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Mega-Post #3

It's been quite a while since I posted something that was a Sunday Shuffle, Heavy Rotation, or Monthly Mix, which means it's well past time to get caught up with my pop culture intake...

BAKER'S DOZEN

Yes, I've read 13 books since last time I wrote about books. I'll try to keep my comments short...

A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin - I took just over three weeks to read this, though I did read a couple others during that time as well. The first half of the book does great character work and the second half is full of big event after big event and made me leave any other reading aside. It's my favorite book of the series so far and the first half or so is being adapted into the current season of Game of Thrones, which I also recommend.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell - On the surface, I should have liked this a lot. It's a romance set in the 80s and the titular characters are into the things I was into - I was the same age during that time period. And yet, I didn't fall for it. Don't know why, exactly.

The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi - This is the second book in the Old Man's War universe and focuses on a character we met in the first. It's military SF with lots of interesting aliens and politics and character work. What else could you want?

Start Here edited by Jeff O'Neal and Rebecca Joines Schinsky - This is an outgrowth of the Book Riot website, of which I am a fan. The idea here is to give readers potential pathways into authors they haven't read yet but want to. I really disagreed with the writer who covered Jane Austen but on the whole found this pleasant bedtime reading for about 10 days. It also added to my want-to-read list.

The Last Colony by John Scalzi - I pretty much went right into the next book in the Old Man's War series and liked this one even better. It brought together characters from both books and I liked the look at starting a colony against the backdrop of political machinations by humans and aliens alike. There's some good humor here as well. I need to get to the fourth book soon.

Criminal Enterprise by Owen Laukkanen - This is the second Stevens and Windermere book (I really like the first, The Professionals, when I read it last year). This one deals with the current financial crisis and is full of action, cat-and-mouse, and character work. I burned through it in just two days and have no regrets.

Woods Runner by Gary Paulsen - I got to run a couple book clubs with the 5th graders at work and one of the groups read this. It's about a teenager whose parents get kidnapped and he gets caught up in the Revolutionary War. Each chapter has a short lead-in with facts about the time period. I had some interesting discussions with the group and enjoyed the experience of reading this with them.

The Batboy by Mike Lupica - I read this with the other group in book club. I've been watching Lupica on The Sports Reporters every Sunday morning for the past 15 years or more, so I enjoy when I get to read one of his novels (read a different one with a book club a couple years ago); they remind me of the sports fiction I consumed when I was in that 4th to 6th grade range. This one is about baseball and absent fathers and hero worship and I liked it a lot. One of the boys loved it, which is even better.

You by Austin Grossman - I loved Grossman's Soon I Will Be Invincible (as well as his twin brother Lev's Magicians series), so this new novel was a no-brainer. It's about a video game company in the late 90s and a guy just getting back into it. His friends from high school were early pioneers and this book is a look back at early gaming and where the industry went from there. I enjoyed it but I didn't love it on the level of Ready Player One, which takes a broader approach to the subject of video games.

London Falling by Paul Cornell - A group of London police gain the Sight, which allows them to notice the supernatural elements that have always been present. They need to take down an ancient witch and also save soccer players (it makes sense in the book). This took a while to come together but once it did, I enjoyed it well enough. I suspect the second book in the series will be even better, with all the exposition out of the way. We'll see.

The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway - Time travel and a love story - a combination that makes me pay attention. And yet, this book never quite followed through on that promise for me. The main problem is that it is mostly characters talking about what happens or explaining about the rules for time travel. I like a little more action than that, usually (and I'm not talking about sex, which is here). So, I liked it but thought I might love it. Ah well.

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey - This books takes place in the aftermath of an alien invasion, which killed much of the planet's population. It focuses on a couple teenagers who are trying to cope and figure out a way to survive (hint: movies have gotten it wrong). The book picks up steam as it goes along and characters converge (and you figure out who some of them are), culminating in a epic action sequence. There's more than action here too; in fact, it's a fairly psychological book. I really liked it.

Top of the Rock by Warren Littlefield with T.R. Pearson - I heard an interview with Littlefield, who shepherded NBC through its Must See TV era, on a fairly recent Bullseye (as always, I'm well behind on my podcast listening) and decided I should read his book. It's an oral history of the time period with plenty of behind-the-scenes information about shows like Cheers, Seinfeld, Friends, and ER. An interested history and a fast read.

That makes 25 books read in 5 months. If I keep up this pace, I could end up reading 60 this year. Not bad.

I'VE MADE A HUGE TINY MISTAKE

If you don't recognize my title, it comes from Arrested Development. That show has recently returned after being off the air for 7 years. This time around the show is on Netflix and they released all 15 episodes at once. I decided that I wanted to go back and rewatch the series from the beginning since it had been a number of years since I'd watched. I remembered quite a bit (weird chicken dances, Tobias trying to be in the Blue Man Group and all the jokes that went with it, no touching, and all the rest) but I admit to not remembering that much of Season 3. I've been laughing a lot while going back through the episodes. My only mistake was not starting earlier - the new episodes have been up for about a week and I'm still not ready for them yet (closing in, though, with only 7 to go).

A GOOD EXIT

While the previous show is back after an absence, The Office has exited for good, probably a couple seasons too late. While the current season started out with some promise, it sagged in the middle. There were bits that were funny and some nice movement with character relationships like Jim and Dwight and Oscar and Angela but it clearly wasn't the same show anymore. The last handful of episodes, however, were of a quality that I really enjoyed. The series finale was very well done and is one of the best finales that I can recall. The show was great for a long time and I will miss spending time with the Dunder Mifflin crew.

SO LONG, STARMAN

Speaking of exits, I never read the last few issues of Starman as they were being published. They came out around the time I switched to trades the very first time and they got lost in the shuffle. Over the last few months, I read the final two volumes of Starman Omnibus. They included the bigger stories of Jack going to space in search of Will Payton, a previous Starman; the "Grand Guignol" storyline where Opal City was cut off by a villain who had been hiding within The Shade; and the fallout from that story - Ted's death, a trip to 1951, and so on. For much of the 90s, it was my favorite DC comic and it was great to go back and reread those stories and finally finish the series. James Robinson really used a lot of cool DC characters in this book, so much so that I lamented all over again that DC rebooted and threw all that history away. The issues contained in the two volumes also feature Peter Snejbjerg on art; I love his the more cartoony look he brought to the book. This was and is good comics.

ASTRO CITY ANTICIPATION

In my last Mega-Post, I mentioned that Astro City was once again coming back as an ongoing series and how excited I was. I had also stated my plan to reread the entire series before its return. At the time, I had 87 days. As of today, I have 4. I've only managed to read the first collection and am in the middle of reading Astro City: Confession right now. If Starman was my favorite DC comic during the 90s, this comic was probably my favorite, hands down. Kurt Busiek introduces so many characters and drops hints on others - you just want to read stories about all of them. The stories go beyond plot heavy super-hero fare as well. There is depth here, both in single issues and in longer stories like "Confession." I won't wait to read the new series when the first issue arrives on Wednesday but I will probably keep up with my reread as the summer goes on.

SCREEN SEQUELS

Iron Man 3 - Robert Downey Jr. has certainly owned the role of Iron Man over the last 6 years, hasn't he? Even beaten down and on the run like he is for much of this movie, he is certainly a lot of fun to watch. The middle with the kid in Tennessee was fantastic and I like how the movie balanced the dark with that lightness.  Also, how great was Ben Kingsley? The franchise is left in a state of uncertainty at the end too but I'm okay with that. I liked this one and it was certainly better than the second even if it didn't match the glorious rush that was the first.

Star Trek: Into Darkness - I thought this was great. I know reviews have been mixed but I don't share the reservations that some had about the echoes of Star Trek's past contained within the movie. I liked those echoes, I liked the performances, I liked what the filmmakers did with Kirk and Spock's relationship, I liked the McCoy one-liners and the steely Sulu resolve. Okay, maybe a character was a little unnecessary but that's a minor quibble. I wholeheartedly recommend this one.

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