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Star Trek: Discovery -Short Treks

Star Trek Discovery tried an innovative approach in keeping it’s audience’s attention and building interest- it put out four shorts (each approximately 15 minutes long), one each month starting in October. They were non-linear, with three of them showcasing fan favorites.

Runaway

Ensign Sylvia Tilly was featured in the first episode, with a short that featured Tilly befriending a stowaway alien.

Tilly, in all her awkward glory, has become a favorite of the Discovery crew for many viewers (including me!). In this short, she accidentally meets a new species of alien that can turn invisible. When the two encounter one another in the mess hall, chaos erupts, but when other crew members arrive for a meal, the shambles can be attributed to Tilly being known for unintentionally being a magnet for mayhem. I had to have a huge suspension of disbelief that Tilly never reported this alien, even for the somewhat valid reasons for her being there, and got away with transporting her back to her home world. Wouldn’t there be logs of those kind of transmissions? But I digress. The friendship between the two and the character development you see in Tilly make up for these issues, and it was a sweet slice-of-life short.

 

Calypso

This short proved to be the most atypical as it is set 1000 years in the future and is set on the empty USS Discovery, and the title name refers to a story in Greek mythology.

An unnamed human soldier, who later goes by Craft,  is found drifting in an alien shuttlecraft and inadvertently comes near the USS Discovery.  A tractor beam brings him inside the ship and he awakens in sick bay. Wary, he tries to escape, but he is calmed when the female speaking through the intercom is friendly and non-threatening. We find out the ship had been abandoned 1000 years prior by the crew, and the AI has evolved in that time and calls herself Zora. Craft shares that he was escaping a battle and wants to be reunited with his wife and child, whom he hasn’t seen in ten years. Craft and Zora (in holographic form) bond, and there is a poignant scene in which the two recreate a dancing scene from the movie Funny Face.  The ending harkens back to the title of this episode, and if you aren’t familiar with that myth, look it up!

 

The Brightest Star

 

Commander Saru gets an origin story that explains how the first Kelpien joined Starfleet.

We first meet Saru, living a quiet agrarian life with his father and sister, but the village lives in fear as an alien nation demands tributes on a regular basis. When the alien ship drops some technology Saru examines it on the sly, refusing to accept that this life is all there is. His questions to his father are rejected but he continues trying to send out a message to others beyond his home planet.  Time goes by, but he eventually receives a message from an unknown ship that they will arrive the next day. I gasped with who stepped out of the shuttle, and I’m sure all Trekkie fans started checking their Star Trek canon to see if the years matched up. While this story had a bit of a discrepancy with what Saru previously shared about his home world (edit- and a comment in the first episode of the second season didn’t match either), this was a lovely origin story. His last quote “I saw hope, in the stars. It was stronger than fear. And I went towards it” was perfect.

 

The Escape Artist

Harry Mudd, an expert on long-cons, pulls the wool over many bounty hunters and renegades in a clever way in this last episode.

Mudd is a recurring scoundrel in the Discovery series, based off a character that only appeared twice in TOS. Actor Rainn Wilson is having fun with this role, so his inclusion in one of the shorts was welcome. In this episode Mudd has been sold by a bounty hunter to an alien that was previously wronged by him. We see Mudd also trying to get out of previous jams with other aliens, so we don’t know if this current alien will fall for his tricks. The way he was begging not to be taken to the Federation made me think of Brer Rabbit, and the reveal at the end of exactly how this rogue got out of trouble again was ingenious.

All four of these shorts were strong, and each had a different feel. They were a wonderful lead-in to the start of the second season of Discovery and I hope they continue making them for future seasons. In the meantime, live long and prosper, my friends!

-Nancy

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Top 5 Wednesday: Most Disappointing Reads of 2018

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme from Goodreads, created by Lainey from Gingerreadslainey and now moderated by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes. This week the topic is the most disappointing books you read in 2018.

Vox by Christina Dalcher

I was so excited at the premise of the story, that detailed what would happen if females were limited to 100 words daily, and how American society would shift because of this discrimination. Since our current administration seems to revel in discrimination, I felt this book was going to carry a deep and timely message, such as The Handmaid’s Tale did. Unfortunately, I could not connect with the main character Dr. Jean McClellan despite the strong start of the narrative, and felt her withering contempt for her husband was too much, especially in light of what he did at the conclusion. I wanted to like this book more, but it didn’t touch me as THT did.

The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell

I was terribly disappointed with this book, especially after seeing many positive reviews by others. I am a fan of the zombie/dystopian genre (Revival, TWD, World War Z) so I thought this book would definitely be up my alley, but after a promising start, it fell apart for me.

Temple is a teen surviving alone in a world that collapsed about 25 years ago in a zombie apocalypse. She is practical to a fault, knowing how to fend for herself, but haunted by her memories of a younger brother who is no longer with her. During her travels she happens about a conclave of survivors in a nearby city but her independent streak makes it an ill fit for her. While there, she thwarts a sexual assault, and in self defense she kills the man. His brother vows revenge, and the rest of the book details the ridiculous pursuit between them, and reminded me of Jean Valjean and the obsessive Javert saga in Les Misérables. The people they encounter on their travels range from Southern Gothic wannabes to a deranged mutant family and of course endless zombies. The whole time people keep on remarking on how amazing and deep Temple was which annoyed me- for I felt it was pretentious, show don’t tell this characteristic. I kept on putting this short novel down which is never a good sign, and by the time the conclusion wrapped up everything, I simply did not care about any of the characters.

Artemis by Andy Weir

When I read The Martian, I was sucked into Andy Weir’s plausible science fiction story. His resourceful hero was funny and appealing and readers rooted for his survival. So I eagerly looked forward to his next book and was pleased to find a heroine living on the moon in his second novel. Imagine my dismay when my opinion of the book plummeted chapter by chapter.

You can read more about my dislike for the book in my previous blog post.

The Rooster Bar by John Grisham

Vaguely reminiscent of Grisham’s book, The Litagators, this story delves into the world of everyday lawyers, not the high paid corporate lawyers from his famous earlier books. Students Mike, Todd and Zola are in their last semester at a third rate law school, and up to their eyeballs in debt, when a good friend commits suicide. Shaken by his death, they all impulsively drop out of school and start to masquerade as a law firm despite no degrees.

This is when the story went absolutely sideways for me. Upset that their loans are overwhelming and with no job prospects, they decide that committing fraud and hustling unsuspecting clients is a legitimate way to live their lives. They bumble around, get caught, but then decide to double down by getting involved in a mass torts case against the bank that worked with their law school giving loans to unqualified students. In the midst of this Zola is dealing with her undocumented family getting sent back to Senegal. Mike and Todd, who quite frankly are interchangeable, manage to keep one step ahead of the authorities and the whole ending is just preposterous.

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

I listened to this book on audio, which had received the 2018 Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album, and was prepared to love it. I didn’t.

At first, hearing Carrie Fisher’s voice was both wonderful and melancholy, due to her passing. I’ve been a big fan of hers for years, as she surpassed her Princess Leia persona, and was a well respected author plus funny as hell. The new set of Star Wars movies yanked her back into the fandom and people are eager for any tidbits about the original trilogy, so the finally confirmed romance between Fisher and Harrison Ford was big news. She writes of their romance, but yet I still did not feel it was fleshed out. She has every right not to share details there were too intimate between the two, but the romance remained an enigma to me.

She ends up being very repetitive elsewhere in the book, and much of it seemed filler. She speaks wryly of life for an actor after their biggest fame is over, and the struggles and concessions they need to make to remain relevant and earn an income. As she re-imagines some conversations she has had with her fans at conventions, I had to skip ahead on the audio as they were painful to listen to. So I ended up feeling disappointed by the end of the novel, and felt guilty thinking so. Nevertheless, her candor and humor make me want to look up more of her past works.

I rarely give up on books, and most of these books had promising starts, but they all ended on unsatisfactory notes. Did anyone else have similar feelings about these books?

-Nancy

The Hobbit: An Illustrated Edition of the Fantasy Classic

Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit content passing his days sitting on his front porch, blowing smoke rings, and drinking tea. All that changes when the wizard Gandalf appears on his doorstep, asking if Bilbo would like to participate in an adventure. Well, hobbits simply do not have adventures! But despite Bilbo’s protests, Gandalf along with a large group of dwarves show up at his door for tea the next day. They are on a quest to take back the stolen treasure that is their leader Thorin Oakenshield’s birthright. One problem… the treasure was stolen by a dragon named Smaug. Bilbo, of course, is horrified… and intrigued. Despite himself, he finds himself travelling with the band of dwarves and wizard. Together, they meet elves, almost get eaten by trolls, get kidnapped by goblins, and confront the most feared dragon in Middle-Earth.

The subtitle stresses that it’s an illustrated edition, which I think in a few respects is true. While it is laid out like a graphic novel, and reads like one, this one is significantly more text-heavy than previous graphic novel adaptations I’ve read. It takes dialogue and expository passages straight from the book. As a result, there are many more text boxes into which the text was all squished. This made the text very small and hard to read at times. The book could have greatly benefited from a larger format (it was a little smaller than your usual trade paperback), or further editing to cut out some of the more unnecessary text.

The illustrations were lovely. They were whimsical and colorful and perfectly suited the lighter tone of The Hobbit. Even the darker places and passages were filled with a light and airy quality. I enjoyed them very much, and I could easily see the appeal for both older and younger readers. Like with the Harry Potter Illustrated Editions, I could see this edition being used by parents to introduce Tolkien to young children. It was in the teen graphic novel section at the public library I work at, but I’d say middle school children would be able to read it on their own.

While a bit too text-heavy for my taste, this was a wonderful adaptation of The Hobbit in graphic novel form. The illustrations will be the big appeal here, as they draw you into a whimsical and colorful Middle Earth.

– Kathleen

Tolkien, J.R.R. Adapted by Charles Dixon with Sean Deming. Illustrated by David Wenzel. The Hobbit: An Illustrated Edition of the Fantasy Classic. 2001.

Bone Parish

Cullen Bunn has created a new dark and dangerous graphic novel series, and this necromantic horror story grabbed me on the first page and never let go.

A quick synopsis: “A new drug is sweeping through the streets of New Orleans—one made from the ashes of the dead. Wars are being fought over who will control the supply, while the demand only rises.”

The Winters family of New Orleans has discovered how to manufacture the ashes of the dead into a powerful hallucinogenic drug that lets the person snorting the drug to experience everything the dead person lived through when they were alive. In charge of this operation are Grace and Andre, with their four adult children. The oldest, Brae, is chomping at the bit ready to take over the enterprise and questioning his mother. Brigitte is the scientist who is the only one who knows how to turn the dead into ash properly and won’t reveal to others how to do so as to keep her position in the family safe. Leon and Wade end up doing much of the grunt work for the family, with both of them questioning the morality of it all.

As the popularity of the drug grows in the Big Easy, other drug cartels realize the scope of the operation and want in on the action. Several contact Grace with offers of buy-outs but she refuses. Not surprisingly they don’t take it well, and put a target on the family’s back. Some dirty cops are also involved, with Brae trying to control that aspect, but double crosses are part of the game.

There are a few twists and turns in the narrative, with a surprising revelation that will make you back track to look for clues. The story has potential for a thought provoking moral debate about drug culture and the sanctity of life and for the body after death. My excitement for this new series rivals what I felt for Briggs Land, another layered crime saga with an intriguing family led by a strong woman.

The art by Jonas Scharf was perfect for the story, and was reminiscent for me of Gabriel Rodriguez who illustrates the Locke and Key series, which is high praise indeed from me. He establishes the Winters family in a distinct manner, showing a welcome diversity within the family, in addition to when he draws other characters and realistic crowd scenes. The colorist Alex Guimarães really sets the tone with the coloring with an earthen palette for the everyday life, and vibrant pinks and purples to signify the hallucinogenic effect.

As much as I loved the story, I have a few criticisms. The big one: how is the drug controlled by the user? How do they tap into the specific memory of the deceased, as they would have a lifetime of memories to choose from? How do memories from the past physically manifest in those who are taking the drug? Will this be explained, or do we just have to have suspension of disbelief and go with the flow? Also, while I love that Grace is portrayed as a powerful and still sexy matriarch of the family, she looks too young to be a mother to her children, especially Brae. I, myself, am a mother to three teens and I still want to be thought of as a hottie, but Grace should be realistically aged just a tiny bit more.

I believe this new series has a lot of potential for growth and I absolutely will be reading future volumes, as I wish to find out what consequences are in store for the Winters family and those who choose to take the drug. Thank you to NetGalley for approving me to read this novel early, as I believe this series could really take off after it’s release in March.

-Nancy

Kingdom Come

I’d forgotten until I was halfway through this one that Nancy has already read and reviewed it… but by that point, I was committed to finishing it! The show must go on, right? And I figured I’d see how similar or different our opinions were on it =P

Just before his death, the Sandman begins to have terrible visions. His friend, Pastor Norman McCay, is with him in his final moments – but then the visions transfer to him after the Sandman passes. The visions are horrible, filled with fire and blood and thunder. The Spectre appears to Pastor McCay, saying that he needs his help, because Armageddon is almost upon them. He needs a human soul to help him judge whomever is responsible for the impending evil.

It is a new millennium, and the superheroes of old have retired, or gone back to their homes, or gone into hiding. The new heroes – the descendants or proteges of those who came before – act without thought or reason. One of them, who calls himself Magog, killed The Atom, causing a nuclear fallout across the American Midwest. Wonder Woman appears to Superman, pleading for him to come out of his self-imposed exile and show the world hope once more. He reluctantly agrees, but the world is not what it used to be. Humanity hasn’t retained the same morality or capacity for hope. Is it possible for Superman to stick to his old morals to reach the next generation, show them the hero’s way, and save humanity?

… Holy crap. This book challenges the role of superheroes in a new millennium and an ever-changing society – and succeeds. Though it was written in the late ’90s, it still holds up extremely well today. The heroes you know and love are seen here as older, some jaded, some still hopeful they can make a difference. They are caught between their love of humanity, their deep-rooted morals, and the realization that sometimes the world moves on without you, and you have to change and adapt to it rather than expecting the world to bend to your will (even if you’ve superhuman will). I loved how these things conflicted within each character. This goes for our narrator Pastor McCay, and the villains who appear too, not just the heroes. Spectacular writing by Mark Waid all around.

The art… I cannot say enough about it. Two words: Alex Ross. He makes magic with superheroes. He works in more of a photorealistic style, making your favorite heroes really come to life. His sense of color and lighting, especially when it comes to the metallic aspects of some costumes, is unparalleled. Since his style takes longer to render than usual comic book art, he usually only does covers – seeing a whole comic with his art is a real treat. I’m not exaggerating when I say you’ve never seen a comic book illustrated like this before.

TLDR: As an artist, Alex Ross makes me want to quit daily X,D

In short, Kingdom Come is a must-read for any comic book fan. Waid’s writing challenges the place of superheroes in a new society, which is only augmented by Ross’ spectacular art.

– Kathleen

P.S. I didn’t read Nancy’s review until I’d finished mine so I wouldn’t accidentally borrow her thoughts and ideas. I only knew she loved it, but the reasons why ended up being pretty similar. Except for the “One Year Later” ending… I HATED IT! EW!! GROSS!!! Save for that, we’re of the same mind on this one 😉

Waid, Mark, and Alex Ross. Kingdom Come. 2008.

My Brother’s Husband: Volume Two

My Brother’s Husband concludes in a beautifully written two book series about preconceived notions about the LGBTQ+ community and how to fight those prejudices.

Author and illustrator Gengoroh Tagame is a well known openly gay Japanese artist whose previous manga series are extremely adult orientated. Tagame typically writes gay erotic manga, but in this case he decided to write an all ages book written to combat prejudices against gay culture. He succeeds brilliantly.

In the first volume, we first meet Yaichi, a divorced dad to daughter Kana. He receives a visit from Mike, a hulking Canadian, who was married to Yaichi’s twin brother Ryoji. Ryoji has recently died, and Mike wants to meet his family and see where his husband had grown up. Kana is absolutely shocked to meet him, for first of all she didn’t even know her father had a brother as the twins were estranged, and secondly she did not know men could marry.

This second volume continues with the reminder of Mike’s visit, three weeks in all. Yaichi, Kana, and Natsuki (Yaichi’s ex, whom he remains on good terms with) take Mike to an onsen, which is a traditional Japanese hot spring. The four of them have an enjoyable time there together, which makes Yaichi further reflect on his previous ideas of who makes up a family unit.  While he regrets that his relationship with his twin ended so sadly he can go forward teaching his daughter to make better choices than he did.

We get further acceptance when Kana’s teacher calls in Yaichi for a conference regarding Kana’s sharing with her classmates that her gay uncle is visiting. Yaichi schools the teacher on being accepting, which is one of the first times he he is outspoken in public about changing perceptions that are ingrained in Japanese culture. When Mike heads home back to Canada, you know Yaichi and Kana’s life has been changed for the better by his visit. You will be hopeful that this new family will continue their relationship, and they will stay connected.

This quiet slice-of-life manga deftly shows how one family can start to break a cycle, and for those people to then branch out in sharing their awareness and how it could radiate out to others. So I was pleased to find out that these two books was adapted into a three episode Japanese television program, which hopefully gave it a medium for reaching even a larger audience. Kudos to Tagame for showcasing an important message and for changing perceptions in a loving and positive manner!

-Nancy

Spyro: Reignited Trilogy Review

Happy last day of 2018! I’ve talked about Spyro before, and have played a little bit through the remaster. Today we say goodbye to 2018 with a new video game review of an old favorite ;D

For those who aren’t familiar with the original games, Spyro is a platforming game, in which you travel to different worlds gathering collectibles and solving puzzles. Spyro the Dragon was originally released for the Playstation in 1998 and was an instant hit, inspiring 3 direct sequels, a reboot series called The Legend of Spyro, and the Skylanders franchise (both of which, in my humble opinion, bear no further mention here). I grew up playing the first four games, which inspired my love of fantasy, atmospheric environments, and the color purple. Toys for Bob acquired the rights and remastered the original (or OG, as I’ll call it from here on out) trilogy in this compilation, released in October.

The good: Toys for Bob obviously put a lot of love and creative energy into the Reignited trilogy. Gameplay in Reignited is a carbon copy of the original games; if you’ve played the OG trilogy, you’ll be able to jump right into Reignited, and vice versa. But the look is completely different, in the best possible way. Each environment is scaled up to 11, with so many new details to pick out. The original PS1 environments were brightly colored and atmospheric, but also a blank slate for the player to project their own imagination onto. It’s like Toys for Bob reached back in time, into fan’s minds, to pluck out the tiny little details we added as children, to add them to Reignited. I said in my original Reignited post (linked above) that my mind knew the environments were different, but my heart didn’t know it, because it’s exactly as I pictured it in my imagination as a child. That sentiment only holds more and more true the more I play.

SpyroThenVsNowComparison-02
A screenshot comparing the Stone Hill level in the OG (left) and Reignited (right) Spyro the Dragon.

They also redesigned the characters. I’m forever grateful they kept Spyro close to his original, adorable design, while adding more expression and pizzazz. OG Spyro is cute as heck, but I think Reignited Spyro might be my favorite design. The dragons you rescue in the first game are all redesigned as well, with outfits matching the world you find them in. The Artisan dragons, for example, wear paint-splattered aprons, hold scrolls and quills, or bear trays of freshly baked bread. In later games, Elora, Hunter, Ripto, and everyone else sport new and improved designs. My (other) favorite redesign is Sheila the Kangaroo from Year of the Dragon! I love her hair and her little safari outfit! She’s so cute!!!

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Sheila the Kangaroo from OG (left) and Reignited (right) Spyro: Year of the Dragon.

 

One thing that was almost universally acclaimed about Spyro the Dragon in particular was the music. Stewart Copeland, formerly of The Police, composed the original soundtrack. They did rerecord the music for the Reignited trilogy, but you have the option in the menu to switch between the Reignited music and the OG music! I have been trying to give every Reignited track a fair shot, but more often than not I end up switching to the OG soundtrack, especially during my favorite levels. For newcomers to Spyro, the Reignited music is very close to the original music, and is serviceable. However, having had the OG music on my iPod since forever, I immediately pick up on the subtle differences in the Reignited soundtrack, and I personally find it distracting. The option to switch between soundtracks is HUGE for me. I wish this option was in other remastered games for the same reason (notably, the many, many Kingdom Hearts remasters)!

The not-so-good: Loading times between levels seem much longer here than in the original games. I’m reminded brutally of the fourth Spyro game, Enter the Dragonfly, which was notorious for its long loading times. You could go into the portal to a new level, walk away from the TV, hit the bathroom, get a snack, finish some math homework, and it would still be loading by the time you got back to the TV. They also took the little “gem bloom” animation off the loading screens, where all the gems you collected would move from the top of the screen to the bottom and count in real time, which was disappointing to me. They do still count – but without the gem animation, it isn’t as fun to see your gem count go up =(

It seems also really dumb – and this isn’t a nitpick about this series, but games now in general – to spend money on the disk, only to have to download the game directly to your console. There’s also usually an update immediately after, which… why? The game is finished, isn’t it? It should be. These downloads and updates take up time and bandwidth. The initial download from this game took about 10 minutes, which is not a big deal. However, the UPDATE took 45 minutes, and that was even with the ethernet cord plugged directly into my PS4.

ps4_update_screen
This is the screen I stared at… for almost an hour…

Now, this might just be me. But when I get a new game, I just want to pop the disk in and immediately start playing. Not to mention, it feels to me that I’m getting an unfinished product if it needs to update on launch day. It was not this way with even last gen consoles. With my PS3, I had the option to download my game to the console for faster loading, but it was optional, not mandatory like with my PS4. Having never done it, I feel like games start up and run smoother on my 6-or-7-year-old PS3 vs. my 4-year-old PS4, because not all of my PS3 storage is hogged by entire games as well as save data. I finally had to buy external storage for my PS4 to accommodate this game.

Comparing the game industry from the late ’90s and early 2000’s to today might be a bit unfair, but I genuinely miss spending my hard-earned money on a game and getting a finished product, as opposed to blocking out an extra 10-15 minutes (if not longer) for unnecessary downloads and updates before I even start playing. I expect a finished product when I spend my money on something, not a download disk.

(I should note that Reignited and SoulCalibur VI are the first new games I’ve bought for myself in almost 2 years, during which time I’ve been replaying old favorites when I’ve had time, so all this isn’t exactly new to me. I just haven’t had to deal with it in a long time!)

My biggest nitpick… Clancy Brown (you may recognize him as Lex Luthor from many DC animated shows and movies, or as Byron Hadley from The Shawshank Redemption) voiced half the dragons in OG Spyro the Dragon, but he is glaringly absent here in Reignited. This is an outrage! A travesty!! I want the option to switch between OG and Reignited voice actors as well!!! ;D

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LOOKIT HIM HE’S SOOOO CUUUUUTE ❤

Overall, the Reignited trilogy is at once a loving homage to and a great update from the OG series. The core elements are still there: identical gameplay, lovable and adorable characters, and an atmospheric fantasy world. Reignited takes the charm and details up a couple of levels, making it delightful for old fans to discover what’s different, and new fans to discover the joy of Spyro, just as we imagined it all those years ago.

Kathleen

Toys for Bob. Spyro: Reignited Trilogy. 2018.

2018 Goals: Update!

At the end of 2017 I wrote a post detailing what my goals would be for the upcoming 2018 year, and said “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” So, did I meet my goals? I have listed what the goals were, with my results in bold afterwards:

1) Search out new career opportunities. I recently graduated with a Masters Degree in Library Science (MLIS) and I spent 2.5 years working towards furthering my education so that I could be an asset to any public library. I need to voice my ambition and work diligently towards obtaining a leadership position. I am still at my position as Teen Librarian at my small rural library. I like my job, the community that the library serves and my hours that are family friendly, but I want managerial opportunities, and quite frankly, more money. I really can’t say too much more about this as my library patrons, co-workers and future employers might look at this blog, but I am ready to grow.

2) Write more! Now that my endless homework is done, I will have more time to devote to it. In conjunction with that goal, I welcome writing guest posts. I already have a The Last Jedi piece in the works for Jeffrey at The Imperial Talker, an environmental piece for Michael’s American Resistance at My Comic Relief and YA book reviews for the 2018 Tournament of Books through the Young Adult Services Forum group I belong to planned. This I did! I wrote about  my disappointment with Luke Skywalker’s arc in The Last Jedi on The Imperial Talker, I debated between graphic novel Motor Crush and sci-fi book Landscape with Invisible Hand for the YASF (Young Adult Services Forum) Tournament of Books, I wrote the Ultimate List of Graphic Novels for Perspective of a Writer, and I wrote a review of graphic novel My Favorite Thing Is Monsters on Reads and Reels. Kathleen and I co-wrote a hilarious four part series, The Great Chris Debate, with Michael from My Comic Relief and Kalie from Just Dread-Full about who was the best cinematic Chris (Chris Pine of course!), with a final rebuttal from The Green Onion Blog and Rob from My Side of the Laundry Room. Finally, a YA book I reviewed  was published in the magazine School Library Journal, with a possibility of more. I enjoy writing and hope to do even more next year! 

3) Hike more! To be honest I’m not one to hit the gym. But I really like hiking and will happily spend hours walking in the woods. It’s great exercise and wonderful for my soul. Not so good- but not horrible. My husband and I hike more than the typical couple, but we fell short of hiking as much as we wanted to and should have. However, my husband and I had a weekend getaway to Starved Rock State Park in the spring to hike and during our family trip this summer to Washington DC, we included a side-trip to Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio, in which our family hiked to some beautiful waterfalls (picture seven in grid below). I aim to improve on this again in 2019! 

4) Take more nature photographs for my Instagram account nancyandnature. I am planning to purchase myself a better camera soon, and hope that I can spend more time outdoors (see above goal) capturing good shots. I had nine pictures selected to be featured on photography sites Only in Illinois, Midwest Snaps and Illinois Shots in 2017 and I aim to have more selected this year.  Due to not hiking as much as I had hoped and a malaise that I developed on taking photos in the second half of the year, this goal was not reached. Although I did have a few pictures featured on Illinois Instagram sites (the first in this grid, plus the fifth) and a family travel blog highlighted a picture I had taken of an Indiana state park. I did end up buying myself a nice Canon camera, and hope to use it more often, although some of my best photos have come from my android phone! 

5) Organize my drawers, closets and basement in my home. I bet my co-workers would appreciate me working on my desk too. But I’m creative, and have lots of art projects and the corresponding supplies in mid-completion. Luckily I have a steady stream of teen volunteers at the library to assist me and the other librarians with various projects. Let’s not speak of my  drawers, closets and basement in my home…

All in all, I missed quite a few of my goals. But 2019 is around the corner and I will continue to grow, learn and strive. Here’s to hoping that everyone’s upcoming year is their best yet!

-Nancy

Not really…but I laughed so hard when I saw this on FB!

Grand Theft Horse

Nancy and I both hope you all are having a wonderful holiday so far! For my post this week, here’s a review of a graphic novel that starts on Christmas Eve… that makes it a Christmas story, right? =P

Gail Ruffu is a wanted woman. Her crime: Grand Theft… Horse? Believe it or not, it’s true! She was the first woman since 1850 to be charged with such a crime. However, she had very good reason. In order to protect Urgent Envoy from the brutality of horse racing, and an apathetic co-owner, Gail stole him from the racing stables on Christmas Eve 2004 and spirited him away to a boarding stable. She told no one where he was, though the co-owner, a former friend of hers and a lawyer to boot, cracked down with a lawsuit, hired a private investigator, and resorted to blackmail to try and get Urgent Envoy back. Gail stood her ground even as she lost all her money, her training license, and her way of life. She lost it all in order to do the right thing – but will it pay off in the end? Can she win the case that’s gone all the way up to California’s Supreme Court?

… Wow. Just wow. This is a tale so big it seems unreal, but it really did happen! The author, G. Neri, is Gail’s cousin, and upon hearing the story from Gail herself, he thought, “That would make a great book!” (Introduction page). There’s more than just the story of Urgent Envoy’s case here: Gail’s childhood and early adulthood are touched on as well, to explain how she grew to love horses and ended up in the racing circuit. The writing is succinct, tense, and conversational, as if Gail herself were telling us the story.

The artwork is tense, too. Corban Wilkin’s linework is blocky, angular, and even so, curiously expressive. He managed to not only convey horses accurately, but give them expression and personality without making them caricature-like. I finished a painting of horses in the fall that took me TWO YEARS – so believe me when I say, what Wilkin did was no easy feat. In fact, I’m jealous. I’m ready to scrap my whole painting X,D

This graphic novel is part Western, part legal drama, and part animal lover’s tribute. Above all, it’s an underdog story. Gail went up against impossible odds for the sake of a horse’s well-being. You’ll be rooting for her the whole way through.

– Kathleen

Neri, G., and Corban Wilkin. Grand Theft Horse. 2018.

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