Showing posts from 2011

2011 Retrospective

Books in 2011 Best Book I read for the first time this year: Dawn , by Octavia E.Butler Runner-up: Elric: The Stealer of Souls , by Michael Moorcock Very different books, but similar in their sense of depth and ability to shake me with their awesomeness. Favorite Graphic Novel I read for the first time this year: Batgirl Rising (Bryan Q. Miller, Runner-up: Blue Beetle: Reach for the Stars (John Rogers, et. al.) Best Book I read this year that was published in 2011: Reamde , by Neal Stephenson (review in queue) Runner-up: Either Snuff , by Terry Pratchett or Stray , by Andrea K. Host . All three very different books, enjoyable in very different ways. Most fun bookish moments: Browsed some awesome used bookstores in Seattle this summer. I can put library ebooks on my Kindle now. This is super-exciting! Comic Books in 2011: Favorite Issue of a Series: Batgirl #18 Absolutely gorgeous Valentine's Day themed one-is

Comics Briefly: American Vampire #22, Princeless #3

Favorite Issue this Week: American Vampire #22 Issues were new in stores on 12/28/11 American Vampire #22 (Death Race Part One) Writer: Scott Snyder, Artist: Rafael Albuquerque, Colors: Dave McCaig YES! This is what I was waiting for. This issue was a fantastic return to form for this book. It starts a new story about new characters in a new time, but the dialogue sparks, the art is outstanding, and the story just races along. I loved this. Princeless #3 Story: Jeremy Whitley, Art/Colors: M. Goodwin Princeless continues to be pretty adorable, although this issue wasn't as good as the first two. I like the new character of the smith, but there are way too many tired references and obvious old jokes in this issue for my taste. The art is still fantastic, though, and some of the dialogue still inspired.

Paranormality: Why we see what isn't there

Paranormality: Why we see what isn't there Richard Wiseman, 2011 Premise: In this delightful volume, professor and skeptic Wiseman walks us through the science behind many seemingly paranormal experiences, and even explains how you can fake the paranormal yourself! I don't buy many books for my Kindle for more than three dollars, but I happily made an exception for this one. The big US publishers passed on Wiseman's enjoyable work, reportedly “some suggesting that I re-write it to suggest that ghosts were real and psychic powers actually existed!” So Wiseman, in conjunction with his UK publisher, released it himself. This is a fantastic book, which I devoured in pretty much one sitting. It's fun to read, it's funny, and it's educational. What more could you ask? Wiseman examines seven main subjects: Fortune-telling, Out-of-body experiences, Mind over Matter (Telekinesis), Communication with the dead, Ghosts, Mind Control (hypnosis/brainwashing),

Holiday Comics! JLA #60, DCU Infinite Holiday Special, Larfleeze Christmas Special

Cross-posted from Mainlining Christmas In my quest to experience as much Christmas as possible, I picked up a couple of holiday-looking issues during a sale at my local comic shop. The Larfleeze Special I got when it came out last year. These are all really fun issues. Happy Holidays and Merry Reading! JLA #60  (Released 2001) Writer: Mark Waid, Pencils: Cliff Rathburn, Inks: Paul Neary, Colors: David Baron “Twas the Fight Before Christmas!” This is an incredibly silly little one-shot story, in which Plastic Man tries to convince a kid that Santa is on the Justice League. His explanation of how this came to be involves Neron, demon elves, evil gingerbread men, and Santa's surprise super-powers. The kid often knows more about the League than Plastic Man, and corrects the hero, like any good comic nerd. It's extremely zany, and I definitely enjoyed it. DCU Infinite Holiday Special  (Released 2006) Various Writers/Artists Wow! I definitely got my money's wort

Comics Briefly: Batman Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes!, Batman #4, Wonder Woman #4, Wolverine and the X-Men #3

All DC's New 52 books have to work against the tide with me recently. I'm just burnt out on the whole damn way-too-dark-and-depressing universe. Favorite Issue this Week: Batman Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes! All books new in stores 12/21/11 Batman Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes! Writer: Grant Morrison, Artist: Cameron Stewart (Chapter 1), Chris Burnham (Chapter 2) Color: Nathan Fairbairn STEPHANIE! I MISS YOU! Seriously, this issue is the last two issues of Batman Inc - well, the last two issues of the first half of Batman Inc. Happily for everyone , it takes place pre-New52-reboot. The first part (Batgirl Steph Brown infiltrates a finishing school for girl-ninja assassins) was supremely fun. I loved it. The second half made no flipping sense, and I don't care. It made a little more sense after I read the sum-up in the back to remind me of all the previous Batman Inc. shenanigans. Even though it was extremely surreal and I didn't always understand wha

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus L. Frank Baum, 1902 Cross-posted at Mainlining Christmas This is a rather unique little... novella, I guess I would call it by the length. Probably one of the earliest attempts to really codify a “logical” life story for Santa Claus. I found it interesting, though, that even given a few animated specials that adapt this story directly, very little of this story has directly migrated into the popular conception of Santa. This could be one of the things that pulled the idea of Santa into the framework of “fairy tale” rather than “religious/mythic figure”, but I couldn't find out much about its original reception or effect. Eschewing any references to Saint Nicholas, the historical figure, this Santa is a foundling raised by wood nymphs and fairies, called Claus because it means something like “small one”. Most of the story is pretty cute: the fairies raise Claus, and since all manner of immortal spirits are his friends and protectors h

A Clockwork Christmas

A Clockwork Christmas Carina Press, 2011 Contributors: Stacy Gail, P.G. Forte, Jenny Schwartz, J.K. Coi New Release! Copy for review provided by NetGalley. Premise: A collection of 4 novellas each set at the holidays, each set in a steampunk world. I didn't actually realize when I requested this that they were all also romance, but maybe I should have assumed. Okay, I know steampunk is big right now, but maybe it should stay in visual mediums. I hated the first story: Crime Wave in a Corset , by Stacy Gail. I mean, I hated it a lot. I hated the characters, I hated the plot, I hated the fact that the steampunk bits were completely irrelevant. Something about the uber-melodramatic romance completely rubbed me the wrong way. With a different set-up, a different couple, maybe I could get into this, but I didn't buy this pair. The narration says the woman is brilliant, but we never get to see her be brilliant. The guy is presented as an absolute nightmare at first, and

Comics Briefly: American Vampire #21, Batgirl #4, Batwoman #4, Demon Knights #4, Star Trek/Legion of Superheroes #3

State of the Collector: I might start buying fewer comics soon. I won't stop reading graphic novels and such, but I'm just not loving much that's coming out right now. I didn't have anything to say about last week's books except "Yup, these are okay but not great, in short: meh." If my husband didn't want to finish out the story arcs, I'd already be cutting some DC titles from my pull list. Favorite Issue This Week: Demon Knights #4 American Vampire #21 Writer: Scott Snyder, Artist: Jordi Bernet, Colors: Dave McCaig Decent ending to a mediocre side trip in this world. I'm beginning to get discouraged by even this, one of my favorite titles. I hope the next storyline is better. Batgirl #4 Writer: Gail Simone, Penciller: Adrian Syaf, Inker: Vicente Cifuentes, Colors: Ulises Arreola Better in some ways than this title has been, but it was a long time coming. Babs gets to shine a bit more, there's some decent dialogue. I think


Hogfather Terry Pratchett, 1996 Crossposted at Mainlining Christmas. Premise:  It's winter on the Discworld, so it's time for the Hogfather to bring presents to all the children. Except the Hogfather is missing. It's up to Susan, Death's granddaughter to save the day. She would really like to know why Death is climbing down chimneys, why new gods and fairies seem to be appearing, and what all this has to do with an Assassin with an unique view of reality. I love many of the Discworld books, but this is one of my very favorites. It scratches all my holiday itches: the power of belief, ancient pagan roots, mocking "picturesque" holiday stories, and saving the world. I love it from the very start. Here's page one: Everything starts somewhere, although many physicists disagree.  But people have always been dimly aware of the problem with the start of things. They wonder aloud how the snowplow driver gets to work, or how the makers of dictionari

Top Ten Tuesday - Childhood Favorites

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at  The Broke and The Bookish I haven't been on many blog hops and memes recently, because A) I've been very busy with work and B) I've been expending all of my blogging energy on Mainlining Christmas ! Click over for rants and raves about holiday movies, books, music, and articles about the horror of the season. But I thought I'd come back for today's, at least. This week's prompt: Top Ten Childhood Favorites I am going to order these roughly by age. 1: I'm told that I was obsessed with The Cat in the Hat as a very young child, but the first Dr. Seuss book I remember being obsessed with was Bartholomew and the Oobleck. Because I had to be different, even then. 2: Another favorite from early childhood: The Monster at the End of This Book . Because Sesame Street and Grover are the best. 3: Does anyone else remember the book Serendipity , and the series of related books? These were thin, brightly colored little volu

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King

Crossposted for Mainlining Christmas The Nutcracker and the Mouse King E. T. A. Hoffman, 1816 Translation by Joachim Neugroschel So, after watching several different versions of the Nutcracker Ballet for Mainlining Christmas , I wanted to go back and read the original story. That proved to be harder than it sounds, but I finally got access to a Penguin classics edition at the library. (This volume also included the slightly sanitized retelling of the tale by Dumas that the ballet is technically based on, but I'm only looking at the original.) As a work this story seems to consciously evade categorization. The story is a somewhat tongue-in-cheek fairy tale, a surrealist fantasy, with a story within a story that sees to want to mock the conventions of fairy tales but is still a fairly classic example. I found it intriguing throughout, but a bit exhausting to read. The basics of the story are the basics of the ballet: Marie becomes obsessed with the Nutcracker that Godf

The Last Ringbearer

The Last Ringbearer Kirill Eskov, 1999, English Translation by Yisroel Markov, 2010 This review will have to be a bit different, since this isn't technically a book. Well, it's a book in Russia, but it can't be legally published here. The Last Ringbearer is an elaborate fan work based on Lord of the Rings . You might have heard about this last winter, it was in the news for a while. For example, here's Laura Miller's article on Salon . The premise is actually pretty brilliant. First, it takes LOTR as a historical narrative, but not necessarily true. Second, considering how history on Earth is written by the victors, what might the actual events have looked like which inspired the story. To sum up: there was a war, and like most wars, it was mostly about resources and power, while superficially being about ideology. There are some flaws in either the writing or the translation. These include some awkward early expository infodumps, some poorly executed

Comics Briefly: Legion Secret Origin #2, Mouse Guard: The Black Axe #3, Princeless #2

Favorite book this week: Mouse Guard: The Black Axe #3 All Issues new in stores on 11/30/11 Legion Secret Origin #2 Writer: Paul Levitz, Penciller: Chris Batista, Inks: Marc Deering, Colorist: Wes Hartman Not a lot happened in this issue, but the fun scenes between Phantom Girl and Braniac 5 were worth the price of admission for me. Some decent action, not much plot beyond some vague dialogue from the shadowy adults who are semi-narrating this. Mouse Guard: The Black Axe #3 Writer and Artist: David Petersen This issue was actually completely worth the wait. (How long ago was this supposed to come out? #2 came out last May.) The confrontation between Celanwe and the king of the ferrets was amazing: gorgeous and stirring, everything this series can be at its best. I just hope the next issue gets here soon! Princeless #2 Writer: Jeremy Whitley, Art and Colors: M. Goodwin Speaking of schedule oddities, either this is here early or the last issue was late to my local s

Hercule Poirot's Christmas

Cross-Posted for Mainlining Christmas! Hercule Poirot's Christmas Agatha Christie, 1939 I find Agatha Christie to be an acquired taste that I've never quite acquired. I enjoy her work, usually, but it takes me a long time to get into each book. This was no exception. Once the story got going I quite liked it, but there were a lot of character introductions to get through first. Once the extended family was all together at the manor house, they got right down to the business of Christmas: acrimonious backstabbing, awkward flirting, and murder. Poirot is brought along to assist the local police when patriarch Simeon Lee is found dead in a locked room. He'd assembled his clan of children together for the holidays to emotionally torment them, then threatened to make a new will. So everyone has a motive, but only Poirot can peel through the misdirections and lies to figure out what happened. I especially enjoyed Poirot's amusement at the very British nature of t

LOTR Read-Along! Return of the King Part Three

The Hobbit and LOTR Read-Along is hosted by Little Red Reviewer and Geeky Daddy Previous Posts: FOTR: Part One Part Two Part Three Bonus One: Photos of Books TT: Part One Part Two Part Three Bonus Two: TOYS! ROTK: Part One Part Two Welcome to Part Three of Return of the King! It's the end of the Read-Along! I'm sad to see it end, but it's just in time, as the holiday blog that I run with my husband is going to be taking up a lot of my blogging energy for the next month. Come visit us there: Mainlining Christmas! Due to time and what I actually have to say, I might skip some of the prompts this week, because mostly I want to talk about the fact that we finally got to my favorite chapter. Yay! What did you think of the two weddings? Do you think Eowyn will eventually find happiness with Faramir? I talked about this a bit last week: I think Eowyn and Faramir are well matched in background and temperament and will balance each other nicely. Holy Cow I was not expecting t

Comics Briefly: Princeless #1, Wolverine and the X-Men #2

Favorite Book This Week: Princeless #1 All books were new in stores 11/23/11 Princeless #1 Story: Jeremy Whitley, Art by M. Goodwin and D.E. Belton, Colors by M. Goodwin and Jung-Ha Kim I had heard a review of this book on the 3 chicks podcast a few weeks back, so I thought I knew what to expect: a humourous flipped fairy-tale. I got so much more than that. I got characters with heart and warmth, a world with fascinating corners we've barely glimpsed, and an utterly charming story about a princess off to save the day. The art is adorable and effective, the writing mostly very snappy. It's super small press, so you might have trouble tracking it down (I snagged the last copy at my comic shop) but whether you have a young comic lover (or young fantasy lover, especially female) in your life or you're just sweet on awesome All Ages books like I am, this is highly recommended. Wolverine and the X-Men #2 Writer: Jason Aaron, Pencils and Colors: Christ Bachalo, Inke


Snuff Terry Pratchett, 2011 Premise: Commander Sam Vimes is taking a vacation to his wife's estate in the country. But just because you drag the copper out of the city doesn't mean he won't drag his sense of justice with him, and when mysterious and nefarious things are being done to the local goblins, Sam decides maybe the country isn't so boring after all. Another reviewer put it well when she said that it's a Monsters Are People Too plot , this time around focusing on goblins. Pratchett himself basically lays out the main theme on page 93: The City Watch appeared to contain at least one member of every known bipedal sapient species plus one Nobby Nobbs. It had become a tradition: if you could make it as a copper, you could make it as a species. But nobody had ever once suggested that Vimes should employ a goblin, the simple reason being that they were universally known to be stinking, cannabalistic, vicious untrustworthy bastards. Of course,  everybo


Thud! Terry Pratchett, 2005 Premise: It's Koom Valley Day, or soon will be, and the city is restless. The anniversary of a much-argued historic battle between Trolls and Dwarves, firebrands are using it to stoke racial tensions until Ankh-Morpork's melting pot is threatening to crack. As usual, The City Watch is on the front lines. On this re-read, I didn't like this book quite as much as I remembered, but that doesn't mean there isn't a lot to like. Much of the immediate plot hinges on solving the murder of a dwarven leader, and Vimes and the usual crew spend a lot of the book scattered over the city, picking up pieces of the puzzle. I love the subplot about Vimes reading to his son, and Angua dealing with her own racial issues in adapting to a vampire in the watch. Mr. Shine is a worthy addition to the background cast of characters, and there's both humor and poignancy in how Vimes deals with a paper-pushing investigator sent by Vetinari. My on

Night Watch

Night Watch Terry Pratchett, 2002 This was a re-read for me of one of my favorite Discworld books. Some spoilers in the premise for earlier books, and a few light spoilers in the review, because otherwise I couldn't talk about my favorite parts. Premise: Samuel Vimes has come a long way from a kid who joined the Watch. Under his leadership, the City Watch actually became a force for law and order. He eventually married and is now expecting the birth of their first child. This is all suddenly torn away when Vimes is thrown through a rip in time into his own past, along with the murderous psychopath he was chasing. I sometimes wonder if you could construct an interesting personality test from the Discworld series, based on which characters and which plotlines you most enjoy. For example, I know plenty of people like the Witches of Lancre books best, but they might be my least favorite. I really enjoy the books about Death, but my very favorites, the ones I go back and r

LOTR Read-Along! Return of the King Part Two

The Hobbit and LOTR Read-Along is hosted by  Little Red Reviewer  and  Geeky Daddy Previous Posts: FOTR: Part One Part Two Part Three Bonus One: Photos of Books TT: Part One Part Two Part Three Bonus Two: TOYS! ROTK: Part One (PS: For more fantasy, come back this Mon-Wed for a short string of Discworld reviews, culminating in a review of  Snuff , the newest one, on Wednesday. But back to Tolkein for now...) Welcome to Part Two of Return of the King! This section took us through the main plot climax, and into the actual returning of said king. I love the whole sequence on Mount Doom, always have, although I'm still looking forward to the rest of the book! 1. After witnessing the events of Denethor's demise, what are your thoughts on him as a father and as a ruler, especially when compared to what happened with Boromir and the Ring. Denethor is a pretty sad character. I mean, he's arrogant and foolish, but as the leader of a city under siege (and I don't jus

Blue Beetle: Shellshocked, Road Trip and Reach for the Stars

Blue Beetle: Shellshocked, Road Trip and Reach for the Stars John Rogers, Keith Giffen, Cully Hammer and Rafael Albuquerque, 2006, 2007, 2008 Okay, I get it now. Jaime Reyes is awesome. Premise: These are the first three collected trades of the recent Blue Beetle series. (Not the brand new one, the one that started in 2006.) Jaime Reyes is a teenager in El Paso, who finds a scarab that seems to be made of stone. It's actually alien technology that bonds to his spine, giving him semi-sentient armor and the superhero identity of the new Blue Beetle. (There were two previous Blue Beetles, neither had the scarab react to them in this way, and both are dead at this point. It's not necessary to know anything about the previous Blue Beetles to enjoy these books.) Immediately after he discovers his new powers, he's drafted by the Justice League on a seriously far away mission. When he returns home, he finds that he lost a year somewhere. His family thought he was dead,

Comics Briefly: Batman #3, Supergirl #3, Wonder Woman #3

Favorite Issue this week: Batman #3 All books were new in stores on 111/16/11 Batman #3 Writer: Scott Snyder, Pencils: Greg Capullo, Inks: Jonathan Glapion Decent issue, if mostly exposition heavy. My favorite thing was the use of odd panel angles; they really enhanced the off-kilter feeling Bruce is getting about the owl people. This book has pretty art. And a cliffhanger. Supergirl #3 Writers: Michael Green and Mike Johnson, Artists: Mahmud Asrar & Bill Reinhold, Colorist: Paul Mounts Decent amount of action and exposition here, but if Kara doesn't punch that obnoxious guy's face in soon , I'm going to be very put out. I know she's learning, but she needs a solid win. Soon . Wonder Woman #3 Writer: Brian Azzarello, Artist: Cliff Chiang I thought this issue was narratively disjointed, plus the whole world heard about the Zeus-reveal two months ago. I don't really understand what's going on here, why these characters are saying and do

The Silent Tower

The Silent Tower Barbara Hambly, 1988 New E-Edition 2011 New Ebook Edition. Copy provided by NetGalley. Premise: In the world of Ferryth, mages are forbidden to interfere with people's lives, but factions in the government and the Church are still looking for a reason to move against them. They might get it when a minor mage is murdered by someone manipulating the dangerous Void, releasing abominations into the land. Caris, bodyguard and nephew to the Archmage, is traveling with him to try and solve the mystery. The first stop is the imprisoned mage Antryg Windrose, mad apprentice to the late Dark Mage who knew the most about the Void. The other piece of the puzzle, however, is held by a computer programmer named Joanna who is being hunted from across the Void by their unknown foe. How did I miss this one until now? Admittedly, I was a little skeptical of the world-jumping premise, but it's well handled throughout. The fantasy world is grounded enough, and Joan

LOTR Read-Along! Return of the King Part One

The Hobbit and LOTR Read-Along is hosted by Little Red Reviewer and Geeky Daddy Previous Posts: FOTR: Part One Part Two Part Three Bonus One: Photos of Books TT: Part One Part Two Part Three Welcome to Part One of Return of the King! If you missed my Bonus Post last weekend, here's a link: LOTR Bonus: TOYS! Man, I am having a harder and harder time only reading the assigned chapters as the plot speeds up in this final volume. This week focuses on Return of the King Chapter 1-6, which brings us mostly through the Battle of Pelennor Fields, but not entirely. Some aspects of my answers may reflect the next few chapters, too, but I've tried to keep that down. Rather than answer the prompts directly (they're kind of vague this week), I'll just use each as a bit of a jumping off point. On the Paths of the Dead: I'm ashamed to admit that this is a section of the book I had forgotten about when I saw the movies, and I had to ask how much of it was from the