Thursday, December 30, 2021

My Year in Review 2021 - Comics, Manga, and Graphic Novels

Here are all the graphic novels, comics, and manga that I read in 2021, ranked from least (26) to most favourite (1). Feel free to share your thoughts on any of these, or other highlights from your own reading year!

26. Various creators - Godzilla: Unnatural Disasters

25. Ethan Sacks and Paoli Villanelli - Star Wars Bounty Hunters 1: Galaxy's Deadliest 

24. Frank Herbert, Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson, Raul Allen, Patricia Martin - Dune Book 1

23. Barry Windsor-Smith - Monsters

22. Marianne Boucher - Talking to Strangers

21. Brian Michael Bendis and Leinil Francis Yu - Secret Invasion

20. Steve Foxe and Shadia Amin - Spider-Ham: Great Power, No Responsibility

19. Tatsuki Fujimoto - Chainsaw Man 1

18. Elisa Macellari - Papaya Salad

17. Huda Fahmy - That Can Be Arranged

16. Adrian Tomine - Shortcomings

15. Jay Bulckaert, Erika Nyyssonen, and Lucas Green - King Warrior

14. Chris Miskiewicz and Noah Vansciver - Grateful Dead Origins

13. Nicolas Finet and Christopher - Love Me Please: The Story of Janis Joplin

12. Sina Grace and Derek Charm - Jughead's Time Police

11. Al Ewing - Loki: Agent of Asgard The Complete Series

10. Hiromi Goto and Ann Xu - Shadow Life

9. Christian Staebler and Sonia Paolini - Redbone: The True Story of a Native American Band

8. Alison McCreesh - Petrozavodsk

7. Kim Hyun Sook, Ryan Estrada, and Ko Hyung-Ju - Banned Book Club

6. Chuck Wendig and Alvaro Sarraseca - Turok: Blood Hunt

5. Ed Brisson and Jonas Scarf - Avengers of the Wastelands

4. Walter Scott - Wendy: Master of Art

3. Joe Sacco - Paying the Land

2. Trung Le Nguyen - The Magic Fish

1. Joe Ollmann - Fictional Father

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

My Year in Review 2021 - 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): 

13. Angelique Lalonde - Glorious Frazzled Beings
12. Henry Miller - Tropic of Cancer
11. Omar El Akkad - What Strange Paradise
10. Simone de Beauvoir - The Woman Destroyed
8. Jim Shepherd - Phase Six
7. Norma Dunning -  Tainna
6. Jael Richardson - Gutter Child
5. Pik-Shueng Fung - Ghost Forest
4. Jordan Tannahill - The Listeners
3. Miriam Toews - Fight Night
2. Cheluchi Onyemelukwe Onuobia - The Son of the House
1. Carlos Ruiz Zafon - The Shadow of the Wind

 The NON-FICTION ranked from least favourite to favourite:

3. Charity Marsh and Mark V. Campbell (editors) - We Still Here: Hip Hop North of the 49th Parallel
1. Tom Beaujour and Richard Bienstock - Nothin' But A Good Time

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

The 2021 Book Mine Set Short Story Online Anthology

Here they are! 52 free online stories that I found and read this year, one every Monday, ranked my least to most favourite:

52. "Direct Democracy" - Tobias Haglund

51. "The Hiltons' Holiday" - Sarah Orne Jewett

50. "George Walker at Suez" - Anthony Trollope

49. "Fred" - Ed Friedman

48. "Interview with Santa Claus: What Does He Do the Day After Christmas?" - Ellwyn Autumn

47. "A Christmas Tree" - Charles Dickens

46. "Ghost in the Bathroom" - Christopher Berardino

45. "Headache" - Julio Cortazar

44. "The Pike" - Conrad Williams

43. "The Interview" - Tom Farr

42. "Frito Pie" - Cene Hale

41. "Behind the Mask" - Mike Johnson

40. "A Dose of Magic" - Sam Mason

39. "The Day We Were Fish" - Stephen Koster

38. "Nothing to Declare" - John Boyne

37. "The Man in the Red Cap" - Duncan Grimes

36. "Zoe" - Ron S. Friedman

35. "My Mother Made Me" - Frances Gapper

34. "Keys" - Glafira Rocha

33. "It Had to Be Murder" - Cornell Woolrich

32. "Motorway Service Stop" - Anna Lu

31. "Shilo" - Bobbie Ann Mason

30. "Another Day" - E.R. Murray

29. "Thoughts" - Harriet

28. "The Happening" - Laura Hird

27. "Big Blonde" - Dorothy Parker

26. "Night on the Mosquito Toilet" - Ruth Guthrie

25. "Independence Day" - Michael Dickel

24. "The Curb in the Sky" - James Thurber

23. "Rules of Special Measures" - Ben Fountain

22. "It Was Better to Be Prepared" - Carmyn Effa

21. "The Widow" - Emma Shea

20. "Bubble Gum" - Jarrad Saul

19. "Woodpeckers Peck to Establish Territory in the Spring" - Sherrie Flick

18. "The Cabin" - Tom Alexander

17. "Mom to You" - Jennifer Murvin

16. "The Ideal Husband Exhibition" - Dan Powell

15. "A List of Edible Flowers for the WOman on the Other Side of the Fence" - Penny Pennell

14. "Alone, Not Lonely" - Gaius Coffey

13. "A Passing Trance" - Nick Sheri

12. "The Key to My Father" - Harlen Coben

11. "Dolly" - Elizabeth Bear


10. "Does Your Mother Know What You're Doing?" - Gwendolyn Saltzman

9. "Her Boss" - Willa Cather

8. "Sparrow" - Yilin Wang

7. "Painting No. 91" - Thomas Hill

6. "Silver Linings" - Alex Reece Abbott

5. "The Bone-Stag" - KT Bryski

4. "What's For Sale" - Nicole Y. Dennis-Benn

3. "A Recipe for Trouble" - Aimee Ogden

2. "Candle Cove" - Kris Straub

1. "The Most Precious Substance on Earth" - Shashi Bhat

Monday, December 27, 2021

Reader's Diary #2267 - Ellwyn Autumn: Interview With Santa Claus

 Ellwyn Autumn's "Interview with Santa Claus: What Does He Do the Day After Christmas?" felt like a lost opportunity to me. She set up a wonderful frame story and for the interview, the setting was described just lovely, but the interview is just quick and not all that creative. A pleasant diversion, but little else. 

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Reader's Diary #2266 - Liniers: Wildflowers

Aimed at younger reader, Linier's Wildflowers comic is a lot like Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are in its embrace of childhood imagination. 

It begins with a bizarre, should be traumatic, scene with a visual of a plane wreck on an island. It would appear that the only survivors are three young girls. But why do they seem so nonplussed about it all? Slowly it reveals itself that the girls are just playing. It's light hearted and amusing from there on out, so more pleasant I suppose than Sendak's!

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Reader's Diary #2265 - Alison McCreesh: Petrozavodsk

In 2018's Norths by Alison McCreesh, she documented a family/work trip across the Circumpolar world as a series of hand drawn postcards sent back home to friends and family. Just two postcards, sent from Petrozavodsk, Russia, mentioned a health scare involving a lump in her breast.

In 2021's Petrozavodsk, she expands more upon that ordeal: the stress, dealing with foreign health care, not speaking the language and so on. 

By it's very nature, it's more personal than Norths, and maybe it's her eloquent way of expressing her mindset at the time, but the isolation is palpable. I think one of the moments that really hit it home for me was her lamenting that because her mind was on other, more critical things she hadn't had "real conversations about real issues with real Russians." You don't have to be having a health emergency thousands of miles away from home to relate to that aspect of stress.

Art-wise it's a bit rougher, sketchier than much I've seen by McCreesh but it adds to the personal art journal vibe. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Reader's Diary #2263- Barry Windsor-Smith: Monsters

This book came with a lot of hype, and everything about it seems to imply that it's a "serious work of art." 

Sadly, I couldn't get on board.

It deals with a clandestine mission of a branch of the American military to replicate some of the reprehensible human experiments of the Nazis. In the telling, it also delves quite heavily into post-traumatic stress disorder. 

I suppose the rejective of a straight forward narrative is one of the few positives I can take away, but otherwise it left me cold. Even the experiment itself doesn't really amount to much. It also seems dark at time for the sake of being dark.

Barry Windsor-Smith's art sure has its share of followers, and while I'm sometimes a sucker for gritty, black and white, crosshatching, I still wouldn't consider myself a fan. He can't, for instance, draw children. Knowing he came from a Marvel background, I'm not terribly surprised by that. Kids, especially in 70s era Marvel comics are drawn like miniature adults and it's freaky. Also, I found his placement of speech balloons, which often extended out of one panel into the next, sometimes difficult to follow. 

Not one of my graphic novels from the past year by any stretch.

Monday, December 20, 2021

Reader's Diary #2262 - Laura Hird: The Happening

 There's a line in Laura Hird's "The Happening" that reminds me of an infamous line given by Helena Bonham-Carter in Fight Club and it's not so much to shock (though it does), but also set up up the scenario and adult-tone of the story. 

Yes, it's a Christmas-related story (there's a drunken staff party), but overall it's just darkly comedic in an Office-uncomfortable kind of way. I quite enjoyed it!

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Reader's Diary #2261 - Charles Dickens: A Christmas Tree

Charles Dicken's short story "A Christmas Tree" begins pleasantly enough; a man is describing the many decorations on a Christmas tree. They eventually cause him to go on tangents of imagination and of memories, which again, nothing wrong with this per se. However, it soon becomes clear that there's never going to be more of a plot than this and it starts to become boring, very, very boring.

Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Reader's Diary #2260 - Michael Barclay: The Never Ending Present

Though it wasn't a licensed biography, Hip members didn't participate, and at least one member denounced it, Michael Barclay's The Never-Ending Present: The Story of Gord Downie and the Tragically Hip is a worthwhile read for Hip fans and Hip curious.

Are all the details accurate? I'm guessing there are some minor things here or there that Barclay erred on. But at 482 pages and being very comprehensive from the band's pre-Hip days to and past Downie's death, that's inevitable. Still the amount of research Barclay did is obvious and while the band maybe didn't grant him interviews, he did reference many of the prior interviews they did with other outlets and did score interviews with a large number of folks in the Hip periphery. 

It's also all told in a very easy, engaging style. And with a band without a lot of salacious details to hook a reader, his conversational approach is needed. Did I learn more about the Hip? Absolutely. Do I understand them more. Maybe not. Yes, I came away with trivia (where albums were produced, who produced them, artists who opened for them, etc) but they also came away more complex than I even considered before. I think my ultimate impression is that Gord had a very yin-yang relationship with the rest of the band. 

Is it perfect? No. When Barclay gets subjective, I don't always agree with him (I happen to like "Butts Wigglin'"!) and some diversions are unnecessary. Case in point? Asking various other musicians their thoughts on the final concert? Fine. But was it necessary to include all those that said they didn't watch? Those sections dragged. 

Nonetheless, I quite enjoyed the book, and took the time to re-listen to their catalogue and Gord's solo stuff as I read it. I'd say I'm an even bigger fan now than when I started. 

Monday, December 06, 2021

Reader's Diary #2259 - John Boyne: Nothing to Declare

 "Nothing to Declare" is a whimsical short story by John Boyne about two sibling dogs that have a chance reunion outside of a store while their handlers are inside. What makes it especially amusing is that the dogs talk very much like humans to one another, except of course, they're still very much dogs so what they talk ABOUT is different.

One of the dogs has gone on to have a successful career as a drug sniffing airport dog on some sort of Border Security show (it's set in Australia) while the other dog, who failed the training, is now living with a porn-watching pothead. There may be some resent brewing...