Saturday, December 31, 2016

The 10th Annual Canadian Book Challenge - December 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, both RIEDEL Fascination and Pussreboots have won signed copies of Alan Bradley's Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mewed for taking part in last month's mini-challenge to read a Canadian novel that was part of a series. Congratulations to you both! (Canadian Book Challenge mini-challenges are exclusive to members via email.)

Monday, December 05, 2016

Reader's Diary #1492- Andrew F. Sullivan: Good King

A favourite scene from Bill Murray's Scrooged is when he's witnessing his childhood, courtesy of the Ghost of Christmas Past. We see him on Christmas Eve after his father has come home from the butcher shop where he works and hands him a packet of meat. His Christmas gift. That's when his parents start arguing and his father offers up this gem,

All day long, I listen to people give me excuses why they can't work... 'My back hurts,' 'my legs ache,' 'I'm only four!'

It's so over-the-top, I find it almost impossible not to laugh (being the fan of dark comedy that I am).

I bring it up because I also found some of the tragic Christmases in Andrew F. Sullivan's "Good King" to be over-the-top. However, I then saw it as a litmus test of sorts. How over-the-top you find it may just depend on just how good/shitty your own childhood memories of Christmas are.

Structure-wise, I quite enjoyed the tale. It involves a man nicknamed Big Red, a warehouse worker, who is called upon to assist a worker who has just been attacked by another. However, Big Red's attempt at mouth-to-mouth results in a series of Christmas flashbacks. Most of which are not pleasant.

Still, like my favourite Christmas stories, there's hope. In this story I find it in Big Red, who despite his upbringing, seems to have risen above it. No, he's not rich or famous, but morally, he's all right.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Reader's Diary #1421- Ben Clanton: Narwhal Unicorn of the Sea

I've seen Ben Clanton's junior graphic novel Narwhal Unicorn of the Sea already popping up on a few Best of 2016 lists, so I figured I'd see what all the fuss is about.

It's a quirky book with adorable characters. Of course people love it. The grinchier side of me thinks it's a tad too quirky and adorable, almost template. But, I'm not the age group it's intended for, and perhaps this light, friendly humour is a healthy antidote for kids who might otherwise gear themselves toward slightly older, slightly more cynical humour.

The illustrations are very simple, but I do rather think this is a positive. It would no doubt be inspirational for kids to put a pen to paper to tell a simple story regardless of drawing ability.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Reader's Diary #1420- Jennifer Grunwald (editor): Strange Tales

In case you can't tell, that's the Incredible Hulk on the cover. Barely recognize him? That's because this Marvel compilation more than lives up to its name. Definitely not canon, these Strange Tales are written and illustrated by indie, avant-garde, and online comics artists. The results are eccentric and varied as those behind it. The only common thread is that they are written around Marvel superheroes.

I didn't recognize anyone beyond Paul Pope, Matt Kindt, and Jeffrey Brown, but I was happy to get the introduction to so many other fine talents. Fortunately, brief creator biographies are provided at the end, so I can follow up with those that jumped out.

And the ones that jumped out the most did so because of either their quirky sense of humour and/or their art. James Kochalka's Hulk comics may not have had the most complex art, but they were hilariously silly and the art fit. Nicholas Gurewitch's art on the other hand was far more technical and serious, but this gave weight to the surprise ending/punchlines.

Of course, in such a collection there were bound to be some that I wouldn't enjoy, some whose brand of humour I didn't get, some art that just wasn't my thing, but overall I found it to be a wildly creative package and give huge kudos to Marvel to supporting those that think outside the box.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The 10th Annual Canadian Book Challenge - November 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, Heather has won a signed copy of Richard Van Camp's Three Feathers for taking part in last month's mini-challenge to read a Canadian novel set north of 60. Congratulations, Heather! (Canadian Book Challenge mini-challenges are exclusive to members via email.)

Reader's Diary #1419- Margaret Atwood (writer), Johnnie Christmas (artist): Angel Catbird

It's hard to find a moderate voice on Margaret Atwood. It seems some think everything the woman writes is golden, worthy of yet another Governor General's Award, while others despise her simply because she's popular-- heaven forbid a Canadian writer get famous, the mere fact alone should disqualify them from any awards which apparently can only be given to flavours of the week. I happen to think Atwood is a damned fine writer. Most of her novels are great (not all) and I enjoy her poetry. I don't, however, think she's has any business writing children's books (Princess Prunella is dreadful).

All of this is my way of saying that I was open to the idea that her first attempt at a comic is good, but I was skeptical. Reviews would be no help.

In her introduction, Atwood goes out of her way to justify her qualifications in writing comic books. She read them as a kid, she even drew some! Then she describes the terrible struggle she had finding an illustrator and a publisher for Angel Catbird. Please. Publishers are savvy enough to know that there are enough of the "Atwood can do no wrong" types out there willing to shell out a few bucks regardless of the quality.

Now that I've read it, I wouldn't go as far as saying she has no business writing comics, but this smacks of a first, amateur attempt. It would seem that she's not read a superhero comic since her youth because Angel Catbird comes across oddly dated. Strig Feleedus, the man whose DNA is merged with a cat and an owl (in a ridiculously implausible manner), tends to narrate the action in his thoughts and speech the same way that Spider-Man stopped doing in the 80s. "My hands... what's happening?" If he's looking at his hand and they're suddenly not human-looking, we can guess what he's thinking! Less is more!

Johnnie Christmas's art is slightly better, but just serviceable. I'm a sucker for background details and Christmas's are sadly scant. They come across like newspaper strips when artists at least had the justification that they were under a deadline.

All in all, a disappointment.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Reader's Diary #1418- Marc Andreyko (writer), various artists: Wonder Woman '77 Volume 1

After the success of Batman '66, the comic based on the old Adam West TV series, I'm not shocked that DC would try to replicate that with Wonder Woman '77, this time based on the Linda Carter series.

Largely, I would suppose this is another win. That said, I've never actually seen the Linda Carter series so, whereas I could give praise to Jeff Parker and illustrators for capturing the whimsy of the old Batman series, I cannot say whether or not Marc Andreyko and crew were able to replicate the feel of the old Wonder Woman series. I would say it does give a pretty accurate portrayal of the 70s, but that's as far as I can go.

However, I can state that it works as a fun, low-stakes comic book series. Not yet having found a Wonder Woman comic that has really worked for me in terms of offering me compelling stories or endearing me to the character, this series doesn't quite achieve either of those either. That said, it's the first one that I've nonetheless enjoyed.

Now if they'll just do a Superman '78 series based on the old Christopher Reeves movies, we'd be all set.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Reader's Diary #1417- Sally Clark: Moo

Some plays I read and enjoy and don't care if I ever see it performed. Other plays I read, don't enjoy, and think that perhaps it best be seen. Sally Clark's Moo is one that I thoroughly enjoyed reading and has left me wanting to see it.

Moo is a dark, fast-paced comedy about one of those typical disaster couples. The Sid and Nancy type. I don't think I'm alone in stating that Harry, the Sid in this equation, is easily the villain of the two, but Clark also goes out of her way to chip away at any sympathy one might feel towards Moo, the Nancy. The play opens with Harry having Moo locked up in an insane asylum under false pretenses. Yet that is not a deal breaker.

It's a quirky story and one that could provide much fodder for intelligent debate, yet for all of that, it's accessible and works just fine as pure entertainment.

Reader's Diary #1416- Silvina Ocampo, translated by Daniel Balderston: Sheets of Earth

It's usually only when an artist (painter, musician, actor, writer) does something distasteful that we make the effort to separate the artist from his work. The art must have came from the muse, the great beyond, belonging to the world and let's not credit the monster behind it, or at the very least, let's not give him back his art. Odd that this is when the artist is free.

The artist in Silvina Ocampo's "Sheets of Earth" is a gardener. He does not have a fall from grace and is thus consumed by his work. Literally. The struggle is weak, more acceptance really. Likewise, those around him seem to not put in any effort to help.

It's an interesting tale with the air of a parable.