Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

I was glad to see folks enjoying the last few blog posts.  I hope you guys know that I write this stuff for you.  I’d be pretty conceited if I spouted this nonsense because I thought you should live the way I do.  My whole focus for writing to begin with is to relay my own personal experiences with things and maybe, just maybe, someone else out there might pick up a nugget or two that will help them as well.

As an FYI, for the next issue we’ll take a break from the book writing topic and pick it back up the following issue.  This book-writing series has many facets to it, I want to make sure to still give time to other topics along the way.

The Outline is Crucial, but it Also Isn’t
I’ve read a ton of different books on writing and was surprised to find that the outline seems to be one of the most disagreed-upon topics.  I wouldn’t call it controversial because to me the whole argument seems rather silly.  From what I can tell, the debate seems to boil down to personal preference.  One person will construct a detailed outline before ever typing the words, “Once upon a time…” while another will start with a single thought and just go.  Even the heavy hitters differ on this point.  Best-selling author Thomas F. Monteleone has never done an outline whereas Ted Dekker will generate a 40-page ‘story document’ for each book that describes every major plot point and provides background to every setting and character. (more…)

There are a number of really cool things I’ve really enjoyed the last few weeks and I thought I’d share them with you guys.

1] Battle: LA
This movie was freakin’ awesome! It had the intensity and feel of Black Hawk Down thrown against a science fiction backdrop.  The premise of Battle: LA is that aliens invade major population centers around the globe and, ignoring all pleas for diplomacy, begin tearing the place up.  You follow the actions of a squad of marines sent in to rescue civilians holed up in a Sheriff’s office.  Let’s just say that, by the end of the movie, I would’ve followed Aaron Eckhart (the film’s lead) into a fight against aliens.  The special effects were top notch and the acting very good with one notable exception (“I’m a veterinarian”? What the h-e-double-hockey-sticks?).

2] Batman: Arkham Asylum
I’m a couple years late to this party, but dang if I’m glad I showed up.  Batman: AA is a prime example of why I love video games.  Rocksteady, the studio that developed the game, pulled out all the stops and gave proper respect to one of the most-beloved superheroes of all time.  You can tell they really did their homework.  The story is classic Batman and the characters faithfully re-created.  The Joker serves as the main antagonist and is just as insane here as Heath Ledger’s version.   Many of Batman’s foes show up and provide many memorable moments (most notably Killer Croc and Scarecrow).

Of course, I can’t leave out the main man himself.  As Batman, you get access to many of his fun gadgets as you solve puzzles and fight your enemies.  And there’s the real meat of the game: beating up bad guys.  This happens in a number of ways.  My favorite is straight-up combat, jumping into the middle of a group of twenty henchmen and taking all of the down singlehandedly.  How can you not love that?  There are also plenty of parts where stealth is the name of the game, and you have to carefully pick off each bad guy one at a time (it’s especially fun to string one up from the ceiling by the leg).

The level design is incredible and gives you a sort of open-world feel, allowing you to revisit previous areas to collect special in-game achievements.  What’s more, it all looks gorgeous.  So, if you’re looking for an all-around awesome game to play, give Batman: Arkham Asylum a go.

3] Here, There Be Dragons, by James A. Owen
What would happen if J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and H.G. Wells were all thrown into a world very much like the ones they created?  That’s the question that the Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica series aims to answer.  James A. Owen begins the story with his book, Here, There Be Dragons.  It’s an adventure that pulls together influences from just about everywhere and throws them all into a big stew.  Fortunately, the stew actually tastes fairly good.  It follows the tale of John, Charles, and Jack who are drawn into a fantasy realm that is at war against the evil Winter King.  While there are few moments where the writing is a little forced, you can tell Owen worked hard to remain faithful to the authors he depicts.  All in all, it’s a fun book to read and I am eager to start on its sequel, The Search for the Red Dragon.

4] Ghostopolis, by Doug TenNapel
Ghostopolis is one of those stories that really impacted me on a personal level.  Sure, I enjoy plenty of comics, movies, and books, but few move as much as this one did.  It’s not one particlar aspect of it that I could point out; it’s one of those unspoken feelings that just hits you.  TenNapel does a great job presenting us with a very human story set in a fictional, supernatural world.  A terminally diseased boy named Garth is accidentally sent to Ghostopolis, the name of the world of the afterlife, by Frank Gallows, an agent of the Supernatural Immigration Task Force, a government agency that hunts down wayward ghosts in the real world and sends them back to the afterlife.  Garth and Frank each have their personal battles to fight, both literally and figuratively, within Ghostopolis.  For Garth, it is learning to never accept defeat, no matter how dire the circumstances.  For Frank, it is redemption for the life he’s lived.  Their main obstacle takes the form of the evil ruler of Ghostopolis, Vaugner.  Filled with ample amounts of humor, action, and great storytelling, all wrapped in TenNapel’s odd-yet-fantastic artwork, Ghostopolis is a story I recommend to anyone.  You can find it in the Independent Reader section of any major bookstore.

5] Writing Project R
I know, I know.  Kind of cheesy, but hey, I really have enjoyed writing this story.  More than my previous two, Project R has felt like a dream to write.  That doesn’t at all mean that it’s been easy.  In fact, in some ways, it’s been the most difficult to create.  But, it’s also been the most fun and, up to this point, is the book that has the most of my “DNA” within.  I’m really excited to finish it up and present it to you guys.  I keep having to push it back thanks to other projects and life in general, but I’m busting my butt to get it finished up soon.

Alright, that’s it for this week.  Make sure you check some of this stuff out.

Maybe it’s from living in Europe when I was younger, but I love cold weather.  I like putting on layers to stay warm.  I enjoy the feel and smell of a good fire.  I also like the warm drinks that make you feel better after being outside for a while.

The summer here has been horrid, weather-wise.  100-plus degree temperatures for weeks without a drop of rain that make me sweat the moment I step outside.  No thanks.  You can only take off so many clothes before you start violating some law somewhere and your own dignity.  The last week or so, we’ve seen some days in the mid-70s and its like a breath of fresh air.  I only wish Summer would relinquish its grip, go back to sleep, and let Fall take over.

But, enough about that…

Writing Update
The Island of Istburn is currently in its review stage where my frontline editors read through the book and make suggestions.  This is the final stage before the book interior gets designed and then it all gets shipped off to CreateSpace.  After that, I review the proof, check to ensure everything looks okay, make any necessary changes, and then, a week or so later, it will be available for everyone.

If you’re like me, you like to get a preview of something before diving headlong into it.  So, in that vein, I’ve decided to start putting previews up on Scribd.com.  I have put the first two chapters of the The Thief and the Red Mandolin up on Scribd.com for your previewing pleasure.  I plan to do the same for Istburn once the book is finalized.  I may even make the books available for purchase on Scribd as an ebook, but we’ll have to see.

Recommends
Uncharted series (Game) – If you enjoy watching movies or reading adventure stories like Indiana Jones, The Mummy series (the new ones), or The Librarian, then you’ll enjoy Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune and Uncharted 2: Among Thieves.  They’re only available on the PS3, but to me, the two Uncharted titles provide one of the best experiences gaming has to offer.  If you own a PS3, you owe it to yourself to pick up this fantastic series.

 
The Last Apprentice
series by Joseph Delaney – A very well-written and engaging series.  Delaney does a fantastic job depicting the hard and sometimes gruesome life of a spook (the name given to one who keeps supernatural forces at bay).  Though aimed at ages 10 and up, it’s a horror series, so be prepared for scares and plenty of intense moments.  If you can stomach the creepy moments and occasionally gore, it’s a blast to read.

Have a good week, everyone!

First Book Signing: Done!

Posted: August 16, 2010 in Books, Games, Writing

First up, news.  The book signing on Saturday went great!  We sold all remaining copies of The Thief and the Red Mandolin that Borders had.  They had ordered five back in July and when most of those sold, they ordered fifteen additional copies.  By the time the signing rolled around it had whittled down to thirteen so I’ve sold a total of twenty books at Borders.  They told me afterward that would definitely order more copies of the book.

So, for a first book signing, not too shabby at all.  A big thanks to the folks at Borders who helped make it possible and to everyone who stopped by the table.  Even if you didn’t grab a book, I loved getting to meet new folks and chat it up with some of my friends.  Currently, there is only one other book signing scheduled, which will be at Hastings in Stillwater, OK from 7-9 p.m. on Sept. 24, but more will follow.

Weekly Writing Update
Progress continues on The Island Istburn though, as I said last post, it is a little slow, but I’m setting aside time to really crank through a lot this week and hopefully move into the final edits by the end of the month.  If you haven’t already seen it, I posted a picture of the front cover for Istburn in the Black Armor Tales page (see the tabs above).

I’m currently awaiting my last reviewer to complete their final review of my short story before submitting it.  On my drive home from lunch today, I had another short story idea pop into my head that I’ll to play around with.  I never thought I’d enjoy short fiction that much, but it’s turned out to be a nice way to exercise my creative writing muscles aside from a major project like a novel.

By the way, for you aspiring authors, I highly recommend you pick up a copy of J.A. Konrath’s e-book, “The Newbie’s Guide to Publishing.”  It compiles his many blog entries on the all the various aspects of writing into one nifty $3 package.  Some of the entries repeat information and, occasionally, he changes his opinion, but overall it is one of – if not the – best guides to beginner writers that I’ve ever read.  His honesty and bluntness are refreshing.

Recommends
Titan Quest – If you liked playing any of the Diablo games or are looking for a fun, easy way to kill a couple of hours without having to think too much, Titan Quest was made just for you.  There is a story in there somewhere, but that’s not really the point of this point-and-click action/rpg.  Kill things, get the loot, become more powerful, repeat.  Simple as that.  It borrows from the myths of ancient Greece, Egypt, and parts of Asia for a beautifully rendered setting.

Saint by Ted Dekker – The follow-up to Showdown in Ted’s Paradise series of books.  It suffers a little from some uneven pacing during the second half of the story, but still a very fun read.

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes – I consider this a must-read for anyone.  A fantastic book with the barest hint of science fiction told from the perspective of a mentally handicapped man.  Be warned, it’s the kind of book that makes you glad you read it, but you never want to read again.

I’m probably one of the least consistent blog writers out there, but I assure you I haven’t been slacking off.  My blogging silence is primarily because I’ve been working on one writing project or another as well as working to set up a marketing campaign.

Book Signings
For those of you who don’t already know, I’m holding my first ever book signing at the NW Borders (near 21st and Maize) in Wichita, KS this coming Saturday, August 14 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. If you’re in the area, swing on by and say hi, even if you already have a signed copy of my book. I enjoy getting to visit with everyone.

In case you can’t make it to that one, I will also be in Stillwater, OK on Friday, September 24 signing books at Hastings on Main St.

Writing Progress
The Island of Istburn is going well, though a little slower than I’d hoped.  However, the story continues to improve as I progress which is encouraging.  I’ve been experimenting with a different approach to editing than the first book.  As I finish a round of edits on a chapter, I’ll hand it to my wife for review and continue plugging away.  When she’s done with her review, I’ll incorporate her fixes right then.  I’m also doing something similar with my other editors though they get a larger chunk of  the book at one time.

This should save time on the back-end of the process since a lot of the editing work is happening simultaneously. I’m hoping once I hit the last chapter, it will be a matter of days before I send it to CreateSpace as opposed to weeks.

On other projects, I recently finished an 8000 word short story entitled “A Good Bowl of Ramen” that I will send off to literary magazines for publication.  The story is set in the same world as the Black Armor Tales books, but features different characters.  It’s also written in present tense from a first-person perspective.  I’m not used to writing like this, but after reading The Hunger Games (a fantastic book) I wanted to give it a try.  As it turns out, I had a ton of fun writing it.  Once it’s published (in one way or another), I hope you’ll have as much fun reading it.

I’ve also done some work on Project R, another book in a bit of a different vein from Black Armor.  It’s a science fiction story set in the distant future.  Adam, the main protagonist is, like Satchel, a young man with untapped abilities trying to find his place in the world.  But, the similarities end there.  Their personalities, attitude towards people, environments, and struggles are very different.  I’m very excited about this one and I’m eager to start working on it again once I’ve got Istburn done. 

And lastly, the first novella in the Pentinium series, co-authored with my brother Tim, will also make rounds to the various literary outlets sometime soon.  Novellas are harder to sell because of their awkward length.  Major novel publishers don’t like them because they’re too short and literary magazines don’t like them because they’re too long.  In the end, we may end up publishing it through CreateSpace as well.  This series is vastly different from anything else I’ve written.  The story has a huge cast for the size of book it is and has this hectic, zany, anything-goes kind of feel, much like the conversations between my brother and I.  There’s no real way to throw it into one genre as it has elements of science fiction, fantasy, suspense, and comedy with a splash of commentary thrown in for good measure.  More to come on this later.

Suggested Reading and Gaming
Here’s a list of books I’ve read recently and some games I’ve been enjoying that I recommend:

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – Incredible read, but has some violent moments that could be uncomfortable for some.  High school ages and up.

Mister Monday by Garth Nix – A strange book written by a strange man, but entertaining, nonetheless.  It’s the first book in the Keys to the Kingdom series.  Recommended for those who don’t mind the bizarre.

StarCraft – I recently purchased this game again after not playing if for nearly a decade.  The crazy thing is, it’s still just as enjoyable now as it was then, maybe even more so.  A landmark real-time strategy developed by Blizzard (the folks that gave us World of Warcraft) that’s easy and intuitive to pick up and play.  You can still buy it in stores for $20 or download it for $15.

Lord of the Rings Online – Yeah, yeah I’m playing an online role-playing game set in Tolkien’s universe.  I’m a nerd, so sue me.  But, my reasons for playing are not only that it’s LotR, but Turbine also does a great job at making it fun.  I think you can still get it in stores though you’re better off just downloading it from their website.  If you decide to play, let me know and we can tear through Middle Earth together, leaving a trail of dead orcs in our wake.

That’s a wrap this week folks.  My wife and I are working on getting a more refined routine to our lives and I’m hoping to make more consistent posts to this in the future.  Keep your fingers crossed.

Sorry for the blog theme swapping, but I’m trying to settle on something that feels right.  My first one was nice and clean, but didn’t really match my personal style.  The second was closer, but felt a little constrained for some reason.  This new one doesn’t seem as rigid and it has that “je ne sais quoi” about it that I like.  I may change it later if I happen to find something better, but for now, I’ll stick with this.

I recently discovered two cool online places for writers and readers alike, and thought I’d share them with you guys.  The first is called the Writers’ Database, a site put together by Luminary Publishing.  It’s a nifty (and free!) website that helps writers track what they’ve written, who they’ve sent manuscripts to, how many books they’ve sold, and it has a database of contact info for literary magazines and publishing companies that can be perused at one’s leisure.  It even has a word-count tracker that graphs your weekly progress.  Basically, it’s a great big one-stop-shop for the business side of writing. 

The next place I’ve stumbled across is GoodReads.com, a sort of Facebook for bookworms.  Whether you’re a reader or a writer, this place looks like a great hub to meet with other folks that share a common interest in books.  I’ve only just signed up myself and have no friends on there just yet, so feel free to look me.  I plan to start blogging there as well.

Writing Update
You may or may not have noticed that the progress meter for the first draft of book 2 has not budged much.  I have worked on it some, but I’ve taken a break from it to work on a cooperative project with my brother that’s been on the back-burner for a while.  Over the last few months we decided we needed to just get it done and spent several late nights hammering out details and storyline.  I won’t say much about it except that it will be of novella length (~25,000 words, or 1/4 the size of a regular novel) and be of the sci-fi/fantasy/military comedy persuasion.  Our plan is to publish this in a literary magazine before making it available as a book.  Each magazine has a different maximum word count, so depending on which magazine accepts it, the story might get broken down into an episodic format.  I’m about a third of the way through the first draft and I hope to finish it before Thanksgiving, then it’s back to work on Book 2 of the Black Armor Tales.  By the end of the year, my goal is to have Book 2 draft 1 completed and a final version of the novella done and sent off to a magazine.

Alright, without further ado, the second installment of…

5 Things from Sam’s Desk of Awesomeness: Books – Fiction Series
This week, we’ve got a selection of several fiction series that I’ve enjoyed very much over my years of reading.  They each have their place in my life and upbringing, and I recommend any one of these series for good reads.

1. Artemis Fowl – Eoin Colfer

Artemis Fowl Book 1

Eoin (pronounced like Ewan) Colfer has created a unique world that is funny, engaging, and inventive all at the same time.  I first stumbled across Artemis Fowl at the New Zealand international airport while my brother and I awaited our flight that would take us back to the U.S.  There were several books on the shelf and the premise sounded intriguing, but I already had plenty of things to read so I didn’t pick it up then.  I forgot about the series until seeing it yet again at Borders a few weeks later.  My curiosity got the better of me and I bought the first one and I’ve followed it ever since.  The series is named for the young and highly intelligent protagonist who starts out as a sort of brainiac anti-hero that gets mixed up with the underground world of fairies when he cooks up a scheme to take their gold.  As one progresses through the series, however, Artemis matures and begins to find other ways to apply his massive intellect outside of the criminal world.  With a good mix of fantasy, science fiction, drama, action, and comedy, it’s an all around fun series to read.  While you won’t find too many deep, philosophical messages here (they are, after all, aimed at the young adult crowd) the stories are fun with plenty of humor and unique, quirky characters to follow.  There are times when Colfer’s dialog is a little cheesy and the humor a bit forced, but these instances are few and far between.  All in all, a great series for anyone.  Each book is fairly self-contained, and can be picked up and read without any prior knowledge, but you get a more gratifying experience if you start with the first one.

2. The Discworld Series – Terry Pratchett
Colour of MagicIf one were to take Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and mash it together with Douglas Adams’ Hitchiker’s Guide to Galaxy series, then piled on an extra helping of sarcasm,  the Disworld series by Terry Pratchett is what you would get.  Rife with well-written prose and imagination, the 37 (as of today) book series  is definite must read for any fan of satire and/or fantasy.  Filled with oddball characters like Rincewind, the bumbling wizard, Commander Vimes, the laid-back, no-nonsense leader of the City Watch, and even Death (my personal favorite) who speaks in all capital letters, it’s a series that pokes fun at societal and fantasy conventions while at the same time delivering fantastic stories.   I began reading the series while I was in college, starting with the first book, The Colour of Magic, on the suggestion of an engineering buddy and I’ve loved them ever since.  Calvin & Hobbes books were essentially my “kids’ books” growing up and I read fantasy stories like the Chronicles of Narnia and The Hobbit, so the Discworld series felt very natural to pick up and read.  They’ve even started to make a decent set of movies based on the series.  If you get a chance, check out Hogfather and The Colour of Magic.  You’ll be glad you did.

3. The Young Indiana Jones series – various authors
Indy JonesThis series takes me back to my pre-teen days when I was all into the short novellas written specifically with young boys in mind.  I liked The Hardy Boys and Tom Swift well enough, but my favorites were always the Young Indiana Jones series.  Adventure, action, and a little (but only a little) romance, and you have all the things a young boy chases after in his imagination.  I’m afraid to revisit them in case I find the writing and stories too cliched or terrible.  Like old G.I. Joe and He-Man cartoons, I prefer to keep them locked in my head where they are still made of awesome.

4. Nero Wolfe – Rex Stout
Nero WolfeAny fan of the mystery genre has no doubt heard of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe series.  The premise and storytelling mode is similar to that of Sherlock Holmes.  Archie Goodwin, the assistant, is the series’ narrator and sidekick to Nero Wolfe, the brilliant detective.  However, the similarity with Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic series ends there.  Stout’s characters have a stronger sense of balance between them and their relationship is more symbiotic than that of Holmes and Watson.  Archie is the wise cracking footman and muscle while Nero is the highly eccentric, overweight genius who rarely ever leaves his home.  The charm of the series is their relationship and the ways each of them reacts to the situations they find themselves in.  Stout’s writing is fantastic and his characters jump straight into your mind the moment they arrive on the scene.  My favorites out of this series include The Second Confession, The Black Mountain, and The League of Frightened Men.  I have never actually read a print copy of this series, but I have listened to the audiobooks and, after hearing Michael Pritchard voice all the characters, it’s hard to read the print version because he does such a fantastic job.  There is also an A&E TV series that ran for a short time that was very good, though the actor who plays Wolfe always seems slightly off in his depiction of the great detective.

5. The Inheritance Cycle – Christopher Paolini
Eragon_book_coverI have to give it to Christopher Paolini.  At the age of 19, barely a year younger than I was at the time, he became a New York Times bestselling author with the first book in the Inheritance Cycle, Eragon.  The book spun off a movie (which was sub par in my opinion) and a video game (that I’ve heard is atrocious).  Despite the quality of the movie and the game, the books are actually quite good.  While you won’t find anything too terribly original (some have even mocked it, calling it Star Wars minus lightsabers, plus dragons) the storytelling is solid.  Though his dialogue can be a little shaky at times, his prose is well written and he successfully blends several fantasy conventions into a fun story.  I am actually in the middle of the series right now so my experience is still fairly new, relatively speaking, but his writing gets better as he goes and I look to seeing where he takes it.  I also have to credit Paolini for annoying me enough to get off my butt and finish a novel (though I do have to credit my wife – then girlfriend – for encouraging me along the way).  After reading that he’s about my age and already a major author, I got a little miffed, to say the least, but in a good way.  I have the utmost respect for Paolini and what he’s done.

Alright, that’s it for this week everybody.  Stay tuned for more info on the upcoming novella and book 2 of the Black Armor Tales.  Remember to grab a copy of book 1, The Thief and the Red Mandolin, at Amazon.com or CreateSpace when you get the chance.  Oh, and before I forget there’s also a preview of the book available here and here.  You can also purchase an e-version of the book on Smashwords, Amazon’s Kindle, the Stanza application on the iPhone (via the Smashwords line), and, soon, Sony’s e-bookstore.

Ciao,

El Capitan

20thcenturyvol1Alright, I promised 2 posts ago that I would write a review about 20th Century Boys.  Obviously, my tendency to jump onto a soap box every now and then has delayed it, but no longer!  With that said, let’s get this review underway.

Written by Naoki Urasawa, 20th Century Boys, and its sequel, 21st Century Boys, is one of the most unique and complex stories I’ve ever read.  A simple review does not do it justice, but I shall do my best.  It begins in 1997 and follows a young man named Kenji who runs a small convenience store with his mother and does his best to care for his sister’s abandoned baby daughter, Kanna.  His life changes when the police question him about the sudden disappearance of a family that Kenji delivers goods to.  Kenji visits the family’s home to see for himself, but the only thing he finds is a mysterious symbol, one that Kenji and his friends created when they played together as kids.  This same symbol has been adopted by a newly formed cult whose leader is known only as “Friend.”  Meanwhile, a deadly new virus of African origins spreads to Japan.  Initially,  it is thought that the virus is a natural phenomenon, but Kenji soon learns that it was engineered for a specific purpose and has ties to Friend’s cult.  As the story progresses, he uncovers a sinister plot that threatens the entire planet, a plot with connections back to Kenji’s childhood when he and his friends pretended to save the world from within their makeshift fort.

The story takes you back and forth in time and across multiple story threads as Kenji and his friends probe their memories in an effort to work out the vast conspiracy, and discover Friend’s true purpose.  Urasawa’s storytelling ability is absolutely amazing.  He constantly introduces new characters and ties every event, even the most insignificant ones, into a major, over-arcing storyline that spans  four decades, beginning from Kenji’s childhood in the late ’60’s and20th_century_boys_1 ultimately ending in the year 2016.  Throughout 20th Century Boys, Urasawa deals with the theme of unrelenting optimism in the face of the harshest circumstances, all the while delving into the relationships humans have with each other and with society.  Along the way, he throws in psychic and telekinetic abilities and some good ‘ol rock n’ roll rounding out this compelling masterpiece that has a way of drawing you in that I rarely ever see nowadays.

One of the things I enjoy about Urasawa is that he’s not afraid to buck many traditional storytelling devices.  He has no qualms about changing the protagonist midstream or killing off characters you’ve come to like at any time.  He will string you along for several chapters on one thread, then in a single page, completely derail you.  Yet, he always brings it back to the main story and shows its importance (thought it may take a while).

Something else I truly appreciate is that, unlike many comics, this one does not involve busty babes, wanton violence, explicit love scenes, nor the overuse of bad language (there are a few swear words here and there, but nowhere near a PG-13 movie).  Urasawa keeps it clean with a nice, simple-yet-well-done drawing style which might take a little getting used to, but once you do, you come to love it.

I can not say enough good things about 20th Century Boys.  From awesome storytelling, to great artwork, to memorable (and sometimes quirky) characters, it is without a doubt one of the finest stories I’ve ever read.  I highly recommend for anyone.  You can find it online for free via amateur translation sites, but, as someone pointed out to me, that makes it hard to go back and forth between chapters (which you will undoubtedly do) so you might consider picking up the books.  Trust me, it’s well worth it.

Take care, folks,

El Capitan