July 23rd, 2015

Me

Books #33-34

Book #33 was "Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void" by Mary Roach, as an audiobook. I'd read "Stiff" by the same author before and I know I like her writing style, and the topic is highly of interest, so I expected to like it, but I ended up LOVING it. The science and the politics around space travel budgets is beginning to get outdated since this was published in 2010, but it's still well worth a read. Roach is the person who is not afraid to ask about gross or taboo subjects like poop, body odor, sex in space, masturbation, or death in space, so she was the perfect person to write this. Her style is very breezy and informal (direct quote: "Some seriously hairy shit was going down on a regular basis."), but she is obviously a rigorous researcher and interviewer as well. The book is about all the challenges of long-term space exploration, the ways we've tried to train astronauts on earth-based simulations, and the challenges we already know about from space exploration in the past. My only complaints are 1) I wish there was even MORE direct dialogue from the astronauts because it's so fascinating and 2) She talked about all manner of sexual and bodily challenges in space but didn't mention menstruation, which I fond a little odd. Overall all, though, and extremely entertaining non-fiction read. I want to read her book on the science of sex, "Bonk," at some point, too.

Book #34 was "Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir" by Roz Chast, a graphic memoir. I am so glad I ran across a mention of this book in an article I stumbled on about "Best books of 2012." Roz Chast is best known as a cartoonist for the New Yorker. This graphic memoir recounts dealing with her elderly parents -- both in their 90s -- and their refusal to talk about death or aging until life circumstances force them to face the fact that they can't live on their own in their apartment anymore. The first 90 percent of the book is hilarious, and I laughed a lot. The last 10 percent of the book had me weeping almost uncontrollably. Toward the end, Chast gives up her wacky impressionistic cartoon style and prints verbatim some more realistic line drawings she did of her mother in bed, half comatose in her last few months of life. They are very moving in their simplicity. Another book I recommend highly. I really applaud the recent uptick in NONFICTION graphic books, because some of them ("Fun Home" by Alison Bechdel, or "Nat Turner" by Kyle Baker) have been among my very favorites.


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Book 79

Vinland Saga, Omnibus 4Vinland Saga, Omnibus 4 by Makoto Yukimura

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This one is hard to review because this wraps up the only story arc we've had from the beginning to this point (so about 8 normal sized manga) and wow, what a story it is. Unfortunately when I first got into this series I went looking to see what it's fandom was like and sadly the answer was 'rude about spoilers.' So, I was spoiled for how this ends but I won't do that to you. Read it. It's so worth it and for some characters shattering.

Up until now the story has been Thorfinn with of course Askeladd's input but as the cover promises, this is Askeladd's volume. This is his story, his back story, the fruits of his Machiavellian plotting. I knew of course that this is a fictionalized history story and am well familiar with King Sewyn and his son, Canute. I didn't realize that Thorfinn was, in the author's words, very loosely based on Thorfinn Karlsefni who I had forgotten about (I assume I had to have known his name once as I know the story of Erick the Red and who Snorri was but sorry Thorfinn, you slipped my mind).

Whether or not the real Thorfinn ever knew Canute is debatable but in this he and Askeladd (who draws his inspiration from Nordic and British folklore)are accompanying Prince Canute, along with Thorkell the Tall, to meet Sewyn in York (add this to places I need to see). Along the way Thorfinn cashes in on the duel Askeladd promises but this time his mentor (whether or not Thorfinn likes it) holds nothing back because he knows that Thorfinn isn't learning from his mistakes and there is a distinct, if unconscious, father-son relationship here.

Things go as violently as you might expect between Sewyn and Canute's factions. I won't say more than that. The next storyline begins at least a few, if not more, years later (I looked for a date but if it was there I missed it) through the eyes of an English slave.

The art in this is simply amazing. In the fight scenes you know what's going on (the mangaka said he felt that was very important to be sure of for the reader) and the storyline is top notch. It would have to be if I'm giving out five stars to a war epic since those aren't my thing. I love this. I'd love to see it animated some day.



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