#TBR20

[Book] A Game of Thrones: The Comic Book Series, Issues 1-24 #TBR20

A Game of Thrones: The Comic Book Series is my 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th book read for the #TBR20 challenge…at least that is what I am counting them as…I actually read the comic books, but they were released in four graphic novel volumes, so I’m counting them for the purposes of the #TBR20 challenge!

I have had a long sordid history with a Game of Thrones.

First there was the TV show. Back in the Winter of 2013, the hubs and I watched the first season of Game of Thrones. When it ended, he was jonesing for more… Me? Not so much. I concluded it was too violent…I didn’t care much for the characters…I found the character names confusing…pile on, I hated Game of Thrones. After watching the first episode of the second season, with my husband looking on to my scowling face (I didn’t realize I was scowling…) he said, that’s it, I looked miserable. He released me from watching any more GoT.

Then there was the book.

Just because I wasn’t watching the show didn’t mean I wasn’t constantly reminded of “how good” a show GoT was, even though I felt differently. It seems EVERYbody is into Game of Thrones. “The show is awesome! The books are awesome! Go on! Read! Watch!” Read? Seriously? I reasoned with myself that if I read the book, at least I could take my time with it…ponder it, and take notes as I went. I got my hands on an ePub of George R.R. Martin’s a Song of Ice and Fire, the first book in the Game of Thrones series.

Last month, I started reading it. I got about 200 pages in, taking notes along the way so as not to get too confused with the plotlines…and then my friend Bill from Start to Continue Podcast lent me nine of his copies of the Game of Thrones comic book series, and I managed to locate the rest. That was all it took…I was hooked, and no margin notes needed!

The Game of Thrones comic book series came in eBook format (technically .cbr), so I was able to read it on my tablet, which, I have to say, was a very comfortable way of reading, and one that I haven’t really explored until now (ironic, since in my professional life I run a transcription service where I provide eTextbooks to students with disabilities). I won’t discount reading comics on paper – the feel, the smell, and the portability are things that I like about the printed page. However, being able to read on my tablet allowed me to brighten and enlarge the page if I needed to. It was a different experience, and one that I will explore further going forward.

The Game of Thrones comic books were adapted by Daniel Abraham from the George R.R. Martin book, and drawn by Tommy Patterson. I loved its execution, and how beautiful some of the slates were. You could tell great care was taken with each frame, and I really loved the watercolour quality of the colouring. I also appreciated how the comic book managed to move the story along.

Obviously, reading the Game of Thrones comic series went better than expected. I am not one to enjoy the Medieval Fantasy genre at all (I’m a Contemporary Fic gal myself), so I thought I would be getting very sleepy fast. But, Game of Thrones was different. It was more like a Medieval soap opera set in this fantastical world where people live in stone castles, feast on “meat and mead”, and pack swords. I particularly enjoyed how GoT was written like happy hour at a Medieval Times supper club, complete with addressing guys as “M’Lord,” ladies as “wenches” and in that environment having the characters speak crassly like we do today, such as “taking a shit in the woods.” I won’t go too much into the plot, except to say the story of the Starks, Lannisters, Baratheons and Targaryans and how they play with each other is both immersive and shocking.

Speaking of shocking, there are things in this story that will make your jaw drop, particularly the themes around incest, and underaged brides. Now, I’d be lying if I said I enjoyed how women were portrayed in this book – I didn’t at all. Women in Game of Thrones are generally mistreated by men in some of the worst ways possible, which bothered me to watch it on the small screen, let alone see it dipicted in a comic book. I would even hazard that scowl I had on my face at the end of watching the first season had a lot to do with that exact subject matter. That said, if you are sensitive to images, or stories of domestic abuse and r—, I would give caution that this story can trigger a reaction…or just avoid Game of Thrones altogether.

Now, for the Game of Thrones name game.

Overall, I enjoyed Game of Thrones, my only real critique is how the characters are named. I don’t know if George R.R. Martin gave up on coming up with unique names for his characters or, lives to confuse his readers, but Game of Thrones is notorious for having multiple characters named the same name:

We have Robb Stark and Rob(ert) Baratheon.
Bran(don) Stark (Eddard Stark’s son) and Brandon Stark (Rickard Stark’s son).
Jon Arryn and Jon Snow.

Characters whose names sound the same: Tyrion, Theon, Tywin

And then having a main character named two names within the same sentence, as is the case with Eddard Stark, a.k.a. Ned.

See what I’m saying? It can get confusing without a notepad nearby.

At any rate, this Game of Thrones franchise has been an interesting journey. I think I am ready to rewatch the show now. And I better get on that because WINTER IS COMING…

IMG_20150728_091152

8/10

A Game of Thrones: Comic Book Series #1-24
Dynamite Entertainment
2011-2014

#TBR20 Project Participant!! (but it’s taking me a lifetime!)

The “To Be Read 20” Project, is created and hosted by Eva Stalker at evastalker.com. The goal of the project is to read through 20 books I own before buying any more books.

[Book] Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture / Douglas Coupland #TBR20

Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture is my sixth book read for #TBR20 Challenge!

gen-x
In the Fall of 1994, Douglas Coupland came to my Alma Mater, Western University, to speak and read excerpts from his book, Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture. It was a PACKED house. I went with a couple of friends who were very into him. I knew nothing about him, except he wrote a book where its stories were supposed to describe the angst of my generation; Generation X. I’d be lying if I said I was a willing listener. Mostly I was lost, while everyone around me sat engaged, almost like they were sitting at Jesus’ feet. People went on about Coupland for weeks afterward.

Following that lecture, a friend lent me their copy of the book. I tried reading it, but couldn’t get past the first hundred pages. The stories told by main characters, Dag, Claire and Andy about working McJobs, and telling their corporate bosses to get lost never spoke to me, nor held my interest. I was looking for some deep meaning, and I just didn’t get it. I wanted to like it like my friends liked it…but, alas, I wound up dropping the book.

I don’t “get” Douglas Coupland. I have tried and tried to pretend to be into him, I swear! But his tales of disenfranchised angst never spoke to me. It’s over my head or…something.

Twenty years later, and I thought I would give Generation X another shot. Again, I didn’t get very far in the book. It just didn’t sink its teeth in. What is the deal with this book? Why don’t I like it?

Is this book supposed to be funny? Am I being too literal? Sometimes I miss the joke…

Maybe it’s because I have always had a propensity to be rule-bound and respectful of authority? Perhaps I have a strong sense of responsibility and more ambition than was expressed in Generation X? Maybe I just couldn’t relate to the characters? Maybe I am happier than the weight of the tales told within its pages? I don’t know, but lets just end it here by saying this book really missed the mark.

On to my next book…

#TBR20 Project Participant!! (but it’s taking me a lifetime!)

The “To Be Read 20” Project, is created and hosted by Eva Stalker at evastalker.com. The goal of the project is to read through 20 books I own before buying any more books.

[Book] It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken / Seth #TBR20

It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken is my fifth book read for the #TBR20 Project!

Before I go on any further, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the inspiration behind reading this book…thanks to my blogger friend, Aaron from KeepsMeAlive, and a recent blogpost he did on the Tragically Hip song that shares the very title of this graphic novel, I wouldn’t have thought to pull this one off the shelf so quickly. So, thanks for the inspiration, Aaron!

—–

I didn’t expect to get through another #TBR20 book so quickly after finishing my last novel, but when I curl up to read a good book with a spot of peach tea and soon find that the evening has faded as I turn to the last page, that to me is a great sign of a good book.

I have no recollection of where I picked up my copy of It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken, but likely it was on a Boxing Day sale a few years ago, which is about the only time of year – once a year – when my book-buying moratorium lifts. Initially, it was the cover art that attracted me. Then, it was the book title that mirrors a Tragically Hip song’s title that drew me in! Hold the phone…this wouldn’t happen to be a graphic novel about the Hip, would it??

Alas, it is not about Gordie and the boys… but now that I finished reading It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken, I am not the least bit disappointed that it isn’t.

The story is actually about Seth, a cartoonist and collector from Toronto, who goes on a search to find drawings by an obscure cartoonist, Kalo, whom he feels was his canon cartoonist. Kalo, or Jack Kalloway, had a few of his works published in the New Yorker and Esquire magazines in the 1950s. Seth, an obsessive collector, saught to find more on Kalo – any more published works, as well as any information on whatever became of him.

Seth, for one, is mired in nostalgia, preferring the past to the future, and feeling uneasy in the present. He frequently talks to his best friend, Chet (cartoonist, Chester Brown, of Louis Riel fame) about his neuroses, and gives hints to the reader that he may be experiencing some depression. Throughout the book, we follow him as he travels solo to his childhood town of Strathroy, Ontario – coincidentally the same town Kalo moved to after a brief spell in New York, to pursue a different career path, get married and raise a family. Seth managed to track down Kalo’s daughter, Susan, through whom Seth finds out what became of Kalo. Seth also discovers some lessons on maturity in Kalo’s history: the dignity in making choices, experiencing failures, and building strength in self to accept it all.

Seth’s self-proclaimed Picture-Novella, plays out like a graphic screenplay. Every cell is meticulously drawn as if the reader is watching a movie of Seth’s experiences. He’ll hone in on one thing that is seemingly random, but yet, brings you right there on the streets of Strathroy. His masterpiece also extends to London, Ontario and Toronto; and there are certain locations from these cities some readers would recognize, such as the London train station and the Royal Ontario Museum.

It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken will suck you in from the first page. Be prepared for a great story…and some self-reflection.

9/10

The “To Be Read 20” Project, is created and hosted by Eva Stalker at evastalker.com. The goal of the project is to read through 20 books I own before buying any more books.

[Book] To Kill a Mockingbird / Harper Lee #TBR20

To Kill a Mockingbird is my fourth book read for the #TBR20 challenge!

From what I understand, To Kill a Mockingbird is part of the standard school reading curriculum in the United States. Being from Northern Ontario, it was never part of the required reading, and I therefore never read this book at any point in my scholastic career. It has been on my “to be read list”…what a perfect opportunity to read it for #TBR20!

To Kill a Mockingbird is a bittersweet story written from the point of view of young Scout, a tomboy, and her experiences with her older brother Jem. They live with their widower lawyer father, Atticus Finch in 1930s Alabama. Atticus has been assigned to a case defending a black man accused of raping a young white girl. Needless to say, while Scout concerns herself with fears only a six-year-old could preoccupy herself with; like the bogey man who supposedly lives in that shady house on the dark end of their street, or fearing she got in trouble again for schoolyard fighting, the town is up in arms against the accused black man and Atticus, the lawyer assigned to defend him.

This story is one that dates itself to a simpler time, with not-so-simple rules for life. One cannot ignore the strong socio-economic themes of racism, class and sexual mores in To Kill a Mockingbird. There are other themes not as obvious: relationships between siblings… the loss of innocence in the realization that life isn’t fair. But, one lesson to take away is that there is virtue in fighting for what you believe in. Many of these subtexts made for a very moving and engrossing read. There are pivotal plot twists to this story that will also make the hairs on your neck stand on end. But, don’t worry, I won’t get into them here because I want you to read this story.

To Kill a Mockingbird is a novel I won’t soon forget, and I only wish I had discovered it before now.

10/10

#TBR20 Project Participant!!

The “To Be Read 20″ Project, is created and hosted by Eva Stalker at evastalker.com. The goal of the project is to read through 20 books I own before buying any more books.

[Book] In the Pleasure Groove / John Taylor #TBR20

IMG_20150202_025820
In the Pleasure Groove
is my third book read for the #TBR20 challenge!

Ask me in 1987 who my favourite band was, and I would say, hands down, Duran Duran. In fact, the years 1984 to 1987, I was in the throes of Duranmania.

Over the years, I sort of kept Duran Duran on my radar, “checking in” every once in awhile to see what the band were up to, even though my last purchased album of theirs was their 1988 album, Big Thing. At any rate, the story of their success – their humble beginnings in Birmingham, UK at the Rum Runner bar, their huge successes with their eponymous album, Rio and later Seven and the Ragged Tiger, the band’s hiatus and side projects, Arcadia and the Power Station, and their struggle to come back and get an audience with their fourth studio album, Notorious is one I have memorized. I bore witness to their successes, and their struggles via the media, video and the radio.

So when I discovered John Taylor’s book, In the Pleasure Groove in the remainder bin at Chapters recently, I thought it would be cool to relive those times from the perspective of a bandmember I didn’t pay much attention to. As good-looking as John Taylor was, the only member of the band I paid any attention to was Simon Le Bon; John was my sister’s favourite.

In the Pleasure Groove is told in John’s voice, delving into John’s upbringing, his close relationship to his parents, his budding interest in music, and childhood friendship with fellow Duran bandmate Nick Rhodes. He talks about how he and Nick created Duran Duran. In reading this book, I learned so much more about this band I hadn’t known before; details like the fact that Duran Duran was mostly John’s idea. John also deals with his very personal struggles with addiction to drugs and alcohol, as well as his side projects, including his time performing in Neurotic Outsiders with former Guns and Roses bassist Duff McKagan, and guitarist Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols.

Although I braced for a salacious tell-all, In the Pleasure Groove  was a passionate and engrossing read that is very balanced, and never puts anyone against the ropes (including Andy Taylor, former guitarist who really didn’t leave the band on decent terms). It’s an excellent book and I highly recommend it!

In the Pleasure Groove
John Taylor
2012

8.5/10

#TBR20 Project Participant!!

The “To Be Read 20” Project, is created and hosted by Eva Stalker at evastalker.com. The goal of the project is to read through 20 books I own before buying any more books.

[Book] Airframe / Michael Crichton #TBR20

IMG_20150117_015311

Airframe by Michael Crichton is my second book read for the #TBR20 challenge. 

In 1996, an airplane traveling from Hong Kong to Denver hit some unexpected turbulence which caused the nose of the plane to wag up and down several times in mid-flight. This caused people who were not fastened in their seatbelts to fly around the cabin. The plane managed to land, but the result of the incident was 3 dead, dozens wounded.

This incident was an absolute tragedy, and indeed a nightmare for the airline company who in investigating the turbulence theory is now running down the possibility of a technical flaw with that particular model of plane, or even pilot error; all the while, the airline tries to keep their reputation intact. Casey Singleton, Vice-president of Quality Assurance at fictional Norton Airlines is charged with investigating the cause, and it’s apparent to her a few things don’t add up. This “technical flaw” scandal is heating up, and a massive PR nightmare develops that now includes fighting off the tabloid media’s insatiable appetite. Not only that, the company was in the midst of brokering a deal to sell their freight of planes to China which concerns and stokes ire among the unionized production staff. Casey has her hands full.

What a timely book Airframe was, especially with all the talk over the past year of planes getting lost or crashing into the ocean. Crichton had the amazing ability to write about anything like he knew what he was talking about. When I read the book I though for sure he could pilot a plane. In the same vein, writing about something as technical as airplanes and the jargon they use (stalls, slats, aft), Crichton always kept the lay reader in mind, writing on a subject in a non-patronizing way. There is also a lot of repetition, so that one wouldn’t have to make notes as they were reading.

My first Crichton novel was Disclosure, which really took over my life for a solid three weeks. Excellent book. I picked up Airframe last February (yes, LAST YEAR!) and it too absorbed me for over half of the book. Then, so it goes with me, I got distracted, and the book basically collected dust on my bedside table. I think something changed, because I picked it up again following my commitment to #TBR20 and proceeded with the rest…and I have to say I seriously struggled through the rest of the book. The first half was exciting…the confusion of what happened, trying to piece things together, and looking at a tragedy from the inside of a company doing damage control. That was great. But the second half felt draggy and I began to feel impatient. I didn’t feel it was getting there fast enough…I speed read the last 100 pages. The conclusion also left me a little unimpressed.

To conclude, I think I left Airframe idle for too long, and in doing so, it lost its magic. It doesn’t mean you won’t engage with it.

7/10 

Airframe / Michael Crichton
1996

#TBR20 Project Participant!!

The “To Be Read 20” Project, is created and hosted by Eva Stalker at evastalker.com. The goal of the project is to read through 20 books I own before buying any more books.

[Book] The Camera My Mother Gave Me / Susanna Kaysen #TBR20

Seeing as how most of my readers are male, The Camera My Mother Gave Me, a memoir by Girl, Interrupted author, Susanna Kaysen will likely go over like a lead balloon. And yet, I still review it.

Let me put it out there: this book is about vaginas.

Did I grab your attention?

…Okay, full disclosure: sick vaginas.

*Crickets

More specifically, a gynecological problem called Vestibulitis, which in the simplest terms means for over two years, the author’s VJ hurt (“Zing! Burn! Yow!” – quote from book). Doctors could not figure out why. This, of course, affected her relationship with her boyfriend. No sexay tymes for her (…aaaand, now I’ve really lost my male audience).

Why, in God’s name, would she want to dwell on it? Why the hell would I read something like this? TMI, right?

There was just something about this book that drew me to it when I found it used.

Women have “problems”. Men have “problems”. It’s how you relay the experience of the “problem” in whatever medium, that can engage people.

I have had my own share of “problems”…different than what Kaysen shares, mind you, but for a good solid 5 years, I had to deal with doctors, and multiple appointments, and surgeries, and treatment plans until diagnosis…I lost my sense of humour, lost my dignity, developed a stress wrinkle next to my right eyebrow…and after several years and some damn hard work, I slowly gained my life back and learned to live with my chronic lot. (BTW, everything is in a holding pattern now, friends. All good. Nothing to see here. Smiley face!)

In The Camera My Mother Gave Me, the author shares her own experience of diagnosis, treatment and life, all the while using humour and familiarity people dealing with a chronic illness can relate to.

This book was an easy read and well-written. I understand though, if this book isn’t your cuppa. But, I recommend it, particularly to women who’ve gone through any sensitive dignity-destroying health problems.

3/5

The Camera My Mother Gave Me / Susanna Kaysen
2001

#TBR20 Project Participant!!

The “To Be Read 20” Project, is created and hosted by Eva Stalker at evastalker.com. The goal of the project is to read through 20 books I own before buying any more books.

As everyone in my personal life knows, I am book-heavy and read-lite, these days. But, for 2015, I am hell-bent on changing this karma, not only to exercise my brain even more, but to weed out my collection of meh books to make room for awesome ones. Join the party if you are so inclined using the hashtag #TBR20 and informing Eva Stalker on her blog, or on Twitter @evastalker. 🙂