Stuff and Nonsense: October 2010


Love to the Harvest Moon

Pumpkin Patch
I spot the hills
With yellow balls in autumn.
I light the prairie cornfields
Orange and tawny gold clusters
And I am called pumpkins.
-- excerpted from "Theme in Yellow" by Carl Sandburg


Graphic Novel: The Unwritten, Volume 1

The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Idenitity by Mike Carey & Peter Gross (DC Comics, 2010)

When Tom Taylor was a child, his dad penned a lucrative series of Harry Potter-esque fantasy novels about a boy named Tommy Taylor. All grown up and estranged from is absent father, Tom makes a living capitalizing on his Z-list celebrity status while at the same time clearly resenting that status and wishing it would end.

It looks like Tom might get his wish as evidence comes to light suggesting Tom isn't really Winston Taylor's son.  The police reopen their investigation into Winston Taylor's disappearance, his fans start burning Tom in effigy ...  then Tommy's greatest nemesis, Count Ambrosio, tries to kill Tom and things just get weird.

Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity collects the first five issues of The Unwritten and, despite reading it twice now, I am still not sure what is going on.  Who is Lizzie Hexam?  What side is Swope playing on?  Why is a mysterious cabal out to destroy Tom?  Is Tom Tommy?  Do I care enough to read the next two volumes?

I don't know.  I have a feeling that, for every answer they provide, the other volumes will raise more questions and I'm just not in the mood for overly complicated literary philosophies/conspiracies.  At nineteen, I would have eaten this up with a spoon.  Now, it just makes me go "meh."


Read-A-Thon: Book The Ninth

It Was the War of the Trenches by Jacques Tardi (Fantagraphics, 2010)

A collection of vignettes portraying the grinding horror of trench warfare. Unfortunately, Tardi tells the same story over and over again (soldier who can no longer stand life in the trenches dies) thus eventually hardening me to the point I felt well removed from the horror of it all.

Only one more war graphic novel to get through -- Mills & Colquhoun's Charley's War: 2 June 1916 to 1 August 1916 -- and then I shall need something light and comforting. Seriously, I've read only one graphic novel today that did not in anyway touch upon a world war. It's too much.

Read-A-Thon: Book The Eighth

The Plot: The Secret Story of the Protocols of the Elders Zion by Will Eisner (W.W. Norton, 2005)

Traces the history of the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion from its 1903 creation at the behest of the Russian Secret Police to its continuing publication in the present day. Yes, even thought the Protocols have, time and time again, been proven to be nothing but the grossest fabrications, people still want to believe them.

Why? Perhaps Eisner is right -- people believe it "because they need to justify the conduct they may later be ashamed of! And of course, their reaction to social change!"

I'd been meaning to read The Plot for several years now, but kept putting it off because I knew it would be hard going. And it was very hard going, but it is one of those books that must be read.

Read-A-Thon, Hour Thirteen Mini Challenge

This hour's mini challenge is a book title word jumble by Sheery @ Sheery's Place which makes me very excited as I love word jumbles (even if I am not always very good at them). Sheery says:
Unscramble the twenty book titles and then leave a link to your post. I will choose two winners to receive bookish favor bags as prizes. Which means, each winner will get one book and other book-related items. I will ship the prizes anywhere. As far as I know, the challenge is open for three hours. If that is not the case, I will find out and pass on the correct information.
  1. yfferil enal (Firefly Lane)
  2. aste fo eend (Taste of Eden)
  3. retwa orf pntshleea (Water for Elephants)
  4. ot lkli a ckomgnrbdii (To Kill a Mockingbird)
  5. het gtaer ysbtag (The Great Gatsby)
  6. yrhra tetrpo dna eth lyhdtea wollsah (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows)
  7. ht e rat fo nrgcai ni eht nair (The Art of Racing in the Rain)
  8. eth mite reslveart efwi (The Time Traveler's Wife)
  9. eht rlig iehw eht gnodar ooattt (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo)
  10. ydira fo a mypiw idk (Diary of a Wimpy Kid)
  11. a kwrlnei ni emit (A Wrinkle in Time)
  12. het rpoal sxprese  (The Polar Express)
  13. vole dewlak ni (Love Walked In)
  14. reehw eth dwli hingts rea (Where the Wild Things Are)
  15. eht ginnhsi  (The Shining)
  16. dnohogigt oonm  (Goodnight Moon)
  17. vwtienrie hwti a pvmarie (Interview With a Vampire)
  18. eht cretse file fo eesb  (The Secret Life of Bees)
  19. eht raesch  (The Search)
  20. het pelh (The Help)

Read-A-Thon: Books The Sixth & Seventh

Pandora's Box, Volume One: Pride by Pagot & Alcante (Cinebook, 2008)
Pandora's Box, Volume Two: Sloth by Radovanovic & Alcante (Cinebook, 2009)

These two graphic novels are part of an eighth volume series with each novel in the series linked to a deadly sin. There is a poem at the beginning of each volume, forecasting what will follow:
Of Pride, like Narcissus, you will pay the heavy price.
Of Sloth, like Paris, you will succumb to the slow venom.
Of Gluttony, like Theseus, you will know the foul torment.
Of Lust, like Orpheus, you will bite the bitter fruit.
Of Greed, like Prometheus, you will suffer the eternal punishment.
Of Wrath, like Pandora, you will be the fatal instrument.
I presume the eighth volume will tie everything together and explain the mysterious homeless woman who appears in each story?

The first volume, Pride, is about a the fall of a U.S. president. Narcissus Shimmer is running for re-election and is pretty much neck-and-neck in the polls with his opponent. His opponent, wanting to win, hires a private investigator to dig up some really destructive dirt Shimmer. The PI almost immediately strikes pay dirt -- it looks like Shimmer might have an illegitimate child hidden away in a maternity ward somewhere. Of course, the truth turns out to be much more interesting than that.

The second volume, Sloth, tells the story of the fall of a great athlete. Paris Troy is a undefeated sprinter whose record has remained undefeated for nearly a decade. He has never tried performance enhancing drugs before, but after sustaining an injury during training and dogged by the success of a rising (doped) star, he begins injecting himself. There is no doubt he can win the day and retire with full glory, but at what cost?

Overall, I thought these graphic novels were a bit too simple -- many of the characters feel a bit under-developed and the endings, which feel rushed, come as no great surprise. Some of this may be a translation issue (the novels are translated from French) and the brevity of each novel certainly doesn't allow for too much character development or many plot complications. Regardless, I'm not desperate to track down the other six volumes.

Read-A-Thon, Mid-Event Survey

Halfway there! Can I go the distance? Don't know! Have a terrible feeling I'm going to crash around two in the morning.
  1. What are you reading right now?  Nothing right now. I am taking a little break while I wait for The Husband to bring me vegetable lo mein.
  2. How many books have you read so far?  Seven graphic novels so far.
  3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? The Ask & The Answer and Monsters of Men (Chaos Walking, Volumes Two and Three) -- don't expect to get through both of them, but you never know ...
  4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day? No, today was my day off and my parents are happy to go to the Connecticut Garlic Festival tomorrow, instead.
  5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?  Oh, The Husband and our cats have engaged in attention-seeking behavior, but kisses and belly rubs don't take up a lot of time. 
  6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? How much I'm getting read, actually.  Last Read-A-Thon, I took a lot of unscheduled naps and didn't read nearly as much as I'd hoped!
  7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? No ...
  8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year? Select more varied titles -- many of my graphic novels are about WWI or WWII and, while well done, are grim going when read back-to-back.
  9. Are you getting tired yet?  Yes, but that is what pie and walkies are for.
  10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered? Don't look at the clock -- take your time and don't rush reading.  

Read-A-Thon, Hour Ten Mini Challenge

This hour's mini challenges is being hosted by Lynne @ Lynne's Book Reviews. She says:
  1. Post a picture on your blog of a current or past pet.
  2. Tell us your favorite animal book and then write a sentence using the name of the main character and only the first letter of that name. For example: If my favorite animal book was Wesley the Owl, I could write - Wesley works wildly with witches who wander. You could also use the "O" instead...Owls overestimate overeating. Make it short and sweet or challenge yourself and make it as long as you can.

These photos are of my Hedwig kitty. She normally enjoys books a lot -- doesn't read them, obviously, but likes to snuggle up next to or sprawl across them and look fetching. In these pictures, she is a little peeved because not only are all my book piles hogging her afternoon sun spot, but they are also too high to lie on. Given enough time, she will just shove them over and nap on the bed she's made.

My favorite animal book is Terry Pratchett's The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents. I guess I might say,"Maurice masterfully manages much mayhem?" (and I wouldn't be lying).

Read-A-Thon: Book The Fifth

Parade (With Fireworks) by Mike Cavallaro (Image Comics, 2008)

From the publisher:
PARADE (WITH FIREWORKS) opens in 1923, as Italy is pulling itself from the wreckage of the first World War while unknowingly plummeting toward another. The nation seemed to be holding its breath, and the slightest perceived transgression could result in violence. On the evening of the Feast of the Epiphany, it did, causing one man to choose between political standing and his very own family. The YALSA Great Graphic Novels for Teens nomination is in of itself a prestigious accolade for a very deserving title.
Overall, I thought Parade (With Fireworks) was very well done. It's overly talky in places, yes, but it's interesting, relevant talk. The illustrative style is a bit cartoony, but does a good job conveying the action of the story. I especially liked the last four pages, which say everything that needs to be said about Paolo's future without undue explication.

[I think I'm starting to burnout, so I'm going to go for a walkie with my kitties and then I'm going to have some more pie].

Read-A-Thon: Book The Fourth

Legion: Prophets by Scott Stewart and Tom Waltz (IDW Publishing, 2009)

In the film Legion, God has lost His faith in humankind and sent His legions of angels to destroy the world. Our only hope lies with a small group of people trapped at a diner in the Mojave Desert. Amongst them is a woman pregnant with the child whose birth will save the world.

 .... Dun Dun Dun ...

Legion: Prophets runs parallel to the events of the film and is about the awakening and gathering of the "Prophets" -- those special people who will guide and protect the child (presuming it is born) and help create a new world for humanity.

I can't say, having read it, that Legion: Prophets really enhances the film or clarifies its story. Just taken on its own and ignoring its relationship with the film, Legion: Prophets felt like a very weak start to a poorly envisioned series. I was introduced to a whole host of characters who desperately needed better fleshing out and, while there is a lot of angelic mayhem and running about, the story does not progress very far. Basically, unless you really loved Legion, I would not recommend Legion: Prophets.

Read-A-Thon, Hour Seven Mini Challenge

One of this hour's mini challenges is being hosted by Melissa @ One Librarian’s Book Reviews. She says:
For this challenge, you will be creating a Book Puzzle. Essentially, this is a series of pictures, graphics, or photos that you put together that will describe a book title.
I've decided to do an old favorite of mine:

Can you guess the title? Highlight to see the answer: lliH nretnaL fo enaJ

Read-A-Thon: Book The Third

X-Men: Magneto Testament by Greg Pak & Carmine Di Giandomenico (Marvel, 2009)

The are no mutant heroes in Magneto Testament. No capes. No superpowers. No. Instead, Magneto Testament is about Max, an "average" middle-class German Jewish boy coming of age in Nazi-era Germany. It traces Max's story from his student days, when (heady with first love) he forgets be careful (even as his teacher warns him, "the nail that sticks up gets hammered down"), through the rise of the Reich, survival in the Warsaw Ghetto, ending at Auschwitz.

This isn't the first graphic novel I've read about the Holocaust, but I would say it is one of the best.  The story is well-crafted, the illustrations are hauntingly beautiful, and the end notes are a fantastic resource. Oh, I definitely recommend this book!

Read-A-Thon, Hour Five Mini Challenge

This hour's mini challenge is being hosted by Crystal at My Reading Room. She says:
I'm keeping this one simple - I want a picture of books - show me a book shelf, your tbr pile, your nightstand piled with books, your prized ARCs, whatever, just post a picture of some books during the 12pm - 3pm EST time-slot and link here and you're entered.

All the books I currently have checked out of the library:

My manga and graphic novel collection (plus some oldies):

My fiction collection:

My nonfiction & comfy reading chair:

See, I told you I was a book hoarder!

Read-A-Thon: Book The Second

Sky Doll, Volume 1 by Barbara Canepa & Alessandro Barbucci (Marvel, 2008)

In this sweeping space opera, Noa is a female android owned by the Heaven Spaceship Wash (think: Hooters girls meet car wash). Desiring something more for herself, Noa stowaways aboard one of the ships she washes. Unfortunately, that ship is piloted by missionaries of The Beloved Papess Lodovica and Noa finds herself entangled in a web of religious conspiracy and misadventure.

Reading Sky Doll was a lot of fun. The story is well done with lots of interesting characters and side stories that made me want to read more (unfortunately, this is the only English-language volume currently available). The illustrations are simply charming -- rather amusing, because Sky Doll has even more T&A than Filthy Rich, but I didn't mind it at all in Sky Doll. It's a gentler, more romantic T&A!

Read-A-Thon, Hour Two Mini Challenge

For Hour Two, Miss Wisabus asks:
What were some of your favorite children’s books when you were younger? Do you have any new favorites now that you’re an adult? Have you included any children’s or YA titles in your Read-A-Thon stack this year?
Pretty sure my much wrinkled and worn sets of the Anne and Little House books are a good indicator I was an Anne and Laura girl. I loved their spirit and imagination (and all the little domestic details). I still re-read these series every year or so and it's like revisiting old friends.

I don't think there are many YA or juvenile books that move me as an adult as much as those books moved me back then. I read much more critically as an adult and it's hard to be as completely and utterly satisfied with or intoxicated by a book. I guess The Knife of Never Letting Go comes closest -- which is why The Ask & The Answer and Monsters of Men are in my TBR pile for Read-A-Thon!

Read-A-Thon: Book The First

Filthy Rich by Brian Azzarello (Vertigo Crime, 2009)

[Filthy Rich was my first read for October's Read-a-Thon. My feelings for it are still pretty raw, but I reckoned I should review as I read (slapdash as those reviews may be) or it will go down like the last Read-a-Thon where I read a dozen or so books and, at the end, was too overwhelmed to review any of them!]

Junk, a washed-up football star, tries to sell cars and fails. Rather than being fired, he is "promoted" to guarding the boss's daughter, Victoria, a total hotty who gives her dad a lot of bad press thanks to her shenanigans. Cocksure Junk finds himself involved in a scene he thinks he can manipulate to his own advantage (although it was obvious to this reader he was an ass well in over his head) and gets royally screwed over.

By the end, I wanted to punch someone in the face. Reading this graphic novel made me angry. Filthy Rich is a rather grim noir and while I like a bit of grimness, I need characters I can empathize with a little even if I don't like them at all. I really didn't like Junk. I might have liked Victoria if I knew more about her. Sadly, there was no point in liking Charlene, Junk's girlfriend, as she just made me hate Junk more.

Frankly, I was so repulsed by Filthy Rich that I have no desire to try any of the other volumes in Vertigo's Crime imprint.

Read-A-Thon, Hour One Meme

It's a beautiful October morning and I'm full of pie -- truly an excellent way to start any day, but most particularly a 24-hour read-a-thon.

Hour One Meme!

Where are you reading from today?
Connecticut (also known as "The Constitution State," "The Nutmeg State," "The Land of Steady Habits")

3 facts about me …
I'm a librarian, I had pie for breakfast (and probably will have for lunch), and can fake being a morning person surprisingly well.

How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?
Right now? About twenty, but I have no intention of getting through all of them and some of them I suspect I won't like reading so will replace with something else.

Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)?
I would really like to get through my embarrassingly large backlog of library books. Bad book-hoarding librarian, bad.

If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, any advice for people doing this for the first time?
This is only my second read-a-thon and I napped thought a lot of the first one, so can give no real advice beyond: "relax and have fun."


The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove

In 2006, Erway realized that much of the food she was eating out at NYC restaurants was nothing special (and rather wasteful) so she decided to save money and not eat out, anymore. For two years Erway ate, cooked, and then blogged about the experience at Not Eating Out in NY.

While this book is about not eating out, I wouldn’t say it is anti-restaurant. Erway isn’t saying no-one should eat out and all restaurant should be closed forever, but that we should be mindful of the food choices we make and eat as well as we are able. For many of us, I think, such a lifestyle would require cooking at home.

Anyway, if you’ve ever thought about modifying your eating habits to embrace a more sustainable or greener lifestyle, then this book may appeal. Certainly, I thought it was an inspiring book. I cook a lot , but after reading The Art of Eating In, I’ve been inspired to try new things like home pizza making (so much delicious fun). I’ve even thought about foraging -- I have a request in at my library for Foraging New England and, come spring, I will be dining on purslane and lambs quarters (or not, as I might turn out to be a big coward).

The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove by Cathy Erway (Gotham Books, 2010)


Graphic Novel Round-Up

Borrowed some interesting graphic novels from my library recently ...

Welcome to Tranquility by Gail Simone & Neil Googe (WildStorm Productions, 2008)

Tranquility is a small, fictional town in California home to retired "Maxis" (retired superheroes and supervillains) and their families. Although Tranquility is largely a peaceful town, when dapper, old-school superhero Mr. Articulate is murdered in front of the sheriff during a brawl at the Chick'N Go it quickly becomes obvious some Tranquility residents still nurse old rivalries and resentments.

While I found Sheriff Lindo's quest to uncover Articulate's murderer only mildly interesting, I was very taken with the "excerpted" comics Simone used to explain her character's back stories. Googe had inked the pages to resemble old-school newsprint comics and I thought they were just hilariously over the top.

Britten & Brülightly by Hannah Berry (Metropolitan Books, 2008)

While investigating an unlikely murder depressed private detective Fernández Britten and his partner/teabag Stewart Brülightly ("brew lightly," get it?) uncover a blackmail-and-murder plot, annoy unscrupulous businessmen, get kidnapped by waiters, and revisit an old case perhaps best forgotten.

This is a beautifully illustrated piece of noir and I took as much pleasure from Berry's paintings as I did her story.

Fell, Volume One: Feral City by Warren Ellis & Ben Templesmith (Image Comis, 2007)

A grittier, darker noir than Berry's, Feral City collects the first eight issues of Fell. Detective Richard Fell has been transferred to duty in Snow Town, a blighted urban zone inhabited by people who either have nowhere else to go or who thrive on depravity. Feral City is extremely is an extremely grim read and there's something almost Lovecraftian in the malevolent darkness embracing Snow Town that one can only hope Fell will survive his time in that feral city.

Templesmith's illustrations are extremely atmospheric -- gritty, yet possessing a grotesque sort of beauty -- and complement Ellis's stories very well.