Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thanksgiving Weekend

Thanksgiving weekend brought food, family, parade-watching, bargain shopping, fighting crowds, Chick-Fil-A Holiday Peppermint shakes, and basketball.

Lexi's team won their game on Saturday.  Lexi handled the ball several times, even taking a rebound all the way up court and getting a shot off (1 of 2 she took on the day).  She got a few rebounds, set some good screens, and guarded the other team's point guard for a while.  It was cool to see the improvements continue.

The twins play their first games next Saturday, and Lexi has a game and her first piano recital.  It promises to be a busy and fun December.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Teen Titans: Earth One Vol. 1 by Jeff Lemire - Book Review

From the publisher: A new original graphic novel in DC's popular "Earth One" series, TEEN TITANS: EARTH ONE follows in the tradition of SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE and BATMAN: EARTH ONE, both of which were #1 New York Times bestsellers.

The Teen Titans never felt like normal kids... but they had no idea how right they were. Their seemingly idyllic Oregon upbringing hides a secret -- one that will bring killers, shamans, and extraterrestrials down on their heads, and force them into an alliance that could shake the planet to its foundations!

Superstars Jeff Lemire (ANIMAL MAN, GREEN ARROW) and Terry Dodson (WONDER WOMAN) reinvent DC's youngest heroes, with an all-new mythos in an all-new world!

Jeff Lemire’s Teen Titans: Earth One is the latest book in the Earth One series of original graphic novels from DC.  The great idea behind this series is to reimagine the DC heroes in a modern world and to leave behind all previous continuity and baggage.  Also, because this is separate from the main line of comics, the writers are allowed to change the characters, their origins, and even create circumstances that are lasting, such as the death of a character.

With that said, Lemire does a nice job reimagining the Teen Titans.  Rather than a group of sidekicks who form their own team (as is traditional), these kids all come from the same community.  Their “parents” are part of Starlabs, and the kids are the result of an experiment that was conducted on them.  When a mysterious ship crashed on Earth, a group of scientists, headed by a an as-yet-unnamed man, collected the only survivor, an infant named Starfire.  Fast forward 16 years, and Victor, Tara, Garfield, and Joey all begin displaying weird signs of having powers.  As they attempt to get to the bottom of the mystery, they come in to contact with Deathstroke, Raven, and Starfire.

This is nice opening to the story of the Teen Titans.  Familiar heroes (Cyborg, Terra, Beast Boy, and Jericho) are all introduced and a sparse origin is told.  This volume sets the stage for future stories as the group of teen heroes comes together and begins to discover the mystery of their pasts and how they acquired their abilities.

Teen Titans: Earth One is an entertaining book and does its job well: introduce the readers to the characters and set the stage for future adventures. I recommend this book to readers who enjoy a new take on familiar characters.

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

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Basketball and Spell Bowl

Lexi had a very busy week.  First, she was an alternate on the Elementary School Spell Bowl team, as they had their yearly competition. The team won their division at the site they were at, finished second overall at the site, and tied for 11th in the state in their division.

Then, she had a basketball double-header.  Unfortunately, her team lost both games in tough fashion, getting down early, then fighting back just to fall a bit short.  It was one of those days where the shots just didn't fall.  Lexi made terrific improvements from last week, handling the ball, grabbing a couple of rebounds, and being more aggressive to loose balls and on defense.  She also received her first foul, cutting off the ball on a fastbreak.  She was in position to take a charge, but I think she got a little nervous because she put out her hands, shuffled back and closed her eyes.  However, I was really proud how she got in position and was involved in several loose ball tie-ups.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Batman/Superman Vol. 2: Game Over by Greg Pak, Brett Booth - Book Review

From the publisher: The Dark Knight and the Man of Steel uncover a plot by the Toymaster to use a secret, potentially deadly element in his new video game, the characters created by players manifest in real life. The ultimate fighting game results--and a world-wide network of players must team up to create the most powerful, skilled Super Heroes imaginable with one goal: To kill Batman.

When Batman and Superman are corned by the Toymaster and Mongul, they are pitted against on another in a battle to the death, with their only hope being the The Worlds' Finest.

Collects Batman/Superman #5-9, Batman/Superman Annual #1, Worlds' Finest #20-21.

Batman/Superman Vol. 2: Game Over is the latest collection of the two heroes' team-ups.  Principal writing for the majority of the stories in the collection is by Greg Pak, and the gorgeous artwork is done by Jae Lee, with a couple of other artists on the other issues.

There are three stories in Game Over.  The first deals with Toymaster's attempt at a virtual reality game where the players attempt to kill Batman.  When Mongul reveals himself, things quickly spin out of control.  The second story deals with the fallout of the battle with Mongul, as his son, Jochi, challenges Batman, Superman, and several of their associates to battle for the control of WarWorld.  This arc guest stars Supergirl, Steel, Red Hood, Batgirl, and Krypto.  The final story is a crossover with World's Finest, and brings Huntress and Power Girl in to contact with Batman and Superman.  This is an interesting moment, as both heroines are the daughters of these two heroes in an alternate universe.  As Power Girl's powers go out of control, it seems the only solution is opening a doorway back to Earth 2, the alternate universe that is home to Huntress and Power Girl.  This arc ties in loosely to the events going on in the Earth 2 comic.

Overall, Game Over was an entertaining book.  It's always intriguing to see the contrast between Batman and Superman played out in such close quarters.  Additionally, the appearance of fellow heroes and heroines makes for the opportunity to tell interesting and new stories.

I would recommend Batman/Superman Vol. 2: Game Over to fans of either or both of these heroes.  It is a worthy follow-up to the first volume.

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

Sunday, November 16, 2014

KnightsCenter Update

Lexi had another basketball game yesterday, and her team won easily.  It was 16-0 at the end of the 3rd quarter, so no worries this week.  Lexi had fun, grabbing a rebound, learning how to switch on defense, and being the passer on inbound plays.  Its cool to see her awareness and skills growing with each game.

Griffin and Cami had their first practices last week, with games starting in December.  Griffin has the tallest kid in the league on his team. He is at least a foot taller than Griffin.  That should bode well for success.  Cami is learning all the various parts of the game, and according to Trisha, she plays defense with jazz hands.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The QB: The Making of Modern Quarterbacks by Bruce Feldman - Book Review

From the publisher: With unparalleled access to Heisman Trophy-winning phenom Johnny Manziel, Bruce Feldman has written a modern-day tale about the making of the next superstars in football's most important position: the quarterback.

In the world of modern football, with NFL teams worth more than a billion dollars, no position defines a franchise like the quarterback. The QB is the story of a year in the making of those star players, and of the most significant year in QB development in sport’s history… with the meteoric rise of various quarterback gurus finally coming to light. George Whitfield, profiled in the New Yorker and called the “Quarterback Whisperer,” gets a regular spot on ESPN’s College GameDay, Trent Dilfer, former Super Bowl quarterback, starts his own qb business, Steve Clarkson, another qb maker, gets profiled on 60 minutes, among many others. It is also the year 5’10” Russell Wilson wins the Super Bowl and for the first time in over 60 years a sub-6-foot QB, Johnny Manziel, gets drafted in the first round, forcing NFL power brokers to re-examine how they look at the position—and the game.

Being a former player and coach, not to mention a fan, I was fascinated by The QB: The Making of Modern Quarterbacks by Bruce Feldman.  This is not a book about how to play quarterback, nor is it really being a quarterback.  It is a revealing look at the process that is growing rapidly around training young men to be professional quarterbacks.

While Feldman pulls back the curtain on QB development, he focuses on a couple of key individuals: Trent Dilfer, a Super Bowl-winning quarterback, current analyst, and the heart and soul of the Elite 11 QB competition/reality show; and Johnny Manziel, the polarizing Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback who was a first round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns.  While focusing on these two men, Feldman brings in a wide variety of people, including current and former Elite 11 high school campers, several "QB gurus", and a litany of NFL and college coaches and talent evaluators.

My favorite parts of this book are when Feldman discussed the variety of "QB gurus" and their differing approaches to refining and coaching quarterbacks.  These include George Whitfield, Jr., Steve Clarkson (who does not come off well, in my opinion), Tom House (who made a name as a pitching coach), and Jordan Palmer, among others.  Additionally, I really enjoyed the section about brain typing, an idea Jon Niednagel refined based on the Myers-Briggs personality scale.

My one complaint with the book is that Feldman constantly repeated information when he spoke about his subjects.  It made the book seem more like a collection of articles that was put together.  This is a picky complaint, but when you binge read this book, you keep getting hit with the same stuff.

Overall, I highly recommend The QB: The Making of Modern Quarterbacks by Bruce Feldman.  If you have any interest in the quarterback position, you will be fascinated by Feldman's book.  While he doesn't try to present any one way of training as "the way", he does present to the reader an inside look at the varied ways young men are being trained, and the men who are trying to unlock the secret to finding the next great QB.

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

Saturday, November 8, 2014

More Basketball News

Lexi's team lost for the first time today.  They lost by 4, in a hard-fought, back-and-forth game.  She made several good passes, played pretty good "D", and actually forced a couple of turnovers on the press.  She was smiling after the game and is still having fun.

Griffin and Cami start practice this week, with games starting in December, when I think we'll be living at the school on Saturdays.  Griffin is a Knick and Cami is a Badger.

More to come next week.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Unwritten Vol. 10: War Stories by Mike Carey - Book Review

From the publisher: The tenth volume of the critically-acclaimed new series from the Eisner-nominated creative team, Mike Carey and Peter Gross is the perfect jumping on point, as Tom Taylor is stranded at the beginning of all creation!

Lost in the unwritten scenes of all the world's stories, Tom Taylor is headed back to reality -- and all the gods and beasts and monsters ever imagined can't stop him. But there's a toll on the road that may be too high for him or anyone to pay...


The Unwritten Vol. 10: War Stories, by Mike Carey, is a transitional story. As the penultimate collection, War Stories begins bringing back together the main characters in order to put the pieces in position for the endgame.  So, Tommy Taylor has to journey back to his world, where he discovers that the end is near.  Meanwhile (in a storyline concurrent to Tommy's quest for home), Savoy and Lizzie meet up with Wilson Taylor and begin readying to fight/defend the world from the apocalypse.  And, in a third story strand, Pauly Bruckner is faced with his future and his past; he makes a decision that could affect the lives of everyone.  The collection ends with the strands converging, setting up what should be an outstanding end to a very thought-provoking series.

Carey continues to write a wonderful, meta-fictional story.  However, this collection is not the best of the story arcs, probably because of its function: it is nearly all set-up for the following (and final) volume.

I recommend The Unwritten: War Stories to those who've read the rest of The Unwritten, but would not encourage new readers to start with this collection.  For new readers, go back to the beginning; for those who have been here all along: hang on for the finale, it should be amazing.

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

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Basketball Update

Lexi's team won a highly contested game yesterday.  She didn't score any points, but was able to shoot a couple of times.  She had a few nice rebounds and played pretty good defense.  She is still learning how to transition quickly from one end of the court to the other, and with each game she gets a little better at recognizing situations.

The twins start practice this week (we think) and we're a few short weeks from having triple, and at least one quadruple, headers.