27 February 2010

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I'm kinda sick so this one will be quick. Yesterday i finished The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. I actually only knew it was a mystery, in Sweden. It's a murder mystery, a locked room mystery, as well as a financial mystery. I really liked it. a 6.

What is amazing is that this book has been out since September 2008 and there are still 92 holds on the library's 31 copies. WOW! Just a comparison, Under the Dome came out November 2009 and there are just 55 holds on the 31 copies. so Larsson is twice as popular as King? Maybe books like this will get more americans reading books in translation. I just put the second book, The Girl Who Played With Fire, on request and there are 59 people in front of me. ah well.

25 February 2010

Weird Sci-Fi Graphic Novel

Transmetropolitan, Vol. 1: Back on the Street by Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson is a sci-f dystopia story. It is really strange. Day glo colors, a crazy, anti-hero journalist, body modification take to it's extreme of species modification. The City is a dystopia and Spider Jerusalem, journalist/author, hates everything about it. He's spent 5 years, and his publisher's advance for his next book, living in the mountains outside the City. He only comes back because the publisher is threatening to sue. Once he returns, he gets a job writing a column and the rest of the book is the story he follows to write said column.

I did like the art; it is almost an adult "where's waldo" in every panel. all the Cityscape is overstuffed. This future is one of extreme sensory overload, which i feel might be a way we are headed. The writing is good and the story comes along in the last couple issues of the volume. In the final issue covered i even liked Spider, just not enough to make up for the fact that i didn't like him the rest of the time. I guess that is why i didn't particularly like this book.

My library has several volumes of this series but not the second one. I don't know when I'll be able to get back to it, or if i even want to. a 4 from me.

24 February 2010

More Movies!

second round of movies!



The Man Who Knew Too Much- 5, more Hitchcock and Jimmy Stewart.

Wolverine- 4, ok, ugh. i mean i get that this was not going to be too faithful to the series but i was pretty disappointed. although...Hugh Jackman is lovely so that is what gives this a 4. nice to see Dom Monaghan in a big movie, even if he was the same wisecracking guy as on LOST. far too many interesting side characters that deserved way more screen time.

Dial M for Murder- 7, awesome! i was rooting for literally every character at one point or another. the Mastermind, the Cheating Wife, the Inept Killer, the Police Inspector. my favorite Hitchcock so far this year.

Mirrormask- very pretty, 5. fantasy movie about a teen, Helena, who has a fight with her mother and says that dreaded line in these movies "i wish you were dead!", and shortly thereafter the mother passes out and is rushed to the hospital. Helena draws and retreats into a fantasy world created from the drawings to save a queen and perhaps her mother as well. Very much a fairy tale, reminded me a lot of Labyrinth.

Vertigo- 4, how many movies did Hitch and Stewart make together? This one was weird. had it been 30 mins shorter it would have been less creepy but i might have enjoyed it more.

Bridge over the River Kwai- 6, I don't know if I've seen Alec Guiness as any character but Obi-Wan Kenobi. I was very very impressed by his character, Colonel Nicholson. another very good WW2 movie.


Star Trek: Nemesis- 5, felt like a long Next Generation episode. Not bad though.

22 February 2010

Giants

I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly and JM Ken Niimura is one you don't want to know much about going in. Here are some basics. It's a graphic novel, black and white. Barbara Ann is a 5th grader who doesn't get along with her classmates or teachers. She lives her life as a D&D campaign, refining her knowledge of creatures and ways to defeat them. She knows a giant is coming and she must be at her best to defeat it.



I was intrigued by Nymeth's review of this book. I had it on my wishlist for a bit and when i got a coupon for Powell's decided to buy it. I'm very pleased i did! the art is great and the story is sad and touching and good! i give this a 6! and this counts in the Bad Bloggers category of the TwentyTen Challenge!

21 February 2010

A strange hard-boiled detective


so today i finished my read of Paul Tremblay's The Little Sleep. The title, of course, is an homage to The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler's first novel featuring the detective Philip Marlowe. Tremblay's detective is Mark Genevich who lives in Boston, not L.A. He also suffers from narcolepsy, with symptoms that range from falling asleep in cabs to having intense hallucinations to automatic behavior. How can a detective, how can any person, operate when what they see may not be real and there are gaps in your life that you don't even know exist?

Genevich's normal cases involve research and internet surfing, which minimizes the effect his condition has on his work. One day he gets a visit from an American Idol star who claims that her fingers have been stolen. Genevich later realizes that part is one of his hallucinations but there are real pictures on his desk of a naked woman who looks a lot like the star. Genevich starts trying to piece his case together before he can even start on solving it. He can be pretty philosophical.
Someone at one time or another wrote all those letters but, unlike their bodies, their armies of letters live on, like swarms of locusts bearing long-dead messages of happiness or doom or silliness.
Tremblay has a good, solid style. Part of why i'm not a huge fan of the noir detective stories is that the detective always seems to know so much more than the reader. In this one, Genevich is confused because of his condition and he's not ahead of the reader at all. The mystery isn't a standard type either. also, even though Genevich is an unreliable narrator, he's not trying to trick the reader. I felt for him; narcolepsy has moved to second place (behind blindness) on my "shit i don't want to have" list. I liked this one but wouldn't recommend it if you don't like noir. a 5 from me.

As i was pulling these other opinions, i saw this book is nominated for a Stoker award. Neat! Others' opinions: Birdbrained Book Blog, Follow the Thread.

20 February 2010

Life and Stuff

  • I am now, officially, off on weekends! And Wednesdays for that matter. I've not had weekends off since spring 2007. I'm so excited about this.
  • Still seeing B, still ridiculously smitten. I want to post pictures but I've not taken any of us together and i don't know if he would want me to post the ones i've taken of him. they are fine! just casual. Part of the excitement over the schedule change is that now we will have a day off together. he's cute and sweet and funny and bought me flowers! We just sync up so well. ok, done gushing.
  • I'm such a geek i want to go to the Harry Potter theme park.
  • I've loved the snow and cold weather we've gotten but the last 3 days have been warm and beautiful too. in a couple week my friends D and C and I will be going snow tubing!
  • I've managed to avoid being ill this winter as well; i am pleased.
  • I decided to join my CSA again but at a half share this time. Last year i split a box with R and we had way, way too much food. The only thing we didn't get enough of was strawberries and melons. So this year i will get half a box and still give out 1/3 to 1/2 of it.
  • i'm kinda addicted to mafia wars. if you are too, look me up! stazimel (at) gmail (dot) com. i'll be your friend! :)
  • Pineapple salsa is ok but mango/peach salsa is awesome.
  • i need to rededicate myself to reading my own books and stop getting them from the library for a little bit.
  • The Olympics has me sold on British Columbia. I need a passport.

18 February 2010

New to Me Tolkien

How I found this book: I'm doing the LOTR readalong and the only copy i have of The Lord of the Rings is a big paperback of the three novels. I went to the library to grab a copy of Fellowship of the Ring that will fit more comfortably in my bag and i saw a book i'd never heard of, Farmer Giles of Ham.

It's an adorable story that i recommend to every Hobbit fan! I would say it is a straight fairy tale. The book starts with references to how long ago this story takes place in ancient Britain. Giles is a farmer with a talking dog, Garm. Talking dogs were apparently common then! One night a giant gets lost and wanders onto Farmer Giles land. Garm alerts the farmer, who doesn't really believe the dog but loads up his blunderbuss with cutlery and goes to take a look. through a couple of lucky chances, Giles happens to shoot the giant who then leaves the village. Hailed as a hero, Giles enjoys his local fame and the King even sends him a present of an old sword. When a dragon comes calling, Giles gets drafted to fight him too!

Giles is really a second cousin to Bilbo, character-wise. Common sense, a good bit of luck, and love of a simple life connect them. It's a great little story that i highly recommend. a 6!

17 February 2010

Umbrella Academy


I read The Umbrella Academy, Vol. 1: Apocalypse Suite by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba last night. It starts with dozens of women, none of whom thought they were pregnant, delivering infants all around the world. An eccentric billionaire, Reginald Hargreeves, finds seven of the children and takes them to be raised as a superhero team. He's a pretty lousy father figure, even telling Seven that "there's just nothing special about you' when she seems to have no powers like her siblings.

We see an adventure the kids go on as 10 year olds, which reminded me a bit of the X-babies issues of X-men. Then we jump 20 years in the future to Hargreeves death. the team is all split up due to a falling out over the death of a member. we find out various bits and pieces of the story as we go back and forth to current events and flashbacks. I just think there were too many unexplained bits. Where are all the other special kids? Why do chimps talk in this world? How did Number 1's head get transplanted onto a giant gorilla? What exactly are Seance's and Kraken's powers?

Now i love Lost so i am all about out of order stories and getting questions answered slowly. But this book was just too out of order with not enough info for me to find the rest of it really enjoyable, which is why i give it a 4. Is it an interesting premise? Yes. Would i pick up the second volume from the library if they had it? Yes. I just think it would work better as a real series as opposed to a couple of short limited series. But Gerard Way, as the lead of My Chemical Romance, is pretty unlikely to hand off his characters to someone else to write a monthly. overall, great idea but give me more.

Other opinions: A Chain of Letters, Book Pirate.

also, on a completely different note, i saw this the other day on the City Paper, It figures.

15 February 2010

Her Fearful Symmetry


I haven't read The Time-Traveler's Wife so Her Fearful Symmetry is my first experience with Audrey Niffenegger. I knew this one was a ghost story and had heard some middling comments on the book, that it was just ok, the characters weren't very likable. I would both agree and disagree with the characters being good and bad.

We start the book with a woman named Elspeth dying. She has a terminal cancer and dies just as her partner, Robert, has left the room. She is a Londoner and has an identical twin sister, Edie, in America. Edie has two identical twin daughters, Julia and Valentina. Edie and Elspeth had some sort of falling out over the twins' father Jack and Edie married him, went to America, and hadn't seen her twin since. When Elspeth dies, she leaves her apartment and a good deal of money to the twins, with the stipulation that they must live in the apartment for a year before it could be sold.

Julia and Valentina go to London. They've lived their whole lives together and seem terribly codependant. Julia is the boss and takes care of the delicate Valentina. Valentina seems to want more from life than just being Julia's sister. Julia becomes a friend to their upstairs neighbor, Martin, a shut-in who suffers from OCD. Valentina begins dating Robert, who lives downstairs in the same building. Elspeth, however, is still around as a ghost, trapped in her apartment. She starts out as a presence but with practice begins to move small objects, mess with electronics, then works out how to write in dust. The twins and Robert begin to communicate with Elspeth then. all of what i just described is really the setup; the last half of the novel takes all that and goes in various weird directions with it.

The main thing i didn't like is that, especially toward the end, there were big gaps in time and events that really shouldn't have been there. i can't really describe the biggest one without it being a massive spoiler so my explanation may not make too much sense. But at several points we leave characters in a particular point in their personal development and a chapter later when we return to them it's months later and gobs of things have happened. it's a bit much. Things seem rushed.

Overall, i'd say a 4. I loved Valentina and Martin and Robert, loathed Elspeth, and felt neutral on Julia. I would not say that i didn't care for the characters; i think that they are all flawed individuals too wrapped up in themselves (except Martin) to see how they hurt others.

This book is a 4 for me. It counts for the 20Ten Challenge Bad Blogger category, as it was Carl's NON-spoiler review that finally made me add this to my library list. Also, his cover picture is much better than the one i had. Other Opinions: At Home with Books, Devourer of Books, Books on the Brain, Rhapsody in Books, Fantasy Book Critic, Stuff as Dreams, Nomad Reader. There are TONS more out there though.

12 February 2010

Yeah, i hated that commercial too

it was just so full of anger and rage. It's the kind of stuff you imagine goes through a guys head right before he decides to go on a rampage and kill his wife, their kids, then goes to his job and guns down a few more people.

The Dew Breaker


A few weeks ago i read several posts about diversifying your reading, taking in things from people from different countries, of different races. It seemed to start making the blog rounds as people responded to Bloomsbury's whitewashing of the Magic Under Glass cover. Posts on Shelf Love, A Striped Armchair, My Friend Amy, and The Book Lady's Blog made me realize how much i don't pay attention to the race, gender, or ethnicity of the authors i read and characters i read about. I mean, unless you count "British" as a different ethnicity i can only think of 2 books offhand that i read with either a main character of a different race or an author who was. I want to change that. I signed up for the People of Color reading challenge and will read 10-15 POC books this year.

Today i finished The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat. It is sort of a novel, sort of a series of interlaced short stories. I really enjoyed it and give it a 6. The opening chapter is about a young sculptor who, on a trip to sell her first piece, finds out her father was not a prisoner as she thought but a torturer. She begins to question her life; how could her quiet, loving father have murdered people? For the remaining chapters we then jump around in time and see different pieces of different lives, all Haitians and in some way connected to the Dew Breaker. I think my favorite was Night Talkers, about a young man who returns to Haiti to tell his aunt that he may have met the man who murdered his parents but learns more about belonging and family. Another good chapter is Monkey Tails. That one is about a man, telling a story to his unborn son, about being twelve during the revolution in 1986.

The only thing that i didn't like is my own fault. It took me until the third chapter to realize that the characters i read about in the first chapter were not the ones in the second chapter. So i had to go back and reread it, not trying to relate the story back to the starting chapter. does that make sense? The characters have a great depth and there were several passages that brought tears to my eyes. Danticat is a great writer; I've snapped up another of her books at the library already.

11 February 2010

BTT for 2/11

I'm going to weigh in on this one, even though I've no children.


btt button


Suggested by Barbara H:

How can you encourage a non-reading child to read? What about a teen-ager? Would you require books to be read in the hopes that they would enjoy them once they got into them, or offer incentives, or just suggest interesting books? If you do offer incentives and suggestions and that doesn’t work, would you then require a certain amount of reading? At what point do you just accept that your child is a non-reader?


I can only speak from the experience i have as being the oldest of 5 kids. The youngest two in our family are 12 and 18 years younger than me so i don't know that their experiences match up with me and the two brothers closest to me. Our habits were built in the 80's; we didn't get a Nintendo or a vcr until we were 12, 10 and 8 respectively. we had 1 tv, in the living room, and the parents used that in the evenings. The three of us were used to entertaining ourselves with reading, playing together with toys or board games, running around outside, riding bikes, that sort of stuff. So, limiting screen time, for the whole family, would be one thing i will try to do when i do have kids. It certainly couldn't hurt.


I also saw both my parents reading when i was a child and i don't remember ever being restricted or stopped from reading a particular book. They had very different tastes so we were exposed to lots of different novels. My mom read a lot of romance and historical fiction with a few mysteries thrown in, while my dad was more hard sci-fi, thriller/spy/war novels, and a few classics. I don't know that i ever saw either of them pick up a book the other was reading. BUT i also never remember either of them ridiculing the other's choices. I know that we were given books they felt we would like, as well as being encouraged to read challenging things.

My parents read to us and i remember reading to my brothers. When the younger one was in first/second grade i was in fifth/sixth and i often was the one to listen to him do his reading homework. Hopefully i wasn't too hard on him. Do you remember the storybooks that had a record with them that read the story? we probably had a dozen or so of those, like Indiana Jones and Star Wars, and would listen and act out the story rather than reading along in the book. Maybe having an active way to discover a story could help kids value stories themselves.

Of the three of us, my oldest brother and i are the heaviest readers while the younger one does read but with kids 5 and 3 has a lot less time to do it. My parents still read too. Maybe it is just in our genes?

09 February 2010

The Book Thief

Rarely, very rarely, i read something and it makes me want to stop reading. I read something so wonderful and good that i don't want to spoil it by reading anything bad after it.

I read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak today. The narrator is Death and the book is set in Germany between 1939-1944 so i wasn't expecting a happy tale! Leisel is our book thief. She is nine when she steals a book she finds in a graveyard where her little brother is being buried. They were on the way to their foster home when the little boy died. Leisel finishes the trip and ends up at the home of Rosa and Hans Hubermann, an older couple with two grown children and no other foster kids. Rosa is loud and an expert in profanity while Hans is quiet and calm. They live in a suburb of Munich and are relatively poor.

As she begins to settle in she makes friends with her neighbor Rudy Stiener. Leisel learns to read from her new papa Hans and learns to steal with Rudy and the other kids in the neighborhood. At first the war doesn't affect her life much: she has to join the Hitler Youth and go to weekly meetings and food and goods are rationed. One day a man named Max appears at the Hubermann's home and changes everything for Liesel. He's Jewish and the son of the man who saved Hans' life in World War 1 so the Hubermann's take him in and hide him in their basement.

I finished it maybe an hour ago and i still kinda can't stop crying. I'm stopping and starting again when i think of a particular moment from the novel. You should really read this one. it started out a little choppy for me as i had to get used to Death's way of narration. There are lots of asides, interruptions, and forward and backtracking. You learn early on that certain characters will die and that doesn't detract from the book. My response at least was to savor them all the more. i can't recommend this one more highly. a 7.

Others: Maw Books, So Many Books, At Home with Books, MT TBR, Bookish Kitty, Bites, Tea Cozy, The Book Lady, Book a Week.


08 February 2010

PKD

After i got home after watching the Superbowl i finished the last couple chapters of Martian Time-Slip by Philip K Dick. It's a 60's sci-fi novel set on Mars, which has been pretty lackadaisically colonized. The novel starts off so mundane; we follow a few characters about their daily lives. Jack Bohlen is a repairman making his rounds. I thought for a while that the time slip was literally going to be his time card for work! His father Leo is traveling to Mars to buy land that Jack thinks will be worthless. Jack is also struggling with a returning schizophrenic episode. During all this he meets Arnie Kott, the leader of a Union community. Arnie wants to learn the future and has decided that an autistic boy, Manfred Steiner, can see the future. He hires Jack to make contact with the boy to get information or make changes to the past.

The setting is so weird. It really seems to be a Western or could have taken place in rural Australia as it was colonized. The science of Mars is all wrong of course; one character makes a living smuggling foods to Mars by rocket! The expenses would be so enormous that there's no way that would work, even with much faster travel. I think Dick just sets it on Mars to help it qualify as sci-fi for his readership. It wasn't bad at all but not what i was expecting. a 5 from me.

07 February 2010

awww yeah!

FBN: Super Bowl XLIV events.

Great game all around! Loved seeing the camera cut to Manning on the sideline in the second and third quarters looking all pouty. i was a little concerned in the first quarter but after that i got confident. unfortunately i still bit all my fingernails off. ouch! I love that for once i don't have to say "well, maybe next year..." it was great that i suddenly got half a dozen text messages from my family down there. Hope one of them gets me an authentic New Orleans Saints NFL Champion tee shirt for me! black please! I can't imagine how much fun Mardi Gras is going to be this year. Geaux Saints!

Saints defeat Colts 31-17 in Super Bowl XLIV Indianapolis Colts vs. New Orleans Saints in Miami

02 February 2010

Last of the Books I Finished on My Snow Day

So the final book i finished Saturday was The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch by Neil Gaiman and Michael Zulli. This one was a Christmas gift from B. It's a beautiful hardcover graphic novel.

I had actually read this as a short story before in one of Gaiman's collections but didn't realize it until about halfway through. The story starts as the end, as three friends are discussing what they should do about a fourth person's disappearance. We then travel back and hear how the fourth person, named Miss Finch by our narrator, departed. The three people get roped into entertaining Miss Finch, a bio-geologist, for an evening. Before going to get sushi, they head to an underground circus in London. It's more of a geek show, with various magic tricks and macabre acts. When the abrasive Miss Finch gets picked to have her heart's desire come true, things get even more strange.

The art was really lovely. Apparently Michael Zulli has drawn for Sandman and his work did look familiar. This one is a 6. I think a Sandman reread is in store for me in the next few weeks; i read a theory on EW about LOST (starting up tonight!) that linked back to the Sandman series.

01 February 2010

Hobbit Reread

Now it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a deal of telling anyway.

I don't know how many times i've read The Hobbit. maybe a dozen times? a few years ago i read a big illustrated version when i went home to my parents for a week, just because it was there. i know i have listened to the audiobook at least twice too. B and i were discussing childhood books and we both followed the same pattern: read The Hobbit and loved it, tried LOTR and couldn't understand it, then came back to LOTR a couple years later and loved it. The Hobbit is so accessible, especially to youngsters. Bilbo is small, not physically strong, who wants comfort and peace. Kids can relate to being underestimated and scared in a big bad world and seeing another small, scared person overcome makes you think maybe you can too. I love the ending. Most stories would end with the Battle of Five Armies ending, Bilbo being a hero and getting lots of treasure. Not this one though. Bilbo goes home. He returns to his journey's beginning, older and wiser, with treasures bigger than the gold in his sacks. Of course this is a 7.

It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations.