Monday, March 31, 2014

Comic book issue note: Dr. 2, Issue 1

James Chiang, Dr. 2 (Issue #1). Doc Two Publishing. (link to Amazon, best I can do with this item for now). 

This is a bit different than my usual booknotes as it is reviewing a single comic issue. It was available via NetGalley as an electronic review copy. From the description:

"Shanghai, WWII Internment Camps, and a bizarre New York City murder case intersect in the first issue of DR. 2, a kinetically visceral thriller set in a frightening, yet eerily plausible, future. A physician with a mysterious background, Dr. 2 is the most sought after expert on 'unsolvable' crimes. But nothing can prepare him for the maelstrom of chaos that awaits as he's forced to delve into a world of passion, destruction, and tragedy, all connected to a woman from his own past.

This issue serves as an introduction to DR. 2: A FEAST OF SCENTS, the full graphic novel, that will be releasing at a future date."

This is the first issue, and so far, I did like it and would like to read more. Here we go from World War II internment camps and Shanghai to a futuristic New York City where a forensic physician is called in on a murder, a murder that may be connected to his past. It is a very good noir style story that certainly left me wanting more. The art certainly suits the noir style of the story. It looks like a good start. It's a nice teaser.

Giving this one 4 out of five stars.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Booknote: The Rocketeer/The Spirit: Pulp Friction

Mark Waid,  The Rocketeer/The Spirit: Pulp Friction. San Diego, CA: IDW, 2014. (Link to publisher previous press release on the series as this volume is not out as of this post. It is due out on March 25, 2014).

I was not terribly impressed with this volume that brings together two popular pulp heroes. This volume compiles issues 1-4 of the comic series of the same title. If you know them from their films, you owe it to yourself to seek them out in comics form. However, this is not really the comic to do that.

The premise of the comic is a good. It is the era of the advent of television, and the big corporations are trying their best to take over the public airwaves to make them into their own private advertising venues. In a way, this rings relevant to today's debates on net neutrality. Sadly, this is as far as the volume goes in terms of some substance. Now I understand this is just light reading and adventure fluff. I would have been fine with that, but this comic just has one issue too many. First, the attempts at slapstick humor fall pretty flat. Next, the pairing of the two is forced to the point of being not just awkward but actually painful. The Rocketeer comes across as the bumbling guy that The Spirit has to put up with in order to solve the case of the dead politician from Central City. The investigation takes him to California where he meets The Rocketeer, and it goes from there. We then get some Nazis and some evil corporate overlords for bad guys, and that is OK, but that is about it. If nothing else, this volume is a quick read. This is one definitely to borrow rather than buy. Compared to other works by Mark Waid, this is definitely very lightweight.

As it was just OK, I am giving it 2 out of 5 stars.

The disclosure note here is where I tell you that I received this e-galley from the publisher via NetGalley. I tell you this and the fact I was not compensated for giving an honest review so we can keep The Man happy.

Comic Book Issue Note: Viscera

Nathan Massengill,Viscera: Epic Frail. Bad Damsel Media, 2014. (Link to the comic's website).

This is a bit different than my usual booknotes as it is reviewing a single comic issue. It was available via NetGalley as an electronic review copy. Rather than going through the plot, I will give the book's description as NetGalley provides it:

"As the owner of the paranormal nightclub 'RingRunners' and Ambassador to the Post-Life Nation of Ghosts, Viscera stays busy. She doesn't need men or sex. She doesn't want any trouble either, but trouble tracks her down. Viscera is a fugitive. She fled from an ancient and secretive woman-hating subculture ruled entirely by immortal men. These are ruthless and extremely powerful men, hunters who will not tolerate her escape from their control. In the past, she was content to run and hide, cowering at shadows and sounds in the night. But that was before she became 'Viscera.' Viscera refuses to run. For mysterious reasons known only to herself, Viscera makes a stand and a very public statement. Wearing a provocatively sexy ensemble and running what might be the wildest - and most frightening - nightclub on the planet (where humans can "party" with the dead)...Viscera truly knows how to make a point. She will fight - and kill - for the right to be her own person."

That all sounds very good and exciting in theory. In practice, this indie comic reads more like a piece of performance art or a draft than a full piece; I understand this is the first issue, but still, it just seemed rushed. The layout did not help things neither. It starts with image panels as a comic, then the narrative breaks into this big chunk of text. I was not sure if this comic "wants to be" a comic or a novel.  The story itself in the image panels is pretty minimal. This is a very visual piece with very minimal text on the image panels. The art is black and white, and it could be reminiscent of some of works by Tim Burton (and I do mean that in a good way). The main issue I had with the comic overall is that it seems a bit more concerned with preaching an apparent feminist agenda than actually telling the story. Yes, I find neat and cool that Viscera is a strong and independent woman who will be tamed by no man. I happen to like stories of strong women, which my readers can see from previous reviews of works such as Red Sonja. But throughout the story there is this constant tone of preaching the agenda rather than telling the story. As the old saying goes, show more, tell less. I wanted to like this one (I did like the minimalist art), but in the end, it was mostly OK. It was nice, but not memorable. It was a quick read that in the end left me asking if that was all there was.

In the end, 1 out of 5 stars.

If you wish to learn more, the author has a website as well:

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Comic Book Issue Note: Artful Daggers: 50 Years Later

Adam P. Knave,, Artful Daggers: 50 Years Later. San Diego, CA: IDW, 2014.  ISBN (for the complete volume coming later): 978-1613778852. (WorldCat link for the full volume)

This is a bit different than my usual booknotes as it is reviewing a single comic issue. It was available via NetGalley as an electronic review copy. Though there appears to be a full book volume, the publisher provided just the teaser, which barely gives enough for a review.

I started reading this, and it looked good as I began reading it. However, the art is basically extremely crowded on the panels, very busy. Telling the characters apart is not easy, and that for me shows someone did not put much effort or just did things a little too quickly. Also, the plot on this series is not always very clear: I know the protagonists were thieves for hire, and that one is mentoring the other. The galley did not come with a description, so I finally had to look it up, and I found a basic description on of all places. This is how they describe the premise:

"Fifty years after a time traveler brings science and technology to the medieval ages, corporations have replaced kingdoms." 

That actually sounds pretty exciting, but the comic as it stands does not really give a sense that is what is going on. Overall, the plot was not clear; the art is not really that good. It was barely an OK read. I will probably will not seek out the rest of the series if this messy volume is any indication of the series' quality. The premise sounds good, once you know what it, but the execution leaves much to be desired.

I am giving it 2 out of 5 stars, but barely.

Booknote: 47 Ronin

Mike Richardson, 47 Ronin. Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Comics, 2014. ISBN: 9781595829542.

This is Dark Horse's version of the classic Japanese true story of bushido, with Kazuo Koike consulting on the tale as well. Koike is very well known for his works such as Lone Wolf and Cub (link to my very brief review of the first volume in the series). The art in this volume is inspired by classic Japanese woodcut work by Ogata Gekko; the result is an art style that evokes the era of the Ronin and their tale of honor and revenge.

The graphic novel opens with a small frame story of a man visiting the Ronin's graves shortly after their honorable deaths. From there, we go straight to Lord Asano's tragic fate and the resolute quest of his retainers to restore the honor of their master. This version of the tale is meticulously researched and excellently illustrated. It is a powerful and moving tale of strong emotion and honor that draws the reader in right away.

Compared to the Shambala edition I read recently, the art in this one is much better: it is in color, and the characters are better defined. Though I like both versions, I do like this one a bit better. However, I would happily collect both for our library here. The story is the same, but the nuances and ways of telling the story vary from one volume to another. The different interpretations are interesting to see, and in the end, I think the readers can decide which version they like better.

In addition, the Dark Horse edition includes various extras such as a cover gallery, bonus artwork, interviews, and other material. If you like these kind of extras, this is for you. I do think they add a bit more value to the volume.

Disclosure note: Yep, you guessed it. I read this book as an e-book review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley. It was provided in exchange for an honest review. So there, we have appeased The Man.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Booknote: Find Momo

 Andrew Knapp, Find Momo: My Dog is Hiding in This Book: Can You Find Him? Philadelphia, PA: Quirk Books, 2014. ISBN: 9781594746789.

Find it in your local library: Link to WorldCat.
Want to buy it? You can get it from the publisher: Link to Quirk Books book page.

This photography book by Andrew Knapp featuring his dog Momo is totally adorable, a beautiful book for folks of all ages. The book comes from Knapp's Instagram sensation. In 2012, Knapp began posting online photos of Momo, his border collie, hiding in different places. You can find the photos on Instagram with the #findmomo hashtag. The Instagram is very popular, with over 100,000 followers, and it has been highlighted by ABC News and Huffington Post. How I missed that is beyond me.

Momo is a playful border collie who likes to hide. Can you find Momo in the many photos of the book? Think of this as a bit of "Where's Waldo?" but with excellent color photographs where you can look for Momo. I did not know about the Internet element until after reading the book. It is not necessary to have seen the Internet part. The book is very enjoyable on its own. If you are already a fan, you will enjoy this book with new, unseen photos. If you are like me, and this is your first time finding Momo, after enjoying the book you might want to check him out online.

This is a great book for all ages. It has great photos for the photography lover. The photos include landscapes, inside locations, houses, bridges, and other scenes. It has an adorable dog for dog lovers. It has a game for children of all ages. This would make a very good gift for pretty much anyone. This is definitely a good selection for public libraries as well.

I am happily giving it 5 out of 5 stars.

If you want to learn more, there is a website at

Disclosure note: Oh, you know, this is the part where I tell you I got this copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review so The Man does not get his panties in a bunch. There has been no compensation.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Booknote: The Shadow, Volume 3

Chris Roberson, The Shadow, Volume 3. Mt. Laurel, NJ: Dynamite Entertainment, 2014. ISBN: 9781606904619. Volume is due out in March 2014. 

I first came to the character of The Shadow via the movie where Alec Baldwin portrayed the crime fighter who knows the evil that lurks in the hearts of me. I thought the movie was so-so, but I fell in love with the milieu and the character itself. Since then, I read any of The Shadow comics. This one was a good entry in the series. This time, award-winning author Chris Roberson brings us a story where The Shadow is hunting for a serial killer, a mysterious woman dressed in white who seems to be able to use the light to her advantage and moves like a spectre. This is a contrast to our hero's use of shadows and darkness. What do the killings have in common? Will The Shadow be able to stop her before she kills one of those close to him?

This edition collects issues 13-18 of the comic book series from Dynamite Comics. It is a fast paced read with action and mystery. The art captures the time period of The Shadow and brings the characters to life. I always find neat how unlike other heroes, The Shadow has his network of agents in every place from the slums to the high places in society, a trademark of this hero, and we see that here in this comic as well.

As a bonus, this volume includes an extensive cover gallery featuring Eisner Award-winning artists
Alex Ross and Francesco Francavilla, plus Tim Bradstreet, Paolo Rivera, and Jason Shawn Alexander. This is definitely a neat part of the book, and it was one I enjoyed looking through.

Overall, I am giving it 4 out of 5 stars as it is a book I really liked. This is a series that I will continue to keep reading.

Disclosure note: This is where I tell you that I read this as an e-book provided by the publisher via NetGalley for review purposes. The idea was for me to provide a fair and honest review. There has been no compensation. There, we keep The Man appeased once more.

Signs the Economy is Bad: March 21, 2014 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. 

We have a lot going on this week. Some of the stories seem to be coming back, repetitions of issues and situations that go on to show how bad things really are. In the meantime, it is the month of March, and in the U.S. that means the "March Madness" where otherwise sane people go ga-ga over college athletes dribbling a ball around while their colleges make some bucks in the process (we'll have a story on that today too, don't worry). Plus we have a few other things, so let's get on with it.

  • Let's start with a video clip, in part for our friends who may prefer to have audiovisual. This is also for those folk who think they know who depends on welfare. Follow the link and learn who is dependent on welfare. It may not be who you think. Via Equal Voice.
  • We have spoken on this blog before about college students and poverty. The oblivious and clueless tend to think that all college students have it made by virtue that they go to college. Given that the U.S. is fairly exploitative in its higher education (high tuition rates, low public funding, oppressively exploitative college loan system that pretty much puts graduates into serfdom, lack of jobs upon graduation, so on), one has to be amazed anyone goes to college. We have also written before how many college students, facing poverty conditions, often turn to their local town food banks in search of food (maybe because they have this crazy idea that starving may not be a good thing). Now, colleges are implementing and opening their own food banks on campus. So, instead of funding education adequately (hey, let us be honest, in the U.S., if this society wanted to, we could make college free for all like other more civilized places do. Society just chooses not to because investing in the future of our children is simply not a priority. Fuck them they say), we force colleges to come up with Band-Aid measures to keep their students from going hungry. This has larger consequences for the students and society at large. Story via Common Dreams
  • And speaking of college students and college graduates having the short end of the stick (if they even get a stick). The fact is that the average debt of 25-year olds has grown at least 91% in just the last decade. Oh, someone is making out like bandits: the loan lenders and servicers who keep up this serfdom. Story via AlterNet
  • I have been reading here and there about people who opt out of driving. This can be a mixed signal. It can either refer to rich people in the city who can afford car services or choose mass transit, or it can refer to poor people who "opt" out of driving because even though they need transportation, they really cannot afford that car, and thus their cycle of poverty gets worse (you can't work because you can't get to work, but you can't get to work without a car, so you need to buy a car, but you can't buy it without money from working, but you can't get a job. . . so on). The U.S. has a serious need for mass transportation and better public transportation technology and structure, but again, it's one of those things that whiny Right Wingers and selfish Libertarians scoff at because as long as they got their car, everyone else can go fuck themselves, heaven forbid we all pool resources for the public good. Still, it is worth asking "what can we learn from Millennials who opt out of driving." Not, it is not just hipsters who want to be environmentally sound or privileged people. Story via Grist
  • Meanwhile, Right Winger members of the Party of Stupid figure that the best way to "improve" the bad economy is to go after the poor on welfare by adding humiliation and harassment of drug tests before they can get their assistance. This, to be perfectly honest, is much like those churches that claim to feed the poor, but they make sure those poor listen to the fire and brimstone sermon that condemns them. The thing with this drug testing is that it has consistently proven to be nothing but costly and ineffective. Those are documented facts, but I guess to some people, facts are just inconvenient when it comes to humiliating those who are less than they are. Story via AlterNet.
  • And now, a little bit of humor. Like others out there, I have been to Comic Book Conventions (aka Cons). If you have been to one, you know some people put some serious effort (and even more of a serious amount of money) into getting their cosplay (that is costume play, where they dress up as a character) perfect. Now, not all of us have money trees in our backyards. In some cases, you need to make your cosplay in a way that would make MacGyver proud: with some toilet paper, a towel, and some optimism. Because in the bad economy, for many, even cosplay has to be on a budget. Story via Dangerous Minds
  • Finally, one for higher education where Dr. Myers reminds us that, well,  you get what you pay for, and no, that is not always a good thing. Via Pharyngula

 Now, this week, we also have some stories for the uber rich and those who do have it good.

  • As I mentioned, it is March, and in the U.S., that means "March Madness." As Mother Jones points out, "March Madness is big business. The tournament rakes in $1 billion in ad sales, $771 million in broadcast rights, and a countless amount in office pool payouts that you never win. (Players will make $0, though a select few are compensated in torn nylon.)" Someone is making money, but it certainly is not the players, and it sure as hell is not you and me (unless you are the office pool hotshot who gets the perfect bracket). But what if you set your bracket by other measures, say which one is the richest school or spends more on men's basketball. Well, Mother Jones asked just that
  • And speaking of "March Madness," guess what other business is doing well this time of year? Surgeons who do vasectomies. Apparently, it is a "thing" for some men to time this surgical procedure, which is ambulatory (but you do need some recuperation time), around this season so they can stay home and watch the games. This story actually comes around every time this year; it's one of those "human interest" stories (aka filler stuff) news sources bring out this time of year. What I honestly wonder is why the popularity? After all, you can only do this once. Story via CNN. 
  • Now,  you know the economy is bad when even the rich whine that they need some welfare. Now, some people will go to all sorts of extremes to make themselves appear worthy of assistance that should go to people that actually need it. As this boarding school reminds applicants, no, your country club membership is NOT an indication of financial aid need. Story via The New York Times.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Booknote: Hammer and Anvil

James Swallow, Hammer and Anvil (Sisters of Battle, Book 2, Warhammer 40K). Nottingham, UK: Black Library, 2011. ISBN: 9781849700665.

This is the second in the series of Sisters of Battle novels by James Swallow. Though I have not read the first novel, I think you can read this one on its own just fine. It stands alone well enough. The Adepta Sororitas, a.k.a. the Sisters of Battle, are the female warriors of the Ecclesiarchy, the imperium's church. Since there is a rule saying that the church may not have "men at arms," the church got around that by having an all-female army, the Adepta Sororitas. I always wanted to read about them, and now I got the chance. The sisters are fierce warriors, and they are the most fanatical worshipers of the God Emperor.

A mission of the Adepta Sororitas returns to the Ecclesiarchy planet known as Sanctuary 101. The planet was overrun by the Necrons, and this mission is there to reconsecrate the site and bury their dead. This is years after the fact. What the members of the mission do not know is that there are secrets buried in the desert sands of the planet, and others, including members of the Imperial Inquisition and of the Mechanicum, have an interest on the planet as well. What exactly is hidden in Sanctuary 101? That is part of the mystery the sisters have to solve as the Necrons rise once more.

This was a well-paced novel. The mysteries of Sanctuary 101 certainly keep the reader interested. What is the Mechanicum's motivation? What are they seeking? We get a big part of the novel from the view of Sister Miriya, a sister that was disgraced and demoted and came on the mission hoping to make amends. Another view comes from Sister Verity, a hospitalier sister (medical support) who was with Miriya on the fateful mission that cost Miriya her rank. They suspect that they are not being told everything, and to complicate things, it seems their leader may know more than she is telling the sisters. The novel has plenty of action for fans of Warhammer 40,000 combined with a nice mystery plot.

I really liked this one, so I am giving it 4 out of 5 stars. I will try to seek out the previous novel in the series, and if I get it, I will review it here as well. From what I learned, the previous novel details the events that led to Sister Miriya's loss of rank.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Booknote: Best Bondage Erotica 2014

Rachel Kramer Bussel, ed., Best Bondage Erotica 2014. Berkeley, CA: Cleis Press, 2013. ISBN:  978-1-62778-012-4.

If you want to find it in a library near you, click here for WorldCat record.
If you want to purchase it, click here to go to the publisher's page.

The volume begins with a nice foreword by Laura Antoniou, known for The Marketplace series; her foreword sets up the anthology. She also reveals a secret to readers, but you will have to read the book to find out. Ms. Antoniou tells us how even in bondage, freedom can be found, the freedom to let everything go. So, as she urges us, "just enjoy the delicious freedom of restraint offered in this book, and indulge yourself in some vicarious pleasure. . . " (x). Where you go next, that is up to you. This book is indeed a collection of opportunities to experience vicariously a diverse bouquet of pleasures. The foreword is followed by the editor's short introduction to the anthology. Whether you know the joys of having someone at your mercy, of being at their mercy, or you just want to envision, this is the book for you.

I read and enjoyed the stories. There was only one I did not care much for the premise, but I found that it still has appealing elements that I am sure other readers may enjoy. That is a strength in the anthology: variety. There is at least one story for anyone who likes bondage and erotica or is curious about it. All in all, the stories in this collection are good. The issue you may see in other anthologies where some stories are good, some so-so, and others not so good is not an issue here. The editor has a good eye, and she made some very good choices for this collection. The selection here was chosen with care to appeal to experienced as well as new readers. Certainly when I tell people to do themselves a favor and read something better than that shaded novel, this is the kind of book I have in mind.

Overall, this is an excellent volume in the Best Bondage Erotica series. I am looking forward to the next one. For libraries that collect some erotica and/or want to provide something a bit steamier to some romance readers, this could make a good selection. If you personally keep an erotica collection, this is one to add. Let me note that I read and reviewed Serving Him, (link to my review) which is also edited by Kramer Bussel. Thus, when I got this one, I had no doubt this would be a good volume. After reading through the twenty stories, I can give this collection a good 5 out of 5 stars. I definitely recommend this one.

* * * * * 

I would like to take some time now to highlight some of the stories I liked. It was not easy choosing, but I will try to give a sampling of what the volume offers:

  • "Behind the door" by Kay Jaybee really shows what happens when a woman's imagination runs off with her as she speculates what happens inside an old closed-down shop across from her workplace. The shop is now under construction it seems, yet little progress happens as the workers show up at the same time every day and leave at the same seemingly synchronized time as well. What is really going on? 
  • Want a bit of Victoriana? Annabel Joseph has you covered in "The Neckcloth." This was a very nice tale with a bit of an illusion that the author manages to keep until the end. 
  • Want a little M/M action? James McArthur delivers with "No Strings Attached." Two men working the night shift in a factory get to some play as Nick is curious about bondage, and Graham is happy to give him a little taste. It is a very nice teaser piece. 
  • Another thing I like about reading some of these erotica anthologies is that I learn new things and terms. I learned what an "eel" is Annabeth Leong's story "Eel." An eel in this context is a submissive that refuses to stay tied and is able to break out or escape the bindings, often doing so to annoy or just show up the Dominant doing the tying up. Our story's eel is Alicia, a very flexible woman who takes joy in escaping and humiliating her Dominants to the point no one now wants to play with her. Now Alicia is about to meet her match from the least expected person. This is a nice story with great attention to detail.
  • I have to mention "Clipped" by Lucy Felthouse because you will not look at office supplies quite the same way after reading this. The story also shows that sometimes you can bind your lover with improvised items; you don't need to break the bank. The story is an example of the variety bondage practice can display; it can go from high end ropes and specialized oriental techniques to well, in this case, office supplies. A bit of quick thinking and improvisation can go a long way.
I picked five stories to give readers a small sampling. I could have easily picked out others to highlight this time. So, if anyone out there reads the book, feel free to drop in, comment, let me know which story or stories you liked.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Signs the economy is bad: March 14, 2014 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. 

We have a variety of issues this week, from unethical companies profiting in the bad economy to those who are suffering, so let's get on with it.

  • An industry that is doing very well in this economy is the debt collection industry. Part of why they are doing so well is their often excessively aggressive and unethical practices. 
    • For example, they are now investing and using spotter cars to find cars they need to repossess. Basically, much like Google runs cars to take photos and build their maps and Earth products, repo agents and collection agencies send out spotter cars scanning hundreds of thousands of license plates. They are happy because it means they can find more people. However, that is not the only problem with this. In addition, "the most significant impact of Sousa’s business is far bigger than locating cars whose owners have defaulted on loans: It is the growing database of snapshots showing where Americans were at specific times, information that everyone from private detectives to ­insurers are willing to pay for." Yes, not only do they make money chasing poor folks who may have fallen on hard times, but they can also collect all that information and sell it, thus making even more money. Want to complain about illegal, or certainly questionable surveillance, this is certainly something you can write your public officials about. Story via
    • And on a side note, if you think it's only unscrupulous, shady corporations using Orwellian surveillance techniques on the poor, try again. The government does it as well.  And why? Well, here is a reason. "Persistent stereotypes of poor women, especially women of color, as inherently suspicious, fraudulent, and wasteful provide ideological support for invasive welfare programs that track their financial and social behavior. Immigrant communities are more likely to be the site of biometric data collection than native-born communities because they have less political power to resist it." Story via The American Prospect.
    • Debt collectors, as I mentioned, are known for their aggressiveness. In that aggressiveness, they often conveniently disregard the law. Another bad practice? They are going after members of the U.S. armed forces. Unlike you and me, members of the military do enjoy, by law, certain additional protections. According to the article, "while all Americans are covered by laws barring debt collectors from overly aggressive or deceptive tactics, military members and their families are supposed to receive additional consideration, including protection from foreclosure while deployed, tricky high-rate loans and other financial pitfalls." Debt collectors are pretty much disregarding the law to exploit members of the military and their often vulnerable families to line their pockets. Story via The Center for Public Integrity.
  • A study in San Diego reveals something that many of us already know: many full-time jobs are not enough to make a living.  Why is this significant? "Because incomes are low, many families skip child care services and basic repairs to their cars, CPI said, noting that the relatives also “double up” on housing to save money. The local economy also is hurt, researchers said, because families do not have enough money to spend at area businesses." You see, what the "blame the poor" crowd fail to get is that low, exploitation wages not only hurt those stuck in those poor jobs, but it also hurts communities overall. Story via Equal Voice
  • College students and college graduates have been suffering in the bad economy. This is a topic we have discussed before on this blog, but here are more signs:
    • Data shows that the 2008 recession (you know, the one recession that some pundits are saying is over) is hitting college graduates hard. Story via Inside Higher Ed.
    • Another issue affecting millions of students is the exploitative student debt. In fact, progressive groups are being launched to try to help. It will remain to see if something comes out of this other than talking about how bad things are. Story also via Inside Higher Ed.
  • And then the bad economy keeps haunting the young. Sure, the so-called recession is over, yet that housing crash is STILL haunting and preventing young families from getting ahead. According to this article, "the main reason young families' balance-sheet recovery lags is the recent housing crash and its lingering effects. The homeownership rate among younger families has plunged, reflecting both the loss of many homes through foreclosure or other distressed sales and delayed entry into homeownership among newly formed households." Story via the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, with a hat tip to Full Text Reports
  • In addition to the bad economy, we are having a harsh winter this year. That certainly makes things worse for the poor. When things get bad for the poor, they often turn to food pantries. However, food pantries are also suffering under the bad economy.  Story via The Forecaster.
  • Corporations are having a bad time in this economy too. In fact, they are having such a hard time that they can't afford to clean up their own environmental messes, the poor babies.(who are we kidding? Let's end the snark). In what is basically an example of chutzpah, serious white whine, and just being an a bastard asshole, one of Duke Energy's  "coal ash ponds in North Carolina sprung a leak and dumped millions of gallons of highly toxic goop into the Dan River." Being the assholes they are, instead of cleaning their own mess, like our mamas taught most of us, they want the locals to pay for cleaning up the pollution Duke Energy caused, and sadly it is legal for them to do so. Story via Addicting Info.
  • Now, Duke Energy is not the only company suffering in the bad economy and pleading for others to bail it out for their misdeeds. Duke is not the only company that does not give a shit about its community. Chimerix, a pharma company, pleads that it cannot provide a dose of an experimental drug that could save a sick child. The thing is that though the company pleads poverty, that it would cost too much to give the one dose, the fact is the company has given the drug in question to other patients under the compassionate use notion. However, the 7-year old kid is pretty much worthless to them: "But CEO Moch argues that the data provided by those patients helped with the testing and development of the drug. Now there is little left to be learned from giving the drug to more compassionate use patients." At any rate, one kid less does help to decrease the surplus population. Story via Addicting Info.

In the meantime, how are the uber rich doing?

  • Well, they certainly get preferential treatment in politics. A new study confirms, again, what many of us know: if you have money, say for "political contributions,"  your lawmaker will be happy to listen to you.  In essence, the study found that "those with potential donations were five times as likely to get a meeting with someone at the top." Unfortunately for the rest of us, we can't exactly stuff in a big wad of Benjamins in the envelope, call it a "donation," and send it along when we write to our public officials on some issue. For some of us, "democracy" is financially out of reach. Story via 
  • The rich also need to amuse themselves. In addition, given the fear they live in that the poor may some day rise like the poor French on Bastille Day, the wealthy need to be prepared. So, what better to be prepared and entertained that going to the shooting range? But no just go out in a field and shoot some beer cans. Oh no, our "betters" go their luxury gun clubs. This seems to be a new trend among those with money to burn. Story via AlterNet.

Booknote: The Shadow Hero

Gene Luen Yang, The Shadow Hero. New York: First Second, 2014. ISBN: 9781596436978. (Link to publisher blog. This title due out for release July 2014). 

Gene Luen Yang is the author of American Born Chinese, which I previously reviewed. This time Gene Yang brings us the story of the first Asian American superhero. As in previous works, the themes of coming to the new world and the differences between the older generation from the Old Country and the new generation growing up in the United States are present in this book.

In the Chinese neighborhood, a store keeper strives to make a living and provide for his family, a fate that his wife sees as beneath her. Their son becomes her pet project, her way to live her grandiose fantasies vicariously as she tried to make a superhero out of him (inspired by other accounts of heroes in the news) with painfully amusing (to us) results. The neighborhood is controlled by a crime lord, so a hero is needed, and our very reluctant protagonist needs to take the heroic mantle of the hero that will be known as the Green Turtle. However, he is not alone. An ancient Asian spirit that came to the New World sort of helps him along the way.

I liked the tale overall, though I will say that I found the overbearing mother character to be grating at times, not to mention somewhat ungrateful given her husband's efforts to do the best he can with what he has. Some readers may find the character amusing, so I will leave it to them to decide. Aside from that, overall, it is a good and entertaining story of a boy coming to his destiny and of the value of family.

The Green Turtle was a hero from the old Blazing Comics of the 1940s. Yang has done much research to bring the character to life and expand the story for a new generation. He re-imagines the origin story to create an entertaining narrative that also speaks of family, tradition, and the immigrant experience. The book includes a small essay discussing 1940s comics, how the Green Turtle fit in, and how Yang re-envisioned the character for a new generation with creativity, reverence, and respect.

I am giving this 4 out of 5 stars as I really liked it. This is a volume that public libraries will definitely want to add, especially if they have already added other works by this author to their collections. Comics readers will likely enjoy the backstory as much as the tale. This is one I would add for our academic library here for recreational reader. Overall, it is an all-ages story that many will enjoy.

Disclosure note: This is where I tell you that I read this as an e-book provided by the publisher via NetGalley for review purposes. The idea was for me to provide a fair and honest review. There has been no compensation. There, we keep The Man appeased once more. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Booknote: The March, Book One

John Lewis,, March: Book One. Marietta, GA: Top Shelf Productions, 2013. ISBN: 9781603093002.

Genre: Biography, History
Format: Graphic novel

This is the story of Congressman John Lewis in graphic novel form. This is the first volume of a planned trilogy. This volume is the first-hand account of John Lewis' humble beginnings during the Jim Crow era, and it covers his youth in rural Alabama to a life-changing meeting with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the birth of the Nashville Student Movement and their lunch counter sit-ins to fight segregation. The story at this point ends at the Nashville City Hall.

The frame of the story is quite sweet. Congressman Lewis is getting ready to attend President Obama's first term inauguration. A mother with her sons, constituents, visits his office so her sons can see his office and learn the history (they are not expecting him to be there). Mr. Lewis welcomes them, let's them ask questions, and as they walk, we get the story of his life. It is a nice and tender framing for a great story.

This book offers a very compelling story of the Civil Rights era where a young man finds himself called to fight the injustice around him. The pacing of the story is strong; it is a story that draws you in with good narrative and art that brings it to life. Once I picked it up, I could not put it down. Even though I knew much of this story, Lewis' life story drew me right in. It is an inspiring tale that is a must-read for readers of all ages. My only "peeve," if you can call it that, is that this was Book One, and only because I wanted to keep on reading. It is that good.

Yes, this is a great book to read during Black History Month; It is something different from the "usual" books people suggest for BHM. However, you can read it at any time. I would also suggest it for the reading list of the Civil Rights Tour that my college, Berea College, does every other year. The book is definitely one for all libraries. I enjoyed it very much. I learned more about Mr. Lewis and the times, and I can't wait for the next volume in the series.

I am definitely giving this one 5 out of 5 stars.

Booknote: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. Philadelphia, PA: Quirk Books, 2011. ISBN: 9781594744761.

Find at your local library (via WorldCat). 
If you wish to acquire from the publisher (Quirk Books. The publisher is also offering free excerpts of the novel if you wish to sample it).

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is Ransom Riggs' debut novel. This was a book that I really wanted to like given all the positive media and reviews, but I found it to be slow reading, especially at the beginning of the book. Until Jacob gets to the island and starts awkwardly exploring the ruins of the children's old home, nothing much of interest really happens after the grandfather's death. I got into sixth chapter, and I honestly had a hard time staying attentive to the novel. Jacob is following clues from his grandfather's old photos that lead him to the island where the home is.

In addition, the novel also suffered from what a lot of fantasy YA novels often do: the protagonist's  parents' insensitive incompetence and the fact that the ordinary world is boring as hell.  You can't wait for him to leave the mundane so things get interesting. I can appreciate the wonder that Riggs is creating, but it does take a while to get there.

The photos are certainly an excellent part of the book. In fact, at times I wish there were more of them. The author manages to coordinate the photos with the novel very well, and this is certainly a great element and asset of the book, adding to the sense of wonder. However, some of the prose was just too long and slow, making me wish this was more a photography book and less of a novel. In the end, the best parts are the photos, the children, and the hidden world that Riggs develops.

Overall, I am giving it 3 out of 5 stars.

I did like it, but it had issues that keep me from rating it any higher. At times, the book just felt too long in spite of the good parts mentioned. I can certainly see the appeal factors. Readers who like Rowling's Harry Potter series, C.S. Lewis Narnia series, and some of Neil Gaiman's works will probably enjoy this as well. It is certainly a book that public libraries will want to acquire. Some academic libraries may want to add it to their recreational reading collections and/or their YA collections. In spite of my personal reservations, I will likely order it for our YA collection here.

There is a sequel out now, Hollow City (link to publisher page), which promises to go more in-depth into the world of the peculiars. If I read it, you will get my review here as well.

Disclosure note: This is where I tell you that I got this copy of the novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review in order to keep The Man appeased. 

Friday, March 07, 2014

What Time is It? It's Half Past Danger (a booknote)

Stephen Mooney, Half Past Danger. San Diego, CA: IDW, 2014. ISBN: 9781613778494. (Amazon link). 

This was a rollicking fun read. It is a very entertaining action comic that has it all in the midst of World War II.

  • Nazis? Check. 
  • Nazis with a big secret scheme? Oh yea. 
  • Spies? Check. 
  • Femme fatale? Of course. 
  • Dinosaurs. Say what? Yes, there are dinosaurs in this comic, and they are alive somewhere on a Pacific Island, which also brings the Nazis to the Pacific. 

So buckle your seatbelt for some adventure. When Staff Sergeant "Irish" Flynn loses his squad, it's not the Japanese. A bunch of giant monsters attack and devour his men, leaving him the only survivor. When he tries to tell his story, no one believes him. Then just when it seems Flynn is doomed to live with the bottle seen as a madman, along comes Agent Moss and her team composed of a Japanese defector and an American officer who seems stronger than most men. They ask Flynn to be their guide and take them to that island where the monsters and the Nazis may be found.  What are the Nazis doing in the Pacific, and why are they so interested in the dinosaurs? What kind of nefarious research are they conducting?

This comic combines adventure and spy action with a lost world setting reminiscent of works like The Lost World and Jurassic Park, and it is blended with a bit of Indiana Jones adventures. The comic has a fast pace and plenty of action. It also has some good intrigue as you try to figure out who is really working for who. Once you start, you will keep reading to the very end. This is the kind of story that could make a good Hollywood movie, assuming Hollywood left it as is and did not muck it up.

I am giving this 5 out of 5 stars. It was that good. I do recommend it for public libraries. Academic libraries with graphic novel and/or recreational reading collections may want to consider it as well.

By the way,  the author does have a website here.

Disclosure: The mandatory stuff I have to type to tell you that I read this as an e-book review copy via NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. You know, so The Man is satisfied everything is kosher. 

Signs the Economy is Bad: March 7, 2014 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.  

The pickings are a little lean this week, but we do have two good pieces this week that make for good reading.

  • Via AlterNet, "You Call This A Middle Class? 'I am Trying Not to Lose My House!'" Income inequality continues to be a major issue in the United States that the nation ignores at its peril. I mean, this line of thinking is pure evil: "That helps explains why opponents of raising the minimum wage insist that being unable to afford food, clothing and shelter is a character-building experience. If unskilled workers earn enough to live on, the argument goes, they’ll have no motivation to better themselves." Because starving and barely making a living are character building experiences. Those rich cats would not know character if it came and hit them with a two-by-four. 
  • Via The Washington Monthly, a much closer look at the so-called "Texas miracle." Governor Goodhair and his cronies love to brag about how good the Texas economy is while they love to threaten to secede. Well, as they say, the proof is in the pudding, and if you look closely, it's far from a miracle. How does the so-called "miracle" work. Well, for example, "middle- and lower-income Texans in effect make up for the taxes the rich don’t pay in Texas by making do with fewer government services, such as by accepting a K-12 public school system that ranks behind forty-one other states, including Alabama, in spending per student." 

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Booknote: Red Sonja, Volume One: Queen of Plagues

Gail Simone, Red Sonja, Volume One: Queen of Plagues. Mt. Laurel, NJ: Dynamite Comics, 2014. ISBN: 978-1-60690-481-7.

Gail Simone is known for her work on Batgirl and Birds of Prey, titles I have not read but from reading Red Sonja now I may seek out. Simone now gives us a new solid story of where Red Sonja strives to pay a debt to the only man and king she respects, a man who long ago showed her mercy. In leading his army into battle, she falls in battle to a warrior known as Dark Annisia and gets cursed with a plague. But little do her enemies know that you can't keep the she-devil with a sword down, not as easy as that. Will Red Sonja rise to victory and glory?

Simone writes a tale of blood, lust, and revenge. It is a tale of adventure and intrigue where we also get glimpses of Red Sonja's past, learning of her origins along the way. This is a very good story that draws readers in right away, and when you think you see answers, there is a twist or two. It is a fast paced read; I certainly kept on reading to the very end.

The art is very good in this one, bringing the great heroine to life. Art is certainly another good reason to pick up this volume. In addition to the comic, we get a diverse art gallery of covers by various famous female artists. Some of the featured artists are:

  • Jenny Frisson
  • Nicola Scott
  • Amanda Conner (she did Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre, which I read and reviewed).
  • Fiona Staples (of Saga, a series I have enjoyed greatly. Review of the first two paperback compilations coming soon).
  • Ming Doyle (of Mara, which I also read and reviewed).
The volume contains issues 1-6 of this new Red Sonja series, the covers gallery, an introduction by the author, and the original script of the first issue of Simone's Red Sonja. There is plenty of material here for fans of the iconic female warrior. 

This is one I am definitely recommending to fans. However, you do not have to be a Red Sonja fan. If you have not met her before, this volume makes an excellent introduction to this character originally created by Robert E. Howard, who also created Conan the Barbarian. If you enjoy sword and sorcery fantasy with strong women leads, this is a volume for you.

I am giving it the full 5 out of 5 stars as I found it amazing.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Booknote: The Library At Night

Manguel, Alberto, The Library at Night.  New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006. ISBN: 978-0-300-13914-3.

This is a beautiful and pleasant book book that sings the praises of libraries, books, and those who work in them and use them in an erudite and elegant way. If you are feeling down from bad news of library closings or not getting enough funding, or are you just sick and tired of the next "trend" in libraries making it sound like libraries are dead fossils, then toss all that away and curl up comfortably with a serving of your favorite beverage and this book.

Manguel employs rich language and imagery to create a book that is not just to be read. It is one to be savored. In a time when librarians think everything will go online and some even scoff at the idea of physical libraries (you know, the ones who see themselves more as "information professionals" or other fancy non-librarian title), Manguel shows us the significance and importance of libraries through the ages and in all forms, even the electronic ones, with reverence and respect. If you are a librarian,  you will likely embrace this book. If you've used a library and/or you have one of your own, this book will bring warm feelings and evoke great memories.

Overall, this is one I definitely recommend. I am giving it the full 5 out of 5 stars.

Books I've read with similar appeal that I have read (links go to my reviews):

* * *

Additional reading notes: I found myself making notes as I read and jotting down passages and quotes to remember. If interested, you can feel free to read on.

I loved this image:

"I like to imagine that, on the day after my last, my library and I will crumble together, so that even when I am no more I'll still be with my books" (37). 

It is a very romantic ideal, to take your books with you in eternity. I think I would that for some books, but let the rest in my personal library be sold or given to friends and family so that, as another writer I read once said, others may experience the joys of reading and discovery in those books as I did. 

Even Manguel knows:

"And yet, both libraries-- the one of paper and the electronic one-- can and should coexist. Unfortunately, one is too often favoured to the detriment of the other" (77). 

Unfortunately, even a good number of librarians favor one to the detriment of the other. Let's not even go into the many problems of electronic record preservation, which Manguel does discuss well in the book by the way. Further on, Manguel writes,

"In comparing the virtual library to the traditional one of paper and ink, we need to remember several things: that reading often requires slowness, depth, and context; that our electronic technology is still fragile and that, since it keeps changing, it prevents us many times from retrieving what was once stored in now superseded containers; that leafing through a book or roaming through shelves is an intimate part of the craft of reading and cannot be entirely replaced by scrolling down a screen, any more than real travel can be replaced by travelogues and 3-D gadgets" (79). 

On the power of readers:

"The power of readers lies not in their ability to gather information, in their ordering and cataloguing capability, but their gift to interpret, associate and transform their reading" (91).

Libraries as subversive and even immortal:

"Libraries, in their very being, not only assert but also question the authority of power. As repositories of history or sources for the future, as guides or manuals for difficult times, as symbols of authority past or present, the books in a library stand for more than their collective contents, and have, since the beginning of writing, been considered a threat. It hardly matters why a library is destroyed: every banning, curtailment, shredding, plunder or loot gives rise (at least a ghostly presence) to a louder, clearer, more durable library of the banned, looted, plundered, shredder or curtailed. Those books may no longer be available for consultation, they exist only in the vague memory of a reader or in the vaguer-still memory of tradition and legend, but they have acquired a kind of immortality" (128). 

On why it's good to have a study. Also why I cherish mine:

"A study lend its owner, its privileged reader, what Seneca call euthymia, a Greek word which Seneca explained means 'well-being of the soul,' and which he translated as 'tranquillitas.' Every study ultimately aspires to euthymia. Euthymia, memory without distraction, the intimacy of a reading time-- a secret period in the communal day-- that is what we seek in a private reading space" (188).

Manguel does not that sometimes we can also discover euthymia in the communal space of the public library.

On a library reflecting its owner:

"What makes a library a reflection of its owner is not merely the choice of the titles themselves, but the mesh of associations implied in the choice. Our experience builds on experience, our memory on other memories. Our books build on other books that change or enrich them. . . " (194).

I love that idea. I wonder what associations I would see in the books I've chosen for my personal library.

On readers choosing books to read:

"We pick our way down endless library shelves, choosing this or that volume for no discernible reason: because of a cover, a title, a name, because of something someone said or didn't say, because of a hunch, a whim, a mistake, because we think we may find in this book a particular tale or character or detail, because we believe it was written for us, because we believe it was written for everyone except us and we want to find out why we have been excluded, because we want to learn, or laugh, or lose ourselves in oblivion" (222).

A lot of this sounds just like I do when I choose my next book to read. How do you choose your next book to read. Feel free to comment and let me know.

 On "have you read all these books?"

"The fact is that a library, whatever its size, need not be read in its entirety to be useful; every reader profits from a fair balance between knowledge and ignorance, recall and oblivion" (254). 

And further on Manguel adds,

"I have no feeling of guilt regarding the books I have not read and perhaps will never read; I know that my books have unlimited patience. They will wait for me till the end of my days" (255). 

I think I should use that answer when anybody asks that about my personal library and books.

And finally, a quote, a verse,

"Those who read, those who
          tell us what they read,
Those who noisily turn
         the pages of their books,
Those who have power
         red and black ink,
         and over pictures,
Those are the ones who lead us,
        guide us, show us the way."

--Aztec Codex from 1524, Vatican Archives.