Monthly Archives: March 2015

Comic Book Friday: The Amazing Spider-Man: The Parker Luck

The Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 1: The Parker Luck

Peter Parker returns from the dead (or at least exile inside his own body that was taken over by a dying Doc Ock) from the latest comic book continuity reboot.

In case you missed it, a couple of years ago Marvel killed off Peter Parker by having Doc Ock take over his body. For a little over thirty issues, Ock was in control of Peter’s life and his powers, helping Peter earn his doctorate, start his own company and begin a romantic relationship with Anna-Maria. He also earned a Peter’s alter-ego Spider-Man a new reputation for ruthlessness and efficiency as he went up against some of Spidey’s old foes.

But Peter wasn’t dead — just lurking inside of Ock’s brain waiting for the right moment to reassert himself and take control back. That moment just happened to tie-in with the release of last year’s Amazing Spider-Man 2 because you wouldn’t want movie audiences coming to the comic books to find Doc Ock in control and not Peter Parker. It also gives you the marketing tie-in opportunity of launching (or in this case re-launching) your flag ship title with a first issue and lots (and lots) of variant covers.

All of this brings us to the first collection of the newly rebooted Amazing Spider-Man with Peter once again firmly in control of his body, but trying to pick up the pieces of his life that Ock left behind. Peter has no idea that Ock and Anna Maria are close (even living together) or how to complete the various projects that Ock has put into play at his new company. He’s also had to publicly distance his company from Spider-Man due to the concluding events of The Superior Spider-Man. And somehow the excuses he uses to run off and go into Spidey mode are wearing thin with colleagues who have tied their future and earning potentials to his company.

Reading this collection of six issues, I couldn’t help but wonder where all the fun of reading Spider-Man comics has gone. Re-reading some of the early days of the character, there was always the real-world angst to Peter Parker, but there was also a sense of fun to balance that out. With this latest reboot, it feels like Dan Slott and company have forgotten that comic books can and should be fun and not feel like they’re pushing some corporate agenda (this isn’t helped by the fact that the main foe for this series is Electro, tying in to last summer’s movie.) Slott did some interesting things early on with Ock taking over as Spider-Man, but that fizzled out quickly, ending with a thud as Marvel hit the reset button (yet again!).

This new series stumbles out of the gate, failing to recapture the magic that made me love Spider-Man so much when I first discovered him years ago. Maybe I’m getting too old and too cynical to enjoy the book these days, but I hope that’s not the case.

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Review: Single, Carefree, Mellow: Stories by Katherine Heiny

Single, Carefree, Mellow: Stories

People in various stages of infidelity populate the short stories collected in Katherine Heiny’s Single, Carefree, Mellow. Heiny’s storytelling doesn’t look at the moment an affair begins or when it ends but instead delves into various characters (both men and women) at different points of being unfaithful.

One woman finds herself contemplating the end of a relationship in relation to the death of a beloved pet. Another finds herself being cheating partner finding someone new and becoming more interesting in pursuing that relationship than in continuing their affair.

It would be tempting to make all of these cheating men and women seem like villains, but Heiny’s strength comes from making us not only understand these people but also relate to them. These aren’t cheating spouses and lovers who are doing so merely out of boredom. There are complex and justified (at least to the cheater) reasons for doing what they’re doing.

Each story is told with a confident voice. From doing a bit of research into Heiny, I’ve discovered that this collection was a long time coming from those who discovered her years ago. I can only hope that her next collection or offering won’t take as long to hit shelves because Single, Carefree, Mellow has made me a fan and I’m curious to see what she’ll offer next.

In the interest of full disclosure, I received a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Booking Through Thursday: Spring

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What new book would make you spring out of your chair and run to the bookstore? (Or library, or nearest computer screen, depending on your book-delivery-method of choice.)

It won’t be out until this summer, but I’m looking forward to Peter David’s next installment in the Star Trek: New Frontier series.

I’ll have to spring out to purchase it for my e-reader since it’s coming out in installments.

It’s been a couple of years since the last installment and that one ended on a bit of a cliffhanger. And I’m always happy to spend more time with the New Frontier crew and a new Peter David book.

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Way Back Wednesday: Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

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Halfway to the weekend and that means it’s time again for Way Back Wednesday, hosted by A Well Read Woman.

Each week, this meme invites you to cast your mind back across those books you’ve read that left a lasting impression.

redfernThis week’s book is Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls.

For those of you haven’t read Red Fern, it’s the story of Billy, a young boy growing up in the Ozarks who only wants one thing — two coon hounds.  Billy spends two years earning money and saving it up to purchase his two hounds, who he christens Old Dan and Little Anne.   The book focuses on Billy’s training and bonding with his animals as well as their treeing and bringing down a legendary wily raccoon.

And then, as all books about dogs must, things take a tragic turn when you reach the final chapters.

If you’ve read the book, you know what I’m talking about.

While out hunting one night, Billy is threatened by a mountain lion.  Dan and Anne battle the mountain lion, but Dan is mortally wounded and passes away.  Then Little Anne dies of sadness at missing her brother and Billy find her on his grave.   And this is where the red fern of grows.

It’s interesting that the last two weeks for WBW have focused on dogs.    And while they’re very different, they have a lot of similarities.   Both Cujo and Red Fern start off with beloved pets who meet a tragic end.    The difference is that Ol’ Dan and Little Anne never become rabid dogs on a killing rampage as Cujo does.  But they still meet a tragic end.

I’m not sure how many times I read this one growing up.  I think a teacher read this book to us in school first and I sought it out afterward.  I checked it out of the library often growing up and each time I read it, I felt a growing sense of dread as we got toward that monumental chapter with the mountain lion.

I have memories of another book or two by Rawls sitting on the library shelf but I never picked them up.  I wasn’t sure if his other book or books would follow a similar path as Red Fern and I honestly wasn’t really sure I wanted to find out.

I know there was a movie version (and there’s been another one since) and I think I saw it at one point.   Of course, it was no where nearly as poignant or as moving as the book.  And it didn’t make quite the same impression either.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Books on My Spring TBR List

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This week’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by the Broke and the Bookish) looks at the top books I’m looking forward to reading this spring.

Here’s my list (in no particular order):

1.  The Affinities by Robert Charles Wilson
2.  Life or Death by Michael Roboham
3.  A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
4.  I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios
5.  The Boy Who Drew Monsters by Keith Donahue
6.  Scary Close by Donald Miller
7.  Lost and Found by Brooke Davis
8. Uprooted by Naomi Novik
9. Charlie, Presumed Dead by Anne Heltzel
10. The Vanishing Girl by Laura Thalassa

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Musing Mondays: Library

musingmondays51The start of a new week means it’s time for Musing Mondays hosted by A Daily Rhythm.

This week’s random question asks: How often do you use your local library? Are you happy with their availability?

I’m a frequent user of my local library.   Not only to check out physical books but also to get e-books from their web site.

Overall, I’m pleased with my local library system.  The ability to reserve books and other items on-line is great.   My local library is opened six days a week and I generally get by at least once a week to browse the shelves or (most likely) pick up an item I have on reserve.

I’m a big fan of the library.

What about you?

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Booking Through Thursday: Shelf Space

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Two part question:

In an ideal world, what kind of book cases would you have? Built-ins? Barrister ones with glass doors? The cheapest you could find so you could have lots of them?

And … what kind of bookcases do you REALLY have?

Someday when I win the lottery and built my mansion, I intend to have a library with full, built in shelves that will, most likely, be stuffed to the gills with books that I love. Or at least the books that I intend to read at some point in my lifetime.

As for now, I’ve got stand alone bookcases that aren’t the cheapest around, but have been picked up at various points over the years — from family, garage sales, etc. And yes, they have tons of books of them — both that I’ve loved and some I’m waiting to read.

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Review: Doctor Who: The Blood Cell by James Goss

Doctor Who: The Blood Cell (New Series Adventures, #54)

After reading and enjoying The Crawling Terror, I was cautiously optimistic to see what the next installment from the Peter Capaldi era of Doctor Who novels would offer. Unfortunately, I may have had my expectations set a bit too high because I came away from The Blood Cell feeling a bit disappointed by the whole experience.

I read tie-in novels for many reasons, but one of the biggest is the desire to spend more time with some of my favorite characters. James Goss attempts to distinguish his Capaldi era novel by offering up a narrative from the first-person perspective of the head of a prison that’s just received a new prisoner. The prisoner in question is, of course, the Doctor. Clara is also on hand, showing up at intervals to protest the Doctor’s imprisonment and to warn our narrator that the Doctor isn’t likely to stay in prison long.

I will admit I was a bit apprehensive about these first three Capaldi era novels because they were set to hit shelves relatively quickly after the first few episodes of the season aired. I wondered if they could capture his Doctor on the printed page or if we’d be treated to a more generic adventures and take on the Doctor with a bit of Scottish brogue and crankiness thrown in to make us believe that this was the new Doctor. The Crawling Terror did a nice job of making it feel like Mike Tucker had a good handle on Capaldi and had either seen footage of the new Doctor in action or been granted access to the scripts. Goss’ novel feels a bit more generic and was, ultimately, a lot more disappointing.

Part of it is the choice of a first-person narrator. This can work in Doctor Who novels, but it doesn’t quite feel all that effective here. Instead, it makes the Doctor and Clara feel like minor characters in their own novel for the first half. Things do pick up a bit in the second half, but by that point, I had lost much of my enthusiasm for this novel.

In the interest of full disclosure, I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Way Back Wednesday: Cujo by Stephen King

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It’s Wednesday and that means it’s time for Way Back Wednesday hosted by A Well Read Woman.

Each week, this meme takes us a journey back through some of the books we’ve read that had a big impact on us.

This week’s selection was inspired by my thoughts for yesterday’s Top Ten Tuesday.

cujofirsteditionI’ve been a fan of Stephen King ever since I picked up the second book I read by him.  The first was Firestarter, which is a good book but quite honestly didn’t do much for me when at the tender age of twelve or possibly thirteen.    Undaunted, I picked up Cujo next (checked it out of my school library, actually) and began to read.

And was immediately hooked on not only the book, but also King’s novels.

Picking it up, I figured the book was about a rabid dog that terrorized everyone.    And on some level, I suppose that is what Cujo is all about.  But it’s far scarier and more compelling than that.  King spends the first two-thirds of the novel creating the characters and the situation that will lead to a mother and her son being trapped in a hot car as the rabid Cujo tries to get in and kill them.   In fact, Cujo doesn’t become infected with rabies until about page 100, giving us time to get to know him and his owners and to see just what a tragic twist of fate this is for the dog and those around him.

I can’t begin to describe how certain passages  of this one blazed themselves into my memory.  King is a master of putting ordinary people in extraordinary situations and watching the results.     Cujo is a beast — a pure terror.  But beyond just battling this rabid dog, there are other elements at play and characters that King invests you in.  Some will live, some will die and you’ll find yourself caring about the fates of most of them.

This book scared me so much that I’ve never watched the movie version of it.   Honestly, I don’t think it could live up to the images created by my imagination — and I’ve got to be honest I’m not sure I want to find out if it could or does.

I re-read Cujo a few years ago as an audio book and I’ve got to say it REALLY holds up.   It’s as dark, scary and compelling as it was all those years ago.

Read it for yourself….if you dare!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books That Have Been Adapted As a Movie or TV Show

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It’s time again for the Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by the Broke and the Bookish.

This week, I’m looking at the top ten books I’d recommend for people who seen the TV show or movie.

1.  Book You Should Read Before It Becomes a TV Show:   The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick.  Amazon has produced a pilot for this alternate history novel from the Phillip K. Dick.  It’s a mind-bender where the Axis powers won World War II and have divided up what used to be the United States among themselves.   Full of the PKD themes of paranoia and questions of identity, this is one of the more straightforward PKD books out there and one of his best.   I haven’t seen the pilot yet but hopefully this one will become a series.

2.  Book That Isn’t As Good As the Movie: Forrest Gump by Winston Groom.   During the height of Forrest Gump‘s popularity, I picked up and read the novel by Winston Groom that served as the basis for the movie.  It’s VERY different and while the germ of the movie is there, the novel goes into an entirely different tangent — and it’s not necessarily for the better. Jenny loves Forrest mainly for his sexual prowess and large endowment and at one point Forrest is part of the space program.   The sweetness of the Tom Hanks portrayal isn’t necessarily in evidence as much either.  Most of the time, the book is better than the movie.  This is one case where that isn’t the case.

3.  Stephen King Novel That Was Made Into a Bad Movie: Pet Semetary.  This is one that could cover a lot of Stephen King’s prolific career. But I think the movie version that disappointed me the most has to be Pet Semetary.   The book is one of the darkest, creepiest and most compelling books of his career.  And I’m not talking about the scary stuff about raising pets and loved one from the dead!  I’m talking about the vivid scene where the family’s young child is killed and the funeral afterward.  Some of the most vivid writing that King has ever done and it just doesn’t translate at all onto the screen.   Oh and the novel is scary as hell and the movie — yeah, not so much.  Read it. Trust me.

4.  Classic Comics That Became a Movie:  Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man, Volumes 1-4.    These four volumes collect the entire run of the Stan Lee/Steve Ditko era of the Spider-Man and are some of my favorite issues of the entire run.   A lot of what’s in here has served as the basis for all five Spider-Man movies and it’s a lot of fun to revisit the original teen-angst filled world of Peter Parker aka Spider-Man.  Re-reading these recently reminded me of the biggest flaw in the new two new Spidey movies: the downplaying of Uncle Ben’s importance to the Spider-Man saga.    If you’re a big fan of Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 as I am, you may want to push onto volume 5 which includes the Spider-Man No More storyline that was part of that movie.

5.  Graphic Novel That Became a Movie: Watchmen.  Zach Snyder did a good job of adapting the comic for the silver screen — well, at least until he created a different ending for the movie from the graphic novel.   As with most literary works adapted for the silver screen, there are things that had to be jettisoned for running time.   Reading this will help you appreciate the movie a bit more, but also get you into one of the definitive graphic novels of all-time.

6.  Book That Wouldn’t Exist Without the Movie: Fantastic Voyage by Issac Asimov.   Asimov adapted the screenplay into a novel — and one that I’d argue is a better take on the material.   It keep the elements of the movie that worked and tries to make a premise that isn’t necessarily going to be supportable scientifically a big more supportable.

7.  Book and Movie Are Both Great (But Very Different Experiences):  To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  I love the book the movie. But each version is a different experience on the same material and I think they compliment each other well.

8.  Book and TV Show Are Both Great (But Very Different Experiences): A Song of Fire and Ice/Game of Thrones.   The TV show has veered off a bit from some of the plotlines in the novels and I expect them to continue to do so as the show evolves.   Given that Martin is involved in the books and the shows, we have to assume that he is giving his blessing to these changes.

9.  Many Versions of the Same Story:  The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. The good thing about Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide is that no two versions are exactly the same.   And the one you prefer may be the one you read, heard or saw first.  They all start from a similar point but there are variations and nuances to the radio show, the TV show, the movie and the books that will keep you entertained and possibly confusing which plot point happens in which version.  I’d recommend at least the original radio show and novels if you only want to do two of the four versions .

And with that, I’m going to stop at nine.

EDIT:  After more pondering, I came up with another addition to my list.

10. Book You Should Read Before It Becomes A Movie: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.   Packed to the gills with references, homages and appearances by some of the greatest geeky properties, I find it hard to believe that the movie will secure the rights to all of them.   So don’t miss out on your favorite being there and read the book!

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