Thursday, January 31, 2013

Callsign by Brad Taylor - Book Review

Callsign by Brad Taylor is an ebook short story that is a part of his Taskforce series.  The Taskforce is an off-the-books government counter-terrorism squad.  It is led by Pike Logan.  Callsign is functions as a prequel to the soon-to-be four book series.  It introduces the main characters, giving a brief glimpse of their training and then a quick look at their first mission.  Logan is forced to deal with a subordinate who isn't a team player.  It also explains how one of the squad members acquires his callsign, hence the title. I found it to be a nice chance to see whether I would like the series or not.  Too often, today's thrillers are focused on a nearly indestructible protagonist.  For me, this doesn't click, because none of the tension seems like it will affect the hero, and their troubles don't resonate. Pike Logan is in this same vein, but looks like he may have his flaws (which would definitely make him a more interesting character).  I may be giving the novels a chance thanks to Callsign.  I believe that Taylor's books will fit in nicely with those of Brad Thor and Vince Flynn.  Recommended to readers and fans of those, and similar, authors. The story also contains a preview of the third book in the series, Enemy of Mine.

I received a copy of this story from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Saturday, January 26, 2013

G.I. Joe: Target Snake Eyes by Alex Cal - Book Review

As a kid, I loved G.I. Joe.  Not the old, Barbie-sized guy, but the cool action figures, comic books, and cartoons.  I remember the classic "silent" Snake Eyes issue.  It was so cool.  So I jumped at the chance to review Target Snake Eyes by Alex Cal.  Unfortunately for me, I didn't find it near as cool.  That doesn't mean it wasn't a good comic, just that it wasn't for me.  I felt like I was dropped in the middle of a story with a background I didn't know.  While I recognized many of the names (Scarlet, Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow, Cobra Commander, etc.), I didn't really understand the circumstances they were in.  The art was fine.  The story was fine.  It involved Scarlet and a team of Joes trying to track down a rogue Snake Eyes, teamed up with Storm Shadow and a group of ninjas (former allies with Cobra).  The ninjas were trying to swipe something from Cobra.  The Joes (other than Scarlet) wanted to eliminate Snake Eyes before he revealed to much to his ninjas.  As the various groups came together, a final conflict occurred.  The result was not totally unexpected.

I would recommend this comic to regular readers of G.I. Joe or to someone looking to revisit their childhood.  It is not for the casual reader.

I received a review copy of this graphic novel from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Griffin's first lost tooth

Wednesday night, Griffin lost his first tooth.  Thursday, he woke up and tried to wiggle the loose tooth and discovered it lying on his bed.  He was super excited and called me on my way to school to give me the good news.  Friday morning, he got out of bed and came to me crying.  The tooth fairy forgot him.  What he didn't realize was that he had gotten out of bed before 7:00 (his appointed time) and she was making him her final stop.  When he went to check a little later, behold! he discovered a dollar.  The joy returned and all was right with his world.

Upward Week 2

Well, the improvement was plain to see.  Lexi and Griffin both got better this week.  Griffin was a tenacious defender, moving his feet and waving his arms like a fiend.  He made one basket (his first) and was able to take several other shots, even trying to fast break once.  Lexi took a couple of shots and flew around the court on defense.  She even came back from an elbow to the nose.  I'm very proud of my kids.  I've posted video of their Upward entrances for your enjoyment.



Sunday, January 20, 2013

Upward Week 1

Lexi and Griffin had their first Upward basketball games of the season (and their lives) yesterday.  Griffin started out a little tentative.  You could see his mind trying to process everything.  He did a great job hustling up and down the court, and moved his feet in a defensive slide like a pro.  While dribbling was sometimes optional, he did get a couple of shots off and also had an assist.  He finished the game with a smile on his face.  Lexi had a better understanding of what a basketball game entailed, so she was quicker in picking things up.  She played tenacious defense, and had a lot of enthusiasm.  She was able to shoot a few times and even got a steal.  She also was awarded the Christ-like star for the game.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Ruling Sea by Robert V.S. Redick - Book Review

The Ruling Sea, by Robert V.S. Redick, is the second book of four in The Chathrand Voyage.  The Chathrand is the last of a fleet of ships that are extraordinarily large.  The great majority of this book, as well as the previous volume, take place on the ship at sea.  As such, it makes the setting rather unique in fantasy books.  The main characters, Pazel Pathkendle, Tasha Isiq, and Neeps, are all teenagers.  Together with a few others, they are tasked to prevent the evil sorcerer Arunis from acquiring the Nilstone and ruling the world.

Much of this, other than the setting, sounds familiar to readers of fantasy.  Redick does a nice job of keeping his story fresh.  He adds "woken" animals (they can talk and think), the Ixchel (a race of 12 inch tall people that resemble humans), mermaids (rather vicious), a wise shape-changing mink/wizard from another dimension, and multiple twists and turns.  As The Ruling Sea progresses, the reader is introduced to the larger world, expanding on the little we learned in The Red Wolf Conspiracy (the first book).  As new lands are explored, new dangers arise.  This causes new alliances to form, sometimes along the lines of the enemy of my enemy is my friend.  Also, Redick does not shy away from killing off characters, and not just the ones on the periphery.  The novel ends on a major plot twist that doesn't just set up the next book, but offers up a paradigm shift.  The characters learn that what they are battling against is so much bigger than they thought.

I have a couple of minor complaints.  There seems to be some repetitiveness due to the length of the book.  I feel like it could have been trimmed somewhat.  Also, several of the characters become almost unlikable.  I prefer to have some characters I can root for and like, not be annoyed by.  Finally, there a lot of mysteries in this book.  However, not many are answered, while several more are introduced.  I need some things answered as I read.  Too many unanswered questions left for the end can make a satisfying ending hard to achieve.  That said, I've enjoyed the series enough so far that I'll be reading the third volume.

I would recommend this series to any fantasy fan, and particularly one who is looking for something a little different from the norm.

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

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Next Door Savior by Max Lucado - Book Review

Max Lucado is the comfort food of Christian writers. He has a talent for taking tough, hard to digest ideas and making them easily understandable.  In Next Door Savior, Lucado has taken the idea of Jesus as both God and Man and explained how and why that is necessary.

Subtitled Near Enough to Touch, Strong Enough to Trust, this book demonstrates how no one is too broken or too far away to experience the love of God.  Jesus became a man, literally, in order to fully experience what we do, and to reassure us that He has been where we are and lived what we live.  He has complete understanding of what it means to be human. 

The first section of the book is called No Person He Won't Touch.  This section discusses nine different types of people whom Jesus loves.  These include Every Person, Shady People, Desperate People, Discouraged People, Suffering People, Grieving People, Tormented People, Spiritually Weary People, and Imperfect People.  If you look hard enough, I'm sure there is a category you fit in.  Lucado shares anecdotes and scripture to illustrate his points.

The second section is called No Place He Won't Go.  Covered in this section are: Every Place, Inward Places, Ordinary Places, Religious Places, Unexpected Places, Wilderness Places, Stormy Places, The Highest Place, Godforsaken Places, God-Ordained Places, and Incredible Places.  Again, I'm sure the place you are in is mentioned. The good news?  Jesus has been there and will go again for YOU.

This book is a great answer for anyone who has said "I'd love to come to church/become a Christian, but I've got to get myself right first".  Thanks to Jesus, the God-Man, we don't need to get ourselves right first.  He does it for us.

Included in this edition of the book is a discussion guide, which makes it perfect for small group or Bible studies.

P. S.  The anecdote of the little boy who had knots in his shoelaces is priceless.  "Do you untie knots?"

I give Next Door Savior 5 out of 5 stars.

I was given a review copy of this book by Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Batgirl Vol. 2: Knightfall Descends by Gail Simone - Book Review

One of the characters to experience a major change as DC rebooted its comics was Barbara Gordon, aka Batgirl.  She is still the daughter of Commissioner Gordon and is still a part of Batman's extended "family".  However, she is no longer paralyzed from the waist down.  Since the late 1980's, when she was shot by the Joker, Barbara has been in a wheelchair and set up a cyber-network to help Batman and his allies.  In the new Batgirl title, she has been healed.  This huge life change is not ignored, though, as Barbara struggles with the mental aspects of her injury.  She is physically able to fight bad guys, but is still trying to overcome some mental blocks.  She also carries some survivor's guilt.  This makes for a complicated character and some avenues for storytelling I haven't previously seen in comics.

In the current volume, Knightfall Descends, Barbara runs into a new villain, Grotesque, who seems overly obsessed with her.  Another story ties in with the Night of Owls arc running through the Batman comics.  Finally, a former Arkham Asylum patient decides to take care of crime in a more "permanent" fashion.  All of this is going on while Barbara tries to hide her secret from a prying roommate.

While never the biggest Batgirl fan, I enjoyed this collection.  I recommend it with 4 out of 5 stars.

I was given a review copy of this book by Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Night of Fright - A story by Lexi

Lexi wrote the following story after we had a power outage and storm Saturday night.

The Night of Fright (True Story) by Lexi Knight

On a rainy Saterday night my sister and I were watching T.V.  Then I got out of bed to get my sister her cup so she could take a drink.  Then out of no where she asked "Lexi why did you turn the T.V. off?" "What"? I said so I pressed the power butten and the T.V. turned off. Cami and I ran down stairs and told my dad and he said look at my t.v. I know. After a few minits my dad put us to bed and sang to us.

I was laying in bed when a bright light came through my window and it was lightning it was so sudden I jumped and fell asleep. In the midel of the night I woke up and my room was pitch black exept for a little bit of light from the crack in my door. I got out of bed to tell my dad he said to go to sleep I tossed and turned and finall I fell asleep.

I woke up again at 3:08 and right befor my eyes my fan and night light turned on and my mom came in and fixed my clock and said good night. And I thought What a fright night.

Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines - Book Review

Superheroes? Check. Zombies? Check. Los Angeles, Hollywood, and clever pop culture references? Check, check, and check.  Ex-Heroes, a fun mash-up of a novel by Peter Clines, contains all the above referenced items.  I could also have mentioned the fast-moving plot and good writing, as well.  I have to say, I'm not a huge zombie fan, but I love a good superhero story.  When I saw they were together in one book, I decided to give it a try.  I was not disappointed.  The story of how The Mighty Dragon, Stealth, Zzzzap, and Cerberus help a group of normal humans survive against zombies and a rival gang is a lot of fun.

Using Los Angeles as a backdrop, the survivors create a community in the Paramount Studios lot.  They have established a pretty good routine, as far as apocalypses go.  They only have to avoid the "exes" (ex-humans) and the Seventeens, a street gang and rivals for the remaining supplies.  The fun comes with how Clines builds the tension between the three groups.  He also cleverly uses flashbacks to reveal origins and other information regarding the superheroes.  As the story races to a climax, all the threads come together.  The ending is satisfying, and leaves an opening for the next book in the series.

This was a fun and entertaining book.  I look forward to reading the next three books in the series.

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

Monday, January 7, 2013

Cow Boy: A Boy and His Horse by Nate Cosby - Book Review

I decided to read Cow Boy: A Boy and His Horse by Nate Cosby and Chris Eliopoulos because the boy on the cover looked a lot like Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes.  While it wasn’t near as clever or kid-friendly as Calvin and Hobbes, it was an enjoyable story.  Cow Boy is the story of Boyd Linney, a young boy who is also a bounty hunter.  It is a simply told story with some deeper themes, as the bounties Boyd is hunting begin with his absentee father and then proceed through his family.  The story is set in the Old West, which is where the name of the story comes from.  The art is simple and clean, which adds to the effect the depth of the story has.
This was a decent story, but was not at all what I was expecting.  While intended for all ages (again, I wouldn’t really recommend it for young kids), I actually think adults will enjoy it the most.  Complex themes of family and moral ambiguity add to the overall depth of Cow Boy.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Green Lantern Vol. 2: Revenge of the Black Hand (The New 52) by Geoff Johns - Book Review

Several years ago, Geoff Johns started revamping Green Lantern.  He took a somewhat simple concept – intergalactic cop – and turned it into a sprawling story, with its own set of myths, prophecies, and history.  Instead of just using green and yellow light rings, Johns incorporated the whole spectrum.  He even gave each color its own emotion and attributes.  It added tremendous depth to the story and added numerous opportunities for conflict and intertwining stories.
Thankfully, when DC rebooted their comic universe, they left the newly created Lanterns stay basically the same.  Green Lantern Vol. 2 – Revenge of the Black Hand picks right up where Volume 1 left off.  Hal Jordan has been kicked out of the Green Lantern Corps, Sinestro has given him a ring, and the Guardians are trying to eliminate all the Green Lanterns and remove free will from the galaxy.  Initially, Jordan and Sinestro encounter the Indigo Lanterns and learn the secret behind their creations.  Indigo Lanterns use empathy/compassion as their main emotion, which adds an interesting twist to their background.  Following this story arc, Black Hand has escaped and become a Black Lantern (death) again.  Sinestro and Jordan are forced to confront him.  This, and their encounter with the Indigo Lanterns, has repercussions that affect the Sinestro/Hal Jordan relationship. The final story arc involves the Guardians attempt to use the First Lantern to begin to bring about the end of the Green Lantern Corps, setting up another massive battle to save the galaxy in the next volume of Green Lantern.
I really enjoyed this graphic novel.  However, it is definitely not the place for new readers.  If you have been a Green Lantern fan, you should enjoy this story, and it will leave you waiting anxiously for the next one.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Hounded by Kevin Hearne - Book Review

Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid Chronicles (of which Hounded is the first book) follows in the vein of other popular books that imagine the characters of mythology as real and living in our present society.  Unlike the Percy Jackson series, though, this is not a series for younger readers.

Atticus O'Sullivan is the last living druid, living his life in Arizona, minding his own business, and trying to stay off the radar.  Unfortunately, he has made several powerful enemies during the course of his long life.  Hounded is the story of how one of them, Aenghus Og, looks to get revenge and take back the magic sword Fragarach.  The story is filled with supernatural creatures, most notably Celtic myths, vampires, and werewolves.  Atticus is quick-witted, and his sidekick, an Irish wolfhound named Oberon, provides a great running repartee.

The story flows very quickly, with little down time.  There are many pop culture references thrown in, and a lot of humor.  Atticus also is very worldly, making time with some goddesses, getting drunk, and getting in touch with his inner-druid.

Altogether, I found this novel okay.  I liked the humor but could do without some of the extracurricular activities. Additionally, my review copy came with two short stories that further fleshed out Atticus's world.

I was provided a copy of this book by Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Justice League Vol. 2: The Villain's Journey - Book Review

One of the titles from DC's New 52 reboot that I've really enjoyed is Justice League.  The seven main characters (Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Green Lantern, Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg) have some tweaks to their personalities that makes the interactions among them new and entertaining.  Watching the League learn to work together (since the previous 50+ years of continuity has been removed) is a lot of fun.  Additionally, the villain is interesting enough to want to follow the story through to the end.  The story traces how the aftermath of one of the Justice League's battles affects one family.  Too many superhero stories focus on the battle and defeating the foe; rarely do we see what happens to the innocent bystanders.  This story reminded me of Astro City 1/2 in its depiction of how regular people are affected by having heroes and villains in their midst.

This is a title that is definitely worth following. I give it five stars and highly recommend it.

I was provided a copy of this book through Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.