Sunday, January 31, 2016

The 9th Annual Canadian Book Challenge - January 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")

Reader's Diary #1254- Raina Telgemeier and Dave Roman (Writers) and Anzu (Artist): X-Men Misfits 1

It struck me as bizarre to see a manga version of a Marvel comic, let alone one written by Raina Telgemeier, better known her Drama and Sisters books than for writing superhero tales.

Just a casual fan of X-Men, I thought it worked surprisingly well. If I've been complaining ad nauseam for some time about all superhero comics looking the same, surely a manga version looks nothing like that. That said, Anzu's art does look typical of all shojo manga. So there are moments when characters are acting ridiculous or juvenile and they're suddenly drawn as kawaii animal or child versions of themselves. That's something I'm not sure if I'll ever get 100% used to, but the book is in the North American right to left format, so at least I didn't have that to struggle with as well.

Plus Telgemeier and Roman's storytelling is strong. Largely it's a fish out of water tale as Kitty Pryde finds herself to be the only female student at Xavier Institute for Gifted Youngsters. Especially not being overly familiar with that character, I enjoyed this angle quite a bit. Handled less well is the love story angle. I'm not, for the record, opposed to love story plots in superhero comics, but my bigger issue with the one here is the dangerous game it plays with themes of emotionally abuse and possessive males. They pop up here or there but never quite given the attention they perhaps need  once that light is shone. Perhaps in later volumes (had there been any) they would have been explored further and with more depth. But even with those themes, the love story wasn't as interesting as the outcast amongst outcasts angle.

Interesting overall though and a nice experiment.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Reader's Diary #1253- Chris Roberson (Writer), Michael Allred (Artist): iZombie / Dead to the World

No, I have not seen the show. However, as I spent most of last year on a zombie kick, I was clearly aware of the iZombie comics and subsequent television adaptation.

iZombie was not my favourite zombie comic, but I had a lot of fun with it nonetheless. Roberson has given us another unique version of the zombie-- the main character Gwen, for the most part, looks and acts like everyone else. It's only when she doesn't get her dose of human brain that she starts to reveal her more traditional zombie side. Furthermore, when she eats a brain (which can come from a newly deceased person, not needing to be fresh) she inherits their memories for a while. In this volume, the memories lead her to solving a murder mystery. Also, it's not just zombies. There are also ghosts, werewolves (actually, were-terriers), vampires, and more.

The look fits the fun vibe, with equal doses of Archie, Daniel Clowes, and Andy Warhol. If I had any complaint about the art, it's the ultra-hip (Gwen reminds me of a young Debbie Harry) and ultra-loser dichotomy of the characters.

Still, it was a thoroughly entertaining book.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Reader's Diary #1252: Greg Pak (Writer), Various Artists: Planet Hulk (Collected)

I've tried over the past couple of years to get into Hulk comics but have made some poor choices, leaving me wondering if the character is ever going to be for me. However, I also had heard enough about Planet Hulk and World War Hulk to know that they're fan favourites and that I really should give those two a chance before making up my mind.

Finally, I can see the appeal.

Planet Hulk has some great storytelling. Yes, the Hulk is a brutal fighter there's a lot of smashing, but there are larger themes about acceptance and self-acceptance above the violence that I quite enjoyed. Plus the heavy sci-fi setting was quite well done and intricately plotted. I especially enjoyed the insectivoid aliens (it's always bugged me when aliens are all humanoid).

It wasn't perfect. The Hulk is ridiculously overpowered in a couple of scenes-- he can shift tectonic plates? Come on. I also could have used a bit more Banner, as that Jeckyll and Hyde angle always appealed to me. But he does make a couple of appearances, and one intimate moment is more powerful because of it.

The art, while not my cup of tea (again, a bit generic for superheroes), is however, surprisingly consistent even though there was an insane number of artists involved.

Overall, I did enjoy it and look forward to tackling World War Hulk in the near future.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Reader's Diary #1251- Brian K. Vaughan (Writer), Pia Guerra and Jose Marzan Jr (Artists): Y The Last Man / Unmanned

I firmly believe that any gender should be able to write fiction from the perspective of another gender. That said, I'm not sure that Brian K. Vaughan was necessarily the greatest person to take on Y The Last Man.

The premise is great. It's the follow up that's the issue. Y involves a man named Yorrick and his male monkey. These are the last 2 mammals on Earth with a Y chromosome, after all the rest become suddenly and inexplicably sick and die. There's potential here for some great discourse on gender and gender roles.

But Vaughan (and keep in mind I still consider myself a fan), sometimes has a tendency to go for shock, or at the very least, to go for edgy. The result in this book is that some very serious are not handled with as much insight and sensitivity as perhaps they should be and the results are often cringe-worthy. The worst offender is a group known as the Amazons who are over-the-top militant feminists. They cut off a breast to pledge allegiance.

One thing I don't understand as off yet, and perhaps it gets explained in latter issues, is why many are trying to clone Yorrick. The fact that it's him and his monkey, not him and his father, who survive suggests Yorrick's immunity isn't genetic at all. I'd have been checking the chemical makeup of the paint in Yorrick's apartment.

The art, by Canadian Pia Guerra, is generic superhero stuff. Odd since it's not a superhero tale. Disappointing as it also doesn't do the themes justice.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Reader's Diary #1250- Shane Jones: Off Days

The rapid progression of Shane Jones's "Off Days" might cause some confusion. It begins with a couple at a grocery store, when a wife gets angry (perhaps only teasingly so) at her husband over a case of mistaken identity. Then we realize it might be the onset of mental deterioration rather than a one time mistake. And before long the story is up to its neck in surrealist images and the time frame has gone completely out of wack.

However, the confusion works well for the story, holding a reader's attention while delivering what might be described as frustrated fatalism.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Reader's Diary #1249- Germaine Arnaktauyok and Gyu Oh: My Name is Arnaktauyok / The Life and Art of Germaine Arnaktauyok

The Life and Art of Germaine Arnaktauyok gives exactly what the title promises. There are autobiographic bits, some discussion of her inspiration and creative process, and description of Inuit legends, all of which is interspersed with images of her artwork.

Arnaktauyok's sentences are mostly short and factual. It's hard to say why. One might be inclined to suggest that it's because English is not her first language. Still she had been forced at residential school at a young age to learn English and I suspect her command of English would be more than sufficient to have spoken with more figurative flair and emotion. She does state at one point that she's shy and she also comes across as quite pragmatic. Even as she describes how residential schools had eroded the bond between her and her parents, it's told with almost no editorializing.

However, the artwork, painstakingly detailed and highly evocative, more than sufficiently balances out the text. Arnaktauyok herself says at one point, "When I do artwork, I put a lot of emotion into." It shows.

The book, as a whole then, is more than a sum of its parts. It speaks as much about the power of art than it does of Arnaktauyok's own life. There's an almost cathartic release. It's a truly breathtaking book.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Reader's Diary #1248: Miguel de Cervantes: Don Quixote

Often it's the case that when I finally wrap up an exceedingly long book, any lingering negativity I'd felt toward it begins to dissipate. I think, perhaps, of the time I spent on it a fondly. Plus there's a sense of accomplishment that might just cloud my judgement over the book's merits. Despite feeling completely bogged down in the sewers during Les Miserables, I still wound up enjoying it overall. I joked at the time that I'd gotten Stockholm Syndrome (there being no such phrase as Paris Syndrome, of course).

I wish I could say the same about Don Quixote. But, when the last chapter came around and it was titled, "On How Don Quixote Fell Sick, And of the Will He Made, And How He Died" I read it with relief. I've been picking away at this clunker for over a year. Thick as it was, that was still on the slow side, I admit, but there were periods when I just couldn't bear to pick it up as I'd grown so bored.

I do, however, remember at the very beginning thinking of how much I'd enjoy it. It started off funny, meta, and I started to think there could be a very interesting point to discover: are we all living naively like Don Quixote, convinced our lives have purpose when they don't? Is Don Quixote like an author, and us readers like Sancho?

Whatever the point was, it was lost in the details of a gazillion pages.

On the plus side, I do want to visit Spain now!

Reader's Diary #1247- Tamora Pierce and Timothy Liebe (Writers), Phil Briones and Alvaro Rio (Artists): White Tiger / A Hero's Compulsion

Not having ever been big on the fantasy genre a book here or there— the name Tamora Pierce was unfamiliar to me. That, and missing the tiny ampersand in the bottom left corner, led me to initially believe this book was called "White Tiger: Tamora Pierce." 

However, I quickly learned that Tamora Pierce's name is so big because, like Stephen King, John Grisham, and Margaret Atwood, she, herself, is a big deal and her name sells books. 

But I can't imagine that Tamora Pierce fans were impressed with this comic. It's decidedly fantasy-free, except of course in the sense that all superhero stories are fantastical. It's really just another superhero comic. And substandard at that, disappointing regular comic book readers as well.

White Tiger: A Hero's Compulsion is set in the Hell's Kitchen corner of the Marvel Universe. As I've said recently, this corner has really grown on me in no small part thanks to Netflix, but also a couple of comics by Bendis. I'm unconvinced, however, of White Tiger's place in that world.

Largely the biggest problem with this collection is how hard they tried to shoehorn her into that world. Her origin story is rushed, we barely get any sense of who Angela del Toro is behind the costume, and yet other superheroes are coming out of the woodwork to help her and let her know she's just one of the gang now. Some of these she's supposed to have had prior dealings with and be related to (Luke Cage and Iron Fist), but Spider-Man is also there, as is Black Widow, and the most nonsensical and unnecessary cameo of all comes from Deadpool. It's a major problem when your special guests outshine the headliner. (Are you listening Coldplay?) Worse, the reason they're all showing up to help involves a terrorist organization that's smuggling illegal immigration papers. Immigration papers, seriously? This is why they bring in a renown fantasy author? In one scene, Spider-Man explains that Iron Man and Captain America couldn't show up because they were fighting over the remote to watch CSI or Grey's Anatomy. It would have been funny except yeah, either of those would have been more interesting.

Bland artwork by Briones and Rio don't help matters.  A small, nearly saving grace, were covers by the uber-talented David Mack.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Reader's Diary #1246- Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis (Writers), Brooke Allen (Artist): Lumberjanes / Beware the Kitten Holy

I'd seen Lumberjanes pop up on so many blogs last year that I knew I just had to read it. I also knew to avoid reading those blogs so that I wouldn't have any spoilers. And as I truly had no idea what to expect, I guess it worked.

The Lumberjanes are a group of teen girls at a summer scouting camp. The book itself plays with the scouting idea, introducing each story with a supposed page from a old-fashioned and somewhat over-the-top scouting manual, giving guidance as to achieve particular pages. The stories which follows take their cues from these pages, but these are modern girls, the stories are fun, silly, and full of unbelievable adventure. Best of all the cast of characters is immensely varied and enjoyable. They look out for one another, despite their idiosyncrasies

Allen's art complements the story beautifully. It's colourful, quirky, expressive, and the crisp, curvy lines flow with the frenetic pace.

One word of caution: though there are multiple stories, there's an overarching mystery that does not get resolved at the end. There is, fortunately, a sequel...

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Reader's Diary #1245- Marguerite Bennett and G. Willow Wilson (Writers), Jorge Molina (Artist): A-Force Warzones!

From G. Willow Wilson, the brains behind the wonderful Ms. Marvel, and featuring a plethora of superheroes of whom I'm vaguely familiar with at best, I've been dying to get my hands on this collected volume of the first 5 comic runs. Did it live up to my expectations?

Yes and no.

A-Force was born out of the much larger Marvel event, Secret Wars, which I've been doing a poor job of following. That said, I'm more of a reader of collected volumes rather than single issue comics, so I'm always rather behind. I think, however, that Bennett and Wilson did a fine job of catching me up on the necessary background info in order to follow along. Basically Dr. Doom has taken over all Marvel universes and is now god and ruler supreme. He's creating bizarre scenarios, mixing and matching worlds, and so on. In A-Force, a legion of female superheroes live on and run an island called Arcadia. (Just what planet this is, I'm not sure.) Led by She-Hulk, it's a close-knit, idyllic place.

Yeah, right. We all know how long that lasts. Before long, some mighty strange things start happening, things which jeopardize their safety and while defending the island, one of the heroes breaks one of Doom's laws. Now we're introduced to the Thors: a mish-mash group of various characters (including some guy with a horse head) who have donned the Thor mantle across various universes, who are enforcing Doom's rule. Not only do the Arcadian heroes need to deal with them, they must also get to the bottom of the bizarre and dangerous occurrences. Could it be a traitor in the ranks? Could it be the mysterious new girl?

Clearly it's high on the fantasy/ sci-fi, and that's not necessarily bad, but it's not as character-driven as I tend to like. I did get familiarized, at least, with characters like Dazzler and Nico Minoru, but there were times when the writers just tried to squeeze too much in. In the last story of the collection, a bunch of characters (Ms. Marvel, Elektra, Hawkeye, Spider-Gwen) get a line or two, even though they were pretty much absent from the plot up to that point. Glorified cameos from the big-sellers (and no Squirrel Girl?!).

The art, as well, is back to the generic superhero stuff. That's not to say bad (and thankfully Molina avoids the pin-up poses many artists would have done with this cast), but I do like a bit more creativity. Then again, with so much going on, perhaps an overly artistic interpretation would have added to the confusion, when this required attention to the plot.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Reader's Diary #1244- Dan Parent: Archie's Pal Kevin Keller

In recent years Archie Comics has done a lot of exciting things, creative and even critically acclaimed things, but that doesn't mean they've forgotten their moneymakers: those cheaply produced digests that kids (like mine) buy like candy at the supermarket till.

While Kevin is included in those non-mainstream titles, his first introduction was to meant to make him "part of the gang," not to be a one-off character brought in for a gay story-line and then pushed away from the limelight. I would say Dan Parent's Archie's Pal Kevin Keller accomplishes that in spades. After this book, Kevin simply feels like he belongs there, in Riverdale, front and center.

Parent establishes this quite well. Giving a glimpse of Keller's dorky past and of his relationship with his parents, we get the character's history, but making him a best friend of Veronica and competitive eater against Jughead, we see how he fits into the present. (Oddly, despite being "Archie's Pal," Archie plays a very minor role in these stories.) At the end, Kevin Keller sort of feels like he's been there all along. Another clever idea was the addition of a variant retro cover, showing Kevin drawn in the same old-fashioned style as the rest of the gang, playing at rewriting history.

To make him also a supermarket digest sort of character, I think it was important to present the character light. The rest of Archie and friend never have any real drama in these magazines, it's all fun and bit too perfect. But on the other hand, to suggest that a gay teen even with improvements in society acceptance wouldn't have some unique challenges would have felt disingenuous. Parent ran the risk of ignoring reality and alienating some readers but also of making this a "serious book," fine for critics but not necessarily for the market. Once again, however, I think he excelled at finding the balance. Keller, we're shown, was bullied as a child and still has occasional bigots treating him disrespectfully. But fortunately the fun is never far away, both in the art and stories, and fun remains the overall focus. Kevin Keller's well-adjusted and immensely likable.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Reader's Diary #1243- Salomat Vafo, translated by Kosim Mamurov: The Swing

Most often when I don't enjoy or understand a translated story I'm left wondering whether or not I'd have enjoyed it in the original language. What if it was a poor translation?

There's no doubt in my mind that Salomat Vafo's "The Swing" is poorly translated.

The courtyard had been swept and cleaned like a china dish; sheep’s head, legs and lungs were boiling hard in a big pot and smelling tastily.

I could tell, I think, that this story of a man returning home for his mother's funeral and doing a lot of negative self-reflection probably had its strengths. There's a lot of great imagery that manages to sneak past the bad grammar and a consistent, stifling mood that works for the plot. Still, I had to work sometimes to figure out what was meant and the mistakes were very distracting. There were also a lot of strange details. For instance, Vafo seems to focus a lot on sounds. This could make for strong imagery, but the sounds were all repeated onomatopoeia and used as often as it is comes across as bizarre: tick-ticking, taq-tuq taq-tuq, geek geek, piq piq.

Fine for a glimpse of Uzbekistan, I suppose, but not a great translation for English readers.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Reader's Diary #1242- Scott Snyder (Writer), Yanick Paquette (Artist): Swamp Thing

It seems as if all of the whining about boringly drawn superhero comics last year paid off. Already this year I've discovered the brilliant work of David Mack (Daredevil), and now there's Yanick Paquette's— who's Canadian to boot!— work on Swamp Thing.

Paquette's work is wildly creative,  an homage to 1950s horror comics (like Tales From the Crypt) with a heavy dose of Lovecraftian monsters, yet somehow it works beautifully with Scott Snyder's mystical/naturalist-religion tale. Paquette keeps the pages lush and organic, like a swamp, with panels divided often by roots and branches rather than the traditional rectangles. When Francesco Francavilla, the brilliant colourist behind Afterlife with Archie, the creative team is just amazing.

I quite enjoyed Snyder's story as well, for the themes described above, but also for the tragic love story behind the reluctant heroes Swamp Thing and Abigail Arcane.

None of this is to say there aren't some bumps. Initially I was intrigued, for instance, as to how this plant-monster fit into the whole DC Comics superhero universe. However, it's when the other heroes show up that I felt Snyder slipped. It felt more forced and took away from the whole mystical nature side. Also, when the artists shift away from Paquette in later stories, it's nowhere near as great. Andrew Belanger's work on Rotworld: War of the Rot Part Two is a brutal misstep, too cartoony and making what was a serious series look silly.

Still, an engaging and unique collection overall and one not easily forgotten.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Reader's Diary #1241- Carmelinda Scian: A Dragonfly Dashed by My Face

The Toronto Star and the Toronto Public Library just launched their 2016 Short Story Contest and it's got a pretty sweet prize: $5000 plus tuition for the 30-week creative-writing correspondence program at the Humber School for Writers, also valued at $5000. Not too shabby.

Last year's winner was Carmelinda Scian for "A Dragonfly Dashed by My Face." It's got a lot going for it; evocative imagery, compelling setting, but I do wish it had more of a plot. I thought at one point it was going to be a ghost story but that angle just fizzled out. It's basically the observations and thoughts of a young Portuguese adolescent girl.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Reader's Diary #1240- Jai Nitz (Writer), Janusz Pawlak (Artist)- Toshiro

Jai Nitz and Janusz Pawlak's Toshiro promises steampunk, zombies, robot samurai, and a Lovecraftian jellyfish invasion. As I type that out, I realize how much it sounds like a nightclub that Stefon might attend, but nonetheless it sounded pretty cool to me.

Too bad it didn't work better than it did. That many ideas needed some space to breathe and develop, but instead it felt too rushed, confusing at times, and all concept- no heart.

The art was good though. Mostly dark or muted colours, but heavy on the red to accentuate the cartoonish amount of violence, it worked for the themes and setting. Plus, the characters had a scratchy style that reminded me of Jeff Lemire's work, so you know I'm a fan.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Reader's Diary #1239- Linwood Barclay: Fear the Worst

Linwood Barclay first came to my attention through the Canadian Book Challenge. A lot of participants read, and I assume enjoy, his books. I was finally curious enough to try one on my own.

Hated it. Right away I knew it wasn't going to be high literature. That's fine. I can do fun and entertaining. There was a tendency towards minute details

A young guy, late twenties maybe, dirty blond hair, his face cratered by the ravages of acne a decade earlier.

and it reminded me, in a way, of Stephen King. Again, that's good. These guys can really paint a picture. Plus, I thought, it was fitting of a thriller with an air of mystery. Who knows what details might wind up being relevant?

But then it increasingly became more and more farfetched. Tim's daughter goes missing, he's kidnapped briefly, suddenly he's the suspect of a murder and the police are always conveniently distant. They don't think much of the missing girl-- just a runaway. And Tim implausibly tries to figure everything out on his own. But none of that is as ridiculous as the twist revelation that comes about 3/4 of the way in. It all felt like a bad movie.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Reader's Diary #1238- Brian Bendis (Writer), Alex Maleev and David Mack (Artists): Daredevil, The Man Without Fear!

I spent the better part of last year bemoaning underwhelming superhero comic art. While there were a few exceptions (Travel Foreman's Animal Man, David Aja's Hawkeye), for the most part I didn't think anything stood out. It was all serviceable, sure, but felt too generic. I was getting bored.

Suddenly it's 2016 and I have a new favourite superhero artist: David Mack. I was blown away withe his work on Daredevil: The Man Without Fear. Mack is the guy that did the opening art of Netflix's Jessica Jones, and to be honest, I wasn't wild about that. It didn't compare to the awesomeness that was the opening Netflix Daredevil art. But holy cow, can Mack paint a comic.

Mack teamed with Bendis for Davedevil: The Man Without Fear issues #16-19. It's a provacative, character driven story about a young boy who's withdrawn into himself after witnessing an altercation between his father and Daredevil. The boy is a comic book fan, but in his comic book-style ramblings, reporter Ben Urich suspects there are clues as to what happened that fateful night. It's heartbreaking and psychological, and there's no reason why this works as well as it does (there's little action for a superhero comic) except for Mack's gorgeous and emotionally wrought art. Heavy, splattered watercolours, collage elements here or there, see-sawing back and forth between highly realistic portraits to bare-minimum sketches, Mack fluidly goes with the mood of the story, capturing the pain and confusion ingeniously.

When Alex Maleev takes over for the next issues, it's almost a shame. His art is nothing to scoff at either. It's gritty and dark and very fitting of a Daredevil story. I just couldn't stop thinking of Mack's art. As for the final issues in the collection, #39-39 drawn by Maleev and Manuel Guitierrez, and #40 drawn by Maleev with Terry Dodson and Rachel Dodson, those, unfortunately slip right back into generic superhero art again.

The common thread between them all is Bendis's storytelling. If you were a fan of the Netflix series, you would undoubtedly enjoy this. It has the same brooding but well-intentioned Matt Murdock, struggling with morals and bigger picture ideals. Even the background characters have their own complex personas. There are no simple fixes and the resulting stories are often uncomfortable. That's not to say there's no fun at all, as a Marvel fan I was happy to see the Black Widow show up (I had no idea Daredevil and she had a history), as well as Elektra, the White Tiger, Luke Cage, Spider-Man, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones and Doctor Strange. Still, these are not children's comics. That's not to say it tries to be all edgy like Marvel's MAX line, but it's about thoughtful, mature storylines.

I am very quickly becoming a huge fan of the Hell's Kitchen corner of the Marvel Universe.

(This is my first book of the year for the 2016 Graphic Novels and Manga Challenge.)

Reader's Diary #1237- Stephen Marche: The Shomer and the Boreal Owl

I'm still undecided about Stephen Marche's "The Shomer and the Boreal Owl." A large part of me wants to dismiss as having nothing to offer except shock value. It's about a guy sexually attracted to wildlife.

Then, it is entertaining. It might also have a worthwhile point or two about sexual deviations, the psychology involved and all that. Maybe it's not even a story about inappropriate sexual deviations at all, but about our desire to be free.

Still, that story's been told and I doubt this one would have been published without the weird animal attraction, so I'm leaning once more toward shock value. Or gimmick at the very least.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Reader's Diary #1236- Brett Wright and William Shakespeare: YOLO Juliet

I'm sure there are those who would turn up their noses to such a book as YOLO Juliet. It also might be questioned whether or not a book called YOLO Juliet, using texts and emojis to retell Shakepeareare's classic Romeo and Juliet, was ever meant to be considered serious or high art.

Nonetheless, I'm going to go on record: I loved this and thought it quite clever. Then, I also liked Baz Luhrman's adaptation and wasn't particularly upset that Oxford Dictionary named an emoji as word of the year last year, so you can take my praise with a grain of salt.

One of the best things about Wright's adaptation is the way it captured the personalities and ages of the characters but with a 21st century lens. The plot is still there, of course, and that should come as no surprise, but finally Romeo and Juliet come across as the young and naïve teenagers they are. Whether or not Shakespeare intended them to come across this way is difficult to ascertain. It wasn't as unusual for teens back then to marry. But also, there's something about the old English that lends his characters more sophistication (to our ears) than they always deserve. Here's where Wright's cleverness comes in. There's a lot of pseudo-swears in the book (OMFG, IDGAF) but many of Shakespeare's innuendoes and barbs are also kept in tact. Take this exchange:

Mercutio: Out with it then! So how was her pink flower?
Benvolio: Ugh. Mercutio.
Romeo: Let's just say it's been pollinated.
Benvolio: Ugh. ROMEO!

Reducing the original words down to their core and keeping the characters' identities in check, the interjections of modern text speak didn't clash as much as you might expect.

Wright does add humour and satire, which turns the play into a comedy rather than a tragedy, but let's face it, the tragedy angle's been told to death. I especially liked how Lady Capulet, perhaps showing her age, insisted on signing off on all of her texts, "Love, mom," "Love, LC" and so forth. There's also a great scene when Romeo's autocorrect fails him, not once but twice in a row:

Romeo: What the duck, Juliet?
Romeo: The duck.
Romeo: Ugh! Autocorrect.

Then there's another exchange between Friar Laurence and Father John, when Friar Laurence can't understand why Father John is yelling. It turns out that Father John just doesn't know how to turn off his caps lock.

It doesn't always work. Sometimes having the characters text one another when clearly they're meant to be in the same room takes a bit of belief suspension, but otherwise it's fun and a great adaptation for our times.

Friday, January 01, 2016

The 9th Canadian Book Club- Halfway Point!

Happy New Year everyone, and welcome to the halfway point of the 9th annual Canadian Book Challenge. Below you'll find all the books we've collectively read so far. Most of us are still chugging along, but some have already achieved the magic number of 13. Congrats to Teena, Pussreboots, Nicola, and Irene. I wish everyone a happy, healthy year and of course, lots of great reading.

Adamson, Gil
- The Outlander (John)

Albahari, David
- Götz and Meyer translated by Ellen Elias-Bursać (Shonna)

Alexis, Andre
- Fifteen Dogs (Melwyk, Shan)

Anderson, Chris
- Makers (Irene)

Arden, Jann
- I'll Tell You One Damn Thing, and That is All I Know! (Irene)

Armstrong, Kelley
- Deceptions (Jules)
- Omens (Pussreboots)
- The Masked Truth (Nicola)

Atwood, Margaret
- The Heart Goes Last (MaryR, Barbara)
- MaddAddam (Jules)
- Payback (Eric)
- Strange Things (Shonna)

Barclay, Linwood
- Broken Promise (Luanne, Nicola, Teena)
- Trust Your Eyes (Nicola)

Basar, Shumon, Douglas Coupland, Hans Ulrich Obrist
- The Age of Earthquakes (Douglas)

Bass, Karen
- Uncertain Soldier (Shonna)

Battershill, Andrew
- Pillow (Corey)

Becker, Helaine
- Dashing Through the Snow illustrated by Werner Zimmerman (Irene)

Bidulka, Anthony
- The Women of Skawa Island (Mysteries and More)

Blair, Peggy
- Hungry Ghosts (Luanne)

Blais, Marie-Claire
- Mad Shadows (Eric)

Blunt, Giles
- The Hesitation Cut (Luanne)

Bradley, Alan
- As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust (Nicola)

Brand, Dionne
- Ossuaries (Eric)

Bow, Erin
- The Scorpion Rules (Kim)

Buchanan, Dan
- Murder in the Family (Nicola)

Bursey, Jeff
- Mirrors on which Dust has Fallen (Corey)

Cameron, Anne
- South of an Unnamed Creek (Barb in BC)

Christie, Michael
- If I Fall, I Die (Heather)

Churchland, Marian
- Beauty in Beast (Leigha)

Clark, Joan
- The Birthday Lunch (Shonna)

Clarke, George Elliott
- Lush Dreams, Blue Exile (Eric)

Colford, Ian
- The Crimes of Hector Tomas (Corey)

Côté, Geneviève
- Bob's Hungry Ghosts (Pussreboots)

Cotter, Charis
- The Swallow (Pussreboots)

Cusk, Rachel
- Outline (Shan)

Cutter, Nick
- The Acolyte (Corey)
- The Deep (Corey)

Davidson, Craig
- Cataract City (Teena)

Davies, Robertson
- Murther and Walking Spirits (Kym)

De Castell, Sebastien
- Knight's Shadow (Swordsman)
- Traitor's Blade (Corey)

De Lint, Charles
- The Cats of Tanglewood Forest illustrated by Charles Vess (Pussreboots)

De Mariaffi, Elisabeth
- The Devil You Know (Angela)

Dennis, Darrell
- Peace Pipe Dreams (Heather)

De Sa, Anthony
- Barnacle Love (Angela)

Doctor, Farzana
- All Inclusive (Shan)

Donoghue, Emma
- Astray (Shonna)

Doyle, Alan
- Where I Belong (MaryR, Nicola)

Edugyan, Esi
- Half-blood Blues (Irene)

Edwards, Wallace
- Once Upon a Line (Shonna)

Fallis, Terry
- Poles Apart (Luanne)

Filion, Jon
- The Only Average Guy (Teena)

Fleischman, Kyle
- Drink Dirt Eat Stone (Teena)

Fradkin, Barbara
- The Whisper of Legends (Shonna)

Fraser, Sylvia
- Pandora (Barb in BC)

Gates, Eva
- Booked for Trouble (Mysteries and More)

Gault, Connie
- A Beauty (Melwyk)

Gaylard, Linda
- The Tea Book (Luanne)

George, Kallie
- Clover's Luck illustrated by Alexandra Bolger (Kim)

Glickman, Susan
- Safe as Houses (Shonna)

Govier, Katherine
- The Printmaker's Daughter (Pussreboots)

Graham, Genevieve
- Tides of Honour (Faith Hope and Cherry Tea)

Grant, Shauntay
- Up Home illustrated by Susan Tooke (Leigha)

Grant, Vicki
- Small Bones (Melwyk)

Gravel, Elise
- The Spider (Pussreboots)

Hadfield, Chris
- You Are Here (Kym)

Hanrahan, Maura
- Tsunami (Swordsman)

Hayter, Rhonda
- The Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams (Pussreboots)

Hill, Lawrence
- The Illegal (Shan)

Herriot, Trevor
- The Road is How (Shonna)

Hooper, Emma
- Etta and Otto and Russell and James (MaryR)

Hopkinson, Nalo
- Falling in Love with Hominids (Shan)

Horvath, Polly
- Lord and Lady Bunny- Almost Royalty (Pussreboots)
- The Vacation (Pussreboots)

Hughes, Clara
- Open Heart, Open Mind (Teena, Swordsman)

Humphreys, C. C.
- Plague (Mysteries and More)

Humphreys, Jessica Dee and Michel Chikwanine
- Child Soldier illustrated by Claudia Davila (Nicola)

Hunter, J. T.
- The Country Boy Killer (Nicola)

Ingram, Mona
- Full Circle (Faith Hope and Cherry Tea)

Jennings, Maureen
- No Known Grave (Mysteries and More)

Jocelyn, Marthe
- A Big Dose of Lucky (Irene)
- Folly (Irene)

Jocelyn, Marthe and Richard Scrimger
- Viminy Crowe's Comic Book (Irene)

Juby, Susan
- The Truth Commission (Kim)

Kearsley, Susanna
- A Desperate Fortune (Melwyk)
- Named of the Dragon (Heather)

Kennedy, Elle
- One Night of Sin (JoAnne)

Kerrin, Jennifer
- The Spotted Dog Last Seen (Kim)

Kerzner, Liana and Jerome Stueart (editors)
- Wrestling with Gods (Corey)

Kim, Seo
- Cat Person (Shonna)

Kinew, Wab
- The Reason You Walk (Shan)

Koyczan, Shane
- To This Day (John)

Lansens, Lori
- The Mountain Story (Teena)

Leavitt, Martine
- Blue Mountain (Pussreboots)

Lemire, Jeff
- Animal Man, Volume 1 illustrated by Travel Foreman (Nicola)
- Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E, Vol. 1: War of the Monsters illustrated by Alberto Ponticelli (Nicola)
- Justice League United, Volume 1 illustrated by Mike McKone (John)

Lepp, Royden
- Rust: Death of the Rocket Boy (Pussreboots)
- Rust: Secrets of the Cell (Pussreboots)

Leznoff, Glenda
- Pigmalion illustrated by Rachel Berman (Pussreboots)

Lightfoot, Gordon
- Canadian Railroad Trilogy illustrated by Ian Wallace (Irene)

Lines, Kate
- Crime Seen (Teena)

Livingston, Leslie
- Once Every Never (Jules)

Livingstone, Billie
- Going Down Swinging (Jules)

MacDonald, Ann-Marie
- Fall on Your Knees (Melissa)

Mandel, Emily St. John
- The Singer's Gun (MaryR)
- Station Eleven (Barbara)

McClintock, Norah
- About that Night (Nicola)

McCoola, Marika
- Baba Yaga's Assistant illustrated by Emily Carroll (John)

McCreesh, Alison
- Ramshackle (John)

McCulloch, Bruce
- Let's Start a Riot (Teena)

McFetridge, John
- A Little More Free (Melwyk)

McKenzie, Catherine
- Arranged (Teena)
- Smoke (Luanne)

McNish, Jacquie and Sean Silcoff
- Losing the Signal (Swordsman)

Messer, Wendel
- Farmers Market (Melissa Lee)

Mighton, John
- Possible Worlds (Eric)

Milner, Donna
- A Place Called Sorry (Luanne)

Mitchell, Joni
- In Her Own Words with Malka Marom (Irene)

Mochrie, Colin
- Not Quite the Classics (Nicola)

Monk, Katherine
- The Creative Odyssey of Joni Mitchell (Irene)

Montgomery, Charles
- Happy City (Shonna)

Montgomery, Lucy Maud
- Anne of the Island (Faith, Hope, and Cherrytea)
- Anne of Green Gables (Kym)
- Anne of Green Gables narrated by Kate Harper (Sharon)

Moore, Lisa
- Alligator (Jules)

Moreno-Garcia, Silvia
- Signal to Noise (Kim Aippersbach, Corey)

Mosca, Angelo with Steve Milton
- Tell Me to My Face (Swordsman, Teena)

Munro, Alice
- Too Much Happiness (Angela)
- Who Do You Think You Are? (Eric)

Nawaz, Saleema
- Bread and Bone (Angela, Corey)

Nielsen, Susin
- We Are All Made of Molecules (Kim)

North, Ryan
- Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Power illustrated by Erica Henderson (John)

Ollmann, Joe
- Science Fiction (Pussreboots)

O'Malley, Bryan Lee
- Seconds (Pussreboots)

Oldland, Nicholas
- Up the Creek (Shonna)

Ondaatje, Michael
- The Cat's Table (Eric)

O'Neill, Heather
- Daydreams of Angels (Shan)

Oppel, Kenneth
- The Nest illustrated by Jon Klassen (Kim)

Peacock, Shane
- Last Message (Pussreboots)

Pearson, Kit
- And Nothing but the Truth (Melissa)

Penny, Louise
- The Long Way Home (MaryR)
- The Nature of the Beast (Shonna)

Reid, Barbara
- The Party (Irene)

Reid, Raziel
- When Everything Feels Like the Movies (Barbara)

Robertson, David Alexander
- The Peacemaker Thanadelthur illustrated by Wai Tien (John)
- Betty illustrated by Scott B. Henderson (John)

Robinson, Peter
- No Cure for Love (Luanne)

Robson, Jennifer
- After the War is Over (Melissa)

Rogers, Stan
- Northwest Passage illustrated by Matt James (Leigha)

Roman, Peter
- The Dead Hamlets (Corey)

Roy, Gabrielle
- The Cashier (Eric)
- Street of Riches (Eric, Sharon)

Roy, Zoë S.
- Calls Across the Pacific (Shonna, Nicola)

Sachs, David
- The Flood (Heather)

Schofield, Anakana
- Martin John (Shan)

Selleck, Lee and Francis Thompson
- Dying for Gold (John)

Sheluk, Judy Penz
- The Hanged Man's Noose (Melissa Lee)

Simpson, Jon Chan
- Chinkstar (Shan)

Smith, Dennison
- Eye of the Day (Shonna)

Smith, Neil
- Boo (Barb in BC, Eric)

Smith, Russell
- Confidence (Shan, Eric)

Somer, Bradley
- Fishbowl (Melwyk)

Soo, Kean
- March Grand Prix: The Fast and the Furriest (Nicola)

Stevens, Chevy
- Always Watching (Teena)
- Never Knowing (Teena)
- The Other Side (Teena)
- Those Girls (Teena)

Stratton, Allan
- The Dogs (Luanne)

Stroud, Carsten
- The Stroud (Corey)

Swinney, C. L.
- The Killer Handyman: William Patrick Fyfe (Nicola)

Sun, Amanda
- Rain (Pussreboots)

Sweeney, Susan
- Social Media for Business (MaryR)

Tamaki, Mariko
- This One Summer illustrated by Jillian Tamaki (Leigha, Pussreboots)

Thúy, Kim
Ru translated by Sheila Fishmann (Melissa)

Toews, Miriam
- All My Puny Sorrows (Barbara)

Torres, J.
- Teen Titans Go: Thunder and Lightning Strike (Nicola)

Towhey, Mark and Johanna Schneller
- Mayor Rob Ford: Uncontrollable (Teena)

Townsin, Troy
- Canadian Jingle Bells (Irene)

Tsaing, Sarah
- The Night Children illustrated by Delphine Bodet (Nicola)

Urquhart, Jane
 - The Night Stages (Eric)

Vax-Oxlade, Gail
- Money Rules (Irene)

Waboose, Jan Bourdeau
- Sky Sisters (Irene)

Walton, Jo
- My Real Children (Kim)
- Tooth and Claw (Kim)

Wan, Michelle
- I.O.U. Dead (Nicola)

Warwick, Ellen and Kim Smith
- The Twelve Days of Christmas in Canada (Teena, Swordsman)

Watt, Melanie
- Augustine (Irene)
- Bug in a Vacuum (Luanne)
- Chester (Irene)
- Jaguars (Irene)

Watt-Cloutier, Sheila
- The Right to be Cold (John)

Wiebe, Kurtis J.
- Rat Queens Vol 2: The Far Reaching Tentacles of N'Rygoth (Nicola)

Wiersema, Robert J. 
- Black Feathers (Corey, Melwyk)

Wilson, Robert Charles
- The Affinities (MaryR)

Withers, Pam
- Andreo's Race (Nicola)

Youers, Rio
- Point Hollow (Corey)

Young, Neil
- Special Deluxe (Irene)

*Please note that there are a lot of links, reviews, and names to keep track of and understand that I'm just one person doing this challenge out of love but with other more pressing responsibilities. With that in mind, there are likely to be some mistakes above. If you see one, please don't take it personally, just send me a quick email clarifying the error and I'd be more than happy to fix it. :)