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32 Life Lessons from the Cute Creatures of Fiction — Infographic

32 Life Lessons from the Cute Creatures of Fiction

Sometimes inspiration comes from the strangest of places.  Oftentimes, we find these in our fictional works, and today’s infographic compiles 32 of these great life lessons from arguable 32 of the cutest creatures from across different media. Hopefully you can find something (or someone) to relate to.  [VIA]

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Posted by on November 23, 2015 in Infographics

 

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Fifty States, Fifty Books– Infographic

The “Best” 50 Books Set in Each State

I always take these lists with a grain of salt, because what is deemed as the “best” by one, is always contested by several others.  Regardless of that fact, however, today’s infographic provides a nice list of fifty books that are each set in a different one of the United States.  That alone makes for an interesting list in my opinion, and a great jumping off point to find something new and exciting to read if you’ve been in a rut lately.  [VIA]

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Posted by on November 11, 2015 in Infographics

 

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ARC Book Review – Tarkin (Star Wars) by James Luceno

Tarkin (Star Wars)

Tarkin (Star Wars) by James Luceno. November 4, 2014. Del Rey, 289p. $28.00 ISBN:9780345511522.

“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. . . .

Bestselling Star Wars veteran James Luceno gives Grand Moff Tarkin the Star Wars: Darth Plagueis treatment, bringing a legendary character from A New Hope to full, fascinating life.

He’s the scion of an honorable and revered family. A dedicated soldier and distinguished legislator. Loyal proponent of the Republic and trusted ally of the Jedi Order. Groomed by the ruthless politician and Sith Lord who would be Emperor, Governor Wilhuff Tarkin rises through the Imperial ranks, enforcing his authority ever more mercilessly . . . and zealously pursuing his destiny as the architect of absolute dominion.

Rule through the fear of force rather than force itself, he advises his Emperor. Under Tarkin’s guidance, an ultimate weapon of unparalleled destruction moves ever closer to becoming a terrifying reality. When the so-called Death Star is completed, Tarkin is confident that the galaxy’s lingering pockets of Separatist rebellion will be brought to heel—by intimidation . . . or annihilation.

Until then, however, insurgency remains a genuine threat. Escalating guerrilla attacks by resistance forces and newfound evidence of a growing Separatist conspiracy are an immediate danger the Empire must meet with swift and brutal action. And to bring down a band of elusive freedom fighters, the Emperor turns to his most formidable agents: Darth Vader, the fearsome new Sith enforcer as remorseless as he is mysterious; and Tarkin—whose tactical cunning and cold-blooded efficiency will pave the way for the Empire’s supremacy . . . and its enemies’ extinction.” — Publisher’s Description

Taking on one of the most intriguing characters in the Star Wars universe, James Luceno does an admirable job fleshing out the persona of Wilhuff Tarkin. Played perfectly by Peter Cushing in 1977, Tarkin has always been an enigma. How did this man become the commander of the Death Star and an equal to, or sometimes seemingly a superior of, Darth Vader himself? Luceno weaves a story filled with action surrounding a joint Tarkin-Vader mission for the Emperor and flashbacks to Tarkin’s childhood and adolescence.

Set five years after the events in Revenge of the Sith, we are treated to a triple threat here: the growth of Tarkin into the man we see in Star Wars: A New Hope, the continued development of Darth Vader as he grows in the Dark Side, and the seeds of the Rebellion that will reach its pinnacle 15 years into the future.

The action opens on the mysterious Sentinel Base where the newly promoted Moff Tarkin is overseeing a project of epic proportion for the Emperor.  The base is attacked by remnants of the Separatist Movement from the Clone Wars.  While he is able to deflect the ambush, Tarkin is recalled to Coruscant where he faces the Emperor and is tasked to lead a joint mission with Darth Vader to root out the Separatists and eliminate them completely.  While on this mission, the Moff’s cruiser, Carrion Spike, is hijacked and after being used by the Separatists to attack Imperial installations it is up to Tarkin and Vader to track the ship down before more damage can be done, all the while unraveling plots and conspiracies over two years in the making.

To say I had high hopes and expectations for thie book would be an understatement   As a life long Star Wars fan, I have always been intrigued by Grand Moff Tarkin ever since seeing him on the big screen.  What made this ruthless Imperial tick?  How did he get to such a prominent position in the Imperial pantheon, especially command of the Death Star?  When I saw that James Luceno was taking the reins and fleshing out this story, I was even more excited, and was not let down!

Tarkin reads more like an espionage thriller and psychological case study than a science fiction adventure, as with most other Star Wars Expanded Universe novels.  The pacing was deliberate and methodical, giving you a true sense not only of the way in which the main investigation in the story is handled, but also a look at the personality of Tarkin himself.  Luceno never lacks on the details, but the story does not get bogged down in them either.  By weaving in stories of Tarkin’s childhood and adolescence, as well as the trials he endured to shape him, we are treated to a wonderful character study that slowly reveals more complexity and layers to Wilhuff Tarkin than you would ever imagine existed.  Couple that with the asides and glimpses into characters such as Vader and the Emperor while interacting with Tarkin, and the entire triumvirate truly comes alive.

There are some points where the action seems to drag, but, much like Tarkin himself, the story is well metered, calculated, and focused on its desired end.  Readers looking for lots of action will be disappointed, but hopefully not for long as they get to know and understand the personality of one of the most calculating and fearless leaders of the Galactic Empire.

Many thanks to LucasBooksNetGalley, and James Luceno for the opportunity to read and review Tarkin early in exchange for an honest review.  The final version will be released on  November 4, 2014.

Four out of five stars.

Tarkin (Star Wars) on Amazon

Tarkin (Star Wars) on Barnes and Noble

Tarkin (Star Wars) on Goodreads

Tarkin (Star Wars) on LibraryThing

Tarkin (Star Wars) on Shelfari

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2014 in Reviews

 

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ARC Review – The Last Temptation 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition by Neil Gaiman, Alice Cooper, Michael Zulli, and Dave McKean

Neil Gaiman’s The Last Temptation 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition 

The Last Temptation 20th Anniversary Deluxe edition by Neil Gaiman and Alice Cooper; art by Michael Zulli and Dave McKean. October 21, 2014. Dynamite Entertainment, 168 p. $39.99 ISBN:9781606905364.

“Neil Gaiman (Sandman, Coraline, American Gods) brings shock rocker Alice Cooper’s concept album to life in a surreal sideshow of the soul! Join a young boy named Steven on a surreal journey of the soul, as an enigmatic and potentially dangerous Showman seduces him into joining his carnival. Celebrate the 20th Anniversary of this seminal Gaiman work, returned to print for the first time in over a decade. Fully remastered in color, this Deluxe Edition incorporates complete scripts to all three chapters, black-and-white thumbnail art of pre-colored pages, an original outline of the project by Neil Gaiman, and a collection of letters between shock rocker Alice Cooper and the author! “I’m really happy that The Last Temptation is coming out for a new generation of readers, who have not seen Michael Zulli’s glorious drawings, or know of the Showman and his wicked ways,” says Neil Gaiman. “I wrote this a long time ago, driven by love of Ray Bradbury’s dark carnivals and of Alice Cooper’s own pandemonium shadow show. It’s time for it to shuffle out onto a leaf-covered street and meet the people who don’t know about Stephen and Mercy and show what’s coming to town.”” — Publisher’s Description

Imagine if you will the collaboration between a rock and roll icon and an up and coming gothic, macabre author and you have the brilliant result in The Last Temptation.  Both the graphic novel by Neil Gaiman, and the concept album by Alice Cooper tell the story of a young boy, Steven, who is tempted by the mysterious, supernatural Showman (depicted as Alice Cooper) to join his “Theater of the Real” in exchange for eternal youth.  All is not what it seems, however, as Steven grapples with the Showman’s twisted morality plays and his own fears about growing up and growing old.

Only Steven can see and enter the Theater, as he was selected by the Showman as “this year’s model” for entry into the cast.  Steven will grapple with the morbid presentations of the Showman to convince him that his life would better be spent with the Theater than in his small town American life.  The book is divided into three acts where we see Steven first enter the Theater and receive his offer from the Showman, a second where he spends a day living his life as a normal tween on Halloween, and the third where he returns to the Theater to meet the Showman and make his final decision.

Set around Halloween, this book draws on the themes of the seasonal change and the symbolic death we see in the Autumn.  It also pulls on the fears that most children have around the end of October.   The artwork is key to getting the feel for this horror and the outright fear Steven feels at times.  It is an older style than most modern comics I have seen (I mean, this is a 20 year old book), but younger or newer audiences will definitely appreciate it and the emotions it conveys clearly throughout the story.  You come to fear and almost loathe the Showman for what he is trying to do, while at the same time rooting for Steven to make the right choices when he needs to.

It wouldn’t be fair to not include in the review here, the definitive elements of the 20th Anniversary Edition of The Last Temptation.  While the art has been fully remastered in brilliant color, the most interesting additions are the reprinted correspondence between Gaiman and Cooper and the original outlines and scripts of the book by Gaiman.  It was wonderful to see how this collaboration was born, and solidified by such diverse artists half a world away.  You can truly see the passion both had for this work and the love and creativity flowing off the pages as it all came together.

I would highly recommend this book along any other coming of age stories for tweens and teens.  The horror and macabre elements will turn some off, but will open up the lessons of the story to a whole new audience that might usually avoid these themes as well.  The wonderful thing about The Last Temptation is that this release is times perfectly with Halloween, making it the perfect gift or story at the end of the month!

Five out of five stars.

Many thanks to Dynamite EntertainmentNetGalley, and Neil Gaiman, Alice Cooper, Michael Zulli, and Dave McKean for the opportunity to read and review The Last Temptation early in exchange for an honest review.  The final version will be released on October 21, 2014.

The Last Temptation 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition on Amazon

The Last Temptation 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition on Barnes and Noble

The Last Temptation 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition on Goodreads

The Last Temptation 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition on LibraryThing

The Last Temptation 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition on Shelfari

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2014 in Reviews

 

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ARC Review – 24: Underground by Ed Brisson and Michael Gaydos

24: Underground

24: Underground  written by Ed Brisson with art by Michael Gaydos. November, 2014. IDW Publishing, 124 p. $19.99 ISBN:9781631400544.

“Find out what sent Jack Bauer spiraling into his darkest days as an international fugitive in the several years following the events of the final season. ” — Publisher’s Description

Jack is back!

24: Underground is a look at what has become of out favorite CTU agent after he had been branded a terrorist by the US government and sent on the run as a fugitive after the last full televised season of Fox Network’s 24.

In this book, we find Jack Bauer living as “Borys Melnchuk” in the Ukraine where he is working as a dock worker under the supervision of Petro and living happily with his girlfriend (and Petro’s sister) Sofyia.  All is well for Jack until in a whirlwind of events, Petro’s brother Roman runs afoul of the Russian Mafia, causing the gang members to seek out Petro to pay the debt.

Of course, Jack cannot let Petro deal with this all on his own and as a result jumps in to help on the promise that with one stolen shipment from the docks, the debt will be paid and all forgiven for Petro.  Things never go as they seem and soon the CIA in the Ukraine is aware of Jack’s presence there, the mobsters kidnap Sofyia as bait for Jack, since they have a personal vendetta against him, and there is that infamous race against time to get everything sorted out before innocent lives are lost in the crossfire.

Sticking to the familiar 24 formula, this story sees Jack betrayed and double crossed at several turns, bringing back the famous line: “I thought we had a deal!”  He’s also involved in several close firefights, gets himself a wound that needs tending to and has a hostage taken to being him out of hiding while running from two different groups after him for completely different reasons and without knowledge of each other. While a little predictable, this formula did work well on television, and it works well here.  Sometimes it feels a little rushed, but the twists and turns you would be expecting and familiar with out of a 24 story are all present and very well executed.

The artwork in this graphic novel is phenomenal as well.  It’s dark, very dark at times, but this adds wonderfully to the tone and feeling of the story.  Granted, we have to remember that 24 always took place over that 24-hour time period so this is expected.  Even more important in the art is the way that Gaydos has captured the edge of your seat quality of Brisson’s writing and story and shows that in the settings, and especially on Bauer’s face.  You really can believe that Keifer Sutherland is there on the page with the familiar intense look and I swear, I was able to read all the lines in his voice and felt that intensity of tone as well. All of that said, this is definitely not a book for the kids.  The brutality and graphic nature of the Russian thugs, as well as Bauer’s fighting style are vividly portrayed and may not be for the weak of heart.

Overall, this is a high quality, albeit short and a little rushed work.  Easy and quick to read at a little over 100 pages, I would have been much happier with another 50-75 fleshing out some of the characters a little more and building up to the final action.

Four out of five stars.

Many thanks to IDW PublishingNetGalley, and Ed Brisson & Michael Gaydos for the opportunity to read and review 24: Underground.  The final version will be released on  November 12, 2014.

24: Underground on Amazon

24: Underground on Barnes and Noble

24: Underground on Goodreads

24: Underground on LibraryThing

24: Underground on Shelfari

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2014 in Reviews

 

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Review – William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope by Ian Doescher. July 2013. Quirk Books, 174p. $14.95 ISBN:1594746370.

“Inspired by one of the greatest creative minds in the English language—and William Shakespeare—here is an officially licensed retelling of George Lucas’s epic Star Wars in the style of the immortal Bard of Avon. The saga of a wise (Jedi) knight and an evil (Sith) lord, of a beautiful princess held captive and a young hero coming of age, Star Wars abounds with all the valor and villainy of Shakespeare’s greatest plays. ’Tis a tale told by fretful droids, full of faithful Wookiees and fearsome Stormtroopers, signifying…pretty much everything.

Reimagined in glorious iambic pentameter—and complete with twenty gorgeous Elizabethan illustrations—William Shakespeare’s Star Wars will astound and edify Rebels and Imperials alike. Zounds! This is the book you’re looking for.” — Publisher’s Description

For starters, I was almost literally born and raised on Star Wars — I’m only one year older than the franchise.  That brings with it certain biases, including the fact that I hold the original trilogy in my heart with a special reverence for all the happy memories, both as a child, and as an adult, that it brings me.  I also know all three movies in their original forms by heart (and yes, Han will always have shot first!).  Seeing that this unique take on the series had me very excited, and I was far from disappointed.

I admit, that when I first got the book, I was skeptical at how it would play out.  It was either going to be a truly groundbreaking new approach to popular literature and film, or it was going to be an absolute joke.  Fortunately, I think Shakespeare himself would be proud of the results.  Staying true to the original script, Doescher places a very bard-like spin to it that allows anyone even remotely familiar with the film and the story to follow along with no difficulty.  When you have lines like: “But unto Tosche Station would I go, And there obtain some pow’r converters. Fie!“, I think you know where we are in the film!  And I agree, Luke sounds whiny here too!

The writing style is exactly as you would expect from a William Shakespeare five act play.  In fact, it is written as a script, only lacking some stage direction, but containing all the description and scene setting you would expect from any script.  Inner dialogues are spoken aloud, and actions explained in the same way.  While we can see these on screen, simple gestures and actions are either written in as direction, or described by the players.  As it reads, there would be no doubt that any acting company could easily put on a production of this work.

Granted, there is a little bit of cheek, and some subtle nods to both Shakespeare and Star Wars fans alike, but they are hidden almost like Easter eggs throughout the text.  For example, this couplet, a favorite tool of the Bard’s, gives a tip of the hat to the “Han shot first” fans:  “I pray thee, sir, forgive me for the mess/And whether I shot first, I’ll not confess.- Han Solo”.  There are even points in the book where we see action or have a look at some inner dialogues that we don’t see in the film, for instance a Hamlet-like soliloquy by Luke, lamenting the death of the Stormtrooper whose uniform he has stolen on the Death Star: “[Luke, holding stormtrooper helmet.] Alas, poor stormtrooper, I knew ye not, Yet have I ta’en both uniform and life From thee. What manner of a man wert thou?”   Even something as simple as “Once more unto the trench, dear friends, once more!” during the penultimate battle gives a little grin when you get both references.

I simply cannot sing the praises of William Shakespeare’s Star Wars enough.  Perfect for fans of both Star Wars and Shakespeare, it will have you coming back again and again, just like the original.  I personally have recommended this to patrons who enjoy the films, but have poo-pooed plays and Shakespeare both.  Everyone has loved it so far!  I just can’t wait to see the stage production!

If you enjoy William Shakespeare’s Star Wars, fear not, the rest of the trilogy has also been given a similar treatment and you will want to find William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back, and William Shakespeare’s The Jedi Doth Return

Five of Five Stars

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope on Amazon

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hopeon Barnes and Noble

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope on Goodreads

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope on LibraryThing

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope on Shelfari

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2014 in Reviews

 

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The Most Popular Books of All Time – Infographic

The Most Popular Books of All Time

Today’s infographic was created by lovereading.co.uk and provides a great statistical breakdown of the most popular books of all time.  None of the books listed should be surprises, and the calculations of number of translations, editions and sales make for very interesting comparisons. [VIA]

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Posted by on November 20, 2013 in Infographics

 

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