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1. Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner Debut on the Indie Bestseller List

When to Rob a Bank Cover (GalleyCat)We’ve collected the books debuting on Indiebound’s Indie Bestseller List for the week ending May 24, 2015–a sneak peek at the books everybody will be talking about next month.

(Debuted at #3 in Hardcover Fiction) Seveneves by Neal Stephenson: “A catastrophic event renders the earth a ticking time bomb. In a feverish race against the inevitable, nations around the globe band together to devise an ambitious plan to ensure the survival of humanity far beyond our atmosphere, in outer space. But the complexities and unpredictability of human nature coupled with unforeseen challenges and dangers threaten the intrepid pioneers, until only a handful of survivors remain.” (May 2015)

(Debuted at #12 in Hardcover Nonfiction) When to Rob a Bank by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner: “When Freakonomics was first published, the authors started a blog—and they’ve kept it up. The writing is more casual, more personal, even more outlandish than in their books. In When to Rob a Bank, they ask a host of typically off-center questions: Why don’t flight attendants get tipped? If you were a terrorist, how would you attack? And why does KFC always run out of fried chicken?” (May 2015)

(Debuted at #14 in Hardcover Nonfiction) The Quartet by Joseph J. Ellis: “The Quartet is the story of this second American founding and of the men most responsible—George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison. These men, with the help of Robert Morris and Gouverneur Morris, shaped the contours of American history by diagnosing the systemic dysfunctions created by the Articles of Confederation, manipulating the political process to force the calling of the Constitutional Convention, conspiring to set the agenda in Philadelphia, orchestrating the debate in the state ratifying conventions, and, finally, drafting the Bill of Rights to assure state compliance with the constitutional settlement.” (May 2015)

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2. The House of Paper

cover artI really hate to admit that when I am out and about commenting on blogs and the book under discussion sounds appealing and I leave a comment saying I will have to read the book it generally doesn’t go much further than me putting the book on a list and forgetting about it completely until I come across the book again on someone else’s blog and say how good it sounds and I will have to read it and round and round it goes.

I had heard of The House of Paper by Carlos María Dominguez before, I can’t say where because it was so long ago. So when Emily at Books the Universe and Everything blogged about it recently there was a faint ripple in my memory. In this instance, however, instead of adding it to a list, I actually requested it from the library! What prompted me to do so? Well, it seemed like a bookish book and it is a novella and I hoped it would help me get out of my fiction slump.

The book arrived last week on Thursday and it was all I could do to keep from gobbling it down in one big gulp! It asks to be gobbled. It asks to be read slowly and savored. I managed something in between.

This lovely novella is a story for bookworms. It begins with the death of Bluma Lennon, professor, who, in 1998, bought a secondhand copy of Emily Dickinson’s poems in Soho and began reading them as she was walking down the street. She was on the second poem when she was hit and killed by a car. How obvious it is then that

Books change people’s destinies. Some have read The Tiger of Malaysia and become professors of literature in remote universities. Demian converted tens of thousands of young men to Eastern philosophy, Hemingway made sportsmen of them, Alexandre Dumas complicated the lives of thousands of women, quite a few of whom were saved from suicide by cookbooks. Bluma was their victim.

And only a funeral filled with literature professors could produce an argument over a phrase one of Bluma’s colleagues said in her eulogy:

so there are a million car bumpers loose on the streets of the city which can show you just what a good noun is capable of.

The narrator of our story, a professor stepping in to take over Bluma’s classes, is also using her office. One day not long after her death, our narrator receives a package addressed to Bluma. It appears to be a book and since professors are often sent books by publishers, he didn’t think much about opening it. It is indeed a book but it is not from a publisher.

The book is a broken-spined old copy of The Shadow-Line by Joseph Conrad. It is covered with grey grit and dust our narrator determines is cement. On the flyleaf is an inscription in Bluma’s handwriting to a man named Carlos. There is reference to a conference in Monterrey and the date June 8, 1996.

Intrigued, our narrator sets out to discover who Carlos is so he can return the book and let him know of Bluma’s death. The mystery takes him to Uruguay where he eventually learns the strange story of Carlos Brauer. I will not tell you the mystery, only that this story that began with such charm and humor turns dark as it examines the downside of a life obsessed with books.

The story is a mirror and a warning to bookworms everywhere. To add to the pleasure of this book, interspersed throughout the story are strange and delightful illustrations by Peter Sís. I highly recommend you do what I did and get yourself copy of this book right away. Don’t put it on a list, just get it and read it. It is only 103 pages long and you will be very happy that you took my advice.


Filed under: Books, Reviews Tagged: Carlos Maria Dominguez

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3. The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough

In the first chapter of The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough, a baby boy is visited by the manifestation of Love. Appearing as a man in a fine gray suit, Love gives the boy a steady heart and these words: "Have courage." The next night, the manifestation of Death visits a baby girl across town and marks the child with a tear and whispered warnings. The first chapter is set in 1920; the next chapter skips forward to 1937, when the players are seventeen years old and the Game officially begins.

Told in third person, the book shuttles between the perspectives of the players - Flora, an African-American aviatrix who tends to planes during the day and sings jazz music at her uncle's club at night, and Henry, a scholarship student who lives with his best friend's well-to-do family - and the game runners - Death, a cynical feminine presence who would give Once Upon a Time's Queen Regina a run for her money, and Love, a masculine presence who believes in the transformative power of love. Other characters who come into play include Henry's best friend Ethan, Ethan's little sister Annabel, Ethan's cousin Helen, Flora's grandmother, Flora's uncle, and others at the jazz club. The third-person narrative permits the readers to know more about the characters, the events, and the overall big picture than the main players, who are unaware of their part in the Game. Revelations and connections lead to some tense page turns, especially as the story ramps up to the climax.

Death is a master manipulator, cunning and some would say cruel as she finds a way to get close to Henry and use him as a pawn. Meanwhile, Love is determined and hopeful, and his side story is something that made me want to give Brockenbrough a very strong high-five. The world would be a better place if all people were open-minded and optimistic and true to themselves.

The contrast between Death and Love is stark, but what's even more interesting is what they have in common. Consider, if you will, what they want; what they seek; what they are willing to sacrifice; and what they refuse to give up. It's eye-opening and tear-jerking and thought-provoking and other hyphenated things. If you are an emotional reader, you should probably have a box of Kleenex nearby. Also, perhaps you should sit in a comfy chair so you can grip the arm of it and/or curl up in a ball when necessary.

The writing throughout the novel is thoughtful. Every scene offers a complete picture of the setting and the people present. For example:

"Do you ever wonder," Helen said, walking down the stairs towards him, "if flowers feel pain when someone cuts them?" She lifted one from the basket. "Does it look like it suffered?"

"Oh, Helen," Mrs. Thorne said, "what a curious thing to say. I'm sure Henry has thought no such thing."

It was true. But, he realized, he would not be able to look at a flower again without wondering whether it had suffered, or whether anyone had cared.
- Page 94

The word "someday" is introduced early in the book as something important to the characters, and it leads to an impactful song that I wish we could hear.

If you liked The Game of Love and Death, you should check out The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. Read the original book, then see the classic film. The book was written by Josephine Leslie, but she used a pseudonym: R.A. Dick. The book also inspired a TV series, a sitcom. You should also read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, which is directly narrated by Death, who is omniscient and genderless and more of an observer than a manipulator. Set on the European homefront during World War II, you'll need Kleenex to handle the tears you'll shed while reading that book, too.

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4. Noelle Stevenson, Tom Brokaw, & Dr. Seuss Debut on the Indie Bestseller List

Nimona Cover (GalleyCat)We’ve collected the books debuting on Indiebound’s Indie Bestseller List for the week ending May 17, 2015–a sneak peek at the books everybody will be talking about next month.

(Debuted at #8 in Young Adult) Nimona by Noelle Stevenson: “Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson. Featuring an exclusive epilogue not seen in the web comic, along with bonus conceptual sketches and revised pages throughout, this gorgeous full-color graphic novel is perfect for the legions of fans of the web comic and is sure to win Noelle many new ones.” (May 2015)

(Debuted at #12 in Hardcover Nonfiction) A Lucky Life Interrupted by Tom Brokaw: “Tom Brokaw has led a fortunate life, with a strong marriage and family, many friends, and a brilliant journalism career culminating in his twenty-two years as anchor of the NBC Nightly News and as bestselling author. But in the summer of 2013, when back pain led him to the doctors at the Mayo Clinic, his run of good luck was interrupted. He received shocking news: He had multiple myeloma, a treatable but incurable blood cancer.” (May 2015)

(Debuted at #14 in Children’s Illustrated) Seuss-Isms! by Dr. Seuss: “The one and only Dr. Seuss dispenses invaluable advice about life in this collection of his most memorable quotes. Featuring over sixty pages of cherished Seuss art and quotes from such classics as The Cat in the Hat, Horton Hatches the Egg, Green Eggs and Ham, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, and many more, this humorous and inspiring collection is, indeed, a perfect gift for those just starting out…or those who are already on their way!” (January 2015)

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5. Review: Psycho Bonkers #1 is a cheat code for fun

Psycho Bonkers #1

Psycho_Bonkers-v1-01

 

Story: Vince Hernandez

Art: Adam Archer

Colors: Federico Blee

Letters: Josh Reed

Publisher: Aspen Comics

 

 

Like a lot of you; I love me some comics, I love me some games. Adaptations or series based on –one or the other–seem to be more frequent in the age of modern marketing. Every once in awhile something comes along which incurs the two worlds to make one completely new thing. Aspen Comics, a company not known for all-ages material, creates that thing. They call it Psycho Bonkers, we call it an instruction manual for fun.

Psycho Bonkers is a tale of a technologically advanced world obsessed with kart racing. Picture Mario Kart, but with more LEDs and blinky things. This story, written by Vince Hernandez, is about a rambunctious girl named Shine and her anamorphic mouthy car named Shiza. Readers are dropped in the middle of the duo trying to win the historic Bonk Rally race Shiza has been obsessed with since she was a little girl growing up in a racing family. It’s a journey of twist, turns, and atmospheric drops while avoid the distractions of other drivers.

Shine is a compelling character living in Aspen’s version of a Pixar story. Like any good animated story, there’s an element of real world tragedy that drives her. Her rebellious outer shell hides a deep mystery of her family’s turmoil that’s peeled back through flashbacks.

The debut issue gives readers a glimpse of Shine’s family, love interest, and supporting cast without making them feel buried in exposition. Though, Gabbo the repair bot that lives in Shiza would have benefitted from playing the straight man to the colorful character of the car instead of having a similarly sarcastic voice as the car.

Visually the art of Adam Archer is mix of frenzy and clean line work. The team’s love of video games shines through with nods to some of your favorite racing games *CoughNintendoDon’tSueCough* . Psycho Bonker’s underlining theme is speed and the book shows it by making everything feel like it’s in constant motion.

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For a publisher known for mature themed fantasy tales, Psycho Bonkers is uncharted waters. Lap one is a spark of speed fueled heart they can hopefully build on. It has a few things to work out, but delivers an emphatic opening that mixes the excitement of a racing game with comic book storytelling. You should definitely “press start” on this title.

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6. Review of March: Book Two

lewis_march bk 2star2 March: Book Two
by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin; illus. by Nate Powell
Middle School, High School   Top Shelf Productions   192 pp.
1/15   978-1-60309-400-9   $19.95   g

Lewis and Aydin begin this second volume of the graphic memoir trilogy in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2009 (President Obama’s first inauguration), then they move back in time to 1960 to pick up where March: Book One (rev. 1/14) left off. Dramatic descriptions and vivid black-and-white illustrations of SNCC’s direct action campaigns in Nashville (sit-ins at fast-food restaurants and cafeterias, “stand-ins” at a segregated movie theater) are followed by accounts of the Freedom Rides into the “heart of the beast” in the Deep South, and on through the March on Washington on August 28, 1963, where Lewis spoke alongside Dr. King. (Back matter includes the original draft of Lewis’s speech, a more fiery, radical version of the speech he delivered, a debate about which took place up to the moment he stepped onstage.) Since this is Lewis’s personal story, the account has the authority of a passionate participant, and the pacing ramps up tension and historical import. Events and personalities aren’t romanticized in the text or the illustrations, which themselves don’t flinch from violence; in addition to exploring the dream that drove the civil rights movement, the story also portrays its divisions. Flash-forwards to Barack Obama’s inauguration appear judiciously throughout, an effective reminder to readers about the effects of the movement. Among the many excellent volumes available on the subject of civil rights this is a standout, the graphic format a perfect vehicle for delivering the one-two punch of powerful words and images.

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

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7. Review: Avengers–themed Aged White Cheddar Pirate’s Booty

piratebooty_avengers1.gif

piratebooty_avengers2.gif

Just to show that I cannot escape marketing or branding, a few weeks ago I received some PR about limited edition bags of Pirate’s Booty cheese snacks that feature The Avengers on them, because cheese snacks are the new shawarma. Just in time for the movie. I got to corresponding with the PR person, and well, soon a giant FedEx box full of Pirate’s Booty arrived at Stately Beat Manor.

I’m told that “Pirate’s Booty Aged White Cheddar is a deliciously baked (never fried) snack made from puffed rice and corn, and blended with real aged white cheddar cheese. Made without artificial colors, flavors or preservatives, it is a snack that kids and parents agree on. Additionally, it is gluten-free and has 0 grams of trans fat per serving.” So basically these are healthy-ish cheese puffs. So here’s my review:

I love Pirate’s Booty! The cheese flavor, described as aged white cheddar, is natural and sharp, and the texture is light and crispy. I’ve been eating these as an afternoon (or sometimes midnight) snack since the box arrived. I will be sad when the box is empty. I guess these are not on my low-glycemic diet, but the portions are very modest in each bag so it wasn’t a Hulkbuster. Also gluten and wheat free if you’re into that. (Gluten doesn’t really bother me, I’ve found, but I do have a mild wheat allergy, which is sad, but life goes on.)

The puffs do leave a grainy residue on your hands, but it’s pale, unlike the fire hydrant orange paste that must be scrubbed off with steel wool that remains after a session with Cheetohs.

And on a very positive note, Black Widow is included on the packaging art along with Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk and Thor as if she were a real member of the team!

Anyway, you can find out more about Pirate’s Booty at their website.

Disclosure: product samples were supplied for this review, but I did not receive any financial compensation.

3 Comments on Review: Avengers–themed Aged White Cheddar Pirate’s Booty, last added: 5/21/2015
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8. Quick Monday Review: TANDEM by Anna Jarzab

I'll admit two things first: 1) I put off reading this one for far too long, and 2) the first time I opened it and read the first few pages, I just wasn't immediately drawn in. There was a princess, and I had not assumed that there would be... Read the rest of this post

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9. Review of Roger Is Reading a Book

van biesen_roger is reading a bookRoger Is Reading a Book
by Koen Van Biesen; illus. by the author; trans. from the Dutch by Laura Watkinson
Primary   Eerdmans   40 pp.
3/15   978-0-8028-5442-1   $16.00

The rainy-night endpapers of this 
Belgian import draw readers into the cozy lamplight of Roger’s apartment. “Shhhh! Quiet. Roger is reading. Roger is reading a book.” The page turn reveals that peacefulness can be fleeting. A disturbing “BOING BOING” emanates from the other side of the wall, cleverly defined by the book’s gutter, as next-door-neighbor-girl Emily bounces her ball. Roger retaliates by banging on the wall, and noise amps up while neighborliness dissipates. Showcased on white or off-white backgrounds, the illustrations feature small bursts of patchy color and abstract linework that artistically depict sound. When Emily bangs her drum, thin colored lines show a slow-motion time lapse of Roger startling — shoe, hat, 
book, and glasses flying. In the end Roger gives Emily her own book to read. His peace offering brings quiet until his ignored dog’s hints to go out finally erupt into a cacophony of “WOOF WOOF”s sending everyone into the rain for a walk. Visually stimulating, this well-designed package of noises, books, and human nature is like an offbeat piece of chamber music. Any resemblance to The Horn Book’s editor in chief is entirely coincidental (or not).

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

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10. Little Nemo: A 110-Year-Old Character Sparks Renewed Interest

Little Nemo is roused by a new generation of artists in two new books.

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11. Review of the Day: Billy’s Booger by William Joyce

Billy’s Booger: A Memoir (Sorta)
By William Joyce
Moonbot Books / Atheneum Books for Young Readers (an imprint of Simon & Schuster)
$17.99
ISBN: 978-1442473515
Ages 4-7
On shelves June 2nd

The fictionalized picture book memoir is a fairly new creation, when you get right down to it. It’s not as if Sendak was telling tales about a little boy in Brooklyn or Margaret Wise Brown was penning nostalgic stories of a girl in a Swiss boarding school. But somewhere during the latter part of the 20th century, the form sort of took off. Tomie dePaola typified it with books like Oliver Button Is a Sissy. Michael Rosen took an adult perspective in The Sad Book. And Patricia Polacco has practically made a cottage industry out of it with stories like Thank You, Mr. Falker and Mr. Lincoln’s Way amongst others. They’re still relatively rare, though, so when you encounter a book like Billy’s Booger: A Memoir (Sorta) your first thought isn’t that this is going to have any bearing whatsoever on author William Joyce’s real life. Instead, you zero on in that word. “Booger”. Kinda hard to get away from. And you want to write the book off as gross based on that alone, but the image on the cover stops you. Not the small waving green guy, though he’s pretty cute (until you realize what exactly he is) but rather the bespectacled wide-eyed boy with the book. Get into the story and you encounter a tale that I can honestly say is unlike any other Joyce creation I’ve read before. Funny and relatable with more Bill Joyce in-jokes that you could shake a stick at, this is a picture book memoir that feels deeply personal. And all it took was a bit of fictional phlegm.

Let it be understood that even before the incidents involving the book, upon which I shall elucidate further in a moment, it was an undeniable fact that Billy was both a usual and unusual kiddo. Usual since he loved “monster movies and cartoons and comic books”. Unusual because he was the kind of child that liked to spice up things he regarded as too regular. This attitude was applied towards everything from homework to sports to the best possible way to eat your peas at dinner (for what it’s worth, the trigonal form is to be recommended). Then, one day, the librarian Mrs. Pagely let Billy know about an upcoming book contest where kids would write and illustrate their very own creations. Billy was seriously psyched and pored his heart and soul into his magnum opus, Billy’s Booker: The memoirs of a little green nose buddy. Suffice to say, Billy did not receive any awards. Distraught and disheartened, he no longer had his former pep and verve. And then, one day, he saw something in the library that pretty much changed his entire life.

You know when you walk into a fictionalized picture memoir that what you are getting can’t possibly be all the facts surrounding a pivotal point in the author’s life. But truth be told, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a straight nonfiction picture book memoir in all my livelong days. So your job becomes figuring out what parts of a given storyline are true and which parts are exaggerations. With Joyce, the text is pretty straightforward. There’s nothing too wild, wacky, and out there involved. It’s the art where the man’s imagination soars. There are the natural exaggerations, like the fact that you never see Billy’s sister without her ear firmly attached to a phone receiver, or the way Billy’s book lights up as he writes in it. Then there are the set pieces. Joyce has always cultivated a true love of 1950s/60s nostalgia. Beehives, cat-eye glasses, buttoned up collars, and skirts replete with crinoline. In Billy’s Booger, Joyce creates for himself an idealized childhood. And in no better place is this visible than when Billy settles down to read the Sunday color comics.

Sharp-eyed spotters with a yen for classic newspaper comics will spend ungodly amounts of time poring over the panels that Joyce has painstakingly created here, trying to figure out what he’s referencing in one comic or another. For my part I was able to identify a Peanuts tribute (that one was pretty easy), a comic about the Shmoos of L’il Abner (only here they’re called “Smooks” and rather than “Al Capp” they’re written by “Al Hat”), a clear cut Little Nemo tribute, what appears to be a Terry and the Pirates homage, Flash Gordon, Dick Tracey (I love that the version here is called “Gunn”), The Gumps (maybe), what appears to be Dickie Dare, Bringing Up Father (no homage, that seems pretty straightforward), Yellow Kid, and Beadle’s Half-Dime Library (seriously, Bill?). These never actually existed all at the same time, of course. But Joyce’s original renderings, done with occasional shocking accuracy, are lovingly compiled. He knows perfectly well that kids reading this book aren’t going to get any of these references. Young parents will probably miss a good chunk of them as well. No, this is something Joyce is doing for himself and for the occasional comic enthusiasts out there who get their kicks out of shining iPhone flashlights on the pages trying like mad to make out the words on these teeny tiny panels.

Similarly, Joyce fills his pages to brimming with miniscule details that can only be considered true shout-outs to his fans. Elements of his future books pepper these pages. When Billy first starts writing his book, a little Dinosaur Bob sits on his desk, holding down papers that contain various Mischievians renderings. At the end of the book you can see his future characters flying through the air. Look closely and you’ll see George from George Shrinks. That floating head? It’s probably Ollie. More Mischievians, a possible robot from his movie Robots (remember that one?), and another Dinosaur Bob. And finally, just to go back to the comics for a second, it appears that Joyce has worked in a reference to Michael Chabon’s picture book The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man. At least that’s how I interpreted his “Jonny Trek” comic written in part by “Mikey Chaboing”. This makes a fair amount of sense, since Joyce once illustrated the cover of Chabon’s book Summerland while Chabon has blurbed various Joyce books over the years.

In the midst of all this fun it would be easy to lose sight of the fact that Joyce’s sense of design and layout are going wild. From the endpapers of kooky ideas to the title page drawn to resemble art from those insipid easy reader books of the 50s (think knock off Dick and Jane). The most ambitious element, however, is the small insert in the center of this book of the titular Billy’s Booger. Now on the bookflap of this title we learn that “William Joyce began writing books in the fourth grade. He’s done a bunch of books since, but this it the true story of his making that very first book. And that book is included in this book.” I understand that, but there is no guarantee that this is the original book itself rather than a modernized version of it. I did wonder, and then pored through it in search of any evidence one way or the other. In the end, I’ve no idea. Does it matter? Probably not. But it does make a reader wonder anyway. Kids, naturally, will take it for granted that it’s the original.

There are reviews I write that are so glowing that I feel compelled to come up with some kind of concern, just so I don’t appear to have fallen for its charms too completely. I’m a reviewer, not a cheerleader, after all. In this case, the best I can do is the fact that sometimes Billy’s sister is drawn in an inconsistent fashion, and his book Billy’s Booger uses that term “gypped” which some folks find offensive. For my part, I found it interesting that if this story is indeed true and Joyce did once submit a book called Billy’s Booger in a book contest then it is fascinating to think that the sole time I’ve seen him return to this kind of gross out humor in a literary form was when he created the aforementioned Mischievians. At the time it felt like an odd aberration in the Joyceian oeuvre. Now, not so much.

We might wonder, why now? Why at this point in his career has Bill Joyce chosen to return to this pivotal moment of his youth? As of 2015 the man is remarkably successful. A former New Yorker cover artist, animator, Academy Award winning filmmaker, app creator, you name it. Heck, the guy even has a statue he designed out there somewhere. In the midst of all this, it’s oddly refreshing to see a book of his that’s just a book. There’s no app tie-in or short film waiting in the wings. It’s a book for its own sake, telling a personal story, filled to brimming with fun and humor and teeny tiny details tailor made for picture book/funny page obsessives like myself. And kids? Let’s not forget the actual intended audience here. They should eat it up with a spoon. It’s just a really nice way of explaining that sometimes critics like myself are not the true arbitrators of whether or not a picture book is any good. Sometimes it really comes down to the kids themselves. They’re the ones who’ll read the title and grab this book so fast it makes your head spin. They say only the rarest kind of best is good enough for our kids. Well this puppy is as rare as it gets and, yes. It’s one of the best. Superhero booger men and all.

On shelves June 2nd.

Source: F&G sent from publisher for review.

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12. All the Rage by Courtney Summers

Courtney Summers' latest novel All the Rage begins in third-person narrative, detailing what happened to a girl at a party - at a table - in a truck - at the hands of the boy she thought she liked. Within three short pages, we learn this all happened a year ago, that this is a flashback, as we abruptly shift to first-person narrative and are brought into the here and now, where and when something has taken place that makes same girl feel even more ashamed and lost.

The action then shifts back in time two weeks and goes from there. Just two few weeks. Less than half a month. Not a lot of time, right? And yet so much can and will and does happen in that time.

A year ago, Romy was raped by a golden boy, the son of the town sheriff. Her complaints tossed aside like so much dirt, the case not pursued, Romy lost the respect of her peers, who think she made it all up, and her best friend, who is dating the sheriff's other son. Thankfully, Romy has the support of her mother - though they aren't extremely close, as Romy keeps everyone at arm's length - and she makes it through every school day with gritted teeth. At night, she escapes to her job at a restaurant at the next town over, where her reputation doesn't follow her like a cloud of dust.

The supporting characters in this book feel very real and distinct. For example, Todd, Romy's mother's boyfriend. If this were a film, I'd put Clayne Crawford or Christian Kane in that role in a heartbeat. I appreciated the realistic depiction of his chronic pain and condition, and I hope it makes people think twice before they call someone in that position "lazy." Throughout the book, Romy's mother's attempts to connect with her daughter are both heartwarming and heartbreaking, particularly the scene at The Barn (picture Big Lots!) and what comes after. If this were a film, smart actresses that fit Romy's mom's type and age would be doing everything they could to audition for that role. Then there's Leon, Romy's good-hearted co-worker who likes her, as well as his welcoming older sister and brother-in-law, who are preparing for the arrival of their first child. (Romy's reaction to that news is painful: she hopes for their sake it's not a girl.)

This feels like Courtney Summers' most mature work to date. Not to say her previous books were not mature - far from it; please read her debut novel Cracked Up to Be, followed by Some Girls Are, and on from there - but there's something even more grounded here, in the word choice of the author, the pacing of the story, and the mentality/narrative of the protagonist. "It's like a Sarah Dessen novel written by Courtney Summers," I said to a friend the day after I read it. (Then I added: "Now go read it so I can discuss it with you.")

The story could have gone in so many directions. We could have ended up in a courtroom, or a detention center, had the story focused on the pursuit of the person who attacked Romy. Or Romy could have run away, or not gotten up when she hit the ground. Instead, the book follows the story of two missing girls, only one of whom is missing in the way you suppose; the other has been gone for a long time, yet she's still there somehow - she's still here, somehow - and she tries to cover up the cracks in her foundation with red, red, red.

The story could have gone in so many directions. That's what I love about good stories and good storytellers: you can read ten books or watch ten movies or listen to ten songs with the same basic premise, but they won't be exactly the same, and the truly good ones will stand out due to the quality of the work and/or the unique sound and flavor of the author, the narrator, the singer, the artist. Summers has a distinct style, a simple and frank way of putting words down to guide readers along a train track and into a scarred soul. She usually uses first-person narrative to relate the thoughts and experiences of her protagonists, who are often burdened by secrets and losses that have shaken their strength - but it is that underpinning of strength that allows the characters to rebuild, to move forward, to strive for better.

The conclusion of All the Rage leads me to believe that Romy is going make it after all, and it is that simple thing - hope - that carries so many of us through the day, day after day. Instead of getting buried under the secrets and the pain, we should share our truths and make things better not only for ourselves, but for others. If we speak up, if we tell our stories, if we say no to what we don't want and yes to what we do want, we can have the lives we deserve and make the world safer, better, stronger, more wonderful for us all.

My favorite lines in the book include:

- ...the compliment lingers and fades. I remind myself it's nothing I have to hold or be held to. - Page 27

- Still, the way he says it to me is different than he'd say it to anyone else. Small town nuance. Something you don't learn in the city, It's knowing when hello means go away or when rough night means I know you got drunk again or when yeah, I'd love to see you, it's just so busy lately means never, never, never. - Page 37

- When Conway tells me he hopes I'm staying out of trouble what he means is I am the trouble. - Page 37

- I wonder what Leon sees when he looks at me. - Page 43

- I didn't want to see what that looked like on their faces because however they gave it back to me would come from some place I don't want any part of. - Page 53

- Sometimes I want to ask Todd how he's so good at that. Knowing more than he lets on. But I have a feeling it's from all those years he spent on the outside after his accident. When all you can do is watch, you see. - Page 128

- She doesn't even know how hard it's going to be yet, but she will, because all girls find out. - Page 263

- My heart is heavy with the weight of my body and my body is so heavy with the weight of my heart. - Page 314

- The last line of the very first section, and the last line of the book. I won't spoil them here; I'll simply say they act as bookends.

Related posts at Bildungsroman:
Interview: Courtney Summers (2015)
Interview: Courtney Summers (2008)
Book Review: Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers
Book Review: Fall for Anything by Courtney Summers
Book Review: This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers
What Makes Courtney Summers Smile
So You Want to Read YA? Booklist by Little Willow at Stacked

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13. Read Between the Lines by Jo Knowles

A boy with a broken finger who quietly suffers under the weight of his father's cruel words. A girl desperate to fit in. The teenage boy who dates a girl in public and a boy in private. A young man who is counting the days until he's 21. A teacher struggling to get her students' respect.

Read Between the Lines by Jo Knowles tells all these stories and more. The book contains ten short stories total, with each character's tale roughly 40 pages long. The storylines overlap and connect, woven together by setting - all of the stories take place in the same town, on the same day - as strangers, neighbors, relatives, co-workers and classmates interact, ignore, confront, and combust.

Set aside some time for this book, because once you've finished reading it, you may feel compelled to read it again! If you read this book a second time, you will pick up on even more of the connections, causes, and consequences, just like when you read a mystery for the second time, you pick up on more of the clues because you already know the identity (and intentions) of the murderer.

The author said that this book was inspired by a stranger who flipped off her family while driving down the road. That symbol of disrespect is in each of the stories, which may make some parents or teachers hesitate, but don't be worried - overall, the book is fairly PG.

Read Between the Lines is both frank and considerate, honest in its depiction of emotional abuse, intolerance, secrets, and hierarchies within families, classrooms, and communities. Though they have different backgrounds and different interests, each character is trying to find a place for herself or himself in the world, and there's something universal in that search for identity and belonging. The point of the book is to pause, to think, to consider, to look, to look again: we don't always know what's happened to others to make them act or react the way they do; we can't read their minds, we don't know what their day has been like or what their home situation is, but if we take a moment to consider other people's feelings, to respect their space and hear their side of the story, we might be find we are more alike and more connected that we think.

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14. Sarah Dessen and Kiera Cass Debut on the Indie Bestseller List

The Heir Cover (GalleyCat)We’ve collected the books debuting on Indiebound’s Indie Bestseller List for the week ending May 10, 2015–a sneak peek at the books everybody will be talking about next month.

(Debuted at #2 in Young Adult) Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen: “Sydney has always felt invisible. She’s grown accustomed to her brother, Peyton, being the focus of the family’s attention and, lately, concern. Peyton is handsome and charismatic, but seems bent on self-destruction. Now, after a drunk-driving accident that crippled a boy, Peyton’s serving some serious jail time, and Sydney is on her own, questioning her place in the family and the world.” (May 2015)

(Debuted at #3 in Children’s Fiction Series) The Heir (The Selection series) by Kiera Cass: “Twenty years ago, America Singer entered the Selection and won Prince Maxon’s heart. Now the time has come for Princess Eadlyn to hold a Selection of her own. Eadlyn doesn’t expect her Selection to be anything like her parents’ fairy-tale love story…but as the competition begins, she may discover that finding her own happily ever after isn’t as impossible as she’s always thought.” (May 2015)

(Debuted at #3 in Hardcover Fiction) A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson: “A GOD IN RUINS tells the dramatic story of the 20th Century through Ursula’s beloved younger brother Teddy–would-be poet, heroic pilot, husband, father, and grandfather-as he navigates the perils and progress of a rapidly changing world. After all that Teddy endures in battle, his greatest challenge is living in a future he never expected to have. An ingenious and moving exploration of one ordinary man’s path through extraordinary times, A GOD IN RUINS proves once again that Kate Atkinson is one of the finest novelists of our age.” (May 2015)

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15. Review of Tricky Vic

pizzoli_tricky vicTricky Vic: The Impossibly True Story of the Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower
by Greg Pizzoli; illus. by the author
Intermediate   Viking   48 pp.
3/15   978-0-670-01652-5   $17.99

Amidst the current plethora of picture-book biography role models, it’s nice to see a book about a con artist. “Ah, yes. But an artist all the same.” “Count Victor Lustig” (born Robert Miller) fleeced his way as a card shark back and forth across the Atlantic until WWI put an end to that; after obtaining the blessing of Al Capone, Lustig went into a “money box” counterfeit-counterfeiting scam in Chicago before returning to Europe and his greatest trick of all — convincing a Parisian businessman that the Eiffel Tower was about to be dismantled and taking his cash bid for the salvage. Lustig’s exploits did not end there, but they did end eventually, with the apparently nine-lived (and forty-five-pseudonymed) con man finishing his days on Alcatraz Island. With a sophisticated, genially sinister design incorporating cartoons and photographs into a low-toned red and mustard palette, the book signals the right kind of reader: one for whom venality is no obstacle to a good time. There’s no moral here, except perhaps for the one that closes the excellent author’s note: “Stay sharp.” Sidebars throughout provide historical context, and a glossary and thorough source list will give young crooks cover for school reports.

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

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16. Review: Thor #8, Total Universe Woman

Thor #8

THOR2014008_DC11

 

Story: Jason Aaron

Artist: Russell Dauterman

Colors: Matthew Wilson

Letters: Joe Sabino

Publisher: Marvel

 

 

This is it, seven months of mystery and red herrings all culminate in Thor #8. Hey that sort of rhymes. If you’ve managed to avoid the spoilers of the character’s identity reveal, rest assured I will not be the fly in your ointment. What you read here will be as major spoiler free as it can possibly be, but we will talk a bit about what this new revelation could mean for the Marvel Universe’s future.

Jason Aaron once again scribes an excellent issue in the narrative of this new female Thor. Under the control of Cul, brother of Odin The All Father, The Destroyer has been sent to put an end to the goddess of thunder. Used to be Thor or as he’s simply refered to now, Odinson, and the All-Mother Freyja gathered an all-star group of female heroes to aid Thor in battle. What unfolds is an epic “girl power” combat the likes of which Marvel has never seen. The real beauty is how it manages to pull itself back from being a cliché and simply stay a — girls kick ass — book. What this particular issue does better than any before it is make use of its cameos without having them steal the focus away from our lead. Some of my favorite quips come from Jessica Drew’s lesbehonest lines. We even get teased with finding out what made Odinson “unworthy”. My money is on parking tickets or dropped the hammer on an elderly woman at a Home Depot. Once the end reveal of this new Thor’s true identity epilogues the book, readers will be left both excited for the future and wishing they didn’t have to go through Secret Wars to get there.

THOR2014008_int

The visual team of artist Russell Dauterman and colorist Matthew Wilson have a unique style for a big action book like this. It’s best described as light hearted most of the way but nails the intense moments when it needs to. Really the only hiccups to be found in the book were some odd camera angle choices during simple dialogue scenes after the battle.

If you’re one of those readers that’s been on the fence about trying Thor, or you just like to jump in on the big moments; Thor #8 is worth the money.

Now let’s talk about what Thor means for the future of Marvel post Secret Wars. With this series being replaced (for the moment) with Thors, it could have been a place to return everything to the status quo. Nothing about where this issue went suggests that to be the case. I admit, in the beginning of all this I was hestitant about the changes to the character. Seeing new characters be built from the ground up always makes more sense to me than changing an existing character to make them relevant again.

Side Note: Hey Marvel if you really want to have every Thor ever in the Thors series, don’t forget these guys…

vt_stranger_cover_lores1

 

Jason Aaron’s female Thor has been something special and unique in a publishing line we thought was all but out of fresh ideas. In a way he’s just getting started. Yes, it wouldn’t be the first time a superhero would be taken out by cancer. We know that this Thor’s story will end after Secret Wars in a tragic and guttwrenching way, but how we get there could be one of the most emotional stories Marvel has ever told.

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17. Review of the Day: Finding Winnie by Lindsay Mattick

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear
By Lindsay Mattick
Illustrated by Sophie Blackall
$18.00
ISBN: 978-0-316-32490-8
Ages 4-7
On shelves October 20th

What is it with bears and WWI?  Aw, heck.  Let’s expand that question a tad.  What is it with adorable animals and WWI?  Seems these days no matter where you turn you find a new book commemorating a noble creature’s splendor and sacrifice on the battlefields of Europe.  If it’s not Midnight, A True Story of Loyalty in World War I by Mark Greenwood or  Stubby the War Dog: The True Story of WWI’s Bravest Dog by Ann Bausum, it’s Voytek, the Polish munitions bear in Soldier Bear or,  best known of them all, the inspiration for Winnie-the-Pooh.   With the anniversary of WWI here, the children’s literary sphere has witnessed not one but two picture book biographies of Winnie, the real bear that inspired Christopher Robin Milne and, in turn, his father A.A. Milne.  The first of these books was Winnie: The True Story of the Bear That Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh by Sally M. Walker.  A good strong book, no bones about it.  But Finding Winnie has an advantage over the Walker bio that cannot be denied.  One book was researched and thought through carefully.  The other?  Written by one of the descendants of the veterinarian that started it all.  Add in the luminous artwork of Sophie Blackall and you’ve got yourself a historical winner on your hands.

Now put yourself in Harry’s shoes.  You’re suited up. You’re on a train. You’re headed to training for the Western Front where you’ll be a service vet, aiding the horses there.  The last thing you should do is buy a baby bear cub at a train station, right?   I suppose that was the crazy thing about Harry, though.  As a vet he had the skills and the knowledge to make his plan work.  And as for the bear, she was named Winnipeg (or just Winnie for short), and she instantly charmed Harry’s commanding officer and all his fellow soldiers.  During training she was great for morale, and before you knew it she was off with the troop overseas.  But with the threat of real combat looming, Harry had a difficult decision to make.  This little bear wasn’t suited for the true horrors of war.  Instead, he dropped her off at The London Zoo where she proceeded to charm adults and children alike.  That was where she made the acquaintance of Christopher Robin Milne and inspired the name of the world’s most famous stuffed animal.  Framed within the context of author Lindsay Mattick telling this story to her son Cole, Ms. Mattick deftly weaves a family story in with a tale some might know but few quite like this.

Right from the start I was intrigued by the book’s framing sequence.  Here we have a bit of nonfiction for kids, and yet all throughout the book we’re hearing Cole interjecting his comments as his mother tells him this story.  It’s a unique way of presenting what is already an interesting narrative in a particularly child-friendly manner.  But why do it at all?  What I kept coming back to as I read the book was how much it made the story feel like A.A. Milne’s.  Anyone who has attempted to read the first Winnie-the-Pooh book to their small children will perhaps be a bit surprised by the extent to which Christopher Robin’s voice keeps popping up, adding his own color commentary to the proceedings.  Cole’s voice does much the same thing, and once I realized that Mattick was playing off of Milne’s classic, other Winnie-the-Pooh callbacks caught my eye.  There’s the Colonel’s surprised “Hallo” when he first meets Winnie, which struck me as a particularly Pooh-like thing to say.  There are the comments between Harry’s heart and head which reminded me, anyway, of Pooh’s conversations with his stomach.  They are not what I would call overt callbacks but rather like subtle little points of reference for folks who are already fans.

I was struck my Mattick’s attention to accuracy and detail too.  The temptation in these sorts of books is to fill them up with fake dialogue.  One might well imagine that the conversation with Cole is based on actual conversations, possibly culled together from a variety of different accounts.  Since Mattick isn’t saying this-happened-like-this-on-precisely-this-date we can enjoy it for what it is.  As for Harry’s tale, you only occasionally get a peek into his brain and when you do it’s in his own words, clearly taken from written accounts.  Mattick does not divulge these accounts, sadly, so there’s nothing in the back of the book so useful as a Bibliography.  However, that aside, the book rings true.  So much so that it almost makes me doubt other accounts I’ve read.

As for the text itself, I was mildly surprised by how good the writing was.  Mattick makes some choices that protect the young readers while keeping the text accurate.  For example, when little Cole asks what trappers, like the one who killed Winnie’s mother, do, Lindsay’s answer is to say, “It’s what trappers don’t do. They don’t raise bears.”  Hence, Harry had to buy it.  She also has a nice little technique, which I alluded to earlier, where Harry’s heart and mind are at odds.  The heart allows him to buy Winnie and take her overseas.  The mind wins in terms of taking her to The London Zoo in the end.

I like to put myself in the place of the editor of this book.  The manuscript has come in.  I like it.  I want to publish it.  I get the thumbs up from my publisher to go ahead and then comes the part where I find an illustrator for it.  I want somebody who can emote.  Someone just as adept at furry baby bear cubs as they are soldiers in khaki with teeny tiny glasses.  But maybe I want something more.  Maybe I want an illustrator who puts in the rudimentary details, then adds their own distinctive style to the mix.  I’m willing to get an artist who could potentially overshadow the narrative with visual beauty.  In short, I want a Sophie Blackall.

Now I’ve heard Ms. Blackall speak on a couple occasions about the meticulous research she conducted for this book.  The Canadian flag she initially mistakenly placed on a ship of war has been amended from an earlier draft (the Canadian flag wasn’t officially adopted until 1965).  She researched The London Zoo for an aerial shot that includes everything from the squirrel enclosure to Winnie’s small block of concrete or stone.  Blackall also includes little visual details that reward multiple readings.  A scene where Harry departs on the train, surrounded by people saying goodbye, is contrasted by a later scene where he returns and far fewer people are saying hello to their loved ones.  One soldier has lost a leg.  Another greets his much larger son and perpetually handkerchief clutching wife.  Another doesn’t appear at all.  And finally, Blackall throws in beautiful two-page spreads for the sake of beauty alone.  The initial endpapers show an idyllic woodland scene, presumably in Canada.  Later we’ve this red sky scene of the ship proceeding across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe.  For a book about WWI, that red is the closest we come (aside from the aforementioned missing leg) to an allusion to the bloody conflict happening elsewhere.  It’s beautiful and frightening all at once.

In the world of children’s literature you never get a single book on the subject and then say, “There! Done! We don’t need any more!”  It doesn’t matter how great a book is, there’s always room for another.  And it seems to me that on the topic of Winnie the bear, friend of Christopher Robin, inspiration to a platoon, there is plenty of wiggle room.  Hers is a near obscure tale that is rapidly becoming better and better known each day.  I think that this pairs magnificently with Walker’s Winnie.  For bear enthusiasts, Winnie enthusiasts, history lovers, and just plain old folks who like a good story.  In short, for silly old bears.

On shelves October 20th.

Source: F&G sent from publisher for review.

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18. How Lucky Am I?


I'm so lucky to have readers who write wonderful reviews like this!!!

My favorite parts:

"I'm begging you to read it."

"It's addictive. Pick it up, never put it down."


Thanks so much for this wonderful review!!!

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19. Review of It’s Only Stanley

agee_it's only stanleystar2 It’s Only Stanley
by Jon Agee; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary   Dial   32 pp.
3/15   978-0-8037-3907-9   $17.99

The Wimbledon family can’t sleep due to one noise (“HOWOOO!”) after another (“CLANK CLANK CLANK”). In each case, it’s the fault of their dog Stanley, whose onomatopoeic disturbances interrupt — hilariously — not just the sleep but the perfectly cadenced rhyming account of the increasingly bothered Wimbledons: “The Wimbledons were sleeping. / It was late beyond belief, / When Wylie heard a splashy sound / That made him say: ‘Good grief!’” As the night wears on, more and more family members are awakened, and Stanley shows himself to be one clever beagle (and over-the-moon in love). The thick lines and subdued colors in the illustrations bring out the story’s considerable humor and focus readers’ attention on the ever-more-fantastical situations. Agee understands the drama of the page turn better than anyone, with vignettes of the increasingly crowded Wimbledon family bed giving way to full-bleed double-page spreads of Stanley’s machinations until it all comes together (“KAPOW!”) to make everybody jump. Make sure your listeners have their seatbelts fastened.

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

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20. The Rules of Author Club by Holly Bodger

You all are in for a real treat today! Not only do we have an incredibly original upcoming book to highlight -- 5 To 1, a half-verse dystopian set in futuristic India -- but I dare you to read this post by the author Holly Bodger without laughing like crazy. I sure did.

Holly is also one of our newest mentors for First Five Pages Workshop, so you'll be seeing her a lot around here. Please make her welcome!

The Rules of Author Club: a WOW-Wednesday Post by Holly Bodger


The first rule in being an author is YOU DO NOT READ YOUR REVIEWS.

The second rule of being an author is YOU DO NOT READ YOUR REVIEWS.

Did you get that? Perhaps I should say it again. DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, READ ANY REVIEWS OF YOUR BOOK NO MATTER HOW TEMPTED YOU ARE! No, it is not okay if you only read part of the review. No, it is not okay if you get your mom or your dog to read it. Seriously, the moment you get published, you need to forget that Goodreads and Amazon and Twitter and YouTube and pretty much the whole internet exists. Got it?



Okay, now that we have that clear, I’m going to answer the following question from the audience:

Do I read my reviews?

Of course I read my reviews! I just wrote a half-verse, near futuristic dystopian book set in a former part of India. Do I look like the kind of person who follows rules???



Seriously, I really really really try not to read my reviews. In fact, every morning, I follow these precise steps in order to ensure I don’t:
  1. Get out of bed. Have shower. Turn on laptop. Open Twitter. Check notifications. If there is a review link, click on it.
  2. Scan review. Close browser and promise self not to read any more reviews.
  3. Turn on kettle. Remove tea bags from pantry. Return to Twitter. Search for name mentions without @. Click on link to review.
  4. Scan to bottom to see if rating is scary. If not, read review. If so, read anyway.
  5. Close browser. Close Twitter. Pour water in mug.
  6. Open Goodreads. Check overall rating. Attempt to ascertain how number could have gone down by .01. DO NOT LOOK AT LATEST REVIEWS IN ORDER TO FIND OUT. READING REVIEWS ON GOODREADS IS ABOUT AS SMART AS CLOSING YOUR HAND IN A CAR DOOR. EVEN I KNOW THAT!
  7. Add honey to tea. Go to Google. Search for book name. Scan for new reviews. Click on link.
  8. Scan page for nice words in bold. If found, read review. Spend 5-7 minutes Googling name of reviewer. Considering nominating said reviewer for Nobel Peace Prize. Remember that Nobel committee blocked you after first 12 nominations. Close browser again.
  9. Remove tea bag from tea. Add milk. Text writing partner quotes from bad reviews. Be sure to add at least 4 exclamation marks.
  10. Eat cookie while waiting for response.
  11. Read return text from writing partner. Count number of exclamation marks after “YOU PROMISED NOT TO READ YOUR REVIEWS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” (17, in case you’re wondering.)
  12. Promise writing partner that you will never ever ever read reviews again. Well, not today, at least.
  13. Eat another cookie. Or three.
In all seriousness, the reason you are not supposed to read reviews is because they might hurt and hurt will not help you move forward as a writer. For some people, hurt is debilitating. Hurt makes them think they are a bad writer and should not bother to ever write again. Hurt makes them want to lock themselves in their closet with a soup spoon and a container of Cherry Garcia.

The thing that people often forget about reviews is that they are a) personal, and b) personal. Just because one person does not like your book does not mean that another won’t love it. It does not mean you should stop writing. It does not mean that you are bound to never sell another book again. It simply means that you cannot please everyone. Also? You shouldn’t even try to.

So why do I find myself reading some of my reviews even though I know I should not? Well, in addition to the problem I have with rules, there’s also the fact that some of them say really nice things like BRILLIANT and BEST BOOK EVER WRITTEN and WHY ISN’T THIS A MOVIE STARRING SOMEONE REALLY FAMOUS YET? And this is exactly what I need to hear when I’m feeling like this:



(Not an exact replica of my head. Or my laptop.)

Of course, searching for my good reviews means I am going to come across the bad ones, too. These ones may put mean words in bold like NO ROMANCE and MAKES NO SENSE and WHAT A WASTE OF PAPER! I ACTUALLY THREW IT AGAINST A WALL!!!!! (5 exclamation marks.)

But the real reason I read some of my reviews is because of the ones that offer constructive criticism. Constructive criticism is good. Constructive criticism helps writers improve their writing and I know I need to do that as much as anyone else. None of us are perfect and none of us are ever going to even approach perfection if we don’t continue to work harder and harder every single day.

And so, unless something changes, I am going to continue to pretend I don’t read my reviews. But only after I do this:



About the Book:


http://www.amazon.com/5-1-Holly-Bodger/dp/0385391536/
In the year 2054, after decades of gender selection, Koyanagar–a country severed from India–now has a ratio of five boys for every girl, and women are an incredibly valuable commodity. Tired of wedding their daughters to the highest bidder and determined to finally make marriage fair, the women of Koyanagar have instituted a series of tests so that every boy has the chance to win a wife. But after fighting so hard for freedom against the old ways of gender selection, these women have become just as deluded as their male predecessors.

Sudasa Singh doesn’t want to be a wife and Kiran, a boy competing to be her husband, has other plans as well. Sudasa’s family wants nothing more than for their daughter to do the right thing and pick a husband who will keep her comfortable—and caged. Kiran’s family wants him to escape by failing the tests. As the tests advance, each thwarts the other until they slowly realize that they might want the same thing.

Amazon | IndieBound | Goodreads

About the Author:


A long-time resident of Ottawa, Canada, Holly has been working in publishing since she graduated with an English degree from the University of Ottawa. 5 TO 1 is Holly’s debut novel.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads






-- posted by Susan Sipal, @HP4Writers



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21. Review: Secret Wars #1 is an Omelet of Marvel Warfare

Secret Wars #1

SCWARSCOV2015001_DC11

 

Writer: Jonathan Hickman

Artist: Esad Ribic

Color:Ive Svorcina

Letters: Chris Eliopoulous

Publisher: Marvel Comics

 

 

The time for talking and teasing is over, Marvel’s “mega game changing” event Secret Wars is upon us. Now, it’s time to see if the real thing can possibly live up to the hype. Free Comic Book Day gave readers a zero issue that served as a primer for anyone not caught up on current events in Avengers titles. Issue one of Secret Wars marks the real kickoff of the collision between the Marvel universe we’ve known for more than 75 years and the Ultimate universe launched back in 2000. With a lot of ground to cover we’ll keep it short and major spoiler free.

The opening chapter isn’t so much about the Battleworld or fighting Beyonders as it is a reckoning of the cataclysmic incursion between Earth-616 (regular universe) and Earth-1610 (ultimate universe). Before Secret Wars, writer Jonathan Hickman had set a chain of events in motion during his Avengers run where alternate universes could only survive annihilation by destroying other universes. It all gets extremely lightly touched upon in the opening through the dialogue of the evil Reed Richards from the Ultimate universe, but doesn’t explain all the events leading up to the end of the worlds. Hickman instead made this first issue a massive Marvel fight between Ultimate Nick Fury’s forces and the Avengers of the regular Marvel U. In the midst of battle, the good Reed Richards (616) attempts a last ditch effort to gather essential people on Earth to his life raft (that’s literally what they called it) in order to continue the human race once doomsday obliterates everything. The end of issue one is where the meat of Secret Wars battle for reality begins, but we’ll have to wait till issue two to see how things really take shape.

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An action packed story relies heavily on an artist who can cinematically capture it all. Esad Ribic’s work in the book is solid. The scale of the lens readers witness events through is massive and his panel layout choices move everything along at a break-neck pace. He does sacrifice fine detail in the drawings, but fortunately doesn’t skimp on the small details in the panels particularly the impact moments. Where the visual really pops is in the color work of Ive Svorcina. It brings out such a distinction in the contrast of the 616 and Ultimate universe that adds the much-needed definition between the sides in battle. Marvel’s AR app also gets a really great workout from the art in the book, if you haven’t used it, make sure you download it for this series.

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Overall, enjoyment of Secret Wars #1 is fragmented and where you find yourself depends on how closely you follow Marvel books. If you’ve been following Hickman’s Avengers titles then this series is a can’t miss payoff for your loyal reading. However, Marvel’s ambitions for Secret Wars went far beyond that audience. The publisher didn’t spend a year bombarding us with –teaser after teaser– and –press announcement after announcement– just to solely reward Hickman’s core audience. A highly touted PR campaigned combined with the timing of releasing right after the Avengers: Age of Ultron film hit theaters meant Marvel wanted to bring in everyone who’s ever read or even thought about picking up a comic book to buy this book. In this regard they didn’t make issue one as new-reader friendly as it should have been. If you haven’t been reading Avengers routinely then your level of indulgence from reading Secret Wars will depend on if you can accept the premise of this book without knowing the intricate moves that initiated it.

Having not finished the most recent issues of Avengers, I found myself scratching my head at some of the exposition all the different factions represented here are having in their conversations. However it didn’t dramatically hinder my enjoyment of the action and tension Secret Wars #1 was filled with. When you compare Secret Wars to DC’s Under the Dome; Marvel is making up serious ground. Though DC’s Convergence had more emotion in their opening; the current slow pace isn’t doing it any favors. While Secret Wars doesn’t quite live up to the hype, Marvel opened it with action movie like entertainment, and sometimes that’s all you really need to get hooked.

Note: Though we can’t talk about the tie-in series just yet. It’s important to note that after reading some of those #1s, Marvel is so far keeping to their promise of keeping Secret Wars main series as the only one you need to read. Check back later today and we’ll post a code for a digital copy of Secret Wars #1

3 Comments on Review: Secret Wars #1 is an Omelet of Marvel Warfare, last added: 5/9/2015
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22. Review: Injustice Gods Among Us Year Four #1 (Digital) = Buy Me!

Injustice Gods Among Us: Year Four #1

Injustice- Gods Among Us - Year Four (2015-) 001-000

 

 

Writer: Brian Buccellato

Art: Bruno Redondo

Inks: Juan Albarrran

Colors: Rex Lokus

Publisher: DC Comics 

 

Since the series inception under writer Tom Taylor, Injustice Gods Among Us digital first book (based on the hit game by Mortal Kombat creator Netherrealm Studios) has been one of the overall best books in DC Comics line up. Now under the meticulous pen of current Detective Comics co-writer Brian Buccellato, Injustice methodically kicks off its Year Four story.

Chapter one is part epilogue along with being part set up as it deals with the aftermath of the destructive battle between Mr. Mxyzptlk and Trigon at the end of Year Three. Superman continues his crusade to save the human race from itself by his iron fist rule, Batman has gone into hiding as he plots his next idea to remove him from power, and all the while Ares schemes to return the worship of mortals to the gods instead of Earth’s metahuman pretenders. Since the series takes place five years before the events of the game, this volume is already hinting at some of the threads that are left to be tied together such as Damian’s transition to Nightwing and Batman’s plan to bring the heroes from the other dimension over.

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Buccellato continues to show why he’s one of comics most underrated writers. His understanding of how these characters differ from the regular DCU books is put to use in showing how the cracks in Superman’s regime develop. Hal Jordan and Superman show an intolerance for each other you wouldn’t see anywhere else. His Damian Wayne has a different type of chip on his shoulder compared to the regular DC version. It’s almost like he blames Batman for the actions that led to his killing Dick Grayson and that makes him as far from the boy seeking his father’s approval as you can get.

The art teams seen before in previous issues will be returning to action in Year Four. Issue one features the line work of Bruno Redondo. Out of all the artist the series has seen, Redondo’s work is most representative of the visual world established by Netherrealm in the game.

While this opening isn’t new-reader friendly to those who haven’t read any of the Injustice books or played the game; it’s a great continuation of the events unfolded thus far. Year Four is a carefully paced opening that’s a prime example of the writer’s strengths. Buccellato has a habit of making his characters earn their big moments, which make those points even better reads.

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23. LIMERICK REVIEW: SISTERS by Raina Telgemeier

click to embiggenA surfeit of conflicts sistericalMakes this graphic novel hysterical - And a journey by carMakes it all worse by farA truce would be some sort of miracle!Other Noteworthy Info: This incredibly fun graphic novel, published last year,... Read the rest of this post

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24. Oliver Sacks & Sabaa Tahir Debut on the Indie Bestseller List

An Ember in the Ashes (GalleyCat)We’ve collected the books debuting on Indiebound’s Indie Bestseller List for the week ending May 03, 2015–a sneak peek at the books everybody will be talking about next month.

(Debuted at #3 in Young Adult) An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir: “Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free. Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.” (April 2015)

(Debuted at #7 in Hardcover Nonfiction) On the Move by Oliver Sacks: “With unbridled honesty and humor, Sacks shows us that the same energy that drives his physical passions—weight lifting and swimming—also drives his cerebral passions. He writes about his love affairs, both romantic and intellectual; his guilt over leaving his family to come to America; his bond with his schizophrenic brother; and the writers and scientists—Thom Gunn, A. R. Luria, W. H. Auden, Gerald M. Edelman, Francis Crick—who influenced him.” (April 2015)

(Debuted at #8 in Hardcover Fiction) Gathering Prey by John Sandford: “Lucas Davenport’s adopted daughter, Letty, is home from college when she gets a phone call from a woman Traveler she’d befriended in San Francisco. The woman thinks somebody’s killing her friends, she’s afraid she knows who it is, and now her male companion has gone missing. She’s hiding out in North Dakota, and she doesn’t know what to do.” (April 2015)

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25. Review: Sons of the Devil #1 Can’t Wait to Meet You!

SondsOfTheDevil_01

Writer: Brian Buccellato

Penciller: Toni Infante

Publisher: Image Comics

From New York Times Best Selling writer BRIAN BUCCELLATO and artist TONI INFANTE comes a psychological horror story about TRAVIS, an average guy trying to get by, who discovers that he has familial ties to a deadly cult. Told across three decades, SONS OF THE DEVIL is an exploration of cults, family, and the dark side of human nature. It’s TRUE DETECTIVE and ORPHAN BLACK meets HELTER SKELTER.

After a Kickstarter, publisher announcement, Image Expo appearance and months of build-up Sons of the Devil is finally here. Creator Brian Buccellato even spearheaded a short film to go along with the comic on release for the Image website. Needless to say, there was an immense amount of lead-up this issue; so…is the comic any good? My immediate reaction would mention that it isn’t quite that simple. Buccellato and artist Toni Infante seem to be working the story towards a big moment in later issues that makes this first issue a quiet storm before the rest of the series will hopefully pick up the pace.

Toni Infante’s art gives the story a heavy stylized line work that echoes back to someone like a Tradd Moore mixed with Sean Murphy. Nestled in the back of these pages is a horde of detail including multiple fixtures within the room itself. Infante’s layouts are impressive as well. He approaches the page by letting panels bleed out for texture purposes. One of the best parts of the issue is when Infante is given the mileage to muck around with the tone of the comic, adding a canine in the story. This presents a lot of potential for him to draw a pretty interesting looking devil via his excellent representation of the other creatures — especially when the actual depiction of Venice itself is already impressive. Sometimes, the facial expressions of the characters can get a little muddy, and the characters themselves are suffering from one too many lines on their faces that are obscuring the people of California.

Protagonist Travis is a broken man wandering through life after a tough upbringing. The book squanders at first in how it tries to make the audience sympathetic towards the lead. Fortunately, the tale picks up some steam in the latter half that serves to move the comic in the right line. This comic is pretty light on dialogue, and the plotting also slowly starts to move the rest of the pieces into place.

Sons of the Devil takes place in California which may take some readers by surprise. The story could easily function as some sort of companion piece for Southern Bastards tonally. Which tangentially brings me to another point — the rest of the cast doesn’t quite pop the way that they probably should. Most of them don’t quite reach the level of above being stereotypical supporting cast members. The one saving grace of this story is that the mythological elements have not yet been revealed here. With the high concept of the lead being the son of a devil being put in play, this story may have served audiences better in an expanded page count or even less compressed format here.

It’s hard to exactly call this story a character study, the art of Infante and the mindset of Buccellato seem to contain a sturdier emphasis towards action — which this issue is largely absent of. The cliffhanger and the rest of the story present a package that seems to be building towards a deeper climb with the dark parts of humanity. It’s virtually impossible to judge an entire comic based off of one issue, especially one containing such a high concept premise. Sons of the Devil #1 is the first set of building blocks towards a bigger story.

Sons of the Devil #1 launches May 27.

The short film from Image Comics is available here.

Check out our MATT CHATS column with the author.

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