Sunday, April 27, 2008

God Save the Queen - Mike Carey

absolutely brilliant. a dark urban fantasy in graphic novel form. i'd put this right up there with bill willingham's fables. the story of a battle for the realms of faery between two famous queens: titania and mab. although titania and mab are both shakespearean creations, they are depicted in "god save the queen" as the representatives of the seelie and unseelie courts. under titania's rule faery is beautiful and light, under mab it it dark and torturous. neither is good of course, i mean these are faeries we're talking about. not quite the cute little disney-fied pixies of contemporary creation. it seems that the one being with the key to turn the tides of the battle in titainia's favour is a young changling who is unaware of her faery heritage. stop me if you've heard this one before. i know, i know, it's been done (holly black, cassandra clare, o. r. melling and charles de lint to name but a few) but i'm not complaining because carey does it quite well. the art is awesome and the story's as good as anything you'll get from neil gaiman. my only complaint is that there's a few too many gratuitous underwear scenes. but then, what do i expect, it is a comic book after all.

Tank Girl: The Gifting - Alan Martin

i saw the tank girl movie back in high school. probably in grade 10 or 11. i thought it was awesome. the creators of tank girl and the fans of the comic book series that spawned the movie all hated it. alan martin and jamie hewlett, tank girl's creators, hated the movie so much they actually gave up on the whole thing and locked tank girl away. hewlett of course went on to fame and fortune by teaming up with blur's damon albarn to create the gorillaz. ok, so here's the thing. i know the movie was a flop, and is hated by all who loved the comic so dearly before its production. however, as a teenager i saw the film, loved the anarchy of it and went off in search of the (at that time) incredibly hard to find original comics. it was then that i realized that the comics were in fact way cooler than the movie, and that hewlett was a comic god.

so, now hewlett's away and working on the gorillaz and martin comes back with a new tg graphic novel. with new artists. 3 of them. and the result? every bit as raunchy and nasty as the original tank girl (of course, because martin's still writing). but the art is something else entirely. the character designs are a little different, a little sketchier i think, and i find the panels can be a little difficult to decipher at times. the printing style is totally monochromatic and very retro with the screen printing dots very obvious. i'm not sure yet if i love it or hate it. it didn't resonate quite so well as the originals, but then i am a little older now and a little more boring, so that might have something to do with it. what i do love about this new offering though is the cover. which is way different from anything you would have ever seen in the originals. essentially, it's a semi-abstract oil painting of tank girl running with her tank in the background. even if i don't ever come to love the stories i would have bought this book for the cover art and ashley wood's tank girl gallery at the back of the book. for that alone.

Tommy Sullivan is a Freak - Meg Cabot

another plane book. i actually had about 4 or 5 books with me for the flights to and from england. 7 hour flights. just an indication of how my ability to concentrate on any one thing for an extended period of time goes right out of the window when i find myself worrying about fiery doom. it is very important to ensure that i have several book choices with me. i mean can you imagine the horror if i'd only brought one book with me and found out that i didn't like it, or even worse, i finished it before the flight was over? gah. just thinking about it is stressful.

anyway, that's all besides the point. what i really want to talk about here is "tommy sullivan is a freak" by another of the chick lit greats, meg cabot. i tend to really enjoy meg cabot's books. she's a bit of a guilty pleasure isn't she? like sophie kinsella. yes, you may read their books and enjoy the spice girls-esque girl power nature of them, but you're not going to show up at a gallery opening and try and make conversation about them. i'm just saying. and that being said, i don't think i'd talk much about reading "tommy sullivan is a freak" a whole lot regardless of where i happened to be. this is honestly, one of the worst meg cabot books i have ever read. i know that cabot is notoriously fluffy, but this is beyond fluff. the main character, katie ellison, is popular, pretty and smart. although the only way you'd ever know that katie is apparently smart is because she keeps reminding you about her grade point average throughout the book. if she didn't do this i wouldn't blame you for thinking that katie doesn't have two brain cells to rub together. katie is also dating uber jock and high school heart throb seth turner. she's not all that into him though because she's constantly making out with or thinking about making out with various other boys. every page seems to be a litany of how hot this guy or another is. it gets old fast. katie is supposed to be the girl with character, but she comes across as way too vapid to ever make it believable. if you like meg cabot go ahead and read the rest of her bibliography, but give this one a miss.
note: apparently in england the book is called "tommy sullivan is a freak" and over here in canada it's call "pants on fire" thus explaining why the jacket picture and the title from the review seem a little at odds.

Remember Me? - Sophie Kinsella

i had to fly to england a couple of weeks ago and decided that i needed some very light reading material for the plane. i am a notoriously bad flyer and needed something that would not be stressful at all. so, back to that old, reliable stand-by, chick lit! although i'm not a fan of kinsella's shopaholic series, i do actually really enjoy her other stand alone titles. "remember me?" is her newest standalone offering, and i was quite looking forward to it. lucky for me it did not disappoint. it wasn't enough to fully take my mind off of the fact that i was 36,000 feet up in the air, nothing except possibly prescription medication would do that, but it certainly didn't add any extra stress either. thanks to kinsella for that.

the story is about a young woman, lexi smart, who wakes up following a nasty bump on the head to find that she is suffering from amnesia. lexi's memory abruptly stops about 3 years prior to the current date. although not a lot of time to miss out on - she does remember who she is, she knows her mother, she remembers going clubbing with friends 3 years ago - it seems that quite a lot has changed in that short period of time. lexi is no longer a simple office drone, but has moved into a managerial role, she has married a very attractive, rich man, her old friends seem to hate her and she appears to be having an affair with one of her husband's colleagues. all of this is so far removed from the person she remembers herself being that lexi has her work cut out for reconciling the woman she remembers being and the woman she appears to have become. the major question that needs to be answered then, is whether it is possible for lexi to remain the person she is (or was 3 years ago) and maintain the (admittedly desirable) lifestyle that the new lexi has established. all of the endearing/enduring hallmarks of the chick lit genre, along with kinsella's enjoyable light and airy style. if you like this kind of thing this is a great read. g. handed it off to his sister after we arrived in england. it would seem that she is into this sort of thing too, and it was nice to see the book going to another good home after i was done with it.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Queen Camilla - Sue Townsend

so, i'm pretty much familiar with townssend through her adrian mole series, you know, "the secret diary of adrian mole aged 13 3/4". a great series that is as funny as it it depressing. "queen camilla" has townsend continuing to display that painful comic talent that seems to be such a penchant among the british. have you ever noticed that british comedies don't often attempt to make you laugh out loud in the way of american comedies (which try to do so and so often fail). instead of inspiring a hearty "hahahaha", i find that my reaction to most british comedies is a groan of sympathetic pain mixed with a laugh. i know the germans have a word for it, schadenfreude, but the british have done so much to perfect it. anyway, that was a long and very tedious way of saying that like "adrian mole", "queen camilla" displays the same sense of painful humour, and maintains a focus on the defining aspects of british life, but there's royalty involved now.

in "queen camilla" townsend has written a dystopian novel with more than a few hints of nineteen eighty-four. all of britain's societal rejects: the morbidly obese, teen aged single moms, pedophiles, and the royal family, just to name a few have been rounded up and made to live in exclusion zones. these are areas of terraced housing that have been fenced off to segregate them from the rest of the population. used to lives of luxury the royals are coming to terms with what it means to live a bit more frugally. charles appears well chuffed about the red plastic washing basin he acquired for only a pound at the everything a pound store. and while there is some talk that a change in government may result in the reinstatement of the monarchy, not all of the royal family are quite so willing to head back into the limelight. but real problems arise when the prime minister introduces an anti-dog bill, limiting british households to one dog per, and charging exorbitant fees for the keeping of that dog. and while the royals themselves suffer through a state of impotence, their canines are not about to take this lying down.

Flight - Sherman Alexie

zits is a fifteen year old orphan. his father, an indian, left his mother "like a cruel magician" during zits' birth. his mother, irish, died of cancer when zits was still a kid. passed around from foster home to foster home zits is trying to come to terms with his heritage, trying to understand both sides of his ancestry. however, life hasn't been easy and although some foster homes have been better than others, many have been downright abusive, and something always happens that makes zits leave. zits wants the world to stand up and take notice of him, to acknowledge his existence, and to this end plans to commit a massive act of violence. however, something stops him, and instead he is taken on a spiritual journey into the past where he lives the lives of an fbi agent in the 1970s in red river idaho, an indian child during the battle of little bighorn, an indian tracker in the 19th century, an airline pilot, and a homeless indian man. these past lives culminate in zits developing an understanding of the person he actually is. a powerful and disturbing story that is both hilarious and painful to read, like "the absolutely true diary of a part-time indian", "flight" is another excellent contribution by alexie.