Thursday, December 31, 2015

Books read in 2015: No. 44 -- Legends of the Dark Knight, #1

written by Dennis O'Neil

Started: Dec. 31
Finished: Dec. 31

Notes: As it's the last day of the year, I don't want to jump into a longer work just yet, so today I thought my reading material would be this comic book, originally published in 1989. I read it back then, and continued with the title for about 50 issues or so before I thought it lost it's original vision. At the time this comic was quite unique, taking a rather adult look at Batman, though that's old hat nowadays. Also, this particular issue was interesting in that it took a different approach to the events which gave birth to the Batman figure, offering something of a Native American myth and viewpoint.

Mini review: The story and art remain strong while Bruce Wayne is out in the hinterlands of northern Alaska, but once it journeyed to Gotham and he became Batman, it all felt a little silly and contrived. Maybe I'm just getting too old for Batman. Gosh, I hope not.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

At My gaming resolutions for 2016

My weekly article at lists my 2016 resolutions as related to tabletop role playing games. The big gist is that I'll be looking to expanding my horizons by playing new games, unfamiliar roles, and with new players.

Books read in 2015: No. 43 -- The Night of the Long Knives

by Fritz Leiber

Started: Dec. 27
Finished: Dec. 30

Notes: I'd never heard of this novel from this famous sci-fi/fantasy author, so I grabbed it for free at Amazon when I discovered it. Apparently it is a post-apocalyptic novel and has nothing to do with the infamous events in German history that bear the same name as the title.

Mini review: Holy shit, that was a good book, the best I've read in a long while. And the weird thing is, when I stop and think about the story, none of it should work, but it does. It's kind of a Mad Max meets 1950s science fiction tale, but honestly, there's not that much action. There is a little action, but most of it is the main character's viewpoint thoughts or his talking with others. I realize that doesn't sound all that exciting, but I promise, here it works. And deep down, or maybe not so deep, this is a philosophical book with a moral, talking about murder and war and violence. I'm sorry I hadn't read this one years earlier. This might now be my all-time favorite work from Leiber.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Books read in 2015: No. 42 -- White Space: Episode 1

by Sean Platt and David Wright

Started: Dec. 24
Finished: Dec. 27

Notes: These authors have worked together before to publish episodic fiction, much like an ongoing television show. I've read some of their work before and enjoyed it, so I thought I'd give them another go.

Mini review: These guys definitely know how to write like it's for television, slowly building an intense plot until it reaches a solid cliff hanger. Here a tragic event in a small town seems to have some rather unusual, perhaps supernatural repercussions.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Books read in 2015: No. 41 -- Inspector Zhang Gets His Wish

by Stephen Leather

Started: Dec. 23
Finished: Dec. 23

Notes: Yet another thriller writer I've been meaning to check out.

Mini review: I can't say I found the writing particularly strong in this locked-room mystery set in Singapore, but the characters and tale did have a certain goofy charm that made up for a lot. Not bad.

Books read in 2015: No. 40 -- 1000 Yards

by Mark Dawson

Started: Dec. 20
Finished: Dec. 23

Notes: Here's another thriller author I've been meaning to check out.

Mini review: This tale of an MI5 agent sneaking into North Korea to assassinate a group of officials didn't resonate with me, but that's okay as not every book is for everybody. The writing was decent enough, but I never grew to care for any of the characters, nor did I ever feel a real sense of tension, more of a feeling of a guy just going through his daily job.

At 'Twas the Night Before Gaming

This week over at, I get a little silly with the holiday spirit and post "A Visit from St. Cuthbert," my D&D version of "A Visit from St. Nick." FYI: Cuthbert is a god in the D&D World of Greyhawk setting, as well as actually having been a saint in our real world.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Books read in 2015: No. 39 -- Jet

by Russell Blake

Started: Dec. 13
Finished: Dec. 20

Notes: For the last few years this indie thriller author has been tearing up the Amazon sales ranks, the New York Times charts, and all kinds of bestseller lists. This is the first book in his series about a Mossad agent who fakes her own death to escape her former life. Sounds interesting enough to me.

Mini review: The Jet character is quite intriguing, even more so in the end than the beginning, and the writing here is solid, but most of the side characters felt generic to me and little here ever felt real, more like I was in on a joke with the author while we were watching a spy movie together. If that made sense. Still, not bad and it did entertain.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

At 2015 gift guide for gamers

Okay, maybe not a full gift guide, but this week's Nerdarchy article does offer up 5 suggestions of gifts for tabletop gamers this holiday season. Chocolate dice, anyone?

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Books read in 2015: No. 38 -- Thread of Hope

by Jeff Shelby

Started: Dec. 8
Finished: Dec. 12

Notes: I've heard good things about this thriller author, so I thought I'd check out his work.

Mini review: A cop's young daughter goes missing, and years later he's a private investigator returning to his old stomping grounds to help a pal in trouble. From there opens up some old wounds and some old friendships, as well as the seedy side of a wealthier section of the San Diego area. All in all, I have to say this was a damn fine read, almost too clean, reminding me a bit of a young Dean Koontz, back before all of Koontz's books started reading the same. I'll have to look into more from this author.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

At Precision dice from Gamescience

Among serious war gamers, board gamers, and tabletop role players, the subject of dice is often a weighty issue. Sometimes literally weighty. But over the years one company has consistently put out not only great dice for gamers, but precision dice, the type of dice used professionally by casinos. That company is Gamescience, and this week at Nerdarchy I interview the man behind the dice, Louis Zocchi.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Books read in 2015: No. 37 -- There's Snow Time Like Cookie Time!

by Suzanne Heins and Andrew Blackburn
Illustrated by Mike Esberg

Started: Dec. 8
Finished: Dec. 8

Notes: I'm not much of a reader of children's books, but this one has personal significance for me. For the last 12 years, Hallmark each Christmas has released a plush singing snowman (about 12 inches tall) with a short children's book. While she was living, my wife collected all of these snowmen, though she didn't have all the books. After her passing, I have continued the tradition. This book is the one for 2015, and below you can see and hear the accompanying snowman.

Mini review: I'm also not much of a cutesy kind of person, not normally, but I have to say this was definitely a cute tale of a snowman and his family and a little situation they find themselves in concerning holiday cookies. Young kids should like this one.

Books read in 2015: No. 36 -- The Case of the Demure Defendant

by Erle Stanley Gardner

Started: Dec. 4
Finished: Dec. 8

Notes: Having just finished reading my first Perry Mason novel with mixed feelings, I now give the author another shot at winning me over.

Mini review: Not as bad as the earlier Perry Mason novel I read, but it's still quite clunky. These books shine their best once the criminal trial begins, but the stories leading up to the trial are often rubbish. Also, this one was one of the most complicated mystery novels I've ever read, but not necessarily in a good way. It's impossible for the reader to work out who the true villain happens to be because there is always information that's not provided until the ending when someone usually confesses. Kind of glad I read a couple of these novels as I always like to study different writers, but I doubt I'll be returning here anytime soon.

Friday, December 04, 2015

Books read in 2015: No. 35 -- The Case of The Foot-loose Doll

by Erle Stanley Gardner

Started: Nov. 29
Finished: Dec. 4

Notes: I've a couple of these Perry Mason paperbacks left behind by my late dad, who wasn't a big reader of fiction, though when he did dip into fiction it was usually detective related. As I've never read any works from this author, this should be a new experience for me.

Mini review: I felt an extreme dislike for the first half of this novel. The writing was so amateur, I had to wonder how this series and the Perry Mason character had ever become so popular. "Repetitive" is the word I used to describe the first half of the book. In one chapter and character will discuss actions he is going to take, then in the next chapter he will take those actions, and finally in another chapter he will go into excruciating detail about the actions he has taken. And this happened more than once. However, the second half of this book was an actual pleasure to read, the portion of the novel which included the courtroom scenes. So, I guess I now see the appeal, though I can't say this author is someone I want to read religiously. That being said, I do have one more of these novels, and I will now turn to it in order to give the author another shot at winning me over.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

At Music for your tabletop role playing games

This week over at, I list some of my favorite soundtracks I've used over the years during role playing game sessions. Ennio Morricone and Basil Poledouris are some favorites, but there are others.