Archive for the 'Geek Joy' Category

Watch This: The Hollow Crown on PBS

Friday, September 20th, 2013

Henry V

Attention Shakespeare geeks, or even better, people who are afraid of Shakespeare:

PBS is running a series of film adaptations called The Hollow Crown of four of Shakespeare’s most famous history plays: Richard II, Henry IV part 1 and 2, and Henry V.

Playing the part of Prince Hal/Henry V? Tom Hiddleston, aka Loki from the Marvel movies. Squee of geek joy.

Ahem, also, he is a very fine dramatic actor, as evidenced by his work in such films as The Deep Blue Sea and Midnight in Paris.

Showing tonight, Friday 9/20/13 and the next three Fridays.

“Maddaddam” by Margaret Atwood

Friday, July 19th, 2013

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I hate advance reader copies. They’re ugly, full of typos, and whenever I’ve gotten one in the past, I’ve ended up reading it after the book came out in its proper form. Often, after it came out in hardcover and even paperback. So, I tend to avoid ARCs. Except when a friend says, “would you like an ARC of the new Margaret Atwood?” And then I’m all in.

Maddaaddam is the third book in Margaret Atwood’s Maddaddam trilogy, which began with Oryx and Crake, which I initially disliked, a great deal. It was followed by The Year of the Flood, which I loved, and which cast all events in Oryx and Crake in such a different context probably because it was narrated by two smart, interesting women, as opposed to the emotionally stunted, wilfully obtuse Jimmy, who narrated the first book. I loved Year of the Flood so much I re-read Oryx and Crake, which made much more sense to me with more of hte puzzle shown.

Maddaddam doesn’t even pretend to be a standalone novel. There is a 4-page recap at the beginning of the ARC that summarizes what happened in the previous two books, and from there the reader is plopped right down again this futuristic, mangled Earth and the cast of characters from the past, which expands further in this book. It’s told mostly from Toby, one of the narrators of YotF, and who is now one of my favorite fictional characters, ever. Sometimes it’s in third person, about Toby. Sometimes it’s in first person, being narrated by Toby, and sometimes she’s telling the history of Zeb and finding out how all of his puzzle pieces fit into what went before.

I tore through the books 400 pages in two days. I took unwilling breaks to take care of myself and my family. I stayed up late to finish it, and had tears leaking down my face. This book is full of memorable characters, an epic battle, unlikely allies (which I was sad were given away on the back cover, so if you want to read this, I recommend just plunging in), love, loss, survival tips, and a makes me continue to think long and hard on what the differences are between utopia and dystopia, and the type of potential futures shown by different authors, and how differently male and female authors have handled similar ideas.

After I read The Road by Cormac McCarthy, I wondered why so much of dystopic literature, and really, so much of literature generally, was about the father/son relation. I have a masters degree in religion, so there is the obvious answer that it’s a reflection, inborn or learned?, about the human struggle to understand the Father/Son relation. Where is the mother/daughter relation, I wondered after reading Gilead and The Road. Whither is the female, I wondered after A Canticle for Leibowitz and Oryx and Crake.

They are right here, in the three books of the Maddaddam trilogy. I flat-out, full-on loved this book, this universe, and these characters. And I about exploded with geek joy when I found out Atwood is coming to the Twin Cities for a reading series this fall.

Book Stacks, Not My Own

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

Oh, there are some drool-worthy photos of book stacks in Japan, for example:

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Image: Twitter. Via.

But my favorite part is the brief last sentence:

While still an emerging art, the ultimate book stacking style would combine style and strength but also allow customers to actually pick a copy up so they can buy it.

I have been mulling for a while that I want to create stacks with my TBR books, not buy more shelves, but have the books be removable, at least one at a time, without it all tumbling down. My summer project? Or another brick on the road to hell? Only time will tell. I wouldn’t put money on it.

Veronica Mars Movie Kickstarter!

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

Oh, I am filled with anticipatory geek joy. There is a Kickstarter campaign for a Veronica Mars movie!

I know there are Veronica Mars fans out there. Rob Thomas couldn’t get his project greenlit the traditional way, so he’s doing a kickstarter, with potential prizes. You only pay if the goal is reached and the movie will be made.

My husband and I pledged this morning. Please consider doing so. I’d so love to see this cast reunited!

“Good Friend” is More Goodness from Cloud Cult

Monday, March 4th, 2013

I don’t think I’ve ever embedded a video, so this is a great one to start with. Cloud Cult has a new album, Love, that officially goes on sale tomorrow. It’s the CD of the week at my radio station The Current, so if you join this week you get it.

And this new song “Good Friend”, is a terrific example of the kind of their exuberant, anthemic sound. I love it. Hope you do too. The creature in it reminds me of big Totoro from Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro, which I watched this weekend with my kids, who I’m glad to say are not too old for it. Neither am I.

“The Devil in Silver” by Victor LaValle

Saturday, December 1st, 2012

I was eagerly looking forward to The Devil in Silver, the follow up (not sequel, as I’d assumed it would be) to Big Machine, which I discovered during the 2010 Morning News Tournament of Books, and really enjoyed.

I noticed over the last year that the date for Devil in Silver’s release was pushed back at least once. LaValle reveals why in his author’s note at the end–his wife gave birth to a son in May 2011 and that resulted in some changes to his writing routine that put it past deadline, but also gave him experiences that he incorporated into this wild novel.

Most of the book is told through the view of Pepper, a big white guy who gets put in a mental institution for a 72 hour observation after tussling with some cops, but ends up staying a little bit longer. He struggles (literally) to get out, but they drag him (literally and figuratively) back in. From the start, he’s aware of something beastly, weird and scary in the psych ward of New Hyde Hospital in New York City.

The snort came for a third time. It was even closer now. Immediately to his right. As if the animal had crept right up to his ear. Even worse, there was a smell. Musky and warm, like old blood. It made his throat close, and he wanted to wretch [sic]. The hospital’s staff members sat around the converence table taking notes, or watching him. Not one of them seemed to notice anything. How could they not smell that stink? (14)

Pepper grudgingly begins to accept his situation, and interact with the staff and patients around him. As in Big Machine, the administration may or may not be evil, and what looks like a monster may not be. A ragtag group of misfits stumbles toward some kind of truth, fragmenting along the way. In addition to Pepper’s point of view, we get many others, including a very strange one toward the end that I won’t spoil but that I enjoyed a lot.

There’s a lot going on in this crazy quilt of a novel: literary horror, social commentary on the treatment of the mentally ill, character sketches from different walks of life, and a character toward the end that I suspect is LaValle’s Gary Stu (a male Mary Sue):

A big man. Not tall but wide. The polite term is heavyset. (The clinical term is hyperobese.) A black guy…Late twenties or early thirties, his hair was kind of a wild puff and his head was down. …interested in his own toes. He had his arms crossed. (402)

The book was scary, but had some laugh-out-loud moments, and some downright sweet ones, along with some terribly sad ones. It engaged me, made me loath to put it down, and pulled me through from start to finish. It’s possible that it’s kind of a mess, and has uneven stuff in it, but if so, I didn’t even notice.

In an interesting bit of synchronicity, I recently read The Silver Linings Playbook, whose main character also spent time in a mental ward, also lost large chunks of time there, also had violent tendencies, and in one scene, shared a tiny box of cereal across the table from another female character. It was a strange mirroring, probably coincidence, but fascinating.

I recall exchanging emails with LaValle after he did an author Skype chat with one of my book groups, Books and Bars, but I can’t find any record of it. (Did I imagine it?) In it, I tried politely to express my worry that he’d pull a Matrix, and follow up a promising first work with a crappy second one. In my opinion, he didn’t. I was sad not to meet up with the two main characters from Big Machine, but glad to meet these new ones, and interested to see what the next book might hold. Well played, Mr. LaValle, well played.

My Ideal Bookshelf (?)

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012
My Ideal Bookshelf (?)

My Ideal Bookshelf (?)

There’s a new book out called My Ideal Bookshelf, which I read about at Mental Multivitamin, then promptly put on my amazon wish list. She posted her Ideal Shelf, here is a stab at mine–hey, it goes to 11!

Possession
by A.S. Byatt
Life with Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
Middlemarch by George Eliot
The Illustrated Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, ill. Dame Darcy
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
Hamlet, The Tempest and Twelfth Night by Shakespeare
The Holy Bible NRSV

Also, please note, I picked particular Shakespeare plays rather than a collection. More challenging, no?

Wuthering Heights and A Wrinkle in Time almost made the cut. I think I’m missing a good, cathartic weepie. Probably should have put Anne of Green Gables on there, in lieu of Witch of Blackbird Pond.

What does your shelf look like/contain? You can print out an illustration at the Ideal Bookshelf site, too.

Book Mountain!

Friday, October 12th, 2012

“Magnificent Five-Story Book Mountain Library”:

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via The Morning News.

Four Graphic Novels

Friday, August 31st, 2012

My pile of graphic novels got higher over the past months as I did the Summer of Shelf Discovery Readalong and kept up with my book groups. I’ve finally been able to catch up, and it’s been a good batch of varied stuff.

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Cinderella: Fables are Forever by Chris Roberson ill. by Shawn McManus. The second miniseries devoted to Cinderella (I enjoyed the first, From Fabletown with Love), set in the Fables comic-series universe, this is a standalone miniseries that yet fits into the bigger mythology. I was a little disappointed when I finished it, but it’s grown on me since. What I didn’t like were the many flashbacks, and I sometimes was disoriented in time. What worked was introducing a nemesis for Cinderella, an interesting one, and seeing their interactions past and present. There was one twist at the end involving identity that I didn’t quite buy. The book introduced another world and minor characters that also play roles in the larger Fables series, so this is one that works on its own and enhances the larger works. There are also tantalizing hints about Frau Totenkinder, who has always been one of my favorite characters.

Caveats: the Cinderella stories are riffs on James Bond, so they have sex and violence. On the surface Cindy is a strong, liberated woman exercising choice and power. But this is a story by men, and to me the sexism comes through louder than the strong-female aspect.

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Fables v. 17 Inherit the Wind. Wahoo! A return to the series strong points, its main characters and the overarching stories. Finally we are back to the aftermath of the fables’ war with Mr. Dark and the rebuilding that happens both by the heroes and villains. I loved the main story about which of Snow White and Bigby Wolf’s cubs/kids would be the heir to the North Wind. I was very disappointed in the last Fables collection, Super Team, which felt thin and not as funny as it was trying to be. This collection was a great example of the things I love about the series, though Snow White as whiny mother is a drag; she was way more kick-ass at the beginning of the series.

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Richard Stark’s Parker: The Score by Darwyn Cooke. I have no idea why I like noir, with its sexist tropes and poisonous portrayals of women, though I do think sometimes misANTHROPY is mistaken for misogyny. But for all its troublesome aspects, I like the genre when it’s done well in book, film and comics, and I think Cooke’s new Parker graphic novel is excellent. Parker is the career criminal who’s getting a gang together for a sure-thing heist. He smells a rat but can’t suss it out till everything is well under way. This is a complicated story with ten men involved in the heist, yet Cook does a great job of telling the story visually and keeping to the terse, minimalist style of the source material. There were several pages and spreads that I lingered over, appreciating how they did what they did. In addition to being a great story, this is a lovely book. Heavy covers, quality pages and nicely retro end pages. Highly recommended if you can stomach noir.

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The Underwater Welder by Jeff Lemire, the author/illustrator of another of my favorite ongoing comic series, Sweet Tooth. Here, Lemire is telling a story set in present reality. Jack is a young husband and about to be father. He works as a welder for a nearby oil rig off the shore of a tiny town in Nova Scotia. When he dives, he has visions. Are they his imagination, or something more mystic than that, and what are they trying to tell him. A good mystery, sympathetic characters, and nicely told in wash-y black and white.

One thing: I am DONE with descriptions of something as the best episode of the Twilight Zone you’ve never seen. It’s cheap shorthand for a blurbist or introduction author (here, Damon Lindelof, the Lost guy). The Underwater Welder was far more nuanced in story and execution than such a comparison implies.

Five YA Novels that Influenced Me When I was a Teen

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

A young-adult-lit friend sent me a link to author Rachel Carter’s post at Nerdy Book Club on the five young adult (YA) books that were important to her, and why, as a teen.

Since we’ve been discussing this all summer as part of the Summer of Shelf Discovery Readalong (discussing? We’ve been SOAKING in it, Madge.), I thought I’d post my five since my memory has been helpfully jogged by this summer’s YA reading bender.

1. Down a Dark Hall by Lois Duncan. It was creepy and compelling and taught me who Emily Bronte was. Kind of a tie here with Summer of Fear. Buyer beware: several of the Duncan books have been updated with clumsy references to modern tech, which is a shame, because I really like the new covers. Seek out previous editions.

2. Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson. It perfectly captured my older-sister angst.

3. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare. Spoiled girl gets her comeuppance but finds love in the end. Yay!

4. A Wrinkle in Time by Margaret L’Engle. It was the first YA book I remember reading, loving, and re-reading. It helped make me a reader.

5. Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey. My cousin lent this to me when I was in seventh grade. A girl and her very own telepathic dragon–what could be better than that? Alas, when I re-read it, I found the suck fairy had gotten to it.

What would you pick as your five? You can post on this and link back, or leave in comments.

“The Amazing Spider-Man” (2012)

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

Can we just leave aside the argument about whether it’s too soon for a reboot? The reboot is here, so let’s discuss it.

The superhero action story, about Spider Man up against The Lizard is adequate, though the final sequence and fight scene are ridiculously similar to that from the Edward Norton Hulk.

Speaking of, I’m officially done with the trope of Daddy’s Little Girl in love with the anti-hero. “No, Daddy, no! Don’t hurt him!” Enough, already, Betty in Hulk, Lois in Superman, and Gwen in Spider Man.

BUT, the characterizations in this are terrific. Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben is great, but Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield are terrific as their respective characters. And together? Together, those two science geeks have chemistry enough to light up a lab. Hoo–ee, those two are both adorable and sexy.

Linda Holmes did a great breakdown at NPR’s Monkey See of Geek (Garfield’s Spidey) vs. Nerd (Tobey Maguire’s, see also Christopher Reeve’s Clark Kent, et al.)

So while the action in this one is OK, everything else, the backstory, the characters interacting, the acting–was tremendous, I thought. And the Stan Lee cameo was especially good this time.

One question: they cast the immensely like-able Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy. Unless there are major revisions in comic book storylines, which do of course happen, I foresee howls of outrage down the line of this reboot.

Speaking of Things From Childhood

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Since we’ve been revisiting the books of our youth this week as part of the Summer of Shelf Discovery readalong, I was amused to see Linda Holmes at NPR write about the 70’s game show Match Game and how Richard Dawson often stole the show.

I vividly recall watching this show over the years: Match Game 76, 77, and 78 (I think he popped a balloon that year to mark the change) and then it became PM, and I think we stopped watching it when we moved to Worthington Ohio. It’s paired in my mind with the Adam West Batman, and these are what I think of when I wonder if I’m letting my kids watch too much television.

Speaking of the Adam West Batman, here’s a bit at HuffPo with a 1972 Public Service Announcement featuring one of my favorite heroines of youth, Batgirl.

Summer Reading Project!

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

I’m posting this before I second guess myself. Lizzie Skurnick wrote a book called Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading based on a popular column, Fine Lines at Jezebel. It’s goes through the various books many of us read growing up, their themes, their strengths, their flaws, etc.

(It’s rather like a Teenage Girls’ Canon, a pop-cultural milieu many of us, especially those who came of age in the late 70’s/80’s/early 90’s shared.)

Examples: Chapter 1, “YA Heroines We’ll Never Return” includes A Wrinkle in Time (Meg!). Chapter 4: “Read ‘Em and Weep” includes Jacob Have I Loved and Bridge to Terabithia. Chapter 7 on Romance includes Forever, and Chapter 10, “I Can’t Believe They Let Us Read This”, includes Flowers in the Attic, My Sweet Audrina, Clan of the Cave Bear, Wifey and Domestic Arrangements. It’s one of the three chapters where I read all the books. Heh. The oevres of Judy Blume, Lois Duncan, Madeleine L’Engle are all well represented in it.

I don’t think there’s a way to do a reading challenge and ask that people read all the books she references even if they’re often super short–72! BUT there are ten chapters, and twelve weeks between June and August.

I propose a chapter a week starting the first or second week in June, and reading ONE book from the chapter a week, then coming here to discuss it. And I’d add an eleventh week (it’ll be so good it’ll go to 11!) for what book you loved that isn’t included. (Mistral’s Daughter. Ahem.)

SO, you’d be reading one chapter of Shelf Discovery, and one short YA book a week, perhaps one you already read as a child, and perhaps for you parents even one you could read WITH your kid. (Not Wifey, but maybe A Little Princess, right?)

Whaddya think?

If there’s interest, then a schedule and bibliography to come.

“As I Lay Dying” Lego Diorama

Saturday, April 28th, 2012

My entry on As I Lay Dying is forthcoming, but one scene in the book so stirred my imagination that I felt compelled to make a diorama. Just for fun. I don’t know that I’ve ever made one in my life. 6yo Guppy helped me out.

SPOILERS! Also, this diorama is not to scale. And we didn’t have enough blue Legos to make a big enough river, so we used a cardboard base and Guppy colored it with marker.

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The bridge:

Anse was setting there, looking at the bridge where it was swagged down into the river with just the two ends in sight…The boy was watching the bridge where it was mid-sunk and logs and such drifted over it. (123-4)

The wagon:

Then the wagon tilted over and then it and Jewel and the horse was all mixed up together. Cash went outen sight, still holding the coffin braced, and then I couldn’t tell anything…(154)

The mules:

They roll up out of the water in succession, turning completely over, their legs stiffly extended as when they had lost contact with the earth. (149)

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Anse:

Since he lost his teeth his mouth collapses…The stubble gives his lower face that appearance that old dogs have. (17)

Dewey Dell:

pa and Dewey Dell stand watching us (149),

Squatting, Dewey Dell’s wet dress shapes for the dead eyes of three blind men those mammalian ludicrosities which ar the horizons and the valleys of the earth. (164)

Vardaman:

Cash tried but she fell off and Darl jumped going under he went under and Cash holleringto catch her and I hollering running and hollering…

“Where is ma, Darl?” I said. You never got her. You knew she is a fish but you let her get away. You never got her. Darl. Darl. Darl.” I began to run along the bank, watching the mules dive up slow again and then down again. (150-1)

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Darl:

[Darl] is looking at me. He dont say nothing; just looks at me with them queer eyes of hisn that makes folks talk. I always say it aint never been what he done so much or said or anything so much as how he looks at you. It’s like he had got into the inside of you, someway. Like somehow you was looking at yourself and your doings outen his eyes. (125)

Lego interpretation: Note his self-satisfied expression and arresting eyes.

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Cash:

Cash lies on his back on the earth, his head raised on a rolled garment. His…face is gray, his hair plastered in a smooth smear across his forehead as though done with a paint brush. His face appears sunken a little, sagging from the bony ridges of eye sockets, nose, gums, as thought the wetting had slacked the firmness which had held the skin full….He lies pole-thin in his wet clothes, a little pool of vomit at his head. (156)

Dewey Dell has laid Cash’s head back on the folded coat, twisting his head a little to avoid the vomit. Beside him his tools lie. “A fellow might call it lucky it was the same leg he broke when he fell offen that church,” pa says. (163)

Lego interpretation: the grey spot to the right of his head is vomit and Dewey Dell attends to him. His tools are in the water and at his side. His injured leg is elevated, he’s pale from almost drowning, and he’s in a lot of pain.

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Jewel:

Lego interpretation: he is taller than the others, has a different skin tone, black hair instead of brown, and has a cranky, man-of-action expression on his face. Note the circular bumps on the narrow end of the coffin, where Addie’s head would be, and where Vardaman drilled air holes, then Cash carefully filled them. Also note one of Cash’s tools in river and the dead mule in the background.

It took a great deal of time to sort through our Legos to find appropriate expressions and hair for the characters. I was quite surprised how easy it was to find coffin-shaped pieces. Discerning Lego enthusiasts may recognize many Star Wars elements.

Leaving the Comic Shop

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

Every Wednesday I take 6 and 8yo Guppy and Drake to the comic store for new comic day. I give them their allowance, and they decide how to spend it. I was settling up at the register and asked Guppy where his brother was.

“He’s in the corner.”

I said what had to be said: “No one puts Baby in the corner.”

The comic-book store guy laughed. My boys looked at me, baffled. Another guy in the store said, like a fairy at the birth of Sleeping Beauty,

“May he never understand why that is funny.”

How Things Are

Monday, March 5th, 2012

Last week my husband G. Grod sends me a notice that our favorite revival theater is showing The Seventh Seal, which we’ve never seen.

“No thanks,” I said. “I feel like I should see it, but I’d much rather collapse on the couch with you and watch the rest of Season 1 of Party Down.”

So we did. And I loved it.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

Monday, February 13th, 2012

My husband went DVD shopping a few weeks ago, and brought Scott Pilgrim vs. the World home for me. I had started to watch the Lonesome Dove miniseries, which many of y’all had recommended, but it wasn’t working for me. The overwrought music and the hammer-heavy foreshadowing, and then that closeup of Sean in the river that freezes at the end of Part 1 combined to make me less than eager to finish.

So instead we watched Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. I loved it, again. That may be because I’m a comic book geek and loved the series of graphic novels. Help me test this theory. Did you like the movie without having read the books? But anyway, read the books. So much geeky goodness to be had in them!

Classics, Illustrated

Friday, February 10th, 2012

At The Composites, Brian Joseph Davis takes book descriptions of characters like Madam Bovary and Rochester, combines them with law enforcement sketch software, and voila, you have truly creepy images of some of the most famous people who never existed. Via The Morning News.

“Jhereg” by Steven Brust

Friday, December 9th, 2011

A few weeks ago, I had three daunting books to finish for three different book groups: The Master and Margarita, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, and Freedom. I read them more quickly than I’d anticipated, so December’s ended up kind of a free month for me to read whatever I want. All this choice is a little daunting (one of the themes from Freedom, in fact) and I’m trying to strike a balance between edifying books like Master and Margarita, and flat-out enjoyable books like Jhereg by Steven Brust. So far, December has been a very good reading month.

Though a short book by itself, Jhereg is the first of many Vlad Taltos novels by Brust, and was one of the first books my now-husband lent to me when we started dating. Vlad is an assassin with a dragon-y familiar in a complicated world called Dragaera.

There is a similarity, if I may be permitted an excursion into tenuous metaphor, between the feel of a chilly breeze and the feel of a knife’s blade, as either is laid across the back of the neck. I can call up memories of booth, if I work at it. The chilly breeze is invariably going to be the more pleasant memory.

In this first novel, he’s hired to kill someone but keeps uncovering reasons why he can’t, or shouldn’t. The world, and the comprehensive cast of characters in it, feel fully formed, and like the author has much more control over the bazillion narrative balls he’s juggling than he has any right to. Reading this was like hanging out with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while, one who I’d forgotten was so entertaining and funny. My hope is that I can re-read the Vlad novels in between longer ones and maybe even catch up, since several have come out since I last visited Dragaera. Jhereg and the two novels that follow it are collected in the omnibus The Book of Jhereg, but since I’m reading them piecemeal, I’ll post about them one by one.

Sweet Tooth: In Captivity and Animal Armies by Jeff Lemire

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

After one of my comic book guys recommend the series Sweet Tooth to me, I read and enjoyed volume one. It was hard for me to put down volume 2 In Captivity in the middle, then wait to buy volume 3 Animal Armies, and again begrudge anything that took me away from tearing through volume 3 to find out what happened to young Gus, a deer-antlered little boy in a post-apocalyptic world where all the children are now human/animal hybrids. It shares some themes with Y the Last Man, but the art is more distinctive and evocative, and I find Gus a much more charming main character. I’m eager for volume 4 to be collected.