Staying at home is the norm... What are you reading?

Johnny Novgorod

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In an effort to meet my Goodreads pledge this year I picked up all the crap I could read in like an afternoon.

Snotgirl, by Scott Pilgrim.
Your Black Friend, by SanFran.
Courage Calls to Courage Everywhere, by Jeanette Winterson.
The Rogue Prince, by GRRMHTTP.
Batman 516-517, by the people who write Batman.
Dirty Beasts, by Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake.

Happy New Year!
 

Drathnoxis

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I read the entire Haruhi Suzumiya series of light novels. I liked them well enough, they were pretty light, feel good books. Endless Eight in particular was miles ahead of the anime adaptation on the basis that I only had to read it once and not eight times. The series does suffer from a few problems, especially in the later books.

The characters are mostly static and undeveloped. Asahina, Koizumi, and Nagato are essentially the same as they were in their very first introduction and are not particularly deep characters despite being part of the main 5.

Kyon has a tendency in the later books to go on for pages about how "this is a problem for the normal humans of Earth, an he needs to be the one to solve it on his own" despite the fact that he can't do anything and has no plan, and in fact doesn't really do much of anything to resolve it anyway. It gets pretty annoying.

Absolutely no development on the romance plot between Kyon and Haruhi. The series is constantly teasing this, every character, all the time, from the beginning of the series, but we never get any payoff. After 11 or 12 books it just gets tedious. JUST GET ON WITH IT ALREADY!

The last book (written around 10 years after the previous book) is a total snoozefest. It's so weird, it doesn't even feel like a Haruhi novel. Like most of the characters are barely present in the text and the majority is spent discussing mystery novel tropes and analyzing a fabricated story written by an ancillary character. Also there's one moment where Koizumi and Haruhi instantly agree that "motives don't matter" which is a very odd perspective. I liked all the other novels, but this one I was wishing it was over before I was half way through.
 

Hawki

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Star Wars: Doctor Aphra - War of the Bounty Hunters (3/5)

I didn't think as highly of this as the other Doctor Aphra graphic novel that I read, but to be fair, I don't think that's entirely this installment's fault. Not only does it seem to be further along in an overall storyline, but it also seems to be part of a titular "War of the Bounty Hunters" crossover/mega series or something. Don't know, but even that aside, this was decent.

The TL, DR version is that Doctor Aphra and Starra Santos (sp?) go on an information retrieval mission as the carbonite-frozen body of Han is auctioned off. Which is weird, because I thought that Boba Fett was taking Han straight to Jabba after Empire, but meh, maybe the comic series covers it. There's revelations aplenty, with do-overs, backstabbing, and a much older Qi'ra, who doesn't seem to care that her former boyfriend is frozen.

Anyway, like I said, probably missing out on a load of context here. But as it was, perfectly serviceable, had fun reading it.

Kirby Manga Mania: Volume 1 (2/5)

I really didn't like this graphic novel. It said clearly on the spine "JG" (junior graphic), so I wasn't expecting Shakespeare, but by God, I was expecting something better than this drek.

Okay, let's wind up. I should specify that I know little about Kirby, have never played a Kirby game, or consumed anything involving Kirby at all outside Smash Bros., so arguably I was going into this at a disadvantage. But even so, as a collection of short stories, this can be summed up as:

1: Someone (usually Kirby) is an idiot.
2: Someone (usually Dedede) suffers from said idiocy
3: Laugh at this, you sheep!

And so on, and so forth. The only reason this isn't a 1/5 is because some stories towards the end are a bit more creative, but "a bit" is the key pair of words. Maybe Kirby fans will get something out of this, but I didn't.
 

lostinreality

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I finally got my hands on "God's crooked lines: The search for truth", by James F. Donelan. Started reading a few days ago, love it so far.
 

Drathnoxis

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Started reading the Soul Eater manga, because the anime ended so terribly and apparently the manga is better. Man is the author horny, though. I mean, the anime was pretty horny but the manga is so bad I'm a little uncomfortable reading it at work because if anybody saw the screen on the wrong page they would assume I'm looking at porn. Like, it's barbie doll porn where they don't have nipples (as long as they aren't wearing a shirt) or genitals, but still. Also in the anime Maka has a gravity defying skirt, in the manga she just has a regular skirt (and plain panties).
 

Hawki

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Star Wars: Mutiny at Mon Cala (4/5)

Not much to say - graphic novel collection, deals with the OT trio and associated characters performing a rescue op on Mon Cala in order to rescue the mon calamari king, so the Rebels can gain the mon calamari fleet (takes place 1 year after the Battle of Yavin). Not much to say, but it's a fun read.
 

Hawki

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Witches Abroad (3/5)

At this point, it's fair to say that Discowrld just isn't my thing. Not from lack of trying, mind you, but, well, meh.

Anyway, the novel takes place in the Witches sub-series, and is basically a parody of travel stories (witches travel across the Disc and make asses of themselves), and fairy tales. Which would be fine, if not for the fact that parodying fairy tale tropes is low hanging fruit, and that the novel doesn't do anything particuarly, um, novel with the concept. Also, the humour in the book is front-loaded, and is flung at the reader without much respite.

Overall, meh. Rankings currently stand as follows:

4) The Colour of Magic

3) Witches Abroad

2) Ms. Bradshaw’s Handbook

1) Wintersmith

Guardians of the Galaxy (3/5)

To be clear, this is a collection of GotG issues (1-12) from the 2008 comic series. Even then, it's clear that this is part of larger continuity, though I could generally work out what was happening. Anyway, it's pulp action schlock - fun in some areas, banal in others.
 

Hawki

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Marvel-Verse: Shang-Chi (3/5)

This is a collection of five Marvel comics featuring Shang-Chi. I say "feature," not "star," because he only stars in 2 of them. The other 3 are ones where he's an ancillilary character in a Wolverine story and two Spider-Man stories. That's, um...something. 0_0

This is a chicken and egg scenario, but I'll just say it, at least in the context of these stories, Shang-Chi is boring. His character is "East Asian martial arts expert," with nothing beyond that. It's outright bizzare that in this graphic novel, a new reader would learn more about the backstories of Wolverine and Peter Parker than Shang Chi himself, which indicates that either the editors had no confidence in the character, or alternatively, there's no interesting backstory to draw from. I can't answer that question, but, um yeah.

Anyway, it's fine, I guess, but it's weird in what it does, and doesn't focus on.
 

Hawki

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Read some stuff:

Dark Knights of Steel: Volume 1 (3/5)

Avatar: The Legend of Korra – Patterns in Time (3/5)

Avatar: The High Ground – Volume 2 (3/5)

Avatar: The High Ground – Volume 3 (3/5)

Star Wars: A New Dawn (2/5)

Star Wars: The High Republic – Tempest Runner (3/5)

League of Legends: Ruination (4/5)
 

Absent

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The boring one
A graphic novel biography of french poet, screenwriter and dreamer Jacques Prevert. Cannot be told without little windows on other artists of that era (Breton, Tanguy, etc), who crossed his path. A marvellous example of a life lived with (and despite) the correct outlook. Makes you wonder how many forever unknown "preverts" have drowned in society without having benefited from similar luck, friends and also talent. Still, Prevert (his works, his life and persona) is always a breath of fresh air. His verses, sometimes merry, sometimes gloomy, always playful, are reliably soothing. But I'd go as far as saying that his uncompromising life trajectory and his recognition avenge a lot of people. Prevert existed, therefore Prevert is possible. Or has been.
 

Hawki

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Mort (4/5)

So, this novel was pretty neat. Not the first Discworld novel I've read, but the best, and the only one so far I've fully enjoyed. Well, almost fully - the ending's a copout - but everything up to that point is pretty neat.

Basically, Death takes an apprentice, Mortimer (or Mort), and then has Mort fill in for him as Death takes a sabattical. Mort saves someone who was meant to die, cue disruptions to the timeline, whacky hyjinx ensue. That's selling the book short, and I found myself sniggering throughout it, but, yeah. Pretty good read.

Anyway, current Discworld ratings are below:

5) The Colour of Magic

4) Witches Abroad

3) Ms. Bradshaw’s Handbook

2) Wintersmith

1) Mort
 
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Hawki

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Alone (5/5)

I don't bother reviewing, let alone listing children's books - I can skim through one in a minute, and yes, every so often I do so while on the job. Still, this one was so delightful that I wanted to share it.

Basically, written in poem form, it tells the story of Earth. Earth wants to be friends with the other planets (no, Pluto isn't a planet you plebs), but none of them want to be friends with her - for Venus, she's too cold. For Mars, she's too blue. For Jupiter, she's too small, for Mercury, too wet, and Neptune...well, Neptune could be friends, but it's too far away. So poor little Earth is all alone until a meteor smashes into her, forming the moon. But to Earth's surprise, the moon loves her for what she is, and they become best friends.

So, simple, with a healthy dose of real-world science, but this was just adorable to read. Poetry is good, art is good, kids would get a lot out of it, and the real-world science aspects are appreciated as well. So if Earth tells you she's lonely...well, probably best take some pills, but after that, give her a hug. :p
 

Thaluikhain

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Reading the Southern Vampire mysteries again (what the True Blood series was based on...apparently they are going to reboot that).

It does a good job of world building with the southern culture, though I don't know if it's accurate. The main character seems to hate women who aren't her, and sorta seems to approve of the south during the civil war, which is more than a tad dodgy.
 

Hawki

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Star Wars: Bounty Hunters - War of the Bounty Hunters (3/5)

Another graphic novel in the bounty hunters series, where no war is actually fought. Boo!

Snark aside, this is...fine. There's just not really anything that sticks out for better or worse. A lot of this seems to take place at the same time as the Doctor Aphra "War of the Bounty Hunters" grapic novel, only we see the aftermath of those events from other POVs. Difference is, Aphra's a fun character, Vance and Dengar are...fine.

Yeah, "fine" is the operative word. Also, we've got a space ninja called "Deathstick," and it's a silly as it sounds.
 

Absent

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The boring one
Read Polanski's autobiography long ago. Read Geimer's autobiography quite recently. Now reading Seigner's book. Three angles, three spotlights, on one same drama, which so many people love to talk so much about while knowing so little.

This last one is interesting, but not immensely honest. I don't know if it's denial, willful ignorance or if there are legal reasons to gloss over some things. Still, despite its rhetorical omissions, it's one important piece of the jigsaw that achors the story in human reality when so many people try to make an abstraction out of it.

All three interesting books, but I'd say that Seigner's is the least self-sufficient one. By far, Geimer's own book, "The Girl", is the closest one to what I'd consider an absolute must read. About this case or about life in general.
 

Hawki

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Batman 89 (3/5)

Can't say I liked this much.

I should start by specifying that (as far as I'm aware), what was originally one universe of four films (Batman 89 to Batman and Robin) was at some point split between Burton and Schumaker's films. Why, I have no idea, but regardless, the comic takes place at some point after Batman Returns, and does feature mutually exclusive events (e.g. Two-Face, modelled on Billy Dee Williams rather than Tommy Lee Jones, dies in this).

Be that as it may, the comic just isn't that good, at least in terms of plot. Things just sort of meander along until the end is reached, but a big "to be continued" that, as far as I'm aware, has never actually been continued. There's some weird shit from Harvey's id that goes on and on about the multiverse and possibilities, and I seriously can't tell if this is meant to be taken literally, considering that the DC multiverse is a thing. Also, it tries to touch on more serious topics, such as redlining, and Bruce setting up a foundation after Alfred points out that vigilantism can't solve everything by itself, but none of this really feels like it goes anywhere. The redlining thing also feels retroactive, if not actually a retcon, as the previous conceit in the Burton films was that all of Gotham is a shithole, period, whereas here, how shitty Gotham is depends on skin colour. Of course, that has historical precedent, but in-universe? Feels like a late addition if this was always meant to be the case.

That being said, there's some stuff I like here - it does a decent job of conveying that Bruce really is a loony when you get down to it. Drake Winston is sort of Robin*, and he's decent - has a good costume design. Also, Selina Kyle is even crazier than Bruce, and the artwork really does a good job of capturing that. But ultimately, these are aesthetics, and while that matters in a visual format, story still matters more. So, it's okay, but nothing special. It's hardly the "true continuation" of the Burton films or any such thing.

*Seriously, I have no idea what they were going for with Drake. He's set up as being Robin, as in, it starts out as a nickname, he gets a suit (which is actually pretty badass), Bruce takes him under his wing, but at the end, he just leaves, calling himself the...sigh, "the Avenging Eagle." If this was meant to be in the same continuity as the Scheumaker films, sure, but I really don't get why the comic sets this up, then subverts it to no real purpose. It feels like a "hah, gotcha" for the sake of it.
 

Baffle

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The Growing Things. Horror shorts by Paul Tremblay. I'm really enjoying his writing style. I'm not enjoying that the stories just end with no explanation of what's going on.
 

Absent

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The boring one
Le Mage du Kremlin, by Giuliano da Emopli, a well-documented fictional account of Putin-era politics, centered around a closely resembling, imaginary version of Putin's ex-adviser Vladislav Surkov. The mix of truth and fiction is awkward by definition (the book is introduced by a statement according to which it is "inspired by real facts and characters to which the author has attributed a private life and imaginary dialogues, it is however a veritable russian story"). But sometimes it's easier to convey a real life context in that form, I guess ? I'll take it as something somewhere between Kourouma and Ellroy. As subjective yet informative as Houellebecq's version of Lovecraft or Carrère's version of PK Dick...
 

Hawki

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World of Warcraft: Chronicle - Volume III (4/5)


The third and currently final installment of the Chronicle trilogy, despite the fact that as it covers events from the aftermath of Beyond the Dark Portal to Cataclysm, there's clearly more stuff that can be covered. It even ends with "To Be Continued," FFS. Alas, despite there being clear demand for a Chronicle IV, it doesn't seem likely to happen. Still, evaluating the work as is, it's "good," if not "great," namely because the level of quality fluctuates based on what time period it's covering. So, on that note:


-Pre-Third War: It's fine, can't say much.

-Third War: This is solid stuff. I don't need a recap of WC3 for the sake of my own memory, but it does benefit from taking a birdseye view, showing tactics, the greater picture, etc.

-The Frozen Throne: This is...fine, but I'm actually going to hold off a bit here, you'll see why in The Burning Crusade section.

-World of Warcraft: Things slide a bit here. Thing is, I get why - Vanilla WOW, by its nature, lacks any single cohesive story, since it's divided into a number of smaller stories. So how do you present this as a work of historical fiction? The answer is "try your hardest, damn it." And while it okay, you can tell that everything that's occurring doesn't really fit as well as it might if it had been originally written as a single story. To be clear, this isn't a mark against this period of WOW itself, but the writing here isn't as engaging as a result, even if it does manage to apply the principle of "this happened, therefore,' rather than "this happened, and then." Also, I don't know if this is the case, but a lot of the raids that are summized seem to be the exclusive domain of one faction or the other. Regardless, this section does hold value for me, since my relationship with WOW (not Warcraft, WOW) is "love the universe, meh about the gameplay."

-The Burning Crusade: Alright, things are getting stretchy here. Remember what I said about The Frozen Throne? What I can say here is the same here, and that's the question of Illidan. Basically, Illidan in Legion isn't how Illidan was portrayed in Burning Crusade. It's not strictly a retcon, but it is retroactive, since in BC, players were operating under the premise of "Illidan is the bad guy, we have to defeat him," where here, it's a case of "nice job breaking it, hero." Chances are you know it by now (if you're familiar with Warcraft at least), but Illidan's overall plan was to take the fight to the Legion itself via his demon hunters, to strike at Argus itself. Too bad he never told anyone. This actually works well enough in BC (to a point), given his myopia on the task to the point where he no longer noticed or cared the flagging support among the Ilidari, but in The Frozen Throne, when he's in the presence of Malfurion and Tyrande multiple times? Not so much.

There's also questionable tactics on Kil'jaeden's end - get demons to Outland, have them invade Azeroth, but have no intention of them actually winning, but rather, use them as a feint to lure the forces of Azeroth to Outland, and in doing so, have them take out Illidan for him. In one sense, that's a plan that makes sense, in another, it's symbolic of just how convoluted things became to 'redeem' Illidan. I know that a lot of people were miffed about Illidan in BC, but I don't really see this as being a necessary improvement.

-Wrath of the Lich King: Things get much better here, in part because there's less convolution (is that a word?) concerning Arthas's motivations when compared to Illidan's (granted, this was pre-Shadowlands). It also helps that unlike The Burning Crusade, the Wrath of the Lich King section benefits more from the birdseye view of things, as it covers the Alliance and Horde campaigns against Northrend from the standpoint of overall military strategy. It actually helps reinforce my view that if Warcraft IV is ever made, it should just adapt TBC and Wrath, since at least with the latter, the overall backdrop is perfectly suited for an RTS game. Anyway, yeah. Solid all round.

-Cataclysm: Things get a bit weird here, but not necessarily in a bad way. My own personal thoughts on Cataclysm aside (basically, post-Wrath, WoW entered further and further unknown territory for me, making it increasingly hard to follow), I do appreciate this section. Like WOW, Cataclysm is largely a lot of disparate events happening all at once, as the Alliance and Horde struggle to survive the titular event, and in doing so, increasingly draw blood as they compete for resources. Unlike WOW, it actually works better here, since the chaos of Azeroth at this point in time is the point, whereas in WOW, it's more incidental. Gives good gravitas in regards to the events that finally culminate in Deathwing's final death...and a big "to be continued" that'll never be fulfilled (where's my Chronicle IV, damn it?!)

Anyway, yeah. Good overall.