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1. David Brooks & Nora Roberts Debut on the Indie Bestseller List

Princess in BlackWe’ve collected the books debuting on Indiebound’s Indie Bestseller List for the week ending April 19, 2015–a sneak peek at the books everybody will be talking about next month.

(Debuted at #1 in Hardcover Nonfiction) The Road to Character by David Brooks: “Looking to some of the world’s greatest thinkers and inspiring leaders, Brooks explores how, through internal struggle and a sense of their own limitations, they have built a strong inner character. Labor activist Frances Perkins understood the need to suppress parts of herself so that she could be an instrument in a larger cause. Dwight Eisenhower organized his life not around impulsive self-expression but considered self-restraint. Dorothy Day, a devout Catholic convert and champion of the poor, learned as a young woman the vocabulary of simplicity and surrender.” (April 2015)

(Debuted at #7 in Middle Grade Readers) The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale: “Princess Magnolia is having hot chocolate and scones with Duchess Wigtower when…Brring! Brring! The monster alarm! A big blue monster is threatening the goats! Stopping monsters is no job for dainty Princess Magnolia. But luckily Princess Magnolia has a secret —she’s also the Princess in Black, and stopping monsters is the perfect job for her!” (April 2015)

(Debuted at #11 in Hardcover Fiction) The Liar by Nora Roberts: “Shelby takes her three-year-old daughter and heads south to seek comfort in her hometown, where she meets someone new: Griff Lott, a successful contractor. But her husband had secrets she has yet to discover. Even in this small town, surrounded by loved ones, danger is closer than she knows—and threatens Griff, as well. And an attempted murder is only the beginning…” (April 2015)

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2. Review of the Day: On the Shoulder of a Giant by Neil Christopher

On the Shoulder of a Giant: An Inuit Folktale
By Neil Christopher
Illustrated by Jim Nelson
Inhabit Media
$16.95
ISBN: 978-1-77227-002-0
Ages 4-7
On shelves now

My daughter is afraid of giants. She’s three so this isn’t exactly out of the norm. However, it does cut out a portion of her potential reading material. Not all giants fall under this stricture, mind you. She doesn’t seem to have any problem with the guys in Giant Dance Party and “nice” giants in general get a pass. Still, we’ve had to put the kibosh on stories like Jack and the Beanstalk and anything else where getting devoured is a serious threat. Finding books about good giants is therefore an imperative and it walks hand in hand with my perpetual search for amazing folktales. Every year I scour the publishers for anything resembling a folktale. In the old days they were plentiful and you could have your pick of the offerings. These days, the big publishers hardly want to touch the stuff, so it’s up to the smaller guys to fill in the gaps. And no one stands as a better folktale gap filler than the Inuit owned company Inhabit Media. Producing consistently high quality books for kids, one of their latest titles is the drop dead gorgeous On the Shoulder of a Giant. Funny, attractive, and a straight up accurate folktale, this is children’s book publishing at its best. And as for the giant himself, my daughter has never run into a guy like him before.

“…if there is only one Arctic giant story you take the time to learn about, this is the one to remember.” Which giant? Why Inukpak, of course! Large (even for a giant) our story recounts Inukpak’s various deeds. He could stride across wide rivers, and fish full whales out of the sea. In his travels, there was one day when Inukpak ran across a little human hunter. Misunderstanding the man to be a small child, the giant promptly adopted him. And since the man was no fool he understood that when a giant claims you, you have little recourse but to accept. He went along with it. The giant fished their dinner and when a polar bear threatened the hunter Inukpak flicked it away like it was no more than a baby fox or lemming. In time the two became good friends and had many adventures together. Backmatter called “More About Arctic Giants” explains at length about their size, their fights, their relationship to the giant polar bears, and how they may still be around – maybe right under your feet!

I’ve read a lot of giant fare in my day and I have never encountered a tale quite like this. Not that the story really goes much of anywhere. The only true question you find yourself asking as you read the tale is whether or not the hunter will ever confess to the giant that he isn’t actually a child. But as I read and reread the tale, I came to love the humor of the tale. Combined with the art, it’s a lighthearted story. In fact, one of the problems is also a point in its favor. When you get to the end of the tale and are told that Inukpak and the hunter had many adventures, you want to read those immediately. One can only hope that Mr. Christopher and Mr. Nelson will join forces yet again someday to bring us more of this unique and delightful duo.

I’m no expert on Inuit culture so it doesn’t hurt that in the creation of “On the Shoulder of a Giant” author Neil Christopher has the distinction of having spent the last sixteen years of his life recording and preserving traditional Inuit stories. Having seen a fair number of books of Native American folktales where the selection of the tales is offhanded at best, the care with which Christopher chooses to imbue his book with life and vitality is notable. The book reads aloud beautifully, and would serve a librarian well if they were told to read aloud a folktale to a group. Likewise, the pictures are visible from long distances. This story begs for a big audience.

I’ve seen a lot of small presses in my day. Quality can vary considerably from place to place. Often I’ll see a small publisher bring to life a folktale but then skimp on the artist chosen to bring the story to life. It’s a sad but common occurrence. So common, in fact, that when it doesn’t happen I’m shocked out of my gourd. Inhabit Media is one of those rare few that take illustration very seriously. Each of their books looks good. Looks not just professional but like something you’d want to take home for yourself. On the Shoulder of a Giant is no exception. This time the artist tapped was freelance illustrator Jim Nelson. He’s based out of Chicago and his art has included stuff like Magic the Gathering cards and the like. He is not, at first glance, the kind of artist you’d tap for a book of this sort. After all, he works with a digital palette creating images that would seemingly be more at home in a comic book than a classic Inuit folktale. Yet what are folktales but proto-superhero stories? What are superhero comics but just modern myths? Inukpak is larger than life and, as such, he demands an artist who can bring his physicality to bear upon the narrative. When he’s fishing for whales I wanna see that sucker fighting back. When he strides across great plains I wanna be there beside him. Nelson feeds that need.

Since Nelson isn’t Inuit himself, the question of how authentic his art may be arises. I am willing to believe, however, that any book published by a company operating with the sole intent to “preserve and promote the stories, knowledge and talent of Inuit and northern Canada” is going to have put the book through a strict vetting process. It would not be ridiculous to think that Nelson’s editor informed him of where to research classic Inuit clothing and landscapes. I loved every inch of Nelson’s art on this story but it was the backmatter that really did it for me. There’s a section that is able to show the difference in size between a inukpasugjuit (“great giant”), a inugaruligasugjuk (“lesser giant”), and a regular human that does a brilliant job of showing scale. That goes for the nanurluit (giant polar bear) in one of the pictures, relentlessly tracking two tiny hunters in their boats. But it is the final shot of a sleeping giant under the mountains as people walk on to of him, oblivious that will really pique young imaginations.

I’m not saying that On the Shoulder of a Giant has the ability to single-handedly rid my daughter of her fear of giants as a whole. It does, however, stand out as a singularly fun and interesting take on the whole giant genre. There’s nothing on my library shelves that sounds or feels or looks quite like this book. It could well be the poster child for the ways in which small publishers should examine and publish classic folktales. Beautiful and strange with a flavor all its own, this is one little book that yields big rewards. Fantastico.

On shelves now.

Source: Final copy sent from publisher for review.

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3. WWF Together app review

wwf together menuWith Earth Day‘s 45th anniversary celebration yesterday, it seems a good time to review the World Wildlife Fund’s lovely awareness-raising app WWF Together (2013).

The app introduces sixteen endangered species from around the world, each characterized with a quality emphasizing its uniqueness: e.g., panda (“charisma”), elephant (“intelligence”), marine turtle (“longevity”), tiger (“solitude”). Each animal receives its own interactive “story,” comprised of stats (population numbers in the wild; habitat; weight and length; and “distance from you,” the user, if you enabled your iPad’s location services), spectacular high-def photos, information on threats to its survival, and conservation efforts (particularly WWF’s). Tap an info icon at a photo’s bottom corner to trigger a related pop-up fact — did you know gorillas live in stable family groups, or that bison have been around since the ice age? Many of the stories also include “facetime” (close-up videos with narration) and/or educational activities. At the conclusion of each animal’s section is an opportunity to share it via email or social media and to explore symbolic adoption options.

wwf jaguar menu

wwf together jaguar stats

In addition to truly gorgeous photographs and video of these endangered animals, a cool animated-origami design element illustrates the text throughout. Disappointingly, every time I tried to access the (real-life) origami folding instructions from the app, it crashed — which may well be the fault of our iPad. But they’re easy enough to find and download (for free, although email registration is required) on WWF’s website.

From an unobtrusive menu along the left side, you can access a globe — also with a “folded paper” look — which shows locations of all of the featured species for a global perspective and supplies information on additional endangered species. A news section frequently updates the app with current information. Soothing acoustic music by Copilot rounds out this informative and moving app.

Available for iPad (requires iOS 6.0 or later) and Android devices; free. Recommended for intermediate users and up.

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4. IN TANDEM: HUSH, by JACQUELINE WOODSON

Welcome to another edition of In Tandem, the read-and-review blog series where both A.F. and I give our on-the-spot commentary as we read and team blog a book together. (You can feel free to guess which of us is the yellow owl and which of us is the... Read the rest of this post

0 Comments on IN TANDEM: HUSH, by JACQUELINE WOODSON as of 4/23/2015 11:39:00 AM
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5. Review: Convergence #3, This Cold War Starts to Warm Up

CONVERGENCE #3

Convergence (2015) 003-000

Story: Jeff King

Art: Stephen Segovia

Colors: Aspen MLT

Inks: Jason Paz

Letters: Travis Lanham

Publisher: DC Comics

 

We’re about a quarter of the way through DC Comics event, Convergence. So far we’ve seen a lot of xenophobic worlds bent on destroying one another at the behest of Brianiac’s global caretaker Telos in all the satellite books. Seeing, literally, the exact same threatening words from Telos in multiple books is making that premise wear a bit thin. The event’s spine series has a little more going on than those titles, but we’re at a point where Convergence needs to punch it to fifth gear. So why is it starting to feel like it’s stuck in second?

After saving the mysterious Deimos in the last issue, the survivors of Earth-2 will follow him to the bowels of the planet in order to discover the key to stopping Telos evil multiversal Tijuana cockfight. Meanwhile, Dick Grayson and Thomas Wayne who, without spoiling events, are in for the fight of their lives against a small army of Bruce Wayne’s most formidable nemeses. It’s this part of the story that carries the tension and climax of this chapter to an ending that, while predictable, is so far the series biggest moment.

Sure there are a few problems with the pacing and dialogue in the issue. In fact, it feels like Convergence #3 is unintentionally a two-act book with it not introducing anything new. There’s a heavy sense of over explaining things in the front half of the book while the second half moves too quick to the dramatic finish. I can forgive most of these problems because Stephen Segovia’s art is lavish action. The fight scenes and scale of Convergence have been on point art wise for the series, but the plot needs to keep up or it runs the risk of becoming ineffectual.

Convergence (2015) 003-005

Convergence began with surprising promise from its zero issue. It played on the powerful force of nostalgia to get readers in touch with parts of the DC universe they’ve sorely missed. While powerful, nostalgia alone can’t carry an event. Issue three moves the narrative along more than any chapter thus far, but for being this far in, with this many orbiting tie-in books; the stakes need to have more weight by better defining the threat of Telos. If it’s not an Earth 2: Society post Convergence prequel, it needs to start showing it by actually having the different Earths start doing something.

1 Comments on Review: Convergence #3, This Cold War Starts to Warm Up, last added: 4/24/2015
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6. Review of Trombone Shorty

andrew_trombone shortyTrombone Shorty
by Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews; illus. by Bryan Collier
Primary   Abrams   40 pp.
4/15   978-1-4197-1465-8   $17.95

In New Orleans parlance, “Where y’at?” means “hello.” As an opening greeting (repeated three times, creating a jazzy beat), it also signals the beginning of this conversational and personable 
autobiography. Andrews, a.k.a. Trombone Shorty, concentrates on his younger years: growing up in Tremé, a neighborhood of New Orleans known for its close-knit community and commitment to music; making his own instruments before acquiring and learning to play the trombone; practicing constantly; appearing onstage with Bo Diddley; and finally forming his own successful band. Collier’s expressive watercolor collages layer and texture each page, creating a mix of images that echo the combination of styles Andrews uses to create his own “musical gumbo.” Strong vertical lines burst from his trombone like powerful sounds, while circular shapes float through the pages like background harmonies spilling out of homes and businesses. Hot colors reflect the New Orleans climate, while serene blues are as cool as the music Trombone Shorty produces. An author’s note adds detail to the text; two accompanying photographs of Andrews as a child reinforce the story’s authenticity. Collier discusses his artistic symbolism in an illustrator’s note. Read this one aloud to capture the sounds and sights of Trombone Shorty’s New Orleans.

From the May/June 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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7. Review of How Jelly Roll Morton 
Invented Jazz

winter_how jelly roll morton invented jazzHow Jelly Roll Morton Invented Jazz
by Jonah Winter; 
illus. by Keith Mallett
Primary   Porter/Roaring Brook   32 pp.
6/15   978-1-59643-963-4   $17.99

Much like jazz itself, Winter has created a book filled with ebbs and flows, rhythm and rhyme, darkness and light, shadow and sunshine. Opening with a dreamy spread set in a dimly lit New Orleans with the city on the right-hand page and a small house on the left, the hushed second-person narration begins, “Here’s what could’ve happened if you were born a way down south in New Orleans, in the Land of Dreams a long, long time ago.” Facts about Morton’s life are sprinkled into the gentle prose: a stint in jail — as a baby! — when his godmother was arrested (he would not stop crying until the incarcerated men “commenced to singing”); a disapproving great-grandmother; and later the audacious claim, by Jelly Roll himself, that he invented jazz. Textured acrylic-on-canvas illustrations are punctuated by musical notes that create rivers and roads of music, allowing readers to imagine the beats, blues, and marvelous improvisation that were such a big part of the birth of jazz. Performers in silhouette — cornet-playing Buddy Bolden and Jelly Roll at different ages — add to the dreamy feel. An informative author’s note provides some (age-appropriate) background information and is written in the same loose conversational style as the book. This is a beautiful tribute to one of the parents of jazz (sorry, but Morton can’t claim sole ownership!) — and a fitting introduction for a new generation of jazz lovers.

From the May/June 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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Invented Jazz appeared first on The Horn Book.

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Invented Jazz as of 1/1/1900
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8. Review of Shadow Scale

hartman_shadow scaleShadow Scale
by Rachel Hartman
Middle School, High School   Random   600 pp.
3/15   978-0-375-86657-9   $18.99
Library ed. 978-0-375-96657-6   $21.99   g
e-book ed. 978-0-375-89659-0   $10.99

With the dragon civil war closing in on Goredd, Seraphina (Seraphina, rev. 7/12) begins an uncertain mission: she and Abdo, a fellow half-dragon, embark on a journey to recruit other ityasaari like themselves, hoping that if they can learn to thread their minds together, they will be able to defend Goredd by forming a trap to stop a dragon in flight. Seraphina has misgivings — what if the attempt leads to another ityasaari taking over her mind? Jannoula, a half-dragon whom Seraphina contacted telepathically in a time before she knew there were others like her, once usurped Seraphina’s consciousness, and it was only by great effort and luck that Seraphina managed to fight her off. However, as Seraphina and Abdo travel through the neighboring lands, they are horrified to learn that Jannoula already controls the other ityasaari. The author’s generous and self-assured world-building effortlessly branches out to the different cultures the pilgrims encounter, unveiling fresh customs and new folklore with consummate ease. A subplot involving Seraphina’s hopeless romance with Kiggs, the man affianced to her friend and monarch, Queen Glisselda, takes on a love-triangle twist that most won’t see coming. From graceful language to high stakes to daring intrigue, this sequel shines with the same originality, invention, and engagement of feeling that captivated readers in Hartman’s debut.

From the March/April 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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9. Monday Mishmash 4/20/15


Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.

Here's what's on my mind today:
  1. Monroe County Book Expo  Thank you to everyone who came out to the Monroe County Book Expo. I had a lot of fun talking to the readers and other authors. 
  2. Mobile Websites  I hate mobile websites, and ALWAYS opt for the web view if it's available. But…Google is changing their SEO and now you pretty much have to have a mobile website, so I made that change over the weekend.
  3. New Adult Scavenger Hunt  The New Adult Scavenger Hunt begins on April 23rd, and I'll be participating as Ashelyn Drake. I'm really excited to be part of Team Blue! I'll be sharing an exclusive scene from Looking For Love, told from a different POV, which is always fun. I'm also giving away a paperback of Campus Crush.

  4. Reviewing  I have two books I agreed to review soon. One book I'm finishing up and another I have yet to start. So it looks like I'll be busy with that this week.
  5. Revisions  I'm working on revisions for one of my manuscripts. It's always fun to pull out a book you haven't looked at in a while. It adds a fresh perspective to the story.
That's it for me. What's on your mind this week?

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10. Jo Nesbø & Roger Priddy Debut on the Indie Bestseller List

Jo NesboWe’ve collected the books debuting on Indiebound’s Indie Bestseller List for the week ending April 12, 2015–a sneak peek at the books everybody will be talking about next month.

(Debuted at #8 in Hardcover Nonfiction) The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Andersen Brower: “These dedicated professionals maintain the six-floor mansion’s 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, 28 fireplaces, three elevators, and eight staircases, and prepare everything from hors d’oeuvres for intimate gatherings to meals served at elaborate state dinners. Over the course of the day, they gather in the lower level’s basement kitchen to share stories, trade secrets, forge lifelong friendships, and sometimes even fall in love.” (April 2015)

(Debuted at #10 Hardcover Fiction) Blood on Snow by Jo Nesbø: “This is the story of Olav: an extremely talented \"fixer\" for one of Oslo’s most powerful crime bosses. But Olav is also an unusually complicated fixer.” (April 2015)

(Debuted at #12 in Children’s Illustrated) Pete the Cat’s Groovy Guide to Life by James Dean and Kimberly Dean: “Pete’s glass-half-full outlook on life shines through as he adds his fun take on well-known classics attributed to luminaries from Albert Einstein to Confucius to Abraham Lincoln to Shakespeare and more!” (April 2015)

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11. (Review) Bloodshot Reborn #1: White Skin, Red Eyes, and some New Friends

bloodshot-reborn-1

Writer: Jeff Lemire

Artist: Mico Suayan

Colorist: David Baron

Letters: David Lanphear


Bloodshot has had difficulty finding his identity at Valiant since the relaunch of the company back in 2012. The title has switched writers a few times already along with art teams and general focus. The Valiant, a recent event series from the publisher changed the dynamic of the lead hero, directly affecting the events inside of Valiant’s newest relaunch, Bloodshot Reborn #1.

Identity is the major theme of this issue. How does a robot discover his (or it’s) own humanity? The opening page depicted by Mico Suayan immediately tackles the theme and takes the idea to task. The rest of the opening sequence preps readers for a quick retrospective, a wise decision for new readers jumping into the character. The issue goes onto validate Bloodshot’s important role in the Valiant Universe within Unity and The Valiant.

The book begins in Colorado and gives the comic a new tone. Does this new incarnation of the hero have a chance in avoiding the violence as he travels down to do some handiwork at a motel?

It’s Bloodshot…so the answer should be a given. With the protagonists’ life in such a deep dark pit evoked from recent events, it might be hard for new fans to find a reason to empathetically devote their interest into the character. Bloodshot isn’t the man that he used to be, but this new identity doesn’t seem to suit the hero either. Thankfully, unexpected whimsy is hiding within this comic that may change your mind on the story being told.

Suayan’s art evokes pain and suffering within the different characters via hyper-detailed linework. The style works particularly well for Bloodshot, serving as as a bleak militaristic drama. Suayan’s approach to the mundane is played up as a dichotomy between the differences of the stories being told within the book. The artist drapes much of this story in thick shadow to illustrate the gritty narrative depicted in the tale. A major art surprise is hidden in the first installment that will be sure to delight readers familiar with the past work of Jeff Lemire.

About halfway into the narrative of this first issue, the scenery changes based on one pivotal scene that alters the nature of this entire book. In order to get fans truly interested into the narrative of Bloodshot himself, something radical had to be introduced into the first chapter. To spoil the hook would be a crime, but it’s safe to say that this first tale really does offer the unexpected to readers in the form of a brand new character that will hopefully drive Bloodshot Reborn for the foreseeable future. This book can be defined by that welcomed piece of whimsy hinted at in this first issue — it pushes this story from boring Punisher analogue into…something else.

It’s clear that Lemire and Suayan are crafting a story with this character that can be defined as subversive, but this first issue still plays it’s cards close to the chest. The tone of this series is splintering off into numerous different places, to the point where this first installment may actually serve the comics world better as a prologue rather than an actual first issue. While recommending this tale to the already established Bloodshot fandom seems like a given, to see whether this story could reach an audience with much broader scope could be possible. If the promise of something that can bend genre in a completely different direction doesn’t drive you to pick up Bloodshot Reborn #1, you should still make sure to keep your opinion informed by following the press coverage. Valiant seems closer than ever to reimagining the concept for one of their greatest and most beloved superheroes towards sheer delight with the power of Jeff Lemire, Mico Suayan, and some clever ideas.

1 Comments on (Review) Bloodshot Reborn #1: White Skin, Red Eyes, and some New Friends, last added: 4/17/2015
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12. Review of the Day: Beastly Verse by Joohee Yoon

Beastly Verse
By Joohee Yoon
Enchanted Lion Books
$18.95
ISBN: 978-1-59270-166-7
Ages 3 and up
On shelves now

Poetry. What’s the point? I say this as a woman who simultaneously gets poetry and doesn’t get it. I get that it’s important, of course. I only need to watch my three-year-old daughter come up with an ever increasing and creative series of bouncy rhymes to understand their use. But what I don’t get is Poetry with a capital “P”. I have come to accept this as a failing on my own part. And to be fair, there are works of poetry that I like. They just all seem to be for the milk teeth set. With that in mind I was particularly pleased to see Beastly Verse, illustrated by Joohee Yoon. Full of fabulous classic poems and art that manages to combined a distinctive color palette with eye-popping art, Yoon’s creates a world that takes the madcap energy of Dr. Seuss and combines it with the classic printmaking techniques of a fine artist. The end result keeps child readers on the edge of their seats with adults peering over their shoulders, hungry for more.

As I mentioned, the resident three-year-old is much enamored of poetry. This is good because it makes her an apt test subject for my own curiosity. I should mention that my goal in life is to NOT become the blogger who uses her children to determine the value of one book or another. That said, the temptation to plumb their little minds can sometimes prove irresistible. Now Beastly Verse is not specifically aimed at the preschooler set. With poems like William Blake’s “The Tiger” and “Humming-Bird” by D.H. Lawrence, the verse can at times exceed a young child’s grasp. That said, none of the poems collected here are very long, and the art is so entrancing that the normal fidgets just tend to fade away as you turn the pages. My daughter did find that some of the more frightening images, say of the carnivorous hummingbird or the spangled pandemonium, were enough to put her off. Fortunately, each scary image is hidden beneath a clever gatefold. If the reader does not want to see the face of a tiger tiger burning bright, they needn’t open the fold at all. Not only is it a beautiful technique, it makes the book appropriate for all ages. Clever.

One might not associate Yoon’s particular brand of yellows reds, oranges, greens, and blues with evocative prints. Yet time and again I was struck by the entrancing beauty of the pages. Yoon’s traditional printmaking techniques can bring to life the hot steam that rises even in the coolest shade of a tiger’s jungle. Another page and Lewis Carroll’s “The Crocodile” lingers below the surface of the water, his innards heaving with “little fishes”. Yoon saves the best for last, though, with a poem I’d not come across before. “Dream Song” by Walter de la Mare is set in the gleam of “Sunlight, moonlight / Twilight, starlight” when the sun is just a sliver of a white hot crescent on the horizon. All the forest is lit by the orange and red rays, and out of a tree pokes the head of a single owl. The hypnotic verses speaking of “wild waste places far away” mix with the image, conjuring up the moment moviemakers call “magic hour”.

Mind you, there is always a nightmarish mirror image to each seemingly sweet picture. The eyeless caterpillar all maw and teeth is turned, on the next page, into a beautiful but equally unnerving butterfly. Only Yoon, as far as I’m concerned, could have brought us the horrific implications of “The Humming-Bird” and its existence “Before anything had a soul.” Even the last seemingly innocuous image of Captain Jonathan cooking himself an egg takes on a dire cast when you realize it’s that of a pelican (of the poem “The Pelican” by Robert Desnos) he’s about to devour.

This is by no means the first collection of animal poetry to grace our shelves. It was only two or three years ago that J. Patrick Lewis helped to collect the National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry. Many of the poems found in this book can be found in that one as well. However, while that book seemed to be going for sheer girth, Yoon’s selections here are carefully positioned. I was interested in the layout in particular. You begin with the aforementioned Carroll poem (which seems appropriate since a manic smiling cat graces the title page) and then transition into a nursery rhyme, a bit of typical Ogden Nash flippery (only three lines long), and then Blake’s best-known poem. Variety of length keeps the poems eclectic and interesting to read. They keep you guessing as well. You never quite know what kind of poem will come next.

Having read the deliciously multicultural Over the Hills and Far Away, collected by Elizabeth Hammill, it is difficult to pick up a collected work of poetry without hankering for a similar experience. Aside from artist Joohee Yoon’s own name and the fact that Robert Desnos was Jewish, there is very little in this collection that isn’t white and American/European. The reasons for this may have something to do with permissions. Every poem in this book, with the exception of a few, is in the public domain. None were commissioned for the book specifically. Mind you, it would have been possible for the book to follow Hammill’s lead and locate international public domain animal poems of one sort or another written specifically for children. It is therefore up to the reading public to ascertain if the book stands stronger as a collection of similar types of poetry or if it would have benefited from a bit of variety here and there.

In the end, it’s a beautiful piece. Children’s rooms are no strangers to beautiful art in their poetry collections, but Yoon’s distinctive style is hard to compare to anyone. The only poet/illustrator with the same energy that comes to mind (and that writes for kids) would have to be Calef Brown. And as debuts go, this is a stunner. A truly inventive and original collection that deepens with every additional read. Kids like it. Adults like it. It could have benefited from some diversity, absolutely. Overall, however, there are few things like it on our shelves. An inspiration.

On shelves now.

Source: Final copy sent from publisher for review.

Like This? Then Try:

Other Blog Reviews: A Year of Reading

Professional Reviews:

Misc: Years ago, it was Jules at Seven Impossible Things who alerted the children’s book world to Ms. Yoon’s presence.  Here is the post.

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13. Review: the Netflix and Marvel team up push Daredevil “Into the Ring”

Daredevil-Netflix-Motion-PosterFull disclosure: I was hotly anticipating the premiere of the Marvel and Netflix team up on the Daredevil television series. Daredevil is a huge part of my comics origin story: I cut my teeth on the Guardian Devil story arc penned by Kevin Smith and expertly drawn by Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti. I fell hard for the Man Without Fear and soon discovered Frank Miller’s Elektra Saga arc, realized my childhood heroes of TMNT had written themselves into the Daredevil origin story and that was it: comics officially had my heart.

It’s a nice move to open on Matt’s origin and play it for all it’s horror and sadness. Little boy does the right thing, saves a man’s life by pushing him from a speeding truck and pays for it with his vision. The POV shot of young Matt’s vision slipping away while focusing on the face of his father was chilling and effective. Actor John Patrick Hayden strikes the right tone on “Battlin'” Jack Murdock, trying to do the best thing for his son while constantly aware of his own limitations.

Some of the early action was a tad stilted, in the way of pilot episodes since time immemorial. The human trafficking scene leaned heavily towards cliche and away from actual menace, but was saved by the beautiful fight choreography. Kudos to the fight coordination/stunt double team for their thoughtful work in representing both Daredevil’s radar and boxing background in his fighting style.

The heart of any Daredevil story, or most of them at any rate, is the relationship between Matt Murdock and his law partner and best friend Foggy Nelson. Both Charlie Cox and Elden Henson are well cast: they not only look their parts, but revel in the well-worn patter between the two old friends. An early scene in which the two shop for an office to open their law practice hits all the right notes in script and characterization. We’re meant to believe the events of The Avengers film have left Hell’s Kitchen in ruins, and therefore rents are cheap during reconstruction. This seems more of a stretch than supersonic hearing to me, after all there is a bit of real-life Daredevil in the work of Daniel Kish, but we go with it.

The entire tone of the series evokes the noir sensibilities of the Frank Miller work I was drawn to years ago, and we have veteran director Phil Abraham and showrunner Steven DeKnight to thank for it. While pitching Hell’s Kitchen as noir in present day New York again strains credulity, it’s just right for Marvel 616 and I was happy to see it. And let’s talk about Deborah Ann Woll as the beloved Karen Page. Woll brings goofiness and charm to her performance that’s just right for Karen, and her chemistry with both Cox and Henson is electric.

We get a sneak peak at the crime syndicate that will ultimately become Daredevil’s nemesis. I’m breathless with anticipation for the reveal of Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk aka the Kingpin. We’re only teased in the pilot by his voice commanding henchman Wesley via speakerphone Charlie’s Angel’s style.

There’s a great team of talent behind the scenes of Daredevil: Buffy and Angel veteran writers Drew Goddard and Doug Petrie loom large, and DeKnight’s work on the Starz series Spartacus is some of my favorite television of the last ten years. Pulling in directors like Abraham and Doctor Who vet Eros Lyn bodes well for the tone of the series going forward.

The final scenes wordlessly convey what Matt Murdock is up against as the crime fighting alter ego Daredevil: as Matt pummels the bag in his father’s old gym we see baddies literally laying plans to build their empire in DD’s beloved Hell’s Kitchen juxtaposed with further kidnappings and dirty deeds. The final image of Matt on the roof of his building, listening to the pain of his city before pulling his black mask over his eyes got my fangirl heart beating loud enough for Daredevil to hear it all the way from the Kitchen.

2 Comments on Review: the Netflix and Marvel team up push Daredevil “Into the Ring”, last added: 4/11/2015
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14. Friday Feature: Perfect For You Review Quotes Video




Yes, I'm sharing my own book today. Well, actually I'm sharing readers' thoughts of my book. Check out this video where I share some of my favorite lines from reviews of Perfect For You.


Do you have a favorite review quote of one of your books? Feel free to share it in the comments.

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

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15. Back from the Brink: Seth Kushner’s Secret Sauce

kushner001I’m not the kind of critic that likes to wax poetic about the production of a piece of art.  I believe that, although an artist’s life always influences their creations, a work should be judged on its own merits.  However, occasionally, as is the case with Seth Kushner’s comic anthology Secret Sauce, exceptions must be made.

As he elucidates at the start of the work, Kushner spent much of 2014 in and out of the hospital being treated for Leukemia.  He was told that he only had weeks to live.  Then weeks went by.  A few more.  Yet again, a few more.  Time passed, and Kushner still lived.  By the end of the year, Kushner had done what doctors had said would be impossible— he defeated his leukemia.  And then he made Secret Sauce.

Secret Sauce is structured as a set of five short stories, two of which are illustrated and three of which are produced as photocomics.  All feature Kushner’s writing, but each story has its own set of artistic collaborators who lend a different flavor to Kushner’s words. Going in, I was worried that Secret Sauce would be a set of ruminations on mortality— the frailty of life and the relentless passage of time.  Happily, I was proven wrong.  Secret Sauce is not an exploration of death, but is instead a celebration of life.

In Secret Sauce‘s first short story, “The Brooklynite in ‘A Man of His Word,'” Kushner immediately establishes an upbeat and energetic tone that persists through the stories that follow it.  Shamus Beyale provides great art for this short.  The backgrounds are rendered with care, and his characters are expressive and drawn with clearly defined lines.  Colorist Frank Reynoso uses a palette of upbeat pastels with some bright primary colors for accents, which further book’s energetic feel.kushner002

Kusher’s script never takes itself too seriously, and there are some great laughs as comic-artist-by-day-superhero-by-night Jeffries aka The Brooklynite takes on a disgruntled hipster-meets-MMA-fighter named Billy Burg.  It’s a testament to the team’s collective effort that they manage to successfully create a comic that feels full and fun in only four pages.  It’s fast and leaves the reader breathless and waiting for more.

kushner003

Sci-Fi short “”Youtopia” does something similar, with a heavy dose of well-directed action composed by artist Charles Stewart and a beautiful color scheme and world design inspired by Tron.  These two works have nothing in common in terms of plot, and instead find connection through the energy that Kushner imbues into his script and that his collaborators put into their art.

However, where Secret Sauce really shines is in its photocomics, particularly “Heyday.” In it, Kushner tells the story of a young girl whose grandfather used to be a superhero known as The Insomniac.  Kushner and co-director Dean Haspiel do some great work in this short, bringing a fun and heartwarming story to life with an artistic technique that is not commonly explored in comics, and is occasionally even maligned.  I myself often think about what would make a photocomic resonate with readers, and there’s a lot that can be learned from “Heyday.”  Its greatest success comes from the use of color in each photographic panel.  kushner004Characters are highlighted by wearing outfits with bright shades of blue, and the scenery of the living room that the story takes place in is pushed into the background through a unified use of oranges and browns.  It’s a simple, but incredibly effective technique, and really helps the story feel less like a vaguely connected series of images and more like a well-composed comic.  That’s not to say that “Heyday” is completely successful— the digitally produced sound effects and speech bubbles clash with the photographs, and Kushner and Haspiel’s use of stroke in one panel feels too synthetic when placed up against a photograph of a person rather than an illustration of one. Ultimately, however, the risks the two creators take in this photocomic are worth the slight missteps, as they demonstrate that comics still have plenty of room to grow and that Kushner has unique ideas on how to direct that growth (the ending to the story is also pretty ingenious and got a well earned laugh out of me).

It feels disingenuous to rate or score Secret Sauce on a scale.  Kushner doesn’t try to shove a message down anyone’s throat.  He’s not in it to prove something.  He’s in it because he loves comics, and it shows.  Secret Sauce is a revelry that is playfully self-indulgent with its references to Brooklyn culture and superhero tropes.  It’s a deeply personal work that is simultaneously universal in its themes.   It’s a book that plays with form and theme in ways that are not commonly explored.  In short, Secret Sauce is not a treatise— it’s a party.

Secret Sauce debuts at NYC’s MoCCA Fest 2015, which takes place this weekend, April 11th-12th.

1 Comments on Back from the Brink: Seth Kushner’s Secret Sauce, last added: 4/10/2015
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16. In Tandem: PINNED, by Sharon G. Flake

Happy Thursday and welcome back to In Tandem, the read-and-review blog series where both Tanita and I give our opinions, back and forth, conversation-like. Come join our book talk! Today we're discussing Pinned, by Sharon G. Flake. Pinned is a... Read the rest of this post

0 Comments on In Tandem: PINNED, by Sharon G. Flake as of 4/9/2015 12:40:00 PM
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17. Review of the Day: Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon

Castle Hangnail
By Ursula Vernon
Dial (an imprint of Penguin Group)
ISBN: 978-0803741294
Ages 8-11
On shelves April 21st

These are dark times for children’s fantasy. Dark times indeed. Which is to say, when I pick up a fantasy novel for kids, more often than not I find the books filled with torture, violence, bloody blood, and other various unpleasant bits and pieces. And honestly? That is fine. There are a lot of kids out there who lap up gore like it was mother’s milk. Still, it’s numbing. Plus I really wish that there was more stuff out there for the younger kiddos. The ones who have entered the wide and wonderful world of children’s fantasy and would rather not read about trees eating people or death by cake. Maybe they’d like something funny with lovable characters and a gripping plot. Even Harry Potter had its dark moments, but in the early volumes the books were definitely for the younger readers. Certainly we have the works of Eva Ibbotson and Ruth Chew, but newer books are always welcome, particularly if they’re funny. Maybe that’s part of the reason why Castle Hangnail blew me away as much as it did. Here we have a story that knows exactly what it is, what it wants to do, and manages to be hilarious and charming all at the same time. If you like your children’s fantasy novels full of psychotic villains and mind-numbing action sequences, seek ye elsewhere. This one’s for the kids.

To some, Castle Hangnail might appear to be a “pathetic rundown little backwater” but to the minions who live there it’s home. A home desperately in need of a new Master and Mistress. After all, if they don’t get someone soon the castle might be sold off and destroyed. Maybe that’s why everyone has such mixed feelings at first when Molly appears. Molly is short and young and wearing some very serious black boots. She looks like a 12-year-old kid and Majordomo, the guardian of the castle, is having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that she’s supposed to be their new Wicked Witch. Yet when he gives her the necessary tasks to make Castle Hangnail her own, Molly appears to have a couple tricks up her sleeve. She may have her secrets but everything seems to be okay . . . that is until the REAL master of Castle Hangnail arrives to claim it.

Basically what we have here is Downton Abbey for kids, albeit with significantly more dragon donkeys (and isn’t Majordomo SUCH a Carson?). This raises the question of where precisely this book takes place. Remembering that author Ursula Vernon herself is not actually British, one supposes that the story could be read as a U.S. tale. Due to its distinct Eva Ibbotson flavor, the initial inclination is to see the book as British. Our picturesque little towns pale in comparison to their picturesque little towns, and we’ve far fewer castles lying about the place. Still, there’s no reason it couldn’t be American. After all, I’ve seen many an American author fall into the trap of putting cockney characters into their books for no apparent reason. Vernon has a good head on her shoulders. She’s not falling for that game.

Truly a book like this hinges on the characters created. If you don’t believe in them or don’t like them then you won’t want us to follow them into your tale. You have to sympathize with Majordomo, even when he does some unfortunate things. You have to like Molly, even when you don’t initially understand her back-story. It takes a little while but Vernon also makes it clear how someone can be wicked as opposed to evil. “Wicked was turning somebody into an earwig and letting them run around for a week to give them a good scare. Evil was turning someone into an earwig and then stepping on them.” An evil heroine is tricky to love. A wicked one is on par with your average 12-year-old reader.

Speaking of characters, Vernon makes some very interesting narrative choices as well. For example, our heroine is introduced to us for the first time on page six. However around Chapter 33 she disappears from the storyline and really doesn’t appear again until Chapter 39. You have to have a very strong supporting cast to get away with that one. It would be a lot of fun to ask kid readers who their favorite character was. Did they prefer Pins or his neurotic goldfish? The minotaurs or the moles? Me, I like ‘em all. The whole kooky gang. For a certain kind of reader, there’s going to be a lot of allure to having minions as lovable as these.

Even the lightest bit of middle grade fluff needs a strong emotional core to keep it grounded. If there’s nothing to care for then there’s nothing to root for. For me, the heart of this particular tale lies in Molly’s relationship with the evil sorceress (and teenaged) Eudaimonia. Lots of kids have the experience of wanting to befriend someone older and meaner. The desire to please can lead a person to act unlike themselves. As Molly says, “It’s like a weird kind of magic . . . Like a spell that makes you feel like it’s all your fault.” Molly also wrestles with being different from her kittens and sparkles loving twin and so the theme of finding yourself and your own talents come to the fore.

And now a word in praise of humor. Funny is hard. Funny fantasy? That’s even harder. Vernon has always blown away the competition in the hilarity department. Pick up any “Danny Dragonbreath” comic and you’ll see what I’m talking about. She can sustain a narrative for an early chapter book, sure, but full-blown novels are a different kettle of fish (is that a mixed metaphor?). So how does she do? You’d swear she’d been churning these puppies out for years. Here are three of my favorite lines in celebration:

- “Harrow was one of those people who is born mean and continues to lose ground.”

- “Magic was a requirement in a new Master, unless you were a Mad Scientist, and Molly didn’t look like the sort to hook lightning rods up to cadavers while wild Theremins wailed in the background.”

- “For there are very powerful spells that are very simple, but unless you happen to be the right sort of person, they will not work at all. (And a good thing too. You can raise the dead with five words and a hen’s egg, but natural Necromancers are very rare. Fortunately they tend to be solemn, responsible people, which is why we are not all up to our elbows in zombies).”

Parents wander into the children’s room of a library. They ask the librarian at the desk to recommend a fantasy novel for their 8-year-old. “Nothing too scary”, they say. “Maybe something funny. Do you have anything funny?” Until now the librarian might try a little Ibbotson or a touch of E.D. Baker. Perhaps a smattering of Jessica Day George would do. Still, of all of these Castle Hangnail appeals to the youngest crowd. At the same time, it can be equally enjoyed by older kids too. Smart and droll, it’s the fantasy you’ve always wanted to hand to the 10-year-old Goth girl in your life (along with, let’s face it, everybody else you know). A true crowd pleaser.

On shelves April 21st.

Source: Galley sent from publisher for review.

Like This? Then Try:

Other Blog Reviews: Views From the Tesseract

Professional Reviews: A star from Kirkus

 

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18. Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

After several months of waiting, my turn for Roz Chast’s graphic memoir Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? finally came round. It was worth the wait.

You may already know what it is about. Chast’s parents were aging and she tried several times to talk to them about what they would want to do if something happened. Of course no one likes to think or talk about these sorts of things and trying to talk to your parents about it, especially when they don’t want to talk about it, is no easy thing. So Chast’s attempts went nowhere. And her parents continued to age and everything was fine until it wasn’t.

In their early 90s and becoming more frail, unable to keep the apartment clean and relying on a friendly neighbor to pick up things from the grocery store for them, it was only a matter of time before something happened. The call came at midnight. Chast’s mom had fallen while trying to stand on a ladder to change a light bulb. The fall had actually happened a few days before and she refused to go to the doctor. Nothing a little bed rest couldn’t fix. Until she couldn’t get out of bed. While Chast’s mom spent a few days at the hospital she had her father stay with her and her family. It was then she noticed her dad’s mental acuity was nowhere near what she thought it was. Her mom had been taking care of him and covering up just how bad he had gotten.

Thankfully, her mom was not seriously injured. But it was the beginning of the long decline. After more incidents Chast managed to convince her parents that they needed to move into assisted living. It was a nice facility where they had their own apartment and Chast, her husband and kids were nearby and could visit them frequently. Still, the parents did not go willingly.

The memoir is well told with humor and compassion. The art is cartoon-y but expressive. Chast’s story is the story of so many others that it is no surprise really why the book is so popular. I have family members who have had to take care of their aging parents. I have friends who are in the midst of taking care of theirs. It is not easy and our society doesn’t help make it any easier. Care facilities cost astronomical sums of money. Chast’s parents had scrimped and saved their entire lives and it only took a couple of years before they had nearly run through all their savings. Is that what we work all our lives to save for? Not retirement, but to pay for decent end-of-life care? And what happens when the money runs out? What happens if you have no one like Chast to look out for your best interests when you are not able to? It’s a scary prospect.

Growing old sucks. But the thing is, I don’t believe it has to. I don’t know how to change society and culture so that the golden years truly are golden right up to the last breath. But it is definitely something that needs to change.


Filed under: Books, Graphic Novels, Memoir/Biography, Reviews Tagged: Roz Chast

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19. Review: Convergence #0 is The Start of Something Big

Convergence #0

Convergence (2015) 000-000

 

Story: Jeff King, Dan Jurgens

Art: Ethan Van Sciver

Colors: Marcelo Maiolo

Letters: Travis Lanham

Publisher: DC Comics

 

 

Event comics are like vending machnies, sometimes you get nothing. That’s been true of more recent years stuff like AXIS, INFINITY, and Image United. The other side of that lost quarter are those books that make you glad these series exist. You’ll get a Crisis on Infinite Earths, Infinity Gauntlet, or House of M where the event delivers a promise that was hyped just right. On rare occasions, comic fans can be pleasantly surprised by something going in we believe to be overhyped. That right there is the beauty of DC Comics latest event Convergence.

This zero issue gives readers an idea of what Convergence is about without really putting the gears in motion too much. Television producer Jeff King pairs with veteran comics writer Dan Jurgens to pen a prologue that answers questions you might have after reading Superman: Doomed a few months ago. Convergence #0 answers the mystery of what happened during Superman’s disappearance in the Doomed event. Readers will get a Brainiac unlike any you’ve seen before and all the Brainiacs you’ve seen before. In a way, that’s what Convergence is, everything old is new and everything new is grandiose. King and Jurgens are playing off a lot of nostalgia connected to the heart of a DC fan while trying to incorporate this new ultra Brainiac to the DCU. Seeing all the moments Superman died across all those universes is like an Easter egg hunt. Issue zero is where we get a road map of the event through New 52 Superman’s journey among the plane of domed cities. This tale is a good set up in driving home the point of what the Convergence spine series will be about and how it could potentially matter post Convergence.

Whether you love his work or not, Ethan Van Sciver was the perfect choice for Convergence. His hyper realistic style works to subtlety unify the different versions of characters we’ll see. It’s like threading popcorn through a string, each kernel will look different but ultimately you know they’re on the same line. There so many great illustrators in comics, but so few can handle the necessary scope event books need. Ethan is an artist who knows how to dial it to 11 when he needs to. Looking at these pages, the sheer level of details hidden in the panels will blow your mind. Particularly with the Daily Planets. Marcelo Maiolo’s colors are a loving compliment to all the gorgeous line work. The story has so much visual shifting that it could have been detrimental to the book, but the color work brings it all together smoothly.

Convergence (2015) 000-015

Being someone who suffers from event fatigue, Convergence #0 was a pleasant surprise. It’s the history of DCU used brilliantly as a story device and it’s one of the most visually impressive looking event books since the original Crisis. But we can’t whole heartedly recommend it without a bit of warning. The biggest reason being a zero issue should never cost $4.99. Usually these been the least expensive issues of events, sometimes even FCBD issues. This one has 28 pages of story and a 10 page guide explaining each of the universes we’ll see during the event. It’s an addition which could have easily been published online, or as a free marketing pamphlet for stores to giveaway, instead of adding to the page count. Even if this isn’t solely the reason for the price point, it certainly couldn’t have hurt their wallets to eliminate it from the printing. If you are a reader that’s been on board from the day Convergence was announced, you won’t be disappointed when you pick up the book. As for the rest of us, if you don’t mind the price point, Convergence is good… really good.

 


Dave and all his multiverse counter parts can be seen every morning grabbing a donut and coffee on the way to the office because we all got together and killed the one version who didn’t like that stuff, or on twitter @bouncingsoul217

 

7 Comments on Review: Convergence #0 is The Start of Something Big, last added: 4/3/2015
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20. Behind Every Great Man

I’m over at a site called Bitter Empire today with a review of a new nonfiction book:

Behind Every Great Man: The Forgotten Women Behind the World’s Famous and Infamous by Marlene Wagman-Geller, offers a collection of short biographies, usually six to ten pages, of the wives of famous men. From Johanna Bertha Julie Jenny von Westphalen (aristocratic wife of Karl Marx) to Eva Gabrielsson (common-law wife of Stieg Larsson), from artists and scientists to dictators and activists, Wagman-Gellar investigated women who were both married to historically significant men and seemed to have “dwelled in the shadows.” With her investigations she aimed to pay tribute to the women who influenced their famous husbands. Many of the women profiled were equal partners in the events that brought their husbands’ fame only to find themselves left on the sidelines of history.

Also, it is the final day of my long, four-day weekend. Sigh. It is cold and rainy outside and bookish folk know what that means: perfect reading weather. So please excuse me while I go curl up with a few good books.


Filed under: Books, Memoir/Biography, Nonfiction, Reviews

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21. Deadlands: Dead Man’s Hand Vol. #1 a Game Comic with Horror Fan Appeal

by Pam Auditore

Deadlands TPB Cover

Deadlands: Dead Man’s Hand vol. 1

I’ve never played Deadlands.  I know nothing about it.  I’m not into role playing or most video games.  I once played Grand Theft Auto. But it  doesn’t count, ‘cuz I never played for points, only for evil.  Running your car over everyone in sight, while shooting randomly, hardly makes a  game player.

Still, I know  people who developed their fondness for comics by following their favorite game character to their local comics retailer, to be dismissive of comics based on games.

So I come at this review purely as a comic book fan.  Moreover, as a pleasantly surprised horror-comic fan, without any practical knowledge of the game on which these stories are based.

 

 

1) “The Devil’s Six Gun”            2) “Massacre at Red Wing”
Writer: David Gallaher                   Writers:Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray
Artist: Steve Ellis                               Artist: Lee Moder
Colorist: Steve Ellis                           Colorist: Michael Atiyeh
Letter: Troy Peteri                             Letterer: Troy Peteri
Editor: Ron Marz                               Editor: Ron Marz




3) “Death was Silent”                4) “Black Water”
Editor/Writer: Ron Marz                Writer: Jeff Mariotte
Artist: Bart Sears                              Artist: Book Turner
Colorist:Michael Atiyeh                 Colorist: C.Edward Sellner

Letterer: Troy Peteri                       Letterer:Troy Peteri

Editor: Ron Marz                              Editor: Ron Marz


5) “What a Man’s Gotta Do”  6) “Vengance”
Writer: Matthew Cutter                  Writer: Shane Lacy Hensley
Artist: Ulises Roman                       Artist: Sean Lee
Colorist: Doug Spencer                   Inker: Mike Munshaw
Letterer: Jacob Bascle                    Colorist/Editor: C. Edward Sellner
Editor: C. Edward Sellner             Letterer: Jacob Bascle




Publisher: IDW

 

Deadlands: Deadman’s Hand Vol. 1 is  a collection of  short stories based on Pinnacle Entertainment’s flagship Role-playing board game: Deadlands. For whose characters, IDW rounded up some of the best talents in the Horror and Western genres to flesh out.   The game is what Pinnacle calls a “Weirdest” Western, written by Shane Lacy Hensley, merging fictional Western settings with familiar character types and situations, would be cliché, if not mittigated by  the elements of  Steam Punk, Magic, and Science Fiction, and mostly served up within the context of the horror genre.

There is plenty of action, gun play and violence.  Delivering enough emotional hooks, and dread, to be horror, without a needless gore-fest.  (I have no problem with gore, but not for it’s own sake.)  In a few stories, I couldn’t help but notice  the mechanics of the game poking through and interrupting  the narrative.   Aliens, inexplicably, appear for our hero to fight, taking her out of her personal quest; characters enter a maze for no compelling reason; and sudden scene jumps feels like characters are being hurried along to the next play window.

Still, there are stories which move so smoothly, as to feel original, achieved through exceptional storytelling  and art. Ron Marz’s and Bart Sears’s “Death was Silent” and David Gallaher’s and Steve Ellis’s Faustian character study in: “The Devil’s Six Gun.”

My fav being “Death was Silent.” Delivering unexpected plot twists and making me want to read Marz’s  script just so I could see were he ends and Bart Sears begins.  Sears’s panels are worthy of study for young comic artists  to see how layout creates pacing, mood, and builds tension.  His choice of panels are as impressive as the art work within.

Meanwhile, the always dependable Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray deliver the most butt kicking tale of the collection for the character Clementine. Who is a really, really, really white half Native American lady searching for her birth mother, along with her German Shepherd.  She nobly rescues a Western town fighting creatures who look like they invaded from Play-Doh Land.

I’m sure fans of the Deadlands Game can will enjoy seeing some of their characters and narratives fleshed out.  As, I’m sure, there is much I’m not getting, since, I’m a non-player.

But standing on it’s own as  western/horror comic collection.  Deadlands: Dead Man’s Hand vol. 1, ain’t  half bad–partners.

Available now in stores and on Amazon.

 

1 Comments on Deadlands: Dead Man’s Hand Vol. #1 a Game Comic with Horror Fan Appeal, last added: 4/7/2015
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22. Review of The Penderwicks in Spring

birdsall_penderwicks in springThe Penderwicks in Spring
by Jeanne Birdsall
Intermediate   Knopf   339 pp.
3/15   978-0-375-87077-4   $16.99
Library ed. 978-0-375-97077-1   $19.99   g
e-book ed. 978-0-307-97459-4   $10.99

In this fourth Penderwicks book, time has passed and the family landscape has changed. Mr. Penderwick has married the lovely Iantha; Rosalind is away at college; and Skye is fending off best friend Jeffrey’s romantic advances. (Aspiring author Jane, however, is as dreamy as ever.) And Batty, the impish little girl with butterfly wings, is now ten and the “senior member of the younger Penderwick siblings” — stepbrother Ben (seven) and half-sister Lydia (two). The story mostly belongs to Batty: already an accomplished pianist, she’s discovered a talent for singing. To raise money for (secret) voice lessons, she starts a neighborhood odd-jobs business. She’s employed as a dog walker, which sadly reminds her of her dear departed Hound. There’s a lot of melancholy (and some melodrama) in this book, with poor Batty suffering benign neglect from favorite-sister Rosalind (temporarily boy-crazy, and an insufferable boy at that) and bearing the brunt of some particularly hurtful words from Skye. On the plus side, Ben and Lydia, in their cheering-up efforts, emerge as formidable Penderwicks; across-the-street neighbor Nick (on leave from the army, older brother of Rosalind’s true love Tommy) provides no-nonsense advice; best friend Keiko remains true blue; and lovelorn Jeffrey finally snaps out of it enough to resume his role as Batty’s musical mentore. And at her climactic Grand Eleventh Birthday Concert, Batty rewardingly finds her voice.

From the March/April 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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23. Sara Gruen & Sandra Boynton Debut on the Indie Bestseller List

At the Water's EdgeWe’ve collected the books debuting on Indiebound’s Indie Bestseller List for the week ending April 5, 2015–a sneak peek at the books everybody will be talking about next month.

(Debuted at #5 in Hardcover Fiction) At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen: “After disgracing themselves at a high society New Year’s Eve party in Philadelphia in 1944, Madeline Hyde and her husband, Ellis, are cut off financially by his father, a former army colonel who is already ashamed of his son’s inability to serve in the war. When Ellis and his best friend, Hank, decide that the only way to regain the Colonel’s favor is to succeed where the Colonel very publicly failed—by hunting down the famous Loch Ness monster—Maddie reluctantly follows them across the Atlantic, leaving her sheltered world behind. ” (March 2015)

(Debuted at #8 in Hardcover Nonfiction) Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris: “Mary Norris has spent more than three decades in The New Yorker‘s copy department, maintaining its celebrated high standards. Now she brings her vast experience, good cheer, and finely sharpened pencils to help the rest of us in a boisterous language book as full of life as it is of practical advice.” (April 2015)

(Debuted at #15 in Children’s Illustrated) The Bunny Rabbit Show! by Sandra Boynton: “You’ve got front-row seats to the cutest revue in town—hop on down to The Bunny Rabbit Show! The latest addition to Sandra Boynton’s phenomenal bestselling Boynton on Board series, this book stars a cast of high-kicking bunnies performing in perfect unison to a lively song all about…them.” (September 2014)

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24. Shiny

The Spring issue of Shiny New Books is up!

I was so lucky to have the chance to read and review not one, but two, Oxford Classic reissues of Virginia Woolf books.

There is the delightful and marvelously rich Orlando:

I first read Orlando by Virginia Woolf many years ago. Fresh in love with Woolf’s writing and having just learned about her romance with Vita Sackville-West, I read the book as one long love story. But to read Orlando purely as a love letter from Virginia to Vita is to miss all the truly strange and wonderful things the book does. Because the book is also mock historical fiction and a satire on biography, not to mention an examination of identity and gender as well as a criticism of literary criticism. The book turns out to be charming, rich, and complex.

Having just published To the Lighthouse, Woolf wanted to write something lighter to please the public, something of which a reader could understand every word. But this is Woolf we are talking about and she sent me to the dictionary a number of times. Orgulous? Drugget? Obfusc? Woolf made that last one up!

Then I got to read The Waves for the first time. I was pretty nervous about that one and as you can tell, the introduction didn’t help matters. However, I should not have worried because it turned out to be a most amazing book:

Oxford World Classics has produced a terrific reissue of Virginia Woolf’s novel The Waves. There are helpful endnotes, biographical information, a selected bibliography and an introduction. But don’t read the introduction first. This is not because the introduction spoils anything, The Waves has no plot to spoil. Nor is it a badly written introduction, in fact it is quite good.

Don’t read the introduction first because it will color the way you read the novel. It will scare you by telling you how difficult The Waves is. It will tell you the book is Woolf’s most anti-colonial novel and you will spend far too much energy looking for clues for this. It will explain characters to you before you even meet them, which will cause you, when you do meet them, to have preconceived opinions. It will try to pin down into reality much of what Woolf works so hard to leave open and ambiguous. Read the introduction, but read it afterwards, after you have been tossed and tumbled about by The Waves and finally washed up on the shore bruised, glassy-eyed and gasping for breath.

Pop over via the links for the full reviews and while you are there, be sure and check out all the other articles and reviews. And be prepared to add to your TBR pile!


Filed under: Books, Reviews, Virginia Woolf Tagged: Shiny New Books

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25. Review: Bringing Together The Four Points #1

The Four Points #1

TheFourPoints-01_vol1-AspenStory: Scott Lobdell

Art: Jordan Gunderson

Inks: John Ercek, Mark Roslan

Colors: Valentina Pinto

Letters: Josh Reed

Publisher: Aspen Comics

 

 

Despite the criticisms of delayed books and hyper-sensualized characters; for more than a decade, for better or worse, Aspen Comics has let their books speak for themselves. They, along with companies like Boom! and Image, bring new characters for the part of the market that doesn’t want the same old pliable superhero comics. Their newest debut, The Four Points, builds on the notion of a shared universe inside the publisher.

Issue one introduces three captivating female characters. Gia Sorentino, the institutionally committed daughter of billionaire philanthropists. Her Earth element powers put her in tune with everything that normal people can’t hear. Ivana Ghoul, a near invulnerable Russian wind rider with some deeply rooted trust issues. Then there’s Ara, a woman who uses her command over fire to pass herself off as a goddess on an island in the south pacific. Gia must bring these volatile elements together to defend the planet from the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Our heroines will have their ranks completed after being joined by a character very familiar to anyone that’s read the publisher’s flagship titles.

Writer Scott Lobdell introduces a hot concept to Aspen with Four Points. While it certainly isn’t revolutionary to bring a group of superpowered females together to fight evil; here, it’s solid. The opening chapter is all about the gravity of the situation and the unstableness of the elements he’s trying to bring together. Four Points #1 speeds through a lot of exposition and teases the potential chilling evil and blockbuster action we’ll see in the series. It moves so fast and drops the audience on a cliffhanger in a way that’s reminiscent of the writer’s X-Men work.

Jordan Gunderson’s art is a bit of a mixed bag of fine simple visual comic storytelling and large scale spread. The designs of the characters have that necessary majestic fantasy touch the publisher is known for, but you’ll see a few disproportional figures that jar you a bit. He did some excellent work on EA: Assassins, so I can’t wait to see what he does with bigger action scenes in this title, especially if he has the lead time he needs.

Four Points is a bit of a surprise. As a reader, Lobdell’s work has always been strange to me. He’s a writer that’s either into what he’s doing or he’s not, and it’s very easy for the audience to pick up on which Scott you’re getting. This new book feels like something he’s put a lot of energy into and even the slow opening is enough to invest your precious comic time. Four Points is an idea that’s right place at the right time for Aspen, which hopefully builds on everything in these pages.


Find out what Dave’s four points are on twitter, three of which are pizza toppings, or complain with him about the cringe worthy moments of looking at a computer screen when you type in an incorrect password.

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