Thursday, August 27, 2009

August Reviews: The Nonfiction

I'm a long way from finishing the two books I'm working on now, so it looks like an even dozen for August. I wish I could read 12 consistently. Actually, I wish I could read 20. Since I've saved all my reviews for the end of the month, I decided to split them into 2 posts -- Nonfiction and fiction. As usual, fiction triumphed, but not by much. The final score is 7-5.

1. American Splendor: Another Dollar - Harvey Pekar. Harvey and his wife, Joyce Brabner feel like old friends by now; I've been a fan of American Splendor for about 6 years. When I saw the latest AS at What The Book? I pounced on it. The storytelling seems more low-key than usual, but just as enjoyable. I was pleased to see Anne Elizabeth Moore, (the editor of a comics anthology that I rocked this month) in a cameo when Harvey spends a few days in Chicago. The usual band of excellent artists are all present and accounted for, including Rick Geary, who I'm going to talk about quite a bit while reviewing this month's reads. Minor gripe: I hate the way John Lucas draws Harvey and Joyce. Harvey looks like the missing link and Joyce's head is shaped like a huge radish. One character is conspicuously missing from Another Dollar: Where is Danielle, Harvey and Joyce's foster daughter?

2. Shaking The Nickel Bush - Ralph Moody. This is one of the later books in the Little Britches series. Ralph, who is around 20 in this volume, falls ill and is diagnosed with diabetes. His doctor advises him to go west, soak up lots of sunshine and follow a careful diet. Ralph goes west, but has trouble getting a job since there are many WWI veterans also looking for work. The bulk of the book consists of him getting by on his wits and talent, worrying about money and going through some elaborate machinations to find proper food and trying to keep his mother from finding out that things have gone pear-shaped. He's also taken up with Lonnie, a good-natured ne'er-do-well who is devoted to a "flivver" named Shiftless that he and Ralph co-own, and who is much more hindrance than help as Ralph struggles to make their way. I like Moody's distinctive voice. Reading him was like spending a pleasant Sunday afternoon drinking lemon iced tea on the porch with a favorite great-uncle who always tells the most entertaining stories.

3. Clay - Suzanne Staubach. Book 2/4 for the Eco Reading Challenge. Many interesting facts about the history of clay and the evolution of how we've come to use it, but sometimes it feels as if there's too much information to wade through. Although Staubach, (who is also a potter) is enthusiastic about her subject, her tone can be a little dry. I felt as if I was back in school listening to an overlong lecture.

4. The Fatal Bullet - Rick Geary. Part of Geary's magnificent Treasury of Victorian Murders. In this graphic novel, he does a parallel examination of the life and death of President James A. Garfield and his assassin, Charles Guiteau. As always, the storyline is crisp and full of dramatic tension, and his scrupulous research shows up in the detailed artwork, particularly the scene of the crime. I can't imagine anyone not being impressed by The Fatal Bullet or Geary's other work in this series.

5. Book Crush - Nancy Pearl. The woman I adore (and who is also an action figure) compiled a list of reading recommendations for three groups: "Youngest" readers, middle grade readers 8-12, and teen readers 13-18. Seeing some of my old favorite books mentioned (like the Betsy, Tacy and Tib series) was great fun and it was just as much fun to add (and add and add) several new juvenile reads to my wishlist. While I was reading and jotting, I wondered if Peter from Collecting Children's Books has looked at Nancy Pearl's picks.
Coming up next: Fiction reviews!


Eva said...

I've been eyeing Book Crush for awhile! And now I've put The Fatal Bullet on my wishlist. :) I love how concise you can be with your reviews; makes me jealous!

Bybee said...

Well, I love how you can discuss your books on camera. If I did it, every other word would be "uh-uh-uh" or worse yet, my train of thought would get derailed for all the blogiverse to see.

care said...

I've always thought I read a variety but you hit that concept out of the park! wow. I agree with Eva that you write terrific little blurbs (and so does she!)

Tara said...

I love Nancy Pearl's books, including this one! I hope she does another one..

Jeane said...

Hi, just wanted to let you know I just gave you a blog award!

Carrie K said...

I didn't know Nancy Pearl had a book out, I listen to her podcast.

The Eco-Challenge! argh. Oh well. Clay doesn't sound as if it'd be all that interesting, but OTOH, Salt was fabulous.

The Fatal Bullet sounds intriguing.

Bybee said...

I used to read a lot of the same kind of thing...probably how I got burnt out on "Women's Fiction".

I haven't read More Book Lust yet, and really want to.

Thank you for the award. I will wear my Zombie Chicken with pride.

Salt was da bomb, but my other Eco challenge books seem to be really slow going, although I do like the Steinbeck book and hope to finish it by Sept 1. Won't get to the Rachel Carson book in time, sadly.

Susan said...

I think you out-do me 7 to 0 for non-fiction read this month!! lol Although I am reading a very cool non-fiction collection of Maritime ghostlore :-D so I win for coolness? ghosts over clay, anytime!
As always, really good short reviews that make me wish I could borrow your books!

Susan said...

I guess I could see if my library has them. It'd be more fun to come look at your shelves, though! lol

Bybee said...

Oh yes, ghosts trump clay every time. I wish you could come and admire the shelves.

Chrisbookarama said...

Yay! I'm so glad you read 2 books for the Eco Reading Challenge. Please come by my Challenge Roundup tomorrow.