Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Blast from the Past: Wishbone

We all have TV shows that we remember fondly from our childhood.  I have been thinking a lot about the ones I used to watch and which of them I wish were still around for other kids to enjoy. 

One such show is "Wishbone", which involved the cute little dog to the left interacting with various literature classics.  That's right.  I did not just put that picture there to lure you in with its cuteness.

This show aired from 1995 to 1998 and each episode was just half an hour long for a total of 48 episodes.

What is important to note about this show is that through Wishbone's daydreams, where he often assumes the title role of each story and can speak, the audience is introduced to stories they may be too young to read or just have not read yet and in a manner that did not sanitize the original tale.

Some of the stories featured in the series were Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand, A Scandal in Bohemia (Sherlock Holmes) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving, The Imaginary Invalid by Moliere, The Tempest by William Shakespeare & The Odyssey by Homer.

Another interesting thing about "Wishbone" (though it was rare) was that it explored stories from different races.  The African folk tale of Anansi the Spider and the African American tale The People Could Fly by Virginia Hamilton are both featured in an episode of the show.  In another episode, the Native American story The Story of the Deathless Voice and the Navajo culture are explored.

I wish shows like this were still around today because I feel like children are missing out.  I like to think that if "Wishbone" had continued, there would have been more diverse stories included in future episodes and more female authored stories introduced through Wishbone's imagination.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Free Comic Book Day

The first weekend of May is upon us and that means Free Comic Book Day (FCBD).   This doesn't mean that all single issue comics at your local shop are suddenly free.  No, that's an alternate universe.  The one we mere mortals experience has a small selection of comics prepared by participating publishers that are yours for the taking without expense. 

Some of this year's comics that are up for grabs are:

Teen Titans Go! #1
Writer: Sholly Fisch
Artist (s): Ben Bates & Jorge Corona

This is one to check out because it's based on the TV series that used to air on Cartoon Network (i.e. the show I used to watch and love) and because it sounds like so much fun.  The Teen Titans always get into some hilarious situations and judging by the cover? This one involves a giant and delicious pizza monster.   If you feel like I've spoiled you, then I should tell you that this issue contains two stories and the second is a complete mystery to me.

The New 52 Futures End
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Ethan Van

This issue is pretty interesting for two reasons: 1. this will be the debut of Terry McGinnis in the New 52 as Batman Beyond and 2. cyborgs.  It sounds pretty cool to me.

This one has Avatar: The Last Airbender, Itty Bitty Hellboy & Juice Squeezers all in one little issue.
Writer: Gene Luen Yang
Artist: Faith Erin Hicks & others

Avatar: The Last Airbender has a story that involves Sokka and Suki helping out a little girl in need.  Itty Bitty Hellboy features Hellboy on a mission to annoy his ultimate nemesis, Rasputin.  And Juice Squeezers shows the giant bug battling crew taking on a bully.  This seems like a really cute item all around but that's just me.

SHOWA: A History of Japan
Writer & Artist: Shigeru Mizuki

I am sort of amazed by this one because I have the first volume SHOWA 1926-1939: A History of Japan at home on my "to be read" pile and I assumed it was a one volume thing.  But actually, it is a series of four volumes that will be released throughout 2014 to early 2015.

This item for Free Comic Book Day contains a small portion of the story relating to World War II.  It's a great opportunity to read something about the second world war Japanese experience from a Japanese perspective.

Here's the full list of items to expect for this upcoming event.  Not every comic book store is participating in this so please use the FCBD website's store locator to see if your local shop is listed and involved.

And if I didn't explain what Free Comic Book Day is to your satisfaction then check out the video below for more information.

Lastly, check out what is happening in your neighborhood, discover something new and have fun.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

BREAKING NEWS: More Women Are Reading Comics

I was checking in with my favorite comics blog today, DC Women Kicking Ass, when I came upon the latest post.  In it she describes some information she found that discusses the increase in the amount of women picking up comics and where these women in their late teens to early thirties are learning what to read (O'Leary, 2014).

To say women have not been reading comics is foolish.  I've been reading them since I was little.  It may not have been Marvel or DC because my mother thought superheroes were for boys, but I picked up monthly issues of Scooby Doo and Archie's Weird Mysteries.  I got older and worked my way up to Batman and Batgirl despite my mother's mixed feelings.  The thing that remains true is that marketing and comic shop environments are spaces dominated by men and targeted towards men.  I have been to 3 different comic stores in my city and I have not felt comfortable in any of them.  I actually had a clerk at one of the stores watch me as I perused the shelves.  

I think what is happening now is that female readers are becoming more visible and shop owners are taking notice and people running surveys on the internet are getting diverse responses.  I am hoping that the concrete data of female readership can break down barriers and change attitudes for the better.  And I'm not just saying ordering items for more general readers, which is a good idea, but also putting in the effort to welcome and respect female readers and their opinions (O'Leary, 2014). This isn't just a task for the comics industry and their advertising departments but also for the owners of comic book stores and their employees. I think we're all still feeling the after effects of that whole Fake Geek Girl rant by Tony Harris made about 2 years ago. 

Another interesting thing that I totally agree with, is that girls are finding out what they should read next from social media outlets like twitter and facebook (O'Leary, 2014). I believe it because I follow my neighborhood comic shops and several comic book reviewers on twitter.  It's also a way to gather information safely and free of judgement.  I want to see what they are purchasing and what their opinions are.  I want to educate myself in order to invest my time and money in the right series.

I have hope for the future but that future needs to be open and inclusive to all demographics.  

O'Leary, S. (2014). Despite Early Sales Slump, Comics Retailers Remain Upbeat.  Retrieved from: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/comics/article/61533-despite-early-sales-slump-comics-retailers-remain-upbeat.html

Monday, April 21, 2014

That F-word Fellow

Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope: With the death of their father,  Elinor, Marianne and Margaret Dashwood are left to fend for themselves in an unforgiving world.  Without the comforts of their old home or the protection of their father, the three Dashwood sisters are thrust into a new reality full of changeable people and painful truths.  

So I just finished this novel and couldn't wait to get on here to write up this review.  I will first start out by saying I have never read a novel by Joanna Trollope so I had no idea what to expect from her writing going into this.    I feel sort of guilty about that now but there's nothing to be done about it. Let's begin shall we?  Sense and Sensibility was a great read because I feel like it held the spirit of the original tale and carried it forth very well into the 21st century.  It was interesting to see the mentions of Facebook, Youtube and Twitter but also sad to see how they were used against characters in the novel.  Awful ways in which we have become familiar with.  While the novel takes place in a more modern setting, it also had these wonderful references to the society and culture that the original story existed in.  They were actually pretty funny.

I loved a lot of the characters but especially Elinor, whose feelings and thought process I could definitely relate to the most.  I also enjoyed the little details that Trollope added in like Elinor being an architect in training, which really added to her character. There were also these stunning moments of insight into characters like John Willoughby that had me whispering 'yes, exactly' to myself late at night.  Trollope also took the time to develop a few individuals that I always wanted to know more about like Colonel Brandon, Belle Dashwood and Margaret Dashwood. 

Colonel Brandon stands out here for me because we truly get to know him - what he does in his spare time, how perceptive he is and how perfect he actually is for Marianne.  In the original, I just felt like we were told he was lovely but we couldn't really say why beyond his obvious kindness.  A lot of authors take the original Austen stories but do not spend enough time working on the parts where Austen lacked (I said it.  Please, contain your gasps of indignation.). Originality is something I appreciate in retellings because I don't want a straight translation, I want something familiar but new and refreshing.

 In the video below, Joanna Trollope describes her book.  I included it just in case I didn't do a very good job of it.

In this one, Trollope reads a small passage from the book and discusses Jane Austen. 

If anyone finds that one line from Jane Austen in the new Sense and Sensibility, comment on this post because I want to know what it is.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Pemberley Digital

So let's just say, this story starts in my second semester of grad school. It was late and I was too stressed and dead inside to think about assignments without checking into an asylum. I needed a distraction! Something uplifting and funny and not related in any way to the doom cloud hanging over my head for the past 5 months. A friend over twitter suggested The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. It's a web series based on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

I marathoned 50 episodes in one sitting. Don't judge. They were all less than 8 minutes long. And I loved it. It was exactly what I needed. (Charlotte Lu, I adore you!). I was even able to catch up with the series to watch the last episode go live on March 28, 2013. Below is the first video to get you started but if you're interested in seeing the rest sometime, here's the full playlist.

While Lizzie's story did end, the same group started adapting Austen's Emma with Emma Approved. I'm really enjoying this series and I hope you will too when you check out episode one right below my ramblings. If you fall in love with it like I have, here's the full Emma playlist.

And if you're feeling particularly morose about the end of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, I got news for you. There will be a book coming out on June 24, 2014 called The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet, which expands on the webs series and gives fans a closer look at Lizzie's life. Some ways to get it will be online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Indie Bound & Chapters.Indigo.

There is a lot of content to check out here so if you have a late night and need a 5 minute break? Check out any of the stuff that Pemberley Digital has to offer. I think you'll be glad that you did.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Austen Season Comes Again

There was a time in my younger years where I was obsessed with Jane Austen.  I watched the TV adaptations on Masterpiece Theatre every Sunday night and I owned all her books (I still do).  It's also thanks to her stories and people's interest in her characters that I got to know other authors like Elizabeth Gaskell (i.e. my favorite Victorian era writer of all time). 

So why am I talking about this when Jane Austen has been talked about enough already?  Last year an interesting thing happened.  The Jane Austen Project was started.  This is where some cool currently alive authors would take her six novels and reimagine them for today.  Isn't that nifty?

So far two have been released starting with Joanna Trollope's Sense and Sensibility and most recently with Val McDermid's Northanger Abbey.  A newer version of Pride and Prejudice, which will be written by Curtis Sittenfeld, is expected sometime this fall. 

Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope: With the death of their father,  Elinor, Marianne and Margaret Dashwood are left to fend for themselves in an unforgiving world.  Without the comforts of their old home or the protection of their father, the three Dashwood sisters are thrust into a new reality full of changeable people and painful truths.  
I ordered it from the library two weeks ago and it only now just got put on the hold shelf for me.  I'm going to go pick it up today and dig into it tonight.  Sense and Sensibility is not one of my favorite Austen novels so let's see how this reading goes.  I will review it soon!

Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid:  Cat Morland is ready for an adventure.  After being sheltered by her minister father for much of her life, Cat is only too happy to accept an invitation to a festival in Edinburgh from her neighbors the Allens. There, she becomes fast friends with Henry and Eleanor Tilney but she soon gets the feeling that the Tilney's have secrets.  Is Cat right about her friends or has her years of reading novels just given her a wild imagination?

I am so excited to read this one and I already have a hold on it at the library. Not only is this my most favorite Austen novel, but I have also loved Val McDermid since my teens when I read her Tony Hill series and watched the TV adaptation of it called Wire in the Blood.  First few seasons of that show were very good but after Carol left, it wasn't as great.  It felt a bit unbalanced...but that is another topic for another day. 

A lot of reviews I have seen are full of people offended that anyone would deign to reimagine a Jane Austen classic.  I'm more optimistic and open to new and creative ventures.  If I wasn't, I would have missed out on some really joy filled things like the mini-series Lost in Austen.  So do give them a chance.

When the Stars Align, What Do They Mean?

One star for me means that the overall reading experience was incredibly disappointing. Problems can range from the story being weak and uninteresting to the characters being terrible to the writing being awful.  

Two stars means that there were a few problems with the book bot not enough to deem it worthy of one star.  It has some redeeming qualities but not many. 

If it is a series, I probably will not be checking out the next book.

Three stars means the reading experience was okay.  Not bad but not great.

If it is a series, I might check out the next one.

Four stars means I really enjoyed it, but it is not a book I want to read a second time or to own.  I can live without reading it again.  

If it is a series, I am interested in seeing what happens next.

Five stars mean that I love it.  It is a new favorite.  I had a fun time reading it.  The characters, the story and the writing really pulled me in.

If it is a series, then I am heavily invested in seeing where the story goes next.

Geeking Out about LGBTQ Literature

I have been looking for an excuse to post another video of these two just because I find their discussions so enlightening and fun and I found one.  In this video, they talk about those novels they well and truly love. Important to watch because out of the four novels they mention, I'm only familiar with two of them.

Some Information About This Blog

I probably should have done this when I first started this whole blogging thing but to be quite honest, I did not think people would notice my blog. And by and large, it has been skimmed over by a few humans and some thousand spam bots.

I also admit that some authors and marketing teams have noticed it too.  Enough to contact me to review their books.  This post is to tell those good and kind people to stop.  I'm a student and I work two jobs so I don't have the time to devote myself to your projects.  Some days, I barely have enough time to eat or take a shower.  I really do not want to say I will review a book by a certain date and then disappoint anyone relying on me for them.  I tried once and it was a total disaster that does not  need repeating.

This blog is strictly about the books I read when I read them, the books/movies I am excited for and other story related things I find interesting.  I like sharing my enthusiasm and the information I've found with other people.  That's it.

As a side note in case anyone is wondering, I talk about the library a lot because that's where I get most of the books and comics I review.  I also buy some of the stuff I mention here.  Only one item was given to me to review and that is how it has remained.  I'm not looking to be given anything and I don't expect anything.  I would just like to review things at my own pace when I get to them.

I think I've covered everything.  If you have any questions, please leave a comment on this post and I will try to answer it as fast as humanly possible.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Maze Runner

I know I already I posted this on twitter, but I wanted to put it on my blog.  I had no idea what they were going to do with this book and the wait for a trailer felt like years.  You see concept art and cast photos but at the end of the day, those things don't really show you a lot.  A trailer gives you more of a sense as to the look and the feel of the movie.  The wait is now over and I like what I see.  I do.

Clementine & Emma

Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh: Clementine is just  going through the motions of being a junior in high school.  She's making friends, suffering through classes and meeting boys.  It's all routine until one day, she passes a girl in the street with bright blue hair.

Blue is the Warmest Color is a really heartbreaking and beautiful story that pulls you in with its use of colour and painful honesty.  I wish there were more comics like this one because these stories are worth reading and should be read.  I also really liked how it showed the two sides to hate and prejudice - the external (other people, politics and oppression) and the internal (in ourselves).   In just 156 pages, this graphic novel covered the depth of feeling in discovering who you are and everything that comes with living life the way you want to.

I recommend this graphic novel for teens 18 years of age or older because like its film adaptation below, it has content that some younger teens may not be ready to read yet.

The above graphic novel was adapted to film in 2013 with La Vie d'Adele.  I really like that the film was able to be in French because Julie Maroh's comic is not only set in France but is originally a French graphic novel.  This film did well at the Cannes film festival, even winning the Palme D'Or.  If you're like me and don't follow the big film festivals, let's just say it won a huge award for being a good film.

With all adaptations, some things do change.  This one is no different so do expect that.  Film ratings also differ from one country to the next.  For North America, it was given an NC-17 rating.  Follow the tiny link to the wikipedia page and look for this film under the B section for information on how it earned its rating. Most importantly, when you're ready for it, do take the time to see the film.