Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Back to eleven books a month!

Or at least eleven books for this month - yup, April 2014 had me beat my average monthly reading for the last three years by four.

Which is pretty nice as I've got more than a few massive stacks of books I've been meaning to read for a while - first of all the 107 tiles waiting on my "for later" list at my local library, than the eight boxes of classic Science Fiction sitting in my garage, and that doesn't even count the entire shelf in my study dedicated to my collection of books to be read - and also my kids various collections that I've been perusing for the last few years.

I have to admit I'm finding Charles de Lint's second novel Moonheart to be a bit of a chore, the build up is pretty slow, and although I'm enjoying the male characters I'm finding the female ones to be a bit simple so far.

Anyway, next month has got a lot of cool titles on my list, including Orange is the New Black, Half Bad, and the second Divergent novel, Insurgent.

Free time is pretty darn cool!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Cycling Season is pretty much here!

Finally after what seemed like a year of Winter, the roads are mostly clean and I can get myself back to bicycling to and from work every day (weather permitting), which includes both my most and least favourite parts of cycling through Edmonton.

Most favoruite – riding south down Groat road (on the sidewalk of course), which allows me to travel roughly 20 block without even peddling once.

Least favourite – my bike ride ends at the base of a set of stair which travel out of our river valley into the downtown core, and have me gasping for breath at each platform (there are three) on the way up when I start out each year.

In the end, I’m sure the cycling is good for me, and in my newly discovered quest to put my recently graduated brains to some applied personal good, I think my health is a pretty high priority.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Weeding my DVDs

Today was another of my quarterly trips I take to visit the various used-bookstores here in my hometown of Edmonton, and although I had a successful time of it, I have found I'm now apparently in the process of weeding my DVD collection.

We have a pretty large collection (although I do have certain friends who put my collection to shame - Hi Ron!), and as we have begun to collet Blu-Ray discs, we are now repeating the great migration from  old to new (last done in the early 2000s when we migrated our VHS tapes to DVD).

So now we have to decide which movies or TV shows deserve to be purchased a third (or in some beta-related cases a fourth) time, and surprisingly a lot of titles don't make the cut - especially if we can access these films through our local library or friends collections, so we ended up cutting out about a sixth of our collection this week.

On the plus side we now have a bit of breathing room on our DVD shelves, and we can begin to pull titles that we haven't yet seen to move to the growing pile of titles that I need to work my way through before I can try that fancy new Netflix service we've been hearing about in the last few years.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Setting Goals after Grad School

So here I am, a few weeks after finishing up my degree, and I've decided to set myself a couple of goals.

First of all I tried to think of a couple things I would like to do with all the free time I've suddenly got with school behind me; so I've decided to go for both something good and something good for me.

First the good for me - since starting Grad School back in 2011 I've put on 25 pounds (which put me up to just over 250), so I've been spending the last month increasing my general activity and nutrition (basically I'm taking more walks and keeping track of what I eat using a website called MyFitnessPal), and so far so good - I'm down 7.5 pounds from when I started, which isn't a massive amount (for me), but is still a pretty nice start considering I haven't made any major changes so far.

Next up is my fun goal - I'd like to give Netflix a try, and think a good way earn it (besides paying for it), is to finally get around to watching the stack of movies and TV shows I've been meaning to get around to for the last few years (the stack is currently about 2 1/2 feet tall, so it'll be a while), and once I'm through all of those, I can check out this fancy new thing everyone else has been using for the last couple of years.

So far that's my entire list of personal goals - just a couple, and I'm working on them in a slow and steady fashion, but hey - that's how I finished both my Bachelors and my Masters Degrees, so I know it works for me.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Book Review: The Walking Dead: Fall of the Governor part 2

It should come as no surprise to anyone reading this blog that I’m a fan of the Walking Dead franchise; whether in comic, television show, novel or video game form, I find the characters compelling and the storylines fascinating. Taking a quick search on my blog I’ve found at least a dozen posts focusing on various aspects of the franchise, so to read more of my opinions, just search “The Walking Dead” in the little search window on the upper-left-hand corner of my blog and get cracking.

Today I’m going to talk about The Walking Dead: The Fall of the Governor part 2, by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga, the fourth and final novel they co-wrote about the popular villain character, The Governor, and his town of Woodbury.

First things first, although I’m sure the books could be read on their own without any previous knowledge of either the television series or the comics, but I would strongly recommend reading the comics first. Knowing how the events surrounding Woodbury and The Governor ahead of time made the read (for me), but more tense, as I knew how things were going to turn out, but from an entirely different point of view.

In the main series The Governor is an incredibly charismatic, but deadly person, pretty much from the beginning (I can definitely see why the character was dressed differently in the TV series, as he looks pretty villainous in the comics), but there is very little knowledge given about how he, or the currently existing town of Woodbury came about since the beginning of the undead outbreak. These four novels work to fill in those gaps, to make the characters written off as villains much more three dimensional and in more than a few cases, really tragic.

Although I wouldn’t necessarily recommend them for newcomers to the franchise, for fans of the comic there is a lot to offer here, and for fans of the TV series a very different view of how the events of season three and four could have gone down.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Happy Easter from Bookmonkey

Hello all,

Just wanted to take a quick moment from the long weekend to say Happy Easter!

(What am I doing this long weekend - playing Dead Space 3, watching BBCs The White Queen, and reading Zelazny's Trumps of Doom, pretty great all around.

Your old pal,
Bookmonkey

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

So I'm on goodreads Now...

For years I've been keeping track of the books I read.

First on a spreadsheet on my computer (that one keeps track of every book I've read since 2002), then a few years back I joined LibraryThing (hence the widget on the side of my blog which tells you what book I'm currently reading), and as of two weeks ago, I've finally joined goodreads.

So why have I decided to keep track of my reading habits in three different places?  I mean, in theory my electronics are designed as labour-saving devices which means listing each book I've read three times sort of misses the point of saving my time.

The goodreads story for me comes form the bizarre nature of social media - I join things to help connect with other folks in the library/reading community and surprise surprise, if there is an online way to keep track of reading habits library folks are bound to join, start accounts and then ask me if I'm on their reading site of choice.  Also I just found an online Fantasy/Horror/Science Fiction reading tracking site...

So yeah, now I'm on goodreads!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Books to Movies: Divergent

On Sunday I went to see the film Divergent with my youngest daughter, and as I'm the type of guy who needs to read a book before I see the movie, I also read novel last week.

So here's what I thought; both were actually quite good - and as I've seen a number of YA books to movies over the last few years (Ender's Game, Hunger Games, etc.), I have to say that I really enjoyed the film adaptation, it did a great job of following the book, but at the same time left out a couple of the more intense sequences from the book, so someone who saw the movie first would still have a number of surprises (unlike say, Hunger Games readers - which I also enjoyed), but the two versions of the same story had a lot of value independent of each other.

Both are well worth checking out, but my daughter does strongly recommend thinking twice before you read books two and three (although I'll have to check them out as I've already started the series).

Friday, April 11, 2014

Book Review: Walk to the End of the World

For my classic science fiction novel this month, I read the 1974 book Walk to the End of the World, by Suzy McKee Charnas.

The book takes place many generations after a world-ending event called the Wasting, wherein all of mankind's natural resources ran out and the majority of the world's population died, along with most larger animals.

In the settlement called Holdfast, society is broken up in two key ways; first by age, Seniors and Juniors, who each have specific roles and rarely interact with each other in any way that isn't antagonistic, and secondly, by gender.

In the world of the story the Wasting is now blamed on women (called fems in the novel), who were thought to be the cause of the end of the old world and have now been reduced to labour and breeding animals, not actually considered creature with souls or any value except their necessary function in continuing the human race.

As a man raised in a house of women, who has since moved into his own house (and filled it with his wife and daughters) reading the book was a bizarre experience for me, the author does a great job at creating the society and all of its rules, and by breaking the book into smaller parts and focusing each on a different character, the reader is able to get a very good idea of how this world works.

The book was followed by three sequels: Motherlines (1978), The Furies (1994), and The Conqueror's Child (1999), all of which have now been added to my list of books I hope to read this year.

A little dated in concept and writing style, but definitely a worthwhile read.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

You can call me MLIS-ter Bookmonkey!

So here we are, I just got home from my last class of my last course between me and my Master's of Library and Information Studies degree!

A little more than two and a half years after I began I can now say I'm finished with Postsecondary school (my wife says I have to say "for now"), which is very bizarre for me as I started on this road back in 2004 when my seventeen-year-old daughter was my seven-year-old daughter.  It took me seven years to get my Bachelor's degree and almost another three to get this one, but for the first time since my late twenties I no longer have to figure out how to balance school, home and work.

I've got to say, it's actually freaking me out a little...

Monday, April 7, 2014

Movie Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

With friends and family we spent our Saturday afternoon checking out the most recent entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

First and most important point – I found the 3D to be pretty useless. The picture was very dim and hard to see in some points, and although the muted colours may have been intentional, I see no reason anyone should pay the extra couple of bucks to see the film that way.

Secondly – I really liked this movie! Although I suppose I could have done some reading into the original comics before going in, I tried to shy away from spoilers and see the film clean – not something I can do with a lot of comic book-based films as I’m pretty familiar with a lot of the stories, but with the heavier workload in Grad school for the last couple of months I was able to stay away, for the most part.

(A Quick Side-note – I am more than a little annoyed at the Marvel special “Marvel: Assembling a Universe” which aired in the regular timeslot of the TV series Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. last month – not only did it ruin the big spoil of the film, but it totally didn’t have to. Sometimes it’s nice to keep the mystery)

Trying to avoid spoilers, the film focuses on how S.H.I.E.L.D. has changed in a post-The Avengers world, a world where an alien invasion could literally come out of nowhere, and Captain America’s reaction to these changes. A huge part of what I love about the character is that his 1940’s era mindset doesn’t mean he’s na├»ve, it just means he looks at things a little differently.

The film didn’t quite measure up to the first one for me (Sorry, but the first film was my surprise favourite film of 2011), but I loved the 70s conspiracy movie feel and some of the fight scenes were pretty fantastic.

In the end, much of the movie rests on the character of Steve Rogers (Captain America, played by Chris Evans) and his ability to balance an incredibly jingoistic concept with a character you would really like as a friend, and in that way, as with the first film, the movie succeeds quite nicely.

Definitely worth seeing on the big screen, but again, stay away from the 3D unless you have no choice.

Friday, April 4, 2014

My MLIS Degree: facts and figures

From September 2011 to April 2014 I've been balancing work and homelife with my attempt to get a Masters degree in Library and Information Studies.

Having finished up the course work yesterday, I thought it would be nice to look at some of the facts I came up with regarding my time in Grad School:

Basics
Student Type: Part-Time, Course Based
Time to Complete: 32 months (2.66 years)
Total Courses: 18 (15 3-credit and 3 1-credit)
Course type breakdown: 37.5% Daytime, 37.5% Night/Weekend, 25% Online
Textbooks purchased: 10 (favourite? Work the Pond, by Darcy Rezac)
Required Reading purchased: 10 (favourite? Saga volume 1 by Vaughan and Staples)

Coursework
Presentations: 12 (favourite? Comic book-themed poster session)
Group Assignments: 11 (favourite?  Using a Monkey puppet in 501)
Times I Used my blog for coursework: 2 (I can’t believe this is for Grad school moment? Researching a “Saw”-themed reality TV series)
Times I made a YouTube videos as project: 1 (I’m particularly proud of the bear)
Times I used ice cream as work incentive?: 6
Ice cream still owed to other classmates? 1

Popular culture purchased and left to wait on my selves
Untouched Games: 5 (4 video, 1 board – First Up, The Wolf Among Us)
Untouched TV seasons: 12 (Oldest Unseen? Season 4 of The Unit)
Untouched Movies: 10 (Oldest Unseen?  Castle in the Sky)
Untouched Books: 8 (boxes of books sitting in my garage)
Untouched Comics: 18 (Largest Unread Collection? Fatale by Brubaker & Phillips)

Book and Articles recommended by other MLIS Candidates I still want to read
Untaken Course Reading lists: 3 (top of the list – LIS 510: Storytelling)
Recommended Books: 31 (most books recommended by @GreatStuffDiego)
Course Textbook I’ll reread: 4 (starting with Reality is Broken)
Most recommended book: Bowling Alone, by Robert Putnam
Most recommended comic: Batman, by Scott Snyder

Thursday, April 3, 2014

So Guess What?

Although I've still got a week of Grad School to go, today I finished up the last of my course work, which means (assuming I didn't hideously fail anything) that I've finished my Masters Degree in Library and Information Studies.

Just thought I should tell my readers first!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Book Review: To Reign in Hell

Okay, so my journey to reading this book took about 12 years all told.  Back in 2000 I was playing a lot of White Wolf role playing games (RPG) (Vampire, Werewolf, Changeling, etc.) and was really getting into their Anime-inspired series Exalted, which may have actually eclipsed my childhood love of Dungeons & Dragons for sheer coolness.

Anyway, a huge part of what I've always loved about the White Wolf games was the recommended reading sections in the introductions of their various books.  Through those lists I found all sorts of now dearly held novels of dark fantasy and horror that have  been added to my collection over the years (and are honestly a big part of why I still own all those RPG books years after I stopped playing them.

So in 2002 there was an Exalted spin-off series focusing on the villains of the world, a militaristic, caste based group of warriors who spend all their time hunting down the Exalted (the protagonists of the main game) and in the third Caste book (Twilight), the recommended reading list included Jhereg, Yendi, and Teckla, the first three novels of something called the Vlad Taltos series by a fellow called Steven Brust.

A few years later White Wolf comes out with the series Demon: the Fallen, and wouldn't you know it, sitting in the recommended reading section is a 1984 book called To Reign in Hell, also by Steven Brust.

So when I came across it in a used-bookstore run, I picked it up and for the next nine years it sat on my "to be read" shelf.  Then I spent a month waiting for my next horror book The Walking Dead: The Fall of the Governor part 2, to show up, and when I had finished my other books for the month, I went to that shelf and grabbed the first thing that caught my eye.

So I've just finished To Reign in Hell, and you know what?  It was pretty great - it's a fantasy-themed retelling of the War in Heaven (as described in John Milton's Paradise Lost - where the original fall of Lucifer from heaven is described, and you know what?  I really liked it.

The author starts with the conceit that "From all of [his] readings on the revolt of the angels, two things are clear: God is omnipotent and Satan is not a fool.  There seems to be a contradiction here…" and then goes on to tell a very moving story in which these beings, these angels end up in the story we all remember from Sunday school.

Definitely worth reading.