Today I Read…Ella: a Stepmum’s Tale

Today I read Ella: a Stepmum’s Tale by J.L. Higgs. Image result for ella a stepmum's tale

Ah, the story of Cinderella. Every one knows it, right? The beautiful girl, the handsome prince, and the Wicked Stepmother who tried to keep them apart. Well, gentle viewers, this is celebrity reporter Sylvia Stark here with an exclusive interview with Charlotte Johannson Baker, the Wicked Stepmother herself, with her side of the story. You decide who is the innocent one and who is the villain.

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I was excited when I won this book from a Goodreads First Reads contest, because I love rewritten fairy tales, and I have a soft spot for the villains. I wrote a short piece defending Cinderella’s stepmother myself for a high school assignment. Unfortunately, this one just wasn’t that great, due in large part to a main character who is a complete twit. Reporter Sylvia Stark keeps claiming she is very bright and deserves to be an investigative reporter instead of a celebrity news reporter, but she misses every clue and sounds inane both on camera and off. Her asides to cameraman Stuart (who is as smart as Sylvia thinks she is) are unprofessional and annoying. Sylvia claims it is all an act, but when she’s not “acting” for the cameras she behaves exactly the same. At one point, she thinks “I try to sound as intelligent as possible.” But the next sentence is “Hey, I am blonde and beautiful so why do I need to be brainy as well?”

And as an aside, she wants us to believe that photography didn’t exist just a few years ago when she was in school, but now she can do on-location camera spots for television as a young reporter? Either understand how technology develops, or say it’s magic. As it is, the world-building is a mash-up of fairy tale and real world that just doesn’t work.

And the scene with Cinderella and the stepmother playing naked Twister is just plain weird. And that is not a euphemism or a joke.

I wish this book was better than it is, and it has an interesting premise, but it desperately needs a good editor.

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Today I Read…The League of Regrettable Superheroes

League of Regrettable SuperheroesToday I read The League of Regrettable Superheroes: Half-Baked Heroes from Comic Book History by Jon Morris.

Batman. Captain America. Wonder Woman. Iron Man. Superman. Thor. Batgirl. Phoenix. Green Lantern. Spider-Man. These are the names of heroes, tales of their deeds told over and over again. Beloved and respected, they have stood the test of time. But what of their less famous brethren? What of Bozo the Iron Man, Pat Parker War Nurse, Ultra the Multi-Alien, Stardust the Super-Wizard, The Ferret, or Captain Tootsie? What of their…um, exploits?

Jon Morris has collected together some of the most obscure and possibly most ridiculous superheroes of the past 80 years in this high entertaining history. From a police commissioner who dresses like a clown, to a Nazi-fighting witch who speaks in rhyme, to a man who turns into a UFO to fight evildoers, to a superhero who fights shoe-themed bad guys with his shoes while making shoe puns, this book is a terrific resource for the comic history buff with an excellent sense of humour.

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This book was another one I won from a Goodreads First Reads contest. I thought it sounded like an interesting idea, but I wasn’t passionately interested like when I won Felicia Day’s memoir You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) or Anne Jamison’s fascinating study Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World. I was wrong–this book is terrific. The writing is highly informative and highly entertaining–Jon Morris clearly has a great deal of interest and affection for comic history, but he also recognizes how absurd and badly done some of it is.

The book is organized first by timeline, divided into the Golden Age, Silver Age, and Modern Age of Comics, with a summary of the sate of comics at the time, and then alphabetically by the superhero’s alias. Each hero has approximately a page’s description, accompanied by a full page of coloured imagery, either a cover of an interior page of story. Morris also includes the creator and first appearance of each hero, and another joking fact, such as Amazing-Man’s “Great act of bravery: Wearing shorts and suspenders as a superhero costume” or Doctor Hormone’s “Adherence to basic medical ethics: Spotty.” Many of the heroes chosen are quite obscure, making only or two appearances before hanging up their tights.

It’s hard to decide which is better, Morris’ skillful and delightful writing, or the engaging illustrations included with each entry. The art does a wonderful job of showing the development of comics over the years, how heroes have been portrayed visually, and the marketing of comics since many of the illustrations are of covers that would have been used to help sell the issues. The entries wouldn’t have been as effective without the large full-colour artwork, and it’s fortunate that Quirk Books was willing to include it–black and white art wouldn’t have been nearly as effective.

Honestly, I think the only thing I didn’t like about this book is the dropcaps that start each page–sometimes the large shadows on the letters make them a little difficult to read, but that’s really quite minor.

The League of Regrettable Superheroes is an engaging read for superhero fans, especially those with a lively sense of humour about the heroes they love and respect but also understand possess many foibles, and not a regrettable book at all.

Today I Read…You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)

Today I read You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day.You're Never Weird on the Internet

Nerd Queen Felicia Day (she doesn’t embrace the title, but let’s face it, she is) has titled her new memoir You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost). Well, she may not be weird on the internet, but in this book she manages to be hilarious, honest, and quirky (quirky is better than weird, right?). From growing up homeschooled (for hippie reasons, not God reasons, as she assures us) to finding out online friends are very different in real life to video game addiction to sneaking around her neighbours trying to film The Guild Felicia Day shares her life in all it’s neurotic, nerdy, nifty (I needed another ‘n’ word, okay?) glory.

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Best Temporary CoverI won this ARC from a Goodreads First Reads giveaway, and I was THRILLED to get it because I REALLY REALLY REALLY wanted to read it. REALLY WANTED. There was squeeing when I read the email saying I had won, I won’t lie. I added it to my 50 Book Pledge shelf so long ago it still had the temporary cover attached to it.

I’ve been a fan of Felicia Day’s since The Guild season 1 (watch it), and of course since Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog and her commentary solo about art and The Guild. She was at my first Fan Expo in 2010, but she had to leave early to catch a plane so I couldn’t get her autograph (but I got Amy Okuda’s, who came along with her and who isn’t at all like Tinkerballa IRL, I don’t think she threatened to punch anyone). Fawkes & CodexI even have the Fawkes’ Codex Highlander sextasy poster signed by Wil Wheaton. (And when she comes to Toronto next month on her book signing tour, I’m going to try to get her to sign my poster and my book. Click on her name at the top of the post for her book website including tour dates.) I love her Charlie Bradbury character on Supernatural, and since I haven’t yet seen season 10 I am ignoring any and all rumours of her death (yes, I know it’s Supernatural and everyone dies, shut up, she’s fine).

So basically, I was probably going to like the book.

And I did. Reading her book you feel like Felicia is exactly the kind of person you’d like to spend all night chatting with at a room party during a con. Smart, cool, passionate, and nerdy, just like most of my closest friends. The conversational tone she takes throughout the book is very reminiscent of how she wrote and performed Cyd Sherman/Codex in The Guild–you come away from the book with the idea that Felicia is a more successful and slightly more confident Codex. Codex leveled up, maybe?

I loved reading about the process of making The Guild and the beginning of Geek and Sundry. As someone who has helped run volunteer-led conventions, it was interesting reading her perspective as someone who attends as a guest and how she uses them as a marketing tool for her projects. She also includes a chapter on last year’s GamerGate and her reactions to it. I remember reading articles about her post about GamerGate, and understanding and agreeing with her point of view.

This is Felicia’s story, but it’s also a story about the evolution of internet culture and about fandom, and the participatory nature of both when they’re at their best. In so-called Real Life, it’s possible to be the only nerdy person in your local community. Online, it’s so much easier to meet people who love what you love, or at least who understand what the heck you’re talking about when you say Jack/Daniel Forever!, even if they are confused and misguidedly believe in Jack/Sam when they’re very very wrong (looking at you, Sheena)

My sole criticism of the book is the pictures, which while interesting are black and white and a little too small and hard to see clearly sometimes. This is an ARC, so I’m hoping that the final publication makes them larger and in colour.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I need to rewatch The Guild, because reading about everything she went through making it has reminded me of just how much I loved watching it.

Me and You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) ARC