Thursday, 19 July 2018

Cloudy with a Chance of Communication Issues (Robin: Year One by Chuck Dixon, Scott Beatty, Javier Pulido, and Robert Campanella)

Dick: "Somebody's gotta help him. Might as well be me." - Robin: Year One, page 14

I was not supposed to read this immediately after I bought it. I had a whole bunch of things that I was supposed to read first (most of which are still unread, by the way), but you know how sometimes you pick something up to flick through and you get sucked in? So, yeah, I think we can all assume that this is a good read. It focuses on the early days of the first Robin, Dick Grayson. The narration is from Alfred's point of view and I think it's safe to say that he's not happy to be watching another kid grow into a vigilante. Somebody should probably warn him that there's more of them coming. He might want to seek alternative employment.

The Good
  • I actually liked Batman in this, so I guess that's something that comes down to how he's written. In this he's not motivated so much by the need for control as he is by the fact that he wants Robin to be safe. I think Batman's at his best as a hero when he's motivated by the need to protect rather than the need to control.
  • Dick's a fun character to read in general simply because he's so damn flippy.
  • Dick apparently attracts mentors in the same way that Bruce attracts angst-ridden young people with family issues. I loved the whole thing with the ninjas, partly because it was so unexpected.  
  • The fact that multiple people call Batman out on the fact that his partner is a teenager.
  • You can already see the communication issues brewing. I was mildly exasperated when Bruce's reaction to Dick running away was that he'd turn up again. I mean, I have no idea how the whole ward thing works, but I was sat there like, "THAT BOY IS LIVING ON THE STREETS. YOU HAVE A DUTY OF CARE..." But I digress. The real issue here is that Dick ran away because he thought that they didn't need him around if he wasn't Robin, and Bruce manages to reinforce that (I hope) without meaning to because Dick is Robin again by the time he returns to the manor and the two of them haven't even had a conversation about why he ran away in the first place.
The Bad
  • My copy unfortunately had some sort of printing error which meant that a number of pages were repeated twice, one after the other. It's probably what cost it the fifth star, to be honest.
  • Alfred's narration is sometimes difficult to read because of the font.
  • The soldier thing always makes me roll my eyes. I'm sorry, but he's taken on a teenager. He can only expect so much. It also feels out of place at the end of this book because it isn't alluded to anywhere else, not even in the way the characters treat each other.
This is a great comic and I'd recommend it to pretty much anyone. 

What was the last book you read that really sucked you in?

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

A Blog Divided (The Unpopular Opinions Book Tag)

I can guarantee that, by the end of this post, we will no longer be friends.

(You needn't worry about that. We were never friends in the first place.)

Oh, I'm not worried about you - you already know all my dark secrets - but the rest of you should tremble in fear. For you are about to learn the shameful bookish thoughts that lurk in the corners of my mind.

This is the unpopular opinions book tag (originally created by The Book Archer). This is where book blogging friendships go to die...

A Popular Book You Didn't Like

...And straight out the gate we're hating on The Hunger Games. I'm not a big dystopia reader. 

A Book or Series that Everyone Else Seems to Hate, But You Love

I'm going to go with DC Rebirth: Titans for this one. I haven't seen a lot of love for this series, but I think it's fun.

...Although I think a lot of the hate is for things that happen towards the end, so maybe my opinion will change.
A Love Triangle where the main character ended up with the person you did NOT want them to end up with (warn ppl for spoilers) OR an OTP that you don't like 

Maggie and Adam from Runelight. They're together a week and they're married by the end of the novel. I can't really say anything else without spoiling the entire plotline.

A popular book Genre that you hardly reach for

Dystopia. Good God, dystopia. Often I'll see the news and complain that the world is turning into a dystopian novel. You know what I don't want to live in? 

(I reckon I'd be great in a dystopian novel. I know I could win The Hunger Games.)

Yeah, by stabbing everyone in the back.

(The fact that you take issue with that just proves that you could never win.)

I'm comfortable with that.

A popular or beloved character that you do not like

Mr Rochester from Jane Eyre.

A Popular Author You Can't Seem to Get into

I tried Lovecraft once. Never again.

A popular book trope that you're tired of seeing

This is actually a trope I hate because of The Breakfast Club, but the idea that a woman (or a man, for that matter) has to change for love. I hate the life-changing makeover trope. All it does is enforce the idea that there's a "right" way to be a woman (or a man). God forbid people be themselves! In the case of The Breakfast Club, this means you have to dress a certain way. As someone who also likes to wear all black, not cool!

 A popular series that you have no interest in reading

Easy. Twilight.

The saying goes "The book is always better than the movie", but what movie or T.V. show adaptation do you prefer more than the book?

Are you trying to get me excommunicated from the internet?

Much Ado about Nothing was much more fun to read after I'd watched it, but that might be because it's a play. It was written to be watched.  

Give me your most unpopular bookish opinion.

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.