Category Archives: @ashertopia

Jennifer Blood, Vol. 1 by Ennis and Batista

With the release of Garth Ennis’ The Boys on Amazon, I’ve been checking out some of his previous work. Jennifer Blood is one such work.

Jennifer Blood, Volume 1
A Woman’s Work is Never Done
written by Garth Ennis
art by Adriano Batista
Dynamite
Feburary 2012

From the publisher: “Jennifer Blood is a suburban wife and mom by day – and a ruthless vigilante by night! Every day she makes breakfast, takes the kids to school, cleans the house, naps for an hour or two, makes dinner, puts the kids to bed, and kisses her husband goodnight. This suburban punisher is ready to be unleashed in a story that can only be told by the legendary Garth Ennis. Collecting issues #1-6 of the hit series, along with additional bonus material, sketches, cover gallery, and interview with Garth Ennis!”

The first five issues in this collection start with “Jennifer” narrating the story of her revenge against her uncles in her diary. The story is driven largely by the diary text and we know very little of what is going on until mid-issue five. All we know is that this woman lives a normal life during the day but has been planning for a long time to go on a killing spree of this mafia-like family over the course of a week. It is entertaining and violently satisfying. But then at the end of issue five, Ennis seems to want to speed things up so the diary says she will stop writing until the main bad guy (and last uncle) is killed. Issue 6 starts – starts! – with the infiltration of his base complete, all his men dead, and him dying while “Jennifer” spends almost the whole issue explaining to the uncle (and us) why she is on the killing spree. It completely jumps away from the cool planning aspects and straight to exposition. It feels rushed and unfinished.

There are multiple other volumes written by Al Ewing so the story goes somewhere, I guess. But the first volume falls flat. It builds to the very baddest of the bad guys and then just fast forwards to the end. I hope that The Boys doesn’t follow this template.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

Solaris by Lem

I had no idea what to expect here. the description seems to imply a love story and Very Serious Deep Thoughts. Man was I disappointed.

Solaris: The Definitive Edition
By Stanislaw Lem
Audible
1961

I’m going to tell you what I wish someone had told me [SPOILERS]: this is boring as heck. Not the charming slow moving classic SciFi with quaint science and thoughts on the future. No, this is an incredibly long winded story where long sections are nothing but back story on the planet. At first I thought it was interesting and wll thought out. After a time I just want to move on.

As for love, the way the main character treats the female lead is incredibly chauvinistic and demeaning. Very little actual love. In fact, he “falls in love” with the alien created version of his dead wife for almost no reason even though he loves her for not being his wife. Huh? If he doesn’t love her because she looks and acts like his wife what exactly is it he loves? Her lack of memory? Her charm? The fact that she a fake version of his dead wife? Makes no sense. But he does fall in love with his suicidal alien construct. Maybe. I don’t care. This story isn’t about love, it is about a man who longs for something he can’t have. That’s not romantic. It’s pathetic.

The alien (Ocean) is interesting. You’ll get no resolution here and that’s actually fine. But I’d prefer more time spent on the Ocean than on the constructs. A better solution is the main character recognizing that the Ocean is sentient and attempting to contact it, rather than longing for his dead wife/ dead construct to come back.

I powered through this but I don’t recommend it. There are simply too many better options.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

Discriminations and Disparities by Sowell

Current events and cultural hot topics can be very difficult to understand. The media, pop culture and uninformed loud people on social media all have opinions. But what’s really going on? That’s why I chose to go to a real expert.

Discrimination and Disparities
By Thomas Sowell
Read by Robertson Dean
Blackstone Audio, Inc
March 2018

I’ve come to realize that almost everything is more complicated than people think they are. Sowell’s book is an extremely readable explanation of how, all too often, people settle for prevailing sympathies instead of digging into the reality that no one thing causes no other one thing. Starting in the very first chapter, Sowell uses examples to explain in very easy to understand ways how only one-factor out of many can impact chances for disparity in outcome.

Sowell moves through several common misconceptions about how the world is the way it is and why certain policies have unintended consequences. While not advocating for any political party, Sowell is clearly Capitalist and open market. He makes compelling arguments that seeing decisions through an economic world view can help us make decisions that are based on facts rather than feelings.

I found this to be very interesting and read it in only two days.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

30 Days to Understanding the Bible by Anders

Can you get a good exegetical understanding of the Bible and the theology therein in only a month? Possibly.

30 Days to Understanding the Bible
by Max Anders
Thomas Nelson
October 2018

This is actually an expanded thirteenth anniversary edition of Anders’ book. I’d never heard of it or read it before. It’s fascinating! Like a survey course in college this book goes a little deeper than normal studies but not quite as deep as higher level classes. I read through several and liked the way that he presented the information, allowed for repetition and fill in the blanks and then sometimes allows time for a test.

Speaking of time: there is no way that normal readers will get through this in 15 minutes! Some chapters, to be done right, will take 30 minutes or more. There is a lot of data to learn in each chunk. The good news is that the data is worth learning. So the extra time is worth it.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review. 

The Spirit of God Illustrated Bible

The premise of this book is to tell stories of the Bible with an emphasis on the role of the Holy Spirit in each of the stories. There are a couple reasons why this isn’t as successful as I would have liked.

The Spirit of God Illustrated Bible
by Doris Wynbeek Rikkers
Illustrated by Fernando Juarez
ZonderKidz
September 2018

First, It is called an “Illustrated Bible” but isn’t a Bible. It is a children’s book of child-level Bible stories. Everything from Creation to Joseph to David to Jesus to Paul and finally to the child (which I thought was a really great way to end the book.) But if you are going to tell stories, rather than actually illustrate the Bible, it seems incorrect to call this a Bible. It should be upfront.

Second, the stories really stretch the participation of the Spirit and attribute to it things it may not have actually done. Look at the first story: Genesis 1. God is seen as creating (good) and then the Spirit is said to make sure that all the stars “stay in place.” I guess you could attribute the fact that all things are held together by God/Jesus and since the Holy Spirit is a part of that it is said to participate. But in Genesis you don’t have the Spirit actually doing that. In the second story, the Spirit is the one that breathes life into Adam. On the other open page (22) you actually read Gen 2:7 where is says the Lord God breathed life into the man. I don’t mean to split hairs here because God is God. But attributing things to the Spirit where the Bible doesn’t seems like a leap I wouldn’t recommend.

The art is gorgeous. I love how the Spirit is represented as wispy white smoke that curls around the characters when the Spirit takes action. I like the vast majority of the stories. And I love the ending. Not a bad book, just not what I expected.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

Hell to Pay by Chmilenko

Book 2 of Ascend Online was very different than book 1. Unlike most series, it seems that Chmilenko is focused on the world of the game (and perhaps the battle between in-game sister “gods” Order and Chaos) rather than the players.

Hell To Pay
Ascend Online 2
by Luke Chmilenko
Ætherworld Productions
April 2017

In book 2, the setting changes to the nearby (three days away) large city briefly discussed in book 1, and the goings-on of one of the Thieves Guilds and two players in the guild. It’s also more of a mystery as the story begins with our anonymous hero waking up in a torture room with a new magical sigil on his chest and his guild master dead. He doesn’t remember anything from the point that he took on a quest called The Heist. How a human player could actually have their memory wiped by the game is confusing and scary – both to the players in the story and to the reader.

Interestingly, the characters in this book never interact with the characters in book 1 – and that’s fine with me. This thriller was significantly more than the normal introductory story, allowing book 1’s explanation of the game and the world to suffice so we could jump right in to the new characters.

A down side to this Ascend Online, in terms of LitRPG, is that it seems to make no effort to tell any part of the story outside the game. So it’s simply a fantasy book with gaming stats and some pseudo third wall breaking. Even though it is much better written than The Dark Herbalist series, I find the real lives of the players to add to the main story and avoiding any consideration of that part of our main characters is a weakness so far in Ascend Online. Still, the third book is in my queue and I’m excited to jump in to it.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

The Dark Herbalist series

Salvage Trouble by Morin

From the publisher: Carl Ramsey has a starship to run. Down on his luck, struggling to pay the cost of fuel, he’s just looking for some quick, easy cash. While looting the wreck of a passenger ship, they discover that one escape pod never ejected, and the passengers are still alive. A routine salvage job turns into a rescue mission, and a good deed never goes unpunished. With two refugees aboard, Captain Carl Ramsey finds that his ship, the Mobius, has a target painted on its hull. Someone is after the new passengers, and willing to stop at nothing to get them back.

Salvage Trouble
Black Ocean #1
by J. S. Morin
Magical Scrivener Press
October 2015

My take: Interestingly, Morin calls his books, “episodes” which makes a ton of sense because each story, really novella at about 150 pages or so, are very much like what you’d expect to see on TV, especially the golden age of SyFy’s in-house shows like Lexx, Dark Matter, and Farscape. Add magic to science fiction space ship based television and this is what you’d get. And it’s not bad, but it’s also not deep.

In this story, we meet the crew, especially Captain Ramsey, as they attempt to salvage a ship that had been attacked. They thought it was empty, but it turns out that there was one escape pod left on the ship with a Barbie doll-like priestess and a teenager who may not be who he seems to be. Turns out the priestess kidnapped the teen to save him and to shed light on the genetic experiments going on at their school. The normal obstacles come up – the galactic authorities board them, hirelings attack them, and so on – until an all too quick resolution involving magic, subterfuge and quick talking by the Captain. I said “of course” in my mind so many times during that sentence. This isn’t epic, or dark, or hard science fiction. But it’s fun. So I’ll keep reading the series and see if it develops more.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Twain

I haven’t read many Twain books. In fact, this may be the first time I’ve read one all the way through. And I have to admit that it wasn’t easy to get through. The beginning was interesting enough, but the loooooong middle section was so uneventful that even Twain jumps forward a few years at one point.

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
by Mark Twain
1889

I was struck by the fact that this book wouldn’t work with today’s audience for another reason as well: he just knows too much about things that we don’t. For instance, he creates a telegraph and phone line system, wires for power, creates factories and schools, manufactures bicycles and other tools. How many of us today know how to do any of those things? We get stuck with King Arthur’s court and we, what? Argue about political correctness on a Twitter made from stone carvings (there isn’t a printing press, no one can read, and paper as we know it doesn’t exist.) We’d be killed. I mean the guy knew the date of the eclipse from that year hundreds of years before his time. I don’t even remember the exact date of the one that happened here last August. Was it August?

The story ends in an unexpected and stunted way. I had to go back to the end and the beginning to make it all make sense. It’s not that it’s bad, but it’s just so abrupt. And sad.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

Unbelievable by Katy Tur

I don’t normally read books like this, but the Trump phenomenon over the last several years is so seismic (or yuge) and because the book was on sale, I felt that I had to give it a shot.

Unbelievable
by Katy Tur
Dey Street Books
September 2017

I’d heard some of the complaints by Trump about “Little Katy” during the campaign but didn’t understand what was going on. I don’t watch the news on cable or TV and had almost no experience with who this reporter was or her role in covering the Trump campaign. I almost stopped reading during the first couple chapters. Tur came across exactly how I had worried she might – argumentative, vulgar at times, and – most importantly – clearly biased. I had no interest in reading a book by someone with an axe to grind. But I was listening to this book – thanks Audible! – while playing Elder Scrolls Online so I left it playing while I became the Scarlet Judge. After a couple hours at 155% speed I was about half way through the book and had overcome my concerns. Oh, Tur is definitely biased and she I believe she definitely has an attitude (she narrates and I believe it’s clear in her tone). But she is also really interesting.

The background of what happened at key interviews and campaign stops was fascinating. Recognizing her bias and taking that into account I can say that this book was worth reading/listening for the first hand insight into the campaign and how Trump thinks (which may be extrapolated by how he acts in conjunction with Tur’s opinion.)

I’m not sure I’ll read other books by Tur in the future – or other books about Trump or his campaign – but as a one-time, sale-induced read it wasn’t bad.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

12 Rules for Life by Peterson

No matter what you think of Dr. Peterson there is no doubt at all that he is a worldwide phenomenon with sold out speaking tours all around the Western world, YouTube and social media accounts in the millions of views each month as well as this bestselling book. It would be foolish to read just our favorite news sources’ opinions of him when there is so much he publishes himself. So reading his book was a no brainer! And I’m glad I did.

12 Rules for Life
by Dr. Jordan B. Peterson
Random House Canada
January 2018

Dr. Peterson blends an interesting mix of history (especially totalitarian history) with philosophy, religion and mythology all held together by psychology. So while some chapters may seem like they would go the normal self-help route he takes a long detour around his vast knowledge of these topics to provide insight into why he thinks we ought to do the things we do. In the meantime, we get good advice, some of it used to be called common sense, as well as lessons in all kinds of disciplines. I think that’s important. Too often, readers are told to simply trust the author because, well, they wrote the book after all. But why should I trust someone I don’t know? But make the case with authorities and evidence I can check myself or that I do know and I’m willing to bite. Peterson does that. Well.

I made the decision to listen to him on audiobook and it’s the way I’d recommend it to anyone. I love listening to authors read their own work – see Al Gore, President Clinton, President Bush, President Carter, Katy Tur – because you can hear what they really mean and how they really feel by their emphasis and tonal changes. I could hear the passion that Dr. Peterson felt when discussing certain topics as well as the pain. For instance, when he spoke about his daughter’s suffering.

Controversy and politics aside, there is no good reason I can think of not to listen to or read this book. His 12 Rules, if followed, can’t possibly be bad for anyone. Quite the contrary, in fact. We could all use more advice and urging to make the most of ourselves, fix ourselves before we try to fix the world (and in fact, fixing ourselves is probably the best kind of fixing the world there is,) focus on what’s good and make the time we spend with people matter by listening well and recognizing that they have something to teach us. There is so much in this book that’s extremely positive I recommend it highly.

A note about religion, especially Christianity. One thing that does vex Christians, myself included, is whether Dr. Peterson is actually a Christian in the born again/ giving his life to Christ way, rather than the respect for Christ and God, theist or Universalist way. I thought I had him figured out most of the way through the book as someone who follows Christianity because of what it represents – every character and story is archetypical or represents a greater truth. If that’s true only, and I’m trying to be precise here, then his faith may not be Christianity as we know it. But then towards the end of the book I’m certain I heard more personal faith in both his tone and his words. He points to the Bible throughout without directly proselytizing, but at times, especially in the Pet the Cat section and following, he seems to open up a little more about what his faith does for him. If that’s true and I wasn’t reading into him, then it’s possible that Dr. Peterson may be discussing Christianity in a way that won’t put off readers who don’t believe, while not specifically hiding what he does, but simply using what he understands about Christianity in ways that bolster his claims for universal truths in his Rules. So after reading this long book as listening to many of his YouTube videos and podcasts I am back where I was at the start: I have no idea what kind of Christianity Dr. Peterson has. Regardless, this is not a “Christian” book. But it is a good book. I’ll have to live with the ambiguity of Dr. Peterson’s cat-ness, here.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.