Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Walking Dead: Volume 1: Days Gone Bye

Excellent read!  The show followed the book pretty tightly.  Though there are like 14 books in The Walking Dead series, so the show could veer off at some point, like TB did.  I need to get the rest of the books in this series.  It's an excellent and fresh take on the Zombie story.  My zombie reading is pretty minimal so I only have World War Z and The Zombie Survival Guide (both excellent) to compare TWD too, but really well done and excellent art work.  I really like in the introduction by writer Robert Kirkman he says:
"I'm not trying to scare anybody.  If that somehow happens as a result of reading this comic, that's great, but really... that's not what this book is about.  What you now hold in your hands is the most serious piece of work I've done so far in my career.  I'm the guy that created Battle Pope; I hope you guys realize what a stretch this is for me.  It's really not that hard to beliece when you realize that I'm delving into subject matter that is so utterly serious and dramatic...
To me the best zombie movies aren't the splatter fests of gore and violence with goofy characters and tongue in cheek antics.  Good zombies show us how messed up we are, they  make us question our station in society... and our society's station in the world.  They show us gore and violence and all that cool stuff too... but there's always an undercurrent of social commentary and thoughtfulness."
  I couldn't agree more.  Night of the Living Dead just wasn't a great scary movie, but it's undercurrent of social commentary, in this case racism, was a also fantastic.  It dealt with an extremely important issue in the United States, at a time it was not only relevant but also volatile.  This is the beauty of Sci-Fi, horror, comics, they all take a stand and bring issues to light in ways that we don't at 1st realize and in ways that are far better than "legit" drama.  These genres take relevant, seriously important and at times volatile issues and present them in clever, unique and thought provoking material.  It's why I've always been a fan of these genres since I was a kid and continue to be a fan as an adult.  I can't wait to get the books in this series and devour them like a zombie on a slow fat kid!  Highest rating XXX.  Stay Booked! Happy Reading!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

"So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation becasuse they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damagging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future." ~Chris McCandless~

    I consider myself a newbie when it comes to non-fiction.  I've really only been reading them for 6yrs steadily.  I've maybe read 1-2 every 2yrs in my 20's and that's a very generous estimation.  More like 1 every 4yrs.  It wasn't until my late 20's/early 30's I really started reading more non-fiction.  Why?  Well the way I look at non-fiction is this, we are getting a true story or rather a story that is supposed to be true.  My problem with non-fiction isn't that they aren't good reads, my problem is we get the author's biased view of the subject.  No matter how much a author is supposed to be objective and impartial one can't help but having their work influenced by their own beliefs.  When I read about a true event or individual, I want just that, the truth.  I don't want someone's version of the truth.  If an author likes the subject they will paint the subject/event favorably, if they don't like the subject/event then it will be given an unfair and unbalanced view.  So this is why I am very hesitant to read non-fiction novels.  Having said that, I have indeed read some amazing non-fiction books and Into the Wild is one of them.  In the very beginning Krakauer admits; "I won't claim to be an impartial biographer.  McCandless's strange tale struck a personal note that made a dispassionate rendering of the tragedy impossible.  Through most of the book, I have tried-and largely succeeded, I think-to minimize my authorial presence.  But let the reader be warned: I interrupt McCandless's story with fragments of a narrative drawn from my own youth.  I do so in the hope that my experiences will throw some oblique light on the enigma of Chris McCandless."
  Fair enough.  Krakauer not only voices my very concern with non-fiction novels, he confirms it.  I am more forgiving because Krakauer admits that it will be biased to influence the reader what he felt for McCandless and McCandless's story, but that it will be limited.  OK Krakauer I respect that and I'm intelligent enough to know when you're inflecting that "authorial presence".  So on I read....

   Books synopsis: "In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley.  His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless.  He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car nad most of his posssessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself.  Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter..."

My synopsis: I have to admit at first I thought, "Pfft some rich spoiled punk, who is given everything, wants to "find himself".  Big deal".  And I was right, but I was also wrong.  This book made me a bit frustrated because I went from, "This kid is a stubborn moron.  Spoiled and pissing away his life" to "I can totally relate to what this kid is thinking and feeling".  McCandless is truly an enigma.  He craves solitude but loves company.  He wants nothing to do with money and material things, even those material things he desperately needs to survive in the wilderness.  McCandless meets new folks across his travels and every one of them seem fully enamored with him.  He makes indelible impressions everywhere he goes.  So why if this extremely gifted, intelligent and well bred youngster is all these things and so well liked, is he willing to go into one of the most dangerous wilderness's in the world?  This is what Krakauer tries to find out and in the process  uncovers a very complicated, contradictory, heartbreaking and frustrating, yet inspiring story.  This is really as far as I'm going to review this book.  I think it is something everyone should read and determine their own pov.  I will say one thing and it is in regards to McCandless and it is this.

  McCandless is complicated yet simple.  He is hypocritical yet honorable.  What leads him to go off on this journey of life, of self are issues with his parents.  But this is also a bit schizo because he has friends that say he loved his parents and others that say he couldn't stand them.  We do learn what the issue is later on, but to me that issue is just a cop out.  I think the bottom line with McCandless is he was searching for something, I think we all are in some way or another, but he didn't know what that something was.  I don't think he was anti-social or suicidal yet he did show those attributes at times.  I just think he was a kid that said f**k it, I don't know what I want, where I want to be but I know right now none of this is it.  He read and was influenced by works of Tolstoy, London, Davies & Thoreau.  The romanticism of nature and wilderness of living a spartan life and the personal issues he was having led him to this journey of self discovery.  McCandless took those works and views to heart and decided it was how he was going to find, whatever it was he was missing inside.  There is really nothing about McCandless that makes him more special than any other confused youngster in this world.  There are kids all over the world that come from worse backgrounds, who struggle and fight and scrape to survive and make better lives for themselves and no one is writing stories about them.  McCandless was a wealthy kid, though his parents fought and scraped for everything they had and made a success of their lives by hard work and dedication, Chris McCandless did not.  This is not to take anything away from him.  Problems are problems and he had problems, no doubt.  If it weren't for Karkauer's stirring portrait of McCandless, he is just another lost youth trying to find himself and does so half-assed and that leads to his death.  I mean he hitchhiked across America and could've gotten picked up by the wrong person, murdered and that ends the story.  He was lucky.  I will now contradict myself, I admire McCandless for his tenacity and fortitude.  He may have not known what he was looking for, but he went out in search of it when so many of us settle and lead mediocre stagnant lives.  He was stubborn and wanted to do thing his way, I can relate, I'm the same way.  He wasn't a complete idiot as some think.  He studied plants and animals and wildlife and the areas he was going to be venturing through.  It is undetermined what killed him but more than likely it was due to ingestion of poisonous vegetation.

  His death is sad and it broke my heart when I read the scene when his sister, the one relative he was closest too, finds out of his death.  Utterly heartbreaking.  I can honestly say this was an emotional roller coaster of a read that at times had me wanting to sell everything I own and go out on my own adventure in search of who I am.  And if I were younger and did not have a daughter I just would, but it would be foolish and selfish.  So I pick my adventures in other ways and like McCandless I do  everything my way, I never settle.  But unlike McCandless I face my problems head on.  Life isn't perfect and the easiest thing in the world is to pack up and walk away from it all, it's a lot harder to stay and face it head on.  And that is what this book does, makes the reader examine their own life.  The reader knowingly takes a journey in McCandless's life, but by doing so unknowingly begins to examine their own life.  The emotions we feel aren't just directed at McCandless and what he believes and stands for, but at ourselves for the things we don't stand for.  And maybe we aren't mad at McCandless for his journey, but at ourselves for the lack of one.  Excellent read.  Highest rating XXX

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Thief of Always by Clive Barker

I've been meaning to read Barker for a long time now, but have never gotten around to it.  On my last trip to B&N, as I walked around debating which books I was going to choose or rather what books would choose me, I had 4 books in my arm and trying to whittle it down to 2-3 (was trying to be good) while I was wandering and thinking which books to take home, I happened down the B aisle and right in front of Barker.  Well damn there goes me being good.  I have Imajica pt.1 & 2 but the lure of a new book...  I saw The Thief of Always and picked it up and it just felt right, like it was meant to be in my hand.  Who am I to fight fate?  So I decided on this and 2 other books and went home extremely happy.  My happiness would only increase when I decide to read this a few days later.
The books synopsis: "Mr. Hood's Holiday House has stood for a thousand years, welcoming countless children into its embrace.  It is a place of miracles where every childhood whim may be satisfied.  There is a price to be paid, of course, but young Harvey Swick, bored with his life and beguiled by Mr. Hood's wonders, does not stop to consider the consequences.  It is only when the house shows its darker face-when Harvey discovers the pitiful creatures that dwell in its shadows-that he comes to doubt Mr. Hood's philanthropy.  But the house and its mysterious architect are not about to to release their captive without a battle.  Mr. Hood has ambitions for his new guest, for Harvey's soul burns brighter than any he has encountered in ten centuries..."
"Menacing demons, wondrous miracles, sinister magic and vivid characters... A compulsive, lightning paced tale that slmost begs to be read aloud." ~The Miami Herald~
My synopsis: Frickin awesome!  "Frickin awesome!" ~JaSexxy~ :) 
I will fully admit I am not fast reader, my mind tends to wander (within the context of the book, not randomly lol) and I stop to write quotes I like plus I am usually reading 2-3 books at once, so rarely do I get through a book in 1 day.  I started Thief Wednesday morning and finished it that night.  Yeah it was that good.  Harvey Swick, 10yr old boy, bored and annoyed on a dreary and grey rainy February day is playing make believe in his room.  As he was getting bored with his make believe his mother walks in and forces him to clean his room, much to his despair.  He is utterly unhappy at this turn of unfair events.  He says aloud, "I am ten.  I don't have to tidy up just because she says so.  It's boring.  I want to... I want to..."  He walks over to his mirror and ask it. "What do I want?  I don't know what I want.  I just know I'll die if I don't have some fun.  I will! I'll die!"  And with that the rain picked up and his window blows open.  He finds this weird as he was positive he latched his window.  He goes to close the window and "Cold rain spattered his face.  Half-closing his eyes, he crossed to the window and fumbled to slam it, making sure that the latch was in place this time.  The wind had started his lamp moving, and when he turned back the whole room seemed to be swinging around.  One moment the light was blazing in his eyes, the next it was flooding the opposite wall.  But in between the blaze and the flood it lit the middle of his room, and standing there-shaking the rain off his hat-was a stranger.  He looked harmless enough.  He was no more than six inches taller than Harvey, his frame scrawny, his skin distincly yellowish i color.  He was wearing a fancy suit, a pair of spectacles and a lavish smile."
We learn that this stranger's name is Rictus.  Rictus seems harmless but when you read further the description of this stranger you get the sense something evil and shark-like in his smile.  He 1st tells Harvey he can ask him any question he wants, but when Harvey starts asking questions that Rictus doesn't expect, he then changes his mind and tell hims no more questions!  He Tells him there is a magical place to go if he is truly bored and that there are no rules, no chores, nothing but fun.  Mr. Hood's Holiday House a place where a kid can live vicarious and free.  Well needless to say Harvey desires to go and so off they go the next day. 
They get to the house and have to cross some invisible barrier to get to the house.  The house itself is grand and beautiful and the climate within the barrier is warm and sunny with clear skies, which is complete contrast to the dreary weather outside the barrier.  This alone already makes Harvey happy.  Though one does get the ominous sense of dread despite the sunny happy facade.  Inside he meets 2 other children, Wendell and Lulu who are seemingly the same age as he and Mrs. Griffin an elderly lady that takes care of the children.  Lulu doesn't seem all that happy, but Wendell is as happy a kid in candy land.   The 2 boys have loads of fun, reading comics, playing in the tree house, eating whatever they want and as much as they want.  The seasons change throughout the day.  During the day it's summer, at dusk, fall and Halloween kicks in and at night winter & Christmas where the morning brings spring.  Christmas the kids can wish for whatever they want and they will get it.  They want a tiger, they get a tiger, they want a motorcycle, they get it.  Harvey wishes for a toy his father gave him when he was 6 but lost convinced the wish would not come true he noticed a present under the xmas tree.  Sure enough when he opened it, it was the the very toy down to the exact last detail.  Harvey when 1st reaching the house says that he only intends to stay for a short time, but ends up staying overnight.  At breakfast he tells Mrs. Griffin that he will stay a little longer but he should call his parents.  She doesn't scuff at this, but tells him to go right ahead.  Wendell tells Harvey that his parents already know he's here and that he doesn't need to bother calling.  Wendell says when he called his parents that already knew.  Harvey, doubtful, calls his parents and upon hearing their voice says "I just wanted call and say where I am and I'm all right."  To his surprise they tell him they already knew that and to stay as long as he desires and not to worry about school for he has earned a break from it.  He is surprised but never-the-less happy.  He interacts with Lulu occasionally but you can tell there is a budding romance.  But she reveals some things about the house and what is really happening that starts to make him suspicious of the seemingly innocuous house.  His suspicions fade and realization begins to form and he ends up in a battle for not just his life, but his very soul.  I could go on and I almost did, but to do so would give too much away.  And really it is a book all of you SHOULD read.
I never feel like my reviews do these great books any justice.  So I apologize for that.  But take my word for it this is a fantastic book, or rather don't take my word for it and read it!  It is extremely well written, characters are incredibly fleshed out and you feel their emotions.  There's several bitter-sweet moments with Harvey and Lulu that just melt the heart.  Even though it is written for YA there is plenty of fantastic creep factor and OMG moments.  I highly recommend it.  Give it my highest rating XXX.  And I will leave you with this parting quote:
"Time would be precious from now on.  It would tick by, of course, as it always had, but Harvey was determined he wouldn't waste it with sighs and complaints.  He'd fill every moment with the seasons he'd found in his heart: hopes like birds on a spring branch; happiness like a warm summer sun; magic like the rising mists of autumn.  And the best of all, love; love enough for a thousand Christmases."