Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Friday, August 30, 2013

Talkin' Comics Part Deux: LGBT Characters

I have reviewed some awesome comics on this blog over the past few months. Two of them have had LGBT characters (i.e. Young Avengers and Batwoman). Representation is important. You want to read about characters that you have something in common with and that connection makes them memorable.

I found this video today with two people who have way more knowledge on LGBT characters in comics than I do. Their enthusiasm and hope for the future of mainstream comics is so awesome to see. I learned a lot from watching this video and I hope you will too.

Unfortunately, this video only focuses on superhero comics. It also does not give many suggestions for comics outside what the two hosts discuss. Despite these two points, I think the video is important because it communicates a lot about the changes that mainstream comics are going through and the difficulties they are facing. They don't cover everything but this video is still a great introduction to the topic.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Night Time Smoke

 Saga written by  Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Fiona Staples: Despite a never ending war, two soldiers fighting on opposite sides meet and fall in love.  Unfortunately, the rest of the galaxy isn't happy for them.

I have been wanting to pick up this comic for ages because of all the hype surrounding it.  I was also a little wary of it for that same reason so I did not read it until the library got volume one.

I read volume one in a night, returned it to the library and then promptly went out and bought volume one and two.  Safe to say it lives up to the hype.  Every little bit of it.

This series is funny, heartbreaking, scary and at its core, about family.  Not conventional families but about people coming together and finding reasons to stay and really care about one another. 

The characters are also a major draw for this comic because the ones we meet often are so incredible.  A lot of the time, I pick up one character and love them.  Saga sort of changed that because I am interested in so many of them and their stories, even the ones I am supposed to dislike.  

However, I recommend this comic to individuals over the age of 18 because there are a lot of mature themes in this comic not suitable for anyone below that age.  

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Talkin' Comics

I know most of you come to this blog seeking information on young adult novels but my greatest hope is that you leave this tiny spot in the web universe with ideas of something new to read.  This means branching out and discovering things you never even thought about reading.

I've been talking a lot about comic books the last few months  and some of you may be feeling slightly interested but completely lost and intimidated.

Where do you start when you've never read comics before? I'm about to answer that question with a well timed video.

Amy Dallen has made this incredibly insightful video about "where to begin" with comics and it is seriously helpful.  I wish this video had been around when I had started reading comics. Check it out and don't be afraid to dive into something new.

UPDATE: A reading list for some Marvel characters featured in the films and show: Thor, Captain America, Hulk, Iron Man, Agent Carter, Daredevil, the Avengers team, etc.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

And Tango Makes Three

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell.  Illustrated by Henry Cole: At the Central Park Zoo, there is a penguin family unlike any other.

I know the controversy surrounding this book very well.  I have heard about it from colleagues at school and I have read some of its reviews. Some of my classmates work in bookstores and have told me stories where they are not allowed to keep this book on the shelves because people get offended by it. The reviews, I had to stop reading those because the clear prejudice and blatant homophobia was too much to bear.  

I really love this book.  The story is so well written and full of warmth that you really cannot help it. I believe this book highlights the fact that there are many forms of family and that no one definition is fitting. 

This book focuses on the same-sex penguin couple Roy and Silo located at the Central Park Zoo. It uses their story to introduce the topic of same-sex couples and their adoption of children to young readers.  I think the book handles this beautifully.  It also shows just how amazing these two fathers are when it comes to caring for their adopted child.  They work together to take care of the egg and when Tango is finally born, they teach him how to do what penguins do (i.e. swim).

If anything, this story shows just how not different same-sex couples with children are.  They, like single parent family units and heterosexual family units, want what is best for the child.  

This story is not really about the penguins at all.  At its core, it is about family and about raising a child with love.  Why shouldn't family units of all forms be able to do something so basic as that?

"That very night in Max's room a forest grew..."

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak:  Max makes some trouble and when his mother gets mad at him, he travels to the land of the wild things.

I love this book and I think every child should see it.  Not only is Maurice Sendak's art incredible but the story he wrote is timeless.  It is an important book too because it is unique.  A lot of children's picture books present a child character that is cute and always sweet and never difficult.  This child does not exist.  

Children, like adults, change and feel.  It is natural for them to show anger, be cruel and cause trouble.  Where the Wild Things Are shows a child character who is all of the above.  I think this is important because it breaks down those stereotypes surrounding children and childhood.  This is  definitely a book children will relate to.

In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak: Mickey falls a long way and into the Night Kitchen where three bakers are baking a cake.

I know the controversy surrounding this book is in relation to a naked child being depicted through the artwork, but I cannot understand why it causes so much discomfort.  It is a child in their birthday suit. I remember having a little cousin of 3 years of age who liked nothing more than to take off his clothes and run around giggling. He usually did this at family functions. He thought the clothes were restricting him and so he took them off to feel more comfortable. Let's remember that this is Mickey's dream and in this world he wants to be free from the frustrations of the waking world.  

I firmly believe that the nudity is innocent and has no gross connotations attached to it.  That is why I cannot comprehend why some people are so freaked out by it.

Other complaints have been that the three chefs are creepy.  They are a bit.  I admit this.  But I also think they do not mean or intend to eat Mickey and bake him into the cake.  They do not notice him in their routine.  In fact, their eyes are closed as they stir the bowl. Once you realize this, the creepy factor sort of fizzles out.

I like this book and its oddities make it unique and different.  I also think that in the end, this book is about a boy's dream about cake. And while I do like it, I am not as attached to it as I am with Where the Wild Things Are. 

Of course, not everyone will agree.  A lot of people will come away from reading this review and never want to give this book a chance. It is my hope that those same people take a look at themselves and ask why the naked image of a child (a simplified one) disturbs them so much.

Here is a great animated interview with Maurice Sendak, which I think deserves a watch.  The man was great and a true treasure and he is missed.  It would have been his 85th birthday just this passed June.

Title source:

Sendak, M. (1963). Where the Wild Things Are. New York, NY: HarperCollins Children's Books.

Monday, July 8, 2013

"Adults follow paths. Children explore."

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman:  A man in his 40s returns to the neighborhood he lived in when he was a child and starts to remember something and someone important.

He met her when he was 7-years-old at the end of the lane.  She showed him a pond on her farm and told him it was an ocean.

If you follow me on twitter, you know that I love Neil Gaiman.  I talk about him and his books often. You are probably thinking that because of that I could not be objective in reading this novel and preparing a review.  Au contraire mon frere.   

This is the first novel he has written in some time so I was wary of it.  I went into this with no expectations.  I had a 50/50 chance of either liking it or disliking it.  

The end result of my reading was positive. When I read the first few chapters, something struck me right away.  This novel had the same feel as Gaiman's other novels.  A spark of something that is so intrinsically his could be found in the writing, and it was nice to see that that had not changed. This leads me to my first point of like.

The descriptions of events, people, thoughts and feelings were amazing.  Through careful language, Gaiman builds up an image for you that is incredible.  The flea's various descriptions were pretty awesome so much so that I felt like I knew what it sounded like. The scary moments, of which there are a good few, were truly terrifying and it is all thanks to the way it was written.  It was also interesting that what scared me was a mix of the human and the fantastic.  

I really liked the boy character and the man he grew up to be.  It was interesting to sort of see them side by side continually throughout the book.   In this novel you get to hear the boy's voice come out but also see the introspection added to an event by the adult version of him.  A lot of Gaiman's ideas about childhood and adulthood are interesting and he definitely tackles them here.  A lot of people won't agree with him, but I think there is some uncomfortable truth to what he presents.

The book's pacing is great.  It was not slow or bogged down with filler or fluff.  It is the perfect length.  It tells as much as it needs to and not much more.

I do not quite know how to label this book.  I think it has a lot to offer for dual audiences (children and adult) but there are some things that make it more of a book for older audiences.  

I have heard the term "fairy tale" attached to this novel but is it one?  A fairy tale straddles the line between folk tale (stories passed by word of mouth) and the literary tale (something written by an author) (Hallet & Karasek, 2009, p. 18).  Fairy tales are a mix of old and new (Hallet & Karasek, 2009, p. 18).

This is what I was taught so it would be interesting to see why this story is being labelled as a fairy tale when I cannot see the influences of any earlier folk tales.  This is just me, of course.  Maybe others have seen the nods to older stories that I have completely missed.  Or maybe the definition of the fairy tale has evolved without my notice. Either way, I welcome discussion.

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I have included a little video of Mr. Gaiman reading a little bit from this book.  Hearing him read is exciting and an experience all on its own so do check it out.

If you would like to read another review with much more authority and weight than I carry, here's the review by Benjamin Percy at The New York Times.

Gaiman, N. (2013). The Ocean at the End of the Lane. New York, NY: William Morrow.

Hallet, M. & Karasek, B. (Eds.). (2009). Folk & Fairy Tales. Peterborough, ONT: Broadview Press.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

"No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy, would have supposed her born to be an heroine."

Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale: Charlotte Kinder is pretty sure she's forgotten how to relax and have fun. Being a divorced single mom with her own business, she doesn't have time for it.

But with the encouragement from friends and her children, she finally takes a vacation.  At Pembrook Park, she can finally live out her Jane Austen inspired fantasies but something isn't right.

Charlotte thinks something sinister is afoot and she cannot tell if it is real or all an act.  This was supposed to be just a mindless vacation in Austenland but now it's turning into a real life murder mystery.

I enjoyed this novel somewhat.  I know that sounds ominous but while it was an okay read, I found myself absolutely frustrated with this novel at times.  It was not the good kind of frustration either.

I loved the main character, Charlotte.  At first you're convinced that she's just imagining the mystery surrounding her visit at Pembrook Park but she turns out to be right all along.  I also liked how this adventure helped her become stronger and more confident in herself.  After her divorce, there was a lot of sadness and her insecurities reared their ugly heads so it was great to see her triumph over them.  

This novel even includes a nod to the first novel, Austenland, which I thought was nice.  There are some familiar faces and even a mention to characters that are no longer part of the story.  

What I did not appreciate in this novel was the fact that it was so slow.  It took a long time to work up to the actual mystery in Pembrook Park and even then it was overshadowed by the humor.  It completely killed any chance this book had at making the-thing-readers-didn't-know intriguing.  It just didn't hold my interest at all.

And the romance!  The romance was so...not something I saw coming.  It didn't feel romantic at all really. It was quiet and I actually thought they were going to end up good friends rather than in a relationship.  I've seen more love and tension in a classic than I did in this novel.

At the end of the book, I was perplexed as to what this book was supposed to be or what it was trying to accomplish.

Title source:
Austen, J. (2006).  Northanger Abbey. New York, NY:  Knopf Publishing.

"Anyone can die. It's living that requires courage."

Rurouni Kenshin by Nobuhiro Watsuki:  

Himura Kenshin was an assassin during a time of revolution that saw the current power crushed and replaced.  The Meiji era is a time of peace and Kenshin has left his fighting days behind him.

Now a wandering swordsman, he looks to fight for those who cannot protect themselves.

I have loved this series ever since I was thirteen years old.  I watched the anime and then picked up the books when I saw them at the library.

The story in Rurouni Kenshin is interesting because it harks back to a historical period in Japan's history and introduces it through its main character, Kenshin.  Along the way we see his struggles to find a place within society as well as build a new life for himself.  It has a lot of action and the panels really come alive through the well crafted art.

It also helps that the supporting characters like Kaoru, Sanosuke, Yahiko and Megumi are great and help expand the story.  There is also a bit of romance and a lot of humor to this series, which made it certainly memorable for me.  It has a lot of heart and it has been a serious treasure for me since I was  a kid.

A warning though to readers, there is a lot of violence depicted in the pages of Rurouni Kenshin so if you're a little squeamish or you dislike violence then this is not the manga for you.  I recommend this manga for older teens around the age of 17. 

Novels are not the only things being adapted to film but also manga.  Rurouni Kenshin was recently made into a film and two sequels have already been announced.

The only problem? There has not been any news on licensing the DVD for a North American release.  Not to say that we haven't had various chances to see it since there have been screenings of the film at various film and cultural festivals.  I tried to make the one in my city but couldn't so my one chance to see this film kind of went up in smoke.  I hope one day there will be a DVD license for Canada so that I can buy this and take it home.

I have posted the trailer below and it's incredible.  Seriously, press play and you will be blown away.  The casting is fantastic and the look of the movie is something I hoped for when this film was still a foggy idea in someone's mind.  I'm also happy that the film is Japanese made.  I have a feeling that if America tried to adapt this film, it would turn out like their failed attempt at adapting Akira.

If you live outside of North America and want to know if the DVD has been released in your country, this blog on tumblr will have the answers you seek.  They do great work there and work hard to keep their information up-to-date but of course nothing is ever completely error free.

Title quote source:
Watsuki, N. (2009). Rurouni Kenshin. San Francisco, CA: VIZ Media LLC

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

"Thomas knew he had no choice. He moved."

The Maze Runner by James Dashner:  A boy wakes up in a metal box, his only memory his own name. When the box finally opens, he's surrounded by the faces of other boys.  They tell him they were expecting him and welcome him to the Glade, a place surrounded by stone walls that open into a maze.

The next day, a girl arrives in the box.  They've never gotten a girl before and she brings a message with her - everything is going to change.

I've been reading a lot of series books lately and this was the first one I picked up because I heard about the film, which makes me 4 years too late.  I thought that I was going to be underwhelmed by this book.  I was skeptical because too much hype does not automatically mean that it is good or that I will enjoy it.  It turns out that I really liked it.

The mystery of the maze and of the kids stuck in the glade had me hooked. It was interesting to see this whole little society of people working together to survive their daily life and then to survive the changes they eventually face.  I loved the idea that they had their own words for things.  It's a detail that I think helped build Dashner's world for me as a reader. 

Another aspect to this novel that caught my attention was that the connection that the male main character and the girl in this story did not take precedence over the more important events of the story.  I have seen too many interesting books fall into the same formula where the true story is ridiculously smothered by a relationship so Dashner's book was refreshing. 

Finally, the book does not waste time.  It did not feel slow at all or like there were any unnecessary lulls while I was reading it, and the chapters flowed well from one to the next.  

The mystery for me was genuinely interesting and I will be reading the rest of the series very soon.

This may not be news to a lot of people but The Maze Runner movie is currently in production and being filmed right this second.  To the side is some concept art of the maze and it was revealed today what the movie logo would look like.  MTV also released some stills from the film today right over here.  Check out all the links because they are pretty impressive. I am loving all of it.

I am definitely excited about this adaptation, and I think it is partly because James Dashner's enthusiasm is catching and because I genuinely enjoyed the novel.

Dashner's story, as I said earlier, is a different experience from The Hunger Games or any of the other YA books that have been turned into films.  I hope that the movie keeps that unique spirit because I think people will enjoy it.

Ball, W. (2013).  The Maze Runner. [digital illustration].  Retrieved from

Dashner, J. (2009). The Maze Runner. New York, NY: Delacorte Press.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

"When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die."

I know I am late to the game here since Jennifer A. Nielsen announced this two weeks ago, but I wanted to fill my blog with a bit of excitement.

I cannot believe she revealed it this early.  I honestly thought it would be sometime in September before we even got a glimpse of the cover.

So...I'm excited for the final book in the trilogy.  Are you?

Title source: 
Benioff, D. (writer) & Weiss, D. B. (writer) & Minahan, D. (director). (2011). You Win or You Die [Television series episode].  In F. Doelger (producer), Game of Thrones. New York, NY: HBO Studios (Warner Bros.).

“We'll be Friends Forever, won't we, Pooh?' asked Piglet.

Dream Friends written and illustrated by You Byun:  Melody has a great friend. They do amazing and wonderful things together but only in her dreams. She tries to bring him out into the real world but she can't. Dream Friends is about how Melody learns to make a new friend.

I liked this story immensely.  I think it is another great book that carries positivity and holds a lot of hope for children.  I was a shy child and I grew into a shy adult, and I know I'm not alone in this.  The book really gives the reader a sense of  acceptance for being who they are, and I think a lot of children need to receive that message. 

The art also communicates all of this with its beautiful warm colours and soft flowing lines.  The artwork is stunning and on a different level from anything else I have ever seen in children's books.

I really cannot wait to see what else You Byun creates in the future.

If you would like to read more about You Bayun or see some more of her artwork for this book, check out this interview: "Get to Know the Artist: You Byun" by Lisel Ashlock

(title quote is by A. A. Milne and comes from Winnie the Pooh)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

“Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.”

The Dark by Lemony Snicket and illustrated by Jon Klassen: Laszlo is quite familiar with the dark.  It lives with him in the same house and he sees it each night.  He is also terribly afraid of it.

This story is about how he overcomes that fear.

Saw this listed as a new item for my local library and picked it up right away.  I like Lemony Snicket's books and a picture book for children was sort of new territory for me with this author.  

When I was a kid, I totally used to have a fear of the dark and my parents and older brother constantly made fun of me for it.  This book does not do any of that. It  does not shame Laszlo for his fear of the dark, which I think is important.  It presents the dark as a character, something that has to be met and not ignored.  By the end, the terror that had been building with the spreading of the dark disappears.  It is a comforting story and I loved that.  

I really liked this little book and I recommend it to all parents who like to read to or with their children.  The text of the book is also something worth noting because it is simple yet poetic. Lemony Snicket (I do know his true name.) writes a story that is both suspenseful and in the end heartwarming. The text varies from page to page and there is some repetition, which is important when learning to read. The artwork by Jon Klassen is wonderful, fantastic, and all those other complimentary words.  He's great.  His work is great.  It complements and fits the story so well.  I cannot say much more than that.

(Title quote is by Anne Frank)

Friday, May 24, 2013

"And the boy they called...number 28..."

So this is just a quick update on my reading of Katsuhiro Otomo's manga series Akira.

The first two books had a lot of action and movement and so I thought maybe it would slow down in the middle set but it didn't.  If anything the action only increased and the situations became much more dire for the characters in Neo-Tokyo.

As a side note, these two books also confirm that I was right to slap on that 18 years of age or older recommendation because a lot of the content (especially in book 4) turns towards the more mature.  There has literally been a breakdown in society and with that comes violence (in its various incarnations) and the groups of people who rise up to take advantage of that chaos.

I am still enjoying the series and cannot wait to see where it all goes next in book 5.

Title source: 
Otomo, K. (2001). Akira. Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Comics.
(But to be super specific, the title quote can be found on p. 185 of book 4)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

“For the alchemist the one primarily in need of redemption is not man, but the deity who is lost and sleeping in matter. "

Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa: Alchemy is about equal exchange, where to gain something you must also give something in return. The Elric brothers learned this the hard way. Now they travel their war ravaged and poverty stricken world in search of answers and a way to make up for the mistakes they have made.

From the first few pages of this manga, Hiromu Arakawa gives you so many reasons to stay and read.  The story is mysterious, funny, gut wrenching and sometimes totally scary.  Basically, it has all the elements of something that should get you hooked instantly. It also has these unexpected themes that I never saw mentioned in a lot of the reviews I read.  They make this manga something that should not be ignored.  It makes it more than its medium of expression, which some still view as criteria for passing it over.

While I did enjoy the first two volumes and I will continue reading this series, something has been bothering me.  This manga is in part about a quest for Edward to get back the pieces of his body that he has lost.  I understand trying to figure out a way to fix his brother because Alphonse doesn't really have a body (i.e. soul stuck in a suit of armor) but I do not get why Edward feels the need to fix himself.  It is as if him having prosthetic limbs is a bad thing that needs to be corrected.  

It makes me uneasy to see this especially with how advanced his arm and leg are compared to what we have in our reality. How would readers with prosthetic limbs feel when reading this series?  They already have so much to deal with so would this somehow offend or upset them?  Many readers of this manga will probably not see it this way but it was a thought that crossed my mind and would not leave.  

At the same time, it does present a prominent character with prosthetic limbs as being powerful not just in spirit and mind but also in body.  I think that is definitely something wonderful and rare.

I do warn though that there is quite a bit of violence and blood in this manga but it is not especially gory or gratuitous .  I recommend this series for teens 15 years of age or older.  

One final note before I end this post.  If you're reading this and you're a girl and you're thinking to yourself, "This manga is not for me.  It looks like it's for boys."  I am here to tell you that this manga is actually for everyone.  Not only are there some awesome female characters in this series but the writer and illustrator, Hiromu Arakawa, is also a woman.  So please do not let that arbitrary notion prevent you from reading things you are interested in.

(Title quote is from C. G. Jung)

Monday, April 29, 2013

Tetsuuuo! Kanedaaa!

Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo:  It should have been like any other night in Neo -Tokyo for Kaneda and his gang but exploring the ruins of old Tokyo leads to an unexpected accident.  His friend Tetsuo gets hurt and disappears but when he comes back, he's different.

Trying to figure out what happened, Kaneda gets mixed up with a girl and a resistance group working to bring down the military.

But one word keeps coming up.  What is Akira and why is everyone so afraid of it?

I watched the film adaptation of Akira when I was 12 and my memories of it along with various reminders from my coworkers and classmates were what drove me to finally pick up the graphic novels.  

My verdict? I love it so far.  I'm only two volumes into the 6 book series but I am hooked. There are so many incredible themes I never picked up on as a kid like the resistance vs. the military, governmental incompetence, and war. Ideas that are not old and still reflect our reality today.  It surprises me just how much a graphic novel from the 80s is still so timely and I think this is what gives Akira staying power in the minds of a lot of readers.

The theme I do remember seeing in the film is the crumbling friendship between Shotaro Kaneda and Tetsuo Shima.  The film made it seem more like a grudging friendship filled with a lot of taunting and you do not really get that in the manga.  In the graphic novel, Kaneda cares for his friend and shows it.  If Kaneda had to choose a favorite in his motorcycle gang, it would be Tetsuo.  It is sad to see how one event can poison their relationship and at the same time change their lives and the world around them.

Something else I did not remember from the film was how much of a punk Kaneda was. So far, I am wondering how this ridiculous and selfish guy is going to save Neo-Tokyo.  It will be interesting to see him grow into a more serious and determined hero, one this story sorely needs.
I would recommend this series for an older teen audience (18 years of age or older) because it does contain graphic violence, mentions of sex and the use of drugs.   I mention these things not to scare readers off but to inform them so that they can make the proper decision for themselves.  We all have subjects and ideas that make us uncomfortable and I do not want anyone picking up this series based on my review and not knowing what lies ahead of them.

That being said I think Akira is a truly unique and interesting manga with panels of artwork that carry a cinematic quality that gives the reader the feeling that they are peering at a pictorial  storyboard. The story is interesting and still relevant 31 years after it was first published and definitely worth a read.

Title source:
Otomo, K. (2001). Akira. Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Comics.

Monday, April 22, 2013

“A man might befriend a wolf, even break a wolf, but no man could truly tame a wolf.”

Today's post is about video games and stories.  I know what you're thinking.  This is not news.  This is nothing new.  Most, if not all, video games have a story.  Some of them are poorly constructed and some are interesting works of wonder.  

But something I have noticed recently is that video games are taking existing stories from graphic novels and adding to them with new chapters.  One of them this year was the episodic game for Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore's The Walking Dead.  

This game featured new characters but existed within the same universe that readers had been exposed to with Rick Grimes' survival story.  This is pretty awesome for many reasons, but the main one is that it now allows for readers to engage with another facet of The Walking Dead through another visual medium.  

It does not end here though, the same company (i.e. Telltale Games) that made the game above is working on a new project involving another well known graphic novel series.  Bill Willingham's Fables series will also be getting the video game treatment with The Wolf Among Us.

The Wolf Among Us will act as a prequel to Fables and will feature some familiar faces like Bigby Wolf, Snow White and Beauty and her Beast.  A lot of people might be a little wary of this news because of their relationship with the source material.  I have also seen concern that this game could turn out like all the games based off of movies, which are usually pretty terrible in terms of story and gameplay.

My advice? Let's be excited rather than concerned. The Walking Dead was both successful and really well reviewed in the gaming community. I feel Telltale Games know what they are doing and will do a great job on this Fables prequel.

This whole thing does spark a question that I have never asked myself.  Could digital games be the next step of adaptation for books?

Think about a Hunger Games prequel game that takes place during the time of the rebellion.  Where you get to create your own character and name them.  Where your character could fight and fall in love.  All of this leading up to the first ever Hunger Games.

Wouldn't that be totally awesome?

(title quote from George R.R. Martin's A Dance with Dragons)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

"Drink up me hearties, yo ho! Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me!"

One Piece by Eiichiro Oda:  Monkey D. Luffy is finally grown up and ready to fulfill his life long dream of becoming a pirate.  He'll have to build a crew, find a ship and deal with evil pirates on his way to finding the ultimate treasure, the legendary One Piece.

I really loved the beginning to this manga. I bought the omnibus edition like in the photo above so I read three volumes in one sitting. It's funny, action packed and it sucks you in the more you read it.  I have bought two other omnibus editions for myself and I continue to read it because I am heavily invested in finding out what happens to Luffy and his crew.  I kind of really like Luffy and his optimism.  His determination to become a pirate but not to be a bad person is also pretty interesting.

My only nitpick was that sometimes when I turned the page, it felt like something had been left out.  It moved onto a new scene and I was left wondering if I had missed something.  I do not know if this was part of the translation work or if maybe they left something out to make it more suitable for teen audiences in North America. It was pretty jarring and it interrupted my reading experience a little.

Another thing I just recently realized when I started reading this series is that it is still ongoing.  This means there is no planned ending as of yet and I rue the day I got into this manga.  I absolutely hate things that do not have a planned ending.  This literally means that it could probably go until Eiichiro Oda dies (i.e. my biggest nightmare right there).  It is currently on its 69th volume and I just hope it does not go on for much longer.  Everything has its end.  Please let the end for One Piece be sometime within my lifetime. 

This manga series isn't for everyone though.  I would suggest it for a teen audience and beware that there is violence and blood in One Piece.  There hasn't been any strong language in the manga so far in my experience and there probably won't be.  The characters and scenes are really dramatic (i.e. the constant yelling) and some readers might not like that either, which is understandable. 

It is definitely worth a try though and you never know, you might like it.

(title quote from the Pirates of the Carribean film)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF)

Now I know I have been talking about TCAF over on my twitter for months now and I have probably talked it to death but I felt that I had to blog about it anyway.  Sticking it to the man!  I am so hardcore.

Anyway, if you are new and have never even heard about it, then this post is for you.  TCAF is the Toronto Comic Arts Festival that takes place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

It is a two day event that brings together some of the most talented cartoonists, illustrators and artists in the world of comics and graphic novels to one place. If it sounds like a huge deal that is because it is.

Some of the big name guests this year are Bryan Lee O'Malley (the Scott Pilgrim series), Art Spiegelman (author of Maus) and Taiyo Matsumoto (author of Tekkon Kinkreet), just to name a few.   

But the total awesomeness of this event does not end with the list of featured guests.  There will be approximately 400 exhibitors at TCAF including a few publishers.  One of the exhibitors I am most looking forward to seeing is Hope Larson because I enjoyed her graphic novel adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time and loved her book Salamander Dream.  She will probably be showing off her latest book Who is AC? and I am excited about it.

So if you are in the city or you think you might be taking a trip to the city, then check out TCAF at the Toronto Reference Library.  It is free to attend and goes from May 11th to May 12th.  I hope some of you choose to go because it looks like it is going to be an amazing festival.

Here is the link to the official TCAF website.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

“If dreams are like movies, then memories are films about ghosts.”

The Unsinkable Walker Bean by Aaron Renier:  Walker Bean grew up on his grandfather's stories of monsters and the high seas, but he never imagined that he would go on any adventures of his own.  When his grandfather comes home deathly ill from his latest voyage, he asks Walker to return something to the sea that he stole.

Walker will have to brave pirates, the royal navy and creatures he never knew existed in order to complete his mission and save his grandfather.

Aaron Renier both wrote and illustrated this graphic novel and it is truly a beauty.  The art is amazing and when his pictures break free of the panels to explode into full pages of art, it is jaw dropping.  

I really liked this graphic novel and I would read it again, however, it felt incomplete.  So many of the things introduced and implied at the beginning are never actually resolved or explored further.  It left the entire novel feeling unfinished for me.  This made the novel a bit bittersweet because I really started out loving it with the curse, the pirates, the adventure and the witches.  Seriously, it was yanking all of my Goonie chains in the most awesome of ways.  It just disappointed me a bit at the end.

There will be a Book 2 sometime in the near future. Eventually.  Maybe someday over the rainbow.  At least this is what the author implies in his acknowledgements page.  I really hope there will be because I am not ready to say goodbye to Shiv, Walker or Genoa.  I want to see more of their adventures and I want to know if everything Renier opened us up to in the first graphic novel will be completed there.  Here's hoping!

Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol:  Anya is just having another typical awful day when she falls down an abandoned well.  After waking up at the bottom, she begins to realize that she's not alone.  There's a ghost down there with her.

When the ghost follows her home, Anya isn't worried.  They become fast friends and so many of the things that were going wrong before finally start going right.  But Anya soon sees that something isn't quite right about her new friend, something dark and scary.

What first drew me to this graphic novel was the art.  I loved it.  The soft and curvy lines had me in love with Brosgol's style within seconds.  However, what made me stay was the story.  The story is definitely more about Anya's growth as a person rather than the whole supernatural element.  The ghost in a lot of ways is a catalyst for Anya.   She learns to be herself and to accept herself as she is because of it.  By the end of the novel, she really stands up and abandons all of the things that contributed to making her feel so unhappy.  She becomes a really strong character and it was great to see it play out in the panels of the novel.

I also really enjoyed the fact that Anya was Russian and still struggling with her heritage in the American landscape.  I don't think that is often represented in a lot of stories so it is amazing to see it here.  I went out and bought this graphic novel right after I returned the copy I borrowed from the library.  Definitely a keeper for my personal library.  Now if only I could figure out where to put shelves seem to be overflowing at the moment.

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang: This is the story of Jin Wang's move to a new school and a new community, where everything is different and he feels completely alone.  This is the story of the Monkey King's fall from grace and also the road he travels to redemption.  This also is the story of Danee and his embarrassing cousin Chin-Kee.

This novel had me so confused at first because I was not understanding how all three stories in the book would come together.  I literally thought I was the only one in the world who was going to finish this novel and not make the necessary connections.  But all three stories do eventually come together in the panels of the book and it such a great surprise.   

This is another novel that presents a character  with a different background in the American landscape.  For me, this story was hard to read because it hurt a little to see it unfold and realize that this could be anyone's story.  The hurtful stereotypes and the inability of others to understand shown in this novel is poignant and will speak to anyone who has ever felt like an outsider because of their heritage.   A surprising novel that has a lot to say and does it in an unexpected but refreshing way.

I will definitely be keeping an eye out for more of Gene Luen Yang's work.

(Title quote from: Duritz, A. (n.d.). Retrieved from: )

Saturday, February 2, 2013

“The woods would be quiet if no bird sang but the one that sang best.”

I haven't been around in some time (seriously, it has been five months since I posted anything) but that doesn't mean I have forgotten about this place!

It just means I don't have the time to work on posts, edit or read much with school and work getting in the way. I do however find time to update my twitter with what I do read and what I am looking forward to reading.

So follow me on there because I do update that place on a regular basis and I'd love to hear from the people who check out this blog.

Hopefully, I'll see you there.

(title quote from Henry van Dyke)