Monthly Archives: July 2012

Graphic Novels – a little help required

I ran across a list of 25 graphic novels that are basic to the genre – or so the author of the list claims. Do you read graphic novels? If so do you agree that this is a list that provides a novice to the genre (me) with some good places to start? I have read two (2) graphic novels this year, but both were adaptations from previously published novels. I am looking to read an original, not an adaptation. Please make comments if you have recommendations.
In my youth I did read comics. My RA-bro and I had this great spot to hang out at our aunt’s house and we kept our comic books there. It was in her basement, the former coal cellar, and it was an awesome place to sit and read comics and play complicated card games like War. We were devastated when it flooded and we lost our comics. I think that there must be some distinguishing characteristic that makes graphic novels more than comic books, but I am not clear what that is. Make comments if you can help me with that distinction.

In other news, the Canadian Olympic commentators have grammatical issues. They don’t get adverbs. Often heard today “she finished strong,” or some similar phrase. It should be “she finished strongly.” Of course one could say it was a strong finish. And now I am finished my grammatical rant.

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YA Fiction, vote for your favourite!

NPR books has an open poll on your favourite YA fiction. While you are over there voting have a look at the top 100 lists their polls over the last couple of summers have generated.

In other news Roger Federer is playing tennis at the Olympics. He just lost a set to some guy from Colombia. Also, funny how the Olympics looks like Wimbledon this year ūüėČ

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Books and the Olympics

I am an Olympic junkie. I remember being fascinated by the Montreal games, those are the first I remember. Then the summer games of my high school days were tainted by boycotts (Moscow, Los Angeles), so I focused on the winter games, especially figure skating. The summer games in 1988 in Seoul are the ones I remember first as an adult, the first time I went looking for a place to watch the 100 m final. Of course Seoul was also the Ben Johnson thing for Canadians, and we prefer not to remember that, the rush of the win, and the deflation of the drug test. I was in teacher’s college that fall (the games were in September) and we talked about how to debrief that kind of news story in the classroom. The best setting for the summer was Barcelona, in my humble opinion. The visuals during the diving competition with the city in the background were spectacular, and the tennis on clay courts was terrific. Today the Queen declared the London 2012 Olympics open. I wish I was there.

It was interesting that books, particularly children’s fantasy books, were referenced during the opening ceremonies, Peter Pan and the Harry Potter books were obviously referenced in some way or another. J.K. Rowling appeared and read aloud. I thought I saw glimpses of Alice in Wonderland characters, but am not totally sure. Oh, and Mary Poppins also put in an appearance.

Do you connect books with the Olympics? I am dog sitting for the next couple of weeks, and before I left my house this morning, I picked up¬†Rainbow Six by Tom Clancy, a story that involves the Sydney Olympics. I thought it might make thematic reading for the games. I’m not sure I’ll actually get to it as I’ve got lots of other books on the go, but just in case. What about you? Which books (if any) do you connect with the Olympics and why?

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Bechdel Test: A Very Minimal Standard

The Bechdel Test is usually applied to movies. It looks at female presence in movies by asking 1. are there at least two named women characters, 2. who talk to each other, 3. about something other than a man. Given this definition, you can apply the Bechdel test to books.

I’ve been thinking about this test and books, especially¬†The Hunger Games,¬†Catching Fire, and¬†The Mockingjay,¬†because Katniss only has real give-and-take relationships with men. She is usually surrounded by men, even though there are other women who lead in the book. Those other women who lead are also surrounded by men. All three books pass the Bechdel test as it stands. But the test doesn’t get at whether the women who talk to each other about something other than a man in the books or movies have a relationship that goes beyond the superficial. There is some discussion floating around the internet about whether the test should be modified beyond the basics – here is one that looks at 2011 Oscar-nominated films and whether they pass the test.

What do you think? How can the Bechdel Test be modified for books to better test for female presence in books? Or do we need this thing anyhow?

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Books on TV

Here is an interesting reflection on books watched by characters on TV shows. I am not a Gilmore Girls watcher, so I didn’t know books played such a prominent role in the show. I watched LOST, and was interested in the books Sawyer read and how these played into the plots of the show. Do any of these lists ring any bells for you?

I probably have more to say about the Gilmore Girls list as it seems impossibly long. Possibly people closer to high school can comment. Is this  list doable? Can one read so many books, with such density of content during high school? Do tell. I am interested in your thinking on this.

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Summer Binge Reading

Reading an article about summer reading I came across the felicitous phrase “summer binge-reading.” I’m not sure the hyphen needs to be there, so I took it out in my title. Let me give you the context:

“I had discovered the pleasures of summer binge-reading when I was twelve or thirteen, in the public library and its many shelves filled with science fiction and apparently endless supply of mysteries by Agatha Christie.”

I read this sentence and was instantly transported back to summer reading in my parents’ basement. Please understand that my Afamily lived in the South of Southwestern Ontario, in a city where one drove north to get to the Canada-US border crossing. Really. It was humid in the summer, humid like a swamp, probably because the city was built on a swamp, one the French settlers called Grand Marais. The only place in our house that was cool was the basement. It was still damp down there, but cool and damp, not sticky hot and sweaty. In the basement was a large yellow recliner. I’m not sure what it was made of, but lets call it fake leather. It got kind of sticky in the summer. When I was 12 and 13 I spent all possible moments of the summer in this chair in the basement reading library books and eating potato chips. This drove AMom a little crazy. “It is sunny and nice out, why aren’t you outside instead of stuck here in the basement?” “Too hot,” I’d mumble, eat another chip, and turn the page. Of course I wasn’t stuck in the basement at all. I was off on some adventure in space or in another world.

This is what I think of when I think summer reading. Now I know what my summer reading expectations are. Lots of books from the library, a large chair, and a cool spot to sit. And potato chips.

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Books Not To Read At the Cottage?

The LA Times posted an interesting anti-beach reading list: 9 books NOT to read at the beach for various reasons. Of course¬†Jaws leads their list, especially if you are sitting on a Cape Cod beach. Beach vacations aren’t at the top of my list for summer fun, but going to camp or someone’s cottage in Muskoka or other scenic Ontario places are much more likely to happen. This got me thinking. Can we come up with an equivalent list of books one shouldn’t read in the woods, or at the cottage?

Gerald’s Game¬†by Stephen King might have to top a list like that. I’ve only heard about this book, but it sounds appropriately horrific. Are there others?

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Annoying Plot Devices

I am currently reading the fourth book in a popular YA Fantasy series. It is overwritten (scenes far longer than needed, too much detail in descriptions, particularly in fight scenes) plus it uses some plot devices that should be illegal. It is driving me a bit crazy. The plot/suspense devices that I think should be outlawed include:
1. Killing off a character only to have the person miraculously survive.
2. Ending a chapter on a cliffhanger, then resolving the tension immediately in the next chapter. There is no need for a chapter break if the story continues from the same point in the action and from the same point of view. This is only a poor attempt at creating suspense.
3. Creating “suspense” by hiding things in plain view. If the point of view character has an idea it is cheating not to disclose that idea to the reader, especially if you show the character telling others the idea/plan but don’t reveal it to the audience. More fake suspense.
Thoughts? Things that drive you crazy that should be illegal?

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Books About Books!

Another list while I’m at camp! This one is a list of books about books. I like books about books a lot. In a quick read through this list I spotted some favourites:

The “Thursday Next” series by Jasper Fforde. If you haven’t tried these go immediately to your nearest library and read them. They are very funny. The books are set in an alternate universe in which one can enter bookworlds, and travel in time. What more could one ask for? Right. A pet Dodo bird.

The Polysylabic Spree¬† by Nick Hornby. This collection of essays by Hornby on what he is reading is great fun. It got me reading Robert Harris (who is also Hornby’s brother-in-law).

Possession¬†by A.S. Byatt. Best Book Ever. I’ve said that before around here.

I did spot a book on that list that I didn’t like.¬†The Club Dumas by¬†Arturo Perez-Reverte. Not very good I thought. Possibly it was the translation. The ending just didn’t hold water. At. All.

There are loads of books on that list I haven’t read and look forward to. Any I should start with?

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10 Science Fiction Books People Pretend to Read

I found a list of 10 Science Fiction books people pretend to have read. I felt all virtuous as I read the first book on the list –¬†Cryptonomicon, check, I’ve read that! I also re-read that. I still felt virtuous with the second book –¬†Dune, check, read that. Haven’t re-read it, but definitely read it. The other eight I have not read. I own¬†Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, but haven’t yet read it. I’ve read Asimov, but not the Foundation books. Many of the rest of the books I’ve not even heard of. Don’t worry, I’ve heard of¬†Gravity’s Rainbow, but am really intimidated by it.

Have you read any of these? Do you agree that people should read these books instead of faking it?

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