Thursday, June 30, 2022

Drawing Perspective

Drawing Perspective: How to See It and How to Apply ItDrawing Perspective: How to See It and How to Apply It by Matthew Brehm
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As I mentioned in some reviews for art supplies on Amazon lately, I've been trying to get back into drawing and cartooning after not doing much other than doodling during meetings for the past twenty years. I've taken art classes in the past but most of them were either time wasters or a learn by doing affair. I remember exactly one class period about perspective. Anyway, this book was highly recommended. Like writing, art is a "figure out what works for you and do that" kind of endeavor but there are still guidelines you should follow.

Instructional books are usually dry as hell. This book peps up what could be a yawn inducing subject. It's still a little on the dry side but that can't be avoided when you're talking about converging lines and such.

I found the book to be fairly engaging and the various kinds of perspective were explained in a way that easily made sense. Some of it took a little longer to wrap my head around than others but, conceptually, I think I had a grip on things by the end. Applying the knowledge will be a different matter. Luckily, there's a workbook section at the end if you want to practice. I plan on busting out one of my sketchbooks and experimenting when I finally get enough free time to do so.

Curvilinear perspective is some trippy ass shit, by the way. Since I primarily draw cartoony stuff, I doubt I'll use it, but the sections on one, two, and multiple vanishing points will be helpful. I like how the author acknowledges that the guidelines he lays out are just guidelines. While I was reading the book, I had to think that Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko were winging things 90% of the time.

I found Drawing Perspective to be a very useful resource for how to incorporate perspective into drawings. I look forward to referring back to it in the future. Four out of five stars.

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Friday, June 3, 2022

Dynamite & Davey

Dynamite and Davey: The Explosive Lives of the British BulldogsDynamite and Davey: The Explosive Lives of the British Bulldogs by Steven Bell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dynamite and Davey chronicles the rise and fall of The Dynamite Kid and Davey Boy Smith, the British Bulldogs.

I've watched wrestling on and off for my entire life and the first tag team that ever caught my eye was the British Bulldogs. When this ARC fell into my lap, I took it like a superplex.

Steven Bell put in the work on this. The book has a more scholarly tone than most wrestling books. While I was reading it, I suspected he did a ridiculous amount of research. The sources cited in the back proved me right. Dynamite and Davey contains more verified facts than a lot of wrestling books.

I've read and/or watched a lot of what transpired in the book but it was still like watching two trains getting closer and closer to a junction on the same track and seeing debris fly in all directions. Tom Billington's early life is chronicled from his early days in England to training to ending up in Calgary, wrestling for the Hart family. Davey, Tom's cousin, gets the same treatment as Tom and also winds up in Calgary. They don't team together for a while but when they do...

It seems like Tom's career had already peaked when The British Bulldogs formed and Davey's still hadn't hit its apex yet. Already, drugs were a huge part of both men's lives. Like I said, I knew what was coming but the WWF run and the sad decline of the Dynamite Kid were still painful to read at times. People say the ambush by Jacques Rougeau was the beginning of the end for Dynamite but he was already sliding downhill before then.

Not surprising, Davey's story is also sad, sometimes sadder because Davey seems like he was a nice guy, not the hateful shithead the Dynamite Kid seemed to be a lot of the time. Drugs, injuries, drugs, injuries, and drugs did him in. He got to share the ring with his son, at least.

I really like that Bell ended the book with an account of Dynamite's sons trying to follow in his footsteps as the Billington Bulldogs. Always send the crowd home happy, as one huckster is wont to say.

I've read or heard the stories before but Steven Bell tells them well and sieves out a lot of the bullshit. Five out of five stars.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

The Call of Poothulhu

The Call of PoothulhuThe Call of Poothulhu by Neil Baker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Call of Poothulhu is a collection of ten dark Winnie the Pooh tales.

Since my son was born, I haven't taken on many ARCs. When Edward Erdelac mentioned this one on Facebook, I knew I had to message the publisher.

Reviewing a collection is tough but here we go. All the tales are well crafted. The first, The Celery at the Threshold, is even written in A.A. Milne's voice. The tales are of varying strengths of Lovecraftian flavor but most of them are pretty dark. A couple have little to no Lovecraftian elements. Some link the 100 Acre Wood to HPL's Dreamlands. Sometimes Eeyore is the one with knowledge of the Mythos, sometimes Owl, sometimes Piglet. Some feature Christopher Robin grown up. One even reminded me of Cabin in the Woods.

If I had to pick favorites, I'd probably go with The Celery at the Threshold by John Linwood Grant and The Very Black Goat by Christine Morgan. In a lot of ways, The Call of Poothulhu is the spiritual successor to Scream for Jeeves. Four out of five Small Elder Things.

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Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Locklands

Locklands (The Founders Trilogy, #3)Locklands by Robert Jackson Bennett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

8 years have passed since Shorefall Night. The world has changed in horrific ways, but it has changed in tremendous ones as well. Tevanne has enslaved much of humanity by conquering cities and taking over the minds of countless victims. However humanity still lives. Sancia, Berenice, and Clef have saved many people and become the founders of the nation Giva. Crasedes Magnus also resists Tevanne's advances through the strength of his permissions over the world. The time has come that running and hiding are no longer options. Tevanne intends to reset existence entirely and appears to have the means to do so. Sancia, Berenice, and Clef must venture into the heart of Tevanne's territory to save their nation and humanity itself.

Locklands is a fascinating tragedy. I wasn't sure how the book would go after the vastly different first and second books. Foundryside felt tangible with a touch of incredible magic with scrivings, while Shorefall felt as though scrivings had the power to do anything at all. Locklands merges the two styles for a heart wrenching conclusion.

I really appreciated the character work done in the book. The power Valeria granted Sancia has been slowly stealing her life away, but she won't quit. She's strong and capable even in the face of insanity. Berenice is much the same while having to watch her wife waste away. Clef and Crasedes however stole the show. It was clear there was more to the talking key and his monstrous son, but I never imagined how much more there could be.

I was glad to see scriving continue to evolve even though the descriptions of scrivings in action grew tedious. Watching Giva's growth with scrivings made Crasedes and Tevanne feel more grounded. It wasn't as hard to imagine how the two beings could gain such strength. I wish we could have witnessed more of that in Shorefall because at the time Crasedes and Valeria felt completely unbelievable.

Locklands was a solid conclusion to the trilogy and I'm glad to have read it.

3.5 out of 5 stars

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Reaper

Reaper (Cradle, #10)Reaper by Will Wight
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lindon and company have managed to save Sacred Valley and drive off a Dreadgod. Even victory has its cost and the team all were forced to pay it in their own way. The time for rest has arrived, but before too much time has passed trouble raises it's head again. The team is forced to enter the labyrinth to seek knowledge to destroy the Dreadgods, all while dealing with the labyrinth's defenses and enemy forces...forces on their radar and those in the heavens above.

For any long time reader of the Cradle series, you undoubtedly have many questions you are seeking the answer to. Reaper is the book of answers. Not every answer, but certainly the important ones. I'm blown away as I'm reflecting on all the events and information we learned. I will be rereading Reaper, likely soon.

Reaper was an excellent book. The beginning has a combination of loss and learning to live. To fight a Dreadgod below Archlord is a risky affair and the team is lucky to have survived. The losses weigh heavily though. I really enjoyed seeing Lindon be forced to wait and live for the first time since Unsouled. Sometimes there is no immediate way forward and Lindon is forced to admit that. Seeing his choices in this time was truly refreshing.

I enjoyed the character development for some of the characters in the book. Lindon was forced into being patient after his goal of saving Sacred Valley. This allowed him time to learn about and become more in tune with his icon. I love to see how much he grows. Ziel is forced to look towards as his spirit mends. I enjoy Ziel as a character and I was glad to witness some change in him. Mercy learns more about who she is outside her mother. I feel for her, the expectations for her have been too great and she's so different from Malice. Jai Long learns he doesn't know everything and it's fun to see it. Kelsa is great even though she's weak. Her candidness is truly enjoyable to witness. That's not even mentioning Little Blue and Orthos, but that's best left to the book.

I wouldn't say there was anything I disliked, I just wanted more. I wanted more side characters to appear, if only to have some key moments. I wanted more key moments from all the side characters. I wanted to see Lindon's parents more than we did. I would have liked more time from Yerin's perspective as it felt as though she was shortchanged in Reaper. I was simply hungry for more.

Reaper was truly excellent and I continue to be impressed by Will Wight's writing. I can't wait to reread Reaper and to see what Will Wight writes next.


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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Fear of Death: Volume 1

Fear of Death: Volume 1 (Flares Of Serinor, #1)Fear of Death: Volume 1 by J.R. Dimesiss
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The world of Serinor is a dangerous place filled with magic. Even in places such as these people try to live their lives. Army Cadet Daas lives a split life and does so with honor despite the shadow of death never far from him. Clora too has death creeping nearer. She'll do what it takes to survive, even though she may not know how.

My first thought after finishing Fear of Death: Volume 1 is that so much feels disconnected. The books description gives the picture of a more cohesive story than the book tells. The rising danger is described in Interludes that appear to have no impact on Daas and Clora's stories. Daas and Clora are the main point of view characters and their stories are entirely separate. If they didn't both live on the continent of Serinor, I'd say there was no reason for them to both be part of the book. I don't think I've read a book with point of view characters that don't appear to impact one another at all after the first book. There's not even a hint that they may cross over as the book concluded.

Fear of Death mostly revolved around dialogue. The characters talk to a lot of people and the world expands through the dialogue. There are a few interesting moments of magic being on display and people being engaged in battle, but otherwise it's mostly just talking.

The point of view characters had some personality. Daas is serious, studious, and polite. He's an Army cadet who enjoys to read which seems to be an oddity in his world. Unfortunately for him, he has a secret that threatens to end his life if it's ever revealed. Cora is curious, uneducated, and vulnerable. She's lived a hard life in her short time being alive. Cora had been a captive and is determined not to go back to that life.

Fear of Death: Volume 1 is a story with some potential. I can't tell where the story is going, but in a bad way. Much of the tale felt aimless which is not a good thing for a first book. I'm mildly curious to see how the story progresses.

2.5 out of 5 stars

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

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Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Shorefall

Shorefall (The Founders Trilogy, #2)Shorefall by Robert Jackson Bennett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sancia and her friends despite the odds, saved Tevanne and themselves from destruction. Three years later their firm Foundryside is trying to change Tevanne for the better by sharing scriving with everyone...and stealing it from the Campos when necessary. After the one of their most ambitious capers, Sancia gets a warning. Someone is attempting to revive one of the hierophants and Sancia and her friends hold the only chance of stopping it from happening. Hierophants are people who through their immense scriving ability, have convinced the world they are gods. Sancia and her friends must not fail. If they do, who can stop a god?

Shorefall is a book where the pace never seems to let up. After the opening sequence, we go from one disaster to the next. Each one seemingly worse than the one before it. It had a magical mission impossible sort of feel to it.

I have to admit that I forgot everything about Foundryside except Sancia, Orso, Clef, and scriving. I'd recommend rereading Foundryside before picking up Shorefall for that reason. Robert Bennet Jackson doesn't take time to slow down or go over much that happened in the previous book either. I really appreciate that generally, I just didn't remember much about the first book.

The book's main theme seemed to be the perils of human nature. Various characters pontificated on how every new technology eventually gets used to hurt people. The fact that the weak and needy suffer while the vile thrive. Three different groups were trying to change the world for the better, but none could agree what would truly change things for the better. That was largely what fueled the conflict.

I did appreciate the relationships between the Foundryside gang. Orso with his fatherly relationship with Berenice was especially touching. Gregor and Sancia wanting to belong and finally feeling as though they did. Sancia and Berenice's relationship was the backbone of the book.

Overall I enjoyed Shorefall and I'm curious to see how the series concludes.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Arcanist Fables

Arcanist Fables (Frith Chronicles, #5.5)Arcanist Fables by Shami Stovall
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

War is coming thanks to the Second Ascension and the birth of new god creatures. Members of the Frith Guild and the Second Ascension are making their preparations for the battles to come and the book shows those preparations from their prospectives.

First and foremost, if you expect to see or learn anything new about Volke Savan prepare to be disappointed. Volke is mentioned, but no notable information about him is discussed. With that being said, the book is incredibly illuminating in regards to the Second Ascension. I'd mention details, but they are all significant spoilers.

Arcanist Fables isn't quite what I expected. On a plus we do have multiple point of view characters including Illia, Adelgis aka Moonbeam, Calisto, Hexa, the Kirin arcanist Orwyn Tellia, Everett Zelfree, new characters Ezril Rivers and The Keeper of Corpses, Fain, Ryker Blackwater, Mathis Weaversong (Luthair's first arcanist), and Rhys. The downside is the stories aren't all told directly after the book World Serpent. Many of the stories take place during World Serpent and some are before it. I was hoping for more current information on the characters, but that's a mixed bag with this book. The majority of the stories that happened during or before World Serpent didn't feel that worthwhile, but those that happened afterwards did provide some interesting prospectives and information.

The majority of the characters behave just the way you would expect. I was not a fan of Ryker. I hope he's not whining all the time moving forward. Ezril Rivers and the Keeper of Corpses were an unexpected plus. It will be interesting to see what the story has for them moving forward. Though not being a point of view characters, we learn a lot more about Theasin Venrover and the Autarch. Everett Zelfree's opinion of Theasin continues to be proven correct over time. Theasin is a particularly vile individual. I hope we learn more about the Autarch as he's far more complex than the outright villain Theasin.

Arcanist Fables was a solid story and seem to be necessary reading for those who plan to continue the series.

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Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Dragon Mage

Dragon Mage (Rivenworld, #1)Dragon Mage by M.L. Spencer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Aramon Raythe is an outcast in his own hometown. Something about him is different than others and he's ridiculed for it as a result. Little does he know that something old and powerful stirs within him. Something strong enough to save the world.

Dragon Mage is an ok young adult story. It has some fresh takes to it in it's magic system that involves seeing colorful auras, knots, and beings impervious to magic. The story is one filled with emotions as nearly every characters emotions seem to be described throughout.

This story felt like 4-5 young adult stories in one book. It has 99 chapters, not counting the prologue and epilogue, and it is almost 1,000 pages long. I respect the fact the author is giving the reader a lot of content for their money, but I don't know that it helped the story. I didn't feel the story was so compelling that I wanted to read so much of it in a single read. I was initially drawn in by the boy who seemed to be on the autism spectrum and was referred to as a true savant. He couldn't express himself well through words, he has obvious idiosyncrasies, he's obsessed with knots, and he has no friends. I found that kid interesting. I loved him finally making a friend in Markus and meeting Master Ebra the traveling bard. There are many heartwarming moments like Master Ebra telling Aram's mother:
"Your boy's not simple, ma'am. Aram is very smart. He just sees the world a bit differently than the rest of us."


The story falls heavily into tropes from there. Deadly mistakes are made, the first of many life threatening injuries are dealt, and nothing will ever be the same again. When I say many life threatening injuries, I mean I have never seen a character so often near death yet never seems to suffer any true long term physical issues because of it. We have villains with unclear motives and some who only want power. The bad guys initially seemed to have good reason until we learn that's simply untrue.

I also want to note that the term Dragon Mage is never used in any part of the book. On top of that, a lot of people use dragons in the book so the dragon aspect isn't all that special.

I was also disappointed at the way the final battle was handled. I don't wish to spoil it, but it took me a few pages to realize a certain character had died. It was surprising consider the significance of the role the character played throughout. I also didn't care for the development that the story didn't foreshadow whatsoever.

To be fair, Dragon Mage may simply not have been the best choice for me. I don't really care for young adult books and I didn't realize this book was 100% young adult.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2021

The First Step

The First Step (A Thousand Li, #1)The First Step by Tao Wong
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Long Wu Ying knew what to expect in life. He'd be a farmer like his father and live a simple life, that was at least until he was conscripted into the army. Due to unforeseen circumstances Wu Ying was offered a spot with the Verdant Green Waters Sect and a life as a cultivator. Now he's entering a world he never imagined and life as a cultivator.

I really wanted to like The First Step, but I honestly found it bland. It reads largely like a rough draft waiting for the finer points to be added. We have the hard working farm boy trope with Wu Ying along with the obnoxious nobles who believe they are better than everyone else. What the story is missing, is personality. Wu Ying for example doesn't have one unless hardworking has become a personality trait and no one told me.

Unfortunately on top of the characters having no personality, the story also lacks descriptive action. The battle sequences are vague and easily forgotten. The author chose to describe fights using form names as though all readers are familiar with them. Perhaps for a reader with more familiarity, it would be more than enough. I found it lacking.

The First Step was unfortunately disappointing for me and I won't be continuing the series.


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