Update: What I’m DVR’ing this fall 2014

So about a month ago I posted what TV shows I’m DVR’ing this fall, and I thought an update might be in order.

Scorpion, a new show on Monday nights on CBS, has been a little on the weak side but I think the program shows some promise. I had one Facebook friend call it one of the worst series of all time, but I could easily name 100 shows that were worse (that I can do that is somewhat troubling if you think about it). I’ll probably be watching for at least this season unles it somehow falls off a cliff story-wise.

Five minutes into the opening episode of The Blacklist my wife and I were hooked again, and it’s almost always the show we sit down to watch at first opportunity. NCIS:LA is usually the second, so that’s obviously still a keeper.

On Tuesday is old favorite NCIS, and while it hasn’t been great this season so far it does have a history of getting better as the season moves along. I’m hoping that holds true this year also. It’s spinoff, NCIS: New Orleans, had a clunky opening episode with a couple scenes that made no sense, but overall it’s just as strong as it’s two counterparts. It’s another keeper. Opposite of NCIS: New Orleans is Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, and it’s continued the hot run it had from the second half of last season. It’s another show my wife and I watch as soon as we can.

Elementary still hasn’t debuted yet, but I can’t see how it won’t be as good as it has been in previous years. Another show not aired yet is NBC’s Constantine. More on that after a few weeks of that show. The Mentalist still awaits a CBS cancelation to be inserted into the fall lineup. I haven’t seen any numbers for shows this fall so I have no idea how close that is to happening.

One show that didn’t make the cut is Sunday’s Madam Secretary. It is possible–heck, likely–that my wife and I will give the show a chance over the summer via on-demand or Netflix. But for now, it’s outta here. Heading on the list, and one I forgot to mention in the first posting, is the short-seasoned HBO show The Newsroom.

My wife’s three shows, Revenge (ABC), Scandal (ABC), and Grimm (NBC) are still on her list. I’m not sure if she’s added any.

Week in review, week ending 10/19/14

For those that are new, the following is a list of the blog posts I made over the last week, a few of the postings from people I follow that I thought were pretty good, and then lastly other posts I’ve stumbled into that folks might like to take a look at. Presuming I did it right all links will open new windows/tabs. In case you missed it, here’s last week’s posting.

From me this week there was…
On Monday I had some thoughts on Negative book reviews for no good reason, Wednesday I posted a review of Agent 6 by Tom Rob Smith, and Friday I asked How do you keep track of your “to be read” list?.

From the folks I follow…
BlondeWriteMore asks How would you classify your blog post?.
The Credible Hulk shares with us his Top 5 Bad Seasons of Great Shows.

Some stuff I stumbled into…
Welcome to Trixieland has some thoughts on her bad reviews entitled Homewrecker, Whore, Slut: My bad reviews. I freely admit the reason I clicked on the posting was the word “slut” and the cartoony girl pictured with a gun. It turned into sort of a proof of my blog posting on negative reviews.
Blue Fezzes with a nice first posting simply called Books.

Links do not indicate an endorsement of the ideas presented, only that I thought the posting was worth taking a look at.

How do you keep track of your “to be read” list?

Not a very long post on this Friday, but one I hope I can gather some information on. Because I’m in the middle of changing how I do it I’m wondering how do other folks keep track of the books the have/want to read.

What I currently have now is a spread sheet that’s three pages. The first page is the books I’ve read, the second page is the books I own and are on my actual “to read” list, and the third page is books I’m either looking for or might be interested in checking out when they’re released. As you may have guessed, switching from page to page on my phone while looking at shelves of books in stores is cumbersome at best, and immensely frustrating. What I’m working on is combining all three pages into one HUGE page, with books I’ve read, own, and looking for all in different font colors. That way I’m only looking and scrolling through one list. But as I work on making one last one question haunts me…

….is that the best way?

So folks, I ask you: is a single excel spreadsheet page using different colors the best way or do you have one better?

Random Review: Agent 6 by Tom Rob Smith

This review contains no spoilers.

Book Name: Agent 6
Author: Tom Rob Smith
Series: 3rd in an apparent trilogy
Publisher(s): Grand Central Publishing
Format(s): Hardcover/Trade paperback/eBook/AudioBook
Genre(s): Historical fiction/Thriller
Release Date: January 5, 2012

Rating: 8/10

For those that missed it, I’ve also reviewed the second book of the trilogy, The Secret Speech. It gives some insights on how I came across this series.

Agent 6 picks up soon after the events of The Secret Speech take place, but unlike the first two books Tom Rob Smith writes a story that covers nearly 30 years and deals with the Cold War between the USSR and the USA (often referred to in the historically correct term of “The Main Adversary” in Agent 6) and then into the Soviet Union’s ill fated invasion of Afghanistan. If you were looking for a “feel good” story, let me tell you, Agent 6 isn’t it.

Like the two books before it Agent 6 is really about the redemption of main character Leo Demidov, forced to deal with the emotional and intellectual trauma of his past actions with the MGB (the Soviet’s Ministry for State Security) and later the KGB. Unfortunately, those issues come right to the forefront again when during a trip to the United Nations for a concert performed by American and Soviet school children tragedy strikes Demidov’s family. When Demidov is refused permission to travel to the US to investigate the circumstances of the issue, deep depression takes over his life and eventually results in him being “exiled” to Afghanistan.

While it is incredibly well written, once what is going to happen becomes apparent it becomes a difficult book to read because the reader knows where the story has to end. Smith handles every scene well and sets the stage for what is undoubtedly the toughest thing that Demidov ever had to face, and then knowing the true facts of the tragedy what Demidov had to do to complete his redemption. The obvious ending, which is not written but only implied by Smith, is both uplifting and gut wrenchingly sad.

Smith is most certainly headed to the top of the list of great thriller writers. Folks should get on board by reading his trilogy about Leo Demidov, and they do need to be read in order to get the maximum out of them. I whole heartedly recommend Agent 6, after you read Child 44 and The Secret Speech, of course.

Negative book reviews for no good reason

I generally don’t read reviews of books on Amazon and Goodreads until after I’ve read the book and written my own review. I used to not read them just because I hate when people don’t tag their reviews that contain spoilers, but now I have the added reason of not wanting what someone else thinks to influence my writing of a review. It’s not an issue in any case because after I read the book it’s not like I generally care what the other reviews are.

A few days ago while writing a review of Karen Miller’s Empress I couldn’t remember the spelling of a character name, and with the book in a box down in the basement I took the lazy way out and scanned some reviews on Amazon to see if someone mentioned him. What I read amazed me. It’s OK to not like a book, but if you truly hate a book as much as some of those people did perhaps reading some of the positive reviews might help so you can see what you’ve missed.

As I mentioned in my review, the entire premise of Empress is at the end you’re supposed to hate just about everyone in it. It’s the whole key to the series, and the number of people that didn’t understand that was shocking. Even if you didn’t read the other two books if you were going to spend the time to review the book and you hated it, spend some additional time to figure out what others saw that you didn’t. The number of people saying they hated the characters or couldn’t connect with them was fairly high, and yet because they didn’t know that’s how they were supposed to feel they rated the book low.

Another one I love is when a thriller by someone like Vince Flynn or Brad Thor gets reviews saying things like “there’s too much violence in the book” or “it seems like all (main character) does is kill people”. Well, umm, yeah. That’s the idea behind those books. They’re like movies, only written as novels. These are larger than life heroes that go after terrorists and crime kingpins, of course there’s going to be lots of killing. If you couldn’t tell that from the blurb on the back you’re probably not qualified to write the review in the first place.

One other thing I’ve seen, especially on Amazon, are people rating the book based on damaged received in the shipping process. Really? I mean, REALLY? What the heck does the author have to do with your book arriving at your house damaged? Go review Amazon for that and judge the book based on what the author wrote. Oh, and another one I loved that was sent to me recently about a book there was no chance I was going to read: a reviewer gave a low review based on the typeface the book was printed in. I’m guessing most authors have no control over that, so who in their right mind thinks that’s a legitimate reason for giving a bad review?

You don’t like a book, that’s fine. There are many books I didn’t like even after looking at what I may have missed in reading it. Books where I thought the writer just went off in the wrong direction, or were inconsistent in what their characters were doing. If asked about the book (or I’m writing a review), I’m specific about the plot points I disliked and why I disliked them. I don’t see an opinion of “I didn’t get it” as a good reason to write a bad review unless you take a few minutes to see what others got that you didn’t.

Week in review, week ending 10/12/14

For those that are new, the following is a list of the blog posts I made over the last week, a few of the postings from people I follow that I thought were pretty good, and then lastly other posts I’ve stumbled into that folks might like to take a look at. Presuming I did it right all links will open new windows/tabs. In case you missed it, here’s last week’s posting. I didn’t have as much time as I usually do for “fun time” this week so the links are sort of sparse for now. Next week should be better.

From me this week there was…
On Monday I had Book tag questions about my “To Be Read” list, Wednesday saw my Random Review: Farlander by Col Buchanan. Because of a scheduling conflict I didn’t have a Friday post.

From the folks I follow…
The Credible Hulk has a great posting Creator Profile: Jack Kirby – The Godfather of Modern Comics.
Bookspluslife has a review of one of my favorite books, The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson

Some stuff I stumbled into…
Hey, Library Girl! atells us what she’s Reading and Thinking About This Week.
Mike Heppner from Thought Catalogue with My Top Five Most Poorly Attended Book Readings.
Laura Reviewer reviews a book that sits on my too read shelf, Red Seas Under Red Skies.
The Little Engine that Couldn’t has Four Changes I’d Make to My Favorite Books.
The Budding Philosopher reminds us Vampires Are Not Friends.

Links do not indicate an endorsement of the ideas presented, only that I thought the posting was worth taking a look at.

Random Review: Farlander by Col Buchanan

This review contains no spoilers.

Book Name: Farlander
Author: Col Buchanan
Series: #1, Heart of the World
Publisher(s): Tor
Format(s): Hardcover/mass market paperback/eBook
Genre(s): Fantasy/Grimdark
Release Date: January 18, 2011

Rating: 7/10

As funny as it sounds, it was not my intent to read Col Buchanan’s Farlander when I did. While I was reaching for a different book on my shelf (one which I still haven’t grabbed) I was on the phone and was distracted, grabbing Farlander and then wandering into my livng room with it before discovering my error. Being lazy for the moment I decided to not to walk back the less than 30 feet to my office to get the “right” book, and started Farlander instead. It was a wise choice.

Buchanan doesn’t really do anything new in Farlander, he just tells the story well. As the blurb on the back of the book says “For fifty years the Holy Empire of Mann, an empire and religion born from a nihilistic urban cult, has been conquering nation after nation”, and it’s in a city called Bar-Khos where the main story starts. Bar-Khos has been under siege for years, thanks to high walls surrounding and protecting the city. As one might guess, the conditions in Bar-Khos are not exactly optimum. Buchanan does a decent job of describing things in the city without going overboard. He sets the scenes well for what needs to be told.

The co-main character throughout most of the book is Ash (the “Farlander”), a member of an assassin’s guild called Roshun whose mission is to kill the people responsible for the murder of anyone wearing a seal of protection. In failing health Ash is, while reluctant, forced to take on an apprentice and finds one while in Bar-Khos. The apprentice’s name is Nico, and he and Ash make an interesting team. Early on it’s a straight forward master/student story, and then arriving back at the Roshun monastery it becomes an outsider dealing with the “in crowd” while being challenged by the star pupil type story. Both are pretty standard fiction themes, but Buchanan tells it well.

The abilities of the Roshun are well known, and as such anyone that wears a seal is almost certain to not be a targeted by criminals valuing their own lives. Key word: almost. The Holy Matriarch’s son deliberately murders a young woman under the protection of the Roshun in a religious-type ceremony, and after several Roshun are killed attempting to seek revenge for the young woman Ash volunteers to go on the mission. Ash’s rival Baracha also volunteers. Of course, Baracha’s apprentice Aleas is the “star pupil” Nico has to deal with. Luckily for Nico Aleas is not as pigheaded as Baracha, and the two young apprentices do manage to work well together.

Buchanan writes the story of Farlander pretty well for a debut book, with his character descriptions being top notch even for those that are only briefly in the story. And while the book is mostly a mixed batch of well used formulae the ending scenes offer a plot twist that is far too seldom used in any sort of fiction. When it becomes apparent what is going to happen Buchanan tells that portion of the story maybe the best of anything in the book.

Is Farlander a great book? No, it’s not. But it’s a very nicely written debut story both for Buchanan and for the “Heart of the World” series. Luckily I won’t have a long wait for the second book, Stands a Shadow as it sits on my to-read shelf just inches from my desk. More on that soon…