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September brings a tale of Puerto Rico

38812174Happy September, everybody! The new month brings a new author to the area for a signing in Sarah McCoy, who will be signing copies of her debut “The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico” at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Baileys Crossroads Borders. Set in Puerto Rico in the early 1960s amid political turmoil, the coming-of-age story follows an 11-year-old girl who accidentally sees her parents in an intimate way she never saw before, and lashes out via attitude and bleach dye job before discovering their encompassing love for each other and her.

The Politics and Prose downtown also has a couple events of note this week. Christopher Caldwell will speak at 7 p.m. Tuesday about the issues facing Muslim immigrants in European countries that he discusses in his book “Reflections on the Revolution in Europe,” and at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jonathan Tropper drops by to promote his latest, “This Is Where I Leave You,” about a parenting expert mom and her four kids bringing their dysfunctional family together at the funeral of the fam’s patriarch.

25636new_storyimage4581097_fullWith the big news of Disney buying Marvel Entertainment for a cool $4 billion, turning the comics world on its head, people are now worried about Scrooge McDuck and the Thing team-ups. Who knows what will happen, but Mickey Mouse needs to turn “Luke Cage Noir” into a flick, stat! Northern Virginia artist Shawn Martinbrough’s astounding illustrations are only part of what is making this miniseries great, and the second issue features Tombstone, a nasty Spider-Man villain and albino gangster who’s reimagined here as, well,  an albino gangster who’s back to rough up Harlem ex-con Luke Cage.

Also out this week: Reston native Steve Niles’ collection of his Batman series “Gotham After Midnight”; the debut of the new monthly “Magog,” spinning out of “JSA”; “Absolute V For Vendetta,” for all you Alan Moore completists out there; and Jeff Lemire’s “Sweet Tooth,” possibly Vertigo’s newest hit series starring a boy with deer antlers and only costing a buck for its first issue.

What books have leaked from your summer reading list into your fall one? Let me know in the comments.



The City of Angels, in black and white

37555865Pulp fiction and hard-boiled crime noir are back in fashion, and while it doesn’t have the same metropolitan air as a New York or Chicago, Los Angeles is a great setting for these types of stories. (What can I say, I have a thing for palm trees, starlets and sidearms.) In his new book “L.A. Noir,” author John Buntin chronicles stories from the true life of cop William Parker and his struggles against gangsters and other criminals from the Prohibition era through the Watts Riots in 1965. Ask Buntin all about L.A. law vs. crime when he appears at the Politics and Prose downtown at 7 p.m. Wednesday to sign copies of his book. Also at the store are two other events of note: At 7 p.m. Tuesday, Washington Post and NPR dude T.R. Reid talks healthcare systems when he stops by to promote “The Healing of America,” and literary wunderkind Nick McDonell will be there at 7 p.m. Thursday to showcase “An Expensive Education,” about Harvard students involved in a debate about African conflict on campus.

12427_400x600The great Kevin Smith, filmmaker and fanboy extraordinaire, found success (and met deadlines!) with his recent Batman miniseries, “Cacophony,” and he throws the Caped Crusader in more trouble in the interestingly titled “Widening Gyre.” Somebody should have had him write one of the new “Blackest Night” miniseries! Another one rises this week, this one starring the Titans,  as its members are forced to go one on one with Black Lantern versions of their deceased friends and loved ones. One of the oldest superhero teams, the Fantastic Four, gets a new creative team in writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Dale Eaglesham in its 570th issue, and if you’re a fan of Dan Brown, you may dig “Spin Angels,” the new series that crosses Mafia hitmen and a black-ops unit that works for the Vatican.

What superhero (or villain) do you most want to see come back as a Black Lantern during “Blackest Night”? Let me know in the comments.



Discover Finder and his latest series

photo11_0Joseph Finder’s one of the leading voices when it comes to books filled with crackerjack intelligence dudes and espionage aplenty (and lots of Washington intrigue, which we Northern Virginians are familiar with), and he’s started a new series starring Nick Heller, former Special Forces operative and ace investigator. In Finder’s latest, “Vanished,” Finder’s brother has, well, vanished in Georgetown and he teams with his nephew, comes to grips with his corrupt dad and takes on a nefarious corporation. You gotta love nefarious corporations. Finder is coming to town to sign copies of the book at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Baileys Crossroads Borders.

Those who are interested in breaking down fiction, or even just writing some, may want to stop by Politics and Prose downtown at 7 p.m. Wednesday, when James Wood will be chatting about his collection of essays, “How Fiction Works.” The store also hosts local author Eugenia Kim at 7 p.m. Tuesday when she’ll be there promoting her debut novel “The Calligrapher’s Daughter,” about her mother’s struggles in Japanese-occupied Korea.

12429_400x600There’s been all these shakeups in Gotham City lately, with a new Batman and Robin and the town going to heck with Arkham’s finest running amok, so why not add a new Batgirl to the mix? She makes her debut this week in her own monthly title, and the Man of Steel’s got one heck of a problem in the form of Black Lantern Superman when the ring-bearing corpse shows up in Smallville in “Blackest Night: Superman.” Daredevil celebrates his 500th issue by continuing his arc with Kingpin and Lady Bullseye, “Punisher Noir” (written by the fantastic Frank Tieri) looks great with the gun-toting vigilante targeting Dutch Schultz, and the first two books from the Vertigo Crime line debut: Ian Rankin’s “Dark Entries” (starring John Constantine) and Brian Azzarello’s “Filthy Rich.”

“The Time-Traveler’s Wife” debuted in theaters on Friday, so if you’ve seen it, what’s better: the movie or the book? Let me know in the comments.



They’re not booing. They’re saying, ‘Duuuuuune.’

51oNncKN0pL._SS500_Frank Herbert’s 1965 vaunted space opera “Dune” and its five sequels are close to many a sci-fi fan’s heart, and the series spawned the 1984 David Lynch film (you know, the one with Sting) and many other pop-culture adaptations over the years. Herbert died in 1986, but his son Brian and fellow scribe Kevin J. Anderson are keeping the sandy political and ecological epic going with a set of prequels and, currently, a set of novels set in between dear old dad’s tomes. The latest, “The Winds of Dune,” is a direct sequel to “Dune Messiah,” and Brian Herbert is coming to town for a signing event at the Baileys Crossroads Borders at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. The store is also hosting ace crime novelist Linwood Barclay at 7:30 Thursday, who will be promoting his latest thriller, “Fear the Worst,” about a single father and the daughter who mysteriously disappears. And Democratic types will want to hit up Politics and Prose downtown at 4 p.m. Thursday since Howard Dean, former DNC Chairman, will be chatting up his new book, “Howard Dean’s Prescription for Real Healthcare Reform.”

12409_400x600The debut issue of “Blackest Night” last month was fantastic, and so should the second issue be this week. It’s getting pretty crazy with the Martian Manhunter, the Dibnys and (possibly) Hawkman and Hawkgirl being turned into Black Lanterns. Who’s next? I can’t wait to see, because Geoff Johns is writing some magnificent stuff. Batman gets his own “Blackest Night” miniseries, and he’s teaming up with Deadman to deal with some resurrected people from his own past. Also debuting is “Adventure Comics” featuring Superboy and Starman from the Legion of Superheroes, and “The Marvels Project,” a series breaking out of Marvel’s 70th anniversary this year that tells the origins of the Marvel Universe.

Better fantasy epic: “Dune” or “The Lord of the Rings”? As always, let me know in the comments!



The inherent zen of a motorcycle shop

37432927I’m back! And so is Matthew B. Crawford, who’s both philosopher and Richmond motorcycle shop owner. He worked at a D.C. think tank for some years before opening up his shop and writing the tome, “Shop Class as Soulcraft,” and he’ll be signing copies of this biography/self-help book about finding more of yourself through manual labor at the Politics and Prose downtown at 7 p.m. Tuesday. The store also hosts Washington Post writers Dan Balz and Haynes Johnson at 7 p.m. Wednesday — they’ll be discussing their coverage and analysis of the Obama/McCain presidential election that went into creating “The Battle for America 2008.”

41ONwmjiTlL._SS500_Being a comic geek, one of the events I’m most looking forward to is on Saturday, when the very talented Ben Templesmith stops by Laughing Ogre Comics in Lansdowne for a signing between 12 and 4 p.m. He’s one of the best horror comics around, co-creating “30 Days of Night” with Reston native Steve Niles and hatching both “Welcome to Hoxford” and “Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse,” which he writes as well. He also co-created and does the art for Warren Ellis’ fantastic “Fell.” His style is unmistakably detailed and colorful, so definitely be sure to check this out since he’ll be signing anything and everything.

And while you’re in the comics mood, be sure to pick up the debut issue of the new “Doom Patrol” series. The “world’s strangest superheroes” have gone through many different incarnations since 1963, but this time could be better than ever since the book’s courtesy of writer Keith Giffen. Also out this week: We fnd out what happened to the Masters of Evil when the Scarlet Witch went bonkers in a “House of M” special; “Luke Cage Noir,” featuring the great period art of Falls Church’s own Shawn Martinbrough; and everybody’s searching for Steve Rogers in the second issue of “Captain America: Reborn,” while Steve is doing his best “Lost” impression and is somewhere else in time.

It’s now August! What’s the one summer read you still need to get to before Labor Day? Let me know in the comments.



California dreamin’

24534new_storyimage7672643_fullHey all! I’m off to San Diego for the better part of the next two weeks, but I wanted to fill you in on what to do in the meantime. Because I know you’re all lost without me. (I kid, I kid.) So…

Go to: Sarah Dunant’s signing at Politics and Prose downtown at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 29. She’s presenting “The Sacred Heart,” a 16th-century historical fiction revolving around a convent and perfect for anybody who was a fan of her “The Birth of Venus.”

Read: “Amazing Spider-Man” No. 600. It’s a milestone issue for Spidey, and to celebrate, Doctor Octopus is back! All eight of those mechanized arms will be in full effect, as will an appearance by Daredevil, a wedding the Webhead never saw coming and a return of someone we haven’t seen in a while. All that and Stan Lee, too.

Watch: One of three movies this week, depending on your interests (and age): the Disney family adventure “G-Force,” starring a bunch of guinea pigs who are crazy good at espionage; the chick flick “The Ugly Truth” pitting Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler in a war of the sexes; or “Orphan,” a horror movie featuring one of the creepiest little girls since those twins in “The Shining.”

Buy: “Watchmen” Director’s Cut on Blu-ray. OK, you can get the standard edition, but this is the kind of thing that makes you upgrade your current home entertainment system. While the movie was good in the theater, Zack Snyder’s director’s cut is 30 minutes longer, features more stuff cut from the Alan Moore masterpiece, and looks INSANE in high definition. Seriously, go now. Turn off the computer. It’ll still be here when you get back.

What are your feelings on standard editions vs. super-duper extended extreme editions of movies on DVD? Let me know what you prefer in the comments, and here’s your video of the next two weeks:



It’s time to party like it’s 1959

38518551Instead of writing about 1958 or 1960, Fred Kaplan has picked to write about the many culture-defining events of the the year in-between in “1959: The Year Everything Changed.” In it, he argues that ’59 was the year that kicked off the Sixties and a period of sociological, cultural and political changes. A lot of interesting people make appearances, from Malcolm X and Miles Davis to John F. Kennedy and Lenny Bruce, in this intriguing tome, which Kaplan will be presenting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Politics and Prose downtown.

The store also hosts another couple of events for those interested in world history: Seth Jones will be speaking at 7 p.m. Wednesday on his book about the many world powers that have tasted defeat by invading Afghanistan, “In the Graveyard of Empires,” and Matthew Aid stops by at 7 p.m. Thursday to chat about his chronicling of the National Security Agency, “The Secret Sentry.”

A little bit closer to home, popular chick-lit author Jennifer Weiner will be in town at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Baileys Crossroads Borders and signing copies of her new book, “Best Friends Forever,” a female-friendly story about two childhood pals reconnecting after years apart thanks to unforeseen circumstances.

Many movie and book fans have been awaiting this day for a while, and on Tuesday at midnight, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” finally hits theaters. It was supposed to get released last November, but was pushed to this summer, much to fans’ chagrin.

The sixth book was by far my favorite of the J.K. Rowling series, as it delved deeper into Voldemort’s past and showed how Dumbledore was involved, introduced the all-important seven horcruxes, and allowed Harry and his pals to grow up a little bit more. If the new movie’s even half as good as the book, it’ll probably the best one yet. Director David Yates is back in the saddle, too, which bodes well for the movie franchise after doing a spot-on job with “Order of the Phoenix.” (Of course, I don’t think anyone’s going to come close to what Alphonso Cuaran did with the third film, “Prisoner of Azkaban.”)

So what’s your fave Potter book and movie, and do they match? Let me know in the comments.



A whole lotta ‘Hurt’

PHKJeRONPfXpPK_mIt’s a little bit more than halfway through the summer movie season, and giant robots are pummeling everything and Johnny Depp’s shooting up screens with a Tommy gun. It’s not the usual time for Oscar bait to show up in multiplexes, though, but “The Hurt Locker” isn’t your average war flick. Opening this weekend at Cinema Arts Theatre and based on the experiences of embedded reporter Mark Boal, the Kathryn Bigelow flick stars Jeremy Renner and follows a trio of Army men whose job it is to sweep the streets of Baghdad for roadside bombs, and dispose of them if found. It’s a hairy gig, naturally, and the movie follows the action as it puts our heroes through the psychological wringer. The other release of note this week is Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Bruno,” starring his flamboyantly gay Austrian fashionista. If you were down with “Borat,” you’ll want to revel in more of Cohen’s shock-and-awe antics.

41tNjoi6CYL._SS500_As a newer fan of AMC’s great retro show “Mad Men,” I’ve been anxiously awaiting Tuesday’s DVD release of the second season. Who doesn’t love Jon Hamm’s oh-so-dapper Don Draper? And all the drinking and smoking that you can handle on your flat-screen. Now you’ve got the time to catch up before the third season premieres next month. Those who love sketch comedy and missed it in the ’90s will want to check out the complete series of MTV’s “The State.” Also on store shelves: the debut season of TNT’s “Leverage” with Timothy Hutton; the HBO movie “Grey Gardens” with Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange; the World War II period drama “The Edge of Love,” starring Keira Knightley, Sienna Miller and Cillian Murphy; the Virginia Madsen horror flick “The Haunting in Connecticut”; the Dennis Quaid thriller “Horsemen”; and the Blu-ray debut of the 1974 disaster classic “The Towering Inferno.”

What’s your favorite war movie, you guys? Would you put “Platoon” over “Apocalypse Now? “The Dirty Dozen” over “Full Metal Jacket”? Let me know in the comments, and check out your video of the week:



Who doesn’t love national security and baseball?

34933694It may be post-Independence Day, but the patriotism continues this week in area book stores. Heck, even a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is out our way for a chat! Gen. Richard B. Myers is stopping by the Baileys Crossroads Borders at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday to talk about “Eyes on the Horizon,” his look at his whole career, what it was like being in the frontlines warring against terrorism and what he thinks is a good plan for national security in today’s times. Equally American is the national pastime, and Tim Knouse will be doling know-how at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Woodbridge Borders from his “Amazing Baseball Tips” book. (Hey, at least it’s not “Mediocre Baseball Tips.”) And Thursday offers a double feature of sorts at Politics and Prose downtown. Olivia Gentile will be signing copies of her new book “Life List,” the biography of famous bird lover Phoebe Snetsinger, at 7 p.m. Thursday, and she’s bringing her husband along with her: comedian Andy Borowitz, author of “Who Moved My Soap?”

12036_400x600Did you catch “Captain America: Reborn” at your comic shop last week? Get it now if you haven’t, especially if you like “Lost.” But this week is the time to start gearing up for “Blackest Night,” since the official prologue begins in “Green Lantern” No. 43. Black Hand has been a GL for years, and we start to discover his ties to all the upcoming hubbub as the first Black Lantern is unveiled — or unearthed, as the case may be. (And should we read into the fact that Black Hand is positioned around the grave of Bruce Wayne on the cover?) DC Comics tries something new with its “Wednesday Comics,” a weekly tabloid-size book that tells tales of your fave comics characters in the newspaper comic-strip segments. (Me, I kinda like consuming my comics in their normal state.) I’m going to have to get the 13th and last volume of “100 Bullets,” entitled “Wilt,” to complete my collection, the miniseries “North 40″ features the denizens of a small Midwestern town with all sorts of weird things creepin’ around, and “Dark X-Men: The Beginning” breaks down Emma Frost’s super team in a “Utopia” tie-in.

What’s your “great American novel”? Let me know in the comments section!



Henry Thoreau, John Dillinger and one inspiring golf lover

39026877It’s Fourth of July week, and it’s front-loaded with goodness. So let’s take a quick look at some cool things you can attend, read and see before channeling your inner caveman and being wowed by pyrotechnics.

D.J. Gregory, an inspirational guy with cerebral palsy who walked with a different player during each PGA Tour event, talks about his experience and will sign copies of his book “Walking with Friends” at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Baileys Crossroads Borders. At the Politics and Prose downtown, John Pipkin comes to town at 7 p.m. Wednesday to promote “Woodsburner,” his debut tome about the Massachusetts residents affected by a fire inadvertently set by Henry Thoreau.

28430new_storyimage5245729_fullThe big news in the comic book world these days is the return of the thought-dead Steve Rogers just in time for Independence Day, and the original Cap is back in “Captain America: Reborn.” Suck it, Red Skull! Another fan favorite — one who actually never dies — gets a new series with “Deadpool: Merc with a Mouth,” which finds the antihero in the Savage Land seeking out the dangerous severed head of the Marvel Zombies Deadpool. (It’s a lot cooler than it sounds.) Those “Sex and the City” girls have nothing on “Marvel Divas,” which brings together Black Cat, Firestar, Photon and Hellcat all in the same book. I loved the debut issue of Grant Morrison’s new “Batman and Robin” so I’m looking forward to the second issue that pits the revamped Dynamic Duo against the Circus of Strange and the mysterious Professor Pyg. Those getting ready for “Blackest Night” will want to pick up the “Rage of the Red Lanterns” collection, and Vertigo takes ancient gods and tosses them into the back alleys of London town with “Greek Street.”

Because of the holiday, Hollywood’s throwing out its movies early, but Wednesday brings a doozy: Michael Mann’s “Public Enemies.” Love gangster flicks? Love Johnny Depp? This flick is like peanut butter and chocolate, with Depp as legendary most-wanted man John Dillinger in his glory days as a bank-robbing Robin Hood-esque figure. Oscar winner Marion Cotillard as his love interest, Billy Crudup as head FBI guy J. Edgar Hoover and Christian Bale as crack G-man Melvis Purvis.

What are your Fourth of July plans? Let the rest of us know of anything cool brewing in the comments section. Check out this brilliant video of the week, and have a great holiday!



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