Monday, December 29, 2008

Not Exactly Christmas Reading...

...but I enjoyed this book a lot one night when I was stricken with insomnia and just couldn't get interested in anything else. It provided hours of entertainment and I was ready for bed (and nightmares) by the time I finished it. Nothing like zombies to ring in the New Year.

For the review, go here.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Eartha Kitt, RIP

My earliest memories of Eartha Kitt were of her in the role of Catwoman on Batman in the 1960s. She replaced long-time fave, Julie Newmar. When Ms. Kitt stepped into the catsuit, she brought a whole new air of menace to Catwoman.

It wasn't until I was growing up and started hearing her sing on variety shows that I realized how talented she was as a singer. And it wasn't until I was a man looking back on the turbulent years I grew up in that I realized how daring and earth-moving she really was.

She made her career and her life her own, and every time I saw her she seemed full of zest and challenge. I still remember her as Catwoman when I first think of her, but she was so very much more.

My 11 year old knew her as Yzma from The Emperor's New School on Disney, so we've both lost someone from our childhoods who was dear to us.

Eartha, God bless, and thanks for all the memories.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

My New Favorite Show!

I teach on Monday nights, so I didn’t know what I was missing until my wife and son started talking about The Big Bang Theory. The show is now in its second season and as part of the CBS comedy bloc on that night. At first their disjointed stories about the characters and situations didn’t really catch my attention. I could tell they were enjoying the program, though.

Eventually, the Monday night class ended. I began working those nights again, but Sherry and Chandler called me to watch the show. By the first commercial, I had a lot of questions for them. I didn’t know who the characters were or what exactly the romantic entanglement was. However, I was captured by the geekdom that runs rampant throughout the series.

The Big Bang Theory centers primarily on the relationship of Leonard and Sheldon, who have been friends for quite some time and now live together. Leonard is portrayed by Johnny Galecki of Rosanne fame. Jim Parsons brings Sheldon to life in a way I feel certain no other actor could do.

Their next door neighbor, and Leonard’s major crush, is Penny. Kaley Cuoco plays the blonde waitress of a local Cheesecake Factory restaurant perfectly. She’s simply stunning to look at, dresses sexily without even meaning to, and generally doesn’t have a clue during the geek conversations Leonard and children have. Sometimes the on again off again relationship between Penny and Leonard wears a little on the nerves, but the overall character mix is wonderful.

Every time I watch the show, I find something new to love about the ensemble. Leonard and Sheldon had me with the comic book trivia (the framed comic books and comic book t-shirts simply added to the love). These are the guys that I generally run into at science fiction conventions. They speak Klingon, know how to mix matter and anti-matter, yet don’t have a clue about how to understand girls.

I love the Halo combat sessions they play against each other and the many ways they have of getting on each other’s nerves. One of the best episodes in the first season was when Sheldon caught a cold. As soon as Leonard knew Sheldon was getting ill, he bailed. He also warned their two friends, Howard and Raj. The three of them already had emergency plans in place to stay away from Sheldon while he was sick. Unfortunately, Leonard reached out to Penny and managed to suck them all back into Sheldon’s needy clutches.

Although I don’t understand all of it, I really appreciate the science that is mentioned as well. My 11 year old has a touch of Aspergers and his IQ is higher than mine. We end up in really deep discussions about that science and comic books and television shows Leonard and Sheldon talk about. One result is that my son and I are now watching Star Trek: The Original Series together.

If you haven’t seen The Big Bang Theory, you really should. Even if you don’t appreciate all the geek trivia and pop culture that leavens the episodes, there’s a lot of comedy that goes on between the characters. Parsons is an excellent actor and his Sheldon portrayal deserves attention. I think Sheldon is going to become one of those iconic characters that will represent the best of television in the years to come.

The first season is available on DVD. That’s how I got caught up quickly. More than that, this is a series I know I will watch again and loan out to friends who haven’t seen it yet.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Doc Wilde Coming in May '09!

I've been a Doc Savage fan for almost 40 years, as of my birthday this week. I discovered the Bantam reprints with the famous James Bama covers on them in 6th grade and fell in love with the globe-trotting adventures. At the time, there was nothing like them. He was my generation's Harry Potter.

While cruising the pulp sites today (because I haven't let go of my love for pulpy goodness), I found the Doc Wilde book cover. I pre-ordered my copy immediately from Amazon.

And I found more information about the author and the books here. Evidently this book is the first of a series.

I hope they seriously rock!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Coming In January!

The third book in my NCIS series covers the damaged relationship between Marine Gunnery Sergeant Shel McHenry and his father, with seeds that go back to the Vietnam War. This is a book that's near and dear to my heart, and I take a stab at explaining some of the complexities between fathers and sons.

If that's not enough for you, there is a lot of blistering action, frantic pacing, and junkyard guard pigs!

Friday, December 05, 2008

John Zakour's New Retro/Futuristic Zach Johnson PI Novel Is Out!

I love these covers. They're what first pulled me to the books. Zakour writes a fun SF/private eye pastich that's light and frothy. No brain strain here, and they're perfect for a lazy weekend.

I miss the golden days of science fiction when everything seemed so big and so wondrous. The stuff that science is able to do these days is even more fantastic than I'd ever believed we see, but everything seems inner directed instead of outward to all those exciting planets I'd imagined while growing up.

Zakour allows me to be that 12 year old kid again, and I appreciate that. If you haven't read the series, you should look into it.

I especially love the stressed look of the older covers. They look like old pulp magazines you'd find in some forgotten corner of a swap shop. Sadly, the newer editions seem to be getting away from that, but I still enjoy the cheesy good girl art.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Diary of a Book Addict!

I've added a new blog over in the roster. It belongs to one of the OU students I coach in writing. She reads A LOT! Go check out her reviews here and welcome her to the cyber realms!

Monday, November 24, 2008

The New Tomb Raider Game Is Coming!

It's a time of celebration in my house. Tomb Raider is one of those video games that draws everyone out of hiding in my house as we all try to solve the puzzles and physical feats Lara Croft has to manage.

We've been playing the series for years, and had almost given up on it until the brand was given to a new developer.

Now the old magic is back. Archeological digs...

...climbing action...

...lots of enemies and gunplay...

...and hair-raising leaps.

Lara Croft has always been a real swinger!

Always been one to walk the thin line between death and disaster.

On the land or in the sea, Lara's always been a daredevil.

And she has such big guns!

Puzzles, traps, and tigers -- oh my!

I can't wait.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Webcam Eyeball

I love tech, and the more it smacks of all the SF movies that I grew up with, the more I like it.

This story is incredible. Even more incredible is that it hasn't been done yet. A 35-year old artist wants to equip her prosthetic eye with a webcam so she can stream everything she sees. Want to bet this turns up in an espionage movie coming soon?

Here's your link.

In the meantime, the webcam stuff is getting so small it would be interesting to see where you could put them now. I remember an old television show called SEARCH (wiki) that featured micro cameras and radios. We're at that stage people.

Privacy may soon be one of those things people talk about but never have the chance to experience. Although, given how much time most people spend on the phone or on the Net, privacy may not have much value for most folks these days. I still enjoy it.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Ask Aida On Food Network!

For years I've been a big fan of Rachel Ray's 30 Minute Meals and the other shows she's done. I've always enjoyed Rachel's down-to-earth presentation and girl next door approach.

As a husband, I've watched my share of food and remodeling shows, had recipes tested on me and watched in helpless terror as the house I worked so hard to pay for was torn apart.

This morning, I found a new show and hostess that won me over. Aida Mollenkamp was just awesome. Easy on the eyes, fun, and energetic.

I loved Aida's laidback style and easy manner. The meal she prepared looked fantastic, and she had a blast prepping it and talking to her tech guru, Noah Starr.

While Aida worked on the meal, Noah interrupted her with questions from the show's fans. Some of the questions came over the phone, over email, and over video clips. I really enjoyed the way the show was integrated with today's tech.

Over the years, I've come to relax as I watched the frenzy in the kitchen come to a boil. I especially enjoy the candy competitions and Ace of Cakes because of the human drama.

There's no human drama on Ask Aida, Noah and Aida's lively banter and the torrent of questions kept the show's pace up dramatically.

They look good together and seem to have a lot of fun on the show.

If you haven't tried the show, you should. The premise is engaging and Aida is easy to warm to because she isn't totally polished yet (this was only her sixth show) and has a lot of natural charm. Noah has the same qualities, and watching the two of them together is a pleasure.

Look at that smile!

For more information, check out the show here.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Indiana Jones and Zombies?

Indiana Jones and zombies! Want to bet on the dialogue? "Zombies. Why did it have to be zombies?"

Coming In December!

Looking forward to this one. Says it's supposed to be based on a Wonder Woman animated movie, but I haven't found any info on that release. Anyone know?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Janica's On A Tear -- Ranting And Giving Good Advice On Budgeting!
Check her out here!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

New 007 Film!

I also got the chance to watch the new Bond film with my wife and son Sunday. Read the review here.

Book Reviews!

While fighting off sickness and spending time getting things checked out (so far everything is good, but there have been a couple surprises), I've gotten caught up on some reading.

Check out the reviews here!

And let me know what you're reading that you're intrigued with.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Best Book I've Read All Year!

I missed John Hart’s debut novel, but I now have it ordered. That’s because his Edgar Award winning second novel, Down River is – hands down – the best book I’ve read this year. I picked up the paperback edition last night and sat nailed to my chair until I’d followed the protagonist through a mire of mystery and misery, till I’d solved the last puzzle, and until I’d turned the last page.

On the surface, Down River appears to be an unassuming tale with a relatively small cast of characters that even conveys a somewhat familiar tale. Told in first-person, the novel draws the reader into a steely grip that refuses to let go. The world isn’t at risk. Millions of people aren’t going to die. But Hart makes you care so much about young Adam Chase (and maybe even doubt him a little from time to time), that I’m betting no one else can step away from that book any easier than I could.

Five years ago, twenty-three year old Adam got acquitted of a heinous crime. He was accused of murdering a man about his age, though no one really knew why he did it. However, the key to the case was his stepmother’s testimony that she saw him coming home that night covered in blood. He was arrested and charged based on that testimony.

Although Adam protests his innocence, he doesn’t tell the readers everything either. In fact, he turns out to be less likeable and more violence-prone than I figured he would be by the end of Chapter 1. I understood why he did what he did, but I know that he didn’t have to take the action that he did.

At times, I didn’t quite know what to make of young Adam. He claims to have come back home because his lifelong friend Danny Faith called him and asked for help. However, I wasn’t made privy to that conversation, and suspicions started to build because there was a lot of his past – especially the last five years – that Adam doesn’t talk about. Nor does he want to talk to anyone else about it.

I’ve been fooled by first-person characters before, so I resolved to keep a careful eye on Adam. In the novel, he can’t help but keep meeting trouble head-on.

The relationship with his father is incredibly strained because his father had to choose between believing his wife (Adam’s stepmother) or Adam. The choice was made. Even after his acquittal, Adam found no mercy at home. He moved away to New York.

He also left behind a young lover, a woman he was supposed to marry that is now a police detective. She wears her feelings out in the open, the same way she wears her badge. She doesn’t cut Adam any slack, and I couldn’t blame her for it.

Drawn back to his hometown to find Danny, Adam is surprised when no one knows where he is. The mystery deepens and the stakes grow even higher when Adam discovers that investors want to build a nuclear power plant in town. Land prices skyrocket and every poverty-stricken family in the area is certain they’re about the strike it rich.

Except that Adam’s dad is holding up the deal. Not only does he not want to sell the land that the developers want, but he’s got the primary piece the deal hinges on. No one can move forward without his agreement. And he’s not giving it.

With all the pressure from inside the family and inside the community, Adam’s stay in town isn’t pleasant. Part of him came back to help Danny, but there’s another part that admits he’s come back to set the record straight and see if he can return.

I loved all this backstory and setup. It sounds like a lot, but Hart weaves everything together to quickly and effortlessly with simple and elegant prose that readers won’t notice how much information they’re getting until they’re deep inside Adam’s skin. By that time, it’s too late. Hart will have staked out his latest victims.

Hart knows the people of the region he writes about too. The characters are full and natural, with enough individualism that they come to life on the pages. Everyone has their own agenda, and Hart establishes all of that with a few simple brushstrokes as he works on his novelist’s canvas. The dialogue is rich and easy to absorb, and it sounds natural to the mental ear.

His descriptions of the natural world, of the forests and river, and the lifestyles of the characters make everything come to life. Mental movies kept playing through my mind. Yet with all of this, Hart still manages to push his story along on a bored-out V-8 engine that demands careful attention.

Danger lurks on every page, but so do the mysteries and secrets. Adam has to go the distance to figure out everything that’s going on, and Hart plays fairly with the mystery readers: all the clues are there, in plain sight. I figured everything out just ahead of the story’s climax, which is absolutely the best place a mystery reader and put the puzzles together.

I sat engrossed in this novel for hours, and when I was finished, I wished I had another book just like it that I could dive right into. That’s the sign of a great writer and a great story. Now I’m anxiously awaiting The King of Lies and will pre-order his third novel as soon as it lists on Amazon.