Sunday, December 10, 2017

Reader's Diary #1681- Gemma Correll: The Worrier's Guide to Life

Gemma Correll's The Worrier's Guide to Life reminded me somewhat of the type of humour my best friend/ cousin and I had as children: to be funny, you just need to escalate the punchlines to the point of ridiculousness. Of course, being young boys we had a lot of diarrhea jokes thrown in for good measure and Correll's comedy is decidedly much more mature than that, but the idea is the same. Take a milk moustache and then explore other dairy-based facial hair: yogurt unibrow, pat o' butter soul patch, etc.

So yes, it's funny and I'm sure most will find it amusing, but it's also a bit formulaic (list heavy). I'm not sure that it wouldn't grow tiresome in a longer or second book but that's for Correll to worry about.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Reader's Diary #1680- Kris, Rob, Matt and Dave: Cyanide and Happiness

Cyanide and Happiness is the kind of comic I think of when I think of webcomics. Simple, not particularly well-done art and quick punchlines. None of that is necessarily a criticism; as Scott McCloud explained in Understanding Comics, sometimes it's the simplest of cartoons that resonate the most.

The description in the introduction declares that there'd be a really good chance, especially if under 15 and over 50, that readers would be offended. A fan of dark humour, I welcomed it but many pages in, I wondered when it would ever become offensive. Then there was a comic strip in which a woman declares she's pregnant. The man in the strip kicks her in the stomach and says, "problem solved."

Yeah, there's dark humour and there's distasteful. The next strip was undoubtedly written to balance it out. In this one, a man says that he wants kids, a woman kicks him in the groin and again says, "problem solved." No, that's not even close to equivalent.

However, it's clear that the punchline in a good many of these is shock. I don't necessarily believe these guys condone the behaviours, but when shock is the entire joke, it's lazy. I would have loved it at 15.

I did like some strips at 40 though. More than just shock, I mostly appreciated the ones with puns and off-the-wall humour. My favourite in the book featured a son talking to his father. He asks how squids have sex and the father responds, "the same way I have sex." [pause] "With squids."

Finally, I enjoyed reading a little about how the comics came together. Apparently the four creators hadn't even met each other until four years after writing the comics together online. And, as each writer signed their own strips, I tried determining if I appreciated one creator over another, but it was remarkable how similar they all were.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Reader's Diary #1679- Nick Spencer (writer), various artists: Secret Empire (collected)

When Marvel announced that their Secret Empire story line would see Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, revealed to have been a sleeper Hydra agent, it was met with a fair bit of controversy. (Okay, mostly Twitter controversy, so not really.) It seems that for many long time fans, Hydra was synonymous with Nazis and this was akin to sacrilege. Creators and publishers involved quickly came to the defense urging fans to be patient and watch the story unfold.

More of a fan of the collected volumes and trade paperbacks anyway, plus never having been a huge Captain America fan outside of the movies, I was content to wait it out and weigh in after the fact.

I quite enjoyed it. In fact, as Marvel events go, this was one of my favourites. Never have I seen such a large cast of characters handled so well. Yes, I noticed the absence of a few (Spider Woman, She-Hulk, Moon Knight, etc) and yes, some had little more than a single line or appearance in a single panel, but by and large it was very well balanced. Much more so that any of Jim Starlin's major event storylines back in the day and everyone seemed to love those.

The story revolves around a bunch of cosmic cube fragments that have the ability to alter reality. The biggest change, which is revealed from the get-go, is that the star character Captain America has secretly been a villainous Hydra agent all along. He proceeds to encapsulate many New York superheroes within the city, bar the superheroes in space from entering Earth, and compete against the remaining superheroes to gather up the rest of the fragments. Once he gets those he plans to alter even more history and on an even grander scale: in this new reality Hydra will have always been in power.

It's not perfect. The use of various reality-altering gems, cubes, and other paraphernalia is so overdone by Marvel at this point that those aspects come across as a little lazy.

Still, it's entertaining and provocative but in a good way. With Trump having usurped and bastardized the American dream, the themes in Secret Empire are timely and thoughtful.

As for all the controversy, it wasn't the real Steve Rogers anyway and that was made clear right from the beginning. Furthermore, if anyone suggests that it glamourizes Nazis or even the fictional Hydra, they clearly haven't read a page of it.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Reader's Diary #1678- Sarah Anderson: Adulthood is a Myth

Continuing with my self-guided education of webcomics, Sarah Andersen's Adulthood is a Myth began life which began online as Sarah's Scribbles saw me laughing out loud late one night all by myself. Why is it that doing so instantly makes you feel pathetic? Like there's a shame in laughing?

In any case, Andersen's brand of introspective, self-deprecating, observational humour is right up my alley. Sure many of her cartoons are about being a millennial and menstruation, neither of which I can relate to, I definitely saw myself in the rest of these: the imposter syndrome! the social anxiety! the insecurities! Sounds like a downer, doesn't it? But no, it's all done in a friendly laughter-as-therapy sort of way, a solace-in-the-fact-that-others-feel-the-same approach.

Even the cartoons that would otherwise be just mildly amusing are elevated to hilarious in the simple but expressive cartooning. Andersen accomplishes so much just with eyes alone: altering the size of pupils, a few stress lines here or there, and so on, all to comedic and satirical effect.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Reader's Diary #1677- Nick Sibbeston: You Will Wear a White Shirt

I somewhat ashamedly admit to not having hear of, or at least not having paid attention to, Nick Sibbeston until 2015 when he published his autobiography You Will Wear a White Shirt: From the Northern Bush to the Halls of Power. This despite my having lived in the north for 13 years at that point.

Better late than ever, I've finally acquainted myself with the remarkable life of Mr. Sibbeston, former premier of the NWT, former Canadian senator, and residential school survivor.

An autobiography isn't always trustworthy of course (nor is a biography, for that matter), but he gained my trust somewhat by largely remaining humble and admitting to his flaws. That said, he still comes across as a determined man and someone who sticks to his convictions. I don't know that I'd have had the perseverance to keep failing English courses and redoing it over and over until I succeeded; to face depression, additions, and infidelity with lifelong faith and counseling; to overcome the abuse and neglect suffered at residential school.

Not to suggest that I agree with every action and opinion, but I did wind up quite admiring him. I particularly respected his dedication to preserving Dene culture.

It helps that his tone is conversational and filled with astute observations. That said, those outside the north may be somewhat bored with the more politics-heavy second half. Northerners will likely still find it a least a little interesting how many of the issues in Sibbeston's early career are still relevant today. I also found the East vs. West stories fascinating. I moved to the north a couple of years after Nunavut was officially formed so to hear of the challenges of the NWT when it still encompassed that larger area and unique Inuit culture was very revealing.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Reader's Diary #1676- Various writers and artists: Overwatch Anthology Volume 1

I learned a valuable lesson with the first volume of Overwatch Anthology: don't base a reading choice solely upon a book's standing in an Amazon bestsellers list.

Had I researched this a little more and discovered that it's based of a popular online first-person video game, I would have been far more reluctant to pick it up. I am gathering, in hindsight, that the book is only selling well to (the admittedly many) fans of the game.

Apparently the books and animated films are Blizzard Entertainment's attempts to create a media juggernaut. I suppose it worked for Pokemon, so why not. With little character development or backstory in the game, these other mediums are meant to enhance. Unfortunately the comics don't really stand up on their own. Rather than balance the action, which fans of the games would reasonably expect, against plot and character development, the focus seemed to me to be too much on the former. The result was a mess of nonsensical stories and characters I couldn't have cared less about. If it was meant to inspire me to check out the game or the films, it failed miserably.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Reader's Diary #1675- Frank Westcott: Oh, Oh Henry

Frank Westcott's "Oh, Oh Henry" is response of sorts to O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi". While initially having one of the characters mock the sentimentality, it later embraces it though it refocuses on gestures rather than gifts, tries to peel the commercialism away from the original.

Of course, it invites a comparison to the classic and while I acknowledge that O. Henry's is a bit over-the-top by today's tastes which tend to value subtlety, that story has been such a part of Christmas tradition that I've never minded it. Nor do I share the character's take away that it's all about physical, unaffordable gifts. Still I appreciate Westcott's use of the story as a conversation starter.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Reader's Diary #1674- Lael Morgan: Good Time Girls of the Alaska-Yukon Gold Rush

Lael Morgan's Good Time Girls of the Alaska-Yukon Gold Rush is a remarkable account of the prostitutes of Alaska and Yukon in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Most applaudable is the amount of material she was able to uncover and collect on a subject and people not often discussed and from a time and place so remote. But almost equally impressive is the dynamic storytelling. I'm always in awe of historians who make nonfiction as compelling as fiction and Good Time Girls reads almost like a novel.

Of course, it probably helps that the characters in question aren't boring-ass politicians or bank tellers. However, despite these girls' trade, it's not a salacious book. She doesn't shy away from what they actually did for a living, but I can recall only sexual description in the whole book that even comes close to graphic. Likewise, for violence. She presents the women non-judgmentally and allows their rich and diverse personalities to shine through.

I was particularly fascinated with the women of Dawson City. While it's a sad reality that many are, and were, forced into prostitution, a lot of those in the trade there were adventure-seeking entrepreneurs who eschewed the mores of the day. Some, heaven-forbid, even enjoyed sex! They were not unlike their male counterparts, most of whom left the comforts of San Francisco behind to find thrills and riches in the north.

Almost as compelling were the johns. Many wound up falling in love with these women and often didn't even care when they continued to sleep with other men for money.

None of this is to suggest that Morgan presents an overly rosy picture. There were many hardships and heartbreaks and disease, abuse, suicides, prejudice, and poverty are all recorded.

Together it's a fascinating look at the women who were crucial to the culture and development of many northern towns.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Reader's Diary #1673- Kelley Armstrong: Bitten

For the longest time, it seemed Canada had no genre fiction. It was all, for better or worse, CanLit. I'm sure there were always Canadian writers trying their pens at horror, romance, sci-fi and the like, but Kelley Armstrong was among the first to finally make it popular and profitable.

Despite that, and despite having met her a few years back, I'd not read anything of hers beyond a short story. Might as well start with the novel that kicked off her prolific career: Bitten, the werewolf romance/urban fantasy/horror book and first in her Women of the Otherworld series.

While I enjoyed it overall, it did feel rather like a first novel. Curiously, I was able to suspend my belief for werewolves but not for her rather faulty representation of a small town. Set by and large in Bear Valley, which at one point she mentions as having only 8000 inhabitants, it ebbs and flows between small town and major city. No small town I've ever lived in (and I've lived in many) would have had the rave described here and if an enormous "dog" wound up killing people at said rave, I can assure you that it would be front page news for a very long time.

Still, I liked the voice of the protagonist Elena. Though not always a trustworthy narrator (to be fair, she was struggling with inner conflict), she had a consistently conversational style. And while the plot itself seemed to struggle to find its footing, I admit enjoying not always knowing where the story was headed.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Reader's Diary #1672- Karen Ovér: Lazlo and Laroux

This is a pre-scheduled post to appear while I am on vacation in Curacao. 

A few week's back our premier made headlines by calling out the Prime Minister on the off-shore drilling ban in the Arctic. It's a complicated issue for sure and I'm sympathetic to both sides. On the one hand, people still need fossil fuels and people still need jobs. On the other, the environment is a mess and perhaps it will take bans and other extreme measures to push technological solutions.

Karen Ovér's "Lazlo and Laroux" is set in a post-apocalyptic world where fossil fuels have nearly been used up. The remaining have been taken by a select few who have walled themselves off from the rest of the world. And there are dragons.

It's an odd element to be sure, but keeps the story engaging. I'd have to read a few more times, however, before deciding that they serve a purpose beyond getting the story published on a sci-fi site.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Reader's Diary #1671 - Mensje van Keulen: Sand

(This is a pre-scheduled post to appeared while I am vacationing in Curacao.)

I absolutely loved the way Mensje van Keulen's "Sand" unfolded. It begins as a bit of a character study of a married couple having a disagreement. The husband throws out what should be a frivolous comment but the wife attacks it. Initially she comes across as shrill and unreasonable, but then as details emerge, the wife is granted more complexity allowing readers the opportunity to be more empathetic.

And then the story takes a 90 degree turn and goes off in a wholly unexpected area. I won't give too much of a trigger warning except to say that where it goes is very disturbing.

That said, I loved the writing.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Reader's Diary #1670- Aimee Major Steinberger: Japan Ai

I'm not typically a fan of travel comics. I love the idea of someone recording their daily observations this way but publishing them seems a little self-indulgent to me. That said, Japan was a favourite vacation of mine and so I was definitely open to Aimee Major Steinberger's Japan Ai.

Subtitled "A Tall Girl's Adventure in Japan," I wasn't expecting a lot of common observations, but height and gender themes weren't strong. Even when they were I found common ground. Her experiences being dressed as a geisha, for instance, reminded me of when my daughter did the same.

More common were the observations that most North American's would likely make there and I found myself smiling in agreement and nostalgia as she talked about the Japanese style toilets, the vending machines selling cans of hot coffee, and the Tokyo Tower mascot that... doesn't look like a tower (if you catch my drift).

For those westerners who have been lucky enough to have been there, I am sure you'll be like me and enjoy Steinberger's recollections. For those who haven't yet, it will provide a very accurate depiction of what to expect.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Reader's Diary #1699- Mike Norton: Battlepug 1

Continuing on my exploration of comics that first breathed life on the web, it's Battlepug by Mike Norton.

Battlepug is a wacky fantasy series with a giant pug who's a companion to a Conan-esque barbarian character. It also features giant terrorizing baby seals and a slave master Santa Claus. It's really a perfect blend of humor and action with awesome art (caricature style and beautifully rendered colours).

One small bone of contention is the gratuitous nudity. It's not that it's over-the-top (just a butt is shown) but the frame story comes off as a tad sexist. Could a beautiful woman be lying on her bed naked while telling a story to her dogs? Sure, I guess. Still, seems like a cheap way to appeal to the hormones of adolescent straight males.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Reader's Diary #1698- Reinhard Kleist: Nick Cave Mercy On Me

Earlier this year I read and quite enjoyed Reinhard Kleist's Johnny Cash graphic biography I See A Darkness. I won't lie and pretend that I liked his treatment of Nick Cave Mercy on Me to the same degree, but largely that's simply because I was less familiar with Nick Cave's music before going in.

You could enjoy this book without any prior knowledge of Cave or his songs, simply as a portrait of a driven (sometimes obsessive) artist who, more than anything, shuns normalcy. However, as proven when Kleist worked in the few songs I did know (Mercy Seat, Where the Wild Roses Go), it helps one's enjoyment. Reinhard likes to intertwine fact and fiction, often incorporating song lyrics as elements of the singer's life, and so to really make sense of it and appreciate his point, familiarity can only work in the reader's favour. All that aside, as a music junky, whenever there were references to songs I didn't know, I immediately downloaded them and even if just for that, I'd be glad to have read this book.

Once again, Reinhard's style (inky, black, and scratchy) fits his subject. I'm curious though how he'd do with a biography of say Aqua or Barry Manilow.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Reader's Diary #1697- Doug Bayne (writer) and Trudy Cooper (artist): Oglaf Book One

I'm forever trying to study comics and graphic novels and one area I've not explored much is webcomics. I've happened upon some print versions of comics that first appeared online (by folks such as Kate Beaton, Ryan North, and The Oatmeal), but didn't seek them out specifically for their origins.

So, this time I went looking for recommendations. I still cheated somewhat and stuck with ones that were later preserved on paper, but nonetheless I managed to come up with a list. I've begun my reading with Doug Bayne and Trudy Cooper's Oglaf which came up most frequently on must-read lists, but most compelling always with a disclaimer that it is not safe for work.

And whoo-boy is it not. I would venture to say that 90% of the strips in this collection have punchlines about genitalia and/or sex. And the visuals leave NOTHING up to the imagination. Is it pornographic? I'd say it depends on your definition, but as the primary purpose of these comics seem to be humour I'd say not.

And it's dang funny. It helps that Trudy Cooper's characters give just the right expressions to acknowledge the absurdity of it all.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Reader's Diary #1696- Diego Vecchio: The Tobacco Man

Bizarrely, Argentinian writer Diego Vecchio's short story "The Tobacco Man" is set in Alberta. But that's not the most bizarre thing.

The premise of the frame story is the recounting of the events that led to a successful lawsuit against a tobacco company by a writer for causing irreparable damage to his artistic career. Then there are a series of stories within this story that somewhat use the "butterfly effect" scenario and time travel.

I'm not entirely sure that the end result is more than a sum of its parts, but the parts themselves are fascinating enough.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Reader's Diary #1695- Scott Snyder (writer) and Jeff Lemire (artist): A.D. After Death

Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire's A.D. After Death is the second comic I've read this year dealing with immortality. Being a fan of both of these creators though, I was expecting to enjoy this one more.

In the end, I respected the ambition of the book more than the execution. The themes of immortality and memory are certainly lofty enough and the approach was very creative (illustrated prose pages are mixed with comics, images are a mix of realistic and abstract), but it all comes across as a bit of a fever dream. The story needed to be reined in and fleshed out more before attempting philosophical musings that ultimately distracted from the tale rather than blossom from it.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Reader's Diary #1694- Peter David: Ben Reilly The Scarlet Spider / Back in the Hood

It seems that most of the positive reviews of the new Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider series were from fans of the character since the 90s when he first appeared as a Spider-Man clone.

Not having read those earlier books, I cannot say the character does anything for me now. I believe he appeared in Spider-Verse a couple of years back but he's so forgettable that I don't recall. Now with a whole trade focused on him, I cannot see what there is to like. He seems more of a Deadpool to tell you the truth. Snarky comments, more anti-hero than hero, scarred face, Spider-Man infatuation— the only thing missing is the 4th wall breaking. Even the villains seem like knock-offs. Slate has unbreakable skin? Umm, isn't that Luke Cage's thing? 

A plot about a dying sick girl is underdeveloped and if the point was to give the book some emotional gravitas, it sadly fails. 

I can think of at least a dozen other characters I'd like to see get their own comic run before Ben Reilly. Tigra please! Or Echo! But, if we're going back for a Spider-Verse character, I'll take Spider-Punk!

Monday, November 06, 2017

Reader's Diary #1693- Robin Quackenbush: The Oak and the Willow

The first three quarters of Robin Quackenbush's "The Oak and the Willow" reminded me very much of the Indigenous folk tales, parables, and origin stories that I've read. It is not until the end and mention of a prince that that effect was lost, but the story of a pair of sentient trees remained charming.

As for messages one could take away, I'll have to spend some time thinking on that, perhaps re-reading the story. Though the fact that these are two different species of trees was not lost on me.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Reader's Diary #1692- Mary Walsh: Crying for the Moon

Ah Mary Walsh. I've been a fan of hers for such a long time. Of course, that was primarily for her comedic TV work, so the jury was still out on whether or not she could write.

I will say that her old TV characters influenced my reading of the book. Maureen, the protagonist, reminded somewhat of one of the "Friday Night Girls" from CODCO. Her mother reminded me a whole lot of Ma Reardon from "This Hour has 22 Minutes". There was even a character that reminded me Tommy Sexton's "Spook" character from CODCO. That all said, it's as if everyone had been given a gritty reboot as Crying for the Moon could not be classified as comedy. Nor would I say, it was a distraction or necessity to know of those TV characters. This is all pretty much an aside.

I'm not familiar with much of the perspective being explored by Walsh in this novel. Though I grew up in Newfoundland, it wasn't in the city and it wasn't in the late 60s. I also have no idea (thankfully) of what it's like to be an alcoholic or an abused woman. I will say that Walsh, to her real credit, makes it all seem authentic. Whether an insider would agree or not remains to be seen, but the story and characters in Crying for the Moon seem plausible and wholly developed.  Given Walsh's known love of literature, this should have come as no surprise.

The plot itself loosely revolves around a murder mystery but while that story is engaging, it pales in comparison to the frustrating but endearing Maureen. I found myself begging for her to gain some confidence, not to make that decision, to get her life on track. To be that attached to a character is the mark of great writing.

There's a resolution of sorts at the end, but it definitely leaves itself open for a sequel. I'd love to read more!

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Reader's Diary #1691- Tom DeFalco (writer), Sandy Jarrell (artist): Reggie and Me

Reggie's always held a bit of weird spot in Archie comics, certainly more of a main player than say Midge or Dilton, but more like a 5th wheel to the big four. So getting his own title does make some sense.

Then, he's also a bit of a minor villain and even Veronica, who sometimes plays that role, has typically shared her title outings with the more affable Betty. So, to take the edge off, Reggie gets paired with his loyal dog Vader who also serves as the narrator.

The Reggie and Me collection is certainly entertaining, mildly funny with a none-too-serious plot and drawn well by Sandy Jarrell. I don't think, however, they really succeeded in making him likeable. That doesn't always, and shouldn't always, matter, but towards the end I sort of suspected that was the goal. He cries over his dog and I think that's supposed to be enough to make him a sympathetic character. But there's still a lot of rot underneath and to be honest, while he doesn't doing anything too outrageous in this book, it's hard not to think of such a person in real life and in real life, I'd think he'd be a bit of a psychopath.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Reader's Diary #1690- Jim Starlin (writer), Various artists: The Infinity War

Despite the title, I'm told that next year's Avengers movie of the same name will be based more heavily on the Infinity Gauntlet than this story line. Nonetheless, I'd be lying if I said that the upcoming film didn't inspire me to pick this one up.

The problem with this collection are likely to be an issue with the film: with an abundance of characters, it's hard to give everyone something to do. Starlin has clearly picked his favourites and Adam Warlock, Magus, Thanos, and Gamora get more "screen-time" than the rest. Granted, even as large as the cast of the movie will be, due to property rights they'll still have far less to worry about the book.

The Infinity War is a classic evil-power-grab story but has a strong space-opera component. In this regard, the film might do best to rely heavily on their Guardians of the Galaxy characters. And, if they're trying to give homage to the visuals of The Infinity Gauntlet and Infinity Wars books, perhaps best to rely on the special effects of Doctor Strange.

Despite the battle for control of the universe, it's mostly fluff fun with little in the way of philosophical ideas (though there is posturing). Perhaps those looking for such concepts would do better to turn to the more recent Secret Wars story line.

In all, a fun, wild ride but nothing earth-shattering.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Reader's Diary #1689- Mary Wilkins Freeman: Luella Miller

Mary Wilkins Freeman's "Luella Miller" is a unique tale of horror as it deals with illness as the only real symptom of a supernatural occurrence, though witchcraft is hinted at.

It tells of a woman who seems to have control over others, claiming to be too unhealthy to fend for herself yet outliving all of those who come in contact with her.

Published in 1902, it has the superstitious air of such stories that sought explanations for happenings that science as of then could not explain. This is not a criticism on my part as I prefer stories that could have rational explanations but nonetheless plant seeds of doubt.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Reader's Diary #1688- Joshua Williamson and Tom King (writers), Jason Fabok and Howard Porter (artists): Batman / The Flash The Button

I'm perhaps an easier sell for Batman / The Flash: The Button. No, I'm not a die-hard DC guy and in fact, consider myself more of a Marvel guy, but this comic uses two legacy series as its base and fans of those respective properties were understandably guarded against having such legacies tarnished.

The legacies in question are Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen and Geoff Johns' Flashpoint. (I realize that the latter doesn't have near the reputation as the first, but still.) However, as someone who thinks Watchmen is overrated and Flashpoint was just good, I didn't have reservations going in.

And I quite enjoyed this. The Flash and Batman are doing some real detective work, there's a wildly interesting mystery that even has larger religious themes, there's emotional heft with Batman meeting his father, and it was all pretty entertaining. I almost didn't even mind the ridiculousness of the "cosmic treadmill."

The art, too, is stellar and one panel in particular blew me away in how it captured the Flash's speed:

It reminds me of those warped panoramic photos that people share online of when people move or a cat walks through the scene.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Reader's Diary #1687- Matt Kindt (writer), Tomas Giorello (artist): XO Manowar Soldier Volume 01

Matt Kindt's XO Manowar Soldier: Volume 01 was a reading choice based almost entirely on glowing reviews. I wasn't particularly thrilled with Kindt's other critically acclaimed series Mind Mgmt but thought I'd give him another chance.

Again, unfortunately, I'm unsure why there's so much hype. I'll admit that some of this may be my issue. I'm sort of done with hyper-aggressive white males as heroes and this feels pretty much like Conan the Barbarian in Space. The set-up itself is also a tired trope: just when I thought I was out, they drag me back in. I will grant that some of the world building is impressive, but that's about it. Even the concept of the super-advanced XO armour is underwhelming, barely even being used in the entire trade paperback.

The art is decent, again with the creative world-building flourishes, touching on great in the 3rd story thanks to an assist from David Mack.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Reader's Diary #1686- Mimi Pond: The Customer is Always Wrong

In the thank-yous that open Mimi Pond's The Customer is Always Wrong, she credits her children as the very center of her life, giving her "joy, delight, strength and unconditional love." I think the shout out to domesticity threw me off.

As did the title. I thought it would be a memoir about ungrateful or rude customers at a diner.

I wasn't prepared for tales of cocaine and heroin addiction, breaking and entering and violent mistaken identity, of cancer.

However, once I came to accept the wild, unexpected ride that it was, I have to admit being entertained. There's some sadness, I suppose, but I can't say that I really connected to that part. Maybe the slight dark humour cancelled it out, maybe had I been familiar with the characters in the first book I'd have felt a stronger connection. I hadn't realized when I began that this was actually a sequel, but nonetheless I'd still suggest that the book can stand alone.

The art is fine; sort of a loose, sketchy vibe with grayish blue watercoloured highlights that elevated it all.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Reader's Diary #1685- Emil Harris: My Favourite Thing is Monsters

Emil Harris's My Favourite Thing is Monsters is definitely one of the more creative graphic novels I've read in some time.

It's also one of the thickest and with that comes a slew of plots and themes. The overarching theme, however, is the difference between monsters. Karen Reyes, the book's child protagonist and narrator depicts herself as a monster (mostly resembling a werewolf). This isn't done necessarily with any ill-intent or self-deprecation. She happens to like cheesy horror villains and mostly prides herself as being a bit of freak. (That said, when she comes out to her brother, it's far from easy.) But she also comes to learn that there are real-life monsters as well. These are definitely not her favourite kind.

I was into monsters as a kid as well, and also like Karen, I had a wild imagination. Early into the book I found myself recalling a time as a child, who along with my same-age cousin, was convinced that my church-going, cookie-baking grandmother was selling cocaine. It turned out that those brown packets of white powder in her attic was taxidermy powder from a mail order course my uncle had taken. And also that we watched too much Remington Steele.

Before getting a lot further into My Favourite Thing is Monsters, however, I began to realize that this was not just the story of a young girl with crime fantasies. Set in 1960s inner-city Chicago, crime and hardship was a reality.

The story is mostly about the death of Karen's upstairs neighbour Anka. Karen is convinced it's a murder and turns herself into a sleuth in order to get to the bottom of it.

The book isn't perfect. The pacing is somewhat problematic: Anka's lengthy history is explored but all at once. While interesting, it almost made me almost forget about Karen altogether. There were also more and more loose ends being created rather than tied up and while there is a sequel, I would have liked at least some resolution in the first volume for such a commitment. I'm nervous Harris may have bitten off too much.

But the art is incredible. Down in a sketched-up notebook style, it's somewhat reminiscent of Lynda Barry's work. It's also detailed and superb when need be, light and cartoonish when fitting. In any case, it will inspire a good many to pick up their pens and start doodling.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Reader's Diary #1684- Lin Jenkinson: Transformation

I prefer flash fiction (all short fiction really) that feels complete, that doesn't make me long for a longer piece. Lin Jenkinson's "Transformation" unfortunately doesn't do that for me.

Which, as insults go, isn't really that bad. The story, of a man becoming a vampire, would work excellently as the opening of a full length novel.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Reader's Diary #1683- J. Michael Straczynski (writer), Esad Ribic (artist): Silver Surfer Requiem

I've been hearing a lot about a great buzz about Dan Slott's recent Silver Surfer run, though it's usually followed up with comments about how sad it is. Unfortunately I've not yet been able to get my hands on these particular comments yet, but my Silver Surfer curiousity has at least been piqued and I was able to get my hands on J. Michael Straczynski and Esad Ribic's Silver Surfer Requiem trade.

I've encountered both of these artists before but was underwhelmed both times. Not so this time around. The story of Silver Surfer making peace with his upcoming death (don't worry, this wasn't canon) was poignant and Ribic's watercoloured art was not only unexpected but added a heft to the story which otherwise ran the risk of cheap and obvious sentimentality.

As there's a lot of soul searching and reflection, it's also a good place for those like myself to get to know the Silver Surfer character; his history and personality.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Reader's Diary #1682- Robert E. Howard: Pigeons from Hell

Robert E. Howard's "Pigeons from Hell" begins as a classic ghost story, complete with haunted house, but one that is still genuinely creepy.

It's also uncomfortable in that it deals with slavery in the American south. As many critics of the latest book banning of To Kill A Mockingbird would tell you, that's okay. Not all literature should make you comfortable. It fact, much should challenge readers.

That said, while Howard thankfully calls out slavery for the evil that it is, his story is still racist overall. From what I can gather about Howard (the creator of Conan the Barbarian), he doesn't have any Haitian roots yet he stereotypes and appropriates their culture.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Reader's Diary #1681- Nagata Kabi, translated by Jocelynne Allen: My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness

Not sure how Nagata Kabi's My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness first crossed my radar, but I'm glad it did.

It begins with Nagata finding herself terrified and in bed with a female prostitute. This is her first time being intimate with anyone. From there the book backtracks to explore how she got there and then the ramifications that followed.

While the title might suggest a focus on the "lesbian" aspect, I'd argue that the book is more about mental health than anything else. It's not just loneliness that's explored, but depression, eating disorders, and imposter syndrome as well.

It's not a comfortable read by any means. For starters, and for me, the way Nagata depicts herself in her art, somewhat deprecatingly, she looks to be a young girl. And as a male reading a book with a naked young girl on the cover, it's something I avoided in public. I should note, however, that in that scene she's actually meant to be 28 years old.

But of course some of the issues are difficult as well and everyone's experiences with mental health and illness is unique. How easily she seems to beat bulimia might seem almost implausible. Her attraction toward her mother as a young girl may be off-putting, though it is rather Freudian and I'd like to think was one of the few times in the book Nagata didn't explain herself well.

That all said, there is a charm to it all and the subtle, dark humour helped me along. I also appreciated the non-sitcom ending: it's hopeful but far from resolved.

The art, while not spectacular, is quirky and sufficiently expressive.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Aviva Contest: A Healthier Library, A Healthier You!

Voting for Aviva has officially begun!

 I hope you will consider casting a vote for the Yellowknife Public Library. We believe our holistically healthy public library idea is the first of its kind in Canada and will reap positive benefits for the entire community: (you will need to register the first time, but you can cast up to 18 votes).

Also, please help spread the word to your friends and through your social media channels. You may use the link above and/or this video:

Monday, October 09, 2017

Reader's Diary #1680: Lauren Schenkman: The Removal

There's the briefest of seconds near the beginning of Lauren Schenkman's "The Removal" when the story approaches horror. A man named Victor is on an operating table, expecting to have everything "non-essential" removed. This is scary and tragic enough as it is. We're thinking cancer, right? Then the IV drip starts to flow and... oh my god, he isn't under and the doctor is starting anyway!

Or wait, maybe he is under and this is a near-death experience. The grotesque objects removed from Victor's cavity he understands to be resentments and jealousies and quite frankly, many of the things that unfortunately define what it is to be a man these days. But even as the doctor removes more organ meat than seems humanly possible, it's, I suppose, a hopeful story in that should Victor survive this ordeal, maybe he won't be such an entitled and sexist prick.

A fascinating story.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Reader's Diary #1679- Mark Waid (writer), Mike Wieringo (artist): Fantastic Four Ultimate Collection

I remember enjoying the first Fantastic Four movie. Sorry, the first official one, not the notoriously bad 1990s version that never made it to theaters but has since leaked to YouTube. I'm talking about the one that had Chris Evans as the Human Torch. Granted it was 2005 before Marvel Studios really proved what a successful superhero movie could be and so I'm curious how much I'd enjoy it now.

I bring it up because it was really my first exposure to the Fantastic Four movie and I've wanted these characters to do well. I really want them back at Marvel Studios. Still, I've not read a lot of their comics beyond their appearances in big event comics.

Mark Waid's Ultimate Collection seemed like a decent place to start as I did enjoy his work on Archie.

Thankfully, in this collection he was able to capture some of the fun and the familial bonds that the Fox Studios producers have so poorly delivered in the wake of that 1st attempt. (I should also acknowledge that I am one of the few to suggest they ever got it right). The stories may not be earth-shattering, but they perfectly highlight the characters' personalities (except maybe Sue Storm who could have been expanded better) while being wildly entertaining.

Mike Wieringo's art is suitable, expressive and fluid, though I did find his approach to hair quite odd and therefore distracting (it looks like people are wearing hairnets).

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Reader's Diary #1678- R.L. Stine (writer), German Peralta (artist): Man-Thing Those Who Know Fear

Earlier this year I read a collected volume of Man-Thing by Steve Gerber and while I didn't regret it, it was a bit of a let down, especially when compared to the DC equivalent Swamp Thing. I complained at the time that due to Man-Thing's almost complete lack of rational thought, there was hardly anywhere to go with the character.

In R.L. Stine's version, however, Ted Sallis (i.e., the man trapped inside the Man-Thing's body) has not only reclaimed his mind but even the ability to speak. However, he's at risk for slipping back into his more animalistic self.

This should make for a decent premise: a man trapped inside himself a la Metallica's "One." Unfortunately, it's ruined by ban pun after ban pun. I like Marvel's sense of humour, I even like puns (I'm a dad after all), but it's absolutely relentless here and it's quite awful. I went from wanting Man-Thing to be able to express himself more to wishing he'd shut up.

The art, I suppose, is decent and it would seem that some was at least inspired by the Swamp Thing's more surreal moments. It's too bad that it's undermined by Stine's terrible cheesiness.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Reader's Diary #1677- Jaume Cabré, translated by Liz Castro: Pandora

Jaume Cabré's "Pandora" tells of a gutless man who finds himself hiring a hit man to off his wife. However, when a different, more acceptable solution presents itself and he no longer requires this extreme measure to be rid of her, he is unable to call it off.

It's a great example of a story where the protagonist is not likeable but it doesn't much matter to one's enjoyment of the story. In fact, it just might help. In any case, despite the out of the ordinary situation, Cabré's descriptive inner monologue for this character sells the idea and even makes it relatable just as long as you've been in any situation that, through poor choices of your own, has spun out of control.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Reader's Diary #1676- Tsuina Miura (writer), Gamon Sakurai (art): Ajin Demi-Human

There's a lesser known Marvel superhero who belongs to the Great Lakes Avenger and goes by the name of Mister Immortal. He's played mostly for laughs which, though funny at times, is a bit of a shame because the concept itself need not be a throwaway concept.

Fortunately, the Ajin Demi-Human series explores the idea more fully. In this world, there are a few such people with such abilities and as you'd expect, they trigger a lot of fear and curiosity in the rest of the population, so much so that many have gone on the run so as not to be torn apart in the name of science.

I liked the first volume enough; besides the philosophical and ethical ramifications, the action is great, and the art reminded me somewhat of Akira which is a plus. I wasn't crazy Miura decided to give these immortal folks and few extra supernatural abilities as well, wishing he just focused on the unkillable aspect, but I'm a fan of superhero comics which are typically guilty of the same, so I can't come down on it too hard for that.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Reader's Diary #1675- Gengoroh Tagame, translated by Anne Ishii: My Brother's Husband

My Brother's Husband, by Gengoroh Tagame, is one of the more unexpected treasures I've discovered so far this year. It's a poignant and touching story of a Japanese single father named Yaichi, who is visited by the husband of his deceased and estranged identical twin brother, a Canadian named Mike.

I was surprised at first by the addition of a Canadian character in a Japanese comic, but an even better surprise was how well Tagame handled such an issue heavy book. Themes of homophobia and mourning run large and yet the issues do not compete with one another, nor does it ever feel didactic. Instead it feels like an organic, quietly beautiful story.

Holding it all together is the daughter, Yaichi's young and irrepressibly cheerful Kana who is too young yet to have learned prejudice.

Finally, Tagame's artwork completely complements the story perfectly. At first glance it's simple, yet it's also tightly focused and the character expressions are rich and realistic.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Reader's Diary #1674- Ernest Vincent Wright: Gadsby

If you've heard of Ernest Vincent Wright's novel Gadbsy it's most likely as a novelty book owing to the fact that it has over 50,000 words none of which contain the letter e. I've been curious about it for quite some time as I have long been of fan of poets like Christian Bok and the Oulipo who set up arbitrary constraints for themselves yet were still able to create works of art. Does Gadbsy have any artistic merit then or is it merely a gimmick?

First off, when I say "merely" I cannot pretend that this wasn't a lot of work. It is quite amazing that Wright was able to pull it off. (50,000 words is about 157 pages, by the way.) While I did begin to notice certain tricks he used (such as writing a lot of lists, for instance of zoo animals that did not contain e), I remained impressed. I only briefly entertained the idea of writing this post without any e's before I appreciated once again how difficult this must have been. No the!

As for whether or not it's truly art, I suppose that's too subjective to really answer but assuming quality factors into the assessment, I can at least speak to that. Without the e gimmick, I don't think this is an altogether enjoyable book. It does have a consistent voice (slightly pretentious but with a wry sense of humour) and there's a plot of sorts (Gadsby recruits the ideas and energy of youth to help build a remarkable city), but it tends to get boring. There is an antagonist but he does very little to prevent anything and therefore the book essentially lacks any real conflict. It's also sexist at times, stereotyping gender roles and diminishing the contributions of females. I suppose the pro-youth message is at least a little uplifting, especially in light of all of the current anti-millennial sentiment out there-- unless, of course, you're female, then the book would be far less uplifting.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Reader's Diary #1674- Jeremy Whitley (writer), Elsa Charretier (artist): The Unstoppable Wasp, Unstoppable! Vol. 1

I was very excited to find a trade paperback of Wasp  as I really enjoy female-led superhero comics. I was less excited, however, when I found out it featured Nadia in the role of the Wasp as I'd been hoping to learn more about the original Janet Van Dyne version (who does, at least, have a cameo).

Even after reading this collection, I'm on the fence about this Nadia incarnation. There's nothing terrible about her, but there's nothing particularly exciting either. She's super smart, she's always upbeat, she's a feminist. All good of course, but she seems like half a dozen other current female superheroes but without their flare or charm or any idiosyncrasy that would have helped set her apart (give me Squirrel Girl, any day!). It probably didn't help matters that it seems to take forever to even show her superhero powers.

A separate story at the end, written again by Jeremy Whitley but with an assist by Mark Waid, helped humanize Nadia a little better by showing how she reacts to stress. It didn't win me over entirely, but I'll at least acknowledge that perhaps the character is not the problem.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Reader's Diary #1673- Erskine Caldwell: Kneel to the Rising Sun

Given the recent news out of the U.S., perhaps it's no real surprise why I chose Erskine Caldwell's "Kneel to the Rising Sun" this week.

This is a difficult read but not in the sense that it's poorly written (it's actually quite engaging), but for the topic of racism. Nonetheless it's a powerful story, one that could be especially helpful for those struggling with how to be an ally. (Spoiler: have more courage than Lonnie in this story.)

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Reader's Diary #1672- Tim Seeley (writer), Javier Fernandez (artist): Nightwing Vol. 1 Better Than Batman

I've spent the better part of this year exploring lesser known or at least slightly less popular superheroes in the Marvel and DC Comics canon. Nightwing barely fits that category, as Dick Grayson (once known as Robin) is certainly pretty popular. That said, I've still read very little about Dick Grayson; even most Batman comics I've read didn't involve him or have involved later incarnations of Robin. No time like the present to fill in my knowledge gaps!

As an added bonus, I also learned a little about the criminal underground organization, the Parliament of Owls. This group apparently first appeared in comics in 2011 but are becoming increasingly relevant at the moment. I wonder if DC is hinting at a connection to Nite Owl as they slowly begin introducing Watchmen characters into the mix.

In any case, I found Dick Grayson a compelling character while I wasn't overly found of the Parliament of Owls.

One of the things I liked most about Dick was his dependency on others. Though trying to break out on his own, he still finds himself partnering with others. In this book it was with anti-hero Raptor (who was also excellently developed). All in all, Dick is just an all around likeable guy; sometimes trusting to a fault, learning but not giving into cynicism.

The Parliament of Owls just reminded me of Marvel's Hydra or the Hand. And, I suppose it's not DC's fault, but I'm just getting tired of these shadowy, insidious groups that simply cannot be defeated.

The art by Javier Fernandez is great, slightly grainy and similar to David Aja's Hawkeye work, which fit the violence, and coloured smoothly by Chris Sotomayor in cool blues and blacks, mimicking the usual night setting and mood (not to mention Nightwing's costume).

Monday, September 18, 2017

Reader's Diary #1671- D.C. Archibald: Down the Line

D.C. Archibald's "Down the Line" is a fractured fairy tale based on Lewis Carroll's Mad Hatter and a particularly busy tea party. Actually, I'd say it's more of an homage than a fractured take; the latter of which I tend to think of as being slightly subversive to the original.

However, while D.C. Archibald's tale really (and wonderfully) captures absurdist humor of Carroll, I didn't see it as particularly subversive. Granted, he does veer from Carroll, introducing L. Frank Baum's Scarecrow and Tin Man characters into the mix (both of whom, let's face it, could easily fit in with the Alice in Wonderland crowd). Also, there is a some rather dark imagery at the end that could, I suppose be counted as a subversive twist. However, for the most part, I just thought it was a fun piece, a piece that could have been written by Lewis Carroll himself.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Reader's Diary #1670- Dennis St. John: Yellowknife

I was more than a little skeptical of Dennis St. John's Yellowknife novel. I couldn't find any evidence that he'd actually been here or had any real connection and the photo on the front depicted mountains, of which there are none in or near enough to Yellowknife to see (the Mackenzies are far to the west bordering Yukon).

Turns out that the locale hardly mattered despite the insistence of the title that it does. What little time St. John does take describe Yellowknife, is not accurate mind you, but he avoids talking about it for the most part. He gets a few last names right (such as Football) but then other details makes it sound like Alaska or Yukon. At best it's a hybrid of the three. The Mackenzie Mountains are, for what it's worth, a major setting.

Unfortunately the book falters on so many other levels that accepting a fictionalized version of Yellowknife and moving on is not really a choice. The pacing is problematic, with character development shoehorned into one exceptionally long chapter, the action is implausible, and the character motivations are just bizarre. Attempts at philosophizing are handled clumsily and unnecessary.

With some editing, perhaps it could be salvaged as a genre action novel by scrapping any ambitions of being high literature.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Reader's Diary #1699- Eileen Register: The Hurricane

No real mystery as to how I found this story. Nonetheless, "The Hurricane" by Eileen Register is a good story that I assume does an admirable job of capturing what it must feel like for someone living through such an event. It's based on a childhood memory of hers. I've been fortunate enough not to have experienced this, though came close with Irma. We had tickets booked and reservations for St. Maarten.

"The Hurricane" is a little heavy on the adjectives for my taste and therefore I found them distracting. However, if you're not averse to such descriptors, you shouldn't have any issue.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Reader's Diary #1698- Iskwé and Erin Leslie (story), David Alexander Roberston (adaptation), GMB Chomichuk (art): Will I See?

Will I See? is based on a story by Iskwé and Erin Leslie, scripted for a comic by David Alexander Robertson. It tells of a teenage girl named May who is guided by a mysterious cat to various small objects across a city. May collects these and, with the help of her kookum, adds them to a necklace. It is her grandmother's theory that these once belonged to indigenous women who have been murdered and gone missing. Later, finding herself in danger, May draws strength from these women and their spirit animals.

It's a short but instantly engaging story with very important messages. It also has out of this world art by GMB Chomichuk, using, what looks to be, a blend of photo-manipulation, print making, and collage; black and white with dashes of red for dramatic effect.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Reader's Diary #1697- R. Sikoryak: Terms and Conditions

R. Sikoryak's Terms and Conditions is definitely one of the more creative endeavours I've seen in a while. He takes iTunes' "Terms and Conditions" (the American version) and uses it as the sole text, while each page of visuals is a take on classic or popular comics, drawn phenomenally in the cartoonists' style but with one of the characters given Steve Jobs' classic look (trimmed beard, hair slicked back, blue jeans, black sweater, and white sneakers).

The results are varied, but never unsuccessful unless the goal is to make you actually read the agreement for once. I'll grant that I read it more fully than ever before, but towards the end I'll admit that I was still merely scanning. But that in itself helps solidify a point: these terms and conditions are ridiculous.(Having them spewed from the mouth of Homer Simpson or Ziggy just helps underscore this point.)

I can think of no other product that inflicts such a contract on its purchaser. Imagine buying a shirt and being expected to read pages upon pages of instructions on what you can and cannot do with that shirt, going into tedious details about liability should you say, strangle yourself with the sleeve or some other unlikely scenario, describing the responsibilities and limitations thereof of the button manufacturers, and so on. There's less involved with buying a car! Probably less with buying a gun. And in most cases we're talking about a 99 cent song or a 1.99 app. They can argue all they want about music and so on not being a "product" in the traditional sense but nothing takes away from the fact that their Terms and Conditions are surreal overkill; once again proving that Apple is all about aesthetics and ignorant when it comes to user experience.

Besides subtly helping emphasize that point, Sikoryak's adaptation is a true gift for any fan and student of comics. I was thrilled to have identified as many as I did (and there's a cheat sheet in the back for those I missed) and more often than not, whenever I thought of cartoonists that I'd like to see, they'd suddenly show up. From classics like Herge and Carl Barks right up to modern artists like Roz Chast and Gene Luen Yang. I was especially impressed by all of the Canadians covered. On that note, I'll end of with a list of the Canucks parodied in Terms and Conditions:

  • Seth
  • Ryan North
  • Todd McFarlane
  • Fiona Staples
  • Kate Beaton
  • Bryan Lee O'Malley
  • Mariko Tamaki
  • Jillian Tamaki
  • Lynn Johnson
  • Julie Doucet
(Did I miss someone? If so, please let me know and I'll them!)

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Reader's Diary #1696- Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray (writers), Moritat (artist): All Star Western Vol. 1 Guns and Gotham

All Star Western: Volume 1 Guns and Gotham is set in the 1880s, but it almost could have been written back then, too.

This trade collection is made up primarily of a Jonah Hex (the scarred gunslinger) arc, followed by a couple of additional, shorter tales involving a couple of characters unfamiliar to me: El Diablo and Barbary Ghost.

Of these three, the Jonah Hex story is the better and most salvageable. It revolves around him visiting the new city of Gotham, partnering with Amadeus Arkham, to take down a villainous and insidious crime gang. I'd wanted to know more about the Jonah Hex character and I felt I got a good sense of what he's all about. He's a no-nonsense kind of guy with his own moral compass, one that sees no issue with taking out the bad guys with gun violence. He often comes across as rude but we get a glimpse that even this is from his pragmatic outlook: those who get close to him usually wind up dead. The addition of Arkham, who the legendary Asylum for the Criminally Insane is named after in Batman lore, was an unexpected but pleasant treat.

However, there's nary a woman to be found and the first one who appears is a prostitute who is shortly killed off with her eyes poked out. The follow-up, non-Hex stories add cultural appropriation and stereotypes to the mix with ill-conceived Native American and Chinese characters. Good to see some diversity, I suppose, but I'm not sure this was the way to go. Of course, not being from those groups myself, I don't want to claim offensiveness on their behalf, but I'm skeptical the majority of folks from either camp would have been okay with this. It made for an uncomfortable read in any case.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Reader's Diary #1695- Linda Ferguson: This Heady Thing Called Love

Linda Ferguson's "This Heady Thing Called Love" is a fine story in that it's realistic, it's characters are believable. Unfortunately they're also annoying as all hell. It's told from the point of view of a woman who is in love with a smarmy, cheating, d-bag. Because it's her story and she doesn't really grow throughout the telling, it's also hard not to turn on her a little.

I wouldn't be able to take a whole novel of this character, but it's a solid piece of writing. I'm just thankful it's short.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Reader's Diary #1694: Stephen King and Richard Chizmar: Gwendy's Button Box

It's been a while since I've read any Stephen King, so when I came across a novella, I figured it was an easy time to give him another go. Besides being short, it had the added attraction of being co-written by Richard Chizmar. I enjoyed King's previous co-authored projects with Richard Straub and I was also keen on discovering an author unknown to me.

Not long ago I had read Arthur Slade's Dust and commented on how the villain, Abram, reminded me of a Stephen King character. Reading Gwendy's Button Box confirmed my comparison. Mr. Farris and Abram were definitely cut from the same cloth.

However, this is the titular Gwendy's story, and it's very much a coming-of-age tale. As a young girl enters puberty and begins to mature, she realizes how much power she has to affect the world, for good or for bad. In this case, the power comes from a mysterious button box given to her by a stranger (Mr. Farris), but it wouldn't be difficult for readers to ignore the box altogether, or at the very least, write it off as a placebo.

There's also a message here about self-restraint and as such, I'm sure some readers will be left longing for more disastrous drama than the book provided. I, however, was content with the death count! It's certainly one of King's less morbid tales and I would even venture as far as saying that it's his first YA novel though I haven't seen it marketed that way yet.