Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Gum Thief - Douglas Coupland

oh coupland. how i love thee. douglas coupland is the stephen leacock of this generation. i don't feel like explaining what i mean by that. just suffice to say that this is what i believe to be true. i got into coupland in high school when i read "polaroids from the dead" and then proceeded to read everything else he had written, and was especially keen on "microserfs", although g. much prefers "life after god". but then coupland when off on this little tangent where he wrote some stuff that strayed from his tried and true formula (see: "all families are psychotic"). however, all was not lost! he emerged from the other side with jPod, which was essentially "microserfs" updated for the new millennium. and the people rejoiced (yay!), or at least i did. and now we have "the gum thief", which is a good bit of fun. set largely in das shtoop (aka staples), the story is told through a series of diary entries, letters and emails. it all starts when middle aged alcoholic staples employee, roger, leaves his diary on the table in the staff break room where it is found by 20 something goth staples employee, bethany. this results in a round about conversation between the two, who develop a friendship. we are also privy to excerpts from roger's novel in progress "glove pond" about a couple of alcoholic academics trapped in a dusty 1970s tomb of their own design. i enjoyed this, and will eagerly anticipate coupland's next effort. oh, and jPod's been turned into a series on the cbc. and i promise that it has endearingly bad canadian production.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Crooked Little Vein - Warren Ellis

this was loaned to my by s. she had told me about her boyfriend reading it and i had loaned him "transmetropolitan", and he in turn sent this my way. within the first chapter i thought to myself, "wow, this is the singularly most depraved, degenerate, deviant book i've ever read." and yet, i kept reading it. partially for the train wreck effect of reading something that makes your eyeballs hurt, and partly for the fact that it was written by warren ellis, and i highly respect his contributions to the world of comics. anyway, turns out i'm glad i did continue reading it because this novel really is more than just a shock-fest. it's a look at modern america, a country that has seemingly left behind those halcyon roots that were so evident to the world in the 50s. it is about a country quickly travelling downhill, and asking the question if it is really so bad that society is not so strait-laced anymore. it is a redefining of the mainstream and our definition for what is mainstream. if i can find it on the internet it must be mainstream because the internet is mainstream. it is a novel populated with serial killers, junkie politicians and much much worse. it is also a story about a man who thinks he has finally hit bottom being given another chance at the top, and while he's at it finding love. it's a bit of a weird balance, but ellis makes it work. i would exercise caution with recommending this book because it is just that hardcore. however, if you are a fan of patrick neate's "city of tiny lights", or the work of chuck palahniuk, or bret easton ellis this might be something you'd want to give a try.

The Plain Janes - Cecil Castellucci

woot! minx is dc comics new imprint, whereby the comics giant will publish books of a slightly more "indie" nature that are more aimed at a female readership. no superheroes with ultra-pneumatic bodies here kids. i've been eager to read something from minx since i first heard about it, and finally "the plain janes" landed in my hands. and am i happy it did! mod-ish "main jane" leaves the city after a terrorist attack that lands her in the hospital. her parents, fearing for their safety move them to the safe, yet intensely boring suburbs. on her first day at her new high school jane declines an invitation to sit with the rather catty "cool girls" and instead opts to sit at the loser table, which is populated by three other girls also named jane. the three girls initially ignore jane's overtures to friendship, but in the end she wins them over with a plan to brighten up their little part of suburbia. it's a great story and the characters are sympathetic, and i'm really hoping castellucci writes a sequel in order to tie up some plot lines that were left dangling.

Tales from the Crypt: Ghould Gone Wild - Various

meh. this graphic novel remake of the old "tales from the crypt" series is seriously mediocre. the art is rather blah, and the stories are rather didactic (yawn). so what do we learn? if you are an evil fashion designer watch out for man-eating handbags; if you are an evil landlord, watch out for the ghosts of your dead tenants; if you are an evil action-figure collector, watch out for demonic toys etc. this is seriously dull stuff. in fact i'm not even going to spend any more time ruminating on it.

Big Boned - Meg Cabot

ah yes, detective chick lit. fun with subgenres. sarah mason's "playing james" also belongs to in this grouping. in "big boned" plus-size ex-pop star heather wells is working as an assistant dormitory director at new york college. her health food obsessed, marathon running boyfriend has a big question to ask her, and her boss has just been shot in the head at his desk. heather promises her roommate cooper that she will not get involved in the police investigation, but can't help being drawn in by events following the shooting. all of the aspects that define this genre are present in this book; 20 something female protagonist sorting out her professional life, a failing relationship and an unexpected new one, and a story told in a conversational manner, heavy on the humour. so, all in all a good fluffy read.

Friday, January 11, 2008

City of Bones - Cassandra Clare

holly black ("tithe", "valiant", etc.) comments on the front of this book that it is one of her favourite books. and certainly if you enjoy holly black, darren shan, or "buffy the vampire slayer" this is a book you're going to want to check out. clary is a normal 16 year old girl until she witness the murder of a blue-haired boy at a night club by three teens with strange tattoos. turns out the blue-haired boy was a demon and the tattooed teens are part of an ancient demon-fighting organization called the clave. shortly following this event clary starts seeing all sorts of weird things and her world gets thrown into turmoil when her mother is kidnapped and clary herself is attacked. lots of action, lots of witty sarcastic dialogue largely courtesy of jace the shadowhunter (a member of the clave) and clary, and a good twist at the end. this is going to be part of a series, and i'm already looking forward to the next installment.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Verdigris Deep - Frances Hardinge

first off, i'd like to say what a great word verdigris is. it refers to the blue-green rust that appears on copper. just so you know. well, i would expect a book with such a great title to follow suit and i wasn't let down. an urban fantasy for the junior set, it was surprisingly darker and more suspenseful than i had expected. "verdigris deep" is the story of three friends, who in a desperate attempt to get money for a bus home steal coins from a wishing well in the woods. they are then press ganged into working for the witch of the well granting the wishes that belong to the coins that they stole. all three begin to develop strange powers and they learn that wishes are seldom made by people at their best. it would appear that there is an art to making a wish, but that it has largely been forgotten, and the manner in which these wishes are interpreted becomes twisted and cruel. i suppose that makes sense though. for example, everyone knows that when dealing with faeries you have to be very careful what you ask for as they are very literal beings. i suppose a well witch could be considered akin to a faerie. anyway, if you enjoy books of this genre, such as the writings of o. r. melling, or diana wynne jones, i suspect you would also like frances hardinge's work.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Safe Area Gorazde - Joe Sacco

sacco does it again. or more accurately this would be sacco's first comics collection, "palestine" having been published the year after "safe area gorazde". and once again sacco draws you into a conflict and really makes you experience the pain of the people. both the israeli/palestine conflict and the bosnian war are humanitarian disasters that the world has largely ignored. but strangely, at the same time we are all well aware of them. the bosnian war was extensively televised, i can remember it vaguely, 13 years ago, so i would have been about that old. and of course most 13 year olds don't pay much attention to international conflicts. but looking back, it's amazing how little was done, as the u.n. just basically stood by and watched the slaughter of thousands of people. in srebrenica 7,000 muslims were exterminated by the serbs. that's in the course of a few days. can you wrap your head around that? because i certainly have a hard time doing so. anyway, this book is brilliant, powerful, moving and informing. read it if you're at all interested in this sort of stuff. aside from reading joe sacco's books, check out linda polman's "we did nothing" to get an idea of how the u.n. has been dismally failing at protecting anyone in the face of genocide and humanitarian crises.