It just gets better!

Saga Volume 3 by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Here there be spoilers.

The story of Saga is just getting better, more complicated and more intricate.  Which is pretty amazing. While in the first book all the other stories felt a little like subplots, now it’s hard to tell which story you want to read more. Hazel, still an infant as well as an omnipotent narrator is with her family as they struggle to adjust to life after Marko’s father’s death, and to life as a family in Heist, a reclusive author’s,care. Meanwhile the Will is pursuing them with Gwendolyn, Marko’s ex-fiancee and the slave girl, renamed Sophie but their plans are derailed by damage to their ship. Prince IV and the politics of his world continue, with a weird mix of mechanical-ism and  compassion. And Upsher and Doff are introduced – two journalists on the trail of Alana, Marko and Alana.

I can’t even really talk about all the super epic things that happen in this book because everyone should be reading it and I don’t want to spoil it. So I will write a list.

Three things I loved:

  1. Introduction of well rounded gay characters! Always adds to the reading experience to me.
  2. The illustrations are beautiful. Absolutely stunning. It’s impossible to imagine the story being the same, or even as good without the illustrations.
  3. The touching scene when Slave Girl is sitting with Lying Cat (a blue cat that can tell if someone is lying) and reciting facts about herself. When she says that’s she’s been made dirty by her time in sexual slavery the cat informs her that she is lying. It’s a beautiful scene and so important because of the stigma around sex that often leads to victims blaming themselves, even little girls. Perfect.

I love Saga. I’m looking forward to reading the next one, whenever that will be. If you aren’t, you should be!

Last movie I watched:

Lego Movie. So funny.

Last TV episode I watched:

Unbreakable Kimmy Schimdt. Even funnier.

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Space babies, awesome galaxies and everything good in the world

Saga: Volume Two by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples

I’m pretty sure this is one of the best graphic novels I’ve ever read, Batman included, for the intricacy of the plot, the development of characters and the incredibly beautiful and visually interesting images. I’m so torn between tearing through the books frantically, knowing that I’ll have to stop and wait for the publishers to catch up or dragging it out as long as I can, to delay catching up with the series.

It’s the story of Hazel, an incredible baby born from two alien races who have been at war with each other for generations. In this book, Alana, Marco and Marco’s family are fleeing with newborn Hazel. The story flashes back to the love story of Alana and Marco. It also follows the Will, a bounty hunter pursing them and Prince Robot IV, who is also ruthlessly hunting them. But even these characters, who theoretically are bad guys, are pretty good. Complex, and also driven basically by their love for a child, just not Hazel. The whole story is motivated by what adults will do for their children, even if they’re not biological.

There’s nothing about this book I don’t love. It’s amazing. It’s got an incredible narrative drive, lots of humour and complex character development but is also at it’s core a story about love and family. Even if family doesn’t always get along or agree.

I don’t want to spoil too much, since I had to work really hard to avoid spoiling it for myself.

Seriously, I recommend this graphic novel to the highest degree.

Note: there’s a lot of sex in it.

Last movie I watched:

Secret Garden. So cute. Old, but cute.

Last TV show I watched:

Kimmy Schmidt. AMAZING.

My first experience with Kelley Armstrong

Omens by Kelley Armstrong

I met Kelley Armstrong once at the library I was working at. She came to do a book signing. She was really nice but I hadn’t read any of her books.

Now I have. And it was amazing.

Omens is a fantastic book about a wealthy young woman who has everything going for her. Olivia  is engaged to a man who will run for senator in a few years. She doesn’t have to work so she focuses her time on pursuing her interests in Victorian literature and volunteering. But despite it all, she doesn’t feel quite right. Then one day her whole world comes shattering down when she learns that she’s not who she thinks she is – she was adopted at age three and her birth parents are serial killers. Her mom doesn’t know how to deal with it. Her fiancee wants to postpone the wedding. The media is having a field day. Olivia bolts. Betrayed by the people she thinks she can count on she is determined to make it on her own. But it’s harder than it looks and she finds herself in a little town called Cainsville. The people are welcoming, the rent is affordable but something about the place is just a little creepy. There, with the help of a lawyer, Gabriel Walsh from Cainsville who also represented her birth mother, Olivia sets out to find out exactly who parents are and follows the leads to some unlikely places.

This book is really neat. It’s got just a slight hint of supernatural and science fiction in it and it’s pretty unlike any other series I’ve ever read because of it. Armstrong does a great job of mixing a creepy, superstitious tone in with an depressingly feasible science fiction plot and a mystery all in one. Olivia and Gabriel are realistic and cool characters. The supporting cast of Cainsville residents are charming. While most of the story is told in first person, there are some short chapters scattered through the story offer really interesting insights and hints about the story. While I normally don’t like inconsistency in narration, in this book it just teases a little and makes the story very compelling.

Because there are so many potential spoilers and I enjoyed it so much, I’m having a hard time talking about the story. I’m reading the second one now, so I suppose tune in later for a more comprehensive (and spoilers) discussion of this book.

Last movie I watched:

Still probably the Back Up Plan

Last TV episode I watched:

The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. I can even deal with how funny that show is. Fancy ceiling lamp. Hilarious.

 

 

 

Simply the best, possibly ever

The Story of Owen Dragonslayer of Trondheim by E K Johnston

There’s pretty much nothing about this book that I didn’t one hundred percent love.

Owen’s aunt Lottie is the most famous dragon slayer in Canada, possibly the world. But when she’s injured in  massive fight on the Burlington Skyway, trying to protect a few foolish reporters, that all changes. After her injury she and her family retreat to a small town called Trondheim where Owen starts high school and meets Siobhan, a very ordinary teenage girl. But Lottie has bigger plans for Owen, Siobhan and the rest of the high school that will change the country and the tradition of dragon slaying forever.

There are a couple hundred reasons this book is amazing. Due to time restrains, I’ll settle four, or five maybe. Six? I don’t know, we’ll see how it goes.

  1. It’s a true and proud Canadian story. It’s a nice change to see our geography and culture reflected in a book. Sure, when you live in New York, you see your hometown all the time, but if you live in rural Ontario – not so much. It’s kind of fun to think “oh yeah! I too have been stuck in traffic on the Burlington Skyway!” “I also have struggled with the frustration of waiting for things to come from Queens Park!” So, yeah that’s a good point.
  2. Incredible world building. It is completely solid, answering the question of what our world would look like if it was exactly the same, but if there were also dragons. A good two thirds of the book is basically really detailed, funny world building.
  3. Lottie and her wife Hannah are seamlessly integrated into the story. Generally,  LGTBQ characters are few and far between, and generally when they make an appearance they’re there as LGBTQ people, so I’m always excited to see gay characters who are well rounded actual characters, with their sexuality making up part of them, but not their whole identity. Add in a happy, stable relationship and it’s pretty much the best thing ever.
  4. Zero romance between the two main characters – how unusual and refreshing is that in a YA novel? Teens get really caught up in the romance aspect of books, even books that aren’t about romance, so I always get excited when I see a friend relationship develop, because they are equally important.
  5. I have always loved the point of view of the sidekick. Not that the hero isn’t great, but I think it adds a level of complexity  to the story.
  6. Empowering teens to change their world. Challenging traditions. Questioning the corporate control of resources and people. All interesting and great, particularly in YA lit. Plus – dragons.

There’s a second one. I haven’t read it yet but I’m so excited.

Last movie I watched:

Inside Out. Still so many feelings

Last TV show I watched:

Game of Thrones. Ouch. Major ouch.

All the amazingness that is Saga

Saga Vol 1 by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples

I don’t know where to start. Well I do, but it’s a high pitched kind of fangirl giggle sort of thing, and that’s really hard to spell.

Saga is a graphic novel/comic book if you’re ambitious enough to follow it in staple bound edition, that is the story of a family. Basically. It’s the journey of Hazel, an omnipotent narrator who is also a character in the story, but is a newborn baby at the time. She’s an amazing child because she’s the daughter of two different races who have always been at war with each other, and who no one believed could reproduce together. Her mother, Alana and her father Marko, fleeing their own governments and bounty hungers,  are willing to run anywhere in the galaxy to find a safe place for their baby.

This book is borderline perfection. The villains are villiany but they’ve all got motivations that you can at least understand, if not all out sympathize with them. The baby’s adult voice is funny and genuine. The love between Alana and Marko is sweet and strong and fierce. The universe is the kind of wonderful mix of the challenging, interesting races and places of science fiction, with the mix of wackiness that only comics can pull off.

Nope, everything about this book is amazing. If you have ever thought about starting graphic novels, this is the one. Start here. You will not regret it.

Seriously. Check it out.

Last movie I watched:

No idea. Don’t remember. It’s been a while.

Last TV show I watched:

A few minutes of Spongebob. But really, there was a baby there and I didn’t watch it that much.

 

Secret Librarian Fantasy: Rule the World!

Alcatraz and the Shattered Lenses by Brandon Sanderson

The forth in the Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians series, Shattered Lenses sees Alcatraz, the hero of the story so far, frustrated by the war with the Librarians, and unable to help the Kingdom of Mokia as it is attacked by the Librarians. Until he comes up with a genius plan that will either get him killed or save Mokia – run away from the Knights of Crystallia, who have sworn to protect him and will (hopefully) follow him to Mokia, and turn the tide of the war.

It sounds like an awful plan. It pretty much is an awful plan.

These books are smart and they’re funny, and if kids don’t pick them up on their own, they are still great read-a-loud books for parents who want to get a laugh out of their reading experience. I thought they were hilarious. Somewhere there’s footage of me sitting alone on my couch giggling as I read it. They’ve rich in intertextuality, referring to other famous classics as well as drawing attention to tropes, and are full of funny moments where the author connects to the reader. Normally I would never recommending skipping to the last page, EVER but Sanderson makes it worth your while.

And yet, somehow they aren’t popular. At all. Apparently they were dropped by the original publisher, which is why they’re so hard to find, before the series was even finished and Brandon Sanderson had to buy back the rights to his story to find another publisher who would finish the complete series. Now, my sources for this information aren’t the most reliable but it tracks with my own experience. I tried to buy the first one for a fellow evil librarian, only to find that no book stores have it, or are likely to get it. My copy of the first one came from a thrift store.

So mostly, it is just important that as many people as possible read this book. Because I need the fifth one to come out. And after you read it, you’ll need that too. And the more people who need it, the more likely it is that we’ll actually get it.

So go forth, read Alcatraz and love it.

Last movie I watched:

STAR WARS FORCE AWAKENS. AHHHHHH.

That’s all I have to say about that

Last TV episode I watched:

How to Get Away With Murder. Oh it’s good. So good. Very, very good.

Beautifully drawn, carefully written and heart breakingly true

The Outside Circle by Patti Lacoucane-Benson and Kelly Mellings

Outside Circle is one of the most amazing graphic novels I have ever read. I cannot emphasis enough how much this book should be required reading in all grade 10 history classes.

The book is the story of two young brothers and their struggle to escape the destructive cycle many aboriginal people are trapped in. I’m going to spoil this book (sorry because it’s so amazing) but it’s still 100% worth the read. If you trust me and are going to follow through on my advice to read this book as soon as possible and don’t want spoilers, stop now.

Pete and Joey have never known their father. They’re mother’s boyfriend is an addict, so is their mother. Pete is in a gang, a place where he finds companionship and a release for all his anger and rage. One night, they give him gun as a birthday gift. That same night he breaks up with his girlfriend after learning she’s pregnant with his baby. Joey, his younger brother waits at home for him. His mother and her boyfriend sell everything the brothers have, to buy some cocaine, and Pete is furious. He gets in a fight with the boyfriend, who attacks him. Pete pulls out his gun and kills him. Pete ends up in prison, Joey in the foster care system. But while Pete’s life improves when he’s granted bail to take part in a program for aboriginal men, instead of prison time Joey’s life gets worse, first in foster care, then on the streets, eventually in the same gang that Pete was in.

There are three things I think that make this book particularly moving. One is the history, woven in through out the story in a not-so-subtle way. The second is the illustrations, which are breathtaking. The third is that, while Pete and Joey are fictional, this is probably a true story.

Aboriginal history is a difficult and touchy subject to be taught in Canadian schools (American too probably, but I’ve never been an American grade school student, so it’s only a guess). We also live with the ongoing effects of a legacy of colonial history and the brutal toll poverty can have on a person, and how each generation inherits this trauma from the past. This graphic novel is didactic, it wants to teach the horror in aboriginal history, and it’s not trying to hide it’s agenda with subtle facts. It’s upfront, 100% clear, explained real history, even down to dates in some cases. Normally I don’t like that in a kids book, but the history is so powerful, human and heart breaking that it’s hard to look away.  That’s the point. We shouldn’t be looking away. We shouldn’t be pretending that the unimaginable death caused by Europeans, the abuse, the theft of land, the cultural destruction, the abduction of children, the explotation, the poverty and the continuing cycle of hopelessness and despair is somehow disconnected from our country’s greatest shame.

The illustrations are amazing. Some graphic novels are novels with pictures with them. Outside Circle is not one of those books. The graphics, besides being beautiful to look at, bring their own details to the story. The biggest example is Pete’s mask. Whenever he’s angry a white and red mask appear on his face. No one but the reader sees it but later in the book Pete makes a new mask as part of his therapy and you understand the subtleties of the earlier pictures. The other beautiful example is when Joey’s mother is signing away parental rights to her son. The document she signs is never described but if you read it, its an account of the long history of the loss of aboriginal children into the system.

The last, and probably worst thing about this book at it’s basically true. The author works in a real program to rehabilitate aboriginal men who have committed serious crimes, essentially because they suffering from poverty, abuse and hopelessness their whole lives and then as adults repeated the same choices their parents had made because it’s all they k know. It’s heartbreaking because it’s true.

Now, the end does offer some hope, when Pete and Joey get out of the system, Pete works, quits his gang and Joey presumably goes back to school. But my favourite change was Pete acknowledging his daughter,  making it clear that he was going to raise her exactly the way he should have been raised, and spend his life trying to bring her a place where she could be proud of her ancestry, not imprisoned  by it.

Go out and get it right now. You might cry a little, but you won’t regret the read.

Last movie I watched:

Annabell’s Wish. That beautiful baby cow!! Giving her wish to her best friend.

Last TV episode I watched:

That Grey’s Anatomy. I can’t even keep straight who’s who in that show.