Tag Archive for reading

To 2018 and Beyond

This is where I would complain about writing the wrong year on my checks for the next few months, but since this is 2018 I don’t write checks for anything anymore. Well, that’s not entirely true. I write exactly one check per year, because my HOA doesn’t accept their dues any other way.

So… resolutions.

I made my first resolutions post back in 2002, where I proudly stated that I didn’t need resolutions. I then followed that by making resolutions posts every year until 2014. 2015, 2016, and 2017 I missed, because in the last three years I was more apt to post about why I wasn’t posting than to post anything of any real substance. Over the years I see that I tend to make the same resolutions over and over. I suspect a lot of people do.

I usually resolve to exercise more or eat better, or both, with a goal of not getting fat or to stop being fat, and since I am fat I clearly have failed at this for 16 years. And when I say I am fat, this isn’t an anti-body-positivity thing. I would be perfectly happy being fat if I was happy and also fat. But as I have gotten heavier and out of shape, I have become less happy. I am uncomfortable sitting sometimes. I have trouble tying my shoes because of the density of my gut. Moving around is exhausting. And as I get older, my weight is probably contributing to other health issues that are cropping up. So I will once again resolve to eat better and move more, to lose weight and be healthier.

I also often resolve to read more. Oddly, I’ve been reading more, especially since my company moved to Buckhead and I have a 90 minute commute, one way. I take the bus because I hate driving in traffic, and this lets me read. I still have a backlog of literally hundreds of books. I wish I was a speed reader, but I am not. Progress though. I am reading.

And I usually resolve to write more, which I am resolving again, because I miss it. I miss emptying my brain on to the internet where no one reads it. I’m not even going to share this stuff on social media. This is for me… and the poor unfortunates who stumble upon it.

There were also years where I declared I was done with PC games, followed by years where I declared I was back to PC games. Now, I just want to play games, on any platform – PC, console, tabletop – just more games.

So that’s where 2018 begins. Resolving the same resolutions of the past, and resolving to resolve them better this time. And this year I’ll be employing one of these in an effort to plan and document my progress.

Let’s make this year a good one.

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire HunterSeth Grahame-Smith exploded onto the scene last year (after having several other books published) with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a book I still haven’t read.  It was so successful that the “classic text mash-up” genre now practically has its own aisle at the bookstore.  Taking a slightly different approach in his next endeavor, Grahame-Smith wrote Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.  Rather than taking an old text and playing with it, instead he’s taking history and filling in the gaps with his own crafted tale.

The story follows old Honest Abe from his childhood through his Presidency and weaves around it a tale of revenge and vampires and a country nearly brought to its knees.  I was skeptical as hell going in.  That same skepticism is what has kept me from reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  A tale like this is either going to be a monumental waste of time, or a masterpiece.  Based on my reading of this book, I’m now more interested to go read P&P&Z.

I’m not a history buff, and I’m not familiar with the true story of Abraham Lincoln other than what they taught me in school.  But the tale told here steps in and out and around his life in such a fashion that it is so easy to believe that it just might be true.  It isn’t true, right?  Vampires don’t really exist… right?

Anyway, I would gladly recommend this book to just about anyone with the only caveat being that some of the early book can be slow, but sticking with it is totally and completely worth it.  I haven’t read a book that ended this well in a very long time.

They Never Learn

From CVG:

“They’ve got 14 million players! Gimme a million and I’m good! We’re real good at a million, right?” He added: “We don’t need everybody to migrate. We just need some of them – and I’m full confident we’re going to get them.”

So, if you were to, I don’t know, pay attention, how many subscription MMOs have a million players?  Four.  How many of those have a million after you exclude Asia (because, honestly, those numbers are not the same since they don’t all pay the same or even similar monthly fees)?  One?  And the numbers for the sub one million mark don’t look much better, with most of them being at or under 500k.

Do you really want to come out and say you want and are going to get a million subscribers?

I wish them the best.  Really, I do.  And I hope the intonation I’m reading into that quote means that for a business plan they have a much more realistic number in mind for success.  But I’m also fully prepared to mock them when they face-plant.

Reading is Fun

It is summer, or close enough.  Schools are out.  In some places it just gets too hot to do much of anything.  All good reasons to pick up a book.

Personally, I love reading.  I may not do it as much as I’d like, but I also love video games, TV, movies and a bunch of other things.  Even still, I read at least a chapter a day of whatever book I’m currently working on.  For me, the best part of reading is letting my imagination fill in the blanks, to build the world in full that the author outlines.

Heading off to college in the fall?  Or perhaps you are sending a kid off instead?  The National Association of Scholars recently put out a report analyzing 290 summer reading programs for incoming freshmen.  The links to the report and the list of books from the programs are here.

Of course, those books aren’t for everyone.  Most of them are about broadening the world view of incoming students, and few of them are books many people would pick for fun.  I’ve only read two, maybe three, books on that list.  On the other hand, Amazon has put together their summer reading page which includes lots more popular fare.

For me, I’m reading Boneshaker now and then I’ve got a pile of books, most of them you can find in my library here on the site.  And I’m always open to more.  So, what are you reading this summer?

The Unnatural Inquirer

After slogging through The Host, I needed something lighter, more throwaway.  Luckily in my reading pile I had book 8 of the Nightside series by Simon R. Green, The Unnatural Inquirer.

When I tell people about these books the only way I’ve found to describe it is that they are like a book version of a film noir movie set in a city of demons and angels and magic and monsters.  It is pulp.  There is no heavy introspection or examination of the human condition.  John Taylor, the main character, fears no evil when he walks through the valley because he is the baddest mutha in the valley.  So to speak.

Anyway, this addition to the series is more of the same, which if you like them is a good thing, and if you don’t like them it isn’t.

Putting Down a Book

It is not often that I will actually put down a book for good.  I mean, I have never finished — don’t hold this against me — The Lord of the Rings.  I’ve read Fellowship probably five times and Two Towers three times, but I’ve never read Return of the King.  I just get bored.  I almost didn’t finish The Once and Future King, but I powered through.  Dune was another rough one.   Not too long ago I posted about the First Law Trilogy that I waded through.  There are books that I have put down, a number of them in fact, but I usually go back eventually and finish.  I swear, I will read Return of the King before I die.

But there are rare books that I have put down and never intend to go back to.  Recently I’ve run into two and both of them have to do with the writing itself, not the subject matter.  The first was Working for the Devil by Lilith Saintcrow.  The story itself is something I would be interested in, and I’ve actually heard good things about the series, however, the author decided that her main character’s profession would be called a “necromance”.  Even now my spell checker is telling me that I’ve dropped an “r” off the end.  For whatever reason, she went with this spelling, and it bugs the crap out of me.  It happens just often enough in the text that it pops me out of the story and back into myself where I commence screaming “ER! ER! NecromancER!”  I had a similar problem when reading Dead Witch Walking about that author’s choice to make up her own swear words, but I was able to gloss over that.  For some reason this use of “necromance” is something I just couldn’t get past.

More recently I made a stab at reading James Patterson’s The Dangerous Days of Daniel X.  At first, the description of a superhero book sounds like it would be right up my alley.  However, I might have skipped it had I read the red box on the inside back flap of the cover.  It reads:

In the spirit of the most enduring hit movies and books, James Patterson has written this story for readers from ten to a hundred and ten. Special care has been taken with the language and content of The Dangerous Days of Daniel X.

I’ve read a number of Patterson’s books, but mostly his more adult murder mystery stuff.  Going into this book with that mindset I was terribly disappointed and felt like I was being talked down to.  The story itself was interesting enough, but the simplicity of the language intended to be good reading for kids as young as ten just left me with an odd feeling.  I can’t say for sure that I’ve put this book down for good, but I definitely probably won’t pick it up again until I have a ten year old to read it with, either as a bedtime story or something we share and discuss.

So… have you ever put down a book? Why?

White Night

Nine months after reading the eighth book in the series, I finally got around to reading book number nine of the Dresden Files.  By now, it should be fairly clear that I love these books.  They aren’t “High Art” (whatever the hell that is supposed to mean), but damn it if they aren’t fun.

White Night doesn’t mess with the formula that works as Dresden gets dragged in to trouble, this time helping out an old flame look into the deaths of some lesser talented practitioners and protect those that are still alive.  We also get to see that Harry has been training Molly, and he’s been continuing his work as a Warden of the White Council and fight in the war with the vampires.  But the kicker here is that someone has been trying to make it look like a Warden has been killing off the little witches, while some other reports put Harry’s half brother, a vampire of the White Court, at the scene of the crime.

While this book doesn’t have quite as many knock down drag out fights as the last couple in the series it certainly doesn’t lack action.  Plus, I don’t mind spending time getting to know more about the characters.

As always, I enjoyed my trip to Butcher’s Chicago.

Playing Your Own Way

This is quite possible the best told tale I have ever read of someone playing a game by their own rules instead of following the intended story.  Well worth reading.

The Advertising Twist

Assassin’s Creed has been out long enough that I don’t feel any remorse discussing the game.  If you haven’t played it and you have managed to learn nothing about the game, then please stop reading.

When the game first came out, people I knew who played it kept talking about “the twist”.  So, when I finally got the game, in October as a birthday gift, I jumped in and started playing.  As the story unfolded, as it drew me in, I kept looking for the twist… but there never was one.  In fact, I was kind of startled when the game ended because I was still waiting for the twist.

I went looking.  Did I miss it?  Was there an alternate ending that I didn’t get because of some tiny detail I missed in the game?

What I found was that “the twist” wasn’t in the game.  It existed only in the space between the advertising and the moment you booted up the game.  Well, not exactly the moment you booted it up… you had to get through the first tutorial mission type thing and exit the animus once.  Of course, even before then you could see the “glitches”, flags with a glow around them that looked like computer code, people who flicker during dialog.  The twist of Assassin’s Creed was that the advertisements made the game look to be about you as an assassin in the past, but the reality of the game is that you are in the present (or maybe the future) and you are reliving genetic memories of one of your ancestors through the use of a machine in an effort to help some people find out some information.

I really hate when games, or anything really, does this.  Its like when the trailer for a movie makes it out to be a slapstick comedy, but it turns out that all the funny bits were in the trailer and the movie is actually a tragic tale about cancer or suicide with occasional humorous scenes.

As for Assassin’s Creed… I enjoyed playing it.  Climbing all over the city and performing the tasks, I even enjoyed looking for the flags (still haven’t found them all), but I didn’t like the end of the game.  I was waiting for the twist, and in the final moments of the game nothing happened.  Not just no twist, but the story of the game, which had been great until then, had no ending, it just sort of petered out.  I uncovered the conspiracy, found the bad guy in the past which let my future overlords find the information they wanted, and then they walked out of the room, into what I have to assume is going to be Assassin’s Creed 2.

Lame.

I don’t mind sequels.  Telling another story with the same people in the same world can be good.  But breaking one story into two (or more) games is irritating.  I enjoyed Assassin’s Creed, but I’m glad now that I didn’t buy it when it came out, and I won’t be buying the sequel when it comes out.  I’ll be waiting for the discount racks again.

The Last Lecture

Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture is worth reading.  And that is all I have to say about that.