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Velox's Blog



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Top Ten Books of 2014

Posted by Velox , in Literature, Other, Reviews Jan 09 2015 · 184 views

And now for my favorite top ten list—books! So this was a really great year for me, reading-wise, as I (somehow) managed to more than double the amount of books I read in 2013 for a total of 121 books. Granted, a lot of those were graphic novels or other short books, but still. And so picking a top ten was hard as I had about 40 books that I rated 5 stars. So I’ve grouped some together and also made separate lists for novels and graphic novels.

Note: These lists are for books I’ve read in 2014, and has nothing to do with release dates. Unfortunately I only read a couple 2014 releases or so (though I am currently reading The Martian, by Andy Weir, which came out in 2014 and is great so far)

Top Ten Novels of 2014

  • Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke. This book is long and dense, but definitely worth it.
  • The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien. I was expecting to not like this as much, as it’s always been described as basically “a history book of the elves” and, well, I always hated reading history books for school (history is fascinating, but the textbooks on it less so). =P And yes, it is a history of the elves, but written exceedingly well (I mean, it is Tolkien) and not text-book-y. This book was just so interesting, and I really look forward to re-reading it someday.
  • Stardust, Neverwhere, The Graveyard Book, Coraline, and Fortunately, the Milk, all by Neil Gaiman. So sort of cheating here, but every single one of his books is absolutely fantastic, and I read all of these this year. My favorite is probably The Graveyard Book, but as I said, each was amazing. Gaiman is definitely one of my all-time favorite authors.
  • The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker. I’d heard so much about this, and it really lived up to all the hype. To put simply, it was really beautifully written, and simply reading each word was just as enjoyable as the plot and characters.
  • Skin Game, by Jim Butcher. Butcher is another favorite author of mine, and the Dresden Files is one of my all-time favorite series. They seem to just keep getting better and better, and Skin Game was no different.
  • The Bartimaeus Trilogy, by Jonathan Stroud. Can’t wait to read the prequel book, The Ring of Solomon, as this was one of the best series/trilogies I’ve read. The footnotes by Bartimaeus were hilarious.
  • A Dance with Dragons, by George R.R. Martin. Well, of course. This series is fantastic, and I finally got around to reading the latest novel early last year. Can’t wait for Winds of Winter.
  • Einstein’s Dreams, by Alan Lightman. This was just an incredibly interesting read, focusing on the dreams of Einstein as he’s forming his theory of relativity. Really brilliant, not only being fascinating in itself, but also making you think and ponder about it.
  • The Princess Bride, by William Goldman. Hilarious and exceedingly fun. Highly recommended to any fan of the film.
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. My favorite Sherlock Holmes “book” (counting each collection of short stories as well as the four novels as individual books), as it contains the most of my favorite stories: “A Scandal in Bohemia”, “The Red-Headed League”, and “The Speckled Band”, plus I enjoyed all the others.
Honorable Mentions: A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle; Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card; and The Fault in our Stars, by John Green.

~ :: ~


I’m really saddened it’s taken me so long to read a lot of these, but I really only got into graphic novels and comics fairly recently (basically at the beginning of 2014 when I read Hush and fell in love with them—I’d only read a few here and there before), unfortunately. Better late than never, I suppose.

Top Ten Graphic Novels of 2014

  • Watchmen, by Alan Moore. Without a doubt the best graphic novel I’ve read, and one of the best books I’ve read period.
  • The Sandman series, by Neil Gaiman. There’s a reason this series is so highly praised, and that’s because it’s fantastic. Tied for my two favorite books would be Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes, and Vol. 4: Season of Mists, followed closely by Vol. 7: Brief Lives because of how hilarious and fun-to-read Delirium is. I've been buying the single issues of Overture (with the Dave McKean covers ^^), but haven't read them yet as I was hoping they'd get on a more regular release schedule first, but it looks like that may not happen...so I'll probably just start reading them soon.
  • The New 52 Batman, by Scott Snyder (this being The Court of Owls, The City of Owls, Death of the Family, Zero Year – Secret City, and Zero Year – Dark City, all of which I read this year). I’ve rated every one 5 stars, as Snyder really is an amazing writer and is doing such a great job with Batman. Can’t wait to see how Endgame plays out.
  • Batman: Hush, by Jeph Loeb. Just such a great stand-alone Batman story, and it's the one that got me really interested in comics in general. Can't wait to read The Long Halloween, also by Loeb.
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum – A Serious House on Serious Earth, by Grant Morrison. First off, the art for this, by Dave McKean, is absolutely amazing, and fits the story perfectly. The story itself is fantastically dark and creepy.
  • Deadpool: The Complete Collection – Volume 1, by Daniel Way. Just a blast. I recently picked up the other three volumes of Daniel Way’s run, and can’t wait to read them. Deadpool really is a hilarious character (can’t wait for the film, especially if it’s anything like that leaked clip, as that’s very close to the Deadpool in Way’s comics).
  • Hawkeye, Vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon, by Matt Fraction. It's really fun to see Hawkeye in a non-Avengers setting, and just what his day-to-day life is like--great character.
  • Captain America: Winter Soldier, by Ed Brubaker. Captain America is my second favorite superhero (after Batman), and this run was a great read.
  • Kingdom Come, by Mark Waid. What was fascinating about this was how all the Justice League members were old, and it was great seeing them have to come back.
  • V for Vendetta and Batman: The Killing Joke, by Alan Moore. Moore really is the master of comics, and while not as good as Watchmen in my opinion, still two fantastic books.
Honorable Mentions: Batman: The Black Mirror, by Scott Snyder; Batman: Year One, by Frank Miller; and Green Arrow—Year One, by Andy Diggle.

Also shout-out to Wytches, by Scott Snyder, and Rocket Raccoon, by Scottie Young, both of which are currently in-progress but absolutely fantastic and would’ve made it on the top ten list otherwise.


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Of Space, Wheels, and Watches

Posted by Velox , in Reviews, Other, Literature Aug 08 2014 · 166 views
GotG, Wheel of Time and 3 more...
There’s been a lot of great things in just this first week of August. First, of course, starting with August 1st: Guardians of the Galaxy. Oh man was it amazing.

Though, as much fun and as beautifully made as Guardians is, I do think The Winter Soldier is still the better film, overall. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’d consider TWS to be the best-made film so far, above even The Avengers (I’d have to watch them again, but from what I can remember, at least, it really is amazingly written). That being said, Avengers is still my favorite film, as I think it was simultaneously the most fun and most well-made of the lot, but TWS is an amazing film, as is Guardians. And Guardians is certainly the most fun film so far of the franchise (the only other film coming close would be Avengers, which while I think is still the better film overall, is not quite as fun. Close, but not quite).

So basically, other than saying that Avengers is currently my favorite film, and the best-made film overall is TWS, and the most fun film is Guardians, it’s hard for me to rank the three besides to say that those three films are definitely the best films of the franchise so far, IMO (and my favorites—then again, if we’re talking favorites, I’d be remiss if I did not mention the first Iron Man, or The First Avenger. But I’d still put Avengers, Guardians, and TWS above those two, I think).

What that all boils down to is that Marvel Studios is amazing (particularly this year—two of the three best films so far in the same year), and I simply cannot wait for Age of Ultron. I’m less excited for Ant-Man, but I am still eager to see that too. Especially because I heard Kevin Feige say how it was “their heist movie” which sounds great, depending on how it’s done.

(and seriously, I need dancing Groot. Best part of the film. =P)


But again in the topic of Space, this week I had a Superman film marathon:

I recently picked up the Superman: 5-film Collection from Amazon, because . . . heck, it was only $10, and I had never seen any of the Christopher Reeve films, nor Superman Returns, and I’ve been meaning and wanting to for a long time. Plus, the included versions were the extended edition of the first film and the Richard Donner cut of the second, which are the versions I wanted to see first anyway (eventually I hope to go back and watch the theatrical versions of both, though).

Anyway, as expected, the first two Reeve films were good, while the second two were . . . not so good. =P And I really enjoyed Superman Returns, personally, but it really must be viewed as a sequel of sorts to the first two Reeve films, as many of its faults would be that it does not stand alone and tries so much to be like the Reeve films (and the first half is certainly better than the second, but still—overall, I really enjoyed it, probably as much as the first two Reeve films, and more at times). But it was simply great finally seeing these films, and the best-made films or not, they were still great superhero fun.

I finished the marathon out with re-watching Man of Steel, because I couldn’t resist since I had already watched so much Superman, I figured I may as well watch all the Superman films I had. It’s my personal favorite of the six films, but there are certainly places where the Reeve films (and Returns) are better. Plus, I don’t have any nostalgia toward the Reeve films, and I’m excited for the prospect of a DC Cinematic Universe, so those two things definitely weigh the balance in favor of MoS for. Still, overall some great films in all, and the marathon was quite fun.


On the subject of Wheels (though actually just one wheel, that being the Wheel of Time), I finally read The Eye of the World, the first book in the incredibly long series, by Robert Jordan. It took a little while, but overall was fairly enjoyable.

Comparing to LotR or ASoIaF, it’s certainly not nearly as good (not to say those two are equals either, though—IMO LotR is high above ASoIaF, but to each his own—I do absolutely love them both and oh my gosh I cannot wait for The Winds of Winter. I'm literally checking Google all the time to see if a release date has been announced, even though I know it probably hasn't), but I know it’s not completely fair to compare them. Then again, it did have a lot of similarities to LotR, which ended up hurting it rather than helping it.

But it still wasn’t bad by any means. In fact, it was pretty good overall, and I do look forward to reading the next book and, eventually, the whole series (assuming it keeps being at least fairly good).

The main thing for me was that none of the characters were really interesting enough to stand on their own, which I didn’t realize until they got split up at one point. Lan and Moiraine are the two most interesting of the group (and Elyas, though he has a lot more potential that wasn't used, and he wasn’t in there enough), but they don’t really get all that much page-time, especially when the group is separated. Rand should be interesting, as he’s the main character, but . . . he’s not, really, or at least not until he’s with a large group.

But again, it was interesting enough and enjoyable enough to still be a good book, and I will be looking to pick up the next in the series (probably whenever I can find it at a used bookstore). And I'm extremely glad I finally read it, as I've had this book sitting around for so long while always saying "I'm definitely going to get to it soon!" . . . and then never doing so. But I promised myself I'd read it this summer, and while I was planning to read it in June, at least I still got to it. =P


And lastly, Watches. As with TEotW, I finally got around to reading Watchmen, by Alan Moore. I saw the movie for the first time a couple years ago or so, and a couple more times since then, but I hadn’t read the graphic novel until now, though I've really been meaning to. (I then re-watched the film last night after finishing the book as I wanted to compare/contrast/etc. As often with adaptations . . . the book is definitely better =P But I do enjoy the film)

It’s really one of the most thought-provoking novels I’ve ever read, graphic novel or prose. For example, even just a (seemingly) simple question such as Who is the most "good" character? arouses many questions and thoughts. There are just so many questions and considerations for each character—is what they do right, or necessary, or both, or neither? Or is any character all that good?

Of course there’s many answers and points of view on all those questions, and I’m not really sure about my opinion on the answers, either. But that really is, to me, one of the greatest and most enjoyable aspects about this graphic novel—how much it really makes you think and question the characters and their actions. It’s incredibly dark, grim, and depressing, but it allows for a lot of reflection. I can’t say who’s the most moral character or even if there is one, and I don’t know the answer to a myriad other questions the graphic novel brought up either, but I do know one thing: I’ll certainly be thinking about this book for a long, long time. =P Which is really the greatest thing ever and something I love so much when books do that to you.

Favorite Quote: Ever since I first saw the film (heck, even the trailer), I’ve always loved this line:

“[. . .] will look up and shout, ‘save us!’ . . . And I’ll look down and whisper, ‘no’.”

But upon reading the graphic novel, one quote that particularly stood out to me that hadn’t in the several times I had seen the movie was:

“No. Not even in the face of Armageddon. Never compromise.”

It's weird saying it since it's just on paper, but really the "delivery" of that line (the surrounding events, the character, when/how it's said, etc.) is what made it stand out. But speaking of, can I just say how much I love Jackie Earle Haley in the film? He really does a fantastic job with Rorschach—another of my favorite performed-lines being “None of you understand. I’m not locked up in here with you. You’re locked up in here with me!” But honestly every single line of his is just delivered so well.

But there's really just so many thought-provoking lines throughout the whole novel, it's awesome. I have to say, definitely the best graphic novel I've read so far.


Anyway, that basically does it for my first week of August so far. =P I’ve read so many great books (a bunch of great graphic novels, a bunch of great childrens books, bunch of Neil Gaiman and Conan Doyle and others. . .) and seen so many great films this year so far (CA:TWS, GotG, LEGO movie, Frozen [didn’t see it until this past February or so], Maleficent, Days of Future Past, etc. . . .). Will maybe do another blog entry on those later, but it's been a great year so far.

Currently reading: The Princess Bride (again, as seems to be a trend with books I’m reading recently . . . finally!). My sister bought me the new beautifully-illustrated hardcover edition for my birthday recently, so this seemed as perfect time as any to finally get around to reading it. Great and hilarious so far, as expected (just finished chapter 4). And I just have to say: thank God shrieking tarantulas aren’t real. Spiders are scary enough as they are. =P


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Top Ten Books I Read in 2013

Posted by Velox , in Literature, Other, Reviews, Top Ten Tuesday Jan 11 2014 · 213 views
books, reading, top ten, 2013
This year is definitely the best year book-wise for me. I don’t rate many novels five stars on Goodreads—I try to save that rating for only books that are the best of the best, and as such, I end up rating most books only 4 stars, even if they may be more of 9/10 or 9.5/10, instead of 5. But this year, every single book on this list was a 5-star book, more than I’ve ever had before. But I can still rank them fairly easily (much more easily than the top ten film list), so here it goes.
 

Top Ten Books I Read in 2013

 
  • The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien. I’m ashamed and saddened that I hadn’t read this until this past summer. Though, I’m not entirely sure that’s accurate. I definitely started reading Fellowship a couple times, and I feel like I may have gotten farther than that once, but I simply can’t remember. I do know that I was read the trilogy as a young kid, but I don’t count that as reading either (nor do I remember it). So either way, since I don’t remember how much I read, I consider this my first read. And it was amazing—definitely a book I’ll be reading many times. The last two pages of “A Siege of Gondor” are honestly my two favorite pages I have ever read—so beautifully and chillingly written. Not that I expected any different from Tolkien, but still. I loved this book, and it’s definitely my favorite book I read this year.
  • The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern. I really wish I could say this was my favorite book this year, because this book was so amazing to read, but then I read LotR over the summer. =P This book is so fascinating, though. If I had to describe it in one word, I’d probably say “magical”—because that’s really what it is. This book, more than any I have ever read, really takes me away from the real world to become immersed in the world she creates with the circus. This novel isn’t fast-paced by any means. It does have a lot of descriptions, but the descriptions are such a joy to read that, to me, it didn’t matter. I wouldn’t compare the writing style to Tolkien, but they are similar in that they both have a lot of description, and do so incredibly well (though differently). This book, more than most, made me want to ignore so many things in order to just stay absorbed in the world of the circus. Highly recommended.
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman. I read this book in a single day. It’s not long, so that’s not surprising, but still—I don’t think I even took a break, because of how engrossing this story was. To put it simply, this book is amazing. Gaiman has shown his brilliance time and again (and unfortunately I have not read nearly as much of him as I need to), but this book was particularly striking. From living in books (something I can definitely relate to), to nostalgia and reflection, all wrapped around an underlying fantasy setting, Gaiman portrays the hardship of life, remembering, relationships, discovery, vulnerability, and more in a truly wonderful short novel. Definitely recommended.
  • The Prestige, by Christopher Priest. After seeing the amazing film by Christopher Nolan, I knew I had to read the book. Sure, Nolan is my favorite director, but still—this film was simply amazing. And after reading The Night Circus, which also has magicians, I really knew I had to read this book, and began frantically looking for it at used bookstores. It’s definitely a lot different from the film, but that’s one of the things I loved—both were amazing, and neither spoiled the other, either. I honestly can’t decide which I like better, but the book was great, and one of my favorite books this year.
  • A Storm of Swords, by George R.R. Martin. This whole series is fantastic, and each book is 5-star worthy. But this book in particular stands out, and for anyone who read it can probably relate. There were several different times where I practically ran to the computer to talk to GSR and/or Tolkien to talk to them over Skype about things that I had just read (in fact at one point Tolkien was just like “I’ll see you in 10 minutes” aaaand yeah. Intense stuff). There’s some content I don’t like, but overall Martin does an incredible job, and I cannot wait to read A Dance with Dragons.
  • The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster. Children’s books really can be the best sometimes. Harry Potter, Narnia, this, A Monster Calls, Holes, etc. There were so many clever phrases throughout, and a fun adventure with enjoyable characters. I may have read this a long time ago, too, but if so I don’t remember it, unfortunately. At least I finally read it this year, and it was fantastic.
  • Holes, by Louis Sachar. Yet another book I’m surprised I hadn’t read until this year (I must be one of the only people who didn’t read it in middle school, as my brother and sister did), but a very enjoyable one. I couldn't put it down, starting it one night and finishing it the next morning. Every character was round and unique, a hard thing to accomplish when you're dealing with so many, and the plot was fun and exciting. Overall, it was simply a very enjoyable, easy-to-read, and fun book. Highly recommended in case there's anyone else out there that hasn't read it. I'll definitely have to look into more of Sachar's work. Not a bad film, either.
  • S., by J.J. Abrams & Doug Dorst. This is quite possibly the most fun I’ve had reading a book. Reading the conversation between the two young people (like a play), reading each of the inserts, feeling like a part of the discovery—it really was just simply fun. Unfortunately, though, the book itself (“The Ship of Theseus”) was not as good as I had hoped. Not that it was bad, but it wasn’t completely amazing, either. Perhaps I built it up too much, but in the end, I was left feeling slightly disappointed. That said, it was still a 5-star book for me, because of how fun it was to read, even if the novel itself may not have been 5-stars alone.
  • The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini. This was heartbreaking. Perhaps the best words for it would be from the New York Times Book Review: Powerful & haunting. Because it was definitely both of those. The Kite Runner made the reader care—left an impression in the reader. Haunted the reader with the reality depicted within. Horrible, heart-wrenching things happened, but they happened to characters you cared about. Characters you cared about did despicable things—but they realized they had done wrong. The Kite Runner opens your eyes to the world, the harshness of life, yet the beauty that remains even through that harshness. The good that still exists through the bad. The Kite Runner is a beautiful but haunting book. Not for the faint of heart, but an amazing book, worth reading, I think, at least once.
  • A Study in Scarlet, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The first Sherlock Holmes novel I’ve read (I’ve read a lot of the short stories before), and it didn’t disappoint. I’m still planning to make my way through every single SH story, as I have a leather-bound Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection, so I’m going to read them all in order, too. I had hoped to read the first set of short stories by now, but haven’t yet. Still, though, I look forward to doing so, as I loved this (and The Sign of Four so much).
 
Runner-Up: American Gods, by Neil Gaiman. Perhaps I liked this better than one of the last couple books (hard to decide…), but I already had a Gaiman book on here so I’ll just leave this as the runner-up. Still, it was really an amazing book, and even though I liked Ocean a lot more, I still loved this one, and would definitely read it again. I really look forward to reading more of Gaiman’s work.
 
 

Books I’m looking forward most to reading next year:

 
  • More Than This, by Patrick Ness (currently reading, actually—I started it and read over half of it yesterday).
  • A Dance with Dragons, by George R.R. Martin. Been waiting for when I have some free time to read this—I’m hoping that’s this week.
  • 11 Doctors, 11 Stories, by various authors (including Patrick Ness, Neil Gaiman, and Eoin Colfer). It’s Doctor Who and all these awesome authors. I’m hoping it lives up to all the hype I’m giving it.
  • Skin Game, by Jim Butcher. One of my favorite authors, and Harry Dresden is one of my all-time favorite characters.
  • Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card. My sister keeps saying how I have to read it, but more than that I just really want to, because of how much praise it’s gotten (and it sounds interesting). Plus, I need to read more great Sci-Fi. I’m also excited to read Hart’s Hope, because I love stand-alone fantasy books and I’ve heard this one is amazing.
  • The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman. Just ordered this from Amazon, so I’ll probably be reading it soon.
  • Hawkeye, Vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon, by Matt Fraction. Thanks to the recommendation of Chocolate Frogs, I recently bought this from Amazon, too. I also hope to get Sandman, Vol. 1 soon, but I decided to get Hawkeye first because I really want to read a superhero graphic novel.
  • Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn. I’m really excited to finally read some of her work, and I promised myself I’d read her first two before I read Gone Girl, which is the book I’m particularly excited to read, especially because David Fincher is directing the film based off of it.
  • The Gods of Guilt, by Michael Connelly. I love Connelly’s work, and I haven’t read a thriller in a while. Plus, my hardback copy is signed, and somehow that makes me more excited to read the book.
  • The Cuckoo’s Calling, by J.K. Rowling. I’m really excited to finally read this, as I love Rowling’s writing. And while I wasn’t a huge fan of The Casual Vacancy, I still really enjoyed the writing style, and I’m looking forward to seeing how she does with a mystery novel. Speaking of mystery novels, I’m also really looking forward to reading The Second Death, by Caleb Peiffer; and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, by Conan Doyle (the first set of short stories).
 


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Of NaNoWriMo, Halloween Stories, and Life

Posted by Velox , in BZPower, Life, Literature Nov 04 2013 · 198 views

So I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year. I wasn’t sure I was going to because 1. I wasn't sure I wanted to commit to a large project this semester; and 2. I wanted to start working on a new novel idea, but that idea was far from ready to be worked on during NaNo (I didn’t even have character names yet, much less any sort of character profiles at all, or a lot of information on the world [as it’d be fantasy], plot, etc.).
 
But then one of my friends from school convinced me to, and I’m so glad she did, because these past few days have been awesome. I've been writing a lot more than I have in a long time and it feels great to just be writing again. Even if I cringe every few minutes at what I just wrote, it's great to be making progress.
 
I just passed eleven thousand words, which is basically half of my total word count last year (yeah, only got a little over 22k last year, unfortunately). Which makes me really excited—only the third day, and already I’m half of where I finished last year, so I’m actually really hopeful to “win” this year and get the full 50k. Both Friday and Saturday I was able to get 5k words each day (I’m really lucky NaNo started on my day off—Friday—and I didn’t have much going on Saturday), which is definitely more than I have ever written before. I’m not sure I’ve even ever written 5k words in a single day, but I definitely haven't done 5k two days in a row. 

 
And better yet, I've just been really excited about writing again. Yeah, getting all 5k was hard, especially the last couple hundred words, but even so this has really just made me excited and happy to be writing again. I'm having a lot of fun with it, and I can't wait to keep going. 
 
So we’ll see, but I’m feeling really good about this year, and even if I don’t finish I hope to make a significant dent in my novel—if not actually finally finish it. I’m continuing the one I started last year, since I haven’t worked on it much since. Of course, even if I do finish it, it will need a lot of revisions, but still. I’ve had this idea lying around for over four years now, so it’ll be good just finally get it completed so I can move on to more projects. It will need much, much (much x1000) revising, but . . . still, the hardest part (for me, at least) is just writing that much on a single project.
 
That always seems to be my problem, really. I often start a project but never end up finishing it because I either lose interest or gain more interest in another project. Even if this novel isn’t my favorite story idea any more, at least I’ll have actually finished a novel.
 
 
How's everyone else doing so far? I hope NaNo is going well for those that are participating—whether you’re doing everything by the book, being a “rebel” (hey, they have an official forum on the NaNo forums specifically for “rebels” and technically I fall into that category since I'm continuing my novel from last year), or doing your own thing instead of NaNo but using NaNo as the backbone—the important thing is just writing. 

 
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As for Halloween stories, The Ambage recently released a small collection of Halloween-themed stories: Crooked Ways

 



Posted Image

 

(image links to larger size)

(amazing artwork by 55555)

 
The paperback version is less than four bucks, and you can get a free Kindle version if you buy the paperback from Amazon. It includes stories from myself, Nuile, GSR, Zox, Zarayna, and 55555.
 
If you're interested in purchasing it, you can buy the paperback here or here, and the Kindle version here. Please consider supporting your fellow BZPers. ^^ Thanks in advance to anyone who does!

 
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Otherwise, life is going pretty well, just been busy with school and stuff but trying to be more active here. Notable things that've happened since Summerish (though none of this was lost in the data loss, since I just wasn't very active and never updated my blog =P): 
  • Re-fell in love with Firefly (about a month ago I had a Firefly/Serenity marathon [after purchasing the Collector's Edition of Serenity], followed by a commentary/bonus features marathon, going back and watching the episode commentaries, film commentary, and various bonus features. Yeah, I kinda love this show/movie).
  • Watched the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer a couple weeks ago and also fell in love (I'm restraining myself from watching any more until after NaNo).
  • Had an Avengers marathon (watching it and all the films leading up to it) back in late August before classes started after completing my DVD collection of the Avenger films. Fell more in love than I already was with them. Will be writing an entry that ranks them from best to worst (in my opinion, obviously) soon (hint: Avengers is #1).
  • In general just fell in love with Joss Whedon's work. 
  • Started work on a collaborative writing project (four intertwined novellas) with some friends from school; super excited about that.
  • Best book I've read since summer: The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman.
  • Started re-reading some of The Dresden Files, by Jim Butcher, which are amazing books and re-fell in love with them, too.
  • Pre-ordered the paperback of A Dance with Dragons, by George R.R. Martin, which came this past Tuesday; I'm really excited to read it come Christmas-ish over winter break.
  • Watched the second half of the final season of Breaking Bad as the episodes aired. Man, "Felina" and "Ozymandias" were such amazing episodes. That show in general is just pretty incredible. 
  • Glad to see the forums are back. Yay.
~ Velox


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Top Ten Tuesday #3: Top Ten Books I Read in 2012

Posted by Velox , in Top Ten Tuesday, Literature Dec 18 2012 · 238 views

So I know I've already made an entry like this, but I wanted to keep up the Top Ten Tuesdays (even though I missed last week due to finals, unfortunately -- I'll probably post it tomorrow or later this week) anyway. So without further ado...

 

Top Ten Books I Read in 2012

 
(In no particular order, really, because it's hard to choose one over the other in a lot of the cases)
  • A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness. I think anything I could say about this I've already said. An amazing book.
  • The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkien. Should be self explanatory. It's Tolkien. It's the Hobbit. 
  • The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. See my review for an in-depth reason, but in short: it's an amazing book that I think everyone should read. 
  • Skin, by Ted Dekker. A great thriller that was extremely fun to read. I'm definitely going to be reading more Dekker after this.
  • The Last Man and Kill Shot, by Vince Flynn. Vince Flynn is one of my favorite authors, and these books were nothing short of amazing. I read The Last Man in a single evening after receiving it in the mail. 
  • Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin. I hope this is fairly self-explanatory, but Martin is an incredible author. I'm excited to read the rest of the series. 
  • The Four Loves, by C. S. Lewis. I can't say enough about this book. I love it so, so much. I'll definitely be re-reading it sometime, and it's one of my favorite books. The first non-fiction book I have ever read for pleasure, too. C. S. Lewis really is an amazing man. 
  • The Mickey Haller series and several books from the Harry Bosch series, by Michael Connelly. Another one of my favorite authors who I only started reading this year. I became hooked instantly, and every single one of his books are amazing. I can't wait to finish the series. 
  • The Harry Potter Series. Read them for the first time this year. Gotta say, I loved them, reading all of them in less than two weeks. I'm definitely going to read them again sometime. 
  • Cold Days, by Jim Butcher. Jim Butcher never disappoints, and I loved how this one was longer than usual. 
So it was hard to choose just ten books (and yes, I cheated by using multiple by the same author =P), and even then were a few other books that I really enjoyed. But I think these are my top ten. 
 
~ Velox


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Meeting Michael Connelly

Posted by Velox , in School, Life, Literature Dec 05 2012 · 306 views
Michael Connelly, Book Signing and 3 more...

So on Sunday I had the honor of meeting one of my favorite authors: Michael Connelly. A master in the mystery genre, Connelly has just published his 25th book (in only 20 years); the 18th book in the LAPD Detective Harry Bosch series. I unfortunately have not yet read all of his books, but I am making my way through, having read 13 books so far (8 of which were Harry Bosch novels). Connelly has also guest-starred in the amazing TV show Castle, which just added to the excitement of meeting him. 

 
Anyway, it was actually extremely fortunate. For my Creative Writing class, I had to go to two readings -- one fiction, and one poetry, and then write a report on them. I was lucky that, the day before these reports were due, Michael Connelly was speaking at a Barnes and Noble near my house. 
 
Unfortunately, I didn't know I was going to be going to the book signing, so I had ordered his new book, The Black Box, online a few days earlier. And it hadn't come yet. So instead I was that one awkward guy with his second-newest book (The Drop) for him to sign (I also had him sign a label that I have now stuck on The Black Box when it arrived earlier today). It wasn't really that awkward, though, and it was extremely awesome being able to meet him and talk to other Connelly fans in line while waiting to meet him.
 
And I have proof!

 
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You can thank my phone for the blurry picture (and of course I wasn't looking at the camera. Oh well). 
 
So I went there, waited in line and heard him speak for ~45 minutes (which was awesome, though slightly hard to hear), then finally got up and had him sign my stuff and take a picture. Later that night I drove up to Santa Monica for a poetry reading (yes, I am a procrastinator, and waited until the day before to go to both readings -- I'm lucky there was even a poetry reading near me that night), and I was actually pleasantly surprised. I wasn't expecting it to be all that good, but it wasn't bad -- author/professor Carol Quinn read from her book Acetylene, and afterward I bought it and had her sign it. I had never heard of her before this, so I'm glad she turned out to be pretty good. 
 

Overall a good day. Two book signings/readings, was able to finish my homework barely in time for my Creative Writing class the next day, and I got to meet one of my favorite authors. 
 
~ Velox


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Top Ten Tuesday #2: Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Bringing Me

Posted by Velox , in Top Ten Tuesday, Literature Dec 04 2012 · 312 views
Top Ten Tuesday, Christmas, Santa and 2 more...

So on a few writing blogs I follow, there's a "Top Ten Tuesday" meme that people do, where each week they give a new theme, and you give your top ten books for that theme. I decided I'd start doing it here. The list is roughly in the order of most- to least-wanted.

 

I Wouldn't Mind Santa Bringing Me...

I don't think I need a 9 or 10. =P There's a lot of books I want, to be sure, but most of them are just books that I'd want to get on my own. These books are all (mostly) more expensive or hard to find (and thus more expensive as I'll have to buy them at full price instead of from a used bookstore), so I'd rather get them as gifts then buy them myself. Of course, once I get a job, I'll probably be buying one Collectible Edition book a month at least. =P 
 
~ Velox


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Best Books of 2012

Posted by Velox , in Literature Dec 03 2012 · 327 views
Books, 2012, List, Best Books

Another list from a non-BZP blog I follow, decided I'd jump on the bandwagon and give mine. 
 
Best Books in 2012

  • Best Book You Read in 2012? So this is a hard one. I've read a lot of good books this year, and really, it's impossible for me to choose a favorite. So instead I'll give my top five: The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien (not the first time I've read it, but still), A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness (I think my banner and avatar show how much I love the book), The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak (I think my blog entry speaks for this book), A Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin (I'm sure its reputation proceeds it), and Skin, by Ted Dekker. This is not including series I have read in their entirety (Harry Potter; Michael Connelly's Mickey Haller series), and new books in series that I have read before (Vince Flynn). 
  • Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going to Love More But Didn't? Hmm, another hard one. Partially I guess you could say this fits for A Clash of Kings, by George R. R. Martin, but it's not entirely true -- with these books, you really have to take the time to enjoy them, and as homework was piling up, I was looking for a page-turner. So in a way I enjoyed it less than I thought it would, but I am putting it aside in order to read it when I have time to focus just on the book. So I guess I'd have to say The Black Ice, by Michael Connelly. I love Connelly, but this book was a little slow for me (the only one that has been like that). And to an extent, A Confederacy of Dunces. I wasn't excited at all for it, but I did think I'd like it more than I did. 
  • Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2012? I'd have to say A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness. When I had first heard about how it's a picture book, I was some-what turned off, thinking it'd be a boring kid's book. Boy was I surprised, haha. Now it is one of my favorite books ever, and extremely highly recommended. 
  • Book you recommended to people most in 2012? Again I'd have to say A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness. After I was completely blown away, I started recommending it to everyone. That, and The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak, which is a book I think that everyone should read. 
  • Best series you discovered in 2012? I have four. 1. A Song of Ice and Fire, by George R. R. Martin. An amazing series that I can't wait to continue when I have more time to focus on it; 2. the Harry Potter series, by J. K. Rowling. Nope, I hadn't read it until this year, and then I read them all in less than two weeks. They definitely would've gone on my "best books of 2012 list" (or at least most enjoyable); 3. the Mickey Haller series, by Michael Connelly; and 4. the Harry Bosch series, by Michael Connelly. I love all of these series -- I have finished two of them, and am working my way slowly through the other two (Harry Bosch and ASoIaF).  
  • Favorite new authors you discovered in 2012? I've only read a couple of new authors (as in, newly published, not new to me), but I'd have to say Howard Gordon, author of Gideon's War. It was a pretty enjoyable book, and I look forward to future books he writes. 
  • Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you? Harry Potter, by J. K. Rowling, as I had never really read young adult fiction before (if you don't count A Monster Calls). Then there's A Game of Thrones, which technically is out of my comfort zone as I don't read much fantasy. But for books that I haven't mentioned yet, I'd say The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins -- I hadn't read young adult fiction before it (I read Harry Potter after), and it wasn't half bad. 
  • Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2012? Easy. The Last Man, by Vince Flynn. I just read it on Saturday. It had arrived in the mail that day, a few hours later I started reading it and I couldn't put it down (until I had to, as I had to go somewhere, but when I came back I promptly picked it back up), finishing it at around 1:30 AM. Great, great book. 
  • Book You Read In 2012 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year? Probably either The Hobbit or A Monster Calls, or both. I plan to start reading both of the yearly. 
  • Most memorable character in 2012? I really don't know. Many. The first one I can think of right now is Mitch Rapp, from The Last Man by Vince Flynn, but I just read that book two days ago, too. Eddard Stark of A Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, Conor from A Monster Calls, etc. 
  • Most beautifully written book read in 2012? A Game of Thrones or The Hobbit takes this one. Tolkien's and Martin's writing styles are both extremely beautiful -- truly masterpieces. 
  • Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2012? The Four Loves, by C. S. Lewis. The first non-fiction book that I have really, really enjoyed reading, and an amazing book. I'm actually not quite finished with it yet, but I love it. 
  • Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2012 to finally read? A lot? A Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, the Book Thief, anything by Michael Connelly, etc. 
  • Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2012? 1. Many passages from The Four Loves, by C. S. Lewis; 2. “You do not write your life with words, the monster said. You write it with actions. What you think is not important. It is only important what you do.” from A Monster Calls; 3. "I have the answer to your question...I think you're an imbecile. There could be some underlying psychological issues as well but I'd need to spend more time with you, which isn't going to happen. Beyond that, I'm pretty sure you're stupid." ~ Mitch Rapp, from The Last Man, by Vince Flynn (context makes it better); 4. Pretty much anything from The Hobbit; 5. Many things from A Game of Thrones and the Book Thief, etc. 
  • Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2012? Shortest would be A Monster Calls, I think, at only around 200 pages, of which a lot of those pages are only half-pages (and sometimes there are pages of just pictures). Longest...whichever one of the Harry Potter books is longest. Coming close would be Locked On, by Tom Clancy, though. 
  • Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It? (a huh moment, an epic revelation, a steamy kiss, etc. etc.) Be careful of spoilers! A Game of Thrones. People who have read it probably know what I am talking about. 
  • Favorite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2012 (be it romantic, friendship, etc)? Not too sure about this one. Perhaps Mitch Rapp and Stan Hurley (Vince Flynn). 
  • Favorite Book You Read in 2012 From An Author You Read Previously? Probably The Last Man, by Vince Flynn.
  • Best Book You Read That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else? A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness; and Skin, by Ted Dekker. Both we recommended to me by Katie (Ezorov, on the forums), and unfortunately she had to practically nag me before I read them, but I am extremely glad that I did, as they are now both favorites of mine and are amazing books. 
looking ahead...
 
  • One Book You Didn't Get To In 2012 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2013? Not sure. 2012 isn't over yet, and I'll probably read Cold Days, by Jim Butcher, by then, which is the main book that I can't wait to read (I'm forcing myself not to in lieu of finals and many essays due this week). Or else the rest of A Song of Ice and Fire and Lord of the Rings. But they're not necessarily my first priority -- they're my first priority of when I'm on a long break and have time to focus on them, though. =P
  • Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2013? Untitled, by Vince Flynn and Brian Haig. Vince Flynn is one of my favorite authors, and I love Brian Haig as well -- definitely looking forward to what they come up with. 
  • One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging in 2013? Nothing new, really. I just hope to continue my streak for a third year of reading 52 books in 52 weeks. I also plan to blog/rant more. 
~ Velox
 


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A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole

Posted by Velox , in Reviews, Literature Dec 03 2012 · 202 views
Confederacy, Dunces, John Toole and 2 more...

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A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole
ISBN: 0802130208
Publisher: Grove Press
Release Date: January 21st 1994
Rating: 2/5
Synopsis: Set in New Orleans, A Confederacy of Dunces outswifts Swift, one of whose essays gives the book its title. As its characters burst into life, they leave the region and literature forever changed by their presences – Ignatius and his mother; Miss Trixie, the octogenarian assistant accountant at Levy Pants; inept, wan Patrolman Mancuso; Darlene, the Bourbon Street stripper with a penchant for poultry; Jones, the jivecat in space-age dark glasses. Satire and farce animate A Confederacy of Dunces; tragic awareness ennobles it.
Review: (Review from [Book Reviewing Site])

 
I’m honestly not sure why this is considered such a great book by some people. The only reason that I finished it is that I had to for one of my college English classes, but otherwise I probably wouldn’t've (and I hate leaving books unfinished, even if they’re not very good). At almost no point in the story does the plot, characters, writing style or setting grip my attention. Ignatius, the main character, is perhaps slightly interesting at first, but it gets to the point where it’s just too ridiculous and frankly boring — it all gets old quick.

As I alluded to above, however, there were some parts toward the beginning where Ignatius was an interesting character. In fact, the book itself had some promise to it, but soon it was apparent that this book would be nothing more than mediocre at best.

This is also supposed to be an extremely funny book — I didn’t feel that. The only thing I felt was that Ignatius (and, every character, really) is just so ridiculous that it’s not believable. It’s not funny any more because you don’t believe that anyone could ever act like that. At least I don’t. While the characters are all distinctly different — something usually that is good — they are different to extremes. Whatever they are, they are that to the very extreme. And it really hurts the book.
 
Furthermore, it just epitomizes a lazy, whiny, and very un-funny main character. You’re not left laughing at Ignatius’ actions. You’re left wanting to slap him (and in a bad way -- not in the "author-did-a-good-job-making-you-hate-him" way, because he's supposed to be funny, even if he's not likable) because of his laziness, stupidity, or just overall annoying habits and mannerisms. Ignatius is not a fun, lovable character. And he’s not a despicable character in the good way, either — as in, some characters you’re meant to hate, they’re meant to annoy you, and if an author pulls that off, it’s a great feat. This, however, is not that either. What you have here is some weird medium where you think you’re supposed to like him and think he’s funny, yet you really hate him at the same time. Additionally, Ignatius is never really well-characterized. At the end of the novel I’m left with only the facts that he’s an extremely lazy, whiny, dependent man who wouldn’t last on his own for more than a week at best. And again, not in some funny or good way, but in a way that is just simply not entertaining at all. It's not just about the character being someone who's not likable, but it's about the fact that it tries too hard at humor, as if it was trying to prove its hilarity. There was almost none.
 
I’ve wrestled with whether or not to give this one star or two. One star doesn’t seem quite fair, as the book isn’t horrible, and the writing is by no means bad (just not all that enjoyable — but then again, not the least-enjoyable thing I’ve read, either). I’m kinda iffy on this whole star system in general — most of my 5 stars would actually be 4.5, because I believe that hardly any book is perfect and worth a perfect score. Yet 4 (or if you double it, 8/10 — a “B” if it were a college paper) is too low. So I ended up giving it a two — I didn’t like it, but it was -okay- (note to BZP members: This site's rating system says "I didn't like it" for one star, and "it was okay" for two stars -- hence my middle-ground).
 
Overall I just simply cannot highly recommend this book. It’s not horrible, no, but I definitely wouldn’t call it great or even good. John Kennedy Toole, while a promising author, took things too far every time. And it’s sad, really, because the idea behind this book could probably be something great, but it was simply taken way too far, exaggerated so much that the story started to lose credibility, leading to the ultimate dissatisfaction I felt with the book.
 
~ Velox


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Top Ten Tuesday #1: Most Anticipated Books of 2013

Posted by Velox , in Top Ten Tuesday, Literature Nov 27 2012 · 354 views
Top Ten Tuesday, Books, 2013

So on a few writing blogs I follow, there's a "Top Ten Tuesday" meme that people do, where each week they give a new theme, and you give your top ten books for that theme. I decided I'd start doing it here. The list is roughly in the order of most- to least-anticipated (with the exception of #10).




Most Anticipated Books of 2013

  • Untitled, by Vince Flynn and Brian Haig. Vince Flynn is, if not my favorite, at least one of my favorite authors. And a new book series, co-authored with Brian Haig (who I am also a fan of)? Count me in.
  • A Dance with Dragons, by George R. R. Martin. While the book itself has already been released, I'm looking forward to the paperback version that will match the other books in the series that I have. I've only read Game of Thrones and part of Clash of Kings, but I immensely enjoyed both, and can't wait to finish them and read ADwD.
  • Unknown Book, by Michael Connelly. Another of my favorite authors. He usually writes at least one book a year, so I'm looking forward to whatever book he writes that comes out in 2013. I'm hoping it's another Mickey Haller book, but I definitely wouldn't mind a Harry Bosch novel, either.
  • Unknown Book, by Jim Butcher. Once again, Butcher usually comes out with a new Dresden Files book every year, which is a completely fantastic series -- I definitely look forward to reading his 2013 book, and his book that was released today, Cold Days, should be arriving by UPS within the next day or two.
  • Unknown Book, by Tom Clancy. As of 2010, Tom Clancy has been publishing a book or two a year, so I assume that this trend will continue. I still have to read his older books (with the exception of Patriot Games), but I've read Dead or Alive, Against All Enemies, and Locked On and really enjoyed them (and just pre-ordered Threat Vector), so I look forward to whatever he comes out with in 2013.
  • Unknown Book, by Brad Thor. Writing a book or two a year, I expect another book to come out in the summer of 2013. I haven't read his latest book, Black List, yet, but I plan to get it shortly.
  • Unknown Book, by Ben Coes. A relatively new author, with only three books to his name, has been publishing a book once a year, and as such I expect that he will do so in 2013. I've only read his first book, unfortunately, but I loved it and I have his second.
  • The Third Bullet, by Stephen Hunter. Unfortunately, this is one of those authors that I really need to catch up on. I've only read one book by him, and part of another, but I greatly enjoy them, and this book sounds like it's going to be great.
  • The Night Ranger, by Alex Berenson. Yet again an author that I really must read more of, having only read one book by him. But I really enjoyed it, and I plan to make my way through his series at some point, and this book sounds interesting.
  • Unknown Book, by Unknown Author. I'm sure there's another (if not more than one) book that I'll be eagerly anticipating during 2013, but I'm not sure what that is yet. =P
Unfortunately, I don't really know of that many books that are coming out in 2013, so I basically just stuck to authors that I really enjoyed reading in the past, and can assume will publish a book in 2013. Numbers 1, 3, and 4 (and to a lesser extent, 5 and 6) are the ones that I anticipate most every year (or have been, for the past couple years, at least). I don't have the broadest taste of books and authors and genres, but I'm slowly making my way there.

Feel free to give your own Top Ten Anticipated Books of 2013, comment on mine, etc. I do not own or take credit for the idea of this list, but unfortunately cannot link to where I got it from, as it is a blog with a commenting system.

~ Velox






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