Tag Archives: books

Finishing Up a Series

Finishing up a series is always bittersweet. There’s a sense of accomplishment in that you finished it, but then you feel a bit empty when it’s over. I remember getting to the last hundred pages of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and realizing that I was almost done with it. I wouldn’t have any more Harry Potter stories to look forward to once I finished reading it. I wanted to know what happened but I didn’t want it to end. That’s how I feel whenever I reach the end of an epic saga. It doesn’t matter if it’s a series of books, or a TV show, or a movie trilogy. I want it to keep going. There’s a memorable scene in the cult classic Freaks and Geeks where a hippie chick is describing how amazing the Grateful Dead’s American Beauty album is. She says that she wishes she never heard it so that she could hear it again for the first time. There’s nothing quite like the first time you experience something. You can’t go back. You can only find something new.

Critically Rated at 13/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Borrowing a Book From a Friend

Anyone can go to the library and take out a book, but it’s a more personal experience when you borrow a book from a friend. Arranging a book exchange with a friend is one of the best ways to find something good to read. Your friend probably has good taste, that’s one of the reasons why you are friends to begin with. You find an author or genre that you both enjoy and swap a few recommended books. Borrowing a book from a friend is like a bonding experience. Sharing the same story brings you a little closer together. It’s also like having a private book club. You can discuss the themes and characters and all the cool parts and geek out for a little bit. Plus you can read them at your leisure and return them without worrying about any late fees.

Critically Rated at 14/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Bookmarks

Not so long ago, before the arrival of Kindles and Nooks, there were real books. Real books had real pages made out of real paper. If somebody had to stop reading, they would put a bookmark in the spot where they left off. It was a great way to remember where you were in the story. They are called bookmarks because they marked your place in the book. Bookmarks used to be real physical objects, made from paper, cloth, leather, or some crappy art project a 5-year-old made. Now bookmarks are all electronic and you use them to save your favorite porn sites on the Internet. That’s progress.

Critically Rated at 9/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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The Sandman: The Wake

All good things must come to an end. The Wake is the tenth and final volume of The Sandman series by Neil Gaiman. There are other comics about Death and his unusual siblings so there’s a lot more Sandman mythology to explore, but the main story ends here.

The first three issues are about the funeral and wake for our old pal Morpheus. While Daniel is trying to settle into his new role as Dream of the Endless, everyone is trying to come to grips with the fact that Morpheus is gone and what that means. The other issues are stand-alone stories about how Morpheus affected a few mortal dreamers. There’s a follow-up on Hob Gadling, the guy who refuses to die. There’s a story about an exiled Chinese dude nearing the end of his life. And it all concludes with William Shakespeare completing his pact with Morpheus by writing his final play for him.

Reading The Sandman is a pretty daunting task. 75 issues spread over 10 volumes is a lot. You feel like you accomplished something when you’ve read all of it. And then you want to find someone else who has read it so that you can talk about it. You want to share it with somebody. You want everybody to know that The Sandman is fantastic; that it’s deep and rich and amazing, that they should have fucking own it and read it once a year. You can’t keep good literature to yourself, that’s just selfish.

Critically Rated at 15/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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The Sandman: World’s End

A group of travelers get caught in a storm and seek refuge in a mysterious Inn. They pass the time by telling stories. But since this is a Neil Gaiman story, the travelers come from different times, places, and dimensions, the storm that rages is a reality storm, and the inn itself exists between different realms. I think Neil Gaiman smokes a lot of drugs.

            This is the eighth volume of The Sandman, collecting issues #51-#56. Morpheus only makes a few appearances in this volume, the main character is a new guy named Brant Tucker. Brant is driving cross-country when it starts to snow and he gets in an accident. He seeks help at an inn called World’s End. He meets a bunch of other travelers and they regale each other with stories.

            There are stories about characters that we already know like the faerie Cluracan and the immortal Hob Gadling. There’s a story about a US President that makes you wonder how an English author knows so much about Americana. There’s a haunting story about a guy who gets caught in the dreams of a city. And there’s another story about people telling stories in a city for the dead. It’s very meta. Neil Gaiman is telling a story about a guy telling a story in a bar about how he heard stories in an inn, and one of those stories had characters telling stories in that story. Get it? Because I understand it and I still don’t get it.

            This is one of my favorite volumes of The Sandman. If you’ve thought about reading it but aren’t sure if you want to invest all the time, start here and see if you like it. You can just pick it up and read it and understand what The Sandman is about without reading the entire series. It’s a good entry point. It’s smart. It’s entertaining. And it’s a great story.

Critically Rated at 16/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Rereading a Book

I still read books despite the Internet’s many distractions. And when I finish a good book, I’ll usually reread it as soon as I’m done. I mentioned that to a friend and he looked at me like I’m an alien. He never reread a book in his life. If he read it once, he’s already read it, so what’s the point of reading it again? You read it again because you like the story. You read it again to see character development and to spot clues and themes and symbolism. You watch a movie again if you like it. You listen to a song again if you like it. The more you like something, the more you want to experience it. Rereading a book should be no exception.

Critically Rated at 14/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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The Sandman: Dream Country

Dream Country is the third and shortest volume of The Sandman series. It collects issues #17-20 and each of the four stories is self-contained. Calliope is about a writer who imprisons a Muse. A Dream of a Thousand Cats explores how our feline friends experience dreams. A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream shows the premiere of Shakespeare’s play performed in front of an unusual audience. Façade is about a former hero who desperately wants to die but can’t. Morpheus is almost a secondary character in the first three stories and doesn’t even appear in Façade. Dream Country deviates from the main storylines somewhat, but it is thematically relevant, and it has some of the most memorable moments of the series.

Calliope is the first story. Richard Madoc is the author of one successful book, but he is suffering from writer’s block and is way past the deadline for his follow-up novel. He makes a trade with another writer. He gives the writer a bezoar in exchange for Calliope, who is one of the Muses from Greek mythology.

Madoc spends the next few years spending his days writing and raping his secret prisoner. Madoc gets more and more success and fame, and Calliope becomes more and more depressed. She’s able to get a hold of Morpheus and you can tell that there’s some history between the two of them. Morpheus tells Madoc to give her up, but Madoc doesn’t want to because he needs ideas. So Morpheus gives him what he wants: ideas that never stop coming. The flood of excess ideas drives Madoc crazy, but you can’t feel sorry for a rapist.

A Dream of a Thousand Cats is one of the most memorable stories in The Sandman. It’s about a secret cat meeting with a special Siamese cat keynote speaker. The Siamese cat tells an epic story about falling in love with a Tomcat, which resulted in a litter of kittens. Her owners didn’t want the kittens and killed them, and the Siamese cat grows disillusioned with being a pet.

She has a dream where she goes to the Dreaming, and finds Morpheus in feline form. Morpheus tells her that back in the day cats were in charge and humans were subservient. But then man found out that dreams shape the world and a thousand humans dreamed that they were in charge and the world became what it is now. The Siamese cat goes around spreading her message, hoping that she can convince a thousand cats to dream of a world where cats are king again. You’re gonna love this story if you’re a cat person. Dog people might also find it interesting.

A Midsummer’s Night Dream is one of those comics that gets accepted as genuine literature. It even won a World Fantasy Award, the only comic to achieve that feat. It’s probably accepted by the mainstream because it deals with Shakespeare. And it does it in a clever way. Shakespeare and his theater troupe perform A Midsummer’s Night Dream for Morpheus and some notable guests from Faerie. Gaiman makes it meta because Robin Goodfellow (Puck), Titania, and Auberon are audience members and also characters from the play. Robin Goodfellow even takes over playing himself at one point. It’s one of the most creative takes on Shakespeare to date.

Façade takes an obscure and forgotten DC character named Element Girl and shows what happens to a hero that has given up. Urania Blackwell has been forced to retire, she has no friends or family, and no reason to live other than the fact that she can’t kill herself. Her superpowers won’t let her die, and she wants to. It’s a short and depressing story that ends on a happy note when she finally dies. Death can be a good thing for some people.

Dream Country is a great introduction to The Sandman. It’s short, it’s memorable, it’s significant, and you can see if you want to read the other volumes without spoiling the main plot. You can try the flavor of The Sandman and see if it’s right for you.

Critically Rated at 15/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Eldest (book)

Eldest is the second book in Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle. It continues the story of a young Dragon Rider named Eragon and his dragon Saphira as they continue their fight against the forces of the evil King Galbatorix. If you like dragons, war, magic, and epic tales of revenge and honor than you’ll like these books. Paolini is a young writer, and his style is a bit easier to read than authors like Tolkien.

The story picks up just a few days after the events of Eragon. The leader of the Varden, Ajihad, is suddenly attacked and killed. Murtagh is also attacked and presumed dead. Eragon’s scar that he got from fighting the Shade causes him to have seizures a few times a day, with no way to stop them. Things aren’t off to a cheerful start. Ajihad’s daughter, Nasuada, assumes control of the Varden.

Eragon and Saphira go off to Du Weldenvarden, home of the elves, to continue training as a Dragon Rider. When he arrives he meets Oromis and Glaedr. Oromis is the last true Dragon Rider and Glaedr is his dragon. Oromis is broken though, he can only do easy spells. Glaedr is missing a leg, he too is broken. Eragon also finds out that Arya is a princess. He starts to have feelings for her, but she doesn’t feel the same.

Oromis and Glaedr teach Eragon and Saphira what it means to be bonded. Eragon and Saphira become more dependent on each other and their connection grows even stronger. The Elves have a ceremony called the Blood-Oath Celebration, and Eragon is transformed into an Elf-Human hybrid, and he gets superhuman senses and gets stronger and stuff. Even better, his back gets healed and he no longer has seizures from doing normal Dragon Rider stuff. And even though he’s kinda Elvish now, Arya still won’t have him and so he’s sad about that.

While Eragon is learning more about magic and Dragon Ridering, the story occasionally flashes over to Roran, Eragon’s cousin. Galbatorix can’t get to Eragon easily, so he sends the Ra’zac to Carvahall to get Roran. Roran leads the people of Carvahall in a battle against the Ra’zac and they manage to hold their own, but Roran’s fiancé Katrina gets snatched by the Ra’zac. Roran vows to get her back, but until then he has to protect the people of Carvahall. He decides the best way to do that is to evacuate the town and get all the villagers to leave and join the Varden.

The Varden meets the evil king’s army for the Battle of the Burning Plains. Eragon and Saphira show up in time for the battle. Roran and the people of Carvahall show up in time too. And there’s fighting and violence and suddenly another Dragon Rider appears. And it’s Murtagh! He didn’t die, and now he’s working for Galbatorix.

A lot of people compare the first book to Star Wars, and you can definitely see similarities. Eldest has a lot of similarities to Empire Strikes Back. The protagonist finds a new mentor to train him, one who is even older and wiser than the previous one. He leaves his training early to help his friends in a fight. There’s a huge revelation involving family. And basically all the characters you know and love return and there’s a few new ones, and the story gets more complex and darker.

This is a fun fantasy novel. Paolini has a very clear idea for how his universe works. This book really explores how magic works in Alagaësia. There are rules and consequences if you break the rules, like he did in the subplot with Elva, the baby that he thought he blessed but actually cursed.

If you like Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones but can’t get through a chapter in those books, you should try the Inheritance Cycle. It’s not an easy read, but it’s an easier read. It’s more like Rowling than Tolkien. There’s still a lot of detail, themes, and layers, it’s just presented in a more friendly fashion.

Critically Rated at 14/17

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The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume II

Alan Moore is the shit. The League or Extraordinary Gentlemen proves that. This is the second installment, and solidifies Alan Moore as a Comic Badass. The first issue in this series brings together a bunch of Victorian Literature characters together, and this second volume reunites them. We already know the characters so we can have fun with them. That’s that Moore does. He jumps right into the story, and it’s a better story than the first one.

The first issue of this series is important, because it introduces the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Now that we know each character and what the represent, the new conflict will either make or break the ensemble, and there is more drama and tension if it does so. There is much more at stake than in the previous story. The plot recreates the War of The Worlds, and so not only must man deal with foes from beyond, but they must deal with themselves internally.

Mr. Hyde and the Invisible Man go at it. Much of what occurs between the two is implied, but it is horrific. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but there is man rape in this story. Savage, dirty man rape. And it is justified. Literature doesn’t have to spare feelings; it just needs to reflect the real world. And man rape is a part of the real world.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen celebrates literature. The second volume rejoices in it. You have cameos from John Carpenter and creatures from The Island of Dr. Moreau and The Wind in the Willows. The character are much more active and independent from their creative author, Alan Moore gives them much more room to explore their boundaries.

Alan Moore has fun unifying classic literary characters. He pays homage to their origins, but also makes them his own. Mr. Hyde is the best example of this. Everyone who pretends to be cultured knows about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Moore makes Hyde more of a villain and more of a hero than Robert Louis Stevenson ever could have fathomed. He redeemed Mina Murray in a savage and brutal, yet honest way, the only way that he could have.

The League of Extraordinary Gentleman is a great comic. There are more than two volumes, but they are all the evidence you need to prove their longevity. They are essential. They are necessary. They  are worth reading, so get on it.

Critically Rated at 15/17

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The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume One

Alan Moore is a genius. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is proof of such. There are a few volumes out already, this rant is about the first Volume. A bunch of characters from Victorian literature work together to recover a stolen item in order to prevent an aerial attack on British soil. Mina Murray, Allan Quaterman, Hawley Griffen (the Invisible Man), Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, and Captain Nemo are the Extraordinary Gentleman (and Woman). A bunch of other literary characters also make cameos, it’s rewarding to whoever paid attention in English class.

Kevin O’Neill’s artwork is scratchy and rough, a good fit for Moore’s storytelling. It feels old fashioned, and it captures the vibe of Victorian London.

It is quite a chore to take characters from different authors and different genres and be able to tell a story that would actively involve all of them. It’s a pretty dense story, and Moore is able to give each character time to develop and contribute to the action. A lazy author would be content merely writing famous characters into an original story, Moore makes them his own and gives them something to advance the plot.

There’s a lot of steampunk technology, but it’s nowhere near as obnoxious as Wild Wild West. I won’t even comment about the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen movie fiasco. That shit was just insulting.

This is a cool comic book. It is essential reading if you like Alan Moore. You can bring up this book in literary conversations and advance the dialog. It’s a very smart comic, you have to have read classic literature to know these characters. Moore assumes that you know them, or at least know about them, and brings them together in a clever way.

Critically Rated at 14/17

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