Monday, December 21, 2015

Year In Review: 2015 Edition: Pokémon: Gotta Blurb 'Em All

I haven't posted on here since the end of March. On top of that, this is only three posts removed from last year's "What the Hell Have You Been Up To? (WtHHYBUT?)" post.

Why, you ask (even if you had no intention of asking)?

I am now roughly 80,000 words into the first draft of my work in process (an epic fantasy novel), and I estimate it will be somewhere around 144,000 words upon completion (goal: finish first draft in 2016 - preferably by August month-end).

It's been a light year for book-reading/movie-going. Let's Pokémon it! Gotta Blurb 'Em All!
Let's go with alphabetical order by title.


Annihilation (Southern Reach #1) - Jeff VanderMeer
Like an anime. Good all along, but gets all weird on you at the end.  Liked it, but not enough to bump up the sequels on my eternally growing to-read list (but they are on the list).

Armada - Ernest Cline
Another fun pop culture fueled outing. Not as good as Ready Player One.

The Autumn Republic (The Powder Mage #3) - Brian McClellan
That ride you were afraid of, but someone dragged you on anyway, and it was awesome.

City of Stairs (The Divine Cities #1) - Robert Jackson Bennett
REVIEWED The Hulk. Maybe you don't expect much from Bruce Banner, but once you get into it, you realize there's some good stuff buried under there.

The Emperor's Blades (Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne #1) - Brian Staveley
When your wife says "this is the best piece of cake I have ever had," but you really like your own cake so you just don't try it, but she keeps shoving it in front of you saying "try it, you'll like it," and you hate that goddamn song, and on top of that you're a stubborn ass, but then the veiled (and not so veiled) threats start, so you give in and pick it up, albeit resentfully, and grudgingly taste it, and realize that you owe her a really big apology for waiting so long.

Firefight (Reckoners #2) - Brandon Sanderson
REVIEWED Yippy kai ay. Sanderson dropped the major plot twist game for a more straight forward adventure. Still a good time. Waiting on Stormlight Archive #3 more than any Reckoners follow-up.

Last Argument of Kings (The First Law #3) - Joe Abercrombie
Ending the meeting on a high note (but deep down you secretly hope that the project manager calls the team together again for more).

Nemesis Games (Expanse #5) - James S.A. Corey
Continues to be my favorite Sci-Fi series.

Psycho - Robert Bloch
Seen the movie? Of course you have. It's that, almost exactly (in the book, he's chubby).

The Scarlet Gospels - Clive Barker
Sardines. People love them. Me, not so much. I want to like horror more than I do.

The Skull Throne (Demon Cycle #4) - Peter V. Brett
REVIEWED Like playing with Smurfs or GI Joe. Taking an existing world and going into much more depth for the characters, while not exactly advancing the plot all that much.

Unbound (Magic Ex Libris #3) - Jim C. Hines
KitKats (my favorite candy... hint hint).

Bonus! Movies!

Not that I doubted Marvel, but this was a lot more fun than I thought it'd be.

Avengers: Age of Ultron
Marvel. Check. James Spader. Check. Some weak spots? Forgivable.

Crimson Peak
Pretty. Eery. Not overly unique premise.

Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2
I liked the movies more than the books. Not sure how much that is saying. The end DRAGGED like Peter Jackson and The Return of the King (how many endings does this movie need?!?!).

Inside Out
Quite surprised my daughter liked it (and she would tell me if she didn't... she HATED The Good Dinosaur, which she saw with her grandma, which I heard about for several hours upon her return home from the theater). This seemed a little slow and weird for kids to me. Remember that show Herman's Head?

I really wanted to like this. I didn't particularly care for it.

Shaun the Sheep
Love me some Wallace and Gromit. This was cute. Kept the kid's attention even without dialogue.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Do I really need to say anything here?
I haven't even seen the thing yet (tickets purchased, two days and counting), but I'm going to (not really) go on a limb and preemptively rate it amongst the top of the year. I'll come back and edit the post and eat crow if it's not.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Skull Throne (Demon Cycle #4) by Peter V. Brett - REVIEW

Goodreads synopsis can be found here.
I got to be one of the lucky ones to get an ARC for The Skull Throne, thus shortening my wait to continue the saga (if only by a few weeks).

I haven't reviewed the previous Demon Cycle books. In (not so) short... if you haven't read them, stop reading this, get in the car, drive to your local bookstore, purchase all the books (heck, get two copies and give one set to your friend who also (for some bizarre reason) hasn't read them yet), and get reading. Now. Right now.

FYI: In the US, The Painted Man = The Warded Man
Review: (fear not, no spoiler for the end of The Daylight War mentioned)

Growing up I happened to have quite the collection of Smurfs (as any child of the 80's should be able to confess to). I just loved the Smurfs and the world they inhabited. Gargamel and his insidious plans to capture the little blue guys, Smurfberries, Azrael (all bad guys need some comic relief), the clever naming scheme (good thing mom knew Brainy would be so smart). I had the toys, watched the cartoons, bought the clay kits to make your own Smurfs (though those were never the same as the store-bought ones). I was a Smurfs fan. It was all just Smurfin' Smurftastic.

The cartoon brought a lot of life to how I would play with my ever-growing collection of Smurfs. You see, there was the over-arching plot from the TV show of Gargamel and whatever nefarious deeds he deemed necessary to capture and use the magical miniatures. I would carry that ploy into my playtime, but that was just never enough for me. So, what did I do?  Well, there had to be some additional turmoil in Smurf Village as Brainy looked to remove Papa Smurf from his seat of power. There was backstabbing as the Smurfs vied for the attention of Smurfette or over control of the Smurfberry hoard. Fights and turf wars broke out. Smurfs died (I was a weird kid). But to me, having that extra story, that additional background and motivation for each of the Smurfs served to enhance the overall story of whatever Gargamel was doomed to fail at on the next week's episode.

My gut tells me Peter V. Brett (Pete? Peat?) may have had a similar childhood to mine (at least toy-wise anyway). Maybe not with Smurfs per se (maybe it was GI Joe? He-Man? Transformers? Voltron? Did that too. And brought them all together to take out the Ninja Turtles. But that's besides the point). But the belief that there needs to be more to the world than the basic plot set forth in the earlier novels is clearly evident in The Skull Throne. Hell (or maybe that should be "Night"), the role of demons in this Demon Cycle novel is significantly less prevalent than any of the other books (that's as close to a spoiler as you're going to get from me). So, while this may not be the book you were expecting (isn't life better that way anyway?), it certainly adds quite a lot of flavor to the Demon Cycle world. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll have a bunch of other typical review-mentioned emotions, you'll Smurfin' curse Pete's name (again) (I didn't really mean it Pete, but...  shakes fist).

The Skull Throne amps up the political intrigue and espionage, deep-dives into character development, and demonstrates that the decisions one makes can have lasting repercussions.

Pete takes Smurf Village, turns the mushroom kingdom on its head, dissects it, removes its organs, moves the bits around into new, bizarre formations, and puts it back together in a way that will make the end product something to behold. Book five can't come soon enough.

I give it...  the goblin ball.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

City of Stairs (City of Stairs #1) by Robert Jackson Bennett

Synopsis per Goodreads here.

When I was younger and Richard Trevithick was busy inventing the first railway steam locomotive (ok, maybe not that long ago), I was really into gum. Loved it. Violet Beauregarde had nothing on me. Juicy Fruit, Bubblicious, Bubble Yum, Fruit Stripe, Big League Chew. You name it. I chewed it all (sometimes at the same time). So, one day I am out and about and what I really want is a stick of gum. And alas, there is no gum to be found. Can you imagine it? No. Gum. Anywhere. But. What I did find was a Blowpop. Now, I don't know how you were raised, but where I come from we do not bite our lollipops. That's a big no-no. So, I took the blowpop and I played the patience game. It's like the tootsie pop commercials. How many licks does it take? If you are actually thinking about this as you try to get to the juicy gummy center, that number is infinite! It is eternal. That is not to say the lollipop is not enjoyable in and of itself. Let's face it. It's a lollipop. It's candy. It's delicious. It's just not exactly what I wanted. So. I licked. I sucked. I maybe even nibbled a little. And eventually. Gum.

With City of Stairs I ran into the same problem. I was feeling an epic fantasy kick. I needed some swords and armor and naughty language and blood and maybe a dragon or two. Or three. But I am nothing if not indecisive. I didn't know what to pick up, and City of Stairs happened to be sitting around the house (probably on the dining room table or something - books abound in the house, so long as they stay out of giant schnauzer reach). So, I picked it up and started reading. Urban Fantasy is probably the best way to describe it. Sort of. Maybe. Regardless, it wasn't exactly what I was after. But, I almost never stop reading something. I can only think of 2 books I DNF'ed (and one was primarily because it was due back to the library and I had something else I was waiting for to read). So, I licked. Sucked. The story got going. Hmmm. I maybe even nibbled a little. Sigrud. Oh, Sigrud, you amusing amusing man. Gods and monsters. Gum! In the end I found the book to be rather enjoyable despite my reluctance to pick up a non-epic fantasy. It just took me some getting into, but that was mostly due to my own gum prejudice. But this shows that a good writer can make it so you enjoy the lollipop even when all you want is the gum.

I give it... puny god.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

On Firefight (Reckoners #2) by Brandon Sanderson

Goodreads synopsis here.

Note (incase you didn't read the title): This is book two of the Reckoners series. Review for Steelheart (book one) here.

M. Night Shymalan (I know it's been a while since you read one of my reviews...  stick with me, this will make sense...  maybe). Who doesn't remember that first time they saw The Sixth Sense?  A great slow build-up of a movie.  Then BAM, Shymalan gives you a roundhouse kick to the face with a crazy plot twist (I should totally swap out that picture for Chuck Norris now...  /sigh). How long did you talk about it? How long did the "I DID NOT SEE THAT COMING!" last?  And then you bumped into that one friend or relative who didn't see it and you had to bite your tongue. We all have that person who wants to talk about it, but doesn't want to know anything. Or you're watching it again with someone who hasn't seen it yet, and you just kinda keep glancing over at them over and over again, bouncing with excitement, because you have to see their reaction! I just gotta capture the look on his face.  Man, that was fun times.  Kind of like what everyone is doing with Game of Thrones these days.  I watched for people's reactions before it was cool, but then I took a mixed metaphor to the knee.


Appropriate picture is appropriate
A few years pass and he puts out Unbreakable. Bruce Willis, but this time we get some Samuel L. Jackson. He can do no wrong. Snakes on a Plane. FANTASTIC! So. Another slow movie. Crazy twist. Signs. Slow movie. Crazy twist. The Village. Slow movie. Crazy twist. Ok. We get it. Crazy twists.  Lady in the Water. I don't think I stayed awake. The Happening. Didn't bother seeing it. The Last Airbender. Devil. After Earth. I don't think they're even mentioning his name anymore. It's become a stigma. I know what I'm getting in a Shamalamadingdong movie. Not fun anymore.

Steelheart had a total WOAH moment in it (or two). So, my hopes for Firefight was that Sanderson wouldn't use the same tricks again. When you start relying on the same tricks, you become boring. Like when you do your reviews over and over again through some long, obscure, metaphor about how you feel instead of how the book actually is, people may just skip through what you're typing...  ignore that.

There are certainly a few surprises in Firefight, but Sanderson's story isn't one long string of events that have a sole purpose of wowing you with the bright, shiny plot twist. The characters are well developed (even if some of them stay home this time). The new characters are entertaining.  The mythology around the Epics only gets more interesting. Sparks, this is just a fun series. Like early Shyguy movies.  Mmmm. Maybe not right. Like...  Die Hard (Bruce Willis was in The Sixth Sense, so that works...  I said so).

Yeah.  I give this "yippee ki yay, mot*#($&5(*@".

Ah, hell.  I'm posting one anyway.

Friday, January 16, 2015

On "what the hell have you been up to?" - An A to Z post

It's been - several - months since I've posted here. I always have these great plans about writing here, and then life finds a way to distract. So, as part recap of 2014, part what I'm looking forward to in 2015, part journal, part whatever I feel like calling it, I'm posting an A to Z list. We shall call it the What the Hell Have You Been Up To? Or WtHHYBUT? for short.

I will be the first to admit that when I heard that Arrow was going to be on CW my first thought was "teeny bopper drama, NEXT." But something (I honestly don't remember what) got me to sit through a few episodes, which turned into binge-watching seasons 1 and 2 and watching season 3 now live.  This is good stuff. They made him a little Batman-ish, but that's not so bad.

Brandon Sanderson
I try to write sometimes. And then I read Brandon Sanderson and feel a complete and utter failure. Man, this guy is good. I was behind so I read both The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance this year (as well as his YA books). Just read his books. All of them. Any of them. But particularly the Starlight Archives books.

Quiet year for the movies for me.  Seen a good number. Just nothing I feel worth talking about too much. Good movies were generally the ones you'd expect from me. The Hobbit, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America. I suppose John Wick was an unexpected surprise of a good, fun movie.

Dungeons & Dragons
Nerd card admission time. This is the first time I've ever played D&D. Just never seemed like it would be my thing. A friend in town wanted to start a new game and asked if I'd like to join and I finally just said "why not?" So. Much. Fun. And an excuse to write. I think I've written around 30 pages of backstory for my character. Dwarf Fighter incase you were wondering. And yes, my first act was to go to the bar and get a drink.

This gets two nods. 1) Cibola Burn came out (book... number...  four?). And it was one of the best of the series in my opinion. And 2) the TV show starts in 2015 on SyFy. Trailer is out now. Go look it up. Then sit and wait as impatiently as I am.

It needs to be said that way.  Got a few Ravens games on TV up here (I don't live in Baltimore). And they made it to the playoffs, only to lose to Evil Little Bill (as GRRM calls him) and the Pats. /grumble.

Game of Thrones
Continues to be on TV. I continue to watch it. And continue to wait while GRRM does everything but write the next book. I'm not buying that coffee table book. No way I'm supporting him stalling the next book even longer.  I'll think about it after Winds of Winter comes out though. I like big coffee table books.

Hunger Games
I was not a huge fan of the books. Just. Not. Thought the first one was ok. But from there, meh. Not that it was awful. Just wasn't for me. But the movie was good. And then the second movie was really good. I know the first part of the third movie (why do we keep splitting third movies into two?) is out, but I haven't seen it yet.  Looking forward to it though.

I should probably have used H to talk about The Hobbit. Oops.

Joe Abercrombie
Binge-read the First Law books. I don't know why I was so reluctant to read them. I had heard countless recommendations for him. Was already following him on Twitter. Just never felt the urge to pick up the books.  Did. Loved them. Third was my favorite, so worth sticking it out if you haven't read all of them.

Keep moving.

Lawrence, Mark
If I want to cheat and use last names for some and first names for others, I can. It's my blog. Bugger off. No, don't do that. I'm sorry.  Keep reading. (Deckard Cain voice) Stay awhile and listen. So, this was a year of Mark Lawrence. I was rather far behind with his books and read all four in 2014. Prince, King & Emperor of Thorns. Prince of Fools. All good stuff. Thorns if you like the bad guy anti-hero type. Fools if you like the humorous anti-hero type. And the next Fools book is out in 2015, so there's that to look forward to.  Pretty sure I reviewed the Thorns books on here. Not sure I did Fools. SO. FAR. BEHIND. on book reviewing.

Yeah. Insert something Marvel did here.  Awesome.  Next.

Binge watching TV shows? Check. Weird movies I'd never go to theaters to see? Check. Wasting huge chucks of time in front of the television? Why not? I watched Troll Hunter. Yeah. I don't think I can say anything else. I might be a TV addict. And it'll be worse in April with Daredevil (see M), Game of Thrones, ... ... ...

On to the next one.

Got a puppy.  Forgot how much work they are. But he's cute. And he's definitely not a Schnoodle. He's a Giant Schnauzer mix. What's he mixed with? A Standard Poodle. So, a Schnoodle? No. Be quiet you. Maybe a Giant Schnoodle. Speaking of... time to walk said pooch.

Just because.

Rothfuss, Patrick
While we wait for the third book of the Kingkiller Chronicles. And wait. And wait. And wait. *Looks at watch* Still waiting. Pat has released The Slow Regard of Silent Things. I'm not sure I need to mention this here. The book has been getting much praise. And for good reason. However, it's not for everyone. I just happen to like the playful language. Plot people shouldn't go for it.

So, I am going to take my PMP (Project Management Professional) in 2015 (goal is for June, but we will see). How not bloggy for me to talk about work stuff.  This is supposed to be my escape.  Oh well. So, once I get studying for that you'll likely get some radio silence from me (again). But the bills must be paid, so...  yeah.

Jumped on the Twitter thing. Don't use it too often. Follow / reply to people more than I post my own thoughts. Do put up some random comments or word counts or playing with the trending stuff. So, some activity. I use the Twitter under @DougCFisher. Think it might be time to remove the Szever name from this and just call it like it is.  Hi, I'm Doug. And I'm outta heeeeeere.  Maybe someone will get that.  Maybe Szever sticks around and the Doug name gets buried with this post.  We shall see.

2014. The year that U2 clogged our iDevices. Listened to it once. Yup. That's it. I think they apologized for that afterwards.

VNV Nation
A new album out for VNV. Transnational. Typical VNV album. Two or three really strong songs...  Retaliate...  Awesome. Then the rest on the slower end. Not that slow = bad. But, I just love a nice strong beat.

Very, very, very slowly. Currently at 9,100 words though and the story has barely begun, so shaping up to be something big.

Ok, so I saw the latest X-Men installment.  Meh. What I'm really looking forward to are X-Force and Deadpool. Thank you, Fox for FINALLY getting Deadpool going. Took long enough.

Yo Gabba Gabba
Kids are now 5 and 2 (almost 3). I think I've seen every episode of Yo Gabba Gabba 100 times over.  Been watching it since the older one was an infant.  Still going.

Z...  zebras? zoo? zodiac? zero... ZERO!  I got nothing for Z.

Now I know my A, B, C's...