Friday, May 27, 2011

Ed's Mini Book Review - Apocalypse of the Dead by Joe McKinney

Fresh off the heels of reading McKinney's Dead City, I decided to download Apocalypse of the Dead on my iPad and give that one a whirl. Now, this book is a loose sequel in that the setting and circumstances are pretty much the same (the setting changes a bit) but the characters are different.

Here we get McKinney pushing his boundaries and showing his writing chops a bit by moving the story around to various different characters and groups that will, inevitably, all come together at some point. The trick to doing that is not to be too confusing and not spreading things so thin that the reader can't keep track. Luckily, McKinney does a fine job in that department and keeps the story focused and a solid direction.

The take on this zombie tale is what sets it apart from other run of the mill zombie tales and is the story building around the creepy Koresh-like pastor. We've seen a lot of post-apocalyptic books go for the power abuse by the military but this take is a new one for me and a welcome departure from the standard zombie fare.

All in all, I can safely recommend this book for fans of zombie books rather easily. Some may have an issue with the jumping around a bit but I didn't find that to be a problem. It's interesting territory to go in and a solid direction at that.

My Grade: B+

LL
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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Ed's Mini Book Review - The Naming of the Beasts by Mike Carey

Felix "Fix" Castor is back!

And boy does it feel like a reunion with an old friend. That seems to be a popular feeling with me nowadays as I said the same thing about the latest Dexter book and felt the same way with the most recent adventure featuring Joe Ledger.

This entry in the series picks up basically where the last book's cliffhanger left us, Fix trying to find Asmodeus. Things have not gone well for Felix in the meantime with an alcohol binge fueled by the guilt of Asmodeus' escape and killing spree. Now he has to get his act together and figure out what Asmodeus is up to and he needs to do it right quick before Asmodeus can wreak any more havoc. This leads to all sorts of questionable decisions be Felix and some unlikely alliances and one "alliance" that I was particularly looking forward too.

I might have said this in past reviews of the Felix Castor books, but they do progress nicely and move and a better pace than the earlier books. Word is that there is one more book planned but I am not sure where else to go after this book but I look forward to what Carey has planned for Felix Castor.

My Grade: B

LL
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Friday, May 13, 2011

Ed's Mini Book Review - The King of Plagues (A Joe Ledger Novel)

Book three from Jonathan Mayberry starring Counter-terrorism agent extraordinaire , Joe Ledger, brings the series back to the roots of the first book in the series, Patient Zero. I was having a discussion about Joe Ledger books with a friend of mine, who was the one that turned me onto Patient Zero, and she said that she wasn't going to pick up The King of Plagues because she couldn't stand The Dragon Factory. I liked The Dragon Factory as it was more of an actioner, but I agree with her that it didn't have the same feel as Patient Zero.

The King of Plagues recaptures that Patient Zero feel and I think a good part of recapturing that feel is the return of some characters from the first book that I won't give away but it made me cheer a bit inside to see them back. Another way this brings things back is the plot of of our dastardly villains this go around, we are back to bio-terror. Sure you could say that the last one was bio-terror in that there were bio-engineered thingies (a pure technical term) but this is the stuff that strikes a cord with people today, the viral threat.

To complete the feel of the first book, we get Joe Ledger kicking ass, which to be fair, he did a lot of in The Dragon Factory. My main gripe with the last book was that the DMS was sort of reactionary, basically stumbling in the right direction and here we get the DMS being pro-active in seeing through leads and solving some mysteries to drive them in the case. There was a little bit too much lamenting some of the things that happened in the last book for my liking as I like books that can stand on their own and not need the previous to know what's going on and that is the case in this book. Also the references to the first book with some of the background on returning characters may turn new readers off and they may feel that they don't know fully what is going on. If you are a dedicated reader of the series, though, you should be in good shape and I think that The King of Plagues will have you looking forward to more Joe Ledger books.

My Grade: B+

LL
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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Ed's Mini Book Review - Dexter is Delicious

Man, was it fun to read a Dexter book again, and a good Dexter book to boot (one of them wasn't that good). I find Dexter books to be like hearing from an old friend again and catching up on what he's been up to. I know that sounds cliche, the whole 'old friend' thing but Dexter books are like that. I think it's the voice of Dexter, the way he speaks to the reader and lets you in on what others aren't allowed to hear. You are privy to his Dark Passenger and what he really thinks and feels and I think that is part of appeal that makes the reader feel close to Dexter.

That connection to dear ol' Dex, is what keeps you around in Dexter in the Dark, which is by far the weakest of the series, but you won't have to worry about that with this installment. Upon hearing of the premise, I was afraid Dexter is Delicious would go that route though. Here is the setup, Dexter deals with cannibals, and not just that, vampire rip off cannibals to boot. Holy Twilight Batman! Fear not, Dexter is back and while not in prime form, it's good enough.

As we begin, Dex is settling in to family life with the birth of his daughter and is having very fatherly thoughts such as giving up his side 'job' to be there for his daughter and set a good example. Sprinkle in difficult Deb, blood thirsty children and a surprise visitor from Dexter's past and you've got a good mix for some fun and deliciously awkward moments that have come to signify the literary version of Dexter. My main gripe is that the mystery is not quite a mystery as, I think, it was telegraphed way in advanced but it was still fun to see it all play out. If you're a Dexter fan, I'd bet that you'd enjoy this entry and really sink your teeth into this one (ok, I just had to say it).

My Grade: B

LL
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Friday, May 6, 2011

Ed's Mini Book Review - Dead City by Joe McKinney


Back in my zombie fiction kick, I picked up Dead City by Joe McKinney from the local B & N as I have seen it on the shelves and some reviews online for it. Now, being a seasoned vet of zombie lit, I set the bar fairly high for them. They should embody many of the aspects of what makes the genre so interesting to many people. They should be frightening, smart and portray a sense of the impending doom that you cannot stop like the creeping death that is crawling slowly towards its characters. That is to say that they have to be formulaic. On the contrary, many zombie books can be dull in that they've covered the same ideas that have come before it. But, it should still feel like a zombie book, and I have a particular book I've reviewed in mind when I say that. I want a zombie book with teeth, a little bite but with some new aspects to it. I want the survival aspect to is as well and here, to me, is where a lot of the smarts come in. I want to see characters doing smart things, being pushed to be creative and inventive in how they are going to make it through this catastrophe and that goes for any survivalist book like The Road and not just zombie books.

I am done with seeing people to dumb, silly and inane things. I know that story, where you show how people are fallible and fall apart in extreme situations, how they get greedy and self interested and short sighted. Been there, done that and in way too many stories. I am also done with the seedy side of post apocalyptic fiction. You know the ones, the 'people do horrible things when law and order is broken' sort of stories. Again, been there, done that. Let's get onto something different with the zombie genre so it doesn't get stale and become a parody of itself that so many other genres have become.

Where is this rant going? Well, it brings us the Dead City. Plain and simple, I liked this book. I didn't love it but I liked it. I liked it because it focused on the day of the disaster and the survival story of one person through the day of the outbreak. Plain and simple. His struggles to come to grip with what was happening and how the outbreak unfolded. I have some minor quibbles with some of the stuff in there such as him not making his family the priority when the outbreak occurred but overall this book hit the notes I want to see in a zombie book and did something that I haven't seen a lot of in zombie books and that is take us through the outbreak as it is happening. All too often we see the aftermath and the survival that ensues and I do like that stuff but I found this take a bit refreshing. Now I am working my way through the loose sequel, Apocalypse of the Dead.

My Grade: A-

LL
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Thursday, May 5, 2011

The TED

The foundation's logo.Image via Wikipedia
Now that I've started the new job at Long Island University, I've been looking at a lot of things to focus my research on. Since I have the background in education, it makes a lot of sense to combine that background/interest with the library/information science area for some research. In doing some preliminary digging, I came across a video on changing educational thinking and methods which talks about "Flipping the Classroom" which was a presentation done at TED 2011. Now, I'll get to my thoughts on that particular presentation in a later post but I wanted to mention the TED videos.

First, what is TED? I'll just list the quote from their site.

TED is a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. Along with two annual conferences -- the TED Conference in Long Beach and Palm Springs each spring, and the TEDGlobal conference in Edinburgh UK each summer -- TED includes the award-winning TEDTalks video site, the Open Translation Project and TED Conversations, the inspiring TED Fellows and TEDx programs, and the annual TED Prize.

From that first video, I began watch the other videos there and they are pretty amazing in the variety and scope of ideas, the level at which they engage and think outside the box on numerous topics, many of which I can bring into my budding research on education and information literacy (or shall I call it 'trans-literacy').

In any event, I urge you to take a look at some of the presentations on there if nothing else than to challenge yourself with some new and fresh ideas whether you buy in to what they say or not.

LL
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