Friday, December 31, 2010

Angel, After The Fall, Volume 2 by Joss Whedon (Grade: C-)

I just finished Angel, After The Fall, Volume 2.

This volume is a collection of short stories by different writers and artists.  Each story is centered on what happened to each character between Angel Season 5's season finale and Angel, After The Fall, Volume 1.

This graphic novel was uneven, as is common with most short story collections.  None of the stories were developed enough to engage me as a reader.

None of them every horribly bad but none of the stories were particularly good either.  Nothing really happened in each of the shorts.

The art was uneven also.  Some of the stories had good artwork but some of the art was not very good at all.

Overall, I felt the stories were weak and the art was uneven.  It wasn't overtly bad but it was close.  I'm going to try one more volume of Angel to see if it redeems itself but I am not holding my breath.  I grade this a C-. 

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Triathlete Magazine's Guide To Finishing Your First Triathlon by T. J. Murphy (GRADE: B+)

I just finished Triathlete Magazine's Guide To Finishing Your First Triathlon by T. J. Murphy.

This book is for beginners, which is good because I am a beginner.

The book is essentially broken up into five parts:
(1) Introduction.  The gist of this section is this: YAY!  YOU CAN DO IT.  I liked reading this part.  It got me really excited about doing a TRI.
(2) The Equipment.  This section gives you a good overview of what you need to buy or have in order to do a SPRINT Triathlon.
(3) Nutrition.  I liked this section because it gave practical information as well as technical information.  Such as a guy should eat about 3000 Calories a day during training and this is an example of a typical meal, etc.
(4) Technique.  I really liked the section on swimming which is my weakest leg of the TRI.  The running and the cycling parts were fine but the information was basic.
(5) Thoughts and advice on the actual race itself.  I liked this section because it gave a good idea of race day and the common errors people make.  Hopefully, I won't make the same errors because I have the information in this book.

The book has thick glossy pages.  It is fully of great pictures.  It is written well.  This is the kind of book that a person will actually read cover to cover.  It has great information and it doesn't assume that a person knows anything about TRIATHLONS.

I have also bought some other technical books on TRIs.  I thought that this book was good to have because the writing is inspirational and the text doesn't assume that you know anything about the sport.  It was actually fun to read.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is trying out TRIs for the first time.  I thought it was a great book.  I grade this book a B+.  It would be an A if it had everything that I wanted in a TRI book but it did not.  I had to supplement the information in this book with other TRI books.  This book lacked a lot of the technical aspect of the sport but my guess is the author deliberately left that stuff out to make the book more accessible to beginners.  But overall, a great book.

Heir To The Empire by Timothy Zahn (GRADE: B)

I just finished Heir To The Empire by Timothy Zahn, a Hugo Award-Winner author.  This is the first book of a trilogy.  It was a fun read but I can't picture myself reading this book again.  I grade this book a B.  The story was good, the pacing was good and the writing was good.

Heir To The Empire is set about 5 years after return of the Jedi.  The Empire (the side the the Emperor and Darth Vader controlled) still exists and the Alliance (the side with Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, etc) have gained much power and control of the galaxy after the Battle of Endor.

There were 12 Grand Admirals during the time of the Emperor in the Empire.  After the fall of the Emperor, all the Grand Admirals were thought to have been dealt with but one has escaped the notice of the Alliance, Grand Admiral Thrawn, a alien with blue skin and red eyes that is unusually intelligent.  With Thrawn leading, the Empire has started to gain victories over the Alliance.

In the midst of this, an insane Jedi is found, Master C'Baoth; a young lady, Mara Jade, who has joined the successor to Jabba the Hut, is determined to find and kill Luke Skywalker; and there is political strife in the newly established Alliance.

The writing is good (but on the simple side).  My guess is because the book's target demographic is high school aged boys.

The pacing is good.  Each scene is relatively short and no scene is over 20 pages long.  This is both a strength and a weakness.  It is a strength because it keeps the reader's attention but it is a weakness because it limits character development.

Overall, I enjoyed reading the book.  It was only a part of a story--it is the first book in a trilogy (I am currently reading the second book in the series, Dark Force Rising)--so the actual judgment of the full story must wait until all three books are read.  The writing and the pacing were both good and the book definitely kept my interest.  So if you liked the Star Wars movies, I would highly recommend you check out this book (or the whole trilogy if they turn out to be good).  I would grade this book a B.