Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Ambrea's Read Harder Challenge: Playing for Pizza, Hush, and Master of Crows

Next up for my Read Harder Challenge, I…
·         Read a book about sports.
·         Read a book you’ve read before.
·         Read a book published by a micropress.

Admittedly, I wasn’t sure how to conquer this first task, because I am not a sports and/or athletic person.  I am, at best, a rather sedentary creature with a great affinity for books and chocolate and good food, preferably in that order; however, I was willing to take a crack at this one because, surely, I could find a sport I liked.  Considering the sheer variety of sports out there, I knew I could find something entertaining.

And, luckily, I did.  A co-worker recommended Playing for Pizza by John Grisham and, since the challenge doesn’t specify fiction or nonfiction, I thought I’d give it a whirl.  I’m glad I did, because I enjoyed Grisham’s novel so much more than I expected.  Granted, I listened to the audiobook, which features Christopher Evan Welch as narrator, but I don’t think that matters as Playing for Pizza is a fun, accessible and entertaining novel whether listening to or reading it.

Not to mention, I really enjoyed the descriptions of food.  (I was craving pasta like mad, before all was said and done.)

Playing for Pizza begins with a game, specifically the worst game of Rick Dockery’s career.  Now, marked as the worst player in the NFL—and effectively banished from Cleveland—and sporting a terrible head injury that would leave most players contemplating retirement, Rick is at his wits end.  Since he can’t find a new position in the U.S., his agent directs him to Parma—as in Parma, Italy, where he becomes quarterback to a ragtag group of Italians who just happen to be American football aficionados.  It’s a huge change for Rick and, as he comes to learn, it might not be a bad one.

Next, I decided to reread Hush by Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee.  This is one of my favorite Batman comics for the simple fact that it has some of the most alluring, most beautiful art I’ve encountered, and it has such a richly detailed, incredibly poignant story that that I was mesmerized the first time around.  I love every bit of this book, and I found it to be even better the second (okay, third) time.

Unlike Loeb’s earlier works, Long Halloween and Dark Victory, which features Batman’s earlier career, Hush follows the weathered and strained Batman/Bruce Wayne as he tries to keep Gotham safe from new and ever worsening dangers.  Together with his cadre of crime-fighting vigilantes—including Nightwing, Robin, Huntress, and Superman (but not quite Catwoman)—Batman sets out to find the puppet master who has set the whole of Gotham’s criminal underworld onto his heels.

Hush is one of those wonderful comics that will always offer more surprises each time a reader picks it up.  It’s thoughtful, it’s complex, it’s detailed (in both story and art), and it explores every emotional side of a Dark Knight who has suffered innumerable losses, endured more grief and pain than most can manage, and defeat some of the most terrifying villains in the world.  Moreover, it has a level of mystery that reminds me of Agatha Christie, which kept me on my toes even as I enjoyed it.  I mean, I certainly didn’t expect it to end the way it did—and I found Batman to be all the more clever for solving the ultimate mystery.

Last, I read Master of Crows by Grace Draven.  Originally published by Amber Quill Press (which, I realize, is not quite a micropress), it was eventually republished by Grace Draven—and, as all the definitions of a micropress I can find defines it as being a small and/or single-person publisher, I decided it would fit nicely into this category to complete my challenge.

Yes, I realize I might be pushing the rules with this one, but I didn’t have the best of luck identifying and finding books published by micropresses.  Morover, I couldn’t find something I enjoyed by a micropress to which I had direct access at my local library, thus the Internet and Tennessee READS—and, of course, Master of Crows—became my go-to choice.

Now, putting aside my (admittedly weak) justifications, Master of Crows wasn’t a bad novel.  In a world where magic exists and dark creatures lurk at the periphery of civilization, Silhara and Martise are thrust together in an unexpected alliance when one of the old gods—Corruption—returns.  Determined to stop Corruption and deny his fate, Silhara enlists the aid of the Conclave and meets Martise, a slave girl turned spy.  Together, they must discover Corruption’s weakness and save the world…or, quite possibly, die trying.

I realize it sounds a little melodramatic and, yes, I suppose it is; however, it’s also an unexpectedly complex novel that I enjoyed.  It has its faults, like a hero who is more cruel than noble, but, overall, it had interesting characters and created a sturdy setting that I appreciated.  Personally, I think I enjoyed Draven’s ability to build her world.  It’s rich with detail and magic, and I absolutely loved learning more and more about the creatures, places, and history of Silhara and Martise’s world.  I will note it’s more of an acquired taste, but it’s certainly worth sampling—unless you aren’t a fan of explicit material.  In which case, I probably wouldn’t recommend it.

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