Category Archives: books

Buffy: Season Eight

You’re daft, man. Buffy ended after seven seasons.

The television show ended after seven seasons but the Buffy: Season Eight comic picked up where it left off. We are left with a whole slew of empowered slayers and evil is on the ropes. I’ll only include very minor spoilers so if you don’t want to read anything about the ongoing adventures of the Scooby gang, then maybe skip this post.

Joss apparently had more Buffy story to tell, and is still actively telling it. The comics, at this point, are currently up to season ten. Joss wastes no time getting into a Buffy story that could never be told on television from a scale perspective alone. The comic opens with Buffy and a squad of slayers looking more Initiative Assault Team than anything we witnessed in season seven.

They seem to be very well funded, heavily militarized, and Xander slips into a leadership role as a would be Nick Fury, deploying squads of slayers all over the globe. If we learned anything from Buffy though it is that power unearned is dangerous. It isn’t long before the scales tip and the world seemingly goes mad. Vampires are now the endangered species and the slayers are looked upon as terrorists. It’s almost X-Men-esque in that humanity is fearful of these new powerful women. To complicate matters, some of these slayers have their own ideas of what to do with the power.

Much of season eight revolves around a new big bad named Twilight. In the balancing of good and evil, it seems as though Twilight is made the equal to Buffy who finds herself growing stronger too.

The story continues to grow in scope and scale until it’s almost ridiculous. It never overstays its welcome though, at least it didn’t to this Buffy fan. I do wonder if maybe Joss thought that the comic was going to get struck down early so it became a literal race to bring every character that we saw in the show into the pages of the comics. It was nice to be reaquainted with some of them and one particular return in particular had me thinking… “What? Seriously? You’re kidding. Why?” That particular person though faces a particularly disgusting end when season eight wraps with a HUGE conclusion that changes much of what we thought we knew about the Buffy-verse.

If I have one gripe, it’s only because continuing the show means that decisions needs to continue to be made about which characters live, leave or die. This season has a major death that is surprisingly mostly glossed over. It’s mentioned from time to time, as of season nine, but it doesn’t have the major impact that you would expect. I’m still only about 1/3 of the way through season nine, but maybe this changes. As of right now though, the death feels unnecessary and without purpose.

That complaint aside, if you ever found yourself longing for more adventures in Sunnydale, or maybe some other non-Hellmouth locale with a certain slayer and her buddies, then look no further.

I picked up the hardcover library editions from Amazon and man are they ever pretty and well put together.

New book publishing trend? Delayed ebook release.

I think we’re on the verge of a new publishing trend. I think we’re going to see ebooks starting to more frequently get a delayed release.

Stephen King just announced his new book Joyland would be released as paperback first. The press release sports the following text: “That way fans will have to buy ‘the actual book’.” While this probably was more about the fact that he wants people to have the experience of a physical book in their hand, it says a lot when a big time author, especially one who championed the ebook movement, decides to forego ebook publishing. And he’s not the only one.

The Wheel of Time is a very popular fantasy series. A Memory of Light, the final book of the fourteen-book epic concluded on January 8th. It was a print only release. The ebook version will not be released until April 9th, 2013. That’s right. Ebook fans will need to wait three whole months to read the conclusion of the loved franchise. The Wheel of Time is published by TOR, a company that announced it was going DRM-free beginning July 20, 2012.

It isn’t hard to imagine that the fact that the book could be widely distributed in a digital format played a part in the ebook delay. Stephen King’s books have never known DRM freedom, but being one of the most popular authors in the industry probably lends itself to pretty high priority on the ‘books to pirate’ scale.

So what say you? Does King’s decision disappoint you? Or will it put more paper books on your shelf?

Does TOR’s decision to delay the ebook make sense to you given the lack of DRM protection?

Review: Welcome Home

WelcomeHome

This book is not my typical fare. But as an aspiring writer and blogger, it should be. Nick Thacker is the man behind LiveHacked.com. The website touts itself as a place where you can learn to “write better, live well, earn more.” And it appears to be working for Nick.

Since he’s not one to hog all the glory to himself he decided to write a book teaching you, the writer, how you can repeat his success but more importantly how you can avoid making the mistakes he did in getting his home base off the ground.

The book starts by defining what exactly a home base is. It’s a platform you control, and own, on your own terms. It isn’t Facebook. It isn’t Twitter. It isn’t Google+. It’s your own blog on your own host, preferably. Those other social media outposts are subject to the whim of the owner.

For example, Facebook could one day decide to start charging you to get your message across to folks who’ve already indicated that they like you and want to hear from you. Oh wait. I guess that’s already a reality.

And see? That’s the reason you need a home base. So some monster corporation can’t freeze you out of your own audience or make life unnecessarily difficult.  Social media is great. It’s a crucial aspect of building your marketing home base but the idea is not to setup base on those social media sites, it’s to setup outposts that lead people to your home base. They are recruiting stations. Tools.

That’s why you need a home base. And that’s what Welcome Home helps you do. The chapters move at a quick clip and provide enough detail to teach you what you need to know without burying you in unnecessary information. The information is presented in such a manner that you feel excited to begin his method. It seems so easy.

The book addresses the topics I’ve mentioned above but also goes into detail such as what blogging platform Nick prefers (WordPress), what Plugins he prefers (many) and what tools he uses to schedule and automate his presence (Buffer). Chapter twenty-one is the automation chapter and in my opinion that chapter alone is worth the cost of admission. In fact, I find myself eager to get this review finished so I can start putting some of those plugins/apps into place and signing up for some of the same services that hooked me in.

And really that’s what this is about. Hooking in your readership. Building a relationship with them. Turning them into your fans by providing them value. And ultimately getting permission to share your message with them directly.

So how can you be sure Nick knows what he’s talking about? That depends on you, I suppose. But I can tell you how I’ve made that determination. It worked on me.

I am an aspiring writer. I found Nick’s site, somehow. And after reviewing the page I decided there was enough value to be found that I wanted to hear from Nick directly and signed up for his 20-week fiction writers course and newsletter. I never do this. But Nick promised me a great value and he’s delivered thus far. And as I read through his book Welcome Home I’ve discovered that it’s all part of his master plan. It wasn’t by mistake or happenstance that he hooked me into LiveHacked.com. It was very intentional.

And now he’s handing you the keys to the kingdom.

The keys to your own castle. Your own home base. Welcome home.

Review: The Dark Thorn

The Dark Thorn
The Dark Thorn by Shawn Speakman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ll be honest. I bought this book out of charity. Shawn Speakman is the webmaster/great guy who helps Terry Brooks maintain his web presence. When Shawn found out he had cancer he found himself in the unenviable position of being without health insurance. This book was released, in part, to help pay for his medical treatments and perhaps as a result I wasn’t expecting much when I started reading The Dark Thorn.

Into the first or second chapter I found myself shaking my head and wondering if Shawn was going to rip Brooks off and create a semi-“Word and the Void” semi-“Shannara” hybrid. But I continued to give it a chance because despite my initial suspicions that it would pale in comparison to Brooks, I found myself really starting to enjoy the lore. I found it darker than Brooks which, in my opinion, is a good thing.

It’s unfair to compare Speakman to Brooks given one is a perennial best seller and one is new to publishing his own work but I have to believe he knew those comparisons would inevitably come. But what surprised me, is that I found it every bit on par with a Brooks novel. For this being a self-published novel it surpasses some of traditionally published work I’ve read. If Speakman isn’t careful Brooks is going to find himself out a webmaster and up against a brand new (friendly) competitor.

But back to The Dark Thorn, this book deals with religion rather heavily, in particular, the Catholic Church. That said, as a Christian, I didn’t find any of it offensive. The main character is a knight of sorts, entrusted with protecting a portal that leads to another world in which the fairy tale creatures of our world escaped as Christianity and Catholicism grew and expanded in influence. There are other portals around the world, each with their own knight protecting it. These nights are granted a legendary weapon from King Arthur’s court. Richard, our central character, carries Lancelot’s Arondight. Another character possesses Prydwen, King Arthur’s shield. Other legendary weapons make appearances and it’s fascinating how they almost become secondary characters themselves. Or at least guest stars.

I’ll keep this spoiler free, but there are so many interesting aspects to this novel that it becomes literally one of my favorites ever. And this is coming from a guy who loves the Terry Brooks, loves Stephen King, and loves Michael Connelly. When you consider that Speakman will likely be compared to his long-time friend and mentor it should be a massive compliment when I tell you, without hesitation, that Speakman doesn’t aspire to be in the same company, he IS in the same company. The fantasy genre has a new player. I can absolutely recommend The Dark Thorn and not just to fans of Terry Brooks. I can recommend The Dark Thorn to fans of fantasy in general. It’s a great book.

View all my reviews

I’m doing my part for economic stimulus

After the last couple of posts I think it’s time to lighten the mood a little. I’m going to lay out my plan to help the ailing economy. Nothing like a little consumerism to do that.  Is consumerism even a word? In any event here are a few of my upcoming contributions.

image

Aug. 23 – Terry Brooks : The Measure of the Magic – This is the last book of a duology that I started. It comes out shortly but since eBook highway robbery is going on I’m going to wait for a price drop. Seriously. They thought I was crazy enough to pay $14 for an eBook when the hardcover costs $14.51. I won’t be a victim of price fixing. Particularly when the product is so readily available via other avenues. Eh, who am I kidding? I’m number 7 on my library’s wait list. So much for helping the economy.

image

Sept. 13 – NHL12 – I’m a hockey guy and I’ve always liked the EA Sports NHL games. This year has Legends mode and Steve Yzerman returns to the Detroit Red Wings. That alone escalated my level of excitement but there is also rumor of Gordie Howe joining the cast of Legends. Stevie Y? Mr. Hockey? Consider me sold. Careful I don’t hip check you on the way into the store.

image

Sept. 20 – Gears of War 3 – It’s hard to say goodbye to Marcus and the other Gears but it’s time to wrap the trilogy. At least until a new trilogy is announced. Epic, makers of this game, would be foolish to let this cash cow dry up. Gears has a cover system that is still the best in the industry. Run and gun will get you killed, fool. Who do you think you are? A Spartan? One of the more interesting story points for me is the continuation of Dom’s story. Gears 2 left him broken after a long search for his wife Maria, who is a tortured shell when she’s found. Off camera he pulls a trigger and ends her misery. In Gears 3 we find his brother. Epic sold shirts (virtual and physical) to decide his brother’s fate. Does he live or does he die? Can Dom’s fragile mind handle another difficult loss? We’ll find out soon enough.

image

Nov. 8 – 11/22/63 : Stephen King – I guess the premise of this book is that an English teacher named Jake Epping has a friend who owns a diner that has a portal to 1958 in it. Jake enters the portal on a mission to prevent the assassination of JFK. He takes on a new identity and if I understand correctly even befriends a loner by the name of Lee Harvey Oswald. Sounds like an interesting premise to me.

image

Nov. 15 – Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary – The game that established Microsoft and the Xbox as legitimate competition to Nintendo and Sony is being remade in high definition. Same physics, Same AI, modern graphics. It’s time to step behind the visor of Master Chief once again. I expect a great deal of nostalgia. The last time I played this game was 2002. I was a very different person then. I was travelling extensively with work. On long trips, more often than not, my Xbox was packed in my luggage and there were many nights me and co-workers would gather around and slay Covenant forces until early in the morning.

image

??? – Verizon 4G Android Phone – The picture above was of the phone I was sure I was going to buy… last month. Then it got delayed…again. And in the time I’ve been waiting, newer models have been rumored and are closer than they were last month. Ask me to wait three months for the next great thing and it’s going to be a lot harder than asking me to wait one month. By the time the Droid Bionic is finally released the Droid HD (which looks and sounds nice) may be shortly behind it  but we’ll also be closer to the rumored Nexus Prime which may be the first phone to rock Google’s next Android OS, Ice Cream Sandwich. Decisions. Decisions.

So there you have it. My contribution to the struggling economy. I can’t do it alone people. So I encourage you to make your own list and get cracking. With any luck we can steer this 800lb gorilla back in the right direction.

Review: Ascend

Ascend
Ascend by Amanda Hocking

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I’m just going to write this review on the entire Trylle trilogy instead of on a single book. The books are short enough that they could have been a single book but that’s beside the point. The prices were reasonable so the complaints shouldn’t be too loud.

Spoiler Alert: I’m covering a whole trilogy here, so there will be spoilers. If you plan on reading this series, I’d skip this review.

The trilogy’s central character is a girl named Wendy who finds out she was switched at birth. She is heir to the throne of a Troll kingdom. Trolls differ from our fairytale versions of them. They are essentially like us but some have abilities like telekinesis, mind speak, can read auras, etc. In any event, Wendy is pulled from the home she knows when a rival Troll faction sets out to kidnap her.

It turns out that that rival faction is actually her father’s tribe. Her mother’s tribe is very strong with the mental powers and is able to reproduce, while her father’s tribe is supernaturally physically strong but their reproduction produces hobgoblins. So the whole of trilogy is about Wendy learning her way as princess while learning how to deal with the threat of her father’s tribe.

The politics and the friendships within this book are fine with a cast of likable characters like Rhys, Matt, Willa, Duncan and Tove. But it’s the romance that quickly grows tiring and irritating. Let’s map out some of the relationships within this book. In Switched, the romantic tension exists between Wendy & Finn and to a much less degree between Wendy & Rhys. In Torn, the romantic tension exists between Wendy & Finn, Wendy & Loki and then Wendy becomes engaged to Tove, not out of love but responsibility to the kingdom. In Ascend, the romantic tension is resolved. Wendy cheats on her husband, giving her virginity to Loki, gets her marriage annulled and then marries Loki.

And there is my issue with this series, our heroine is wishy-washy with her emotions and comes off looking like a whore. The entire series finds her in love with (or engaged to, or married to) one person and giving herself to another. I found myself convinced that if there was ever a book four that I would have absolutely no interest in reading it.

If the book illustrates anything to us it is that Wendy will make a great Queen but a terrible individual. It is that juxtaposition that keeps the trilogy from getting 1 star from me. Wendy is a horrible person with conflicting emotions at every turn of the page, but she’s a great leader. And that resonates a bit more with me. It’s unfortunate that Wendy turned out this way because the story held such promise.

View all my reviews