Sunday, October 29, 2006

Read: "Astro City: Confessions" by Kurt Busiek

Read: Astro City: Confessions by Kurt Busiek, 1997, 1563895501.

Another Astro City compilation. This comic book novel focuses on one Astro City Superhero, Confessor, and his teen sidekick Altar Boy. The storyline is an autobiographical telling by Altar Boy (real name Brian Kinney) about how he came to Astro City and was recruited by Confessor. Kinney is an orphan and, like a lot of people, idolizes the heroes and has always wanted to visit Astro City. His time with Confessor is a little turbulent but Confessor is a good teacher and Kinney trusts and respects him - until a scret is revealed. Ooohhh...

Trouble starts when a killer is stalking, killing and mutilating teenage girls. Both the police and the heroes are investigating but the killer's brutality and a summer heatwave raise public tempers and the public demands a resolution. Things really go downhill when the Mayor starts accusing the super heroes of interfering with the investigation and insinuates that they may be involved.

Kurt Busiek and company did another great job with this one. The artwork is above average and the storyline does not get too preachy. The fickleness of the public, and their ignorance and short memory of how the heroes protect them every day angers and confuses Kinney. Confessor's faith in his work never wavers. But, the backlash by the public and their willingness to back extreme security measures that threaten personal privacy and freedom speak to current conditions.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Gave Up On: "Ticket to Ride" by Janet Neel

Gave Up On: Ticket to Ride by Janet Neel, 2005, 0312349238.

In 1995 or 1996 I read a really good review of a Janet Neel mystery novel in the Times Literary Supplement. I read the novel and enjoyed it but had not yet read another of her novels when I checked this one out. And I still have not read one.

I gave up on this novel after only a few pages. The story starts out differently than other mysteries or thrillers because it does not begin with the crime or conspiracy. Instead, a couple old biddies, one of them an English MP, are chatting and going to meet the MP's kids for lunch.

I also get really annoyed with UK novels that use only single quotation marks for dialogue. If a story is good I'll stick with that format ,but this story did not grab me and I have other good books waiting. The storyline is promising: eight bodies of illegal immigrants have washed up on an Norfolk beach. A brother of one of the victims visits a lawyer about it and she gets involved in the investigation. Trouble ensues. Blah, Blah, Blah.

Read Again: "The Book of Guys" by Garrison Keillor

Read Again: The Book of Guys by Garrison Keillor, 2003, 067084943X.

Short stories by Keillor that I read shortly after the book came out in '93. When I read it in 1993 I thought some of the stories were marvelously hilarious. Some stories are still quite funny but did not strike me like the first time around. Other stories are dated, like the one with George Bush Sr. and Willie Horton, and stories involving "political correctness" which was such a big brouhahha in the early '90s.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Just finished: "The Vesuvius Club" by Mark Gatiss

Just Finished: The Vesuvius Club by Mark Gatiss, 2004, 0743283945

I reserved this from Watertown after reading a review for a second, upcoming book with the same lead character. That character, Lucifer Box, is a young portraitist for the rich who doubles as an assassin and spy for the British government. He also screws hookers in "slimy alleys", "takes advantage" of young society ladies, takes hours to get dressed, lives next door to the Prime Minister in No. 9 Downing Street, and digs dudes. That last feature of his personality is what got him his current position with the government after an old family friend blackmailed him into the job.

Box is told to investigate the disappearance of several British scientists and the death of a diplomatic officer based in Naples, Italy. Lucifer fends off an assassination attempt during a carriage chase in foggy London, fights an angry father in a Bath house, and saves Italy from volcanic chain reaction by a revenge obsessed transvestite. All the while he chases after a redheaded lady art student and bones (gets boned by?) an expatriate English dude.

This novel reminded me of pulp westerns. The quick pacing, overall lack of historical detail, and sexual endeavors all struck the same note. The novel was pretty good though. Fun characters and fun story. The concept is interesting too, with Lucifer loving the secretive nature of his double life.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Finished: “The Wrong Kind of Blood” by Declan Hughes

Finished: The Wrong Kind of Blood by Declan Hughes, 2006, 0060825464.

Good novel but not great. Like the title suggests, Hughes has a theme of blood throughout the novel. The topics of family bloodlines, biological blood types, and obligations to blood relatives run throughout the story.

After living in Los Angeles for twenty year, Ed Loy returns to Dublin to bury his mother. At the funeral reception a lady friend swaps spit with him and then asks him to investigate her husband's recent disappearance. Loy was a P.I. in L.A. for several years and since he needs the money he takes the case. The husband turns up dead so do the corpses of other people involved in the case.

Hughes does a decent job of tying in several family mysteries with old and new criminal conspiracies. The blood theme does get old though, Hughes just about shouts out part of the ending at the novel's halfway point. According to the book jacket another Ed Loy novel will be published in 2007. I'll probably check it over but on the basis of this one I should probably skip over it. I have enough books on my To Read list than to run into a disappointment.

EDIT: After further thought, this is really only a decent/average novel. I had to force myself to keep reading it. It was only after I was about halfway through that I started to get interested in the story. I'm used to mystery novel protagonists with more "Umph" in their actions.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Read: "A Soldier’s Portfolio: this is our war: servicemen’s photographs of life in Iraq" edited by Devin Friedman

Read: A Soldier's Portfolio: this is our war: servicemen's photographs of life in Iraq, edited by Devin Friedman, 2006, 157965309X.

Very good book. But, to nitpick, there are photos from Kuwait and even from the U.S. (a gal's 'sexy' shots to her boyfriend.)

This started as a photo essay for GQ with submissions sent in from servicemen to the magazine. Editor Friedman was on assignment in Iraq and realized how many thousands and thousands of great photos showing "what it's like" for servicemen there. GQ had so many photos submitted they did a book.

Some photos are by Army and Navy journalists but most shots are just snaps. Some of the photographers are seriously into photography as a hobby, and some people just wanted mementos and photos to e-mail home.

There some funny photos with a Navy Lieutenant at sea and floating in a massive metal container filled up with cold water and beer during a "steel beach party" on an aircraft carrier. Another, from August, 2004, is a shot of a hundred or so topless soldiers gathered in front of a beer commercial model, taking her picture, and waiting for an autographed photo.

The sad shots are the memorial services and the story by a dad from AR whose son was based at Camp Anaconda at the same time he was. The son would visit his dad's quarters in the evenings for two or three hours they'd "just talk and talk". The dad's unit stayed in Iraq when the son went home. Dad was wakened by a commanding officer and told he had to call home; his son was killed by a drunk driver while driving home.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Looked Through: "A Collector's Guide to the '03 Springfield" by Bruce N. Canfield

Looked Through: A Collector's Guide to the '03 Springfield by Bruce N. Canfield, 091721840x, 1989.

I got this from Waupun after the Director there recommended it when we were talking guns. As the title says, it's a collector's guide. Owning one rifle does not make me a collector and I have not even bothered to check any of the markings on my rifle to compare against information from the book.

A good book with LOTS of information on development and production.

Looked through:"Bruce N. Canfield's Complete Guide to the M1 Garand and M1 Carbine" by Bruce N. Canfield

Looked through: Bruce N. Canfield's Complete Guide to the M1 Garand and M1 Carbine by Bruce N. Canfield, 0917218833, 1999.

A recommendation from Waupun PL like the other Canfield book listed below. Yes, I would like an M1 or M1 Carbine but since I don't have one, or plan on buying a collector grade weapon, I did not take the time to read through this. I reckon a recent manufactured Carbine, like one of the Israeli ones, may be in the future but those are different from the originals discussed in this book.

Thursday, October 5, 2006

Read through: "Montreal & Quebec City" by Gregory B. Gallagher

Read through: "Montreal and Quebec City: Top 10 Montreal and Quebec" by Gregory B. Gallagher, 2004, 0756600332.

A DK guide. Who the hell am I kidding? All four of us are going to fly out to Montreal for a two week summer vacation to take in the F1 races, or the comedy or jazz festivals? Yeah, right. I'll start buying lottery tickets.