Toronto Comics: Yonge at Heart ( Toronto Comics #4) by Steven Andrews

Ever since I’ve started Game Warp, I’ve been on the prowl on avenues to check out new games and Kickstarter is a great place to find all kinds of cool projects. It was through this channel that I landed on this project to fund a comic anthology based in Toronto. Although I don’t live in Toronto, I do go frequently and lately, its been at least once a year for the last two years for Toronto Comicon and such. Its great to see Canadian artists working hard to show off Canada and that is why I backed this project. Also, because I thought the art style and concept behind setting it in a city was really great. The comic book arrived sometime in July if I remember correctly and finally, I’ve sat down to read it and take a break from that huge novel that IT by Stephen King is.

Let’s check it out!

Toronto Comics: Yonge at Heart (Volume 4)
by: Steven Andrews (editor)

Yonge at Heart

From world-saving TTC controllers to secrets hiding between the shelves at Honest Ed’s, from giant robot battles over overpriced condos to the true heritage moment of the Clown Brothel Riot, this anthology celebrates everything we love about Toronto (and some of the things we don’t). – Goodreads

I have read any of the previous volumes of Toronto Comics however these are anthologies so are separate from each other. Yonge at Heart is a fun little compilation. It tackles many issues which is endearing to those familiar to the landmarks and setting but does embrace a general spectrum of issues that people tackle whether its sexuality or immigration and some light-hearted ones as well. Yonge at Heart has 21 stories in it all from different artists and writers and each hold their own unique style. I would like to say there’s a little bit for everyone.

The top 5 favorites of the book go to the following:

Signal Problems: A fantastic way to kick off Yonge at Heart as it takes us into a world filled with monsters and the headaches of public transporation may amount to something more fantastical like the workers being city protectors of monsters.

My First Slice: Being born in Canada, we never had to wonder what pizza tastes like but what about those that immigrate here? I’m guessing the story here is before the world was so multinational but it shows an immigrant family finally decide to go get a pizza and we may relate when we go to a restaurant that is ouside of our culture. Its a fun one to read. Especially since I can relate from the final reactions from the kid and his parents.

Dundas & Dragons: Get it? Instead of Dungeons and Dragons? This one is really fun. Plus, I love the art style for it where it gives a fun twist of aliens playing as earthlings through a game and its about friends going away. That true bond of friendship that can be developed through gaming.

Con-Text: Con-Text is a cool selection. There isn’t really any dialogue but the artwork here shows a cosplayer immersed in their world as there is also a contrast of reality outside of her vicinity. Its not so apparent until she reaches the event.

Home and Country: Yet another immigrant story. However, this one is very nice. The drawings are more sketch-like and I also enjoy that style quite a but. Its about two sisters that separated in two countries because one immigrates to Canada to get married and then the sister falls suit but in the end, its about a home is where you feel like you belong. What defines a home versus a country, right?

There are 21 stories here so I can’t review them all but as an overall experience, there were some stories I was not too intrigued by however, that definitely was a minority. I enjoyed this comic anthology a lot and it has me curious to look for the previous volumes.

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Book Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

As I try super hard to stay on track with my Goodreads Reading Challenge this year, I find myself finally jumping into the virtual world created in Ready Player One, especially since San Diego Comiccon brought us a trailer and I’m super excited to see that film. Both myself and my darling Game Warp co-host was and is reading it, however, we’re starting to think about expanding to game-related content once in a while so we may be doing a quick review discussion of Ready Player One when he has wrapped it up as well. I’ll share it here if and when it happens.

Ready Player One
By: Ernest Cline

Ready Player One

It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.
Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.
And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune — and remarkable power — to whoever can unlock them. … – Goodreads 

Ready Player One has been praised by the masses. Almost everyone who reads it seems to love it. Ready Player One has a captivating if not depressing dystopian future set in 2044. It has great adventure and takes us to a world where everyone finds more joy in the virtual reality world of OASIS and what makes it more appealing is that for those with the right knowledge, they can possibly find a treasure. Treasure hunts, virtual reality mixed in with video games and an 80s love, Ready Player One has a great looking formula. The idea and concept of it all was truly great and while I really wanted to love it, I unfortunately only can say that I wished its execution had been better.

Ready Player One’s strength is its treasure hunt adventure. It let us be exposed to the wonderfully detailed OASIS and all that it could do. Being a video game lover, who doesn’t want to live in one, right? Solving riddles and figuring out puzzles and the whole process was fun except everything from the hunt to our characters and their development and the immersion was lost in its excessive desire to refer and elaborate on all the 80s culture. Whenever I hit a multi-page description (or it felt that way) of a certain 80s culture, I would just have this desire to skip over because it makes the treasure hunt and our main character’s quest lose its value and appeal. Also because of these descriptions, it would ruin the mystery of how a certain key quest would be achieved, turning what could be an exciting segment to something that only had two lines. While this might sound confusing, what I mean is that the main action doesn’t get as much description as the tangent stuff. The third act does pull itself out and focuses on the treasure hunt primarily however it seems to have lost the beginning excitement.

In terms of the characters, the characters are really quite good. Our main character is Wade, also called Percival. And he ends up befriending more of the society as they fall in place and also follow his suit and finds the first key. These characters themselves also are quite fun. One of the best parts is the awareness that these are all real people but in a fake shell and for the most part, we do forget about this virtual reality aspect. We see the events through Percival and because of that, it leaves some unknown factors for us to discover such as learning about his friends and competitors. Why do I not say enemy because the enemy is the evil corporation and the leader of the team they call Sixers. Their leader is an evil man and we soon see that he is quite the ruthless and possibly heartless villain. Pity is that their run-in isn’t frequent enough to make him a valuable enemy. He’s always just the looming danger but not enough the present one and we soon feel that this book could only end in one way and the dangerous feeling soon deteriorates as the treasure seems to be closer which probably shouldn’t be the case.

Overall, Ready Player One is a great concept with an okay execution. The descriptions are not focused on the right things and falls too much into a fan-boy chat about the 80s instead of focusing on building the story. No matter how central the 80s are as a foundation, it won’t be through reading 300+ pages that someone with not enough knowledge would get it. It would be through seeing how these games and movies play out that will boost the interest instead. While the book doesn’t appeal to me as much as the general public, I however still see it having a high possibility of getting a great movie execution because with the right approach and a focus on the main story and not the many tangents, this could be a fun virtual reality treasure hunt adventure which I believe Steven Spielberg is more than capable of pulling off.

Book Review: Fables, Volume 1: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham

In celebration of The Wolf Among Us FINALLY getting a sequel, I decided to also finally start reading its source material.

Fables, Volume 1: Legends in Exile
Written by: Bill Willingham
Artists: Lan Medina, Steve Leialoha, Craig Hamilton

fables

When a savage creature known only as the Adversary conquered the fabled lands of legends and fairy tales, all of the infamous inhabitants of folklore were forced into exile. Disguised among the “mundys,” their name for normal citizens of modern-day New York, these magical characters created their own secret society that they call Fabletown. From their exclusive luxury apartment buildings on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, these creatures of legend must fight for their survival in the new world. – Goodreads

Wow! Fables may possibly be one of my favorite graphic novels to date. I played The Wolf Among Us before I had read any of these books and I loved the play on the traditional characters and Bigsby Wolf being a detective and how being a wolf he links into all these stories. Its kind of like what TV series Once Upon A Time does. Changing up fairy tales are one of my favorite premises and Fables does it so well. Actually, Fables was everything I expected and so much more. Bigsby Wolf is a great character and a detective and gives off something of a more rugged Sherlock Holmes feeling where he does a lot of things that helps him deduct a situation but the finale turns out to be a huge reveal that wasn’t apparent but makes so much sense.

This first case was definitely a mystery and it was a nice introduction to the wide cast of fairy tale characters that we are all familiar with from the famous Snow White and her Prince Charming to Belle and Beast as well as one of the few scenes used in The Wolf Among Us where a pig from the Three Little Pigs try to make Bigsby Wolf guilty for being the one who took away their house. At the same time, we do have some play on other characters like Red Rose which turns out to be Snow White’s sister and also the victim in this case making it close to our hearts. The key characters are generally introduced here and they are all dynamic and full of possible character development.

This 10th anniversary edition includes the first five issues of the Vertigo series and includes a short story which really was a great reading experience altogether. The visuals/art style was fantastic and honestly, I’m into the tone and the detective investigation story here.

What did make it much more surprising in a great way is that Telltale Games did truly adapt the character of Bigsby Wolf well in its game while switching up the story and mystery however still retaining most of the characters and their personalities. The tone was great. I actually did an episodic and overall recap over at That Moment In so feel free to head over there to read it.

Reading this has made me even more excited about The Wolf Among Us 2 while still hoping to get my hands on Fables Volume 2 soon.

Book Review: Road to Riverdale, Volume 1

Maybe not a book but a comic/graphic novel. If you’re new here or missed it, I’ve been checking out the revamped Archie comics. So far, I’ve been incredibly impressed.

Road to Riverdale, Volume 1

Road to Riverdale

ROAD TO RIVERDALE is an entry-level collection featuring the first issues of all modern-day Archie relaunches. – Goodreads

Road to Riverdale was apparently timed alongside the launch of the Riverdale TVseries (which I seem to have a hard time drafting up for some odd reason). I’m a fan and I personally had misunderstood what this comic was when I first bought it. Its intention is great because it actually is like a first look at each of the branches of the Archie comic reboot from not only the first issue of Archie but also Jughead, Betty & Veronica, Josie and the Pussycats and Reggie and Me.

What is really nice is that in one book, it gives you an idea of the tone and the art style and also what angle its going for in each of these characters and their story arcs. Of course, in Reggie and Me and Betty and Veronica, it has Reggie’s pet and Jughead’s pooch Hot Dog doing the background narrative. Its cool.

Archie: You can find my thoughts on the Archie, all available volumes right now. I’m definitely a fan. The art style and tone work so well in modernizing it.

Jughead: I personally love Jughead as a character especially in the TV series Riverdale. Something about this series works but is missing a little something more. At least from just this first issue section.

Betty and Veronica: The art style here is the most unique of all these branches. As mentioned before, it is narrated oddly by Hot Dog, Jughead’s dog. That also gives is a nice twist especially when it doesn’t objectify these ladies and has these funny snippets in between. Its a fun one. Not surprising since I did like the original Betty and Veronica comics also.

Josie and the Pussycats: This one comes a little more mid-range. Josie is a fun character because she’s kind of silly and the entertainment value is on point. Plus, this one takes the origin story point where we see how Josie and the Pussycats form.

Reggie and Me: I like bad boys and villainous characters and yet somehow, I’ve never been into the Reggie character much. While I do think this is a decent comic, I wasn’t as drawn into it as the other ones.

Road to Riverdale is an entry point to get a taste of all the branches of the Archie reboot and see if all or which works beat for you. However, it does seem that they are expanding this into multiple volumes and I’m not sure how the second volume works. If that’s the case, this can be either a cash grab or a convenient collection. It really depends on how you look at it.

Book Tour: The Last Dragon Rider by Errin Krystal

The Last Dragon Rider
By: Errin Krystal

Genre: Fantasy/Adventure/Romance
Release Date: August 9, 2017

Synopsis 

Trained as an elite warrior from childhood, the elven crown prince Flintathriël fights to bring a stop to a war that began before he was born. With the aid of his betrothed Sairalindë, a skilled mage and dragon rider in her own right, they must find the Book of Souls – an ancient and mysterious tome rumored to have belonged to the god Hath’Raal. When the missing book turns up in the hands of Mnuvae, the bastard child of the dead king, Flintathriël finds himself fighting to not only save his people from this new threat but also trying to keep Sairalindë safe when Mnuvae takes over the dragons in her attempt to win back the kingdom she believes is rightfully hers. The love Flintathriël and Sairalindë share shines pure and true, but when the smoke of the battle clears, will their hearts survive the aftermath of war or will their love become a casualty that cannot be revived? – Goodreads

Review

The Last Dragon Rider is a pretty good fantasy adventure novella. One of the best parts is the world it creates. This elven world and the kingdom along with its characters and their relationships are fun to be involved in. There is a language specific to it even and that is very creative. It feels a little like reading a much lighter and easier read of something along the veins of Lord of the Rings. Being someone who had a hard time getting through that trilogy, Errin Krystal uses a very easy but still refined style of writing. That helps make it a charming read. Each of the characters are also developed well especially within a novella since it has a shorter length to let us understand each of the characters.

However, the romance of this novel is where it falls short a little. Perhaps, it has to do with my aversion to books that like to use unnecessary sex scenes and there is a few here. In my opinion, they didn’t need to be there mostly because it diminishes the charm of the book. The romance was perfectly portrayed before these scenes. It was very apparent already with her elegant words that the couple was in deeply in love whereas these scenes actually made me less involved into their romance.

The Last Dragon Rider however does do many things right. It has a decent amount of relationship building, decent conversation exchange and a good amount of action. Its words are very vibrant to make the scenes visualize. Only little details like the aboved sex scenes bit that make this novella fall short a little. This is the first book of a series and it manages to keep itself rather self-contained as well.

Goodreads rating: 3/5

About the Author

Errin Krystal

Errin Krystal is a fantasy romance writer who has been writing since she was a small child. Her head has always been full of stories. She began work on her first novel when she was sixteen. She lives with her family in regional Victoria, Australia, and works as a chef. In her quieter moments, she loves to indulge her passion for storytelling, basking in the joy that comes from creating vibrant characters, fantastical worlds and all manner of magical creatures. Dragons and elves, mages and warriors, troubled princes and beautiful princesses, romance, magic, and adventure can all be found in her writing.

Giveaway Details

5 digital copies of the book (Giveaway runs from July 31st to Aug. 9th)

Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/0e7c6a8f16/?

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Book Review: Gemina (The Illuminae Files 02) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Let’s take a break from Fantasia Festival madness and get  a book review in! You may  not need it, but I absolutely do! 😉

Gemina is the sequel of Illuminae, the first book of The Illuminae Files (as you can see in the cover below). I read Illuminae earlier this year and totally loved it. If you want to know why, you can read all about it in my review HERE.

Gemina
(The Illuminae Files 02)
by: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Gemina

When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands. – Goodreads

Gemina is an exhilarating ride. A fantastically amazing one. This author duo has truly created a writing style that works truly remarkably. Presenting the story through dossiers and recordings are amazing. In fact, I remembered talking at the end of the review of the first book.avoit how it was hard to make that one into a movie and I was honestly disappointed in that choice. On the contrary, Gemina is so descriptive making everything so vivid that while it will be hard to live up to the images of everyone, with the right director, this one could be a fun ride. It might be because it embraces Die Hard set in a dystopian future in space and adds in am an Alien theme with their creatures. The idea is that they can take the first book to have enough success to get this one made also. I’m a little more excited about the idea.

What works for both of these books is how they choose to lay it out. The different recordings and files give you juat enough to understand what is going on but also leaves gaps and blindspots as to what is going on behind the scene and that creates mystery. Continuing after the first book, this hops onto another space carrier and with new characters, however having still managing to comnect to the characters in the first book. That is important as it gives a continuity to the story. It makes the readers care about this world because the new pair of characters are every bit as intriguing to read as they come to life also, two very different people from the first but still with equally intriguing stories that make them survivors but also human. Hanna and Nik are two acquaintances wrapped up in a lot of stereotypes and prejudices towards each other and grow to see each other more.

Its amazing how the Illuminae Files series has embodied so much. Other than the characters, it definitely feels like there is a lot of unanswered questions. The virus in part one, the creatures in part two, the secret agenda from Beitech: the main question at the end is a lot of why’s. Hopefully we will get the answers soon to pull everything together in the third book.

Overall, I love Gemina. There’s so many great things about it that makes it incredible. Not quite as mindblowing as Illuminae however still very awesome.

All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

We’re somewhat back on track with the Goodreads challenge now. It shows that I’m a book ahead but then I can’t seem to fix the problem that it has the same book twice. Plus, I read a lot of short stories and comics so I’m not sure those really count as one book. Its slightly cheating. Although, with my TBR list somewhat mapped out, I feel like I’m most likely to go over at the current moment. Who knows, right? I could go into one of those lack of motivation phases and just not read for a month. Up next is a book review of All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. As I read this one, I couldn’t help but compare it to Thirteen Reasons Why, mostly because it also features youth and mental illness and how the two authors took a different angle and built different characters essentially.

Let’s check it out!

All the Bright Places
by: Jennifer Niven

All the Bright Places

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him. Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death. When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the ‘natural wonders’ of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself – a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.  – Goodreads

Before I start the actual review, I’d like to start with this bit. I’m on record to not have enjoyed Thirteen Reasons Why. You can check out the review HERE.  As I think back to it frequently, its mostly because of Hannah Baker and how I find her a manipulative character in general. I haven’t seen the series and I can’t comment on it if that is what you are basing any opinions on. I always get a little worried when I approach books about mental illness because its a very touchy subject and a lot of people who has these illnesses will become very defensive about it. So I’m going to say that while I didn’t enjoy Thirteen Reasons Why, I appreciate what it was trying to do and the issues it was trying to highlight. If the character resounded more to you, that’s great. I’m happy to hear that it did because it means that someone related to it and it did its job. Now we’re aren’t here to talk about Thirteen Reasons Why but All the Bright Places and with that said, I’d like to highlight why I think this book works better at highlighting youths and mental illness, while trying to bring forth the same issues.

All the Bright Places is about two young ones who meet on the sixth story roof of their school and for their own reasons, they both end up getting off. Who saves the other is unknown at that moment and its with this starting point that this unlikely friendship begins. First off, that descriptions says way too much, making the mystery of the story vanish because its so obvious what will happen. I really dislike stories that make descriptions who say too much. However, All the Bright Places is a page-turner. There is no doubt about it. While primarily their problems and their inner struggles make them intriguing to read, Violet and Theodore are compelling because of that. In many ways, both are learning to live in the present and remember that there is more to life than running away from the past or finding ways to escape the present. Not all people who suffer some form of mental illness can’t be saved, but sometimes, it takes someone with a careful eye to notice these little details and that is exactly what this story highlights, how a lot of people don’t know how to differentiate when someone needs help. They may not reach out or they may not be noticed and sometimes people will just label them with an excuse that describes who they are in an awkward or weird way. And sometimes, mental illness does become the world of the person who lives with it whether they like it or not. I’m speaking of this last part through personal experience of people I know and things that has happened to them and how various parts of how Theodore and Finch’s dialogue resounded to me.

These types of books are very personal experiences in some ways. However, All the Bright Places is very cleverly executed. It creates two characters and uses their search for the natural wonders around them to invoke the sense of discovery and how there is more to see and worth living for regardless of how big or small. It also emphasizes how while part of the fight is with support from others, in many ways, their inner struggles had to be overcame by themselves and with some good professional help. I’m not sure if this is trying to have a social statement about how schools don’t have a good enough psychiatric help or that there are lacking of resources and knowledge of these issues in teenagers. It might even be a statement about how parents (or family in general) sometimes don’t pay as much attention as they should to their children as they deal with their own issues. There might not even be a statement but just that sometimes, a little notice of the details of the people you see day in and out, whether its a friend or family could go a long way. All the Bright Places depicts it well that certain symptoms can be nudged off as a character trait, awkward or odd or just how that person is because its a familiar thing, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t something that can alarm others to give a helpful nudge before its too late.

I’ve went off a tangent now. Overall, All the Bright Places is a great story that does very well in showing how mental illnesses can be misunderstood easily. It serves as a reminder to notice the ones we love more. It also serves to say that sometimes, those with mental illness might not even acknowledge that they have it and don’t know when to seek help and sometimes, there is nothing you can to stop their actions. Whatever it is that you relate to in this story or pick up, its a rather personal experience. In a more objective way, All the Bright Places brings out two characters that are very different and dealing with different issues, living in different realities and create a story where they search for wonders as they both search for the will to keep living and moving forward each day. Who says whom in the beginning, what is the reality of the situation, what are these individuals thinking of, what inner struggles are they truly dealing with, who are they and which part of their personality is because of their mental illnesses; these are all questions that it poses and will be swimming through your mind as you read it. Sometimes, it’ll make you smile a little as the characters find happiness and contentment in what they do and sometimes, you might feel a tug in your heartstrings as they go through their inner battles. Whatever it is, All the Bright Places is a well-executed and well-written young adult novel with compelling characters.

**As an after note, I have read some of the Goodreads reviews on why some people have changed their mind and rated this poorly, which made me think about the characterization of not only Violet and Theodore but also the people around them, I’d like to say that with my experiences, I feel like this book strikes a chord with me and does portray and highlight the mental illness issue very well in these characters. **