April 18th, 2012

Books

Book #26: Preacher: Alamo

"Preacher: Alamo" (Volume 9 of 9 in the 'Preacher' series)
By Garth Ennis, and Steve Dillon


There I go again... picking something off the shelf and finding it's not the first volume...

In this case, I read volume 9, the LAST in the series... so although it didn't make much sense in some ways, at least it had an ending... and a faintly happy one at that. (I get the feeling the other books didn't have many happy endings... but you never know.)

I think I'll hunt up the other volumes, and at least have a look. This one wasn't bad in some ways (it was in fact, a highly imaginiative view of god, the divine, and supernatural creatures on earth that are tied to him.) but it was almost laughably stupid in others. Some aspects were actually hard not to interpret as a JOKE.

The villan is so out there by Volume 9, he's really just a comic relief... tho to be fair, it's implied he's just now flipped his lid, so... maybe it isn't that way in earlier novels. One of the characters is named "arseface" and survived a shotgun blast (self inflicted) to the face, making him sputter saliva and look like... well. Yeah. It's just more funny and comic than it is tragic or interesting... I guess I didn't get it so much.

Even so, I read it through, which is more than I can say for other books!

We'll just have to see if I can find Volume 1, and if it's any good...

I gave it a three out of five.
Books

Book #27: Reunion (graphic novel/artistic biography)

"Reunion"
By Pascal Girard


I liked Girard's "Nicolas"... but it turns out that this book of his isn't NEARLY so amusing or poingnant.

Alas, it is the story of a fellow who gets a letter inviting him to his ten-year High School reunion... as before, we know it is self-biographical, which somehow makes THIS book more painful to read. This guy needs some therapy. Seriously.

I didn't find it an enjoyable read at all. I didn't HATE it, but it was horrible to watch him freaking out and flipping out and then worse than the worst happens and he just falls apart... it echoes everyone's fears of what might happen to you, if you went to a high school reunion... and thus, it isn't FUNNY when it actually /happens/ to someone.

People are jerks. This book is really about that- no matter how hard you try, the world is going to suck. (and not in a good way, either...) It did NOT make me want to read any of his other books, for fear of what other horrible things he's had happen to him, or fears would happen and writes a book about it. ICKY.

I gave it two stars out of five, because really the art IS good, and he does do a good job with the dialogue and characters... but... really I think it got two starts out of me because every work of this sort will appeal to /someone/... that someone was just not ME.
Books

Book #28: The Terrible Axe-Man of New Orleans

"The Terrible Axe-Man of New Orleans"
By Rick Geary


Do you remember the old dime-store novels that our grandparents (or the penny ones from our great-grandparents?) that told the story of some legend or gruesome murder?

This is that kind of series.

This is the first I have read of this series, but each is a stand-alone tale... a 'true crime' novel with those scratched out black and white illustrations that feed so well into our concious mind and dig around with the LACK of gruesome detail, so our unconcious mind fills it in.

This particular novel concerned the tale of a series of axe-murders in New Orleans in 1918 and 1919, which were ultimately unsolved...

I really enjoyed the book, because it harkened back to those dime store books and the slight exploitation of our own inner fears... everyone fears /something/. These books are written in just such a way as to tell the facts, and just the facts... but tickle at your own worry of what COULD have been.

After all, serial murderers exist in every era, don't they. ARE we safe, Really? EVER?

I gave this one a 4 out of 5... I suspect the quality of each book/story will vary, and get varying scores... but I look forward to reading them- all of them if I can, because who doesn't like a good scary story- especially when it's true.
Books

Book #29: Trouble Maker #2

"Trouble Maker 2"

By:
Janet Evanovich, Alex Evanovich, Art by Joelle Jones


When I read Volume One, I wasn't as impressed as I would be, by Volume Two... the characters were catchy, and the art was good- but I didn't have a sense of where it was all GOING yet.

Volume Two- now that carries us deep into the mystery and resolves it- all in one volume only as thick as the first one was... but with a HECK of a lot more excitement!

I really enjoyed this story- not only for the reasons already mentioned, but because it touches on New Orleans style Voodoo, and does it RIGHT. This is pretty much the 'classic' genre stuff for that, and they don't make so many glaring errors as to spoil it, like some folks do. They recognized the difference between the white and black, and used all the right words for things- it didn't get too technical, so we'll forgive everything else. ;)

Even so, it was a rollicking rampage of amusement and enjoyment, so I gave it a four out of five. You have to read Volume One to GET Volume Two, alas... else i'd suggest skipping right to the point. Hrmf.
50bookchallenge2012

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

B&N Synopsis

When Fat Charlie's dad named something, it stuck. Like calling Fat Charlie "Fat Charlie." Even now, twenty years later, Charlie Nancy can't shake that name, one of the many embarrassing "gifts" his father bestowed -- before he dropped dead on a karaoke stage and ruined Fat Charlie's life.

Mr. Nancy left Fat Charlie things. Things like the tall good-looking stranger who appears on Charlie's doorstep, who appears to be the brother he never knew. A brother as different from Charlie as night is to day, a brother who's going to show Charlie how to lighten up and have a little fun . . . just like Dear Old Dad. And all of a sudden, life starts getting very interesting for Fat Charlie.

Because, you see, Charlie's dad wasn't just any dad. He was Anansi, a trickster god, the spider-god. Anansi is the spirit of rebellion; he is able to overturn the social order, create wealth out of thin air, baffle the devil, and cheat Death himself.


I loved this book! Neil Gaiman is one of my favorites. My review is here. If you enjoy it, please share!

Books completed: 7/50
moon wolf

Books 37-39: The Wolves of Mercy Falls Trilogy by Maggie Stiefvater

Book 37: Shiver.
Author: Maggie Stiefvater, 2009.
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance. Werewolves.
Other Details: Paperback. 434 pages.

"For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf—her wolf—is a chilling presence she can't seem to live without. Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human… until the cold makes him shift back again." - from Official Site.

I enjoy stories involving werewolves and felt that Maggie Stiefvator's take on the subject was an interesting one. She shifts away the supernatural, lunar-based cycle and focuses on a pack who are full-time wolves during the cold weather and fully human at other times. By necessity they remain apart from normal humans and form deep bonds between themselves. I found the central romance between Grace and Sam tender and heart-warming and was pleased that Grace did not fall victim to the dreaded Bella-Swann syndrome. I also appreciated the shift between Grace and Sam as narrators.

While I am not in the target demographic this is a series that does easily cross over. I was browsing in the library's YA section and picked this up when a woman standing nearby said how good it was and that her teenage daughters had turned her on to the series. After that I had to borrow it and certainly felt engaged enough by the story and characters to continue with the series.

Book 38: Linger.
Author: Maggie Stiefvater, 2010.
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance. Werewolves.
Other Details: Paperback. 416 pages.

In the second book, Grace and Sam are together but are still facing issues including sanction from Grace's parents who disapprove of the relationship. A major new werewolf character makes his entrance: Cole, who in defiance of the usual YA paranormal troupe isn't a rival for Grace's affection but makes a connection with Isabel, a secondary character from 'Shiver' who is also aware of the true nature of the wolves. Cole brings in another group of issues linked to teens including a sense of alienation with society. Indeed, Cole rejects his human side and would gladly remain a wolf full time. Both Cole and Isabel become narrators.

Again as with 'Shiver', I enjoyed this and found I read it quickly. Sometimes I found the pacing was a little off though that can often be the case with middle books in a trilogy. Even though I appreciated the insights into Isabel and Cole's thoughts and emotions having four narrators at times made things a little choppy.

Book 39: Forever.
Author: Maggie Stiefvater, 2011.
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance. Werewolves.
Other Details: Paperback. 493 pages.

I won't say too much because as with any trilogy there are too many spoilers even on back covers. I will say though that along with other issues the threat to the wolves from humans who would like to see them exterminated comes to the fore.

The final part of the trilogy didn't disappoint and again I found it a very engaging story. For me the main strength of the trilogy was the way that the wolves were depicted along with Stiefvater highlighting the real-life threat that wolves are under in the USA/Canada. It's a cause close to my heart and I contribute when I can to a wolf sanctuary here in the UK as well as try to keep abreast of issues linked to their protection in the wild. Sometimes these real life stories are heartbreaking and Stiefvater has drawn on this as well as depicting pack behaviour as reported through observation.

Second to this was the way that issues that teens have with their parental units was depicted, especially in the cases of Grace and Isabel. Thus, overall I felt the trilogy was very grounded with the paranormal aspects blended in to a greater degree than in many works of YA fantasy.

Official Website for the Trilogy - contains links to each book with synopsis, extracts, music and pretty artwork

#14 Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (re-read)

[just so you know - there are spoilers in this note]

Taking this book into my hands for the second time I found myself afraid that reading it will break me.

Surprisingly, it didn't. Without the worries about the turn of events nor the doubts about moral aspects of heroes' decisions and actions I was able to take my time looking more carefully into some of the characters' minds and emotions. Katniss' especially.

I cannot say I truly liked Katniss after the first read. I did like Suzanne Collins for creating such an authentic heroine with all her flaws, imperfections and weaknesses. I remember how mortified I was by her 'yes' to another Hunger Games, because I like to believe I would not do that. But then we only know as much about ourselves as was tested.

However, the second round made me give her more credit for how she has managed to live on. And even more credit to Suzanne for the courage to break the main heroine so severely. In most of the stories heroes tend to get stronger with every misfortune and thus prove right to the saying "whatever doesn't kill you, makes you stronger". Katniss on the contrary from brave, pure girl who sacrifices herself for her sister becomes this broken shell of a human being, fueled by hatred and fear. Okay, after some time she does learn to trust people, to have a child, to live on. But for God's sake, someone who makes a mental note everytime they see someone doing something good is certainly not fine. In fact it must be the opposite of fine.


I always believed, that everytime something breaks you, it is possible to pick up the pieces, glue them together and go on. Observing Katniss ' breakdown made me realized that maybe I was wrong. That maybe some things are meant not only to be broken but stay so, and the best you can do is to make sure the cracks won't get bigger. It sure is not a pretty picture, but I guess that's what reading these books does to you - inflicts this dark, twisted sadness.

(Still, I am so going to read them again someday)

Dead Dog Cat

(no subject)

As is usual, the Osprey Campaign books take a bit longer to read. Yesterday, I finished reading the ebook Osprey Campaign #239: Plataea 479 BC: The Most Glorious Victory Ever Seen, which talks about the lead-up to the conclusive battle between the Greeks and the Persians.
Locke

Book #22: Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne



I read this book because I enjoyed Jules Verne’s other famous books, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Around the World in 80 Days. I was not convinced at first by this one, because it takes about a third of the book for the characters to actually go underground, with the first few chapters being somewhat tedious.

When the story picks up, it gets just as exciting as Verne’s other books, with his depictions of life underneath the ground and the travels of the characters, although the Professor in this book is hardly Captain Nemo or Phileas Fogg.

This book is relatively short and I managed it in just a few days; the part that I found most compelling and intense was when the main character found himself lost underground. Worth reading if you enjoyed other Jules Verne novels.

Next book: King Solomon's Mines by Henry Rider Haggard
cabana

The Start

It's April and I have a feeling I've posted this before but oh well.  Half way through April I'm awfullly proud of myself as an English professor to have not only kept up with my student work this semester but also to have kept up with my reading. I've done much better than I have in the past.  Either way,  for 16 weeks, here are my 15 books:

Best of Me - Nicholas Sparks
Love in a Nutshell - Janet Evanovich and  Dorien Kelly
 ---  I'm a sucker for both Sparks' and Evanovich's writings.  I've read them all and these are no exceptions.  Light easy reads.

Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
Open House - Elizabeth Berg
The Recipe Club - Andrea Israel & Nancy Garfinkel
The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
----  These are a series of books I "borrowed" from my Mother In Law, who has a book club that diversifies her reading list far further than mine.  Albom is basically as expected.  Open House and The Recipe Club were both great works of human nature and honesty.  I'd recommend them both and have to others in person.

Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins
Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins
--- Obviously after reading The Hunger Games,  it was nearly impossible to not want to continue the series. Then again I'm a person who dives so thoroughly into a book that occasionally I have to breathe and remember I'm not part of it, which causes me to get more drawn into series than others.  The true test, and verification that I'm not just insane, is that my husband has also gone through all three books significantly faster than his usual.  I felt vindicated.  If you aren't aware of the premise yet, come out from under your rock, it's beautiful outside.

Slaughterhouse Five - Kurt Vunnegut
The Color Purple - Alice Walker
Animal Farm - George Orwell
( Attempted - 1984 - Orwell)
--- Part of my personal challenge is to read at least one book off the BBC Must Read list per month.  I started with 5 People and these were long enough reads that they covered me until April.   They're classics, and worth the read.  I will probably finish 1984 at some point but Orwell just likes to be confusing without carrying a plot.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake - Aimee Bender
An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination  - Elizabeth McCracken
The Descendents - Kaui Hart Hemmings
The Help - Kathryn Stockett
--- I hit the motherlode of awesome books at a recent library visit. Lemon Cake was recommended to me and while I was picking up this book, McCracken's title hit me as beautifully stated, though the memoir is heartwrenching, incapsulating the time between when her first child (a stillborn) and second (live) were born and the differences in her expectations and preparations.  Wonderfully written.  The last two were movies that I've put off seeing until I've read the books.  The Descendants I didn't even know I wanted to see until I got approximately 2 paragraphs into the book and decided I had to see it. 

Happy Reading!
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Books 21 and 22 for 2012

21. The Saint of Dragons by Jason HIghtman. 349 pages.
Simon Saint George has never known his parents, only the remote boarding school he's lived at all his life, so when two men turn up in the same day, both claiming to be his father, Simon is more than a little confused. And then one of them kidnaps him and he learns he is the last of a line of Knights who dedicate themselves to battling evil dragons….
Not a bad story but the author talks down to his intended audience rather more than I think he needs to. A reasonable fantasy adventure for young readers but it lacks that spark that would make it really special.
22. The Hamlet Trap by Kate Wilhelm. 234 pages.
I read on of Wilhelm's SF novels last year and really liked it, so I had a hunt on Bookmooch for her other books. This was the only one I found and it turned out to be a murder mystery set in a theatrical community in a small town in Oregon.
It's labelled as a "A Charlie Meiklejohn and Constance Liedl Mystery" but those characters don't appear until more than a third of the way through the book. It's a perfectly acceptable stylistic device of course, but not one I care for - I prefer to follow the detective(s) as they reconstruct events and work from the same amount of information that they have.
Some elements of the mystery seemed glaringly obvious to me, but that's probably because I've read a fair few detective stories and there are only so many ways the plots can believably go.
Not a bad book, but not as good as The Killing Thing which I read last year.