01 April 2012

April Fools!

Hey look, a real post!

Ha Ha Ha...

Overdue I know...I'll get a Q1 recap of everything up in the next day or so.

03 February 2012

January Reading Recap

Wow, January's well gone - even Groundhog's Day is over.  Time for a recap of what I read for the month...

A summary (date finished):

The Hunger Games (1/8)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (w/daughter, Unfinished from 2011) (1/12)
Dark Forces #1: Soldier for the Empire (Unfinished from 2011) (1/15)
Lost Tribe of the Sith #1: Precipice (1/19)
THG #2: Catching Fire (1/21)
Lost Tribe of the Sith #2: Skyborn (1/23)
Fate of the Jedi #4: Backlash (1/27)
Lost Tribe of the Sith #3: Paragon (1/27)
Lost Tribe of the Sith #4: Savior (1/30)

First, I'll mention that I finished two of those leftover from last year - my daughter and I safely ushered Harry Potter through his first encounter with V-V-V...Voldemort, and off for Summer break with the Dursleys.  I've lost count how many times I've read the HP novels, but this was her first time through and...as expected, just as fun this time for me as well.  Also, I knocked out the last two chapters of the 1st Dark Forces story.  Evidently this is a prelude of sorts, whereas I'm guessing Rebel Agent (DF#2) comprises the story from the actual Dark Forces game.  I will say that while the story is a bit swift in pace (even for Star Wars) and the writing style a bit rough, that it is entertaining enough...the ending chapters certainly capture the video game First Person Shooter feel, even if rigidly so.

Speaking of Star Wars, if you don't know already, I'm a huge fan of the galaxy.  Not just the films, but the novels which contribute a majority of what is commonly referred to as the "Expanded Universe" (EU).  Dating back to late '96 when I borrowed the Classic Trilogy novels for the first time from my friend Keith (Thanks!), and then continuing on into the various timeline eras of the EU, I've now crossed the 120 read mark!  When referring to the timeline found in most of the Star Wars novels, I'm now up to having read 124 of the 164 released novels/short stories on that list. Of particular note for this month, I read a series of short stories exploring an ancient Sith culture and its experiences with isolation (Lost Tribe of the Sith), and most importantly, have made great progress on the Fate of the Jedi series.  I'm now nearing the end of book five, with three released titles to go before the 9th and final novel is released on March 13th.  This to date is the closest I've been to being "caught up" on the FUTURE side of the timeline.  I'll go into more about this series later, but the one thing I do want to say is that I am enjoying the 9 book cycle format vs. the standard trilogy, as it allows things to be a bit less rushed, and more time for the inclusion of political maneuvering, legal/philosophical discussions, and plenty of plot twists and action.

Finally...as mentioned previously when I debated reading plans for this year, it happened.  I did indeed start The Hunger Games (THG) trilogy.  Eagerly anticipating the upcoming movie, my wife pretty much stormed the Arena and killed off all THREE novels in the span of FOUR days - all this while having three kiddos to manage.  I'm a bit behind that, but still managed to read the first two novels in full, as well as about half of Mockingjay.  While I'm a bit disappointed in the pacing of book three (and perhaps the mental state of some of the characters), I'm hopeful for a strong resolution...whatever it may be.  THG and Catching Fire deserve as much, considering how good they were, especially the latter, which really is one of the better sequel novels I've read.  The one thing I will say without spoiling anything is that while CF enhanced the best qualities of THG, right down to including a repeat plot element but in well done/different fashion, I can see how it set up for book three for failure.  It hasn't failed thus far, but where CF ended and where the logical progression of events was left for Mockingjay, the latter was put in a tough spot.

So, that's it for now.  I'm off to plow through the the next 3+ Fate of the Jedi novels in March, 'cos the last one comes out 3/13!

11 January 2012

2011 Gaming Recap

I've dawdled too long, so I'm just gonna post a quick synopsis of gaming in 2011.

Overall, it was a fun year.  I experienced a nice mix across a few different platforms, including the additional options of the DSi and PSP - enabling me the opportunity to enjoy the word puzzle driven ScribbleNauts and the quiky JPop goodness that is LocoRoco. Additionally, I finished a few games started years ago (Tiger Woods 06, Super Mario Sunshine), and had some fun with new releases (a rarity for me) like TellTale Games' Back to the Future adventure game series.

2011 Games Log
Total of 51 games finished: Beat 34, Completed 17
Also, Completed one that was previously Beaten.

 Wallace & Gromit's Grand Adventures: Episode 4: The Bogey Man (1/2)
 We ♥ Katamari (1/17)
 The Chronicles of Narnia: TheLion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (1/21)
 Shadow of the Colossus (1/29)
 Machinarium (2/6)
 Rock Band Track Pack: Vol. 1 (Guitar-Hard) (2/8)
 Luigi's Mansion (2/20)
 Final Fantasy IX (2/20)
 Mirror's Edge 2D (2/21)
 Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law (3/7)
 Back to the Future: Episode 1: It's About Time (3/19)
 Spyro: Attack of the Rhynocs (3/19)
 Braid (3/21)
 Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly (3/27)
 Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves (3/31)
 Cars (4/8)
 Sly 2: Band of Thieves (4/18)
 Pajama Sam 3: You Are What You Eat From Your Head to Your Feet (4/27)
 Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (5/1)
 Pajama Sam 4: Life is Rough When You Lose Your Stuff (5/22)
 Monopoly Star Wars (5/30)
 ScribbleNauts (6/1)
 Jak II (6/4)
 NHL 09 (6/5)
 Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06 (6/5)
 Super Mario Sunshine (6/9)
 Band Hero (Guitar-Hard) (6/18)
 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (PC) (6/26)
 Despicable Me - The Game (6/26)
 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (PC) (7/2)
 Back to the Future: Episode 2: Get Tannen! (7/2)
 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (PC) (7/10)
 Back to the Future: Episode 3: Citizen Brown (7/15)
 Back to the Future: Episode 4: Double Visions (7/25)
 Ghostbusters - The Video Game (7/28)
 Back to the Future: Episode 5: Outatime (7/31)
 Rock Band: Metal Track Pack (Guitar-Medium) (8/13)
 Spyro: A Hero's Tail (8/17)
 Crayon Physics Deluxe (8/20)
 Cogs (8/25)
 LeChuck's Revenge: Monkey Island 2 (8/29)
 WALL·E (9/15)
 Rocketman (9/25)
 Questionaut (9/25)
 The Quest for the Rest (9/25)
 Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (9/25)
 Jak 3 (10/15)
 Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (10/23)
 Metal Gear Solid (12/13)
 Daxter (12/20)
 Exit (12/20)
 LocoRoco (12/31)

To close, the following games were my Top 7 played for the year in no particular order:

-----Shadow of the Colossus: More of an experience than a game - epic cinematic bliss.  A fine follow-up to the equally impressive ICO. Limited exclusively to 16 boss battles, riding a horse across the countryside and into hidden areas is as fun as fighting the Colossi themselves. A MUST.

-----Sly 3: The stealthy raccoon's swansong until...Sly 4 was announced!  The cast gets a bit large in this one vs. the trio in the previous two, but the story woven is pretty solid.  The stealth platforming is nice and crisp as usual with excellent level design, and mini game missions might be best in this one - I was delighted at the inclusion of an old naval broadsides mission later in the game.

-----Final Fantasy IX: A bit skeptical about going to an older/silent RPG after loving the modern/voiced Final Fantasy X, this one eventually caught on strongly and both my wife and I loved it.  Aside from a bit of a cheesy ending, the story was delivered well with some surprises along the way.  A key, the characters were very likable, interesting and relevant to the story told. Excellent soundtrack to boot.

-----Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: A legal-based adventure game that was every bit as fun as I'd hoped it would be. The character interactions drive this, and the puzzling out of clues is quite clever.  I look forward to perhaps hitting the 2nd one some time in 2012.

-----Jak II: Probably the hardest game I've ever beaten, from middle of the game missions right down to the final boss. Took the Jak franchise and gave it depth...and guns (lots of those).

-----Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time: Oh my, platforming/acrobatics done right!  The fighting was suitable (but not my favorite part). It's the atmosphere/music, decent cutscenes and excellent control on the platforming elements that are key here.

-----Daxter: Yes, the PSP prequel to Jak II. As much as I loved LocoRoco's JPoppyness, and one could argue this isn't a long game, it's a very well put together platformer.  Extremely rare camera issue aside, everything else is spot on - virtually perfect.  I'm not sure another game could look this good on the 3 inch PSP screen.

Well, that's it for now.  Time to go tackle Final Fantasy VII, Star Ocean: First Departure and Super Mario 64 DS - fine leftovers for a solid start to 2012!

02 January 2012

2011 Reading Recap

2011 was a great year for reading, both personally and now that they are getting older, in reading with my kids.  I finished a few books started in 2010, made a dent in some of the Star Wars back catalog, and read at least a couple new authors - including (and finally) - Lewis Carrol, Shel Silverstein, and... Jules Verne!

In general I've always looked at my reading lists from two perspectives, Star Wars and Other.  It's usually always fiction, but now I think I'll need to add a third and fourth categories, and that's for books that I've read with my wife (as we've read together for the past few years), and with my children (and I don't mean little kids stuff - but legit chapter books).  That said, here's a break down of novels and graphic novels read in 2011 per my divisions of Solo Reading (Star Wars and Other), with my wife, and with my kids.

Solo reading - non-Star Wars
  • 2010: Odyssey Two (unfinished from 2010)
  • Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief
  • Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters

Solo reading - Star Wars

  • Allegiance
  • Han Solo Trilogy #1: The Paradise Snare
  • Han Solo Trilogy #2: The Hutt Gambit
  • Lando Calrissian and the Mindharp of Sharu
  • Fate of the Jedi #1: Outcast
  • Fate of the Jedi #2: Omen
  • Fate of the Jedi #3: Abyss

With my wife:

  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2nd read-thru, unfinished from 2010)
  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
  • Through the Looking-Glass
  • Eragon

With both kids:
  • Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery
  • Howliday Inn
  • The Celery Stalks at Midnight
  • Where the Sidewalk Ends
  • A Light in the Attic
  • Falling Up
  • Runny Babbit - A Billy Sook
  • Pippi Longstocking
  • Journey to the Centre of the Earth (originally solo, eventually with son only)
There were also a few novels started that were unfinished that I plan on completing in 2012:

  • Dark Forces #1: Soldier for the Empire (Solo Star Wars - thru Chapter 3)
  • Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina (Solo Star Wars - thru "Nightlily")
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (with daughter - thru Chapter 15)
  • The Hobbit (with wife and son - thru Chapter 2)
To summarize, that's 10 solo, 4 with my wife and 9 with the kids - 23 total!

Though ever changing, the current plan for 2012 is to finish the four books from 2011, as well as continue:
  • Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi (Books 4-9)
  • Star Wars: Dark Forces (Books 2-3)
  • Percy Jackson (Books 3-5)
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide Series (perhaps finally get thru Book 4?)
  • The Inheritance Cycle (Books 2-4 w/wife)
  • more Harry Potter (w/daughter)
  • more of the Bunnicula series (w/kids)
Other than that, I'm gonna wing it and see what I come across that looks interesting.  I know I'd like to start the Darth Bane Trilogy for Star Wars, but for other stuff, it might be more Jules Verne. Or, it could be a new author I've never read (Terry Brooks, David Eddings), or I might even see what this Hunger Games thing is about (that my wife is shredding through).  

If I'm really bold, I might look at the Wheel of Time series, but then you might have an excuse to call me crazy...

01 January 2012

Happy New Years - 2012

My first blog post outside of anything I've ever put up in length on facebook or google + (which isn't much).  Hope everyone is having a happy and safe holiday.

Over the next few days I intend to get some recaps up for 2011, including video games, novels and TV series that I finished off in the year.