Enjoyed a lot of this, but felt there weren't as many entries that I really felt compelled to follow up on as in previous editions. Lambert's Helen KeEnjoyed a lot of this, but felt there weren't as many entries that I really felt compelled to follow up on as in previous editions. Lambert's Helen Keller story stands out as the most interesting to me, not only because the story itself is compelling but because his way of communicating Keller's perspective as a blind/deaf child is fascinating.
I am sure others would enjoy this year's volume a lot more than I. I think I may have just allowed my expectations to be too influenced by my admiration of Jeff Smith's work....more
Pretty interesting read. I went into it knowing that it would differ from the movie, but I was still surprised at how little of the actual story involPretty interesting read. I went into it knowing that it would differ from the movie, but I was still surprised at how little of the actual story involved Nazis. A very large chunk deals more with their journey to becoming Americans. The term "Trapp Family Singers" ends up serving as a label for their time as refugees seeking a home.
While I may have initially felt disappointed by the lack of WWII excitement, this sentiment was soon buried by my intrigue in Maria's spiritual insights. Her faith and constant turning to the teachings of Jesus are inspiring, and I appreciate seeing how her successes are credited to her faith and God's mercy....more
Overall this is a pretty solid read. While Elizabeth has the help of an established writer in telling her story, it's still fairly obvious that this iOverall this is a pretty solid read. While Elizabeth has the help of an established writer in telling her story, it's still fairly obvious that this is her first foray into book writing. She pulls the reader out of the story a little too often for my preference, doing a lot of foreshadowing and telling us things like, "I had no idea just how monstrous this man was, no idea how much worse things would get, no idea how much pain I'd be in..." for paragraphs and paragraphs -- ESPECIALLY in the first few chapters of the book, which drove me a little crazy with how long it took for her to get to the actual story she had to tell.
That being said, I can mostly forgive these writing quirks because I didn't read the book for great literature -- I was extremely interested in hearing Elizabeth's first-person account of her experience, and she delivered. I walked away with an appreciation for her courage and tenacity, and really enjoyed her noting her spiritual growth throughout this horrific ordeal (I can relate to a lot of her religious viewpoints because I, like Smart, am LDS). She provoked a lot of thought about insanity vs. wickedness, which I'm sure I'll be mulling over for some time.
She wrote an overused and, to be blunt, somewhat false Mormon cliche in the last chapter that made me want to throw the book across the room ("I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it"), but as I settled myself down I used this as a means to appreciate that Elizabeth Smart is not some perfect role model with no misgivings -- and she doesn't pretend to be one, either. Despite my disagreement with a few of her viewpoints or ways of thinking, she displayed some amazing qualities that helped her survive in extreme circumstances, and I think seeing her as just another fellow, flawed being allows us to put ourselves in her shoes a little better.
My final, minor criticism is that I wish we'd have seen a LITTLE more of other people's viewpoints in this story. Specifically, I want to know just how the police officers who rescued her came upon her -- were they called to the area by the young man on the bus who had questioned Smart? Were they simply patrolling the area in general and recognized her? There are just a couple times in the story that I want a little bit more perspective. I understand that this is ELIZABETH'S story and thus written from her point of view. However, she pulled the reader out of her own perspective for an entire chapter in the first quarter of the book, describing her family's immediate reaction to her disappearance after she'd been removed from her home.... so it would have been consistent to give little hints of these other perspectives throughout the rest of the book. Anyways, despite the length of my writing on this complaint, it's actually not that big of a deal as the center of this book is Smart's growth, which takes precedence over the story.
I'd actually give this book about 3.75 stars if I could, but am rounding up. I recommend this book to anyone who can stomach the fact that these terrible events and tortures really took place. Elizabeth is a fascinating young woman....more
Until reading this book, I couldn't think of the last time I was actually sad to see a story end. I've read plenty of excellent books in recent years,Until reading this book, I couldn't think of the last time I was actually sad to see a story end. I've read plenty of excellent books in recent years, but none that have left me feeling so sorry to reach the last page!
I'm not sure why I never read this graphic novel earlier -- I think I was turned off by the promotions, which featured drawings of the Bone cousins so much that I misunderstood what the nature of the story was, assuming it was just a funnybook geared toward kids. That really isn't what it is at all!
Jeff Smith wonderfully takes three cartoon characters and puts them in a land of mystery and adventure, taking the reader from amusing, comedic anecdotes to an epic war for the fate of the world! While the Bone cousins are surely simplistically drawn, Smith develops their characters to a level of richness that blends them naturally with the detailed, flourishing environment that perhaps visually contrasts their appearance. Coming of age, loss of innocence, faith, love, truth -- all major themes of this story.
And it says something about Smith's writing when he takes an insect that is essentially a potato chip with legs and turns him into one of the most charming personas encountered in literature!
I am not generally a fan of medieval/fantasy works, but this is written in such a way that it's pretty easy for anyone to get into. The only reason I'm not giving it five stars is because I felt like the first part of the last third of the book got a little too bogged down in lore, to a point where it got a little hard to follow at times. Also, Smith introduces "ghost circles" as a major plot element, but I never felt like I understood what exactly they were, or why they were so threatening, until the story came to a close, which was far too late. The only other complaint I have is an unsatisfied curiosity as to the apathy of a certain feline in the last scene in which he's featured...
But, those few complaints aside, I can't praise this book enough! Seriously, go pick it up!!...more
Pretty quick read (it collects four comics books) that chronicles the death of the 2nd boy to call himself Robin. It's a good followup to "The KillingPretty quick read (it collects four comics books) that chronicles the death of the 2nd boy to call himself Robin. It's a good followup to "The Killing Joke," in which the Joker turns Batgirl into a paraplegic and almost drives Commissioner Gordon to insanity.
I think the men behind the work did a great job of evoking emotion and letting the reader feel Batman's pain -- this is actually the first story I've read of Robin II and I was left in a pensive state of mind, despite my lack of close familiarity with the deceased Boy Wonder.
I also really liked the continued look at Batman and Joker's relationship, and Batman's constant moral dilemma of whether or not he is justified in ending Joker's life (which is figuratively brought to the forefront of the story's conclusion by a surprise appearance of Superman, whose "boy scout" ways and viewpoints counter those of the Dark Knight, offering some great contrasting and a forum for discussion of the dilemma).
A great read for anyone interested in the psyche of Batman and what drives him, as well as an understanding of just how twisted the Joker is....more
Wow. What a great find. It's rare that a book brings me to tears, and this one got close.
To get the few negative things out of the way -- I tire of olWow. What a great find. It's rare that a book brings me to tears, and this one got close.
To get the few negative things out of the way -- I tire of old school celebrities dropping the family-friendly persona and cutting loose with the f-bombs and other profanities. While this book isn't ripe with foul language, it certainly happened enough to give pause. I don't question that this is probably how Lewis really speaks when not on camera, but it doesn't make me anymore comfortable with the image it creates. Perhaps weightier than this, however, is the attitude with which Jerry excuses the infidelity that was rampant in his and Dean's marriages while they were on the road. The facts that they were (1) male and (2) in showbiz are both reasons Jerry lists that help him shrug off their lack of self-control and respect for their wives/children, but to me are very weak justifications. This doesn't change my opinion that Martin & Lewis are two of the greatest things to ever happen to American entertainment, but it does bring me disappointment that they were either too dumb or too selfish to keep their personal & family lives in better check in this regard.
That being said, I really did thoroughly enjoy reading this book. If I hadn't been busy working a 104-hour week, I probably would have read all 330 pages in one, maybe two sittings. Jerry (with the strong help of Kaplan) lushly illustrates his complicated relationship with Dean and brings empathy to their breakup that causes heartbreak for the reader. They never stopped loving each other -- they only stopped loving the act.
I recently purchased the two volumes of Martin & Lewis movie collections on DVD (keeping my fingers crossed for a third that will complete their cinematic appearances together) and am thrilled to be able to watch them now with a historical context. Jerry mentions several specific films and some of the things that were going on behind the camera, as well as certain noteworthy moments to keep an eye out for. I also was unsure as to whether or not I wanted to start collecting Dean and Jerry's "Colgate Comedy Hour" TV installments, but I just might have to start doing that so I can get a better glimpse at more of their improv work, which, according to Jerry, is where they really shone (as opposed to having to work off a rehearsed script where spontaneity is removed).
On a final, personal note, I feel a greater connection with Dean Martin after having read this book. I had no idea that Dean Martin was an avid comic book reader and fan of many of the same superheroes I really enjoy. He also loved westerns, and "Rio Bravo" -- which is my all-time favorite of the genre -- was a HUGE movie for him to be a part of, a giant step in his getting his footing as a solo act after the relatively recent breakup with Lewis.
All of this great content, as well as inside looks at the relationships between the various members of the Rat Pack (most involving Dean) and noteworthy (& very heartwarming) post-breakup discussions between Martin & Lewis, made this a great book about two legends, an eternal friendship bound by true love, and an important part of showbiz history.
I would recommend this book to anyone with a heart....more
This was another interesting, non-superhero comic book/graphic novel for me. It deals a lot with cultural identity and freedom through the eyes of anThis was another interesting, non-superhero comic book/graphic novel for me. It deals a lot with cultural identity and freedom through the eyes of an Iranian adolescent struggling with the fact that she has been sent to attend school in Vienna while her family and friends live in constant fear under an oppressive regime in a country torn by war with Iraq.
The story got really interesting to me in the last 1/3 of the novel, as Marjane returns to Iran and discovers her new perspective of her homeland and relationships with her family and people.
Satrapi keeps the artwork simple, which made it easier for me, as a Western reader, to put myself in her shoes and be absorbed by her writing.
At first I was a little uncomfortable with some of the content, as Satrapi discusses sex a bit, but as the story progressed I saw how this was an important factor in her more liberal development of a perspective that opened her eyes to what was really going on in her country. Some of the language could have been less vulgar, but I think subject-wise it was alright.
Good read for anyone interested in Middle Eastern culture or, as I like to say, for those interested in taking comics seriously and seeing a unique story told in graphic form....more
Wow. What a great book! I'd been meaning to read this for the past five years or so, ever since some English major friends of mine mentioned they hadWow. What a great book! I'd been meaning to read this for the past five years or so, ever since some English major friends of mine mentioned they had to read a comic book for their classes.
The true-life story of Spiegelman's father surviving as a Jew in WWII Nazi prison camps (including Auschwitz) is not a new one (there are many holocaust survival tales out there), but is nonetheless important, insightful, and engaging! Yes, be prepared to experience the emotions of horror and sadness as the author recounts some of the hell wrought by Hitler and his goons, but also prepare for some thought-provoking questions that will give you something new to mentally chew on.
For me, some of these new questions/learnings were:
-With all of these tales about holocaust survivors, we tend to put them on a pedestal and laud their bravery and tenacity, among other amazing qualities. But what of those who DIDN'T survive? Are they less deserving of praise/recognition, any less brave/strong? It seems like there is a simple answer at first, but how does society generally, really respond to this question? "Maus" reminds us that, while willpower and strength played a part in the ability to survive the terrors of WWII prison/labor/death camps, perhaps the largest factor that determined who lived and who died was mere luck of the draw.
-Does holocaust survival really "end" with the end of the holocaust? What of post-holocaust life, recovery, and endurance? And how does the holocaust affect the next generation -- the survivors of the survivors? "Maus" certainly gives some interesting insights into this and makes this horrific part of world history more personal, while at the same time more impacting as we see the lingering effects of mass murder and torture still raging in the world over 50 years (at the time of the book's writing) after it was stopped.
-What is the purpose of writing about the holocaust? How does it affect the author, and what does our (as a nation) reaction to it influence its message (specifically in a negative connotation)?
I highly recommend this book to ALL readers out there. It will increase your appreciation for history and historical writing, and hopefully give you a better understanding of what comics can really do when it comes to good storytelling....more
I really enjoyed this approach to studying comics and appreciate the vast amount of research required to present this information.
His foreword emphasiI really enjoyed this approach to studying comics and appreciate the vast amount of research required to present this information.
His foreword emphasizes the importance of reading comics, at least in part, for a sense of enjoyment and escapism, and he mentions how he wrote his book while listening to rock and roll music. Comic books, like rock and roll, certainly have a lot of roots in American culture and reflect/influence our youth's values and morals.
Would recommend this to anyone interested in comics as a cultural survey as well as history buffs....more
I read all four of the volumes of "Astonishing X-Men" written by Joss Whedon, creator/writer/director of "Firefly," "Serenity," and other popular TV sI read all four of the volumes of "Astonishing X-Men" written by Joss Whedon, creator/writer/director of "Firefly," "Serenity," and other popular TV shows/movies, but will review the story as a whole on this final installment.
Whedon's philosophy on writing X-Men is genius in its simplicity: avoid huge crossover events and ignore the other goings-on of other Marvel comics in order to produce a solid, clear-cut story that focuses on the main characters and allows us to see their development. I agree with Whedon in that X-Men history is way too garbled to really grasp and build from in many ways. This has been one of the major turn-offs for me in trying to jump into X-Men books -- I feel lost.
Keeping the team numbers and guest stars to a minimum was a smart move, and allowed for the plot to thicken quite a bit by the end of the story. Perhaps the best thing that Whedon did was to keep some of the mass appeal of the X-Men (i.e. Wolverine) in the lineup without taking the cliche route and putting it in the spotlight. While Wolvie et al. were certainly there to maintain the muscle, tone, familiarity and -- when appropriate -- humor of the group/comic, focus was shifted to reintroducing Colossus, an old fan-favorite, as well as suping-up the characters of Cyclops and Shadowcat, who I feel are very easily mistreated in other incarnations of the team, both in comics as well as on TV and the silver screen.
In the X-Men films, Cyclops is reduced to a whining pansy who antagonizes Wolverine and leads a team where leadership isn't needed. He's all but cut entirely out of the second and third movies in a seeming effort to avoid opportunities to explain how he isn't tossed around like a rag doll by the powerhouse villains. Whedon, during his run on the series, took Scott Summers and turned him into the most important member of the team. His leadership and planning skills are simply stunning, and his power -- holy crap -- his POWER is unbelievable! There are moments where he doesn't hold back his ocular blasts at all, devastating forests and giant sentinels at the same time, leaving the "more useful" heroes with their jaws agape.
Shadowcat, given the spotlight briefly in the third X-Men film, really shines in this series as the heart of the team. Constantly dealing with issues of abandonment, her belonging to the team gives the reader something to hold onto, and we empathize with her views of the other players. Her power is an asset to the X-Men and she pulls through more than anyone else during the climax.
Volume four also has some fun guest appearances from other major Marvel heroes such as Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, but cleverly done so in order to increase the threat level of the dilemma and alleviate some tension through a very occasional quip from Spidey.
The pacing of the series is the main reason why I only give four instead of five stars. The bookends -- volumes 1 and 4 -- are both breath-taking and "astonishing," yet volumes 2 and 3 (2 in particular) aren't quite as up to par, giving us boring villains and attempting to taint the familiar, merely making me wonder when we're going to see more X-Men and less antagonist (which, in any story, should not be so unbalanced). The only other flaw I found was that Ord (one of the major villains) and his entire race were not designed in a way that one could easily distinguish them. There is a scene near the end where Ord pops up out of nowhere to turn the tides of a battle. You'd think it would be important to know and understand the goings-on of the fight given its placement in the story and the use of a character who has been made out to be very important in the rest of the series, but I had no idea who it was that was attacking until... well, I won't give it away, but I will say that it was long after I should have known. This alien race needed more distinguishing features to make it clear who was who.
That being said, volume 4, "Unstoppable," made the entire series worthwhile and I'm proud to have all four volumes in my bookcase. Whedon's proven his worth as a comics creator to me, and I will gladly follow any other titles he may be involved in. Perhaps what I'll miss most aside from the writing in this comic is the overall quality of the art. As I've flipped through other X-Men artists' work, I find a lot of inconsistency and cartoon-like styles. I appreciate Cassady's obvious effort to treat the source material seriously and give the story the visual tone it deserves....more
I remember this book was less than what it could have been. Written as if the author were the widow of Barry Allen (aka Flash II), it details the legaI remember this book was less than what it could have been. Written as if the author were the widow of Barry Allen (aka Flash II), it details the legacy of the Flash, from Jay Garrick to Wally West, and even a bit of Bart Allen (Impulse).
My issue was this: the combination of novel format with graphic novel format just made for an awkward feeling sometimes. If Iris Allen supposedly wrote this, then are we to assume that she's drawing all these comic panels, too? I wasn't sure what the point was in crediting her as the author on the cover if the content wasn't entirely hers. I guess it was just inconsistent, and it bothered me.
The art is slightly sub-par as well -- very mechanical and lifeless at times.
Anyway, it's a good read if you need a starting point for getting to know who the various Flashes are/were and their characters. It just could have been more....more
I remember reading this in high school with a couple of friends. There are a few letters that aren't as funny as the author thinks, but overall it wouI remember reading this in high school with a couple of friends. There are a few letters that aren't as funny as the author thinks, but overall it would be insufficient to state that riotous laughter abounded -- words simply cannot express how funny this book was.
Perhaps my favorite letter involved the author's proposal to an undergarment producer to create "six day underwear," which was a pair of underwear with THREE holes for the legs, and every day the wearer would simply rotate the garment rather than having to change his shorts on a daily basis. Who comes up with such a comedic gem??...more
This book started very strongly and kept it up until the last couple chapters. There are a couple of things I could go into, but don't want to put anyThis book started very strongly and kept it up until the last couple chapters. There are a couple of things I could go into, but don't want to put any spoilers into my review. I just wasn't satisfied with what was revealed about some of the characters in the last few paragraphs. I DID appreciate Lewis' explanation of what certain places were and who certain characters actually were, however. It ties in very well with Christian beliefs and, on a deeper level, connects well with my own religious beliefs as a member of the LDS church.
Perhaps my favorite part of the story is when Aslan tells a Calormene soldier, who has worshiped the evil god Tash his entire life by doing acts of good and benevolence, that by doing good things he has actually been serving Aslan, despite what he thought, and therefore is welcome in his kingdom. I think Lewis here has really captured Christ's pure vision and charity, and demonstrates an understanding of how God looks on our hearts, without regard to race, based on the amount of light and knowledge our circumstances have allowed us to receive.
The climactic battle of the story was awesome, but gave in too soon to the miraculous rescue before my emotions were sufficiently ready for it.
Definitely enjoyed the book, though, and I found it hard to put it down because I was too excited to stop. I'd give it a 3.5 if that were an option. It'd get a complete 4 stars if not for how disappointed I felt with the fates of some of the major people in the Narnia fables....more