Episode #1

I’ve decided I’m going to do a comics and graphic novel round up series. I’ll do short(ish) reviews. In terms of format, I’m going to start with 5 reviews each post. This leaves the frequency wide open since some months I may read 5 or 10 or 2. Let’s try and see where it leads! (Full disclosure: I don’t buy single issues. Just not for me.  So, the pull list title is a blatant lie because I don’t have one at my local comic shop. Hah.) So far in May I have read:

5183prcshnl-_sy344_bo1204203200_The Punisher Volume 1: Welcome Back, Frank by Garth Ennis, Steve Dillon, and Jimmy Palmiotti

This is my first dive into Marvel’s Punisher backlist. Thankfully, one of my good friends has been a huge fan of Frank Castle for a very long time so he picked out the best place for me to start. Otherwise I probably would have panicked at the thought of sifting through the huge catalogue and would never have read anything. Thanks, L! So, where did my interest in The Punisher come from? One word: Daredevil. More specifically, the new season 2 of Daredevil on Netflix because, good lord, Frank Castle was the best part of this season. I’ve heard about The Punisher and basically known his backstory for years (because you can’t be friends with L and not know it tbh) but his comics never made to the top of my list to read. BOY, THINGS SURE CHANGED.  I’ve gotta say, this comic was exactly how I pictured Frank getting stuff done. Alone, for the most part, and with a bloody, single-minded purpose. I also love the three other vigilantes you meet here (oh god…let’s see if I can remember their names because I’ve already returned this to my friend: Payback, The Holy, and…um…some-uppity-rich guy-who-is gung-ho-for-class-based-genocide). They are just wonderfully over-the-top and hilarious.  The main villain is the matriarch of mob clan (because, of course) and is not even slightly intimidating so they could have definitely worked on her a bit more and cut a little of the other fat (the detective storyline was a little lackluster for me). All in all, a good first introduction to Frank and solid 3.5 stars. This was fun.

amulet-7-front-cover_almost-finalAmulet Book 7: Firelight by Kazu Kibuishi

Can we all stop to appreciate Kazu Kibuishi’s amazing art here? *gazes in awe* Man, these are wonderfully illustrated graphic novels. These are middle-grade so don’t expect incredibly complicated character portraits here but the plot is fun and somewhat dark and creepy. Actually, the more I think about this series it is pretty grimdark for the middle-grade set. Which is refreshing. I work in a children’s library and far too often people (i.e authors and parents) take for granted what kids can handle. Especially in the middle grade age range. Every kid is different, for sure, but they’re resilient as shit and willing to be challenged. This series is insanely popular with kids. Our poor library copies are in dire straits and are in constant need of tape and glue.

*POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHOY*

Amulet follows Emily, her brother Navin and their mother as the move to her grandfather’s house after a family tragedy. Except something is going on in the basement. Or something is in the basement. Or somewhere is in the basement. You get it. Magic ensues. This is the 7th installment so I don’t want to give too much away plot-wise but suffice it say things have gotten much more difficult for Emily and she’s giving into the temptations of her new amulet. Which isn’t good. This was step up for me from the 6th volume which…to be honest…I can’t remember much about. So, I guess that tells you something? There are a couple other middle grade comics that I’m much more on board with (Cleopatra in Space anyone?) but this once is enjoyable as well. My main complaint is a lack of development for characters besides Emily. No one else really grabs me.  3/5 stars.

 

15791586Fables Volume 18: Cubs in Toyland, by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, and Gene Ha

I’m going to miss this series when I get to the end…and I am so, so close to the end. I’ve been collecting these over the past year or so very slowly (at $20 a pop, cheap they are not) and feel pretty attached to the characters at this point. As you may have guessed from the title, we are following fabled characters from fairy-tales (think Snow White, The Big Bad Wolf, Cinderella, Prince Charming etc.,) who live in an enclave called Fabletown in NY. They have escaped their homelands because of some ominous overlord-like guy called the Adversary. Plot starts.

*POSSIBLE SPOILERS PEOPLE*

Cut to volume 18 and the cubs have grown up! And are doing really creepy or really noble things! Therese is a little shit! Winter is cool but that flash-forward to her future was uncomfortably sexed up! Dare! Oh, Dare! Grown-up Ambrose! At this point, I’m just shouting random names. This evil island of misfit toys vibe they are running with here is incredibly creepy to me as someone who, to this day, is obsessed with Burl Ives’ Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. It’s like a beloved childhood drama made evil. *shudders* Also, I’m having flashbacks to Slappy from Goosebumps. Not good. Definitely terrifying. Good job, creators. Usually I find artist changes really distracting but I really enjoyed The Destiny Game which was a two-parter and the last two issues in this collection. I love any flashback to Bigby Wolf in the homelands so it didn’t have to try that hard.

The biggest issue I have with the current arc (not this volume in particular) is the set-up for the new villain, Ms. Douglas. I just…don’t care? Mister Dark exuded evil. The Adversary was shrouded in such mystery and the pay-off was worth it. But Ms. Douglas…needs work. It’s a shame because I am ready and here for a female villain to fuck shit up but I wish she was a little more developed. I remember Nurse Spratt from earlier in the comics but she never made a huge impression on me and maybe that was the point? I dunno. When I finish them all and do another read through with less time in between each volume it may make a huge difference.  That being said there is something about a formerly “ugly” character getting a makeover and deciding to kill all of the “pretty” people who ignored her just doesn’t sit well with me. Why does that have to be the central motivation behind the major female villain? Ugh. It seems like low-hanging fruit.

I think I gave this a 4/5 stars on good reads, maybe more of a 3.75 with a little bump up because the creepiness of the island really worked for me and I really enjoyed the guest issues in this volume (and also because I can’t figure out half-stars on goodreads).

28762820Rat Queens Volume Three: Demons, by Kurtis J. Wiebe, Tess Fowler, Tamra Bonvillain, Ed Brisson

Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery was the high-water mark for this series and unfortunately the successive volumes haven’t lived up to that first glorious introduction. There’s less banter and not-giving-a-fuck-attitude in this but that’s a product of some fairly serious shit going down. So, maybe I’m just nostalgic for the first book and its easier problems. The artist has changed since the last volume (for completely understandable reasons – he’s a wife-beater) but I’m not going to pretend like that wasn’t a hump I had to get over. Artistic style changes always throw me somewhat. *shrugs*

*SPOILERS*

I was super in to the idea of a magical university plot line because…uh..duh..magical university, people. Dee, Betty, and Violet didn’t have all that much to do at the university and the central plot was driven forward by Hannah and some nefarious university chancellors and a demon-lord. There is some ninja weirdness happening with Betty and Dee’s overbearing brother is in town but that’s about it for the other three. Hopefully, they get a little more action then sledding mishaps (though the mishap was a dragon so…).

Ending this issue Hannah has gone completely AWOL with the demon-powered magic so obviously there’s conflict within the group – I just can’t help but feel it could have been handled a bit better and fleshed out a bit more prior to the final blowout. I’m gonna re-read this entire series and see if I can find instances of Dee and Hannah butting heads and maybe developing all of this a bit more (I feel like there were?). Anyway, the tonal shift is major in this volume and I can see it being a problem for a lot of people. It’s no longer the Rat Queens saying fuck everybody else but conflict arising from some very personal and internal sources. Say good-bye to simple dungeon-crawls, ladies! Shit’s getting serious! 3/5 stars.

 

25761329Lumberjanes Volume 3: A Terrible Plan, by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Carolyn Nowak and Maarta Laiho

Everything about this series is adorable. You follow a squad of girls at summer camp who solve mysteries in the woods while being awesome friends. This is kinda like the younger, less violent version of Rat Queens; appropriate for teens or those allergic to cursing! Plus, it’s so cute! And the art! Just look at it! I don’t have a heck of a lot to say here other than I love this series, I love these characters, and I continue to love them. Once again though, artist changes. They always throw me, man.  4/5 stars.

The Remains of the Day

God, this book. *hands up emoji* 

I have owned this book for about a year now and it has been in the back of my mind, on my shelf, a little talisman, just sitting there for the perfect moment. I knew I would love this book. Have you ever had that experience where you here about a book (or just…anything really) described from different sources around the same time leading to wonderful serendipity? You think  Yeah, I will love this…without a doubt and you get excited about falling in love with a book again because that’s the best feeling so you buy it immediately and then decide  wait…I’m going to save this for the perfect time without really knowing when that time will be. I picked this for book club this month and it was the perfect time. *ecstatic sigh*

This book was equal parts enchanting and sad and hopeful and a tragedy. I am still working through my feelings on this one but I think, in the end, it is a tragic-comedy and moral lesson all wrapped into one incredibly easily read package. The prose is so easy to read despite the whole narration coming from a mid-century English butler who speaks in King’s English on steroids. But, despite that, you fall into the rhythm easily. It becomes second nature. Before you know it you have read the whole book in this heightened upper-crust accent and it’s over; a beautiful reflection of the butler’s own life lived in an unexamined fervor of loyalty to his master. The utter waste of Mr. Stevens’ life lived wholly in service to another is always present, always at the forefront, but never really considered by Mr. Stevens himself (at least until the end). All of his introspection is reserved for analyzing his line of work (butlerhood is totally a word, right?) in long ruminations on cultivating proper the dignity present in all but the best butlers when he could have been better served  analyzing whether this life and career was worth the total commitment required. It’s just all so heartbreaking and beautiful.

 

I’m going to savor this one for a while before a pick up another Kazuo Ishiguro but I felt like running out and buying something else written by him immediately. I don’t really know what to read next from his backlist (Never Let Me Go is my first instinct) but I want to wait to give myself some breathing room. I don’t want to fall into the trap of incredibly unrealistic expectations. Which is hard because this was a solid 5/5 for me. God, this book.

-P

Genrethon Update and Quick Reviews

So, I would say Genrethon was a successful readathon for me. I did finish 3 books and started Caliban’s War (which, in hindsight, was an overly optimistic addition to the list). Now is the time to wrap them up and tell you what I thought of each! Onwards!

1)The Golden Specific, by S. E Grove.

I won’t get super into the details of this one since it is a the second in what is going to be a trilogy (as far as I can tell?). This was a solid follow-up to The Glass Sentence but I don’t know if it was just the headspace I was in while reading, but I did end up getting slightly confused with some of the explanations of the ages described in the book. Perhaps they could have used more development or I could have used more sleep but they just didn’t click with me. The world-building itself is super cool with some wonderful character building as well. 3/5 stars

2)Snapshots of a Girl, by Belden Sezen

God, this graphic novel was a treat. Besides viewing the author’s journey of coming to realize she is a lesbian (which is interesting and wonderful enough) it really shed some light on a very specific time and place that I wasn’t familiar with while delving into Turkish family dynamics. The artwork was also on point. 3.5/5

3)Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns), by Mindy Kaling

I am both very glad I read this book and also annoyed that I read it during a readathon. I loved it. I think if you enjoy Mindy Kaling’s work (on The Office or The Mindy Project) you’ll love this just as much…the humour will be very familiar. Though I really did love this read it immediately sent me into a tailspin of The Mindy Project binge-watching. So, there’s that. I guess she got me to consume her other works (again) so good job Mindy Kaling! You do fine work, girl! 4/5

4)Which leads to Caliban’s War. Which I have started. However (and this is totally not my fault as mentioned above) t.v got in the way. BIG TIME. Oh, Netflix, how do I quit you?

 

 

In which I pop my readathon cherry…

I have never participated in a readathon. I have been a lurker in the online bookternet for quite some time and always loved the idea of them. Everyone who participates seems to have fun and gain lots of motivation, so I think that now that I have entered the booktosphere officially it’s time to do one myself! This week, running from April 10-17th the Genrethon is a-go. I came across it on MercysBookishMusings (one of my favourite booktubers) who everyone one should check out if you haven’t already. She has also provided links to the original creators in the description bar if you would like to check out their channels. The guidelines seem fairly simple and easy-breezy which is great for a first-timer like me: pick 3 books (these can be books your are already reading) from 3 different genres to read within the time period. So, here is my tbr for the coming week:

 

1) The Golden Specific, by S.E Grove. Genre: Middle-grade fantasy

I am already reading this and currently 43% through (so Goodreads tells me) so I hope to finish this one up by the library due date which is Tuesday, April 12th. It’s the second in a middle-grade fantasy series following Sophia Tims. I won’t go too much into the plot of this novel (second book and all) but the world in this series is fabulous. Basically, the Great Disruption triggered some weird time-space woohoo and different regions of the world now exist in varying time periods. So, the eastern seaboard of the U.S, in this novel called New Occident, experience the disruption in the late 19th century. Areas of Europe exist in the middle ages.  Modern day Canada is a prehistoric ice age. Cool stuff.

 

2) Snapshots of a Girl, by Beldan Sezen. Genre: Graphic memoir

This is also a library checkout that I need to get through before the due date. Sezen illustrates her coming of age story and coming out as a lesbian to her Islamic family. The blurb tells me the author is from Germany and the daughter of Turkish immigrants. Just flicking through this one I love the art style; done in black and white the art is a very “doodling” sort-of style (I clearly have no idea how to describe art). I love memoirs and am super interested in anything dealing with intersection of Western and Islamic culture so this is totes in my wheelhouse (HAH. SEE WHAT I DID THERE?).

 

3) Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), by Mindy Kaling. Genre: Humour, Essays

I have owned this book over a year. IT IS TIME TO READ THIS MOTHEREFFER. I have no idea why it has taken me so long? I enjoy all of Mindy Kaling’s work that I have seen and super enjoy all of these funny-memoirs-by-comedians that have flourished lately so…I dunno, guys. I just keep not reading it. Time to fix this.

 

4) Caliban’s War, by James S.A Corey.  Genre: Science fiction

YES. This will probably be the first thing I start, though I should leave it for last just so I actually read the others and don’t binge on to the next in the series. Will my will power hold out or will I once again succumb to instant gratification? ONLY TIME WILL TELL.

NYT By the Book Tag

I’m gonna start nice and easy with a tag that’s been making the rounds on booktube recently. Based on the New York Times series in which writers get asked a set round of questions, these are essentially just those questions but more generalized (for us less interesting folk who won’t ever be personally interviewed by the NYT). I think. I haven’t investigated too closely tbh. I have read exactly one (Gwyneth Paltrow’s -be prepared to be gooped) and that is pretty similar. I’m not positive who started this tag but I most recently saw it on climbthestack’s youtube channel so I’ll give you that link if you wanna do the tough internet detective work of hunting the primary source down. Clearly, opening another tab with google is well beyond the limits of my laziness at the moment. Onwards to the tag, sweet readers!

 

Questions
1. What book is on your nightstand now?

The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm and translated by Jack Zipes. This is the only (or so Zipes tells me) translation of the first edition of the Brothers Grimm well-known fairy tales. Most people are familiar with the much later and heavily edited seventh edition which has toned down a lot of the violence and upped the Christian morality themes. I haven’t read the more popular edition but I can already see where some Christian editing would take place. Some of this shit is straight up nightmare fuel.

2.What was the last truly great book that you read?

Oh-this is difficult. The last thing I read that left with that wonderful, tingling satisfied feeling of “oh I could go right back to page one and start again immediately” wasn’t a book, per se. It was a graphic novel called The Encyclopedia of Early Earth, by Isabel Greenberg. It’s the story of two people who fall in love, one from the North Pole and the other from the South Pole, but are polar opposites -literally. They can’t get close to one another because of some weird magnetic force (you find out why). Anyway, it’s about them finding each other but more a collection of foundation myths and legends from throughout the Early Earth. Gah -so wonderful.

  1. If you could meet any writer – dead or alive – who would it be? And what would you want to know?

Um. Well. I’m not really that interested in meeting writers, or any other creators I love to be completely honest. I wouldn’t really want to ask much other to to acknowledge that I enjoy their work so I feel this would be a boring experience for us both. Maybe if we could get slightly tipsy on cheap wine? But ok-if I had to chose someone let it be J.K Rowling. And I would ask her what my patronus would be. And to sketch out a brief plot/outline of the Four Founders of Hogwarts….I would make a very real and very thorough list.

  1. What books might we be surprised to find on your shelves?

Well, since I haven’t gotten in-depth about my reading life probably quite a lot? Honestly, you shouldn’t be surprised to find much on my shelves. Pretty much every genre is represented by one book, at least. Maybe you should be surprised by how long that collection of dead batteries has been sitting there and wonder when the hell I will get around to throwing them out?

  1. How do you organize your personal library?

By genre, mostly. Then there are the weird arbitrary categories I have come up with as well. In order, there are: graphic novels and comics, fantasy, sci-fi, young adult, children’s lit, horror, big buzzy bestsellers (think Dan Brown, Steig Larson, etc), local authors, classics, lit fiction by women, lit fiction by men, biographies/autobiographies, historical non-fiction, science non-fiction, and then my ancient lit and ancient non-fiction section (I did a Classics degree). Some of these are jumbled together in weird ways that make my eyelids twitch and must be fixed. *eyelid twitches*

  1. What book have you always meant to read and haven’t gotten around to yet? Anything you feel embarrassed never to have read?

Do you have an hour? Hah. The 3 that come immediately to mind are: The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas. The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguru. The Crippled God, by Steven Erickson. I keep meaning to read all three and it keeps not happening. However, The Remains of the Day is my irl book club pick so I’ll be reading it this month. Progress! Take that, tbr!

No. I am not embarrassed by anything that I have not read. Age has taken care of that, for the most part.

  1. Disappointing, overrated, just not good: what book did you feel you were supposed to like but didnt? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?

On the Road, by Jack Kerouac. I read it at the perfect age too, like 18-19? But no, I hate everyone in it. Look, I can do very flawed characters to an extent but these guys were just…asshats. Even 19 year-old-me had issues with them. Good job, 19-year-old-me.

Last book I put down without finishing was Luckiest Girl Alive, by Jessica Knoll. I can do me some teenage assholes (I was one once!) being whiny and cynical about life but apparently I have a limit and this is it. DNF’ed 5 pages in.

You’ll notice I don’t like assholes. I find it hard to read about them, especially from their pov, unless the writing is great and they are still very well-developed. Give me a reason for their behavior and I’ll buy it if it’s done well. But both of these books just didn’t jive with me. And that’s ok. Ah well. To each their own.

  1. What kinds of stories are you drawn to? Any you stay clear of?

I’m a giant fantasy fan, so I guess that means I’m drawn to plot-driven, giant and well-built worlds. But! there needs to be some solid character development to make a fantasy book great. Sometimes they lack this. I can get by without if that’s what I’m in the mood for, however. Escapism is a big reason I read so the books that tend toward the emotionally heavy are interspersed between easier reads. I got emotions my friends, and they are heavily influenced by what I read.

I tend to steer clear of super intense horror unless I’m really in the mood. As well as anything with sexual abuse and suicide. I need an emotional gauntlet of armor before a read about either.

  1. If you could require thePrime Minister to read one book, what would it be?

Hey-o fellow Canadians! Maybe, just something from my neck of the woods. Let’s go with A Colony of Unrequited Dreams, by Wayne Johnston. Or February, by Lisa Moore. Oh! Or Death on the Ice: The Great Newfoundland Sealing Disaster of 1914, by Cassie Brown.

I’m sure he would read all three. He seems like a rad guy.

  1. What do you plan to read next?

I’ll be starting Caliban’s War, by James S.A Corey so I CAN FINALLY START WATCHING THE EXPANSE.*muppet arms*

In which I start a blog…

This blog is probably not going to have an overtly unifying theme. I mean, it’s obviously going to be about crap I give a crap about (mostly books) and feel I have some actual opinions on (again, books). That being said, I will talk about other things that are in my wheelhouse (get it?!) such as, but not limited to: boardgames, rpgs, video games, movies, TV, dogs, kittens, food, and books. (Did I mention books?)

At this point I’m just making a list of random stuff I like so I should probably stop now. I realize that I’m working on the admittedly radical assumption that someday someone may read this -or not. And that is ok too. In any case, thank you for stopping by (even if you are me re-reading my own words *Hi me!*) and I hope you’re not too turned off by my confused ramblings.

Yours in rambling,

-P