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Thursday, January 20, 2022

Reader's Diary #2273 - Ellen Hopkins: Crank

I've been fortunate enough not to have been really exposed to meth. But I'm certainly aware of its growing problem. So, it felt like as good a time as any to read what is becoming a young adult novel in verse on the subject: Ellen Hopkins' Crank.

It was an entertaining read and while that sounds like a bit of a slam for a book about an "important" subject, I 'll clarify. It comes across a bit melodramatic, but for young adult readers I suppose that's more likely up their alley. Hell, I loved Degrassi when I was that age and there was a different crisis each week. 

Was it educational? Did I learn something, or feel empathy? Well, maybe. I mean the flippant way everyone seems to be using I suppose is realistic in some circles. And I can imagine that to a teen girl wrestling with issues of a neglectful father, identity, and hormones, perhaps meth could at first promise a way of dealing with all that. Until, of course, it takes over and becomes the only problem that matters.

As for it being "in verse"? I can't say that I spent a lot of time reading the book as a series of poems to really consider if they stood up as poetry, but it did make the reading go fast and felt like a complete, "real" novel anyway. 

Monday, January 17, 2022

Reader's Diary #2272- Lore Segal: Around the Corner You Can't See Around

 I do believe that money can't buy happiness (necessarily), but I also think that folks struggling just for basic needs must look at miserable people who are financially well-off with a particular annoyance. 

It's a cliched scenario of course but in the right hands there's still some fodder for a good piece of literature. Unfortunately it evolves into a pretentious existential slog in Lore Segal's "Around the Corner You Can't See Around."

It felt like the kind of dialogue New Yorker readers would have.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Reader's Diary #2271- Gord Hill: The 500 Years of Indigenous Resistance Comic Book (Revised and Expanded)

Growing up in Canada in the 80s, we spent a lot of time in school learning about early European explorers in Canada. There may have been brief passages in our textbooks about clashes with Indigenous people (though I'm sure our textbooks didn't refer to them as such), but the subtext was always the achievements of these white folks traversing the globe and setting up in wild lands. 

While the title of Gord Hill's The 500 Years of Indigenous Resistance Comic Book suggests that the focus is on the same time frame, only from Indigenous perspectives, he quickly dispels the myth that these early white explorers are somehow worthy of the amount of  praise they've been given by white historians and the many monuments in their name. Indigenous people discovered and set up advanced societies across the Americas literally thousands of years prior. 

Living in the north for the past 20 years, plus it being a different time, some of these myths set in Canada have been dispelled for me long before now. However, I'm less familiar with the true history of the United States, and of Central and South America. Honestly, this comic book by Gord Hill should be a textbook.

With the factuality of a textbook, it does start to blur together and become dry if read in one sitting, but taken episode by episode, it's not only educational, but hopefully inspiring. 

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Reader's Diary #2270 - Stephen King - 11/22/63

Stephen King was my first literary obsession and in my junior high, high school days I tore through everything from his 70s and 80s output. Beyond that it's been really sporadic. When I do pick one up these days it feels comfortable. I'm also, however, reminded of my issues with his writing.

11/22/63 is a decent book. Seeing King take a stab at a time travel story is fun and as it's backward time-travel, it fits easily into the nostalgia thing he does so well (though he's careful to show how the late 50s, early 60s weren't the good ol' days either). 

But man oh man, this needed an editor. At nearly 850 pages it honestly could have been half that length. The most egregious thing I've noticed in his later works is his insistency of creating a united Stephen King Universe. The first couple hundred pages in this novel sees the protagonist going back to Derry, where he encounters a couple of kids from It. This whole plot is largely irrelevant to the overall story and is just annoying. 

Monday, January 10, 2022

Reader's Diary #2269 - Ellie Scott: Race

 Ellie Scott's flash fiction "Race" brought me back to my early childhood big time this morning with the brilliantly and accurately described scene of a young boy playing with his Matchbox cars and using that innocently dangerous imagination so many of us had at that age.

Fearing damage to her floor, the mother in the story tries to appeal to the boy's sense of empathy. The lesson however might work too well and the result is dark and hilarious. Just the way I like. 

Monday, January 03, 2022

Reader's Diary #2268 - Te-Ping Chen: Shanghai Murmur

 Te-Ping Chen's short story "Shanghai Murmur" would be a perfect story for a high school class to dissect and discuss for symbolism, and in particular with a focus on an expensive pen. I hope saying this doesn't imply that the story is heavy-handed in that technique, but rather that it works really well. Besides that, this story about a young florist trying to make her way in Shanghai is also rich in voice and imagery. 

Thursday, December 30, 2021

My Year in Review 2021 - Comics, Manga, and Graphic Novels

Here are all the graphic novels, comics, and manga that I read in 2021, ranked from least (26) to most favourite (1). Feel free to share your thoughts on any of these, or other highlights from your own reading year!


26. Various creators - Godzilla: Unnatural Disasters

25. Ethan Sacks and Paoli Villanelli - Star Wars Bounty Hunters 1: Galaxy's Deadliest 

24. Frank Herbert, Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson, Raul Allen, Patricia Martin - Dune Book 1

23. Barry Windsor-Smith - Monsters

22. Marianne Boucher - Talking to Strangers

21. Brian Michael Bendis and Leinil Francis Yu - Secret Invasion

20. Steve Foxe and Shadia Amin - Spider-Ham: Great Power, No Responsibility

19. Tatsuki Fujimoto - Chainsaw Man 1

18. Elisa Macellari - Papaya Salad

17. Huda Fahmy - That Can Be Arranged

16. Adrian Tomine - Shortcomings

15. Jay Bulckaert, Erika Nyyssonen, and Lucas Green - King Warrior

14. Chris Miskiewicz and Noah Vansciver - Grateful Dead Origins

13. Nicolas Finet and Christopher - Love Me Please: The Story of Janis Joplin

12. Sina Grace and Derek Charm - Jughead's Time Police

11. Al Ewing - Loki: Agent of Asgard The Complete Series

10. Hiromi Goto and Ann Xu - Shadow Life

9. Christian Staebler and Sonia Paolini - Redbone: The True Story of a Native American Band

8. Alison McCreesh - Petrozavodsk

7. Kim Hyun Sook, Ryan Estrada, and Ko Hyung-Ju - Banned Book Club

6. Chuck Wendig and Alvaro Sarraseca - Turok: Blood Hunt

5. Ed Brisson and Jonas Scarf - Avengers of the Wastelands

4. Walter Scott - Wendy: Master of Art

3. Joe Sacco - Paying the Land

2. Trung Le Nguyen - The Magic Fish

1. Joe Ollmann - Fictional Father