WWW Wednesday – 2017/05/31

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WWW Wednesday is a book meme run by Taking on a World of Words.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently Reading

At the moment, I’ve only just started reading Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett. I’m a little over 30 pages in, so I don’t have much of an impression of it yet. It looks like the story will be mashing up elements of  Hamlet and Macbeth, which sounds like fun. This book is the second one focused on the Witches, with the return of Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg, the former being a recurring character I’m fond of since reading her debut in Equal Rites. Other than that there’s a great little scene where Death is perturbed about having to explain that someone is set to be a ghost after dying (undead things are not really his jurisdiction).

Recently Finished

I’ve had a rather busy week in this respect. First I finished reading Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar. The ending wasn’t what I expected, but it was a tale that inspired a lot of thought, as well as conflicting emotions. Ultimately, I really liked it. It’s a great story about the effects of power and responsibility over it. I posted a review for it last Thursday.

I also finished Hellboy in Hell: The Death Card, the final volume and conclusion of Hellboy’s story. While short, this series was a wonderful couplet that wrapped up the whole series quite nicely. The final pages are artfully done, leaving things on a muted, bittersweet tone (leaning more towards the sweet). There are a lot of call-backs to the series as a whole, which were woven into the story taking place quite well. One in particular made me very happy I read Hellboy in Mexico before moving onto these books.

Lastly, I also finished reading On Writing by Stephen King, his memoir on the craft that also teaches how to write. I found his advice invigorating and valuable. I’m hopeful that I will take his lessons forward with me as I push myself to write my own fiction. It did leave me a little disappointed in myself as well, however, as I have not been writing fiction as much as I want myself to be. Hopefully I get a good kick from this book. I see myself reading it again in the near future to make his advice stick.

Reading Next

Yesterday I got my copy of Theft By Finding by David Sedaris. I will be starting that soon, and probably putting more energy into it than Wyrd Sisters for the next little while so that I can get a review out as soon as possible.

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Book Review – Tarkin by James Luceno

Summary

Groomed by the ruthless politician and Sith Lord who would be Emperor, Governor Wilhuff Tarkin rises through the imperial ranks, enforcing his authority mercilessly while pursuing his destiny as the architect of absolute dominion. Under Tarkin’s guidance, an ultimate weapon of unparalleled destruction moves ever closer to becoming a terrifying reality. But insurgency remains a genuine threat. Guerrilla attacks by an elusive band of freedom fighters must be countered with swift and brutal action — a mission the Emperor entrust to his most formidable agents: Darth Vader, the fearsome Sith enforcer, and Tarkin, whose tactical cunning and cold-blooded efficiency will pave the way for the Empire’s supremacy…and its enemies’ extinction.

TarkinCover

Tarkin by James Luceno is part of the new Disney canon of Star Wars, after all of the previous extended universe (EU) stories were reduced to “Legends.” I bring this up because Wilhuff Tarkin, the book’s titular character and villain from the original Star Wars film, had an extensive history established in the EU. Some of it has apparently been adapted here, but if you’re invested in those old stories I’m afraid they no longer apply. I’m coming at this book with virtually no knowledge of Tarkin’s history outside of what was established in the films, but I wanted to acknowledge that this isn’t the first time Tarkin has been given more backstory. For better or worse, however, this is now the backstory.Read More »

Book Review – Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King & Richard Chizmar

Summary

There are three ways up to Castle View from the town of Castle Rock: Route 117, Pleasant Road, and the Suicide Stairs. Every day in the summer of 1974 twelve-year-old Gwendy Peterson has taken the stairs, which are held by strong (if time-rusted) iron bolts and zig-zag up the cliffside.

At the top of the stairs, Gwendy catches her breath and listens to the shouts of the kids on the playground. From a bit farther away comes the chink of an aluminum bat hitting a baseball as the Senior League kids practice for the Labor Day charity game.

One day, a stranger calls to Gwendy: “Hey, girl. Come on over here for a bit. We ought to palaver, you and me.”

On a bench in the shade sits a man in black jeans, a black coat like for a suit, and a white shirt unbuttoned at the top. On his head is a small neat black hat. The time will come when Gwendy has nightmares about that hat…

GwendysButtonBoxCover

Gwendy’s Button Box, a novella written by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar, is a twist on a familiar story/social experiment. I was immediately reminded of the 2009 film The Box, based on the Richard Matheson short story “Button, Button” and previously adapted into an episode of The Twilight Zone by the same name. The story more or less always goes that an enigmatic man gives someone a box with a button on it. If they push the button two things will happen: they will receive a sum of money, and someone will die. What follows is the expected moral dilemma. While I’m certain this book is meant to recall these tales, the situation here is actually a lot more complex.Read More »

WWW Wednesday – 2017/05/24

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WWW Wednesday is a book meme run by Taking on a World of Words.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently Reading

Last week I said I wanted to get through a couple of books before Gwendy’s Button Box and Theft By Finding were released on May 30th. As it turns out, I was mistaken about the former’s publication date, which was actually May 16th. So, I quickly bought the book and began reading it.

As it turns out it’s a rather quick read (making the Kindle edition much more attractive than the $30 hardcover), so I’m nearly finished with it. While it is written by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar, it still reads a lot like a King story to me. It’s an interesting twist on a familiar tale about the effects of power, its influences, and what one should do with unfettered access to it. So far most of the story has felt in service of building toward something, rather than dealing with something. It has been enjoyable thus far, but things have also been a little too nebulous. This needs to amount to something substantial for me, or I will be left a little disappointed.

I’ve also started reading On Writing by Stephen King. I’m only about 40 pages in at the moment, but I’m enjoying it. Thus far he’s talked about his earliest memories growing up, giving a window into the things that shaped him as a writer. It feels like an honest approach to giving advice on the craft, without pretension or inflated self-importance.

Recently Finished

I finished reading Tarkin by James Luceno over the weekend, the new canon Star Wars novel about Grand Moff Tarkin before earning the rank of Grand Moff. I liked it, but with all said and done I’m pretty lukewarm about it. Getting to know some of the Imperial politics was interesting, but the plot was a bit too much concerned with him and Darth Vader chasing shipjackers around the galaxy. Tarkin doesn’t directly involve himself in the action, which is appropriate, but I wish the story had been more about political intrigue than leading pursuits against dissidents. I never got swept up in the mystery, I kind of just felt led along to each reveal. The details of his past were most compelling, giving a bit of a look at people’s lives on a planetary level.

I also read Hellboy in Hell: The Descent, the first of two volumes in that series by Mike Mignola and Dave Stewart. It had a rather somber feel to it, his descent into hell dreary and nightmarish, and not bombastically infernal. I really like the depiction of the Abyss, full of gigantic eldritch insects skittering in the pitch black.

Certain plot points related to hell from the main series get tied up here too, which felt a little abrupt, yet still appropriate considering they’re issues that needed to be put to rest. It did a lot to leave me wondering what’s next for Hellboy, some unsettling turns leaving his future in Hell unclear and not at all what I would have expected. With only one volume to follow this one I’m cautiously optimistic of where the story will go. I’m worried it will disappoint me, with only one volume to conclude things.

Reading Next.

Theft By Finding by David Sedaris comes out next week, so I’ll be reading that once I get a hold of my copy. Otherwise, I’ll definitely be opening the next volume of Hellboy in Hell, and Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett looms in my near future too.

Movie Review – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

IMDB Summary

Set to the backdrop of ‘Awesome Mixtape #2,’ Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 continues the team’s adventures as they traverse the outer reaches of the cosmos. The Guardians must fight to keep their newfound family together as they unravel the mysteries of Peter Quill’s true parentage.

GotGVol.2_Poster

While I do very much enjoy how interconnected the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is, there’s something to be said about the independence of the Guardians of the Galaxy films. They have loose threads that lead back to the rest of the MCU, with the team presumably going against Thanos alongside the Avengers next year, but more than any other Marvel film they are able to do their own thing, far away from Earthly concerns.Read More »

WWW Wednesday – 2017/05/17

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WWW Wednesday is a book meme run by Taking on a World of Words.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

I meant to write one of these last week, I really want to start doing them weekly. Sadly, I also do shift work and that Wednesday disappeared in a haze of fatigue. Here’s hoping I can start weekly from here.

Currently Reading

Right now I’m in the middle of reading Tarkin by James Luceno, one of the new canon Star Wars novels. I am enjoying it; this book tells a much more grounded story of Imperial intrigue and squashing dissent and rebellion than Lords of the Sith did, which I’m finding translates better to novel form. However, I wonder if I’m making a mistake by only having read the novels about villains thus far. I like getting into the heads of these characters, but ultimately it is giving the backstory of a man who destroyed an entire planet without batting an eye, because of how much he believes in a strong show of force to eliminate dissenter.

It still presents Tarkin with some interesting dimension, showing that he’s not wickedly cruel and sadistic, but ruthless and committed to his cause all the same. His involvement is a little more nuanced than simply being in on an evil plot to turn the galactic government into a dictatorship. I just can’t get completely behind him because he has no problem enforcing this dictatorship.

I like the book regardless and I’m intrigued to see where it goes. Tarkin and Darth Vader are currently being given a run for their money, which I hope will lead to more interesting developments as they become more compromised. I hope the implied rivalry between him and Vader comes to a head more as well. So far it’s been hinted at, but they’re cooperating just fine.

Recently Finished

Since my last entry I finished The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger (review here). I must say, it did make me eat my words a bit. I said that it likely didn’t have any surprises for me, but I was wrong. There weren’t any shocking plot developments, but what I did find was a prominent personal connection with Holden, which made me empathize with him a lot more than I had before. The novel felt bittersweet by the end and I’m happy I read it. I took more away from it than I thought I would.

I also finished reading What If? by Randall Monroe (review here), which was a lot of fun to get through. I treated it like a read I would come back to periodically, but I enjoyed reading a lot of entries at once too. The humour was solid, but what I really took away was how much his explanations of physics and the laws of nature, when answering these absurd questions, actually taught me things I didn’t know before. It was fun and I know more about the world than when I started.

Lastly, I read through The Incredible Hercules: Dark Reign, which is the fifth volume in a Marvel Comics series about Hercules, which were originally published in the late 2000s to early 2010s. Once again I found they blend the mythology of Hercules with the modern, comic book interpretation of him very well, even dealing with how he’s always working toward overcoming the negative aspects of who he was in those old stories. The previous volume dipped a little in quality for me, so it was great to see it pick up again here.

Reading Next

It still feels as if I’ve got endless books to choose from, but I think I’m pretty set on what I’m reading next. I want to start and finish On Writing by Stephen King as well as Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett before the end of May. In terms of comic books, I want to read the two volumes of Hellboy in Hell — having recently acquired volume two — as well as the first volume of Hellboy: Weird Tales and Frankenstein Underground, which I just picked up for great prices used yesterday.

I hope to have all these books done before May 30th, when Stephen King’s new book Gwendy’s Button Box and Devid Sedaris’ new book Theft by Finding both come out. I want to finish those two new books as quickly as I can to get reviews written and posted, sot that I’m not just writing about older books. Looks like it’s going to be a bit more of an exciting few weeks for reading.

Book Review – What If? by Randall Munroe

WhatIfCover

What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe is a book based on the “What If” blog on the author’s popular web comic xkcd. Munroe is a former roboticist for NASA, who went on to write xkcd full time after his contract ended. The “What If?” blog is where fans of his comic send him questions to arbitrate ridiculous scientific debate points, such as “What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90% the speed of light?” and then answering such questions as completely as possible using his own knowledge, academic research, and consulting experts.Read More »

Book Review – The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

CatcherInTheRyeCover

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger is a 1951 novel about a young man named Holden Caulfield who has flunked out of his private school. It starts in the days before Christmas break, after which he will not be returning to the school. Instead of waiting out the remainder of his days there, he leaves without telling anyone, heading into New York City, where his family lives, and spending a few days there unattended.Read More »

When I Overcame a Tough Book

Growing up I did like reading a fair bit, though I honestly didn’t get an itch for it until early adulthood. I could be rather picky. While I was younger, I remember I read most of the Harry Potter books, a couple from A Series of Unfortunate Events, Goosebumps, The Hobbit, a random Boxcar Children novel, and a book about a kid raising a raccoon or something. The list I can recall feels rather small. There had to be some superficial element to it that drew me in. I can’t remember the plot to that Boxcar Children book at all, but it had a picture of a T-Rex skeleton on the cover, so I wanted to read it. The novels I had to read for school, especially as I got older, often served as a barrier to my comprehension. At the time, if a book challenged me I was unlikely to want to bother.Read More »

WWW Wednesday – 2017/05/03

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WWW Wednesday is a book meme run by Taking on a World of Words.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently Reading

I’m still in the thick of things with Randall Munroe’s What If?, though I’m a little over halfway through it now. I’m pushing myself a little more to finish it, just so it isn’t lingering in the background too long. I’m still really enjoying it. While it’s humorous, there’s a lot more value in what I’m learning from it. One great section in particular covered the logistics of flying in the atmosphere of other planets and moons in our solar system. He also shares a rather uplifting twist on the lesson in the myth of Icarus, which is (paraphrased) that he never really saw it as a lesson about flying too high, but the ineffectiveness of wax as an adhesive.

I’m also in the middle of reading The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger. I was hoping I’d have it done by now, but completing something for a job application and a short road trip forced me to set it aside. I understand why it’s considered a classic, and I’m not having a terrible time reading it, but all the same I don’t like Holden Caulfield as a character nor a narrator.

I get that that’s largely the point with his character, unless you more closely relate to him, but I dislike him all the same. He’s a hypocrite who lays far too much blame on others rather than his own behaviour. At the same time I sympathize, because he’s clearly a deeply depressed person. As a narrator, I just dislike his style. He just ends too many sentences with “and all.” and all.

I see it’s significance in literary history, and I’ll be happy to say I’ve read it when all is said and done, but I don’t feel like it has any surprises in store for me. Before I was halfway in I felt I had a good handle on what the book is going for and while I’m a little optimistic I’m fairly certain there’s not going to be much more to it, other than what sordid activities he gets up to.

Recently Finished

I recently finished reading Sourcery by Terry Pratchett, the fifth novel in the Discworld series. I managed to power through it in four days, testing how quickly I could get through a book of that length if I applied myself a little better. Pratchett’s writing was great as usual — even showing improvement as he’s getting further in his series — I just found the plot a little too underwhelming. The structure is too similar to other books he’s told, where the main character travels along meeting new people and seeing strange sites while a cataclysmic magical threat grows in the background, until things eventually come to a head.

Incidentally, the book was elevated by its climax and conclusion for me, telling something legitimately poignant while also making me laugh harder than I ever have at one of his books. Also, having starred in three of the five Discworld novels until this point, I would have to say this was my favourite Rincewind story, despite my criticisms.

Reading Next

Once again I find myself unsure what I’ll be getting to next. I really want to push myself to finish off all the books I’m currently in the middle of. After that, I’ll like start On Writing by Stephen King, though I also want to start that new book White Tears by Hari Kunzru so that I can review a new release. Otherwise, I’ll likely start Tarkin by James Luceno to get more of the new Star Wars books under my belt.

If I can keep up the faster reading pace I will hopefully start writing one of these weekly.

Until next time. Happy reading!