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…and here are four of them:

Death Becomes Them (Harper Collins)
By Alix Strauss
For whatever reason, I’m deeply interested in the darkly morbid. Luckily, this book fits that bill perfectly! Author Alix Strauss dishes the dirt on the dearly departed, focusing on twenty celebrities who took their own lives before old age or an accident could do it for them. Some of the subjects were obvious picks (Kurt Cobain, Sylvia Plath and Ernest Hemingway, for example), while others were a bit more surprising. As odd as this may sound, it was nice to see photographer Diane Arbus make the book, just as it was to see author Hunter S. Thompson and painter Mark Rothko. Beyond the grim and gory details lies interesting character studies, digging deeper into the “whys” of each situation than the “hows.” (Although, admittedly, that’s the first thing we want to know when we hear someone committed suicide, isn’t it?) Death Becomes Them is an odd choice for a summer read (which is when I received my galley copy), but with fall and Halloween just around the corner, what better topic to read about as you drift off to sleep at night?

Malice (Scholastic)
By Chris Wooding
Illustrated by Dan Chernett
An interesting hybrid book that marries the worlds of young-adult storytelling and the comic book format. The first in a two-part series, Malice tells the tale of two friends, Seth and Kady, who have heard the urban myth of “Tall Jake” told time and again. Much like the tales of Bloody Mary and Candyman, the legend states that if you call Tall Jake six times in a row, you will disappear into the world of Malice, a deadly and dangerous land that exists only within the pages of a comic book. Of course, Seth and Kady don’t actually believe in the legend of Tall Jake until their friend Luke goes missing, only to show up in the pages of a comic. The story is clever and the writing is solid; it’s a little too young for my tastes, but the story isn’t written for thirty-something, balding Hungarians. Chernett’s artwork is appropriate for the story, but falls a bit flat in certain parts where I think more detail could have been offered. Still, Malice is, overall, an interesting concept with a solid execution.

Bone: Rose (Scholastic)
By Jeff Smith
Illustrated by Charles Vess
One of my all-time favorite comic book creators, Jeff Smith, returns to Scholastic in this, a prequel story to his epic Bone saga. With Princess Rose’s character as the lead, this book collects the comic books of “Rose” which were originally published from 2000 to 2002. Only written by Smith, the book tells the story of a series of dragon attacks that befell on the Northern Valley, but the more interesting storyline is the sibling rivalry that is going on between Rose and her elder sister, Princess Briar. I have to admit that I would’ve rather seen Smith illustrate the book than Vess, even though I think Vess’ more painterly style lends itself nicely to the fairy tale aspect of the story. I’m just somewhat of a Smith purist, and seeing these characters done by someone else–especially when illustrating a Smith storyline–is a little off-putting for me. Still, if you’re a Bonehead and already own the nine other books in this series, this will make a welcomed tenth installment to your set.

Great Discoveries: Explorations That Changed History (Time Books)
When we were kids, my sister and I used to go through our grandparents Time/Life books every time we’d visit them. Most of the books they owned were either about World War II-era airplanes or mysteries of the unknown. Never really being a war buff myself, I instead found myself being attracted to the mystery books. (Oddly enough, I became the owner of that collection of books when my grandfather passed away in 2001.) So how appropriate is it that Time would send me a similarly themed book for review. Great Discoveries explores many of the world’s greatest explorations, from the abandoned city of Machu Picchu in Peru, to the depths of the Atlantic and the Titanic treasures that litter the ocean floor. Filled with colorful photographs, illustrations and diagrams, this book can be both enjoyed and learned from. I have to admit, when I receive books for review I, more often than not, pass them along to a friend or family member once I’m done with them. But I plan on keeping this one in my own personal collection with the hopes that someday my grandchildren will take it off the shelf, crack it open, and begin to build similar memories.

Reading is fun and mental,

-Shady

…and one Blu-ray review, right here:

“The Man Who Walked Between The Towers” (Scholastic)
I admit, I’m a sucker for these Scholastic video collections, mostly because they remind me of “Reading Rainbow” and LeVar Burton. Oh, Levar…. Anyway, this collection of four children’s book tales begins with “The Man Who Walked Between The Towers.” Based on the true story of French street performer Philippe Petit, this story might ring a bell because the documentary about Petit, “Man On Wire,” recently won an Oscar. In August of 1974, Petit snuck into the World Trade Center and rigged a tightrope between the two buildings, eventually walking back and forth between the North and South Tower for over an hour. Because Petit’s actions were clearly illegal, I feared that the children’s version of this story might get watered down. But the entire story is surprisingly here, including his arrest after the event. And, as if that weren’t cool enough, the whole thing is narrated by Donnie Darko! Perfect for kids! The disc also features “The Pot That Juan Built” and “Miss Rumphius,” but my favorite out of the whole batch is “Snowflake Bentley” which tells the true story of Willie Bentley, a photographer who was the first to master the art of photographing snowflakes. The story mixes animation with live action clips which was a bit distracting at first, but the fact that they included some of Bentley’s actual photographs made up for it. The other stories feature narrations from Mikey Walsh, Juliet, and the crazy guy who kept throwing firecrackers at Marky Mark in “Boogie Nights.” And if you get all of those references, you’re the man, dog!

“The Restless Conscience: Resistance to Hitler in Nazi Germany” (Docurama)
A little over a year ago, some friends and I visited Auschwitz in Poland. Ever since then, I’ve had this desire to learn as much as I can about World War II and the events that led up to it. So a documentary about German citizens who rebelled against the power of the Nazi Regime definitely had my attention from the get-go. Originally released in 1992, this film collects rare footage of German court trials in 1944 for average citizens who conspired to have Adolf Hitler killed. Of course, the outcome is what you’d expect, but just the fact that these types of people existed in a country that had so blindly followed Hitler is amazing. It’s a feature-length documentary, coming in at just under two hours, and it held my interest from beginning to end. The only problem I have with it is that it appears to be a direct transfer from a VHS tape with little or no clean-up consideration. It’s not a big deal, and yes, I know we’re spoiled with our HDTVs and iPhones and toaster-ovens and whatnot, but there was a tiny part of me that kept thinking, “This looks so nineties.” And we all remember how terrifying that was, right?

“Two Evil Eyes” (Blue Underground)
Two hour-long horror shorts inspired by the tales of Edgar Allan Poe, written and directed by two huge names in the horror genre: George Romero and Dario Argento. Surprisingly, at least to me, Romero’s “The Facts In The Case Of Mr. Valdemar” is the weaker of the two stories, telling the tale of a smelly pirate hooker named Jessica Valdemar (as played by Adrienne Barbeau) who tries to swindle her dying husband out of a fortune. It’s okay, but Barbeau is just laughable. Argento’s “The Black Cat,” on the other hand, stars Harvey Keitel who is scary as shit even in his most normal state. Keitel plays Roderick Usher, a crime scene photographer who is driven to murder by his girlfriend’s pet cat. Yes, you read that correctly. The special effects were handled by Tom Savini, and the extras on the disc include a behind-the-scenes featurette on his make-up and effects. Also, this is a Blu-ray release, so all of the blood and gore that was filmed nearly two decades ago now is bright and crystal clear. Just the way I like my horror!

-Shady

Old Poop!