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.