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Monday, March 31, 2014

Batgirl: Knightfall Descends - Gail Simone

Barbara Gordon has come a long way from being a little girl to a member of the Bat family. In A Fire in the Heavens, Barbara recalls when she first donned her costume and her journey as Batgirl.

When Batgirl goes after Grotesque, she finds herself in A View from Below the water, nearly drowning. After the harrowing encounter, Batgirl seeks guidance and training with Black Canary. There's No Darker Shadow than the past and Barbara finds herself face-to-face with one of the men who stood by the Joker in his last attack.

Batgirl finds herself In the Line of Fire when the Court of Owls goes after officials in Gotham. The Court of Owls plot line takes place throughout several Batman comics, so if the reader wants to read the rest of the story it can be found in Batman: Night of the Owls.

Batgirl is a vigilante herself, but she finds that not all vigilante's abide by the same rules she and the rest of the family do. When she discovers Knightfall and her gang capturing and torturing criminals, she has to stop them. With the interference of the police department and Batwoman, her mission only becomes more difficult.

A thread from Barbara's past ties all of these stories together. Her brother's strange behavior as a child and his finally being locked away brings her mother back. When her roommate brings home a cat named Alaska, she remembers having a cat of the same name as a child, but she doesn't yet suspect that the tie to her past is stronger than she knows.

As always, the artwork is amazing. The continued insight into Batgirl's physical and psychological recovery displays the writers devotion to continuity. Fans of the 52 reboot will be satisfied with this additional collection.

Books in the Series:
Batgirl: The Darkest Reflection
Batgirl: Death in the Family

Friday, March 28, 2014

Hatchet - Gary Paulsen

Brian's parents are divorced and living separately, so Brian has to board a plane in order to meet his father across the country. When his mother gives him an unusual gift before he leaves: a hatchet as a gift. When his plane crashes, he discovers how many uses that hatchet will have.

Brian struggles to stay alive in a hostile world with few supplies at his disposal. With limited experience with the outdoors, he must learn the hard way about what is safe to eat and what isn't. He learns ways to gather and catch food all on his own. He encounters dangerous animals, like skunks, bears, and porcupines.

With winter closing in quickly, Brian's chances of survival grow grim.

Brian's journey is fascinating and detailed. This edition includes sepia-toned sketches and information about the various animals that enhances the reading experience. It also has commentary by the author about various aspects of the book, including answers to questions he was asked by readers in letters or interviews. This educational adventure will entertain people for years to come.

Recommended Reads:
Julie of the Wolves - Jean Craighead George
Island of the Blue Dolphins - Scott O'Dell
To Build a Fire and Other Stories - Jack London

Monday, March 24, 2014

Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card

The law states a family can have no more than two children, yet when a couple has two promising children that fail to pass the test, they are asked to have one more. While Peter was too rough, Valentine was too soft. Now Andrew Wiggin is the Earth's last hope for survival.

Even if "Ender", the name Andrew calls himself, manages to pass the initial test, he'll still have to survive the training regimen at the academy, where he will be tested physically, mentally, emotionally, and even socially.

While Ender is away, Peter decides to make his grab for power. With the reluctant help of Valentine, he causes chaos on Earth with his zealous messages that put peoples all over the world at odds. Even before the war is over, he's determined to cease power.

Card's narrative gives insight into the psyche of each of his characters. Ender's perspective keeps the mystery so hidden, that readers will find themselves just as shocked and sickened as Ender when it is finally revealed. While I know the ending, I love returning to this story for the character insight and development.

Books in the Series:
Speaker for the Dead
Xenocide
Children of the Mind

Recommended Reading:
The Giver - Lois Lowry
A Wrinkle in Time - Madaleine L'Engle

Recommended Viewing:
They Live
Soylent Green
Logan's Run

Friday, March 21, 2014

1984 - George Orwell

Life is better in 1984 than any time before. Employment is high, food is plentiful, shelter is available, so say the videos. Big Brother watches everybody to make sure they stay in line, including an ordinary citizen named Winston.

Winston follows the routine as he is supposed to do. He goes to work, where he adjusts old news articles to echo the current history; after all, they've always been at war with Eastasia. He attends social activities, where he plays cards and talks shallowly with others. And he takes the same route home each day to remain above suspicion.
Winston is getting restless, and he is beginning to question the party. This week they are short of cigarette rations and not too long ago they were short of shoelaces, despite the positive outlook given on the videos. He starts asking questions of old men who lived before the new regime and he buys contraband from black market shops. His skirting of the law comes to a head, though, when he begins meeting with Julia for secret trysts. And, finally, he joins a rebellion.

When he's caught, he is tortured in all ways until he breaks. And in the end, he is even thankful for their discipline.

When I originally read 1984 back in High School it terrified me. As technology has become more advanced it only becomes more horrifying to me as an adult because it becomes a more likely possibility of the future.

Recommended Reads:
Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury
Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Walking Dead Compendium One - Robert Kirkman

Like many, I was first introduced to The Walking Dead when everybody was raving about the television show. The show is a raw and realistic view, I feel, of what could happen if the zombie apocalypse would happen. When a friend told me the graphic novels were even better, I had to check them out.

The graphic novel follows the exploits of Rick Grimes, a former sheriff's deputy, who awakens from a coma to find the world a complete nightmare. When he goes out in search of help in the hospital, he finds that not only other patients, but nurses and even doctors are unconscious beings whose only desire is to feed on his flesh. As luck would have it, he manages to stumble upon a family willing to shelter him and explain the horrendous circumstances of the world. Upon hearing that citizens were encouraged to seek shelter in the larger cities where armies could protect them, he decides to seek out his wife and son.

As a former law enforcement officer, Rick easily gains the trust of many of the scared and desperate citizens as he travels. He leads the group out of the city to the countryside where they stop at a farm. The owner of the farm, Hershel, is a religious and generous man and allows them to stay; however, when the group begins to put his family in danger, he orders them to live. When they leave, they manage to find a prison, which they clear out and make into their new home. As it turns out, zombies are the least of their worries.

This collection contains issues 1-48. Fans of either should be prepared for the major differences between character personalities and events between the show and the graphic novel. Characters like Rick remain the same in personality; however, injuries and decisions between the two vary. While his son grows up quickly in the show, he remains a child in mind in the comic. Events at Hershel's farm remain mostly the same, but there are some major differences in the progression the story takes. Because they are so dissimilar, I felt both are worthwhile and I like them for their differences.

Books in the Series:
The Walking Dead Compendium Two
The Walking Dead: Something To Fear, Vol. 17
The Walking Dead: What Comes After, Vol. 18

Recommended Readings:
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War - Max Brooks

Recommended Viewing:
The Walking Dead, Season 1

Friday, March 14, 2014

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret - Judy Blume

Like many blossoming young women, I remember reading this novel. In my book club we were discussing books we enjoyed as young women and this one came up from multiple individuals.

Nearly 12 years old, Margaret's parents decide to move from busy New York to the suburbs, away from her friends and her favorite doting grandmother. She's surprised to find she has a whole group of friends waiting for her as soon as she moves in, one in her neighborhood and a few more once she gets back to school. At this precarious stage between childhood and adolescence, she's glad she has one more friend she can talk to about her confusion: God.

Blume captures the awkward stage between childhood and adolescence perfectly with her inclusion of secret clubs, crushes, and the excitement and nervousness over bras and periods. I think many young women for generations to come will still relate to this novel.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead - Sheryl Sandberg

Sandberg is a successful business woman with a number of high credentials, including being named in Time 100 Most Influential People. As the current COO of Facebook, she has a lot of challenges and she feels she has successfully managed to remain a family woman. Sandberg hopes to help other women reach their dreams of becoming a high level executive and having a family with her own experience and observations.

Sandberg gives helpful advice on how to navigate the corporate world, including how to negotiate a salary, how to deal with discrimination, and how to get the support a woman needs. She also encourages others in higher positions to help women reach their aspirations.

Sandberg's book is aimed toward women who want to reach executive level, women who want to reach executive level with a family, and those who want to see more women in positions of power. While I enjoyed the insight she gives about how she and others personally manage business and family, I sometimes felt she was trying to convince readers they wanted to live an executive life. Many women, and many people in general, just don't want to be in that kind of position. I know of a lot of people in my own work place who either stepped down from executive level positions or who chose not to move up when offered the position.

If you are a person who wants to get to the top or who knows somebody, woman or man, who wants to reach the top, this is definitely a worthwhile book to read.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Eve and Adam - Katherine Applegate, Michael Grant

Evening's life as a normal teenager is brought to a grinding halt after she is in an accident that takes off her leg. When her mother arrives at the hospital, she insists that Eve be released and taken to her own facility where she can get the best medical treatment money can buy.

Even with Solo keeping her occupied she misses her friends. In order to keep her out of trouble, her mother gives her access to an experimental computer program where she can create the perfect boy.

Although the narrative and dialogue were natural, they were both annoying at times for that exact reason. An aspect I didn't like was the swapping point of view between Eve and Solo, as I didn't feel it added anything to the plot or insight to their relationship. I enjoyed the intrigue and mystery of the story, even if the reveal seemed obvious to me early on. This young adult novel explores the possibilities of medical science that are both promising and horrifying.

Recommended Reading:
Ender's Game

Recommended Viewing:
They Live
Soylent Green
Logan's Run

Monday, March 3, 2014

Winter Moon - Dean Koontz

As an LAPD cop, Jac McGarvey is used to being in danger; in fact, he's lost two partners in one year. In a harrowing encounter, he not only loses yet another partner, he loses his ability to work. Despite the fundraising of his fellow police officers and his wife going back to part-time work, his family's future is looking dim.

Just as he's ready to give up hope, they receive news that they've inherited a homestead and some money from his former partner's father. But their hopes for are peaceful life are soon crushed once they move into the home of the late Eduardo Fernandez. What is causing their son's sudden change of personality? What is bypassing locked doors? Was Fernandez just paranoid or is there something to his strange journal entries?

There are multiple aspects that made this horror novel appealing to me. I enjoyed the pacing of the novel, as well as the way the two plot lines converge. The characters are an average family with a streak of bad luck that makes them relatable, which is what makes the whole story even more terrifying.