Thursday, 12 July 2018

Tag Team (Robin/Batgirl: Fresh Blood by Bill Willingham)

Robin: "Do you even know how many laws we broke tonight?"
Batgirl: "Ask me if I care." - Robin/Batgirl: Fresh Blood

Usually I review comics with a good points/bad points review format. I can't do that this time because there isn't really anything bad for me to say about it. Do you ever read something and like it, but not really feel blown away? That's how I feel about this. 

This is my first real look at Tim Drake as Robin. I found him kind of annoying in the one issue of his origin story that was included in Robin: The Teen Wonder, but I liked him a lot more here. Robin/Batgirl: Fresh Blood picks up just after Stephanie Brown's funeral. Tim has buried three loved ones in as many days, including his father and girlfriend, so he does what all Gotham vigilantes do when they're disillusioned with Batman: he runs off to Bludhaven. He also claims that he isn't going to become like Batman simply because everyone he knows and loves has started dying. That's...not really working out for him. He's self-aware about a lot of things - like the fact that violence shouldn't make him feel good - but he doesn't seem bothered that he's being pretty ruthless. He plants a small-time purse-snatcher in a big-time gang and justifies it by saying that the man chose that life. Oddly, he still manages to come across as quite a caring person: he's very bothered about Dick's current situation, and the first thing he does after him and Cass turn the tables on the bad guys is ask if she's okay. He also has a really dorky inner monologue at times. Oh, and he's apparently lawful good. Who wants to point out to him that he's technically an illegal vigilante?

It's also my introduction to Cassandra Cain as Batgirl. She's awesome. She's an ex-child assassin (Gotham appears to have almost as many of those as it does orphans) whose (supervillain) father never taught her to talk so that she would learn how to read people, and she's damned good at it. It's really cool to read. She can talk now (she's still learning), and she's also teaching herself to read. One of the books she tried was A Tale of Two Cities. Girl's nothing if not determined. Having spent her whole life being shaped by her father, she's now looking to Batman to be her driving influence. It's not until the end of this that she really thinks about finding her own way. I think the thing that makes Cass so interesting is that she's unique - I've never read a character like her before.

The plot's fairly simple. Robin moves to Bludhaven partly to get away from Batman and partly because he's chasing a lead that he hopes will absolve Nightwing of any guilt he has relating to Blockbuster's death. Batgirl is sent to Bludhaven partly to keep an eye on him and partly because its local superhero is AWOL after the aforementioned drama with Blockbuster. Together, they fight crime. Specifically, they fight Penguin. And each other. To the death. It's an interesting dynamic. Robin and Batgirl are very different, both in their skill sets and their ideals, so they complement each other. 

Have you ever read anything that gave you nothing bad to say, but wasn't a five star read?

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

How to Climb out of Your Reading Slump

I think we can all agree that reading slumps are one of the worst things that can happen to a bookworm. I slumped after finishing my course. I slumped hard. I'd been reading mostly books for my course for the last three years and, once I no longer had to, getting through novels was a slog. But I'm back now (or seem to be at least).

(Please don't hold her to that.)

I've climbed out of my slump, and you can do it too! Here's how.

Mix it up a Bit

Read something different. Switch up the genre or the format. For me, switching from novels to graphic novels for a bit really helped pull me out of my funk. You could always try audiobooks. Listening instead of reading might help.

Re-visit an Old Favourite

Fair warning: if this one backfires, it backfires hard. 

Re-reading an old favourite is either going to revitalise your love for reading or destroy your favourite novel.  

(We at Ivyclad Ideas accept no responsibility for your childhood - or any part of your adulthood - being destroyed.) 

Binge-Watch a TV Show (or Watch a Film, Whatever)

There are a million different ways to tell a story.

(You know full well we only counted 999,999.)

We counted a million. I told you, smoke signals.

(And I told you! Veto.)

...I could tell a story in smoke signals.

(You don't even know how to make smoke signals!)

...There are 999,999 ways to tell a story. Unless you know how to make smoke signals, in which case there are a million.



TV shows and films are just two of those ways. I sped through The Lizzie Borden Chronicles and Alias Grace during my reading slump, if you're looking for recommendations. 

And Never be Afraid to Take a Break

At the end of the day, you might just need a break. Take up a new sport. Draw a picture (you should see these bug-themed superheroines I've been working on - they're epic! I'm really pleased with how they've come out). Bake something. You read because you enjoy it. If you're not enjoying it right now, shoo! Go and do something else. 

When was your last reading slump?

Thursday, 5 July 2018

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (Banned Book Club #2)

Banned for swearing and discussion of drug use.

"Khalil and I have been on trial since he died." - Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give, page 329

Isn't it interesting how both of the books we've read so far are about social issues? Banning books is a form of censorship that hides behind moral panic. This novel that paints drug use as something that ruins lives, and aren't drugs discussed at school anyway? Don't we have event days and classes about not taking them? And how many teenagers do you know haven't heard swear words before? This book hasn't been banned for anything that the average teenager could not handle.

The Hate U Give is about the unlawful killing of unarmed black people by the police in the USA. It's told from the perspective of Starr Carter, a teenager who witnessed the death of her friend Khalil. I found this really hard to rate because usually I rate on enjoyment, but this isn't a topic anyone should enjoy reading about. This is a novel that's going to make you think and maybe make you a bit uncomfortable at times, but it's a really good read and it has a powerful message. 

What really struck me about Starr as a character was that I could actually believe she was a teenager. She talks about social media, Harry Potter, friends, boys, family, and I don't even remember the last book I read where the protagonist talked about fashion and had a specific brand they liked, but maybe that's just because I don't read a lot of contemporary. She's one of those characters who could actually be a real person.

The way the law is presented in this novel is really complicated. On the one hand, a policeman kills Khalil. On the other, Starr's Uncle Carlos is a policeman and he's one of the good guys. He helped raise Starr when she was little and her father was in prison. Starr makes this point herself during an interview and a news station is "outraged by her 'disregard for cops'". All she said was that some police officers were bad, and she said it in the politest way possible. They were just looking for a reason to discredit her. There's also the way it looks at criminals themselves, specifically why people become criminals: desperation, protection, power... It's notable that Starr has two father figures - Uncle Carlos and her father - and one is a policeman and the other has done time in prison. They're both good people. They're both good parents. Following the law, in this novel, is not a sign of a good person, but neither is breaking it. It all depends on the character in question, the reasons for their actions, and who they are outside of them. Everything is subjective.
"Banned Book Club is a monthly meme at This is Lit to encourage readers to read more challenged and banned books. We’ll pick a challenged book each month and read and review it by the end of the month.

Join the Goodreads group here.


Tuesday, 3 July 2018

June Wrap-up

I'm a little late with this as I forgot that June was coming to an end. It sounds impossible, but I was working Saturday and it just completely slipped my mind. I could have posted it on the 1st, but I had Genre Splash to wrap-up (thank you to the bloggers who joined me for that, by the way) so it had to wait. Still. Better late than never.

Let's take a look at what I've read this month.

News from the Reading Front

The Testament of Loki by Joanne Harris - 3 stars

I also read four graphic novels and two comics. 
Reading Challenge Check-in

2018 Witches and Witchcraft Reading Challenge: 1/5

  • Carrie by Stephen King (Her mother refers to her as a witch so IT COUNTS.)
Science Fiction VS Fantasy Bingo 2018: 3/25
  • Fantastic Beasts - All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater 
  • Alternate Reality - The Testament of Loki by Joanne Harris
  • It's the End of the World as We Know it - Carrie by Stephen King (Said almost word for word in the book.) 
The 2018 Swords and Stars Reading Challenge: 2/20
  • Read a Book with Magical Realism in it - All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater 
  • Read a fantasy book inspired by another story, fairytale, myth etc. - The Testament of Loki by Joanne Harris
Back to the Classics Challenge 2018: 3/12
  • A classic written by a woman author - Agnes Grey by Anne Bront
  • All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater 
  • All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
  • The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
 Cloak and Dagger Reading Challenge: 1/5
  • Carrie by Stephen King
Ivyclad Bingo (2018 Reading Challenge): 8/16
  • Superhero - Nightwing Volume One: Better than Batman by Tim Seeley
  • Contemporary - All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
  • Over 500 Pages - Pamela by Samuel Richardson
  • Norse Mythology - The Testament of Loki by Joanne Harris
  • Historical - A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (Yes, even at the time it was published.)
  • Black Cover - Middlemarch by George Eliot 
  • Witches - Carrie by Stephen King
  • Magic - Zatanna Volume Two: Shades of the Past 
(I see reading Carrie was a good life decision.)

I also joined a new reading challenge this month.

Beat the Backlist 2018: (25/30)

Note: For the purposes of this challenge, anything released before the 1st of January 2018 qualifies as a backlist book.
  • Goblin Market and Other Poems by Christina Rossetti (First Published: 1862)
  • All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater (First Published: 2017)
  • Ouran High School Host Club Volume Nine by Bisco Hatori (First Published: 2006)
  • Agnes Grey by Anne Bront
  • Nightwing Volume One: Better than Batman by Tim Seeley (First Published: 2017)

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Genre Splash Wrap-up

What is it with me and readathons? I know I like to be able to stop reading when I feel like it - I worked that much out last time - yet here I am hosting one. Unbelievable. Anyway, this was a glorious idea on paper (not so much in practise), though I haven't put anywhere near the dent I wanted to in the superhero comics I have on my physical TBR. Still, let's review. Here's what I got through today.

Batman: Prelude to the Wedding: Red Hood vs Anarky by Tim Seeley

I've been dipping in and out of this series. I read the first two, then I ummed and ahhed about picking up the third one, then decided to skip it because of the tagline - "Riddle me this - who's going to die alone?" - and then I missed this one completely. One of my local comic shops still had it though, so I managed to pick it up late. A couple of the things Catwoman said in this made me think she was having second thoughts. Whilst the sheer amount of build up makes me think there's a chance they might, I really don't think DC are going to go through with this wedding. I know I'm saying that having read relatively little of the material, but think of it like this: how difficult will it be to write a relationship where Batman and Catwoman are married, but not Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle? (Also, how does that even work legally? You know what, we're not going to think about it too hard...) Anyway, Red Hood had some amusing one-liners but I wasn't overstruck by this issue. Anarky was clearly just looking to create chaos, but I don't feel like I understand anything about him beyond that. It also felt really oddly paced at times, like when we cut from Anarky telling Red Hood about his daddy issues to Red Hood dumping him at the station.

Birds of Prey by Chuck Dixon - 2 Stars

This one dragged. Early on, a lot of the dialogue feels quite stilted. The storylines were quite samey too - I don't think there was one where Black Canary didn't remove her earrings and stop listening to Oracle. That said, I did enjoy the arc towards the end. Everything's better with Catwoman, and I've never read anything with Huntress in before but she seems cool too.

I had been planning to read the second volume of this, since I'd gotten them both out of the library, but I decided that I couldn't face it. Not today, at least.

It occurs to me that everything I've read today had Catwoman in...

I did not like the beginning of this very much. The issues narrated by the detective weren't interesting to me simply because he wasn't interesting to me. Not to mention the fact that we already know everything that he's about to learn: Selina Kyle and Catwoman are the same person, and neither of them are dead (I highly doubt I'd be reading a volume called "Catwoman" if they were). Once I got past that part, however, this was enjoyable. Catwoman dons a new costume and heads out to help out women in one of Gotham's worst areas. This is certainly darker than most comics I've read: Catwoman is hunting someone who's killing prostitutes and it's outright stated that the police don't care simply because of what the women do. It's depressing because it's truth in fiction. The law should protect everyone, not just the people who those enforcing it feel it should.

Thank you to those who took part in my readathon, especially on such short notice. I don't know if any of you plan on writing a wrap-up, but if you do you can link up below.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Mark Your Calendars - Genre Splash is Coming!

Surprise! I'm hosting a readathon at really short notice!

(I don't think anyone expects notice from this blog anymore. You're just so wonderfully organised.)

I know after the last one I took part in I said that readathons weren't for me, but I have a stack of comics to get through from the library before I can even start on the ones I own so here we go. I'm hosting GENRE SPLASH.

What is Genre Splash? 

It's a readathon with a twist. The idea is to pick a single genre - preferably one you have a lot of on your TBR pile - and binge-read it. You can pick literally anything: YA fantasy, 18th century plays, shonen manga, Shakespearean tragedy, Gothic novels... Personally, I'm going with superhero comics.

When is Genre Splash?

Sunday 1st July 2018. That's this coming Sunday.  

How Can I Take Part?

First and foremost, you need to create a post announcing your chosen genre so that you can link up below. Don't have a blog? Create a Goodread's shelf, or a tweet, or whatever else you choose. Anything's acceptable so long as it can be used in a link-up. You're welcome to use the graphic at the top of this post across social media.

On the day itself, you can use the tag #GenreSplash to post updates across social media. If you want, you can also dash off a quick post at the end of the day (I'll create a second link-up for those) to wrap-up what you've read.

Will you be taking part in Genre Splash?

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Book Blogging VS Literary Critcism: Why Must They Go to War?

The other day I was trying to Google how Article 13 would affect book bloggers, but I got the number wrong and all the results that came up were about how book blogs were bad for the literary criticism industry. Now, as I'm sure most of you know, I've just recieved the final results of my English Literature and Creative Writing degree. I've read literary criticism, I've technically written it too, and I don't understand how the two could ever be argued to be at odds.

Literary criticism is about analysis. It's about getting digging deep into the text, mining its social and political meaning. It's using sources and responding to and building on the ideas of other critics.

Book blogging can be about analysis, of course it can, but if that makes book bloggers a threat then so are the fan theorists. So are the people who write character meta. So is everyone who's ever had a headcanon derived from something that has happened within a show or book. I'm not putting value judgements on either literary criticism or book blogging here, I'm just saying that I don't see how doing one harms the other. If I can write a theory about what will happen next in a TV show and not be attacking literary critics, then why am I attacking them simply because I wrote a piece of character analysis about a character from a book? I'm not going to say book bloggers never analyse, because it wouldn't be true and it would do all of us a great disservice, but I see book blogging as more about opinion. Don't get me wrong here, literary criticism is about opinion too - not everyone reads Romeo and Juliet and interprets Mercutio as gay or bisexual, for example - but when I blog I don't have to justify why I liked or disliked a book. I can say that Joanne Harris writes the best Loki out there without writing six paragraphs on why Riordan's Loki and Marvel's Loki pale in comparison. 

(And she does. Frequently.)

One thing I can say for certain is that book bloggers, by and large, don't reference each other's opinions every time they write a discussion post. Maybe sometimes, to give credit for an idea, or to quote someone who's already put what they wish to say into words better than they feel they ever could. They write responses too, from time to time, to articles or pieces that have struck a nerve. It's not the same though, because if I want to write a blog post, I don't have to research. All the opinions I need are already in my head, unless I so choose to think otherwise. I don't think I've ever read a piece of literary criticism that didn't reference a book or an article by another critic, because research is mandatory in that field.

Of course, we can't forget that book reviews are a form of literary criticism too. With that said, I think part of the issue could be elitism. After all, when the only book reviews people have access to are written by highly educated people and published in the newspapers it gives them the power to somewhat dictate the trends. If I'm living in the 1930s and I've read a glowing review on Agatha Christie's latest novel, I'm more likely to buy that than a novel by an unknown writer. The fact that anyone can give their opinion with a few clicks on their laptop means that there are more varied voices in the mix. More people having their say. On Goodreads, you can get an overview as to what thousands of readers thought of a novel simply by glancing at a star rating. Book blogging lets anyone regardless of age, gender, race, sexuality, class, or education give their opinion. All they have to do is be able to read. I don't know about you, but I don't think that's a bad thing.

Do you think book blogging is in any way a danger to literary criticism?