Alchemical Thoughts

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.

I fell a bit behind last year in keeping up with this, so I am going to try again for 2015. These are books I reviewed at The Itinerant Librarian with links included for the reviews so interested readers can check them out. Keep in mind, these are not always books I read in the given month, but books I managed to review in the month. January was a bit slow in terms of reviews as I was also getting together my posts for reading challenges. Still, we I did manage to get some things posted. As always, comments are always welcome.


(Crossposted from The Gypsy Librarian. I figured folks here may be interested in this too. This post does include a link to the post “My Reading List for 2014″ as well. Feel free to read, check out some of the links. As always, comments are welcome.)


The Best Books I Read in 2014: An Appendix to My Reading List for 2014

(Crossposted from The Gypsy Librarian.)

As I mentioned in the post “My Reading List for 2014,” I had a lot of books that I felt were excellent and deserved a full five out of five stars rating (I rate on a five star scale). There were so many that I decided to make a separate post just to share the list with my four readers (maybe if I work hard enough, we can increase it to five readers of the blog this year).

The list is in no particular order. Most of these are graphic novels and comics as that is a genre I tend to favor. If I have posted a review, I will provide the link.

Graphic novels and comics

Thanks to NetGalley (and Edelweiss to a small extent), I am reading a lot more graphic novels and comics, including titles that I think many libraries do not see or miss. I personally enjoy this as it adds some diversity to my reading, especially when I read stuff other than the usual. Only sad thing is NetGalley does not have Marvel titles, but I guess you can’t have it all. Anyhow, these are the comics and graphic novels I consider my best readings for the year.

  • Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Collection, Volume 1. My library recently acquired the five volume set of this. This is the ninja turtles as they are, before Nickelodeon got a hold of them and sanitized them.  Contrary to what most people think, it was not a comic for young kids. It is a great comic overall. I will certainly be reading the rest of the volumes in the set.
  • Jimmy Palmiotti, Harley Quinn, Volume 1: Hot in the City (The New 52). From my review, “Harley gets her own volume and adventures as she tries to move on without her Mr. J in her life and a new inheritance.” If you like the Batman comics, you will probably enjoy this one as well.
  • Geoff Johns, Batman: Earth One. Maybe instead of watching stuff like Gotham, which is basically Batman without Batman, you can read this and get the same vibe, only better.
  • Jeff Parker,, Batman ’66, Vol. 1. This was just good nostalgia fun.
  • Taran Killam,, The Illegitimates. Another one that was fun. This time in the old school James Bond kind of fashion.
  • The American Vampire series continues to be one of the best things out there. This year I read volumes 4 and 6 of the series. It is a series I will continue reading as it keeps getting deeper and developing its story over time well. It also captures the feel of the era a particular volume is in very well. In fact, as of this post, I have volume 7 queued up on my feed reader from NetGalley.
  • Scott Snyder,, The Joker: Death of the Family. This is probably the best way to read this great series from DC’s The New 52. You can find the trades, and I read some of them, but once I found this was available, it made things a lot easier. For me, books like this are a reason why I prefer to read a story once it is compiled. The volume is a great choice for libraries with graphic novels collections.
  • J. Michael Straczynski, Superman: Earth One.
  • The Saga series. Last year I added volume 3 to what I have read. I hear the fourth volume is out, so rest assured I will be reading it. This is certainly one of the best things going on out there. You can tell people are catching on as Saga did make it on various end of year and must read lists.
  • Max Brooks, The Harlem Hellfighters.
  • Karl Bollers,, Watson and Holmes: A Study in Black. For me, this was a great discovery. Sherlock Holmes has enjoyed a bit of a revival with recent shows like Sherlock (which I have watched and enjoyed) and Elementary (which I could not care less about). This graphic novel gives the character a nice, fresh and hip look. It is a lot more than just a new look. It really pays attention to the classic and brings it up to our modern time.
  • Matz, The Killer, Vol. 4: Unfair Competition. Matz’s series is another one I enjoy greatly, the practical assassin trying to make it in the harsh world. Another great series I will keep seeking out.
  • Michael Uslan, The Shadow/Green Hornet, Vol. 1: Dark Nights.
  • Jonathan Hickman, East of West, Volume 1: The Promise.
  • Simon Oliver, FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics, Volume 1: The Paradigm Shift. This was an interesting discovery for me, a world where the laws of physics stop working as they normally do, and the federal agency tasked with dealing with it. That is  just the start.
  •  Jai Nitz, Dream Thief, Volume 1.
  • Gail Simone, Red Sonja, Volume 1: Queen of Plagues. Gail Simone is also known for her run of Batgirl in DC Comics. I am not as a big a fan of Batgirl (many other librarians fawn over Barbara Gordon, a character that is a librarian in the comics. Me? Cassandra Cain was more my favorite Batgirl); I read the title now and then. However, I do like Red Sonja, and Gail Simone has done great work with that character.
  • John Lewis,, March, Book One. This is a great one to read for Black History Month, though you can and should read it any time.A great example of how you can teach about history with a graphic novel.
  • Box Brown, Andre the Giant: Life and Legend. This is one I recommend to show the good things you can do with a graphic novel. A light but very moving biography of a man who was very generous yet fought in and out of the ring men and his own demons.
  • Stephen Mooney, Half Past Danger. If you like things like Indiana Jones (Raiders of the Lost Ark, not so much Crystal Skull) and other old school action adventures, this may be for you. Add in the femme fatale and some dinosaurs for a fun mix.
  • Kenny Byerly, et,al., Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: New Animated Adventures, Vol. 1. And this is the ninja turtles for the kids today. It is an all ages comic based on the recent Nickelodeon production of the comic. It is cute, fun, and nice entertainment. Kids will definitely like it.
  • James Stokoe, Wonton Soup.  Think Iron Chef (the original Japanese show, not the American knock off) and space truckers.
  •  Osamu Tezuka’s Adolf series. It is a five volume series. Though I did not give all volumes five out of five stars, read together this is definitely one of the best reads I did for 2014. It is the story of three Adolfs, one of them being the Fuhrer of Germany, during World War II. Their lives are very connected as we go from Japan to Germany and back. My review of the first volume, Adolf, Volume 1: A Tale of the Twentieth Century is up now. Others will come soon. The series is an award winner too; it won the Kodansha Manga Award.
  • Sean Michael Wilson, Musashi.
  • Jinsei Kataoka and Kazuma Kondou, Deadman Wonderland, Volume 1.
  • Rachel Maddow, Drift: the Unmooring of American Military Power.  This was my one audiobook of the year. It is a book I highly recommend. Though you can read it in print just fine, I think it works better in the audio as she reads the text.
  • Robert Dawson, The Public Library: A Photographic Essay. Of the LIS and related books I read in 2014, this was one of the best. For all the hype stuff some librarians fall for, this simple book is really inspiring and a reminder for many of us why we are proud to be librarians and serve our communities.
  • Donald Nausbaum, Cuba: Portrait of an Island. A nice photo collection. This came before recent news about Cuba and the U.S. possibly opening up relations once more. Still, a very nice book to look at.
  • Daniel Yaffe, Drink More Whiskey!  From my review, “For someone wanting to learn more about whiskey in a casual and accessible style, this is a book for you. There are many books written about alcoholic spirits, but they are often written for hardcore aficionados and alcoholistas (yes, I am coining the term).” This book is more for the casual person seeking some knowledge.
  • Carol Leifer, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Crying. From my review, “A strength of Leifer’s book is in the lessons for work and life that she presents. She may be writing from her perspective as a comedian, but her advice applies to any career path.”
  • Andrew Knapp, Find Momo. This is one of those books that make you go “aww, how cute!” It is a beautiful book for folks of all ages.
  • Alberto Manguel, The Library at Night.  This is definitely one of the nicest books overall I read this year. For folks who love libraries and books, this is a sure thing to read. From my review, “If you are feeling down from bad news of library closings or not getting enough funding, or are you just sick and tired of the next ‘trend’ in libraries making it sound like libraries are dead fossils, then toss all that away and curl up comfortably with a serving of your favorite beverage and this book.”
  • Jenny M. Jones, The Annotated Godfather: The Complete Screenplay. For fans of the film, this is one they will want to read and add to their collections.

This includes fiction as well as nonfiction.


Other good stuff.

  • Ian Doescher, William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back.
  • Jeffrey Brown, Goodnight Darth Vader.


Here we go again with another compilation of books I would like to read. The TBR list keeps growing, but I am cool with that. I won’t be running out of things to read any time soon, and that is a good thing. Plus if my two readers here find something to read from this series of posts, that is cool too. If you do, feel free to comment and let me know what you read and how you liked it or not.

Items about books you want to read:

  • I have read about company towns now and then, including Hardy Green’s The Company Town. Here is a photography book about the town that Kodak built, a look back at a time when Kodak was a strong company (via The Morning News). The book is Kodak City.
  • Via the 365 Letters blog, a review of Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Celebrating the Joys of Letter Writing. Personally, I am fascinated by letters, and I do find it sad people just don’t write as much as they used to, aside from some people who persevere in the art.
  • And speaking of writing, a forthcoming book on stationery. Discussed at The Well-Appointed Desk, the book is Adventures in Stationery, due out in May 2015 (with a different title for the U.S. apparently. Read the post for details).
  • For me, a new Eduardo Galeano book is a good thing. Mother Jones features some excerpts from his book Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone. Personally, I like reading Galeano in the original Spanish, so here is the link to the Spanish edition too.
  • My four readers may know that I do watch porn now and then (sometimes even with the Better Half). I came of age during the 1980s VHS porn heyday when part of watching the movies was some of the ridiculous or cheesy attempts at plot just as much as the sex. The art in those VHS covers often promised way more than a movie might deliver. Now, there is a book that looks at the best of the porn movie posters of the 1970s and 1980s. Reviewed at Bookgasm, the book is Sexytime: the Post-porn Rise of the Pornoisseur. The blog post also includes links to other books that may be of interest too.
  • I am not a sports fan, but I find books with human interest like this one to be interesting. The book is Bull City Summer: A Season at the Ballpark. It was reviewed in Mother Jones magazine. My interest is that I hope it is similar to Josh Peters’ Fried Twinkies, Buckle Bunnies, and Bull Riders, which I read.
  • In the mood for some horror? Like Lovecraft? Perhaps The Book of Cthulhu II will be to your liking. It is reviewed here at Bookgasm. I have not read some good horror in a while, so maybe this will fit the bill nicely.
  • I have mixed feelings at times about movies adapted into comics and graphic novels. Some work well; others do not work as well. Bookgasm looks at an old classic, Alien: The Illustrated Story. Looks like an interesting artifact of its time.
  • A book by or edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel is usually a pleasure for me to read. Running a bit behind on this, but this time she is editing some nonfiction in Best Sex Writing 2013. It is reviewed in San Francisco Book Review.  They also reviewed her erotica anthology anthology Twice the Pleasure: Bisexual Women’s Erotica. By the way, if folks are interested I have read and reviewed the following erotica anthologies edited by Ms. Bussel: Serving Him, the oral sex themed Going Down, and her Best Bondage Erotica 2014. By the way, I have the 2015 edition up on my reading cue, so you will see a review of that soon over at The Itinerant Librarian.
  • And let’s add a little related to information sciences (a.k.a. talking a little shop). Library Juice highlights another of their fine books on information studies. The book is Feminist and Queer Information Studies Reader.


Book lists and bibliographies:

  • Not so much a list of books to read. This is really something for amusement. BuzzFeed had a list of “27 Books You Won’t Believe Actually Exist.” This is worth a laugh or two.
  • If you like cooking, here is a list of 20 amazing cookbooks, according to The Advocate. There are a couple of celebrity books, but there are also one or two that seem interesting.
  • The Art of Manliness has a list of “Essential Jeremiads: 16 Cultural Critiques Every Man Should Read.” From the list, I did read Allan Bloom’s book ages ago, and I did not particularly think much of it back then. Still, the jeremiad is a solid literary tradition, it should be part of your information diet, and as the bloggers write, a “jeremiad can challenge your assumptions, shake you out of apathy, spur reflection, and inspire changes in your beliefs and habits.” So, I am adding this list so others and me can challenge ourselves a bit.
  • Via the Los Angeles Review of Books, a review of three books about libraries. From the list, I already read the Dawson book, and I will put up my review of it soon.
  • I do not know about folks out there, but I am willing to admit it: yes, I do read in the bathroom when making a “longer” necessary visit. Shelf Talk features a couple of books not about reading in the bathroom but about those very necessary acts we all have to do sooner or later.

(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?


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.



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, 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:

May 2015
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