The Sorcerer’s House by Gene Wolfe – A Book Review

This particular book has been on my “to read” list for quite a while after I saw that Neil Gaiman recommended it.

The plot revolves around a man named Bax — a scholar many times over, a cheat, a sometimes fraud, and a recently released convict.  He has no money and so, after drifting a bit, takes up residence in what he presumes to be an abandoned house.  He soon discovers that the house has claimed him as its own, and so he must deal with all the sorcery, monsters, mystery, and family lineage that accompanies it.  The only question is to whom the title refers.  Is it the previous owner of the home … or Bax himself?

This book is unusual in that is is comprised of a series of letters written mostly by Bax himself.  Due to this method, we get to know Bax very well, or at least the persona he wishes to display to the recipients of his letters.  These letters make for a very fast, entertaining read.

However, because Bax is essentially a first-person narrator, I sometimes found myself distracted by his near omnipotence.  It’s a tricky thing to write a book in this manner, and, at times, Bax seemed to know too much which resulted in the letters feeling less like correspondence and more like actual chapters.

Even with that being said, I did enjoy the story’s trajectory.  It felt different in that it did not conform to the typical third act showdown.  Characters came and went without much fuss, which is how I would describe this book as a whole — it doesn’t make too much of a fuss.  It handles some rather epic concepts humbly and without much of a to-do.  I found that restraint rather charming, actually.

I’m glad Neil Gaiman, a literary hero of mine, thinks so highly of The Sorcerer’s House.  I apparently did not enjoy it as much as he, but if you think highly of Gaiman, I urge you to give it a try for yourself.

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 (Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

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Are You Excited For These Movies? Read the Books First!

Do you love to read the books that movies are based upon before those movies come out?  Check out this activity I had for my students today.  In order to get excited to read the source material, I had them watch the correlating trailers for upcoming films.  I’m happy to say they were very enthusiastic for several of the books (and movies)!  My primary goal as an educator is to help people want to read.  Take a look below and let me know which book you would most like to read, and also which movie looks the best to you.

Black Panther (Trailer)

Black Panther (Book)

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Forever My Girl (Trailer)

Forever My Girl (Book)

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12 Strong [Horse Soldiers] (Trailer)

Horse Soldiers (Book)

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Maze Runner: The Death Cure (Trailer)

Maze Runner: The Death Cure (Book)

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Annihilation (Trailer)

Annihilation (Book)

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Avengers: Infinity War (Trailer)

Avengers: Infinity War (Book)

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Every Day (Trailer)

Every Day (Book)

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Ready Player One (Trailer)

Ready Player One (Book)

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Red Sparrow (Trailer)

Red Sparrow (Book)

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A Wrinkle In Time (Trailer)

A Wrinkle In Time (Book)

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Love, Simon [Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda] (Trailer)

Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (Book)

 

(Last year’s movie trailers and books can be found HERE.)

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(Did you enjoy this post?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

My Reaction To the First Episode Of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

My wife and I have been meaning to watch this Amazon original for several weeks now, and last night we finally got around to the first episode.

In a word, we would describe it as “charming.”

If you’re unfamiliar with the plot, an upper-class Jewish housewife becomes a stand-up comic after her would-be comedian husband leaves her and the kids.

At first, I wasn’t too sure about it.  Midge Maisel seemed a little too perfect, a little too flamboyant, a little too entitled.  The dialogue struck me as a little too fanciful, and the characters’ circumstances were just a bit too ideal.

However, before too long, her husband began to grate on the nerves and disaster lurked in the shadows.  When he finally revealed himself as the shallow jerk we suspected, the show took on a new angle — a far more satisfying angle.

It sounds terrible to say the show didn’t get interesting until Midge got the rug pulled out from under her, but it’s the truth.  I would not have continued watching the perfect wife living the perfect life, but watching Midge fall apart while inadvertently excelling at something on a whim (stand-up comedy) that her husband couldn’t do on his best day — that was so gratifying.

By the time the first episode ended, my wife and I were won over and excited for the next installment.

Rachel Brosnahan plays Midge Maisel, and I found myself enamored by her performance.  At times she came dangerously close to being annoying, but somehow she always managed to reign her character in enough to make her instead charming.  Best of all?  Brosnahan is actually really funny.  She’s got great timing, fun facial expressions, and fantastic inflection.  If the actress seems familiar to you, she played Rachel on House of Cards, which makes Brosnhan’s performance all the more amazing.   Midge is as different from Rachel as you can possibly imagine, especially in general body language and mood.  What a testament to Brosnahan’s range!

If you’re looking for a charming new show with a bit of drama but mostly comedy, this is the one for you.  Be aware, though, that it’s aimed at adults.  While the first episode is mostly light and fun, there are occasional swear words and flashes of nudity.

 

(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

East of West: Volume 7 by Hickman and Dragotta

East of West continues to be one of the most satisfying series that I’m following.  Even with the seventh volume, Jonathan Hickman engages the reader with innovative plot development and surprising character development.  I never know what’s coming next with this series, and that’s about the highest compliment that I can pay.

If you’re unfamiliar with the premise, the idea is that … I can’t even.  It’s far too complicated.  Just pick up volume one and you’ll catch on quickly enough.  Just know it’s a dazzling blend of fantasy, western, science fiction, military, alternate history, samurai, and religion.

Hickman utilizes an ever growing cast with grace and nuance — everyone gets a moment to shine in this series.  Furthermore, Hickman seems to know exactly where he’s going at all times.  At no point during this series have I felt as though Hickman is floundering — he never seems lost.  Every issue counts with this series.  Every scene serves a purpose.  There is no wasted time.  That’s rare for a title that has lasted as long as East of West.

Of course, as good as the writing is, East of West would not be the same without Nick Dragotta.  This artist has put a particular stamp on this book; he’s given it an inimitable style.  He makes everyone one and everything in this series look cool.  That’s a great characteristic for a comic as eclectic as this.  Though the term is overused, his art is absolutely epic in nature.

Of particular note regarding Volume 7 — several major players die (or seem to, at least).  Wolf steps to the forefront.  Crow continues to steal every panel in which she appears.  Doma gets the girl.  Oh, and Archibald Chamberlain reveals a very special talent.

When people ask me what current comic book series is a must-read, East of West is always at the top of my recommended reading list.  I see no reason why that will change anytime soon as its excellence continues.

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(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Read “Independence Day” On Your Nook Or Kindle

Click “Kindle” to download

Click “NOOK” to download

Selena Epting finds herself in a dark parking lot with a man thrusting a knife at her and suggesting inexcusable acts. However, a hero emerges, someone ready to take on the perpetrator … but it’s not who you’d expect.  (Holiday/Adventure/Thriller)

Bug! The Adventures Of Forager – A (Comic) Book Review

This issue is so gloriously weird and so masterfully executed that you have to experience it.  It’s seriously a  must-read book for any comic lover out there.

As part of the Young Animal imprint (which is a division of DC Comics and, apparently, somehow connected to the mainstream content), Bug! The Adventures Of Forager utilizes several of Jack Kirby’s DC contributions, most notably Bug and Sandman.

Let that last sentence sink in a moment …

The first installment of this series is so strange. Bug wakes up after apparently breaking out of a cocoon.  He’s in a basement.  He’s flashing back to Cosmic Odyssey – you may need to “Google” that one.  A ghost girl appears along with a talking teddy bear.  This may be my favorite paragraph ever.

I won’t spoil it further, but if you loved Jack Kirby’s trippy Fourth World, this book is just as  nuts if not more so!  That’s not to say it isn’t well-constructed, though.  Lee and Michael Allred definitely seem to be headed somewhere.  There is a great deal of foreshadowing, and there are also several references to the past — we’re talking before Rebirth, before The New 52, even before Zero Hour — that raise very interesting questions not just about this title in particular but about the Young Animal imprint as a whole.

So along with a wild story and appearances by several revered Fourth World characters, you also have the most beautiful sequential art you will ever see.  Michael Allred is a very special talent.  Every single panel in this book is magnificent.  Not only is he a master of anatomy, but Allred is also able to do something many artists are not — he is able to convey body language and facial expressions that progress the story.  There are no superhero poses in this book.  His characters put actual weight on a single leg while standing, their fingers are never clenched into a superhero fist, and their faces convey actual emotion.  It is wonderful to behold.

Let’s not forget Laura Allred’s colors.  Michael Allred’s pencils and inks are gorgeous, but Laura’s colors amplify them exponentially.  It’s hard to pull of pink, red, and bright yellow in a single panel, but Laura does it and makes it all look perfectly complimentary.  Amazing.

Does this issue make any sense at all as a standalone?  Not really, no.  But, it absolutely lays solid groundwork for what seems to be a focused direction, and the wonderful art, Kirby character appearances, oddness, and general sense of fun make it a must-read issue.  Enjoy!

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(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Maundy Thursday

Today is Maundy Thursday, the day in which Jesus revealed one of the Twelve Disciples would betray him and issued his final command.

A few weeks ago, a woman from my church contacted me and asked if I’d like to fill in for the role of Simon the Zealot during their Maundy Thursday play.  It’s a reenactment of The Last Supper.  Though the thought terrified me, it also excited me, and so I said yes.  I’ve always regretted not getting involved in high school drama, so I figured, hey, even though I’m 40, better late than never, right?

I practiced and I practiced and I practiced.  The thought of messing up in front of my family and strangers drove me to perfection.  By the time our only rehearsal rolled around, I thought I had my short paragraph perfectly memorized.  As it turned out, I did not.

Fortunately, everyone involved were extremely nice with fantastic attitudes.  They were a forgiving lot, assured me I’d get it down before the night of the performance, and laughed everything off.  It wasn’t a terrible rehearsal, mind you, but it did not go as well as I hoped.  I decided to practice even harder, even going so far as dropping by the church and getting in some private rehearsal.  Spending some extra time working with the stage, playing with the room’s acoustics, and getting a feel for my body language renewed my confidence.

Tonight we performed, and it went splendidly.  I had the shortest lines of anyone, and the guys amazed me not only by how well they knew their lines, but also by how committed they were to their roles, how much energy they projected, and how much they seemed to truly enjoy the moment.  We did two performances — one at 5:00 p.m. and one at 7:00 p.m.  Both were wonderful experiences.

After both performances, we stood in the lobby and greeted the audience.  People were so appreciative of us!  It really touched me how genuinely they seemed to enjoy the play and how gracious they were to us for performing it.  Talking with the audience definitely made me realize how powerful acting out this seminal moment is for people.  Several folks told me that seeing our expressions, hearing our voices, watching us interact — these things made The Last Supper feel all the more tangible.  It reminded them that it’s not just some story — it is truth.

Of course, it helped that we had a fantastic director.  We were also shepherded by an  amazing lead actor.  The costumes were phenomenal.  The backdrop actually looked like the backdrop from da Vinci’s famed painting.  The sound and lights were top-notch.  For a small, humble production, I think it made quite an impression.

For my part, it’s the first time I’ve ever done anything quite so public with my church, and certainly my first time acting on stage.  I honestly hope they will ask me to play Simon again.  It felt good to be on stage.  It felt good to deliver an important message.  It felt good to see my family in the front row.  It felt good to work side by side with such devoted, kind men and women.  It felt good to give back to the church.

Happy Easter to all!

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