June 23rd, 2016

Postcards from the Edge by Carrie Fisher

book 43:  Postcards from the Edge by Carrie Fisher

I suspect this is a semi-autobiographical novel that is told in journal-like or internal thought-like stream of consciousness episodes, mostly from the point of view of a hollywood actress and recovering drug addict and a few of the people she is involved with.  The novel deals a lot with perceptions of reality, how to escape those perceptions and the price of doing so, and how to cope with living with the reality that you have.  Carrie Fisher has a smart, snarky, and humorous writing style.  It's a funny book.  Something was just a bit off with me, I think, while reading it.  Maybe some of the introspections were too close to home, or I felt distanced from the drug and hollywood culture.  I don't know.  It was good, but I could have stood smaller doses,  I guess.  My personality is too similar to the main character, if not my setting or circumstances.  Anyway, I think I could compare this to Bridget Jones' Diary, except darker, Hollywood, and on drugs.

Books #33-34

Book #33 was "The Summer Prince" by Alaya Dawn Johnson. I ran into the author in an elevator at a local convention, and I wish I had read this book before I met her because I would have gone full-on fangirl on her and squeed about how much I LOVED this book. It's a YA dystopian novel set in a futuristic Brazil, when some kind of nuclear disaster has radically changed the earth's climate and political structures. Teenage aspiring artist June Costa lives in Palmeres Tres and has a best friend name Gil. Her city elects a "Summer King" every 5 years who gets to live for one year as king and then appoints the new queen as he is sacrificed at the end of his reign. June falls in love with the newly-elected Summer King, Enki, but Enki falls in love with Gil. Over the next year, Enki becomes June's close friend and artistic collaborator, and June begins to understand the ways her city is corrupt and in trouble and begins to question the way queens are appointed and young men are elected to be summer kings. This is very, very loosely based on the Epic of Gilgamesh, with the thematic elements of city vs. wilderness and necessary sacrifices coming through from the myth. I adored everything about this book, including the design of the hardback, and I am excited to see what else Johnson will write in the future. Highly, highly recommended.

Book #34 was "The Killer of Little Shepherds: A True Crime Story and the Birth of Forensic Science" by Douglass Starr. I thought this book about 19th century French serial killer Joseph Vacher was really well done. It puts the killing spree in context and taught me a lot about the very beginnings of forensic science, as the subtitle suggests. Vacher was known to have killed at least 11 people, possibly as many as 25, and all but a few were teenage boys or girls, many of them sheepherders, thus the title "Killer of Little Shepherds." The case wasn't well-known in the U.S. but it sparked a huge debate about the insanity defense, which was very new at the time of these murders in the 1890s. The book was well written for the average person and contains a selection of photographs of the killer, the men who caught and prosecuted him, and reproductions of newspaper stories and headlines from the case. I liked this book a lot and would recommend it to anyone interested in *real* forensic science, which is very messy compared to the TV version, and anyone interested in true crime and serial killer tales.

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Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander

book 44:  The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander

This is a reread for me of the first of Lloyd Alexanders Prydain Chronicles written for independent reader level children.  I first read the series as an adult (since I seemed to have gone from Golden Books to Stephen King in my own development) and enjoyed them.  I wanted to read them one more time before passing them on to my niece who is just about the age for which they were intended.  It's basically a fantasy quest series.  The main character is Taran, an "assistant pig-keeper" who is the ward of a wizard and the care-giver for a pig who can tell the future.  Like many books written for children, this is also a coming-of-age story in which Taran rues his lot in life, wishes for something more adventurous, and learns to be more careful about what he asks for and to appreciate his blessings when adventure is thrust upon him.  In this book Taran must save Hen Wen the pig from potential pig-nappers, learn to accept his faults in the face of his betters, face a sorceress and a supernatural war leader, and grow into becoming an effective leader of a young apprentice sorceress, a wandering bard who has trouble telling the truth, a dissatisfied fey/dwarf-like creature, and a part animal humanoid who is looking for purpose and a place of belonging.  I think my favorite parts are the dialogue between Taran and Eilonwy, the girl sorceress.  She says whatever comes to mind, and it was fun to see his teenage boy reactions, ranging from total exasperation to near crush.  The next book in the series of five is The Black Cauldron.

Fox Trot by Bill Amend

book 45:  Fox Trot by Bill Amend

I needed a break from my pile of books, so I grabbed a book of comics as a kind of mind cleanser (like palate cleanser).  I think maybe I had read one or two Fox Trot strips in newspapers over the years, but never regularly.  This was just something I found on sale somewhere.  For those not familiar, it is a family comic featuring a mother, father, teenaged son, teenaged daughter and a pre-teen son.  And an iguana.  It was okay.  It dealt a lot with sibling rivalry and parents versus kids issues.  Some of it was humorous, but it wasn't something that I really related with.  My family was highly dysfunctional in a non-"normal" way, so there wasn't a lot of my reality in this book.  I had a younger brother, but he was seven years my junior and we had very little to do with one another...still don't.  So, I guess I just couldn't relate very well overall, and I think that made it less funny to me.  I probably won't get any more of this series, and it certainly doesn't come close to the more twisted humor of Calvin and Hobbes or Far Side, which I truly love.  Or, even the bittersweet humor of something like Peanuts which can touch your heart while making you smile at the same time.

Gin Tama, Volumes 5-7 by Hideaki Sorachi

book 46:  Gin Tama, Volume 5 by Hideaki Sorachi

The adventures of Gintoki Sakata and his merry odd jobs crew and even odder aquaintances continues...  In this volume, they try to catch a sea monster, exorcise a ghost, control Kagura's shopping network purchases while battling a sword-collecting alien, watch (destroy) a convenience store for a friend, end up part of a tranny cabaret, and meet Sa-chan (Ayame Sarutobi), a near-sighted kunoichi who ends up with Gin in a compromising position.

book 47:  Gin Tama, Volume 6 by Hideaki Sorachi

This volume has the odd jobs crew looking for mushrooms in the forest and fending off an alien mushroom-controlled bear, taking down an underground fight-to-the-death ring secretly supported by the government, end up in the hospital with food poisoning (meeting a lot of people they know there for different reasons) and helping a pretty nurse make a love match, deal with giant alien cockroaches, and stop a shady cult whose hairy, stick-on moles grant wearers access to their dreams.

book 48:  Gin Tama, Volume 7 by Hideaki Sorachi

This volume involves people getting blown up or hit on the head a lot with subsequent loss, regain, and reloss of memories.  Somehow in the midst of this, they take down a anarchist group trying to blow up Edo, get into a battle with a former shinobi for the last copy of Shonen Jump, have their apartment destroyed, rebuilt, and destroyed again by an ex-compatriot, while Katsura helps at a ramen shop, help a fireworks maker say goodbye to his beloved wife, and Kagura's papa shows up to take her home whether she likes it or not.