Thursday, August 28, 2014

Bones of Faerie

Written by: Janni Lee Simner

First line: I had a sister once.

Why you should read this book: I decided to read it after listening to the author speak on a panel about world-building, but in the case of this book, it's almost as if Simner instead took the world as we know it, went through a process of world-deconstructing, and then filled in the rubble with malevolent magic. Magic, Liza has been told over and over by her father, is dangerous and must be stamped out, so when she realizes that she herself has been infected with its curse, she leaves town before her father can eliminate the problem the way he did with her baby sister. Accompanied by Matthew, who can turn into a wolf at will, her travels lead her to new ways of seeing magic, new friends, new knowledge abou the war between humans and fairies, and the real fate of those loves ones lost to powers she only begins to understand.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're pretty careful to speak no ill of the fair folk, just in case.

The Magician's Land

Written by: Lev Grossman

First line: The letter had said to meet in a bookstore.

Why you should read this book: In this smash-bang conclusion to the trilogy, disenfranchised and disaffected magician Quentin Coldwater tries a few followup careers to being the rightful king of a magic land, including professor of magic and thief of magical items, before settling on his great work of creating a new land. Meanwhile, back in Fillory, his friends make a futile attempt to stem the impending apocalypse, and somewhere or other, Alice is still manifesting as a vengeful spirit with a very real power to hurt people. Packed with intelligence, excitement, and invention, this is a page-turner of a novel keeps the reader suspended in a magical realm from page one, and a little reluctant to leave when the story ends.

Why you shouldn't read this book: It claims to be the last book in a trilogy, but the last chapter feels pretty much like the set up for a new trilogy.

Thursday, August 14, 2014


Written by: H. Rider Haggard

First line: There are some events of which each circumstance and surrounding detail seem to be graven on the memory in such fashion that we cannot forget them.

Why you should read this book: Another classic of colonialist literature, this magical novel follows an unusual pair of Englishmen on their search for a legend they found written on a broken piece of pottery. Landing rudely in an uncharted region of eastern Africa, Horace Holly and his ward, Leo Vincey, have a few near death experiences before being taken under the wing of Ayesha, a seemingly ageless and preternaturally beautiful sorceress living in a massive crypt and ruling over a primitive people under the moniker She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed. Ayesha, convinced that Leo is the reincarnation of the lover she slaughtered 2000 years earlier in a fit of jealousy, will stop at nothing to write her own happy ending.

Why you shouldn't read this book: When you look back on the things you've done for love, murder makes the list more than once.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

King Solomon's Mines

Written by: H. Rider Haggard

First line: It is a curious thing that at my age--fifty-five last birthday--I should find myself taking up a pen to try and write a history.

Why you should read this book: Perhaps the quintessential colonialist mindset adventure book of darkest Africa, the story of elephant hunter Allan Quartermain is markedly less racist than the Tarzan novels, with a slightly different breed of sexism. Figuring he has nothing to lose and everything to gain, Quartermain sets out to help Sir Henry locate his long lost brother, last seen questing for the untold riches of King Solomon's Mines. Accompanied by the stunning African warrior Umbopa and the well-dressed retired sailor Captain Good, they face privation, intrigue, the threat of death around every corner, and the possibility of the greatest treasure upon which any Englishman has ever laid his eyes.

Why you shouldn't read this book: A complete and marked lack of petticoats.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative

Written by: Will Eisner

First line: The telling of stories lies deep in the social behavior of human groups--ancient and modern.

Why you should read this book: Written by the master, this is the resource for understanding the space in which graphic storytelling takes place: not merely at the intersection between words and images, but within a field that spans all of human history. Eisner highlights this last fact by allowing a storytelling caveman to communicate salient points in concise panels that deconstruct the art of storytelling and then put it back together to highlight human psychology as well as art. Detailed, but without extraneous information, this is the perfect guide for those seeking to understand the elements that come together to create a successful comic.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're a hack.

The Son of Tarzan

Written by: Edgar Rice Burroughs

First line: The long boat of the Marjorie W. was floating down the broad Ugambi with ebb tide and current.

Why you should read this book: While this series is increasingly ridiculous, there remains something terribly compelling about the law of the jungle, despite its inherent racism, sexism, and lack of understanding of reality. Ten years have passed between this volume and the previous, and although Jane has done her utmost to raise their son as a proper English lord, he will insist on obsessing about the wild. Through an unlikely set of circumstances, young Jack finds himself in Africa and soon transforms into a young lord of the jungle, where he can kill people with impunity and, for a time, exist in a state of perfect innocence.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You find safeguarding the purity of white women a rather tiresome topic.