Friday, May 31, 2013

Another list of world changing books

What is it with people making lists of books and claiming said books changed the world? Here is another one of those lists, shared by Paulo Coelho. The list does not include that tripe paean to being a selfish asshole, known as any work by Ayn Rand, but that does not stop some of the commenters there to whine their social security smooching heroine was not included (I don't mind that she took social security. That is what the program is there for, for those who need it. I do mind the hypocrisy and all she stood for in that she would have happily denied it to others, but let's end the rant here. Maybe the lesson is not to read comments). I will agree that many of these books, for good or ill, did have some influence on people and the world.

As my four readers know, I cannot resist a book list, so here is the list. As I often do, I will highlight books and/or authors I have read. Any comments or snark I make are in parenthesis:

1. The Republic by Plato.
2. The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.
3. The Rights of Man by Thomas Paine. (I have read some other stuff by him, just not this. See next item)
4. Common Sense by Thomas Paine.
5. Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville.
6. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli. (A must read for many managers, plus I think it does have things to say for the library world, if you know where to look)
7. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriett Beecher Stowe.
8. On Liberty by John Stewart Mill.
9. Das Kapital by Karl Marx.
10. The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith.
11. Guerilla Warfare by Che Guevara.
12. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer.
13. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by DH Lawrence.
14. Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri.
15. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare.
16. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.
17. Moby Dick by Herman Melville.
18. 1984 by George Orwell. (I taught this in high school. I think this gives me an automatic "you don't have to ever read it again" pass. I practically know the thing by memory)
19. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.
20. Iliad and Odyssey by Homer. (Shouln't these be separate items on the list? Just saying)
21. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes. (As I always point out, I read this in high school, in baroque Spanish, not some sissy abridged translation or such. Take that whiny high schoolers bitching over Shakespeare not being "written in English." And yes, I taught Shakespeare in high school, and I did have kids make that whiny statement)
22. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.
23. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert.
24. The Arabian Nights Entertainment by Andrew Lang. (Not this edition, but I have read The Arabian Nights)
25. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.
26. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.
27. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.
28. Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank.
29. Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi.
30. The Vindication of the Rights of Women by Mary Wollstonecraft.
31. The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir.
32. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf. (I have read some of her other stuff. I could not care less)
33. Walden by Henry David Thoreau.
34. A Dictionary of the English Language by Samuel Johnson.
35. Philosophae Naturalis Principia Mathematica by Isaac Newton.
36. The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud.
37. On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin.
38. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson.
39. Geographia by Ptolemy.
40. The Meaning of Relativity by Albert Einstein.
41. The Bible. (Yes, unlike a lot of so-called Christians, I have read this, the whole thing, cover to cover)
42. The Qur’an. (yep, this too).
43. The Torah.
44. The Tibetan Book of the Dead.
45. The Analects of Confucius. (And this one as well)
46. The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas. (I have read Aquinas, but not this. Hey, I am a recovering product of Catholic school.  You read Aquinas sooner or later)
47. The Bhagavad Gita.
48. I Ching.
49. Tao Te Ching.
50. Bartleby by Hermann Melville.

 So, I have read 23 books specific to this list plus 4 authors. So a little over half of the list. How about you folks? How many of these have you read? And what would you add to the list? As always, comments are welcome.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Booknote: Your New Job Title is "Accomplice"

Adams, Scott, Your New Job Title is "Accomplice." Kansas City: Andrews McMeel, 2013. (Link to publisher page)

ISBN: 9781449427757 (Trade Paperback)

Genre: Comics and graphic novels
Subgenre: Humor, office and workplace

I have to say after reading this 40th collection of Dilbert cartoons (wow, it has been 40 already) that Scott Adams is still at the top of his game. I had not read one of these books in a while, so I was glad when I got this one, and I enjoyed it very much. The author has some unique takes on current events that keep the strip fresh and relevant. For instance, Wally joins the 1% crowd, and Dogbert's radio show faces boycotts after he has offended just about everyone. That is not all. The pointy-haired boss remains as clueless as ever in spite of better technology and apps. Hey, even Asok the intern gets his own intern.

Dilbert is popular because so many workers find something they can relate to in the comic strips. For me, it has a lot that you can relate to in librarianship. However, do not say that too loud. The librarian "hip crowd" and library directors, many of whom are just as bad as Dilbert's boss and other executives in the strip, might take offense. Dilbert, for workers everywhere, is pretty much universal. This collection continues to give us plenty of material to commiserate, to smile, to laugh, and to cut out clippings (from the newspaper, hopefully not from the book. Scan, then cut out a copy if need be) to slide under our clueless managers and bosses' doors.

Disclosure note: I read this book as an e-book via NetGalley. Book was provided by publisher for honest review purposes (there, we have appeased The Man, a.k.a. the FCC once more). 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Short booknotes on graphic novels 17

I continue my semi-regular series of short booknotes for graphic novels and comics. Usually, if I read short works, I prefer to put them together in a post featuring a few of them than making a lot of little short posts for each one. The first three volumes I borrowed from my local public library. For the last one, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles volume, I read it as an e-book galley provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review (So, there, we have appeased The Man, a.k.a. the FCC). Also, the first three titles go to WorldCat records. The last one, since the book is a galley, I did find a preliminary record at an online bookstore (the book should be available in July as I understand it).

Mark Waid, Daredevil, Vol. 1. New York: Marvel, 2012. ISBN: 978-0-7851-5238-5.

Volume covers the first six issues of Mark Waid's run on Daredevil. Matt Murdock, having been outed as the Daredevil, tries to rebuild his legal career after a hiatus. He starts by taking a police brutality case that seems to be a winner. From there, he gets involved in other cases including a wrongful termination case that turns out to be more than it appears. I will add that the art quality on this one is pretty good too. Overall, a good entertaining read.

Stuart Manning, Aaron Campbell (illustrator), and Guiu Vilanova (illustrator), Dark Shadows, Vol. 1.  Runnemede (NJ) : Dynamite Entertainment, 2012. ISBN: 9781606902752.

Apparently, this is a continuation of a television gothic soap opera from the late 1960s, which was then remade in the 1990s. I have not seen the original, and I barely recall catching an episode or two of the 1990s production late at night. I have not seen the recent movie made by Tim Burton (based on the trailers, it did not seem appealing), I come to the work as a casual reader. The volume compiles the first four issues of a series put out by Dynamite, which I understand take off where the series ended. The problem with that is that the author assumes that you are fully conversant with what came before. The story is alright, but not terribly suspenseful. For the most part, you are left to figure out what is going on, and why the characters act like they do. Quentin turning out to be a werewolf was a bit of a surprise, though not totally unexpected given we know the Collins family is cursed somehow. We know Angelique, a witch who is (supposedly) dead and buried, is obsessed with Barnabas, the man she turned into a vampire, but unless you followed the series,  you learn little of the conflict between them. She just wants him, and she will do anything to get him now that she has come back to life. Then there are loose ends such as why David, the youngest member of the house, seems to be misbehaving. It is mentioned in passing. Anyhow, if you are a fan of the show, you might enjoy this. If not, then, it is a passable story, but it leaves a lot of gaps for the reader.

Ed Brubaker, Uncanny X-Men: Rise and Fall of the Shi'ar Empire. New York: Marvel, 2007. ISBN: 9780785125150.

This run of Uncanny X-Men comes after the events of the Deadly Genesis series; the compilation includes issues of Uncanny X-Men #475-486. It might help if you have read the previous volume, but you get enough here that you can figure out what is going on just fine if you have not picked up Deadly Genesis. The mutant Vulcan seeks revenge against the Shi'ar Empire, who killed his mother (among other wrongs), and he is just powerful enough to burn them all. The X-Men send a team, led by Professor X (who has lost his own mutant powers and is also a wanted man by the Shi'ar) to try to stop him. The series is epic in scope, and overall it is a series that packs a good amount of action and political intrigue. If you like political machinations with your stories, there are some here. The end of the tale sets up for the next story arc. Overall, I found this a pretty good adventure, nice blend of action and plot. The art was also pretty good. Fans of X-Men will probably enjoy it.

Mateus Santoluoco, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Secret History of the Foot Clan. San Diego: IDW, 2013. ISBN: 9781613776094.

I think this is the best item I have read in this group. Let us note up front that the title is recommended for readers 16 and up, though I think younger readers who are good, mature readers will probably be ok with this story. The volume collects the issues of the mini-series Secret History of the Foot Clan. The TMNT get a history lesson on the past of their sensei, Master Splinter, and his time with the Foot Clan. Yes, he did spend time with the Foot Clan, as did the ninja who would become known as Shredder. A scholar is slowly finding more and more information about the Foot Clan, and the clan, led by Shredder, is concerned such discoveries may expose the clan and its operations. It falls to the ninja turtles to try to protect the man from the clan, but does he really need or want said protection? Along with that story, we get stories back in time to feudal Japan when the clan was founded. Back then, the founder had dealings with a kitsune witch, and she herself had dealings with a demon (a demon that readers of this comic will know very well). Back then, Shredder was betrayed by the clan and killed, but his spirit refused to die. With the help of the witch, his spirit was able to reincarnate in another ninja, rendering him immortal, at a price. So we get two great stories: the action-filled story of the turtles trying to save the scholar and keep a precious artifact from the clan and the story in feudal Japan that gives us the story of the clan. Overall, this makes for a good TMNT story that I think fans as well as casual readers will enjoy. The story is certainly a bit more mature; these are not the turtles from Saturday morning cartoons. The art is gritty, with a good style that is well suited the story. For me, this is how I envision the ninja turtles.

On some list of books you are supposed to read by the time you are 20

My four readers know that when it comes to snobbish, pretentious, literary lists, I have to get snarky about it. I pretty much did all the literary fiction reading I was going to do when I was in graduate school, and while I enjoyed most of the experience, much of it I would rather leave behind. At any rate, I came across this list from BuzzFeed, "65 Books You Need to Read in Your 20s." Since it is one of those long scrolling pages, because they filled it up with huge graphics and photos of book covers, I have eliminated the fluff. Down below you will find the list with no extra crap on it.

They divided the list into categories. What I will do is highlight the books and/or authors I have read, plus I may riff on ones I have not that I have no interest or intention on reading. Why? Why not? Maybe because I read what I want when I want, not because someone tells me I have to, and sure as hell not because they said I had to do it in my 20s, which have been gone for a while.

I will bold items that I have read. My comments will be in parenthesis after a title as needed.

GREAT NOVELS: (Uh huh. Literary fiction has never really been my thing. Except for a few writers, it is a genre I do not care for, especially if it is the usual whiny white males)

1. The Emperor’s Children, by Claire Messud
2. What She Saw…, by Lucinda Rosenfeld
3. The Deptford Trilogy, by Robertson Davies
4. The Secret History, by Donna Tartt
5. Giovanni’s Room, by James Baldwin (I read some of his short works in graduate school).
6. A Visit from the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan
7. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Díaz
8. Lucy, by Jamaica Kincaid
9. The Moviegoer, by Walker Percy
10. White Teeth, by Zadie Smith
11. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon
12. Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace
13. Bright Lights, Big City, by Jay McInerney
14. The Namesake, by Jhumpa Lahiri
15. Call Me by Your Name, by André Aciman
16. The Rachel Papers, by Martin Amis
17. Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison (I read Beloved. That is pretty much enough for me)
18. The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway (Read some of his short fiction).
19. Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro
20. A Home at the End of the World, by Michael Cunningham
21. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman (I have read this and recommend it. I am planning on rereading it at some point. This may be one of the few well-worth selections on this list, that, by the way, seems to be missing a few things. For example, Alan Moore's Watchmen should probably be on this list. By the way, I have also read some of Gaiman's short fiction, and his novel American Gods).
22. The Group, by Mary McCarthy
23. Quicksand and Passing, by Nella Larsen (I did read Passing in graduate school. I did not think that much of it, but I understand it probably was not the book for me).
24. Pastoralia, by George Saunders
25. Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline
26. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, by Dave Eggers
27. The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath
28. Main Street, by Sinclair Lewis (yes, I read this. It was mostly a "meh" experience for me)
29. His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman (He got in, and someone like say, C.S. Lewis, who has both the Narnia series and that other science fiction trilogy did not? No Harry Potter neither? Not that I am a fan, but I would have thought Rowling might get in).
30. Generation X, by Douglas Coupland
31. The Fortress of Solitude, by Jonathan Lethem (The only Fortress of Solitude I care for is this one)
32. Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson
33. I Love Dick, by Chris Kraus (I am refraining myself from the almost mandatory innuendo now)
34. On the Road, by Jack Kerouac (I did read this piece of overrated ego trip)
35. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, by Tom Robbins
36. Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, by Haruki Murakami

(So, what the hell? No Garcia Marquez? No Isabel Allende? Plus, as I mentioned earlier, you could have included Watchmen on the list of great novels, and that is just one graphic novel; I am sure there are others). 

GREAT MEMOIRS: (Here is another genre that I do not really like. I may read one or two here or there, but overall, it happens rarely).

37. Bossypants, by Tina Fey
38. Kitchen Confidential, by Anthony Bourdain (I have read other books by Bourdain, just not this one).
39. How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, by Toby Young
40. The Dirt, by Mötley Crüe and Neil Strauss
41. Lunar Park, by Bret Easton Ellis
42. Just Kids, by Patti Smith
43. Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, by Nick Flynn
44. Oh the Glory of it All, by Sean Wilsey
45. I Don’t Care About Your Band, by Julie Klausner
46. Wild, by Cheryl Strayed
47. Lit, by Mary Karr
48. I’m with the Band, by Pamela Des Barres
49. Dear Diary, by Lesley Arfin

POETRY: (I do like reading poetry now and then. I often like to read local or regional authors, and I prefer simple poetry versus over-developed and pretentious verse.)

50. The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton, by Anne Sexton (I have read her poetry, just not all of it. As far as I am concerned, that is more than enough)
51. Actual Air, by David Berman
52. The Collected Poems of Kenneth Koch, by Kenneth Koch
53. Alien vs. Predator, by Michael Robbins (The only Alien vs. Predator I care about is this one, which I am sure is a hell of a lot more exciting.)
54. The Collected Poems of Audre Lord, by Audre Lord (I have read her poetry, but not all of it)
ESSAYS THAT WILL MAKE YOU THINK AND/OR LAUGH: (Essay is a genre I do like when it is done right. I tend to prefer simple essays, observations, random thoughts, that kind of thing. I don't like stuff that goes too deep or tries to be too smart.)

55. Me Talk Pretty One Day, by David Sedaris
56. How to Be a Woman, by Caitlin Moran
57. My Misspent Youth, by Meghan Daum
58. Slouching Towards Bethlehem, by Joan Didion
59. Up in the Old Hotel, by Joseph Mitchell


60. How to Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman (The authors of the list describe it as a pretty basic cookbook. This may be one to look up down the road.)
61. How’s Your Drink?, by Eric Felten (If their description is accurate, this may be of interest too.)
62. The Elements of Style, by Strunk & White (Be honest, if you write, you have looked at this at least once).
63. Letters to a Young Contrarian, by Christopher Hitchens (I read it, and this may be the only book on the list that actually needs to be read by anyone before they get to their 20s, if possible.)
64. Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, by Betty Edwards
65. He’s Just Not That Into You, by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo (That's ok. I am not into the vast majority of these books neither.)

I have read 6 authors and 5 books for eleven total out of 65. I guess I am mostly kaput at this point if I have not read them, and for the most part, I have no intention of reading them neither. There are plenty of other good books out there in my areas of interest that I do want to read.

How about you folks, have you read any of these? Did you like any? Hate any? Did the authors of the list miss any books you think should be included? Or maybe you think they should have left something out? You are welcome to leave comments.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Booknote: 99 Reasons Everyone Hates Facebook

Purcell, Emmet, 99 Reasons Everyone Hates Facebook. Smith Publicity, 2013.

ISBN: 9781626757547

Genre: Humor
Subgenre: Web 2.0, online social media

Facebook started out as a small college directory, and it has become a big social media behemoth with much to hate. Mr. Purcell has 99 reasons to hate the social site. Let's look at the book then. 

For starters, the book does feel a bit like an extended series of blog posts. I also think some of the reasons presented can be a bit of a stretch. However, Purcell also presents some reasons that I think many Facebook users will identify with, or they will smile when they recognize which friends of theirs are responsible for one Facebook sin or another. 

The book is divided into nine chapters, organizing the grievances against Facebook by themes. Some of the themes featured are: idiots (this includes people who join pointless groups and those who constantly fall for scams online), attention seekers, too much information (for example, see Reason 46: People who won't shut up about having the "world's best girlfriend" -- or boyfriend or spouse), and social harassment.  

Purcell also raises some good points. For example, the way that people grieve on Facebook. For this, see Reason 53: Leaving RIP messages as status updates. I will admit that when someone has a loss, if they post an RIP expression on their Facebook status, then I am willing to cut them some slack. This does not really bother me. However, here is where Purcell's good point comes in: it is not just the RIP statues. He writes, "That's right; your grandmother has just died and somebody 'Liked' it-- does that not bother anyone else?" (96). I know when that happens, it does feel very odd. Then again, it could be Facebook's fault for not having more options besides the "Like" button (and yes, he mentions that as another reason to hate Facebook, see Reason 67). Do note that for the author the rule of not using Facebook for RIP statuses has an exception. He writes that if he dies in a spectacular death, say "killed in some cool volcano/hang gliding combination or a shark attack," then do break  out the RIP statuses on his behalf. There are always exceptions to rules. I will be honest. I think if I were to die in some cool volcano/hang gliding incident, I would want it celebrated too on Facebook. And then, there are some reasons to hate Facebook you may have never heard about until now. For instance, Faceboogling, which is Reason 78. This is "when Facebook users decided to use their Facebook status instead of Google, asking their friends a pertinent, factual question and waiting patiently for responses" (136). 

Overall, this is a short read with some entertaining moments and some less entertaining moments. As I mentioned, some of the reasons seemed a bit of a stretch at times. However, as the saying goes, your mileage may vary. The book does lend itself to browsing and skimming; just find your grievance and read on. Many Facebook users will probably appreciate this, in light of the ways in which Facebook has just been getting more cluttered and difficult (as in a pain in the rear end) over time. If you don't use Facebook, this book could save your life by keeping you away from it.

If I have to give it stars, I'd say 3.5 out of 5. Do note the book is priced at $2.99, so if you want to add something quick to your e-reader, this could work.

If you wish to learn more, the author does have a website.

Disclosure note: I read this book as an e-book via NetGalley. Book was provided by publisher for honest review purposes (there, we have appeased The Man, a.k.a. the FCC once more).

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Booknote: Fat Girl

Carlos Batts, Fat Girl. New York: Rare Bird Books, 2013. (Link to publisher page)

ISBN: 978-0985490263 (for hardcover edition)

Genre: Erotic Art and Photography

Note: This book was provided by the publisher for review purposes via NetGalley. Yes, I am a registered librarian reviewer in NetGalley now, and I will probably blog about that as well  (interesting experience so far). At any rate, book was provided as an e-book (which I read on my iPad using the Blue Fire reader app) by the publisher for an honest review. (There, we have satisfied The Man, a.k.a. the FCC. On with the review). Also note the book is due out in July of 2013. Pus, though I made it clear in my genre label above, this is an erotica book (yes, it does have some explicit images, so act as your comfort moves you).

* * * * 

I read this book in one night; as it is a photography book, it does not have a lot of text, but it was a pleasure to look through the book. I will admit that I requested to review the book on a bit of a whim. Sure, I do enjoy erotica now and then, but aside from that, it was mostly whim when I put in the request. So, it was nice when the request was approved, and I got the book.

The book is, at its core, a pictorial celebration of plus-sized model and adult film star April Flores (link to Wikipedia entry). I say celebration because the book is also a celebration of the beauty, power, and sensuality of the fat girl. Ms. Flores, in collaboration with the author/photographer (who is also her husband now) Carlos Batts, seeks to reclaim the label and break some stereotypes in the process. The book collaboration does come across as one of art, intimacy, and love.

The book contains an introduction written by Miss Sara Rosen that puts the rest of the work in context. She tells us how April and Carlos came together, "an artist and a muse made yin yang." The rest of the book contains seven chapters. Each chapter begins with an introductory passage followed by a set of photos. Combined, those prose passages show us how Ms. Flores thinks and reveal her personal journey towards becoming the artistic and sexual icon she is now.

The photos are quite diverse, ranging from glamour shots to erotic nudes to fetish to candid photos. What we get is a broad look from various angle at a beautiful and confident woman. We also get some photos revealing the photographer's craft. One of my personal favorites is the first photo of the second chapter. In the photo, Ms. Flores lays on top of some pastel-colored balls, nude, with some balls covering some strategic parts. We see her from the side, and the photographer is on a ladder taking a shot from above. She appears to be very sensual in that photo. The photo also reveals a bit of how the magic is done, and it is magic for Mr. Batts manages to bring out the best of Ms. Flores. Through the photographs, we also see the the games they play, a bit of their daily life, and their love in her gaze to the camera and in his gaze as photographer. As Miss Rosen writes in her introduction to the book, "Fat Girl is a love story. A story of wonder, of self-discovery. . . . " The love story, kinky and innocent at times, is very much alive in the photos featured in the book.

On an additional note, the chapter featuring the sex toy art, where various artists were invited, as part of a curated exhibit, to creatively paint a sex toy, one modeled on Ms. Flores, is a nice inclusion in the book. There is a lot of unique art pieces in that chapter, and they are worth a look.

If you enjoy erotic photography, this book would be a good choice. If you like plus-sized models, or just more "natural" women who enjoy their sensuality, this is a book for you as well. Fans of April Flores should definitely like this and will want to add it to their collections.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Booknote: Salsas!

Glenn Andrews, Salsas!  North Adams (MA): Storey Publishing, 1997.

ISBN: 978-0-88266-729-4

Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: Food and cooking, recipes.

I have provided the ISBN for the paperback edition. I read it as an e-book using my public library's Overdrive offerings, which actually come from the Kentucky Libraries Unbound. It's stuff like that that makes me like state library consortial deals (though I do have an opinion about Overdrive, but that is another post for another day). Let's get on to my booknote.

This short book contains some brief notes on peppers, followed by some salsa recipes, then some other recipes that integrate salsas such as Haddock with Citrus Salsa or Salsa-Glazed Spareribs. I mostly checked this book out because I wanted to find some easy recipes to attempt making salsas at home. In that regard, the book does not disappoint. It does feature some pretty easy to make recipes. However, there are one or two recipes that stretch the definition of salsa; fruit salsas are fine, but I would not consider guacamole a salsa.

We must also note that the book is not all original; a good number of recipes are excerpted from other cookbooks, making this book more of a compilation. I have no problem with that. To be honest, I like that they are clear when a recipe came from elsewhere, which seems more honest than other recipe books that lift recipes left and right without attribution (actually, there are rules, or at least some etiquette, on this matter). Still, this is a decent basic book if you want to try your hand at making a salsa or two. Most salsas are made to be consumed fairly soon; they may last a few days in your refrigerator at most. However, if you wish to preserve some of your creations, say to give a nice jar to your favorite aunt as a holiday gift, the book does include some basic steps on canning and preserving.

The book is part of the County Wisdom Bulletins published by Storey Publishing, a series that features other topics such as growing tomatos, pickles and relishes, and using garlic.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Booknote: The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black

Hudspeth, E.B., The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black. Philadelphia: Quirk Books, 2013.

ISBN: 9781594746161

Genre: Horror fiction, art.
Subgenre: mythology

I finished reading the book over the weekend, and I will say right away that this is one of the best books I have read this year. It will certainly go into the list of best books I compile at the end of the year. If you like dark fantasy, if you like horror in the style of Edgar Allan Poe, H.G. Wells (think here The Island of Dr. Moreau), and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, then this book is for you.  I think this is a book not to be missed.

The book is really two books in one. First, you get the fictional biography of Dr. Spencer Black. Dr. Black was the son of a resurrectionist (a grave robber who dug up corpses then either used them for medical research or sold them to medical schools and researchers) in the late 19th century. After the loss of his father, his brother and he were sent to live with an uncle. Eventually, he went to medical school, and he became a brilliant doctor as well as an excellent an anatomy illustrator. He researched birth defects and mutations, and his reputation grew as a surgeon for helping people with birth defects and other anomalies. The man was a hero and hailed as a genius healer. But then, the gradual descent into seeming madness comes. During his work, Dr. Black speculates and suggests that mythological creatures once existed. Not only that, but that said creatures were our evolutionary ancestors and could even be brought back to life. From Dr. Black's biography:

"Furthermore, Black speculated that perhaps the human being is not the best result of evolution; perhaps our ancestors shared traits with some ancient animals or, more accurately, ancient mythological animals" (31). 

His quest to prove his theories drives him out of the mainstream medical community and into the world of carnivals and freaks. Then one day, he just vanishes.

His biography is built in large part from Dr. Black's journals and correspondence. This biography forms the first part of Hudspeth's work. The narrative details of Dr. Black's life and descent into obsession, and it does so in the grand tradition of Gothic horror. The story is riveting, mysterious, and tragic. In addition, we have to note that the biography contains early illustrations done by Dr. Black as well as press clippings and publicity posters. These all add to the authentic feel of the biography and enhance the narrative. It is a fine tale, but there is more.

The second part of Hudspeth's book is Dr. Black's magnum opus, his Codex Extinct Animalia. The book is "anatomical reference manual" of supposedly extinct animals. Just six copies were made of the book; Dr. Black withdrew the project right before he vanished without a trace. The only known existing copy of the book is held at the Philadelphia Museum of Medical Antiquities.

In the manual, Dr. Black provides commentary and insight on the creatures, then offers a series of anatomical illustrations. The art quality here is excellent. We are looking at a Gray's Anatomy for mythical creatures, and the plates are a pleasure to behold. I will note that the plates are not in color, but that does not take away from the good quality of art here. Fans of mythology and art as well as the readers who came for the story will enjoy looking through these illustrations. And while Dr. Black may have been a madman, his theories as presented in the Codex are fascinating to read. It makes for an excellent art book.

The two elements come together to create a great reading experience. I enjoyed this book very much. To be honest, this is the kind of book I would have loved as a  young boy. I think "boys and girls and children of all ages" will enjoy the book. Hudspeth has created an excellent work of dark fantasy that evokes the best of Gothic horror. Once you pick it up, you will not want to put it down until the end. You may even want to peruse it again. Overall, I am glad I was able to immerse myself in the life and work of Dr. Spencer Black. This is a book I definitely recommend.

A note for librarians: I can say that libraries, especially public libraries, will want to pick this up for their patrons.

Here is a link to the book trailer for the book for those who wish to learn more. And here is the link again for the publisher's page for the book, where you can also see a preview of the book. 

Note: The book is to be released on May 21, 2013. I received a copy of the book for review purposes from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review, which I have provided. There, I said it, so that should keep the FCC (a.k.a. The Man) happy. 

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Booknote: Legion

Abnett, Dan, Legion. Nottingham (UK): Black Library, 2008.

ISBN: 978-1-84416-536-0

Genre: Science fiction
Subgenre: Military science fiction
Series: The Horus Heresy, Book 7 (Warhammer 40,000)

After the previous book in the series, Descent of Angels (link to my review), I was a bit wary when it came to picking up this volume. I can reassure my four readers that this novel is a definite improvement from the previous one, and that the outlook was better. Well, the outlook for the reader. In the upcoming civil war in the 31st Millennium, the outlook is kind of grim, but that is part of the fun of reading the series. If you have read any Warhammer 40K, then you are aware of the Horus Heresy. This series covers events 10,000 years or so before the "current" events of Warhammer 40K. Like the previous novel in the series, we go back to a time before the civil war exploded, but we know it is soon coming. Choices will have to be made, and in Legion, it falls to the secretive last legion of the Emperor, the Alpha Legion to make choices.

The 670th Expedition is engaged in a war of attrition on the planet Nurth. What they thought would be another routine compliance campaign has become a long, prolonged war as it seems the Nurth inhabitants, humans as well, have some dark powers of their own. The Alpha Legion of Space Marines is sent to Nurth to assist the expedition and end the war. However, there is more than meets the eye. There is a lot going on behind the scenes. For one, the Alpha Legion are a secretive group, one who uses spies, deception, infiltration, subterfuge, and secrecy to achieve its goals. Heck, no one at times is even sure who their primarch really is, a key secret of the legion (and one that is revealed in the novel). Two, there is another group acting behind the scenes, the Cabal. The Cabal are a group of xenos (aliens) of various races working behind the scenes to keep the rise of Chaos (the dark powers) from rising, and they are manipulating the Alpha Legion, in subtle ways, to come to Nurth. The question is why do they want the Alpha Legion to be involved. Caught in the middle are the Imperial army forces. Most of the tale is told from the point of view of various members of an Imperial army unit, the Geno Five-Two Chiliad. The other major point of view, which comes a bit later in the novel, is that of a spy working for the Cabal, a human they know as John Grammaticus. They all come together in this tale of deceit and secrecy.

Once the novel gets going, it is quite a spy thriller. However, the start of the novel can be a bit slow in terms of pacing, and we do not see the Alpha Legion right away, so some readers may wonder if this novel is really about the Alpha Legion? Yes, it is. Their presence is there; one can feel it, and then, they emerge. In the end, will the Cabal be able to persuade the Legion to work to their ends? Or will the Legion follow its own path, as it has always done? True, they have always been loyal to the Emperor, but they are not blind followers. This is what distinguishes them from other Astartes legions. The end comes rapidly in terms of pacing, and it sets things up very well for events down the road. Those who know the lore of Warhammer 40K know that the Alpha Legion is labeled as a "traitor legion" that sided with Horus. But this is open to question, were they really on Horus' side? Did they remain loyal? By the end of the novel, they make their choice, and the truth is revealed about the Alpha Legion.

Overall, this was a much better book than the previous one. Abnett overall is one of the better authors in the Black Library, and this book does not disappoint. It is different from other Space Marines books in Warhammer 40K in that it is not just war and battles. There is more intrigue and nuance here. These are marines versed in the arts of subterfuge and espionage. If you like thrillers and tales of intrigue, this will make a pretty good choice. It is definitely a good entry in the series, and it definitely reveals the secrets of the Alpha Legion well, so it should satisfy fans of the series lore. This is one I recommend.