Tag Archives: ebooks

The Magicians – Review

The-Magicians-Book-Cover-e1317909429117In 2009, Lev Grossman, a writer for some of the most popular newspapers and magazines in the world gave us a new fantasy book. The premise, what if the Harry Potter series and the Chronicles of Narnia had a child, but that child turned out to be a vulgar, “adult” perversion of it’s parents. This is The Magicians

The Good

The was one thing that stood out as a positive. The innate depravity of human kind is on full display. Every character is lost in a hopeless cycle of searching for happiness and never being able to find it. They are trapped in a life were there is nothing beyond themselves and the material world, even their fantasy realm is just as mundane and morose as the “real word”. It is a fantastic representation of darwinian, atheistic belief and the utter despair that kind of worldview fosters.

The Bad

The Magicians stands on the backs of fantasy genius, Rowling and Lewis, yet it lacks any of the heart, depth or soul of either. The plot meanders for far to long, following pointlessly vacant characters doing aimless things. There is no driving force to the plot or passion in the story. It is the post-modern Harry Potter/Narnia and it suffers under the weight of it’s hollowness.

Another important issue is the amorality of the characters. This fits perfectly with the feeling that Grossman seems to be striving for. The problem is it never rises above feeling like Harry Potter: The College Years. Grossman seems to revel in the salaciousness and profanity of his characters. The whole time it just feels forced, as a way to cover up for his constant and blatant ripping off of Rowling and Lewis; it’s the book’s undoing. By leaning so heavily on these pillars of fantasy, Grossman’s story falters, coming up completely void and empty in comparison. Tolkien and Lewis both speak of the power in fantasy and myth to teach as well as mirror the great story of the Gospel, even George Lucas with Star Wars understood this. Myth can guide and teach in ways no other literature can. Yet as you read The Magicians, the lack of purpose gnaws on you, reminding you that Lewis, Rowling and Tolkien are all on your shelf with the ability to wash away ruinous, joyless fantasy such as this.

Although there are many problems with this book, the last I’ll mention is the lack of joy and fun. All of the characters are completely lost and lifeless, eking out, what can only be considered vapid, wearisome lives that no one reading would wish for. The hopelessness and purposelessness translates to the reader, a rain cloud following you everywhere. It is sad because just as much as there should be some fun, fantasy can also be a very serious work and regrettably here too, the book fails. There is just not enough self reflection for the characters or meat to the story for there to be of any redeeming value. Fantasy should have a sense of awe and wonder, like Harry in Diagon Alley for the first time or Lucy entering the wintered Narnia to find a lamp-post in the wood. Unfortunately all The Magicians has to offer is drunk, drugged miscreants with little worth living for.

Conclusion

Do yourself a favor, pick up Narnia, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, something by Le Guin, Riordon or Asimov and leave The Magicians to gather dust at you local bookstore.

Best Books I Read in 2014

history-books

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The-Goldfinch-by-Donna-Tartt

1. The Goldfinch

A deeply moving story following the life of Theo Decker and his connection to the famous Carel Fabritius painting. Poignant, striking and utterly engrossing, Donna Tartt’s novel will keep you riveted. It’s 775 pages feel short and you’ll wonder where the time has gone to when it hauntingly ends.

 

lila2. Lila

Marilynne Robinson’s latest entry in her Gilead series is a prequel to the previous two novels It chronicles the grace-filled meeting and marriage between John Ames and Lila. With lyrical prose Robinson weaves a tale of beatific grace and it’s power to change a life, even the most broken. This is not to be missed.

StationElevenNorthAmericaHiRes3. Station Eleven

What if there were not internet, social media, planes, trains or automobiles because 99% of the human race had been lost to a plague? Station Eleven is such a tale, using the connecting tissues of 5 peoples lives, it will leave you pondering, “What really matters in life and what is essential for not just survival but fullness in life?” It may just keep you up at night wondering.

71H07YG4zWL4. The Children Act

My review this year still says it the best, “The Children Act is well written and McEwan’s prose sparkles as per usual. The though-provoking nature of this book, along with the lack of sufficient answers to it’s timeless questions make it worth the read.”

 

undaunted-courage-9781439126172_hr

5. Undaunted Courage

Few men have dared the unknown like Lewis & Clark. Trapping across lands never before seen by Europeans their mission would change to course of America’s future. Ambrose makes you feel as if you were there, every step of the way and you’ll find yourself longing to see the wilderness along with them.

all-the-light-we-cannot-see-9781501104565_hr6. All the Light We Cannot See

World War II comes to life though the eyes of a young German boy and a blind French girl in Doerr’s captivating and stunning novel. His prose sparkles as he intertwines these two unlikely characters. It’s no wonder it was a National Book Award finalist.

 

EE67DF36-92F3-4FE0-9BEA-D713A267E598Img1007. Theodore Rex

Picking up from his previous work The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, Morris tells of his years as president. Teddy pops of the pages so that when you are done you feel as though you know him as you would a close friend. One of the most interesting and entertaining men to read about, well worth your time.

9780679643333_custom-01536d8d724691f824c0238a335f639a9c182645-s6-c308. Les Misérables

This was my first time to read through Hugo’s melancholy masterpiece. Full of detail and character moments that would not fit into a movie or musical that bring to life further Jean Valjean’s life. Still one of the most powerful representations of the Gospel in literature and therefore worth your time.

 

51bnekrLwsL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_9. Popcultured

The perfect primer for critically thinking about the influences that bombard us daily. From photography, news, films, comedy, fashion, advertisements and more, Turner helps us understand the problem of mindless consumption. This is a must read for 2015.

 

ST_Vgr_Acts_Contrition_Cvr10. Acts of Contrition

Sometimes tie-in fiction transcends it’s unfortunate reputation and touches you personally. Beyer’s work here with the character of Tom Paris did that for me and made this not just a good continuation of the Voyager story line she’s so deftly, it created a genuine connection. And that, makes it a good book in general.

Honorable Mention

book_thiefThe Book Thief

Although this book has been out for years the film finally motivated me to read it before I saw the movie. I really enjoyed it. The storytelling structure is unique and the themes of love and friendship in times of hatred and fear are timeless.

 

What did you read this year that you would recommend and what are you excited to read in 2015? Comment and let me know, I always need good recommendations; two of the books on this list are there because of a friend!

Star Wars: A New Dawn – Review

A_New_Dawn_coverIn June of 1991 Heir to the Empire gave Star Wars fans something they had been craving since 1983, further adventures in the universe George Lucas created. Timothy Zahn’s book kicked off what became known as the Expanded Universe and for over 20 years thrilled, annoyed and satiated the fans desire for more Star Wars. With the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney and the plans for a new trilogy to take place after the events of Return of the Jedi, the expanded universe has been reclassified as the “Legends” line. Bits and pieces of it will influence future projects in the Star Wars universe, but none of what is seen in the Legends line is considered canon. A New Dawn is aptly named as it begins a whole new line of Star Wars tie-in merchandise. From now on, the books, comics, films and games will all work in concert, creating the whole saga.

Path of Destruction

A New Dawn is the prequel to the upcoming Disney show, Star Wars Rebels which introduces the genesis of the rebellion against the Empire. Set 14 years after the events of Revenge of the Sith and 2 years before Rebels, the galaxy is firmly in the grip of the Empire. John Jackson Miller uses his Soviet studies degree to full effect in creating the milieu that exists under the rule of Emperor Palpatine. Citizens are under constant surveillance and their importance is based solely on their usefulness in growing the Empire. Miller is able to weave in the topical issues of wire-tapping and corporate greed well without getting lost in the parallels. This time period feels perfect as the galaxy “obeys the master’s whip.”

The main villain here fits brilliantly. Vidian is a commercial opportunist with a Machiavellian streak rivaling Palpatine himself. He is willing to do what ever it takes to fulfill his desires even if that means destroying a world. He may be more machine than man, bringing to mind Vader, but his mind puts him on par with the most cunning villains Star Wars has had.

Choice of One

The true highlight of the book is the origin story of Kanan and Hera’s relationship. These two will be part of the main cast of Rebels and Miller chronicles what brought them together.

Kanan is a former Jedi who’s master was killed by Order 66. He received Obi-Wan’s message to avoid Coruscant and detection. Therefore he takes on the persona of a drunken rebel-rouser, who’s only goal is to make enough to earn that next drink. Kanan is a man adrift, feeling abandoned by the Force and the galaxy at large, he’s lost any sense of purpose. It’s inspiring to see him slowly learn throughout the book the meaning of being a Jedi, even if he can’t be one in the open. It’s about serving others and the greater good.

Hera on the other hand knows who she is and her mission from the beginning. She’s seen to oppression of the Empire, it’s evils and is looking to do something to challenge that. She understands clearly that change has to begin somewhere, “Ignition leads to reaction leads to detonation.” Miller really captures the spirit of rebellion in Hera. It’s the choices of ordinary people, every day that can make a difference and it starts with one brave soul, willing to stand up for what is right to inspire others. Hera is this person, clearly having that effect on every person she meets in the story, inspiring them to be their best selves for the betterment of others.

Hera and Kanan have the best banter this side of Han and Leia. It will be fascinating to see how the characters evolve as Rebels progresses. Especially in light of what is revealed in the book, that the Jedi ban on romantic relationships is not part of the Jedi Code but an addition to their rules for life later. These are the nuggets that will leave Star Wars fans guessing. Is this a set up for things we will see not only on the new TV show but also the new feature films as well? Only time will tell.

star-wars-rebels-kanan-hera

Conclusion

If you come into this book expecting a new Heir to the Empire you will be disappointed. This is every inch a tie-in novel. It’s boundaries are clear; introduce us to Kanan and Hera as well as the feel of the Rebels era and in that Miller soars. From the moment the book begins it just feels right. The atmosphere utterly represents the dark times, after the Clone Wars, but before the flames of rebellion have begun to spread. The secondary characters of Skelly, Zaluna, Okadiah and Sloane are all worthy additions to the Star Wars pantheon and hopefully will pop up in other novels.

A word of caution to Del Ray, Disney and Lucasfilm. If you are going to have the books, comics and games be canon they need to have weight. People need a reason to read or play, so make the stories important and not just filler. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has suffered with this very issue, so please be careful to not allow this to happen with the these Star Wars properties. The fun of the now Legends line, were the big, galaxy altering events that took place. Just because there are new films or shows does not mean readers and gamers don’t want meat to the stories, something that matters. A New Dawn is a wonderful start to this new era, hopefully all that follows will be just as fun and meaningful to the overall saga of Star Wars. Rated 8 1/2 out of 10 

 

Disclosure: This book was provided by Del Ray as an early review and in no way affects the thoughts or feelings of the reviewer.

Who Mourns For Apollo?

zeus-is-dead-tour-banner-5

My mom introduced me to Star Trek when I was a kid, in the pre-TNG era. At the time, one of my favorite episodes was “Who Mourns For Adonais?”, a vision of what happened to the Greek gods by the 23rd century. I loved Greek mythology (and still do), so I was thrilled to see the Enterprise meet Apollo.

As of last week, there’s another vision of what happened to the Greek gods since their heyday. My newly-released comedic fantasy, Zeus Is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure, tosses the pantheon back into our world following Zeus’s 2009 assassination. For my guest post here on Life, the Universe, and Everything In Between (and hi, it’s great to be here!), I thought I’d compare Star Trek’s Apollo with my own Apollo, who happens to be one of the novel’s main characters.

But first, a quick refresher on the episode: The Enterprise crew find themselves captive guests on a planet by Apollo, the last of the Greek gods after the others “returned to the cosmos” without the worship they need to survive. Apollo, referring to them as his “children,” demands the crew stay, forever, and worship him. Also there may be some light goat-herding.

The Differences

"I am Apollo, god of light and Elton John's wardrobe!"

“I am Apollo, god of light and Elton John’s wardrobe!”

Let’s be honest: Trek’s Apollo is something of a pompous jerk-nozzle. But perhaps he’s got a right to be bitter? After all, he’s the last of the gods, no one worships him anymore, and he has to sit around all day in that ridiculous outfit. This Apollo hasn’t modernized. In Zeus Is Dead, the gods use cell phones, dress in modern clothing, and use Hephaestus’s special plasma-screen TVs for their mortal-watching. Heck, Dionysus hangs around in a casino all day playing video games. Trek-Apollo, while further in the future, is also stuck in the past, and perhaps a little bitter about it. Still, that doesn’t really excuse the sexist cracks (“You seem wise, for a woman.”) and general abusive boyfriend shtick he gives Lt. Palamas. And then there’s that whole forcing the Enterprise crew to stay, herd goats, and worship him all day…

I’ve always considered Apollo to be one of the more benevolent of the pantheon. Yes, he has his jerk moments in the myths, but on the whole, he strikes me as comparatively noble. Sure, my Apollo likes being worshipped, too, but he also feels he needs to hold up his end of the bargain. That’s part of why he’s so stressed out in Zeus Is Dead: there are so many billions of mortals in the modern world, all counting on him to handle his divine duties in a responsible manner.

Trek’s Apollo also goes to using physical threats quicker than mine. He’s in an adversarial position in the episode, so it makes sense for him to be more aggressive in order to put the crew in jeopardy. Trek-Apollo throws thunder and lightning around a lot, too, but that’s Zeus’s thing—or at least it used to be. Presumably this Apollo picked it up after Zeus left. Zeus is gone in Zeus Is Dead, too (it says so right there in the title, after all) but my Apollo still prefers a bow, the occasional sword, or simply his wits. In my world, Athena’s got the lightning tucked away for safe-keeping.

Despite having picked up Zeus’s lightning, Trek’s Apollo seems to have a smaller divine portfolio: “God of light and purity. Skilled in bow and the lyre.” But I’ve always seen Apollo as the over-achiever of the pantheon. Look him up. He’s god of the sun, light, prophecy, literature, music, archery, medicine, gelatin desserts, and the list goes on. Let’s face it, the guy can’t delegate. And here, perhaps, is the largest difference: my Apollo wants LESS attention. He wants to be able to go target-shooting with Artemis now and then without getting interrupted by texts from rapacious mortals every other moment. It’s what leads him to try to—well, I won’t go into the book’s details too much here, but it suffices to say it gets him into an epic amount of trouble.

The Similarities

There are a few. Both can get tired out. It’s a major plot point in both the episode and in Zeus Is Dead. Not only is that from the original myths, but it’s very difficult to use gods as main characters and not give them some weaknesses. (Fortunately, the Greek pantheon has never been considered infallible.)

Both are skilled at prophecy. Trek-Apollo knew humanity would come to the stars one day. “Of all the gods, I knew and I waited.” Though his prophecy is imperfect, too, since he didn’t foresee what happens…much like my Apollo’s visions of Zeus’s return.

Both have their pride – though Trek-Apollo’s is more easily tweaked, at least at first. In Zeus Is Dead, Apollo suffers enough setbacks that he starts getting a bit snippy about things too, and in those moments both Apollos seem to share a need to demonstrate power to comfort their egos.

And, finally, both Apollos crave a break from their current circumstances, but whereas the gods in Star Trek faded away into melancholy non-existence, the gods in Zeus Is Dead have done the exact opposite: Freed from Zeus’s edict of non-interaction, they’ve come back to the world like kids on Christmas morning to dive into the bounty of worldwide celebrity status. They revel in their new temples, casinos, and media empires, their long-starved, superhuman egos now gorging themselves on as much attention as they can get…

…What could possibly go wrong?

Zeus

Is Dead

A MONSTROUSLY INCONVENIENT

ADVENTURE

“A hilarious mythological tale of god-like proportions. Munz has crafted a tale of bizarro comic fantasy that sits comfortably among the ilk of Gaiman and Pratchett.”

—Andrew Buckley, author of Death, the Devil, and the Goldfish

ZID coverBOOK DETAILS:

Title: Zeus is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure

Author: Michael G. Munz

Genre: Contemporary Mythological Fantasy

Release date: July 21st, 2014

Publisher: Booktrope Publishing

Length: 446 pages (paperback)

Synopsis:

The gods are back. Did you myth them?

You probably saw the press conference. Nine months ago, Zeus’s murder catapulted the Greek gods back into our world. Now they revel in their new temples, casinos, and media empires—well, all except Apollo. A compulsive overachiever with a bursting portfolio of godly duties, the amount of email alone that he receives from rapacious mortals turns each of his days into a living hell.

Yet there may be hope, if only he can return Zeus to life! With the aid of Thalia, the muse of comedy and science fiction, Apollo will risk his very godhood to help sarcastic TV producer Tracy Wallace and a gamer-geek named Leif—two mortals who hold the key to Zeus’s resurrection. (Well, probably. Prophecies are tricky buggers.)

Soon an overflowing inbox will be the least of Apollo’s troubles. Whoever murdered Zeus will certainly kill again to prevent his return, and avoiding them would be far easier if Apollo could possibly figure out who they are.

Even worse, the muse is starting to get cranky.

Discover a world where reality TV heroes slay actual monsters and the gods have their own Twitter feeds: Zeus Is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure!

Find Zeus is Dead on:

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble

ABOUT MICHAEL G. MUNZ

michael photoAn award-winning writer of speculative fiction, Michael G. Munz was born in Pennsylvania but moved to Washington State in 1977 at the age of three. Unable to escape the state’s gravity, he has spent most of his life there and studied writing at the University of Washington.

Michael developed his creative bug in college, writing and filming four exceedingly amateur films before setting his sights on becoming a novelist. Driving this goal is the desire to tell entertaining stories that give to others the same pleasure as other writers have given to him. He enjoys writing tales that combine the modern world with the futuristic or fantastic.

Michael has traveled to three continents and has an interest in Celtic and Classical mythology. He also possesses what most “normal” people would likely deem far too much familiarity with a wide range of geek culture, though Michael prefers the term geek-bard: a jack of all geek-trades, but master of none—except possibly Farscape and Twin Peaks.

Michael dwells in Seattle where he continues his quest to write the most entertaining novel known to humankind and find a really fantastic clam linguine.

Find out more about him at michaelgmunz.com. While there, it wouldn’t hurt to get a FREE copy of Mythed Connections, the spiritual prequel to Zeus is Dead.

Contact Michael on Twitter / Facebook

GIVEAWAY INFORMATION

Sign up to win either:

A $25 Amazon Gift Card

One of two signed copies of Zeus is Dead by Michael G. Munz

DVD of Clash of the Titans (1981)

One of five e-copies of A Memory in the Black, Book 2 in The New Aeneid Cycle by Michael G. Munz

Click Here -> a Rafflecopter giveaway

Serpents in the Garden – Review

Serpents in the GardenThis review was originally posted on Trek.fm

Jeff Mariotte’s newest Star Trek book, “Serpents in the Garden,” is a follow-up to the classic episode “A Private Little War.” When Admiral Kirk finds out that the Klingons may once again be interfering in the affairs of Neural, he embarks on a secret mission to expose the Klingons while trying to minimize damage with the native population due to the Prime Directive. With no starship backup, Kirk may just have created his first no-win scenario.

CHOICE OF FUTURES

Kirk has made many split-second decisions in his career. His first five-year mission was replete with facing the unknown while doing his best to make the smartest choices he could with the information and experience he had. Throughout this book, Kirk reminisces about the actions he took all those years ago on Neural and whether they were really the best solution to the problem. What he concludes from his newest adventure is that he did make the best choice he could at the time. His mistake was in not following up with the situation to ensure that the Klingons had not returned and that Starfleet had adequately monitored the situation.

This story is a good reminder that our choices have long lasting consequences. Like Kirk, we do the best we can at the time, using our experience and knowledge to forge our path in this world. Remembering to follow up on our decisions is an important lesson. Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation were not the best at showing us this kind of thing. Mariotte does a great job letting us see Kirk deal with his past decisions; the galaxy is a big place, but this story goes a long way to show that follow-up is just as important as initial contact.

CONCLUSION

One of the best things about this book is its time frame. It is set in the interim between the end of the five-year mission and The Motion Picture. The insight into Kirk and his rediscovery of his love of starship command is definitely a highlight. The story is well told, yet not overwhelming in grandeur. It is a solid entry in the Novelverse and well worth the read. I rate it six out of ten Mugato attacks.

Protectors – Review

51gcPN47wnLOriginally posted at Trek.fm

“Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light; I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.”

-Sarah Williams, English poet

When we last left Voyager and the Full Circle fleet, Kathryn Janeway had returned from the dead and helped defeat the Omega Continuum, but at a very high cost. Protectors  picks up right after the events of The Eternal Tide and thrusts Janeway and the fleet into uncharted territory, both emotionally and physically. Beyer, with her usual deftness, weaves a much-needed story forVoyager while never losing sight of who the characters are. Her work here is outstanding, leaving every fan on the edge of their command chairs anticipating the next book in this trilogy.

BASICS

One of Beyer’s strengths in writing Voyager is an inherent knowledge of the characters and their potential. She used the previous four books to create vivid characters that jump off the page, making the reader exclaim, “I always knew the show could have been like this!” This book is no exception. The character of Janeway is brought to the forefront of the story as she is recalled to the Alpha Quadrant to face a battery of tests and evaluations in light of her resurrection. Beyer uses this to her full advantage, stripping Janeway to the bone and rectifying years of inconstencies. Counselor Cambridge says it best when he tells Janeway, “You could try to avoid this work for the rest of your life, Kathryn. But do that and I promise, eventually, it will bring you to your knees.” Janeway is forced to look at her life, her choices, and comes to terms with them.

What works so well here is the illustration of self-examination. Beyer uses Janeway’s personal and professional reckoning, as well as Tom Paris facing his past decisions, to show the ways in which our pasts can be something to fear but also prepare us for the future. We all have things in our lives that we are not proud of or wish we could take back. Gretchen Janeway tells Kathryn, “Just remember, regrets are powerful, but they are also lousy companions.” The past should teach and instruct — not cripple — and Beyer uses these characters to remind us of this important lesson.

CONCLUSION

Protectors is a slower book than The Eternal Tide, but the pace is needed. Janeway becomes a fully-realized character who will now be known for her depth rather than her inconsistencies. She has finally become the character fans always knew she could be, but never was on screen. Characters from Voyager that were so under-utilized, like Harry Kim and Chakotay, are given many shining moments and have become more than their one-note selves from the show. Beyer has also created a fascinating new Delta Quadrant group known as the Confederacy of the First Worlds, which is sure to be a foil for the Full Circle fleet.

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The Decline of the American Book Lover:

354750466_1383346651The Pew Research Center reported last week that nearly a quarter of American adults had not read a single book in the past year. As in, they hadn’t cracked a paperback, fired up a Kindle, or even hit play on an audiobook while in the car. The number of non-book-readers has nearly tripled since 1978.

Why Classic Movies Have Terrible Trailers:

imgpulp20fiction1Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, originally released in 1994, has aged gorgeously. It’s one of those rare films that can be watched and re-watched for 20 years and remain as shocking, vivid, and irresistible as the year it was released.

The 1994 trailer, however, now seems corny and dated by comparison.

Porn and Future Marriage:

Indulgence in pornography is not a problem that only young, unmarried boys face. It’s an epidemic that stretches into the realm of men who are married and women of all kinds (young or old, married or not). However, this post is aimed particularly toward young, unmarried men. The reason I am speaking to this particular group is because I know from firsthand experience the complications that this addiction causes for young men and their future marriage.

On TV: BBC’s Sherlock, “The Empty Hearse”:

673acbad-274c-42fe-96c5-83aabb26bf5e_sherlock-season-3BBC’s Sherlock has become one of my favorite shows on television, and it was immensely fun having some new material and quelling the peremptory curiosity left by the end of last season. It was genuinely enjoyable seeing Holmes back on the screen, even though, last night, Sherlock’s self-absorbed callousness was especially in-your-face – sort of making me wonder why I like BBC’s Holmes at all. All of his flaws were on high display, and they were made all the more irritating by his inability to apologize. And yet he remains compelling, not just immensely likeable, but even lovable, an obsession for some viewers (myself included) which the showrunners not-so-subtly parodied with The Empty Hearse Fan Club. And Sherlock’s disdain for them parallels Moffat’s condescension to the his viewers, opening the episode with a wild bungee jump and James Bond-esque kiss of Molly, followed by a breezy departure. Certainly some viewers would enjoy such action-hero panache, but we’re made to understand, early on, that this conventional smoothness isn’t, at all, who Sherlock is.