The last book review I posted was for Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, way back in February. Since then, I’ve read “a few” books, but haven’t had time to get my thoughts down about any of them.
This post is going to serve as a very brief, rather frantic “catch-up.” I want to at least write down reactions to the other books I’ve read so far. No, these aren’t formal reviews – but something is better than nothing!
So, in order of completion from most distant to most recent:
Half Bad by Sally Green: This is the first book in a planned YA fantasy trilogy by new author Sally Green. I think the premise is interesting and the execution rather good. There is quite a bit in this book which is derivative, owing a lot to other popular YA fantasy series’ on the market; however, that being said, I really enjoyed the story and a lot of what is unique about it. Green builds quite a bit of believable tension into the story, issues between the main character/protagonist and his best friend, his girlfriend, his father, his family etc. I think this is a series worth reading and fans of YA fantasy are likely to enjoy it.
Warlock by Jim Starlin: Adam Warlock is one of my favorite comic book characters and I’m glad to have finally read the complete story in graphic novel form. Some of the more interesting stories (like the Infinity plots) are not present because they are exterior to the original Warlock storyline, but this graphic collection was still fun, dark, and interesting.
Half Wild by Sally Green: This is the second book in Green’s fantasy trilogy and an interesting and improved follow-up to the first in the series. Main characters from the first book reappear and some new ones are introduced. A lot of the tension between the main character and minor ones continues to deepen, and Green takes some very welcome and exciting risks. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series (which, from what I’ve read, will be the conclusion to the trilogy – but you never know with fantasy series’!)
The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith: I’m a huge fan of Andrew Smith, and The Alex Crow did not disappoint. This is Smith’s most complex and adult novel to date. It’s not hard to understand the comparisons to Kurt Vonnegut. There have been some criticisms about unnecessary storylines or sub-plots, but I think those critiques are missing the point. The story’s sub-plots work together toward a final conclusion, without one or the other of these storylines, the overall message would not be as profound as it is. Unfortunately, that message seems to be lost on some readers. Still, this book, after Grasshopper Jungle, is resulting in a great deal of critical attention and acclaim for Smith, praise which I think is completely valid.
Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore: I read this because of Twitter hoopla surrounding gender representations in comic books and the new covers for some classic comics. I’ve never been a big fan of Batman comics (I’ve enjoyed the movies more – and I’m really a Marvel fan, so I haven’t given as much attention to DC stories) but this was a really interesting take on the Joker’s possible backstory. I know there’s a debate as to whether or not the backstory is necessary or helpful – some fans like that the Joker is just innately evil, while others appreciated the fact that perhaps some event triggered that descent into madness. I can understand both points of view – for what it is, I enjoyed this story.
Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1 by Willow G. Wilson: I think this is an incredibly powerful and long-overdue take on female power in comics. The new Ms. Marvel is young and fierce, filled with good intentions but also prone to mistakes. Volume 1 introduces us to her character, her friends, and her family, all of which adds great complexity and detail to her personality and the possibilities/pitfalls that might be ahead of her. Super cool.
A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin: I’m so glad I finally read this book, and I’m eager to get on with the series. While I don’t think that Martin is quite the writer or world-builder as, say, Tolkien, his take on fantasy is still refreshing and unique. As Martin has explained, his goal was to place fantasy elements in a realistic medieval environment, and in that I think he is succeeding. The story is dark, dangerous, and rarely redeeming or uplifting, but the times (from a historical perspective) were equally difficult. As a fan of the television show (until this season, where I’m finding much to complain about) I think it’s incredible how closely the show was adapted from the book – but those who have only watched the show are missing some important things, even simple things like the characters’ ages make a big difference in understanding and appreciating what’s happening.
Saga, Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan: I finally took the plunge and started this series. Everybody talks about it, and now I know why. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a comic so much since Blankets (which, admittedly, is completely different and not actually a comic – it’s a long graphic novel). Anyway, Saga is narrated from the future by the protagonist who is, in the first comics, just a newborn baby. We learn about her parents and their worlds & the war they’re engaged in. The comic is rated “M” for good reason – I wasn’t expecting some of the graphic sexual situations and violence, but the great thing is that it’s not at all gratuitous, it’s just a part of the world. I’ve got Volume 2 sitting on my shelf waiting to be read, and I haven’t been so anxious to get to a read, especially a comic, in a very long time! Loving it!
Also read but not reviewed:
Bertram Cope’s Year by Henry Blake Fuller (5 out of 5, Read June 2014)
Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley (3 out of 5, Read June 2014)
Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry (4 out of 5, Read June 2014)
The Dog Star by Donald Windham (3 out of 5, Read June 2014)
Messenger by Lois Lowry (4 out of 5, Read June 2014)
The Madness of Lady Bright by Lanford Wilson (4 out of 5, Read July 2014)
Son by Lois Lowry (3 out of 5, Read July 2014)
Totempole by Sanford Friedman (5 out of 5, Read July 2014)
The Front Runner by Patricia Nell Warren (4 out of 5, Read July 2014)
The Normal Heart by Larry Kramer (5 out of 5, Read July 2014)
Lemon Sky by Lanford Wilson (4 out of 5, Read July 2014)
Invisible Life by E. Lynn Harris (2 out of 5, Read July 2014)
Letters to Montgomery Clift by Noel Alumit (5 out of 5, Read July 2014)
Sons of the Prophet by Stephen Karam (3 out of 5, Read August 2014)
Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee (3 out of 5, Read December 2014)
Halfway Home by Paul Monette (4 out of 5, Read December 2014)
Revival by Stephen King (4 out of 5, Read December 2014)
Red Caps: New Fairy Tales for Out of the Ordinary Readers by Steve Berman (3 out of 5, Read January 2015)