I live near Houston, and anything to do with NASA makes the headlines here (when there are no hurricanes or Enrons to distract us). My father used to chase Apollo rocket stages down in the south Atlantic near Ascension Island while my brother, sister and I sat on our roof in Florida watching the Apollo launches from Cape Kennedy. I have Apollo memorabilia, including all of the Apollo pins. And my son, now sixteen, still clings to the age old dream of being an astronaut.
All of which makes the recent revelation about astronauts drinking just another nail in the coffin of public belief and enthusiasm in the government sponsored space program. Added to the spate of cost overruns, ex-astronaut love triangles, computer sabotage and general inefficiencies in an industry that can tolerate little, the question must be posed: is now the time for space exploration to be moved into the private sector? (more…)
Ulitmate Kudos: An exciting ending to a classic series
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is an excellent end to an extraordinary series. Picking up with the search for the Horcruxes that Voldemort locked split pieces of himself in, the book ties together most of the remaining loose ends in satisfying fashion. Harry, Ron and Hermione do not return for their last year at Hogwarts, choosing instead to take on the task that Dumbledore assigned to Harry. Along the way, much of the backstory is revealed about Harry’s relatives, Dumbledore’s relationships, Voldemort and more. The giants, house elves, goblins and other magical creatures all play a part, as do Luna, Neville, the Weasley and Mallfoy families.
A character does die in the first chapter (in the flow of the story) and others in the end (some needlessly; though a cost for the final battle must be shown, some dying off screen as it were aren’t in the flow of the story)
As an author, I admire how Ms. Rowling combined several different themes in this book and throughout the series: (more…)
5 stars: Fast-paced ride in a new YA Horror series; winner of the 2006 IPPY for Horror
We killed the retarded boy. He took his own life, but we killed him just the same.
Thus begins The Takers, the first book in R.W. Ridley’s YA Horror series The Oz Chronicles. This debut novel (published in 2005) is well paced, with a great quest/adventure and and several likable characters, including the main protagonist, Osmond (Oz) Griffin. The second in the series, Delon City, is now published and is definitely on my reading list.
Thirteen-year old Oz awakens from a fever induced slumber to find his world dramatically changed, his parents and most of the other people on his block “taken” and seemingly eaten by nightmarish monsters who appear and attack when their name is spoken. His quest begins when he is given responsibility for a baby named Nate, whose mother is taken, so he piles up his wagon, takes a sword (more…)
The Lost Chronicles, Volume II
Great fantasy, great continuation after reading the first volume
Dragons of the Highlord Skies is a great fantasy novel; as my friend Jen commented on my review of the first volume of the Lost Chronicles, Dragons of the Dwarven Depths, it helps fill in a lot of background if you have read others in this long DragonLance series. In addition, unlike the first volume in the series, Dragons of the Highlord Skies includes an introduction which helps place in chronologically and plotwise with the other books.
The version reviewed here is an ARC received at BEA on June 1. The published version came out just a few days ago. (more…)
The Internet is teeming this week with stories of Harry Potter spoilers, Harry Potter predictions, even claims that Harry Potter has not influenced literacy (a claim eloquently refuted by my friend Paul Levinson).
While I do not possess a mound of statistics (and as a mathematician that does make me sad!), I am certain there are many tales of how Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling have influenced families. As the timing of the seventh (and final?) book draws near, here is our short vignette.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was published in June 0f 1997. My son was six, my daughter was thirteen. My daughter was “too old to be read to, Dad”, but Harry temporarily took the place of the Berenstain Bears as I read this first one to my son, chapter by chapter, making abrupt and unwanted stops for bedtime before both he and I wanted so that he could sleep and grow (and he is still growing).
The next three books (Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban, Goblet of Fire) came out one year apart each summer. Our family would go to the bookstores late at night and await a copy (for the Goblet of Fire, we abandoned an overly crowded bookstore and went at my wife’s prescient suggestion to a grocery store at midnight and were fifth in line for a copy!). Each of these three books we read together, me reading the left page, my son reading the right page….somtimes we would switch. Eventually we got anxious to get on to the next part of the plot and started alternating chapters instead of pages. Sometimes we would get so deep into the words that one of us would keep reading and the other would forget to remind…or just knowingly lie back and enjoy the sound of the story.
There were THREE LONG YEARS between the Goblet of Fire and the Order of the Phoenix. Reading with Dad was no longer cool, but competition with Dad was! Competing in racing, in Karate, even in reading. One book between the two of us, stealing the book back and forth, front book flap marking my place, back flap his. Of course he finished first, but he didn’t tell me how it ended.
Two summers later and The Half-Blood Prince arrived. This time I finished first, because Harry couldn’t compete with high school, girls and marching band. Sometimes reality gets in the way of fantasy. And, fortunately or unfortunately, my son still has not finished Book 6. We’ve seen all the movies as a family (except for this last one….sometimes girls get in the way of family!), and both of my kids read vociferously (nice word that!). They read a lot before Harry, they’ve both read a lot after Harry, no matter what the statistics say.
So here I sit, waiting for Book 7 to come, not wanting to let go of either my son or Harry. But reality always gets in the way.
3 stars: A nice read, but needs intro summary and a couple of plot problems fixed
Even though I have read many of R.A. Salvatore’s novels (the other Wizards of the Coast series), I have never read on of the DragonLance series. But I received an ARC of Dragons of the Highlord Skies, the 2nd Volume in this series and attempted to just read the Lost Chronicles series, starting with Dragons of the Dwarven Depths. To get background on the Companions in this series, I used two sources: Wikipedia and the Introduction that was included at the beginning of Dragons of the Highlord Skies.
Overall I enjoyed the story, the characters and the pacing of the novel; but there were three critiques that I have, most notably the lack of a summary or intro in the beginning to bring DragonLance neophytes like myself up to speed. (more…)
World War II has always held a fascination for me: the global scale, the impact on world politics and powers of today, the coming of Age of the United States as a super power, the thoughts of what could have been had certain decisions or battles gone one way or the other (see Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle or many of the other alternative history novels to get your imagination going). Over the years, I have read many books, including the great John Keegan’s, Cornelius Ryan’s and a 25 volume Encyclopedia of WWII that my mom got me for Christmas as a kid (no, I am not kidding).
I received The Day of Battle (the 2nd in Atkinson’s Liberation Trilogy) as an ARC at BEA, but wanted to read the series in order.
I am very glad that I did. Operation TORCH, the battles of Kasserine, Sidi Bou Zid, the taking of Bizerte and Tunis are told as stories from the perspectives of leaders and soldiers, based on meticulous research detailed in over 100 pages of notes. An Army At Dawn is a great representation of the grisly and personal nature of war, a fitting history of the men and women who fought in WWII. (more…)