Review - The Sandman, Vol.1: Preludes and Nocturnes

The Sandman, Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes
by Neil Gaiman
Illustrated by Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones III
240+ pages

Description via Goodreads
I walk by her side, and the darkness lifts from my soul. I walk with her, and I hear the gentle beating of mighty wings...(230)

The first of eight, The Sandman Volume One: Preludes and Nocturnes is an intriguing blend of dark, gruesome and playful elements. The illustrations alone are amazing and fitting of the mood of the story. In a nutshell, the reader follows the Sandman on his adventure from capture by occultists to regaining his reign over the realm of dreams and nightmares. The Sandman will encounter a number of zany and horrific characters along his journey.

My favorite part artistically and conceptually (overall really) is 'The Sound of Her Wings'. I love the idea that not only is the Sandman dark yet ambiguous in his intentions, but also that he is morose, brooding (goth, if you will) and searching for something more... And his sister is Death--I love that!
At times the situations presented in the volume seem a little out of focus...that is to say, the concept behind what's happening is good, but it's sort of all over the place. More specifically, I raised an eyebrow at '24 Hours' I really didn't care for Dr. John Dee's side story--seemed extra. However, there is no doubt direction can and will be found in the volumes that follow. I'd be lying if I said this is could be appealing to everyone--because it won't be. All I know is I can't wait to read the other volumes.

The Sandman, Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes

Four Stars


Book Haul (+2)

Okay, calling this a 'haul' is a bit of an exaggeration...but I'd like to say, it started out as a haul--until I came to my senses and showed some restraint.

 The two books I got are (1) Things Fall Apart by and Chinua Achebe and (2) The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper. 

I've wanted to read the latter for a very long time and I finally got my hands on a copy...not exactly sure when they will be read, as I still haven't read half the books from my other book hauls. Oh well..


Poetry for thought - How to Look at Mexican Highways

How to Look at Mexican Highways
by Monica de la Torre

1. You are not going anywhere.
         1.1. No one is waiting for you.
         1.2. In case someone is waiting for you, you can always explain
                the delay later.
         1.3. Blame it on the traffic, no one else knows that you chose to walk.

2. Don’t look at the pavement, look at the things that you don’t see
    when you’re indoors.
         2.1. Water towers.
         2.2. Cables.
               2.2.1. Cables bringing other people’s voices and faces onto
                       TV monitors.
               2.2.2. Cables bringing electricity to light bulbs and
         2.3. Laundry on clotheslines.
         2.4. Empty cans of food.
               2.4.1. With flowers growing out of them.
               2.4.2. With cactuses growing out of them.

3. Feel the waves surrounding you.
         3.1. Waves bringing other people’s voices to the speakers of your
                 sound system.
         3.2. Waves of street sounds.

4. Measure how fast you can run up and down staircases; compare that
to the speed of the cars driving by.

5. When you tire, stand in the middle of the overpass.
         5.1. Look down.
         5.2. Try to look ahead, attempt to delineate the city’s skyline.
               5.2.1. If there’s too much pollution, look down again.
               5.2.2. Hold on tighter to the rail.
               5.2.3. Stay there a bit longer; remember no one is waiting
                          for you.
               5.2.4. You’re not going anywhere.

6. Through the rails you will see stories unfolding on the street.
        6.1. Pay attention.
        6.2. You are not they.
        6.3. They are not they.
              6.3.1. They are one plus one plus one, indefinitely.

7. You’re surrounded by monads going somewhere.

8. There is a purpose to their movement.

9. Desire is a Federacy.

image: flickr-carlosfpardo


The Walking Dead - S3 Ep. 10

Episode 10 - Home

Begone Lori! 
I know why she's lingering in Rick's head/imagination, but that doesn't make it any less annoying. Rick needs to get it together--for the group!

Hold down the fort or abandon?
I don't see the point in staying in the prison where they can easily be found by the Governor. Rick and the group are outnumbered and outgunned...if they stay it's only a matter of time before they get wiped out. And yet there's always the risk of encountering a wave of walkers if they leave...I don't know. But I do think Glenn needs to chill out. He's been on edge because of his situation with Maggie, but I don't see the point in trying clear out the tombs again.

First move goes to the Governor
The Governor launches the first strike against Rick and the group in the prison. Fortunately, everyone has terrible, TERRIBLE aim, and there are only a few casualties. No one I liked died...but I get the feeling this is just one attack of many. Sending a van full of walkers into the prison's field was pretty smart. Now they no longer have a secure barrier against anything...this was easily the most interesting part of the episode (next to Daryl saving lives and slaying walkers on the bridge) Also, Daryl returns with Merle and basically saves Rick's life...I hate Merle but his persona adds something to the show. Not sure how his presence will tip the balance.

All in all...it wasn't a great episode. But as always I look forward to the next one.

My question: Will Michonne get to stay with the group now? or will Merle be allowed to stay? Both? 

I need more zombie melee!


Review - The Bluest Eye

The Bluest Eye
by Toni Morrison
200+ pages

Description via Goodreads
You looked at them and wondered why you were so ugly; you looked closely and could not find the source. Then you realized that it came from conviction, their conviction. It was as though some mysterious all-knowing master had given each one a cloak of ugliness to wear, and they had accepted it without question (39)
I can't remember the last time I pitied a character as much as I pitied Pecola Breedlove. While she isn't the main character of this novel she is easily the most important in my opinion. Pecola Breedlove wants blue eyes, like those creepy baby dolls that everyone adores. But she will never have those eyes and she will never be adored as they are--not socially, not romantically, not even adored by her mother or father. In fact, because of her blackness, for she is definitely the wrong kind of black, she's somewhat an outcast within the black community. 

Pecola Breedlove. An interesting name. A revealing name. One quick google search*  told me the name Pecola means: (1) You sense and feel much that you do not understand, and sometimes you are alarmed at your thoughts and wonder about their origin and (2) You crave understanding and affection but your intensity of desire and your self-consciousness prevent you from finding the happiness you desire. Another search** told me it simply meant "a brazen woman". I find these two definitions somewhat contradicting...the former being more reflective of the trauma Pecola experiences in the book. The latter seems more ironic. It's as ironic as her last name, Breedlove. Pecola is not exactly the product of love and she most likely won't experience any herself. 

In fact, The Bluest Eye and the concept of beauty found within it (having blue eyes, lighter skin, non-curly hair) is only one theme that makes this book relevant. It's also about love, or the lack thereof. It's about letting someone or something have so much control over your thoughts and perception that you ultimately accept it as truth. And the truth for Pecola and many blacks in the 1940s is that they weren't lovable-- because of their skin color, they were not deserving of love. And so they did not love each other. Pecola's father hated himself (he had some daddy issues) and so he hated everyone else. He raped his daughter and then hated himself more and his daughter for what he'd done...in this way Morrison marries the concept of love and beauty. 

For some reason I was slightly shocked by the sexual content in this book at first...but then I got over it. There are a few graphic scenes, but in the grand scheme they're not inappropriate. Sex and sexuality are outwardly taboo, but it's the thread connecting everyone. Sex created those lighter-skinned and darker- skinned blacks. Sex was veiled as love. Sex numbed the pain and sometimes it fueled the pain. Morrison marries love, beauty, hate, sexuality and history. 

In the end, I didn't like this book. But not because of the writing, no, the writing is brilliant, poetic...didactic at times, but some people need things spelled out for them. On a personal note, as someone of color, I've heard these lessons on love and beauty pretty much all my life, so that's probably why it came off as preachy. But it deserves to be read. 

*The first search led me here
**The second search led me here

The Bluest Eye
Three stars


Review - Eating the Cheshire Cat

Eating the Cheshire Cat
by Helen Ellis
280+ pages

Description via Goodreads
When the firemen sifted through the remains, they would discover Nicole, as her mother suspected. In her embrace would be Sarina and what had happened would be clear. It was murder/suicide. Death by obsession. No further questions asked (287)
::sigh:: When I got this book I was very curious about it because of the cover. Why could that poor, little goldfish be in that blender? For human consumption? Yuck--I had to read it...also on the front cover of my copy it says 'Darkly Funny Gothic Novel'. What I somehow missed is what's written directly under it -- 'Deliciously Catty'. And that's where this book makes it error, or maybe where I made my error in picking this book.While there are some dashes of morbid, gross and dark humor (all things I love) it's overwhelmed by the cattiness and superficial musings of it's characters. Now in defense of this book, I don't have that much experience with Contemporary Southern Gothic fiction...maybe this whole obsession with making Homecoming court at the State University is a big deal and I'm culturally insensitive to it. But if that's not the case, then I'm fine with saying that the best part of this book is the cover. 

The story focuses on three characters: Sarina Summers, an oversexed, disgustingly spoiled, attention whore. Nicole Hicks, girl with all the foundations of an axe-murderer and also obsessed with Sarina. And then there's Bitty Jack Carlson; summer camp outcast, and in my opinion the most normal and bearable character. The thing is, I know and enjoy the fact that these characters are supposed to be twisted and exaggerated but it's (1) their roles in the plot and (2) the climax of the plot that's the problem.We follow them from awkward middle school age to end of college age and it seems the priority for each of these characters is revenge and/or redemption through relationships with men. And this irks me...

As I mentioned earlier, there are moments of dark humor: Nicole's shock when she walks in on her brother's alone time, the fact that Bitty Jack's summer boyfriend is star-attraction in a traveling freak show, or the fact that a young Sarina is plagued by a hereditary condition like curved pinkie fingers. The good thing about this novel is it's paced well...very quick. Not too much dwelling on any particular moment of their lives for too long. I guess I should mention that the narrative is supposed to be like a page or chapter in Alice's Adventure in Wonderland. Maybe Bitty Jack is Alice, Sarina is the Red Queen, Nicole is every other cooky character, and the Alabama social scene is Wonderland...not sure because the connection is weak!

I remember at one point thinking this was a Southern Gothic version of Legally Blonde without the law school shenanigans. I still think that's an accurate summary.

Eating the Cheshire Cat
Two Stars


Poetry for thought - Impromptu

by J. Allyn Rosser

First there was Jim, clamping to my long black hair
           that nine-pound Cleopatra wig
           with nylon bands and bobbie pins.

Meanwhile I was on fire for Chad, who coached me
          a bit impatiently Tuesday nights
          on my Joan-of-Arc inflection.

Then Terence said I’d be perfect for the lounge-singer-
         turned-whore, and as it turned out
         that was a fairly easy gig.

Max signed me on soon after, claiming I was a natural
         for Eternally Aggrieved Girl,
         which in hindsight hurts me deeply.

So by the time you followed me back to the green room
         to wait in the hallway—whistling!—
         for my scrubbed face to emerge,

naturally I was wary, waiting for the script
        you never bothered to come up with.
        It was damned awkward sitting there,

nothing but milkshakes between us. Maybe, I thought,
        you’d assumed I was the one with a script.
        Finally I decided to give Terence a call.

I didn’t like the way you looked at me so steadily
        with your chin resting on one fist,
        as if the table were a table, the boards

A floor. Listening there as if you meant it,
        as if something I could say were true, and every
        moment from now on would be my cue.

image: flickr-drothamel


The Walking Dead - S3 Ep. 9

Episode 9 - The Suicide King

It's back! AMC's The Walking Dead. We waited, what? three months for the second half of season three. And there was a lot packed into one episode. Some good and some bad. 

Crew shakeup
Okay, so the first five minutes after Rick and the crew escape Woodbury, there's a big argument over who's staying and who's going--Merle and Michonne that is. When all is said and done, Daryl ends up leaving with his brother, Merle, because nobody likes or trusts Merle and they won't want him at the prison Also, Michonne is only allowed temporary citizenship in the prison. I don't like how Rick is treating her right now. Without her, he wouldn't have been able to rescue Glenn and Maggie. The group needs Daryl and I don't see how just the two of them can make it out there on their own. 

Andrea, Governor of Woodbury?
I'm still not sure what the hell Andrea is doing in Woodbury. She found out the Governor was keeping Glenn and Maggie hostage behind her back and she still stuck around. Not to mention, the Governor has gone completely over the deep end, and doesn't give a damn about her or anybody else in the town...The townspeople are all sheep, so if Andrea wants the position she'll probably get it. What she lacks in sound decision-making, she makes up for in communicative skills. I'm not sure how this will end up. 

Lovebirds no more. 
Maggie is obviously distancing herself from Glenn. I think this is because she sees how savage he's become after the incident with the walkers and the Governor. I also think she's come to the realization that even with Glenn, she's not as safe as she thought she'd be. I don't know. It's weird. I actually support this romance or whatever it is.

Lori's ghost
In the midst of deciding whether to let the newcomers to the prison stay, Rick has another hallucination. The first time it was Lori phoning the prison, this time it's her wearing a long, white, Grecian-style gown, in the shadows ::sigh:: I don't get it. I didn't like her character alive, I won't like the phantom of her character. Once again, Rick needs to get it together. The Governor is plotting an invasion and their numbers are down.  

My questions: (1) Does Rick still think the baby is his? and (2) Why does Michonne care so much about Andrea? 

 Next week's episode looks equally as busy. Can't wait.


Review - Their Eyes Were Watching God

Their Eyes Were Watching God
by Zora Neale Hurston
200 pages

Description via Goodreads
Honey, de white man is de ruler of everything as fur as Ah been able tuh find out. Maybe it's some place way off in de ocean where de black man is in power, but we don't know nuthin' but what we see. So de white man throw down de load and tell de nigger man tuh pick it up. He pick it up because he have to, but he don't tote it. He hand it to his women folks. De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so far as Ah can see. Ah been prayin' fuh it tuh be different wid you. Lawd, Lawd, Lawd! (14)
This book is about the 'love life' of Janie Crawford...her three marriages and her development of self. But now that I've finished reading about this brief segment of her life, I still ask--who is Janie Crawford? The answer I'm left with is unclear. The reader never gets a sense of her intellectual or emotional capacity, only physical. She's a beautiful, light-skinned woman, with a long braid of hair which fascinates many men. But other than that I'm not sure. Her marriage and relationship with three different men says more on a societal level of analysis than personal. 

In her first marriage Janie is subservient to a husband who sees her as another beast of burden, a vessel, a workhorse. She marries for protection, not love.  In her second marriage to Joe Starks, she's subservient but instead of being an instrument, she's a trophy, an object. She marries to escape her first marriage. I have to say I hated Joe Starks. I hate his character and what he stands for. I actually wished ill upon a fictional character and thankfully the plot did not disappoint. The thing is, he's actually the best written character in the book. He is so disgusting in his thirst for envy and status among others in the black community...Her marriage to Tea cake was the most normal of all three marriages. It had the most 'love' and more egalitarian qualities. The whole, 'through sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, till death do us part, blah, blah, blah' applied to them sort of...especially when Tea cake contracts rabies. But even in this most love-filled marriage, she's still subservient, content even, and the lack of character development is disappointing. 
"Tony won't never hit her. He says beatin' women is just like steppin' on baby chickens. He claims 'taint no place on uh woman tuh hit," Joe Lindsay said with scornful disapproval, " but Ah'd kill uh baby just born dis mawnin' fuh uh thing lak dat. 'Taint nothin' but low-down spitefulness 'ginst her husband make her do it." (75)
Folkloric charm gives this book a spark of life...and interest for that matter--the 'vernacular'. It's very authentic in that respect. And the gravity in the thoughts and voices of secondary characters, those outsiders looking in--gossip, is revealing of the time. 
"You'se different from me. Ah can't stand black niggers. Ah don't blame de white folks from hatin' em cause Ah can't stand 'em mahself. 'Nother thing, Ah hates tuh see folks lak me and you mixed up wid 'em. Us oughta class off." (141)
This book makes many 'must-read' lists...but honestly, I'm having a hard time seeing why. Maybe it's because it's uncovering a truth about intra racism that I already know exists. Maybe because I personally reject the old-fashioned gender roles and power struggles between black men and black women. Maybe because I'm a northern, black woman that inevitably comes from the same southern, black heritage. I don't know. 

But I feel as though I'm missing something. Someone tell me...what am I missing? 

Their Eyes Were Watching God

Three Stars


I'm sick...watch this Grizzly Bear video.

Hola...I am currently under the heavy haze* of medication for a cold or whatever the hell this is...so I won't be posting anything book or reading related today. Instead, I decided to post one of my favorite Grizzly Bear songs, which also happens to be one of my favorite artsy music videos of all time because of its storytelling (kudos to Allison Schulnik)


I love the entire song but I especially love it at 1:55. 

*I feel like that clay yeti (?) right about now...


Book Beginnings - Love in the Time of Cholera

Book Beginnings is a meme hosted by Rose City Reader. Share the first sentence (or so) of a book you are currently reading, along with your initial thoughts and impressions about the sentence or book. Remember to include the title of the book and the author AND link up at the Rose City Reader

It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.
::sigh:: I do not like this beginning...not even a little. And I know it has everything to do with my preconceived notions of Garcia Marquez's writing and translations of his work...well not really preconceived--I know his style, I've read plenty of Edith Grossman's translations and it irks me at times, but he can tell a good story. One Hundred Years of Solitude is fantastic, Of Love and other Demons, not so much. But I feel this weird obligation to read his books, so here I am...reading this book. It also fits perfectly into the Monthly Keyword Challenge I'm participating in. February is pick a book with 'love' or 'heart etc, in the title.

What exactly do bitter almonds smell like? Raw almonds are virtually odorless...burnt almonds smell burnt. Almond oil smells delicious. I'm having a hard time with this one...or is just that the fate of unrequited love is bitter?