April Wrap Up – Books, Games, and Ninja TED

I finally got around to doing a monthly wrap-up. I read 10 books (and short stories) this month, which wasn’t as many as I’d hoped, but still not too shabby!

Novels and Graphic Novels:

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  • From Unseen Fire by Cass Morris (5/10): This was a bit of a disappointment. I couldn’t connect with the characters and the setting was more historical fiction than alt-history/fantasy, which . Review here.
  • Grey Sister by Mark Lawrence (7/10): Though I had problems with Nona’s character in this sequel to Red Sister, it was still an enjoyable read and I’m looking forward to seeing how things will conclude in Holy Sister. Review here.
  • The Last Sun by K.D. Edwards: Review to come…
  • Fire Dance by Ilana C. Myer (9.5/10): I absolutely loved it. The writing is gorgeous, the characters are complex, and the worldbuilding is fascinating. Review here.

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  • The Lost Path by Amélie Fléchais (4/10): This was a weird, weird graphic novel. I was expecting something similar to Over the Garden Wall, but that wasn’t at all the case. Though the artstyle is nice, the plot is just absolutely nonsensical.
  • This I Know by Eldonna Edwards (3/10): A big resounding NOPE. It started out with a lot of promise and then just took a nosedive. Review here.
  • Algeria is Beautiful like America by Olivia Burton (7/10): This was the first autobiographical graphic novel I’ve ever read and I actually quite enjoyed it! It
  • Dragonoak by Sam Farren (8/10): An f/f fantasy romance featuring a necromancer and a knight. It’s chock full of diversity, the worldbuilding is interesting and fun, and the romance was just so sweet.

Novellas and Short Stories:

All Systems Redground floor

  • All Systems Red (Murderbot 1) by Martha Wells (7.5/10): This was a fun read. Murderbot should be relatable to anyone who is an introvert and/or has social anxiety.
  • Ground Floor, Second Room to the Left by Chris Srantopoulos (6.5/10): An atmospheric horror short story that had some interesting moments but ended a little prematurely.

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Games:

For the past week and a half, I’ve been thoroughly obsessed with this obscure little indie game called God of War. I’m not even halfway through and it’s already shaping out to be one of the best games I’ve ever played. It’s a fun, glorious romp through Norse mythology, but it’s also an incredibly personal tale of parenthood and the legacy that we pass on to our children. The relationship between Kratos and his son Atreus is utterly compelling and played out by the two actors to perfection. I’m very excited about finishing it but also scared about finishing it.

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Ninja TED:

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So I went to my fourth annual NinjaTED on April 11, hosted by the one and only Amanda Palmer, who is one of the most brilliant and passionate artists I know and also happens to be married to Neil Gaiman (I honestly don’t know which of the couple I’m more jealous of). What is Ninja TED, you ask? The whole thing started out in 2014 at the last minute (you can read more about its inception here) and it’s a way for Amanda to bring the TED people to the plebians of Vancouver who can’t afford to shell out $6000 for the actual thing. And to help out the local food bank in the process. It’s since become one of my favourite annual events.

We get performances from various musicians, poets, dancers, scientists, and magicians. A glorified talent show for nerds, basically–with more swearing and casual talks about genitals. This years roster included Adam Savage, Sarah Kay, Maria Popova, Neil Gaiman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, a surprise last-minute Riz Ahmed (cue screaming), and more. (If you’re interested, you can watch the recorded Facebook stream of the whole show here.)

And I just about fell out of my chair when Neil and Joseph Gordon-Levitt started performing the Morpheus vs. Chronozon scene from Sandman vol. 1.

For those who are unfamiliar, Morpheus is the Lord of Dreams and Chronozon is a demon of Hell. Chronozon has possession of Morpheus’ helm and so they both decide on  a little game. If Morpheus wins, he gets his helm back; if Chronozon wins, Morpheus becomes a slave to Hell. The game? One person says “I am ____” and the other person has to counter it with another thing. For example, Chronozon says, “I am a snake, spider-devouring, poison-toothed,” and Dream’s response is, “I am an ox, snake-crushing, heavy footed.”

They go back and forth, with no one having the advantage of the other, until Chronozon smugly comes up with his trump card: “I am anti-life, the beast of judgment. I am the dark at the end of everything, the end of universes, gods, worlds…of everything.”

To which Dream answers: “I am hope.”

And wins.

And I think that’s an appropriate ending to a monthly wrap-up.

Here’s to books and hope.

 

Top 5 Wednesday – Children’s Books to Read as an Adult

“Top 5 Wednesday” is a weekly meme currently hosted on Goodreads by Sam of Thoughts on Tomes, where you list your top 5 for the week’s chosen topic. I thought it’d be fun to join in and that it might help me keep some semblance of a consistent schedule for this blog.

This week’s theme is: children’s books that should be revisited as an adult. As Philip Pullman said, some stories can only be told through the eyes of children. But that doesn’t mean you should stop reading them once you grow older. One thing to note: it’s been forever since I read a new children’s release, so all my suggestions are like, pre-2011. Also, some of these straddle the line between Children/Middle Grade and Young Adult.

1. The Tale of Despereaux by Kate Dicamillo

Tale of Desperaux
I could add all of Kate Dicamillo’s works to the list and they would happily fill up the whole roster, but I’ll refrain and just pick one. The Tale of Despereaux is the story of a very special mouse, one with very large ears and an even bigger heart, who falls in love with a princess. If that sounds like a cute fairy tale, brace yourself, because it’s not. As with most of Dicamillo’s works, there are heavy topics mixed in with the soft and fuzzy. This one features prejudice and abuse, but also the power of compassion and forgiveness–a contrast of light and dark that adult readers will appreciate.

Young or old, this is a necessary read that will break your heart and mend it anew.

2. The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials 1) by Philip Pullman

The Golden Compass
I still can’t believe Pullman got away with calling this series children’s fantasy because holy hell, he took the genre to crazy places others wouldn’t dare dream of going. The Golden Compass (or The Northern Lights) definitely feels more suited for children than the later books, where things get a hell of a lot more dark and abstract. That’s not to say it’s a stroll through a daisy field; there are scenes that freaked me out as a kid and still make me shudder to this day. Then there are bits to do with authoritarianism, religion, sexuality, string theory and such that you just don’t fully understand or appreciate until you’re older.

I think the series is a masterpiece. Others think it’s trash. My church minister said I would go to hell for reading it. And so on. It’s a shifting minefield of opinions. So if you read the books as a kid, it’s definitely worth going back and re-examining them with shiny new adult eyes.

3. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book
A Gaiman book that defies age groups? Huh, you don’t say.

The Graveyard Book is a retelling of Kipyard’s The Jungle Book. In Gaiman’s version, the story is set in contemporary times and the main character, Nobody, gets adopted by the denizens of a graveyard. The graveyard Gaiman creates is a strange, beautiful world of its own filled with its own traditions and mysteries. It’s one that rivals adult fantasies in terms of atmosphere and detail, so you get just as much enjoyment and wonder out of it as you did when you were a kid.

The story is also worth revisiting just for the full-cast audiobook version, which is absolutely stellar and really helps bring the characters to life.

4. Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

Dealing with Dragons
The first in the Enchanted Forest Chronicles is a clever story that subverts classic fantasy and fairy tale tropes. When our protagonist, Princess Cimorene, overhears that she will be married her off to some random Prince, she decides to take matters into her own hands by running away and volunteering herself to be the personal princess of a dragon. Now, if all the knights and princes would just stop trying to rescue her, things would be perfect.

Cimorene isn’t a “not like the other girls” brand of rebellious princess, which is great, and her no-nonsense attitude and wry humour will be an absolute delight for older readers. All in all, it’s a fun and charming read that I often return to when I need a pick-me-up.

5. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The Little Prince
The Little Prince is a small book that is chock full of timeless wisdom and I think its teachings become more and more relevant as you grow older. What was once a strange, but wonderful, little story about a pilot who meets a boy from the stars, becomes a story on the nature of love and remaining true to yourself in a world that tries so hard to scrub the magic out of you. I first met Little Prince and his friends when I was six and they have lived deep in my heart since, ever a source of inspiration and comfort. Wherever Saint-Exupéry is–and I like to believe that he flew himself all the way to Asteroid B-612–I hope he found some measure of peace and happiness, as I found in his words.