Category Archives: 2016 reads

Star Trek Revisited and Reinterpreted

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Star Trek: The New Adventures – Volume 2

The first volume of this graphic novel series didn’t sit right with me. I was pretty harsh in my review of it. In fact, I recommended skipping the title altogether. It was advice that even I didn’t take. I saw the second volume at the library and decided to give it a try. I am glad that I did.

Spoiler Free Review

The first story in the collection revolves around a minor character from the first rebooted movie, Hendorff. It sounds like a weird start to the collection, but it works. I like how much he takes pride in wearing the red shirt uniform for the Enterprise. A lot of us in the fandom know what that might mean, but to see it taken so seriously in this story and have it not be a joke is a really nice touch.

One-off Stories

We also get a one-off story from Scott’s associate, Keenser. We see the challenges he has serving on the starship due to his diminished stature. It’s the only time in the Star Trek universe that I am aware of where this issue has been tackled.

Scotty, Bones, and Uhura each get their own one-issue story in this collection, but for some reason Sulu and Chekov have to share one.

Mirror Universe

We get a Mirror Mirror story in this volume that isn’t simply a retelling of the original television series episode. In this one, Kirk is the bad guy and Spock is the reasonable one. We even get old Spock in the story, which was pretty cool.

Pon Farr Troubles

I also really like the reinterpretation of the classic episode “Amok Time.” This is the one where Spock goes through a mating cycle that requires him to return to Vulcan. Of course, in the first movie, his home planet had been destroyed, making this impossible. The Enterprise diverts to New Vulcan only to find that the Pon Farr ritual is not effective for many of the Vulcans. It seems that the ritual was tied to the solar system and planet of the original Vulcan. It looks as though Spock might be lost to insanity, along with many others.

The Verdict

I can’t believe how effective this second volume of the comic series was. It seems that writers and artists have grown into knowing exactly what this universe is about. They are respecting the source material while bringing something new to it. It feels like Star Trek and I will be happy to read more.

My List of 2016 Reads  – nearly done now

The King of Rock-Bottom

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Ten Ways to Not Commit Suicide by Darryl McDaniels (DMC)

I am a huge Run-DMC fan. They are my all-time favourite group. So when I saw this book at the public library, I knew I had to pick it up.

I had heard DMC talking about this book on the radio, and to tell you the truth, I wasn’t that interested in reading it. Maybe it was the awkward title. Maybe it was the fact that Run-DMC disbanded when Jam Master Jay died over 10 years ago and I haven’t paid much attention to the solo carreers of Run or DMC since then.

When I saw that this book was available for me to read for free, I knew I had to check it out. I found out a few things I didn’t know about Run-DMC. I thought they were cool with each other and made music together in a creative partnership. DMC doesn’t paint that picture in this memoir. He writes of his unhappiness with the group often. He also has nothing positive to say about Run. He doesn’t blame Run for anything and he doesn’t air any of his dirty laundry. This isn’t a tell-all book. It isn’t a self-help book either. It’s simply a memoir from an artist who almost fell victim to the music industry.

DMC writes how he drank to relieve the anxiety he felt when performing live. It quickly became a problem for him as he slid down to alcoholism. It’s almost hard to believe that any one person could drink as much as he did. And it almost killed him.

He tells us of his childhood passions and how they took a backseat to his rapping career. He is working hard to fulfill some of the dreams he put on hold when he became the King of Rock.

I am glad to see that DMC made it through the dark times and that he is still here in this world. Run-DMC are an historic group that deserve all the praise and recognition that they get. I wish things could have ended better for them. I wish Jay hadn’t died. I wish that they had released the 20th Anniversary album and launched the tour that was speculated just before Jam Master Jay’s untimely passing.

We won’t likely see a Run-DMC reunion, but we can continue to play their music and sing their praises. And we can read this book.

My List of 2016 Reads – just about complete now

Failure Breeds? Doesn’t it?

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Life Lessons from a Total Failure by M.J. Dougherty

M.J. Dougherty has certainly had his share of ups and downs. He’s not afraid to open up and tell us about them in his new memoir, Life Lessons from a Total Failure.

I can relate to feeling like a failure. I think we all can. We might not have had experiences similar to Dougherty but we can still learn from him nonetheless. Each chapter starts with subtitles such as “It’s OK to keep things simple” , “Embrace change” , and “It can happen to anyone.”

Dougherty doesn’t hit us over the head with lessons. Instead, he simply tells his story and hopes that we get the message through the shared experience. In the final pages of the book, he sums everything up with “M.J.’s Top Ten Lessons from a Total Failure.” Each lesson is one paragraph long and gets straight to the point.

I like to write spoiler-free reviews, so if you don’t want to read this book without knowing any particulars stop reading now.

Spoiler Alert

It feels strange giving a spoiler alert for a memoir, but here we are.

I wanted to talk about my surprise of people’s expectations and how they can they can do a lot of harm. This happened to Dougherty shortly after he decided to get married. People had known that he was gay prior to this, but after his wedding, the public began to perceive his bar as being a “gay bar” even though it wasn’t. Ultimately, people stopped going there because of this perception and the business failed. I almost couldn’t believe that something like that could actually happen. Perception is powerful.

It’s interesting to see how some opportunities just presented themselves to the author as well. He was in the right place at the right time and was able to capitalize on them. Perhaps he needed to experience those failures and go through some low periods in life to ultimately find himself. Maybe we all do.

My List of 2016 Reads – just about done my reading log for the year.

Truth Found in an Ancient Manuscript

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Manuscript Found in Accra by Paulo Coelho

Words have power. They have the power to inspire, to educate, to entertain, and they even have a calming quality that can make a anxious time more bearable.

Perhaps that is why a group of people gathered around an elder back in the year 1099 as their city was being invaded and attacked. Fortunately for us, someone wrote down his words and they happened to survive all this time.

Here is some knowledge from the Manuscript Found in Accra.

Focus on Your Goal

“He focuses not just on the goal to be reached, but on everything happening around him. He often has to stop because his strength fails him. At such moments, Love appears and says: “You think you’re heading toward a specific point, but the whole justification for the goal’s existence lies in your love for it. Rest a little, but as soon as you can, get up and carry on. Because ever since your goal found out that you were traveling toward it, it has been running to meet you.”

Pour in the Love

“This second type of work we call the Offering. For example, two people might be cooking the same meal and using exactly the same ingredients, but one is pouring Love into what he does and the other is merely trying to fill his belly. The result will be completely different, even though Love is not something that can be seen or weighed. The person making the Offering is always rewarded. The more he shares out his affection, the more his affection grows.”

Be Yourself

“Don’t try to be useful. Try to be yourself; that is enough, and that makes all the difference. Walk neither faster nor slower than your own soul, because it is your soul that will teach you the usefulness of each step you take.”

Simplicity is Beautiful

“And what is simplicity? It is the coming together of the true values of life. Snow is pretty because it has only one color. The sea is pretty because it appears to be a flat plane. The desert is beautiful because it seems to consist only of sand and rocks. However, when we look more closely at each of these things, we discover how profound and complete they are, and recognize their qualities. The simplest things in life are the most extraordinary. Let them reveal themselves.”

True Fiction

This book is a work of fiction but it reads like a self-help book or even a religious text. It get into some topics that Holy books usually don’t, but the openness and honesty of the elder’s words ring just as true.

Recommended

I have enjoyed every Paulo Coelho book that I have ever read and highly recommend The Alchemist by him as well.

Keep Reading

My List of 2016 Reads – my annual reading is almost complete for this year

Little Women – The Next Generation

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The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly

Little Women was written by Louisa May Alcott and released in two volumes in 1868 and 1869. The story is a classic in every aspect. It has been reprinted countless times, translated into different languages, been made into more than one feature film, and is still widely read close to 150 years later.

I had no idea this sequel book existed until I saw it on the library shelf and immediately picked it up. I was intrigued.

The story revolves around the descendants of the original March sisters that we all got to know and love in the original book. We even get to hear from them again in this new story that is set in the present day.

Unfortunately, the March name didn’t survive as all of the remaining sisters got married and took on their husbands names. But some of letters that Jo wrote to Amy, Meg, and Beth did.

Reading those letters was like being transported back in time. I could hear Jo’s voice through them. It was like she had actually wrote them and I forgot that she was a fictional character.

The letters were the best part of this book. The modern day group of sisters didn’t capture my heart as quickly as the original March sisters did. I found this story to be a bit dry as well. However, it did seem to fit well in tone with the original novel.

If you love the March sisters, you will probably love this one as well. If you decide to check it out, I also highly recommend this young adult reworking on the story featuring a young lady who just happens to be named March.

Little Women and Me by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

I asolutely loved this story and it is on my “to read again soon” list.

My List of 2016 Reads – my annual reading log with links to each title

Planet of the Apes (Book vs Movie)

My father really enjoyed the Planet of the Apes movies. I vividly recall watching them together on television when I was growing up. I’m not sure I completely understood what they were about, but I remember enjoying them nonetheless.

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When the film series was rebooted in 2011, I was pleasantly surprised by how the filmmakers respected what I thought was the source material. There were all sorts of Easter Eggs and ties to the original 1968 theatrical film.

I brought the DVD over to my dad’s place and we watched it together again, all those years later. Unfortunately, he passed away and I can’t talk to him about my discovery of the novel that sparked the whole Apes phenomenon.

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Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle

Published in French in 1963 under the title of La Planète des Singes, the original novel is quite a bit different than the 1968 film adaptation. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

As I read the book, I looked forward to rewatching the original movie so I could compare and contrast the two.

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Planet of the Apes (1968 film)

I hate that this poster shows the finale of the movie. I admit that it is an iconic image but it is also a spoiler and it bugs me that the film is still advertised like this. This shot was even on the DVD menu when I watched the film again last week. Even more pointed is that this scene doesn’t exist in the novel.

The astronauts in the film actually do visit an alien world. The monkeys speak a different language and it is up to the main character to find a way to communicate with them and show his intelligence. The human characters on this planet also don’t wear any clothes. They are completely naked. I can see how both of these points needed to be changed for the movie. It only makes sense.

It made sense for the monkeys to speak English, for the main character to be called Taylor as opposed to Ulysse. But the film version did need to find a way that Taylor couldn’t just talk right away. He had to be caged up like an animal and suffer through that. In the film, he is shot in the throat and it takes him some time to recover his voice.

The novel explores the notion that primates are good at imitating and that something must have happened for them to be able to imitate man so well. Both the film and novel explore the idea that apes derived from man. But the novel is able to explore this notion in much more detail.

The film and the novel both explore an archaeological dig that uncovers human artifacts that don’t make sense in a Simian society. In the movie, the native human characters are completely mute, but in the novel, they make animal utterances and noises. Not sure why they didn’t in the film version.

In the novel, the main character is a little more likable. He is not a know-it-all as portrayed by Charlton Heston in the film. Nova is also described as the most beautiful girl he has ever seen. That didn’t seem to translate so well to film.

Another theme in the novel is the one of rebuilding a human society. Ulysse feels like it is his mission to do so. He actually has a child with Nova. The authorities see this child as a threat though and a few monkey friends help him return to his spaceship. The three of them finally make it back to Earth, but due to the realities of space travel over long distances, they arrive thousands of years later . . . only to find that the same pattern of evolution has happened. It’s a scene that resonates just as well as the Statue of Liberty scene in the movie.

If you like the movies, I recommend giving the book a try. That is if I haven’t given away too many spoilers for you.

My List of 2016 Reads – my annual reading log with links to each title

Always Reading Comics

I love reading comics. I pretty much always have a graphic novel on the go. Here are the latest ones that I have read.

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Powerless

I was pleasantly surprised by this story set in an alternate universe where there are no super-heroes. Peter Parker was still bitten by a spider but instead of becoming Spider-Man, he gets a limp arm instead. Matt Murdoch is still a blind lawyer, but doesn’t have his heightened senses. Wolverine doesn’t have retractable claws but he does have knives that are quite similar and he has been trained to kill.

These three characters are tied together by a therapist who has glimpses of their more colourful lives in an alternate reality. He feels as if he knows them somehow and he does his best to help them.

It’s an interesting read and well worth your time.

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Wolverine: Season One

This graphic novel is part of a series that focuses on the early days of the super-heroes we all know and love. It’s an origin story that sees Wolverine going head-to-head with The Hulk, Wendigo, and The Weapon X program. That’s exactly what I wanted to see and I liked the new take on familiar territory.

Old Man Logan

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Wolverine is an old man. He has a family now and has given up being a super-hero. The world is a dark place and he is doing his best to survive in it. So, when he suddenly finds himself back in the past, he believes he was brought there for a reason, to get the world back on track and avert the post-apocalyptic world that will surely come to bear if he doesn’t act.

To the outside world and the current superheroes though, he seems like a fanatic who is just on a killing spree. And it seems like he might not come from the same timeline as all of them either. This is part of an on-going series and it is interesting to see an older-adult charcater in mainstream comics.

My List of 2016 Reads  – a detailed reading log with links to every title

Hawkeye’s Adventures Continue

Hawkeye Vol 1 - My Life as a Weapon

Hawkeye: Volume 1 – My Life as a Weapon

When I first heard of this title, I really had no interest in reading it. After all, he is probably the least exciting member of The Avengers. But the praise for the book has been strong, so when I saw it on the shelves of the public library, I had to pick it up.

I must say that I really enjoyed this one a lot. The humour in it is priceless. It’s along the lines of what was done in The Avenger films as well. I knew I had to read the entire series.

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Hawkeye: Volume 2 – Little Hits

I love how this volume starts much like the last one. Hawkeye is in an impossible situation and wondering how he gets in these predicaments. There are some stand-alone stories in this collection including a great one about his dog. T

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Hawkeye: Volume 3 – L.A. Woman

This volume focuses on Kate Bishop, the other Hawkeye. She breaks it off with Clint and heads to L.A. where she quickly finds herself in the kind of predicaments he usually finds himself in.

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Hawkeye Volume 4: Rio Bravo

Clint’s brother enters the picture and they fight like brothers do, or maybe worse. This volume concludes the epic first run of the series. I was sad to see it end. It was a great story from a great creative team. I highly recommend it.

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Hawkeye: Volume 5 – All New Hawkeye

This graphic novel takes Hawkeye in a different direction than the last series. It is a new creative team collecting All New Hawkeye 1- 5. It has flashback scenes that show Hawkeye as a kid and how his brother used to take care of him.

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Hawkeye: Volume 6 – Hawkeyes

The flash forward scenes in this one quite comical. And like Old Man Logan, it’s nice to see older adults in comic book adventures. That’s not something that is seen very often. I should know, I just did a report on it for school. I think I will post my slides here later. Stay tuned!

My List of 2016 Reads – 56 titles and counting

The Ultimate Guide to Book Publishers by Jeff Herman

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Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, & Literary Agents: Who they are, What they want, and How to win them over

Jeff Herman knows the publishing world and is dedicated to share that knowledge with fellow writers. He tells the story of how he got into the business and provides advice for writers on how they can crack into a world that can seem impenetrable.

Herman has been producing this book for over twenty-five years. He writes, “Much has changed and much has remained the same since my journey in publishing began in the 1980s.” That is why he continually updates and improves this reference book every year.

There are 600 pages of up-to-date information, contacts, interviews, and advice that are invaluable for any writer wishing to get their work published. Besides providing the names, addresses, phone numbers, and emails for publishers, editors, and agents, Herman provides insider tips so we can make the most of our inquiries, query letters, and pitches.

This is one of my favourite guidebooks for writers. It is well written, excellently organized, and offers advice that any aspiring writer can follow. I recommend picking it up and following through to make your publishing dreams come true.

I need to do just that. It’s well past time that I take some of the advice offered in this book and work on getting my fiction published. That is something I have been procrastinating on for way too long.

My List of 2016 Reads – my annual reading log with links to each title

Alex and Ada (A different take on AI)

Alex-Ada

Alex + Ada is a brilliant comic book series that has been collected in three graphic novels. It is set in a future that feels not too far off from our own.

Alex-Ada2In this future, there are androids that look completely human. They are required to have a marking on their arms to identifies them as being artificial. They are very expensive so only a few well-off people own one.

One such owner is Alex’s grandmother. She uses it for companionship after the loss of her husband, Alex’s grandfather. So when he goes through an emotional break-up and is feeling very alone, she decides to give him on of these androids as a gift.

Spoiler Alert

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Alex is conflicted. He doesn’t really want an android. He doesn’t like the idea of using one as a sexual partner (as is the norm in this society).  But he opens up the box and is introduced to a blank slate. He was disappointed that she had no name and couldn’t make decisions for herself.  He wanted something more.

Alex soon learns that all the androids are capable of becoming self-aware. It is illegal to crack the programming as the government has strict rules and regulations preventing machines from gaining sentience. But he does it anyway.

I loved the story, the art, the pacing, and the characters. I also like how it relates to the technology we use today. Many of our devices have locks that limit our use.

This story felt strangely familiar. I bet this is a future that could very well happen. And it wasn’t scary at all. It’s a nice take on AI (artifical intelligence) and a great read!

My List of 2016 Reads (I need to update this list with many more titles I have recently read so stay tuned)