Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The 10th Annual Canadian Book Challenge - January Roundup (Sticky Post— Scroll down for most recent post)

1. Click on the icon above
2. Add a link to your review. (Please link to your specific review, not an entire webpage.)
3. Add your name and in parentheses the title of the book, such as John Mutford (Anne of Avonlea)
4. In the comment section below, tell me your grand total so far. (ex. "This brings me up to 1/13")

And in prize news, congratulations to Irene for winning a signed copy of Nancy Gardiner's Hairy Leg News for taking part in last month's mini-challenge to read a non-fiction Canadian book. Canadian Book Challenge mini-challenges are exclusive to members via email.)

Monday, January 16, 2017

Reader's Diary #1437- Chika Unigwe: The Smell of Home

If you've every contemplated how unfair it is that some of the most beautiful places on Earth also have the worst poverty, worst corruption, and so on, the protagonist in Chika Unigwe's "The Smell of Home" suggests it's God's way of providing balance in the world. As in, no one gets complete paradise, no one gets complete hell.

If you've assumed this is a political story, it is. Though the case is made that in Nigeria everything is politics. But surprisingly there's also an uplifting love story that emerges. It's quite beautiful really.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Reader's Diary #1436- Kate Leth (writer), Brittney L. Williams (artist): Patsy Walker AKA HellCat! Hooked on a Feline Vol. 1

First diving into Hellcat! Hooked on a Feline I was taken aback. My only knowledge of Patsy Walker prior to this collection was through Netflix's Jessica Jones. If you've seen that show (or Luke Cage or Daredevil) you'll note that, despite traces of humour here or there, it's the more serious side of the MCU. It's all gritty-stuff. So I was expecting the same.

In hindsight, the pun in the title and the bright, cartoony cover should have made it more obvious what I'd be getting. And after looking a little more into it, I understand what Kate Leth had set out to do and it was largely based on Patsy Walker's history in Marvel Comics. It seems that she began in a teen rom-com series back in the 50s (without having read it myself, it sounds like an Archie sort of thing). Later, however, she became more integrated into traditional superhero stories. I believe Leth had be trying to balance the two.

For the most part, I'd say she succeeded. The romance stuff certainly isn't a big focus, but the comedy is, though there's plenty of action as well. There's a lot of great cameos (She-Hulk, Valkyrie, and yes, Jessica Jones) and some pretty unique villains (there's one guy who can control bed bugs-- um, ew?). Patsy herself is confident, open-minded, and positive (even when she seems to have a lot of strikes against her at times). I was never quite clear on what age she was supposed to be though...

Brittney L. Williams' art really fits the mood of the stories, bright and whimsical, plus with a lot of manga style incorporated throughout to set it apart from a lot of generic superhero art.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Reader's Diary #1435- Various artists and writers: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and the Great Lakes Avengers

I've already determined that I'm a Squirrel Girl fan but I cannot say that I knew a hill of beans about the Great Lakes Avengers, so when I heard there was a compilation of Squirrel Girl's time with the group, it seemed like the perfect time to educate myself.

Given the general oddness of Squirrel Girl, the Great Lakes Avengers turned out to be a great fit. The other members include Big Bertha (whose superpower sees her able to become supremely obese), Doorman (who can teleport himself or others but just over very short distances, like the next room), Mr. Immortal (who can die, but comes immediately back to life), Flatman (who is two dimensional, can stretch, and if he turns sideways, can disappear), and Dinah Soar (a pink humanoid with a dinosaur looking head and wings and the ability to fly). For a short time Deadpool is also a member.

It's a rather ragtag team who gets no respect at all, mostly due to their less than stellar abilities. Of course this is played for comic relief but nonetheless they're a likeable collection, if for nothing else than their ambition. They know where they stand, they're not delusional, but they desperately want to be superheroes anyway. And they look out for one another. Well, maybe not so much Deadpool. But he, with his dark humour is contrasted hilariously with Squirrel Girl's lighter quirkiness. She'll only ever refer to him as "you evil, evil man!"

It's a great premise really. I've often wondered why all the mutants and inhumans in Marvel lore always wound up with super useful skills. What about waking up one morning to discover that you can turn your skin blue on command? Or create a tiny flame out of your pinky finger? The Great Lakes Avengers aren't that pathetic, of course, but still the idea is there.

Like all collections of course, it's a little inconsistent. Some art is better than others, some stories are better than others, but for the most part it's a fun ride and everyone seemed to get what made the characters so special.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Reader's Diary #1434- Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes (writers), Mikel Janin (artist): Justice League Dark Volume 3 The Death of Magic

While Justice League Dark remains my favourite part of DC Comics, I couldn't help but feel that this volume was less than a sum of its parts.

Undeniably there are some cool, creative ideas here, especially in the first science versus magic arc. Besides the intriguing premise, the main characters get the fan-boy treatment, seeing them have fundamental character traits flipped on their heads. Normally sexy Black Orchid is turned into a purple beast, Deadman is alive (albeit temporarily), forever youthful Madame Xanadu is aging rapidly, and John Constantine (adding the most comic relief) cannot lie. In the second arc, Horror City, the House of Mystery is stolen, and Swamp Thing is called in to help find it. Being a huge Swamp Thing fan, this was most welcomed.Tracing it to New York, it seems that the House is now being used to plague the city with nightmare creatures, creatures literally crafted from nightmares. The Flash also shows to help, and though I like the Flash, I hate it when the regular Justice Leaguers encroach upon this world. It also seems like a publisher's directive, like they don't have faith that Justice League Dark can sell enough comics without a cameo from the more recognizable brand names.

In any case, it was more the rushed story telling that took away from my enjoyment. Especially with the first arc, it felt to build, build, build, and boom, it was over. Certain characters and plot lines never wound up getting developed and the resolution was underwhelming.

Again though, I really like these characters, and even a weaker JLD story is better than a JL story.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Reader's Diary #1433- Björnstjerne Björnson: The Father

Björnstjerne Bjornson's "The Father" has a peculiar style that, knowing it is a translation, makes me wonder if the original Norwegian felt quite the same. The titular father, Thord, makes a curious request of a priest, than a few short, clipped sentences later, time has elapsed, and this repeats again 3 more times. It all feels rather rapid and impatient to get to a moral.

It's like a parable, I suppose, although perhaps its the presence of a priest that has implanted that idea in my head. I take it as a lesson in pride, even pride over ones' children.

Dokka Church by Marcus Ramberg, on Flickr

Saturday, January 07, 2017

The Once - Tell Me Something I Don't Know

I almost never post non-reading related stuff here, but this gorgeous video by The Once shows my childhood home and well, now I missing it.