15 January 2013

Book Review: My Ideal Bookshelf

At the end of last year I won a copy of My Ideal Bookshelf from a giveaway on Goodreads. I've finished reading it and here is my review:

My Ideal Bookshelf was edited by Thessaly La Force and was filled with art by Jane Mount. Over a hundred people wrote about their ideal book shelves, filling a page with their thoughts. Across from each essay is one of Jane's paintings of that particular person's 'ideal bookshelf.' I have to admit that most of the people who participated were unknown to me, but I did know of a few of them beforehand.

One page to describe about ten books and why they were chosen to be on that person's ideal bookshelf is not much space. Many didn't cover all of the books illustrated for their shelves. At first I didn't like that - I thought that they should at least explain why each of books were chosen to be on their top list. However, as I made my way through the book I realized that the essays were fine the way they were. They had to be kept to one page, more than that would have spoiled the nice layout of the book. In some cases the best essays were the ones that didn't even describe any of the books on that particular shelf but instead described the general thoughts the person had on books in general.

If I reviewed this book after only reading the first fifty pages I might of only given it two out of five stars, but as I reached the end I 'got it' and began to really like the book. It was also nice on those occasions when I spotted a book that was on one of my shelves. My final review of this book is 4 out of 5 stars.


Here is my sketch of the ten books that I would put in my 'Ideal Bookshelf' as of January 2013. Included on that shelf are the following:

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Players Handbook: by Gary Gygax. Dungeons & Dragons had a big influence on my early life. This well-worn tome had to make the list.
Myths of the Modern Age: by Win Scott Eckert. A series of articles and essays about the Wold Newton concept. One of my favorite recent things.
Guns, Germs, and Steel: by Jared Diamond. A great reference that aided me in developing various alternate timelines for some role-playing games.
For Want of a Nail: by Robert Sobel. An awesome alternate history that was written as if it were an actual history book form that alternate world.
Recarving Rushmore: by Ivan Eland. A very good analysis of the Presidents of the United States from a completely different set of parameters than most other rankings.
The Martian Tales Trilogy: by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Classic sword & planet.
How to Start Your Own Country: by Erwin S. Strauss. Great reference book for micronations
The Pity of War: by Niall Ferguson. One of the better books on the First World War in recent years.
The Crying of Lot 49: by Thomas Pynchon. Just the right amount of strangeness for my tastes.
The Guns of the South: by Harry Turtledove. A great story about time travel and the American Civil War.

09 January 2013

Paragon City

City of Heroes has only been dead for over a month now and I still miss it. I've been giving the Star Wars The Old Republic MMO a try and it has been very entertaining so far. I'll have to see how group play goes with some of my friends.

In any case, last weekend I was working on all sorts of maps and compiling data for numerous table-top games I'm involved in and I got distracted by a question: Where the heck in Rhode Island is City of Heroes Paragon City? No scale on the map that came with the game, and the zones don't always measure up in game to match the map as well as I'd like. Finally, using Independence Port as a basis I determined the size of Paragon City. Next was finding a place in Rhode Island that would fit its unique geographic features.

Finally I took a thumbnail of the Paragon City Map, made a few minor adjustments to it and then merged it to a random map of Rhode Island I found on the web - the first one I found that had a scale. I got the city scale to match the state map scale and combined the two. Here is the result:

I did have to make some minor alterations to the coastline to get Paragon City to fit. The biggest change was to connect Conanicut Island to the mainland. Worked out pretty good.

Did you ever play City of Heroes? What game do you replace it with these days?

04 January 2013


Tonight my Kingmaker campaign enters its nation building phase. After spending months clearing out the local wilderness the party is finally ready to establish a new city and barony in the Stolen Lands.

Hopefully the rules for developing this nation will keep all the players entertained. I'm a little worried that the system doesn't give characters in different positions more to due to chart the destiny of their land.

I will most likely be adding a Kobold kingdom near the players. I want to add a bit more diplomacy to the campaign. The only thing is they plan on talking with Chief Sootscale and will offer him a position in their government. Inviting in lawful evil NPCs to help rule your kingdom... not always the best idea!

Hopefully I'll be working a few normal encounters into the evening. There are lands near their capital that will need exploring. It will be fun to see how things develop in the coming months.

I'll be sure to post updates, including maps as the campaign progresses.

03 January 2013

Third Sentence Thursday - Freedom and Virtue

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Make your own banner at MyBannerMaker.com!

1) Take the book you are currently reading and open it to a random page. Share the third full sentence on that page. (If there isn’t a third one – like at the end of a chapter or a blank page – you can share the third sentence of the book or just choose another random page.) Feel free to share more than one sentence, if you feel the need to do so.
2) Review this sentence anyway you want (funny and silly reviews encouraged)
3) Post a link to your sentence at Words I Write Crazy (follow the link in the image above)
4) Visit one or two of the other blogs to check out their third sentences!

I'm reading some non-fiction this week.

"Frequently, these respective facets seem symbiotic, if not completely compatible, yet on occasion these two perspectives appear distinct, separate, and irreconcilable." Freedom and Virtue page 79 (near the beginning of an essay by John P. East)

This sentence comes form John P. East's essay "Conservatism and Libertarianism: Vital Complements." It seems to capture that at first glance, especially to an outsider, the two philosophies may seem very similar. However, when one digs deeper many very incompatible opinions quickly surface.

01 January 2013

2013 Book Reading Challenges

Yesterday I posted about my near complete failure at the book reading challenges I undertook in 2012. 2012 was a crazy year for me including having to get a new job and taking on too many other responsibilities.

I've got things more under control right now and have a better idea on how to participate in multiple challenges. So here is the list of ones I'll be entering for 2013!

1) the JUST FOR FUN Reading Challenge 2013 over at Goodreads.

2)Book Vixen's 2013 Outdo Yourself Challenge. I'll need to read at least 61 books in 2013 to win this one.

2013 Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge hosted by The Book Vixen

3)The 2013 Ebook Challenge: I'll be going for the CD level (reading 10 ebooks) in 2013. Shouldn't be a problem.

4)2013 Audio Book Challenge: I'll be going for the Married-Listen level of 26 or more audio books. In past years this would have been difficult but with my extra time at the gym and speakers set up in my painting room I should be able to make more use of my listening time.

5) Nerdy Non-Fiction Challenge 2013: I'll be trying for the Dork Level - reading 7 to 10 books form four or five of the categories.

5) Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2013: I'll be careful on this one and only go for the Pike's Peak level (12 books). Last year I discovered I had a tendency to read new books or books from the library instead of my TBR pile.

While it isn't required I list the books I plan to read I thought I'd at least list six that I do plan. For course this may change as the year progresses.
* The Seychelles Affair by Mike Hoare
* More Than Fire by Philip José Farmer
* The Other Log of Phileas Fogg by Philip José Farmer
* Doctor Omega by Arnould Golopin
* Callahan's Crosstime Saloon by Spider Robinson
* Lincoln's Flying Spies by Gail Jarrow

I'll be sure to post more reviews in 2013 than I did in 2012 to share what I discover in my new year's readings.
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