Hey, GeekDad — Whatcha Reading?

Reading Time: 6 minutes

We GeekDad writers often find ourselves buried in piles of books and games and software/apps – sometimes all three (looking at you, Jonathan Liu). Between the stuff we buy and the stuff we request for review and the stuff we did NOT request but absolutely love anyway, we sometimes get a bit behind in what we want to share with our readers.

Below you’ll find some books that one of our staff has finished or is close to finishing and needs to clear off the TO REVIEW list.

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Reader/Reviewer: James Floyd Kelly

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August (Claire North)

Fifteen Lives

It’s not often that you’ll stumble upon a unique twist to the time travel tale, but I just found one and finished it in two days… simply an incredible book. The twist here is that a small group of people die and are then reborn, over and over again, into the same time and body — but they keep their memories (well, the memories start to return after age 3). Think about that for a moment — if you could take all your knowledge back with you and repeat your life, what would try to repeat? What would you try to avoid?

Harry August was born on January 1, 1919, and readers are going to get to know Harry very well as he shares the experiences and all the strangeness that come from his unusual predicament. As the title suggests, the book covers his first fifteen lives (and I’m so hoping that we’ll get either more books from different travelers’ points of view or maybe another adventure involving Harry’s 16th life and beyond), and if you think you’re in for a simple repeat of each life, you’re in for a great surprise. There’s a special group of these travelers calling themselves the Chronos Club who help each other out using some really cool methods to provide funding and help to one another as they die and are reborn… messages can be sent back in time, too, when a reborn child (age 5-10) visits a dying traveller (DT1) who will take a message back and then send it back to another dying traveller (DT2) who is reborn as a child and repeats the process… the logic is solid and the plot twists are really fun. And that’s where the book’s main story begins — Harry August is dying at age 78 and is visited by a young girl who tells him that the world is ending at a much faster rate than previously experienced.

I finished the book with a huge grin on my face. It’s got some great surprises and a mix of good guys and bad guys (normal and of the traveller type), and so far has been one of the best surprise reads of my year.

Comics Squad: Recess! (Multiple writers/artists)

Comic Squad

My oldest will be seven next month, and while he enjoys his monthly Superman comic, I’ve been looking for a way to introduce him to something different. Random House Books for Young Readers will be releasing a really cool little collection of eight stories in a classic Sunday comics format on July 8 ,2014, and it’s called Comics Squad: Recess! From the back cover:

Do you like comics? Do you like laughing ’til milk comes out of your nose?! Look no further – do we have the book for you! this bust-your-gut-laughing, All-Star lineup includes eight sidesplitting stories by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Dav Pilkey, Dan Santat, Raina Telgemeier & Dave Roman, Ursula Vernon, Eric Wight, and Gene Luen Yang. Featuring pizza monsters! Secret ninja clubs! Aliens! Superheroes! Bullies! Mean girls! Epic battles! Evil plans! Terrible puns! And much much more!

After reading that to my son, he said “Gimme!” And yes, there was much laughing out loud. I had to take a look for myself, so in between reads I gave it a look. And, yes, the stories are definitely going to appeal to ages 7-10 – some slang (but clean) and teen-speak, some characters that will only appeal to this age, a hint of boy/girl romance here and there, and a great mix of styles that keep each story interesting and appealing and relevant to young readers.

Nick and Tesla’s Secret Agent Gadget Battle (“Science Bob” Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith)

Nick and Tesla 3

This is the third book in this very popular series for young inventors and makers — Nick and Tesla (and their strange Uncle Newt) are once again involved in a mystery that will have young readers following along with the story as well as pulling together supplies to create one of the five projects — Fingerprint-Finder Powder and Evildoer Identification System, Ring-a-Ding-Ding Spy Exposure System, Spy-Busting Invisi-Cam, the EGBQD OAAX (aka Super Cool) Code Wheel, and finally… the Booby-Trap Balloon Drop.

Nick and Tesla suspect a spy, and their adventure will have them facing off against a number of curious individuals… and making a discovery about their parents who placed them in Uncle Newt’s care. This new story is just as fun as those in the first two books, Nick and Tesla’s High-Voltage Danger Lab and Nick and Tesla’s Robot Army Rampage, and the good news for fans is that the fourth book, Nick and Tesla’s Super-Cyborg Gadget Glove, is due out in October 2014 and will continue the twins’ adventures.

My son is just now beginning to enjoy this level of reading and the projects are going to make a great summer time break for us… if you’ve got a little tinkerer under your roof, they’ll absolutely love this series.

Titanfall Official Game Guide (Prima)

Titanfall Game Guide

I bought Titanfall and have been playing for about a month now, and I’ve come to one conclusion — I stink at Titanfall.

The game is amazing — wall-running, giant robots, leveling up, achievements, Burn Cards (special one-time use awards you get in game that give you special weapons, double XP, and other benefits during a match… until you die), and more… I don’t get much time to play the game, but when I do, I absolutely enjoy it.

But here’s the thing about Titanfall — you’re going up against Battlefield and Tour of Duty and other FPS game veterans who basically joined the game with advanced skills already in place. There’s so much going on, it’s overwhelming! Monitoring the map, trying to avoid not only other players but the computer-controlled Grunts and other enemies hunting you down. Explosions, alerts, skirmishes everywhere… information overload!

I’ve been getting better, and I’ve reached a sufficient level where I’ve unlocked some more powerful weapons (including the much needed Suppressor which lets you fire a weapon without appearing on the map and alerting everyone to your position) for my Pilot and my Titan… but I still die constantly and have never been a score leader. Something has to be done.

I grabbed the Titanfall Official Game Guide and have just finished going through the entire thing. I now have a better understanding of not only the game’s maps (and these are HUGE maps to learn) but also how XP is earned and about weapon and equipment progression. Plenty of strategy is packed into the pages, and I’m really enjoying the added tutorial videos that are unlocked with a code included in the book. I’m still trying to figure out which type of Titan works best for my play style (defensive, possibly running away at any given moment). The book provides detailed tables on just how to earn XP for various achievements so I’ve been able to go into a game with a set goal or two in mind to get some major XP. (For example, you can get 2500XP for a specific number of successful “rodeos” — jumping on a friendly Titan for a fast ride or an enemy Titan for an up-close burst of gunfire into its guts.)

There are four “expert” Titanfall players who frequently contribute tips and advice throughout the book, and I’ve implemented a handful of them and improved my game drastically. If you’re a Titanfall player and are finding yourself outgunned and overwhelmed, this game guide will help straighten things out. I’m not promising it’ll make you the top scorer, but you’ll definitely enjoy playing more because you’re surviving longer.

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