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AGoTIt took me most of the summer, but I was finally able to read and finish George R. R. Martin‘s A Game of Thrones. Ever since the show premiered on HBO now almost five years ago, I had wanted to read the books but was a little intimidated because each individual book was so massive and I was also afraid that I might like the writing style – nothing frustrates a reader more than committing to a book and getting a couple of hundred pages into it only to discover that you don’t find the plot engaging or can’t stand the writing style. To make a long story short on that front, not only was the book’s plot just as gripping as the shows, the writing was superb. I won’t rehash the plot here because the show does do – for the first book at least – it justice, but what I will say is that if you ever have the chance to read the book, I would, even if it is 800 plus pages long.

Rating: 5/5

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Me, holding my Kindle Paperwhite

Me, holding my Kindle Paperwhite

My first ereader which I purchased about three years ago was a nook. When I got it I wasn’t sold on the idea that the ereaders would amount to anything. It was hard for me to understand the appeal, especially in light that I could find almost any book that I wanted – old or new – at my local Goodwill. It might take some time, but the hunt is part of the fun. However, after a while my nook grew on me and I must say that when I went on vacation and was away from my vast personal library, having several dozen books in a thing that took up very little space in my suitcase was very convenient. I liked my nook so much, in fact, that when the nook HD+ came out I bought it right away. Like my first nook, I was immediately hooked on my HD+, but the problem was that neither were especially light to hold and read like you would a normal book. On a whim, I bought a refurbished Kindle Paperwhite and immediately fell in love with it. It’s light and, most importantly, readable in the sun. With summer coming, I’m enjoying the nights where I can sit out on my porch and read without my arm getting tired holding a heavy ereader. At the moment I’m reader A Game of Thrones.

There, that’s my two sense about my latest tech purchase.

Many of you may have tuned in last night for the Oscars. As for me, I watched The Walking Dead and then channel surfed for about an hour before I went to bed. The truth is that the Oscars and Hollywood award shows have about as much credit as Richard Nixon trying to give someone political advice. My biggest gripe with Hollywood surrounds The Postman, a movie that came out in 1998, which was based on the book by David Brin. Not only is The Postman one of the best example of a book being made it a movie, it is simply one of the best movies Hollywood has produced in the past twenty-five years. Period! But critics didn’t think so as The Postman won Razzie awards that year for worst picture, actor, director, screenplay, and original score. My response to that: Just more clueless reviews by know nothing film critics. I only bring this up because I’m hearing grumblings over the fact that American Hustle (a film I have not seen) walked away from the Oscars last night with zero awards. All I can say is, who cares? Only a really great movie has any chance of getting anything close to universal acknowledgment of being a decent film. So as far as the Oscars go, I slept right through the ceremony.

One thing that I find truly amusing is the fact that almost every film up for some major award in the Oscars I have not seen. 12 Years a Slave? Haven’t seen it! Gravity? Haven’t seen it! Dallas Buyers Club? Haven’t seen it! Blue Jasmine? Haven’t seen it! Her? Haven’t seen it! Frozen? Haven’t seen it! I haven’t even watched The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug or Catching Fire, yet, but those are two movies I would like to see. But I’ve watched The Postman at least twice in the last year. As far as this critic is concerned, Hollywood and the Razzies get two thumbs down from me.

Below is a re-posting of something similar I wrote a few years back.

Original

God, I promised myself I wouldn’t go off on any more rants about how Hollywood has lost its way, and I will restrain myself here, instead I will try to focus on what good movies Hollywood has offered in the past.

Despite its less than flattering ratings and cruel reception it received by movie-goers and critics alike, The Postman is a gem among the rock garden of movies that Hollywood has put out since my impressionable High School years. Want good acting? Want a great story? Want action? Want adventure? Want a message of hope and courage? Then watch The Postman.

Everybody has their lists of great movies – a top ten, if you will – and while I would be hard pressed to list my top ten or favorite science fiction or fantasy movies, I do know that The Postman would be on it. Yes, I have read the book and loved it, and sure I am biased because of that, but very rarely in the history of fiction and live action movies, has a single piece of art translated to both medias so well.

I am not going to give you a synapse here of The Postman, instead I offer a challenge: go out and watch the movie for yourself and tell me I am wrong; tell me it is not one of the best movies Hollywood has put forth in recent memory; tell me the critics were right to slam The Postman. My guess if that you can’t, because not only is The Postman inspiring, it is a movie beautifully put together and filmed, a true Hollywood gem that ranks right up there with Gone with the wind or The Wizard of Oz.

Rating (out of 5):

John_Scalzi_-_Zoe's_TaleI make no secret of the fact that I’m a huge John Scalzi fan. I mean, the guy is immensely talented. When I read Old Man’s War I was so hooked I immediately went out and bought the other two books in the series and read them in a matter of days. Still, I have to admit that when I picked up Zoe’s Tale I paused. I was skeptical how good the story would actually be, I mean we already had some of the details of the story from The Last Colony, and to be honest I wasn’t looking forward to reading a story from the point of view of a teenage girl. And while the story dealt with a girl and her teenage crush, the story had a lot to offer for even the most seasoned of science fiction fans. It has love, sorrow, action, adventure and the good old space battles that we have come to know and love from the Old Man’s War universe. In short, I started out almost forcing myself to read Zoe’s Tale but quickly found that I couldn’t put down.

Rating (Out of 5):

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no-plot-no-problemLike the title suggests, this book is about how to write even when you are not sure what it is you are writing about. Instead, the book suggests you focus on writing and reaching certain goals while writing, like word counts per day and even a total word count over the course of a month. Moreover, more than that simple premise, the book is inspirational and certainly got me motivated to think about my writing and what I should and should not be doing each and everyday when I sit down and write. For example, editing. No Plot? No Problem says that when you sit down to write, you should forget about editing – going back and spell checking, or fact checking – but instead focusing on writing each and everyday until you have reached a word count that is equivalent to that of a novel. In short, I loved this book and intend on reading it whenever I feel like I can’t reach my goals and/or word count per day.

Rating:

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ringworld

I had read Ringworld while I was in high school  now more than fifteen years ago. I remembered loving it then but as the years pasted by, I remembered less and less about it, until all I remember was the joy the story gave me when I first read it. So I decided to read it again.

The plot centers around three species that find themselves on a quest for the same goal, to discover and decipher the secrets of the strange object just discovered, the Ringworld. Louis Wu and Teela Brown are both humans brought on this mission for Louis’ sense of adventure and Teela’s good luck  The Kzinti known as Speaker-to-animal was brought along for his strength and battle hardened nature, while the expedition is rounded out by Neesus the Parson Puppeteer who has basically been forced to go on the mission in order to gain his right to bread. As payment for the human’s and Kzinti‘s help in exploring the Ringworld, both their perspective government will be given a functioning model of the ship the are all traveling in, a ship far faster than anything either world has now.

The ship presents a problem and a solution. The problem is that Speaker sees the ship as a weapon to be used to attach and enslave the human race. Louis knows this as humanity and the Kzinti have fought more than a couple of wars, all of which the human race has won. It does solve a problem, however that threatens both human and Kzinti alike. At the center of the galaxy a large explosion has taken place that has caused a chain reaction that will eventually spread through the entire galaxy, threatening all known inhabited worlds. The Puppeteers spaceship solves the problem of how will the human race escape the disaster? Currently their ships cannot go fast enough to escape the calamity.

As soon as Teela Brown is picked up, who is brought along only for her luck, the expedition is on its way to the Ringworld, an artificially constructed world that is more than a million miles wide, with sides a thousand miles high, and 600 million miles in circumference. But before the crew even has a chance to do a large scale survey of the Ringworld, they encounter a problem in the form of the shadow squares, structure circling on the inner side of the Ringworld that offer living beings on the surface the illusion of night and day. Being held together by a fine wire, the crew and her ship soon find themselves entangled, barely managing to escape. But all their efforts may be for not for as soon as they escape the are shot down by the Ringworld meteor defenses.

Once the ship has crash landed on the surface, the crew finds out that while the ships hyperdrives are completely intact, her normal drive engines are no longer functional, leaving them with little choice but to find someone on the Ringworld technologically savey enough to help them escape. In order to accomplish this, Louis and the rest of his crew have a plan to travel to the nearest wall, several hundred thousand miles away. It is here, they believe, that they will find the best chance of coming across the fabled Ringworld Engineers. While on the trip, however, they see wondrous things, such as a mountain higher than the Ringworld walls, its top so high that clouds completely enshroud it, they name it The Fist of God; also is the field of mirrored sunflowers that almost spell out doom for Speaker and the other members of the crew.

Finally they find who they are looking for, a women and her name is Prill. While planning their plan of escape, Louis suddenly has an idea, or rather, a truth occurs to him. They may not need to fix the engines of their ship after all, it may just be that all they need to do is get the ship back into outer space, but how? The Fist of God! This is no ordinary mountain, it is an asteroid puncture that had pierced the Ringworld completely through. If they can drag their ship up the side of The Fist of God, the ship will fall through and come out the other side in outer space.

Ringworld won the Hugo Award in 1970 and for good reason, it is not only a good story of struggle and survival, it is chalk full of original ideas and good writing.

Ratiing:

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What happens when your entire Universe is nothing more than a ship a few thousand feet wide and a few thousand feet long? And what happens when that concept of the Universe is turned on its head when the true size and scope of the Universe reveals itself? This is what the story line behind Robert Heinlein‘s Orphan of the Sky.

I used to hate audio books, but then I realized something: The books that I have read one or more times and have grown to love, I can’t ready over and over again like I would like without taking up an enormous amount of time and putting other books that I would like to read on the back burner. Thus it makes sense to listen to those books while driving into to work or on a long road trip, such as the one I am about to take in a weeks time. Therefore, it was with no small amount of chance and luck that I happened to notice The Langoliers by Stephen King on sale at my local book store the other, which just so happens to be possible my favorite work by the master of horror. This audio version is read by Willem Dafoe who I am not a huge fan off, as far as voice choices go, but after listening to the first CD in this set I must say he has done a very good job.

For those of you who have read The Langoliers before know that there are some pretty gruesome parts, and it will be interesting to see how those come across in audio as opposed to me reading it for myself.

In short, the book did meet my wish to have a plot that blended with the general issue of slavery and the rights of men, an issue that, as we all know, lead to the civil war and Lincoln’s eventual assassination. However, a stories go, this one, in my opinion lacked a great deal of characteristics that almost all stories have, for example, a central antagonist.

In Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, the main character, Abraham Lincoln, learns at a very young age what it means to lose a loved one. Along with this lesson is a new-found rage and hatred for the very beings that have brought about this loss, through the senseless killing of his mother, as a result he makes a promise to avenge her death and see that those responsible pay the ultimate price. But first he has to learn who “they” are, for Abraham Lincoln has never even heard of the word vampire, and therefore doesn’t even know what “they” are. Soon, however, he learns the truth behind these creatures that hide away in the dark. He also learns that not all vampires are evil or warrant death just because of what they are. some see the taking of a human life for what it truly is, murder, and will stop at nothing to stop it, even if it means betraying their own kind.

Thus we come to meet Henry Sturgess vampire and vampire hunter. However, upon meeting SturgessAbraham learns that there is more afoot here then simple blood thirty creatures looking to feed. There is a conspiracy, too. A conspiracy to use humans, most notably slaves, as cattle. However Abraham knows that it will not stop there, without the outlawing of slavery, all of humanity may one day find itself ruled and herded by vampires that want only to use them for their own needs. Thus begin the intertwining of Abraham Lincoln the politician, and Abraham Lincoln the vampire hunter.

All-in-all, the book isn’t what I excepted, mostly because of the issues I have already pointed out, but the story was easy to follow and the writing was done very well and, at times, had an almost poetic quality to it, all good qualities in my book.

Rating (out of 5):

One thing that I took away after reading Michael Connelly‘s The Poet was how well he can make the plot twist and turn and then twist an turn some more.

In The Poet Jack McEnvoy, a reporter for The Rocky Mountain News, is struggling to understand why his brother, a decorated police detective, and husband and loving father, would take his own life. The only way he knows how to deal with the pain is to write about.

As he plunges into the last moments of his brothers life, and the reasons that drove him to such dramatic ending, Jack discovers that his suicide wasn’t a suicide at all, but a murder. The investigating detectives on the case of Sean McEnvoy‘s suicide assumed that he became depressed as a result of not being able to solve the brutal murder of a small child in Denver. When the frustration became to much, he drove up to Rocky Mountain National Park, drove past a ranger station, parked his car and took his own life. At least that is what everyone thought. After all, the forest ranger manning the ranger station said that when Sean‘s car drove into the deserted parking lot, he was alone, but lack of gun powder residue on his gloves and later testinomy by the ranger that Sean was wearing only one glove when he found him, but both later on when the police arrived, lead to the unlikely explanation that the police detective was murdered.

When Jack diggs deeper, he learns that this is a pattern that has been played out several times before, leading him to conclude that a serial killer has been at work, completely undetected and operating for several years.

Soon, after the FBI gets involved and Jack finds himself on the inside of the investigation, a suspect emerges. A man trained in the art of hypnosis – so he is able to easily subdue his victims – and jailed for child molestation, has been on the lose. His M.O.? Kill the first victim as bait to get a police detective involved in the case, and then kill him or her as a way for the killer to replay a senario from his childhood where he was molestated and finally able to kill his assalent, a police detective. By committing these crimes, the man now known as The Poet can relive the euphoric feeling of freeing himself from his abuser and delivering the ultimate form of punishment, death.

Soon, however, it becomes clear to Jack, after The Poet is killed by his own hand, that while The Poet was certainly responsible for the killings of the children, he may not been responsible for the killings of the police detectives, and that someone as yet unknown might have been using the first killing as a way to cover their own murders. The hunt begins anew.

In short, it doesn’t get any better then Michael Connelly. The man is a master at unpredictability, an excellent quality to have when you are writing a crime novel.

Ratings (out of 5):

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