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August 2017

Top 5 Wednesday: Favorite Bromances

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme from Goodreads, created by Lainey from Gingerreadslainey and now moderated by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes.

This week, it’s all about the dudes! And their friendships!

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5. Roland and Eddie – The Dark Tower series by Stephen King

I know this one’s a little out there… but let’s be honest, this whole series is a little out there =P Roland and Eddie meet in the second book, when Roland essentially enters Eddie’s mind and helps him successfully (depending on your point of view) complete a heroin smuggling. Eddie gets sucked into Roland’s world, and though they definitely don’t start out as friends, they do come to a sort of understanding. Really, it just makes me laugh whenever Eddie throws out some word or phrase common in the ’80s and Roland becomes confused XD

(Plz no spoilers in the comments, as I’m maybe halfway through the third book =3 )

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4. Cadvan and Saliman – The Pellinor series by Alison Croggon

The main character of this series, Maerad, finds out she is a Bard when she stumbles across Cadvan in the keep where she lives as a slave. Cadvan becomes her mentor and companion throughout the series, and is just as interesting and complex as a character as Maerad. Cadvan’s good friend Saliman plays a large role in the series as well, and we get to know him better in the third book. Both Cadvan and Saliman speak highly of the other, and reminisce on their younger days when they learned the ways of Barding. Though they are apart for much of the series, you can tell they have a strong bond.

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3. Harry and Ron – Harry Potter

Ever since Ron asked Harry if he could sit on the train with him on their first ride to Hogwarts, these two boys have been best friends. Sure, they have their ups and downs, and periods they don’t speak to each other. But they have a special bond. Ron was Harry’s very first friend, and they’ve stayed together through thick and thin. You can’t really go on a quest to defeat the Dark Lord without becoming BFFs anyway.

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2. … Everyone – The Lord of the Rings

There really isn’t one bromance I’d pick over another when it comes to LoTR. It’s the whole thing. There’s Frodo and Sam, of course, whose rock-solid friendship is at the core of the series. Merry and Pippin are a lively duo, and are just as steadfast to the rest of the Fellowship as they are to each other. Legolas and Gimli each overcome the prejudices they have for the other’s races to become the best of friends. And there are many more besides. In a trilogy full of bromances, it’s very hard to pick just one! =P

(Also see my last sentence for Harry and Ron, ‘cuz it’s equally true here)

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1. Hawke/Inquisitor and Varric – Dragon Age II/Inquisition

Listen… Varric is the bestest best friend in a video game to ever exist. He’s definitely my favorite character in the entire series. Varric is a storyteller and a merchant prince of the Dwarves. He first appears in Dragon Age II, when he offers Hawke a place on his excavation of an abandoned dwarf settlement in the Deep Roads. Hawke and Varric are betrayed and left for dead underground by Varric’s brother, Bartrand, and Varric swears revenge. Hawke and Varric develop a fast friendship; underneath Varric’s storyteller’s swagger and wily ways, he has a heart of gold, and in some ways acts as Hawke’s conscience. It’s easy to fall in love with him as a character, and I was overjoyed to have him as a companion again in Dragon Age: Inquisition. My Inquisitor is probably no match for Hawke… but I hope she’s earned his friendship all the same.

Any of these bromances your favorites, too? =P

– Kathleen

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Supergirl (Rebirth, Vol. 1): Reign of the Cyborg Supermen

Supergirl’s certainly got her work cut out for her. She needs to get Cameron Chase, the formidable director of the D.E.O., to trust her, her foster parents to hone their Kryptonian, and pass her driving test. Like a normal teenager. Which she certainly isn’t! On Krypton, Kara was top of her class, but at her new science academy on Earth, she has trouble operating a projector. She feels clumsy, frustrated – and homesick most of all. She flees to the Fortress of Solitude and wishes she could be closer to Krypton. Be careful what you wish for, though… or a Cyborg Superman claiming to be your father will just show up and offer to show you Argo City, just as he’s restored it back to life. It’s impossible – isn’t it?

I didn’t read New 52 Supergirl, so I went in completely blind. In the first issue especially there were vague references to past events that left me lost. These petered out, and it did get marginally better, but… honestly, it felt as if the whole book was a rewrite of the first season of the show if Kara was a teenager instead of a young adult. I wanted to like it a lot more than I actually did. The art was super cool, and lively, which kept it moving along at a quick pace. The tension between Kara and Cyborg Superman, and the question of whether or not he really is her father, was very well-done and disturbing as we learn what lengths he will go to take Kara back for Argo City.

The redeeming factor: A NON-SKIMPY COSTUME!!! She wears a long skirt and thigh-high boots, which are much more practical for fighting crime.

(Even her costume is almost a carbon copy of the show’s costume, but I’m so happy it’s not stupidly impractical I’m letting it slide)

Has anyone read further than me? Should I keep going? I keep being so disappointed by Rebirth I’m not sure if I want to continue this one =(

– Kathleen

Orlando, Steve, Brian Ching, and Emanuela Lupacchino. Supergirl (Rebirth, Vol. 1): Reign of the Cyborg Supermen. 2017.

Faith: Hollywood & Vine

Faith is a kick ass heroine! Not your typical scantily clad model type superhero chick, she transcends that stereotype and it becomes a non-issue.

Faith Herbert aka Zephyr has actually been around in comics as part of the Harbinger Renegades through Valiant Comics since 1992. I was unaware of this series, as I have read almost nothing from Valiant. But a year ago, Faith was given her own stand alone series, and I took notice. Faith is a psiot,  a sub-species of humans that have evolved psychic/mind-based powers, and she also can fly as she is light as a feather. As such, I love the front cover, that juxtaposes the imagery of a large person being able to sit on phone wires, to showcase one of her powers.

This first volume tries to catch you up a bit on Faith and why she left the Harbinger team. It seems as if a romantic break up with one of the members and the fallout from an especially difficult mission has her wanting to spread her wings. She takes on a secret identity of Summer Smith to safeguard her Zephyr persona, and goes to work at a gossip magazine as a journalist. Sporting a red wig, she tries to balance being a working woman with deadlines and bills with making new friends, and just possibly starting a new romance.

She is more than willing to remain a super hero, and takes on a ring of dog nappers, along with aliens bent on world domination. All of this is done with a practicality, showing Faith as a real woman with issues and fantasy crushes. In fact, I love when she fantasies, for the art shifts to show the difference between her reality and her fantasy. Artist Francis Portela draws Faith in her real world, while Marguerite Sauvage takes over for the fantasy segments. I love this, for it shows while Faith may be fantasizing, and the art changes to a pastel hue with a more cutesy rendition of her, Faith doesn’t alter her appearance drastically (aka- her weight) even in her dreams. She is who she is, and is proud of her look. In fact, the artists make sure she is drawn wearing trendy clothes, no trying to camouflage who she is. I love that!

This is a solid start to a new series, and I’m glad that Valiant choose Faith to showcase. She is a worthy adversary of any super villain, with promising future story lines. She is positive role model to girls, on top of all that. You go girl!

-Nancy

Houser, Jody & Francis Portela & Marguerite Sauvage. Faith: Hollywood & Vine. 2016.

 

Top 5 Wednesday: Books From Before I Started Blogging

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme from Goodreads, created by Lainey from Gingerreadslainey and now moderated by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes. This week the prompt is about your favorite books from before you joined the online book community. This also gives me a chance to feature books from other genres besides graphic novels!

 

Roots by Alex Haley: I have read this book several times over, and every time I am struck by the powerful narrative. The character of Kunta Kinte, an African teen captured and sold into slavery in America, put a personal face to the evils of the slavery trade. That he remained defiant and proud of his heritage, showed readers that they too could be proud of their ancestors, and I loved how his family retained some fragments of his past. I was fascinated by the history and the generations of change that Alex Haley described, and he encouraged me and countless others to do our own family research. While Haley’s research has been questioned as to it’s accuracy, this book still remains one of the finest examples of historical fiction. Kunta Kinte and his descendants became real to me, no matter if they truly existed or not.

To me, this book will always be entwined with the outstanding mini series Roots. It was my first introduction to LeVar Burton, and add in his work with Reading Rainbow and Star Trek TNG, and he shall always remain the celebrity I most want to meet.

The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara: Best book I had read in years (as of 2013). Fascinating read of how doctor/scientist Norton Perina justifies everything he does and you see how his twisted soul affects his logic. So many interesting characters: Norton, Tallent, Esme, Owen, Fa’a, Kubodera- I can imagine all of them as fully fleshed out people. Loved how the book combined history, science, academics, & memoir into one great story. Questions at the end for readers…when does the balance tip for a person? Do the failings erase the earlier success? Did the end justify the means?

The Wedding by Dorothy West: This beautiful and timeless novel was written by Dorothy West, one of the last surviving writers of the Harlem Renaissance. The story takes place in Martha’s Vineyard in 1953, as Shelby a young woman of an upper class black family, is preparing to wed Meade a white jazz musician. There are misgivings among the couple and the extended family whether this mixed marriage will be successful, and through effective use of flashback we learn about Shelby’s family and the dynamics that have shaped them.

We learn how Shelby’s white great grandmother came to marry her black husband soon after the Civil War, and how Gram’s unresolved feelings of prejudice and self hate affected the family in future generations. The next two generations of marriages were not based on love either, but on class and skin color, resulting in toxic relationships that put a fake successful face towards society. Shelby’s sister Liz experiences reverse discrimination when she weds a man darker than her family, and Shelby is not sure what to do when Lute, a black man, questions her reasons for marrying Meade. Shelby has to face her decisions, and look within herself, so she can make a love match based on character instead of class.

This was a thought provoking novel that I have read several times, and plan to read again. The universal themes of class and prejudice, and historical race relations were fascinating and would be perfect for book club discussions.

My Old True Love by Sheila Kay Adams: One of the most beautiful novels I have ever read- the reader is transported to North Carolina in the mid to late 1800’s to a rural community deep in the mountains of Appalachia. We meet Arty, as real a person as I’ve ever met, who shares her joys and struggles from her teen years onward. Arty marries well and raises a large family on a struggling farm, but the Civil War and heartbreak touch her and her surrounding community. Family connections and music play an integral part in the story, and the author makes you feel as though you are on the front porch with Arty and her family listening to her sing beautiful traditional ballads. This story would be perfect for book clubs, and is an absolute favorite of mine.

A Parchment of Leaves by Silas House: I loved this book. As I am already a fan of Appalachian fiction, I was then doubly pleased to find a reference to people of Melungeon descent in this story. As someone who suspects this ancestry in her family (not proven yet-as records back then were non-existent or hidden), I was interested in reading about Cherokee & Melungeon culture and how people were treated because of it. The book was heartbreaking to see families hide their language and customs, and have the next generation not know of their past. This was a book that was so true to life; that I could imagine Vine, Aaron, Serena, Saul, Esme and Aidia, and see them in my mind’s eye. I would love to read more about Vine and her family, and will definitely read more books written by Silas House.

 

I hope you get the chance read any of these five novels, for they are timeless classics that can be read over and over again!

-Nancy

Echo (Vol. 1): Moon Lake

An explosion over Moon Lake catches photographer Julie Martin by surprise. Liquid metal rains from the sky, sticking to her skin and her truck. The metal seems… alive. The pellets gravitate to her and start forming a metal coat over her skin. She can’t take it off and it burns anyone who tries to touch it. To be honest, this is the last thing Julie needs. She’s going through a rough divorce, her sister Pam is in the hospital, and all her bills are coming up due – or way overdue. She needs some time to think it over, but time is one thing she doesn’t have. There are people after her now. People from the government, who are acting like she’s a threat… who might actually be trying to kill her…

This was a fascinating graphic novel. The story is very character-driven: we really feel for Julie and her struggles, and feel at first like this extraordinary event is just one more thing on the to-deal-with pile. It also leaves some things to the imagination, like why Pam is in the hospital and other major plot points, that leave it wide open for a second volume. It’s in black and white, and though the characters are drawn well, only a few have distinguishing features, which can make it difficult to tell who’s who at times. Would appeal to superhero and science fiction fans who like their characters relatable.

– Kathleen

Moore, Terry. Echo (Vol. 1): Moon Lake. 2008.

Stitches

I loved this graphic novel memoir! Some books really call to you because of past life experiences and I could relate to the experiences in the story because I was raised by an extremely angry father myself, so while our bios were completely different, I could connect at some level.

Author David Small was raised in Detroit with a taunting older brother, a father who was a radiologist plus an angry and repressed mother. Growing up in the image conscious 1950’s, David was a sickly child who tried to make the best of his dysfunctional upbringing by escaping into his art. At age eleven a growth began to grow on his neck, but his parents didn’t get him surgery for three more years, until it had metastasized into cancer. They kept the fact that it was cancer from him, and after he discovered the truth he was left with additional emotional scars in addition to the physical stitches and loss of half of his vocal cords.

The mother in this book was so very unlikable, and while Small didn’t portray his father in the same way, the fact that his father allowed the family to exist like that made him equally culpable. Such horrible undercurrents were running through that family over the years, and the choice for the parents not to tell their son he had cancer was inexcusable. Later he discovered that his mother was a lesbian and had significant health issues herself. Pair that with a toxic marriage, it’s no surprise that David and his brother were doomed to an unhappy childhood. However, the ending showed that with proper help from a therapist and finding supportive friends, an unhappy childhood does not prevent you from a successful and happy future.

His illustrations were so well done, with the reader easily seeing the family resemblances through the generations, and his eyes/face moving between child and teen. The drawings were all in black and white, which I thought focused you more on the narrative than on potentially distracting colors.  I enjoyed the Alice in Wonderland theme throughout, from him playing Alice as a child, to the very obvious White Rabbit therapist analogy. Of course, I enjoyed him finding peace and a passion/vocation that would move him away from his dysfunctional family. Page 302 made me tear up, seeing him as a young adult finally receiving the affirmation he deserved.

-Nancy

Small, David. Stitches. 2009.

The Dark Tower

Now, I want to preface this review with a confession.

I’m not a Stephen King fan.

I just can’t read horror! I can’t! I spook wayyy too easily. But the man has written some incredible work and accomplished a great deal and for that I tip my hat to him.

A friend tried to get me into the Dark Tower series ages ago, and to be honest, I was turned off partially because Stephen King wrote it. Anything he writes has to have large quantities of blood and creepy crawlies in it, right??? So I tried The Gunslinger, but didn’t get too far before I called it quits.

Then… just a few weeks back, I read the graphic novel. AND IT WAS AMAZING. It was so good I immediately picked up The Gunslinger again. I wondered why I ever put it down the first time!!! I devoured it in three days (the fastest I’ve read a book in a long, long time), and I’m currently on the second book. I was interested in the movie from the start because it stars Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey, both great actors, but I was more keen than ever to see it. So I roped my friend who’d tried to get me to read the books into seeing the movie with me =P

The movie starts with a boy named Jake Chambers. He has some disturbing dreams, and he draws all of them: a commune where children are gathered, a dark tower, and most frightening of all, a man in black. New York City has been suffering from quakes, and no one knows why. Experts are baffled. Jake does know why, though. The man in black is using the children to attack the dark tower, and if it falls, the world will end in darkness and fire.

No one believes him. His mother sends him to shrink after shrink, thinking he’s suffering delusions brought on by the grief of his father’s death. His stepfather wants to send him away to a special school for troubled kids. But Jake is not crazy, and he is telling the truth. In fact, he’s just found a house in Brooklyn that he saw in his dreams. Inside, he finds a portal. He steps to the other side to find himself in the world of his dreams – as real as he knew it would be. He sets out to find another man he’s seen, someone whom he thinks might be able to help – someone called the gunslinger.

The movie is only based on the novels, so there are inconsistencies between the two media. I only caught a few, while my friend who’s read all the books caught more. There were a few elements of the story that could have used tightening or reworking, especially near the end. Roland’s character seemed off to me, but that was due more to the writing of the movie vs. the books then Idris Elba’s performance.

In fact, my favorite element was the dichotomy of the gunslinger and the man in black as portrayed by Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey. Both are incredible actors, and brought force to both their characters and the eternal clash of good and evil they are caught in. Their performances were stellar.

I was a bit pleasantly surprised to see minimal special effects. Well, they are there, but only a few sequences used them heavily. I guess I would say… this movie wasn’t in your face about the special effects like a lot of other movies are these days. Probably not a big deal to a lot of people, but I thought it refreshing and worth noting.

Overall, it’s still an enjoyable movie. I wasn’t awed by it, but I definitely wasn’t bored, either. I do agree with my friend, who said that if you had little or no previous knowledge of the books, you’d enjoy it more. As a standalone title, it does the job. If you think about it as a tie-in or continuation of the books, you’re taking a lot of the enjoyment out of it for yourself.

– Kathleen

Arcel, Nicolaj. The Dark Tower. 2017.

Wonder Woman (Rebirth, Vol. 2): Year One

Y’all should know Wonder Woman’s origin story like the back of your hand by now from dealing with me, so I’ll gloss over that part of this book =P After returning Steve Trevor to Man’s World, Diana finds herself detained in a military base. She’s alone, scared, and she can’t make anyone understand her. But then, she’s visited by the gods. Each of her patrons bestows upon her a gift, but what they are, they say will reveal themselves in time. By the time Lieutenant Etta Candy and Steve manage to find someone who can understand the language Diana is speaking, Diana has gone pretty stir crazy. She accidentally rips the bars off her cell, and Dr. Barbara Ann Minerva decides Diana was telling the truth about her heavenly visit! More gifts reveal themselves at the mall they take Diana to, during an attack by the Sear Group… who are familiar to both Dr. Minerva and Diana. What do they want?

This may be a Year One, but it’s especially interesting after reading Volume 1, because we are going back to the beginning after glimpsing the ending. The middle will be a great ride! I adored that they actually utilized a language barrier here when Diana enters Man’s World. It makes sense, and it made for some pretty fun moments! The art is wonderful, and I love that Diana was portrayed with especial wide-eyed innocence here. It was fun to watch her learn her gifts for a change instead of knowing them immediately. There were lots of little cameos and hints to WW past that made me smile. I can’t wait for more!

– Kathleen

Rucka, Greg, Nicola Scott, and Romulo Fajardo, Jr. Wonder Woman (Rebirth, Vol. 2): Year One. 2017.

Here

Here was a fascinating 300 page art collage of the same location over millions of years. We see the same location from millions of years BCE to thousands of the years in the future, but much of the narrative take place from colonial time to our modern era.

The central conceit is that we are peering into windows of time in which we witness moments from the mundane to the life changing. Unmoored from a linear timeline, the pages dance across the eons, sometimes touching on a family several times over, other times giving us just the briefest glimpse into a life.

Much of the story takes place in a home, so we are witness to the joys and sorrows that occur within a home’s walls. We meet Benjamin Franklin, who weaves in and out of the story, and is later referred to as a historical figure by more modern inhabitants. Vaguely reminiscent of Twilight Zone or Star Trek, each page was a portal into another dimension or time period.

I enjoyed the premise of the book, and while a fast read, I often flipped back and forth among the pages looking for common threads. Each time you pick up the book you will focus on something new, so it can be a different read each time.  The art was somewhat stylized, with a dull color palette, so it is the idea more than the art itself that will get you thinking about our place in history.

-Nancy

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