Friday, 30 December 2011

Review - The Umbrella Academy : Apocalypse Suite by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba

This was one of my awesome Christmas presents. I’d heard about it from all my awesome nerd friends who are painfully addicted to anything and everything to do with My Chemical Romance. You can imagine the excitement when we discovered that much acclaimed singer Gerard Way had something to offer the literary world.  Up until their recent album Danger Days I’d pretty much given up on MCR, so i was fairly sceptical about whether The Umbrella Academy would actually be any good. I have to say that as graphic novels go this one is pretty good. It’s definitely not the best I’ve read, but let’s be honest there aren’t many graphic novels that can compete with the likes of Alan Moore’s Watchmen and V for Vendetta and Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series.
I love the obscurity of the story and the inventiveness of the characters. It reminds me of the strange stories you get from 7 year olds with over active imaginations. There are literally no boundaries, anything is possible and everything somehow links or morphs into everything else. The Umbrella Academy take heroism to a totally new level, a level which isn’t really above or below any other level but it’s somewhere off to the left. There’s a continuing undertone of cynicism that seems almost childish and no matter how serious the situation (being the apocalypse) may seem it never seems all that threatening. That may be because the ultimate villain is a human white violin being fought by a half monkey space man, a 10 year old and various other super weirdo’s. I love it because it’s so completely out of this world yet set smack bang in the middle of it. The combination of all the necessary elements of genius; comedy, romance, drama, action and of course the unexpected make it impossible for you to be bored. If you’re ever bored or in need of something new i recommend this. 

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Review - The Night Circus By Erin Morgenstern

This book is absolutely amazing! It is without doubt the best book I’ve read this year and has provided me with an abundance of inspiration for various things, majorly my new graphics project which is now focused on the deepest, darkest depths of the circus and its history. Before I read The Night Circus I’d been told by at least three people how brilliant and inspirational they thought it was, but unfortunately since I have no money to buy books to read I joined the queue of people wanting to read my sister’s copy of it. After about a month of waiting my original enthusiasm for the book had waned and I was starting to doubt whether it could actually be as awesome as everyone said it was. It turned out they were absolutely right. Erin Morgenstern is a total genius!
It took me a while to properly get in to this book because I am unfortunately the kind of person who can never settle for doing one thing at time. I’m always reading at least two books, and when The Night Circus finally reached me I was already in the throws of reading Franny and Zooey, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and T.S Eliot’s The Family Reunion, so I started the book and then had to force myself to finish a few of my other conquests before letting myself relax and really enjoy it’s awesomeness.
If I’m being totally honest any doubts I had about the book were laid to rest when I actually looked at it. I’m a sucker for pretty things and absolutely addicted to anything related to graphic design or art of any kind and this falls in to all of those categories. I have to say that this dust cover is possibly my favourite book cover of all time. On top of the initial beauty of the cover, the theme continues throughout the book adding to the mystery and atmosphere of the circus as every standard page is white rimmed in black and the introductory pages to chapters are patterned alternate black and white forming spot lights around each title, and this is all before we get to the literary genius of the story itself.
The story is told in a totally unconventional way, in a series of quotes, descriptive pieces and what appears to be something like diary entries which allows the narrative to jump backwards and forwards in time and follow the lives and adventures of various different characters. There are too many things to say about this book, but I don’t want to spoil it for any potential readers so I’ll refrain from continuing. The Night Circus is brilliant because of the depth of detail in the description of characters and the circus it’s self and because of the way that we are made to believe that things that in our right minds we know are totally impossible actually could be possible. I’ve fallen in love with the circus and wish that I could create something as beautiful, intricate and all out spectacular as it. This book took me back to when my mum read my Circus Shoes by Noel Stretfield when I was about 8 and I decided that I wanted to run away and join the circus. Apparently that dream wasn’t what grownups consider realistic and at the time I was much more susceptible to what grownups thought, now I don’t really care. My new ambition in life is no longer graphic design; I want to be part of the night circus. 

Friday, 9 December 2011

The Telling Tales Reading Challenge 2012!

Welcome to Always look on the bright side of life's first reading challenge. I know I haven't been blogging much but i thought that a reading challenge might be just the thing to help me start. Whilst talking to my sister about the awesomeness of blog reading challenges and how she wanted to host one, we came up with an amazing idea based on her love and obsession with fairy tales, folklore and anything vaguely mythological (which she has managed to fairly successfully managed to pass on to me). We decided to host the telling tales reading challenge on both our blogs in the hope that people would join us in reading as many fairy tale, myth or legend based books, poems, plays or graphics novels as possible. so without further ado i give you...

The Telling Tales Reading Challenge 2012!

  • The challenge runs from 1st January 2012 until the 31st December 2012. You may sign up to participate at any point between these two dates.
  • Any genre counts as long as it is in some way related to fairy tales, folklore or mythology. If you're not sure if it counts- as long as you can make a case for why it should, then it does :)
  • You can reread books for this challenge as long as the reviews that you link are written during 2012. It can also overlap with other reading challenges.
  • Whatever you read must be a version of a fairy tale or myth, or contain fairy tale or mythological characters, settings, or sequence of events.
  • Every month there will be updates either here or on Bekah's blog. Please link up your reviews for that month on this post.
That is all.
Now for the interesting stuff:

The Categories

Here are the levels:

Level 1: read 5 books

Level 2: read 10 books

Level 3: read 15 books

Level 4: read 20 books

Level 5: read 25 books

you can sign up for any level and choose to read purely from the categories listed below, or you can participate in the Mix n Match category, or the Adaptation Amalgamation category, or all of them if you're brave!

Twisted Fairytales – retellings or modern interpretations of fairytales or myths. For inspiration, look here.
Classics – Myth and fairytale from the classics genre (e.g. Homer, Grimm, Virgil, Hans Christian Andersen)
Graphics – Graphic novels and comics based around or containing elements of mythology and fairytale. Examples include Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series and Bill Willingham’s Fables series among others. For a list that barely scrapes the surface, go here.
Poetry & Drama – We’ve put this in because we’re sure there must be some. I've managed to find some, but if you know of any others please let us know!

Non- Fiction – Anything about myth, fairytale, folklore or fantasy in general that doesn’t belong to the fictional genre.

Extra Categories
Adaptation Amalgamation – Watch a film and read the book it is based on. This category can incorporate as many other categories as you like (i.e all your films do not have to be based on graphic novels, but some can be, and some twisted fairytale, some non-fiction etc)
Mix n Match – Exactly what it says. Sign up for a level and pick that number of books from any or all of the other categories.
As you can probably tell, Bex and I like to make lists. If this seems incredibly convoluted and off-putting, we apologise and take solace in the fact that we have each other, so neither of us will be doing the challenge alone! We do hope that other people will join us though, as it’s always fun to find out about new books, and the more people that do it, the more likely we are to finish it!
If you’d like to join, please leave a comment with a link to your sign up post and I will make a list of participants which will be up both here and at Bex's blog.