Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Monday, September 29, 2008
I was happily surprised, then, to find that this book was quite enjoyable to read. The bare bones of the plot are from the familiar (even to me), existing Superman story: Superman was born on the planet Krypton to a scientist named Jal-El, and his father sent him out into space before the planet exploded. Anderson has done a very good job of fleshing out well-known characters, and of creating a well-paced story that I think works both well for Superman fans and by itself.
The book, of course, has flaws. The writing in the book is good, though not great. Some of the characters, like the secondary villains of Aetyr and Nam-Ek (basically the same baddies from the movie Superman 2), aren’t particularly developed, despite their near-constant presence in the long middle portion of the book. And the constant introduction of disasters—would this be the one to destroy Krypton?—became almost comical. Fortunately, I think even Anderson knew this possible complaint, as he used it to explain why the governing council ignored Jal-El’s final warnings about Krypton’s imminent destruction.
After reading this book, I did some online research to see what die-hard Superman fans had to say about it. Reaction seemed pretty mixed, with a vocal contingent who disliked how Anderson viewed the average Kryptonian (not great). I have to imagine, though, that no matter what Anderson wrote, someone was going to dislike this book, just for daring to tackle a beloved storyline. I’m impressed with how much of the existing Superman canon he managed to incorporate, without overly bogging down the story.
So, who will like this book? Certainly, sci-fi readers, casual fans of Superman and comic book fans in general will all really enjoy The Last Days of Krypton. Will it convert anti-science fiction types to the genre? Probably not. But I think other readers, who find might themselves tempted to stray out of their comfort zone and pick this one up, will be pleasantly treated.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
By the way, The Ha-Ha is a great book. Here is the Publishers Weekly description off Amazon:
Owing to a head injury he suffered 16 days into his Vietnam tour, Howard Kapostash, the narrator of King's graceful, measured debut novel, can neither speak, write nor read. Now middle-aged, Howard lives a lackluster existence in the house where he grew up, along with housemates Laurel, a Vietnamese-American maker of gourmet soups for local restaurants, and two housepainters—essentially interchangeable postcollege jocks—whom he refers to as Nit and Nat. But everything changes when Sylvia, the former girlfriend he's loved since high school, heads to drug rehab, saddling Howard with Ryan, her taciturn nine-year-old son. What happens over the course of the next couple hundred pages will not surprise readers—slowly, Nit and Nat learn responsibility, Laurel discovers her maternal side, Ryan opens up and Howie learns about life and love amid school concerts and Little League games—but it is lovingly rendered in careful, steady prose. Like Michael Cunningham's A Home at the End of the World, the novel explores familial bonds arising between people with no blood ties, and if the novel lingers too long on its notes, thematic and otherwise—Howard often ruminates on the nature of his injury and the things he'd say if he could; his days vary little—it does so with poise and heart. Drama arises with Sylvia's return and Howard nearly loses it, but life and healing are now foreverCheck it out.
I discovered a new, fun little tool online (sorry, but I can't remember who I found it from!). Its the Literature Map and it creates a map/chart of authors. According the web site, "the closer two writers are, the more likely someone will like both of them." Above is a screen shot of the map for Italo Calvino (one of my favorite authors). I get why Jorge Luis Borges is nearby, but I'm less clear on how James Frey ended up so close as well. Unfortunately, there's no explanation of the methodology that I could find, which is a little annoying. Then again, we're not trying to solve the world's problems, just to find a good book, so I guess that's okay!
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Friday, September 26, 2008
2) "The Chocolate War,” by Robert Cormier
3) “Olive’s Ocean,” by Kevin Henkes
5) “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” by Mark Twain
6) “The Color Purple,” by Alice Walker
7) "TTYL,” by Lauren Myracle
8) "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” by Maya Angelou
9) “It’s Perfectly Normal,” by Robie Harris
10) "The Perks of Being A Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
I try to read books for about an hour or 2 a day. That includes about a half hour in the morning, plus maybe an hour before bed. And I usually squeeze in 5 or 10 minutes here or there over the course of the day. I'm notorious for just pulling out a book anywhere, anytime to squeeze in a few minutes of a good book. Then, on the weekends, I'll read for a few hours everyday. I used to read almost non-stop, though. Life gets in the way, though.
Monday, September 22, 2008
This is the world of Mouse Guard: Fall 1152, a graphic novel by David Peterson. I was first drawn to this book by the exceptional illustrations. Visually, this book is a real treat. I was especially impressed with the coloring – quite lush and rich—and the expressive faces of the characters. Peterson employs various styles, within a unifying color palette, to make the artwork evocative and portray mood. His work is excellent.
The story is good, though maybe not quite as good as the artwork. It moved very quickly and was occasionally jumpy, though in general was just a very simple story. What I liked, though, was the world that Peterson has created. You get the sense of history and of layers of stories still to be told. Maps, wall hangings, etchings, details fill each panel. Clearly, there are many more Mouse Guard stories to be told. I really look forward to reading future installments from Peterson (including the second volume out now).
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Thursday, September 18, 2008
The concept for this book is great and most of the adventures are amazing. The book is full of good stories and compelling personal journeys. Many of the places and stories in this book are fascinating. There were many highlights in this book for me –like the trip down the Neretva River in Bosnia or visiting an isolated village in Papua New Guinea. I found the last chapter of the book—a quick sketch of an African safari—to be touching.
At issue for me, unfortunately, is the writing. It took me over a month to read Adventures with Purpose and I struggled to finish it. Bangs is clearly a storyteller at heart and I imagine his wit comes across better in person than it does on the page. Bangs is a very casual writer and his writing doesn’t hang together very well. I think if the editing had been better it would have vaulted this book to the next level, because the bones of a great book are here.
After struggling to stay involved with the book, I asked my husband (who is also a voracious reader and is unlike me an outdoorsman) to read Adventures. He, too, found it difficult to get through and gave up about a quarter of the way through.
The first several chapters highlighted the plight of places/people in need of help. In the first chapter, for example, takes Bangs to the Nile, where he explores work to bring the crocodile back from the brink (see photo at top, from a NY Times article). In another, very interesting chapter, he visits the Moken people of Thailand’s Andaman Islands, who are struggling to recover from the devastating 2004 tsunami. There was a good mix in these chapters of both environmental/ecological and humanitarian concerns to which Bangs brings attention.
I was really disappointed, then, when the book lost this focus on helping. Richard Bangs’ definition of purpose is broader than I expected, but I thought that once the scope expanded to include stories of personal purpose, the book bogged down. The chapters on mountain climbing, in particular, were indulgent and out of place in this book—especially when there so much other material Bangs could have explored in more depth in some of the other chapters. Bangs, in my opinion, should have cut the number of chapters in half and put more energy and information into the remaining chapters.
In the end, I am torn about whether to recommend this book or not. There are so many good things to say about Adventures but the overall product is spotty. Adventures with Purpose is also a syndicated public television show; I would be interested in checking it out. Find out more about it and Richard Bangs at his website here.
Monday, September 15, 2008
Adventures with Purpose by Richard Bangs
Mouse Guard Volume 1: Fall 1152 by David Peterson
Art Deco San Francisco: The Architecture of Timothy Pflueger by Therese Poletti
The second reason that I'm bummed that I won't be around this week is that its Book Blogger Appreciation Week! Start at My Friend Amy's for the fun, and enjoy getting to read lots of great bloggers and hear all about lots of wonderful books.
Friday, September 12, 2008
The other new book I am really excited to read is Mouse Guard: Fall 1152. I had never heard of Mouse Guard, which is an Eisner-winning series of comics about a secret colony of mice. When I saw this book on the shelf (its actually a reprint, but is new in hardcover, I believe) and saw how cute the mice in it are, I just had to have it! Fortunately, my husband rocks and he got it for me. I've flipped through it and the story looks great, but haven't had the chance to sit down and read it yet. I'll let you know what I think when I do.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Sweet Life by Mia King
When We Were Romans by Matthew Kneale
Dear American Airlines by Jonathan Miles
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Q: It was a large project to undertake when you had so much skepticism.
A: Yes, but of course we were not alone. And I think that is kind of actually one of the difficult and distorting things at the current moment, is that basically some architects are seen as kind of almost bullfighters who somehow have to kill an animal, but you're part of a much larger enterprise.
Q: I think there's a reason for that: too many people have read "The Fountainhead" and it's ruined them for life.
A: Yeah, exactly, exactly. And I think that's actually extremely inconvenient, because there was Deborah (L. Jacobs, former City Librarian), of course, and there was also a board, and we had a lot of bonding in the beginning. So it's definitely not an ego thing, you know, and it's definitely not where you kind of are looking for morons or ever think that somebody — you realize that some of the criticism is unfounded or naive or not particularly kind of ... benevolent, but it really comes with the territory and it's not something that you kind of respond to in egotistical terms.
Monday, September 8, 2008
Following up on my post about the Bird's Nest and Herzog & deMeuron, I wanted to post some photos from their Dominus Winery project in Napa Valley (photos from dezeen). One of the first things I did when I moved to LA from the East Coast was to come up to visit my sister in the Bay Area and go see this building. Unfortunately, its not open to the general public, so I have never gotten this close, but even from the road, its really cool.
Some great photos (via Arch Daily) of Herzog & de Meuron's Olympic stadium, the Bird's Nest. To generalize broadly, architects (including me) love the interstitial spaces of buildings. This is a great example of using this space in between -- not outside, not inside -- and making it alive and animated. The more I see of this building the more I like it. (previously) And, of course, I love the view of the Water Cube!
Friday, September 5, 2008
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
The other book I'm reading is Last Days of Krypton by Kevin Anderson. Its not something I would normally pick up (I actually got it for my husband to read, but he is too busy with school starting) but I'll see how it goes!