Monday, September 24, 2018

Art Matters: Because Your Imagination Can Change the World by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell

Art Matters: Because Your Imagination Can Change the World
by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell
Published by Headline Books • September 23, 2014
128 Pages • ISBN 978-1472260086 • Hardcover



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Book description:
A stunning and timely creative call-to-arms combining four extraordinary written pieces by Neil Gaiman illustrated with the striking four-color artwork of Chris Riddell. (This is taken from the US edition - the UK edition's illustrations are in B&W.)

“The world always seems brighter when you’ve just made something that wasn’t there before.”—Neil Gaiman

Drawn from Gaiman’s trove of published speeches, poems, and creative manifestos,
Art Matters is an embodiment of this remarkable multi-media artist’s vision—an exploration of how reading, imagining, and creating can transform the world and our lives.

Art Matters bring together four of Gaiman’s most beloved writings on creativity and artistry:

  • “Credo,” his remarkably concise and relevant manifesto on free expression, first delivered in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shootings
  • “Make Good Art,” his famous 2012 commencement address delivered at the Philadelphia University of the Arts
  • “Making a Chair,” a poem about the joys of creating something, even when words won’t come
  • “On Libraries,” an impassioned argument for libraries that illuminates their importance to our future and celebrates how they foster readers and daydreamers
Featuring original illustrations by Gaiman’s longtime illustrator, Chris Riddell, Art Matters is a stirring testament to the freedom of ideas that inspires us to make art in the face of adversity, and dares us to choose to be bold.


The best review I can give this book is to just read it, absorb it, live it, read it again.

This.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Absolute Batman: The Killing Joke: 30th Anniversary Edition by Alan Moore, illustrated by Brian Bolland


Absolute Batman: The Killing Joke: 30th Anniversary Edition
by Alan Moore, illustrated by Brian Bolland
Published by DC Comics • September 23, 2014
152 Pages • ISBN 978-1401284121 • Hardcover



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Book description:
One bad day. Freed once again from the confines of Arkham Asylum, The Joker is out to prove a deranged point. And he's going to use Gotham City's top cop, commissioner Jim Gordon, and his brilliant daughter Barbara (a.k.a. Batgirl) to do it. Now Batman must race to stop his archnemesis before his reign of terror claims two of the Dark Knight's closest friends.

Critically acclaimed writer Alan Moore redefined the superhero with
Watchmen and V for Vendetta. In Batman: The Killing Joke, he takes on the origin of comics' greatest super-villain, The Joker, and changes Batman's world forever.

Absolute Batman: The Killing Joke: 30th Anniversary Edition includes both the recolored art by artist Brian Bolland and the original colors by John Higgins, along with the never-before-published scripts, and numerous Batman and Joker sketches and stories by Bolland.

Collects
Batman: Black and White #4; Batman: The Killing Joke; Countdown #31; Cover Story: The DC Comics Art of Brian Bolland; Joker: Last Laugh #1, #6; Joker's Greatest Stories Ever Told; Who's Who in the DC Universe #13 and Wonder Woman #96.

Even going into this new 35th Anniversary Absolute edition of Batman: The Killing Joke knowing there wasn't much new here to flesh out an entire Absolute offering, the redundancy was overwhelmingly obvious when I finally got the volume in hand and read it thru. Including the various covers and pinups attached to the series was a nice addition, the script was interesting to flip thru, and the additional short stories from other volumes helped fill out the volume, but basically running the entire story 3 times in a row in one volume (the new recolored edition on better paper, the original colored edition on basically newsprint, and then the script) was a little overkill for me. Don't get me wrong, like all of DC's Absolute editions, this is an impressive volume, but unless you are a serious hardcore The Killing Joke fan, skip this for one of the cheaper editions available. (Normally, I give this book a 4 star rating, but the redundancy of this project dropped this particular volume down a star.)

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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Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Beautiful Exiles by Meg Waite Clayton

Beautiful Exiles
by Meg Waite Clayton
Published by Lake Union Publishing • August 1, 2018
384 Pages • ISBN 978-1503900837 • Hardcover



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Book description:
From New York Times bestselling author Meg Waite Clayton comes a riveting novel based on one of the most volatile and intoxicating real-life love affairs of the twentieth century.

Key West, 1936. Headstrong, accomplished journalist Martha Gellhorn is confident with words but less so with men when she meets disheveled literary titan Ernest Hemingway in a dive bar. Their friendship—forged over writing, talk, and family dinners—flourishes into something undeniable in Madrid while they’re covering the Spanish Civil War.

Martha reveres him. The very married Hemingway is taken with Martha—her beauty, her ambition, and her fearless spirit. And as Hemingway tells her, the most powerful love stories are always set against the fury of war. The risks are so much greater. They’re made for each other.

With their romance unfolding as they travel the globe, Martha establishes herself as one of the world’s foremost war correspondents, and Hemingway begins the novel that will win him the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Beautiful Exiles is a stirring story of lovers and rivals, of the breathless attraction to power and fame, and of one woman—ahead of her time—claiming her own identity from the wreckage of love.


My knowledge of Hemingway runs no farther than The Old Man and the Sea, a staple of most high school English classes. I only have a vague memory of slogging thru, his writing clearly not for me. As a result, I've never pursued any more reading, let alone research, on him (or his wives) and therefore honestly had no frame of reference going into Beautiful Exiles, other than having read Meg Waite Clayton's previous books and being a fan of her writing.

Painstakingly researched and beautifully written, this book is not about Hemingway; instead it is about Martha Gellhorn, a writer and eventual prominent war correspondent, who became Hemingway's third wife. Told in the first-person, Gelhorn proves to be just as strong-willed as Hemingway, and more often than not, I found myself wishing she would strike out on her own and leave the self-inflated Hemingway behind. We are given a Gelhorn who is a force unto herself, who is not overshadowed by the sometimes more famous characters around her.

The writing is spot on; whether describing the peaceful, lazy days in Key West or the fast paced, immediate action of being on the front line, I could easily imagine each scene. The detail and descriptions were perfect and really brought the characters, and their situations, to life. Clayton's writing continues to get stronger with each book, and it clearly shows here.

In my admitted non-existent knowledge of Martha Gelhorn, I appreciate Beautiful Exiles all the more; everyone knows Hemingway, but I'm not so sure about Gelhorn. Clayton has given me a perspective on a woman ahead of her time, who was willing to put her life on the line to make sure the world knew what was happening in Europe during Hitler's rise to power. I found Gelhorn fascinating and am sorry that she had become overshadowed by Hemingway, at least in my experience. I want to find out more about her, and I think that a book like Beautiful Exiles, one that sparks that kind of interest in me, is always remarkable.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Sheets by Brenna Thummler

Sheets
by Brenna Thummler
Published by Lion Forge • August 28, 2018
240 Pages • ISBN 978-1941302675 • Paperback



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I received a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a fair & honest review.


Book description:
"For days after reading Brenna Thummler's Sheets I have been wandering my neighborhood, haunted, enchanted, and in need of freshly pressed clothing." - Lemony Snicket

Marjorie Glatt feels like a ghost. A practical thirteen-year-old in charge of the family laundry business, her daily routine features unforgiving customers, unbearable P.E. classes, and the fastidious Mr. Saubertuck who is committed to destroying everything she's worked for.

Wendell is a ghost. A boy who lost his life much too young, his daily routine features ineffective death therapy, a sheet-dependent identity, and a dangerous need to seek purpose in the forbidden human world.

When their worlds collide, Marjorie is confronted by unexplainable disasters as Wendell transforms Glatt's Laundry into his midnight playground, appearing as a mere sheet during the day. While Wendell attempts to create a new afterlife for himself, he unknowingly sabotages the life that Marjorie is struggling to maintain.

Sheets illustrates the determination of a young girl to fight, even when all parts of her world seem to be conspiring against her. It proves that second chances are possible whether life feels over or life is over. But above all, it is a story of the forgiveness and unlikely friendship that can only transpire inside a haunted laundromat.

"Brenna Thummler's first original graphic novel is a reason to celebrate. She announced herself as an artist to reckon with when she illustrated Mariah Marsden's adaptation of
Anne of Green Gables. Now she's illustrated her own story of ghosts and family, loneliness and laundromats. I'm sure you'll be captivated, and as eager as I am to see what comes next!"-Brian Selznick, author of Wonderstruck and The Invention of Hugo Cabret
"Sweet, sad, funny, warm, and beautiful. If I can be forgiven for using this word, this is one that will haunt me, in the best way." - Dana Simpson


Brenna Thummler's Sheets attempts to examine many things at once; grief, loss, alienation, forgiveness, and friendship are all addressed in this story, but perhaps not always to the best results.

Marjorie, a young girl who feels out of place in her world, runs the family laundromat after the death of her mother. Her father has more or less abandoned life, lost in his grief. Marjorie tries very hard to hold her family together, but she's realistically too young to carry this responsibility. Wendell, a young ghost, is trying to navigate his afterlife and decide whether his place is there or back among the living. Finding solace among the sheets in the laundromat, Wendell attempts to befriend Marjorie and help her with her job, to more often than not disastrous results. In the end, Marjorie and Wendell find a way to work together to face their fears and save the laundromat.

The first portion of the book, dealing with Marjorie, is a little slow but I feel that it was intentional as it sets her feeling of loneliness and abandonment fairly early in the story. I found this portion of the book moving, how she was dealing with the loss of both of her parents, one by death, the other by grief. However, the abrupt switch to Wendell's introduction left me confused as I actual thought I had missed some pages somehow; one page we're reading about Marjorie, the next we're dropped right in the middle of Wendell's story without the same buildup that Marjorie receives. It's a little jarring. The rest of the book moves along fairly quickly, almost to its detriment in some ways. Marjorie coming to terms with who Wendell is (after the briefest of connections is made earlier in the book; I actually had to flip back to figure out how she made this link), Wendell first accidentally interfering in Marjorie's attempt to save the family business then his coming to the rescue, the final resolution to everyone's problems, it all seemed to happen almost too quickly after such a sparse and spaced beginning to the book. There are solid lessons to be learned here but they seem either heavy handed or too easily glossed over; there is some definite inconsistencies to the storytelling throughout.

Thummler's sparse illustrations and muted pastel palette lend themselves easily to both the tone and seaside setting of the story. There is not much detail per panel, yet her character's emotions are easily read. I feel this is truly where Thummler's strength is, in her art.

I think the problem with Sheets is it tries too hard to be more than it is, ultimately being inconsistent in how it deals with the kid's emotions and how they deal with those emotions. At the end of the day, I enjoyed Sheets for what it is: a book about a lost girl and a ghost boy, and how they help each other find their way.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Neil Gaiman's A Study in Emerald by Neil Gaiman, adapted & illustrated by Rafael Albuquerque, adaptation script by Rafael Scavone, colored by Dave Stewart

Neil Gaiman's A Study in Emerald
by Neil Gaiman, adapted & illustrated by Rafael Albuquerque, adaptation script by Rafael Scavone, colored by Dave Stewart
Published by Dark Horse Books • July 10, 2018
88 Pages • ISBN 978-1506703930 • Hardcover



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Book description:
This supernatural mystery set in the world of Sherlock Holmes and Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos features a brilliant detective and his partner as they try to solve a horrific murder.

The complex investigation takes the Baker Street investigators from the slums of Whitechapel all the way to the Queen's Palace as they attempt to find the answers to this bizarre murder of cosmic horror!

From the Hugo, Bram Stoker, Locus, World Fantasy, Nebula award-winning, and
New York Times bestselling writer Neil Gaiman comes this graphic novel adaptation with art by Eisner award winning artist Rafael Albuquerque!


The latest in Dark Horse Comic's Neil Gaiman Library series, A Study in Emerald adapts the short story of the same name from the short story collection Fragile Things. As with all the Dark Horse adaptations, this has its strong and weak points, but does a more than admiral job of capturing the essence of the story. Without giving much away, this is obviously a pastiche of Sherlock Holmes with Lovecraft's Cthulhu universe and takes A Study in Scarlet as its inspiration, but also contains an unexpected twist at the end.

It has been awhile since I read the original short story, but I feel that they gave away some of the mystery to the story a little too early. I remember a real feeling of surprise when I figured out how everything was coming together and yes, that may have influenced me, but I don't think that someone reading this version will have that same experience as all the pieces of the puzzle start coming together. Or maybe I'm just remembering this wrong and the original did give more away earlier on in the story. Either way, this is a great volume unto itself, but I recommend reading the original as well.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch
by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks • August 7, 2007 (1990)
400 Pages • ISBN 978-0060853976 • Paperback



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Book description:
The world will end on Saturday. Next Saturday. Just before dinner, according to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, the world's only completely accurate book of prophecies written in 1655. The armies of Good and Evil are amassing and everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except that a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture. And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist.

Put
New York Times bestselling authors Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett together... and all Hell breaks loose.


le sigh

I love this book. I really, really do. It's one that I'll pull off the shelf every couple of years to read and giggle all the way through each and every time, it's just that funny. Realistically, you'd think a story about the Apocalypse really wouldn't be that funny, but in such capable hands as those of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, it's laugh out loud hysterical.

Aziraphale (the angel protecting the Garden of Eden) and Crowley (once known as Crawley, the infamous snake of Eden) have been living comfortably in modern times, having become fast friends after the whole Adam and Eve thing. When it comes time for the Apocalypse to take place, they decide to maybe try to put it off a couple more years, since they rather like living in the human world. Unfortunately, there was a mix up with the Antichrist when he was born (Warlock, who is thought to be the Antichrist, is a wildly normal young boy, while the real Antichrist, Adam Young, is living in the English countryside with his wildly normal family, not having any idea as to his true nature), and now there is a race to find the real Antichrist before everything basically goes to hell. The Four Horsemen are trying to find the Antichrist (Pollution has replaced Pestilence since penicillin was discovered), Aziraphale and Crowley are looking for him, and meanwhile all the incredibly accurate prophecies of Agnes Nutter are coming true. And what do the Tibetans and aliens have to do with anything?

I think part of what makes the story so funny is that it doesn't try to take itself seriously at all. Gaiman and Pratchett never try to take the story farther that what it is, a comedy, and don't try to make anything really philosophical about it, so regardless of your actual beliefs or feelings about the Apocalypse, this story is still accessible and still funny. It is full of Gaiman and Pratchett's trademark wit and cleverness, even though it was written respectively early on in their careers, so it's not always a polished as it could be, which is also part of its charm.

**a note on my most recent encounter with Good Omens**
Recently needing something a little lighthearted and on the recommendation from a friend, I gave the audio edition of Good Omens a go, and was not disappointed. Martin Jarvis' narration was spot on for every character, and he gave the story an entirely fresh feel. I'm sure it wasn't done intentionally, but his Crowley sounded just like David Tennant and Aziraphale sounded just like Michael Sheen, and that made me all the more excited for the upcoming BBC production. I don't know if it was just that I hadn't read it in a while or it was because I was listening to it as an audio, but I found myself laughing out loud at so many bits... it was just what I needed to put me in a better mood when I was listening to it.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Mech Cadet Yu, Vol 1 by Greg Pak, illustrated by Takeshi Miyazawa, colored by Triona Farrell

Mech Cadet Yu, Vol 1
by Greg Pak, illustrated by Takeshi Miyazawa, colored by Triona Farrell
Published by BOOM! Studios • June 5, 2018
128 Pages • ISBN 978-1684151950 • Paperback



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Book description:
A young boy gets the opportunity of a lifetime when he bonds with a giant sentient robot and joins the ranks of the illustrious Sky Corps Academy to protect the world from alien threats.

Every year, giant sentient robots from outer space come to Earth and bond forever with a brand new crop of cadets at Sky Corps Academy to help keep the planet safe. But this year, instead of making a connection with a cadet, one of the mechs bonds with Stanford, a young kid working with his Mom as a janitor at Sky Corps. Stanford has the opportunity of a lifetime but he’ll first have to earn the trust of his classmates if he’s to defend the planet from the monstrous Sharg.

From bestselling author Greg Pak (The Hulk, Superman) and fan favorite artist Takeshi Miyazawa (Runaways, Ms. Marvel), Mech Cadet Yu is a heartfelt underdog story set in a bright and bold sci fi world, uncovering the true makings of heroism and friendship in the face of overwhelming odds. This collection includes an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the making of Mech Cadet Yu, including the comic short story that inspired the series.


More or less the love child of Pacific Rim and The Iron Giant, Mech Cadet Yu is a fun book that I found myself enjoying more and more thru each chapter. For the last sixty years, every four years giant Mechs fall from the sky and bond with a young child and thru that bond and the training the young cadet has gone thru, they become a champion of the human race against the alien threat of the Sharg. No one knows where the Mechs come from and no one knows how they choose the child they bond with, but they have become the front line defense for the human race. In the most recent bonding, one of the Mechs chooses Standford Yu, the son of a janitor at Sky Corps, who has had no experience or training to be a Mech pilot/companion but because the Mech has chosen him, he is thrown immediately into training.

There is the inevitable rivalry between Yu and the daughter of the program director who has supposed to bond with the third Mech and is instead given the first human-built Mech (which reminds me very much stylistically of the Evangelion mechs), and of course they are immediately thrown into a battle with the Sharg when no one is prepared for this since they are still first year cadets, and of course they win this battle; to be fair, the entire story is and of itself a very simple heroes journey, and one that we've all read before. However, Greg Pak's writing really brings some heart and soul to both the cadets and their Mechs and the whole thing just feels fresh in a very nostalgic way. Takeshi Miyazawa's art is dynamic and his Mech designs are both intimidating and friendly; these are robots that can kick ass and be your best friend.

I am pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this initial volume and am looking forward to reading more of Yu's adventures.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Dr. Blackfoot's Carnival Extraordinaire by Ron Chatalbash

Dr. Blackfoot's Carnival Extraordinaire
by Ron Chatalbash
Published by D.R. Godine, Boston • 1982
36 Pages • ISBN 978-0879234263 • Hardcover



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Book description:
Tim is so discouraged and bored by life at home and school that he seizes a chance to join a circus, not knowing what really awaits him.


I think there can be something inherently creepy and unsettling about the circus; obviously not the fun-filled, cotton candy-coated circus of childhood dreams, but the darker, misfit inhabited circus of childhood nightmares. The book that always come to mind for me of those darker, mysterious circuses is obviously Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes. Ron Chatalbash's Dr. Blackfoot's Carnival Extraordinaire can also fit snugly into this category.

Tim, bored and discouraged with his life, dreams of running away with the circus, where he is sure that his life will be filled with wonder and adventure. When Dr. Blackfoot's Carnival Extraordinaire mysteriously arrives one night, Tim decides that this is his chance and chases after the caravan. However, Dr. Blackfoot and company are not the shiny, beautiful circus that Tim has dreamed of, but a more sinister group, offering Tim a more frightening view into the darker side of the circus, one that Tim decides is definitely not for him.

The story here is fairly predictable, but what makes this short story really shine are Chatalbash's accompanying illustrations. Taking influence from M. C. Escher, Chatalbash creates some equally mesmerizing and disturbing art to go along with his story. His illustrations lend themselves perfectly to the story and really help flesh out the creepy undertones. A quick read, but one that would be perfect for the Halloween season.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Star Wars: Chewie and the Courageous Kid by Lucasfilm Press, adapted by Nate Millici, illustrated by Pilot Studio

Star Wars: Chewie and the Courageous Kid
by Lucasfilm Press, adapted by Nate Millici, illustrated by Pilot Studio
Published by Lucasfilm Press • April 17, 2018
24 Pages • ISBN 978-1368016315 • Paperback



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Book description:
A Wookiee is a girl's best friend! When Chewbacca meets young Zarro on and Outer Rim planet, he has no choice but to set aside his own mission to help her rescue her father from a dangerous mine.


A quick and easy adaptation of the Star Wars: Chewbacca mini series from Marvel Comics, perfect for younger readers. From what I remember of the original comics, this is a faithful adaptation, and the accompanying illustrated are perfect for the story and I think will engage kids when reading/being read to. There are also stickers included that use some of the interior artwork.

A great addition for a younger Star Wars fan's library.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Strange Weather: Four Short Novels by Joe Hill

Strange Weather: Four Short Novels
by Joe Hill
Published by William Morrow • October 24, 2017
448 Pages • ISBN 978-0062663115 • Hardcover



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Book description:
A collection of four chilling novels, ingeniously wrought gems of terror from the brilliantly imaginative, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Fireman, Joe Hill.

"One of America’s finest horror writers" (
Time magazine), Joe Hill has been hailed among legendary talents such as Peter Straub, Neil Gaiman, and Jonathan Lethem. In Strange Weather, this "compelling chronicler of human nature’s continual war between good and evil," (Providence Journal-Bulletin) who "pushes genre conventions to new extremes" (New York Times Book Review) deftly expose the darkness that lies just beneath the surface of everyday life.

"Snapshot" is the disturbing story of a Silicon Valley adolescent who finds himself threatened by "The Phoenician," a tattooed thug who possesses a Polaroid Instant Camera that erases memories, snap by snap.

A young man takes to the skies to experience his first parachute jump. . . and winds up a castaway on an impossibly solid cloud, a Prospero’s island of roiling vapor that seems animated by a mind of its own in "Aloft."

On a seemingly ordinary day in Boulder, Colorado, the clouds open up in a downpour of nails—splinters of bright crystal that shred the skin of anyone not safely under cover. "Rain" explores this escalating apocalyptic event, as the deluge of nails spreads out across the country and around the world.

In "Loaded," a mall security guard in a coastal Florida town courageously stops a mass shooting and becomes a hero to the modern gun rights movement. But under the glare of the spotlights, his story begins to unravel, taking his sanity with it. When an out-of-control summer blaze approaches the town, he will reach for the gun again and embark on one last day of reckoning.

Masterfully exploring classic literary themes through the prism of the supernatural,
Strange Weather is a stellar collection from an artist who is "quite simply the best horror writer of our generation" (Michael Koryta).


Generally, books don't make me uncomfortable. Scary movies can scare me, creepy TV shows can make me creepy, but generally books don't have that affect. However...

All four stories in Joe Hill's Strange Weather made me uncomfortable, each in their own specific, and different, ways. "Snapshot" creeped me out: a young boy is trying to find out why his elderly neighbor is losing her memories, only to discover that it is a tattooed man with a memory stealing camera to blame. The final confrontation, and what was discovered in the camera and its eventual use, will make you rethink today's technology. In "Loaded," a mall security cop stops a mass shooting, or does he? This one hits a little too close to home, given the current national crisis with gun violence. "Aloft" will make you look at clouds in a decidedly different light (are they watching back?). And finally "Rain," a terrorism story of a different kind, but one that again hit too close to home with too much death during a time period of my own personal loss over my mother and dogs.

These stories left me uncomfortable in a variety of ways, but they also made me think, and both are signs of excellent writing. Hill continues to prove that he is just as adept a writer as his father, and in some ways he may be a stronger writer. King's short stories often hit with scare factor in overdrive, and while Hill's stories also do, they continue to have a heart and soul that I don't always find in King's work. (Hill's "20th Century Ghost" remains one of my all time favorite short stories.) While Hill gave himself more room to work in by writing novellas instead of short stories, he still manages to pack a remarkable amount of feeling into these stories.

I honestly can't recommend this book more.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Star Wars: Last Shot: A Han and Lando Novel by Daniel José Older

Star Wars: Last Shot: A Han and Lando Novel
by Daniel José Older
Published by Del Rey • April 17, 2018
368 Pages • ISBN 978-0525622130 • Hardcover



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Book description:
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Han Solo and Lando Calrissian are reunited on the Millennium Falcon in a galaxy-spanning novel inspired by Solo: A Star Wars Story. But even the fastest ship in the universe can’t outrun the past...

The hardcover edition includes a reversible jacket, with one side featuring Han and the other featuring Lando!

THEN:


It’s one of the galaxy’s most dangerous secrets: a mysterious transmitter with unknown power and a reward for its discovery that most could only dream of claiming. But those who fly the Millennium Falcon throughout its infamous history aren’t your average scoundrels. Not once, but twice, the crew of the Falcon tries to claim the elusive prize—first, Lando Calrissian and the droid L3-37 at the dawn of an ambitious career, and later, a young and hungry Han Solo with the help of his copilot, Chewbacca. But the device’s creator, the volatile criminal Fyzen Gor, isn’t interested in sharing. And Gor knows how to hold a grudge...

NOW:

It’s been ten years since the rebel hero Han Solo last encountered Fyzen Gor. After mounting a successful rebellion against the Empire and starting a family with an Alderaanian princess, Han hasn’t given much thought to the mad inventor. But when Lando turns up at Han’s doorstep in the middle of the night, it’s Fyzen’s assassins that he’s running from. And without Han’s help, Lando—and all life on Cloud City—will be annihilated.

With the assistance of a young hotshot pilot, an Ewok slicer prodigy, the woman who might be the love of Lando’s life, and Han’s best and furriest friend, the two most notorious scoundrels in the New Republic are working together once more. They’ll have to journey across the stars—and into the past—before Gor uses the device’s power to reshape the galaxy.


Sigh.

I wanted to like this book. I really did. But... no. Just, no.

And I'm not one of the SW haters, either. Even the stuff I generally don't like, I can still find something to relate to in the story. Last Jedi? Loved it. Solo? Went into it expecting to not like it, was pleasantly surprised by how much I did end up enjoying it. I can accept new ideas in the SW universe, and I can be persuaded to change my mind about something I'm sure I'm not going to like.

I'm so disappointed in this book. I've been immensely enjoying how the books that have been released in the new Disney streamlined storytelling have tied into some aspect of the SW universe, how you can connect the dots from other books or movies. Last Shot had no feeling of continuity to it with the larger story. In fact, it doesn't really feel like a SW story at all; it feels like a story that Older had already written and then reworked into a SW novel. There's just too much working against this story for me to have really gotten into it (possible spoiler territory).

First off, it falls back on a too-often used scifi trope: That droids are going to rise up and attack the organics, but this time adding in a Frankenstein/zombie aspect that just seemed more awkward than original. That definitely didn't feel like SW. Older's writing style is clearly not for me, as there are far too many awkward chapter breaks (Why break what is essentially one chapter into 2 or 3 separate mini-chapters?), too many repetitive elements (When you make a point of having multiple characters yelling the same thing over each other so many times that the reader begins to notice this is happening, that's too much), and way too many time frames. The whole space jet suit thing? Again, doesn't feel like SW. Computer genius Ewoks? Nope, given that just 2 years prior to this story they still thought droids were gods. Gungans who speak in normal basic? Nope, since this would appear to be the only Gungan who can, and actually felt like it was written this way as an intentional excuse to show, thru Han, that RACISM IS BAD! The inclusion of a gender non-binary character is nice, but after all the other things that seemed wrong in this book, that little aspect got lost.

The multiple time frames is very problematic for me. There is Fyzen Gor, the main antagonist's, back story; Lando's back story how he and L3 encountered Gor; Han's back story on how he & Chewie also encountered Gor in the past; and then the story occurring in the now, where all three of these back stories are supposed to come together. Each of these time frames are broken up throughout the book, so there is a lot of bouncing around. I think if maybe one time frame was told and that led into the next, with the book culminating in the final story arc, this would have flowed much better, maybe. Adding to this problem for me is that I listened to this on Audible, and there are three narrators for four time frames: one for Han's story (January LaVoy), one for Lando's story (Daniel José Older), and one for Gor's story and the current story (Marc Thompson). There were numerous times that I got confused about which time frame was being handled when the story jumped between the now and Gor's story, since it was the same narrator. There really should have been four narrators total for this book. And speaking of narrators, Marc Thompson and January LaVoy did their usual spot on narrations, but I think Older needs some practice still before he narrates his own work. He narrates too quickly, and doesn't handle each of the characters as separate characters. Everything he reads sounds exactly the same, as if he's just speeding thru a reading of the book, instead of a performance of the book.

Given the amount of build up to the conclusion of the story, and given how much is at stake in the galaxy, the resolution seems far too quick, and too easy. L3's participation in the conclusion seemed too contrived (and honestly, I would have much rather seem more of her in this story) and of course, everything is resolved in just the nick of time so that there was never really any threat at all in the end. About the only thing that this book resolves is a possible explanation as to where Lando is in the current trilogy movies. And if that is all this book was supposed to do, I don't think that's really a question that was all that important in answering.

I really do hate writing reviews like this, but every book can't be a winner. I will be hard pressed to read anything by Older again; Last Shot is simply not a satisfying book.

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Infinity Gauntlet by Jim Starlin, illustrated by George Perez & Ron Lim

The Infinity Gauntlet
by Jim Starlin, illustrated by George Perez & Ron Lim
Published by Marvel • September 28, 2011
256 Pages • ISBN 978-0785156598 • Paperback



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Book description:
For the dark Titan, Thanos, the Infinity Gauntlet was the Holy Grail, the ultimate prize to be coveted above all else. Now, on the edge of Armageddon and led by the mysterious Adam Warlock, Earth's super heroes join in a desperate attempt to thwart this nihilistic god's insane plunge into galactic self-destruction.

Collects
The Infinity Gauntlet #1-6


A re-read for me, but it has been a while and I wanted to see how the original Infinity Gauntlet story stands up against the MCU version. While there are obvious differences, I think both The Infinity Gauntlet and Avengers: Infinity War both stand up very well for their respective mediums. Also, given that The Infinity Gauntlet was published almost 30 years ago (how did that happen?!), I was pleasantly surprised that it still held up as well. It's also fun now to try to anticipate what is going to happen in the next movie based on the events that have been occurring in the MCU films. It's also interesting to see how the groundwork was laid for future events in the Marvel Comic Universe, even if they didn't know at the time that this story was going to have such long lasting affects.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

John Byrne's Stowaway to the Stars by John Byrne, colored by Leonard O'Grady

John Byrne's Stowaway to the Stars
by John Byrne, colored by Leonard O'Grady
Published by IDW Publishing • June 5, 2018
48 Pages • ISBN 827714015461 • Paperback



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Book description:
Robots, aliens, and a spunky teenaged girl. John Byrne explores a whole new way of storytelling in Stowaway to the Stars, where Byrne (Star Trek New Visions, John Byrne's Next Men) takes you on a journey through brand-new worlds and galaxies with this beautiful series of full-page, full-color illustrations, accompanied by a light, evocative, science-fiction storyline.


A short story about a young girl who dreams of traveling to the stars, and one night makes the decision that she needs to fulfill this dream and stows away on a cargo ship. Of course, she's discovered and then has to work on the ship to earn her way. And of course, the ship is attacked and she is thrown into a life and death escape. And of course, she survives and makes it home, where she settles back into her routine but continues to dream of adventuring to the stars.

To be frank, the whole thing is fairly predictable and there's not much meat to the story, and I don't think I'd have paid this any attention had it not been for its creator, John Byrne. Byrne was one of my favorite artists back in the day when I was collecting earlier X-Men comics. His style is distinctly his own, and always held a sort of dynamism for me. It's been a while since he produced anything new, so I was excited to pick this up, and he doesn't disappoint with his art. The story is 48 pages long, with the left hand page carrying the prose, and the opposite page carrying the art. I breezed thru the story (again, it's fairly simple), but I immediately went back and poured over each page of art. Byrne fills each page with remarkable detail, and Leonard O'Grady's colors really pop (even if there are several inconsistencies with the coloring of characters throughout the book).

I'm not sure that this will appeal to a large crowd, and I don't think it's intended to. I fell that Byrne produced this more for himself than anyone else, and I'm glad that he decided to share it. It may not be the most remarkable book you'll read, but it's full of heart and soul, and that's what counts.