTS: METAL #3 by Scott Snyder - Book Review

From the publisher: Superman is pulled into the mystery of the Dark Multiverse while the Justice League follows the trail to a weapon that could keep the forces of the Dark Multiverse at bay!

At this point, I don't know what else I can say about Scott Snyder's Dark Nights: Metal. With issue #3, Snyder continues the crazy story he started several books ago. In this issue, Superman and his allies discover just what has been happening and form a plan to take on Barbatos, rescue Batman, and save the world. Anything more would be risking spoilers, and I'd hate to do that.

I like this series. It's big, fun, and very different from any event series I've read before. Snyder knows his stuff, especially Batman, and he is a terrific story-teller. The portrayals of the various heroes during this crisis are done well. I particularly like Nightwing, who is showing a different side to himself. I'm looking forward to seeing how everything plays out during this Dark Nights event. I'm also curious as to what the long range effects will be. There are many elements in play, and the potential ramifications are far-reaching.

I highly recommend Dark Nights: Metal #3 by Scott Snyder. However, if you aren't up to speed with the series, don't begin here.

I received a preview copy of this book from DC Comics in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 3: League of Shadows (Rebirth) by James Tynion IV- Book Review

From the publisher: Batman's team of vigilantes continues to protect Gotham City in the next volume of the best-selling series, BATMAN: DETECTIVE COMICS VOL. 3: LEAGUE OF SHADOWS!

The next big DETECTIVE arc explodes here as the League of Shadows goes from mysterious rumor to deadly fact! With two new members of the team, Azrael and Batwing, will the Dark Knight's squadron of crime-fighters be able to discover the League's plan? And what deadly personal seceret will be unleashed on the team? 

From writer James Tynion IV (BATMAN/TMNT) and the spectacular art team of Eddy Barrows (NIGHTWING) and Alvaro Martinez (BATMAN ETERNAL) comes the third volume of the return of DETECTIVE COMICS! Collects DETECTIVE COMICS #950-956.

Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 3: League of Shadows, by James Tynion IV, is another in the line of excellent Batman books. Tynion builds on the idea of Batman forming a team of Bat-heroes to help him protect Gotham. Trained by Batwoman, this group, consisting of Clayface, Orphan, Azrael and Batwing (replacing Red Robin and Spoiler), is growing in confidence and ability. But, the League of Shadows may be too much for them.

When Lady Shiva and the League of Shadows come to Gotham, they plan to destroy it. Along the way, they run in to the remains of the Colony (a group run by Batwoman's father), Batman's new crew, and Ra's al Ghul. Cassandra Cain, aka Orphan, is particularly spotlighted. The story speeds along and comes to a fantastic and heartwarming conclusion.

I really liked this collection. Tynion has done an excellent job with the group, and in this book he focuses on Orphan. I thought he did a terrific job portraying a young girl with limited speaking skills (but strong non-verbal communication), raised to be an assassin with no remorse for killing, who desperately wants to be someone and something different. There are several heartbreaking scenes with Cassandra, yet some of the most heartwarming as well. I also found the League of Shadows, whom I had little previous knowledge of, to be a worthy opponent for Batman, and a worthy challenger to the better known League of Assassins. Lady Shiva is formidable and I look forward to future stories about her and the League.

Additionally, there are some interesting developments with Kate Kane (Batwoman) and her father. Tynion has done a nice job with Batwing and Azrael, who form an interesting partnership (science vs. faith). I also like the depth Tynion is adding to Clayface, who is no longer a one-note villain.

Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 3: League of Shadows, by James Tynion IV, is a terrific book. I highly recommend it to Batman fans. It is also a fine self-contained story (minimal knowledge of previous storylines required) and a good beginning point for new readers.

I received a preview copy of this book from DC Comics and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

BATMAN: WHITE KNIGHT #1 by Sean Murphy - Book Review

From the publisher: In a world where Batman has gone too far, The Joker must save Gotham City.

He’s been called a maniac, a killer and the “Clown Prince of Crime” but “white knight”? Never. Until now…

Set in a world where the Joker is cured of his insanity and homicidal tendencies, The Joker, now known as “Jack,” sets about trying to right his wrongs. First he plans to reconcile with Harley Quinn, and then he’ll try to save the city from the one person who he thinks is truly Gotham City’s greatest villain: Batman!

Superstar writer and artist Sean Murphy (PUNK ROCK JESUS, THE WAKE) presents a seven-issue miniseries of a twisted Gotham City with a massive cast of heroes and villains that, at its heart, is a tragic story of a hero and a villain: Batman and The Joker. But which is the hero—and which the villain?

Sean Murphy, the writer of Batman: White Knight #1, has come up with an interesting premise: What if the Joker was cured, began trying to make up for his wrongs, and Batman became Public Enemy #1? That's what the series White Knight tries to answer and its off to a good start.

The story opens with Jack Napier (the cured Joker) visiting Batman in prison, where Batman is being held. Then Murphy takes us back to how this happened. Batman is in hot pursuit of Joker, who has escaped Arkham Asylum once again. As Batman becomes increasingly more reckless, he endangers many people, finally cornering Joker in a factory with pills of unknown origin stored all around. Batman shoves a handful of them down Joker's mouth and is filmed doing so. From that, chaos erupts.

Murphy's opening chapter in this story provides mostly back-story for the cured Joker concept. There are some nice character moments, both involving Joker, and involving Batman and his "family". I'm curious how this story will progress, and while this part was a little heavy on exposition, I'll definitely be checking in when part 2 is released.

I recommend Batman: White Knight, by Sean Murphy, to Batman fans. It's a good beginning to a story with a new concept. It looks to be a fun read, and I'm looking forward to seeing how Murphy tells his story.

I received a preview copy of this book from DC Comics in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Our fall sports seasons near they're end

Lexi cheered again while the football team won again. There is one more game this season. She also continues to participate in open gyms, preparing for basketball season. This weekend, Lexi and the cheer squad participated in their second cheer competition. They won again and this time they had no deductions on their routine.

Cami's volleyball team split their games again this past week. They've shown a lot of improvement and will finish their season with a tournament this week. Cami has shown a consistent overhand serve and is doing a nice job with hitting the ball when it's coming to her. Cami's basketball team won one and lost one, again. She had 3 points in the first game and had 2 rebounds. She has next weekend off, then plays a couple more games, I believe.

Griffin's football team played their last regular season game this week. The team lost a hard fought game, 14-8. Griffin did a nice job, blocking from his wide receiver position. He also a fine game at DB. They completed a pass on him, but he had good coverage and helped make the tackle. He also knocked a pass down the next time they threw on him, so he learned from previous experience. In the first playoff game, the team won 34-0 and played our most complete game so far. Griffin played good "D" and was in a pile for a tackle. He also carried the ball twice. The first time, I think he lost a yard. The second run was spectacular, though. He started off left, made it harder by running outside the hole and to the sideline, where he dodged a guy and stiff-armed another, then reversed field and outran everyone (with some helpful blocks from his teammates) for a touchdown. It was the most fantastic 179 yard 20 yard touchdown run and nearly made me cry. Our next game is Tuesday in the semi-finals, and if we win, the championship is on Wednesday on the new varsity turf field at the host school.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

NIGHTWING: NEW ORDER #2 by Kyle Higgins - Book Review

From the publisher: Dick Grayson’s commitment to the Crusaders is put to the test after he learns a shocking secret about a member of his own family. Eager to keep the scandal as quiet as possible, Grayson turns to an old friend for some answers—and what he learns will alter his destiny forever.

I'm definitely enjoying Nightwing: New Order, by Kyle Higgins. Issue #2 was a great second part, and gave a lot of background on how the world without powers got to be that way.

The first thing to realize is that the narrator, Jake, is the son of Nightwing and Starfire. Secondly, Nightwing is responsible for wiping out the majority of superpowers, good and bad, in the world. Also, Nightwing is the leader of a group responsible for capturing powered individuals, and either providing them with inhibitors or putting them in suspended animation if the inhibitors don't work. Finally, Nightwing is put in to an almost impossible position, forced to make an incredibly hard choice.

While New Order #1 dropped the reader into the middle of this dystopian, facist world. With issue #2, though, Higgins begins to provide some context. With Jake, Higgins has found a new and interesting voice with which to narrate the story, and he does a nice job of explaining just how things ended up where they are. He also provides a new set of eyes on the heroes so many of us know so well. And while I can't put my finger on the title, Higgins has reminded me of another story with New Order. This isn't a bad thing, though. I really like the echoes of familiarity. I also like the emotions he has imbued this story with, particularly the family relationships.

I highly recommend Nightwing: New Order #2. Kyle Higgins is writing a terrific story of impossible choices and family relationships. I look forward to seeing where he takes it from here.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Titans Vol. 2 (Rebirth) by Dan Abnett - Book Review

From the publisher: The classic team of former superhero sidekicks continue their adventures in TITANS VOL. 2, as a part of DC Rebirth!

As Kid Flash Wally West and the Titans adjust to their new lives in New York City and investigate a new threat, a mysterious company called Meta Solutions comes to the forefront. Who are they? And what stunning discovery will the Titans make about their new foe? 

Writer Dan Abnett (AQUAMAN) and artist Brett Booth (NIGHTWING) continue their critically acclaimed run with TITANS VOL. 2! Collects issues #7-10, TITANS ANNUAL #1 and stories from DC REBIRTH HOLIDAY SPECIAL.

I've been reading Titans for two reasons: first, I enjoy reading about Nightwing and find that the character is a natural leader; second, with Wally West (Flash) at the center of the Rebirth mystery, I'm hoping for some clues. Titans Vol. 2: Made in Manhattan, by Dan Abnett, offers some of the first, but none of the second.

The main storyline in this volume involves the Titans setting up shop and (quite literally) growing Titans Tower in New York City. They are attempting to make their presences felt, and have hired a legal consultant (which is fairly humorous). Their friends Mal and Karen Duncan figure prominently, as Mal has used a company called Meta Solutions to remove his sound powers. Karen, who recently discovered she has powers of her own, just wants to be able to focus and control her abilities. When Mal runs into an old enemy, he questions just what Meta Solutions is actually doing. Enter the Titans, to help their friends, and the mystery deepens.

Most of the characterization in this volume focuses on Mal and Karen. It actually functions as an origin of sorts for Karen, who Mal affectionately refers to as "Bumblebee". Her quest to use her abilities is a positive contrast to Mal's PTSD that resulted from engaging an enemy while using his abilities. While this story is effectively concluded, it also serves to set up a larger mystery and coming conflict.

In addition to the main storyline, there is a short tale from the Rebirth Holiday Special that shines a nice light on Arsenal. Titan's Annual #1 is also featured here. Abnett tells a story that brings several of the Titans and their Justice League counterparts together in mentor/protege roles. He also manages to delve a bit into the history of Donna Troy (Wonder Girl). My favorite part is how Abnett contrasts the relationship between Barry Allen and Wally West (both Flashes) to that of Batman and Nightwing, Aquaman and Aqualad, and Wonder Woman and Wonder Girl. Suffice it to say that not all of them are functional relationships.

Overall, Titans Vol. 2: Made in Manhattan, by Dan Abnett, was entertaining. I enjoy reading about the original Titans (no longer teens). While I was hoping for some Rebirth clues, I wasn't disappointed in the book. I recommend it to fans of the various heroes (Nightwing, Arsenal, Wonder Girl, Aqualad, Omen, and the Duncans) either together or individually. I look forward to seeing where Abnett takes this group of characters in the future.

I received a preview copy of this book from DC Comics and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Latest Update

This week, Lexi continued cheering. The 8th grade team won again, and Lexi was her usual cheer-y self. Two more weeks before they begin transitioning to basketball cheer. She also has another cheer competition coming up next Saturday.

Cami's volleyball team split games with their opponent for the second time this season. She served well, winning earning several points. She has a couple more weeks of the volleyball season remaining. Cami's basketball team went 1-1 this week. She handled the ball as point guard several times, shot, and played hard. Two more games to come next week.

Griffin's football team won again, 18-0, to go to 7-0 on the season. He had a pretty good game, getting a tackle and providing some blocks. He also got to cover a receiver, as this team passed a little bit. Next Saturday is the last regular season game, with the playoffs starting next Sunday. Giffin's basketball team lost both their games this week. He had a few shots that just missed (they are sooo close to going in). He also had a couple of rebounds, played tenacious defense, and caused multiple turnovers, along with tying the ball up for jump balls. His fall season comes to an end next weekend with a tournament.

We are close to finishing the fall sports season and then will have a short break before the winter season begins.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

THE WILD STORM #7 by Warren Ellis - Book Review

From the publisher: Jackie King, chief analyst at I.O., tries to make sense of all the pieces scattered across the board since Angela Spica saved Jacob Marlowe’s life. Angela Spica wakes up at Jacob Marlowe’s safe house and starts to realize how far from real life she’s been thrown since then. But life is not slowing down, and Marlowe’s wild covert action team have to extract the last member of their number from an I.O. black site. Meet John Colt—moments before he’s either rescued or murdered or dissected to reveal a secret kept for thousands of years. 

Once again, Warren Ellis has written a great issue of The Wild Storm, #7 to be precise. Once again, I don't have the first idea about how to review it. Ellis is the master of the big crazy idea, and is also excellent at the smaller moments. This issue contains both. While the first six issues of The Wild Storm seemed to introduce the various characters and factions, and put all the pieces on the board, the current issue is a beginning to the next arc in this story.

We are given the perspective of Jackie King, who is the chief analyst for I.O. She catches her team (read: the reader) up on what went down with Angie Spica, Jacob Marlowe, and Henry Bendix and Skywatch. We then get a peak at the WildC.A.T. crew working for Marlowe. I'm still waiting for Grifter to go into full Grifter mode, but it seems like it's just a matter of time. Finally, we meet John Colt, the only new character in this issue and a member of the WildC.A.T. team. John may, or may not, have some interesting knowledge about I.O. Oh yeah, and there is weird technology, alien(s), mysteries, and conspiracies galore (well, not exclusively in this issue, but throughout the book).

The Wild Storm #7 is the opener to the next chapter of this story. Ellis gives just enough action and information to keep me coming back. I'm positive The Wild Storm probably reads better in collected form, but I'm not anywhere near patient enough to wait for all the issues to come out before first reading them. This is a story that demands a monthly reading, much like some television shows must be watched as they are broadcast rather than waiting for a binge session.

Get this book and read it. While its not the best idea to jump in to the story in the middle, there is a nice recap in this issue to catch up any late comers.

I received a preview copy of this book from DC Comics in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Batman: The Dark Knight: Master Race by Frank Miller, Brian Azzarello - Book Review

From the publisher: One of the most highly anticipated sequels of all-time is finally here in DARK KNIGHT III: THE MASTER RACE!

In 1986, Frank Miller introduced his iconic take on Batman and changed the face of comics forever. Now, three decades after BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, Miller himself has returned with a third chapter to his groundbreaking saga.

DARK KNIGHT III: THE MASTER RACE continues Frank Miller's landmark DARK KNIGHT SAGA that began with 1986's THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and continued with its 2001-2002 sequel THE DARK KNIGHT STRIKES AGAIN. Co-written by Brian Azzarello and drawn by Andy Kubert and Klaus Janson, DARK KNIGHT III: THE MASTER RACE returns to a world gone awry left in the aftermath of the toppling of Lex Luthor and the apparent death... of Batman himself? Then who will save Gotham City and the rest of the planet against the mysterious Master Race? 

Also collected in this graphic novel are the nine mini-comics that originally appeared in the monthly periodical release of DARK KNIGHT III: THE MASTER RACE, each of which focuses on a different character from within the world of Miller's Dark Knight. The minicomics are also written by Miller and Azzarello and will be drawn by some of the greatest artists currently working in comics, including Miller himself, Eduardo Risso and John Romita, Jr.!

Collected here are all nine chapters of DARK KNIGHT III: THE MASTER RACE as well as the nine mini-comics.

I read Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns and loved it. I read Miller's The Dark Knight Strikes Again and liked it. When I heard about Dark Knight: Master Race, by Miller with Brian Azzarello, I was hoping for more of a Dark Knight Returns feeling. And you know what? I did like it. Master Race isn't as good as the original (that would be hard to accomplish), but I enjoyed a lot more than I remember enjoying more than The Dark Knight Strikes Again. And that's a good thing. With sequels or returns to classic stories, there is a danger involved; so many people enjoy the classic original, that the creators risk alienating fans both old and new. Well, in my opinion, Miller and Azzarello have done a fine job with The Master Race.

 A quick synopsis: Batman is missing and presumed dead, Superman has removed himself from involving himself in humanity's affairs, Wonder Woman is busy ruling the Amazons and raising her children (a daughter and son). Other heroes seem to be laying low as well. In to this world comes rumor of a Batman sighting, which doesn't sit well with many. Additionally, Lara (the teenage daughter of Superman and Wonder Woman) visits her frozen father at his Fortress of Solitude. While there, she discovers the bottled city of Kandor, and is convinced to take it to Ray Palmer, the hero known as the Atom. The residents of Kandor want to be returned to normal size and Palmer's shrinking technology is just the ticket. But all is not as it seems when the Kandorians return. And thus, the foundation for the story of The Master Race is born.

I enjoyed reading this story. I found that Miller and Azzarello had a new and interesting take on the story of the Kandorians, and the tie-in to how superheroes were viewed in this world was nice. The subplots, involving Superman, Wonder Woman, and their children; Batman and his new Robin, Carrie Kelley; or even the cameos by heroes such as the Atom, Aquaman, and Flash, were all complimentary and dovetailed nicely with the main storyline. In fact, I really liked how the other heroes were very naturally brought into the story, rather than forced in just for fan service.

In addition to collecting the main comic story, this collected edition also contains nine separate mini-comics stories that ran in the individual comics, each focusing on a side story that adds to the overall enjoyment of The Master Race. Some of these stories focus on heroes, such as the Atom or the new Batgirl, and some show events that happen off the page of the main storyline. All were well done and deserved their place in this story.

Overall, I really enjoyed Miller and Azzarello's The Dark Knight: The Master Race. It was a well-written story that added to the mythology of Miller's original The Dark Knight Returns. I highly recommend it to all Batman fans, and to anyone who enjoyed The Dark Knight Returns. It would also be an entertaining read for new fans wondering what all the Frank Miller Batman fuss is about.

I received a preview copy of this book from DC Comics and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

So Many Sports!

Lexi did her usual, cheering for the middle school football game (they lost). However, this week her cheer squad participated in their first ever competition. The did a great job and received a trophy (they were the only squad in their division, but did a terrific job regardless).

Cami's volleyball team won their first set of the season. Cami did a wonderful job, serving for several points. She also made some nice hits when the ball was served to her. Cami's basketball team went 1-1 again this week. She did a nice job in the first game, but turned it on in the second. She had a rebound and 4 points to go along with several jump balls caused in both games. She had a huge smile on her face after scoring. More to come next week.

Griffin's football team won their sixth game of the year, bringing them to 6-0. They beat an outmanned team 22-0, and it could have been a lot worse but we played multiple kids in multiple positions. Griffin played good defense and nearly had another tackle. On offense, he blocked as a wide receiver, but the real fun came when I put him at running back. On his first play, he recovered a fumble by the quarterback. On his second, he ran right, made a little juke move, and picked up around 6 yards. Unfortunately, there was a penalty, but it was a really cool run with a nice move. He also said it didn't really hurt to get tackled, so that was nice. Two more regular season games to go. Griffin's basketball team lost both of their games. Griffin was able to take a couple of shots and get some rebounds. More next week.

One other really cool thing happened this week. The US Secretary of Education visited our school as part of a tour she was on, and attended our Hog Roast fundraiser and varsity football game. Cami and Griffin had a chance to meet Sec. DeVos and shake her hand. Griffin (and a smidge of Cami) even made it in a picture in the local newspaper (Griffin was front and center).

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

DARK NIGHTS: METAL #2 by Scott Snyder - Book Review

From the publisher: As Superman and Wonder Woman hunt for a missing ally, Batman investigates a mystery spanning centuries. When the World’s Greatest Detective discovers a foe even greater than the Justice League could possibly imagine, will Earth’s heroes be ready?

Dark Nights: Metal #2 continues Scott Snyder's strange, interesting, connective tale of Batman, his history, and some strange foreign metals. I'm going to try to avoid spoilers, so this may be a very plain review.

First, in Metals #2, we get more of the backstory to who Barbatos is and how Batman is a danger to the world. Much of the issue consists of his Justice League friends trying to track him down, and Batman's Bat-family trying to help him avoid the JL. We also get a look at many of the immortals, Hawkgirl for one, who know of this threat and have dealt with it before. This issue is really still just putting the pieces into play and visiting with the disparate groups of heroes.

I'm enjoying Dark Nights: Metals. Snyder has somehow woven all sorts of DC history into this event series. I want to believe much of it was even thought of when the ideas were first introduced (i.e. the Court of Owls). I'm also curious if Dark Nights will have any tie in to how Rebirth occurred and any of the supposed return of the Watchmen. I guess I'll just have to be patient and keep reading.

I recommend Dark Nights: Metals #2 to Batman fans and others who have already begun reading the series, but it is definitely not a place to start.

I received a preview copy of this book from DC Comics in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

All-Star Batman Vol. 2: Ends of the Earth (Rebirth) by Scott Snyder - Book Review

From the publisher: #1 NEW YORK TIMES best-selling BATMAN author Scott Snyder's ALL STAR BATMAN continues with a new volume featuring new stories drawn by some of the top artists in all of comics!

For more than 75 years, Batman has been one of the most widely-recognized and revered super-heroes in all of comics. But what would the Dark Knight be without an equally iconic roster of villains to keep him fighting all these years? In ALL STAR BATMAN VOL. 2, Scott Snyder is joined by a rotating team of superstar artists to tell individual, villains-centric stories that in their sum reimagine the Caped Crusader's rogues gallery and bring it into the modern era.

Included in this graphic novel are a chilling Mr. Freeze tale with Snyder's frequent collaborator Jock (BATMAN: THE BLACK MIRROR), a Posion Ivy tale with intoxicating art by Tula Lotay (BRIGGS LAND), Snyder's first pairing with the great Giuseppe Camuncoli (AMAZING SPIDER-MAN) and more!

One the most successful and well-reviewed series from DC UNIVERSE REBIRTH continues in Scott Snyder's star-studded, ALL STAR BATMAN VOL. 2! Collects issues #6-9.

The more I read his books, the bigger fan I am of Scott Snyder. With All-Star Batman Vol. 2: Ends of the Earth, Snyder once again has written a great Batman story (although according to the narration, "This is not a Batman story). With a rotating cast of artists, Snyder tells a tale of ecological destruction featuring four different villains.

The first three stories, which are connected but self-contained, star Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy, and Mad Hatter. Batman is tasked with dealing with each of them and some sort of ecological disaster. By the time the fourth chapter rolls around, Snyder has set the table perfectly for his surprising conclusion. This book has appearances by the mysterious Blackhawk group, as well.

My favorite part of this collection is the Mad Hatter story. I always thought Jervis Tetch was sort of corny as a villain, and at his best he was a creeper. Snyder, however, really gave him a serious and threatening turn as a villain, making him a legitamate rogue for Batman.

In addition to the main story, Snyder continued his run of back up features tracing the training of Batman's new partner, Duke Thomas. Intertwined with a threat from the Riddler, Duke struggles to find his place in the Bat-family. It's a neat way to do a Year One type story for Duke without having it be the main storyline.

I highly recommend All-Star Batman Vol. 2: Ends of the Earth by Scott Snyder. He has got a great feel for Batman and he continually adds to his reputation as one of the best at relating the adventures of the Dark Knight. If you like Batman, you should definitely pick this up, and it functions as a jumping on point for new readers as well.

I received a preview copy of this book from DC Comics and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

A lot happening this week

To begin, Lexi continues to cheer for the middle school football games. The team was victorious again this week. She also is still attending basketball open gym. Additionally, the middle school student council (of which she is a member), voted her President, a position she ran for (and gave a speech) against two other 8th graders. I guess I have to refer to her as Madam President now.

Cami had another volleyball match. She didn't win, but she served well again and hit the ball several other times. She also had her first two travel basketball games. They won one and lost one. She had 2 points, a steal, and caused multiple jump balls. Lots of hustle.

Griffin's football team is still undefeated, at 5-0. The defense has only given up 20 points this season, I believe, and the offense has scored 112. We have three more regular season games. Griffin had an assist and nearly had two more tackles. He also recovered a fumble for the first time in his career. Last week, his travel basketball team played two games (they lost both). Griffin played pretty good defense. He was able to get a few shots off, but is still a little rusty. He also shot two free throws, but they just missed. This week they had two more games, winning one and losing one. Griffin took some shots again, got a rebound, a deflection, tied up several loose balls, and played good defense. Next week he has two more games.

Lots of fun cheering on the kids.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

ASTRO CITY #47 by Kurt Busiek - Book Review

From the publisher: Meet G-Dog, possibly ASTRO CITY’s most unusual superhero ever. Half man, half dog—but who’s running the show? The answers will change a life, reveal another hero’s deepest secrets, and possibly, just possibly, save the world. Oh, who are we kidding...they’ll definitely change the world. Do you see that handsome face? Also featuring Honor Guard, with guest art by Mike Norton (Revival, Battlepug).

With Astro City #47, Kurt Busiek introduces a new hero, G-Dog. G-Dog is a half man, half dog, and his origin story is pretty interesting. Take one petty thief, one "stolen" corgi, and one magic amulet and mix them up. When Andy discovers that the amulet he stole can transform he and his corgi, Hank, into a strange man-dog, he decides (with the help of Hank's conscience) to help people and fight crime. Along the way, Andy confronts many of his life decisions and, with guidance from Hank, begins to turn it around. However, what happens when 1/2 of the partnership ages faster than the other?

While this wasn't my favorite Astro City story, Busiek again captures some of the smaller moments of the hero life. Andy and Hank are a likable team as G-Dog, and their story is a unique one. Busiek excels at the slice of life type tales, which is part of what makes Astro City such an entertaining book.

I recommend Astro City #47 to fans of something different when it comes to superheroes. Kurt Busiek has created a nice corner of the superhero world where he is free to tell the stories he wants to. Astro City #47 is another in that long line of tales. I will keep reading this book as long as Busiek continues to put it out.

I received a preview copy of this book from DC Comics in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Batman Vol. 3: I Am Bane (Rebirth) by Tom King - Book Review

From the publisher: The man who has physically tested the Dark Knight like no one before is back to finally break the Bat for good. Can a battered, exhausted Batman fend off one of his greatest foes? Plus, catch up with Catwoman as she and the Dark Knight battle a collection of villains and plan for the future! 

Collects BATMAN #16-20, 23 and 24.

With Batman Vol. 3: I Am Bane, Tom King wraps up his "I Am" trilogy of Batman stories. And boy did he wrap it up well. I Am Bane is a terrific story, with lots of action and some quieter, deeper moments of self-reflection for Bruce Wayne, and even Bane. To summarize the , thanks to Psycho Pirate, a hero known as Gotham is dead and Gotham Girl is emotionally broken. Bane took possession of Psycho Pirate to help him deal with the effects of his long time use of Venom. Batman, knowing the Pirate was the only who could heal Gotham Girl, used a group of questionable "heroes" to take the Pirate from Bane, invading Bane's home, the prison island of Santa Prisca, to do it. Which brings us to this final volume. Bane wants the Pirate back, Batman needs five days for Gotham Girl to be healed, and will do anything and everything to delay Bane in his quest.

With that said, the story is much more involved than that. There are guest appearances by multiple former Robins and Duke, Superman, and Catwoman. There are plans within plans. There is plenty of action and confrontation. And there is an interesting parallel between the childhoods of Bane and Batman. All of this sets up a crisis of conscience for Batman, and sends him off on a new path in his life.

In addition to the main story, there are several others as well. There is a nice tale about how Bruce Wayne acquires a pet dog, named Ace, and an interesting team-up with Swamp Thing that is deeply philosophical. The best of these stories, though, is the epilogue to the I Am Bane storyline. It involves Batman and Catwoman, and spotlights their relationship. It is told in contrast to a conversation between Gotham Girl and Batman. It is well told, and King does a fabulous job with the characterization. In fact, the characterization in this whole volume, particularly with Batman/Bruce Wayne, is a highlight for me. I feel like King has added to an already storied and iconic character, which is hard to do.

Finally, the ramifications of I Am Bane are sure to be felt for a long time. Bruce has come out of this ordeal a changed man, and I'm anxious to see where King takes him. I highly recommend Batman Vol. 3: I Am Bane, particularly to readers who have read the first two volumes in this trilogy. King has risen to the challenge that Scott Snyder left for him on the Batman title. He is well on his way to writing a very definitive take on Batman and I recommend this book to all Batman fans.

I received a preview copy of this book from DC Comics and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Ninth City Burning by J. Patrick Black - Book Review

From the publisher: For fans of Ender’s Game, Red Rising, and The Hunger Games comes an explosive, epic science fiction debut...

Cities vanished, gone in flashes of world-shattering destruction. An alien race had come to make Earth theirs, bringing a power so far beyond human technology it seemed like magic. It was nearly the end of the world—until we learned to seize the power, and use it to fight back. 

The war has raged for five centuries. For a cadet like Jax, one of the few who can harness the enemy’s universe-altering force, that means growing up in an elite military academy, training for battle at the front—and hoping he is ready. For Naomi, young nomad roaming the wilds of a ruined Earth, it means a daily fight for survival against the savage raiders who threaten her caravan.

When a new attack looms, these two fledging warriors find their paths suddenly intertwined. Together with a gifted but reckless military commander, a factory worker drafted as cannon fodder, a wild and beautiful gunfighter, and a brilliant scientist with nothing to lose—they must find a way to turn back the coming invasion, or see their home finally and completely destroyed.

I tried to read this book, I really did. Ninth City Burning, by J. Patrick Black, seemed to have a number of things that were in my reading wheelhouse. There were young adults learning about their abilities and fighting against a great evil force. There were alien invaders, a new world order, a post-apocalyptic setting with just enough of the old to be strangely familiar. There were even comparisons to Ender's Game and Harry Potter, both of which I really enjoyed. Yet, I couldn't bring myself to finish reading it. I spent several weeks pushing myself through it before I decided to take a break. And once I was on the break, I couldn't think of a reason to go back. Nothing drew me in to the story. Due to this, I gave up on what was a promising concept.

I'm not sure why Ninth City Burning didn't click for me, but I've thought of a few things that I struggled with. One, the back of the book mentioned two particular characters, Jax and Naomi. After appearing in the first couple of chapters, Jax disappeared from the book for more than 100 pages. Naomi was in it alot, but I wasn't particularly connected to her as a character. Each chapter focused on a particular character's point of view in the first person, which I'm fine with, but when you spend multiple chapters in a row with uninteresting characters, reading can become a slog. Also, there seemed to be a bunch of info dumps. This slowed the rhythm of the narrative more than it should have. And it was slow. As the various characters began to come together (there were more than just two point of view characters, several of who were more interesting than the two mentioned on the book jacket), the story took on more appeal. However, by this time I was tired of forcing myself to read and I wasn't willing to deal with any more dumps. After reading more than a third of the book, I just gave up. There are too many other books I'd like to give a try.

Overall, I would not recommend Ninth City Burning by J. Patrick Black. This doesn't mean someone else would not like it, but it didn't work for me.

I received a review copy of this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

A lull in our season(s)

This week, Griffin did not have a game. He had a good practice, catching a touchdown. We'll be back at it next Saturday.

Cami had a volleyball match this week. She hit the ball a few times. Unfortunately, her team lost. She has another match this week.

Lexi had a cheer game. However, the 8th grade team she cheers for came up just short in a shootout, one of those "whoever has the ball last wins" type of games. She also continues to go to open gym for basketball. She'll cheer again next week.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Weekly update (again)

So Cami had her first volleyball matches of the season. Her team lost both matches, but Cami had some nice overhand serves (even serving for a couple of points), and hit several other balls. She had a good time. She also started practicing for a sort-of travel basketball team at school.

Lexi cheered again (the team lost). She actually was cheering against some of her church friends, which was a neat opportunity (rivals but friends). She is also going to open gym workouts for basketball.

Griffin's team raised their record to 4-0 with a hard fought 20-8 win. After going down 8-0 in the first quarter and not looking very good, the team fought back and played an outstanding final 3 quarters. Griffin was in on a gang tackle. He also had really good pass coverage that helped cause an interception that was returned for a touchdown. We have next weekend off due to Labor Day, and resume games the following weekend. Additionally, Griffin has begun a short fall travel basketball season. His team's first games are this weekend, but he chose to opt out of playing in order to hang out with our new missionary friends and their boys. So, next Sunday will be his first basketball games of the season.

Things have started well, and Trisha and I are looking forward to rooting on our kids as we head into the fall.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

NIGHTWING: THE NEW ORDER #1 by Kyle Higgins - Book Review

From the publisher: NIGHTWING: THE NEW ORDER is the story of a future world without “weapons”—where superpowers have been eliminated and outlawed. The man responsible? None other than Dick Grayson, a.k.a. Nightwing, now leader of a government task force called the Crusaders who are charged with hunting the remaining Supers. But when events transpire which turn the Crusaders’ aim toward Grayson’s own family, the former Boy Wonder must turn against the very system he helped create, with help from the very people he’s been hunting for years—the last metahumans of the DC Universe. Don’t miss this bold new vision from the team behind the New York Times bestseller BATMAN: GATES OF GOTHAM! 

Nightwing: The New Order #1, by Kyle Higgins, is an interesting new series. As far as I know, its not meant to be any part of the current DC continuity, but it presents a fertile ground for telling stories.

In this first issue, Higgins sets forth the setup: As a result of an action Dick Grayson (Nightwing) took twelve years ago, the world is without 90% of its superpowered people. Those that remain must use a power inhibitor (at least in the U.S.). The United States has become a sort of facist state, with superpowers being outlawed, and Nightwing being looked at as both hero and traitor, depending on the person's point of view. In a story narrated by his son, Nightwing's choices become even more interesting.

I enjoyed the first issue of Nightwing: The New Order. Higgins gives just enough information to draw the reader in, but still dangles several mysteries to be answered as the series progresses. There is just enough of the familiar to make this seem like a logical future for DC. The characterization of Dick Grayson is not as an extremist, but appears to be as someone who wants what is best, and had to make some hard choices. I'm very curious to discover how a hero (one of my favorites) described in this book as the "heart and soul of the hero community" ends up as a near dictator. This is a book for Nightwing/Batman fans, but also fans that enjoy speculative takes on established characters and situations. I highly recommend it.

I received a preview copy of this book from DC Comics in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Success Continues

For the third week in row, Griffin's team was victorious, this time 26-12 (it wasn't that close). The offense put together two good drives, with Griffin taking the plays in at reciever. The defense was outstanding. We recovered 4 turnovers, with an interception and a fumble being returned for touchdowns. Griffin continues to get better at cornerback. He was in on a tackle, but his best play came when he squared the runner up and tackled him head-on. It was a good play by him, particularly because Griffin was more aggressive. There is a tough challenge ahead next Saturday as the team looks to continue to improve.

Lexi continues to cheer for a powerhouse team. They won 49-0 this week. She'll cheer again this week. Lexi is also attending the basketball open gym sessions in order to improve and to show the coaches her commitment to basketball.

Cami continues volleyball practice (I was wrong about her having a game this past week). Her first match is in a couple of weeks. Cami has set a goal for herself to serve the ball overhand and get it over the net. She's working really hard to accomplish that.

More of the same for the Knights this upcoming week.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

DARK NIGHTS: METAL #1 by Scott Snyder - Book Review

From the publisher: The superstar BATMAN team of writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo reunite for a massive, universe-spanning event!

DARK DAYS: THE FORGE and THE CASTING hinted at dark corners of reality that have never been seen till now! Now, as DARK NIGHTS: METAL begins, the Dark Multiverse is revealed in all its devastating danger—and the threats it contains are coming for the DC Universe! 

DARK NIGHTS: METAL is a DC event unlike any other—one that will push Batman, Superman and heroes of the Justice League beyond their limits to take on threats unlike any our world has ever seen! It will take the combined might of the World’s Greatest Heroes as you’ve never seen them before to face what’s coming their way! 

Dark Nights: Metal #1, by Scott Snyder, kicks of the Metal event, following the two Dark Days books. In it, Snyder actually begins telling the story of Nth Metal and begins to delve into the history of the DC Universe. It's hard to discuss this book without any spoilers, but I can say that the entire Justice League has finally come together and becomes aware (somewhat) of Batman's investigation into the mysterious Nth Metal. More is revealed about the Blackhawks, some of Carter Hall's quest is explained, and there is that ending...the one you might have seen spoilers of, but that I, personally, did not see coming. As the DC Rebirth initiative continues, the various event-type series and team-ups continue to delve into the connective tissue between all the various universes/restarts/continuity blips that have occurred over the years. I'm enjoying the attempt to tie everything together in a logical way, and Dark Nights: Metal seems to be off to an interesting start.

If you like event series, are interested in the mystery (at least one of them) behind Rebirth, or just like Scott Snyder's style, you should pick up Dark Nights: Metal #1. But get on board quick, as it seems like once the story gets going, it's going to go deep.

I received a preview copy of this book from DC Comics in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Another Successful Week

Griffin's team won 24-0 for the second consecutive week. This week we played a school that was new to us, but were still able to pull it out. After a slow start, the boys turned it on; plus, for most of the game we played with only one sub (due to sickness, injury, and absence). I was really proud of all the kids. Griffin did a nice job, playing a ton. He played every play on defense at cornerback, getting close to several tackles and nearly recovering a fumble. He also played a bunch at wide receiver on offense. He did a good job blocking and had a couple of touchdowns run to his side. The next challenge comes next Saturday.

Lexi had her first cheer game of the season, and had a good time. The team won 49-0, and I think the cheerleaders were getting tired arms, as they did push-ups after each score. The next game is Thursday.

Finally, we got the info on Cami's volleyball. She starts practice Monday, and will have games on Wednesdays. She is excited and looking forward to the season.

And just like that, we are superfans again.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Serenity: No Power in the 'Verse by Chris Roberson - Book Review

From the publisher: Tough times haven’t ended for Mal Reynolds and his crew aboard the Serenity. When a call for help to find a missing friend takes them to an Alliance post on the Outer Rim, they encounter a new force building strength to fight the battle of the Browncoats—soon leading the crewmembers to question their individual values…Discovering that their friend is in Alliance custody and that an Alliance Operative is on the way, Mal concentrates his energy on the problem at hand and strikes an uneasy partnership for a daring rescue. But this is only the beginning of the story. Success will be when the Serenity’s crew makes it off this planet alive and all accounted for…

With Serenity: No Power in the 'Verse, Chris Roberson has done a fine job of continuing the Serenity saga while expanding on it, both by filling in details and opening up a future's worth of stories.

This latest Serenity collection finds Mal, Zoe, and the rest of the crew looking to rescue a friend of theirs from the Alliance. In the course of their mission, they encounter a new group of Peacemakers, a woman named Kalista with a group of girls who have been trained/conditioned like River, a Companion colleague of Inara's, and perhaps the start of a bigger place in the 'Verse for the Serenity crew.

No Power in the 'Verse has everything fans of the tv show have come to expect. There is action, a plan that doesn't work out exactly as hoped, humor, swearing in Chinese, Jayne doing stupid stuff, Mal acting with integrity, and River kicking butt. There is a resolution to the story, as well, but the end contains a springboard to what could be a much larger tale for the Mal and company in the future.

In addition to the main story, there is a short story by Chris Roberson, The Warrior and the Wind. River tells Zoe's daughter Emma the story of the Serenity crew (both tv and movie stories) with a touch of fairy tale about them. It was cute and touching, and a nice way to catch new readers up on what happened in the past.

Overall, I recommend Serenity: No Power in the 'Verse by Chris Roberson. This is a must read for fans of the tv series, and would be an entertaining story for readers looking for a good, old-fashioned space western.

I received a review copy of this book from Dark Horse Comics in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Starting with a Win!

Griffin's first game of the season resulted in a 24-0 win for the team. Part of the fun was that we beat the other team from our school, winning bragging rights for the year. Griffin started at cornerback on defense, and rotating at wide receiver on offense, taking in the plays. He had two pretty good plays during the game. On offense, he made a really nice block to help spring the running back for a 15-20 yard gain. On defense, he made a solo tackle on a pass play that held the receiver to only a couple of yards. I was really proud of him on that play, because we scrimmaged the other team during the week and he was beat on the same play. He learned from that and made the tackle when it counted. Our next game is next Saturday.

Lexi had a week off from cheer practice, but is back at it this week. She has her first football game to cheer at this week, too.

Cami starts volleyball next week, and we will be all systems go!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

We're off! (Fall sports)

Yesterday, Griffin officially began his 5th grade football season. He was a part of the annual kick-off jamboree, with his team playing two 10 minute running clock scrimmages against other teams. Both "games" ended scoreless, with our defense and offense doing some nice things and making some good plays. Griffin was in on at least one tackle from his cornerback position, and blocked on offense while playing wide receiver. Next Saturday is his first official game.

Lexi has been doing her regular cheer practices, and I think the first game for them to cheer at is in two weeks.

Cami will be playing fall volleyball, and sign ups are this week.

We are looking forward to getting the fall season off to a great start and watching the kids participate in activities they enjoy.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

THE WILD STORM #6 by Warren Ellis - Book Review

From the publisher: Michael Cray, the world’s best professional killer, is going to get himself killed for refusing to assassinate an innocent. Angela Spica, whose only mistake was saving someone’s life, is discovering that her life is over forever, and that the people in this strange new world she’s forced to survive in...may not be people at all. Treaties have been breached. Secrets are being told. There’s a war coming.

Finally! The Wild Storm #6, by Warren Ellis, begins to fill in some of the backstory/background of the various characters and groups.

Possible Mild Spoilers:

The great majority of this issue is a conversation between Jacob Marlowe and Angela Spica. It is Marlowe who provides much of the background, providing some general information about the conflict between IO, led by Miles Craven, and Skywatch, led by Henry Bendix. It seems IO rules the Earth and Skywatch rules everything else (space, other planets, etc.). In the middle of all this is Marlowe and his group, Halo. To combat the other two, Marlowe formed his own C.A.T. team (covert action team), consisting of people he'd rescued down through the years. Halo's mission is to save the planet.

The other main action revolves around Michael Cray, formerly of IO. He receives an interesting offer at a very interesting time.

I'm really enjoying The Wild Storm, and issue #6 was a great step forward in the story. I appreciated the information that Ellis provided on the various groups, and look forward to seeing how this all plays out. As the series continues, I'm curious if it will read more clearly as a collected edition, but I'm still having fun reading it installments; I'm just impatient having to wait for each new chunk of story. I highly recommend The Wild Storm #6 by Warren Ellis. It's not the best starting point for new readers, but due to it's content, it does work pretty well.

I received a preview copy of this book from DC Comics in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

DARK DAYS: THE CASTING #1 by James T Tynion IV and Scott Snyder - Book Review

From the publisher: The Joker's surprise attack threatens to lay waste to all of Batman's carefully laid plans. Will the Dark Knight be able to regain the trust of his closest allies, Green Lantern and Duke, and prevent the forces of darkness from consuming the DC Universe?! Will Hawkman's warning stop our heroes from peering into the abyss?

The great comics event of summer 2017 is on its way, courtesy of superstar writers Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV with art by a master class of comics artists: Andy Kubert, Jim Lee and John Romita Jr.! 

Dark Days: The Casting #1, by James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder, picks up where Dark Days: The Forge left off. There are several groups investigating a mysterious dark metal. Batman has met up with Wonder Woman. Duke and Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) are confronting the Joker; and Hawkman is narrating his history and journey through a journal. As some of these heroes meet up, more is revealed behind the mystery of the dark metal. However, no clear answers are given; rather, this book is going to lead right into the Dark Days event series beginning in August.

The story was pretty good. It functions as sort of an extended prologue to the main series, so there are no major revelations. But, there are some interesting tidbits dropped in for readers. For instance, the dionesium that saved Batman's life in his battle with the Joker (and apparently saved his life, too) is related to the dark metal and there may be side effects. Another nugget of information is that Hawkman's origin goes back farther than ancient Egypt (which is the typical origin story for both Hawkman and Hawkgirl). I'm curious how these ideas will play out.

I'm also wondering just what the overall synopsis for Dark Days is, because for now, both Tynion and Snyder are keeping things close to the vest. They did a fine job with The Casting, but I think their hands were  tied in so far as revealing anything goes. I would recommend Dark Days: The Casting #1 to readers who are Batman fans and to those who are anticipating the Dark Days event. I don't think it will be required reading for the main series, but it does provide some context and background.

I received a preview copy of this book from DC Comics in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Here we go! Fall sports season is underway.

This week we are back at it. Griffin's youth football season gets underway this week with multiple practices. I'm excited because the number of players on the team is smaller this year than it has been the last two years, which mean more playing time for all of the kids. His jamboree to start the season is July 29 and the first official game is August 5.

Lexi starts her cheerleading practices this week, going from some optional practices to official ones. In addition to their regular cheering at games, the squad will also be competing several times during the fall.

Cami is looking forward to volleyball, which will get underway when school starts in August.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Furthest Station by Ben Aaronovitch - Book Review

From the publisher: There have been ghosts on the London Underground, sad, harmless spectres whose presence does little more than give a frisson to travelling and boost tourism. But now there’s a rash of sightings on the Metropolitan Line and these ghosts are frightening, aggressive and seem to be looking for something.

Enter PC Peter Grant junior member of the Metropolitan Police’s Special Assessment unit a.k.a. The Folly a.k.a. the only police officers whose official duties include ghost hunting. Together with Jaget Kumar, his counterpart at the British Transport Police, he must brave the terrifying the crush of London’s rush hour to find the source of the ghosts.

Joined by Peter’s wannabe wizard cousin, a preschool river god and Toby the ghost hunting dog their investigation takes a darker tone as they realise that a real person’s life might just be on the line.

And time is running out to save them.

With this new novella, bestselling author Ben Aaronovitch has crafted yet another wickedly funny and surprisingly affecting chapter in his beloved Rivers of London series.

I've seen the Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London books and thought about picking one up many times, but just couldn't pull the trigger. When the opportunity to review The Furthest Station (a novella-length story in the same series) arose, I decided to give it a shot.

Peter Grant is a police officer who works in The Folly, the special unit that deals with the unexplainable or supernatural. His latest case has him looking for a ghost on the Tube. Grant undertakes the search with the help of his colleague Jaget Kumar from the British Transport Police. What they find is that there is a very real danger to someone's life, and the ghost on the Tube are just the beginning.

I enjoyed The Furthest Station. The characters are well developed and interesting. Peter Grant is a likable protagonist, with real flaws and an engaging personality. Kumar is an adequate companion, as well. It is easy to see that there is a history between the two. Other characters include Grant's teenage cousin Abigail and his boss Nightingale (who is a master practicer of magic). Abigail is somewhat of a prodigy who longs to learn magic and begin working with her cousin full time. She is very proficient with technology (as many teens are) and very intelligent. Abigail is a nice counterpoint to Grant. Nightingale fills the role of (somewhat) crusty mentor.

The mystery was engaging. It was nothing that seemed out of place in a book of this type, and didn't rely heavily on the use of magic. In fact, as far as police procedurals go, it was rather ordinary (this is not meant as a negative). I liked the fact that magic did not dominate the story but rather felt very natural and complimentary to it.

My only complaint was that I felt like I was missing out on some background or inside jokes, having not read any of the other books in the series. This is definitely not Aaronovitch's fault, but I found myself distracted by this from time to time. If The Furthest Station is meant as an easy entry point to the series (due to the length), then maybe those types of things should be explained or left out. However, I would guess readers who are already familiar with the series would enjoy those comments or events.

Overall, I thought The Furthest Station was entertaining. Ben Aaronovitch has created an interesting urban fantasy/mystery series with engaging characters. If as a reader, this fits in your sweet spot, it would be worth picking up and giving it a read. If you are already a fan, this is a must read.

I received a preview copy of this book from Subterranean Press and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine - Book Review

From the publisher: In an exhilarating new series, New York Times bestselling author Rachel Caine rewrites history, creating a dangerous world where the Great Library of Alexandria has survived the test of time.…

Ruthless and supremely powerful, the Great Library is now a presence in every major city, governing the flow of knowledge to the masses. Alchemy allows the Library to deliver the content of the greatest works of history instantly—but the personal ownership of books is expressly forbidden. 

Jess Brightwell believes in the value of the Library, but the majority of his knowledge comes from illegal books obtained by his family. Jess has been sent to be his family’s spy, but his loyalties are tested in the final months of his training to enter the Library’s service. 

When his friend inadvertently commits heresy by creating a device that could change the world, Jess discovers that those who control the Great Library believe knowledge is more valuable than any human life—and soon both heretics and books will burn.…

The concept for Rachel Caine's Ink and Bone (Book 1 in The Great Library series) is cool: The Great Library of Alexandria survived and is now the dominant force behind the structure of the world. Governments, etc. are all secondary to the Library, because the Library controls information. Everyone can access anything from the Library on their Codex (think tablet) but it is illegal to own any book. And the Library will do anything to hold on to it's power. At sixteen, students can apply to become an employee of the Library, but it is highly competitive. Meanwhile, Jess Brightwell, who comes from a family of smugglers (particularly rare books), is told by his father that he will be part of the next class trying to go into the service of the Library, where he can use his position to spy for his family. And then the fun starts.

First, there is a Harry Potter vibe when Jess begins his journey to Alexandria and his Library training. He takes a train to get there and meets a group of fellow students. There is Thomas, big, friendly, and intelligent; Kahlila, pretty, quiet, and brilliant; Glain (from Wales, and enemy of Jess's England), tall, strong, and fierce; and others. Once in Alexandria, they are taken to their home, Ptolemy House, where Jess meets his roommate Dario, rich, arrogant, and a rival to Jess. They also meet their instructor, Scholar Christopher Wolfe, who is strict, demanding, and distant. And that's where the Harry Potter similarities end. As the students begin their training, they are in competition for only six spots at the Library, so the tensions run high. They are also introduced to a late arrival to the class, Morgan, a pretty and mysterious girl who Jess is immediately drawn to. As the class is whittled down, the danger only grows, and not much is what it really seems to be, including the Library and those in charge of it.

Caine has done an excellent job with this first book in The Great Library series. The world building is terrific, as she has extrapolated what the world (particularly parts of Europe and Egypt) would be like if the Library of Alexandria hadn't been destroyed, but the rest of society had developed in much the same way as our world has (this is set in the near future). She has included several touches to deepen the world, such as a war between Wales and England, or a group known as the Burners who are in conflict and rebellion with the Library (particularly in America). There is also a form of magic, known as Alchemy in the book, that plays a rather important role.

Caine has also created some very engaging characters. Jess Brightwell is a great protagonist who finds himself in moral conflict and has to dig deep into himself to figure things out. Scholar Wolfe has layers that are revealed as the story progresses, and his motivations are slowly revealed. Jess's classmates grow in depth as they experience the Library training together and the high stakes of the story put the characters in very real peril. Very little is revealed about the leaders of the Library, like the Artifex Magnus, Obscurist Magnus, and the Archivist, but future volumes promise to add to them.

In addition to the main storyline, Caine has interspersed snippets known as Ephemera between each chapter. These short bits are based on communications between two characters and add details of a personal nature or focus on the Library's big picture ideas. For example, an early entry mentions Scholar Johann Gutenberg's new printing press invention, and how it needs to be hidden and he needs to be eliminated in order for the Library to keep its stranglehold on information. Each bit of Ephemera adds to the overall picture of what is going on.

I really enjoyed Ink and Bone, and upon finishing, I bought the second volume in the series. Rachel Caine's story and characters are engaging, the world of the Library is interesting, and the concept draws the reader in. I highly recommend this book. While the target audience is older teens, this can and should be enjoyed by adults as well. I'm looking forward to reading further installments in Rachel Caine's The Great Library series.

I received a review copy of this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

NIV Kids' Visual Study Bible - Book Review

From the publisher: The NIV Kids’ Visual Study Bible, for ages 8–12, brings the Bible to life in four-color illustrated splendor. This study Bible includes a spectacular full-color interior featuring over 700 illustrations, photos, infographics, and maps on every page that visually represent key Bible information. Each page also features important facts located near the relevant verse. Intriguing facts; colorful, engaging maps; photographs; and illustrations make this a Bible they’ll want to explore.

     Over 700 four-color photographs, illustrations, infographics, and maps throughout
     Full-color design
     Book introductions, including important facts and an image to orient the reader
     One-column format with side bar study notes for ease of reading
     Presentation page
     The complete text of the New International Version (NIV) translation of the Bible
     Beautiful cover featuring gloss

The NIV Kids' Visual Study Bible is just that: Visual. In my opinion, the selling point of this edition of the Bible for kids is all the visual aids that are a part of it. This is not to say its a graphic novel-type book; it's not. It just has a lot of pictures, charts, graphs, etc. For example, there is a pie chart breakdown of the topics discussed in Proverbs. There is a bar graph showing the make up of David's Mighty Man army. These types of things are spread throughout the Bible. Additionally, each book of the Bible begins with a title/information page, which includes "Who wrote this book?", "Why was this book written?", "What do we learn about God in this book?", and several other topics which can be helpful in understanding the context of the book. In the margins of the pages, quite often there are summaries, explanations, or support for specific verses.

So, does this version work? Overall, I'd say yes. I have a daughter who is anxious to get her hands on this Bible, and she likes it. She feels like all of the visual parts will be helpful and good. I do as well, as the key is to help kids understand what they are reading, as opposed to just reading it or looking at pictures. Overall, I would recommend the NIV Kids' Visual Study Bible as a great Bible for kids in the 8-14 year range in particular, but it is a good Bible for kids of other ages as well.

I received a review copy of this book from Zondervan in exchange for an honest review.