Monday, August 31, 2015

The 9th Annual Canadian Book Challenge - August 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")

Also the first 9 people who reach 9 books read and reviewed can email me for the challenge can email and let me know. I will then put you in touch with Kyle Fleishman, author of Drink Dirt Eat Stone, who has generously donated 9 copies of his book. (It's the 9th annual challenge, after all.)

From the back cover:

Former Native Syndicate hitman and Gulf War hero Tristan Stonehorse walks out of Stony Mountain Penitentiary a free man for the first time in fourteen years. But Tristan owes. Kill one last man and he can put his violent past behind him and possibly mend the relationship with his grown daughter. If only things were that simple. When the job goes sideways, his would-be killers are dead and Tristan finds himself on the run with a group of highly skilled, anonymous killers trying to put him down for good. As he traverses the country he must do the one thing he hates most. Explore his own past. 

Evoking the gloomy violence of the early novels of Denis Johnson and Cormac McCarthy, Drink Dirt Eat Stone is a savagely beautiful novel about truth and transcendence, and one man’s journey to live down his past. It is a dark but lucid vision, a moving novel about the bleak reality of a world where the lowest common denominator of power is violence, and the winner is always the person who can wield it the most brutally.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Reader's Diary #1180- Jim Harrington: Just Another Day

A story that begins "Mom's black pants are in the trash again" knows how to hook a reader. How simple, yet mysterious is that again. It's a sad tale, possibly of the beginning stages of Alzheimer's.

It's microfiction, so there's not a lot of development, but there is a sense of the characters and hints of a plot, but mostly it's a large dose of evocative writing in a short dose of words.
The windy side of the beach by Elenapaint, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License
   by  Elenapaint 

Friday, July 31, 2015

The 9th Annual Canadian Book Challenge - July Roundup (Sticky Post— Scroll down for most recent post)

How to add your link:
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")

Monday, July 27, 2015

Reader's Diary #1179- John Kendrick Bangs: A Disputed Authorship

New term, to me anyway: Bangsian Fantasy, a genre of fiction that sees famous literary or historical figures interacting in the afterlife. I've seen the premise plenty of times, but didn't know there was a label (not that I'm shocked by that, of course!). The term originates from John Kendrick Bangs who first employed the device in A House-Boat on the River Styx.

"A Disputed Authorship" comes from that book, but most of the stories that comprise the book can stand on their own as long as you know the premise (i.e., that everyone who has ever died up to the publication is floating around the river Styx on a house-boat. This particular story sees Shakespeare, Nero, Charon, Lord Bacon, Emerson, Walter Raleigh, and Doctor Johnson gathering over a game of pool. The plot's not particularly heavy. Shakespeare is feigning offense after being accused of not writing his own material, but before the story is out, it's pretty clear he's a but of a conman, who most likely did not write his own material.

It's humorous and the distinct characterizations are done really well considering the sheer number of characters in the confines of a short story. The story itself isn't the most interesting thing in the world, but at the time, when the device was new, it must have seemed wildly entertaining.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Reader's Diary #1178- Gil Adamson: The Outlander

I'd heard enough praise of Gil Adamson's "gripping" Outlander to be quite excited to finally read this book. And at the beginning, I really was enjoying it. The premise was good; it's the wild West of Canada circa early 1900s and Mary Boulton is on the run. She's just killed her husband and her twin brothers-in-law are hunting her down. Certainly it had potential to be as gripping as everyone claimed and Mary was surely going to be the compelling character everyone made her out to be.

But, as you've already guessed based on my tone, I was let down. Bored, even. There are so many good starts to stories but they just drop, sometimes being picked up again later, sometimes not, and I thought it all resulted in a rather tedious mess.

Mary Boulton, the Widow, is shown early on to have hallucinations. This could complicate matters! Not really. Then there's a love affair with a wild mountaineer, a short time with a Native hunter, then she winds up in the ill-fated mining town of Frank, Alberta. Occasionally the twins pop up but not nearly often enough to remind this bored reader that Mary was actually on the run. I get that it was Mary's story, not the twins', but the book needed more streamlined peril to keep me awake. Otherwise the book felt like just a bunch of stuff that happened.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Reader's Diary #1177- Paul Jenkins (Writer) and Andres Guinaldo (Art): Son of Hulk, Dark Son Rising

(Collects Son of Hulk #s 13-17)

Earlier this year my daughter noticed me reading World War Hulk: Frontline and, knowing that I was interested in the Hulk character but finding it hard to get into that particular book, went looking for another one for me for Father's Day. The result of that search was Son of Hulk, Dark Son Rising.

She didn't know, of course, that Hulk himself would not appear in these pages, but that was okay. I was more hesitant for the fact that it began with #13 in the Son of Hulk series. If I complained that Frontline was difficult to get into as a casual fan, surely staring at #13 wasn't going to me much easier.

That turns out not to have been much of a problem. Apparently issues #1-12 focused on one of Hulk's son's, Skaar, while the 13th marked the beginning focus on Skaar's twin brother, Hiro-Kala, so I didn't feel that I missed too much back story to understand this one on its own.

But it did have other problems for me. Hiro-Kala is a violent young man. Perhaps even crazy violent. He's hellbent on killing Galactus for having destroyed his home planet, and part of his mysterious plan for revenge involves destroying another planet, poisoning it, before Galactus consumes it. That planet's inhabitants be damned.

No, Hiro-Kala isn't a likeable character. He may also be a bit on the crazy side, thinking he's a godthough he does get godlike powers, so maybe not completely crazy. I'm a little unclear about that stuff. He seems to have mastered control over something called the Old Power, which sounds a bit like the Force from Star Wars, and... well, anyway, it's strange and as I say, I didn't really understand it all.

I was also put off by all the angry violence. He's the son of Hulk, so you might wonder what I expected. Hulk's the big green rage monster, after all. But I'm starting to realize that what I've liked about the Hulk is the play with Bruce Banner, Hulk's calmer alter-ego. Banner provides balance. Hulk's Earth pals provide balance. But when there is no Banner and when every alien character seems to have been lifted from Frank Miller's 300, only interested in fighting and killing, it gets tiresome fast.

That said, there were some aspects I liked. I especially enjoyed the pseudo-Biblical tone of the book. As well, Guinaldo's art, while not particularly inventive, had a scratchy, classic semi-realistic style that lent to the air of mythical importance I think Jenkins was going for. That said, there's a bizarre amount of phallic imagery sprinkled throughout and I'm not sure what that was all about...

Monday, July 20, 2015

Reader's Diary #1176- Joe Stretch: Hartshill

Too often when people use the word "interesting" it's really a passive-aggressive way of saying "I don't get it and I think it's stupid." But I'm going to use it to describe Joe Stretch's "Hartshill" nonetheless.

 I don't quite get it, that's true. But there are things I liked. Told by a man waiting for a train and partaking in that most popular of pastimes, people-watching, I enjoyed this part. He captures the details of other peoples' lives like only the truly bored manage. But it was also intriguing. He's interested in a footballer's girlfriend and then starts to look her up on the internet. There's something off about it at first, but it's hard to put your finger on, because hey, everybody's Googled someone without them knowing. So, is it just putting such an action in print Stretch's way of editorializing society: look at how creepy we've become? Maybe, but then the narrator drops some minor details here or there that suggest, no, this guy's actually a bit more creepy than the norm. All of those important details disguised as throwaway details kind of bug me, like I'm not sure if they're intentionally vague or not, or if they are, if that's a good thing. As I say, interesting.