Wednesday, July 31, 2013

29 on some BBC Challenge

As my four readers know, I cannot resist a book related meme. I found this at CW's blog, who found it at Matt's place. The list does seem to have a duplicate or two, showing that it is not exactly a well-made list. Then again, a lot of these "top whatever" lists are not always the most well thought things. This one seems to be a combination of a lot of classics with some contemporary things that got a lot of hype in their moment. At any rate, here is the prompt:

This list is the BBC Book Challenge. The BBC believes that most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books below. How many have you read? 

I will type in bold the books and authors I’ve read. As I often do, if I have read an author, but not the work listed, I will highlight the author's name in bold. Any additional snark is mine. 

The list then: 

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling (all)
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

6 The Bible [Yea, I have read this cover to cover, and as I have mentioned before, I read a Catholic edition, meaning I get extra books Protestants choose to ignore]
7 Wuthering Heights
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens [Read it when I had to teach to high school freshmen.]

11 Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier

16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger [As I have said before, Salinger owes me for me reading this overrated piece of tripe. What appeal people see in its whiny loser protagonist is beyond me]
19 The Time Travellers Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot

21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby — F Scott Fitzgerald [Read it in graduate school of all places. I don't give a crap about it. Curiously enough, our daughter does like it, which is fine by us]
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams [I keep meaning to read this]

26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck [I have read other stuff by Steinbeck]
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis [I have read some of it, not the whole series, and it was when I was a kid]
34 Emma – Jane Austen
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen

36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis [Here is one of those duplications. Why the list maker does this is beyond me]
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Berniere
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Willaim Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne

41 Animal Farm – George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown [I tried reading it. Dropped it. Talk about a really bad piece of shit writing. I know librarians are all about every book its reader, but honestly, if this is your favorite, I will have second thoughts about you, even if I don't express them]
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabrial Garcia Marquez [My all time favorite. I have reread this a few times]
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins

46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47 Far from the Madding Crowd — Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaids Tale – Margaret Atwood [Prophetic as hell, but it is not exactly riveting reading. Actually, I found it pretty boring in terms of narrative pace]
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan

51 Life of Pi – Yann Martell
52 Dune – Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth 

56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon [Another one I tried and dropped. This is way overhyped. Plus, in Spanish, it is pretty much a "cursi" book, which is not a good thing]
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60 Love in the time of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

66 On the Road – Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie [Graduate school reading. I do remember it being one of the few books of that time I actually liked]
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville

71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson
74 Notes from a Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce

76 The Bell Jar – Sylivia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession – AS Byatt

81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas – Charles Mitchell
83 The Colour Purple – Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree collection – Enid blyton

91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole

96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99 Charlie & the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo 

29 out of 100. Not a whole lot, but to be honest, a few of these are books I just could not care less about. Anyhow, there you have it, try not to think too deeply of what this may or not reveal about me as a reader. 

How about you folks? Which have you read or not? Why or why not? Comments are open.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Booknote: Jeffrey Brown's Star Wars books

Jeffrey Brown, Darth Vader and Son. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2012. ISBN: 9781452106557.

Jeffrey Brown, Vader's Little Princess. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2013. ISBN: 9781452118697.

 Genre: Humor, children's lit (though really for all ages)

I recently read these delightful books. If you are a Star Wars fan, you need to be reading these, and you probably want to add them to your collection. Though I borrowed them from my local public library, I know I will be buying them the first chance I get. In the books, Brown imagines what would happen if Darth Vader, Dark Lord of the Sith and leader of the imperial forces, first had to take care of his children, Luke and Leia. Who knew that, in spite of being a Dark Lord of the Sith, he'd be a pretty good single father? The books are absolutely adorable.

In the first book, Darth Vader and Son, Vader is raising his four-year-old-son Luke. For those keeping track, it takes place during "Episode Three and a Half." Vader and Luke take trips to the zoo; Vader makes his son breakfast in the morning, and he even gets the question from his son many parents dread: "where do babies come from?" In the second book, Vader's Little Princess, we are now in "Episode Three and Three-Quarters." Leia is now, well, daddy's little princess. Time moves a bit faster here as Vader's little girl grows up into a rebellious teenager learning to drive (a TIE fighter in this case), and, adding to dad's chagrin and confusion, starting to date boys. Leia also becomes a thoughtful teen as she tries to convince dad to finally take that pile of garbage on the Death Star and  separate things into recyclables and compost.

I think parents everywhere will appreciate these books, and I think older kids will like them and appreciate much of the humor, especially if they already like Star Wars. The books use many of the lines from the films, sometimes in new amusing ways, adding to the fun. Overall, these are books I highly recommend. Public libraries definitely want to add them to their collections.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

My reading rituals

After reading this post on Book Riot discussing "what your reading rules reveal about your personality," then seeing CW reveal her reading rules, it got me pondering my own reading rules. I may have mentioned a rule here or there, my I never really thought of the issue as having "rules." For me, some of these things seem like small rituals related to reading. So, responding to those blog posts, I am listing some of my rituals for reading. I have no idea what they might reveal about my personality, but here they are.

1. I always have more than one book going at the same time. I tend to read a lot based on mood and serendipity. Thus I have more than one book going to suit my moods.

2. I usually have a nonfiction book, a fiction book, and graphic novel or manga going at any given time.
  • If one of them is in Spanish, I may add a second work of fiction. 
  • I sometimes read two works of nonfiction, especially if the subjects are different. If I do this, one of the nonfiction books is usually very light reading, like humor or an essay collection on the light side. For example, as of this writing, I am reading Breakfast: A History and The Sinner's Guide to the Evangelical Right. The latter is the light one that I can pick up on idle moments. 
3. I have a series of bookmarks that I rotate from book to book. I collect bookmarks (a topic I could blog about some other day). From that collection, I have a few picked out for daily use. They are mostly paper bookmarks. When they wear out, I toss them in the recycling bin and start using a new one.

4. I don't write in my books. Any reading notes I take are written in my personal journal, which partially serves as a commonplace book. However, I did do some marginal notes in some college textbooks, often at the urging of professors and mostly for my literature major courses. Those books are now long gone. Aside from that, no writing in books.

5. For fiction, I tend to prefer standalone novels over trilogies or longer series.
  • There are exceptions. I make an exception for established series or universes, like Star Wars or Warhammer 40K. Even then, I try to favor single works or works that can stand alone. For Warhammer 40K, many of their trilogies eventually get put into omnibus editions, and I tend to wait for those editions, thus treating them as one work. This leads to my next rule or ritual. 
6. If it is a series or fiction work over a set of volumes, I prefer to have them at hand to read one after the other. This if I know a work ends, say for a trilogy.

7. A corollary to the above: I really don't read single issue comics, aside from samples, say from Free Comics Book Day. Otherwise, I keep an eye out for good story lines, then wait for a compilation so I can read the story arc all at once. I just do not have the patience to keep track of the vast array of single titles it often takes to get one story arc. For instance, say you read Batman comics from DC Comics. For a story arc, you may need to find: Batman, The Dark Knight, Batman and Robin, Nightwing, and whatever other title the arc runs into, and heaven help you if Batman crosses over into Superman or other titles. I just wait and get the compilation. Now, I know comics publishers do not like hearing that, since they decide on making a compilation based on the popularity of a title (or so they claim). That's their fault for overstretching things out hoping to sell yet another issue. I have limited time and patience for little pieces. Plus, I am not an uber comics geek, which means I am very selective on what I pick up when it comes to comics and graphic novels. I figure the good stuff will get collected eventually while the geeks rush out every Wednesday (Wednesdays for my readers not in the know is when comics companies release new titles).
  • A small note. I do pick up an issue here or there to try out, though rarely. However, I can say our daughter does read more individual comics. For those, we do have a folder set up with a local comic book store (local as in Lexington. There is no comic book shop in Berea). We go pick her titles up about once a month.
 8. Like others, I prefer to read the book over and/or before the movie. For the most part, film makers will mangle a book anyhow, so I prefer to read the book. There are some exceptions, such as the film for The Godfather.

9. I try not to break book spines. If it happens, it happens. For me, books are meant to be read and handled.

10. If a book does not work for me, then I drop it. Time is too short on this Earth to waste it on a bad book. No regrets here. Oh, and I don't always use the Nancy Pearl's Rule of 50 neither. First chapter bores me, I am gone I don't care how many pages it has.

11. I don't read stuff that is hyped or everyone is reading it, or is the next best thing, etc. For me, just because everyone reads it, it does not mean it is any good (for me at least). Exhibit A? Fifty Shades of Grey. For that example, believe me, there is better erotica out there. Do yourself a favor and find it if you enjoy erotica. Need help finding? Ask your local friendly librarian. If your librarian sees no problem with that book, find another librarian.

12. I do read every day. I especially make sure to wind down at the end of the day by reading.

13. I try to stop at the end of chapters or at some logical stopping point in the book. This is especially applicable in fiction where I look for chapter breaks or end of chapters to stop. In nonfiction, I can usually stop anywhere as long as it is not in the middle of a sentence.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Booknote: The Sinner's Guide to the Evangelical Right

Robert Lanham, The Sinner's Guide to the Evangelical Right. New York: New American Library, 2006. ISBN: 9780451219459.

Genre: Nonfiction (mostly)
Subgenre: humor, religious studies, politics

Lanham's book on the Evangelical Right would be funnier were it not for the fact that the book is not only accurate but also prophetic. The Evangelical Right has not just become the ridiculous extreme presented in the book. By now, they have gone above and beyond in their paranoid delusions and outright hostile bigotry, ignorance and drive to impose their beliefs on everyone else.

The book was published in 2006, right in the middle of G.W. Bush's presidency. In that sense, the book is dated. Also, some of the figures mentioned in the book have had some changes in fortune. For instance, Ted Haggard fell in disgrace, and Jerry Falwell died. Still, the book is interesting to read because you get a glimpse of how the Evangelical Right got into the course of madness and hostility it follows now. The book really is a guide with some humor in it.

The book is organized into 8 chapter that discuss major figures and movements within the Evangelical Right. Yes, there is some diversity among Right Wing evangelicals from hellfire and brimstone extremists like Falwell and Pat Robertson to prosperity gospel peddlers like Joel Osteen to ministries like Rick Warren's that hide their extreme views with gimmicks and being "cool." At various points, the book features comments and insights from evangelical individuals selected by the author, tour guides "to provide insight from an insider's perspective" (xxv).

The book is fairly easy to read. You can read it a bit at a time, be amused one moment, then cringe the next moment. And to make sure you paid attention as you read, there is even a quiz so you can test your knowledge. For sinners everywhere, this book is essential. I do wish the author would update it in light of Obama's presidency since we can say that Obama has supplanted to an extent Bill Clinton as the Antichrist in the eyes of evangelicals. Still, the book is definitely worth a look, and it is a warning from the past to today.

If you ask me, I gave it four out of five stars.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Booknote: Best Erotic Romance 2013

Kristina Wright, ed., Best Erotic Romance 2013. Berkeley (CA): Cleis Press, 2012. ISBN: 9781573449038.

Genre: Fiction
Subgenre: erotic romance, short fiction

Editor Kristina Wright brings together a group of excellent writers to provide stories exploring the connection between love and sex. What happens when physical expression and pleasure come along with romantic love? We have 17 stories that seek to answer that question, exploring a variety of situations from singles to married couples, even at least one divorcing couple perhaps seeking one last hurrah before it ends.

Allow me to highlight some of the stories I enjoyed:

  •  "Waiting for Ilya" by Teresa Noelle Roberts. This is a tale of a "pregnant" couple pondering their future sex life in light of the new arrival. Actually, they are not literally pregnant; they are adopting a child, but the issues are close to the same. It was a tender and heartwarming story with some sensuality. The story shows what can be done in a good romance for a married couple. 
  • "Teach Me" by Jeanette Grey. In this story, a new couple comes together through yoga lessons. At first, Lissa reaches out to help out Kevin, who is a yoga beginner. The story takes off from there as they end up teaching each other various things. As a good romance story should, it has a nice satisfying ending. If you practice yoga, you will appreciate how Grey blends yoga imagery and movement with sensuality. 
  • "Chocolate Cake and You" by Victoria Blisse. This story will have you craving a thoughtful, affectionate lover and some chocolate cake. What I loved about this story, besides the sensual food imagery and the fact that it is a very steamy story, is how Ryan, the baker, sees his woman as perfect. He tells her, "whatever possessed you to diet anyway? You're perfect as you are" (110). Then he proceeds to appreciate and shower her with hot loving and affection. In true love there is acceptance, no need to change for the sake of the beloved. 
  • "Adagio" by Torrance SenĂ©. I don't think I will look at classical music and violin players in quite the same way, and I do mean that in a positive way. Then again, the connection between classical music and sensuality has always been there. Let's just say Ben knows just when and how to bring out the harmonious notes out of his lover. Their lovemaking is truly a musical masterpiece.

In addition to the 17 stories, this anthology features a foreword by Saskia Walker that provides a nice opening and describes the genre of erotic romance. She describes her reading experience in romance, where for the most part the bedroom door was closed in the romance tales. Lucky for her and for readers today that door "has not only been left wide open, it has frequently been rattled off its hinges by the passionate intensity on the pages" (viii). The subgenre of erotic romance has evolved to bring stories that are both romantic and erotically steamy. This anthology is an excellent example of that. The strength of a short story anthology such as this one is that it allows you to taste and sample different expressions of romantic erotica. This is the anthology you want to go along with a nice, hot steamy bubble bath.

In compliance with FTC rules, also known as keeping The Man happy, I disclose this book was provided to me by the publisher for review purposes.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Booknote: The Essentials of Business Etiquette

Barbara Pachter, The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat, and Tweet Your Way to Success. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2013. ISBN: 9780071811262.

Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: Business ethics, business networking and behavior, etiquette

I will start by saying that even though this book is targeted at business people, or seems to focus on business culture, that this is a book that anyone can use. I definitely think it is overall a very good book to give to a new college graduate as a present. For those coming out of library school and going into the job market, it would be a good book as well to have. The strength of Pachter's book is that it covers a lot of ground, but it is also accessible and easy to read.

Ms. Pachter has put together a guide answering both common etiquette questions as well as tackling some not some commonly known situations. She looks at behaviors when out in the job market, how to carry yourself, how to take care of your image and appearance (online and offline), and how to network with others. She covers the basics from how to give a handshake to who pays the bill during a business lunch. She presents a bit over 100 questions and answers in an easy to read format. In addition, there are additional insights throughout the book that expand on some of the lessons. There is advice on how act and appear professional as well as how to do good presentations (a skill that candidates for academic librarian jobs often need). The parts about your online presence are very valuable. In this day and age, how you carry yourself online is extremely important. That is a lesson that cannot be hammered enough into people given the many news headlines of people doing both faux pas and major screw ups in social media. Read this book to learn, or remind yourself, of what to do and not to do.

As I mentioned, this is a very easy book to read. You can do as I did and read it cover to cover, or you can browse and look for the parts that interest you or issues that you wish to learn more. Do not into your first job interview unarmed. Get this book and learn how to perform well in that first job interview. Even if you do not get that job offer, the advice here will help you make a good impression. which is always important. But if you do get the job offer, you can get tips and advice for doing well in the job, building rapport (even if you are a big introvert like I am), getting along with others, and carrying yourself as a professional.

The book would make a good selection for libraries, academic and public, with business collections. This is the kind of book that you want to keep on the career advice shelf. I am ordering it for our library. This is one I definitely recommend.

If you ask me, I can give this 5 out of 5 stars.

Disclosure note: This review copy was provided by the publisher via NetGalley as an electronic advanced reader's copy (ARC) in exchange for an honest review. There, we have appeased The Man once more. The book, as of this writing, is scheduled for release on August 2, 2013.

Can Amazon really shoot itself in the foot?

I had read this idea before, that Amazon, by killing off its competition, would harm itself by destroying the discovery engines that help it somewhat. Here is an article at Salon talking about just that. Still, it does make an interesting point. From the article, 

 "According to survey research by the Codex Group, roughly 60 percent of book sales — print and digital — now occur online. But buyers first discover their books online only about 17 percent of the time. Internet booksellers specifically, including Amazon, account for just 6 percent of discoveries. Where do readers learn about the titles they end up adding to the cart on Amazon? In many cases, at bookstores." 

So, in an ironic twist, I guess, the (somewhat encouraged by Amazon) practice of "showrooming" does help them, so if it kills the "show rooms..." well, you get the idea. Not that I have a very nice opinion of people who "show room," especially if they then whine "my local bookstore is closing." Now you can get all high and mighty about saving money, how one should go with the cheaper option (a declaration certainly open to debate), convenience, etc. However, if you do that, you can't complain then when the local bookstores close down. You caused that plain and simple by "showrooming" instead of supporting your local economy in favor on a commercial behemoth that engages in various unethical and unfair business practices. Always fascinates me how Americans, who by and large give lip service to things like "a level playing field" and "fair and equal opportunities" are more than happy to simply go along with el cheapo no matter the damage. 

By the way, you know another place where you can discover good books to read? Your local library, especially public libraries. What will you find there? Glad you asked:
  • Books in print and very often also electronic. Now, we can grant that e-book access can vary widely from public library to public library. We can also acknowledge that publishers hate libraries lending e-books and pretty much obstruct the practice as much as possible. However, that aside, odds are good your library has offerings that you can read on your e-book reader or tablet computer. Check them out. I can speak from personal experience that I have tried out some of the e-books my local public library offers (via Overdrive in our case, which they get as part of a state consortial deal), and I have been pleasantly satisfied. 
  • Readers' advisory. You need some suggestions and ideas on what to read next? Would you like to talk to someone who reads, knows books, and can make recommendations based on what you like to read or would like to discover? Public librarians (and some academic ones like me) are trained in doing just that. We call it readers' advisory. So, you've read 50 Shades of Grey, and you want more books like it (or better than that book)? Ask your local librarian to give you some recommendations. You zipped through Game of Thrones and now need your next fantasy fix? Your local librarian can probably recommend a thing or two. Readers' advisors make it their business to know about good books so they can make helpful suggestions. Go ahead and give them a try. 
  • Libraries often take advantage of social media when it comes to recommending books. From using Facebook and Twitter to having a presence in places like GoodReads, libraries draw on these powerful tools to help you discover your next read. Also, many librarians use social media as individuals, often doing readers' advisory online as well. In addition, many fine librarians out there keep blogs where they review books and give suggestions. Give them a try as well. 
  • One more thing. Libraries are community spaces. Odds are good  you may meet other people there who are readers just like you. The surveys do say that a lot of people, if not most, get their reading recommendations from acquaintances, friends, so on. Library is a good place to meet some of those friends. 
  • Let us be honest. At the end of the day, a librarian well versed in readers' advisory can give you better recommendations and advice than any algorithm that Amazon tries to come up with. 
In the end, if they shoot themselves in the foot, it may be a flesh wound at best. I don't think Amazon is going to die because every bookstore closes. Granted, such a scenario would be a seriously gruesome future. But if that were to happen, discovery would certainly suffer to a degree. Only thing I would hope for is that Amazon does not really decide to come after libraries as well. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Booknote: The New Ghostbusters, Vol.1

Eric Burnham, Dan Schoening,, The New Ghostbusters, Vol. 1. San Diego: IDW, 2013. ISBN: 9781613776780.

Genre: Graphic novels and comics

The story starts with the original Ghostbusters getting kidnapped by a hostile ghost and sent to some other dimension. Janine Melnitz, their secretary, is the only left along with Kylie, Ray's manager at his occult bookstore. A federal agent, Melanie, steps in to help, and Ron, a convicted hacker and con man is drafted by the city (he is apparently the only one available who can somewhat provide maintenance on the equipment). The New York City officials remain as obnoxious and clueless as ever. Ron's character, to be perfectly honest, is a bit of a jerk, which was a bit of a turn-off for me in reading the comic. If I had my choice, I could have done without him.

So, the new team is trying to figure out where the original team is. However, hauntings are still happening in the city, and the city expects the Ghostbusters to remain open for business. So they have to balance the business, a new obnoxious city official trying to get the Ghostbusters to do more merchandising and celebrity opportunities, and trying to find the original Ghostbusters. The story is entertaining enough in spite of the issues I had with Ron's character. There are some humorous moments. As an additional feature, there is a small comic within a comic about a ghost inside the Ghostbusters' containment unit. It's cute, but it is mostly a filler piece that, in this compilation, seems to break the main narrative more than anything else. Overall, this is a quick and light comics read that takes off close to where the movies ended. In the end, it was "ok." Fans will probably like it. It is optional for more casual readers.

Public libraries may want to acquire it for their comics and graphic novels collections. This is a teen level comic.

If you ask me, 3 out of 5 stars. 

Disclosure note: This review copy was provided by the publisher via NetGalley as an e-book copy in exchange for an honest review. There, we have appeased The Man once more. The book, as of this review, is scheduled for publication this week, so it should be out by now.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Booknote: Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi, Vol. 2: Prisoner of Bogan

John Ostrander,, Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi, Vol. 2: Prisoner of Bogan. Milwaukie (OR): Dark Horse Comics, 2013. ISBN: 9781616551445

Genre: Graphic novels and comics, Science Fiction
Series: Star Wars

This series takes place approximately 35,000 years before the events in A New Hope (that's the original Star Wars film for those who may not be as versed). The Jedi as we know them do not exist yet. It is a time before hyperspace travel made possible traveling all across the galaxy. The Je'daii are the precursors of the Jedi. They are Force users who keep the peace in their world of Tython. As the story opens, Xesh, an outside warrior and Force user deemed dangerous by the Je'daii is exiled to the moon of Bogan. They hope the exile will help Xesh find balance in the Force (like sending him on a retreat, except is more like a prison when you look it over). However, another exile on Bogan is very interested in Xesh. They both figure out a way to escape from their exile, and then the troubles begin. Plus, unbeknownst to the Je'daii, Xesh is a spy for the Rakatan Infinite Empire, an evil race of Force users who use the dark side of the Force to aid them in their ruthless desire for conquest. The Rakatans also make use of a technology few Je'daii know about or seem willing to use: Force sabers.

This is an interesting and ambitious story predating the Jedi and Sith. I did find the story convoluted at times. There are a lot of characters to keep track of, many with strange names that are not always easy to remember. The plot at times seems ambitious as it goes in various directions: the Rakatan threat, Xesh's plans (some of which he can't carry out just yet because he has a memory block in place from his Rakatan master), the other exile's plan to resurrect an army from a previous war to seek revenge for losing that war, so on. The story packs a lot, and it is not always easy to follow. Since this is an ongoing series, there is more to come, so maybe things will better come together down the road. I will add that it may help to pick up the previous volume, though there is enough to figure things out here. One thing I did find interesting is how the lore of the Jedi is slowly developing; you can sort of see why the Jedi are the way they are now from their predecessors. If you like background material, this may be of interest.

The story does have a good amount of action, so readers who like that will be pleased. The art is good and colorful, well suited to the series. Fans of Star Wars will likely enjoy it. Personally, I like the Old Republic era with the Jedi and Sith. But Dawn of the Jedi does open up new possibilities. It does need to develop more, so time will tell how the story goes. I know I will probably look up the next volume to see how things turn out.

If you ask me, I'd say 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Disclosure note: This review copy was provided by the publisher via NetGalley as an e-book copy in exchange for an honest review. There, we have appeased The Man once more. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Booknote: Breakfast: A History

Heather Arndt-Anderson, Breakfast: A History. Lanham: Altamira Press, 2013. ISBN: 9780759121638.

Genre: History
Subgenre: Microhistory, Food and epicurious

As my four readers know, I really enjoy reading the genre that is often known as microhistory. These are books that go in-depth on a single subject, and this book fits the bill nicely. The author presents a very comprehensive and ambitious history of the meal we know as breakfast. She also gives a lot of facts and trivia to satisfy trivia buffs as well as foodie readers.

The book is organized into five chapters. The first chapter provides history and social context. For instance, we learn that breakfast was not always welcome or desirable. Breakfast had to overcome prejudices and church opposition to become the morning meal we know. That's just part of the story. I personally found interesting the discussion of the hygiene and health movement in the U.S. featuring people like Kellogg and the rise of cereals.

The second chapter looks at breakfast around the world. There is a lot more than eggs and bacon out there, and Ms Arndt-Anderson does her best to show us. The author goes food item by food item, say breakfast cereals, types of breads, and meats, then looks at the history of a specific item in the breakfast meal. This chapter runs in short but very informative sections that I think readers who enjoy trivia will definitely enjoy. This was a part of the book I found interesting as well seeing what people eat around the world for breakfast.

The next three chapters look at breakfast in different locales and settings. Chapter three shows how breakfast evolved as a meal in the home. For example, learn a bit more about how cereals and children became a big market for children. Part of it had to do with women going into the workplace. Chapter four looks at breakfast outside of the home, including the rise of the breakfast sandwich in fast food among other things. The final chapter looks at breakfast in the arts and media. Art, film, television, literature, pop culture, and more are covered here. Pop culture readers will certainly enjoy this chapter. Need to know about films that feature a breakfast scene? This is the chapter for that.

The author has done extensive research, and it shows This is a scholarly and very informative work. It is also very accessible and easy to read. The book's arrangement in small sections means that the content is not overwhelming. There is a lot of material as the author strives to cover a lot of ground, but she does so well. I enjoyed reading parts of it during my lunch hour at work. I found it to be an easy and interesting book to read. This book will likely become a solid history on the topic of breakfast, the kind of book that others will refer to down the road. It is definitely a good book to read over coffee and breakfast, no matter what time of day you eat your breakfast.

For academic libraries with pop culture collections and interests, this would make a good addition. I think public libraries may want to consider it as well for their history readers. 

Disclosure note: This review copy was provided by the publisher via NetGalley as an e-book copy in exchange for an honest review. There, we have appeased The Man once more.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Reading about the reading life, July 10, 2013

Welcome to another small compilation of items about books and reading. As I have mentioned before, these are items that catch my eye that I think my four readers might find interesting as well.

  • This story came out a while back, but it caught my interest. It is a story about a culture of cafes with books to read in South Korea. They are a reflection, in part, of the fact that brick and mortar bookstores are rapidly declining there. Some just offer books to read, but others do sell books. And this is just one type of cafe. According to the article, "today’s visitors have many choices ― there are cafes with cats and dogs, cafes with fortune-tellers, and cafes with cool vintage furniture and even artworks" Via Korea Herald.
  • It's not easy finding good erotica to read out there. There is a lot of crap out there. Crystal Veeyant argues that much of this has to do with the problem of shame, i.e., society's repressed notions when it comes to sex and sexual expression. From the piece, "again we should consider the chilling effect that shame and fear might have on many skilled writers that stays their hand from publishing erotica, ceding the market to countless horny typists with no credentials beyond a C+ in high school English and an almost charming ignorance of their own mediocrity." Via Bending the Bookshelf. I think we can add to this certain low quality fan fictions that somehow get re-written and then go on to become bestsellers. As a librarian, I usually do not judge what others read (not professionally anyhow). As a reader with some standards, if you do read that subpar stuff when there are so many other better options, I have to wonder. 
  • On a different vein, an interview with author and activist Rigoberto Gonzalez. The man does a bit of everything: YA fiction, poetry, short prose, so on. Plus he is a book critic and makes time to help out other authors coming up along the way.  A bit of what he says: "I’ve been truly blessed with opportunity. Fortunately, I had the right mentors, writers who were generous with their time and guidance, who instilled in me a sense of responsibility to my various communities. Being an activist-writer means keeping the door open for others, not closing it right behind you. It means asking yourself what you can do, not only who you can be." Via Lambda Literary
  • I don't have a whole lot of love for Amazon. I think my four readers know this by now. Aside from using the Kindle app on my iPad for a few free items here and there (mostly as a learning experience), there is no love lost for the company overall. This story illustrates yet another reason I don't exactly consider them experts when it comes to books and reading. To them, if you did not buy items to them, then you are not really a reader. In a nutshell, you know when Amazon does one of their big press releases touting well read cities in the U.S.? They base that on their book sales. Yea. That is pretty much it. I can't imagine what other key factors might be indicative that a city or town is a well read place, such, as, having libraries maybe? Read about it over at Book Riot.
  • At Papeles Perdidos, as part of celebrating the International Day of the Book, they ask their readers why do you read? Author Caballero Bonald gives his answer. (Blog post in Spanish language). I would be curious what reasons some folks out there would give for reading: pleasure? distraction? to learn something? aesthetic reasons? Feel free to comment.
  • This was not something I read, but rather something I enjoyed watching. A short film entitled "The Last Bookshop." Link to YouTube video here. In a not-too-distant future, a boy's holographic entertainment goes on the fritz, and he decides to venture outside, where he finds, lo and behold, that a bookstore still exists. 
  • A message from the Department of the Obvious: Having bookshelves and books in a home can help your children succeed academically. The story is found here at Pacific Standard Magazine. On a serious note, my parents did make sure we had access to books in the home. Curiously enough, complementing that with trips to a local library never seemed to occur to them. It is a puzzling part of my childhood to be honest. However, we never lacked for books at home. Now that I have a family, we do have books at home as well, and we are a family of readers. It has paid off for our daughter as well.
  • This article from The Economist back in March basically has publishers worried that with e-books in libraries, no one will ever have to buy a book again. Yes, the guy from Macmillan said that, showing once again how publishers as a whole are just clueless. The article does have some pretty fun one-liners that librarians may find amusing, such as this comment from Phil Bradley, "in publishers’ eyes librarians are 'sitting close to Satan.'” I bet Mr. Satan has a very interesting book list, and he probably borrows from his local public library. Yea, we probably share the same reading bench.
    I’ve been truly blessed with opportunity. Fortunately, I had the right mentors, writers who were generous with their time and guidance, who instilled in me a sense of responsibility to my various communities. Being an activist-writer means keeping the door open for others, not closing it right behind you. It means asking yourself what you can do, not only who you can be. - See more at:
    I’ve been truly blessed with opportunity. Fortunately, I had the right mentors, writers who were generous with their time and guidance, who instilled in me a sense of responsibility to my various communities. Being an activist-writer means keeping the door open for others, not closing it right behind you. It means asking yourself what you can do, not only who you can be. - See more at:
    I’ve been truly blessed with opportunity. Fortunately, I had the right mentors, writers who were generous with their time and guidance, who instilled in me a sense of responsibility to my various communities. Being an activist-writer means keeping the door open for others, not closing it right behind you. It means asking yourself what you can do, not only who you can be. - See more at:
    I’ve been truly blessed with opportunity. Fortunately, I had the right mentors, writers who were generous with their time and guidance, who instilled in me a sense of responsibility to my various communities. Being an activist-writer means keeping the door open for others, not closing it right behind you. It means asking yourself what you can do, not only who you can be. - See more at:
    I’ve been truly blessed with opportunity. Fortunately, I had the right mentors, writers who were generous with their time and guidance, who instilled in me a sense of responsibility to my various communities. Being an activist-writer means keeping the door open for others, not closing it right behind you. It means asking yourself what you can do, not only who you can be. - See more at:
    I’ve been truly blessed with opportunity. Fortunately, I had the right mentors, writers who were generous with their time and guidance, who instilled in me a sense of responsibility to my various communities. Being an activist-writer means keeping the door open for others, not closing it right behind you. It means asking yourself what you can do, not only who you can be. - See more at:
    I’ve been truly blessed with opportunity. Fortunately, I had the right mentors, writers who were generous with their time and guidance, who instilled in me a sense of responsibility to my various communities. Being an activist-writer means keeping the door open for others, not closing it right behind you. It means asking yourself what you can do, not only who you can be. - See more at:

Friday, July 05, 2013

Booknote: B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth, Vol 6: The Return of the Master

Mike Mignola, B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth, Vol. 6: The Return of the Master. Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse, 2013.

ISBN: 978-1-61655-193-3

Genre: Graphic novels and comics
Subgenre: superheroes, horror.

For those not familiar with this series, the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense is the agency that Hellboy works for, and the B.P.R.D. comics are a spin-off of Hellboy focusing on other agents working at the agency. In this volume, after a series of catastrophic events, the agency is trying to hold things together. However, a new cultist group is forming and threatening the world. Meanwhile, Nazis that fought Hellboy before are trying to bring the mad monk Rasputin back to life. Their big challenge is finding once more the lost soul of Rasputin, which may or not be where it is supposed to be. As if that was not enough, the bureau's agents now have to collaborate with their Russian counterparts.

This is clearly a transition volume to move the story along from one major event to the next. However, there is still plenty of action as a team of agents, humans overall this time around, go on to confront the cult and its minions. There is also plenty of intrigue behind the scenes. The art is pretty good on this volume; it is consistent with the good quality of other volumes in the B.P.R.D. series. I can say that I am curious enough from reading this that I am willing to seek out other volumes.

Fans of Hellboy will likely enjoy reading the B.P.R.D. comics, if they are not doing so already. For those who know Hellboy from the films, seeking the Hellboy comics as well as the B.P.R.D. comics would certainly be a good reading experience.

Disclosure note: This review copy was provided by the publisher via NetGalley as an e-book copy in exchange for an honest review. There, we have appeased The Man once more. The book, as of this review, is scheduled for publication August 2013. This is why I used the publisher link rather than WorldCat as I usually do; WorldCat did not have a full record at the time.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Some stories that helped me find love for science fiction and fantasy

The prompt for this small post is this post from the site IO9, where they ask "what story made you fall in love with science fiction and fantasy?" As a kid, there were a lot of stories from books and media that lit a fire for me when it comes to science fiction and fantasy. I am selecting a few, and I am doing a sort of album for the list. The items are in no particular order, and the list is not comprehensive. There are other tales I could have chosen, but these are the ones that came to mind right away. On an interesting side note, as I grew up in Puerto Rico, many of these I watched dubbed in Spanish. It would be a long while before cable came into my life.

1. Space 1999: This was a series that I really liked as a kid. I loved the Eagle spaceships. This was something I remember watching after school.

2. Battleship Yamato. The American version is known as Star Blazers, which was a badly edited dubbed version. However, in Puerto Rico we were lucky because they brought in a version from Europe (likely dubbed in Spain, if I recall) that had the full anime, only dubbed in Spanish. I remember this fondly as I had to get up early in the morning to catch the episodes before school. I have no idea to this day why they broadcast it so early in the morning (it was likely not seen as prime time stuff).This intro is not the version I used to watch. The version I watched had an instrumental introduction, very somber. But this is close enough to give you an idea.

3. The Robotech series was another one that I was hooked in. Later on, I found the novelizations. I still have the complete set of novels. I loved those jets turning into combat robots.

4. Ray Bradbury's story "There Will Come Soft Rains." I don't recall quite where I read it the first time. I think I had to read it for school, but it was a story that I have come to love.

5. Jules Verne's The Mysterious Island. This was a book I ordered from one of those school book club forms when I was in middle school.

6. The films of Ray Harryhausen. I thought those films, especially his Sinbad films, were among the most awesome films of all time. In fact, I remember seeing Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger in the movie theater. Every time a Harryhausen movie comes up on cable, you can rest assured I will be tuning in. I probably should get  DVD set of these at some point.

7. Of course, for a kid of my time, Star Wars films (the original ones) were a big part of my childhood. I saw them all in the theater as they came out, and I used to have a big toy collection as well that sadly did not make it to my adult years. I don't think folks need a movie trailer for this.

8. Battlestar Galactica. I refer here to the original 1970s series. Latin America was one of the places where they released a theatrical film (see the linked article), and naturally, my parents took us to see it. I was lukewarm on the rest of the series, and the 1980s series when they arrived on Earth was one I did not really care for. By the way, I never got into the new remakes.

9. The film Krull. This is still one of my favorite films to this day. The scene of the old seer, who helps the hero, and the Spider Widow, is one of my favorites. It is certainly a very romantic one too in a way you very rarely see in films these days. Plus, as a kid I wanted to ride one of those swift stallions. Plus, that glaive star is seriously bad ass.

10. Ulysses 31. This I watched dubbed in Spanish. It combined two of my greatest passions as a kid: space adventure and Greek mythology. What else could a geeky kid ask for? And hey, I managed to find the Spanish version's trailer. Heck, I can still sing this theme song today.

11. El Galactico. This was part of an anime robots and space adventure series.In this particular series, a princess traveled the galaxy escorted by three fighters she would meet along the way in order to restore her kingdom, if I recall the plot correctly.

Here is the intro trailer (Spanish dub) of the "Festival de los Robots" (Robots' Festival), which included El Galactico. It was kind of an anthology series. I went through a bit giant Japanese robots stage as a child.

12. And when it came to giant robots, back in my day, Mazinger Z was the big boy on the block. We even had trading cards of Mazinger Z as kids back then. For me, this was the good stuff before stuff like Transformers and Voltron came along.

13. Finally, as a kid, I wanted to be space pirate  like Captain Harlock (or Capitan Raimar, as he was known in the Spanish version).

So there you have it, some of the stories that made me fall for science fiction and fantasy. There are some others I could add to this list. Then there are many I have read as an adult that keep that love for the genres still alive, but that is another post.

How about readers out there? Any stories, be they print or media, that made you find love for science fiction and fantasy? Feel free to share and comment.