“Beartown” by Fredrik Backman

Beartown (Beartown, #1)(Author: Fredrik Backman) + (Year: 2016) + (Goodreads)

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Review:

A Man Called Ove was one of the best books I read last year, so I was interested in reading another one of Backman’s novels. A friend lent me Beartown and Us Against You, so I immediately got on with it.

Beartown was a rather good book, although it was more sad and dark than I expected. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, of course, but I was taken off guard by the sober and honest narrative of the problems of a small, lost town in the Swedish forest. Had this book been American, I kind of expect there would have been a lot more sugar-coating of the heaviness in the hearts of the characters. European authors, however, often have this cheerful way of telling sad stories.

And I think that’s what Beartown really was – the sad story of people who deserve to be happy, and how they deal with that. I felt that the characters had a lot of personality and were very realistic, which is something I always greatly appreciate. The inhabitants of Bjornstad all had their own crosses to bear and it wasn’t very easy to separate who’s good and who is not, as it was obvious that even good people do bad deeds, and bad people can surprise us by lending a helping hand.

Out of all of the characters, I liked Benji the most, and my suspicion is that so did most people. He was the one person in the book who always stepped up, despite his constant urge to fail. I felt like this was the kind of person that I would rather be – predisposed to failure, but instead fighting for success, rather than a person like Kevin – used to success and bored with it. But really, each character presented a different moral that the author wanted us to draw and this was done so smoothly that I wasn’t even annoyed and I didn’t find it preachy.

Beartown was not flawless, however. I would say that it had more issues than A Man Called Ove, for example. At a certain point I started growing tired of Backman’s writing techniques. I felt like almost every statement in this book was made at least twice (when it came to Beartown’s love for hockey, then 200 times). For example, we read time and again how no one outside of the town would understand their love for hockey. Okay, I get that I will not get it, enough already, let me read. Same thing applied to the ominous way of delivering information about the upcoming violence “There’s going to be violence.”, “No one knows how the violence came”, “People will later talk about the violence in the town” etc etc.

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“Sofia Wizards” by Martin Kolev

Софийски магьосници(Author: Martin Kolev) + (Year: 2017) + (Goodreads)

(Around the World: Bulgaria)


Review:

After a whirlwind of a year and after moving away from Bulgaria, I ended up nearly finishing 2017 with a Bulgarian book. And what a book it was.

While I was eager to start Sofia Wizards (I got the translation from the author’s Facebook page. Alternatively, I would think Wizards of Sofia would sound better), I didn’t have very big expectations. The friend I borrowed the book from told me that it’s basically Bulgarian Harry Potter, which was more or less scary, because no book would live up to that name.

It turned out that while they had many similarities, including a first chapter almost identical to the main points of the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the book was not a rip-off. That is not to say that it didn’t borrow many ideas, like the hidden streets (similar to Diagon Alley), or the magical pubs, etc., but it was not done in a blatant way.

Kolev actually brought a lot of little things to the book that I quite enjoyed, such as the quest games in which you actually physically get sucked in, or the schools of magic which are separated by abilities, rather than personality traits and preferences (nature magic, mirror magic, fire magic).

Something that I really loved about the book was the alternative look on Sofia. Having made the decision to leave Bulgaria, I didn’t think I would miss it very much. But while reading Sofia Wizards, I did remember fondly the streets and places mentioned, as well as imagine this other Sofia that I would have liked to be a part of, if it existed.

Overall, a very enjoyable read. I’m looking forward to the next installments in the series (as I saw the author mentioned on his Facebook page that there will be others).

“Fables, Vol. 4” by Bill Willingham

Fables (The Deluxe Edition, #4)(Author: Bill Willingham) + (Year: 2012) + (Goodreads)


Review:

I feel like there was a bit of bad period for Fables around Vol. 2-3, but then it started picking up pace here and I’m really happy with the current progression. I see a development both in the characters that we already have as people, a narrative progression towards the Adversary, and an increase of fable characters, which I highly appreciate.

My favourite part of this deluxe edition, however, were the 1001 Nights of Snowfall. I thought that that was just fantastic, because I love backstories and they make characters feel more realistic to me. Most of all, I was interested by the stories of Flycatcher and Snow White. I seem to have either missed it, or it still hasn’t been explained, but I had no idea why Snow felt the way she did about the seven dwarfs. As I am aware that Disney Snow White and fable Snow White are very different characters, I wasn’t sure how these two stories would fit into the same world, or whether they would fit at all, but I expect something more grotesque to be revealed soon.

In all honesty, I am already reading the next volume, so I already know that the story is getting even more juicy, and I’m definitely hyped right now.

“Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal” by G. Willow Wilson

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal(Author: G. Willow Wilson) + (Year: 2014) + (Goodreads)


Review:

Awesome!

I had started developing a small phobia of superhero comic books after a couple of unsuccessful attempts to read them (namely, and to my partner-in-crime’s huge disappointment, Hawkeye). The thing is, I love the Marvel movies, I also like a lot of the DC movies. But the comic books just don’t live up to it a lot of the time.

Ms. Marvel definitely did, though. This comic book was so cool and unconventional, that I couldn’t help but really like it. It’s just so original and a lot more heartfelt than some of the other superheroes’ origin stories. Part of this might come from the fact that I have been over-saturated by movies about Batman and Superman’s sap stories, but Ms. Marvel is something else altogether.

As a character, she is a big dork, so I can definitely sympathize. However, she also comes from a very conservative family and background and this volume does a good job at trying to explain this culture in an easy-to-swallow kind of way. It also tries to show the soul of the regular Muslim family, instead of the inhumane side of Islam that we see through terrorism. Considering the fact that I, myself, despite being a Christian, have spent a lot of time among Muslims, I know that I have a different view of them and that many people do have a hard time understanding the difference between Islam and radicalism. Ms. Marvel is not subtle about trying to explain that to its readers, but nevertheless, the authors have burdened themselves with a rather unorthodox and admirable task.

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I also thought that the story was generally very cute and light-hearted, unlike many of the superhero comic books that I’ve read. In that sense, it kind of reminded me of Batgirl, back when I loved it. The atmosphere was fun and exciting, instead of depressing and dark, so to me, it was a big plus.

The art was pretty but in a way which was as equally unconventional, as the book itself. The characters were drawn in a cartoonish but pretty way, and with some very nice colors.

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I’m definitely adding Ms. Marvel to my list. The only drawback is that the list never seems to get shorter. Eh…

“Saga, Vol. 7” by Brian K. Vaughan

Saga, Vol. 7(Author: Brian K. Vaughan) + (Year: 2017) + (Goodreads)


Review:

I definitely liked this volume more than the previous one. Aside from the story being a lot more thought-through and less transitional than the one in the previous volume, it was also a lot more serious and mature.

In fact, I think this is one of the most serious volumes of Saga in general. Despite Prince Robot’s ding dong close ups and everything…

Two things made this volume more grown up for me:

  1. The refugee crisis. It was reflected 1:1 as what we see in our day-to-day reality. The native population of Phang was how the author wanted us to see the real refugees as well. There was the element of religion, the element of outside intrusion, and also that of the innocence/fanaticism of the locals.
  2. This quote:

“You know that old cliche about the millions of deaths being a statistic… while the loss of just one life is a tragedy?

If that’s true, what is it when you lose something that never even had a chance to be born?

I’ve had lots of relationships in my lifetime, platonic or otherwise, but the ones I think about most are those that never quite made it to term.

I guess I’m just haunted by all that potential energy.

One moment the universe presents you with this amazing opportunity for new possibilities…

…and then…

I also saw in this volume that the stories of the characters are finally moving forward, all of them, from Hazel’s family, to The Will. I’m looking forward to the new volumes.