Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Lagoon by Lilli Carre

I had trouble getting this graphic novel from the library. They apparently "lost" it when I first requested it but I finally managed to snag it. This is the first Lilli Carre novel I've read and, since it's so short, I read it twice in a row.

A beautifully drawn and written graphic novel, it opens with Zoey trying to read while her grandpa sings a tune that she deems "a cat in a bathtub". The tune is from a creature in the lagoon that lures folks into the water with it. The creature is known to make some people disappear as they listen to his song. Zoey's parents are drawn to the creatures song and meet an untimely end.

There are several pages of black in this book, entirely different from anything I've read before. The dialogue is not the main drive of the book, it's the sounds. The sound of the creature's song, the sound of the metronome on the piano, the sound of the grandfather tapping out scales on the piano in his sleep. Sounds, not speech, drive the story.

Excellent book, glad I finally got it from the library!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Sandman Vol 1: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman

I found Gaiman through the Coraline movie and book. Sandman seemed to be the most talked about of his work so I started there.

Vol 1 follows Dream, or Morpheus Lord of the Dreams, as he is captured by Burgess and forced to live in a glass bubble for over 70 years. After escaping, quite smartly, Dream goes on to find his stolen artifacts: a helmet, a ruby and a pouch of sand.

Dream has to bounce around between dreams/nightmares and the waking world in order to get his possessions back and regain his power. His kingdom had fallen into disrepair (to put it nicely) while he was away and he works to rebuild it.

Dee, or Dr. Destiny, was the creepiest of all the people that Dream has to go up against, including the demons from hell. That's saying something.

I loved this book. The story was fantastic and the drawings were great and darkly disturbing.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The People Look Like Flowers At Last by Charles Bukowski

This is supposedly the last of Bukowski's collections to be published after his death in 1994. However,I see that Pleasures of the Damned is also out so that's probably not true.

This was a good collection of poems although it's not in my top 5 of his. Sorry Buk! There were several standouts, including Eulogies. The last section focused more on death and frankly the last poem was eerie (I don't have the book in front of me to give you the title).

I usually pull snippets of genius from Bukowski's poems rather than swooning over entire poems. Offhand, the lead up to Part 4 had:

The wisdom to quit is all we have left

Along with this from The Dogs Bark Knives:

Let us know that living out a life
among billions of idiots with molecule feelings
is an art itself

There are plenty more gems in this book. If you're a Bukowski fan, it's worth a read.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Excess Baggage by Tracy Lea Carnes

Excess Baggage is a book about a 29-year-old woman who ends up with Ulcerative Colitis and requires ostomy surgery. On prinicple, this book is a great concept because it brings Inflammatory Bowel Disease out into the open and attempts to show readers how people live with this disease and disability.

I had several issues with the novel, mainly the main character, Kelly Carmichael. She's old enough to know better but still depends on Daddy to provide her money for rent, utilities, clothes, etc. huge pet peeve of mine! She spins through life, unable to finish college and find a decent job. Finally settling in a paralegal job and finding a boyfriend, you think she's starting to get her life pulled together and to be a responsible adult. Ultimately, however, I found Kelly difficult to relate too.

Kelly eventually realizes that she is sick, with blood and mucus in her stool, and is diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. This part makes sense. When I had Ulcerative Colitis, I didn't acknowledge it right away either. It's something that you think is just stress and will go away. Kelly is put on Prednisone to try and control the disease and is disappointed with the weight gain and moon face. Unfortunately, she spends most of her time on her mother's couch watching the Weather Channel. Not very endearing.

Kelly eventually has ostomy surgery because she hates being does her boyfriend, who's pretty dispicable himself.

The book didn't really explain UC or ostomies at all, so unless you are already aware of them, you might be confused. I also thought Kelly bounced back and accepted such a life changing operation a little too quickly to be believable. But then again, I had my surgery over 25 years ago so I may not remember it quite right :)

My biggest issue with the book was not the author or the story. It was the editing. Lots of grammatical errors and spelling errors threw me off. Unfortunately, misspelling the word "ileostomy" everywhere except in the author's bio was the final nail. The editors should have caught that one.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Eclipse by Stephanie Meyer

Part 3 of the Twilight saga down and 1 to go. I was much less disappointed with this one but Bella still sets my teeth on edge.

Spoilers be ahead!

Eclipse begins exactly like New Moon ended, for the most part. I was beginning to wonder if I had grabbed the wrong book. Seattle is being ripped apart by "serial killers" but the Cullens determine that it is really at the mercy of newborn vampires. Graduation is approaching and Bella is still determined to become a vampire as soon as possible. Jacob Black is back in the picture. Big bads want to kill Bella and truces and alliances are formed between the werewolves and vampires. Marriage is pending and hearts are broken.

My pet peeves with this one are: the almost abusive relationships between Bella and her boys. I think I'd personally be pissed about being treated like that but Bella seemed fine with it. Scary thought. I am glad Meyer backed off of that vibe because this IS a teen series and the diaglogue and the actions of Edward was not needed.

We're led up to a horrific fight between the newborns vs. the vamps and wolves but.... we didn't get to see it? Because we were sidetracked by another visit from Victoria who, for some reason, was pretty easily taken down. BOO!

Bella has now recognized her love for Jacob but still has intentions on marrying Edward and becoming a vampire. What will she do?? (since "someone" already told me the ending, I know, but I'm pretending not too. Book spoilery people SUCK).

The story was good, but ramping up to climaxes and then turning away were not the best way to handle this.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I pulled this short story from - only 2 mp3s! Naturally, I was curious about the movie but I really am not a fan of Brad Pitt so I figured I'd read the story first to see if I'd like it.

Although this is a very short story, it packed a good punch. Benjamin Button is born as an old man, too big to fit in the hospital crib and already talking in the crotchety old man voice. Everyone is upset and ashamed of him, not seeing him as a curious oddity but as an embarrassment. His father encourages Benjamin to act his real age and not the age he was born at.

As Benjamin reaches his 50s he's getting noticeably younger. Still scorned and ridiculed for his reverse aging he meets and falls in love with a young lady.

The story follows Button's life as he serves in the army, has a child and grows younger every year. Everyone seems to believe this is something he can control and get very angry at him for not acting his age.

Sadly you can anticipate the ending as Button goes into his childhood.

Great story that actually made me sad and made me think about elderly folks with dementia and Alzheimers that revert back to their childhood as well.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Unforgiving Minute by Craig Mullaney

I normally do not read anything in the military genre mostly because it's just too hard to read. I saw Craig Mullaney on The Daily Show and the interview was compelling enough that I checked the book out from the library.

This is an exceptional book. Mullaney writes about his time at West Point, going to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and leading a platoon of soldiers in Afghanistan, all before he turned 25. The book follows through with his life after war - getting married, joining the Old Guard at Arlington Cemetery, teaching history at a Navel school and sending his little brother off to war. An incredibly written book, I was moved to tears more than once.

While I never assumed any of the American soldiers are stupid, I never ever realized the extent of training that they go through and the intelligence they have to have in order to survive combat and make things run smoothly. All while usually being shot at. That's pressure that the majority of folks are never going to encounter.

I still am not a fan of military books, but I highly recommend reading this one.

David Sedaris

So last night my friend Tom and I went to Ball State to see David Sedaris. My mom was supposed to go with me but with all the drama that happened at their house the last few days, she opted to stay home. Bummer for her because Sedaris was great! Tom met me at my house and drove my car, since his little 'stang has trouble in the rain. All good because I could take a painkiller to get through the rest of the night. He's a good driver.

Anyways, Sedaris read lots of new stories and they were all really funny. We had good seats right near the front. I had heard an interview with Sedaris about his tours. He brings out the new stuff he is working on and makes notes as he reads to the audience. So if he reads a section he thinks is funny but it doesn't get a laugh, he'll mark it. Stuff that gets a big laugh, he'll mark. He was up there marking up pages like crazy. He said last night that these stories get chopped up by the end of the tour and can go through tons of rewrites just based on audience reaction.

Some of his stories cracked me up simply because I could see myself doing the things he described. Like telling a 4-year-old that his mother sold everything of his- toys, bed, clothes, even his name. That is so wrong but I would do that.

His work is funny. Naked is a good book and so is When You Are Engulfed in Flames. Santaland Diaries has some great stories in it. But what's even better is when he reads his works. It just somehow makes it funnier.

I'm fully inspired to start writing again. I think I have enough crazy stories in my family to give me material for a long while. And mom already approved long as I don't show anything to April. Ha.