One of the best zombie books available. It's written like a historical documentary and treats the zombie outbreak with a mature, scientific appreciati...moreOne of the best zombie books available. It's written like a historical documentary and treats the zombie outbreak with a mature, scientific appreciation that's alien to the genre. It's more a serious book with smart societal commentary than gore and headshots (though those are important, too).(less)
We3 is a surprisingly short comic book, but not by accident. I enjoyed the story so much that I tried to imagine ways it could be expanded into an ong...moreWe3 is a surprisingly short comic book, but not by accident. I enjoyed the story so much that I tried to imagine ways it could be expanded into an ongoing series, but each scenario my brain cooked up resembled a goofy sitcom. Don't let that fool you into thinking We3 is a work of humor. It most certainly is a work of anger and activism and love. Morrison takes three lost pets, turns them into man-killing machines, and makes you want to adopt them.
Why? Because their murder sprees are a result of human intervention. Always, always, human intervention---in this case the military, funding yet another project to put them ahead in warfare. When the scientist who's worked most closely with the animals (a dog, a cat, and a rabbit) learns the experiment is not only being shut down, but terminated, she frees the dangerous and capable animals and surrenders herself to the consequences. The rest of the book is about seeing who wins: man or man's Frankenstein creations.
It's hard to imagine such a violent comic like this one causing the reader to tear up, but I did. In a brief span of pages, you come to love these animals as if they were still harmless, helpless pets. They were taught to work together, and in their fealty they remind us of how innocent they are under all that wire and machinery. They're bred killers, trained to massacre, but they show more compassion than the people trying to restrain them.
Like the pets so many of us have under our care (I have three babies, myself), these animals think of home, friendship, and basic needs such as food. That's what makes We3 such a shocking and meaningful comic---it teeters on the brink between sweetness and violence but balances both so well. (less)
Ironically, Plotnik warns writers about the danger of alienating their audience with niche references and bloated exaggerations, then proceeds to use...moreIronically, Plotnik warns writers about the danger of alienating their audience with niche references and bloated exaggerations, then proceeds to use a few himself. But otherwise, his writing is exemplary. And that's what his book is about, anyway. Being bold. Taking risks. Doing a cannonball into the stagnant pond of writing.
Spunk & Bite is an uplifting read for any aspiring or practicing writer. The book teaches that it's okay to break rules, even if it means a blemish on your record. The best writers have done it since Shakespeare, and their minor indiscretions were forgiven for the brilliance they produced.
Plotnik never lets his writing slow down; it never grows tiresome. Spunk & Bite may be what you need to get going again and be confident in your own style. Go buy it.(less)
I’ve been a fan of John Green ever since I started watching the Vlogbrothers videos on YouTube. L...moreReview taken from my personal blog, Misprinted Pages.
I’ve been a fan of John Green ever since I started watching the Vlogbrothers videos on YouTube. Looking for Alaska is my favorite out of the three (and counting) that I’ve read, including Paper Towns and most recently An Abundance of Katherines. It might not rank first with me, but An Abundance of Katherines possesses merits that are undeniably strong. This is a young adult book with a surprising amount of depth but one that reads lightly.
For the most part, anyway. Green tries his best not to bog the book down with the equations that his protagonist, Colin Singleton, devises in his attempt to calculate the future outcome of all romantic relationships—specifically his chances with the many Katherines he’s dated and hopes to continue to date. You see, Colin Singleton is a borderline genius—a prodigy who knows more languages than he has fingers, loves to anagram, finds everything and anything fascinating, and above all is terrified of not mattering.
After Katherine XIX dumps him, his friend Hassan takes him on a road trip that leads them to Gutshot, Tennessee, the resting place of Archduke Franz Ferdinand—who was shot in the middle (a word that Green cleverly uses given the book’s context), leaving the same kind of gaping, empty hole that Colin feels he has without a Katherine in his life. Their adventure introduces them to a strange girl named Lindsey Lee Wells, who adapts her demeanor to whomever she’s with but who’s smarter than she lets on, and together they come unwittingly into a summer job, seating them across from the elderly of Gutshot in an effort to record their lives and memories of working for the town’s only factory.
As always, Green has a knack for crafting dialogue and a story that feels genuine to his audience. But the real worth here is found in Colin Singleton and his unmistakable need to matter—to be a genius, not just a prodigy. The novel beautifully unravels why he’s so obsessed with being the best, speaking more greatly to the human condition of loneliness. Colin might be a super intelligent nerd who’s painfully awkward in social situations, but he grapples with many of the same issues that the rest of us do.
More importantly, I think, is what Green is trying to say not only about the fear of relationships, and letting someone get close, but relationships in general: that we can’t go through life expecting to date only Katherines or Colins. When we put stipulations on who the right person is, we never find the right person at all because we’re looking for someone of unreasonable expectations—a kind of expectations that prevent people from truly falling in love with another human being. Some people say we find love when we stop looking, and for me, at least, that’s held absolutely true. My boyfriend doesn’t have striking blue eyes and a body like a Calvin Klein model, but he does make me happy (and he’s very handsome).
An Abundance of Katherines is also about letting yourself make mistakes, an act many of us never do out of anxiety for what might happen. Sound silly? It is.
The book is also about storytelling—mostly because Colin lacks proper foresight. For all his intelligence, he can’t understand why he’s fallen into the same disastrous pattern and why he’s intent to stay in it. Green establishes a noteworthy literary framework here, connecting the parts together at the end, when things finally make sense for the characters.
It’s about having confidence in ourselves—being okay with who we are and understanding that being “special” is not nearly as important as being present in the world. We have to live, really live, in it.(less)
Readers of the Earthsea cycle can skip this inclusion if they wish. Chances are only true Earthsea enthusiasts will take any real interest in this col...moreReaders of the Earthsea cycle can skip this inclusion if they wish. Chances are only true Earthsea enthusiasts will take any real interest in this collection of little stories from the fantasy world. They're good, but more like trinkets than essential reading.(less)
You’d think a book subtitled “An Editor’s Advice to Writers” would be about useful editing techniques, right? Wrong —...more(From my blog, Misprinted Pages.)
You’d think a book subtitled “An Editor’s Advice to Writers” would be about useful editing techniques, right? Wrong — at least not in Betsy Lerner’s The Forest for the Trees, which views the process of writing and and publishing through a literary editor’s lens. This is an insider’s look at the business, with juicy secrets from within the publishing house, from an editor who fearlessly bares her soul and, by way of it, encourages her readers to do the same.
As someone who discovered the world of copy editing only a couple years ago, has made mistakes and learned what the editor-writer relationship means and should be, and has since filled both shoes at once, I expected pages of wisdom about good, hard editing. What Lerner provides is much different: I knew it wasn’t going to be Strunk and White, but I wasn’t prepared for a collection of experiences throughout the years. Lerner reveals the beautiful and the ugly sides of the industry — and the bitterness and optimism that comes and goes for editors, agents, publicists, publishers, and writers alike. These people must all work together for a common goal, but their perspectives and priorities couldn’t be more different from day to day.
First, Lerner tackles the needs and neuroses of the writer, who is simply someone, of any walk of life, who must write. It doesn’t matter whether you’re good or bad, chronically unpublished or successful. A writer is someone who writes against all hardship and commits to whatever amount of work is necessary to improve — even if that means rewriting an entire book from a different character’s perspective or surviving a storm of criticism that never seems to clear.
And as far as the phrase, “Write what you know”? Lerner says it’s redundant — all writers, by fault, write what they know.
Lerner also urges aspiring authors to write like they don’t care if their mother will read it. You’re not going to shock, awe, or inspire any other sort of emotional reaction unless you’re fearless in what you put down on the page.
But to editors, agents, and publicists, writers are like children. So easily can they stray from the well-lit path into any manner of darkness: writer’s block, desperation, jealousy of peers, an insatiable need for attention, and even drugs, alcohol, and mental illness. They’re naive and impatient, and so often the rewards of publication are built on hopes and fantasies that, once shattered, can never be repaired.
Getting published isn’t an instant miracle. Sometimes it makes the struggle harder, Lerner tells us, and she backs up what she says.
She also explores all angles of the book world and shows how the people caught up in it interact with one another. Publicists get little love. The inside of a publishing house is a brutal environment where discouragement and thrill go hand in hand. And the business is always changing — with the growth of social media and the constant yet unpredictable threat of competition. No one ever really know what’s going to sell.
But Lerner shares the little joys, too — those rare, literary wonders that you fight for, and the ones that are runaway hits and a fleeting source of euphoria for everyone who made them happen. What’s even more amazing, though, is how safe the author makes readers — and writers — feel despite the hostility and enormous chance of disappointment. She holds in her hands not a pen, but a little flame of hope that refuses to go out.
Bottom line: Not for practical applications, but contains invaluable insight into the publishing industry that any aspiring writer should take the time to read.
What I liked: The author’s swift use of language and her bravery.
What I wasn’t expecting: No concrete editing tips and advice to speak of.(less)
I've rarely ever been disappointed with Mignola's Hellboy writing. He has such a fantastic take on the occult, and his art works perfectly in conjunct...moreI've rarely ever been disappointed with Mignola's Hellboy writing. He has such a fantastic take on the occult, and his art works perfectly in conjunction with it.(less)
This is my favorite book. Le Guin is a master fantasy writer, and her Earthsea series is wonderful. Her fantasy is a safe bet, but her science fiction...moreThis is my favorite book. Le Guin is a master fantasy writer, and her Earthsea series is wonderful. Her fantasy is a safe bet, but her science fiction is hit or miss.(less)
Demon in a Bottle is exemplary of the Bronze Age of comics---when mature themes of real world issues were entering our "funny books." This particular...moreDemon in a Bottle is exemplary of the Bronze Age of comics---when mature themes of real world issues were entering our "funny books." This particular work is considered a classic today, mainly because of its commended treatment of alcoholism, but by modern standards of reading, Demon in a Bottle falls short in many regards. It's just not especially well-composed.(less)
The tale of Brave Story comes packaged in a gorgeously illustrated, colorfu...more(Originally posted on my blog, Misprinted Pages.)
(Contains minor spoilers.)
The tale of Brave Story comes packaged in a gorgeously illustrated, colorful jacket that hints at the adventure awaiting readers courageous enough to delve into the book’s 800-plus pages (if that’s even a concern for you). It’s a meaty story, written by female Japanese author Miyuki Miyabe and translated by Alexander O. Smith. In ways, it reminds me of The Neverending Story (one of my favorite books), but I think it’s much more rich and real than that.
Brave Story is a ghost legend, fantasy epic, and heartbreaking family drama all in one. Part One deals with a typical Japanese haunting and — who would have guessed? — video games since the main character, Waturu, and his best friend Katchan are kids. Then it veers off into much harder-hitting territory than the simple fun and worries of childhood: divorce, a difficult betrayal for any family.
Miyabe deals with this topic extraordinarily well. She doesn’t pick sides but rather gives the perspectives of Wataru and his abandoned mother and also his father, who’s leaving them, and his mistress. The story painfully and thoroughly explores how a change this devastating upends lives and ripples out, spreading a family’s secret shame to relatives, friends, and even the local community, with its people who are all too happy to judge.
Wataru, still so young, is left where all children are when divorce happens: in the middle.
His wish to bring his family back together takes him to a mysterious world called Vision, where he has a chance to change his destiny (Part Two). Wataru and Katchan’s past discussions of their favorite role-playing video games foreshadow the trials in Vision, but their ideas of what sword-and-shield adventuring is like doesn’t match the reality, as Wataru soon learns. Miyabe creates a fully embodied world here, set apart from the real world that Vision mirrors. Alongside Wataru, we come to learn about its cultures, history, people, and current events — including racial prejudices, crimes, religion, and war.
Fixing his problems in the real world won’t be easy. Wataru faces competition with his friend Mitsuru, a classmate and much more powerful and able Traveler to Vision. Both must collect five gemstones before they can reach the Tower of Destiny, where the Goddess waits to grant them their one wish and change their fates forever. Wataru embarks on a journey despite the doubts of an influential few and gains companionship in Meena and Kee Keema, who believe in him and the importance of his quest.
The difference between Mitsuru and Wataru becomes more apparent as they grow as characters, passing through different lands with a common fear among their people: the expanding conflict between the North and South and the approach of Halnera, an event that happens once every thousand years. Its coming signals much darker times in Vision, and it intensifies the rivalry between Mitsuru and Wataru.
Miyabe doesn’t resort to clichés of good and evil. The final and inevitable showdown between the two characters surprised me — it wasn’t how I expected their competition to end, and I like Miyabe’s creative decision here. The victor wasn’t necessarily “better” or more “good” than the other; rather, he understood the meaning of bravery and what his experience in Vision meant to his future.(less)