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.