"Take no heed of her...She reads a lot of books."
~Jasper Fforde

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Last Temptation (Neil Gaiman)

I promise that this will be my last graphic novel book review for a little while.  I'm sure you guys are getting sick of them.  But, I just had to go on a little mini-rant about how awesome this book was.  First, it was written by Neil Gaiman, who writes nothing but awesome, except for his Sandman series, and possibly Stardust.  I don't remember much of that, except I didn't like it.  Second, it includes Alice Cooper!  That's right!  The Last Temptation was actually written in conjunction with Alice Cooper's concept album of the same name.  So, yay!

The story is about Steven, a high school kid who follows a creepy showman (who looks a hell of a lot like ol' Alice) into an abandoned theatre for a once-in-a-lifetime performance.  While there, the showman invites him to join the show...permanently.  And, being the charming master of dark creepy things that he is, the showman allows him some time to think things through.  He offers him a life of fun and excitement, free from pain and responsibility and growing old.  And in return, all Steven needs to give up is his potential.

It's a creepy story, certainly.  But, it was fun to read.  And it combined one of my favorite authors and one of my favorite musicians.  I never thought I'd pick up a Neil Gaiman book with Alice Cooper in it.  And I found it completely by accident, as I was checking in books at work. 

The version I was reading was in black and white, but there is apparently also a color version out.  I'll be trying to get my hands on a copy of that next.

The best part for me, however, was the concept album, The Last Temptation, that went along with the book.  I read the book first, then got the CD through inter-library loan (ILL).  I won't go into details here, but the music was WONDERFUL.  Gaiman suggests pairing the two together for the ultimate reading experience, but by the time I figured out that there was an album, I was already too committed to "starting this book today, dammit!"  
(Sometimes, I fear I take after Lost in Space's Dr. Smith.  "Smith!  Don't eat that!  You don't even know what it is!"  "Oh, nonsense, it looks delicious.  And if it were poison, I evolved palate would be able to detect it".  Or, in my case: "Em!  Don't read that yet!  You have to wait until the CD comes." "Oh, nonsense, this book looks awesome!  It won't be a big deal at all."  And maybe it was.  I won't really know.  If you do the "correct" thing and pair the two up, please let me know how it affected your reading experience.)

Overall, it was a fun book.  Was it the greatest graphic novel I've read?  No.  But, it was fun.  And that's really what's important to me.  Yeah, sometimes I felt it was a bit hokey.  And the "Lost in America" sequence dragged a bit, because the dialogue was straight from the song lyrics.  Nothing wrong with that, per se, but have you ever heard someone "say" song lyrics?  It just doesn't sound right.  And it doesn't read right, either.  But, the story was cool in that sort of vaguely creepy atmospheric way.  It reminded me of the time I tried to read Something Wicked This Way Comes, and then had to return it to the library because I ran out of renewals.  Or even of the feeling in the air at the end of September to late October when you sit outside in a lawn chair watching the leaves swirl around while reading books about vampires and other bogeymen.  Keeping that in mind, I plan on picking it up again this October.  Hopefully it'll be a fun read.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Scott Pilgrim 1-6 (Bryan Lee O'Malley)

I've been reading a lot of graphic novels lately.  (As I'm sure some of you surmised from my post on Sandman, quickly followed by one on Scott Pilgrim.  I guess a lot of people have been recommending them to me lately (first those two girls at work, and now my brother).  While I was pretty lukewarm about the Sandman series, however, I loved Scott Pilgrim.

Why?  Well, it's a fun series!  And it takes full advantage of its medium as a comic book.  The
plots are over-the-top and outrageous, but great fun to read.  Imagine this if you will: Scott Pilgrim is your average 20-something post-graduate bum.  He lives with his gay roommate, Wallace Wells, sponging off his stuff instead of getting a job, and has just started dating a 17 year old (Scott is 23), much to his friends' disgust and amusement.  Then, everything changes when Scott meets Ramona.  She's the girl of his dreams.  Literally.  Ramona has an uncanny way of wandering through Scott's head on her delivery route for Amazon.ca.  Then, they finally get to meet during the day.  And start dating.  But, before they can get too serious, Scott first has to fight Ramona's evil ex-boyfriends.  All seven of them.  But, Scott has a few skeletons in his own closet, as well.  Drama and hilarity ensue.

I first heard about this series because of the Michael Cera movie that came out a few years back.  I had liked Cera's performance in Juno, and so when my brother told me about Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, I was curious.  And it was a really good movie.  I love video games and comic books, so the film's combination of the two was pretty awesome.
But, this isn't a review about the movie!  We're talking about the book (if you're interested in the movie, you can read my movie review at Cinema Sweetheart's Film Reviews.

If you liked the movie, I would highly recommend the books, since there is so much more to the plot and to the characters in the books.  And if you weren't a huge fan of the film, I would still suggest checking out at least the first couple of books. 
I really loved that the characters were more developed in the graphic novels than in the movies (since there was more room to let them run free).  Plus, there are extra characters who don't make it into the movie at all!  I hope that by this point, most of my readers know how important characters are to me when I'm reading a book.  Plot is certainly important, but highly developed characters are like crack to me.  I was especially pleased with the characters of Roxie, Kim, Wallace, and Joseph.  Roxie is that little pigtailed girl in the picture just above this.  I found her more sympathetic in the books (still evil, but more sympathetic).  Kim comes across as a bit of a bitch in the movie, but in the comics, honestly, she was probably my favorite character (after Wallace, Scott's gay roommate.  That man is perfect).  And of course, I don't think Joseph even makes an appearance in the film.  But, he's bearded and sarcastic, and perfect.

But, it's not just about the characters.  Do you like action?  Well, how about fights with seven evil exes?  Or mysterious sword-wielding Chinese man with sunglasses and an epic black duster jacket?  There are battles of the bands, love triangles, parallelograms, and trapezoids.  Every time I would crack open the next book, I was surprised.  It was just a great collection of books.  I want to go into more details, but I'm afraid I'll start giving spoilers, so I'm going to shut up now.  But, check out the books!!  The first one is Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Sandman 1-3 (Neil Gaiman)

I have a sort of love-hate relationship with Neil Gaiman.  On one hand, I think he is brilliant.  I love his novels, and his short stories are simply to die for!  On the other hand, his writing is pretty dark.  Actually, it can get very dark.  And that's where I have some issues with him.  Not because he's dark (like chocolate, sometimes I like my books dark), but because he can be too dark.  And then I get uncomfortable or depressed.

I think that's sort of where I am right now with Neil Gaiman's Sandman series.  Out of 10 graphic novels, I've read 3.  And I'm seriously considering stopping here.

Perhaps, before continuing, a bit of background is in order?  The Sandman series reads almost like a dream, confusing, convoluted, and fascinating.  The plot lines sort of run all over the place, but the main focus centers around one character in particular: Lord Morpheus, or Dream.  That's him to the left.  Morpheus is one of the Endless, a group of beings who existed before the "gods" of Neil Gaiman's world, and will exist after they have faded away.  There are 7 of these (Death, Desire, Dream, Delirium, Destruction, Destiny, and Despair).

In theory, it's an interesting series.  In Book 1, Morpheus is captured by a scholar who wants to live forever, and believes the best way to achieve this is to capture Death.  But, he captures her little brother Dream instead.  During his 70 years of imprisonment, Dream is unable to control the forces of dreaming and waking, and much of the world falls into chaos.  When he escapes, all hell breaks loose in his attempt to seek revenge and set things right.   The rest of the stories seem to jump around a lot.  Sometimes they are in the present, and sometimes in the past.  Dream meets Shakespeare, serial killers, and ordinary people who have no idea what they are getting themselves into.

I'm just not as into it as I thought I would be so far.  And that's always a disappointing
feeling.  Especially since this series got such high recommendations from two of my co-workers, one of whom enjoys similar books to me.  But, I suppose you can't win them all, and after 3 books of Sandman, I think I'm ready to move on to something new.  With work and classes, especially, I find that if I'm not really into something, then it's best to just pass it on and read something else.  I have time, but I don't have the luxury of infinite time to read as much as I might want to.

(You should see the stack of books lying on my bedroom floor!  Eek!  I'm not sure when I'll have time to read any of them!)

One thing I really liked about the series was in Book 2.  I'm not sure how much I've talked about him here, but I really like the works of British Christian author GK Chesterton, and was delightfully surprised to see him featured in the second installment, Doll's House, as a physical manifestation of a piece of the Dreamlands.  He was actually pretty cool, too, coming across as very heroic, larger than life, and very human for something that is really only the stuff of dreams.  So, that was a nice little tidbit for me.  While I won't be reading much Sandman anymore (or probably NO Sandman, I think I will be picking up more Chesterton.  Just for a change of pace.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Dear Cute Guy at Work

Stop trying to get under my skin.

Yes, you're adorable.  I'm not denying that.  I'm not even going to try.  But, please, stop making me jittery, teasing until I blush, pointing like a kindergartner , making me stick out my tongue in a childish last resort.

And don't give me that "Oh, I'm not that great" line of crap, or the one about how you feel so bad for yourself.  I see that smirk tugging at the corner of your mouth.  And it's really hot.  And that bugs me.

I can't keep hiding my smiles behind my hand.  I'm trying to be professional, and that's hard to do when you're making me laugh.  I'm not interested in this sort of thing.  Not right now.  And you're so not right for me.  On so many levels.  For so many reasons.

But, your eyes are so blue and your curls so blond.  God, you're pretty.

Yeah, just stop, and I think we'll both be fine.