Tuesday, December 31, 2019

My Year in Review 2019 - Fiction and Nonfiction

The FICTION ranked from least favourite to favouite: Novels, Novellas, Short Story Collections, Plays, Picture Books, and Poetry (Graphic Novels recorded separately):

15. Gail MacMillan - Ghost of Winters Past
14. Scott O'Dell - Zia
13. Anthony Foliot Snowking - Tales of an Old Town Versifier
12. Ralph Ellison - Invisible Man 
11. Shauntay Grant - Africville
10. Richard Wagamese - Runaway Dreams
9. Neil Simon - Lost in Yonkers
8. Brooke Hartman - Dream Flights on Arctic Nights
7. Sean Michaels - Us Conductors
6. Neil Christopher - Taaqtumi
5. Bertolt Brecht - Galileo
4. Tunchai Redvers - Fireweed
3. Judy Blume - Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret?
2. Agatha Christie - The Mousetrap
1. Kai Miller - Augustown 

The NON-FICTION ranked from least favourite to favourite:

13. Barry Loewer - 30-Second Philosophies
12. Robin Short - Rock Stars
11. Motley Crue with Neil Strauss - The Dirt
10. Wilfred Buck - Tipiskawi Kisik
9. Brent Milano - Vinyl Junkies
8. Whit Fraser - True North Rising
7. Julia Christensen - No Home in Homeland
6. Nicolas Michaud and Jessica Watkins -  Iron Man vs. Captain America and Philosophy
5. Jacob M. Held - Wonder Woman and Philosophy
4. Alan Doyle - Where I Belong
3. Stephen Law - The Philosophy Gym
2. David Byrne - How Music Works 
1. Susan Orlean - The Library Book


Monday, December 30, 2019

The 2019 Book Mine Set Short Story Online Anthology

52. "Missing My Liar" - Tania Hershman
51. "The Gentle Lena" - Gertrude Stein
50. "The Legend of the Christmas Tree" - Lucy Wheelock
49. "Canoe" - Sherrie Flick
48. "Asshole Island" - Ian Couch
47. "The Wedding Ring" - Therese Beharrie
46. "The Night of the Seven Fires" - Chris Miller
45. "Christmas Department" -  Janet Gogerty
44. "The Three Sillies" - Unknown British author
43. "The Ghost of a Very Small Thing" - Cathy Ulrich
42. "Countdown" - Susan WM
41. "Tiled Floors" - Dorothee Floriane Conley
40. "The Plunge" - Lucy Robinson
39.  "Toba Tek Singh" - Sadat Hasan Manto
38. "The Wind Blew" - Leona Brits
37. "Same Old" - Maggie Bolitho
36. "Domestic Violence" - Madeline Ashby
35. "Turboatom" - Steven Volynets
34. "Newfoundland and Labrador Considers How to Maintain its Romance" - Bridget Canning
33. "Street Dog" - Shawn Kobb
32. "For a Look at New Worlds" - Jerome Stueart
31. "Riddle" - Ogbewe Amadin
30. "Eye of the Beholder" - Vicky Daddo
29. "Fighting the Cold" - Arun Budhathoki
28. "Christmas" - Kelly Rufus
27. "The Leonardo DiCaprio of Exarcheia" - Konstantinos Poulis
26. "Without Parallel" - Rachael Dunlop
25. "Marlena Learns to Drive" - Kathryn Milam
24. "But It's Only Rock and Roll" - Ellie Scott
23. "Denver Disappeared Wednesday" - Eric Robert Nolan
22. "Taylor Swift" - Hugh Behm-Steinberg
21. "Likable" - Deb Olin Unferth
20. "Grotesqueries of the Gods" - Kevin Spenst
19. "Wunderkind" - Carson McCullers
18. "A Price Too High" - Russell Waterman
17. "Itch" - Gina Screen
16. "Hannigan's Backyard" - Robert Carlton
15. "The Thing About Benny" - M. Shayne Bell
14. "How a Small Newfoundland Town is Saving Canada's Urban Middle Class" - Gary Newhook
13. "Big-Headed Anna Watches Over" - Stephanie Dickinson
12. "Evil Robot Monkey" - Mary Robinette Kowal
11. "Big Brother" - Melanie Harding-Shaw
10. "Eau de Newfoundland" - David Stewart
9. "Human to Animal" - Wm Windmier
8. "Abbreviated Glossary" - Gay Degani
7. "Blink" - Matt Blackwood
6. "The Doctor's Visit" - Tea Mutonji
5. "Half an Orange" - Cassondra Windwalker
4. "The White Stain" - Rebecca Higgins
3. "Everyone Cried" - Lydia Davis
2. "Green Velvet" - Krzysztof Pelc
1. "Acknowledgements" - Maggie Shipstead

Reader's Diary #2118- Susan WM: Countdown

Susan WM's "Countdown" was a flash fiction contest entry that had to have a New Year's Eve theme and include "glitter."

It's a fun story which adds some real stakes to the countdown. The characters aren't the most likable characters ever, but some of that may be attributed to the stress they're under. There may be a plot whole or two, as pointed out in some of the comments that follow the story, but it's still rather good for speedy contest entry.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

My Year in Review 2019 - Comics, Manga, and Graphic Novels

Ranked in order from least to most favourite:

45. Shea Fontana, Yancey Labat - DC Superhero Girls: Search for Atlantis
44. Yvan Alagbé - Yellow Negroes and Other Imaginary Creatures
43. Seanan McGuire, Rosi Kampe- Spider-Gwen: Ghost Spider
42. Various - What If? With Great Power
41. E.C. Segar - Popeye Volume 1
40. C. S. Pescat, Johanna the Mad - Fence: Volume One
39. Matt Miner, Matt Maguire -  GWAR: The Enormogantic Fail
38. Ben Rankel - Frank
37. Various - What If? The Complete Collection Volume 1
36. Doug Moench, Paul Gulacy - Master of Kung Fu: Volume 2
35. Various - Peter Porker the Spectacular Spider-Ham: The Complete Collection Vol. 1
34. David H.T. Wong - Escape to Gold Mountain
33. William Shakespeare, Julien Choy - Macbeth
32. Daniel Kibbelsmith, Ricardo Lopez Ortiz- Deadpool Vs. Blackpanther
31. Various - Captain Britain: Legacy of a Legend
30. Christos Gage - Spider-Geddon
29. Peter J. Tomasi, Sara Duvall - The Bridge
28. Jim McCarthy, Brian Williamson - Metallica: Nothing Else Matters
27. Devin Grayson, Ryan North,  G. Willow Wilson - Marvel Rising
26. Frank Tieri - Jughead the Hunger: Volume One
25. Greg Smallwood, Meg Smallwood, Greg Scot t- Vampironica Book One
24. Mark Russell, Mike Feehan- The Snagglepuss Chronicles
23. Jeff Parker, Michael Moreci, Dan Parent - Archie Meets Batman '66
22. Brian Azzarello, Lee Bermejo - Luthor
21. Teresa Wong- Dear Scarlet
20. Daniel Barnes, D. J. Kirkland - The Black Mage
19. Tasha Spillet, Natasha Donovan- Surviving the City
18. Jody Houser, Stefano Martino - Stranger Things: The Other Side 
17. Gerard Way, Gabriel Ba - Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite
16. Nnedi Okorafor, Leonardo Romero - Shuri: The Search for Black Panther
15. Jonathan Maberry, Scot Eaton - Doomwar
14. Patrick Allaby - Martin Peters
13. Chip Zdarsky, Mark Bagley - Spider-Man Life Story
12. Wendy Pini, Richard Pini - ElfQuest: Volume One
11. Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo-  Dark Nights Metal

10. Roselynn Akukuluk, Danny Christopher, Astrid Arijanto - Putuguq and Kublu and the Qalupilik!
9. Various- Marvel Two-In-One Presents the Thing: Cry Monster
8. Alex Murchison - Into Blue
7. Gord Hill - The Antifa Comic Book
6. Various - This Place
5. D. Boyd - Chicken Rising
4. Anthony Bourdain, Joel Rose - Hungry Ghosts  
3. Youssef Dadudi - Monk! 
2. Gerry Alanguilan - Elmer
1. Tom King, Mitch Gerards - Mister Miracle

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Reader's Diary #2117- Jonathan Maberry (writer), Scot Eaton (artist): Doomwar

It's a long way off until the next Black Panther movie but two of the more exciting rumours about the plot suggest that either Namor or Dr. Doom will make their first appearance in the MCU in this movie. If the latter is true, one of the likely comic adaptation is from Jonathan Maberry's run which saw Dr. Doom getting a hold of all of Wakanda's vibranium reserves.

It would be a timely film for a few reasons:
1. he uses nanites, or microscopic robots, to spy on the Wakandans and I don't think that technology is too far out there at this point
2. he sows seeds of discontent among the Wakandan people a la the Russians and the US
3. Shuri takes over the Black Panther mantle, and as a fan favourite this would please a lot of folks

Given all of that, I quite enjoyed the story. I also appreciated Maberry's depiction of Dr. Doom. He's complex enough and rather than just tell us that he's a genius and evil, he gives us great examples.

Eaton's art was fine but occasional gratuitous butt shots of Storm were annoying.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Reader's Diary #2116- Kelly Rufus: Christmas

I wasn't a die-hard ER watcher back in the day, but there was an infamous episode from the early seasons involving a horrific childbirth that has stuck with me, as I'm sure it has for a lot of folks. I found myself thinking of that episode once again while reading Kelly Rufus's "Christmas". The way she sets up the story, I was just cringing, waiting for the bad things to happen.

But there's also some good and I'd say "bittersweet" but that doesn't capture the intensity. There's also a faint glimmer of hope at the end (as there should be in any Christmas story). Does she try a bit too hard for an emotional appeal? Maybe, but I'm fine with it.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Reader's Diary #2115- Robin Short: Rock Stars

My interest in curling has ebbed and flowed over the years. I played a bit in high school, I played a bit in Rankin Inlet, and just recently started up again here. I don't often follow the sport but I vividly recall the day Newfoundland's own Team Gushue won the Olympic Gold medal in 2006. I was teaching in Newfoundland at the time and we were given the afternoon off to watch the game. It was truly wonderful.

Just getting back into the game again, and figuring I'd have a better shot at understanding it, I decided to pick up a couple of books about Team Gushue and their historic win.

While I did at least understand Robin Short's book, it didn't always hook me. It bogged down with a lot of play by play, especially in the earlier chapters. And team skip Brad Gushue? Well, he didn't come across as the most thrilling of personalities. There's a local curling hero that occasionally hits the news for the wrong reasons (i.e., partying to the point where he can no longer curl). Brad seems like his polar opposite. Straight-laced and serious. Not a knock at the guy necessarily, but for a dynamic and interesting profile, perhaps at least a happy medium of personalities between Brad and the aforementioned legend would be nice.

It did, however, get more interesting toward the latter half of Short's book when he describes the actual Olympic game.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Reader's Diary #2114- Bryan Caplan (writer), Zach Weinersmith (artist): Open Borders

There's a blurb written by Ryan North on the back of Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration that reads, "This is not a book written to applaud pro-immigration people or to shame those who are against it" that might suggest that Bryan Caplan doesn't take a stance on the issue. To be absolutely clear, this book is VERY pro-immigration.

I'd have considered myself pro-immigration even before starting the book, but to be honest, hadn't put a great deal of thought in it besides considering those against it to be mostly racist. I certainly never thought about the possibility of fully open borders.

Thankfully Caplan does a wonderful job of defining open borders and arguing the case for them. It's accessible, smart, and even funny at times, though he treats the subject with the respect and depth it needs. It's strongest when he addresses the concerns of naysayers, showing in most cases how their fears are unfounded.

One issue though that I wished he addressed: while he provides a lot of examples of how more open immigration has been good for the world, I found myself thinking about the indigenous people of North America and how the influx of Europeans way back in the day has definitely not been a great benefit.

Nonetheless, it's a very thought-provoking and well-researched book.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Reader's Diary #2113- Lucy Wheelock: The Legend of the Christmas Tree

Lucy Wheelock's "The Legend of the Christmas Tree" is a very short story that seems to exist solely to remind kids about a Bible verse. It's odd. There's almost no build up. Kids invite a cold stranger child into their home to get warm and then, boom, it's revealed to be Jesus who rewards them with a fruit-bearing perennial.

Even the message itself is odd. The kids already seem to get the importance of helping those in need, so why would Jesus feel the need to preach to them about it? Also, he rewards them when initially they were helping out of the goodness of their hearts. Doesn't that seem counter productive? Encouraging selfish acts over selfless ones?

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Reader's Diary #2112- Tunchai Redvers: Fireweed

Tunchai Redvers' Fireweed Poems is a powerful and beautiful collection of poetry. Through these poems she works through identity, bigotry, colonialism, racism, and more but in such a way that it's uplifting. She permits people to justify their own rage and sadness while showing paths forward, like fireweed that tends to grow after a forest fire. There's a sense of accomplishment at the end.

These poems are accessible; short and void of those annoying words that only poets use. In that way the book reminded me of Rupi Kaur's work. But unlike Kaur's, I found Redvers' use of language more playful and rich in figurative language.

Another feature I especially enjoyed was the placement of the titles at the end of the poems instead. I found it gave me a chance to decide what the poem was about on my own with an invitation to reflect on it given a possibly new context.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Reader's Diary #2111- Daniel Barnes (writer), D. J. Kirkland (artist): The Black Mage

Daniel Barnes and D.J. Kirkland's The Black Mage begins much like Harry Potter with a boy headed off to magic school for the first time. Only it's the deep south of the US, and he's the first black student to attend (or so he thinks).

Obviously racism is a major theme of the book and the villains are none other the Klu Klux Klan.

At first I thought I was going to enjoy the story but not the art. It's very Japanese manga influenced (with some Jeff Smith leanings as well) which, though I enjoy that kind of art, wasn't sure if it would have the gravitas to match the important commentary. In hindsight though I think it provided better balance. Yes, it reflects on social issues but it's also a fast-paced, magical adventure story and that's needed as well.

I hope they turn this into an ongoing series!

Monday, December 09, 2019

Reader's Diary #2110- Janet Gogerty: Christmas Department

Janet Gogerty's flash fiction "Christmas Department" is a barely disguised rant about useless crap for sale at Christmas. It's not, as it turns out, a rant against all commercialism as I first thought, just specifically knick-knacks and novelties and cheaply produced junk.

It's mildly amusing, with a bit of fantasy fulfillment.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Reader's Diary #2109- Brian Azzarello (writer), Lee Bermejo (artist): Luthor

When I first noticed the covers of Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo's Joker and Luthor comics, they immediately caught my eye. The art looked great. But rather than start with a book all about the Joker (who is done to death), I opted for Luthor.

I suspected a more adult oriented, complex portrayal of a villain and for the most art I think they delivered. He comes across as exceedingly ambitious which gets at the heart of why he dislikes Superman so much: no human could ever work towards becoming him.

The art is usually great, with a couple of panels here or there that I didn't enjoy (a weirdly posed Superman on one page gives him an odd shaped butt, for instance). The colouring by Dave Stewart and Jose Villarrubia though is exceptional. It's dark and grainy and fits the more mature themes.

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Reader's Diary #2108- Matt Miner and Matt Maguire (writers), various artists: GWAR The Enormogantic Fail

Though I was a headbanger in my teenage years, and with a warped sense of humour, I strangely never got into GWAR. I respected their schtick, their crude jokes, cheap-looking over-the-top costumes, and bizarrely elaborate mythology, but their music just didn't do anything for me. Loud, sloppy, and weird? Three things I can sometimes appreciate, just not with GWAR.

I'll suggest that the comic encapsulates GWAR quite well. So I'd consider it a success in that regard. It tells of the members of GWAR (in their fictionalized alien warrior personas) on trial for a failed mission. Unfortunately each member has a different take on went wrong. The premise isn't bad but in true GWAR fashion, is barely even coherent. It is however, crudely funny and excessively violent.

If one could describe art as loud, it's downright deafening here. I enjoyed the fact that each member's account took on a different style and every style had an indie punk vibe.

Monday, December 02, 2019

Reader's Diary #104- Gina Screen: Itch

I'm still reeling from the cancellation of Last Man on Earth (especially that cliffhanger) so I was thankful to happen upon a post apocalyptic story where the main character is the last woman on Earth.

Only Gina Screen's "Itch" isn't funny. And her ex-husband happens to be the last man on Earth. And that isn't the biggest twist.

Thoroughly engaging.