In Real Life by Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang

IRLI have previously enjoyed reading Cory Doctorow‘s books especially Pirate Cinema. So when I first heard about his planned graphic novel, I knew I had to read it. Synopsis mentioned a female protagonist and it was set in the world of multi player RPGs. The cover art was killer and that just about did it. The minute I received my copy of the galley, I tore through it.  My verdict lies somewhere between good and could have been better.

Anda is a branded geek and she enjoys online multi player role-playing games. When given an opportunity to play Coarsegold Online, a hugely popular MMORPG, she leaves no stones unturned to make her experience memorable. From choosing a kick ass screen name, to creating an avatar that fits the part – she does everything right. She goes on quests, does some more kick ass stuff and is basking in the glory of her success when she encounters Raymond. Raymond is a gold farmer in the online world of gaming and in real life works for that very purpose in a cloistered space, somewhere in China. This opens up a can of worms for Anda, when she realises the real deal behind the paid missions and the truth of gold farming.

Doctorow turns our attention to the much prevalent gold farming in the online gaming scenario using Raymond’s situation. Anda’s attempts to help him and asking him to fight for his rights while hardly understanding the consequences of her advice is what the story is mainly about.

In Real Life sometimes takes an easier way out while discussing complex themes but knowing that it is intended for a younger audience, it’s understandable. However, older readers might feel discontented with the treatment of the subject. Graphic novels unlike other formats are wider in scope. This could have been used rather effectively to discuss the disparity of rights among first and third world citizens.

Jen Wang‘s art adds a zing to the book and is probably what makes it a compulsive read. I even went back a couple of times after I had finished reading, to see the minute details and the attention she had paid to what seemed very trivial to the plot. Along with Fiona Staples, Jen Wang has now been added to the list of ‘absolutely must read’ illustrators.

To sum it up, In Real Life is superbly illustrated graphic novel that deals with multiple relevant issues in today’s world where children are over exposed to the online world of gaming.

Review copy provided by First Second Books

Good-bye and a new beginning

I am a procrastinator. For sometime now I have been contemplating a major change in my blogging habits. Sadly, I have been going back and forth on my decision. If I wasn’t so big on procrastinating, I would have gotten a lot done and been at ease. So before I rethink this decision again for the hundredth time, here goes.

As is evident, I have been less frequent in updating the blog. It is not that there is a dearth of good books to read and review. On the contrary, I have been reading a lot (books, graphic novels, manga, comics) and even managed to listen to a few good audio books. So that is not the problem. What I am going to say next will seem like a repeat of everything you have read and heard before but it is true. Reviewing has turned in to work. It used to be fun. So much fun. Now, it is an obligation. I have been doing this since 2008 and have had my off days before but never have I felt this sort of a need to get away from it all. And before you say it, let me tell you, this isn’t a phase because I have gone through my PHASE, more than once. This is real.

I love shiny new books. I love reading Advance Reader Copies. I am more than thrilled when I receive a book mail. I squeal with joy when a book catalogue arrives in my inbox. What I don’t love are the obligations they come with. Not all but a few do come with some instructions. At this point, I am not interested in being told how to run my blog. I don’t want to jump those hoops just to keep  steady flow of  ARCs coming my way. I don’t want to sit and write responses to queries regarding, how soon am I going to post the review. I know they are valid requests. You send me books and I am answerable to you. But all said and done, I personally don’t want to keep at it. You guys do an amazing job promoting books and I appreciate you for it but I have lost the joy I used to find in reading and reviewing. I am just trying to get it back. Trying sounds like the right word here.

Don’t worry, I’ll honour all the previous commitments with respect to review requests but won’t be taking up any more. Not for a really long time.

As for my blogging, I’ll surely be doing it but not here. Not on this site. I need a clean break. I have an alternate platform  in mind, where I think I’ll be able to express my love for all things bookish in a perfect manner. For a couple of weeks now I have been playing with this idea and it seems I have come up with the best way to do it.

Tumblr!

Yes, that micro blogging thing where you can reblog and have loads of fun. The more I explore it, more I fall in love with it. I have had an account for a while which I have been using for checking out the latest on pop culture but now it will serve a different purpose.

Tumblr is flexible that way. It gives my fangirling a new channel, actually multiple channels, to manifest. I love that. It even lets me change my blog name as many times as my want. For real. If you know me then you know how many problems that solves in one sweep. So from now on you’ll be seeing me over there. If you are not the Tumblr types and do not wish to keep following the updates, I totally understand. We had a good run. It was fun interacting with you guys over the last few years and many of you have helped shape me up as a reader. I learned to embrace cross genre fiction and got reading steam punk thanks to some amazing bloggers out here. You’ll see me around commenting on your posts, asking for recommendations and such. So we are good.

As for this blog, I’ll probably keep it up and running but the future posts will be on the Tumblr Blog. As of now I haven’t got the heart to take this down. I’ll probably transfer the posts to WordPress or Blogspot but more on that later. I don’t have to take that decision right now.

So what will be doing on the new platform?

I’ll review books, comics, audiobooks but solely based on my whims. I have a couple of reading projects in mind which I want to undertake including the one I already have running. I have neglected my Project Mythology for a really long time. Not any more.

Most importantly I’ll be gushing over music, movies and television.

So that’s it.

See you on the other side dear friends!

 

 

Mary Jane Vol 2: Homecoming

mary

Marvel Universe has so many interconnected story arcs that once in a while something simple and off track comes as a welcome respite. Mary Jane Watson has never been a favourite character of mine but Homecoming, the second volume in the Mary Jane Mini Series by Marvel did intrigue me. A lot.

Mary Jane has plans of going to the Homecoming dance. She has been working hard towards buying her own dress but her boyfriend Harry Osborn has been given an ultimatum by his father regrading his poor grades. Harry has to improve his grades or he is forbidden from attending the dance with MJ. When Harry plans to cheat on the test, their relationship comes under strain. To make matters worse Mary Jane’s best friend Liz is avoiding her. Also MJ seems to be encountering Spider-Man a lot fuelling her hidden desire to go as his date to the dance.

Typical high school drama. Right? I thought so too. Reminds you of Shojo manga with its romance track and the high school backdrop. Somehow in a comic book universe of super heroes and their nemeses, Mary Jane’s story holds its ground. Takeshi Miyazawa’s art is spectacular. It is sad that Miyazawa left the series after this volume. His art is one of the highlights of the book apart from the engaging plot.

It is commendable that they weaved an entire story of such realistic characters, by which I mean confused teenagers, without putting Spidey at the center of it all. He does make a few appearances but it is Mary Jane’s show. Even though it was meant to cater to the readership of teenage girls, Mary Jane has something for everybody. It has the right amount of humour, romance and life lessons. As I said earlier, a welcome respite.

Yet to get hold of Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane series which I believe introduces a few more of the known characters from Spider-Man stories. Would love to see how they take this plot ahead.

Until You’re Mine by Samantha Hayes

Clauduntilia is a social worker and a loving step mom to twin boys Oscar and Noah. With her own baby due in a short time, she needs all the help she can get. James, her husband, is a naval officer and mostly out on missions for an extended stretch of time. When Zoe responds to their ad for a nanny, she seems perfect in every way. Glowing recommendations and an instant rapport with the twins rings all the right bells. But soon Claudia notices that there is something off about Zoe. She is surely hiding something. Add to this narrative truly gruesome attacks on pregnant women and a frenzied police investigation. Until You’re Mine is a perfect weekend read. It will leave you a bit uneasy but it’s compelling.

I have avoided psychological thrillers that seem to be the flavor of the season. Gone Girl was probably the last one I read. By definition these stories confuse and befuddle the readers. Alternating POVs of main characters almost always point towards unreliable narrators. So you are pretty much hooked to the book until you have turned the last page. Needless to say, I read this book cover to cover. Sadly I did not end up liking it all that much. It could be the subject which made me uneasy or may be it was the revelation that somehow wasn’t satisfactory. Also I had pretty much figured out the murderer half way through the book. But that is just me.

The plot was highly engaging and if you go about reading it without the constant need to analyse it, mostly with the intention of bragging later that you knew it all along, you just might appreciate it a tad more than I did. Once I know it’s a thriller, book turns into a chase for me. I NEED to know. What can I say, some habits are hard to let go.

If you are into psychological thrillers then you might want to pick this one up.

Pride and Prejudice (Marvel Illustrated) by Nancy Butler, Hugo Petrus

Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is one of my personal favourites. It is also a great place to start if you are new to the Austen verse. After having read all her novels, their modern adaptations and retellings, watching all the movies, I was pretty sure I had seen it all. Then I chanced upon Marvel’s Pride & Prejudice by Nancy Butler. It is a Limited Series which means it is a serialised version with 5 books in total. I read the collected paperback version of the book.

Sticking to the original story and dialogues in most parts, Nancy Butler, Hugo Petrus and Alejandro Torres have attempted to bring the story of Bennet Sisters to a newer demographic of readers. While the story does remain more or less faithful to the original, it is somewhat bogged down by the other elements, mainly the art and sometimes the dialogues.

I have issues with this adaptation. For starters, the panels are too brightly coloured for my taste and the illustrations, a tad disappointing. Mrs Bennet and Lizzy look scary in most panels. For that matter all the characters look startled or confused most of the times. At places the expressions are out of sync with the dialogues which can get frustrating after a while. Well, these are my observations. There are readers who have loved this adaptation but then again it is an art form, very subjective to likes and dislikes. Each one to his own, I guess.

I went in wanting to immerse myself in Austenland and came out wanting to read the original to undo the damage. The saving grace is by far the cover art which is absolutely wonderful.

Thankfully, Nancy Butler has worked on rest of Austen’s books for the Marvel Series with illustrators Sonny Liew and Janet Lee. Sonny Liew is the one who is responsible for the cover art of Pride and Prejudice. So, there’s hope. Also, I have read some wonderful reviews for Sense and Sensibility which makes me want to give the Marvel Illustrated Classics Series another chance.