Thursday, December 31, 2020

Books read in 2020: No. 35 -- The Code of Honor

Started: Dec. 29
Finished: Dec. 31

Notes: I always find it interesting to read books on dueling, yet it's been a while since I've perused such, so here goes. This one comes from 1838 and was written by a governor of South Carolina.

Mini review: In many ways, this is a book about avoiding a duel, of how quarreling gentlemen can come to an agreement. Oh, there are sections here about how to perform a proper duel, too. Most of this is about pistol dueling, the author preferring flintlocks over percussion pistols, but there is some mention of swords.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Books read in 2020: No. 34 -- Tombstone's Most Haunted

by Joshua Hawley

Started: Dec. 28
Finished: Dec. 29

Notes: A couple of years back I took a car trip across the U.S. and on the way purchased a bunch of books. I've read some of those books but still have several left. This is one of those, and of course I picked it up in Tombstone, Arizona.

Mini review: This brief read was fun, not only bringing back to me fond memories of Tombstone but also expanding a little upon some of the tales of haunting I'd heard about the area. I wouldn't say this is an exhaustive book, for surely more could be said on the subject in such a famous locale as Tombstone, but it was a nice place to start.

Beer of the Week: Veltins Pilsener

Beer score: 5.2

Company: Veltins

ABV: 4.8
IBU: 21

Made under the German purity law of 1516, as are many fine German brews, this beer has been around a long time.

Out of the bottle or can, it has a smooth, clean golden color. The smell is a very traditional, grassy smell that can't be mistaken for anything but beer.

Sweet on the tongue at first, but the bitterness grows in the bottom of your throat. Over all, this is just a nice, clean, smooth beer that tastes like a beer and nothing else. Lots of fizz comes to a head when you put the bottle down, but that fizz doesn't fill your mouth.

Probably best served cold. The bitterness grows the more you drink, but not annoyingly so.

Not a favorite, but not bad.

Monday, December 28, 2020

Books read in 2020: No. 33 -- The Red Badge of Courage

Started: Dec. 22
Finished: Dec. 28

Notes: Yet another classic of literature I've yet to read, not even back in school, so now I thought I'd get to it.

Mini review: The author was born a handful of years after the U.S. Civil War in which this story takes place, but he did an excellent job of portraying the chaos of war. The story is from one Union soldiers' point of view and covers a few days, moving the main character through a few skirmishes and at least one battle (though it's a bit difficult to tell how big the fights really were as the protagonist's literal viewpoint is limited). The main character goes through much mental and emotional change in this tale, and that is part of the point. I can't call this novel a favorite, but it wasn't written badly and was an interesting read.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

New book: Adventures of the Weird

It's been a while since I've self-published anything, but now available is my latest, Adventures of the Weird: 12 Short Stories of Fantasy, Horror and Beyond. This is an unusual collection in that every story here has been accepted for publication at one Web site or print venue during the last decade, but only a few of them actually saw publication. As anyone who has submitted plenty of short stories to editors and publishers will come to realize eventually, sometimes a story is accepted but doesn't always see print for one reason or another. And while a few of these stories did actually make it to readers before now, most didn't, and I believe they were deserving. So, after collecting these tales during the last 10 years or so, I now present them.

Amazon e-book: $2.99

Amazon print book: $12.99

Adventures of the Weird will soon be available at other online retailers.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Books read in 2020: No. 32 -- The Book of Ruth, KJV

published by Zondervan

Started: Dec. 21
Finished: Dec. 22

Notes: I began the year reading the Bible, so figured I'd end the year in the same vein.

Mini review: This short book is interesting in that it shows an early inclusivity among Israelites, or at least that God was willing to accept those who were worshipful of him and faithful to him even if they themselves were not Israelites. To be brief, a Moabite woman's husband dies and she goes home with her mother in law only to find favor with a wealthy Israelite man.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Beer of the Week: Samuel Adams Old Fezziwig Ale

Beer score: 4.4

Company: Samuel Adams

ABV: 5.9

This is a seasonal Christmas brew and I haven't seen it this year, so maybe the Sam Adams folks decided against it for other holiday beers. However, as fortune would have it, a buddy happened to have a few of these stuffed in the back of a fridge in his garage. So, I get to try one of these even if they might be a year or so old, and I have had these beers before even though it's been a while.

Anyway, yes, this is a Christmas beer with cinnamon, ginger and a touch of orange flavoring.

Pours a dark red with a foamy head while giving off scents of molasses and roasted nuts and possibly coffee.

On the tongue, this one is a touch too sweet for me and it has too much of that spicy, holiday flavoring. It's not the beer's fault, though, as I simply don't care for these kind of holiday beers. Still, this one is better than most, so if you're searching for a Christmas brew, you could do worse than Samuel Adams.

Books read in 2020: No. 31 -- The Book of Judges, KJV

published by Zondervan

Started: Dec. 18
Finished: Dec. 21

Notes: I began the year reading the Bible without getting very far, so figured I'd continue here.

Mini review: This is a collection of stories related to "judges," figures who helped to guide or rule over the early Israelites before a monarchy had been formed. For instance, the story of Samson can be found here, but there is quite a bit more, mainly concerning figures that aren't likely to be recognizable to the casual reader of the Bible. From a historical or mythological point of view, these tales are interesting in that they show how early Israelites dealt with those of other nations and races around them. Most of the tales here follow a similar vein, the Israelites falling away from God, then God punishes them by allowing outsiders to rule over the Israelites for a while, then a hero ("judge") steps forward to either guide the Israelites to freedom of sorts or to outright fight for that freedom. Many a fan of Sword & Sorcery fiction might find some interesting literature here worth reading.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Books read in 2020: No. 30 -- Conan of Aquilonia

Started: Dec. 6
Finished: Dec. 17

Notes: Though this looks like a novel, it's actually a collection of four short stories that have been worked together to form sort of a longer story. Not Howard's Conan, but this is definitely old school, so it should be fun.

Mini review: Here comes four tales that tell of the final battles between King Conan and his old enemy Thoth-Amon. This is not Howard, and it shows. The writing is fair, the plot okay, but too often Conan takes a back seat and even has to be saved by others on too many occasions. I didn't hate it, but I sure didn't love it.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Beer of the Week Blast from the Past: Anchor Brewing's Our Special Ale 1996

Beer score: 4.4

Yep, this one comes from all the way back in 1996. For 45 years the folks at Anchor Brewing have been making a different holiday beer each Christmas season, and they're doing the same this year. I just happen to have my notes for their Christmas ale from 1996, and since it's that time of year again, I thought I'd share some of those. Here they are below:

If you happen to be one of those people who likes those spicy, cinnamon-and-nutmeg flavored Christmas beers, then this beer is for you. The texture is strong and frothy like a stout. This isn't the worst of the holiday brews, but I've yet to find a Christmas beer worth drinking on a regular basis, in my opinion. As each Christmas the Anchor Brewing folk offer a different recipe for this ale, then some years might be better than others. Worth trying for something different, but I wouldn't want one often.

Monday, December 07, 2020

Beer of the Week: Skull Splitter

Beer score: 6.2

Company: Orkney Brewery

ABV: 8.5
IBU: 23

Out of the bottle, this one has a fine red, almost nutty color to it. The scent is sweet and rich and dark, but not quite overly sweet.

When this drink hits the tongue, it brings with it a heavy, warm roasted bitterness with hints of fruit and burnt caramel. Smooth and frothy and, again, sweet, but not so sweet for my regular drinking taste.

A real Scottish ale, and worth your time to try.

Saturday, December 05, 2020

Books read in 2020: No. 29 -- Tasha's Cauldron of Everything

Started: Nov. 29
Finished: Dec. 2

Notes: It's another rules book for Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons. This one is supposed to focus more on character options.

Mini review: A lot of interesting new options for D&D characters. Most of them really aren't my thing, being a bit too esoteric for my taste, but I could see how others would find them interesting. Still, any Dungeon Master could also make use of this information.

Books read in 2020: No. 28 -- The Lady of the Snowmist

Started: Nov. 28
Finished: Dec. 5

Notes: I just finished the second book in this trilogy, so I thought I'd go ahead and read the third.

Mini review: While this was a decent fantasy read, I had some issues with it. For one thing, it was too repetitive, going back time and time again to past events concerning the main character. Being the third book in a series, I realize the author wanted to include a little background material for those who might not have read the first two books, but here there was too much, in my opinion. Also, disappointingly, this book ends really where everything should be beginning. A war has begun, but all we get to see is the first battle, which is really little more than a skirmish. And no, there aren't any other books in this series. So, the prose here was decent, though I have to say the second book in this trilogy was the best of all three books. The plot here jumped around a bit, but towards the end, things came together. But then they ended just as everything was heated up. Argh!