Night of Thunder by Stephen Hunter

I read this book as a hardcover bought from Borders before they went under.

I love the Bob Lee Swagger books and this one, the 5th, is no exception. I feel that it does not stand well on its own and requires the reader to have read other Bob the Nailer books to keep their interest in this book.

Night of Thunder is a fast paced action movie rolled into a relatively short book, and just like an action movie there is very little character development, just action, action, and more action. It kept my attention throughout the short time it took me to read it.

From the publisher:

Woe unto he who crosses Bob Lee Swagger, especially when his daughter’s life is at stake. Forced off the road and into a crash that leaves her in a coma, clinging to life, reporter Nikki Swagger had begun to peel back the onion of a Southernfried conspiracy bubbling with all the angst, resentment, and dysfunction that Dixie gangsters can muster. An ancient, violent crime clan, a possibly corrupt law enforcement structure, gunmen of all stripes and shapes, and deranged evangelicals rear their ugly heads and will live to rue the day they targeted the wrong man’s daughter. It’s what you call your big-time bad career move. All of it is set against the backdrop of excitement and insanity that only a weeklong NASCAR event can bring to the backwoods of a town as seemingly sleepy as Bristol, Tennessee.

I rate this book a 7 out of 10 and a good read for Bob Lee Swagger Fans.

Photoshop Compositing Secrets by Matt Kloskowski

I read this book on Safari Books Online and followed along with Adobe Photoshop.

The full name of the book is a riduclously long “Photoshop Compositing Secrets: Unlocking the Key to Perfect Selections and Amazing Photoshop Effects for Totally Realistic Composites by Matt Kloskowski” that would guess was chosen to increase its chance of being found in Google.

This is a great book if you need to do compositing. The book consists of a collection of tutorials that give real world examples of how to do many different types of composites. All of the images used in the book are available for download so that you may follow along. I found the repetitive nature of the book annoying and yet helpful, repetition helps me remember how to do something but after many many times I just want to move on to something else.

From the publisher

Compositing is one of the hottest trends in Photoshop and photography today for portrait photographers, designers of all walks of life, and even retouchers. Everywhere you look, from group photos, to school graduation or sports portraits, to magazines, movie posters, and DVD covers, chances are, you’ve seen compositing.

In Photoshop Compositing Secrets, Matt Kloskowski takes you through the entire process behind creating convincing, well-executed, and captivating composites. You’ll see how to create images that run the gamut from real-world portraits for corporate, graduation, or group photos to sports portraits, templates, and collages, and even the surreal, dramatic composites that clients clamor for.

You’ll learn:

  • One of the most important secrets to compositing: how to master selections in Photoshop (yes, even wispy hair),
  • What background color, and camera and lighting setups work best for compositing,
  • How to move a subject from one background to another, and the Photoshop lighting and shadowing techniques to make it look real,
  • And all the Photoshop tips, tricks, and special effects you need to pull off a convincing, professional composite.

No matter if you’re a professional, an aspiring professional, or a hobbyist, Photoshop Compositing Secrets will sharpen your skills and open up a whole new avenue of photographic expression in an easy-to-understand way that will have you creating your own composites in no time.

I rate this book an 8 out of 10 if you are interested in doing composites in Photoshop.

Doctor Who Sting of the Zygons by Stephen Cole

I read this BBC book as a hardcover bought from Amazon.

Sting of the Zygons features the 10th Doctor and Martha Jones as played by David Tennant and Freema Agyeman. It takes place in a small English village in 1909 with the Doctor and Martha trying to stop the Zygon aliens from taking over the earth.

This is not the fastest paced Doctor who book, but it does have plenty of action. I always enjoy learning more about the different aliens in the Doctor Who universe and this book does not disappoint.

Another thing I enjoyed about this book is just how British it is, many of the new Doctor Who books do not contain a lot of uniquely British words, spellings, and meanings, but this one sure does. I think it partially has to do with the author but also with the time period the story takes place in.

From the publisher

The TARDIS lands the Doctor and Martha in the Lake District in 1909, where a small village has been terrorized by a giant, scaly monster. The search is on for the elusive ‘Beast of Westmorland’, and explorers, naturalists and hunters from across the country are descending on the fells. King Edward VII himself is on his way to join the search, with a knighthood for whoever finds the beast.

But there is a more sinister presence at work in the Lakes than a mere monster on the rampage, and the Doctor is soon embroiled in the plans of an old and terrifying enemy. As the hunters become the hunted, a desperate battle of wits begins – with the future of the entire world at stake…

I rate this book a 7 out of 10.

DragonCon 2011

We had a great time at DragonCon this year. It was the 25th anniversary for the convention and it was done right. See all of my photos at http://photo.davenelson.com/DragonCon/DragonCon-2011/

Ernest BorgnineMy favorite guest was Ernest Borgnine who regaled us with stories about working with the likes of Frank Sinatra and Lee Marvin. At 94 years old he is now voice acting as Mermaid Man on SpongeBob SquarePants and filmed three movies in 2011.

Jim SterankoI also enjoyed listening to Jim Steranko who shared stories about the motorcycles of his youth, how he started a career with Stan Lee, and how he helped create Indiana Jones. I walked into the room expecting to take a couple of pictures and leave but ended up staying for the entire panel.

Winner of the Comic Book Babes costume contestA change was made to this years costume contests, instead of a Dawn costume contest there is now a Comic Book Babes costume contest. There were some great costumes in the inaugural event and I agreed with the judges choice for the winner.

See all of my photos at http://photo.davenelson.com/DragonCon/DragonCon-2011/

Very Bad Deaths by Spider Robinson

I listened to this as an audio book.

This book really disturbed me; the serial killer villain was not what I was expecting when I decided to listen to this book. The writing of the story is great, Spider Robinson can really write, but I did not find the subject matter to be appealing.

If you love Callahan’s and don’t like detailed descriptions of what a serial killer who thrives on causing others great mental and physical pain, then this book is not for you! If you like thrillers and books about serial killers then I think you would really like this book, especially if you have not been exposed to Spider Robinson before.

From the Author and Publisher

Aging baby-boomer Russell Walker wants only to retreat from the world and the shattering death of his wife, into the woods of British Columbia. Instead the hermit finds himself thrust into a frightening predicament, as the only possible intermediary between a telepath called Smelly, so sensitive he can’t stand to be near most people, and Constable Nika, a skeptical police officer who needs to hear – and believe – what Smelly knows about a particularly monstrous sadist and serial killer.

"This book is a departure for me," Spider says, "a kind of SF/thriller. The title is meant to cue readers that it’s considerably darker than the Callahan’s Place stories. My intention was to make the hair stand up on the back of the reader’s neck. This is my first (well, maybe second) foray into Stephen King country. Present day setting; just enough sf and mystery content to liven up the thriller genre a little; rated R for massive (but never quite graphic) violence and startling (but never quite explicit) sex.

"I envision it as merely the first in a long and hopefully popular series of sf thrillers about this Odd Couple-Plus-One – this strange and twisted crime-fighting trio who can barely stand one another: the young cop, the old hippie, and the telepath."

I rate this book a 2 out of 10 based only on my distaste for the subject matter. It is a really well written book, just not a story type that I enjoy.