03 October 2010

[BFG] Recent Reading: Lots of Comics, Some Novels, One Non-Fiction

Since I seem to be neglecting this blog, and the idea of keeping my geekiness separate from the rest of my life is less appealing these days, I'm thinking that I'll probably merge BFG back in with Anagram for Ink sooner or later. Especially since AforI has an awful lot of geek posts in its early years. But anyway . . . On to the books.

I've been working my way slowing through the Truro Public Library's collection of comics a few volumes every three weeks or so. A pile of them are in this update (though not every GN in this list is a library book; a few I paid money for). I've also begun reading Japanese novels in translation quite voraciously. I wrote about Vampire Hunter D and its awfulness previously--I'm happy to say the "light novels" in this post are far better.
  1. The Nature of Coyotes: Voice of the Wilderness by Wayne Grady (non-fiction)

    We have coyotes in this area, so I thought I'd find out more about them than their osteology. I don't know what the current consensus is, but according to this book coyotes are more ancient than wolves, and wolves evolved from coyotes. Also the two sometimes hybridize. The other thing I learned is that coyote populations tend to increase when they are aggressively hunted because under normal circumstances only alpha pairs reproduce, but when they are under pressure, lower-ranked females will also have litters.

  2. The Eternal Smile by Gene Luen Yang and Derek Kirk Kim (comics/graphic novel) buy from amazon
    The Eternal Smile: Three Stories
    Three lovely short stories from this duo who also makes comics solo. The title story had a somewhat unexpected, but satisfying ending.

  3. Foiled by Jane Yolen, art by Mike Cavallaro (comics/graphic novel) buy from amazon
    Not the most original idea for a story, but Jane Yolen can take the most overdone story and make it shine, as she does here. This would make a good pick for "middle grade" readers. (Is it me, or did middle grade used to be included in the assumed audience for "young adult" fiction? Is it really helpful to divide up audiences in to smaller and smaller marketing categories?)

  4. Shutterbug Follies by Jason Little (comics/graphic novel) buy from amazon
    Shutterbug Follies: Graphic Novel (Doubleday Graphic Novels)
    There really wasn't anything new or startling here, story-wise, but Little's art is so nice to look at--deceptively simple-looking--that it works anyway. Not that it's a bad story, it's perfectly serviceable, but it's the drawing that's the reason to pick this one up.

  5. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon (fiction) buy from amazon
    The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
    I've had this book on my shelf for ages, and only just got around to reading it, and when I did, I devoured it. Sometimes it's like that with books, You just have to wait for the right moment.

  6. The Horrific Sufferings of the Mind-Reading Monster Hercules Barefoot: His Wonderful Love and His Terrible Hatred by Carl-Johan Vallgren (fiction) buy from amazon
    The Horrific Sufferings of the Mind-Reading Monster Hercules Barefoot, his Wonderful Love and Terrible Hatred
    This is one from my pile of things started and not finished, and now finished. I read almost half of it before getting distracted by other books, and read the rest a few chapters here and a few there. It's good, and well worth reading, it just didn't grab me by the throat. Sometimes it's like that with books. (It took me *years* to get through Foucault's Pendulum and I was so glad I finished it.)

  7. Hellboy Animated: The Menagerie by various folks, based on Mike Mignola's character (comics/graphic novel) buy from amazon
    Hellboy Animated Volume 3: The Menagerie (v. 3)
    I adore Hellboy. Love the original comics (though I must admit, I haven't read very many of them yet), and love the movies. Hellboy Animated is a lighter series, with a stylish animated look. There were two animated movies (straight to DVD, but I think still worth watching), and three comics (as far as I know). This one is the third. It's not nearly as dark or as serious as the main comics, and it's pretty darn short, but it's still a fun read. The main story features an odd mix of Asian and European folklore, and the backup story is all about Abe (I heart Abe Sapien).

  8. Slow Storm by Danica Novgorodoff (comics/graphic novel) buy from amazon
    Slow Storm
    This book is kind of hard to describe. It's about a woman firefighter in rural Kentucky and an illegal immigrant from Mexico, and it's about the great things and the awful things that people do. The loose ink and watercolour drawings are especially effective at depicting the looming feeling of the world just before a storm.

  9. Persepolis 2 by Marjane Satrapi (comics/graphic novel) buy from amazon
    Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return
    It's been years since I read Persepolis the first, but it felt like just the other day as I picked this one up and got right back into the story. It's simple bio comic about a woman growing up in Iran told with simple black and white pictures, but it adds up to some incredible richness. This is the kind of book you give people who don't read comics to show them that comics *are* worth reading.

  10. Lindbergh Child: America's Hero and the Crime of the Century by Rick Geary (comics/graphic novel) buy from amazon
    A Treasury of XXth Century Murder: The Lindbergh Child (Treasury of Victorian Murder (Graphic Novels))
    I got this one from the library just because it was there, not because I thought it would be good. I expected either some dry educational book, or an overwrought dramatization. I especially had low expectations because the book has a whole list of other books in the series, all retelling crimes and murders. But this book is neither dry nor overwrought. It's a simple telling of the known facts with clean drawings and diagrams, and it somehow ends up being a thoroughly gripping tale. I don't know how Geary pulled it off, but I will definitely be looking for more of those books listed in the front.

  11. Spice and Wolf Volume 2 by Isuna Hasekura, art by Keito Koume (comics/graphic novel) buy from amazon
    Spice and Wolf, Vol. 2 (manga) (Spice and Wolf (manga))
    I got all the way through this book and still didn't know why it had a warning for explicit content on it. There's some very tame partial nudity and one small, blurry aftermath of a rape image, but nothing really graphic. At one point the two main characters are in a suggestive position in bed together, but they're fully clothed. So I don't know. It continues to be a fun read, and somehow the bits of economic theory even work and never feel boring. But I have to admit, I read it mostly for the pretty wolf goddess.

  12. The Twelve Kingdoms: Sea of Shadow by Fuyumi Ono (fiction) buy from amazon
    The Twelve Kingdoms, Volume 1: Sea of Shadow
    This is the first of seven in a series of light novels. (I've been trying to think of the Western equivalent for the Japanese light novel and I haven't quite managed it. In many ways, it fits the same niche as young adult fiction in the West, though that's not an exact fit.) So far, Tokyopop has brought out four of them in English, and I hope they bring out the other three. I had to go through considerable effort to get this one, as it's out of print and apparently collectible and so selling for outrageous prices. I finally found a reasonably priced copy at a bookseller in the UK, purchased via the bibliophile's fried, ABE. I bought it because I like the anime based on it, but I didn't know if it was any good. Turns out it's very good indeed.

  13. The Twelve Kingdoms: Sea of Wind by Fuyumi Ono (fiction) buy from amazon
    The Twelve Kingdoms, Volume 2: Sea of Wind
    This one is book two in the series, though it takes place before the events in book one. (If you read them, do try to read book one first, though--I think the series works better narratively that way.) When I saw the stupid prices book one was going for, I jumped on Amazon.ca and grabbed two, three and four while I had the chance to get them for retail price. And happily, one that was listed as a paperback turned out the be a hardcover when it got here. Alas, Amazon's crappy packaging came unstuck and it was only luck and a flimsy rubber band that kept all three books in there. Oh, and this volume I sat down to read one evening and ended up reading straight through in one sitting.

  14. Amulet Book One: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi (comics/graphic novel) buy from amazon
    The Stonekeeper (Amulet, Book 1)
    I picked this up on a whim because I thought the art looked nice and it had a blurb from Jeff Smith on the back, guaranteeing I'd be hooked in three pages. Mr Smith was right, though it may have been less than three pages. At first I thought the characters looked too cartoony next to the lush backgrounds, but I very quickly changed my mind. The art just works, and the story is delightful. If you've read Spiderwick, the beginning (after the prologue) may feel awfully familiar, and the story is really good, like Spiderwick. But it's nothing like the same story once the kids make their discovery in the old family home they've just moved into. I'm going to get Book Two at the earliest opportunity.
And look at that, I'm almost to 50 books. When I hit 50, I guess I'll see if I can do 50 this year, not counting graphic novels.

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