Friday, April 29, 2016

Booknote: Martian Manhunter, Volume 1

Rob Williams,, Martian Manhunter, Volume 1: The Epiphany. Burbank, CA: DC Comics, 2016.  ISBN: 9781401261511.

Genre: graphic novels and comics
Subgenres: superheroes
Format: e-book galley
Source: NetGalley

This has not been a character I've seen a lot outside of Justice League cartoons and a Justice League comic here or there, so I was intrigued when this volume came available for review. I also loved the cover art right away, which really brings out the character's true alien nature. It is this alien nature and otherness that is explored in this volume.

J'onn J'onz, a.k.a. the Martian Manhunter, is truly an alien on Earth. He settles in and becomes a hero and member of the Justice League and some other hero groups. However, though he claimed that he was the last of his Martian race, that does not seem to be the case. Martians are about to invade Earth, and the alien hero has to choose sides as he finds out he could be used as a weapon by the Martians.

The comic looks back at the character's past and origin. However, it is a pretty good thriller as both sides chase the hero. The Martian Manhunter is forced to make a substantial sacrifice. The comic reads like an action and intrigue story. The art is also very good on this volume, adding to the reasons to pick it up. I really liked this one for its good story that drew me in on a character we rarely see on his own. Libraries that already collect DC Comics titles will want to pick this up, especially if they already have a few Justice League volumes.

4 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges:

Friday, April 22, 2016

Booknote: LEGO Star Wars in 100 Scenes

Daniel Lipkowitz, LEGO Star Wars in 100 Scenes. New York: DK Publishing, 2015. ISBN: 978-1-4654-3437-1.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: art books, children, Legos, Star Wars, photography
Format: Hardcover
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library

"6 Movies. . . A Lot of Lego Bricks."

The book features "one hundred brick-built scenes" that tell the Star Wars story from the films; it goes from Episode I to Episode VI. It is a nice, big hardcover with great photography that Star Wars and Lego fans of all ages will enjoy. Each scene features a Lego set depicting a scene from one of the films. The text includes character speech bubbles as well as small trivia boxes with information about the Lego set presented. An interesting element is when they tell how a Lego set may slightly differ from details in the movies.

The photos are in full color, and each scene usually takes two pages in full. Most scenes are depicted horizontally, but a few are depicted vertically, so you have to turn the book on its side to fully appreciate those. If you are not a Lego collector, this book might inspire you to start. It is a very good book for kids and adults. It tells the story, but also brings in some nice humor and playfulness. This is definitely a good addition for public libraries.

4 out of 5 stars

This book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges:

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Booknote: New Suicide Squad, Volume 2

Sean Ryan, New Suicide Squad, Volume 2: Monsters. Berkeley, CA: DC Comics, 2016. ISBN: 9781401261528.

Genre: graphic novels and comics
Subgenre: superheroes, villains
Format: e-book galley
Source: NetGalley

I continue to enjoy this series. This time, the team has to infiltrate a breakaway faction of the League of Assassins. Back on base, Waller's nemesis manages to get himself some administrative power, and naturally, being the asshole he is, he will work to complicate matters for Waller and the team. That guy cannot get killed soon enough.

The volume is about even with the previous volume in terms of quality and entertainment. The action is quick and fast paced, and this is combined with some intrigue and manipulations. It is a bit better than the first as the characters are more settled in, though you still see some tensions in the team. Still, the story is light and entertaining despite it being a bit average. It is basically the team going against a sort of Al Qaeda or Taliban kind of group.

This is a volume to borrow. For libraries, if you already collect DC Comics titles like Batman and Harley Quinn, you may want to add this too, though I would see it as an optional selection. Interest may pick up a bit with the new Suicide Squad movie coming soon.

3 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges:

Monday, April 18, 2016

Booknote: The Tibetan Art of Positive Thinking

Christopher Hansard, The Tibetan Art of Positive Thinking: Skillful Thought for Successful Living. New York: Atria Books, 2005. ISBN: 9780743483261. 

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: spirituality, self-help
Format: trade paperback
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library

I managed to finish reading this, and I am not quite sure what to make of it. I can say that this was not as interesting or good as I expected it to be. While the book offers some positive affirmations and common sense, it can also seriously stretch credulity. A weakness of the book lies in the personal anecdotes that the author tells to promote how positive thinking can work. Some of these stories sound more like happy miracles; so and so had positive thoughts and suddenly things changed, or maybe the change was not sudden but it was fairly swift. You see this in the segment on bullying, which I found to be a bit simplistic and idealistic. As a survivor of workplace bullying, I can assure you that simply being nice to the bully and simply using "skillful thinking" to redirect that negative energy is not going to make the bully go away. In the end, a lot of this book read more like a magical hocus pocus wishful thinking act.

The book does feature some decent meditation exercises that could be helpful for things like reducing stress and countering pessimism. They are often simple meditations that can be done in 10 minutes or so in the morning or while on a walk. I feel that if the cutesy stories were taken out and the meditations kept, the book could have worked out better.  It would have made the book shorter too.

Bottom line: this is a book I do not recommend.\

1 out of 5 stars.

* * * * * 

Some additional reading notes. Though as I mention in my review above, I do not recommend the book overall, one or two ideas caught my eye enough that I wanted to jot them down to ponder one way or another.

On anger:

"Anger comes into being when a person is overwhelmed by the world and feels powerless to change it. This sense of powerlessness grows in intensity and creates anger that becomes part of an individual's reactions to the world, both externally and internally. Anger is unskillful self-recognition, a burst of intense energy that creates a sense of awareness" (29).

One of the book's key ideas is that every person experiences nine key moments in life. The idea is to be aware of the thought energy behind the moment so you can act on it to create blessings, happiness, peace, so on. The key nine moments are:

  • Birth
  • Family
  • Love
  • Success and Failure
  • Meaning
  • Happiness
  • Acceptance
  • Independence
  • Death
Family is not the usual conception of family members but rather a broader communal idea that likely involves at least empathy. This is something seriously lacking in society today:

"In everyday life many people close themselves off from others, diminishing their interaction and reducing their quality of thought. Many opportunities to experience the power of family pass us by when we are closed this way. Opening up to family thought energy brings people together and cuts through prejudice. It creates a feeling of goodness, sharing, and togetherness. It teaches us the value of people in their own right-- not for what they can do for us or for what they have, but for what they are" (52). 

On acceptance, something that over time I keep working at. I feel I've gotten a bit better at it in recent years:

"Acceptance is not submissive; it is wise and dynamic because it gives you the courage to know when to accept things, events, and people and to know when you have no power to alter them" (66). 

* * * * * 

This book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges:

Friday, April 15, 2016

Reading About the Reading Life, April 15, 2016 edition

Welcome to another edition of "Reading about the reading life" here at The Itinerant Librarian. This is where I collect stories about reading and the reading life. Basically, these are items related to reading, maybe writing and literacy, that I find interesting and think my four readers might find interesting as well with a little commentary. As with other features I do on this blog, I do it when I have time or feel like it. Comments are always welcome (within reason). 

I found some curious and interesting items this week, and I find myself a bit amazed that a chair can become valuable because someone put their butt on it. So, let's read some stories.

  • In Sicily, a bookstore refuses to sell the book of the son of a jailed mafioso. Story via ANSA. On a side note, this month I am reading the book Black Mass, which was the basis of the recent mobster movie starring Johnny Depp. Once I finish it, you will see a review here at The Itinerant Librarian.
  • Another account of something I have seen in bookstores all over. "Gifts now seem to take up as much space as books. . . ". The story comes from the United Kingdom, but it is also applicable to the United States. Barnes and Noble these days is more a gift and toy shop than an actual bookstore it seems. Even my favorite, Half Price Books, is giving a lot more space to gifts and knick knacks, and they have also been adding a lot of vintage collectibles. I guess you gotta do what you gotta do to stay afloat. Story via the LRB Blog
  • The label of "bestseller" for books does not mean what it used to be. The definition has evolved and changed in this age. Learn more about the invisible bestsellers. Story via Boing Boing.
  • You know that craze for adult coloring books? Well, it has gotten so strong that coloring pencil makers are having to ramp up production because there are retail shortages of coloring pencils. And by the way, folks who love their adult coloring books do not just buy the little box with the basic colors. They got to town and buy the big boxes with a broad variety of colors, the more colors the better. Story via The Independent. A hat tip to Libropatas, where I first saw the story. You can read their version of the story in Spanish. 
  • Adult reading of books in South Korea is a bit on the low side. So they are hoping over there that "a recent revival of book cafes and the emergence of trendy book bars where visitors can read and purchase books while drinking coffee, tea or even alcohol, will help reverse the trend." Story via the Korea JoongAng Daily.
  • The BBC has a piece on the decline of subscription libraries. Before public libraries, many folks who wanted to read had to pay to have access to a library. Read the article to learn more about the subscription libraries that still remain and the many that have closed over time. 
  • Via the Past is Present blog, some highlights and some information on the art of marbled pages in books. This is something that I personally find fascinating, and it is a pity it is not really done anymore. 
  • And finally, if you are famous and you sit your culo (that is "butt" for my non-Spanish literate friends) on a chair, that chair could fetch a lot of money. That is the case with a chair that J.K. Rowling sat on while writing the first two Harry Potter books. The chair recently went up for auction, selling for $394,000. Go figure. Story via CTV News.

Signs the Economy is Bad, March 18, 2016 edition

Welcome to another edition of "Signs the Economy is Bad" here at The Itinerant Librarian. This is the semi-regular (as in when I have time and/or feel like doing it) feature where I scour the Internet in search of the oh so subtle hints that the economy is bad. Sure, pundits may say things are getting better, but what do they know? And to show not all is bad, once in a while we look at how good the uber rich have it.  

This week, it has been lean in terms of finding things about the bad economy. However, I did find a few items that I think are interesting and significant. So here we go.

Booknote: The Jumbo Duct Tape Book

Jim Berg and Tim Nyberg, The Jumbo Duct Tape Book. New York: Workman Publishing, 2000. ISBN: 0-7611-2110-2.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: humor and trivia
Format: small paperback
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) public library

This is a humor and trivia book about that wonderful fix-it-all took: duct tape. It's 400-plus pages of trivia, tips, and humor. Jim and Tim, the Duct Tape Guys, blend some real tips on uses of duct tape with some wacky ideas, including quite a few not to be tried at home (or anywhere no matter what). The authors claim that many of the tips in the book come from visitors to their website ( As for the tips, I will let them explain:

"Please don't try any of the hints in this book that are blatantly stupid, potentially injurious, disrespectful to human or animal life, or outright dangerous. Some of the hints are real, useable ideas (we aren't distinguishing which ones)" (viii). 

The guys seem to have a lot of faith in their readers; maybe a bit more faith than I would have. Anyhow, in the end, it's a thick little book meant to be read in fun. Some ideas are more amusing than others. The I got it from has it labeled as a young adult title, but I am sure some adults will find amusement in the book as well.

3 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges: