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Happy 2015 to you! To start the year off right, we’d like to introduce our New Voices picks for Winter 2015. These debut novels entertained us, enriched us, intrigued us, and made us so excited to witness the beginnings of these authors’ sure-to-be-stellar writing careers.

Click on the links below to read the first chapter of each title, and make sure to keep an eye on these fantastic authors. We can’t wait to see what they do next!

Blackbird Fly

BLACKBIRD FLY, by Erin Entrada Kelly, follows twelve-year-old Apple Yengko as she grapples with being different, with friends and backstabbers, and with following her dreams. Apple has always felt a little different from her classmates. She and her mother moved to America from the Philippines when she was little, and her mother still cooks Filipino foods, makes mistakes with her English, and chastises Apple for becoming “too American.” But it becomes unbearable in eighth grade, when the boys—the stupid, stupid boys—in Apple’s class put her name on the Dog Log, the list of the most unpopular girls in school. When Apple’s friends turn on her and everything about her life starts to seem weird and embarrassing, Apple turns to music. If she can just save enough to buy a guitar and learn to play, maybe she can change herself. It might be the music that saves her . . . or it might be her two new friends, who show how special she really is. Read the first chapter here!

The Keepers: The Box and the Dragonfly

THE KEEPERS: THE BOX AND THE DRAGONFLY, by Ted Sanders, is the first in a four-book middle-grade fantasy series about Horace F. Andrews, a quiet boy who discovers he possesses a power that can change worlds. When a sign leads Horace underground to the House of Answers, a hidden warehouse full of mysterious objects, he unfortunately finds only questions. What is this curious place? Who are the strange, secretive people who entrust him with a rare and immensely powerful gift? And what is he to do with it? From the enormous, sinister man shadowing him to the gradual mastery of his new-found abilities to his encounters with Chloe—a girl who has an astonishing talent of her own—Horace follows a path that puts the pair in the middle of a centuries-old conflict between two warring factions in which every decision they make could have disastrous consequences. Read the first chapter here!

No Parking at the End Times

NO PARKING AT THE END TIMES, by Bryan Bliss, is a thoughtful and moving story about losing everything—and about what you will do for the people you love. Abigail’s parents never should have made that first donation to that end-of-times preacher. Or the next, or the next. They shouldn’t have sold their house. Or packed Abigail and her twin brother, Aaron, into their old van to drive across the country to San Francisco, to be there for the “end of the world.” Because now they’re living in their van. And Aaron is full of anger, disappearing to who-knows-where every night. Their family is falling apart. All Abigail wants is to hold them together, to get them back to the place where things were right. But is that too big a task for one teenage girl? Read the first chapter here!

Red Queen

RED QUEEN, by Victoria Aveyard, is a sweeping fantasy about seventeen-year-old Mare, a common girl whose latent magical powers draw her into the dangerous world of the elite ruling class. Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood—those with Red blood serve the Silver elite, whose silver blood gifts them with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. Before the King, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own. To cover up this impossibility, the King forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks everything to use her new position to help the Scarlet Guard—a growing Red rebellion—even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction. One wrong move can lead to her death, but in the dangerous game she plays, the only certainty is betrayal. Read the first chapter here!

Little Peach

LITTLE PEACH, by Peggy Kern, is the gritty and riveting story of a runaway who comes to New York City and is lured into prostitution by a manipulative pimp. When Michelle runs away from her drug-addicted mother, she has just enough money to make it to New York, where she hopes to move in with a friend. But once she arrives at the bustling Port Authority, she is confronted with the terrifying truth: She is alone and out of options. Then she meets Devon, a good-looking, well-dressed guy who emerges from the crowd armed with a kind smile, a place for her to stay, and eyes that seem to understand exactly how she feels. But Devon is not what he seems to be, and soon Michelle finds herself engulfed in the world of child prostitution. It is a world of impossible choices, where the line between love and abuse, captor and savior, is blurred beyond recognition. This hauntingly vivid story illustrates the human spirit’s indomitable search for home, and one girl’s struggle to survive. Read the first chapter here.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA, by Becky Albertalli, is an incredibly funny and poignant twenty-first-century coming-of-age, coming-out story—wrapped in a geek romance. Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: If he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing with, will be jeopardized. With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met. Read the first chapter here!

Check back here for “Opening the Book” Q&A’s with the authors and insightful words from the editors of these fantastic New Voices!

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2. iBooks Bestsellers List

The Maze Runner by James Dashner has joined the iBooks bestsellers list this week at No. 14.

Apple has released its top selling books list for paid books from iBooks in the U.S. for week ending January 26, 2014. American Sniper (Enhanced Edition) by Chris Kyle leads the list and The Girl on the Train by Pauka Hawkins is No. 2.

We’ve included Apple’s entire list after the jump.

1. American Sniper (Enhanced Edition) by Chris Kyle, Jim DeFelice & Scott Mcewen – 9780062190963 – (William Morrow) 2. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins – 9780698185395 – (Penguin Group US) 3. Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James – 9781612130293 – (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group) 4. American Sniper by Chris Kyle, Jim DeFelice & Scott Mcewen – 9780062082374 – (William Morrow) 5. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – 9780307588388 – (Crown Publishing Group) 6. Fifty Shades Darker by E L James – 9781612130590 – (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group) 7. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand – 9780679603757 – (Random House Publishing Group) 8. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn – 9780307459923 – (Crown Publishing Group) 9. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – 9781476746609 – (Scribner) 10. Fifty Shades Trilogy Bundle by E L James – 9780345803573 – (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group) 11. The Substitute by Denise Grover Swank – 9781939996237 – (DGS) 12. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty – 9780698138636 – (Penguin Group US) 13. Fifty Shades Freed by E L James – 9781612130613 – (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group) 14. The Maze Runner by James Dashner – 9780375893773 – (Random House Children’s Books) 15. Nailed – Complete Series by Lucia Jordan – No ISBN Available – (Vasko) 16. Still Alice by Lisa Genova – 9781439157039 – (Pocket Books) 17. Gray Mountain by John Grisham – 9780385539166 – (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group) 18. Wild by Cheryl Strayed – 9780307957658 – (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group) 19. The Escape by David Baldacci – 9781455521272 – (Grand Central Publishing) 20. The Burning Room by Michael Connelly – 9780316225922 – (Little, Brown and Company)

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3. The Infinite Sea (2014)

The Infinite Sea (Fifth Wave #2) Rick Yancey. 2014. Penguin. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

I'm so glad I took the time to reread Rick Yancey's The Fifth Wave! I felt ready for the sequel. Of course, I felt ready for the sequel the moment I first finished The Fifth Wave! But I felt prepared to fully appreciate the sequel.

First, you shouldn't read The Infinite Sea until you've read the first book in this alien-invasion series. It does NOT stand alone.

Second, if you've read the first book, and at the very least enjoyed-it-in-the-moment, you should pick up this next book.

Third, if you're looking for a quick, compelling read--perhaps for a read-a-thon--then consider this one. What makes it quick is the fact that, like the first book, it is hard to put this one down!!!

Some time has passed--perhaps a few days, perhaps a week or two--since the ending of The Fifth Wave.

The prologue, "The Wheat," is something. I think it does a great job as prologue--reminding readers of the intensity of the series, of the world as they know it.

Book one, The Problem of Rats, "The world is a clock winding down." This first section is narrated by Ringer. I believe this was the first chance for readers to get her perspective. I was expecting the book to begin with Cassie, I almost saw The Fifth Wave, as being Cassie's book predominantly, and opening with Ringer's thoughts, well, it was a good reminder that the book, the series, is so much more than that.

Book one, The Ripping, "From the time I could barely walk, my father would ask me, Cassie, do you want to fly?" This second section is narrated by Cassie. You'll probably notice--beginning with this section--that the chronology of the narrators is interesting and overlaps and goes back and forth a bit. I didn't mind this actually.

Book one, The Last Star, "As a child, he dreamed of owls." Evan Walker gets his chance to narrate. Readers learn much in this section!!!

Book one, Millions, "The boy stopped talking the summer of the plague." I found this section--short as it was--to be so emotional. I loved gaining more insight on Poundcake.

Book one, The Price. This fifth section is narrated by Cassie. I wouldn't say it's the most action-packed section, but that's because it would be too tough to choose. Has there really been a slow section?! But much does happen, and we see it through her point of view.

Book one, The Trigger. Again. So very short. But oh-so-intense. Another Poundcake section. And I thought "Millions" was emotional!

Book two, The Sum of All Things. Ringer's section. Plenty of this novel is told through her perspective, and, I came to appreciate that in a way. Much is learned in this section certainly, or, perhaps I should say much is explained through dialogue?

Book two, Dubuque. Essentially the conclusion of the book. Cassie's perspective, I believe.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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4. 50 States Against Bullying: NEW MEXICO

Another first-time state on the 50 States Against Bullying campaign brought me to New Mexico for stop number thirty-three. Upon entering La Cueva High School, I immediately took time to read some comments on their #ReasonsWhyYouMatter notecards.

As many of you know, my favorite part of being an author is speaking to readers. But many of you don't know, or don't believe me when I tell you, that I get major stagefright. I enjoy myself once I begin, but leading up to it is Anxiety City. Especially when I watch the students start piling in! Here's an unposed photo of that moment. And I do believe you can see the fear in my eyes.

But they were great! Nothing to fear here, dude. (There never is anything to fear, and knowing that is how I get myself to show up to each school rather than faking a flat tire.)

I love when members of the faculty, after the presentation, remark that they were a little surprised and impressed by how attentive the students were for so long. I take that as a compliment, and I think it's partly because the students can tell I really enjoy speaking with them (once I get over my fear of them, of course).

While I didn't make it into the women's restroom myself, I was told about a message scribbled on a tile in there and the responses written around it. While I don't condone writing on walls, I still had to send someone in there to take a pic.

Little comments of positivity make me so happy!

It also made me happy to see Jessie and Chris post themselves proudly wearing their #ReasonsWhyYouMatter wristbands.

Before I headed to the airport, librarian Gerri Barnhart took local YA author Shea Berkley and me out to lunch.

We ate delicious New Mexican cuisine at El Pinto.

Gotta love photobombers.

And here's what happens after I fill my belly with totally legit pinto beans.

So now I'm in the airport, waiting to head to my next state, and contemplating why two girls at La Cueva gave me this.

But still, I really do appreciate it!

It's creepy, but I appreciate it.

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5. Book Review: And in the Morning: Fields of Conflict - The Somme, 1916 by John Wilson

Book received at no charge from publisher to facilitate my review.

A gift of a soldier's diary leads to the discovery of a family secret.

In the pages of the diary, fifteen year-old, Jim Hay pens his thought. With his country at war and his father leaving for battle, Jim desires to join the cause. Even after his father dies in battle, he imagines an adventurous and heroic life as a World War I soldier.

The fight to survive in the trenches in France has Jim longing for his true love at home while he lives through the horrors war with an outcome even he never anticipated.

While Wilson aptly describes the atrocities of World War I, it feels tedious in places. However, enough action is disbursed to keep the reader intrigued enough to find out what happens to the young soldier and the bride he left behind.
Publishing Information:

Publisher: Wandering Fox Books
ISBN: 978-1-772030-14-3
Ages: 12 & up

Rating:  Good to Recommended ★★★✬ ☆☆
Book can be purchased at the following retailer

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6. Say hello to the new Ghostbusters

ghostbusters Say hello to the new Ghostbusters

It’s been widely-reported that Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters reboot would include an all-female lineup. Though there is no official confirmation that this is a done deal, Feig tweeted a picture today – albeit with no commentary – of actresses and comediennes Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon. Though only McCarthy is officially signed on to the movie, it seems unlikely Feig would tweet the actresses’ photos if negotiations weren’t basically finalized.

McCarthy and Wiig have previously worked together on Bridesmaids, and Jones and McKinnon are currently cast members on SNL.

I’m personally a fan of the casting news – three out of the four leading ladies are between the ages of 41-47, with McKinnon being the ‘baby’ of the group at age 31. It’s nice to see Hollywood recognizing that talent doesn’t magically expire at the age of 29.

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7. CAF update: APE and Short Run get dates; ELCAF gets a day and Lineworks NW gets guests

ape CAF update: APE and Short Run get dates; ELCAF gets a day and Lineworks NW gets guests

Whew the comics arts festival circuit news is flowing thick and fast; we’re in the middle of application season and hearts and minds are turning to tabling. And the CAFs are answering back with news.

§ First off, the revamped APE (Alternative Press Expo) has revealed its dates and location: October 3-4 2015 at the San Jose Convention Center in San Jose. This is by all accounts a fine spot for a show, and the new San Jose-based APE sounds like its off to a good start. There is a one day overlap with CXC in Columbus, but what are ya gonna do—even the CAF circuit is busting out these days.

SRlogoBig600 CAF update: APE and Short Run get dates; ELCAF gets a day and Lineworks NW gets guests

§ Short Run, the indie themed event held in Seattle, has announced its dates: Saturday, October 31st at the Fisher Pavilion at Seattle Center.

2015 banner CAF update: APE and Short Run get dates; ELCAF gets a day and Lineworks NW gets guests

WHAT?! That’s right: get ready for a “scary” good time with Short Run as we take over Halloween afternoon with comix, zines, art books, mask-making, experimental animation, and much more. There will be both tricks and treats with 250 exhibitors under the Space Needle.

WHERE??!! Yes, it’s true: our beloved Washington Hall will be under construction this entire year as they make much needed renovations. In 2015, we’ll be returning to Seattle Center (site of the very first Short Run festival), and this time, we’ll be in the grand, expansive Fisher Pavilion. We are excited to offer both exhibitors and attendees wider aisle space in this new venue!
WHO?… Well, stay tuned! We’ll be announcing our 2015 special guests soon, as well as opening applications for this year’s exhibitors. We had such an incredible experience with our international guests last year, that we will continue to bring comix artists from around the world to Seattle.

Sounds like a good time.

§ ELCAF (The East London Comics Festival) has announced it’s expanding to two days this year, June 20-21, at a venue to be named later. This show has been getting a strong reputation for indies and it’s doubling in size. Applications are also open. (h/t Zainab)

tumblr static 16w0pjwdaocg4ccw4w80g0w88 CAF update: APE and Short Run get dates; ELCAF gets a day and Lineworks NW gets guests

§ Finally, April’s Lineworks NW, the Portland, OR based indie fest has announced its first four guests: Daniel Clowes, Lisa Hanawalt, Lisa Congdon and Jay Howell. Clowes and Hanawalt are best known for their comics; Congdon is afire artist and Howell does animation designs for such things as Bob’s Burgers. All four have heavy multi-media portfolio, and mixing up a CAF with guests from allied arts and animation is a very smart move and probably something we’ll see a lot more of.

More CAF news coming! If you have info on a show you would like to pass long, please email The Beat at comicsbeat at gmail dot com.

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8. YALSA Board @ Midwinter: Advocates Advisory Panel Update

During the Annual 2014 Conference, the YALSA Board approved an agenda item that proposed a new framework to formally include the voices of professionals in related fields with similar goals and objectives. The Advocates Advisory Panel will be charged with tackling a specific area of focus related to the Strategic Plan, the Future of Library Services for and with Teens report, or other topics as identified by the Board each year. The hope is that through this process, YALSA will gain valuable outside perspective on topics that are important for teens, expand its reach through new and/or strengthened relationships, and model the kind of collaborative, collective work that is called out in the Future report.

Because the Board approved the proposal in concept, as the author, I’ve been tasked with working with the Board Standing Committee on Capacity Building to create an inaugural focus and to hammer out some of the logistics. Although there’s obviously any number of topics that might be interesting to pursue with this, we decided that one viable option would be for the panel to consider strategies that YALSA might pursue in order to connect key principles and guidelines (such as the those presented in the Future report) to LIS education. We determined that this might be a sensible place to start because:

  •  A deeper dive into the state of and needs of LIS educators in light of the report may help inform the work of the Board as well as priority content areas for subsequent Panels
  • Without connecting directly with the ways in which students in LIS programs are recruited and educated, YALSA can’t guarantee that the work recommended in the Futures report can move forward
  • An academic perspective is lacking in YALSA’s current leadership. By actively recruiting experienced LIS educators to serve on the panel, YALSA may build capacity in this area
  • Engaging the perspective of educators in other fields on this issue has the potential to create the opportunity for increased cross-pollination or future collective impact efforts

You can view the full proposal and other Board docs here. If you have questions or ideas related to this proposal, I’d love to hear them! Please feel free to connect with me at shannon.peterson@gmail.com

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9. I feel that I’ve found this character’s #character...

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10. Ruff Life is now on the road

Ruff Life has taken a new direction since December 2014. We are now attending fairs, shows and exhibits around England, Scotland & Wales throughout 2015.

Here we are in January at Tweksbury.

Our next event is the 1st February at East Midlands Designer Retail Outlet, so come and see us.

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11. ‘The Curse of the Sad Mummy’ by Riot Games

Every child in Valoran has heard the tale before, about the cursed mummy boy who felt his heart no more.

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12. A bit of watercolour noodling

scanned them before I do a bit more- they were on sort of scraps of paper.
They need to be darker/more colour- they dried way paler and chalkier than I'd imagined as I did them.  Still- I was sort of mucking around.

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13. manjulamartin: coming soon to a digital device near you… ...


coming soon to a digital device near you…
Scratch Magazine: The Hollywood Issue
Subscribe: scratchmag.net

Excited to be a part of this!

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14. Jason Momoa discusses Aquaman at Sundance

jason momoa Jason Momoa discusses Aquaman at Sundance

Upcoming Aquaman star Jason Momoa, who will be making his debut as the character in next year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, fielded a few related questions during a panel at the Sundance Film Festival.

While you can listen to the full audio of the panel, here are the relevant bits pertaining to his role as Orin:

On the subject of meeting Zack Snyder regarding the role and having to lie about his involvement:

Well, things are going to be a little different. When I first went in I met with Zack (Snyder). His idea is pretty amazing. When I went in, he told me – my jaw kind of dropped. My jaw doesn’t normally drop. What he has planned for the DC world and definitely for Aquaman is something that, you know – I think I was brought on for a certain reason and they got some really cool plans for him. I’m really excited for everyone to see it.

Last year, when I was on this panel I was like eating chicken breasts and in training when I wasn’t supposed to talk about anything. I wasn’t supposed to say anything until 2016. So I told a bunch of people that they could punch me in the face if I was on it, so I’m going to get hit a couple times. But they finally released it. I was supposed to keep it a secret for 3 years.

When a 78 year old, long-time Aquaman fan asks him about Aquaman’s appearance in the new films:

Well, just going off what you’ve seen so far ma’am, I don’t think he is going to be blonde or white. I can’t really tell you because I haven’t shot it yet. I hate to disappoint. But um, you know, I’m a little different than what those others… I hope you watch it with an open heart.


At one point in the panel, the moderator points out that Michael Shannon was seen at Sundance wearing an Aquaman shirt, and directly asks Momoa regarding the rumored involvement of the actor in Batman v Superman. Momoa responded with silence and a dodge, pointing out how important the Aquaman role was to him and his Polynesian roots.

Regardless of rumors, it looks like we’ll have a dark haired/Conan-esque Aquaman, likely in the Peter David mold. I’m into it, but your mileage may vary.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice opens on March 25, 2016. Aquaman is scheduled to release on July 27, 2018.

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15. Happy Birthday, Mr. Dodgson!

Today is the 183rd birthday of Charles Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice in Wonderland.

This year is also the 150th anniversary of that children's classic. To celebrate this momentous occasion, many organizations are putting on special exhibits. Here are a few of the more notable ones you might like to add to your calendar.

February 12 to Spring 2015 (Poughkeepsie, NY)
Vassar College: The Age of Alice: Fairy Tales, Fantasy, and Nonsense in Victorian England.

June 26 to October 11 (New York, NY)
The Morgan Library & Museum: "Alice: 150 Years of Wonderland"

July 4 (Oxford, UK)
Alice's Day at Oxford

September 15 to November 15 (New York, NY)
Grolier Club: "Alice in a World of Wonderlands"

October 9 to October 11 (New York, NY)
Lewis Carroll Society of North America: "Alice in the Popular Culture"

October 14 to March 27 (Philadelphia, PA)
Rosenbach Museum & Library: Alice in Philly-land" and "The Dream of Wonderland: Alice at 150"

For additional exhibitions and performances, check out the events database here.

And in you'll like to read more about Lewis Carroll and his most famous creation, here's a link to my book on the topic: Alice's Wonderland: A Visual Journey through Lewis Carroll's Mad, Mad World.

And to make this day even more special, here is a link to a video podcast of my interview with Mr. Media about my book: What Did Alice Know and When?

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16. The GIVING CALENDAR - Give a BOOK each Month!

Make 2015 the year of 

Let this 2015  -  12 month
Remind you to give

A BOOK a month for 12 months

( An 8 page PDF you can print )

REMIND yourself  to GIFT a child with a
they will love and re-read.


Books for Kids - Manuscript Critiques 
Skype Author Visits


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17. Top Ten Tuesday: Book Clubs

Hello blog readers!

I know I’ve been a bit absent lately. Still struggling to find internet access. But my goal is to work myself towards more active participation over here. Thanks to all of you who’ve stuck through these ups and downs with me over the last few months. And welcome to any new readers too. :)

Anyway, moving on to today’s post. In addition to getting back to regular posts, I just discovered this way cool weekly event called Top Ten Tuesdays hosted over at The Broke and Bookish. They post a book related question each Tuesday, and participants have the chance to come up with a list of 10 books that answer that question.

Sounds like fun. So although I don’t know how often I’ll participate, I thought it would be fun to do so today anyway. Today’s question is: Ten Books I'd Love to Read With My Book Club/If I Had A Book Club.

Interesting question for me, since for the first time ever in my life, I actually am a member of a book club. I found out in November that a group of ladies from my church do participate in a monthly book club and they invited me to join. Of course, that being said, most of the books we’ve read so far totally aren’t my thing. But since we take turns choosing books, this is actually something that I’ve thought about (for when my turn comes around).

When choosing a book for book club, I think it’s better to choose something that you’ve already read, since that way there’s no surprises content-wise that you can’t warn people about before they start the book. As a result, I’ve approached this question narrowing it down to books I’ve already read.

So here’s 10 books I’d like to read with my book club (in no particular order):

Austenland: A Novel by Shannon Hale - Normally I don’t like adult contemporary romance, but I picked this one up because it’s Shannon Hale and Jane Austen mixed together, what could go wrong? And I loved it. This is a book that everyone who I’ve ever passed it onto has liked. And the movie isn’t bad either, even though it doesn’t follow the book exactly.

The Host by Stephenie Meyer - Okay, I know full well I’m going to catch flack for this one because Stephenie Meyer has kind of become a cliché name due to the Twilight books. And yes, I enjoyed the Twilight books. Never a big fan of them, but they were fun to read the one time. However, I really liked her book The Host (her adult book) a lot more. But most of the people I talk to won’t give it a try because of how they feel about Twilight etc. So I wish more people would try this one so I could discuss it with them.

We Bought a Zoo - Also a cute movie. Although the movie is pretty much nothing like the book. The actual book is a non-fiction memoir about the opening of Dartmouth Zoological Park in England. It’s a little slow to start because there is a lot of background information to slog through before you get to the specific anecdotes about owning/refurbishing a zoo, which is why those I’ve shared it with have had a hard time with it in the past. But I love re-reading this one, because the stories are quite funny if you can get through the background information, and it’s wonderful to think that they all actually happened to someone somewhere. Definitely an escape book for me.

Agatha H. and the Airship City by Phil Foglio and Kaja Foglio - This one is a little weird, because I actually read the graphic novel version of it first. But knowing it might be hard to entice people to read graphic novels if they’re not used to it, there’s also a book version which pretty much follows the comic word for word. If you like steampunk, this is a great series for you. And a good introduction to the idea of steampunk if you’re not familiar with it already. I love the characters and the mystery of the whole plot of this series.

So here’s where I get into trouble. My book club is made up of adults, and although we have read one YA book since I’ve joined (Graceling by Kristin Cashore, which was excellent, by the way, and I don’t know why it took me so long to read it) but most of the books I read are YA ones. So the above four are my “adult” choices. But if I could, I would share these YA/Kid titles with my book club too.

Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede - This one lands firmly in the “kid” category, but it has been one of my favorite books since childhood. Who wouldn’t want to share one of their favorites with others? No brainier for this list.

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde - Fforde normal writes adult novels, so although this book is marketed as YA (probably because the main character is 16) I think it’s very translatable to adult readers. I love the inventiveness of the world created in this one, as well as the spunky main character, and I enjoyed the sequel a lot too. Hopefully I will be able to get my hands on the third one soon.

A World Without Heroes (Beyonders) by Brandon Mull - I love pretty much everything Brandon Mull does, but I think the Beyonders series grapples with more larger and complex issues than his Candy Shop War and Fablehaven series do. I’ve always been disappointed that this one is billed as middle grade level, as I really think it would appeal more to YA readers because of its complexity, and I think most teens won’t give it a chance because it’s usually shelved in the kids section. I think this one could spark lots of great discussion with a book club.

Heist Society by Ally Carter - Again, I love pretty much everything Ally Carter does, but Heist Society has a special place in my heart among her books. I don’t know why this particular one resonated with me so much, but it is another one of those books that everyone I recommend it to loves. I even got my brother to read it (and its two sequels) and he doesn’t read “girl books”. So that’s a success story right there.

A Long Way From Chicago by Richard Peck - I think this one is considered a “modern children’s classic”. I picked it up because it was required reading for my YA lit class in college. Even though it’s a relatively short children’s book, the merit of this one is definitely high. It’s a great collection of connected short stories about growing up during the years of the Great Depression. Seriously, if you haven’t read this one yet, you should.

Holes by Louis Sachar - If you haven’t read Holes yet, you need to. End of story. Yes, it’s a kid’s book, but it’s great anyway. Like Harry Potter. I’m serious, go read if you haven’t. Now.

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18. DreamWorks Producer Kristine Belson Named President of Sony Animation

Sony Pictures Animation has named Kristine Belson as the new president of its Sony Pictures Animation division.

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19. Interview: Rob Anderson Talks about the Procedure Behind ‘Creature Cops’

By Matt O’Keefe

Comics Experience, an online school for individuals who want to create and publish comics, has already been making waves in the industry as the birthplace of new talent like Morning Glories alum Nick Spencer and Strange Nation writer Paul Allor. Now CEX is branching into publishing, collaborating with IDW to deliver creator-owned comics made by some of its brightest students. I spoke to, Rob Anderson, whose miniseries Creature Cops will be be released through the imprint, about his road to Comics Experience and IDW and his interest in writing an animal-based procedural.

How did Creature Cops come together?
The origin of the idea came in two parts. The first part was around 2000, when I read a news story about a performance artist who convinced a French geneticist to create a “transgenic” rabbit by injecting a rabbit egg with jellyfish proteins. The resulting rabbit glowed green under certain light. Aside from this rabbit being used for some sort of “art statement,” it just seemed like this sort of thing would probably get out of control some day.

The second piece fell into place when I was volunteering at a local animal shelter. At some point, I started thinking about how hard an Animal Control Officer’s job can be, and I got interested in writing a story about them. And then it struck me how MUCH harder the job would be, if they were dealing with transgenic animals. When I took one of Andy Schmidt’s Comics Experience writing courses, I pitched it as my class project. I eventually produced that short story, and some other shorts, and got interested in doing a full miniseries. Luckily, I hooked up with artist Fernando Melek via the Internet through Stone Tower Studios and Lucas Urrutia. That was the final piece of it coming together as the mini-series you see today.

How did the feedback you received from peers at Comics Experience influence the series?
After that initial short story, I took Andy’s Advanced Comic Book Writing course. In that course, I outlined the whole series and wrote a draft of the first issue. It really helped me sharpen my focus on the characters and the setting. In fact, by the end of it, I scrapped the entire first issue, the outline, and much of the set-up–but not the characters–and started over. While I was receiving a lot of positive feedback, I could also see things that weren’t working, and I stepped back, focusing much more on the characters and their initial story arcs.

By the time I began posting the reworked mini-series on the Creators Workshop later, the basics were still there — the same characters, the animals, but the story was much tighter and focused.

You received feedback from a number of peers, but still had an editor in Paul Allor. What did he bring to the table?
Paul and I have collaborated on so many projects at this point. We met back around 2010, when the Creators Workshop was just founded. I’ve edited a lot of his work, he’s edited a lot of mine, and we’ve been a sounding board for each other on more projects than I could count at this point.

My general process is, I’d do what I considered a solid draft, then I’d wring it out on the Creators Workshop–ask folks to tear it apart and note every problem they had with it. I’d revise it on that basis, then bring in Paul, with his knives sharpened, to really tell me straight out what was working and what wasn’t. If I was having a hard time sorting out conflicting reactions by other readers — and my own instincts — I’d talk that through with him as well. I trust him to always tell me the brutal truth, and he expects the same from me. So, from major issues to the most minor technical thing, he was there to give a (trusted) outside opinion, to argue, to encourage, whenever I needed it. He’s an incredibly talented individual and it’s been a pleasure watching his career take off, from his creator-owned work on things like Strange Nation from Monkeybrain comics, to all his work-for-hire on things like TMNT and GI Joe. I can’t wait to read his own CE/IDW title, the war drama/love story TET!

A9763866 9BE2 49FD 80AC A4AA85E5DEAB 197x300 Interview: Rob Anderson Talks about the Procedure Behind Creature Cops

How did the opportunity arise to be published at IDW?
Creature Cops (along with TET) is being published as part of a new publishing alliance between the online educational company, Comics Experience and IDW Publishing. All the projects were developed in Comics Experience’s online community, the Creators Workshop. The new publishing alliance is focused on developing new talent, and CE founder Andy Schmidt was very familiar with Creature Cops, from the courses and the Workshop. When the publishing alliance was coming together, Andy asked me if I’d be interested in having Creature Cops as the first out of the gate, and I said “yes” immediately.

What interested you in doing a comic book procedural?
My interest really started with telling a story about Animal Control Officers, and the characters I had in my mind. Once you start thinking about telling a story about cops, then the idea of it being a procedural is a fairly natural progression. But my interest was driven more by the characters (human and animal), then in writing a procedural, per se. I don’t really think of Creature Cops as a pure procedural. There are procedural elements as they work one of the cases, but it’s more about the characters and the challenges they face.

CA8C3849 C442 4DB3 B8CF 09DAFE3E62F3 197x300 Interview: Rob Anderson Talks about the Procedure Behind Creature Cops

Why do you think procedurals are relatively uncommon in this medium?
I think it’s less that procedurals are uncommon and more that superheroes dominate. I’d argue MOST non-superhero genres are–relatively speaking–less common than superheroes, if you’re looking at market share. Having said that, I’ve been reading comic books since the 1970’s, and this is the best era I’ve seen for people who want to read a diversity of genres in a diversity of formats, from traditional comics in print or digital to things like webcomics.

But procedurals, specifically? They’re a sub-genre of crime, and crime comics are everywhere. Maybe procedurals are less common due to the challenges of pacing it in a comic book form. I approached Creature Cops a bit differently than other comics I’ve written, and I used multiple, interwoven storylines to a much greater extent, so I don’t think it just reads like a step-by-step recitation of an investigation.

One concern I’ve seen raised about procedurals-as-comics is a financial one. It costs nothing to watch and only $2 to own a 42-minute episode of a cop drama. A similar story told as a comic over three issues costs six times that. Is that a concern for you?
Creature Cops has been a labor of love from the beginning, so the economics of television drama versus comic books really didn’t factor into it at all for me. I just had a story I wanted to tell, and I hope folks enjoy it! If someone enjoy the medium of comics, and the story interests them, hopefully they’ll check it out, rather than focusing on some calculation related to TV shows.

8D7D4FAD 9487 448B 98EE FE4E60931DD5 197x300 Interview: Rob Anderson Talks about the Procedure Behind Creature Cops

Between this, Rex: Zombie Killer and your contributions to My Little Pony, the bulk of your comic book writing has featured animals as protagonists. Is that a niche that you think needs filling or is it more fueled by where your interests lie?
It’s definitely driven by my interests. From childhood to today, I’ve always loved animal stories in all media — from novels like Homeward Bound and Watership Down, to comic books like WE3, possibly my favorite comic book of all time. Even the original Planet of the Apes movies, which I was crazy for as a kid, featured talking animals, obviously.

Ironically, Creature Cops is probably the farthest from that, of what I’ve written. There’s no talking animals, and the main protagonists are the human officers, although there are some animals who are important characters as well… from the Panda Dog to the Horned Mastiff.

Obviously, procedurals are intended to go past the first whodunit. Do you have plans/hopes to continue Creature Cops after this initial miniseries?
I’d love to continue Creature Cops, if it’s sustainable in practical terms. From the creative side, all of the officers have pretty extensive backstories and lives, so there’s so much to explore. And I have a ton of case ideas, some influenced by real-life animal control issues, others purely from my imagination. It’s a hoot playing in this world, and I’d love to return to it someday.

What other projects are you working on right now?
I have a couple other projects in development, but nothing far enough along that I can discuss yet. However, I am looking at getting the Rex, Zombie Killer collection out as a trade paperback and digitally in the near future for anyone interested in checking out more of my work.

Creature Cops #1 (of 3) comes out from IDW Publishing tomorrow 1/28 at your local comic book shop and on ComiXology.

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20. Books I Won’t Read

Back in the distant past, about two or three months ago, someone commented on a book review about not reading books on certain topics and perhaps that might be something I could write about sometime. This being in the murky past, I have no recollection of who made the comment nor on what book review post it was made. I thought it was a great idea at the time but had so many other fascinating things to write about I never got around to it and soon forgot about it. Until this morning when I was dredging my brain for something to post about besides links to interesting articles. So tonight’s the night! Avoiding books because of subject matter.

I’m not talking about book genres here so there’s no, “I never read romance novels” or some kind of blanket thing like that. It’s more like, “I can’t read books with child murders in them.” There’s a difference, yes? My first thoughts were that there is absolutely nothing I wouldn’t read about. But of course, that’s not true. Nonetheless, I had a hard time with it because it is such an automatic response I am not even aware of it most of the time. And sometimes I might make exceptions for one reason or another.

This list then, I’m not sure how accurate it is. I might have left something off. But I can say that this is a list of topics/plots/things I tend avoid when reading:

  • Books about women whose main goal in life is to shop their way to happiness or find the perfect husband. I never read The Devil Wears Prada because I thought it was this sort of book. I never saw the movie either until this last fall after a coworker told me it was totally not what I thought. And she was right. I liked the movie quite a lot. I have no plans to read the book because it seems the movie covered it all and I didn’t like it that much.
  • Books that will give me nightmares. This is one of those “I know it when I see it” sorts of things. It’s usually a horror-type novel. I will never, for instance, read The Shining. But it’s not a blanket horror ban because I really liked Peter Straub’s Ghost Story. I can do psychological horror such as Shirley Jackson’s Haunting of Hill House. Loved that book. I guess it’s more of the graphic supernatural violence/horror that gives me problems. But not only that. It’s also the idea of a threat without having any kind of predictability. If there are rules like “don’t blink” I can handle it. But if it is random or unexplainable, no way will I go there. You are all welcome to psychoanalyze me now.
  • Books that are overtly misogynist and deliberately degrading and cruel to anyone, especially to women.
  • Books with dogs. These tend to fall into two categories. The worst are the emotionally manipulative smarmy ones. If it’s not one of those I still won’t read it because I will at some point during the book break down into a sobbing mess usually in the last chapter when the dog inevitably dies. My trauma around this began when I was in third grade and read Where the Red Fern Grows. Twice. And then the second time having my mom walk into my room when I was in the midst of a glorious sobfest and she was, briefly, very concerned and a bit scared about why I was crying. So perhaps it’s not about the dogs at all but a personal concern about scaring people who might find me sobbing. Because I do sometimes make an exception. However, while reading those exceptions when I come to the crying part I try really hard to make sure I’m alone.

There you have it, the books I will pass by if they are any of these things. I think I got them all but as soon as I push the “publish” button I will probably remember one I forgot. Or Bookman will read this and say, “and what about …?” That’s what updates and comments are for, right?

What about you? Are there topics or plots or other things you will not read?

Filed under: Books, Reading

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21. Book Review: The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer

Annihilation is the first volume in Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, Authority is the second, and Acceptance is the third. 
     Area X—a remote and lush terrain—has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer. 
     This is the twelfth expedition. 
     Their group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain and collect specimens; to record all their observations, scientific and otherwise, of their surroundings and of one another; and, above all, to avoid being contaminated by Area X itself. 
     They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them, and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another, that change everything. 
     After the disastrous twelfth expedition chronicled in Annihilation, the Southern Reach—the secret agency that monitors these expeditions—is in disarray. In Authority, John Rodriguez, aka “Control,” is the team’s newly appointed head. From a series of interrogations, a cache of hidden notes, and hours of profoundly troubling video footage, the secrets of Area X begin to reveal themselves—and what they expose pushes Control to confront disturbing truths about both himself and the agency he’s promised to serve. And the consequences will spread much further than that. 
     It is winter in Area X in Acceptance. A new team embarks across the border on a mission to find a member of a previous expedition who may have been left behind. As they press deeper into the unknown—navigating new terrain and new challenges—the threat to the outside world becomes more daunting. The mysteries of Area X may have been solved, but their consequences and implications are no less profound—or terrifying.
I know that's a super long description, but I wanted to include a bit of information about all three books and the only way to do that was to use the description from Area X, a collection of all three books.

It's not every day that you come across a work of genre fiction, especially science fiction, that's more focused on writing and characterization than it is on plot or action.  This one definitely succeeds in the quality of writing category and particularly in the area of character development.  I'd argue that the point of the books is not the crazy goings-on in Area X but how each character responds and changes as a result of his or her experiences.  I think it would also be very easy to make a case for Area X itself as a character, as opposed to just a setting.  Incredibly well done and a pleasure to read.

Entertainment Value
This, I think, is where things will be a little bit trickier and less amazing across the board.  I, personally, was thoroughly entertained by each book and found Annihilation and Acceptance particularly difficult to put down.  That said, I don't think that this is a series that will appeal to all science fiction fans or to all literary fiction fans.  Unlike the typical science fiction book, this one isn't as focused on action and plot movement, which may make for a slower read.  It also doesn't wrap every mystery up in a neat bow at the end - there are lots of unanswered questions.  In terms of literary fiction lovers, I think the complete weirdness may not appeal.  This series is absolutely bizarre, full of moments that will just completely jolt you and, for the reader who prefers realism, may cause a few too many eyebrow lifts.

That said, I found both the elements of literary fiction and science fiction to be perfectly combined into an absolutely engrossing series.  I wasn't bothered at all by the questions that remained at the end of the book - they've remained on my mind in the days after I finished Acceptance, which is always a good thing.  It's the kind of mystery that lead me to seek out other reviews and blogs covering the series to see how others interpreted the parts that aren't spelled out explicitly.  I love when an author can capture my interest that fully and then let my imagination do the work.  I also enjoyed the craziness of the plot itself and was absolutely enthralled with the world of Area X.

For me, this is the perfect combination of literary and genre fiction.  It had the elements that I love from literary fiction combined perfectly with the elements I love from science fiction.  The second book, Authority, read a bit slow for me, but it reflected what was happening at that point in the story.  I recommend this to those who can enjoy a crazy setting/plot with elements of the bizarre, but who also enjoy quality writing and don't need to have every question answered.

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22. Prince Charming’s 5 Proven Techniques for Finding Love

Manelle Oliphant Illustration - Illustrator and Writer

In my recent story, Cinderella’s Prince, you can read about one Prince Charming’s method for finding love. After I published the story Alabaster mentioned to me Cinderella’s Prince Charming used one of 5 usual methods for finding his love.  I was unaware there were “usual” ways these things were done but was interested in what Alabaster had to say. I imagine you are as well, especially if you are a prince looking for love. Alabaster graciously agreed to write another guest post for us. If you are interested in Alabaster’s other posts they are  5 Tips for Finding True Love and Become a Wicked Stepmother in 4 Easy Steps.

Let me introduce you to our guest blogger Alabaster Daisy.

Alabaster Daisy

Alabaster Daisy

Mrs. Alabaster Daisy has been studying the residents of the enchanted forest for some years now. She has a FTB (Fairy Tale Bachelors) in the Habits of the Fairy Tale World, and has been featured in Forest Fairy Daily sharing her expert tips on life in a magical land. This is her first post at manelleoliphat.com especially for the genlemen among us. Lets here what she has to say.


Prince Charming's 5 proven techniques for finding love. #cinderella #fairytale


Hello, you wonderful readers!

I’m so excited to share some of my insights on helping all you young Prince Charmings out there find the love you are looking for. If you’re not a prince you can try the techniques but I can’t promise they will work for you. If you are a prince, however, I guarantee one of these methods will bring you the love you seek!

These techniques are listed in no particular order. Each one has been proven successful, so pick the method you think is best for you, and it won’t be long until your dreams come true. (That sentence rhymes like a beautiful poem.)

Alabaster Daisy’s 5 Ways for Prince Charming to Find his True Love

1. Try kissing dead girls

Ok, she’s not really dead just under a sleeping curse. ;) Sleeping curses are famous for being broken by true love’s kiss. This has been a popular technique in the past, however, it’s fallen out of favor in recent years. Probably because it’s sometimes hard to tell if the young women in question is under a curse or actually dead. For some reason the idea of kissing corpses doesn’t appeal to most men. If you’re not faint of heart, however, your chances of finding a girl under a curse are greatly increased these days!

2. Explore a Tower

Beautiful maiden’s in fairy tale lands are famous for hanging out in towers. This could be a castle tower, but if you find a tower in the middle of the woods or other secluded area your chances are very good there is a princess inside. Many times she will be awake and waiting for you, but it’s also possible she could be under a sleeping curse. If the lady is awake you can often find her tower by listening to her lovely singing voice. Tower Maiden’s are one of the most convenient of the five ways to find your lady, but be aware of witches and conniving lady’s maids who will try to keep you from your goal.

3. Be cursed (especially into some kind of animal)

This advice may not appeal to you but, rest assured, given a little time it is %100 effective. When looking to be cursed it is best to be mean to a witch or other magical lady who isn’t fond of men. The nice thing about this method is once you are cursed your work is pretty much done. Your true love will break your curse by falling for you even in your deformed, ugly or disgusting state. Popular animal curses are frogs and bears but I’m sure if were turned into a mongoose or kangaroo you would still be able to find success with this method.

4. Rely on objects to find her

Prince Charming’s the world over have been using this method for generations. There is a %52 chance your royal parents found each other this way.  The most popular objects for finding true love are shoes and rings, but you can use anything this as long as it fit your lady perfectly at some point. Some experts argue this method is unreliable since a shoe or a ring may or may not be enchanted, and could fit on any number of lady’s feet or fingers. Bah! I think the success of the technique speaks for itself.

5. listen to your cat

This method is less popular but like our third technique it has a %100 success rate. It’s also the only method that works if you are a peasant. I personally know of two princes who have not only found their true love by following advice from their cats, but also got their kingdoms this way. This method is different from the others in another way. There are no substitutions. It seems it only works with cats. Men have tried following the advice of pet dogs, birds, and even turtles but they haven’t had success. It’s actually rather dangerous to try with *animals other than our cunning feline friends.


Well you handsome princes you, I hope you find this advice useful! Don’t hesitate to contact me by mirror if you have any questions. I’d love to meet your lady loves and hear your success stories as well! Helping people is such a joy! Until next time.

Alabaster Daisy!


*Prince Ronaldst Rington Charming tried following the advice of his dog Wilbur and ended up playing fetch for 197 years. It’s a world fetch playing record that’s never been broken. Ronaldst did gain much fame and fortune from his exploits but his body, except for his throwing arm, was too weakened after it was over to be attractive to the ladies. He died a bachelor.

The post Prince Charming’s 5 Proven Techniques for Finding Love appeared first on Manelle Oliphant Illustration.

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23. Loki & Mighty Avengers Meet Their Last Days

By Davey Nieves

Marvel not one to let irons cool announced on CBR and Comicbooked that two more books would join Magneto on the Last Days list of possible casualties during Secret Wars. Loki: Agent of Asgard and Captain America & The Mighty Avengers will both see issues under the Last Days tie-in banner. Both books will be written by current series scribe Al Ewing and he had cautious excitement over both.

MightyAvengers LastDays Loki & Mighty Avengers Meet Their Last Days

Mighty Avengers will be a two-part story about Cap Falcon’s Avengers squad dealing with the upcoming cataclysm on a global scale. Ewing didn’t give many story details but did offer two interesting tidbits about it. This story, which buttresses the events of the current Time Runs Out arc in the Avengers books, will pick up right where it leaves off and return the team to a positon of being “Avengers for the people.” To play on this, Ewing will tell the events of the Mighty Avengers final moments through the eyes of as he put it, “most unexpected Mighty Avenger of all – you! The person reading this!” When asked who he would choose to write for his dream team, Ewing jokingly offered a list of some heavyweight non-Marvel characters: Doctor Who, Acroyear, , Zoidzilla, ROM, Pinsor, Bill S Preston Esquire, Indiana Jones, Ren Hoek and Superman.


Loki14 677x1028 Loki & Mighty Avengers Meet Their Last Days

Loki: Agent of Asgard also joins the impending doom of Last Days. May’s Agent of Asgard #14 kicks off a four part arc chronicling how the cast will spend the final hours of the current Marvel universe. With issues 11-13 focusing on the repercussions of Loki killing his child incarnation in the form of a trial; issue 14 will start a pressed countdown through the remanning moments of the world as they know it. Ewing did mention we’ll see the ramifications both in Asgard and on earth through Loki’s friend Verity Willis. What’s most exciting about this tie-in is how eclectic the series has been thus far, which sets it up to end its place in the current Marvel U with both a bang and a whimper.

When asked about the finality a suggestive banner like LastDays has, Ewing would neither confirm nor deny anything. All of the writers orbiting Secret Wars aren’t taking being on the ship at the end of the Marvel Universe lightly, as Ewing would put it “I suppose part of me is always wondering what I’d do if I was given the brief of “this is the final story of so-and-so”… well, now that moment is here! In the present day! And it turns out this is the story I’d do.” With Loki and the Mighty Avengers squad joining Magneto on the possible hit list, it remains to be seen who in the Marvel universe will be left to draw arms in Secret Wars.

Despite living in the age of the hype machine, it appears Marvel still know how to make the wait for May feel that much longer. Who else do you think will have their Last Days numbered?

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24. Nick’s Upcoming ‘Bad Seeds’ Renamed ‘Harvey Beaks!’

"Bad Seeds," the upcoming series by "Chowder" creator C.H. Greenblatt, has been renamed "Harvey Beaks!"

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25. Another #dog #character #pencil #sketch. It must time for a...

0 Comments on Another #dog #character #pencil #sketch. It must time for a... as of 1/27/2015 6:09:00 PM
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