Townhouse Books

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Runaways: Brian K. Vaughan et al

Most kids will say that their parents are evil, but what happens when a group of kids discover that their parents actually are supervillians plotting to end the world? That's the plot of the 18 issues of Runaways. Mutants, aliens, vampires, blood sacrifices, betrayal, secret organizations, first kisses and more. I highly recommend. (Author also did Y: The Last Man, a great series about a plague that kills every male creature on Earth except a human named Yorick Brown and his pet monkey.)

Labels:


Search Worldcat

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler: EL Konigsburg

Last night, taking a break after a well-drawn but adolescently written graphic novel called Ultra before diving back into the volcano book Krakatoa, I grabbed The Mixed-Up Files from my shelf. I'm still grinning this morning. If you missed this one when you were a kid, it's worth reading now. Two kids run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and get involved in an art mystery. My sister and I used to love this book, as well as another story of two kids who get locked in a library or something.

(And if you listen to the director's commentary for The Royal Tenenbaums, the scene of young Margo and Richie running away to a museum is an intentional tribute to this book.)

Labels:


Search Worldcat

Monday, July 25, 2005

Starfish: Peter Watts

Oh my my my. I read this one twice last weekend. It grabbed me from the first damn sentence. The basic narrative has to do with "rifters", people that live at the bottom of the ocean, and what type of psychological make-up one would need to survive, and even thrive, living in a artificial habitat on the ocean floor. It's set in the near future where countries have consolidated (example: "N'AmPac"), corporations have equal voice with government, and millions of refugees pack the coastline of the Pacific Rim.

Imagine my excitement upon finding out that this is only book one of a trilogy.

Labels:


Search Worldcat

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Mystery Binge

I've been devouring mystery novels during my summer break. Here's a list of the best of them.
Cara Black's latest Aimee Leduc mystery, set in Paris. This series is worth reading for the setting alone. And what luck -- the plots are great. The main character is a cop's daughter who runs a techie security firm, but who is always being drawn into more dangerous work. John Dunning's latest Bookman mystery features an ex-cop turned rare bookseller. Good characters, lots of info on the world of rare books. Charlaine Harris' latest Southern Vampire mystery, featuring a telepathic waitress in small-town Louisiana. So funny. Harris' set-up is that when the Japanese invent a synthetic blood, vampires come out into the open to leave peacefully with humans. It's not always a peaceful coexistance, and there are some good ethnographic observations about small-town life in the South. Peter Lovesey is my latest British discovery. His series is set in Bath -- I always enjoy reading a series more if I have been to the town where they're set and can place the actions in a visualized geography. Lovesey's main character is an old grump, and the officers working under him can never tell if he's joking with them or tearing them a new one. Elizabeth George writes a long-running series featuring Detective Tommy Lynley of Scotland Yard. Her latest installment is a real shocker if you have formed attachments to the characters over the years.

Labels:


Search Worldcat

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

OK, the new Harry Potter book has been out for three days. Someone had to start this thread, but I won't put much effort into an initial review. Those of you who have finished please share your thoughts on the comments page.

ETA: Yay! Harry! Also, I don't subscribe to any RSS feeds, but we're kosher for going spoiler-nuts in the comments area, right? I ask after I've posted, but I kept things pretty vague since I'm not sure how it might appear on RSS feeds. I should explore that soon. -- lillygog

Labels: ,


Search Worldcat

Monday, July 18, 2005

The World Below: Sue Miller

Intertwined stories of a grandmother in the early part of the 20th century and her middle-aged granddaughter moving into her Vermont house in the present day. The writer had an amazing ability to move seamlessly between the two. Although there was nothing terribly extraordinary about their lives, it reminds one that each and every family could have its own very different novel, and the stories would all be fascinating.

Labels:


Search Worldcat

Speak: Laurie Halse Anderson

I picked this up at random -- I needed something to read one night and the author's gotten excellent reviews. And holy crap her writing blew me away. It's young adult fiction with a message, and every once in a while I felt like the message was a little heavy. But it's a book dealing with big issues and a very lonely teenage protaganist who's in a lot of pain. So one might expect a little heavy-handedness sometimes.

I just can't say enough about the writing, though. Terribly evocative, and I mean terrible -- anyone who's ever had teenage moments of feeling like the outcast, or deep depression, might find it gut-wrenching. Probably even if you haven't, it's still gut wrenching. Reminded me of Jane Hamilton, too, in that even if the characters find the strength to struggle through adversity, it's not always pretty.

Labels:


Search Worldcat

Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo - Volumes 1-6

Ah, Akira. I spent many a night in college watching this movie. It was really the first anime that I had ever seen and it still occupies a special place in my heart. A couple of years ago I learned about this collection of 6 volumes of English translations of the original Japanese manga.

If you haven't read this series yet, you should. The movie adaptation was really good, but it doesn't have near the depth that the original manga does. Many of the characters that have brief appearances in the movie actually have a complete backstory and fit into the overall plot much better than you'd think.

The full set can be a bit pricey if you buy it new, but it's readily available used on Amazon or via eBay.

Labels:


Search Worldcat

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Watchmen: Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

Brutally depressing, kinda brilliant and believably groundbreaking for when it was first published in the ‘80s. The thing I like most about the Batman comics, especially the Dark Knight Returns when he’s old and achy, is his utter humanity. The crime fighters in the Watchmen, except for this almost-god Jon, are too just a bunch of humans dressing up in dorky owl suits and such. They live, they age, the get murdered. Throughout the story is a stressful end-of-the-world motif, by way of war in Afghanistan sparking WWIII or a former crime fighter looking to save the world by destroying it. Excellent use of the panels for suspenseful pacing, with a detail from one panel randomly shown pages later. I think if I read this again I’d be able to talk about tons more layers that were in there, but it was such a relief to be finished, to get away from those unhappy people and that horrible planet, that I won't be rereading anytime soon. But someday.

Labels: ,


Search Worldcat

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

44 Scotland Street , Alexander McCall Smith

So the author of the Ladies Detective Agency series was at a party with Armistead Maupin and complimented him on his serialized work, bemoaning the fact that no one else does serialized fiction any more. He wrote an article about his trip to America and mentioned that conversation -- next thing you know he's doing a serialized novel for The Scotsman about a group of neighbors in Edinburgh's New Town. I'm a sucker for a story with a strong sense of place, especially if it's a place I've visited. This is great in that respect -- his goal was to give readers a "slice of life" in the city. The made-for-newspaper novel is hard to get used to, but has its benefits. It's 110 very short chapters, with dozens of interrelated characters. A fun read, and reminds me once again how crappy our local newspaper is here in Jacksonville.

Labels:


Search Worldcat

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Year of Wonders: Geraldine Brooks

Anna Frith lives in a teeny-tiny village in England in the 1600s with her two young sons, already widowed at 18 when her husband died in a mining accident. A hot tailor moves to town and rents a room at Anna's house. Before anything really happens though, the tailor has delivered a large piece of material from London that sadly is infested with plague-ridden fleas. After the first deaths, the town rector argues that they must isolate themselves to not spread it to other towns, and for a year the town fights, dies, goes mad with superstition, and grieves. Except for the last 30 pages, which seem to come out of nowhere, this a fast and interesting read.

Burn it all! Burn it all! For the love of God, burn it!

Labels:


Search Worldcat

Saturday, July 02, 2005

The Collected Stories : Vernor Vinge

Although I am still waiting for the SF books I requested on your recommendations to arrive at the library, I went there the other day and saw this Vernor Vinge collection on the shelf. Maybe I'm reading the wrong selections, but three stories into it and I'm ready to move on. "Bookwork, Run!" about the talking chimpanzee was fun and had some mild politics to spice it up. "The Accomplice" about a new way of making animated movies was thankfully short and only interesting after reading the author's comments -- good job 1960s Vinge on predicting the state of computer power and animation thirty years into the future.

Then I skipped ahead, looking for something more space-y and settled on "Conquest by Default," which starts with Jupiter and falling gravity and speed-of-light travel. Our hero, Chente, is investigating the disappearance of his predecessor, a clone of him or something. So far so good. But a few pages into it and I caught myself almost snorting. The prose was banal and his comfort with women absent.

The man was dressed in simple black trousers and a short coat. His hat was stiff and wide-brimmed. The woman wore a long black dress that revealed nothing of her from below the neck. Her reddish hair was tied with a black ribbon, and her grim face showed no signs of makeup.

...Her voice trailed off and she sat looking at Chente. For a moment some new emotion flickered across her face, but then she became impassive. ... Martha's hand moved toward him, then retreated. She said softly, "You really are Chente ... alive again."

I did actually like the way that story ended, but I think for a while I'm going to have to stick with stuff written in the last few years. I'll tuck this Vinge book away for now.

Next up: plague fiction.

Labels:


Search Worldcat