Monday, March 31, 2008

The Mighty Skullboy Army

Artist Jacob Cabot's series of shorts was showcased last year in publisher Dark Horse's New Recruits volume. It features a juvenile evil mastermind who is distracted from his endeavors by the requirements of school. Aiding him in his malfeasance is his "army," two helpers in the form of an egotistical robot and a mischievous monkey. They're hardly the most efficient force for evil the world has ever seen, and their misadventures are hilarious. These are great quick reads for those with a quirky sense of humor.

Ronald Reagan: A Graphic Biography

Comics publisher Hill and Wang has released a series of graphic biographies in recent months. This one, about Ronald Reagan, covers the former president from his days as a Hollywood union boss to his final hours in the hold of a degenerative disease. It's easy now, some two decades after his time in office, to glorify or demonize this iconic man. This book, if nothing else, will show a new generation that there was more to the man than either side prefers to remember. His controversies were serious and many, yet he had a unique gift for words, timing and public image that likely changed the tone and behind-the-scenes mechanics of American politics forever.


This graphic novel by G. Willow Wilson and M.K. Perker makes excellent use of a rich Middle Eastern folklore tradition. Characters mix it up with a Djinn, travel to the UnderNile (a spirit-world river beneath the Nile and flowing the opposite direction). In this environment, the book adds in politics and social commentary. It's a great book from artists from whom I hope we see more.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Strindberg Reader

August Strindberg is one of those obscure Scandinavian writers who pop up every now and then in erudite witticisms, trivia games, and Dennis Miller monologues. What drew me to him was the online cartoon "Strindberg and Helium," a wonderfully silly pairing of the morose fellow with an insufferably upbeat sidekick.
In any case, this book collects a handful of the guy's short stories, plays and essays. He was a writer of remarkably broad interests. The essays run from musings on Shakespeare and theology to an analysis of Chinese politics. The short stories are in a similar vein as those of Guy de Maupassant: short, with simple plot turns and with a tone that today would be described as impossibly heavy-handed. It's interesting stuff, and the earnest tone is refreshing in today's world of self-consciously hip and heavily marketed prose.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Yiddish Policemens Union

This is author Michael Chabon's first book since his Pulitzer Prize-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Chabon is an immensely talented writer, making deft use of crisp prose, grand schemes and witty dialogue. Picture the rapid-fire banter of Raymond Chandler infused with Jewish humor and a Yiddish gift for language. It's one of the best books I've read in a long time.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Change of Heart

Jodi Picoult is an extremely popular author, and I've been following her for years. She comes out with a new book every March, which I look forward to as soon as I'm finished with the previous year's book! Her latest is the story of Shay Bourne, a convict on death row with many secrets. When a surviving family member of his victims needs a heart transplant, he wishes to give up his heart for her. The premise is a bit farfetched and I didn't feel a lot of realism in the story. Also, Picoult's allegories and analogies were heavy-handed--I felt a little like I was being hit over the head with the religious parallels. Yet I was still moved by the story. Picoult is the master of layering plots and developing characters. Even when I wasn't too excited by the writing itself, I continued turning pages, knowing that Picoult would have a surprise for me. Fans will enjoy this one, but if you're new to her work, I'd suggest a different one to start.

Remember Me?

Sophie Kinsella, also known as Madeleine Wickham, is the author of the Shopaholic series, as well as a number of stand-alone titles. Under the name of Sophie Kinsella, she usually publishes one title a year, alternating between a Shopaholic title and a stand-alone title. This year's is Remember Me?, and I must say it was one of the better Kinsella books I've read. Lexi Smart is the heroine of the book. She wakes up in 2007 after a horrible car accident, yet her last memory is of falling in a parking lot in 2004. It takes her some time to realize she's lost her memory of the last three years of her life. She's changed a lot in that time, and throughout the rest of the book, Lexi pieces together the way her life was, while realizing what she wants her life to be in the future. A very snappy, light read.

Monday, March 03, 2008

The Golden Compass

by Philip Pullman

Although the majority of the book and the movie are the same, there are some startling differences, such as the ending. This is the story of a young girl named Lyra, who lives in a world where each person has what is called a "demon", which is essentially their soul in an living animal form. The "goblers", also known as the General Oblation Board, have been snatching children in order to do experiments to find out more about something called "dust".

Lyra is swept up into the fight of good and evil when her friend Rodger is kidnapped. She is armed with her golden compass, which has the ability to tell her the truth, as she goes on a quest to rescue the captured children. But, the plot goes deeper and the danger is closer to her than she can imagine. With the help of an armored bear, a flying balloon, and an army of witches, Lyra has the power to stop the goblers from completing their evil deeds.

The reason the book, in particular, has been so controversial is because of the mention and adaptation of Genesis in the Bible, which is incorporated into the story containing mention of people's demons. This part was left out of the movie version.

I found the story full of fascinating characters and a suspenseful plotline. Taken as a story of pure imagination and fantasy, without reading further into the religious suggestions made by the author, it is a great read.