Saturday, December 8, 2018

Merry Christmas, all!


The Lights of Christmas

They twinkle thru pine, tinsel, and globes,
Strands of many tiny colored bulbs—
Crimson, amber, azure, and green:
The lights of the Christmas Tree.

They tremble, flicker, then dance
Over wicks in sculpted wax,
Flames aglow with warmth on the mantle:
The light of Christmas Candles.

It shines thru all times and all ages
Sparking goods works in all places
Even in those who don’t know His Name:
The Light of the Christmas Babe.

Jeff Thomason
12/4/2018

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Book Review - Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship by Robert Kurson

Pirates have always fascinated me, both the myths created by storytellers and movie makers and the reality that wasn't so violent or glamorous. So little of real pirates and what they did is known, that every new nugget of knowledge is an exciting find.

Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship by Robert Kurson is a nonfiction account of an actual search and discovery of an obscure pirate and his ship that should be much more famousIt is available as an eBook, Audiobook, and those paper things your grandparents used to read.

The Good


John Banister. I had never heard of John Banister, but this book included so much of his story and character that I'm dying to see a movie about his life. He was a fascinating character, filled with brilliance and contradictions, and lived several exciting adventures that would be perfect for the silver screen.

Background on Treasure Hunting and Searches. The author did an excellent job spelling out the realities of treasure hunting, the lifestyle, the challenges, the sacrifices, and the rare payoffs. I've seen fictional portrayals of all this, but to find out what happens in real life to real people was very interesting.

The Bad

Not a Lot Happened. I enjoyed the story, but it would be hard to turn into a movie without a lot of creative license. While quite a bit happened, not at much as one would expect happened. And a lot of it wasn't unique to this particular incident, but sounded to so many other stories.

Weird "Learned from the Natives" Shoehorned in at the End. The author shoehorned in a single experience about natives using a rock and sticks to change his tire, then made it some major point of learning right at the end. It felt like pandering and trying to make the author sound enlightened and not like an experience he actually learned from. If he really was so impressed with the natives and their ingenuity, he needed to include a lot more examples thruout the book and not some quick, unnecessary side note near the end.

What I Would Like to Have Seen


I wish there had been more to the story.

Overall


Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship by Robert Kurson is a well written account of a handful of men and a pirate that should be a lot more famous than he is. The story of John Banister, the pirate, was fascinating and would make an incredible film. The story of the discovery of his ship not so much. I give this book 4 out of 5 eReaders.


   

Monday, December 3, 2018

Book Review - Andrew Carnegie by David Nasaw

In college, one of my Economic instructors often referred to Andrew Carnegie and mentioned what he would do. The version he presented made Carnegie out to be a fascinating character I wanted to learn more about.

Andrew Carnegie by David Nasaw is a biographyIt is available as an eBook, Audiobook, and those paper things your grandparents used to read.

The Good


Research. Before he died, Andrew Carnegie started an autobiography which his wife finished and published after his death. A biography considered very authoritative was also published. Apparently both contained a lot of inaccuracies, unverifiable stories, and flat out lies. The author did an excellent job researching the man and explaining what can be verified and what can't.

Portrayal. The author focused on who Carnegie was as much as what he did. Carnegie was quite a paradox preaching one thing while practicing its opposite. He also flipped his opinion on several issues throughout his life. The author also shows him as delusional thinking he had much more influence than he did.

The Bad

Bias. The author has his own opinions and interpretation of history, and makes no attempts to be objective and hide his conclusions. Nor does he leave the reader much room to disagree or draw his own conclusions.

What I Would Like to Have Seen


I wish the author had been more objective.

Overall


Andrew Carnegie by David Nasaw is a well researched biography of an important figure in US and World History. The author presents who the man was as well as what he did. He points out what can and cannot be verified and corrects many errors and purposeful fabrications from previous biographies including Carnegie's own autobiography. Unfortunately, the author has own opinions and interpretation of history, and makes no attempts to be objective and hide his conclusions. That would have been fine in a work of fiction, but not so much in a work of nonfiction. I give this book 4 out of 5 eReaders.


   

Friday, November 30, 2018

Book Review - Gen 13: A Christmas Caper

Back in college I saw a small ad in the back of a WildStorm comic where writer and artist Tom McWeeney described the wonder and magic of Christmas specials (like Santa Claus is Coming to Town, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and other) growing up before the days of home video and cable television. They were only shown once a year so you had to check the TV Guide carefully and plan accordingly, or you would miss it and have to wait a whole other year. It reminded me of

Gen 13: A Christmas Caper by Tom McWeeney, Richard Friend, Jeromy Cox, and Todd Klein is a full-color 48-page Prestige Format comic bookIt is available in print. I don't know why this isn't available digitally. It's a CLASSIC!!

The Good


Concept. The concept is Gen13 as small children used to lure Santa Claus to a black-ops base to punish him for the coal he delivered to a certain Director of IO. The purpose of the comic was to capture the magic of the classic Christmas specials from the 60s, 70s, and 80s. The writer/artist said he wanted to create something that would be classic, that readers would pull out and read every year, because it just wouldn't be Christmas without it. He succeeded. This book perfectly captures the feeling of those Christmas Classics.

Art. The art is beautiful. It looks very modern while incorporating elements of classic children's storybooks.

Writing. The writing is part classic poetry and part modern prose. There's humor, angst, fear, cheerfulness, romance, danger, and excitement. Even after nearly 20 years, it's still as fun and enjoyable as ever.

The Bad

Ummm...

What I Would Like to Have Seen


Tom McWeeney do more specials.

Overall


Gen 13: A Christmas Caper by Tom McWeeney, Richard Friend, Jeromy Cox, and Todd Klein is Christmas classic I pull out and read every year. It just wouldn't be Christmas without it. The writing, the art, and the overall presentation is as good as it gets. This is a true classic. I give this book 5 out of 5 eReaders.


    

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Book Review - Dead Men Can't Complain and Other Stories by Peter Clines

I am a huge lover of short stories, especially science fiction short stories. I buy and read a lot of anthologies, but find myself disappointed by a good number of stories in almost any collection (Edmond Hamilton collections being an exception). The two books I've read by Peter Clines were both excellent and original, so I thought I'd give his short fiction a whirl.

Dead Men Can't Complain and Other Stories is a science fiction short story anthology by Peter Clines. It's an Audible original and exclusive.

The Good


Mulligan.
 This story involves time travel and changing history so different species become the dominant species told thru a police interrogation.

The End of the Experiment. This is a time travel story in England.

Flesh Trade. This is a monster story mixed with a slave trade.

The Apocrypha of Gamma 202. This is an android story that explores deity.

Dead Men Can't Complain. This is another zombie story about what life is like for the undead.

Forged. This is a very short story about magic and immortality.

Contraption. This is a story about the dangers of an addictive game.


The Not-Quite-As-Good


Bedtime Story. This story is a dark version of Superman showing what would happen if he decided to make everyone safe.


The Long, Deep Dream. This story is a detective story where the private eye finds out about a secret the whole world is controlled by.

Red Neck Romancy. This is very short horror story.

The Hat Box. This is a zombie story.


What I Would Like to Have Seen


More stories!!


Overall


Dead Men Can't Complain and Other Stories by Peter Clines is an incredible anthology of science fiction and horror stories, each taking an original angle on a tried-and-true troupe of the genres. Even though the stories are short, they don't feel rushed or cut short. Each feels fully realized and left me satisfied while wanting a sequel. Even the not-quite-as-good stories are well done. I give it a solid 5 out of 5 eReaders.



      

Movie Review - Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald



I am not a Harry Potter fan, but I saw all of the films and found a couple of them entertaining. I had no interest in seeing the first Fantastic Beasts film, but the trailer for the second one made me curious.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is a 2018 fantasy adventure film based on the Harry Potter franchise. It is rated PG-13 for mild violence and is appropriate for most ages.

The Good


Visuals. The film was visually beautiful, especially the scenes of the main character's animal sanctuary in his home and the circus in Paris.

Story. The story was solid if a little thin. It made sense and progressed fairly logically.

The Bad


Characters. The characters were not interesting, nor developed. I had a hard time feeling anything for them. I never felt invested in their story or fate.

Lack of Wonder and Fun. The Harry Potter films had a sense of wonder and fun. This film lacks the same fun with magic for most of the story.

Twist. There were a few twists in the story and "mystery", but none of them were shocking or surprising. I actually rolled my eyes at the last one surprised the filmmakers went for such an obvious connection.

Pacing. The pace of the film was very slow. The Harry Potter films had so much going on (until the last two) that they moved. This one didn't have enough story or action to fill the time, so everything was stretched out.

What I Would Like to Have Seen


I with this film had more going on, more fun with magic, and more interesting characters.

Overall


Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald lacks the fun and wonder of the Harry Potter films. The characters aren't as interesting, and I had a hard time caring about what happened to them. The film is visually beautiful to watch with a few interesting scenes, but most of the movie moves slowly and the story felt thin. The final battle at the end and the "big reveals" were small, obvious, and disappointing. I give this film 3.5 out of 5 boxes of popcorn.

   

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Book Review - Fight and Flight, Magic 2.0 Book 4 by Scott Meyer

I've been reading this series since it debuted and have enjoyed every installment. Somehow the author has found a way to bring something new to the saga without changing the basic premise or any of the things that make the stories so much fun. When I reached the fourth book, I read a lot of negative reviews about this story, so I hesitated to pick it up. Would it be an epic fail like so many readers had reported?

Fight and Flight, Magic 2.0 Book 4 by Scott Meyer is a satirical, comedic, science fiction fantasyIt is available as an eBook, Audiobook, and those paper things your grandparents used to read.

The Good


Premise & Execution. The author has a really clever premise--there is a text file that dictates the makeup of the universe, and altering that file alters reality. People that find the file end up going back to Camelot and pretending to be wizards. The author has also done a masterful job of executing the premise. It's fun, it's clever, it's enjoyable. And four books later, the author hasn't spoiled the stories nor repeated himself.

Characters. The characters are so enjoyable and so likable. They are well developed and while they grow and learn things, they stay basically the same so the stories never drift from what we like.

Narration. The narrator does a brilliant job giving each character a unique voice and reading the stories in the appropriate tone of voice. He's as responsible for the success of the series as the author.

The Bad

Content. This story was as long as others, but very little happened. The story is about dragons. I think the author could have spent a little more time thinking up cool thinks to do with them.

What I Would Like to Have Seen


I wish more had happened.

Overall


Fight and Flight, Magic 2.0 Book 4 by Scott Meyer continues a fun, clever series with lots of pop culture references and video game like adventures. The author has managed to once again bring something new to the saga without changing the basic premise or any of the things that make the stories so much fun, something. The story does not feel like a remake or version of any of the previous stories while still retaining everything about them that made them so much fun. This one didn't have quite as much story or adventure as previous stories. I give this book 4 out of 5 eReaders.


   

Friday, November 9, 2018

Book Review - Two Kinds of Truth by Michael Connelly

I love mysteries, but it's really hard to find a good mystery novel. Too often they are slow paced and so long that I've figured out who did it long before the end.

Two Kinds of Truth by Michael Connelly is a mystery crime thrillerIt is available as an eBook, Audiobook, and those paper things your grandparents used to read.

The Good


Twist/Whodunit. This story had a twist at the end I hand't seen before. I really enjoyed the original idea.

Side Story. This novel actually contained two stories that really didn't have anything to do with each other than the main character. Normally that would annoy me being little more than filler, but the secondary story was actually more interesting than the main story, so I enjoyed it.

The Bad

Pace. The pace was a little slow.

Writing. The writing was proficient, but nothing special. I won't be rushing out to find more titles by this author.

What I Would Like to Have Seen


I wish the characters had been more interesting and the writing stronger.

Overall


Two Kinds of Truth by Michael Connelly is a well written mystery with a twist I hadn't heard before. The side story, while having little to do with the main story, was actually more interesting that the main story. The characters weren't interesting enough for me to read a sequel, nor was the writing anything special. I give this book 4 out of 5 eReaders.


   

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Book Review - The Aviators: Eddie Rickenbacker, Jimmy Doolittle, Charles Lindbergh, and the Epic Age of Flight by Winston Groom

I'm a big fan of history, especially from the gay 90s thru the roaring 20s and into the 30s and early 40s. I also love early aviation. So how could I not pick up this book.

The Aviators: Eddie Rickenbacker, Jimmy Doolittle, Charles Lindbergh, and the Epic Age of Flight by Winston Groom is a satirical, comedic, science fiction legal thrillerIt is available as an eBook, Audiobook, and those paper things your grandparents used to read.

The Good


Stories. The stories the author chose were incredible, and while the men mentioned didn't really work together or have the same background, their stories parallelled in interesting ways.

Writing. The stories were so well told. The writing didn't get in the way of the narrative. The author was very objective presenting the stories as history and not trying to push a particular view or political position.

The Bad

Narration. The narration was good, but it wasn't great. It didn't take away from the story, but it certainly didn't add anything to it.

What I Would Like to Have Seen


I'd love for this to be adapted to film.

Overall


The Aviators: Eddie Rickenbacker, Jimmy Doolittle, Charles Lindbergh, and the Epic Age of Flight by Winston Groom tells the story of three incredible pioneers of early aviation and their lifetimes of contributions even after their initial fame and history-making exploits. The three men didn't work together or even follow the same path, yet their stories have several parallels that I wasn't aware of. The writing was strong, the storytelling masterful. I couldn't put this down. I give this book 5 out of 5 eReaders.