Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

From Chapter 19 of One Summer, by David Baldacci.

"Mickey was waiting for him on the front porch, with a copy of another gossip paper with a similar headline. She was trembling, and attacked him as soon as he got out of the truck."

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Book #76

One of Our Thursdays is Missing, by Jasper Fforde. Hardcover.

This is the 6th in the Thursday Next series, novels that take place in Book World, where all of our literature lives. Like any humorous series, there are hits and misses, but this novel hits more than it misses.

In this one, the "real" Thursday Next has disappeared and the "written" Thursday takes it upon herself to do whatever it takes to find her. This is important because the "written" Thursday has been drafed to impersonate the "real" one in a series of peace talks designed to halt the coming Genre War. Along the way to a satisfying conclusion there is back-stabbing, political intrigue and interesting character moments.

I know the story sounds confusing if you are unfamiliar with the series. But a smile will come to your lips if you are familiar with the absurdist nature of Ffrode's Book World. The plot itself is as odd as the world is, but the world is the star of this series.

The story is not the star here, but it does move along at a decent pace. Along the way are plenty of puns, bizarre literary mash-ups and some interesting thoughts on the state of literature and the publishing industry.

Just when the silliness is getting to be almost too much, Fforde throws in commentary on e-books, new genres and self-publishing. There is just enough thought-provoking material in here to make the book a success.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Book #75

Watchmen as Literature, by Sara J. van Ness. Paperback.

This is van Ness' doctoral thesis, an academic examination of Watchmen, the graphic novel by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons. There is an emerging field of comics studies in the academic world, as the literary and artistic value of works such as Watchmen (and Persepolis, Maus, The Dark Knight Returns, and others) is being taken seriously. Professors from the disciplines of literature, art, media, communications, sociology, and psychology have penned academic works on graphic novels, and some even include the study of graphic novels and comic books in their classes.

Van Ness' work covers a range of aspects of the graphic novel, including a terrific analysis of how the main characters' journeys fit into various aspects of Joseph Campbell's monomyth structure. I also enjoyed her analysis of how the use of sequential art, the unique aspect of comics among other storytelling media -- comic books and graphic novels are not a genre, they are a medium for storytelling, and can tell any type of story.

The writing can be dense at times (it is an academic work), and I wish the book included more examples of panels from Watchmen to demonstrate various points (there are a few, just not enough for me). She also includes a discussion of the movie version of Watchmen, but this discussion has a "tacked-on" feel and does not add a lot to the understanding of the graphic novel itself.

The biggest praise I can offer this book is that I learned things from reading this, and will take a different view of Watchmen next time I read it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

From page 98 of Watchmen As Literature, by Sara J. Van Ness.

"While it is true that the interaction of images and words and the paneled format of sequential art allows readers to potentially see multiple times and spaces at once, readers necessarily have to ingest the information in somewhat of a linear fashion ... The reader recreates Dr. Manhattan's consciousness of space and time, but it is limited by representation."

Monday, November 14, 2011

Book #74

Strategic Moves, by Stuart Woods. Unabridged audio.

I am a fan of Woods' novels, especially those featuring Stone Barrington. In this one, the retired NYPD officer turned lawyer turned CIA operative finds himself thrown into another adventure. An investment firm which Stone has a passing acquaintance has lost a few billion dollars, and a man being sought out by the CIA seeks Stone's protection. There are potential conflicts of interest, which Stone manages to wiggle out of cleverly.

This book does have one of the single best escape scenes I've ever read. It involves an expensive automobile and a large aircraft. And there are other expected scenes involving the Barrington supporting players, such as Dino and Joan and Eggers.

This is the third book I've read this year, after the death of bin Laden, that deals in some way with the capture or killing of bin Laden. It was published 3 months before the man's death, but I had the misfortune of reading it six months after. Similar to dropping in pop culture references into a literary work, using real-world events and personalities can give a work verisimilitude, but can also (like in this work) make it obsolete.

The subplots did not intersect as much as I prefer in works like this, although this lack of neat intertwining does give the work a more realistic feel. This aside, I found the book to be a fun, fast-paced yarn.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Book #73

The Hole in Our Gospel, by Richard Stearns. Paperback.

Stearns is the leader of World Vision, so he brings experience and knowledge to the discussion of world poverty. The book is a nce mix of cold facts and heart-rending stories.

The book has many memoir aspecs to it, as Stearns tells his life story. He was CEO of Lenox, the fine silverware manufacturer, before leaving that to run WorldVision. The juxtaposition of these two posts is made much of in the early part of the book. Stearn's own "conversion" of sorts, his awakening to the plight of the world's poor, is an effective through-line of the book.

Most of the book is a call to social action for Christians, a much-needed one for many in the evangerlical world. Protestants threw away everything related to Catholicism in the aftermath of the Reformation, no matter how good or bad what they threw out was. In the same way, Evangelicals threw away everything related to mainline liberalism over the last century. Among those things that were shed was a commitment to easing the physical suffering of the poor.

Stearns is a Bible-teaching evangelical, no doubt -- the book is loaded with Bible references, short and long, Old Testament and New. But he is willing to say that the modern American evangelical church has a "hole" in its Gospel, and that hole is caring for the poor and afflicted. And he gives practical tips on how we can help serve, with our treasure, time, and talent.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Book #72

Take Two, by Karen Kingsbury. Unabridged audio.

I enjoyed Take One. It stood out among christian novels for taking on the topic of film-making in a way that treated the art of film in a serious way, and as the profession of film-making as a legitimate vocation. And the romance and relationship subplots were mercifully in the background.

In some of these areas, there was a slight step back from the prior novel. The romances were more in the forefront, and I found the more overwrought scenes hard to get through -- but as I point out whenever I review a christian novel, I am not the target demographic. These books are read overwhelmingly by women, so some of my concerns fall into general stereotypes of male/female preferences.

Some of the facts about film-making didn't seem altogether accurate -- there are plenty of examples of two studios producing similar movies and would be easily shrugged off, but in this novel that fact was a major plot point. The novel did not end well, either. It just stopped, albeit at an emotional high point. But none of the plot points are finished up -- they are all left hanging for book three, or perhaps book four.

There were a few bright spots. There was not the obligatory conversion scene, but there was a re-dedication. But this counts as progress in the world of christian fiction. And although some of the characterization was clunky, some characters continue to be well-drawn.

As I mentioned in the review for Take One, the presence of multiple performers makes the listening experience quite enjoyable.

I will certainly pick up books 3 & 4 in the series, but I may take a longer break before resuming the series than I did between books 1 & 2.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Book #71

The Gum Thief, by Douglas Coupland. Hardcover.

Up to about 5 years ago, I had read all of Coupland's novels. I am a huge fan of Generation X, Life After God, and Miss Wyoming, the latter of which is criminally underrated. But for no good reason, I haven't read any of his more recent works.

Reading The Gum Thief was my first effort to rectify this situation. Like much of Coupland's work, this is a literary novel that manages to also be a quick read. Always experimental, this time Coupland gives us an epistolary novel, told in letters. Think of a "found footage" movie, but in this time it is a "found notebook" novel.

Like much of Coupland's work, this novel deals with the anonymity of the modern business world; in this case, the setting is Staples, where forty-something loser Roger and twenty-something Goth chick Bethany work. Roger leaves his notebook in the break room, which contains his novel manuscript. Bethany reads it, leaves him a note (or does she?) and the series of journal entries, notes, letters and scenes from Roger's novel takes off.

Not onloy is there a "book inside a book" aspect to this novel, the "book inside a book" also contains a book. Very meta.

I am a fan of Coupland, but I recognize he is an acquired taste. I would not necessarily start reading his novels here, but if you've enjoyed some of his prior work, you'll probably enjoy this one, too.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Back From The Dead!

In a previous post, I lamented the podfaded status of the excellent Super Future Friends show -- but after a brief hiatus of only 351 days, Kristin and Adriana are back! And they have not missed a beat.

The recently released episode 35 covers Adventure Comics 310, yet another crazy silver-age story of the Legion of Super-Heroes. The show documents the nuttiness of the story, the wonkiness of the art, and a bizarre fixation on trophies and tunnelling.

Welcome back, ladies!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

From page 123 of The Gum Thief, by Douglas Coupland.

"Kyle told me that he thinks Staples is a piece of s___ and should burn. I'm shocked to find that Trail Mix Boy has an anarchist spark in him."