Hulk: Season One

As much as I read in my childhood, I never read comics. They have always been out of my circle of geekiness. I knew a few boys who read them, and my grandparents (who were huge garage sale shoppers) always had a few Archies in their basement, but that was all I really knew. My world was centered on books, books, and…more books.

With the advent of superhero movies, Tumblr fandom, cons, and everything else associated with geek today, comics are coming back. Fans are able to network and gab about the latest issues, the lack of diversity, and push for more indie artists. I have a LOT of friends now who read comics, even a few who draw them. And yet, I still don’t read them. Why? I don’t really have a good reason, except I didn’t know where to start. That and the financial anxiety of weekly pull list commitments.

But, I do want to learn more about this world my friends love so much. It’s time to expand my geek. And so I was trying to figure out where I was going to begin….months ago. Sigh….

Then my friend sent me a care package, and included Hulk:  Season One. The green giant has been kind of a symbol of my depression–the evil beast fighting to get out, the gentler, smarter side fighting back with science. You get the picture. If I was going to start with Marvel, Banner was a good place for me to begin, so I appreciate her sending me my first graphic novel!

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I’ll break this down into two sections. Again…first graphic novel ever…this is going to be a learning process.

Story/Writing:  Boy was this dark! I had heard people say The Hulk was a dark story, but this is not The Hulk I knew at ALL. Obviously, this is not the Avengers Hulk, and maybe I’ll do some reading to see where all that fits in, but he is not a superhero here. I kept waiting for that to happen, and it didn’t. The explosion happens, Banner doesn’t die, and his superiors are pissed that he’s still alive? Ummmm ok? Thanks a bunch, asshole. The misogyny in this book is horrible, by the way, and the jokes are totally crude. I had to look to see when this was written–I was expecting 20 years ago, not 2012. I was also extremely confused by Banner vs Hulk. In the interpretation I am used to, Banner IS Hulk, but in this book it seems that they are two split entities/bodies. At first I thought they just had two different consciousnesses warring with each other–that would make sense to me–but about halfway through I think they were no longer even in the same place. I wasn’t entirely sure how that split happened or why.

Art:  The aesthetics of this book were not to my taste, but that doesn’t mean they were necessarily bad. They are definitely for a more traditional, hyper-masculine sort of fan. The men are jacked up, and I’m sorry…but no female scientist is going to be in a mini-dress and knee high boots with exposed legs and an open labcoat. Nope. Sorry boys. I did, however, really like the super close up panels of The Hulk “hulking out,”–like the shots of his eyeball or the sound-effects. There’s also a great one where Banner is walking with a clipboard in his hand and The Hulk is ginormous behind him (again, I thought it was representing his subconscious…but maybe they really are split at that point).

 

I definitely much prefer Movie Hulk–and maybe I’ll look into reading something with the Avengers, so I can see the difference. If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them. This was a little dark for me, and the art wasn’t to my taste. But…now that I have a bit of an idea how to read a comic and what I am looking at, I have my foot in the door! AdultBooklr does a monthly Graphic Novel readalong, so maybe I’ll start participating in that.

What do you think? Should I add Graphic Novel reads to the blog?

 

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The Martian

I first heard about The Martian about two years ago when a friend of mine downloaded the audiobook. He was raving about it at a party, and it sounded like the nerdiest thing ever. So of course I was intrigued! But…while I love space and science…books about it are not my strongest subject, and it sounded like this one had a LOT of math.

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And so I put it off. Every once in awhile I’d here someone mention it, but it kind of fell to the background of my TBR.

Until they announced the movie. As things usually go–whenever a book is being made into a movie, the book is an immediate hit, even if it wasn’t originally. And WOW has The Martian been a hit. EVERYONE is reading it now, and so up it went to the top of my TBR! It was even one of the books AdultBooklr read for August…so I just barely made it in.

Again, just like with Armada, I got super lucky and got this one from Blogging for Books. (Seriously guys, if you have a book blog, sign yourself up for Klout and try to get on with them. Fantastic site.) I literally jumped for joy when I saw The Martian was available, because I’ve been waiting for three months for the hold list at the library. Now it’s mine. Yay!

Almost everyone knows about this one by now, but short summary, just in case–Mark Watney gets injured in a massive dust storm on Mars, and his team, thinking he has died, leaves him when they escape to safety. When he comes to and finds himself alone, he formulates a plan to get stay alive until the next Ares mission…4 years in the future.

I was right about the math and the science. There is a LOT of math and science. But, it doesn’t really overwhelm the story, unless you are super into that sort of thing (which I am not). I just took it at face value and moved on. Instead, what moves the plot is the snark and sarcasm that Watney provides through the log-based storyline.

And guys, there is SO.MUCH.SNARK. It’s amazingly fantastic. Aside from him being obviously above my intelligence level, I would love to have a beer with this guy. I feel like we would be friends on snarkiness alone.

This is a book where a man is alone on a foreign planet for a year and a half and has no one to talk to but himself. But there is nothing boring about it. Andy Weir has encased so much emotion and action and hilarity into such a small, sand-encrusted space–I would never have expected it to be this good. By the end, I was so invested that I was basically screaming on the AdultBooklr chat. I was ready to throw the book at the wall. I promise, you will be so invested in this by the last 10 pages, that you will completely understand what I mean.

Two random, funny thoughts that I had before I go:

  1. I couldn’t stop reading this book in Hank Green’s voice. I think I’ve listened to too many Dear Hank & John Podcasts with “News From Mars.” Every single Log was read in Hank’s unique cadence.
  2. I’d be interested to know how many terrorist watch lists Andy Weir was on while researching this book, or if he had to get special permission to do certain research. I mean, Plutonium as a heat source is a major part of the story…that isn’t something you can just google…right? I’m not going to try it to find out.

 

If you haven’t read The Martian, move it to the top of your list immediately. DO IT NOW.

 

Blogging for Books provided a copy of this book for an unbiased review.

 

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The Invasion of the Tearling

I’ve committed the ultimate blogging sin. The one, huge habit that I have had to stop doing since starting I Lay Reading.

My number one rule:  DO NOT FINISH THE BOOK RIGHT BEFORE BED.

Crap.

Why is this so terrible? I used to do this all the time–the finality of it meant I could fall instantly to sleep. Ahhh but therein lies the problem. When I finish a book, I blog it immediately (or, if I cannot get to a computer, then I at least write down a pretty detailed outline), so that my thoughts and feelings are fresh and vibrant.

Going to sleep between finishing and blogging basically smothers those feels with my pillow. My brain is sluggish and sleepy. No matter how much I loved the book (or hated it), I just never feel as good about what I have to say.

In fact…all of this is just procrastination because I didn’t know how to get started…

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We recently read The Queen of the Tearling for the #adultbooklr Book Club in July, and I was so looking forward to the second book. It seemed like everyone jumped right into The Invasion of the Tearling and loved it even more than the QOTT, so I was dying for the library to catch up to me on the hold queue.

My coreaders were not wrong. I really enjoyed QOTT, and IOTT just builds upon the series. Book 1’s setting is a little mysterious–is it medieval fantasy? Is it the future? What is The Crossing? We know there was America, and they are in something called New Europe, but where are they really?

In Book 2, Kelsea’s character and magic really develop, as does the whole background of the dystopian set up. Through Kelsea’s fugues, we get to see what happened pre-Crossing–who the Tear characters are, what happened to America, what the Crossing was. There’s also quite a lot of character development among the other main and secondary characters as well.

I really liked QOTT for what it was, but I know some people thought the writing not complex enough, or that it spends too much time building up to nothing. IOTT builds on everything that QOTT lays out. Don’t give up on Kelsea just yet, I encourage you to read the second book. It’s worth it.

 

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brown girl dreaming

#blacklivesmatter is everywhere these days, and seemingly everyone has an opinion about it. And the fight is ugly. If you had asked me even 2 years ago if I thought we would be living in the 60s again, I would have laughed and thought you meant fashion or the MidCentury Mod furniture design craze.

But nothing about this is funny. People aren’t just getting emotionally wounded, people are dying. And they aren’t just being killed by Joe Blow off the street, but by those sworn to protect us. No matter what side of the fence you’re on…that’s a very scary thing to think about.

As a white woman in America, I mostly keep my mouth shut. While I support #blacklivesmatter, this isn’t my time to speak. My voice is not the one that needs to be heard.

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Adult Booklr chose Jacqueline Woodson’s brown girl dreaming for our August Book Club and it could not be more poignant. I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about it, since it is a story written in poems instead of prose, but it ended up being incredibly beautiful. It is also a perfect book to release right now. It not only speaks to Black Culture, but it did a lot of good to me as well.

The rest of my review is written, obviously, from a white woman’s perspective. I have not been in the fight. I cannot understand what you are going through. I would love to hear your feelings on this beautiful book, and I hope you will share them with me.

brown girl dreaming is essentially Woodson’s memoir, written from the viewpoint of her as a child in the 1960s. Through her vivid poetry, she talks about growing up in Ohio, South Carolina, and New York, and the differences between prejudices and struggles in each location. She also lays out the foundation of learning to write, her family life, and just growing up as a whole.

Even though the words were spoken with a child’s voice, the wisdom in them was so pronounced. This was a child who saw the world through her pencil–every moment was a word waiting to be written. Her composition notebook was her tool to sort, file, organize the world around her and try to make sense of everything that was happening. For the reader, that notebook, in turn, helps us understand what is happening in our similar world today.

I couldn’t relate to everything she wrote. I grew up in a privileged home, with both parents, in the same house until the end of high school. I very much understand what people mean when they talk about White Privilege now. I can’t say I have never struggled…they are just different struggles.

There were, however, some poems that made my heart expand until I thought it was going to explode. Some made me want to weep. The ones about reading and writing, especially–not knowing how to use those gifts as a kid but just knowing they were there and she had to use them somehow.

Then there were the poems that really spoke to me on a human level. Those shook me. They are the reason I’m writing the review this way–because I really wasn’t sure how I was going to approach it. One of the last poems in the book was this one, called “how to listen #10”:

 

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I think that is the most important thing as a white person in America right now, because we are privileged, whether we can see it or not. It’s a hard thing to admit sometimes–pride is a hard thing to let go of. But we just have to shut up and listen.

 

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Reading as an Experience

When I approach a new book, I often know very little about it.

Many have been on my TBR for years–recommendations from acquaintances long forgotten–“Oh, you should read this!” Any one who finds out how much I read has a book for me, so it goes on The List. Bestsellers often end up on there, popular books making the rounds on Tumblr, and of course, the Boxall 1001. The List is over 3,000 titles long.

I will usually read a brief description of an ARC before I request it, but even then, it’s a month or two before I actually read it, since I prefer to wait until just before release to do the review. I have a general idea of most of the popular classic novels, but just an outline or topic. Only in the rare occasion that I really love the author and have been anxiously waiting a release, or it’s a book with a huge publicity push will I actually have a strong knowledge base before beginning.

Why do I do so little research about the books I read? Two simple reasons.

  1. I read almost a book a day. At that volume, it would be impossible for me to read pre-reviews on every single book. Nope, can’t do it.
  2. The biggest reason, though, is that I’d much rather go into a book blind. That way, every twist and turn is new, every character I meet is unexpected. It’s the same reason I often don’t watch every movie trailer anymore. I want to experience the book fresh. Sometimes with ARCs I hardly even pay attention to who the author is. I take notes with my reactions, mark down quotes, etc. With difficult books, I will often Wiki it, to make sure I am understanding what is happening–though I don’t usually do that until later in the story, or afterwards, unless I am really confused.

Reading for me is an immersive experience, and I try to get as much out of it as possible. It is enjoyable, but it is no longer just a hobby. I learn a great deal from the books I read, and so I have expanded the breadth of what I am taking in.

I’ve discussed this multiple times here before–how much I read, what I read, how I do it. I won’t get into that now. But learning is important to me, and I get really excited about it.

 

However, I’ve had a few conversations about reading as an experience this week. Not everyone reads the same way I do. And you know what, THAT IS OK!

I had one conversation where we geeked out about the toxic relationships in Wuthering Heights and analyzed the perception of that novel as a romance vs what the book really is. We talked about how we think all classics are well-written because the language is so much different than modern day English, but in reality, the authors fought with each other about their writing style as much as we do now.

But you know what also makes me really excited? Talking to someone who struggled with reading for years, hating it because they had trouble with dyslexia or any other reading disorder. But then someone gave them Harry Potter (or Twilight or Percy Jackson or INSERT BOOK HERE) and it opened up words for them. And it may take them a month to read one book but now they can do it and we can geek out together about our favorite stories. And it has nothing to do with the great masters of writing or the state of the world. It’s just words on a page that fit together to make a story that we all can share.

 

My point is this–read what you like. For years I read Nora Roberts and Rachel Gibson smut. I read every JD Robb In Death book in order for like 4-5 years. Maybe longer. That’s no longer my thing, but if it’s yours GREAT! If you’re an adult who loves YA, thumbs up. If you’re a kid who likes adult fiction, YES! Comics, newspapers, magazines, shampoo bottles? Done.

I’m kind of joking about the shampoo bottles, but I can’t say I haven’t done it when there’s nothing else in the bathroom.

Paperbacks, hard covers, ereaders, audiobooks. All valid sources. Guys, let’s stop arguing about what people like to read, and get excited about everyone who loves it as much as we do. Bookworms have gotten made fun of since the beginning of time. Let’s not beat up on each other too.

I firmly believe that reading is a process. It starts with that first book we fall in love with, and we just keep going. Every next book drags us a little further down the line. Maybe one day we step out from our normal genre into something new. Maybe next time it’s a bit more advanced than what we are used to. That process can be fast, or it may take a long time and be really gradual–and it may change hardly at all. My grandfather read Westerns his entire life…until the last year or two when he started reading Amish Christian fiction. So don’t let me or anyone else pressure you to step outside your comfort zone, but I do encourage it, when you’re ready.

There is a whole world of books out there! And you know I have a full List of recommendations for you!

Happy reading everyone!

People Who Eat Darkness

Note to Self:  Don’t read true crime on Mondays.

Mondays are hard enough to get through in one piece anyway, and then I added one of the darkest books in recent memory to my it. Good job, Haley. National Day of Laziness, what?

I could give you a trigger warning list, here, but it would be really really long. Suffice it to say–if you are easily triggered…don’t read this book. Seriously, just don’t.

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21 year old Lucie Blackman–tall, blonde, beautiful–travels to Japan with her best friend Louise. The girls are looking to earn quick, easy money to pay off debts, so they take jobs as foreign “hostesses”–a type of waitress that lure wealthy businessmen in to clubs. These clubs charge exorbitant fees by the hour (not to mention the hefty bottle fees too), so the more friendly and captivating a hostess is, the better her bonus. Sounds like great money to the two outgoing girls, but the trip turns dark when Lucie goes on a dohan (a sort of sponsored date with one of the clientele) and does not return.

Richard Lloyd Parry tells the story of Lucie’s terrifying case–the search conducted by her friend and family, the frustration with a foreign police force, a profile on the suspect, and the resulting trial.

I found People Who Eat Darkness intriguing. I had found this book a while back on a “If you like Hannibal” shelf, and while I don’t normally read true crime (mostly because it can sometimes read like a report instead of a story), this one was very well written. Parry keeps a plot-like story line going throughout, so it doesn’t get too mundane. As I mentioned at the beginning, though, it is EXTREMELY dark, and it never recovers. There is no happy ending. I had to take breaks every chapter to read brown girl dreaming just so it did not consume me.

My other major note on this book is that there does seem to be a pretty heavy bias against Japanese culture, and not just against the rapist. I am unsure if Parry is just trying to convey the disdain that the family had against the situation Lucie was in, or if it was an overall bias against the culture itself. But the whole time I was reading, I almost felt like there was a nose-crinkling subtext. To be fair, Lucie was not in a great neighborhood or situation, maybe that’s all it was. She herself called her living situation “The Shithole.” The narration just felt a little off to me, that’s all.

While I am critical of that last part, and while the book was very dark, it was a captivating story. I can’t call the people characters, because they are real. However, Parry has given us such a illuminating picture of each that we almost know them. Even some of the “good guys” aren’t all that good, but the bad guy, you will need a shower after meeting him. He positively drips with slime.

I will agree with the bookstore–if you are a fan of Hannibal, add this one to your list. Just proceed with caution. And maybe have something a little mellow standing by that you can easily pick up between chapters. Or maybe Tumblr. It’s easy to get caught up turning pages here, but you will need a break. Otherwise, the darkness might just eat you, instead.

 

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Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

For months I’ve been seeing this beautiful blue starry cover across Tumblr, and a gazillion Booklrs raving about (what I thought) was a pair of philosophers falling in love. I rarely read Goodreads reviews before adding a book to my TBR–I tend to just jump in to the story, preferring to discover along the way. My library never had it available, but they finally released the audiobook to me, and I am so glad they did. I think it was almost better in that format probably!

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I quickly learned that this wasn’t about the two ancient philosophers at all, but two teenage Mexican boys living in the desert city of El Paso. I generally can only read audiobooks while doing something–chores or walking–so falling in love with this story motivated me to walk more often! Except guys, it damned near broke my heart! Do you know how hard it is to keep pace while crying? I’m sure I got some weird looks on the trail.

Ari and Dante’s friendship is completely beautiful. For those of you who haven’t heard of this book before–it isn’t just a coming of age story, it’s also a coming out story. It’s powerful, sad, happy, scary. About every emotion you can have, you will have it while reading this book. A must read this year, absolutely.

And if you like audiobooks, definitely listen to this one. The narration is extremely well done!