I don’t understand how it can possibly be September 25th. How has that happened? What on earth have I been doing for the last couple of months, because nothing in particular springs to mind. I suppose I should just console myself with the thought that whatever I’ve been doing, I have at least been reading.
Blood Magic – Tessa Gratton. This had potential but unfortunately, it never quite managed to do anything with that potential. The blood magic of the title was really interestingly drawn – messy, dangerous and not something to deal with lightly – but the plot and the characters ventured into ridiculous a lot more than I would have liked. Disappointing.
Underwater Welder – Jeff Lemire. I picked this one up after reading the Scottish Book Trust’s 6 Great Graphic Novels for the Comics Virgin (which is not the best list of introductory comics, in my opinion) and really enjoyed it. It’s both a touching exploration of what it means to be a father, and a spooky, horror-driven read.
Citizen Firefighter – Kenny Hunter & Strathclyde Fire Brigade. Citizen Firefighter is a statue that stands outside Glasgow’s Central Station. When I first arrived in the city, it struck me as some sort of post-apocalyptic warning. It’s actually a commemoration of those who serve and have served with the Strathclyde Fire Brigade, which is slightly more mundane but quite a bit more inspirational. Recently, after the tragic fire at the Glasgow School of Art, Citizen Firefighter wore a touching placard, thanking the fire brigade for the work they did in saving much of the building from destruction. This book is the story of the statue’s creation and was quite an enjoyable wee read.
Dear Mr Bigelow – Frances Woodsford. I picked this up at random from work and ended up really enjoying it. Writing to a friends’ father in America, Frances Woodsford’s letters shine a humorous light on life in England in the post-World War II period. She writes about everything from her job, to her interior decorating skills (or lack thereof), to taking part in Cold War home front training, and her warmth keeps you turning the pages.
The Dead Boy Detectives – Jill Thompson. So flipping cute! Like, seriously, unbelievably cute!
Hellblazer: Stations of the Cross – Mike Carey, Marcelo Frusin & Leonardo Manco. Still digging these, despite reading them out of order.
Uncanny X-Men: Love and Madness – Chris Claremont, John Romita Jr & Sal Buscema. These mini-reprint volumes are quite excellent. They cover a period of the X-Men that I’m not overly familiar with but really enjoy reading. Writing was so much more soap-opera-y back in these glory days, and this one covered some batshit crazy stuff with Colossus and Shadowcat (like, what the fuck, she’s 14 or something, and he’s crazy).
Ukraine Diaries: Dispatches from Kiev – Andrey Kurkov. Definitely an interesting and informative read, but somehow an unsatisfying one. It’s hard to get a clear view of what exactly is happening in Ukraine right now, and this book did help to clear that up (absolutely shit stuff that the EU should be doing more about, basically), but it all felt like it was being told from a distance so I found it difficult to connect it was reality, even though it’s clearly non-fiction. I wonder if this was a problem with the translation?
The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion. I’m still not a fan of the cover we got for this in the UK, but I did enjoy the book. If you’re looking for a light, comedic read, this is for you. There’s a sequel out soon, which I was surprised by. It’ll be interesting to see whether it detracts or adds to the original!
Deadpool, Volume 1: Dead Presidents – Brian Posehn, Gerry Duggan & Tony Moore. You guys, this was awesome! So funny! And random! And very Deadpool-y. Yay!
X-Men: No More Humans – Mike Carey & Salvadore Larroca. While I enjoyed this quite a lot, I didn’t really see the point of it. It’s basically the flipside of the ‘No More Mutants’ storyline and while the writing and artwork are excellent, you can’t get that out of your head. I’d read it again, but I’d still be thinking ‘but why does this even exist?’ Conflicted!
X-Men, Volume 2: Muertas – Brian Wood, Terry Dodson & Kristafer Anka. I hope Brian Wood can continue to make this team so awesome, I really do, because this title is so much fun. The relationships between characters are definitely one of its strong points, though I still don’t get Marvel Girl as a character. She’s in everything and yet I just can’t warm to her. But Jubilee! And M! And women villains being awesome!
Zero, Volume 1: An Emergency – Ales Kot, Michael Walsh et al. This was another one that had potential that it never fully realised. Reminiscent of Queen and Country it gets bogged down in some male-testosterone-woman-in-refrigerator bullshit. I’m unlikely to look for the second volume.
The Stranded – Mike Carey, Siddharth Kotian. A bit blah, this one, which was disappointing because it was written by Mike Carey.
Uncanny X-Men – The New Age, Volume 2: The Cruelest Cut – Chris Claremont, Alan Davis & Andy Park. I love Sage. Why on earth is she so criminally underused?
X-Men: Fallen Angels – Jo Duffy, Kerry Gammil, Marie Severin & Joe Staton. This was so crazy, in a way that only comics from the 80s can be. There’s a giant dinosaur, and a street-wise pick-pocket with a heart of (sorta) gold. There’s a kid who has a psychic connection with a pair of lobsters, and there’s Roberto Dacosta having an emo breakdown. Amazing!
Secrets at St Jude’s: New Girl – Carmen Reid. This book wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t good. The characters were horrible little rich girls, even when the author tried to give them more depth, and the plot was… uninteresting. What really annoyed me about it though is that one of the girls is sexually assaulted at one point, and everyone – EVERYONE – writes the incident off as her fault. So incredibly not cool, and definitely not the right message to be sending to girls.
X-Men vs Hulk – Christos Gage et al. I have to say, this was surprisingly enjoyable. It featured a mix of modern and slightly older stories, and made me grin more than once.
Olivia Flies High – Lyn Gardner. For me, this didn’t live up to the first title in the series. It wasn’t a bad read, but I didn’t find the characters or situations as enjoyable as in the first.
Olivia and the Movie Stars – Lyn Gardner. See above.
Olivia’s Enchanted Summer – Lyn Gardner. See above.
The Echo – James Smythe. The sequel to The Explorer and just as awesome. If you’re looking for some new sci-fi, I really recommend it.
Miss Buncle’s Book – D.E. Stevenson. I think Lianne over at caffeinatedlife.net directed my attention to this, and man am I glad that she did. It was a beautiful, slightly ridiculous, but never unbelievable, comedy of manners set in middle-England in the 20s. A definite pick-me-up type of book if anyone’s in need of that.
Olivia – Dorothy Strachey. I picked this up after reading The Guardian‘s Top 10 Boarding School Stories (no Antonia Forest? Really now?!). To be honest, I found it disappointing. The style of writing didn’t really appeal to me and it seemed like a poor version of Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay, although as a fictionalised non-fiction it’s really not a fair comparison.
Cat Among the Pigeons – Agatha Christie. This also made it into my to-be-read pile via The Guardian list and it was my first Agatha Christie! I quite enjoyed it, despite it’s ridiculousness and racism (god, so much casual racism), and I actually felt that the school bits were really well done (and quite amusing).
The Emperor of Paris – C.S. Richardson. I think this was another book picked up thanks to Lianne and while I enjoyed the fairytale elements, the general style of narration failed to draw me in, unfortunately.
The Chill – Jason Starr & Mick Bertilorenzi. I can’t express to you how awful this was. I’ve liked the other titles in this series, but The Chill managed to be offensive to catholics, the Irish and women. A big fat no to everyone involved in this.
Mystery Men – David Liss & Patrick Zircher. This was interesting, though not wholly original, read following a loose group of people with super-powers in the 30s. And really, who can read that title and not think of the excellent 1999 movie.
Bliss – Kathryn Littlewood. I picked this up at random at work and it was a surprisingly enjoyable wee kid’s book. Telling the story of a magical bakery, this book had a lot to stay about being special when you feel anything but.
84 Charing Cross – Helene Hanff. The non-fiction correspondence between an English bookseller and an American reader, this book was wonderful on so many levels. All the people involved are delightful, the humour is ever-present, and it shone light on post-World War 2 deprivations in Britain, which I found of particular interest.
The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street – Helene Hanff. The sequel to 84 Charing Cross, this was in diary format rather than letter. Just as beautiful but oh so bittersweet in so many ways.
Hellblazer: Staring at the Wall – Mike Carey, Marcelo Frusin & Doug Alexander Gregory. I’ve read Mike Carey’s run on Hellblazer horribly out of order, but that hasn’t stopped me from enjoying it, thankfully.
House of Mysteries: Love Stories for Dead People – Matthew Sturges, Luca Rossi & Jose Marzan Jr. An interesting horror-type comic. I would read another volume but I wouldn’t go out of my way to find it, if you know what I mean.
Wolverine & the X-Men, Volume 8 – Jason Aaron & Nick Bradshaw. I love when X-Men writers remember that the X-Men are based in a school and put that in the foreground, rather than hiding it away as a pesky detail. Jason Aaron’s run on this has been fantastic, and I’m sad to see it come to an end.
I came across this beautiful video a few days ago, and it immediately brought to mind Story of a Secret State by Jan Karski. Annoyingly, I can’t find any record of when I read it, even though I’m sure it was in the last few years. I think I picked it up after reading a newspaper review, but I could be making that up entirely. I studied history at school, and loved it, but what has become evident to me as an adult is that history teaches you the broad sweeps while the day-to-day often gets lost. We spent a lot of time on World War II, looking at it from different perspectives, charting its beginning and consequences, and we talked about The Emergency in Ireland (as a neutral country, we didn’t technically have a second world war). But we didn’t talk about what happened to ordinary German citizens when the Soviets moved in (see A Woman in Berlin by Anonymous), we didn’t talk about what happened to non-Jewish people in countries invaded by Germany, we didn’t talk about how badly the Allies let down Poland when the war ended, and we certainly didn’t talk about how someone told the Allies about concentration camps and they didn’t believe him.
‘I do not pretend to have given an exhaustive picture of the Polish Underground, its organization and its activities. Because of our methods, I believe that there is no one today who could give an all-embracing recital…This book is a purely personal story, my story’. Jan Karski’s 1944 war memoir is a heroic act of witness: the courageous testimony of a man who risked everything for his country. At times overwhelming in the details it reveals of the suffering of ordinary people, it is an unforgettable and deeply affecting record of brutality, courage, and survival under conditions of extreme bleakness. During the first four years of World War II, Karski worked as a messenger for the underground, risking his life in secret missions. He was captured, tortured, rescued, smuggled through a tunnel into the Warsaw ghetto and, finally, disguised himself as a guard to infiltrate a Nazi death camp. Then, travelling across occupied Europe to England, with his eye-witness report smuggled on microfilm in the handle of a razor, he became the first man to tell the Allies about the Holocaust – only to be ignored.
It’s been quite interesting reading other people’s ‘Top Ten Authors I Own the Most Books By‘. Interesting, because seeing what authors others favour is always a curiosity (so much Cassandra Clare, people…), but also because between 6 and 20 books by each author seems to have been the norm. My stats are waaaaay different!
1. Elinor M. Brent-Dyer (108)
2. Ann M. Martin (62)
3. Terry Pratchett (59)
4. L.J. Smith (42)
5. J.K. Rowling (30)
6. Peter David (27)
7. Garth Nix (20)
7. Anne Rice (20)
8. L.M. Montgomery (19)
8. Angela Brazil (19)
8. Jim Butcher (19)
9. Neil Gaiman (18)
9. Carolyn Keene (18)
10. Georgette Heyer (17)
For some, explanations are necessary: I am a cover whore. There are certain authors (sometimes, certain books), whose books I collect in various editions. Elinor M. Brent-Dyer, L.J. Smith and J.K. Rowling’s figures are all inflated because I own multiple copies of their works. Foreign covers are sometimes just awesome, you know? Sometimes I feel guilty about spending money on a book I’ve already read when I could be getting something new, but the obsession doesn’t listen to sense. As for the other authors, well, that’s just how many books they’ve written. I like a lot of writers who are prolific, to say the least (yeah, Terry Pratchett, I’m looking at you). It saddens me to see a mere eighteen titles attributed to Carolyn Keene though, as I used to have pretty much every Nancy Drew book until the sad day that my mother convinced me to donate them to the local primary school. Not cool, Mum!