Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The 10th 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")

And in prize news, Kate has won a hardcover copy of Kelley Armstrong's Omens for taking part in last month's mini-challenge to read something by any of the most read Canadian authors (for the Canadian Book Challenge) as found in the sidebar stats. Canadian Book Challenge mini-challenges are exclusive to members via email.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Reader's Diary #1362- David Alexander Robertson (writer), Scott B. Henderson: The Ballad of Nancy April Shawnadithit

I really admire David Alexander Robertson's drive to remember the lives of memorable indigenous Canadians through graphic novels and I was very happy to see that he'd taken on Shawnadithit. Anyone growing up in Newfoundland certainly knows who she was, but I'm unsure how many outside of the province do.

Still, honorable as his projects are, I've always been a little luke warm toward the execution. He tends to place the historical stories with fictional, and usually unnecessary,  frames. In this story, a girl whose necklace is broken causing her to be late for a fishing trip, falls asleep and dreams of Shawnadithit.

But again, it does the job of reminding people of who Shawnadithit and her Beothuk people. Though we learned a lot about Shawnadithit in elementary school, I don't recall hearing about how many Beothuks were taken as slaves. It was a very important reminder about the injustices they faced. Their legacy must never be forgotten and I thank Robertson for keeping it alive.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Reader's Diary #1361- Chip Zdarsky (writer), Erica Henderson (artist): Jughead Volume One

For someone who wasn't all that into Archie comics as a kid, I sure do find myself reading (and enjoying!) a lot of that company's output lately. That's because I've found them, in recent years, to be one of the most madly awesome publishers in terms of creative decisions and hiring talent. Jughead Volume One is a prime example. It's everything I ever wanted Archie comics to be. It's actually funny and the art is cool.

Perhaps even more so than Mark Waid's recent run on Archie, Jughead seems to understand the appeal of the source material and stay true to it. And when I say source material, I mean decades of digest magazines. There is a frame story throughout this collected volume (i.e., that Riverdale High has been taken over by rather militant faculty), but there are weird and hilarious episodes, short stories that see Jughead and the gang traveling through time, as pirates, as super spies, and so on. Said short stories can stand on their own, but explained away as Jughead's various over-actively imaginative dreams.

Now, I say all this about Zdarsky respecting the source material and so on, but I should be honest that my daughter (who has been really into Archie comics as a kid), was less than blown away. When I said it's everything I ever wanted Archie comics to be, she's never wanted them to be anything else. Fortunately, those digests still exists so, with Chip Zdarsky and Erica Henderson's take?  Boom, fan base expanded. Traditional diehard fans and newbies alike can all find something to love.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Reader's Diary #1360- Annelies Pool: Free Love

I once went to a writers workshop where the author presenting insisted on using the 3-act structure. I hadn't heard of it before and while he was able to provide plenty examples of movies and novels that did indeed use that structure— even ones I enjoyed— I hated it. It made everything too predictable, too cookie-cutter, stripped of any magic.

It came to mind again most recently while reading Annelies Pool's excellent novel, Free Love, which looks at woman named Marissa who has entered Alcoholics Anonymous. Of course, with someone entering AA or any sort of rehab, you just know where the plot's going to go: there's definitely going to be a relapse before this gets better. But, without trying to give too much away, Pool doesn't go this predictable route and yet the book still held my attention and still had an honest-to-god plot. Major kudos to her. (And in-yo'-face, Mr. Unnamed Author!)

Set right here in Yellowknife (with flashbacks set in Hamilton, Ontario), I was also very impressed with the delicate but accurate balance Pool struck while reflecting the beauty of the place and its people, yet not denying some of the social issues. Less familiar to me were the behind the scenes of AA meetings and I found them fascinating, especially the familial bonds that develop. Actually, I should be more specific: the healthy familial bonds. In biological families, we don't always have the unconditional love we deserve.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Reader's Diary #1359 - Samuel Archibald: Three Tshakapesh Dreams

Sometimes in a piece of fiction, I'll come across an observation that seems so precise and so obscure that it immediately rings true. In Samuel Archibald's "Three Tshakapesh Dreams" the line, the details of which are marginally important to the story at best, goes,
It was just by Saint-Eusèbe Church and the McDonald’s cigarette factory, where in spring and summer the dried tobacco smells so much like cinnamon buns that it’s been twenty years since I’ve eaten one of those damned buns.
I can only conclude that Archibald himself has once had experience being near a cigarette factory. I haven't and never in a million years would have assumed that dried tobacco smells like cinnamon buns.

Such lines are clever. If this presumed throwaway line feels authentic than the author gains trust and everything feels probable. "Three Tshakapesh Dreams" deals with a First Nations man who works as an uncover cop in a rather seedy and tough neighbourhood of Montreal. Heroin, prostitution, biker gangs, and mafia. It's all foreign world of experience to me. Honestly, Archibald might be pulling the details out of his ass and those familiar with that place and life might laugh their heads off over the inaccuracies, but man, it feels real and therefore, intriguing as all hell. Almost like disaster tourism but from a safe distance.

But it's not just the setting, the story, too is suspenseful and full of drama. I quite enjoyed it.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Comics, Cartoons, and Graphic Novels from Across Canada

Lists, while often helpful, can become obsolete almost immediately. Two cases in point: In 2007 I made a list of books to read from around the country, province by province. Now, of course, it's missing some very notable titles from the past 9 years: Half-blood Blues, The Sisters Brothers, or anything by Alan Bradley, for instance. More recently I created a list called the 13 Greatest Canadian Graphic Novels of All Time. This one is almost embarrassing in retrospect. Again, and of course, many great graphic novels came since, but at the time I was also pretty ignorant about the nationality of about a gazillion well-known and respected graphic novelists (artists and/or writers) from right here in Canada. Still, rather than update those (anyone still happening upon them likely take them with a grain of salt anyway), I've decided to somewhat combine the two ideas to create a list I've not yet done before, one that bridges my passion for both Canadian books and comics: comics, cartoons, and graphic novels by province and territory. Again, it's not a perfect list. Likely you'll notice a personal favourite that I've overlooked (please let me know in the comments!). Also, it's not comprehensive. Some of these artists and writers are quite prolific and there's no way I could list all of their output. Finally, a quick word about the categorization. By and large I've categorized them by birthplace or current home of the author or artist, or where the book is primarily set. It's not a perfect system, but for those hoping to read comics from across the country, hopefully it'll be a useful guide. Oh, and it'll probably be obsolete tomorrow.

Yukon Ho! - Bill Waterson
The Klondike - Zach Warton
White Fang- by Jack London, illustrated by Penko Galev

Northwest Territories
Ramshackle - Alison McCreesh
Nelvana of the Northern Lights - Adrian Dingle
A Blanket of Butterflies - Richard Van Camp, illustrated by Scott Henderson
We Stand on Guard- Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Matt Hollingsworth
Encounter on the Eagle- Wally Wolfe

Arctic Comics - edited by Nicholas Burns
The Country of Wolves - Neil Christopher, illustrated by Ramón Pérez
Far Arden- Kevin Cannon

Newfoundland and Labrador
Life with Archie: The Viking Trail - George Gladir, illustrated by Stan G.
The Ballad of Nancy April: Shawnadithit - David Alexander Robertson, illustrated by Scott Henderson
The Underworld Railroad - Jason M. Burns, illustrated by Paul Tucker
Sparky - Matt Troke
Atlantis #1 - Geoffrey Sterling and Scott Stirling (writers), Danny Bulanadi (artist)

Prince Edward Island
War Brothers - Sharon E. McKay, illustrated by Daniel Lafrance
Anne of Green Gables - Lucy Maud Montgomery, adapted by C.W. Cooke and illustrated by Guancarlo Malagutti
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - Hunter S. Thompson, adapted by Troy Little

Nova Scotia
Civil War- Mark Millar, illustrated by Steve McNiven
Friends with Boys- Faith Erin Hicks
Underwater Welder - Jeff Lemire
Hark! A Vagrant - Kate Beaton

New Brunswick
Tangles - Sarah Leavitt
You Might Be From New Brunswick If... - Michael de Adder
The Errand - Leo Lafleur, illustrated by Adam Oehlers

Jane, the Fox and Me - Fanny Britt, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
Pyongyang - Don Delisle
Dirty Plotte - Julie Doucet
Paul Has a Summer Job - Michel Rabagliatti
Pride of Baghdad - Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Nico Henrichon
Moon Knight: The Bottom - Charlie Huston, illustrated by David Finch
Swamp Thing - Scott Snyder, illustrated by Yanick Paquette
Susceptible - Genevieve Castree

It's a Good Life, If You Don't Weaken - Seth
Herman Classics - Jim Unger
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Power - Ryan North, illustrated by Erica Henderson
Dinosaur Comics - Ryan North
Essex County - Jeff Lemire
Animal Man: Volume 1 The Hunt - Jeff Lemire, illustrated by Travel Foreman
For Better or For Worse - Lynn Johnston
Scott Pilgrim - Brian Lee O'Malley
Northwest Passage - Scott Chantler
Runaways: Pride and Joy - Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Adrian Alphona
Ms. Marvel: Volume One No Normal - G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Adrian Alphona
Through the Woods - Emily Carroll
Baba Yaga's Assistant - Marika McCoola, illustrated by Emily Carroll
Skim - Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
This One Summer - Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
Hyena in Petticoats - Willow Dawson
Rex Libris: I, Librarian - James Turner
Captain Canuck Volume 1 - Richard Comely, illustrated by George Freeman
Johnny Canuck - Leo Bachle
Jughead Vol. 1 - Chip Zdarsky, illustrated by Erica Henderson
Alpha Flight Classics - John Byrne
The Book of Losers - Ben Wicks
Night Wanderer - Drew Hayden Taylor, adapted by Alison Kooistra, illustrated by Michael Wyatt
Tru Detective - Norah McClintok, illustrated by Steven P. Hughes
Child Soldier - Jessica Dee Humphreys and Michel Chikwanie, illustrated by Claudia Davila
Susanna Moodie: Roughing it in the Bush - Carol Shields and Patrick Crowe, illustrated by Selena Goulding
In-Between Days - Teva Harrison

Louis Riel - Chester Brown
Moonshot - Edited by Hope Nicholson
Betty: The Helen Betty Osborne Story - David Alexander Robertson, illustrated by Scott B. Henderson

Look Straight Ahead - Elaine M. Will
You Might be from Saskatchewan If - Carson Demmans, illustrated by Jason Sylvestre
Devil Dealers - Ross May, illustrated by Brett Wood
War Crimes - Alison Tieman

Saga - Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples
Archie Volume One - Mark Waid, illustrated by Fiona Staples
Spawn, Origins Collection Volume One - Todd McFarlane
The Outside Circle - Patti LaBoucane-Benson, illustrated by Kelly Mellings

British Columbia
Binky the Space Cat - Ashley Spires
Black Canary Volume One: Kicking and Screaming - Brendan Fletcher, illustrated by Annie Wu, Pia Guerra, and Sandy Jarrell
Y: The Last Man - Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Pia Guerra
Red: A Haida Manga - Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas
The Listener - David Lester

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Reader's Diary #1358 - John Lewis with Andrew Aydin (writers), Nate Powell (artist): March Book One

I know far less American history than Canadian history, and beyond Newfoundland and Northern history, I'm not great at that either. When it comes to American Civil Rights leaders, I could have named Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, and Rosa Parks, but beyond them, I'd be scrambling. So, it was great to have an introduction to Congressman John Lewis's role— an introduction I'd probably still not have had had it not been told in a graphic novel format and the second volume winning an Eisner Award.

John Lewis comes across as a compelling but sweet, almost quiet man, and to think of him as helping lead a revolution might seem at first to be counter-intuitive. Until you see his path and personality intertwine. It is not surprising then to see him turn to the teachings of Gandhi and practice nonviolent resistance. But more importantly, and perhaps most interesting considering it's a side most people don't consider, March shows the work and practice involved in such a tactic. Indeed, it worked. And looking at it now, it's remarkable. It's embarrassing and confusing and angering to see white people refusing to even serve a black person in a restaurant. I don't get how or why they could have behaved that way, to try (and fail) to take away another human being's dignity.

Nate Powell's art perfectly matches the text, expressive and black and white to capture the time period, with a Will Eisner sort of style, sometimes abandoning the panel lines and giving such scenes an air of historical significance beyond Lewis's personal story. Powerful stuff.