Monday, April 6, 2015

Book List 2015: March


* = reread
GN = Graphic Novel / Comic Anthology


A Slip of the Keyboard:
Collected Nonfiction

by. Terry Pratchett

A collection of various essays and other bits of nonfiction from prolific British Fantasy author Terry Pratchett.

Long review short:
Certainly a must read for all my fellow Terry Pratchett fans, but it strikes me as more the kind of book you check out from the library than the kind you need to own.

“Almost all authors are fantasy authors, but some are more honest about it then others.

And everyone reads way...or another...”
-pg. 84


Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them

by. J.K. Rowling

A bestiary (of sorts) for the Harry Potter universe.

I love monster manuals and while the monsters in the book are fun enough, the whole premise annoys me. Its very clearly NOT the book described in the Potter books. I mean, it's 128 pages and the monster descriptions are just a paragraph each. What kind of a crappy school would use that as a primary textbook.

And then theres all the comments in the margins that Harry and Ron supposedly wrote and...ugh, Im just going to stop there and just say that it is dumb and annoying.

If you are an HP junkie, youll get some enjoyment out of this book. But just dont go in with high expectations.


Harry Potter

Shared by Ron Weasley because his fell apart

why dont you buy a new one then?

Write on your own book Hermione

you bought all those dungbombs on saturday, you could have bought a new book instead

Dungbombs rule


The End of Night:
Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light

by. Paul Bogard

A look at the ramifications of our obsession with artificial light and the subsequent destruction of natural darkness.

This book is fascinating and will be a very strong contender for my favorite nonfiction book of the year.

Its easy to say that light pollution is a problem, because it would be nice to see the stars, but the issue is so much bigger than just that. Our mistaken trust that brighter = better is damaging our bodies, our ecosystem, and even our safety.

This book has changed how I look at both the night and artificial lighting and I highly recommend you give it a read.

“It would be one thing if all this light were beneficial. But while some does good work—guiding our way, offering a sense of security, adding beauty to our nightscape—most is waste. The light we see in photos from space, from an airplane window, from our fourteenth-floor hotel room, is light allowed to shine into the sky, into our eyes, illuminating little of what it was meant to, and costing us dearly. In ways we have long understood, in others we are just beginning to understand, night’s natural darkness has always been invaluable for our health and the health of the natural world, and every living creature suffers from its loss.”
-pg. 8


The Best American Infographics 2014

edited by. Gareth Cook

What can I say? I have a love of both random trivia and quality design.

Not really the kind of book someone would need to buy, but a definitely a fun one to get from the library.

The Racial Dot Map is an American snapshot, an exercise in demographic pointillism that provides an accessible and elegant visualization of the geographic distribution, population density, and racial diversity of the American people in every neighborhood in the entire country. The map displays 308,745,538 individual dots, one for each person residing in the United States at the location they were counted during the 2010 Census. Each dot is color-coded by the individual’s reported race and ethnicity.”
-pg. 138


Alif the Unseen

by. G. Willow Wilson

A young hackers love for a woman beyond his grasp makes him the target of a very dangerous man. Now he and his best friend are on the run and to set things right theyre going to have to journey into realms they never believed were real.

Im a big fan of G. Willow Wilsons work on the new Ms. Marvel comics so I was curious what a novel of hers would be like.

Its an enjoyable read, but overall it isnt quite up to par with the classics of the “young troublemaker gets thrust into a dangerous world of magic” genre. However, the fact that it takes place in the Middle East and is steeped in ideas from that region makes it a welcome respite from the usual European-centric fantasy.

“The noise of the saw rose several decibels, screeched, and stopped. Voices yammered outside, high and confused.

‘Those doors are four hundred years old,’ said the sheikh in a wistful voice. ‘The gift of a Qatari prince who passed through the City while on hajj. They are irreplaceable.’

‘It’s my fault.’ Alif wiped his brow with the back of one trembling hand.

‘Yes, that’s true. But. You are likewise irreplaceable.’”
-pg. 224

*  [GN]   27.   [GN]  *


by. Mohiro Kitoh

12 kids are given the chance to play the ultimate game: to pilot a massive robot and defend the Earth from the forces of parallel worlds. The problem is that this game is real. And if they lose? Their entire universe will cease to exist.

I cannot even begin to tell you how amazing this series is without spoiling some big plot points, and I refuse to spoil them! Even though the spoilers were the hooks that convinced me to read the series in the first place. But I’ll do my best to convince you sans spoilers.

Anyways. “Duurr...Jesse. I’ve seen a million ‘Kids pilot giant robots to protect the planet’ stories. I don’t see the appeal; they’re all the same.”

Well, my good person, let me just tell you that this story is Different! For a number of reasons!

#1: The robots are bigger than any you’ve seen before.

The main robot is 500m tall. FIVE HUNDRED METERS! For reference Godzilla is 50m tall. The EVAs from Evangelion & the Jeagers from Pacific Rim? 80 meters. The friggin’ Sears Tower is only 442m. If Godzilla wanted to put kiss this thing it would have to stand on top of the Sears Tower, that’s how big these things are.

#2: The robots are all different.

Generally in these types of stories the robots are all basically the same. They’re humanoid and the only differences are in what weapons they have. These ones are all wonderfully unique.

#3: This story is DARK

This is one of the darkest stories I’ve ever read. I mean, not dark in the Grave of the Fireflies, Requiem for a Dream “I need to go weep for all mankind” kind of way. But dark in the gritty one-foot-firmly-planted-in-the-shadows-of-reality kind of way. The death toll on this thing is massive (even when you’re not counting the fact that entire universes full of people are being destroyed). But it never glosses over this fact. They make sure that you never forget the consequences of a building being destroyed or of lives being lost.

The whole thing is just a really fascinating look at life and death and the burden of power. What would you do if the lives of everyone on the planet were on your shoulders? What would happen if you gave a kid unlimited power? What would you do if you knew the world could end at any moment?

#4: It’s a story about humanity.

Yes, the story’s main catalyst centers around fights between giant robots, but the real crux of the story lies in the characters. Each of these kids knows that every fight could be their last and they all handle it differently. Likewise as each of them gets a turn at controlling the massive power of the robot they all handle that power differently as well.

“Every two seconds, somewhere in the world, a child dies of starvation. That means that every two seconds there is a story where the main character dies.

Thats a lot of horrible stories.”

*   28.   *

Men at Arms

by. Terry Pratchett

In the fantasy city of Ankh-Morpork someone has gotten ahold of a deadly contraption: one designed to shoot bits of metal at high speeds. One that can kill with no need for skill and it’s being used to assassinate the city’s guild leaders. It’s up to the city guards to stop this madman and destroy the device for good.

While Guards! Guards! was enjoyable, this is the point in the Discworld series where the Guards’ books begin to firmly entrench themselves as the dominant subgenre of the Discworld books.

The Guards stories are not only the best written ones, but they also feature the most character development.

“The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.

Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.

But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while a poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.

This was the Captain Samuel Vimes ‘Boots’ theory of socioeconomic unfairness.”

*   29.   *

Soul Music

by. Terry Pratchett

When Death takes a sabbatical of sorts, its up to his granddaughter to fill in for him. However, something is interfering with her duties. Music is keeping a musician alive past his expiration date and the music hes creating is...alive. Alive and infecting the people who hear it with the spirit of a new kind of music that...well, that rocks...literally.

This book is a lot more fun than I remembered it being. The one real criticism I have is that while the satire is hilarious, the actual story is just OK.

Although, I do love whenever Susan shows up. She is such an enjoyable character and she doesnt get near enough page-time in the Discworld books.

“‘And then go down to the docks and hire a troll and tell him to stand in the corner and if anyone else comes in and tries to play...’ he paused, and then remembered, ‘“Pathway to Paradise,” I think they said it’s called...he’s to pull their head off.’

‘Shouldn’t he give them a warning?’ said Gibbsson.

‘That will be the warning.”


Exploring Calvin and Hobbes:
An Exhibition Catalogue

by. Bill Watterson

A collection of work featured at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Librarys Calvin and Hobbes exhibition, featuring C&H originals, an original in-depth interview with Bill Watterson, and more!

Let’s be realistic here, if you’re a Calvin & Hobbes fan then you already want to read this book and I recommend you do just that.

JR: For the most part, you’ve declined interviews and public appearances in favor of letting your work speak for itself. What prompted you to stay out of the spotlight during, and since, the run of the strip?

BW: I guess the simple answer it that I dont have the right temperament for it. The attention makes me very self-conscious and wary of peoples motives, so I find the whole thing enervating. Its not a normal way to live. I dont trust it, and I dont enjoy it. The strip was plenty hard to do already, so I got ruthless about intrusions and just shut everything else out.

Most people are fine with that, but theres always a few who take it as a personal affront. What, I buy your damned book and you won't take my phone calls?—that sort of thing. (laughter) Or the press thinks, If he won't talk to us, he must be hiding something pretty interesting. It was too much to deal with, and I didnt like it in the first place, so I cut it all out.

The problem, of course, was that I then had to spend a lot of energy building a fortress around myself. Maybe there wouldve been a smarter way to handle it, but I couldnt think of it, and this seemed to be what I had to do. It was sort of a no-win scenario, and just one of the more bizarre aspects of my job. Eventually, I developed a reputation as a hermit recluse, and thats worked so well in my favor that its something I try to live up to. (laughter)
-from Jenny Robb Interviews Bill Watterson


Pandoras Lunchbox:
How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal

by. Melanie Warner

A look at processed foods rise to prevalence in the American diet.

I think a lot of books of this genre go after processed foods with a rather pugilistic attitude; not willing to give an inch to their perceived enemy. This book, however, generally takes a much more laid-back approach. It says: Here’s how these foods are made, here’s why they’re made that way, and here’s the pros and cons to doing it that why. And I really appreciate that about it.

It’s definitely eye-opening to learn just what some of the processes of processed food actually are.

“A half-century earlier, nearly every American lived on a farm, either producing everything they ate or trading with neighbors. By 1900, roughly half of the American population had left their agrarian outposts in favor of city living. To feed these urban masses, food had to be preserved and production had to be centralized. Kansas City and Buffalo joined Minneapolis as hubs for the milling industry, and much of the meat supply came out of Chicago. Canning operations started popping up all along the East Coast. While not all these manufacturersat this point still small, modest enterpriseswere unscrupulous, those who used chemicals and other new technologies as a way of cutting costs often gained a competitive edge over those making the real thing, forcing the honest sellers either out of business or into a reluctant embrace of cheaper production methods.”
-pg. 25



by. Kim Thúy
translated by. Sheila Fischman

The story of the life of a Vietnamese woman who went from a wealthy family in Vietnam to a refugee camp, before eventually immigrating to Canada.

“In French, ru means a small stream and, figuratively,
a flow, a dischargeof tears, of blood, of money.
In Vietnamese, ru means a lullaby, to lull.”

The book has a very poetic style to it. Instead of telling the story linearly the story is told through a series of the main characters memories, following the train of interconnecting thoughts, instead of a linear timeline.

“As a child, I thought that war and peace were opposites. Yet I lived in peace when Vietnam was in flames and I didn’t experience war until Vietnam had laid down its weapons. I believe that war and peace are actually friends, who mock us. They treat us like enemies when it suits them, with no concern for the definition or the role we give them. Perhaps, then, we shouldn’t take too much stock in the appearance of one or the other to decide our views. I was lucky enough to have parents who were able to hold their gaze steady, no matter the mood of the moment. My mother often recited the proverb that was written on the blackboard of her eight-grade class in Saigon: Ðời là chiến trận, nếu buồn là thua. Life is a struggle in which sorrow leads to defeat.”
-pg. 12


The True Meaning of Smekday

written and illustrated by. Adam Rex

An alien race called the Boov discovers the Earth and subsequently claims the planet (now called Smekland) for their own and forces humanity to live on small reservation of land. But when another (even more dangerous) alien race shows up it’s up to a young girl named Gratuity and an outcast Boov named J.Lo to shake things up and save the planet formally known as “Earth.”

I heard Dreamworks’ Home was based on a book and I had to check that sucker out. While the movie is a story about relationships and family, the book is more of a straight comedic sci-fi adventure / extended metaphor for the treatment of native people by colonists? So, you know, very different tones between the stories.

I don’t really know what to say. The book has a number of rough edges that I could criticize, but whatever! I’m not here to do a literary analysis of the piece. What really matters is: It frequently made me laugh out loud, has some great illustrations, and is a pretty fun read. If it sounds like your sort of book go ahead and check it out. It might not change your life, but I think you’ll have a good time.

“My mind raced. Part of it thought, Well, naturally some of the animals must have escaped from the Wild World Animal Park, and part of it tried to remember if anyone in school ever told us what to do when faced with a lion; but no, of course they didn’t, they were too busy teaching really useful things like the state capitals.

‘The capital of Florida is Tallahassee,’ I told the lion as I backed slowly away. ‘The official beverage is orange juice.’”
-pg. 110-111

[GN]   34.* & 35.  [GN]

Ms. Marvel:

vol. 1: No Normal
written by. G. Willow Wilson
pencils by. Adrian Alphona

vol. 2: Generation Why
written by. G. Willow Wilson
pencils by. Adrian Alphona, Jacob Wyatt

When teenager Kamala Khan (aka Ms. Marvel) gains shapeshifting powers she takes on the former moniker of her hero Carol Danvers (who, FYI, now goes by Captain Marvel) and appoints herself the protector of Jersey City. However, she soon realizes that balancing school, family, friends, and super-heroing won’t be as easy at it seems in the cartoons.

Two volumes in and Ms. Marvel continues to be my favorite new comic series. It’s like a wonderful combination of Spider-man and The Runaways. I cannot recommend it strongly enough. Kamala Khan is quickly becoming one of my all-time favorite superheroes.

“The young are seen as a political burden, a public nuisance. They are not considered worth educating or protecting. They are called parasites, leeches, brats, spawn--

If you used these words to describe any minority but children, it would quite understandably be considered hate speech.”
-vol2, issue 10