book thoughts: Rick Geary’s Non-Fiction Graphic Novels

So, did text books pretty much ruin history for you?  All those boring pages and pages of names and dates, with the same old bits repeated year after year (found American, Revolt, Repeat) until you got out of high school?  Well, what if those history lessons had a bit more intrigue to them?

murder of abraham lincoln Borden Tragedy beast of chicago

Rick Geary’s Graphic Novels are devoid of superheroes or dream masters.  Instead, Geary uses his talents as a writer and as an artist to tell the stories from history.  His main series – Treasury of Victorian Murder – covers such classics as the Assasination of Abraham Lincoln, Jack the Ripper, The Lindbergh Kidnapping and Lizzie Borden.

Researched and readable, these books are great primers for someone who wants an accessible version of the facts before diving into a 500 page book on the subject.  Part True-Crime novel and part history lesson, Geary’s black and white ink drawings are simple enough in their style that readers unfamiliar with the graphic novel format shouldn’t feel overwhelmed.

I for one had no interest in reading about Jack the Ripper, but Geary’s book (which uses the primary source of a London citizen’s diary from the time to frame the story) was so easy to read, that I did find myself wondering about the mystery afterwards.

jack the ripper lindbergh kidnapping

So next time you’re struggling to find a book, ask a librarian for one of Rick Geary’s graphic novels.  You’ll be able to finish the thing in one sitting and afterwards you’ll have some extra bits of knowledge floating around in your brain.  And who knows, you might ignite a passion for history that you didn’t even know you had.

book thoughts: Fade by Lisa McMann

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Lisa McMann

Janie is a “dream catcher”.  Since discovering this ability in Wake, she has spent a bit of time training herself to control her power.  Fade is the next step in that story.

While I enjoyed Wake, I think I expected more from Fade.  Like Wake, McMann uses her very quick and readable style to move the story along, and the reader can tear through the book in a matter of hours.  I felt like she had some interesting ideas, but the ending was a little over the top.  Even after you get over the idea that a person’s dreams will some how lead to the solving of a crime, the last few chapters just ended up in a very weird place. 

It feels like McMann is probably setting up a third book (or more?) for this series because of what is revealed at the end of this book. 

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movie thoughts: I Love You, Man (2009)

I love Team Apatow.  This new brand of comedic film that blends honest (some times crude) humor but with a good heart at its center has made for some of the best laughs in a good while.  ‘I Love You, Man’ is no exception. 

Pete (Paul Rudd) gets engaged to his girlfriend of eight months and slowly realizes that he has no close male friends.  Yeah, he knows lots of guys – the other real estate agent at the office, his fencing team…but none of them are really friends.  In an attempt to even things out, he goes in search of a friend.  But what he gets is a true Bromance.  Segel’s Sydney is a free spirit who doesn’t feel compelled to dowhat is expected of him while Rudd’s Pete likes to please other peopleand has spent his whole life trying to be good enough.

Warning: you must love Paul Rudd and Jason Segel for this movie to work because it is all about the two of them.  The writers manage to walk a fine line between too much and not believable when it comes to the interactions.    What could easily have become a movie about Pete becoming a “real man”, we find the “real men” (sport watchers, beer drinkers, hyper-competitive, muscle-bound) are portrayed as annoying (Jon Favreau is hilarious as the poker playing, beer drinking alpha male).  They are not evil people, but definitely not anything to aspire to.  And Syndey doesn’t try to change Rudd, but does work to give him more confidence.  And Rudd plays Pete with just the right amount of naivete that you can go along with some of his mistakes – mistakes that must happen to move the plot along but if played incorrectly could have been unforgivable.  Instead, you just shake your head and laugh. 

This movie is a great date movie, for every kind of relationship.  It’s nice to see a movie that portrays a friendship between two men without making them seem weak or that something is wrong with them.  They share their thoughts and feelings, and while it pokes fun at the conventions of the romantic comedy, it also shows that male relationships can have just as many layers as the more frequently portrayed female relationships. 

Go grab a friend or two, get some popcorn, and see this movie with a group so you can laugh out loud together.  At roughly 90 minutes, this movie gets everything right. 

(And while I have no desire to see a sequel, I do want to see more movies with Rudd and Segel teamed up together.  They compliment each other in more than just physical height).

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book thoughts: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (2008)

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Suzanne Collins

Imagine a future where the world is ruled by a dictatorship and they have the power to take you away at any moment.  But they don’t…instead, they leave it up to chance.  Once a year, your life is on the line and if chosen, your death will be considered entertainment for the masses.

This is the society that Katniss grew up in.  Her family lives in District 12, one of the many districts ruled by The Capitol.  Years ago, the 13 districts tried to rebel against the government of Panem, but the Capitol squashed their rebellion.  District 13 was completely wiped off the map, and the rest were turned into slaves to the Capitol, each providing a different resource for those citizens and leaving their own to starve.  The Hunger Games, a twisted take on reality entertainment, were designed to remind the people of Panem the power the Capitol has over them; that at a moments notice they can take away a child and force them to fight a battle to the death.  And everyone in Panem will be forced to watch as these children try to survive because only one can be declared the winner. 

This book is action-packed and hard to put down.  Reading the story, you can easily (and eerily) imagine an event like the Hunger Games airing on television today.  Contestants are paraded around, try to win sponsors, and then have their trials and tribulations broadcast to the world.  But Katniss has her wits about her, even if her people skills are not that great.  She is a strong heroine and makes this book hard to put down as you follow her through the different facets of the games. 

There’s so much I want to say about this book but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone.  It is a fantastic read, with writing so vivid, you feel like you’re watching a movie (though in a couple years, you will be as Lionsgate just optioned the film rights).  It can get gruesome at time, since the kids are fighting to the death, but the violence isn’t enough to turn anyone off if you’ve watched an action/adventure movie in the passed 10 years. 

This is the first book in a planned trilogy, but The Hunger Games has a satisfying ending to itself, so don’t worry about being left with a big cliffhanger.  Collins leaves the story open just enough to continue, but not enough to leave you feeling like you should have waited for book 2 to be out (which it will be in September). 

Do yourself a favor and read The Hunger Games now…because I have a feeling in a few months, everyone else will be talking about it.

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