Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Weekly Sports Update

Lexi had two games this week, and both were blowouts. Her team appears to be good, but its hard to tell if it's them, or the quality of the opponents. Lexi didn't score this week (she did have a couple of shots), but she is continuing to improve. She played point guard for a little bit, and told me later she was a little nervous, but she did fine. She is setting good screens and getting after it on defense. My favorite thing so far is watching her guard and block out the other girls. Several times she has had to match up against girls 5-6 inches taller than her, and at least 20 lbs heavier, due to the lack of size on her team. She tends to get a little feisty in these match ups, and acts like a pest, using her body pretty well. It's fun to watch her, and her team.

Cami's team won again, although this one was tighter. She scored the first basket of the game, and had several other shots. She also got to play a little point guard; she had a big grin as she called out the play. Right now, I believe her team is in first place with 3-4 more games to go.

Griffin's school team got some revenge against the only team to beat them so far. It was another close finish, and very exciting. Apparently, Griffin asked his coach if he could play in the post. While none of his shots fell, he did end up with at least 15 rebounds. The kid was all over the place. He even made a really nice attempt at a jump-in-the-air-to-save-the-ball play that was called out (the ref said Griffin stepped on the line; Griffin said he didn't). It was neat to see him get so involved in rebounding. I even overheard the dad of one of Griffin's buddies saying that Griffin was the "windex man".

More updates next week!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett - Book Review
From the publisher: A triumphant return to the world of City of Stairs.

A generation ago, the city of Voortyashtan was the stronghold of the god of war and death, the birthplace of fearsome supernatural sentinels who killed and subjugated millions.

Now, the city’s god is dead. The city itself lies in ruins. And to its new military occupiers, the once-powerful capital is a wasteland of sectarian violence and bloody uprisings.

So it makes perfect sense that General Turyin Mulaghesh— foul-mouthed hero of the battle of Bulikov, rumored war criminal, ally of an embattled Prime Minister—has been exiled there to count down the days until she can draw her pension and be forgotten.

At least, it makes the perfect cover story.

The truth is that the general has been pressed into service one last time, dispatched to investigate a discovery with the potential to change the world–or destroy it.

The trouble is that this old soldier isn’t sure she’s still got what it takes to be the hero.

I don't really know where to begin with City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett. It is so not what I was expecting (I did not read the first book in the series), but then again, I'm not sure what I was expecting in the first place. All of this to say, I really enjoyed reading this book. It showed what fantasy is capable of, and what it can be when done right.

City of Blades takes place, mostly, in the city of Voortyashtan, the former home to the goddess of death and war. The Saypuris, who killed all the Divinities and conquered the Continent (of which Voortyashtan is a part), have discovered a strange new ore that seems like it could be Divine. With this potential danger looming, the Prime Minister sends retired General Turyin Mulaghesh to investigate. What she finds is far more dangerous and complicated than she or the Prime Minister could have imagined.

One of the great aspects of City of Blades is the sense of history to the world. It is easy to accept the weariness and integrity of Mulaghesh. She is a very complex character, full of a deep backstory, dating back to wars that are touched on in the text, but are an integral part of the world building. There are Divinities, conflicts, and political machinations referenced that bear novels of their own. In this way, City of Blades reminds me of Tolkien's Middle Earth and Erikson's Malazan. There is a sense of reading history as you dig into City of Blades. It is also set in a world that is closer to our present, rather than the traditional Middle Age setting.

There is also a great bit of conspiracy and hidden motives, like the best spy novels. Mulaghesh is sent to investigate the ore Thinadeskite, and determine if it is Divine (aka Magical), and track down a missing Ministry official (spy). At the same time, no one in Voortyashtan knows of her mission. She soon finds herself imbroiled in missing explosives, several gruesome murders, a missing persons case, and a meeting with a fellow General with whom she has a working relationship dating back to a particularly awful campaign during the war to conquer the Continent.

Bennett has fully fleshed out his world, creating a deeply believable history. The magic is also deeply ingrained in the world, and feels very natural to the events that unfold. He has also dealt with the uncomfortable subjects of war and its effects on both individuals and societies. There are echoes of many of our world's conflicts throughout City of Blades.

Overall, I highly recommend Robert Jackson Bennett's City of Blades. It is a terrific read, and deserving of finding a wide audience. I enjoyed it enough that I'll now be tracking down the first book, City of Stairs. If you're looking for something in the fantasy realm, but different from the usual fare, give this book a try.

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

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Basketball (What else?)

Lexi's team had two games this week. Unfortunately she was sick and missed the first one (they won). She played pretty well in the second game, as her team put a whoopin' on Shenandoah (always a good thing). Her defense was pretty good, and she is still building confidence on offense. She did score a basket and had an assist.

Cami's team won their game. She did a great job. Her offensive skills are coming along really well. She ran the point multiple times; on one trip, she called the play, dribbled off the screen and took the ball in for a layup that just missed. However, she did score a basket and had a nice assist, as well.

Griffin's school team won again. He continued playing lockdown defense, and set some good screens. He also ran the point and played wing. He had multiple shots that just didn't fall today. He has been working really hard with his coach (who also helps with travel ball) on his shooting form, and its coming along nicely.

Griffin's travel team ended their season with two nail-biting wins, to finish 11-7. Griffin went scoreless, but had several nice shots that refused to fall (including 2 free throws). He was a crazy man on defense, getting rebounds, steals, and causing jump balls. I'm super excited for his growth as a player from being on this team. The coaches wanted to teach the boys how to be good players, and good men (using a devotion every practice to help). I think they succeeded.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Basketball Update

Lexi had her first school team game, playing on the "B" team. By all accounts, she did a wonderful job. Trisha said that Lexi looked better, more confident, and like she knew what she was doing, than she did during the rec league season. She played a bunch, and scored a basket. She also had a nice assist, and did a good job playing defense. We're looking forward to seeing her development continue as she plays with and against better players.

This week, Cami's game was canceled due to icy roads.

Griffin's school team won their game. He did a really good job on defense, and is becoming more aggressive, causing a lot of jump balls. He brought the ball up the floor, and was able to get off a few shots, but, unfortunately none went in.

Additionally, the travel games that were canceled last week were rescheduled for this week. Griffin's team won both games, to finish the regular season at 9-7. They may have a couple of post-season games next weekend. Griffin did a great job, especially on defense. He got a couple of steals, rebounds, and caused some jump balls. He also had a few nice looking shots that just didn't fall for him.

More of the same for our family in the week to come.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Batman Detective Comics Vol. 7: Anarky by Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul - Book Review

From the publisher: Award-winning creative team of Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato continue their groundbreaking run on Detective Comics with the return of a long lost Batman villain, Anarky.

As Gotham City decends into chaos at the hands of Anarky and his quest for revenge on both the villains and protectors of Gotham. Batman must team up with the cantankerous Harvey Bullock of the Gotham City PD to find Anarky's true motivation for bringing Gotham to it's knees.

Collects issues #35-40.

Brian Buccellato's latest Detective Comics collection, Vol. 7: Anarky, is a good read. Rather than one long story, this collection contains several stories. The main storyline focuses on the character of Anarky, in his New 52 debut. Batman catches the Mad Hatter with the skeletons of several children, while Gotham is put on alert by a villain calling himself Anarky. Anarky distributes masks to every citizen, while also wiping out the digital imprint of every person. This causes mass chaos, and Batman is left to put the pieces together. This is a pretty good story, with several elements coming together in the end, like a good mystery should.

The other two-part story involves a plague being released via an airplane landing at Gotham International Airport. This story has a focus on Batman's problem solving skills, rather than the traditional super-villain confrontation. It was a refreshing reminder that Batman is indeed the world's greatest detective, not merely a superhero. Buccellato does an excellent job highlighting this aspect of Batman.

Although the back of this collection states that it only has Detective Comics 35-40, my copy included two more stories. Detective Comics: Engame #1 is a tie-in with the Joker story Endgame. It introduces the character of Moneyspider, a hacker who plays a role in the Anarky storyline. Also in this collection is the Detective Comics: Futures End #1. This story has a team-up between Batman and the Riddler, as they go after the Calendar Man. I enjoyed this story; however, I'm not overly familiar with the Futures End storyline, so I can't comment on how exactly it fits in.

Overall, I enjoyed Detective Comics Vol. 7: Anarky, and would recommend it to fans of Batman.

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

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Basketball Weekend

Cami started our weekend with a win. She played tough defense and set some good screens. Even cooler, she scored 4 pts, posting a big grin after the second basket.

Griffin's rec league team won their game in a furious finish. Griffin had a pretty nice rebound, put-back shot right off the glass. However, this game was all about defense, as he matched up against one of his travel team teammates. He did a terrific job, locking down his opponent.

The travel games were canceled due to weather. This was to be the last regular games before the tournament, which they may not have qualified for.

Lexi has her first school ball game Monday night. She will be playing on the "B" team and is super excited.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

God Is With You Every Day By Max Lucado - Book Review

From the publisher: It’s easier to face the day when you know God is with you.

God Is With You Every Day is a brand-new 365-day devotional from Max Lucado, and his first new devotional since the creation of the Grace for the Moment® line. Max’s signature reassuring and encouraging voice, paired with the practical, relevant, and personal message that God is with you every day, makes a great way to start each day of the year.

This devotional begins each week with a prayer and scripture, followed by six days of devotions and scripture for reflection. Weaving messages of comfort, grace, and encouragement, this book is wonderful for anyone who wants a fresh infusion of faith to start each day, as well as those walking through difficult seasons of life such as loneliness, grief, or change.

You can face each day with courage – because God is with you.

God Is With You Every Day is another in a long list of easily readable books about spiritual matters (God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Grace, etc.) by Max Lucado. There isn't a lot for me to add to the description given by the publishers, but this is a nice devotional book. I really like that the topics are relevant and to the point. They are no more than a page long, and are generally selections from one of Lucado's books. There length makes this an easy book to read, and really removes any excuses about not having time for daily devotions. This is a great book to give to the busy person in your life, or to someone who is having a tough time getting going with a devotional habit. Additionally, Lucado has such a great way with words and puts sometimes hard to comprehend ideas into easily understood ideas and concepts. I find his style easy to read and helpful when tackling tough spiritual topics.

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

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Back At It

With the holidays over, we resume our basketball seasons. Griffin had two travel team games, both of which they lost. However, Griffin played pretty well, getting a couple of shots and turning into a hustle machine in the second game. He told me the boy he was guarding was "begging" him to take it easy.

Next Saturday, both Griffin and Cami resume their school rec league games, and at some point this week, Lexi begins her season as part of the "official" school team, which she was super excited to make.

In addition, last night the family went to see the Pacers with the rest of Griffin's travel team. It was a fun experience, especially for the kids. They got hats and the opportunity to shoot a basket from the free throw line on the game court.