Wednesday, September 16, 2009

School Book: Titus Andronicus

I have seen the Julie Taymor film version of Titus starring Anthony Hopkins, so I vaguely remembered some of the more gruesome parts of the story. But right from the get-go Titus Andronicus managed to amaze me. From Saturninus's strange paranoia (he was most paranoid that Titus was against him even though it was Titus who made him emperor) to Titus killing one of his four remaining sons, Act 1 was one of the wildest rides I've ever been on. This is probably the most senslessly violent play I've read of Shakespeare's work. While Hamlet has a giantic body count, almost all of the killing happens near the end. Titus Andronicus is a crazy blood bath that never wants to stop.

Interlude: Piled Higher and Deeper

I didn't actually put this on the official List, so I'm counting it as an interlude. On my first Friday back in school, the Graduate Student committee had a guest speaker, Jorge Cham, present a talk on The Power of Procrastination. Jorge Cham is the creator of the comic series Piled Higher and Deeper, which depicts graduate student life at Stanford University. The talk was hilarious (when it didn't scare me off of grad school), and afterwards he had a book signing. Having never read the comic strip before, I lucked out and managed to get one of two copies of the first book that he had with him (my friend got the second copy). I've been reading the book ever since, reading a few pages whenever I needed a bit of a mental break.
Like Cham's talk, Piled Higher and Deeper is hilarious (while also somewhat terrifying - is grad school really like this?) This first volume collects the first five years of Cecilia, Mike, Tajel and the nameless hero's adventures in their respective PhD programs (Tajel is in the social sciences, while the other three appear to be in engineering). Whether on a search for funding or free food, their antics (and those of the supporting cast of characters) will have you laughing and crying (if you are yourself a grad student). I'm hoping to pick up the other volumes for some more sanity breaks in the future!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Library Book: Common Grounds Vol 1

I saw this graphic novel at work and thought it looked interesting, so I decided to grab it. Having a bit of extra time before school starts this week, I decided to read it so I could send it back without having to renew it a million times!
Common Grounds is a really neat read. There are thirteen stand alone stories in it that only share one real commonality: the coffee shop Common Grounds, where both super heroes and villians can meet without fighting. (Well, the last story also ties everything together, too; a lot of the characters from the other stories make appeances or are mentioned). Common Grounds is full of a lot of zany, colourful people and I really enjoyed their stories. I also really liked the cover art; it reminds me of the art from Justice. This is a great read if you want something a bit different from the comic book world.

Interlude: Planet Hulk

A friend of mine lent this to me a long time ago. I decided to read it as I have a bit of time right before school starts.
Planet Hulk starts with the Hulk being tricked by his "friends." They send him into space to a planet with no sentient life so that he will no longer be a danger to Earth. His shuttle accidentally goes through a portal and the Hulk finds himself on the planet Sakaar. The Hulk is enslaved by the Imperials and find himself a gladiator in their arena. Unfortunately for the Imperials, the Hulk allies himself with some of the other gladiators, and together the slaves fight not only for their own freedom, but for the very future of Sakaar.
I have to admit that Planet Hulk didn't really appeal to me when I first started reading it (or really at all - I didn't really want to read it, but I wanted to give it back to my friend). I found the beginning a bit slow and boring, which is rather odd as the Hulk has crashlanded on a planet and is turned into a gladiator. It was only about halfway through the story that I started to enjoy it. I thought it was entertaining, but I really have no desire to read the next part (World War Hulk). The end was a bit predictable in my opinion, and the whole thing just wasn't really for me.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Interlude: The Time Traveler's Wife

One of the last times I went to the movie theater, I saw a preview for The Time Traveler's Wife. It looked pretty good, and I remember eyeing the book up at work in the past, so I decided to read it before seeing the movie. I was going to put it on hold, but a friend lent it to me instead (therefore it is an interlude and not a library book).
Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife is a love story. It is the story about Henry, a man with a genetic abnormality that moves him through time, and about Clare, the girl who loves him. Henry first appeared in Clare's life when she was a little girl; she grew up looking forward to his visits. Henry always appeared in her childhood when he was older; he first met Clare when he was already an adult.
The Time Traveler's Wife was admittedly a bit creepy. There are scenes when Clare is six and Henry shows up as a naked forty-year old. But overall, I thought it was a great love story, full of the everything that makes up love. As the Daily Express (UK) quote on the front cover says, it is "a magical love story that is as sad as it is joyous." I thought it was sad, but it was, in its way, a beautiful story.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Child Thief

I had started reading David Eddings's Queen of Sorcery when I wandered into Chapters a few days ago, which was my first mistake. While browsing the shelves, I discovered that Brom (a fantastic artist I know of from Magic:the Gathering) had written a novel. The art looked fantastic, and the book's premise intrigued me. That was when I made my second mistake: I started reading the Prologue. After that, I found myself unable to put the book down and immediately bought it.

The Child Thief is the story of Peter Pan reimagined. Peter roams the streets of New York looking for lost children who he brings back to his magic island. He entices them with stories of adventure and the lack of grownups, but leaves out the scarier aspects, like the Flesh-eaters and barghest, or the Mist that must be crossed to get to the island. Once in Avalon, the children become his troops in a war for the island's very soul. One of these lost children is Nick. Peter helps Nick get away from his troubles; with no where left to turn, Nick follows Peter through the Mist to Avalon. Once there, Nick finds he does not want to be part of the war, but is caught up in it all the same.

One of my favourite characters was, surprisingly, the Captain. Gone is Captain Hook, the usual villain in Peter Pan. In his place is a very deep, brave character who I truly felt sorry for. He was a man left in extraordinary circumstances and I felt myself feeling sorry for him and hoping that things would work out.

Make no mistake, The Child Thief is a very dark, adult tale. But it was very beautiful in its way, and I found myself not wanting to put it down. Brom spun a fantastic story, and I hope to get a hold of more by him in the future!