Monday, March 28, 2016

Lumberjanes by Grace Ellis and Noelle Stevenson

Lumberjanes by Grace Ellis and Noelle Stevenson Volumes 1 & 2 (2015) are very fun graphic novels, especially for young girls and those who are young at heart!

The main concept is a group of girls (whose age is somewhat ambiguous, but I'd say maybe junior high school-age?) attending summer scout camp. Both volumes are all about friendship and girl power, with some fun fantastical and mythological elements thrown in for good measure. The dialog felt very Gilmore Girls-esq, with intelligent pop culture references (including one of my favorite shows, River Monsters) and rapid-fire exchanges. I especially loved the references to lesser-known but still important women from history; in every case I was interested enough to research each reference and learned a lot about some very cool women, such as Annie Smith Peck and Sister Rosetta Tharpe!

Volumes 1 & 2 together comprise one major storyline, so I recommend reading them together. Though the details of the story are at times a little silly and/or glossed over, the point is really much more about the girls working together as a team to save the day and it does that very well. Though the illustrations were a little rough at times, the artwork was still fun and funky, and really fit in with the story.

Overall, this series promises to be very fun, and would be a wonderful introduction to graphic novels for young girls!
“Did you have a plan?"
"I thought adrenaline would take over but it did not."

Keep reading! Beth

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

The Darkest Part of the Forest (2015) by Holly Black was a great book! It kept me engaged and interested from beginning to end. I loved all the characters and the integration of the fairy world with the real world in just this one small town. The main character Hazel is reckless and headstrong, but also brave and kind.

Hazel's relationships with both her brother -- how much they loved and looked after one another -- and with her brother's best friend and fairy changeling, Jack, were really deep and interesting. The secondary storyline of Jack's journey, feeling out of place and slightly isolated -- with his peers being at times amazed and at other times afraid of his otherness -- was also really moving and compelling.

Lastly, I especially enjoy when 'villains' are given some depth and meaning to what they are doing, which this story does very well. Even though the 'villains' in this story aren't even human, and it would have been easy to simply make them evil in a black-and-white sense, Black really gives some insight into why they do what they do, and how different perspectives allow actions to be interpreted in many different ways.
“They were in love with him because he was a prince and a faerie and magical and you were supposed to love princes and faeries and magic people. They loved him the way they’d loved Beast the first time he swept Belle around the dance floor in her yellow dress. They loved him as they loved the Eleventh Doctor with his bow tie and his flippy hair and the Tenth Doctor with his mad laugh. They loved him as they loved lead singers of bands and actors in movies, loved him in such a way that their shared love brought them closer together.”
Keep reading! Beth

Monday, March 14, 2016

Bats of the Republic by Zachary Thomas Dodson

Bats of the Republic: an Illuminated Novel (2015) by Zachary Thomas Dodson was a very interesting book. I loved the unusual format, with the story told in several formats from several points of view, and all the ephemera throughout (maps, drawings, notes, etc.). The nature drawings and observations of the wildlife in the frontier were especially great, and I really do like when the idea of a "book within a book" is used well.

The story built up quite quickly to a point where I really just had to know what was going to happen, especially with the famous letter that was the center of most of the main characters' stories, with the 'past' storyline about delivering the letter and the 'future' storyline about finding it. I also really liked the setting of both the parts of the book in the 'frontier' era of a slightly different past than in our own universe and the post-apocalyptic future, with Big Brother-like ruling class.

The build-up of the story was very tense and really made you feel the stress the characters were going through. Unfortunately the ending had very little pay-off for all this build up. It resolved almost no part of the story, and never actually clarified this mysterious letter that was such a big part of the story. I was glad to have read it, but the ending really disappointed me. However, if you're not a person who prefers (needs) a very concrete, conclusive ending to your stories, then I think this wouldn't be as big of a problem. Overall, I do think this is a book worth reading as the story and format are so unusual and interesting.

Keep reading! Beth

Monday, March 7, 2016

Sandman Overture: Deluxe Edition by Neil Gaiman

Sandman Overture: Deluxe Edition (2015) by Neil Gaiman is the newest entry in the classic Sandman series that has long been considered one of the best graphic novel series ever published. It has long been on my to-read list, and when I saw an article online that suggested this new "prequel" book was a good place to start, I decided to give it a try.*

This was a pretty interesting story by itself, when taken apart from the rest of the Sandman series (which I had to do by default), with some very interesting themes about mistakes, consequences (even, or perhaps especially, from actions with the best of intentions), regrets, asking for help, reality, and family relationships.

As with other graphic novels, my biggest problem was that often I couldn't figure out the direction to read things in (this was not consistent from page to page) and I'm only mostly certain that I understood what was happening. But it was interesting, and the artwork was really beautiful. Perhaps not the best place to start in the series, but it certainly didn't put me off reading the rest of the series, and I think worth reading for its own merits. After #1-75.

Keep reading! Beth

*The funny thing was, several times in the book Gaiman specifically says that this is not a good place to start for new readers of the series, but I was already committed so I persevered and, feeling very rebellious, completely ignored the author's own warnings. This was perhaps a mistake, as I did think the Overture was a little strange, but on the other hand, was a pretty cool introduction to the series. But maybe don't follow my lead :)