Monthly Archives: April 2015

Musing Mondays: Library

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Time to start off the week with Musing Mondays, hosted by A Daily Rhythm.

This week’s random question is: Do you use your local library? What do you like (or dislike) most about it?

I use my local library — a lot.  I’ve got a healthy list of items that I will put on reserve (influenced many times by recommendations from fellow book bloggers and other social media outlets as well as new entries from favorite authors) and then I also enjoy browsing the shelves to find something to read.  Until recently, I had to have a librarian pull my holds off the hold shelf for me, but my library has started a new self-serve holds system.  So far I have to say that while I like being able to come in and pick up my reserves myself, I kind of miss the few moments of interaction with the library staff.  Most of them were very polite and it was nice to have a bit of conversation with them as I checked out my holds.

The one negative is that when it comes to series, sometimes the library doesn’t always get the first installment or installments of the series.  They do their best but sometimes it doesn’t happen for a variety of reasons, most of which I understand.  But as a reader who likes to go through a series in order (for the most part), this can be discouraging and frustrating at times.

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All Good Things, Episode 37: The Logic, The Emotion and the Totally Awesome

If you listen to the latest episode of AGT, you'll understand why I chose this image for this post.

If you listen to the latest episode of AGT, you’ll understand why I chose this image for this post.

It’s time for episode 37 of the All Good Things podcast!  This week, Barry and I discuss the trio at the center of classic Star Trek and (in my opinion) the whole Trek-verse.  Yes, we’re talking about Kirk, Spock and McCoy.

We delve into the logic, the emotion and the man of action (or as I called it the Totally Awesome) in great detail.    And yes, my love for Captain James T. Kirk is on full display in this episode…so you have been warned.

You can listen below or go to the link above to download it directly.  You can also subscribe in iTunes and get all our episodes as they’re hot of the podcasting presses.

http://www.podbean.com/media/player/6gdxv-555b56?skin=108

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All Good Things Podcast, Episodes 36: The Cardassians

Cardassians

Recording this installment of the All Good Things Podcast, I kept thinking that an epic re-watch of Deep Space Nine is needed.   In this episode, Barry and I turn our attention to the Cardassians, looking at their origins on TNG and then their development on DS9.

We hope you enjoy it!  You can listen below or you can surf over at the link above and download it.  And don’t forget you can always subscribe in iTunes and get each new installment hot of the presses!

http://www.podbean.com/media/player/m9p7u-553ab5

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Comic Book Friday: Spider-Man 2099, Volume 1: Out of Time

Spider-Man 2099, Vol. 1: Out of Time

Being a big fan of Peter David and Spider-Man, you’d think I’d have read the entire original run of Spider-Man 2099. And despite glowing recommendation from friends that I should pick up the books, I never did.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t stop in now that David and Marvel are picking up the series mantel once again.

And I’ll admit that while I may miss some of the nuances of this story, this collection of the first five issues of the new series never made me feel like I was being left behind. In fact, I’d argue that what David is doing here is every bit as enjoyable — maybe even more enjoyable — than what is being done with the flagship title for the Spider-Man universe.

Stuck out of time, our hero is trying to find his way home without messing up the time line too much. Along the way, he’s having some interesting adventures that span not only New York City but also the entire globe. David has always been a writer who can find ways to tell unique, fun stories in a corner of a particular universe that stay true to the universe but also explore some interesting areas and do some nice character work. (I’m looking at you New Frontier.

While I wouldn’t mistake the hero here for Peter Parker, there is enough of that sense of what makes Spidey so much fun to read (at least the way I remember it) that these issues flew by. The only negative is the final issue included which is forced to do some heavy lifting for what I can only assume will be an all-inclusive Spider-verse storyline that is coming up next. At this point, if I never see Morlun on the pages of a Spider-Man comic again, it will be too soon. Quite possibly the most overused or going back to the well one too many times the Spidey-verse has seen since Venom.

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An Interview With EJ Simon, Author of Death Never Sleeps and Death Logs In

ejsimonI’m honored today to interview author EJ Simon.   Simon is the author Death Logs In, Death Never Sleeps and the upcoming Death Logs Out.  The fast-paced novels feature A.I., adventure and lots of great meals (you may come away from these books a bit hungry and ready to visit some of the restaurants that Simon’s hero Michael visits).

Simon has also written two true-crime books.  He is a world traveler and food enthusiast who lives in Connecticut with his wife.

He joins here in Nashville Book Worm today to talk about his books and his upcoming visit to Nashville.  Simon will be signed books this Saturday (April 18) at Parnassus Books (Hillsboro Plaza shopping Center.  3900 Hillsboro Pike. Nashville Tennessee).  The event starts at 2 pm CST.

Nashville Book Worm: How did you get the idea for Death Logs In and Death Never Sleeps?  Did you always intend for the books to be an on-going series?

EJ Simon: The idea for the books originated from two great – and very different – movies that I saw many years ago: The Godfather and 2001 Space Odyssey.  In the Godfather, I was impressed with Francis Ford Coppola’s treatment of the character of Michael Corleone – his evolution and his relationship with his brothers and the rest of the family. In the case of 2001 Space Odyssey, I was fascinated with the computer character, Hal, who guided the spacecraft until the astronauts decided to disconnect him – at which point he refused to go. This movie represented the popularization of artificial intelligence.

The concepts from these movies are translated into two of the central themes for both of my books. First, the relationship between two brothers, Alex and Michael Nicholas and how Michael evolves from a very straight arrow executive into something closer to his murdered underworld brother. The second theme is the use of artificial intelligence to duplicate a real person onto a computer – and bring him back after he is dead.

NBW: How many books do you have planned for the series?

ES: Although I don’t yet have a set number in mind, I feel that I have enough material in my head or imagination to produce at least six or seven quality books in this series. It’s hard to tell since, as I write, new stories, characters and challenges evolve. Also, the real world of events and technology is moving so quickly that it provides verification of much of what started out in my novels as fiction. Artificial intelligence, in the last few years alone, has almost become a part of our daily lives, often in ways we don’t even realize. That’s not always good for those of us who live here.

NBW: How much of your own personality is in Michael?

ES: Probably more than I care to admit. He’s not a natural hero figure. At best, he’s a reluctant one. He is thrust into a life requiring a tough aggressiveness if he and his family are to survive. There are differing aspects of his personality that seem to be having an internal tug of war. Certainly, Michael Nicholas’ love of food and restaurants, and his reverence for the ritual of dinner is very much me.

NBW: Of all the meals that your characters enjoy in the book, do you have a favorite?  Or a favorite restaurant?

ES: This has got to be your toughest question.  My favorite may be the beef bourguignon at Chez Dumonet in Paris. It’s an old but thriving bistro on the Left Bank. Michael dines there in both Death Never Sleeps and Death Logs In. It’s hard to have a favorite restaurant – it would be like a having a favorite child, even if you did, you hesitate to say so.

NBW:  You’ve talked a lot about how meals bring people together.  Could you elaborate on that a bit more and tell us why it’s so important to your novels.

ES: I grew up in New York but my parents were both from Greece. Dinner was the time the whole family sat down together. It was the focal point of the day. Thinking back, I learned so much by just observing – my parents, my brother and sister, grandmother – and then guests. Watching the interactions and seeing how people responded to or announced news – weddings, divorces, illnesses, deaths and births. Even today, we learn about so many important things at dinnertime. Often, even with instant social media communication, we save major news for our dinner conversation. In our frenetic world today, it’s a rare time of intimate, personal communication. For many of us restaurants have replaced the home dinner table on many evenings. This adds an element of theatre – and sometimes spectacle – to the meal.

NBW: There could be some who would look at the A.I. portions of the novel and say — oh, that’s just his imagination.  But do you see something like that becoming a growing reality for people?

ES:  If you listen to people like Stephen Hawking and Steve Wozniak (the co-founder of Apple), you could believe that it will one day be possible for us to create and duplicate people on a computer. Both Hawking and Wozniak have recently been quoted saying that computers with artificial intelligence will soon be more powerful than humans and will even have a conscience. Every day, I see more evidence of computers taking on the roles we only thought humans and the human mind could do. There is also an amazing site called LifeNaut where you can basically replicate yourself on a computer and others you invite can have conversations with the virtual you.

NBW: How much of the A.I. is influenced by how much of ourselves people are willing to share on line these days?   Sure, we can’t yet upload our intelligence onto the Net, but people can share just about every thought, feeling or otherwise in almost real time with various social media.  What do you see as the pros and cons of that?

ES: The huge increase in the parts of our lives that we input on line certainly adds to the power of computers and technology to emulate our lives. I was traveling several weeks ago and had made my hotel reservation on line and then, on a different site, secured my dinner reservation somewhere else. I remember wondering when exactly I would need to leave for dinner in order to be on time. I’d never been to that area before. A few minutes later, I received an instant message telling me that my hotel was 15 minutes away from the restaurant and that I needed to leave then to be on time – and then even gave me the driving directions from my hotel to the restaurant. Somehow, the unrelated sites had communicated together to bring this to me. It’s a small example of the power of the cyberworld.

The more information and history we load onto the Internet, the easier it will be for a person to be replicated on a computer. I believe we have only begun to scratch the surface. Just like most other advances or inventions, there will be pros and cons. Just looking at social media today, for me, it has allowed me to connect with many new friends – and reconnect with many old and treasured ones. At the same time, it has opened my life to hackers and others with whom I’d prefer to stay private.

The power of all of this technology – when combined with the interconnections of the Internet – is breathtaking to contemplate. It goes further than most of our imaginations can even take us.

NBW: Did you draw any inspiration from A.I. from other pop culture depictions of A.I.s?

ES: Not really, I have yet to see a great or insightful use of artificial intelligence on television or the movies. I suspect that when my books are turned into a television series or a movie, it will be a breakthrough

NBW: What’s ahead for Michael and Alex in the next installment in the series? Can you give us some hints about what’s to come (without spoiling too much, of course!)

ES: Okay, here a few hints of what’s to come in Death Logs Out (due to be released this Fall) – first, Alex’s widow is increasingly suspicious that her husband may not be dead. Also, Alex’s online presence may not be a total secret.

NBW: What brings you to Nashville and Parnassus Books this week?    Have you been to Music City before?

ES: Besides being owned by Ann Patchett, Parnassus Books is at the forefront of the battle to preserve independent book stores. It’s a privilege to be asked to come for a signing. Even other bookshop owners have asked me to send them some pictures of the event.  Yes, I have been to Nashville before, in my business life. I was involved in the move of Nissan to the area from Los Angeles. This will be more fun.

NBW: What’s one thing you’d like to visit in Music City if you had the time to do so?

ES: That’s easy, it would be to go to the Grand Ole Opry. I’m landing in Nashville on Friday evening – and going straight there, I have my tickets! I’ll be seeing Mel Tillis, Lindsay Ell, and the Del McCoury Band. I’d have loved to see Johnny Cash’s old farm in Franklin too, but I understand that burned down a few years ago.

NBW: And what restaurant would you like to dine at as research for your next book?

ES: I’m planning on revisiting Delmonico’s in lower Manhattan. It’s an iconic restaurant with tons of history. I had my first business dinner there in the 70’s and haven’t returned since then. Many well-known dished were created there – Lobster Newberg, eggs benedict, chicken a la king and, of course, the Delmonico steak. Presidents, world leaders, actors and criminals have all frequented this beautiful place – and even had affairs in the rooms above! Often, you can taste history.

NBW: I’d like to thank EJ Simon for taking the time to talk to me and I hope that you’ll find time to come out and get a signed copy of one of his books this weekend.   If you can’t make it out to Parnassus Books on Saturday, April 18th at 2 p.m. CST, you can connect with Simon on social media or you can purchase one of his books at various on-line retailers.

Facebook: http://www.Facebook.com/JimEJSimon
Twitter: @JimEJSimon

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Way Back Wednesday: Amazing Spider-Man #20

waybackwednesday

Time again for Way Back Wednesday hosted by A Well Read Woman.   This meme takes a look back at those book we’ve read that have had a big impact on us or that were memorable from our younger days.

Amazing_Spider-Man_Vol_1_20This week, I’m focusing not so much on a book but a comic book.   It’s one of my all-time favorites Amazing Spider-Man #20.  

While I’m not old enough to have read it when it was first published, I did get my hands on a copy of the a reprint during my comic book collecting days.    Marvel Tales was reprinting the Stan Lee/Steve Ditiko era of Spider-Man and I clearly recall getting and reading this issue many, many times.

Issue 20 sees J. Jonah Jameson becoming so frustrated in his attempts to bring down Spider-Man that he invests his own money into creating a foe that is more powerful than Spider-Man and can finally eliminate him from the picture.   So, JJJ finds a scientist who turns a seemingly ordinary criminal named Mack Gargan into the Scorpion.   (The logic is that the Scorpion is the natural enemy of the spider).

Spidey and the Scorpion have an initial battle and it appears the Scorpion has eliminated Spidey.  But the Scorpion starts to have some unintended side effects and blames JJJ for it, breaking off the battle and going after Jameson.  Spidey is forced to overcome the Scorpion’s superior strength by using his own wits and understanding of his powers.

I love this issue of The Amazing Spider-Man.  I find myself wishing that somehow Sam Raimi had seen fit to include the character in one of his Spider-Man movies (I get why we had Doc Ock and Green Goblin in the first two, but I’d much rather have had Scorpion over Venom in Spider-Man 3).   Growing up, I was (and still am) fascinated by putting heroes up against villains who are designed to be the equal or more powerful than the hero and seeing how the villain is defeated.    And while the Green Goblin and Doc Ock get more of the press, I still think the Scorpion ranks up there as my favorite Spidey villain.  And a lot of it is from this issue — and another annual that I’ll get to at some point for a future installment of this meme.

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Re-reading it years later, I can see that there are other, more definitive Spider-Man installments from this era.  But yet there’s still not a comic that held my attention and made me want to re-read it many, many times like this one.   And that’s just one of the reasons it’s one of my favorites….

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Top Ten Tuesday: Quotable

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This week’s Top Ten Tuesday hosted by the Broke and the Bookish asks us for our top ten quotes.  Here are just a few of mine in no particular order.  Also, I’m certain I could come up with at least a dozen or so more quotes to go on this list.

1.  “The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.”  — The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

2. “You get old and you realize there are no answers, just stories.” — Pontoon by Garrison Keillor

3. “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” — To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

4. “Time is a drug. Too much of it kills you.” — Small Gods by Terry Pratchett

5. “You want to remember that while you’re judging the book, the book is also judging you.” — Night Shift by Stephen KIng

6.  “If we can’t alter the tide of events, at least we can be nearby with towels to mop up.” — Q in Law by Peter David

7.  “And once you live a good story, you get a taste for a kind of meaning in life, and you can’t go back to being normal; you can’t go back to meaningless scenes stitched together by the forgettable thread of wasted time.” — A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller

8. “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” — C.S. Lewis

9. “I’ve always liked swimming, so long as my head’s above water.” — Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

10. “People who’ve never read fairy tales, the professor said, have a harder time coping in life than the people who have. They don’t have access to all the lessons that can be learned from the journeys through the dark woods and the kindness of strangers treated decently, the knowledge that can be gained from the company and example of Donkeyskins and cats wearing boots and steadfast tin soldiers. I’m not talking about in-your-face lessons, but more subtle ones. The kind that seep up from your sub¬conscious and give you moral and humane structures for your life. That teach you how to prevail, and trust. And maybe even love.” — The Onion Girl by Charles De Lint

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Musing Mondays: I Want To Tell You About The Happy Hour Choir

musingmondays51

Time to kick-off this week with Monday Musings hosted by A Daily Rhythm.   Instead of answering the random question this week, I thought I’d take the opportunity to recommend an upcoming book.

The Happy Hour Choir by Sally Kilpatrick

happyhourNow, let me start this off by saying that I’m probably a bit biased when it comes to this book because it’s written by a friend of mine from college, who shared a couple of interesting classes with me — from short story writing to anthropology.   (I don’t think any of us will ever forget that anthropology class, if only because it was in the auditorium of our university’s museum during the spring and the heat was kept on despite the fact that it was wonderfully spring-like outside!  It didn’t always make things conducive to staying awake, much less learning about anthropology).

I’d lost track of Sally and her husband Ryan after they and I moved away from our college town but thanks to the wonders of Facebook and Twitter, we’ve been able to re-connect after all these years.  It was when we reconnected that I found out that Sally had a)written a book and b)was having it published.   And so, like many of her friends, I was eagerly waiting the novel to hit stores later this month (I almost felt like haunting book stores on the off chance they might put it out on shelves early).    But thanks to the good folks over at NetGalley, I was able to get a copy of the book and read it early.  That way I can let all of you know the books is coming and encourage you to pick up a copy.

I ask this for several reasons.   On a purely selfish level, Sally has written such an enjoyable book that I can only hope it’s a first installment in a series and I want to spend more time with her characters.   So, if getting some of you to buy a copy (dead tree, digital, carving it on a cave wall) means that we get more books with these characters, then I’m all for that. (I see that we’re getting a second installment later this year, but dang nabbit, I want more!)   On a less selfish level, I will admit I was moved Sally’s forward and talking about all the steps of encouragement she got from the important people in her life along the way.   I want this book to do well because I think it proves their faith in her was completely and totally on the money.   And finally, I ask this because I think if you pick it up, you’re going to enjoy it.

One of the highest praises I can give a book (or any form of artistic output for that matter) is that in our world of a myriad of choices and demands for my free time, it caught my attention and held it.   I read this book despite having a stack of other books that were piling up to read, a DVR loaded with movies I should watch before I pass away and new installments of some of my favorite TV shows and while in the midst of binging on season two of Orange is the New Black.  And yet, The Happy Hour Choir was a novel that held my attention and kept it focused there instead of all these other distractions for my free time.   It’s a story that is rich and highly authentic with characters that I loved and a story of redemption and forgiveness that had me getting a lump in my throat similar to the one I get every damn time I watch the end of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

If you’re still on the fence, let me give you the blurb for the book.

From author Sally Kilpatrick comes a hopeful tale of love and redemption in a quiet Southern town where a lost soul finds her way with the help of an unlikely circle of friends…

Life has dealt Beulah Land a tough hand to play, least of all being named after a hymn. A teenage pregnancy estranged her from her family, and a tragedy caused her to lose what little faith remained. The wayward daughter of a Baptist deacon, she spends her nights playing the piano at The Fountain, a honky-tonk located just across the road from County Line Methodist. But when she learns that a dear friend’s dying wish is for her to take over as the church’s piano player, she realizes it may be time to face the music…

Beulah butts heads with Luke Daniels, the new pastor at County Line, who is determined to cling to tradition even though he needs to attract more congregants to the aging church. But the choir also isn’t enthusiastic about Beulah’s contemporary take on the old songs and refuses to perform. Undaunted, Beulah assembles a ragtag group of patrons from The Fountain to form the Happy Hour Choir. And as the unexpected gig helps her let go of her painful past—and accept the love she didn’t think she deserved—she just may be able to prove to Luke that she can toe the line between sinner and saint…

So go and pre-order your copy now.  And then you can join me in the long wait until the next book hits the market later this year!

Congratulations Sally! I just wish I could be there to get a copy at your launch party later this month.   I will be there in spirit.

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Comic Book Friday: Marvel’s Secret Wars–Graphic Audio Adaptation

Marvel SuperHeroes Secret wars Graphic Audio

While I’m sure there were either crossover, limited series events before Secret Wars arrived on the scene, Secret Wars was the one published at the height of my love of comic books and one that featured one huge development in the life of my favorite super hero. Yes, I’m referring to Spider-Man getting his infamous black suit, an event that set off twenty years of new continuity for my favorite (then and now) super hero.

Interestingly, the whole black suit thing takes up less than five minutes of this audio adaptation of the entire saga, somehow feeling less monumental than I recall it being in the initial wave of comics. Or it could just be that we had to wait EIGHT issues into the storyline to see Spidey get his new duds. Or it could also be that there are twenty years of spin-off storylines from that one single event that it pales in comparison to what was to come — namely Venom and a whole lot of other symbiotic baddies that would menace our hero.

Secret Wars begins with the kidnapping of various Marvel heroes and villains. Sent to a strange far-off place called BattleWorld, the heroes and villains are promised their fondest wish if they will battle each other until only is left standing. This promise is made by a mysterious creature known only as the Beyonder. Interestingly, the hero team isn’t exactly the most unified for much of the storyline with various hero teams not trusting each other — the Avengers don’t have much love for the X-Men because Magneto has, for some reason, been lumped in with the heroic side of things instead of being with the various baddies that include Doctor Doom, Doc Ock and others. Continue reading

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Review: Lord Foul’s Bane by Stephen Donaldson

Lord Foul's Bane (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, #1)

Have you ever heard the saying that if you meet a jerk in the morning, you just ran into a jerk. But if you keep encountering jerks all day, maybe it’s you who is the jerk.

Thomas Covenant is a jerk. Or at least as far as I can tell he is. Contracting leprosy, Covenant is sent to away for six months to for counselling and treatment. Upon returning home, he finds his wife has left him and taken their son with her. His community wants nothing to do with him, even to the point that complete strangers are paying his bills so he won’t have to come into town to conduct his business. None of this sits well with Thomas, who decides that he’ll walk into town and pay his phone bill, only to find that he gets hit by a car and sent into a fantasy world.

This fantasy world finds Thomas given the task of delivering a message. It also has Thomas encounter a young woman named Lena who shows him who the dirt of this world can help cure him of his leprosy. He repays this kindness and the kindness of her family’s village by proving himself virile again and forcing himself upon Lena. Luckily for Thomas, the village has some kind of kindness pact that doesn’t allow her family to seek out vengeance on him, but instead forces his mother to lead him to the people to whom he is supposed to deliver his message.

And so they set out on ye olde fantasy quest. Thankfully, Donelson decides not to describe every leaf on every tree, but there are still some long stretches in the middle third of this book where not much happens but Thomas and his guide go wandering around.

Fantasy novels with a less than noble and unlikeable protagonist aren’t exactly a new thing. And yet somehow Thomas Covenant comes across as more unlikeable than the entire case of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire And Ice series. Donaldson seems to have little interest in creating any redeeming qualities in Covenant or at least allowing readers to understand why he’s such a jerk to begin with. That makes it difficult to want to spend much time with him — and all of this is before the infamous rape scene. Reading the book I can see why it’s so polarizing among fans of the genre.

While not being the worst book I’ve ever read, it’s certainly up there among the less enjoyable novels I’ve read in quite a while.

There are more entries in this series, but it’s highly unlikely I am going to pick up any of them.

And I think I’m also done trying to read Donaldson.  I gave his Gap series a try years ago and couldn’t stand it.  Now this one has left me disappointed as well.

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