Spray Paint the Walls: The Story of Black Flag by Stevie Chick 
submitted by Justin

Having read Rollins’ Get In the Van , I was looking forward to a history that focused on the early years of Black Flag. Spray Paint the Walls came through in those regards. But there was something incongruent about the early chapters. As much as I wanted to know about Keith, Dez, and Chavo, it was uninteresting and slow-paced – not a fitting introduction for a coffee-fueled hardcore band. It read like a textbook. Given the personal nature of Get in the Van, it had a lot to live up to. I enjoyed the chapter about their show at a park picnic so much that I read it twice, but found myself speeding through the first half of the book with little interest.

The intensity increases half way through. It’s such a change that it seems like a different author is writing it - possibly the result of the use of previously published information. Once the Dez era starts, though, the focus falls more on the band. The conflict both with the authorities and within the band make for an engaging history. Dukowski’s influence as a musician, stage presence, and manager was a surprise. Kira had lots of personal passages. But there was an absence of new input from most band members. The facts and figures were presented, but none of the emotion of the moment was there. Such a volatile group should have had an explosive account.

If nothing else, it was a good compilation and a timely publication, with Keith Morris’ band “OFF!” gaining popularity, and Black Flag worship taking hold amongst another generation. I would like to have read more about the extended band “family.” Black Flag had so many offshoots and related bands that I think it really could have demonstrated the influence and community of the music. I also wonder if the British author’s distance from the US may have created a certain noticeable distance from the information. Everything from his description of Hermosa Beach to his incorrectly referring to the Misfits as a California band seemed a bit phony. But I suppose that all of the insiders are probably pretty sick of talking about the same thing after all of these years, so maybe it takes an author from another country to objectively document such an intense bunch of people.

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M*A*S*H by Richard Hooker 
submitted by Luke

Welcome to the 4077 or the Natural Double as the men and women of the Medical Army Surgical Hospital call it. All of the hero’s are here: Trapper John, Hawkeye, Duke, Hotlips Houlihan, Frank Burn, Radar O’Reilly, and the Colonel. MASH tells the story of three young army doctors in Korea who have to figure out a way to survive the hypocrisy of war – they save the lives of soldiers, only to see them sent back out to be killed again.

This book follows in the footsteps of “ All Quiet on the Western Front ” and “ Catch-22 ” as 20th century works that show the fallacies of war, but with a streak of dark comedic virtue. The classic scenes are all found in the book, the Pros from Dover, the incomplete suicide of Walter Kosciusko 'Painless Pole' Waldowski, the ringer football game, and more martini mornings than can be named. This is the book that inspired the movie that inspired the TV show that became an American institution.

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Good Fairies of New York by Martin Millar 
submitted by Jennifer

I was unfamiliar with Martin Millar before a copy of The Good Fairies of New York showed up at my library. But since it came highly recommended by Neil Gaiman, who stole my heart with Coraline and Stardust , I decided to give it a try. What happens when exiled fairies of the British Empire land on the streets of modern day New York? Well, chaos ensues, romance blossoms, and a few dreams come true.

Millar’s urban fairy adventure had me laughing out loud on the first page. The Scottish fairies Heather and Morag have arrived hung over and disoriented in boorish Dinnie’s Fourth Street apartment. Bad tempered Dinnie spends his days playing violin badly, watching trash TV, and drinking beer. He also dreams of finding a girlfriend…

Across the street resides the ethereal, artistic Kerry, who is seriously ill with Crohn’s disease. Dinnie wants to court the lovely spirited Kerry, but is too cloddish to go about it without fairy intervention. Morag and Heather fiddle and play, and amidst the musical and magical mayhem, Dinnie and Kerry are drawn inevitably together.

The hilarious plot machinations lead eventually to a showdown between New York’s fairy clans. As the conflict escalates, Kerry’s condition deteriorates, Dinnie nearly destroys his chances with her, and things are looking grim.

But wait! Fortunately for everyone, a bit of fairy magic, a little music, and a wee drop of whiskey can set many things aright. Millar’s book left me wishing for a sequel, and thinking that just maybe there’s something to be learned from the good fairies.

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Freedom by Jonathan Franzen 
submitted by Debbe

Recently I returned from a road trip to Boston, Hartford and other New England destinations. I toured homes owned by Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Cornelius Vanderbilt II, Paul Revere and John and Abigail Adams and their descendents. I visited the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum and the 1st presidential library set up to honor our 6th president, John Quincy Adams. I also spent time on The Freedom Trail, touring Colonial Revolutionary Boston.

The destinations were a constant reminder of the truths our early forefathers and mothers “held self evident.” When I mixed them with authors like Twain and Stowe, who challenged the lack of freedom caused by slavery and its aftermath, I again was reminded how important the freedoms set forth by the First Amendment have been to the development of these United States.

When on a road trip I always take along an audio book or two to pass the hours on the Interstate highways. It was not consciously on my mind that Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, by its title alone, would be a perfect choice. I chose it because the New York Times labeled it “a masterpiece”, the Washington Post called it the “brilliant, maddening novel” and Oprah chose it for her book club. All of that meant that people would be talking about this book at the library, and my opinion is talk they should. Albeit lengthy it is a fascinating depiction of life in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. It’s theme of personal freedom, and how the choices we make can lead us to embrace or relinquish that freedom is well worth discussing. I’m going to add my name to the list of those who are highly recommending this book. However it is your right to read or not to read and that is a freedom you should cherish.

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The Stuff of Legend, Book 1: The Dark by Mike Raicht  
submitted by Kerry

Brooklyn, 1944. The Boogeyman has taken a boy to his realm of the Dark. To save the boy his toys come together to plan a rescue mission and travel to the Dark to find him. Led by the Colonel, a toy soldier, Maxwell the teddy bear, Percy the piggy bank, Quackers the wooden duck and a few others venture into the closet along with the boy’s puppy to face unknown danger and do battle with his bitter forgotten toys.

This Graphic Novel is far from the typical realm of super heroes. It is an emotional journey not only for the characters, but for the reader as well. The toys have wonderfully developed personalities that really come to life when they enter the closet and the domain of the Boogeyman. They actually come to life and it reminded me a little of Toy Story. The characters are faced with many choices including loyalty to the boy and each other. Although the story is well written and thoroughly enjoyable it is the artwork that will draw you in and hold your attention. It is the most beautiful art for this format of storytelling that I have seen in a long time. Highly detailed pencil drawings and sepia tones give it a timeless feel and the pages look like they are in an old scrap book bring an emotional intensity that bright colours or black and white images would not have been able to convey.

There is no resolution as the story is to continue and the mystery as to why the Boogeyman took the boy in the first place deepens. However, if you are looking for something a little different I highly recommend this dark tale of loyalty, perseverance, camaraderie and redemption

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