September 16th, 2012

Read or Die

Books 20-30, September 2012

I better get everything I've read since May down before I never get a chance to do it.

20. Catching Fire Susan Collins. 2009. Great follow up to the first book, you get a better understanding of the world Katniss lives in. Being oblivious to the effect she has on the politics of her world is pretty typical of most teens.

21. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter Seth Grahame-Smith. 2012 (movie tie in edition). Not being and American, I enjoyed this fictional tweaking of this historical icon.

22. The Wind in the Willows Kenneth Grahame, Illustrated by Ernest H, Shepard. 1961. The adventures of Mole, Rat, Badger, and Mr. Toad represent a bygone era in English literature and society. Still a good read.

23. The Fifth Elephant Terry Pratchett. 2000. Sam Vines goes to Uberwald and has some interesting adventures. I would love this book to made into a movie if only for one amusing scene involving Lady Margolotta, the vampire noble.

24. The Truth Terry Pratchett.2001, best satire on the newspaper industry I have ever read. And shows you the best way to shut up a lawyer - quote him verbatim.

25. The Thief of Time Terry Pratchett. 2002. Lu Tze and Lobsang Ludd race against time to stop the an accurate clock from being made. A good time waster.

26. Nightwatch Terry Pratchett. 2003. Sam Vines gets sent back in time. He must be very careful how he does things because he could make things or or die in the past. I love how he dealt with the failed assassin at the beginning of the book. But it's a fun read all the same.

27. Doubletake Rob Thurman. More Cal Leandros.2012. More Cal Leandros. More unpleasant monsters, both real and human. And a Puck lottery you do(n't) want to miss.

28. Mockingjay Susan Collins . 2010. Real good, and the ending was even better.

29. Th Amazing Maurice And His Educated Rodents Terry Pratchett. While this a young readers book, it's still done in Pratchett's style and wit. The rats are adorable and very individual. A good read whatever your age.

30. Monstrous Regiment Terry Pratchett. Reissued 2011. What happens when Janey goes to war? You'll find out in this book.
Read or Die

31-41 16 September, 2012

Only 9 more books to go to reach 50. I hope I can find enough to read before the end of the year.

31. Sold Down The River Barbara Hambly. 2001. I forgot she did a mystery series set in the south in 1830's New Orleans. Benjamin January is free man of colour who gets talked into acting like a slave to figure out a series of mysterious events on the sugar can plantation of a an old slave owner. You get real understanding of the inhumanity of slavery from the slaves perspective. A very brilliant series that should not be missed.

32. Going Postal Terry Pratchett.reissued 2011. What happens when you put a convicted con man in charge in the failing Ankh-Morpork Post Office. A lot entertaining things happen with a lot fascinating characters.

33. The Wee Free Men Terry Pratchett. 2010. How does one become a witch in Discworld. It helps to have some moxy and some help from some little blue men.

34. Thud Terry Pratchett. 2006. Koom Valley? The great battle between the Trolls and the Dwarves is set to escalate in Ankh-Morpork and beyond unless Sam Vines and the City Watch get to the bottom of a slew of mysteries. And dsam also must make back home to read to young Sam at 6 o'clock every evening - or else, toe read Where's My Cow?.

35. Making Money Terry Pratchett. Reissued 2011. How do you shake up the Ankh-Morpork banking system? You put Moist von Lipwig in charge of the Chairman, whose a dog.

36. Wintersmith Terry Pratchett. 2010. Tiffany Aching jumped into a dance with the Wintersmith and now she can't escape his attentions and these have dire consequences for the world she knows.

37. I Shall Wear Midnight Terry Pratchett. The final book in the Tiffany Aching series gives a serious bent to prejudice and evil that lurks in all human beings when confronted with those we envy or do not understand.

38. Unseen Academicals Terry Pratchett. 2010. An entertaining take on football aka soccer to us North Americans. four new characters take us a whirlwind ride through the Ankh-Morpork Football leagues and how to set a "safer" game out of this adventure.

39. Snuff Terry Pratchett. 2012. Sam Vines takes a "vacation" to the land holdings of his wife's family. And wouldn't you know it, a mystery presents itself before he has time to get bored. This ends the Discworld books to date.

40. The Graveyard Book Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Dave McKean. 2008. A fascinating retelling on The Jungle Book By Rudyard Kipling but set in a graveyard.

41. Ghost Story Jim Butcher. 2012. Harry Dresden is sent back to find out who killed him. But he has a hard time as he has to save three of his friends too. A compulsive read for sure for Dresden fans.
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miss plum

Books 114-115: The Colorado Kid and Four to Score

Book 114: The Colorado Kid .
Author: Stephen King, 2005.
Genre: Mystery.
Other Details: ebook. 184 pages.

As a fan of the TV series 'Haven' I was curious to read the short novel that inspired the show though was aware up front that this was something of a shaggy dog story and that the link between it & the TV series was rather slim.

Still that tenuous link didn't diminish my enjoyment of this mystery, which consists of two old geezers, Vince & Dave, who run the local newspaper for Moose-Lookit Island off the coast of Maine, speculating on the idea of unexplained mysteries to their summer intern, Stephanie. What prompts this discussion is a visit from a Boston Globe reporter seeking to do a series of feature articles on said unexplained mysteries. They turn him away but then begin to explain to Stephanie their reasoning for this. Along the way they tell her about a 25-year old mystery, that of a man who was found dead on the beach with no identification and who became known as the Colorado Kid.

As Vince & Dave are quite wonderful supporting characters in the TV show, I saw this story as sort of prequel to the events in the series. However, my trusty timey-whimey detector did sound off with the mention of a Starbucks located in Boulder, Colorado in 1980. While the coffee shops did soon spread widely according to their potted history in 1980 there were only a few coffee shops which were all located in Seattle.

Was this a deliberate anachronism on the part of King, slipped in as part of the mystery or to indicate that the old boys' memories were not all that brilliant? Still maybe just a simple error as it is hard to recall a time when Starbucks weren't everywhere. King's afterword was very insightful including the fact he knew some people would be quite angry about the way he played out the story. I loved it though, so no complaints.

Book 115: Four to Score (Stephanie Plum #4).
Author: Janet Evanovich, 1998.
Genre: Chick Lit Crime Fiction. Comedy/Drama.
Other Details: Unabridged Audiobook (9 hours, 36 mins) Read by C. J. Critt.

Stephanie's current case for her bail bondsman cousin Vinnie has her hot on the trail of waitress Maxine Nowicki, who had been arrested for stealing her ex-boyfriend's car. At first it seems a simple case though quirky proves much more complex as Maxine has not only jumped bail but is seeking revenge on said ex-boyfriend. More disasters befall Stephanie when someone begins to target her personally sparking further mayhem in her already chaotic life.

There was a lot to enjoy here as I've become quite familiar with Evanovich's style and her cast of quirky characters that fill the pages of these novels. One new superb character was Joe Morelli's grandmother, Bella, who claims to have 'the Eye' and to be able to foresee the future. She makes a prediction about Stephanie that travels like wildfire around the local community.

This proved a fun audiobook-in-the car though I could almost guarantee that when a steamy scene came on I'd be somewhere inconvenient like parked outside shops with families walking by with trolleys. Stephanie still is a very inept bounty hunter but then that is part of the enjoyment as she gets into scrape after scrape until the resolution.
Dead Dog Cat

(no subject)

While I've been taking these online courses, it's been hard to keep up with reading for fun; I've read some books for the class, and for my work, but the kind of reading I normally do for amusement has been severely truncated. However, yesterday I managed to finish three books in short order.

First was The Martian Chronicles, a masterpiece by Ray Bradbury, read for the Fantasy and Science Fiction Literature class. I had read it in elementary school not long after I'd read everything by Heinlein the school library had, but I can't say that I understood what I was reading. I'll be writing my essay for this one probably tomorrow.

Second was Osprey Combat Aircraft #42: B-29 Superfortress Units of the Korean War, which I didn't find all that interesting.

Then, I finished on my cell phone, reading The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson by Mark Twain, a tale of exchange of a slave child for the owners' child. A bit uncomfortable by the standards of today.
work? hyperbole

Book #10 - The Hothouse by Harold Pinter

Title: The Hothouse
Author: Harold Pinter
Genre: Play

From the blurb:
A black comedy set in a government-run mental institution, The Hothouse revolves around a sinister murder plot hatched against a backdrop of corruption, sexual favors, and hopeless bureaucratic ineptitude.

Beneath the surface comedy there are frightening implications concerning a bureaucracy ostensibly dedicated to humanitarian concerns, but where people are referred to by numbers and forgotten as easily as troublesome figures on a balance sheet.

(summary from goodreads)

I picked this up a while ago, at random, while browsing in the library. I was hooked by the blurb and since it would be my first play in a while, decided to pick it up.

It was interesting. Somewhat unclear at points, unsettling at others…but by the end I didn’t have a strong opinion of it, either positive or negative. I didn’t think it was anything much, at least to read.

Though I wonder what it would be like to see this performed…
jimmy kick original series

Book #11 - Gethsemane by David Hare

Title: Gethsemane
Author: David Hare
Genre: Play

From the blurb:
Once it was possible to do good by being good.
Now the only way to do good is by being clever.

Nothing is more important to a modern political party than fund-raising. But the values of the donors can’t always coincide with the professed beliefs of the party. And family scandal within the cabinet has the potential to throw both the money-raisers and the money-spenders into chaos.

This richly imagined ensemble play about British public life looks at the way business, media, and politics are now intertwined to nobody’s advantage, as, in an unforgiving world, one character after another passes through Gethsemane.

I picked this up a while ago, at random, while browsing in the library. I was hooked by the blurb because politics and the media, and their connection(s), are subjects I’ve studied.

Overall, this is an interesting work in two acts. It’s about aspirations, expectations, family, and work. It’s about the relationships between people, about their ethics (and what that concept means to different people), about how the two do or don’t mix, and the consequences of that.

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Books 63-65

63. Metamaus, by Art Spiegelman. Fans of Spiegelman's Maus graphic novels will probably be checking out this very dense, fact-filled book, which is primarily an interview with the author about the inspirations behind the ground-breaking Maus. It answers- why the Holocaust, why comics and why mice? His answers are very interesting. There is a lot of information in this book- both its strong point and its weakness. It was information overload; I admit my attention started drifting about three-quarters of the way through, and this is after reading it bit by bit over about two weeks or so. Still, there were many fascinating facts within. I didn't know so many of his illustrations were based on historical images and propaganda. I knew this was a memoir- both for him and his father. But I didn't appreciate how much effort and research went into Maus. The book also includes a CD-ROM (which I didn't get a chance to go over as of this time). So I do recommend this for Maus devotees, graphic novel fans and history buffs - just be prepared to just read it a bit at a time.

64. Where Things Come Back, by John Corey Whaley. An OK story, although how it won two awards is beyond me. Didn't really do anything for me. The characters are likeable enough but the pacing was a bit slow. Also, towards the end there's a major flashback (more of a rewind) that seemed to come out of nowhere and I found jarring. It took me a while to realize- "oh, this is a flashback here..." The story starts with the death of Cullen's cousin by drug overdose. Cullen, the main protagonist, has an eventful and life-changing summer. Besides the death of his cousin, his brother disappears and a once believed extinct woodpecker reappears, the so-called Lazarus woodpecker(ie, the Ivory-Billed woodpecker; there are a lot of similarities, and the setting in Arkansas I'm sure is deliberate). There's a b story as well that eventually ties in to the main story. The ending was a bit of a letdown, a bit anticlimatic.

65. The Midwife of Hope River, by Patricia Harman. Very enjoyable. Harman, who herself was a midwife, covers a lot of territory with her novel, which is set in the 1930s, during the beginning of the Great Depression. Patience Murphy (actually an alias) is more or less thrown into the role of the town midwife after her mentor dies unexpectedly. She feels completely out of her depth, but gradually comes to trust her own strengths and instincts. It takes place over a year, and includes a mining accident, racial tensions, economic woes, and domestic abuse. Patience herself harbors many secrets, which are revealed a bit at a time. But she also finds trust, new friends - sometimes from unlikely sources - and new love. The various beliefs about maternal care and childbirth were fascinating. I did find it interesting that Patience was pretty progressive but even she sometimes fell into wrong beliefs (more of a reflection of the time, not to mention the advantage of reader hindsight). The book is well paced, with the action and character development believable and well done.

Currently reading: Whiskey Island, by Les Roberts, and The Buzzard: Inside the Glory Days at WMMS, by John Gorman.

Book #12: Seven Soldiers of Victory by Grant Morrison/various illustrators

Title: Seven Soldiers of Victory Volume One
Author/Illustrator: Grant Morrison/J.H. Williams III/Simone Bianchi/Cameron Stewart/Ryan Sook/Frazer Irving/Mick Gray
Genre: Comic/Graphic Novel
Publisher: DC Comics

Seven Soldiers is an epic tale of life, death, triumph, and redemption that explores the nature of heroism and sacrifice. This first of two hardcover volumes features the exploits of four of the seven soldiers; the Shining Knight, the Guardian, Zatanna, and Klarion the Witch Boy. Independently, each of these characters is featured in a story arc of their own that redefines their purpose in the DC Universe. But their stories also interweave with the other soldiers’ tales, and tells a grander story of a devastating global threat to mankind. Together these reluctant champions must arise and somehow work together to save the world…without ever meeting one another!
(from the blurb)

This book starts with Seven Soldiers of Victory #0, which introduces the concept of seven heroes needing to band together to overcome a foe that one can’t handle by him- or her- self. With this special issue, we see that a group of seven is a special and that each Age, or era, or whatever, has one of its own.

The stories of the first four Soldiers of the modern day (because that’s what they are!) are then told in an overlapping manner – Shining Knight #1, Guardian #1, Zatanna #1, Klarion #1, Shining Knight #2, Guardian #2, etc.

Non-spoilery thoughts on each Soldier’s story under the respective LJ-cuts.

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Overall, I thought this book was really very good, if not brilliant. Disturbing at some points (graphic scenes of giant monsters, among other things) but touching at others, it has a mix of fantasy elements and more ‘real’ elements (Guardian’s girlfriend’s reactions, perhaps, to the events of issue #2 (as seen in issue #3)? The way the investigation into Shining Knight is done in issue #4?) that, when considered as a whole, worked well for me.

This is also the first Grant Morrison work – out of three including this one – that I’ve read and really managed to enjoy without feeling like he’s working with the expectation that I have a lot of background information. One of the others, Batman: RIP, just utterly confused me and the other, his pre-New 52 Batman and Robin series, had some plot points that I didn’t get (because, as I realized later, I hadn’t read RIP beforehand).

Really looking forward to finding a copy of Volume Two somewhere.
jimmy kick original series

Book #13 - Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? by Neil Gaiman/Andy Kubert & various

Title: Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? Deluxe Edition
Author/Illustrator: Neil Gaiman/Andy Kubert
Genre: Comic/Graphic Novel
Publisher:: DC Comics

This is a collection of several Batman-related comics.

From the blurb:
He is Gotham City’s protector, its avenging spirit, its Dark Knight. For years he has waged a one-man war to keep its streets safe. But tonight that war has claimed its last and greatest casualty…

Batman himself.

The Masked Manhunter lies in a coffin in Crime Alley, the place where he was born. His closest friends and deadliest enemies gather to pay their final respects. Each of them tells a very different story of the Batman they knew: how he lived…and where he died.

Like a shadow in the night, a dark figure watches over this macabre memorial. He knows that the contradictory tales these heroes and villains are telling cannot possibly all be true. Before the night is over, before the lid is closed on Batman forever, he must answer the question:

Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?


This is…an interesting book.

The first complete story, from Detective Comics #686 and #853, is a love letter to different stories of Batman, particularly to the lives and deaths he’s had over the years. In it, different allies of his and members of his rogue’s gallery come to view his body in a coffin and to speak about their memories of him…and how he died.

It’s confusing, sort of, on the first read…but a second read made me realize it’s actually quite nice as a tribute to the Caped Crusader’s history. I love that Selina Kyle and Alfred Pennyworth had central roles, and I liked Selina’s story.

Also, I really liked how the last six pages were laid out.

This Deluxe Edition also includes other stories written by Gaiman and illustrated and lettered by others.

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