Archive for August, 2009

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A Review: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

August 26, 2009

shadow-of-the-wind“Every book, every volume you see here has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it.”

With so much on my plate these days, the last thing I needed was another book to add to my reading list. I was already entrenched in two very good novels but, for what seemed like months on end, I continued to stumble upon praise for Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s The Shadow of the Wind and while I happily  put it on my gargantuan reading list – even near the top – there was something about that haunting cover that resonated with me and I knew I wouldn’t be able to wait any longer to read it.

Shifting my focus a little, I opened the book to see what lay in store and 3-chapters in I was completely wrapped up in the story of a young boy named Daniel Sempere, who reeling from the loss of his mother some years prior, finds solace in his his books, the loving presence of his father and her precious memory. One early morning, following an episode where Daniel realizes in terror that he can no longer remember his mothers face, Daniel’s father resolves to take him to a strange and secret place known to a precious few as The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a vast place where forgotten tomes are lovingly stored and protected by dedicated individuals. There, Daniel is instructed that, according to tradition, he is to select a book that he will care for and call his own. Filled with wonder, Daniel stalks it’s winding corridors and happens upon a book entitled The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax. So begins the boy’s adventure to discover more about the forgotten author that wrote his beloved book, and the mysteries surrounding why it may very well be the sole surviving copy.

As I eluded to, it didn’t take long before I found myself immersed in Daniel’s story what with it’s exciting premise, the scenery that played vividly in my mind (despite an utter unfamiliarity with the region) and words that seemed to drip of an old world flavor — in no small part due to Zafón’s  intimate knowledge of his setting as well as Lucia Graves contribution through  a beautiful English translation of his prose — it’s the kind of writing that wraps itself around the mind, seamlessly transporting the reader to another time and place until inevitably the real world abruptly calls them back. In that sense the book works magic by bringing this rich world of a bygone Barcelona to life, and so effectively so that while it began to strike me that one might be hard-pressed to actually label the book as a pure “fantasy” (in the sense that on the surface it’s probably more appropriately labeled a “mystery” novel) there was a ghostly undertone to the work that always seemed present and to the point that I was comfortably enjoying it as a member of that genre. But whatever you’d want to call it, it’s a very good book, with characters that you won’t forget. The Sempere’s, Julián Carax, Fermín Romero de Torres, Inspector Fumero, and the mysterious Lain Coubert figure will likely set up shop as residents in the “corner” of my memory that I often reserve for favorite literary characters and they do so because they were so effectively brought to life through their trials, tragedy, failures and successes throughout the book as nothing is easily achieved. And I must admit that I’m a sucker for a good pulp hero and that I had fun placing one of the more prominent figures you’ll encounter in the novel into the kind of setting where a Kent Allard (aka “The Shadow”) might comfortably preside…particularly given the nature of events that unfold in the final chapters of the novel.

If you’ve somehow managed to miss out on The Shadow of the Wind for as long as I did, here’s hoping that you’ll pick it up sooner rather than later and give it a try. The book lover in you will likely appreciate its reverent take on the power of the written word and along with the wonderful journey into mystery, and the novels fully realized characters, that you’ll find a little more about yourself in the process. Books are mirrors indeed. Now, how long do you suspect it’s going to take me to read Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s follow-up to TSOTW, The Angel’s Game?


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Honeymoon’ed

August 24, 2009

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I wanted to apologize for my absence, as I had meant to post something before leaving, but I got married recently and spent the last week or so honeymooning in South Texas, and Florida for several days. My wife and I had a great trip, got to take in some time at Sea World and Disney World, and enjoyed some great food along the way.

I even happened to land volumes I & II of G.R.R. Martin’s Dreamsong anthology series for a swan song (new) at ~ $12. I’ve been looking forward to his werewolf story “The Skin Trade” for a good while now so I’ll be diving into that short story soon. And by way of an update, I’m a good chunk into Atlus Shrugged, and should finish Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s The Shadow of the Wind within the next couple of days so look for a belated review soon.

Good to be home.

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Next Audio Book for the Queue?

August 12, 2009

Guards! Guards! P1As I mentioned in a previous entry, the blow from my 90-mile commute each day to and from work has been softened by several good audio books over the past year and to the point that instead of dreading the long drive I actually look forward to it so that I have one more opportunity to immerse myself in a good book for a couple of hours as opposed to enduring the mundane drive through traffic.

I’m just finishing up a particular book and am at the point where I’ll be picking out the next and find that I’m a little torn with this one. I managed to whittle the picks down to a couple of books by two legendary authors that I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never read before: Guards! Guards!: Discworld #8 (Terry Pratchett) & Dune (Frank Herbert). I’m really excited to read both of these but I’ve gone back and forth on which one to tackle first. On the one hand Terry Pratchett’s tome is sure to be wildly entertaining and have me laughing out loud in what I hear is a fine story, but on the other Dune is a modern “must read” sci-fi classic that I should have read years ago and I’m champing at the bit to finally dive into it. What’s more, both audio books are read by great voice actors that don’t make the decision any easier. In the end it doesn’t really matter Dune_sc1as I’ll just pick up the other book next month but dang if I’ll be able to figure it out this round without resorting to closing my eyes and picking blindly.

Of course, any suggestions you may have are always appreciated and may just help me out a bit.

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Worth Reading: “Bullet” Bob Hayes, 2009 Hall of Fame Inductee

August 10, 2009

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As a native Texas son you can probably guess which football team I claim, and as such, Saturday was a great day for me as Roger “The Dodger” Staubach finally welcomed Dallas Cowboy and NHL legend “Bullet” Bob Hayes into the NFL Football Hall of Fame. It’s nearly impossible to do credit to his accomplishments by writing his many impressive stats down but when you start with the fact that he held the title as ‘The World’s Fastest Man’ then you can perhaps imagine why you’ll quickly become impressed. His speed literally changed the way the game was played in the 60’s and while I didn’t come into the world until he had retired, I certainly did enough homework over the years to see how great a player he really was.

And as such, I’ve been looking forward to this day an awful long time (fans will know that it has not been without controversy, which delayed his induction for far too long). So, if you enjoy a little sports reading let Dallas Cowboys writer Rob Phillips explain why he was so worthy of the honor. Here’s an excerpt:

Bob Hayes’ speed revolutionized the way teams play defense in the National Football League.

That being said, Hayes’ Pro Football Hall of Fame induction should have been much swifter than his 30-year wait.

On Saturday, the late ‘Bullet’ finally got his Hall pass. He and the rest of the six-member 2009 class were formally enshrined at the annual induction ceremony in Canton, Ohio…

‘That’s what the Hall of Fame is about – having an impact – and a great player like Bob Hayes truly had an impact on the NFL,” said Roger Staubach, Hayes’ long-time quarterback and honorary presenter. ‘And he had a tremendous impact on the Dallas Cowboys.

‘Bob Hayes was really a decent, caring human being that had extraordinary skills…’

Other former Cowboys teammates, team owner Jerry Jones and members of Hayes’ family made the trip to honor his memory and legacy.

It’s a long legacy at that. Hayes helped the Cowboys win the franchise’s first Super Bowl in 1971. He played in another Super Bowl, the 1970 loss to Baltimore, and won five Eastern Conference titles and two NFC championships.

His list of individual football accomplishments also are many, and most exemplify the world-class speed that helped define his career:

  • He entered the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor in 2001, a year before he died of kidney failure at age 59 following a battle with prostate cancer and liver ailments.
  • His 71 career touchdown receptions remain a club record. He also ranks fourth in receiving yards (7,295) and seventh in catches (365).
  • He averaged an astounding 20.0 yards per catch and 11.1 yards per punt return for his career.
  • He scored a touchdown every 5.2 times he caught a pass.

But Hayes was a legendary athlete, not just a football player. He’s the only man ever to win both a Super Bowl and an Olympic gold medal, having captured two at the 1964 games in the 100 meters (world-record 10.0 seconds) and 4×100 meter relay (world-record 39.06 seconds).

The Cowboys drafted the ‘World’s Fastest Man’ in the seventh round in 1964. At Saturday’s induction, Staubach read a quote from Landry after Hayes caught a 40-yard touchdown pass early in his career:

‘Coach said, ‘Well we drafted him, he had 9.3 speed, having no idea about his football news. But gosh, he’ll be a great one before he’s done,’ Staubach said. ‘And Coach Landry was right.’

The Jacksonville, Fla., native indeed made an unprecedented switch from Florida A&M running back to track star to NFL star. Zone defenses were developed to counter Hayes’ blazing speed, but Staubach said what made him special was his ‘football sense.’

‘He understood routes and he had that speed,’ Staubach said. ‘And it was phenomenal.’

Three decades later, his bust will sit in Canton – an emblem of the impact he made on the entire sports landscape, not just the NFL’s.

‘I saw him at the Ring of Honor in Dallas (in 2001) and he was smiling,’ Staubach said. ‘He’s got a beautiful, wonderful smile. And I know he’s smiling now.’

Thanks for letting me indulge myself in some sports talk there for a moment and my congratulations again to the late Bob Hayes, and the family that survives him.

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Preview: Peter & Max, A Fables Novel

August 3, 2009

Peter & Max_2“For most of his long years Peter Piper wanted nothing more than to live a life of peace and safety in some remote cozy cottage, married to his childhood sweetheart, who grew into the only woman he could ever love. Which is pretty much what happened. But there were complications along the way, as there often are, because few love stories are allowed to be just that and nothing else.”

That’s it, there’s just waaaaaay too many well executed and wholly worthwhile works of imagination out there for my own good! I literally can’t keep up with the announcements and just when I catch up with a particular work, like Hydra, another [4] pop up in its place. And ironically enough, the latest project designed to lure money from my unsuspecting wallet is Peter & Max, a stand-alone novel set in Willingham’s critically acclaimed Fable universe under DC’s Vertigo imprint, starring none other than Peter Piper (and his older brother Max).

Willingham’s Fables takes place in a world that is fun, fascinating and positively peculiar — where your favorite fairy tale characters come to life in completely original ways every bit as compelling as those in the original tales because in Fabletown the characters lives are examined beyond the familiar, where things are not always what they seemed and the passing of time brings all new adventures. Case in point is this new prose novel, a first for the denizens of Fabletown, where the tale of Peter Piper is fleshed out beyond the popular children’s story.

Long ago, in the deepest dark of The Black Forest, two brothers – Peter Piper and his older brother Max – encountered ominous forces that changed them both irreparably. Thus begins an epic tale of sibling rivalry, magic, music and revenge that spans medieval times to the present day, when their deadly conflict surfaces in the placid calm of modern day Fabletown.

PETER and MAX: A FABLES NOVEL features the deft prose of award-winning comic book writer Bill Willingham and lush ink spot illustrations from FABLES artist Steve Leialoha. The novel also reveals secrets of some of the regular FABLES series cast members including Bigby Wolf, Frau Totenkinder and Bo Peep. Included as well is an 8-page bonus sequential comic story by Willingham and Leialoha that serves as a bridge to the FABLES graphic novel collections. And don’t miss the special FABLES #1/PETER and MAX PREVIEW on sale in July!

For an extended .pdf preview of Peter & Max: A Fables Novel, click here and be on the lookout for the hardcover release October 13th.

Peter & Max ills 1

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Look At That: ‘Sasha’ by Joel Shepherd

August 3, 2009

Sasha 2The cover for Joel Shepherd’s Sasha: A Trial of Blood & Steel recently caught my eye, though I have to admit that I knew next to nothing about the book’s upcoming release from Pyr until stumbling upon it.  Since, I have read several positive reviews from over the pond which shaped it up to be something I might enjoy, and I may have to take a closer look as a result.

What intrigued me about the cover was its simplicity. In the foreground we have an attractive young lady, plainly adorned and practically equipped for battle with sword drawn, standing in front of a medieval army force seemingly at the ready. There’s a look of steady determination on her face and while you can almost see the “troublemaker” that Shepherd describes on his blog, you can also discern something more. I’ve seen more intricate covers, sure, but this seemingly minimalistic approach by David Palumbo was actually kind of a breath of fresh air and very effective at drawing me in to find out more about who this determined young woman was.

For anyone interested, here’s how Pyr describes the book:

Spurning her royal heritage to be raised by the great warrior, Kessligh, her exquisite swordplay astonishes all who witness it. But Sasha is still young, untested in battle and often led by her rash temper. In the complex world of Lenayin loyalties, her defiant wilfulness is attracting the wrong kind of attention.

Lenayin is a land almost divided by its two faiths: the Verenthane of the ruling classes and the pagan Goeren-yai, amongst whom Sasha now lives. The Goeren-yai worship swordplay and honour and begin to see Sasha as the great spirit—the Synnich—who will unite them. But Sasha is still searching for what she believes and must choose her side carefully.

When the Udalyn people—the symbol of Goeren-yai pride and courage—are attacked, Sasha will face her moment of testing. How will she act? Is she ready to lead? Can she be the saviour they need her to be?

Look for Sasha this October from Pyr.