Saturday, 27 September 2014

Bloodline: A Decent Sequel to Dracula That Only Took 117 Years To Arrive

A Review By: Amelia

When one thinks of a true Gothic novel, what comes to mind? What about the best vampire to ever stalk the streets in search of blood? What about the most bad-ass vampire hunter to wield a stake and mallet? The answer to all these questions is, of course, the novel Dracula. With so much in Bram Stoker’s masterpiece to love, why did he never write more in the Dracula mythos? I do believe Kate Cary thought the same thing and, to rectify the situation, she sat down and penned the fabulous Bloodline, the unofficial sequel to Dracula.

Bloodline is a continuation of the Dracula mythology with the story of Quincy Harker: a charming, rogue British army officer who has been leading a secret life because he’s a vampire. He seduces an innocent girl by the name of Lily and, when he takes her back to his family’s castle in Transylvania, he lures her older brother to save her. This, in turn, is all part of a much bigger plot involving the cursed bloodline of Dracula.

The author of Bloodline (and its sequel Bloodline Reckoning) is Kate Cary who has also written for the series Warriors under the pen name of Erin Hunter. She’s a fairly unknown author but it hardly matters: she has an elegant and intelligent style that hard to put down once you start: especially with the Bloodline series.

Bloodline has some very interesting characters: some new and some homage to the original Dracula story. Until the last part of the novel though, there are only four characters that you need concern yourself with. John Shaw is the kind-hearted, older brother of Lily Shaw, who is the innocent and naïve soul that Quincy Harker, the charming vampire, has seduced to become his vampire bride. Along for the ride is Mary Seward, a nurse that fell in love with John and wishes to help him save his sister from a grisly undeath. Of these four characters though, Quincy and Mary are the most fleshed out. No disrespect to John and Lily Shaw, but John spends the first half of the book raving mad from his experiences in the First World War, and Lily is just such a weak human being her character is washed out by the more commanding Quincy, who she spends most of the book with.

Bloodline has some great locations within its three hundred and fifty pages. It begins with one of my favourite locations: the trenches of war torn France. The picture of war is painted beautifully with the mud, the vermin, the violence, and gore of the First World War. Moving from the trenches of France is a war hospital in England that used to be an asylum and a gloomy old manor where Lily lives. When Quincy meets her at this gloomy manor, they make their way across Europe before arriving at the imposing and dark castle that Quincy calls his childhood home. They’re great locations that, without over imposing, showcase the characters wonderfully.

Bloodline is a great book written around what could have been a really lacklustre topic. I mean a sequel to Dracula? Who needs that? As it turns out, I needed a sequel to Dracula no matter how non-sequitur it may seem! The characters are genuine, the writing is poignant and on tone, and the locations paint a grim and gothic façade that really bring this unofficial sequel of Dracula to life.

My final thoughts on Bloodline are that this is a great take on the Dracula mythology. It gives us characters that are human, even when they’re vampires and the writing is vivid and powerful as first person diary entries are a great homage to the original Dracula novel. Plus there’s some steamy lesbian vampire sex! Plus being set in World War One is always a big draw for drama, violence, and good ol’ fashioned vampire gore–none of that Twilight ‘I only eat animals’ garbage! All added up and Bloodline gets high marks from me!

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight: This Comic Proves That Buffy’s Still Got It!

A Review By: Amelia 
I always liked Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I well admit that the last few seasons of the show lost me in how truly ridiculous some of them were (I mean, that one where there’s a freeze ray–what the hell is that?). I did however like how the series ended: it was touching and meaningful and I didn’t think–for a long, long time–that Buffy should continue after such a great wrap-up. Anyway, after many years of doubt, I decided to give the comics (which go by seasons) a chance. Surprisingly, they did not disappoint.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight is a comic book series that serves as a canonical continuation of the television series and follows the events that come of the show’s finale. The story arch of the series is as follows.

A year after the end of the television series, Buffy and Xander now lead command-central of slayers and at their disposal are a wide array of psychics, seers, witches, and Slayers (around 1800 by Buffy’s count and 500 working and training with Buffy herself). In the wake of Sunnydale’s destruction, elements within the United States government view the expanded Slayers as international terrorists and characterize Buffy as a "charismatic, uncompromising and completely destructive" leader. Many villains from Buffy’s past make appearances and they are all connected to a new foe named Twilight. He’s the enigmatic big bad of season eight and seeks to destroy all the Slayers and bring about an end to all magic on Earth.

The authors and artists of the Buffy comics are numerous but include Georges Jeanty (who is a comic book penciller and worked on The American Way), Brian K. Vaughan (who is a comic writer and worked on Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina, Pride of Baghdad, and Saga), and, the creator of Buffy himself, Joss Whedon (who also wrote Dollhouse, Firefly, and The Avengers movie). Whedon doesn’t write any of the main stories but the writers that stand in for him do a remarkable job capturing the tone and essence of the Buffy-verse in the characters, themes, and dialogue.

The art style of Buffy Season Eight is a mostly realistic style with bland,
mostly empty landscapes, but exceptional foreground and facial details. It’s shadowy and dark–more so than the show ever was–but it’s not overbearing or distracting in any way. It actually suits the comic media better to have it more shadowy. And the comic is by no means just dark shadows. As I mentioned a few sentences ago, the facial details go a long way and there’s more than a few times when a face Buffy makes when caught off guard will bring a smile to your face. Sure it’s cartoony, but the whole premise kind of is, so why not?

The themes that Buffy had during its television run are present in the comics. It’s all quite heavy when you look past the witty quips, fast-paced sarcasm, and cartoony facial expressions of surprise. Loyalty and sexuality are there, as our revelations about friendship (especially concerning Willow and Buffy). Some of it gets a little overused–especially Buffy and Dawn’s strained sisterhood–but mostly it’s all good and all very reminiscent of the television series.

All in all, this is a great comic series and I look forward to sinking my teeth into Buffy Season Nine. Everything that made early Buffy so good were there: themes, characters, even the way they all originally talked! It helped a great deal to bring everything together and make it feel like the same universe and not just something that was tacked on at the end to try and squeeze more money from the loyal fanbase.

My final thoughts on Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight are that it’s good. Better than good. I’ll even go as far as to say that these comics are better than the last season of the television show! The characters seem truer and more on-point than they were that last season and even Dawn (my most hated character: probably everyone’s most hated character!) was put to good use as a giant. Are these comics as good as seasons one through three of Buffy? No, because nothing will ever be as good as seasons one through three of Buffy! But the comics do a good job capturing the characters we all grew to love so much and the sometimes ridiculous, mostly over-the-top story lines that made Buffy so memorable! If you were sad to see Buffy the Vampire Slayer end, then you owe it to yourself to read the comics!

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Suck It, Wonder Woman: Olivia Munn’s Middle Finger To Everyone Who Isn’t Her…

A Review By: Amelia
I believe–as the proud feminist that I am–that women are just as funny as men. Women are cultured to not be funny by society which is a real shame because if the female comic royalty has proven (Sarah Silverman, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler just to name a few) women can be down right hilarious! It’s why I make a point to try and read books like Suck It, Wonder Woman; they’re books written by women who are funny, witty, sarcastic, insightful etc. etc., and have used those skills to burst into usually male dominated fields to stake their own claim. Olivia Munn managed to do this–and do it well! Unfortunately, her book… well, let’s say it doesn’t really do her any favours.

Suck It, Wonder Woman is a collection of humorous essays about Olivia Munn’s life as a Hollywood geek. This book also includes things like a timeline of the great moments in geek history and her answers to the unofficial geek FAQ. All in all, it’s a random book written by a random woman.

The author of the piece is Olivia Munn who is an actress/mega-geek. On the G4 show Attack of the Show! she’s known for her immaculate timing and scathing wit. She’s graced magazine covers–from Entertainment Weekly to Playboy–and has a loyal fan base that have dubbed her Leader of the Nerds.

Pie is a heavy theme through the book
The general plot behind Munn’s book is partly stories about her life and partly observational/list and art based humour all seemingly dispersed throughout the book at random. The book lacks any kind of formal writing style and relays heavily on words oral filler words: like, right, and fuck/shit/really any other swear word you can imagine being the ones that are repeated the most. It does distract and annoy after a while but it’s not the worst part of the book. Personally, I found the biggest problem with Munn’s life story was that Munn was telling it! If I were her editor, I would definitely tell her to change her tone. She talks about stories where she got called a slut for absolutely no reason and how much it hurt and then in the next chapter she’s slut-shaming other women. I mean, how does she justify doing a topless Maxim shoot as empowering for her but degrading and shameful for other women There’s also parts where she talks about her body issues and says that she can finally accept her body nowadays but, from reading what she’s written, you see she’s only comfortable with her own body by shaming everyone else be they fat or skinny!

Munn on Maxim
Overall, the tones and themes of Suck It, Wonder Woman probably weren’t meant to sound as bitchy as they did but, honestly, that’s no excuse for it to have been in the book in the first place! That’s not even mentioning her use of ‘all things feminine’ to be inferior–sigh–what a piss off! One of many examples of this are in the chapter where she talks about men getting sick and as soon as that happens they grow a vagina. Really? You call yourself a feminists and that’s how you choose to describe that? By putting down your whole gender as weak and pathetic? So, yeah, those unnecessarily misogynistic bits really got my hackles up, but when she’s talking about other things–her family, school life, or just random stories–it can be readable.

My final thoughts on Suck It, Wonder Woman are that it’s so-so. The misogynistic tone and phrasing on Munn’s part were disgusting (to say the least) but hearing about her life was at least entertaining. I mean, sure, it’s not a literary masterpiece, but did we really expect it to be? I’d give it 2 and a quarter stars out of five: enjoyable one-fifth of the time, okay two-fifths of the time, and horrid two-fifths of the time. All in all, she’s got no reason to believe herself better than Wonder Woman and I can definitively say that you can read Suck It, Wonder Woman if you love Olivia Munn, but avoid it if you feel anything else for her!

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Night of the Moon: Fact Filled and Fun and Not Just for Kids!

A Review By: Amelia

I’m not going to lie: I don’t know a hell of a lot about Muslim culture. I never studied it in history classes, never took religion classes, and there’s little to none Muslim representation in anything I’ve ever seen on television or movies (which is probably the biggest factor of my ignorance). When I was asked a question about the holidays Muslim’s celebrate by the two little boys I look after, I had no idea how to answer. So I once again packed up the little rugrats and headed to my local library where I found the very helpful book Night of the Moon: A Muslim Holiday Story. Lucky or what?

The premise of Night of the Moon is a simple one. It follows Yasmeen, a seven-year-old Pakistani-American girl, as she and her family celebrates the Muslim holidays of Ramadan, The Night of the Moon, and Eid. It’s a story that offers a window into modern Muslim culture and into the ancient roots from within its traditions have grown.

The author of Night of the Moon is Hena Khan, a Pakistani-American Muslim who was born and raised in America but celebrated her native Pakistan’s culture and religion. She’s written many children’s books about the Muslim faith but she’s also covered topics from spies to space travel as well. The illustrator that she worked with on Night of the Moon was Julie Paschkis, an award winning illustrator with a long list of art schools under her belt and a BFA to top it all off.

The art style of Night of the Moon is perfect for the story it’s telling. It looks to be a thick acrylic style that’s intricate but not perfect. The paintbrush (or whatever tool was used to create the artwork) was held lightly and allowed to swoop and glide where it wanted. The main colour of the piece is blue and there is such a rich variety of blue that it creates an unbelievable lushness. It’s the perfect colour to focus on for a book about a Muslim holiday centred around the moon and it really does evoke just such a feeling of looking at traditional Islamic art. 

The themes of this children’s book are very clearly laid out: it’s a book to teach children about Muslim holidays. Unlike other kid’s books Night of the Moon is not centred around teaching kids a moral lesson through clever use of talking animals. It takes a culturally authentic account of Ramadan, delivers it in a sensitive way to Muslim tradition, and holds onto its steadfast integrity. All thirty two pages of the piece are detailed and reverent of its Middle Eastern background and it’s done in a way to keep kid’s attention so that they learn about something that happens in the real world!

My final thoughts on Night of the Moon are that it’s an excellent book to read if you’re looking to help your children understand a different culture or if you yourself know nothing about Ramadan and want to dip your toes! The artwork is lush and gorgeous, the story helpful and entertaining and there’s even a glossary at the end of the book that goes over the Arabic words that are mentioned in the piece and how they relate to the Islamic faith. Overall, Night of the Moon is a good representation of Muslim holidays that’s beautiful, fact-filled, and respectful to the culture.