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Older rants
September 9, 2018   Perimeter - an eBook thriller
September 3, 2018   Take Back the Sky Starcraft Evolution
August 11, 2018   Idaho Dunes Awesome soda Ethanol-free gas an awesome Bald Guy card Our rough dig Harry Potter Interlude story
July 21, 2018   The Cup in the Shadows (The Forbidden Powers Book 1)
June 24, 2018   Jake, Lucid Dreamer
June 13, 2018   Troll-stalking
May 23, 2018   Another badbartopia email spoofer, A sunny-day Disney adventure, Raymond E Feist book signing
May 15, 2018   A rainy-day Disneyland trip The Bassoon King
Apr 28, 2018   Down and Out in Purgatory
Apr 13, 2018   Operation Hail Storm
Mar 4, 2018   American Exodus
Jan 22, 2018   Christmas, Didn't Get Frazzled, The Sea People, The Rooster Bar, Last Burial Night, Doctor Who and the Krikkit Men
Dec 15, 2017   Mistrial, City of Death and Disneyland
Nov 14, 2017   Grace Vanderwaal - Just the Beginning
Nov 11, 2017   Tim Powers Signing at Mysterious Galaxy for Down and Out in Purgatory
November 4, 2017   Return to Disneyland, Halloween at the office, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, The Long Cosmos Maximus One year After War Dogs, Killing Titan Daddy, Stop Talking
October 29, 2017   Bruce Campbell Signing, Hail to the Chin, Further Confessions of a B Movie Actor
October 20, 2017   Meg & Dia, Imagine Dragons in concert, 2 Years 8 months and 28 Nights
October 17, 2017   All Apologies
October 16, 2017   Thrawn
Septempber 7, 2017   The Rage of Dragons, The Lincoln Myth
August 10, 2017   The Molly Ringwalds, Dia Frampton Musical awesomeness, Beauty and the Feast
July 28, 2017   The IT Sweatshop revisited, How to Talk to Girls at Parties, American Gods and The Magicians, Rogue One, Camino Island
July 24, 2017   CRV glovebox difficulties, San Diego Comic Con rant
July 11, 2017   Beauty and the Beast at the Lyceum, Earthweeds, Sons of Neptune Book 1, Aftermath, Empire's End, If Chin's Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor
June 30, 2017   Eastwood: No Direction Home book 2
June 23, 2017   Excellent Adventures on the PCH (part 4/4) - The PCH family vacation tale concludes, my new record, record player, and Emeli's site is live!
Jun 14, 2017   A noteworthy eBook mention before I return to my vacation ranting - No Direction Home
June 9, 2017   Excellent Adventures on the PCH (part 3/4) - The PCH family vacation tale concludes...almost. More pictures of spooky old houses, trees, rocks, and other things that nobody cares about! Plus, Goonies stuff
June 2, 2017   Excellent Adventures on the PCH (part 2/4) - The PCH family vacation tale continues... And more pictures of trees and other things that nobody cares about!
May 31, 2017   Excellent Adventures on the PCH (part 1/4) - Way more detail than anyone wants about our vacation up the coast of California and Oregon. And lots of pictures of trees!
Apr 26, 2017   Resurrection America, Pizza Studio art, AmandaLynn, Emeli art, and Disney art, and Gifted
Apr 14, 2017   My San Fransisco OSI PI adventure & "Thanks for the Money: How to Use My Life Story to Become the Best Joel McHale You Can Be"
Apr 12, 2017   Neil Gaiman speaks, Norse Mythology, American Gods comic adaptation, The Magicians TV series, and Dirk Gently on TV
Feb 2, 2017   A trip to the ever-less-magical land of Disney, The Prince of Outcasts, the Whistler, and a brief mention of The Magicians.
Jan 21, 2017   An update to my nerd wall at work, Found out about Richard Thompson (Cul De Sac) being gone, A list of all the stuff (or most, anyway) I've given up to new homes, A review of Dave! and Warp, and a couple of new doodles.
Dec 23, 2016   My final visit to Potterland and a couple of doodles
Dec 11, 2016   Books and related comics, and free/cheap stuff. Not taco Bell Material, President Me, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, The Hedge Knight (comic), The Sworn Sword (comic) Ooma, Ringplus, Amazon prime and other money-saving stuff.
Dec 4, 2016   I'm sharing my sad doodles with the world again. They're not very good, but I'll bet they're better than your scribbles!
Nov 12, 2016   Yet another trip to The Wonderful World of Harry Potter!
Nov 7, 2016   Blathering on about a few of the books I've read recently - Spire, The Check, and Dangercide, Pirate Detective
Oct 7, 2016   Yet another Visit to Harry Potterland. Oh, and my lease-mileage calculator.
July 25, 2016   Another Visit to Harry Potterland, a new car, a new shirt, a new dog, and a whole lot of the same old complaining
May 17, 2016   Email spoofers, Phishing emails, and scammers galore!
Apr 30, 2016   Winter's Edge and a Management zombie attack
Apr 23, 2016   Harry Potter land re-visited
Apr 9, 2016   Xenia...again
Apr 2, 2016   Sing Street, Batman vs Superman, Craigslist griping
Mar 1, 2016   The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hollywood preview, fun at work, Xenia's new song, A Vanishing Glow, Our Fair Eden, Race Wars, The Force Awakens
Jan 27, 2016   Text Wars, Books I've read... Yup, that's pretty much it
Jul 30, 2015   Xenia Martinez news Still selling stuff on eBay, Hyperbole and a Half (the book), The Path Between the Seas, Trigger Warning, In Fifty years We'll all Be Chicks
Mar 17, 2015   Selling my treasures on eBay, Hyperbole and a Half, the Long Mars, Gray Mountain, Anathem, The Golden Princess, The Given Sacrifice
Mar 12, 2015   You'll be sorely missed, Sir Terry
Jan 21, 2015   More BBC 4 radio dramatizations by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett: The Amazing Maurice, Guards! Guards!, Neverwhere, Night Watch, Small Gods, Wyrd Sisters
Jan 10, 2015   JabberWocky, Neil Gaiman style!
Dec 24, 2014   The Good Omens BBC treatment
Aug 03, 2014   Every hobby has to end eventually, right?
Oct 8, 2013   Warning: Extreme Geekness ahead!
Oct 1, 2013   The Bloody Crown of iGoogle
Aug 26, 2013   Headphones at work
Aug 22, 2013   The guvmint is gonna getcha
June 25, 2013   Dweebs vs Big Bang vs IT Crowd
Jul 3, 2012   Xenia Martinez & Dia Frampton concert
Feb 24, 2012   Reading...just not much
The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Being an idiot with Lev Grossman
Jan 7, 2012   If it ain't broke...
Aug 22, 2011   non-ComicCon report 2011
A Thousand Splendid Suns
An Act of Self Defense
May 5, 2011   On Stranger Tides
On Stranger Tides
March 2, 2011   I'm a gigantic slacker...
Wild Guns
Lord of Ultima
Metin 2
Lord of the Rings Online
Dec 15, 2010   Bring out your dead!
Aug 17, 2010   San DiegoComicCon 2010
August 11, 2010   I'm not dead yet...
May 3, 2010   Hero Comics
Liberty Comics
Dr Horrible
Neil Gaiman & Sam Keith in Batman
The Guild, Felicia Day
April 27, 2010   Mean Gene Wilder! Grrr!!!
April 24, 2010   If it's not one Jihad, it's another...
April 20, 2010   The Satanic Verses
March 15, 2010   Unseen Academicals
Feblueberry 8, 2010   The un-reading shelf (from most of 2009)
Feblueberry 2, 2010   Emily the Strange, the Lost Days...a novel
Nov 25, 2009   Happy Halloween, Mom!
Nov 18, 2009   Summer Vacation in Idaho
Aug 20, 2009   San Diego ComicCon 2009
Aug 12, 2009   I'm a big, fat slacker
June 05, 2009   The networks are helping me cut back on my TV viewing
June 04, 2009   Mandy Moore's Amanda Leigh,
Chris Isaak's Mr Lucky
My name is Bruce?
and Emmy Rossum? Where am I going with this?
May 21, 2009   Randy would have really liked Fanboys...sigh
May 3, 2009   The Spring reading shelf
Apr 21, 2009   Holidays On Ice (a little late for Christmas)
Apr 18, 2009   Leviticus Cross and other Hector Sevilla comic book stuff
Apr 16, 2009   The fantastically amazing and banal Badbartopia RSS Feed
Mar 31, 2009   Neil Gaiman's Blueberry Girl
Mar 30, 2009   My Amazon mis-order turns out to be not so annoying as previously expected...
(AKA the Dr Horrible soundtrack)
Mar 23, 2009   Stephan Pastis & Richard Thompson have me looking forward to the 2009 SD ComicCon
Mar 19, 2009   Dr Horrible's Sing-Along Blog,
The Guild
Mar 08, 2009   The Wonderful Wizard of Oz comic adaptation,
Neil Gaiman's Sandman: The Dream Hunters
Mar 04, 2009   Little Brother
Mar 1, 2009   Pete & Pickles
Feb 11, 2009   She & Him
Pushing Daisies
Jan 26, 2009   The Scourge of God,
When You are Engulfed in Flames
Jan 14, 2009   On the Road = hippy nonsense
Jan 12, 2009   One-by-one, my fish have met their maker
Dec 26, 2008   My Azeroth-avoidance continues
Dec 23, 2008   Nothing to see...move along
Dec 15, 2008   New scribbles
Dec 10, 2008   The Oct-Nov-Dec reading shelf
Dec 1, 2008   Shalimar the Clown
the economic impact of the events in Mumbai
Nov 21, 2008   Star Wars: Allegiance
Nov 20, 2008   Daredevil Black Widow: Abattoir
Nov 17, 2008   Travel Team
Nov 16, 2008   A new comic adaptation of The Wizard of Oz
Nov 14, 2008   Berke's Books:
The Last Basselope
Edward Fudwupper Fibbed Big
Mars Needs Moms
Opus: 25 years
Nov 13, 2008   Return to Azeroth?
Nov 12, 2008   Goodbye, Opus
Oct 29, 2008   Halloween costumes of 2008
Project Superpowers
Oct 23, 2008   The Graveyard Book
Oct 16, 2008   Nation
Oct 10, 2008   The Joy of Programming
My foray into Ajax
Oct 9, 2008   My Saturn Scare
Opus ends
Terry Pratchett's condition
Oct 3, 2008   The Hitchhiker's Guide, Book Eoin Colfer?
Oct 2, 2008   Media master - music online
Sony builds a "better" camera
Sept 24, 2008   The September reading shelf
Sept 17, 2008   Still missing Randall
The Fish tank...again
The Graveyard Book
Sept 15, 2008 usual
The Sasquatch Dumpling Gang
Sept 9, 2008   The dearth of Opus strips
yes, I meant to say "dearth"
Sept 8, 2008   A new monitor goes bad...but it all ends happily
Sept 3, 2008   A Boy and His Dog,
Richard Corben,
H.P. Lovecraft's Haunt of Horror
Sept 2, 2008   A slightly newish look
(aka "why I will never be a graphic designer")
Aug 11, 2008   Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in all its incarnations Mike Kunkel's re-imagining of Shazam
July 29, 2008   San Diego Comiccon 2008
July 24, 2008   Neil Gaiman
July 17, 2008   Chris Isaak!
June 30, 2008   The Woman Who Wouldn't
Legends II
Mouse Guard Fall 1152
the Jetta's latest round of repairs
fishtank overpopulation
June 10, 2008   The Reading Shelf
Fish tank jungle
Attack of the bees
June 3, 2008   Missing Randall
May 9, 2008   My French Whore
Apr 28, 2008   Fish tank fatality
Flight of the Conchords
The Dangerous Alphabet
Mar 5, 2008   Gene Wilder book signing at Borders
new fish tank
Jan 11, 2008   The Jetta Strikes back!
The Plucker
The Anubis Gates
National Treasure II
Nov 8, 2007   San Diego on Fire,
A clean break from WoW,
UCSD Extension Java I graduation (kinda)
Making Money
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Oct 2, 2007   Back to school, Java class at UCSD
AT&T's Uverse
new sketches
Blockbuster movie pass
August 28, 2007   Mandy Moore concert!
Aug 19, 2007   ComicCon 2007 - Neil Gaiman, Iron Man and all the usual suspects
May 22, 2007   World of Spamcraft (and other spamalicious topics), forum fun...gus, the woes of being a contractor and PIRATES!!
Apr 5, 2007   I'm a conservative - bite me!
Timbaland? Dumb!
Marie Antoinette - snaggle teeth and teasing glimpes. Sweet!
John Q - a lesson about fatherhood or a liberal-propoganda film?
Mar 30, 2007   Things that make me grumpy-er,
employed again at last,
Finn and assorted other ramblings
Feb 8, 2007   The search for employment continues..and the unemployment benefits are NOT pouring in!
Jan, 22, 2007   Freed from the bondage of employment, a very brief review of a few books and films
Dec 17, 2006   Sad excuses, The Innocent Man, 1776, THe Man in High Castle, Absolute Sandman, Wintersmith, garage sale treasures: Ghost in the Machine
Aug 20, 2006   Writers of the Future XXII/Tim Powers, more movie reivews
July 20, 2006   San Diego ComicCon 2006
July 15, 2006   Superman Returns, inconsiderate morons, Peewee's Playhouse returns, my plea for more pirate movies
July 8, 2006   Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Wild Animal Park critters, site remodeling
Jun 27, 2006   The good, the bad and the mediocre (a bunch of movie reviews in the new forum).
June 15, 2006   Because of Romek - A Holocaust Survivor's Memoir
May 21, 2006   The DaVinci Code, Aeon Flux, Everything You Want
May 12, 2006   World of Warcrack, the Office, Coraline, my apologies...
Jan 24, 2006   Christmas Vacation 2006, Syriana, Traveling Pants, Wish You Were Here
Dec 19, 2005   Festive Neighbors, the death of Olivia, Media Misinformation surrounding Brent Wilkes/ADCS, Make Love the bruce campbell way
Nov 15, 2005   Microsoft Technet 2005 launch party, Lexmark printer problem, a bad, bad day, changing dentists.
Oct 22, 2005   Thud!, Anansi Boys, Where's my cow
Oct 18, 2005   Terry Pratchet Thud! signing, Neil Gaiman Anansi Boys signing
Oct 15, 2005   A very, very late Comiccon 2005 report.
Jun 23, 2005   The black hole of Warcraft, The Years of Rice and Salt, After the Sunset, Madagascar, Mr and Mrs Smith, Taxi.
Jun 3, 2005   All is quiet on the PM Front, War of the Worlds (the novel), Kingdom of Heaven, Sahara, Star Wars Episode III, Flight of the Phoenix
May 9, 2005   The program managers strike again, More of my horrendous sketches, Spanglish, A Lot Like Love, Elektra, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (the film)
Apr 9, 2005   Stuck in Corporate Hell, a few of my recent sketches, Miss Congeniality 2, Collateral
Mar 21, 2005   Revenge of the Jetta (car problems), a Newegg purchase, a few new drawings, more Opus
Feb 13, 2005   The Mail mystery solved, more of my crappy sketches, A few new photos of the girls, bill-bert (introducing the new Project Manager), sweet phone skills, Opus, Dungeons and Dragons, In Good Company
Jan 27, 2005   Mystery mail, new photos of my beautiful kids, some new sketches, an Episode 3 spoiler, Opus, Going Postal, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Ubik, Remember the Titans, Lemony Snicket`s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Dodgeball
Jan 7, 2005   Christmas 2004, Update to the site, Elf & King Arthur revisited, National Treasure, Opus, Blade Runner
Dec 18, 2004   A new Stephanie sketch, another Target web page goof, the SD Union Tribune confirms Greg Bear`s research for Vitals, Miramar VW proves my dealer service assertions wrong, neighborhood Christmas fun, Opus
Nov 24, 2004   More of my mediocre drawings, nw russian mail-order coins, Star Wars toys, a big green spider comes to visit, Opus, Dies the Fire, Digital fortress, The Incredibles, Twisted, Van Helsing
Nov 03, 2004   Some thoughts regarding the 2004 election, rants about the environment, a memory rebate update, new computer issues, Opus, The Lone Drow, Deception Point, Roswell season 2 on DVD
Oct 12, 2004   An interesting quiz, mal-in rebates, a parrot joke, my new computer, thoughts on frame removal, web logs, Opus, Vitals, Star Wars trilogy on DVD, Ladykillers
Sep 23, 2004   My "Heath" sketch for Mark Oakley, an update on my a PNY rebate check, the fictitious AWNA Act, Browser Issues with the site, Opus/Pickles, The DaVinci Code, Garden State (Natalie Portman), Man on Fire
Sep 11, 2004   A new drawing: "Stephanie", redneck wisdom, my salary to hourly reclassification, funny video: news from iraq, an update on my mail-in pny rebate, a new rebate through Costco, Ella Enchanted, Highlander Endgame, Princess of Thieves, The Whole Ten Yards
Aug 27, 2004   Fun with my VW Warranty, Opus, Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix, The Land of SokMunster, The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Wedding, Napoleon Dynamite, Hidalgo, Chasing Liberty, Out of Time
Jul 23, 2004   San Diego ComicCon 2004, the family summer vacation, Bruce Campbell, Opus, Nanny Ogg`s Cookbook, Angels & Demons, Folk of the fringe, Bourne Supremacy, i robot, Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, Cody Banks 2, Hellboy
Jul 19, 2004   *** PNY Rebate fun, IE Patch, Linux and socialism, liberal scum, Opus, BIM, timeline, master and commander, tad hamilton, stuck on you,cold mountain, 50 first dates, the terminal, spiderman 2, king arthur, a hat full of sky, the thousand orcs, meditations on middle earth
Jun 20, 2004   Memorial day pictures, Duplex, Mark Oakley/Heroes, Wild Animal Park Dinosaurs, B-52s concertman, Say After Tomorrow, Big Fish, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Eragon, A Hat Full of Sky, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
May 08, 2004   Pat Tillman, LOTR Toys, 13 Going on 30, Mean Girls, Tolkien Miscellany, Last Juror, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Pork Tornado
Apr 06, 2004   Roswell season 1 DVD and a some other mindless drivel
Feb 19, 2004   Highlander site contest results, new downloads, princess gallery updates, lord of the rings toys, harry potter, underworld. lost in translation, the hunted, a tolkien miscellany...
Feb 09, 2004   Murder at 1600, Radio, Cheaper by the Dozen, King Arthur, Spiderman 2, Van Helsing, Harry Potter, Tolkien Miscellany, Mark Oakley, massive snow in Idaho...
Jan 28, 2004   Swat, Uptown Girls, Somethings Gotta Give, Along Came Polly, Seabiscuit, Ashley Judd Marathon, Van Helsing, Harry Potter, Science Fiction Bok Club, Nanny Ogg`s Cookbook, RA Salvatore, Mythology (Alex Ross), Fastner & Larson, Best page in the universe, etc, etc...
Jan 07, 2004   Clint`s rules, X-Men 2, Holes, Pirates, Two Towers, Freaky Friday (Haley Hudson), new drawings, Thieves` World, Playskool Star Wars, new Interest section
Jan 02, 2004   nothing all that interesting...
Dec 21, 2003   Nemo, Highlander page, Christmas vacation 2003, star wars kid
Dec 12, 2003   E.T. (Erika Eleniak), new drawings, Opus, Santa Claus 2 (Elizabeth Mitchell), Legolas toy/pics, How to Deal (Mandy Moore), Myth update, Last Samurai
Nov 27, 2003   Another Fine Myth, Elf
Nov 22, 2003   Dude, Where`s Bill & Ted
Nov 18, 2003   Not much to say
Nov 15, 2003   Disneyland, Astronaut`s Wife, Dumer and Dumber-er, Monstrous Regiment
Nov 10, 2003   Terry Pratchett, Matrix Revolutions
110103   School of Rock, Terry Pratchett signing, Darth Vader MBNA bust, San Diego fires
Aug 17, 2003   Johnny English, San Diego Comic-Con
Jun 17, 2003   Assorted ramblings
May 28, 2003   Not much to say
May 24, 2003   Almost nothing of note
May 17, 2003   Matrix Reloaded, Pirates
Mar 23, 2003   The Police, Pirates, Lord of the Rings grievances part II
Mar 16, 2003   Lord of the Rings grievances part 1
Super auld stuff   A big list of old submissions with boat loads of broken links

Book, books, books...all he ever blathers on about is books...

The Cup in the Shadows (The Forbidden Powers)

I read another eBook on my brief Idaho adventure in May (which I've yet to ramble on about - sorry about that), The Cup in the Shadows (The Forbidden Powers) by R. Kane Maurer. I had fully-intended to post a review on Amazon and Goodreads immediately afterward, but I just never quite got around to it. This isn't meant to imply that the book was poorly written or that I didn't enjoy it. Admittedly, it did have some issues, but nothing that made it unreadable. And unlike some of the other author-shared eBooks I've read, this one did have a real plot and generally well-developed characters. And it was really long compared to most of the other eBooks I've read, so there was a ton of material to sift through and try to organize my thoughts around when I finished reading it.

First, an observation about the content - it's almost all-ages appropriate. There's the usual monster battling/violence common in all fantasy novels, which isn't really a huge factor for me for age-appropriateness. There are also brief references to sexual content1, but there is no actual sexual content. But the reason for only being "almost" all-ages appropriate is the profanity. It's a little heavier and cruder than the light profanity in Jake, Lucid Dreamer, but not quite up to Quentin Tarantino standards of vulgarity. There are no F-bombs, but there's a fair sampling of lesser - late-night network TV-level - profanity.

The primary protagonist of The Cup in the Shadows is a nine year-old boy named Jonny. For all appearances, he's a normal kid from our own specific dimension/universe/world and our current timeline. Jonny's story begins with an inadvertent trip elsewhere (not exactly a past timeline in our world, but it's never really made clear exactly where he went). His arrival to this new place immediately took me back to a series of Alan Dean Foster books I read a million years ago, the Spellsinger series. But I also felt a strong Army of Darkness (specifically the screwheads scene when Ash drops into the middle of a battle between medieval jarheads). But the actual story really wasn't much like either of these - they just share this story's fish-out-of-water premise.

So little Jonny embarks on an adventure - against his will - that borrows quite a bit from the Harry Potter stories and The Lord of the Rings (probably a little more from LoTR). There is one primary difference from both of those fictional universes - there are no elves (majestic Tolkien elves or weird little house elves), dwarves, or other non-people people. There are a few monsters - trolls (more similar to Tolkien's small, but fierce, goblins than Tolkien's enormous trolls), dragons (more like the intelligent and mostly benevolent dragons of Eragon than the dragons of Tolkien) and a smaller, almost-dragon/griffin sounding creature called a grevice. The dragons play a very minor role in the story, but the trolls and grevices are the shock troops of this book's Sauron/Voldemort character.

One complaint about the writing style: Much of the book (very nearly all of it) is written with third-person narration. Which is fine and generally preferable. But every now and then, the book slips into first person narration with Jonny as the narrator. And the observations he makes with his first-person perspective seem unlikely from a nine year-old boy (from our world/time, anyway). Here are a few examples of Jonny observations from the early chapters.

"The breastplate, boots, greaves, and shoulder plates were mismatched and ill fitting"


"ring mail cowl covered his head, "

What nine year-old boy knows the names of specific pieces of armor? A small thing, but it gave me pause as I read.

There's also at least one clear Monty Python and the Holy Grail reference, which was fun.

"Now, I know bunnies prancing through a meadow of flowers is often enough to make Aethin wet his breeches..." The men erupted into laughter.

The big man behind Cazar flushed redder than his beard. "It was a big rabbit," he shot back.

"Aye, and it had teeth like this." Cazar mockingly gestured his fingers like a pair of fangs. "We've heard your stories."

I highlighted, and had planned to share, passages from the story showing all the many parallel characters from Tolkien's stories and the Harry Potter series. But there are so many that it's been keeping me from finishing this sad little write-up, so I'm going to just blast through a few, and be done.
  • There are several references to "the fellowship" that is seeking out a magical artifact, the cup, that can give the bad guy all-power over the multiverse if he gets to it first.
  • There is a flawed ranger-type character, very Aragorn-ish, who takes the "fellowship," our reluctant nine-year-old and a bunch of other hero-types on a journey to the unknown.
  • Along the way they meet a giant bear of a man who bore a striking resemblance to Tolkien's Beorn, or maybe even Rowling's Hagrid.
  • There's a ciy of "Forest Folk" who I thought for sure were going to be elves, but they just turned out to be regular old people who lived in the forest in very Tolkien-like almost elf villages/cities.
  • The King of the realm Jonny finds himself in bears a striking resemblance to Dumbledore and/or Gandalf.
  • The story's villain is more Voldemort than Sauron, but his quest for the cup (this story's One Ring or Deathly Hallows) feels more Sauron than Voldemort. But he's definitely way more hands-on than Sauron ever was in LoTR.

Here's a very brief, but action-packed, excerpt between this story's Aragorn and Voldemort characters with the helpless Harry Potter parallel character sitting on the sidelines. Out of the context of the story, it probably isn't that exciting, but t was a pretty good

And then everything happened all at once. The door burst open and in stormed Cazar, his sword, Ethwayl, gleaming in hand. Jonny pushed to his feet, sending his chair tumbling backward. "Jonny, run!" Cazar shouted, charging forward.

The cloaked woman sprung to her feet, sending the table flipping on its side. The thick, black cloak flew off as though stripped by unseen hands. Where a short, haggard, old crone had been an instant before, now stood a young man, as tall as Cazar.

His hair was jet black and cropped short, brushed back with ardent meticulousness, not a single lock out of a place. By contrast, his skin was pale and smooth as porcelain. A few pearly blue veins were visible beneath the veneer. He wore black robes immaculately tailored to his thin frame. High cheekbones overrode his shallow cheeks and sharply angled jaw. Though as chilling as his overall countenance was, it was warm and friendly compared to his eyes. Piercingly black, they reflected the soullessness of a shark, the intensity of a rabid wolf, and the patience of a vulture circling prey.

As Cazar charged forward, swirling balls of fire appeared in the man's hands. With inhuman speed, he hurled the fireballs, each the size of a baseball at Cazar. As fast as he launched them, a new orb of flames burst into life in his hand. Cazar moved fast, dodging the first and swatting the second away with his sword. But the third caught the Guard square the chest, sending him flying back. The warrior collapsed in a limp pile by the door, tendrils of smoke drifting from a charred hole in his chest.

Also worth mentioning was some of the vocabulary that I found confusing because it was used differently than I had seen it used previously. For example, Barrow was used several times, but not as a tomb, as in LoTR, but in reference to hills/mountains. Tor seemed to be used interchangeable with Barrow, which is an acceptable use. To be honest, I was completely unfamiliar with "Tor" as anything other than a SCi-Fi publishing house prior to looking it up after reading this book. And lastly, Spriggan was something I'm sure I've read in other fantasy novels because I did have an idea of what it was, but I did look it up to be sure I was picturing the correct mythical critter.

If you enjoy the aforementioned author's works (Tolkien, Foster, Rowling, Raimi), you'll probably enjoy The Cup in the Shadows. While it has a few flaws, it's certainly not the worst writing I have come across.

I've finished one and started another physical books in the past few weeks (so there are six waiting to be mentioned now) and still have a mountain of other stuff I might get around to talking about (like May's Idaho adventure). There's just too little time and too many distractions.

Oh, another distraction has been a foray into the world of Harry Potter fan-fiction (writing, not reading). It feels lazy to use a world/characters that someone else created and create new stories, but it's something that I wanted to do after spending too much time playing the Android Hogwart's Mystery game. Maybe I'll share that here someday. Or maybe not. We'll see.

1 i.e. Women waving to the passing heroes, who were likely to have listed their occupation as "seamstress," when no actual sewing occurred in their actual occupation. Or these same women lurking half-dressed in dark alleys. You get the picture.

Got something to say? Say it. (5 responses).

Another eBook..but this one was really good

Jake, Lucid Dreamer

I'm getting ridiculously behind on book-blathering. I've got a stack of four or five physical books I've read over the past few months and have yet to mention here, as well as an eBook that I've finished and have yet to mention1. This writeup was finished weeks ago and has been languishing, un-posted, since then. I have no excuse. I'm a bad, bad person.

So without further ado, here's are my thoughts - written weeks ago - on Jake, Lucid Dreamer by Dr David J. Naiman (AKA David Z Hirsch, author of the previously mentioned Didnt get Frazzled).

A few months ago, I talked about an eBook I read over the Christmas Holiday, Didn't Get Frazzled. It was a book I enjoyed a lot, but was way too adult to share with my kids. If you felt the same way, then do I have the book for you: Jake, Lucid Dreamer. Dr. Dave has come out from behind his pseudonym (David Z Hirsch) to write a book for kids under his read name, Dr David J. Naiman, about middle-school aged kids. There is some light profanity in the text, but no words beginning with the sixth letter of the alphabet. And there's no sex or child-inappropriate material.

My biggest complaint about the book is the title. The story itself is great, but I would never pick up a book called "anything, Lucid Dreamer." It just seems too literal. Imagine if The Catcher in the Rye had been titled Holden, Prep School Dropout or Holden, Unstable Teenager. I doubt I'd have four copies of that sucker around the house, had it been less creatively-named.

But if you can get past the title, and endure through the Xanth-esque dream sequences, you'll find a great story about dealing with loss and the importance of being introspective enough to identify your own...issues. The dream sequences are important to the story, despite their ridiculousness, and get more meaningful as the story progresses. But first, here's a glimpse into the most Xanth-like dream sequence from the story. I may not be providing enough context to follow along, but here it is...

"It's right over there." The bull points his knobby arm.

When I step around him to look, he shoves me onto the ground. A pack of hands ambush me like starved piranhas, tugging me in all directions, pinching and scratching. The bull snickers. "You've played right into my hands."

I swat away the hands that try to latch on to my face, but like when I battled the foot swarm a few nights ago, using force gets me nowhere.

"You're no match for me." The bull releases another haughty snort.

... [I clipped the mid-section of the quote in the name of brevity]

The bull snorts. "What do you think you're doing?"

I seize the hand on top. "Now I've got the upper hand. You never should have shown me the key - you tipped your hand. And now I'm going to tip the rest of them." I give the stack a shove, and the hands crash onto the floor. Their fingers writhe in the air like capsized beetles.

"I've won hands down," I say. "Now hand it over."

The bull sulks. "I've got to hand it to you," he says, untying the hand behind his back. I snatch the key from its fingers and make for the portal, beckoning Ginny. "Let's get out of here before we're arrested by the Pun Police."

"There are Pun Police?"

Oops. I should not have said that. Behind us, the Pun Police race forward, shaking their batons. I jiggle the key into the slot, but the lock is sticky. The Pun Police close in fast. We're running out of time."

On top of the dealing-with-loss theme, which is a major story element that isn't immediately obvious and only gradually becomes apparent, there's an interesting look at what it's like to have your feet in multiple cultures (Jake, our story's hero, has a Chinese mother and caucasian father - which is straight from Dr Dave's life, he's a white guy with an Asian wife). That said, there isn't really much discussion of race outside of Jake's own familial observations. here's one taken from a scene with Jake's maternal grandmother.

Pau Pau likes to say that the Chinese food served in America isn't real Chinese food because Americans' tastes are so different, but I don't think that's the reason. I'm American and this stuff tastes good to me. The problem is that it's so complicated. You'd have to stick a Chinese person at every table just to make sure the food's being eaten correctly.

No, pick it like this from the other end. That's the juiciest part. Wait, pluck out the bone slivers so you don't bleed internally. No, no. Wrong sauce. That one'll blow your head off.

Please. If you can't scoop a handful of grub and cram it directly into your mouth hole, just forget it. This is America: strap on your feedbag and flick on your computer. Don't worry about indigestion. There'll be plenty of pop-up ads for any pill you want.

"Who's ready for dessert?"

I'm ready to explode, but yeah, bring it. Pau Pau sets out every sweet permutation of rice cake, red bean, almond paste, and sugar ever invented over the last millennia behind the Great Wall. And unlike the dinner food, this stuff you can shovel right in. My white half is pleased."

Though I can't say I've ever learned a thing from a dream, apparently Jake's ability to dream lucidly has him learning new life lessons just about every night. Here's a dream sequence that has Jake getting introspective with Ginny the GPS, one of his dream buddies who has a real-life counterpart in the story.

"I am sick of everyone trying to put me in a box. Have you ever felt that way? Like you're stuck in a box and can't get out?"

"Can't say I have."

"Huh, I though you could relate."

"Not really." I lift the GPS unit with the hand not still petting the bazookapus. "I don't live in a box."

"Don't be so sure. There are all kinds of boxes. When people see you in a certain way, it's difficult to get them to realize there's more to you than that. You wind up buying into it and acting the way they expect you to. I think you've been stuck in a box for a long time."

So what is lucid dreaming? It wasn't a term I was familiar with before reading this story. I assume it's a real thing (Dr Dave is a real doctor, after all), so here's a conversation between Jake and his dad to that help explain it.

"If you say so. You probably won't believe this part either. Over the last week, when I'm dreaming, I realize I'm dreaming during the dream, and I can take control of my body."

"Seriously? You're a lucid dreamer?"

"I'm a...wait, that's a thing?"

"Sure. It's called lucid dreaming. Most people can't do it. In fact, most people don't believe it's even possible. I'd never met anyone who could until -""

There was one scene in the book that really hit me right in the old cardiovascular organ - the scene is with Jake, his Dad, and his younger sister. I don't know what you'll get out of it without context, but reading it still makes me a little...emotional.

When I gaze into her eyes, all my excuses wither to nothing. Why? I don't remember. Did I even have a reason? Yeah, all I thought about was myself. "I'm so sorry, Em. I didn't understand. I was being mean." Her expression causes me physical pain. I glance down at the carpet. "I'm a terrible brother."

She marches right toward me. I figure she's going to hit me, and I decide I'll let her. Go ahead, right in the face. I have it coming. Instead, she lays Beenie on my chest. "You can keep Beenie as long as you want." Emma positions her ridiculous monkey so it looks like Beenie's hugging me. "She'll make you feel better."

I wish Emma had hit me. It would have hurt less.

"That's very sweet," Dad says. "Jake, what do you say to your sister?"

I pluck Beenie off my chest. "I don't want to hug Beenie." Emma looks crushed. I put out my arms. "I want to hug you."

She rushes over and leaps on me. She's soft and warm like Mom. She's my Beenie."

So, in summary, two thumbs up for this book. It's probably better suited for kids than adults because of all the ridiculous dream sequences. But if you can suffer through those (or if you are a fan of Piers Anthony's brand of silliness, as I very much was in my youth), it will be worth it.

Despite having many more things to ramble on about, I'm going to stop here because I really havent organized any of my thoughts/photos for those rants. Sorry, Tim, there won't be any new workplace observations today. I've got a long laundry list of complaints and office-observations that I may soon complain about, but now is definitely not the time. Send me an e-mail and I'll fill you in, in the meantime. I was just having an e-mail conversation with Paul about recent All-Hands announcements. I figured you already have an inside source who was feeding you the same info.

1 For the record, the books I've recently read, yet neglected to comment on, are:

  • Take Back the Sky (Greg Bear)
  • The House of Secrets (Brad Meltzer)
  • Star Wars, The Last Jedi (Jason Fry)
  • Dragon Teeth (Michael Crichton)
  • All You Can Worry About is Tomorrow (R.D. Hubbard)
And the one recently read eBook:
  • The Cup in the Shadows (The Forbidden Powers) (R. Kane Maurer)

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Like a big, dumb bull in a china shop

I started getting a barrage of garbage in my comments section this morning so I made an attempt to enable IP filtering to block all those little gems I was receiving.

Sadly, my tools in the office are not adequate to the task, so all I ended up doing is breaking the Comments section and the Contact page. So no comments for Dan until I get home and fix things.

** Update (several hours later)

Things should be back in order. We'll see how well the scumbag filter works a little later, I'm sure.

** Update 2 (many days later)

The garbage-filter seems to be holding steady. If I'm blocking anyone who isn't a complete waste of space from commenting, you have my apologies. Please let me know through the site contact form if this is the case and I will endeavor to remedy the problem.

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