Biography/Memoir, Comics, Reviews

Funny Like Sunday Morning

I don’t remember a time when I did love Charles Schulz’s brilliant comic strip Peanuts, first encountering Charlie Brown and friends through their holiday TV specials – it isn’t Halloween until you’ve sat in that pumpkin patch with Linus anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Great Pumpkin, and you know it is Christmas when the gang starts singing around the once sad, lonely little tree.  Once I learned to read, one of my favorite things was poring over the Sunday funnies.  The simplicity of those three or four panels makes comic strips appealing to young readers.  I’ve never lost that joy.

peanuts4
December 23, 1952

It wasn’t until I re-read some of my favorites, particularly Peanuts, that I realized that they aren’t written for children.  As a child, I thought that the funny page was a section specifically for children but there are ideas and jokes in the comics that you only understand with age.  So now, while I still read the daily comics, I also go back to the books of comic strip collections I’ve been collecting since childhood and get more out of them than ever.  Peanuts, in particular, has more to offer as the reader experiences more of life.

The latest addition to my collection is The Complete Peanuts, Vol. 1:  1950-1952PeanutsThese earliest strips are not the Peanuts I know and love but it is fascinating to watch the strip evolve from its somewhat meanspirited beginnings to something more recognizable as Schulz added characters and they came into their own. What is really great about this particular collection, is the biography and the lengthy interview with Schulz that appears at the end of the book.  These sections are entertaining and informative about the great cartoonist and the art of comic strip creation.

While Peanuts is considered to be the gold standard of modern comics, here are a few of my other favorites:  

Garfield by Jim Davis (mostly for nostalgic reasons)

For Better or For Worse by Lynn Johnston (the chronological story is like watching a soap opera but with better writing and a better sense of humor)

The Far Side by Gary Larson (that twisted sense of humor)

Baby Blues by Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott (Hammie is a direct descendant of Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes and if I had a daughter, I feel like she would be a lot like Zoe)

Arlo and Janis by Jimmy Johnson (it’s almost like the creators have cameras on my parents)

 Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson (in my opinion this is the pinnacle of comic strip artistry and humor).  

For the Love of Books, Year in Review

A Decade of Reading| 2010-2019

The 2010s have been a formative year for me as a reader.  I’ve always loved books but I haven’t always been a reader.  It wasn’t until I graduated from high school and was able to choose the books I wanted to read that I truly became a voracious reader.  Then in 2011, I got a part-time job at my local library.  Through that job, I discovered new authors, new series, and even genres I’d never really considered before.  I also met many book lovers like myself.  One of those booklovers, a fellow librarian, introduced me to Goodreads.com and even though I had to leave the job when life intervened, I continued to make discoveries.  In 2015 I started this blog for a couple of reasons but mainly because I missed sharing my passion for good books with the patrons and librarians at work.  It has been a joy share the ups and downs of the reader’s life.  As the decade comes to a close, I thought I’d take the time to review some of the best and most important books I’ve read over the past 10 years.  I’ve tried to narrow it down, but I’ve read a lot of great books during the decade so bear with me.

Romance:   Sometimes you just need the comfort and escape of the modern fairytale quality of a good Rom/Com.  I discovered, however, that not all books that can be categorized as Romance fit into the mold of that stereotype.

Historical Fiction:  I love learning about history and while I understand that Historical Fiction takes liberties with the facts, it is a gateway to learning the true stories behind the fictionalized versions.  And who doesn’t love being transported to another place and time?

Fantasy:  Of all of the genres I read, this is the one about which my feelings have changed the most.  As a child, while I loved a good fairytale story, I tended to gravitate toward the wit and realism of Beverly Cleary’s Ramona Quimby series and then the young adult fiction of Judy Blume where the characters and their situations were recognizable.  Then came Harry Potter.  Ever since reading that seminal series, I’ve been searching for more Fantasy fiction that captivates me as Harry’s world did.

Children’s Literature:  It’s okay to look back when it comes to reading.  Whether it’s revisiting an old favorite or discovering a classic I’d missed when I was younger, there is nothing to warm the soul like reading a good children’s story.

  • Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
  • The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum
  • The Star Seed by Mary Alice Fontenot *
    • This one, in particular, transports me back to my childhood.  The author was a local woman who made yearly visits to my elementary school where she would usually read from one of her Clovis Crawfish books.  I loved this sweet telling of the Christmas story as a child but it is difficult to find so a few years ago my friend surprised me with a copy for my birthday ♥.
  • The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

Western:  Since reading Lonesome Dove in college, I’ve been on the lookout for another as transporting as that classic.  Plus, when I find a good one, I get to share it with my father and sharing a good book is always fun.

Wide Open
Well-written western about a real-life incident

Mystery/Thriller:  Mystery is another genre I don’t read too much of though I do enjoy the occasional cozy mystery, particularly one set in Britain.  There are a few exceptions though.  I am a huge Sherlock Holmes fan.

Chick-Lit:  This is another genre that gets a bad rap but it is my favorite genre so it hurts when people put it down based a few crappy wannabe Chick-Lit novels.  I know about those; I’ve read more than my fair share of them.

Women’s Fiction:  Women’s Fiction, to me, is basically the Judy Blume books I loved as a teen all grown up, dealing with issues that all women face from the mundane to the extraordinary.

Fiction:  Some books just don’t fit into the mold of any one genre but I had to mention them.

Classic Literature:  These are the books that have endured in our hearts and minds for generations and make their way onto every must-read list ever compiled.

Miscellaneous: 

 

Characters

Fictional Friends (and Boyfriends)

What makes an unforgettable character?  A hero you want to root for?  A villain you love to hate?  If I knew those answers, I’d probably be a better writer than I am.  All I know is that there are some characters that have, for one reason or another, stayed with me since I met them.  Some are like friends I visit often for some comfort and a good laugh, some just seem like they’d be fun to hang out with, some become book boyfriendsJ, and some are so wonderfully bad that I love to hate them.  Now that I’ve added Soulless’s Alexia Tarabotti to my list of favorite characters – yes, I have a list, doesn’t everyone? – I thought I would introduce you to a few of my other favorites:

  • Sherlock Holmes – No, I’m not on some bandwagon though I am obsessed with BBC’s “Sherlock”. I’ve loved the character of Sherlock Holmes since reading “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle” and “The Speckled Band” in middle school (probably even longer thanks to The Great Mouse Detective, but discussion of that would be in another blog altogether).
    I couldn't resist! Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes complete with death frisbee.
    I couldn’t resist! Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes complete with death frisbee.

    Yes, he’s brilliant and solves impossible cases but what I like most about Sherlock is his snark.  In the books, he is excellent at insulting people without them realizing it.  And, most of the time, he only insults the characters that deserve it.  He’s actually pretty nice (by his standards) to the good people in the stories.  He just has an awesome bulls**t detector.

  • Augustus McCraeLonesome Dove could be unbearably heavy and dreary without someone to lighten the mood (just read Streets of Laredo and tell me it’s not a bit depressing). But Gus isn’t just a funny guy who likes to enjoy his life.  His quips and anecdotes are often full of wisdom and he really is a great leader of men.  Unfortunately, he’s also stubborn as hell in the end.  I’m still mad at him.

    Robert Duvall as Gus in the mini-series version of Lonesome Dove was perfection.
    Robert Duvall as Gus in the mini-series version of Lonesome Dove was perfection.
  • Ramona Quimby – In my younger days, I considered the star of Beverly Cleary’s delightful series one of my best friends. Like me, she is a little sister but she has the spunk I wish I had and the courage to get into all the trouble I wish I had been brave enough to get into.
    Ramona the Pest (Ramona #2) by Beverly Cleary
    Ramona the Pest (Ramona #2) by Beverly Cleary

    My favorite Ramona book is Ramona the Pest when she’s in kindergarten.  She chases a boy, pulls a classmate’s bouncy curls, draws her Qs into little cats, and gets into all sorts of scrapes at school and home.  As a shy quiet child, I wanted to be Ramona.

  • Atticus Finch – I hope it isn’t a crime these days to say Atticus Finch is one my favorite characters. I haven’t read Go Set a Watchman yet, so as far as I’m concerned, To Kill a Mockingbird is the only source for the character of Atticus or any of the Finches.  He is probably the noblest character in American literature, living by and standing by his values even when it is difficult and potentially dangerous.  Most importantly, though, he is the kind of father I would want for my children.

    Another reason to love Atticus Finch. It gives me an excuse to post a picture of Gregory Peck looking all noble.
    Another reason to love Atticus Finch. It gives me an excuse to post a picture of Gregory Peck looking all noble.
  • Sydney Carton – The main protagonist of Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities may seem like the polar opposite of Atticus Finch what with his drinking, laziness, and gloomy view of the world but he is every bit as noble. He finally finds a cause or purpose, whatever you want to call it, and then sacrifices himself (literally!) for it.  He dies so that the woman he loves can be happy with the man she loves.  And right before he loses his head, he says one of the most beautiful lines in all of literature:  “It is a far, far better thing that I do than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”
    Ronald Coleman as Sydney Carton in the 1935 film adaptation of A Tale of Two Cities.
    Ronald Coleman as Sydney Carton in the 1935 film adaptation of A Tale of Two Cities.

    I would’ve loved you, Sydney!

  • Elizabeth Bennett – If I can’t actually be Pride and Prejudice’s enviable heroine, Elizabeth Bennett, I would love to just hang out with her (and Jane, and Charlotte). Elizabeth is feisty, opinionated, intelligent, and has a wicked sense of humor.  And she got the dreamy Mr. Darcy just by being her feisty, opinionated, intelligent self.  And by learning to see beyond certain prejudices of course.

    Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennett from the 1995 BBC mini-series
    Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennett from the 1995 BBC mini-series

The mention of Mr. Darcy brings me to the subject of book boyfriends.  Mr. Darcy is definitely on that list as are a few other Austen heroes.  Mr. Tilney from Northanger Abbey runs a close second to Mr. Darcy thanks to his delightful sense of humor and Persuasion’s Captain Wentworth is a favorite because of the incredibly romantic declaration of his love for Anne (swoon!).  There are some fantastic fictional men not penned by Miss Austen.  If you’re looking for a good man, try Levi from Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, Colin Byrne from Ain’t She Sweet by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (he has kind of a Sherlock Holmes meets Mr. Darcy thing going on), Hugh of Harrowfield (also known as Red) from Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier, Matthew Clairmont from Deborah Harkness’s All Souls trilogy (or Gallowglass if you prefer your vampires a little rougher around the edges, or everyone’s current favorite Scotsman, Jamie Fraser from the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.  There have been so many more literary men in my life; these are just a few of my favorites.

You'd didn't think I'd miss the opportunity to post a picture of Colin Firth did you?
You’d didn’t think I’d miss the opportunity to post a picture of Colin Firth, did you?

There are so many unforgettable characters out there, whether they are noble heroes, wicked villains, or scene-stealing secondary characters, that I can’t possibly go into detail about them all.  Here are a few of my Honorable Mentions:

As you’ve probably guessed, I could go on and on but for now, I’ve gone on and on long enough.  These are just a few of the memorable characters I’ve encountered in my lifetime of reading.  Who are your favorite characters?