Friday, August 15, 2014

Book Review: The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew

I love reading. Books are amazing. They are a form of escapism, yes, but they are also inspiration, joy, and... well. Goodness. I think in some ways I have used my appetite for reading to define parts of my personality, so it made sense for me to review some of what I read! Here we go...

Title: The Shadow Hero
Authors: Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
Publication Date: July 15th 2014

Synopsis: "The Shadow Hero is based on the golden-age comics series The Green Turtle, whose hero solved crimes and fought injustice just like any other comics hero. But this mysterious masked crusader was hiding something more than your run-of-the-mill secret identity... The Green Turtle was the first Asian American superhero.
Now, exactly seventy years later, New York Times-bestselling author Gene Luen Yang has revived this nearly forgotten, pioneering character in a new graphic novel that creates an origin story for the golden-age Green Turtle.
With artwork by the unmatched Sonny Liew, this hilarious and insightful graphic novel about heroism and heritage is also a loving tribute to the long, rich tradition of American superhero comics."

My thoughts: I actually didn't expect to enjoy this as much as I did. I loved the idea of an Asian American superhero, and I wanted to see where Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew would take the story - how they would explore the backstory of a character created over fifty years ago. What a fascinating premise! And I have to say, I think they pulled it off beautifully.
The art style was reminiscent of traditional comic books, but with a new edge to it. The characters were excellent - particularly Hank's mother. She was equal parts terrifying and hilarious. And the romance, while there, was not overbearing - which suited the story really well.
I loved this back story that Yang dreamed up with Liew. And I also loved how they talked about the history of the original Green Turtle comics at the end of the book - and even put an example of one of the old comics at the end! Horrific stereotyping of the Japanese of the time and everything.
My only nitpick about this book was sometimes the motivations behind the characters were a little bit of a stretch for me - I wasn't sure if what happened made complete sense for the characters and the story. But other than that, I really loved this book.

I received a review copy of this book from First Second Books.

You would like this book if: you're interested in alternate superhero stories, or the reinvention of old, forgotten heroes.

Rating:  9/10

If you'd like to keep up to date with what I'm reading, follow me on Goodreads here!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Book Review: The Rise of Aurora West by Paul Pope, JT Petty, and David Rubin

I love reading. Books are amazing. They are a form of escapism, yes, but they are also inspiration, joy, and... well. Goodness. I think in some ways I have used my appetite for reading to define parts of my personality, so it made sense for me to review some of what I read! Here we go...

Title: The Rise of Aurora West
Authors: Paul Pope, JT Petty, and illustrations by David Rubin
Series: One of the prequels to Battling Boy
Publication Date: September 30th 2014

Synopsis: "Acropolis is rife with monsters and short on heroes.
Luckily, there's a new hero on the rise.
Aurora West has her hands full trying to fit in martial arts lessons between chemistry and math classes, helping her father on his missions, and unraveling the mystery surrounding her mother's death. The answer, she discovers, may be as close as her own childhood memories - if she can only survive the monster Sadisto and his murderous clan long enough to piece it together.
Set in the world of Paul Pope's hit graphic novel Battling Boy, this fast-paced adventure is the first of two volumes of mystery, mayhem... and murder!"

My thoughts: I will admit, to start with, that I have no read Battling Boy - nor had I heard of it before reading Aurora West. Whether that affects how I see this book, or my experience of it, in any great way - I'm not sure. But I suspect that it does.

Anyway, onto Aurora West. I really liked her character - a kickass female protaganist is a good way to get me into a book. At times, Aurora is shown as being a bit insecure/unsure of herself, and I really appreciated that side to her. In fact the whole book did a good job of not making the heroes seem completely infallible. We learn about their pasts a little bit - particularly Aurora's father's past - and that helps the book to come together.

However, I did feel like there was a little too much going on for me to follow well at times. This may have had something to do with the art style, which I wasn't a huge fan of - I can acknowledge that it's very well done, but I just didn't like it all that much. This may have also influenced how much I cared about what was happening to the characters within the book - I didn't find myself caring about them at all until about three quarters of the way through the book - before that I just felt like my brain was being bombarded with information and illustrations, and I was finding it hard to piece things together and understand where things were going.
To sum up, I found this book intriguing - it had a good premise, and a strong character - I just didn't feel that interested in the story while I was reading. I'm not sure if I will read the next book... I guess we shall see.

I received an Advanced Reader's Edition of this book from First Second Books.

You would like this book if: you enjoy David Rubin's art style; you're into heroes-battling-monsters with interesting back-stories.

Rating:  6.5/10

If you'd like to keep up to date with what I'm reading, follow me on Goodreads here!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Spoonie Diaries #2: Body Aches

For just a minute, imagine that you have a really bad case of the flu. You're feeling pretty wretched and there's a lot of symptoms rolling around your body and mind. But there's one - usually alongside the constant cycle of hot-cold - that really makes you feel uncomfortable. Your body is aching ALL OVER. 

It's not just in one specific location, it hurts everywhere. It feels slightly like you've run a marathon, but it also comes with that awful sick feeling. That feeling like you have the flu in every muscle of your body. It permeates your thoughts and makes you feel awful. I feel like it might be closely linked to brain fog - with that pain comes lack of thought.

However, slightly differently to my post on brain fog, I can recommend a few things that can help. At least, they sometimes help in me. I have to warn you though that sometimes my body aches aren't just normal body aches (hahaha "normal"), but can be mild fibromyalgia, which I get occasionally. (More on that in another post... probably.)

Here is what I find helps:

  • paracetamol - I recommend this very warily. I am not a doctor, and I don't know how certain painkillers react with your system. Paracetamol are one of the lightest forms of painkiller, but you should always check with a medical professional before starting to take something.
    I find that this can relieve some of the pain and discomfort, and help me to sleep if that's what I need (it usually is). Sometimes, though, it feels like it doesn't touch it. So you gotta see how you go.
  • a warm bath - nothing makes the aches disappear like being suspended in warm water. you can make it as luxurious as you want - bath salts, bubbles, fizzies, lovely smelling cleansers, whatever you want. Or you can go the simple option and just buy some epsom salts to chuck in there - they are rich in magnesium and are very good for muscle aches, and skin/hair health.
  • heat packs/cold packs - I would put the edge on heat packs with this. cold packs are generally more for injuries or muscles out of control, not for body aches, but I put them here because different things work for different people.
    I personally prefer heatpacks - I have been known to have two on different parts of my body at once. Just figure out what is the most affected area and put a heatpack on there. Yes, they can mess with your hot-cold issues, but sometimes they don't and you can relax for a while. Play around with different things to get yourself comfortable.

Those are just a few suggestions I have for you. I am currently experiencing pretty bad body aches because of a bad virus, so I am using these things for myself. As always, my main message here is to look after yourself. Slow down, tune in to what your body needs, and give yourself permission to see to those needs.

Thanks for reading :)

Monday, August 11, 2014

Book Review: Julia's House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke

I love reading. Books are amazing. They are a form of escapism, yes, but they are also inspiration, joy, and... well. Goodness. I think in some ways I have used my appetite for reading to define parts of my personality, so it made sense for me to review some of what I read! Here we go...

Title: Julia's House for Lost Creatures
Author: Ben Hatke
Publication Date: October 14th 2014

Synopsis: "When Julia and her walking house come to town, she likes everything about her new neighbourhood except how quiet it is! So Julia puts a sign up: "Julia's House for Lost Creatures." Soon she's hosting goblins, mermaids, fairies, and even a dragon. Quiet isn't a problem anymore for Julia...but getting her housemates to behave themselves is!"

My thoughts: This is a really sweet kid's book with absolutely charming illustrations. The fact that it is also very short and predominantly a picture book means I've actually read through this book about five times already.
There is something very comforting and lovely about Hatke's style - I loved it in Zita the Spacegirl, and I love it even more here. I am particularly fond of his little ghostie in this book.
On my first read-through, I found the flow to be a little disjointed, but I think that was mostly just with the text - if you look at this book with the curiosity of a child and pay more attention to the beautiful illustrations (not hard), then everything flows beautifully and you find yourself somewhat sucked into this alternate dimension where mermaids and goblins and fairies co-exist in the same home - even dance to the same records together.
I found this book an absolute delight and am considering buying copies for my friends with young kids - and a few for friends who just adore stories like these.

I received an Advanced Reader's Edition of this book from First Second Books.

You would like this book if: you like sweet art styles; you enjoy comforting worlds.

Rating:  9.5/10

If you'd like to keep up to date with what I'm reading, follow me on Goodreads here!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Notes from Spoonie World (Spoonie Diaries Lite)

I originally intended to post something yesterday and on Sunday - a couple of book reviews that are in the works, and another Spoonie Diaries entry - but things, apparently, just weren't going to pan out that way.

This week marks the first week of Semester Two of uni for me, and I had two classes to attend on Monday. I was already unsure about attending the first one - it started at 9am and I often have a lot of pain and discomfort early in the morning. I had fully intended to go to the one in the afternoon, even though it went for three hours (which is rather daunting to me as a few of my symptoms can be triggered by that much time staring at screens, under fluorescent lights...with stale air and no tea.... >shudder<).
It turned out that I would be going to neither of my classes, as I ended up having migraine symptoms on Sunday night which turned into full-blown 'ouch that hurts' on Monday morning.

This is actually a fairly normal occurrence for me - every two months or so, these days (it used to be more frequent) I get a migraine that can sometimes turn into two or three in a few days. It means I kind of can't look at computer screens for a couple of days, and even reading and tv screens are relatively off-limits, too. I don't think anyone needs me to tell them how much this can disrupt my studying, and my (currently unpaid) vocation. However, I usually can just get past all of that and focus on resting until I feel more stable.

Yesterday, however, I just felt awful. Not just physically, but emotionally, too. I began to feel like this is all that I would have for the rest of my life - never being able to hold down any sort of paid job because I can never know when I will get sick. Having to cancel an appointment and my first two classes just made this feel worse, and I wondered if I would ever be independent and be able to support myself financially.

This worries are something that I carry with me constantly. But some days they are just harder to reason with.

flowers from Xin

It took the liberal application of time and cuddles with Xin, tea, and gentle rest, but I am feeling a lot better. The thing is, I am extremely lucky in this life. Yes, I get sick a lot, and that sucks. But through that sickness I was also given the chance to pursue (gently) what I really want to do with my life. I have been given the ability to look inside myself and figure things out, and really get to know who I am. I have used pain as a catalyst for growth.

I am not going to say that I am grateful I got sick, or that I continue to do so. Because sometimes I just don't feel that way at all. But, thanks to this feeling of illness, I have been able to realise that I just need some time not to push myself forward for a while. Sometimes you can do all you can to try to heal yourself, or move your career forward, or make yourself feel more loved, more grateful, and none of it really works. Sometimes what you need is time just to be, to wait, to watch.

So this is me. Waiting. And giving myself permission to step back for a little while from the need to be something more than I am.

Friday, August 1, 2014

{2014} July Reading

Books bought:
~ Preorder of Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld
~ GRANTA Japan
~ Shades of Milk and Honey, and
~ Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal
~ Moby Dick by Herman Melville
~ The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
~ The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
~ The Story: Love, Loss and the Lives of Women (Collection of Short Stories) collected by Victoria Hislop
~ Preorder of Lullabies by Lang Leav
~ Miles in Love (Omnibus edition) by Lois McMaster Bujold
~ North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
~ Preorder of the Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

Books received:
~ Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
~ The Seventh Miss Hatfield by Anna Caltabiano
~ The Young World by Chris Weitz
~ The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue present: Macbeth
~ Kalona's Fall by P.C. and Kristen Cast
~ In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang
~ The Rise of Aurora West
~ The Shadow Hero
~ Julia's House for Lost Creatures

Books read:
~ The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
~ Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal
~ The Seventh Miss Hatfield
~ The Young World
~ Eleanor and Park
~ Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue...
~ Americanah
~ Kalona's Fall
~ Alexandra's Legacy by N. J. Walters
~ The Silkworm
~ Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
~ Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
~ Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
~ In Real Life

This month feels humongous, looking back on it now. Reading and finishing The Bell Jar feels so long ago... but I still remember really enjoying it, despite fearing that it would make me feel really depressed. It actually did such an interesting job of comforting me in how I feel when I'm depressed...
I jumped around quite a bit this month, but still managed to review four or so books. I am overjoyed that I am now getting some review books from Hachette - often a package will turn up and I will have no idea what's inside, which is exciting.
A couple of notable mentions from this month include Shades of Milk and Honey - such a lovely mix of a Jane Austen-esque world mixed with magic, Americanah - I picked this one up on a whim and ended up finding it a fascinating read, and The Silkworm - Galbraith (Rowling) just writes so wonderfully that I immediately wanted more. If I'd still had my copy of Cuckoo's Calling, I would have re-read it. I may need to get myself another copy in the future. This is probably what led me on to re-reading the Harry Potter books, the pace of which has slowed considerably over the last couple of days due to illness. I'm still in book four - about halfway through now - and may stop after I finish that one, or I might keep going. Not really sure at this point. Though I am loving the new covers that will be coming out in September - what are your thoughts?
In Real Life was also a fabulous read, and particularly lovely for me to read as I have started gaming again just recently.
In terms of book-buying, I've had to put myself on a ban for a couple of months. This month just got a bit out of hand (you can probably see that... 12 books in one month...). So I am not buying myself any books until September 20. I am giving myself two emergency 'outs' - one for each month - but hoping not to use them. Wish me luck!
I am looking forward to next month and hopefully the start up of the Aurealis Awards!

What are you reading right now?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Book Review: In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang

I love reading. Books are amazing. They are a form of escapism, yes, but they are also inspiration, joy, and... well. Goodness. I think in some ways I have used my appetite for reading to define parts of my personality, so it made sense for me to review some of what I read! Here we go...

Title: In Real Life
Authors: Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang
Publication Date: October 14th 2014

Synopsis: "Anda loves Coarsegold Online, the massively multiplayer role-playing game where she spends most of her free time. It's a place where she can meet people from all over the world and make friends.
But things become a lot more complicated when Anda befriends a gold farmer - a poor Chinese kid whose avatar in the game illegally collects valuable objects and then sells them to a players from developed countries with money to burn. This behaviour is strictly against the rules in Coarsegold, but Anda soon comes to realize that questions of right and wrong are a lot less straightforward when a real person's real livelihood is at stake."

My thoughts: The artwork in this book is just beautiful. I love how colourful it is, I love that there's all different body shapes in the book - how the main character is a little plump, a little shy. I love that this book came into my possession just as I was getting back into gaming (on Guild Wars 2) with friends.

This book takes a serious subject and then works it into an intriguing story. And things don't go completely smoothly, either. I love that the story isn't just some beautiful fantasy where the main character comes along and fixes everything - because it doesn't always work that way.

I do think that the book took some liberties with the subject matter - making the in-game characters a lot more life-like and including some distinctly human moments within the RPG - but I think they had to so that they could make the story work. Anda and her in-game character are awesome, and while I think this story would have benefited from a slightly closer look at female gamers (it is touched on briefly, but not much), I was really drawn to her story.

I received a review copy of this book from First Second Books.

You would like this book if: you like gamer girls; you love beautiful artwork.

Rating:  9/10

If you'd like to keep up to date with what I'm reading, follow me on Goodreads here!
All content owned by Bethwyn Walker unless otherwise stated. Simple template. Template images by gaffera. Powered by Blogger.

butterfly elephant

creating a place where rest and rejuvenation are paramount