Monday, December 21, 2015

Book Review: The Wild Wood

Charles De Lint's 1994 novel The Wild Wood, was part of a series called Brian Froud's Faerielands, wherein four different authors based short stories on four paintings presented by Froud.

The version I read was a recent reprint, and did not include the illustrations that appeared in the first edition (which I'm now eager to hunt down), but the novel still stood quite well on it's own.

The book follows Eithnie, a Canadian artist who has been living alone in the northern Ontario woods for a few years after a personal tragedy. After she begins to see strange creatures in the woods, she visits friends in Arizona, and after finding her inner balance returns to her home and the creatures that surround it.

The novel moves on two levels, a mythical one, wherein Eithnie finds she has become part of a strange prophecy, and a very human one, focusing on the healing process after grief.
I was really impressed by the book, and although it was shorter than I had hoped, it was still a great read and left me wanting more.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Catching up on Batman: Week Three

This week focused largely on the Death of the Family storyline, a successor to the A Death in the Family story (1988-89), which was both the first time I recall reading a full Batman story, and the first time I can recall being really freaked out by a comic, (sorry for the 14-year-old spoiler, but Jason Todd, Batman's second Robin, is brutally murdered by The Joker in that story), so I was pretty nervous going into this new crossover event to see how effective it would be.

A tense week of reading and a few nights of restless sleep later, I've got to say this is some pretty terrifying stuff. The Joker has returned to Gotham and has decided that a new, kinder Batman, supported by a Bat-family, is no good, and as a favour he has decided to help Batman get back to the basics, by killing every sidekick Batman has (or has had).

As this now includes Damien Wayne, the newest Robin and Batman's ten-year-old son, this event gets into some pretty terrifying places, and although I don't want to spoil anything, it is well worth the read and has me excited to see what else the good folks at DC have come up with in the last few years.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Book Review: On Wings of Song

My relationship with the stories of Thomas M. Disch have been varied, but always interesting.  From the strange work of hope that was The Brave Little Toaster (1980) to the incredibly thought provoking Camp Concentration (1968) and the creepy The Businessman: A Tale of Terror (1984).

Disch was really great at looking at the world through a new lens, although ON Wings of Song is clearly closer to the jaded world of Camp Concentration than the hopeful one of The Brave Little Toaster.

The Novel follows a young man called Daniel Weinreb, a youth in a future Iowa where music and free speech have been outlawed by local government.  At the age of 14 Daniel is sent to prison which effectively sours him entirely on living in the Midwest.   Setting his sights on New York, we follow Daniel throughout his life in this strange version of North America, one in which the government has draconian levels of control or simply ignores its citizens all together.

Much of the book focuses on "flying", a term used for astral projection that many people have access to, but is again, outlawed in many areas.  As a story in which a young man from a small town attempts to make it in the big city, the story is fairly straightforward, but the interesting thing about Disch's world is just how strange and off everything seems.

I'm not actually sure if I can say I liked On Wings of Song - the story was definitely affecting, but it didn't resonate with me the same way Camp Concentration did.  An interesting read, but not sure if it's one I'd want to revisit.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Book Review: Fairy Tales, Hans Christian Anderson

When it comes to series of books, I'm sort of a catch-and-release collector; I like to spend a few years collecting a series, then another year reading it, and then I either sell it in complete form to a used-bookstore or pass it on as a gift to someone who I think would really enjoy it).

For the last few years I've been working on the Everyman's Library Children's Classic Collection, collecting various versions of fables and fairy tales from throughout the world. But as I'm reading a science fiction update of the classic story The Snow Queen later this month, I thought it would be a good idea to check out the original.

Danish author Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875), most famous in much of the world as the creator of a number of fairy tales, including "The Emperor's New Clothes", "The Little Mermaid", "The Ugly Duckling", and the "Princess and the Pea", often told stories from multiple points of view (often of inanimate objects, and yes, I think it's fair to say his "The Steadfast Tin Soldier" is a literary ancestor of Toy Story), and although they don't all end "happily ever after" they are compelling and entertaining none the less.

The collection I read was at times humorous, heartbreaking, and in the case of a few stories, horrifying "Big Claus and Little Claus" comes immediately to mind as it focuses on one man tricking another into destroying his own livestock, murdering his grandmother, and committing suicide - for laughs!?!

Although I wasn't familiar with all of the stories, I found them to be quite readable, and am definitely looking forward to enjoying more of this collection when time allows.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Catching up on Batman: Week Two

My second week of catching up with the various Bat-Titles of the new 52 was pretty intense.  The focus across most of the titles was the Night of the Owls, an evening where a secret groups who claim control of Gotham set free their regenerating assassins (called Talons) to attack and kill all those who claim leadership to the city.

Considering Batman has been bringing it's readers new villains since the late '30s The Court of Owls are a pretty ingenious and insidious idea.  

Beware the Court of Owls,
That Watches all the time,
Ruling Gotham from a shadow perch,
Behind Granite and Lime,
The Watch you at your hearth,
They Watch you in your bed,
Speak not a whispered word of them
Or they'll send The Talon for your Head.

The idea of a secret family controlling the city has a pretty big "Illuminati" feel to it, but the stories were a lot of fun, and it's kind of neat to see the whole Bat-Family in action.

Looking forward to week three!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Christmas Shopping is complete!

Well, except for perishables (Chocolate, snacks, and food for the Christmas feast) we've managed to get all of our shopping done before the bell!

The bell being the point where our Downtown Malls start blasting Christmas music (which was today by the way).

Although a little slower than usual, as our benchmark is finishing before December first, so as of today I can leave the mall shopping to the folks who love a little holiday music with their shopping experience.


Monday, December 7, 2015

Book Review: The Shepherd's Crown

Not counting Good Omens (which I read back in 1990 when it was first published), I began reading the works of Terry Pratchett back in 2005, and at a book a month, it took me nearly five years to catch up to his prodigious output. Over those years in his books I met Rincewind, The Librarian, DEATH, Granny Weatherwax, Samuel Vines, and perhaps my favourite of his characters, Tiffany Aching.

Originally introduced as a nine-year-old cheese maker, Tiffany also happens to be, potentially, the most powerful witch in existence in Pratchett's Discworld series, and it is to Tiffany he returns in his final Discworld novel, The Shepherd's Crown.

The final book focuses largely on growing up, taking responsibility, and learning to understand the world around you. In the novel, Tiffany is faced with many choices, some very old, and a few quite new, but each needing to be addressed so she can become the adult she has been growing into over the five books she features in:

The Wee Free Men
A Hat Full of Sky (2004)
Wintersmith (2006)
I Shall Wear Midnight (2010)
The Shepherd's Crown (2015)

The book is pretty delightful, although it was a bittersweet experience, as this is the final book ina series I've been enjoying for over a decade, and as with most of my favourite series, I wish there were more.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Catching up on Batman: Week One

Using the resources of my local public library (epl) and my youngest daughter (Kaia), I have begun the process of working my way through the various Bat-Titles in the DC's 2011 launch, The New 52.

This week I was able to read through the first Detective Comics, Batman: The Dark Knight, Batman, and Batgirl collections.

I've seen Batman fight the Joker, team up with the Flash and Superman, have his first encounter with the Court of Owls, and begin the story of a post-wheelchair Barbara Gordon as she takes back up the mantle of Batgirl.

As compared to most of the Marvel titles I've read over 2015, these are fast, gritty, and often surprisingly fun collections. Each one (excluding Batgirl) adds another love interest for Bruce, and each came with some fairly shocking plot twists overall, beginning with the Joker's interaction with The Dollmaker in issue one of Detective Comics, carrying into a run of Bane-venom infused Villains in Batman: The Dark Knight (highest on action, lowest on story of the titles I'm reading), and the eerily impressive introduction of the Court of Owls in the main Batman title.

Batgirl begins with the introduction of a new villain, Mirror, who targets people who should have died, but didn't, and aims to finish the job - basically someone who saw the Final Destination franchise and thought - how can I get in on this crazy action?

So far I'm having a lot of fun - it is interesting to see how many monthly Batman titles can dance around each other and I'm definitely interested in reading the first crossover this weekend, Night of the Owls.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Movie Review: Brooklyn (2015)

Thanks to the lovely folk at MongrelMedia, my wife and I were able to attend an advanced screening of the film Brooklyn yesterday, and honestly, it kind of knocked my socks off.

As a fellow who lists his favourite genres as Fantasy, Horror, and Science Fiction, John Crowley's Brooklyn didn't seem to have too much to offer at face value. The story focuses on a young woman named Eilis (played by Saoirse Ronan), who immigrates from Ireland to America in 1950, and follows her life over her first year there.

Based on the 2009 novel by Colm Tóibín, Brooklyn simply won me over with its great humanity. I've seen a lot of films in my life focusing on the immigrant experience, but I can't think of another that focuses specifically on a young woman taking that trip on her own. Saoirse Ronan simply shines as Eilis from beginning to end and the world created in this story was one of understated beauty and hope.

Simply a wonderful film, I can't recommend it enough.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

My Batman Advent Calendar!

So here we are at the beginning of December, and I've realized that with the exception of Sandman Overture, and a couple Fables trades, I haven't done a deep dive into DC comics in over a year!

Luckily, my youngest daughter is an avid Batman collector, so for the rest of the month I'll be reading five great Bat-titles from the 2012 New 52 release.

Detective Comics
Batman and Robin
Batman: The Dark Knight

I'll still be blogging about all of my regular stuff, but each week I'll wrap up with a weeks worth of Bat-tastic info!

Happy Holidays!
Your Old Pal, Bookmonkey