Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Graphic goodness: an Akira book review

As any anime fan knows, the Akira anime is widely considered to be a classic.  The animation and quality of the storytelling was groundbreaking at a time when anime was going through a "cheap" phase (think Sailor Moon... ugh).  It still looks good, even today, almost 30 years after it's release.
But before the anime, there was of course the manga.  And all six volumes of Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira ended up being my read for book club this month.

I'm going to do my best to not make this simply a comparison of the manga to the anime.  Because let me say right up front, as much as Akira is an amazing film, it absolutely pales in comparison to the incredible genius of the manga.  The movie is so different as to be hardly even the same story.  Many events are skipped, or even replaced by entirely different events in the film.  Characters of significant importance in the books are nearly or totally missing from the film.  They are just not the same thing, and that's about as much as I want to say about that.

Back to the manga.  Akira was dystopian before dystopian was cool, a story about a Tokyo which experiences a societal collapse after an unexplained war.  Lurking in the streets we find the protagonist Kaneda (a delinquent teen biker) and his gang of fellow miscreants, including the aggressive young Tetsuo.  Kaneda and Tetsuo become wrapped up in a complex web of government secrets, revolutionaries and supernaturally powered children after Tetsuo has a close encounter with the latter.   Teaming up with revolutionary Kei and her aunt Chiyoko, Kaneda tries to both simultaneously reach out to, and attempt to destroy Tetsuo after he unleashes the incredible destructive force of Akira.

Spanning over 1800 pages, the story arc for Akira is very long, complex, and highly detailed.  In addition to the adventures (and occasional antics) of Kaneda and Kei, we also see perspectives of the Colonel and his military forces, as well as scientists who would attempt to control the Akira phenomena. In addition to the incredibly rich storytelling and plot, the visuals in Akira are simultaneously beautiful and highly disturbing.  There are scenes of beautiful cityscapes with incredible detail, as well as scenes of stomach-churing gore.  Taken together, this makes Akira  an enticing, fascinating, and very worthwhile read, but not one for the faint of heart.

Overall, I found Akira to be one of the most exceptional graphic novels I have ever read.  The detail, incredible storyline, fast-paced plot (for the most part, Book 4 drags a little bit), and beautiful art all combine to make for an exciting story.  I highly recommend Akira to anyone who enjoys graphic novels, or a nice violent dystopian thriller.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Top 10 Reasons to Bang an Oilers Fan

In conversation with a friend last night regarding everyone's favorite hockey franchise, we came up with a list of 10 reasons to bang an Oilers fan.

And here it is:

#10: Pity. They’re just so sad, and really need you to cheer them up.

#9: They will be easy to seduce, they’re already shame-drunk on $9 arena beers.

#8: You don’t actually have to bang them at all, because apparently just showing up is good enough.

#7: They're obviously OK with kinky stuff, look at how much they seem to enjoy being beaten.

#6: It’s not hard to excite them.

#5: You can do a sexy strip tease while taking off your jersey to throw it on the ice.

#4: Moans and screams will drown out the horn when the other team scores.

#3: Your banging may be the one thing that stops them from committing suicide when the Oilers finish the year in 30th place AGAIN.

#2: They’ll keep showing up, regardless of the performance.

#1: They’re used to be being hammered on the back end.


Monday, 29 December 2014

"Audrey (cow)" by Dan Bar-El (book review)

Happy festive season!  New Years is coming up, and while I'm not typically a maker of resolutions, part of me would like to pledge to read more books.  Right now I read about 2 per month, which is only 24 books a year.  Which is probably good for your average person, but we're talking LIBRARIAN standards here people!  At any rate, holiday vacation is a good time to tear through some tough reads, so I've got some Kobo Abe and Angela Carter to catch up on before I go back to work next week.  But in the meantime, got another great advance copy from Librarything to talk about!

 Audrey (cow) by Dan Bar-El

I'm totally guilty of judging a book by it's cover on this one.  I originally requested this book from Librarything because I LOVED the cover art.  It's beautiful, colorful and inspiring.  Illustrated by Tatiana Mai-Wyss, the illustrations in Audrey are just as good as the story and add a beautiful whimsical touch to what can be at times a serious story about an unusual cow.
Audrey knows that there are three types of cows, and that she herself falls into the unfortunate category of "food cow", and will one day be trucked off to the abattoir (which is somewhat confusingly referred to as "Abbot's War" in the story, not sure kids would get it).  After hearing stories of bravery and escape involving other cows, Audrey and her friends hatch a plan to free Audrey from her fate.
As a vegan, I loved the premise of this book for several reasons.  Firstly and obviously, I loved that Audrey is expressed as a thinking, caring, loving individual who wants nothing more than to be alive.  Though the animals are occasionally anthropomorphized and some of their actions are a bit of a stretch, it is so wonderful to have a story from a farm animal's perspective when so many people are so drastically out of touch with animals typically raised for slaughter.  Audrey's enjoyments come from being able to climb a hill, gaze at the stars, and eat the sweetest flowers and grasses.  Dan Bar-El has lovingly crafted personalities for each of the farm animals while at the same time generally maintaining their distinctive animal natures.  Another reason to love this book, beyond the empathy it inspires for animals, is that it teaches the idea of independence and rejects blind acceptance of tradition.  This is especially valuable for the pre-teen audience of this book.  Audrey refuses to accept her fate as "just the way things are", which is a great lesson for all children.
Overall, despite occasional hiccups in the progression of the story, I loved Audrey (cow).  While it`s a great adventure story that can certainly be enjoyed by everyone, I think vegetarian children would especially enjoy it for the affirmation of loving kindness towards all creatures, and demonstration of how positive change can be inspired by a single individual.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Christopher Moore's "The Stupidest Angel" (book review)

I'm back!

Long time no blogging, I know.  Various things and stuff came up, you know, REAL LIFE and all that. I know that's no excuse to not talk about books, but I'm going to use it anyway.

Regardless, it's the festive season, hence the reading of a festive book for book club.  So for this month I selected a read from the ever hilarious Christopher Moore: The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror.

Disclaimer: I'm a particularly HUGE fan of Christopher Moore.  His work has made me laugh tea out of my nose on more than one occasion.  And as funny as his books are to read, they are even BETTER in audiobook format.  I used to listen to them on my hour-long commute to my student job the last time I was in university, and nearly had to pull over a few times while listening to A Dirty Job so I didn't cause an accident/pee myself.

Love him.  Love his books.  And sad for me, this is the only one I had left to read, so no more fabulous Christopher Moore books for me until he writes another one.

So then, this one in particular.  We find ourselves back once again in Pine Cove (the setting of The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove) with it's cast of idiosyncratic residents getting ready to celebrate Christmas.  Until Santa takes a shovel in the throat.  What follows is a chaotic, over-the-top romp with horny scientists, a literal-minded angel, and everyone's favorite stoner police officer.  Fans of Moore's work will find lots to love here, there are characters returning not only from Lust Lizard, but also from The Island of the Sequined Love Nun and Lamb.  Moore's slapstick style and casual cussing contrast well with the typical joy and festivity associated with the holiday season.  Now I might be giving away a plot twist here, but there are zombies in The Stupidest Angel. It's important to remember that this was written well before zombies became a trite and overdone cliche.  And besides, they aren't really your regular plague-resurrected zombies anyway.  These ones are a bit more intelligent and vengeful.  :)

My only issue with this book is the ending.  But as frustrating as I found it, the deus ex machina outcome actually fits really well considering we're dealing with an angel as one of the main characters of the story.  Suspend your disbelief at that point, if you didn't already do so for the zombies or the talking bat.

Cheers, and happy holidays.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Kicking off vegan mofo with garbage food!

Welcome to Vegan Month of Food!  This month I'm planning to blog about vegan things you can put in your bagged lunch, so you can stop buying fast food or eating out everyday and as a result you will save a kajillion dollars.


But because it's no fun to start you off with pictures of tofu and salads, we're going to start with the cream of the crap.  I'm talking about VEGAN GARBAGE FOOD.   Prepackaged nomnoms that you can pack in your lunch which might be vegan, but they sure as hell aren't healthy.  We will talk about actual, realistic, healthy lunches later, but in the meantime we are due for a trip to the snack factory.

In no particular order, here they are!

Delicious, crunchy, teeth-blackening Oreos.  So fugging good, and massively addictive.  These are the reason why I so rarely make homemade cookies.  Stick two (or ten) in your lunchbag and you'll be fighting off the urge to pop out for sweets while you slog through a clogged inbox.

Hunts Lemon Meringue Pie Snack Packs are surprisingly dairy-free.  Which is super rare in the prepackaged pudding world.  While I can't really say that these taste like a lemon meringue pie, I can tell you that they taste like a SUGAR COMA and I love them.  Keep your eyes peeled and you can find them on sale for $1 on rare occasions.  And then you stock up and have no room in the cupboard for actual food.  Cause that's life.

Also in the category of rarely vegan items we have Dortitos Sweet Chili Heat.  These are the only vegan Doritos in the universe of Frito-Lay orange-powdered snacks.  And they are completely scruptious.  These will fix your craving for a salty snack, and will also decorate your desk/blouse/pants with nuclear orange powder for an exciting fashion statement which says "I simply could not help myself".  

Corn syrup.  Er, I mean, Twizzlers!  Which are pretty much 100% corn syrup, AKA the apparent devil.  Eat them anyway.

And for the frugal among us, Airheads!  These corn-syrupy bad boys are only about 40 cents a piece, and make for the perfect little wind-me-up when you are having a massive processed sugar craving.  Which happens to the best of us.  Don't beat yourself up about it.  Go have an Airhead.  I won't judge.

And of course there are more.  What are your favorite terrible vegan snacks?  Leave a comment and clue us all in on the great sugary/salty noms we could be stuffing in our faces at our desks!  :)

Monday, 18 August 2014

YRCA 2015: "The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen" by Susin Nielsen (review)

The YRCA reads are coming along nicely!  I find summer is the perfect time for children's books because I'm able to work in more extended periods of reading and I can usually read one in only a few days!  Save the long slogs for the depths of winter, I say.

The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen by Susin Nielsen

However, just because some children's works are brief, doesn't mean that they are all bright and sunny.  Case in point, The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen by Susin Nielsen.  This multiple award winner first caught my attention when it won the CLA Book of the Year for Children Award, and has been on my "to-read" list for quite some time.  Seeing it nominated for YRCA was enough to bump it to the top of the queue.
Henry Larsen is asked by his psychologist to write in a journal.  He does so reticently at first, and as Henry opens up the reader gets a first-person glimpse into the lives of those who are left behind after a tragedy.  As Henry struggles to come to terms with events, there are moments in the story which are absolutely heartbreaking, others which are hilariously funny, and on the whole the entire tale is truly thought-provoking.

In it's coverage of issues surrounding bullying, I feel that this book does an excellent job of not only presenting the victim and perpetrator, but even more so the feelings of witnesses and family members of those affected.

Reluctant Journal is so much more than just another book about bullying though.  The realistic nature of the situations of the characters and their reactions make this book absolutely haunting.  This really is a necessary read for all Junior High aged kids, and is well-written and exciting enough to hold the reader's attention despite the heavy topic.

The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen is thusfar my favorite read of this years batch of YRCA books.  I highly recommend it not only to it's main audience of early teens, but to absolutely everyone.  Its a fascinating book that will have you thinking about it for days after you finish reading.

Next up, watch for a review of Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead and Ungifted by Gordon Korman.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

YRCA 2015: "Son" by Lois Lowry (review)

So I've taken it upon myself to get cracking and read all of the deliciously wonderful Young Readers Choice Award nominees for 2015.  Admittedly, I've already read Marissa Meyer's Cinder (and reviewed it here) and John Green's The Fault in Our Stars (which I can barely speak about, let alone write about!) which are both nominated in the senior division for this year's award.  The rest are new reads to me, and I'm going to try to read them all if possible.

Today I'm reviewing my first new reads for this award: Son by Lois Lowry is a contender for the Intermediate division.

Son - Lois Lowry

Somehow, certain siblings of mine made it through school without having read The Giver.  This caused me surprise and chagrin, as it was required reading for me, and I can’t imagine a childhood without this haunting and subversive tale with the cliffhanger ending.
Son is the fourth and final installment in The Giver quartet.  It is not really a series per se, as the events of Gathering Blue and Messenger can be fully enjoyed without having read The Giver at all.  However, all three are required reading in order to fully appreciate and enjoy Son.
Son spans the history of events of all three of the other books.  There are leaps forward in time, but they are reasonable and easy to follow.  Water Claire is lost herself as she tries to seek out her lost child, and is asked to sacrifice greatly in order to be reunited with him.  And really I can’t say more than that without spoiling the whole thing.  But for lovers of The Giver or any of the other books in this series, Son offers many new twists and many answers to questions readers have had for two decades since The Giver was originally released.

I highly recommend this book for any fans of Lowry’s work, and for anyone who enjoys a dystopian tale without all the robots and police and heavy-handed governments that make this genre usually seem so dark.  The government is there and lives are being controlled, but in so much subtler fashion than is currently typical in the genre.  

Next up will be reviews for The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen by Susin Nielsen and Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead.  Stay tuned!