Friday, December 31, 2010

102. Modern Fairies, Dwarves, Goblins & Other Nasties: A Practical Guide by Miss Edythe McFate by Lesley M. M. Blume, illustrated by David Foote

#102

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Title: Modern Fairies, Dwarves, Goblins & Other Nasties: A Practical Guide by Miss Edythe McFate
Authors: Lesley M. M. Blume, illustrated by David Foote
Copyright: 2010
Pages: 256
ISBN: 978-0375862038
Publisher: ???
Author Website: www.lesleymmblume.com
Artist Website: www.davidfootestudio.com
Twitter: @lesleymmblume, @david_foote
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 4/5 stars
Finished: 12-31-10
Challenge: 100 Books 10, 1010 Challenge (Fairy tales category)

From Amazon:
Perhaps you think fairies are figments of the imagination, or even relics of an ancient past. You may even think all fairies are lovely winged creatures, who dance in bluebell fields, granting wishes to anyone who should encounter them.
You would be wrong on all counts.
Fairies are very much alive today, and they are everywhere—in our cities, our backyards, and even our kitchen cupboards. Some of them are indeed the sweet-tempered, winged creatures of folklore, but the fairy family also includes goblins, trolls, brownies, and other strange creatures, some of which are revealed to humans in this book for the very first time. While many fairy breeds are harmless, others can be quite nasty or even dangerous.
In this luxuriously illustrated guidebook, preeminent fairy expert Miss Edythe McFate shares her knowledge of the modern fairy world and includes practical advice on matters such as how to tell a good fairy from a bad one, how to spot a “fairy ring,” how to tell the difference between dwarves and trolls (one species is far deadlier than the other), and how to defend against fairies who would do you harm. Also included are eight true cautionary tales about children who have encountered fairies in ultramodern New York City.
You would be wise to read closely, lest you find yourself in your own fairy encounter, for as Miss Edythe McFate reminds us, “Forewarned is forearmed.”

Modern Fairies, Dwarves, Goblins & Other Nasties: A Practical Guide by Miss Edythe McFate is a charming little book about, as the title says, modern fairies and their kin and how they are dealing with living in a modern world, in particular NYC. The fictional Edythe McFate, who in her 70s has devoted her life to the study of fairies, tells us both historical facts about the types of fairies in the world and information about their likes and dislikes, and ways to either protect yourself from the more malicious types or ways to thank the more helpful variety. Interspersed throughout the book, she has also included stories of the "real life" adventures that some children who have had direct dealings with fairies in NYC, and not all of these stories end with a happily-ever-after.

David Foote's black and white illustrations throughout the book are a delight. He embellishes almost every page, if at least not with an illustration but with an artist flourish that just adds to the overall "feel" of the book. I can say that I enjoyed his illustrations just as equally as I did the stories.

Written for a younger crowd, i can't see how this book wouldn't be enjoyed by anyone of any age who are interested in fairies and want to learn more about them.

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

101. Chicagoland Detective Agency, Vol 1: The Drained Brains Caper by Trina Robbins, illustrated by Tyler Page

#101

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Title: Chicagoland Detective Agency, Vol 1: The Drained Brains Caper
Authors: Trina Robbins, illustrated by Tyler Page
Copyright: 2010
Pages: 60
ISBN: 9780761356356
Publisher: Graphic Universe
Author Website: www.trinarobbins.com
Artist Website: www.stylishvittles.com
Twitter: @tylerpage, @lernerbooks
Format: ebook through NetGalley
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Finished: 12-29-10
Challenge: 100 Challenge, 1010 Challenge (Graphic novel category)

From Amazon:
Raf knows Megan is trouble from the moment she steps into his mom's pet food store asking for a tarantula. But there's one thing you can count on in Chicagoland: weird things happen several times a day.

Megan is a vegetarian, manga-reading haiku writer. She definitely doesn't fit in at Stepford Academy, her new summer school. The other students are happy to be in class. Too happy. And everyone looks and acts exactly alike. That's weird.

Megan is determined to dig into Stepford's secrets, but soon she's in way too deep. Raf may be the only human being she knows who can help. But with zombified students, very mad scientists, and the school psychiatrist on their trail, they're going to need a whole lot more help.

We did say that Chicagoland is weird...

I love the city of Chicago, so when I was perusing the books available on NetGalley the other day and discovered a book titled, Chicagoland Detective Agency, Vol 1: The Drained Brains Caper, I thought that I'd give the book a try, even though I knew nothing about it. Well, Chicagoland Detective Agency, Vol 1: The Drained Brains Caper is a fun, short, youngish, manga-ish graphic novel that follows the adventures of Raf, Megan and Bradley (a talking dog) as they come together and form the Chicagoland Detective Agency.

Megan is new to the Chicagoland area and in search of a tarantula. She happens into Raf's mother's pet food store, hoping maybe to find a tarantula (or maybe just a new friend) and an unlikely friendship forms between Raf and Megan. Megan is sent to a summer school called the Stepford Preparatory Academy, where all the teachers and students are mysteriously happy and content with life (I know, I know... I didn't say that the book was challenging...) and where Megan certainly doesn't fit in. When Megan is forced to see the school appointed psychiatrist, she discovers the secret behind the perfect students and faculty, and only Raf and Bradley (who they rescue along the way) can save Megan.

This is not a particularly challenging book in the slightest, but I think for the age group that it's geared at (Amazon says 9-12, but I'd be willing to bet that a slightly younger audience would still appreciate this book), it would be a perfect book for kids. The writing is fun and witty and the art is engaging and stylish. If you've got a younger one that is interested in reading and likes manga or graphic novels, I don't think you could go wrong with this selection.

100. X-Men Forever, Vol 1: Picking Up Where We Left Off by Chris Claremont, illustrated by Tom Grummett

#100

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Title: X-Men Forever, Vol 1: Picking Up Where We Left Off
Series: X-Men
Authors: Chris Claremont, illustrated by Tom Grummett
Copyright: 2009
Pages: 120
ISBN: 9780785136798
Publisher: Marvel
Twitter: @marvel
Format: Paperback
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Finished: 12-29-10
Challenge: 100 Books 10, 1010 Challenge

From Amazon:
Comics icon and New York Times bestselling writer Chris Claremont returns to his legendary run with X-Men Forever! The shockwaves after the death of Magneto are still reverberating all over the world. Attempting to heal the rift between man and mutant kind, Professor Xavier volunteers his X-Men to go on a mission to capture Magneto's sole remaining Acolyte, Fabien Cortez! But with Nick Fury - and the entire world - watching over their shoulders, the stakes have never been higher for Cyclops, Jean Grey, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Gambit, Rogue, Kitty Pryde, Storm, Beast, and Professor X. With Tom Grummet bringing Claremont's vision to the page, this landmark series is packed with enough surprises and twists to shake the X-Men mythos to its very core! Collects X-Men Forever #1-5.

Chris Claremont ended his original run on the X-Men with the third issue of the X-Men, back in 1991. Jump ahead almost twenty years, and X-Men Forever basically picks up after that third issue, following a sort of What If? storyline, with the concept being Claremont never having left the series. I don't know if I'd go so far as to call this a "landmark comics event" (as it is self-described), but I will say that that is an interesting take on the X-Men.

The story basically picks right up after the death of Magneto and the Acolytes, with the X-Men on the search for Fabian Cortez, the true villain of the original story arc. Nick Fury and SHIELD have stepped in, deeming it necessary to have government officials watching over the X-Men and their doings (shades of events that happened later on in the "real" X-Men timeline in the Decimation storyline). The X-Men capture Cortez, but barely have time to get home and lick their wounds before Storm apparently goes crazy and attacks the X-Men, leaving one of their number dead. This is where I started to feel really confused. Claremont had already turned one of the plot threads from the original series on its ear (Wolverine and Jean Grey...), but now one of the longest standing X-Men may in fact be a villain? Well, he comes up with a possible answer to this question and one that actually has me wanting to read the next volume to see how he's going to explain Storm's actions.

Tom Grummett's art is good. He's no Jim Lee, but he does an admirable job in keeping with the overall look of the characters from the original series.

Overall, an interesting return to some of my favorite characters in the X-Men. Don't both reading this if you never read at least the first three issues of the original X-Men series. If you have read those issues and are interested in seeing what Chris Claremont has come up with in returning to the series, I'd say at least pick up this first volume. He makes some seriously drastic changes to some of the characters, but I honestly interested to see where he's taking these changes.

99. X-Men: Mutant Genesis by Chris Claremont, Jim Lee, John Byrne & Scott Lobdell

#99

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Title: X-Men: Mutant Genesis
Series: X-Men
Authors: Chris Claremont, Jim Lee, John Byrne & Scott Lobdell
Copyright: 2010 (1991, 1992)
Pages: 196
ISBN: 9780785146728
Publisher: Marvel
Twitter: @marvel, @jimlee00
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 5/5 stars
Finished: 12-28-10
Challenge: 100 Books 10, 1010 Challenge (Graphic novel category)

From Amazon:
The Master of Magnetism embarks on a holy crusade to rescue his fellow mutants from the coming genetic conflagration with humanity... regardless of the cost to either side. The newly formed Acolytes, Magneto's disciples, see him as their greatest salvation. Little do they realize their zeal will carry them to the ends of earth - and above - when Magneto proclaims Asteroid M a haven for mutants everywhere, inciting a state of war between himself and the world's great powers! All that stands in the way of absolute chaos are the mutant heroes known as the X-Men, whose powers and abilities set them apart from a humanity that hates and fears them. Collects X-Men (1991) 1-7.

Back in the heyday of comics in the early 90s, there wasn't a much more anticipated book release than that of X-Men #1. Jim Lee and Chris Claremont had already made their mark on Uncanny X-Men and Marvel decided that it was time to set them up on their own series, the new adjective-less X-Men. At that time, it was the highest selling comic in history, and it may still hold that title. Everybody wanted this issue, me included.

So, how does it hold up nearly twenty years later? Not too bad, actually. Some of the story points in this collected edition are still relevant in today's stories. The writing, while a little inflated (a Chris Claremont trademark), is still good and Claremont did a great job of making Magneto relevant as a character again in just three issues. The art is superb, but I might be a little biased as I've been a huge Jim Lee fan since he took the art reigns on Uncanny X-Men. Even after all this time, I'm still in awe of his artwork.

The X-Men decided to split their group up into two teams, the Blue Squad and the Gold Squad. Ideally, this was supposed to split the group up also into the two titles, The Blue Squad in X-Men, the Gold in Uncanny. If memory serves, this proved as a relatively reliable way to split the characters up between the two books, but eventually they starting spilling over back and forth between series. The series begins with the two squads testing out the defense systems of the mansion where they live. They are quickly embroiled in a battle with Magneto after he proclaims his Asteroid M a safe haven for all mutants, and he steals some nuclear missiles from a sunken Russian submarine to put into orbit around Asteroid M as protection. When one of these missiles is detonated in the atmosphere after a battle, the leaders of the world proclaim war on Magneto. Some of the X-Men are captured by Magneto and it's up to the other members of the team to rescue them before Asteroid M is destroyed. At the time, I really remember this being an amazing story, and reading it for the first time in twenty years, it really held my attention well.

The subsequent story arc dealt with more of Wolverine's past, and it was a good story, but honestly, exactly how much mysterious past can one character have? The threads of this story arc, however, were key to several plot points later on in the X-Men series, and these were great places to start revealing these threads. Overall, not quite as gripping as the first story arc in this collection, but a good read all the same.

If you're a fan of the X-Men, I'd highly recommend this book. If you're a casual reader, the finer points of the characters histories may be lost on you, but I still think this is a great story.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

98. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, illustrated by P. J. Lynch

#98

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Title: A Christmas Carol
Authors: Charles Dickens, illustrated by P. J. Lynch
Copyright: 2006
Pages: 160
ISBN: 9780763631208
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Twitter: @candlewick
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 5/5 stars
Finished: 12-11-10
Challenge: 100 Books 10, 1010 Challenge (Fiction category)

From Amazon:
The story of Ebenezer Scrooge opens on a Christmas Eve as cold as Scrooge's own heart. That night, he receives three ghostly visitors: the terrifying spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come. Each takes him on a heart-stopping journey, yielding glimpses of Tiny Tim and Bob Cratchit, the horrifying spectres of Want and Ignorance, even Scrooge's painfully hopeful younger self. Will Scrooge's heart be opened? Can he reverse the miserable future he is forced to see? Now in an unabridged edition gloriously illustrated by the award-winning P.J. Lynch, this story's message of love and goodwill, mercy and self-redemption resonates as keenly as ever.

Dickens' perennial Christmas classic about Ebenezer Scrooge and his visits from the ghost of his former partner, Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet to Come and the Christmas lessons Scrooge learns from them. I try to read this every year around the holidays, and it never seems to get old.

The illustrations in this particular edition by P. J. Lynch are gorgeous!

Monday, December 20, 2010

97. Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

#97

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Title: Holidays on Ice
Author: David Sedaris
Copyright: 2010
Pages: 176
ISBN: 9780316078917
Publisher: Back Bay Books
Author Website: www.barclayagency.com/sedaris.html
Format: Paperback
Rating: 3/5 stars
Finished: 12-1-10
Challenge: 100 Books 10, 1010 Challenge (Memoir)

From Amazon:
David Sedaris's beloved holiday collection is new again with six more pieces, including a never before published story. Along with such favorites as the diaries of a Macy's elf and the annals of two very competitive families, are Sedaris's tales of tardy trick-or-treaters ("Us and Them"); the difficulties of explaining the Easter Bunny to the French ("Jesus Shaves"); what to do when you've been locked out in a snowstorm ("Let It Snow"); the puzzling Christmas traditions of other nations ("Six to Eight Black Men"); what Halloween at the medical examiner's looks like ("The Monster Mash"); and a barnyard secret Santa scheme gone awry ("Cow and Turkey").

No matter what your favorite holiday, you won't want to miss celebrating it with the author who has been called "one of the funniest writers alive" (
Economist).

Oh, David Sedaris, I know I'm supposed to like your writing. In fact, every single person I know who loves your writing points out that by all accounts, it's exactly the sort of thing that I'd find funny. And I do. Vaguely.

Let me explain. This is the second time that I've read Holidays on Ice. I don't remember being all that impressed with it the first time I read it, but it was so long ago, and people's tastes change over the years, so I thought I'd give it another try. And unfortunately, I still didn't find all of it that funny. The first story, about Secaris's time as a Macy's holiday elf, was good. I truly think this is where Sedaris shines, talking about his personal experiences. He's one of those people that always seems to be in the right place at the right time to witness the most bizarre in the people in the people and situations around him.

It's when he starts in on his fictional stories that he seems to take things just one step too far. The stories always seem to start out funny, but then they just don't stop. He tries to push the envelope of funny and ridiculous every time, and I find myself just skimming through the second half of the story, because it just seems to be the same thing, repeated over and over and over.

Don't get me wrong. I can appreciate the genius that is David Sedaris. I just think that his humor may be one step beyond my comfort zone, and I just have a hard time relating to his style of writing. For his fans, however, I know that this book is a true treasure.

Now, a note on the man himself, David Sedaris. I had the good fortune of being invited to a signing recently, and it turns out that David Sedaris may, in fact, be one of the nicest people that I've met in a long time. He is gracious to each and every person that comes to see him, and takes the time to talk and to actually listen to each person. And he's really hysterical in person. If you ever have a chance to see him, whether you're a fan or not, I'd recommend it. He really makes an effort to make sure that you have a good time.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hey, UK Jim Butcher fans! Win a set of his Dresden books from Orbit Books

If you're a fan of Jim Butcher (and if you're not, you should be!) and you live in the UK, you can win a great prize pack from Orbit Books. Orbit wants to know, Why do YOU love Jim Butcher? Stop on by, leave them a comment, and you could be the lucky winner of a set of 19 books!

Good luck and happy reading!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

96. X-Men: Longshot by Ann Nocenti, illustrated by Art Adams & Whilce Portacio

#96

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Title: X-Men: Longshot
Author(s): Ann Nocenti, illustrated by Art Adams & Whilce Portacio
Copyright: 1986 (2008)
Pages: 208
ISBN: 9780785130918
Publisher: Marvel
Twitter: @marvel
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 4/5 stars
Finished: 11-29-10
Challenge: 100 Books 10, 1010 Challenge (Graphic novel category)

From Amazon:
Leather, looks, and luck - put 'em all together, they spell Longshot! The non-mutant X-Man's first trip to Earth is reprinted here in its entirety, introducing the scintillating Spiral and the murky madness that is Mojo, menaces that threaten the Marvel Universe to this day! Guest-starring Spider-Man, She-Hulk and Doctor Strange! Collects Longshot #1-6.

So, the writing might be a little dated and choppy, and the art might be a little rough around the edges in some places, but Ann Nocenti and Art Adams' Longshot may still be one of my favorite stories from the 80s. We are introduced to Longshot, Spiral, Mojo, Arize and the rest of the Mojoverse characters, setting the groundwork for some of the quirkier and more fun X-Men adventures down the road. As far as I know, this was the first series for both Nocenti as writer and Adams as artist, and you can clearly see them both flexing their respective creative muscles and can clearly see the beginnings of Art Adams' signature style coming through his work already.

This story picks up with Longshot arriving in our world from a mysterious alternate dimension, with no clear memory of who or what he is. This is Longshot long before him joining the X-Men, when he is still desperately trying to piece together the puzzle of his past. During these early adventures, Longshot runs into Spider-Man, She-Hulk and Dr. Strange, learning what it means to be a hero in this world.

This book probably wouldn't be for everyone, even some X-Men fans, but for a glimpse into the early development of a character, it's a fun book.

Friday, December 10, 2010

I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett - as guest-reviewed by beserene

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Title: I Shall Wear Midnight
Series: Tiffany Aching
Author: Terry Pratchett
Copyright: 2010
Pages: 368
ISBN: 9780061433047
Publisher: HarperCollins
Author Website: www.terrypratchettbooks.com
Twitter: @harpercollins
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 5/5 stars

From Amazon:
It starts with whispers.

Then someone picks up a stone.

Finally, the fires begin.

When people turn on witches, the innocents suffer. . . .

Tiffany Aching has spent years studying with senior witches, and now she is on her own. As the witch of the Chalk, she performs the bits of witchcraft that aren’t sparkly, aren’t fun, don’t involve any kind of wand, and that people seldom ever hear about: She does the unglamorous work of caring for the needy.

But someone—or something—is igniting fear, inculcating dark thoughts and angry murmurs against witches. Aided by her tiny blue allies, the Wee Free Men, Tiffany must find the source of this unrest and defeat the evil at its root—before it takes her life. Because if Tiffany falls, the whole Chalk falls with her.

Chilling drama combines with laughout-loud humor and searing insight as beloved and bestselling author Terry Pratchett tells the high-stakes story of a young witch who stands in the gap between good and evil.

I love you, Sir Terry Pratchett. You really are a knight in shining armor, who has rescued me from the clutches of literary despair and given me joy, humor, developed characters and all sorts of other bookish delights. I sorrow to think that some day you will have to stop writing. 'Til then, I beg you, write on!

Okay, so maybe I should make a few serious comments about this book. This YA fantasy novel is the fourth (and, I believe, final) installment in the Tiffany Aching series, which is a sub-series of the Discworld novels (the many-tomed, decades-old paragon of humorous fantasy) but can be read on its own (though it helps if you have read a couple of the witch-oriented Discworld books, such as Equal Rites and Wyrd Sisters if you want to get most of the jokes). Tiffany is now 16 and a full-fledged witch, though (as always) there are a few problems that go along with that. Most of the problems are caused by the Nac Mac Feegles, tiny blue men who are the unqualified hilarity of the series.

Frankly, I think that the Tiffany Aching books are the best of Pratchett's prolific career and, though not perfect (the Cunning Man is not Pratchett's best villain), this last volume more than lives up to the standards of the series.

The first book of the series, The Wee Free Men, is a laugh-yourself-silly, startle-the-dog, practically-pee-yourself sort of book, but the succeeding volumes in the series have gotten progressively more emotional, balancing the humor with a little more heart. This final volume, one may logically expect, has tipped the scales somewhat, dealing more in heart (and matters therein) than in humor, but there are still plenty of chuckle-and-guffaw-worthy moments here. The great thing about this book, however, is the emotion. Our dear Sir Terry has delivered a teen novel that does in fact include (gasp!) romance, without going all snivelly and smushy on us. Never the less, one finishes the book with a distinctly warm (and I could also be detecting some fuzzy) feeling, one that lasts far after the book is closed. (Warning: reading this book may cause you to hug your spouse/domestic partner with significant enthusiasm.)

I cannot be more specific without taking away some of the joy that comes from discovering these books, but if you have not encountered them before -- READ THEM. You will not regret it. If you are familiar already, READ THEM AGAIN. You won't regret it either, and you know exactly what I am talking about.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Why Chicago posts?

Some of you may be wondering why I post up a link to the best selling books in the Chicagoland area each week from ShelfAwareness. Well, Faithful Reader, it is simply that I love the city of Chicago and try to get there as often as I can (I live in Michigan) and so when these lists are posted, I'm just interested to see what the good people of Chicago are reading and I decided I'd pass this along to my readers, just in case they're interested too.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

95. X-Men vs Avengers by Roger Stern, illustrated by Marc Silvestri

#95

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Title: X-Men vs Avengers
Series: X-Men
Authors: Roger Stern, illustrated by Marc Silvestri
Copyright: 1987 (2010)
Pages: 136
ISBN: 9780785138099
Publisher: Marvel
Twitter: @marvel
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 3/5 stars
Finished: 11-27-10
Challenge: 100 Books 10, 1010 Challenge (Graphic novel category)

From Amazon:
When Magneto's on trial, he needs all the help he can get - he finds it in the remnants of his former fortress, Asteroid M! The X-Men aren't sure what his scheme is, but they're positive they don't want the Avengers and the Soviet Super-Soldiers to find out first! Multi-team warfare with the eyes of the world on all three! Also featuring the X-Men's fabulous first fight with the Avengers, to keep them from unleashing the legendary Lucifer! Collects X-Men vs. the Avengers #1-4, and Uncanny X-Men #9.

Well, thinking back on this particular series, I remember it coming out about the same time as the X-Men vs the Fantastic Four series, but reading them both recently now, this is definitely the better of the two series, even though it still falls short. The premise is that a portion of Magneto's Asteroid M has fallen to Earth, and there is a scramble between Magneto, the X-Men, the Avengers and the Soviet Super-Soldiers to get to the asteroid first, as Magneto believes that there could be valuable equipment there. The X-Men are in pursuit because they don't understand why Magneto wants the equipment so badly, the Avengers are trying to get to him to put him on trial for his crimes against the world, and the Soviet Super-Soldiers want to execute him for his sinking of a Russian sub and subsequent killing of everyone aboard. Magneto, trying to prove his change in motivation against the world, eventually surrenders to the world court, but his ultimate goal may or may not be in the best interest of everyone involved and may or may not be achieving the ultimate goal that he is hoping for.

The story isn't bad, it just seems sort of cheap in some ways. Everyone seems intent on their individual team goals, yet the X-Men seem most out of character as they are simply backing Magneto because he is a mutant, and for no other reason. Instead of looking out for the betterment of the world as a whole like they normally would, they simply seem intent on proving Magneto innocent, whether or not he really is, just to prove a point that Magneto is being hunted just because he is a mutant, regardless of the crimes that he has committed in his past. Again, this is another case of something reading much better to me in my younger days than it does now. Oh well, it wasn't a bad story, just not all that good. At least the art was decent with some early Marc Silvestri takes on the X-Men!

94. ClanDestine: Blood Relative by Alan Davis & Mark Farmer

#94

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Title: ClanDestine: Blood Relative
Author: Alan Davis & Mark Farmer
Copyright: 2008
Pages: 120
ISBN: 9780785127406
Publisher: Marvel
Author Website: www.alandavis-comicart.com
Twitter: @marvel
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 4/5 stars
Finished: 11-24-10
Challenge: 100 Books 10, 1010 Challenge (Graphic novel category)

From Amazon:
Alan Davis' freaky family returns! They've existed, hidden among mankind for centuries, a mysterious bloodline of superhumans, eternal and apart. And all they've desired is to be left alone, to pursue their individual interests in peace. But now, the existence of their hidden clan is threatened with exposure by the activities of one of their youngest siblings, Rory Destine, who aspires to be the costumed crimefighter called the Crimson Crusader! And now that the cat's been let out of the bag, who or what is going to come calling at the Destine family's Ravenscroft doorway? Collects ClanDestine Vol 2 #1-5.

Alan Davis is back with the Clan Destine, who have continued to try to live their lives in peace and seclusion, keeping their presence hidden from the rest of the world. But if Rory, the crimefighting Crimson Crusader, has anything to do with it, he'd be out fighting crime alongside the other superheroes of the world. And has his need to be unique in a family that tries hard to be normal brought danger down on the Clan Destine again?

Blood Relative is a fantastic followup to Alan Davis' original ClanDestine series. We learn a little more about some of the other Destine siblings and we are revisited by some of the villains from the first series, namely Griffin. The interactions between the Destine children are fantastic - just how I would imagine a family of centuries-old superpowered siblings would be.

Like before, if you're looking for something a little bit different from your typical superhero book, you might want to consider ClanDestine. Alan Davis' writing continues to be clever, witty and engaging and his art is just beautiful. This is a series worth checking out.

Monday, December 6, 2010

93. ClanDestine Classic by Alan Davis & Mark Farmer

#93

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Title: ClanDestine Classic
Author(s): Alan Davis & Mark Farmer
Copyright: 1995 (2008)
Pages: 312
ISBN: 9780785127420
Publisher: Marvel
Author Website: www.alandavis-comicart.com
Twitter: @marvel
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 4/5 stars
Finished: 11-24-10
Challenge: 100 Books 10, 1010 Challenge (Graphic novel category)

From Amazon:
For centuries they have lived among us - mysterious, elusive, unknowable... so what are they doing with brightly colored costumes and codenames?! Teenagers Rory and Pandora want to pull Alan Davis's family of extra-normal outsiders into the world of heroes and villains, little knowing that M.O.D.O.K. and A.I.M. are waiting for them! Centuries-old patriarch Adam Destine knows the disastrous duo has a lot to learn about power and responsibility... and we all know who's the web-spinning specialist on that, don't we? Plus Adam and his super-powered scions join the X-Men in a demonic debacle against the sinister Synraith! Also guest-starring Doctor Strange, the Silver Surfer and the Invaders. Collecting ClanDestine #1-8, Marvel Comics Presents #158 and X-Men & ClanDestine #1-2.

The Clan Destine have lived among us for centuries, keeping themselves secret and hidden... that it until the twins Rory and Pandora decide that they should be using their powers to fight crime. Oh yeah, in addition to being centuries old in some cases, the Clan Destine also have superpowers.

I loved this series when it was first released in the mid 90s and I still love it now. It's such a clever take on the typical superhero book, taking it away from just your average group of superheroes trying to do good in the world and adding in the element of family and all that that implies. All the Clan Destine, with the exception of their father, Adam, are brothers and sisters, and just like any family, there are tensions that run high in the family between the siblings. Throw in a handful of other heroes from the Marvel Universe, and you've got a mixture that makes for some great reading.

Alan Davis' writing is perfect and his art is so fluid and emotive. I've been a huge fan of his for years, and he never disappoints with his art. He's one of those artists that I would buy something that he drew whether or not I know anything about the story.

So, if you're looking for a superhero book that's not quite your typical superhero book, give this a try. You'll find plenty of super-powered adventures, don't be mistaken, but you'll also find a clever, funny and witty take on a family trying to find their place amongst themselves in a world that is now as new to them as they are to it.

92. Spider-Man: Torment by Todd McFarlane

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Title: Spider-Man: Torment
Author: Todd McFarlane
Copyright: 1990 (2009)
Pages: 144
ISBN: 9780785137917
Publisher: Marvel
Twitter: @marvel
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 3/5 stars
Finished: 11-20-10
Challenge: 100 Books 10, 1010 Challenge (Graphic novel category)

From Amazon:
Blood washes the streets of the Big Apple. Torment plunges Spider-Man into the darkness within us all as he hunts the Lizard through the streets and sewers of New York City, trying to put an end to the bloodthirsty, homicidal rampage left in his wake. But what is driving the Lizard? Is it an answer that Spider-Man is prepared to face? Or will it be so shocking that it will make even the most courageous hero question his sanity? Collects Spider-Man #1-5.

Ah, Marvel comics in the 90s. Multiple variant covers. Cover gimmicks. New series highlighting the best artists in the business. It was a heady time to be a fan of comics. One of the best examples of this comic craziness of the time was the new Spider-Man series headed up by Amazing Spider-Man fan-favorite artist Todd McFarlane, who was given leave to write the series as well as illustrate it. This was the ultimate in cool comics back in the day. Does it live up to its own hype now? Maybe.

I found a cheap, used copy of the recent hardcover edition of Torment and thought, "What the hell. Why not?" When the series was originally released, I remember thinking it was great, and loved the art and the story. Well, that doesn't exactly hold up so much now. The art is amazing; I'll give Todd McFarlane that. He was really revolutionizing the look of comics at the time, getting away from the enclosed panels on white borders, having his characters break out of the panels, or even bleed off the edges of the page, with black backgrounds instead of white. It was impressive then, and it's still impressive now.

His writing has not held up so well over the years, though. At the time, the writing seemed really atmospheric and ethereal. Now, it's overly atmospheric and ethereal. I found myself skimming through most portions of the story, as the art was telling the story just as well as the writing, if not better in some cases. McFarlane's use of a little known villain (Calypso) and taking another villain too far from their norm (the Lizard) seem a little too contrived now. And for whatever reason, the decision to let McFarlane color the fourth issue as well as illustrate and write it seems like a very poor choice now. At the time, with a month between issues, the coloring probably didn't stand out as much, but reading the entire thing at one sitting, you can see how poorly his coloring skills are in this one issue compared to the rest of the edition.

So, overall this isn't a bad story, it just doesn't stand up so well to the test of time. The whole project is still impressive when taken in context for when it was originally released, and that art stills proves impressive, but you can tell that Todd McFarlane still had a long way to go about learning to write a decent paced series.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Week in Books (or, Still More Buying, Less Reading)

Ah yes, another slow week at From My Bookshelf. Patient reader, you are patient. There are any number of reasons why I haven't been reading these last several weeks, but I shan't bore you with the details. However, what I can tell you is that I shall have a new review up every day this coming week, for new books, and possibly a guest review or two.

It has been a good week for book acquisitions, though. I received my first set of (Penguin Classics)RED editions, where 50% of the proceeds of the sale of each book goes to the Global Fund to help fight AIDS in Africa. The editions that I received are:
  • The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
  • The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad
  • The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
  • Sons and Lovers by D. H. Lawrence
  • Silas Marner by George Eliot
  • Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

I found another few graphic novels that I've been looking for. I'm now able to catch up on most of my X-Men graphic novels that I've been behind since I have the missing volumes now!
  • New Mutants, Vol 1: Return of Legion
  • New Mutants, Vol 2: Necrosha
  • Cable, Vol 3: Stranded
  • Cable, Vol 4: Homecoming

I received the next book in my Stephen King Library subscription, Blaz.

Lastly, I received a new ARC, Wither: the Chemical Garden Trilogy, Book 1 by Lauren DeStefano, from Simon & Schuster.

I hope all you faithful readers out there have had some great book acquisitions as well, and happy reading!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Libba Bray is amazing.


I'm hoping that Libba Bray doesn't mind me posting this, but please stop by her blog today and read her beautiful post about her father and her friend, Norbert.

"In fact, you are fucking fabulous." A resounding Amen!

(Penguin Classics)RED Editions


Penguin has teamed up with (Product)RED to offer (Penguin Classics)RED Editions of various classics, with new covers designed exclusively for this line. Proceeds from the sales of any (Product)RED merchandise goes to help the fight against AIDS in Africa, and according to the (Penguin Classics)RED website, 50% of the profits from the sales of each book go directly to the Global Fund to help eliminate AIDS in Africa.

While most of these titles are currently only readily available in the UK, Amazon is selling a selection of six of the titles here in the US. I'm hoping that Amazon will continue to release more of the (Penguin Classics)RED editions in the future.

from my bookshelf Goes Red for World AIDS Day 10


I'm taking a moment today to step away from my usual bookish thoughts, to go red and to do my small part in the blogosphere to help raise awareness about AIDS and help to end the prejudice and stigma that is often forced on those who are infected.

December 1 each year is World AIDS Day. It's a day to remember those who we have lost to this terrible disease, to stand by those still fighting and to educate ourselves. There still is no cure yet for this disease, but it is no longer the early death sentence that it once was. There are medications available that can hold the disease at bay and that can reduce the levels of the disease in a person to practically undetectable levels.

One of the most important things you can do for yourself is to find out your status. There are many resources available, everywhere, to find out your status, or you can go to aids.gov or hivtest.org to find out more about the disease and to find locations where you can be tested. You can also find out more about World AIDS Day here.

There are many other resources out there for more information about AIDS and with ways that you can help fight the disease and raise awareness, too. The (RED) Campaign, Annie Lennox's SING Campaign and the Elton John AIDS Foundation are just a few that I can think of off the top of my head.

So, take a moment today, educate yourself; remember those that we have lost; if you know someone who is fighting, give them a hug and let them know they're not alone. Together, we can overcome this disease.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton

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Title: Angelfire
Series: Anglefire, Book 1
Author: Courtney Allison Moulton
Copyright: 2011
Pages: 384
ISBN: 9780062002327
Publisher: Harper Collins
Author Website: www.courtneyallisonmoulton.com/
Twitter: @CAMoulton, @harperteen
Format: ebook through NetGalley
Available: 2-15-11
Rating: 4/5 stars
Finished: 11-21-10
Challenge: 100 Books 10, 1010 Challenge (Fiction category)

From Amazon:
First there are nightmares.

Every night Ellie is haunted by terrifying dreams of monstrous creatures that are hunting her, killing her.

Then come the memories.

When Ellie meets Will, she feels on the verge of remembering something just beyond her grasp. His attention is intense and romantic, and Ellie feels like her soul has known him for centuries. On her seventeenth birthday, on a dark street at midnight, Will awakens Ellie's power, and she knows that she can fight the creatures that stalk her in the grim darkness. Only Will holds the key to Ellie's memories, whole lifetimes of them, and when she looks at him, she can no longer pretend anything was just a dream.

Now she must hunt.

Ellie has power that no one can match, and her role is to hunt and kill the reapers that prey on human souls. But in order to survive the dangerous and ancient battle of the angels and the Fallen, she must also hunt for the secrets of her past lives and truths that may be too frightening to remember.

You'll have to come back on Feb 13, 2011 for my full review, but I can say that I really enjoyed Courtney Moulton's debut novel. It's full of adventure, mystery, romance and intrigue. I liked the worldbuilding and mythology that Moulton is creating in this series; very unique and fresh in a familiar way. I'm looking forward to seeing where the rest of the series will be going. A good, solid beginning from an up and coming new author!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The week in books

So, I know it has been a slow week at From My Bookshelf, faithful reader, and for that I apologize. Life has a funny way of tripping me up lately. Not much of an excuse, but there it is.

I have nothing in the way of reviews because I haven't read much this week; scandalous, I know! However, I have had an exceptional week for book acquisitions!

My dear friend S found the following volumes for me at a used book sale:
  • The Devil's Shadow: The Story of Witchcraft in Massachusetts by Clifford Lindsey Alderman
  • By the Pricking of My Thumbs by Agatha Christie (a lovely vintage paperback)
  • Revenge by Stephen Fry
  • The Last Light of the Sun by Guy Gavriel Kay
  • P. T. Barnum by Anne Edwards & illustrated by Marylin Hafner
  • The Death of Yorik Mortwell by Stephen Messer, illustrated by Gris Grimley (an ARC from her boyfriend who works for a book store)

Last night we went to a local library sale, where I picked up:
  • The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith (Signed! For $0.25! And to be fair, I more or less snatched this right out of S's hand...)
  • Night by Elie Wiesel
  • The Jungle by Upton Sinclair (part of my Literary Chicago reading)

Earlier this week I had the great opportunity to see David Sedaris live at one of my local bookstores, and got his new book, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, signed! His is extraordinarily funny and so generous with his time, and if you ever have the chance to meet him, I'd highly recommend it.

Today, I picked up The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder. I've been hearing such really good things about this debut author's steampunk adventure that I just had to give it a try.

Lastly, a couple of graphic novels that I got for cheap through various sources:
  • Spider-Man: Torment by Todd McFarlane
  • Uncanny X-Men: The Cruelest Cut by Chris Claremont and Alan Davis
  • Uncanny X-Men: On Ice by Chris Claremont and Alan Davis

So, as you can see, a slow reading week, but a great book buying week!

Happy reading, everyone!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Steampunk! What's it to you?

No, seriously. Steampunk. What is it to you? I've been finding myself more and more intrigued by the (sub)genre lately, especially due to new authors such as Cherie Priest and Gail Carriger, and I'm wondering, gentle reader, what do you consider some other Steampunk reading goodness? I've read all of Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series, and I've got Cherie Priest's Clockwork Century sitting at the top of my TBR pile to start this weekend. I've also read Tim Powers' The Anubis Gates, Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series, Philip Reeve's Larklight (but not the succeeding volumes), Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series and the DC Elseworlds book, Gotham by Gaslight. What else is there? I'm trying to come up with a reasonable list of what people think of as being the best of the best of Steampunk.

So, tell me, what is Steampunk to you?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Today's PSA: bn.com doesn't adjust preorder prices!

Here's an interesting little bit of information that I discovered today. I preordered Fannie Flagg's I Still Dream About You (out today from Random House!) back in July at the price of $17.55. As of this morning, I honestly couldn't remember if it came out today or next week, so went to the B&N website to check the release date and discovered #1) it did indeed come out today (yay!), and #2) that the price was dropped to $13.97 (double yay!). I was rather happy on both counts, since #1) my book should be shipping today, and #2) that I was getting it for a lesser price. Well, I was only right on one of those counts.

It turns out that you pay the price that was being offered at the time of preorder, regardless if the price goes down on day of release. You have the option of canceling the order and placing a new one, but that's only if you discover the price change before your item is shipped, which I didn't until I got the notice today that showed it had shipped, but at the higher price. I called their "help" line, and their suggestion was that I purchase the book again at the lower price and then return the original item to a store for a credit on the higher price.

Now, maybe I'm just irritable today, but that totally rubs me the wrong way. If you preorder an item from Amazon, for instance, "...the price we charge when we ship it to you will be the lowest price offered by Amazon.com between the time you place your order and the release date" (quoted from their Pricing help link) and I just assumed that everybody did that. I guess I was wrong. It seriously makes me want to reconsider ordering from B&N again in the future.

So, I don't know that this really makes all that big of a deal, but it's just something that I thought that I'd pass on to my readers, just as an FYI.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

81. The Painted Darkness by Brian James Freeman

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#81

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Title: The Painted Darkness
Author: Brian James Freeman
Copyright: 2010
Pages: 173
ISBN: 9781587672088
Publisher: Cemetery Dance Publications
Author Website: www.brianjamesfreeman.com
Format: ARC Paperback
Available: November 9, 2010
Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
Finished: 9-26-10
Challenge: 100 Books 10, 1010 Challenge (Fiction category)

From Amazon:
When Henry was a child, something terrible happened in the woods behind his home, something so shocking he could only express his grief by drawing pictures of what he had witnessed. Eventually Henry's mind blocked out the bad memories, but he continued to draw, often at night by the light of the moon.

Twenty years later, Henry makes his living by painting his disturbing works of art. He loves his wife and his son and life couldn't be better... except there's something not quite right about the old stone farmhouse his family now calls home. There's something strange living in the cramped cellar, in the maze of pipes that feed the ancient steam boiler.

A winter storm is brewing and soon Henry will learn the true nature of the monster waiting for him down in the darkness. He will battle this demon and, in the process, he may discover what really happened when he was a child and why, in times of trouble, he thinks: I paint against the darkness.

But will Henry learn the truth in time to avoid the terrible fate awaiting him... or will the thing in the cellar get him and his family first?

Written as both a meditation on the art of creation and as an examination of the secret fears we all share,
The Painted Darkness is a terrifying look at the true cost we pay when we run from our grief--and what happens when we're finally forced to confront the monsters we know all too well.

The Painted Darkness is a fairly quick read, and one that did a reasonably good job of keeping my attention. Alternating between events of twenty years ago and today, The Painted Darkness slowly unfolds a series of events that shaped the entire course of Henry's life, while simultaneously telling the story of Henry's eventual confrontation with the demons from his childhood.

Read as both part ghost story and part psychological thriller, The Painted Darkness touches on many aspects all at once. The fact is, there seems to be a probability that the demons from Henry's childhood may, in fact, be real. Or they may not; they may be the result of Henry's extraordinarily vivid imagination. This is one of those books where I really think every person will take a little something different away from it, depending on how they want to perceive the events of the story. Personally, I think the story is about ultimately coming to terms with your own personal demons and finally putting them to rest, be it through your creativity (Henry is a painter, and he paints to get the dark images out of his mind) or some other means.

Like I said before, the story is a fairly quick read, and the flipping back and forth between Henry's childhood and his adulthood does a nice job of opening up the secrets of his past while at the same time showing how he deals with them in his present. This was a nice touch, that I didn't feel really overplayed the back and forth too much at all. The inclusion of what I'm assuming are supposed to be some of Henry's paintings was nice, but seemed lacking in some way. Maybe because they are in black and white (and maybe the finished copy will have them in color) or because they didn't always seems to match exactly what was going on in the story, but I felt that these could probably have been left out, and nothing would have been lost in the telling of the story. Overall, a nice, creepy little book that would probably be good to read on a dark and stormy night.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

90. The Raising by Laura Kasischke

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Title: The Raising
Author: Laura Kasischke
Copyright: 2010
Pages: 360
ISBN: 9780062004789
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Twitter: @HarperPerennial
Format: ebook through NetGalley
Available: March 15, 2011
Rating: 5/5 stars
Finished: 11-2-10
Challenge: 100 Books 10, 1010 Challenge (Fiction category)

A beautifully haunting story about love, obsession and secrecy. You'll have to wait for my full review until March, 2011, but do yourself a favor and preorder this mesmerizing book right now. You won't be sorry. Laura Kasischke is one of the most amazing authors you will read.

The Raising: A Novel (P.S.)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

89. Batman: Gotham by Gaslight by Brian Augustyn, illustrated by Mike Mignola

#89

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Title: Batman: Gotham by Gaslight
Authors: Brian Augustyn, illustrated by Mike Mignola
Copyright: 1989
Pages: 112
Publisher: DC Comics
Author Website: www.artofmikemignola.com
Format: Paperback
Rating: 4/5 stars
Finished: 10-27-10
Challenge: 100 Books 10, 1010 Challenge (Graphic novel category)
Awards:

Gotham by Gaslight is a unique retelling of the Batman origin. This book was actually the starting point for DC's later Elseworlds series due to it's popularity. The Elseworlds series took their characters and reset them in time periods or circumstances different from their established histories and told one shot stories around these new ideas. The other interesting bit about this new (old) Batman story is that it can be considered a Steampunk Batman tale, before Steampunk was as popular as it is today.

Gotham by Gaslight follows the basic idea of Bruce Wayne/Batman's origin, with Bruce Wayne's family being murdered in front of him as a young boy and him later in life going out into the world to recreate himself into a force of good against evil as Batman. The difference here, however, is that this all takes place in the 1890s and his first adversary is Jack the Ripper. (This isn't spoiling anything. You learn that Jack the Ripper is in this book on the very first page.)

The real star of this book is the art by Mike Mignola. Fans of his Hellboy series will appreciate is dark and shadowy graphic sense, which ultimately lends itself perfectly to this tale. I think anybody who is a fan of Batman, or of Steampunk and is at least familiar with the Batman mythos, will find this quick read enjoyable.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Author meet update: Scott Westerfeld

Scott Westerfeld signing my book!

Author meet update: Scott Westerfeld

Manual of Aeronautics, a color guide to the worldbuilding in Leviathan coming after the release of the third book, Goliath!

Author meet update: Scott Westerfeld

Look! It's Scott Westerfeld!!

Author meet: Scott Westerfeld

At this precise moment, I'm sitting in the Ann Arbor District Library, waiting to meet Scott Westerfeld, author of the Uglies series and the Leviathan trilogy. I can't promise, but I'll try to post updates as the evening goes on.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

88. Dante's Divine Comedy: A Graphic Adaptation by Seymour Chwast

#88

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Title: Dante's Divine Comedy: A Graphic Adaptation
Author: Seymour Chwast
Copyright: 2010
Pages: 128
ISBN: 9781608190843
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Author Website: www.pushpininc.com
Twitter: @bloomsburyUSA
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 2/5 stars
Finished: 10-8-10
Challenge: 100 Books 10, 1010 Challenge (Graphic novel category)

From Amazon:
The "left-handed designer," Seymour Chwast has been putting his unparalleled take — and influence — on the world of illustration and design for the last half century. In his version of Dante's Divine Comedy, Chwast's first graphic novel, Dante and his guide Virgil don fedoras and wander through noir-ish realms of Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, finding both the wicked and the wondrous on their way.

Dante Alighieri wrote his epic poem
The Divine Comedy from 1308 to 1321 while in exile from his native Florence. In the work's three parts (Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise), Dante chronicles his travels through the afterlife, cataloging a multitude of sinners and saints—many of them real people to whom Dante tellingly assigned either horrible punishment or indescribable pleasure — and eventually meeting both God and Lucifer face-to-face.

In his adaptation of this skewering satire, Chwast creates a visual fantasia that fascinates on every page: From the multifarious torments of the Inferno to the host of delights in Paradise, his inventive illustrations capture the delirious complexity of this classic of the Western canon.

I'm not even going to waste much time on this review. I didn't really like the book. At all. The only reason I'm giving it 2 stars is that it may open up the possibility to someone to read Dante's actual The Divine Comedy because of the simplistic telling here. It may help someone who feels the story too daunting to understand a little better what's happening. Maybe.

It's the simplicity that detracts me from enjoying this volume. Chwast takes the epic poem and breaks it down into one line synopses and the crudest illustrations possible to retell the story. I see lots of praise for Chwast and his graphic sense, but honestly, I saw nothing in this book that impressed me at all. I thought the illustrations childish and not very easily understood in some cases.

Not recommended, especially if you have ever read the original and enjoyed it. In that case, avoid this at all cost.

And the winner is...

The winner of a signed The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry in my "I Want Followers" contest is Nedraw! Congrats! I'll be sending you a message to get me your mailing address information.

I want to thank everyone for participating in this contest, and don't despair if you didn't win! I'll be putting up some new contests, very soon.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

87. Quatrain: Flight by Sharon Shinn

#87

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Title: "Flight" from Quatrain
Series: Samaria
Author: Sharon Shinn
Copyright: 2010
Pages: 84
ISBN: 9780441018475
Publisher: Ace Books
Author Website: sharonshinn.net
Twitter: @AceRocBooks
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Finished: 10-16-10
Challenge: 100 Books 10, 1010 Challenge (Fantasy category)

From Amazon:
Sharon Shinn's Twelve Houses books have fascinated readers and critics alike with their irresistible blend of fantasy, romance, and adventure. Now in Quatrain, she weaves compelling stories in four of the worlds that readers love in "Flight", "Blood," "Gold," and "Flame."

So, this past weekend I found I had some time to kill in a Borders in Chicago, so I decided to pick up Quatrain by Sharon Shinn and read the Samaria novella. Quatrain consists of four novellas, each taking place in one of Shinn's worlds. I am a hug fan of the Samaria series, so was anxious to read this particular tale, but I didn't want to have to purchase the whole book for this one story (honestly, I haven't read any other of Shinn's series, so the other stories in this particular volume didn't really interest me), so I grabbed it off the shelf and bought a coffee and found a comfy corner to settle myself into for an hour or two of reading.

The story in "Flight" deals directly with one of the previous Samaria books, but unfortunately it has been too long since I read any of the series for me to remember which book this story tied directly to. Needless to say, I still enjoyed the story as it thoroughly transported me back to the world of Samaria, a world populated by mortals and angels, overseen by the Jovah-appointed Archangel; a world filled with music and emotion.

Spoilerific Pause

This story deals with Salome who is trying to protect her niece from the Archangel Raphael, who has had a dark past with Salome. This is a quick tale, and one that allows the characters to have a nice resolution to the immediate story; Salome discovers that the unrequited love she has longed for most of her life actually returns her feelings, Raphael's excesses as Archangel may be exposed, and Salome's niece comes to her senses.

I don't know that this is a necessary read in the world of Samaria, but if you are looking for a nice return to Samaria, like me, because it's been too long of a break, this is a nice taste of that world.

Library Journal: First Novels: Fall Firsts

Looking for a new, fresh author to try sinking your literary teeth into this fall? Check out this extensive list of debut authors presented by Library Journal.

First Novels: Fall Firsts

Top-Selling Titles in Chicagoland Last Week

Top-Selling Titles in Chicagoland Last Week

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

86. Necroscope by Brian Lumley

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#86

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Title: Necroscope
Series: Necroscope, Book 1
Author: Brian Lumley
Copyright: 1986
Pages: 505
ISBN: 9780812521375
Publisher: Tor
Author Website: www.brianlumley.com
Twitter: @torbooks
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Rating: 5/5 stars
Finished: 10-17-10
Challenge: 100 Books 10, 1010 Challenge (Fiction category), Creepy Reading 10

From Amazon:
Dead men tell no tales.

Except to Harry Keogh, Necroscope. And what they tell him is horrifying.

In the Balkan mountains of Rumania, a terrible evil is growing. Long buried in hallowed ground, bound by earth and silver, the master vampire schemes and plots. Trapped in unlife, neither dead nor living, Thibor Ferenczy hungers for freedom and revenge.

The vampire's human tool is Boris Dragosani, part of a super-secret Soviet spy agency. Dragosani is an avid pupil, eager to plumb the depthless evil of the vampire's mind. Ferenczy teaches Dragosani the awful skills of the necromancer, gives him the ability to rip secrets from the mind and bodies of the dead.

Dragosani works not for Ferenczy's freedom but world domination. He will rule the world with knowledge raped from the dead.

His only opponent: Harry Koegh, champion of the dead and the living.

To protect Harry, the dead will do anything--even rise from their graves!

This is a re-re-read for me. I've read Necroscope a couple of times over now, and I always find it an immensely entertaining book. Lumley's details in the book are so fine, it's hard not to find yourself entirely immersed in the story. It's hard to imagine how much Lumley packs into this book: cold war confrontations between England and Russia; ESPionage involving psychics of varying levels; vampires; time travel; teleportation; zombies (of a sort); political intrigue; family secrets. Of course, you have to like horror novels as well, because Necroscope definitely is not for the faint-of-heart reader.

The plot of the book is your basic good vs evil, which eventually comes to a head with the confrontation between Harry Keogh, Necroscope, and Boris Dragosani, Necromancer. The differences between these two characters really creates the tension in the book. We follow the concurrent running stories of Harry Keogh growing up and Boris Dragosani as a young man, as they both come into their own with their powers. Dragosani, the necromancer, steals secrets from the dead by defiling their bodies in the most gruesome manner, while Harry Keogh, the necroscope, simply speaks to the dead, and befriends them. In Lumley's world, the dead simply carry on as a mind/conscious after death. The genius' of the world continue thinking their amazing thoughts, creating and composing and building, all in their mind but entirely alone. That is, until Harry comes along and discovers his ability to actually speak to the dead, and they are eternally grateful for this fact. So grateful, in fact, that they won't necessarily lay still in their graves when Harry's life is in danger.

As if Dragosani isn't dangerous enough, he also discovers (or is discovered by) Thibor Ferenczy, an ancient vampire, or wamphyr. In Lumley's world, the vampires are actually parasitic creatures who bond with humans and can reproduce once in their lifetime. Ferenczy teaches Dragosani the necromancer technique and eventually bestows on him the "gift" of becoming a wamphyri.

In all honesty, the book is a little slow to start off. There is so much back story to all the characters involved, that Lumley has to explain quite a bit before the story really begins to pick up, but once that happens, hold on! It's a roller coaster ride of a book, right up to the very last page. Lumley has created some very memorable characters in his cast, and his use of time travel and teleportation are extremely clever. I can't give details as that will be too spoilerific, but he does handle the time travel very well (after the fact, it has left me in mind of Tim Powers' use of time travel in The Anubis Gates). If you are a fan of action packed stories, and don't mind a little blood and gore on the way, Necroscope would definitely be for you. However, if you're a little bit on the squeamish side, I'd highly recommend avoiding Necroscope at all costs!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Author Meet: Michael Sims, editor of Dracula's Guest: A Connoisseur's Collection of Victorian Vampire Stories

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This week's lack in a Fragment Friday is brought to you by an Author Meet. Last night, I had the opportunity to meet Michael Sims, editor of Dracula's Guest: A Connoisseur's Collection of Victorian Vampire Stories. What makes this anthology of vampire stories stand out from all the other vampire anthologies out there, you ask? Well, Michael Sims takes an interesting approach to the vampire as a whole, and actually presents a natural history of the vampire, presenting historical documents about suspected cases vampirism and accounts of how certain cultural influences also inspired certain elements of the vampire tale alongside the literary stories that he chose as what he saw as the best examples of the vampire in literature.

Now you're thinking that really doesn't sound all that interesting, aren't you? Well, you'd be wrong. Michael Sims is not only very intelligent, he is also extremely funny. The discussion ended up running almost 2 hours long, and a good time was had by all! If you ever discover that Michael Sims is coming around your area to discuss one of his books, I'd highly recommend going to see him.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

2010 National Book Award Finalists Announced

The 2010 National Book Award finalists have been announced on the National Book Foundation website.

As usual, I'm embarrassed to reveal that I have not read a single book on this award list. I usually feel like an accomplished reader, and then I see a list like this, and think, "Huh. I really need to read more!" Perhaps one of these years, I'll sit down and try to read some the previous winners.

For more information on the National Book Award, visit the National Book Foundation website.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Happy Publication Day! The Scorch Trials by James Dashner released today

Happy publication to James Dashner! The second book in his Maze Runner trilogy, The Scorch Trials, is released today. Congrats, James!

Monday, October 11, 2010

For What It's Worth: Halloween Charity Book Auction Dates and Authors!

For What It's Worth: Halloween Charity Book Auction Dates and Authors!: "The auctions will begin Monday October 11th with each auction lasting 3 days. I'll announce the winning bid the next day and start the next auction right away."

Stop by for a chance at some great books with proceeds going to some great causes!


I'm not hosting this auction, just supplying the information provided from the blog. If you have any questions, please contact the blog, For What It's Worth.

85. Troll's-Eye View: A Book of Villainous Tales edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

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#85

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Title: Troll's-Eye View: A Book of Villainous Tales
Editors: Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling
Copyright: 2010
Pages: 208
ISBN: 9780142416730
Publisher: Firebird Books
Author Website: ellen-datlow.livejournal.com
Author Website: www.terriwindling.com
Format: Paperback
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Finished: 10-10-10
Challenge: 100 Books 10, 1010 Challenge (Fantasy category), Creepy Reading 10

From Amazon:
Everyone thinks they know the real story behind the villains in fairy tales—but the villains themselves beg to differ. In Troll’s-Eye View, you’ll hear from the Giant’s wife (“Jack and the Beanstalk”), Rumpelstiltskin, the oldest of the Twelve Dancing Princesses, and many more. A stellar lineup of authors, including Garth Nix, Jane Yolen, and Nancy Farmer, makes sure that these old stories do new tricks!

A collection of familiar fairy tales with an unusual twist: these stories are told from the point of view of the villains! As with any collection of short stories and poems, some are better than others, some stand out, some are less than stellar, but overall, it is a solid collection. The stories consist of:
  • "Wizard's Apprentice" by Delia Sherman
  • "An Unwelcome Guest" by Garth Nix
  • "Faery Tales" by Wendy Froud
  • "Rags and Riches" by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
  • "Up the Down Beanstalk: A W Remembers" by Peter S. Beagle
  • "The Shoes That Were Danced to Pieces" by Ellen Kushner
  • "Puss in Boots, the Sequel" by Joseph Stanton
  • "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" by Holly Black
  • "Troll" by Jane Yolen
  • "Castle Othello" by Nancy Farmer
  • "`Skin" by Michael Cadnum
  • "A Delicate Architecture" by Catherynne M. Valente
  • "Molly" by Midori Snyder
  • "Observing the Formalities" by Neil Gaiman
  • "The Cinderella Game" by Kelly Link 
I could go into specifics with each story, but I think I'll pass on that. These are written by some of the finest fantasy authors around today, and even though I may not have enjoyed some of these tales as much as others in the collection, they are all still well written and worth reading. I will say, though, that my favorite was "A Delicate Architecture" by Catherynne M. Valente. This story, telling the history of the witch from Hansel & Gretel was so thought provoking and carried such a sense of melancholy that I couldn't help but understand why the witch became the way she is. It's a hauntingly beautiful story.

Recommended.

Friday, October 8, 2010

84. Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge

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#84

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Title: Dark Harvest
Author: Norman Partridge
Copyright: 2006
Pages: 169
ISBN: 9780765319111
Publisher: Tor Books
Author Website: www.normanpartridge.com
Twitter: @torbooks
Format: Paperback
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Finished: 10-6-10
Challenge: 100 Books 10, 1010 Challenge (Fiction category), Creepy Reading 10
Awards: Bram Stoker Award 2006

From Amazon:
Halloween, 1963. They call him the October Boy, or Ol’ Hacksaw Face, or Sawtooth Jack. Whatever the name, everybody in this small Midwestern town knows who he is. How he rises from the cornfields every Halloween, a butcher knife in his hand, and makes his way toward town, where gangs of teenage boys eagerly await their chance to confront the legendary nightmare. Both the hunter and the hunted, the October Boy is the prize in an annual rite of life and death.

Pete McCormick knows that killing the October Boy is his one chance to escape a dead-end future in this one-horse town. He’s willing to risk everything, including his life, to be a winner for once. But before the night is over, Pete will look into the saw-toothed face of horror--and discover the terrifying true secret of the October Boy . . .

Winner of the Stoker Award and named one of the 100 Best Novels of 2006 by
Publishers Weekly, Dark Harvest is a powerhouse thrill-ride with all the resonance of Shirley Jackson’s "The Lottery."

I had no idea who Norman Partridge was when I picked up Dark Harvest. It was the cover that caught my eye (as so happens with books!). That image of a Jack o' Lantern-headed scarecrow, eyes and mouth glowing with an inner fire, making his way through a cornfield completely caught my imagination and I had to know what this story was about.

Reading Norman Partridge's Dark Harvest was a pleasant surprise. Well, not a pleasant surprise, since a story about a living scarecrow who is trying to make his way to the small town church before midnight on Halloween, while all the boys in the town, who have been locked up for five days with no food, are set loose to try and kill him... well, that story really can't be all that pleasant, now can it? However, what surprised me so much was how strongly I was pulled into this story.

Every Halloween in this small town in the middle of nowhere, the October Boy is raised from the cornfields and makes his way towards town. For the previous five days, all the boys from sixteen to nineteen have been locked up, with no food, awaiting their release out into the Run, hunting the October Boy before he can make his way to the church. Whoever kills the October Boy gets a free ride out of town, and his family are showered with gifts, a new house, no bills, for that entire following year, until the next Halloween comes around and the cycle starts all over again. Part of why I loved this book is that there is no explanation as to why things are this way in this unnamed town. Why is the October Boy raised every year? Why can't the residents leave, or why are they not allowed to leave town? What will happen if the October Boy actually reaches the church? What are the consequences of this? None of these questions are truly answered, simply hinted at, yet you don't doubt the importance of any of the actions of the townsfolk, or the October Boy. You simply accept that this is the way things are, and this is how the story has to unfold, and you carry on with the story. And not having to answer these questions is, at least to me, what makes Partridge such an impressive, new-to-me author.

The characters are sympathetic; they could be anyone that you know in any small town. The small town could be like any other small town in America. Yet, there is something evil and unsettling just under the surface, something that these people have come to understand and respect in their own way. You as the reader accept these things too, however unpleasant that they may be, and will keep reading to find out more. As the secrets of this small town start to unravel, you will feel even more sympathy for them, and yet find revulsion at the same time. And you'll still want more. This is a quick read, but one that will leave you wishing there were more to the story, wanting to know what happens next, what the ultimate fate of the October Boy and this small town will be.

I will definitely be on the look out for more by Norman Partridge. Recommended.

Courtney Allison Moulton Halloween Giveaway: No Tricks, Just Treats!

Hop on over to Courtney Allison Moulton's blog for a chance to win signed books in her Halloween Contest!

Fragment Friday... or lack thereof

So, you may be noticing a lack of a Fragment Friday posting from me this morning. That's because I didn't do one. Because I'm a slacker. However, I'm going to endeavor to prepare one tonight or first thing tomorrow morning. A Fragment Friday on a Saturday. It'll be like Saturday morning cartoons, only better!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

83. Ghosts Caught on Film 2: Photographs of the Unexplained by Jim Eaton

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#83

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Title: Ghosts Caught on Film 2: Photographs of the Unexplained
Author: Jim Eaton
Copyright: 2009
Pages: 159
ISBN: 9780715332023
Publisher: David & Charles
Author Website: www.ghoststudy.com
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 4/5 stars
Finished: 10-3-10
Challenge: 100 Books 10, 1010 Challenge (Non-fiction category), Creepy Reading 10

From Amazon:
From shadowy figures, strange mists and apparitions to angels and demons, Ghost Photos is a compendium of extraordinary phenomena caught on film. The author has spent over 10 years studying thousands of photographs and here he presents a collection of the most intriguing in seven enigmatic chapters. This book includes a gallery of explainable photographic effects that are commonly mistaken for pictures of ghosts.

Ghosts Caught on Film 2 is a collection of photographs and webcam grabs of ghosts and other apparitions that are not easily explained, along with explanations of where the photo came from and some history on who took the photo. Some of the photos in the book I've seen before, some are new to me. While this book probably is not for everyone, as I'm sure not everyone believes in the possibility of the supernatural, these types of books are a true guilty pleasure for me and I really enjoyed this one. The photos are clearly presented and the descriptions are concise without a lot of fluff. If you like books on ghosts, this would be for you.