Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth

I honestly don't have a lot to say about this one. I finally bought the Arkham Asylum 360 game and decided I wanted to read the graphic novel before beating it (I've played through quite a bit of the game at a friend's place so I know a lot of the story for it). I was prepared for the graphic novel to be a bit weird, especially with the art of Dave McKean, but I really wasn't prepared for this. My big problem was that I had a hard time following the story. There were quite a few parts where I wasn't sure what was going on. There were other parts where I couldn't follow the panels (by the end I figured them out but there were a few places where it looked like you could read them in a couple of ways). And I had a hard time reading some of what the Joker said (his speech was written in crazy letters in red ink).
The basic idea is that the inmates of Arkham take over and want Batman. Batman rises to the challenge (mostly going so the inmates will give up their hostages relatively unharmed). But once inside he has to struggle with his own sanity as well as those inside. Running parallel to Batman's story is the story of Arkham, the owner who converted the house into an insane asylum.
There were some cool moments (like Two-Face being weaned off of his coin). I'll probably try rereading it one day (as an attempt to better follow the action). But all in all this definitely wasn't one of my favourites.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I Got a Kindle!

I was going to write about this a few days ago but just never really got around to it (and I couldn't decide if I should write about it here or on Shauna's World, but decided here was more appropriate being the book blog). I got a Kindle! My Kindle was a completely unexpected Christmas present from my family. Hilariously, I'd just told my mom that I didn't need one right now because I think it'll be great for travelling (and I have no travelling plans in the near future). I thought it was a bit expensive and was planning on buying one with birthday money (which would also be right after I've graduated with my MA, and so I would be free to travel!) So I was extremely surprised to find one under the tree for me! And to top it off, my brother is giving me a mini-shopping spree as well! So I'm getting a case and several e-books!
The Kindle is absolutely amazing! The screen is totally readable (like in the picture). It saves your place in the books you're reading (so you can read multiple things at once if you want). And it comes equipped with a dictionary so you can look up new words within the book you're currently reading! Oh yeah, and I can buy books (or get free older books) from anywhere I have internet access! There's a bunch of other really cool features as well, but those are the main ones I've used thus far. It's going to be hard to get through all my list books now that I can buy new books whenever I want (and they're delivered within a minute or two)!

Sunday, December 26, 2010


For some reason this graphic novel doesn't have a subtitle of some sort. But after a quick search online I was able to confirm that it IS book 1, which means that the comic series is still ongoing.
The Starcraft graphic novel tells the story of the War Pigs, a band of mercenaries who are reassembled on orders to hunt down and kill Jim Raynor. All of the War Pigs are criminals who were not resocialized, but allowed to retain their independence as a sort of experiment. Unfortunately, along with their independence comes their memories in graphic and sometimes debilitating detail. I found it a bit hard to follow at times (especially when people would start talking about other people who I don't think were mentioned yet but I might have just missed it), but overall it was a good story. I can't wait for the next volume, which will be able to jump into the story without the introductions that were necessary in this one (the War Pigs are, afterall, new characters for the Starcraft universe).

Friday, December 24, 2010

Shades of Twilight

Back when I read Linda Howard's To Die For, I said that I do not really like romance novels but I do like Linda Howard's books. And that still holds true. While I haven't touched a romance in a long time, I was immediately hooked when I started reading Shades of Twilight last night. The story was really interesting and I really liked the characters. Oh, and like Heart of Fire, Shades of Twilight is told from both the man's and the woman's perspective, which I really like.
Shades of Twilight is all about the Davenport family who lices in Arizona. Roanna and Jessie are cousins who lose their parents in a car accident and are taken in by their grandmother Lucinda. Jessie grows up like a princess, popular and beautiful, while Roanna is the clumsy, mischievious one. Roanna is in love with their other cousin, Webb, but he is the heir to the majority of the Davenport fortunes. As expected by everyone, he marries Jessie (although their marriage is far from happy).
But then one night Jessie is murdered and Webb is briefly accused. Everyone in the family except Roanna does not support him, so after the whole business is cleared up he leaves for 10 years because of their betrayal. Nearing the end of her life, Lucinda wants to make amends with Webb and asks Roanna to bring him back.
The years have been hard on Roanna. She always felt like she couldn't do anything right and that no one loved her, especially after Webb betrayed her by leaving. To protect herself she has withdrawn into herself and tries desperately not to feel anything so she will not be hurt. But the only person who can pierce through her armour is Webb, whom she still loves.
Shades of Twilight is the story of two people finding each other even after all of the betrayals and heartaches. It is also the story of the entire Davenport family and what becomes of them, especially after Webb's return brings out someone trying to finish the job that started with Jessie's murder by killing him. While it's not my usual read, I did enjoy it (having powered through over two thirds of it last night).

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Marvel Fairy Tales

A few years ago (I think it was right before I started this blog) I read both X-Men Fairy Tales and Spiderman Fairy Tales. I found out Marvel was also writing an Avengers Fairy Tales, so I was really excited, having enjoyed the other two. But Avengers Fairy Tales took years before it was collected into a graphic novel. I finally got it this past June when I was visiting Toronto. I thought I would read it right away, but as you can see it's taken me about six months before I finally did (I attempted to read it a few months back but put it aside in favour of school books).
I'm not a big reader of Marvel comics, so I don't really know who most of the people are, specifically the Avengers (I'm a bit more familiar with Spiderman and X-Men). But that didn't stop me from enjoying this collection. As with the other two volumes, these fairy tales are retold using the Marvel characters. Marvel Fairy Tales has two stories I've read before (one each from the Spiderman and X-Men fairy tales) and then the 4 new Avengers tales: Peter Pan, The Wizard of Oz, Pinocchio and Alice in Wonderland. All four stories were a lot of fun to read, and I really wish I'd gotten to them sooner!
I was going to say that I have now read all of the Marvel Fairy Tales, but Wikipedia notes that there may be a fourth collection forthcoming starring the Fantastic Four. I'll definitely be keeping my eye out for that one (and will hopefully get to it a bit sooner)!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Serenity: the Shepherd's Tale

I was really excited when I found out what the 3rd Serenity graphic novel was going to be. Shepherd Book is an amazing character who has remained shrouded in mystery. And after the events of the movie Serenity, it seemed like that was how he would remain. But then out came Zack Whedon's Serenity: The Shepherd's Tale which promised to shed some light on his mysterious past.
Unfortunately, I was expecting something a bit more from Book. There is nothing really wrong with his back-story here (and there's even a few really cool details), but I was expecting him to be like a crazy-awesome bounty hunter or a special forces operative (spoiler alert: he's neither). So while this is a neat story, especially with the way it is written (every few pages goes back in time a few years in his life), it failed to live up to my admittedly high expectations.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Library Book: Masters of the Universe: The Shard of Darkness

When I saw that there was a Masters of the Universe graphic novel, I had to read it. Unfortunately, right when I started reading it I felt like I was in the middle of the story. I know the basics of He-Man, having watched the show when I was younger. But I've never seen the new show, and even though this is volume 1, this book seems to assume that you've been following that and know what's going on.
The story itself is alright though. Orko finds a shard of an ancient evil crystal and it's up to He-Man to find the rest of the crystal and destroy it. Meanwhile, Evil-Lyn is trying to back-stab Skeletor and needs the shard as part of her master plan.
I thought the art was pretty cool, but that was really the best thing this had going for it. If you're not really up on the origins of He-Man, you'd probably want to give this one a pass.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Library Book: The Arrival

A friend at work recommended The Arrival to me. He told me it was a fast read that was quite good. By "read," he meant "look" because The Arrival is a book told entirely through pictures, not words. It tells the story of a man who emigrates from a land of nightmares to somewhere better, leaving behind his wife and daughter. It is the story of him settling into the new land, which is a fantastical place with strange creatures (like the little white guy on the cover). It is incredibly quick to go through, but it is a nice little story with fantastic artwork. I liked it.

Fable: The Balverine Order

Fable: The Balverine Order was my first non-school book since the summer. I found it at work, but decided to buy it because it comes with a code for a free weapon in Fable 3. As I told a friend, I was hoping the weapon would be awesome (because I've been so busy with school, I still haven't actually redeemed the code so I don't know). As far as I was concerned, the book itself might be an added bonus if it was good.
I was a bit doubtful on that score. The very premise made me laugh. Two guys go off on a search for the rare and illusive balverine. This sounds like a great premise - except that within the Fable games that I have played, when you hit a certain level you can't go about 10 feet within the game without tripping over balverines (I exaggerate - the actual number is probably closer to 50-100 feet). So everytime someone in the book talked about the "rare" balverine, I thought it was really funny.
But hilarity aside, The Balverine Order was really good. This is the story of Thomas and his servant/friend James. Thomas is haunted by the past - when he was younger, his brother was killed by a balverine (which is kind of like a werewolf, but specific to the Fable universe) and he was the only one who saw it; everyone thinks this story is the imagination of a young boy because balverines aren't real (they say it must have been a big wolf that killed Thomas' brother). After years of being called a fool, Thomas' mother's death serves as the catalyst that sends Thomas off on a quest to prove to himself that what he saw was real. He is accompanied by James, his only real friend in the world. Together, they travel through Albion and beyond on their hunt for the illusive creatures.
This was the first book that I'd ever read by Peter David. Before buying it, I did a bit of research and he seemed to come highly recommended. And after finishing The Balverine Order, I am inclined to agree with the recommendations. It's a quick read, but it's filled with excellent characters and grand adventure; I really enjoyed it.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

School Book: The Poetic Edda

I was working on a different paper, but was having a lot of trouble with it. So to take a break, I decided to read The Poetic Edda, which conveniently also helps me with school work.
The Poetic Edda was a really interesting read. I'm glad I read The Prose Edda before it though, because Snorri's work really helped me understand a lot of what was going on. I also found that I'm getting familiar with the Norse structures and allusions (kennings in particular. There aren't many in Eddic poetry, but I can pick out some of the more simple ones referring to blood and warriors).
That being said, The Poetic Edda is still a bit confusing. I think a lot of the confusion stems from us just not knowing a lot about their mythology. There were a number of instances where the note for a confusing line might say that the original is confusing or there is debate among scholars.
But overall, I really enjoyed the Poetic Edda, both the first poems about the gods and the later heroic poems (particularly the poems relating to the Volsungs). I think the only poems I wasn't too fond of were the ones concerning Helgi. There were three of these. The first one was alright, but the second was confusing and the third seemed like a confusing copy of the first poem. They were alright, but not as good as the other poems in this collection.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

School Book: The Prose Edda

I know I said The Reluctant Fundamentalist was the last book on the term's reading list. And that's true. But Snorri Sturluson's The Prose Edda was a book I wanted to read to help me with a final paper (and it will be followed by the Poetic Edda).
The Prose Edda was written by Snorri Sturluson back in 13th century Iceland. In it, he recorded the old pagan mythology as best he could (he was writing a few centuries after Iceland was converted to Christianity and the old ways were being lost). As such, The Prose Edda gives us most of what we know of pagan Viking culture.
The Prose Edda was a fun read. It's pretty easy to get through, as long as you can make it past the long sections of ancestry (which were not as bad as those found in the Tain). It's a great overview of Norse mythology (and was a really good introduction for someone like me who only knew a very limited amount).

Thursday, November 18, 2010

School Book: The Reluctant Fundamentalist

This is it: the last book on this term's class reading lists. And I have to say, it was an excellent read, perfect for the last book of the term. I don't know what exactly I was expecting but Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist definitely exceeded all of my expectations. And I'm not 100% sure why.
A big part of the appeal was how it was written. The main character, Changez, narrates the entire book. He is telling an American visitor to Pakistan his history, how he came to America for school, how he loved a woman named Erica, and the circumstances that brought him back to Pakistan. But it is an unusual first person narration. Changez doesn't give you the words of the American, but instead replies to what the man tells him. It makes for a really interesting read.
Another appealing part of the book was Changez himself. The more I read, the more I genuinely liked him. He has a sophisticated way with words that was extremely unique, but also put you at ease; he is a likeable guy. And while his is a narrative that you do not see very often in North America (it tended to be a bit anti-American near the end, but this was completely understandable within the narrative), Changez was always a regular guy who was easy to relate to.
I also agree with Philip Pullman's endorsement on the front cover: "Beautifully written . . . more exciting than any thriller I've read for a long time." The Reluctant Fundamentalist was beautifully written. And it really was a page turner, even if it wasn't really like your typical thriller. The more I read, the more I wanted to keep reading.
All in all, The Reluctant Fundamentalist was an excellent book. I definitely recommend it, no matter your reading preference.

Friday, October 22, 2010

School Book: Captain America: The New Deal

It isn't every day that I get to call something like this a school book. But Captain America: The New Deal is indeed on the reading list for my Literature After 9/11 class! And I was really lucky to find a copy locally - it's been out of print for awhile and will be reprinted in December of this year.
I don't know a whole lot about Captain America. To be perfectly honest, I think most of what I know (and my opinion of him) was formed while playing Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 with a friend on Xbox 360. When all was said and done in that game, he seemed like a real jerk and I didn't really like him. And while my opinion hasn't really changed, it didn't stop me from enjoying this book.
Captain America: The New Deal has such a ridiculous concept: Captain America takes on terrorists! I kept telling everyone before I read it that I don't think the terrorists have much of a chance (unless there's some kind of super villain behind them). I don't want to give any spoilers here, so I won't discuss one way or the other what happened. But the basic plot is that several months after 9/11, a small town in the middle of the US is held hostage by terrorists. It's up to Captain America to save the day, defusing the bombs and rescuing the entire town. The story itself is very exciting, although there were a few confusing pages. Nick Fury appears, which is always a plus. And there was a really great sequence right near the beginning with Captain America searching for survivors at the Twin Towers' Ground Zero.
Like I said, it's a bit on the ridiculous side, but all in all Captain America: The New Deal was a really good read.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

School Book: The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrun

I was a bit leery of reading J.R.R. Tolkien's The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrun. I've read The Lord of the Rings several years ago and found it a bit dry, so I was sort of expecting the same type of writing. Luckily I was pleasantly surprised. First of all, I wasn't really expecting Norse poetry, but was sort of expecting prose (like Ackroyd's Canterbury Tales). But even in the explanatory stuff that his son, Christopher Tolkien, included, there was no dry anything; I genuinely enjoyed what pieces of Tolkien's lecture notes were included.
I read The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrun out of order. I started with the poems, then went back to the introduction and later the commentaries on the poems. This is how I normally read school books, specifically Shakespeare and the like. I want to enjoy the work without anyone else's comments first, and then I'll go back and read whatever the editor/translator/whomever has to say.
The poems themselves were rather entertaining, but a bit hard to figure out at first. The style in which they were written is just so foreign to a modern English speaker. But once I got over that, I just enjoyed the story. Of course, the introduction and commentaries did help a bit. Once I'd read the poems I went back to these areas and some of the points I'd had trouble with started making more sense.
In the end I read the entire book from cover to cover, and I really enjoyed all of it. Tolkien's lectures were quite interesting and well-written, and I liked how his son explained how the poems came to be the way they are.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Reread: Beowulf

This was, I think, my third time reading Beowulf. The first two times I read it were both the year before I started this blog (when I was finishing up my first degree). I remember talking to a friend who said he absolutely hated reading it. But I really enjoyed it. Right off the bat I realized it was a viking story, which was a lot of fun. I watched Beowulf and Grendel that year, before rereading it a second time in preparation for the exam. And now I got to read it a third time for my "Translating the Middle Ages" class. I even lucked out: we're reading the Seamus Heany version, which is the version I have.
Going back to Beowulf was like going back to an old friend. Sure, I didn't remember the specifics, but I still remembered the just of the story. I also still remembered the ways in which the CGI Beowulf differs from the poem. (In case you're wondering, read the poem; it's better!)
Beowulf tells the hero's story, from his coming to help the Danes defeat Grendel to his downfall fifty years later saving his people from a dragon. It has a lot of battle and adventure in it. But more than that, it also gives you a glimpse of what life was like during the end of the 1st millenia AD. Now I know there weren't dragons and Grendels running around, but you can at least see some of what life was like in the halls of the vikings.
I don't want to say much more about it, other than to restate how much I like it. Sure, it isn't for everyone. But give it a try - you just might be entertained!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

School Book: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

When I first started reading Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, it reminded me of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon. The main characters in both books are rather similar: they are young boys who are both socially awkward. But from the first chapter, I knew that I would enjoy Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close a lot more than The Curious Incident. It was funnier, and overall a better story.
Extremely Loud is the story of Oskar Schell. His father is killed in the Twin Towers. While snooping in his dad's room afterwards, Oskar discovers a strange key hidden in a vase. He decides to embark on a quest to discover what the key opens, even if he has to open every lock in New York City!
At the same time, this is also the story of his family. His grandfather left his grandmother when she told him she was pregnant. Interspersed throughout Oskar's story are chapters written from both of his grandparents' perspectives trying to explain why things happened the way they did. These narratives were just as interesting as the main story.
While Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was rather different from what I normally like to read, I really enjoyed it. If you're looking for something different, then I recommend giving it a try!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

School Book: The Testament of Cresseid & Seven Fables

Today I read Robert Henryson's The Testament of Cresseid & Seven Fables, translated by Seamus Heaney. It was a really easy and quick read. I was really interested in the first part of the book, which was The Testament of Cresseid. Having studied Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida last year, I was interested in a different take on the material. And this was an extremely different take!
After abandoning Troilus, Cresseid was herself abandoned by Diomedes. She returns to her father's house and curses both Venus and Cupid for her plight. Cupid takes exception to this and asks the other gods to intervene on their behalf. And so the other gods curse Cresseid to become a leper. Cresseid passes the rest of her days in a leper house, but encounters Troilus one day (although neither recognizes the other). It is an extremely sad tale, especially at the end when they realize who each other was.
Included in this book are also seven Fables. The Fables were pretty entertaining to read. All in all, this was a quick but enjoyable read.

School Book: Falling Man

Don DeLillo's Falling Man is like nothing I've ever read before. I really enjoyed reading it, but I couldn't tell you why. It was an odd book in many ways. The descriptions were fantastic, but everything else was just really strange. It was often hard to tell what character was being talked about, or even talking; they were rarely mentioned by name. Even other characters wouldn't call each other by name (for example, the main characters, Keith and Lianne, called their son "the kid," which was odd, but at least you consistently knew who they were talking about). On top of that, the dialogue was extremely artificial, and very hard to follow.
The actual story is also a bit strange. Falling Man is the story of Keith, who survived the attack on the towers. After getting out just before they collapsed, he decided to head home to his estranged wife. Falling Man is the story of his family coming back together and then slowly coming apart again as time and distance from the towers increases.
Falling Man is not something I would normally read. It's also something I wouldn't normally like. With weird and generally crappy dialogue, I'm surprised I made it through it so quickly. But I honestly did enjoy reading it.

Friday, September 10, 2010

School Book: The Canterbury Tales: A Retelling

It's taken me a bit, but I finally finished the prose retelling of Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. I have never read The Canterbury Tales in their entirety, so this was a great opportunity for me. (Previously I have read both the General Prologue and the Miller's tale twice).
But right off the bat, things seemed a bit off. The big problem is that Peter Ackroyd's version is a prose retelling; the original Canterbury Tales is a Middle English poem. Yes, it can be a bit hard to understand for us modern audiences, but a lot is lost in translation. Both the General Prologue and the Miller's Tale seemed quite cut and rather dry compared to the original; they were missing both the clever use of language and the multiple meanings inherent within the original. I was also kind of bothered by the use of swears throughout the prose retelling. They often seemed out of place, particularly in the Miller's tale.
But otherwise this was an enjoyable read. As long as you keep in mind that this is a retelling which is rather different from the original, Peter Ackroyd's version will keep you quite entertained!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

School Book: In the Shadow of No Towers

I was pretty busy today so I decided to read Art Spiegelman's In the Shadow of No Towers. It's a board book/graphic novel, so I knew I could finish it in one night.
In the Shadow of No Towers was a pretty cool read. The first half of the book is made up of the actual comic strip. It deals with the author/illustrator's feelings in the wake of September 11th. The first few panels seemed a bit confusing, but once I got past that I enjoyed reading them.
The second half of the book was really cool though. It has several comic strips from New York at the beginning of the 20th Century reproduced. It was really interesting to learn about them. But more than that, Spiegelman based some of his panels from his strip from these; so while I was reading them, I was repeatedly struck with "aha" moments, realizing where he got the inspiration for some things from.
In the Shadow of No Towers is a quick read that I really enjoyed. Being so far removed from the actual events, it was informative to see how someone who witnessed the towers tumbling felt both during and after 9/11. I can't wait to talk about it in class this term!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

School Book: The Tain

After reading A Gate at the Stairs I was in need of something completely different. So I decided to read The Tain from my other class, Translating the Middle Ages.
The Tain is an old Irish epic. In some ways it reminded me of Beowulf. There was lots of fighting, with a superman who was just better than everyone else. I really enjoyed reading it (except for a few parts where it goes on and on listing people).
One day Medb, the Queen of Connacht, starts comparing her wealth to that of her husband's. Their fortunes are perfectly matched except that her husband, Ailill, has one of the finest bulls in the land. And so she starts a war with Ulster for their bull, the only one in all the land which can match her husband's.
But the men of Ulster are all afflicted by a curse. And so it falls to Cu Chulainn, an extraordinary young man, to fend off the advancing army until his countrymen recover. Cu Chulainn uses everything from single combat to guerilla warfare to fend off the Irish army.
The Tain is really entertaining to read. I really enjoyed it, especially because it was so different from A Gate at the Stairs. I think I prefer Beowulf overall, but it was still really good.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

School Book: A Gate at the Stairs

While I was reading A Widow's Walk, Lorrie Moore's A Gate at the Stairs came in from Chapters. It sounded interesting, so I decided to read it as soon as I finished A Widow's Walk.
I sort of regret that decision, but on the plus side at least I have finished the book. I had a really hard time getting into it at first because the narrator, the main character Tassie, rambles all over the place and it never seemed to get to a point. But eventually, a few chapters in, A Gate at the Stairs seemed to pick up. Accompanying her employers, Sarah and Edward, Tassie goes to another city and helps them adopt a biracial little girl, Mary-Emma (or Emmie as Sarah calls her). Tassie is employed as a babysitter for the little girl. And between Tassie, Sarah, and Emmie, the book gets to be rather entertaining between pages 100 and 200 or so, during which time Tassie meets a boy and falls in love, all the while entertaining both Emmie and the other children from Sarah's Wednesday multi-racial support group meetings.
But then the book seems to just keep on rambling with no real point (spoilers in this paragraph!). Sarah tells Tassie a bizarre and terrible story about her past, after which Emmie is recalled by the adoption agency (Sarah and Edward failed to disclose this story to the adoption agency, which has resulted in Emmie being taken away). The book felt like it should have ended here, but instead it rambled on for another 60 pages. Yes, there was another significant event that happened in these sixty pages, but the book just seemed to have no real steam left. Those last sixty pages were a torment to read.
This book is, like A Widow's Walk, for my Literature after 9/11 class. Bizarrely, for the first while I couldn't figure out how it really connected to 9/11. Other than a few references to the events and Tassie being afraid of her first plane ride (which she took with Sarah), there was no explicit connection to 9/11. But once Emmie entered the picture, so did racism. While racism isn't a new phenomenon, it's changed its face after 9/11. Tassie's boyfriend, who claims to be Brazilian, tells her that he kept getting stopped while he was living in New York because of his skin colour. Other than that, Emmie and Tassie are subject to more quiet and insidious forms of racism, like the looks Tassie gets when people assume she is the mother of a biracial child.
Other than that, the end of the book deals more directly with the wars that resulted after 9/11. Tassie's brother decides to join the army and is sent to war directly after finishing basic training. This happens pretty much within the last sixty pages, with the reader never quite sure of where he has gone (he sends a postcard home in which he says he's "shipping out tomorrow," (285), but it doesn't say where). While this ends up an important part of the end of the book, it seems like a footnote. I think that is because we are seeing the world the way Tassie sees it, but it seemed to take away from some of the later events (some of which I have to say were creepy. I won't go into detail).
Really, I thought that most of the book was rambly and I just had a really hard time with it. I never really connected with Tassie, and so I just never really cared about the book.

Monday, August 23, 2010

School Book: A Widow's Walk

It's almost that time of year again and I wanted to read a bit ahead before classes start in a few weeks. I'm taking two classes this semester: America After 9/11 and Translating the Middle Ages. Because I am already a book ahead in the Middle Ages class (I've already read the translation of Beowulf we're using), I decided to start with a book from the 9/11 class. I chose A Widow's Walk by Marian Fontana because it was written by a writer, so I was sure it would be good.
Well, the book was really good. I just wasn't prepared for how depressing it would be (I know, something called A Widow's Walk kind of screams depressing). A Widow's Walk is Marian's memoir of her life in the year after 9/11. Her husband, Dave, was a firefighter who died trying to rescue people from the Towers. The morning of 9/11, Marian and Dave were preparing to celebrate their 8th wedding anniversary. They had just talked to one another, preparing to meet up at a coffee shop. But while Marian was dropping their son, Aidan off at school, Dave was called to the Towers and to his death.
A Widow's Walk tells the story of what happened in that first year after 9/11. It tells of the terrible grief experienced by Marian, her family, and the wives of the other firefighters from Squad 1 who lost their lives that day. It tells of 5 year old Aidan, refusing to believe that his father is never coming back. It is a story of terrible loss, but also the beauty of the human spirit as friends, family, the country and the world band together to help the families of that day.
Part way through, Marian also starts the 9/11 Widows and Victims' Families Association. While the wives of the firefighters are taken care of due to the dangerous nature of their job, other families do not have the same supports present. Marian bands together with other charities started in the wake of 9/11 to help those in need. Marian also fights for the firefighters themselves, first to keep Squad 1 open when the city wants to close it down in the first few weeks after 9/11, and later lobbying for higher wages for the firefighters.
My only complaint is that there are a million different characters and it's really hard to keep everyone straight. Other than that, A Widow's Walk is a beautiful book, with some excellent descriptions and phrases. It is also incredibly sad, documenting one woman's terrible grief. It was an excellent read which really brought the whole tragedy of 9/11 back to me nine years after the fact.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Nonfiction Book: Writing Movies

Writing Movies: the Practical Guide to Creating Stellar Screenplays is the first nonfiction book that I've ever reviewed here. But considering I've been reading it all summer since starting my screenwriting class, I thought it was fitting that I write about it here. (And now that I've started writing about nonfiction books, I'll keep doing so, although this blog will remain primarily devoted to fiction).
Writing Movies is an excellent guide for novice screenwriters (which includes myself - this class was my first introduction to screenwriting). It covers the basics of everything, from plot and characters to theme and even what the Movie Business is like. And every chapter is by a different person, so this book gives you the advice of ten screenwriters who have sold screenplays. It's a great help guiding you through the process, and it will make an excellent reference book for any help you might need with specific aspects of your script.

Monday, July 12, 2010


I like this picture of Chill better than the actual cover, so it's going here too.

Almost a year to the day later, I finally read the second part to Elizabeth Bear's Jacob's Ladder trilogy (I actually finished Chill on July 9th at camp). And unfortunately, I wasn't really impressed with it. With Dust, I didn't want to put the book down. With Chill, I generally couldn't be bothered to pick it up.

Chill picks up pretty much where Dust left off. Perceval is now captain of the ship, which she has managed to save from the dying nova star. The Jacob's Ladder is now accelerating, but it has been damaged in the process and is now in dire need of repair. So enters Caitlin, the Chief Engineer, who must find a way to repair the damage with the limited resources available onboard.

At the same time, Arianrhod, a woman who should have died, has escaped. And so Tristen, Perceval's First Mate and head of the house of Conn, and Benedick, Perceval's father and Tristen's younger brother, are trying to track her down. With a colourful cast of characters, many of whom appeared in Dust (like the necromancer Mallory and the basilisk/torch Gavin), the two brothers journey across the ship in pursuit. Engaged in a pincer movement in an attempt to cut her off, the two brothers encounter vastly different things, from carnivourous plant people to ancient enemies of Tristen's.

You may have noticed that Perceval and Rien, the two stars of Dust, do not really feature in Chill. While it's true that Perceval is now captain, she really doesn't have much to do with the plot of Chill at all, grieving for the loss of Rien. And that was one of the problems of Chill, that we have lost a confident character who was a lot of fun to follow.

The other problem is that the narrative is so fragmented. In Dust, the story was mainly told from one or two perspectives (Rien's and Perceval's). But in Chill, we are all over the place, following three main characters who are facing vastly different things. While I liked all of them, I just felt that everytime I started to get into what one was doing, the narrative would switch to one of the other characters.
Another problem might have been that I read Dust over a year ago, and forgot a lot of what happened in the book (and who some of the characters were). For that reason, when Grail comes out, I'm going to reread both Dust and Chill before reading it. That will also give Chill a second chance.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


I found Lucy A. Snyder's Spellbent in Chapters back before my Toronto trip. I took it with me and started it after I finished The Hob's Bargain. Unfortunately, I couldn't really get into it. I got 40 pages in, then stopped. A few weeks went by while I put off going back to it; I continued moving onto something else. Finally, a few days back, I decided to finish off Spellbent in the hopes it got better.
Spellbent is the story of the mage Jessie Shimmer and her ferret familiar Palimpsest on their quest to rescue her lover Cooper Marron from Hell. I have to say, I absolutely love the premise of the book; reading the back randomly in Chapters made me want to buy it and read it immediately.
Unfortunately, I've never really liked Jessie. I don't know what it is about her, but I just couldn't really connect with her. I absolutely loved her familiar, Pal. The fact that a giant spider-like creature is stuck in the body of a ferret was really awesome (and the idea that something would have to serve as a familiar for hundreds of years as punishment for some unknown crime is horrifying). I also liked some of the other characters, like the Warlock. But I never really liked the main character.
I also found the story a bit boring. While terrible things seemed to happen pretty quickly, it just never really held my attention. I'm not sure why this happened, but that was the way it was; I'm thinking it probably came down to Lucy Snyder's writing style.
So I was kind of disappointed with Spellbent. While I liked the overarching story, I wasn't really impressed with the specifics. I think I'm going to give her future books in this series a pass.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

List Update

As I mentioned in my review of The Hob's Bargain, I just got back from a trip to Toronto. Of course, while there I went book shopping. While most of the books I bought were graphic novels, I did buy a few novels and whatnot (while it is not a List Book, I managed to find a copy of Story by Robert McKee which I am very happy about!) Most of the graphic novels are Batman stories (many of which were recommended to me by someone I met in the Labyrinth, the store where I bought most of the graphic novels I bought), but I got a few random other ones as well (one of which was Marvel Fairy Tales, a graphic novel I have been looking for for quite some time!) The only other book which will not be added to the List is Batman: Vampire. I decided I wanted a copy of it for myself, so I picked it up at the Labyrinth.

Unfortunately, my Toronto trip brings the total number of books on The List up to an even 140. On the plus side, that's only one more since my last update (I managed to read about 8 books since then), but now I have a LOT of reading to do!

The Hob's Bargain

I actually finished reading Patricia Briggs' The Hob's Bargain on June 5th while I was away in Toronto. I waited until I got home today before writing this review because I decided to take a week off from using the internet.
The Hob's Bargain is the story of Aren. Her family is murdered by bandits and then magic is set free within the land. While she is mistrusted and feared by many of the villagers because of her magical abilities, she agrees to do anything within her growing power to save her village and valley, including making a bargain with the newly awakened hob.
The Hob's Bargain was pretty good overall but seemed a bit predictable. The basic plot was pretty similar to Steal the Dragon (there was a male friend introduced near the beginning of the book who looked like a potential love interest, but in the end the strong female character falls for the magical being instead, which is made obvious about halfway through the book). But even though it was really predictable, I enjoyed reading it. I really liked Aren, the strong female character. She managed to move beyond the prejudices inherent within her village, showing herself to be just as capable as the men. I really liked the hob, despite never being completely clear on what he was. I just wished that there had been more from his point of view. And the book's ending even managed to surprise me in some ways, which was great.
As I said, I did enjoy reading The Hob's Bargain in spite of its predictability. It was a pretty good story which kept me reading, wanting to know more.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Essential Godzilla: King of the Monsters

I got Godzilla: King of the Monsters about a year ago in Toronto. It was free comic book day, and a graphic novel store that I frequent was giving copies of it out. I wasn't really sure if I was going to read it, but I took it anyway. Of course, that fear has been assuaged over the last few days as I have indeed read it. And what a wild story it was! Godzilla is in North America, and he does pretty much everything: fight superheroes, solve mysteries, shrink, go back in time, and of course he fights other monsters, too!
While this is the story of everyone's favourite gigantic lizard, it is also the story of Dum Dum Dugan, the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent sent to deal with the problem, and of Rob Takiguchi, the grandson of Dr. Takiguchi (who was sent with his grandson and assistant to deal with Godzilla). Rob is the only one who believes in Godzilla's innate goodness and who tries to stop everyone from attacking the giant lizard. And no matter how many times Rob is proven right, no one will listen to him, especially not Dum Dum.
I have to admit, I didn't really like Dum Dum Dugan. He was one of those characters that no matter how many times he was proven wrong, he refused to alter his standpoint. In this case, no matter how many times Godzilla saved his life, he continued to attack the giant lizard. It got really old really fast.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters was by no mean the best thing I've ever read. It's pretty dated in some ways, and it is pretty long (it's made up of 24 issues). And the whole "only the kid knows" stuff got pretty old. But overall, it was a lot of fun. I mean, Godzilla beating up everything is always entertaining.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Batman: Death and the Maidens

After reading The Long Halloween, I decided to give Batman: Death and the Maidens a try (I have one more Jeph Loeb/Tim Sale book left, and kind of wanted to save it. Plus this is shorter than Dark Victory).
Reading the introduction to Death and the Maidens, I became quite excited. This was, according to the editor Matt Idelson, Greg Rucka's best work. Having no experience with Greg Rucka's work, I was prepared to be amazed. Unfortunately, I was not amazed.
As you can tell from the cover, Death and the Maidens deals with Ra's Al-Ghul. I don't know a lot of the history of him, but he is a bit more supernatural than I like my Batman villians to be (with the Lazarus Pits and him being centuries old and all). So when we are immediately introduced to a hitherto unknown daughter of his, Nyssa, and her back story gets spliced into the action of the main story, I had a bit of a hard time. The problem was both little knowledge on Ra's and company, but also I didn't really care what was going on.
The main idea is that Nyssa is completely against her father, wanting him dead. And Ra's is dying, having been deprived of his Lazarus Pits by Batman (I think). So Ra's visits Batman with a desperate deal: he will trade Batman a drink that will allow him to communicate with his dead parents in exchange for a working Lazarus Pit. Meanwhile Nyssa is busy kidnapping her sister Talia and plotting the murders of both her father and Superman. (As a side note, Superman has an awesome and completely unexpected moment in this story).
One of the main problems with this story was one pointed out by Craig Johnson on Comics Bulletin: Batman is like a side character in this story. Even the whole plot with his parents seems completely unnecessary.
So overall, I wasn't really fond of this graphic novel. The story was just okay, nothing special. I'd pass this up in favour of something like The Long Halloween or Knightfall pt 1.

Batman: The Long Halloween

I've had Batman: The Long Halloween for a long time; I bought it in Toronto at the same time as Batman: Haunted Knight. I've really wanted to read it, but I've had a hard time justifying it because it is much longer than most of my graphic novels. But after reading The Incident Report, I wanted something that I knew would be excellent. And since I am heading back to Toronto in a few days, I wanted to read a few of my graphic novels in preparation of buying some more. My plan for today was to hang out and read, making it the perfect time to read The Long Halloween.
The Long Halloween is a lot of things. It is the story of the downfall of the crime family led by "the Roman." It is the story of a serial killer, named "Holiday" because he kills members of the crime family on holidays, leaving little holiday mementos to mark the occasion. And it is the story of how Harvey Dent became Two-Face. The Long Halloween will keep you guessing right to the end - just who is Holiday?
Batman: The Long Halloween was an excellent story, and well worth reading if you like Batman. Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale did a fantastic job, and like the Dark Templar Saga, I wish I had read it sooner!

Interlude: The Incident Report

A friend of mine lent me Martha Baillie's The Incident Report after hearing that I work at the public library. It is a book about Miriam Gordon, a "Public Service Assistant" who works at one of the Toronto Public Libraries. The entire book is comprised of incident reports that Miriam writes. I started the book on break while at work today (a fitting place to read it) and just finished it a few minutes ago.
When I first started reading the book, I liked it. The Incident Report starts out with a couple of incidents that I could really relate to, having worked in a public library for several years now. But then I hit a couple of "incidents" which weren't really incidents. They mostly involved Miriam's memories of her father, but later in the book moved onto her relationship with Janko. The memories of her father didn't seem to really fit, and so I became a bit more unsure of what I thought.
Overall though, the story kept me reading (as I said, I finished it in a day). Miriam starts to discover little notes left in the Children's Department referring to her. A patron has written about Miriam using references to the Opera Rigoletto, referencing her as his (with the patron as Rigoletto) daughter (Gilda). The notes seem to get increasingly threatening, saying that they will never be parted (quite unlike the opera). As these notes kept appearing, I really wanted to find out what would happen.
Miriam's relationship with Janko was also interesting to read. Written in incident reports as well, you only get little glimpses of what is happening; I thought this was rather well done.
Unfortunately, as the book drew to a close, I felt unsatisfied. There seemed to be too many questions left unanswered. So while this was a quick little read, I'm not really sure I'd recommend it to anyone. If you work or have worked in a library, you'll definitely be able to relate to The Incident Report. Otherwise, you might not really enjoy this. Of course, I am fully aware that this isn't really the type of book that I normally enjoy reading, so if you'd like a second opinion before making up your mind, check out the Globe and Mail review or check out the reviews and news on Baillie's own website (it is on the Giller Prize longlist).

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Dark Templar Saga: Twilight

Today I started and finished the final book in Christie Golden's The Dark Templar Saga. And what a book it was! Like Shadow Hunters before it, Twilight ends right where the story left off. Zamara and R.M. Dahl managed to get the warp gate on Aiur functional, and everyone who could tried to run through to Shakuras. Unfortunately, R.M. and the other refugees discover the Protoss on Shakuras realized the Aiur gate was open; in an attempt to stop the Zerg from following the refugees through, they redirected the gate to an unknown destination - and Jake and Zamara are the ones who got redirected.
To make matters worse, Zamara being in Jake's mind and sharing memories with him is killing him. And so they were on their way to Shakuras for help from the Dark Templar. Closed off from the very help they needed, they go in search of Zeratul, hoping the Prelate can aid them. But the Protoss they find is very different from the one Zamara remembers.
As usual, Christie Golden did a fantastic job bringing this story to life. I enjoyed every minute of reading it (especially when Zeratul was brought in; I have always liked his character). But more than that, The Dark Templar Saga will provide an excellent bridge between the two games. Fans of the first one are given more information dealing with certain "cliffhangers" brought up in Brood War. This whole series was an excellent read and I'm really glad I didn't wait for it a second longer!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Dark Templar Saga: Shadow Hunters

A few minutes ago, I finished book 2 of Christie Golden's The Dark Templar Saga. Shadow Hunters picks up where Firstborn left off, but this time pretty much everyone has found out about Jacob Ramsey and the Protoss in his head. Kerrigan sends her forces, who mistakenly capture the wrong guy. The Heir to the Terran Dominion continues to pursue, sending his personal ghost into the fray. And Ulrezaj, an archon made up of seven dark templar is also after Zamara. Jacob and R.M. Dahl are hard pressed to stay ahead of everyone.
Following Zamara's directions, the pair makes their way to Aiur, where they discover the few remaining Protoss have been split into two opposing camps. While they are able to befriend the Shel'na Kryhas (Those Who Endure), the Tal'darim (the Forged) are bitterly opposed to the Shel'na Kryhas. And unfortunately, the Tal'darim are right where Zamara, Jacob and R.M. need to go.
Shadow Hunters was just as good as Firstborn. Like the first book, I didn't want to put it down. Unfortunately that wasn't possible, so it took me a bit longer than planned to read. But that doesn't matter. I can't wait to see how everything plays out in Twilight, and I can't wait to see what Zamara's been hiding.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Dark Templar Saga: Firstborn

Firstborn came out a few years ago. As the first book of a trilogy, I wanted to wait until the final book came out before getting it. Unfortunately, the third book ended up delayed for a few years and by the time it came out the first two weren't readily available. I then decided to wait until all of the trilogy was published in an anthology like The Starcraft Archive, which collected the first three published novels as well as one story which was only released as an e-book. All of that changed when I went to Duluth and found them in Barnes and Nobel. I ended up buying both Firstborn and Shadow Hunters (Book 2) there, and I came home and picked up a copy of Twilight (Book 3) here (the only copy of Twilight that they had was in really rough shape).
Firstborn begins the story of the archeologist Jake Ramsey. He is given the chance of a lifetime when he is hired to excavate an abandoned temple. Inside he discovers the body of a Protoss and becomes bound to her spirit, a Preserver who brings with her the memories from the entire Protoss race. Jake is left trying to sort through these memories while hanging onto his own Terran identity. On top of all of this, the benefactor who hired him wants the extraordinary contents of Jake's modified brain and is hunting him down. Jake's only hope lies with both Zamara, the Protoss he has merged with, and R.M. Dahl, the very woman who betrayed him after he merged with Zamara and was then betrayed herself.
When I first saw that the entire trilogy was by Christie Golden, I was incredibly excited. Several years ago I read her Ravenloft book Vampire of the Mists and loved it. And even though I waited a long time to get my hands on the Dark Templar Saga, the wait was worth it! I love Christie Golden's characters, especially Jake Ramsey and Zamara. The story is great so far, with action and betrayal everywhere you turn. And Christie Golden even managed to make the events from Shadow of the Xel'Naga, a book I hated because it felt like it was written by people who had no idea of how the Brood War worked, seem more plausible. I can honestly say I devoured Firstborn (I read about 300 of its approximately 350 pages today) and loved every minute of it. I can't wait to see what happens in Shadow Hunters tomorrow!!!!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mortal Coils

I was standing around in Chapters, talking to a couple of friends when Mortal Coils caught my eye. It is written by Eric Nylund, who also writes some of the Halo novels (which I have not yet read). It sounded intriguing, so I decided to buy it.
Mortal Coils tells the story of the twins Fiona and Eliot Post. They live with their Grandmother and Great-Grandmother in a house full of rules. Nothing exciting has ever happened to them, until they turn 15. It is then that they begin to discover the truth about themselves. As the children of a Goddess and Lucifer, the Prince of Darkness, they are tasked with three heroic trials by their mother's family to determine whether they belong with the Immortals or the Infernals (their father's family). Discovering the twins' existence, the Infernals also devise their own tests in the form of three temptations. The twins need to survive these tests by ultimately discovering their own powers and strengths. But much more is at stake than just their lives, for Fiona and Eliot may be the key to starting a war between the Immortals and the Infernals.
I was excited when I found Mortal Coils in Chapters, but while I was poking around on Eric Nylund's website, I discovered that it is not a stand-alone book, like I expected. The next book is due out this summer. Normally I would wait to read a book in a series, having learned several years back that I do not remember everything that happened in previous books (this was from reading Terry Brooks' High Druid of Shannara series. I thought I remembered everything that happened, but when I opened the second book, Tanequil, a year after reading Jarka Ruus I was completely lost as to who the characters in the first chapter were!). Unfortunately I discovered All That Lives Must Die as I was in the middle of Mortal Coils so I chose to keep going.
Mortal Coils was also a bit hard to read at first. The main problem was that it had footnotes all over the place; the footnotes reminded me of a school book, even though they provided mostly fictional information. This made Mortal Coils a poor choice for my first non-school book of the summer. Luckily it was still an excellent read, especially at the end, as Fiona and Eliot really began to assert their own authority. Overall, Mortal Coils was great, filled with wonderful ideas and characters. I can't wait for the next book!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

List Update

It's been quite a long time since I last wrote a List update, but after taking a look at the actualy physical List, I thought it was time. I just got back from Duluth, where I bought a few books. Two of those books were part of a trilogy, so when I got home I of course ran out to buy the third one here. But before this book spree, I've also bought a few novels here and there, which has brought the books on the List up to 139! Yes, I currently have 139 books to read in my room right now! I think I'm going to have to avoid bookstores for awhile, at least until I get through some of these books! Luckily I am about two thirds through one, and really excited to get started on that trilogy I mentioned.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Library Book: Starcraft: Ghost Academy Volume 1

When I first found this book at the library, I was originally skeptical. A few years back, I read a Blizzard manga series (the Warcraft Sunwell Trilogy) and absolutely hated it. But when I saw that Keith DeCandido was the author, I knew I had to give this book a read. Keith DeCandido wrote Starcraft Ghost: Nova, which is a book I really enjoyed a few years ago.
And Starcraft: Ghost Academy Volume 1 did not disappoint! This manga details what happened to Nova when she was training to be a ghost. In the original book, Nova, this was a part of her back story that was missing. According to the Starcraft Wiki, this is the first of three books, although there is the possibility of more, and they will be followed by another novel.
Following a new training protocol, all of the ghost trainees are assigned to a team, which will build their social skills and allow them to work better with non-ghosts in the field. Nova's team is initially one person short, but later assigned the son of the finance minister, Aal Cistler. Cistler isn't a telepath, but he's able to get into the Ghost Academy because of his father's influence. Unfortunately, he doesn't really understand what he's gotten himself into. Meanwhile, Nova has to learn that even though she is incredibly powerful (she has a psi index of 10), she still has to learn to work as part of a team.
Keith DeCandido did a great job, and I'm really glad I picked it up! I can't wait for the next two, and now I'm tempted to try reading the Starcraft: Frontline series!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

School Book: Wuthering Heights

I wasn't very excited when I found out I had to read Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights. The professor I TA for sold it to me as more prose poetry. And after the last two books I had to read for that class (Elizabeth Smart's By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept and Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway), I was dreading another similar book. But thankfully, my fears were laid to rest relatively early on: Wuthering Heights was quite dissimilar to the aforementioned books.

Wuthering Heights tells a bizarre story when all is said and done. Mr. Earnshaw brings a gypsy/orphan boy named Heathcliff home and raises him as his favourite. Heathcliff gains the affection of Mr. Earnshaw's daughter Catherine while gaining the animosity of his son, Hindley. After Mr. Earnshaw passes away, Hindley relegates Heathcliff to the status of a servant, but Catherine remains his friend. But even though she loves him, she decides to accept the marriage proposal of another for a secure future, prompting Heathcliff to seek his fortune and later revenge on those who wronged him (including Catherine's husband for stealing her away).

Unfortunately I felt that Wuthering Heights kind of lost it at the end. The book was good overall, but the ending was just okay. That being said, I still recommend it if you want an excellent tale of love and obsession.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

School Book: Christopher Marlowe: The Complete Plays

After reading Edward the Second last year, I wanted to read more of Christopher Marlowe's work. I picked up a copy of Christopher Marlowe: the Complete Plays on one of my trips to Toronto, so this is actually a List book as well as a school book!
After reading all seven plays, my favourite two were Tamburlaine the Great Part 1 and Edward the Second. Tamburlaine Part 1 is amazing! He is a shepherd who decides to conquer the world, which he does. Tamburlaine is a superman, both a crazy fighting machine and an amazing rhetorician. Tamburlaine Part 1 is a lot of fun. Unfortunately, I didn't really care for Part 2. Part 2 is Tamburlaine's downfall. Part 1 is based off of the historical facts of Tamburlaine's life, but Part 2 is largely made up, and doesn't work as well.
Edward the Second is still an excellent play. I've already spoken about it here, so I'm not going to go into much detail. I'd love to see a performance of it though.
The other plays were alright as well. They just couldn't live up to the awesome of these two. Dido, Queen of Carthage seemed kind of silly, but it was pretty fun. The ending really added to the silliness (it shouldn't have been silly, but it's so over the top that it is!) The Jew of Malta was also pretty fun. Some of the things that happen in it are so unlikely it's hilarious. The Massacre of Paris was pretty over the top, too. A lot of people die (it IS a massacre) and it's a bit confusing, but I didn't mind it. I think the biggest disappointment was Doctor Faustus. Doctor Faustus was really built up, but I had a hard time getting into it.
So overall, I really liked Christopher Marlowe's plays. They all seemed to be over the top and fun, making them really enjoyable reads.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

School Book: Nights at the Circus

Angela Carter's Nights at the Circus is the last book I have to read for Identity in British Fiction! And for the last book of the course (well, there are two more but I've already read them) it was sufficiently strange.
Sophie Fevvers is an aerialiste who is half woman and half swan. She is the star of Colonel Kearney's circus. Jack Walser is a reporter who is on a quest to find out whether or not Fevvers is a fake or not. He joins the circus in an effort to find out.
The book was a little dry at first. Fevvers and her foster mother Liz tell the bizarre tale of Fevvers' childhood. It's a bit hard to get into at first, but it's really entertaining. Part 2 is made up of Walser's adventures as a clown in the circus. And Part 3 is where everything gets really weird: they are derailed, kidnapped, and Walser loses his memory. There is also a weird progression throughout the book with the narrative point of view where part 1 is third person, and parts 2 and 3 have more and more first person perspectives worked in.
I'm still not sure what exactly to make of Nights at the Circus. It was hilarious but strange, entertaining yet bewildering all at the same time.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

School Book: The Passion

The Passion by Jeanette Winterson is a crazy book set during the rise and fall of Napoleon Bonaparte. Henri is a peasant boy who believes in Napoleon and follows him all the way to Russia. He enlisted to be a soldier in the Grand Army, but ends up in the kitchen tent preparing and serving Napoleon chicken. Villanelle is the Venetian daughter of a boatman who sold her heart and was later sold to the French by her estranged husband. Both of their paths meet and their lives become forever entertwined.
When I first started reading The Passion, I wasn't sure what to make of it. But I was quickly caught up in first Henri's and later Villanelle's story. While it was strange at times, The Passion was a quick and enjoyable read. If you're looking for something a bit different then this one's for you!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

School Book: Moon Tiger

I finished reading Penelope Lively's Moon Tiger yesterday and loved every minute of it! Hands down, Moon Tiger is the best book I have read for school this year!
Moon Tiger reminded me of a Margaret Laurence book I read back in high school called Stone Angel. But Moon Tiger was what Stone Angel should have been: Moon Tiger has wonderfully deep characters whom you care about.
Moon Tiger is the story of Claudia, who is dying of cancer. She is planning on writing the history of the world, and is going over her life while she contemplates writing. Claudia shares with us all the major events and people that have coloured her unconventional life.
While Claudia might not be the best mother in the world, she is very interesting and very full of life. She reminded me a bit of Harriet Scrope from Chatterton, but I liked Claudia more. I also liked how her version of events was never priviledged over other people's; whenever Moon Tiger narrated how Claudia saw something, it would immediately give how the other people in her life saw that same event. Moon Tiger is a fantastic glimpse into the different worlds that are people.
Unfortunately, I find myself unable to really describe Moon Tiger in any other words at the moment. So I will just say that it is a fantastic book and I heartily recommend it to everyone! And as far as I am concerned, it definitely deserved to win the Booker Prize of 1987 (it beat out Chatterton!)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

School Book: Chatterton

This is the first book all week that I've actually enjoyed. Peter Ackroyd's Chatterton is not something that I would normally decide to read on my own. But after both By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept and Mrs. Dalloway, I was just really happy that it actually had a plot.
Chatterton is an odd tale. It starts off when Charles Wychwood finds an old painting of a middle aged man whose face looks familiar. Charles and his friend Philip recognize the face as Thomas Chatterton, but much older than he should have been. Suddenly, Charles finds himself confronted with the intriguing possibility: what if Chatterton didn't die when he was supposed to, at age 17, but faked his death and kept forging the work of other famous people?
I really liked the many interesting and unique characters, from Charles, the poet who knows he is good but hasn't been discovered yet, to Harriet Scrope, the eccentric author who is failing to write her memoirs. All of them helped to make Chatterton a relatively quick, enjoyable read.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

School Book: Mrs. Dalloway

Before I begin, I just want to say that this is not a picture of me, or one that I took. It was the only picture I could find with the cover of the book I read.

Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway is the last book I have to read for the class I TA before the first set of marking. And unfortunately, I really did not enjoy it. Mrs Dalloway kind of reminded me of Elizabeth Smart's By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept. But where Smart's book was all about the narrator's emotions, Woolf's book was all about the character's streams of consciousness. The book would follow what one character was thinking, then latch onto another one for awhile. And it seemed to ramble on; there would be elaborate descriptions which I could not connect to characters or whomever they were referring to.

The basic "plot" of the book is that Mrs. Dalloway is having a party at the end of the day. So most of the book follows people who are around her. Most of the characters that you meet do go to her party, but there are a few who do not. As the book progresses, you learn a lot about everyone, but I guess mostly Mrs. Dalloway and those who are closest to her.

I found Mrs Dalloway to be very boring. I had a hard time following anything because there wasn't really much of a story. Now, as you may know, I like a good story, so I was not at all happy reading this book. Now that it's over, I'm going to read something good.