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The Hazardous Tales Series ★★★★★

All these graphic novels take a historical event, and package it in a bit of humour, and make it easily digestible to all. It tries to make history 'cool' and 'fun' for teens and I think it succeeds.

At the back of every book, he lists a bibliography of books used to research the book. He calls that section the “research babies”. There is also the “correction baby” that handles questions on historically inaccurate things in the story. He also often has historical pictures, and or diagrams about the real characters in the story at the back of the book.

This is a great series. I ordered Hazardous Tales #7-10 already. I could read #7 & #8 on Epic! but I shall wait and read the paper copy. I want to savour the last 3 books in this series. I'm not sure if Nathan Hale is still creating these stories. I sure hope so. I wish there were historical graphic novels like this focusing on Canadian events. I'll have to keep my eyes open for one!

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One Dead Spy by Nathan Hale

(Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales #1)

I read Hazardous Tales #4 before I read this one, but I understand why some people say you should read this one first. This one introduces the narrators, and the whole setup of the series.

This book is about a spy for the American continental army during the American War of Independence. Now my American history is not all that great, I am Canadian after all, but this was an interesting book. I learned about the spy, and the general ebb and flow of the war.

Now, for me this wasn't as interesting as Hazardous Tales #4, because I'm just not that into American history. I will still go and read the rest of the books in this series now because I discovered them on (Epic!)[https://getepic.com/]. There is another WW2 one about the bombing of Hiroshima I believe. I'm looking forward to reading that.

This whole series is great if you want to: learn history, not get bogged down with every little detail, and have some jokes in there too.

Rating: ★★★★ Book #110 in my My 2020 Reading Challenge #BookReview #Books #America #HazardousTales #GraphicNovel #NathanHale

Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood by Nathan Hale

(Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales #4)

An incredible graphic novel that uses humour, facts, and cut animals to tell the incredibly complicated story of World War 1 (WW1).

Hale uses 3 narrators to keep the story moving along. There is Nathan Hale, American spy who was hanged (in Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales #1), the hangman, and the British soldier who escorted the spy. It is actually the hangman's idea to tell the story with cute animals for each country because he found the story so boooorrring.

The author tells the story with the animals taking the place of countries and it really works. It takes a gruesome tale of a very, stupid, pointless war, and makes it digestible. I read through this in one hour, but I think I could find myself re-reading it to savour the graphics again, or even brush up on the key events of WW1. Of course, in a graphic novel, he cannot go into every nitty gritty little detail, but he certainly got the main points down, and made it exciting, and a joy to read.

I hope teenagers discovery this series and have fun learning history with it! But adults can enjoy this too. It is funny. Trust me!

Rating: ★★★ Book #109 in my My 2020 Reading Challenge #BookReview #Books #GraphicNovel #WW1 #war #Europe #HazardousTales #NathanHale

The Plotters by Un-su Kim

Now this was a wacky book. It's about a hitman who works for a Plotter. A Plotter is the mastermind of the hits, who assigns missions to hitmen. There is some drama between some of the Plotters and the hitman is caught in the middle of it. Then the hitman works together with some unlikely allies and fights back.

This was a short, weird, and cool little book. I love the setting, and the whole concept of Plotters. It feels like medieval guilds, and their codes of honour.

Not much else to say about this, read it if you like strange, but interesting translated fiction from Korea.

Rating: ★★★ Book #108 in my My 2020 Reading Challenge #BookReview #Books #KoreanLit #hitman #thriller #UnsuKim

Story of a Secret State: My Report to the World by Jan Karski

This book is about an agent in the Polish Underground during its WW2 occupation by Nazi Germany. This is an incredible narrative of being called up in the army, escaping from captivity, living through occupation, becoming part of the Underground, how the Underground works, getting tortured, escaping again, and delivering secret documents to the Polish Government in Exile. I don't think I could accurately describe this book in a way that does it justice. It is incredible.

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Eyewitness: Battle vs. Arms & Armour

Both of these books are filled with vivid pictures of guns, swords, and other implements of death. The artistry in which humans kill other humans, makes our species a unique one. We are constantly inventing 'better' ways to kill each other. These books have beautiful pictures of weapons from the caveman days all the way to World War 1.

While both of these books were a delight to flip through, and learn obscure details of historic weapons, Eyewitness: Battle was the better book overall. Battle had a better narrative throughout the book. It not only showed you the weapons, but it put them in context. It showed you why certain weapons were used at certain times; it just fit together better.

One minor quibble I had, the books were both primarily focused on land warfare. I was really hoping there would be some information on sailing ships, and the cannons they used.

Rating: Battle ★★★★★ Arms & Armour ★★★ Book #105 & 106 in my My 2020 Reading Challenge #BookReview #Books #DK #EyewitnessGuides #DiscoverKids #War #weapons #history #NonFiction

Untold Night and Day by Bae Suah

A mind bending, translated novel from a Korean author. It unfolds simple enough, but then twists in on itself, and some things repeat, and you start to wonder what is real, and what isn't.

This one was surreal, and weird. It was also exciting trying to hold onto the thread and see where the author was going.

I'm not sure I still fully understand what happened in the novel, but it was a good experience with fantastic imagery. The way she describes moving through the city, and the conversations some of the characters have in the story are great.

If you want a short (152 pages), quirky book, try this out. Don't expect a straightforward narrative though! Also, not sure why the reviews are so harsh on GoodReads. This is a solid 4 star book, if you can follow her dream-like writing.

Also read some of the much better reviews of this novel on GoodReads (excerpts below)

Bae Suah likes to challenge readers used to more conventional plot lines and character development. In “Untold Night and Day” identities are blurred, chronology is warped, time and space are stretched and exist in parallel to others. – Kamila Kunda

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Incredible. Lucid writing and translation, singular characters, and a propulsive story that pulls the rug out from under your feet. The comparison with David Lynch is apt, with recurring motifs & moving from reality to the surreal. I almost understood what was happening, but not quite. Ideas of memory & the impermanence of things, & she plays with blindness & vision. Tightly written, engaging and will give your brain a workout. – Anna Baillie-Karas

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To read Untold Night and Day is to stand on shifting ground. This is a story that always operates according to dream logic, in which identities are malleable and the impossible becomes unremarkable. – Blair

Rating: ★★★★ Book #104 in my My 2020 Reading Challenge #BookReview #Surreal #TranslatedFiction #BaeSuah

Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick

A collection of short stories by the very well known sci-fi author, Philip K. Dick. There are many well known stories in here like Minority Report, and We Can Remember It for You Wholesale (short story Total Recall based on) but lots of other more unknown works too.

I recently watched the 2017 TV series “Philip K. Dicks Electric Dreams”, which prompted me to read this short story collection. It was interesting to read short stories, after already watching the TV shows, and movies they inspired. It's interesting to see what gets added and changed once a short story becomes a movie or TV show.

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Nelson's Trafalgar: The Battle That Changed the World by Roy A. Adkins

I had never heard of this battle before reading this book (my colonial Canadian education failed me!). It was a very interesting, and super detailed look at the importance of the battle, the hour-by-hour rundown of the battle including many maps, and then lots of afterword about how the battle was important.

The first 196 pages are incredible actually. He is great at explaining the action of the battle, with great footnotes. He goes off on tangents at times but I loved those because you got to learn about ship life, and even where ship slang came from. The tangents reminded me of all the interesting chapters about life on a whaling ship in Moby Dick. I sorta disliked the book, but really enjoyed learning about whaling ships.

Now let's talk about page 197-326, these were a slog. He has one whole long chapter of excerpts of sailor's letters to their moms and dad. It just got really boring, really fast. This book could've been condensed a lot. I don't think the author was trying to pad the page count, I truly feel he is passionate about Nelson and the Battle of Trafalgar, but the editor should've stepped in and condensed the last half of the book.

It had lots of diagrams and maps, but could've used an extra diagram or two showing parts of a sailing ship. During the battle, in the excerpts from officer letters, many times they refer to all sorts of ship parts and it's hard to keep them straight at times.

All-in-all, this is an important book, about an important battle for the nascent British empire but it fizzled out at the end, and became a bore. I've read lots, and lots of history books, so I'm not bored by history, but by the end I was just praying for this book to finish.

Rating: ★★★ Book #102 in my My 2020 Reading Challenge #BookReview #Books #BritishEmpire #war #history #NavalWarfare

The Man with the Compound Eyes by Wu Ming-Yi

Wu Ming-Yi certainly never disappoints in the 'weird' department. I'm not sure I can even accurately describe the book I just read, but I'll try. The book is set in the present, or near future, where a huge 'trash vortex' is breaking up in the middle of the ocean. It washes up along the shores of Taiwan, and other places. We move through this event through the current lives, and memories of a few different people: a university professor, her foreign husband, an aboriginal forest manager, an aboriginal cafe owner, and a boy from a 'dream' island. I'll stop right there because I can't really describe it in more detail without re-telling the story.

This was a strange book, but it was interesting. I'm still mulling over certain parts of the book to understand what happened. After writing this, I will have to read a few other reviews to try and get my head around some parts, especially the parts with 'the man with the compound eyes'.

I liked many parts of this book, but as a whole it gel together and satisfy me. I will still say though, I liked all the different characters and their backstories.

Rating: ★★★ Book #101 in my My 2020 Reading Challenge #BookReview #Books #Taiwan #WuMingYi #strange