Saturday, April 30, 2016

Hello from Jasper!

Hello All!

Today I'm blogging away from the Alberta Library Conference at The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge in Jasper National Park.

For the last two days I've been hanging about with my library peeps and checking out interesting sessions on what's new in the Alberta Library Landscape (for me, a lot of digital initiatives).

I also gave my first presentation this year, which was both terrifying and a lot of fun!

I've got many books and movies on the go right now, so regular blogging will return soon, but I wanted to take a quick moment to say hello from one of the nicest views on Earth (that I've seen, anyway).

Friday, April 22, 2016

Book Review: Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen

Fair warning - I came to the Vorkosigan books late (they began in the late 80s, but I didn't start until the mid 2000s), and I'm always trying to push this series on to friends. The latest, and seventeenth, title in the series is Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, which focuses on both a secondary character from the main series and a return of series protagonist Miles Vorkosigan's mother Cordelia (who was last a story lead in the 1986 novel Shards of Honor.

The book itself works as both a family drama and a nice finale for the series (although I'm always hopeful for more!). Although not nearly as action-heavy as many of the books in the series, the author works to tell a compelling story and it certainly hooked me.

My only complaint is that this book, unlike many in the series, does not work very well as a stand alone novel, and would definitely not be one I would recommend to a newcomer.

A great way to bring the series full circle, and definitely one that leaves me wanting more; it felt like catching up with old friends - but with spaceships and laser guns

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Book Review: The Golden Fleece

Continuing to work my way through the Bronze age of Ancient Greece in historical fiction novels, I've just finished Robert Graves look at Jason and Argonauts in The Golden Fleece (1944).

From a modern perspective the book is a little tricky to read as the cadence of the prose worked differently than modern text, so it took some time to get comfortably into the reading. Past that, the book has a massive amount of background information on early religion and mythology, that at times was a little too detailed for me (moving much closer to his nonfiction book The White Goddess, 1948), but once the crew of the Argonaut gets moving the story began to work quite nicely as a series of adventures including Jason, Hercules and Orpheus, all of which had nice character moments throughout.

Unlike Mary Renault or Steven Pressfield's work on the story of Theseus, Graves story is quite omfortable including gods and magic throughout, sticking closer to the mythology than focusing on the "story-behind-the-story" format of the books I've read so far on the list.

Although I didn't enjoy it as my as his earlier work (Goodbye to All That, 1929, I Claudius 1934, and Claudius the God 1935), I did find the story rewarding and am looking forward to the next on the list The Iliad, by Homer.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Book Review: Declare

Reading my latest Tim Powers, Declare (2001), winner of the International Horror Guild Award and World Fantasy Awards for Best Novel, I'm finding it a little tricky to explain how much I enjoyed this book.

Focusing on spies in Britain and Russia during the Cold War, and taking place just after the second world war and in the early sixties, the book takes a number of real world events and people and weaves around them a story filled with dark magic and a pretty terrifying concept for the dominance of the USSR during the period.

Although Powers novels are filled with a large cast of characters, different timelines and convoluted plots, I found this book (which has all three of those aspects) moved at a really great pace and put me in mind of the spy fiction of John Le Carré.

The story works as most great spy novels do, with intrigue, sadness, and a large focus on past events and cause and effect. A really great book and one I'll definitely be looking to add to my shelves in future.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Book Review: Memory and Dream

Charles de Lint's Memory & Dream (1994) may be the most ambitious of his books I've read to date. The story takes place in his fictional city of Newford, includes characters he's used in previous works, and focuses on three main characters over the course of twenty years, following them in a non-linear format through college and later as professionals.

Much of the story focuses on Isabelle (Izzy) Copley, an artist who trained under a reclusive celebrity in the fine art world and after a tragic incident spends twenty years living in near isolation until called upon by a friend from help.

Much of the novel focuses on the power of art and the creation process, whether in terms of painting or writing, and uses Isabelle's ability to bring creatures she's painted to life (she calls it "bringing across") as a way to examine the creation process.

Like most of de Lint's novels, there is a fair bit of mythology mixed in with action, adventure and romance, but I was quite surprised to find just how emotionally affecting I found the book.

An excellent read and one that definitely has me looking forward to the next book by this fascinating author.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Book Review: Earthquake Weather

The third and final volume in Tim Powers Fault LInes series, following Last Call (1993) andExpiration Date (1995), Earthquake Weather follows the main characters of both previous novels as Scott Crane (mild 18-year-old spoiler) is killed by those who want his crown, and his only hope is that of Koot Hoomie, a twelve-year-old who years ago was possessed by the ghost of Thomas Edison.

As much as I loved Last Call and really liked Expiration Date, I found Earthquake Weather to be overloaded on main characters (often giving them very little to do), and more in love with the setting than the story. It does conclude the events of the previous two novels, but wasn't as strong as either of the first two books.

If you've already started the series it's well worth the read, but otherwise I would skip it for his time travel novel, The Anubis Gates, or the vastly superior Declare.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Marvel's Secret Wars: My First Pass

For a while now I've been reading up on the last few years of Marvel comics (specifically the "Marvel Now!" and "All-New" imprints) and for the most part have had a pretty good time. I've found some great titles; Greg Rucka's run onThe Punisher, Al Ewing's Mighty Avengers, and Ryan North's Unbeatable Squirrel Girl were all strong titles and one of them even made it onto my bookshelf for keeps.

But as I worked through each of these titles I kept seeing the same logo again and again:

There is only Secret Wars

Which led me to the Jonathan Hickman series Secret Wars - which he had been leading to in his Avengers and New Avengers tiles (both fun reads as well). Secret Wars is sort of a reboot series for Marvel, effectively letting them merge all of the massive number of storylines they have into a more cohesive universe.

So last year every title I had been reading either finished with a "The End" (darn it - I forgot to mention Mark Waid'sDaredevil - AWESOME!), or the promise of Secret Wars. Having now read the main event, I can say it's pretty fun, but it does require more Marvel know-how than I had with my 2012-current readings of their titles.

I'm currently reading my way through the Secret Wars tie-in titles, Warzones and Battleworld, which together amount to about 42 different trade paperback collections; and most of these tie in with even older Marvel titles I'm unfamiliar with; I'm currently reading Battleworld: Runaways (based on a 2003 series), Warzones: The Infinity Gauntlet (based on a 1991 series), and Inferno: Warzones (based on a 1989 series) (Although I would read Deadpool's Secret Secret Wars as the Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn Marvel Now! series was simply a delight).

Although I had some familiarity with The Infinity Gauntlet, I'm not actually familiar with the backstories of any of theseSecret Wars crossovers, and as a burgeoning Marvel fan, I'm starting to feel a little left out.

Also the newest production line is called "All-New All Different" so I'm not sure how much of this back story I need overall. But, as I look back over this very post, there are at least seven series I really REALLY enjoyed, so I think I'll be staying on.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Movie Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

So last week I saw Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but didn't want to give an opinion at the time as I needed to mull my feelings over a little.

So here we go:

First off, on the positive, I did feel that it connected nicely with Man of Steel - if you were not a fan of the earlier film due to tone, this one isn't going to change your opinion, but as far as existing in a shared world, this film does a pretty great job of setting a consistent tone for upcoming DC films.

On the negative side, the tone is much darker than you may like and thoroughly without humor (I counted two jokes in the entire movie), so if you're looking for the quips and witticisms of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you may want to hold off for Captain America: Ciivil War.

In many ways I felt like this was designed to be a more grown up superhero film; it dealt with the fallout from the previous films (both in continuity and with moviegoers), focused on a retired Batman who had clearly already run Gotham city for years and attempted to introduce a number of upcoming bog players in the DC universe.

My biggest problem was honestly the lack of joy in the film - I fully understand that Batman has very little joy as a concept, but Superman is (for me) a character designed to provoke awe and wonder, and much of this film is focused on villainizing him.

In the end the movie was better than I feared, but not as good as I had hoped.