Friday, June 28, 2013

Book List 2013: Part 1

* = reread
[GN] = Graphic novel or comic anthology
[CB] = Children's Book

[GN] *1. [GN]

Animal Man, Vol 1: The Hunt

written by. Jeff Lemire
drawn by. Travel Foreman

Animal Man, Vol 2: Animal vs. Man

written by. Jeff Lemire
drawn by. Steve Pugh, Timothy Green II, Travel Foreman, Alberto Ponticelli

Oh, Animal Man. My love for the first volume of this new series remains undiminished. It is just brilliant. It's epic, it's spooky, it's unsettling, it's just so good. But since I mostly read the first volume to prepare me for the new second volume (and since you can just read my review for the first one here) let's focus our attention to volume 2.

Let me start off by saying that I don't dislike this new volume, but that it falls far under the bar set from its predecessor. Once again American superhero comics disappoint me by their absolute REFUSAL to stick with one artist. For the life of me I can't understand it. The first volume was done entirely by Travel Foreman and it was brilliant. His work matched the story perfectly. And yet this new volume not only barely features his work at all, but it also has 3 other artists tag-teaming it. It's absolutely ridiculous. It's like if a novel switched authors every chapter, or a TV show changed actors every episode. It's exceedingly hard to really get into the story when the imagery keeps changing. And to add insult to injury none of the other 3 are as good as Foreman was.

Well, that's my rant on the art, but how about the story? Well, when the story is actually going someplace it's still extremely interesting. However, there's all these side stories and even a pointless cameo from some c-list superheroes. So yeah, all the pointless stuff was pretty distracting. I almost get the feeling that some other force was telling Lemire he needed to stretch everything out.

OH! And it pulls out my of my most hated comic/animation cliches: SPOILER ALERT/: characters dying then coming back to life. Not one, but 2 characters die and then come back like it was no big deal. I'm sorry, but I have a hard time feeling any excitement for these characters' lives when their death doesn't matter. /END SPOILER ALERT

But like I said at the beginning, I didn't dislike it per se. It is just a far cry from the brilliance of the opening arc. My faith and enjoyment of the story remains strong though and I'll remain optimistic and hesitantly hopeful for the next volume.

[GN] 2.* [GN]

The Great Showdowns

by. Scott Campbell

A collection of Scott Campbell's depictions of the epic battles inherent to different movies.

I've got nothing but love for Scott Campbell's The Great Showdowns. I don't think you can be a movie fan and not get a kick out of them. They're just fun and brilliant in their simplicity. They just remind you of all the those movies you love and why you love them. I never get tired of looking at them. You can view them on its website here, but I've gotta admit that they're even more enjoyable in book form. If I had a coffee table and if I ever had guests, you'd better believe this is what I would keep on there for them. Plus a foreword by Neil Patrick Harris certainly doesn't hurt.


The Ominous Omnibus

by. Lemony Snicket

The first three adventures of the Baudelaire orphans who, through a continuing series of unfortunate events, find themselves shuffled from home to home as the evil Count Olaf tries to murder them and steal their vast inheritance.

What? The first three A Series of Unfortunate Events books contained in one handy volume? And it's being sold at this library bookstore for $1? Oh, you better believe I'm going to be all over that.

I love this series, I really do. It's so light in its style yet so dark in its story. I always have a soft spot for those stories that tackle darkness in such a way. Turning it on its head and making it accessible to a younger audience.

And there's just something about Snicket's writing style that I just love. I love the alliteration, I love how he makes big words accessible, I love how his narrator will break from the story to make his own observations and anecdotes. It's just so well done, and so much fun.


The Wee Freemen

by. Terry Pratchett

Tiffany Aching is not like the other people in her town. She notices things. Like the strange goings on around her home. The fairy world is invading into reality, and their Queen has kidnapped Tiffany's little brother. Now it's up to Tiffany, and a clan of tiny pugilist pictsie thieves, to save her brother and send the Fairy Queen packing.

The second time I've read this one and I still adore it. My original review still stands. I just might read it again before the year is up.


The Thief of Always

by. Clive Barker

Harvey is bored. He's tired of school, chores, and waiting around for something to happen. So when a strange creature invites him to a magical place called The Holiday House he gladly accepts. However, there's something not quite right about this place of magic and wonder. Now Harvey's life is in the hands of devils-in-disguise and to get out alive he's going to have to outwit them and steal it back.

This is a personal favorite from my childhood and it still holds up after all these years. The writing is just so, so well done, and I love Barker's illustrations as well. I really don't care much for his adult horror, but when you take his professional adeptness for horror and channel it into a young adult story? Absolute gold.

At its heart it's a story about Time. About how we spend so much time wishing we were in a different one and about what would happen if we got our wish. About how we should use it to our advantage instead of waiting for it to do something for us.

I don't know. I just really connect with this story. I love its dark yet playful nature. I love the style of the writing. And I find myself thinking back to themes from this book all the time.



by. Macolm Gladwell

A look into the outliers of success and failure and how environmental factors play a much larger role than you might think.

I'm pretty sure nearly everyone in my family read this thing at some point, because I remember hearing conversations about this book a lot. Anyways, I finally got around to giving it a go.

The problem is that I'm pretty sure by the time I read it I had already heard all the interesting revelations in it.

In conclusion: It's an interesting read. Lots of interesting ideas and stories and what not. It won't change your life. I'll probably never feel a desire to read it again. He talks about his own family quite a bit more than I felt appropriate as it seemed extremely self-indulgent to me. I dunno. I can name a number of books in this kind of genre that I'd recommend before I'd recommend this one. But whatever. It's still alright.


The Silver Linings Playbook

by. Matthew Quick

The story of a man who's just been released from a mental ward, his struggles to sort his life out, and the strange woman who holds the key.

As some of you already know I have a slight obsession with the movie based on this book, and thus obviously I had to see what the book was like.

Up front let me just say that the movie is much better. It handled everything in a much more relatable manner, and because you could relate to everyone so much it carried more emotional pull as a result.

You can tell this was a debut novel, as Quick's writing was rather simplistic and without much descriptive flair. Also the way the character is shown in the book made him much harder to relate to than his movie counterpart. In the movie he was bipolar, but the way he's written in the book makes him almost seem like he's mentally handicapped or something. His thinking is shown to be very childlike.

It's far from the best written book out there, but at the end of the day I still enjoyed it for its underlying ideas.


One Shot

by. Lee Child

A sniper kills 5 innocent people and all evidence points to one man. However, all he'll say is "Get me Jack Reacher." Now it's up to former military investigator, and current badass transient, Jack Reacher to crack the case.

My dad said I might enjoy this one and I was in the mood for a simple read and I dunno. It delivered.

What can I really say? Is it a stunning literary work that's sure to stir up classroom discussions for years to come? No. But is it a fun and easy read with plenty of action and excitement? Most definitely. And sometimes that's all you want.

This is the first Reacher book I've ever read so I can confirm that you really don't have to have read any of the other ones to enjoy this one. I would have sworn this was just a stand-alone story if I hadn't been told otherwise.

It's enjoyable, it's light, it's a good mix of cliche and inventive. If you're in the mood for a nice potato chip thriller then I'd highly recommend it.


Going Solo

by. Roald Dahl

A light-hearted autobiography of Roald Dahl's 30s.

My aunt said I might like this one. It's the sequel to Boy and thus a continuation of his memoirs. I've never read Boy, but luckily you don't really need to have.

Overall I thought it was enjoyable. I like his style of biography, where he tells you about the interesting bits instead of insisting on telling you every single little thing that happened to him. I usually steer clear of biographies because they tend to get rather tedious, but this one is light and sticks with the juicy bits.

There were a couple of parts that made me a little uncomfortable though. Like his black man servant in Africa who goes and kills some Germans for fun because he wasn't "civilized" and didn't know any better. Yeah...that part was super uncomfortable.


Heart-shaped Box

by. Joe Hill

A rock musician finds himself haunted by a ghost from his past. Now everyone he cares about is in danger and he must either confront his past demons or be consumed by them.

This is the second time I've read this one, and while I remembered it being good, my memory wasn't doing it justice. It is so much better than I remembered, and I remembered it being pretty darn good. Really, it's brilliant.

I realize it's horror and yet I'm still hesitant to group it in with the Horror genre, just like I'm hesitant to put something like Shaun of the Dead in there. While Shaun was a comedy that uses the horror genre as a base, Heart-shaped Box is a drama that uses Horror as its vehicle. Like I said before, it's certainly the story about a man running from a vengeful ghost, but it's more importantly the story about a man being forced to deal with his past. Forced to face it head-on in order to move on or else let it consume him.

Really, I can't say enough nice things about it. I love all the characters, I love the imagery, and I really love the story. It's just brilliant.