Sunday, February 28, 2010

Books Bought February

February was a pretty slim month in the book purchasing department, but I more than made up for it by buying a new TV, Blu-Ray player and Blu-Ray discs. But it's books we're talking about now, so without further ado, here are February's book purchases:

Daredevil: Born Again (GN 1986) - Frank Miller, David Mazzucchelli

I asked the manager at Third Eye Comics to recommend a good introduction to Daredevil for someone who's been out of comics for awhile. He unreservedly recommended Born Again, the story of Matt Murdock's heroin-addicted former girlfriend Karen Page, who spills Murdock's secret identity to The Kingpin for a heroin fix. Not a pretty story, the manager said, but a great introduction (or re-introduction) to the character of Daredevil.

Trade Paperback; Price = $19.99

Planetary Vol. 1 (GN 1999) - Warren Ellis, John Cassaday, Laura Depuy

The name Warren Ellis keeps coming up time and time again in the comics/graphic novel world, so I decided to add Planetary to the list of titles to explore. (More on Ellis next time.)

Trade Paperback; Price = $14.99

Jar City: A Reykjavik Thriller (2000/2006) - Arnaldur Indridason

I know and work with three Karens, one of whom reads a lot of international mysteries. Knowing of my recent fascination for all things Icelandic, she recommended that I try Jar City, the first in the Reykjavik Thriller series. And since this one was really on-the-cheap, how could I resist?

Trade Paperback; Price = $.50

Total Expenditures for February = $35.48

Next time: The stuff I actually read.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Silver Surfer: Rebirth of Thanos

I bought The Silver Surfer: Rebirth of Thanos last year at an outlet store somewhere in South Carolina, remembering that I had once owned the first 50 or so issues of the 90s incarnation of The Silver Surfer. (I still have many of them bagged and boarded.) I've always liked the Surfer, but never really cared that much for his comic's first run in the late 60's, probably due to the fact that he was confined to Earth and couldn't really get involved much into all the cosmic stuff that I thought was so cool. Yet in the 90s, all that changed.

It was fun to revisit several of those issues with The Silver Surfer: Rebirth of Thanos, but the graphic novel collection could more aptly be called Rebirth of Thanos, featuring The Silver Surfer. Thanos is in all of the stories, yet the Surfer appears only in the first half of the collection. (The second half collects the Thanos Quest for the six soul-gems.)

I know that all of this leads to the Infinity Gauntlet and beyond, I can't comment on how these stories prepare you for that event, only on how the story stands on its own. I thought the concept of Thanos wanting to kill half the population of the universe quite silly (at least in the way it was presented early on in the story), but I decided to play along, mainly because Ron Lim's artwork is so compelling. The only other artist (in my very limited experience) that has that quirky weirdness is Steve Ditko when he was drawing Dr. Strange. I could look at Lim's work for hours (and did).

The storyline of Thanos searching out and collecting the six soul gems reminded me too much of the Avengers/Defenders War over the Evil Eye, which I believe was also in six pieces. Still, the artwork carried me through, making Rebirth of Thanos a keeper. At least for now...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

More Graphic Novels...When Will It End???

Graphic Novel Mania continues here on the blog these days... I just finished the first volume in Brian K. Vaughan's Y: The Last Man - Unmanned. Yorick Brown - an escape artist with a pet monkey - just wants to be with his girlfriend in Australia when a plague hits that wipes out every male on Earth... except for Yorick. (His monkey is male too, if you want to get technical.) That would be a bad enough day in itself, but Yorick is attacked by a radical group of Amazons celebrating the destruction of men, gun-wielding wives of Republican representatives and more. The violence does get graphic, but the book is also filled with laugh-out-loud moments.

I've also just learned that my friend and Clarion 2004 pal Marjorie M. Liu is now writing Dark Wolverine. (She actually started with issue #82 if I'm not mistaken.) Since this is part of Marvel's The Siege series, I'll be sure to pick this one up.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

While You're Waiting to Thaw Out...

Just a few covers that caught my eye lately. I'm not necessarily going to read these, mind you, but thought that someone out there might be interested.

Elvis, My Best Man
Hey, why not? Would spice up any wedding.

Slow Death By Rubber Duck
This one's actually getting good reviews and might be worth a look. But death by rubber duck? I guess there are worse ways to go... Death by Elmo?

My Two-Year-Old Eats Octopus
I believe it. Trust me, working in a library, I believe it.

Leonard Maltin's 151 Best Movies You've Never Seen
I've never cared for Leonard Maltin, but am curious to see what he thinks are the 151 best movies I've never seen.

The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart
Love the cover, even though both the title and the cover seem to be Stieg Larsson rip-offs.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Books Read January

Genesis (2006/2009) - Bernard Beckett

Genesis plays on a familiar sf trope: What if robots began to develop their own conscience? Anax is a young woman seeking admittance into the prestigious Academy, but first she must pass a series of examinations. These exams serve as a way to fill us in on the backstory of an island republic that’s sealed itself off from the world by means of a Great Sea Fence. One of the early defenders of the island named Adam disobeys one of the republic’s directives and is imprisoned with an android. This historical event forms the basis of Anax’s “thesis” if you will. What follows is lots of philosophical discussion about man, robot, free will, etc.

Genesis feels like familiar ground for good reason: we’ve been there before with Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick and others. Therein lies the problem. I’m not the most well-read sf reader out there, but early on I had an idea about how the book might end. I’d hoped I was wrong, but I wasn’t. If you’re new to the genre, you might enjoy Genesis. Otherwise, this is probably one republic you’ve already visited.

When You Reach Me (YA 2009) - Rebecca Stead

Everyone seems to be anointing When You Reach Me as one of last year’s best novels for children, maybe even the best. While I was intrigued by much of the book, narrated by a sixth-grader named Miranda, I wasn’t completely caught up in it. Set in New York City in 1979, Miranda is fascinated with Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, a fascination that seems to drive the story in some ways, ways perhaps even Miranda doesn’t understand. The novel is really about friendship and relationships (its strongest point, in my opinion), but there are also weird things at work: mysterious notes left for Miranda, a new weird boy in her class and a strange homeless man hanging out near a mailbox.

The problem for me was that Miranda wasn’t more fascinated about what was going on around her. She takes it all these strange happenings as rather routine, which, after reading A Wrinkle in Time, seems very unlikely. An enjoyable read, but I’m certainly not ready to say this was the best children’s book of 2009.

Scenting the Dark and Other Stories (2009) - Mary Robinette Kowal

Thoughts here.

Some of Your Blood (1961) - Theodore Sturgeon

My fear is that with each passing year, fewer and fewer people seem to be talking about Theodore Sturgeon. Maybe it’s just where I am and the circles I move in, but I certainly hope Sturgeon is not in danger of being forgotten. This odd psychological tale of a disturbed soldier with a horrific secret is a real page-turner, although the letter format of the first several pages gets rather tiresome. Some sections of the novel seem quite dated, but the unsettling sense of unease Sturgeon creates is remarkable.

Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 3 (GN 2007) - Stan Lee, Jack Kirby

It’s always fun to revisit the comics of my youth. I once owned most of these original issues of the Fantastic Four (issues #41-62 plus Annuals #3 and 4), so the otherworldly Kirby artwork was familiar, yet still pretty awesome nearly 40 years after I’d first discovered it. What doesn’t always hold up are Stan Lee’s stories, but you have to consider what most comic writing was like at the time. It’s still fun to watch the characters develop and the progression of some of the most ground-breaking art in comics.

Holy Superheroes! Exploring the Sacred in Comics, Graphic Novels and Film (NF 2008) - Greg Garrett

This short, interesting book examines several of the major American comics from Marvel and DC Universes, focusing on their spiritual aspects. Chapter themes and topics include Evil, Justice, Vigilantism and more. Although the thrust of the book is comics and graphic novels, Garrett includes some discussion of movies (most of which are film versions of comics/graphic novels). I only wish the book had gone into a little more depth, but it’s a good starting point.

Valdez is Coming (1970) - Elmore Leonard

Elmore Leonard seldom disappoints. Heck, maybe never. It's rare that I read Westerns, but Leonard's writing (and especially his dialogue) is so good, you forget you're reading a Western. A masterful storyteller. There's a dying scene that's written so well, so poignantly, you'd think Leonard actually died to see what it was like so he could write about it.

The Authority Vol. I: Relentless (GN 1999) - Warren Ellis, Bryan Hitch, Paul Neary, Laura Depuy

Writer Warren Ellis presents a team of superheroes doggedly determined to combat an international terrorist and his army. It’s amazing to think that these original issues appeared pre-9/11. The artwork and coloring are astounding. This is one of the few graphic novels I want to revisit soon.

The Nobody (GN 2009) - Jeff Lemire

After reading Lemire’s Tales of Essex County Vol. 1, I had some idea of what The Nobody would be like: sparse drawings, atmospheric renderings of small-town life, odd characters. Yet The Nobody captivated me in a way that Essex County did not. I won't be able to articulate exactly how until I read it again, and maybe not even then.

A man walks into a small Canadian fishing village wrapped in bandages, very much like The Invisible Man. The townspeople are understandably suspicious, all except for a teenage girl who feels strangely drawn to the man. The Nobody did not go where I expected, which in itself is refreshing. Definitely worth a look.

That's it for January. Now go and read something.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The End Begins Tonight

With both anticipation and trepidation, I await tonight's season opener of the sixth and final season of Lost. I missed the first two seasons, caught up to speed on DVD, then watched Seasons 3-5 as they aired. I guess you could say I was fascinated with Seasons 1 and 2, was a little disappointed in the strike-interrupted Season 3, engaged once again with Season 4, and often quite confused with Season 5. I still think it's a good show and maybe even a great one, depending on how they end it.

One of my concerns is all the loose ends hanging around. They are legion. My friend John and I always talk about how shows shouldn't even hit the air unless the writers have the entire thing mapped out, saying "Here's the show from beginning to end: four seasons (or five or six, or whatever)." But I know television doesn't work that way. I just like to know that the writers aren't flying by the seats of their pants, that they have a plan and they're sticking to it.

So many shows have started well and have not been satisfying over the long run, especially at the end (X-Files). And some shows are just cut off in midstream (Firefly, Carnivale). So when the writers of Lost say that this is indeed the end, I'm hoping they know what they're doing.

'Cause I sure as heck don't.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Books Bought January

Scenting the Dark and Other Stories (2009) - Mary Robinette Kowal

It’s rare that I purchase a book sight unseen by an unknown author, but I’d read so many glowing reviews about Mary Robinette Kowal’s writing that I decided to give this short collection a try. Plus it’s always nice to support the independent press, in this case, Subterranean Press.

Hardcover signed edition; Price = $25

Voices: A Thriller (2003/2006) - Arnaldur Indridason

An Icelandic mystery recommended to me by one of the several Karens that I know. I’ve lately become stricken with all things Icelandic, so it’s no surprise that Icelandic Fever would affect my reading choices. Actually I’ll have to wait on this one, not realizing at the time that this is the third book in a series. Ah, well....

Hardcover signed edition; Price = $3.98

Valdez is Coming (1970) - Elmore Leonard

I’ve read very few westerns, but I have read a few Elmore Leonard novels (and I love his dialogue). This is one of those “Read the Novel/See the Film” books. I did see the film many, many years ago and am eager to read the book.

Trade Paperback; Price = $3.98

Listen to This: Leading Musicians Recommend Their Favorite Artists and Recordings (NF 1999) - Alan Reder

Now how could you not like this book: Musicians talking about their favorite artists and recordings? Who knew that DMC is a fan of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon or that jazz saxophonist David Sanborn digs Puccini operas? What a fun book!

Trade Paperback; Price = $5.98

What Are the Seven Wonders of the World? and 100 Other Great Cultural Lists--Fully Explicated (NF 1998) - Peter D’Epiro

Here are just some of the questions answered in this book:

Who are the 3 daughters of King Lear?
What are the 4 properties of a musical tone?
What were the 5 events of the ancient Olympic pentathlon?
Which were the 6 Axis Powers in World War II?
What are the 7 voyages of Sinbad the Sailor?

and such all the way through the number 24 (although a few numbers are skipped). A true geek’s delight!

Trade Paperback; Price = $4.98

Here, There Be Dragons (J-Fic 2006) - James A. Owen

I’m not sure where I heard about this fantasy novel for kids, but it’s been on my list for at least a couple of years.

Hardcover; Price = $5.98

The Authority Vol. 1: Relentless (GN 1999) - Warren Ellis, etc.

I’ve been trying to broaden my graphic novel horizons lately and thought this might be a good place to start. Thanks to my friend Orangerful and Steve at Third Eye Comics in Annapolis for steering me in the right direction.

Trade Paperback; Price = $14.95

Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction (NF 1997) - Jonathan Culler

My Clarion 2004 bud Trent Hergenrader spoke highly of the Very Short Introduction series published by Oxford University Press, so I decided to take the plunge with this volume. (Purchased with birthday $)

Trade Paperback; Price = $8.60

The American Cinema: Directors and Directions 1929-1968 (NF 1968) - Andrew Sarris

I’d heard the name Andrew Sarris before, but after reading about him in Roger Ebert’s Awake in the Dark, I thought it was time to read him. (Another purchased with birthday $)

Trade Paperback; Price = $12.50

Notes from a Small Island (NF 1996) - Bill Bryson

The Ultimate Teen Book Guide says that this one is a laugh a minute. I’ve read a couple of Bryson’s books and enjoyed them, so for ten cents, it wasn’t a huge leap of faith.

Trade Paperback; Price = $.10

Suttree (1992) - Cormac McCarthy
I’ve greatly enjoyed Blood Meridian and No Country for Old Men, but those who have read more McCarthy than I have say this is his best work.

Hardcover; Price = $.50

The Motel Life (2007) - Willy Vlautin

The plot of this one sounds like a bad county song: two brothers from Reno are on the run after killing a boy in a hit-and-run accident. Could be because Vlautin is a member of the alt-country band Richmond Fontaine. I’ve got a feeling I’ll either love or hate this one.

Ex-Library Trade Paperback; Price = $.10

The Dragon King Saga (1985) - Stephen Lawhead

Someone recommended this trilogy (beginning with In the Hall of the Dragon King) over 25 years ago. I don’t know if I’ll still enjoy it now, but hey, the whole trilogy is in one place and the price was right.

Mass Market Paperback; Price = $.10

“Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman (1997) - Harlan Ellison

Ah, one of the first sf stories I read as a “serious” reader. How could I turn this down?

Ex-Library Hardcover; Price = $.50

Tales of the Ten Lost Tribes (2008) - Tamar Yellin

I believe it was Jeff VanderMeer who highly recommended this on his blog. It was on the weedling list and almost no one had checked it out, so I shelled out two quarters.

Ex-Library Hardcover; Price = $.50

Grilling: Exciting International Flavors from the World's Premier Culinary College (NF 2006) - The Culinary Institute of America

It’s not quite grilling time yet (not with six inches of snow on the ground), but it’ll be here before you know it. And since I need to expand my grilling repertoire, here’s the perfect solution.

Ex-Library Hardcover; Price = $.50

Total Book Expenditures for January = $88.25

Next Time: What I Actually Read