Category Archives: Books

Back to Jurassic Park

A few weeks ago, one of my buddies had mentioned that he’d read Jurassic Park for the first time recently, and he was surprised at the number of differences between the book and the movie. I haven’t read the book since 1993 (around the time the movie came out), so it was a bit fuzzy. At this point I’ve seen the movie quite a few times, so it has kind of become “canon” in my memory. 

Last week, I was going through a slow purge of my existing books and stumbled across my paperback copies of both Jurassic Park and the Lost World. Inspired by my discussion with my friend, I decided to re-read both books. 

Here are some of the differences that I thought were interesting and/or was disappointed they left out of the movie. 

(Needless to say – uh, spoilers – for both the book and the movie. C’mon people you’ve had at least 20+ years to see the movie and/or read the book) 

1. The movie flips the ages and a couple of the personality traits of the kids. Lex is the older and the computer nerd, and Tim is the younger one and the dinosaur expert. In the book, Tim is still the dinosaur expert, but he’s the computer nerd and the oldest. Lex is the youngest and really doesn’t do much in the book (outside of petting and naming the dinosaurs they encounter. I prefer the movie switch, since it gives both kids something to do (Although I still cringe every time I hear “It’s a Unix system.” from that scene in the movie). The book also mentions the kids’ parents are divorcing, but it’s left out of the movie.

2. My favorite – and I chuckled at this as I read it – was that Alan Grant “loves kids” in the book. I didn’t mind that they made him uncomfortable around kids in the movie because it gave his character a chance to grow through the film, but it was a funny thing to read that line in the book.

3. The T-Rex is a much bigger antagonist in the book. All of the content about Grant and the kids taking a raft into the lagoon / river in the book are not in the movie. I’d completely forgotten about this, so I was disappointed (again) that they weren’t in the film. A couple of them – the scene where they learn the T-Rex can swim, and the waterfall scene where the raft is about to go over the falls to where the T-Rex is waiting below – would have been amazing on film.

4. I was happily surprised that a lot of the great lines from the movie came directly from the book.

5. The aviary and the opening scenes are left out of the book, but they are used in the other films. The opening scene of Jurassic Park becomes the opening scene for the Lost World movie. The aviary shows up in Jurassic Park III (you know, the one where you root for the dinosaurs to eat Tea Leoni’s character)

6. The main subplot of the book that’s completely left out of the movie is the concern about the dinosaurs getting off (and possibly already have gotten off) the island. It’s another point about “life finds a way” that the movie picks up when they discover that the dinosaurs are breeding, but the other, much greater concern, of dinosaurs getting off the island is left out. In fact, while the book describes the island being bombed to eradicate all life, the movie leaves the island intact, In fact, the end of the movies shows pterodactyls flying along side the helicopter as the survivors leave the island, and nobody is the least bit concerned. 

7. Speaking of survivors, the book makes it pretty clear that both Hammond and Malcolm die on the island. Both survive in the movie. The Lost World book has to quickly explain how Malcolm is now alive since he’s the main character in the story (turns out he was only “mostly” dead). 

Both the movie and the book are excellent, and it’d be worth your time to go and enjoy both again. Read the book first, then re-watch the movie.

For me, I’m moving on to reading the Lost World. 

2013 Reading List

At the beginning of the year, I wanted to set a goal for myself to read more books. Since I’m working at a job that has a long commute, that goal has been made much easier since I listen to audiobooks to keep my sanity while sitting in DFW traffic.

Anyway, I wanted to share my list and I may add some comments about some of the books. If you see something that you might be interested in, just ask and I’ll tell you what I thought of the book.

2013 books read (so far) – in no particular order

Audiobooks

1) Callis Rose by Mark Tufo

  • Great book!

2) Life of Pi by Yann Martel

3) The Lost Stars: Tarnished Knight by Jack Campbell

4) Daughter of the Sword: A Novel of the Fated Blades by Steve Bein

5) Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

  • Interesting twist on a world with people with super-powers. 

6) Spartan Gold by Clive Cussler

  • If you wanted a “popcorn-movie” book to read, this would be a good one. 

7) The Disciple by Stephen Coonts

  • Very interesting fictional story involving Iran.

8)  Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey
9)  Lycan Fallout: Rise of the Werewolf by Mark Tufo
10 )Killing Floor by Lee Child
11) Greywalker: Book 1 by Kat Richardson
12) City of Bones The Mortal Instruments, Book 1 by Cassandra Clare

  • Meh. Some interesting ideas about the supernatural world, but not much else.

13) The Cobweb by Neal Stephenson, J. Frederick George
14) Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines

  • Super heroes in a zombie apocalypse. ‘nuff said.

15) 14 by Peter Clines

  • Hard to describe this book, but it was a quick and enjoyable read.
  • It has a very Stephen King-like feel to it, because it basically takes a collection of normal people and puts them into a very unusual situation.

16) The Cartel by Ashley & Jaquavis

17) Suspect by Robert Crais
18) Leviathan Wakes by James S A Corey

  • Great “hard sci-fi” story. I’m looking forward to picking up the sequels.

19) As the Crow Dies: A Jason Crow West Texas Mystery, Book 1 by Ken Casper
20) Among Others by Jo Walton
21) Blowback, A Retrieval Artist Novel by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
22) Clockwork Angels by Kevin J. Anderson
23) The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling

  • Ugh. 
  • It’s not that she doesn’t tell a good story, it’s just that I didn’t care about the story or the characters. 

24) The Racketeer by John Grisham

  • Meh. It’s a good read in one sense, but I hated the small-town lawyer goes to jail for a few years and is now some sort of master criminal plot. 

25) The Bat: A Harry Hole Thriller, Book 1 by Jo Nesbo
26) The Wind Through the Keyhole: The Dark Tower by Stephen King

  • Great story for fans of the Dark Tower, but not sure anyone else would enjoy it.

27) The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

  • Another interesting teenage book with a couple of new ideas about magic.
  • Awkward ending, but still pretty good.

28) Paper Towns by John Green

  • Teenage angst story. Quick and good read. 

29) The Keeper of Lost Causes: Department Q, Book 1 by Jussi Adler-Olsen
30) The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells

31) Redshirts by John Scalzi

  • Hilarious! – read by Wil Wheaton

32) 11-22-63 by Stephen King

  • More fantasy than horror, but a great story. King puts a lot of detail into the world of the late 50s and early 60s. Great detail about Dallas as well.

33) Under the Dome by Stephen King (re-read)

  • One of King’s best!

Novels

34) Twelve Years a Slave – Enhanced Edition by Solomon Northup and Dr. Sue Eakin

  • This is the source material for the movie of the same name. This book is Northup’s original account of his experience as a free African-American who was kidnapped in 1841 and sold into slavery for 12 years before being found and returned home to New York.
  • It also contains footnotes to Dr. Sue Eakin’s incredibly thorough research documenting the actual people, places and events that take place in the book. 
  • If you see the movie, then I’d recommend reading the book. There are a lot of details the movie didn’t cover that are in the book.

35) Near Death: Book 1 of the Near Death Series by Richard C Hale
36) Twittering from the Circus of the Dead by Joe Hill
37) Death Sight: A Will Castleton Novel by David Bain
38) Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
39) Divergent by Veronica Roth
40) NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
41) The Fixer: A Lawson Vampire Novel 1 by Jon F. Merz
42) World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks
43) Horns: A Novel by Joe Hill

44) A Storm of Swords: A Song of Fire and Ice, Book Three by George R. R. Martin (re-read)

45) Blood Skies (Book 1) by Steven Montano

46) Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins (re-read) 

 

Graphic Novels

47) Locke & Key Vol 1: Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez
48) Flashpoint by Geoff Johns
49) How to Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You by the Oatmeal
50) Batwoman Vol 1:Hydrology (The New 52) by J.H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman and Amy Reeder

51) Superman: Earth One by J. Michael Straczynski & Shane Davis

  • Part of the New 52, I think. A new twist on Superman that fun to read. Superman is  a hard character to deal with, I think. 
52) Batman: Earth One by Gary Frank & Geoff Johns

53) Hawkeye, Vol 1: My Life as a Weapon by Mark Fraction, David Aja and Javier Pulido  

  •  I’ve never read much on Hawkeye and thought he was a strange choice to include in the Avengers. After reading this graphic novel, I was much more intrigued by the character and will probably pick up the next volumes of the comic.

Callis Rose – If “Carrie” had a sister…

While it may feel like it’s not completely original, Mark Tufo’s Callis Rose creates a wickedly intriguing and even cringe-worthy horror story around teenage girls that’s very entertaining.

The best way I can think of describing the story would to be take Stephen King’s Carrie and mix it up with the obnoxious popular girls from Mean Girls. 

The story follows Callis Rose, who is a girl with a special ability that she barely understands and has little control over. Her power turns her otherwise happy world upside down and she ends up abandoned to the overtaxed foster care system. The first part of the story follows Callis through the system and we see her go through a series of foster homes that unfortunately give her opportunities to learn more about her abilities. Using her power has a cost, but a part of her also begins to enjoy using the powers against others. 

The story quickly advances her through several years and she ends up with a stable but indifferent family just as she’s about to start high school. In spite of everything she’s lost and everything she’s encountered in the foster care system, Callis appears, on the surface at least, to be a pretty normal but poor teenage girl. 

On her first day of school she meets two people. One of them will become her favorite person in the whole world, and the other the complete opposite. Kevin, who is a junior varsity quarterback quickly becomes her friend and eventually something more. His cheerleader sister, Mindy, despises Callis and makes it her mission in life to destroy Callis and to prevent the relationship with Kevin from getting serious. 

At this point, the story may feel like something you’ve read before, and with the exception of Callis, most of the characters are pretty one dimensional. There’s plenty of teenage angst here. Nice guy quarterback and nice “normal” girl go through the motions of their first dating relationship. Bitchy sister doesn’t approve of the girl her brother is seeing. Popular cheerleaders pick on the poor but pretty new girl. 

But, as Mindy escalates things, we begin to see something deeper both in Mindy and in the relationships between Mindy and her two cohorts. 

Of course, the story gets more interesting and much, much darker once Callis decides to start fighting back. As things progress, there are a couple of scenes that are very cringe-worthy. By the end, though, the lines are so blurred between Callis and Mindy you’re not sure who to really root for. 

Overall, it’s a very entertaining story, and Tufo adds enough new twists to the story, Callis’ powers, and depth to the characters to keep things interesting. I listened to the audiobook and I also enjoyed Sean Runnette’s performance. The story takes place in Colorado, but there are really no elements to the story that are unique to that location. That didn’t really bother me because I could easily imagine the story taking place in DFW or any large city. 

This is the second book I’ve listened to by Mark Tufo. Earlier in the year, I picked up Lycan Fallout: Rise of the Werewolf. I picked it up because I was on a supernatural kick and was tired of reading books on ghosts and vampires. I hadn’t read a good story about werewolves, so I picked this one up.

it’s a great story as well with a mix of variations on the post-zombie-apocalyptic supernatural world. The main character, Mike Talbot, is a great character and enjoyed the story. I’d recommend that book as well with one caveat. I did not know when I picked the book that it picks up from another series from Mark Tufo. I’d recommend starting with his Zombie Fallout series first before getting to the Lycan Fallout book, if only so you can follow Mike Talbot’s adventures from the beginning.

Anyway, Callis Rose is in a completely different vein from Tufo’s other books, and I think if you liked reading King’s Carrie, you’ll enjoy Callis Rose, too.

 

 

 

Review: The Raven Boys

Even though the target audience is young adult, Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys is an entertaining supernatural story that captures all of the teen angst you’d expect, but is still engaging for readers of all ages.

The story centers around Blue Sargent, a 16-year girl from a small town in Virginia. She’s part of a family of local psychics, but unlike her family, she’s not a psychic. Instead, she’s more of a psychic “energizer bunny” that boosts the abilities of the others.

Instead of feeling shunned by her “freakish” family, Blue embraces her difference and really doesn’t care about what other people think of her. Blue stays away from boys because they were trouble, and she especially avoids the boys from Aglionby Academy, “because they were bastards.” Aglionby is a nearby prep school for the privileged, and the boys who go there are called “raven boys” after the school’s mascot. We see her distaste for these rich boys early on in the story. While working as a waitress (one of her part-time jobs) at the local pizza joint, one of the boys offers to pay for her time just to so she’ll talk to one of his buddies.

During an annual ritual at a cemetery where Blue and one of her family watch the spirits of the future dead, Blue sees a spirit for the first time. She’s able to converse with the spirit, and learns his name is Gansey. While still trying to understand why she saw the spirit, things get crazier as she learns days later that Gansey has made an appointment for a session with her psychic family. Blue discovers than Gansey is the same boy who approached her at the restaurant, and his buddies are part of the that group.

She discovers that there’s more to Gansey and his prep-school buddies. They’re on a quest to find a mythological sleeping king and believe that ley lines (lines of concentrated mystic energy) are the key to finding him. Supposedly, whoever awakens the king will be granted a great favor. Despite warnings to stay away from the boys, Blue joins in on the quest and she’s quickly accepted as part of the group.

The boys themselves are a bit of a mismatched group with very different backgrounds, but all are drawn into Gansey’s quest to find the king. The reader is drawn in as well as we learn more about the family backgrounds of Blue and the boys, more about the quest, and Gansey’s obsession with finding the king. Although each is helping Gansey with his quest, they are all on their own quest to understand who they are and their place in the world.

The supernatural aspect of the story revolves around spirits, psychic visions, rituals, and ley lines and is designed to be very vague and intangible. There are no vampires or werewolves in this story which is also a nice change of pace.

There’s also not a lot of romance, either. Blue does find herself attracted to a couple of the boys in the group, it doesn’t become a central part of the story – which, after reading the whiny characters from the Twilight books, is a welcome change.

Despite having some nice effects involving one of the magical locations they eventually find, the deliberate fuzziness of what is happening, magically speaking, gets in the way of the story – especially at the climax. You’ll read through the climax and the aftermath and still be left wondering what exactly happened.

The other unfortunate aspect involves the antagonist. The reader learns and suspects who the antagonist is early on in the story, but he really doesn’t do anything to elevate the stakes for Gansey, Blue and others until very late. In fact, one of the pivotal scenes in the book the antagonist’s arrival is purely coincidental. I wish the antagonist had been more active in elevating the stakes – or at least put pressure on the others that someone is taking an active interest in their quest. That way, once the main characters learn of his identity, the stakes would be even higher.

Outside of that, I found the story to be very enjoyable. After reading the Twilight series years ago, it’s a nice relief to find a young-adult series with a strong-minded female lead character as well as Gansey and his cohorts. Despite the vagueness of the supernatural aspects of the story, I’m looking forward to picking up the next story in the series to see what happens next.

Joy of Audiobooks

Audiobooks, for me, are the one thing that help me keep my sanity through my long commute in DFW traffic. Audible.com is a perfect solution for me. It gave me enough credits to burn on audiobooks, and I would go through about 2-3 books a month. 

After I quit my job in pursuit of the dream of “going indie,” I forgot to cancel my Audible account until five months after the fact. This meant I had built up a lot of credits to burn through. So, I went on a shopping spree before canceling my account. After finding books that I knew I wanted to listen to, I started going through the best-seller lists and tried to find a number of books with good reviews that sounded interesting.

Now, I’m working full-time again, and unfortunately, I’m back to my long commute. I’m finally able to work though my stockpile of audiobooks. The only thing is that for a lot of these books – I’m more or less surprised about the contents of the books. I picked them months ago, and since they’re basically just on playlists on my iPod in the car, I have no visual cues about what methodology I had gone through to pick the books.

Regardless, I thought I would start writing reviews about the books after I listen to them. I’m a few books behind, so I’ll have to get started quickly. The reviews won’t be in order, or most likely, they’ll be in order from most recent to not so recent.

Time for Audiobooks

I can’t really go into much detail about my job here, but this time of year is considered to be our “busy” time of year.

Part of that involves putting in longer hours, including having to get into the office earlier in the morning.

For me, this seriously extends my morning commute. The drive from McKinney to downtown Dallas is bad enough in normal traffic. In rush hour traffic, it can really test a person’s patience.

I learned a couple of years ago one of the few things that helps me get through this time is to listen to something other than music. Anything that helps to take your mind off the fact that you’re going to be stuck in traffic for the next hour and a half or so is very helpful.

I tried podcasts, and they’re okay.

But, as with long road trips, I really prefer audiobooks. Like listening to music, it allows my mind to wander, but it’s a more focused type of wandering – as opposed to just thinking about bits of everything that comes to mind while listening to music.

Plus, in other goals, I’m really trying to make more of an effort to read more books overall. I have plenty of books to read in the evenings. Listening to audiobooks helps me towards that goal.

In four weeks, I’ve already gone through four books, and I will probably post reviews of them here at some point. They’ve all been a bit different. Three were new. One was an audio version of a book I’ve read 20 years ago.

I can’t recommend audible.com highly enough for finding audiobooks. The website is still a bit clunky for just browsing through books. Sometimes, I find Amazon easier to search for books, and then switch to Audible once I have found something that interests me.

 

Harry Potter is my Homeboy?

FYI,

In case you haven’t heard, the newest Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire trailer can be found here:

Goblet of Fire trailer

I saw this today, and the trailer looks great! What really bugged me wasn’t the trailer, but it was the title of the column next to the trailer; the one entitled “Harry’s Homies.”

Harry's Homies

Oh come on now people! While time will tell whether or not Harry Potter will go down in history as classic literature, calling Harry’s friends his “homies” makes as much sense as putting a story out there about Lord of the Rings and refering to the Fellowship of the Ring as “Frodo’s Homies.”

Dictionary.com lists the following synonyms for “friend”:

acquaintance, ally, alter ego, amigo, associate, bedfellow, blocker, boon companion, bosom buddy, brother, buddy, chum, classmate, cohort, colleague, companion, compatriot, comrade, confrere, consort, countryman, cousin, crony, familiar, fellow, intimate, kissing cousin, little brother, main man, main squeeze, mate, other self, pal, partner, playmate, roommate, schoolmate, sidekick, sister, soul mate, spare, well-wisher

Ok, maybe “soul mate” doesn’t really fit in, but still, there are plenty of other words to use. I know someone was trying to be really clever and trendy by using “homie,” but if they really wanted to be clever, why not use British slang like “mate” or something? Rowling uses a lot of British slang in the UK versions of the book.

What’s next? Will Harry walk into the Gryffindor common room in the Goblet of Fire movie and say “wassup?”