Just Giblets

The rest is just gravy

22nd June 2016
by Michael

The Marvel Comics I’m Enjoying Most Right Now… #’s 11 – 15

For the next round, we have some insects, a ferocious animal, and a bunch of superheroines. We also start the parade of solo titles that I’ve been loving. Two are titles that I am genuinely surprised that I’m enjoying so much. Let’s get right down to it.

antman#15 – The Astonishing Ant-Man
Nick Spencer, writer
Ramon Rosanas, artist

I’ve always preferred Scott Lang to Hank Pym when it comes to Ant-Man, but I really wasn’t expecting to enjoy Lang’s solo-outing nearly as much as I do. Lang’s Ant-Man is a bit of a screw-up in his first solo title. He has followed his ex-wife and daughter to Miami, started his own shaky security firm populated by ex-super villains, and found himself working for his ex-girlfriend Darla Deering, once a teammate on the Fantastic Four under the identity of Miss Thing. His daughter Cassie, formerly the Young Avengers known as Stature has come back from the dead, lost her powers and his very angry at her father for stalking her. Now she finds herself on the wrong side of the law with a new set of super-powers with her Dad trying to save her.

Nick Spencer hits a fun tone in Astonishing Ant-Man, mixing family drama with pratfall humor. Scott is such a mess that you can’t help root for him. He loves his daughter and tries so hard to be a hero that you just want to shake him every time he makes a questionable decision. Spencer makes Lang a lovable guy who tries really hard but can’t really catch many breaks. He does a great job with Lang’s supporting cast as well. From Cassie, to Darla, to his sad sack security team, to the Beetle, a new incarnation of the super-villain with whom he has slept with a couple times against his better judgement. Ramon Rosanas’ art is sleek and accessible, handle the size changing superheroes with dramatic flair.  Here’s hoping Lang’s bad luck doesn’t cross over into the sales for this title, which deserves a lengthy run.

spiderwoman#14 – Spider-Woman
Dennis Hopeless, writer
Javier Rodriguez, artist

How I loved Spider-Woman in the 70’s. And I do thank Brian Bendis for bringing her back… but didn’t really enjoy his take on her. But now Dennis Hopeless has reimagined Jessica Drew as a pragmatic heroine… who has a baby! What a fun and unexpected twist for our heroine, and one that brings a little mystery and a lot of humor into her life. It’s true, when Spider-Woman first appeared in the 70’s, humor wasn’t really part of her ouevre. Yet it suits her, especially with Hopeless’ quirky take on her, and keeping her large network of heroic (and sometimes villainous) friends. I also enjoy her mentor relationship with the two newest spider-ladies in the Marvel Universe (Spider-Gwen and Silk). It allows Jessica to grapple with her uncertainty around her heroic role, yet tap into the extensive experience she has amassed over the years.

Javier Rodriguez is a great artistic pairing for Jessica’s new style. Her costume has been reimagined, the book has bold, clean lines, and the colors fairly leap off the page. The first arc of Spider-Woman’s title by Hopeless focuses on her pregnancy and her unorthodox labor. I’m looking forward to see where her creative team takes her now that the baby is born, and perhaps the mystery of the father is brought to light. Welcome back, Jessica, it’s been way too long.

Black Widow#13 – Black Widow
Chris Samnee & Mark Waid, writers
Chris Samnee, artist

Natasha Romanoff, aka, The Black Widow, is finally getting the attend she deserves, thanks possibly in part, because of the high profile nature of her role in the Avengers films. Natasha has such a long, complicated history with so many appearances in so many team and solo books since her debut in the pages of Iron Man in the 60’s. Taking up the threads established by Marjorie Liu and Nathan Edmondson in her previous series, Black Widow’s solo adventures are much more of the spy variety than standard superheroics. Mark Waid and Chris Samnee just completed a very successful run on Daredevil, and their style suits the Widow nicely. They kick the series off with a full-throttle, suspenseful opener that never lets up the pace. They’ve put Natasha in a very dangerous situation, one that she overcomes in her own deadly style.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the last two Widow series over the past few years. And I suspect this one will also be great. So far it hasn’t matched the outstanding work Edmondson had been delivering, thus it’s double digit appearance on this list. I’m hoping that once Waid and Samnee get deeper into their story, that this title might move up on my list.

A-Force#12 – A-Force
Kelly Thompson w/ G. Willow Wilson, writers
Jorge Malina, artist

After Cullen Bunn’s ambitious, yet failed attempt at an all-super-heroine team in Fearless Defenders, I was worried that A-Force, an all-super-heroine team of Avengers that got its debut as a miniseries during the Secret Wars arc, might fare the same. Yet, G. Willow Wilson hot off her work with Ms. Marvel, seems to have a success on her hands so far. Now in their own series, the kick-ass heroines of Earth 616 – She-Hulk, Medusa, Captain Marvel, Dazzler, Nico Minoru and Singlarity –  band together again for the very first time. What’s that you say? Together again for the first time? Well the characters in the A-Force limited series were plucked from various realities and weren’t the heroines that are getting together here, but when one of your members is a sentient pocket universe, these things are possible.

Even without one of my favorites, Medusa, prominently featured, it’s a no-brainer that I would be interested in a team of super-heroines, but A-Force shows promise regardless of my pre-disposition to love it. Thompson and Wilson are taking their time developing the group into a team and fleshing out the individual members. They plan to have a variety of characters guest star, which will be a lot of fun. The tension/dynamic between three strong leaders, Medusa, Captain Marvel and She-Hulk, is fun. Malina’s artwork is good, clean and attractive, but doesn’t wow me. I suppose this would be much closer to the top of the list if it didn’t feel a little rushed, or dig a little deeper. Hopefully once A-Force settles into its groove, that will happen.

All-New Wolverine#11 – All-New Wolverine
Tom Taylor, writer
David Lopez & David Navarrot, artists

Never in my wildest imagination did I ever think a Wolverine comic would end up hovering around the bottom of my top 10 Marvel books being published. Even with Laura Kinney, the former X-23, now acting as the All-New Wolverine did I ever expect a Wolverine title to be so darn enjoyable! Tom Taylor has breathed new life into the tired Wolverine mythos by creating stories about a young, female clone of Wolverine, struggling with her humanity, and basically invulnerable due to her healing factor. In her new solo title, Laura has partnered with such unlikely heroes as Dr. Strange and Janet Van Dyne, the Wasp, as well as her boyfriend, Angel, from the all-new X-Men already, and seeing her work with these disparate heroes has been a lot of fun. Now she has taken an even younger clone of herself under her wing, forcing her to make even more responsible choices in an effort to set a good example.

Taylor has developed a strong character in Laura Kinney, someone who hasn’t been around all that long, yet has already amassed significant experience in the Marvel Universe. She carries on a legacy of the lost Logan, and seeks to honor him by adopting his identity. he art by David Lopez and David Navarrot has an intensity that matches the young heroine. Now it’s time to see some of Wolverine’s rogues gallery to make an appearance to square off against the “all-new Wolverine.”

See you soon with the Top 10!

posted in Comics, Favorites | at 6:03 pm | 0 Comments
16th June 2016
by Michael

The Marvel Comics I’m Enjoying Most Right Now… #’s 15 – 20

After being inspired by this article in Past Magazine, I started assembling my Top 10 list of Marvel Comics that I’m currently enjoying. What I discovered is, I’m actually really digging about 20 of their titles (and reading about 30 — not a bad ratio). I made a couple of surprising discoveries when compiling this list. I’ve always been a big fan of team books. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that our of my Top 20 reads, 14 were solo titles! And of the seven team books I am enjoying, only one is in the Top 10. The reason for this leads to my next surprising discovery. I’ve always enjoyed team books more than solo books because, as you all know, I read comics mainly for the superheroines. Historically, you’d only find superheroines in team books like the X-Men or the Avengers. You might find one or two solo titles about a superhoine, but they usually didn’t last too long. Shockingly, 10 of my Top 20 Marvel titles I’m enjoying right now are solo books about superheroines! It’s really unprecedented, and I am thrilled. I guess Marvel finally figured out that girls read comics too.

captainmarvel#20 – Captain Marvel
Michele Fazekas & Tara Butters, writers
Kris Anka & Felipe Smith, artists

As a superheroine-loving, comic-reading youth, I was very excited when Marvel clumsily embraced the women’s liberation movement in the 70’s, publishing titles like The Cat, Night Nurse, and somewhat more successfully, Spider-Woman and Ms. Marvel. Carol Danvers, a/k/a/ Ms. Marvel, was an interesting character, and fit right in the mold of what a big comic book company thought a 70’s liberated woman should be. After her title was cancelled, she showed up in the Avengers and the X-Men, and proceeded to have her life ripped apart and over the decades, put back together. And while I’ve always liked her okay, I’ve never really taken to Ms. Marvel. Except for her first run in The Avengers, when she was actually kind of playful — flirting with Wonder Man, teasing Captain America — she always came across as a little flat. Chris Claremont did some work with her after she had her powers stripped from her and her memories wiped by Rogue in a classic Avengers Annual, subsequently boosting her powers to cosmic levels and changing her name to Binary. Kurt Busiek tried to mix it up a little by having her struggle with alcohol when he brought the Avengers back to popularity. Then Marvel decided that Carol, now called Captain Marvel, needed to be their flagship heroine; a character to rival Wonder Woman, and they started pushing her in solo titles again.

I really wanted to love her first solo outing written by the talented Kelly Sue DeConnick but could never really fully embrace it. Part of that was Dexter Soy’s unconventional, and in my eyes, unattractive artwork. So after a while, I stopped reading it. Recently she got a new creative team, Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters who relaunched her series with Carol as the commander of Alpha Flight, housed on a space station and protecting the earth from interstellar threats. Her supporting cast includes Sasquatch, Aurora and Puck, former members of the Canadian team, Alpha Flight, with some lovely, streamlined art by Kris Anka and Felipe Smith. The combination is working. The stories are fun, Carol in getting more interesting to me again, and hopefully, this trend will continue. I really want to love Captain Marvel. maybe soon I will.

#1ultimates9 – Ultimates
Al Ewing, writer
Kenneth Rocafort, artist

After the universe reshaping that took place in Secret Wars, the Ultimates came together to monitor and protect the earth from major cosmic disturbances. Their first mission was to stop the planet-destroying habits of Galactus, so you know they mean business. With that in mind, the team packs some major power with a membership that includes Blue Marvel, Black Panther, Spectrum, Captain Marvel and Ms. America, with Galactus as a sort of unofficial member. It’s also an amazingly diverse team with not a single caucasian man in sight. Much of my enjoyment of Ultimates comes from this unconventional line-up. Female-heavy, and featuring Monica Rambeau, aka Spectrum, was also a major-enticement. But Ewing does a great job in thinking big in terms of storyline and is creative in his solutions.

Take his first storyline, when the Ultimates decide to tackle the problem of Galactus. Their solution isn’t to destroy him, or stop his insatiable hunger. Instead, they use their brains and their considerable power to change his fundamental nature from world-destroyer to life-bringer. It’s a bold, and surprising move in comics, and has made for some pretty damn entertaining stories.

squadron#18 – Squadron Supreme
James Robinson, writer
Leonard Kirk, artist

Originally created as Marvel’s version of the Justice League and hailing from a parallel earth, James Robinson has reimagined the team as a band of heroes assembled from multiple parallel earths that have all been destroyed. The team holds the Illuminati responsible, and their primary mission, when not helping humanity, is revenge against those who destroyed their homeworlds. In fact, in one of their first missions, they successfully kill Namor, the Sub Mariner. Each member represents the core team of the original Squadron Supreme, including Hyperion, Nighthawk, Doctor Spectrum, Whizzer, and Power Princess. I’ve always enjoyed the Squadron Supreme, but it was the inclusion of Thundra, who hooked up with the team after a few issues, that inspired me to follow the book.

Fortunately, Robinson has set the team up with an intriguing mission, one that is justified, if misguided, and also puts them into opposition of the heroes on our earth. It’s difficult to know how long he will be able to maintain this mission, and how things will evolve longer-term, but with early revelations of a team-traitor, and the addition of Thundra, things are already starting to evolve.

uinhumans#17 – Uncanny Inhumans
Charles Soule, writer
Steve McNiven, Brandon Petersen, Kev Walker, artists

I’ve always been a big fan of the Inhuman Royal Family, particularly Medusa, who is my second favorite super-heroine after the Invisible Woman. Medusa has gotten a lot of play in the past few years, which I really appreciate, but now that Black Bolt is back, I feared Medusa would be taking a back seat to her hubby. Fortunately, so far, that’s not happening. While Uncanny Inhumans hasn’t quite lived up to my hopes for the title; it’s a pretty standard book, it is resolving some dropped threads from the past: like what ever happened to Medusa and Black Bolt’s son, Ahura. That opening arc, which also involved Kang the Conqueror, was a great start, but the book has been floundering a bit since then with a few transitional issues that will hopefully lead into something big coming up. The addition of the Human Torch as the human liaison to the Inhumans is intriguing, but his relationship with Medusa seems a bit more like a plot device.

Still, I have high hopes for this ongoing spotlight on one of Marvel’s quirkier ideas from the 60’s. Marvel Entertainment has put the Inhumans movie on hold, which is a shame, but they’re getting commercial time on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Medusa is certainly getting a lot of face time between this title and A-Force, which will appear a little bit later on this list. So my hopes remain high, and I am enjoying the Inhumans time in the spotlight.

aninhumans#16 – All-New Inhumans
James Asmus & Charles Soule, writers
Stefano Caselli, artist

Speaking of the Inhumans, what about all those other Inhumans, including all the new ones created by the Terrigen mists, that don’t fit into Uncanny Inhumans? Marvel has created a second team, this one led by Crystal, arguably one of the most popular of the Royal Family, who is occasionally forgotten about when dealing with the Inhumans. Surprisingly, I’m enjoying All-New Inhumans a little more than the Uncanny version. This group of Inhumans has a very targeted mission — protecting all the new Inhumans created by the Terrigen Cloud that has now having affects worldwide. All-New Inhumans covers some interesting moral ground as the team, nominally on a diplomatic mission wherever they go, uncover all sorts of disturbing behavior around the explosion of new Inhumans.

Marvel has always had a tough time creating new Inhumans beyond the Royal Family and having them stick. Both All-New and Uncanny Inhumans is doing a pretty good job with this, giving them some strong characterization and more to do (Sean McKeever’s brief series in the early 2000’s about a younger group of Inhumans being an exception. Would love to see some of those characters again.) The fact that Charles Soule is involved with both Inhumans’ series is good, allowing for strong continuity and interplay. I just hope that Marvel isn’t going to continue with the idea of Inhumans replacing mutants in their universe, because those stories have already been written for decades. It’s time to try something new.

Okay, things start to get really interesting from here. You can see that most of the team books are in this group, surprising, as they tend to be my favorites. Also notable about those teams is that they’re all pretty much led by women (except for Ultimates, and the leadership there is debatable.)  Lots of good stuff from Marvel these days. Hope the quality continues.

posted in Comics, Favorites | at 10:15 am | 0 Comments
14th June 2016
by Michael

The Marvel Comics I’m Enjoying Most Right Now – Or Was…

Both Marvel and DC are transforming again. It’s something they do every nine months or so. Sometimes more. It gets old. But at the same time, I read a post on some comics site that listed the best Marvel comics out right now, and I realized that I agreed with many of the picks on this list, and that there were actually quite a few Marvel Comics being published at the moment that I was really enjoying. Since I don’t really use this blog anymore except for my year-end best books list, I thought why not share my mid-year best comics list? And here we are…

But before I launch into this list, I had to mention two titles that are not currently being published, so it would be against the rules to include them on my list. That said, when they were being published, they were definitely in my Top 6 or 7 Marvel books out there. The good news, is that one will be coming back… transformed a bit… very soon, and the other will turn up again in the near future as well.

lokiLoki: Agent of Asgard
Al Ewing, writer
Lee Garbett, Artist

I’m not generally a fan of comic titles centered around “villains.” I came late to Loki’s starring role. In the pages of Thor, the heroes arch-nemesis, his half-brother Loki, god of lies, ends up being reborn. His tales as a pre-teen were told in Kieron Gillen’s Journey Into Mystery title. After reading consistent great reviews of the comic, I picked it up, fell in love, and have been reading about Loki’s adventures in various titles ever since. Now aged to a young adult, befriended by a mortal named Verity, who can see through lies, acting more as an anti-hero… or even (gasp) a hero, than the traditional villain he has always played, and now working as an agent of Asgard, his mystical homeworld on command by the all-Mother, rulers of the gods, he wrestles with his future self, that traditional, purveyor of evil that whose shadow all his actions fall beneath.

Ewing’s Loki is conflicted and charming, smart and cunning, but not so trustworthy when it all comes down to it. His journey has him evolving from a god of lies, to a god of stories, which is a lot less judgmental, but still has the ability to swing both ways… morality-wise. Sadly, Loki got caught up in the whole rebirth of the Marvel Universe business and his title was suspended. The good news, is that this week, Loki returns in a new title called Vote Loki, where the god of stories take on the role that he was born to embrace… political candidate for President of the United States.

hawkeyeAll-New Hawkeye
Jeff Lemire, writer
Ramón Pérez, artist

After writer David Aja’s ongoing Hawkeye series turned Clint Barton, the avenging archer from an heroic superhero, to a down-on-his-luck hero of the people, and paired him up with the younger, better(?) Hawkeye, Kate Bishop Jeff Lemire followed up with a story that combined a future adventure with the present, when the two estranged Hawkeyes meet up after years on their own to correct a mistake they made around three powerfully mutated children who kill with their minds.

Both Aja and Lemire knew how to make Barton and Bishop unique and fascinating, with their two heroes sharing both a mutual admiration and attraction that was sweet without being icky. They tackled serious subjects with a hefty dose of tongue-in-cheek, dry humor that suited their protagonists perfectly. Both Hawkeyes found themselves rising up from B-list cult favorites, to A-list cult favorites and proved once again, that you don’t need super powers to be a true hero.

posted in Comics, Favorites | at 11:03 pm | 0 Comments
3rd February 2016
by Michael

Best Books Read in 2015 – #’s 2 & 1

2015 was a good year for speculative fiction, with four out of the top 5 books I read this year coming under the science fiction/fantasy/horror genres. My top 2 books feature a favorite author, and one I’ve been meaning to read for years, and finally did. And they’re both named Nei/al.

#Trigger Warning2 – Trigger Warning: Short Fictions & Disturbances by Neil Gaiman

Has Neil Gaiman ever disappointed? I can’t say that he has, and this collection of short stories continues that streak. Using a title that was born from the internet to alert readers/viewers etc. to potentially offensive/disturbing content, Mr. Gaiman ponders the idea that his own work would one day bear the label, “trigger warning.” Good fiction should challenge the reader, often disturbing, scaring, challenging us. This collection certainly succeeds on that level.

Ranging from re-imagined fairy tales, Holmes’ tales, or Dr. Who stories, to several ruminations on death, memory and love, Gaiman’s stories reel you in with fanciful flights of imagination, then grab you somewhere startling and potentially upsetting. The result is delight, and a terrific read that will keep you pondering what your own personal trigger might be.

 

Seveneves#3 – Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

When the moon explodes scientists soon predict that the resulting debris burning in the earth’s atmosphere will eliminate all life on earth in a couple of years. The majority of Stephenson’s nearly 900 page book follows the urgent, yet tenuous plan for an ark to small habitats to be constructed around an existing space station to save the brightest of humanity to one day repopulate the human race. The latter portion of this epic jumps forward 5000 years too explore what has become of the human race in a way that rivals the space epics of Frank Herbert or Mary Gentle.

Stephenson spins a riveting tale by blending a space thriller with a deft character study, exploring the character traits that may ultimately form the basis of humanity. While 900 pages is a daunting task, the book never drags, and urges you to keep reading to see how the characters will overcome the herculean obstacles that inevitably end up in their path. This is my first Neal Stephenson novel… I guess it’s finally time to read Snow Crash.

posted in 2015, Books, Lists | at 11:18 pm | 1 Comment
23rd January 2016
by Michael

Best Books Read in 2015 – #’s 4 & 3

A debut novel and the first of two short story collections take the #4 & #3 spots on this year’s Best Books Read in 2015. And the #3 book is the second book by Simon Van Booy to appear in the Top 10! Nice work, Simon!

Join#4 – Join by Steve Toutonghi

Steve Toutonghi’s debut novel, Join is a lovely piece of speculative fiction that explores a near future that explores the next phase of humanity and how the changes to the race have dire impact to the planet itself. In an unspecified future, individualism has a whole different look as more and more people chose to join. Small groups of people merge minds into a single consciousness while retaining their physical bodies, allowing them to experience life through multiple bodies, and in affect, living forever, for while individual bodies die, the consciousness remains alive in the Join. While much of humanity has chosen to live this way, there are still solos living individual lives either by choice, or because the process is more than they can afford.

But even as humanity moves toward its next phase of life, the planet itself is in grave environmental peril. Worse, Chance, a join of five, stumbles upon the existence of a potentially mad, and decidedly murderous abomination called Rope. Meanwhile Chance’s friend Leap finds itself in grave peril from a rare condition that only affects Joins. Chance and Leap must find a way to save Leap, while avoiding the terrifying fate that could await them both through Rope’s machinations.

Reminiscent of recent work by David Mitchell and Neal Stephenson, Steve Toutonghi has created a fascinating future for humanity, all the while exploring the concepts of individuality and immortality, posing questions with no easy answers.

 

Tales of Accidental Geinus#3 – Tales of Accidental Genius by Simon Van Booy

Simon Van Booy writes beautiful books filled with deep longing and transcendent love. He is also a keen observer of human nature, from different points of view, ages, and backgrounds. His novels are lush and thought-provoking, but his short stories are masterful. Mr. Van Booy follows the great Alice Munro in the examination of human nature.

In his latest collection of stories, Simon travels around the world to provide the rich tapestry that make up his character. England, Nigeria, Beijing and New Jersey are among the backdrops that form these tales. He explores the nature of poverty and invention in ‘Golden Helper II: An Epic Fable of Wealth, Loneliness, and Cycling,’ and unspools a tender act of human kindness in ‘The Goldfish.’

I always look forward to Simon’s carefully constructed tales, and Tales of Accidental Genius adds another beautiful chapter in his literary body of work.

posted in 2015, Books, Year-end lists | at 12:25 pm | 0 Comments
21st January 2016
by Michael

Best Books Read in 2015 – #’s 6 & 5

Here’s where really start to cook. The last six books on my list were all outstanding, in so many ways. Lots of speculative fiction this year, which is always a treat, as well as two titles by a favorite author.

Father's Day#6 Father’s Day by Simon Van Booy

Simon Van Booy’s forthcoming novel is a gentle look at a woman’s relationship with her father. Harvey is a commercial artist living in Paris. Her father, Jason, is coming for to visit for the first time, and as she carefully prepares a father’s day present that will recall milestones in their relationships, she worries about how he will react. While Harvey and Jason reunite in Paris, their life stories simultaneously unfold, with more than one twist in the mix.

In some ways this is a very straightforward novel for Van Booy. The language he uses is less lush, and more direct than some of his previous work. That sumptuous quality of language suited Van Booy’s gorgeous stories of love and longing between adults, but the love shared between a parent and child is more rooted in need and care, and the straightforward style he adopts works well for these characters. My one criticism revolves around the final and arguably the most vital twist to the tale which happens in the last 15 pages of the book It’s one of those moments where you stop and think back over characters’ motivations and decisions in a different light. In this case, I haven’t decided if it served the overall story all that well. Still, Simon’s a favorite writer of mine, and I will go on whatever ride he takes me on, and this one was overall, quite lovely.

The Just City#5 The Just City by Jo Walton

Jo Walton certainly doesn’t repeat herself. After scoring big with Among Others, a tale of a young girl with magical powers of the fairy, then moving onto My Real Children, which explored the alternate realities that show the different paths our lives can take, she now tackles Plato’s Republic in this delightful, philosophical fantasy, The Just City.

When the Greek God Apollo vents his frustration to Athene at having the nymph Daphne pray to Artemis to be turned into a tree rather than be caught by Apollo for a sexual tryst, he learns of Athene’s plans to conduct an experiment, creating Plato’s Just City, referred to in his work, Republic. Athene collects a couple hundred philosophers from across time, all of whom have read Plato’s Republic, and also prayed to Athene. They will be the governing body of this city at first, but then they will harvest ten thousand children, lost souls who were being sold as slaves.

Apollo gets in the game by giving up his godly powers and being born incarnate as a human boy and joining the ranks of children being raised in Plato’s Just City. He befriends Simmea, a brilliant young girl who is destined to be one of the gold philosopher-kings of the Just City (or at least give birth to one) and together with a controversial late recruit, Socrates, change the course of Athene’s experiment in dramatic ways.

Walton is an exceptional writer, with much of her latest novel coming in the form of debate and rhetoric. There is a lot of philosophy here, and lots of wonderfully delightful and original writing. Through Plato, Walton explores the role of women in society over history, relationships, both platonic and erotic, slavery and free will, and machine intelligence, just to name a few topics. I highly recommend all of Walton’s works, and this one is no exception

posted in Nonsense | at 8:50 am | 0 Comments
20th January 2016
by Michael

Best Books Read in 2015 – #’s 8 & 7

Contemporary fiction with female leads — some might call it women’s fiction. For me, I’m just more interested in stories about women, and these next two novels were definitely very interesting! Lydia Millet and Jojo Noyes come in at #’s 8 & 7 respectively.

 Mermaids in Paradise#8 – Mermaids in Paradise by Lydia Millet

Lydia Millet has constructed a complex novel that still serves as a light-hearted, entertaining read while exploring deeper issues along with protagonist, Deb.

While honeymooning in the British Virgin Islands, Deb & Chip find themselves among a small group of tourists who inadvertently discover the existence of real mermaids. Despite their best attempts to share their discovery in a responsible way, various factions such as the tourism industry and religious zealots threaten to turn this spectacular scientific discovery into something frightening or even murderous.

Millet weaves a narrative that includes ironic humor, modern romance, and speculative fiction that works on every level. The slyly subversive ending puts a unique spin on the novel as a whole.

One Plus One#7 – One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

Jojo Moyes writes romantic comedies that have a bit of a bite and earn any sentimentality that they display. In ONE PLUS ONE, Jess is a hard-working single mom who cleans houses to try to make ends meet. Her daughter Tanzie is at that awkward pre-teen stage, but she is a math wiz beyond compare. She also cares for her ex-husband’s son, Nicky, who is awkward and sensitive, and often the victim of local bullies.

When an opportunity arises that could lead to Tanzie attending an exclusive private school, Jess finds herself with no alternative than to depend on Ed, a wealthy man whose house she cleaned. Ed has hit a rough patch himself, but he finds himself drawn into Jess’s family drama and the two reluctantly find themselves drawn to each other. But life is rarely smooth, despite Jess’ eternal optimism, and the roadblocks these two face are large.

The emotions shared by these characters, both positive and negative, don’t come cheaply and are beautifully played out. This is a fun book to read that will make you laugh and make you cry. It’s got real chops and I highly recommend it.

posted in 2015, Authors, Books, Year-end lists | at 7:32 am | 0 Comments
19th January 2016
by Michael

Best Books Read in 2015 – #’s 10 & 9

After Alice#10 – After Alice by Gregory Maguire

Gregory Maguire has an extensive bibliography, but he has made a name for himself by reinterpreting certain important fairy tales and other works of fantasy, most notably, the Oz books by L. Frank Baum. He returns to this milieu with After Alice, an inventive and enjoyable read that posits, “what if Alice wasn’t the only little girl to tumble down the rabbit hole?”

In an effort to elude her harried governess, young Ada pursues her friend Alice right down the rabbit hole. She then proceeds to have an adventurous afternoon with many of the characters made famous by Alice’s journey as she tries to find her friend and somehow return home. Meanwhie, Alice’s sister Lydia must deal with her household… a widower father, the cranky staff, a some visitors, including the handsome Mr. Winters, and Charles Darwin himself. Add to that Ada’s harried governess who is frantically trying to find her charge, and the fact that Lydia realizes that her sister is missing as well, and it’s hard to tell which young lady’s adventures are more madcap.

Love May Fail#9 – Love May Fail by Matthew Quick
You might accuse Matthew Quick of the same sentimentality that protagonist Portia Kane is slammed for in reviews of her first novel in Love May Fail. But while Quick explores redemption and optimism, his lovely novel is heartfelt, complex, and a delight to read. I often say, “Just because a movie/book makes my cry, doesn’t mean it’s any good,” can also be written as, “Just because a movie/book makes me cry, doesn’t mean it’s not good.” Love May Fail explores the idea of the human spirit returning from crushing blows to contribute beauty and joy to the world. A theme that may sound trite, but in Quick’s hand is powerful and rewarding.

Told from four different points of view, Quick inhabits each convincingly. His supporting characters, particularly a particularly strident nun, add color and depth to an already entertaining read. Love May Fail picks up the strands of The Good Luck of Right Now in creating complex, damaged characters who struggle to do better, and sometimes fail, but often succeed. Love May Fail will hopefully restore, or remind the reader of the power of humanity.

 

posted in Nonsense | at 8:45 am | 0 Comments
18th January 2016
by Michael

2015, The Year in Books — a Few Observations and a Stellar Ongoing Series

2015 was not a good year when it comes to me and reading. I read the lowest number of books in 2015 that I can remember. Honestly, I barely broke 20, including two plays and two graphic novels. I plan on doing better in 2016, but if the beginning of January is any indication, I’m not off to a good start!

Science/Speculative Fiction and short stories did well in 2015, and a couple of favorite authors released new books. No non-fiction this year, and sadly, no books about bees. The good thing is that nearly all the books I read this year were good reads.

Before launching into my Top 10 I would like to mention those books that didn’t make the list, but are worth reading, then call out a fantastic continuing collected edition that I’m not including in the list because of the serial nature, but is always a great read.

howHow to be both by Ali Smith – Ali Smith’s complex novel explores relationships and art. It transcends time and space, bringing together a young woman in contemporary times who recently lost her mother and is trying to make sense of her life through a particular little-known painting that she loved; and the original artist of that painting whose story unfolds in a unique manner, paralleling that of the main character.

 

 

Worlds Gone ByWorld gone by by Dennis Lehane – Dennis Lehane wraps up his Joe Coughlin stories with a visceral burst of blood and crime in World Gone By. Is there honor among thieves? This is a moral conundrum that Lehane tackles firmly in his latest, finely written novel. Family is at the heart of World Gone By, as Joe still reels from the loss of his wife ten years past, and struggles to raise his son in a dangerous world that he claims to have retired from.

 

MeatspaceMeatspace byNikesh Shukla – Nikesh Shukla has created a fun, fast-paced tale for this latest generation, the one that lives their entire life online. Meatspace refers to the real world, the one where people interact face-to-face, and where things can get messy, complicated and emotional. The novel and its revelations unfold relatively smoothly, and Shukla’s voice is authentic and captivating. If there is one flaw it’s that Kitab’s struggle with his doppelganger goes on one round too long, and because of that, Aziz’s journey occasionally eclipses Kitab’s, but it all wraps together beautifully in the end.

 

LandlineLandline by Rainbow Rowell – Sweet romantic novel about Georgie, who gets a chance for her big break in comedy writing for her own television show, even as her marriage veers dangerously close to going off the rails. While at times Landline feels little formulaic or trite, there is some real emotion behind the writing, and author Rainbow Rowell has a good command of language that makes this entertaining read a little more than a diverting trifle.

 

The Buried GiantThe Buried Giant – Kazuo Ishiguro – Kazuo Ishiguro tackles fantasy to tell this parable about the benefits of time erasing pain and betrayal, yet sometimes having a more difficult time with vengeance and retribution. Ishiguro starts off slow, but as the journey ensues, and the purpose of the quest starts to take shape, The Buried Giant takes on a powerful momentum, until its inexorable and sobering conclusion.

 

 

A Reunion of GhostsA Reunion of Ghosts – Judith Claire Mitchell – Despite the dark themes running through her novel, Mitchell is funny, and the distinct voices of Lady, Vee and Delph are funny too. Added to the humor and the family drama, there’s some rich history woven into this novel, with the afore-mentioned great-grandfather being a brilliant scientist and contemporary of Albert Einstein, who is a character in the family story. Mitchell weaves these elements together skillfully creating a novel that’s both fun and sobering.

 

Saga, Voume 5Also read this year were the next two volumes of Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples’ outstanding ongoing series, Saga. While the saga of Saga continues to be compelling, complex, entertaining and gorgeous, there comes that point in every ongoing series where the dramatic tension starts to seem forced, and situations are set up that have a slight feeling of, what can we do to our protagonists next? Fortunately, Vaughn is a talented enough writer to keep writing great stories even if the larger story arc start to buckle a little.

In volume 4, Hazel is now a toddler and narrating a difficult time in her parents’ lives. Marko and Alana, members of two warring races, find their relationship drifting apart as they try to keep food on the table. Meanwhile, their enemies draw closer, and their friends prove unreliable

Saga, Volume 4Volume five sees the completion of Yuma’s time in the series, and that’s too bad. She was a fascinating
character, both visually and storywise, and I’ll miss her.

All-in-all, despite a slight dip from 5 to 4 stars, it’s hard to argue that Saga is one of the best ongoing series out there. And with only five volumes in, you can easily catch up.

 

And one final comment about the JustGiblets blog in general. I notice that nothing has been posted for the year between my round-up of the best books of 2014, and now. Guess that means the blog is pretty much dead?  Or maybe I’ll try to be more active this year.  Only time will tell. Check back for my Top 10 books read in 2015.

posted in 2015, Books | at 11:39 am | 0 Comments
10th February 2015
by Michael

2014, the Year in Books, #1

My top book of 2014 snuck up on me. I read it early in the year, and while I loved it, I wasn’t really expecting it to be at the very top of my list this year. But as I reflected back, I realized that it totally deserved that top spot, for it’s imaginative creation of a society that is based on science and nature, for the intricate plotting, for the gorgeous characterization… and all of that done with a hive of bees.

]The Bees#1 – The Bees by Laline Paull

Accept. Obey. Serve.

Laline Paull takes us into the life of a beehive in her extraordinary novel, The Bees where we learn what it means to live that mantra. Flora is a singular hero, born to Laline Paullthe lowest caste in the hive hierarchy, there is something special about her. It’s something that’s valued by some of her sisters, and feared by others.

As Flora moves about the hive, transcending her class, we learn all about how the colony operates, all the while thrilling to the search for food by foragers, the defense of the hive from predators like wasps and other fearsome threats, and navigating the internal politics set in motion to insure the hive’s survival. Suspense, intrigue, romance, heroism, mystery, drama, humor… this one has it all.

posted in 2014, Authors, Books, Year-end lists | at 5:36 pm | 0 Comments
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