“I hate fairy land” by Scottie Young

I do not have this in graphic novel form, I have it in original comic. I stumbled across it at my LCS and I just HAD to read it. The colours were eye-bleedingly bright but there was just something OFF about the art. It was cute, but there was just something “ick” about the art. Kind of like Ren and Stimpy, where the art is fine but there is just something gross about it. And I love that style. The crooked-tooth grin in the cutsey girl with green pigtails. I wasn’t sure what to expect with this series, as I wasn’t very familiar with Scottie Young.

Before I get too deep into the artist side of this and completely lose the point, I will jump into the story aspect. A young girl is pulled into the world of fairy and to return home must find the lost key. Remember that ick factor I was talking about? This is where it comes in. This sweet girl took on the quest in her hopes of returning home …and ended up on a fluffing quest of bull sugaring proportions. The land of sugar and fairy twisted Gertrude, while keeping her trapped in her child body. So we end up with the delight of a murdering, swearing (mother fluffers!), drinking, witty, powerful …6-year-old …with pig tails. Each failed quest sends Gertrude deeper into the world of fairy with her smoking fly companion. New maps send her to new areas, making her the most feared force in all the lands.

Oh, and the ruler of fairy, who pulled her into the world and gave her the quest, is tired of her destroying everything and is now trying to kill her. So there is that too.

The art style and the story are SO jarring, I think that’s what makes it amazing. I love dark, twisted stories, and watching a little girl in green pigtails and a pink dress carve and smash her way through a bright coloured magical world is bloody hilarious.

I recommend this series (which is also out in graphic novel), but it’s definitely something for a specific crowd. There is a lot of blood and gore, the “swearing” is just cute words used as if they were swears (except the few special covers released called “I fucking hate fairy land” …yeah, I have those), and the only colours that exist are in the highlighter perspective. Take a trip to your local comicbook store, grab the first volume, and take a look!

“Saga: Vol.1” by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

As you may notice with the picture and title, this is not a novel in the familiar sense. It is in fact, a Graphic Novel. After all the discourse lately over the legitimacy of comics as both art and reading, I decided to pad out some of the book reviews with my favorite comics.

Working at the book store, whenever there was a parent whose child refused to read, I led them to the graphic novels. Some children feel intimidated by large blocks of text, even if there is a big picture on the page beside it. So, to compensate, I got them to read graphic novels. The other thing I promoted about comics is it is a visual teacher. Books will TELL you how the character is feeling, comics have to show you. You have to read in their eyes and expression what they are feeling, you have to look to the environment to enhance the story, not be told what is there. It builds emotions, and the ability to identify emotions. And it was a gateway because a lot of graphic novels have regular novel counterparts, so when they strengthen their ability to read, they can upgrade to that or a similar genre.

I won’t get into the art aspect of it because we will be here forever. Let it just suffice to say that YES, it’s hard making comics (I have my own on the go – it’s a nightmare even WITH the computer), NO, computers don’t make it easier.

I’ve always read comics, but I’m not a superhero fan. We may have a few Spiderman and Deadpool comics kicking around, but the ones my money go to are the fantasy and sci-fi genres. One in particular is titled as “the comic for people who don’t like comics”. I saw ads for it through publishing companies I’m following and LOVED the art, so I immediately went on the hunt for Saga, volume one.

Taking place on another planet (well, several planets) in the middle of the war between wings and horns, orchestrated by the machines. Let me clarify – society is split between humanoids with wings (higher class) and humanoids with horns (low class), which may seem foolish but let’s be real, our society fights over colour. The machines, humanoids with computer heads, are the royals that control the wings.

In the middle of the war, a winged one with an obsession with romance novels and no interest in fighting in the war – Alana, meets and falls in love with a horned one named Marko. Sounds like your standard Romeo and Juliet, only they didn’t poison themselves and die …they had a baby. The comic opens up with Alana giving birth, narrated by the baby herself. This baby is part of both words, having both horns and wings, and her parents are now public enemy #1.

The comic follows their life, trying to flee to survive and protect their baby. Through worlds and people, doing everything they need to to survive. The comic is brutal, sexual, and filthy. It pushes what is means to be “human”.

There was an interesting line in the series that I have thought about for years. The opposite of love may be hate, but the opposite of war isn’t love …it’s sex. That’s basically the series.

I love this series and wait on baited breath for every issue. It is available in comic form, but I started with the graphic novels, so that is how I will continue. Even if you don’t like comics, this is the type of story that can reach out to anyone. Give it a chance, you might just like it.

“Autumn” by David Moody

This Author may seem familiar to those that have either done a deep dive into the blog, or have been here from the beginning. I adore Moody’s writing, and years ago I reviewed his ‘Hater’ series that I read back when I worked at the book store. Because of my constant raving about his writing, my husband wanted to try reading his work. I didn’t actually own any books of his, so we went to a local book store and looked up what they had. That is how we came across this series. It’s much larger than the Hater Trilogy and I’m super excited (even though we only own two …I need more).

My husband read it a little while ago, and absolutely LOVED it …but his review of it was really confusing. “It is an amazing book and absolutely nothing happens!”

That sounded like a challenge to me.

Though, before I start this review I will mention, this is a zombie book that started with a respiratory epidemic. A little too topical. They are suspecting that many of us will come out of this with a form of PTSD so don’t feel obliged to read this review if you are having a hard time right now. You are always welcome to swing back around and read it later.

That being said …Moody is a horror writer and writes it well. His stories are slow burn which is why think a book where nothing really happens works for him.

Unlike Hater, we are following several characters. I was expecting a little intro into someone’s life and then slowly developing into a zombie horror. Nope, every character is introduced basically by people dying all around them. The disease starts with a cough, then in seconds their passageways close off and they die. Within minutes classrooms and workplaces are wiped out, leaving one person standing alone, in shock. The first survivor found an abandoned rec centre, and in hopes of finding other survivors, started a fire in the parking lot.

Sure enough, stragglers started to show up. There is nothing uniform about the survivors; young, old, male, female, rich, poor. There is just something about them that made them immune. The survivors huddle together, raiding the kitchen of the community centre and finding camping rations.

The majority of the story revolves around the survivors trying to come to terms with the loss. Many lost family, children, friends, everything. Moody likes to get into the human nature and psychology behind these kinds of horror events. He did the same in Hater. I think that’s what keeps the story going even when 1/2 of the book is spent with a handful of people in a community centre. Scenes are always moving forward because the people are always active, either physically or mentally.

Because of the sudden onset of the disease, there are bodies everywhere, dropping where they were. The survivors caught sight of one of the bodies twitching and trying to get up. Thinking they had mistaken a survivor they go to check. Dead body. But it was trying to walk. About half of the dead bodies reanimated. But no lurching, “brainsss” grumbling, shufflers here. In typical Moody slow burn fashion, they simply walk. The survivors could even go out and touch them, grab them and turn them in another direction.

The rising dead are enough to spook the survivors and squabbles build within. It gets to the point that three break off to take their chances at finding a safer place. Michael, Carl, and Emma become the new protagonists we follow. They find an old farmhouse they can reinforce and survive in.

Survive …up until the zombies start reacting to noise. Are they evolving? Learning? Waking up? What will that lead to? Are the survivors truly safe? And how far did this virus travel?

I love me some good zombie horror …let’s be real, I like bad zombie horror too. But this book, is really good zombie horror. You feel the tension, the fear, the frustration. Sometimes the people are logical, sometimes not, and in the times of pandemic, we are already witnessing both of those sides. I love this series and if you’re a horror fan, grab his work. Any of it!

“Every Last Lie” by Mary Kubica

One day I was scrolling through Overdrive trying to find a new audiobook to listen to. The yellow cover caught my eye, and I remembered that I have a few other books by this author on my bookshelf unread, so I decided to give this one a shot and see what I thought about the author’s writing.

Clara Solberg seems to have it all; a beautiful 4 year old daughter named Maisie, a newborn son, and Nick, her handsome husband that would do anything for her. Her world is shattered when Nick dies tragically in a car crash, with their daughter in the backseat, who is amazingly unharmed. The crash is deemed an accident, a direct result of Nick driving too fast, but when Maisie starts having nightmares and crying about a black car and “the bad man”, Clara starts to question whether it really was just an accident, or if Nick was run off the road.

Clara becomes obsessed with finding out what happened that evening, and starts to uncover secrets that Nick had been hiding from her. Life was not as perfect as it seemed. How well did Clara really know her husband? Could someone have wanted him dead?

On top of everything going on with Clara after Nick’s death, things are not going well for Clara’s parents. Her mother is suffering from dementia, and her father is trying to take care of her, as well as Clara and the kids. Things seem to be going missing around the house, and her mom’s dementia is the most likely reason. But what if something else is going on and there is another reason for things going missing? Clara gets caught up in trying to solve this mystery as well.

The story is told in multiple points of view, which I always love. I took a suggestion from one of my Facebook groups and listened to the audiobook at a speed of x1.5, so I was able to listen to it in a shorter period of time, and it has been a game changer for my audio reading. I liked how the book shed a light on grieving, how it is so easy to stop eating and sleeping, and how the mind can wander and twist things to try and make things make sense.

I was somewhat disappointed in the story. I found it kind of slow and lacking suspense. For a story that started with a car accident, I anticipated more action, but the story was more character driven, and I just didn’t connect with the characters. I found Clara rather annoying and whiny, and Nick wasn’t overly likeable either. He dug himself a hole, and created bigger, somewhat unbelievable problems, and lied to his wife. I found the characters just bland, predictable, and kind of boring. Clara’s father seemed the most relatable, yet I found that entire arc of the story somewhat pointless and unnecessary, and didn’t have anything to do with the main plot of the story. It felt like the author was reaching a bit, trying to fill out the pages. Kubica seems to be a rather well loved author, but I am unsure how I feel about the author right now.

Reading Stats!

Happy New Year lovelies!

I listen to a weekly bookish podcast that strives to read diverse books, and it got me thinking about my reading habits, so I decided to track my reading for the year to see how I do, and where I can improve. I got lucky in that I was able to download a pre-made spreadsheet for free off of the podcast’s website that was a tremendous help in tracking. I made no efforts to change my reading habits for the purpose for this, I just read whatever sounded interesting to me, and picked books that were either recommended to me by friends, books I remember selling at the bookstore, or books that were all over my Instagram feed.

I had set a goal to read 50 books in 2018, but fell slightly short at only 48. Of the 48 books, the majority of the authors I read were women (37 books totalling 77%). I was actually surprised by this! I figured at best, maybe I read about 50/50, since I knew there were a few male authors I consistently read.

I figured my preferred reading format would be a trade paperback judging by my bookcase, since trades are the majority on my shelves. Yet I was wrong here too. In 2018, I started listening to audiobooks while doing various daily tasks, so audiobooks topped my reading formats this year with 22 books (46%). Next was hard cover, with 21 books, leaving trade paperbacks far behind (5 books). This was also very surprising to me since I don’t usually like hard covers. I find them too hard and heavy to hold. I clearly did not reach my goal of reading my bookshelf!

I was right about my preference to fiction versus nonfiction books, with 33 books (69%) and 15 books (31%). I eased my way into audiobooks by listening to nonfiction, most of which was biography. I found it easier to listen to since it was someone telling their life story, and if I missed something, it wasn’t going to be something that was part of the major plot.

Also not surprising was 83% (40 books) out of the 48 books were by US or Canadian authors. I was disappointed in myself that I only read 4 books by Canadian authors. This is something I definitely want to work on in the future, since I think, as a Canadian, that it is important to support Canadians authors.

I am also disappointed in my selection of books by diverse authors or books with diverse characters. In total I only read 2 books with people of colour as main characters, 2 books with people of colour side characters, and 9 books with LGBTQ main characters. This is another area that I definitely want to work on the future!

I had set myself up with a New Year’s resolution to read my bookshelf. With approximately 500 books in my collection, I thought it would be good to start reading it down. Sadly, I failed. I only read 10 books out of my collection, and 2 books were borrowed from friends. The majority of my books came from the library (35 books or 73%). This, while disappointing in that it failed my resolution, was not surprising since my audiobooks are borrowed from Overdrive with my library card. On a positive note, if I failed my resolution by supporting my library, I don’t really consider that a fail!

Another thing I thought would be interesting to know was where I got my recommendations from. I had hoped most would come from friends or be something that I remembered selling in my bookstore days, but I was wrong. Over half (56% or 27 books) of my reads came from social media, specifically Instagram. Not going to lie, this hurt my pride a little. I had hoped I was a little more conscientious than to fall into this trap, but hey, social media is powerful! “Influencers” on Instagram get paid by companies to promote their products. I knew this well thanks to someone I follow in Instagram in the paleo eating world, and this is something they have talked about repeatedly. I should have known better, and I read some less than stellar books this year because of this. Live and learn!

I think this was a positive and tremendously enlightening experiment! It was eye opening to see how little I read by or about diverse authors. I didn’t read as much by Canadian authors as I had hoped, or much from around the world. These are big areas for improvement in the future, since I think it is important to read different points of view from different backgrounds. I am thrilled though to see how much I use my library, and how much I have enjoyed reading audiobooks.

I highly encourage you to track your reading and see what habits you have, and see if there is anything you might want to work on. I am definitely going to track again this year, and hopefully this time next year, I can report back that I have read more diversely and read reached this year’s resolution or reading my bookcase!

“Rituals” by Kelley Armstrong

Rituals

asteriaiconI once had someone come up to me and ask if I have ever read Kelley Armstrong, and I told them that they were too old for her. I felt, after finishing the Women of the Underworld series, that her writing was a bit juvenile. It was good, but light, and it lacked real substance.  I have grown up  more myself a bit since then and I have realized that perhaps it isn’t so much a lack of substance, but rather a light, fun, no-thinky read, and sometimes that is exactly what you need. I find myself always drawn to Armstrong’s work, it is like reuniting with an old friend, and find myself always having fun when reading her books. I still find them light, but that makes for an easy and fast read, and sometimes that is exactly what I am looking for.

Rituals is the fifth book in the Cainsville series. This series was an interesting combination of mystery and paranormal/fantasy and romance. I believe I have done a review on previous books in this series, so some of this may seem familiar. Liv Jones is in the center of an age old love triangle. The three are continuously reincarnated, destined to find each other, and live out the lives and mistakes of their kind. Liv must choose between two men, and in doing so, determines the fates of not only themselves, but potentially the fates of each blood line. These men, you see, are fae, each coming from a different species so to speak. Ricky is Arawn, part of the Cwn Annwn, while Gabriel is Gwynn, king of the fae, the Tylwyth Teg. Whomever Liv chooses means survival of that particular fae species. And Armstrong makes sure that it is a tough choice, as each man has incredible qualities that would make anyone fall in love with them. Sure, there are a few character flaws, but that is part of the fun.

In this particular novel, Armstrong wraps up the love triangle, all while fighting a new big bad that also wants to be considered in Liv’s choice. Though, consider is really not the right word, more like ensure they are the only option. The story starts out with the arrival of a character that has already been established to be dead, someone who threatens all that Gabriel has worked for in his life, not just his money and reputation, but his security, his safety, and probably most importantly, his relationship with Liv. There are many twists and turns and surprises along the way to the ultimate conclusion of the series.

I felt Armstrong did a great job of wrapping up all of the loose ends during the series. She made sure to bring little tidbits from the beginning right through to the end. I really enjoyed the various omens that would pop up here and there, and the gargoyles that were mentioned within each book in the series. It brought the whole town of Cainsville alive, easy to picture in your mind, and I loved the mysteries that Cainsville hid within its borders. I did struggle a bit with the fae lore, but I think that is because I am just still not accustomed to reading fantasy. Still, I was able to enjoy it, I just needed to take a second to wrap my head around it all. Tylwyth Teg and Cwn Annwn are really a mouthful! I also had a hard time not mixing up Gabriel with Clay from the Underworld series, as they really have a lot in common, and are written very similar.

***SPOILER ALERT***

I have read a few reviews on this book, and some people felt the ending was a cop out. I however, found the ending to be very satisfying and rather perfect. To me it showed real character development. Each character grew through the whole series, which I love seeing, but each character also learned from their reincarnated self’s mistakes.  Liv’s final choice was…to not make a choice. To choose not to choose. In the past, Matilda was forced to choose one side indefinitely, cutting off all contact with the other side. In choosing Ricky or Gabriel, she would have to choose one side of herself over the other, when in reality, she was both. She was both Cwn Annwn and Tylwyth Teg. She wanted to be able to ride with Ricky, either on his motorcycle or a horse, and she wanted to be with Gabriel.  Yes, one of these men was chosen romantically, but there are many kinds of relationships, and Liv found a good balance with each of these men.  And personally, while I did like both men, I had a favorite in this love triangle, and my man won so I found that rather satisfying all on its own.

All in all, I loved the series. I can count on Armstrong to be a fast read, yet a read that satisfies an itch, one that she alone seems to scratch. I may not be amazing with fantasy and romance genres, but she seems to make it a little more effortless for me. I love her character building and how she carries them through the series she writes, having them develop and grow. I love her richly detailed scenery, how you can picture yourself in the surroundings the characters are in. I love the fact she is from rural Ontario, I like supporting good female writers from our region (well Ontario as a whole I suppose). I love catching up with this old friend, no matter the series, no matter the age.