Friday, May 01, 2009

The Shakeup Has Begun

Well, the first thing I’ve been doing to shake myself up a bit is read things I don’t normally read. To that end, I’ve finished the first two Harry Potter books and will start on the third this evening. I have read Young Adult fiction before, but almost always science fiction or animal stories. This is the first fantasy oriented YA I’ve read in quite a few years. I must say I enjoyed both Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets quite a bit. I gave them both 4 stars on Goodreads. They were easy reads, with interesting characters, and though the action scenes were few and far between and were not terribly well written, the stories held my interest anyway. I think I can see why youngsters would love them, and I probably would have loved them more when I was a wee tyke. I was going to order the third book on my Kindle this morning but these aren’t available on Kindle. I guess they are still selling too much in printed form. Lana and I are going out to dinner tonight, though, right next door to Barnes & Noble, so I’ll pick up the third book there. I certainly wouldn’t be going out deliberately to buy the third book if I hadn’t enjoyed the first two, and I feel comfortable recommending them for adults as well as kids.

I also picked up a couple of graphic novels. I’ve read only half a dozen of these in my life, but since I very much enjoyed Watchmen I’ve been eyeing such works with a bit more respect. So far I’ve read The Darkness: Ultimate Collection. Although the artwork was fantastic, I was much less enamored of the writing and the story. This essentially included the first few issues of the comic, and then a second, slightly later set of issues. I really liked the first half, which was another “origin” story. I don’t really know what all the “Pencils,” “Inks,” etc. means as far as people’s involvement with the story, but I’m assuming (someone correct me if I’m wrong) that Garth Ennis, listed as “Story,” is the main writer for the first half of this work. I thought he did a very fine job. Unfortunately, the second half of the “Ultimate Collection” had a different person, called “Writer,” and it seemed to undermine much of the good stuff that had gone before. Carefully nurtured characters had their personalities twisted and were used as plot fodder rather than acting consistently with the setup for them in the first issues. Other characters were spent cheaply when they could have been much more effective alive, and there were plot twists of convenience that mainly served to irritate me. Although the promise of the first part might have persuaded me to spill more money (These things are expensiveeeee), the drop off in the second part has ended my association with The Darkness.

I have another graphic novel, which I’ll probably start today, called The Magdalena. And just to let you know how out of it I am where graphic novels are concerned, I just realized as I was looking through it for this post that this is also an issue of The Darkness. I guess I’m not through with that series, after all. This is part of that universe apparently, but featuring a different main character. It’s also written by a different person from either of the first two I read in the series so all bets are off as to what I’ll get. I’ll let you know.



Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

Dude, I didn't even read the post. I just saw that you had updated and decided that for the first time, I was gonna be first commenter, LOL. I'll go and read it now.


Anonymous said...

See! Hey Charles, how do you like that Kindle anyway? I was looking at them the other day and am still amazed. How about a nice review on the Kindle, complete with pics and stuff? That would be cool.


Anonymous said...

Finally, I have now given you 4 comments, which I think brings the tally to 473-8, Charles. I appreciate your continued patronage, even when you have to stretch to find anything to say, LOL.

Charles Gramlich

jodi said...

Hey Charles, Haven't read "Potter", but my newphews LOVED the series. I broke down and have read the first two books in the "Twilight" series. Modern take on the old vampire thing, but definatley written by someone young, for someone young. Enjoy the date night w/Lana. Dinner and Borders=Perfect!

Aine said...

:D I'm sure you can guess why I'm smiling as I read your post...

I'd love to hear your thoughts after you finish Prisoner of Azkaban. Jason and I agree that that is when it becomes a story for adults, too.

Rachel V. Olivier said...

The Harry Potter books get more adult as they go on. Some people like that, some don't. Personally, I liked it.

Mary Witzl said...

Everyone in my family has read all the Harry Potter books and enjoyed them, but our eldest absolutely agrees with you about the action scenes. She keeps talking about how they're not terribly well written, and although I don't mind another writer saying this, I find myself feeling irritated when a callow 17-year-old does so... I was well entertained by the whole HP series, but perhaps I'm just easy to please.

Sidney said...

Have you ever read any of the "Sandman" collections? Those are great. I like Garth Ennis a lot too. Yeah, story would be the writer.

The penciler draws the comic in pencil, at least traditionally. The inker then gets the art and goes over each pencil line with ink.

There's an interesting debate about it in "Chasing Amy" in which an inker is accused of being just a "tracer."

Heff said...

I didn't read the post either, but that cover ROCKS. ....I'm such an idiot.

Travis Cody said...

Dinner and Borders, in my case Barnes & Noble, sounds a lot better than dinner and a movie.

I like your idea of reading something you wouldn't normally read to shake things up. I find that I'll read one genre for extended periods, and that can put me in a rut. So I switch up to something else. I'm about ready to switch from fiction over to non-fiction.

I just finished the latest Harry Dresden, so that's a good time to move back over to history I suspect.

Donnetta said...

I just haven't brought myself to the readiness point of reading the Potter books yet. I'm still stuck in the '50s and '60s with CS Lewis and Edward Eager. (I may have spelled that incorrectly.) I've been rereading some books on Edgar Cayce lately. Yeah, well, I go on these tears you know! D

Scott D. Parker said...

Charles, in the spring of 2007, I decided to 'catch up' and read the first 6 Potter books in advance of the 7th to be published that summer. Six weeks; six books. Regardless of writing style, the books sucked me in. Later that year, my wife read them and was equally engrossed. This from a person who doesn't read fantasy. Period. I still regard Prisoner of Azkaban as my favorite book although the entire series is a wonderful ride. I'm just glad that I had six books ready to go when I read them. I'd have hated waiting years between books. Enjoy!

Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...


I have not read the books, everytime I go to read something like that I get pulled into another direction, mostly Poetry or Philosophy. Silly, eh?

I do like how you say the books were not written very well. I couldn't stop smiling about that one. I would be interesting to hear your take on the twilight series though.

Any chance you will be reading that series as well?

soft love,

Charles Gramlich said...

Wil, hum, I wish I had something to give you for being first commenter. But I suppose the glory of that accomplishment is well worth something. LOL. I actually couldn’t access your post today. I tried it several times but who knows why my computer was balking. I got past the “do you really want to enter this place” page but the screen wouldn’t load.

I did post some stuff about my Kindle, without pictures, though. My Saturday, Feb 28, 09 and Thursday, March 5, 09 posts featured some words on the Kindle. I’ll probably have an update on it once I take it with me on vacation.

jodi, I started the third Potter this evening, but I certainly enjoyed the first two. I kind of doubt I’ll read Twilight, but who knows. Dinner was great.

Aine, I will be posting on that. Just started it this evening.

Rachel, I’m at least going to read this third one, then see how I feel from there.

Mary Witzl, Oh they were definitely worth reading. Action scenes are hard to write well, I think, and could be that Rowling will improve on that across the series. I’m kind of picky about those scenes, I think.

Sidney, no, I haven’t, though I’ve heard much about them. I picked one up once but it was very expensive and I didn’t really like the art that much. But I will probably give one a try.

Heff, the art in these books is pretty amazing. They have very sexy women, Heff. Surely you could appreciate that.

Travis, did I say Borders. I actually meant Barnes & Noble. That’s where we stopped tonight. Yes, in nonfic I’ve been reading all science for quite a while so maybe some history would be good.

Donnetta Lee, It took me a long time with Potter. I’ve had the first couple of books for probably at least 3 to 5 years. I know about going on tears.

Scott Parker, Yes, I’m glad I have access to the whole series. I’m eager to get into Azkaban, which I just started tonight. So far the series is definitely strong.

Charles Gramlich said...

Tara, I wouldn't say the Potter series wasn't written well. Overall I thought they were written pretty well. I just meant that I didn't think the action scenes were very strong, which were only a small part of the books. I've heard so much about the "pretty" vamps of Twilight that I am really leery of reading it. I might give it a go one of these days but probably not soon.

Scott said...


I still haven't brought myself to read or see any Potter stuff...I'm not sure why. I guess I feel like it isn't my cup of tea, or horn of mead, as it were.

As far as graphic novels are concerned, I suggest Identity Crisis. I liked it quite a bit. I also enjoy the manga titled Bastard!!It's a sword and sorcery tale with lots of Heavy Metal references.The artwork improves as the series progresses, and the story goes in a direction that is fairly original as well.

steve on the slow train said...

I'm glad you're enjoying the Potter books. I think No. 3 is my favorite, though the final book is excellent. I went with my son to Borders for the midnight unveiling of the Potter books nearly every year.

Randy Johnson said...

I can remember being in a check-out line at a Waldenbooks a few years back. An older lady wss buying a Harry Potter for one of her grandchildren and remarked, "I understand thee are quite popular with young adults."
I, of course, had to chime in with, "Old adults as well!"

the walking man said...

Uhhhh I was actually thinking that a road trip on the highway would be a good shake up but then I guess the definition of road trip is different for everyone as the meaning of highway.

sexy said...
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Gabby said...

I held off on the Harry Potter craze until one day I decided to just jump in whole hog. My brother worked for a sister company of B&N around the same time the 4th book came out, so using his discount, I went ahead and got all first 4 books and read them in a week. I LOVED them. It started out as easy reads, but then got more complex (and darker). You don't usually see a series progress like that (do you?) but I think it's partly because the main character's growing up, so you're growing with him. I usually skim action scenes, but I will say you get more and probably better-written ones as things progress. The movies are fun, but obviously not as good, but I enjoy them enough to have made a costume based on the movie (and will be making another one for this Halloween). Will be interesting to see what you think as the series progresses.

writtenwyrdd said...

I love the HP series until the last book. I've read all the others at least three times, but only the last one once. It was a bit of a let down, but a decent read for all that.

If you like Darkness you might like Witchblade, which Darkness calved off of. I have the compendiums, which are pricey but really worth getting, even though the massive size of the volumes means you can't see quite all of the graphics along the bound edge.

laughingwolf said...

i agree the hp, i read 6 and enjoyed em, even at my age! will read the last at some point...

'heavy metal' used to have great graphic tales, but have deteriorated,
while the cover price went nutzo!

Charles Gramlich said...

Scott, I'll check out Identity Crisis. Haven't seen it at the places I've looked, mostly Borders and Barnes & Noble. The Potter books certainly aren't heavy metal or gory. But they've got their charm.

steve on the slow train, I just started number 3 but I've heard several folks say it was the best.

Randy, you and I are two of those older adults who aren't embarrassed to read YA stuff. I never cared what others thought about what I read. I read a bit of it all.

Mark, Lana and I plan to take our time coming back and stop off wherever the mood takes us. That's a road trip of a sort.

Gabby, that's my experience so far. Fun easy reads, but we'll see what happens as I continue. Certainly they are worth reading. I never skim action scenes. I skim long dialogue stuff.

writtenwyrdd, I will probably take a break from the series after the 3rd one but we'll see. I'll have a look at Witchblade.

Lana Gramlich said...

I can spend HOURS just visually examining the art in graphic novels. That might be why I don't read them. I'm too easily distracted by the art.

Leigh Russell said...

I enjoyed the Harry Potter series, Charles, but after reading about five of them, I was pottered out and didn't make it to the end. They are quite clever and very engaging and like you, I can see how youngsters would be gripped by them. JKR has certainly done her bit to put reading books back on the agenda for many young people.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I'm reading the graphic novel Persepolis for my book group. SInce I already saw the movie, I'm not getting much out of it. I'm not sure this is what most people mean by a graphic novel either.

Cloudia said...

Thanks for the tips and insight!

Merisi said...

All four of our kids enjoyed the Harry Potter series. It was our eight year old back then who insisted that I buy her that first volume, back when only eight year olds seemed to have heard about Harry. I was a little worried about the content, so I started reading this one to her at bedtime, and continued through the second volume (she was capable of reading it on her own, but we read to all our kids way past kindergarten). I quite enjoyed myself reading along. If my daughter hadn't insisted on buying the book, I would have thought it was way over her capability to understand the plot. To my surprise it was me who every now and then had to be reminded who's who, for example. ;-)

Steve Malley said...

Wow, half a dozen graphic novels, and my three are half that total?!

Seriously, The Watchmen is wonderful. Disappointment will follow.

To draw a parallel with the horror genre, imagine you've just read 'Ghost Story' or 'The Haunting of Hill House'. You want more. You find shelves full of bad Stephen King knock-offs out to make a quick buck.

Sadly, most 'graphic novels' are nothing like novels at all. They're collections of serialized adventures. They may flirt with a novel-like story arc for a period of months, but ultimately their structure is that of the serial: a mad dash from one cliff-hanger to another, peppered with the sort of superficial social complications commonly found in soap operas.

And yes, some pretty bloody brilliant people do work for the Big Two-- Garth Ennis among them. But, as is the way of serials, creative staff come and go, for reasons important and trivial. Brilliant writers and artists can be suddenly replaced with, ah, 'less talented' counterparts.


Barbara Martin said...

I loved the Harry Potter books! They do tend to sway more toward an adult theme as the books progress, Charles.

Charles Gramlich said...

Lana Gramlich, Not me. I'm all about the words, man. The words. That's the main reason I seldom read comics. Not enough words.

Leigh Russell, yes, I certainly respect her for that. I'll see how far I get. Much depends on book 3.

pattinase (abbott), I don't know that one. But if you want to read a good graphic novel I'd suggest Watchmen. I really did enjoy that one.

Cloudia, and to you!

Merisi, I bought the first two books originally for my son and he read one and most of the second. But he's not as much of a reader as I am.

Steve Malley, I just counted 'em up. I've read 12 graphic novels, including the most recent 2. Yes, you provided a substantial subset of that. In fact, reading yours helped convince me to give a few others a try. Other than "Watchmen", "Sword of the Atom," and "Star Trek Mirror Universe," I've read none to compare with your three.

Barbara Martin, I'm hearing that and I'll keep my eye open for it.

j said...

My son calls his sister (my middle daughter) a "Harry Potter addict." She is has read all of the books twice (or maybe more?) and can't wait for the latest movie to come out in July. I read the first book and plan to read the rest.

I hope your reading inspires you!

Greg said...

wow, you're really getting in it! i read the first Harry Potter book in 2001, when they first came out -- i worked in a bookstore and everyone raved about it. i thought it was pretty well-written and an easy read too.

hope The Magdalena is better than the collection!

MarmiteToasty said...

I just couldnt get into the potter books when they first came out, but maybe I should give them a second shot.... we do have the whole set just sat on the side looking at me :)


Lisa said...

The Harry Potter series got my boys interested in reading so when I realized they not only read the first one but wanted to read more, I knew I had to read them.

I did enjoy them too and can totally see why the kids got so into them.

Charles Gramlich said...

jennifer, Good for her. Being a reading addict of any kind is excellent. My friends used to ask me how come I found school so easy, or how come I had such a big vocabularly. I'd tell them, all you gotta do is read.

Greg Schwartz, I'm still a kid at heart. I even watched one of the movies last night. The Magdalena was better.

MarmiteToasty, they're very light hearted compared to what I usually read, but that was the idea of my shake up.

Lisa, so good to hear about your sons reading them. Rowlings deserves major kudos for getting kids to read.

Lauren said...

Heard about your trip issues. That's too bad.

The Harry Potter books get better as you go. The older Harry gets the more complex the books/plot/etc.

There are a lot of great graphic novels out there with very interesting things to say. I hope you enjoy your reading. I'm sure this shakeup will have you spitting out new idea in no time!

BernardL said...

I agree. The artwork in The Darkness Ultimate graphic collection is superb. Anything of this nature Garth Ennis writes is very good. His work on The Punisher is always great.

Travis Erwin said...

You put your right hand in and you shake it all about.

Sorry couldn't resist. Actually I like all the Potter books except the last one.

Shauna Roberts said...

I really enjoyed the Harry Potter series. As the kids age (one year per book), so do the stories, which get darker and longer. My favorite part were all the clever setting details, which JKR kept adding to with additional books.

Jo said...

The Harry Potter books were great, and they translated well to movies. The movies were as dark and brooding as the books, and the special effects were great!

SQT said...

Wow, good for you Charles. I rarely read YA but "Harry Potter" is uncommonly good IMO. I think the 4th one, "The Goblet of Fire" is the best one. I'll be interested to see what you think.

Best Fantasy and Science Fiction said...

Read some Terry Pratchett YA books if you havent alread. I love em. Simple and entertaining.

Charles Gramlich said...

Lauren, I certainly see that the Potter books get longer. That’s kind of cool that they get more mature, though. Makes sense but that must have been hard for Rowling to do.

BernardL, I don’t remember hearing Ennis’s work before but I’ll be looking for his stuff now.

Travis Erwin, saving the last one for a rainy day? A long rainy day?

Shauna Roberts, yes, there are some really inventive ideas in each book I’ve read so far. I appreciate that. Rowling clearly has a good imagination.

Jo, I’ve seen a couple of the movies but I’m not sure which. I did enjoy the ones I saw though. I know I saw 3 and I’m pretty sure I saw 1. I saw another one I thing but not sure which.

SQT, I read old SF, much of which would be called YA today, such as the “The Secret of the Ninth Planet” and “The Secret of Saturn’s Rings.”

Best Fantasy and Science Fiction, I’ve actually never read anything by Pratchett. I’ll have to check some out.

Chris Eldin said...

Hi Charles!! I thought I was the only one who didn't read HP yet!! I started something last year, but apparently it was Book Two and I didn't know it, so I stopped. I hope this summer to read the first two or three.

ninthmuse (roz m) said...

ACH! You inspired me to look up graphic novels, and now I feel compelled to order the Absolute Sandman series!

L.A. Mitchell said...

I'm now probably the last person on earth that *hasn't* read Harry Potter...thank-you-very-much-Charles.

Charles Gramlich said...

Chris Eldin, the first three are quick reads at least. And I enjoyed them.

ninthmuse (roz m), I've heard good things about the Sandman series. The first Gaimen I read was in novel form and I didn't like it much. That has helped keep me away from the Sandman books.

L.A. Mitchell, well, somebody had to be. why not you?!!!! ;)

9:42 AM

Anonymous said...

I loved the first 3 Harry Potter books (prisoner of Azkhaban is my favorite), but I have to say I didn't like the later ones. I thought they were too long and self indulgent. I struggled to finish the last couple and thought the end was pretty poor.

My daughter is 13 and enjoyed Twilight. Now she's moved on to another writer called Richelle Mead who sounds a bit edgier. That kind of book is big business now and our local store has actually created a new section called "Paranormal Romance" next to the Horror section for them.

- Jon

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

I, too, haven't read too much teen oriented fantasy in many years but have to recommend Neil Gaiman's "Graveyard Book." It's one of the few teen books that actually works very well for adults, without the commensurate talking up (or down).

With graphic novels, you started with the best, "Alan Moore," so anywhere else you go will pale a bit. Garth Ennis is very good, so I'm not surprised you enjoyed the ones he wrote and immediately noticed the dropoff.

Get some more Alan Moore when you are inclined to gn's. I highly recommend "From Hell" (an amazing take on the Jack the Ripper story) and "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen," which is just a delight for folks who enjoy the fantasy literature of the 1890's. Characters from Dracula, She, Dr. Jekyll and Mister Hyde, Conan Doyle and many many more all wrapped up in delicious little mystery/fantasy plots that have worldwide implications (of course).
His book "V for Vendetta" is also what I would call a "graphic novel of ideas" with lots of contemporary resonance

Though on the technical end, lots of things have changed, a penciller does the initial drawings, the inker comes along an uses ink to enhance and bring out their definition, and the color guy, well, colors it all in. Though lots of folks do both jobs (penciller and inker), my understanding is that back in the day the job was split because of the ever looming monthly deadlines (and since most artists worked on more than one comic ... you get the idea.)


Charles Gramlich said...

Jon, I'm glad to see them separate the paranormal romance from the horror. They may use some similar tropes, like vampires, but are completely different in sensibility. I read one, not the other.

Don, I've seen both the movies "From Hell" and "V for Vendetta," the later of which I liked quite a lot. I'll probably pick that one up in graphic novel form at some point. I was a bit soured on Gaiman's "American Gods." Despite the rave reviews it recieved, I thoguht it was very slow paced.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...


I agree with you about Gaiman's "American Gods." It was not quite up to par of say "Neverwhere" and certainly his new "Graveyard Book."
I never did understand all the raving for "AG" - but gave him another chance and was happy I did.


Charles Gramlich said...

Don, I might try The Graveyard book. It's sometimes hard for me to get over a bad first experience with a writer. But eventually I'll break down.