Werewolves Of the Heartland by Bill Willingham – A Book Review

A stand-alone graphic novel from the Fables universe, Werewolves Of the Heartland features Bigby Wolf as he wanders across America looking for a new city to call home.  He comes across Story City, and, as fate would have it, it bears an inextricable link to our favorite Fable.

Regular readers of Fables know that Bigby Wolf saw action during World War II, and this graphic novel spends a small amount of time reliving some of those moments.  However, the majority of the story takes place in Story City, and it involves, as the name would suggest, a society of werewolves against which Bigby must take action.

I love the Fables series, and it usually doesn’t miss, but Werewolves Of the Heartland is nonessential reading and, frankly, moves rather slowly as though trying to fill space.  The storyline is not especially engaging, nor are the characters particularly dynamic.  In fact, without his usually supporting characters, Bigby himself falls flat in this work.

Furthermore, be warned, there is a lot of nudity in this book, both men and women alike.  I won’t go so far as to say it’s photorealistic, but the men and women remove their clothing before turning into werewolves, and the artists made sure to render them anatomically correct.  There are also a few moments of seduction that include nudity as well.  I’ll be honest, like the story itself, much of the nudity felt unnecessary.

As apparent, I don’t recommend Werewolves Of the Heartland.  As an avid reader of Fables, I believe you can bypass this work and still understand the main storyline just fine.

Discovering Dr. Who – Part I

So I have to be honest, I’m a huge Pinterest nerd.  I love it.  It’s perfect for my instant gratification needs.  And, because I’m me, I often frequent the “Geek” boards.  Now, one thing troubled me about these boards—all of the Dr. Who references.  I didn’t understand a single one of them.  I had not one notion as to what a “Tardis” could be or why “Bad Wolf” is cool.  I pride myself on being pretty with it when it comes to most things “geek.”  True, I’m not a gamer, but … I digress.

My lack of Dr. Who knowledge concerned me because it is obvious he has quite a following.  Coupled with the fact he’s been around for decades, well, something had to be done.  Furthermore, one of my favorite shows, Community, frequently spoofs Dr. Who, and it bothered me that I didn’t get the jokes beyond what was on the surface.

So, I put out an SOS.  I needed any friends with Dr. Who access to help me.  As fate would have it, a coworker quickly came to my rescue and gave me the entire Dr. Who season starring Christopher Eccleston, who I’m to understand is the Ninth Doctor and proved instrumental in the Doctor’s 2005 revival.

Later that week, I put in the first DVD and watched the episode featuring mannequins come to life and introduced Dr. Who to Rose Tyler, played by Billie Piper.

I won’t lie to you—I hated it.

I didn’t realize it would be so campy with such terrible special effects.  I wanted to quit after that first episode.  The second episode, where Rose got to witness the end of the world, wasn’t much better.  The third episode featured Charles Dickens, and I thought it was actually pretty cool.  In fact, it marked the moment that Dr. Who began to win me over.  But then the next two episodes were pretty bad again.  Finally, last night, I watched the episode where Rose goes back in time to save her father from dying, only to muddle up the time stream as a result.  Ironically, she has to watch him die all over again if humanity is to survive.  I found this episode touching and even felt my eyes tearing up on occasion.

By the conclusion of this particular episode, I realized something:  I cared about Dr. Who and Rose.  It sort of snuck up on me.  Overall, the show doesn’t seem to have much quality in terms of production value, and maybe that’s part of the charm.  But, Eccleston and Piper have real chemistry, and they make me root for these characters thrown into such ridiculous storylines with horrendous sets and costumes.

Well, they aren’t all ridiculous storylines, I guess.  I appreciate the grandeur for which they strive.  It seems as though Dr. Who’s greatest enemy is his show’s budget.  And there seems to be some serious social commentary and philosophical thinking embedded within most of the episodes, which I always can appreciate …

I’m going to finish this set my friend gave me.  I owe it to the geek within to gain some familiarity with Dr. Who.  I’m even starting to like it a little bit.

I’ll post an update when I finish this season …

Comments are more than welcome!  I understand Dr. Who fans are an impassioned bunch, so feel free to support him!

 

 

 

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell – A Book Review

I’m not going to lie to you, this book took a tremendous amount of effort and, while reading it, I hated almost the entire thing.  I say this as an avid reader and an outspoken lover of literature.  My favorite authors are Chabon, Proulx, Auster, and McCarthy, so it’s not like I’m unaccustomed to challenging reads.

But then something miraculous happened … After I finished the book, I started to like it more and more.  It’s almost like how exercise stinks while you’re doing it, but when you see the end result, you love it.

I can’t explain the book.  I just can’t.  It spans centuries, there are six different storylines that brush against each other, Mitchell splits up the six storylines into two different sections strategically placed within the larger context of the novel, he plays with language and sentence structure to the point it’s nearly incomprehensible … just read it.  Or don’t.

I read this book for two reasons.  The first, and strongest, was pride.  The smartest guy I work with read it and loved it and challenged me to read it … how could I say no?  The second reason, and you book lovers will relate, I wanted to experience it before the movie came out and altered my perceptions of the characters and settings.  I managed to get it read right before the movie came out, but it’s taken me this long to work up the nerve to try to review it.

Maybe I should have listened to my instincts and resisted that urge.

Okay, try to focus, Scott.  The book is difficult but ultimately rewarding.  It is not a page turner, but it will join your essence after having completed it.  You will be confused much of the time, but through thought you will appreciate it all the more.

On a side note, I still haven’t seen the movie, but I bought the soundtrack and it is excellent.  I listen to it all the time as I write.  It gets my creative juices going.

New Neil Gaiman Novel In June

I just learned that Neil Gaiman has a new novel due out on June 18th, and this excites me.  Gaiman won me over for life with his Sandman comic book series, and some of his books such as American Gods are splendid.

Amazon has only this to describe the book: “This bewitching and harrowing tale of mystery and survival, and memory and magic, makes the impossible all too real…”

I’m sure we’ll learn more in the coming months, but you can already count me in!

The Inevitable Demise Of Anton Hall Is (Ironically) Live!

I’m excited to announce that Dr. Nekros: The Inevitable Demise Of Anton Hall (Volume II, Episode IV) is now available at Amazon.com for your Kindle at a price of $00.99.

The year is 1939, and Anton Hall wants nothing more than to provide for his mother, father, and girlfriend. So when Mr. Dove offers Anton work, he jumps at the opportunity, even though the job defies his sense of morality. Before long Anton’s loyalties are divided thanks to a 1936 Packard, and he must make the hardest decision of his life … one that will very likely result in death.

This is a particularly meaningful event because it marks the halfway point of my Dr. Nekros electronic serial.  As you may remember, before I published Volume I, Episode I, I planned on it lasting eighteen episodes.  That is still the idea, so if you thought things were moving quickly before, you haven’t seen anything yet!

You can download The Inevitable Demise Of Anton Hall to your Kindle by following the link:

http://www.amazon.com/Dr-Nekros-Inevitable-Episode-ebook/dp/B00BN1F7DK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1362795186&sr=8-1&keywords=dr+nekros+anton+hall

Thank you so much for your readership!

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The Fault In Our Stars by John Green – A Book Review

The Fault In Our Stars is a must-read, and I don’t use that term lightly.

There are some books that simply must be experienced, and this is one of them.  From now on, when anyone asks me for a book recommendation, this book will be at the top of my list.  I say this not because it changed my life—it didn’t.  But, as an avid reader, this book resonated with me so deeply that it will forever be ingrained as a part of my existence.

The story is all too real.  A sixteen year old with terminal cancer meets a contemporary who happens to have been cured of his cancer.  They hit it off immediately, and she introduces him to a book that she loves, and he falls in love with it, too, as well as the girl.  Of course, falling in love with someone who has terminal cancer is a complicated situation at best.  Before long they take it upon themselves to reach out to the author of their favorite book, and the result is not exactly what they expected.  Furthermore, as one would imagine with a book featuring cancer afflicted characters, heartbreak ensues, but not necessarily in the way most readers predict.

Green’s teenagers are precocious, witty, and downright hilarious.  This is a difficult juxtaposition for many readers because these characters, for the most part, do not expect to live normal lives or, in some cases, to live at all.  It feels inappropriate to laugh at things these characters say and do, but I think that’s the point Green is trying to make.  Life is horrible, wonderful, and everything in between, and when we’re not crying, we’re laughing.  The teens pull no punches, they accept their reality, and they force the reader to make peace with their burden as well.

Green has written a book unlike any other I’ve ever read, and I’ve read quite a few.  At one moment he had me rolling, the next he had me nearly in tears.  The Fault In Our Stars never felt completely realistic only because the characters—Hazel, Augustus, Isaac, and both sets of parents—were too charismatic to be real.  They leapt off the page and demanded to become a part of my everyday life.  I struggled with this, because I don’t know anyone quite as charming, funny, or quick on their feet as these characters.  But, that’s also what makes them so utterly lovable.  They are not real, and so they are allowed to say the exact right thing at the exact right time.  They are welcome to charm the heck out of us.  A book like this is meant to be magical in many ways, and tragic in others.  After all, nearly all of the characters are made to suffer, so why shouldn’t they get to go down as some of the most dynamic literary figures to have ever existed upon the page?  Why can’t they be the coolest kids in the room?

I am a married thirty-six year old father of two, an English teacher, an author, and I generally don’t read much young adult literature.  With all that being said, The Fault In Our Stars is now counted among my favorite books and I urge you to read it as soon as possible.

Coming Soon – The Inevitable Demise of Anton Hall

The year is 1939, and Anton Hall wants nothing more than to provide for his mother, father, and girlfriend. So when Mr. Dove offers Anton work, he jumps at the opportunity, even though the job defies his sense of morality. Before long Anton’s loyalties are divided thanks to a 1936 Packard, and he must make the hardest decision of his life … one that will very likely result in death.

Look for the latest installment of Dr. Nekros on your Kindle soon!

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Wonder Woman: Guts by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang – A Book Review

Guts is the second volume of Wonder Woman’s New 52 iteration.  Now, I have to admit, I’ve never particularly been a Wonder Woman fan.  I mean, sure, as a young boy, I liked her just as much as the next young boy, but I never read her comics.  But, when DC decided to (sort of) reboot their shared universe with the New 52, and when I learned that Brian Azzarello would be taking over Wonder Woman, well, even as a thirty-five year old man with a wife and two daughters, I couldn’t resist.  Azzarello is a superb writer.  He’s multifaceted, visionary, and merciless to his characters.  Plus, in the months preceding the series’ debut, he spoke at length about how his version would focus upon the Greek Gods and have more in common with horror than super hero adventures.

He had me at Greek Gods.

I haven’t reviewed the first volume of Wonder Woman yet because, while I loved it, I frankly wanted to wait and see if the second volume would sustain my interest.  Not only did it sustain my interest, it in fact increased my interest.

With Guts, I have a lay of the land.  I’ve gotten used to Azzarello’s interpretation of the Greek Gods and his general “atmosphere” for Wonder Woman.  Now that I know what to expect in certain regards, I love the title all the more. His take on the Gods is unconventional, but that’s what makes it captivating.  He gives us just enough to make them recognizable, but changes everything else.  Make no mistake, however, this man knows his mythology.  At no time does he write a God “out of character.”  Of course, the genius is that these Gods have existed in world mythology for thousands of years, so that gives Azzarello a lot of wiggle room.

In Guts, Wonder Woman is trying to save a young woman who has been impregnated by a missing Zeus.  Hera, as usual, wants the girl dead, and is going to great lengths to make that happen.  Hermes is assisting Wonder Woman with the girl’s rescue, and before long Wonder Woman encounters Hephaestus, Demeter, Eros, Apollo, Artemis, Pandora, and Hades.  They are exactly like you’d expect and nothing like you’d expect, and that’s why I love this title.

There is a lot going on in this book, but I never felt overwhelmed or confused beyond comfort.  All literature should confuse a little, after all, for if the author makes everything crystal clear, well, that’s a little boring, isn’t it?  But like the Greek Gods, Wonder Woman is recognizable enough to satiate the fans, but she and her back story have also undergone a few tweaks that makes the character even more likable and, to be honest, respectable.

Chiang’s art is definitely a great match for Azzarello.  His Wonder Woman is attractive without being a sex object, powerful looking without losing her femininity, and is always drawn to look like the royal she is.  As a father of two small girls, I’m always searcing for female super heroes they can look up to that are not a facsimile of a male super hero or presented as a pin up model.  I got really excited when they were going to put pants on Wonder Woman because, you know, she’s basically wearing a bikini and I’d like her to put some clothes on for my daughters’ benefit.  Of course, they opted to keep the corset and bottoms.  Even with that being said, though, Chiang draws her in such a way that, again, she is beautifully rendered, but her clothes also completely cover her.  She is not drawn with ridiculous cleavage or wearing a g-string.  Admittedly, no matter how strongly she is written by Azzarello, if they did present her in such a fashion, I’d be too embarrassed to read her book.  As it stands, though, I’d have no problem with my daughters (if they were twelve or older) reading it.

I’ve read several of the New 52, and I have to say that Wonder Woman is so far the best when it comes to art, action, dialogue, characterization, plot complexity, and general coolness.  Even if you’ve never read the character, I urge you to do so.  And don’t worry, instead of your wife rolling her eyes at you for owning it, she might just pick it up and read it herself … so long as she doesn’t mind a little bit of Greek God horror.