The ongoing Saga

Saga Volume 5 by Fiona Staples and Brian K Vaughan

So I read this months ago, but it’s so great so I wanted to write about it, even though I don’t remember any intelligent things to say about it.

Alana and Marko have been separated. Alana is with Hazel and her mother-in-law, kidnapped and Marko is searching for them, hell bent on getting his family back. The Will is in a coma and a crew of people are looking for a cure to save him.

The illustrations are stunning, the story is full of sex, drugs and swearing but all of the beautiful intricacies of love, grief, loss, addiction and parenting.

The last movie I watched:

Mulan. Love it.

Last TV show I watched:

Outlander episode one. So far, I’m sold.

Space Opera + Graphic Novel = wonderful

Saga Volume Four by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples

As I have previously mentioned, I love Saga. It’s an amazing series which I’m getting depressingly close to being caught up on.

The general pitch for the series is two planets have been at war for generations when a soldier from each side fall in love, marry and have a child which should be impossible. Governments across the galaxy are frantic to get their hands on the baby. The series followed the family as they struggle their way through parenting, marriage and being on the run, but also the people who are hunting them.

If you haven’t read it and are going to, stop here with this recommendation: It’s amazing.

After this point there might be spoilers for the last three books.

Volume Four starts with Prince IV’s son being born, while he is off world wasting time on Sextillion (the sex planet), Alana struggling with her newly established acting career, Marko fumbling his way through being the stay at home parent and The Will’s sister The Brand looking for a way to wake him from his coma.

In addition to the beautiful graphics in this book, the complicated characters and intriguing plot there is also a very basic, human story too. What it means to in a relationship, how easy it for every day stresses to come between people who love each other. What being part of a family means, the good and the bad that love can drive you to. What it means to be a parent and have to put someone else’s needs before your own all the time.

Just a heads up – there’s a lot of mature and graphic content of all varieties – violence, sex, drugs  it’s all in there.

The series is amazing though. I really recommend it.

Last movie I watched:

Part of Deadpool. I love it.

Last TV episode I watched:

Smallville. It’s got a lot of evolution as a show. I think it’s a good thing.

 

Erased History and a Warning for Humanity

Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys

Did you realize that Stalin committed genocide to the scale of millions of innocent people while the Second World War was happening? I didn’t. I mean, I knew he was generally considered to be a pretty bad dude, but he helped the Allies win the war so all’s forgiven right?

This is a piece of historical fiction based on the experiences of survivors of the mass deportations that occurred in Russia before, during and long after WWII. It’s the story of a Lina, a fifteen year old girl who is taken from her home one night, along with her mother and brother and deported to Siberia. What follows is a nightmare that lasted a decade for her. The book, which is a good 300 pages, only documents the first two years of her time in prison, although the epilogue confirms that she did survive another 10  more years in the camp before being freed.

It’s a devastating story. The human suffering described is heartbreaking. The human kindness and compassion from the prisoners, strangers and occasionally guards is just as heartbreaking. My library files it in the young adult section, certainly the subject matter is hard and there is some sexual violence in it, but I really think adults should read it as well, particularly if there are young people in your life who are reading it.

Given the current political climate, I think it’s really important for us to remember what happens that the “them versus us” mentality stripes us all of our humanity. When we fail to recognize the basic humanity in other people, we’ve lost sight of what it means to be human. And history will remember that, no matter who tries to suppress it.

Last movie I watched: Karate Kid.

That’s some serious bullying there guys. Serious.

Last TV show I watched:

The Musketeers. It’s just so much fun.

A brief adventure in adult historical fiction

Three Sisters, Three Queens by Phillipa Gregory

Despite Gregory being a rather prolific writer, and my generally enjoyment of historical fiction, it’s maybe a bit surprising that I haven’t read anything else by Phillipa Gregory, not even the Other Boleyn Girl. But I was in an airport and it was on sale, so there you have it.

I actually really enjoyed it. Many people I talked to said her more recent stuff isn’t as good as the older ones, and who can blame her? She must be running out of Tudor women to give a twist to and write about. But without anything to compare it to, I really liked Three Sisters, Three Queens.

It’s the story of Henry VIII’s older sister Margret, who was married to the King of Scotland as a young teen and acted as regent for her son by him when her husband was killed. The center of the story is the dynamic of Catherine of Aragon, Margret and her younger sister Mary, three Tudor princesses who all marry kings but ultimately lead tragic lives.

What I liked most about the story was Margret’s rather annoying, petty, bratty personality. She saw her whole life as a competition against her sisters. When she is succeeding and they are not, she is smug and filled with false generosity and when they are outdoing her she resents the same behaviour. It sounds like a weird thing to really enjoy about a main character but I really liked the fact that she was filled with personality, even if it was an often dis-likable personality, and not a Mary Sue kind of princess. Also, I was ablw to read her as a very sympathetic character despite this because it seemed to me that someone so young, naive and out of touch with reality should be pitied. She was raised without any real understanding of the world – she was a symbol of Tudor power, but never a person so it’s not surprising that she mishandles every challenge she ever faces. How would she know better?

The most interesting thing about historical fiction of course is never about the history but what interests us know and what that says about who we are. I’m glad I had a bit of a reminder of that.

Last movie I watched:

Valentine’s Day. Not as good as Love Actually.

Last TV episode I watched:

The Musketeers. Such a wonderful, swashbuckling show

The other side of the Second World War

A Night Divided by Jennifer Nielson

This is an amazing older children or young adult book about Berlin after the end of the Second World War. Now, previously my history on that subject is a little dicey. As I recall it went something like “And then the Allies won the war and divided up Berlin with a wall, which was eventually torn down but we’ll cover that later in the semester”. We didn’t.

Gerta’s Papa and brother cross the into West Berlin one night to see if there’s a job for Papa there, away from the censorship and depression of East Berlin. That night, the Soviets  put up a fence, cutting Gerta off from half her family. Slowly over the next few years it turns from a fence to a wall to a manned wall and an overbearing state presence that controls every part of her life. One day she sees her father watching from the other side of the wall and he’s trying to tell her something, a way to bring them all back together. But it will mean becoming an enemy of the state and risking not just her life, but her family and friends as well.

This story is an incredibly moving depiction of a young person dreaming in a world that crushes dreams. Obviously the subject matter is a little complicated and if you’re not reading it with your child or your class you should still be prepared to have a talk with your young person about the historical context and the effects of war more broadly. This is a serious story, with only the lightest touch of humour in it  but a really moving and genuine, particularly focusing on the strength of relationships between people in hard times and that keeps it from being totally depressing. Also, the writing is very on point – if you’re not feeling nervous for the whole last half, I’m not sure you’re a human.

I strongly recommend this book (seriously) and I would recommend it even if it didn’t seem quite timely, given the current political climate. In today’s context, I think it’s even more important as a study in empathy, sympathy and for its unwavering conviction that people who do bad things are not always bad people but desperate ones and that people will defend their families no matter what the risk. This power shouldn’t be underestimated.

Last movie I watched: I have no idea. It might have been Home. It might not have been.

Last TV episode I watched: Smallville. I missed the season finale for this season (8 I think). I have to say, it’s very edge of your seat excitementy.

 

 

Tiniest Heros

Nnewts Book One Escape from the Lizzarks by Doug TenNapel

This is a pretty fantastic novel contains pretty much every trope you’ve ever heard but it was wonderful, essentially reminding me that tropes become part of our narrative for a particular reason, because they are important to our understanding of ourself.

Herk is a little nnewt. His legs haven’t grown in yet, he still can’t walk. But his Dad, the nnewt magician, loving mother, little sister Sissy and the eggs (his future brothers and sisters) love him and encourage him anyway. Despite his small legs, he’s happy. One normal night his Dad goes out with his friends who discovered something unusual they found on their hunt. It was a trap, the Lizzarks have come for Nnewttown. Herk’s mother saves his life, and he flees alone. The last nnewt from Nnewtown, alone in the world. But there is more to this little nnewt then anyone realizes.

So we get to see the underdog, the smallest one becoming the hero, the loss of the parents in a tragic and revenge driving quest, the mythical quest to become stronger, adoption after the loss of the family and long lost siblings. They’re all in there but the story is beautiful. Herk is the underdog you want to win, who you want to cheer with when he succeeds and you worry about when he’s in danger. The supporting characters are sweet, strong and funny.

This book also handles the murder of so many characters in a serious way. After they die, Herk’s family become lights, walking towards their god. It’s probably the most beautiful scene in the book.

I strongly recommend this for young readers looking for a fast pace, interesting story with great illustrations and lots of good stuff to come.

Last movie I watched:

About Time. So lovely. So lovely.

Last TV episode I watched:

Love It or List it. DAMNIT HILARY I DON’T CARE THAT THERE’S A FIRE HAZARD YOU PROMISED ME A TUB

 

 

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.