Comics Roundup

I don't usually read comics, but this is what I came up with when I ransacked my roommate's collection. | Book reviews by NewberyandBeyond.com
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I’m not a big reader of comics, but my roommate has a huge collection, so one day I decided to explore a few of his comics. I’m offering these up as possible entryways into comics if you (like me) have no interest in the stereotypical superhero types. (All summaries via Goodreads.com)

Serenity, Vol. 1-4

If you enjoyed the show Firefly, I really do recommend these comics to you. They are able to bring back the characters of this beloved show, mostly in a way that feels true to who they were. Serenity also fills in some of the backstory for characters like Shepherd Book and River, which I appreciated. As far as I know, there are only these four volumes, but that’s better than nothing for Firefly fans!

Rating: Pretty Darn Good

Love and Wonder

Set in a 1920’s New York where Prohibition outlaws the brewing of spells, the story follows Vincent Byrde, a hard-boiled PI who struggles with a magic curse. After a long career hunting magic bootleggers, Vincent has become obsessed with the frustrating case of Jimmy Wonder: a young, up-and-coming spellrunner who keeps slipping out of the hands of the law. Their dance takes a complicated turn when Kitty Lovelace — well-known to be Jimmy’s main girl — walks out on Wonder and into Vincent’s life.

The first thing you’ll notice about this comic is the beautiful art, so if art is your main interest, you should check out Love and Wonder. This is a noir story based on the Prohibition of magic, and it takes all the cliches of the 1920s and puts a magical spin on them. I’ll admit, the story wasn’t really for me (and there is some sexual content, so be aware!), but again–that art!

Rating: Good but Forgettable

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 1

London, 1898. The Victorian Era draws to a close and the twentieth century approaches. It is a time of great change and an age of stagnation, a period of chaste order and ignoble chaos. It is an era in need of champions.

In this amazingly imaginative tale, literary figures from throughout time and various bodies of work are brought together to face any and all threats to Britain. Allan Quatermain, Mina Murray, Captain Nemo, Dr. Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde and Hawley Griffin ( the Invisible Man) form a remarkable legion of intellectual aptitude and physical prowess: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

This well-known comic is a little more closely related to the stereotypical action/adventure comics. But instead of superheroes, this comic stars book characters such as Dr. Jekyll, Captain Nemo, the Invisible Man, and Mycroft Holmes, who interact, argue, and get into trouble.

This is another comic that wasn’t exactly for me–at least, I don’t really have any interest in reading more of it. But it kept my interest while I was reading it, and I think it might be a good option if you’re looking to ease your way into comics.

Rating: Good but Forgettable

Comics and Graphic Novels Roundup

I don't read a lot of comics, but I did devour all of the Adventure Time comics lately. | Book reviews by NewberyandBeyond.com
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These books/comics don’t really have anything to do with each other than that they’re all focused on the art. I’m not usually a fan of comics, and there are very few graphic novels I’ve read so far, but the last few months have found me reading more books in those categories than normal! (All summaries via Goodreads.com.)

Adventure Time

If you don’t know anything about the Adventure Time TV show, I’m not sure I can explain it to you. If you have seen the show, this series of comics is actually based on the show, not the other way around, so I’m sure you’ll find plenty of in jokes and such to keep you entertained. If you haven’t seen the show, well, neither have I, and I still found these comics really fun.

The characters and the plot are bizarre, but in a good way. The cotton candy-colored post-apocalyptic world is always presenting strange situations based only on Adventure Time logic. If you can put up with some weird and wacky stuff, you’ll probably enjoy these comics. If you like your stories to follow some semblance of real-world logic, maybe give these a pass.

Rating: Pretty Darn Good

Castle Waiting

Castle Waiting graphic novel tells the story of an isolated, abandoned castle, and the eccentric inhabitants who bring it back to life. A fable for modern times, Castle Waiting is a fairy tale that’s not about rescuing the princess, saving the kingdom, or fighting the ultimate war between Good and Evil, but about being a hero in your own home.

This graphic novel is full of funny, fairy tale-esque stories. None of them are the classic Snow White or Cinderella tales (although there is a modified version of Sleeping Beauty here), so you get the feeling of those medieval tales with fresh stories. Very fun.

Rating: Pretty Darn Good

Adulthood is a Myth

If you haven’t been following Sarah’s Scribbles, you’re really missing out. Sarah captures the emotions of many broke, introverted Millennials in her hilarious web comic, and this book is a collection of new and old comics. It’s pretty much guaranteed to make you laugh.

Rating: Pretty Darn Good

P.S. Do you have any ideas for the next graphic novel or comic I should read? Let me know in the comments!

Lumberjanes

This fun series of comics follows the Lumberjanes as they fight supernatural creatures and build friendship to the max. | Review by NewberyandBeyond.com
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Jo, April, Mal, Molly and Ripley are new friends at the Lumberjanes summer camp. But things aren’t as simple as they seem.

Throughout this fun series of comics, the girls and their reluctant counselor Jen battle supernatural creatures, solve riddles, and develop friendship to the max. Although the girls are very different and have their disagreements, they always end up working together to creatively solve their problems.

I love that the Lumberjanes are a diverse group of girls who love each other despite their differences. I also love that this is a girl power story without the stereotypical “strong woman” character. Each character is unique and complex: April loves cute clothes and mermaids, but she’s also ultra competitive. Ripley is small and scrappy with a ragged, blue-dyed haircut, and she loves giving out hugs. Each of the girls is a fun character on her own, but together, they are magic (sometimes literally).

Even if you don’t usually like comics (I don’t), you should check this series out. The artwork is great, the characters are awesome, and the story is super fun. I can’t wait for the next issue!

“Did you have a plan?”

“I thought adrenaline would take over but it did not.”

This post is part of the Write 31 Days series, Lovely Words. You can find the rest of the posts in this series here.

Mini Reviews: Adult Fiction and Nonfiction

A hodgepodge of mini reviews of the latest adult fiction and nonfiction books on my list. | Book reviews by NewberyandBeyond.com
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Along with my glut of NetGalley ARCs and Newbery books from the library, I’ve recently read a lot of adult fiction and nonfiction books that have somehow come across my path. I haven’t reviewed them before because most of them haven’t left much of an impression, so I decided to offer them as a sampling of mini reviews. Enjoy!

The Gifts of Imperfection

This is my first Brene Brown book (although I’m familiar with her TED talks). She has been recommended to me by friends with wonderful taste in books, but I’ve never gotten around to her work until just recently. This book is a fairly short but thorough look at the results of Brene’s research into shame and resilience, and it offers insight into how to live a life with grit and perseverance that will lead to joy. Unfortunately, this book didn’t leave much of a lasting impression on me, but I’m definitely interested in reading more of Brene Brown’s work in the future.

Rating: Good but Forgettable

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

This is a graphic memoir about the end of the author’s parents’ lives. If that sounds depressing, well, it is. I would definitely not read this book if you and your parents are in the same situation, unless you’re looking for something cathartic. The book offers an interesting look at the various emotions and struggles (from trying to convince your parents to get the help they need to filling out gobs of paperwork to trying to scrape up enough funds to pay for their care) that come with this period of life. I’m not sorry I read it, but I’m not sure I would recommend it, either.

Rating: Good but Forgettable

Gone Girl

Okay, so I know I’m the last book lover in the country to have read this book, but I finally got around to it. For a long time, I thought I would never pick it up. It just didn’t seem like my type of book–I usually stay away from psychological thrillers because they creep me out. But my roommate owns a copy, so I picked it up one day and finished it in only a couple of days.

To my surprise, I wasn’t too creeped out by the story or the characters. I found it fascinating in a train wreck sort of way. The book really shows you the extent to which two seemingly normal people can go in order to destroy each other. I wasn’t super shocked by the twist in the middle, but the story and characters were strong enough to hold my interest anyway. So if you’re avoiding Gone Girl because the twist has been spoiled for you and you don’t think the story will hold up without it, you might want to check it out anyway.

Rating: Good but Forgettable

Saga, Vol. 1 and 2

Super big warning: These comics have a fair amount of illustrated sex scenes. You can skip over them, but please be aware!

That said, I did enjoy the first two volumes of Saga. This was another thing I picked up from a roommate’s shelf because I had heard good things about it, even though I didn’t think it would really be my cup of tea. I’ve read one volume of comics before (Neil Gaiman’s Sandman), and although I enjoyed it well enough, I don’t think I’ll put much effort into finding the next volume. I feel the same way about Saga. It’s an interesting SFF story, and I did enjoy the art, but I don’t know if I feel invested enough to seek out volume 3.

Rating: Good but Forgettable

The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes

In Neil Gaiman's comic series, The Sandman, I found plenty to like--but I'm still not sold on comics. | A book review by Newbery and Beyond
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I read this collection on a recent road trip for a friend’s wedding. In the bits and pieces of downtime that I had, I would sit down and read a comic or two from this book. Despite my timid forays into the world of graphic novels and comics, I’m a big Neil Gaiman fan, so I was cautiously optimistic about my success with this book.

The Sandman story line follows Dream, a powerful being who is trapped for 70 long years when an occultist attempts to trap his sibling, Death. When Dream is finally freed, he must traverse the world (and other realms as well) in order to regain his power. The story touches on both mythology and superhero lore, and I would probably have gotten more out of these comics if I knew much about either of those things.

Some stories are graphic; others are sweeping; still others are almost touching. Many left me feeling unsettled and uncomfortable, but I always wanted to continue reading and see where the story went next. I don’t know much at all about comic book and graphic novel art, so I can’t say much about it one way or the other, but I found it very fitting to the story, as it’s dark and sharply drawn.

It took me a while to decide what I thought about these comics; in fact, I didn’t really come to a conclusion until I wrote this review. These comics are unsettling (as are many things that Neil Gaiman writes), but they are entertaining and interesting. Although I’m still not fully sold on the idea of comic books and graphic novels, these held my interest enough that I think I’ll continue the series.

Rating: Pretty Darn Good

Mini Review: How to Tell if Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You

Cat comics from the guy behind The Oatmeal, Matthew Inman. | A book review by Newbery and Beyond
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If your cat is kneading you, that’s not a sign of affection. Your cat is actually checking your internal organs for weakness. If your cat brings you a dead animal, this isn’t a gift. It’s a warning. How to Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You is a hilarious, brilliant offering of cat comics, facts, and instructional guides from the creative wonderland at TheOatmeal.com.

How to Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You presents fan favorites, such as “Cat vs. Internet,” “How to Pet a Kitty,” and “The Bobcats,” plus 17 brand-new, never-before-seen cat jokes. (Summary via Amazon.com)

Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal wrote this hilarious book in the same comic style as his website, so if you like The Oatmeal’s usual comics, you’ll probably enjoy this book. The comics are funny and often irreverent, and they’re pretty relatable if you’ve ever owned a cat, or known someone who owns a cat. I mostly enjoyed this book while I was reading it, but on the whole I found it pretty forgettable. If you really want a laugh-out-loud funny book full of comics (and based on a hilarious blog), check out Hyperbole and a Half instead.

Rating: Good but Forgettable

Newbery Review: Flora & Ulysses

Book Review: Flora & Ulysses | Newbery and Beyond
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This book was ridiculously cute!  Even though it’s fairly long (about 230 pages), I sped through it in less than two hours.  Kate DiCamillo has written other Newbery books (as well as the non-Newbery book, The Magician’s Elephant), but this is her most recent: It’s the Newbery Medal winner for this year.  And I can definitely see why.  Nothing really traumatic happens (as in many Newbery books); it’s just an adorable adventure with ten-year-old Flora and her squirrel, Ulysses.

The story begins with a comic: An innocent squirrel is sucked up into a powerful vacuum named the Ulysses 2000X.  Flora runs outside to see what the commotion is about, and she gives the squirrel CPR.  Amazingly, this not only works, but the squirrel seems to have gone through a transformation in his near-death experience.  He is suddenly much smarter than the average squirrel.  Flora, sensing this, names the squirrel Ulysses after the vacuum that almost killed him, and she decides to take him home.  Flora is obsessed with comic books, even though her mother, a romance writer, has forbidden her to read them.  She decides that Ulysses is like her favorite comic book hero, Incandesto, and that Ulysses is destined to protect the weak and the endangered.

Eventually, Flora finds that Ulysses can not only understand her, but he can write–he types out poetry on her mother’s typewriter.  Flora meets William Spiver, the nephew of the next door neighbor who almost sucked up Ulysses in her vacuum, and William Spiver becomes (reluctantly, on Flora’s part) Flora’s friend and cohort.  Flora goes with her father to his apartment, and she and Ulysses get into scrapes along the way.

The characters are quirky and adorable.  The best thing about this book is K.G. Campbell’s pencil illustrations, which often take the form of the comics that Flora loves so much.  The plot is a little ridiculous–a poetry-writing squirrel?–but a fun ride nonetheless.  It takes only two days for the entire plot to play out, which keeps things sweet and simple–just perfect for a book filled with comics, adventure, and squirrels.

Rating: Pretty Darn Good

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