Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Dogs of War

Dogs of War by Sheila Keenan is one of the best graphic novels I've read all month. It has three stories about three different dogs fighting in three different wars. Each chapter is about a different dog. The first chapter is about Boots, a medic dog in World War 1, who would find the location of wounded soldiers in No Mans Land, then run back to tell the medic. The second chapter is about Loki, who was a rescue sled dog in World War 2, who would find lost soldiers or downed pilots in Greenland. The third chapter is about Sheba, who was a scout dog, sniffing out enemy soldiers in Vietnam.

I really like how the book gets me to sympathize with each character in such
a short amount of time. I thought that each dog would be really forgettable because not enough time would be dedicated to them, but I ended up loving each of them a whole lot. To be fair, Sheba was a little forgettable, but that's only because the chapter was more about her master than her.

The art in this book really added to my enjoyment. The drawings are very colorful and each chapter has a certain glow to it. Chapter one is dark violet, chapter two is light blue, and chapter three is dark green. Intentional or not, this little feature gives the book a lot of personality. I have a feeling that I would not have enjoyed it as much without these beautiful drawings.

I'm not sure if Dogs of War is appropriate for all ages. I'll leave that up to you. There are some fairly violent scenes and images in it. If you're reading it in a public place, I would suggest you shield the cover with your hand, because there is a Nazi with a big fat swastika on his arm on the cover. It's just a suggestion. I would give Dogs of War 9 military dogs out of ten.  

P.S. The dogs in the stories did not actually exist, but they were based on real military dogs.

P.P.S. If you want to know more about war dogs, heres a link to a very interesting site about animals in WW1

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Lost Cause

I started reading Lost Cause by Jack Jackson a long time ago and refused to review it because a character named Hays, who I thought was meant to be one of the good guys did something really racist. It rubbed me the wrong way. I recently gave it another try and realized that the character was one of many villains in the book. I decided that since it's history and non-fiction, it deserved a chance.

The story follows the terrible, bloody feud between the Taylor and Suttons. The famed Texan gunslinger, John Wesley Hardin, plays a crucial role. He lived 42 years and killed about 40 people.

Just to be clear, I love Westerns, but lots of things in this one are way too complicated and confusing. I can never tell who are supposed to be heroes and who are supposed to be villains. Sometimes the Taylors are the good guys and sometimes their enemies are the good guys. I know that this is the story of real people, but I can never tell why I'm supposed to sympathize with them. A lot of the time the things they do seem completely unredeemable.

To be fair, there are some good parts in the book. I do like the beginning when the Civil War is happening, I also like the time during the presidential election of 1868. They add an extra layer of conflict to the mix. The parts I don't like are the millions scenes where people are caught illegally branding cows, then get hung. These scenes could have been represented in one page instead of constantly throughout the book.

The art is very detailed and in depth. I really like how the animals  are drawn. They look extremely realistic. One strange thing I noticed was that all the characters have such expressive faces except for the most important characters. People like John Choate, a middle aged rancher who joins up with the Taylors for a few pages, have faces filled with emotion, whereas Wes Harden has one expression, which is blank.

Lost Cause is definitely not appropriate for all ages. There are some very bloody scenes and a lot of people die fairly terribly. One guy who tries to steal Wes's horse is shot in the chest and left to bleed out. It deals with dark subjects like family feuds and racism. It also uses a very strong word that begins with n.  If books had ratings, it would be rated R. I would give Lost Cause 3 Mexican standoffs out of 5.