Friday, November 30, 2007

The Final Solution - Michael Chabon

chabon has been one of my favourite authors ever since i read "the amazing adventures of kavalier and clay". after being blown away by that hefty tome (which has since spawned a comic series called "the escapist") i went off to read everything else chabon had ever written, most of which takes place in pittsburgh. he also wrote "wonder boys" which was turned into an amazing movie. all of this is by the way, i guess as it doesn't really have anything to do with "the final solution". a short and slightly strange story that involves a retired british detective who may or may not be sir arthur conan doyle/sherlock holmes, a young mute german refugee (the story takes place during wwII), and an african grey parrot that is almost continuously spewing strings of numbers in german. aside from that i won't mention anymore, as i don't want to give too much away.

Horseradish - Lemony Snicket

best book of quotes. ever. is there anyone who can be as sarcastic and dry as snicket? (i'm currently learning that brandon sanderson comes pretty close to the mark, but that is a review for another day.) "horseradish" is a collection of snicket quotes from his books "along with selections from his unpublished papers and remarks he has made at dinner parties and anarchist riots." i tortured g. by making him listen to me read most of the book out loud. that made it even funnier. one of my favourites relates to libraries, as a librarian i get a kick out of this sort of thing: "a library is like an island in a vast sea of ignorance, particularly if the library is very tall and the surrounding area has been flooded."

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Pride of Baghdad - Brian K. Vaughan

powerful and disturbing stuff. vaughan's version of this story is like an allegory of fear and war. based on a true story of a pride of lions escaping from the baghdad zoo during the iraq war, vaughan anthropomorphizes all of the animals in this story and lets us view the confusion and terror of war through their eyes. is this like a new and brutal aesop? vaughan's previous work on runaways was incredible and had my vote for best graphic novel of 2006. glad to see that the man isn't letting up any.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Beyond the Deepwoods - Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell

this was recommended to me by a. this summer. of course, it makes perfect sense that i am only just getting around to reading it now. the edge chronicles, of which this book is the first in the series, are a high fantasy series along the lines of the lord of the rings, or maybe something like the dragonlance books, where a fantasy world has been created in detail and populated with all sorts of fantastic creatures. stewart has done a great job populating the edge with all sorts of things: banderbears and hammelhorns and gloamglozers and slaughterers to name a few. riddell does a great job of illustrating all of the creatures, and nearly every page has one of riddell's truly excellent ink line drawings. i'm a big fan of riddell's art, and i was rather happy when he published his own picture book called 'the emperor of absurdia'. back to 'beyond the deepwoods' though. although i did enjoy the book, and was rooting for the protagonist, twig's, success, nothing really ties up in the end, which is one of the downfalls of some series, and i largely got the feeling that the first book was being used to set things up and establish characters for for future titles.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Pefect Example - John Porcellino

i read this this afternoon in about 20 minutes. it is a deceptively weighty though fast and easy read. porcellino is an indie comics writer and 'perfect example', is a biogrpaphical piece about the last summer between high school and university in the mid-eighties. porcellino's summer is filled with road trips, hanging out with friends, hiding away, being depressed and listening to semi-obscure punk bands like husker du and camper van beethoven. the comics style is sparse and simplistic. i commented to g. that either porcellino was making use of this particular style to make some sort of creative point, or he was actually just not a very good drawer. g. is pretty sure it is the latter. the simplicity of the art adds a bit of melancholy to the stories though, and if you enjoy indie comics this is a pretty good book.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Maggie the Mechanic - Jaime Hernandez

i had been doing some graphic novels purchasing for work and was doing quite a bit of research to figure out what are the important titles; what are the titles that are considered classic, influential and important. in essence, who are the big guns? well, hernandez's 'love and rockets' series kept popping up. intrigued, this is one of the books i picked up in toronto. 'maggie the mechanic' is the first of the 'love and rockets' compilations. i gotta tell ya, this is one interesting piece of work. think a latino archies, with some tank girl punk rock sensibility thrown in. it's like the 50s/the 80s/science fiction. this is the story of maggie, who is in fact a mechanic. she travels around the world repairing stuff and having some fairly crazy adventures involving dinosaurs, luchadores, hoverbikes, punk shows, psychotic dictators, and a somewhat unrequited love. back on the ranch, or more specifically, back at maggie's californian apartment that she shares with her roommate hopey, we get a more real life story that involves paying rent, buying new boots, drinking beers, and mooning after boys/girls. it took me a little while to get into this, it really is dense for a graphic novel. mucho, mucho text, and it's certainly not a short and easy read, but once i got into it i really, really liked it and look forward to following up with maggie and hopey in 'the girl from h.o.p.p.e.r.s'.

Castle Waiting - Linda Medley

i've been on a bit of a graphic novels kick as of late. we've really started getting some more arriving at the library, which has been great, plus i took a trip to toronto not too long ago and couldn't help picking up a few books whilst at the silver snail and the beguiling. one book i was really excited to see arrive at the library was 'castle waiting'. i read this in london a few years ago, but i think the book they had in london was like a digest version, because the one we have here is much longer. publisher's weekly describes 'castle waiting' as, 'a set of linked nouveaux fairy tales, this graphic novel extends the story of sleeping beauty into a modern, feminist chaucer'. i think that's spot on. 'castle waiting' delivers a set of linked tales involving the residents of 'castle waiting', a place where those who are fleeing prosecution can find safety and acceptance. this is one of those graphic novels that really underscores that the genre is not all superheroes and large breasted femme fatales anymore.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Truth About Stacey & Mary Anne Saves the Day - Raina Telgemeier

two for the price of one. the second and third books from the baby-sitters club graphic novel series. these books are so nostalgic for me. i used to read the baby-sitters club books all the time back in the day. pure candy. these are just retelling the first baby-sitters club books in graphic novel format. they stick pretty close to the events of the books, but the dialogue (and clothes) have been updated so as to not be so early nineties. oooh, remember fluorescent colours? new kids on the block? there, you see? nostalgia. did you know that you can actually buy nostalgia drinks in asian grocery stores? apparently the taste of nostalgia when bottled (or canned as it were) is a red bean flavour. sorry, that's way off topic. anyway, the second book in the series, 'the truth about stacey', is about stacey coming to terms with her diabetes and settling in in stoneybrook and tying up loose ends in new york. while i was reading this g. asked me what the truth about stacey was. i had to admit that i didn't know. still don't. the title may be a bit of a misnomer. the third book, 'mary anne saves the day', is about mary anne becoming a bit more mature (she always was the baby of the group), the baby-sitters club surviving their first real fight, and the introduction of dawn schaeffer, who moves to stoneybrook from california. these books are lots of fun, and i think for anyone who used to love the series, or for young girls now, they really are a great read.

Someone Named Eva - Joan M. Wolf

there were so many atrocities committed by the nazis, i wouldn't know where to start in naming them all. 'someone named eva' is the fictional account of milada, a czech girl from the town of lidice. in an act of revenge against the citizens of czechoslovakia, hitler razed the town of lidice, killed all the men and boys and sent the women and girls to work camps where most of them died. however, some of the girls were selected to go through the lebensborn born program which was developed to turn non-german 'aryan' children into good german citizens (read: nazis). basically, the kids were kidnapped from their family and brainwashed into believing in nazi ideals, they would start to believe they actually were german, and would be trained to speak only german, and to forget their mother-tongue. milada was one of the children from lidice selected for the lebensborn. she was renamed eva and adopted into a german family. this is a fascinating story of one of the lesser known events of wwii.