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.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote

Breakfast at Tiffany's
by Truman Capote
Published by Vintage Books • November 6, 2008 (1958)
160 Pages • ISBN 978-0679745655 • Paperback



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Book description:
In this seductive, wistful masterpiece, Truman Capote created a woman whose name has entered the American idiom and whose style is a part of the literary landscape. Holly Golightly knows that nothing bad can ever happen to you at Tiffany's; her poignancy, wit, and naïveté continue to charm.

This volume also includes three of Capote's best-known stories, “House of Flowers,” “A Diamond Guitar,” and “A Christmas Memory,” which the
Saturday Review called “one of the most moving stories in our language.” It is a tale of two innocents—a small boy and the old woman who is his best friend—whose sweetness contains a hard, sharp kernel of truth.





A perennial favorite, I recently listened to the Audible edition narrated by Michael C. Hall and was delighted to find that he brings as much heart and soul to Holly Golightly & Co as I find when reading it in print.

If you’ve only ever seen the film (which is a fantastic movie, IMHO), or you are entirely unacquainted with Holly, do yourself a favor a pick up this book. It’s a slim volume and won’t take much time at all to read, but I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

Less
by Andrew Sean Greer
Published by Lee Boudreaux Books • July 18, 2017
272 Pages • ISBN 978-0316316125 • Hardcover



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Book description:
A struggling novelist travels the world to avoid an awkward wedding in this hilarious Pulitzer Prize-winning novel full of "arresting lyricism and beauty" (New York Times Book Review).

WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE
National Bestseller
A
New York Times Notable Book of 2017
A
Washington Post Top Ten Book of 2017
A
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Ten Book of 2017
Longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence, the Lambda Award and the California Book Award

Who says you can't run away from your problems?


You are a failed novelist about to turn fifty. A wedding invitation arrives in the mail: your boyfriend of the past nine years is engaged to someone else. You can't say yes--it would be too awkward--and you can't say no--it would look like defeat. On your desk are a series of invitations to half-baked literary events around the world.

QUESTION: How do you arrange to skip town?

ANSWER: You accept them all.

What would possibly go wrong? Arthur Less will almost fall in love in Paris, almost fall to his death in Berlin, barely escape to a Moroccan ski chalet from a Saharan sandstorm, accidentally book himself as the (only) writer-in-residence at a Christian Retreat Center in Southern India, and encounter, on a desert island in the Arabian Sea, the last person on Earth he wants to face. Somewhere in there: he will turn fifty. Through it all, there is his first love. And there is his last.

Because, despite all these mishaps, missteps, misunderstandings and mistakes,
Less is, above all, a love story.

A scintillating satire of the American abroad, a rumination on time and the human heart, a bittersweet romance of chances lost, by an author
The New York Times has hailed as "inspired, lyrical," "elegiac," "ingenious," as well as "too sappy by half," Less shows a writer at the peak of his talents raising the curtain on our shared human comedy.


This story is exquisite. Something of a coming of age story, but for a 50 year old gay writer finding his place in his new middle age life. I listened to this during a recent road trip, and loved everything about both the story and the narration. An immediate favorite with a shine I know won’t dull with future readings.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Drag Queen by Robert Rodi

Drag Queen
by Robert Rodi
Published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform • January 15, 2013 (1995)
308 Pages • ISBN 978-1494810665 • Kindle Edition



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Book description:
A wildly irreverent satire of gender identity and family dynamics, Rodi's 1995 novel has been long out-of-print; now it returns, its NSFW hilarity as timely as ever - if not timelier.

Mitchell Sayer, a buttoned-down gay attorney at a prestigious Chicago law firm, discovers he has a long-lost twin. But his well-ordered life comes apart at the seams when the separated siblings finally meet, and Mitchell discovers his brother Donald is better known as Kitten Kaboodle, star of the city's most infamous drag revue. Plunged into a chaotic world where he's forced to confront his own fluid masculinity, Mitchell learns that appearances aren't just deceiving - they're even more disturbingly revealing. Building to a riotous climax in which identities blur and destinies go bust, all to the accompaniment of a cabaret pianist,
Drag Queen is a rip-snorting romp through wigs and wardrobes, wit and wantonness.

"A plateful of giddy meringue from the undisputed doyen of the effervescent gay novel of manners." -
Kirkus


I remember reading Drag Queen sometime in the early 00s, freshly out of the closet; it was a cute little satire that vaguely resembled real life at the time. Re-reading it as a queer adult, one who is now comfortable in who and what he is, I found this both a refreshing reminder of the fun of my early gay days and a more sobering reminder of the inherent danger we all felt back then. Not that there isn't some level of inherent danger today, especially given the current political climate in the country, but I do like to think we've come some way since Drag Queen was originally published, and I generally don't think twice about holding my boyfriend's hand out in public.

Drag Queen is a comedy of errors as Mitchell Sayer, an attorney at an established law firm, discovers he has a long lost twin brother. However, Donald is everything that Mitchell is not: he's flamboyant, in-your-face, and a drag queen. As each brother tries to reconcile their feelings about the other, circumstances bring them to an unexpected finale that challenges each brother's very core and brings them ever closer together.

Rodi captures each brother's personalities perfectly; Mitchell is so scared of being too gay, Donald is terrified of being normal. These may be read more as stereotypes now, but there is some definite truth in what each brother is feeling - and this is where Rodi shines as a writer. He gives an honest voice to the fears that many gay men, then and now, feel about who and what they are, and while he covers everything in the laughable shine of satire so that it doesn't seem so terribly bad, these are truths we have all at one time or another faced or are currently facing now. The fear of being found out, the fear of being harassed both physically and emotionally; these are all things that have been at the root of so many men not coming to terms with who they are or letting their friends or family get too close.

After I re-read Drag Queen, I discovered that Rodi wrote several novels chronicling the trials and tribulations of being gay in the 90s and I'm going to go back and start at the beginning of these stories and read my way thru them, both for a chuckle but also as a reminder of how far we've come and how far we still have to go.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

March 2018 Recap

  1. Shane by Jack Schaefer
  2. The Dreaded Summons and Other Misplaced Bills by Lorin Morgan-Richards
  3. Memento Mori: The Goodbye Family Album by Lorin Morgan-Richards
  4. Wanted: Dead or Alive… But Not Stinkin' by Lorin Morgan-Richards
  5. Watcher in the Dark by Beverly Hastings
  6. The Girl From the Other Side: Siúil, a Rún, Vol 4 by Nagabe
  7. Before the End: One-Eyed Willie by Michael DeGrow
  8. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
  9. The Ghost, The Owl by Franco, illustrated by Sara Richard
  10. Smoke Eaters by Sean Grigsby
  11. Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Expanded Edition by Jason Fry
  12. Robotech, Vol 1: Countdown by Brian Wood, illustrated by Marco Turini
  13. Elsewhere, Vol 1 by Jay Faerber, illustrated by Sumeyye Kesgin
  14. The Window by Amelia Brunskill
  15. Eleanor & the Egret, Vol 1 by John Layman, illustrated by Sam Keith
  16. Descender, Vol 3: Singularities by Jeff Lemire, illustrated by Dustin Nguyen
  17. The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter by Rod Duncan
  18. I Kill Giants: Fifth Anniversary Edition by Joe Kelly, illustrated by JM Ken Niimura

Pick of the Month
I Kill Giants: Fifth Anniversary Edition by Joe Kelly, illustrated by JM Ken Niimura


March 2018
Number of books read: 18
Number of pages: 3,304

Number of books acquired: 32
Number of those books read: 7


YEAR TOTALS
Number of books read: 37
Number of pages: 6,875

Number of books acquired: 88
Number of those books read: 22

I Kill Giants: Fifth Anniversary Edition by Joe Kelly, illustrated by JM Ken Niimura

I Kill Giants I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly
My rating: 5 of 5 stars



View all my reviews

The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter by Rod Duncan

The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter by Rod Duncan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars



View all my reviews

Friday, March 30, 2018

BLOG TOUR: The Window by Amelia Brunskill

The Window
by Amelia Brunskill
Published by Delacorte Press • April 3, 2018
352 Pages • ISBN 978-1524720292 • Hardcover



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Book description:
Anna is everything her identical twin is not. Outgoing and athletic, she is the opposite of quiet introvert Jess. The same on the outside, yet so completely different inside - it's hard to believe the girls are sisters, let alone twins. But they are. And they tell each other everything.

Or so Jess thought.

After Anna falls to her death while sneaking out her bedroom window, Jess's life begins to unravel. Everyone says it was an accident, but to Jess, that doesn't add up. Where was Anna going? Who was she meeting? And how long had Anna been lying to her?

Jess is compelled to learn everything she can about the sister she thought she knew. At first it's a way to stay busy and find closure… but Jess soon discovers that her twin kept a lot of secrets. And as she digs deeper, she learns that the answers she's looking for may be truths that no one wants her to uncover.

Because Anna wasn't the only one with secrets.


Jess and her twin, Anna, couldn't be more different, but they have always had a close bond as sisters. However, after Anna is found dead outside her window, it seems like an unfortunate accident, nothing more. However, as Jess soon comes to understand, Anna didn't share everything with her twin, and as Jess starts paying attention to what is being said about her sister, she begins to unravel the truth behind Anna's death.

Told in sharp, taut prose that is excellently paced and also captures the imperfections of the characters perfectly as they deal with the grief surrounding Anna's death, The Window captured my attention fairly quickly and while there were multiple times throughout that I was fairly sure how the story was going to end, there were enough twists and turns that actually surprised me when everything finally played out. The small town feel was spot on, and the addition of Anna's POV interspersed thru Jess' story was a nice touch, so that we get to see both sides of the twins.

And let's take a moment to appreciate the cover, shall we? Delcaorte's art dept did a fine job in creating an cover that perfectly captures the atmospheric feel to the story and Jess' sense of loneliness after Anna's death.

If you enjoy a great mystery, a dark YA story, or a good page-turner that can easily be read in one sitting, you should definitely check out The Window.



About the Author
Amelia Brunskill was born in Melbourne, Australia, but she grew up mostly in Washington state where she picked a lot of blackberries, read a lot of books, and failed to properly appreciate the epic beauty of the mountains and the Pacific ocean.

She earned her bachelors degrees in psychology and art from the University of Washington and her master in information studies from the University of Texas at Austin. She now lives in Chicago, where she eats as much Thai food as possible and works as a librarian.

The Window is her debut novel.


I received a physical ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.