Monday, February 29, 2016

The 9th Annual Canadian Book Challenge - February 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")

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Reader's Diary #1258- Hope Nicholson (Editor): Moonshot / The Indigenous Comics Collection Volume 1

Moonshot: The Indigenous Comics Collection is a wonderful sampling of comic art and stories written by and/or/with indigenous creators across North America (with the larger portion being Canadian). It features my recent discovery and newly crowned favourite comics illustrator, David Mack, and a few others familiar to me: Richard Van Camp, David Alexander Robertson, and I was also pleased to discover new artists that I'd not come across before.

The end result has so much wonderful variety, with art ranging from very comic-book traditional to stuff unlike I'd seen anywhere else. Likewise with the stories; some are traditional tales, some are horror and sci-fi, and some (deliciously) combine both.

Some stories feel more complete while others feel like excerpts. That's not a critique: at the end of the collection biographies are included of all of the creators. There are many here that I will definitely follow up with and check out more of their work.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Reader's Diary #1257- Elodie Harper: Wild Swimming

Elodie Harper's "Wild Swimming" was the winner of a Guardian short story contest judged by Stephen King. You'd be correct then to suspect it's horror. But you probably weren't expecting something set in Lithuania, nor the events that transpire there. And have you ever heard of the extreme sport of wild swimming? Me neither.

If all of that isn't interesting enough, it's also told as an epistolary short story via emails.

Whew, with all of that going for it, it would almost be forgiven if the story itself was poorly written. Fortunately, it's engaging the whole way through.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Reader's Diary #1256- Kieron Gillen (Writer) and Salvador Larroca (Artist): Star Wars Darth Vader Vol. 1

In Kieron Gillen's Darth Vader, Volume 1, there's a Star Wars character I'd not heard of before named Aphra who at one point says, "I'm happy my blood's doodling in the margins of a story worth telling" and therein lies my whole problem with this book. It's all the margins.

Set between A New Hope (i.e., episode 4) and The Empire Strikes Back (i.e., episode 5), the whole thing feels unnecessary. I'm never thrilled when yet another movie comes out set during one of the World Wars haven't we heard all of the interesting stories by now?— so you can imagine how I'd feel about an unnecessary side story from a fictional war. 

Of course, sometimes I'm still surprised, and someone will tell an interesting and new story. Even in the Star Wars mythos, I'll admit that my son and I enjoyed the Clone Wars TV series, which was set between Attack of the Clones (episode 2) and Revenge of the Sith (episode 3). So what I'm saying is, if the story telling is good enough, I can come around.

I didn't come around for Darth Vader, Volume 1. I'm left basically underwhelmed. It felt like just a way to squeeze out more Vader. I get he was a kick-ass villain and a money maker, but the character died and it's time to move on.

But, I'll concede some good points. For a guy who spends his entire time in a mask, they manage to get some emotion out of Vader through his body language, through flashbacks, through words
— and I'll give credit for that. I'm not a fan of Larroca's art (especially his tendency to draw characters look straight into the "camera"), but Delgado's colours are great: dark, but shiny, just like Vader himself.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Reader's Diary #1255- Tania Del Rio (Writer), Will Staehle (Illustrator): Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye

Magic, puzzles, and steampunk. Hints of Roald Dahl, Lemony Snickett, and Edward Gorey. Ah, what a wonderful book.

Warren the 13th, the titular star of the book, is surrounded by assortment of eclectic characters: witches, perfumiers, pirates, and octopi, and more. Warren's certainly likable. Mannerly and obedient to a fault, but also odd in his own right. But those around him? Some clearly cannot be trusted. The rest? Well, who's to say?

Warren is the rightful heir to a a now dilapidated hotel, a hotel that holds a valuable secret known as the All Seeing Eye.

It's rare to see a book packaged this well. The illustrations, with rich etchings, expressive and outlandish cartoons, and everything cast with deliciously detailed shadows that suggest secrets of their own. The colouring too, with its rich reds, blacks, gold, silvers, and white, is magnificent.

The look of the book might also be its downfall. I brought this book at home from the library for my son to read, knowing he'd enjoy the story, but it took me reading the first the chapter to him before he'd give it a chance (then he devoured it in a day or so). It looks old fashioned, right down to the two columned pages and the fonts. I could tell he was skeptical.

That's not a bad lesson though. Sometimes those old relics (or old looking relics) have delightful surprises.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Reader's Diary #1254- Craig Thompson: Space Dumplins

After the decidedly mature Blankets, I wasn't sure what to expect with Craig Thompson's take on a space adventure aimed at younger readers, but Space Dumplins was wild, colourful, and fun.

There's a lot in here that reminded me of others' work: Adventure Time, Sponge Bob, Ren and Stimpy, the Jetsons, etc. Not that any of these are bad things. The art and jokes are quirky, sometimes witty, sometimes just gross. This is not a bad combination, nor is to suggest Thompson hasn't created something unique or added his own original flair. (Check out his use of speech balloons!)

The tale of a girl off to save her father in space along with her two polar opposite, but equally misfit friends, clicks along with such energy it would be next to impossible for any kid to turn away.

For the adult readers, there are still a lot of mature themes to explore, much in the same way of the better Pixar movies. Classism, animal rights, environmental concerns, are all measured out so cleverly that you almost don't realize there's more going on beyond the bright lights and puns.Will kids pick up on it? Perhaps, perhaps not, but at least seeds of critical thought will be planted.

The art, with with its many curves, is frenetic, adding to the pacing and the colours, like a black-lit mini-golf course, lend a sense of awe for the outer space setting.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Reader's Diary #1255- Sean Hill: unnamed

Sean Hill runs a Twitter account called "Very Short Story." As you can guess, each story is less than 140 characters. Nonetheless, if you're a fan of microfiction, he does it well and has gained a lot of followers in the process. He's also published many of his quick tales in a hardcopy book.

I picked today's short story, about a lonely ant-loving man, not because it stood out as a particularly great or terrible example, but simply as it was his most recent and does, nonetheless, represent what he does. There's an honest-to-goodness character there; one you immediately make judgements about and sympathize. He's given a backstory that has had repercussions on his present. There's even a setting. All within such a short space!

I encourage you to check out more from his Twitter feed while you're there.