Alchemical Thoughts

(Crossposted from The Itinerant Librarian)

We come to the last post in the 2014 Holiday Post series. Tomorrow is Three Kings Day (also known as Epiphany to many), so for Puerto Ricans like me we are still in holiday spirit (unlike other quitters who took down the Christmas three on the 26th of December). Anyhow, I like ending the year looking back a bit. I will say 2014 is a year that I am glad to leave behind. From losses in the family to terrible news nationally and around the world, it is a year I won’t miss much. When I do this post, I try not to pass on just the usual stories. Let’s have a bit of fun with it I say. So, here we go: what the hell happened in 2014?

News

Because we still feel like we have to recall the news

  • Mother Jones has a nice compilation of the biggest news stories of 2014 in photos. If you don’t want to read a lot and get the power of photos, this may be for you.
  • Getting the news via The Daily Show is a tradition for many smart folks by now. Here is a year in review using Daily Show clips. Story via TruthDig.
  • John Oliver is fast becoming another source of serious news and commentary. You know the state of journalism is down the toilet when the best journalism right now more often than not comes from the comedians. Anyhow, here are some of Oliver’s best rants. From student loans to Ferguson to Net Neutrality, John Oliver not only said it, but said it well and showed he was well informed, unlike every other so-called journalist out there. Story also via TruthDig.
  • Overall, as Mark Fiore points out, it was a “year in crazy.”

 

Civil Rights and Equality

2014 was not a good year for civil rights, equality, and progressive politics. Sure, there were some good points, but there were also a lot of very bad things.

 

Money, Dinero, Moolah, Benjamins. . .

Whether it was the bad economy or money in politics, moolah was in the news quite a bit.

Pop Culture

It is not an end of year compilation without some pop culture stuff.

 

And there we have it, a small sampling of what the hell happened in 2014. Thanks for reading. As always any and all comments are welcomed (within reason). Also stay tuned to my end of year reading report, coming up soon.

 

My goodness. Life has really been happening, which means I have not been able to keep up here. Among other things, over the summer, I took part in the Appalachian Tour the college I work for sponsors for faculty and staff (I will eventually post my blog posts about that experience. I can tell you that I learned a lot), and then the fall academic semester started. Once the semester started, it was warp speed. Life happened. So, for the next few posts, I will be catching up on my lists of books reviewed for the month. As noted before, these were the reviews I managed to put up over at The Itinerant Librarian in a given month. It does not reflect what I read, which is often more than what I list. Anyhow, feel free to check these reviews out, and if any of the books interest you, go check them out. If you do check out any of the books, let me know, leave a comment. I am always interested in seeing what other folks read. Links in book titles go to the reviews.

 

 

I fell a little behind this month on getting this up, but here it is. Remember, these are the books I reviewed during the month of May of 2014 on my personal blog, The Itinerant Librarian. This does not reflect necessarily everything I read last month. As always, if any of my readers read one of these, feel free to come back and comment. Links go to the review unless otherwise noted.

  • If you are a Star Wars reader, you may be interested in Joe Schrieber’s Star Wars: Maul: Lockdown. This author is also know for his Star Wars novels Death Troopers and Red Harvest, both of which I have read. My reviews to those are found at this review as well.
  • Like erotica? Do you enjoy oral sex (practicing it or reading about it, or perhaps both)? Then this can be the book for you. Rachel Kramer Bussel edits Going Down: Oral Sex Stories. The editor has chosen a variety of stories that showcase a diversity of ways to find enjoyment in that most intimate form: oral sex.
  • Like spy thrillers? Enjoy science fiction? Then you might want to give Zero, Volume 1: An Emergency a try.
  • For this thief, it started with stealing a mask as a prank. Check out my review of Dream Thief, Volume 1. John Lincoln, unemployed, messed up, with a dysfunctional girlfriend, and now having strange dreams, is not doing well.
  • The folks at Zenescope re-envision The Wizard of Oz in their Grimm Fairy Tales: Oz. Dorothy has certainly grown up, and she is kicking butt.
  • I also reviewed Transformers: Dark Cybertron, Volume 1. In this volume, Shockwave brings forth his plan to bring back Nova Prime, a Cybertronian tyrant long ago exiled that many think is gone for good. It is the culmination of a 6-million year wait.
  • This year is the 75th anniversary of Batman, so it is a good year to read Batman comics. Part of DC Comics’ The New 52 series, Scott Snyder gives us a new look at Batman’s origin story in Batman, Volume 4: Zero Year–Secret City.
  • Fan of The X-Files? Miss the television show? IDW continues its run of the comic book adaptation in The X-Files, Season 10, Volume 2.
  • Another Star Wars book. This time we have Honor Among Thieves, part of the series Empire and Rebellion.
  • Scott Snyder is also writing what I consider one of the best comics series out there now. For fans of vampires who like their vampires to be scary, American Vampire is a series to check out. During the month of May 2014, I reviewed American Vampire, Volume 6.
  • And finally this month, we look at a popular internet meme. You have seen Grumpy Cat on the Internet, now you can read his book: Grumpy Cat: A Grumpy Book.

 

CuriousGeorgeReading

I have not done one of these compilations in a while, so time to do another one. So many books out there that sound good or intriguing that I would like to read some day, and there is so little time. In the meantime, I am adding them here for future reference.

Items about books:

  • Matt Taibbi has a new book out, this time looking at why the rich pretty much get away with their crimes while the Average Joes get the book thrown at them. AlterNet has a piece discussing the book as well as a profile of his work overall. The new book is The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap. Also mentioned in the article is his book The Great Derangement, which I have read; this was not an easy book to read, but it had some good moments. From the article, I gather some of his earlier work from Russia may be worth a look.
  • Another reading tip via AlterNet, but on a different topic: the death of the American mall. This is certainly not news; the recent recession has likely accelerated the decay process. The book in question this time is  Call of the Mall: The Geography of Shopping.
  • I always enjoy books of trivia and curious statistics. I find them an easy way to learn a lot about different things. So, a book of odd and curious sex statistics definitely sounds good. Via Nerve.com, which highlights some sexual statistics from the book, the book in question is  Book of Odds, From Lightning Strikes to Love at First Sight, The Odds of Everyday Life.
  • Stephen Jones writes in his introduction to A Book of Horrors that “the time has come to reclaim the horror genre for those who understand and appreciate the worth and impact of a scary story.” To which I say, amen. As he further points out, “these days bloodsuckers are more likely to show their romantic nature, werewolves work for covert government organizations, phantoms are private investigators, and the walking dead can be found sipping tea amongst the polite society of a Jane Austin novel.” If that is your thing, go read that stuff. Hey, I am a librarian; I won’t judge you (publicly at least). Heck, I will even help you find some of those tea sipping zombies if that is your thing. But for those of us who like horror to actually scare us, this book may be just what is needed. It is reviewed at Bookgasm here.
  • Owl Tell You About It reviews an older classic, Venus in Furs.
  • Via Contemporary Japanese Literature, a review of Thermae Romae, manga about “about Lucius Modestus, a Roman architect living in the first half of the second century who specializes in designing baths and balnea, or bath houses.”
  • Harry Houdini was not just a escape artists. He also spent a lot of time exposing fakes and con men. Now, there is a book collecting some of his early writings on that topic. The book is The Right Way to Do Wrong, and it is reviewed at Guys Lit Wire here.
  • My Bookish Ways interviews Mark Teppo, the author of Earth Thirst, which is briefly described as “an eco-thriller with vampires.
  • Blogcritics does a brief review of Under Her Thumb: Erotic Stories of Female Domination. The reviewer writes that readers who enjoy this erotica genre should consider adding it to their libraries. I do read erotica, and though not a huge fan of femdom, I’d be willing to give this one a try. That reviewer also reviews Seductress: Erotic Tales of Immortal Desire. Want some mythology and paranormal with your femdom, then this may be the book for you. Both books are edited by D.L. King.
  • Let’s go light now with a little humor with our erotica. Via City Book Reviews, a review of Sock Monkey Kara Sutra.
  • Lambda Literary features an interview with John Waters, who has a new book out now. The book is Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America.
  • Going culinary, Bee Wilson has a book that sounds interesting. It sounds like the kind of microhistory I enjoy reading. The book is Consider the Fork: a History of How We Cook and Eat. You can find a review of the book here at Cooking with Ideas.

 

Bibliographies and lists:

Photo from Flickr user Raider of Gin (fairerdingo). Image used under terms of Creative Commons 2.0 Generic Attribution License.

Photo from Flickr user Raider of Gin (fairerdingo). Image used under terms of Creative Commons 2.0 Generic Attribution License.

 

Here is the list of books I reviewed during the month of April 2014. The links lead to my book review blog, The Itinerant Librarian. These are not all the books I read in the month. They are the books I managed to write a review during the month. Feel free to click the links and check them out. Comments are always welcome here or over on the main blog.

  • Simon Oliver’s FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics, Vol. 1. We find ourselves in a world where the laws of physics are suddenly no longer set in stone: gravity fails in places, wormholes appear out of nowhere, and so on. By now, these events are so common that the federal government has an agency to deal with them: the Federal Bureau of Physics (FBP).
  • Matz’s The Killer Omnibus, Vol. 1. This was a great discovery for me, a hit man who is also a very practical man. I am listing this one as one of the best reading experiences I have recently enjoyed.
  • The New Naked: The Ultimate Education for Grown-Ups. I pretty much bucked the system on this one. It seems a good number of hotshot reviewers (read professional reviewers and such) like this one. I thought it was not worth it, and it even has some amounts of misinformation and stereotyping. One I do not recommend both as reader and librarian.
  • Carol Leifer offers great advice about career and life in her new book How to Succeed in Business Without Really Crying. In addition to her stand-up comedy, Leifer is known for her writing on popular television shows like Seinfeld.
  • Instead of post-apocalyptic, go pre-apocalyptic in Sheltered, Vol. 1. This volume compiles the first five issues of the series.
  • Here is one for librarians who do readers’ advisory and need a little help in the horror genre. The book is the second edition of The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Horror. I found it useful, and I even jotted down a few of their book suggestions to read later. So, stay tuned. I may be reviewing some more horror titles down the road.
  • If you like the video game Mass Effect, you might like Mass Effect: Foundation, Vol. 1. For this one, I found that it may be better enjoyed if you play the game or at least are familiar with the game’s storylines and characters.
  • From video games, let’s move to good classic pulp heroes. The Green Hornet and The Shadow team up in The Shadow/Green Hornet: Dark Nights. This is much more than an adventure tale. It is a very good piece of alternate history that is carefully researched for accuracy and authenticity. History buffs will be delighted with the many references, trivia pieces, and historical figures making appearances.
  • And finally one for folks who enjoy fairy tale retellings and re-envisionings. By Pat Shand, we have Realm Knights. This is part of the Grimm Fairy Tales Presents series from Zenescope.

 

CuriousGeorgeReading

A nice variety this week for this list. From urban gentrification to B-movies to erotica, there is a bit of everything this week. So, let’s have a look at some things I would like to read down the road.

Items about books I want to read:

  • We begin this time with a book about gentrification and cities. This new photography book, discussed in Grist, “juxtapose[s] photos of defunct New York City mom-and-pops with their depressing corporate replacements. . . .” The book is Store Front: the Disappearing Face of New York.
  • Moving on to exploited and underpaid food workers. Why is this a big dea? Because among other issues, when they get sick, they cannot afford to take a sick day; hell, they don’t even get sick days. This was a topic I highlighted in my personal blog a while back, and it is one that should concern anyone who eats out. There is a new book out on the topic, Behind the Kitchen Door, and it was discussed in Bill Moyers’ website here.
  • Via Bookgasm, a book about “a group of men sent on suicide missions, more or less, but always pull it off.” The book is the comic collection Rat Pack: Guns, Guts and Glory.
  • As some of you know, I like beautiful women, and I do like vintage photos of classic women. So, via Bookgasm, this book which is “a babe-by-babe survey of some of 1960s cinema’s sexiest screen starlets” is certainly of interest. The book is Drive-In Dream Girls: a Galaxy of B-movie Starlets of the Sixties.
  • Let’s add a little steampunk to the list here. Via Blogging for a Good Book, the recommendation for Jack Dann’s and Nick Gevers’ steampunk short fiction anthology Ghosts by Gaslight. It looks like a ghost story collection with a steampunk element.
  • When it comes to erotica, I often enjoy the anthologies published by Cleis Press. For instance, I recently read Serving Him: Sexy Stories of Submission edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel. The book I am highlighting now has been on my cue a while, so I am adding it to my reading list now. Reviewed in Lambda Literary, the book in question this time is Say Please: Lesbian BDSM Erotica edited by Sinclair Sexsmith.
  • Via My Bookish Ways, a new author for me with a short story collection. The reviewer writes, “Daniel José Older captures all of the dark recesses of the human heart and puts them to the page, all the while capturing the blinding light of the human spirit.” The book is Salsa Nocturna.
  • Let’s switch over to food a bit. Like this reviewer writing for Powell’s, I too am a fan of pizza. So a book like My Pizza: The Easy No-Knead Way to Make Spectacular Pizza at Home would be of interest.
  • And now, a little manga. The Neon Genesis Evangelion is a series I have been meaning to read. Viz Media is putting out omnibus editions, and A Case for Suitable Treatment reviews the first omnibus volume, which covers the first three volumes of the series.
  • I often say that my generation and I may be the last ones who were actually taught handwriting formally, certainly may be the last to learn cursive. Then again, my parents sent me to Catholic school, and the brothers were big on teaching handwriting. I have to say that skill has served me well in various things including keeping my personal journals. So, this book by Philip Hensher on the topic sounds interesting. The book is The Missing Ink: The Lost Art of Handwriting, and it was reviewed at Lambda Literary.
  • I will admit that what attracted me to this book initially was the title. It looks like one of those light humor books I enjoy now and then, often while sitting in the porcelain throne. The book is Earn Your MBA on the Toilet, and it was featured at City Book Review.
  • Let’s stay with humor a bit more. Also featured at City Book Review, here is Pu Pu Hot Pot: the World’s Best Restaurant Names.

 

Lists and bibliographies:

  • Microhistories are one of my favorite genres in nonfiction. Book Riot had a post with a list entitled “Microhistories of the Mundane: 10 Books About Everyday Stuff.” This is the kind of neat bookish post I enjoy from Book Riot, but they just do not seem to do as many of these lately. From the list, I did read Petroski’s The Pencil, but that one was a bit disappointing. However, one not so good book is not going to stop me from reading others in the list.
  • Here is another neat list Book Riot did a while back, this one on “15 Fabulous Bookish Pinterest Boards.” I am not a fan of Pinterest, but these seem worth a look.
  • And if you need to find reading ideas and like reading about the reading life, a while back Flavorwire had a list of “The 25 Best Websites for Literature Lovers.”
  • Smut Book Club had a list of “The Dirtiest Books Your Must Read.” Actually, that sounds like a challenge. Some of these do not sound that dirty, more like funny (if we go by some of the titles at least).
Photo from Flickr user Raider of Gin (fairerdingo). Image used under terms of Creative Commons 2.0 Generic Attribution License.

Photo from Flickr user Raider of Gin (fairerdingo). Image used under terms of Creative Commons 2.0 Generic Attribution License.

In order to share my reviews a bit more, as well as keep track of what I did when, I will be posting lists of books I reviewed in a month with links to my main blog. As always, comments are welcomed, whether you comment here or on any of the posts linked. I will include a small segment from the blog to give readers an idea of what the book was about and maybe an incentive to read it as well. By the way, when I say reviewed, it does not mean all I read in a month. It means the books I managed to post a review for at the time.

I reviewed the following books at The Itinerant Librarian during the month of March 2014:

  • Alberto Manguel’s The Library at Night. “This is a beautiful and pleasant book book that sings the praises of libraries, books, and those who work in them and use them in an erudite and elegant way.”
  • Red Sonja, Volume 1: Queen of Plagues. The first volume of Gail Simone’s run on Red Sonja. “It is a tale of adventure and intrigue where we also get glimpses of Red Sonja’s past, learning of her origins along the way.”
  • Half Past Danger by Stephen Mooney. “It is a very entertaining action comic that has it all in the midst of World War II.”
  • Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. “The author manages to coordinate the photos with the novel very well, and this is certainly a great element and asset of the book, adding to the sense of wonder. “
  • March: Book One. “This is the story of Congressman John Lewis in graphic novel form. This is the first volume of a planned trilogy.”
  • Mike Richardson’s 47 Ronin. “This is Dark Horse’s version of the classic Japanese true story of bushido, with Kazuo Koike consulting on the tale as well.”
  • Mark Waid’s The Rocketeer/The Spirit: Pulp Friction. “It is the era of the advent of television, and the big corporations are trying their best to take over the public airwaves to make them into their own private advertising venues.”
  • Gene Luen Yang’s The Shadow Hero. Read the story of the first Asian American superhero as told by Yang. Yang is also the author of one of my favorites: American Born Chinese.
  • Best Bondage Erotica 2014 edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel. “This book is indeed a collection of opportunities to experience vicariously a diverse bouquet of pleasures.”
  • One for fans of Warhammer 40,000 novels. Check out James Swallow’s Hammer and Anvil. The Sisters of Battle return to the site of Sanctuary 101. “What exactly is hidden in Sanctuary 101?”
  • Chris Roberson’s The Shadow, Volume 3. “This time, award-winning author Chris Roberson brings us a story where The Shadow is hunting for a serial killer, a mysterious woman dressed in white who seems to be able to use the light to her advantage and moves like a spectre.”
  • Andrew Knapp’s Finding Momo. “This photography book by Andrew Knapp featuring his dog Momo is totally adorable, a beautiful book for folks of all ages.”

 

In addition, this month I also reviewed some first issues of new comics series. I do not usually review single issues, but I got these as teasers from NetGalley, and since I wrote feedback for them, I also posted the reviews online. You may be interested in checking these out as well:

Happy reading.

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