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2011 Reading Stats!

December 31, 2011 12 comments

It’s the last day of 2011, so it’s time to compile and post my reading stats!  It’s so fun and interesting to see how my reading progresses and changes over time.  This year was especially interesting, since it was my first year out of school in…um….forever?  Seeing what I read when all of my reading is for fun was fascinating.  Also, this was the first year I owned an ereader, my kindle, which definitely impacted my reading style.  Anyway, onward with the stats!

Last year, I read a grand total of 70 books, and the year before that 52. This year? That number skyrocketed.

Total books read: 107
Average books read per month: 8.9
Month most read: Tie between August and December with 14 (Interestingly, these were the months I mostly read on my kindle. I’ve discovered I read faster on it than in print).
Month least read: Tie between January and April with 6 each (January was my first month out of grad school, so I was burned out.  I honestly don’t know what happened in April).
Longest book read: It by Stephen King with 1,090 pages
Fiction: 89 (83%)
Nonfiction: 17 (16%) (I really expected this to be higher!)
Formats:
–traditional print: 44 (41%)
–ebook: 46 (43%) (ebooks have officially taken over!)
–graphic novel: 11 (10%)
–audiobook: 6 (6%)
Genres:
–scifi: 16 (Winner for the third year running)
–horror: 13
–dystopian: 11
–humorous: 11
–black lit: 10 (Courtesy of getting to know Amy and Kinna and The Real Help project).
–fantasy: 10
–nonfiction memoir: 10
–YA: 10
–thriller: 9
–contemporary fiction: 8 (This came out of nowhere).
–mental illness: 7 (Kind of embarrassing how low this is, given that I host the MIA Reading Challenge, heh).
–mystery: 7
–nonfiction history: 7 (I want this to be higher next year!)
–european classics: 5
–historic fiction: 5
–postapocalyptic: 5
–american classics: 4
–feminist lit: 4
–paranormal romance: 4 (Way down from the previous two years).
–japanese lit: 3
–short-story collection: 3 (A new genre, yay!)
–alternate history: 2
–chinese lit: 2
–erotica: 2
–nonfiction environmentalism: 2
–poetry: 2
–romance: 2
–urban fantasy: 2
–vegetarianism/veganism: 2
–cozy: 1
–cyberpunk: 1
–nonfiction diet: 1
–nonfiction fitness: 1
–nonfiction lifestyle: 1
–steampunk: 1
Vampires vs. Zombies vs. Aliens vs. Demons:
–zombies: 7 (Success! I wanted them to win this year ;-) )
–vampires: 4
–aliens: 3
–demons: 2 (Poor, poor demons).
Numbers of stars:
–5 star reads: 20 (19%)
–4 star reads: 48 (45%)
–3 star reads: 29  (27%)
–2 star reads: 7 (6%)
–1 star reads: 3 (3%)

What I found most fascinating in assembling these stats was that I apparently read much faster on a kindle than in print.  Why is this?  Maybe the screen makes my brain remember its speed-reading lessons from middle school that I did on a screen?  Maybe the lack of physical knowledge of how much is left keeps my enthusiasm up?  I’m not sure.

I’m really pleased to see that my serious reading went up.  Now that I’m out of school, I can read up on the topics that I myself want to know more about, and I did!  I hope that my environmental and veg reading will increase next year.  I also hope to continue to see a strong showing in black lit and an increased showing in Chinese and Japanese lit.

Overall, this was a great reading year.  My first year getting over 100 books!  Stay tuned for my reading goals 2012 post.  Any suggestions?

2011’s 5 Star Reads!

December 31, 2011 14 comments

My one regret last year when summing up my year in reading was that the 5 star reads didn’t get enough attention. So! They are getting their own post this time.  Please note that if the 5 star went to a book in a graphic novel series, I am just listing the whole series.  If it’s a non-graphic series, then the individual book is listed with a note about what series it is in.  With no further ado, presenting Opinions of a Wolf’s 5 Star Reads for 2011!

Black woman wrapped in a white piece of cloth.The Book of Night Women
By: Marlon James
Publication Date: 2009
Publisher: Riverhead
Genre: Historical Fiction
Themes: slavery, Jamaica, resistance, evil of capitalism
Summary:
This is the story of Lilith. A mulatto with green eyes born on a plantation in Jamaica to a mama who was raped at 14 by the overseer as punishment to her brother.  Raised by a whore and a crazy man, all Lilith has ever wanted was to improve her status on the plantation. And maybe to understand why her green eyes seem to freak out slave and master alike.  Assigned to be a house slave, Lilith finds herself in direct contact with the most powerful slave on the plantation–Homer, who is in charge of the household.  Homer brings her into a secret meeting of the night women in a cave on the grounds and attempts to bring Lilith into a rebellion plot, insisting upon the darkness innate in Lilith’s soul.  But Lilith isn’t really sure what exactly will get her what she truly wants–to feel safe and be with the man she cares for.
Current Thoughts:
If someone asked me for a book that truly makes the reader feel the desperation of being trapped in an evil system with no escape, this is the book I would hand them.

Wolf howling at moon.The Call of the Wild
By: Jack London
Publication Date: 1903
Publisher: CreateSpace
Genre: Historical Fiction, Animal Perspective
Themes: animal rights, human/animal relationships, the nature of nature, Alaska, Canada, evil of capitalism
Summary:
Buck is a spoiled southern dog enjoying a posh life when one of the family’s servants steals him and sells him away to be a sled dog for the Alaska gold rush.  Buck soon goes from an easy life to one of trials and tribulations as the result of humans fawning over a golden metal, but it might not be all bad for him in the wild Alaskan north.
Current Thoughts:
I listened to this on audiobook.  I generally do this while cooking or cleaning my apartment. I distinctly remember being in the middle of washing my dishes, stopping, and going to lay down on my bed and cry.  No one could read this book and doubt that animals have their own inner lives and emotions.  It so powerfully depicts both that and the possible bond between animals and people.  Everything I have always felt between myself and the animals I love is so perfectly depicted here.

Black and white photo of a group of womenThe Group
By: Mary McCarthy
Publication Date: 1954
Publisher: Harvest Books
Genre: Historical Fiction
Themes: women’s rights, GLBTQ, women’s colleges, relationships, NYC
Summary:
A collection of women graduate from Vassar in the 1930s.  Their friendship is known collectively as “The Group,” and their distinctive Vassar education has given them a distinctly liberal view on the world.  How this changes with time as they repeatedly encounter societal expectations and relationship problems are told through a series of vignettes that focus in on moments in their lives over the seven years after graduation.
Current Thoughts:
This book addresses women’s issues in the 1930s and 1940s that are, honestly, too frequently too often issues today as well, through a series of vignettes that pop into the various women’s lives at different points in time.  This unique way of telling their stories is what makes this book such a powerful read.

Germany and Italy (manga versions)Hetalia: Axis Powers
By: Hidekaz Himaruya
Publication Date: 2008
Publisher: TokyoPop
Genre: Graphic Novel–Historical Fiction
Themes: international relations, world history
Summary:
The nations involved in WWII and the events leading up to it are personified as over-the-top manga characters and through manga-style scenarios the historic events leading up to WWII are explored.  The future of the nations after WWII is also explored.  For example: Russia’s dilemmas with his sisters the Ukraine and Belarus, Canada’s persistent ability to somehow be invisible to most of the rest of the G8 nations (and also to be mistaken for America), and Japan-kun and America-kun visiting each other’s homes and attempting to reach a cultural understanding.
Current Thoughts:
I actually squee when I see the manga version of America online.  I heart him so much. I heart the whole series so much. This series is the reason I got distraught when TokyoPop went out of business.  Read it.  Even if you aren’t a history person. It is hilarious!

Scales.Hunger (Riders of the Apocalypse, #1)
By: Jackie Morse Kessler
Publication Date: 2010
Publisher: Harcourt Graphia
Genre: YA–Fantasy
Themes: anorexia, bulimia, mental illness, winning inner battles, suicide
Summary:
Lisabeth Lewis thought it was just a nightmare.  Death coming to her when she tried to commit suicide with her mom’s antidepressants and offering to make her Famine–one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse–instead of letting her die.  It’s just all way too ironic, her as Famine.  After all, she’s fat.  She has to watch what she eats very carefully.  The Thin voice tells her all the time exactly how many calories each bit of food is and how much exercise it’ll take to burn it off.  Yes.  Lisabeth Lewis is fat.  So why would Death assign Famine to her anyway?
Current Thoughts:
I still love how Kessler depicts the inner battles that go on in mental illness via the fantastical appearance of Death and the Riders of the Apocalypse.  It makes it more relatable and understandable for teens struggling with those issues.

Woman in a kerchief in a fieldI Am Hutterite
By: Mary-Ann Kirkby
Publication Date: 2007
Publisher: Polka Dot Press
Genre: Nonfiction–Memoir
Themes: role of religion in family life, understanding your past, communal living, Canada
Summary:
Mary Ann Kirkby recounts her unique childhood in her memoir.  She was born into a Hutterite family.  The Hutterites are a religious sect similar to the Amish only they believe that living communally is a mandate for Christians.  Mary Ann recounts her childhood both in the religious sect (her particular group was located in western Canada), as well as the journey and culture shock she went through when her parents left the Hutterites when she was nine years old.
Current Thoughts:
This is the most unique memoir I read all year, and I read a lot of them.  Not only is the Hutterite lifestyle and community fascinating, but Kirkby also pulled off the rare feat of speaking about her childhood and difficult times in her life without ever once coming across as bitter.

Super creepy clownIt
By: Stephen King
Publication Date: 1986
Publisher: Signet
Genre: Horror
Themes: growing up, growing old, phases of life, Maine
Summary:
In the late 1950s in the small town of Derry, Maine, children are being mysteriously murdered.  Seven misfit and outcast kids band together to face It, and they think they’ve beaten it, but 27 years later, the murders return.  Vaguely remembering a promise they all made, the now adults return to their hometown of Derry to face It again.
Current Thoughts:
If someone asked me why I love pulp, what makes a horror writer like King so popular, I’d talk about this book.  King eloquently addresses something everyone goes through–being a kid, growing up, growing old–without the reader even really realizing it until the book is done and wraps it up in spine-chilling horror.  You relate and learn and your true fears are acquiesced all while being entertained.

Smoke coming out of a smoke stackThe Jungle
By: Upton Sinclair
Publication Date: 1906
Publisher: Simon & Brown
Genre: American Classic
Themes: socialism, worker’s rights, animal rights, evil of capitalism, Chicago, social justice, vegetarianism, debt slavery
Summary:
In the early 1900s Jurgis and his soon-to-be family by marriage decide to immigrate to the US from Lithuania.  Having heard from an old friend that Chicago’s Packingtown is where a working man can easily make his way in the world, this is where they head.  Soon the family find themselves deep in the horror that is the regulated in name only meat packing plants.  Dominated by a society that circulates entirely around greed and wealth for the few at the expense of the many, the family and individuals within it slowly fall apart.  But is there a light at the end of the tunnel?
Current Thoughts:
It still baffles me that when this book came out all anyone could talk about was food safety.  I believe Sinclair did a great job demonstrating the plight of the blue collar worker, as well as the horrors of animal slaughter.  This is a classic that deserves that label.

Bird on a cross against the moon.The Monstrumologist (The Monstrumologist, #1)
By: Rick Yancey
Publication Date: 2009
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Horror
Themes: New England, the nature of evil, relationships
Summary:
A New England town’s oldest resident dies leaving no known surviving family.  His journals end up at the university where a professor loans them to a writer friend.  In the first three folios, we learn of young Will Henry whose father and mother died in a terrible house fire leaving him to the care of his father’s employer–Warthrop.  Warthrop is a monstrumologist.  He studies monsters, and people arrive in the middle of the night for his help.  One night a grave robber arrives with the body of a young girl wrapped in the horrifying embrace of an anthropophagus–a creature with no head and a mouth full of shark-like teeth in the middle of his chest.  Will Henry, as the assistant apprentice monstrumologist, soon finds himself sucked into the secret horror found in his hometown.
Current Thoughts:
I still can’t get the damn image of the anthropophagus out of my head.  Also the characters of Will and Warthrop will forever live on in my head.  New England horror done exquisitely.

Red sword.Rage (Riders of the Apocalypse, #2)
By: Jackie Morse Kessler
Publication Date: 2011
Publisher: Harcourt Graphia
Genre: YA–Fantasy
Themes: mental illness, self-injury, bullying
Summary:
Melissa Miller is your typical 16 year old–mom, dad, annoying sister, a jerk of an ex-boyfriend–with one small difference.  She deals with her emotions by cutting herself.  She keeps a razor in a locked box in her closet and pulls it out when she gets overwhelmed.  One night she accidentally cuts too deep, and Death shows up with an option.  Either die now or become one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse–War.  Missy chooses the latter option, and as she gets to know the other Horsemen and her job as War, she starts to realize she needs to face the rage inside her.
Current Thoughts:
I periodically find myself thinking back on the climactic scene of this book, which in a fantastical manner depicts a self-injurer facing the anger inside herself.  If someone needs to understanding self-injury and doesn’t want to read the academic work on the topic, this is the book I would hand them.

Woman kissing man while surrounded by fire.Touched by an Alien (Katherine “Kitty” Katt, #1)
By: Gini Koch
Publication Date: 2010
Publisher: Daw Books
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Themes: aliens, FBI, intrigue, Arizona, action, sex
Summary:
Katherine “Kitty” Katt manages to get released early from a dull day of jury duty only to find herself confronted with an angry man who sprouts wings and starts flinging knives from their tips toward everyone in the vicinity.  Kitty attacks and stops him and quickly finds herself sucked into a world she was unaware existed.  A world of alien refugees defending Earth and themselves from a bunch of fugly alien parasites.  She soon discovers her ordinary parents are more involved in this secret world than she would ever have dreamed.  On top of that, she’s increasingly finding herself falling for one of the alien hunks who announced his intentions to marry her almost immediately upon meeting her.
Current Thoughts:
Aliens in suits? Check. Some lines and scenes pop into my head at odd times and make me laugh? Check. Favorite paranormal romance series to date? Triple-check.

Silhouette of a person standing in a white hall.The Unit
By: Ninni Holmqvist
Publication Date: 2006
Publisher: Other Press
Genre: Scifi–Dystopian
Themes: old age, socialism, Sweden, medical research
Summary:
In the Sweden of the near future women who reach the age of 50 and men who reach the age of 60 without having successfully acquired a partner or had children are deemed “dispensable” and sent to live in “a unit.”  These units appear at first glance to be like a high-class retirement home, and indeed they have all the amenities.  The residents, however, are required both to participate in medical experiments and to donate various organs and body parts up until their “final donation” of their heart anywhere from a year or a few years after their arrival in the unit.  Dorrit arrives at the unit depressed, but accepting of her fate as the result of her independent nature, but when she falls in love, she starts to question everything.
Current Thoughts:
This is a book that I literally cannot stop thinking about.  It left me with no clear answers, but tons of questions.  I also think of Dorrit and her friends every time I have a steam after working out, just like them.

Red cover with white and cold lettering.The Vampire Lestat (The Vampire Chronicles, #2)
By: Anne Rice
Publication Date: 1985
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Fantasy–Vampires
Themes: resiliency, searching for love, European history, Egypt, rock stars, New Orleans
Summary:
Lestat, the maker of Louis and Claudia, takes center stage here to tell his own origin story, as well as explain why he has chosen to come out as a vampire rock star in the 1980s.  Starting with his beginnings as a rural member of the ruling class prior to the French Revolution, we discover the origins of the Vampire Theater, as well as the origins of vampires themselves.
Current Thoughts:
I just really love Lestat. You can vamp me and carry me around forever with you, dude.

Person in red surrounded by zombies.The Walking Dead
By: Robert Kirkman
Publication Date: 2010
Publisher: Image Comics
Genre: Graphic Novel–Horror
Themes: creation of a new society, living in fear, unjust wars, truthiness, self-protection, zombies, Georgia, survival
Summary:
When cop Rick wakes up from a coma brought on by a gun shot wound, he discovers a post-apocalyptic mess and zombies everywhere.  He sets off for Atlanta in search of his wife, Lori, and son, Carl, and soon teams up with a rag-tag group of survivors camped just outside of Atlanta.
Current Thoughts:
I’m still working my way through this series, but it just progressively gets better and better.  Although the beginning is cliche, it does not take Kirkman long to become unique, surprising, and thought-provoking.

Angry cow.Whitewash: The Disturbing Truth About Cow’s Milk and Your Health
By: Joseph Keon
Publication Date: 2010
Publisher: New Society Publishers
Genre: Nonfiction–Science and Health
Themes: health, Standard American Diet, animal rights, veganism, cancer, heart disease
Summary:
Joseph Keon seeks to combat the cultural myth of dairy being a necessary part of a healthy diet perpetuated by the milk moustache ads with his book citing multiple scientific studies that have been swept under the rug by those being paid by the dairy lobbyists.  Although Keon cares about animal welfare as well (and there is a chapter on the suffering of dairy cows), the book predominantly focuses on debunking multiple myths surrounding human consumption of dairy:  the overly-hyped “need” for calcium, that dairy is good for children, and the idea that dairy prevents disease.  Keon additionally alarmingly shows the various chemical, virus, and bacteria contaminants commonly found in dairy.  Citing multiple scientific studies, he unequivocally demonstrates that contrary to what the dairy industry and government want you to think, dairy is actually bad for your health.
Current Thoughts:
Oh god, how am I still eating dairy after reading all of these facts?  I am going to get cancer…..gah! Damn you, cheese. Damn you.

Portraits of three Chinese women on gold and blue background.Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China
By: Jung Chang
Publication Date: 1991
Publisher: Touchstone
Genre: Nonfiction–Memoir
Themes: Chinese history, women’s rights, China, communism, revolutions, concubines, foot-binding
Summary:
In this memoir, Jung Chang recounts the lives of herself, her mother, and her grandmother growing up in pre-communist, revolutionary, and communist China.  Mixing extensive historical facts with intensely personal remembrances, Jung Chang presents a vivid portrait of real life in China.
Current Thoughts:
This is the book that jump-started my interest in China and learning Chinese history.  It is a stunning memoir that covers three generations during the time period that made modern China.

Man with a monkey on his back.Y: The Last Man
By: Brian K. Vaughan
Publication Date: 2003
Publisher: Vertigo
Genre: Graphic Novel–Scifi–Post-apocalyptic
Themes: gender, gender norms, organization of society, Boston, United States, Israel, coming of age
Summary:
The world is changed overnight when all the men and boys in the world mysteriously drop dead.  Factions quickly develop among the women between those who want the world to remain all female and those who would like to restore the former gender balance.  One man is mysteriously left alive though–Yorick.  A 20-something, underachieving magician with a girlfriend in Australia.  He desperately wants to find her, but the US government and the man-hating Amazons have other ideas.
Current Thoughts:

Another series that I am currently in the middle of.  It is also steadily improving from the first volume.  It is colorfully illustrated, consistently funny, and thought-provoking.




Book Review: The Walking Dead, Book Four by Robert Kirkman (Series, #4) (Graphic Novel)

December 29, 2011 3 comments

Pregnant woman in yellow surrounded by zombies.Summary:
After escaping the horrors of Woodbury with two new additions to the group in tow, Rick, Michonne, and Glenn high-tail it back to the prison where they warn the other survivors and start prepping to defend their turf.  Meanwhile daily life goes on, including a birth, more missing limbs, and a wedding.

Review:
This entry in the series is mind-blowingly awesome.  Kirkman demonstrates that he not only is full of surprises, but also pulls no punches.  Our group of survivors have their world torn completely apart. And it’s delicious.

First, we have the return of The Governor, and not as a zombie as I’m sure I wasn’t the only one suspecting.  He is back missing an arm, an eye, and (I think it’s safe to assume) a dick.  This all just makes him even more ferocious and terrifying than before, although that comes as no surprise considering that he is now the man with no penis.  But yes, the full-page shot of him arriving at the prison in top of a tank? Fucking. Awesome.

There’s also a lot more zombie action this time around, although I do wonder why it is in pretty much every post-apocalyptic zombie books, no one calls them what they are?  The prison folks say roamers, and the Woodbury folks say biters. Um, hello? They are zombies. Be realistic, people. Distancing yourself from your fears won’t help any.  In any case, those of us who are huge fans of zombies are pleasantly greeted with many more and varied drawings of them, as well as attacks on people.  Zombie gnawing on a dude’s leg? Yes, please.

On a more serious note, the theme of this entry is war.  It’s war on a small scale, but it is still war.  This is actually quite cool, because it allows Kirkman to show the dangers of war and truthiness on an easier to understand, up-close-and-personal level.  The Governor is smart.  He manipulates his people (except those closest to him) into believing that those at the prison are the type of evil that he, in fact, is.  They thus go in hell-bent on murdering innocent people, who then have to shoot back to defend themselves.  The most powerful moment of this, of course, is when a woman from Woodbury realizes she has killed a baby and essentially loses her mind from the instantaneous guilt.  It’s a powerful lesson (or reminder) to readers presented in a unique package.  The distancing of the situation from reality by the presence of zombies only allows the clarity of the concept of an unjust war to really sink in.

This is absolutely the best entry in the series so far.  I cannot wait to find out what happens to the demolished survivors next.  Fans of the earlier books should pick this one up asap.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Public Library

Buy It

Previous Books in Series:
The Walking Dead, Book One (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Two (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Three (review)

Book Review: Y: The Last Man: One Small Step by Brian K. Vaughan (Series, #3) (Graphic Novel)

December 28, 2011 1 comment

Skeleton in a space suitSummary:
Our trio of the doctor, Yorick, and 355 have resumed their attempt to reach the west coast, but get side-tracked when they stumble across the Russian woman looking for the spacemen.  Upon learning of the imminent arrival of the astronauts, they decide to join her in journeying to the landing location, which just happens to be nearby.  Meantime, the Israeli soldiers, unbeknownst to them, are hot on their tails.

Review:
Many different plot lines collide in this entry in the post-apocalyptic series.  We finally find out why the Israelis are following Yorick and meet the astronauts.  We get to know the Russian lady, as well as a couple of new scientists at the secret government location.

Most interesting in this book is Yorick’s growth as a character.  Although he, to a certain extent, has that slacker mentality that can be so difficult to change, it appears an apocalypse just might succeed in doing so.  He takes more assertive action and starts to doubt maintaining his loyalty to his girlfriend/fiancee on the other side of a world full of just women.  In a way the story feels like a coming of age one.  Yorick going from a boy to a man.  Which is kind of hilarious given the setting, but it also works.

The Israeli soldiers storyline question a lot of gender norms thinking.  I watched a lot of war movies in my childhood, and here we have soldiers doing basically the exact same thing, only they’re women.  Just seeing that impacts gender norm preconceptions of the reader.

Finally, we have the astronauts who have developed an interesting relationship in their extended time away from earth.  Their presence and the surprises they bring are the final kick that makes this the best entry in the series so far.

The art continues to be colorful and easy to decipher, plus the last chapter is a bit of a meta romp featuring primarily Yorick’s monkey that ends the book on a light note, but also moves the plot forward in a key way.

Overall, this is a well-drawn, creatively plotted entry in the series that manages to amuse and cause thought-provoking responses simultaneously.  Readers of the series will be instantly begging for more.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Public Library

Buy It

Previous Books in Series
Y: The Last Man: Unmanned (review)
Y: The Last Man: Cycles (review)

Book Review: The Walking Dead, Book Three by Robert Kirkman (Series, #3) (Graphic Novel)

December 27, 2011 4 comments

Zombies surrounding a man in green.Summary:
The rag-tag band of survivors have adjusted to living in the prison.  One day they spot a helicopter go down in flames.  Rick, Michonne, and Glenn head out to check on it and end up finding another group of survivors whose leader is known as The Governor.  Unfortunately for them, not everyone has maintained their humanity amid the walking dead.

Review:
This entry in the series puts the graphic in graphic novel.  We’re talking mutilation, torture, and rape.  Also the usual murders and zombies.  It is not a book for those disturbed by those things or who find them gratuitous.  However, for those of us who love violence all up in our literature, it’s a squee-inducing violence fest.  Although you may not want to read it in public just in case someone glances over your shoulder during the rape and/or torture scenes.

The addition of another group of survivors where everything is not hunky dory and evil has arisen was exactly what this series needed.  It shows the very dark possibilities that the group we’ve been following have thus far managed to avoid.  It puts things like Tyreese and Rick’s fight in the previous book into perspective.  Woodbury and The Governor also demonstrate how key Rick has been to the group’s survival and maintenance of a healthy community.  All it takes is one bad apple wanting the power for a bad culture to spring up.  It’s a good lesson that’s taught here in a subtle way.

I thought long and hard about how I feel about Michonne’s rape.  At first I was angry about it with reactions ranging from, “she’s so strong; it doesn’t make sense” to “oh sure, rape the only black woman *eye-roll*.”  But the more I thought about it I realized I was being unfair.  In a world gone to hell and full of evil rape is going to happen.  Rape happens every day now let alone in a post-apocalyptic world, and Kirkman manages to show it in a graphic novel in a way that is respectful to the victim, which I am sure was not easy to do.  The concept of what is happening is clear, but at the same time, the drawings focus in on the victim’s emotions and reactions.  Similarly, Michonne is the logical choice because she is the most adventurous of the women.  She does not stay at home with the kids while the men run out and do things.  She’s a strong woman, yes, but being strong doesn’t stop bad things from happening to you.  That said, if you are a person who finds rape scene triggering, you should definitely skip this entry in the series and get someone to sum it up for you.

Overall, this is a strong entry that keeps the series fresh and introduces more drama into the post-apocalyptic world.  Fans of the first two books will not be disappointed by this one.  Highly recommended.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Public Library

Buy It

Previous Books in Series:
The Walking Dead, Book One (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Two (review)

Book Review: Love Me by Danger Slater

December 26, 2011 6 comments

Drawing of a frowning man in a Viking helmet.Summary:
I am awesome. I am the fucking awesomest awesome dude that ever was. I live on a hilltop in my castle made from 300 human skulls.  I sit on the roof and fight with Moon while wearing my Totally Authentic Viking Outfit I bought on ebay.  My tears are cancerous. No really. See how the animals that drink them keel over and die?  I surround my castle with a moat of blood and entrails where my crocoweilers live.  (They’re crocodiles cross-bred with rottweilers).  The thing is, I’m kind of lonely. So maybe I should go have some adventures around the world and do shit like invent Christianity? Yeah, that sounds like a plan.

Review:
This book is definitely intended for a narrow audience. But for that audience it is hilarious and awesome.  You have to love swearing, gross-out humor, complete zaniness, and have an ability to overlook certain discrepancies like the fact that Christianity did not originate in America and if the whole world was at nuclear war why is there suddenly a fully functional president in the White House?  I’m sure that all sounds crazy and bizarre because it is.  But it’s also hilarious.

It’s incredibly hard to describe and articulate just way such a zany book is awesome to read, so I’ll let a couple of quotes speak for themselves.

Three days later Jesus used his magic/zombie/God powers to come back from the dead. All the Romans were like, “No fucking way!” And Jesus was all like, “Fucking way, bro!” (location 662)

My heart, once again, whimpers. It gets all emo and grows an unattractive beard and starts writing bad poetry. My heart is looking very Cat Stevens. (location 1964)

I bind my novel in the hide of the now extinct Caspian tiger just so the publishers will know, Whoa, this dude is serious, and I mail it out. (location 529)

But it’s not just all zany humor.  Slater also demonstrates a clear understanding and knowledge of the rise of Western society and culture.  Passages periodically toss out allusions to not just pop culture and religious history, but also to parts of the Western Canon, such as Greek Mythology:

I welcome the unctuous numbness into my body. It offers me relief. I let the Charon of alcohol ferry me across the River Styx. I let it guide me deeper into Hell. (location 2879)

Underneath the humor and the allusions though what the book really is is a parable for anyone who ever searched for the meaning of life and wound up agnostic or atheist.  Parts of it truly speak to the experience of finding and losing religion. Of then investing yourself into other ideals that just don’t work out for you either until you’re left with the only solution, that life’s purpose is….

to exist in any way you see fit, plain and simple. (location 1391)

The one drawback to the novel is that this small indie press work needs an editor (or another editing swoop from Slater).  Although his writing itself is very good, there are a few misspelled words, typos, etc…. that, alas, interfere with the book’s good qualities.  Please listen to this reviewer and either do it yourself or find a friend to!  Your work is too good for such an easily fixed short-coming.

Overall this book is a delicious, zany, humorous parable of the agnostic/atheist journey through Western society in a search for the meaning of life.  If that sounds like it’d appeal to you and swearing and dick jokes don’t offend you, then I highly recommend it.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Kindle copy from author in exchange for my honest review

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Secret Santa 2011 #2

December 24, 2011 3 comments

My second secret santa present arrived!!  This one is part of the Book Blogger Holiday Swap.  The lovely lady who sent it to me said in her card that she’d just started following me on twitter when she was assigned to me, but girl! I couldn’t make out your twitter handle!  So please do let me know who you are!  :-)  She individually wrapped everything in gorgeous paper that I, yet again, do not have a picture of because I ripped the package open as soon as I got it, haha. It contained:

3 books and a card

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly–I remember adding this to my wishlist around the time when I read The Birth House.  Basically, a historic 1906 setting with a young, independent woman and a murder mystery.  This is going to be an ideal winter read!

The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts by Maxine Hong Kingston–I find it utterly fascinating that both of my completely unconnected santas got me the same book from off my wishlist!  I take that as a huge sign from the universe to get at this asap and also maybe to host a giveaway of it!

The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon–Wow! This is not only from 2011, but also is a complete audiobook and certainly looks brand new. Thank you so much!  The book covers inter-racial relationships and the world of mental hospitals and mental illness, so basically it’s a cross-section of two topics I read a lot about.  I’m very excited to have this to read while working around my apartment, knitting, or running at the gym.

A beautiful card!  Currently hanging on my fridge.

Thanks for making my swap a wonderful experience, and please do out yourself thoughtful twitter follower!

Friday Fun! (Happy Festivhanumas!)

December 23, 2011 4 comments

Hello my lovely readers!  Yes, I totally made up that amalgamation of the three holidays I’m celebrating this year, but I think it works, yes?

For Festivus, which is today, I mostly just air grievances.  I suppose I could wrestle my cat like my friend Sara does with hers, but I do that quite a bit anyway, so not so special.  I will be airing grievances on twitter today (I can just hear my twitter followers saying AS USUAL ahem), but I also will air a few book and book blogging related ones here.  I hate that horrible stupid books like The Help and Twilight get all the acclaim and backing from publishing houses while non-white, non-western, and non-traditional ones get ignored.  I really can’t stand that stupid Waiting on Wednesday meme, and I honestly do not get it.  I hate it when bloggers don’t write their own book summaries and instead grab them from Amazon or GoodReads or what-not.  I honestly do not like Book Blogger Appreciation Week. It reminds me a lot of the voting for homecoming king and queen in highschool.  I hate it when authors and/or publishers either read your review requests rules and ignore them or skip reading them altogether before contacting you.  *exhales*  See why Festivus is awesome?

Thankfully Chanukkah involves 8 crazy nights, so I have lots of chances to celebrate it both contemplatively alone and with friends!  I’ve already been lighting my candles (very late) when I get home from the gym with my kitty.  She’s been pretty good about not tackling the menorah.  So far.  But this weekend I will be celebrating with three different friends–Nina, Josh, and Sara.  Josh I haven’t seen in um….two years? So I’m super-excited for his visit!  I am also looking forward to making latkes and having an excuse to eat sour cream.  Also to reading The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming, which is now a tradition since my dad gave it to me last yearish. It may have been the year before.

Comparatively, my Christmas is low-key this year, since I spent Thanksgiving with my family.  I finally pulled out my (short fake) tree last night, but still need to decorate it.  The cat, however, is very pleased with the ability to hide behind and just generally sniff it.  I’ve already watched The Grinch and Emmett Otter’s Jugband Christmas.  All that’s left for the annual viewing is Claymation Christmas.  I still have some gift swapping to do with friends and some to hand out to those folks you’re supposed to give gifts to (like landlords), but I’m very close to being done!  And then it is

ON TO NEW YEAR’S MY FAVORITE HOLIDAY AND THIS YEAR @BITCHYLIBRARIAN IS VISITING ME FOR IT AHHHHHH

 

Book Review: Gargoyles by Alan Nayes (Series, #1)

December 22, 2011 1 comment

Eyes behind a beaker.Summary:
Amoreena is determined to be a doctor and help people.  She’s a hard-working, scholarship student on the pre-med track in her third year of college.  Unfortunately, her single mother just got diagnosed with metastatic cancer and lost her health insurance.  With no time for a job and no money for the bills, Amoreena is grateful when she is approached by a surrogacy clinic to be a surrogate for $50,000 with payments upon successful insemination and each trimester.  But after she’s successfully inseminated, Amoreena becomes increasingly concerned that something is not quite right with her baby.

Review:
This book is best summed up as the scientific Rosemary’s Baby, which also means it kicks serious ass.  Even people who find pregnancy to be a miracle (people who I completely do not understand) are creeped out by a pregnancy gone awry.  This basic storyline then is ideal for a modern update aka switch out the demons and Satanism for science.

Nayes successfully sets up a realistic and compelling reason behind Amoreena’s surrogate motherhood, which is key to the whole story.  Readers need to be able to believe that this intelligent woman made a not so intelligent choice with good reason.  A loving relative dying with no health insurance is something so relatable to most Americans that it gives the whole story a more realistic tone than it might otherwise have.  Also, the amount of stress Amoreena is under gives a plausible other reason for her difficult pregnancy to add to the mystery.

The secondary characters are well-rounded and believable.  Nayes handles the largely Hispanic array of them with deft and avoidance of stereotyping.  There is no othering of the company or those in control of it.  The answers to the problems are not so black and white as a lot of international intrigue tends to make it, and I appreciated that.  The gray areas of science and scientific research are clearly depicted while also accurately showing the full range of humanity present in Mexico and Guatemala.

So with all these positives, why am I not totally in love with it?  The ending and big reveal are a bit anti-climactic.  The suspense is built up so well that the relatively average ending couldn’t quite live up to it.  I think the choice to make the main character sick during the climax was not a wise one.  The book does redeem itself though with the somewhat cliffhanger ending that will lead into the next book in the series, and I am excited for it to come out.

Overall this horror suspense is a great addition to the genre of evil pregnancies.  I recommend it and am looking forward to the next entry in the series.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Kindle copy from the author in exchange for my honest review

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Book Review: The Walking Dead, Book 2 by Robert Kirkman (Series, #2) (Graphic Novel)

December 20, 2011 3 comments

Zombies with one highlighted in blue.Summary:
The rag-tag group of survivors of the zombie apocalypse stumble upon a prison with two circles of fences just in time.  With the warm weather more zombies are active now that they’re no longer frozen.  Of course they also discover locked in the cafeteria three surviving inmates.  Attempts to make the odd mix of original survivors, inmates, and the farmers into one group might be a task too huge to overcome.  Especially when you add in a mysterious woman who arrives with two pet zombies she leads by chains.

Review:
Now that Kirkman has the post-apocalyptic zombie world firmly established, he is more free to move his characters around within it, seeing how different personalities and mores react to an entirely reordered society.  This leads to some interesting storylines, such as the May/December romance, suicide pacts, and the idea of a fresh start for the living inmates.  It does, however, also lead to some….overly dramatic speeches, let’s say.  One in particular reminded me of the infamous “Live together, die alone” speech from Lost, only this one goes, “You kill; you die!”  I had to stop reading for a minute to giggle.  The close-up of the sheriff’s overly dramatic face had me in stitches, and I”m pretty sure that wasn’t the intended reaction, lol.

That said, though, all of the drama and death and zombies is exactly what one is looking for in a zombie graphic novel.  If anything gives a writer an excuse to be overly dramatic, it’s a rag-tag bunch of survivors of the zombie apocalypse.  Death and chaos are what we’re looking for here, while also addressing survival issues like farming and people having nervous break-downs.  There’s also a creative zombie lore twist that I won’t spoil for you, but that is highly enjoyable.

Overall, Kirkman finds more stable footing in this second entry in the series.  It’s chaotic, high-speed disasters, violence, and sex.  If that’s what you look for in your graphic novels, I highly recommend this one.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Public Library

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Previous Books in Series:
The Walking Dead, Book 1 (review)

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