Review: Stan Lee

Title: Stan Lee
Author: Bob Batchelor
Genre: Non-Fiction
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield
Source: NetGalley
Release Date: September 15, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

The Amazing Spider-Man. The Incredible Hulk. The Invincible Iron Man. These are just a few of the iconic superheroes to emerge from the mind of Stan Lee. From the mean streets of Depression-era New York City to recipient of the National Medal of Arts, Lee’s life has been almost as remarkable as the thrilling adventures he spun for decades. From millions of comic books fans of the 1960s through billions of moviegoers around the globe, Stan Lee has touched more people than almost any person in the history of popular culture. In Stan Lee, The Man behind Marvel Comics, Bob Batchelor offers an eye-opening look at this iconic visionary, a man who created (with talented artists) many of history’s most legendary characters. In this energetic and entertaining biography, Batchelor explores how Lee capitalized on natural talent and hard work to become the editor of Marvel Comics as a teenager. After toiling in the industry for decades, Lee threw caution to the wind and went for broke, co-creating the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Hulk, Iron Man, the X-Men, the Avengers, and others in a creative flurry that revolutionized comic books for generations of readers. Marvel superheroes became a central part of pop culture, from collecting comics to innovative merchandising, from superhero action figures to the ever-present Spider-Man lunchbox. Batchelor examines many of Lee’s most beloved works, including the 1960s comics that transformed Marvel from a second-rate company to a legendary publisher. This book reveals the risks Lee took to bring the characters to life and Lee’s tireless efforts to make comic books and superheroes part of mainstream culture for more than fifty years. Stan Lee: The Man behind Marvel Comics not only reveals why Lee developed into such a central figure in American entertainment history, but brings to life the cultural significance of comic books and how the superhero genre reflects ideas central to the American experience. Candid, authoritative, and utterly absorbing, this is a biography of a man who dreamed of one day writing the Great American Novel, but ended up doing so much more – changing American culture by creating new worlds and heroes that have entertained generations of readers.

Review:

I just started reading superhero comics in the last couple of years. I find the history of comics fascinating! They were always considered a lower type of book, but now they can be high literature.

This book wasn’t as much about Stan Lee, but about Marvel and the comic book industry at the time. There were still great stories about Stan’s innovations in comics. I loved the story in the prologue where his wife convinced him to try and write what he wanted for a change, since he had nothing to lose. The result of that was the Fantastic Four.

I loved the stories about how Stan Lee developed some of today’s most beloved superheroes. His boss didn’t approve of Spider-Man but he published it anyways, and the rest is history. I also love his special touch on comics, where he places himself in the stories. He still does it today when he makes cameos in all the Marvel movies.

I really enjoyed this book! It’s a great history of Stan Lee’s career and influence on Marvel comics.

Review: The Pinks

Title: The Pinks: The First Women Detectives, Operatives, and Spies with the Pinkerton National Detective Agency
Author: Chris Enss
Genre: Non-fiction
Publisher: Rowan & Littlefield
Source: NetGalley
Release Date: July 1, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

The true story of Kate Warne and the other women who served as Pinkertons, fulfilling the adage, “Well-behaved Women Seldom Make History.” Most students of the Old West and American law enforcement history know the story of the notorious and ruthless Pinkerton Detective Agency and the legends behind their role in establishing the Secret Service and tangling with Old West Outlaws. But the true story of Kate Warne, an operative of the Pinkerton Agency and the first woman detective in America–and the stories of the other women who served their country as part of the storied crew of crime fighters–are not well known. For the first time, the stories of these intrepid women are collected here and richly illustrated throughout with numerous historical photographs. From Kate Warne’s probable affair with Allan Pinkerton, and her part in saving the life of Abraham Lincoln in 1861 to the lives and careers of the other women who broke out of the Cult of True Womanhood in pursuit of justice, these true stories add another dimension to our understanding of American history.

Review:

This is a fascinating book!

I had never heard of this agency before, and once I started reading, I wished I had. These are important stories for the feminist movement, because it shows the strength of women since the nineteenth century.

I loved that Pinkerton introduced female detectives specifically because they were underestimated by the rest of the country. This was a smart technique on his part, since he was able to use this prejudice against everyone else, while also working with great detectives.

A lot of these stories sounded like an action movie. One great tale is when Kate Warne pretended Abraham Lincoln was her brother to sneak him onto a train. It’s amazing how that worked. It’s funny because if I saw it in a movie I would have thought it was made up, but these are all true stories.

The Pinkerton Detective Agency did some amazing crime fighting. These stories are so entertaining. I highly recommend this book!

Review: Life of a Bastard (Vol. 1)


Title: Life of a Bastard (Vol. 1)
Author: Damien Black
Genre:
Publisher: Bootlocker
Source: Author
Release Date: August 15, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

“My memories from this period are often nebulous. They bend and warp like clouds caught between two fronts. A lot of terrible things happened to me that I try not to remember, but I was a child, I was innocent, and I used to be happy sometimes. ”

Born in Spanish Harlem in 1972 to a teenage Puerto Rican mother and a Black father, Javier Soto is a blemish on the face of American society. After a suspicious fire allegedly set by his mother, while his father serves time in prison, Javier and his sisters are removed from their home into foster care. This true story of Javier Soto’s life takes you on the soul-stirring journey of a young boy in the custody of a brutal world.

Beginning at the Catholic Home Bureau, Javier’s tale depicts the evolution of an innocent child into an enraged teenager as he battles his way through the perils of abuse, starvation, and neglect. Like thousands of American children who are driven into the foster care network Javier and his siblings are repeatedly shuffled through numerous foster homes, each one less welcoming than the last. Following eventual separation from his sisters, Javier is left to continue his crusade of survival alone.

An indelible account that tells of a boy’s anguish, self-loathing and an unsatisfied yearning for love that is the birthright of every child. With such little grounds for hope, how far will Javier go?

Review:

Many contemporary YA books I’ve read lately have main characters in foster care. But the endings for those children are not realistic. They get adopted by amazing families or reunited by long lost siblings or even discover that they have magical powers. This book shows the truth of what happens in foster care. 

Black did a great job of creating a narrative out of this true story. It was quite graphic at times when describing the abuse that Javier experienced, including beatings and rape. But it shows the real experience of many children in foster care. 

There were illustrations throughout the book that were childlike. They were good, but I think they make the book seem more like a children’s book, when it is definitely for an adult audience. 

This book also could have used some more proofreading. There were many errors that could have been fixed with an extra proofread. 

This book really opened my eyes to the struggles that many children face. It’s a harsh truth but a reality nonetheless. I hope this book spreads awareness of this horrible life, so kids in foster care receive better treatment. 

Too Fat Too Slutty Too Loud

Title: Too Fat Too Slutty Too Loud
Author: Anne Helen Petersen
Genre: Non-fiction
Publisher: Plume
Release Date: June 20, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

Unruly women are ones who don’t fit into the stereotypical box set out for women. Ten different celebrities are described in this book in the way that they are unruly. Serena Williams is “too strong” because she is such a powerful tennis player. Melissa McCarthy is “too fat” in today’s culture that doesn’t want to see fat people on their screens. Meanwhile, Lena Dunham is “too naked” because she doesn’t contour her body into the perfect nude image. In a similarly unruly way, Nicki Minaj flaunts her sexuality in her own way, which puts her in the category of “too slutty.” The creators of Broad City, Anni Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, are “too gross” because they discuss female topics that are usually taboo. Madonna is “too old,” Kim Kardashian is “too pregnant,” and Hillary Clinton is “too shrill.” Caitlyn Jenner has used her trans identity to give a voice to marginalized trans women, but she is considered “too queer,” while Jennifer Weiner’s outspoken opinions on women in publishing have made her “too loud.”

This book covers many aspects of women that are always being criticized like sexuality, age, and size. This makes it very relateable.

I like that these celebrities are discussed through a feminist lens. It demonstrates that (for most of them) their professional decisions from interviews to clothing choices have been premeditated choices that contributes to their identity.

This book is perfect for the feminist movements happening right now. It also made me view some of the celebrities in a more positive light because they are making conscious decisions to become the “unruly” women they are today. I really liked this book.

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do (But You Could’ve Done Better)

This book is a collection of bad breakup stories. They were very entertaining. One boy broke up with his girlfriend in middle-school so he could spend more time with his dog. One girl received a break-up letter on a floppy disc (this was in 2006, past the floppy-disc era). I think my favourite one was that a boy broke up with his girlfriend because Jesus told him to.

I liked the pictures in the book. They were simple sketches, but they represented the ridiculous stories perfectly!

This book is a cute, short read. It would be great for someone going through a bad break up, because it would show them that (hopefully) other people have gone through worse break ups!

How To Be a Bawse

The introduction says you are reading this book for one of three reasons:

  1. You already watch Lilly on YouTube.
  2. You’re a parent who found this book in your child’s room.
  3. You have no idea who Lilly is.

I fall somewhere between the first and third reasons: I know who Lilly Singh is, but I haven’t watched her on YouTube. I picked up this book because she is a very successful, young, Canadian woman. But after reading it I am also a huge Lilly Singh fan.

Though I didn’t know much about Lilly before I started reading, this book has made me feel like I know the rising star. This book isn’t a memoir, though she does refer to events in her life throughout it. This book is a guide to being confident, reaching your goals, and hustling: AKA being a “Bawse.”

The book is divided into four sections, each filled with chapters that hold Lilly’s lessons on life. Some of the titles include, “Play Nintendo,” “The Alphabet is a Lie,” “You Are Not a Parking Ticket,” and “You Are a Chameleon.” Though the titles sound funny, they each represent an important lesson that she has learned on her way to success.

My favourite metaphor that she uses throughout the book is comparing life to playing Mario Kart. This includes skidding on a banana and ending up in last place. The point of the metaphor is that life is like a game because you can only control your player, or yourself. It’s a waste of time worrying about what everyone else is doing. You are in control of your own success.

I found this book very inspiring, especially at this time in my life when I am embarking on many new projects, such as writing my first novel and starting my book blog. Now I am going to go take Lilly’s advice and play some Nintendo!

New Release: Gutenberg’s Fingerprint

My favourite nonfiction subject is publishing. I love reading about the history of books and how they are printed. I was so excited to have the opportunity to get an ARC of Gutenberg’s Fingerprint from ECW Press.

Merilyn Simonds writes about the process of publishing her book The Paradise Project, a collection of flash-fiction stories. She chose to have this book printed by Thee Hellbox Press, a small press in Kingston run by Hugh Barclay. Hugh is very particular about his printing, so he took good care of Merilyn’s book. He involved her in the whole process, from setting the type, mixing the ink, and printing the proofs. The endpapers were even created using the flowers from her garden!

Throughout her story of the creation of her book, Merilyn gives some history on how ink and paper are made. These stories made me smile, reminding me of my book history course in university.

The irony that I was reading a book about the history of printing on an ereader was not lost on me. Merilyn created a digital edition of The Paradise Project with her son, Erik. She discusses how ebooks have changed the publishing industry, but print books aren’t going anywhere soon. Printing has evolved from scribes writing on vellum to machines stamping ink on paper to pixels appearing on a screen. Technology is still evolving the way books are delivered to the reader, but it couldn’t be done without Gutenberg’s press.