Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Season(s) Come to an End

Today, the twins (un)officially ended their respective seasons, as we won't be able to attend the last games.  Unfortunately for Cami, her game was canceled because the other team didn't have enough players. She did have a hit in her last game, though.  Griffin, on the other hand, had two games and created a lot of excitement with the one hit he got in each game.  In his first game, Griffin was standing on 1st base when the next batter hit it to deep 2nd.  Griffin over ran 2nd base by about 5 feet, then realized he was going to be tagged out and began running to 3rd, where one of his teammates was already on base.  The quick thinking 3rd base coach sent that runner, allowing Griffin to get to 3rd safely.  Then, the fielder overthrew 3rd base, so Griffin rounded 3rd, went outside the base path by a wide margin and slid into home.  Except, his slide was about 2 feet short, so he popped up and tagged home plate.  It was pretty amusing.  Today, he made it to 1st okay, but the ball squirted past the 1st baseman and he was sent to 2nd.  His teammate (who was on 2nd, heading to 3rd), turned around and headed back to 2nd, and was subsequently tagged out.  The next batter hit it, and Griffin ran to 3rd, then was waved on to home, where he slid a little better this time.  As a bonus, he pretty much covered his right side in dirt.

I was really happy with how Cami and Griffin grew in their respective sports. I could see the confidence growing with each play, and am extremely proud of them.

Enjoy the picture of Griffin, sporting the dirt from around home plate.

Safe at home!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

End of School Awards

The kids had their awards day today, and they represented themselves and their family extremely well.  I'm very proud of them.  Also, Lexi absolutely cleaned up, as she was involved in numerous school activities.  It was pretty cool.  Last day tomorrow: Field Day!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Batgirl Vol. 4: Wanted by Gail Simone - Book Review

From the publisher: Batgirl struggles to continue fighting crime after being emotionally drained by the death of her brother, James, Jr. With her relationships with Batman and her father strained, Batgirl face one of Batman's most ruthless villains, The Ventriloquist, alone.

Collects Batgirl issues #19-25, Ventriliquist #1.

Wanted, the fourth volume of Batgirl, is fantastic. Gail Simone is writing one of the most complicated characters in the DC universe right now.  In a previous story, Barbara Gordon killed her psychopatic brother, with her father, Police Commissioner James Gordon, looking on.  This collection has Barbara dealing with the very real fallout of her actions.  She is pulling away from the Bat-Family, she is wanted for murder by her father (in her Batgirl persona), and she is struggling with whether she wants to continue her costumed life.  The only bright spots are her roommate and her new boyfriend, Ricky (who's brother is a gang banger).

Into this mix is thrown the Ventriloquist, a new take on a cheesy old villain.  The new Ventriloquist is a very disturbed young lady with a penchant for killing people. Her backstory is creepy and her constant need to perform for an "audience" is disturbing.  In addition to this new villain, Knightfall and the Disgraced are continuing to eliminate gangs in an effort to "clean up" Gotham.  However, Knightfall's personal concerns lead to a showdown between Batgirl, Commissioner Gordon, Ricky, and the Disgraced that should have far-reaching consequences for all involved. There is also a nice story from Barbara's past that shows her early leanings toward heroism.

The thing I'm currently enjoying about Batgirl is Simone's examination of the realities of being a costumed hero, and the toll it takes on their lives.  Guilt, fear, anger, and sorrow are dealt with in a realistic manner, not simply swept under the rug as the next villain raises their head.  This brings a refreshing, if sometimes bleak, feel to Batgirl's story.  However, Simone makes sure to include a touch of hope to provide a light at the end of the tunnel.

Batgirl is one of the best books out there, and I highly recommend this volume to any Bat-fans, or comic readers in general.

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

Sunday, May 25, 2014

More Ball Games

This past week, Griffin had one game and Cami had two.  All were losses, unfortunately.  Griffin didn't get any hits, although he did hit a couple pitches foul.  Cami had two hits, a run, and a nice defensive play (tagged the runner going to 2nd base) in the first game.  She had another hit and a run in the second game, and just missed a couple more hits as she was thrown out at 1st on close plays.  Two baseball games and one softball game this week, and then the kids are done for the season.

Additionally, Trisha and I accompanied the twins on their field trip to the zoo.  It was a good time: beautiful weather and some active animals.  It was also funny watching Griffin and his two friends with the zoo maps trying to direct us to the next exhibit.

The twins at the zoo

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Aquaman Vol. 4: Death of a King by Geoff Johns - Book Review

From the publisher: Unfolding out of the events of "THRONE OF ATLANTIS" comes a mystery that sends Aquaman to the ends of the Earth to solve an ancient murder--one that will reveal a horrific truth about Arthur Curry and threaten those closest to him today.

Also, as the Scavenger compiles more Atlantean weaponry and artifacts, Aquaman enlists the aid of The Others to help find one missing relic in the Southwestern United States before his enemies can get to it and possess untold power.

Collects issues #17-19, 21-25 of the monthly series.

Much like he did with Green Lantern and The Flash, Geoff Johns has taken Aquaman (a character who was often the butt of jokes) and created a rich and interesting mythology for him.  Death of a King is the final collection of Johns's run on Aquaman, and he finishes with a flourish.

As Arthur Curry comes to accept his role as Aquaman and the King of Atlantis, he discovers that what he thought he knew about himself is only part of the story.  As storylines concerning Mera, the Scavenger, the Others, the Bermuda Triangle, and an ancient king of Atlantis all come together,we are given a much deeper view of the the history of Atlantis and Aquaman's place in the world.  It is an interesting story and sets the stage for future writers to have a new springboard in expanding the undersea world.

I'm not a huge Aquaman fan, but I do enjoy Geoff Johns's writing, and I was not let down.  A second tier character was brought to the forefront, and Aquaman now has his own "world" to interact with, beyond just "talking" to fish and fighting Black Manta.  Death of King wraps up what Johns started nicely, and I was pleased with the resolution to the story.  I would recommend this collection to fans of both Aquaman and Geoff Johns.

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

Sunday, May 18, 2014

No Sports This Week

We had a week without any softball or baseball games, with just a couple of practices thrown in here and there.  Therefore, this was Lexi's week to shine.  Lexi joined the 4th and 5th grade choir when Spring Break was over, and they practiced after school, twice a week since then.  Their performance was this past week, and they did a fantastic job!  The kids (there were 21 of them) sang 10 or so songs and performed for 30-40 minutes.  They sounded great and had a lot of enthusiasm.  Lexi did a wonderful job and had a lot a fun in her first official choir experience.  She even received a certificate for being a part of the choir. 

This week we are back to the grind, with ball games coming at us left and right.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Nice Little Place on the North Side by George F. Will - Book Review
From the publisher: In A Nice Little Place on the North Side, leading columnist George Will returns to baseball with a deeply personal look at his hapless Chicago Cubs and their often beatified home, Wrigley Field, as it turns one hundred years old. Baseball, Will argues, is full of metaphors for life, religion, and happiness, and Wrigley is considered one of its sacred spaces. But what is its true, hyperbole-free history?

Winding beautifully like Wrigley’s iconic ivy, Will’s meditation on “The Friendly Confines” examines both the unforgettable stories that forged the field’s legend and the larger-than-life characters—from Wrigley and Ruth to Veeck, Durocher, and Banks—who brought it glory, heartbreak, and scandal. Drawing upon his trademark knowledge and inimitable sense of humor, Will also explores his childhood connections to the team, the Cubs’ future, and what keeps long-suffering fans rooting for the home team after so many years of futility.

In the end, A Nice Little Place on the North Side is more than just the history of a ballpark. It is the story of Chicago, of baseball, and of America itself.

I'm not a Cubs fan.  I am, however, a fan of Wrigley Field.  I've had the good fortune to see a handful of games there, and have loved every one.  My first game was a Cubs/Cardinals match-up that went 14 innings. Harry Caray sang twice.  The Cubs lost.  I've sat near the field, under the overhang, and in the left field bleachers (right field sucks, right field sucks!)  Not once was I disappointed in my experience at the park.

George F. Will's book A Nice Little Place on the North Side is an attempt to capture the essence of Wrigley Field as it turns 100 years old.  Except, it isn't really that at all.  It's a meditation on the importance of sports to society.  Well, except it's a look at how Wrigley Field (and the Cubs) have been intertwined with the history of America (no kidding).  It's also a look at the possibility that Wrigley Field is itself the reason for the Cubs many years of futility.  I don't really know how to explain it.

I can tell you that I finished this book in a little more than a day.  It was informative, it was interesting, and it was intriguing.  It was written with love by a life-long Cub fan who suffers with the rest of them.  It is full of hard-to-believe statistics and facts (the Cubs attendance numbers fluctuate more with the price of beer than with the winning percentage of the team).  It is thoroughly enjoyable, and I found myself flying through the pages.

A Nice Little Place on the North Side is an ideal book for Cubs fans, but its a wonderful book for baseball fans.  Will ably captures much of what makes Wrigley Field such a draw to people, whether they are baseball fans or not.  I highly recommend it.

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

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Batman Vol. 4: Zero Year - Secret City by Scott Snyder - Book Review

From the publisher: The fourth volume in Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's best-selling run on Batman!

Still dealing with the death of his son and the aftermath of Death of the Family, Batman must stop a robbery by Bruce Wayne? Twists and turns are around every corner as Bruce must clear his name and stop this mysterious perpetrator, all leading to the epic "Zero Year."

Collects issues #21-24, #0 and Batman Annual #2 in Scott Snyder's landmark run in this #1 New York Times bestselling series.

With Batman Vol. 4: Zero Year, Scott Snyder continues his fantastic run.  This book contains Secret City, the first part of the Zero Year event, a retelling of sorts of Bruce Wayne's first year as Batman.  To be clear, this is not an update of Frank Miller's classic Batman: Year One, nor is it simply a new origin story.  It is a look at how Bruce became, and grew into the role of, Batman.

This initial story concerns Bruce's return to Gotham after being away for quite some time, long enough for his uncle to declare him legally dead.  The Red Hood Gang is terrorizing the city, particularly businessmen who won't fall in with them.  As Bruce, in disguise, continues to confront the mysterious Red Hood One to try and take him down, Red Hood finds himself very intrigued with this new vigilante.  Throw in Bruce's reluctance to go public with his return and his lack of wanting to run Wayne Industries and take over for his uncle into the mix, and there is a very interesting mix of events occurring in Bruce Wayne's life.  As everything comes to a boil, there is a climactic confrontation at the ACE Chemical plant that is especially meaningful for long-time Batman readers.

In addition to this main story, there are several short episodes revealing some of the training Bruce Wayne went through on his journey to becoming Batman.  There is also a short appearance by Edward Nygma that leads into the second half of the Zero Year story, Dark City.

I really enjoyed Synder's take on Batman's first year.  It was a fresh view on his first adventure, both echoing earlier stories and adding something new.  There were also several easter eggs for careful readers and dedicated fans to pick up on, which brought the story firmly into the Batman mythos.  Synder has proven to be excellent at the characterization of Batman and he is definitely placing himself in the upper tier of Batman writers. I highly recommend this book.

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

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Lastest 'Ball Update

So Cami had one game this week.  She didn't get any hits, but did put a solid shot right back at the pitcher.  She fielded a ball, as well.  However, her excitement came as her team scored a run with two outs in the bottom of the last inning to win the game.  It was very cool.

Griffin had his second and third games of the week on Thursday and Saturday.  Unfortunately, they lost both games.  On Thursday, Griffin struggled with his hitting, and didn't really have any chances in the field.  On Saturday he was a star.  He went 3 for 3, scored 2 runs (and slid for effect both times), and had an RBI.  He was involved in several plays at 2nd Base, and tagged a runner out on one.  He also nearly made a spectacular play going to his right; he reached his glove out as he passed over the base and almost fielded the ball.  It would have been SportsCenter worthy.

All in all, a very busy week for the Knight clan.  Now, we have ten days off from games, so the schedule will slow a little.  Plus, Lexi gets to do her thing at her choir concert on Tuesday.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Making of a Man by Tim Brown with James Lund - Book Review

From the publisher: NFL All-Pro, sports analyst, and businessman Tim Brown teaches men and boys principles and priorities for life.

Every young boy dreams about growing up to be his vision of a man, but what does that look like? What is manhood, really, and how do guys get there? For some boys their dreams are to be an astronaut, a fireman, or a professional athlete. When legendary coach Lou Holtz told Tim Brown he might be the best football player he'd ever seen it started Tim on a fast track to the Heisman Trophy and playing sixteen seasons for the Los Angeles and Oakland Raiders. While Tim quickly achieved athletic success, he had to work harder off the field to live a life of honor and integrity—two essential cornerstones of manhood.

Making of a Man, by former NFL player Tim Brown, is a book that serves a dual purpose.  It is an autobiography as well as a treatise on how to be a man.  Each of these purposes was interesting to me on their own; together, Brown has presented a unique way to tell his story.

Each chapter in the book covers a portion of Tim Brown's life, with the lion's share obviously going to his football career as a Heisman Trophy winning player at Notre Dame and NFL All-Pro for the Oakland Raiders.  Brown relates all this in a very conversational style, like he was sitting in your living room talking to you.  However, each chapter of his life serves to highlight one of the ideals Brown values in becoming a man.  These include such ideas as: Manhood Starts with Dad, A Man Uses His Skills, A Man Takes Responsibility, A Man Overcomes Temptation, Faith is for Life, A Man Romances a Woman's Heart, Respect Must Be Earned, A Father Leads His Children, and others.

In each chapter in the book, Brown relates a portion of his life. For example, in Respect Must Be Earned, he relates his 2001 season with the Raiders.  Following this, he then explains how each idea is important to being a man.  He then connects the two using scripture from the Bible.

Brown never hides his purpose, putting God's word front and center, weaving it throughout his personal story.  And it does get personal; Brown is open and apologetic about his faults (including his past sexual relationships), constantly referring to God's grace and salvation in delivering him from his sins.  It's a refreshing and honest approach to the typical athlete's autobiography.

Brown does an eloquent job of relating his life story for the purpose of teaching and encouraging men to become who God made them to be.  The two-pronged approach is an effective way to blend two very interesting ideas into one coherent book.

I highly recommend this book to sports fans and men everywhere.

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

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Mid-Week Sports Update

Griffin had a game last night.  The team lost, but Griffin had his best offensive game so far.  He had two singles and scored a run.  He also fielded a ball while playing outfield.  Two more games this week, so more news to come.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Batman/Superman Vol. 1: Cross World by Greg Pak - Book Review

From the publisher: The Dark Knight and the Man of Steel are close friends in the modern day--but the two weren't always such close allies. Discover how two of the World's Finest Super Heroes met for the first time in the New 52, and the mysterious adventure that takes them to a whole new world-the world of Earth 2! The heroes of the main DC Universe meet their Earth 2 counterparts for the first time!

Collects Batman/Superman #1-4 and Justice League #23.1: Darkseid 

Batman/Superman, by Greg Pak, is awesome.  There, I said it.  I'm not a huge Superman fan (he's okay), but Batman is my favorite.  As such, I do enjoy reading about The Dark Knight teaming up with the Man of Steel.  This particular collection is no exception.

Cross World contains the first meeting of Batman and Superman in the continuity of DC's New 52 reboot. Superman is young and brash; Batman is still highly suspicious of everyone, not wanting to trust in any help. As Batman investigates the murder of Wayne Tech employees in Metropolis, he comes in contact with Catwoman, who is possessed by Kaiyo, the Chaos Bringer .  This results in a run-in with Superman, where-in Kaiyo teleports the two heroes to Earth-2.  There, they come in to contact with the Superman and Batman of that world, who are older, wiser, and married.  The world is cleaner and safer, but there is a major weapon hiding beneath the surface of the peaceful appearance.  As the heroes battle and work together to defeat Kaiyo, they are warned that Darkseid is coming.

I love the interaction between Batman and Superman.  They are such different men with different views on the world.  The contrast between them results in a strong friendship, as well as great stories.  When they are thrown into the alternate Earth-2 and meet their counterparts, the contrasts only deepen and add to the overall relationship between the heroes.  Pak does a phenomenal job with this element, which is the key to all good Batman/Superman stories.

My favorite part of this book has to be the background given on the Batman and Superman of Earth-2. Their friendship dates back to their youth, and their first meaning is a touching scene between to boys with very different backgrounds, who's strengths complement each other beautifully.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the art by Jae Lee.  It is gorgeous, almost cinematic, and goes perfectly with the story.  Lee has a rather unique style which is easy to identify.  That style if the ideal match for Pak's tale of the meeting of two of the biggest superheroes in the world.

In addition to the main story, which actually serves as a prequel of sorts to the Earth-2 series, the collection includes Justice League 23.1. This story serves as the origin of Darkseid, one of the most ruthless and powerful villains in the DC Universe.  I found it interesting, as I've never read an origin story for the character before.

I highly recommend this book. If you have a passing interest in either Batman or Superman, you would be doing yourself a favor by checking it out.  

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

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Ball Games

Each of the twins had two games this week, and Cami had a third canceled due to rain.  Cami's team tied one, and won one.  In the first game she had 2 hits, an RBI, and scored 2 runs.  No hits in the second game, but she fielded a couple of balls in the outfield.

Griffin lost one, and won one.  In the loss, he had a hit and scored a run.  He also fielded quite a few balls, and even got a force out while playing 2nd Base.  No hits in the second game, but he did hit a good drive to the pitcher and was thrown out at 1st.

More action coming next week.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Morningside Fall by Jay Posey - Book Review

From the publisher: The lone gunman Three is gone, and Wren is the new governor of the devastated settlement of Morningside, but there is turmoil in the city. When his life is put in danger, Wren is forced to flee Morningside until he and his retinue can determine who can be trusted.
They arrive at the border outpost, Ninestory, only to find it has been infested with Weir in greater numbers than anyone has ever seen. These lost, dangerous creatures are harbouring a terrible secret – one that will have consequences not just for Wren and his comrades, but for the future of what remains of the world.
Having enjoyed Jay Posey's previous book, Three, I was looking forward to reading Morningside Fall to see what happened next to Wren, and hopefully discover more behind the mystery of the Weir.  However, after reading half of the story, I finally put it down for good.
I'm not sure what didn't click with me, exactly, but I found myself continually having to force myself to read.  Very rarely was I engaged fully in the story, sucked in and pulled along by the characters and events.  
I've thought about this a lot, and what I've concluded is that the reason I enjoyed the first book was because of the character Three.  The world presented in the Legend of the Duskwalker series is interesting, but not enough on its own to cause me to want to know more.  Wren, the Weir, and Wren's bodyguards have potential, but, again, they aren't enough to keep me coming back for more.  Posey's writing style is fine; in fact, it's very similar to the first book.  
The only missing ingredient is Three, and I believe he is what makes the original story engaging.  The mystery surrounding Three and his role as loner/guide/reluctant hero (think Clint Eastwood in all those Spaghetti Westerns) is the hook that this series had, and with his death in the first book, I guess I'm no longer hooked.
Unfortunately, I don't recommend Morningside Fall.  I suppose the second half of the book may include many wonderful surprises (Three's resurrection?), but I just don't feel like slogging my way through to find out.
I received a preview copy of this book from Angry Robot Books in exchange for an honest review.