What I read last year (2015)

As I do every January, here’s a recap of everything I read last year. With multiple projects going on last year taking time away from reading and blogging my page count is way down from 2014, and there aren’t any reviews/comments about the vast majority of these books. Because this blog won’t exclusively be about books anymore that means my “Random book thoughts” postings will go back to being what they once were, brief reviews of what I read last month. Those postings will (probably) return at the beginning of February.

The Soldier Spies (W.E.B. Griffin) …415
The Fighting Agents (W.E.B. Griffin) …438
The Saboteurs (W.E.B. Griffin) …497
The Double Agents (W.E.B. Griffin) …463
The Spymasters (W.E.B. Griffin) …447
Hazardous Duty (W.E.B. Griffin) …448
Orr: My story (Bobby Orr) …290
Chasing the Bear (Robert Parker) …169
Silent Night (Robert Parker) …230
Act of War (Brad Thor) …358
Dragons Wild (Robert Asprin) …360
Dragons Luck (Robert Asprin) …369
The Ascendant (Drew Chapman) …510
The Edinburgh Dead (Brian Ruckley) …354
The Burning Room (Michael Connelly) …388
Monster Hunter: Nemesis (Larry Correia) …502
Cheap Shot (Ace Akins) …370
The Rebirths of Tao (Wesley Chu) …508
Runner (Patrick Lee) …385
Rasputin’s Shadow (Raymond Khoury) …517
Dragons Deal (Jody Lynn Nye) …385
Blood of Tyrants (Naomi Novik) …500
Dragons Run (Jody Lynn Nye) …406
Across the Face of the World (Russell Kirkpatrick) …721
Top Secret (W.E.B. Griffin) …541
One Rough Man (Brad Taylor) …417
All Necessary Force (Brad Taylor) …383
Enemy of Mine (Brad Taylor) …534
The Widow’s Strike (Brad Taylor) …518
The Polaris Protocol (Brad Taylor) …534
Days of Rage (Brad Taylor) …515
X (Sue Grafton) …403
In the Earth Abides the Flame (Russell Kirkpatrick) …670
The Right Hand of God (Russell Kirkpatrick) …687
Red Sparrow (Jason Matthews) …563
The Falcon Throne (Karen Miller) …706
Requiem (Ken Scholes) …398
I Am Pilgrim (Terry Hayes) …791
The Lies of Locke Lamora (Scott Lynch) …722
The Assassination Option (W.E.B Griffin) …478
Total pages: 18,880

The click-bait reviews of Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Note: This post contains massive spoilers from the film Star Wars: The Force Awakens. If you haven’t seen the movie and plan to, it might be best if you didn’t continue reading. Please consider that fair warning.

In case no one noticed, it’s been a long while since I made a post here. It was an intentional absence for a while as a bunch of projects came up all at one time and with little to no free time to blog I put this place on the back burner. Then over the summer I just never bothered to make time to update it. So now that we’ve reached the new year I’ve gotten a little extra time to try to get things rolling again. Unlike last time there won’t be a set schedule, just mostly “actual” random thoughts when I have them.

That being said, after seeing 2015’s most anticipated movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I decided it would be a good subject to restart the “Random thoughts of 210Darryl” blog with. Although it contains spoilers from the movie (last chance to turn back) this post isn’t specifically about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. What this post is mostly about is the click-bait postings that have popped up from people nit-picking over the film. You know the blogs, the ones that require a gazillion page loads to get to the end of their posting with them having introduced virtually nothing original nor entirely accurate.

For the record, I really liked Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I thought it was done well, and in the flavor set by the original trilogy. No, it’s not perfect, but it’s certainly better than the prequels and sets the stage very well for the next two movies. And that’s something many people nit-picking don’t seem to want to ignore: there’s going to be two more movies! Some of these so-called “plot holes” will likely be answered in those two films. So why the need for these slide-show style reviews? Well, each one of those is a page view. Every time you flip through one of those click-bait posts you end up giving the site owner tons of page views, increasing their ad revenue.

That’s really why some of these bloggers are nit-picking. They know Star Wars fans that loved the movie are going to click to see what the blogger is saying, so coming up with these little issues generates more page views. You’ll note that sites that don’t generate revenue in that manner (like this one, where I get nothing at all for page views) generally have more positive reviews of the movie. Let’s look at some of the things bloggers are nit-picking over.

We’ll start with Finn. Lots of bloggers saying they don’t get how if Finn worked in sanitation that he would have trained in weaponry and would have been going down to Jakku at the beginning of the movie. The answer is pretty easy: he lied. Finn was a stormtrooper and didn’t really want that information known to a lot of people, especially being surrounded be folks that might not take the news very well. Those same bloggers also ask how he could wield the lightsaber like he did. If one were to pay attention, he really didn’t use it all that well. Stormtroopers are trained with melee weapons, and a lightsaber is essentially a sword, which is exactly how Finn used it.

Moving on to Rey, I’ll bet every single question about her and her Force abilities will be answered in the next two movies. With only one third of the story being told is anything related to her really a plot hole? The only way to answer that is to see all three movies. Anything left unanswered would be a plot hole. For now, they’re just teasers.

There are lots of questions about Kylo Ren, and again, I think most of these will be answered in the next couple of movies. One thing that does seem clear is he doesn’t have a heck of a lot of training with the Force. His lightsaber duels with Finn and Rey mostly prove that. Look back at the lightsaber battles in the prequels between trained users in the force. Ren doesn’t fight like that at all. He generally fights like he’s wielding a sword. That’s why it takes a little bit of effort to beat Finn, and in part why an uninured Rey defeats him.

There is, however, one glaring plot hole that I doubt will be answered in the future movies. After Rey kills Han Solo Chewbacca goes nuts and essentially blows up everything around him, but when they all get back to D’Qar Chewbacca walks right past Leia, and it’s Rey that Leia wordlessly hugs. Now eventually we may learn what the bond between Leia and Rey is, but I can’t fathom a reason why Chewbacca would walk right past Leia.

Too bad I can’t find a way to get that one into a click-bait post.

Week in review, week ending 2/15/15

In a feature I started a few months ago, and then stopped a couple weeks ago, my “Week in review” postings begin once again, this time on Monday morning as opposed to Sunday afternoon. For those that are new to my “Week in Review” postings, the following is a list of the blog posts I made last week, a few of the posts 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. Usually I link back to the previous “Week in review” post, but we’ll start fresh today.

From me this week there was…
On Monday I posted my Some random book thoughts for February 2015, Wednesday saw the continuation of my top 5 movie countdown with My top 5 favorite westerns: #2 The Shootist, and Friday saw my review of Hazardous Duty by W.E.B. Griffin, the lowest rating I’ve given a book since I started reviews here.

From the folks I follow…
The Credible Hulk takes a look at Comic Book History: Batman: The Killing Joke. If I had to list my top ten comics ever, Batman: The Killing Joke easily makes that list. Plus it’s Alan Moore and Brian Bolland, it almost had to be great.
Not The Baseball Pitcher has a music video of 2Cellos & Lang Lang: Live and Let Die. Those 2Cellos guys really rock it.

Some stuff I stumbled into…
Polinankbooksreview has a nice review of Dan Brown’s Inferno.
The Grimdark Review has a Interview: Mark Lawrence- What’s Next?. I have Lawrence’s Broken Empire Trilogy sitting on my to-read shelf.

Not a lot of “stumbled into” stuff this week because I avoided everything even remotely related to Valentine’s Day or 50 Shades.

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

Random Review: Hazardous Duty by W.E.B. Griffin

This review contains mild spoilers.

Book Name: Hazardous Duty
Author: W.E.B. Griffin (with William E. Butterworth IV)
Series: #8 in the ongoing “Presidential Agent” series
Format(s): Hardcover/Mass market paperback/audiobook/eBook
Genre(s): Thriller
Original Release Date: December 31, 2013

Rating: 3/10

Before I started my run through all of the series written by W.E.B. Griffin that I hadn’t read yet the latest “new” book of his I’d read was Empire and Honor, which was the latest in the “Honor Bound” series set during World War Two in South America. That book was a major disappointment because in its 670-odd pages there was a significant amount of flashback scenes that made it just about half of a new book. I was hoping in Hazardous Duty Griffin and his son, who has obviously taken over writing all the books, would get back to what made all the Griffin books so good.

They didn’t. Instead what we have in Hazardous Duty is a book where there is virtually no hazardous duty. What the whole book breaks down to is main protagonist, Colonel Charley Castillo, doing nothing but spending tax dollars dodging his assignments. Literally nothing else happens that matters in the book. I rated it a three out of ten instead of lower because what is there, a touch of political intrigue and an interesting history lesson that could have taken ten pages but instead lasts about a quarter of the book, was written rather well. It just goes to show that this could have been a good book had Griffin and Butterworth bothered to try to write one.

Usually the cover of a book is at least marginally representative of something in the plot, but I can’t recall a single scene where that cover image would come into play. Reading the back of the book a reader would note that because the story allegedly includes Somali pirates that type of boat would likely be used by the good guys. Only there’s hardly anything about Somali pirates in Hazardous Duty. The blurb on the back also mentions Mexican drug cartels. Not too many of those in the story either.

There is an author’s note at the end by Griffin saying he wrote the book is the same style as his “M*A*S*H*” books. I think that note was written just to excuse how bad the book is because not once did the thought of this being anything like his “M*A*S*H*” books came to my mind. Hazardous Duty is nothing but a plotless money-grab of a novel. Griffin should be embarrassed his name is associated with the book.

If you’re someone that needs to read every single book of an author or a series then I’d say go ahead and buy the book second-hand somewhere to save some money. If you’re just looking for something good to read, look elsewhere.

My top 5 favorite westerns: #2 The Shootist

In a feature here on “Random thoughts of 210Darryl” started weeks ago I’m listing my favorite movies in a few different genres. We started with my top five favorite comedy movies and counted up toward my favorite, Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Now we’re taking a look at my five favorite westerns, and at #3 we had The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. This week it’s John Wayne in The Shootist.

I think if I had first seen this movie when John Wayne was alive it wouldn’t be one of my favorites. It’s because I saw it after he died and I relate the movie to his life and death that it’s one of my favorites. Nevertheless it is still a great story, one of an aging gunfighter finding out he doesn’t have much time left and deciding to die on his own terms. It’s a sad story that doesn’t completely match the novel, but the changes made really help the story along.

While there are gunfights and the like The Shootist is not your classic western type movie. It’s really about a man looking back on his life and then knowing how he’d rather it end. It’s also about hero-worship in a way, and the ending scene with Ron Howard really plays to what the movie is about.

There are better John Wayne movies out there, but when I list my favorites The Shootist always comes out on top for me, and that’s why it’s number two in my countdown.

THE SHOOTIST
Directed by Don Siegel
Produced by M.J. Frankovich and William Self
Screenplay by Miles Hood Swarthout and Scott Hale
Based on The Shootist by Glendon Swarthout
Starring John Wayne, Lauren Bacall, Ron Howard, Harry Morgan, and James Stewart
Music by Elmer Bernstein
Cinematography by Bruce Surtees
Edited by Douglas Stewart
Release date August 20, 1976
Running time 100 minutes
Box office $13,406,138

Some random book thoughts for February 2015

Well, we’ve once again hit a new month and I still don’t have a clue what I’ll be writing about each month in my “Random book thoughts” monthly posting. Now add to that I had to take a quick vacation from blogging due to almost five feet of snow falling over the last two weeks (and as I post this it’s snowing again) and then a huge back-up of other things going on and what we’re going to get is, well, me just typing and seeing what I mash out when I’m done. It’s worked well the last few months so hopefully the trend continues. For those that care, you can read last month’s thoughts right here.

Despite doing this blogging thing for a long while I’m still trying to find a schedule that works for me and attracts more readers. If there was such a record for most followers with the least amount of page views I’m betting I’d be in the running. I’m averaging about 15% of my follower total as page views, and that seems incredibly low to me. When you figure in almost no comments I’m thinking I must be doing something to drive people away, but for the life of me I can’t figure what it is. While my goal is to eventually figure it all out in the end I really just write this for myself, so even if just one other person reads and likes it I guess I’m doing OK.

What’s odd to me is over on the sports blog I started in January I have no followers that don’t look like spammers but my page views are through the roof just from Facebook and twitter links. Again, not many comments on the blog but many via social media. Go figure.

I finally finished my run through W.E.B. Griffin’s books now that I’ve completed all his “Men at War” series and then topped it off with the latest in the “Presidential Agent” series Hazardous Duty. I’ll have a review of that book up shortly, along with a review of some of the other series of Griffin’s I finished but didn’t write individual reviews for. In the menu on the right you can see from the Goodreads widget I’ve read a few books since I last posted, and I will have reviews of all of them coming up. I’ve wandered back into the fantasy genre for the next few, and foresee a long run of those coming up. Of course that might change in two weeks, because that’s how I do things.

As I type this I’m thinking my usual summer of picking one writer and reading all their stuff might be an issue in page views. It’s cool to finally catch up on an author I hadn’t read before or was way being in their books, but perhaps readers here don’t want to keep hearing about it. May have to figure out some stuff for the warmer months to keep people interested.

While there was nothing new in the science fiction/fantasy genre I was looking for I did stumble into a few books (shocking, I know) in January. I picked up Runner by Patrick Lee, Rasputin’s Shadow by Raymond Khoury, and Act of War by Brad Thor. I also got the two Robert Parker “Spenser” books I didn’t have, the young adult story Chasing the Bear that was given to me by my buddy Stan, and when I mentioned I didn’t have Silent Night either he said he had a copy and lent it to me.

For new stuff in February I know Monster Hunter Nemesis by Larry Correia is a “must buy”, but I also saw listed Elementary: The Ghost Line by Adam Christopher, which is based off the TV series of the same name. I really like the show and I’m tempted to buy the book too, although the track record of books based on TV shows is poor at best. I won’t be making many treks to the bookstore this month because of a few projects going on and TotalCon at the end of the month. I’m sure I’ll still find a way to add stuff to my collection.