Friday, April 30, 2010

Keeping on top of Genre, the Yearlies

Yearly Genre updates are actually pretty simple, mostly it's just keeping up with the genre awards and checking in on certain sequels I've been patiently waiting on.

The Awards
One of my favourite things about the Internet is how easy it is to keep on top of award winners.

From Science Fiction (Hugo, Nebula, and Locus), to Fantasy (World Fantasy and Mythopoeic), to Horror (Bram Stoker and International Horror Guild), and even the few award shows that specialize in horror (Scream Awards, MTV Movie awards), I can keep track of what the newest critically acclaimed titles are (or in the case of the MTV movie awards - what my kids friends most acclaimed movies are) by doing a simple Google search.

I actually keep a spreadsheet listing the winners of each of the book awards and am slowly, but surely moving my way though the winners list - when I'm done it's on to the nominations list.

For the simple reason that I don't want to feel bad on a monthly basis, I only follow up on sequels I've been waiting for once a year. Currently Clive Barker's third Abarat novel tops the list (I've been waiting since 2004) followed by my hopes for a new Miles Vorkosigan novel from Lois McMaster Bujold.

What the heck I'll check right now - for fun.

(frenzied sound of typing)

NOPE - no third Abarat book any time soon - that's fine, I've been waiting for half a decade, I can keep waiting for now.

But wait - Lois McMaster Bujold is releasing a new Miles Vorkosigian book in September! It's called Cryoburn! SQUEEE!

(Sound of Bookmonkey doing a quiet victory dance - everyone else in the house is asleep)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Genre Character of the week: Jimmy Blackburn

While looking through my old horror novels for this week's genre character, I came across the 1993 novel Blackburn by Bradley Denton. For those of you out there who have never read the book, it is pretty freakin' awesome. This week, we're looking at the main character, Jimmy Blackburn.

The novel is basically a character study. We look into what exactly creates a serial killer, from the killers point of view. Jimmy grows up in a small town in Kansas, is abused by his father and at an early age and as a result gets one of the strongest moral codes I have ever seen. He simply holds on to what is fair, and punishes what is unfair.

As Jimmy travels the country, he meets some really awful people and by the end of the book you (the reader) begin to appreciate his simple, black and white version of the world and how he goes about making things right.

The book is a very fast read (I think it took me an afternoon), but definitely stays with you, as the book also includes a significant amount of humour. Kind of like Stephen King did in his book The Dead Zone with the character Johnny Smith (wherein the author attempted to get the reader to understand the point of view of an assassin), Bradley Denton does a great job getting the reader to understand the simple and straightforward values of his main character.

In a horror sub-genre (Serial killer as main character) filled with a lot of crude and vicious people, Jimmy stands out as someone you can sympathize with and (almost) relate to; a fact that makes the book pretty chilling.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Book Review: Whiteout

One of my favourite things about comic books is how versatile they are; how they can be super hero comics, horror comics, romance comics or even textbooks about comics. Although my favourites tend to be fantasy and horror comics, I am a huge fan of a well done story. Today we'll look at one of my favourite graphic novels of the last two decades, Whiteout.

First off, when I say graphic novel, that's what I mean - it is not a collection of issues of an ongoing title (I have a lot of those I love as well, so I wanted to make this distinction at the start), so it has the benefit of having a clear beginning, middle and end.

My first impression of the story is how visually impressive it is; it takes place at McMurdo Station in Antarctica, is a murder mystery with a time limit (the murderer will likely be off continent in 3 days), and has an incredible main character in U.S. Marshal Carrie Stetko.

Carrie is definitely one of my favourite characters in comic books - I just find that she has a very distinctive voice as well as a lot of personal depth. Plus she is very good at her job.

Part of what I like best about the story is the fact that there is a lot of obvious work being put into it by both the writer and the artist, I've read a lot of Greg Rucka before (His run on Gotham Central may have been my favourite Batman title in a really long time), and Steve Lieber's artwork is really, really good; considering his subject is a location with a lot of white and very little shadow, I was simply blown away by the way he conveyed the vastness and loneliness of Antarctica.

The comic does have a sequel, Whiteout: Melt, which I also strongly recommend, and was adapted into a movie in 2009 - I haven't seen it yet, but apparently it went in it's own direction. This comic is really great, and if you haven't tried the works of Greg Rucka before, it is an excellent place to start.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Keeping on top of Genre, The Monthlies

Keeping on top of genre news once a month comes down to reading some magazines and visiting some web sites. Basically I like to think of it as genre maintenance.

First off the magazines - I collect Realms of Fantasy and Cemetery Dance - this keeps me up-to-date with most Fantasy and Horror news out there, but for SF I haven't actually found a magazine that works for me yet (any suggestions would be welcome). Both of these magazines have sections that update new movies, books, games, and even comics that relate to their fields, so by taking a quick look once a month, I can see some of the newer stuff out there that I might otherwise miss.

The first website I check out on a monthly basis is Previews, which is basically a catalogue of upcoming comic book releases. You can search for monthly releases via publisher (for comics), sections (like toys, calendars, or RPGs), or even a helpful Staff Picks section. My local comic book store takes orders from Previews by the 23rd of each month, so I have a good excuse to check out what's new - This month I ordered the newest Walking Dead trade paperback and a comic called Mouse Guard: Fall 1152.

The other website I check out each month is TV Shows on DVD which is basically exactly as advertised; they have a release schedule for soon to be released shows (it tends to run about 5 months ahead) which allows me to plan out which series I plan on getting for the next couple months - as I don't have cash for everything I have to keep it down to one every other month - the next one I'm looking forward to is True Blood, season 2 which gets released in late May.

So there you have it, my monthly schedule for keeping on track.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Movie Review: Greenberg

Last night my wife and I went out to see the film Greenberg, starring Ben Stiller and Greta Gerwig, and I've got to say, the movie was really great. I'm a huge fan of films that can have me not only sympathizing, but also relating to characters as messed up as the two leads in this film.

The story of the film is pretty simple - while house-sitting for his brother's family, our main character (who has lived across the country for over a decade) begins to reconnect with old friends and starts to see how they have continued living their own lives and through this, as well as a relationship he starts with his brother's personal assistant, he begins to examine his own life.

It's kind of a comedy.

Just picture something uncomfortable, quiet, and a sort of coming-of-age story for someone turning 41.

The actors, by the way, are terrific. I love when comedic actors try something a little different and I'm not sure how much I would have liked Greenberg if he was played by anyone but Ben Stiller. Greta Gerwig (who I haven't seen in anything before) also did a wonderful job, giving her character a lot more depth than I was expecting.

I'm a big fan of the films director, Noah Baumbach, who made one of my favourite films about divorce, The Squid and the Whale back in 2005. This movie is definitely not the kind of film I usually talk about on the blog (no monsters, apocalypses, or flying cars), but I liked it so much I just have to put the recomendation out there.

Check out the trailer here, and if you've got time in the next month or so, give the movie a try.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Bookmonkey's top 5 Genre Films to see this summer

We are now just a few weeks away from the beginning of May and the start of the years really big genre flicks. Like lots of people, I want to see more movies than I can afford, and therefore I've got to be picky about what I'm going to see.

Here are the five genre films I am definitely hoping to make time to see this summer - I may end up seeing others with my kids (please not Eclipse), and there are a few non-genre movies I'll be checking out, but in the category of Fantasy, Horror and Science Fiction, these are my current must sees.

Put simply enough, I'm a huge Christopher Nolan fan, I loved Memento, and the new Batman movies have been a lot of fun. The movie looks not a little bit like a mix between The Cell and Dark City - but as I liked both of those films a lot, this one is a must see for me.

I was really suprised by how much I liked the first one, the acting was great, the action sequences fantastic and the story was really fun. Plus I loved Micky Rourke in The Wrestler, and am really looking foward to him as a villain here.

Actually I just saw the trailer for this one a couple days back and totally loved it. Originally I was going to put The Sorcerer's Apprentice as my pick for a summer fantasy film, but this sweet looking film about a fisherman who fishes a girl out of the sea has totally got me intrigued. Plus Colin Farrel plays the fisherman, and as my wife is a huge fan I may have no say in the matter.

To anyone familiar with my blog, it's pretty obvious I'm a big fan of Scott Pilgrim; I talk about the series a lot. Add to my love of the series the fact that the movie stars one of my favourite Canadian actors and is directed by the guy who did Shawn of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and Spaced, and I can say this one is the movie I'm most looking forward to this summer.

I'm always on the lookout for new horror, and as re-imaninings and torture-porn continue to fill up the theatres, it can be more than a little tricky to find clever new horror. Last year my favourite horror movie was Drag Me to Hell, this year, I'm excited about the Frankenstein-influenced film, Splice, starring another of my favourite Canadian actors.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Keeping on top of Genre, the Weeklies

Last Friday I began looking at my process of keeping up-to-date with Genre news, focusing on my daily schedule. When it comes to keeping on top of genre news each week, there are a few websites I stop at and a bit of housekeeping to do.

The Websites: actually used to be Cinescape - the websites connected to the genre magazine of the same name. The focus is largely on SF, but they do give some space to comics, horror, fantasy and manga. The site itself breaks news down into different categories - lets users add scoops they've found elsewhere and (thankfully) allows you to search past articles. I probably could spend a lot more than just a weekly visit there - but as I try to balance my obsessiveness with my regular life, I just visit the site at lunch of Fridays.

Author Sites
One of my favourite things about Web 2.0 is that many authors not only have websites, but also have conversations with fans on those sites. I follow a number of Author sites (my favourite two are and, which allow me to keep up with news about upcoming books or even short stories appearing in other books, but following these sites also point me to other authors and films I really dig (It was a mention by both Stephen King and Peter David in the same week that first sent me over to Robert B. Parker).

The Process:
Throughout the week I take notes on upcoming stories or movies I'm interested in (usually on whatever I'm using for a bookmark at the moment), and at the end of the week I've got to put it all together (pictured left). Basically it breaks down as follows:

Any upcoming book I've noted down gets checked out at fantastic fiction, as they usually have the relsease date noted - then I'll email the titles and dates to myself.

As there is so much going on in the world of Comics - I do my best to follow bloggers and word of mouth (at one of my book clubs last week, the titles Unwritten and Chew were mentioned so I'll follow them up this weekend). Basically I start by seeing if my library has a copy (why pay if you can get it for free) and if not I'll look for online reviews. Any comics that I can find through friends or at the library get requested, the rest get emailed to myself.

I use an online movie rental service called - it's similar to Netflix in the States. You create a queue of movies you'd like to see and as they become available you are mailed them. Zip allows you to put movies on hold as soon as they get into the theatre. This allows me to keep a list of all the movies I'd like to see on someone elses site and ensures I don't miss out on as many as I did before we started using zip.

Whew - that's a lot of compiling I do each week - it never seems that big until you start explaining it. Next Friday we'll look at my monthly regime.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Genre Character of the week: Bigby Wolf

Using an already established character in a story can be very tricky - many of my embarrassing journeys into fan fiction as a teen came from the fact that I could not match the stuff I wanted the character to do with the already established things the character had done. I can still recall people explaining to me that R2 would never have acted the way I made him in my 1987 story (The Day R2-D2 stole the Statue of Liberty) - but I digress. This week's genre character is Bigby Wolf (pictured left) from the comic series Fables.

One of the most amazing things about Bill Willingham's series Fables is that the entire cast is made up of already established characters. From Snow White to the Frog Prince, and Cinderella to Old King Cole - all of the main characters already exist in literature and even a six-year-old* could see if they were being mistreated. In my mind the best character from fairy tales he uses though is Bigby Wolf, also known as the Big Bad Wolf.

Bigby is indeed the same wolf who antagonized the three little pigs as well as Little Red Riding Hood. In the beginning of the series Fables however, he is the sheriff of Fabletown. The concept behind the series is pretty neat - chased through the various realms of fantasy in which each character lived by a villain known only as The Adversary, a small group of these characters (known as fables) escape into our world and live in a small community in New York. Their mayor is Old King Cole, their deputy mayor is Snow White and the job keeping these escaped creatures in line falls to Bigby Wolf.

Here is what I like most about Bigby - he's a straight forward guy/wolf. Yes he did do some horrible things in those Fairy tales, but these days he's doing his best to help his people out. I love the fact that the author has found a way to make the villain in two classic fairy tales into a good guy (he ate a grandmother, remember?), and the fact that you really start to care for him throughout the series is pretty amazing.

If you haven't read Fables yet, give it a try - I like it so much I could probably do a favourite Fables Character of the week for the rest of 2010.

*Never, Under any circumstances should you let a six-year-old read Bill WIllingham's Fables

Monday, April 12, 2010

Bookmonkey's Sunday morning tradition

Like a lot of people, I've got a few simple pleasures I enjoy - my family, talking with my wife, pairing up tidying and reading (it's a thing I do) and more. I love my morning coffee, which at about 6:00 will include a visit with my daughter Lorisia (she turns 18 in a couple months, and with high school over and university starting soon I'm not sure if she be sleeping through these coffees soon). I love watching The Food Network with my younger daughter Kaia at 6:30 in the mornings - currently we watch a show called French Food at Home. One of my favourite simple pleasures in life however, is my Sunday morning tradition.

First off - I sleep in rarely (or if you ask my wife Kayla - pretty much never), so Sunday mornings start at 5:30am. Up here in Edmonton, that means waking up before the sun for about half the year. I make coffee (grinding the beans myself - pictured left - I got addicted to freshly ground coffee years ago and if you want my coffee grinder you'll have to pry it from my cold dead hands), smile at the fact that Sunday is the one day a week I do not have a date with my eliptical machine and sit down to read.

At about 6:45, I got on my coat and boots and walked across to my local grocery story, aiming to grab some muffins for my daughters and a couple croissants to share with my wife. One of the things I love about Edmonton (pictured above), is that on Sunday mornings, not a lot of people are out and about yet. It feels a little like the opening sequence of 28 Days Later, but without all the zombies. Just a quiet, sleeping city.

If I'm lucky, Kayla is awake by the time I want to leave, and instead of the grocery store, we walk across to Tim Hortons (pictured left) for some tasty breakfast sandwiches and tea. Tim Hortons is incredibly popular in my home town, so there is often a pretty big waiting line, but not on Sunday mornings - there are maybe four or five other people in the store - mostly people on their way to work or kids on their way home from a long night.

I know that for a lot of people, sleeping in on Sundays is the way to go - but for me - that's when the city becomes my own. If you've never done it before, give it a try, see what your neighbourhood looks like on a sleepy Sunday morning.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Keeping on top of Genre, the Dailies

In my Scott Pilgrim trailer post last week I mentioned that I have a specific (and quite possibly compulsive) way in which I keep up to date regarding genre news. At the time I assumed that most people have some sort of crazy schedule they keep to focus on whatever their hobby is, so it only got a small mention. Then my friend Fate (Check out her blog BTW - it's a lot of fun!) asked me for more info on how I keep up to date.

Sitting down to put the schedule on paper - I realized it's a little bigger than just a weekly thing. I have four categories of resources to help keep on top of my genre reading. Daily, Weekly, Monthly, and Yearly. So, for the next four Fridays, we'll look at how I keep up to date in genre news.

Keeping up with genre news the Bookmonkey way - Daily

Entertainment Weekly
My first stop for genre news is a morning visit (and to be fair, I tend to pop back at lunch as well) to the mainstream magazine Entertainment Weekly. They focus on all sorts of Entertainment news, so there is a lot about reality television as well, but on a fairly regular basis this is where I will find a lot of my genre news, especially for things that would be tricky to find elsewhere (like casting info for the upcoming Captain America movie or The Walking Dead Television series). Overall, I tend to scan a lot of the articles, but they pay people to keep track of news, so it would be silly of me to ignore them.

Horror / SF/Fantasy
Actually for updates regarding genre fiction, I find the best places to keep a finger on the pulse of what is out there are a number of blogs. There are news sites I go to (we'll focus on those in the post about my weekly habits), but on a day-to-day basis, I just find someone who is passionate about a subject and follow them. For horror, I follow BJC at Day of the Woman, for Young Adult fantasy, I follow the Fickle Hand of Fate, For Gaming news, I recently started to check out Eiglophian Press. In a way they are the best places to go as you can feel the passion they have for their own favourite genre and you can assume they'll be up-to-date on areas you don't know much about.

On a daily basis, I get my comic book news from my BFF Mike (pictured left), whether over the phone or on his blog. Just as I go to various bloggers for updates in different genres, Mike is my go to place for current comic book news. I do have other places I check out on a weekly basis, but this guy really likes his comics - I mean seriously, he is currently doing a five day retrospective on The She-Hulk for his own blog (which is totally worth the read by the way). Now I know each of you can't call Mike to ask about comics (his boss would get mad), but like me, you probably have friends who are into similar things and you should give them a call - they'll help keep you up to date, and everyone likes getting asked about stuff.

So there you have it, my daily schedule - next Friday we'll look at my weekly one.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Genre Character of the Week: Sam Bell

Let's try a quick experiment - Imagine that wherever you are reading this post (your house, office, or elsewhere) had no one in it except for you. If you're like me it means you would suddenly be alone in your house. If your reading this at work or in a public space like a library, it means a certain sense of isolation. Now imagine that you are the only person in your city, your country, your world. That is the situation astronaut Sam Bell lives in for a three-year contract in the film Moon.

Sam is working for a company called Lunar Industries which has found a cheaper, easier fuel for Earth - Helium 3. This fuel can be mined on the moon and shipped back to Earth at a reasonable cost, but someone needs to keep an eye on things. Enter Sam Bell - he's married, has a new daughter, and is currently finishing up his three-year contract to be the guy who keeps an eye on the mining process. The main problem - the base has a crew of one. It's just Sam and a helpful computer called GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey).

Like a Lighthouse operator, or Desmond from the second season of Lost (sorry if that is still considered a spoiler), Sam has a routine, a way in which he self motivates and can function in this strange and lonely environment. He sends and receives videos from his family, he makes models, he's found a way to adjust. Then he hits his last couple weeks before he gets to go home and things start going strange.

Without going into spoilers, what I like about Sam (played wonderfully by Sam Rockwell), is his ability to function in a difficult place. A little bit like Sam, I work in an isolated work environment - I run a one-person library, so I'm the only staff and for those stretches of time when I don't have library patrons, it can feel a little isolating. My job does require me to work certain tasks on a specific schedule and a call from my wife or a friend can definitely brighten my day.

For those of you who haven't got around to seeing this film yet - check it out. I'll be owning it pretty soon and a big part of that choice is the character of Sam Bell (pictured above).

Monday, April 5, 2010

Movie Review: Clash of the Titans

Happy Easter Monday everyone, I just got back from taking my twelve-year-old daughter Kaia out to see the 2010 remake of Clash of the Titans and here's my opinion.

It was pretty fun! I went into this film looking for cool effects, a few nods to the original film and some fun fight sequences (a part of me is getting pretty tired of the massive army vs. massive army sequences that fill a lot of fantasy films these day - keep the fights down to 12 guys or less so I can see what's happening and I'm happy), and I felt I got what I was looking for.

The effects were great (we saw it in 2D rather than 3D), the acting and story line were fine for a Saturday afternoon matinee, the Medusa scene had me jumping in my seat a couple of times and in the end I think it was worth my $11 to see it in the theatres.

Problems with it - not a lot really, the earlier film was flawed but fun, so this movie didn't have a lot to beat - an effects-filled adventure flick from the '80s translates pretty well into an effects-filled adventure flick from 2010. I missed Bubo from the first film (pictured right), and I thought they downplayed the interactions between the gods in the remake, but past that I don't have a lot of complaints.

In the end, whether you've seen the original or not, I think there is a lot in the film to enjoy. I would watch it again, and although I don't think I would buy it new on DVD - I would pick it up used.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The 100th Post

So here I am, seven and a half months later, having done 3 posts a week since last August and this is it - my 100th post.

For those of you who've been around since the beginning - thanks! For those of you who joined along the way - it's been a lot of fun, for those of you who are coming here fore the first time - Hi, I'm Bookmonkey - nice to meet you.

For today's post I thought I would tell you a little bit about myself, so you could learn a bit more about the blogger you've been reading all this time.

Bookmonkey's top five things you should know about Bookmonkey

5. I have a pretty well rounded life
In addition to blogging I do a lot of stuff; I'm married, have two kids, am in my 30s and am a part-time university student. Past that I'm working on becoming a healthier me (both emotionally and weight-wise), and have ambitions to get paid to write someday.

4. I'm focused on doing my best at what I do
Whether that stuff is being a husband, father, BFF, Canadian, fan boy or whatever - I try to ensure that I a little time each day focusing on the most important aspects of my life. I'm also the kind of guy who only plays one Wii game at a time, an hour or so a week, until I finish it - then I move on to the next one.

3. A lot of my spare time as a kid was spent doing Role-Playing Games
Starting with basic Dungeons & Dragons, I moved through Fantasy games in Elementary, then SF and Super-Hero games through High School and finally ended up doing White Wolf horror games for the majority of my twenties. Although I haven't touched on this a lot in my blog so far - it will begin to have a focus for my second 100 posts.

2 My favourite Genre is Horror
Which is a little odd as I'm not a fan of gore - sorry, I haven't seen the Saw series and don't really intend to anytime soon. I am, however a huge fan of Horror novels and comics as well as classic and clever horror films - my favourite last year - Drag me to Hell, my favourite overall, probably the works of John Carpenter.

1 I am really, really big into finding connections between things
This originally started when I realized there were a lot of Best Picture winners that I had never seen - and as I went through them, I began to notice that I was starting to understand a lot more pop culture references. Then it moved onto references in novels and non-fiction and eventually comic books. I like seeing where ideas come from and understanding the history of the things I like.

So there you go - these five bits of info may help you see deeper into my writing, giving you a little background info into the guy you've been reading all this time.

Here's to the next 100,
Your pal, Bookmonkey