December 21st, 2015


Books #55-56

Book #55 was "El Deafo" by Cece Bell, a graphic nonfiction memoir of growing up deaf. This author and illustrator, whose previous credits include the children's book "Rabbit and Robot," creates a memoir where all the characters are portrayed as bunny-people, including the main character, who becomes deaf and wears a giant "Sonic Ear" to school. The Sonic Ear is meant to help her hear her instructors in the classroom, but it also gives her the super-hero-like ability to hear the teacher all over the school, including smoking in the teacher's lounge or tinkling in the faculty bathroom. She uses her "super abilities" as "El Deafo" to make friends at school. Super cute book aimed at tweens but a fun read for adults as well. I loved it and would like to look up some of her children's books as well. See Cece Bell talking about creating El Deafo here.

Book #56 was "Anything We Love Can Be Saved: A Writer's Activism" by Alice Walker. I have read 4 of Walker's novels and really liked them, and I was curious about this essay collection. My final verdict is: Uneven. I'd say I liked 6 or 8 essays a lot, found a handful more entertaining but a bit dated, and felt like many letters and short pieces were filler to make the collection seem more hefty. My favorites were "The Only Reason You Want to Go to Heaven," an essay about her evolving ideas on god and spirituality; the title piece about the enduring appeal of Zora Neale Hurston; "Sunniness and Shade" about Walker's complicated relationship with her daughter, Rebecca; her essay about the Million Man March; and a few essays where she talks about the writing of "The Temple of My Familiar" and "Possessing the Secret of Joy." I think it's worth reading, but I'd probably pick and choose among my favorites and skip some of the slighter pieces if I decide to re-read this in the future.

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My Grandma Lived in Gooligulch by Graeme Base

book 205:  My Grandma Lived in Gooligulch by Graeme Base

I like this author a lot.  His rhyming stories are whimsical and amusing, and his illustrations are enchanting.  This one is set in his home country, Austrailia, and features several critters from down under in addition to his adventurous grandma.  The version I have is a pop-up, which is interesting but not out-standing.  I think the story would stand on its own merits.

Sign of the Seahorse by Graeme Base

book 206:  The Sign of the Seahorse by Graeme Base

This is a magical underwater adventure/crime story about a greedy grouper taking advantage of an ecological disaster caused by greedy humans to extort the denizens of a dying reef system.  The long-format poetry (in several acts) is clever, and the artwork is rich and captivating.  Plus, as in The Eleventh Hour there is a puzzle in each illustration, in this case in the form of the hidden image of "the sign of the seahorse" and one or two "largely unnoticed shrimp".  I think I found them all, but it was not easy!  o_O

InuYasha Volumes 53-56 (final) by Rumiko Takahashi

books 207-210:  InuYasha Volumes 53-56 by Rumiko Takahashi

This finishes up the fantasy/romance/adventure manga series InuYasha for me.  I can't say anything unexpected happen:  "good guys" win, "bad guys" are wiped out, the jewel is wished out of existence, and all romantic partners end up with whom they "should" end up with.  The only happenings of note were that Kagome opts to say goodbye to her family and real time friends and return to the past to live her days with InuYasha, Sango and Miroku waste no time in producing large volumes of children, and Rin is kept with Kaede to "relearn being human" (but demon Sesshomaru still visits frequently, bringing her gifts and doting on her in his own way, as a father-figure or future lover, I don't know...both disturbing, but given his personality and that he is a demon, cute nevertheless).  Overall, I enjoyed the series.  As I mentioned previously, it dragged a bit in the middle, and, honestly, a tiny bit at the very end since nothing surprising happened.  I also could have enjoyed a more adult version, but the story wasn't originally marketed for my age group.  So, I can't complain too much.  I'll keep the series on my bookshelf a bit longer.  I don't think I'm over being a "fangirl" of Sesshomaru just yet, and I might reread it someday. :)

Tramps Like Us Volume 1 and 2 by Yayoi Ogawa

books 211-212:  Tramps Like Us by Yayoi Ogawa

I'm trying to work my way through my rather large current library, and to continue progress, I have a minimum number of books by me at all time including:  a manga series, a book from a series that I borrowed from my mom's library (mostly mysteries, but occasional others), a children's book (trying to read them and pass them on to my niece), and one from a book list I created (which will gradually take care of all the least until I run out of time through death).  Anyway, I finished the manga series InuYasha recently, so the next manga series I have opted to read is Tramps Like Us.  Some of the volumes will be rereads.  I picked up the series as I could through used book sources, so I purchased volumes out of order and think I have missed reading some.  So, this will be my first time reading it from start to finish.  It is a romance, or Shojo, manga, although the target audience is probably 18 and over.  The main characters are Sumire, a beautiful, well-educated, semi-successful woman of 27 who is secretly sensitive to the jealousy and prejudicial feelings of the men and women around her, and Momo (Takeshi), a young (currently age-unknown), homeless and seemingly helpless modern dancer whom Sumire adopts and allows to stay with her, as long as she can maintain an emotional distance between their humanity by thinking of him as her pet (Momo is the name of her deceased dog that she had as a child).  Complications ensue as Takeshi falls in love with Sumire but treads a fine line of trying to get her to see him as human and getting thrown out because Sumire is not emotionally ready.  Also, Sumire's first love has reentered the picture, and he is everything successful Sumire thinks a man who will not be intimidated by her should be (or so she thinks).

Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson

book 213:  The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson

This is a children's fantasy book, target audience about 8-12.  I liked it pretty well.  The idea is that the prince of a magical island is kidnapped into the "real" world, but the doorway between the worlds, Platform 13 at the King's Cross train station in London, is only opened for a couple of weeks every nine years.  So, nine years later, a motley group of rescuers including a feeble wizard, an overly positive, organically oriented fey, a bashful and gentle ogre, and a little girl hag named Odge step through to return the boy to his mourning royal parents.  A comedy of errors ensues with confused identities, reluctant rescuees, misplayed magic, unfortunate timing, and impatient but well-meaning creatures of the dark side.  Will the prince be rescued?  Will justice prevail?  Will Odge become a true and powerful hag, at last?  It's worth reading to find out. :)

Mediterranean Caper by Clive Cussler

book 214:  The Mediterranean Caper by Clive Cussler

Oh, Clive, Clive, Clive...such a chauvanistic character you have created.  I might have been able to forgive most of it based on this book originally being published in 1973, but, really, a woman willingly and even enthusiasticly "getting laid" by a man she just met and who had hit her in the face for grieving too long for her deceased husband...don't think so...stabbed in the neck, maybe, but not sex.  Anyway, this is the first book in the famed Dirk Pitt mystery, adventure series.  Except for the instance mentioned above which I find a bit offensive, the rest I can more-or-less laugh off as a he-mance.  Overly virile, super-testosterone-laden, fight-before-you-think male lead...except that he is also played off, in spite of the previously mentioned features, as super smart and clever and can figure out things that countless men (not women, as they are either jewelry or secretaries) in various international agencies cannot fathom.  This time he is up against a Nazi war criminal turned smuggler.  Well, I like adventure books, sometimes even ones targeted for male audiences.  Many parts of this one were obnoxious, but like I said I can laugh them off (actually find them less nauseating than some of the romances written supposedly for women).  Dirk Pitt has some charming characteristics, but hopefully Cussler has left violence toward women out of his following novels, or I am never going to be able to get over my dislike, try to forgive, and potentially bond with this character.  The next book in the series is Iceberg, which I do own.  I'll give it a chance after I finish a couple other mysteries I have lined up first.

Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Writings by Washington Irving

book 215:  The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Writings by Washington Irving

This book has short stories and chapters excerpted from Letters of Jonathan Oldstyle, Gent., Salmagundi, The Sketch-Book, Bracebridge Hall, Tales of a Traveller, and A History of New York.  The most famous, I believe, are "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle"; however, it seems that I have either read or heard of several of the others before, as well.  At least, I recognized similar themes.  On the whole, Irving comes across as a very humorous, positive, and silly (in a good way) man.  I told my mom that I thought he was a "goofball", meaning that I bet he was a very happy, mischievious, and entertaining person to be around.  That's the spirit that comes through his works to me, anyway.  Even his ghost stories, and there are many more than just the headless horseman, are told with a bit of a "wink".  Even the set-up of some of his stories is like a game...stories within stories within stories or fictional histories introduced in ways as to seem real, but even if you are fooled initially, you find yourself in the midst of the joke within the satires of semi-real events.  But, as with most observant and clever writing, even in the most fictional paragraphs, reality of life shines through clearer than ever.  In many of his works, I found I could substitute modern political figures and events into the text, and the jokes would work just as well.  I don't know whether or not to be relieved or horrified that American politics has not changed ONE BIT since its inception.  I think Irving deserves his place among the brilliant American writers.  I also think that his works are some of the most positive, life-affirming reading that I have done maybe ever and even though he is frequently making fun of that life which he is affirming.  It's all in good humor, and he writes well enough for his intention to reach you.

Five Patients by Michael Crichton

book 216:  Five Patients by Michael Crichton

Having gone through medical school, I can't understand how he wrote two books while attending. o_O  Anyway, I thought Five Patients was going to be a book of patient anecdotes, and it was to an extent.  He used five patients to introduce various subjects in his overall theme, the history of the modern hospital (meaning circa 1970 when the book was published) or in his own words as the subtitle "The Hospital Explained".  Most of the book is still surprisingly relevent...maybe disappointingly, considering we have recognized some of these problems for such a long time and haven't really addressed them in any major way.  There were a couple areas that were dated, but even then, it was an interesting historic study.  Overall, I was much more engrossed than I thought I would be, and I think everyone who has to be a consumer in the American medical system could benefit with the insights provided.  It's hard for me to judge completely because I do have a medical education, but I think the book is accessible to most.  There is a large glossary of medical terms in the back, for those who may not have been exposed to medical jargon, but I feel like his intended audience was everyone, at least everyone that has at least had a basic education.  In spite its age, I think it's worth a read.  Maybe someone will do a modernization of the book someday.

Blood and Thunder: Musings on the Art of Medicine 2004 by University of Oklahoma Coll of Medicine

Book 217:  Blood and Thunder:  Musings on the Art of Medicine 2004 by the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center College of Medicine

This is the 2004 volume of the arts journal put out by the college of medicine where I went to medical school, which features poetry, prose, and artwork, mostly with a healthcare theme.  I was an editor while I was a student there from 2007-2011 and editor-in-chief for the 2010-2011 year.  The journal received, selected, and published submissions from healthcare workers, patients, authors, and artists around the world, although just by volume created by word-of-mouth most tended to be more local submissions.  The quality varies, but there are definitely jewels.  My favorites from each category in this volume are: maybe "The Butterfly" by Susan Hassed in poetry, about the loss of a premie; maybe "Continuity of Care" by John Campbell in art, a cartoon featuring a nurse, a doctor, and an angel watching over a patient's bed; and maybe "Confessions of a Reluctant Caregiver" by Merri Biechler in prose, about the trials of familial love and caretaker fatigue.  This was a difficult book for me to read.  It was the first "medical" book that I had read since I lost my residency position in 2012 and with it most hope of becoming a doctor and having much of a viable future.  It also has been a year as of the 17th since my father's death (the day before his birthday) following a surprise diagnosis of pancreatic cancer nine days prior.  The stories, poems, and art express a lot of things that I had experienced or am going through, stirring up many painful memories of loss of different kinds.  Hopefully it will end up being cathartic rather than just contributing to worsening depression.  I think it was an accomplishment for me that I actually finished it and actually finished another medical themed book Five Patients by Michael Crichton and am reading another anthology On Doctoring containing more well known authors and artists to be reviewed on completion (probably in the new year).

Book #61: The X-Files: Goblins by Charles Grant

Number of pages: 277

For some reason I thought I hadn't enjoyed the first official X-Files novelisation, written around the time of the show's second season. True, Charles Grant's novels weren't quite as enjoyable as the later ones by Kevin J. Anderson, and this one did take a while to get going, but eventually I realised that this is an enjoyable enough adventure. I think my only problems were the fact that Mulder and Scully got lumbered with two other agents who I didn't find engaging at all, and the fact that at times their characterisation seemed a bit off (a lot of the time, Scully seems to be getting frustrated at Mulder and shouting, "Get some sleep!" There didn't seem to be quite enough of the usual banter between the characters that I liked.

The storyline takes us away from the show's original premise, which was aliens, and instead revolves around a murder mystery case involving an apparently invisible killer, one of the "goblins" of the title. The killer even makes contact with Mulder quite early on in the book, which also features two deaths in the first three chapters.

This book feels quite dark and gritty at times, but it does fit in with the general tone of the show at the time this was written, prior to the third season when the writers started making the tone a bit lighter. The lighter moments were enjoyable, with some pop culture references (for example, a character quoting Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, "Curiouser and curiouser").

The best thing about this novel is that it gives a truly creepy villain, and one that (at the time it was written) was nothing like anything that the show had done (they did an episode in the fifth season with some similarities). There is a good sense of tension and paranoia throughout, including a nail-biting moment where Scully appears to be trapped in a room with the killer.

Next book: Good News of Great Joy (John Piper)