Winternight Trilogy

Posted in Fiction, Giveaways, New release with tags , , , , , , , , on January 26, 2018 by jaclemens

TowerThe second book in Katherine Arden’s Winternight Trilogy came out in December, and it was the last book I read in 2017.  I finished it on December 31st, while on a morning flight home after spending a frigid night in O’Hare Airport.  A Winternight indeed!  I had a cold at the time, making me exactly the type of passenger I dread sitting next to on a plane.  Although I wasn’t pleased with myself, I did empathize with Vasya as she endured an illness in the snow-shrouded Russian wilderness!

The Girl in the Tower is a less evocative title than The Bear and the Nightingale (the first book in the series), but it does evoke Vasya’s greatest fear.  She might be living in a fairy tale, but she is not cut out to be the titular character!  There are reasons both domestic and foreign that validate Vasya’s fear of being sequestered in a tower for the remainder of her natural (and unnatural?) life.

My state of mind (and head cold) may have tinged my impression of this book with grey (making it more authentic in the sense of a Russian winter?), but I liked it less than the slower and more spectral first book.  My review of The Bear and the Nightingale consisted of naught but a comment on the author’s educational background, however, so it’s time to do this right!  Penguin Random House has issued me a copy of The Bear and the Nightingale to give away with my review of The Girl in the Tower.  Leave a comment below to be entered into a random drawing.  One lucky winner will be selected and notified on Friday, February 2nd.  It’s a little late for the release of The Girl in the Tower, but the third book, The Winter of the Witch, comes out in August!  Happy Winternight reading!

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Never-Ending Spring

Posted in Book Buying, New release, Reading List with tags , , , , , , on January 19, 2018 by jaclemens

Waking LandI stumbled on my reading plan last year.  I was on pace, reading two books from my 2008 list each month, and then April rolled around.  Spring brought a fresh crop of new releases, and I was lured away from my plan like Dorothy in a field of poppies!  I wandered about in waking lands of shadows and lost my way.  I may have found the answer to why so many books from 2008 persisted on my list into 2017 (now 2018): new releases!

homerdonutmachineOne of the challenges of being a book buyer is keeping up with a never-ending spring of new releases.  Granted, it’s a first-world problem that any avid reader would love to have, but it’s not good for you to consume an endless supply of your favorite treat.  Reading a healthy dose of backlist books helps to keep you from getting backed up!

20180105_124722I sprinkled in a couple more 2008 books into my reading last year, but in the end I only moved a third of them from to-read to read.  In the fall, I inflicted myself with a new challenge: graduate school.  I started taking Library and Information Science classes online from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.  That dried up my reading of backlist books and new releases alike.  I fit in some reading during the holiday break, but classes start again on Monday.  I set a lower goal for 2018, knowing that my studies have to come first, and so far I am on track in the new year!

2008 Reading Project

Posted in Reading List with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 23, 2017 by jaclemens

I joined Goodreads in April 2008 and began adding titles right away to my to-read shelf. These titles were the books I most wanted to read, foremost on my list, and yet some of them can still be found lingering in to-read limbo today. I realized that if I did not rectify this situation in 2017, I will be lamenting – not celebrating – my 10 year anniversary next spring!

Looking back on that first year, I read 44 books, many of them formative for my development as a book buyer. Three books by Michael Chabon (not my first, but it cemented his place as one of my favorite authors); three by Brandon Sanderson (ibid); The Book Thief; American Gods; Wicked; Reinhold Niebuhr and Isaac Bashevis Singer; and The Stress of Her Regard (one of my top ten favorite books), among other great reads. It was a tremendous year of reading for me, so it’s no slight on the books I didn’t get to in 2008.

Since then I have read plenty of books and added plenty more to my to-read list. From 2009 to 2011, I managed to move 20 more of my 2008 books from to-read to read (past tense), so it isn’t as if I forgot about the books that had earlier caught my eye. However, I have made no progress on that subset of books since re-reading The Stress of Her Regard in 2011. I wouldn’t say that I lost interest after three years – or that more appealing books intervened – but, for one reason or another, those books did not fit into my immediate reading plan.

In 2017, I will be reading 1-2 books each month from my 2008 list in order to finish the remaining 18 that have gone neglected for the last six years. I started my project in February with a pair of timely titles: 1984 by George Orwell and The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis. I plan to read a larger amount of new releases combined with other books that haven’t languished as long on my to-read list, but the 2008 books will provide the basis for my reading this year. I don’t anticipate writing a review for every book I read in 2017, but hopefully working through the books I wanted to read back then will help recapture some of the magic of buying and reading books in 2008!

Three and Out

Posted in Non Fiction with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 8, 2016 by jaclemens

three and outKnowing Rich Rodriguez is a good guy who never lost his team – no matter how many games they lost – makes it more difficult to hold him in disdain. Plenty of the problems that dogged him at Michigan were outside of his control, and some he could have addressed were outside his perception. I admit I was one of those longtime fans who was glad to see him go, and pleased when he was replaced by a “real Michigan Man,” Brady Hoke. When Hoke was replaced by Jim Harbaugh – who is among the detractors named in this book – I was ecstatic to be present in the stadium for his debut, a loss to Utah, just like Rich Rod’s.

imageRodriguez is now coaching Arizona, so Utah has the opportunity to beat him annually (Arizona put Utah away in double overtime last year). He’s the guy on the opposite sideline, so it would be easy not to like him. But his players did, and I do like them. Mike Martin and Taylor Lewan were teammates on the Tennessee Titans for a couple of years; Martin is now lining up with Brandon Graham in Philadelphia. Denard Robinson and Patrick Omameh are playing together in Jacksonville along with Chad Henne, the quarterback that Rodriguez struggled to find a replacement for until Robinson emerged from backup to repeat Offensive Player of the Week and Heisman hopeful. Unlike some of the QBs before him (Ryan Mallett, Steve Threet), Robinson did not transfer from Michigan when there was a coaching change, although he did try to meet with athletic director Dave Brandon to voice his support of Rodriguez (he wasn’t given the chance).

Those players who remained loyal to Michigan produced for Hoke in 2011, beating Notre Dame and Ohio State to go 11-2 (they lost to Michigan State and Iowa), and beating Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl. Greg Mattison returned as defensive coordinator under Hoke, and the defense improved from 107th to 6th in scoring defense. Same players giving their all, different scheme, better results. Hoke was Big Ten Coach of the Year, and Michigan was back. As the roster changed the results regressed each year of Hoke’s four year tenure, sliding back to a 5-7 season without a bowl game. Hoke was replaced, and now coaches in the PAC-12 as Oregon’s defensive coordinator.

Harbaugh was also a PAC-12 coach at Stanford before taking over the San Francisco 49ers. He returned to the college ranks and his alma mater after the 2014 season. Harbaugh retained Mattison as defensive line coach, but brought in D.J. Durkin as defensive coordinator. Tyrone Wheatley, a former star running back, joined the staff as running backs coach. Tyrone Wheatley, Jr. came along as a tight end recruit, and was coached by Harbaugh’s son Jay.

Michigan lost the opener at Utah, shut out BYU at home, suffered a fluke loss to Michigan State, and got thumped by Ohio State to finish the year 10-3. The only loss I accepted was the first one, but routing Florida in the Citrus Bowl helped the progression from 2015 to 2016. Harbaugh’s first quarterback, Jake Rudock, is now a Detroit Lion, along with his center, Graham Glasgow. Harbaugh has not yet named his starter for 2016, but it won’t be long now!

Led Astray

Posted in Events, Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 28, 2015 by jaclemens

imageI was not one of the fans led astray by schedule mix ups on the Salt Lake Comic Con app, but then I couldn’t get it to open a majority of the time. Users overloaded both the app and the website on Friday, so that’s a tech enhancement request for next year’s conventions. As for this year’s RFID wristbands, I made sure I picked mine up and activated it in advance. Upon entering the press entrance Thursday morning, I gave the registration line a sidelong smirk and went straight to the scanning station – which was not yet operational. The volunteers fidgeted with it fruitlessly, and, after waiting an acceptable amount of time, I asked if we could simply use another station to scan our bands. I explained that we were all there for the opening press conference, but this volunteer didn’t know where that was held. I told him it was in the ballroom on the other end of the Salt Palace, where many scanners were set up, and he let us through. When I left later that day, I asked another volunteer if I was supposed to scan out – seemed like a sensible way to keep track of the number of people in the building at any given time – but she didn’t know. When the website was functional, it stated that scanning in and out was necessary.

imageThe press conference was less of a production this year. Gone were the TARDIS entrance, the live painting, and the Make-A-Wish kids. For a convention promoting #EPIC, the press conference really wasn’t. The celebrity guests weren’t prepared to be introduced all at once, and shuffled on stage holding coffee cups and rubbing their eyes in the lights. Except for the exceptional Marina Sirtis, who wandered out onto the stage without a proper introduction. She announced her guest narrating with the Utah Symphony at Abravanel Hall the next two nights (following the Michael Lewis event), and Dan Farr shared an anecdote about Sirtis (a repeat guest) talking up Salt Lake to the manager of Chris Evans and Hayley Atwell, guests who appeared later in the convention. I did not have any questions for the assembled guests, but I did snap a photo of someone in a Carnage suit interviewing Richard Hatch.

imageFriday I started my panel-going with a session on how to get your novel published. The aforementioned Richard Hatch was on the panel, and I jotted down the scant tips he was able to mention before the Winner twins took over. Somehow their story of being dyslexic-but-adorable twelve-year-old twin girls didn’t seem applicable to my publishing pursuits. On my way to the Salt Palace that morning I listened to a Writing Excuses podcast on how to be a good panelist and a great moderator; it’s episode 37 from season 10, and should be mandatory listening for the writing panels. I found myself no closer to getting published, but I was able to find a cosplayer (Bioshock) to pose with this fall’s book from Tachyon Publications: Led Astray, the best of Kelley Armstrong. I also found out that Steve Diamond, who lives in my neighborhood, is also an author! He was promoting his book Residue in the large booth with Kevin J. Anderson.

Animaniacs welcome the press to Salt Lake Comic Con 2015.

Animaniacs welcome the press to Salt Lake Comic Con 2015.

My next panel was exponentially more entertaining, as Maurice LaMarche joined Jess Harnell, Tress MacNeille, and Rob Paulsen from the Animaniacs! LaMarche is the voice talent behind The Brain, Yosemite Sam, Morbo, Kif, and Calculon (Futurama), and the Lexus commercials. Harnell is the voice of Wakko and dozens of video game characters. Paulsen is Yakko and Pinky, as well as Donatello. MacNeille, who is the most versatile according to the others, is the voice of Dot, Hello Nurse, Babs Bunny, Daisy Duck, Agnes Skinner from The Simpsons, Mom from Futurama, and many more. Their panel was opposite Sean Astin (voice of Raphael), making me doubly glad I saw him at Fantasy Con last year. The synergy between the four actors was amazing, as they repeatedly set one another up to shine. I missed nearly all of the best sound bites, but I was overjoyed to get a recording of LaMarche talking about the Pinky and the Brain Christmas Special, which is one of our family’s traditions on Christmas Eve!

Flash Boys

Posted in Events with tags , , , , , on September 27, 2015 by jaclemens

Kicked off Salt Lake Comic Con 2015 with Flash Boys.

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imageAuthor Michael Lewis was the featured guest for the Sam Rich lecture, sponsored by the Hinckley Institute of Politics. I was invited to sell books at the event, which precluded me from attending the first day of Comic Con. I attended the press conference that morning at the Salt Palace, went to work, and returned to Abravanel Hall for the event with Lewis. I was sorely tempted to slip back to the press entrance at the Salt Palace during the interim between set up and doors open, but I stuck it out.

Lewis spoke on the start of his writing career and his earlier books, such as Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood and The Blind Side. I had eight titles for sale that evening, the most popular being The Big Short, subject of the upcoming film starring Brad Pitt, Christian Bale, and recurring FanX guest Karen Gillan!

By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them

Posted in Events, Fiction, New release, Young Adult with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 2, 2015 by jaclemens

IMG_0764“Babilar was starting to grow on me,” David comments in Firefight, a book that is growing on me. Babilar, short for Babylon Restored, is what they call Manhattan after it has been flooded by They Might Be Giants an Epic called Regalia. Only the tops of the skyscrapers now stick up above the waterline, and the denizens of Babilar live on the rooftops. They survive at the whim of Regalia, but they are sustained by the strange glowing fruit that inexplicably grows inside the upper floors of the buildings, courtesy of a mysterious force known as Dawnslight. A former judge, Regalia rules Babylon Restored with her own brand of law and order, just as Steelheart ruled Newcago. Now that Steelheart has been deposed, Regalia sends other Epics to draw the Reckoners out of Newcago. The Reckoners are accustomed to moving from one base of operations to the next, but David isn’t. He’s never been out of Newcago, and Babilar is completely outside his comfort zone. But Firefight is there, and she and David have unfinished business.

FullSizeRenderI was excited to find out how David and Firefight would resolve their differences; I was not expecting the introduction of Newton, Obliteration, and Regalia as the main threats (although I did manage to collect all three cards). Brandon Sanderson is a world builder at heart, so he takes us on a little journey to see another transfigured city, how another Epic despot does things, and how the residents react differently. The change of scenery is effective as progression for the characters, and introduces a new cell of Reckoners. Firefight is the titular character, but she’s not front and center in the story. She is deserving of the marquee, though. When she is Firefight she is spectacular, and, when she is content to be Megan around David, the interaction is authentic. My expectations were met in that regard, but Sanderson didn’t stop there! All of his foreshadowing was brought out by the eerie neon glow of Babilar as he continues to build toward Calamity, the conclusion to the Reckoners series.