Thursday, January 31, 2008

How sweet!

Juliette nominated me for the Make My Day award! Thank you, Juliette! That was so nice, and made my day!

Now I get to nominate up to ten people/blogs that I like a lot and share the love.

I'm more of a blog writer than a blog reader, so I only have a couple but these are definitely worth checking out:

Karma Kitties - a charming blog on knitting, cats, and parenthood. I love Bertha's crafts and great pictures of her beautiful daughter.

Book of Life Podcast - a great podcast on Jewish books, especially childrens' books. I always learn something new when I listen to Heidi's podcast. It's fun and enriching, both personally and professionally. Heidi's passion and enthusiasm for Jewish books and childrens' librarianship really shine through.

Have Cake, Will Travel - Celine's fun, beautifully photographed food blog. I always see something yummy-looking and fun on her blog.

Research Buzz - Tara Calishain's incredibly informative blog and newsletter on the world of online information and search. She wrote the book- literally- on searching Google with skill, and her publications are a fantastic resource for anyone interested in the ever-changing online world. I read her newsletter regularly and have mined it for material for this blog more than once.

That's it for now. I'll work on finding some more good ones to share with you.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Remember me?

Okay, so it's been forever since I've posted anything- after all the posting in December I'm definitely slacking off so far this month. I have a review coming up soon but here's the thing. I'm trying as much as possible to stick to reviewing current things, and my stream of new books is slower than it was in the fall so likewise my current-books reviews are going to be fewer. So should I start reviewing things I'm reading that aren't necessarily hot off the presses? I also don't to review a lot of books with which I think you may already be familiar. Let me know.

I've been reading plenty, but mostly manga- I read volume one of Ai Yazawa's Nana and plan to read the rest of the series, and I started volume one of Moyoco Anno's Happy Mania, which has its merits but has a deeply flawed and somewhat unlikeable heroine and I'm having a hard time connecting to it. I hear it gets better in later volumes but we'll see if I stick around that long. I have a whole list of manga series I'd like to try out and over the next few weeks I'm sure I'll be sampling many of them.

Volume 1 of Nana introduced two characters, both named Nana- Nana Komatsu, struggling to put her life together after a bad breakup, and Nana Osaki, who's got it all together but worried that it's falling apart. Both women move to Tokyo at the end of volume 1 and later volumes find them meeting and becoming best friends. This series appeals to me because the heroines are both likeable and interesting and the series is going to focus on their friendship as well as their relationships with men. Shigeta, the heroine of Happy Mania, is so far coming across as kind of desperate and pathetic, unable to enjoy her life without a man at her side or feel good about herself unless she's surrounded by admirers, and women like that don't appeal to me in fiction any more than they do in real life.

I've been struggling with War and Peace, or, if I'm being honest, I'm ignoring it. I think I made it too much work by doing the whole blogging thing alongside reading it. I joined the Yahoo discussion group and then promptly starting ignoring that as well, since I missed the first deadline and in any case there were plenty of people who couldn't abide by the guidelines and refrain from discussing spoilers before they were supposed to. Maybe I'll go back to it soon, maybe I won't. We'll see. Reading should always be fun first. And right now I'm having fun reading and learning about manga, so, so be it.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Updates and new books

Well, War and Peace is going very slowly, but my other reading is moving along swimmingly.

The find of the week is definitely The Adventures of Rabbi Harvey : A graphic novel of Jewish Wisdom and Wit in the Wild West, by Steve Sheinkin. (Click on the cover to buy from your local Booksense-affiliated bookseller!) This book contains a series of short stories starring Rabbi Harvey, a unibrowed sage who solves all kinds of problems, from convincing a young boy that he is not a chicken to breaking up a band of organized crime. Never getting too heavy or serious, it's a fun book for adults and children too- and probably for adults and children to read together and discuss the morals in each story. The art is unusual, almost like woodcut art in style but not quite, and compliments the dry wit effectively.

I picked up a couple of new manga as well, although for the most part I just add them to my Bookmooch wishlist and hope for the best. I'm reading a series called The Sand Chronicles, which is being serialized in the magazine Shojo Beat. I've been buying SB for a few months now but got a subscription for Christmas, which I'm very excited about. The Sand Chronicles, which just came out in book form (volume 1 was just published by Viz Media, which publishes Shojo Beat as well), is a sensitive story about a young girl who moves to the countryside from Tokyo with her unhappy mother. The girl, Ann, is settling in and making friends when tragedy strikes the family. She's faced with a series of challenges and decisions, and we'll see how it all turns out. It's a change from some of the more fluffy content you see in manga sometimes. I like it.

I have to say I'm very happy having interesting reading to do for work and for myself, and it's great how they intersect sometimes. I only picked up Rabbi Harvey on impulse the other day when I visited a local bookshop to get a textbook for my upcoming beginning-Hebrew language class and I'm really enjoying it. Sometimes I feel so lucky to be in a profession where reading and exploring great books counts as work!

Friday, January 11, 2008

REVIEW: The Shackled Warrior: Israel and the Global Jihad by Caroline B. Glick

The Shackled Warrior: Israel and the Global Jihad by Caroline B. Glick. Published 2008 by Gefen Publishers.

Click on the cover to buy via I'm an IndieBound affiliate and receive a small commission on sales.

I received an Advance Reader's Copy of this book through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program and Gefen Publishers.

The Shackled Warrior: Israel and the Global Jihad is what I'd call an aggressive book. The author, writer and Israel-affairs expert Caroline B. Glick, has an aggressive agenda- to prove that Islamic jihadists are out to take over the world, beginning with a campaign of genocide against all Jews.

I respect Glick's views and there are a lot of positive things to say about this collection. The book is made up of newspaper columns that ran in The Jerusalem Post, and in general her columns are very well-written and she knows her subject inside and out. Her writing is based on experience in the Israel Defense Forces, time as an embedded reporter with the U.S. military and in think tanks in Washington, D.C.; thus her expertise and depth of involvement shine through every page. Her articles, written in the thick of the action, are deeply tied to current events and to her point of view- she writes passionately about her subject and her argument, something any reader absolutely could not miss.

The book is arranged by topic and then chronologically within each topic; this arrangement allows the reader to see her reflections on history as it unfolds- a rare treat. However, because the articles appear without explanatory notes and out of context, it seems to be assumed that the reader knows what she's talking about. Removed from their source, to someone like myself who knows very little about the details of Middle Eastern politics and cannot match random publication dates with the specific events that occurred on or near them, they are simply confusing and it is difficult to learn anything about the Middle East or Israeli politics through her lens. I think reading her in the paper, right next to the day's news, would probably help me follow the thicket of detail and reference more closely.

What I did learn about was Caroline B. Glick and how she sees the world. Not one to build an argument in deliberate and logical fashion, with subtlety, footnotes and backup, her approach is aggressive and jarring, not to mention fast-paced and repetitive. She skims over the day's (or week's) news, using each turn of events to bolster her argument, which is always the same no matter what specific topic she's covering. Then there's the name-calling. For all she knows about the intricacies of Middle Eastern politics, adjectives and accusations are tossed around willy-nilly, often with little support. She claims that Europe is one step away from becoming another Middle Eastern country, what with all the Muslims and the accommodations European governments make for them. She takes the fight to America as well and accuses former Senate candidate Ned Lamont and his supporters of anti-Semitism in his campaign against then-incumbent Senator from Connecticut Joe Lieberman in one or two throwaway sentences, and she includes nothing to substantiate that very serious and inflammatory accusation. I know there were some rumors going around after Lamont beat Lieberman during the primary, and I'm certainly not in a position to evaluate the veracity of the accusations, but whatever the case it's unacceptable for Glick to besmirch someone's good name like that with nothing to back it up. Not content just to libel a Democratic American politician, later chapters see Glick going after such targets as the French, leftist academics and hippie protesters at Harvard. Do you see a pattern yet?

To be honest I found the book almost unreadable going from cover to cover. She has one point to make, and she makes it over and over in every column; after a while I wondered if she had anything else to say. I ended up finishing the first chapter and then cherry-picking through the rest until I had read everything. I'm sure she's better to read in the paper. When I read someone's column once a week or so, over time I can get a good feel for the writer's sensibility and point of view, but reading many columns all at once is a very different experience, particularly with a writer as polemical as Glick. I respect that Glick, unlike some American penthouse pundits, walks the walk and has put herself on the line more than once to become so well-informed. And the book is not without its merits. But it is certainly not appropriate for newcomers to Middle Eastern politics and I would recommend it only to serious Israel and political science buffs looking for an extremely focused and narrowly-viewed picture of that particular landscape.

Rating: BORROW

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review from the publisher.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Today's Mail

Today's mail brought me the above-pictured, much sought-after volume, Bigfoot vs. Chupacabras, hot off the presses and sure to become a classic of Western literature. Actually it's print-on-demand from B-Movie Books.

I mean, check out this quote: "A frustrated Major Donald Orville inhaled deeply through his nose. The very same nose he had just been accused of sticking where it didn't belong," from page 6. I was sold on the title alone, Bigfoot vs. Chupacabras. How could I resist? I'm not made of stone!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

The fun continues

I finished Hibiki's Magic last night and I have to say it was disappointing. It was uneven and strange; Hibiki is a cute little girl with no self-confidence who may have great magical powers- but does she? You get one guess. Anyway one minute it's all cuteness and light, and the next minute a bratty student magician is pointing a huge gun in her face. It was strange. I don't think I'm going to actually put down money to buy volume 2, but if I can trade for it on Bookmooch, fine. There's a good chance I'll trade volume 1. Today I'm going to a comic book store so there's also a good chance I'll come home with a new manga. Just not Hibiki's Magic.

War and Peace continues, slowly. I'm in no hurry to blaze through it. I've been blogging every time I finish a few sections; it's helping me to go slowly and really pay attention.

I'll have a new review soon, most likely sometime near the middle of next week. I have to psyche myself up to write about The Shackled Warrior. I started it a few days ago and it's... going. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

To-Be-Read Stuff

So January is shaping up to be an interesting reading month. I'm bumbling along through War and Peace, reading some graphic novels and manga, trying to locate a particularly rare manga called The Rose of Versailles- that Complete Guide to Manga is becoming for me something between a reference book and a to-be-read list! I'm trying not to overdo it but it's fun to have a resource like this at my fingertips.

As for War and Peace, I joined one of the Yahoo! groups discussing the book. Their first deadline is January 15, to finish the first large division, about 300 pages; I'll do my best but I don't think I'm going to make it! We'll see. It's a big book.

I'm starting the first volume of the manga Hibiki's Magic soon, and I started reading The Case of Comrade Tulayev, by Victor Serge. It's a novel about Stalinist Russia. So far it's pretty good. I'd like to finish up reading American Born Chinese, a very good graphic novel and dig into some of my back-pile of graphic novels as well. I have things left over from last Christmas I haven't even looked at, and then there's this Christmas! I'm also looking forward to reading Shackled Warrior: Israel and the Global Jihad, by Caroline Glick, for LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program, as soon as it arrives. Should be interesting!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

REVIEW: Will You Still Love Me if I Wet the Bed? by Liz Prince

Will You Still Love Me If I Wet the Bed? by Liz Prince. Published 2005 by Top Shelf. Paperback.

Click on the cover to buy via I'm an IndieBound affiliate and receive a small commission on sales.

The other day I went on a little spending spree at my favorite comic book store and came back with this little gem, Will You Still Love Me if I Wet the Bed, by Boston-area comic artist Liz Prince.

Will You Still Love Me... is a short little coffee-break of a comics collection, just 71 small pages of two- to four-panel comics starring a young woman named Liz who draws comics, her boyfriend Kevin and cat called Science. I gather the characters are not entirely fictional. The topic is love and relationships and the tone is mellow and loving.

Prince's drawing style and prose style resembles that of comic artist Jeffrey Brown, who penned a little comic introduction to the book- rough and quick-looking, with true to life details like the cat not moving from the bed when you want him to, or being hypersensitive about what your boyfriend says in his sleep, or joking around about the consequences of borrowing a little money. I enjoyed how Prince revels in the quiet, private moments of a good relationship. The art and the writing compliment each other nicely. Both prose and pictures are economical but effective and not over-worked; the characters' emotions and love for each other shine through.

I've already read through it several times. It's adorable. If you like sweet relationship stories, go pick it up- you'll love it.


FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review from the publisher.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Let's Talk About You!

Leave a comment to introduce yourself- who you are, what you like to read, and anything else you'd like to share. Whether you're a regular, a lurker, or a one-time visitor, I'd love to get to know you a little better!

Happy New Year!

Here are my resolutions for books & reading in 2008:

  1. I will read War and Peace and update my blog, AYearof regularly.
  2. If a book is boring I will stop reading it and read something else instead. Buh-bye, Mr. Mani.
  3. I will intersperse manga and graphic novels in with serious fiction.
  4. I will make every effort to keep up with current fiction and review recent books as much as possible.
  5. I will make every effort to post on regularly, 3-4 times per week.
  6. I will remember that reading is supposed to be fun and always approach my to-be-read pile in that spirit.
Happy reading!

Review Policy

I'm not accepting most review requests for the first quarter of 2010 (and possibly longer). I will complete the obligations I've accepted as of January, 2010 and focus on my own interests for a while. If you have a question or just want to talk about it with me, you can contact me at bibliophile at bostonbibliophile dot com.

I do not participate in blog tours unless they are sponsored by a professional library association.