Reading Meme Announcement

Friday, December 31, 2010

I am exhausted after the holidays, and feeling a bit burnt out on blogging. The solution? Lots of short posts, I hope. I got this meme from On a Pale Star, who got it from Waiting For Fairies.... I can trace it back to livejournal, but I don't know where it came from before that.

I like this meme, and it doesn't require me to read anything new in a hurry. I'll be continuing the weekly comics posts, dropping in occasional reviews, working on other projects and of course reading in the background, building up a new backlog.

Here's the schedule. Posts start Tomorrow! As it appears, each post will be linked in the schedule below for easy browsing.

Day One – Your favorite series of books (with more than 3 in the series)
Day Two – A book that you wish more people had read
Day Three – Your favorite recent book
Day Four – Your favorite book ever
Day Five – A book you hate
Day Six – Your favorite writer
Day Seven – A writer you don’t like
Day Eight – Your favorite work in translation
Day Nine – Best scene ever
Day Ten – A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving
Day Eleven – A book that disappointed you
Day Twelve – A book you’ve read more than twice
Day Thirteen – Favorite childhood book
Day Fourteen – Favorite male character
Day Fifteen – Favorite female character
Day Sixteen – Your guilty pleasure book
Day Seventeen – Favorite trilogy or tetralogy
Day Eighteen – Favorite book cover
Day Nineteen – Best ensemble of characters in a book
Day Twenty – Favorite kiss or love scene
Day Twenty-one – Favorite fictional romantic relationship
Day Twenty-two – Favorite ending/climax
Day Twenty-three – Most annoying character
Day Twenty-four – Best quote
Day Twenty-five – A book you plan on reading
Day Twenty-six – OMG WTF? plot
Day Twenty-seven – Favorite non-mainstream writer
Day Twenty-eight – First book obsession
Day Twenty-nine – Current book obsession
Day Thirty – Saddest character death

The Kinshield Legacy

Monday, December 27, 2010

K.C. May, 2010

Premise: Gavin Kinshield is haunted by his family's history; his ancestor had been the bodyguard and champion of the last King, who died tragically and alone.  Now he is further haunted by a possible destiny, for it is beginning to seem like he is the only one who can decipher the King's Runestones and claim the throne to unite the land.

The Kinshield LegacyThis is a solid light epic fantasy, if that's not too much of a contradiction in terms.  It's nothing ground-shaking or mind-blowing, but I enjoyed reading it, and I had trouble putting it down by the end.

The story isn't particularly strong on politics, and the world has a generic fantasy economy. I eventually figured out that the land hadn't been in anarchy for 200 years, but rather a 'king and lords' feudalism had devolved into a petty 'local lords' feudalism. It's a mostly human fantasy land, with a D&D-esque multiverse: (there's some sort of demon dimension; it doesn't come up much, but it's actually really well handled.)

I didn't like the naming conventions at first, but kinda liked them by the end. (The key is realizing most silly sounding names, like Daia Saberheart, are warrior epithets chosen by the characters.) Gavin and the other characters are well defined, the writing is visceral and the description is generally clear.

There's a good assortment of characters, too: women warriors, knight errants, thieves and wanderers, blacksmiths and children.

I actually liked that the descriptions and assessments I got about a character when I was 'following' him or her were pretty different from what I got when I was 'following' another character's opinion of the first.  It was occasionally confusing, but did subtly point out that how we see ourselves is not how others see us.  I liked that it encouraged me as the reader not to blindly believe any one character's description of another, or of themselves.  (It also allowed the author to avoid shoehorning character description in too early, which is a good call.)

The villain is pure evil, which works only because he's good at what he does, and has reason to believe he'll succeed; he isn't brought down by his own incompetence.

Overall, an entertaining read in a world with room to grow.

3 Stars – A Good Book

See more about The Kinshield Legacy for the Kindle

Comics Briefly American Vampire #10, Batman Inc #2, Green Lantern Larfleeze Christmas Special

Friday, December 24, 2010

Favorite Book this week: Green Lantern Larfleeze Christmas Special

All books were new in stores on 12/22/10

American Vampire #10 (The Way Out, Part One)
Writer: Scott Snyder, Artist: Mateus Santoluco

This is the start of a new storyline, and a great jumping-on point if you haven't been following American Vampire yet. And you should be, because it's awesome. This issue sees the return of Hattie, and some of Pearl's day-to-day life.  

Batman Inc. #2
Writer: Grant Morrison, Penciller: Yanick Paquette, Inker: Michel Lacombe

Maybe this would be interesting if I knew anything about Mr. Nobody or any of the newer “worldwide” heroes. But I don't, so this series is leaving me pretty cold so far. 

Green Lantern Larfleeze Christmas Special
Writer: Geoff Johns, Artist: Brett Booth

This one-shot special was really fun. The style, the humor, and the “activities”are all great. The art is really lovely: highly detailed and quite amusing. The main plot involves Larfleeze (Orange Lantern of Avarice) trying to get presents from Santa.

Interspersed within the story are old-school activities, like a maze and a cookie recipe. There's a short second feature by the folks behind Tiny Titans which is also really cute. Overall, a great issue.

A Christmas Carol

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Christmas Carol
Charles Dickens, 1843

With all the different adaptations I've been watching recently, I thought it was time to re-read A Christmas Carol.

I remember reading this in grade school, although I think that we read the dramatization, not the prose.

The most striking thing to me is how little is different. There are plenty of cute turns of phrase, clever bits of writing, but most adaptations of the story really do hit all the high notes. Particularly having just recently seen the Muppet Christmas Carol, I didn't think I added much to my understanding by reading the actual text.

A few nice moments are missing from the films. I liked the sweet moment between Scrooge and his sister in the past, it really pushed the early softening of the character. There is a good comedic moment in the narration that precedes the second spirit.
Now, being prepared for almost anything, he was not by any means prepared for nothing; and, consequently, when the Bell struck One, and no shape appeared, he was taken with a violent fit of trembling.
I also think the description of the Spirit of Christmas Past is particularly good, and the idea that it has a constantly changing appearance certainly makes that aspect resistant to film interpretation. I like that the Spirit somehow embodies all the people of Scrooge's past. I don't really understand the scene where Scrooge puts him out like a candle.

Note: it is not the adaptations that push Scrooge to change quickly. I was surprised how almost instantly he becomes willing to change, and how soon he is thanking the Spirits for their help.

The prose is light and trips along, and I'm amused by some of Dickens' odd tangents, bored by others. One nice observation:
“This is the even-handed dealing of the world!” he said. “There is nothing on which it is so hard as poverty; and there is nothing it professes to condemn with such severity as the pursuit of wealth!”
It was good, without being surprising or compelling. This story has become such a part of culture that reading it now is fraught with déjà vu. It is important historically, but I don't think I'll feel the need to read it again in a hurry.

Next year I'll just watch the movie again.

3 Stars – A Good Book

Book Blogger Hop Dec 17

Friday, December 17, 2010

Book Blogger Hop
This is the Book Blogger Hop, hosted at

This week's question for discussion:

"What do you consider the most important in a story: the plot or the characters?"

Wow. What a silly question. 

If you want to get into the nitty gritty, plot is the most important for some author's styles, character for others. A great plot will carry me through an otherwise uninspiring book, and great characters will make me interested in reading another book about them. I can't do without either, although good characters can disguise the lack of plot slightly longer than good plot can disguise the lack of characters. Series are more dependent on characters, short stories and stand-alone novels are more dependent on plot.

I often think that I enjoy character-driven work more than plot-driven, but I usually can't stand works that have no plot to speak of, that rely solely on style or character.

What I consider the most important is... the author.

More snark on my holiday-themed blog: Mainlining Christmas

Looking for a gift for a reader who has everything?
Find a unique book in indie publishing! (Like, say, this one...)

Comics Briefly: Birds of Prey #7, Darkwing Duck #7, Mouse Guard: The Black Axe #1

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Favorite Book This Week: Mouse Guard: The Black Axe #1

All books were new in stores on 12/15/10

Birds of Prey #7
Writer: Gail Simone, Penciller: Ardian Syaf, Inker: Vicente Cifuentes

I haven't been picking this up for a while, but I saw the preview for this issue online and decided to jump back in. In general I love the Birds of Prey, and this was a fairly solid issue. I think the preview I had already seen was the best part, though. (See it here.)

Darkwing Duck #7
Writer: Ian Brill, Artist: James Silvani, Colorist: Andrew Dalhouse

Check out the awesome retro cover (Cover B) on this issue! The Crisis on Infinite Darkwings continues, bringing in more references from old episodes (and other Disney properties...) and propelling our heroes toward confrontation with the bad guys. Of course, it ends on a big cliffhanger and a character reveal. Bringing back and upgrading an obscure villain doesn't always work, but I think this next part could be good.

Mouse Guard: The Black Axe #1
Written and Illustrated by David Petersen

Mouse Guard is so beautiful. This mini-series is planned to give the backstory of Celanwe, also known as The Black Axe. It's off to a great start, with fishers and birds, mystery and action. Mouse Guard isn't always well-written, but this is a strong issue. We're not going to stop collecting these any time soon; the art is too good to pass up.

The Complete Persepolis

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Complete Persepolis
Marjane Satrapi, 2007

I don't read much biography or autobiography because I really like plot, and real life is often lacking in that.  However, I'm very glad that I finally got to this work.

In case you've been living under a rock, Persepolis is a graphic novel relating the author's personal account of growing up in Iran during and after the Islamic Revolution. This was one of those fantastic books that really made me think about how much I don't know, and how much I don't even know that I don't know.

The book starts when she is quite small, and follows her through war and destruction, through travel and return, from a child's understanding to an adult life.

One particularly striking bit was when she left to attend school in Austria, and seeing how many parents sent their children away once they saw what was happening to the country. She has a variety of typically teenage experiences in Austria, but the people she meets there seem to either glamorize or disbelieve her experience of Iran.

The most interesting part for me was when she highlighted the contrast between inner and outer life. On paper, people went along with rules about socializing, various parts of Islamic law, while in their homes, nearly everyone she knew was hosting parties, drinking, criticizing the government, wearing western clothing and living their lives however they wanted. It wasn't actually a surprise, but it's different to think “well, I'm sure that they are just people, with their own plans and lives and opinions” and to be reading actual description by someone who had the experience of living there.

The stylization of the art makes it easy to follow and the simplicity carries the emotional weight well.

Persepolis was made into a critically acclaimed animated movie. I haven't seen it yet, but I look forward to it.

I feel awkward judging a book that is actually a person's life story, but I easily give Persepolis

4 Stars – A Really Good Book

The Complete Persepolis is available on

Book Blogger Hop Dec 10

Friday, December 10, 2010

Book Blogger HopThis is the Book Blogger Hop, hosted at

This week's question for discussion:

What is the thing you like most about reading book blogs? Is it the reviews, author guest posts, articles, giveaways, or something else entirely?

Book reviews and articles, definitely. I like when a blogger reviews a book I haven't heard of in a way that makes me interested in picking it up. A great blog can even recommend a book that the blogger liked in a way that makes it clear that I would not like it. That's helpful. It's fun to read negative reviews as well, particularly of books I also disliked. I like when a blogger reviews a book I've read, because that can become a discussion. I appreciate well-thought out articles about reading, writing or bookstores, again, particularly when it inspires further discussion.  

If that sounds like what I try to do here, you're not far off. As far as blogging is concerned I write what I would like to read.

Also check out my holiday-themed blog: Mainlining Christmas

Looking for a gift for a reader who has everything?
Find a unique book in indie publishing!  (Like, say, this one...)

Review of Kindle 3

Now that I've had my Kindle for a while, I thought I'd tell you all a little more about it.

First, the positive. I like reading on the Kindle. It feels natural. I love that I can search the book for the part I'm looking for. I feel no hesitation about making notes in my Kindle books, while I almost never write in real books. The contrast on the Kindle 3 is sharp and clear. It usually refreshes very quickly. I adore the standby screens, most of them are really pretty.

I like that it doesn't feel like a gadget. I don't worry about forgetting to turn it off and running down the battery or it making noise. When I put it down, it feels like a book. I just set it down, maybe I remember to turn it to sleep, maybe not, and it'll be waiting for me when I get back.

I do have a few criticisms.

I can use the keyboard with little difficulty, but the keys are very small, and I don't like the texture of them. I don't like using the symbol submenu, it is far too many steps. That means I can't easily format any typing with proper punctuation, which bothers me a little. The little arrows are already rubbing off of my five-way controller, and I worry that the rest of the button labels will go in time.

I also really want there to be a notepad function, so that I could jot down, say, an article, or a list, on the subway, and then offload it to my computer easily. This is not currently practical. Downloading the notes you make in a book is possible, but clunky. Essentially I want it to have a bare-bones text program, so I could multitask with it a little.

The "experimental" web browser is just that, experimental and clunky. The screen is easier to navigate than the tiny screen on my phone's browser, but not by much.

I don't really like how it deals with being done with a book. You can delete it from the device, but often I want to keep it on my Kindle, but I know I'm done with it for a while. Unfortunately, the default sort of the items is by how recently they were opened. This is usually good, but means that you can open an item to check one thing and it'll take a while to migrate off the front page again. There's no obvious way to just temporarily "hide" (or "archive", in the Gmail sense) an item without deleting it.  If it's a book you bought from Amazon, you can "remove from your device", but that means you'll have to re-download it if you decide you weren't done with it after all.  And that doesn't work for personal files or books I get from other sources.

There are sorting categories that function like folders you can put items into, but by default they are at the top of the library list. So if you create more than a couple, it really starts to clutter the home page. I also wish it took fewer steps to sort items into categories.

These are minor nit-picks, but when most of it works so well, the minor things start to bother me.

At the same time, I'm really liking reading on the device, and I appreciate the instant gratification of downloading books. Now I just need to get a case. I've been procrastinating because I want the perfect one, and the longer I wait, the more compaines will come out with their Kindle 3 cases. Soon, though. For now I'll keep carrying it around in a padded just fine.

The Kindle, of course, is available on Amazon.

Comics Briefly: Batgirl #16, Dark Tower: The Gunslinger- The Little Sisters of Eluria #1, Star Trek: Khan Ruling in Hell #3

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Favorite Book This Week: Star Trek: Khan Ruling in Hell #3

All books were new in stores on 12/8/10

Batgirl #16 
Written by Bryan Q. Miller, Pencils by Dustin Nguyen, Inks by Derek Fridolfs

This was a very fun issue. Solid writing, good art. I liked seeing more of Wendy, and I enjoyed the banter. I also like that these villains are just crummy punks with one good gimmick.

Dark Tower: The Gunslinger- The Little Sisters of Eluria #1
Written by Peter David & Robin Furth
Pencils by Luke Ross

When the comic adaptations of the Dark Tower started with The Gunslinger Born a few years ago I collected the first arc, then quit. This seems like the start of a decent version of the novella The Little Sisters of Eluria. I like the art in this issue much more than the art in the earlier issues. I didn't like that they revealed the look of the Sisters in the first part! Way to defuse the suspense, guys.

Star Trek: Khan Ruling in Hell #3
Written by Scott & David Tipton
Art by Fabio Mantovani

This is such a great book. The continuing story is moving in its simplicity, the art continues to be great, and the writing is perfect. It's a fantastic story, starring a compelling character. Khan's steady descent from optimism into fury is amazing to read. I approve.

The Atheist's Guide to Christmas

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Atheist's Guide to Christmas
Edited by Robin Harvie and Stephanie Meyers, 2010

I loved this book. I didn't love every last one of the 42 essays, a few covered the same ground and a few I didn't completely understand because they depended too much on British Christmas traditions for the humor.

But I still thoroughly enjoyed this book.

The general vibe is what I expected: Christmas is much more about presents and food and family than anything else these days, and it's okay, as a nonbeliever, to enjoy presents and food and family, and not to be a nuisance unless the other person starts it. Simple. way of summary let me say this: if only practicing Christians can use the word “Christmas,” then only Vikings can use the word “Thursday.”  - Mitch Benn,“How to Stop Worrying and Enjoy Christmas”
There are some compelling cases made for everything from why humans have celebrated midwinter since time immemorial to why one might want to avoid the enforced season of good cheer, and then how to do so. There's a piece about the dearth of atheist protagonists in film, and more than one about holiday music. There are a few fiction pieces and some personal stories, including a romantic double dose by both partners of a married couple. There are humorous instructional pieces about defusing family fights and decorations that can be seen from space.

Some of the pieces are laugh-out-loud funny, some of them are sweet, and some of them are downright inspirational. (Inspiration not being the province only of the theistic.)
At some point over the Christmas period switch on an analog radio and retune it so that you are not on any station. Instead of “Jingle Bells” or “Away in a Manger,” all you should be able to hear is white noise. This gentle, calming hiss is the audible output caused by all sorts of random electromagnetic waves being picked up my your radio aerial. You cannot single them out, but rest assured that about 1 percent or 2 percent of these waves are due to microwaves from the Big Bang. In other words, your humble radio is capable of detecting energy waves that were created over 13 billion years ago. - Simon Singh, “The Sound of Christmas”
I'd like to send a shout-out to the awesome Jen McCreight, without whose blog I may not have picked up this fantastic volume. (Plus her piece was great.)

I've always had trouble with the holiday season, between being non-religious and often depressed by the pressure of the season. Keeping this book close at hand gives me a rare shot at keeping my sanity and good cheer intact. That gift is definitely worth at least

4 Stars – A Very Good Book

You can buy The Atheist's Guide to Christmas on Amazon.

Book Blogger Hop Dec 03

Friday, December 3, 2010

Book Blogger Hop
This is the Book Blogger Hop, hosted at

This week's question for discussion:

"What very popular and hyped book in the blogosphere did you NOT enjoy and how did you feel about posting your review?"

Well, considering that though I'm now over 100 posts, very few of my reviews are about currently popular books, I'm not sure this question applies to me.  

There are definitely books it feels as though everyone liked, that I didn't.  Actually I have an article I've written about that that I was thinking about posting today anyway... I guess I'll link it here as my answer.

Also check out my holiday-themed blog: Mainlining Christmas

Looking for a gift for a reader who has everything?
Find a unique book in indie publishing!  (Like, say, this one...)

Literary Heresy

Everyone has those books that you know you're "supposed" to like, but you just don't.

Most of them are books you read in high school.  I've come around on some of those volumes since that time, understanding that I didn't have the mental architecture or context to appreciate them at that point.

I mean, I'm not in a hurry to re-read Grapes of Wrath to find out whether it's any good, but I will admit that my complete and utter hatred of it had much more to do with it being assigned for summer reading than with anything in the text.

There are plenty of books that are technically good, but just don't click for everyone. If you've gone all the way back in the archives, you probably saw my disappointed disdain for Little Women. But it can feel like you're the only one who doesn't like whatever the newest 'modern classic' is.

I'm not a fan of One Hundred Years of Solitude, surprisingly.  I found it well written, but too long and the plot too thin.  The beginning and ending are great, but don't quite make up for the rest, in my opinion.

I am now infamous amoung some friends as "the one who hated The Time Travelers Wife."  Yes, it's true.  I thought that book was vastly overrated. The plot was boring, the time travel ill thought out, the ending foolish, and the characters whiny.

Don't shoot me, but I was at the wrong age to like the first two Harry Potter books. I didn't understand the craze for a long time, and even now I only think some of the books are good, and none are drop-dead brilliant.

There are so many books that I love, I'm not going to pretend I like something else just because I'm 'supposed' to like it. Come on then, shout your heresy to the sky!  What does everyone else like that you just don't get?

Comics Briefly 12/2/10: American Vampire #9, Chip 'N' Dale Rescue Rangers #1, DC Presents Batman Beyond

Thursday, December 2, 2010

It's a lucky week for me.  Due to Thanksgiving, New Comic Day was pushed to Thursday this week, which is great because I had to work for 12 hours straight on Wednesday. Also, it's a good crop of books.

And of course, I don't see any contradictions in buying and loving an issue “suggested for mature readers” and one targeted for “All Ages” on the same day. The wide range is what I love about reading comic books.

Favorite Book this week: Too Close to Call!

All comics were new in stores on 12/2/10

American Vampire #9 (Devil in the Sand: Conclusion)
Written by Scott Snyder
Artist: Rafael Albuquerque

A great wrap-up to this storyline. Well plotted, well drawn, with some kick-ass moments, awesome lines and new revelations. The ending was dark and lovely, and the little flashback at the top of the issue ties this entire arc together. Great issue!

Chip 'N' Dale Rescue Rangers #1
Writer: Ian Brill
Artist: Leonel Castellani, Colorist: Jake Myler

After leading me in with Darkwing Duck, you're going to release a comic based on my other favorite Disney Afternoon show? Yes, please! The art was slightly shaky here and there, but overall I loved this issue. I loved the opening flashback, I loved expanding the universe, I loved the writing... With a comic like this (and the Darkwing Duck series), the writer can put a character beat into a single panel.  That allows it to breathe more, for the emotion to carry a bit more weight than it can in a 22 minute cartoon when you always have to be moving on to the next thing. I think that's part of why I enjoy these so much.

DC Presents Batman Beyond: 100-Page Spectacular
Writer: Hilary Bader
Pencils: Min S. Ku, Rick Burchett

I had been avoiding the 8 dollar “DC Presents” books, but I had to flip through this one. I knew in a few pages that it was coming home with me. It turns out it's a reprint of a selection of issues of the previous Batman Beyond comic. Can we bring that series back? I liked the 6-issue mini that just wrapped up, but I liked this so much more. Great guest stars, clever plotlines, good character moments, and the animated style art that I far prefer. Etrigan! More with the future Justice League! (In a plotline that clearly predated the recent changes to Green Lantern cosmology...) Plus the first story is based on one of the single best episodes of B:TAS. If I had bought the original issues (ten years ago), I would have been sorry about the reprint, but I didn't, so I am quite happy with this book.

Holiday Schedule

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Blue Fairy's Bookshelf should continue to update as normal.  If I miss a post, it'll be because of the new holiday blog I'm co-writing with my husband!

Come visit!


Diana Gabaldon, 2004

This was a Kindle freebie, and the longest book I've read on my Kindle yet.

Premise: Claire Randall is visiting Scotland with her husband in 1945 when she tumbles through a time-portal to 1743. Unable to return home, she falls hard for Jamie, a fugitive Scotsman. 

This book felt uncomfortably caught between genres. The time travel aspect was somewhat clumsily added to the romantic plotline, and so I was left unsure how much fantasy is possible in that world. Some things, like time travel and possibly the Loch Ness Monster, are real, but witches are an obvious myth? Really? It just feels like it wasn't completely thought through.

Claire bugged me as a heroine at times, because she was sometimes clever, and sometimes PAINFULLY dense and naive.

Outlander: with Bonus ContentMaybe I'm just used to YA style world-travel, but she comes from the 40's, after the start of science fiction, after the publication of The Time Machine and Princess of Mars. If I fell through a freakish screaming hole in space-time, I would assume there was a chance I'd time traveled. Given the obvious nature of her first encounters with the Scots, I have no sympathy for how ridiculously long it takes her to figure it out. Or how hard it is for her to really grasp the ill intent of other characters, no matter how many times it is demonstrated.  She served in WWII, and she has trouble with the idea that someone might betray her or do her violence?  Really?

All that said, I read the whole book, and thought it was overall pretty good. It was well written, with good pacing, exciting scenes and well-drawn minor characters.

On the other hand, reading it knowing nothing about it except the promotional description, I was surprised and bothered by the ending. Nothing resolves, and it goes on far longer than it needs to. Then I realized that it's a series. A really long series. I see. I don't care enough about what happens to read all those other books.

There was an interview with the author at the end of the Kindle book, in which it was confirmed that the time travel was incidental to the story, that she stuck a modern(ish) woman into her planned historical romance because she wanted to write a spunky heroine. This makes it a bit more forgivable that the time travel itself doesn't resolve in the book, but it really annoys me to use a great device like that but not actually make use of it, to not even explore the question of the repercussions of what she does in the 'past'. There's a moment here and there, but for the most part it's ignored. That's a squandered opportunity.

There were characters that I liked (some who were not in enough of the book, like Gelilie. I really wanted more of her story) and overall the book was fun to read.

So on balance I'm going to have to go with:

3 Stars – A Good Book

But it isn't one I liked enough to seek out the sequel.

See more about Outlander for the Kindle

Book Blogger Hop Nov 26

Friday, November 26, 2010

Book Blogger Hop
This is the Book Blogger Hop, hosted at

This week's question for discussion:

"What is your favorite book cover?"

I have to say, I am a sucker for covers with pictures of the characters, rather than abstract images.  When I was young, I took all my favorite ones to the color copy place, got them copied and enlarged, and decorated my bedroom with book covers.  Mostly of Dragonlance Books.  A few Redwall and Mercedes Lackey here and there too.  One of the best of those was The History of Dragonlance, which features this painting on the cover:

On the other hand, our hardcover of Lord of the Rings is lovely. It's this edition:

The dust jackets have beautiful Alan Lee paintings, while the cover itself is a lovely dark fabric with the Eye of Sauron inlaid in foil.

Of course, I'm also proud of the book covers that I worked on, although neither depict characters:

See Facsimile and For Love of Children on Amazon. 

(Hint, hint...)

Adaptation Decay?

With Tangled opening, I thought it would be a good time to touch on fairy tales again, this time to talk about interpretations thereof.

One of the complaints I've always heard about Disney flicks is that they 'tone down' or 'sanitize' the old stories. While I understand where the idea is coming from, sometimes I want to ask, tone down compared to what?

Fairy tales and folk tales have been altered, changed, made more or less sexual, more or less violent, etc. throughout time. The people who finally collected and wrote down the stories had their own agendas and made their own changes.  Tales change from region to region. There is no true “original” version, just the oldest we have extant.

I'm not saying I always approve of Disney's editorial decisions, just that you can't fully justify the argument that the writers are being “untrue” to the “original” story.

Well, not when the story is a fairy tale.  When it's a history, okay.  Then I completely understand the objections to drastically altering the story. (Pocahontas is one particularly troubling example.)

Adaptation in general is a sticky subject, and whether or not I can mentally separate a book and film and appreciate them each for what they are is completely dependent on my personal experiences with the subject matter.  Even then, context matters.

For example: I had an extremely negative reaction to Disney's Hercules when I first saw it, because they threw out so much of the myth, but I enjoy Hercules:The Legendary Journeys, which plays fast and loose with both myth and history.

I am interested in adaptation in general, what makes a good one, which ones people enjoy, etc.  I know there are a few films I admit to liking better than the original books.  How about you?

Comics Briefly: Action Comics #894, Batman Beyond #6, Batwoman #0, plus Bonus: Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes #1

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Favorite Book this Week: Batman Beyond #6

First three books new in stores on 11/24, Avengers was new on 11/10.

Action Comics #894
(1st story) Writer Paul Cornell, Artist Pete Woods
(2nd story) Writer Nick Spencer, Pencils by RB Silva

The first story, Vandal Savage's obsession with Luthor, was entertaining and clever, but I think I needed some more background in what's been going on in DCU proper to fully understand.  I kinda skipped that whole Black Lantern thing.  Of course, I bought the issue to get the rest of the story with Jimmy Olsen and the partying aliens.  It didn't disappoint; lots of fun was had by me.  (I am including this, my favorite, panel for my super-knitting friends.)

Batman Beyond #6
Writer: Adam Beechen, Pencils: Ryan Benjamin
Inker: John Stanisci

Art continues to be up and down, (faces could use a little less detail in some shots, actually) but the story really came together for the last issue of this miniseries.  A little too obvious here and there, couple lines just over the edge into corny, but overall it was a really solid action-packed finale. This miniseries has been enough of a success that there's an ongoing series starting in January.  I haven't decided whether or not I'm going to collect it.

Batwoman #0
Written by J.H. Williams III & W. Haden Blackman
Art by J.H. Williams III and Amy Reeder with Richard Friend

I read through this in the store but didn't find it very interesting.  It's essentially a little gimmicky intro that tells us that Kathy Kane is Batwoman and gives a little bits of her backstory.  What I didn't like was that I didn't learn anything from her perspective, just from Batman's thoughts about her. It'll have to be more compelling than that for me to pick up Issue #1 when the series starts. Also I dislike that she looks like a cross between Batman and the Joker. What's with the face paint look? 
See the first few pages here:

Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes #1
Story by Christopher Yost, Art by Scott Wegener, Patrick Scherberger

I'm not sure how I missed this coming out a few weeks ago, since we have been enjoying the new animated series. This was cute, but not quite cute enough to pick up, since I'm currently mostly unemployed. This first issue has both the humor and the heart that I've enjoyed in the cartoon so far. Cute jokes, fun moments, bright shiny art.  I liked it.

Mirror Kingdoms: The Best of Peter S. Beagle

Monday, November 22, 2010

Premise: Collection of short fantasy works by Peter S. Beagle.

Mirror Kingdoms is a collection of short works, but not quite a book of short stories. Many are a little long for that term, and I find that I am not properly appreciative if I think of them as short stories. Most are more like modern fairy tales than anything else.

The writing style is loose and dreamy in some, tight and present in others. I must admit, I didn't feel in the mood to read a whole book of them this week, though that's a fault in me, not in the writing. I'm glad I stuck with it, though, as the stories saved for late in the book are phenomenal.

Let's get the main thing out of the way first: what did I think of "Two Hearts", the "coda" to The Last Unicorn? Mixed, honestly. The tone is fine, the voice is great, but I'm just not sure of the point, either of the story itself or the reason for writing it. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either.

Mirror Kingdoms: The Best of Peter S. BeagleThere were certain stories that I really liked. "Salt Wine", about the dangers of taking favors from merpeople, was pretty fantastic. In "El Regalo", a girl has to rescue her brother, trapped in last Thursday. "The Tale of Junko and Sayuri" is a hauntingly evocative story grounded in Japanese myth. "Giant Bones" is one of his more well known short pieces, and its descriptions of giant life are pretty amazing.

My favorites were "The Rock in The Park" and "We Never Talk About My Brother". In the first one, a young boy with a gift for words and his childhood friend with a gift for pictures meet some unusual travelers in a park in the Bronx. The end of that one is absolutely beautiful.  In "We Never Talk About My Brother", Jacob relates the story of his brother the famous anchorman, who has a troubling secret power.

I don't want to say more, because discovering the richness of each world is a large part of the enjoyment of these stories. I didn't enjoy each and every one, but some people can write a whole novel with a less fully imagined world than is implied in most of these stories. Many do.

Most if not all of these stories have been printed before in other volumes, which is good, because Mirror Kingdoms is already out of print.

4 Stars - A Really Good Book

See other collections by Peter S. Beagle on Amazon:
We Never Talk About My Brother (Includes title story, The Tale of Junko and Sayuri, and 3 others also in Mirror Kingdoms)
Giant Bones (Includes Giant Bones and one other also in MK)
The Line Between (Includes Two Hearts, El Regalo and Salt Wine)

Kiss for a Killer

Friday, November 19, 2010

Kiss for a Killer
G. G. Fickling, 1960
I picked up this book because:

1) It was $1.00
2) Awesome cover art
3) Back cover copy claimed: “The Ficklings are widely credited with creating American fiction's first female detective”

Premise: Honey West is a private investigator, and like most, she has a talent for being at the wrong place at the wrong time.  This time, however, her sometime flame Rip Spensor is messily dead, and Honey heads the list of suspects.  The rest of the list includes a Italian movie starlet, a reporter, and the leaders of a nudist cult.

I'm a fan of classic noir and pulp, but I haven't read any in a while, and most of what I've read was from the 30's and 40's, not the 60's.  In short, I had to readjust my brain to get into this, but then I flew through it.  It's really short.

I was disappointed with this book.  It starts strong, and has some good parts, some clever turns of phrase, but it's just not great.  I like the serious, self-mocking tone of classic noir, but this goes all the way over into self-parody.  Apparently the semi-campy book series was turned into a really campy TV show, which sounds about right.

There are some downright weird bits.  Really effective hypnosis? Sexually charged nudist cults? Sheesh. Also the climax doesn't make much sense.

The thing that I found most surprising, and then most sensible on reflection, was Honey's attitude towards life and everyone around her.  She is spunky, very lovely, and seems to have some trouble keeping her clothes on (getting drenched in rain, imprisoned by nudists, etc...) The men she works with and around are mostly pretty free with their innuendo, and instead of squashing them, she plays into it.  At first I was bothered by it, and then it occurred to me that she was trading vaguely obscene barb for vaguely obscene barb, acting like “one of the boys”, which was (and is) often normal for a girl in a “man's” occupation.
“...I've got a passenger.”
…. “A man?” Mark said.
“Of that there is no doubt, Lieutenant. Now be a good boy and go to bed.”
“Is that where you're off to, Miss Four Poster?”
“Lieutanant, you don't quit, do you? This man's a possible client.”
“For what?”
“For the Rip Spensor case. Now are you satisfied?”
“No!” Mark bellowed. “You stay away from the Spensor case. It's hot.”
“Not as hot as my client. Bye-bye, black sheep.”
So, in summary: the style is fun, but the plot was too nonsensical for me.

2 Stars: An Okay Book

See Kiss for a Killer at

Comics Briefly: Batman Inc. #1, Darkwing Duck #6, The Last Unicorn #6

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Only a couple notable books for me this week.
Favorite Issue of the week: The Last Unicorn #6

All comics were new in stores 11/17/10

Batman Inc. #1
Writer: Grant Morrison, Penciller: Yanick Paquette

Shrug.  This was okay (I also skimmed Batman: The Return, which had better art, but was way overpriced), but I could have done without the hentai joke in the middle, or the...well, any of it. I'm kinda bored with most of the Bat-verse just now. (Did not purchase issue)

Darkwing Duck #6
Writer: Ian Brill, Artist: James Silvani,
Colorist: Andrew Dalhouse

This is such a fun book, and it always makes me laugh. Magica De Spell and Negaduck's evil plans proceed apace. Although not a lot of plot was covered in this issue, there was room for lots of fun little easter eggs in the art.

The Last Unicorn #6
Written by Peter S. Beagle, Adapted by Peter B. Gillis
Art by Renae De Liz, Color and Ink by Ray Dillon

This is the final issue of the comic adaptation of the book. (If you have not read the book, go read it.  Right now.) It has all the weaknesses and strengths of the previous issues: a bit hard to follow the plot if you don't know it already, gorgeous art and amazing hand on the dialogue. I don't know if it's a pavlovian response from my experiences with the movie and the book, but I find it hard to breathe, so hard not to break down in tears in the face of such heartbreaking beauty.

So yes, it was very good.