Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Joker's Last Laugh

The Joker's Last Laugh was the last Batman graphic novel that I bought in Toronto back in November. And of all of the Batman graphic novels I bought, this one is my least favourite.
It started out with a pretty good premise. The Joker has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, so he goes crazy and plans his last laugh. I think my problem with the whole thing was that it was a major cross over. The Joker's Last Laugh didn't just feature other villians from Batman; no it featured villians from all over the place in the DC multiverse. And I really don't know who the vast majority of them are.
Another thing that I didn't like was that Batman wasn't really a major part of this story. I bought it thinking it would be a fun battle between the Joker and Batman. But Batman only showed up every here and there. The Joker's Last Laugh was more about Barbara Gordon and Dick Grayson. Well, and the Joker as well of course. I think Batman only showed up like two or three times in the story. And he never punched the Joker out the way they show on the back of the book.
So as far as Batman stories go, this one really wasn't one. If you like cross over stories, you'd probably like this one. But otherwise, you're probably better off passing this story up.

School Book: A Million Little Pieces

This is not the kind of book that I would normally pick up, but it is on the reading list for one of my classes next term, popular fiction.
James Frey's A Million Little Pieces tells the story of the author's time in rehab. When he was 23, he woke up in a bloody mess on a plane with no memory of how he got there. At the time he was addicted to alcohol, glue and several other drugs. He went to a treatment facility where he was told he could either clean up or die before his next birthday.
The book itself is a very brutal account of addicts and treatment. James was an absolute mess when he got to treatment. A Million Little Pieces does not shy away from the horror you go through while trying to beat an addiction. You are there when James wakes up, with a hole in his cheek and his teeth missing. You are there when he goes through root canal without pain killers. You are there for everything.
The one thing that surprised me was the presence of love in the story. I didn't think that James would fall in love while in rehab. That was a very touching addition to this story.
Of course, after reading the back of the book and thinking about it for a bit, I was a little bit confused why Frey's memoir would be on the reading list for a class titled Popular Fiction. The mystery was soon solved when I started reading the book. In the author's note that is included, Frey admits that he embellished the story a bit. How much I am not entirely sure, but if you are interested, you can find some information on wikipedia. It appears there was quite a controversy on this issue. It takes a lot away from the story when you don't know how much of it is accurate.
A Million Little Pieces is also written rather weirdly. There are no quotation marks anywhere in the book to denote dialogue, and whenever Frey lists things, there are no commas. This made the book a little confusing at times (the dialogue you get used to as you read, but the lack of commas makes you have to stop and reread some passages). This is a minor inconvenience overall, but an inconvenience nonetheless.
Overall though, I have to agree with the Los Angeles Times Book Review's quote that is on the cover of my edition: "Gripping. . . A great story. . . You can't help but cheer his victory." Even though it is now considered a work of fiction, it was a good story. And among all the controversy surrounding the book, Frey managed to succeed in fighting his addiction. And that in itself is a wonderful thing.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Library Books: Powers Volumes 1 and 2

Powers was recommended to me at work by a patron. I had never heard of the series before and it looked interesting. So I got Volume 1: Who Killed Retro Girl back in October to give it a shot. It sat in my room for a couple of months. I was about to bring it back to the library, when I decided that I should give it a shot. (Besides, if I didn't like it, I could always return it as I was working today).

And then I started reading it. Who Killed Retro Girl? was amazing! Powers is about two cops who work with superheroes, trying to solve murder cases that involve those who are more than human. Right off the bat, I liked the feel of the whole story. But more and more, I started to really like the main characters. Detective Walker seems like a typical cop. But the further into the story you go, the more obvious it is that he's hiding something. His past is mysterious, and wow do I want to know more about him! And Detective Deena Pilgrim is spunky and fun, the opposite of Walker; with her, what you see is what you get.

I was about half way through Who Killed Retro Girl when I realized that I would need more! So I looked to see what else the library has. I was excited to go and get Volume 2: Roleplay while I was still at work (sadly, the library is missing volume 3, so I won't be able to read it anytime soon).

Anyway, Walker and Deena managed to solve the case of Retro Girl. So when I finished Volume 1, I started reading Volume 2 immediately after. And Roleplay was just as good as Who Killed Retro Girl? Roleplay started off rather differently than Who Killed Retro Girl; in fact, the beginning of Roleplay reminded me of an episode of CSI. But it has the same feel as Who Killed Retro Girl, and has a very interesting story.

Powers seems like an amazing story and I really hope I'll be able to read more of it in the future. What I have read so far has been great, and is definitely worth checking out!

Batman: The Killing Joke

I know, I know, another Batman story. What can I say? They're good reads. The Killing Joke was no exception. It was written by Alan Moore, and drawn/coloured by Brian Bolland. This was the deluxe edition, reprinted 20 years after it was originally made. My copy has the following quote by tim Burton: "I loved THE KILLING JOKE...It's my favourite. It's the first comic I've ever loved." While I don't exactly agree with this (My love goes to Knightfall part 1), The Killing Joke was pretty amazing.

When I bought this, I didn't bother reading the back of it. I just assumed it was the story of when the Joker killed Robin. While I was very wrong (Robin does not appear in this story at all) it was still a very interesting and involved story. The Joker believes that one bad day is all that separates so called normal people from the psychopaths of Gotham. To prove his point, he's decided to subject Commissioner Gordon to the worst day of his life.

This story is rather brutal at some points. To give Gordon a bad day, the Joker does some extremely terrible things both to Gordon and his daughter, Barbara. But The Killing Joke is extremely well written, and the art is fantastic.

Oh, and here's a bit of trivia: the original edition was not coloured by Brian Bolland. He recoloured everything for this deluxe edition. He also changed some of the drawings. So if you have both this copy and the original (which I don't, I just have the deluxe edition) then you can go through the books page by page looking for the differences.

The Killing Joke is a must-read for all of the Joker fans out there!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Library Book: Devi

I saw this graphic novel while I was at work yesterday. It sounded like it was a neat idea, so I decided to take a look at it.
Devi is a mortal woman who is chosen to host a goddess. The mortal woman is killed so that the goddess has free reign to go and stop the evil demons. Devi draws on the rich traditions and mythology from India. It is definitely a one of a kind read!
I thought it was really neat that Devi is also one of the first graphic novels produced in India. According to the introduction, Virgin Comics was developed in an attempt to revolutionize the Indian entertainment industry, similar to the manga of Japan. I'm very happy that they succeeded; if they hadn't then I would not have been able to read Devi in English. This book is volume 1, so I am hoping to get my hands on the next ones!
I also wanted to point out that it was rather neat seeing the Indian gods and goddesses in a graphic novel. Thanks to the religious studies course I took in my first year of university, I recognized some of the names of deities and other things from their culture (although that was a long time ago, and I could not recall everything I learned from the course). This really is a unique story that is worth checking out!

Friday, December 12, 2008


I haven't been so thouroughly enchanted with a book in such a long time. Sure, over the last year I've read some good books. But nothing like Cornelia Funke's Inkheart.
From when I first opened its pages two mornings ago, I was spellbound. I loved the characters Meggie and Mo right off the bat. And really, what reader wouldn't? They love books so much, you just had to love them! But beyond their love of books, the idea that Mo could bring books to life, quite literally, was also fantastic. Who hasn't wanted to meet their favourite characters?
The bad guys were also wonderfully thought out. You don't get much more evil than Capricorn. And to think, this isn't an adult book! And Basta, Capricorn's lackey, he was wonderfully characterized, fearing all manner of supernatural threats.
Beyond the characters, the book was well written. Other than a few places where I thought I had missed something, the book flows beautifully. This is the kind of book I'd be afraid to read aloud, it is written in such a way that the characters could just jump off the pages!
The one thing that I thought that was weird about Inkheart is that it is book 1 of a trilogy, but after finishing it last night, I had no desire to read the other books. Yes, there is so much more that can be told, but I liked where it ended. I can make up my own stories for the characters in my head, decide for myself what I think happens next. And I have no desire to change this any time soon by reading the sequels.
But again, and I cannot express this enough, I thought the book was absolutely fantastic. I think it is the type of book that can appeal to all ages. Inkheart is a wonderful book that is going to get a special place on my bookshelves!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Batman and Son

I picked this up about a month ago. I have to admit, I was intrigued about the idea of Batman having a son. Especially one trained by the League of Assassins.

So after The Bloody Chamber, I decided to take a shot with this book. And I have to say, the first half of it was great! There was a lot of action all over the place, and a lot of confusion over the fact that Batman has a son!

But at about the time of the Joker interlude, things started to go downhill. The Joker story, The Clown at Midnight was extremely creepy. It wasn't altogether bad, but it didn't seem fitting in the middle of this graphic novel. It slowed the action down a lot, being an actual short story, not a comic book. And did I say it was creepy? I can't stress that enough.

When I finished reading the interlude, I thought I would get right back into the action of the main story. Well, things went back to Damien, Batman's son, for a little bit. But then there was a bit about this Bane-like figure. And then came the weirdest thing of all: the last chapter of the graphic novel was set in the future. Batman died somehow, and Damien took over as Batman. It was confusing and an altogether disappointing end to the whole story. I wanted to know what Damien's mother was going to do after the explosion!

Long story short, this graphic novel was okay. The beginning is a lot of fun, but the ending leaves something to be desired.

The Bloody Chamber

While I was studying for my Children's Lit exam, I came upon a reference I had written in the margins of my notes of The Tiger's Bride by Angela Carter. The Tiger's Bride was supposed to be a modern rescripting of a fairy tale, much like Bluebeard's Egg by Margaret Atwood (which we were studying). And so, after my exam, I decided to head to Chapters to get a copy of the book which The Tiger's Bride was in.
The Bloody Chamber is a collection of short stories by Angela Carter. There are eight tales in the book, all inspired by folk and fairy tales.
The first tale, The Bloody Chamber is based off of Bluebeard. The next two, The Courtship of Mr. Lyon and The Tiger's Bride are both based off of Beauty and the Beast. Puss in Boots is obvious. I'm not entirely sure what The Erl-King is based off of. The Snow Child is based off of Snow White, while The Lady of the House of Love is based off of Sleeping Beauty. The next two, The Werewolf and The Company of Wolves are based off of Little Red Rising Hood, and the final one, Wolf-Alice is based off of Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There.
All of these tales were quite good, even though they are very heavy with description (which I'm not overly fond of). Most of them were of a sexual nature, which makes sense as they are based off of fairy tales (and most likely the originals, not the kid-friendly Disney versions). All in all, this was a good read, which really makes you think about the stories in a new light.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

School Books: Gallathea and The Spanish Tragedy Revisited

In preparation for my exam tomorrow, I decided to reread a few of the plays that we covered in class. Rather than rereading some of the good ones, I decided to revisit some of the plays that I didn't particularly care for the first time through.

The first play I revisited was John Lyly's Gallathea. The first time I read it, I found it strange. This time through, I thought it was a lot better. Yes, it still has some large problems. No one is properly characterized. Things don't come together as seamlessly as I think they should. Neptune randomly decides to disguise himself as a shephard for no reason at all. But this second time through, I thought it was a lot more fun. Maybe I was just a little more forgiving, or maybe it was because we analyzed it in class, but whatever the reason, I enjoyed this fun pastoral romp.

The second play that I revisited was Thomas Kyd's Spanish Tragedy. And I have to say, it was just as terrible the second time through! The only improvement in reading it the second time was that it was a bit easier to understand; my first time through it I had a hard time figuring out what was happening and why. This time through I understood everything perfectly, but the whole plot was still rather stupid. For one thing, the play is unnecessarily long. For another, there are large chunks that are terribly written! ("Speak thou fair words, I'll cross them with fair words;/Send thou sweet looks, I'll meet them with sweet looks;" II.iii, 34-5. What the heck kind of lines are these?) Oh, and my version has a whole bunch of additions, which are actually worse than the original written parts. However, I will say that the ending of the Spanish Tragedy is still pretty insane. That's about the only thing in the entire play worth reading.

So, to make a long story short, Gallathea is definitely worth a second look, while, in my opinion, the Spanish Tragedy is not.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Another List Update

I know I just did a List update a few weeks ago. But I think I'm due for another one. You see, I haven't read a whole lot off of the List (or in general) since that update. But I've been in the bookstores a little too much lately.

Since that update on the 18th, I have read two List books. And having finished "If I Were an Evil Overlord" today, the List is now down to 102 books. Yes, I managed to add three books onto the List since that update (well, now I am only up one book, but I had to read two to get down to 102). Adding to this problem, I also received the two reading lists for my classes next term, and picked up a few school books I hope to read over Christmas. Counting those school books I currently have, I have 105 books to read in my room right now. This does not include the couple of books that I have from the library (which I may return and get at a later date when I have more time).

So what are my plans for the next few weeks, once my exam is finished? Hopefully reading! I started another anthology today, and there are a few graphic novels I can't wait to read after my exam (last one Monday!). If I'm lucky, I'll also get through one or two list books before starting one of my school books. Whatever happens, I'm in for a busy December!!!!

If I Were an Evil Overlord

I have been reading this book on and off for at least six months. If I Were an Evil Overlord is an anthology edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Russell Davis. I picked it up on a whim one day while I was at Chapters. I like the anthologies Martin H. Greenberg puts together, and I really liked the sounds of this one. So, what the heck? I figured it would be a fun read.
There are fourteen tales in this book by fourteen different authors. They range from more serious to highly hilarious. Out of the fourteen, I really enjoyed eight of them (so that's pretty good for an anthology - I liked more than half of the stories). The eight I really enjoyed were the following: "If Looks Could Kill" by Esther Friesner, "The Man Who Would Be Overlord" by David Bischoff, "Ensuring the Succession" by Jodi Lynn Nye, "Loser Takes All" by Donald J. Bingle, "The Next Level" by David Niall Wilson, "A Woman's Work . . ." by Tanya Huff, "To Sit in Darkness Here, Hatching Vain Empires" by Steven A. Roman, and "Stronger Than Fate" by John Helfers.
The first three stories I listed were all read when I first got the book. "If Looks Could Kill" was hilarious, although it wasn't really about an overlord, but a hero's sidekick. The next two stories were what I expected of the book: stories of people who became evil overlords or who were overlords playing with their worlds, changing fate. They were both excellent.
The last five stories I listed were all read over the last few days. I've been studying for an exam, and I used this book as a study break: for everytime I went over my notes, I read a story. (It ended up being about equal: it took me about a half hour to read over my notes, and about a half hour to read a 20 page story). "Loser Takes All" and "The Next Level" both had to do with video games. They were both excellent reads. I especially liked "The Next Level" because of its weirdness. There were some things going on that didn't make a whole lot of sense, but it made for a good story (it also kind of reminded me of the game Assassin's Creed, which I recently played for the first time ever earlier last week). Tanya Huff's "A Woman's Work . . ." was extremely well written (well, I expect no less from Huff). It was a serious take of a woman overlord, and it was both excellent and inspiring (inspiring for a story, not for me to become an evil overlord). "To Sit in Darkness Here, Hatching Vain Empires" was also quite good. It featured an overlord who was a little too ambitious; he blew up the world accidentally.
The final story that I mentioned was one of the two that I read today at work. I almost got in trouble for reading it while on break; I couldn't put the book down and ended up a few minutes late getting back to work. "Stronger Than Fate" easily featured the best evil overlord out of the whole book. He magically managed to withstand everything, braving death itself to keep his empire within his own hands.
The other six stories that I mentioned weren't amazing, but for the most part they were still enjoyable. Most of them were a little too silly for my liking (I mean, who has rehab for overlords who have "lost their evil?"). But all in all, I thouroughly enjoyed this book. It was a great idea, and an entertaining read.