Saturday, December 31, 2016

My 2016 reading list

I have mentioned previously that this year I took part in a reading competition.  The main goal of the challenge was the simply read more books, and to do so well, I felt the need to share some of the highs and lows of my reading this year.  If you're interested in the blog- you can find the contest at:

This year, I read mostly fantasy/Scifi novels, with a few historical and non-fiction books interspersed.  I read three books in German, and two children's novels.  I read two books that involved a merry-go-round that changed the age of the person riding it.  One series I read showed a world flooded by demons, both monstrous and of man.  And I explored further into the worlds of the Kingkiller, as well as Harry Potter. 

That said, let me recommend some highlights!

The Warded Man, by Peter V. Brett, starts the series following three children living in a world in which humans are pushed to the brink of extinction by demons that rise from the earth every night.  Brett crafts a deeply human story of growth, determination, and survival, and continues through several more novels.  His series is yet to be complete- following the journey of the characters to see if the Warded Man is indeed the savior the world wants him to be, or if humanity is indeed doomed.  I especially enjoyed the varied perspectives in each chapter of Leesha Paper, Rojer Inn, and Arlen Barnes- and their hopes and dream while surviving their world.

Enchantment, by Orsen Scott Card, retells both Russian fairy tales, as well as the sleeping beauty story, but in a more gritty, realistic modern setting.  Without spoiling anything, I would easily say this was my favorite book I read this year.

Rogues, a compilation of short stories including some from Patrick Rothfuss and George R.R. Martin had a great many more interesting characters and tales that I expected.  I picked up the book primarily to read of Bast- the mysterious Fae character from the tales of Kvothe.  There are some beautiful tales there    

Now the lows:  Codex, by Lev Grossman, was an utter disappointment.  I had high hopes after reading The Magicians, and it basically has no ending.

The Exile of Time. This book I tried because it sounded interesting and I wanted to try an eBook.  It was free. I basically got what I paid for. Wasn't very impressiveness at all.

Reading List   

1.   Der Golan-Marathon by Yassin Nasri Jan 5th 2016 
2.     Murder List - Julie Garwood - Jan 6th 2016 
3.     The Method- Juli Zeh - Jan 11th 2016 
4.     The Lurker at the Threshold - HP Lovecraft with August Derleth - Jan 24, 2016 
5.     Absteig vom Zauberberg- Jens Walther- Jan 31, 2016 
6.     The Alloy of Law- Brandon Sanderson- Feb 6, 2016 
7.     Something Wicked This Way Comes - Ray Bradbury- Feb 10, 2016 
8.     The Book Thief- Markus Zusak- Feb 15, 2016 
9.     Asian American Dreams- Helen Zia Mar 15, 2016 
10.  The Shadow over Innsmouth- H.P. Lovecraft. Mar 27, 2016 
11.  The Thief Lord- Cornelia Funke April 18th 2016 
12.  Dragon of the Lost Sea - Lawrence Yep, April 20th 2016 
13.  Dragon Steel- Lawrence Yep, April 21, 2016 
14.  Mark Twain's Letters from Hawaii- edited by A. Grove Day, April 27, 2016 
15.  Rogues- edited by George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois - May 14, 2016 
16.  The Warded Man- Peter V. Brett - May 23, 2016 
17.  Fahrenheit 451- Ray Bradbury May 31, 2016 
18.  The Desert Spear- Peter V. Brett - June 21, 2016 
19.  The Daylight War - Peter V. Brett - July 3rd 2016 
20.  The Bad Beginning- A series of Unfortunate Events- Lemony Snicket - July 18th 2016 
21.  A Wizard of Earthsea -Ursula K. LeGuin - July 20, 2016 
22.  The Exile of Time- Ray Cummings- July 28th 2016 
23.  Enchantment- Orsen Scott Card- Aug 1, 2016 
24.  Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - Susanna Clarke Aug 19 2016 
25.  The Magicians - Lev Grossman Sept 11, 2016 
26.  Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - J.K.Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorn Sept 14th 2016 
27.  The Fortunate Fall- Raphael Carter Sept 29th 2016 
28.  The Magician's Nephew - C. S. Lewis - Oct 9, 2016 
29.  Codex- Lev Grossman- Oct 26th, 2016 
30.  Elantris- Brandon Sanderson - Nov 2nd 2016 
31.  The Aquiliad - S.P. Somtow - Nov 13th 2016
32.  Die Schriften von Accra - Paulo Coelho - Nov 19th 2016 
33.  The Human, the Orchid, and the Octopus: exploring and conserving our natural world. - Jacques Cousteau and Susan Schienfelbein - Nov 28th 2016
34. Hyperion - Dan Simmons - Dec 14th 2016
35. Bared Blade - Kelly McCullough - Dec 19th, 2016
36. I Am the Messenger - Markus Zusak - Dec 24th, 2016
37. The Magician's King - Lev Grossman - Dec 30th, 2016


The rest, you may choose to explore on your own.  I would also recommend The Human, the Orchid, and the Octopus by Jacques Cousteau, Mark Twain's Letters from Hawaii, and The Method, by Juli Zeh.  

Friday, December 9, 2016

Learning and Being Informed

Our world has become a place of information: the internet and computers has revolutionized our knowledge base and access to nearly limitless tools for learning and study.

Yet people's understanding, wisdom, and personal knowledge of how things work, the science of basic mechanics and biology (and other fields), has it seems, not increased much at all.

The beauty of the internet, and learning in general, is being able to discover new things about the earth, about the world around our very lives.  We can learn how to determine a real emerald without shattering.

Some examples of things we commonly may not know:

-How do batteries work?  Why do they "die", whereas some can be recharged?
-Native plants in your own yard or landscaping areas, what is their benefit, versus other 'normal' plants?
-What are the chemicals added to our foods, are they safe to eat?  Why are they added?

All of these questions can have some impact on your daily life, yet people rarely know the answer to them.  With the information access at our fingertips to search online, why don't more people take advantage of learning about things, or being informed?

Add this to the feelings of hopelessness in a greater, wider world full of things that can seem daunting:

-Large corporations making huge decisions about energy, buildings, cars.
-Governments and officials deciding on wars, safety regulations, and policy on our food and energy.

Combined, with large massive changes that can affect us, and a feeling of not knowing enough about situation can be demoralizing.  Likely all of us have at one time or another felt hopeless considering the worldwide nuclear energy waste and nuclear bomb concerns, or wondering about what impacts varied middle eastern war zones have on the entire world population.

What I fear, and see happening among friends, co-workers, and people I interact with in daily life (see: magic tournaments) is a sense of inability.  People feel that they themselves cannot do anything, or change anything, about how things are going in the world, so: why bother trying?

But I'm reading "The Human, The Orchid, and the Octopus", a book put together by Jacques Cousteau and Susan Schiefelbein, wherein Cousteau describes his explorations, and later personal endeavors to alert the public, governments, and experts on the massive concerns facing our world for
overfishing and nuclear power.  And while Cousteau paints a relatively frightening picture about the state of our nuclear energy in the world- the lack of safety and security revolving around radioactive materials, and the dwindling fishing stocks, he talks a major point:

Let me repeat that, and explain.  Every person in the world has the ability to change things, at some level.  You may see yourself as insignificant, but we can make our own part of the world better for us, our children, and our communities.  That in turn can help affect regions, or states, and even countries!  You as an individual may have limits to what you can accomplish, but we can work together in small measures to create large changes.

The task before us today lies in refusing to be defeated by what we regard as impossible and in beginning our struggle for what we know to be essential.  The necessary has always proved to be possible.  Regarding survival as imperative is far more logical than accepting disaster as inevitable.
-Jacques Cousteau, Chapter 9: The Hot Peace: nuclear weapons and nuclear energy, in The Human the Orchid, and the Octopus. 

Coming back around, to the original point: Knowledge is our key to change.  Knowledge is quite literally connected to power. 

We in the 21st century have the ability to learn so much, to explore and discover so many things!  Most children are curious, yet we as a society are losing that curiosity.  With smartphones and 3G access, with cheaper education and videos and learning from the world over, why are we not pushing to learn more?

Go back to being curious.  Learn new things, use the tools we have to discover, and ask WHY.

Demand answers.  We as individuals can make change.  We cannot wait until our time is up.

One final thought to leave you with:
According to legend, there is a way to tell if a stone is an authentic emerald.  You heat it to a certain temperature, and if it shatters--it was real.  We have inherited our emerald--our Earth--only in usufruct.  If indeed it has become too late to remedy our actions, if we shatter our emerald, we are committing a crime not only against ourselves but against future generations.
-Susan Schiefelbein in The Human, the Orchid, and the Octopus.   

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Theros and a world of Gods

Theros World Lore Guide

Welcome to Theros, Planeswalker! This world is rich with legend and story, as the Gods perform their tales for mortals each night in the sky of Nyx. Mortal dreams enter Nyx as well, helping shape it to reality, and causing some new beings known as Nyx-born. Here you will find a compilation of all the planeswalker guides and Uncharted realms tales of Theros. More will be added as more is revealed. Have fun discovering!

Planeswalkers guides: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Inside R&D video and the The plane of Theros description Theros Trailer

Elspeth’s Farewell to New Phyrexia: Dear Ajani…
Anax Begins his training, part 1 and proves himself, part 2
The Nymphs of Theros!
Siren’s Song
Tragedy of a Hero Sung by the fates.
Ode to Iroas
The Sea God’s Labyrinth Part 1 and Part 2
Building toward a Dream Part 1 and Part 2 (Featuring Ashiok!)
To Asphodel

Born of the Gods
Planeswalker Guide, Part 2: The intro to the STORY and the tale of Kiora Atua, native of Zendikar.
Trailer Stories:
A lesson in Identity
The cowardice of the Hero
Minor Gods of Born of the Gods
Kiora's Followers
The Walls of Akros
The Hero of Iroas
Ephara's Oracle
Seasons in Setessa

Journey into Nyx
Planeswalker Guide, Part 3: Gods and Walkers
Ajani returns!
Journey into the Labyrinth
A desperate stand
Dreams of the City The plots of Ashiok, and the rise of a cacophony!
The son of Raissa
The Journey or the Stone
Kruphix knows the Multiverse

Some talk and thoughts on Elspeth's fate, from Jenna Helland
All the Theros trailers with bonus content of the fate of Elspeth at the end!
Ajani's Vengence
Full synopsis for those who are too lazy to read it all.

2015: Kiora's battle is described against the god of the sea, Thassa.

Update from 2016: Commander 2016 features a large number of characters from Theros, some never seen before. 
Their names:  Kynaios and Tiro, Kydele, Thrasios, Tymna, and Ravos
You can find the article here.

Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver
Some notes on Ashiok
Ashiok also appears against Dack Fayden in the comics.
Xenagos, the Reveler
Ajani Goldmane

Last updated – 11/13/16- New Legendary stories from Commander 2016

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Nature of Magic is Change

Change is a hard thing to handle for humans, because we're creatures of habit. 

Much like Magic, life is full of change.  Standard rotates.  The tier decks of Modern change or get banned.  Reprints are happening more frequently now. 

But we still are the same people, we're still learning, growing, surviving the day to day.  So why don't we like change? 

Well, because it brings with it the unknown, and the chance of failure, suffering, and loss.

But change is constant, and essential, for a fulfilling experience in life.  I'm following a quote that Steve Jobs said at a graduation, you can find the video about it here:

Stay hungry, stay foolish.

To keep striving, to keep growing, we can't give up and settle if we want to grow, to expand, to see more of this beautiful experience we call life.  

And so it is in magic, magic stories, and life.  Stay hungry.  Stay foolish. Try new things.  Adopt new strategies. Be friendly to different people, and never stop reading and learning!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Reading and the worlds books contain

I'm going to ramble a bit, mainly because the Magic Storyline has been very good in recent months, but also because I'm taking part in a reading competition this year.

You can find it at:

So many people don't take the time to read these days, and that worries me. 

Many of the readers her are Magic players, people who go to social events to compete in a game of strategy, luck, reading, math, and fantasy.  The storyline is told in articles, and develops entire worlds for us to experience.

And that sort of reading is just something I feel that games, movies, and TV simply cannot convey as well in my experiences in the recent months.

Reading lets people engage with worlds and thoughts and characters on so much deeper of a level than I've felt with movies and games.

And people always say: the book is better than the movie.   Don't take that lightly- if you don't enjoy reading, I don't blame you- everyone has their own likes and dislikes.

And if you need inspiration to read, try some incentives, follow your passion in stories, or get recommendations of good authors you may like.  A book can truly be a portal to another world. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Come and battle for Zendikar

Four planeswalkers come to Zendikar to battle the Eldrazi menace, after searching for help for years.

Here is their story.

The Distant Past
5000 Years ago, the Eldrazi were imprisoned.

1000 years ago, the Eldrazi nearly escaped.

Recent Events

The Eldrazi escaped, seen in the original Zendikar Block, and in the Teeth of Akoum Novel.  Nissa chose to release them, hoping they would leave Zendikar.  Sorin cursed her for a fool, and left.  The Eldrazi menace remains. 

Gideon sees Emrakul, and goes to search for aid.

Some time ago, the Lithomancer fought Ob Nixilis, trapping his spark with a hedron embedded in his skull.  Now he waits.  

Nissa begins her journey as a worldwaker.


Jace and Ral are working together, and find another planeswalker, through Project Lightning bug.
Gideon has found himself fighting two battles on two planes.  But he has limits.

As the Guildpact, Jace finds himself catching up with his friends...

Liliana has her own ravens to face.

Chandra's training grounds on Kephalai. 

Nissa continues to fight on.

The Battle begins(Main story page):

Slaughter at the Refuge

The silent cry. A torn apart world.

The pilgrimage of the believers

Gideon Jura helps the survivors of Sky Rock.

Memories of Blood, seen though Drana.

Nissa's quest to find her friend.

Kiora returns home.

Nissa finds her goal, and faces off with a demon.

Remember this, they came as three.  Revelations at the Eye.

Noyan Dar's shapers.

The Liberation of Sea Gate.

Jace's plan of Hedron alignment begins.

Ob Nixilis wants off Zendikar, at any cost.

Chandra Nalaar has promises to keep.

(Full story synopsis for Battle for Zendikar)

Oath of the Gatewatch!

(Main story page):

The Rise of Kozilek

Ob Nixilis retaliates against our planeswalkers.

Mina and Denn begin their quest for reclamation.  (side story)

The blight that Tazri was born for.

Things can go up in flames.

Jori En and Kiora regroup

The Oath of the Gatewatch.  The four friends decide what's best for the multiverse, and what they can do. The are on the brink of extinction for Zendikar.

And so begins Zendikar's attempt at a last stand.

This means, that Zendikar, damaged, but intact, and become resurgent.

(Oath of the Gatewatch full story summary.)

Other Pages:
Planes of Zendikar Page

Battle for Zendikar Story Page

Story synopsis:

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Kaladesh Inventor's Fair!

Welcome to Kaladesh!  World of artificial enchantment! Do watch out for the flying thopters, and remember to register with the fair's local consulate.

We begin with a fresh new Gatewatch.  Liliana Vess has joined their party, and they rest after their battle with Emrakul on Innistrad.  We find them in Jace's Sanctum, on the plane of Ravnica, when an interesting request comes from a planeswalker managing the Inventor's Fair.

The consulate of Kaladesh is hosting the Inventor's fair.  It seems some rebels are trying to disrupt or destroy it.  Yet invitations are still being delivered!
You are invited!

Kaladesh Trailer

An inventor gives it her all with her partner, to do the unthinkable!

Chandra returns to her homeworld, and she and Liliana begin to explore the fair.

The story of Renegade Prime.

Born of the Aether, and Chandra and Nissa search for answers.

Bottled Up, the search for Renegade Prime continues.

Some backstory and a release.

The Gatewatch confronts Tezzeret in this very Arena!

The consulate is grateful for your attendance of the Inventor's Fair!

Aether Revolt


Some time has passed, and we find Yahenni in the dead of night.

Gideon's considerations in some Quiet Moments.

While all of this continues, Rashmi has her breakthrough.

The Revolution Begins!

The decisive battle for the Aether Hub commences, and things do burn

Skies over Kaladesh!

Things are coming to a head, and some parts of the revolt are coming to a breaking point.

When it comes down to it for Liliana, most people seem like puppets

The Gatewatch, sucessful, goes through some renewal

Guides, notices, and Making ofs:

Planeswalker's Guide to Kaladesh

Making of Kaladesh: Here

The Consulate released announcements for the people of the fair. 

Dovin Baan - a native vedalken planeswalker from Kaladesh.

Saheeli Rai - a native of Kaladesh, she is a prime inventor and competitor for invention battles!

Kaladesh exploration site.

Notes: In the Magic Story Podcast, it was talked about how the Mending occured around 60 years prior to events in this saga- similarly, around 60 years ago in Kaladesh, the great aether expansion and industrialization occurred.

Story pages:

Aether Revolt

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Real concerns with the court of Paliano

A new declaration was made:

The Reign of Brago! Conspiracy 2!

All hail the King and lord of Paliano.  The Eternal, the just, the undying!

... you hear that?  ...


Wait! Assassins! King Brago has been slain!

Apparently, we have an empty Throne!  Conspiracy 2: The Empty Throne!




But this doesn't end there.  A new heir has been appointed.  Conspiracy 2: Take the Crown.

And so we again begin to conspire.

The story begins, with Kaya,
who is very good at her job.

A message was found on the back of the Eternal Masters tokens... lead to two proclamations!

Proclamation of the new Queen.

Response of Adriana, Captain of the Guard.

Daretti has returned to Fiora, and found himself in league with Grenzo.

An envoy from the city state of Trest has been appointed to Paliano, and he writes back with some dossiers.

You can find the original Paliano lore from Conspiracy 1 here.

Edric, Spymaster of Trest was no revealed to be part of the plane of Fiora.  Trest is a port city state, ruled by elves. 
His original description was here