Sunday, August 28, 2011

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

I caught the movie starring that girl from those godawful vampire romance movies on TV once. Might have been Lifetime Movie Network - don't ask, I can't explain how I landed on that channel. There was something wrong with her, something they hinted to a lot during flashbacks. It wasn't hard to see she was raped. It wasn't a hard movie to follow, but it was an emotional one. And I cannot deny that it caught my attention. So much so, I looked up the film and learned its title. I also learned that it was based on a short novel by Laurie Halse Anderson (TwistedFever 1793Wintergirls and Prom). 

Of course, I was still going through my YA-has-nothing-to-offer-me-as-a-reader-or-a-writer phase - this is when I thought all YA was vampires and wizards - so it took me a while to come around. After reading a slew of YA novels, I finally wrapped my hands around Anderson's masterpiece, Speak.

Melinda Sordino starts high school as the most hated - well, shunned - girl in the freshmen class. Her former best friend, Rachel - who goes by the name Rachelle now - has cast her out of her inner circle. Other former friends treat her like a pariah. And the whole school knows what she did at the end of the summer party. The only problem is, they don't know what led her to calling the cops. And Melinda isn't speaking about it.

Anderson reminds adult readers how difficult our teenage years were. How hard it was to adapt in high school. She tells her target audience that it's okay to speak up against things that you don't agree with. That you're not alone in this world, no matter what happens to you.

Beautifully written and insightful, Speak is a must have for adult and teenager alike. 

Geez. Did I just write that last line? Oh well, until next time. Keep on huntin'.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Book Hunter Watches a Movie

I'm one of those guys who saw The Fast and The Furious was blown away by the storytelling awesome way cars sped down the street, exploded and how the drivers, somehow, walked away from it all. I'm also the sort of guy who likes to pretend 2 Fast 2 Furious and Tokyo Drift - the sequels that followed after - don't exist. For me, it's the first film then a handful of years of nothing before Fast and Furious, followed by the almighty of sequels, Fast Five.

Despite my belief that they don't exist, 2 Fast 2 Furious and Tokyo Drift do play a hand in the storytelling in this fifth part, as several actors from both films reprise their roles. Here's where the storyline gets a little tricky, though. Because these films don't run chronologically. The time line is as follows: The Fast and Furious, 2 Fast 2 Furious, Fast and Furious, Fast Five and Tokyo Drift, with a sixth film following after - if it's not call Furious Six, I'm going to be pissed.

This film picks up where the last one ends, with Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker) and crew racing after the prison bus carrying Dom (Vin Diesel). They manage to free him and begin their lives on the run. Brian and Mia (Jordana Brewster) head to Rio de Janeiro where they meet up with long time - and missing since the first flick - friend, Vince (Matt Schulze), who offers the two a job stealing cars from a train. Brian later learns that the cars were confiscated by the DEA and the people who put them up to it only want one. Dom, who learns quickly of the plan, instructs Mia to steal the car while he and Brian take care of the thugs. 

Framed for killing three DEA agents, Dom, Mia and Brian learn that DSS Agent, Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and his team are hunting for the three of them. The three quickly formulate a plan to enact revenge on those who wronged them by stealing $100 million dollars. This is where the old friends from the previous sequels come into play. 
(spoiler alert behind the cut)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Web-Slingger Returns

It's clear that Spider-Man: Reign echoes a post-9/11 world, if not a blatant observation of the Bush Administration following the terrorist attacks and the war against terrorism. Much like the promises of a madman from Texas to make our country safe, Mayor Waters promises New York protection from super-terrorists. The only cost for this freedom is the citizens' freedom and civil rights - the guy even goes as far as canceling the electoral process until his job is done (which, I wouldn't have put it passed Bush to do the very same thing). So while making a Utopia, Waters manages to create the ultimate Dystopia. And who can save the city from itself? Why none other than the friendly neighborhood florist.

Peter Parker finds himself as an elderly man working at a flower shop. His glory days are over. He is a widow. Retired from fighting crime. Slowly awaiting death. On the night he is fired, he witnesses a teenager beaten by the Reign - a military police force that now holds the law in New York. Helpless to come to the aid of the teenager, Parker turns his back on the scene and goes home, where an old friend comes to see him. Even the aging J. Jonah Jameson can put aside old grudges against his former employee and scandal maker. Jonah urges the retired hero to take the mask again and save the city from those in charge because he fears that something much darker lurks in Waters' shadow. Something only a spider can overcome.

Kaare Andrews brings us the Marvel equivalent to The Dark Knight Returns, showing us that no matter how old we get, a hero still lives within us all. It's probably the best graphic novel I've read this summer - outmatching The Age of Apocalypse arc. The art is haunting and the storytelling echoes with genius - the character voices just pop into the reader's head (I wasn't even trying to give them voices, it just happened). Let's not forget that this by far the most political graphic novel I've read since Watchmen. It's a must for Spider-Man fans everywhere and a great read for those literary nuts out there (myself included).

Until next time, keep on huntin'.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Book Hunter on Vacation

After a grueling week - weeks, actually - without a single break (half days don't count!), this book hunter's wish was granted. Now, sitting in this room at the Ramada Unlimited - located in South Padre Island - unwound and relaxed, I decided to make a quick update of the blog. Because you can go on vacation from your job, but never book hunting.

At first glance, it's easy to miss "Paragraphs." I nearly missed it, anyway. The last thing I was expecting to see was a book store anywhere on the island. I'm glad I found it. Not to mention the three Philip Roth novels just tucked on the shelf, as if waiting for me. Sadly, I only purchased one novel - The Humbling. New copy, half the price! Can we say awesome?!

Oh well, I better go back to enjoying myself. Until next time, keep on huntin'.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Legend of the Monkey King by Tess Gerritsen

Okay. Okay. The books called The Silent Girl - can you blame a monkey lover for renaming it in his post? Isn't that what the books mostly about, though? Forget the "silent girl" character in Tess Gerristen's novel, the ninth book in the Rizzoli and Isle series, the Monkey King steals the show!

A Jane Doe, murdered on a roof top, starts off this mystery. What irks Boston PD most is how she died. Not a gun shot - though the victim was holding a weapon. And not quite a knife, either. Her severed hand and slit throat indicates that this woman killed on the roof tops of Chinatown bit more than she could chew. And it leads Rizzoli and gang down the alleyways of this district into the land of mythical - and historical - China. But when Jane starts searching for clues, it leads her to the grips of a murder-suicide case nineteen years old. And if anyone knows that seeing isn't exactly believing, what she unearths is far more than any woman, mother, detective can take.

Of course, there are personal drama at hand, as well. Maura Isles begins her side of the tale in the midst of a trial. A vigilante cop indited on taking the law into his own hands by brutally beating and killing a cop-killer. The once beloved pathologist is now public enemy number one within the Boston police department, placing her at odds with long-time friend - and semi-partner - Jane Rizzoli. Still recovering from her relationship with Father Brophy and her near-death entanglement, there's no telling what lies in Maura's future. Only that Rat - the child-hero who saved her life in the snow-capped mountains of Wyoming - still offers her comfort, and let's it slip that Anthony Sansone talks about her a lot.

New on the team is Detective Johnny Tam, an Asian-American who joins Rizzoli and Frost in the Chinatown investigation. He adds the reminiscent of Jane's own fight to prove herself, which sparks admiration from both Rizzoli and the reader. 

Like a few other books in the series, Gerritsen mixes reality with fantasy by introducing the lore of the Monkey King, Sun WuKong. Because as the story gets deeper, a humanoid figure steps in to take matters in his hands.

It's a fantastic read, though I expected nothing else from the writer. I can't wait for what she has in store for us next. Until next time, keep on huntin'.

Friday, August 12, 2011

DC Versus Marvel Comics

It all comes down to this, doesn't it? The end of my graphic novel spree from my childhood in a single trade paperback edition. It started with Maximum Carnage and ends with DC Versus Marvel Comics - the epic contained in four issues plus Doctor Strangefate #1.

Following the story line two "gods" becoming aware of each other and deciding to pit their heroes against each other, the epic also spawned the Amalgam Universe, in which characters from both "worlds" were combined to make new heroes - my personal favorite being Dark Claw (Batman & Wolverine). This also means that while the epic is presented in full - the battles plus the resolving of the two universes - it also lacks the Amalgam comics that followed. And while these comics are available in collections, I opted out from reading them - I remember a few titles were not to my liking.

As for the book? Well, it's a must have for comic book geeks everywhere - especially if you grew up in the 90's. As for literary significance, well, is there anyway to say this correctly? Don't try to destroy your brother? I dunno. I really don't know.

Until next time, keep on huntin'. Man, it's been a while since I've typed that.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

X-Men: The Complete Age of Apocalypse Epic Book 4

And so concludes the epic that I never came around to finishing as a teenager - with the bad guys losing (except for those who got away) and the heroes winning (only to watch the world they know end). 

Much like book one, the final collection of the Age of Apocalypse epic contains what I'd like to call filler - stories related to the epic, but not a part of it. It collects the fourth and final issues of Generation Next, X-Calibre, Factor X, Gambit and the X-Ternals, Amazing X-Men, Weapon X, X-Man #4 & 53-54, X-Universe #2, X-Men: Omega, X-Men: Prime, and Blink #4 (for some odd reason, as it is also featured in book one, but it's quite possibly the last four pages of the final issue).

What can I say about this collection? While most of it's worth the read, I ignored Blink and the other two issues of X-Man. The writing is magnificent and the art is stellar - there is not disappointment here! The stories are heartbreaking - especially the collection opener of Generation Next. Again, we are hit with the choices our heroes and villains make in this world. And how, no matter how much we distance ourselves from the conflict, we will have to make a decision in the end. Sometimes it's for the better and sometimes it's for our undoing. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Book Hunter Watches a Movie

It's no big secret that I loved the Scream trilogy. I mean, it reinvented and made fun of the slasher flick genre. Without it, we wouldn't have had movies Legend. Know What You Did Last Summer. And um... Well, you get the point.

We also wouldn't have the famous pop culture reference, "What's your favorite scary movie?" Or those godawful Scary Movie sequels.

But in the age of remakes, Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson decided on giving us a sequel. One that attempts to remake the original - have I lost you yet? Good.

Back when this film was a rumor, I shrugged it off. There was no way anyone was stupid enough to think a third sequel to the Scream franchise would work. Let alone stupid enough to think that a fourth part would spark a new trilogy.

Blame it on my high school crush on Neve Campbell - meaning, I was in high school once - but the moment I saw the Scream 4 trailer, I got giddy. Jyg insisted it looked stupid, like it was attempting to be a comedy - apparently, she'd never seen the first three parts. While I didn't - much to Jyg's power of persuasion - get to see the film the moment it came out, I finally got to see it some several months later. And I gotta tell you. She had every right to keep me out of the theater. 

What I witness wasn't a film. It was an abortion of the genre. I stand in disbelief something so godawful could be birthed by the people responsible - even though Williamson didn't write third installment - for the original three. 

And the "idea" wasn't lost on me. I get it. Maybe it was made to suck on purpose - I mean, have you ever seen a decent remake? - to prove a point: "Don't fuck with the original." But the humor in this film was goofy, terrible, didn't even set the film in motion. And because it was rumored as a first in a new trilogy, I assumed that the new cast would take the helm and lead us into new adventures with Ghost Face. Instead, we're stuck with Neve Campbell and the failed Hollywood marriage because someone thought it would be a great idea to [redacted due to spoiler alert]. 

Perhaps the Weinstein company should've left this in the back burner. Or provided the audience with an actual remake. Or perhaps the Internet should've kept it fucking mouth closed so that no one would catch wind of this horrible idea and those of us content with the trilogy ending would have been left at ease.

The beginning of the end

It's a misleading title I've chosen, considering the first book would've been the beginning of the end. All things considered, the Age of Apocalypse started at the height - when things were getting ready to fall apart. 

But book three is the rising of the climax. And thus far in the series, it's the been the most interesting, page-turning, on the-seat's-edge collection. Housing X-Calibre #2-3, Astonishing X-Men #2-4, Generation Next 2-3, X-Man #2-3, Factor X #3, Amazing X-Men #3, Weapon X #3, Gambit & The X-Ternals #3 and X-Universe #1, it brings to light the battle that's looming upon Apocalypse's doorstep - not to mention the one he dropped on the High Human Council and the X-Men. 

The theme is choice, of course. Isn't that the most case with these superhero graphic novels? How the choices we make affect the outcome of a series of events? We're asked to what degree would we allowed to stay human when the power is given in our hands? What would we sacrifice in order to save a loved one? What are we willing to give up in order to make a difference in this world and in the lives of the people we love? How much farther are we willing to go? And are we willing to die for what we believe in, for what we believe is right? For a dream?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Age of Apocalypse The Complete Epic Book 1 & 2

A few posts ago, I decided to revive my childhood through comic books graphic novels from my youth. It started with Spider-Man's Maximum Carnage saga and now ends with Age of Apocalypse

For reasons I cannot explain, I ceased my reading of Tess Gerritsen's The Silent Girl to continue with this task.

The first book on the slate collects X-Men Chronicles #1 & #2, Tales from the Age of Apocalypse: By the Light, X-Man #-1 & '96 Annual, Tales from the Age of Apocalypse: Sinister Bloodlines and Blink #1-4. 

While the first collection does include some canon essential to the entire plot of the Age of Apocalypse saga, I find no use for the X-Man Annual and the Blink miniseries. If anything, they only add in the filler necessary to make it seem less of a rip-off. I managed to read most of it, but opted out from reading Blink. If I have the time, or decide it's essential to me, I'll read it later. 

Unlike the first collection, the second book to the Age of Apocalypse epic collects essential X-Men titles - X-Men: Alpha, Age of Apocalypse: The Chosen, Generation Next #1, Astonishing X-Men #1, X-Calibre #1, Gambit and the X-Ternals #1-2, Weapon X #1-2, Amazing X-Men #1-2, Factor X #1-2 and X-Man #1.

This book places - to its best - each title in chronological order. With the exception of the one-shot title, Age of Apocalypse The Chosen, which serves no greater purpose than to introduce us to the key players of this reality - Earth-295.

In a world thrown into the midst of chaos, an eugenics war rages on. Humans against a superior race of mutants who want to dominate the entire planet. Only a few rebels band together to aid the humans and fight against the ancient mutant known throughout the lands as Apocalypse. Led by Erik Lehnsherr - better known as Magneto - these rebels are known as the X-Men.

In an age where Charles Xavier's dream was never realized, Magneto and his X-Men attempt to see it through. Hoping that they can make the difference before the world comes to an end.