Between the Bookends – August 2015

Between the Bookends © Sophie Brown
Between the Bookends © Sophie Brown

This month the GeekMoms dove deeply into the Chris Carter-verse with books featuring both The X-Files and Millennium, fallen in love again with Star Wars through a new series of Little Golden Books, enjoyed home crafts, and finally found something to draw them away from a beloved series. Read on to find out more about what we’ve been reading this month.

Dad is Fat © Three Rivers Press (Fair Use)
Dad is Fat © Three Rivers Press (Fair Use)

Rachel has been on a real reading bender this summer. It’s been years since she’s read anything that wasn’t part of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney (which she still loves). That said, she’s pretty thrilled to be reading for herself for a change—and actually enjoying it! One of her favorite books of the summer was Jim Gaffigan’s Dad Is Fat. Gaffigan’s portrait of fatherhood is a quick read, but only because it’s so hilarious, it’s hard to put down. She followed that up with Silver Screen Fiend: Learning About Life from an Addiction to Film, a weird, extremely entertaining memoir by Patton Oswalt. Continuing on the humor path, Rachel is currently making her way through Belushi: A Biography, an interesting collection of stories, snippets, and soundbites compiled by John Belushi’s widow, Judith Belushi Pisano, and author Tanner Colby.

 

A New Hope © Golden Books (Fair Use)
A New Hope © Golden Books (Fair Use)

Lisa ran across The Star Wars Little Golden Book Library, the latest versions of the first six episodes of the Stars Wars saga, The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith, A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. With the excitement of getting to finally take her own children to a new Star Wars movie this year, these darling versions for beginner readers are ideal ways to re-introduce them to the original trilogy and their prequel follow-ups…minus the occasional severed body bits.

There have been Golden Book versions of the Star Wars saga before, but these were, frankly, pretty poorly made, often with still-shots from the movies, bland narration, and terrible layouts. These new versions, with text by Geof Smith, feature the mid-century retro style artwork by various artists reminiscent of the “Golden Age” of Golden Books that is still so loved today. To add to the appeal, the signature golden spine on these volumes even has a wonderful Star Wars motif. The artwork and nostalgic feel were so alluring, everyone in her family has read them…and loved them…from her six-year-old daughter to the “grown ups.”

Lisa purchased each of these books individually, although all six titles are available as a packaged set. Something to think about when the next birthday, holiday, or baby shower sneaks up. She hasn’t been this pleased with any Star Wars volume since the clever William Shakespeare’s Star Wars Trilogy by Ian Doescher, and that’s saying something.

 

The Homemade Pantry © Clarkson Potter (Fair Use)
The Homemade Pantry © Clarkson Potter (Fair Use)

Rebecca Angel is enjoying spending more time at home this summer so she is getting busy in the kitchen with The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making by Alana Chernila. Between her CSA and family garden, there is an abundance of food. Homemade salsa is so delicious!

100 Flowers to Knit & Crochet: A Collection of Beautiful Blooms for Embellishing Garments, Accessories, and More by Lesley Stanfield is the other book Rebecca is perusing lately. For years, she has been trying to make useful and practical items, but this summer is about beauty for no reason, and this book is perfect. Rebecca made a blossoming wool rose for her sister-in-law’s birthday (put in a cute pot with a green ribbon around it) to great delight.

Trust No One © IDW Publishing
Trust No One © IDW Publishing

GeekMom Sophie was thrilled to finally receive her copy of the new X-Files short story collection Trust No One edited by Jonathan Maberry, which she had ordered way back in January. The book contains fifteen brand new X-Files stories by some fantastic and award-winning writers including Paul Crilley, Stefan Petrucha, Keith R.A. DeCandido, and Kevin J. Anderson, and the stories they have to tell span across time, and, well, talent. As Scully once said, “There are hits and there are misses, and then there are misses.” Some of the stand-outs for Sophie included Anderson’s “Statues” in which a sculpture artist uncovers a novel and horrifying way to create new masterpieces, “The Beast of Little Hill” by Peter Clines, which sheds light on an aspect of aliens she had never before considered, and “Paranormal Quest” by Ray Garton which could well be an episode of Supernatural. The less said about some of the other stories featuring slug aliens, were-rats, and atrocious characterization (“Oh no, Fox!” “What is it Dana?”) the better. The absolute highlight of the book in Sophie’s mind however was Paul Crilley’s “Dusk,” in which Mulder and Scully track down the reclusive author of a phenomenally successful book series about an attractive male vampire whose protagonist seems to have come to life and be preying on his teenage admirers! Unfortunately, the book as a whole is let down by awful formatting issues with typos plaguing every story and even causing issues within them (let’s just say that a typo in a time/date stamp can lead to much confusion).

Staying within the Chris Carter universe, Sophie also read the trade paperback of Joe Harris’ Millennium comic. This was a short read with the entire mini-series comprising only five issues, however reading it as a whole really improved the story arc which was often highly convoluted (as was the show which inspired it). Set in 2015, the book explores what has become of Millennium‘s hero Frank Black and his daughter Jordan, now in her early 20s. We get a look at the way her powers have grown and see how years of living off the grid, in an effort to evade both the remains of the Millennium Group and even darker forces, have affected Frank’s mental health.

The book also included Agent Mulder in an important role which, unfortunately, serves to reduce Frank within his own narrative. Somewhat inevitably, Mulder ends up becoming the focus of a story which ultimately should not be about him (The X-Files has its own ongoing series), and the fact that Scully does not appear makes the story-telling far too male dominated–if you’re going to bring in Mulder, bring in Scully too. The decision to use what is little more than a throwaway line on The X-Files and build a Millennium story around it is interesting, but as a big fan of Millennium, Sophie couldn’t help feeling that surely there were enough unexplored story threads on that show that could have been explored before taking one from its bigger, more popular sister.

Finally Sophie continued her journey through the world of Kiera Cass’ The Selection with the second and third books from the trilogy: The Elite and The One. The Selection is set in a future dystopian America (now renamed Ilea) which, for reasons which are just about explained, now has a royal family. It is also tradition that Princes must hold a competition in which 35 girls are “selected” to live at the palace and compete to become his wife.

It’s basically The Hunger Games meets The Bachelor and it’s as ludicrous as it sounds. Something, however, hooked Sophie in. Perhaps it was the sketchily back-storied “rebels”? Perhaps it was the evil genius who conveniently writes down all his dastardly schemes in diaries more full of drama than those of most teenagers? Perhaps it was the utter nonsense of characters named America Singer and King Clarkson (every time he appeared, Sophie pictured Jeremy Clarkson in a crown). Whatever it was, Sophie ploughed through two more from the series in which Prince Maxon swings wildly between being the nicest and most horrendous person ever to live, as he inevitably narrows his choices to the one person we knew he’d end up with from page ten, America has more changes of heart than a quadruple bypass patient, and we are treated to a seemingly endless array of dress descriptions. There’s also a disturbingly casual child/domestic abuse sub-plot bubbling away and someone really needs to take a close look at palace security. Sophie thinks these books are hilariously bad, yet she’s still debating picking up the fourth…

Copies of some books included in these recommendation have been provided for review purposes.