Saturday, November 01, 2008

Long Way Down by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman

This is an account of the authors' second massive motorcycle journey, travelling from John O'Groats at the northern tip of Scotland, through Europe and then thousands of kilometres through Africa down to Cape Town. (The first series "Long Way Round" takes the authors from London to New York via Siberia and points in between.) Although I've watched the television series that this was based on, I enjoyed getting a more personal story of how both men experienced the trip. There's only so much footage you can show in a TV documentary, after all.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

This book has had a lot of hype lately among the nerd community, thanks to an upcoming film adaptation. Now that my kids have finally convinced me to read manga, I thought I might be ready to try a 'real' American-style comic book. This one seemed to fit the bill - all twelve titles in the series bound into one book makes it feel more like reading a novel, which is still far and away my preferred format. Just give me straight words. I don't need all those stinkin' pictures!

Watchmen turned out to be worth slogging through all the pictures, though. It's set in an alternate 1980s universe where real people actually do dress up in costumes to embark on crime-fighting careers. They even grow up and have kids who go on to become costumed superheroes themselves. They aren't all nice people - in fact, I wouldn't say any of the 'heroes' in Watchmen bears much resemblance to the squeaky-clean Clark Kents of the comic book world. Nevertheless, they're interesting and compelling characters trying to save the world in the only way they can, against the backdrop of the cold war and the real possibility of a nuclear disaster that could destroy everything.

I don't really want to give too much of the story away, but even if you aren't someone who has ever thought of reading a comic book (ahem, sorry, GRAPHIC NOVEL), I'd recommend you give this one a try. Alan Moore has a way of really making you think about bigger issues, and he uses some very clever ways of telling his story. For instance, there's a minor character who occasionally turns up, sitting at a newsstand getting a free read of his favourite pirate comic book series. We get to see little snippets of what he's reading, while in the background the news vendor is talking to his customers about current events. The pirate story somehow reflects what's going on in the bigger 'real' world of Watchmen, and yet is interesting in and of itself. Watchmen has so many layers to it, there's so much to digest and consider so that even after I finished reading I still find myself thinking back on it and figuring things out that weren't obvious at first.

Back in the saddle again...

OK, I've decided it's time to revive this poor neglected blog. It's not that I haven't been reading, I just somehow haven't felt compelled to write all summer.

Here's a quick partial list of what I've been reading since I last posted:

the Song of Ice and Fire series by George RR Martin. I enjoyed this, my first foray into epic fantasy in a long time. Martin's a good storyteller, and I appreciated how he slowly introduced his large cast of characters and didn't overwhelm me with a gazillion subplots and names to remember right off the bat.

Starclimber by Kenneth Oppel, the sequel to Airborn and Skybreaker. A great series, though I admit the latest book didn't grip me - probably Skybreaker is the best of the lot, though I'd suggest you read them all. :-)

Vol. 1 and 2 of Yu Yu Hakusho, a manga series which my son became addicted to while we were visiting Japan. It's the story of a young troublemaker who is suddenly killed when he saves a little boy from being hit by a car. The afterlife isn't ready for him and gives him another chance, which he takes full advantage of and uses to make the world around him a better place, one person at a time.

Long Way Round by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman -- this is the companion book to the TV documentary of the same name. These two motorcycle-obsessed pals decide to ride from London, across Europe, Asia and Russia and then fly to Alaska and ride to New York. I loved the show, and this is a neat diary by both men who give us a bit more insight into their feelings about the trip as it unfolded.

I know this is just a short list of all that I've read, but in the interests of getting my kids picked up from school on time I'll publish now and add more later. (Honestly!)

Friday, February 29, 2008

Megatokyo books 1-3 by Fred Gallagher and (somewhat) by Rodney Caston

So, a friend of ours loaned us this webcomic in 'analog form' because apparently he's been a fan of the series for ages, and yet we'd never heard of it. Shocking!

I read through the first three books pretty quickly and I thought it was cute, though not a whole heck of a lot happens in those first books. These two guys, Piro (a quiet, shy nerdy guy) and Largo (a kind of paranoid leet geek) end up flying to Japan on a whim and then don't have any money to go home. So they stay there, and meet some Japanese people, and have random adventures.

I'll keep reading this series because I hear it gets into a more interesting and involved story once you get to books 4 and 5. But so far, like I said, not much has happened. I also can't tell apart the female characters, except for Ping, who has these battery pack things coming out of the back of her head (she's a prototype game controller for dating sim games. If you don't know what this is, don't ask. LOL)

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Yes, I'm still here!

So, I bet you thought I'd abandoned this blog.... or maybe stopped reading altogether. Well, luckily (?) that isn't true. I just got kinda sidetracked from my blogging for a while. I guess I needed a break.

To help myself catch up, I'm just going to give you a very quick rundown on what I've read since September 23.

The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner (an old favourite that I decided to re-read)

The Homeward Bounders by Diana Wynne Jones (an excellent, thought provoking work of children's fantasy)

The Moon of Gomrath by Alan Garner (this is the sequel to "Weirdstone" above. I found it in a used book store in Scotland. Not nearly as good as the original.)

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (Megan was right... the book really is way better, story-wise, than the movie, though I have no complaints about Miyazaki's adaptation)

The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan (Just as funny and exciting as the first two Percy Jackson books. Hurry up and write the next one, Rick...)

Stardust by Neil Gaiman (a very sweet, charming novel - great if you want some light fantasy)

The Owl Service by Alan Garner (I usually like Garner's books, but I couldn't finish this one.. it was boring :-()

Star Trek: The Next Generation and X-Men: Planet X by Michael Jan Friedman (Yes, this really was as hokey as the title sounds. But with a premise like that, how could I NOT read it? Geek alert!)

The Court of the Air by Stephen Hunt (this was a very detailed fantasy novel that sounded so interesting but ended up being confusing because I couldn't keep track of the various characters, countries, political factions, etc. If only they had included a map and list of characters...)

The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger (I read this because Megan wanted me to but honestly, the film was so faithful to the novel that I didn't find it all that exciting of a read. Only read this if you haven't seen the movie.)

The Shadow in the North by Philip Pullman (book two of the Sally Lockhart series, well worth reading. I love his fiesty heroines)

The Tiger in the Well by Philip Pullman (another great installment in the Sally Lockhart series. I loved it!)

The Stone Book Quartet by Alan Garner (I'm not too big on short stories. These were very very loosely tied together, and really not action-packed, but sweet and well-written).

Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay (I took my time getting to this one, but honestly, while good, it wasn't worth anticipating. I wish he'd just written his story instead of tripping over his fumbling attempts to be modern with references to "jpegs" and such. I did like it, but probably won't read it again... this is the first Kay novel that I've been disappointed with.)

The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason (this was nicely written, and well researched, but ultimately it turned out to be one of those depressing "literary" novels where the ending makes you feel like throwing yourself off a bridge. Geeeeeez why do so many good writers hate their characters and do awful things to them?)

The Tin Princess by Philip Pullman (It took me a long time to get over the fact that Sally Lockhart isn't the star of this book. I felt betrayed. But then I realized this was a great tale in its own right. But please bring back Sally, Philip Pullman!)

and last but not least, Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik. If you have even the least inclination toward books featuring dragons, or historical fantasy, you must must must read this series.