Friday, July 29, 2016

Booknote: Vader Down

Jason Aaron,, Star Wars: Vader Down. New York: Marvel, 2016. ISBN: 978-0-7851-9789-8.

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

This volume is part of the Disney-owned Marvel's new run on Star Wars capitalizing on the recent film. The compilation is a cross-over between their Star Wars comics and their Darth Vader comic, and it contains a total of six individual issues. This compilation shows why it is usually better to wait for the set. Personally, I would not have had the patience to wait for each installment. The story flows quite well in the volume, and it still seems to tie in to the original films.

After the destruction of the first Death Star, Vader finds out that Luke Skywalker, his son, destroyed the station. Vader is determined to find him in order to turn him to the Dark Side of the Force. Vader finds out from an underground source, Dr. Aphra, that Luke is in the planet Vrogas Vas. When Vader gets there, he is confronted by a Rebel group of starfighters, and he is forced to crash land on the planet. Surviving the crash, he continues his quest. However, he is targeted by the Rebels, and he has a rival in the Empire hoping to capture Luke first.

The story is fast paced and very entertaining. It features the classic characters, but we also get some new ones along the way including a very vicious pair of droids. The race is on to find Luke, and the stakes are high. In addition, this volume's art is excellent and a great reason to pick it up. Overall, this is one I really liked, and I would consider reading others in the series.

4 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges:

Friday, July 22, 2016

Signs the economy is bad: July 22, 2016 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.   

This week the big news for many may be the gathering of hyenas and vultures in Cleveland. However, the bad economy does not stop for anyone, and we have a few signs this week. From college to expensive dresses, let's have a look.

  • You know those people who say if their candidate loses they are moving to Canada? They may be onto something. Are you one of those poor naive souls who still believes in the American Dream? Well, unlike those saps who whine they are moving to Canada after a bad election, the American Dream DID move to Canada (and Europe). Here is the real deal. According to this article from Truthout, "If you forgot to be born into a wealthy family, you're better off today living in Northern Europe or Canada, where social safety nets and investments in early childhood education have paid big dividends for ordinary citizens. In fact, Canada now has three times the social mobility of the US." Heck, if I could afford it, I would be long gone out of the United States. In the meantime, I just do what I can with what little I got. 
  • Here is more proof the so-called American Dream is long dead and buried: 14% of Americans are "food insecure," and that is going to get worse over time. In a country that brags about its wealth and opportunities, people actively choose to allow their brethren to starve because fuck 'em, that's why. It happened because of "a combination of nearly all the economic benefits of the post-2008 recovery going to the wealthy; and the sustained attacks on America's social safety net, led by state-level Tea Party governments." Initial story via Boing Boing. The full story can be found in The Atlantic here.
  • In college news, apparently more female college students are becoming sugar babies in order to pay for their college costs and avoid the dreaded student loan debt. Story via USA Today. I will be perfectly honest. "Sugar Baby University: where beautiful, ambitious people [people here means pretty much women who are very attractive and willing to do a few things which may or not be of dubious ethics] graduate debt free." Let's keep it real: If I had been a hot looking female willing to at least tolerate the companionship of some older guy willing to pay my expenses, believe me I would be debt free now and doing well. Now before some of you moralists climb on your high horses and start whining about prostitution, the moral decay of America, or some other nonsense, here are a few things to keep perspective: 
  • The event in Cleveland apparently saw some raise in local porn viewing as well as listings on Craigslist for various gay encounters. However, results seems mixed or vague in terms of whether the local sex shops saw more business or not as a result of the event. Story via The Stranger blog. One thing for sure is that escorts advertising on Craigslist did well in the bad economy this week. That story via Towleroad
  • In news out of Puerto Rico, where the bad economy is really wreaking havoc, they are seriously planning for the possibility of dismantling the Arecibo radiotelescope due to lack of funding. Story itself is in Spanish, via El Nuevo Dia
  • And not all was bad. The company that made Melania Trump's dress she wore for her speech in Cleveland did well. That dress sold out online right away after the speech. One of those dresses costs $2,190 by the way, so clearly someone is doing well in the bad economy, Story via The Week.

Booknote: Grayson, Volume 3

Tim Seeley,,, Grayson, Volume 3: Nemesis. Burbank, CA: DC Comics, 2016. ISBN: 978-1-4012-6276-1.

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

This was a really good volume. However, the volume also made apparent how DC Comics is apparently messing up with other comics in its lineup. Bruce Wayne has lost his memory and no longer remembers being Batman; you see this in the current run of Batman comics. I have reviewed some of those including Batman, Volume 8: Superheavy where James Gordon, of all people, becomes the new Batman in the follow-up to Batman, Volume 7: Endgame. In addition, I must have missed the comics where Superman loses much of his powers. These story elements from other comics make an appearance in this Grayson volume. For me, those elements show how DC just does not seem to know what they are doing other than mucking up their main heroes. Those details in this volume just caught my eye as I recalled reading recent Batman comics as well. Anyhow, let's put that aside. I can say this Grayson series remains a solid reading experience and one of the positives in DC Comics' lineup.

I will start by agreeing with a few other readers I have seen commenting that this comic is reminiscent of James Bond. The short comic that opens the volume is essentially a Bond-esque movie opening sequence. It serves to draw you into the comic. The rest of the volume then takes us to the main story.

In the main story, Grayson's mission is to steal a rare gem from a Spanish noblewoman. The gem turns out to be a kryptonite fragment. To complicate matters, someone is killing Spyral agents and framing Grayson for it. Grayson gets to a point where he does not know who to trust. When he losses communication with Batman, later discovering it's due to Bruce Wayne's memory loss, he turns to other Robins for help. Their reactions on learning Grayson is still alive are mixed.

The story has plenty to offer for fans of espionage tales. There is plenty of intrigue and action in this volume. The plot is pretty tight as Grayson seeks out who is framing him. Once you pick this volume up, you will keep reading to the end. Of the many DC Comics series, this one so far remains a good selection to follow. I've enjoyed the series so far, and I will likely seek out the next volume.

4 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges:

Booknote: The Complete Peanuts, 1973-1974

Charles Schulz, The Complete Peanuts, 1973-1974. Seattle, WA: Fantagraphics, 2009. ISBN: 9781606992869.

Genre: comics
Subgenre: humor, children
Format: hardback
Source; my local public library

I continue reading the collections of Peanuts published by Fantagraphics, which are available in my public library. Like other volumes, this one also has a celebrity introduction. Billie Jean King, the tennis great, writes the introduction for this volume. Schulz was a big sports fan, and he especially admire King. This shows in the many strips with sports themes and references found in Peanuts. In this volume, there are various allusions to King. Overall, the sports references seem to shine a bit more in this year of the series.

Other than the sports themes, much of the volume is the same as previous ones. Peanuts overall have a consistent familiarity. This means that such consistency can be very comforting to readers. However, it also means that, like an old relative that you know well, you notice the flaws too. For me, the big flaw in these comics is the constant obnoxious bullying on the part of Lucy along with her persistent and unwelcome stalking of Schroeder. I have expressed this before, and I will say it again: if Lucy was Lou and Schroeder was say Katrina, every other feminist in the U.S. would have crucified Schulz by now. The more I read this comic, the more it amazes me his audience so easily laughed at the bad behavior and gave him a pass. For instance, see the February 1974 strip where she destroys his piano while yelling at him, "are you sure you want to risk losing me?" (180). I think the poor boy would most likely say yes, get lost already.

The highlight of the volume remains in Snoopy and Woodstock. Their interactions and humor always bring me a smile. Also, the storyline in this volume where the kids talk to the school building was cute. In the end, the volume has just enough for me to like it, at least for a while longer. Fans I am sure will enjoy it.

3 out of 5 stars.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Reading about the reading life: July 15, 2016 edition

Welcome to another edition of "Reading about the reading life" here at The Itinerant Librarian. This is where I collect stories about reading and the reading life. Basically, these are items related to reading, maybe writing and literacy, that I find interesting and think my four readers might find interesting as well with a little commentary. As with other features I do on this blog, I do it when I have time or feel like it. Comments are always welcome (within reason).  

It has been a pretty good week of finding stories for this edition, so let's take a look.

  • Atlas Obscura has a feature on a small public library that operates both in the U.S. and Canada. The border line runs through the building, which means the library operates on both countries at the same time. 
  • In some sad news, a new study identifies "book deserts" where children lack access to books. Story via
  • Russia Beyond the Headlines reports that the first Chinese language bookstore opens in Moscow.
  • Meanwhile, in Brooklyn, they have a laundromat that also has a sex shop and feminist bookstore in it. According to the article from DNA Info, "Troll Hole, Bushwick’s first sex shop/feminist bookstore, [is] your one-stop shop for sex positive 'zines, Japanese bondage rope, Beyonce-endorsed poetry collections, a shop dog named Franics and 100 percent natural glow in the dark lube that comes in a honey bear bottle."
  • Here is a story about a new project to revitalize and make more accessible what is now considered the oldest library in the world. Story via Hazlitt
  • I have probably mentioned before that I am not a fan of required readings over the summer. Whether it be for school or college, for cripes sake, let young people enjoy their summer. They will have plenty of time to read forced texts when they get back to school. The trend lately in higher education in the U.S. seems to be on any book they can find related to things like immigration and racial justice. Gee, I can't imagine why. Story via Inside Higher Ed. The article highlights a few selections from various campuses.
  • And apparently in another desperate attempt to get some revenue and pretend that they sell books, Barnes and Noble is now planning to sell self-published books in their stores. Apparently selling beer, wine, and cosmetics is just not enough. Now they are going for whatever crap they think they can sell to raise some cash. Story via Book Business
  • Via Rare Books Digest, a story on antiquarian book collectors who look for books with mistakes in them. However, not all mistakes are the same, and some matter more than others. Read to learn more. 
  • Via Public Domain Review, here is "The Secret History of Holywell Street: Home to Victorian London's Dirty Book Trade." From the article, "Victorian sexuality is often considered synonymous with prudishness, conjuring images of covered up piano legs and dark ankle-length skirts. Historian Matthew Green uncovers a quite different scene in the sordid story of Holywell St, 19th-century London’s epicentre of erotica and smut." Sounds like fun. For this one, do be warned some images may be NSFW.
  • If you wonder at times about some of the reading recommendations you get from Amazon, part of it is not just the machines. Apparently they do also hire some writers to write book reviews, and those have some influence too. Plus, I had no idea Amazon put out a review newsletter of its own. Not that I give a hoot. As a librarian, Amazon is the last place I would look up to for any book review. There are way more reputable sources out there. But if you are interested to learn more about their human reviewers, here is the story via The Seattle Times.
  • Via Japan Times, a story on Tokyo's Jinbocho antiquarian book district. If I ever make it there, sounds like a place I have to go visit. 
  • And finally, under totally cool news, Gabriel García Márquez is having a newly discovered species of tarantula named after him. This story is in Spanish, and it comes via Que Leer.

Signs the economy is bad: July 15, 2016 edition

Welcome to another edition of "Signs the Economy is Bad" here at The Itinerant Librarian. This is the semi-regular (as in when I have time and/or feel like doing it) feature where I scour the Internet in search of the oh so subtle hints that the economy is bad. Sure, pundits may say things are getting better, but what do they know? And to show not all is bad, once in a while we look at how good the uber rich have it.   

We have a few interesting items this week, so let's have a look.

Booknote: The Complete Peanuts, 1969-1970

Charles Schultz, The Complete Peanuts, 1969-1970. Seattle, WA: Fantagraphics, 2008. ISBN: 978-1-56097-827-5.

Genre: comic strips
Subgenre: humor, children
Format: Hardback
Source: My local public library. 

I continue to make my way through this series. This time I got through the 1969-1970 volume. We are coming out of the 1960s, and many of the strips reflect issues and ideas from that time as Lucy declares herself a "new feminist" and Peppermint Patty defies her school's dress code.

However, the reality with Lucy is that she remains a bully and even an emotional abuser. There is whole week or so worth of strips in this volume with a plot where she destroys Schroeder's piano for no other reason than he does not pay attention to her. Because, when you look at it, in addition to harassing Charlie Brown and her brother Linus, she is really stalking Schroeder. Schroeder has clearly and often expressed he has no interest in her. This is not exactly very feminist on her part, though I am sure some feminists out there would see her being "bossy" as a plus. It is bullying and stalking pure and simple. If the situation were reversed, and Schroeder did half of what she does to him to her, I am sure every feminist in the U.S. would be yelling for his head because he is an abusive male. In her case, we'll, it's humor. Uh huh.

Overall, the more I read this series, the more I see Schultz as a way overrated cartoonist. I honestly wonder how this cartoon manages to keep its appeal, especially now when a lot of people, including a lot of feminists, are so sensitive to things like bullying and stalking. Another example, in a January 1970 strip, Linus is making small snowmen. Lucy, without a word said, comes by and kicks them, destroying them. As a reader, I found that kind of disturbing to be honest. The guy is just there minding his own business, and she comes out of nowhere to ruin his brief fun. I do not see the humor in this.

The only thing redeeming in this series is Snoopy's imagination. By the way, in this volume we find out that the cute little bird's name is Woodstock. In the end, I liked the volume but barely. I am keeping my expectations low as I continue to read the series.

3 out of 5 stars.

Booknote: Scenes from an Impending Marriage

Adrian Tomine, Scenes from an Impending Marriage: a Prenuptial Memoir. Montreal: Drawn & Quarterly, 2011.  ISBN: 978-1-770460-34-8.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: humor, memoir, weddings
Format: small hardback
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library

The author turns the days before his wedding to Sarah into a cute and amusing memoir in graphic novel form. If you are about to get married, and you are in the planning stages, you will likely relate to this. This is a book for you. If you are already married, you will thank your deity of choice you are not doing this again nor hopefully ever again. The author manages to bring forth how ridiculous and pretentious at times wedding planning can be. Honestly, why so many couples do not simply elope instead is beyond me. The author's story is cute, amusing, and warm. This book is one that can make a good gift for any couple who just got engaged to be married or for a recently married couple. It is one I really liked.

4 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges:

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Booknote: Dirty Dates

Rachel Kramer Bussel, Dirty Dates: Erotic Fantasies for Couples. Jersey City, NJ: Cleis Press, 2015.  ISBN: 978-1-62778-145-9.

If you wish to borrow it from a library near you, you can find it via WorldCat.
If you wish to purchase it, you can visit the publisher (or you can use that big online retailer).

Genre: fiction
Subgenre: erotica, BDSM, short fiction
Format trade paperback
Source: Provided by the editor in exchange for an honest review. 

From the book's description:

"What happens when date night involves a blindfold, a corset, handcuffs, or a spanking?"

Readers get an answer in this solid and very good anthology from Rachel Kramer Bussel. The anthology focuses on couples who combine kink with their romance. Couples in the stories may be casual lovers or committed couples. What they share in common is their hot passion and their very kinky desires and play times. As the editor points out in the introduction to the book, kink levels can vary. Some couples are very open about their BDSM lifestyles, and others do their best to hide it. Some take pride in showing it off, and others take a thrill in wondering when they might get caught. The kink experience is a diverse one, and the stories in this anthology reflect that.

The book features the introduction by the editor and 21 stories that the editor has chosen playing on the theme of kinky couples. In her introduction, the editor sets up the collection, and she gives us some small teasers about the stories about to follow. The stories are very good in terms of quality and variety. Like many anthologies, you as a reader may like some stories better than others, but overall I would say that the majority of the stories in these volume are very good, and they are likely to inspire an idea or two for some couples. Kink and BDSM have many flavors and varieties. The ones I do not enjoy as much may be the ones that really get you going, and vice-versa. Part of the fun may be reading to find your favorite stories. Odds are good you may end up revisiting the book now and then with your special someone. This is certainly a collection of stories that you can read and share with your special someone. It is a collection for both couples who are already kinky in one way or another as well as for those who are not (but may end up finding out they want to try a thing or two).

In the end, the editor summarizes the feel and goal of her book in this passage from her introduction. It captures what the book is about and the feel that you can get from reading it, so please allow me to share it with you:

"There's a sensual beauty to these stories that I believe will speak to those who practice kink in their lives and those who don't, because in some ways the tenderness, the charge, the power shifting back and forth between partners, transcends kink. It speaks to ideals of worship, wonder, adoration-- from both sides. Even the most sadistic men and women whose worlds you're about to enter clearly value those they are asking to give them their bodies, their minds, their words, their beings. They are living out their most vivid fantasies with the person they most cherish" (viii-ix). 

And we get to read their accounts, and maybe even get moved to try something now and then.

Before I conclude, let me make some notes on some of the stories. It was not an easy choice, but I am making some notes on stories that caught my eye to give readers a small taste of what comes ahead:
  • The anthology opens with "The Corset" by Dorothy Freed. This story sets the tone for the volume nicely. It's the story of a Dom who gets a special corset for his sub in order to show her off at a kink party. Freed makes great use of detail, and you can visualize the sub in her corset as you read it. She may be able to "hardly describe how hot it was to be put on display in the midst of that party" (7). However Freed captures that hotness with her descriptive detail and the interactions between Dom and sub. 
  • Valerie Alexander's "The World in my Pants" is the story of Trey, a "conventionally gorgeous" man prized by his mistress. He makes the mistake to annoy his mistress. She does extract her revenge in a bar restroom For me, this is one of those kink stories that I have mixed feelings about since being mean for the sake of being mean is a bit of a turn off for me. On the other hand, Trey is basically the male version of a "dumb blonde" who got what was coming to him. Fans of femdom stories will likely enjoy this story where Trey is taught a lesson and reminded of his place. 
  • "Lying Down" by Kathleen Delaney-Adams is the story of a married couple who have a steamy, kinky encounter first thing in the morning. I really enjoyed the attention to detail in this story as the tension and arousal rises until the husband takes what is rightfully his. As he says in admiration and love and lust: "She is beautiful, splayed before me, and all mine. I don't need words to remind her of this; my possession of her was understood between us even before she became my wife. Mine." (50). 
  • "The Rabbit Trap" by Nik Havert. In this tale, it is Easter, and Ian finds that the Easter Bunny (a.k.a. his lover Tina) has left some eggs and treats for them to play and enjoy. This is a short but very hot and steamy story where the bunny gets captured and gets all she deserves. . . and then some. It is a cute and hot selection. 
As I mentioned, these are some but not all of the stories that caught my eye and stayed with me.  You may find other stories become your favorites, and if you do read this book, please feel free to come back and let me know which story or stories you liked or not as well. Overall this was a book that I really liked, and it is certainly one I will share with the Better Half down the road. I should add that though the subtitle says "for couples," solo readers can enjoy this book as well. Please if it moves you, and you are on your own at the moment do feel free to pick it up as well. Kramer Bussel always puts out solid and enticing work, and a new anthology by her is a book I always look forward to. As an additional note, I will say for the public libraries that collect erotica and erotic romance, this would make a pretty good selection. Yes, it is steamy, but it is also a collection of well written stories that those readers will enjoy.

4 out of 5 stars

This book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges:

Monday, July 11, 2016

Booknote: Seriously. . . I'm Kidding

Ellen DeGeneres, Seriously. . . I'm Kidding. New York: Hachette Audio, 2011. ISBN: 978-1-60941-041-4.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: autobiography, humor, celebrities
Format: audiobook on CD
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library

Much of her humor is observational humor. We also get some silliness along the way. The book has 57 chapters, mostly short segments ranging from one minute to about six minutes in length. The reading time runs for about three hours. The topics she discusses range from bits of her life to observations about people in general. Fans of her show may like this book.

Let me highlight a few elements of the book that stuck with me:

  • In the opening, she does her best to be warm and personal, bringing a bit of the charm she uses in her show. In the first chapter she talks a bit about her experiences, including the difficulties of writing, even as this is her third book. She does not just read the book; she performs it. On writing and words, she states: "It's not the size that counts. It's the way you use them in sentences, paragraphs, and slam poetry." 
  • In chapter 9, we get some musings from her journal. This is again more performance as she talkes about her then new talk show and later hosting the Oscars. Later on she gives some insights on her time being a judge at American Idol. Yes, as she tells us, there is a difference between watching the show at home and actually judging contestants in person.
  • She talks about the overall laziness of people and reality shows. She sees a day coming where there will be a reality show to elect the U.S. President. Given the 2016 Presidential Election in the U.S., we may not be far from that vision. 

Overall, she has a very pleasant reading voice; it can be a bit calming at times. The humor is light, but there are times when she is clearly pushing a bit more. In other words, she seems to be out of things to say, so adds some filler in. The book is all in all a very mellow and lightly entertaining read. I liked the book, though it feels more like an extended monologue.

3 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges:

Friday, July 08, 2016

Reading about the reading life: July 8, 2016 edition

Welcome to another edition of "Reading about the reading life" here at The Itinerant Librarian. This is where I collect stories about reading and the reading life. Basically, these are items related to reading, maybe writing and literacy, that I find interesting and think my four readers might find interesting as well with a little commentary. As with other features I do on this blog, I do it when I have time or feel like it. Comments are always welcome (within reason). 

It has been a bit of a while since the last time I did one of these posts. This is a series I enjoy because I can just look at and share things I find interesting without any drama. So, let's have a look at the world of reading and the reading life. As usual, I will present the story and add some commentary as I feel moved.

  • The Indian Express has a story of an old railway station bookstore in Mumbai that is still operating and is still popular with loyal customers. In an age when bookstores seems to be closing often, stories like this warm my heart. 
  • Bangkok turns out has some pretty fascinating indie bookstores. Another place for me to dream about visiting. Story via Today Online
  • And speaking of some bookstores closing, this newspaper reporter wonders what is a town without a bookstore as her local town loses its bookstore. Story via the Stanwood Camano News. This is something I have given a bit of thought in light of the fact that I live in a small town without a substantial bookstore; we have a small local independent, but it is barely a bookstore. This amazes me a bit given the fact Berea is a college town, and it has a pretty cultured population. I guess they buy most of their books online or drive out of town like I do to find books that interest me. Yes, I know, that makes a bit of a vicious cycle. The small store does not have things I want. I have to go get them elsewhere as do others. They do not make sales, so no incentive to get better inventory, on and on. I do feel the town is a bit less without a proper bookstore. In addition, the recent announcement that Hastings filed for bankruptcy (I discussed that story last week) makes me feel even less optimistic. Richmond, KY is basically the "big town next door" to Berea, and Hastings, with its faults, is the only bookstore and media store in the area. If they go, there will be nothing pretty much in terms of bookstore. As I mentioned previously, the lucky ones could drive the Lexington. The rest will do without, especially if they do not shop online. No, I do not make the assumption everyone has internet these days. And the city of Richmond will be a bit less as well if the Hastings closes.
  • The Atlantic has a story asking if reading logs can ruin reading for children. The author seems to be against the logs. Read and decide. This could be interesting to public librarians now that they are running summer reading programs where they often use some form of reading log to motivate reading and provide some incentives, especially for children reading. I think for me as a recreational reader, doing a bit of logging the reading can be fun. My local library provides one for adults too; you simply mark every time you read for 20 minutes, then turn the card in after certain amount of 20-minutes marks. Young kids get a free book when they turn each cards. Adults get a small gift the first card (a water bottle this year), and the subsequent cards go into a drawing for a gift card. I do it more because, hey, I read anyhow, so keeping track does not disrupt my routine. Plus it supports my local public library. How about folks out there? Do you participate in your local public library's summer reading program? If you have kids of school age, do they have reading logs in the school? How do you parents get your kids to read? 
  • The Atlantic also has a nice piece on the art of handwriting, including things about famous letters. I often say that I may be part of the last generation that systematically learned cursive and handwriting. And yes, when we courted, the Better Half and I wrote a few letters back and forth. Such days are long gone it seems. Having said that, some famous people have better handwriting than others. Check the article out, see how many of those famous letters can you read.
  • Yet handwriting, according to experts, is an essential learning and life skill. This piece from The New York Times summarizes some of the research on the issue showing the benefits of good handwriting skills. 
  • In other news, Robin Hood is going gay. Woo hoo! Seriously, according to this story via The Advocate, a new comic is coming out depicting the outlaw of Sherwood Forest as a gay man. Now, my initial reaction was, "oh great, another classic we need to gay up to be cool and hip." But then I gave it some thought. I mean, the story is about Robin Hood and his Merry Men. If that does not spell out fabulous, I am not sure what does. Plus, the porn industry has already done the gay Robin Hood a few times (no, I am not linking for the sake of those who may be sensitive, but use Google if you really must). Besides, Maid Marian was a bit too high maintenance anyhow; he is better off with a nice merry fellow. The comic, Merry Men, is going to be published by Oni Press. I've read and reviewed titles from them, so I am willing to take a chance this will be a good title too. According to the article, "Merry Men might sound at first like a delightfully campy series, but it is quite the opposite. The comic is a grounded, realistic look into a world where Robin Hood, still the familiar rogueish leader living in the woods with his band of outlaws with a good cause, is now also a badass homosexual who rises up in the face of discrimination and oppression." That sounds good enough for me. If I get a copy of it, my readers can count on a review here on this blog. 
  • Meanwhile, all the way in Japan, there is a manga museum working to preserve manga culture, and they are boosting up their collections. If I ever visit Japan, this place is on my list. Story via The Asahi Shimbun.
  • Speaking of library and museum collections, Dan Brown is donating " €300,000, or around $337,500, to a Dutch library with a vast collection of books and other materials about ancient mysticism. . ." Ritman Library in Amsterdam was a big inspiration to him in writing his books. Story via Atlas Obscura
  • In the Chicago Tribune, Michael Robbins pens "In defense of book collecting." I may collect a few books, but once you start having five or six editions of the same book, you may need help. 
  • P.Z. Myers has an interesting post on making a living writing erotica on Kindle. This applies mostly to those self-published authors whose works you find on Amazon, some a bit weirder than others. It can be lucrative, but keep in mind Amazon has a near monopoly and all sorts of rules to make your life as a writer of erotica harder.  It also depends on what erotica niche you might write in, and if you are guy, you may want to consider a female pen name. Myers is commenting on this article out of VICE magazine. On a side note, I was having a small Twitter conversation a few days ago just on the notion of erotica writers, especially the need to have pen names, more so if you are male, because the genre as a whole is not mainstream (i.e. a lot of people are biased or hostile to it, even though tons of people read it, but that is another story). 
  • Here is a story in Spanish language. Infotecarios has a post highlighting bookstagrammers. Those are folks who promote books or share their passion for books via Instagram. I will admit that since I am not big on taking photos, I have not found a reason to get on Instagram. However, I do see some of their stuff when it gets reposted in places like Tumblr or Twitter.
  • Finally for this week, a small remembrance of  writer Arthur Conan Doyle, highlight his later years as a believer in spiritualism. Via The New York Times.

Booknote: Ghostbusters International

 Erik Burnham, Ghostbusters International. San Diego, CA; IDW, 2016. ISBN: 9781631406232.

Genre: graphic novels and comics
Subgenre: comedy, paranormal
Format: e-book galley
Source: NetGalley

This is a short comic of about 60 pages that features the original cast of Peter, Ray, Egon, and the rest of the gang. The story begins with them doing a job at the United Nations building in New York City. Shortly after, they get hired to do a series of ghost busts in a small Italian island. It seems the client wants to develop the land, but it is heavily haunted. However, the client may not be all he seems, and this job may not be as easy as the Ghostbusters think it is.

This small comic combines the charm of the original Ghostbusters with a bit of action and mystery. By the way, it was a cute detail to have Ray getting a Tarot reading at the beginning of the story. Even though they comment on the Death card as a sign of change and not the terrible literal meaning pop culture gives it, the comic, in putting the heroes in danger does the pop culture thing with the Tarot card. Also, check out a certain EMT who makes a brief appearance and looks like Dom DeLuise in Cannonball Run (link to image; link to film information). It was a neat pop culture detail that young readers may miss, but older readers may notice.

Overall, I liked this one, and I would seek out the next volume, especially since this one ends in a cliffhanger. It's a light and fun selection.

3 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges:

Booknote: The Star Wars

J.W. Rinzler,, The Star Wars. New York: Dark Horse Books, 2014. ISBN: 9781616553807.

Genre: graphic novels and comics
Subgenre: science fiction, space opera, Star Wars, films, adaptations
Format: Hardback
Source: My local public library

This is a graphic novel adaptation done by Dark Horse of George Lucas' rough draft screenplay for what would become Star Wars as we know it now. Notice the article "The" as part of the title; that little detail does make a difference. As I read it, I saw some familiar characters and concepts, but it is a very different story than the end product we got at the movies.

If you read this, don't go looking for parallels to the end product. Sure, some elements made it, and others were radically modified in the editing and revision process. For instance, this version is heavy on detail and a lot of minutiae that clearly got cut on the way to make a more (commercially) viable product. Now, you can read as a different story on its own. It's pretty good, though the story's pace can be a bit slow and dense at times. You will find some filler here, so remember this was a rough draft. The rough elements do show.

In the end, it is a decent tale, and yes, it is very different from what we know today. As an adventure tale, it's entertaining and an overall good read. The book is also interesting as a way to see Lucas' creative process in the early stages, and I think some fans will enjoy that. The volume also features a supplement on the making of the comics, a variant cover art gallery, and some draft pages Dark Horse commissioned to show Lucas for approval.

I think libraries with graphic novel collections will want to acquire this one. If they already collect a good amount of Star Wars comics, this can be a nice addition to that collection. Older fans will likely appreciate it not just for the story but as a trivia piece. 

Overall, I really liked this one.

 4 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Booknote: The Ghost Fleet, Volume 2

Donny Cates, The Ghost Fleet, Volume 2: Over the Top. Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Books, 2015. ISBN: 978-1-61655-711-9.

 Genre: Graphic novels and comics
Subgenre: thriller, mysteries, supernatural, conspiracies
Format: trade paperback
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library

With this reading, I complete the series since the series overall got cancelled by the end of issue 8. However, the author and artists decided to go out with a bit explosion of mayhem, giving us an ending of epic proportions.

Trace Morales, trucker for the Ghost Fleet, had his truck stolen, and he is somewhat insane now. He will go through any lengths to get the truck back and keep its cargo from being unleashed. To complicate things, the Ghost Fleet has sent a hit man after Trace, but that may be the least of Trace's concerns.

The volume picks up right where volume 1 left off. It does not let got until the very end. The action is intense and nonstop as the inevitable reckoning arrives. The volume also features great art drawn with solid skill. It is a pity the series was cancelled as the concept had great potential. Overall, this was one I really liked.

4 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges:

Friday, July 01, 2016

Signs the Economy is Bad: July 1, 2016 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.  

This week we do have a bit of fuckery, but we also have some amusing news as well. So let's have a look.

  •  A recent survey found that 7 out of 10 Americans agree that the economy is rigged against them. I do not think this is surprising at all. All you have to do is look around and see the signs and evidence. Story via Common Dreams. You can find the report over at Marketplace, which includes a PDF link to the full poll. And that is not all. The poll also found that "moreover, 71 percent said they were afraid of an unexpected medical bill and 53 percent feared being unable to make a mortgage payment. Of renters, 60 percent fear being unable to pay rent." 
  • Student loan debt continues to be a problem, and now it is hitting fields considered to be high earning. So no, it is not just teachers and social workers and artists feeling the oppression. Now lawyers and finance folks are getting the pinch. However, those folks often have a privilege that the rest of us in service professions do not have: high end employers like brokerage houses and big investment banks willing to help pay the loan debts of their high end workers. Story via Good.Is. My advice on this remains the same: do not go to college if you have to take out a loan. No matter what. Either make sure the college gives you a good financial aid package that covers it all with no loans, work extra to pay for it yourself, or just skip college. Being a modern indentured servant or slave to college loans is not worth it. 
  • Naturally, in every exploitation system someone is making money, and this is true in the student loans racket. Here, Wall Street and the U.S. Government are really making out like robber barons on the backs of the college students they often swindled or baited and switched in the process. Think I am being harsh? Read the piece because "today, just about everyone involved in the student loan industry makes money off students – the banks, private investors, even the federal government." Story via Center for Investigative Reporting's Reveal
  • College loan lenders are not the only racketeers out there. Payday loan lenders are probably lower in the scum hierarchy. By some miracle, apparently one of those vultures had a change of heart and decided to "confess" his deeds. Read about Phil Locke, his change of heart, and how he felt like a modern-day gangster. Though let's be honest, he would be worse than a gangster. Story via The Intercept.
  • Meanwhile, in some areas, renters are getting yet another raw deal where their landlords are colluding with local ISPs for internet access. Story via Back Channel.
  • In the world of bookstores, things are not that much better. Barnes and Noble, which for a while has been more of a gift, collectible, and toy shop than an actual bookstore, is now moving to sell beer and wine in its coffee shops. Yep, you read that right. In the near future, you could have a nice cerveza while you sit in the coffee shop perusing some book or magazine. Oh, and it is not just beer. According to the article, "it’s not just going to be random beers in the cafe—they’re going full on table service, with 'shareable, American food.'”I guess they gotta do what they gotta do to avoid going the way of Borders. Story via AlterNet.
  • Meanwhile, in a story that can have a local impact for me, Hastings announced its Chapter 11 Bankruptcy filing. They owe money to Diamond, the comics distributor, and to Funko, maker of geek toy statues, the Pop! ones that seem so popular lately. Story via The Outhousers. Now there is a Hastings up in Richmond, KY, which is the "big town" next to Berea, KY, and where pretty much anyone in Berea and surrounding small towns go to shop. The thing about Hastings is that they set up shop in what is known as tertiary markets, i.e. the places in the middle of nowhere that stores like Barnes and Noble would not even consider. So if Hastings does go bust, which looks likely unless they find a buyer, it would mean no bookstore/entertainment options in this area. For the privileged and lucky, you could drive to Lexington, the "big metropolis" in the area for a bookstore, but for the rest of the people who can't, they would be shit out of luck. It is not just the books. Hastings sells comics, collectibles (which in some areas are quite hot now), music, and it is one of the few places that rents movies and video games (no, not everybody has Netflix or Game Fly). Oh, here is another detail: the one here hosts the local Friday Night Magic (as in Magic: the Gathering) league, so that would go out too. And if you do Tarot or other divination, that would go too as they are the only seller of such in this area. There are no new age or witchy shops anywhere near here (keep in mind this is Kentucky, fairly rural, and very religiously repressed. That kind of stuff is not welcomed here really). So if  you are lucky or privileged, it is a bit longer drive or shopping online. If not, you are up the creek. We'll see what happens. 
Finally, this week, we do have a couple of stories from the world of the uber rich:

Booknote: Green River Killer

Jeff Jensen, Green River Killer: a True Detective Story. Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Books, 2011.   ISBN: 978-1-59582-560-5.

Genre: graphic novels and comics
Subgenre: true crime, biography, serial killers
Format: hardback
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library

This is the story of the Green River Killer, a serial killer that terrorized Seattle in the late 1960s and 1970s. It is also the story of the detective charged with capturing the killer. It took over 20 years to finally clear the case, and Detective Tom Jensen did the job in full, even long after his police department closed down the initial task force charged with solving the case.

The story is told by the detective's son, Jeff Jensen, a journalist. The story's narrative goes from the end when Tom is interrogating the killer and goes back and forth between the past and the present. When the killer was caught, Tom spent 188 days interviewing the killer to gain closure and answers. What Tom learned was a story of evil and horror. The narrative thus goes from the interrogation to the killer's memories recreating the scenes of his crimes. Along the way, we also get a bit of Tom Jensen's biography.

This is a story that initially draws you in right away. It starts with a very haunting opening sequence. From there, the story builds up. Over time as we read, we experience a bit of the frustration Tom may have felt: as the killer confesses, he holds back; he is evasive at times and claims not to remember certain details. It can be a bit exasperating, but it is also part of the story. The author takes us through the quotidian details of solving the case one clue at a time. Tom Jensen basically spent his career chasing the killer, and we get to be there for the ride.

The imagery and art are good in this volume. We do get some of the crime scenes so we can see the horror, but the art is well drawn; it is not as gruesome as some horror artist might have done. Yet in that simple restraint we can imagine the true horror. The art is in black and white, which adds to a sense of the past, looking back in time.

I'd say this book is another example of the good things that can be done in the graphic novel format. This is a riveting, suspenseful, and at times a bit slow or frustrating read (much like the detective must have felt at times). If you enjoy reading in the true crime genre, this is a good selection. This is a good selection for libraries too but do keep in mind this is for older readers.

4 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges: