Sunday, May 24, 2015

#CBR7 Review #17: Stardust by Neil Gaiman

A couple of things have reminded me of the movie Stardust lately, which ultimately led to me feeling the need to read the book, of course! Because why wouldn’t I delve into the source material of something I like so much? And I wasn’t disappointed! As always, there is so much more to the story and more detail than you’d see in a different kind of medium, and Neil Gaiman is very creative and always seems to be able to produce some sort of vivid and imaginative world that just somehow makes sense even with all it’s whimsy. Do I sometimes want to say, “You’re not as deep as you think you are, Sir”? Yes, I do. But that doesn’t mean I don’t immensely enjoy his writing and the stories and characters he creates.

On to the tale itself, Stardust follows the adventures of a young man named Tristan, whose birth came about by some peculiar circumstances, involving a magical land beyond the walls of his town (called Wall, of course). As he comes of age, his sights are set on a beautiful young woman, and claims that he would do anything for her, even retrieve a fallen star that crashed down in the land beyond the wall. And so… that’s exactly what he decides to do: to leave his home on an adventure to find a star, which, sure enough, is not a rock like you might imagine, but more like a woman (named Yvaine). But there are a whole host of other things going on in this land as well, involving a quest to become the new lord of the land, and some witches also on the hunt for the star to reclaim their youth.

As I mentioned before, the tale is imaginative and very fun, and you can’t help but become fond of all the different characters (well, except for Yvaine, honestly, there was just something missing from her that I can’t explain which stopped me from really enjoying her, though that doesn’t mean I disliked her by any means). I swept through the novel quite quickly, as it was hard to put down and I always wanted to know where it went next, even if I was already familiar with the overall story after seeing the film a few times. The one thing that I would bemoan, however, is that the end of the novel almost seemed a little anti-climactic, after everything that Tristan and Yvaine went through. Maybe that’s just me, though.

At the end of the day, I very much enjoyed Stardust, and I know that when I was younger I would have totally eaten it up! It’s just very fun and magical. And who doesn’t like something like that?

[Be sure to visit the Cannonball Read main site!]

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

#CBR07 Review #16: Proof That You Can Self-Publish ANYTHING on Amazon

(A review of Gay T-Rex Law Firm: Executive Boner, by Chuck Tingle)

What the hell did I just read??? 
Let’s not get into how I stumbled upon author Chuck Tingle on Amazon, whose stories include those with titles such as: “The Curse of Bigfoot Butt Camp”, “I’m Gay for my Living Billionaire Jet Plane”, “Space Raptor Butt Invasion”, and “Pounded by the Gay Unicorn Football Squad.” All I will say is that curiosity killed this cat… and there was little satisfaction to bring it back.

Seriously, this book took me about five minutes to read, and they were some of the strangest five minutes reading I’ve ever spent. At first you think, “this is ridiculous and hilarious!” as the story begins with Donny, getting hired at Jurassic Law, a law firm with mainly dinosaurs working there, with absolutely no explanation regarding this. Like, okay I guess we are just living in a world with sentient dinosaurs that run successful law firms in New York. I can work with that. But then suddenly things take a sharp turn, and our young, human protagonist is offered a (and I quote): “Contract to run a T-Rex bangbang train on Donny Sullivan’s gay human ass for the sum of ten million dollars even.”

And so, I get to see Donny’s initial reaction of, “I’m not even gay, BRO!” which suddenly turned into, “well, I guess I’m going to have sex with some dinosaurs,” and finally reaching a point of, “wow, I am actually getting pretty worked up with these dinos, let’s get after it!” followed by, well… exactly what you would expect (alright, I may be paraphrasing a bit here, but you get the picture, I’m sure).

I mean… I should have know what I was getting into when I saw the title of this book (I didn't exactly read the description because I am dumb, okay?). But I walked right into it. And it’s not like the writing was good in the slightest; I could have turned around. But I didn’t. At one point I somehow, and for some unknown reason convinced myself that there was a sort of theme or deeper meaning hidden in this story, you know, when the dinosaurs started talking about the greed of humans and what they will agree to do for money… But that was just me trying to make light of the fact that I just read a story about a bunch of dinosaurs running a train on some guy. And not even a well-written one!

So I don’t know what to tell you. But it was free and only took a few minutes to get through. And now I have been requested to do a dramatic live-reading of this ridiculous book at a party this weekend. So I guess that’s happening. I just don’t know how this guy can come up with so many ridiculous ideas for his stories. I’m assuming they are all like this? I don’t know, but I do know that I feel a need to go to Church this Sunday. I just read Dinosaur erotica. What am I even doing?
Oh, and the main T-Rex was named Tyson Rex, because of course he was. 

[Be sure to visit the Cannonball Read main site!]

Saturday, April 4, 2015

#CBR7 Review #14-15: Adulthood by Evie Bentley & Counselling and the Life Course by LĂ©onie Sugarman

 These are by far two of the shortest books that I have had to read for school in a long time. Hooray! And they were quite straightforward and easy to get through as well. However, this may be due to the fact that I have previously taken a Lifespan Development course before, so a lot of the information I received was nothing new. More like a refresher. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Leonie Sugarman’s book on Counselling and the Life Course presents a number of different theories regarding lifespan and development, though the focus is more on what these implications might mean when counseling a person. An individual’s present placement within their lifespan or their current stage of development can result in a number of different issues that may be more salient for them, or it can influence how certain life events may affect them. For instance, losing a parent during childhood or adolescence will have different implications for a person than if this were to occur during their middle age.

Meanwhile, Evie Bentley’s book largely focuses on adulthood, and the different subsets of stages and ages within. This also includes the somewhat newer theory of there being an “emerging adulthood” between adolescence and adulthood, as in contemporary society a large number of people who are adults remain in a stage of limbo during these early adult years while they go through post-secondary school, still live at home, and generally display characteristics that are a mixture of adult and older adolescent etc. But we all knew that that was a more common things these days, didn’t we? Each subset within adulthood has different issues or intrinsic “conflicts” that will be more common, and Bentley presents these as they may pertain to different ages.

Both books point out that most of the research in their theories (particularly that of Erickson, who is a major voice in the field) focuses on that of male development, and within a Euro-centric context. Social, personal, racial, and economic factors can also influence how a person develops, among other things, as well as how they adapt to changes in their lives. Both authors also make sure to point out that development is extremely variable, even between individuals that appear to be extremely similar in almost all respects. What this means for taking a Lifespan perspective for therapy is that essentially, while people may differ greatly in their development and progress through life, a person’s current life stage may simply provide clues as to what they may be going through or what internal conflicts they may be experiencing at that time.

All in all, these books are informative, though really feel like general surveys of information that you can then get more in-depth with. So they would be good for a bit of an introductory examination of the lifespan or even just the span of adulthood and what may be involved therein in terms of understanding the lifespan perspective of human development.

[Be sure to visit the Cannonball Read main site!]

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

#CBR7 Review #13: Locke & Key, vol. 6 – Alpha & Omega by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

The concluding volume of Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s comic series Locke & Key is full of carnage, and I didn’t expect anything different. There is resolution, and yet so many more mysteries left to be explored in this world and with all the magical keys and the history of key house. The only truly bad thing about this book was that it had to end, after everything came to a head and we were left to see where the resulting pieces would end up.

 “Alpha & Omega” takes us to the night of prom for the Locke children, as they plan to have an after-party rave in the caverns by their the Lovecraft house. But Bode, still possessed by the spirit of Luke/”Dodge,” has other ideas for how the night shall end, as he appears to hold all the cards in his little game: with almost all of the magical keys in his possession, and no one aware that he is not in fact Bode anymore, Luke is free to play a game that results in his ultimate quest for a world of select loyal followers and slaves. But there is one hitch in his plan, the unlikely hero of mentally disabled, Rufus, who knows more than he is given credit for.

I knew that things were going to come to a breaking point in this volume, like one final showdown of the Locke’s versus the demon inside their once friend, now family member. And it certainly didn’t disappoint, with expressive language, engaging artwork, and somewhat devastating results. There are so many intriguing characters in this series and some moments of real emotion that I just can’t stop gushing. (Okay, maybe the feelings I had were slighty related to the somewhat disheartened state my heart was already in upon learning of Zayn’s departure from One Direction. Fight me about it). There is one scene in the concluding little section where loose ends are being tied that I can’t fully wrap my head around, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

In all honesty, I would recommend this series to a lot of people, especially if you like things that are imaginative, full of mystery, and aren’t afraid for things to get pretty dark at times (even within the first part of the first book in this series we experience intense scenes of blood and butchery). They are all unique and I always ended up reading them super quickly due to how enthralled I was. Maybe a re-read will be in order to see if I catch new things that I didn’t the first time around?

[Be sure to visit the Cannonball Read main site!]

A Short Note on Zayn Leaving One Direction

I am saddened to hear about Zayn Malik's decision to leave One Direction at this time, just as it is always saddening to hear about a member of your favourite band leaving, as now it just won't feel quite the same any more.
But the most disheartening thing of all in this situation, is how something that used to make Zayn so happy became something that he just couldn't do anymore. Those boys have been worked so hard over the past (almost) five years, and need a break. I am just happy that Zayn has been able to step back and say that enough is enough, and make the decision to focus on his own well-being. Because how many times have we seen people being pushed too far? He needs to do what is right for him. I wish him all the best, and of course will still love their music as it has made me so happy on so many different occasions.
All my love to Zayn, Louis, Liam, Niall, and Harry, wherever they may be at this time. 



Monday, March 23, 2015

#CBR7 Review #12: Locke & Key, vol. 5 – Clockworks by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

The penultimate collected volume of Joe Hill’s Locke & Key series (illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez) provides some history regarding the Lovecraft residence, the history of the magical keys, and how the patriarch of the Locke family became implicated in the history of the house and what is occurring now, back when he was just a teenager. Unlike the previous volumes of this dark and inventive series, past events are the focus of “Clockworks,” and we get some answers as to what the house and keys are all about, and even where they came from. Yet many things remain up in the air, which I am excited to unravel in the concluding book, “Omega”.

“Clockworks” begins with a tale of a young blacksmith named Ben Locke in the Revolutionary War. Most of his family has been killed for harboring fugitives in the caves below Lovecraft, where a door to a demonic world has been found. Ben Locke works to create a lock and key in order to keep this door shut for forever, but also uses some of the metal that has come through the door in order to make other magical keys. These of course become the keys that the present-day Locke children keep finding around their house. 

Upon finding a key that allows them to visit the past as spirits (kind of in a Christmas Carol sort of way), Tyler and Kinsey Locke find this history, and also visit that of their father as a teenager. Their father had been staying at Lovecraft with some friends one year, and it is learned that only children can see and remember the magic of the keys, as a sort of safety trap that ensures no corrupt adult would ever be able to use this magic as a tool for war. Yet the past reveals just how Luke/”Dodge” ended up the way he is today: infected with the spirit of a demon that came through the door that was locked all those years ago. Meanwhile, little Bode lock is searching for the omega key which is what will once again open this door, for as we know from the previous book, “Keeper of the Keys,” Bode isn’t really Bode.

This series is grittier than I realized (not that that is a bad thing, and I really don't know why I'm so surprised by this), and full of imagination, magic, and mystery. Sometimes I get a little thrown off by the language and slurs used at people (oh no, I'm sensitive), but at the same time, isn’t that how people talk when they want to hurt someone? Also, it reflects some of the time-periods in which these events take place, so ultimately it works. All I know for certain in these stories in that there is a final showdown and tragedy on the horizon, where hopefully all the lingering questions I have will be answered and things will come to a head.

[Be sure to visit the Cannonball Read main site!]

Monday, March 16, 2015

#CBR7 Review #10-11: Chew, volumes 6 (Space Cakes) and 7 (Bad Apples) by John Layman and Rob Guillory


I seem to go through this comic book series in little stints. I’ll read a few, then take a break until I acquire some more, and then take another break. And while a few details always get lost here and there, it always manages to draw me back and I start to remember where I left off almost immediately. It’s different and fun, but also dark and dirty at parts, and the drawing style of Rob Guillory really reflects this dichotomy of moods and feelings constantly present within the Chew series: sometime you wonder why people are rendered with such strange proportions or images will be humorously exaggerated, only to then flip the page and find something grotesque on the other side. And yet it works: both the story itself and the drawing is engaging and unique, though I will say that I know a few people who are not particularly fans of the art style of Guillory.

In any case, Space Cakes and Bad Apples picks up some plotlines of the previous Chew installments that were almost starting to seem like they were scattering all over the place without coming together. But now they are! We continue following Tony Chu and his chibopathy (the ability to get a psychic vision of the past life of anything he eats) after he is found almost beaten to death by a hostage taking in volume 5. But in Space Cakes there is an increased focus on Tony’s sister, Toni, and her cibovoyant abilities (the ability to see the future of any living thing she eats, including any humans she bites in to). Toni becomes involved in some food-related cases due to her work with NASA, and her abilities are ultimately discovered by the Vampire who is collecting people with food-related abilities. These events lead to some tragic events that end up sparking a new fire in Tony to go after the Vampire, and I am curious to see how this plays out. These two volumes also feature a new role for Poyo, the killing-machine of a rooster, so that is of course ridiculous yet incredibly amusing.

With a host of new food abilities displayed in these two volumes (some of which are incredibly useless), as well as a collection of intriguing supporting characters (Tony’s ridiculous half-cyborg partner, John Colby, being a personal favourite), nothing is ever boring in Chew. Though sometimes it can be a bit gross or absurd. Because of that, it’s really hard to know who to recommend this series to; I enjoy it a lot, but I know that it would definitely not be well received by some people that I know. All I can say to summarize this reading experience is that it’s bizarre but in a really good way.

[Be sure to visit the Cannonball Read main site!]

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

#CBR7 Review #09: Children Helping Children with Grief by Beverly Chappell

Goodness, February was a hectic month. I feel like so much happened in such a short span of time: too much happened, really! Because I never even had a chance to finish any reading until now, just as I head into a school course focusing on grief and loss.

Beverly Chappell’s book, Children Helping Children with Grief: My Path to Founding the Dougy Center for Grieving Children and their Families does basically exactly what the title implies. It recount’s stories of Chappell and her husband working with various families and children who are experiencing family losses, and how these experiences influenced the ultimate creation of the Dougy Center for grieving children. It also recounts how some other influential people come to become involved with the center as well.

These stories are all told from a personal place, and are often touching to hear. However, being that this was a book that I was required to read for a school course, I was surprised and a little disappointed that there was no real, in-depth insight into how children are able to help other children with the grief process. Sure, there are touches here and there, but the overall method and how this might work is never really expanded on. So aside from being a nice story of the creation of the Dougy Center, I’m not sure I got a whole lot out of it.

But the one thing that will stick with me after reading this more than anything else is a reminder of the fact that children often know that something is going on when a family experiences a loss, yet they are often not involved in the grief process in the same way that adults are: adults are scared of how this information might affect the child, and so they do not explain fully what happened, or they explain the death to the child in a way that the child does not understand. It is difficult to say what exactly the best course of action is in any situation, but knowing that children are resilient and just need to process their experiences in their own way is important to remember. So we shall see what else I learn in the next week to come. 

For now, I will say that this book was not challenging to read and is interesting in it’s own way. I just feel like I wanted something a bit different out of it.

[Be sure to visit the Cannonball Read main site!]

Friday, February 6, 2015

#CBR7 Review #08: The Art of Grief by J. Earl Rogers

I come to read a book on with grief through creative arts therapies at a time wherein I face the impending death of a family member. And I am restless. Being a fidgety person to begin with, I can’t keep my hands still when my mind is full of all kinds of thoughts: preparing for courses in school, learning about grief for an upcoming class, dealing with loss and grief myself, and all other kinds of things. And so I draw. My hands take what I am feeling and put a part of me on a page. And I am not entirely okay, but I also don’t feel like I’m drowning like I have felt all too much recently for far too many reasons. But enough about me…

The Art of Grief: The Use of Expressive Arts in a Grief Support Group is predominantly set up as a guide to running bereavement support groups that utilize the expressive arts as a process of healing and working through grief. Different practitioners with a variety of creative and therapeutic backgrounds contribute ideas and sessions that are set up as a guide for running an 8-session group. Practical matters of materials and working with a few different populations (ie, adapting for children or teens) are discussed, as well as the manner in which these approaches may be helpful for those experiencing loss. I can see myself how some of these sessions would be helpful for me in processing grief, but I can also see how some might not work as well for myself. But that’s how it goes with anyone: some people are more receptive and open up better to different mediums than others. Musicians may write songs. Artists may paint. Dancers may move. All are expressions and therefore, extensions of the self. Or so I believe. 

But along with the practical matters and ideas for art therapists and counsellors to use in running groups, a number of personal stories and experiences are also shared in how the creative arts have assisted those dealing with losses, terminal illness, etc. Those personal stories are a great touch to staunch what might become an overly impersonal setup of “here’s a plan of what to do”. But overall I would say that this is more of a book for those who are studying and interested in setting up some sort of bereavement support group, than anything else.

[Be sure to visit the Cannonball Read main site!]

Friday, January 30, 2015

#CBR7 Review #07: Case Approach to Counselling and Psychotherapy by Gerald Corey

This is a misleading little textbook in terms of how long it actually takes to get through it. I thought, “oh it’s so small compared to my other books, this will be easy!” But no. The writing is compact and while there is a lot of dialogue in the presented case studies to make things interesting, overall it is quite dry and I found it hard to focus on what I was reading. That is not to say that it wasn’t informative! But as compared to the other two textbooks I’ve read so far this year, it’s been the most difficult to get through.

In this book, Gerald Corey presents the hypothetical counseling case of “Ruth”, and provides information that might be acquired during an intake interview. Corey then invites counselors from a variety of different theoretical perspectives to describe what their style of counseling might involve when working with someone like Ruth. There is also an inclusion at the end of each chapter with discussion on what Corey’s process would be with Ruth within each specified theoretical framework. These theories involve perspective ranging from psychodynamic to humanistic, from family therapy to multicultural perspectives, from gestalt to cognitive behavioral, and more.

The range of practices and theories presented is a good, diverse spread, and each makes sense in their own way of working with the same patient. But of course, there are some that I myself am more drawn to than others, as is always the case with each individual person. Overall this book is full of great information on the subject of counseling and practically working with the different theories, however it is an instructional book, and not exactly the most fun thing to read (and let’s not even get started on the price of textbooks today. My heart weeps at the thought of it).

[Be sure to visit the Cannonball Read main site!]