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Storm Companions

As I mentioned last week, I'm currently reading the 3rd book in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, A Storm of Swords. I'm doing it not only in anticipation of the 3rd season of Game of Thrones starting two weeks from tonight (apparently this book will get me through Season 4 as well) but also because I like the books. I haven't just been reading the novel, though, a practice I started out of necessity with the 1st book in 2011 when I had to read for college course work as well and then continued that summer with the 2nd book. I'm maybe 100 pages shy of being halfway and thought I would pause to talk about when I've been reading alongside...

Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell - This is yet another big short story collection in a year of big story collections. While I liked Russell's debut novel, Swamplandia!, I liked her first collection St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves even more and was primed for this book. The title story leads off the book and is a very melancholic look at a vampire and his wife who don't suck blood but suck lemons instead. I loved it. I also loved "Reeling for the Empire," about girls who are transformed to produce silk; "The Barn at the End of Our Term," in which many presidents are reincarnated as horses; and "Dougbert Shackleton's Rules for Antarctic Tailgating," which is a funny look at Team Shark vs. Team Krill (which isn't a real event). Unfortunately, the collection ends with two stories I didn't care for all that much. "New Veterans" has an idea I don't mind (a woman manipulates a veteran's tattoo and changes his memories) but it was too long in its execution and "The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis" just fell flat for me. In the end, it adds up to a good, not great, collection.

Starman Omnibus Vol. 4 - It's been almost 2 years since I read the third Omnibus edition that collects the entire Starman series, which was one of my favorite comics of the 90s (and probably in my Top Ten of all-time, though I haven't given that list much thought). What's also interesting about the issues contained in this volume is that I don't think I reread them like I did the issues from the first couple years of the series, so much of this reads like new. This volume also sees the last issues of the James Robinson/Tony Harris partnership - once Jack goes into space at the end of #45, that's all from Harris on interiors. What's here is plenty engaging, of course. This might have been the least action-oriented super-hero comic ever and that was and still is no problem with me. The characters are just so compelling - Jack, The Shade, the O'Dares, Bobo Benetti, and so on. There's a crossover with Power of Shazam, The Shade and Matt O'Dare combining to clear the way for Matt to finally become a good cop, a cool thread running through different eras of Starman in the 80-Page Giant, and stories building up to Jack heading into space with Mikaal to find Sadie's brother, another former Starman. There are also plenty of "Times Past" issues, which I always loved. We see The Demon, Phantom Lady, and The Jester in those, as well as gorgeous art by Matt Smith, Mike Mayhew, and Gene Ha. The collection concludes with the two issue Batman/Hellboy/Starman crossover which was written by Robinson and drawn by Mike Mignola. All of the art looks fantastic in this slighter larger Omnibus size and serves as a reminder that I need to keep a mixture of digital and paper in my comics reading experience. This was and is great comics.

Francona: The Red Sox Years by Terry Francona and Dan Shaughnessy - I always try to read a baseball-related book each spring and this was published at the right time. My dad is longtime Red Sox fan, so I've always paid attention to the team. I was watching when they came back against the Yankees in 2004 when they were down 0-3 in the ALCS and saw them steamroll to their first World Series victory in 86 years. I always like what I saw out of Francona and thought he was a good addition to the ESPN baseball gang last year (he's now managing the Indians). This is a warts and all look at the eight season he spent in Boston (winning a second World Series in 2007 and also losing in the ALDS in 2005 to my White Sox, who went on to win the Series). There are plenty of details about the players and front office and ownership during that time, including the 2011 season where they collapsed and missed the playoffs on the last day of the season. It's a solid baseball book and kept me interested and entertained. That's all I'd hoped for from it.


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