Monthly Archives: December 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Anticipated Releases


Today’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by the Broke and the Bookish) asks what books are we most looking forward to in the first half of 2016.

  1.  The Thorn of Emberlain by Scott Lynch
  2. Peace Talks by Jim Butcher
  3. Better Get to Livin’ by Sally Kilpatrick
  4. Morning Star by Pierce Brown
  5. A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab
  6. Staked by Kevin Hearne
  7. Gentleman Joel and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold
  8. Skinny Dipping With Murder by Auralee Wallace
  9. Confusius Jane by Katie Lynch
  10. Quantum Night by Robert J. Sawyer

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Review: Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke


As part of the 2016 Sci-Fi Experience and getting in early for Vintage Sci-Fi month, I thought I’d offer up some thoughts on Arthur C. Clarke’s classic genre novel Childhood’s End.

I read this one a decade ago as part of a vintage genre campaign, but large chunks of it had slipped my memory. So when SyFy’s new mini-series showed up on the DVR, I decided to re-visit the original material before I started watching the new adaptation.

So, here we go….

Childhood's EndOne of my big complaints about the current state of science-fiction and fantasy is the overwhelming need to make EVERY single concept into a trilogy or on-going series.

Which is what makes going back to the classics of the genre such a pleasure.

Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End is one of the most economic genre novels ever published. But I’d argue that the novel packs more ideas and punch into its two hundred pages than some on-going series have packed into their thousand plus (and counting) pages.

In many ways, Clarke created the mythology of the alien invasion. The Overlords arrive in ships that hover over the greatest cities on Earth, saying that they are here to help humanity. The Overlords put an end to petty conflicts and help point humanity toward a better tomorrow — but there could be a price to it all. They refuse to allow human beings to see them as they really are for the first fifty years of their overseeing our world. Instead, a single human is chosen as the intermediary for humans and Overlords. Continue reading

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Movie Review: Star Wars, Episode VII: The Force Awakens

star-wars-force-awakens-official-poster.jpgThe latest entry in the Star Wars universe is subtitled The Force Awakens.  But it could also easily have the subtitle Where’s Luke?

The driving force of the film is the search for Luke Skywalker.  Between the end of Return of the Jedi and the start of Force Awakens, Luke has gone missing, retreating from the galaxy.  Now with the new First Order trying to fill the void left by the Empire, the galaxy needs Luke and the light side of the force more than ever before.

J.J. Abram’s The Force Awakens walks a fine line between nostalgia and giving us new elements in a “galaxy far, far away.”  If you’ve seen the trailers or heard any of the casting news, you know that certain members of the original trilogy are back and that others cast a giant shadow over events unfolding.

Each of the original cast members slips easily back into their familiar and iconic roles and the script does each of them justice — even though it’s Han Solo and Chewie who get the most screen time of our original crew.  It’s an interesting contrast to the 1999’s The Phantom Menace where it felt like we were having familiar characters introduced simply to include them in the narrative rather than the characters serving an actual purpose in the story.

But it’s the new cast that works well also.  It’s a rag-tag group of orphans brought together to form a type of family.  From the best pilot the new rebellion has in Poe Dameron to stormtrooper gone rogue Finn to salvage collector Rey.   In many ways, it feels like the script for Awakens is trying to build its own, new version of Han/Luke/Leia.  And, for the most part, it succeeds.  Daisy Ridley as Rey is the highlight of the new good guys.  Scenes when she and new bad guy Kylo Ren square off are among the highlights of the film.

The script finds a nice balance point between homages to the past and tips of the hat to the original trilogy while still standing on its own to set things in motion for the next trilogy of films we’ll get over the next couple of years.

From this point forward, it’s difficult to talk much about the movie without giving away SPOILERS.  I’m going to put in a MORE jump here so if you don’t want to know, you won’t accidentally get spoiled.    Continue reading

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Reviews: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Everything, Everything

Madeline lives a fairly contained life. She’s home schooled, rarely ventures beyond the the walls of her house and has little contact with the outside world beyond her mother and her nurse, Carla.

Madeline has a very rare condition that makes her extremely susceptible to any kind of germ. Her immune system can’t fight them and so Madeline has to live inside her sterile, clean home, experiencing the outside world only by looking out the window and the books she reads (all brand new and properly sterilized, of course!)

She’s perfectly content in her world until one day a new boy moves in next door and Madeline has become intrigued by him and his family. Suddenly, her world seems a bit smaller and Madeline is willing to do and risk whatever it takes to get to know this boy and possibly fall in love with him. Continue reading

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The Angel Gabriel From Heaven Came (On Handbells and With Lights)

This video combines two things I love — the piece our handbell choir played this year for Christmas and houses with lights synchronized to music.

This year’s piece was The Angel Gabriel From Heaven Came.  And while the musical accompaniment to this light show isn’t ours ,it gives you an idea of what the piece sounds like.

I will also note it’s been stuck in my head for the past couple of days while I’ve been swimming laps in the pool.


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Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Books Read This Year


This week’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by the Broke and the Bookish) asks us what are our favorite books that we’ve read this year.   I’m going to go ahead and make my top ten list but with two weeks left to go in 2015, there could be one or two that sneak onto the list between now and December 31.

  1. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee — I re-read it before Watchman was published and enjoyed it even more than I did the first couple of time I read it.
  2. The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King — A collection of short stories by Stephen King is always a pleasure to read.  Added bonus is King’s introduction to each story that gives us a bit of insight into the writing process.
  3. Single, Carefree Mellow by Katherine Heiney — Another short story collection that I really enjoyed.
  4. The Happy Hour Choir & Bittersweet Creek by Sally Kilpatrick.  Just ask my wife — I’m not generally a romance reader. But these two novels by Kilpatrick are character driven romance stories that have real obstacles for our authentic, real and flawed romantic leads.
  5. Scary Close by Donald Miller — Miller’s latest book on working to set aside the masks and have real intimacy was compelling, eye opening and a real challenge.
  6. Star Trek: New Frontier: The Returned by Peter David — David finally gives us another visit to the New Frontier universe in a three e-novella story that as page-turning as I’d hoped it would be.  I read all three installments far too quickly and now begins the wait to see if we get more….
  7. A Banquet of Consequences by Elizabeth George — Worth the price of admission for the segments of Dorethea Harriman trying to help Barbara Havers find a social life.  Add in a taut mystery with the usual plethora of suspects and red herrings and you’ve got one of the best installments this series has given us.
  8. My Antonia by Willa Cather — Another re-read from my high school days. I loved the book then but had forgotten some of what happens in the course the novel.  Reading it again, I found new things and loved it all over again.
  9. Hush, Hush by Luara Lippman — Lippman could publish her grocery list and I’d read it.  Luckily the latest Tess Monagahan story is further evidence that Lippman is one of the best novelists we have working today.
  10. The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson.  — Every time I read Sanderson, I think — man, I’ve got to read more of him.  The second installment of the Mistborn series only confirms this.    Man, I need more hours in the day!

Honorable Mentions:

Doctor Who: Remembrance of the Daleks by Ben Aaronovich (audio book)
Doctor Who: Full Circle by Andrew Smith (audiobook)

The Target audio line returned this year and it gave us some of the better adaptations of classic Doctor Who stories.  These two more than lived up to my memories of reading them many years ago and were just so much fun to listen to that I couldn’t not include them!


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Musings Mondays: Christmas Reading


Time to start the week with Musing Mondays (hosted by A Daily Rhythm).

This week’s random question asks: What books are you hoping to get for Christmas (whether as gifts, or ones you’ll purchase yourself)?

I haven’t put any books on my Christmas list but I do have a few on my reserve list at the library that I hope come in to read during the season.

At the top of my list is the new Michael Connelly novel, The Crossing.  Hopefully it will come in soon because I’m eager to read it!

I’ve also been doing a bit of browsing of books to get me into the spirit of the season.  Luckily my local library has a couple of displays of books with a Christmas theme.   I’ve picked up a few cozy mysteries with a Christmas theme and I’ve got to admit I’m really enjoying them.  I’ve also got a collection of stories from Southern writers that has been enjoyable as well.

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A Few of My Favorite Christmas Things: Lessons & Carols


This morning, I participated in one of my favorite Christmas traditions –the annual service of Lessons and Carols at my church.

The service is a proclaiming of the true meaning of Christmas in word and song.   I’ve been blessed to be part of the handbell choir for close to a decade now, playing the lower octave bells.

It’s always a wonderful service, always reminding me why and what we are celebrating during the Christmas season.   In many ways, it doesn’t feel like it’s Christmas until I’ve been to Lessons and Carols.

And as our family grows in the next year, I’m looking forward to sharing the experience with our daughter.

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Comic Book Friday: Star Trek, Volume 11

Star Trek Volume 11Star Trek Volume 11 by Mike Johnson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

IDW’s re-imagining of certain episodes of the original (and still the best) Star Trek has been hit or miss. This latest installment, collecting issues 46 – 49 of the on-going series is no exception.

The collection starts off with a re-telling of one of my favorite installments from classic Trek, “The Tholian Web.” As with other re-imaginings of episodes from the original series, I find myself torn between wanting the story to be as faithful as possible to the original story and somehow offer me something new to make it feel like it’s worth my time to spend reading this version of the story. Unfortunately, this telling of the Tholian storyline doesn’t really succeed on either level. The new twist is that in the re-imagined universe, the NCC-1701 has the ability to separate the saucer section. So the Enterprise is in two pieces, trapped in the titular web, which I suppose should double the drama. Instead it merely isolates the characters who need to be working together to get out of this region of space. Continue reading

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Review: Doctor Who: Big Bang Generation by Gary Russell

Doctor Who: Big Bang Generation

When a pyramid from another world appears in Sydney Harbor, the Doctor begins to investigate how it got there and what can and should be done about. Also hot on the trail is a familiar time-travelling archaeologist, though as the cover warns you, it’s not necessarily the one you were expecting.

In his afterward, Gary Russell says that the reason he decided to use Benny Summerfield instead of River was because series runner Steven Moffat nixed the idea. Russsell goes on to say that Moffat suggested bringing Benny back because he’d always liked the character and that then novel turned out to be better because of it.

I’m glad Gary thinks the novel turned out better than he originally imagined. Because this reader found the novel a pretty big disappointment. Continue reading

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