Illumination Required

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, #1)Illuminae by Amie Kaufman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really liked this book. I liked the story, the world building and the characters. There was some very thoughtful stuff in there. There’s action and tension and the real sense of danger you don’t get from a lot of books without being over the top.

This book also brought up some questions that are worthy of discussion from a publishing point of view. It was an interesting choice to put the story forward as a series of found documents and compiled messages or reports. That certainly helped the speed of the book, a very quick read. What didn’t work for me was the tiny font that actually carried story information across waves or swirls or ship patterns.

To be fair about this – I was reading on an electronic device. That might make a difference. IF I had been reading a hard copy of the book, perhaps the swirls and such would have had a better feel. As it was, even when I attempted to use the e-reader’s ability to make fonts larger or zoom on pictures it was a fail. There were parts of the story I missed just because I couldn’t read it. That was very frustrating.

IF you’re going to get a copy of this book I recommend it for the story, but not so much for the layout.

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Fool Moon

Fool Moon (The Dresden Files, #2)Fool Moon by Jim Butcher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Went back and listened to this one. Much like the first (Storm Front) I was surprised at how much I didn’t remember of the details. I’d read my copy long enough ago that there was still tension when I listened despite knowing “the future” of the characters. STILL really well done.

I am really enjoying listening to the audio production. Having the book read to me is a neat way to experience the story. I did actually pick up on one teeny tiny flub in the reading – but it was so slight that I suspect most people wouldn’t catch it.

Absolutely worth going to get this version and digging back into the series!

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Carlisle Vs. Army

Carlisle vs. Army: Jim Thorpe, Dwight Eisenhower, Pop Warner, and the Forgotten Story of Football's Greatest BattleCarlisle vs. Army: Jim Thorpe, Dwight Eisenhower, Pop Warner, and the Forgotten Story of Football’s Greatest Battle by Lars Anderson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There’s no half star available on the rating scale here – I’d really put this book around 3.5 stars.

I liked this book and the slice of history it represents. One of my favorite parts of this book is the way it ties together the other things that were happening at the time when the game in question was set to go off. Historic context is very important. It’s also fascinating to draw parallels to things that still happen today, around 100 years later.

I did struggle with the way the story flow of the book was chopped up. The author went backward and forward across the time line even in the same chapter and more than once it pushed me out of my momentum so it took longer to read than it might have otherwise.

I find this book more interesting based on the simple fact that I, and my parents and my sisters family, live very near where these things took place. When I mentioned this book or folks in this area saw the cover they generally had some knowledge already about the famous Jim Thorpe. There is a lingering sense of pride even after those same 100 years and all the related issues.

IF you happen to be near the central Pennsylvania area you will find this book of interest. Some of the places mentioned are still around. If you’re a fan of football as it is played today, it is worth digging into this story to get a sense of why the game is what it is and how we’ve landed where we are. I’ve heard other versions of Pop Warner’s story, not in connection with Jim Thorpe and it interests me to see the contrasts. A different view point is always good to have. I Recommend this book based on those particulars.

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Storm Front

Storm Front (The Dresden Files, #1)Storm Front by Jim Butcher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don’t know if I’ve reviewed Storm Front on here before or not. There are a number of books I read prior to joining the Goodreads community that I have avoided writing reviews for unless I have gone back and read them again while a member of Goodreads.

I got the first 4 books of The Dresden Files as a gift this year and I was thrilled. I love this series.

Going back and listening to the unabridged audio was a very interesting way to approach this. I knew the story, but what I hadn’t realized was all the little details that I’d forgotten over time. Some things I “knew” for sure turned out to be remembered incorrectly or worse, tainted by the television version of the story.

I recommend this series all the time. I have 2 extra “loaner” copies of the first book (I’ve ‘lost’ a handful over the years to folks that fell in love with the series). IF you’ve read the book before, listen to this production. It’s a great way to go back to the series. IF you’ve never read Storm Front before, I highly recommend it. Great series and worth the effort.

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Click away!

I am actually really glad I don’t have any monitoring equipment hooked up to the computers any more. I suspect I’m still “lost” as far as tracking and being tracked goes, but that little thing seems to help.

July 31, 2016
I’ve picked out a show that I like and I’ve made an effort to see it “live” rather than recorded. I really enjoy Killjoys. It’s fast paced and has interesting characters. They’re working on building up a long term story arc. I’m interested in where it goes.
I’m genuinely hopeful this will have an effect on programming. I’m not sure how much my little contribution will help, but I’m hopeful. I can say that having the rating box connected to my TV has made me more cognizant of tracking shows and when they’re on. There aren’t many things on TV I like, so I really want the ones I like to survive. I’ve also specifically stayed away from things I think are terrible. Even if I’m interested I won’t go and watch them if I don’t want them to get any kind of bump on the ratings. I know the monitoring is working. I know this because we switched my daughter over to her own computer. When we did this we didn’t think to notify the Nielsen people. See, there’s also a little tracking thing that’s plugged into our computer so they can tell if we watch something on a network then go run to an advertiser site we just saw. Well, my daughter spends a fair amount of time on the computer – and when she wasn’t clicking the little computer check box and signing in all the time like she was before, they noticed. They called and asked what was up. Then they set up an appointment and came over to install the same little tracker thing on my daughter’s new system.
I’m thinking about it now and I’m not sure if I’m amazed or horrified at this technology. You’re not clicking away like you used to. We’re coming to your house to check on you. That sounds like 1984 (the book – not the year).
This is one of those incremental shifts. You don’t really notice or worry until one day you’re so far down the road that when you look back you’re not entirely certain how you’ve arrived at your current location. When our promotional TV subscription ends, I wonder if we’ll actually shut it off.

Cold Enough for Television

It’s cold enough outside right now that staying in and doing NOTHING other than staying warm and watching TV sounds like a great idea. It’s been a while since my last installment of my “big secret” posts.

May 13, 2016

Friday the 13th! Lucky for me – I had some free time. I’ve got friends coming over again tonight and you know what? I’m totally not adding them in on the rating box thing. It’s a pain and then they ask questions about it. I have clever friends – I suspect they’ve got an idea of what’s going on but are polite enough to not ask.

I’m also trying to remember the terminology when you’re aware of the results being studied during scientific experiments… because that’s totally the case here. We’re all aware of the fact that people are looking at what we watch and don’t watch. It skews the data. Can’t be helped. We’re aware of the study, therefore the study is changed.

It’s also interesting that as we get further from the “new” feeling of the ratings thing that we seem to be reverting to our old habits and watching less and less television. We put music up (streaming via our smart TV) and then we just let it go. Sometimes even when I go out and leave it running my wife won’t actually be listening, but will just absentmindedly hit the ‘refresh’ button whenever she walks past. I’m not in the house and still contributing to the ratings. I wonder how much they account for that.

I also can’t wait to be able to publish this stuff. Keeping a secret this long is difficult.

Happy New Year!

It’s actually a little difficult to believe that 2018 is upon us. The past year has certainly gone faster than I would have imagined – and not nearly as cleanly. There are lots of reasons that 2017 wasn’t fantastic – but there were certainly a lot of good things for me personally and that’s the level I really have to work at here.

For anyone keeping track I haven’t changed my personal view on resolutions. Many years ago I made a New Year’s resolution to NEVER make a New Year’s resolution again. Guess what? Totally nailed it. Still going strong on that one. IF you want or need change in your life, the calendar is convenient, but not required. Make the change to grow or get better when you make that choice. You can do it!

That being said I do intend to keep forging ahead with my personal projects this year. I’ve still got about 9 things going at any one time. I’m still being a fan, an author and an artist. I game, I work at the day job and I spend time with my awesome family.

I genuinely hope that you and yours have an excellent year – positive feelings and good things should come your way!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Still Burning

Centralia (Images of America: Pennsylvania)Centralia by Deryl B. Johnson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This was a single sitting book for me. Generally I really like that as an idea, but somehow for this book it didn’t work. I had difficulty with the pictures. I understand that many of the actual photos would not be easy to see – but having them reproduced in this volume somehow managed to make them even harder to see clearly.

I think I wanted more of a timeline based series of pictures. Some of the photos are doubled up in here and they don’t always progress chronologically. The author mentions at least 3 times the play that he wrote… once would have been enough, particularly given the brevity of the written word in here.

The story of Centralia is certainly an interesting one and for that I’m glad to have taken this quick peek back in time. IF it were anything more than a quick peek I would have been very disappointed. As it is, one sitting works for me and I’m moving along.

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Bright

In a rare moment of timeliness I’ve actually had the opportunity to watch “Bright”, the new film from Netflix. It was released yesterday (December 22, 2017). I watched at home with a couple of close friends. I think that’s the most telling thing ~ this is a movie production with a number of well known Hollywood actors that I didn’t go to the theater to see when it opened, I went to the couch. Best seat I’ve had for a new movie in a while. That was a good thing because this movie felt like it was longer than the listed two hours it was supposed to be.

Spoilers ahead ~

I thought it was a very interesting choice by the storytellers to just dump us into a modern day society where elves and orcs simply live. There was no long text explanation about why or when this happened. There was no “this is when things changed”, it was simply the way things are. Interesting, but maybe not the best choice. I get it, you can’t do a LOTR thing where you’ve got 6 hours of movie… OH, wait. It’s Netflix, so yes that totally could have been done. Netflix routinely posts entire seasons of shows all at once. People then watch when and where they can. I hear some folks out there, “but this is a movie…” and I will counter that with the abomination that was a string of special effects and made up romances supposedly based on The Hobbit. Those three awful things are one film. As much as I dislike the result, the example stands. Netflix and the storytellers could have really expanded this world and given a deep, rich background that wouldn’t leave people looking at light up milk bath trees and thinking “what?”.

I will actually compare this to a role playing game / series of novels from the 90s – Shadowrun. Shadowrun did the world building behind the change. They brought magic and magical races into the world and then shook society up to make the changes in the world understandable. In Bright ‘Elves run the world’ really felt like a cosmetic application that allowed for comparison to how “gritty” the part of the story we’re dealing with really is. In Shadowrun Native Americans gain power based on how the world changed. It’s explained in terms relative to the story. It mattered and followed through. Bright felt like they wanted to paint over a things as they are today with a makeup brush and say “it’s allegory” without explaining what happened to bring us there. Telling me you’ve got 2,000 years of history isn’t the same as making me believe it in the story without being told. We never learn anything about the background that makes a “prophecy” believable in this context.

On to that portion of our program. OF course Will Smith was capable of picking up the wand with his bare hand and not blowing up. Saw that coming all the way. That’s why we’re riding with these guys. OF course they were going to win, there was very little doubt of that.

I will say I didn’t see the resurrection of the orc coming. I thought it would have been really interesting if they’d just let him die and deal with the results of that. OF course that would have meant a movie that went a very different direction and that’s never where we were headed. Now ANY future show or movie in this franchise will be required to deal with the idea that people who were dead can be made NOT dead by waving the magic stick around – even if the person waving the stick has only a “new recruit” level of training. The cost looked totally survivable, although that was tossed directly into the “obscure character death” category so we didn’t need to deal with what that meant in this world.

The other thing that bothered me was a standard thing with films. It’s so standard that I’ve actually taken to trying to avoid watching movie trailers altogether. I used to love to see what was coming out. Now all those trailers do is spoil all the best parts of any movie. The same was totally true for this film. I saw all the best parts in the previews. That was the most disappointing part of it all. Not only was the story predictable, but the best and funniest moments were all shown before I started watching. There were really funny parts that still landed in context, but I knew they were coming.

All of this might sound really negative, but I did actually enjoy watching the film. I don’t think I’m rushing back to watch it again but I will be interested to see how this all plays out ~ will there be more from this world? Go, check out some urban fantasy and see if you think this will be the next trendy thing in film or if it will just die and go away… and maybe be brought back by magic wand.

SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!

I guess what I’m trying to say is, don’t read further if you’d like to avoid spoilers for the movie Star Wars The Last Jedi.

You’ve been warned.

As I move through all the comments I have on this movie please keep in mind that I really enjoyed this movie. It’s a good film. There are issues, there is no perfect film. I still found myself excited and filled with anticipation. I will admit it might be nostalgia that works for me when the music starts and the letters start to scroll up the screen. It won’t ever match the first time a star destroyer thundered over my head and into the top of the frame – how could it? The visuals and the music were as amazing as they were expected to be. The ships, the worlds, the creatures and the outfits are always the best. I was not disappointed in any of that.

The biggest thing that bothered me was bad casting. Not the main characters, the secondary characters. Give me more folks like Kelly Marie Tran. Please. We don’t need big name people in secondary roles. I would have loved any unknown woman leading the rebel fleet but I was pushed out of my suspension of disbelief and right out of the flow of the movie when I first saw Laura Dern. She’s a fantastic actor. Love her stuff – great in October Sky, really liked her Jurassic Park role. It took me another third of the movie to remember who she was and where else I’d seen her and that just broke the flow of the story completely. The only thing worse than that? Benicio del Toro. I hate that he’s in there. I do not like his work at all – never have. I recognized him right away, so less distracting on that front but just aggravated me every time he was on the screen. His character wasn’t meant to be likable, but putting him in that role made me wish some officer channeled Vader and altered the deal… with a blaster. Get out of Star Wars you giant distractions!

Stuff that other fans freaked out over. Snoke. He was what I would call a standard Sith let down. I haven’t seen a Sith since Vader that was worth a damn. They die in short order every time. I have no idea why people expected anything else. It was a sneaky, deceptive way that he was killed and that was cool. Where an outright fight would be lost, deception took the day. Moving on from that ~ Rey’s parents. This movie supposedly answers that. I disagree. We just said how sneaky Kylo Ren was, why would you believe that he would tell Rey the truth? He’s a lying liar who lies – manipulate to get what you want, rage when you don’t get it. I am fine with the “reveal” that really wasn’t. Didn’t matter to me. A lot of other things mattered more.

I love that Yoda was back in this film. It made me smile. I missed him as much as me missed “young Skywalker”.

Skywalker. I could see the tie backs to the other movies. I was waiting for Luke to pull an Obi-wan on Ben Solo. He did, but in a far better way than I expected him to. That was really well done. Loved it. Punched me in the feelings when he simply said, “where’s Han?” and then the movie cut away. The film makers let you do the emotional work on that one.

I didn’t like that Leia used the force to save herself. I would have been fine with her not surviving the bridge blast. It’s terrible, but that’s how war goes. It would have given a certain amount of realism to their battle. There’s real danger to the main characters. Now I don’t know what they’ll do, but I’m thinking it won’t be a satisfying story reason for not being on screen again.

And that leads me to another thing about this movie. For as much as I loved it, the feeling was certainly bittersweet. No more Luke. No more Han. Yes, they’re going back in time to show us who he was before all the Star Wars stuff, but it’s not the same. No more Leia. No more Vader. We’ve got BB-8 rather than R2-D2. It’s a marker that shows an ending point to things from my youth. Perhaps, like Luke I make a choice to move on without the Jedi. I’m sure that Disney will wring out the franchise for everything they can, but I’ll certainly have to wait and see if I go back for more in the theater. As much as anything else, this really felt like an ending for me. A good ending, but and ending none the less. I hope there’s a kid out there right now looking for a Poe Dameron action figure flying an X-wing around. I hope that generation can come back in 40 years and still enjoy this story.