"All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened
and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you
and afterwards it all belongs to you; the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse,
and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was."
Ernest Hemingway

Friday, January 31, 2014

Bad Girls

Bad Girls
Image courtesy of
Bad Girls
Jan Stradling

The Summary
Jan Stradling's book recounts the lives of 22 the world's "most powerful, shocking, amazing, thrilling, and dangerous women of all time," including ladies like Cleopatra, Boudica, Catherine II of Russia, Malinali, Cixi, Madame Mao, Mata Hari, and Elizabeth Bathory.  From Ancient Egypt to the modern world, Stradling looks into the lives, reputations, and psychology of history's most legendary women.

The Good
Bad Girls is full of intriguing material and interesting women; in fact, Stradling appears to make a point of investigating some of history's more obscure figures and providing an incredible amount of detail into their personal histories (and, occasionally, their psychological states).

More importantly, while Stradling does work from an academic perspective - that is, she attempts to produce a scholarly endeavor with her work - her book is concise and consistently interesting.  She has presented her content in such a way that it reads like a narrative, which makes Bad Girls attractive to read but, also, makes it convenient to merely search for the section to interest you most.

The Bad
Stradling's work is fairly hefty.  Considering the author researches 22 separate individuals and presents individualized chapters on each of these ladies, there's a fair bit of content through which to wade to find the most interesting tidbits.

Admittedly, I did spend quite a bit of time skimming through Stradling's novel.  Being occasionally speculative with certain historical elements and dense, Bad Girls is one of those books that, while sure to keep your interests at different times, proves easy to skim.  It's simple to flip to the pages you want to find and still get the gist of everything else.

The Ugly
The ladies compiled in Stradling's book are all powerful, dangerous, daring women with very unique skills and very unique dispositions for the times in which they lived.  Many of these infamous women, however, frequently suffered under the violence of others (or enacted terrible violence of their own) and, more often than not, met a violent and gruesome end.

Cleopatra, for instance, committed suicide.  Elizabeth Bathory, after committing terrible atrocities (among them genocide) in the pursuit of youth and beauty, was locked away for the remainder of her life in complete solitude.  Belle Starr, after spending her life involved in crime, was shot in the back and killed.  Mata Hari, once one of the most sought after exotic dancers in Europe and one of its more infamous courtesans, was charged with treason and executed via firing squad.

And many others met similar fates.

The long and short of it, Bad Girls can seem pretty gruesome.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon (Volume One)

Hawkeye - Volume 1: My Life As A Weapon (Marvel Now)
Image courtesy of
Hawkeye:  My Life as a Weapon (Volume One)
Matt Fraction
David Aja
Javier Pulido

The Summary
Hawkeye chronicles a series of adventures had by Clint Barton - a.k.a. Hawkeye - as he tries to live up (or live down) his status as a member of the Avengers, fulfill his obligations as an agent of SHIELD, and live a relatively normal life.

Or as normal a life as possible when you're a human weapon.

The Good
Hawkeye is full of interesting stories.  Packed with plenty of action and adventure and questionable moral activities by powerful villains, Fraction and company's novel is sure to please that comic-loving junkie in all of us.

But, perhaps, one of the more memorable qualities of Hawkeye is actually its namesake, Clint Barton, who narrates the entire comic from beginning to end (excluding the final episode of Young Avengers, which features Kate Bishop - also Hawkeye).

Barton is especially intriguing over the course of this comic, because he is undeniably human.  Susceptible to human folly, to injury, to mistakes and failures, Barton is the human element in a world full of superheroes, ancient gods, geniuses, and other powerful beings.

He's the odd man out:  no superhuman strength, no magical weapons, no enhanced suit or shield or abilities.  But Barton certainly knows how to hold his own - which makes his story particularly compelling.

The Bad
While the reader certainly has an opportunity to see Clint Barton's skills as Hawkeye - as an archer and sharpshooter - Hawkeye doesn't always portray Barton's talents at their finest.  I can certainly appreciate the human element this adds to his character, but it also proves to be a little disappointing.

Kate Bishop definitely has the opportunity to show off, shouldn't Barton?

The Ugly
Arrows in eyes.

That's all I have to say.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Amazing Spider-Man: Kraven's Last Hunt

Image courtesy of
Marvel Comics
The Amazing Spider-Man:  Kraven's Last Hunt
J.M. DeMatteis
Mike Zeck

The Summary
Consumed by guilt and fear over death - specifically the deaths of Ned Leeds and Joe Face, and others who have followed - and his own mortality, Spider-Man finds himself face-to-face with Kraven, the Hunter, and expects the usual tussle.

Kraven, however, isn't out to cause a bit of mayhem.  He's out to spill blood and take revenge for the shame Spider-Man has thrust upon him - and, more to the point, crush the Spider consuming his thoughts and, by all accounts, his mind.

The Good
Kraven's Last Hunt is founded on excellent craftsmanship, being full of detail on both a narrative and artistic level.  This comic creates an intriguing mix of characters and stories, and it weaves a brutal and wonderful story that postulates the question:  What happens if Spider-Man is killed?  And, more to the point, what happens if someone takes his place?

In creating this comic, J.M. DeMatteis doesn't stop at sharing one story with a single narrator; he creates three simultaneous stories with three very different narrators.  Peter Parker, Kraven, and Vermin each share a facet of Kraven's Last Hunt that makes the comic suitably complex without bogging it down.  They create an intriguing and, sometimes, frightening tale that blends psychological horror and madness on a grand scale.

The art is, likewise, enjoyable.  It combines detail and depth, bringing life to the dialogue and, occasionally, realizing the ravings of a couple of man men - and, sometimes, it can send a chill down your spine.  Not in a bad way, of course.

The Bad
Given the extreme emotional turmoil - or, more accurately, trauma - several of these characters endure, it shouldn't come as a surprise that some internal monologues can go a little sideways.

And, by sideways, I mean completely off the rails.

The Ugly
If you really, really like Spider-Man - and you'd really, really hate to see what New York would be like without him - your heart will be crushed during the course of this novel.

Yes, crushed.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Batman: The Long Halloween

Image courtesy of
DC Comics
Batman:  The Long Halloween
Jeph Loeb
Tim Sale

The Summary
Like any good defender of Gotham, Batman spends his days - and holidays - catching crooks and vanquishing villains.  Another day in the life of Gotham's most fearsome caped-crusader.

However, a new threat has arisen in the city:  a serial killer known only as "Holiday," who has taken to murdering members of the local mob and causing ripples in the crime community.

But stopping Holiday could prove more difficult than Batman imagines.  Between the transformation of Harvey Dent into a criminal mastermind and a plethora of supervillains taking turns to tear apart the city, Batman must use all his wits and gadgets to stop a serial killer and make Gotham safe - well, safer.

The Good
Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's comic is filled with the usual Batman-y goodness:  adventure, intrigue, plot twists, despicable villains, fantastic stories, and hints of tragedy.  As the drama unfolds, it's certainly easy to become enveloped in the story.  Between trying to guess Holiday's identity (it isn't who you think, trust me) and watching as Batman struggles with his own personal demons, The Long Halloween is surprisingly intricate and well-executed graphic novel that's sure to entice any reader.

The characters in this novel are also well-built and intriguing, deserving of their very own mention for the wild and wacky qualities they bring to Batman's story.  It's especially interesting to see how Bruce Wayne continues to develop as Batman, and how Catwoman fits into the whole equation.  They make a surprisingly effective duo.

Likewise, the art in The Long Halloween proves to be just as interesting.  Harsh lines and dark shadows make the plot more sinister, matching the atmosphere of the comic and breathes life into the script it follows.

The Bad
Honestly, I can't say there's anything I disliked about this comic.  It was surprising, creative, and enjoyable.  Perhaps the worst aspect about reading Loeb and Sale's work was the wait to see how it ended.

The Ugly
Gore, mob violence, strong language, murder - the usual in a dark, gripping crime novel with Batman as the central protagonist and mob bosses running amok in the city of Gotham.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year, New Resolution

It seems important that I should renew my schedule of reading with the beginning of the new year; in fact, it seems imperative.  Having neglected my blog - among other enjoyable pastimes - long enough, I think it's time to pick up a new book and finally finish up that enormous back log of dusty books starving for attention.

It's time to start the new year off right - with a book in hand.  So, here's to another year and another resolution and another book to read.

The Scrivener