Monday, March 8, 2004

Graphic Novels

"Elfquest" by Wendy and Richard Pini was one of the first graphic novels I ever read. I was already reading X-Men and Wolverine at the time my sister got me to read these. When I started "ElfQuest", there were only 1 through 8 volumes. It may seem foofy on the outside, but ElfQuest has a solid heart... Elves against humans, pure-blood elves against those of "tainted" blood, magic against steel, troll versus elf.... the art is great and the story lives on beyond the original four-then-eight novels. At least read the first two and you'll see what I mean.

"Strangers in Paradise" by Terry Moore. My absolute favourite comic/trade paperback of all time and possibly my most treasured codex of any kind. It's the real-world kicked up a notch. It's about friendship, love, violence, dark pasts, conservative familes and expectations, and anything that's not considered the 'norm' but is really just another part of life. This series has it ALL. If you read any kind of illustrated story, I highly reccomend you at least read the first two volumes of this series and I guarantee you'll love it. It's that good.

"Preacher" by Garth Ennis. This is one twisted set of graphic novels. If it were a movie, I don't know I'd watch it but I checked out (on accident) the second or third volume and just had to read the rest to see what was going on. Doubt I'd ever buy it but it was definetly entertaining. Not for the easily-offended.

"The Books of Magic" by Neil Gaiman & others. Now, I'd read the Sandman series, but I have to say I like the Books of Magic better. Gaiman didn't write all of this series, but was the inspiration for it. It's kind of like Harry Potter on crack - it's eerie how some of the elements are similar; jaded young darkhaired w. glasses boy with shitty family life discovers that he's got ties to the magical world he never knew existed. Similarities end there, for the most part. Since it's magic, anything can happen with characters you'd only see in your dreams or nightmares. Oh, and Death makes quite a few apperances, which doesn't hurt. :D

"Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind" by Hayao Miazaki. Yeah, it's Manga and I haven't read a ton of it that I really really liked. A lot of the exciting stuff is action crammed into huge panels that you can finish in 15 minutes. Not this. This is epic. It's kind of post-apocalyptic but in a world so far removed from our own, it seems. There is an anime version of this that is just terrible in comparison. Read the books! There are only 4 and if I had the money, I'd own them in a heartbeat. The kind of thing that makes you look at the world and where we're going.

Some random books

"A Walk in the Woods" by Bill Bryson. I love his books - his humor going from cynical to happy-go-lucky in the same paragraph. He's just great. This book covers his ill-fated attempt to hike the entire Appalacian Trail. Both humerous and inspiring, it makes you want to either set out to hike the AT yourself or run screaming in the opposite direction. The book is also full of little facts and wonderful descriptions of the trail and its history along the way.

"The Mother Tongue" and "Made in America" by Bill Bryson. Both of these books have been used as textbooks in English classes all over. The first chronicles the history of English overall, its pitfalls and brilliance, comparing it to other languages as well as to its own forms across the world (i.e. British, American, Australian...) It gets down into the nitty gritty technical parts but is never boring and even though they're both extremely informative works of non-fiction, there is that signature Bryson humour threaded throughout. "Made In America" is about English in America alone, covering place names to dialects and how American English developed as a seperate entity from British English. If you love language, these are brilliant books you'll love.

"Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlosser. Non-fiction. A look at how the fast food industry has changed the way we eat and the way food is produced and handled, not only in America but abroad as well. Kinda makes you think twice before buying burger at Safeway. Contrary to what the title suggests, this book is NOT anti-fast food, either. The author just SHOWS us how our world has changed since the advent of fast food, for better and for worse.

"A People's History of the United States" by Howard Zinn. Non-fiction. This was the text for my American History class in college. It's a heavy read, but it's the true history of the U.S. with all the dark parts added BACK in. And it doesn't forget to add any group, either - from natives and blacks to women and children. It's all here.

Scifi/Fantasty novels

A random list of scifi/fantasty books I've enjoyed in the past.

"Kushiel's Dart" by Jaqueline Carey - The best written book I've ever read. It pseudo-paralells Europe's cultures and religions in its setting, told in first person perspective wonderfully, and has more plot-on-plot than I've ever seen in my life without being confusing or dragging. It has climax upon climax, each one better than before - and you keep thinking, "geez, they've come this far and I'm only halfway through the book -what the hell could happen next?" and sure enough, it gets better. The first two chapters are a bitch to get through, but there are 98-odd chapters total, so it's really a fraction of the book and SO worth the effort. ;) First book in a trilogy, stands well on its own.

"Through Wolf's Eyes" by Jane M. Lindskold - A fun fantasy book. The main character, Firekeeper, was raised by intelligent wolves and is brought back to 'civilization'. She's a kick-ass character; no romance to muddle up the plot, and a lot of wry humour and plenty of adventure. First of three books, awesome on it's own.

"Rhapsody" by Elizabeth Haydon - Fantasy. There are four books and I've only read the first two because I started to lose interest. There is a lot of long build-up in this book, but the concepts of the world are fabulous and I find myself thinking about them years after I read it the first time.

"Wolfwalker", "Shadow Leader", and "Storm Runner" by Tara K. Harper. These were originally a trilogy and since then, the author has added to them, but I think these are by far the best. I've never read a more rip-snorting, edge-of-your-seat set of books. The very first chapter of the first book makes you squirm in agony for the character.. Dion is a strong female character, but not in a loud way. She's not invincible and she's got a lot of depth. She's not girly at ALL, either, and after 8 years she remains one of my top favourite characters. She's got a telepathic link to wolves, so if you like the lupin kind, you'll especially like these books.

"Cat Scratch Fever" by Tara K. Harper - this is sci-fi; The main character is kidnapped and taken AWAY from technology and tortured. There's a lot more to it than that, but the detail and description in this book are .. wow. It's about PAIN.

"Z for Zachariah" by Robert C. O'Brien - sci-fi kind of. Post-apocalyptic, but in a more realistic fashion. A very short book, kind of first-person as the character writes in her journal about her life alone in her valley which seems to be the only place left untouched after a nuclear strike. It's full of common-sense survival as she has to conserve resources and plan for the future by raising chickens and taking care of the few animals available to her, planting, and raiding the local store and neighbor's house for goods.

The Renshai books - two trilogies worth, one starting with "The Last of the Renshai" and the second starting with "Beyond Ragnarok" by Mickey Zucker Reichert. Fantasy. It's as if the author continues the Norse myths beginning with the Ragnarok. The first trilogy happens right before, and the second happens 400 years after. I read the second trilogy first, so when I read the first, it was like I was reading a history. The Renshai are some of the best fighters you'll ever come across... It's a solid set of books with a nice selection of characters.

"The Dark Elf Trilogy" by R.A. Salvatore. Fantasy, from the Forgotten Realms. There are what, 16 or so Drizzt Do'Urden books, but don't let that scare you. The Dark Elf Trilogy was written second but happens first - which is good. The trilogy that was written first pales in comparison and is darn right a pain in the ass to get through, but integral to the characters overall. But this trilogy stands as just... they're phenominal. Over the entire set of books all of the characters just become deeper and deeper - especially the ones that start out rather shallow. Salvatore never disappoints. His fight scenes are some of the most fluid I have ever read; he keeps it simple and is able to describe with one sentence what too many authors take paragraphs to do.

"The Deed of Paksenarrion" by Elizabeth Moon. Fantasy. Here is a tale of triumph, trial, pain, and sacrifice. The conditions of a medieval military are depicted VERY realistically except for the fact that women are about as equal as men here. Again, no romance to muddle up this character's journey - and it's one of the most epic stories I've read. Just read the damn thing. You'll see.

"The Slave and the Free" by Suzy McKee Charnas. Post-apocalyptic, kind of. It's hard to describe this book, which is actually the first two books of her "Holdfast Chronicles" in one. I reccomend reading this as opposed to just the first book for a good reason. In this version of future history, stuff got so screwed up (and it is explained how) that women and men are like two species in the way they see eachother. Men rule and women are slaves. Christianity has twisted to become a seperation of the father from the son to a religion that kills. Women have been slaves so long they cant even comprehend thinking for themselves. The first book is mostly from the perspective of two male characters - the second book takes off from the female perspective. The books aren't the best written I've ever read, but the concept is mindblowing. There are 4 books total; the first shows you things from the male perspective and you begin to loathe them. The second takes you outside their world and you see how the women think. The third you think of as a triumph for women over the men but before you even get to the fourth you realize that both sides are MORONS and that this whole series is really about how humanity can fall so far and so hard.