the walking dead compendium one

My husband received a copy of The Walking Dead Compendium One by Robert Kirkman last year for Christmas and I thought it would be a good choice for the “graphic novel” genre of my Eclectic Reader Challenge. From Goodreads:

Introducing the first eight volumes of the fan-favorite, New York Times Best Seller series collected into one massive paperback collection.

In a world ruled by the dead, we are forced to finally start living. With The Walking Dead #1-48, this compendium features more than one thousand pages chronicling the start of Robert Kirkman’s Eisner Award-winning story of zombie horror, from Rick Grimes waking up alone in a hospital, his band of survivors seeking refuge on an isolated farm and the controversial introduction of Woodbury despot, the Governor.

I don’t have much experience reading graphic novels, and the ones I have read didn’t make much of an impression on me (WatchmenBlack Hole). Something is just missing for me in graphic novels, and I don’t become very emotionally invested. After those two books, I felt just fine never reading another graphic novel again (and yes, I certainly do count them as “real” books and see the appeal). While I enjoyed The Walking Dead Compendium One more than any graphic novels I’ve read before, I still kind of think they’re not quite for me.

Of course, with the popularity of the TV show (of which I’m a fan), it’s impossible not to compare, but fortunately the books are different enough from the show that you can enjoy both without frustration that the show isn’t more like the book and/or vice versa. Characters in each may have the same name, but nothing else in common as far as personality or story line. I did wish the women were stronger in general—Lori and Andrea are better in the books than the show, and Michonne is equally kick-ass in both, but the rest of the women in the book are pretty weak. Several characters were downright annoying (Maggie and Glenn… whom I love on the show!). This may be just me and my lack of experience with graphic novels, but some characters (especially the men) I couldn’t tell apart and would forget who they were… however in general they were more three dimensional (ironically!) in the books than the show.

The artwork seemed pretty par for the course in my limited experience, with a handful of really impressive full-page spreads. I thought the detailing on the zombies, making each one unique, was particularly well done. There were a lot of dynamic, action-packed sequences throughout, and the main point of other people being the real threat—not zombies—was driven home well. One thing that came through shining clear in the book that didn’t in the show for me was that our motley crew fighting for survival in this new, terrifying, desperate world are the walking dead—not the zombies.

While again, I’m not sure I’m hooked on graphic novels after this, I was definitely hooked reading this collection. I can’t say I’ll make a point to read the subsequent compendiums (so many other books on my TBR to get through!) but I do recommend this first one for horror and post-apocalypse fiction lovers! It was a great warm-up to the next season of The Walking Dead TV show premiering in October.

The Walking Dead Compendium One is my graphic novel for the 2014 Eclectic Reader Challenge, and marks 5 of 12 completed on the list.

Read from August 26 to September 6, 2014.

the martian

Three weeks ago I read The Martian by Andy Weir, a pre-ordered gift from Christmas that came in the mail after it was officially released mid-March. I thought it would be the perfect “published in 2014” selection for my 2014 Eclectic Reader Challenge. From Goodreads:

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first men to walk on the surface of Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first man to die there.

It started with the dust storm that holed his suit and nearly killed him, and that forced his crew to leave him behind, sure he was already dead. Now he’s stranded millions of miles from the nearest human being, with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his food would be gone years before a rescue mission could arrive. Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to get him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. But will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

The Martian had its ups and downs for me. The good:

  • Engaging voice right off the bat. Mark is certainly a character, and his personality shines through. He feels like a real person you might know, and you’re rooting for him the whole time.
  • The premise is mind-boggling  and compelling, and the story itself is harrowing. It’s hard to put down because of all the great cliff-hangers each chapter.
  • The research level is insane—everything that Mark comes up with to save his own life is inventive, creative, and believable.

The not so good:

  • Most of the characters fell a little flat for me, even Mark after a while. He was just too upbeat and sarcastic the whole way through… it was hard to take his situation seriously when he’s writing “Yay!” and cracking crass jokes months into his ordeal…
  • Speaking of that, I guess I was expecting more of a bleak thriller than what I got. There were maybe only a couple of times you really get the sense of utter isolation and dire urgency. Part of the reason for that (besides the upbeat voice) is that the majority of the book is Mark’s diary, so you know he made it out of whatever bind he was in—you’re reading him telling you about what he did instead of experiencing it “live” along with him.

Weir did a great job of making top-shelf science talk accessible to readers unfamiliar with space travel, too, which I appreciated! The Martian was actually a very easy, fast read—if I wasn’t so generally busy with life I probably could have finished it in a weekend rather than almost a week. I think The Martian may be a case where it translates better on film, especially the last 15 percent of the book. I could NOT put it down once I hit the final chapters—totally a page-turner!

The Martian is my fourth of twelve books read for the 2014 Eclectic Reader Challenge.

Read from March 24 to 30, 2014.

it’s monday! what are you reading?

It’s Monday, what are you reading?—a weekly blog meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

STILL reading The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan. Totally didn’t finish in time for the library group discussion, and after missing the discussion anyway I didn’t really feel like I needed to rush through it anymore. I’m having trouble reading on a screen lately, too. I spend all day at a computer! Just don’t want to look at screens in my free time much lately. I need time to unwind and unplug after work (and after my computer work at home for my second job AFTER my FT job workdays. Sigh. I love being busy but this time of year can be a little much sometimes!)

So I’m slogging through The Worst Hard Time a bit but I did manage to finish The Martian by Andy Weir this weekend. I bet if I had a little more free time I could have read it all in just a couple of days; it was a pretty quick read. Not perfect, but I enjoyed it. Hoping to have a blog post up on my full thoughts this week!

Last night I started The Round House by Louise Erdrich. It’s not part of any of my challenges. But I just have all these beautiful books I bought as “retail therapy” during my moving trauma in 2013, and this one jumped out at me last night.

What are you reading this week?

it’s monday! what are you reading?

It’s Monday, what are you reading?—a weekly blog meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Well, I’m still working on The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan for my library book group (meeting’s on Wednesday, eeeek!!) Just too darn busy to get hardly any reading done! Not only the usual work/rehearsal stuff that naturally amps up this time of year, of course we’re trying to get our taxes done and have had family scheduled to visit in March. But yeah I’m only about 40% in… wish me luck for finishing before the group discussion!

Other than that I’m dipping my toes into The Martian
by Andy Weir
this week. My husband already read it and loved it, and I’ve only read a couple of chapters… so far I’m still trying to get used to the main character’s tone and delivery, and then the “tell” vs. “show” style of the book. But, it’s a fairly easy, quick read from what I can tell and I’ve enjoyed the start.

What are you reading this week?

kc library winter reads 2014

You guys! I’m so behind. I meant to write up this post more than a week ago. Well, same as always, I got distracted by real life! Last weekend my parents were in town and I had a concert, and the weekend before that I was sick (BOO) but of course that does afford one lots of reading time, so I was able to finish this year’s KC Library Winter Reads program! This year’s theme was “Stop Me if You’ve Read This One,” all in the humor genre. Last month I read The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (click for review) also for the program. I was glad to read humor since it’s not normally a genre to which I naturally gravitate, but I’m glad to get into something dark and heart-wrenching this week.

In Assassination Vacation, Sarah Vowell delves into American history and politics with a roadtrip hopping around to different landmarks associated with the assassinations of Lincoln, McKinley, and Garfield. Vowell has a quirky sense of humor and feels a little bit like she’s trying too hard to seem… I don’t know, weird or unique (or weirdly unique) or something. But I did like how much I learned from this book, and I think Vowell does a great job weaving the history with humor, especially related the past to the current (well, early 2000’s) political climate in the United States. It’s a fun, educational journey (yes, both! sneaky). Assassination Vacation was the February book for my library book group, but I missed the discussion due to being sick. [Read from February 23 to 27, 2014.]

An Unexpected Twist by Andy Borowitz was next, and I sort of feel like I cheated a little bit here (a Kindle Single, so, it was super short), but it was funny, and it still counts as reading. Comedian Andy Borowitz tells about the time not long after getting married when a painful intestinal condition leads to a couple surgeries and his almost dying. Basically, he starts feeling horrible and is diagnosed with a twisted colon, so there are cracks about poop a-plenty in this shorty. I’m not sure how much of his memories are hyperbolic, but I appreciated how Borowitz took the life-threatening edge off this retelling with lots of great humor. Laughter is the best medicine, they say! [Read on February 27, 2014.]

I’m generally not into books that spring from Twitter accounts, but Rob Delaney’s Mother. Wife. Sister. Human. Warrior. Falcon. Yardstick. Turban. Cabbage. is more of a memoir than straight Twitter-to-book experience, and definitely my favorite of the five humor books I read for the Winter Reads program. Mother. Wife. Sister. is a collection of essays about Delaney’s life roughly in chronological order. I loved the one about his childhood fandom for Danzig, his college year abroad in Paris, and his stance on the cats v. dogs debate. The darker passages about his alcoholism, recklessness, and depression were harrowing and fascinating at the same time—and at the end I found myself feeling really happy that Delaney made it through his struggles, finding and making good use of the help he received. There’s profanity, poop, bungee jumping off the Manhattan Bridge, hepatitis A, masturbation, and lots of food. Mother. Wife. Sister. is a great example of a comedian who has fought personal demons, which seems to be quite common. I’ve never seen or heard Rob Delaney, but he’s hilarious on paper! [Read from February 27 to March 1, 2014.]

Lastly, I had no excuse not to finally read Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris. Hmmm… well, hmm. I have read Sedaris before years ago (Me Talk Pretty One Day and Barrel Fever) and I can’t remember anything about or from them. I’m afraid this collection might be the same… maybe Sedaris isn’t for me, we don’t share a similar sense of humor. I did chuckle at times, but they were for things others said or did that he observed, not his own humor. A lot of the essays just kind of came off as an old grump annoyed by everything. People are harried and wear schlumpy clothes at airports? No kidding! (eyeroll) I found myself cringing a bit through his self-absorbed, petty rants (to which he admits, to his credit). I was uncomfortable with his nonchalant attitude about his abusive childhood, the way he mentions race, and his stories about his affluence didn’t capture my attention. However, I did like the travel essays, which is a lot of the book (counting it for my Eclectic Reader Challenge!)—especially his observations on learning different languages for his travels. But still I don’t know—I feel ambivalent. I think Sedaris is a talented writer and with finely tuned observational skills, and I had a great time at his reading here last summer—he was charming in person!—but this might be my last Sedaris book. [Read from March 1 to 2, 2014.]

i want to show you more

I first saw I Want to Show You More by Jamie Quatro in a Book Riot post a little while back, and then just happened to see it at my library so I went for it. Perfect for the “anthology” genre of my Eclectic Reader Challenge! From Goodreads:

Sharp-edged and fearless, mixing white-hot yearning with daring humor, Jamie Quatro’s debut collection is a beautiful and disquieting portrait of infidelity, faith, and family.

The hypnotically intimate, urgent stories in I Want to Show You More are about lives stretched between spirituality and sexuality in the New American South. In narrative modes ranging from the traditional to the fabulist, these stories are interconnected explorations of God, illicit sex, raising children—and running. Jamie Quatro’s stories confront us with dark theological complexities, fractured marriages, and mercurial temptations.

I’m not sure it lived up to the hype I read around it, but it was a short-story collection I enjoyed a bit more than others in the past. Quatro’s stories are connected by some overlapping characters, as well as the themes mentioned in the Goodreads blurb. There were a couple of stories that stood out to me, specifically one involving a weird dystopian marathon runner experience, “Ladies and Gentlemen of the Pavement” (reminded me of stuff I just read in The Tenth of December). “Here,” towards the beginning, was heart wrenching—about a man and his children after the death of wife/mother—but lost impact for me further into the collection when we encounter the same family a few more times. It would have worked more for me as one longer story rather than spread out as six or so shorter ones, perhaps? I couldn’t quite figure out if “Decomposition: A Primer for Promiscuous Housewives,” where husband and wife harbor  her lover’s corpse in their bed, was supposed to be literal or metaphorical, but it was intriguing. Other highlights for me were “1.7 to Tennessee,” “Better to Lose an Eye,” and “Demolition.” And while I did like the one unusual story about running, I’m not a runner so the other stories involving running were lost on me. I wanted the adultery stories to be juicier than it ultimately was—Quatro sets up them up pretty well, but they don’t quite… climax… so to speak.

I Want to Show You More is my anthology for the 2014 Eclectic Reader Challenge, and marks 2 of 12 completed on the list. 

Read from January 31 to February 1, 2014.