Monday, September 17, 2018

The Old-Fashioned Snow: A Story by May Sarton

The Old-Fashioned Snow: A Story
by May Sarton
Published by William B. Ewert, Publisher • 1992
20 Pages • Handsewn in Paper Wrappers



It's a rare occasion for me to discover a May Sarton publication that I don't own or know existed, so imagine my surprise when this slim edition of Sarton's short story "The Old-Fashioned Snow" popped up on eBay last week. I immediately jumped on the auction and it was delivered yesterday. It is a gorgeous 2 color printing designed by John Kristensen, printed and handsewn in wrappers by Firefly Press in Somerville, MA. It's the story of Uncle Charles, who may or may not remember things exactly as they were in his childhood, as he shares a day of fun and frolic with his nieces during an old-fashioned snow. Sarton again uses her keen insight into old age and weaves a touching and heartwarming story that shows while some memories may become exaggerated in old age, they can still be just as important no matter how they are remembered. A wonderful addition to my collection, and another of Sarton's stories for my to cherish.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

SHOCK edited by Joe Pruett



SHOCK
by Neil Gaiman, Cullen Bunn, Andy Clarke, Francesco Francavilla, Bill Willingham, Jim Starlin, Marguerite Bennett, Paul Jenkins, Mike Carey, Marco Croner, Charles Vess, Brian Azzarello, Frank Tieri, Michael Gaydos, Joe Pruett, Mac Guggenheim, Stephan Nilson, Aaron Douglas, Richard Starkings, Mike Zagari, & Marko Stojanović; illustrated by Michael Zulli, Leila Leiz, Andy Clarke, Francesco Francavilla, Travis Moore, Phil Hester, Hoyt Silva, Dalibor Talajić, Szymon Kudranski, Andre Robinson, Charles Vess, Toni Fejzula, Joe Eisma, Michael Gaydos, Cliff Richards, Laci, Wesly Gunn, Sarah Delanie, Will Sliney, & Ivan Šanović

Published by AfterShock Comics • April 24, 2018
160 Pages • ISBN 978-1935002659 • Hardcover



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Book description:
AfterShock Comics continues to push boundaries by presenting its very first anthology collection featuring a slew of today’s top writers and artists. Presented in the European Album format (same as the recent Animosity: the Rise hardcover for LCSD), this handsome hardcover features the creative talents of Neil Gaiman, Michael Zulli, Charles Vess, Michael Gaydos, Andy Clarke, Andrew Robinson, Mike Carey, Jim Starlin, Phil Hester, Paul Jenkins, Dalibor Talajic, Bill Willingham, Travis Moore, Brian Azzarello, Francesco Francavilla, Cullen Bunn, Marc Guggenheim, Marguerite Bennett, Frank Tieri, Brian Stelfreeze, Szymon Kudranski and more! Cover art by John Cassaday!

From the multiple Eisner and Harvey Award nominated editor of the classic
Negative Burn anthology series.


AfterShock Comics' SHOCK is a solid anthology, comprised of stories ranging from the horrific to the fantastical to the out of this world, with many reading like a print version of Black Mirror. Opening with a typically Gaiman-esque witch's tale from Neil Gaiman, gorgeously illustrated by Michael Zulli, the reader is also treated to alien invasions gone wrong, the horrors of war, wishes come true (but at what cost?), revenge, fairy tale retellings, and an especially moving story tied into the events of 9/11. As with any anthology, some stories are better than others, but overall there wasn't a single story here that felt out of place. I'm hoping that AfterShock turns this into an annual (or more frequent) release, building on the talent that they brought together for this premier release.

An excellent start to from my haunting 2018!

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Love Letters to Jane's World by Paige Braddock

Love Letters to Jane's World
by Paige Braddock
Published by Lion Forge • August 21, 2018
304 Pages • ISBN 978-1549302756 • Paperback



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Book description:
This essential Jane's World collection debuts twenty years after Jane Wyatt first appeared in Paige Braddock's trailblazing comics strip about a young lesbian woman making her clumsy way in the world and the friends who help (or hinder) her along the journey. The Eisner-nominated Jane's World was the first syndicated comic strip with a lesbian main character to appear in many major newspaper markets. This new volume collects the most quintessentially "Jane" storylines from the strip's early, middle, and later years, and pairs them with "love letters" and notes of appreciation from notable fans.


Love Letters to Jane's World by Paige Braddock, who created the first syndicated comic to feature a lesbian main character, is a funny, goofy book with a ridiculously likeable cast of characters that I found myself enjoying more and more as I read about them. While not a progressive series of stories from the comic, this is more of a "greatest hits" collection of Jane & Co's shenanigans, paired with "love letters" from fans. I'm going to have to find Jane's World either online or in print and read this in order. It's a gem of a fun story.

I received an eARC of this title from NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Upgrade Soul by Ezra Claytan Daniels

Upgrade Soul
by Ezra Claytan Daniels
Published by Lion Forge • September 18, 2018
272 Pages • ISBN 978-1549302923 • Paperback



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Book description:
"Thoughtful and beautifully illustrated science fiction. A masterful comic book experience." - Farel Dalrymple, The Wrenchies, Pop Gun War, Omega Man
-
For their 45th anniversary, Hank and Molly Nonnar decide to undergo an experimental rejuvenation procedure, but their hopes for youth are dashed when the couple is faced with the results: severely disfigured yet intellectually and physically superior duplicates of themselves. Can the original Hank and Molly coexist in the same world as their clones? In
Upgrade Soul, McDuffie Award-winning creator Ezra Claytan Daniels asks probing questions about what shapes our identity-Is it the capability of our minds or the physicality of our bodies? Is a newer, better version of yourself still you? This page-turning graphic novel follows the lives of Hank and Molly as they discover the harsh truth that only one version of themselves is fated to survive.


To be honest, I'm not sure exactly how I feel about Ezra Claytan Daniels' Upgrade Soul; on the one hand it's a brilliant, challenging, and dark cautionary tale about the dangers of immorality in science, and on the other it's a slow and sometimes confusing study of individuality and what makes a person a person, the body, soul, or mind. I think some could categorize this as a science fiction story, while others could see it as horror; it does meet somewhere in the middle of these genres.

For their 45th anniversary, the Fred and Molly Nonnar decide to finance and undergo an experimental procedure that in theory will rejuvenate their cells and make them younger, stronger, smarter, and better in every way so that they can live an even longer and more fulfilled life than the one they have now. However, the scientists behind the procedure are not completely upfront about what the procedure will actually do, and instead of rejuvenating their own bodies, the Nonnars discover that they were to be cloned into a new body, with their memories and life experiences uploaded into these new bodies. However, something goes horribly wrong, and the clones come out of the procedure wildly disfigured, but better than their original bodies in every other way, while the Nonnars are left weaker and more feeble than before. What comes of this is back and forth tension about which pair is more "qualified" to live, the originals who are left lesser than they were before, or the clones, who are now superior, but ultimately incapable of living a "normal" life due to their disfigurations. There are several side plots concerning the actually motivation of the scientist heading up the program, a love story or two, and the families thoughts on what has happened to the Nonnars, but at the end of the day, this book is ultimately their story. I think it is a challenging book and pushes you to think about what makes you an individual, but it just didn't resonate with me as much as I would have liked. The story was sometimes too slow, the art sometimes too sparse, the timeline sometimes too confusing. Still, I'm glad that I read it. This book will have its audience and I think that it's going to start conversations about what it implies.

I received an eARC of this title from NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

from my haunting 2018



Generally I save a lot of my creepier, scarier books for October; there's something about the settling in of autumn and the weeks leading up to Halloween that puts me in the mood for ghost stories and the like. This year, we had a little bit of a cold snap a couple weeks back and it immediately put me in that mood earlier than normal. Of course, we're right back into summer temps; that cold snap didn't last long. So I'm bumping up my month of creepy reading and starting it in September. I've a couple of books in the works right now, so as I finish those I'll be starting the books that make me wonder what that knock in the middle of the night really is...

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Star Wars: Are You Scared, Darth Vader? by Adam Rex

Star Wars: Are You Scared, Darth Vader? Star Wars: Are You Scared, Darth Vader? by Adam Rex
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What could possibly scare the Dark Lord of the Sith that we have all come to love? A quick read (this is geared toward kids, after all), Are You Scared, Darth Vader? is still a remarkably cute book and I found myself laughing out loud despite it being so short. Adam Rex's illustrations are fantastic, and the ending of the book is obviously what brings the whole thing together. If you've got a young SW fan in your life (or you're just young at heart like I am), this is the perfect book.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Calculating Stars: A Lady Astronaut Novel by Mary Robinette Kowal

The Calculating Stars: A Lady Astronaut Novel
by Mary Robinette Kowal
Published by Tor Books • September 23, 2014
432 Pages • ISBN 978-0765378385 • Paperback



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Book description:
Mary Robinette Kowal's science fiction debut, The Calculating Stars, explores the premise behind her award-winning "Lady Astronaut of Mars."

Goodreads―Most Popular Books Published in July 2018 (#66)
The Verge―12 fantastic science fiction and fantasy novels for July 2018
Unbound Worlds―Best SciFi and Fantasy Books of July 2018
Den of Geek―Best Science Fiction Books of June 2018
Omnivoracious―15 Highly Anticipated SFF Reads for Summer 2018

On a cold spring night in 1952, a huge meteorite fell to earth and obliterated much of the east coast of the United States, including Washington D.C. The ensuing climate cataclysm will soon render the earth inhospitable for humanity, as the last such meteorite did for the dinosaurs. This looming threat calls for a radically accelerated effort to colonize space, and requires a much larger share of humanity to take part in the process.

Elma York’s experience as a WASP pilot and mathematician earns her a place in the International Aerospace Coalition’s attempts to put man on the moon, as a calculator. But with so many skilled and experienced women pilots and scientists involved with the program, it doesn’t take long before Elma begins to wonder why they can’t go into space, too.

Elma’s drive to become the first Lady Astronaut is so strong that even the most dearly held conventions of society may not stand a chance against her.


Mary Robinette Kowal's new novel, The Calculating Stars, is quite frankly a remarkable book. Playing out over an alternate early 1950s background, the book tackles so much that it's a wonder that MRK could pull it all together, but she does and does so with aplomb. Spinning this story out of her Hugo Award-winning novelette, "The Lady Astronaut of Mars," The Calculating Stars acts as the background to that story. If you have not yet read "The Lady Astronaut of Mars" you should fix that posthaste and pop over to Tor.com to read it for free! It's a beautiful, emotional story that still stick with you.

In 1952, a meteorite strikes off the East coast of the United States, wiping out much of Eastern Seaboard, including Washington DC. The impact is soon discovered to be an extinction level event, having created a changing weather pattern that will make the Earth uninhabitable in a reasonably short amount of time. However, not everyone believes this and it fall to Elma York and her husband, Nathaniel, to convince the US government to fast track the space program so that we can colonize the moon, and perhaps further. Elma, a computer, works closely with her fellow female computers in creating the mathematical equations that will eventually put man into space. Unfortunately for Elma, who suffers from anxiety, she becomes the unintended face of the space program, known as The Lady Astronaut, as she spearheads the inclusion of women, both white and black, to be included in the astronaut program. Even with the events spiraling out of the meteorite impact, this is still 1950s America, and a woman's place is in the kitchen, not in space.

MRK deftly handles so many elements that are still very pertinent in today's society: feminism, sexism, racial tension, female rights, mental health, religious concerns, weather change. She deals with each of these problems in an engaging yet careful way, never overplaying the problems, but making it clear that these are problems that are just as relevant today as they were then, and that in every case, the problem truly falls on society's negative ideas about these issues. The science in the book is approachable and understandable while still feeling very grounded in actual fact; it's my understanding that MRK had several IRL astronauts critique the story to make sure that it was as accurate as it could be.

Elma's courage and wonder in the face of space and the unknown is inspiring. MRK writes some genuinely beautiful scenes building on that sense of wonder, one in particular that really reminded me of how powerful a writer she is. I can't go into it as it would be a little spoiler-y, but it involves someone getting to watch a rocket launch for the first time. I may have actually cried a little during this scene, and that doesn't always happen when I'm reading.

If you're an audiobook fan, MRK also narrates the book and her performance is spot on! Having met MRK on several occasions, I actually picture Mary as Elma in my head now.

Needless to say, I can't recommend The Calculating Stars enough and I'm anxiously awaiting the sequel, The Fated Sky.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

The Big Empty Life of Alphonse Tabouret by Sibylline Desmazières & Capucine, illustrated by Jérôme d'Aviau

The Big Empty Life of Alphonse Tabouret The Big Empty Life of Alphonse Tabouret by Sibylline Desmazières
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've been very impressed with the range of graphic novels that Lion Forge has been putting out lately, and The Big Empty Life of Alphonse Tabouret is no different. Alphonse Tabouret is simply created one day in a forest, and his maker immediately tires of all of his questions and leaves him. Alphonse journeys thru the forest, searching for both answers to his questions and someone (or something) to fill his life with. There are numerous ways to interpret this story, but I feel it is an allegory that tells us that no matter what we think we need to fill our lives, if we're not happy with ourselves, we may never fill that void, and that sometimes it's OK if we never find a something to fill that void, and that it's also OK to just be by ourselves. I was under the impression that this was geared towards a younger audience, and while I think they would enjoy the story and cartoonish illustrations, it strikes me that this is actually more a story told for adults, disguised as a kid's graphic novel.

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