As a continuation of the story of characters from The Shining and a good, roller-coaster horror adventure novel in the tradition of The Stand or The T...moreAs a continuation of the story of characters from The Shining and a good, roller-coaster horror adventure novel in the tradition of The Stand or The Talisman, this is a perfectly serviceable Stephen King product. Danny Torrence is back, and he's all grown up - and so are his special abilities. We're given plenty of flashbacks to the first book, and how those events effected the world presented in this sequel. In terms of continuity and keeping the story moving forward at a brisk pace, this book is perfectly satisfying.
What I missed were the feelings of isolation and slow, dreadful suspense that made the first book so effective. Nowhere does it say that a sequel needs to be consistent in style or tone, but I was hoping for something more plodding with this story, something more psychologically tense and gradual. Instead, what King has given us is in essence an adventure about good guys with The Shining who are battling a gang of bad guy Shining vampires. There's gore and moral ambiguity and disgusting boss villains and all the other staples of a good Stephen King vehicle, but if you're looking for that creepy, looming minimalism that made The Shining so effective, keep your expectations low and you still might have a good time with this one.(less)
Clever book, but it was more about the author's own idiosyncrasies than it was a guide to more universally useful guidelines to etiquette and manners....moreClever book, but it was more about the author's own idiosyncrasies than it was a guide to more universally useful guidelines to etiquette and manners. Think of it more as "etiquette theory" with a gentle Seinfeld-ian twist. Not quite what I was looking for, but a fun, fluffy quick read all the same.(less)
If you want to read a book about MTV's glory years (and beyond) filled with smut, trash and delicious scandal, put this book down and read the shamele...moreIf you want to read a book about MTV's glory years (and beyond) filled with smut, trash and delicious scandal, put this book down and read the shamelessly indulgent tell-all "I Want My MTV". It's nothing but lurid smut and I loved every hideous page of it.
And, you know, this book isn't bad either. This is more like listening to your big brother's high school classmates talk about the good old days. The book is written as an oral history, with each of the original VJs telling their slice of the story - with the exception of the deceased J.J. Jackson, who was otherwise eternally engaged yet shows up now and then in the form of archived interviews.
What the trashtastic "I Want My MTV" book serves up in scandal, this book rivals with the VJs' good-natured, self-effacing charm and a solid sense of mutual respect and love for each other.
For those of us who grew up with the early years of MTV, this book puts personality to the personalities we thought we knew as kids, only in a way that we can better appreciate as adults. It's a feel-good book about a small group of people who had a weird, lucky gig for a few years and helped launch a new way of approaching sound and vision (for better or worse).
Since MTV has become a tween reality television factory, the stories of Martha Quinn, Alan Hunter and company may seem fairly irrelevant; however, reading this book and remembering what MTV was when I was a kid was a nice, validating trip down memory lane. I don't know any Gen-Xer who wouldn't enjoy this fast and entertaining read.(less)
As someone who used to march in the very front of the Dave Eggers fan parade, I picked up this novel with excitement and trepidation. On one hand, I w...moreAs someone who used to march in the very front of the Dave Eggers fan parade, I picked up this novel with excitement and trepidation. On one hand, I was thrilled to see he had written a new novel with a creepy post-modern dystopian twist; on the other hand, the dustjacket description made this book sound like the kind of thriller a business person would buy at an airport bookshop. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but...it's not exactly what I want from a Dave Eggers novel.
Having spent a couple of weeks laboriously slogging through this book, it's not at all difficult for me to say it's not my favorite. Oh, it's not awful - I did manage to care about lead character Mae Holland and I genuinely wanted to know what would happen to her in the end, which I suppose is the mark of good storytelling - but compared to the glory days of Eggers' first few books, I felt like the narrative voice in this novel had been somehow neutered. The warm-hearted snark I remembered was at best hidden under rocks as meek Easter eggs, replaced by a sterile narration that actually made me recoil when I had to slog through the book's woodenly awkward sex scenes.
The story itself is, I suppose, a perfectly valid cautionary tale about social media gone unchecked. If you're the kind of person who walks in a room, sees a bunch of people diddling on their smartphones, and feels a need to launch into a soliloquy about how technology is destroying society, then this book is for you. It's an Orwellian rant on Facebook fascism. It does offer a few chilling scenarios, but methinks the Eggers does protest too much. Or maybe he's writing for aging Gen-Xers who are sick of dealing with their Twitter-transfixed offspring, and this book is a therapeutic Grimm's fairy tale. See? See what'll happen if you spend too much time on the Facebooks??!?
As a story of one character's experiences, I had a moderately good time with The Circle. Trying to take in Eggers' bigger messages, I just felt like I was being injected with a Cranky Old Man virus. I'm not quite at the point where I feel threatened by the age of social media. Maybe one day when it all seems like too much, I'll return to this book and find a kindred spirit waiting to reconnect.(less)
For starters, none of the Before Watchmen books are essential to enjoying or appreciating the original Watchmen graphic novel. At best, these stories...moreFor starters, none of the Before Watchmen books are essential to enjoying or appreciating the original Watchmen graphic novel. At best, these stories are aftercrumbs orbiting around the enormity of what should be regarded as a self-sufficient masterpiece. At worst, the term "cash cow" comes to mind.
That said, this was my favorite of all the editions (all of which I waded through thanks to my local library - take that, moolah moo!).
I have an absolute weakness for Darwyn Cooke's artwork, having fallen madly in love with his cartoony retro style with DC's New Frontier graphic novel. Even though the story felt a little bogged down and ever so slightly murky, Cooke's art was a delight to behold. I also appreciated some of the "scandalous" behind-the-scenes goings-on alluded to in the story, including a particularly complicated same-sex relationship among the Minutemen ranks.
The Silk Spectre story was almost even more of a delight thanks to the work of Amanda Conner, who's no slouch herself in the world of deliciously unique illustrators. Her take on Silk Spectre's backstory took us back to the Summer of Love in San Francisco, complete with trippy imagery and groovy Laugh-In style designs. Being a Watchmen tale, of course the story grows darker than its day-glo aspirations. Conner handles the balance of groovy and grim with expert care.
I'm sure each of the Watchmen books has something to offer, depending on the tastes of the reader. For me, this is the one I'd easily call my favorite. Great eye-candy, engaging stories. For a few minutes, I even forgot I was flipping through a desperate cash-grab.(less)
**spoiler alert** When I first started getting into Ministry as a high schooler in the late '80s, someone described Al Jourgenson to me as "a weird fa...more**spoiler alert** When I first started getting into Ministry as a high schooler in the late '80s, someone described Al Jourgenson to me as "a weird fashion model looking guy who fakes a British accent". At the time, this description was intriguing to me if not somewhat inaccurate.
One thing is for sure: that description has nothing to do with the man today - except for the weird part.
Reading Jourgenson's memoir gives me a better idea of the freakazoid behind all the distorted vocals and gnarly album art. While I put absolutely zero stock in the accuracy of his stories (for example, I *want* to believe he stuck a deli platter up his butt and offered it to Metallica as a veggie sampler, but I'm not quite sold), the veracity of his personality shines through the tall tales and drug-muddled accounts.
The man behind the dreads and the vampire ice grill comes across as someone who, at the end of the day, is just a nice guy with an opaque sense of humor, a hard-knocks upbringing, and just a titch of an addictive personality. He's like Ozzy with a touch of rabies.
The book also features side-bar mini-chapters with commentary from Al's friends, families and co-conspirators, including Jello Biafra, Gibby Haynes and Al's wife and stepfather. They manage to put a few of Jourgenson's more unbelievable tales into perspective, leaving the reader to puzzle over what in this man's larger-than-life existence is fact or fiction.
Ultimately, the accuracy of this book doesn't really matter. If he didn't actually do some of the things he described in his autobiography, it doesn't mean he WOULDN'T do it. Hell, maybe it's all 100% fact, or at the very least, he believes in his own haunted head that he shook a buttful of broccoli and carrots at James Hetfield. At least where his tales of rock'n'roll mega-debauchery are concerned, truth is beside the point. We get the idea, Al. And it's the stuff of a pretty wild read.(less)
First off: Best book/blog title ever. Peveteaux needs to get busy setting up a merch page, because I *need* a "Gluten Is My Bitch" coffee mug ASAP.
For...moreFirst off: Best book/blog title ever. Peveteaux needs to get busy setting up a merch page, because I *need* a "Gluten Is My Bitch" coffee mug ASAP.
For me personally, as a card carrying celiac with three years of wheat-free living under my belt, the audaciously hilarious title might have been this book's greatest gift. While the author included a few recipes I might try, there wasn't a whole lot of information or insight that I didn't know about already.
This is obviously a book for the newly minted celiac, so I read this with half a mind that it was not 100% meant for me. Fair enough. I'm not sure if I needed a whole chapter plus a detailed appendix about how to survive if you want to eat gluten free in Paris, but there it is. And I kind of get her point...her Paris travelogue could be applied to any vacation situation, and she simply chose to use her Paris experience as a way to illustrate her resourcefulness. So okay, I suppose that's good too.
She also touches on medical innovations in treating Celiac disease, but I read it with a suspicion that these earth shattering updates will be rendered obsolete within a year. Of course, it was interesting to read what could possibly happen in the way of "curing" CD, but the most enduring takeaway for me was the term "poo tea".
I love the author's voice and attitude - her scrappy, tell-it-like-it-is sense of humor makes this book a comfort and a great grounding tool for the newly diagnosed celiac. Being told by a doctor that you can never eat cake, bread or pie ever again - no, really, NEVER AGAIN - can be pretty devastating news, and Peveteaux doesn't sugar coat this reality. Celiac disease sucks. But as diseases go, it could be worse...and with the shifting of a few habits and some creativity, it can get much better. Gluten Is My Bitch is a great guide into this scary gluten-free world.
There are some helpful kernels in this book, though as I zipped through to the end in the space of a day, I couldn't help feeling it could have had a little more content. Fortunately, this book is based on the author's blog, so I can go online and get all the additional content I want! But that leads me to my second quibble - some of the information, such as the medical advances chapter, is informational real estate that might be better on a blog, since these factoids carry an expiration date. Information about GF-friendly restaurants and stores will need constant updating. I guess it's great to illustrate these things in a "Celiac for beginners" kind of book, but I'd go online to be sure this information hasn't already gone stale.
In short, if you just found out you can never eat gluten again, get this book. It will comfort you, you'll find some easy recipes, and you'll laugh a lot. If you're settled into your lot in life as a celiac, I'm not sure if our "Kvetching for the Advanced Celiac" book has been written yet, but when it is, we could have it penned by far worse than the likes of Peveteaux. (less)
As much as I love Star Wars, I've never been able to get into the "expanded universe" novels. I think this is mostly due to a traumatic incident when...moreAs much as I love Star Wars, I've never been able to get into the "expanded universe" novels. I think this is mostly due to a traumatic incident when I may have thrown a Star Wars book across the room in disgust upon reading the first chapter, in which a servant droid brings Princess Leia a cup of hot chocolate. What?! Hot chocolate existed a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away? I don't think so! Hot tauntaun milk, maybe! That fateful cup of fictional cocoa pulled me right out of the Star Wars expanded universe, seemingly for good. Weirdly, I still wax nostalgic for the classic Marvel Comics Star Wars comic book, complete with its "expanded universe" which includes a talking green rabbit named Jaxxon.
I recently decided to give the world of Star Wars fiction another try when Darth Plagueis hit the $1.99 Kindle blue light special, because why not? It's two bucks, for cryin' out loud. And I'm glad I took the shallow plunge, because this is the first Star Wars tome I've ever read in its completion, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
This book is not as much about the titular Sith lord as it is about the introduction and rise of the more familiar Emperor Palpatine, aka Darth Sidious. To fully understand this janky-toothed villain, it's necessary for us to go back a little further in the story and meet his teacher. In so doing, we also get more information about intergalactic senate politics and the weaselly ways of the Trade Federation - stuff I still don't understand completely, but am happy to accept as an important reason we have Wars in the Stars.
This book is written with great care. The story wraps itself around the film lore quite nicely, weaving expanded universe characters in and out of familiar scenes and locales. The book never penetrates the film chronology to the extent of causing revisionist catastrophe; but at the same time, I felt like reading Darth Plagueis lent some credibility to the story George Lucas was trying to tell with The Phantom Menace. I can't say that this book will make that film any more watchable, but Darth Plagueis adds a bit more depth and gravitas to the darker parts of Episode I.
And yes, more than a few familiar faces pop up in this book, especially in the second half. There are even a few surprises that will reward those patient souls who sat through the Clone Wars cartoon series.
Most of all, I enjoyed this book because it was dark, dark, dark. Sith ain't pretty, folks. This is a book about bad guys doing bad things, and that's exactly what you get. There's no moral redemption, there's no tough guy with a heart of gold. Nope. This is a book about villains. The author clearly had a fantastic time writing it, as it's a story deliciously bereft of warm fuzzies or doe-eyed sentimentality.
And if there's any hot chocolate in this book, it's spiked with a lethal, slow-acting poison.(less)
Lately I've been inundated with tons of graphic novels, which is my own fault since I requested them all from my local library. Since I have a lot of...moreLately I've been inundated with tons of graphic novels, which is my own fault since I requested them all from my local library. Since I have a lot of reading and a bevy of due dates looming over my head, I've had to make some hard decisions about what to escalate to the top of my reading pile. The decision is made a little harder, since most of these titles are collected collections of recent DC New 52 and Marvel Now titles.
I'm happy I made a decision to read this first volume of Uncanny Avengers sooner than later, because quite honestly I had no idea how wonderful it would be. Initially, I thought the mash-up of classic Avenger and X-Men characters (including Wolverine, naturally) was simply another cash-cow decision. And, on certain levels, sure. It is. Yet underneath the umbrella of crowdpleaser antics lies a beautifully illustrated, thoughtfully written book filled with complex relationships and a genuinely creepy antagonist in the form of the most deliciously evil take on Red Skull ever.
Uncanny Avengers is clearly written by people who know their stuff, and it's written with a nudge to readers who know their history. Characters like Wonder Man and The Wasp are introduced with a sophistication that feels fresh and new, yet loses none of the fun of these spandex-clad super jocks. Second-string villains are given a fresh coat of paint, and readers are asked to look with new eyes at characters who have been around for decades, yet have never quite been fleshed out. Not until now, anyway.
Maybe the biggest b-list character makeover in this book is that of Havok, who most people might kind of know as the guy in the black suit with the white circles, or "uh wasn't he in that First Class movie??" Alex Summers is given a strong personality in this book, and is even promoted to the leader of the team. In these days of accelerated comic-to-movie ventures, Havok could be Marvel's next big leading man at this rate.
More than a big splashy action extravaganza, Uncanny Avengers explores questions about these familiar characters that go beneath the expected surface of fisticuffs and things blowin' up real good. And it's a book that looks glorious in so doing. (less)
I read this after reading a flurry of reader comments and reviews citing Hell House as the Cadillac of haunted house stories, and promising I'd be sca...moreI read this after reading a flurry of reader comments and reviews citing Hell House as the Cadillac of haunted house stories, and promising I'd be scared like no book has ever scared me before.
I don't know about all that.
I did enjoy the book. There is an elegance to the writing that I appreciated, which contrasted nicely with the more transgressive elements of the story. I don't know if the novel tapped into my fears as much as it danced a tango with my sensibilities and tickled my revulsion. I have a pretty strong stomach for creepy imagery, so I was able to deal with the worst of what was in this book; however, I can see how some of the more raunchy "120 Days of Sodom" concepts might disturb some readers.
I was less drawn into an unspeakable web of terror than I was interested in the mystery and the development of the book's characters. There are only four main characters populating this book, which puts a lot on their shoulders but gives us an easy cast on which to focus. I became invested in the four occupants of Hell House, and excitedly shared in their discoveries.
I'm sure there are scarier books out there, but this is an intelligently crafted haunted house novel that never stoops to talking down to its audience. A quick and addictive read for sure.(less)
I can only imagine that this book is the next best thing to actually attending the V&A Bowie Is exhibition, because the love and attention given t...moreI can only imagine that this book is the next best thing to actually attending the V&A Bowie Is exhibition, because the love and attention given to this book is nothing short of a religious experience for Bowie fans. I found myself getting misty-eyed as I flipped through the first fifty or so pages of this gorgeous book, mostly because every bit of it - the photographs, the items, the layout design, the "Bowie Is" phrasing concept - feels completely central to the sum of the man's career, iconography and combined personae. If you're a fan, your shrine is incomplete without this gorgeous book.(less)
I didn't read Grant Morrison's Invisibles series back in the mid-'90s when it was originally published. Reading it all now in 2013 is a hysterical tri...moreI didn't read Grant Morrison's Invisibles series back in the mid-'90s when it was originally published. Reading it all now in 2013 is a hysterical trip back to the days of raves, babydoll dresses and smart drinks. As dated as it may feel in places (in MANY places), it still holds up beautifully, and could even pass as a great document of '90s nostalgia.
The second volume veers a bit more into the direction of an anthology series (a la X-Files), but Morrison has the gift of veering way off course yet bringing it all back together. However far he strays from the central characters, there's always good reason for his occasional vacations from the main narrative.
I mostly love the art (especially the amazing cover illustrations), though sometimes the panels get too cluttered with an energy that seems overeager to blow our minds. Sometimes it works, though at worst it just feels like so much sketchy neon viscera being crammed into our eye holes. (Vertigo Comics circa 1995 - gotta love it.)
For a comic book superhero team (which, despite appearances, they pretty much are), you're not going to find characters more challenging or unconventional - my only quibble with the series is that Morrison falls into the same trap as many writers do to this very day, in that the character of Fanny is alternately referred to as transgender, transvestite, and/or a drag queen. Make up your mind, Grant! Or take us on Fanny's journey of identity - which Morrison actually does, though to questionably satisfying results. Still and all, Fanny's a great character, written with far more guts, gusto and sensitivity than most comic book fare of then or even now, for that matter.
Despite what might be considered its very few shortcomings, The Invisibles offers at least two volumes of hip, irreverent, creepy fun. (less)