Saturday, February 28, 2015

We Have a Champion!

Cami finished her season last Wednesday.  They played hard, but fell short. She had a good time playing basketball in her first year, and it was fun to see her improvement from week to week.

Griffin's team finished their season undefeated and tournament champions. The semi-final game was really close; the refs called everything little thing on both teams. Griffin even fouled out. The championship was anti-climactic, with the game only getting close when our best players were on the bench. Griffin brought the ball up a few times, played good defense, and shot several times. He even got a basket in the championship game. He had a lot of fun and got better each week.

Next up for the Knights, softball and baseball.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Heir to the Jedi: Star Wars by Kevin Hearne - Book Review

From the publisher: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. . . .

A thrilling new adventure set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, and—for the first time ever—written entirely from Luke Skywalker’s first-person point of view.

Luke Skywalker’s game-changing destruction of the Death Star has made him not only a hero of the Rebel Alliance but a valuable asset in the ongoing battle against the Empire. Though he’s a long way from mastering the power of the Force, there’s no denying his phenomenal skills as a pilot—and in the eyes of Rebel leaders Princess Leia Organa and Admiral Ackbar, there’s no one better qualified to carry out a daring rescue mission crucial to the Alliance cause.

A brilliant alien cryptographer renowned for her ability to breach even the most advanced communications systems is being detained by Imperial agents determined to exploit her exceptional talents for the Empire’s purposes. But the prospective spy’s sympathies lie with the Rebels, and she’s willing to join their effort in exchange for being reunited with her family. It’s an opportunity to gain a critical edge against the Empire that’s too precious to pass up. It’s also a job that demands the element of surprise. So Luke and the ever-resourceful droid R2-D2 swap their trusty X-wing fighter for a sleek space yacht piloted by brash recruit Nakari Kelen, daughter of a biotech mogul, who’s got a score of her own to settle with the Empire.

Challenged by ruthless Imperial bodyguards, death-dealing enemy battleships, merciless bounty hunters, and monstrous brain-eating parasites, Luke plunges head-on into a high-stakes espionage operation that will push his abilities as a Rebel fighter and would-be Jedi to the limit. If ever he needed the wisdom of Obi-Wan Kenobi to shepherd him through danger, it’s now. But Luke will have to rely on himself, his friends, and his own burgeoning relationship with the Force to survive.

Kevin Hearne’s Star Wars: Heir to the Jedi is the latest in the new “official cannon” line of Star Wars stories.  It takes place fairly soon after the Battle of Yavin.  The story follows Luke Skywalker as he is tasked with rescuing a cryptographer who has been co-opted into working for the Empire.  Along the way, he interacts with several old friends, including Princess Leia Organa, Admiral Ackbar, and R2-D2.  There are also new planets and new characters introduced.

The first thing that struck me about Heir to the Jedi is that the story is told in the first person, from Luke’s point of view.  I’m not sure how often this has been done in Star Wars books, but it was new to me, and I enjoyed it.  I feel that Hearne did a great job of capturing Luke’s enthusiasm for the Rebellion, his uncertainty about the Force, and his general naivete (he did, until recently, live on a very rural sand planet).  This portrayal seemed to reflect the Luke Skywalker from Star Wars: A New Hope, and begins to show his journey to the character we are familiar with in The Empire Strikes Back.  The narrative style also is nice as the reader gets access to Luke’s inner struggle with his abilities (or lack of) to use the Force.  It’s easy to forget that he only spent a short time with Obi Wan Kenobi, and did not really receive much instruction in how to use the Force.  Hearne does an outstanding job in conveying this.

Along with Luke’s inner dialogue, Hearne explores new planets, several of which are very different than have been seen in previous Star Wars outings.  He brings in alien species both familiar (Rodians) and new (Givin).  New character Nakari Kelen proves an interesting companion for Luke, and provides a romantic opportunity that will eventually lead him away from Leia. Drusil, a Given codebreaker, is another new character. She continues Star Wars' tradition of interesting non-human lifeforms.  In fact, not only do the Given not look human, they usually speak in mathematical equations (one of my favorite parts of the book is Drusil's math joke; watch for it).

Underlying everything is a sense of adventure and fun.  As the films went on, there was a darkness present. It was a necessary component, but some of the innocence was lost.  Heir to the Jedi does a great job of renewing that fun, with the spectre of Darth Vader and the Empire hanging out in the background.

I enjoyed Heir to the Jedi more than any other Star Wars novel in recent memory.  If this is an example of what fans/readers can expect going forward, it promises to be an exciting time in the Star Wars Expanded Universe.  I highly recommend this book.

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

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Tournaments Postponed

Due to weather, both Cami's and Griffin's tournaments were postponed. Griffin will be playing Tuesday and Cami on Wednesday.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Secret Origins Vol. 1 by Jeff Lemire, Greg Pak, Tony Bedard, etc. - Book Review

From the publisher: At last, the SECRET ORIGINS of the World's Greatest Heroes in The New 52 can be revealed! The beginnings of the most popular characters in the DC Universe are finally told here, in stories that fans have been clamoring for since September 2011. Included here are the origins of The Last Son of Krypton and Kara Zor-El, Supergirl, plus the first Robin, Dick Grayson.

Written by a host of the industry's brightest talent including Jeff Lemire (JUSTICE LEAGUE UNITED) Greg Pak (BATMAN/SUPERMAN) and Tony Bedard (GREEN LANTERN CORPS) and painted covers by Lee Bermejo (JOKER), this new series is a fantastic way to jump on with the DC Universe!

Collects issues #1-4.

Secret Origins, by a host of writers, is a book that does indeed chronicle the origins of a variety of DC’s heroes/villains.  This collection of the first four issues focuses several of the big guns (Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, and Aquaman), the Bat-family (Nightwing, Robin, Red Robin, Batwoman, and Harley Quinn), and several other assorted characters (Supergirl and Stargirl).  As a long time reader of DC Comics, I was pretty familiar with most of these stories, even in their New 52 form.  Not a whole lot has changed, but it was nice to see it fleshed out.  I think this series may actually pay-off better when it deals with characters whose backgrounds have changed significantly.

As far as the storytelling goes, it was pretty simplistic.  Because there wasn’t any new ground to break, the writers played it straight.  In fact, most of the stories were full of narration rather than dialogue.  This style was effective for telling the story, but didn’t really draw me in.

I would recommend Secret Origins as a great starting point for new readers, but it is not worth it to those familiar with the characters, at least those presented in this collection.

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

Sunday, February 15, 2015

End of the Regular Season

Yesterday, Cami had a double-header.  Her first game was a close loss, 9-13. The second wasn't quite as close.  Trisha reports that Cami played her usual game, and when I asked Cami about it, she couldn't give me any details. 

The reason I didn't see Cami's games was I was home with a sick Griffin.  He missed his last regular season game.  Both have a tournament next week, with Cami's team the bottom seed and Griffin's team the top seed.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Superman: Earth One Vol. 3 by J. Michael Straczynski - Book Review

From the publisher: The follow-up to the NEW YORK TIMES #1 bestselling graphic novels SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE VOL. 1 and 2 is here! Written by J. Michael Straczynski with art by Ardian Syaf (BATGIRL), SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE VOL. 3 follows a young Clark Kent as he continues his journey toward becoming the World's Greatest Super Hero. After defeating villains terrestrial and beyond, Superman faces a threat that he can't simply outmuscle. A threat smarter, more cunning and deadly than he can imagine: the Luthors!

J. Michael Straczynski’s Superman: Earth One Vol. 3 is a good book.  Following on the heels of the first two volumes, the current book continues a modern reimagining of Superman outside of DC Comics direct New 52 mythology.  This allows the author freedom from having to tie into anything currently happening, and creates a world where the consequences can be real and lasting, not to be undone by the latest big event.
Superman has revealed himself to the world and has fought off various threats, both local to the earth and from other planets.  In addition, he removed a dictator from power, but not at the behest of any government.

It is this last action that has gotten the attention of the U.N., scaring many that Superman may use his power as he sees fit, not always acting in the best interests of humanity.  When a mysterious visitor (Zod) with powers like Superman’s shows up at the U.N., the military and the world’s governments take him up on his offer to eliminate the potential threat Superman poses.  As Zod gets help from Lex and Alexandra Luthor, Clark Kent begins to question his relationships with his friends, including Lois Lane and Lisa Lasalle (his neighbor), who may know more about him than he thinks.  As the storylines pull together, Clark/Superman and the world will be left to deal with the ramifications.

The Earth One series is really entertaining.  Straczynski does a great job updating the story of Superman, while keep the heart of the character true and consistent.  I also really enjoy the fact that it takes place outside the mainstream DC Universe, as it removes the baggage that can come with all the varying continuity.  This gives Straczynski the opportunity to provide his take on classics villains, such as Zod, or to add new characters, like Lisa Lasalle.  I think his take on Lex Luthor, and his wife Alexandra, is also inspired, providing a twist on the traditional Luthor role, but remaining true to the conflict between the characters.

I highly recommend Superman: Earth One Vol. 3, and the series, for a new look at an old classic.  This also functions as a great book for people who don’t typically read comics because of the years of history they don’t really understand.

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

Sunday, February 8, 2015

More Basketball Updates

Cami's team continues to improve, but unfortunately their shots don't always fall which resulted in a loss. Cami did bring the ball up the court several times.  She also got to shoot free throws for the first time.  Her shots were very close to going in.

Griffin's team had their closest game; they did not play very well but pulled out the win in the end.  It was an exciting game.  Griffin took several shots (none fell) and also got to shoot free throws (they were close).  He continued to play good defense and hustle all over the floor.  He had a great steal at the top of the key and took the ball all the way down the court (this is what led to his free throws).

Next week is the last regular season game for the twins, with a tournament the following weekend.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Scary Close by Donald Miller - Book Review

From the publisher: After decades of failed relationships and painful drama, Donald Miller decided he’d had enough. Impressing people wasn’t helping him connect with anyone. He’d built a life of public isolation, yet he dreamed of meaningful relationships. So at forty years old he made a scary decision: to be himself no matter what it cost. 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

A Banner Day

Yesterday was huge for the Knights.  We found out that Lexi made A/B Honor Roll, which is really cool.

Cami's team finally won a game.  They played really well.  Cami displayed her usual enthusiasm as she bounced around, quickly passing the ball anytime it came to her. As the end of the game neared, she and her buddy were shaking their hands back and forth with excitement.  It was a fun scene after they realized they had won.

Griffin's team remained unbeaten, but it was a close game until the very end.  Griffin played really tough "D", and got angry when a kid fouled him. He even asked to keep guarding the guy even though he was about 4 inches taller.  Due to the foul, Griffin shot his first free throws.  He also took a couple more shots, but nothing fell for him this week.

That's all for now.