Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Half Past Danger by Stephen Mooney - Book Review

From the publisher: Summer, 1943, and in the midst of a war waged by monsters, Staff Sergeant Tommy ‘Irish’ Flynn never expected to encounter a real one.

But on a remote island in the South Pacific theatre, Flynn and his squad come face-to-fanged-face with creatures long thought dead.

As the world falls apart, a unique set of characters come together:

An embittered Irishman in a war not his own, a beautiful and enigmatic British agent, a U.S. Marine Captain with incredible resilience, and a secret and a mysterious operative from the land of the Rising Sun, all served up in a stew of piping-hot Nazi intrigue.

History meets Prehistory in this two-fisted race against time. And there ain’t no time like Half Past Danger!

Half Past Danger, by Stephen Mooney, is a fun romp in the best traditions of pulp stories.  It sounds like a Saturday afternoon movie: take an Irish sergeant, a female British agent, a super-strong Marine, and a Japanese ninja-type and mix in Nazis and dinosaurs.  This story is nearly all action, with the characters spinning from one crisis to another.  I found it quite entertaining.  While there isn't really any character development (aside from a prologue about Sgt. Flynn), that isn't really the point.  This story is all about action and the good guys trying to save the world from the Nazis, in the vein of Indiana Jones.  However, if Mooney is looking to tell more stories involving these characters, this introduction to Sgt. Tommy Flynn and the rest of the gang is a great starting point.

I recommend Half Past Danger for anyone looking for a quick, fun read, reminiscent of old pulp stories or Saturday afternoon movie serials.

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

Thursday, January 23, 2014

No Cape Required by Kristen Parrish - Book Review

From the publisher: What do Katniss Everdeen, Spider-Man, and Huckleberry Finn have in common? They’re heroes—and you can be just like them.

As children, we dream of throwing on a cape and changing the world. Then we grow up, we learn to see the flaws in our movie stars and athletes, and we accept that true heroism is not possible in the real world. You continue to dream, though. Isn’t that why you still love watching heroes on the big screen? It’s more than just wish fulfillment. You resonate with Superman’s justice and Dorothy’s courage because you have those same qualities within yourself.

In these pages, Kristen Parrish looks at the qualities of fifty-two heroes, and then shows how you can acquire every one of those qualities. No gamma rays or radioactive spider bites are needed. You can unleash your inner hero through prayer and practical action.

Men and women, boys and girls alike, will find role models within these pages. While others watch and dream on the sidelines, you can step out in faith, learning from heroic examples and praying for God’s help to make you who you were meant to be.

The Holy Spirit enables us to do great things. Find out how. No cape required.

No Cape Required is a short devotional by Kristen Parrish.  It is divided up in to 52 separate chapters (of several pages), each focusing on a character trait.  The unique part of this particular devotional is how Parrish uses “heroes” from popular culture to illustrate each of those characteristics in action.  While the title leads the reader to believe it is all superheroes (No Cape Required), these are heroes of their particular story.  There are also a wide range of heroes discussed, from Belle in Beauty and the Beast (Hope in Others) to Captain Kirk and Spock from Star Trek (Friendship).  Not to fear, though, there are several superheroes who’s traits are admirable.  These would include Spider-Man (Responsibility), Superman (Justice), and Robin (Growth), among others.  There are even some non-traditional heroes (in my opinion): Melanie from Gone With The Wind (Kindness) and Alfred Pennyworth, Batman’s butler, (Quiet Service).
Each chapter contains a Bible verse that refers to the characteristic for that chapter.  An anecdote, sometimes several, starring the character being focused on is then presented.  Parrish wraps the whole thing up with a summary about how each characteristic fits into our lives.  They are short, which should appeal to the time-conscious, and easy to read and understand.  However, they are appropriate and make it clear that these are characteristics presented in the Bible and should help us as we attempt to live in accordance to God’s will.
As a pop culture fan, I enjoyed No Cape Required.  Kristen Parrish has done a nice job of taking our society’s fascination with heroes and used that to present Biblical values in an easy to process format.  I recommend this to Christians who enjoy finding God, and morals, in their pop culture.
I received a preview copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Book in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Knight Basketball Update

Yesterday, Lexi had her first Upward basketball game of the season.  Her team won 24-14.  She did a really good job playing defense and bringing the ball up the court.  She took several shots and made two (one was a nice bank shot); however, both of her makes came right as the play was blown dead, so they didn't count.  She was awarded a star for sportsmanship (one of her strengths is her enthusiasm and encouragement of her teammates).

Griffin had his highest scoring game ever, scoring 8 points.  His team "won" and he did a great job in all aspects of the game.  He also made a nice bank shot.

Check out the videos below for the kids in action.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Lyric of the Day: Switchfoot -- Love Alone Is Worth The Fight [Official Video]

Switchfoot just released a new album, and I love the lyrics from the first song, "Love Alone is Worth the Fight", particularly the first verse:

I'm trying to find where my place is
I'm looking for my own oasis
So close I can taste this
The fear that love alone erases

So I'm back to the basics
I figure it's time I face this
Time to take my own advice

Love alone is worth the fight
Love alone is worth the fight

This is an album well worth picking up.  Give the song a listen and watch the video below.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

He Drank, and Saw the Spider by Alex Bledsoe - Book Review

From the publisher: For fans of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files and Glen Cook's Garrett PI novels, comes the newest installment in Alex Bledsoe’s Eddie LaCrosse series, He Drank and Saw the Spider.
After he fails to save a stranger from being mauled to death by a bear, a young mercenary is saddled with the baby girl the man died to protect. He leaves her with a kindly shepherd family and goes on with his violent life.

Now, sixteen years later, that young mercenary has grown up to become cynical sword jockey Eddie LaCrosse. When his vacation travels bring him back to that same part of the world, he can’t resist trying to discover what has become of the mysterious infant.

He finds that the child, now a lovely young teenager named Isadora, is at the center of complicated web of intrigue involving two feuding kings, a smitten prince, a powerful sorceress, an inhuman monster, and long-buried secrets too shocking to imagine. And once again she needs his help.

They say a spider in your cup will poison you, but only if you see it. Eddie, helped by his smart, resourceful girlfriend Liz, must look through the dregs of the past to find the truth about the present—and risk what might happen if he, too, sees the spider. 

He Drank, and Saw the Spider, by Alex Bledsoe, is the third Eddie LaCrosse book I've read, and they've all been fantastic.  They are the perfect blend of fantasy, mystery, and humor.

Eddie LaCrosse is a sword jockey, a sort-of private investigator, and knight-errant.  He also has a somewhat mysterious past, and when he finds himself near an area where he rescued a baby sixteen years ago, he feels compelled to see how her life is turning out.  Unfortunately, she is about to become a pawn in a political battle.  Fortunately, Eddie is there to help.  As he follows his instincts and meets all sorts of people, from shepherds to bodyguards, monsters and witches to kings, Eddie slowly unravels the mystery of who Isadore is and why she is so important.

The Eddie LaCrosse novels are very much like Robert B. Parker's Spenser books, in that there is always a mystery, but it is the characters that drive the plot.  Eddie is very similar to Spenser, as well.  He is loyal, tenacious, tough, and a bit of a smart alek, but he has a strong sense of morals and integrity.  He has a group of loyal friends, and his girlfriend, Liz, is a perfect companion for him.  Additionally, Eddie is not a "superman" type character.  He frequently runs into foes he can't overcome with shear strength, and he often ends up injured.

Bledsoe designed the Eddie LaCrosse books to be self-contained stories, but for readers who follow the order of the stories, there are subtle references to previous adventures.  Eddie also shows some nice character development over the course of the books.

The mystery of He Drank, and Saw the Spider is decent, but the true joy of the book, as with all the LaCrosse mysteries, is Eddie and his interactions with the people who make up his world.  Pick up the book for a fun and entertaining journey into hard-boiled fantasy with a cast of characters you'll be anxious to revisit.  I highly recommend this book.

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

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Back to Basketball

After an extended break, Griffin was back at it on Saturday.  His team played a pretty even game, with no clear winner.  Griffin didn't make any baskets, but took several good shots that just didn't fall.  He played good defense and had a couple of fast breaks, as well.  My favorite thing about him right now, though, is how he looks to pass.  Most of the kids in his league are black holes, basically looking to shoot every time they get the ball.  Griffin even mentioned that one boy on his team was a ball hog, so he recognizes what is happening.  To that end, he looks to pass quite often.  Passing skills seem to be tough for little guys, and catching is just as difficult, but I'm really proud of his efforts in this area.

Lexi has her first practice and game this coming week, so we'll have two games to update next week.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Ex-Purgatory by Peter Cline - Book Review

The fourth novel in Peter Clines' bestselling Ex series.

When he’s awake, George Bailey is just an ordinary man. Five days a week he coaxes his old Hyundai to life, curses the Los Angeles traffic, and clocks in at his job as a handyman at the local college. 

But when he sleeps, George dreams of something more.

George dreams of flying. He dreams of fighting monsters. He dreams of a man made of pure lightning, an armored robot, a giant in an army uniform, a beautiful woman who moves like a ninja.

Then one day as he’s walking from one fix-it job to the next, a pale girl in a wheelchair tells George of another world, one in which civilization fell to a plague that animates the dead…and in which George is no longer a glorified janitor, but one of humanity’s last heroes.  

Her tale sounds like madness, of course. But as George’s dreams and his waking life begin bleeding together, he starts to wonder—which is the real world, and which is just fantasy? 

In Ex-Purgatory, the fourth volume of the Ex-Humans series, Cline continues to present an engaging tale of the zombocalypse, with a dash of superheroes thrown in.   However, at the start of this story, the reader is presented with a world where the ex-human virus never hit, and there are no superheroes of any sort.  Following George Bailey (whom we previously knew as the hero St. George)  through his ordinary, workaday life as a maintenance man at a university presents the reader with that classic sci-fi trope, the alternate universe.  George just wants to do his job well, but at night he dreams of grasping hands and gnashing teeth.  During the day, he often mistakes people for shambling monsters of some sort.  Then he meets Madelyn Sorenson, a very pale student in a wheelchair with some strange ideas.  She believes George is a superhero and that he and his friends are needed in another world.  The quest to find them and to discover what is really happening forms the bulk of this volume.

Once again, Cline does a masterful job of telling this story.  All our favorite heroes are present: St. George, Stealth, Zzzap, Cerberus, the Driver, Captain Freedom, and Corpse Girl.  Additionally, the characters are fleshed out even more, which only adds to the depth of storytelling.  Cline continues to come up with unique ways to present villains in this zombie-infested world, and does not rely on simply having the monsters be the antagonists.  At this point, they are more a part of the setting than actual characters, which is a good thing; otherwise these books would quickly become repetitive.  Cline’s spin on the tried-and-true alternate universe trope is fun, and it presents the heroes with yet another obstacle to overcome.  The ending is unexpected, yet all the clues are presented for the attentive reader.

This is a highly entertaining and engaging book.  My only criticism is that it seems to take a bit long for the plot to move past the initial set-up and into the quest to discover the truth.

I once again highly recommend a book from the Ex-Humans series.  Ex-Purgatory is a fun read, particularly for fans of superheroes, zombies, and sci-fi goodness.

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

Monday, January 6, 2014

A Trip, A Wedding, A Princess, and A Beach

So, for the second year, we headed to Florida over Christmas break.  This time it was for Dianna's wedding, which was really cool.  We spent a couple days in Orlando, a couple in Cocoa Beach, and the rest on Hutchinson Island.  It was a fun trip, with lots of cool memories.  While in Orlando, we visited Disney's Magic Kingdom.  We swam and Boogie Boarded in Cocoa.  We stayed in a magnificent house on Hutchinson Island. And we visited with family.  Enjoy some pictures!

The first thing we saw when we entered the Magic Kingdom.

Lexi and Belle after Lexi participated in telling Belle's story.

Waiting to be pirates! Arrgh!

Waiting for the Block Party Parade.

Outside Kennedy Space Center.

Cocoa Beach

The astronaut statue in our hotel (the kids shook hands every time we passed it).

The Christmas version of Cinderella's castle.

The house on Hutchinson Island (home of the Dufek/Kemple wedding).

Ready for the wedding.