Monday, September 30, 2013

#CBR5 Review #46: Chew, vol. 3 – Just Desserts by John Layman and Rob Guillory

The third volume in the Chew comic series is all about relationships. In particular, Just Desserts focuses on chibopath Tony Chu’s relationship with his new girlfriend, Amelia Mintz the saboscrivner. They have been dating for a while now, and things seem to be going swimmingly between them. Things are also working out splendidly between Tony and his partner John these days. Now if only Tony’s job would stop getting in the way of his newfound love of life; that, and his dysfunctional family’s apparent disgust for him.

This volume of Tony’s story also brings back Tony’s old partner-- and overall nemesis him the series so far—Mason Savoy, as he tries to uncover the truth behind the poultry bans across the globe.  The story is a rolling, my friends.

What I love about this series is how humorously it manages to handle some dark and gruesome subjects. It is ridiculous, yet still hits on some serious political and conspiratorial issues. I also thoroughly enjoy the artwork that Rob Guillory produces, with it’s crisp and comic-y, yet still detailed nature. The only thing that kind of throws me off every now and again is the portrayal of women: both men and women are drawn with overstated and strange body features, yet while the men still feel natural despite being so comically exaggerated, the women often come off as… heavy and disproportionate?

Despite that, however, and even though I sometimes find some of the action and eating sequences to be slightly unpleasant, I can’t help but like this series for some reason. It’s just so different from anything I’ve ever read. So if you are a fan of comic books and don’t mind the strange every now and again, you should totally check out the Chew series, and just hope I haven’t led you astray.

[Be sure to check out more reviews on the Cannonball Read group blog]

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

#CBR5 Review #45: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

This book was an impulse purchase of mine as I waited in line to buy my textbooks for this semester. And it was enjoyable and fun, but at the same time I expected something… different. I’m not sure what that was, but I almost thought that this book would be creepier (well, besides the old photographs, that is) or more intense than it turned out to be. But even so, this is still a fun book, and I expect a young adult audience that likes fantastical mystery would absolutely love it.

Miss Perengrine’s Home for Peculiar Children focuses on a teenage boy named Jacob, who grew up with his grandfather’s stories of the old orphanage he used to live in as a child, and all the strange children that lived there, hiding from the “monsters” in the world. As Jacob grows older, he believes less and less in his grandfather’s stories, that is, until his grandfather dies under mysterious circumstances, his dying words being somewhat of a riddle for Jacob to solve. As Jacob tries to get over his grandfather’s death and solve the puzzle left behind, he finds himself being drawn to his grandfather’s old stories, and eventually, to the Welsh island that started them all. Jacob is looking for closure as he goes to this small island that once housed the orphanage his grandfather grew up in, but when he gets there, he finds so much more than he bargained for. And more than anything, Jacob learns that all those stories he was told as a child may in fact have been true.

Before writing this novel, Ransom Riggs has begun collecting old vintage photographs from flea markets and other collectors. Throughout the book, you see these images being tied into the story seamlessly, giving it an old and eerie feeling. The photographs themselves appear to have lives and stories to be told of them on their own, and Ransom Riggs really uses this to his advantage in Miss Peregrine’s. The story itself if straightforward enough, and full of mystery and wonder. I did, however, find it to drag in the middle, only to be stuffed with action right at the end, which made the pace seem a little uneven at times. The action is also very… I don’t know how to describe it exactly, but, typical in a way? Though I must say, leaving the ending open as it did was a very successful choice, yet I know a sequel will be coming soon which may change the overall uncertain but hopeful mood that is left at the end of this novel. In any case, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a reasonably fast and enjoyable read, though in my opinion, not exactly one for the ages.

[Be sure to check out more reviews on the Cannonball Read group blog]

Saturday, September 14, 2013

#CBR5 Review #44: This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

There’s something a little “Six Feet Under” about the premise of this book: a son whose life is in disarray returns home after the death of his father, only to have to deal with the rest of his dysfunctional family that wants nothing to do with one another. I thought I could get behind something like this, and while the writing is solid and some real, complicated emotions are examined, This is Where I Leave You left me a bit irritated.

Judd Foxman’s life is a mess, what with recently discovering that his wife had been cheating on him with his boss, forcing Judd out of their house and into a dank basement with no job, no friends, and no idea what to do with himself. Now, to top this all off, Judd learns that his father has just passed away, and that his dying wish was for his family to all sit Shiva for him: this is a Jewish mourning ritual that requires Judd and his 3 somewhat estranged siblings to all congregate at their childhood home for an entire week. The Foxman clan isn’t exactly one that gets along well, and shortly after reuniting, all of their old issues surface and tensions are raised. And although Judd may have started out thinking that his life was the worst of the lot, he soon comes to see that if he looks close enough at the lives of his family, they may not be all that put-together either.

Writing characters that are arguably “not very good people”, yet still have them remain likable is a difficult task; many of Jonathan Tropper’s main figures teeter gravely on the line between being “flawed” and being simply aggravating in this novel. Unfortunately, try as I might, I just couldn’t get behind a lot of them, and found myself not connecting or even liking a lot of the characters in this book.

That being said, despite the fact that I couldn’t stand the people that this novel centered on, the mood of it really struck a chord with me; the uncertainty in the face of death, how to act and how to feel, and how to go on with your life after certain things happen to you, or after you’ve found yourself in a place that you never thought you’d be. There is a lack of resolution to a lot of these ideas as well, especially with the open-ended nature of the novel’s conclusion, and I think that this is one of the strongest things about This is Where I Leave You: the idea that we cannot know where to go for sure, all we can know is that though it might be difficult, there are always choices and options for us, even if we feel like there is nothing we can do.

At the end of the day, I appreciated the honesty that was poured into This Is Where I Leave You, as well as some of the bluntness at times. And yet, I wouldn’t say that this was a favourite book of mine by any means. It was good to read, but I’m afraid I will likely forget it quickly, due to my lack of resonance with the characters, and my annoyance with some of their “issues” that they weren’t really willing to work through. This is Where I Leave You is definitely thoughtful and well written, but not a page-turner by any means.

[Be sure to check out more reviews on the Cannonball Read group blog]

Friday, September 6, 2013

#CBR5 Review #43: Chew, vol. 2 – International Flavor by John Layman and Rob Guillory

“Hey, you like funny things! You should totally read this,” my cousin said to me one day as he rifled through his vast collection of comic books.  They are basically his most prized possessions, and while some may think he’s a bit of an oddball, my cousin definitely knows what he’s talking about when it comes to this stuff, and he was dead on about this series; Chew is hilarious, in a demented kind of way, and I am starting to absolutely love it. I will admit, it’s the sort of thing that won’t appeal to everyone, as it gets a bit ludicrous and also very dirty and grotesque at times, but if you like the weird and wonderful in your graphic novels and comic series, then you will probably like this as well.

Volume 2, entitled International Flavor, follows our dear chibopath Tony Chu with a new partner at the FDA, who just so happens to be his old police-force partner, John Colby. John had previously been injured while on a job with Tony, and after having some serious reconstructive surgery, he now has a half-robotic face. John’s new robotic abilities, coupled with Tony’s ability to see the history of anything he ingests basically makes the two a new buddy-cop duo of “freaks” at the FDA, and Tony’s boss makes sure he puts them on any case that may involve Tony having to taste something especially disgusting (Sewage! Feces! Rotting corpses!).

While on their first assignment together, John and Tony inadvertently make a chicken bust, as chicken is still outlawed in many countries around the world, including America. When Tony tastes this “chicken,” however, he sees that it is not in fact chicken, but a fruit that tastes just like it from a tiny island called Yamapalu. Tony vows to find out what this fruit is, and takes an impulse trip to Yamapalu in order to learn more about it. On the way, he runs into his brother, who has been called to the island to become a new star chef at a high-end resort. It turns out that the leader of this small nation has some big ideas for his country, based on the new fruit that has been found. But his means of achievement greatness for his people isn’t going as smoothly as planned, and Tony can’t help but get himself mixed up in the mess.

Twists occur frequently in this volume, making the story clip along nicely, and making you want to keep reading to find out what happens next: I read the whole thing in one sitting, but considering how it’s not a long book, that really isn’t hard to do at all. The characters are bright and vivid, all with their own unique little abilities and personal characteristics. As for the artwork, it is very much on the cartoon-y side, but I really love the expressiveness of all the characters’ gestures. I want to say that it’s crisply drawn yet still feels very visceral, but that sounds… pretentious.

In any case, International Flavor may not be perfect or fitting to everyone’s tastes, but I found it to be extremely intriguing, cheeky, and right up my alley. Hopefully the series is able to keep up the fabulous momentum it has so far in it’s future installments: I definitely plan on reading more soon to find out.

[Be sure to check out more reviews on the Cannonball Read group blog]

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

#CBR5 Review #42: Hawkeye, vol.2 - Little Hits by Matt Fraction

[With art by David Aja, Javier Pulido, Steve Lieber, Francesco Francavilla, and Jesse Hamm]

Hawkeye might be a bit of a doofus and not really know what he’s doing with himself at any given moment, but there is still something so likeable about him; you can tell that he genuinely cares about people, despite his often confused and public “I couldn’t care less about anything” nature. Hawkeye wants to do the right thing, he’s just not always sure what that is.

Once again focusing on the life of Clint Barton when he’s not acting as a part of The Avengers, Little Hits collects issues 6 to 11 of the Hawkeye series. Each issue acts like it’s own little episode in Clint’s life, though some are connected with recurring characters, such as Kate Bishop (the Young Avenger’s Hawkeye), and Cherry (the girl who is always in with the wrong people) who first appeared in My Life as a Weapon.

The stories seem to progress much slower in Little Hits than they did in the previous volume, and I also found some of them to be a bit confusing in their jumping back and forth in little sections. And yet, it was still enjoyable, much due to the fact that Matt Fraction has written Hawkeye as such an interestingly human character. Unlike some superheroes in comic books who just seem to be so different that no one can relate to them, Hawkeye is just such a regular guy that you just can’t help but feel connected with him (at least, I feel as much). Plus, there is one issue within Little Hits that is told through the eyes of Clint’s dog, Lucky, often known as “pizza dog”, which is particularly amusing and fun to read, I only wish it went on for longer.

And as always, the minimalist artwork in this series is absolutely stunning. The lines, angles, and small palettes of color allow for the story to be told visually without being overwhelming or distracting, yet still have a huge impact. I know this kind of art style isn’t for everyone, but I absolutely love it.

So even though I didn’t love Little Hits as much as I loved the first Hawkeye volume (My Life as a Weapon) I still found it to be a good read, and am excited to follow this series some more to see where exactly it goes from here. There doesn’t yet seem to be one strict course of action or conflict as of yet, but the formations of one are definitely starting to line up and look quite promising.

[Be sure to check out more reviews on the Cannonball Read group blog]