Thursday, 23 May 2019

Review: To Kill a Mockingbird: A Graphic Novel by Harper Lee & Fred Fordham

Harper Lee's famous novel To Kill a Mockingbird is beautifully adapted as a graphic novel in this lovely hardcover volume published by Penguin Random House. Many of you will already be familiar with the story of Scout, her father Atticus and the events that take place during the novel--and if you have not read it then, surely, at one point or another you would have seen the film. Consequently, I will not retell it here.

This volume retells the story, this time, placing an emphasis on the differences between the carefree childhood experienced by Scout, her brother Jem and their friend Dill, and that of the huge burden of responsibility felt by their father, who is the defence lawyer for an innocent black man accused of a horrible crime in Alabama in the 1930s. This particular adaption paints an interesting contrast between innocence and responsibility, and how young Scout--and indeed, her father--learn some tough lessons. (And remember, it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.)

The illustrations are beautiful and echo the film in many places.

Highly recommended. 

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Review: Baby by Annaleese Jochems

There is little to like in Baby, a black comedy that is neatly tucked inside an oh-so-innocent looking cover, but maybe that is the point. The story of some thoroughly selfish people whose first impressions of each other are quite wrong makes for uncomfortable reading and takes a lot of time to get going. Told from the third person perspective of Cynthia, a recent university graduate, the story opens with her upping and leaving town with Anahera--a slightly older woman who she has a crush on. Cynthia believes that the two will live in blissful happiness on board a boat named Baby that they have bought with stolen money. For Anahera, however, Cynthia is simply a means to an end, someone who helps her to escape her husband and her job. And then some fairly horrible events occur on an island and a love triangle develops between Cynthia, Anahera and Gordon, a man that they pick up along the way. And soon, the worst parts of each of their personalities come out to play, which provides some dark and uncomfortable humour.

There is little to like about this book, though the second half was strangely addictive as I wondered just how far the author could--and would--push boundaries. Cynthia's behaviour reflects that of a childish narcissist, used to getting their own way and whose fantasies on how she would like the world to be often conflict with how the world is, to the point she is rarely able to see the obvious being played out in front of her eyes. Anahera and Gordon, meanwhile, are as bad as each other--nasty and selfish people, though both have some degree of common sense.

Ultimately, though, this isn't a great book. Certainly, there is some lovely prose, the setting is unusual and the author has a bit to say about the worst parts of human nature, but there isn't much to recommend it. There's little in the way of character development and the whole thing relies on the premise that the people involved are arseholes who deserve everything they get and more. To be in their situation would be intolerable. To be a fly on the wall, however ...

I'm at a loss to explain why this one won an award or has received so much critical acclaim, but obliviously someone or a lot of someones out there see some kind of literary merit in there that I have clearly missed. 

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Review: The Rabbits by John Marsden & Shaun Tan

The Rabbits is a rarity--a picture book for teenagers. And unsurprisingly, it is about rabbits. Or more specifically, it is about a group of rabbits who decided to come and live in a specific place. They don't know the rules of their new land, so they bring with them their own rules and their own ways. It causes some friction between the land's original inhabitants, eventually there is a fight to be had and the rabbits conquer the land. This story though, is the story of the side that lost, and indeed, just how much they lost, from a way of life to the natural environment that was so fundamental to who they were.

It's heartbreaking, and it's deeply metaphorical. And the illustrations are so very haunting.

Initially, I wondered if The Rabbits was a way of explaining the European invasion of Australia, but then I realised that the story could just as easily be talking about many other parts of the world that have been invaded by one group or another at various times. We could just as easily apply the story to the British Colonisation of America or, indeed any point in history where a country has been invaded. It's also a story of a clash of cultures, of differing beliefs about technology and leaves some pretty big questions about what happens to the local environment when we seek to conquer and change it.

Recommended.

This book was read as part of the Aussie Author Challenge 2019

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Review: DC Comic Bombshells Volume 1 Enlisted by Marguerite Bennett

Based of a series of collectorables, DC Bombshells re-imagines some of DC comics greatest female superheroes--Wonder Woman, Batwoman, Supergirl and Stargirl--and DCs famous anti-hero Harley Quinn, as they join an elite team to fight the war effort. (Well, okay, there wasn't that much re-imaging going on with Wonder Woman.) This graphic novel tells the revised origin stories of each of the characters and ends with each of them joining the war effort. And the whole thing is quite visually impressive and entertaining.

I enjoyed reading this one, though reading about some of the characters personal relationships became tiresome after a while. I've noticed with DC that there often seems to be a real emphasis on female characters who have intimate relationships with other female characters, to the point where it feels less about exploring interpersonal relationships and more like creating wank fodder for a proportion of the male audience. 

Still, it's a solid story, most of it is told well and the writers and artists expertly juggle a huge cast of characters. 

Friday, 17 May 2019

Friday Funnies: Jeeves Disapproves


Thursday, 16 May 2019

Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas

My only regret with this book is that it took me so long to read it. Seven years, in fact. The good news, though, is that the whole seven book series has been released and I can read the books at my leisure instead of having to read it at a rate of one book per year. Anyway, this is an enjoyable fantasy read.

The novel opens with eighteen-year-old Celaena, who is serving a life sentence in the salt mines of Endovier, a country ruled by a king bent of power and the destruction of other neighbouring countries. Her crime? She's a highly skilled assassin. So skilled, in fact, that she's managed to survive a year in the salt mines where the luckiest and strongest prisoners last just a few months. And now the Crown Prince and his assistant, Captain Westfall have come to the salt mine to offer her a deal. She can compete in a to the death tournament, filled with thieves and other assassins. If she wins, she will serve the king for four years and then be granted her freedom. Losing is not an option and there may just be a lot more than Celaena's freedom at stake. And she's not the only competitor who wants to win at all costs.

This was an entertaining page-turn with a sassy heroine and some surprising characters and situations. The love triangle is underplayed and consequently, other elements in the story are far more entertaining for it. There is a lot in the story about destiny, one which I imagine will be played out through the course of the series.

Lots of fun. Highly recommended.