Pretty Deadly, Vol. 1: The Shrike by Kelly Sue DeConnick, illustrated by Emma Ríos

Read: 5 October, 2016

Bunny and Butterfly are talking about Death’s Daughter, Ginny – a reaper of vengeance. They say that when someone calls out to her by singing her son, she will appear to avenge them.

Pretty Deadly plunges straight into the story, which makes it rather confusing. Characters are thrown at the reader in quick succession – characters with traits or dialogue that make it seem like they might be interesting, like there might be something going on that I’d like to know about, but then the story just keeps moving on and the mystery is never acknowledged.

The illustrations have a similar issue. While absolutely gorgeous, they are often a little too stylised, making the action difficult to follow. I sometimes couldn’t tell what was happening in a panel until I’d read a few more and could piece together what happened by its result.

The use of animals and animal-human hybrids gave the story a mythic feel, which I quite enjoyed.

Unfortunately, though the visuals and ideas were great, the execution just didn’t do it for me. There’s too much “mystery box-ing,” which leaves me feeling frustrated rather than intrigued.

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Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Read: 27 June, 2015

Bird by Bird is another book about writing, based in large part on the classes Lamott teaches (the conceit fades in and out, but by the end she addresses her readers directly as if they were students who had just completed her course). The style reminded me more of Writing Down the Bones, rather than Janet Burroway’s Writing Fiction, in that it was more of a pep talk, more about attitude, rather than the actual mechanics of writing. And pep talk it certainly was. In fact, if I were to summarize the thesis of the book, it would be: “Keep at it, don’t be discouraged, you can survive this!”

I enjoyed the book, and I mostly liked Lamott’s writing, but I didn’t feel like I got as much out of it as I had from Writing Down the Bones. Goldberg’s book make me keep putting it down to go write, and I’m still using many of its prompts. Bird by Bird never really gave me that feeling. As I finished the final page, I did feel like I wanted to pick up my writing project and work on it for a bit, but it wasn’t the frantic feeling I got from Bones.

Still, I found Lamott’s writing to be interesting, if not truly engaging, and the book is full of little gems, little pericopes that I thoroughly enjoyed. I doubt that this is a book that will stick with me, but I did enjoy the ride while it lasted.

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The Sandman #1: Preludes & Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman

Read: 22 May, 2013

I can’t count how many times I’ve heard people talk about how great Neil Gaiman is, or how wonderful his books are, but I’ve somehow managed to avoid ever reading any of it. Finally, though, I decided that it was time to give The Sandman a try, and I grabbed it from my local library.

Maybe it’s because the series has been so built up, but I found myself somewhat disappointed. The art style is very “meh.” It’s messy and inconsistent (characters can look quite different from one panel to the next), and the colouring is blocky and lacks any kind of subtlety. That may be more indicative of the series’ age than anything else, but I still found it unappealing.

The writing was fine, but I wasn’t wowed. At least I was kept interested throughout.

I didn’t realize that The Sandman takes place in the DC superheroes universe (not to mention the appearance of John Constantine). I think that Constantine’s treatment was superficial, which would have been fine for fans of the comic, but left me feeling like there was a lot of unexplored material. Same with the superheroes, I’m just not into those narratives so I think that I missed a lot of the contextual, implied story.

I do think that I would have enjoyed The Sandman a lot more if my expectations hadn’t been built up so much. Then again, with the quality of the artwork and my lack of reference for the story, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up at all – let alone finished it – if I hadn’t been trying to find what people love about it so much. Especially compared to the graphic novels I’ve been reading recently, like Unwritten and Anya’s Ghost, I felt that The Sandman just kind of fell flat.

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Discworld #4: Mort by Terry Pratchett

Read: 2007

Mort was an awkward farm boy with the horticultural talents of a dead starfish. Eager to send him into a trade that might better suit his dispositions, his family agreed to place him in an apprenticeship with Death.

As far as coming of age and first love stories go, this is one of the better ones I’ve read. That’s the major aspect of the Discworld novels I’ve always liked – they are hilarious, but the stories would still be quite good even without the humour.

Like most of the Discworld series, I loved the book right up until the climax. At that point, I usually feel like Pratchett is letting some fumbling inner author take over and I lose interest completely. It’s usually a struggle for me to read the last 10-20 pages.

Overall, though, I highly recommend Mort as well as just about any other Discworld novel for anyone who enjoys comedy, particularly the more word-play witty humour of Britain rather than the slapstick/situational humour of North America.

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