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The Week in Books: 2008 I

May 22, 2008

I’m going to do a quick overview of November of 2007 and a more detailed view of May of 2008. After this, I’ll be going by weeks, but also catching up by month. Highlights only on the months, otherwise these posts could get monstrous.

Here’s a list of what I read in November of 2007:

Clubbing, Andi Watson & Josh Howard
New X-Men: Childhood’s End Volume 3, Craig Kyle et al
Civil War: X-Men Universe, Peter David et al
Invincible Iron Man: Extremis, Warren Ellis et al
Ultimate X-Men Vol. 16: Cable, Robert Kirkman et al
Civil War: Fantastic Four, J. Michael Strasynzski (sp) et al
Green Lantern/Green Arrow, Dennis O’Neil et al
The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka *
MacBeth, William Shakespeare *
Othello, William Shakespeare *
It’s Only Temporary, Cathy Gillen Thacker
The Golden Ass, Apuleius *
King Lear, William Shakespeare *
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson *
Vampire Knight Volume 1, Matsuri Hino
Black Reign, Geoff Johns et al
Fourth Comings, Megan McCafferty
The Tempest, William Shakespeare *
The Long Way Home, Joss Whedon et al
Winter’s Tale, William Shakespeare *
Y: The Last Man: Motherland, Brian K. Vaughan et al
JLA: Syndicate Rules, Kurt Busiak et al
JLA: Liberty and Justice, Paul Dini and Alex Ross
Gus Beezer and Spider-Man, Gail Simone et al

Asterisks denote something I read for school. This is a copy-and-paste off the list I keep.

I linked to a very brief (“Absolute shit,” basically) review I did of Clubbing while I was still in school. As for the rest…

I barely remember a lot of the comics. I was reading them catch-as-catch-can while I was finishing that semester, I guess. I can say off the top of my head that the Warren Ellis Iron Man stuff is completely confusing, and not in a good way. Ellis is very hit or miss for me.

Civil War was a storyline that I liked best in its entirety. I like how the Marvel Universe has a feeling of unity and motion during crossover storylines and, in this age of trade collections, it’s easy to read everything after the fact. I think reading issue-to-issue is a completely different experience than reading a collection. I wonder how 52 will stand up read as a collection…but my mind wanders. Back on track.

Everything I read for school was awesome. I had never read King Lear before, and it was so bleak and depressing and strange that it had an almost science fiction/dystopian feel to it. That was odd. The Kafka, too, was bleak–but moving. Sometimes I’m sad because my daughter is really into reading for FUN, and everything has to be fun and silly. I think she’s really missing out on some lovely things that way.

I like being depressed, I guess. For a while, anyway, and because of fiction.

The Long Way Home is Joss Whedon’s continuing of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer television show in comic book form. I was happily surprised at how well everything translates to the page. Everyone looked good, sounded right (on the page, in my head), and I’m very much looking forward to picking up the next trade, as well as Angel season six, which Whedon is also doing.

I also continued with Brian K. Vaughan’s Y: The Last Man with the trade Motherland. My favorite comics are the ones that end, I have to say, and the end is near for this amazing series about a world where (almost) all of the men have died. Vaughan has kept Y consistently brilliant through all these issues, and I’m glad my library keeps them in stock. Highly recommended. Not for children.

Speaking of children, Gail Simone’s Gus Beezer with Spider-Man is really adorable and is a must-buy for kids who love superheroes but aren’t old enough to read modern (read: violent) comics. Another great read from Simone, who is one of the most talented women in the comic book industry today.

The only other book I want to mention before I go on to this month is Megan McCafferty’s Fourth Comings. I absolutely adored the first two Jessica Darling books, but the third and fourth efforts have proven that, as Jennifer Crusie once said, a sequel is the second-most important story of a person’s life. Makes so much sense, doesn’ t it? So what do three and four really matter, in the grand scheme of things? They were good reads, but I think even McCafferty knows it’s time to move on.

I’m so sick of great books having sequel after sequel. It makes everything seem like cash cows.

Okay, so…May.

I first finished out Mark Crilley’s Miki Falls series with the fourth book, Winter. It was a cute little series, although perhaps “cute” isn’t the right word. It was good, but nothing outstanding, nothing I’d recommend to someone who hadn’t read manga before. I wasn’t crazy about the art, either–the faces seemed retro in their roundness. But it was a decent series, good idea, good execution.

I then read the seventeenth volume of Ultimate Spider-Man–and finished out the “week” by reading eighteen and nineteen as well. I LOVE Ultimate Spidey. The Ultimate line, for those who don’t know, are books with a modern, from-the-beginning telling of the classic superheroes, existing in their own continuity. They were created so that new readers wouldn’t feel the burden of 40 years of comic book history when picking up a book. The titles themselves are hit and miss; I thought Ultimate X-Men, for example, tried far too hard and maybe only now is finding solid footing. But Ultimate Spider-Man’s great, because the character is one that can be easily updated, and because the title doesn’t have a problem running through all the “big” villains right away. Some people aren’t crazy about the way things are updated, but I think it’s unfair to expect the line to translate everything exactly–after all, if that were what was going on, then why new books at all, right? In the seventeenth volume, Brian Michael Bendis takes on the Clone Saga, a storyline from the “regular” continuity that lives in infamy for being a load of crap. I LOVED this reimagining of the Clone Saga, especially the introduction of a very altered Jessica Drew. This is a great series for people who loved the Spider-Man movies but are afraid to tackle the books (I am too, really; I stick to Ultimate Spidey); however, again, the violence level keeps it from being a book you should buy for your children. Think of it as PG-13–read it yourself first. You’ll like it more, anyway.

Let’s see, I also read Emma Jane Spenser’s A Novel Approach for my Harlequin recap project, but you’ll hear more about that another time.

I also celebrated the end of the semester with some trades from my favorite comic book store, the sixth Birds of Prey volume by Gail Simone and two Teen Titans trades to catch up with how far behind I’ve been since school got crazy. I think I accidentally skipped the fifth Teen Titans trade…ooops. IS there a fifth trade? I guess it’s all Crisis stuff. But still, I hate skipping things. Hm.

Anyway, Birds of Prey is always great, and a woman-written book about women characters (until now, I guess, since Simone went to Wonder Woman). Geoff Johns seems to be suffering a little burnout in Teen Titans, but that’s unsurprising–readers love him and he has other things he’s writing now, so I have to say the stories weren’t AS good, but that’s like saying it’s one of the worst Buffy episodes or something. Bad Buffy is still awesome. A little lag in Teen Titans doesn’t stop it from being a fantastic book. Again, not for kids, which is why there’s Teen Titans Go! instead. That’s where your kids will find the characters from the (equally fabulous) television show.

After seeing Iron Man for the first or second time, I decided to pick up an Iron Man trade that had just come into my library. Doomsquest is dated and cheesy, but it’s still better than what Warren Ellis is doing. Still, only for the dedicated, I’d say.

Then I went back to chick lit with Everyone Else’s Girl by Megan Crane. This is good chick lit, although I wasn’t crazy about the realizations that the main character came to at the end–she basically went from blaming everyone else to completely absolving everyone else, which…no. That’s not how people work. But okay, let her think that. Also, it’s set in Hoboken, a place I have visited quite a few times in my life, and the accuracy of that (to my limited knowledge, anyway), made me happy.

Then I read the three Ultimate Marvel Team-Up books, written by Bendis again. These are just throw-away reads because the Ultimate universe hadn’t been completely situated at the time so they ended up being out of continuity. That bugs me because I love continuity, but oh well. It was nice to see Mike Allred’s work because I love his art like whoa.

Then I read the second and third books in Julie Kenner’s Confessions of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom, California Demon and Demons are Forever. I was not going to read the third because I wasn’t crazy about the second, but I’m glad I did, because the third is much better than the second. This is fun, even though at times it seems like Kenner is just adapting Buffy fan fiction or something but, then again, Kelley Armstrong did that for her sequel to the fabulous Bitten, so it’s not without precedent. *sigh* Still, these are fun, if somewhat predictable, books for those who like their chick lit a little supernatural, and are FAR better than those stupid MaryJanice Davidson vampire books.

Ah, then I read Carly Phillips’s Under the Boardwalk, which deserves its own post as well…and will get it. Oh God, when I found the link I saw that it’s “Book 1” of a series–well, maybe of a two-book series. Lord knows no one can write just one book anymore, especially when the first book is crap.

So then I picked up an entire manga series (sort of) from the library: Emma, by Kaoru Mori. I got the first seven books, anyway, which makes up the main storyline. I think the other two books are related stories, other characters, that sort of thing. Emma first came to my attention by a classmate who read about it in a magazine and told us it was based on the Jane Austen novel. This is NOT TRUE, although Austen is definitely an influence here. Emma is instead the story of a maid who falls in love with a rich young man in Victorian London. It’s a lovely story, perfect for manga fans who are looking for something that doesn’t include magical girls, but also for fans of Victorian literature. The series ends weakly, I feel, but sweetly.

I also read X-Men: Supernovas, which was bleh, and Pearl Pink Volume 1, which was also bleh.

Fortunately, I finished up this month so far with Unpredictable, which I already spotlighted, and John Green’s debut novel Looking for Alaska. Looking for Alaska was a wonderful YA debut. John Green went to Indian Springs along with one of my best friends and her husband, so the book was brought to my attention a while ago. However, I could only find his second book, An Abundance of Katherines, at my library before. So I read the second book first and the first book second. I’m sort of glad I did. I did like Katherines more, but Looking for Alaska is a great read about a kid at a boarding school trying to figure out his way around things. One of the most interesting things about the book for me was trying to determine whether Green was as enamored with the character of Alaska as much as his protagonist, or if he was just being incredibly accurate about the dramatic nature of teen emotions and romance. By Katherines, I’m sure he has it figured out, but I definitely can’t tell with Alaska. Anyway, it’s a wonderful read–I couldn’t put it down, even when I was exhausted–and when my daughter’s much much much much older, she can read it. Maybe. If she isn’t still into “fun” books.

Whew, so there you go. If you’ve made it this far, you’ve read over 2000 words. Good for you! I hope you find something in here that you want to check out (hee). If you do, drop me a comment and let me know.

Next time: lots of manga, lots of comics, and maybe a novel or two.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Kareila permalink
    May 23, 2008 2:24 pm

    He’s just that accurate.

    I can tell you pretty much page for page what really happened and what was made up. The beginning and end are the closest to real life.

    His next book is called Paper Towns. It’s finished but I don’t think it’s being published until the fall.

  2. bookslide permalink*
    May 23, 2008 2:37 pm

    I think we’re old, because I’m reading this stuff and thinkinh, “Oh God, we really did feel that way.” Yeah, no thanks. And also, from the way Alaska throws around feminist terminology, I felt like “If you told her that cheesy crap, she’d be so offended that you’re seeing her as more of an object than a person.” Infatuation is so rarely about the other person.

    I want to know what’s real, but not on here. That wouldn’t be fair to the author.

  3. tenderine permalink
    April 8, 2009 8:31 am

    I just wanted to say thank you for writing all that. I read and enjoy your posts tremendously (though this is the first time I dared to comment).
    Looking for Alaska proved to be a great read, thanks for that as well =)

  4. bookslide permalink*
    April 8, 2009 10:08 am

    I really got behind on the WiB because of the recaps, but I feel more comfortable with the recaps because I’m a spoilerphobe. The recaps assume the audience has read the books, you know? So I don’t have to worry about anyone’s spoiler preferences.

    But I should get back to that, uh…next week. This week I’ve been sick and I have some family stuff going on, so I’ve gotta run to catch up with schoolwork. THEN I’ll be free. Free!

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