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.