A whole lots of stuff for one little graphic novel

Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

I read this ages ago, and so any intelligent thoughts I had have slipped away, and all I’m left with is intelligent feelings and overall impressions.

This is a pretty mature graphic novel about a 16 year old Japanese- Canadian girl who is struggling her way through high school, her identity, her peers and increasingly her romantic feelings for one of her teachers when a boy at her school dies by suicide, opening up a complex world of grief, mourning and personal struggles.

I loved this book, I thought it was well written, thoughtful, accurate, the illustrations were a little creepy but fit well with the story and it’s a moving book, maybe particularly for adults who can forget how complicated, isolated and dramatic high school can be.

It also has great representation of different cultures, LGBT characters and women, which I think is a good thing.

Last movie I watched :

Part of Moana with a 3 year old. I recommend, the movie and the three year old. She added some great commentary

Last TV show I watched:

Supernatural. I’ll get through it all eventually.

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Trilogy of six?

City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare

Still slowly working my way through the Cassandra Clare series. This one really isn’t the strongest. Although I enjoyed the love triangles that Simon was in, or is it a love square? Jace and Clary’s relationship is a little bit less interesting to me. It’s not that happy couples with contrived drama (secret evil possession I guess?) isn’t exciting but a stable couple with compelling plot drama is a little more interesting to me. But I will take it all because of the six minutes of Magnus Bane and Alec Lightwood.

But I feel  like this series, which is marked as Book 4 really feels like the start of a second series with the same characters. There’s nothing wrong with that of course, but something about this book is a little off. I got a weird sense that this was meant to be the first book in the series – lay the groundwork, introduce the characters and set up a long term plot.

Only, we already have that stuff, at least as long as you read the first three books. So there’s this weird kind of pacing to the first book, as it tries to lay the ground work for the future plot, establish new characters and keep the old characters interesting. It worked out fine, it’s a good, compelling story about characters the reader probably already knows and loves but I hope by the next book things settling a little and become  a little more plot or character driven.

Last movie I watched:

Apart of X-men Apocalypse. Not going to lie, it’s not that good.  Better than Last Stand but not good.

Last TV show I watched:

This Is Us. Sob.

Just so, so, so good

Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard

I love, love, love this book. There is so much excellence I’m not sure where to start.

It is the story of Pen, short for Penelope, a queer first generation Canadian teenager. At the start of the book Pen is doing her best to slide by unnoticed. She avoids fighting with her parents when she can by hiding in the basement where her older brother lives. Her best friend Colby defends her against anyone who bullies her in exchange for her help picking up girls. But when Colby tries to pick up the girl Pen has a crush on, Pen makes a choice for herself. Soon after events in her life start to spiral out of her control, forcing to her to evaluate the decisions she’d made so far, their consequences and man up.

There’s a lot of really, really good things about this book. The tone is great, Pen’s voice is unique and strong and she’s a great character who’s relatable to anyone who’s every felt like an outsider (every single person ever obviously). It’s also a great story of LGBT+ story in a delightful, un-simplistic way. Pen is a lesbian, 100%. Blake, her girlfriend, has dated boys but also dates a woman, implying she’s bi or possibly pan. Pen is very masculine – she cuts her hair short, she dresses in her brother’s hand-me-downs, she loves TMNT and hates Barbies but she also is very sure she’s not transgender. She really recognizes her identity as a masculine woman. But most of this isn’t really stated, it just is. There are scenes that really touch on these issues – for example Pen tells Blake she wants to be touched like a boy – but they aren’t resolved either and as far as all the characters, or at least the sympathetic ones, are concerned, that’s okay. And I think that’s a really good thing. We don’t need every single person to fit into a box.

This book has a lot of really heavy content. Here there be spoilers. The struggles of first generation Canadians are woven throughout the story – Pen struggles with vastly different expectations she has for her own life versus her parents. Language gaps, extended family, food and cultural expectations are woven throughout the book as challenges and advantages for Pen and her brother.

Finally there is some sexual assault. Pen’s internal dialogue does an amazing job of describing her frozen fear, when Colby makes sexual advances on her. Although she clearly doesn’t want them and is not interested in them but she feels like she has no power in their relationship, she’s afraid to find herself without Colby’s friendship so she has to let it happen. It’s really upsetting to read.

There’s also some pretty serious violence, alcohol, drugs and an abortion, which is handled carefully and complexly but is obviously challenging for readers.

I recommend this book enormously,  for teens and adults. If younger readers would like to take a stab at it, I’d recommend that too but encourage an adult conversation about some of the content. Just read it, enjoy it and embrace the really satisfying but not completely happy ending.

Last movie I watched:

Thor: Ragnorak. Pretty excellent, I have to say.

Last TV episode I watched:

The Red Tent. I’m actually really enjoying it, although I’m sure the book is better.

The collision of past and future

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

I just finished this book to write Battle of the Books questions for it. It’s also on the OLA’s White Pine list this year and I really recommend it, although it’s not exactly light, escapism if that’s what you’re into.

It takes place in a future when civilization has collapsed through a complicated series of negative events starting with extreme environmental devastation and climate change that triggered massive wars and the collapse of society. In this world, people have lost their ability to dream and it makes them violent and depressed. The solution was found in the bone marrow of Indigenous people. The book opens with Frenchie, a young Metis boy and his brother fleeing after their parents’ disappearances. The book follows Frenchie and his new found family’s journey through northern Ontario and eventually their decision to fight back.

There’s a lot to like about this book (but I’m not going to get into too much of it because spoilers!) but I’ll focus particularly on two things – Indigenous people in north America and the portrayal of LGBTQ people in the book.

This book, while maybe a little didactic, does a great job of drawing on the history of violence and colonialism in the collective Indigenous identity, as well as the generations of trauma that has effected both the individual people and the collective group of people. The dystopian future really draws on historical event and, while it’s extreme and alarming, also feels very real in the context of colonial oppression. No one wants to think about their government rounding up a minority in their own country and trapping them in schools. But it happened in history, and in this book it happens in our future as well. The idea of paying bounties on innocent civilians is distressing, but again, happened in our past and could happen again. Although the current political struggles are not touched on, it contextualizes them.

There is also a fantastic LGTBQ character in this book, and what I loved most about this character is that his sexual orientation was just one part of his overall character. His entire existence is informed by the lose of his husband, but this is treated exactly the same as any other lose in the book, and there are many. The fact that he’s a gay man isn’t even mentioned, its just understood. Also, there’s some serious trope inversion here (Spoiler: Kill All Your Gays) is thwarted in the last few pages in a way that truly warmed my heart.

I think this reads like a first novel (it is) and I’m sure everything Dimaline writes from will improve on what she learned from this great book. It feels a bit like Cormac McCarthey’s The Road  mixed with a curriculum accompaniment (for high school students – there’s violence, including sexual violence and some pg-13 sexuality) but I really enjoyed it and believe it’s a great piece for high school students across Canada to be reading this year.

Last movie I watched:

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. When I first read it, I didn’t mind Harry’s … lack of emotional regulation. Then it started to bug me, I think as I stopped being a teenager. But now I don’t mind it so much again because I think he’s got PTSD for most of this book and with that reading, his anger makes a lot of sense.

Last TV episode:

Death Comes to Pemberly although I am literally 5 minutes into the first episode and therefore have no opinion at this time.

The triangle continues to grow. As does my love for Magnus Bane

Infernal Devices: Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare

This book continues the love triangle/Shadowhunter history started in Clockwork Angel. I’m not sure why, if it’s because I read it a while ago or if its a reflection on the book itself, but I don’t remember it as clearly as I remember the first and third book. I’m sure some details are revealed, at least one character dies, and there are a few good “gasp! No!” moments but overall it was really just a great bridge between a good setup in the first book and a great payoff in the third.

I did really enjoy this series though. Strongly recommend.

Last movie I watched:

Who knows?

Last TV show I watched:

Supernatural.

Love Triangles

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Once again, I read this book a long time ago, but like all the Cassandra Clare books, I really enjoyed it. Although it was very heavily based on a love triangle, which I don’t usually like, but Clare did a great job of making all members of of the triangle equally developed instead of having one poor player basically be a straw man there for dramatic tension, instead of being actually lovable.

The supporting cast was also excellent and there were some really, really good reveals, as well as Magnus Bane, making it all in all a great reading experience.

Last movie I watched:

I’m really not sure. Part of 101 Dalmatians I think?

Last TV episode I watched:

How I Met Your Mother. Fun times.

Not the end of the trilogy?

City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

Okay, it’s been a long time since I actually read this book, but I didn’t want to skip it because I liked it so much.

I really, really liked this trilogy, although as it turns out, she wrote three more afterwards and I’m pretty sure they reprinted them as a … sixlogy?

Last movie I watched:

A Christmas Prince. A Netflix original that was clearly inspired by a Hallmark original. But it was good, for what it was.

Last TV show I watched:

Supernatural. So I guess Mary’s back then? Cool.