Friday, May 30, 2014

Booknote: Grumpy Cat: A Grumpy Book

Grumpy Cat, Grumpy Cat: A Grumpy Book. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books, 2013. ISBN:  9781452126579.

If you are familiar with the Internet meme, then you know what to expect here. His bad attitude is known and well-loved by many. This book is a collection of photos with humorous captions as well as some small games and puzzles to show you "how to unleash your inner curmudgeon." In his introduction, Grumpy Cat tells us what his book includes: "tips on how to be grumpy, a tour of my life (for inspiration), and activities, games, and more to get you in a bad mood." He hopes you will learn so you can leave him alone. Overall, the book is a nice, easy, and amusing read that fans will enjoy. New readers may want to seek out the meme on the Internet after reading this.

I'd give 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Booknote: American Vampire, Vol. 6

Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque,, American Vampire, Volume 6. New York: DC Comics, 2014. ISBN: 9781401247089.

This volume compiles American Vampire: The Long Road to Hell, #1 and American Vampire Antthology 1. This series continues to be a very good reading experience. I have enjoyed the  volumes I have read so far, some better than others, but overall, the series remains very good. In this sixth volume, we get two stories. One is Skinner Sweet reflecting a bit on stories told about him and stories he has heard. This leads to a small anthology of vampire stories, some with nice horror twists. The second story, the title story, deals with a young couple dreaming to leave the small town and get married. Unfortunately, they get bitten by vampires, and the local vampire lord wants them as minions. They manage to escape, but that is only part of their long journey.

The stories grip you from the start. Once I started reading, I just kept on going to the very end. I enjoyed the first part as one enjoys a series of treats. In some cases, the stories did feel a bit short, but they were still pretty good overall. The title story was strong and moving demonstrating how this series remains strong. Snyder is definitely in the zone on these, and for me, this continues to be a series that is a must-read, especially if you want a good, solid vampire story. Sparkly vampires need not apply. We do have to mention Albuquerque's art that brings the stories to life with good use of color and shadows. The way some of the figures seem a bit elongated, such as the vampire claws, I think adds a bit more to the terror element. It just makes the dark world of the vampires, a world right under the world the rest of the people know, a bit more surreal perhaps. Anyhow, the art is another good reason to be picking this up.

I really liked it, so I am giving it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Booknote: Honor Among Thieves: Star Wars (Empire and Rebellion)

James S.A. Corey, Honor Among Thieves: Star Wars (Empire and Rebellion). New York: Del Rey/Lucas Books, 2014. ISBN: 9780345546852. 

As a fan of the "classic" Star Wars, this was a book that I really wanted to like. The book is part of a series, Empire and Rebellion, with books that focus on one of three major characters: Leia, Luke, and Han. Leia already got her volume in Razor's Edge. Honor Among Thieves is Han Solo's tale for the series. The story takes place between the events of Episodes IV, "A New Hope" and V, "The Empire Strikes Back." To give you a brief idea of the plot, here is the book's description:

"When the mission is to extract a high-level rebel spy from the very heart of the Empire, Leia Organa knows the best man for the job is Han Solo—something the princess and the smuggler can finally agree on. After all, for a guy who broke into an Imperial cell block and helped destroy the Death Star, the assignment sounds simple enough.

But when Han locates the brash rebel agent, Scarlet Hark, she’s determined to stay behind enemy lines. A pirate plans to sell a cache of stolen secrets that the Empire would destroy entire worlds to protect—including the planet where Leia is currently meeting with rebel sympathizers."

Naturally, Han has to stay with Scarlet to make sure the mission goes through and make sure he gets her back to the Rebellion. The description above sounds great, but it is not very well executed. This was a book that I really struggled to maintain an interest.

For one, Scarlet's attitude in many ways is a mirror of Princess Leia. She ends up bantering with Han Solo that is practically a copy of how he banters with the princess. After a while, I had to remind myself he was not with Leia; he was with Scarlet. A little more character differentiation would have been nice. In addition, like many novels in the films' period of Star Wars, you pretty much know what is going to happen if you have seen the films, thus the story really has to be engaging and distinctive enough to keep on with it. This one did have some interesting spots and some good action points, but that was about it. I did find myself skimming, and once that happens, I could not care less for a book. The one good quality was the insights into the character of Han Solo. He is not quite  yet the dedicated rebel hero. He is still more on the materialist mercenary side of the fence, and he does want to be paid. But we get glimpses that he is slowly thinking things over.

Overall, this is the kind of book that you read once and you move. Very light popcorn kind of reading, and in this case, I think the ones who will enjoy it are the hardcore fans. More casual fans may or not find it entertaining enough. I don't always read Star Wars novels, but when I do, I try to pick out ones I think will interest me. This one will probably keep me from picking up another one for a while.

In the end, it gets 1.5 out of 5 stars as I did not like it very much. It was less than OK for me.

Signs the Economy is Bad: May 23, 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. 

I missed a couple of weeks there due to real life happening, but we are back just in time for the holiday weekend. Yes, it's Memorial Day once more, the day that, if advertising is to be believed, is to be spent buying cars and mattresses after you are done with your backyard or beach barbecue. Hell, if you know where to look, odds are good you can find a Memorial Day sale someplace. Sure, the economy is bad, but Americans can be counted on to do their patriotic duty and go shopping over the holiday. Now, if you are actually not spending tons of money (probably because you don't have it. I sure as hell don't, but at least I get Monday off) and doing a "staycation" (if you are lucky. In our case, the Better Half has to work, so I am relaxing at home on Monday), here is some stuff to read while you relax over the weekends.

Before we go on to the small, subtle signs that the economy is bad, let's start with the big sign of the week:

We may as well be blunt. Here is the big sign the economy is bad for this week: for the U.S., between the bad economy, the corruption, the oligarchs, and the overall falling behind in things like education, it's starting to look like a third world around here. Via Truthout, here are some numbers. Food insecurity? Got that with 14.% of U.S. households identified as food insecure? Poverty? Oh, we got that down pat with 1.5 million households struggling with extreme poverty. Middle class? Sorry, other nations are getting ahead in that regard. Hell, "estimates suggest that the Chinese middle-class is now larger than the entire population of the U.S." It's not looking good, and unless significant change and reform happen, it will get worse before it gets better.

So, that was the big sign. That's the one that most people with some common sense and somewhat paying attention should notice. However, here at The Itinerant Librarian, we seek out those oh so subtle hints that the economy is bad. This week, we feature the following:

  • The plight of college students chained down by obscene forms of predatory debt continues to be a theme here. It is one I will continue to denounce and speak on until the day something serious is actually done (which means I will keep talking and writing about it for a while, so I hope you hang on with me for that ride). Anyhow, it was recently revealed that the college graduating class of 2014 is the most indebted one in history. One place you can read more about it is at this piece from Salon. And by the way, when you get some asshole boomer claiming that if they got it done without debt, so you can you, remind them of how good they actually had it and how bad they have screwed things for the rest of us with their selfishness. Remind them that "neither your parents nor your grandparents were required to take on this kind of burden in order to go to college. Neither are the people of your own generation in France and Germany and Argentina and Mexico." The rest of the piece is worth a look. 
  • Oh, and the raw deal for college graduates who took on predatory loans to get an education gets worse. If you have a family member co-sign your loan(s), and they go bankrupt or die, the bank can decide they want you to make some exorbitant sudden payment or right out call in the loan. Why? Because fuck you, that's why. This is thanks to another one of those unethical and immoral practices banks can get away with for private loans known as the "auto-default," which according to this piece from Truthout is "when banks immediately say that private student loan debts are in default after the death or bankruptcy of a cosigner." Because in this country, making exorbitant profits on the backs of college graduates is more of a priority than investing in graduates who, once they get a fair shake and start in life, might actually make things better.  Your dad who cosigned your loan passed away? The bank says, "fuck you, pay me." At least with the mob, (YouTube video clip link) in an extreme, you might be able to "torch the place." 
  • Now things are also bad at the public school levels. Since funding for public schools keeps getting cut back, and many locals often whine they don't want to pay taxes to support their local schools (especially the ones who send their kids to private schools and the childless because, "hey, I've got mine Jack"), schools have to find ways to make ends meet with things like the "ever popular" fundraiser. This school decided to do some bake sales to fund a trip or two for their kids. But baking cupcakes and cookies only gets you so far. So, what can they do? Have a raffle. What are they raffling? Oh, nothing much, just a Glock 9mm handgun. You want people to give you money, you have to get creative these days. Story via WBBJ News.
  • As it is commonly known, good jobs are not exactly abundant in the bad economy. So, if the only thing you can find is working a McJob in fast food, things may not look good. In spite of workers in some locations rising and protesting for better wages, the fine folks at the National Restaurant Association are doing what upstanding corporate citizens do: their best to keep their workers down, and they do so by deploying vast amounts of cash to send their lobbyists to Washington to make sure the legislators keep the rules in their favor. Yes, folks like the National Restaurant Association are spending vast amounts of money to make sure they do not have to pay their workers anything more than flophouse living wages. According to this highlight story via Common Dreams, " according to an analysis by the Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROCUnited), the $683 billion industry's trade association itself has poured $12.6 million directly into federal politicians' campaign coffers since 1989. NRA member organizations have chipped-in around $51 million more: McDonald's, for example, has given $5.8 million to federal politicians, Darden (parent company of Olive Garden, Red Lobster, and Capitol Grille) $5.6 million, and Wendy's $2.3 million. The biggest spender is NRA member Walt Disney; the creator of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck disclosed $14.1 million in contributions since 1989." Note the link to the ROCUnited report is included so you can actually read the numbers and the context yourself. When we talk about corruption in the United States, this is the kind of thing we talk about. 
  • By the way, the American Hotel Association, another notorious group who likes to employ very low wage workers, does not like competition neither.They have decided to use their resources and instead of paying their workers decent wages are going after Airbnb. "While Airbnb has shown it can peacefully coexist with hotels, the hotel industry has made it clear that it cannot envision the same." Story via BetaBeat
  • Meanwhile, poverty continues. The upper classes, including members of the barely alive middle class, love to mock and blame the poor for their condition, as if it somehow it's all their fault. Reality is far different, and you can find all sorts of issues and reasons from poor wages, subsidizing of corporations paying those poor wages so their workers have to go on public assistance, and so on. Hell, even Walmart recently admitted that their profits depend on poverty. As I heard a wise man once say, "there but for (insert your deity of choice here), go I." So it can be really hard when someone used to having a good job and a relatively good living loses it all, has to swallow their pride, and go ask for public assistance. This is a scenario what is becoming more and more common in the U.S. Here is one man's experience navigating the bureaucracy to get some help. Story via AlterNet
  • As I mentioned, those who are fortunate enough to have more (often a lot more) make it their past time to mock the poor and right out vilify them. A favorite sport of the Right Wing wealthy elites is the eternal whine of "how can that poor woman on welfare have a cell phone? The horror. She must be a thief and a cheat." Well, turns out that the truth is vastly different. Often, the poor can have some nice things (what, you are one of those assholes who think only the rich deserve some nice things?), they just can't get out of poverty per se. Why? Bottom line is that things like an education, child care, and health care costs have skyrocketed to obscene levels. You try working a low wage job and finding affordable child care, and you can probably forget about any decent insurance for health, and see how far you get. Meanwhile, the "nice" things you wealthy baron with no empathy begrudge the poor have actually become cheaper over time. Things like cellphones, computers, and televisions have actually gotten cheaper, and guess what, given even the poor buy them, it seems the whole capitalist idea of buy and buy is working fine. Besides, haven't you folks heard of things like "used" merchandise? Story via Poor as Folk. Honestly, get a clue. I concur with that blogger on this point: " I think some of that poor judging  is really the fearful panic of that person trying to figure out if it could be them someday." It's either that, or some of those judgmental people are just cold biddies and and assholes.
  • People who engage in the poor judging game often say that poor people who still have a car should sell it. Yea, that will really work. Sell the one thing that still offers some mobility, transportation to work, and if you are homeless, may well be your only shelter. If you are poor, and you still have your car, good for you. Do your best to take care of it. In fact, you are not alone. A lot of Americans are striving to make their cars last longer. While automobile manufactures keep churning out new models year and after year, models that many of them will remain unsold (and odds are good end up in some dump lot someplace), the reality is the average age of U.S. vehicles has increased in the period between 2008 and 2012 according to reports from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Plus to make it worth, even with the weak "recovery" in the economy, if you can call it that, people are not exactly rushing out to buy new cars neither. I know we are not. We are down to one vehicle now after the second one finally went to the great junkyard in the sky, and we are keeping that one and doing our best to care for it as long as possible. Good thing that, for now at least, I can walk to work. Meanwhile, to give you an idea how bad things are in the topic of U.S. folks keeping cars longer, according to the report from BLS, "The average age of households’ cars, vans, sport utility vehicles (SUVs), and trucks increased from 10.1 years in 2007 to just over 11.3 years in 2012."
  • For the poor, and those of us who are not quite poor but a bit closer to it that we would like, small details can be a big deal. Even trying to socialize can be an issue.  Even your finances, or lack of them, can affect your friendships. As this piece via World Crunch states, "When people with money are friends with people of modest means the disparities don’t typically end with the bank accounts. One person in the friendship often feels less comfortable than the other, and it tends to be the one with less money — the friend who can’t afford to join the group at the restaurant or go on the weekend trip, the one whose share may be paid for by the others."
  • Now, rich folks don't have to worry about the small details in life, and that often includes taking care of their children. Sure, a rich woman may give birth to a baby, but more often than not after spitting out the brat, she hires a nanny to take care of the child. Odds are good that nanny (usually a woman) may be an undocumented worker the rich family likely pays "under the table." Does anyone ever ask who takes care of the nanny's children? What? You thought nannies were just single women looking for some extra cash doing a part time job? You thought they were fancy, pretty ladies like Mary Poppins? Try again, and then read the linked piece from The Nation to learn about the global care chain, a chain that "works by separating wage earners from their dependents." 
  • OK, so maybe you need to think outside of the box a bit in your search for a job. If you are willing to go a bit of the extra mile and do some unconventional thinking, maybe one of these jobs might be good for you: 
    • You could work for the FBI. Maybe you happen to be a talented young (or not so young) individual when it comes to computers. Maybe you even have talents to be a "white hat" hacker. If so, the FBI may be very interested in offering you a job. What? You have smoked a little pot in the past or like to indulge Mary Jane a little now and then? Not a problem. It turns out the FBI is relaxing its rules when it comes to hiring cyber-security experts. According to this article from the International Business Times, the "FBI has admitted that it is considering relaxing its strict rules against drug taking, in a bid to try to encourage more hackers to work for them in the ongoing war against cybercrime."
    • Alright, so computers not your thing? Are you an attractive young lady? Maybe you would consider snuggling and cuddling with men for pay? Apparently there is work if you want to be a "professional snuggler" for lonely men. Story via BetaBeat. By the way, this is the company in question.
    • Or you could go all "Breaking Bad" and become a drug lord. OK, this is where I tell readers I am jesting here and not actually advocating in any way you do anything illegal. Now that we got that out of the way, the deal is that heroin is making a comeback in the United States, especially in rural areas. Where is it coming from? Well, according to this piece from The Washington Post, a lot of if is coming from Mexico. Why Mexico? It turns out their illegal marijuana business is down (Colorado, anyone?), and they are turning to heroin. Also, heroin is gaining popularity as the U.S. is taking steps to crack down on things like prescription drug abuse. In a nutshell, "with the wholesale price of marijuana falling — driven in part by decriminalization in sections of the United States — Mexican drug farmers are turning away from cannabis and filling their fields with opium poppies."
Now, as often is the case, the uber rich do have it good even in the bad economy. As I mentioned earlier, they usually don't have to worry about the small details. Let's see how good things have been in the upper crusts:

  •  Are you an uber rich person seeking a new residence? Do you have $110 million dollars sitting around? Do you want some serious privacy, but "without total isolation"? Down in the Florida Keys, there is a private island for sale. It even has a full marina so you can park you big yacht and a helipad for the helicopter. Story via BuzzFeed.
  • Parenting is hard. As we pointed out previously, it can be very hard on moms who are nannies up north and have to leave their kids back home down south to make ends meet. However, the families hiring the nannies usually do not worry about such small details. Hell, they often barely worry about their own kids. It's why they hired the nanny in the first place. Now, let's say they want to give Juanita some free time this summer to go see her kids back in Mexico or Central America. It's summer. It's the perfect time to send the kids off to summer camp. Oh, Juanita left already, and she did not pack the travel bags for the kids to go to summer camp? Damn, that is a lot of work for a parent. What's a rich mom busy with Pilates, wine parties, and catty gossip to do? (Don't ask about dad. We all know he is off "working" at whatever high finance job or foundation he has smoking cigars lit with $100 bills). Well, if you got the money, you can now hire a professional summer camp packer for the bargain rate of $250-an-hour to do that tedious chore for you. Yes, you can pay for "assistance in getting rid of your kids for an extended period of time." Now, you may be asking if you are getting value for your money? I am glad you asked. Here is a bit of what you get when you hire a professional summer camp packer: "It takes three to four hours to pack for clients who demand that she fit all of the comforts of home in the luggage, including delicate touches like French-milled soaps and scented candles." And starting at $250 an hour, they will make sure your kid feels like he or she never left home. Story via New York Magazine.
  • And finally, we have another case of affluenza. This time it afflicts a "poor" wealthy businessman from Washington State who was busted for his 7th DUI. That is right. He has been caught drinking while under the influence SEVEN times, and since he has been pretty much let go every time before, why would this time make a difference? So why did the judge let him off the hook even though the guy "reached speeds of 100 mph and had a passenger with him, who ultimately leaped from the moving vehicle on the account of fearing for his life," and he then proceeded to crash into a parked car and a house? Well, as the judge tells it, "he’s an important businessman in the community, and it wouldn’t be fair for him (and) his employees would suffer if he went to real jail. .  ." As for the people who could have suffered from him killing or wounding them, well, who cares? They are not rich and with influence as this guy. And before anyone out there says, "but if he can't run his business, his employees suffer," I say that's what jail visiting hours can be for, and he can hire a damned manager to run his business. Once again, there is justice and there is justice.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Booknote: The X-Files, Season 10,Vol. 2

Joe Harris, The X-Files, Season 10, Vol. 2. San Diego, CA: IDW, 2013. ISBN:

This volume is a continuation of the tenth season series. If you are interested, I did review volume 1 here. Unlike the previous volume, this one is a collection of short stories, episodes if you will. In fact, if you are a fan of the show, especially the early years when they did more single stories, then you will probably enjoy this volume. This volume captures the essence of the series with a bit of the long arc conspiracies and a bit of the short one-shot episodes that still leave an unsettling feeling. Personally, I liked the X-Files best when they did those one-shots. This time, we find Mulder and Scully, who have returned to work as agents for the FBI, revisiting a case from their past.

The art style catches the grittiness often found in the series However, it does vary a bit from issue to issue in this compilation. In some instances, some images were a little blurry, not as crisp. Overall, this was a good collection. It may not be easy to get into if you are new to the series, though not impossible; you do get just enough background for the volume to be accessible. These compilations do bring back a bit of the classic series back.

In the end, I really liked this one, so I am giving it 4 out of 5 stars.

Disclosure note: Yea, yea, this is where I tell you I read this volume via NetGalley, and that it was provided by the publisher in exchange of an honest review. You know, the way we keep The Man happy.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Booknote: Batman, Volume 4: Zero Year-- Secret City

Scott Snyder, Batman, Volume 4: Zero Year-- Secret City. New York: DC Comics, 2014 ISBN: 9781401245085.

Part of The New 52 titles, this volume continues Snyder's on Batman, and it deals with Batman's origin story. If you are keeping track, it collects comic issues 21-24, #0, and Batman Annual #2. For those of you who may not be regular readers of the comic, Snyder is basically "rebooting" or "retconning" the origin story. I really wanted to like this one given how I enjoyed the Owls' series, but compared to those, this volume was mostly a mess.

The opening story of a flooded Gotham in a near future seemed out of context. Whether this comes from Volume 3 or not, it does not really matter overall because Snyder just plops it in then moves on to the Red Hood gang story. By the way, as an aside, this Red Hood villain has nothing to do with Red Hood member of the Batman family (as far as I know. That little detail did make me wonder if DC is running out of names for characters). In other words, regarding the flood story, it could have been left out of this volume, and it would not have affected the main story in any way.

The Red Hood story was good, though it did take me a bit to realize that it was an origin tale. I did not expect a big road sign, but given how the story just started pretty suddenly, I figured out the origin angle a bit into the story itself, and it was mostly subtle things at first. So, some clarity would have been nice. Still, it is a pretty well-paced action story with a good overall plot. The art quality from Albuquerque remains very good, certainly a reason to pick this up. Batman fans will likely enjoy this. More casual readers may want to pick up the previous New 52 volumes.

Overall, I liked it, but not as much as previous works by Snyder, so in the end I am giving it a 3 out of 5 stars, mainly because the art is good, and the overall story was good. But the confusing elements and the superfluous opening story just served as distractions.

On a final note, I am not sure about the publisher description that came with the galley and is found in the publicity materials. The story, as described by the publisher, is of Batman trying to solve a robbery by Bruce Wayne. There are robberies in this story, but they are not by Wayne, and he is not being framed or such for them neither. This added some further confusion as what they described did not match what I read, and it added to my rating of the work as average.

Disclosure note is where I get to tell you that I read this as an e-book review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley. This was in exchange for an honest review. There, we have appeased The Man once more.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Booknote: Transformers: Dark Cybertron, Vol. 1

Phil Jimenez,, Transformers: Dark Cybertron, Volume 1. San Diego, CA: IDW, 2014. ISBN: 9781613778913. 

In this volume, Shockwave brings forth his plan to bring back Nova Prime, a Cybertronian tyrant long ago exiled that many think is gone for good. It is the culmination of a 6-million year wait. Meanwhile,Cybertron is now ruled by Starscream, and the Autobots are divided. In addition, a dark portal opens, and a gigantic titan bot emerges. Will Shockwave's plan come to fruition, or will the Autobots be able to stop it?

This volume is the start of a new series for Transformers. I always enjoy reading Transformers comics, though at times I find some of the panels a bit too busy or cluttered. In spite of this issue, the art is pretty good, colorful. That is still an issue in this volume. The story does have a good mix of action and suspense, and it moves at a pretty good pace. This is one I would keep reading for now.

Overall, I am giving it 4 out of 5 stars.

Disclosure note is where I tell you that I read this as an electronic e-book review copy from the publisher via NetGalley. I got in exchange for an honest review, and there has been no compensation. There, we have kept The Man appeased once more.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Booknote: Grimm Fairy Tales: Oz

Joe Bruscha,, Grimm Fairy Tales: Oz. Horsham, PA: Zenescope, 2014. ISBN:

I kept my expectations a bit low after other Zenescope titles I read that I liked but did not think were a big deal. The titles in question are Robyn Hood: Wanted and Realm Knights. I gave 3 out of 5 stars to those books. As I said, I liked them, but I did not think they were anything extraordinary. I must say that Oz was much better; I was pleased to read this one. Oz is part of Zenescope's Grimm Fairy Tales Presents series, and it is a retelling of The Wizard of Oz with Dorothy as a quite grown up farm girl who becomes a heroine discovering that she can wield certain magics and powers. We do get the cast that we know: the Tin Man, the Lion, the Scarecrow, Toto, and others. They are familiar, but they are also different in this tale. There are also some new characters. Dorothy, with the help of her friends, needs to save the Emerald City from the Wicked Witch of the West.

While there is no need to have read Baum's classic tale before reading this, if you have read it, you will probably appreciate what the author is doing here. You can see where the author kept certain elements from the classic tale, and you can see where the author extended the classic tale or simply departed from it to make this new adventure. The book is quick and entertaining read with some suspense and some great action.

Another nice thing about this volume, which collects issues 1-6 of the series, is that it stands alone. You do not need to have read any other comics in the Grimm Fairy Tales series to enjoy this one. If this is your first entry into Zenescope comics, this could encourage you to seek out other volumes.

The art on this one was very good as well. I felt it was much better in quality than the volumes I read that I mentioned previously. Overall, this is a nice, easy comic. It is not exactly for children, due to the "cheesecake" factor, but older teens will probably be fine with this. In the end, it was good fun that I really liked.

Giving it 4 out of 5 stars.

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.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Booknote: Dream Thief, Vol. 1

Jai Nitz, Dream Thief, Volume 1. Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Comics, 2014. ISBN: 9781616552831. 

I will say right away that the volume had quite an opening with a panel from the story that serves as a preview to the tale inside. In this panel, the protagonist stands before the corpse of a woman, and says,

"It's slowly coming back to me now. I killed my girlfriend last night. I killed her because she deserved it" (3). 

I was anxious to see if the book lived up to that, and it sure did. John Lincoln, unemployed, messed up, with a dysfunctional girlfriend, and now having strange dreams is not doing well. He steals an aboriginal mask from a museum, mostly as a prank, only to find that spirits of the dead seeking vengeance can now possess John while John sleeps. A benefit, if you can look at it that way, is that John inherits the skills and memories of the spirits that possess him such as a special forces soldier.

The author handles the narrative very well. We do not quite get what is happening to John right away in relation to the mask, so we gradually come to see what is going on, much like John does. He gets possessed when he least expects it, and this naturally disrupts things for him and others. The story pacing is very good. This was one that once I started I just had to keep on going to the end. You can add some very good art, and this is one readers will want to pick up. This was a volume that I did enjoy, and it looks like a strong start to a series that I will want to follow.

Overall, I am giving it 5 out of 5 stars. It was excellent.

Disclosure note is where I tell you that I read this as an e-book review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley. It was provided for an honest review. There, that should keep The Man happy.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Booknote: Zero, Volume 1: An Emergency

 Ales Kot, Zero, Volume One: An Emergency. Berkeley, CA: Image Comics, 2014. ISBN:

This compilation contains issues 1-5 of the Zero series.This is a spy thriller with a strong science fiction element. The operative known as Zero works for the very secret Agency. He does a variety of missions, and he gradually discovers just how deep the Agency's work really goes. We get the story of his life between the segments that present his assignments. Zero has been trained by the Agency since childhood; he has been enhanced as well as kept in line by psychological conditioning, constant monitoring, and drugs. Some readers may find Zero's  upbringing reminiscent of some childhood sequences in the film Hitman.

The art style varies from one issue to another; this works well to bring the different stories to life. The narrative is not fully sequential. Walsh does make use of flashbacks as well as text segments for things like Agency reports and documents, which add exposition and layers to the stories. The stories are gripping; once you start this one, you will keep on going, and much like the protagonist, you also want to find out how deep the Agency goes.

This is a volume I really liked, so I am giving it 4 out of 5 stars.

For those of you who need ratings, please note it is rated as "M" for a mature title. This is due to some violence (he is an assassin) and some sex small scenes.

Disclosure note is where I get to tell you that I read this as an e-book review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley. This was in exchange for an honest review. There, we have appeased The Man once more. 

Monday, May 05, 2014

Booknote: Going Down

Rachel Kramer Bussel, ed., Going Down: Oral Sex Stories. Berkeley, CA: Cleis Press, 2012. ISBN: 978-1-57344-789-8. 

Genre: erotica, short fiction, erotic romance.

Find it in your local library via WorldCat.
Want to buy it? Find it at the publisher's site (or you can probably do your favorite online bookseller).

"There is no rush quite like it in the world."
--Mary Borsellino, from her story "Blush" featured in the collection. 

I recently finished reading Going Down: Oral Sex Stories edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel. Right away I must say that she is becoming a favorite editor of erotica for me (and the Better Half). This anthology is one of the various themed anthologies published by Cleis Press. I have discovered that if you have a particular predilection or fetish, odds are good they have it covered (or they will soon). Now, a reader or two may wonder if this anthology is for them. The editor reassure us when she writes in her introduction:

"If you are reading this and thinking, But I am not really sure I like it... or some variation thereof, I encourage you to keep on reading. You may just surprise yourself when you thrill to the risky, risque, and exciting ways these men and women find to get off while giving and getting head" (vii).

I was happy that I kept on reading. The editor has chosen a variety of stories that showcase a diversity of ways to find enjoyment in that most intimate form: oral sex. To some, it can be a way to feel empowered, to take control. For others, it may well be a form of surrender, and for many it can be a very special gift or a journey of discovery. For the reader, these are stories that appeal to the imagination and ignite the senses.

Now not all stories were stellar. As if happens at times in anthologies, some are better than others, and as a reader, I liked some better than others. The ones I did not like as much were more a case of they did not "do it" for me, or I just did not feel as enthusiastic. However, I do say that is OK. What works for me as a reader may not be for another reader and viceversa. We librarians call it the third law of library science: every book its reader. I am saying that I may not have liked a story or two as much, but I can see the appeal for others, and thus do recommend the book overall.

Overall, I am happy to recommend the book, especially if oral pleasure happens to be one of your sexual predilections. As other anthologies that Ms. Bussel has published, variety is a strength in this volume. It is a solid collection that gives a good sampling of oral sex possibilities, and it does so within the larger umbrella, if you will, of sensual intimacy. Much like a good buffet, you find favorites, and you find the small pieces to sample that you may like or put aside in favor of a different delight. So, read on, find your favorites, and then lay back and enjoy the tales. You can get bonus points if you share the reading with someone special.

I did really like it, so I am giving it 4 out of 5 stars.

* * * * * 

Allow me a moment to highlight some of the stories in order to give my readers a sense of what the anthology offers.
  • Cynthia Hamilton's "Lavender" was a story I really liked. She has the ability to fully evoke the scent in the story. You can almost smell the lavender; if you have a lavender-scented candle in your home, now would be a good time to light it up. It is not often a writer can appeal to the sense of smell, and Hamilton does it very well in this hotel encounter story. 
  • If you like ladies who can be very prim and proper and all about minding manners, then Sylvia Lowry's "Etiquette" is for you. This was one that was not quite for me. I am all for good manners, but after a while, I think we can toss the manual out the window. 
  • Elizabeth Coldwell's "The Perfect Shade" is definitely for those who enjoy blowjobs and that perfect shade of lipstick. For some, the perfect shade may be thus, as the author writes, "the classic red entices her. It's such a timeless, seductive color, making her think of Hollywood femmes fatales with full, glossed lips pursed around cigarette holders and long legs clad in whisper-thin seamed stockings" (179). Then there are other shades, and other creative things you can do in oral sex with lipstick, but you will have to read to find out. 
  • This one appealed to the librarian in me as well as the reader. In "The Thousand and One Ways," the protagonist, Naiia, is on a quest to find the 1,001 ways to pleasure her man orally. Sure, there may be hundreds of ways, but a thousand and one? Only one way to find out. Her quest was certainly enticing, and her methodical approach lured me as a librarian. Graydancer, the author, writes, "she found herself sketching, making little obscure notes in her Moleskine, setting up a taxonomy of cocksucking generated by her memories of his beautiful member" (189-190). As a journal writer myself, that sounded very magical. The story is a bit lengthy, but it has a certain sense of wonder along with some hot steam. 
  • And finally, I have to mention"Sucking Casey's Cock" by Shanna Germain. This was a very sweet story with a very nice premise that was executed very well. It was a thoughtful and sensitive story of a lesbian who has a lover who is transitioning from female to male. Our lesbian protagonist needs a little help. This was one of the nicest stories in the anthology. 

The mandatory disclosure note to keep The Man happy is where I tell you that I received this book from the editor in exchange for an honest review. There has been no compensation, other than the fact I got to read a pretty good book. 

Friday, May 02, 2014

Signs the Economy is Bad: May 2, 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. 

As I type this week, I reflect upon the fact that my college celebrates its 2014 commencement this weekend, I think about the hopes and aspirations of our graduates. Then I think of the challenges they will face in the tough economy and market out there. I will be keeping good thoughts for them as they go forth into the world. This week, our topics include college adjuncts, burger flipping and terrorists. So, let's get on with it.

  • The plight of a McDonald's worker (or any fast food worker for that matter) is pretty well known. Working for Mickey D's is not easy for a parent trying to provide for a child. This is why many fast food workers are uniting now and fighting to get an increase in their wages. Story via AlterNet.
  • Unfortunately, you may as well get used to crappy low-paying McJobs given that those are the jobs that are being created. When the politicos all pat themselves on the back about jobs being created, the question I always ask is if they are good paying jobs. Well, right, and for the foreseeable future the answer is no. Story via The New York Times. A hat tip to The Stranger's Slog.
  • And by the way, those workers have to live someplace. Well, I would think they have to live someplace other than under a bridge. However, even renting a simple one-bedroom apartment is a significant challenge. According to recent reports, "No single county in America has a one-bedroom housing wage below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 (several counties in Arkansas come in at $7.98)." So there you have it. For the most part, minimum wage will not even get you a roof over your head. Story via TruthDig
  • Next, poor workers have to eat. If by some miracle they manage to have some money left over, or more likely get some food assistance, they have to go shop for groceries. For many of these workers, it is already shameful enough have to swallow their pride and ask for government assistance to feed their families because their employers are exploitative misers who could not care less about their workers that produce the employers' fortunes. Now, on top of that, there are judgmental assholes in grocery stores, cashiers and customers (who may be a bit better off), exercising their judgmental morality and trying to tell poor people what they can and can't buy. Story via AlterNet. In fact, this has received additional coverage over at The Onion where they are "reporting" on "Woman A Leading Authority On What Shouldn't Be In Poor People's Grocery Carts." This is a case where the "satire" is actually way too close to reality. My advice to you all judgmental assholes? Quit it, or at least keep it to yourself. Because unless you are part of the 1%, you may well be the one on food assistance soon enough. 
  •  In other news, the plight of the college adjunct faculty member makes it once again here in our blog. The Atlantic has a piece on how adjuncts are trying to organize to get better working conditions. How bad are things for some adjuncts you ask? Here is an example: "Mary-Faith Cerasoli has been reduced to “sleeping in her car, showering at college athletic centers and applying for food stamps. . . " Let's be blunt: faculty adjuncts are pretty much the McWorkers of academia, and they get treated just about the same by their campuses.

On the other hand, as often is the case, some people DO have it good in the bad economy (often because of how they exploit everyone else). Let's see how the uber rich have been doing:

  • Now, we know that most companies pay their workers poverty wages. Let us be honest. If they could get away with not paying a minimum wage, they would do it in a heartbeat. Oh wait. It turns out in some places, employers can and do pay a hell of a lot less and minimum wage, and it is completely legal. Where is this employer utopia you ask? Why, in the prison system. There is a boom in prison labor. According to researchers, “All told, nearly a million prisoners are now making office furniture, working in call centers, fabricating body armor, taking hotel reservations, working in slaughterhouses, or manufacturing textiles, shoes, and clothing, while getting paid somewhere between 93 cents and $4.73 per day." Story via Poor as Folk. And given that things like debtor's prisons are rising (see here, right here, and over here), a topic we have discussed previously, a lot of poor folk may end up feeding the prison labor system so corporations can make their wealth in this most exploitative and immoral way.
  • Walmart and Walgreens are doing fine, at least in Puerto Rico. There are more Walmarts and Walgreens per square mile in the island than anywhere else in the U.S. No, it is not because Puerto Ricans have more money or desire to shop there necessarily. It is a case of "an expansion that has not been able to be controlled by the state agency that regulates monopolistic entrepreneurial practices." Highlight via Global Voices. The full report (in Spanish) from Puerto Rico's Center for Investigative Journalism is here. In other words, as the wealthy and big corporations often do, they are skirting the law
  • In addition, things are not so bad. Sure, big oil companies cause major oil spills and seriously fuck up the environment and the local economies where the spills happened. However, think positive here. Oil spills create jobs. No, I am not making that up. Some asshole energy company executive suggested that "spill response and clean-up creates business and employment opportunities for affected communities, regions, and clean-up service providers." Environment? Who needs that stuff, right? Story found at Esquire.
  • Who else is doing well in the bad economy? The security and counter terrorism industry. In fact, they recently had one of their trade shows to highlight the many things you can buy in their industry. Did you know that this industry is "
    £3.5 billion industry in the U.K. alone?" Yes, it does pay to live off stoking people's fears. So go on over and stock up on "non-lethal grenades, bombs, tear gas and all kinds of things that explode." Story via BuzzFeed.
  • And what are politicians doing? Why they are doing the usual; they are padding the pockets of their rich contributors while ignoring their constituents and making life hell for the working poor. In fact, if you happen to be in a certain Texas Congressional District, and you are on "the list" of the Congressman, he might lavish you with some nice presents around Christmas including Godiva chocolates and nice hams.  In fact, the Republican Congressman is so generous that he even sent a ham to his tea bagger party rival. Story via Addicting Info. The Itinerant Librarian has to make do with chocolates on sale after a holiday like Valentine's Day and generic sliced ham from the grocery store. Must be nice for some people. Story via Addicting Info.

Booknote: Star Wars: Maul: Lockdown

Joe Schrieber, Star Wars: Maul: Lockdown. New York: Del Rey, 2014. ISBN:  9780345509031.

This Star Wars novel is set before the events of the film The Phantom Menace. In this novel, Darth Maul's master sends him to infiltrate a prison space station. Maul is searching for a weapons dealer who runs his operation from the prison, using the prisoners for his labor. The catch is that no one has seen the weapons dealer or even knows what this person looks like. Also, Maul's master has ordered him not to use his dark powers nor do anything that may call attention to Maul being a Sith. This means that Maul needs to accomplish his mission and survive on his wits and strength alone. That will not be easy. In addition to the weapons dealer's operation, which is so secret that not even the prison warden and guards are sure it exists, there are other obstacles. One, the warden runs a gambling operation pitting prisoners against each other in fights. Two, the Intergalactic Banking Guild suddenly decides to take an interest in the gambling operation, which they quietly help bankroll, and send an auditor. Three, Jabba the Hutt is not too happy said gambling operation may be cutting into his own profits. Oh, and there is a giant alien worm that eats people loose in the station's underbelly. For Maul, this is a do or die mission.

The strength of the novel lies in the mystery. Who is Radique, the weapons dealer? The author leads us along as Maul tries to use clues to find out the true identity of Radique, but he may be running out of time. He is not the only one seeking out Radique, and Maul's master is not exactly a patient man. So, the intrigue keeps you going. The novel's pace is pretty fast. Once the action picks up, you just keep on reading it. The author keeps the chapters short, so you feel like you are moving along.

My one issue with the novel is that it does have some filler. There were some chapters that simply felt like filler, and they slowed down the narrative. For instance, the chapter where the author goes into detail describing the origin of the alien worm, placed in the middle of a fast moving plot point, mostly disrupted the reading. Plus, to be honest, it seemed unnecessary. There were a few more chapters like that where a good editor could have axed them and still kept the excitement of the story. This is a good story with a good pace, but there where moments when that pace was interrupted, and it felt like the novel was being stretched unnecessarily.

Fans of Star Wars will probably enjoy this one. I think for those who are interested in the character of Darth Maul they can get more insight on the character. Since for most of the novel, he cannot use the Force, we get to see a different side of him. Public libraries will probably want to add this one to their collections. I would view it as optional for those academic libraries that have recreational reading collections.

Overall, I liked it, but I did not really like it, so it gets 3 out of 5 stars from me.

Schreiber is also the author of Death Troopers (link to my review) and Red Harvest (link to my review). I have written before about how one thing that Star Wars novels do is take some popular genre or format and adapt it to the Star Wars universe. Death Troopers and Red Harvest are novels about zombies in the Star Wars universe for example. The Republic Commando series was based off the popularity a while back of squad-based combat video games. Lockdown is your "infiltrate the prison" novel. Overall, it is a quick, light entertainment.

Disclosure note is where I get to tell you that I read this as an e-book review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley. This was in exchange for an honest review. There, we have appeased The Man once more.