Saturday, 26 July 2014

Seeing Red: What Time Is It?

A Review By: Amelia 

What time is it? Adventure time! For those of you not familiar with Adventure Time it’s an animated television series aired on Cartoon Network. It’s about a human boy named Finn and his best friend and adoptive brother Jake, a dog with magical powers to change shape and size, who go on quests and adventures in the post-apocalyptic Land of Ooo. It’s an adorable, surrealistic humour series that’s become so popular it’s grown into a huge franchise with merchandise, videogames, and comic books. Seeing Red is one of the many comics that Adventure Time has spawned!

In Seeing Red Marceline the Vampire Queen has to go back home for a family reunion. Normally, she would skip out, but it turns out she left her beloved axe bass behind the last time she was there and her father has decided to get rid of it! With the help of Jake the dog, Marceline travels around the dark and dangerous Nightosphere to try and find her axe and teach her father a much needed lesson about communication! 

The author of Seeing Red is Kate Leth and the illustrator is Zack Sterling. Leth is a Canadian comic artist and writer who has been posting comics online since late 2010. She’s known mostly as a web-comic artist but she has published a few anthologies and works for Adventure Time and Braves Warrior. Sterling is an illustrator, designer, and sequential artist based out of Portland. He studied at The Pacific Northwest College of Art and the Art Institute of Portland and has worked for Penguin Young Readers Group, Cartoon Network, and BOOM! Studios. You can find both Leth and Sterling on Tumblr at, and respectively.

In Seeing Red the plot follows Jake and Marceline as they search through Marceline’s home land of the Nightosphere for her treasured axe. It was nice to see these two characters together since Jake is so rarely seen without Finn and hardly ever alone with Marceline (since he’s still a little horrified of her being a vampire). The characters do learn lessons–especially Marceline and her father who aren’t always on the best of terms–but there’s precious little character development throughout the piece. It’s not surprising  with something as popular as Adventure Time; there doesn’t really need to be in-depth character development–you already know what the characters are like!
The art style in Seeing Red is the standard Adventure Time art style. Yes. It has a standard style. The characters are really minimalistic in facial and body structures and it makes them exceedingly adorable! The characters have noodle-like arms and legs and the style lacks any consistently sharp/straight lines. The landscapes are also minimalistic but that has more to do with where the story’s set than the overall style.

Seeing Red isn’t the best Adventure Time comic I’ve ever read but it was definitely a departure from what I’ve read in the past. Having Marceline and Jake go on their own adventure without anyone else really was a stroke of genius since I’ve yet to see it done before!

My final thoughts on Seeing Red is that it’s a good Adventure Time one-shot comic. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that someone who has never seen Adventure Time before start with this comic, but having even the slightest knowledge of the franchise will allow you to just jump right in! So go for it ‘cause what time is it? Adventure time!

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes: Possibly the Best (or the Worst) Book About Mythology You’ll Ever Read

A Review By: Amelia

Ever find yourself thinking that you’d like to learn about ancient mythology but don’t want to read thick and heavy tomes? Do you think that Loki and Thor are really awesome but thousands of years worth of long-winded weirdo Norse myths aren’t? Or perhaps you just don’t like proper prose and long to hear all the ancient myths be retold to you like a drunken buddy would. Well, if any of this applies to you, Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes is the book for you!

The book Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes is a series of shortened myths from a number of societies (Egypt, Greece, Japan, etc.) written as if a drunk person were retelling them. Yup, that’s it–that’s the book folks!

Cory O’Brien, the author of the book, is serious about mythology. At least according to him. He has a website where he posts his retold myths and apparently birds freak him out. If you go to his website ( he impresses how much he hates birds pretty quickly. Does this tell you anything about his writing style, his method, his credentials? Nope, but it does show you he has a sense of humour and that’s important since he’s written such a tongue-in-cheek book! Don’t believe me? Well, enjoy this excerpt from the Norse section from a myth titled (or re-titled rather) "Thor Gets Jacked":
                                    “… Freyja is like “Hey, Thor, what’s good?”
                                    And Thor is like
                                    “SOMEONE STOLE MY HAMMER.
                                    and Freyja is like “Shut the fuck up, man.
                                    We can solve this mystery.
                                    Loki, did you steal the hammer?”
                                    And Loki is like “Nope.”
                                    And Freyja is like “Well, I’m out of ideas.”
                                    and Loki is like “I know, right?...”
                                                                                                (page 71)

Take a good look at that excerpt, I assure you that is exactly how it is typed and formatted in the book. So, yeah, you can imagine how reading a whole book like that is. Now, that being said, despite the abuse of CAPS lock and the constant swearing (not that I’m against constant swearing myself, but it does kind of distract) I did really like this book. People who aren’t fond of blue humour (FYI, blue humour is material that’s typically considered more “adult”) probably won’t dig this book and the overall prose (if it can even be called prose) can get old real quick but, honestly, if it bothers you that much just spread your reading out over a few days and you’ll be fine.

My final thoughts on Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes is that it’s pretty good. A little strange, a little frustrating if read for long stretches of time, but pretty good nonetheless. The humour will keep you coming back and, if you’re lucky, you might even learn something about mythology!

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Under the Night Sky: It’s a Book Trying to Teach Life Lessons… Trying Being The Key Word

 A Review By: Amelia
Winter is my favourite time of year; and that’s not just something I say because I’m Canadian! I really do love winter! I love the snow and the cold air. The hot chocolate and how it gets dark early. And anyone from a Northern climate will fondly remember snow days during the school year! I only wish I lived far enough north to see the Northern Lights every winter. They’re just so magical, how they swirl around between the stars in bright purples and greens. It’s why I was drawn towards Under the Night Sky when I was browsing through the kid’s bookshelves. It’s a whole book about the Northern Lights! Sort of. But I’ll get into that later.

The story of Under the Night Sky is that of a working, single mom who breaks her routine one night and rushes her son downstairs to join their neighbours as they spontaneously decided to celebrate the beauty of the Northern Lights. The beauty of nature provides the mother and son with a special moment they can look back on with great happiness.

Amy Lundebrek, the author of Under the Night Sky, was born in Wisconsin and currently lives in Minnesota. She has a B.A. degree in Biology and enjoys outdoors stuff like hiking and camping, canoeing and snowshoeing. Under the Night Sky, which is her first published book, won a gold Mom's Choice Award in 2008 and a gold Moonbeam Award in 2009. As far as Anna Rich, the illustrator, well, I couldn’t seem to find a lick of information about the woman! She’s illustrated lots of other children’s books (that much is obvious from a Goodreads page listing her works) but when her name is entered into a search engine, there seems to be nothing (at least nothing I could find) So sorry Anna Rich, I’ve got nothing to tell the people about you!

Anyways, on to other matters–like the characters! There are two main characters in this piece: the community of people living in a blue collar kind of apartment building, and the aurora borealis, aka, the Northern Lights. Okay, so the Northern Lights can’t really be a character, so I guess that leaves the blue collar families. The main focus is on one family consisting of a single mom working the late shift at a factory and her son who is maybe growing up to fast because of his mom working the late shift. I don’t know to tell you the truth. There’s not much character in the characters! I think the characters were supposed to develop during the mother/son exchange that happens, but it only showed how the mother loves her son and, in a kid’s book, was there going to be any other feelings between a mother and son besides love?!

Now, now, now… I do believe we talk about the lessons this children’s book tries to teach and yes, it does have to do with the mother/son exchange mentioned just above. Under the Night Sky is about a whole group of working class parents that are trying to surprise and enlighten their children through the Northern Lights, which are admittedly pretty magical; but then again, I don’t know what the Northern Lights have to do with the ‘touching’ mother/son moment the two main characters have but I guess Lundebrek thought it would be meaningful. The whole exchange is a strange one-liner morality lesson in the midst of star-gazing: "When you get older, you and I might disagree about some things...Just remember these lights, how they dance." (pg. 20)

What does any of that mean right? I think it comes off a little phony trying to tack on a coming-of-age story or an awakening story or whatever she was going for. The (quote, unquote) lesson that should have been learned from Under the Night Sky is nature’s power, and beauty, and ability to transform the ordinary into something spectacular. You could have even had the theme of transformation apply to the child. Since the mother obviously wants him to end up doing better than working in a factory like her, she could have pointed to the sky and made a comment about how anything has the ability to transform and be magical. But instead the lesson taught is about how she wants the best for him and when he doesn’t remember that he should remember the Northern Lights. There are other overtones as well, such as friendship and community, but nothing is developed enough to really understand what is going on.

The art style of Under the Night Sky is quite lovely and is probably my favourite thing about the book. It looks like oil paints on canvas with many textures and visible brush strokes and blended colours. The outdoor scenes that take place under the Northern Lights are dark and jewel-toned, done mostly in tones of green and purple and it is very pretty. The illustrations are dark and mysterious, and you get a strange sense of fantasy from it that is probably appropriate for anyone who is a committed or even a casual naturist or stargazer!

Under the Night Sky’s best feature is by far Rich’s pictures. They make the story magical where the writing fails. Not to mention that there needed to be an explanation about what the Northern Lights are! They’re never even named (as the Northern Lights or the aurora borealis) and if it’s their purpose to be the focal point of the story, they need more information! Of course the story does have its good points. It was nice to see a book celebrating single-parent families as they are rare. And it’s always nice to see books about rejoicing in nature as we often take it for granted.

My final thoughts on Under the Night Sky are that it’s okay. It’s not the best children’s book I’ve ever read, but it’s not the worst. What was the biggest problem for me was that it just didn’t seem to fit together. The mother/son relationship, while cute, didn’t offer enough character development or a big enough life lesson to be anything other than something that felt tacked on: like an afterthought. There was no information about the Northern Lights, and, if it weren’t for the beautiful artwork, this children’s story just wouldn’t have a leg to stand on!

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Between Good Young Adult Fiction and Bad

A Review By: Amelia 
I’m always looking for new and interesting young adult fiction. I’ve found that in the last few years young adult has become worse, and in a way, much better. There are the authors that are still trying to categorize YA and pander to young readers by putting in pointless romances and attempt to use slang appropriately. Then you have the authors that realize that young readers have as varied a taste in books as adults and that we shouldn’t treat them like idiots. The young adult book I just finished up, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, seems to an equal mix of the two types.

You stop fearing the devil when you’re holding his hand…” Nothing much exciting rolls through Violet White’s sleepy, seaside town… until River West comes along. River rents the guest house behind Violet’s crumbling estate, and as eerie, grim things start to happen, Violet begins to wonder about the boy living in her backyard. Is River just a crooked-smiling liar with pretty eyes and a mysterious past? Or could he be something more? Violet’s grandmother always warned her about the Devil, but she’s so knee-deep in love, she can’t see straight. Could she be headed for disaster?

April Genevieve Tucholke is a full-time writer who digs classic movies, redheaded villains, big kitchens, and discussing murder at the dinner table. She and her husband–a librarian, former rare-book dealer, and journalist–live in Oregon. Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea is her first novel with the sequel Between the Spark and the Burn coming out this August.

The characters in this piece are a group of teenagers: all seventeen (at least, I think they were all seventeen). There’s Violet, the main protagonist. She’s a shy girl, a little snobby (she’s from old money), and likes to read. The story is told through first person perspective so you garner the most information about her. Unfortunately, she’s such a dull character her perspective quickly becomes quite boring and repetitive. Take for example her brother Luke. He’s a sexist pervert, content with treating his sister like garbage in the sake of coolness and drinking whatever liquor is available to him. Or at least that’s how Violet paints him in first person. He’s always got his hands all over a girl named Sunshine, a kind of vapid, flirty girl who’s friends with his sister, and Violet is certain it’s to make her uncomfortable. You learn at the end that it’s because they actually like each other but Violet’s a pretty self-centred/oblivious character and it escapes her until after she’s had her ‘life-changing, eye-opening’ moment. What I did like about Violet’s character was that she had no interest in boys… well, until she met River, but I’ll get to him in a moment. Violet is perfectly content to make small talk until she dies–she’s a whole person without having a man in her life and that’s a pretty refreshing character trait in young adult fiction! Of course she does meet a boy and after that all she can think about is him, but (again, I can’t say too much without giving the whole point of the story away). Alright, onto the last character, the main antagonist: River. He’s a suave, handsome, talented, multi-faceted lair that Violet can’t help but fall in love with. Unfortunately, even with all that going on for him, he’s as flat and plain as a playing card. All the characters are. Tucholke tried, she really did! You can tell in her lovely prose that she attempted to make human characters people could relate to, but they just ended up coming off flat.

Speaking of Tucholke’s lovely prose, I must say something about the location: a small and quaint seaside town in Oregon. It reminded me a little of the small town I spent my teenage years in, so it was easy for me to visualize all the small stores and the resident quirky townsfolk. Violet and Luke also happened to live in a huge, expansive Manor right beside the sea cliffs with a thick forest on the other side. It has a ballroom full of oil paintings and an attic packed with antiques and mysterious letters written by an eccentric grandmother. It’s a beautiful setting and in a way, it became its own character. Certainly it’s the most interesting character! Tucholke’s elegant prose suits description much better than it does dialogue!

This book had reviews written on it that called it a ‘terrifying and hypnotic debut’. It’s not. They only way this book could be considered hypnotic is that it’s dull enough to put you to sleep. Don’t get me wrong, Tucholke has writing talent–her descriptions are a thing of beauty, full of words that left me longing to re-read some classic gothic novels–but as far as character and story development goes, there’s a long road yet to travel.

My final thoughts on Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea are that it’s more or less mindless, young adult pap. It’s not anything that it’s advertised to be: it’s not sexy, it’s not romantic, it’s not reminiscent of classic gothic horror; it’s just… so uninteresting. Don’t get me wrong, this book is not by any means a total waste of time, but I suggest you go into it not expecting any of the things the reviews on the front cover say!