Catching Up Part 2

I hope you are all doing well. This weekend the ABA, that's American Bookseller's Association, are descending upon my town. Winter Institute 2009 baby! My book store will be hosting several events so I'll be hobnobbing galore. Tonite it was a crazy madhouse in my store where the reception was being held. I met some interesting book sellers from all over the country. Also if you are in the Marriot Hotel on Friday night feel free to buy me a drink. Anyway it should be fun and maybe I'll have some more stories for you all.

So due to last week's insanity, here's more reviews. Onward! (Again!)

Batman: A Death in the Family
I picked this up because it's a famous Batman story. The death of Jason Todd is controversial because it was a choice made by the audience literally. As Denny O'Neill explains in the book that Jason Todd was an unpopular "Robin" character. So they opened up a phone line and people could vote on life and death. I have a lot of sympathy for writer Jim Starlin because he had to build around a known conclusion. Everybody knew that Jason Todd was going to die somehow. So the suspense has to build around the circumstances. Starlin does a good job of building sympathy for a previously unlikeable character. Jason Todd is not a bad guy, he just has some attitude problems.

I was surprised at how much I liked this version of Batman. In this story Batman is fighting terrorists in the Middle East. (In 1989 folks!) The Joker sells nuclear weapons to the Ayattolah! I will admit I laughed at the idea of the Joker being given diplomatic immunity and protected by Superman. This Batman is more a part of the real world (as much as a man in a cape can be) and is pretty removed from Gotham in this series. Heck he's even kinda James Bondish. It was a bit refreshing I have to say. If your interested in some old school Batman comics give it a read.

Biographical Information: Batman: A Death In the Family

Green Lantern: Tales of the Sinestro Corps
I kept hearing how good Geoff Johns and Green Lantern was all last year so I decided to give it a try. This collection of issues I thought would catch me up. Unfortunately there was two brilliant issues and the rest were kinda mediocre. However the brilliance of those issues make this collection worth checking out. I was deeply affected by the story of Super Boy. Super Boy has grown to hate his idol because he is forced to destroy everything he loves. Johns brings it to the level of Greek tragedy and its great. The other brilliant chapter is the purely psychological issue where Hal Jordan has to deal with his inner weakness which is embodied by Parallax. This is a great "talking head" issue where a man battles for his life. I was enthralled. Unfortunately the rest of the collection is not that great. I don't know why some of these issues were included other than as filler. So I'd say check out those two parts and skip the rest.

Other Reviews
Collected Editions

Brontes at Haworth
I have a real love/hate relationship with the Brontes. To be fair I haven't read all their novels and I'm not a big fan of gothic romance. I liked Jane Eyre, but I loath Wuthering Heights. I hate it with an all consuming passion. However I find the story of the Bronte sisters as fascinating. The fact that there were 3 sisters who became legendary authors after being utter failures. They failed at being teachers and governesses (female occupations of the time) and turn to writing as a last resort. The irony is that they should've been writing all along. Brontes at Haworth is an interesting hybrid because it is the size of a coffee table but it has enough biographical writing to just be a book. It has some great reproductions of paintings and writings from the sisters. It is a simplistic biography because it has no angle. I wouldn't use it as a source for your critical theory paper. However I thought it was a good introductory book and worth checking out.

Biographical Information: Bronte, Bronte Blog

So folks have a great weekend! Book Slave.


Catching up: Part 1

Howse it hanging? I may have been MIA last week (Sundancing, remember?) but this week I'm back full force. Tonight I attended my book club and it was pretty great. Moderator Zach Sampinos brought in some fun treats, as well as drinks. He's also got a keen mind and is very prepared with discussion. We discussed South by South Bronx (see review below) and an enjoyable hour was spent. If you are free the last Tuesday night of the month @ 6:30 pm come on down to Sam Weller's in SLC. Hey I'll be there.

Talking about events this week the ABA, American Booksellers Association, is coming to town. There Winter Institute Conference will be going on and my store is a major site. I'm invited to some events since I am a very important person (well in my own mind). Hopefully I'll be able to meet some other cool bookseller folk. Or at least take advantage of the open bar. Either way it should be cool, I'll let you know how it goes.

Well because I have two weeks of books to talk about I'll be splitting up the reviews into two parts. So here's part one.

South by South Bronx
This was a book club pick and it took a while for it to grow on me. The first 100 pages are disorientated and confusing but then the two narratives came into focus. I think Rodriquez meant this to mirror the state of our characters. The real story for me is the relationship between these two battered souls, Alex and Ava. As we go along it becomes clear that Ava is meant to be a redemptive character, a muse, and femme fatale. Her catalystic function in this story was very interesting. I also enjoyed how Rodriquez emphasized the Puerto Rican regionalism of the South Bronx. As someone who is very white and lives in a very white culture, this book provides a window into a different world.

The mystery/noir elements are fairly traditional. In fact some parts of this book could take place in the 30s and not much would change. Mysterious girl meets damaged man, they struggle to figure out each other's motives, and ultimately end up saving each other. Oh yeah and there's some stolen money. Of course all of this is very familiar. However Rodriguez plays in this novel with multiple narratives, pictures, and different typography. He reworks the standard noir story with post-modern technique. This shows a continuation of experimentation in modern fiction narrative that we've seen over the last few years. I say bring it on.

Other Reviews
Feminist Review| La Bloga

American Sublime & Antebellum Dream Book
When I heard that Elizabeth Alexander was asked to write & recite a work for Barack Obama's inauguration I sought out her other works. As I've talked about before I enjoy hearing and reading poetry, especially post-modernist works. Also there have only been two inaugural poets, Robert Frost and Maya Angelou, so to be chosen is a major honor. So I read her collections American Sublime and Antebellum Dream Book before the inauguration on Jan 20. I wanted to get a sense of what to expect from Alexander. Her best work in these collections are series that focus on race in America. I particularly enjoyed "Passing", and the series "Amistad". Alexander's work is lean, uses modern imagery, and quiet phrasing, to get her thoughts across. She is lyrical and powerful, rather than be angry and in your face. She keeps the amount of finger pointing to a minimum which I greatly appreciated. Her work was impressive and I think I'll seek out some of her other volumes.

Here's a link to her website and footage of her inaugural reading. I thought it was great and really brought the significance of the day into focus.

Official Site: Elizabeth Alexander

The Reading List
Understanding Comics
League of Extraordinary Gentleman: Black Dossier

Captain Britain

Four Four Two

Comic Pull List: Batman #685, Daredevil #115, Final Crisis #7, Garth Ennis Battlefields Dear Billy #1, New Avengers #49, Northlanders #14, Runaways 3 #6, Stand Captain Trips #5, Superman #684, Terry Moores Echo #9, Trinity #35, Umbrella Academy Dallas #3, Wonder Woman #28

Check Out Count: Whoo-eee!

Look out for Part 2 in a few days. Enjoy! Book Slave.


Just Dropping In.

Hello All,
Where in the world have I been? Well I thought I'd drop a quick note here. Apologies for disappearing on y'all but I have been Sundancing all week. For those who don't know I speak of the Sundance Film Festival which is going on this week in my town. Being a cinemaniac I have to take part. This turns everything a bit helter skelter. Don't worry I'm still reading a plenty in between shows. You'll have plenty to read next week. For now I'm signing off. Have a great weekend! Book Slave.


Those Crazy Romantics.

Hello world,
I hope y'all had a great week. Mine was pretty hectic and with Sundance coming up next week things are likely to get crazy. I'll try not to forget about you all.

Tonight I went and saw a play at one of our local theatrical societies. The play was an original work called The Yellow Leaf written by Charles Morey. I'm usually leery of original works written/presented by the director of the company. However this play had an interesting premise so I thought I'd give it a shot. The play was a speculative fiction about how in the rainy summer of 1816 Percy Shelley, his lover Mary Godwin (later wife), and Lord Byron, hung out on Lake Geneva. Being stuck inside by the weather Byron proposed a writing contest which led to the creation of the novel "Frankenstein." This is a situation that's wrought with drama, both intellectual and sensual.

As I've written before I like poetry. Actually, after the American modernists, when it comes to classic poetry I love the romantics. Specifically I enjoy the works of Samuel Coleridge and William Wordsworth, who started the romantic movement. Byron, Shelley, and John Keats made up the latter half of that movement although they deviated into the metaphysical. Byron and Shelley had messy, sloppy lives that ended far too soon. It's likely that The Yellow Leaf contrived where it was convenient. Morey was definitely aping Stoppard, this particularly reminded me of his Coast of Utopia trilogy. Whereas Stoppard would feel no need to exposit any historical background on his characters, Morey was intent on making sure we understood exactly what he was getting at. The characterizations were fairly stereotypical. Shelley is the fun-loving fixer and Byron is the self-loathing cynic. Mary and her sister Claire compete in a case of sibling rivalry over who will land herself a poet.

Is any of this true? Who knows? No one. This is why Morey can exploit this historical literary situation for drama. The major difference between Stoppard and Morey is that Stoppard doesn't feel a need to impose drama onto his real life characters. In Coast of Utopia it is Bakunin, Belinsky, and Herzen talking amongst themselves about the state of the world. There is no french farce/soap opera bits about who is sleeping with whom. Nothing seems forced or contrived, unlike Yellow Leaf.

Don't get me wrong. I did enjoy the play. It was funny and the acting/production was stellar. However I kept thinking that you could transpose this plot into Gossip Girl and it wouldn't seem all that different. Byron and Shelley were large enough figures that Morey should have let them just be themselves.

Have a great week! Book Slave.


Karmic Nature of the Universe.

I hope you are all enjoying life. I can say that I have had a lot of good luck lately. Of course I await a turn of fortune soon. I'll just keep an eye out for anything falling from the sky.

Being a cinephile I did catch the Golden Globes last weekend. I thought it was a fun show, less stiff than the Oscars. I thought I'd point out the literary adaptations that enjoyed awards:
Slumdog Millionaire (based on the novel Q & A)
Revolutionary Road
The Reader
True Blood
(based on a series by Charlaine Harris)
John Adams

An adaptation to the screen can be a great way to bring a lesser known book to light. I had not even heard of some of these books before they reached the movie screen.
Well Onward!

Generation X
In this book Coupland is given credit for creating the image of Generation X. His characterizations of main characters Dag, Andy, and Claire are straight on and compelling. Their disillusionment with society, culture, the past and the future, is a cloud that hangs over their thoughts and motivations. Rather than really a plot, Coupland sets this up as a series of vignettes that illustrates the malaise these characters exist in.

These three characters should be seen as a microcosm even at the sentence level. Coupland even takes pains to include word entries in the margins to illustrate the new vocabulary of this group. They are stuck in a world of glib hipness and empty mercenary success. I found this book a compelling read, but probably only because I can empathize with the plight of the main characters. Other readers would probably see these characters as ridiculously glum slackers. As my mom would say "these kids should quit whining and get a job." However I found that Coupland does a great job of capturing a group of characters who are lost. Their optimism, which is portrayed in their stories to each other, is just unfocused.

Coupland's literary minimalism captures the narrator's slowly putting together what he imagines is a "worthy life." I found myself cheering for these character's to find an acceptable version of success for themselves. There is a heart at the center of the book that made it an enjoyable read.

Other Reviews
San Francisco Chronicle| Seattle Times | The Times

The Reading List
Brontes at Haworth
The Irregulars


Four Four Two

Check Out Count: Recently Inflated.

Comic Pull List: Action Comics #873, Captain Britain And Mi 13 #9, Deadpool #6, Fables #80, Final Crisis #6, Green Arrow Black Canary #16, Trinity #33

Have a great week! Book Slave.


Oh this Reading Habit of mine.

I hope you all had a great week. I've had a fine one myself. This week was only mired by a power outage and a self-to-blame lack of sleep. Honestly sometimes I feel as if even if it were possible for the day to be extended to 36 hours, I would still not get enough sleep. Again I only have myself to blame.

Tonight I pose a question to my fellow readers in cyberspace: Which is more fulfilling? Should one seek out writings that would challenge you? or stick to comfort food? I find I have much greater respect for writers that challenge my way of thinking. In my mind a great read can change your life. I'd rather have that then something that is reliable and non-threatening. Somebody said that art is about asking questions, not necessarily answering them. However I do acknowledge that I do often find myself walking down familiar paths. There are certain genres *coughromancecough* that I am relentlessly snobby about not wasting my time with. Although I do read a lot of books with the pictures and word balloons. Maybe they are my comfort food. Maybe a balance of the comfortable/challenging is always good.

Regardless January is always about setting goals. Then you either give up on them by the end of the month or strike out on that new path. I'm very goal oriented, although I've learned to have reasonable expectations of myself. So here's some genre specific goals for this year.

*Gotta read titles in the following genres: Science Fiction (spaceships, not capes), romance, a few books in a mystery series like Miss Marple, Cussler-like adventure.

*Foreign authors. Yeah I suck in this regard. Need to be more multi-cultural.

*Want to read Shriver, Lehane, Russo, Tyler. These writer set morality plays that sound challenging.

*Need to read more YA books. It is a part of my job after all to recommend these titles after all.

*Alright I'll try to read more manga. Again it is a large part of my job right?

So there you are. Let's see how this works out. Have a great week. Book Slave.


I want to be a Plain Jane.

Hey folks,
Howse it hanging? Apparently the weather gods have decided it's winter because the snow is not stopping here in the Rocky Mountains. While I'm not necessarily a snow hater, a bit moderation would be nice. I hope you'll accept my humblest apologies but a post last night was just not possible. So here we are a day later, but not a dollar short. So onward with the first reviews post of the new year!

Janes in Love
In Janes in Love writer Cecil Castelluci and artist Jim Rugg continue with their magical series about teenage friendship, art, and not-fitting-in. Castelluci brings back The Plain Janes, a misfit group of girls all named Jane, who commit what they call "art attacks" in the small town of Kent Waters. Main Jane and her friends go through the same trials and tribulations of teenage life with the focus here being romance. I was struck by how Castelluci and Rugg manage to capture teenage angst in original ways. Main Jane, while struggling with her own love/friendship with Damon, also wants to express love for her community. I love the idea of using art, which includes painting/decorating parks, streets, and buildings in their community to overcome the fear inherent in our post 9/11 world. The PLAIN Janes naively believe that art can save the world. I also need to shout out the art of Jim Rugg. It is great how he can draw each character with a unique look. It's great to see all different body types portrayed as beautiful in a book aimed at teen girls. The focus remains on accentuating the beauty of difference and originality. Pick up this book, it will show you that art can save.

Other Reviews
Comic Mix| Comic Book Bin| The F-Word

Whistle Vol. 1
I finally read a manga book. Can you believe it? Manga has been a mystery to me. It's very popular among the teen patrons I help so I figured I ought to check it out. Whistle is a part of the shonen genre which focuses on Sho, a young soccer player and his rise to success. I am also a fool for the sports-team-overcoming-adversity genre so the themes here were familiar catnip for me. Sho made for a fun, if single-minded, main character and I did find myself routing for him. Once I got used to the format I did get involved in the story. I can see how this series would be popular for young boys, especially those sports minded. It deftly balanced education with themes of teamwork and friendship. I also enjoyed the relationship between Sho and his brother, a roguish charmer. Overall though I found the female characters all very odd and stereotypical. All the females were kinda flighty and dressed pretty scantily especially for a teacher. Also would like to see less clunky narration from the main character. Less tell, more show. So I'd recommend it to boys who like sports, but I think I'm gonna need to read some more manga to become comfortable with the genre and it's conventions.

Other Reviews
Read About Comics| Comics Village

The Reading List
Vanity Fair

The Irregulars
Generation X

Astro City #1

Comic Pull List:Buffy The Vampire Slayer #21, Detective Comics #852, Secret Six #5, Trinity #32

Check Out Count: Steadily Improving.

Have a great week! Book Slave.


One Year Past

And here we are in 2009. Happy New Year to you all. I hope you had a safe fun merry entry into the new year. I had a good time, I tell you we librarians can party it down. (And I've got the pictures to prove it.)

A One Year Blogaversary
If you pay attention to dates then you'd notice that I started this blog exactly one year ago today. I had thought about writing a blog before but like journal writing I had a tough time seeing the point. Just didn't see anything about my mundane life that would be interesting to the outside world.

So how did we get here you ask. Well I was watching CNN on New Years Eve 2007. It was like watching a train wreck being hosted by Kathy Griffen and Anderson Cooper. Now I'll admit here that I like Anderson Cooper, he's definitely my favorite news reporter. However it was painful watching him having to put up with Griffen. Why does CNN torture him so? I was thinking as I watched.

At the same time I had been looking around and noticing the insane amount of TBR books that were piling up around me. I needed some kind of self-motivater to get these books done with.

So there I was sitting there watching the ball drop. And they were talking about New Year Resolutions. I'm not very big on resolutions, but I do like to set goals even if their small. Cooper when asked said that he wanted to blog more. That's when I had an epiphany. I had two goals, read more, and try blogging. A Book blog seemed to be a way to accomplish both.

I am still amazed that there are those that read my words here, but again I am grateful that anyone does. Well to the small group of readers out there I'm looking forward to 2009.

Some Stats to Ponder
So Let's do a stat rundown for 2008.

Original Goal=52 books
Actual Books Read=90 books

So quite successful on that front I'd say.

Graphic novels=55

Obviously I enjoy the books with pictures and word balloons. Maybe next year I'll read some more fiction. I do need to crack into the sci-fi genre (spaceships rather than capes) since that's what many of my patrons/customers ask about for reccomends.

Most books in one month: December (15)
Least books in one month: July (5)

So it looks like I kicked it into gear at the end of year. Probably because I had 6 days off at the end of the year.

Let's see what happens in 2009 folks. Have a great weekend! Book Pusher.