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Monday, October 15, 2018

Reader's Diary #1932- H.P. Lovecraft: The Music of Erich Zann

As Lovecraft stories go, "The Music of Erich Zann" is pretty tame in terms of terror and weirdness. It also doesn't contain any Cthulhu mythos.

Still, it's a nicely paced, mysterious, atmospheric and creepy piece. The narrator recalls a time when he lived in a boarding house on a street that he can now no longer find on any map. At the time, his upstairs neighbour was often overheard playing a kind of music he'd not heard before and when they finally met, his manner suggested he troubled mentally and perhaps even with just cause due to some unforeseen force. It does have a strange, sci-fi ending but it's also rather ambivalent which may not be to everyone's taste, but I thought it lent to the off-putting vibe.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Reader's Diary #1931: Hope Larson: All Summer Long

I enjoyed Hope Larson's graphic novel adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time but have wondered about original works. Finally with All Summer Long I can say I'm a fan of her own storytelling as well.

All Summer Long is about one particular summer in the life of a thirteen year old girl named Bina. Her best friend Austin is off to summer camp and was becoming stand-offish just before he left. Her plans to relax in front of the TV all summer have squashed by her parents and she's bored. Maybe Austin's older sister will fill his void.

One neat thing about Larson's story is the way she uses really specific, unique details to somehow make the story seem authentic. I'll also say that the theme of young male-female platonic relationships struck a chord with me. As a child, I lived in a remote section of remote town and the only playmate I had nearby, other than my older sister, was a girl a year older than me a few houses away. I was pressured by parents to "hang out with boys" but preferred her company and used proximity as an excuse. But then, once we got older, I'd walk ahead once we neared the bus stop, fearing the teasing that might come if the other kids realized that we hung out. It was wrong. We drifted apart. In Larson's book there's a very similar situation but thankfully Austin is stronger and more mature than I was at the time and I could certainly have used this book back then.

Larson's art is simple and accessible, with a yellow monochromatic scheme that complements the summer setting as well as giving it an air of nostalgia for any old geezers like me who might just pick it up.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Reader's Diary #1930- Elise Gravel: The Mushroom Fan Club

I know that Elise Gravel's junior nonfiction book The Mushroom Fan Club was successful because ever since reading I feel the need to find my favourite mushroom.

It's easy to read, educational with bright, whimsical pictures, but the biggest strength is Gravel's enthusiasm for a topic most people don't even think about beyond "do you want them on your pizza or not?"

I do, however, have one stray, observation: everyone seems to classify it as a graphic novel. I think I have a pretty open idea of the term, but I wouldn't classify this as such anymore than I'd call a mushroom a plant. Yes, the fungi in Gravel's book have been given cartoon faces and yes, a few of them even have speech balloons, but that's about all it would have in common with a comic. The pictures aren't arranged in any necessary sequence and most illustrations simply complement a page of regular text. I suppose the classification hardly matters considering that I enjoyed it anyway, but just as I picked it up originally because I thought it was a graphic novel, there may be those who avoid it accordingly.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Reader's Diary #1929- Whitney Gardner: Fake Blood

I know people often debate whether or not a character's relatability is relevant to one's enjoyment of a book, but I loved Whitney Gardner's graphic novel Fake Blood and I attribute that largely to seeing myself, or at least my much younger self, in central character AJ. If it makes it any easier to digest to those who weigh in against relatability, how about this then: because I can see myself in the character, it's proof that he rings true. Authentic or believable characters should at least be a fair point.

AJ is newly starting grade six. Internally, he compares himself unfavourably to his friends as a bit of a boring dud. And, as he's crushing hard on a new girl in class, he's not exactly confident in his chances. When he finds out she's into vampires, however, AJ develops a plan to make himself more interesting...

The resulting story is very sweet and funny. I also thought there was a compelling theme around the idea of "being oneself." I know concerned adults always stress how important that is, but sometimes, especially for young people, it's also important to play around with their identities. It can be fun and it can also help a person discover aspects of their personality they never knew they had.

There's a subplot in Fake Blood involving AJ's teacher that I thought was a bit on the predictable side, but otherwise the book was great. I especially liked the parodies throughout, including such targets as Harry Potter and Twilight.

Art-wise, I'll say that the quirky, simple style is reflective of the tone of the book, but perhaps not remarkable from a technical sense.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Reader's Diary #1928- Pénélope Bagieu: Brazen

While I quite enjoyed Pénélope Bagieu's Exquisite Corpse when I read it a few months back, I still wasn't overly excited to read Brazen, a graphic novel style collection of Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World.

I'm all for the topic, it's just that I've never seen such collections really work. To summarize a life into a overly brief biography seems, I don't know, insulting perhaps? Too elementary in any case. I'm often left wishing that the writer had just picked one life per book as a focus. I suppose it depends on what we want from such a collection and if it inspires more independent research into a person, that might be considered a win. And on that note, Bagieu did make me download some music by Josephine Baker and Betty Davis.

Another reservation that I had with the collection was Bagieu's take on different cultures. Not from those cultures myself, I cannot say with any authority that she misrepresented them, but I did wonder if it was best for her to tell their stories. Of course, had Baglieu focused only on western white women, that wouldn't have sent the right message either. Maybe it could have been a collaborative book instead?

As it was, with only Bagieu's voice, I found that too many of the women blended together. She has a sort of irreverent sense of humour (it reminds me of Kate Beaton's), which I enjoy a lot, but when almost all of women here are presented with a similar personality, I felt I lost some of their individuality.


Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Reader's Diary #1927- Catherine Lafferty: Northern Wildflower

Catherine Lafferty's Northern Wildflower is an inspiring memoir filled with engaging anecdotes and insight.

What really sets the book apart, however, is Lafferty's perseverance. A Dene woman, she was no stranger to racism and the effects of colonialism. On top of that, she admits also making some choices that in hindsight probably weren't the best. Still, she seemed to take such moments as opportunities to learn and always managed to rise above it all, most often with humour and positivity, while still calling upon and working toward systemic changes.

Such a memoir could only work if it's honest in detail and emotion and Lafferty does not hold back on either front.

Mahsi Cho to Catherine for bravely sharing her story.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Reader's Diary #1926- Sarah Graley: Kim Reaper 1 Grim Beginnings

Sarah Graley's Kim Reaper 1: Grim Beginnings is a hilarious story of a university student named Kim who's taken grim reaping as her student job.It has potential for a lot of dark humour, but the comedy stylings are mostly light and of the silly variety. Reaping is portrayed more as an assistance to the souls of those whose time is up to get to where they're supposed to go.

I also enjoyed that Kim is mostly viewed through the eyes of Becka, a more normal university student, who develops a crush on Kim before realizing her rather unique job and getting caught up in her strange adventures. Becka's shock then mirror the reader's.

As for the art? It wasn't really my thing. It's very fluid and simple, fitting I suppose of a rather un-serious comic such as this, and similar to Rick and Morty (not surprising as Sarah Graley also worked on that series).

Monday, October 08, 2018

Reader's Diary #1925- Cassandra Khaw: These Deathless Bones

Cassandra Khaw's short story "These Deathless Bones" narrated by a witch bride of a king drew me in almost immediately with her rich voice and unique mythology. Then the story begins to switch gears and I was even more impressed.

At first it's clear that she's none too taken with the king's son, her stepson, but while he's presented as a petulant, spoiled brat, I wasn't entirely sure he was deserving of whatever she had in store. But slowly and methodically, the little prince's true character is revealed...

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Reader's Diary #1924- Ngozi Ukazu: Check Please! Book 1 #Hockey

I've been reading a lot of graphic novels lately that explore themes of acceptance. In that same vein, I've been hearing wonderful things about Ngozi Ukazu's Check Please! Book 1: #Hockey a graphic novel about a former figure skater who is now on a varsity hockey team. He's also gay.

I'm not sure, however, that the theme was enough to ultimately win me over. In addition to the wonderful theme, there are other positives. Notably, the characters are all very richly defined. It's also quite fun.

But overall all, I found it to be uneven. In her introduction, Ngozi writes that she doesn't consider the book to be "Very Serious Art" and yet there were glimpses into the greatness that might have been. Bitty, the central character, is a vlogger. As an idea that's fine, but the panels showing him vlogging didn't do anything for me being way too simple. The background doesn't change and it's just him staring straight ahead while the speech balloons change. Then there are other scenes where Ngozi really proved her artistic chops: there's an overhead outdoors scene of a hockey game on a lake where the colouring is just beautiful, there are flashbacks of the team captain drawn in a different, vintage-looking style.

Most problematic for me though was the climax of the story which seemed rather obvious from the get go. Fortunately though this is the 1st in a series and now that the big reveal (which wasn't really a big reveal) is out of the way, I was drawn in enough that I'm curious what happens next.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Reader's Diary #1923- Joanna Lilley: The Birthday Books

The short stories in Joanna Lilley's The Birthday Books all fall into the quietly insightful category. Had I been in the mood for something with a lot of drama, I'd probably have been disappointed but as it was, this was just what I was looking for right about now. She writes realistically and with economy, though also with warmth.

And, for the most part, I'd not consider any on the gloomy side, instead there tended to be epiphanies and character growth. Plus, Lilley had a real knack for description and with a gamut of settings and scenarios from Yukon to Scotland, I felt like a real armchair traveler.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Reader's Diary #1922- Dave Bidini: Midnight Light

I hope this doesn't count as too spoilery, but at the end of Dave Bidini's Midnight Light, his memoir of a summer spent working for the local paper, the Yellowknifer, he writes, "Yellowknifers were distinct and true in all of their imperfections, and they taught a lesson one can never be too smart to learn: it's okay to be yourself, whether anyone's noticing or not."

As themes or morals go, it's pretty great and, dare I say it, a pretty astute observation about Yellowknifers especially considering Bidini's relatively short time in the city. It's also explored and written about really well, especially in Bidini's use of reporter John McFadden as an illustrative example. (John McFadden was a rough-around-the-edges Yellowknifer reporter who gained a brief national spotlight after being sued by the RCMP for obstruction of justice.)

Still, I found myself hung up another theme, perhaps a more personal theme, defined a few chapters earlier in Bidini's description of a particular area of town known as the Woodyard, "The Woodyard was still hidden because of its location, visible only once you were in it."

This past Canada Day marked my 10th year in Yellowknife and I'm just now making my peace with one facet of Yellowknife life: there's always a lot happening behind the proverbial scenes. There's more than one might expect and it's happening fast. If you want to keep abreast of it all, you will need to work hard at it and work constantly. If you do not, you'll just have to accept and wait for the inevitable next thing.

Bidini writes about his time here in 2014 and his mere presence came as news to me these four years later. This is not to say he didn't make an impression on people in Yellowknife, just that I wasn't one of them. He seems, too, to have gotten to know certain local "celebrities" far more intimately than I ever have or likely ever will. To some extent, this is due to his role while he was here, acting as a reporter for the Yellowknifer. In essence, it was his job to "be in the know" and he had limited time to do so. I'll also give him credit for being good at what he does in terms of drawing astute, and arguably, shrewd conclusions about people in a short span of time. It certainly doesn't hurt that he was able to write about it all in a very conversational, often witty, tone.

There are, however, undercurrents of gossip that would likely go unnoticed for readers not from here, but that will likely ruffle a few feathers locally. While he sometimes uses aliases or states that particular sources didn't wish to be named, for the most part Bidini names names, shares some pretty personal stories, and even some rather unflattering opinions. Times like those I am thankful that I was caught up in my own world during Bidini's visit! Still, I am quite interested in how those mentioned receive the book.

Monday, October 01, 2018

Reader's Diary #1921- Maryam Atoyebi: Rocks in the Pond

Maryam Atoyebi's "Rocks in the Pond" is a pleasant, slice-of-life type flash fiction story about a couple seeming to be newly in love, wrestling a little with self-consciousness and being open about their feelings. They resist comparing themselves to cliched romance stories but as a reader, I just wanted them to dive in. This is a testament to Atoyebi for making me root for the couple in such a short space.

The story is marred somewhat by typos.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Reader's Diary #1920- Vera Brosgol: Be Prepared

As a fan of Vera Brosgol's Anya's Ghost, I was not surprised to have enjoyed Be Prepared. In fact, I probably enjoyed it even more.

Slightly semi-autobiographical (the main character is named Vera, though Brosgol describes the many liberties she took in an afterword), this graphic novel revolves around a girl's miserable but character-building camp experience.

Having been a slightly socially awkward, slightly self-conscious kid myself (still am as an adult), I could relate to this. The key here being slightly. I think it would have been easy for Brosgol to have gone over the top but as it is, I think there's many a great conversation to be had about our insecurities versus our realities.

And by containing the misery-angle, Brosgol also left room for more complex characters and even humour.

The artwork, as in Anya's Ghost, is stellar. Especially great is the characterization of Vera herself with her oversized eyes. Not only was this one of her insecurities (her too large glasses) but they also play well in capturing her naivete and emotions.

The olive colouring by Alec Longstreth may not be everyone's favourite, but for an adult like myself, I thought it gave the book a nostalgic, outdoorsy appeal and reminded me of my old Boy Scout's manual.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Reader's Diary #1910- Chad Sell: The Cardboard Kingdom

Lately I've been finding so many great books with diverse characters. Chad Sell's graphic novel The Cardboard Kingdom definitely belongs in this category.

It revolves around a bunch of kids from a variety of races, with a variety of family make-ups, and characters from the LGBTQ spectrum. However, by focusing on the diversity, I'm making the book sound more didactic than it is. While there are moments when a child or a parent wrestles with their identity and questions of acceptance, for the most part diversity is simply treated as the norm... because it is normal! Instead, the book's major theme is celebrating imagination.

Set during a summer, the kids all come together building kingdoms and costumes out of cardboard, honing characters and imagining all sorts of adventures. It really took me back to my own childhood and made me nostalgic for the days pre-smartphones.

Interestingly, though Chad Sell's name is the only one on the cover, most of the chapters are co-written with a variety of other writers. The artwork helps somewhat from keeping the book from seeming disjointed, but Sell's writing should also be credited with keeping the characters feeling consistent throughout.

The art is bright and simple, sweet, fun and full of energy.

I will note, however, that I thought there'd be some sort of Marvel tie-in based upon the cover. Am I the only one seeing the Hulk, Captain America, Scarlet Witch, and Loki on there?

Monday, September 24, 2018

Reader's Diary #1909: Sandra Cisneros: Eleven

In my first year of teaching it became an informal ritual in my grade 3 class for me to sing Shirley Ellis's "the Name Game" for my students, substituting their names in as they'd go into fits and giggles once they were the star. Well, most. It turned out that one little girl found it humiliating to discover her name rhymed with Banana. I had no idea she'd been feeling like this until her mom called me and I felt terrible. While sometimes teachers are clearly douchebags, sometimes they're just humans who make insensitive mistakes. It was with that in mind that I commiserated somewhat with the teacher in Sandra Cisneros' short story "Eleven" even though the story is about, and from the perspective of, the student. I'm sure the teacher would agree that it's not her shining moment, but would probably be mortified to learn that she came across as such a villain.

The story has a pretty powerful voice though and Cisnero easily sells the trauma with authenticity. Even a non-eleven year old would likely relate to her feelings of insecurity.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Reader's Diary #1908- Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin (writers), Giovanni Rigano (artist): Illegal

One of the acknowledgements at the end of Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin's graphic novel Illegal is to those who talked to the authors "about their experiences but who wished to remain anonymous." I was glad to see this note, even if I wished it had been at the front of the book and perhaps with a little more insight into the process. Without this info ahead of time, I admit being on guard that the story of a Ghanaian refugee's journey to Europe maybe shouldn't be told from a couple of white guys with a white illustrator. Sure the subject was important and topical and sure I felt emotion why reading it, but I wondered someone from Ghana would consider it accurate and sensitive and focused on the right details.

The story revolves around a boy named Ebo whose range of expressions do a remarkable job of capturing his fear, his bravery, and his love. This connection is especially important as, once he succeeds in his journey to Europe, his humanity will be called into question (as the title implies).

Illegal is aimed at younger readers but makes a lot of use of flashbacks that I wonder wouldn't be confusing for them. Perhaps I'm not giving younger readers enough credit. As an older reader, I think I would have liked more backstory at the beginning and more follow-up on the end, but all in all, I was pleased.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Reader's Diary #1907- Joseph Kesselring: Arsenic and Old Lace

Besides having heard of the title before, I'd not seen any production or adaptation of Joseph Kesselring's play Arsenic and Old Lace before. I'd assumed it would be a cosy, murder mystery sort. And a few pages in, I suspected it would be too quaint for my tastes.

Then the dark farcical comedy started and I loved it. I suppose there might be some modern readers who might balk at the depiction of mental and cognitive illness depictions, but for what it's worth, the character that appears craziest at first (a man who believes himself Teddy Roosevelt), turns out to be one of the least villainous. It any case, it's all in over-the-top jest with witty met-asides about the theatre in general. It's fast paced and full of eccentric, hilarious characters, and all in all, I loved it.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Reader's Diary #1906- Ru Xu: Newsprints

Ru Xu's graphic novel Newsprints revolves around a young girl named Blue who so badly wants to sell newspapers that she's willing to disguise herself as a boy, boys being the only one considered socially accepted to take on such a task. While working as a newsie she meets a scientist who may have a major role to play in the current war, as well as an mysterious character named Crow.

I quite enjoyed the manga-styled art, especially with sepia tones lending to the story's pseudo-historical fiction setting. As well, I thought the themes of pursuing dreams, even despite society's expectations, to be important and handled well. Would these be enough to appeal to modern younger readers who mightn't care a whit about newspapers? I'm not sure.

There are some steampunk elements that eventually make the story more exciting but for me the pacing was off, taking a little too long to get to such elements.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Reader's Diary #1905- Gary Beck: The Audition

Gary Beck's "The Audition" is a timely story of an awkward audition. I say it's timely as the director spends too long leering at the actor's breasts, but let's face it, this would have been unfortunately timely ever since males have been directors. But at least now more people are more loudly calling bullshit.

While the director's behaviour may be typical, the rest of the audition is anything but. Told from the actor's point of view, we hear her confusion and doubts but she nonetheless is unflappable and acquiesces to the odd requests. Will it be enough to land her a role and would she even want one?

"The Audition" is a quick but interesting piece with a rich voice.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Reader's Diary #1904- Jeff Lemire: Roughneck

I've read most of Jeff Lemire's output and the record shows I'm a huge fan. But when I started to read Roughneck I wasn't sure at first that I'd get into it. Revolving around a ex-professional hockey player named Derek Ouelette, he's one of Lemire's most off-putting protagonists, hard drinking and choosing to "solve" problems with his fists.

But it's a testament to Lemire that he managed to squeeze some empathy out of me. Ouelette is a victim of domestic violence himself and like many such victims, unfortunately, he's perpetuating the cycle. As is his sister, newly returned into his life, pregnant, with an opioid addiction, and on the run from her abusive ex. Through Derek's concern for his sister, I became hopeful for some redemption (nothing could make up entirely for his past wrongs), but was kept on my toes wondering if he was already too far set in his ways.

Along the way, Jeff Lemire's scratchy style works well for the hard living themes and the watercolouring adds to the melancholy atmosphere. There's also a dog that makes an appearance for symbolism but I'm a little undecided about that as of yet; maybe too similar to the crow character in Essex County?

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Reader's Diary #1903- Grace Ellis (writer), Shae Beagle (artist): Moonstruck Vol. 1 Magic to Brew

As a fan of Lumberjanes, I had high expectations for Grace Ellis's Moonstruck. Unfortunately, despite a lot of positives, I never really connected with it.

I struggled mostly in seeing what direction the story was headed. I thought at first it would be a love story between the two characters shown on the cover, Julie and Selena, a couple of werewolves. Before long however, there's a story involving their (admittedly, very likeable) friend Chet, a centaur who loses their legs from an evil magician's spell. There's also a minor plot involving a dysfunctional music band that never really goes anywhere.

I also wasn't overly thrilled with the art. Again, there were a lot of good things going on; there was a well-defined and consistent style and the characters were expressive and represented a variety of body types, but very often I wanted more detail, especially in the background details.

Finally, there were a lot of special add-ons; a comic from Kate Leith, faux advice columns, and so forth, but overall they felt disconnected from the rest of the book and the humour was often hit or miss for me.


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Reader's Diary #1902- Pénélope Bagieu: Exquisite Corpse

Had I written about Pénélope Bagieu's graphic novel Exquisite Corpse immediately after finishing it, I think I'd be far more glowing with my praise than I'll wind up being now that I've had some time to mull it all over. The ending you see, is perfect. Probably one of my favourite endings to a book I've read in a long time; a humorous twist, just desserts, an actual non-ambiguous ending, what more could a reader want?

Getting to that point however, I found to be slightly less than perfect. The plot involves a young woman in a job she doesn't like, dating a slob she doesn't like. At work and at home, she's surrounded by abusive and sexist men. Then she meets a reclusive author, starts to develop feelings for him, until finding out he's just as bad as the rest in his own way. There's another twist hinted at in the title, but I'll try not to spoil that.

While I loved the feminist message and the calling out of intellectual men on the same bullshit as other men, I did find their "chance" meeting too contrived. She's on a park bench, sees the author (a stranger to her) through his apartment window, then knocks on his door to use his bathroom and talks to him with the door open while on the can. Um, really? I get that some people make questionable decisions and choices, but that seemed over-the-top in both implausibility and plot convenience.

Otherwise though, I quite enjoyed it. The art was also delightful with French-style swirls and line work, expressive comical characters, and beautiful colouring.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Reader's Diary #1901- Steve Jenkins, Derek Walter, and Caprice Crane: Happily Ever Esther

Having lived both halves of my life divided up between northern Canada and Newfoundland, where the locals have often been the target of militant animal rights groups and their racism, ignorance, and lies, I was going into Happy Ever Esther, a true story about a vegan couple who decided to start an animal sanctuary in Ontario with no small amount of hesitancy. Still I was intrigued enough by the thought of two city dwellers taking on such a task and the reviews praising the book for its entertainment value and heartwarming messages that I decided to take a chance on it.

Had I known it was a sequel (to Esther the Wonder Pig), I probably would have started with the first one, but they do a good job catching new readers up to speed. Besides, this one begins with the sanctuary, which is what I was most interested in.

A quick word on the authorship: I'm not sure exactly what Derek Walter's contributions were. The book seems told from Steve Jenkins' point of view and I gather that Caprice Crane is the professional writer that help compile it all. Not that that's really relevant I suppose. Steve's voice is typically enthusiastic, funny (maybe overly jokey depending on your tastes), and friendly. It's interesting that at a couple of points he discusses the need not to come on too strong, not to be too preachy with their messages of veganism and for the most part I think he succeeded on that front. There were definitely a couple of moments where he climbed on the proverbial soapbox, but considering that is his ultimate message, I didn't mind, even if I didn't necessarily agree. Besides the obvious vegan theme, I also think the book can be read as an inspirational story for following your dreams, despite the obstacles. (And there were lots of obstacles!)

At the end of the book, they've supplied a list of "Esther-Approved Recipes". Despite not being a vegan, or even a vegetarian, myself, I felt I needed to try at least one: thick black-maple smoked rice paper bacon. I don't know that they're as easy and as accessible as they like to think (I had to try three grocery stores before I could find "smoked" paprika, but was surprised to find "nutritional yeast" right away; and it was a lot more work than simply frying real bacon). The result? I didn't mind it, while the rest of my family hated it. It definitely didn't replicate the "bacon" taste as it name suggested it would, but I thought the taste was nonetheless decent.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Reader's Diary #1900- Katlynn Chrans: Your Misery, Then Mine

For World Suicide Prevention Day, Katlynn Chrans' "Your Misery, Then Mine" is a great choice. It deals with a bullied kid named Daniel who seems, not surprisingly given the bullying, to be depressed. He definitely doesn't "fit in."

Told from one of the bullies' point of view, the story flashes ahead, giving us more insight into Daniel and also, thankfully, allowing us to witness the reformation of the narrator.

The story feels from the heart and speaks to bystanders about the need to step up.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Reader's Diary #1899- Adam Rapp (writer), Mike Cavallaro (artist): Decelerate Blue

There were a lot of things I liked about Adam Rapp and Mike Cavallro's dystopian graphic novel Decelerate Blue, but ultimately I didn't enjoy it as a complete package.

 The concept was especially great. It's a world in which society values speed above all else and in our present day society it's not so hard to imagine. Of course, in all dystopian stories there's a protagonist who rebels against it all and in this case it falls to a teenage girl named Angela. Soon she will meet an underground (literally) resistance group. She will also fall in love. Finally, a few cracks starts to appear in the resistance group as well, suggesting they also have some questionable policies.

The art was decent in predominately black and white and with occasional uses of colour to make an artistic point.

I didn't, however, feel especially connected to Angela and her love story seemed tacked on and (ironically) rushed.


Monday, September 03, 2018

Reader's Diary #1898- Unknown writer: A Gravedigger's Daughter

"A Gravedigger's Daughter," not to be confused with Joyce Carol Oates, The Gravedigger's Daughter, is a bit of a surprising short story that appeared with credit in a Welsh newspaper in June of 1907. It has a fascinating setting involving a peasant revolt. It results is four bodies being delivered to a sick gravedigger whose daughter must now take on the task herself.

One of the bodies, however, turns out not to be dead after all and furthermore, it's someone who has had a past with the daughter. The innocent daughter then does something shockingly violent.

It would be a fine Halloween story, but kind of weird to appear in a June newspaper without any explanation for its inclusion.


Friday, August 31, 2018

Reader's Diary #1897- Laurie Sarkadi: Voice in the Wild

I grew up with a very opinionated atheist father. Religion was dumb, evil, brainwashing and western science ruled all. He was also a water diviner. He'd walk around with a Y-shaped alder branch and suddenly it would bend with such force that his forearms would ache afterward. A good many drinking wells near my home were found thanks to him. He attributed nothing mystical to it. He couldn't explain it either but figured it was just something science hadn't yet figured out.

So I was quite surprised and a little insulted one night as a teen to watch a science show on TV in which water divining was debunked and passed off as some sort of charlatan act and believed in by new age nuts. He was definitely neither.

I mention all of this as it's likely important to how I found myself reacting to Laurie Sarkadi's memoirs Voice in the Wild. There were lots I effortlessly loved about the book. For instance, she's lived a fascinating life (worked in Africa, lived off the grid near Yellowknife, was sued for slander, had a breast cancer scare, and more). She also took a really novel approach to a collection of memoirs, using various animals to theme each section and finding parallels between her life and that animal including the animal's biology and various cultural beliefs about the animal.

But she also delved a lot into what I would, for lack of a better word, categorize as supernatural stuff. This I found more difficult and admittedly it's largely my western science upbringing that made me so skeptical. Thanks to the water diving memory, I was open to some of the ideas, but being open to something and believing something are miles apart and the latter cannot be forced. Still, I'm also at an age and place in my life where I no longer needed to accept all of Sarkadi's beliefs or interpretations to have been interested in what she had to say. So yes, more challenging, but pauses for thought and for appreciating different perspectives are never a bad thing.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Reader's Diary #1896- Dav Pilkey: Dog Man

I can't say I was expecting to enjoy Dav Pilkey's Dog Man as much as I did. I know that they're wildly popular at my library but aimed at a juvenile audience with juvenile art on the front, I was really only interested for curiousity sake. I wound up a fan!

First off, it's super funny. Some humour, yes, is of the slapstick, imaginative, and pseudo-inappropriate sort that kids enjoy, but there's also a real clever side. I especially liked the digs at Pilkey's old elementary school teacher who discouraged him from pursuing comics. (It saddens me that this ignorant attitude, while decreasing, is still prevalent.)

It's also deceptively well drawn. Yes, it looks like a child drew it, but it's very convincing (and I suppose, very inspirational to budding artists). The colouring, on the other hand, is glossy and attention grabbing, while less child-like.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Reader's Diary #1895- Elle Wright: Touched By You

When I was a kid, we were lucky enough to be bussed home for lunch. However, I was also unlucky enough that I lived at the very end of the bus line and had roughly 20 minutes to gulp something down and take off again. But, if we were fast enough to run to down the hill from the bus stop and could shave off a few minutes, we had saved enough time to catch the first 10 minutes or so of Young and the Restless. Yes, we were a soap watching family and more than any others Y and R was where our loyalties lay. To this day, I still remember a bizarre amount of trivia about the Chancellors, the Newmans, and the Abbotts, and I haven't watched it in a million years.

I also haven't read a romance novel in a million years, and quite frankly, I don't think I've read any more than two or three prior to Elle Wright's Touched By You that could really be classified as such. But I was in the mood to try something outside of my wheelhouse and Wright's novel of Brooklyn, a daughter of a villainous tycoon, meeting and falling in love with Carter, a grief stricken widower, fit the bill quite nicely. It also reminded me of what I liked about Young and the Restless back in the day.

Sure there are some dubious plausibility issues. Brooklyn's father is an over-the-top moustache twirler and the first couple of times the two lovers meet, Brooklyn literally falls into Carter and it's cliched to the point of annoying. However, Wright does develop the couple sufficiently to make their motivations believable and I found myself rooting for them. Plus, the pacing was excellent. Of course, with a romance novel, I, as I suspect most readers of the genre do, was waiting impatiently for the big lusty moment of consummation. But Wright taunts it just enough. These scenes don't take over the romance but certainly are appreciated when they finally arrive.

Ultimately, it was an entertaining diversion with some glimpses of real human emotion and a happy ending. Just what I was looking for.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Reader's Diary #1894- Mitch Findlay: Wood

With the new Melissa McCarthy movie baiting so hard for a Raspberry Award, I figured I'd look for a adult short story about puppets. Mitch Findlay's "Wood" did not disappoint.

I can only assume though that it's more clever than the aforementioned movie. It deals with a childhood fear of puppets that evolves into a full-blown adulthood phobia and "wood" takes on a couple of meanings.

It's entertaining and clever though we all know Frazzle was the scariest puppet of all time.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Reader's Diary #1893- A.J. Lieberman (writer), Riley Rossmo (artist): Cowboy Ninja Viking Deluxe Edition

The title alone of A.J. Lieberman and Riley Rossmo's Cowboy Ninja Viking is a pretty accurate hint of how over-the-top the comic is that follows.

The titular character is what is known as a triplet, the result of psychological warfare experiments, giving the soldier/hired killer three distinct personalities. There's also, as you might expect, a perverse sort of humour that pervades the book.

It's also somewhat confusing. Maybe some of this is a result of going too far over the top. The cowboy ninja viking, it turns out, is one of many triplets, each of whom have their own personalities. The cast is abundant enough as it is but when you multiply that by three, it's a lot to keep track of.

It also didn't help for me that the plot was one of double crosses and international intrigue. I've never really been into the whole globetrotting super-spy thing and in this book, if you tune out for a mere moment, you're likely to miss something.

But for all that, I did enjoy the inventiveness and the art was just fantastic. It's sketchy and gritty, somewhat in the style of Jeff Lemire, giving a little more emotion when needed and complementing the more mature themes, and the colours make good use of monochromatic colour schemes and pseudo Ben-Day dots, giving homage to the pop-pulp roots of the story.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Reader's Diary #1892- Nnedi Okorafor: Mother of Invention

I've been slowly trying to find read short stories set in each country around the world and while I've been having some luck with African countries, most of those I've found have been on the traditional, folklore side of things. So, it was an unexpected treat to find a futuristic sci-fi story set in Nigeria; less expected was that it was penned by Nnedi Okorafor, author of Black Panther: Long Live the King.

"Mother of Invention" involves a pregnant woman named Anwuli holed up in a "smart house" known as Obi 3. If the idea of a AI house makes you think of Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey, I hope it doesn't give too much away to say that Okorafor subverts that expectation.

But more than just a technological future, she also depicts a genetically altered biological future and some fascinating ramifications of that. It's almost shocking, this developed and believable Nigerian future of Okorafor's imagination.

And finally, the best setting in the world isn't much without a story and thankfully she delivers on that front too, with the complexly proud Anwuli and the coming of a life-threatening storm.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Reader's Diary #1891- Takashi Hashiguchi: Yakitate!! Japan 1

Despite having the good fortune to visit Japan a few years back, I had no idea about Japanese baking. My first exposure was a mere year ago (and now, many butter rolls ago) when a Japanese bakery, Ja-Pain, opened here in Yellowknife.

Imagine my surprise then when I came across a manga series entirely devoted to Japanese bread. In Yakitate!! Japan, sixteen year old Kazuma Azuma knows that Japan isn't exactly known for its baked goods, not even among Japanese people, and he sets out to change that. It helps that he's been gifted with "hands of the sun," hands of the perfect temperature to cultivate yeast.

It may not seem like the most compelling of books, unless perhaps you're a hardcore foodie, but it's surprisingly entertaining. It helps that in this particular volume, the story revolves around a baking competition where the prize is a job at a prestigious bakery. Kazuma is immensely likeable if not a little naive and he befriends another competitor named Kawachi who is secretly trying to sabotage him. Will Kazuma catch on and feel betrayed? Will Kawachi be won over by Kazuma's charms? And are Kazuma's enthusiasm and miracle hands enough to take him all the way?

These answers don't come in the first volume but it definitely provides enough incentive to continue.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Reader's Diary #1890- Keith Harris: The Bicycle

Keith Harris's "The Bicycle" is a quirky little short story that I'm not sure fits what I usually think of when I hear the term "quirky."

It's told rather traditionally and with a pretty average sort of protagonist who happens to really love bicycles and biking, but not in a way I'd consider over-the-top obsession. Still the ending is kind of unpredictable and strange and I'm left pondering what it means. Is there a lesson here about hobbies sometimes paying off? I'm unsure.

In any case, I enjoyed the voice and the setting and even if I get nowhere with my final conclusion, I'll at least have enjoyed mulling it over.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Reader's Diary #1889- Rodney Barnes (writer), Joshua Cassara (artist): Falcon Take Flight

I have mixed feelings about Rodney Barnes' Falcon: Take Flight. I found myself enjoying it at times, not so much at others.

I was excited to read a solo Falcon story for sure and in that regard, I did get a better sense of him as a character. I don't think it would necessarily be a good jumping on point for a newbie to Marvel comics however as there are a lot of references to past story lines (the Secret Empire comics in particular). Fortunately, I was able to keep up with those and as an added bonus, I got to see a few other characters in action that I was curious about. There's Mephisto, whom I knew before but not greatly aware of, and brand new to me, his son Blackheart. There's Patriot, a teenage superhero also previously unfamiliar to me. (I enjoyed the mentor/mentee relationship between Falcon and he, though I did find Patriot himself somewhat annoying with his overuse of pop-culture references-- way too "Marvel"). I appreciated the appearance of Misty Knight and the blossoming romance. And I've long wanted to see Blade pop up in a new comic again, so that was pretty great.

The stories themselves didn't do a lot for me though. I couldn't buy into the stakes that were supposedly set-up and I couldn't get a good feel where Falcon was going as a character. I also wasn't overly appreciative of the art. I found the overly dark, smudgy colouring in particular inconsistent with the story; gritty but the story and characters did not seem necessarily committed to going in a gritty direction.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Reader's Diary #1888- Michelle Knudsen: Evil Librarian

I'll admit choosing this one simply because it had "Librarian" in the title. Unfortunately, while the titular character may have in fact been evil (he's a demon), the fact that he's a high school librarian is next to irrelevant. Simply put: not enough librarianing.

Perhaps that was the nail in the coffin because nothing else in the book worked for me after that. I know I'm not the demographic Knudsen likely intended (that being young adults), but I've enjoyed plenty of books not meant for me before.

I didn't find myself laughing at the parts meant to be funny, didn't find myself scared at parts meant to be scared. I didn't come to care or believe in the characters and the plot felt too convenient. I'll take some blame that I may have overthought things and perhaps it's a book best read as a fast diversion. I at least appreciated the pacing and the voice of the main character.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Reader's Diary #1887- Various writers and artists: Milk Wars

At first I wasn't sure what to think of Milk Wars, a recent comic arc from DC's new "out there" Young Animal line.

I couldn't get a grasp on what the hell was happening. There was some nefarious Retcon group rewriting actual lives of superheroes in order to sell their world. It involved a bunch of characters I'd never heard of before or just had a passing familiarity with. There was someone called Milkman Man. People were being forced/ brainwashed into drinking milk. The art was like more like something you'd see from Marvel's LSD-inspired past.

It was all well and good to be creative, but some accessibility would have been nice. Fortunately I did start to get a grasp on things. If anything it seemed like a warning to the main DC line of superheroes and their creators. Essentially it's a creator's manifesto to not let commercialism let things become predictable and bland, to avoid safe topics and conservative propaganda. Creators should be allowed to take risks, even with established characters like Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman.

All that and a quirky sense of humour, a wide swath of styles, made Milk Wars a fascinating collection.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Reader's Diary #1886- Mi-Kyung Yun, translated by Heejeong Haas: Bride of the Water God 1

Third time's a charm: finally, a manhwa that I enjoyed.

Mi-Kyung Yun's Bride of the Water God 1, a story of a human girl who was betrothed to a god in order to stop a drought, has the feel of classic mythology. I cannot find evidence that it is based on Korean mythology, but it certainly reminded me of old Greek and Roman tales. Perhaps some indigenous North American stories as well, but no-thanks to my Canadian schooling I'm less familiar with those.

An interesting twist to this story is that the water god appears as a child during the day, and adult at night. Soah, the bride, believes she is married to the child form and that the adult is an entirely different individual.

The character line work is crisp and eyes are drawn particularly clear and expressive, but I did wish there was more detail in the backgrounds.

Monday, August 06, 2018

Reader's Diary #1885- W. F. Harvey: August Heat

The premise behind W. F. Harvey's "August Heat" is interesting enough on its own: two strangers have a premonition about the other's bleak future, but there are a few other aspects that also raise the story above a mere supernatural tale.

The setting, August under a heat wave, adds a level of realism to the tale and also makes a reader question if this is but a detail or if the heat is somehow connected. At the very least, it's likely to have altered the strangers' decision making.

It's also one of the few ambiguous endings that I enjoyed. We know from earlier information what the ultimate outcome will be, but we're still left (in the final moments, I suspect) not knowing precisely how we get there, nor why.

It's a lovely fatalistic tale.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Reader's Diary #1884- Caitlin Major (writer), Kelly Bastow (artist): Manfried the Man

I'm sure most of us have encountered a book that didn't live up to our expectations based on a solid or at least interesting premise.

Caitlin Major's Manfried the Man definitely intrigued me with its amusing premise: cats run society and have men as pets. And, I am happy to report, did not disappoint!

The premise remains interesting throughout with new details about the "rules" of this world slowly revealed as the context dictates. Instead of meowing, the pet men say "hey!" And when I say that the cats have men as pets, it would appear that this is meant literally. I didn't see anyone with a woman as a pet.

But it's not all premise. The characters and plot are quite good as well. Manfried's owner is a cat named Steve Catson. He's... not a happy cat. He hates his job and has quite low self esteem. As series of unfortunate mistakes, the worst of which is losing Manfried, threatens to destroy him.

There's real emotional heft to the tale, as you might gather, but the humour of the premise, Kelly Bastow's bright, simple art, and a hopeful ending that revolves around friendship, keeps everything ultimately sweet.

Saturday, August 04, 2018

Reader's Diary #1883- Mariko Tamaki (writer), Joelle Jones (artist): Supergirl Being Super

Supergirl's origin story isn't the greatest. It pretty much underscores that she was basically an attempt at a female version of Superman. She's sent to Earth from Kryptonian parents when her home planet is about to be destroyed, she crash lands in rural America and is raised by a loving couple on a farm. Sound familiar?

I'm not sure why exactly DC Comics decided then to revisit her origin story if they weren't going to overhaul it completely, but all that considered Mariko Tamaki did an excellent job considering those parameters.

For one, Kara Danvers (aka Supergirl) is more grounded in her teenage years. Adolescent themes (zits!) are prevalent and her friends, especially Dolly, are more fleshed out, believable, varied, and compelling. For another, her timeline is much closer to Superman's. This was confusing to me at first because as Kara began to discover her powers and history, I was questioning why she didn't see any similarities between herself and Superman. Did he not exist in this world? Fortunately that's answered toward the end of the book. Another plus was that the origin wasn't the whole story and the overarching plot was quite interesting, complete with complex villains.

Joelle Jones' art is also pretty great. While it has the generic pseudo-realistic look of most superhero comics and there's nothing too experimental, I really enjoyed the attention to anatomy and physiology; characters posed and moved in very authentic looking ways, reminding me somewhat of critically acclaimed artist Alex Ross's attention to similar details.

Friday, August 03, 2018

Reader's Diary #1882- Jen Wang: The Prince and the Dressmaker

No amount of hyperbole could adequately capture how much I enjoyed Jen Wang's graphic novel The Prince and the Dressmaker.

It is a tale of a Belgian prince, circa the 19th century (this is never explicitly stated, but I'm assuming based on the fashion), who secretly likes to dress in drag. When he meets the seamstress/ up-and-coming designer Frances he knows that this is a rare someone who will support his unusual choices and whose dresses are kick-ass to boot, he immediately hires her. A friendship blossoms quickly.

Of course, themes of acceptance and being true to oneself run loudly, but it never seems didactic. Instead, it's an enthralling story, with authentic characters (slightly flawed but plausible and even likeable), and lots of feels (it's funny at times, sad, hopeful, and heartwarming). I also appreciated that the dialogue was kept modern— not slangy, but contemporary, making it easier to understand and yet not taking away from the setting (it simply felt transcribed for 2018). 

And the art is gorgeous. It has a style and colouring similar to Disney cartoons of the 60s and 70s which fits the story like a glove. It has a fairy tale feel (though no fairy tale elements really), with swirls and swishes that complement the fashion angle. The characters are expressive and rich in movement.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Reader's Diary #1881- JinHo Ko, translation by Arthur Dela Cruz: Jack Frost 1

My second experience with a manhwa title and my second dud.

I really didn't like JinHo Ko's Jack Frost 1, a high school afterlife horror tale and alternated between being bored and offended.

Bored because it's basically a lot of rushed, hard to decipher action shots despite what could have been a good premise. A lot of scratchy lines and sound effects.

Offended because JinHo Ko does some really out of place/ creepy sexist things like up-skirt shots of underage girls (wearing underwear at least) and exaggerated breasts, bodies on the adult women.

Truly awful.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Reader's Diary #1880- Elaine M. Will: Look Straight Ahead

I'm sure that the Canadian Mental Health Association does some wonderful things. However, I feel that their recommendation on the front of Elaine M. Will's graphic novel Look Straight Ahead works against the book.

Now that I've read it, I understand why they'd offer up the blurb. Will does a tremendous job exploring mental illness in this book. It's sensitive and informative. But none of this, nor the CMHA logo on the front, makes the book sound particularly compelling. It's sounds "important" and unfortunately such books tend to be dull and/or poorly done.

Make no mistake, Look Straight Ahead is first and foremost a wonderful story. Jeremy Knowles is a believable, complex character trying to overcome a mental health tragedy. I choked up a few times, I admit. Peripheral characters are also interesting. The art is engaging and creative and it reminded me somewhat of Charles Burns' work in Black Hole or perhaps David B's Epileptic.

So, feel free to forget the importance, just read it if you're looking for an engaging, well crafted story.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Reader's Diary #1879- Lisa Hanawalt: Hot Dog Taste Test

I think I was won over by Lisa Hanawalt's Hot Dog Taste Test.

At first I just wasn't getting it. It was clearly and intentionally quirky but I did what I always do when I'm faced with such a style and don't understand it: I blamed the writer. She was being self-indulgent. Weird for the sake of weird. Etc. As if the problem could not possibly have been me.

Hot Dog Taste Test is a collection of art, comics, observations and graphic memoir essays, many of which revolve around food.

And despite my earlier hang-ups I was enjoying it by the end. There's one image in particular that still makes me giggle just thinking about it: a cartoon showing what an intruder would actually see if they should walk in on Lisa Hanawalt in the bathroom contrasted with what Hanawalt imagines they would see.

Did the humour change becoming more accessible by the end? Possibly; it is an eclectic bag so maybe the more idiosyncratic stuff was balanced more heavily at the front end. Then, there's also just a chance that Hanawalt's unique outlook just started rubbing off.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Reader's Diary #1878- Safia Moore: Turning Point

Perhaps with shades of Stephen Spielberg's AI, Safia Moore's short story "Turning Point" nonetheless takes a less common approach to AI in science fiction with an intelligent robot who doesn't want to take over, but rather simply to exist. It is curious about love while acknowledging that what it could experience and could convincingly give to a family would be a reasonable facsimile of love at best. It has worked out that its survival depends upon finding a family that will give it a chance and this is its escape story.

It's engaging with some thoughtful looks at what it means to love, to be family, and so on, though the ending is one of those up in the air deals and I'm as of yet undecided if it works as a single piece or if it feels more like the first chapter in an unprovided book.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Reader's Diary #1877- Kazuki Ebine: Gandhi

Kazuki Ebine's manga biography of Gandhi wasn't the first biography of Gandhi that I've read and I can't really say that I learned anything new this time around. If anything, the last one offered up a more balanced picture, touching upon Gandhi's treatment of women.

This one at least has visuals to make the telling at least interesting and the artwork is good. The characters are suitably expressive and Ebine's approach to panels, breaking them to make subtle points and so on, had artistic merit.


Thursday, July 26, 2018

Reader's Diary #1876- Scott Adams: I Can't Remember If We're Cheap or Smart

Scott Adams is one of those who like to whine that their career took a downturn when they started supporting Trump. (Easy solution to that, I would think.) Still, not having paid any attention to Dilbert comic strips over the years, I wondered if his earlier work was any good. I like Kanye's earlier music, after all.

So, no.

There are about four basic punchlines possible for every Dilbert strip:
1. Businesses are crippled by bureaucracy
2. Upper management is greedy
3. Upper management is corrupt
4. Upper management is inept

While none of these are original ideas, a truly funny person could still manage to state them in clever or amusing ways. At best, one or two Dilbert strips in this collection made me smirk.

And when these are the only 4 Adams makes, it's even more perplexing that he's a Trump supporter. At best you might give Trump credit for cutting down on bureaucracy, but the rest?

The art is overly simple. I get that as they were originally found in newspapers, the quality would have to be less than a graphic novel where the artist is afforded more time. Plus, simplicity isn't always dumb or lazy (read How to Read Nancy). But when many of these feature a 2nd panel (of three) where the box outline of an office building is shown with a speech balloon emanating from it, I think it's safe to say Adams' lack of an Eisner Award has nothing to do with Trump.

Why did Dilbert ever bring Adams success then? Perhaps there was a lack of office-based comic strips. Perhaps some of y'all find this crap funny. Who am I to judge?

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Reader's Diary #1875- Sabrina Symington: First Year Out

Very early into Sabrina Symington's graphic novel First Year Out: A Transition Story I chastised myself for dwelling too much on the didactic nature of the book. First off, some topics need to be forthright and obvious; the level of ignorance in society practically demands it. Second, and most importantly, the story is about the transitioning of a transgender woman. My real issue with didactic stories is when they're not upfront about it. You know, those authors that pretend to be writing a ghost story or mystery or something and not-so-casually drop in other educational themes.

So, if First Year Out: A Transition Story is educational (and it is), it was intentionally so. Everything is explored here, from gender theory and feminism, family and society acceptance, mental health, the range of different experiences by transgendered folks, physical and scientific explanations, and so on. Some of these topics I was already familiar with, some I was not (I hadn't, for instance, ever heard of TERF politics). The book could be dialogue heavy at times, but necessarily so and still not at the expense of the central character Lily who was easy to want to see succeed, to find happiness.

The art work was not really my cup of tea, finding it amateurish-looking, but not so much that it took away from my enjoyment. Besides, its simple nature helped balance out some of the complex themes.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Reader's Diary #1874- Chief R. Stacey Laforme: Living in the Tall Grass

The poems in Chief R. Stacey Laforme's Living in the Tall Grass: Poems of Reconciliation are more traditional than the ones I've been reading lately but that didn't bother me in the least. The rhyming poems I wasn't always able to get to scan well for me, unable to grasp onto the intended rhythm, but I enjoyed the others.

I think what I appreciated the most was the range of emotions and perspectives in this collection. Many are upbeat and positive while others take dark turns. Some have humour, some have sadness. Some raise some very important and topical political opinions. Largely, as the subtitle would suggest, these deal with the mistreatment of indigenous people in Canada, especially exploring some of the ramifications of residential schooling, but the topics are not exclusive to this.