|This comic continues to blow me away with its magnificence. If you’re a fan of comics, sci-fi, or even just well-written/plotted stories, do yourself a favor and start reading Saga, post-haste! It’s sooo good.|
| 1914, Ottoman Empire: The Donabedian family members have a good life. They mill grain, grow grapes and spend warm summer evenings playing music with friends and neighbors on the rooftop. Unbeknownst to the younger family members, unrest is brewing and their lives are about to change forever. The three youngest siblings are the stars of this story. There’s Shahen, who dreams of moving to America, Sosi, Shahen’s twin sister, who has recently fallen in love with a local boy, and Mariam, the five-year-old baby of the family. As political discontent grows, neighbors advise the family to leave, but their father firmly believes that their Turkish and Kurdish friends will help protect them from the soldiers. Unfortunately, things begin getting bad very quickly. The eldest sons are arrested and later massacred along with other men of fighting age from the village. One night, word comes that violence is on its way. The parents make the brave and devastating decision to send their remaining children off into the night. The three siblings then begin an epic journey over the mountains with little more than the clothes on their backs. All along, an eagle keeps watch over the family and helps to keep the children safe as they hide from soldiers and traverse the unforgiving mountainous landscape.
This novel-in-verse is one of the more heart-wrenching tales I’ve read in recent memory. It’s also the first time I’ve read any fiction about the Armenian Genocide of 1915. This family’s story is heartbreaking, but even worse is the knowledge that these children were the lucky ones. They manage to escape the worst of the violence and are spared from seeing what happens to their parents (though we do, thanks to our friend, the eagle). Since this novel is written in verse, it moves very quickly. The language is beautiful, even if the subject matter is not. The narrative cycles through each of the siblings in addition to the eagle. Readers will breathlessly turn the pages to see what happens to these kids. The inclusion of the eagle adds a touch of magic realism, as well as an effective quasi-omniscient narrator. The end of the book includes an author’s note, a glossary and a list of resources for further exploration of this horrific historical event.
This is one of those books that really doesn’t lend itself well to summarizing, but I’ll do my best. There are several groups of characters that exist in several different dimensions (realities?). We have our world, with two of the main characters. Then there’s the world of the Wrenchies, a post-apocalyptic wasteland where only the children are technically “safe” from the Shadowsmen, a terrifying entity that attacks anyone “of age” with the purpose of turning their victims into more Shadowsmen. Then there’s yet another dimension with super-heroic adult versions of the Wrenchies as portrayed in the Wrenchies comic book that appears in each of the first two dimensions (our world and the Wrenchies’). The story began a few decades ago when a pair of brothers enter a cave and encounter one of the Shadowsmen. The story picks up later when one of the brothers is an adult living next door to an adolescent boy named Hollis. Hollis doesn’t fit in well with his peers. He wears a superhero outfit everywhere he goes and would prefer to be in his fictional worlds rather than the real one. He finds a totem hovering in the air outside his window and jumps to grab it. He’s then pulled into the world of the Wrenchies, who regard him with a sense of wonder and include him in their group without question. As things get weirder, a character known as “The Scientist” pulls the heroes in through a portal similar to the one Hollis came through. Now they all need to work together to defeat the scourge of Shadowsmen who are also taking advantage of the rifts between dimensions.
There’s a lot of unusual stuff going on in this graphic novel and it’s occasionally hard to explain exactly what’s happening, which means it’s not for everyone. It’s very gritty and violent, which one might expect from roving bands of armed children wandering around a post-apocalyptic world. The treatment of the kids is simultaneously disturbing and heart-warming. In spite of the extreme violence that comprises daily life in the world of the Wrenchies, the bonds they create amongst each other are strong and true. Add in some interesting philosophical dilemmas and you have a thoroughly fascinating, if somewhat disorienting, story. The artwork is lavishly detailed and full-color, making this a graphic novel you can really sink your teeth into. In fact, repeated reads may be required to fully appreciate the experience. I have a feeling one would notice something new upon each read.
Gardnerville is not like any town you’ve been in before. Not only is it so remote that it’s only accessible via train (and that only within the last few decades), its residents never get sick and they live far longer than the average person. Prospective residents travel from far and wide for a chance to live within the confines of Gardnerville; the only people accepted are those with life-threatening illnesses. In that sense, Gardnerville is a life-saving town. Something of a paradise. But nothing comes without a price and this town is no exception. There’s a four-year cycle of escalating calamity. In a first year, someone might be mad at someone else and accidentally turn them into an animal. In a forth year, one might see the kind of catastrophe that befell Skylar’s family. Skylar’s sister, Piper, led dozens of the town’s teens on a midnight parade down to the railroad bridge where they all proceeded to jump, many of them to their deaths. Piper now resides in the town’s correctional facility, a place known for taking in troublemakers and turning out hollowed-out husks of human beings. Skylar’s pretty sure that’s where Piper is, anyway.
As the book opens, it’s another fourth year. It’s also late in the year, which is making everyone extra nervous. Skylar’s been living in a drug-fueled haze ever since Piper went away. She takes a pill made from some of the Forget-Me-Not flowers that grow in Gardnerville. Within minutes of taking them, Skylar begins to forget. When she isn’t under the influence of the pills, she’s wishing she had more. Something is nagging at her though. She keeps finding the tape recorder that she and Piper used to use when they were kids. It’s not the only reminder of Piper that she keeps stumbling across, which makes her decide that it’s time to start remembering so that she can get her sister out of the correctional facility and start addressing some of the town’s darker secrets.
There is so much going on in this book that it’s really difficult to summarize. The mythology of the town itself is a bit messy and explanations come very late. Skylar is an unreliably narrator since she’s constantly taking the pills to forget everything. The main narrative alternates with flashbacks that are presumably recorded onto the tape recorder that seems to turn up wherever Skylar has been. The people that surround Skylar don’t seem any more reliable than she does, which only adds to the disorientation.
While I generally love oddball books, this one was just a little too convoluted to make me fall head-over-heels. I did enjoy it, but even with all the craziness, I was able to figure out the major twist, so that was kind of disappointing. I can’t help but think that the confusion is just a bit over the top. It takes forever for the book to get to the point and when there is exposition, it comes in big chunks rather than being seamlessly intertwined with the plot. I had a like/hate relationship with Skylar, who frequently frustrates as she continually drugs herself. She never asks the questions the readers want her to ask and it feels as though she alone is the one dragging out the plot. Still, the concept was intriguing and the writing was decent. Adventurous and patient readers will likely find this entertaining.
In yet another brutal and intriguing volume, Shiro tries to learn how to cook in order to cheer up Ganta, who has sunk into a deep depression. It doesn’t really work. In the aftermath of the prison break, the warden moves things in a new direction. It is decided that the public will now be shown what “monsters” the Deadmen are. Behind the scenes, prison officials are now turning regular prisoners into brain-washed Deadmen. Every time anything gets better in this series, something devastating is sure to follow. Still, very imaginative, if a bit disturbing.
By the time this book even starts, Kit has had an interesting life. As an orphan, he was picked up by a traveling circus and was known for his show riding before his age hit the double digits. Times changed though and Kit gave up the circus circuit for a more stable life as a servant to a nobleman. Life is uneventful until one night, when his master comes back to the house late at night, bleeding out from bullet wounds. As it turns out, the kind man that Kit thought was a relatively normal fellow is actually one of the most notorious highwayman in the country. In an attempt to go and seek help, Kit dons the clothes his master, Whistling Jack, grabs his French Bulldog, Demon and flees on his horse, Midnight. Jack instructed Kit to go and find a witch in the woods right before scrawling out an indecipherable will. After a daring escape that nearly gets Kit killed, he manages to stumble upon the very woman he was supposed to find. The witch informs him that he must now finish his master’s quest, which involves a number of fantastical beings whose existence was previously unknown to Kit. Kit tries to refuse, but since not completely the quest will end in his death, Kit has no real choice to but to comply. The quest? To rescue a fairy princess who is betrothed to the King of England. Finding the princess is easy. Getting her to cooperate is another matter altogether. Dodging both human and fairy enemies, Kit and Princess Morgana have little more than their wits to rely on as they seek safe passage to neutral territory.
This swashbuckling adventure story is a little bit slow to start with, but picks up steam as the main characters reveal themselves. The plot is very involved and the pacing is a bit quirky. Real historical details add a realistic edge to an otherwise whimsical tale. The occasional footnote provides clarifications primarily of the historical nature. Throughout are illustrations of various scenes and characters. The timing of the illustrations can be disruptive from time to time, but they’re a nice overall addition. There’s a lot of clever wordplay, though some of the vernacular may confuse younger readers. Fans of fantasy or historical adventure won’t be disappointed.
After the failure of their last attempt at getting a data chip out of Deadman Wonderland, Scar Chain regroups and tries again. Ganta decides to try training and Shiro remains…well, Shiro. DMW remains one of the darker and more intriguing manga series I’ve come across in recent memory.
This is actually a difficult one to write a review of. I enjoyed reading it, but I’m not 100% certain I caught all the nuances. We’ve got multiple time periods, a trio of femme fatales the all kind of look alike, perpetually drunk private investigators, old Hollywood, a whip-smart heroine and her angry-crazy daughter. It begins in the ’30’s and ends up a decade later during WWII. It’s a very involved story and any synopsis I could provide would do a disservice. In fact, there were many points where I wasn’t sure what was even happening. The vibe is distinctly noir and the tale is plenty engaging. I have never read anything by Feiffer before, so I was unfamiliar with his extremely sketchy style of drawing. For me, it was difficult to discern which character was which and what exactly was happening in many of the scenes. Thus, I can’t say that this graphic novel worked all that well for me, though I still enjoyed reading it.
This is clearly a pivotal point for the characters in Fables. It’s the battle we’ve all been waiting for: the Fables versus the Adversary. It’s every bit as epic as you’d imagine.
Nell and Layla have always been close. They were born scarcely over 9 months apart and were so intertwined as kids that Nell called herself “Nellalya”. Now they’re in high school, Layla a junior and Nell a freshman. Their relationship is starting to strain as Layla becomes more secretive and begins pulling away from Nell. Nell still looks up to her sister and eventually discovers that reason for Layla’s recent behavior. Layla is involved in a romantic relationship with her art teacher. Rumors have been circulating about the relationship, but since the teacher is young and handsome, it’s not the first time such rumors have gone around. This may, however, be the first time the rumors were actually true. Nell is torn between wanting to tell someone about this relationship and keeping her sister’s secret. What’s a good sister to do?
While the plot mostly centers on Nell’s obsession with her sister, We Are the Goldens is really more about Nell coming of age. Nell is learning some very serious lessons while she’s trying to figure out what’s going on with her sister. Prior to high school, Nell’s identity is tied to her sisters and it is only when she realizes her sister’s judgement is skewed that Nell begins to learn who she is as a person. Nell makes some terrible choices too, but she at least learns from them and uses them to inform her decision-making process when Layla’s secrets appear to be getting out of control. Overall, a good read for fans of realistic fiction and family drama. The short length and brisk pacing means this can be read in a single afternoon.
The best comic book series of this decade continues as Alana and Marco seek out their mutual literary hero while still on the run from mercenaries.
Jake Dobson is your typical nerd; works at the Near-Mint Rhino comic-book store in San Francisco. But when he finds a lost cell phone, he’s horrified to discover it’s full of snapshots of a murder victim. Suddenly he finds himself hunted by a vengeful hitman who wants his phone back… and Jake in a body bag! And then things start to get *really* complicated.
Description from Goodreads
Addison was the most promising artist of her generation. Her death, a fall from a bridge, is a crushing blow to everyone who knew her. The prologue explains that the author, Griffin, was intrigued by Addison and thus began interviewing a wide variety of friends, family, exes, teachers, family acquaintances, etc. to gain a better understanding of who Addison was and what led to her death. Did she slip and fall? Was it intentional on her behalf? Did someone want her dead? Accounts of Addison vary depending on who is being asked, though everyone seems to agree that she was a phenomenal artist with some serious mental health issues. The narrative of the book is entirely commentary from the people in Addison’s life and begins more or less at the beginning with Addison’s early elementary school years. Also included are examples of Addison’s artwork and photos of Addison throughout her life.
We may never really know what caused Addison’s fatal slip, but we do get a much better idea of who she was and what brought her up on that bridge. Addison comes across as the quintessential “manic-pixie-dream-girl”. Everyone seems to want to know her, but she’s frequently aloof. Her art is clearly the most important part of her life, so much so that people, even those she cares about, come in at a distant second. Those who don’t like her come across as jealous of her magnetism and talent. She was clearly not the easiest person to be friends with; being her friend involved a lot of work.
I’ve recently come to the conclusion that I don’t really get into books that have this many different narrators. It’s incredibly difficult for me to warm up to any of the peripheral characters as we only know them through their relation to Addison and not on their own terms. While I felt like I learned a lot about Addison, I never felt like I knew her as a person, which was likely the intent. This is, however, an interesting experiment in form. There were a lot of themes at play here: the cult of celebrity, the connection between mental illness and creative genius, the effects of being precocious in a city like New York… As a thought experiment, the novel works, but I didn’t really love it.
The mind-bending science fiction series FBP returns to the strange phenomena all over the world-and beyond.
Federal Bureau of Physics agents Rosa and Adam are invited to take part in an experiment that will test their limits and blur their concept of reality. And after a beautiful moment is shattered, Rosa and Adam get to see firsthand why Nakeet is known as the strangest town north of the 48.
Description from Goodreads
It began as a day much like any other. Tariq Johnson was walking home after a trip to the local market, something he had done dozens of times before. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a car pulls up. A white man gets out of the car and shoots Tariq. Tariq is dead by the time the EMTs arrive. The community, which is predominantly black, is thrown into an uproar. Violence is nothing new to the gang-ridden neighborhood, but this shooting is different. Tariq was only 16 years old and he was, by many accounts, unarmed. As the news picks up the story, it becomes apparent that this act of violence was about far more than just the two individuals involved. The incident quickly becomes national news and the lives of everyone connected with Tariq and his shooter are changed forever.
Tariq’s story is told from multiple perspectives, including his best friend, his family members, old friends, local gang members, the store clerk, the shooter’s friend who lives down the street, the girl who tried to give Tariq CPR…the list goes on. There’s even an Al Sharpton-type character in the mix. It becomes abundantly clear from early on that the narrative of the day’s events shifts significantly depending on who is doing the talking. The gang members want to believe that Tariq did have a gun and that he was planning on joining up with them, so his death signals an act of war to them. Tariq’s best friend wasn’t there, but can’t wrap his head around the idea of Tariq carrying a gun. The friend of the shooter swore up and down that he saw a gun in Tariq’s hand. Others are sure they didn’t see a gun; that Tariq had a Snickers bar in his hand instead. How It Went Down certainly feels timely and does much to emphasize patterns of racism, both conscious and subconscious. As with many other incidents like this (that were not captured on film), what actually happened is difficult to discern. Each narrator has a very specific point of view shaped by their perceptions not only of Tariq himself, but of the neighborhood and the stereotypes associated with young black men in living in poor areas like Tariq’s. Ultimately, there are only two people who have any real answers – the shooter and the shot- and neither one is talking. This is a great novel to teach the ways in which our preconceived notions can shape our interpretation of events, but it’s not the most literary of novels out there. It’s an important read, but only if the reader is willing and able to sort through a very large number of narrators only to find that there aren’t any “real” answers. In the end, I felt that it might have been better to develop fewer characters rather than confuse the issue further with so many individual points of view.
This charming little book is a three-way collaboration amongst artist Maira Kalman, writer Daniel Handler and the Museum of Modern Art. The theme is, obviously, “girls standing on lawns” and is illustrated by Handler’s poetic interludes, Kalman’s paintings and photographs of girls who are, quite literally, standing on lawns. Just about everyone who grew up in a household with a camera has one or more pictures of themselves in just such a setting. I know that I personally have many pictures of myself standing on a lawn (first days of school, school dances, etc.), as do my mother and her mother. These particular photos are all from a more distant past, largely the ’30s-’50s. Kalman’s paintings are her own take on some of the photos (the originals of which appear in the back of the book).
A very fast read, Girls Standing on Lawns is an interesting experiment in form. The short vignettes of text evoke a sense of potentiality for the girls in the photos. These girls are going somewhere, preparing for something – just as any of us would have been in our pictures. We don’t know who the girls are or where they’re from, but these snapshots into their lives reveal intriguing bits of personality and remind us of ourselves. Notes from the collaborators and credits for the artwork follow the main text.
|How well do you remember the tale of Hansel and Gretel? I thought I recalled it pretty well, but then I read Gaiman’s version and realized how much of it had slipped my memory. I won’t likely forget how the story played out again though, because Gaiman’s take on it is exceedingly memorable. It’s one of the traditional variations on the tale, which are all fairly creepy to begin with, but the addition of Lorenzo Mattatti’s chilling black-and-white painted scenes add an even more ominous tone. Blurbs on the cover describe this as a “definitive” rendition, an assessment I can’t find any fault with. Notes at the end of this slim volume tell readers about the history of this classic tale, as well as some of the variations in the narration.|
In this post-apocalyptic wasteland, humanity has been stricken by a terrible and virulent virus. The remaining humans live in isolated pockets. When a group living in Manhattan loses contact with a group from Albany, a search and rescue party is sent out to see what the trouble is. Turns out that the the rest of the world is populated with fairies, trolls, and a wide variety of other “monsters” previously thought to belong solely to the realm of fiction. With humanity in decline, these creatures can now take back the land that they once ruled.
Considering all the one- and two-star ratings for this book, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn’t, you know, terrible. It wasn’t all that great either. I really wanted to like the comic that was billed as “Fables meets Walking Dead”. While that’s not entirely inaccurate, it also sets a pretty high bar that this comic ultimately can’t reach. The characters are hit or miss and the transitions between storylines are abrupt, even jarring. The artwork leaves a bit to be desired, but it’s not as bad as other reviewers on here make it out to be. All in all, it’s a clever premise with mediocre execution.
| Once upon a time, magic ruled the world. Now, however, magic is fading and is used more for unclogging drains than battling evil. Jennifer Strange works at Kazam, an employment agency for magicians. She herself is not magical, but she has a certain knack for managing magical people. Things are getting strange though. Feats of magic that shouldn’t have been possible are being accomplished and Jennifer is having some very strange visions. These visions indicate that Big Magic is coming, which will either re-infuse the world with magic or wipe it out all together. It all hinges on the last dragon and the last Dragonslayer. Dragons have been living on their own lands for centuries, in accordance with the Dragonpact. Unless a dragon breaks the pact by causing damage to human life or property, they cannot be slain. If however, they do happen to break the pact, only the Dragonslayer can cross into their territory to kill the dragon. Imagine Jennifer’s surprise when she is told that she is now the last Dragonslayer. Everyone wants her to kill the dragon, but the pact hasn’t been broken for as long as anyone can remember and Jennifer can find no good reason to take the dragon’s life. In fact, the dragon appears quite amicable, if a bit lonely. What’s a girl and her Quarkbeast to do?
The Last Dragonslayer starts off slow, but winds up wonderful. There’s a lot of clever stuff going on here. The world is very much like ours, but with magic. For instance, as the world finds out that Jennifer is the last Dragonslayer, she finds herself inundated with endorsement offers from soft drink companies and marriage proposals from random suitors. The public has gathered at the border of the dragon’s land with the intention of staking a claim on some of the land that will be freed up upon the dragon’s death (for now, crossing the border for anyone other than the dragonslayer and those working for him/her means certain death). Much of the action is informed by the motivations that drive real life people – greed, jealousy, etc. This provides fertile ground for Fforde’s brand of satirical humor. An unexpected ending makes for a delightful and mostly self-contained read, though there are now three books in this series. I read this one with my middle-schoolers for this month’s book club. They all loved it, but agreed that it took some time to get into. Also, we all loved, loved, loved the Quarkbeast. It takes a certain amount of talent to create a character that is described as terrifying to behold but utterly endearing to read about and says only one thing: “Quark.” You know you’ve found a book that your tweens love when they make plans to walk around saying “Quark” at their upcoming orchestra concert.
Althea and Oliver have been best friends ever since Althea moved in down the street from Oliver at the tender young age of six. Now in their senior year of high school, they are still inseparable, but complications are arising in their usually-easy friendship. Althea is starting to develop a romantic interest in Oliver. Oliver, while not adverse to the prospect of advancing his relationship with Althea, is busy dealing with a strange illness that causes him to fall asleep for weeks, even months, on end. Althea has been helping him through many of his episodes, but finds herself flailing in the meantime. She literally doesn’t know how to live her life without Oliver by her side. Oliver, on the other hand, is profoundly disturbed by the fact that he is missing vast chunks of his life. Even when he wakes up in the midst of a sleeping episode, he has no recollection of what has happened during his semi-conscious state. Right before one of Oliver’s episodes, he and Althea finally become physical. Then, of course, he loses consciousness and they are unable to even discuss what has just happened or what the next step will be. While Oliver is out, Althea does something that she knows she will regret, something that might ruin her relationship with Oliver forever. When Oliver eventually finds out, he is furious and attempts to cut Althea out of his life altogether. He decides to participate in a two-month sleep study in New York for those who have the same disease: Kleine Levin Syndrome, or KLS. When Althea figures out that Oliver has left town, she packs up her old Camry and heads off to New York to apologize and attempt to salvage her friendship.
Althea and Oliver’s story is completely unique. It’s easy to go into this book thinking that you know where it will end up, but this story never seems to go quite where you think it will. It’s not exactly a romance or a love story, but there’s a ton of heart. Althea isn’t always the most likeable of characters, but she’s absolutely relatable and her growth as a person is one of the highlights of this fantastic novel. Oliver’s development comes in fits and spurts, as could be expected for someone who literally loses months of his life at a time. The impact that Oliver’s illness has on Althea is almost as heartbreaking as its effect on Oliver, though I would hesitate to say that the novel is about Oliver’s KLS. In fact, it takes over half of the book to even get Oliver to the sleep study. In the meantime, Althea is learning to live her life on her own terms and not as Oliver’s counterpart. In New York, she makes friends of her own for the first time in her life and begins to realize that it might be possible for her to exist outside of Oliver’s shadow. Oliver begins to learn how to move forward in spite of an exceedingly uncertain future. Moracho takes some major risks with both of these characters, but they come out all the more realistic for it. Nothing is sugar-coated here. Althea and Oliver’s relationship is consuming, messy and complicated, much like real-life. Their story is simultaneously a train-wreck and a heartfelt bildungsroman. It’s not for every reader, but for the right readers, it’s utterly perfect.