Thursday, December 9, 2010

Ed's Mini Book Review - Death Troopers by Joe Schrieber

Death Troopers?Image by bbska via FlickrZombies in space? Oh yeah.

Zombies in the Star Wars universe? OMFG!!!!

That's right ladies and gents, a nerdly mash-up of epic proportions is what Death Troopers promises and, for the most part, it does deliver.
All aboard on a prison barge. What? You didn't say anything about prison. Yessiree Bob, and we get a prison ship, oh, and a surprise appearance of two *very* well known characters from the Star Wars universe but I won't spoil it.
The basic plot goes a little something like this. We have two brothers, wrongly accused they say, on a huge prison ship with all sorts of really dangerous criminals and the Imperial medic on board who is having second thoughts about working for the Imperial Army as your main characters. The engines on the ship go out but (un)luckily for them, they happen to come across a Star Destroyer which seems abandoned (i.e. no life forms the scanners can pick up). And I am sure you have guessed why, the zombie virus has spread through the Star Destroyer so when they dock up, zombie mayhem, Star Wars style, ensues.
This was a pretty fun book for the most part, hitting most of the notes you would expect from a zombie book. It was so generic that it was fairly bland considering it should have been so much more being set in the Star Wars universe. Paint by numbers comes to mind with this book and while that's not bad, it isn't quite great either. I enjoyed it, fairly quick pace once it got going, but I couldn't shake the feeling that something was missing or that there should have been more to it.
If you're curious about the mash-up here by all means check it out. I don't think you'll regret it, I just think that you won't be wowed by it either.
My Grade: B-

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Ed's Mini Book Review - Goldfinger by Ian Fleming

Stunt man Bob Simmons played Bond in the first...Image via WikipediaMaking my way through the James Bond novels, which I am sure I don't have to tell you but they don't follow the same order as the films, Goldfinger is the seventh book in the series. One of the challenging things to do with reading a book that you've seen the movie version is to separate the two, especially if the movie in question is a classic which is the case with Goldfinger, widely held to be among, if not the, best James Bond film. I always picture Goldfinger as Gert Froebe instead of how he is depicted in the book but I would imagine many people fall to this no matter what book they are reading after seeing the film first.

Getting right down to it, this was one of the better Bond books but not the best that I have read. A part of me thinks that this particular Bond book ended up on the top 100 Thrillers list probably because the film version is held in high regard. Some of the things I really liked were the connections to other books which is something most of the Bond films don't do, refer to past films. Fleming keeps his Bond history in tact and the book series, unlike the film series until the most recent two, build the Bond character and we see him grow and progress in the role or in the life of a secret agent.

As for the 'thriller' part of the book and maybe my expectation from the NPR list, Goldfinger falls a little flat. I found it a little lacking in by the seat of your pants suspense and falls into the trap of just keeping us going to see how Bond is going to get out of this next seemingly inescapable dilemma. Still, some good old action sequences and some typical Bond drinks and meals and this all feels like a good Bond book, which it is but not to the level I was expecting.

My Grade: B

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ed's Mini Book Review - Feed by Mira Grant

Zombies, zombies, zombies, nomnomnom! Zombies are in the air and the monster du jour nowadays especially with the success of The Walking Dead TV show on AMC. With that in mind, and my lover for zombie fiction, we add another to growing litany of zombie books. This time out, the highly rated, Feed by Mira Grant. I plucked this little diddy from NPR's list of top 100 Thrillers and, I think, it was the most recently written book on the list.

The setup is a little different than many zombie books but a little reminiscent of World War Z. Set about thirty years in the future, after a zombie outbreak, the world is recovering and has found a new normal. Zombies exist and are a way of life and some parts of the country have been overrun and lost the the zombie hordes. Most of the country is safe however and life goes on. So does technology and the news. Major news outlets have lost much of their credibility due to their reluctance to report on the outlandish concept of a zombie outbreak when it all started. Emerging from this and greatly enhanced by advances in technology, are the freelance reporters that strap on cameras, report and write the news themselves and count the hits (or ratings) their sites get.

From this, the plot begins where we find a brother and sister team, along with their friend. Tackle the news from three distinct angles. Their lives changed when they are tapped to follow and report from the campaign trail of a presidential hopeful. But, strange things are afoot at the Circle K. They begin to uncover a fiendish plot and soon find themselves becoming part of the story instead of just reporting on it.

From this you can see the double meaning of Feed as a title. The zombie world is more of a back drop and this book is really a commentary on news and the media and politics and corruption than it is a zombie book. Initially, that was one of my gripes as well. I was all like "Where are the zombies?". But it's not that type of book. This is more of a political thriller and for that it works just fine.

It's a little long and drags a bit but there is a good shock/twist near the end that works well unlike the reveal of who/what is behind the goings on with the conspiracy. Overall, a solid read but not as great as I would have hoped being on NPR's list and all. There will be a sequel and I'll probably give that a read too so this one did the trick on that end and will get my to pick up the next installment.

My Grade: B-

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Ed's Mini Book Review - Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton

Cover of "Pirate Latitudes: A Novel"Cover of Pirate Latitudes: A NovelMy second recommended book is Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton. This one is one that a friend of mine was thinking pf picking up and suggested it to me to read/review. Incidentally enough, this is my first Crichton book, though I had The Andromeda Strain on my read pile before this suggestion came about. I'll probably get onto that one after the holidays.

For the most part, I didn't like this book. Maybe because I was picturing the characters from Pirates of the Caribbean all through the book but probably not. Perhaps knowing that this was found after Michael Crichton passed, but it did feel like a book that wasn't quite finished, wasn't quite polished enough especially for a writer of Crichton's stature. I was expecting a rollicking adventure to do the impossible against the most vile of villains. Swarthy characters and exotic scenery filled my mind as I readied the book and early on, the build up promised that as well. Arrr, talking like a pirate I was, preppin' for pirate booty and adventure on the high seas. Unfortunately, we don't really get it. What we get is really a travel story, the high seas part, more to do with the time to get to the objective and the time to get back. The characters are stale and fairly one dimensional. No real plot twists of note. Just downright flat. Oh, and just for good measure, let's throw in a sea monster. A what?!? Yeah, I was thinking the same thing too.

The main plus for the book is that it is a fairly quick read so the curious type my want to give it a whirl. I recommend you pass.

My Grade: C-

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Monday, November 8, 2010

NYLA Conference 2010

Broadway in Saratoga Springs, New YorkImage via WikipediaHi ho out there. Is it snowing? Eh, in any event, I just got back from the annual New York Library Association conference in Saratoga Springs and wanted to say a few things about this years' outing.

First , I'll get the shameless self promotion out of the way. I took part in the SMART division of NYLA session called Flash Talks. They put out for a call for people to do presentations on fun and exciting ways their library is using technology. Catch is that the presentation has to be in the 20x20 PechaKucha style which is 20 PowerPoint slides all set to 20 seconds each as to keep the presentations moving. I decided to give it a try and settled on the idea of doing a presentation on audience response devices (iClickers).

After the first presentation, which was a combo presentation award that someone won, which was on hardcore cataloging, creating a script to batch load multiple records for weeding and some other stuff that went way over my head, and hearing that a presentation after me was going to be on cloud computing, I started to get nervous that talking about iClickers was going to be a little low-tech for this crowd, of which I knew no one. Well, the presentation went well with some well timed jokes thrown in to lighten the mood, and from then on I was known as 'the clicker guy'. The crowd ended up being a mix of tech people and some instruction people interested in tech and they were able to relate to some of the points I raised with using the clickers to keep students into the lesson especially in one-shot sessions that we do here. I even got some people asking me for more information about the clickers after the session. And on top, someone raised the idea of me doing a full session on iClickers at next years' conference. (And thanks to those that helped me out with this)

A big thought that I came away from the conference with was that there were more than a few sessions that I went to where I thought either, any of us could have run that session I was just in and some of the sessions were just on how that library tackled a particular issue instead of, what I was expecting, a review of multiple ways that issue could be addressed. For instance, I went to a session on library programming on a budget. What the presenter did was really focus on how they ran a program there on a budget and not on multiple ways or programs that could be done on a budget. Maybe that was just my preconceived expectations getting in the way.

A big draw for me for this years' conference was that Michael Stevens, who I follow on Twitter (and more about that in a bit) was doing a double-session entitled The Hyperlinked Library. I'll link to the slides from his presentation but I will point out that it's a large file, something like 400 slides, but well worth going through. Instead of pigeonholing a 400+ slide presentation into a few sentences, I'll let you check it out and see what you take from it. I highly recommend you do so even if it takes a while. It was my favorite session of the conference. Visit Tame the Web for the presentation.

Throughout the conference I was Tweeting using the #NYLA10 hashtag so those not at the conference could follow, and I gained a few followers from that, including Michael Stevens who put up a screenshot of the NYLA follow screen during his session. Ah, the power of the Tweet.

Some other random thoughts:

  • there was a session on embedded librarians and how one small college decided to change their library orientation sessions to online videos using Camtasia and I thought, wow, that sounds familiar.
  • EBSCO has a new service called EBSCO Discovery Service or EBSCO Integrated Search which is similar to products like Summon.
  • For emerging tech trends check out Gartner's top 10 tech trends for 2011
  • Firesheep is a Firefox add-on that steals cookies over wi-fi
  • Search Flickr for awesome and horrible library signage
  • Cloud computing is the next big thing (or it might be the big thing already.
That's all for now. If I remember more or find more notes, I'll update.

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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Ed's Mini Book Review - Dead Men's Boots

The third Felix Castor outing, Dead Men's Boots, keeps the momentum going on the series of which I was, quite honestly, ready to drop after the first book, The Devil You Know. Felix 'Fix' Castor is an exorcist who uses music, and more specifically a tin whistle, to perform his exorcisms and as we have learned through the series thus far, every exorcist has there "thing" when it comes to doing what they do. This is an important point which I will get too in just a bit.

The basic plot goes like this, Felix is tabbed by a friend of his to explore the death of her husband who was a fellow exorcist. She thinks things that strange things are afoot at the Circle K, and of course, they are. One thing that bothers me a smidge about this series is that plot lines always seem to be linked no matter how far removed them may seem. For instance, during the mess with his looking into the death of a fellow exorcist, he takes a case, and guess what? It's linked to his dead friend, who by chance also used music to bind and dismiss spirits, a drum which makes things convenient for Felix.

That being said, I liked the book even though, as typical with the series, it goes on for a little too long. There is enough action and enough of an intriguing mystery, to keep you interested, and in my case, wanting to see how the various story lines inevitably come into one. Add to it that Felix Castor is just one cool bloke. I still am at a bit of a loss that he hasn't become more of a cult character in the genre like Harry Dresden or Joe Pitt.

When I was done with this book, I was very much looking forward to the next Felix Castor outing, which to me, is in it's most basic form, a major component in liking a book.

My Grade: B

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Fall Reading List

BooksImage via WikipediaHello bibliophiles! Time to update my reading list for the Fall. I have been slacking on the updating but not on the reading. On tap will be to finish reviews for the last three books I've read (coming shortly) and a word on LibGuides and attending professional development events. So for now, on to the reading list.

Dead Men's Boots by Mike Carey
Feed by Mira Grant
Goldfinger by Ian Fleming
The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum
Side Jobs by Jim Butcher
Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell (if the professor ever returns it to the library)
Lamb by Christopher Moore (requested)
The Game by Neil Strauss (requested)
Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton (requested)

I am sure I will add/update some titles.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Ed's Mini Book Review - Dexter by Design

Dexter by DesignImage via Wikipedia
Now this is what I am talking about! talk about getting back on track and in a big way. Dexter by Design does not disappoint......son! After the last installment, I was starting to wonder if Dearly Doting Dexter was going to grow into a bore. All that nonsense with the Dark Passenger going on a little hiatus took a lot out of our Dashing Debonaire Dexter and left him rather lacking.

This time out, we have Dear ol' Dex and his new bride, Rita honeymooning in gay Paris with Dexter starting to settle into married life. Upon returning to Miami, Dexter is called on to a case of dead bodies being left out in public in very strange art poses and decorations. Immediately, Dexter feels a little stirrings from the Dark Passanger and away we go, Dexter's interest is piqued and we have ourselves a case.

Along the way we get some more development into Deb and Chutsky and their relationship as well as some more with Rita's kids, Astor and Cody, whose own storyline and development is quickly becoming a favorite of mine in the series. This installment also brings back a key aspect of what was missing in the last book, Dexter doing things and figuring things. Part of what makes Dexter work is what he is, in the situation he's in. He's a killer, a predator, a thing with no soul (according to him though feel free to disagree) and having him put into the middle of police work, as the son of a respected police officer, with a sister who is an officer and the coup de gras, that he is a crime scene expert, puts him in the unique position to not only comment on the gruesome scenes he's called to, but to add some insight from that dark perspective.

My biggest gripe with the books is that it seems to lose a little focus towards the end, taking us on a ride that seems pointless and more like wasting time, and pages, until the pay-off. That aside, this is a solid entry, and good comeback from the last outing, into the Dexter series.

My Grade: B


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Friday, October 8, 2010

Ed's Mini Book Review - A Dangerous Man

'CoverCover of A Dangerous Man: A NovelA Dangerous Man is the third and final book of Charlie Huston's Henry Thompson trilogy. To make a short story long, Henry Thompson starts out the trilogy as a former baseball prospect who doesn't make it to the bigs because of a broken leg. He then finds himself involved with Russian mobsters, crooked cops and notorious bank robbers who all claim he is in possession of something he has no clue about. The first book resolves those issues while the second book has him on the run and brings up new issues which all come to a head here, in the final installment.

Henry, through events I don't want to spoil in case you'd like to read the trilogy, is now a leg breaker for a Russian mobster. He's not happy with how things have turned out and looking to pills to dull life for him. That's until his boss tells him to watch over a young hot-shot baseball prospect with a wicked gambling habit. Oh, and did I mention this prospect was drafted by the Mets which brings Henry back to NYC, where his troubles all started?
I just eat this crime stuff up and Charlie Huston is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors but this installment felt a little flat to me. What makes me like Henry Thompson, that he is flawed and makes shaky decisions, wore on me as the series, and this book, went on. How long can he go with making the bad move and not have something planned out that goes a little right? I was also a little disappointed that some issues from the first book weren't addressed as he does end up back in New York after all. I am not sure of the planning of the series, but it seemed that the first book was written, originally, as a stand alone and the this book feels more like a sequel to the second book. Good stuff here but not great stuff.

My Grade: B-

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Monday, October 4, 2010

Ed's Mini Book Review - The Murder or Roger Ackroyd

The Murder of Roger AckroydImage via Wikipedia
The second Agatha Christie book, and first Hercule Poirot book for me is this highly rated, but not well known, thriller with a twist that will rattle your knickers. This one had it all from red herrings to dubious characters to head scratching clues that don't seem to add up (to me anyway).

Now the setup is a little convoluted but it's worth it. Roger Ackroyd is a wealthy widower who has a step-son who burns money a little too quickly. Roger is also taking up a relationship with a widow who has just killed herself but not before leaving a letter to Roger. The narrator of the story is the town's doctor and good friend of Roger Ackroyd and before he can discuss the substance of the letter with his good friend the doctor, Roger is murdered and the letter mysteriously vanishes. Enter Hercule Poirot, who has recently retired and moved to town, next door to the good doctor no less, to take the case and conscript the doctor as his assistant.

Since this is my first Poirot novel, it was interesting to read him on the page as Christie wrote him as opposed to the versions of him that I have seen on screen by Albert Finney in Murder on the Orient Express and by Peter Ustinov in Evil Under the Sun, and now I am very curious to see how he is portrayed by David Suchet (pictured above) on the BBC series. I found him to be more like the Ustinov version and not like the quirky Finney version though I have heard in many of the books he is more like the oddball Finney version. Eh, you see for yourself and that I suggest you do. I don't want to give away any more of the book as I encourage you to read you some Christie. I totally, in a non valley girl way, loved this book. The twists, turns, false leads, and second guesses, all of it had my hooked. Much like my feelings on And Then There Were None, this is what a good old fashioned mystery novel should be.

My Grade: A

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Fall is Here! (It's getting colder, why am I all excited?)

Acer platanoides in autumn colors.Image via WikipediaHappy, Autumn everyone. Not that I am wishing a fall on your part just that the seasons are changing ya know, fugeddabout it.

Anywho's, I am back after some vacation time which was spent relaxing at home with my better half and recharging the old LL batteries for the cold weather ahead, and if you know anything about yours truly, you know I can't stand cold weather. Hopefully that also means getting some more reading done and some more posts about librarian-stuff. I have a couple of reviews to post for The Murder of Roger Ackrody and the last book in Charlie Huston's Henry Thompson trilogy, A Dangerous Man. I also plan on chiming in with my two cents on LibGuides since we just went live with them here at our little ol' college library.

So fun things ahead, at least I think they're fun, especially my Fall Reading List which I'll post shortly. So sit back, enjoy the leaves changing color and some good fall reads....I command you!

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Friday, August 27, 2010

Ed's Mini Book Review - And Then There Were None

'CoverCover of And Then There Were NoneContinuing on my little kick of reading some of the Thrillers listed on NPR's top thrillers of all-time, I decided to give an Agatha Christie book a run and the highest rated of her works on the list was And Then There Were None (though I have heard that The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is rather highly rated, but not as well known). Now I think I was supposed to read this in High School but like many high school students, I didn't really read it and just skimmed what I needed to to pass (Hey, I'm being honest!).

Boy, I am glad I gave this a try all these years later. This is what I was expecting with The Hound of the Baskervilles. A tight, suspenseful whodunnit that doesn't disappoint. The set-up is something that I think most people are familiar with as it has been copied, spoofed and ripped-off for decades. We have ten people, all called to a remote island with differing letters, expecting something far from what they find. Soon after they arrive, they are called to dinner where a record plays, accusing each and every one of them of murder. Placed in each of their rooms is a variation of the nursery rhyme, Ten Little Indians and in the living room is a chess board with ten pieces on it. As our story progresses and the ten start to die off in ways depicted in the rhyme, pieces are removed from the chess board. Who has called them to the island and is he or she amongst them?

I think you can probably guessed that I loved this book. I was a bit worried that it would seem dated being written over seventy years ago but that was not the case at all, adding to the genius of the work. It keeps you guessing all the way through and just when you thought you know who is behind it all, they meet an untimely end and you have to start from square one again. I am being as cryptic as possible because I don't want to give any hints or give anything away. Just go out and pick up a copy from your local library. You'll that me for it.

My Grade: A+

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Ed's Mini Book Review - The Hound of the Baskervilles

The Hound of the Baskervilles
I posted a few weeks ago a list of the Top Thrillers of all time according to NRP, so that got me looking up and down the list to see which ones I have read. The verdict was, not that many. So I decided to knock a couple off that list and start with some classic Sherlock Holmes and The Hound of the Baskervilles.

I've never read any of the Holmes mysteries before and after giving it a start, I remembered reading somewhere that the mysteries are told from the perspective of Dr. Watson, Holmes' sidekick/companion. Add to this my envisioning of the character as they looked in the recent Guy Ritchie adaptation of Sherlock Holmes, and I have a very rich setting in my mind of Jude Law as the primary and Iron Man himself, RDJ as Sherlock Homes.

On to this mystery and it pains me to say, that I was rather disappointed. Now I am getting that feeling as I did with Neuromancer about reviewing a classic but hear me out on this one. First of all, I loved the atmosphere of the book, with the creepy old Baskerville Hall and the seemingy haunted bog. That really took me in and kept my interest.

What bothered me most about the book was the lack of mystery. Holmes has it solved with a quarter of the book left. The rest is the laying of the trap and the explianation of how he solved it. I was expecting something a little more climactic or another plot twist that never came. Maybe I was expecting a tale with more complexity, fed by my generation growing up with mysteries trying 'out twist' the next and didn't enjoy the weaving of the yarn so to speak. The bottom line, however, is that I was a bit underwhelmed.

My Grade: C+

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Late Summer Reading List

Reading on the BeachImage by cmcgough via FlickrHi ho library nerds. I have been able to get a good amount of reading done this Summer and have updated my reading list a few times.

So, instead of updating that one over and over again, I will add a new list (even though the summer is almost over), so here goes.

Dead Men's Boots by Mike Carey
Lamb by Christopher Moore (another requested read).

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Friday, August 13, 2010

Ed's Mini Book Review - Monster Island

cover to the bookImage via WikipediaMonster Island is the second book I've read from David Wellington, the first being 13 Bullets. This one had me back in to the zombie book realm which has been a while for me. Basic premise is that of a lot of zombie books, outbreak has ravaged the world and zombies have taken over most places. The first twist we get here to the basic zombie paradigm is that we have our group of heroes purposefully journey to an area that they know is overrun in order to procure some medical supples. That place that is overrun is none other than Manhattan.

This piqued my interest right away because many zombie books don't deal with the big city. They instead focus on the person living in a small town or in the sticks so to speak because that's easy. It's easy to have a survivor from a place where there aren't that many people around to turn into zombies or an area where getting to an isolated or relatively safe location is feasible. This book, sadly, skips that but we do get Manhattan after the outbreak and see what's left.

The next major twist in the rote zombie paradigm is with the character of Gary and how he progresses/comes to understand what happened to make the dead rise. Gary is a med student who throws his lot in with the superior numbers, the zombies. Wait, what? How does he do that, you say? That I will leave alone in case you decide to read the book, but in any event this goes along to explain what is happening. For my tastes, while appreciate it being a little different from the typical zombie fare, I wasn't a big fan of the revelation. Reminded me a bit of The Rising by Brian Keene, but it's not exactly like that explanation, and if you've followed my reviews, you know I wasn't a fan of that book.

To sum this bad boy up, Monster Island is an overall solid addition to the zombie genre. A little less of a survival horror book and a bit more into the 'whys' of what has caused the outbreak, though I am not sure the reasons given by certain dubious characters are the correct ones. Certainly entertaining but nothing groundbreaking. Enough to get me to read the next book in the trilogy, Monster Nation.

My Grade: B-

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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Top 100 Thrillers of All Time

slience of the lambsImage by istolethetv via Flickr

Sadly I have only read six of the top 100. I need to get crackin' on this.

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Friday, July 30, 2010

Brad Pitt to Star in Big Screen Adaptation of World War Z

Cover of "World War Z: An Oral History of...Cover via Amazon

The zombie book as far as I am concerned, is coming the the big screen. Max Brooks' World War Z, inspired by both George Romero and Studs Turkel, will star Brad Pitt, when it swarms a theater near you.

For those unfamiliar, WWZ, is the journal of an unnamed man charged by the U.N. with telling the story of the 10 year long battle against a virus/disease which causes the dead to rise. After the writer is told that the U.N. is only concerned with statistics, he puts together this journal, full of the first hand stories of those that witnessed and survived the pandemic.

Even if you are not a fan of horror, and this is not a horror book per se, in my opinion, this is a must read as it is really on commentary on modern life and society and how a global disaster makes these seemingly obvious observations, come into focus.

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Ed's Mini Book Review - Day by Day Armageddon: Beyond Exile

Cover of "Day by Day Armageddon"Cover of Day by Day Armageddon

The first Day by Day Armageddon book put an interesting spin on the zombie/survival horror motif, a journal of the events of a zombie pandemic. Our unnamed survivor is a soldier who, when the pandemic hits, decides it's better to hunker down in his place rather that report back to base. A wise choice for him, at least for now, as the base soon is overrun and he is hidden quite well in his survivalist house near San Antonio.

Eventually he must leave his home and he meets up with other survivors, all who eventually end up holed up in a fairly secure place. The first book ends rather abruptly and that leaves you with the feeling that either the book is over or something happened to our protagonist that leaves him unable to continue writing.

Fear not for our intrepid hero, the sequel picks up his journal from whence it left off. This time around we have our survivors dealing with a military unit of uncertain intentions, irradiated undead stemming from cities that were nuked by the government in an attempted to stop the spread of the living dead, and eventually being stranded away from his secure base which he must make his way back to.

My problem with this go around is that the writing seems to go back and forth from prose to journal writing. His description of accounts is good, but a little too good for someone writing in a journal. It seems as there were just major plot points or incidents that Bourne wanted to get to in the book and what was lost from the first outing is that 'Day-by-Day' feel of the journal. My only other major gripe is, again, the ending which is in league with how the first one ended.

A quick read, I devoured it in no time at all, and a solid read for fans of the genre. Just don't go in expecting the freshness (is that a word?) of the first book.

My Grade: B

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Ed's Mini Book Review - The Road

The RoadImage via Wikipedia

The Road is my first review upon request. A friend of mine asked me to read and review it so I thought I'd give it a shot and not see the movie first. Coincidentally, a fellow librarian saw the film and Tweeted that it was one of the most depressing films he'd ever seen, so I tried to keep that sentiment out of mind while I read the book.

The first thing that struck me about The Road, was that it was a lot like much of the zombie books I read. They are all essentially survival books, or as many call it in the zombie fiction world, survival horror. At the essence of survival horror is that there is some sort of global phenomenon and wipes out much of the world's population and we follow along survivors who try to make due in a lawless land with the original phenomena, and the horrors it brings, hanging overhead. Though we quickly find out, in most of these books, that the original threat is not the biggest threat out there, and that threat is other survivors.

With The Road, we follow along an unnamed man and his young son, after some unnamed global catastrophe, as they make their way along the road, heading toward the sea in hopes of finding....something. The global disaster happened some years ago and resources are scarce so many of the surviving humans have resorted to some horrible acts to stay alive. The unnamed father continues to hold on to his morals and teaches his son to be one of the "good-guys" in this mad world as he also tries to protect his young child from the horrors that men do.

Filled with sub textual religious overtones, The Road paints a bleak picture of a world without order and a world in which people will do almost anything to survive. Haunting in parts but ultimately uplifting (in my opinion) without going for the "Hollywood ending", I can see why The Road is a multi-award winning work of fiction. I particularly liked that while it seemed that there wasn't much action happening as they traveled along the road, a lot was happening, if you catch my drift.

The Road is a quick read and a good read. I am interested to hear other opinions on the book. Did you find it depressing or ultimately positive as I did?

My Grade: A-

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Ed's Mini Book Review - Neuromancer

Cover of the Brazilian release, depicting the ...Image via Wikipedia

Reviewing a classic can be a tricky proposition. If you agree with the general consensus, that the book is a bona fide classic, then you might seem like a band wagoner, just agreeing with the masses. If you don't agree with everyone else, you may not look like you are your own person with your own views, you may just seem like someone who doesn't know what they are talking about or doesn't know a great book when you read it.

So, where do I fit in with Neuromancer? I am on the side that would consider it a classic. My enthusiasm and zest is tempered a bit by reading it so many years after it was written. In the almost thirty years since it was originally published, let's face it, it has been ripped off a lot. Though, as an aside, I wouldn't consider the Keanu Reeves film, Johnny Mneumonic, a rip off since William Gibson wrote that, but I think you get the picture. From role playing games like Shadowrun, which I used to play, and the inevitable video game and novels that the RPG spawned, to films like The Matrix, which borrow heavily from Neuromancer. The ground breaking ideas, visuals and funky lingo that was used in Neuromancer, and was so fresh and new, has been all seen and heard.

All that being said, does it take away from the experience of reading Neuromancer for the first time? A little but not much. This is a book that is a visionary piece of work, not from the whole genre that spawned from it, but from a literary aspect in that is leaves indelible visuals imprinted in your mind as you read the description of Gibson's dystopian future. I also love that it is written as if the reader is familiar with this world, with the lingo, the places and its history. Because of this, the book can be difficult to follow at points and you may have to re-read some sections over to follow. Only as you delve further into the book, do you delve further into Gibson's world and you peel away the layers of this future and come to some understanding of it.

So, for those not familiar with (and I've held off using the word for as long as I could) Cyberpunk, think The Matrix meets Blade Runner. So jack in and go for an exciting ride. It's not always a smooth one but one well worth taking.

My Grade: A

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Summer Reading List

summer readingImage by ruminatrix via Flickr

Not sure how much reading I'll get done over the summer but here is what I have on tap so far.

Neuromancer by William Gibson
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Dexter By Design by Jeff Lindsay
Day by Day Armageddon: Beyond Exile by J.L. Bourne
Monster Island by David Wellington
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Edit: I keep adding new titles. Just added Catcher as I am determined to finish it this time.
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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Ed's Mini Book Review - Dexter in the Dark

Dexter MorganImage via Wikipedia

Next up is the third book featuring one of todays' favorite anti-heroes, Dexter Morgan. Now, I've been debating whether to consider Dexter a 'hero' because, well, you know, he is a serial killer. Especially now that I've started watching the TV show, just finished the first season, and the final scene of the first season really struck me with Dexter seeing himself as a hero of sorts. Maybe I'll delve more into the hero notion later before I get too sidetracked.

This go around we have Dexter looking into ritual killings that has his homicidal inner voice, the Dark Passenger as he calls it, spooked. So much so that the Dark Passenger disappears, which is a first for Dear Ol' Dexter and that has him, as you would guess, a bit perturbed. Add in his pending wedding to Rita and the 'blossoming' of her two children and our Dexter has his plate full, though not full in the way he (or the readers) would like it.

This installment read rather flat to me, with Dexter being more or less led around and not doing a whole hell of a lot with regard to the ritual killing case. I found the stuff with the kids and his dealing with the wedding more interesting. What? Yeah, I know. More kids and less ritual killing? Yes, please. The Dexter we all know and love is sharp, witty, and on top of things. Being without the Dark Passenger threw him into a funk that just didn't work for me.

My Grade: C+

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Ed's Mini Book Review - 13 Bullets

Cover of "13 Bullets"Cover of 13 Bullets

More vampires, that's what I always say. Ok, maybe I don't always say that and I probably shouldn't. Vampire books are an overcrowded genre to begin with (and that may the understatement of the millennium).

So, added to this almost beaten to death genre, is 13 Bullets which introduces us to Laura Caxton, reluctant vampire hunter. A Pennsylvania state trooper, who happens to stumble upon a vampire hireling, called half-deads, attempting to dispose of his masters' leftovers, Caxton is then teamed up with grizzled and cantankerous semi-famous FBI vampire hunter, Arkeley, to try and track down the lead vampire in the area.

Something that I really liked about this vampire tale is that the vampire here are monsters. They are vicious, vile, uber-deadly and have the looks of the Nosferatu-like vampires we've seen all too infrequently in recent years. The are dangerous predators, the top of the food chain and they know it. Kill a recently fed vampire? No chance, more likely he'll rip your arms off and drain from what's left of your arm stumps.

Beyond that, 13 Bullets takes some predicable twists and turns and in too many instances, you are waiting for someone, mainly Caxton, to do something intelligent instead of falling head first into the next dilemma. The writing is solid and the sections of the book are broken down nicely (if you read it, you'll see what I mean). Combined with some interesting plot elements that are hinted at but not fully resolved will make me want to pick up the next book in the series.

My Grade: B

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Ed's Mini Book Review - The Dragon Factory

Action. Check.
Kick assery. Check.
Science mumbo jumbo. Check.
Decent but not great follow-up. Check.

The second book featuring ass kicker extraordinaire, Joe Ledger, surprisingly picks up shortly after the events of our first encounter with Joe and the DMS (Department of Military Science), Patient Zero. The fist book was a fast paced, zombie-esque thrill ride that was a breath of fresh air to the zombie book genre. Away from the 'survival horror' themed zombie books, the first Joe Ledger book are like a mash-up of Splinter Cell and World War Z (perhaps called it a 'viral thriller'). Shortly after dealing with the zombie virus in the first book, we have Joe and his team facing off against competing genetic manipulators, one faction making super soldiers while the other is making gene based bio-weapons.

A lot of this book feels the same, villains backstabbing each other, the cloak and dagger of Mr. Church and the DMS, and, of course, lots of action. Another problem with this Ledger adventure, is that a lot of time is spent not knowing what is going on and our heroes do very little to figure things out, the machinations of the bad guys are literally just handed over to them which makes the end game seem like a bit of a cop out. Also, I had a real problem with the actions of the main villain at the end.

Did all this mean I didn't enjoy it? Hell no! Joe Ledger kicks major a$$ in a Jack Bauer sort of way (Legder is actually compare to Bauer at one point). Bad Jack stories are still good stories and bad Ledger stories are good ones as well. This one even isn't a bad story, it's just a flawed one and not up to par with Patient Zero.

My Grade: B

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Monday, June 7, 2010

I'm sorry I pimp slapped you into that china cabinet.

Cover of "Black Dynamite [Blu-ray]"Cover of Black Dynamite [Blu-ray]

How the hell did I miss this?

And by 'this' I mean to pure awesomeness that is Black Dynamite.

Now, I grew up on the blaxploitation films of the 70's and this flick does the trick, ya dig? It manages to catch the essence of those films while keeping the parody edge without becoming too chessey or over the top, you follow?

With destined to be classic lines like 'And when you pop the top, the panties drop' and 'Kung-Fu treachery', Black Dynamite hits the spot solid.

So, go out and see this now or else I will not hesitate to lay the hammer down on any clown that comes around!

I said can you dig it!
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