Thursday, December 24, 2015

Batman/Superman Vol. 4: Siege by Greg Pak - Book Review

From the publisher: WHO IS SUPERMAN’S JOKER?
Someone is targeting the people closest to Superman—those who wear his sigil, those he cares most about, even innocents whose lives he’s saved. The attacks seem random, but Batman recognizes the pattern. A madman who hates you so much he strikes at the people around you…this is Superman’s Joker. 

Worse, the method of the attacks is even more bizarre: the bullets leave no residue, no clues, then seem to disappear into nothingness. Even the World’s Greatest Detective is at a loss.
But when Batman hatches a plan to draw the killer out of hiding, a crucial clue is uncovered—one that reveals that the killer is more closely tied to Superman than they could have imagined! Can Superman, Batman and Supergirl defeat this threat from Superman’s past…or will Superman’s Joker prove to be his final undoing?

Writer Greg Pak (ACTION COMICS) and artist Ardian Syaf (BATGIRL) add a deadly new name to Superman’s rogues gallery…one that will test Superman’s strength and Batman’s mind equally! Collects BATMAN/SUPERMAN #16-20, BATMAN/SUPERMAN ANNUAL #1 and BATMAN/SUPERMAN: FUTURES END #1! 

Greg Pak's Batman/Superman has been a pretty good read in the past. In fact, I thought the first volume was spectacular. The latest collection, Siege, is another good story. It revolves around the idea that there is a "Joker"-type villain for Superman, and what would happen if he began targeting all of Superman's closest friends and allies.

While I enjoyed this story, it wasn't quite up to the lofty standards that earlier collections set. It was still entertaining, and I will continue to look forward to Pak's future storyline. The art was also well done, but again, not to the level of earlier collections, particularly Jae Lee's artwork.

I would recommend Batman/Superman Vol. 4: Siege to fans of Batman and Superman, and those who have read the earlier collections.

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

Sunday, December 20, 2015

What a Weekend!

Saturday started with Cami's game. Her team lost a thriller, but Cami played well. She got several rebounds and played good defense, but her highlight came when she grabbed a rebound and took it coast to coast for a beautiful lay-up. It was her best play of the year, so far.

Lexi had her rec ball tournament. They lost a heartbreaker on a shot with 6 seconds left. Lexi played her best game of the year. She did a great job on defense, blocked out well, and grabbed a few rebounds. She also scored her first basket of the season on a nice put-back shot. It gave her team the lead in the fourth quarter, as well.

Griffin wrapped up Saturday with another nail-biter. This week his team was on the winning side. He played lock-down defense on one of his good buddies, brought the ball up the floor several times, and threw his body all over the court chasing loose balls. He also scored six points, including a short jumper with great shooting form that swished in.

Sunday saw Griffin's travel team play two more games. They lost the first by a point, but blew out their opponents in the second game. Griffin had a few rebounds and played nice defense. He took several shots; however, none dropped for him. He did make another free throw, though.

Next weekend we have off, before hitting the stretch run for travel in January.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Words for Pictures by Brian Michael Bendis - Book Review

From the publisher: One of the most popular writers in modern comics, Brian Michael Bendis reveals the tools and techniques he and other top creators use to create some of the most popular comic book and graphic novel stories of all time. Words for Pictures shows readers the creative methods of a writer at the very top of his field. Bendis guides aspiring creators through each step of the comics-making process—from idea to script to finished sequential art—for fan favorite comics like The Avengers, Ultimate Spider-Man, Uncanny X-Men, and more. Along the way, tips and insights from other working writers, artists, and editors provide a rare, extensive look behind the creative curtain of the comics industry. With script samples, a glossary of must-know business terms for writers, and interactive comics-writing exercises, Words for Pictures provides the complete toolbox needed to jump start the next comics-writing success story.

Brian Michael Bendis writes some of the best, and most popular, comics currently going and in the recent past.  When I discovered he had written a book on writing comics, I jumped at the chance to read it.  I looked forward to seeing his process and ideas on story in general, and comic books in particular.  The book, Words for Pictures, was not disappointing at all.

Bendis teaches a course in graphic novel writing at the University of Oregon, and this book reads like a syllabus or highlights from his class.  It is divided into seven chapters: 1) Why?; 2) The Modern Comic Book Script; 3) Writing for Artists; 4) The Editor's Roundtable; 5) The Writers' FAQs; 6) The Business of Comics Writing; and 7) Writing Exercises.  Each chapter focuses on one aspect of the writing part of comic creation, with a brief look at how to run your career as a successful business (an interview with his wife, who runs his business).  Most chapters contain multiple examples of what Bendis is discussing, including art, book pitches, script pages, etc. Chapters 2, 3, and 4 also have special sections at the end that highlight Bendis's writer, artist, and editor friends views on the same subject.

One of the great parts of Words for Pictures is how Bendis recruits his colleagues to give their perspective on multiple aspects of the writer's job, including multiple artists addressing how they interact with writers and their scripts, and multiple editors talking about what they look for in a writer.

The art is gorgeous, as it is from actual comic books, and the script pages are helpful guides.

I thought Words for Pictures was a fantastic book and a great help for aspiring comic book writers, and writers in general.  Bendis is very helpful and provides many ideas and examples, but he never crosses the line into an ego trip.  He is always careful to point out what works for him, and how there are other successful writers who do things differently.  However, Bendis always focuses on what the common traits of the successful writer are.

This book is highly recommended, particularly for writers.  I can see it becoming a well-used guidebook or reference text, as it is full of useful information.

I received a review copy of this book from Ten Speed Press in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Basketball Time

This weekend we had a few exciting games. Lexi's team won their last regular season game. She played pretty well, particularly in the second half. She played tough defense, but really excelled in rebounding. I was very proud of her. Next week is her tournament, and they have a decent chance of winning.

Cami's team won again, though it was much closer. She did a great job, but didn't have as many opportunities for steals, as the girls she guarded weren't primary ball-handlers. She scored another basket, and brought the ball up quite a few times.

Griffin's school team lost a thriller on a basket that went through at the buzzer. While he didn't make any baskets, he did have a bunch of good shots. He did a good job as the point guard, and is beginning to see the court even better; several times he tried to hit the open man ahead of him on a fast break. However, he excelled at playing defense. He stole the ball off the opening tip, harassed his man into multiple turnovers, and his hustle getting back on defense on the fast break was awesome.

Griffin's travel team won both of their games. He made a basket and swished a free throw, and had multiple short jump shots just miss. He continued playing good defense. I can see Griffin becoming a lockdown defender if he continues to keep his intensity.

Next week is more of the same. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

All Games, All the Time

This weekend marked the first time this year all 3 kids had basketball games, and its how things will be going for the next couple of months.

Cami got things going with a steal and layup attempt on the opening tip of her game. She said her coach had been calling the steal-master, and she was. Several times she stole the ball off the dribble from the girl she was guarding. She even scored her first basket of the year. In addition, she passed the ball well and got a rebound or two. Her team won by 20, so it was a successful first game.

Lexi, limping from a bruised knee, powered through her game. She played good D, got some rebounds, and took a few shots, though none fell for her. Unfortunately, her team lost.

Griffin had his first rec league game, and he played great! He was a whirlwind on defense, and was very involved on offense. He did a really good job bringing the ball up court, and scored 4 points, just missing on a couple of other shots. It was clear how much playing travel ball is helping him. Unfortunately, there wasn't as much success during travel ball. The team lost both games, but was competitive in both. Griffin had several shots that just wouldn't fall (that was the story for the team, as well). He played well on defense again, getting several steals, causing a few, tying up some loose balls, and snagging a couple of rebounds. He is quite the annoyance on defense, always getting in his man's face when he has the ball.

So this was the first of many basketball weekends for the Knights. It was fun for us, and successful for the kids.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Red Rising Trilogy by Pierce Brown

I just recently finished Golden Son, the second book in Pierce Brown's Red Rising Trilogy. Both books are terrific, fast-paced reads in the vein of Hunger Games, with less of a Young Adult focus, and more character development. I highly recommend both books (Red Rising is the title of the first one) and I'm looking forward to reading Morning Star, the final book, which comes out in February.

Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations. Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and lush wilds spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power.  He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies . . . even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.

As a Red, Darrow grew up working the mines deep beneath the surface of Mars, enduring backbreaking labor while dreaming of the better future he was building for his descendants. But the Society he faithfully served was built on lies. Darrow’s kind have been betrayed and denied by their elitist masters, the Golds—and their only path to liberation is revolution. And so Darrow sacrifices himself in the name of the greater good for which Eo, his true love and inspiration, laid down her own life. He becomes a Gold, infiltrating their privileged realm so that he can destroy it from within.

A lamb among wolves in a cruel world, Darrow finds friendship, respect, and even love—but also the wrath of powerful rivals. To wage and win the war that will change humankind’s destiny, Darrow must confront the treachery arrayed against him, overcome his all-too-human desire for retribution—and strive not for violent revolt but a hopeful rebirth. Though the road ahead is fraught with danger and deceit, Darrow must choose to follow Eo’s principles of love and justice to free his people.

He must live for more.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

A Respite before the Basketball Storm

So this weekend we only had one game: Lexi's. She played a ton, and was all over the court. She hasn't been able to get a shot to fall yet, but had 3 or 4 this game. Her first shot came off a rebound that she took the full length of the court. It was a nice bit of skill. She played pretty good defense, and had several rebounds and tied up the ball a couple of times. She is getting more aggressive on D, which is cool. She also played a little point guard.

Additionally, there was a pair of games to for her to cheer at.

Beginning next Saturday, we will be living in gyms on the weekend. Cami and Griffin have their first rec league games, Lexi has a game, and then on Sunday, Griffin has a double-header for his travel team.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Superman/Wonder Woman Vol. 3: Casualties of War by Peter J. Tomasi - Book Review

From the publisher: Featuring the new all-star creative team of writer Peter J. Tomasi (BATMAN AND ROBIN) and Doug Mahnke (JUSTICE LEAGUE)!

Superman and Wonder Woman—two of the world’s mightiest heroes—are the ultimate power couple. And yet, when a new superhero arrives out of nowhere asking for their guidance, the two Justice Leaguers can’t help but suspect that something is very, very wrong.

Wonderstar has no past, no memories and only a strange connection to Superman and Wonder Woman. He claims his intentions are good, but when his true identity is finally revealed, it will take the combined strength of the Man of Steel and the God of War to take him on.

Featuring the debut of the new all-star creative team, SUPERMAN/WONDER WOMAN VOL. 3: CASUALTIES OF WAR tests the bond between the super-couple like never before! Collects issues #13-17.

Peter J. Tomasi takes over writing on Superman/Wonder Woman with volume 3, Casualties of War. The story involves Wonder Woman and Superman dealing with some fallout from the first time they met, five years prior during the attempted invasion of Earth by Apokolips and Darkseid.  In the midst of this, the super couple meets Wonderstar, a young superhero with no memory of who he is or how he got his powers.  As the mystery progresses, Magog is introduced in to the New 52 universe, and Superman and Wonder Woman are also confronted by a classic villain from Wonder Woman’s past, also making her New 52 debut.

Tomasi’s story is okay, but not spectacular.  I felt like the previous two collections were outstanding and fresh, while this one had a recycled feel to it, partially due to the New 52 universe and having to bring in old villains in new ways.  Additionally, Tomasi does not utilize many of the changes Diana has been going through in the pages of Wonder Woman, other than to touch on her role as the God of War.

The best part of the story was Wonder Woman’s growth as a character, from who she was when she came to the world of man, to who she is after five years living among people.  She has become more human, for lack of a better term, and lost some of the hard Amazonian edge.  She and Superman are a good team, and complement each other. He brings out the humanity in her, while she often forces him to make tough decisions.

The art by Doug Mahnke is nice, and complements the story.

Overall, I think this was an average Superman/Wonder Woman story. It’s a good place for new readers to jump in, and current fans may enjoy it.  However, Superman/Wonder Woman Vol. 3: Casualties of War, by Peter J. Tomasi, didn’t bring a whole lot of new ideas to the party. Hopefully this volume was just laying the groundwork to return this series to its earlier levels.

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

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Basketball Update

Lexi had a another set of games to cheer during. She also had another game of her own. Her team won, and Lexi played well.  She did a great job on defense, showing terrific form. She also had a couple of rebounds, as she's learning to block out. On one possession, she brought the ball up the court on and put on a nice spin move to avoid the defender. It's easy to see her improvement from week to week, and that's pretty cool.

Griffin had two more travel ball games. They lost a close one, and won in a blowout. Griffin scored his first basket of the season. He played terrific defense, forcing several turnovers, getting some jump balls, and even getting a rebound and the chance at a put-back shot. He had a lot of fun, and worked his butt off.

Next week, only Lexi has a game, but the first weekend in December will see all the kids in basketball action.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Bryant & May and the Secret Santa A Peculiar Crimes Unit Story by Christopher Fowler - Book Review

In this fast-paced Peculiar Crimes Unit mystery, available as an eBook short story, detectives Arthur Bryant and John May must crack a puzzling Christmas case with some extra assistance from Santa's little helpers.

Includes a preview of Christopher Fowler's upcoming Peculiar Crimes Unit mystery, Bryant & May and the Burning Man!
The streets of London are covered in twinkling lights and freshly fallen snow, but the mood inside the Christmas department of Selfridges is decidedly less cheery. Bryant and May have arrived there to investigate the death of an eleven-year-old boy who inexplicably fled the store after a routine visit to Santa's Wonderland. Their only clue is a torn scrap of blue cloth discovered at the scene. Now, Bryant and May are making a list of suspects, but they'd better check it twice to catch a shifty culprit in disguise.

Christopher Fowler’s latest Bryant and May story, Bryant & May and the Secret Santa, is actually just a short story (and just an ebook as of now).  The two detectives from London’s Peculiar Crimes Unit (PCU) investigate the death of an eleven-year-old boy who was struck by a bus after running from a department store Santa. What they find is an interesting twist on England’s boarding school culture.

Having read the first book in the Bryant and May series, I was passingly familiar with the characters. They are a Holmes and Watson-type team, working in the PCU, which deals with unusual (supernatural) cases. In this particular story, neither the characters nor the PCU are described or explained. While it is not necessary to the story, it would serve to add depth. Additionally, this feels like more of a treat for regular readers of the series, rather than an introduction to the characters for newer readers.

That said, I did enjoy the mystery. I like Christmas mysteries, and Bryant and May are interesting enough characters that I would recommend this short story. It’s a fun, slightly melancholy, read, perfect for a cold, snowy, holiday afternoon.

I received a preview copy of this story from Random House in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Basketball Update

We are in full-blown basketball mode at the Knight house. Lexi is cheering for the middle school games and playing in her own every Saturday.  Her team has won their last two games, each by one point. They are now 2-1. She hasn't scored yet, but has taken some shots. She is a pretty good defender and is improving in other areas as well.

Cami started practice this week, and will be starting games soon.

Griffin's travel team went 1-1 last Sunday. Today, his team went 2-0. They got to play in the Hoosier Gym (the home gym for the Hickory Huskers in the movies Hoosiers). He has taken a few shots, and today he played excellent defense, getting a couple of steals. He also brought the ball up court after getting rebounds, as well. He does a good job, and his skills are improving a lot. He also started school ball practices this week, with games to follow in a couple of weeks. I'm looking forward to see how the fundamentals and competition from travel transfer to school ball. I expect him to play with more confidence as his seasons progress.

As you can see, its all about hoops for us for the next several months.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman - Book Review

From the publisher: Twenty-five years since THE SANDMAN first changed the landscape of modern comics, Neil Gaiman's legendary series is back in a deluxe edition!

THE SANDMAN: OVERTURE heralds New York Times best-selling writer Neil Gaiman's return to the art form that made him famous, ably abetted by artistic luminary JH Williams III (BATWOMAN, PROMETHEA), whose lush, widescreen images provide an epic scope to The Sandman's origin story. From the birth of a galaxy to the moment that Morpheus is captured, THE SANDMAN: OVERTURE will feature cameo appearances by fan-favorite characters such as The Corinthian, Merv Pumpkinhead and, of course, the Dream King's siblings: Death, Desire, Despair, Delirium, Destruction and Destiny. 

Neil Gaiman's Sandman has been one of my favorite stories for a long time (and Neil Gaiman one of my favorite writers), so I was excited to hear he was going to tell another tale about Dream, the Endless, and the rest of the crew. Sandman Overture is supposed to function as a sort of prequel or origin for Dream (the Sandman of the title). However, its more than that; its another piece in the long story, and not the typical origin.

In the book, Dream is made aware of the fact that an aspect of him has died. He also finds out that the end of everything is near. Overture follows his quest to avert that catastrophe, which was going to occur due to a mistake he made in his past. Along the way, the reader meets up with some old favorite characters, including many of the Dream's siblings, the Endless. We also meet his parents. Woven throughout Overture are threads connecting it to the greater story told in the original Sandman series, leading right up to the event that starts that series. In fact, a reread of the series might be a good idea to see just how the events of Overture link up with the original series.

I don't rightly know how to judge any Sandman story; they are the highest example of what comic books can be. The art, by J.H. Williams, is beautiful and atmospheric. Gaiman tells another wonderful story, which, like the previous Sandman books, seems to be about so much more than what it appears to be.  One of the things I enjoy so much about these books is being to think about them after finishing, discovering the depth they contain.

In addition to the story, the deluxe edition of Sandman Overture also contains many nice extra features. There are interviews with the various members of the creative team, highlighting their thoughts and the creative process that went in to the book.  These provide a cool glimpse behind the curtain.

Overall, I highly recommend Neil Gaiman's Sandman Overture. The entire series is fantastic, and this latest story is actually a good place for new readers to begin. Reading it is well worth your time.j

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

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Multiversity Deluxe Edition by Grant Morrison - Book Review

From the publisher:  The biggest adventure in DC's history is here! Join visionary writer Grant Morrison, today's most talented artists, and a cast of unforgettable heroes from 52 alternative Earths of the DC Multiverse! Prepare to meet the Vampire League of Earth-43, the Justice Riders of Earth-18, Superdemon, Doc Fate, the super-sons of Superman and Batman, the rampaging Retaliators of Earth-8, the Atomic Knights of Justice, Dino-Cop, Sister Miracle, Lady Quark and the latest, greatest Super Hero of Earth-Prime: YOU! 

THE MULTIVERSITY is more than a multipart comic book series. It's a cosmos spanning, soul-shaking experience that puts YOU on the frontline in the battle for all creation against the demonic destroyers known as the Gentry!

Featuring artwork by Ivan Reis (JUSTICE LEAGUE), Frank Quitely (ALL-STAR SUPERMAN), Cameron Stewart (BATGIRL) and many others, THE MULTIVERSITY tells an epic tale that span 52 Earths. 


Grant Morrison’s Multiversity is about what you’d expect from him; big, crazy ideas and a bit of meta-fiction. In a nutshell, Multiversity is Morrison’s take on the giant, universe spanning crossover events that DC Comics seems to have every few years. In this case, characters from most of the various DC continuities, Elseworlds tales, and even children’s comics come together to battle a great evil that threatens the very existence of the Multiverse.

I want to look at this collection from two angles. The first is as an event story. Taken as a whole, this story didn’t work for me. There seemed to be a lot of cutting between scenes that left the reader in the middle of a scene or conversation that didn’t have a lot of context. The “bad guy” wasn’t really explained, or even presented for that matter. It was a bit of a jumbled mess.

As individual issues and ideas, however, Multiversity was pretty cool. Morrison manages to throw Cthulhu-type creatures, a Rubik’s cube, comics showing the reality from other dimensions, and some interesting takes on alternate DC universes into a giant cauldron of Wow. I enjoyed the issues spotlighting The Society of Superheroes (a Justice Society-type book), The Just, and Pax Americana. The heroes and worlds in these issues bear further exploration, and I would eagerly read future collections spotlighting these characters.

In addition to the story, the deluxe version includes mulitple cover variants and character sketches. Another cool element (found in the Multiversity Guidebook) is a guide to each of the 52 universes, including some of the major heroes/villians.

Overall, I’m hesitant to recommend Morrison’s Multiversity to the casual comic reader, as it is a bit confusing. However, fans of Grant Morrison should love it. Additionally, readers looking for something different than the typical DC fare, especially the New 52, might enjoy this collection as well.

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

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Basketball Season Begins

Yesterday, Lexi had her first basketball game of the season. Her team lost, but she played well. She hustled, played good defense, had a couple of rebounds, and even took a shot.  Her next game is next Saturday. She also starts her cheering for the school basketball teams next Saturday.

Griffin's travel basketball team has their first double-header next Sunday. His school ball starts soon.

We are currently waiting to hear what team Cami is on, and she should be starting in the next couple of weeks.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Descender Volume 1: Tin Stars by Jeff Lemire - Book Review

From the publisher: Young Robot boy TIM-21 and his companions struggle to stay alive in a universe where all androids have been outlawed and bounty hunters lurk on every planet. Written by award-winning creator, Jeff Lemire, Descender is a rip-roaring and heart-felt cosmic odyssey. Lemire pits humanity against machine, and world against world, to create a sprawling epic. Collecting issues #1-6 of Jeff Lemire (Sweet Tooth, Trillium) and Dustin Nguyen's (Little Gotham) critically acclaimed, bestselling new science fiction series! 

I found Jeff Lemire's new series Descender an enjoyable read. It harkens back to classic sci-fi, in my opinion, and reminded me a little of the movie A.I. and the stories that inspired it, Supertoys Last All Summer Long, Supertoys When Winter Comes, and Supertoys in Other Seasons by Brian Aldiss. Whatever your take on these, I enjoyed them, and I've enjoyed Descender thus far as well.

The first volume of this book, Tin Stars, introduces the android Tim-21, his robot dog, the robot Driller, android creator Dr. Quon, government agent Telsa, and others. It also sets the scene for the immediate volume, as well as the long-term story.  Tim-21 is awakened after a ten year "sleep" to find his human family, as well as the rest of the mining colony, dead. He also discovers that androids have been outlawed, due to an attack on humanity by the gigantic android Harvesters just after he began his "sleep".  Into this mix come bounty hunters, an alien race set on destroying all androids, Dr. Quon (who may be able to unlock the reason for the Harvesters' attack), and more.

I really like the "human" aspect of Tim-21, who finds himself alone and being hunted. He becomes very resourceful, and soon begins to discover aspects of himself that tie in to the longer story of who or what the Harvesters are.

The last part of this book (issue six of the series) jumps back in time and completely turns the story on its head. There are some great reveals and the reader is forced to re-examine everything they currently know about Tim-21, Dr. Quon, and the Harvesters. It portends great things to come as the series continues.

Lemire's Descender is a great, fun read. Fans of sci-fi will really enjoy this. I've also read that the rights have been optioned for a movie. Read it now, before it hits the big screen.

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

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Convergence by Jeff King - Book Review

From the publisher: Once, there were Infinite Earths. Untold timelines. Innumerable Elseworlds. Then there came a Crisis…a Zero Hour…a Flashpoint. Worlds lived. Worlds died. Now they all must fight for their future! The evil alien intelligence known as Brainiac has stolen 50 doomed cities from throughout time and space and brought them to a place beyond the Multiverse—a sentient planet of his own design, a world with the power of a god. As heroes and villains from dozens of worlds battle each other for their very existence, it’s up to a ragtag band of warriors from a slain Earth to put an end to this threat that bends the Multiverse to its will. Reality itself hangs in the balance… This is it! The entire DC Universe from the dawn of time through the New 52 stars in CONVERGENCE — an unprecedented event that brings together your favorite characters from every era and series. Whether familiar or forgotten, none of them will ever be the same! Existence comes to end and a beginning with writers JEFF KING (USA’s White Collar), SCOTT LOBDELL (SUPERMAN: DOOMED), and DAN JURGENS (BATMAN BEYOND), and artists CARLO PAGULAYAN (Incredible Hulk), STEPHEN SEGOVIA (GREEN LANTERN: NEW GUARDIANS), ANDY KUBERT (DAMIAN: SON OF BATMAN), and ETHAN VAN SCIVER (GREEN LANTERN: REBIRTH). Collects CONVERGENCE #0-8.

I generally enjoy the big comic event stories every year, so I was looking forward to reading Convergence by Jeff King. The description of including various characters from all of DC's history in one story sounded pretty cool. It also sounded like an opportunity to get away from the New 52 continuity and return many of the characters to their more classic iterations.  I mean, DC started this whole thing with the Crisis on Infinite Earths storyline, and I was hoping for something along those lines.

However, I found Convergence kind of a mess.  To start with, the main characters were a few leftover heroes from the New 52 Earth 2, including Green Lantern, Batman (Thomas Wayne), Dick Grayson, Superman (Val-Zod), the Flash, and Yolanda. Other than a nice meeting between two different Batmen (both Thomas and Bruce), there was not really any emotional investment in what happened to these characters.  Secondly, the story itself was hard to follow. First they were fighting Brainiac. Then Telos. Then Deimos. Then Brainiac again.  Very little in the way of motivation was given for any of the villains.  Thirdly, there were major gaps in the story.  I'm not sure, but it seemed that there were multiple tie-in stories to Convergence that filled a bunch of plot holes.  Because I didn't read these, I found myself being jumped around a lot without much explanation as to what was happening, or what happened elsewhere. Finally, I'm not really sure what the end result of this "multiverse changing event" was. Are we back to the old continuity? Is the New 52 still going on? Is there something all together new happening? It's really not clear.

All told, I was disappointed with Convergence. An event comic needs to have a self-contained story. The tie-ins should support the story, but not be essential. To this end, the Convergence comics should probably be collected into a book with the tie-ins included, and not on their own.  Because of all this, I can't really recommend Convergence. I suppose die-hard DC Comics readers may enjoy it, but I sure didn't.

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

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Martian by Andy Weir - Book Review

The Martian by Andy WeirFrom the publisher: Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

Andy Weir’s novel The Martian is the best book I’ve read in a long time.
When I initially read the synopsis, I was interested.  Astronaut Mark Watney, a mechanical engineer and botanist, is stranded on Mars through a freak accident.  What follows is how he attempts to survive, while hoping to be rescued.  With comparisons to Apollo 13, Castaway, and Robinson Crusoe on Mars, I was hooked.  Then I read some reader reviews, and became hesitant.  Many mentioned the detailed science, and how the plot didn’t move quickly enough.  Finally, however, I decided to give it a chance.
While the first person narrative of a man stranded on Mars risked being repetitive and boring, Weir pulled it off with flying colors.  Mark Watney was an extremely well-drawn character, a sort of everyman astronaut. His humor in the face of adversity and his ingenuity when confronted with multiple problems made him almost seem real.  The science never got in the way of what was happening; indeed, it added to the suspense and depth of the story.  Weir also knows just exactly how to keep building suspense, never letting the reader or Watney become too comfortable.
I highly recommend The Martian.  In fact, I recommended it to quite a few people while still in the middle of reading.  It moves along at a tremendous pace, and could have been read in one sitting if only I’d had the time available.  Do yourself a favor, and pick it up. 
I received a review copy of this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Run to the Championship

Lexi did not end up having another match, due to members of the opponent going to choir rather than the meet. She had a blast playing tennis, and improved in skill and self-confidence over the season. Saturday, the middle school athletes also participated in a day of service, doing various projects at the school. She also cheered this week, and has one final football game this week.

Griffin's team went on an exciting run to the championship game. They won their first game soundly, and Griffin was able to get in, mixing it up in the middle at linebacker. The semi-final game saw the team upset the undefeated and top-seeded team, 8-0. Our kids showed class and sportsmanship as the other team began playing dirty when they saw their season slipping away. All our kids hit and tackled extremely well, including Griffin. Thursday night, the team played under the lights at Greenfield High School, against another team that had beaten them pretty good earlier in the season. With our players going down left and right, the team held off a last minute drive to finish regulation in a tie. The game went to triple overtime, with our team coming up a foot short of tying it again. Griffin did a solid job, and played a snap at wide receiver as well as his typical linebacker spot. I was extremely proud of Griffin and the whole team. They played over their heads and as a team, and showed tremendous sportsmanship in the midst of a heartbreaking loss.

Trisha and I finished the week by playing duck-pin bowling with the staff and spouses from her counseling office.

With the fall season ending, we have a couple of weeks before we head into basketball. Whew!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Joker: Endgame by James Tynion IV - Book Review

From the publisher: The tie-in to the best-selling BATMAN VOL. 7: ENDGAME is here in THE JOKER; ENDGAME!

Gotham City has been overrun by craziness, and the power is out at Gotham Academy! There's a mob of Jokerized madmen in Gotham City, and they're determined to spread the virus into the world beyond... but they're gonna have to get past Batgirl first! What do Batman's villains do on the craziest night in Gotham City? The city is overrun by Jokerized victims, but a small band of teenagers unites to take a stand. Their secret knowledge of Gotham City's streets helps them survive, but will Batman take help from this young group of upstarts? This jam packed collections features BATMAN ANNUAL #3, back-ups from BATMAN #35-39, GOTHAM ACADEMY: ENDGAME#1, BATGIRL ENDGAME #1, BATMAN AND ROBIN ENDGAME #1, Arkham Manor Endgame 31.

Joker: Endgame by James Tynion IV is basically an expanded version of the Batman Endgame collection. The Batman issues are collected in this book, along with a few of the side stories from the varying Bat-Family books. All said, this is a great collection. It details the Joker's efforts to push Batman to the edge. He begins by releasing a Joker toxin into the air above Gotham. As the citizens are effected, Batman and his crew are left to find a cure, all while the Joker is attempting to kill Batman.

Each of the stories that surround the main plot focus on heroes and characters on the perimeter. Gotham Academy deals with a group of teenagers who attempt to help resolve the problem. Batgirl makes her own attempt at dealing with the Joker's mess. Along the way, Red Robin, Nightwing, Spoiler, Red Hood, Bluebird, and Julia Pennyworth add their support. It is a fascinating group approach to taking on the Joker, who continues to become more and more ruthless in the New 52 continuity.

The Bat books are the best thing going at DC right now, in my opinion, and this outstanding collection is another example of why. It takes Batman and Joker to the brink, and lays the groundwork for lasting consequences going forward for all involved. I highly recommend it.

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

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Nearing the Sporting End

Lexi had two tennis matches last week. She and her partner lost the first one, but one the second one in pretty convincing fashion. The tennis season ends this week. In the meantime, we still have cheerleading to support Lexi in.

Cami's last softball game with postponed, and then canceled, so her fall season is over. She had a good time, and showed improvement, especially at the plate.

Griffin's team won 20-6, to finish the regular season at 3-5. He played a bunch, at both linebacker and running back. He got to carry the ball once, but couldn't quite break a tackle. He was involved in a few tackle piles, also. His playoffs start on Monday, against the team he just beat. We will play Tuesday, and then Wednesday as long as we keep winning.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Batman Vol. 7: Endgame by Scott Snyder - Book Review

From the publisher: For years, the Joker has regarded Batman with a sick, twisted love, thinking that one could never exist without the other. But that's all changed. Now the Clown Prince of Crime is done playing.

He's going to kill Batman. And he's going to do it using those who Batman loves the most: the Justice League

The Joker returns to Gotham City with a deadlier agenda than ever before, using every tool at his disposal to finally kill the Dark Knight. That includes turning Batman's allies against him in the bloodiest brawl that he's ever had to survive.

BATMAN VOL. 7: ENDGAME is the biggest, boldest story that the #1 New York Times best-selling creative team of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have told to date. With an ending you won't believe, this graphic novel is a classic in the making.

Collects BATMAN #35-40. 

Wow! I don't know what else to say. Scott Snyder's last collection of Batman, Vol. 7: Endgame, might be his crowning achievement. In a run that has been spectacular, this is truly the best of the best. In fact, in my opinion, Endgame ranks with the very best Batman stories told, including Miller's Year One and The Dark Knight Returns, Moore's The Killing Joke, and Loeb's The Long Halloween.

Joker has returned with a new and even deadlier form of his Joker toxin. Initially, he uses it on the Justice League, who in turn attack Batman. Then he releases it into the population of Gotham. As Batman attempts to track down a mysterious new element in order to synthesize a cure, he encounters rumors of a "pale man" down through the long history of Gotham. With help from his allies, he puts a plan in to motion. To share anymore would be to spoil the story.

Snyder has had his finger on the pulse of Batman since he took over writing the book. This is just more of the same, although I believe he has topped himself here. He has captured the spirit and emotion of Batman that many writers and readers seem to miss. The last few pages of the collection contain a perfect summary of the legacy of Batman. Read this book if just for this part.

Greg Capullo does a terrific job with the art. It complements the mood wonderfully, and adds to the depth and tone that Snyder sets with his writing.

I give Batman Vol. 7: Endgame my highest recommendation. It is a must read for Batman fans, and should be read by the casual superhero fan as well.

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

Sunday, September 20, 2015

More Fall Sports

Lexi had two tennis matches this week, losing both. She really enjoyed the second match, though, even though she and her partner were beaten badly. She said it was fun because she was getting her serve in and there were some long volleys. Love to hear her excitement and seeing her improve.

Cami had one mid-week game, and one Saturday rain-out. In the game she played, she had two hits and two RBIs. She said it was fun. This fall season has been great for her skills and her confidence.

Griffin's team lost to the best team in the league, but played them extremely tough, scoring more points on them than anyone else. Griffin is still getting used to hitting, and made some strides during the second half. His regular season ends next Saturday, and then there are the playoffs.

We wrapped up the week by going to the Indy Eleven NASL soccer match. We had great seats and a lot of fun.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Diary of a Jackwagon By Tim Aaron Hawkins with John Drive - Book Review

From the publisher: Popular Christian comedian Tim Hawkins shares his hilarious perspective on life in the 21st century.

In this wide-ranging, long-awaited book, comedian Tim Hawkins holds forth on everything from family, culture, and music to church, parenting, and education. Readers will enjoy laughing their way through the book, always feeling good about the clean and sometimes inspiring material they are laughing at. Chapters include riffs on marital communication ("marriage needs a challenge flag, like in pro football") aging ("the diabolical orifice witch hunt"), worship music ("pick the right key, because I'm not Barry White and I'm not a Bee Gee"), and fatherhood ("There are no manuals for parenting. Color-coded warning labels or open-ended prescriptions would be just as helpful.")

For fans of Jim Gaffigan's Dad Is Fat and Food: A Love Story, Tim Hawkins' hilarious first book reveals that for life's many difficulties, laughter is the best medicine-when there aren't any pills left.

I was slightly familiar with Tim Hawkins’s comedy, so when I had a chance to review his new book, Diary of a Jackwagon, I thought I’d give it a chance. It sounded pretty funny, with Hawkins translating his routines/observations into print. Thinking I’d get some chuckles, I dove in.
Unfortunately, I don’t think the comedy translated very well. While there were some amusing bits, over all, I fell flat for me. Each chapter focused on one central idea, but the approach to the idea shifted by the end of the chapter. This made it a little tough to read. Additionally, there were chapters where the content really wasn’t that funny; it was more of just a general observation.
I think Hawkins’s writing is fine, and Diary of a Jackwagon has potential to be a quick, enjoyable read. I just think that his comedy would be better seen and heard than read. If you are already a Hawkins fan, go ahead and give this book a chance. As an introduction, however, I would start with his videos.
I received a preview copy of this book from the BookLook Bloggers program in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Back to the Sporting Life

After a rather slow week for the kids (at least this season), they were back at it. Lexi had two tennis matches. In the first one, she and her partner lost. In the second, she played singles and the beat the 2nd singles player from the other team 6-1. She was excited and so were we. She is still playing the equivalent of JV, but is getting better each and every day. She was also selected as the Royal Pride Athlete of the Week after being nominated by her coach. She has at least one (might have a second) match this week, in addition to the weekly cheerleading at the middle school football games.

Griffin also had two games, with one being a make-up. The team did not do so well in the first game. Griffin played a bit at LB but was not able to be involved in any tackles. The second game went a lot better. We still ended with a loss, but it was a close game and the boys played much better. Griffin again played LB, and was able to get himself near the action. He's still trying to bring himself to hit someone, rather than just get in a pile, but he is getting better and still having fun. The next game is Saturday.

Cami's team won both games in close fashion, maybe by a run or two. She went 2-4, while knocking in a couple of runs and scoring once. She also nearly ran a girl down while playing third base. She thought that was pretty cool.  He last double-header is next Saturday.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Wonder Woman Vol. 7: War-Torn by Meredith Finch, David Finch - Book Review

From the publisher: Please welcome the new superstar creative team of writer Meredith Finch and artist David Finch! As this new epic begins, the fate of the Amazons is about to be revealed, major new characters will be introduced and a new villain will arrive with enough power to defeat the combined might of Wonder Woman and her Justice League teammates! Don't miss the start of this story that guest stars Swamp Thing! It will define what it takes for Diana to fulfill her destiny as Wonder Woman!

With Wonder Woman Vol. 7: War, Meredith Finch has taken the ideas from Brian Azzarello's run (Diana becoming the God of War, and the Amazons and Paradise Island having a heavy presence) and folded them in with Diana's role as Wonder Woman throughout the rest of the world.

In this collection, we find Wonder Woman trying to balance her various responsibilities; she is a member of the Justice League, the Queen of the Amazons, and the new God(dess) of War.  Each of these facets presents a challenge, and she is forced to figure out her place. As a Justice Leaguer, she has to deal with a force of nature swallowing cities and villages whole. As the God of War, she is forced to confront the impact being the embodiment of war is going to have on her personality. Finally, as the Queen of the Amazons, she has to face a potential coup among her subjects.  How she responds sets the stage for her further adventures and character development.

This was an enjoyable collection, as it leaned a little more on the superhero aspect than simply the Greek myth part of the character.  This lends allows Meredith Finch to tell some different types of stories, which is a good change.  Additionally, the art by David Finch is a nice change from the previous collections. Again, while the prior style really complemented the stories being told, David Finch's style is perfect for this collection.

Finally, for Wonder Woman fans, the character of Donna Troy is introduced into the New 52 continuity. For those who aren't familiar with the character, she was Wonder Girl in the old DC comics. It will be interesting to see how Meredith Finch develops her going forward.

I recommend Wonder Woman Vol. 7: War. It is a nice change, and brings Wonder Woman back into the superhero realm a little more. Old fans should enjoy it, the new focus is a good jumping on point for new fans, as well.

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

Monday, September 7, 2015

Slow Sports Week

Last week was a slow sports week for us. Lexi had two matches, winning one and losing one. She and her partner beat the 2nd doubles team in a pretty cool upset.

Griffin was supposed to have a mid-week game, but lightning in the area caused it to be postponed. So, this week he is scheduled to have two games.

Cami just had the weekend off, and will be back at it on Saturday.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Fairest Vol. 5: The Clamour for Glamour by Mark Buckingham - Book Review

From the publisher: In this new epic, refugees from Fabletown have returned to New York's Castle Dark, and Reynard, now able to shapeshift from fox to man, travels the mundane world to regale the animals with tales of his exploits, rubbing the other Fables' noses in his good fortune. Frustration at their restriction to the Farm threatens to become a issue once more! Can the animals find a way out of their situation?

Long-time FABLES artist Mark Buckingham takes over writing duties in this concluding volume to the New York Times best-selling series FAIREST. Collects issues #27-32.

Mark Buckingham closes out the Fairest series with Vol. 5: The Clamour for Glamour. As is usual, the story is great. This particular arc hits a couple of points: Reynard the fox has received a glamour so he can become a man. His bragging causes unrest among the other non-human fables at the Farm. This has two results. The first is that Reynard is removed from the farm by one of Snow White's children. He is dropped into the life of Meghan, a homebody living with her cruel uncle and cousin. A love affair and misadventures ensue. The other result is that the non-human fables demand glamours for themselves as well. The compromise is five glamours to be given out through a lottery system. The angling for the glamours causes all sorts of angst and problems, particular with Mr. Sunflower.  These storylines eventually dovetail together, providing some resolution and leading to the final volume of stories in the Fables main series.

The final issue of the series deals with Goldilocks, and her quest to find a kingdom to rule with socialistic principles.  It is a prequel of sorts to the Fairest: In All the Land graphic novel.

I enjoyed this collection. However, it was not as good as some of the previous story collections. With its focus on the non-human fables, it took some getting used to the different points of view. The story of the glamour lottery also seemed to drag on a bit, as Mr. Sunflower wasn't a great point of view character. I'm willing to chalk up my issues to this being the final collection and leading into the greater story taking place in the main Fables series.

Finally, I have enjoyed the entire Fairest series, and Mark Buckingham has proved to be an excellent writer, taking Bill Willingham's characters and crafting entertaining stories along the way. I would recommend this collection to fans of the series.

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

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Big Week for the Knight Athletes

As per usual, Lexi had her double activity week. She cheered for two football games, and its amazing to me how she keeps looking more and more like a middle schooler. She also got to play her first tennis match (doubles) against another school. She and her partner won, and the team won, too. Apparently, the coaches were very complementary of Lexi and like how she is developing.

This morning, Griffin's team won 34-0. The offense ran less than 15 plays, and we scored off an interception, a punt return, and with three different long runs.  Griffin played a bunch at middle linebacker, and was in on several tackles. He was even the first to the ball carrier on one. It was a huge deal for him, because he's beginning to realize that hitting someone doesn't really hurt all that much. The mental breakthrough is coming.

Finally, Cami had another double-header. She lost by one in the first game, and won easily in the second. Personally, she had 4 hits, including a double, and scored 3 runs. She also hit a hard line drive that the pitcher's helper somehow caught. Cami played most of the games at shortstop, but rotated to outfield a couple of times and even played an inning at pitcher's helper. She is really growing in her confidence, especially at the plate.

More excitement to come next week!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Gotham by Midnight Vol. 1: We Do Not Sleep by Ray Fawkes - Book Review

From the publisher: Spinning out of Batman Eternal, Detective Jim Corrigan aka The Spectre stars in his very own series Gotham By Midnight!

Normally Batman and the other caped protectors of Gotham have the streets of the city covered. But when monsters, ghosts and other supernatural beings enter the mix, even the Dark Knight needs help. Enter Detective Jim Corrigan aka the Spectre to prowl the streets of Gotham, solving the unsolvable supernatural crimes the city can muster. Collects Gotham By Midnight #1-5.

As a fan of Batman Eternal, I decided to give Gotham by Midnight, by Ray Fawkes, a read. It was a pretty cool book.  Vol. 1: We Do Not Sleep details Det. Jim Corrigan, aka The Spectre, and a small group of investigators (including a nun, a female detective with a mysterious power, a forensic investigator, and the Lt. in charge) as they take on the supernatural cases that arise in Gotham. This Midnight Squad (as they are known) begins with an investigation into a couple of missing girls. With an Internal Affairs sergeant riding along, we slowly begin to see a new side of Gotham. Following this thread, they discover a threat that reaches back to the very origins of the city of Gotham.

The art, by Ben Templesmith, is hard to describe, but it perfectly suits the eerie tone of the book. Nothing is quite straight and easily interpreted. Additionally, the colors, which almost seem washed out, add to the feeling of creepiness surrounding the cases.

This is a very new take on Gotham, and I enjoyed it. It leans towards horror, but stays grounded in who the characters are, particularly the Spectre. With brief cameos from Batman, the story also kept itself in the general continuity of Batman Eternal's world.  I recommend Gotham by Midnight Vol. 1, by Ray Fawkes, to fans of the spooky side of Batman.

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

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sports Update

Lexi had her first tennis match of the year. She competed in an exhibition doubles match against another team from Eastern Hancock. She and her partner won (8-2, I think). Lexi did a really good job, particularly with her serves. She had several aces. The team won the overall match, as well.  It also looks like she will be able to compete against a team from another school this week. Additionally, she cheered for both the 7th and 8th grade football games, and I was able to see a little bit. She did a really good job. She has a natural talent for being loud and encouraging.

Cami had another double header. Her team split the games, but Cami did an awesome job. She had 3 hits, 3 runs, and 3 RBIs. She played SS, 3rd, and outfield. She also had a nice defensive play, aggressively fielding a ball at SS and throwing a runner out at 1st. She has a double header again next Saturday.

Finally, Griffin's team lost. It was a close games, and the boys played better for the whole game. Unfortunately, a few big plays cost us. Griffin played a handful of plays at LB and was on one kick-off team play. He is learning to be more aggressive and it gravitating toward the ball more. He even got his first "injury" - he had a player come at him at LB and Griffin got in the way, but was knocked down. In the process, his arm was stepped. After a sitting out a bit, he was able to tough it out and play some more. He also has another game next week.

We finished up the week by attending the Chicago Bears vs. Indianapolis Colts game. It was a good time, and we got to see the Bears win.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The End of All Things (Preview Excerpt) by John Scalzi - Book Review

From the publisher: Hugo-award winning author, John Scalzi returns to his best-selling Old Man's War universe with The End of All Things, the direct sequel to 2013's The Human Division.

Humans expanded into space…only to find a universe populated with multiple alien species bent on their destruction. Thus was the Colonial Union formed, to help protect us from a hostile universe. The Colonial Union used the Earth and its excess population for colonists and soldiers. It was a good arrangement...for the Colonial Union. Then the Earth said: no more.

Now the Colonial Union is living on borrowed time--a couple of decades at most, before the ranks of the Colonial Defense Forces are depleted and the struggling human colonies are vulnerable to the alien species who have been waiting for the first sign of weakness, to drive humanity to ruin. And there's another problem: A group, lurking in the darkness of space, playing human and alien against each other--and against their own kind --for their own unknown reasons.

In this collapsing universe, CDF Lieutenant Harry Wilson and the Colonial Union diplomats he works with race against the clock to discover who is behind attacks on the Union and on alien races, to seek peace with a suspicious, angry Earth, and keep humanity's union intact...or else risk oblivion, and extinction--and the end of all things.

Warning: My copy of this preview included the first story in the collection, The Life of the Mind, and the second, The Hollow Union. I will be basing my review on these two stories.

The Life of the Mind, the first story in John Scalzi's new collection The End of All Things, picks up where the last book in the Old Man's War series, The Human Division, left off. The main character is a pilot named Rafe Daquin. He is, quite literally, a brain in a box. How he got there and what he does is the crux of the story.

Rafe makes for a fascinating point of view character, as he is rather limited in what he can do and where he can go due to his being just a brain. However, he is connected to his ship, the Chandler. He is a slave to the Rraey, an alien race who opposes the Colonial Union as a member of the group called Equilibrium. Daquin's resourcefulness and intelligence make him an ideal narrator, and his desire for revenge serves to propel the plot along. There are also some appearances by some of the major characters in previous stories, which helps tie in Rafe's tale to the greater whole.

Scalzi's writing style is in full force here, with Daquin's humor and sarcasm, along with some fun reveals.

The second story, The Hollow Union, focuses on the Conclave, a coalition of alien worlds in opposition to the Colonial Union. This story runs somewhat concurrently to The Life of the Mind in the Old Man's War timeline.

The point of view character in The Hollow Union is Hafte Sorvalh. She is the second in command (almost like a chief of staff) to General Tarsem Gau, the leader of the Conclave. The story consists of Sorvalh dealing with several disputes of a more political nature, including what to do with Earth, who isn't fond of the Colonial Union but is still full of humans, much to the chagrin of many of the Conclave member races. As a conspiracy reveals itself, Sorvalh is put in a precarious position.

Again, Scalzi strays from the typical human narrator, but his style works very well with this. As in The Life of the Mind, the uniqueness of his protagonists, combined with their very specific voices, is one of the best parts of his writing. Scazi also does a great job building up suspense and paying it off without the reader feeling cheated or talked down to.

I would highly recommend The End of All Things to readers/fans of John Scalzi's Old Man's War series. It isn't really the best place to jump into the series, but if you're a fan of what came before, you'll love this book too.

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

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Busy Week

Last week, Lexi somehow managed to juggle tennis practice, cheerleading practice, piano lessons, homework, and her first middle school cheering event. Thursday, the cheerleaders traveled about an hour away and cheered for both the 7th and 8th grade football teams. Lexi didn't get home until 10:30. Needless to say, she is learning how to organize her time wisely. I'm really proud of her.

Griffin's team lost, 18-8, mostly because of uninspired 1st half play. Griffin played a down or two at RB, and another five or six at outside LB and CB. He even filled in on kickoff team. He is learning to be more aggressive. He is also dealing with the strange dichotomy of throwing his body intentionally into another person in order to tackle them. It's a hard thing to convince yourself to do when you are in your first season of football with pads. He is getting better each practice, and his confidence is growing.

Cami had her first fall softball double-header. Her team won both games. She struggled at the plate in the first game, but fielded several balls at 3rd base, tagging a girl out as well. In the second game she went 3-3, knocking in some runs and scoring all three times. She was pretty excited about that.

This week, Lexi has a tennis match Monday and another pair of games to cheer at on Thursday. Cami has another Saturday double-header, preceded by a football game for Griffin.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Dinosaur Lords (Preview Excerpt) by Victor Milán - Book Review

From the publisher: A world made by the Eight Creators on which to play out their games of passion and power, Paradise is a sprawling, diverse, often brutal place. Men and women live on Paradise as do dogs, cats, ferrets, goats, and horses. But dinosaurs predominate: wildlife, monsters, beasts of burden-and of war. Colossal plant-eaters like Brachiosaurus; terrifying meat-eaters like Allosaurus, and the most feared of all, Tyrannosaurus rex. Giant lizards swim warm seas. Birds (some with teeth) share the sky with flying reptiles that range in size from bat-sized insectivores to majestic and deadly Dragons.

Thus we are plunged into Victor Milán's splendidly weird world of The Dinosaur Lords, a place that for all purposes mirrors 14th century Europe with its dynastic rivalries, religious wars, and byzantine politics…except the weapons of choice are dinosaurs. Where vast armies of dinosaur-mounted knights engage in battle. During the course of one of these epic battles, the enigmatic mercenary Dinosaur Lord Karyl Bogomirsky is defeated through betrayal and left for dead. He wakes, naked, wounded, partially amnesiac-and hunted. And embarks upon a journey that will shake his world.

The concept behind Victor Milan’s new book, Dinosaur Lords, is pretty cool. Dinosaur’s used as weapons of war sounds like a no-brainer. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get into this book.  I’m not sure exactly what it was, but nothing clicked for me. When I was reading it, I had to force myself to go forward. I don’t think it was the content; I just think the style of writing wasn’t for me.
Because I couldn’t finish this book, I can’t really recommend it. However, if it the concept sounds intriguing to you, you may want to pick it up and give it a chance.
I received a preview excerpt of the book by Macmillan-Tor/Forge in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

And the Fall Seasons Begin

Saturday marked the beginning of the kids' fall sports seasons. Lexi has begun tennis practice, and will also be cheering for middle school sports this year. Her first tennis match is a week and a half away, while the first football game she cheers at is this Thursday. Needless to say, she will be busy. Cami starts fall softball this week. She was supposed to practice last week, but was rained out.

Griffin has finished his first two weeks of 3/4 grade tackle football. Its been an interesting experience so far, but he seems to like it. His team played their first game yesterday, and won 18-6. Griffin played a couple of plays at running back, where he was a blocker (once going up against a pretty big kid). He also played a handful of downs at cornerback. He did a nice job of containing on a sweep play, allowing one of his teammates to make the tackle.  As a 3rd grader, much of this season is about getting acclimated to the pads and hitting, and playing a little in games. As he improves, he should play more, getting him ready to be a "big" kid next season.

Oh, and school started. We are in full-blown busy mode.

Griffin representing #6 like his dad. He also has eye black on, but it's a little hard to see.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Arkham Manor by Gerry Duggan - Book Review

From the publisher: When catastrophe strikes Arkham Asylum, where will Gotham City house the world's most dangerous criminals, and when inmates are found murdered, what is Batman prepared to do in search of justice? Arkham's madness comes home in ARKHAM MANOR! A bold new collection brought to you by Gerry Duggan (Deadpool, Nova) and Shawn Crystal (Deadpool, Wolverine and the X-Men).

Collects issues #1-6 of Arkham Manor.

The new series Arkham Manor, by Gerry Duggan, springs out of the pages of Batman Eternal. The verdict? It's fantastic. Arkham Asylum blew up, setting free a number of prisoners and leaving the rest without a place to be incarcerated/rehabilitated. The mayor's solution? Use the power of eminent domain to seize Wayne Manor from a recently disgraced Bruce Wayne (see Batman Eternal Vol. 2).  Now Batman's headquarters are beneath the residence of many of his worst and dangerous opponents. When an inmate is murdered, Batman assumes an identity in order to be admitted as a patient. What a great set up for an entertaining Batman story.

Duggan does a wonderful job setting the mood and tone. He writes Batman as a vengeful detective who is protecting his home, literally and figuratively. While there are certainly a group of traditional villains in this story, the main action involves two new characters: Seth Wickham and a man referred to as the Spider. Throw in a Joker cameo as a lead-in to events coming up in the Batman books, and you have one great book.

Additionally, Shawn Crystal's artwork is the perfect compliment to Duggan's writing. They are complimentary and go far to creating the atmosphere of Arkham Manor.

I highly recommend Arkham Manor by Gerry Duggan, particularly to fans of Batman with a little bit of an edge.

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

Friday, July 31, 2015

Armada by Ernest Cline - Book Review

Armada by From the publisher: (Hold tight, this is a long one) Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.

But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself, he knows the difference between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don’t get chosen to save the universe.

And then he sees the flying saucer.

Even stranger, the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada—in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders.

No, Zack hasn’t lost his mind. As impossible as it seems, what he’s seeing is all too real. And his skills—as well as those of millions of gamers across the world—are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it.

It’s Zack’s chance, at last, to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking back to all those science-fiction stories he grew up with, and wondering: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little…familiar?

At once gleefully embracing and brilliantly subverting science-fiction conventions as only Ernest Cline could, Armada is a rollicking, surprising thriller, a classic coming of age adventure, and an alien invasion tale like nothing you’ve ever read before—one whose every page is infused with the pop-culture savvy that has helped make Ready Player One a phenomenon.

I'm torn with how I feel about Ernest Cline's new novel, Armada. On one hand, I loved his previous book, Ready Player One. It was full of 80's pop culture goodness and was a fantastic story. Armada is also full of pop culture goodness, expanding its scope to include many things from the 60's to today. This is right in my sweet spot. On the other hand, I felt like Armada would drag as I was reading it, unlike Ready Player One. In my opinion, this has more to do with the writing style than the story itself. I'll try to explain.

I like a book that sucks me in and propels me through the story. Large/long paragraphs (especially when they come frequently) tend to slow me down, often grinding the flow of reading to a halt. I feel like this is the biggest issue with Armada. The story was interesting: Teenager discovers his knack for video games makes him perfectly suited to fight an upcoming war against aliens bent on destroying the earth. The most frequent comparison is to the movie The Last Starfighter, which I enjoyed. I liked the characters, for the most part. The ideas were pretty interesting; at the very least they were fun. There were a few twists as the story made its way to the end which kept it from being too standard. Even the frequent pop culture mentions, which many readers felt were forced in Armada, didn't really bother me. It was just the pages heavy with exposition, rather than dialogue, that kept forcing me away from the book. I never reached the point where I just couldn't put the book down. Maybe the biggest issue is that Armada isn't Ready Player One.

Overall, I liked Armada. Ernest Cline is a fine writer and I enjoy his particular use of 80's geek culture. I'll continue to read his books in the future, trusting him to provide entertainment and a quality story.

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

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Fables Vol. 22: Farewell by Bill Willingham - Book Review

From the publisher: The final volume of the #1 New York Times bestselling, Eisner Award-winning FABLES series is here!

Creator Bill Willingham delivers the end to his legendary series in FABLES VOL. 22: FAREWELL. The Eisner Award-winning series sees the conclusion of the beloved stories of Bigby Wolf, Rose Red, Boy Blue, Pinnochio and countless other timeless fables. The only question left to be answered is whether or not they will have a happy ending.

Fables Vol. 22: Farewell (actually just issue 150; it's that long!) marks the end of Bill Willingham's series. After a 13 year run, this terrific story has reached it's end. Willingham and artist Mark Buckingham provide a fitting conclusion to the book.

The majority of Farewell deals with the the conflict between Snow White and her sister, Rose Red. All the major characters (Bigby Wolf, Snow and Bigby's kids, Flycatcher, Cinderella, Totenkinder, Mayor Cole, etc) begin to move into place as this final battle arrives. Plot lines begin to resolve, with some Fables living, and some dying. There are also call-backs to various characters throughout the series, continuing to wrap up the stories that have been woven throughout the main series.

There isn't a lot I can say without spoiling the ending, so I'll finish with this: It's got to be hard wrapping up any series, particularly one as beloved and decorated as Fables. Willingham does as good a job as possible. I was thoroughly satisfied with how the story ended, and after reading each and every issue, I believe the series concludes in a very pleasing way.

This is definitely not for a Fables newbie, but for long-time readers, it is a must. If you haven't read any of the previous books, go find a copy of Fables Vol. 1 and settle in for a tremendous ride. Highly recommended.

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

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

New Suicide Squad Vol. 1: Pure Insanity by Sean Ryan - Book Review

From the publisher: Once a secret to even the highest government officials, the Suicide Squad has emerged from FOREVER EVIL as one of its most popular programs. Its mission: to send incarcerated super villains to carry out impossible missions on foreign soil in exchange for a commuted prison sentence. If they are caught or killed, no government could link these operatives back to the U.S. government. At least, that's the theory.

This new series begins with a mission in Russia that features two red-hot Batman villains: Harley Quinn and Joker's Daughter, plus Deadshot, Deathstroke the Terminator, Black Manta and more.

Collects NEW SUICIDE SQUAD #1-8.

Sean Ryan's New Suicide Squad is a big, over-the-top action movie, in comic book form. The latest volume includes Amanda Waller having to share control of the squad with Vic Sage, leading to typical Suicide Squad dysfunction. Additionally, the team has two new members, Deathstroke and Joker's Daughter, who aren't being controlled with the traditional bomb in the brain like the rest of the team.  Not to mention, Deathstroke and Joker's Daughter are so similar to Deadshot and Harley Quinn.  Throw in Black Manta for field ops leadership, and you have a giant melting pot of chaos. And this is just the first arc, a mission that takes place in Russia. The second mission inserts Reverse-Flash and Captain Boomerang into the mix, not to mention a lab growing Chinese super-heroes.

New Suicide Squad Vol. 1: Pure Insanity doesn't pretend to be anything it isn't. It's about action, crazy villains in impossible situations, and the resulting mix of chaos that occurs when these elements are mixed.  There is a chance for Ryan to add depth to these characters, but at this point it doesn't seem to be the focus, and that is just fine.

This is a fun book, and it reminds me of seeing a Jerry Bruckheimer movie, lots of excitement and fun, but not much philosophy or commentary on the human condition. Again, this is not a criticism; it's just a big, loud, fun book. I recommend it to readers looking for something easy to read, and different from the traditional super-hero comic.

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

Friday, July 17, 2015

Justice League Vol. 6: Injustice League by Geoff Johns - Book Review

From the publisher: Heroes quit, villains join and the Justice League roster you've never seen before emerges, led by the world's greatest hero--LEX LUTHOR!

The violent consequences of FOREVER EVIL must be dealt with as a new and deadly force sets it's target on the Justice league. And with the appearance of the new Power Ring, who knows how her presence will affect the team.

Collects Justice League #30-39.

In Geoff Johns's latest Justice League book, Vol. 6: Injustice League, he is dealing with the aftermath of the Crime Syndicate's attack on Earth. Lex Luthor was responsible for saving everyone and is now adored, while the Justice League is seen as a cause of the attack. Luthor's idea? He should join the League to take advantage of his popularity and to help bring the League back in the good graces of the public.  This is an interesting idea, and gives Johns lots of room to do some new things with this book.

The collection has two major story arcs in it. The first deals with Luthor attempting to join the Justice League. It also has the heroes attempting to track down Power Ring's power ring. As they find the person (un)lucky enough to obtain it, they begin dealing with their mistrust of Luthor and his apparent change of heart. Additionally, we have our first encounter with the Doom Patrol of the New 52 universe.

The second arc is the story of the accidental release of the Amazo virus, a virus Luthor created to remove powers from meta-humans, both good and bad. Unfortunately, it gives powers to normal humans before causing them to die a short time later. As many of the heroes become infected along with the population of Metropolis, its up to Luthor, Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman to find a cure. This is a zombie-type story with a twist.

I enjoyed Justice League Vol. 6: Injustice League. Johns is a master planner, and throughout this book he drops in little hints of a bigger story to come, while still telling self-contained adventures for the heroes of the Justice League. I would recommend this to fans of the Justice League. It could also be a good starting point for new readers, with only a little background knowledge necessary to know what is going on.

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

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Batman Eternal Vol. 2 by Scott Snyder - Book Review

From the publisher: The new weekly Batman series, written by the New York Times best-selling author Scott Snyder, continues here!

After Commissioner Gordon's arrest, Batman's world is turned upside down. New allies emerge, old allies fall and his rogues gallery of villains are not quite who they seem. With a new power structure being established in Gotham amidst rising tension and chaos, can Batman adapt to the changing status quo? Written by Snyder and a team of the industry's best young creators including James Tynion IV, Tim Seeley, Jason Fabok and Dustin Nguyen, BATMAN: ETERNAL VOL. 2 will shift the Batman mythos forever!

Collects issues #22-34.

Scott Snyder's Batman Eternal might be my new favorite Batman book. At this point, it seems to be relatively free from any entanglements with the various other Batman series, and with the DC universe at large. This makes for a tight and focused book. I found myself flying through this collection, and now looking forward to the next one to see how the story wraps up.

A quick synopsis: Things pick up where the previous collection left off, with Commissioner Gordon in jail, Jason Bard the new commissioner, Alfred Pennyworth abducted, Batman wanted, and general chaos all over Gotham. This would include Killer Croc roaming the sewers on a mission; Cluemaster after his daughter, Spoiler; Blackfire attempting to bring a literal Hell to Gotham; the Architect going after various buildings; a gang war; Joker's Daughter working with Blackfire; and Hush roaming around. Into this mix come a variety of heroes, new and old: Red Robin, Batgirl, Red Hood, Catwoman, and Spectre have been around, while Harper, Batwing, and Julia Pennyworth (Alfred's daughter) are fairly new.

Snyder takes all these ingredients and mixes up one heck of a story. What is becoming apparent is that Batman Eternal is not a series of small story arcs, but one long, continuous story. The bad guys are bad; the good guys are easy to root for. There are surprises throughout, and Snyder isn't finished yet. He is definitely playing the long con with the readers. There is another volume to come, and I can't wait to see how it all turns out.

I highly recommend Batman Eternal Vol. 2 by Scott Snyder. This is THE Batman book to be reading, and Snyder is at the top of his game.

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

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

NIV Dad's Devotional Bible Notes by Robert Wolgemuth - Book Review

From the publisher: A trusted source of wisdom to help men learn how to be the type of fathers God wants them to be, this Bible provides a full year of weekday devotions along with other helpful study features.

Filled with challenging and helpful information, the NIV Dad's Devotional Bible helps dads become fathers who honor God, live faithfully, and love their families-men whose lives will build priceless family legacies for generations to come.

With 260 down-to-earth devotions, one for every day of the work week, as well as quick book introductions and seven insightful "Building Your Children" articles, author Robert Wolgemuth will lead readers through the blueprint of godly fatherhood. And with a helpful "Questions Kids Ask" index in the back, the hardcover NIV Dad's Devotional Bible will equip dads with the tools they need to be great fathers.

What makes this NIV Bible different from all the other specialized versions out there? This one, the NIV Dad's Devotional Bible contains notes from author Robert Wolgemuth, who has written multiple books about being a father and husband. It also includes a forward from Kirk Cameron.

This particular Bible includes Monday-Friday devotional readings Each of these "Daily Insights" contains references for the passage of the day and verse of the day. It also includes an anecdote that ties in with the reading and has a father-centric spin.

The Bible also includes a handful of sections called "Building Your Children", which are about twice as long as the devotional readings. According to Wolgemuth, these articles hit on the main points of his book She Calls Me Daddy (another pretty good read). They contain readings on the following topics: Protection, Conversation, Affection, Discipline, Laughter, Faith, and Conduct. They approach these topics from a Biblical perspective, with scripture tied to them.

I found several other sections to be particularly inventive and unique to this edition of the NIV Bible. The first is called "The Bible for Dads". This section contains very short summaries of every book in the Bible, with the intent to focus on the heart/main idea of each book. The idea is to help direct fathers (or others) to the book that may address their specific need at that time. The other part I found cool is called "Questions Kids Ask". This contains a number of questions that kids may ask that could be hard for dads to answer. Ex: Why do we have to forgive people who hurt us? Do I have to obey my teacher even if they're mean? Why do Christians still do bad things? Do I have a guardian angel? If I'm forgiven, why am I still grounded? Each of these questions is tied to scripture and has an answer explaining it. As the parent of a young children, I can see how this would be particularly helpful.

Finally, there is a "Fruit of the Spirit" index which ties each of the daily devotional readings to a corresponding fruit of the spirit.

The size of the Bible is fairly standard and the print is easy to read, although maybe a little on the small side. The text is uninterrupted by commentary (except the typical section headings), with the devotions and other readings contained on their own pages. Overall, the layout is pretty standard as far as Bibles go.

There are a lot of Bible options available for those who are looking. The NIV Dad's Devotional Bible with notes by Robert Wolgemuth is a unique addition. I would recommend it for fathers who are maybe in the market for a little Biblical wisdom, but don't want to read a bunch of parenting books. This takes you right to the source, God's word.

I received a review copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Batman and Robin Vol. 6: The Hunt for Robin by Peter J. Tomasi - Book Review

From the publisher: After losing his son Damian—a.k.a. Robin—Batman has finally found peace with his death. Damian's grandfather Ra's al Ghul, however, has not. In order to resurrect Robin, he's stolen the body and now Batman will stop at nothing to reclaim him.

Nearly two years of storylines—including threads from Grant Morrison's BATMAN INCORPORATED and Scott Snyder and Greg Capulo's BATMAN—conclude here in BATMAN AND ROBIN VOL. 6: THE HUNT FOR ROBIN.


Peter J. Tomasi has done a great job with the latest Batman and Robin book, Vol. 6: The Hunt for Robin. After Damien Wayne, Robin, was killed, Bruce Wayne struggled to come to terms with his death, including getting over any attempts to resurrect him. Just when he was beginning to move on, Bruce discovers that the bodies of both Talie al Ghul and Damien have been stolen by Damien's grandfather, Ra's al Ghul. What follows is Batman's attempt to recover the bodies, Damien's in particular, before Ra's can resurrect them to help him in world domination. With assists, and opposition, from various Justice League members and Frankenstein, Batman chases Ra's around the globe. Eventually reconnecting with Red Robin, Red Hood, and Batgirl, Batman makes a decision that could result in long-term ramifications.

Knowing that no one really stays dead for long in comics, I was curious how Tomasi would go about bringing Robin back. There was real emotional depth in Damien's death and how Bruce and the rest of the Bat-family dealt with it. One of my favorite recent stories involved Dick Grayson processing through the death of Damien Wayne. So Tomasi had the challenge of making this a story worthy of the weight it would carry. For the most part, he succeeded. This particular volume did not provide the resolution to the whole story of Damien's resurrection, but it provided a strong beginning. Involving the various Bat characters was a wonderful decision, as this seemed to add to the depth needed.

I would highly recommend Batman and Robin Vol. 6: The Hunt for Robin, by Peter J. Tomasi, to all Batman fans. This isn't the best place for new readers to begin, but the general background knowledge needed to understand what is happening is provided. I look forward to following the rest of this story to see how Tomasi wraps it all up.

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