I Hate the Marvel Comics App

Living within my body is every kind of geek you can imagine. Each day I struggle to hold them all inside. Often they escape when I come across a fellow Doctor Who fan, or when I find an interesting gadget in the kitchen section of John Lewis. My comic book geek had been kept dormant for a few years now. I hadn’t bought anything but the occasional Fables trade paperback since I was a teenager. However when I got my iPad and downloaded the Marvel Comics app. My bank account was not happy.

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The App is extremely easy to use, you create an account with Marvel if you’d like but otherwise you are free to buy ay comic via your iTunes account – which is where the problems lie for me. It is far too easy to download great comics at the touch of a button. There are so many great stories, past and present available to read. The Avengers Vs X-Men event was happening which I jumped aboard and now that the dust has settled I’m reading several titles that have been spawned from the huge event. As well as this I’ve been able to go back and read some stories that have piqued my interest for some time. For example I am now a major fan of both Runaways and Young Avengers – which I do recommend. I have also read X-Men: Days of Future Past in preparation for the upcoming movie in 2014 so I can sound smug when I’m leaving the theatre.

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You can read your comics page by page as normal or you can view it panel by panel, which highlights each speech bubble and is a great way to follow the story if you like to be surprised as you read or if you struggle to find your way around a complicated spread. (It happens to us all.) If I’m honest, I don’t hate the Marvel Comics App – I adore it. It allows me to read the comics that I love but not have to make the trip to the comic book store every Wednesday, and that works for me. I just wish it wasn’t so easy to keep reading and reading!

Reading: How To Be a Woman

Caitlin Moran and I had a destiny to be together. I had noticed posters for her book around the Underground here in London and been slightly intrigued. When a good friend arrived at my home with a recommendation my interest grew stronger. Finally I thought, she has cool grey hair – it must be worth a look. So How To Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran became one of the first few titles I downloaded onto my brand new Kindle when I got it into my hands this past Christmas.

I have no aspirations to undergo gender reassignment surgery, nor have I personally identified as female rather than male. Then why am I reading a book teaching me how to be a woman? In many ways I didn’t see the book as a guide to femininity, and nor should you. Instead see Moran book as a semi-biographical look at what it is to be a realistic feminist in the 21st Century. This is vitally important because I am of the belief that everyone should be a feminist no matter what you have between your legs.

If you are ever wondering what my opinion on a pressing issue concerning women of this world then I will hand you this book because there is nothing Moran declares within the book that I do not whole heartedly agree with (except for maybe spending too much money on fashion accessories.) From burkas to burlesque I spent half of my time reading How To Be a Woman with a nodding head.

The other half was spent laughing, more often than not I was laughing out loud. This Lady is very funny. Sometimes I’d be snorting out loud and other times I’d be giggly naughtily and hoping no one is reading over my shoulder. No, I do hope someone was reading over my shoulder because I think the world would be a better place if more inhabitants came to the light of Moran’s sensibilities about women. She isn’t radical, (as far as I’m concerned) she is simply realistic for a woman in today’s world. If you care about women in any way, shape or form then How To Be a Woman is required reading.

Kindle 2011

I can only liken the Kindle entering my life to the time the iPod found it’s way into my hands. The similarities are numerous. I received both as gifts for Christmas. I became immediately obsessed with both. I turned into an ambassador for both products showing them off to friends and family with glowing recommendations. And finally, I have changed the way I think about books the same way I changed the way I consumed music after owning an iPod. Read on to find out why.

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Let me get the negatives out of the way first so I can gush for the last 600 words. The user interface isn’t the best, however living in the world where we are all babied by the ease of use of iOS this isn’t hard to believe. Navigating with the directional pad and options menus are tedious to begin with and this is not a product where you the manual is included in the box. I had to google many simple functions like removing books from collections and where to find your wish list when browsing the store. Turns out the secret is the “option” button which drops down different options depending on what you’re doing on the kindle.

Also the lack of keyboard sometimes becomes frustrating occasionally. It’s manageable, particularly for a gamer like myself who is used to using a d-pad to type letters but any input more than a couple of characters long causes frustration and hand cramps. I’m sure the Kindle Touch solves this issue but of course it’s not available in the UK for some strange reason. Finally you should be aware that there are restrictions on the device if the Kindle isn’t available isn’t available in your country and you import it. As far as I know from anecdotes of colleagues, it does not play nice with Amazon accounts which are not from its country of origin.

Now to the positives! The device’s simple design makes it a pleasure to wield. Yes, the lack of a keyboard is irritating at times but it really does wonders for the size and design of the device. Nothing distracts from what’s happening on the crisp e-ink screen. It’s small size was a worry for me at first, but after spending time with it I am now a huge fan of the fact I can stick it in my coat pocket and when I go for a coffee.

I believe that it is because the Kindle delivers its content so effortlessly that I have enjoyed using it so much. Couple this with the fact that commuting in London guarantees an hour or more of reading time every day and I find myself blazing through my reading list like wildfire. The Kindle is so light it feels almost precious in your hands, but this also means holding it while reading in bed requires none of the effort you would have reading the monstrous hardback Steve Jobs biography. Turn pages instantly with the simple press of a button along the edge of the device and I am in reading heaven.

The Kindle does one thing and it does it well. Sure, I could buy an iPad and read my books on that along with a multitude of other tasks, but Amazon’s eReader does this one task so perfectly I cannot see myself ever trading my reading time over to a heavy screen over a simple, light, eInk reader.

Reading: Good Omens

I know I’m late to the party on this one and if I’m brutally honest, it took me about a year to read this book. The majority of it was finished in the last week. Turns out all I need to blaze through a novel is a commute and an hour for lunch. I don’t know why I was so slow to get through Good Omens because it is an absolutely brilliant read.

I love anything that takes a practically ancient idea and flips it around so that I have to spend some serious time reconsidering aforementioned idea. Good Omens is a humourous novel but still manages to make my head spin when it comes to thinking about Good versus Evil as well as many Christian stories I was raised with. Gaiman’s American Gods did something similar in regards to what a modern person worships and who our gods are in this modern age, so it’s easy to see his hand in part authoring Good Omens. I admit I haven’t read much of Terry Pratchett’s work, but I seen enough to know that he can make me laugh audibly on the train to work like few other authors can.

Good Omens is a story about the end of the world. It is about the Antichrist, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, an Angel who owns a bookshop and a Demon who owns a Bentley. It is hilarious and thrilling. The entire book builds up to a destined climax and as a reader the pages turn faster as the story progresses. The large cast of characters are all colourful and fascinating. Watching their reactions to the world going very literally to hell is half the fun of the book.

What Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman have created together is a thoroughly hilarious yet intellectually stimulating story that could only have been woven by two of the finest authors in the fantasy genre. A must read for any fan of the fantastic or lover of a laugh.

The Hunger Games Trilogy

I had the strongest reservations when I picked up The Hunger Games in the bookstore. Firstly, every available inch of the european cover is splashed with quotes from Stephenie Meyer raving about how great the book is. Don’t get me wrong – I’m a fan the trash that is Twilight however Meyer is not a very talented writer and so I wasn’t enthused when I saw her name all over the book. I turned the book over to read the premise of the novel. My eyes immediately fell on the words “games”, “children” and “to the death”. I became instantly more skeptical as I figured this trilogy to be simply a western rip off of the novel/manga/film from Japan called Battle Royale, a story of a sadistic not too distant future where a random class of high schoolers are shipped off to the island and ordered to kill each other to the last one standing. Even with two strikes already against it, I paid my few pounds and brought home Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games.

The Hunger Games follows the story of Katniss Everdeen, a 16 year old living in District 13. The Trilogy takes place where America used to be, this is far in the future and the land is called Panem. At the centre of Panem is the Capitol and surrounding it are 13 districts. The Capitol rules over the 13 Districts which provide various commodities. Katniss is from the coal mining district and takes care of her mother and younger sister as best she can in their tough life under the Capitol. The Hunger Games is a reality show organised by the Capitol in which two children from each of the districts are sent to an arena to fight to the death until there is only one victor. This is to remind the Districts never to revolt against the Capitol like they had many years ago. The books tell of Katniss and the how she deals with the Hunger Games.

It would be wrong to say that if you liked Twilight you would like The Hunger Games. The two female protagonists couldn’t be more different. You could stretch to say that there is a love story throughout the three novels, however this plays second fiddle to the more real life struggle with basic survival Katniss deals with. Also there is the whole subject of the domination of the Capitol over the Districts that makes itself a more central topic and theme throughout the novel rather than which boy the leading lady thinks is cuter.

Even though The Hunger Games is a young adult novel, it is very gritty and violent. It pulls no punches and puts struggle and death right at the forefront. Nearly every chapter finishes on a cliffhanger that is shocking, enticing and completely believable, unlike a bad TV show struggling for ratings. Every shock moment is still something the reader can believe and I think that is what makes the books so addicting. The genuine danger and fear makes for great reading. The world Collins creates is fantastic and beautiful. I will definitely be re-reading the trilogy and I highly recommend it. My only pet peev is the European cover art – it’s rubbish, I will definitely be investing in the American hard cover box set.

Scott Pilgrim

Byran Lee-O’Malley’s life work comes in the form of the adventures of Scott Pilgrim. It is a comic that to this reader, transcends genres. This is because not only will the geeks froth at the various video game references found within Scott Pilgrim, but also comic book readers will enjoy what is a completely fresh fantasy world with which to explore.

I use the term fantasy fairly loosely, but the universe Lee-O’Malley has created is one that is completely otherworldly, however this doesn’t become apparent until near the climax of the first volume. By which time you are completely discovering whether Pilgrim will survive the mammoth task that has been set before him. Basically Scott Pilgrim is smitten by a new girl in town, Ramona Flowers. However if he wants to date her he has to spend time defeating her evil exes who have joined together to form an evil league of ex boyfriends.

The tale is currently contained within 5 volumes with the final 6th volume being released on the 20th of July. It is a comfortable read and has simple graphic artwork that is entirely appropriate for the story. It manages to sit in between both western and eastern styles of comic drawing. The characters are always full of emotion and there is never any guessing as to what is happening during pretty intense action scenes (of which there are many.)

I am looking forward especially to the final volume of the story but also to the film adaptation coming out this august also which has been directed by Edgar Wright – director of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. It’s not too late to jump on the bandwagon and fall in love with this world and these characters before the film is released. I have great confidence the film will do the comics justice but no matter how great the movie is I will always reach over and read through the books whenever I am bored because they are a great read that I will always keep coming back to.

Bunny Suicides by Andy Riley

I have a soft spot in my heart for bunnies. The thought of someone eating rabbit is enough to either send me to sobs of grief or a murderous rage. However it is hard not to be entirely enchanted and wickedly giggle at The Bunny Suicides.

The books do exactly what is said on the tin. It is a collection of bunnies committing suicide. Now I am aware that if you are not aware of this phenomenon then you will be simply revolted by the mere thought of cotton tailed critters bringing about their own grizzly end. However I believe dwelling on the subverted message of this comic is not good for the soul. Instead you should just flick through the pages of these cute books and enjoy the oftentimes quite technical, quite cute and always funny ways in which these bunnies off themselves.