Monday, February 29, 2016

Booknote: Star Wars: Shattered Empire

Greg Rucka, Star Wars. Shattered Empire. New York: Marvel, 2015. ISBN: 9780785197812. 

Genre: comics and graphic novels
Subgenre: Star Wars, space opera
Format: trade paperback
Source: the Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library

This comic is part of Marvel's new runs of Star Wars under Disney ownership. The series of four issues picks up on events right at the end of the film Return of the Jedi. The second Death Star may be destroyed and the Emperor dead, but the Imperials still have plenty of fight left in them. They launch a series of attacks on various worlds, including Naboo, keeping the Rebels occupied for a while longer.

Though we may like to think it was all a happy ending at the end of Return of the Jedi, like most civil wars, this one likely had chaos and remnants of fight from the losing side. This short comic series captures that. We get appearances from known characters, and we get new characters. The action goes on all the way through to keep us reading. Also, there are elements that lead to the events of the new film, The Force Awakens. However, you can read the comics on their own.

Overall, this was a quick and entertaining short read. Fans of the original will probably like it, and fans of the new film will find things to like as well. The volume also includes the first issue of Marvel's new Princess Leia series and the first issue of the 1977 Star Wars comic adaptation so folks can take a trip down memory lane. In addition, Checchetto's art is very good and another reason to pick this volume up. If your library already has other Star Wars comics, this will make a good addition. In the end, I liked it. It was good with solid art.

3 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges:

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Best Books I Read in 2015: An Appendix to my Reading List for 2015

I started this tradition last year where I highlighted the best books I read for 2014. That post got a bit of interest, so I figure I can continue the tradition. This post then lists the best books I read in 2015 based on the books that I rated a full 5 out of 5 stars. This was a pretty good year for reading for me as I rated 21 books with 5 out of 5 stars. However, many others got a 4 out of 5 stars rating, which means they were "very good" and would also make good reading selections. As in previous years, the majority of the books on this list are graphic novels, given it is a genre I favor.

The list is in no particular order. I will provide a bit of commentary, and if I reviewed the book in 2015, I will provide a link to it.

Graphic Novels and Comics

Again, thanks to NetGalley, and Edelweiss to a lesser extent, I get to read a good amount of new and upcoming graphic novels and comics.These tools have helped me diversify my graphic novels and comics reading as I can often find titles that bookstores and comic shops may not carry; they are titles libraries mostly miss, and in some cases, ones that I think they should be ordering. So, here is what I consider was the best I read this year in graphic novels and comics:

  • The American Vampire is a series I continued to enjoy. I read more of it in 2015, but only Volume 5 got a full 5 out of 5 stars. I read other volumes, but they did not pack the quality as the fifth volume did. Still, the series overall is worth reading. 
  • Pancho Villa Takes Zacatecas. This is a blend of history and fiction about a real battle during the Mexican Revolution. The woodcut style art is the highlight here. 
  • The Mask. Before Jim Carrey made him famous in a movie, The Mask was already an unfiltered agent of violence and mayhem.
  • Batman '66 Meets the Green Hornet was a nice nostalgia trip for me. If you enjoyed the 1960s Batman series, you will likely enjoy this revival of the series in comic form.
  • I am probably one of the three people left who did not rush out to watch the new Star Wars film. I will get to it eventually, but as long as there are good graphic novels and comics of the Star Wars universe, I feel no need to rush. Darth Vader and the Lost Command captures the days of Vader right after the Empire consolidates power.
  • Batman Earth One, Volume 2 continues the series, which does an excellent job of humanizing Batman and giving us a look at his early days. The first volume is also great. 
  • I continue to enjoy the recent Harley Quinn series. In 2015, I read Harley Quinn, Volume 2: Power Outage.
  • I continued reading John Lewis's story with March: Book Two.
  • Deathstroke, Volume 1 was a new discovery for me. What caught my eye was the intrigue and dark ops tale.
  • I rediscovered pulp heroes with Justice, Inc. The volume features The Shadow, Doc Savage, and The Avenger.
  • I also continued to enjoy the greatness of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Collection, Volume 2
  • This was one of the best graphic novels I read in terms of bringing back memories of younger days and just overall well written. The book is Punk Rock and Trailer Parks.
  • The Names is good for folks who like conspiracies and action.
  • And I end this segment with another excellent work from Derf, who also wrote Punk Rock and Trailer Parks. This time it's Trashed.


I had a few good nonfiction selections this year. Let's have a look.

  • Smoke Gets In Your Eyes is an excellent look at death and dying. More people should probably read this book and then have some conversations about it. 
  • I learned about a man who was an advisor to Martin Luther King, Jr. who was also a gay man. This man is not often mentioned in African American history, or in U.S. history in general, but not only did he advise Dr. King, but he also was a tireless activist. You can read Bayard Rustin's writings in Time on Two Crosses.
  • If you had doubts about how the U.S. handles a lot of its military operations, this will not allay those doubts. I found it amazing that three potheads managed to become big weapons dealers that sold to the U.S. You can read their story in Arms and the Dudes.
  • I do not usually pick one book of the year, since I usually read many good ones. But if you pressed me and asked what is the one book of the year for you, the one book you want to put into the hands of as many people as possible, then I have to pick without hesitation War Against All Puerto Ricans.
  • Another book that I would say is required reading is The Rude Pundit's Almanack. How I wish he would update it for this 2016 election season.

Erotica and/or nonfiction sex writing

That I managed to read in this category last year, let alone find books for this post was a bit of a miracle. For me, reading erotica is very much based on mood. Good moods mean I read more of it. Not so good moods means I read less, and last year was very challenging. Between the Chronic Bronchitis Forced Staycation of 2015 and some grieving for lost people, I did not read as much in this category as I could. Still, I managed to find some good things.

  • Darker Edge of Desire. If you enjoy a blend of gothic supernatural with erotica, this is the book
    for you. 
  • In nonfiction, Best Sex Writing of the Year, Volume 1 is one I highly recommend for anyone wanting to get a sense of the great writing being done in terms of writing about sex and sexuality. I hope the series continues because this is a great way to keep up with this kind of writing. 

Booknote: Drowned City

Don Brown, Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2015. ISBN:  9780544157774. 

Genre: Graphic novels and comics
Subgenre: nonfiction, American history
Format: Hardcover
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library

This is a nonfiction graphic novel about Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans. I will say upfront that this book is a must-read to  understand what really happened. This is the story of how an American city was basically abandoned by the federal government and the basic incompetence at the federal, state, and local levels that botched the relief efforts. Yet it is also the story of how resilient people struggled to survive and of the rescue and relief workers who valiantly worked against great odds to save as many people as possible. Don Brown chronicles the events of Hurricane Katrina from August 26 (when it was announced the hurricane would hit New Orleans) to September 3 (when some of the last were evacuated from the convention center). The author covers the story day by day during that period presenting a blend of local stories with broader picture presentations of weather data, media coverage, and government officials.

Brown truly shows how the graphic novel format can be used to tell important stories. His story here is powerful and moving. His story here is powerful and moving. It is a story that, if you have any sense of human decency, should anger you against the criminally incompetent government officials that turned this terrible natural disaster into a massive, cataclysmic human catastrophe. His simple style art is strong and very evocative. Also, Brown's art is full of detail, some even a bit graphic; he does not hide the truth and tells it like it is.

In addition, the book is well documented with a set of source notes and a bibliography, which is also a good tool for those who wish to learn more. If your library has a graphic novels collection, this book is a necessary addition. Even if your library does not collect graphic novels, this is an important addition to your nonfiction shelves. This is one I am definitely ordering for my library. It is also a book I would gladly add to my personal collection.

5 out of 5 stars.

* * * * * 

This book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges:

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Booknote: Star Wars: Rebellion, Volume 2: The Akahista Gamble

Brandon Badeaux and Rob Williams, Star Wars: Rebellion, Volume 2: The Akahista Gamble. Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Books, 2008. ISBN: 9781593078904.

Genre: graphic novels and comics
Subgenre; Star Wars, space opera
Format: Trade paperback
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library.

The new Star Wars movie may be out, but I am in no rush to see it. I'll get to it when it gets out on DVD. In the meantime, I enjoy when I can reading some of the older graphic novels. This time I read The Akahista Gamble.

This is the story of Wyl Tarson, a top lieutenant to crime lord Raze. Wyl is also a rebel spy, which is something Raze does not appreciate. In revenge, Raze puts a bomb inside Wyl's head and extorts him: do an infiltration mission on an imperial stronghold, or Raze will detonate the bomb. Wyl assembles a team and goes on with the mission to an out of the way planet the Empire holds tightly. This because a major communications hub that enables space travel traffic is located there. And when a local uprising against the Empire gets out of hand, Darth Vader himself shows up to suppress it.

Overall, this was a quick and entertaining read. The art is good. Story blends intrigue and action. The ending is a bit open ended, but it does stand alone; it may not be satisfying to some readers. I liked the story as it fits nicely into the Star Wars setting of the Rebellion Era.

3 out of 5 stars.

* * * * * 

This book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges:

Monday, February 22, 2016

Booknote: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Collection, Volume 3

Kevin B. Eastman and Peter A. Laird, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Collection, Volume 3. San Diego, CA: IDW, 2012. ISBN: 9781613771389. 

Genre; graphic novels and comics
Subgenre: superheroes, TMNT.
Format: Oversized hardcover.
Source: Hutchins Library, Berea College.

I finished reading the third volume in this series. As I have written about the previous volumes (link to reviews of volume 1 and volume 2), this is an excellent compilation of the early work by Eastman and Laird. The volume contains seven stories, including the three-issue arc "Return to New York." These stories were originally published between 1987 to 1989; the stories do hold up well enough with the passage of time.

In this volume, the authors try out different styles such as telling a mobster story or a feudal Japan samurai and ninjas story. You can tell the authors love their work as it shows in the well crafted stories and solid artwork. As with previous volumes, this one does include author commentary sections for each comic. Fans who enjoy learning how the artists work and other trivia will enjoy reading those sections as well.

Overall, this continues to be a solid selection for libraries with graphic novels collections. As I have stated before, this is not for little children, but teens and above will enjoy them. This is one I would definitely add to my personal collection.

5 out of 5 stars.

* * * * *

This book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges:

Friday, February 19, 2016

Booknote: Shaman

 Ben Khan, Shaman. Philadelphia, PA: Locust Moon Comics, 2015.

(Not able to verify ISBN. One provided on NetGalley and publisher does not match WorldCat record. Someone someplace made an error. Link to publisher).

Genre: graphic novels and comics
Subgenre: fantasy
Format: e-book galley
Source: NetGalley

This story is about the enigmatic mage Shaman, whose task it is to restore life to those who die in battle on both sides of some unnamed conflict that seems to be going on forever. His two sidekicks are a foul-mouthed sorceress and a superhero who decided he's had enough of the superhero stuff.

The volume contains five issues. The stories vary in quality, but they are fun and entertaining overall. Also, we get some guest appearances such as baseball player Babe Ruth, who explains the real deal with the Curse of the Bambino. The last issue in the volume features a family reunion of sorts that ties things nicely. Overall, the volume has some good pacing, colorful art, and some humor to round it out. I definitely enjoyed it overall, though it may be a bit "out there" for some readers. I still recommend it.

4 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Booknote: Glock

Paul Barrett, Glock: The Rise of America's Gun. New York: Crown Publishers, 2012. ISBN: 9780307719935. 

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: history, biography, politics, firearms, inventions
Format: hardback
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County Public Library

This book on the Glock pistol and its rise to become the most popular handgun in the United States is quite interesting. The book is not just the history of how Gaston Glock invented the pistol bearing his name and how his company managed to take the U.S. market. It is also a look at American gun culture and its obsession with firearms as well as an overview of late 20th century gun politics and events in the United States. Some of those events I actually can recall.

Glock is the Austrian pistol that pretty much singlehandedly changed America's gun preferences. For a long time, Americans were in love with their revolvers. Sure, some folks used semiautomatics from other brands. However, once Americans warmed up to the "ugly" Austrian gun, they bought Glocks in droves and made the gun's inventor, Gaston Glock, a very rich man. Glock's other big coup in the United States was becoming the pistol of choice for cops and law enforcement. That cachet just helped the gun further in winning the day in the United States.

Though at times the book offers some technical details to help us understand how Glock's invention works and why it was and remains so innovative, such details remain fairly accessible to the common reader. You do not have to be a gun enthusiast to appreciate Mr. Glock's genius in creating a very easy to use and to carry firearm, a gun that is much less complicated than other semiautomatics. Now, I am not a gun enthusiast, but the author's descriptions and details make curious enough I'd want to try a Glock pistol out. As I have no intention of buying one (or any firearm, plus I am on a librarian salary, and guns are not cheap), maybe I can find a friend who has one and is willing to teach me at a range. But I digress.

In addition, the book at times does read like a novel. The book is also a bit of biography of Gaston Glock and some of the people who worked for him and around him. Glock started from humble origins, but like many such types who come to wealth suddenly, he found himself corrupted by the money and power. So did some of the folks around him as the newfound wealth incited greed. In many ways, the story of Glock and his invention is a tale of corporate deeds and misdeeds and human greed. Heck, we even get strippers and lawsuits and assassination attempts along the way. Yet, in the end, Gaston Glock invented such a great high quality product that even if they screwed up things royally in the workplace the gun basically sells itself. In that sense, the Glock pistol is truly a tribute to the inventor's genius.

The book is definitely a solid piece of history and reporting. Add to this the look at 20th century gun history and policy in the U.S., the lobbying, the lawsuits, the legislation, and the corporate maneuvers, and it all makes for interesting reading. Additionally, the book does include a selected bibliography that can help readers wanting to learn more.

4 out of 5 stars. 

As a final note, this book likely shares appeal factors with the following:

* * * * * 

Additional reading notes:

From the book's bibliography, I am adding these two books to my TBR list:

Glock becomes the American handgun:

"The Glock, introduced in the 1980s, inherited all aspects of the American firearm heritage: It was seen as an instrument of law and security, but also menace, danger, and fear. It became the handgun of choice for cops and a favorite of some demented mass killers. Its black plastic-and-metal construction set it apart from everything else on the market, suggesting modernism and efficiency. The handgun is the weapon Americans really care about, and within a decade of arriving here, the Glock had become the ultimate American handgun" (21). 

In the gun industry, all publicity is good, and Glock illustrates that principle:

"The Glock's success illustrated that in the gun industry, all publicity is good publicity, and high-profile enmity from anti-gun forces is the best publicity of all" (50). 

The book also reveals secrets and debunks some myths. For instance, many people think that cops are highly trained with guns and are even gun enthusiasts. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, a big reason police departments switched to Glocks is that the guns are so easy to use even the less competent cops can use them:

"A dirty little secret of law enforcement is that many cops don't take range time seriously. And even in high-crime cities, the vast majority of officers go years, or even an entire career, without getting into a gunfight. The average officer is a mediocre shot, or worse" (55). 

Another reason Glock easily overtook the American gun industry was the usual American arrogance and complacency:

"The story was similar to that of the American auto industry; gun makers in the United States had lost ground to foreign competitors more diligent about engineering and quality control. That is how Toyota sneaked up on General Motors" (57). 

A bit on how Colt and Glock were similar:

"In many ways, Gaston Glock became the Sam Colt of the twentieth century. It is an assertion that might offend some American handgun historians and revolver loyalists But it is no exaggeration to say that a pair of Austrians--a reticent engineer and his ambitious salesman-- set about to remake the handgun business in the United States" (67). 

* * * * * 

This book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges: 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Booknote: A Fighting Chance (Audiobook edition)

Elizabeth Warren, A Fighting Chance. New York: Macmillan Audio, 2014. ISBN: 9781427239167.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: politics, United States politics, autobiography
Format: Audiobook on 9 CDs. The book is read by the author.
Source: The Berea branch of the Madison County Public Library

Warren's book opens with a prologue where she summarizes her life story and how she came to politics and her battles in the U.S. Senate. She says the book will tell a very public story about fraud, bailouts, and elections, and I can tell you that after reading it she delivers on that promise. The book is also a personal story about mothers and family. It is about what she has seen and lived and what is worth fighting for, including giving your kids a fighting chance for the future. A fair fighting chance is a strong theme throughout the book. In the first chapter, she tells the story of her parents, and we learn about her early life.

Later in the book, she tells of teaching her first bankruptcy class at UT-Austin. She tells the story of a big fancy pants professor who helped write the federal bankruptcy law that came to speak to her class. When asked, and without any evidence whatsoever, he argued that anyone going into bankruptcy was a deadbeat who made poor choices. It was the "conventional assumption. In reality, none of the so-called experts like him let alone the legislators in Congress had any idea of the reality on the ground. After the professor left, Warren pondered the following question: why is Congress making laws without knowing the reality on the ground? By the way, Congress for the most part still passes legislation without a clue or idea of the reality for common Americans.

Further on, she tells the story of how banks basically kept making bad loans, even as they took bankruptcy losses, because in the short term exploiting vulnerable people was very profitable. Her early meeting with representatives from Citibank when they tell her they were not interested in curbing such lending is illustrative of the problem with the deregulation banks lobbied for and pushed through Congress. By the way, their lobbying also got Congress to make bankruptcy a lot more harder to use for those common people who are really struggling. She was a law professor at the time, but back then she already saw the cynicism and damage the banks were doing and how many real people were getting hurt in the process.

The book combines autobiography with an overview of the issues she has fought for. One the issues, she does explain things quite well, including the D.C. corruption by lobbyists as the middle class continued to be pummeled. On the final stretch of the book she moves from being an agency director to her run for office and getting elected. Warren is a talented, caring, compassionate individual trying to do some good in the hellhole of corruption and selfishness that is Washington, D.C. Some of the revelations she makes of how D.C. operates are simply disgusting, or they should be disgusting to decent people.

In addition, the book does have some moving moments, often from people, simple, humble people who turn to her because no one else will stand up for them. The book then ends with her election to be a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts. In the book, Warren displays a great ability to explain things clearly. In running for office, she does reveal some naive moments resulting from her idealism, and she did also have some rude awakenings when confronted with Washington D.C.'s reality. In the end, at the very least, she wants every American to have a fair and even fighting chance. Not many other politicians offer that.

There are tons of books by politicians out there, but this is one of the very few worth reading. Her story is inspiring, and her arguments for reform and change are necessary and clear. As a reader, Warren does have a sincere, moving voice, the voice of someone who cares and you can relate to.

4 out of 5 stars.

* * * * *

Additional reading notes: 

Warren was one of the first law scholars, or any scholar for that matter, who went to find evidence of who really went bankrupt, and it was not the deadbeats that "experts" just assumed existed. She goes on to explain how the middle class of the United States was basically almost obliterated by predatory banks who used lobbyists to regulate themselves and by the stagnation of wages. Not even working two incomes could save them:

"On average, once the basic bills were covered-- the mortgage, the health insurance, daycare, the cost of preschool or college tuition-- the modern two-income family had less money each month than the one-income family of a generation earlier." 

Warren defines that as the two-income trap. For these two-income families, they were basically one disaster away from bankruptcy and ruin. Once families ran out of money, they used debt, and they went down a cliff. Much of this she had expanded upon in her previous book The Two-Income Trap, which you will note was published in 2003, way before the great recession of 2008 hit. She was one of the voices already calling out the issues, but for the most part, only few listened while the government and banks just did not give a shit.

The more I read the book, the more amazed I was that she decided to run for public office to fight. It amazes me the few decent people in D.C. and her have not torched that whole nest of vipers and walked away after washing their hands. The amount of Republican obstructionism, and it needs to be called out for what it is, and just plain fuckery are beyond the pale. As she states at one point:

"No matter the crisis. No matter the sense of urgency of the moment. In Washington, it was always my team versus your team, and in all that pushing and pulling too many times the people we were supposed to serve got left behind." 

She also goes over the deficit and has a word for Right Wingers and Republicans whine about how horrible is the deficit (the one they created by the way and others have to clean up for them) and the need for austerity:

"We hear about the deficit as if it's a monster, and America's only choice is to slash and burn huge swaths of our budget immediately or face total destruction. All or nothing. Live or die. Yes, the deficit is a serious problem, and it deserves serious attention, but I don't buy that there's only one way out. I think we have to face a more fundamental issue first: how we spend our government's money is about value, and it's about choices. We can cut back on what we spend on seniors and kids and education as the Republicans in Congress insisted we should, or we can get rid of tax loopholes and ask the wealthy and big corporations to pay a little more to keep investing in our future. How we spend our money isn't some absurdly complicated math problem. It's about choices." 

On Washington corruption and politics being disgusting to decent people, I have to say that given that the same assholes keep getting elected and re-elected, one honestly has to conclude there are not that many decent people, let alone informed one who can exercise critical thinking, among the electorate. As George Carlin said so well on his monologue about voting and politics:

"If you have selfish, ignorant citizens, you're going to get selfish, ignorant leaders. Term limits aren't going to do any good; you're just going to end up with a brand new bunch of selfish, ignorant Americans. So, maybe, maybe, maybe, it's not the politicians who suck. Maybe something else sucks around here. . . like, the public. Yeah, the public sucks." 

Given the truth in that, it is amazing Warren got elected. Then again, her opponent at the time, Scott Brown, ran a seriously dirty campaign, which Warren details in the book. 

* * * * *

This book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges:

Friday, February 12, 2016

My Reading List for 2015

(Crossposted from The Gypsy Librarian)

Welcome to my reading list and report for 2015. I fell a bit behind on this in part because I took some time choosing my reading challenges for 2016. I read a bit less this year in terms of books, but it was in part because I had a busy year at work, and that was a good thing. I am entering my fourth year working here at Berea, and things are still going well. Overall, it was a good year for reading overall.
I continue to read and write about what I read on my personal blog. The Itinerant Librarian continues to grow slowly but surely into a good books and reading blog. It is something that I definitely enjoy both personally and as a librarian. I've even gotten to know, online, a few authors and editors in the process. I am always thrilled when I write a review, and an author or publisher notices and writes back an encouraging word or two. Thanks to them for writing and editing good books so I can keep reading. Keeps The Itinerant Librarian off the streets.

In addition, while I have blogged less here on my professional blog, it is not because of lack of content or ideas. A large reason is I am enjoying my book blogging. Also, to be honest, a lot of LIS blogging out there often boils down to the same few issues and dramas, and I would rather do without that stuff. So I keep up with the LIS literature, but I may not blog here as often, and I am at peace with that. I keep posting the annual reading list here mostly out of tradition. In time, I may or not move it to my personal blog. We'll see.

Here then is the list of books I read during 2015. Books marked with an asterisk (*) are re-reads. Most books were reviewed at The Itinerant Librarian. Feel free to go over there and check some of the reviews out. Simply click on the "books and reading" label in the sidebar of The Itinerant Librarian to get to the reviews.

  • Cornel West, with Christa Buschendorf, Black Prophetic Fire.
  • Diane Muldrow, Everything I Need To Know About Christmas I Learned from a Little Golden Book.
  • Carl Critchlow, Judge Dredd: Anderson, Psi-Division.
  • Lawrence Osborne, The Wet and the Dry.
  • Chris Metzen, Transformers: Primacy.
  • Vic Malhotra, X-Files: Year Zero.
  • Scott Snyder, American Vampire, Volume 5.
  • Andrew Bohrer, The Best Shots You've Never Tried.
  • Ian Doescher, William Shakerspeare's The Jedi Doth Return.
  • Juzo Tokoro, Spawn: Shadows of Spawn, Vol. 2.
  • Kennedy Xu, Daomu.
  • Juzo Tokoro, Spawn: Shadows of Spawn, Vol. 3.
  • Kevin L. Nadal, That's So Gay!
  • Jane Stern and Michael Stern, Two for the Road.
  • James Kuhoric, The Six-Million Dollar Man, Season 6.
  • Scott Snyder, American Vampire, Volume 7.
  • Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays, Being Dead Is No Excuse.
  • Henrik Lange, 90 Classic Books for People in a Hurry.
  • Caitlin Doughty, Smoke Gets in your Eyes.
  • Bob Budiansky, et. al., Transformers Classics, Volume 4.
  • Michael R. Veach, Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey: an American Heritage.
  • Erik Burnham,, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Ghostbusters.
  • Ryan Burton,, Dark Engine, Volume 1.
  • Paco Ignacio II Taibo, Pancho Villa Takes Zacatecas.
  • John Arcudi, The Mask.
  • Mitzi Szereto, ed., Dark Edge of Desire.
  • Kevin Smith, Batman '66 Meets the Green Hornet.
  • James Luceno, Star Wars: Tarkin.
  • W. Haden Blackman, Darth Vader and the Lost Command.
  • Various authors, Predator Omnibus, Volume 1.
  • Seth Holmes, Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies.
  • Karl E. Meyer and Shareen Blair Brysac, The China Collectors.
  • Fred W. Sauceman, Buttermilk and Bible Burgers.
  • Todd McFarlane, Spawn: Volume 1: Endgame.
  • Carlton Mellick III, ClownFellas: Tales of the Bozo Family.
  • Martin Luther King Jr., The Radical King.
  • Nick Kyme and Lindsey Priestly, eds., Tales of Heresy (The Horus Heresy, Book 10).
  • Geoff Johns, Batman: Earth One, Volume 2.
  • Paul S. Kemp, Star Wars: Lords of the Sith.
  • Steve McNiven and Charles Soule, Death of Wolverine.
  • Jennifer S. Baker, The Reader's Advisory Guide to Historical Fiction.
  • Jinsei Kataoka and Kazuma Kondou, Deadman Wonderland, Volume 2.
  • Vassilis Gogtzilas, The Bigger Bang.
  • Max Dunbar, Dungeons & Dragons: Legends of Baldur's Gate Volume 1.
  • Jim Davis, My Laughable Life with Garfield: The Jon Arbuckle Chronicles.
  • Jimmy Palmiotti, Harley Quinn Vol. 2: Power Outage (The New 52).
  • Shawn Kittelsen. Mortal Kombat X.
  • Jim Davis, 30 Years of Laughs & Lasagna: The Life & Times of a Fat, Furry Legend!
  • David Solmonson and Lesley Jacobs Solmonson, The 12 Bottle Bar.
  • Paul Kingsbury, Vinyl Hayride: Country Music Album Covers 1947-1989.
  • Nick Roche and Brian Lynch, Monster Motors.
  • Rob Anderson,, Creature Cops: Special Varmint Unit.
  • Shane McCarthy, Transformers: Drift-Empire of Stone.
  • Mark Millar, Jupiter's Legacy, Vol. 1.
  • Scott Snyder, Batman, Volume 6: Graveyard Shift (The New 52).
  • Adrian Brooks, The Right Side of History.
  • Bayard Rustin, The Collected Writings of Bayard Rustin.
  • Guy Lawson, Arms and the Dudes.
  • Becky Cloonan,, Gotham Academy, Volume 1.
  • John Lewis, March: Book Two.
  • Si Spencer, Bodies.
  • Robert Lazaro, Robert Heinlein's Citizen of the Galaxy.
  • Thomas Hodge, VHS Video Cover Art: 1980s to Early 1990s.
  • Brian Michael Bendis, Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 3: Guardians Disassembled.
  • Steve Niles, October Faction Volume 1.
  • Mitch Broder, Discovering Vintage New York.
  • Various authors, Flash Gordon Omnibus.
  • Tim Seeley, Grayson, Vol. 1: Agents of Spyral.
  • Tony Daniel, Deathstroke Vol. 1: Gods of Wars (The New 52).
  • Corinna Sara Bechko, Heathentown.
  • Michael Uslan, Justice, Inc., Volume 1.
  • Cameron Stewart, Batgirl, Volume 1: The Batgirl of Burnside (The New 52).
  • Robert Kirkman, Battle Pope, Volume 1: Genesis.
  • Bathroom Readers' Institute, Uncle John's Beer-Topia.
  • Alan Moore, Nemo: River of Ghosts.
  • Jon Pressick, ed., Best Sex Writing of the Year, Volume 1: On Consent, BDSM, Porn, Race, Sex Work and More.
  • Rebecca Winters, Plucked: A History of Hair Removal.
  • Jim Davis, Garfield the Big Cheese: His 59th Book.
  • Brian Michael Bendis, Age of Ultron.
  • Nelson A. Denis, War Against All Puerto Ricans.
  • Boaz Lavie, The Divine.
  • Z. Rider, Insylum.
  • Peter J. Tomasi, Batman: Arkham Knight.
  • Gerry Duggan, Arkham Manor.
  • Sean Ryan, New Suicide Squad, Volume 1.
  • Scott Snyder, Batman Eternal, Volume 2.
  • F. Leonora Solomon, ed., Tie Me Up: a Binding Collection of Erotic Tales.
  • Matthew Algeo, Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure.
  • Mairghread Scott, Transformers: Combiner Wars.
  • Louise Baxter Harmon, Happiness A to Z.
  • Editors of Penthouse Variations, Penthouse Variations on Oral: Erotic Stories of Going Down.
  • Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Collection Volume 2.
  • Kyle Higgins,, C.O.W.L. Volume 1: Principles of Power.
  • Cullen Bunn,, Lobo Volume 1: Targets (The New 52).
  • Sparky Sweets, PhD., Thug Notes: a Street-Smart Guide to Classic Literature.
  • Robert Kirkman, Battle Pope, Volume 2: Mayhem.
  • Derf Backderf, Punk Rock and Trailer Parks.
  • Peter Milligan,, The Names.
  • Henry N. Beard and Christopher Cerf, Spinglish: The Definitive Dictionary of Deliberately Deceptive Language.
  • Jim Davis, Garfield Left Speechless.
  • Jim Davis, Garfield Takes his Licks: His 24th Book.*
  • Lee Papa, The Rude Pundit's Almanack.
  • Jeremy Barlow, Star Wars, The Clone Wars: the Colossus of Destiny.
  • Jim Davis, Garfield Will Eat for Food.
  • Wayne A. Wiegand, Part of our Lives: A People's History of the American Public Library.
  • Joey Esposito, Pawn Shop.
  • Mike W. Barr, Star Wars, The Clone Wars: The Starcrusher Trap.
  • Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, Batman: The Long Halloween.*
  • Jim Davis, Garfield Souped Up: his 57th Book.
  • Scott Snyder, Batman, Volume 7: Endgame.
  • Jim Davis, Garfield Goes to his Happy Place; his 58th Book.
  • Tom Krattenmaker, The Evangelicals You Don't Know.
  • Jim Davis, Garfield Tips the Scales, his 8th Book.
  • Diane Muldrow, Everything I Need to Know About Love I Learned from a Little Golden Book.
  • Zeb Wells, Spider-Man/Doctor Octopus: Year One.
  • Derf Backderf, Trashed.
  • Vanessa Williamson and Theda Skocpol, The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism.
  • Charles M. Schultz, The Complete Peanuts, Vol. 10: 1969-1970.
  • Ben Khan, Shaman.
  • Jim Davis, Garfield Lard of the Jungle: His 52nd Book.
  • Various authors, Star Trek: Alien Spotlight, Volume 1.
  • Various authors, The Star Wars.
  • Elaine Lee, Vamps.
Here are the numbers:

I read a total of 123 books this year with 2 re-reads.

Number of books read in 2014: 152, including 2 re-reads (the 2014 list).
Number of books read in 2013: 173, including 2 re-reads (the 2013 list).
Number of books read in 2012: 117, with 6 re-reads (the 2012 list).
Number of books read in 2011: 119, with 3 re-reads (the 2011 list).
Number of books read in 2010:  119, with 6 rereads (the 2010 list).
Number of books read in 2009: 98, with 5 rereads. I believe this is the first time I started to actively track rereads. (the 2009 list).
Number of books read in 2008: 111 (the 2008 list).
Number of books read in 2007: 85 (the 2007 list).
Number of books read in 2006: 106 (the 2006 list).
Number of books read in 2005: 73

Let's look at a few other numbers and add some commentary and thoughts:
  • I read a bit less this year, though I think I read a few things a more mindful way. It was interesting working to choose books for some of the reading challenges I did in 2015.  I still read actively from NetGalley, less so from Edelweiss.
  • Best month: July with 19 books read.
  • Worst month: December with 3 books read.
  • 68 print books read.
  • 55 e-books read. The majority of books this year was still in print, but as you can see, e-books number is close. Though my preference remains print, as long as I read via NetGalley, I will keep reading e-books as well. Plus I may read the odd book here or there as e-book due to other sources, say my public library's Overdrive system.
  • I read 9 books in fiction. This for me  usually means novels and short fiction. It can include erotica. Generally, I count graphic novels and manga together as separate categories regardless of whether some are fiction or nonfiction.
  • I read 34 books in nonfiction. That the majority of books other than graphic novels and manga are nonfiction is pretty consistent for me. I tend to prefer nonfiction overall. This category can include erotica in the sense that it would include sex manuals and other sex writing not fiction.
  • I read 77 graphic novels this year. Many of these I read via NetGalley, but I also read a good amount of them via the library. I also had two graphic novels challenges, which do allow for manga as well, running last year. Plus, this is a favorite genre of mine.
  • I read 3 mangas this year. One reason is that good mangas are not easy to get around here, but when I find them, I read them.
  • I read 7 books via my work library, Hutchins Library. This was kind of low considering I had a good number of books checked out from Hutchins Library. I just did not get to them right away. Those longer loan periods do kind of encourage me to keep things longer. I will try to do better in this regard in 2016. In addition, I got three books via Interlibrary Loan (ILL) through Hutchins Library:
    • Tales of Heresy is probably the furthest out ILL I have ever received so far. It came from Fairbanks North Star Borough Public Library System in Alaska.
    •  The Rude Pundit's Almanack came from King County Library System in Issaquah, Washington.
    • Tarkin came from Rowan County Public Library in Morehead, Kentucky.
  • 34 books came from my local library public, the Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library.
  • I read 23 books that I own, including 12 that qualified for the 2015 Mount TBR Reading Challenge.
  • I read 52 books via NetGalley. I read 2 via Edelweiss.
  • Other numbers:
    • LIS books read: 2
    • Erotica: 4.
    • Books provided for review, not via NetGalley nor Edelweiss: 6. These are books provided by an author, publisher, or editor for review, either by invitation or because I requested them.
  • I completed 10 Reading Challenges for 2015 (see the link above, where you can see the challenge summaries and additional details). Some of these I did because they went with the flow of my reading. Others I did to try new things. Overall, things worked out OK, and I already have 2016 Reading Challenges going (see link above to see those). I am trying some new things this year, including an audiobook challenge. Overall, I am attempting 12 Reading Challenges this year: 5 repeating from last year, and 7 new ones to me.
What I am currently reading (as of this post):
  • James Swallow, The Blood Angels Omnibus (Warhammer 40,000).
  • Rachel Kramer Bussel, ed., Dirty Dates: Erotic Fantasies for Couples.
  • Margie Lapanja, Food Men Love.
  • Elizabeth Warren, A Fighting Chance (audiobook edition).
  • Julio Patán, Cocteles con Historia: Guía definitiva para el borracho ilustrado.
And as I often do to finalize, if you are interested, here are a few others who did end of year reading reports too:
Have a happy 2016 year of reading.

Booknote: Side-Kicked

Russel Brettholtz, Side-Kicked. Chicago, IL: Magnetic Press, 2015. ISBN: 9781942367123.

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

This is a comic about the superheroes' sidekicks. When they get tired of being pushed around, getting ignored, and being taken for granted, they organize together and go on strike. Entertaining with a good amount of action. The comic had a good reading pace. Sure enough, the strike works, and the heroes find themselves losing against the villains, realizing they did need their sidekicks. Will they return? The story is colorful with good art, and it does stand alone.

In the end, it was a quick and light read. It is one I can recommend for libraries with graphic novel collections.

4 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges:

Signs the Economy is Bad: Valentine's Day Weekend 2016 Special 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.  

It is the weekend of the Hallmark Holiday (I think most people call it Valentine's Day). And though the economy may be be bad, depending on who you ask, the economy is doing super if you are in one of the industries that sell stuff for the holiday. Men will be forking out anywhere from $250 to $500 dollars easily to please their women who feel they must have something for the holiday. It's a women's holiday, pure and simple, where a bunch of stuff is marked up for the sake of "romance." Suckers. Mercifully, I am married to a very low maintenance woman who does not fall for the bullshit. But that is me. I know most of you guys out there are screwed, so I hope you were at least smart enough to get your act together early (though that is unlikely. According to the second article I just linked, most guys leave it to the last minute. Dumbasses). Way I see it, I romance her and take care of her the rest of the year so I don't have to worry about the Hallmark Holiday. Besides, we all know the candy will be on a fire sale the day after.

And if you need to find a gift, well, that should not be a problem. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are plenty of places that will happily sell you stuff:

You get more facts and trivia about Valentine's Day from the U.S. Census Bureau here

At any rate, putting Valentine's Day aside, the economy is still bad, and there are plenty of signs out there to prove it. Let's have a look.

  • So, say you spent some time in prison and did your time. Or maybe something as simple as you got a ticket, so you paid the fine. However, clearing your record can be costly, and not many can afford it. Why would you worry? Well, apply for a job, get a background check, and if that old ticket that should have been cleared is still there,  you can kiss that good job goodbye. Story via Yes! Magazine.
  • And now, let's look at today's edition of "How the Mighty Have Fallen" 
    • Yahoo!, once a major player in the Internet and an empty shell of itself, is laying off staff and even considering selling itself. Considering their services have pretty much kept decaying over time, it may be a matter of time. You can tell they are pretty much barely holding on. They are already laying folks off and looking at trimming at least 15% of their workforce. Stories via NPR and Reuters.
    • Sears is closing more stores, and they are hoping to do it at a faster pace. Story via The Christian Science Monitor.
    • Walmart is closing stores. Now you know when Walmart has to close stores that the shit has hit the fan. However, this round of closings has caught attention because it is in rural areas. In other words, it is happening in areas where Walmart went in, decimated the local markets and small local businesses, and they became the only business in many cases for things like groceries and other retail. Now, my sympathy here only goes so far. These are the people who pretty much said, "hell, Walmart sells that cheaper, I am shopping over there" despite all the signs that local economies would die, and Walmart had no real loyalty to communities. So Walmart now said, "well, y'all really ain't worth it, so we are leaving, so long losers." So now, there is no Walmart, and nothing else to replace it. Karma can sure be a bitch. Story via The Rural Blog.
    • And speaking of karma. In New York City, that crazy church pastor who claimed Starbucks sold coffee with sodomite semen and that Jesus would stone homos is about to lose his church. The ATLAH Church is so full of debt that a judge has ordered it be sold. Story via The Advocate.
  • And finally for today, in the bad economy, people often need to get creative in order to survive and maybe make a buck. This homeless man in Detroit knows not everyone carries cash, so for the convenience of the people who may give him a small handout, he has found a way to take debit and credit cards.  Story via The Root.

Booknote: Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Troy Little (adapter) and Hunter S. Thompson, Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Marietta, GA: Top Shelf Productions, 2015. ISBN: 97801603093750.

Genre: graphic novels
Subgenre: adaptations, biographical
Format: e-book galley
Source: NetGalley

I finished reading this, and I am honestly not sure what to make of this drug-fueled road trip. I will disclose that I have not read the book this is based on; I can tell you now that I have very little interest in reading that other book.

Thompson, using the false name of Dr. Duke, goes on a road trip to Las Vegas. Ostensibly he is there to write an article for a magazine on a dirt bike race. In reality, he is seeking evidence of the American Dream, whatever may remain of it. These are the years of Nixon and the Vietnam War. Is that part of the reason he remains constantly high on drugs? Perhaps, but in the end he is never sober, and yet somehow some writing happens, albeit incoherently more often than not. He is accompanied in his journey by his lawyer, who we know as Dr. Gonzo. He is just as big of a drug and alcohol user as Duke.

There are some amusing moment. They get assigned to cover a drug enforcement conference. They sit there mocking the speakers while high on mescaline and other substances with the cops and lawyers none the wiser. Somewhere in their cloudy haze of drugs Duke and Gonzo lay out the bullshit and stupidity in the so-called American Dream and in the Drug War.

The art is probably the best element in this comic. The artist brings Duke's drug addicted visions of monsters, etc. to life in full detail and color. You get the full and unrestrained drug fueled visions from his mind. This element illustrates the contrast between what Duke sees and the reality.

In the end, I wanted to like this more, but at times it reads like of those prank shows with douchebag buddies trying to trick innocent people. And yet, perhaps being on drugs may well be the only way to get through a very messed up world.

If you have read the book, you may find the comic of interest. For libraries, keep in mind this is an adult title that features various mature situations, including heavy drug use. In the end, I liked it, but I did not see the big deal many readers make out of Thompson or his book.

3 out of 5 stars.

* * * * * 

Additional reading notes:

Thompson often sees himself as a twisted reincarnation of Horatio Alger and his myth. Thompson does, in his own way, explore that myth of the self-made man and the fucked up American Dream. This, in a way, seems poignant and still relevant today.

A fascinating thing is that even drugged to the hilt, there's a certain poetic element in Thompson's writing.

Duke writes on history, and he had a sense that he was living a peak that might not come again. He writes,

"History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of 'history' it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long find flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time--and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened" (77). 

On crime and society, he writes,

"Reading the front page made me feel a lot better. Against that heinous background, my crimes were pale and meaningless. I was a relatively respectable citizen-- a multiple felon, perhaps, but certainly not dangerous" (82). 

And this gem:

"In a closed society where everybody's guilty, the only crime is getting caught. In a world of thieves, the only final sin is stupidity" (82).

I cannot help but wonder what Thompson would make of the massive criminal social clusterfuck today.

I find it amazing that, given all his drug use, that he managed to write let along find any fame. He spent more time high and/or paranoid than actually working.

Thompson nails it on his observation about "second-rate academic hustlers who get paid $500 to $1000 a hit for lecturing to cop crowds" (129). Those hucksters are alive and well today, getting much bigger paychecks and getting on prominent television shows. We even have some of those hucksters in librarianship, though that circuit does not pay as well financially (but it can pay well in notoriety).

* * * * *

This book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges:

Friday, February 05, 2016

Booknote: Given to the Savage

Natasha Knight, Given to the Savage. Stormy Night Publications. ISBN: 9781517044589. (Link to Amazon as not available on WorldCat). 

Genre: fiction
Subgenre: erotica, erotic fiction, BDSM, non-con, fetish, postapocalyptic fiction.
Format: e-book galley
Source: NetGalley

From the book's description:

"In the aftermath of a plague which brought civilization to its knees and left most of the world's female population sterile, the few women who remain fertile have become a precious commodity. They live in relative comfort, but upon reaching adulthood they are tasked with bearing children to carry on the species.

Twenty-four-year-old Rowan knows the role she will be expected to play now that she has come of age, but when she dares to resist her fate, the penalty is severe. After a shameful, public chastisement and a thorough medical examination, Rowan is given to a savage from outside the community--a huge brute of a man named Silas.

Against all expectations, Rowan finds herself drawn to her new keeper. Brave, ruggedly handsome and even kind at times, he is everything the men she has known before were not. When the time comes for him to mate with her, despite the circumstances, something deep inside her begs for him to claim her as his. But while she soon finds herself longing to be his forever, Rowan knows that one day those who gave her to him will try to take her back. When that day comes will Silas fight to keep her at his side even if it means risking everything he loves?"

In addition, the publisher does offer a warning note: "Given to the Savage is an erotic novel that includes spankings, sexual scenes, extensive medical play, anal play and more."

The book in some ways was reminiscent of The Handmaid's Tale in terms of the status of the breeders in the society of this novel, and in the fact that Knight's work is a piece of dystopian fiction. The similarities end there as this is a dystopian erotic romance. The warning is proper, and this is not a novel for the those with a faint heart or on the prudish side.

The plot is as described above. Much of the more graphic elements of medical play happen at the beginning of the novel when Rowan is being examined before she is given to Silas. She is given to Silas as part of the deal the settlement man made with an official of the colony. Colonies are the "civilized" towns and settlements are anything else outside that. They depend on each other, but relations are tense. As the novel opens, Silas arrives to get Rowan as part of some deal he has made to get supplies and medicines for his village.

As in any good romance, Rowan soon falls for the brutish Silas, who turns out to be harsh but also have a soft side. In addition to the romance, we get a story of resistance as the settlers are planning a rebellion against the colonies. There will be a confrontation, and I leave it to readers to find out if they succeed or not. As I said, this is a good romance, so readers of that genre can probably know where things are headed.

Knight builds a pretty good story in terms of the erotic elements and the dystopian fiction elements. We get both the erotic romance, which can be very graphic and extreme, but she balances that with the softer elements of the couple falling in love. Around that we have the story of the dystopian society led by the Commander where some women are kept as nothing more than breeders. Other people think the breeders have a high place in society and live in comfort. Nothing could be further from the truth as they are often tortured and tormented to keep them in line. The plot moves at a steady pace. Knight drops readers right in the middle of the story from the beginning, and then she reveals details of her world as the narrative moves along. By the time we are a bit into it, we get a sense of how the world is built. Readers will find themselves rooting for the couple and hoping that the Commander and his henchman get what's coming to them.

Readers of the romance genre will likely enjoy this one. However, this is not a light or cozy romance. This is a strong piece of erotica with graphic elements, including some of non-consent. If that works for you as a reader, then this will be enjoyable. I mentioned Margaret Atwood's novel above as I think this book has some appeal elements that go with that novel. Also readers of works like Y:The Last Man and The Children of Men may find this to have similar appeal elements in terms of the sterility angle for humanity. The key difference is this is a work of erotica.

Though I enjoy this type of erotica just fine, I am not a huge fan of the dystopian genre. For me, seeing the similarities to other works sort of made some of it predictable for me. However, I did find myself liking this one. I think readers who like both dystopian fiction and erotic romance with strong BDSM and non-con elements will enjoy this one as well. If this is your genre, I would say to give this author a chance; you may find yourself rating it higher. It was a good read overall, and I would take another chance with this author.

3 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges: