Friday, April 29, 2011

Announcing: Harry Potter Haiku Reviews!

by Brian McGackin

That's right. Harry. Potter. Haiku. Reviews.

Starting next week, on a joint venture with 5x500, the Daily Genoshan will be offering a NEW kind of review! Every Tuesday until the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, I'll be posting individual haiku reviews of each chapter, book by book, to give people the chance to catch back up without having to read through all three trillion pages of the series. Every single chapter, from "The Boy Who Lived" to "Epilogue: Nineteen Years Later," will have its own haiku review.

Wanna know when your favorite book will get covered? How about I just give you the whole schedule?

May 3—Philosopher's Stone*
May 10—Chamber of Secrets
May 17—Prisoner of Azkaban
May 24—Goblet of Fire, part 1**
May 31—Goblet of Fire, part 2
June 7—Order of the Phoenix, part 1
June 14—Order of the Phoenix, part 2
June 21—Half-Blood Prince, part 1
June 28—Half-Blood Prince, part 2
July 5—Deathly Hallows, part 1***
July 12—Deathly Hallows, part 2

*Even though I prefer the American editions—I'm partial to the typesetting and Mary GrandPré's art—I'll be using the UK editions for two reasons. The first is that they are smaller and easier to travel with, and the second is that my sister is borrowing some of my American editions.
**Starting with GOF, I'll be breaking the reviews into two parts to make it easier for both you to read and I to write.
***July 5, 2011, is a VERY important day for me, but more on that in a few weeks.

Be sure to check back in next Tuesday for the first set of Harry Potter Haiku Reviews!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Yo Momma So Extraordinary (Zachary Reese and Ethan McCreadie)

by Emily Zilm

It’s almost that time of year again. You know, that day in May that you never forget. No, not Cinco de Mayo, you drunken fool. Mother’s Day! Yeah, it’s cool. I always forget, too. Maybe this new release from Quirk Books can help you get in the spirit. Thanks to Yo Momma So Extraordinary: A Treasury of Yo Momma Compliments by Zachary Reese and Ethan McCreadie, now there’s a whole new way to express your feelings for that special momma in your life, whether it be your own momma, your momma’s momma, or your cousin's baby momma.

The jokes in Reese and McCreadie’s 144-page-long list of yo momma compliments follow the classic format of the insults that comedians throw at hypothetical mothers and high school boys (and girls) like to sling at their friends (or enemies). But instead, the authors insist that we respect mothers because, in the words of Mr. T, "If it weren't for yo mother then you wouldn't even be here. So you remember, when you put down one mother, you put down mothers all over the world.” Aww, how sweet.

The jokes span a wide range:

Some play up yo momma’s maternal qualities - “Yo momma so fancy she really outdid herself with those bologna sandwiches last Thursday. I love yellow mustard!”

Or her intelligence - “Yo momma so well read I can talk to her about the satirical portrayal of romance in Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises without it seeming weird.”

Then there are the subtly sexual - “Yo momma’s hands are so soft. SO SOFT.”

And the outright dirty - “Yo momma so sweet I call her ‘Dessert.’ But I wish she would understand that I don’t need to eat three desserts in one night.”

But the most clever are those that start off sounding like an insult - “Yo momma has so many cats it’s like DAAAAAMN! Which one should I pet first?”

Through it all, though, the yo momma compliments stay true to a classic yo momma joke in that they still aim to hurt and insult the child of the momma in question. That’s the whole point anyways, right? Reese and McCreadie finally give us a way to get the job done without insulting a mother, who we probably don’t know, and who is probably a very lovely woman. And speaking of lovely women...

Each joke is accompanied by a silly photo illustration starring Kim Carl as the momma in question, surrounded by various goofy twenty-something dudes. Everything about her is the epitome of what a hot mom should be. You get the feeling that she’s one of those women, who turns “30” every year, and might fool you if you didn’t know her kid just turned 23. She’s got that nineteen-fifties sitcom mom twinkle in her eye and is just so classy.

Yo Momma So Extraordinary could be a good gag gift for your own Mama Dukes but may be more appropriate for a new young mother, or that girl you just started dating that you know has a kid but is too afraid to tell you because she doesn’t want to scare you away. Maybe your girlfriend’s teenaged kid thinks you’re sooo lame, but if you gave him/her this book they would start to see you as funny and hip and become best friends with you instead of screaming “You’re not my dad!” all the time. Or maybe you hate the kid and want to make him/her cry. Or maybe you need to freshen up the jokes you sling at your one friend with that smokin’ hot mom. Either way, respect yo momma and don’t forget to tell her how extraordinary she is on Sunday, May 8th!

Yo Momma So Extraordinary by Zachary Reese and Ethan McCreadie

Style: 4.0
I appreciate Reese and McCreadie’s creative, positive spin on yo momma jokes even though they're not my favorite. I guess the real style rating should be more about the visual style of this book, since it is so colorful. SO colorful. Each joke takes up an entire page in a bold, blocky font on a bold, bright background, opposite a color picture. There are so many colors it’s actually a little bit distracting, but appropriate for the overall look and feel of the book.

Story: 6.0
It’s pretty hard to give a list of yo momma compliments a story rating, so this number is for the pictures. Each single picture depicted the story implied by the joke, and Kim Carl and her co-stars’ poses and expressions may even be better than the jokes themselves. Photographer Steve Berkowitz’s skills ain’t too shabby either.

General: 5.0
It's not so much for reading as it is for flipping through once in a while.

Overall: 5.0

Friday, April 8, 2011

Expiration Date (Duane Swierczynski)

by Thom Dunn

Most people who know me can vouch for the fact that I love just about anything involving (a) time travel, or (b) noir tropes. Expiration Date, the newest novel by Duane Swierczynski, is a crime/noir novel about time travel, so needless to say, I was pretty excited to read it. It's like peanut butter and jelly, but with more pre-destination paradoxes.

Mickey Wade, the narrator and protagonist of Expiration Date, dies at the end of the novel. And that's just the beginning! (It's a time travel story, your temporal prepositions are bound to get a little messy) Prior to his death, Mickey Wade loses his job as a journalist for an alt-weekly newspaper in Philadelphia, and moves into his grandfather's apartment back in the crumbling neighborhood where he was born. The night that he moves in, Mickey has a few beers with a friend. He pops a handful of expired Advil before bed, and suddenly winds up in 1972. Stranger still, he seems to be invisible, and — oh yeah, his limbs fall off every time they come into direct contact with light. A few hours later, he wakes up in the present, sweating, with his limbs (mostly) intact. But on one of these trips, Mickey meets the 12-year-old boy who lives downstairs — the same boy who grows up and murders Mickey's father.

Swierczynski deals with some pretty heady concepts here, and under less skilled hands, these ideas could have easily stumbled into a convoluted mess. Fortunately, he approaches the story from a stable (and subjectively linear) first-person perspective, and relays the story in simple, relatable terms. Mickey Wade is a character grounded in reality, hard-up on his luck and out of cash, who finds himself thrust into a bizarre situation. This is further helped by Swierczynski's acute attention to detail. From the beer that Mickey drinks to the records that he listens to, Swierczynski writes with a specificity that paint a vivid and familiar portrait of his narrator. A Philadelphia native himself, Swierczynski's cartographic familiarity with the geography of the city helps to immerse the reader in the world he's created — you might not know where you are temporally, but he makes you feel at home spatially, to the point that you feel like you could give directions to a tourist upon your next visit to Philly. (side note: on my last trip to Philadelphia, I consulted Duane Swierczynski on places to go, and he recommended that I check out McGillan's Olde Ale House on Drury Street — the same place that Mickey Wade finds himself in the first chapter of the book. Behold, the power of Twitter!)

Expiration Date by Duane Swierczynski

Story: 7.1
On one hand, Expiration Date can be seen as a fairly typical time travel story. It's great appeal, however, is in the way it's told, as well as the personal stories of the characters involved. The book is meticulously plotted and full of wild ideas, but still manages to make for a quick, easy, and ultimately rewarding read. I would also be doing an injustice to the author if I didn't note the clever ending of the book, an ending which is rendered so effectively due to the First Person narration of the story.

Style: 6.7
Duane Swierczynski's prose is simple and effective, and therein lies its power. He is able to express these surreal concepts and experiences in a lucid, uncomplicated manner, which makes the book all the more enjoyable. I actually found the story so compelling that I read it in one sitting; even the most seemingly straightforward and civilian sequences ended with riveting twists that kept the book in my hands. Swierczynski certainly isn't writing poetry here, and he hasn't quite mastered the dense pulpy prose of noir legends such as Raymond Chandler, but his writing still manages to express ideas in an unequivocal fashion.

General: 8
Swierczynski's past works have proven him a master of the crime genre (and Swierczynski himself is a strong advocate of genre fiction as literary fiction), and his recent stint on Cable for Marvel Comics seems to have ignited an interest in time travel stories; by marrying the two, he has created a highly entertaining thriller full of mind-bending, almost Philip K. Dickian concepts that are still grounded in incredibly believable characters.

Overall: 7.267

Friday, April 1, 2011

Laughter in the Dark (Vladimir Nabokov)

by Melanie Yarbrough

I was excited to read the latest installment for my book club, Vladimir Nabokov's Laughter in the Dark to add to my list of Nabokov novels. Before this book, my list was at a measly one, having read Invitation to a Beheading. I'd begun and abandoned Lolita, so the diversion from the usual suspect was welcome. After two days traveling to and from work on the train, my Nabokov list reached its highest number at two.

It can pretty much be summed up the way Nabokov sums it up in the first paragraph of the novel:
"Once upon a time there lived in Berlin, Germany, a man called Albinus. He was rich, respectable, happy; one day he abandoned his wife for the sake of a youthful mistress; he loved; was not loved; and his life ended in disaster." Of course, as Nabokov also points out, details are always welcome. And what great details they are.

Laughter in the Dark by Vladimir Nabokov

Story - 4.2: Slightly more than a predictable tale of a man infatuated with his young mistress and the mishaps that happen to him, the story of this novel feels pretty plotty. All of the pleasure is derived from Nabokov's gift with words.

Style - 6.7: Nabokov has a no-nonsense way about his stories. He tells you what's happening and manages to slink between characters' points-of-view without jerking the reader around too much. There is always an essence of tongue-in-cheekness that is the epitome of Nabokov's style, and has managed to win me over twice now.

General - 7.0: Despite the book's plotty feel and several of the characters' stockiness (in that we are told they are nothing more than evil, conniving, etc.), Nabokov's wit and flair for describing every aspect of a room and a moment without exhaustion fill in the gaps. From tragedy to tragedy, there is a balance of feeling guilty for a man whose bad luck can only grow (and does) and understanding that karma, indeed, is a bitch.

Overall - 5.97

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