Monday, September 26, 2011

The Structure of Aikido by Gaku Homma

The Structure of Aikido: Volume 1: Kenjutsu and Taijutsu Sword and Open-Hand Movement Relationships is a far more detailed book about Aikido than Aikido: The Way of Harmony .

"Aikido: The Way of Harmony" is more of an overview or introduction to Aikido.  Useful for people wanting to get some basic understanding of Aikido.

While this book, the first in a three book series, is for people that want to start the long path of learning Aikido.  It clearly illustrates beginning foot and hand movements.  And shows the connection Aikido has with the Way of the Sword.

Though the photography is black and white, there are lots of photos for each sequence, almost like the individual frames from a movie camera.  Also, there is clear illustration of foot placement to help convey proper movement.  These foot illustrations show just the feet from above, like a dance book might, so all you see is feet in the proper relation ship to each other and your opponent.

I found the illustrations of the feet useful for understanding what one is actually supposed to do for body movement.  That alone was worth the price of the book for me. 

The Martial Arts have never come naturally to me, I think I am far more of a word person than a physically coordinated person.  The illustrations of the feet was more useful for me than live instruction.  Let me understand enough so I could learn from hands on instruction.

So for anyone looking to start Aikido, or someone who is struggling to grasp some of the body mechanics, take a look at this book.  I think you will find a permanent place for it in your martial arts library.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

All The Way To The Gallows by David Drake

Ever laugh so hard that people turned to stare at you?

Well that happened to me more than once the first time I read All The Way To The Gallows.

It is hard for me to pick my favorite story in this Anthology, all the stories are by David Drake, but "Airborne All The Way" is the first one that made people stare at me when I started laughing so hard I cried.

But "Mom and the Kids" or "A Very Offensive Weapon" are better stories in my opinion.  They both made me laugh out loud the first time I read them.  And they still make me laugh most of the time when I reread them.

I think I would probably pick "A Very Offensive Weapon" as my favorite most days.  There is more word play humor that writers and thespians will appreciate.  For example, many of the Elves in this story are named after actual tranquilizers.  And I like to think of myself as a writer.

Also fans of other authors might be interested in this book, since at least a couple of the stories feature input from other authors.  Larry Niven and Roger Zelazny to name two of which I am certain.

Another of the stories was originally intended to tie in with Magic The Gathering.

I don't recommend this book for everyone, because much of the Humor is Gallows Humor, which many people find offensive.  Also I would rate it PG-13 for sexual innuendo.

But for anyone that likes, or needs, to laugh at death and despair I suggest you read it today if possible. 

But if you have any self consciousness, do yourself a favor and read in private.

The Complete Fuzzy by H. Beam Piper

I discovered Little Fuzzy, the first Fuzzy novel that was originally published in the '60s, when I was in High School.  I really liked it the first time I read it, and I still enjoy rereading it every year or so, it is a charming story.

The Complete Fuzzy contains all three Fuzzy novels:  Little Fuzzy, Fuzzy Sapiens, and Fuzzies and Other People.

If you have never heard of the Fuzzies your in for a real treat.  They are cute little people, that can be quit funny, they also make for very good companions.  They are around 2-3 feet tall and approximately 20 lbs according to the novels.

The Complete Fuzzy starts with Humans discovering Fuzzies, Humans have occupied the Fuzzies native planet for some years before the Fuzzies are discovered.

The Fuzzies are clearly Sapient, and there are laws in the novel's universe that limit how the planets of Sapients can be used by Humans.  This provides the primary conflict and tension in the first half or so of The Complete Fuzzy.

Since I don't want to spoil this splendid story for anyone, I will only say the rest of the story involves an adventure for some Fuzzies.

I really recommend this book to everyone.  I would say it is suitable for all readers, both male and female, from 5th grade on up.

Only caveat for younger readers, this story was written in a time when tobacco smoking and social drinking were considered the norm.  This may be a concern for parents of  younger readers.

Other than that one concern, I think this book makes an excellent gift for young readers or adults.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

7th Sigma by Steven Gould

If I remember correctly, Wildside was the first book of Gould's that I read, and I have been a fan ever since.

His latest book 7th Sigma is another truly enjoyable read, I would consider it a Young Adult or coming of age book, it is more of collection of short stories about Kim and his adventures than a true novel.

I really liked it, and I am long past young adult, I think readers from middle school age on up will like this book.  Assuming they like this general type of science fiction.

I stayed up all night to finish reading it the day I discovered it online.  Thank you Kindle!  I just love how when I discover a great book I can buy it and start reading instantly. 

I think this book is somewhat similar to the Serenity/Firefly series, in the sense that they are both really westerns with a science fiction setting.

In 7th Sigma the bugs prevent any metal from being used in their territory, so people are forced to use more primitive weapons made from wood and bone.  Or really sophisticated guns made from advanced ceramics, but only the government tends to have the advanced ceramic guns.

Everyone has to travel by foot or horseback in the bug infested region, even though the book is set in the near future United States.

If you like Serenity/Firefly there is a good chance you will like this book.

You can read a free sample at Tor titled "Bugs in the Arroyo".

Some trivia, Gould is a high level practitioner of Akido, and he portrays his art very accurately in his novels.

Though he has a rather fanciful perspective about unarmed martial artist vs armed opponents.  [I mention this because I review non fiction martial arts books on this blog.  You can learn a lot about Akido from Gould's books, but don't believe that even a skilled martial artist has much of a chance vs even a moderately trained armed opponent.]

If you would like even more good fiction with a lot of real Aikido, try Gould's novel Helm.

Check the right side of my Blog for link to Gould's blog.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Imager by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

Imager by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

In Imager Modesitt has created a new world with a new unique magical system, like he did years ago with the first "Recluse" book.

We are introduced to this new world, and the magic of this world, through the eyes and life Rhenn, a young man, or teenager if you prefer, that comes from a well to do merchant family.

The magic of this world requires a person to visualize, or Image (Imagine?), what they want to create very clearly.  There is more to it than that, just like the magic of Recluce, since only a small percentage of the world has the ability.

This is just the first book in the Imager trilogy, there are two more books about Rhenn already in print.  Which is a good thing, because your going to want more after reading Imager.

I am happy to say I really like this book.  I have been a fan of Modesitt's books for a long time, but previous book or two before Imager didn't interest me much.

I almost gave up on his books when I read Empress of Eternity , I think his passion for poetry influenced that book to much for my taste.

I really like the Imager series and recommend it to everyone that is interested fantasy.  If you liked the Recluse series you will like Imager

Modesitt doesn't seem to like writing more than 2 or 3 novels based on the same protagonist.  If you have read his Recluse series you have seen that before.

Modesitt is following that pattern with this series.  There is new book in the Imager series, Scholar, that will be out in November featuring a new protagonist, that is set further in the past, than the current Imager books.

Check the right side of my blog for links to Modesitt's, and other authors, blog and web page.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Issola by Steven Brust

Issola is my favorite book in the Vlad Taltos series by Steven Brust.

I would not recommend this book for people that are unfamiliar with the series.  You would be missing far to much of the back story for many of the plot lines to truly make sense.

For fans of the series, I wholeheartedly endorse it, as I mentioned above this is my personal favorite of the series.

The story begins with Lady Teldra finding Vlad in the wilderness.  She has come to request his aid in locating some missing people.  Then the trouble begins.

Spoiler Alert  Don't click the read more unless you want some spoilers or have already read the book.

Friday, September 9, 2011

There Are No Shortcuts by Rafe Esquith

Rafe Esquith has a tremendous passion for teaching. He works harder at teaching and nurturing his students, than any two teachers, including the exceptional ones that I have had the honor to meet in my life.

Rafe puts in 12 hour days of a day teaching, in the class room teaching, not just punching the clock.  Far more hours than he is required to teach.  He provides any of his students who want it many additional hours of class, in addition to the 12 hour days, he also holds class on Saturdays and holidays.  These additional hours are purely voluntary, the students are not required to attend.  It is voluntary for Rafe as well, since he is not paid for all this extra time he puts in for his students.

In There Are No Shortcuts Rafe shares his tremendous passion passion for teaching.  He shows us the joys and sorrows of the path he has chosen.  He is also sharing more than a few lesson about life that he learned the hard painful way.

Personally, I think Rafe is more than a little obsessive, he obsesses over his students, sacrificing his time, energy, and money to give his students every opportunity to succeed that he can.  He wants them to have as good a chance to succeed in life as anyone else.

He doesn't just teach academic skills.  He also teaches real life skills, he teaches his students personal finance.  His students have to "pay" for their desks! 

Rafe is a real hero in my opinion.  Sir Ian Mckellen, whom you may know as Gandalf, Magneto, or as some other character from one of his many other roles in Cinema and Theatre, shares my opinion about Rafe Esquith.  Sir Ian Mckellen has said,  "Rafe Esquith is my only hero."

I recommend There Are No Shortcuts to everyone, but it is especially valuable to parents, teachers, students, athletes, parents that Home School, or anyone else that is striving for excellence.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Redliners by David Drake

Redliners is my favorite David Drake novel, though I don't recommend it for everyone.  If you lack the proper background or perspective, you will not understand, or worse misunderstand the central theme of this exceptional novel.

I unreservedly recommend it to Combat Vets, EMT's, LEO, ER Doctors & Nurses, Firefighters, & others that have had to deal with trauma, death, and sacrifice.  If you have a friend, family member, or other loved one that fits the above list, then you might gain some insight into parts of their lives they can't share with you, or don't want to burden you with.

It follows a group of battle weary vetrans that are so burned out & emotionally traumatized that they have lost their effectiveness as a military unit.  They have been "redlined", they are to traumatived by their time in war to be truly combat effective anymore.

Yet they are far to dangerous to simply allow back among civilians, without more pain and suffering for both the vets and the civilians.  The Chief of Administration, the top civilian leader in this novel, he is referred to as "John Smith", also feels they deserve better than to be treated as disposable, no longer useful, assets.

Lead personally by John Smith, someone who understands sacrifice all to well, on a  perilous expedition to colonize a completely wild and dangerous planet.  Mr. Smith is attempting to reintegrate these veterans and civilians.  He wants the civilians to appreciate the veterans, and the sacrifices they have made. in addition to reintegrating the veterans with society.

Mr. Smith fully realizes this expedition will probably cost some lives, perhaps even his own, but he doesn't flinch from his decision.

Despite the all the dark and horrible events in this novel, it is truly a story about hope.  About hope, atonement, and possibly redemption.