2009-12-31

The Answer is Obvious. But the Choice Was Hard.

Hello All,
And we continue on. And on. And on.

Best Graphic Novel I Read in 2009: Asterios Polyp

As I theorized back in well the answer is: Yes!

This was an incredibly hard choice to make. I believe that this has been the year of the graphic novel with so many great original works released. But again I was brought back to how blown away I was by Mazzuchelli's opus on intellectualism vs. humanity.e Art vs. Design. Talking vs. Doing. Love. Life. Everything. I am convinced that each time I read this I will find something new to marvel at. It is a masterpiece.

Here's my original post: Asterios Polyp

Have a great new years! Book Slave

Best of the Rest 2009. A Link-a-palooza.

Hello All,
Well I've been killing you all with my Best of 2009 choices this week. Here's a best of the rest of what I've read in 2009. These are books that didn't quite make it but are worth checking out as well. Each are linked with the original review posts from the past year.

Graphic Novels
Richard Parker's The Hunter
Batman: Arkham Asylum
Battlefield: The Night Witches
Queen and Country Vol.1: Definitive Edition
Alias Vol. 1
The Roberts
French Milk


Fiction
Speak
Paper Towns
Thirteen Reason's Why
The Boat
The Night in Question
Guernsey Literary and Potatoe Peel Pie Society
You Must Be This Happy to Enter


Non Fiction
What It Is

Have A Great New Years! Book Slave

2009-12-30

Wonderful Surprises of Heartbreaking Beauty

Hello All,
We continue on.

Best Fiction Book I Read in 2009: Northline by Willy Vlautin
“The book will break your heart.”
--my co-worker Zach


If it was not for a co-worker of mine I never would have picked up this book. His small review ended with the quote above, which at first I cynically snickered at, but then I decided to give it a chance. And oh my god it was the biggest surprise. As I was looking over all the fiction that I’ve read this year it was Northline by Willy Vlautin that I think really did affect me emotionally.

Vlautin is unafraid to ground his stories in harsh landscapes that are full of cruel realities. Set in Las Vegas and Reno, he dwells on the fringes that lie behind the blinking At the center of the story is a lost soul. She lacks any sense of identity for the first 40 pages. It isn't until she decides to leave Las Vegas and her abusive boyfriend, that we learn her name: Allison Johnson. Throughout the course of the book I began to cheer for her to succeed. I desperately wanted her to be happy. I despaired when she would self-destruct and make horrible mistakes. Allison has serious problems but I never felt that she deserved the horrible cards that had been dealt to her. But she has an inner strength that will lead her to overcome those circumstances.

2009-12-29

A Risky Book Club Night

Hello,
On this snowy night I attended the monthly Hard Boiled Book Club meeting. Shockingly there were 5 of us there to discuss Risk written by Colin Harrison. I really thought considering the weather and holidays that it would just be me and Zach Sampinos. It was good to see that I was wrong.

Risk is a very New York story. An insurance lawyer's everyday life is interrupted when he is called to the house of his firm's founder's widow. Awaiting her own death, she has recently suffered the loss of her son in a hit-and-run accident outside a bar on the streets of New York. She wants to know what happened and, playing on her deceased husband's respect for the lawyer, entices him into trying to find out what happened.

Originally serialized in New York Magazine, Harrison writes a well thought out whodunit. Admittedly it took awhile to suck me in. The writing style is not hardcore or pulpy. It's much more literary using vocabulary such as fungible, and playing with colloquialisms. I said it was a New York story. Harrison clearly writes to that reading audience by including all kinds of details about New York life. Everyone is obsessed with the Yankees, live in apartments, and take taxi-cabs. Some would consider this kind of regionalism off-putting but I enjoyed it. Being able to recognize even specific geography makes the main character more relatable. He is one of us.

Harrison strives to make clear the mediocrity of his main character. He is not a top PI, or cop/detective. Young sees himself that way. However he has enough of a specific skill set to plausibly solve this mystery. I also enjoyed the relationship that he has with his wife. He often refers to her as being smarter than him and the lack of drama between them is refreshing. It was very "Nick and Norah" the way they played off each other. I would have enjoyed more of that.

Harrison does get lost in his red herrings. I wish more would have been made of the Czech girlfriend or a Russian mob connection. Here I think some of the original serialization starts to show through. Characters drop in and drop out in the course of a chapter. A lot exposition dump occurs in the course of 12 chapters. I was hoping for a bit more complexity. This reminded me of something I would see on television which speaks to the nature of the way that it's written.

Our group was pretty split on the Dickenesque ending. Don't worry, I won't reveal it here. Personally I enjoyed it because of the way that the main character reacts. His actions are always grounded in doing his job, rather than some moral/ethical dilemma. He is not a tortured cynical man. Even as he acquires great fortune he refuses to let himself be changed by it. His wife, Yankees, and $14 wine is all he needs.

I had a good time tonight. Fun was had by all. Happy New Years, Book Slave.

Reading List 12/29/09-1/5/2010

Hello,
Here's the plan this week heading into the next decade.

Books
Sherlock Holmes Vol. 1
(Directly influenced by the excellent new Sherlock Holmes movie)
Batman: Battle for the Cowl

Magazines
Vanity Fair

Comics
A Healthy stack of Comic goodness

Comic Pull List: Blackest Night #6
(Note: It's a skip week for comics. Have a nice week off Diamond Distribution.)

Have a great week! Book Slave.

Pre-Conceived Notions

Hello,
Howse it going? It's incredibly chilly here. I've considered building a fire in the middle of my room. Can we just move forward to March? Please?

Best Non-Fiction I Read in 2009: It's Complicated: The American Teenager by Robin Bowman and Robert Coles


This was a hard choice because I haven't read a lot of non-fiction this year. However as I looked over the course of what I've read in 2009 it was a collection of photography titled It's Complicated that generated the biggest emotional response. I have always loved photography. However rather than beautiful vistas and sunsets, I love portraits of regular individuals living their ordinary lives. There's a simple beauty that is captured in people's faces that I find more interesting than any waterfall.

It's Complicated: The American Teenager was pulled together through The American Teenager Project by photographer Robin Bowman and sociologist Robert Coles. They branched out across the U.S. and chronicled the stories of teenagers in the 2000s. I feel as if it ranks right up there with the work of Robert Frank. As he captured the beginning of the teenage movement in the 1950s, Bowman captures them at the beginning of a new millenium. Often a marginalized and maligned group I found these intimate portraits both fascinating and heartbreaking. These portraits ask us to reconcile our pre-concieved ideas and stereotypes by using a variety of diverse individuals. I was struck by many of their stories. I still remember the story of a Muslim American teen who was reinvigorated in her faith after 9/11. Or a homeless teen who feels the need to wander like his "Beat" writers. These stories are wonderfully contrasted with a Texan debutante who is excited to be a part of her first cotillion. These cross-sections of the American experience capture the wonderful horrible experience of being a teenager.

Here's my original review from earlier this year: It's Complicated: The American Teenager

Have a great week! Book Slave.

2009-12-28

Yes It was Fantastic.

Hello,
My end of the year thoughts continue!

Best Movie Literary Adaptation 2009: Fantastic Mr. Fox
Just to qualify this choice up front: At the time of my writing this I have yet to see The Road or The Lovely Bones so don't give me grief. I fully intend to and who knows you might read about it in the future. Also I want to make clear that I don't see everything that comes out. I don't have time for movies that don't interest me. So moving along...


The Fantastic Mr. Fox is the perfect match of sensibilities. Based on the book written by Roald Dahl, the script was adapted by Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach. In their adaptation the writers expand upon the original book but never enough that it moves away from the original audience or message. Dahl and Anderson share the same viewpoint on human nature-there isn't much difference between humans and animals.

In this adaptation the main character Mr. Fox has regular wants and desires. I was so struck when he says to his wife "I don't want to live in a hole anymore." He struggles with an existential angst which leads him to go back to stealing chickens and cider from his farmer neighbors. It is the thrill of the theft that Mr. Fox becomes addicted to. At the same time we are introduced to the deplorable Boggis, Bunce, and Bean. These three men, especially Bean, are as animalistic as those they are hunting. The parallels are easily drawn.

I have never been a purist when it comes to book to film adaptation. Any adaptation should feel free to expand/make changes from the source material in order to match the different medium. I have been a fan of director Wes Anderson since I saw Rushmore in theaters. He has a definite style and humor that is smart and full of wit. You know that you've watched a "Wes Anderson" film. And I have a feeling that he will never make films any other way.
In Fox Anderson/Baumbach use a look and feel that works on all levels. The stop motion animation allows me to believe in a world where animals walk around in suits, sell real estate, and do watercolors. It was a wonderful choice. These characters can do whacky things, but also show very real emotions. The filmmakers have humor and themes that both adults and children can relate to.

It was highly enjoyable. Check it out in theaters if you can.

Have a great week! Book Slave.

2009-12-27

Leave it to Dickens and the BBC

Hello,
So I hope you are all enjoying the holidays! I'm looking forward to family festivities tonight and tomorrow. Got the hot chocolate going on. It's all good.

If everything goes as planned I'm gonna space out my Best of 2009. Here's the first.

Best Television Literary Adaptation: Little Dorrit

This was really no contest in 2009. As always it's the BBC that raises the bar for bringing literature to television. Television is often denigrated for how it kowtows to the lowest in our nature. Like reality television for instance. However, while network television has given up on the literary mini-series, PBS/BBC/Masterpiece Theater continues to serve us bibliophiles. They did not disappoint earlier this spring with their spate of Dickens adaptations.

Little Dorrit, having aired to great acclaim on BBC in fall 2008, was the mini-series I was looking forward to the most. And it did not let me down. All my thoughts on the series as a whole can be found here. In retrospect it's still my opinion that Dorrit was topical and dramatic, with brilliant performances. Claire Foy and Matthew McFadayen are wonderful as our protagonists. As an audience member I openly cheered for their mutual happiness, as they overcame the misery that surrounds them. Andy Serkis is a wonderful Dickenesque villian, although perhaps it was a mistake to give him so much exposition. Screenwriter Andrew Davies finds a way to include the absurdism of economic bureacracy, as well as the humanity of these characters. Also if you don't shed a tear for poor young Chivers, well then I think you're not human.

I just have to add that part of the fun of experiencing Dorrit was being able to share my reactions with those on The Egalitarian Bookworm and Dickensblog. I suggest checking out their reactions to Dorrit. Trust me, they are much smarter than I am. Little Dorrit is available on DVD, as well as online. It's well worth checking out.

If I haven't convinced you enough to check this out then here's a trailer from BBC:



Have a great weekend! Book Slave

2009-12-23

A Gift For Us All

Hello,
Two clips that brought me great cheer. I hope they will for you too.



And



Happy Holidays! Book Slave.

2009-12-22

Reading List 12/22/09-12/29/09

Hey,
Happy Holidays to you all!

Books
Risk by Colin Harrison
Audacity to Win by David Plouffe

Comics
Comics! Comics! Comics!

Magazines
Vanity Fair

Comic Pull List: Amazing Spider-Man #616, Criminal Sinners #3, Detective Comics #860, Fantastic Four #574, Garth Ennis Battlefields Happy Valley #1, Gotham City Sirens #7, Green Lantern #49, New Avengers #60, Northlanders #23, Powers (New) #2, Spider-Woman #4, Stand Soul Survivors #3, Superman #695, Wonder Woman #39

Happy Holidays! Book Slave.

2009-12-20

Some Babbling Regarding Next Year

Hey,
Don't you hate it when you know that you need to finish a book but you just can't. I'll just have to push through Audacity to Win. Being a political junkie it's feeding all my needs in that regard. However the book is due folks! And I also have 8 billion other things I want to read before the end of the year. Oh the frustration!

I find this happens far too often. Maybe next year I'll have to make a reassessment of my priorities. Should I focus on books that I own? or books that are due back to my library? Should I pass up good stuff even if I never get a chance to look at it again? Also life does end up interceding on occasion. I am taking a major exam soon, and hopefully grad school will follow that. What to do? Well I'll figure it out. It always ends up balancing itself out in the end.

Ultimately I look forward to 2010, and don't worry I haven't given up on this blogging thing yet.

Have a great week! Book Slave.

2009-12-19

Reading Plays.

Hey,
This is long delayed due to tech delays and the busyness of the world. Enjoy!

Reading Plays: Pitfalls and Epiphanies

As I've written before, ever since I was a high school theater geek I started reading plays. Now conventional wisdom does say that plays are meant to be seen rather than read. However I live in a place where often it's a few years before I'll get the chance to see a play. Ever since I first heard of it during it's Broadway run, I was desperate to know what Angels in America was all about. But I also knew that it was going to be a long while before I got a chance to see it. Luckily I was able to find a copy at the library. This was where I began to critically see plays as literature that can exist outside of their performance.

Playwrights such as Shakespeare, Kushner, and Stoppard write complicated plays that require careful attention. When I started this blog I read Stoppard's Utopia trilogy and it was way over my head intellectually. I can only imagine what it would be like to experience a staged production. I think my head would spin from the philosophical references alone. Without any background information or intellectual insight a Stoppard play can be pretty inaccessible. I still love them though. And as long as I know what I'm in for, I can actually enjoy it better when I do see the play performed eventually.

I bring all this up as context to my re-reading this week of the play Copenhagen by Michael Frayn. Frayn centers the plot around a mysterious meeting between physicists Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg. in Copenhagen in 1941. The primary mystery that the 3 characters in the play debate is deceptively simple: Why did Heisenberg come to Copenhagen? The three characters in the play, Heisenberg, Bohr, and Bohr's wife Margrethe speculate openly amongst each other. Frayn allows himself incredible flexibility by having them exist in past and present. Anger, resentment, and forgiveness all play out amongst these former friends. According to Frayn, Bohr and Heisenberg are separated by the scientific ethics and responsibilities regarding the atomic bomb.

Frayn is brilliant in his conception of these characters and the high stakes of their discussion. Before reading this play I had no idea who these men were. I do understand the stakes of the weaponization of atomic energy, but really that's only half the play. By reading the play I was able to delve even further into the scientific concepts of Uncertainty and Schrodinger's Cat. I'm positive that I would have been lost while watching the play performed, no matter how great the actor's ability might be. This is a prime example where I feel that "reading" the play is necessary to gaining even more appreciation for what the playwright has created.

On the other hand I also read Bash: Latter-day Plays by Neil Labute. I've been meaning to pick this up for sometime because Labute is somewhat local. He went to Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, which is very surprising. BYU is known for it's rigid conservatism and uber-religiosity. In Bash Labute discusses the effects of violence on that culture. He uses three monologues made directly to the audience to steer us towards the ugliness inherent in human nature. Of the three I was most affected by Medea Redux. In this monologue a young woman details her seduction and revenge on a high school teacher. The medea reference should give you an idea of how this story ends up. Labute brilliantly is able to capture the exuberance of love but refuses to ignore the consequences. As a writer Labute takes a lot of criticism for his focus on the ugly, but I respect the fact that he refuses to pull any punches.

Unfortunately I think that any empathy or compassion for these characters is lost on the page. His work relies on talented actors to release any sympathy that I may feel towards these characters. Bash is a play that is written to be seen. I think it loses it's power when it is read without the actors as reference. Because of this I'm going to reserve judgment on it until it's possible to see the play in my area. Unfortunately that could be awhile since the LDS don't take kindly to criticism.

In the end what is the conclusion here? It's important to realize that true understanding requires a combination of both reading & watching. If I really want to get at the author's complexities I need to take into account what performance brings to the table.

Have a great week! Book Slave.

2009-12-16

Happy B-day Jane Austen


Hello,
Today our dear Jane would be 234 years old. As I've discussed before, I think that many of us female readers consider Jane Austen to be "our Jane." I think the fact that she died so young, didn't marry, and never sold out, means that I will always see her through a positive prism. She never fell from grace or let me down. Because I like her smart aleck, witty, narrative voice I feel as if I know her. But in reality all I know is a picture of her that I've created in my head. If she was still around today I am convinced that she would still be unmarried. Perhaps she'd appreciate the wit of Wes Anderson and moon over George Clooney. She'd enjoy the social commentary of Mad Men but also the lustiness of True Blood. At this point we are almost 200 years after the publishing of Sense and Sensibility in 1811. I want to add one more adjective to the discussion of Miss Austen's influence: revolutionary.

Consider that in the early 19th century the idea of the novel was fairly new. Sure you had Don Quixote, Henry Fielding, and the gothic world of Radcliffe. Novels were largely written in epistolary or Journal form. Fiction was still an evolving art form. Being an avid reader Austen was able to read literature critically with a discerning eye. This is evident in her satirical critiques of books and reading. I think her finest sections in North Hanger Abbey involve her discussion of the effects of too much reading has had on the characters. Also remember that Emma decides to read more when she sets upon her own self improvement. (Of course the joke lies in the fact that it didn't do Emma much good. So clever.)

However her revolution goes even further. While it is obvious that she was not as interested in Romanticism as her peers were, she does not completely discount it. Austen showed an austere pragmatism in her realization of the world she inhabited. But rather than be as cynical as Voltaire or Wharton her stories wrap up in happily ever afters. Generally the lovers find suitable partners, villians get there comeuppance, and society goes on.

One has to ask: Where did this approach come from? It's not immediately evident in the literature of the time. Robinson Crusoe was too busy finding God. Radcliffe was more interested in creeping people out. Ivanhoe was fighting in the 12th century. So that leaves us with the clearest influence on "our Jane"-William Shakespeare.

Shakespeare's comedies display in theatrical form all the aspects that Jane Austen would later bring to the novel form. Lovers long separated, misunderstandings, and even the obligatory marriage endings. She clearly saw that this is what the reading audience would want. That's some forward thinking, considering there wasn't even a massive literary distribution in place at that time. There was no promise of money or notoriety in being an author. In fact the profession was notorious, especially for women. So what motivated her? She just had to write. In her eyes there was no other option.

What a blow it must have been to have her first 3 novel attempts end up going nowhere. No wonder she stagnated for a few years while suffering in Bath. In the end her talent and foresight was so strong that eventually a publisher gave it a chance. It still took until 1811 that Sense and Sensibility got published. Austen had to wait for the literatti to catch up with her. By 1811 Gothic had played itself out. Audiences wanted a secularization of literature. And "our Jane" brought it.

Jane Austen found a new way to tell the stories that she wanted to tell. And didn't give up. That's a revolutionary act in and of itself.

Here's a fun Jane Austen entry from the past: Teach Me Jane I'm Willing to Learn...

Happy Birthday Jane!

Have a great day, Book Slave.

2009-12-15

Reading List 12/15-12/22/09

Hey,
Massive apologies. Been suffering through some technological difficulties as of late.

Here's the reading list for this week.

Books
Audacity to Win
Risk

Comics
A slowly diminishing pile

Magazines
Four Four Two

Comic Pull List: Amazing Spider-Man #615, Batman #694, Batman Streets Of Gotham #7, Daredevil #503, Dark Wolverine #81, Fables #91

Have a great week! Book Slave

2009-12-11

New Things Can Be Good

Hey
Here comes some reviews old-school style. It's important to note that at least 2 of the reviews here are for all new series and one's a series I discovered this year. Yep I'm willing to try new things. It's not a bad idea.

Onward!

Reviews
Storming Paradise
Here's an interesting "What if" scenario: What if the United States had invaded Japan in WW2? This is the question examined by Chuck Dixon in his new series Storming Paradise. I enjoyed the realism Dixon and artist Butch Guice employed in this mini. War is terrible. No matter where/when, the consequences are never good. Dixon draws direct parallels to Vietnam-esque slaughter and the tolls that it can take on soldiers. This was a great examination and I hope that I can see more mini's like this from Chuck Dixon.

Other Chuck Dixon Reviews: Birds of Prey

Irredeemable
So what would happen if the world's greatest hero decided to become a villian? This is Mark Waid's best work in years. I thoroughly enjoyed this trade. Waid has been stereotyped for as "the 60s silver age guy" since Kingdom Come. It's a pleasure to watch him rip loose and challenge that image. In these opening issues we watch as his former proteges try to understand why the Plutonium has gone bad. Amazingly Waid is able to capture it in one fatal scene, as Plutonium hears that one voice in the crowd that is ungrateful and mocking. That is the first step in a hero loosing his mind. Anyone who works in public service knows that feeling. Fortunately I don't have super powers or I might have lost it a long time ago. But I digress. Waid's genius is also that we hear Plutonium's story as told through others such as his fellow teammates and girlfriend. This ratchets up the mystery and suspense. Check out this new series, it's worth it.

Here's a cool Video Trailer from Boom Studios




BPRD: The Black Goddess
My journey with the BPRD continues. I was touched by the team's efforts to rescue Liz Sherman who was kidnapped in the prior volume. Also apparently there's some crazy battle going on between dragons, demon frogs, and the US military. I'm not quite sure what's going on. However I do think that this breaks the mold of being a self-contained story because if you had not read the prior volume you'd be lost. It'll be nice when this "Scorched Earth" trilogy is completed and our team can get back to doing missions. I love the fact that Lobster Johnson is back. I can't wait for the next volume to see what they'll do with this super-cool character.

Past Reviews: BPRD vol. 1 & 2 & 6, BPRD vol. 3 & 4 , BPRD Vol. 5, BPRD Vol. 7, BPRD Vol. 8

Have a great weekend! Book Slave.

2009-12-09

Reading List 12/8-12/15/09

Here's my planned Reading List this week.

Books
Copenhagen
The Way He Lived


Comics
A Crazy stack of Goodness

Magazine
Four Four Two

Comic Pull List: Action Comics #884, Adventure Comics #5, Amazing Spider-Man #614, Batgirl #5, Black Widow Deadly Origin #2, Green Arrow Black Canary #27, Red Robin #7

Should be easy to find time now that we've been blanketed with the white.

2009-12-08

A Touch of Frost

Hey,
When I woke up this morning I looked out the window. To my shock and amazement there was a layer of snow covering the world. I'm really not a big winter fan, I prefer the fall, but I really love fresh new fallen snow.

This all brought to mind a work that I haven't thought about in awhile Robert Frost's Stopping By a Woods on a Snowy Evening. For those who may have forgotten here it is, with my thoughts interspersed:

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.


So who is the "He"? It's not the narrator, although it seems like the narrator knows this "he" who owns the woods. I think it's going a bit far to say that it's the biblical "he"; that doesn't seem to be Frost's intention. At this point the narrator does not feel as if he owns the woods, just like often an individual may feel as if they have no control over their own life. So if the woods is the world, then our narrator is taking a moment to reflect on it.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.


Is the horse perhaps a symbol for the rest of the world? The horse is urging the narrator towards action. The horse doesn't understand the need to stop. I often have trouble myself just taking a moment to stop and consider.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.


Of course this communion requires silence.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,


One could easily be sucked in, but the world beckons. Even our narrator feels compelled to return to his duties.

And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.


These last two lines just feels like an audible sigh. The repetition of the line completes the thought and gives us closure.

Now this could all be read as a analogy for death, mortality, and how we live our lives. Frost argues that a life of reflection is often wished for, but ultimately isn't possible. Whose to blame for this? Ourselves. We get in our own way.

Oh poetry is good. Have a great week! Book Slave.

2009-12-06

Unto the Breach

Hello,
On this wonderfully snowy morning I prepare for the first Xmas party of the year. Yep it's a massive family event. I remember fondly that our family used to get together at Grandma's house on Christmas eve and kick it holiday style. Slowly but surely the party has gotten earlier and earlier. There are good and bad reasons for this but here's a good approximation of how I feel about it.



We'll see how it all turns out. At least there will be plenty of food.
Have a great Sunday. Book Slave.

2009-12-03

How December Got Awesome.

Hello,
So I was catching up on my Google Reader (isn't it great how once you reach 1000+ they stop keeping track?) and thanks to fellowette my December got awesome. Apparently this month PBS will be reshowing Cranford! Originally shown last year Cranford is a mini-series based on the books of Elizabeth Gaskell. The plot revolves around the relationships in a rural English village in 1840. The mainly female populace of the town is thrown for a loop when a young male doctor arrives.

Okay I'll admit it sounds pretty stuffy (and really not for males who like explosions) but it's hilarious. And touching. These spinsters are happy being in their own company. Unlike Austen or Bronte these females lives are not centered around romance or marriage. They worry about progress, money, and proper etiquette. The oncoming modernity of a railway is feared because of how much it will change these women's lives. They do not want the world to encroach on their simple pleasures. Gaskell, and the writers of this series, realized that the paradox of technological development is that it makes our lives more complicated not easier.

On the other hand the series also does a great job commenting on the inequalities that still exist even in a pastoral paradise. I was captured by the subplot involving the foreman Edmund Carter and his young charge Harry Gregson. Rather than just the usual 19th century reward of money and status, Harry wants something more lasting: knowledge. Money and status can be lost, (prime example: Lady Ludlow) but education sticks. It's lovely how education can help anyone transcend class in this world. Prior to a public education system the poorer classes had to fight to even gain literacy. Edmund Carter represents a positive sociological change.

Whereas Dickens often forced a character's innate goodness down our throats, Gaskell recognizes that positive change needs to be incremental. Otherwise it is feared and rejected. It should be noted that it took 2 World Wars for England to finally get over it's class system. The English don't change easily. But the world keeps moving forward, even in small rural villages.

Cranford is a place where I would love to live. And I can't wait to return.

2009-12-02

Making Lists: Best Books of the '00s

Hello,
Here we are at the end of the year. Which also means the end of the '00s. 2010 is quickly approaching. Now while that blows my mind, I guess you just have to roll with it. I started thinking back about the books I've read in the last 10 years.
Which also coincides with my years in book selling, strange eh? Well you can certainly tell that by how vast my book collection has grown. But I digress...

So here's a list of 10 books that I've read over the past decade that stand out in my mind. Now before we get started I do want to make this clear: There are many incredible books out there that I have not read yet. I'm sure that there are titles that would make this list that are sitting on my TBR pile as I type. There are also books that frankly I'm not interested in spending time on ie. Twilight so they're not on this list either. If that discredits me in your minds, well...this is a blog after all.

Alright here we go.

The Best Books of the '00s that I Have Read In No Particular Order

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 1 (2000) by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill
A wonderful adventure that combines 19th century literary characters with a modern wit.

Past Review: League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 1

Northline (2008) by Willy Vlautin
Highly emotional story of redemption.

Past Review: Northline

Spanking the Donkey (2006) by Matt Taibbi
Savage discussion of the presidential election of 2004. Taibbi is the next Hunter Thompson.

Areas of My Expertise (2006) by John Hodgman
Amazing satire and humor. Laughed till tears were leaking out of my eyes.

Sex Drugs and Cocoa Puffs (2003) by Chuck Klosterman
A great collection of essays on pop culture. Fave essay: Klosterman's vendetta against Cold Play.

Fingersmith (2002) by Sarah Waters
Amazing mixture of Dickensian mystery and heart-breaking romance. I was shocked by the narrative twists.

Old School (2004) by Tobias Wolff
This is a great fiction novel that celebrates readers who love writers. Best depiction/discussion of Ayn Rand ever.

The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-time (2003) by Mark Haddon
Great mystery and expert use of character P.O.V.

Atonement (2002) by Ian McEwan
This book is much more raw and savage then it's romantic reputation. I was so involved in this book while reading it on the train that I missed my stop. Still blown away by the final paragraph.

The Road (2006) by Cormac McCarthy
Cormac McCarthy has captured the enduring need for hope in a world filled with despair. Really, just read it.

Enjoy! Book Slave.

2009-12-01

Reading List: Week 12/1/09-12/8/09

The Reading List
Here's what I plan to decimate this week.

Books
Audacity to Win
This Boy's Life


Comics
Massive Stack! Still a bit behind I'm afraid.

Magazine
School Library Journal
(Also want to read the Hillary Clinton Profile in Vogue. I heard it was good.)

Comic Pull List: Blackest Night The Flash #1, Blackest Night Wonder Woman #1, Cinderella From Fabletown With Love #2, Superman World Of New Krypton #10, Sweet Tooth #4, Terry Moores Echo #17

And some zines for work.

Have a great week! Book Slave.

2009-11-30

Going Old School Review-style

Hey folks,
This is an old school review post but don't hold that against it. Enjoy!

Reviews
Scalped vol. 5
This series continues to be the gold standard for comics. Writer Jason Aaron has no qualms about showing the dirty ugly side of these characters. The world of Scalped is a horrible uncompromising place. Chalk it up to Aaron's skillful writing and characterizations that the reader is still enthralled by something so bleak. It's great stuff. If I had any complaints about this volume it is that it felt like a lot of setup for the next arc. I want the series to return to putting Dashiell Badhorse back at the center of the story. But I still enjoyed it and can't wait for the next volume.

Other Reviews
The Outhousers | Broken Frontier
Past Reviews: Scalped Vol. 1, Scalped Vol. 2, Scalped Vol. 3, Scalped Vol. 4

Brokeback Mountain: Story to Screenplay
This is a great tool for anyone who is interested in the transformation of prose to screenplay. It includes the original short story by Annie Proulx, screenplay by Diana Ossana and Larry McMurtry, as well as essays about the process. Now since the film adaptation was so successful I do feel an air of self-congratulatoriness is on display here. For once I'd like to read one of these books where the adaptation was really bad. But that will never happen. Anyway the original short story by Proulx is worth reading in an of itself. It is amazing that in 30 pages of spare, rough prose Proulx manages to break your heart. I live in the western states and I've known men like Ennis. She captures his stoicism and grit. As she states in her essay, included here, that Brokeback Mountain is a story of "emotional deprivation." And it hurts more to live without feeling completely; that's why Ennis's life is tragic. McMurtry/Ossana capture and expand upon Proulx's foundation. The screenplay adaptation by these writers is expert and worth reading for any aspiring screenwriter.

Bio Info: Brokeback Mountain

Starman Omnibus Vol. 3
This incredible series continues to be awesome. Here we start off with an amazing 4 issue mini-series about my favorite character The Shade. This mini is worth the omnibus alone, I loved it. Robinson deepens Shade's history which features a 200 year old feud. I cannot heap enough praise on this mini. But then Robinson continues to do a great job with these characters. They are all well-rounded and real even though they are also superheroes. Talking of superheroes I especially enjoyed how Robinson gave several nods to the silver age heroes. Jack Knight gets to work with Batman, have dinner with the Justice Society, and learn about his dad's tragic love affair with Black Canary. It's great that Robinson has such a love for the golden age and the DC Universe, however Starman stays grounded in Opal City. We don't see him in Gotham or Metropolis. The continuity is easy to keep track of and the story stays character-centric. I would have liked a bit more Jack Knight, rather than so much about the side characters. But when the characters are so rich it's hard to complain.

Past Reviews: Starman Omnibus Vol. 1, Starman Omnibus Vol. 2

Have a great week! Book Slave.

2009-11-27

Asterios Polyp

Is Asterios Polyp the Best Graphic Novel of 2009?



I hate to prognosticate with still one month to go but it would be difficult to top this visual masterpiece. Where has David Mazzuchelli been? He is best known for his work on Batman Year One. However then he dropped out of comics. Well I have to say with the release of Asterios Polyp, Mazzuchelli has come roaring back.

This original graphic novel follows a man named Asterios Polyp. He is an esteemed teacher of Design who struggles in his human relationships. His extreme intellectualism has led to the breakdown of his marriage and loss of position. Polyp is also haunted by his twin brother who died inutero before his birth.

I can hardly begin to discuss how Mazzuchelli stretches the visual possibilities of the form. Just artistically this book is a visual feast. He dynamically uses panel layout, typography, and color on page after page. It will blow your mind. I was particularly struck with how Mazzuchelli illustrates the arguments between Asterios and his artist wife Hanna. As Hanna becomes more red and blurry, Asterios literally devolves into geometric shapes. What a wonderful visual cue as to the differences between these two! Another sequence that is mind blowing involves Asterios flashing back to all the good and bad moments of his failed marriage. In this way Mazzuchelli expertly mirrors on the page the way memories can flood into the mind.

The visual motifs on display are stunning. Mazzuchelli purposelly uses different typography for the word balloons of every character. While Asterios's is very rigid, Hanna's is in a rounded scrawl. He even uses the placement of the wordballoons to indicate the nature of what's being said. Often when Asterios is being pompous his word balloon will literally take over the space and cover other character's. Even while telling a story through representation every page has incredible symbolic weight.

To be honest Asterios Polyp is not a very likeable character, but I was struck at how much I became invested in his journey. Let's face it Asterios is too smart for his own good. He's an intellectual jerk, who is constantly competing to be the smartest guy in the room. Mazzuchelli surrounds Polyp with a variety of different characters who are wonderfully human. I grew to love the married couple that Asterios lives with for awhile. The auto mechanic Stiff Major and his holistic hippie wife, Ursula, represent a wonderful contrast between the intellectual and sensual world. While they are opposites in many ways Stiff and Ursula are perfect partners. Their embracing of all life will ensure that they will never stop dreaming.

The realization that humanity requires an equal measure of both intellect and romanticism lies at the heart of Polyp's emotional journey. The complexity of this story belies the usual literary smugness that graphic novels often face. Graphic novels are more than just superheroes. Mazzuchelli has thrown down the gauntlet and created a work of art.

Read it. Read it now.

Other Reviews
New York Times | Entertainment Weekly | ifanboy

Have a great weekend! Book Slave.

2009-11-25

This week's reading list.

Here's the reading material I plan on decimating this week. Look for reviews in the future.

I'm also planning on doing some zine reading for work.

The Reading List
Books
Brokeback Mountain: From Book to Screenplay
This Boys Life


Comics
Still a massive stack!

Magazine
Wizard

I better get started eh? Book Slave.

2009-11-24

Book Club Night = My salvation.

Hello,
I hope you all are enjoying the format change. Last entry ended up being massive! Yeah shorter entries my ass. Well I can't help it that I'm wordy. Well moving on...

Tonight was Book Club Night. For those coming in late: On the last Tuesday of the month I attend The Hard Boiled Book Club @ Sam Weller's Book. More Info is available here. It's run and moderated by former coworker/friend/burgeoning writer Zach Sampinos and focuses on alternative fiction. I started going because it sounded fun and it would force me to read fiction that I normally wouldn't even pick up. It's a fun/insightful group and I urge anyone in the SLC that's interested to come on down. Feel free to sit in even if you haven't read the book.

The pick this month was The Night in Question by Tobias Woolf. I am already a big fan of Woolf's work. His fictional novel Old School was one of my favorite books a few years ago. Yet I still haven't read any of his short story collections. It was a great surprise to see that Woolf is as good at short fiction as he is at a novel/memoir.

As fellow club member Chris pointed out Woolf uses a great elevated diction that is not stylistic at all. His word choice can be beautiful and horribly specific. This is true in my favorite stories of this collection. Specifically "Bullet to the Brain" is a tour-de-force of short story writing. It starts off with a man annoyed while standing in line at the bank, and takes a crazy left turn. Woolf's ability to start a story with something mundane and then raise the stakes took my breath away. I felt the same way about the titular story "The Night in Question" which also takes it's characters down an unexpected direction. A brother and sister, both brutally abused as children, try to make sense of what can be a cruel world. The brother tries to relate a story that points to a faith in god, whereas his sister turns it another way. Woolf does an excellent job establishing the complicated relationship that exists for those who are physically abused. Their love for each other is a bond fused by that shared horrible childhood. As an adult how do you make sense of such cruelty? Woolf is wonderfully ambiguous. He refuses to offer an easy answer.

This brings me to what I think is the thru-line of this collection: Since death is inevitable, life should be about finding happiness. Whether it be the pleasure that can be brought by a 100 dollar bill in "Smorgasbord" or a lonely teacher who can't stop falling in love in "Life and Death of the Body". Woolf's characters are either living fully or their soul's are dying depending on their choices. In "The Chain" the main characters begin a cycle of violence that can only bring death. As in "Casualty" war brings two men together only to be ripped apart by a meaningless death. Again and again Woolf shows the importance of his character's choices. In the end I look toward the optimism of the story "Powder". A father and son both enjoy the fact that they are good at something. Happiness can be the acceleration of moving a barricade and expertly driving through a snowstorm.

Other Reviews: Entertainment Weekly, scottwilliamfoley, Red Room

Have a great night! Book Slave.

2009-11-23

5 Days off people. Yes, It's true.

Hey Cyber-world,
Call it fate or destiny, perhaps the universe is trying to test me, but somehow this week I ended up with 5 days off in a row. Considering at this time last year, and actually the last 10 years, this has been the beginning of the busiest time of year for me, I am completely thrown by this utter change. What to do with myself? Well I thought about my recent blogging dry spell and have decided this week to try a format change. This week I'm going to post some small bite-size versions of the Book Pusher. Oh don't worry if I choose to be long-winded well then that's how it'll be. Don't be afraid. This will stave off the possibility of my own insanity this week. Also means you could get more of me. So away we go.

Annual Book-Movie Adaptations I Look Forward To In the Latter Half of 2009, or Book Pusher goes to the Movies
The latter half of the year is a sublime time of year. I am able to combine my two obsessions, books and movies, as studios try to make up for the crap they show in summer. Now just to be clear: I am not an adaptation purist. Movies and books are two different mediums. They don't have to be exactly the same. In fact they shouldn't be, because some techniques don't work in both mediums. Also movies need to be a reasonable length. If you want my attention for more than two hours the story better be damn compelling or put it on TV. Dashiell Hammett said it best when he argued that Hollywood cannot ruin a book as long as the book is in print and sits on your shelf. If I think an adaptation looks bad then I just don't go see it.

Important to note: If I have not mentioned a film here, like say New Moon or Precious, well it's because I'm not interested in seeing those films. Hey this is a blog, it's self-centered by definition.

So moving on, here's a list of adaptations that I'm looking forward to for the rest of the year. Shockingly there isn't that many out this fall. I think this is more a reflection of the writer's strike, because these movies take a long time to develop and make. Also I see a distinct move towards more comedies which are sure bets in these economic times (for proof I point you to a movie called Sullivan's Travels. See it.) Anyway what is this a movie blog?

So moving on, here's a list of adaptations that I'm looking forward to for the rest of the year.

The Road (11/25)-Seriously I am rabid for this film. It looks like the perfect combination of cast, director, and story.

Fantastic Mr. Fox (11/25)-Again I cannot wait. Wes Anderson & Roald Dahl sounds like a perfect combination. And it's animated! Yay.

Up In the Air (12/11 limited)-Everything I've seen and heard about this looks great. Could be Clooney's best performance of the year. Jason Reitman is an incredible writer/director.

The Lovely Bones (12/11)-Not 100% sure on this one, but the trailer does have a eerie feeling. I hope this marks a return for Jackson to his earlier style. If you've seen Frighteners or Heavenly Creatures then you know that Jackson is a good choice for this material.

Sherlock Holmes (12/25)-Discussing this with mystery fans I've found that opinions on this film are mixed. Even though this film is an original tale and looks very modern I'm still interested. Guy Ritchie has a definite style and his casting reflects that. This could be fun if you can let go. Purists may hate it.

Again not too many films this year, but the one's that are coming out are massive. I've already been impressed by the film adaptations of Where the Wild Things Are, and the highly literate Bright Star.

So keep an eye out for more shorter posts this week. Or any signs of Shining-esque insanity. Enjoy! Book Slave.

2009-11-10

Really I should be in bed.

Hello,
Oh I've been busy folks! But really that's not a good enough excuse for the 10s of loyal readers who follow this blog. I thank you all for taking a minute to enjoy these little thoughts of mine.

Since I last wrote you I've been introduced to a new lit form: Zines. As part of my job I'm now cataloguing and reading zines. To learn more about it I went to a seminar about zines that was led by our gurus Clinton Watson and Mary Anne Heider. It was very good and definitely gave me a sense of where zines fit in the alternative press community. There was also a long discussion about the pros and cons of digitalizing zines with the focus being on preservation. Personally I am more interested in "physical" books. I don't use e-readers and I'm not interested in The Kindle. However if we're talking about periodicals which are rare I can see digitalization as an important option for libraries. Anyway it was a great seminar and I'm interested in learning more. A few days later myself and another co-worker Isabelle set up a table promoting the zine collection before an event at our library. It was a fun time. We did talk to a few nice people and we had some free zines to hand out.

Alright well Onward!

Reviews
The Boat by Nam Le
I actually read this for my book club in October. I'm so grateful that Zach picked this because I never would have found it by myself. Le is an amazing talent as a new writer. According to his bio he is Vietnamese who grew up in Australia. This multicultural upbringing is immediately evident in these stories. Each story takes place in a different country and with different viewpoints. From Ohio to Tehran Le is not afraid of painting with the global picture in mind. He also isn't afraid to use different narrator voices as shown in his stories "The Boat" and "Hiroshima". If I have a nitpick it's that some of these longer stories either need to be expanded or given more focus. As much as I liked "Halflead Bay" I also felt that there was enough left unexplored in the story that it could be a novel itself. Regardless Nam Le is definitely a writer to watch. I look forward to his next project.

Daredevil: Man Without Fear by Frank Miller and John Romita Jr.
This book was amazing! Miller and Romita Jr. breathtakingly capture the origin story of Marvel's Daredevil. It took me awhile but once Miller's Elektra appeared on the page I had to catch my breath. The combination of these two legendary artists leads to a combination of great character depiction and innovative panel design. While I could discuss the art for ages, the writing is equally as good. Miller does a great job capturing Daredevil's angst. He's not a happy guy. For Matt Murdock being a crime fighter allows him to feel powerful. The beat downs that criminals suffer at his hands are a way for him to compensate for his blindness. This is not healthy, which is an understanding that Miller brought to the book. In this series he parallels it with Elektra's insanity and Kingpin's bully nature. In the absence of a good psychologist Matt Murdock has no other point than to be a crimefighter. It's how he maintains his sanity. Read this. Now.

Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot
Okay don't worry I have not sold out. However I am not a snob either and I thought it was about time I read a YA girly book. So here I am. And you know what it wasn't that bad. Written in epistolary form, the story follows teenage Mia Thermopolis as she discovers that she is actually a princess of the far off country Genovia. At first she is embarassed by the idea, but then discovers that she can still be herself and a royal. Cabot does a great job capturing Mia's teenage voice. It's fun to read such an individualistic take on a cinderella story. Cabot will never be Tolstoy but she does an excellent job in her niche. This book captures the heart of the teen girl.

The Reading List
Books
This Boy's Life
Starman Omnibus #3


Magazine
Four Four Two

Comics
A massive stack!

Check Out Count: Alarmingly under control.

Comic Pull List: Action Comics #883, Amazing Spider-Man #611, Batgirl #4, Batman #693, Batman And Robin #6, Daredevil #502, Deadpool #17, Fables #90, Green Arrow Black Canary #26, Red Robin #6, Terry Moores Echo #16

Have a great week! Book Slave.

2009-10-30

Feeling poorly? Poetry can save you.

Hello All,
Today's gonna have to be a short post because I am feeling poorly. Due to a recent viewing of the film Bright Star (which I loved) I am again obsessed with poetry. The film is about the short romance between poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne. I highly recommend it especially for one scene in particular. Brawne has asked Keats for a poetry lesson to improve her understanding of poetry. Keats tells her exactly what the best poetry teachers/readers/writers have told me.

"A poem is not to be worked out. It is to be experienced through the senses."

So give this one a shot today.


A Thing of Beauty (Endymion)

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its lovliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o'er-darkn'd ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
'Gainst the hot season; the mid-forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
We have imagined for the mighty dead;
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven's brink.
--John Keats

Have a great week! Book Slave.

2009-10-22

Are you ready for it? Really? Well I'm gonna give it to yeah.

Hello,
I hope you all are well. I've got a review heavy post for you today so let's get cracking! Onward!

Book Reviews
Boston Marriage
I'm reading some plays in preparation for writing on of my own. I stumbled upon this Mamet play completely by accident. I've read many Mamet works, even directed Oleanna, but I'd never heard of this one. Well I have to say that it didn't read very well. It had Mamet-esque dialogue, witty upmanship, and emotions that lie under the surface. But in the end I didn't care about any of the characters or their travails. So far as I can tell the play features 2 upper class women in the 19th century who find themselves in trouble. They are living off the artificial look of the monied, rather than having actual cash. Because of this one of the women has to bag a rich gentleman, although he's married, and keep the diamond knecklace that he has bestowed upon her. At the same time she wants to seduce his daughter (yeah you heard me!) and needs a bed to do it in. She asks her fellow not really rich friend for her house for the afternoon. Hilarity ensues. Again the subtext here is so obvious that it just makes me wish for the subtlety of Wharton. Good try Mr. Mamet but women are not your strong suit.

Bio Info: David Mamet

Catwoman: When in Rome
This book was so much fun. I could read Cat Woman/Selina Kyle running around Rome all day long. Loeb does a great job with the quippy sardonic narration. I couldn't get enough of it. Artist Tim Sale has a wonderfully retro style that is a perfect match for the tone. This is amongst Loeb & Sale's best work.

Other Reviews
IGN | Comics Bulletin | Burning Leaves

BPRD Vol. 8: Killing Ground
The adventures of the BPRD continue. This volume has a much darker tone than the others, and in the end it felt too slight. Not enough material to fit 5 issues, it probably would of worked better as 3. I still love the character of Liz Sherman and we do get more of her in this arc. Would rather have more of her story than the crazy escapades of Johan Krauss.

Past Reviews: BPRD

Lindbergh Child & Jack the Ripper from Treasury of Victorian Murder Series
The Treasury of Victorian Murder series is a wonderful tool for true crime addicts like myself. Written and Drawn by Rick Geary in each volume he covers a true story of crime. I appreciated that Geary focuses on the facts, rather than push a theory. There are a billion theories as to the identity of Jack the Ripper but Geary just wants to tell the tale. He proves that sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction. I found this utterly true in regards to the story of the Lindbergh kidnapping. Really you can't make this shit up. Geary explores the crazy characters involved in a quick matter of fact way. I love Alan Moore's From Hell, but sometimes I just want to know what happened and when. Geary's series is great and I heartily recommend it.
Author Page: Rick Geary
Other Reviews
Lindbergh Child: Comic Mix, Comic Book Resources



The Reading List
Books
The Boat
Daredevil Man Without Fear


Magazines
Wizard

Comics
Green Arrow Black Canary

Checkout Count: Reaching all time lows.

Comic Pull List: Amazing Spider-Man #609, Batman Streets Of Gotham #5, Blackest Night Superman #3, Dark Wolverine #79, Spider-Woman #2, Stand Soul Survivors #1

Have a great week! Book Slave.


2009-10-14

Fall magic.

Hello,
I hope that you are all well. I love the magical feeling of fall in the air. It's wonderful. You know what else I'm psyched about? The fall movie season. This time of year combines the two passions of my life: books & cinema. Where the Wild Things Are comes out Fri. I've been salivating to see this film since May, so it's this weekend or bust. I never would of thought that this book could be brought to life like this. I've always maintained that not every book should/could be made into a film. Personally I never want to see an adaptation of On the Road. Ever. I guess it depends on the writer and directors vision for the material. I'm also pretty excited for The Road in November.
Well enough of this...Onward!

Reviews
Arkham Asylum
I've been meaning to pick this up for some time. What have I missed? A classic examination of the psychology of the dark knight. Morrison & McKean combine their considerable insight into the dark recesses of the mind. And they don't hold back. This book is a work of art. McKean combines photography, abstract art, and dynamic layouts to frighten the bejesus out of any reader. In the plot Batman is called upon to deal with a riot at Arkham Asylum being led by The Joker. Once inside Batman's psychological journey is juxtaposed with the story of the founder Jeremiah Arkham. Morrison's use of symbolism, juxtaposition, and literary allusion elevates comic writing to high art. This is a great book. Read It.

Video Review



God of Carnage
Occasionally I like to read plays. Unfortunately where I live I probably won't see the hot Tony-winning plays performed onstage for a few years. Fortunately the plays of Yasmina Reza are about adults who are stripped down to their bare selves. These ordinary people are easy to imagine as your next door neighbor. In the play God of Carnage a set of parents get together after a violent altercation between their kids. Slowly we see each character break down and shed their artificiality. Reza takes each character down a complex road that reminded me of Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. She's more intellectual than Albee, so it's less melodramatic. However I think that this is easier to "read on the page." I do look forward to seeing it staged hopefully soon.

Bio Info: Yasmina Reza

Battlefields: Night Witches
I read this in issues as it was coming out but I decided to pick up the trade paperback. It's still a great series. Comics writer Garth Ennis started a series of 3 issue arcs featuring different stories from WWII. In each arc he's shown a spotlight on some not so well known groups in the military. Night Witches features a group of female Russian pilots who are recruited to do dangerous bombing missions in Germany. Of course the women are treated like crap by the male military, so they rely on each other. Like Preacher, Ennis is not afraid to show the horrors of war. But he also does a great job at characterization and makes sure all the women have unique personalities. This is Ennis's best work since Preacher ended. It's a great series.

Bio Info: Adventures in Feministory: The Night Witches
Other Reviews: Comic Book Resources

The Reading List
Books
Daredevil: The Man Without Fear
Boston Marriage


Mags
Four Four Two

Comic
Daredevil #900

Comic Pull List: Action Comics #882, Adventure Comics #3, Batgirl #3, Batman #691, Blackest Night Batman #3, Bprd 1947 #4, Deadpool #900, Fables #89, Green Arrow Black Canary #25, Red Robin #5, Secret Six #14

Check Out Count: Steady.

Have a great week! Book Slave

2009-10-06

Something hip. No not really.

Hello All,
I hope that you are all having a great fall. The temps here have dropped. It's jacket & scarf weather, which I absolutely loved. Well let's get to it eh?
Onward!

Reviews
Preacher Vol. 1
I have been waiting to re-read this series until this hard cover appeared. Preacher follows the journey of Jesse Custer, a former minister who has been given the "voice of god." Along with ex-girl friend Tulip and a vampire named Cassidy he is sent to search for God on earth. Yep this is that kind of book. Not for the weak or religious writer Ennis & artist Steve Dillon are able to discuss serious matters with outrageous humor. At times the art can be beautiful and grotesque, much like religion itself. Ennis is a bold writer. He takes no prisoners. This reader is definitely along for the ride.

Other Reviews
When Falls the Coliseum
Comic Info: Preacher

The Hunter
Darwyn Cooke brings his wonderful retro-style to this Donald Westlake classic. Parker is relentless in exacting revenge after he's screwed over by his partners on a job. Cooke stays true to the story. It is refreshing that he doesn't hold back. His Parker hits women and kills anyone in his way with no smug quippy hipness about him. Also Cooke is such a strong artist that often he can carry the story just from the panels. This book is amazing. Read it. Read it now.

Other Reviews
comics comics | Musings of a Bookish Kitty | Washington Post

The Reading List
Books
Arkham Asylum
Battlefields: Battle of the Night Witches


Magazine
Four Four Two

Comic
GI Joe Special: Cobra #1

Check Out Count: Creeping up.

Comic Pull List: Amazing Spider-Man #608, Batman And Robin #5, Buffy The Vampire Slayer #29, Criminal Sinners #1, Daredevil #501, Deadpool #16, Justice League Cry For Justice #4, Superman World Of New Krypton #8, Sweet Tooth #2

Have a great week! Book Slave.

2009-09-30

Beware the Thought Police

Hello All,
It's been a crazy week for me. Myself and two other fine gentlemen did a presentation about Graphic Novels and it went smashingly. Of course me being me, I had to put a massive amount of work into it. Sometimes I really wish I was one of those people who settle for the mediocre at work. Put no, I have to be the best. So I didn't really get any reading done this week. However I do have something to rant about so feel free to sit back and enjoy.

Anyone who follows the book blogs knows that it's Banned Books Week. As a public librarian I know that this is a big deal. Year after year it becomes one of those things that folks shake their fists at and shout "How dare you?" whenever the idea of banned literature is mentioned. Librarians, booksellers, and readers in general pat themselves on the back. Displays are set up so readers can shake their heads and say "I didn't think this was still done."

Here's where I'm going to say something that may stir the small readership of this blog. For all the individuals who I hear all the time who rail against the idea of banned books, I think that are an equal amount of folks who are perfectly fine with the idea. This must be true because the ALA faces book challenges all the time. Of course these challenges are always made in order to either 1) protect the children, or 2) protect the morals of the community. Now public libraries are run by government funding, hence citizens feel that they have a free say in what a library carries. This is worthy of debate. How much obligation does the common citizen have on the morality of it's community? I say none. The only obligation that I have is to my own moral code. It's the actions that I decide to take, not what I think in my mind.

Then there's the Law. Here in the U.S. we as a citizenry have decided that there are certain actions that an individual cannot do in order for us all to live together. I'm down with that, as long as none of that involves telling me how to think. I'm okay with crossing the street when the light is green, as long as a world of extreme anarchy can exist in my head.

Now I can tell you from experience that librarians take their jobs seriously. Collection development is not a joke. If a book contains material that is illegal ie. child pornography then it doesn't make it to the shelf. Why? Because as a society we have decided that child pornography is illegal. You also won't find pornographic magazines in the library I work for because they just end up getting stolen. And because in my state it is the law that pornography has to be kept out of view of kids. Again it's the law. At my library we take this very seriously.

I still cannot figure out why there are groups of people who believe they have a greater right to decide what I can read. Have they forgotten that the word "public" involves all of us? I may think that Twilight is tripe, however I would not tell someone that they have no right to read it. The great thing about a public library is that it is open to everyone. Yep that means "everyone." Until we as a community decide differently then every book has value. From Mein Kampf to the Bible to Huckleberry Finn. I would never tell anyone that they have no right to read a certain book. Why do others feel they have the right to tell me? Because in the end they feel they are morally superior. I wish they would stop. And then there would be no Banned Books Week and we'd all be better off.

Reading List
Books
Preacher
Arkham Asylum


Magazines
Newsweek

Comics
Gotham Sirens #4

Check Out Count: Lower than it's been in forever.

Comic Pull List:Amazing Spider-Man #607, Gotham City Sirens #4, Green Lantern #46, Runaways 3 #14, Superman #692, Wonder Woman #36

Have a great week! Book Slave.

2009-09-24

Trials and Tribulations of Being Me

Hello All,
It's going to be a very busy week for this girl. Why do I do this to myself? Oh yeah I like to work, impress, and do the best job I can. Sometimes I just wish I could be one those people who don't care or can get by on their looks. No such luck.

Any of you guys watch the Emmy's last weekend? I was very happy to see Little Dorrit get all the love it deserved. I don't know if you recall but I loved the mini-series when it aired last spring. Here's my wrap up review. It's unfortunate that it seems that the mini-series is a dying story form, however I will say that I believe that the cream does rise to the top. PBS & HBO put out very solid product when it comes to long form storytelling. I'd rather have that then nothing at all. Either way there are certain stories that cannot be told effectively in a 2 hour feature film. Little Dorrit definitely fits into that category. In fact I think the same goes for the majority of Dickens work, as well as Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, and McMurtry. So I hope PBS/BBC/HBO continue doing long form work. Little Dorrit deserved every award it received.

Anyway onward!

Reviews
Y the Last Man Vol. 3
I've been slowly rereading this series. I know that I can take my time because there's an end to it. No need to rush. With Vol. 3 the series starts to develop sub plots that go beyond the usual "keep Yorick safe" paradigm. Here Team Yorick collides with the Israelis when a Russian space ship is due to land with 2 male cosmonauts inside. Everyone wants to ensure that these men make it out alive, especially Yorick. His characterization is the key to this series. Clearly Yorick is still maturing as a man, however little-by-little Vaughn creates chances for him to man-up. In this chapter there is a small moment when he meets a woman dressed as a man while on the road. She assumes that he is doing the same. The implication is that she works as a prostitute, which shows how gender issues continue to flip. Anyway Yorick doesn't freak out, he's actually full of acceptance. Yorick may not be a hero like a cosmonaut but he is a good person at his core. It is his humanity in a messed up world that makes him interesting. Well and 355 is pretty kick ass. Good story arc.

The Reading List
Books
How to Read Comic Books
Batman: Arkham Asylum


Mags
Four Four Two

Comics
Spider Woman #1

Check Out Count: Fluctuating

Comic Pull List: Amazing Spider-Man #606, Blackest Night Superman #2, Detective Comics #857, Fantastic Four #571, New Avengers #57, Spider-Woman #1, Superman Secret Origin #1, Terry Moores Echo #15, Wednesday Comics #12, Wolverine Giant-Size Old Man Logan #1

Have a great week! Book Slave.

2009-09-16

Back on a Familiar Path

Hello All,
It's been a busy week folks. We also took a detour so after some winding roads, and short cuts through lawns, we're headed back down Review Lane. I got a lot to cover so this week we're bringing back an oldie but goodie...Reviews in 10 Words or Less!

Reviews
Superman For Tomorrow Vol. 1 & 2
Read for Book Club. Weird series. Gets lost. Great Art.

Mouseguard Vol. 2: Winter 1152
Still Great. Amazing Art. Jackrabbits, Owls, Bats, Soldier Mice. Don't Miss.

Dark Entries
Dry Wit. Constantine. Rankin. Obvious Satire becomes smart supernatural thriller.

Astro City Vol. 2: Confession
Loved it. Better than the first. Familiar archetypes made fresh.

Other Volumes: Astro City Vol. 1
Video Podcast Overview: Ifanboy

Queen & Country Vol. 1 Definitive Edition
Rucka is God. Great espionage bureacratic Drama. Clancy-like. Read Now.

The Reading List
Books
Filthy Rich
Y the Last Man vol. 4


Magazine
Four Four Two

Comic
Amazing Spider-Man #605

Check Out Count: Stabilizing

Comic Pull List: Action Comics #881, Amazing Spider-Man #605, Batgirl #2, Batman And Robin #4, Batman Streets Of Gotham #4, Blackest Night #3, Dark Wolverine #78, Fables #88, Green Arrow Black Canary #24, Outsiders #22, Wednesday Comics #11

Have a great week! Book Slave.

2009-09-08

It's Elizabeth Bennett's world, we just live here.

Hello All,
Yes I am back! I took a week off, blame it on the fall weather. Either way the fates have brought us here tonight. I think we're going to turn to the left. (Don't worry we'll return to Review Lane soon.) Let's see where it takes us eh?

One place to consider: 19th century Austen England. I finally caught the BBC series Lost in Austen where a modern day woman switches places with Elizabeth Bennett. Lately I've been drawn to the heavily metatextual. (Loved Inglourious Basterds for the same reason.) And Lost in Austen draws upon it's fair share of the post-modern. Lead character Amanda Price finds herself stuck between maintaining the story she loves, Pride & Prejudice, and facing the fact that her very presence creates an alternate reality. In this alternate reality the fictional characters are able to realize their own strengths.

Here's some examples:
-Mr. Bennett leaves the library!
-Bingley finds an individual strength & really fights for Jane.
-Jane stands up for herself & tells the truth to Mr. Collins. And it's not nice.
-Mrs. Bennett shows that she can be a ball buster!

I could go on but I think you see the point. I think that there is definitely some Lacan at work here. How much of Pride & Prejudice, or any other work, is a representation of what the reader brings to it? I subscribe to the idea that once an author sends there writings out into the world then their interpretation becomes moot. It's up to the reader to interpret what's on the page in their own way. So if Amanda Price knows this fictional world as one way, Elizabeth Bennett-centric, then of course it's going to be different if you remove Elizabeth Bennett! Price finds herself trying desperately to maintain the storyline of P&P, but she can't. Maintaining her own expectations of the fictional world she now inhabits only causes frustration. Price has to let those expectations go & accept the new world being created in front of her.

To me the most interesting idea presented by Lost in Austen is that all the characters are better off without Elizabeth Bennett. However the trade off is that they gain Amanda Price. It could be argued that Amanda Price derives her strength from the fictional Elizabeth Bennett. Does your head hurt yet? My apologies. Apparently Elizabeth Bennett, whether fictional or actual, as presented here is the representation of feminine potential. Elizabeth Bennett influences those around her to look for their own personal happiness. While Elizabeth finds it in the modern world, Amanda Price finds it in Austen's fictional world.

So in the end do I recommend Lost in Austen? Yeah. Anything that can lead me to vomit up this much thought can't be too bad. If you're an Austenite, well I'm surprised you haven't see it already.

The Reading List
Books
25 Scripts
Astro City Vol. 2


Mags
Four Four Two

Comics
Flash Rebirth #4

Check Out Count: Shockingly Getting Lower.

Comic Pull List: Adventure Comics #2, Amazing Spider-Man #604, Blackest Night Batman #2, Bprd 1947 #3, Red Robin #4, Secret Six #13, Superman World Of New Krypton #7, Wednesday Comics #10

Have a great week! Book Slave.

2009-08-27

Ranting and Raving

Hey,
Get ready for a rant folks. What has brought on this rant you ask? Well last week at her blog writer Shannon Hale posted a commentary on How to be a reader: book evaluation vs. self-evaluation. Some background: Shannon Hale is well known writer of books for YA and adults. She resides in the area that I live in, and I have seen her speak. Hale is a wonderful person; she's very funny and insightful. Her presentation about the lack of respect in the YA/Fantasy genre among other writer's struck a chord that I still remember to this day.

In her posts she asks book reviewers to ask themselves the following questions. I'll provide my own answer under each question.

1. Do you find that the anticipation of reviewing the book has changed your reading experience?
It certainly makes me think about a book more analytically. I make notes in my head as I read along the lines of "Oh that's cool" or "Nice parallel." Sometimes I do worry about what the hell am I going to write.

2. Are you rating the book even as you read? Or do you wait until the end to sum it all up?
Every book I read starts at a 10 (figuratively) & it's up to the book to maintain that.

3. Does knowing you'll be reviewing it (or rating it) publicly affect which books you pick up in the first place?
No, I'll read all kinds of books. C'mon I read comic books for god's sake.

4. Does the process of writing the review itself change how you felt about the book?
Not really.

5. What is your motivation to assign a rating to a book and declare it to the world?
Read below after the questions.

6. If you review a book but don't rate, why not? What do you feel is your role as reviewer?
While I understand that some people need some quantifiable rating I don't. Ratings like stars are an easy way for a reviewer to sum up their review for their readers. For me personally the only real judgement for a book is: Would I reccommend it to someone else? or Would I read another book by that author?

I have been a happy book blogger for about 1 year and 8 months now. In that time I have had the opportunity to look at myself as a reader/reviewer. Now I pride myself on being able to filter out books I know I won't like and don't want to waste my time with. If a book isn't interesting around the 100 page mark then I move on, because life is short. I started this blog because I wanted a place where I could keep track of what I've read, what I thought, and how many books I've read. It's a self-motivating force for me to get rid of the mountain of a TBR pile that somehow fits into my apartment. I don't really see myself as an authority by any means. Anyone who may stumble upon this blog can evaluate me as a reviewer by whatever criteria they want. Don't get me wrong I love it when any reader drops by (and wave an internet-size hello) but to be honest I write this blog mainly for Me, Myself and I.

So there's some self-evaluation for you all. Have a great day! Book Slave.

2009-08-25

Just waiting for the Fall

Hello to you all,
I sit this week looking at the end of summer a bit stunned. Where did the summer go? Time is such a fluid thing. And now we are staring right into my favorite season the fall. Where I reside we have a very pretty fall season, which is damn surprising since it's a desert. But I ramble on. Just can't wait for the fall leaves. Sigh.

This was a book club Tuesday. Although I enjoyed the book gun with occasional music (review below) immensely and it's quite provocative, as a subject the book proved dissapointing. The discussion was either scattered or devolved into "this book is really good" platitudes. It's too bad because I think this book is very interesting and thought provoking. Oh well. Moderator/Head of Club/Secret superhero Zach Sampinos let me know that The Sun Also Rises will be next months book. This filled me with joy, I enjoy Hemingway. And hopefully it will draw some more people. That would be cool.

Well Onward!

Reviews
Hellboy Library Edition Vol. 1
I finally picked this up and enjoyed it a lot. Hellboy, like BPRD, is a unique mix of horror, mythology, and humor. It hits the sweet spot in combining these different aspects. But really the book is powered by the amazing art from Mignola. This library edition is a great showcase for Mignola's universe. In this world the colors are dark and moody, the only vibrant color being red. The demons are scary and formidable, and Mignola makes the action scenes crazy. I am often surprised by how epic Mignola's art is on the page. Also Byrne & Mignola never talk down to their audience. There is a fair amount of history, written text, and occult talk. The characters are very smart and engaging as well. Hellboy, as a character, is written here much more intelligent than his portrayal in the films. While he is a demon, Mignola allows for his humanity to come through. He's a unique fun character. I can't wait to read more.

Bio Info: Hellboy

BPRD vol. 7
More BPRD goodness: This time we learn more about Abe Sapien and his crazy past. I would have liked some more with the rest of the BPRD gang, but this was Abe's showcase. Some very creepy stuff.

Past Reviews: Homing Instinct of Books, City on Fire, A Serious Obsession

gun, with occasional music
I enjoyed this crazy mix of Chandler and Phillip K. Dick, as seen through the eyes of Jonathan Lethem. In this detective yarn we are dropped into an Orwellian future where everyone is controlled by either individualized drugs or The Office. Private Inquisitior Conrad Metcalf finds himself stuck in the middle of a murder when one of his former employers ends up dead. Lethem blends a good brew of noir and futurist prose like right out of Spillane. I found myself enveloped in the hard language Lethem employs. This book is also ripe with social commentary that is becoming more and more a reality. The world imagined in gun is one where existence is made trivial and superficial. Metcalf's tragedy is not unlike Orwell's Winston Smith; he can't stop asking questions. Very interesting stuff.

Other Reviews
sff | 12frogs | The Guardian

The Reading List
Books
Queen and Country Vol. 1
Superman For Tomorrow Vol. 1


Mags
Four Four Two

Comics
Green Arrow & Black Canary

Comics Pull List: Batman And Robin #3, Dark Wolverine #77, Deadpool #14, Detective Comics #856, Flash Rebirth #4, Gotham City Sirens #3, Green Lantern #45, New Avengers #56, Runaways 3 #13, Superman #691, Wednesday Comics #8, Wonder Woman #35

Check Out Count: Musical.

Have a great week!