Saturday, January 12, 2013

It Gets Better: Reading in 2013

After a lackluster end of the year I am hoping that 2013 will be filled with more enjoyable reads.  It's not like everything has to be amazing, after all, how can one appreciate all the great reads if there aren't a few clunkers from time to time.  I find that bad reads go in phases, as do good ones.  In order to gear up to some good reads, I went back to what my mainstays: Comic Books.

1) Prelude to Schism - Paul Jenkins - C
I love the X-Men.  They are the books that stuck with me as a child they sucked me into the world of comic books which led to a life-long love (and a depletion of my back account).  I can't fully explain what it is that I love, but after years of not reading comics, they seem to be the books that excite me and bring me back to the fold.  Keeping up with the industry, I know some huge storylines have come and gone that I have missed out on due to not reading monthly books anymore (otherwise I wouldn't be able to afford.....anything else so I quit cold turkey about 8 years ago). On Christmas morning, I was feeling nostalgic and wanting to catch up with my old friends.  I went on Amazon and found out all the books that have come out since I last read these.  When I tallied up how much the books would cost, it was about $140 on Amazon.  To the NY Public Library Website I went instead and reserved these books.  The first was the Prelude to the Schism storyline.  After reading it, I'm very happy I didn't plop down $8 on this book. It was a great character study on the main power players: Cyclops, Professor X, Wolverine and Magneto, but absolutely nothing happened in the book.  It was a prelude to the story that will shake up the X-Universe, but that is all.  I'm glad I read it, but more glad I read it for free.

2) Powers: The Definitive Hardcover Volume 2: Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Avon Oeming - B+
While in the library picking up X-Men, I saw this on the shelf. I've read this book when it came out in single issues back in 2002-2003 since this is a collection of about 12 issues (or a year's worth of books).
Powers is a fantastic story, told by a great writer.  The series follows a police partnership made up of an ex-superhero (think Superman if Superman lost his powers and was human and became a cop) who investigate homicides involving Superheroes in a world where there are tons (much like a world in the popular movie The Incredibles).
Having read this book in a different format 10 years ago, this was a quick re-read and made me remember how much I love Bendis and his writing as well as this book.  I am very behind in what is going in in this world, and would love to catch up since these books are still being released and I have faith that they continue to come out at the same quality.

3) Science Dog - Robert Kirkman & Cory Walker - B+
This was also on the shelf and seeing the name Robert Kirkman made me remember that Science Dog was the comic book read by the comic book character Invincible in Kirkman's superhero book.  I decided to read the one-shot book and it was one of the best written out time-travel tales that I've read since The Time Traveler's Wife.  Kirkman perfectly explained the idea of paradoxes and parallel universes by making Science Dog continue to go further back in time in order to fix his mistakes.  The tragedy of him doing all this to save his friends and one aspect of himself, while putting himself into exile was told so perfectly and this book reminded me of how amazing the medium of comic books can tell a story that is difficult to tell in any other version.  Kirkman continues to write some of the most tragic books with a ton of heart.  I'm sticking with Invincible for the long haul and will check out the side-stories like this when they come to me.

4) The Walking Dead Volume 17: Something To Fear -  Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard & Cliff Rathburn - A-
I've been reading The Walking Dead since issue 50 came out about 3 years ago.  I heard "the guy that directed Shawshank Redemption" was adapting a comic book for TV that was written by Robert Kirkman.  I had already been a fan of Invincible, but hadn't read The Walking Dead since I wasn't the biggest fan of the zombie genre.  But when I heard the TV should would be coming out, I bought the Compendium of the first 48 issues collected in one book and devoured it in a very short time.  I even wrote a post about it here.
Since I read those 48 issues so quickly, I couldn't wait 4 years until the next compendium came out, and instead started buying the paperbacks that bundle up story arcs of 6 issues every 6 months.  
That means I have read volumes 9-17 now on their own and this one was by far the most difficult.  The series (TV and book) is known for ensuring that no one is safe and main characters (or who we perceive to be the main characters) are often killed off in some of the most disturbing fashions I've ever read.  This book took the cake.  The intensity and sadness I felt while reading this book on the subway one morning was intense.  During the climactic scene, I literally went cold and paused before turning the page to find out what was going to happen.   I actually felt like I was going to throw up, it disturbed me that much.  (And if you know me, that's saying a lot.  NOTHING bothers me - to a fault).  
The fact that a book and a (black and white) comic book at that can cause such a physical reaction in someone impressed me as a reader, but bothered me as a fan.  I wasn't happy about what happened in the book, but at the same time it has made me filled with more anticipation for the next issue in June or so.  If you like horror (and more psychological horror than gore, although there is plenty of that too), read this book!  You may not thank me because you may have nightmares, but you won't be able to stop reading.

5) Freedom - Jonathan Franzen (562 Pages) - A
I hate validating Oprah, but damn was this book fantastic.  
I read Franzen's more famous novel The Corrections years ago, and liked it, but at this point only remember it was "about a dysfunctional family".  I had heard mixed reviews about this book and thought I'd get to it when I get to it.  
My friend Ed had said that he had just read it and was enjoying it and then it just happened to be sitting there in the library staring at me.  As you know from my last post, I was reading some horrible books and wanted to start off 2013 with at least something more engaging so this book got checked out.  Immediately, I was sucked in.

The first chapter tells almost then entire history of this family in a very quick synopsis about a mother, father and two children and how they lived in this small town in Minnesota while hinting that there was potentially something wrong under their perfect exterior.  
The next chapter now jumps to a first person "autobiography" of the mother of that family, Patty.  She writes about her childhood and going to college and her boyfriends.  Most of what she writes about is very normal. A young girl learning about herself and love and meeting her eventual husband.  And I could not get enough.  When a writer is a good, you can't help but keep turning the pages, and Franzen is better than good.  He tells a story in such an even, simple tone that it is easy to follow even when he is throwing out some big ideas (like the real problem with the Environment that no one really wants to talk about).
From there on out, each chapter is told from a different character's perspective: Patty's son Joey (a strong individual trying not to live in his father's shadow), her husband Walter (a liberal lawyer and stronger feminist than most women), her husband's best friend Richard Katz (a wannabe Rock star/anti-feminist).  The scope of the book is really Patty's entire life since she is the main character of this novel and shows the achievements and mistakes she makes in this life.   
Thinking now about the title of the book, I think the entire thought is about what Freedom means to any one person on an individual basis.  Freedom is really the thing we all want the most in life, freedom to love who you want, to live in a country where everyone and everything is free to live its life to their utmost happiness, and how each person's idea of freedom may actually be the opposite of someone else (especially those they love the most).  
Lastly, the thing I realized about myself while reading this book is I may be the world's biggest voyeur.  I wish I could explain why the lives of this family was so entertaining to me, but I can't.  This is the type of book I feel I could have kept reading forever.  It's not that these characters were so likable or interesting.  In fact, it may be the exact opposite.  But they were real people.  I found myself able to relate to all of them on different levels, but enjoy each of their stories equally.  

2013 is starting off right.  This book in the annals, along with a series of books lines up and waiting for me to read.  I hope to keep this blog updated more often and potentially hit my goal of 52 books in 52 weeks once again.  I'm already behind the curve, but I'll give up quantity for quality every single time.

1 comment:

Jennifer P. said...

WOW. Glowing review for Freedom. Now I can't wait to get on it! Glad things are looking up for you:)