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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Reviews, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 4,681
1. Review: Effigy #1 Burns Bright

By Davey Nieves

EFFIGY #1

Effigy 2015 001 000 195x300 Review: Effigy #1 Burns Bright

 

Story: Tim Seeley

Art: Marley Zarcone

Colors: Ryan Hill

Letters: Jared K. Fletcher

Publisher: Vertigo

 

 

Gloomy, hard-hitting, make no apologies stories have been the status quo for fans who pick up any Vertigo book. After all this is the line that gave us The Sandman, Y: The Last Man, and The Wake.  Effigy by Tim Seeley (Hack/Slash)and Marley Zarcone may only get two out of the three, but this book is a rare occurrence where that’s actually what makes it a must read.

Writer Tim Seeley crafts a story about unhealthy obsessions that feels like it could only be told in this day in age given how many cautionary tales childhood actors have turned into. Effigy follows Chondra Jackson, a once bubbly star of a futuristic kids-as-cops series called Star Cops who after a downward spiral of typecasting and an ill-advised sex tape bottoms out into the life of a far less glamorous small-town cop. The night-and-day portrayal of Chondra captures her disconnect prom prominence exquisitely. This first issue doesn’t read so much as a behind the music type story, but more of a caution as to what the world around you can become when live most of your life in the clouds then have to deal with crashing towards reality. As she goes from being a glorified meter maid to a true detective we’ll see the high price of fame take it’s toll on those close to her and complete strangers who probably want to love her to death… literally.

Marley Zarcone’s art starts strong with so much energy in telling the back story of Star Cops. Then by design it settles into a more rural style. While not quite as energetic, it plays into creating a dichotomy of Chondra’s two lives. At first glance Ryan Hill’s colors seem like such a basic job, but when you see the panels containing more visual effects; it actually works in better highlighting these moments. The art does more than just add to Chondra’s already engaging story, it buttresses the –child-star to messed up adult– dark tunnel the audience is going to be taken through.

In a week where you couldn’t throw a rock without hitting a good comic, Effigy carves out a noticeable place for itself and on your pull list. Issue one sets up a world of glamour, ritual murder, and mystery that could lead to this series being one of Vertigo’s best 2015 books.


Dave has never been a child star but had a childhood crush on Winnie Cooper and Stephanie Tanner here more about it @bouncingsoul217

0 Comments on Review: Effigy #1 Burns Bright as of 1/30/2015 1:11:00 AM
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2. Review: Effigy #1 Burns Bright

By Davey Nieves

EFFIGY #1

Effigy 2015 001 000 195x300 Review: Effigy #1 Burns Bright

 

Story: Tim Seeley

Art: Marley Zarcone

Colors: Ryan Hill

Letters: Jared K. Fletcher

Publisher: Vertigo

 

 

Gloomy, hard-hitting, make no apologies stories have been the status quo for fans who pick up any Vertigo book. After all this is the line that gave us The Sandman, Y: The Last Man, and The Wake.  Effigy by Tim Seeley (Hack/Slash)and Marley Zarcone may only get two out of the three, but this book is a rare occurrence where that’s actually what makes it a must read.

Writer Tim Seeley crafts a story about unhealthy obsessions that feels like it could only be told in this day in age given how many cautionary tales childhood actors have turned into. Effigy follows Chondra Jackson, a once bubbly star of a futuristic kids-as-cops series called Star Cops who after a downward spiral of typecasting and an ill-advised sex tape bottoms out into the life of a far less glamorous small-town cop. The night-and-day portrayal of Chondra captures her disconnect prom prominence exquisitely. This first issue doesn’t read so much as a behind the music type story, but more of a caution as to what the world around you can become when live most of your life in the clouds then have to deal with crashing towards reality. As she goes from being a glorified meter maid to a true detective we’ll see the high price of fame take it’s toll on those close to her and complete strangers who probably want to love her to death… literally.

Marley Zarcone’s art starts strong with so much energy in telling the back story of Star Cops. Then by design it settles into a more rural style. While not quite as energetic, it plays into creating a dichotomy of Chondra’s two lives. At first glance Ryan Hill’s colors seem like such a basic job, but when you see the panels containing more visual effects; it actually works in better highlighting these moments. The art does more than just add to Chondra’s already engaging story, it buttresses the –child-star to messed up adult– dark tunnel the audience is going to be taken through.

In a week where you couldn’t throw a rock without hitting a good comic, Effigy carves out a noticeable place for itself and on your pull list. Issue one sets up a world of glamour, ritual murder, and mystery that could lead to this series being one of Vertigo’s best 2015 books.


Dave has never been a child star but had a childhood crush on Winnie Cooper and Stephanie Tanner here more about it @bouncingsoul217

1 Comments on Review: Effigy #1 Burns Bright, last added: 2/1/2015
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3. Review: Casanova Acedia #1 Mo’ Memories Mo’ Problems

By: Lindsey Morris

casanova 195x300 Review: Casanova Acedia #1 Mo Memories Mo Problems

   Story: Matt Fraction

   Art: Fábio Moon

   Colors: Cris Peter

   Letters: Dustin Harbin

   Publisher: Image Comics

HARK! A new volume of Casanova has begun – the first since 2012 – and with it comes the promise of another harrowing adventure steeped in espionage, intrigue, and boobies from writer Matt Fraction and artist Fábio Moon.

Casanova Quinn (Quentin Cassiday) has been kicking around the comics world since 2006, when he hit the scene as a freelance jack-of-all-trades for any discerning client and/or worldwide spy organization. Since then he has been gainfully employed across timelines and dimensions, doing various jobs for his father’s E.M.P.I.R.E., as well as other things I’m not exactly equipped to explain because come on, this timeline is nuts.

At the beginning of this iteration, Cass is a man with no past and nothing to lose. A stroke of luck finds him employed with an older man in a similar position – acute amnesia. The rest of the story unfolds accordingly, as they hatch a plan to find out all they can about each other. For all of its separation from previous issues, this installment still finds itself planted firmly in the footing of its predecessors. The years since the last volume have apparently had no effect on the creative team, who continue to crank out work that blends seamlessly with the universe they’ve created, while also maintaining enough distance for the new story to grow.

In Acedia #1, the gorgeous pages by Moon come to the forefront of the story immediately. Cass is deranged, covered in blood and stumbling through the streets of Hollywood, California. Lit up in blues and oranges by colorist Cris Peter, this balance of warm and cool colors remains throughout the story, creating a surreal reading experience, and evoking a surprising breadth of moods.

Moon’s art is singular, blending thick and chunky linework into thin silhouettes and shapes that somehow remain elegant and defined, rather than bulky and dull. His style vacillates between great economy of line and incredible detail – always unafraid of using thick swathes of black ink wherever he deems appropriate, and to great success. The backgrounds are natural, replete with the imperfect lines that suggest the absence of a ruler, and perfectly matched to the figures in the foreground.

Character designs remain on point, especially those of the “Grey Men.” A garish pairing of geometric head-pieces and pinstripe suits, the pages with these figures stand out as some of the best in the issue. The fight between Cass and these characters is fast-paced, dynamic, and unforgiving. Rounding out the story is the final panel – an amalgamation of everything listed above. Copious black, varied line widths, and dry brush work together to create an ominous display of what’s to come.

As far as the writing goes, Fraction uses the bulk of the pages to set up the story between Cass and his employer. There are still all the trappings of a Casanova comic – dry humor, sexy encounters, ill-advised “plays on words,” etc. -  and they work as well as ever. A quote by French poet Guillame Apollinaire adds some literary levity to an otherwise straight-forward scene. So, you know, classic Fraction.

Making Acedia even more of a winner, though, is the back-up story featured at the end of the issue. Written by Michael Chabon and drawn by Gabriel Bá, The Metanauts promises to be the perfect accompaniment to its sister-story. Using the same outline as the main storyline, this short features characters both new and old, including a delightfully cynical rock journalist to whom every band is “a bunch of trumped-up corporate bullshit.”

Casanova continues to carve out its path in the comics world, holding steady to the formula that the creative team has been employing for years. “The rules are simple. The gun is always loaded. The safety is always off. The fucker always fires.”

1 Comments on Review: Casanova Acedia #1 Mo’ Memories Mo’ Problems, last added: 1/29/2015
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4. Review: Quantum & Woody Must Die But Not Just Yet

By Davey Nieves

Quantum & Woody Must Die #1
QWMD 001 COVER HAWTHORNE 195x300 Review: Quantum & Woody Must Die But Not Just Yet

Story : James Asmus (Gambit, Thief of Thieves)

Art: Steve Lieber (Hawkman, Whiteout)

Color: Dave McCaig

Letters: Dave Lanphear

Publisher: Valiant

 

 

 

 

Full disclosure, while I’ve read and enjoyed many of the relaunched Valiant titles like Bloodshot and Harbinger, however I never got around to reading the first Quantum and Woody series. Now curiosity has won me over and I decided to dive right in starting with Quantum and Woody Must Die #1. After belly flopping in the pool I can say Peter Venkman put it best in this classic line “ I’ve worked with better, but not many.”

Quantum and Woody is a weird book but then again that’s what you get when you have two brothers who don’t resemble each other in the least, whose father was downloaded into a goat. The duo also each has a power that complements the other. Woody shoots energy blast from his fingertips while Quantum has the ability to generate force fields. As if this story didn’t need any more stipulations, bracelets they must clang together once every 24hrs or they’ll die also bind them to each other. What truly makes them unique is the under the surface stuff a writer like James Asmus brings out in these characters.

In the opening of the series, readers are eased into their world as the pair seemingly puts a halt to an armored car heist by a team of rough-and-tumble females. This is really the beginning of something bigger as a sinister power-harvesting plot is revealed. Much to the apropos of the characters, they stumble upon the corporation carrying out this plan and destruction ensues.

The best parts of the book have very little to do with the action or the overall plot. Quantum and Woody’s strength is in exposing their faults, which Asmus does by letting us see the pair in a therapy session. Even a visit to a veterinarian becomes this funny segment like something out of morning radio. Maybe I’m just a sucker for the N.W.A references and racial humor in the book but I’m willing to bet I won’t be the only one. A big plus for Q&W newbies like myself or if you’re looking for something new to read; this first issue is very accessible to their world. Even the banter between the brothers never feels like too much of an inside joke.

Steve Lieber’s art seems right for a book like this but sort of feels as though it misses the mark a bit. Just flipping through the pages you can see the Allred like influence on the style, but the necessary blend of zany and lucid never balances enough. This series is meant to be strange and should take more chances with that license going forward and I fully expect that to happen with a Kubert school guy like Lieber on art duties. I’d be amiss if I didn’t mention something that really stuck out in the issue. Dave Lanphear’s lettering is standout in the book. Title cards, onomatopoeia, and presentation all function in carrying the narrative along smoothly. While lettering is vital to every comic book, it doesn’t always stand out like in Q&W.

Even with the hiccups, there’s more to enjoy than hate here. Quantum and Woody Must Die #1 is best described as an odd couple written by Arthur Conan Doyle on speed and it has me strongly considering adding it to my own pull list.


 

Follow Dave on twitter @bouncingsoul217 as he spouts random ideas for new businesses.  

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5. Review: Munchkin#1. Fun Game, Fun Comic

By Davey Nieves

Munchkin #1
Munchkin 001 coverA 195x300 Review: Munchkin#1. Fun Game, Fun Comic

Writers: Jim Zub, Tom Siddell, John Kovalic

Illustrators: Mike Holmes, Rian Sygh, John Kovalic

Colors: Fred Stresing

Letters: Jim Campbell

Publisher: BOOM! Box

 

The world of table top card games is a universe in and of itself. Much like exploring space you have to be willing to come into contact with any life forms you discover. My sea crab nature prevents me from doing so but I can appreciate the cunning and strategy involved in crafting a game like D&D, Magic The Gathering, or Cards Against Humanity. Apparently I’m not the only one; BOOM! Studios BOOM! Box imprint decided to do a comic book series based on the popular card game Munchkin.

Originally a satire of fantasy roleplaying, the game has since taken on non-fantasy and non-gaming elements, and the new comic series is a direct reflection of that. For anyone that’s never played Munchkin; the game is more of a parody take on card gaming, only with a purpose. Kick open the door. Kill the monster. Steal the treasure. Screw over everybody you come in contact with. Welcome to the quirky world of Munchkin. The book features four stories set in and around the world of the game, featuring Spyke, Flower, and all the other characters, monsters, and settings players have come to love.

Let’s just talk about the best and worst of the stories found in this first issue, because there’s a fit for each. Jim Zub writes a great six page story dealing with one of the game’s most prominent themes, betrayal. One experienced character seemingly guides a noob through a dungeon as he’s simply trying to level up. The jokes in the story are sharp enough that you’ll ignore the “saw that one coming” ending. Tom Siddell’s “Humans Got No Class” story definitely lacks the punch that the others in the book capture. The story is about a group of players trying to lure their friend into joining the game only for the rug to be pulled out from under them. While it has its own charm, the punchline of the story just doesn’t make you laugh as much as the other tales did. Tom also writes a three page opening called “What is a Munchkin?” that’s hilarious.

Munchkin 001 PRESS 9 195x300 Review: Munchkin#1. Fun Game, Fun Comic

 

For a book that has three different artist; the style feels universal and not one bit out of place in this cover to cover satire on gaming tropes. Mike Holmes, Rian Sygh, and John Kovalic each illustrate a story (sometimes two) and each capture necessary whimsy the sight gags need to keep the readers attention. While Rian’s work is probably the smoothest of the three none ever feel foreign compared to the others.

Overall Munchkin is a fun read for fans and non-fans alike, but any lasting appeal will only land with hardcore fans. Bonus, there’s even an exclusive Up A Level card for players that ships with the first print of every issue. BOOM! Box knows who they’re selling this book to and have designed it that way. If you already know and enjoy the world of Munchkin go pick this up.

 


If you remember the word munchkin as something uncle Jesse called Michelle on Full House then follow Dave on twitter@bouncingsoul217

 

0 Comments on Review: Munchkin#1. Fun Game, Fun Comic as of 1/28/2015 5:53:00 PM
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6. Review: The Dying & The Dead Confounds and Amazes With Dense First Issue

by Zachary Clemente

TheDyingandDead 01 1 Review: The Dying & The Dead Confounds and Amazes With Dense First Issue

Writer: Jonathan Hickman

Artist: Ryan Bodenheim

Colors: Michael Garland

Letters: Rus Wooton

Publisher: Image Comics

 
 
 
 
 

Leave it to a project helmed by Jonathan Hickman (East of WestManhattan ProjectsThe Nightly News) to be impeccably designed. The first issue of The Dying & The Dead brings together long-time collaborator Ryan Bodenheim as artist, colorist Michael Garland from Hickman and Bodenheim’s most recent Image series Secret, and lettering duties by Rus Wooton who currently works on both East of West and Manhattan Projects for a whopping 60-page issue; and the sheer amount of information conveyed is akin to a freight train dropping from the sky at terminal velocity. In a good way, I assure you.

Screen Shot 2015 01 27 at 9.45.36 PM Review: The Dying & The Dead Confounds and Amazes With Dense First Issue

Something I’ve always loved about Hickman’s stories is the extraordinary depth of interconnectedness represented in his work; there’s an undying theme that plays out in iterations, each a microcosm of the previous. This is very present in the first issue of The Dying & The Dead as context and story filter together through different points of view with tiered indicators of how far you’ve plumbed. Each story beat is accompanied by a new setting complete with new a new color set, each reflecting on the past, present, and future both in the narrative as well as what the reader has seen, is seeing, and will see. Despite this, I never really felt lost in way I was uncomfortable with – an important distinction I need to make. These first 60 pages gave us at least 5 locations, a dozen characters to track; each with hints of their own sprawling allegiances and feuds. With the wrong team, this would be a massively unpleasant hot mess, thankfully everyone on the book appears to be more than up to the task.

I want to delve into the colors of the book; as it’s a trend I noticed in Secret, but found less narratively successful than in The Dying & The Dead. This very well may be because it was initially a stylistic choice on part of Garland born from Hickman’s own proclivities and design background and with how well it works with Bodenheim’s strong character lines; but this time around it plays an indispensable role with how characters represent their part of the story and their connection to each other. Each “chapter” of the issue utilizes only 2 or 3 colors, leaning heavily into the representations achieved by contrast, saturation, and highlighting. I’d gander that with a normal coloring technique – this book would be considerably harder to follow and ultimately less successful.

Screen Shot 2015 01 27 at 9.29.10 PM Review: The Dying & The Dead Confounds and Amazes With Dense First Issue

Here’s the thing about this issue in relation to Hickman’s other work, especially that of his other Image titles; it doesn’t feel too big for its britches. Hear me out, that’s not meant to sound like a criticism, it’s actually kind of a compliment. Perhaps this is because of the more than double-sized nature of the issue, but it feels more comprehensive and that makes the overall scope feel smaller than one of his usual titles. I personally find this a great thing, especially as someone who sometimes has trouble getting friends interested in books. His worlds are huge and heavily mired with realistic linkages that affect the fascinating and varied characters in ways that, if not mirror, properly represent the way it seems to happen in reality.

It doesn’t feel like a huge leap, which is something I’m mostly thankful for as a huge leap from the likes of this team would probably be something akin to a new method of delivering single issues to readers by shooting them from the Moon. What it does feel like is a spectacularly crafted beginning to a promising series that will nestle very comfortably in the part of the brain slowing being re-written to fully appreciate Hickman’s work. The more that comes out, the more we’ll understand; just the way it was planned all along.

1 Comments on Review: The Dying & The Dead Confounds and Amazes With Dense First Issue, last added: 1/28/2015
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7. How I Use Reviews To Improve My Craft - A WOW-Wednesday Post by Mary Waibel

Today I have the pleasure of presenting a writer who knows how to multitask. Besides being a talented, multi-published author, Mary Waibel is also my editor at BookFish Books. She's got a sharp eye for story and an even keener sense of how to improve your craft. Maybe some of that she learned from reading reviews!

How I Use Reviews To Improve My Craft -- A WOW-Wednesday Post by Mary Waibel




Today I’m talking about the dreaded “R” word. Reviews. They have the power to send an author’s spirits soaring into the atmosphere or plummeting to the depths of the earth. Good, bad, or ugly, reviews are needed to help generate buzz about our writing.

I read my reviews. All of them. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Why? Well, of course I read the good ones because they reaffirm that a reader liked what I wrote.

Why read the bad ones?

I believe reading is subjective, and no matter how much I work on my craft, there will be people who do not like what I write. But, if they took the time to tell me why they didn’t like what I wrote, I feel I owe it to them as a reader to listen to what they had to say and see if I need to make a change in what I’m doing as an author.

Not all reviews are equal. One or two star ratings accompanied by review that say, “I didn’t like it” or “this just wasn’t for me” may sting, but they really do nothing to educate you as an author about why the reader didn’t like your book. These reviews, IMHO, should be glanced at and set aside.

Reviews that say things like, “the writing was formulaic,” “I figured out the villain the moment they stepped on page,” or “too many clichés” are ones you should read, set aside and let the sting fade away, then go back and re-read, listening to what this reader is trying to tell you.
  • Did you follow a formula? If so, why? If you were writing this book again, would you do the same thing, or would you do something different? 
  • Did you introduce any red herrings or was it not important that your reader discover the villain right away? 
  • Could you have made a twist on the clichés you chose to use? Or, did you really need them in the first place?

You might find you disagree with the reviewer, and that’s fine. Look at your work with their comments in mind, fix what you think you need to, and move on.

It’s okay if you don’t read your reviews. Or if you have someone screen them for you. But, I hope you might consider looking at reviews as a way to improve your craft.

About the Author:



YA author Mary Waibel’s love for fairytales and happy-ever-afters fill the pages of her works. Whether penning stories in a medieval setting or a modern day school, magic and romance weave their way inside every tale. Strong female characters use both brain and brawn to save the day and win the heart of their men. Mary enjoys connecting with her readers through her website: marywaibel.blogspot.com

Website | Twitter | Goodreads




About the Book:


http://www.amazon.com/Faery-Marked-Book-1-ebook/dp/B00PWQA9ZS/
 When Callie Rycroft wakes to find purple flames flickering on the ceiling, she believes she’s still dreaming. But soon she’s forced to accept that she has magic―a special magic that grants her entrance into the Faery Realm.

For centuries humans have been banned from Faery, but dangerous times call for dangerous measures. Declared Champion by the Faery Queen, Callie is assigned a Guardian, and tasked with finding the Cordial―a magical elixir needed to keep the portal to the Faery realm a secret from humans.

The upside? Reece Michaels, the boy she's been crushing on for years, is her Guardian. Callie hopes that by spending time with Reece, he'll start to see her as more than just his best friend's sister.

The downside? She's in a race not only against time, but against another Champion, and a rogue Guardian―a Guardian who stands to threaten her developing relationship with Reece.

Magic, mistaken identities, and hidden agendas are the least of Callie's worries when she learns that the Cordial requires a sacrifice. Will Callie be willing to risk everything―even Reece―to complete her task as Champion? Or will she let the portal open, and doom both realms?


Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Goodreads


-- Happy Writing!
    S.P. Sipal, @HP4Writers

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8. Review: Ida M. tarbell

Ida M. Tarbell: The Woman Who Challenged Big Business--and Won! by Emily Arnold McCully. Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2014. Library copy.

It's About: Ida M. Tarbell, born in 1857, who became one of the first American journalist and also helped found investigative journalism. Her noteworthy articles included a biography of Abraham Lincoln, and an expose of John D. Rockefeller and his company, Standard Oil Trust.

The Good: I really enjoyed learning about Ida M. Tarbell, whose name seemed vaguely familiar from history class.

I was impressed with Ida's many accomplishments and the things she did -- starting with her love of the sciences, attending a co-educational college, her start in journalism, traveling to Paris, freelancing, and then joining the staff of McClure's Magazine, where she wrote her most memorable articles.

One of the things that struck me is how matter of fact it was, how "of course this is what Ida is going to do" it was. While Ida was a pioneer, her story is also a reminder that her life, while not typical of the time, was also just that -- her life. She, with other women, did go to college. She, as others did, created a career, lived away from her family, traveled to Paris, working, having her own home.

I confess: that part of Ida's life, the pre-McClure part, fascinated me the most. I wanted to know more about those things, and those people in her life.

Of course, then, there is Ida's actual journalism, a career she came to sort of sideways. She began loving science, thought she'd be a teacher, and found herself working as an editor at a magazine. It wasn't until her early thirties and her trip to Paris that her work as a journalist really began. So, you can see all the reasons I kept turning the pages -- here, a women in the nineteenth century, having multiple careers. Pursuing her dreams. Living her life on her terms.

One cannot make generalizations about people: for all of Ida's accomplishments, which resulted from drive and determination, she had what seems to be mixed feelings about women's suffrage and equality. McCully explores this area in detail, noting that Ida's being against women getting the vote is probably one of the reasons she is a bit forgotten. What struck me was how modern, actually, Ida's beliefs were: I could easily imagine her in the present, being someone explaining how she didn't need feminism and wasn't a feminist because look at what she accomplished, on her own, and if she did it anyone can so stop with the feminism already.

I would like to learn more about Ida, and her life -- always a good sign in a biography, being left wanting more! I wonder if the things I want to know more about are things that McCully didn't cover because of length (this is a long, detailed biography) or if it's because there aren't the source documentation to answer the questions. For example, I wanted to know more about Ida's unnamed roommates during her 20 but imagine that was left out because of space. I also was curious as to Ida's relationships with her family and those family dynamics. Ida loved her father dearly, and ended up being the main provider to her mother, sister, brother, and brother's family. And yet certain things here left me asking for more and wondering things like whether her father was as wonderful as she painted him, for example. Is that not explored more because of space? Or because there is very little surviving from that time that would fill in the gaps about Ida's family?

Being left with questions, wanting more -- excellent. Learning more about Ida M. Tarbell, and also about what it was like for a woman pursuing a career over a hundred years ago? Even better. I'm so happy that this is a finalist for the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award! I read it because it was a finalist, and I'll be chatting it up because it's a finalist.




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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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9. Review: Gotham Academy #4 Just Schooled You Son

By Davey Nieves

Gotham Academy #4

STK659751 198x300 Review: Gotham Academy #4 Just Schooled You Son

Story: Brenden Fletcher, Becky Cloonan

Art: Karl Kerschl

Color: Msassyk, Serge LaPointe

Letters: Steve Wands

Publisher: DC Comics

 

Written by Becky Cloonan(DEMO, Killjoys) and Brenden Fletcher(Batgirl, Assassin’s Creed), Gotham Academy #4 continues its mystery as young Olive Silverlock uncovers the ghost of the north hall. The academy itself is much like Gotham City, written with an atmosphere that makes it feel living but never outshines the characters. Along the way Olive’s relationship with her ex-boyfriend Kyle continues to reach a breaking point as a possible new interest literally catches her. It’s not just her love life that’s bending. Like any young girl, Olive finds fitting in has challenges of its own. In this issue her self-esteem will be tested as she stumbles upon gossip she might not be ready to deal with.  Readers are enticed with more details as to Silverlock’s forgotten summer and the burning question of what happened to her mother.  These pages flow so well together that once you hit the end of the book it feels like a crime not to dive right in to the next issue. One of the very few minuscule problems I’ve had with the series is the way issues leave readers on a cliffhanger but subsequently pick up moments after it in the next chapter. Hopefully with the major punch this issue ends on that won’t be the case for issue five.

While the book is a rich ensemble full of unique voices from Olive’s sister figure the spunky young Maps all the way through to Headmaster; issue four is more Olive’s book as you really see her three sides. Who she is among friends, who she is to herself, and the part of her she doesn’t know. Moments in the book like her confrontation with the “ghost” of Jane Cobblepot illustrate it best.

Gotham Academy is consistently a pretty book. It plays with a Manga influence that in most other American titles would be a deterrent. Karl Kerschl’s (Majestic, Teen Titans) line work is the first part of this recipe. Where a lot of Manga-style books stumble is in the framing of their shots. Kerschl’s work doesn’t suffer from that one bit as everything feels like a natural camera position. When you add the colors of MSASSYK and Serge LaPointe it makes the page vibrant in a way few books are. The end result feels like a hybrid of Anime, cinema, and emotional Disney animation.

The series isn’t without imperfections of its own, since the first issue there’s a stumble that merely tugs on you in the way a fly tugs on an elephant. It probably only knows it’s there but doesn’t really ruin their day.  Gotham Academy has so many moving parts that some thing feels as though it falls by the waste side when I’ve seen it. Bruce Wayne’s brief appearances; they almost feel shoehorned in. Granted the book is only in the orbit of the Batman universe by association, but that means the series should get to a point where it only needs Bat appearances when absolutely necessary. It’s a minor complaint that does little to hinder the enjoyment overall, but you know… internets.

Growing up in the 90’s, for me it was all about: Batman: The Animated SeriesPepsi, and the band Rancid. Perhaps what stood out to me most about TAS was how much I cared about the players who weren’t Batman. Two-Face, Leslie Thompkins, one and done Charlie Collins, even Gotham City itself were all stories I invested in. As of late, Bat group editor Mark Doyle has added books to the bat-ecosystem that have captured a similar type of magic previously only on Fox Kids programing. Gotham Academy has been an underrated prime example of it. Issue four continues its unfolding of the institution’s connection to Gotham’s lore through the lens of adolescence.

Ultimately, Gotham Academy is a niche audience book that outstretches its boundaries by being energetic and refreshing. While its Young Adult nature might not appeal to the hardcore superhero crowd; there’s a good story about a troubled girl trying to find herself, which in a way makes her relatable to millions of people out there. If the Gotham Academy team is a band, then issue number four is their Let’s Go. What’s scary and exciting about that is the possibility that issue five could be their And Out Come The Wolves. For the non-punk rock fans out there, what that boils down to is Gotham Academy #4 figures out the strengths of the series. Issue five could be where everything fires on all cylinders and I have no doubts that it will be a book I can enjoy being a 72yr old man and then pass on to my adolescent niece. In short the definition of all age storytelling.


If words like Gretzky, Clutch, Zayn, and Archie are in your vocabulary then feel free to follow and unburden your anger at Dave on twitter @bouncingsoul217

 

1 Comments on Review: Gotham Academy #4 Just Schooled You Son, last added: 1/28/2015
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10. Review of A Fine Dessert

jenkins_fine dessertA Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat
by Emily Jenkins; illus. by Sophie Blackall
Primary   Schwartz & Wade/Random   40 pp.
1/15   978-0-375-86832-0   $17.99
Library ed. 978-0-375-96832-7   $20.99   g
e-book ed. 978-0-375-98771-7   $10.99

In four vignettes, set a hundred years apart from each other, parents and children make delicious blackberry fool from blackberries, cream, and sugar: quintessentially simple. Still, the cream must be whipped, with a different tool each time — a laborious twenty minutes with a bunch of twigs in 1710 Lyme, England; just two minutes with an electric mixer in 2010 San Diego. Early cooks pick berries; now, they may come packaged from afar — but the work of sieving them hasn’t changed much. Each setting has its kitchen practices, cooks, and meals: in 1810 Charleston, South Carolina, an enslaved woman and her daughter get only bowl lickings, while the master and his family are served the dessert; the San Diego dad and his son host a potluck for a diverse group of friends. Blackall’s art, as decorative as it is informative, features lovely (if unrealistic) calligraphic berry bush tendrils to counterpoint her cheery, wholesome figures; a subdued palette of historical tans is warmed with spots of green and pink, blossoming into brighter hues in the California present. It all adds up to a thought-provoking sample of how the techniques involved in a simple task have changed over time; and how people, and food, have stayed much the same, making this an effective introduction to the very idea of history. Recipe, sources, and historical notes from both author (pointing up such changes as following recipes and pasteurization) and illustrator (searching questions on the lives of slaves, her careful decisions on dress, and the engaging information that the mottled endpapers were colored with actual blackberry juice) are appended.

From the January/February 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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11. Miranda July, John Green, & Michael Bond Debut On the Indie Bestseller List

paddington bookWe’ve collected the books debuting on Indiebound’s Indie Bestseller List for the week ending January 18, 2015–a sneak peek at the books everybody will be talking about next month.

(Debuted at #3 in Hardcover Fiction) The First Bad Man by Miranda July: “When Cheryl’s bosses ask if their twenty-one-year-old daughter, Clee, can move into her house for a little while, Cheryl’s eccentrically ordered world explodes. And yet it is Clee—the selfish, cruel blond bombshell—who bullies Cheryl into reality and, unexpectedly, provides her the love of a lifetime.” (January 2015)

(Debuted at #1 in Children’s Interest) Looking for Alaska (Special 10th Anniversary Edition) by John Green: “Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words—and tired of his safe life at home. He leaves for boarding school to seek what the dying poet Francois Rabelais called \"The Great Perhaps.\" Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young, who will pull Miles inter her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps.” (January 2015)

(Debuted at #13 in Children’s Illustrated) Paddington written by Michael Bond & illustrated by R.W. Alley: “Nearly fifty years ago, a small bear from Darkest Peru set out on an adventure of a lifetime. With nothing but a suitcase, several jars of marmalade, and a label around his neck that read, “Please Look After This Bear,” he stowed away on a ship headed for faraway England. When the little bear arrived at London’s busy Paddington Station, he was discovered by Mr. and Mrs. Brown. As luck would have it, the Browns were just the sort of people to welcome a lost bear into their family.” (June 2007)

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12. Review: high fantasy tropes reign, but REYN #1 also surprises

by Edie Nugent

REYNcover 202x300 Review: high fantasy tropes reign, but REYN #1 also surprises

Written by: Kel Symons

Art by: Nate Stockman

Colors by: Paul Little

Lettering & Design by: Pat Brosseau

Logo designer: Tim Daniel

Publisher: Image

 

REYN #1 does quite a bit of world-building for a first issue, in fact the very first page has an astonishing amount of information contained in several narration boxes. The scene opens in a place known as the Barrens: a cracked, dry wasteland bereft of life, save a few leafless tree skeletons. Through the dust clouds emerge an armored rider whom the narration calls a Warden. Described as beings of legend who protected the lands of Fate following something called the Great Cataclysm, it seems at least one of the Warden warriors has now returned.

The nameless Warden soon comes to the aid of a local farmer, rescuing him from the attack of a giant bug who has burrowed up from under the farmlands. While the art has a overall has an interesting look to it — the character’s faces in particular have a bit of a medieval woodcut style to them — the perspectives in this scene and a few others seem a tad confused. My favorite moment of the book happens after this fight, when the Warden drops to his knees & raises his sword in tribute to Aurora Morningstar, aka the Mistress of Light whose will he serves. Far from solemn, the Warden asks if he could just have a bit of a break before she “haunts” him again.

While that moment plays against high fantasy expectations, the next scene reverts from this bit of freshness and sees the hero seduced by the buxom farmers daughter — on orders from her father. It would have been better had she come for a roll in the hay of her own accord. Later, the Warden comes across a group of slaves being led to the Menica mines to work off sentences for crimes of desertion and vagrancy. Among them we see a cloaked figure whose appearance is half salamander, half ninja turtle, who escapes the notice of the Warden. He races to tell his brother M’thall, busy playing Jabba the Hutt with a slave girl, of the Warden’s appearance. M’thall disbelieves, saying the Wardens disappeared thousands of years ago.

Soon the Warden arrives in the town of Ledwain  and we meet a woman named Seph. At this point the tale switches to her narration which makes a nice change from the male dominated story-line. She identifies the Warden as Reyn, and explains that she is a healer from a long line of ancient people known as the followers of Tek. While too often women in fantasy narratives turn out to be healers, this healer also possesses Susan Storm-like energy fields and handily saves herself from an onslaught of soldiers who brand her a heretic. The book draws to a close as Reyn and Seph team up to take on the remaining regiment.

Reyn #1 is something of an uneven start to the series, but fantasy fans will likely be intrigued by the world introduced and the potential in the pairing of Seph and Reyn.

0 Comments on Review: high fantasy tropes reign, but REYN #1 also surprises as of 1/22/2015 9:11:00 PM
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13. Catching Up: Book Blurbs of Fall/Winter, Pt. 1

I've gotten incredibly far behind on my reviewing, so it's that time again: time to cut to the chase and offer quick, no-nonsense book reviews before I completely forget everything about these stories. This past fall was a real bear as far as... Read the rest of this post

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14. Review: POWERS #1 More True Than Any Detective

By Davey Nieves

POWERS #1

STK658701 197x300 Review: POWERS #1 More True Than Any Detective

 

Story: Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming

Colors: Nick Filardi

Letters: Chris Eliopoulos

Publisher: ICON

 

 

 

 

Powers by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming is a book that’s moved around a lot. It started as an initial pitch to DC, then came to life at Image, and found a home under Marvel’s Icon imprint. With the book getting ready to make its big move to PlayStations everywhere, (We got a quick peek at the debut episode and it’s dynamite) the powers behind Powers are back with a new ongoing series that doesn’t miss a beat.

This newest Powers series is set a few months after recent events. Having barley survived the most harrowing case of her career and government corruption, Deena Pilgrim has written a cash cow tell all book. Not everything is roses for Pilgrim as she still continues to investigate crimes involving people with superhuman abilities otherwise know as powers. The force is in the midst of a new powers boom with loads of new cases when a never before seen ability is discovered in a gruesome murder at sea.

Bendis called this first issue a perfect jumping on point for readers new and old. However it doesn’t quite feel that way if you’re brand spanking new to the Powers universe. That’s not to say this issue is a bad story in any form because there’s so much to enjoy from cover to cover. While Deena Pilgrim is a vital character in this universe; the book doesn’t do much to set up the conscious of the series, Detective Christian Walker. In fact you really won’t see him in MOST of these pages. It’s a bit odd that the detective doesn’t take center stage in this new number one when Sony and Bendis have made a huge deal about Sharlto Copley(District 9, Elysium) playing Christian Walker on the show. The way the premiere of Powers TV show goes down; Walker will definitely be a character reading about if you’ve never picked up Powers. A monthly publishing schedule doesn’t leave much time for this new series to put its best foot forward with Walker’s PlayStation original debut on March 10 and not capitalizing on how huge this multimedia endeavor could be would be criminal.

This new number one feels so far along in the world and it slightly stumbles in letting the exposition grow naturally, but even a flashback or more context would have helped anyone who’s new to Powers care about the characters. Just the opposite, if you’re a fan of the series there’s loads for you in this book. The procedural drama flow of the series is as spot on as ever and the dialogue is solid witty repartee. There’s even a spread with a ton of Easter egg jokes about current events by both of the big two publishers.

Powers universe would be hollow without the visual storytelling of Michael Avon Oeming. He hasn’t lost a step with this book. Oeming’s work continues to have an emotional noir appeal to this gritty world. His art plays so much with expression that it never feels like any characters make the same face twice. That’s a very rare thing for an artist who has to draw twenty something pages on a deadline every month. Pay particular attention to the boat scene, it may not be very gruesome but the subtlety there makes it gut-wrenching.

We’ll talk in the next few weeks about what we saw from Powers TV debut. As far as the first issue of this new series goes; it isn’t a jumping on point new readers will understand right away but it is definitely worth adding to this weeks haul for anyone curious about the property.


Dave is currently in the middle of a Lego Batman 3 binge on PlayStation 4. Bother him on PSN and Twitter @bouncingsoul217

 

1 Comments on Review: POWERS #1 More True Than Any Detective, last added: 1/22/2015
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15. Review: Burning Fields Burns This Mother Down

By Davey Nieves

BURNING FIELDS #1

 

BurningFields01 PRESS 194x300 Review: Burning Fields Burns This Mother Down

 

Story: Michael Moreci, Tim Daniel

Art: Colin Lorimer, Joana Lafuente

Publisher: Boom!

 

In 2014, Curse did something I didn’t think possible. It told a werewolf story that didn’t suck. The 21st century has been all about glamourizing horror to some extent. It was awesome that a book like Curse could come along and craft a raw story about one of the monsters that’s never really received their due, the Werewolf. Now in 2015 the team of Michael Moreci, Tim Daniel, and Colin Lorimer are back to work through more of their demons while sending a chill up your spine.

Their new book, Burning Fields is an analog combination of old school horror like The Thing in combination with the geopolitical drama of a Zero Dark Thirty. Where it plants its feet and sets itself apart is in the perpetual insecurity these pages bring and that is far from a bad thing.

Burning Fields is the story of Dana Atkinson, a dishonorably discharged army investigator, who’s pulled back to the Middle East when a group of American oil technicians disappear under bizarre circumstances. Dana is a true badass with the inner demons to match. In the first few pages we see her razor wit in arguing with her former commander and later her toughness as she dispatches would be assassins. The first issue also touches on the unstable political nature of the Middle East as we see both the American Military and Iraqi people’s side of the conflict. Indeed this entire opening issue leans heavy on tensions of various kinds from interpersonal to political and still manages to let the characters build through this tense fog.

BurningFields01 PRESS2 194x300 Review: Burning Fields Burns This Mother Down

Colin Lorimer’s illustrations are perfect for a dramatic horror story like this one. He’s no stranger to emotional drama having done books like X-Files, Harvest, and of course Curse. What sets Burning Fields apart from his previous works is how he masterfully brings out the necessary emotion on a page and seamlessly shifts it to a different mood without jarring the audience. On one page he can capture the turmoil in Dana’s eyes to evoke distress while on the very next page call forth the restlessness of local Iraqis in a marketplace standoff. To go along with this exquisite line work are Joana Lafuente’s colors. She uses tones similar to what Patricia Mulvihill used towards the end of 100 Bullets and gets the same moodiness on the pages in a very horror friendly way.

If there’s any flaw with the book it’s that it may not feel necessary to have eight issues by the end of the story. My only minor gripe about issue one was that I’d like to have known more about the supernatural evil Dana uncovers in the oil field which could have cut it down to seven issues. Being fully on for all eight issues I hope they allow all the volatile elements in the story to be breathe enough.

Boom Studios isn’t known for the number of original books but the quality of them. Burning Fields has the potential to not only join Irredeemable, Incorruptible, 2 Guns, and Curse but also surpass them.

 

 

 

 


Talk to Davey on Twitter about Comics, cats, and relationships. He prefers it be about cats. 

 

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16. Review: Holy F*#k It’s Rambo Jesus!

By Davey Nieves

Holy F*ck #1

a186b521 604a 4eaa b8c0 3f76eecb3e07 200x300 Review: Holy F*#k Its Rambo Jesus!

 

Story: Nick Narino

Art: Daniel Arruda Massa

Publisher : Action Labs Entertainment

 

 

Action Lab Entertainment might not be a familiar name to you but they’ve got great books like Molly Danger and Nutmeg under their belt. The studio continues to further sharpen already edgy ideas with their newest book Holy F*ck.

After twice reading the opening issue, I’m still trying to wrap my head around what I just read. So the premise of Holy F*ck is this: From the shadows Zeus, Isis, and the rest of earth’s deities have come together to concoct a nefarious plan to unleash an Armageddon level of war on humanity. Our only hope of avoiding this cataclysm is Catholicism in the form of a nun named Maria, a basement D&D nerd Lucifer, and sex crazed Rambo-like Jesus.

Written by Nick Narino, the opening issue introduces us to most of the major players involved and sets up the stakes very punctually. By the middle of the first issue we know how Maria & Jesus come together, and how Zeus’s cabal intend to unleash their plan. We also see that the villainous gods are motivated by a need to be seen and worshiped much like the advertising mascots in that Halloween Simpson’s episode. For a book that exists to poke fun of religion in all its forms it’s an entertaining read. However, Holy F*ck is like a cup of tea; it’s just not for everybody. In fact anyone who holds their spirituality close to the chest will most likely be offended by all the ways the book plays with religious figures. Though the book suffers more from a lack of snap in the dialogue than any offense that could be taken by people. Granted the dialogue in a story like this is meant to be cheesy but here it unbalances the characters a bit.

Daniel Arruda Massa’s art feels right for the levity intended within the pages. The illustration feels at home in its Scott Pilgrim vibe, which makes the cover art a little deceiving. The cartoony nature of the interiors doesn’t always go well with intense action but a more realistic art style would have probably put this in another genre of comic while making some of the jokes less digestible. Visually, it just feels right.

When I first read Garth Ennis classic Preacher, I felt like I had done something wrong. While today I’m not religious in any sense of the word, I did grow up in the bonds of church going Catholicism. So reading a book like that made a tiny part of me feel I’d be struck down or unclean. Later I’d come to realize that it’s part of the magic of Preacher and remains one of my favorite stories ever. Holy F*ck had a similar effect on me just not nearly as intense because it’s a neat idea that’s not quite fleshed out.


Don’t throw holy water at Dave on twitter. @bouncingsoul217

 

1 Comments on Review: Holy F*#k It’s Rambo Jesus!, last added: 1/23/2015
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17. Review of Draw What You See

benson_draw what you seeDraw What You See: The Life and Art of Benny Andrews
by Kathleen Benson; illus. with paintings by Benny Andrews
Primary, Intermediate   Clarion   32 pp.
1/15   978-0-544-10487-7   $16.99

Benson opens in New Orleans in 2005, where Benny Andrews traveled after Hurricane Katrina to teach children “to use art to express their feelings about what they had been through…he knew that sometimes it was easier to tell a story with pictures than with words.” And this is an excellent way to begin a biography of an artist dedicated to the craft of narrative- and experience-based art, and also to the ongoing social concerns of African Americans and other minority groups. Then it’s back to 1933 Plainview, Georgia, where three-year-old Benny drew his first picture. In clear prose, Benson moves through the years, during which Andrews defied social expectations by leaving the farm, attending high school, earning a bachelor of fine arts degree, and eventually becoming a renowned painter in an art world that was still unwelcoming to artists of color. The narrative is expertly crafted around original Andrews paintings (identified in the back matter), which are notable for their focus on autobiographical elements and people’s experiences of prejudice as well as for the expressionistic stylization of figures: elongated subjects work in a field, attend church, dance at a jazz club, sell newspapers in Harlem. Appended are an author’s note, sources and resources, and an ultra-detailed timeline that makes clear the breadth and heft of Andrews’s accomplishments.

From the January/February 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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18. Review of Storm

napoli_stormStorm
by Donna Jo Napoli
High School    Wiseman/Simon    357 pp.
2/14    978-1-4814-0302-3    $17.99
e-book ed. 978-1-4814-0304-7    $10.99

Sixteen-year-old Sebah, a Canaanite girl, survives a massive flood that kills her family. As the rains continue for weeks on end, she and another survivor, Aban, are forced to build a raft to escape the rising waters. Barely alive, they encounter a giant boat — Noah’s ark, as it turns out — but only Sebah is strong enough to climb the rope someone has let down from a porthole. Exhausted and grief-stricken, Sebah finds herself in a cage with a pair of bonobos, with whom she soon bonds and names Queen and The Male. Bonobos, readers learn, are capable of compassion and empathy (hence the rescue and their decision to keep Sebah hidden from Noah). Bonobos are also known to be very, very sexually active; thankfully, Queen decides she is Sebah’s protector and that the girl is off-limits for The Male. (Phew!) Napoli’s story thoroughly humanizes Noah and his family — loyal to God but traumatized by the human devastation and frustrated with their fate. Readers witness the emotional and physical toll, on both humans and animals, of weeks of darkness and rain, then months of captivity, and will admire resourceful Sebah’s ability to make the best of an oppressive situation. The characters (including the loyal bonobos — and another human stowaway) that Napoli creates to flesh out her retelling of the classic story of survival and faith add both veracity and depth.

From the July/August 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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19. Friday Feature: 52 Likes by Medeia Sharif



After a brutal rape and near-murder, Valerie wants to get past feelings of victimhood from both the assault and her history of being bullied. She’s plagued by not knowing the identity of her rapist and by the nasty rumors in school about that night. Valerie follows clues from ghostly entities, past victims of the rapist-murderer, contacting her through a social media site—why do all of their eerie photos have 52 likes under them? Their messages are leading her to the mystery man, although he’ll put up a fight to remain hidden.

My thoughts:
After reading Vitamins and Death in one sitting, I knew Medeia could write edgy and dark YA really well, so I jumped at the chance to read 52 Likes. Once again, I couldn't put the book down. The book begins with Valerie being raped. I wasn't sure how I'd endure reading a rape scene, but it was handled really well. I felt Valerie's emotion without being overwhelmed by the horrific act. What I loved about this book was that Valerie doesn't allow herself to sit back and become the victim. She fights. Even when everyone around her is making her feel like she is the one who did something wrong, she continues to seek out her rapist and reveal his identity to everyone.

The ghosts of the rapist's victims appear to Valerie, encouraging her to fight for them, too. Valerie was supposed to die like they did, only a passerby saved her life. And that means her rapist is set on finishing what he started. The mystery behind who the rapist is and the race to reveal him and have him locked up before he gets to her again is what made me keep turning the pages. 

If you like darker YA with mystery and some ghosts thrown in, this is the perfect read. I dare you to put it down once you start reading it. ;)

Want your YA, NA, or MG book featured on my blog? Contact me here and we'll set it up.

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20. Advance Review – Project Superpowers: Blackcross#1, Wherein Warren Ellis Takes the Franchise in a Horror Direction

TNBlackcross01CovALee 200x300 Advance Review   Project Superpowers: Blackcross#1, Wherein Warren Ellis Takes the Franchise in a Horror DirectionProject Superpowers: Blackcross #1
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Colton Worley
Colorist: Morgan Hickman

Project Superpowers had a few different titles published by Dynamite around 2008-10.  The line is coming back in March and I’ve had an advance look at the first issue.  It was *not* what I was expecting.  In fact, I’m not entirely sure if this is a relaunch or a reboot.  Either way, they’re coming in from a different angle and with a very different flavor, so I’d call it a fresh start.

Whereas the original Project Superpowers saga had a feel along the lines of a 70s Marvel Avengers epic, Ellis is coming at this from a suspense and horror angle.  The first issue is all about the slow burn.

There are strange goings on in the woods of Washington (state).  A serial killer is on the prowl.  There’s a mysterious flaming man on the march.  Some possible demonic possession.  Reading this the same week it was announced Agent Cooper will be back in the new Twin Peaks series, I was half expecting to see that character walk into a panel.  Strange doings in small towns in the woods, though without the quirky humor of Twin Peaks.

One of the big things with horror comics is getting the atmosphere right and that’s working well here.  The pacing is slow and deliberate, introducing the characters, hinting at secrets and being generally as creepy as possible.  I wouldn’t say this is outright scary as Ellis and Worley are really foreshadowing something bad is on the way and perhaps a few kinds of bad are going to converge in the town of Blackcross.

You may recognize some of the characters that appear in glimpses.  Black Terror, American Spirit, Lady Satan and so forth.  The heroes are, for the most part, not themselves in the first chapter.  Their presence and appearance is part of that creeping doom.  That the American Spirit pops up with that familiar Alex Ross design is one of the things suggesting it might not be a full-on reboot, but I just can’t tell from the first 22 pages.

There certainly were enough mystic forces in the original Project Superpowers run, but it was more of an adventure comic with magic.  Not all of the foreboding in this issue necessarily comes from sorcery, but that’s how the first issue feels.

Colton Worley was doing fine work on The Spider and he’s only improved here.  He should be getting a little more attention than he is.

Warren Ellis seems restrained and measured here.   Nothing over the top or splashy.  Horror springing out of a dull and mundane setting.  The problem with slow burn storytelling is it can take you a few issues to really know where the story is going.  Often, the slow burn is there to set you on a false path and pull the rug out from under you, so I don’t necessarily trust what I see to be an accurate indicator of the big picture.  I can only say that it’s a well told and drawn tale.  And very, very different from what you might expect if you’re familiar with the previous run of the franchise.

Recommended for those who like their comics on the dark and sinister side and don’t mind a slowly building plot.

Proceed with caution if you prefer your superheroes with lots of explosions and fisticuffs up front.  I suspect things will start blowing up around issue #3 or #4, but it’s unsolved mysteries and crises of a more spiritual and existential nature that make up the first issue.

The first 4 pages follow:

Blackcross0101 685x1028 Advance Review   Project Superpowers: Blackcross#1, Wherein Warren Ellis Takes the Franchise in a Horror Direction

 

 

 

Blackcross0102 685x1028 Advance Review   Project Superpowers: Blackcross#1, Wherein Warren Ellis Takes the Franchise in a Horror Direction

 

 

Blackcross0103 685x1028 Advance Review   Project Superpowers: Blackcross#1, Wherein Warren Ellis Takes the Franchise in a Horror Direction

 

Blackcross0104 685x1028 Advance Review   Project Superpowers: Blackcross#1, Wherein Warren Ellis Takes the Franchise in a Horror Direction

 

 

1 Comments on Advance Review – Project Superpowers: Blackcross#1, Wherein Warren Ellis Takes the Franchise in a Horror Direction, last added: 1/17/2015
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21. Review of The Bear Ate Your Sandwich

sarcone-roach_bear ate your sandwichstar2 The Bear Ate Your Sandwich
by Julia Sarcone-Roach; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary   Knopf   40 pp.
1/15   978-0-375-85860-4   $16.99   g
e-book ed. 978-0-307-98242-1   $10.99

“By now I think you know what happened to your sandwich. But you may not know how it happened.” An offstage narrator spins this entertaining tale about the fate of a missing sandwich. The narrator’s creative version of events begins with a hungry bear, a berry-eating binge, a postprandial nap in the back of a pickup truck, and an unexpected road trip to the big city. All the while, we see words at entertaining odds with the pictures: those “high cliffs” the bear notices are the skyscrapers in the big-city landscape to which the truck has inadvertently transported him. Sarcone-Roach uses a vibrant color palette in her impressionistic paintings, gleefully depicting the bear exploring unfamiliar terrain. To her credit, the question of the narrator’s identity — and reliability — may not come up for readers until book’s end. If they do wonder, the diverting story and illustrations help to keep it a surprise. After the bear returns to the forest, the silver-tongued narrator’s subterfuge quickly falls apart, and the truth is unleashed (“Ruff! Ruff! Ruff! Ruff! Ruff!”). The book stands up to repeat readings; the illustrations (and endpapers) beg for more attention.

From the January/February 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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22. Review: Home Cooking

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen (Vintage Contemporaries) by Laurie Colwin. Illustrations by Anna Shapiro. Personal copy: Vintage, 2010. Originally published in 1988.

It's About: Part memoir, part cook book.

The Good: I read Colwin's Happy All the Time around when it first came out -- and it's stuck with me all these years. Since I was only in early high school at the time I read it, I thought that Happy All the Time, and Laurie Colwin herself, was my book, my discovery. While I bought a new copy when Vintage did its 2010 reissues, I still haven't brought myself to read it: would it be as perfect as I remember? Would it be as meaningful?

For how I read then, in high school and later, and well, for various reasons, despite loving that book I didn't read other Colwin titles. The good news about that is that now I can read them.

Home Cooking is a like a wonderful visit with a friend, making dinner and having laughs with a bottle of wine. It makes me hungry from the recipes; it makes me feel capable, because Colwin presents them as if they were easy to make. Her first kitchen, her first resources, are small and simple, making it that much more accessible to any reader. There's also an emphasis on fresh ingredients - seriously, it's as if were written today.

I also want to track down a copy of The Taste of America by John and Karen Hess.

Of course, the best way to show how this book is like hanging out with a friend is to highlight a few passages:

"Some diehards feel that to give a dinner party without a starter is barbaric. Mellower types want to get right down to the good stuff and not mess around with some funny little things on a small plate. Some hosts and hostesses are too tired to worry about a first and a second course and wish they had called the whole thing off."

"After you have cooked your party dinner six or seven times, you will be able to do it in your sleep, but your friends will be bored.You will then have to go in search of new friends..."

I now have to read More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns to the Kitchen -- but I don't want to, not yet, because I still want to be looking forward to reading it.

Links about the amazingness of Home Cooking:

Laurie Colwin: A Confidante in the Kitchen by Jeff Gordinier, The New York Times; "there is something about her voice, conveyed in conversational prose, that comes across as a harbinger of the blog boom that would follow."

Decades Later, Laurie Colwin's Books Will Not Let You Down by Maureen Corrigan, NPR.

Because my "favorite books" list is about when I share it on the blog, not when it was published or when I read it (technically, this was during vacation last September), this is a Favorite Book of 2015.





Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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23. Review of the Day: Over the Hills and Far Away collected by Elizabeth Hammill

Over the Hills and Far Away: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes
Collected by Elizabeth Hammill
Illustrations by Various
Candlewick Press
$21.99
ISBN: 978-0-7636-7729-9
Ages : All
On shelves March 10th

Not all nursery rhyme collections are created equal. That is something you discover when you have small children. A parent, even a children’s librarian type parent, will inevitably come to a shocking realization sometime during their child’s early years that when you read a nursery rhyme, the kiddo really and truly seems to love it. Nursery rhymes, far from simply being “good for the child” in some lofty, educated manner, have stuck around as long as they have because they really and truly do speak to the kids. The cadences and rhythms and images are incomparable, and that is regardless of nation or heritage. So as you seek out new nursery rhyme books, you begin to fancy yourself a kind of connoisseur. Some authors provide the classics in an effective manner (Lobel, de Paola, etc.) while others seem to be finding their footing. And really, how many ways can you re-imagine Little Boy Blue anyway? One thing you don’t find in a lot of nursery rhyme collections? Diversity. You pick up something like Over the Hills and Far Away and you see that “more than 70 celebrated artists” are included. It ain’t lying. It also ain’t the white white world we’re so used to in nursery rhyme collections. Tsimshian and Creole, Jamaican and Australian, Chinese American and Chippewa, this is a book that not only speaks to a wider audience than nursery rhyme collections of the past, it’s cleverly constructed and perfectly illustrated to boot. Hammill has clearly created the very first nursery rhyme collection of note for the 21st century.

Read the publication page of the book and you will be told that “Over the Hills and Far Away gathers poems from various parts of the English-speaking world, including Great Britain, the Caribbean, Australia, and the United States. Regional spellings and usage have been retained in order to preserve the integrity of the originals.” Fair enough, and I understand why this statement reads the way it does, but it does run the risk of leading the casual reader to believe that this book only collects poems from the English-speakers of the world. Happily, even the most cursory flip through will relieve you of that mistake (to say nothing of reading the Introduction). Because if there is one thing the nursery rhyme books of your average library lack, it is diversity. Generally speaking, if a person wants to find Inuit, Jamaican, Latino, or South African nursery rhymes, you find separate collections of them and that’s that. Almost never do you find them integrated seamlessly with English and American rhymes. Hammill notes in her Introduction that “Nowhere… have I found a wide-ranging collection that sits alongside these Mother Goose favorites and injects fresh life into them – providing a genuine intercultural experience.” Why? Research. Dedication. It takes a single-minded intensity to not only track them down but to also pair each and every one with just the right artist.

And the artists, in this particular case, are jaw-dropping. It isn’t just the number of well known names on display. Certainly Mo Willems, Shaun Tan, Lucy Cousins, Ed Young, Jon Klassen, Shirley Hughes, Jerry Pinkney and so on and such are impressive right from the get go. It’s also the fact that there are a great number of artists working here who are not, first and foremost, famous names. Hammill says in her opening that these artists included both the established and the emerging, as well as winner of an Illustration Competition for U.K. art students.

And how do these illustrators do? I was pleased. Every collection out there is going to have its stronger and weaker elements. So there were some artists who had clearly put a lot of time and thought into their art, while others seemed to phone it in. The Marcia Williams take on “Old Mother Hubbard” reminded me of the poem in Nursery Rhyme Comics which also turned the rhyme into sequential comic art (it really lends itself to the form well). Meanwhile Eric Carle’s art is just a series of animals taken from his previously published books. Jerry Pinkney created original art of a familiar character when he referenced his Caldecott Honor title Noah’s Ark in the rhyme “Who Built the Ark?” Sometimes the artists alleviate potential creepiness (as with Gus Gordon’s rather charming if carnivorous “Algy Saw a Bear”) while others add to it (I’m thinking of the uber-sketchy men peering at the cheerful girl eating her food alongside the rhymes “Brow Bender”, “Earkin-Hearkin”, and “Knock at the Door”). But by some great good fortune, the bulk of the work is very strong, charming, and actually honestly interesting to kids. Let’s not forget that little factor.

I was charmed by the art. I was taken with the selection. But the real reason Hammill’s work on this book blew me away as much as it did? It’s simple. The woman has a gift for pairing complimentary rhymes together. As the mother of a 3-year-old and a new baby I’ve done my due diligence and read every nursery rhyme book I could get my hands on. Yet while artists like Tomie dePaola and Arnold Lobel would pair similar rhymes together in clever ways (rain poems on one page, love poems on another), Hammill sort of kicks everything up to another level. First there are the pairings that are so obvious you’re shocked you haven’t seen them before. “Yankee Doodle” next to “The Grand Old Duke of York”. Or glutinous “Hannah Bantry” with “Jack Sprat” and wife. In her introduction, Hammill notes that in her research she “came upon anthologies of parallel rhymes and verse that have entered and enhanced the English lexicon from Asia, the Caribbean, and African, Native-American, and Hispanic cultures and elsewhere.” It reminds me of that old collection of world fairy and folktales World Tales collected by Idries Shah, which noted similarities in single stories throughout different cultures. Here you’ll see how well some poems pair. Some pairs are the lighthearted kind mentioned above. Others have quite a bit more to say, as when “Hush-a-bye, Baby” sits alongside the Chippewa “Little Baby, Sleep” and artist Olivia Lomenech Gill crafts a fascinating construct of “baby” King George falling off the tree while, on the other page, a Chippewa mother holds her child’s cradle board.

In the back of the book you will find a list of sources used to find some of these poems and rhymes. This is followed by a section thanking directly some of the people who helped to find these rhymes, like Pascale Arpin, coordinator of Arts Programming at Nunavut Arts and Crafts Association and Ashley Bryan who opened “his extensive personal library to me and introducing me to important collections of African and Caribbean verse and rhyme”. Many of the collections sourced are older, from the 1929 rhymes from the Bureau of American Ethnology to the 1900 Chinese Mother Goose Rhymes. I’m no nursery rhyme historian so I take it on faith that Hammill took steps to ensure accuracy where the poems are concerned. You need a certain level of trust in these cases. I leave it to others to ascertain one source’s authenticity over another’s.

Gone are the days when the publishing industry could put out nursery rhyme collection after nursery rhyme collection and not have to think about the diverse audience who might be reading the poems. Generally when nursery rhymes are produced these days the hat tip made to cultural diversity rests squarely on the shoulders of the illustrator, not the selection of poems themselves. What sets Over the Hills and Far Away apart is the fact that not only has Elizabeth Hammill found a wide range of interesting and intelligent rhymes, she has found ways to interweave them with similar rhymes from other cultures to create a real understanding of why rhymes from children are universally desired and important. For all that we talk about diverse books for kids, I’ve never heard anyone suggest that someone create a book like this before. Now it is here. If you own only one nursery rhyme collection on your shelves, own this one.

On shelves March 10th.

Source: Final copy sent from publisher for review.

Like This? Then Try:

Misc: See more images from the book here.

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24. Review of Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust

Dauvillier_HiddenHidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust
by Loïc Dauvillier; illus. by Marc Lizano; color by Greg Salsedo; trans. from the French by Alexis Siegel
Primary, Intermediate    First Second/Roaring Brook    78 pp.
4/14    978-1-59643-873-6    $16.99

In this graphic novel for younger readers, Elsa wakes up in the night and discovers her grandmother sitting in the dark, feeling sad. When Elsa asks why, she hears for the first time the story of her grandmother’s childhood in Nazi-occupied France. Young Dounia’s parents try to explain away the yellow star she must wear by calling it a sheriff’s star, but she quickly realizes its true meaning when she begins to be treated very differently at school and in town. When the Nazis come to their apartment, her parents hide Dounia but are themselves taken away, and the terrified little girl is saved by a neighbor. A chain of people help her escape to the country, where she lives as a Catholic girl, with a new name. The graphic novel format helps reinforce the contrast between the dark, scary moments and the happier times in the countryside. The artists use small panels to tell most of the story, with words in the bottom right corners emphasizing Dounia’s inner thoughts; large panels occasionally punctuate the big moments. While not disguising the ugliness of the events, the art also helps focus attention on the loving moments between Dounia and her parents, Dounia and the people who help her, and Dounia, Elsa, and her father (who also hears the story for the first time) all hugging one another at the end.

From the July/August 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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25. Review of Stella by Starlight

draper_stella by starlightStella by Starlight
by Sharon M. Draper
Intermediate   Atheneum   324 pp.
1/15   978-1-4424-9497-8   $16.99   g
e-book ed. 978-1-4424-9499-2   $10.99

Eleven-year-old Stella Mills may have trouble getting words on paper for school, but she’s a deep thinker, “a gemstone hiding inside a rock,” her mother tells her. Even on the coldest of nights, she sneaks out of the house and writes under the starlight. Writing helps her makes sense of her world; the novel’s third-person point of view provides readers with a perspective wider than young Stella’s, as much of life in segregated 1932 Bumblebee, North Carolina, is beyond her understanding. There’s plenty of action — cross burnings, house burnings, a snakebite, a near-drowning, and a beating. But at its core this story is one of a supportive African American community facing tough times, a community acting as an “unseen river of communication that forever flows — dark and powerful,” keeping an eye on its children as they walk to school, knowing who is sneaking out at night, bringing cakes and pies when folks are ill, and attending the (unexpectedly hilarious) Christmas pageant at school. If times are bad, the community makes them better, and Stella grows in its warmth and love. Even her writing gets better as she writes about things that matter — Mama, snakes, truth, hate, even the Klan. Readers will close the book knowing that Stella will turn out just fine: “Roosters never look beyond the fence. I doubt if they ever think about flying. But I do.”

From the January/February 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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