Monday, December 26, 2022

Reader's Diary #2063 - Patsy Collins: Gone by Boxing Day

 Though it has "Boxing Day" in the title, Patsy Collins' short story would be better classified as a Christmas story as it involves finding a perfect present for a sweet, albeit impossible to shop for, mother. 

It's quaint, with a happy ending, but it's still a solid piece of writing with great character development.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Reader's Diary #2062 - Daniel Scott Tysdale: The End is in the Middle

A huge fan of MAD Magazine, I was intrigued by Daniel Scott Tysdale's idea to write poems a la "MAD Fold-ins," the idea being that you can read most of the poem on the page and then fold the page in order to get the final line. (For those not acquainted with MAD Fold-ins, Al Jaffee would draw a photo with a riddle underneath and you could fold the page to get a new image and the answer to the riddle.)

Still, MAD Magazine was also known for juvenile puns (ex. New Kids on the Blech!) so I was unsure what to expect about the quality of poetry.

Make no mistake and gimmicks aside, Tysdale is the real deal. Yes, some poems have humour but not all. And there's lots of poignant ideas, emotion, and creative turns of phrase throughout this collection. Besides the fold-in angle, some of the poems also try more traditional forms. 

Monday, December 19, 2022

Reader's Diary #2061 - Adrija Joy: Coming Home to Mother

 Written by a child, "Coming Home to Mother" has a simple plot, but hints that Adrija Joy may have a writing career ahead of her.

It has a somber tone, not unlike Dickens, and just the right amount of details, the only thing left would be for the author to expand upon the tale. As it is, it leaves a very intriguing mystery. 

Monday, December 12, 2022

Reader's Diary #2060- Shreya Ganguly: The Christmas Party

 Unfortunately, Shreya Ganguly's short story "The Christmas Party" had two strikes against it for me and I was not able to overcome these to enjoy the story. 

About someone hoping for a Christmas party that never materializes, it's largely a domestic, old-fashioned kind of story, the kind that I've never really appreciated. To me they're just boring, though that's a personal preference and not necessary a critique.

The second issue, however, was the wordiness and word choice. It felt like a high school assignment where the teacher emphasized using a lot of adjectives and a thesaurus.

Monday, December 05, 2022

Reader's Diary #2059 - Edgar Calabia Samar: Renon-San

In Renon-San, a short story by Edgar Calabia Samar, a Filipino man living in Japan is surprised to be befriended by a Japanese man who can speak Tagalog. 

The Filipino guy is skeptical of the other's motives, but goes along with him regardless, slowly getting won over. There's a twist, that I won't give away.

Love the setting, tone, and voice in this story.

Monday, November 28, 2022

Reader's Diary #2058 - Matthew John Fletcher: Separation

 "Separation" by Matthew John Fletcher is a break-up story of sorts. But the humorous twist is that it's a man's shadow who's abandoned him. 

It doesn't delve into the physical how, the way say a sci-fi story might, but instead is a not so subtle analogy for a relationship where one half is taken for granted. 

Anyway, on top of the cleverness, I also appreciated that there was the possibility of a happy ending. 

Monday, November 21, 2022

Reader's Diary #2057 - Heather Santo: Blue Glass Dog

 Heather Santo's "Blue Glass Dog" is a lightly supernatural, pleasant story about overcoming grief and finding one's way.

It reminded me vaguely of Gerald's Game which I watched for the first time last night and was disappointed when she didn't wind up adopting the dog at the end.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Reader's Diary #2056 - Moira Cameron: Musings of a Northern Verbiculturalist

If you are a fan of old school, form poetry, Moira Cameron's Musings of a Northern Verbiculturalist might be a good fit for you, while also getting a glimpse into a Northern life.

Personally, I found it a bit uneven. Some I quite enjoyed, some I didn't. I certainly appreciated the honesty and the imagery in her words, but often I found the syntax to be hammered into a form (for the sake of a rhyme, most often) that while grammatically acceptable, felt very unnatural. Lots of classic poetry did that as well, so again, it may be your thing. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Reader's Diary #2055 - Chelsey Blair: Rose's Reflection

 I've been thinking of the multiverse lately. You know that idea that comics popularized, but some physicists suggest might even be possible, that there are versions of us in alternate universes that are slightly different. 

I've been focusing more on the sheer fun of the possibility from a movie/comic book perspective. What if say Doctor Strange had to battle an evil version of himself? But while all that's entertaining, some of the philosophical questions have been intriguing me lately. The idea that other "me"s out there have made all those decisions I've questioned whether or not I should have made. How did their lives turn out? 

Anyway, in Chelsey Blair's "Rose's Reflection" there's a strange, but intriguing premise in which mirrors have been banned and it turns out that the reflection is really another version of yourself. Even more bizarre, Rose seems to have developed a crush on hers and seems to have found a way to meet. 

Honestly, I was more enthralled by the premise than the follow-through, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Tuesday, November 08, 2022

Reader's Diary #2054 - Kate Beaton: Ducks


A few years back I read Sheila Watt-Cloutier's The Right to be Cold and one of the things that has stayed with me was the way she called out other climate change activists for pushing the polar bear as the mascot for their movement. Watt-Cloutier respects polar bears, to be clear, but she (rightfully) took issue with the idea that this is what would motivate people when there's a very real people angle right there in the way climate change is, and will, affect the Inuit. 

I found myself thinking of this a lot when reading Kate Beaton's Ducks and wondering when there'd ever be mention of the titular fowl. The book, in actuality, is about her 2 years working in the Alberta Oil Sands to pay off her student loans and especially the misogyny, sexual harassment, and assaults she and other women dealt with. There are other themes on the health (emotional and physical) of workers and the lip service (at best) paid by the companies. Still, as she notes briefly, it was the discovery of dead ducks that got the public outraged. 

Having worked my entire life in female dominated work, such stories always seem shocking but far removed to me. Like, I knew they existed, but still that it would be some blunt, so commonplace, is still headshaking and angering. But I think it was Beaton's personal approach, and even empathy to an extent, that really touched me. 

Monday, November 07, 2022

Reader's Diary #2053 - Kevin Brennan: The Tennis Pro

Coming of age stories are great, but the concept itself implies that once a person's adult personality is figured out, it's stagnant from there on out. Which of course ignores all the changes an adult continues to go through; such as retirement and what that does to a person's outlook.

In Kevin Brennan's "The Tennis Pro," the person retiring is the titular tennis pro and his identity is perhaps more intertwined into who he is than most of us experience with our own careers. Needless to say, it's taking its toll.

But the story itself is poignant with light touches of humour.

Monday, October 31, 2022

Reader's Diary #2052 - Venita Blackburn: Halloween

In "Halloween," Venita Blackburn does a fantastic job of calling out Halloween movies, first off by their setting but later for the horror. As she illustrates, in a very creepy, off-putting way, real life horror is usually more terrifying that fictional monsters and ghouls.

Monday, October 24, 2022

Reader's Diary #2051 - G.G. Andrew: The Halloween Hour

 I don't know the romance equivalent of a "cozy mystery" is, but surely G.G. Andrew's "The Halloween Hour" is a cozy romance.

Set at a Halloween party with a reluctant guest, I was suspecting a paranormal occurrence that didn't pan out, but it's still predictable in the romantic sense. Would someone find it too sugary? Maybe, but the characters are believable and likeable so I'm totally fine with that.

Monday, October 17, 2022

Reader's Diary #2050 - Daphne du Maurier: The Birds

 Not sure how I've never read anything by Daphne du Maurier before. Could have sworn I had until yesterday and couldn't find any record. Anyway, I quite enjoyed my first foray and will probably seek out more by her.

"The Birds" was the inspiration for Hitchcock's film of the same name, though except for the premise (birds have gone crazy and are attacking humans) and a seaside setting, there's very little else in common. Still I found it a delightful tale of unexplained horror. It could also serve as a warning for those not taking warnings seriously; a theme as relevant now as it was then.

Monday, October 10, 2022

Reader's Diary #2049 - Erik Grove: Costumes Required

 What an incredibly fun Halloween tale!

The first thing that drew me into Erik Grove's "Costumes Required," however, wasn't the plot but the authentic dialogue. I don't know that it's realistic to everyone, but holy shit, does he ever capture the conversational patterns of my wife and I.

That there's a cool, lightly creepy/mostly fun twist is just gravy. 

Wednesday, October 05, 2022

Reader's Diary #2048 - Various writers and authors: Marvel Voices: Identity

There's a scene in one of the stories in Marvel Voices: Identity, a collection of comics highlighting Marvel's Asian superheroes, in which the villainous Scarecrow whines that the Avengers aren't showing up to defeat him, adding, "I wasted all my rage-inducing pheromones on the damn B-team." He's referring to superhero's Silk and the Amadeus Cho version of the Hulk and, well, he's not exactly wrong is he?

And it's super frustrating because I've read collections of comics from both of those characters and I quite like them! But Marvel Comic's attempts are, in my opinion half-assed. If I was the editor, I'd kill off, retire, etc their legacy characters and keep those changes permanent. (It'll also be a far less bloated universe.) Until they do this, yes, it's going to be white Bruce Banner, white Peter Parker, Captain America, and so on who are the A-Team, the household names, while Silk and Amadeus Cho and the rest will be lesser known. 

But as this collection shows, they're solid characters! And yes, as all the contributing essayists state, their representation matters! But Marvel Comics needs to fully commit. So far Marvel Studios is looking far more promising in this regard.

Monday, October 03, 2022

Reader's Diary #2047 - Conrad Aiken: Mr. Arcularis

 I heard of Conrad Aiken's short story "Mr. Arcularis" in a Irish Times list called "The 10 Most Terrifying Short Stories Ever Written."

It's not terrifying.

I doubt anyone one feel otherwise. I suppose there's a certain discomfort in the idea of not knowing you're dead (this is a spoiler, but I think most readers will have figured this out long before the reveal) but terrifying is a stretch, at least the way this story is told.

It's fine, nonetheless, with a foggy melancholy for most of the time, but a certain peacefulness at the end.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Reader's Diary #2046 - Patti-Kay Hamilton: Trapline to Deadline

Trapline to Deadline
 is a brief memoir, a collection of vignettes really, by Patti-Kay Hamilton who recounts her time transitioning from trapper to CBC Radio reporter in the early 80s. 

One of the most memorable moments is when she recalls advice given to her by a former CBC manager, Bob Rhodes, who advised to imagine just speaking to one listener. It served her well over her years on the air, and I'd argue in her writing as well. 

These stories feel personal and the history she shares comes alive. Her voice is very warm, easy going, and magnetic. In one or two with more serious subject matter, I found it just a tad too light of a tone, but otherwise I was totally engaged with her recollections.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Reader's Diary #2045 - Ashlyn McKayla Ohm: After the Storm

 I don't, as a general rule, read Christian fiction (nor identify as Christian), but stumbled upon Ashlyn McKayla Ohm's Christian short story "After the Storm" and decided to give it a shot anyway. 

Religion aside, it's very well told story, with a great voice and strong imagery. I saw the ending coming from a mile away, but I still enjoyed the tale overall. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Reader's Diary #2044 - Various writers and artists: DC Pride 2021

Though I'm much more a fan of Marvel than DC Comics, where it comes to LGBTQ characters, I think most people acknowledge that DC Comics has historically done a better job. They tend to have more LGBT characters and started earlier. Still, they're far from perfect either. Many previous earlier examples exist where such characters were not shown positively and/or as crude stereotypes. In the Batman comics, it seems like every female character is bisexual or lesbian, but sometimes those examples seemed to have been primarily drawn and written for heterosexual men with lesbian fetishes. Still, as the world progresses slowly, so do the comics and this collection certainly celebrates and highlights that.

Unlike the similar Pride anthology by Marvel, the stories in this one feel less didactic and I so I prefer it. The stories were more engaging and told actual stories in which the characters by and large just happened to be queer, though admittedly everything is pretty low stakes. I liked hearing of some characters I hadn't heard of before, like Lobo's daughter Crush and Jess Chambers, a female Flash (I've often wondered why all the speedsters in comics seemed to be male) but I also was glad to see more recognizable names that are out: Batwoman, Harley Quinn, and Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern. Notably though, bisexual Wonder Woman was missing for some reason.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Reader's Diary #2043 - Eric Heidle: At Jackson Creek

 I love the word choice and scene painting in Eric Heidle's "At Jackson Creek." I didn't get all of it, but it's clear it's a world the author knows well and it felt authentic.

It also oozed mood, with melancholy and eventually a hint of danger. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Reader's Diary #2042- Chris Schweizer (writer), Joe Flood (illustrator): Pirates of the Caribbean Beyond Port Royal

One of the more fun details Watchmen was that in a world of superheroes, the most popular comic books were actually about pirates. I get the appeal of pirates and so a comic based on the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise seemed like a sure fire win.

I don't know that this one was groundbreaking or found a huge fan base, but it was fun enough.

I feel they captured the energy, humour, and essence of those tales and of Jack Sparrow. Sometimes that worked slightly against the comic as Sparrow can be a bit wordy and an overly talky panel throws off the balance. But only slightly.

Joe Flood's art complements the story well with loose linework and expressive characters.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Reader's Diary #2041 - Franz Kafka: Give It Up

 Franz Kafka's flash fiction "Give It Up" is an off-putting little story. It deals with a weird response to a simple question, but even more bizarre considering as it comes from someone in authority.

Still, Kafka has managed to establish a believable, otherwise mundane scene in a very short space.

Thursday, September 08, 2022

Reader's Diary #2040 - Natalie Meisner: Legislating Love The Everett Klippert Story

For those not in the know, Everett Klippert, the subject of Natalie Meisner's play Legislating Love was the last person in Canada charged for "gross indecency" after confessing to consensual homosexual relations in Pine Point, Northwest Territories. His conviction made national headlines, prompted then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau to state that "there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation" and led to homosexual acts between consenting adults finally being decriminalized. Unfortunately, however, Klippert still spent another two years in prison. 

As a bit of an aside, the summary on the back of the book refers to Klippert as "the last Canadian man jailed for simply being gay." When Klippert died, it should be noted, he was married to a woman. Could it have been a marriage of convenience? Absolutely. But while Klippert tended to avoid the spotlight and causes, he was also pretty honest about his same sex attraction, so he had to realize that his marriage to a woman didn't make people forget that. As I'm rather sensitive to bi-erasure, I'd like to throw out the possibility that he wasn't gay but bisexual. 

Nevertheless, I loved Meisner's play. Despite it being largely set in Calgary, I hope to see it performed in the NWT someday, given the importance of the subject matter and the connection to the territory. If it's ever done in Yellowknife, you can bet I'd be auditioning for the character named simply Handsome. He's full of life, poignant, and to me, the heart of the story. He's also hilarious as hell.

I wasn't sure at first about the frame story. Basically a university student named Maxine is researching Klippert's life; which sounds kind of weak as a premise. However, as the play dives into her life (she is a lesbian and dating a Metis woman named Tonya), we see the impact of Klippert and Handsome on her own perspective and the play becomes so much richer. Also, and perhaps the most fascinating aspect, Klippert is on stage throughout as a bit of a flashback scene, though he sometimes may react subtly to the present day happenings, providing powerful themes about history itself and how the present day works almost retroactively to affect the past.

Monday, September 05, 2022

Reader's Diary #2039 - Andrea Barton: His Frosty Companion

In her short story, "His Frosty Companion," Andrea Barton does an excellent job of capturing the beauty of the northern lights as well as instilling a creepy tone in a story that owes a lot of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart."

One small critique is that it's clearly set in winter and yet the birch trees are described as still having their leaves.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Reader's Diary #2038 - Robert Bowerman: Bear

 There's something kind of old-fashioned about Robert Bowerman's short story "Bear." It's not a criticism, and in fact, I found the traditionally straightforward narrative, the simple theme (more to a man than his size, or even his past deeds), to be quite cozy. 

This isn't to suggest there aren't any uncomfortable truths or dangerous images, as there surely are, but there's nothing particularly experimental in the writing and to be honest, I felt the story was stronger for it. I like creative storytelling sometimes, but I was feeling this one.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Reader's Diary #2037 - Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld (writers), Joshua Cassara (artist): Mycroft Holmes and the Apocalypse Handbook

Reading a book written by a celebrity is always a bit of a crap shoot. On the one hand, you know it has to be easier for them to get published; they have name recognition, but that doesn't mean they can necessarily write well. At least those in the arts have the benefit of a doubt that the book will at least be creative, but today I'm talking about Kareen Abdul-Jabbar the freaking basketball player.

However, I know his Mycroft Holmes novels are very respected and have quite a fan following, so clearly he's a man of many talents. I'm also happy to report that these stories make for great graphic novels as well. 

Mycroft Holmes and the Apocalypse Handbook is a fun, action-filled, adventure with hints of sex, humour, and steampunk. Like his more famous brother, Mycroft is also a super detective though that part doesn't work seamlessly. I certainly enjoyed seeing how observant Mycroft is, what a great reader of character, but often the clues were ones that were never revealed to us readers in the first place and my favourite detective stories are ones where we're invited to play along. Still, I enjoyed this book a lot overall.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Reader's Diary #2036 - Kate Harrad (editor): Claiming the B in LGBT / Illuminating the Bisexual Narrative

The third nonfiction book about bisexuality I've read in the past 2 months (the others being Lois Shearing's Bi The Way: The Bisexual Guide to Life and Julia Shaw's Bi: The Hidden Culture, History, and Science of Bisexuality), it's impossible for me not to compare the three.

While I enjoyed all three, there's a lot of understandable overlap and I think I'll take a break before reading another on the topic. Of the three, I'd argue that Claiming the B in LGBT: Illuminating the Bisexual Narrative is the most thorough. It's also got the highest page count, so that's not entirely surprising. With entire chapters on some intersectionality topics (Bisexual and Disabled, Bisexuals of Color), the others devoted less time. I would like to see a bisexuality book that addresses Indigenous bisexuals, but as these 3 books all came from the UK and had primarily a UK focus, it wasn't entirely shocking to not see them included. Claiming the B in LGBT also includes chapters on bisexuality across the lifespan, faith, allies, and activism. 

While the tone was largely casual and easy to read, it was perhaps more inconsistent than the other two books, likely as it was an edited anthology from contributors rather than written by a singular voice. Still, this wasn't an issue. 

Monday, August 22, 2022

Reader's Diary #2035 - Shih-Li Kow: Fried Rice

 The sci-fi element in Shih-Li Kow's flash fiction "Fried Rice" is pretty low key, but not irrelevant. It's about a robot that preps and cooks meals but cannot get it right according to the robot's owner who is trying to fried rice like that his wife used to make. 

Thematically though it's about finding beauty and love in imperfections. It's quite a charming story.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

The 16th Canadian Book Challenge

 I'm behind signing up by more than a month, but I'm in again! Check out the sign-up post here; it's not too late! 

Monday, August 15, 2022

Reader's Diary #2034 - Ann Cavlovic: Stan's House

 In Ann Cavlovic's short story "Stan's House" we see a woman named Sohki who is trying to convince the titular character to move out of his longtime home. His house is built on a floodplain, and as climate change has meant more and more flooding, the government really wants him to move.

I enjoyed the premise, but there were a few things I wasn't clear about in the story (a bit about carbon nanofibers seemed undeveloped, the ending was a bit vague). I think we're supposed to feel that Sohki and Stan wound up understanding one another a little better, but I wasn't really feeling it.

Friday, August 12, 2022

Reader's Diary #2033 - Various writers and artists: Marvel Voices Pride

There's an interview with former Marvel associate editor Chris Cooper in Marvel Voices: Pride in which he discusses when the superhero Northstar came out in 1992. While Cooper acknowledges that that DC Comics, as well as independent comics, had had openly gay characters before, it was still a huge deal. Northstar (who is Canadian) was also the first Marvel character to have a same-sex wedding. That  comic is one of many anthologized for this collection. Other stories involve other superheroes from the LGBTQIA+ spectrum that have appeared in Northstar's wake.

The better stories in the anthology are the ones that were taken from previously published comics of the 80's, 90's and onward. Even though they often hint at larger story arcs that were fleshed out over a few issues that obviously couldn't be included, these stories felt more organic. However, there are also a few shorts at the beginning of the collection written just for this project and while some are fine, letting the characters be gay, lesbian, bi, trans, and still telling a story, a few too many felt overly didactic. I agreed with the messages, but those were heavy handed. Fortunately, there were enough good ones as well as great essays from past LGBTQIA+ Marvel creators that made it worthwhile. I especially like the ones that discussed the subtexts in older Marvel comics, some intentional, some not, that hinted at characters being queer or promoted messages about love and acceptance.

Monday, August 08, 2022

Reader's Diary #2032- Mansi Shanburg: The Colourful Break-Up

 I loved the voice and dialogue (or rather withheld dialogue) in Mansi Shanburg's flash fiction "The Colourful Break-Up." 

It deals with a woman waiting for her girlfriend to show up, who she suspects (correctly) is planning to break up with her.

However, the narrator finds a way to keep her dignity in this moment, even managing to convince herself somewhat, that this is all ideal.

It's amusing and empowering, even if there's pain below the surface.

Thursday, August 04, 2022

Reader's Diary #2031 - Lois Shearing: Bi The Way

I suppose reading two books about bisexuality right after one another, it's only natural to compare them. And to be sure, Lois Shearing's Bi the Way: The Bisexual Guide to Life does have a lot in common with Julia Shaw's Bi: The Hidden Culture, History, and Science of Bisexuality. But just like no two bisexuals are exactly alike, nor are these.

Oddly, it's not that one is a guidebook and the other isn't. In fact, despite the subtitle, I'd hardly classify Lois Shearing's a guidebook at all. I suppose I was disappointed a little in that, but to be fair, it's not like there even could be any firm rules or prescriptions for being bi. Really, there's just a lot of background and context for bi's to consider, much of which is also covered in the aforementioned Shaw book. For instance, I've yet to encounter any unacceptance because I'm very new on the scene, but it was somewhat alarming to hear how many supposed LGBTQ groups aren't actually that accepting of bi people. I will approach cautiously!

My only other issue with Shearing's book is the constant references to what will come in later chapters (ex. "we'll discuss this in more depth in the next chapter"), or once you pass the halfway mark, references to what was already discussed (ex. "as we saw in chapter six). They just became tedious and distracting and I wished an editor had advised just to leave them out altogether. Otherwise, the writing is very accessible, friendly, and well-researched.

Like Shaw's book, it's pretty comprehensive, though I do look forward to reading a bisexuality book written specifically for men. 

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

Reader's Diary #2030 - Souvankham Thammavongsa: How to Pronounce Knife

Winner of, and nominated for, a bunch of literary awards, Souvankham Thammavongsa's short story collection How to Pronounce Knife was nowhere near as pretentious as I thought it might be.

It's downright funny at times and always entertaining, even though thematically there's a lot of darkness and pain. There are also these brief, beautifully poignant insights that snuck up on me.

It's mostly about immigrants, or 2nd generation Canadians, from Laos. Those cultural tidbits were fascinating and educational, but I was able to relate to the lower/middle class, blue-collar world. Some of the specifics were different, yet I grew up in that world of hard labour.

My favourite in the collection was "Randy Travis." Trying not to give anything away, never would I have predicted that someone becoming a great singer could be perceived as a tragedy.

Monday, August 01, 2022

Reader's Diary #2029 - Carrie Mackillop: Rainy Wedding

 "Rainy Wedding," by Carrie Mackillop, is a tragic tale, but not as you might expect due to a rained out wedding.

It's about a young dying boy whose mother visits him daily and tells him about a new year in the life he would have led. It's very creative, as is the level of detail the mother puts into her stories. Despite the obviously sad overtones, there's also a certain beauty.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Reader's Diary #2028- Matt Owens (writer) and Juann Cabal (artist): Elektra Always Bet on Red

I like Marvel's Elektra character. Still, I realize she's never exactly been a top-tier character. Getting her own limited series maybe was an attempt to push her more to the spotlight, or perhaps to test the waters if there was a demand. 

I don't know though that Matt Owens' Always Bet on Red made a convincing case. But I'll defend on that front by saying it was a fun series, but I don't think he was given enough access to better characters. 

If Elektra's not top-tier, her adversaries in Always Bet on Red are even less notable: Arcade, with an assist from Screwball. Just the mere mention of these and we know there aren't going to any real stakes. Elektra will escape unscathed and larger ramifications in the Marvel universe will be minimal. (There are suggestions at the end that Arcade was just creating a diversion for Kingpin, a much more impressive villain, and suggesting at least some larger picture, but I wonder if that was enough to make any readers care, coming as it did late into the run and thrown out as too much of an aside.)

Juann Cabal's art is pretty good. I especially liked his play with action across multiple panels.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Reader's Diary #2027 - Julia Shaw: Bi / The Hidden Culture, History, and Science of Bisexuality

I cannot praise Julia Shaw's Bi: The Hidden Culture, History, and Science of Bisexuality enough. It's well-researched, comprehensive, and yet told in a friendly, accessible way. I learned a great deal.

Covering a swath of bi topics from history, being closeted, bi erasure, political considerations, various forms of bisexual love, and more, it's a proud, inspiring, and thorough read. 

Her writing takes the stance that bi, is attraction (which has forms in and of itself) to the same and other genders (sort of how I view pansexuality and would probably use interchangeably, unless corrected otherwise). 

Perhaps more importantly, she dispels various myths about bisexuality by acknowledging there are many differences even within that community, but accepts and welcomes them all in a spirit of strength in numbers and ally-ship. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Reader's Diary #2026 - Mike Johnson (writer), Angel Hernandez (artist): Star Trek Green Lantern / The Spectrum War

While I'm a bit of a sucker for crossover comics, alas the silliness of the whole Green Lantern premise sabotaged my ability to enjoy the Star Trek/ Green Lantern crossover, The Spectrum War

It also didn't help that it was WAY too busy. All the Star Trek characters (from the Chris Pine as Captain Kirk era), including their rogues gallery, and all the Green Lantern characters, including their rogues gallery, was just simply too much. The story quickly became a convoluted mess.

Angel Hernandez's art is serviceable (I mean it looked like Chris Pine), but unfortunately he wasn't able to reign in any of the madness that was the story and the panels too became busy and overwhelming.

Monday, July 25, 2022

Reader's Diary #2035 - Stephen Crane: A Tent in Agony

 Plot-wise, I appreciate Stephen Crane's short story "A Tent in Agony." It's a surprisingly humorous tale about a bear attack on a campsite. 

However, some of the word choices are just bizarre, almost to the point where they don't make sense. At one point I stopped reading to see if it was just a bad translation. Nope, it was written in English. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Reader's Diary #2034 - John Einarson: Four Strong Winds

Ian and Sylvia Tyson's folk song "Four Strong Winds" is an undeniable Canadian classic. But I didn't know a lot more about them or their music before this book. Still, I've read many books about topics I didn't have great interest in before and often I've been surprisingly drawn in.

Not so much with Four Strong Winds, the biography of Ian and Sylvia Tyson. I learned a bit (their American success was news to me), even came to appreciate their musicianship. I listened to their albums as I read the book. Ultimately though, I found it to be a bit of a dull affair and it became a struggle to finish after a while. 

One odd annoyance? The constant references to their attractiveness. Good lord that was weird and grew old fast.

Monday, July 18, 2022

Reader's Diary #2033 - Drew Payne: Late One Night in September

In Drew Payne's flash fiction "Late One Night in September" we're introduced to a young man who's steeled himself to finally come out to his mother. The tension, the stress is palpable, and we root for him. There are hints at the struggle that's gotten him here, and we know his mother is religious. 

I wish I could say it had a happy ending, but the phone call to his mom goes even worse than he anticipated. It's crushing.

But as a story, it's very evocative with rich characterization. 

Monday, July 11, 2022

Reader's Diary #3022- Naomi Kanakia: Goodwill

 Naomi Kanakia's short story "Goodwill" is full of hilarious cynicism and is also written in the 2nd person, so needless to say, I enjoyed it immensely. 

In a nutshell, it's the life of a person who tries to pick a responsible, ethical career but always seems to wind up contributing to the very ideals they rally against. But I suppose, the point is that they never stop trying. Maybe it just takes everyone else to join in to make a difference.

It reads a bit more like a parable than a typical short story, but it's too amusing to fault for being didactic. 

Monday, July 04, 2022

Reader's Diary #3021 - Clifford Beal: Shooting the Breeze

 I'm not sure if Clifford Beal's "Shooting the Breeze" owes anything to Rear Window, but plot-wise it shares enough of a similarity that I saw the ending a mile away.

That said, it was still engaging and Beal's knack for voice and setting helped sell the piece. 

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Reader's Diary #3020 - Garth Ennis (writer), Darick Robertson and Peter Snejberg (artists): The Boys Omnibus Volume One

A huge fan of the tv series The Boys, I thought it was high time I checked out the source material. Usually I like to that in the opposite order. 

This time around, however, it's probably a blessing that I hadn't. Everything about the comic seems solely about shock. And to be sure, the tv show is shocking too. But wow, the show far surpasses it by giving the characters fully developed complex personalities. Plus the show explores themes of uncontrolled power, the corruption of power, and so on. The comic is a juvenile mess. Had I read it first, I'd not have bothered with the show.

Monday, June 27, 2022

Reader's Diary #3019 - Susan J. Liddle: Canada Day Confusion

Susan J. Liddle's short story "Canada Day Confusion" is wayyyy too didactic. It serves to highlight, in a style that seems aimed at younger readers, why most Canadians these days have complex and torn feelings about celebrating Canada Day. She covers the topic well, for sure, but it doesn't come across as an authentic story.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Reader's Diary #3018 - Zachary Phillips: Confess

 Zachary Phillips' short story "Confess" comes with a trigger warning. I get why it was necessary, but I can't help but wonder what the impact of the story would have been without it.

There's a Black Mirror episode where there's a young man who's being blackmailed and for most of the episode you feel sorry for him. Then a reveal at the end indicates that he's not as innocent as we first thought and the viewers must reconcile there previous sympathy against this new information. The result is a great philosophical struggle about justice. 

With "Confess" however, and pretty much knowing where it's going because of the trigger warning, it was hard to feel sympathy from the get-go. Super well-written though!

Monday, June 13, 2022

Reader's Diary #3017 - Genia Blum: Stench of the Reptile

Genia Blum's short story "Stench of the Reptile" is a fascinating story in it's use of lizard people as a metaphor. For what? I'm not entirely sure yet, but early indications suggest it's for "the other woman," a dehumanizing of women who sleep with other women's men, directing anger upon them rather than the men themselves. But it would take a few more reads to confirm and to decide whether or not the metaphor holds up under scrutiny. In the meantime, it's certainly an entertaining story.

Monday, June 06, 2022

Reader's Diary #3016 - Cora Sire: When Welcomed, I Bring Music

Taking the voice of a violin, Cora Sire's flash fiction "When Welcomed, I Bring Music" traces its journey through time and history, a lot of which was unpleasant.

It works as a lovely metaphor of the great cultures that immigrants bring to welcoming countries.

Monday, May 30, 2022

Reader's Diary #3015 - James Clark - Waterloo Sunrise

 With a vividly described setting, it hardly feels like the narrator in James Clark's "Waterloo Sunrise" is walking home alone but rather we're walking with her. After a night out on the town, Fay regrettably faces a long, damp walk home alone.

A chance encounter makes her understandably nervous, but fortunately it turns out okay. Then a very improbably things happens that makes her question whether or not fate or karma came into play.