Archive for the ‘Books and Other Literature’ Category

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/korean-war-volume-2-clayton-murwin/1118733132?ean=9780983266723

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Here’s a sneak peak at a project I helped write that’s coming out very soon.

One thing I absolutely need to have while I’m writing is some sound in the background. Mornings and evenings, I’ll have Pandora playing on my computer, but midday and throughout the afternoon, I prefer tuning in to one of my local public radio stations. It was on one such day when I turned on KISU and heard Antonia Gonzales introducing the day’s guest on Native America Calling. Susan Fedorko of the Grand Portage Band of Chippewa-Ojibwe was discussing her book and her experiences as a predominantly Native child adopted by white parents. The issue of adoption across ethnic and cultural borders had also touched my family, so I called in to share.

I was a lucky caller that day. A while later (I won’t say how long), a package arrived for me in the mail containing a signed copy of Cricket and a note apologizing for its late arrival. Not a problem. I had a lot of books on my list to finish anyway.

When I finally got around to reading it, I was delighted by the very matter-of-fact, almost conversational tone of the whole book. She wrote about feeling unwanted and the struggles that came with finding her biological family without any melodrama, but if she glossed anything over, I didn’t notice. I was similarly impressed with the frank but down-to-earth way she described the tears, hugs, and high-running emotions of meeting long-lost relatives. A lesser writer might handle that subject with all the maudlin, hamfisted, cliches of some tear-jerker movie.

Life, as we well know, is not like that. With this book, it was clear to me that I wasn’t just reading a story. I was reading life. And what a life!
Thanks, Ms. Fedorko, for sharing it.

I’m going to get right to the point with this review. Marvel needs to step up the schedule. If that’s not possible, perhaps we need bigger issues. Or perhaps they need to hype the book more between issues, be more generous with the previews, and so forth. I’m not so averse to spoilers that I would seek to avoid any hint of what’s to come between issues, if it means my itch for more merry mutant high adventure can be scratched while I wait. What we’re getting so far out of Amazing X-Men is fun, exciting, and just plain not enough!

With this issue, Aaron and McGuinness- with the help of Marte Gracia and Dexter Vines-  brought us lots of glorious fight scenes, witty dialogue, sweet character moments (especially for the Kuroro shippers), one of the most awesome Nightcrawler-centric splash pages to appear in any of the X-books of late, and a Beast no demon in Hell would want to cross. My only complaint? It was only twenty pages. C’mon! I want more!

Okay, so I understand not everyone enjoyed the last couple issues of The Walking Dead, especially from reading the “Letter Hacks” pages. I’ve had a couple of quibbles over past hundred or so issues. Like how could Carl shoot a rifle so well with his right hand when his right eye is gone? But those quibbles are neither annoying nor numerous enough to interfere with my enjoyment of the overall stories. So I just award myself a “no prize” on Robert Kirkman’s behalf, graciously accept it, and move on.

And what an issue I moved on to- not that I disliked the previous issue, mind you. Just… WOW! While #118 was a slower, filler issue, this issue brought us beautiful character moments (especially between Ezekiel and Michonne), a couple of twists, and tight, rapid pacing hurtling toward a huge shock right at the end.  I won’t say much about that except that well, as I’ve said earlier, I learned not to get too attached to characters, but rats! I was just beginning to like Holly, and my heart’s still racing over what becomes of her.

I then skimmed the “Letter Hacks” and the ads in the back. Leave it to the folks at Image to tuck some brilliant hilarity in a book’s usually least interesting pages. “All of the danger! All of the killing! All of the swearing! Look, kids!” It’s an ad for thewalkingdead.com’s exclusive Negan action figure!

I may not get the action figure, but whoever developed that ad deserves a bonus.

Yes, I know, I’ve been very quiet lately. This past Christmas, I was quite caught up in shopping, keeping tabs on friends, visiting family, and trying hard to forget that I was actually feeling somewhat Scroogey. Thankfully, a certain Christmas present cheered me up a great deal, and I’m not referring to a torch carrying ghost straight out of Dickens.

What would be a good book to give to a woman who rejoiced over receiving a copy of Battle Los Angeles and named the pistol crossbow she got Li’l Asskicker? My husband didn’t have to think too hard about that. He gave me a copy of this new compilation of commentaries on most things geeky, then immediately borrowed it for his own reading pleasure.

What caught my attention the most were the footnotes.¹ Author Alex Langley kept me laughing from the very first one which described the origin of the word “geek” onward to “And if you haven’t been reading this book, what are you doing reading the end? Cheater!”

At only 239 pages including an index and some pretty thorough end notes², Geek Lust packs a lot of laughs, fun factoids, general weirdness, and earnest appreciation for the odd objects of geeky fascination in a pretty slim read.

¹ … humorous asides and marginal glosses by the author, actually, rather than real footnotes.

² Real end notes, citing sources!

With my town in the grip of frigid weather and icy roads, some might think it reckless of me to venture out at all. Nevertheless, I had things to do. I had to pick up some ingredients for my Christmas cake, and- it being Wednesday- I had to make a trip to Outland Comics. I was expecting some new books in my pull box.

My trip through the great outdoor deep freezer proved worthwhile. I discovered my four wheel drive worked well enough to get me out and back home safely. With the Christmas cake now in the oven, the whole house smells like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, all kinds of good stuff. And I found time to curl up on my favorite chair with the dog and cats and read.

Issue 117 of The Walking Dead packs in quite a bit of action for what’s supposed to be a filler issue. I expected to see the fallout from Rick’s attack upon Negan’s base. I expected to see setup for Negan’s retaliation or another strike from Rick. I expected Negan’s characteristically profane vocabulary. I expected zombies.

I got all that and more. I did not expect to see Ezekiel’s tiger Shiva get in on some zombie killing action. I did not expect to see quite that much profanity in the single cluster F-bomb Negan dropped upon realizing the danger his base was in. I hated Holly when she was first introduced, and I had definitely not expected to do a complete one eighty. Whether she dies or survives in the upcoming issues, she will do so with some greater respect from me. But I won’t get attached.

And Robert Kirkman had the grace to save the biggest shocker for the end. Negan revealed something that shows he’s not just a ruder, cruder version of the Governor. His methods aren’t just different. He’s playing an entirely different game. There are a variety of ways it could play out, and I’m curious to see how.

And of course I’m curious to see who will make it out alive.

I read books like Amazing X-Men for the opposite reason I enjoy books like The Walking Dead. There are no heroes in The Walking Dead, at least not of the sort I like in superhero comics. The very, very best are mere human beings trying to make the best of the zombie apocalypse- and the very worst are, too, in their own way. But nobody triumphs. While there are small victories, they may not last, and they most certainly come at a price. Ultimately, the best we can hope for is that the characters we like live well, die well, and don’t come back as zombies. But we can’t take even that for granted. And we don’t. It’s as realistic as we can expect anything from zombie pop culture.

But sometimes I get more than my fill of grit and grief from real life, and that’s when I turn to books like Amazing X-Men. I don’t expect superheroes to be perfect, but I find stories of good people fighting the good fight and winning inspiring. I’m entertained by the crazy situations superheroes endure. I like feeling confident that the good guys will prevail, and I feel satisfied when that confidence is vindicated. Sadly, I hadn’t been getting as much  of that out of superhero comics over the past several years.

Today was different. To paraphrase Sean Pigeon’s contribution to the letters pages, I read superhero comics because I too like “that they allow the impossible to be possible.” I generally loathe the cliche Major Character Death, especially since there’s no more shock value, the readers know it’s a gimmick even if the creators don’t believe so, and the character will inevitably return due to popularity, a movie coming out, or concerns about maintaining trademarks. However there is something to be said for losing one’s self in, as Mr. Pigeon again put it, “a world where we can be reunited with lost loved ones.” Lost loved ones who won’t claw and bite us to death, that is.

This is the first time I am bothering with a story arc involving a dead character’s return. Normally, I prefer to just pretend such characters never died- unless we’re talking about Jean Grey, and we aren’t. Nightcrawler’s passing, besides being something that I thought shouldn’t have happened in the first place, was rather shoddily handled, so I was fully prepared to pass on reading his inevitable return. But I had faith in Jason Aaron’s ability to write a fun book and his grasp of a good, fun, and multifaceted character like Nightcrawler, and he pleasantly surprised me with Amazing X-Men 1. While I still have questions about where the Bamfs come from, I was similarly pleased with this second issue.

The biggest surprise- even bigger than the appearances of Professor Xavier and a couple of historical personages- was seeing Northstar, who I never took to be a very fun character even when writers allowed him an occasional witticism, actually cutting loose and enjoying himself at the bad guys’ expense. The other characters are quite well handled, believable, and while not perfect, definitely likeable, pitted against a delightfully madcap variety of demons, pirate demons, and even Jack the Ripper and Billy the Kid.

And just like Kirkman did in this week’s issue of The Walking Dead, Aaron saved the best for last. “Now comes the fun part,” Nightcrawler promises.

I expect that promise will be kept in the next issue.