This was just so, so good.
So in the middle of October, I once again took part in the 24-hour Read-a-thon, and I’ve obviously been reading (and re-reading) books since then, but I’ve been falling behind on my blogging. So here’s a big catch-up post, and hopefully, within the week, I will have read and blogged a double Cannonball. I only set out to do a single one this year, and as a result, it seems that completing twice the amount became less of a chore.
94. A Wrinkle in Time by Madelaine L’Engle. I suspect I would have loved this more when I was younger. 4 stars.
95. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. The first book I’ve read of hers. It won’t be the last. 4 stars.
96. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson. I know it’s been reviewed so well, so many times on here, and I have no idea why I didn’t pick it up before. 5 stars. By far the funniest book I read this year.
97. A Notorious Countess Confesses by Julie Anne Long. Yet another historical romance, surprising no one, I’m sure. “The one with the hot vicar” as Mrs. Julien dubbed it. 4 stars.
98. Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor. Unquestionably one of the most anticipated books of the year for me, this turned out to be something completely different from what I’d expected. 4 stars.
99. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. So is it wrong that I was more charmed by the film? The 14-year-olds I teach, love it, though. 3.5 stars.
I’m reviewing yet another web comic! Last time it was the outstanding Darths and Droids. This time, it’s a series called Hopeless Maine. Book 1 “Personal Demons” is available in hardback book form. Book 2 “Inheritance” is available on the web site. My husband brought “Personal Demons” home from the comic book store and I was drawn to it by the art. Like the story, it is sort of dark/gothic. The authors describe their style as gothic/steampunk.
The story takes place on an island, Hopeless Maine, that is isolated from contact with outsiders. For reasons unexplained, many children on the island are orphans and end up cared for by a local minister and his wife. The main character, Salamandra, is an orphan who seems to possess some sort of magical power. It is unclear what has happened to her parents, but she seems glad to be rid of them. At the orphanage, she has a hard time fitting in with the other kids except for another girl who is either an imaginary friend or malevolent spirit, and Owen, the son of the minister who runs the orphanage. Salamandra has also befriended a crow and has contact with others on the island who also possess special powers.
In vol. 2, Owen’s mother dies and he wants desperately to leave the island. Sal finds out she has a living grandfather who lives in the lighthouse that is never needed because ships never pass by. Owen and Sal’s grandfather make a plan to leave, while Sal assists them and stays behind at the lighthouse. Will they return? Will Sal’s powers develop? And why are there so many deaths on the island? And why is it so hard to leave?
Some of the art details are lovely — there is an art nouveau feel to it and the magical creatures are unique. The human characters are less distinguishable from one another, which makes it a little confusing sometimes to follow the story. They look a little like goth Precious Moments.
The storyline is intriguing and I look forward to following the mystery as it unravels. Hopeless Maine is safe reading for kids, unless you are weirded out by the occult, in which case you probably don’t allow Harry Potter in the house either.
So, I finished these back in April, and have had one sentence written until I just reviewed in a rush this morning. I have about ten reviews waiting to be written. I feel the shame, particularly because I love this series and wish I could have written a much more eloquent review, months ago. Ah well.
I took a breather from this series for a few months and I’m glad I did. I came back to one of the strongest collections in the series. Although, I was a bit hesitant at first; they used a blurb from The Onion on the front cover. I gave it the side eye for a few minutes trying to decide if it was sarcasm.
The Good Price revolves around Flycatcher, the former janitor of Fabletown. Earlier in the series, Fly would not have been my first guess for the Fable that would strike the first derisive blow against The Adversary. Fly’s innocence allows him to take up Lancelot’s old armor and descend into the Witching Well, where he reanimates all the dead fables that have been buried there. Blue Beard and Sher Khan make a small reappearance, I would’ve loved to see more of the sudden, but inevitable betrayal. They came off as more of sinister Laurel and Hardy then the forces of treachery and evil they used to be.
Fly manages to spill no blood as he faces many of The Adversary’s armies. Eventually he takes away a large source of The Adversary’s power, which, combined with the special ops and sniper training Fabletown residents are getting, means war is coming. Of course, the whole series has been a build up to war, but now it seems closer to the horizon.
And yes, I use the word “comic” instead of “graphic novel”.
The story is really good and really freaky and I loved the artwork. Read on for more, but beware swears and spoilers. I find it’s hard to talk about a comic’s storyline without giving things away because the writing has to be super tight to fit within the medium.
Birds of Prey was a DC comic series following the adventures of Oracle (formerly Batgirl), Black Canary and Huntress. The series has gotten a lot of praise, mainly due to the writer, Gail Simone. Simone is a great writer and the best choice to take over this series, mainly because Simone is female. I’m not saying that men can’t write complex and meaningful female characters, but it is a rarity in the comic book world that a female gets more than one dimension.
Sensei and Student breaks up the dynamic duo of Oracle and Black Canary. Canary travels to Hong Kong as one of her former martial arts masters is slowly dying of cancer. She meets Lady Shiva there, as Shiva was also one of his students. Canary and Shiva are at odds, as Shiva is the world’s best assassin whereas Canary uses her martial arts for saving lives. Meanwhile, Oracle is having computer difficulties, which, as computers are kind of her super power, makes this a BIG PROBLEM. She eventually is abducted by the evil Senator from the first book.
My biggest problem with the book came with the introduction of Cheshire, the world’s leading poison expert. Shiva and Canary believe Cheshire murdered their sensei and come to question her in the middle of the night. Cheshire emerges from her bed in the worl’d skimpiest nightgown ever and jumps out the window…into the conveniently placed pool. Her and Canary tussle in the water, while I was waiting for the panel when the Girls Gone Wild crew would jump out of the bushes. I don’t know if the artist were required to draw Cheshire in a certain way to keep with cannon or not, but they should have their pens and pencils taken away regardless. And they should attend a physics class because they have no idea how gravity works. When you put a busty women in a silky costume and have some sort of breast coverage come up from underneath her impossibly perky HHH cups, there will be a nipple peep show in the near future. Unless she super glued the corner down, there is no why that piece of fabric is going to stand at attention on it’s own accord.
I know, I know. Comic books, like musicals, require a heightened suspension of disbelief. But seriously. She is one grabby Timberlake away from a wardrobe malfunction. And a purple nurple. Because you know angry generic Asian guy behind her there is going to fight dirty.
Of all the comic compendiums/graphic novels I own, Johnny the Homicidal Maniac: Director’s Cut by Jhonen Vasquez is easily the one I’ve read the most. I still have the first copy I picked up at a mall Hot Topic in middle school and it’s been through a lot. It’s been attacked by stupid dogs (they were mine and bright is not an appropriate descriptor), thrown in the trash by over zealous Catholic relatives, and defaced by a terrible roommate my first year in college. If none of that could stop me from reading it, what could?The answer seems to be nothing. Vasquez’s ultra-violent dark comedy comic series ran all of seven issues before ending with a literal hiatus for the series. Side stories came out–I Feel Sick followed Johnny’s ex-girlfriend and Squee followed Johnny’s traumatized little neighbor–but the original series has not expanded (beyond awful fan fiction, which obviously doesn’t count).
The concept is encapsulated in the title. A man named Johnny is a homicidal maniac. He kills people in horrible ways using an expansive subterranean torture chamber and some on the street ingenuity. Are you supposed to root for the killer? Nope. The victims? Guess again. The survivors? Only one, and she gets her own issue to deconstruct everything that should stop you from reading the series at all.
The key to Johnny the Homicidal Maniac is realizing that it’s an exploration of character, society, pop culture, and storytelling. Read more…