Will's Reading List

I'm an academic librarian who lives in Colorado.  I like thrillers, spy novels, fiction about the domestic life, music, running, road trips, and geekery. Always up for a board game.

East of West, v.2, and Manifest Destiny, v.1

East of West, Vol. 2: We Are All One - Jonathan Hickman, Nick Dragotta Manifest Destiny, Vol. 1 - Chris Dingess, Matthew Roberts, Owen Gieni

The problem with graphic novels is that once you've read Saga, everything else seems... lesser.  These other books have shallow female characters, their plots are thin, and lead characters are morose, overdramatic, and don't sound tough as much as so full of gravitas that humanity drags about their heels.  


East of West 2 and the first volume of Manifest Destiny are kind of a mix, suffering from at least one or two of the problems above, but still being engaging enough to feel worth (most of) the ride.  The artwork in both is phenomenal -- hyperstylized in the former and reminiscent of Art Adams in the latter -- but I feel spoiled by the richness of Saga's storyline.  Saga's promotion of human elements makes everything fantastical seem real.  Manifest Destiny, on the other hand, uses a familiar story to bring us in, but there isn't much room for feeling in between its major events.  East of West is better, but it is heavy.  All the time, heavy.  Shakespeare knew tragedy requires lighter moments to work, and I think these guys should read more of him.


Anyway, enjoyable enough.  I'll keep reading.  But I've been more excited by Ms. Marvel and Rocket Girl lately.  It's time for heroes who aren't afraid to drop the tropes once and a while and get on with the business of being human.


Manifest Destiny


East of West, volume 2



Kindred, by Octavia Butler

Kindred - Octavia E. Butler

Writing about literature shouldn't make intangible feelings obvious ones. It shouldn't pantomime nuance, or float those subtleties an author steeped into the novel’s tone. This is how it is to write about Kindred, a story rife (for any time) with aching parallels, and built on that bonework of slavery that America has so often broken in literature and, in life, reset:  everything you mouth ruins the words.  Kindred isn't an easy novel to read, and will take time to assimilate, and that is the best an author could hope for: that the novel lasts and lives -- uncomfortable and, for a time, inarticulate -- inside those who read it.  That is how we can talk about it.  In how it worms inside us, and in how we see something like that level of abuse living inside the people we love, the people we are.  It’s an underskin, and it feels base to split apart, instead of ourselves, a novel that does so well at making us know better the inner muscles of the world we inherit, and inhabit, and pollute with misunderstanding and actionless self-knowledge.  Let the ugly part of literature live for a while, and perhaps spare that ugliness from the rest of the world, until you are able to recognize and articulate how much it is yourself.

Reblogged from Dilettante:
Banned Books
Banned Books

Infographic on banned books (for use in a future class).


Speak - Laurie Halse Anderson

A powerful novel, wonderfully done.


Here's a topically related story I wrote in 1997 that was published online at The Barcelona ReviewUp From Zero.


Below is how Speak fits into the 2015 Reading Challenge...


The Martian

The Martian - Andy Weir

A survival novel that does well with its engineering and poorly with its people. The Martian satisfies a literary niche that doesn't often get scratched: stringing together bits of math, physics, and chemistry to tell a compelling story of an astronaut stranded on Mars.  But Weir needs practice fleshing out his characters -- Astronaut Watley is quick with geeky humor and winks at popular culture to a point that sacrifices some of his credibility as someone who has presumably gone through training similar to the real life cast of The Right Stuff.  Similarly, the women in this novel could be vary more from the outlines of a Hollywood script.  Still, this is a nice kind of escapist literature if you want to think practically about surviving in an alien atmosphere, but the cast could have been better grounded in Earth.



Reblogged from Ann's Book Blog:

I'm so doing this...

Source: http://www.popsugar.com/love/Reading-Challenge-2015-36071458

Florence Gordon

Florence Gordon - Brian Morton

One of Brian Morton's specialties as an author is pairing older, often forgotten academics and intellectuals with the younger followings that discover them.  Florence Gordon tracks that overlap though the blunt instrument of its titular character, a 75-year-old author of feminist theory, and her wiry but somehow intact relationship with her family.  The novel, like Florence, doesn't take pains to walk you through its developing story.  The pacing is clipped, but curt with grace.  Internal conflicts are often that: borne, end to end, within their character's mind and only externalized through awkward, selfish expression. What becomes clear to the reader is that Gordon's personality defines the tone as much as it does the family dynamic.  We experience her in reaction, but in defense of her, not defensively.  The approach is rewarding, and deft, and so like her family, the reader is left wanting more catches, more glints of Gordon's personality -- to which this character, real as anyone, turns sharply away.  With Florence Gordon, we aren't coddled to love a cantankerous character sketch.  We are asked to keep up with one.



Madame Xanadu: Disenchanted

Madame Xanadu, Vol. 1: Disenchanted - Matt Wagner, Amy Reeder, Richard Friend

More fine artwork from Amy Reeder Hadley, this time paired with an excellent story from Matt Wagner.  Spanning distances from Arthur's England to Marco Polo's Asia to, of course, some spectral Nowhere, the narrative tells of the exile of a forest nymph and her dealings across eras with someone known only as The Stranger.  A few notable appearances from the pre-hero DC universe appear, but thankfully the story isn't ruined in an effort to fit that agenda.


Wagner's characterizations allow for complexity and honest emotion, which is always a treat in the graphic novel genre.  


Madame Xanadu & The Stranger


Apparently the next volume does without Amy Reeder's art -- a huge disappointment -- but the story is worth following further.

Fool's Gold, volume 1

Fool's Gold Volume 1 - Amy Reeder

In pursuit of more Amy Reeder illustrations came this first part of the two-part manga series written and illustrated by Amy Reeder Hadley.  The premise empowers young women to turn away from the young men who treat them or other girls poorly and instead find those uncut gems among their high school class.  Elements of the story give off a bit of a Pride & Prejudice vibe.  This is among Reeder's earliest artwork, so it's nice to see how far her skills have come in a few short years.  I may not be the ideal demographic for this story, but I liked it's message, the maintenance of some conflict even within a band of like-minded friends, and Reeder's sense of design and fashion as brought through her lead, Penny.  Worth a read if you enjoy the genre or want to see more stories centering on women's empowerment.

Gone Girl

Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn

Gillian Flynn's third novel is her best; gritty, but not as depressing as Dark Places, and more suspenseful, more readable.  If not wholly believable at times, it is rich with conflict and Flynn's trademark characters. What's especially interesting about the success of the novel is what it says in conjunction with its time. Earlier in 2014, the Census Bureau released statistics that a majority of Americans were currently unmarried.  Most of us are single now.  And if this book is an indication, we don't have much faith in the concept.  In marriage, we lose ourselves -- not simply independence, but our very identity.  We lie because marriage demands we lie.  We are false because the union is false.  If this is true, even in our imagination, no wonder then that we are in love with a novel that plumbs the lie so fully.  We are changed by the fact that we have sewn our lives to another, and like any implant, the body fights both rejection and attachment; adjustment and revulsion  We are horrified by what we think marriage asks us to give up: our selfish independence, and the false ideas we carry about ourselves. Gone Girl is a terrific novel.  It knows us better than we know ourselves.

Rocket Girl, vol. 1

Rocket Girl Volume 1: Times Squared - Amy Reeder, Brandon Montclare

This graphic novel sports beautiful art -- fantastic layouts and wonderfully realistic human characters -- by Amy Reeder.  Brandon Montclare's story is an action-filed back-and-forth between a relative present and alternate future, but the illustrations are reason enough to go for it.  The guy at the local shop warned me that Reeder was taking a brief hiatus and is now being wooed by larger firms, but hopefully she stays with the characters whose look and attitudes she has done so well to define.





Rocket Girl


Saga, Volume 3

Saga, Volume 3 - Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples

Completely hooked.  What an amazing series this is.

Saga, Volume 2

Saga, Volume 2 - Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples

Man, there is really nothing in this series not to like.

Ragnarok, #1

Ragnarok #1 - Walter Simonson

A favorite artist for as long as I can remember, Walt Simonson's take on the end days of Norse mythology is intriguingly scripted and brilliantly drawn.  Very excited about this series.

Saga, Volume 1

Saga, Volume 1 - Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples

An amazing graphic novel with a sound, mature story married to beautiful art and design.  Recommended by a couple of friends, and so very glad I tried it.

Prince of Thorns

Prince of Thorns - Mark  Lawrence

A layered story of past and future, familiar and foreign, fantasy and apocalyptic fiction, Mark Lawrence's Prince of Thorns is an enjoyable entry to a series that points where it wants to go, and colors the path with as vivid a collection of antiheroes as you could hope for. For me, the narrator became, at times, unbelievable in conceit: Jorg, a fourteen-year-old exposed to incredible violence at an early age, jaded beyond the awkwardness of his age -- and too sure, too solid, for someone matured by violence before he was fully aware.  I expected either more awkwardness or jarring edges -- not the smooth leader of men I was presented.  His adept physicality became a bit of a stretch for me as well.  These things can be explained away by the uniqueness of circumstance, but the best stories make the difficult believable in visions of experience, not in the unbroken confidence of their bravado.  I'll stick with the series, but I hope it grows (up) on me.

Currently reading

The Yellow Birds
Kevin Powers
Progress: 50/184 pages
The City Stained Red
Sam Sykes
Progress: 492/555 pages