Thursday, December 26, 2013

Teen Titans: Death of the Family by Scott Lobdell - Book Review

From the publisher: The team is finally reunited in the wake of "DEATH OF THE FAMILY," but something is very wrong with Red Robin! What did The Joker do? As Red Robin's condition worsens he and the team must face an even greater threat when the new Dr. Light is coming for Solstice!

Collecting issues #14-20

The focal point of the latest collection of Teen Titans by Scott Lobdell is the crossover with the Bat-family of titles, Death of the Family.  Red Robin, along with Red Hood, has been captured by the Joker as part of his plan to "help" Batman.  As a result, the rest of the Titans team up with the Outlaws and Batgirl to try to help save Gotham and bring down the Joker.

The Death of the Family storyline is Joker at his most vile and evil.  It is well done, drawing in all the major players from Batman's extended "family".  With this focus on Red Robin, there is a little more levity to the story without drawing away from the seriousness of what is happening.  Red Robin and Red Hood are forced to confront their role in Batman's life and the consequences of their decision to be heroes.  The interaction between the Outlaws and Titans is incidental to the larger story, for the most part.  However, the collection does close with the Titans moving into a new headquarters and the beginning of a new story with Dr. Light.

One of the highlights of this book is the chapter where the origin of Tim Drake, aka Red Robin, is revealed.  It adds depth to an already interesting character, one who finds balance with the other heroes who used to be Robin.

I would recommend this book to Batman fans, especially to those who want to read the complete Death of the Family storyline.

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

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

August Burns Red "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy"

                                            Another fun track for good measure.

August Burns Red - Carol Of The Bells

                                        Check out this video for a rockin' version of Carol of the Bells.  Griffin loves it.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Fables Vol. 19: Snow White by Bill Willingham - Book Review

From the publisher: With Castle Dark now back in the hands of the Fables, mysteries both young and old begin to challenge the residents of Fabletown. Bigby and Stinky set off from Fabletown in Rose Red's blood-fueled sports car to track down the two abducted cubs. Unfortunately for Snow White, besides suffering the trauma of having two of her cubs go missing, a long forgotten secret uncovered in Castle Dark threatens to sabatoge her and Bigby's marriage.

This volume also collects the backup adventures of Bufkin and Lily from issues #114-121, as well as their full length adventures found in issue #124.

Collected here are Fables issues #114-123 (back-up stories only) and Fables issues #124-129.

I love Fables, mostly because Bill Willingham is an extraordinary writer, and once again he has done a terrific job. Fables Vol. 19: Snow White focuses on Snow White's family: Bigby Wolf is searching for their two missing children, Ambrose is narrating the events, and a long forgotten suitor of Snow's shows up.  Willingham draws upon seeds planted many issues ago (it must be years in real time) to tell this tale.  And as he does with consistency and spectacularity, those seeds grow into a story that brings all the emotional and dramatic depth one could hope for.

Added to the main storyline is the story of Bufkin the Flying Monkey (who can't fly anymore) and his (girl)friend Lily.  This is a fun story, and it wraps up the story of a couple of minor characters from throughout the run of Fables.

As usual, the art by Mark Buckingham and Steve Leialohais gorgeous as always, and really adds to the fairy tale aspect of the story.

There is really no way to review the contents of the story without revealing many spoilers, some small and at least one major one.  So I won't do that.  But I will recommend this book to anyone who enjoys great writing, no matter the medium.  I will also suggest that there are several storylines that pay-off for long-time readers.  It's not a great jumping on point for new fans, but with 129+ issues, those places are few and far between.  But pick it up anyway and give it a shot.  Also, for some of the events that happen immediately following Fables Vol. 19, pick up Fairest In All The Land (the fallout for some characters is addressed in that story).

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

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Jars of Clay - Drummer Boy

When I was in college, I picked up a copy of Jars of Clay's Christmas EP Little Drummer Boy.  I listened to it a ton during the holiday season.  During one of those times, it hit me: Little Drummer Boy is about God's pleasure in us when we use our talents as best we can.

Every time I hear the line "Then he smiled at me..." I get a little choked up.  It's a constant reminder that God loves it when we use the talents he gave us.

A couple of years ago, we saw Jars as part of the Rock and Worship Roadshow tour.  Because it was late fall, they played Drummer Boy and I was quick enough to take a video of it.  Enjoy.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Basketball Update

Griffin just played his 3rd game.  I'm not sure if his team "won" or not this week because there were a lot of baskets from both teams.  However, Griffin scored another basket, had an assist, and played some good defense, even deflecting a pass.  He told me he also blocked a shot.  Another successful game for the little man. We now have a few weeks off for Christmas break, and when school starts up, not only will Griffin's games resume, but Lexi's Upward season will begin.  I sense a lot of basketball in our future.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Greed by Dan O'Shea - Book Review

From the publisher: The Second Detective John Lynch Chicago Thriller

A taut US urban thriller by Chicago’s answer to Dennis Lehane. For fans of Lehane, C. J. Box & Jeffery Deaver.

Ex-Marine, Nick Hardin, heads back from a decade in Africa to his hometown, Chicago, with $100 million in blood diamonds stolen from an Al Qaeda’s financing pipeline. His retirement plan? To cash out through a Chicago Mossad contact and head for the beach.

But soon, Hardin’s stuck in Chicago with diamonds he can’t sell and a series of hit men, mobsters, and a Washington off-the-books black ops team on his tail.

The resulting body count leaves Chicago detective John Lynch trying to find connections among the victims, while simultaneously solving the murder of a dead infectious disease expert who’d drafted a biological weapons plan that could turn Chicago into a ghost town.

Greed is Dan O’Shea’s follow up to the fantastic Penance, the first book starring Chicago Police Detective John Lynch (see my review here).  I loved Penance and was really looking forward to Greed.  I was NOT disappointed.  O’Shea did a spectacular job with this sequel, and I highly recommend it.

Where Penance focused on Chicago, and it’s rich history of corrupt politics, Greed works on a bigger scale.  In fact, while Lynch is clearly a part of this book, he is definitely not the focal point, and is only one of many point-of-view characters.  More on that later.  Greed is a boiling cauldron of stuff, including the Mafia, a drug war, a terrorism threat, and a murder investigation.  O’Shea does an amazing job of juggling all these plot lines, never giving any of them less than they deserve, and resolving everyone in an adequate and fair manner.  There is never a dull moment, and even in the quiet times the action speeds along.

The characters are extremely well-drawn.  Lynch is running a close second to Harry Bosch as my favorite fictional detective.  Nick Hardin is an interesting new character, worthy of a story or two of his own.  Corsco, the Mob boss; Hernandez, the Mexican drug lord; and Al-Din, the terrorist hitman; and Munroe, the off-book U.S. agent,  are all engaging and interesting enough to be believable.  The other supporting characters ring with a truth all their own.

While Chicago, and it’s history, was a character in the first book, this time the city proper takes a backseat to the more suburban areas.  This gives the characters and plot a larger area to explore, and changes the dynamic somewhat.  Once again, O’Shea does a great job in painting the scenes and bringing the reader into the cities.

My only complaint, if it can even be called that, is that I would have liked to learn more about Det. Lynch.  He is such a wonderful character and deserves to be the star of many more novels.

With a mixture of espionage, suspense, and good detective work, Greed is an outstanding book.  Dan O’Shea’s novels deserve a wide readership, so put this in the hands of all your friends, particularly the ones who read Michael Connelly.  As for me, I’m anxiously awaiting my next O’Shea fix.

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

Sunday, December 15, 2013


Griffin had his second basketball game yesterday and his team "won".  He did a great job on defense and was willing to pass the ball to his teammates.  He ran the fast break twice, converting on one with a nice shot off the backboard.  He also made a second basket.  He is having a great time and its fun to see his skill and confidence grow.

After the game, the kids and I did some Christmas shopping (Trisha was working).  We had fun buying gifts for cousins.  We also had a chance to eat at Pizza Hut so Cami and Griffin could use their free personal pizza awards they received for all the reading they're doing at school.  The twins tried my honey bbq chicken wings and realized that they liked them.  Lexi, on the other hand, was not interested. 

All in all, a good day.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 3: Death of the Family by Scott Lobdell - Book Review

From the publisher: The Joker has returned! A year ago, the Joker had his own face removed and vanished from Gotham City--or so Batman and his allies thought. Surfacing once more, the Clown Prince goes after each member of the Bat-Family and systematically takes them down, leading to a final confrontation that will change the lives of the Dark Knight and his allies forever!

Collects issues #0, 14-17 and TEEN TITANS #15-16.
Red Hood and the Outlaws: Death of the Family, by Scott Lobdell, is the Red Hood (Jason Todd) crossover with the Joker story running through the Bat-titles.  As Joker attempts to separate Batman from his fellow “family members”, Jason and Red Robin (Tim Drake) are captured and confronted by Joker.  This was a very interesting addition to the storyline.  For anyone unfamiliar, Joker killed Jason Todd some time ago.  Jason was returned to life (a story for another time) and is now dealing with the fallout of that experience.  His confrontation with Joker, coupled with a “team-up” with Red Robin provide differing approaches to vengeance.  The #0 issue deals with how Jason Todd became Robin, and the role of Joker in his life up-to and after Jason’s death.  Finally, there is a crossover with Teen Titans, as Arsenal and Starfire search for Jason while the Titans look for Red Robin.  Arsenal is funny, in a slightly chauvinistic but intelligent way, and Starfire is in rebellion against her past (her former incarnation in the "old" DC universe).
I enjoy this title for the more lighthearted approach it takes to the super hero world.  Additionally, Jason Todd could easily become a one-note character, always about revenge and extreme measures of finding justice.  Instead, Lobdell shows Jason becoming a well-developed character, with depths being added constantly.  There is a scene with Bruce and Jason near the end of the collection that illustrates their evolving relationship perfectly. 
I highly recommend this to Bat-fans, and to readers looking for something a little less dark and brooding.
I received a preview copy of this book from DC Comics in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Nightwing Vol. 3: Death of the Family by Kyle Higgins - Book Review

From the publisher: After having his face sliced off one year ago, the Joker makes his horrifying return to Gotham City! But even for man who's committed a lifetime of murder, he's more dangerous than ever before. The Joker sets his twisted sights on the members of the Bat-Family and attacks them all where it hurts—and for Dick Grayson, that means going after the family he's built up for the past year at Haly's Circus!
Kyle Higgins’s Nightwing Vol. 3: Death of the Family is a crossover with the Joker story running through the Bat-titles.  Nightwing (Dick Grayson) has sunk his life-savings into building a home for Haly’s Circus at a renovated amusement park.  But Joker has other plans.  He intends to use Dick’s friends to break him down and punish him.  Why? Because Joker believes Dick (and the other members of the Bat-Family) are preventing Batman from reaching his potential.
I really enjoy Nightwing; he’s my favorite of the heroes surrounding Batman.  He is the more hopeful face to Batman’s cynicism and darkness.  But lately, Nightwing has been going through a lot and is beginning to lose some of his optimism.  There is a poignant scene with Robin (Damian Wayne) that perfectly encapsulates Dick Grayson and shows how he balances Batman.  The scene is all the more moving in light of recent developments with Damian, and the resulting story is very moving and well done.  Higgins has really added emotional depth to Dick Grayson’s character.
This is a collection for Dick Grayson fans, and for those looking to read the complete Death of the Family storyline.  I highly recommend it.
I received a preview copy of this book from DC Comics in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Basketball Season Begins!

Griffin had his first basketball game at school today.  He is on the "Hoosiers" (he was very excited about that, and glad not to be a Boilermaker) and three of his best buddies are on the team with him: Ethan S., Ethan C., and Boaz.  I'm not sure what the score was because there wasn't an official scoreboard, but Griffin played well.  He scored one basket, shot several others, had a least one assist (huge in K-1 league), played smothering defense (sometimes), and on a fast break he successfully dribbled the ball from one end to the other without picking the ball up once.

Next game is next Saturday.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Batman and Robin Vol. 3: Death of the Family by Peter Tomasi - Book Review

From the publisher: A direct tie to Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's "Death in the Family" Batman story comes the disturbingly creepy and psychological thriller of Batman and Robin by the all star team of Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason.

The Joker returns to test Batman and the extended Bat-family but when he squares off against Batman's son Damian aka Robin! With Batman's life hanging in the balance, The Clown Prince of Crime pushes Robin to his limits and beyond. And with the 300th anniversary of the founding of Gotham approaches, tragedy strikes the Bat-family.


Batman and Robin: Death of the Family, by Peter Tomasi, ties in to the overall Death of the Family story running through the Bat-titles.  In addition to the run-in with Joker, though, are several other episodes.  Most of this book focuses on Damian Wayne, Bruce Wayne’s son and the current Robin.  In one arc, Damian has sent Bruce chasing mementos from his past in order to help him discover more about his parents and childhood. It is a touching story and goes a long way towards developing the father-son relationship between the two. Another arc has a story with Damian and Dick Grayson (Nightwing) dealing with the fall out from Joker's attack on the Bat-family. 

From the start, Damian has been a tough character to like.  This volume softens the edges a little and begins to show Damian as a boy yearning for approval and attention from his father beyond what he receives in his role as Robin.  Bruce’s attitude towards him also begins to change, and this character development grounds the story in reality much more than a typical superhero book might be able to do.
I recommend this to Batman, and particularly Damian Wayne, fans.  It will deepen the Death of the Family storyline, and broaden your view of the relationship between Batman and Robin.
I received a preview copy of this book from DC Comics in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Batman Incorporated Vol. 2: Gotham's Most Wanted by Grant Morrison - Book Review

From the publisher: Years of epic storylines converge as Batman Incorporated battles Talia and Leviathan for the very soul of Gotham City!

Tragedy and triumph are the hallmarks of the second volume of Grant Morrison's epic Batman Incorporated. Batman and his allies must strengthen their resolve as Leviathan moves to take Gotham City. Everything since Batman Incorporated #1 has been leading to this!

Collects #7-12 of Batman Incorporated. 

Grant Morrison wraps up his years of writing various Batman titles with the story told in Batman Incorporated Vol. 2: Gotham's Most Wanted.  Bruce Wayne (Batman) and his son Damian (Robin) are in the final showdown with Damian's mother, Talia Al Ghul and her criminal organization Leviathan.  With Gotham held hostage, Batman is forced into a tragic showdown with Talia. Meanwhile, the other members of Batman, Inc. are in battles of their own.  Without revealing spoilers, this story contains some life-altering events for several members of Batman's team.  It is a superb story, and a great pay-off to fans who have followed Morrison's run.  Seeds that were planted years ago come to fruition.  I'm really looking forward to seeing how Batman and his group move forward in future stories.

Along with the main storyline, this collection includes several back-up features starring various members of Batman, Inc.  They are okay, but not necessary to understand the overall story arc.

I highly recommend Gotham's Most Wanted.

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

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Something More Than Night by Ian Tregillis - Book Review

From the publisher: Ian Tregillis's Something More Than Night is a Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler inspired murder mystery set in Thomas Aquinas’s vision of Heaven. It’s a noir detective story starring fallen angels, the heavenly choir, nightclub stigmatics, a priest with a dirty secret, a femme fatale, and the Voice of God.

Somebody has murdered the angel Gabriel. Worse, the Jericho Trumpet has gone missing, putting Heaven on the brink of a truly cosmic crisis. But the twisty plot that unfolds from the murder investigation leads to something much bigger: a con job one billion years in the making. 

Because this is no mere murder. A small band of angels has decided to break out of heaven, but they need a human patsy to make their plan work.

Much of the story is told from the point of view of Bayliss, a cynical fallen angel who has modeled himself on Philip Marlowe. The yarn he spins follows the progression of a Marlowe novel—the mysterious dame who needs his help, getting grilled by the bulls, finding a stiff, getting slipped a mickey.

Angels and gunsels, dames with eyes like fire, and a grand maguffin, Something More Than Night is a murder mystery for the cosmos. 

A Kirkus Reviews Best Fiction Book of 2013

Ian Tregillis, the author of the Milkweed Triptych, follows up that series with Something More Than Night.  Defying genre description, Something More Than Night is part Raymond Chander noir, part angel mythology, and part quantum (I think) physics.  Mixed together, this story is unlike anything I've read.

Bayliss is an angel with a Philip Marlowe fixation.  He's sent to find a replacement for the arch-angel Gabriel, who has been murdered.  His attempts to choose a mortal go haywire and he ends up with Molly.  Things kind of ramp up from there, as Molly attempts to reconcile her fate and help Bayliss figure out who killed Gabriel and why.  At the risk of creating any spoilers, I'll refrain from anymore plot summary.

This was a very interesting book, and I found myself getting caught up in trying to figure out the whole twisty mess.  The characters were engaging enough to keep me wanting to know more about them and caring what happened to them.  The setting was definitely unique, as a large portion of the story took place in the Pleroma, a not-quite-heaven where the angels live.  Bayliss is a great unreliable narrator, sliding into the noir model very well.  As the publishers description states, the maguffin is grand and the payoff to the story is well worth it.

I did find some of the slang and physics descriptions a little distracting, but not enough to keep me from reading on.

Overall, this was a good book.  It wasn't exactly my cup of tea, but it was definitely unique. Props to Tregillis for trying something new, different and clever.  If your a fan of Tregillis's writing, or like a new spin on old noir favorites, then definitely check out Something More Than Night.

I received a preview copy of this book from Macmillan-Tor/Forge in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Nightmare City by Andrew Klavan - Book Review

From the publisher: Tom Harding only wants the truth. But the truth is becoming more dangerous with every passing minute.

As a reporter for his high school newspaper, Tom Harding was tracking the best story of his life—when, suddenly, his life turned very, very weird. He woke up one morning to find his house empty . . . his street empty . . . his whole town empty . . . empty except for an eerie, creeping fog—and whatever creatures were slowly moving toward him through the fog.

Now Tom’s once-ordinary world has become something out of a horror movie. How did it happen? Is it real? Is he dreaming? Has there been a zombie apocalypse? Has he died and gone to hell?

Tom is a good reporter—he knows how to look for answers—but no one has ever covered a story like this before. With the fog closing in and the hungry creatures of the fog surrounding him, he has only a few hours to find out how he lost the world he knew. In this bizarre universe nothing is what it seems and everything—including Tom’s life—hangs in the balance.

Nightmare City by Andrew Klavan is a fast-paced, entertaining book. Tom Harding opens his eyes to what he thinks is heaven, and then is drawn back to his house only to find he is alone and a creepy fog is closing in. He hears voices that can't be real, and sees creatures in the fog.  He must figure out the mystery behind the fog, find out why the Lying Man is stalking him, and discover where everyone went before its too late.

Tom Harding is an interesting lead character: a high school reporter who broke a story about steriod use on the state championship football team.  His journey to discover what is happening to him is not only a physical journey, but a mental and emotional one as well.  Full of twists and turns, Nightmare City is engaging from the first page as the reader journeys with Tom as he attempts to solve this mystery. 

I think this is a great book for teens, particularly middle school boys.  It is also very friendly to reluctant readers, in that Klavan steps on the gas from the beginning and never lets up. This isn't high literature, but its a fun thrill ride that could easily translate to the big (or small) screen.

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

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Fairest in all the Land by Bill Willingham - Book Review

From the publisher: In the spirit of FABLES: 1001 NIGHTS OF SNOWFALL and FABLES: WEREWOLVES OF THE HEARTLAND comes the first ever original graphic novel from the pages of #1 New York Times bestselling writer Bill Willingham's FAIREST.

FAIREST has explored the secret histories of the most stunning beauties in Fabletown: Cinderella, Snow White, Briar Rose, Rapunzel, and the list goes on and on. In FAIREST IN ALL THE LAND, the best names in comics take their turns fleshing out the pasts of the loveliest Fables in existence. For all those wanting to dive into FAIREST or FABLES, this original graphic novel is a fantastic entry point, as well as a great new chapter for those that have been following Bill Willingham's fairy tale epic for years.

Fairest by Bill Willingham is a spin-off from his extremely popular and award-winning comic Fables.  Fairest stars many of the "princess" types from fairy tales: Snow White, Rose Red, Beauty, Cinderella, etc.  This particular volume is a stand-alone story that loosely ties in to events in the main Fables book (I highly recommend reading Fables Vol. 19: Snow White first due to some spoilers in Fairest), as it resolves several dangling plot threads.

Cinderella (a super spy) is hired by the mayor of Fabletown to solve a double murder.  Along the way, she discovers a hit-list and several more murders. Using a magic car, and receiving some assistance from Bo Peep, Cinderella has less than a week to discover who is killing fables and stop them from finishing the list.  A framing story told by the Magic Mirror (mirror, mirror on the wall...) sets up the situation and acts as a transition from day-to-day, as he follows Cinderella's every move.  Because this is a mystery, I'll stop the summary there for fear of revealing any spoilers.  However, this is another excellent entry in the Fairest/Fables series.

Willingham is a fantastic writer, and his ability to blend multiple fairy tale stories into one seamless history is wonderful.  He also does a fantastic job of taking children's characters and giving them a more adult spin.  The characters have depth and continue to evolve and change.  Cinderella is fast becoming a favorite character of mine, right up there with Bigby Wolf.

The art, by a variety of artists, is beautiful as well.

I highly recommend Fairest, particularly to those who like a modern take on fairy tales, or are fans of the show Once Upon A Time.

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

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Dance of Mirrors by David Dalglish - Book Review

From the publisher: One has conquered a city. The other covets an entire nation.

Haern is the King's Watcher, protector against thieves and nobles who would fill the night with blood. Yet hundreds of miles away, an assassin known as the Wraith has begun slaughtering those in power, leaving the symbol of the Watcher in mockery. When Haern travels south to confront this copycat, he finds a city ruled by the corrupt, the greedy and the dangerous. Rioters fill the streets, and the threat of war hangs over everything. To forge peace, Haern must confront the deadly Wraith, a killer who would shape the kingdom's future with the blade of his sword.

Man or God; what happens when the lines are blurred?
Fantasy author David Dalglish spins a tale of retribution and darkness, and an underworld reaching for ultimate power in the third novel of the Shadowdance series, previously released as A Dance of Death.

Dance of Mirrors, by David Dalglish, is the third book in the Shadowdance series.  Following on the heels of Dance of Blades, which I thought was fantastic (see my review here), Dance of Mirrors picks up two years later.  Haern the Watcher has established an uneasy peace in Veldaren.  Alyssa Gemcroft, a member of the Trifect, is informed of the brutal deaths of family members of Laurie Keenan, another member of the Trifect.  Left at the scene of the crime is a symbol: an eye drawn in blood, the symbol of the Watcher.  However, Haern is not responsible, so Alyssa recruits Haern and Zusa to travel with her to Angelport to avenge this crime and confront a new vigilante, the Wraith.

I found this novel a little uneven, much like Dance of Cloaks, the first book in the series. I can’t really put my finger on why I preferred the 2nd book so much more than the 1st and 3rd, so I’m going to list pros and cons in the hopes helping future readers.
Pros: Dalglish began to expand his world with this book, taking the characters out of Veldaren, into the southern seaport of Angelport.  It was a nice change, and I liked seeing more of the world.  The characters of Haern and Zusa continue to be strong focal points of the series.  They begin working together and the chemistry between them is intriguing.  Haern’s moral struggle continues, and I look forward to when he becomes more assured of himself.  Dalglish introduces the elves in Dance of Mirrors.  They are a little like Tolkien’s elves, but with more disdain toward men.  They were a nice addition to the overall world.  Alyssa Gemcroft is also becoming a deeper character; she has changed a lot from her initial introduction in Dance of Cloaks.  The Wraith is a pretty cool antagonist and serves as a nice mirror for Haern.
Cons: The plot is still driven by political intrigue and infighting among various groups, with the Merchant Lords of Angelport taking the place of the Thieves Guilds against the Trifect, and the elves thrown in for good measure.  I’d like to see something different, or at least a different climax structure. There is also some gratuitous sex thrown in that doesn’t really advance the plot; however, it is not graphic.  Torgar, Ulrich Blackwater, and Lord Ingram Murband don’t have much depth.  They are pretty much stock characters.

Overall, this was an entertaining book.  It was not Dalglish’s best work (I really liked Dance of Blades), but it was good.  It will hit the sweet spot for fans of Dark and Gritty Fantasy, in the vein of Brent Weeks Night Angel trilogy.  With more books to come in the Shadowdance series, I’m hopeful that Dalglish will continue to expand Haern’s world (maybe more of the Eschaton mercenaries?) and that the plots will evolve from the simple political maneuverings into something greater.  The potential is there.

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

Friday, November 22, 2013

Spell Bowl Update

Lexi's team finished tied for 10th in the state in their division, but officially placed 11th based on tie-breakers.  It was a great job for the Royals.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Spell Bowl Champ!

So Eastern Hancock Elementary were the high-scorers at their regional Spell Bowl competition. Right now, we aren't sure how that places them in the state, but we should hear sometime in the next 24 hrs.  Pretty cool!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Star Trek Volume 6: After Darkness by Mike Johnson - Book Review

From the publisher: After Darkness picks up right where this year's blockbuster sequel Star Trek: Into Darkness leaves off!

Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise face a dire new threat rising in the
wake of the movie's momentous events!
After watching Star Trek Into Darkness, I decided to read the newest volume of the Star Trek comic, After Darkness by Mike Johnson.  I was hopeful that it would pick up right where the movie left off.  For the most part, it did. 
The first of two stories finds Spock dealing with a medical condition that affects male Vulcans every seven years.  The condition, which causes the male to go almost feral, is called “Pon Farr” and the only cure is to return to Vulcan.  The problem is that Vulcan no longer exists.  The rest of the story concerns finding a solution to this problem. I didn’t really find this arc very compelling, and I’m not really sure why.  Maybe it was because Spock, as a main character, is never really in any permanent danger of suffering lasting harm.
The second story arc has the Enterprise looking into an attack on a mining outpost by the Gorn.  However, who is to blame for the attack is not clear, and the Gorn may not really be what they appear to be.  This story, while not having the same impact on the characters as the first one, was much more satisfying.  It reminded me more of the Original Series tv episodes in nature, without attempting any major character changes along the way.
Where After Darkness connects with the movie, though, is in small snippets throughout the volume.  Here and there we get glances at the Klingons, as they begin to formulate a plan to make the Federation pay for the havoc John Harrison, Kirk and crew wreaked on the Klingon homeworld.  A mysterious figure in shadows communicating with the Klingons adds to the intrigue.  It feels like the pieces are being put in place for a major storyline in future issues; one that sounds way more exciting than those contained in this volume.
After Darkness is for Star Trek fans.  I don’t feel like it is set up to draw in the casual fan of the movies.  However, if the Klingon confrontation happens soon, there may be a larger group of people scrambling to see how the conflict began.
I received a preview copy of this book from IDW Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Dance of Blades by David Dalglish - Book Review

From the publisher: It's been five long years since the city learned to fear...

The war between the thief guilds and the powerful allegiance known as the Trifect has slowly dwindled. Now only the mysterious Haern is left to wage his private battle against the guilds in the guise of the Watcher - a vicious killer who knows no limits. But when the son of Alyssa Gemcroft, one of the three leaders of the Trifect, is believed murdered, the slaughter begins anew. Mercenaries flood the streets with one goal in mind: find and kill the Watcher.

Peace or destruction; every war must have its end.

Fantasy author David Dalglish spins a tale of retribution and darkness, and an underworld reaching for ultimate power.

I was hesitant to begin reading Dance of Blades, the second book in David Dalglish’s Shadowdance series.  The first book, Dance of Cloaks (my review is here), was okay, but there were parts I struggled getting through and I didn’t feel that it brought anything new or interesting to the genre.  However, what it did have going for it was the character of Haern the Watcher, and the scenes he was in were terrific.  Well, I’m here to say that Dance of Blades is a great improvement on the promise that began in book one. 

Rather than having to introduce everyone and provide motivation for them to come together (the war between the thieves guilds and the Trifect), Dalglish is now able to concentrate on filling out the characters and expanding the story.  It’s been five years, and Haern is still on his mission to eliminate the guilds.  Alyssa is sends for her son to be brought home, and an act of betrayal ignites a slaughter.  Veliana is trying to keep the Ash Guild afloat when she encounters Deathmask, a new and very intriguing character.  The threads of the story seem to pull together much more organically in this book, and I did not find the story dragging at all.  The resolution was satisfying, but also left enough open to send the characters in a new direction in the next book.

Many of the major characters from the first book return for the sequel.  In addition to Haern, we read further about Alyssa Gemcroft, Veliana, Zusa, Delysia, and Senke.  Their roles all flow together much more seamlessly than they did in Dance of Cloaks.  Alyssa becomes a stronger character and more of a focal point.  Zusa begins to play a pivotal role.  Veliana is instrumental in the new war between the guilds and the Trifect.  I particularly enjoy the development of Haern, who continues to struggle with who and what he is (an assassin forged by the father he hates) and who he’d like to become.  He is a great conflicted protagonist, and is the reason I decided to read Dance of Blades.

There are also several new and interesting characters introduced.  Deathmask is a mysterious “nameless” former wizard/thief, who stirs the pot between the guilds and the Trifect. He is definitely a character who’s backstory needs to be told.  Ghost is a giant of a mercenary, who’s background is also begging for a story.  Delysia’s brother Tarlack jumps on the scene with wit and magic. 

The city of Veldaren and the surrounding lands are also explored to a greater extent than they were in the first book, and Dance of Blades is better for it.  It will be interesting to see how the world continues to develop as Dalglish continues to write adventures contained therein.

While I really enjoyed this book, it’s hard for me to put my finger on just why it was better than the first.  I did find it interesting that in his Note from the Author, Dalglish mentioned that Dance of Blades was his favorite and needed the least amount of revision from its earlier, self-published form.  Something about it just rings truer, and I’m glad I took a chance on it.  If the books continue to improve like this, the series will definitely be one to follow and Dalglish will put his name on the same level as some of Fantasy Literature’s current big names.  I highly recommend Dance of Blades.

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

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Justice League of America Vol.1: World's Most Dangerous by Geoff Johns - Book Review

From the publisher: Following the events of Throne of Atlantis, it is deemed nessesary to create a new Justice League.  This new superhero team is under the command of Col. Steve Travor, of the United States Military's A.R.G.U.S. division(Advanced Research Group Uniting Superhumans).  Signing up for duty with this new incarnation of the JLA are Catwoman, Katanna, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Martian Manhunter, Steve Trevor, Hawkman, Star Girl and the long-awaited return of 80s superhero, Vibe.

Collects issues #1-7.

Justice League of America Vol. 1 contains the origin of the Justice League of America (JLA), Amanda Waller and A.R.G.U.S.’s direct response to the more world-spanning Justice League (which includes Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, among others).  The JLA is designed to be America’s defense against the Justice League in case they ever go rogue.  With that in mind, Waller and Steve Trevor (a former Justice League liaison) put together a team of disparate personalities but specific skill sets.  Trevor’s job is to get them to work as a team but without any time for the members to get used to each other.  Waller’s job is to make them “America’s Team”, including booking the young, Taylor Swift-esque Stargirl on all the morning talk shows as the public face of the team. Other team members include Martian Manhunter, Vibe, Catwoman, Hawkman, Green Arrow, Katana, and the new Green Lantern.  It’s an interesting concept, and it’s executed fairly well.
My biggest complaint isn’t with Geoff Johns’s story, but the way this collection is put together.  The first several chapters form one coherent story, but from then on it’s a mess.  There is a tie-in with the Trinity War story running through all the Justice League titles in their various incarnations.  Several times the reader is dropped into the action with no explanation given and no background to what is going on. These are just a couple of chapters of a larger story going on, but the JLA portion can’t really be read by itself.  This part would have been much better served as part of a Trinity War collection, rather than a Justice League of America collection. The last portion of the book contains the Martian Manhunter back-up features, and they are pretty good.  They add a nice dimension to the character, and in one case actually show important information to understanding an event earlier in the book.
I liked this book and the team, and look forward to reading their further adventures.  However, I hope DC does a better job putting the stories together in future books.
I received a preview copy of this book from DC Comics in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Batgirl Vol. 3: Death of the Family by Gail Simone - Book Review

From the publisher: Gail Simone continues her Batgirl run in a tale that ties into the best-selling Bat-Family event "Death of the Family." When the Joker returns, Barbara Gordon must confront her past as she deals with the crazed criminal responsible for crippling her. Plus, once the dust settles, Barbara must deal with her family demons as her psychotic brother James Jr. comes after her.

Gail Simone’s Batgirl: Death of the Family is an excellent addition to the Death of the Family story.  Because of her past history with Joker, this is one of the more personal, and darker, volumes in the saga.  Barbara Gordon has a very personal stake in ending Joker’s reign of terror and appears to be willing to go to extremes to accomplish it.  She begins to approach some tough moral territory, and Simone handles this conflict very well. 
In addition to dealing with the threat of Joker, Barbara is being tracked by her sadistic and psychopathic brother, James.  As he establishes a relationship with Barbara’s roommate, he also orchestrates a confrontation between he, Barbara, and their recently returned mother. 
There are a number of impactful scenes, including James nearly taking on the Joker, a phone call from Dick Grayson (Nightwing) to Barbara, and the showdown with the Gordon family.  I did not expect the quality of this book to be so high, but in my opinion it rivals the main story running through Scott Synder’s Batman.
I highly recommend this book.  Barbara Gordon has become a very interesting and complicated character since the New 52 began, and this book just raises the bar even higher.  It is as good as anything currently available.
I received a preview copy of this book from DC Comics in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Week that Was

So we just finished our first week back from Fall Break.  Right now, we have no sports going on, just Lexi's piano practice and Spell Bowl practice.  It's a nice break.  The girls had their cheerleading awards party and both received trophies.  We went to the ONU football game on Saturday and saw them get a win.  Griffin brought a buddy so he wasn't overwhelmed by his sisters and cousins (its a lot of girls).  We also made our yearly run to the Walmart in Bourbonnais so we could get the kids Chicago Bears gear.  We are now holding our enjoying the downtime until basketball season starts.  Good times.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Catwoman Vol. 3: Death of the Family by Ann Nocenti - Book Review

From the publisher: Writer Ann Nocenti begins her run with the feline fatale! Catwoman must stay one-step ahead of the Joker as he terrorizes Batman and his allies during the Bat-Family crossover event "Death of the Family." But there's no rest for the wicked as hot on the heels of her encounter with the Clown Prince, Catwoman is hired to break into the Black Room to steal the Black Diamond--the source of power for the villainous Eclipso!

Collects CATWOMAN #0, 13-18 and a story from YOUNG ROMANCE #1.

The current volume of Catwoman loosely ties in to the Death of the Family storyline running through the Bat-titles, and Catwoman's role in Batman's life is interesting. She provides a rather unique contrast to Joker, refusing to bow to his pressure but in a different way than the Bat-heroes would do.

However, Selina Kyle (Catwoman) is a more interesting character when the story explores the moral issues of a thief (sometimes for-hire) who also has a strong desire to help others, particularly children and women.  One storyline shows what happens when an ordinary cat-burglar tries to steal a supernatural item, and the item is activated.  The #0 issue gives the reader a glimpse into Selina's backstory, showing who she was before she became Catwoman.  Its a good read.  The latter part of this volume deals with some of the ramifications of information revealed in that semi-origin issue.  The mystery surrounding Selina Kyle only gets amped up as Ann Nocenti takes her story into unexpected territory.

I enjoyed this book more than I expected and look forward to seeing how the story unravels further down the line.  Catwoman/Selina Kyle is showing a lot of potential to be a very intriguing book.

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

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Green Lantern Vol. 3: The End by Geoff Johns - Book Review

From the publisher: The universe is in shambles and the Guardians are the cause. Their mysterious Third Army has risen across the cosmos like a plague, destroying everything in its path and Hal Jordan and Sinestro are nowhere to be found. It is up to wrongfuly accused Simon Baz to clear his name and become the hero that the Corps needs in order to get to the bottom of Hal and Sinestro's disapperance and the Rise of the Third Army!

Collects issues #13-20, 0.

Wow! This is it, Green Lantern fans.  This is what the last several years have been building toward.  And it is worth it.  This volume of Green Lantern is hard to review, because it effectively functions as the climax of Geoff Johns's run on the title.  Without spoiling anything, The End has everything in it: Hal Jordan, Sinestro, the First Lantern, Simon Baz (the new Green Lantern), multiple lanterns of various colors, the Guardians, and the rest of the major Green Lanterns.  The threads that were laid out years ago are finally tied off and the whole of Johns's story (dare I say "masterpiece"?) is revealed.  The expanded mythology of the Green Lanterns and the rest of the Lanterns of the emotional color spectrum is fleshed out and brought to a satisfying conclusion.

Geoff Johns's run on the Green Lantern titles, and Green Lantern in particular, should rank with the legendary runs by other writers (Claremont on X-Men, David on The Incredible Hulk, etc.).  In fact, reading the final issue, I was reminded of Peter David's final issue of The Incredible Hulk.  If Green Lantern were to end with this issue and there were no more tales to tell, I believe that the ending is perfect.

I can't recommend this book highly enough, and the payoff for longtime readers will be amazing.  Even a casual fan will find it an enjoyable story.

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

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Deaths of Tao by Wesley Chu - Book Review

From the publisher: The Prophus and the Genjix have now both found a way off-planet. The Genjix method will take less time – about 30 years’ less time – but will mean the ultimate destruction of mankind in the process.

They think it a small price to pay to get home.

It's up to Roen and Tao to save the world. Oh, dear...

The Deaths of Tao is the sequel to Wesley Chu’s The Lives of Tao (see my review here).  It is every bit as entertaining as the first, although in an entirely different way.  The buddy cop interplay between Roen Tan and Tao, the Quasing that lives inside him, is still there.  The humor and secret history of the world run throughout this book, as well.  Zoras, Tao, or Baji open each chapter with a little more history of the Quasing.
One difference, though, comes in the fact that The Deaths of Tao is a second book, and not an origin tale like the first one.  This allows Chu to expand the scope of the story.  Roen’s training and introduction to the world of the Quasing, including the war between Prophus and Gengix (the two Quasing factions), take up the majority of the first book.  Now the reader sees the larger story taking place and is exposed to a more in-depth look at the Gengix’s plans and the Prophus’ attempts to thwart them. 
There are also three characters providing the perspective.  In addition to Roen and Tao, Jill (Roen’s wife) and Baji take a lead role.  This is a nice change, because Roen’s view tends to be skewed.  The Gengix view is shown through the eyes of Enzo and Zoras, who played a part in the first book.  Using three point-of-view characters lets Chu take the action around the globe.  It also allows him to show simultaneous events playing out as the war between the Quasing reaches critical level.  
Another change in this book is that Chu was able to show how the relationship between Quasing and human host was different for each pairing.  The personality of the human played a part in this, but so did the personality of the Quasing.  A secondary character demonstrated what would happen if the wishes of the Quasing did not line up with the human.
Finally, the tone of this book is much more serious, or darker, than its predecessor.  The serious moments in the first book were often offset by the humorous exchanges between Roen and Tan.  In The Deaths of Tao, we see how three years of undercover and marital strife take their toll on Roen.  Roen is less of the off-the-cuff smart-aleck and understands the consequences of his actions.  His dedication to Tao begins to affect his standing in the Prophus command structure.  This is a nice, and realistic, development for the character.
The main storyline in this book is sufficiently resolved, but Chu drops a game-changer at the end, and then follows that up with an added scene on the last page that reminds me of some of the post-credit scenes Marvel has been putting into its movies.  If he decides to write another sequel, he is set up to take the story on in a new direction.
I enjoyed The Deaths of Tao, and would recommend it to readers who enjoy espionage tinged with sci-fi.  Chu’s writing style is very easy to read, and the action flows steadily on.  I look forward to seeing what he does in the future.
I received a preview copy of this book from Angry Robot Books in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Batman Vol. 3: Death of the Family by Scott Snyder - Book Review

From the publisher: After having his face sliced off one year ago, the Joker makes his horrifying return to Gotham City! But even for man who's committed a lifetime of murder, he's more dangerous than ever before. How can Batman protect his city and those he's closest to? It all leads back to Arkham Asylum...

This new hardcover collects the the critically acclaimed tale DEATH OF THE FAMILY from the superstar #1 New York Times best-selling team of writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo. BATMAN VOLUME 3 will have reprecussions that will affect the Batman universe for years to come!

Scott Snyder’s Batman: Death of the Family is incredible.  It is the culmination of a storyline that was hinted at early in the New 52 reboot of DC Comics.  The Joker has returned, has attempted to reattach his face, and is after the Batman family of heroes.  The Joker wants to strengthen Batman by eliminating his “hangers-on”, all those who cause Batman to fail to reach his potential (at least according to Joker).  This is a fantastic story, the full range of which crosses into all the subsidiary Batman family of titles.  The extras don’t have to be read to enjoy the plot, but they do add depth and differing perspectives.
Synder has done an amazing job bringing out what makes Joker truly terrifying: his insanity and love of chaos.  Not since The Killing Joke has Joker been this sadistic, cruel, and scary.  Joker’s motivation is truly frightening, and there is a strong suspicion that he knows who the Bat-heroes are under the masks.  To add to the creepiness is the font used to show Joker’s dialogue and the fact that he is wearing a mechanic’s shirt that says “Joe” on it the entire time; something about the ordinariness of that strikes me as making him even creepier (artist Greg Capullo really added to the atmosphere of the story).
I highly recommend this book.  This is one of the best Batman stories in recent memory, rivaling the best that Grant Morrison has done.
I received a preview copy of this book from DC Comics in exchange for an honest  review.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

R.I.P.D. Volume 1 by Peter Lenkov - Book Review

From the publisher: Welcome to the Rest In Peace Department—the devoted, yet dead, officers of divine law enforcement. Nick Cruz was gunned down in the line of duty at the height of his personal and professional life. Now he's traded a hundred years of service to the R.I.P.D. in exchange for a shot at solving his own murder. Collects the original four-issue miniseries.
* The original tale of Nick Cruz and Roy Powell that introduced the wild world of the R.I.P.D.!

R.I.P.D. (the Rest in Peace Department) is a neat story by Peter Lenkov.  It actually served as the basis for the recent movie of the same name.

The concept of cops killed in the line of duty going to work for God in the afterlife is a creative jumping off point for what could be a bunch of fun stories.  This particular volume introduces the concept, and cop Nick Cruz is our guide as the reader is introduced to the R.I.P.D. In the grand tradition of buddy stories, Nick is partnered with Roy Powell, a cowboy/sheriff who is days away from his retirement.  Roy has served for nearly a century and his last case before going to heaven is to help Nick solve his own murder.

This is a fun story for what it is: a buddy movie in comic book form.  It's very entertaining and I look forward to finding out more about the R.I.P.D.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Dance of Cloaks by David Dalglish - Book Review

From the publisher: The Underworld rules the city of Veldaren. Thieves, smugglers, assassins... they fear only one man.  

Thren Felhorn is the greatest assassin of his time. All the thieves' guilds of the city are under his unflinching control. If he has his way, death will soon spill out from the shadows and into the streets.

Aaron is Thren's son, trained to be heir to his father's criminal empire. He's cold, ruthless - everything an assassin should be. But when Aaron risks his life to protect a priest's daughter from his own guild, he glimpses a world beyond piston, daggers, and the iron rule of his father.
Assassin or protector; every choice has its consequences.

Fantasy author David Dalglish spins a tale of retribution and darkness, and an underworld reaching for ultimate power

David Dalglish is the latest author to sign with a major publisher after starting his career by self-publishing.  A Dance of Cloaks is the first book in the Orbit reissue of the Shadowdance trilogy.  This trilogy is the origin of Dalglish's popular character Haern the Watcher.

Based on the popularity of David Dalglish and his success story, I jumped at the chance to review A Dance of Cloaks.  After reading it, I'd say it's a mixed bag.  There is something familiar about the story of a young boy who is destined to be the heir to his great father.  However, Aaron Felhorn isn't certain he wants to follow in the footsteps of Thren Felhorn, the head of the most powerful Thieves' guild in Veldaren.  Thren has a major plot going to seize control of the city and eliminate the three powerful merchant families, and Aaron is to play a role in this whether he wants to or not.

Along the way, the reader is introduced to a rather large cast of characters, many of whom only play cursory roles to the main plot line.  The story begins to sprawl like an epic, but in a very claustrophobic city and its surroundings.  At times it felt like Dalglish had much more story to tell, but he was wrangling the characters and plot to prevent it from becoming to large.  Many of the secondary characters were rather flat, either due to lack of background and motivation (which may be revealed in the sequels) or authorial lack of interest.  However, this wasn't a poorly written story.

The stand-out part of A Dance of Cloaks is the character of Aaron Felhorn.  The familiar trope of the youth destined for greatness is subverted by Dalglish, and he has created a very engaging main character.  Any issues I had with the rest of the story were put aside any time Aaron came on the scene.  The development of him, both physically and morally, are the heart of the story, and Dalglish shines in this area.

A Dance of Cloaks is an above-average fantasy, and is worth reading for the character of Aaron Felhorn.  I'm hopeful that as the trilogy progresses, Dalglish focuses more on Aaron.  It is also worth seeing if the large cast is tightened up.  I look forward to reading future installments in the Shadowdance trilogy.

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

Monday, October 7, 2013

Law of the Desert Born by Louis L'Amour with Beau L'Amour and Kathy Nolan - Book Review

From the publisher: The first graphic novel adaptation of the work of master storyteller Louis L’Amour is a dynamic tale of the Old West that explores the borderlands of loyalty and betrayal with the emotional grittiness of a noir thriller.

New Mexico, 1887, a land in the midst of the worst drought anyone can remember. Family histories and loyalties run deep, but when rancher Tom Forrester has his access to the Pecos River cut off by the son of his old partner, he convinces his foreman, Shad Marone, to pay Jud Bowman back for the discourtesy. Yet what starts as a simple act of petty revenge quickly spirals into a cycle of violence that no one can control.

Now Marone is on the run, pursued by a sheriff’s posse across a rugged desert landscape. Leading the chase is Jesus Lopez, a half-Mexican, half-Apache with a personal stake in bringing Shad to justice. Newly released from jail, trusted by no one, Lopez swears he’s the only man who can track Marone down. That may be true. But who will live and who will die and what price will be paid in suffering are open questions. Fate and the Jornada del Muerto desert possess a harsh justice that is all their own.

I had high hopes for this graphic novel, based on a short story by Louis L'Amour, the master of the western.  I love a good western, with the moral ambiguity and tough choices made by flawed characters.  Unfortunately, The Law of the Desert Born was just average.  All the pieces are there to create a great story, but they fail to coalesce into something great.  The story is told through flashbacks and present events, and the characters of Shad Marone and Jesus Lopez are interesting.  The authors, Beau L'Amour and Kathy Nolan, fail to add depth to either of the characters which results in the climax, and the story overall, losing it's punch.

The art is okay and the story is okay.  I hope there are further attempts to adapt Louis L'Amour's work, but the authors in charge of the adaptations need to make sure there is an emotional payoff.

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

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch - Book Review

From the publisher: With what should have been the greatest heist of their career gone spectacularly sour, Locke and his trusted partner, Jean, have barely escaped with their lives. Or at least Jean has. But Locke is slowly succumbing to a deadly poison that no alchemist or physiker can cure. Yet just as the end is near, a mysterious Bondsmage offers Locke an opportunity that will either save him or finish him off once and for all.

Magi political elections are imminent, and the factions are in need of a pawn. If Locke agrees to play the role, sorcery will be used to purge the venom from his body—though the process will be so excruciating he may well wish for death. Locke is opposed, but two factors cause his will to crumble: Jean’s imploring—and the Bondsmage’s mention of a woman from Locke’s past: Sabetha. She is the love of his life, his equal in skill and wit, and now, his greatest rival.

Locke was smitten with Sabetha from his first glimpse of her as a young fellow orphan and thief-in-training. But after a tumultuous courtship, Sabetha broke away. Now they will reunite in yet another clash of wills. For faced with his one and only match in both love and trickery, Locke must choose whether to fight Sabetha—or to woo her. It is a decision on which both their lives may depend.

The Republic of Thieves is the long-awaited third book in Scott Lynch's Gentlemen Bastards sequence.  I read the first two books back in 2008 and, like many people, have been anxiously awaiting the third installment.  Having loved the first two books, The Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas Under Red Skies, I wondered if Lynch could recapture the magic he delivered previously.  Well, he did and then some.

The Republic of Thieves picks up very shortly after the previous book ends, with Locke Lamora in mortal danger, a complication of their previous adventure.  He and his partner, Jean Tannen, are hiding out, trying to figure out what they are going to do. They are soon contacted and enlisted to help run one side of the Five Year Game, the election in the city of Karthain, home of the Bondsmagi (who happen to hate Locke and Jean).  Their opponent in the election: Sabetha, a former Gentleman Bastard and Locke's deepest love; it has also been five years since Locke has seen her.  What follows is a twisting romp through the election process, as the three friends reconnect as rivals.

In addition to the main tale, Lynch (like in the other books) interweaves information about Locke's youth, this time focusing on his relationship with Sabetha.  It is fascinating and captivating watching more of Locke's history unfold.  As he and the other Gentlemen Bastards embark on a summer as an acting troupe, they are forced to use their con-artist skills in an entirely different way than in the main story.

Because Lynch's stories rely so much on twists, surprises, and subverted expectations, I won't reveal any more plot points, but suffice to say that Lynch once again is in top form.

As good as he is at telling a story, Lynch is even better with his characters.  Locke and Jean are two of my favorite characters.  Each has a distinctive voice, which Lynch conveys perfectly. The flashbacks revisit many other supporting characters, all who stand on their own as distinctive and original (even the Sanza twins). Seeing how events play out for the characters is a joy.  The interaction between the crew reminds me of the friendly antagonism of Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Matt Damon, and the rest of the Ocean's 11 crew.

This is a very tough review to write, because I don't want to spoil anything.  I highly recommend this book, I would encourage all who read the previous two books.  If you haven't discovered Locke Lamora and the rest of the Gentlemen Bastards, go read the first two books. They are incredibly fun, entertaining, and clever; plus, if you read The Republic of Thieves first, you'll spoil many of the earlier surprises.

Go buy and read this book. Now.

I received a review copy of this book from Random House Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Justice League Vol. 3: Throne of Atlantis by Geoff Johns - Book Review

From the publisher: When Atlantis is struck by a U.S. Naval missile gone awry, Atlantis--led by Aquaman's brother Ocean Master--attacks the East Coast of the United States flooding its major cities such as Boston, Metropolis, Gotham City and several others.

The Justice League comes together to help Aquaman turn back the tide, but they soon learn that they are woefully overmatched by the Atlantean Army, and must find a way to save the world from total annihilation.

Collects Justice League issues #13-17 and Aquaman #14-16. 

Throne of Atlantis continues Geoff Johns's wonderful run on Justice League.  In this crossover with Aquaman, the surface world, particularly Boston, Gotham, and Metropolis, are attacked by Aquaman's brother, Ocean Master, the King of Atlantis.  The character interactions continue to develop as the League struggles to not only defeat Ocean Master and protect the U.S., but to discover who is behind the attack.  Batman and Aquaman struggle for leadership of the group, which creates a new dynamic, as Batman is not used to people questioning him.  Superman and Wonder Woman continue to explore their relationship, trying to decide just what they want it to be.  Cyborg and Flash continue to grow into their roles.

This is a fun and entertaining comic, and the potential continues to grow.  The status quo of the Justice League will be affected for quite some time by the consequences of the battle with Atlantis. In addition, this collection sets up the debut of the Justice League of America, an alternative to this current, very powerful Justice League.

The artwork by Ivan Reis is fantastic and complements the outsized events that seem to follow our heroes.

I highly recommend this book.  It is a good example of why DC resetting its characters with the New 52 was a good idea.

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

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Star Wars Volume 1: In the Shadow of Yavin by Brian Wood - Book Review

From the publisher: After the destruction of the Death Star, the Rebels are hounded by the Empire. Suspecting a spy in their ranks, Princess Leia forms a secret X-wing squadron—which includes Luke Skywalker—to expose the spy and find a safe home. Meanwhile, Han Solo and Chewbacca are sent on a covert mission! Collects Star Wars #1–#6 and Free Comic Book Day 2013.

I've read quite a few Star Wars comics recently and haven't really been impressed.  At best, they've been okay.  At worst, they were a waste of time.  However, In the Shadow of Yavin, by Brian Wood, is the Star Wars comic I've been waiting for. 

Following immediately after Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope, In the Shadow of Yavin finds the Rebel Alliance looking for a new safe home base.  However, as Luke, Leia, and Wedge begin to explore a remote planet, the Empire shows up in force.  They barely escape, touching off the new storyline.  

There is a spy in the Rebellion, and Leia is tasked with finding out who it is.  She forms an elite squad, including Luke, Wedge, and several other new characters, one of whom (Prithi) is a love interest for Luke.

Meanwhile, Han and Chewbacca are on a mission to buy weapons on Corascant, the capital planet of the Empire.  Needless to say, things don't go as planned, leaving Han and Chewie in the Underground of Corascant.

Darth Vader also plays a role, as he is being disciplined for the failure of the Death Star.  The Emperor has replaced him aboard his ship with an up-and-coming Imperial Officer and Elite Tie-Fighter Pilot named Colonel Bircher.  Vader is furious, but is beginning to be preoccupied by the young Rebel pilot named Skywalker.

Brian Wood has done a fantastic job of capturing the characters, both their voices and their personalities.  He also seems to be staying true to the spirit of the movies as he moves the plot along toward the inevitable events of The Empire Strikes Back.

The art by Carlos D'Anda is well done.  The characters look a lot like the actors and actresses from the movies.

I highly recommend this comic to all Star Wars fans.  I look forward to seeing how the story continues.

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

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Shazam! Vol. 1 by Geoff Johns - Book Review

From the publisher: Young orphan Billy Batson has bounced from foster home to foster home, but he's far from the ideal child. Brash and rude, Billy is a troubled teen that just can't seem to find a calling. But after a fateful night on a subway car, that all will change.

Brought to the feet of the magical wizard Shazam at the Rock of Eternity, Billy is imbued with powers beyond any mortal man. By shouting the wizard's name--Shazam!--the young teen is mystically transformed into the powerhouse known as Captain Marvel! Now given abilities that make him Earth's Mightiest Mortal at the utterance of a simple phrase, will Billy make the right choices and do what it takes to become a hero? Or will he succumb to the poor choices of youth--and the villainous Black Adam!

Shazam Vol. 1 collects the back-up features that originally ran in DC's Justice League comic.  In it, Geoff Johns (DC's writer extraordinaire) introduces Captain Marvel, also known as Shazam, into DC's New 52 continuity.  And Johns was an excellent choice to do so, given his history of taking lesser-known or uninteresting characters and giving them life and creativity.

I always felt the old version of Captain Marvel was somewhat cheesy.  He'd been written like an immature Superman or a super boy scout, but he wasn't ever that deep.  Now, though, Johns has added depth to the story of Billy Batson, the teenager who was given the power of Shazam.  Billy is a foster child. He is devious, rude, sarcastic, and has been in and out of multiple homes. He is far from the old squeaky clean version. 

The wizard Shazam is looking for someone to make his champion, to give them the power of the living lightning to protect the world from evil.  He transports and tests multiple people, one of whom is Billy.

Meanwhile, Dr. Sivana is looking to save his family by discovering how to access magic.  He discovers where Black Adam, the wizard Shazam's former champion, is imprisoned.

I really enjoyed this story, particularly the development of Billy Batson.  It's an interesting take on what a typical teenager would do when given extraordinary powers.  The supporting characters, particularly the other foster kids, show a lot of potential. Gary Frank's art completed the story nicely, as well.

I would recommend this to fans of Captain Marvel and Geoff Johns's writing.  It looks to be a fun story to follow.

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

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Can't believe they're SEVEN!

Yesterday was Cami and Griffin's seventh birthday.  Trisha planned a great party at a park and lots of friends and their families attended.  The kids smashed a pinata, ate a ton of candy and cupcakes, went crazy on the playground, and opened presents.  The twins made out like bandits, and now have enough new toys and crafts to keep them occupied through Christmas.  It was a good time.

The Flag Season Ends

Saturday, Griffin and Cami's flag football season came to an end in the second round of the playoffs.  Griffin pulled another flag, which I think means he got at least one in every game.  He also carried the ball once for about 2 yards.  Even though they didn't win many games, it was a successful season on a personal level for Griffin.  I could see the wheels turning as he figured things out.  He also became more aggressive on both sides of the ball.  At this point, we are playing catch in the backyard and he has been disappointed that there aren't football games on before bedtime during the week.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Win!

So Griffin's team chose the first round of the playoffs to get their first win.  We scored on the last possession to take the lead, then held the other team on four downs.  It was very exciting, and their were a lot of great plays.  Griffin pulled two flags; one was a tackle for loss and the other came after a great job of pursuing the runner down the field.  He also made several really good blocks.  Near the end of the game, Griffin had two guys blocking him and he started to get a little upset.  I told him two guys blocking him meant he was doing a really good job, and he perked right up and even started to tell his buddy how good he was playing.  Next game is Saturday.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Ship That Sank Twice by Mike Carey - Book Review

From the publisher: Tom Taylor has lived his life being mistaken for Tommy Taylor, the boy wizard from the world-famous series of novels penned by Tom's long-lost father Wilson. However, after a series of strange events start to parallel the lives of both Taylor's —fictional and real—Tom realizes that he might be the character on page made flesh.

Tommy Taylor and the Ship That Sank Twice is an original graphic novel by Mike Carey.  It is not a collection of issues from the series The Unwritten.  Rather than continue the story of Tom Taylor and his friends in the current storyline, The Ship That Sank Twice functions as an origin story.  However, it's an origin story for both the real and the fictional Tommy Taylor.

In one story thread, Carey descibes Wilson Taylor's plan to have a son while simultaneously writing a book about a fictional version of the same son.  Taylor's journal describes the process of writing, publishing, and publicizing his first Tommy Taylor novel, while trying to make sure his son Tommy echoes the fictional version.  It's a pretty interesting look into Wilson's plan that is only hinted at in the ongoing series.

The other story thread is the storyline for the first Tommy Taylor novel.  This is the best part of this graphic novel.  It's a lot of fun to be able to read the story of Tommy's first years and his introduction to his friends Sue and Peter.

The background to the fictional Tommy Taylor adds depth to the overall series, as does the look into WIlson Taylor and Tommy's birth.  The Unwritten keeps getting better and better as Carey reveals more and more of the greater story taking place.  What started out as a Harry Potter pastiche (at least as far as appearances go) has grown into a greater look at the power of stories in our lives.

I highly recommend this book to fans of The Unwritten, in addition to fans of Neil Gaiman's Sandman and other works.

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

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Flag Update

Griffin pulled two flags in yesterday's game.  His second one was on the last play of the game and went for around a 15 yard loss, because the guy he was chasing started to run backwards.  He also nearly had two sacks, and got jersey rather than a flag several other times.  He also had several nice blocks during the game.  Unfortunately, his team lost.  Playoffs start this week.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Raising Boys by Design by Gregory L. Jantz, PhD. and Michael Gurian - Book Review

Raising Boys by Design
From the publisher: Your son was created for great things, but he needs your help to appreciate his unique male design and to grow into the strong, loving man God created him to be.

Packed with doable strategies and eye-opening examples of what’s really going on inside a boy’s brain, Raising Boys by Design offers a practical blueprint to help you build a HERO—one who values Honor, Enterprise, Responsibility, and Originality. Among other things, you’ll learn how to help your son:
• strengthen his character, resilience, and self-discipline
• nurture genuine compassion and empathy
• process words and emotions in ways that fit his brain chemistry
• succeed in school and hone crucial life skills
• develop a healthy perspective of sexuality
• avoid the pitfalls of media and technology
• embark on a lifelong adventure of faith

This unique resource combines the latest research in brain science with timeless truths from the Bible to reveal the deepest needs shared by every boy of faith while also leading you to fresh insights for honoring the unique personality, talents, and God-given design of your son in particular.

You can help your son thrive today as the hero he is meant to be when you learn the secrets of
Raising Boys by Design

As a father, teacher, and coach, I was very interested in reading Raising Boys by Design.  I'm always looking for helpful information for the long journey of raising my son to be a man of God.  Gregory Jantz, PhD. and Michael Gurian did a fine job in conveying some interesting ideas through their new book. 

One of the things that interested me the most about reading Raising Boys was the authors' approach, combining the latest in brain science with Biblical truths in order to meet all the unique requirements of raising boys.  The authors cite several studies that address how a boy's brain processes information differently from a girl's brain.  They also look at how the impact of testosterone during adolescence affects a boy's development physically, mentally, and emotionally.  They believe these are important items to consider when helping a boy become a man, and based on what I've seen, I would agree.  Another item that they consider significant is that a boy receives certain things from both a mother and a father, and without the influence of someone of each gender, there may be gaps in his development.  These topics are covered in the early chapters.

In the later chapters, a variety of practical approaches are presented.  They include topics on character and self-discipline, the emotional life of boys, developing healthy sexuality, school, the impact of technology, rites of passages, and the authors' new vision of Christian manhood.  I particularly liked the chapter dealing with school and how it can help or hinder a boy's development.  I also found the chapter about rites of passage interesting.  Having encountered this idea in several others places besides just this book, I found myself imagining how a rite of passage would look for my son.  The authors present their idea in the form of the acrostic HEROIC: Honor, Enterprise, Responsibility, Originality, Intimacy, and Creativity.  It is presented through Following Jesus: A Heroic Quest for Boys.  All the topics include Biblical approaches tied in with a look at the biological make-up of boys.

While I thought this book was interesting upon first reading it, it is as I reflect back on some of the ideas presented that I'm better able to soak up the information.  To that effect, I would give this book 4 stars (out of 5) and recommend it to parents of fathers, and anyone who may have daily interactions or roles in the development of boys.

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

Your son was created for great things, but he needs your help to appreciate his unique male design and to grow into the strong, loving man God created him to be.

Packed with doable strategies and eye-opening examples of what’s really going on inside a boy’s brain, Raising Boys by Design offers a practical blueprint to help you build a HERO—one who values Honor, Enterprise, Responsibility, and Originality. Among other things, you’ll learn how to help your son:
• strengthen his character, resilience, and self-discipline
• nurture genuine compassion and empathy
• process words and emotions in ways that fit his brain chemistry
• succeed in school and hone crucial life skills
• develop a healthy perspective of sexuality
• avoid the pitfalls of media and technology
• embark on a lifelong adventure of faith

This unique resource combines the latest research in brain science with timeless truths from the Bible to reveal the deepest needs shared by every boy of faith while also leading you to fresh insights for honoring the unique personality, talents, and God-given design of your son in particular.

You can help your son thrive today as the hero he is meant to be when you learn the secrets of Raising Boys by Design. - See more at:
Your son was created for great things, but he needs your help to appreciate his unique male design and to grow into the strong, loving man God created him to be.

Packed with doable strategies and eye-opening examples of what’s really going on inside a boy’s brain, Raising Boys by Design offers a practical blueprint to help you build a HERO—one who values Honor, Enterprise, Responsibility, and Originality. Among other things, you’ll learn how to help your son:
• strengthen his character, resilience, and self-discipline
• nurture genuine compassion and empathy
• process words and emotions in ways that fit his brain chemistry
• succeed in school and hone crucial life skills
• develop a healthy perspective of sexuality
• avoid the pitfalls of media and technology
• embark on a lifelong adventure of faith

This unique resource combines the latest research in brain science with timeless truths from the Bible to reveal the deepest needs shared by every boy of faith while also leading you to fresh insights for honoring the unique personality, talents, and God-given design of your son in particular.

You can help your son thrive today as the hero he is meant to be when you learn the secrets of Raising Boys by Design. - See more at:
Your son was created for great things, but he needs your help to appreciate his unique male design and to grow into the strong, loving man God created him to be.

Packed with doable strategies and eye-opening examples of what’s really going on inside a boy’s brain, Raising Boys by Design offers a practical blueprint to help you build a HERO—one who values Honor, Enterprise, Responsibility, and Originality. Among other things, you’ll learn how to help your son:
• strengthen his character, resilience, and self-discipline
• nurture genuine compassion and empathy
• process words and emotions in ways that fit his brain chemistry
• succeed in school and hone crucial life skills
• develop a healthy perspective of sexuality
• avoid the pitfalls of media and technology
• embark on a lifelong adventure of faith

This unique resource combines the latest research in brain science with timeless truths from the Bible to reveal the deepest needs shared by every boy of faith while also leading you to fresh insights for honoring the unique personality, talents, and God-given design of your son in particular.

You can help your son thrive today as the hero he is meant to be when you learn the secrets of Raising Boys by Design. - See more at: