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January 2018

The Dark Tower Series

Many of you already know that my obsession with the Dark Tower series began when I read and reviewed the graphic novel adaptation, The Gunslinger Born, back in the summer. I’ve been steadily plugging away at the books ever since. Well, I just finished the 7th novel and I have a lot of feelings! 8D

“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”

So begins the tale of Roland Deschain of Gilead, last of the line of Eld (that would be King Arthur to the rest of us). He has been chasing the Dark Tower his whole life. He’s sacrificed much for the road… family, friends, even the love of his life. No matter. What does matter is the road to the Tower. He means to climb to the top and see what lies within.

Oh yeah, and the Crimson King and his lackey, the man in black, are screwing with the Beams that hold up the Tower. If the last of the Beams are destroyed and the Tower falls, it means the end of the universe. For there are other worlds than these.

Though Roland is a gunslinger – sort of like a knight of the Round Table, but with guns instead of swords – he cannot stop the Crimson King alone. He draws three people from our world to aid him on his quest. One is Eddie Dean, a heroin addict from the late ’80s. Next is Odetta Holmes, a schizophrenic black woman missing her legs from the knee down in a freak accident during the ’60s. The last, a child named Jake Chambers, whom Roland has met before, and they didn’t part so amicably…

This band of misfits, lost in time, come together to form a ka-tet. One from many, with Roland as their leader. Under Roland’s tutelage, they become gunslingers themselves, seeking out the Dark Tower, following the ever-turning wheel of ka, of destiny…

Will they climb to the top of the Dark Tower? Will they even find it? Will those they encounter on their quest help them, or do they mean to kill them before they reach it?

I was held completely in thrall from the first sentence of the first novel to the last word of the seventh. Say whatever you want about Stephen King, the man knows how to write. The story has so many layers and intricacies to it that you take the time to savor every detail. Now that I’m done, I want to go back and see what I missed… maybe after a short break =P

The characters go through tremendous growth through the course of the series, but none more than Roland. At the start, he’s a hardened warrior, single-mindedly pursuing his quest at full speed, blinkers on and blind to all else. As the series goes on, we see him soften, open himself up to love and friendship. It’s not without consequences, and what happens to him is cyclical. Ka, destiny, time, is a wheel, and that’s the message at the heart of this series.

What’s most fascinating about the series is that it’s not one genre. Throw a little bit of Western, fantasy, science fiction, horror, along with a good dash of tongue-in-cheek pop culture and a sprinkling of supernatural and romance in the blender, and you end up with this series. I’m a librarian, and I could recommend it to just about anyone:

  • Love fantasy? The characters are on an epic quest, and there are multiple books to boot. The tone is atmospheric, like you would find in many fantasy novels, and there are elements of magic.
  • You read science fiction? Technology is rampant (though rapidly deteriorating) in this world. For instance, there are robots, both of the benign and killer variety, along with discussions of the theory of time travel and the multiverse.
  • Western reader? Roland himself is very much like a hero cowboy, and much of the setting is reminiscent of the Old West. There are no shortage of shootouts or action scenes either!
  • Horror connoisseur? First of all, I must ask you why you haven’t read this series yet, written by the King of Horror, and containing references to many (if not all) his previous works. Then I’ll tell you that there are monsters of multiple varieties, and passages that truly make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.
  • For those of you who hate horror, however, I’m right there with you! There wasn’t nearly enough in this series to turn me off to it. You can also predict many of these scenes coming so you can skim if you need to.

See how easy that was? I’d also tell anyone that this is easily one of the best book series I’ve ever read. The literary quality is unparalleled: it’s just written masterfully. The story, action, and characters will keep you entranced from start to finish. I laughed, I cried, I cheered at Roland and his ka-tet’s triumphs and I despaired with them in their losses. It was truly a wild ride and I couldn’t have asked for anything more. I really don’t know what to do with my life now, though… I’m totally at a loss for what to read next!

– Kathleen

King, Stephen. The Dark Tower series.

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Birds of Prey (II, Vol. 2): The Death of Oracle

Too many people know who Oracle is. There’s only one solution Barbara can see: Oracle has to die. Tricky part is, no one’s in on the plan. Not even Dinah or any of the other Birds. When Calculator moves to destroy Oracle once and for all, Barbara sees her chance. She carefully pulls her strings, manipulating the Birds and Calculator’s goons right where she wants them. But when the mission turns south fast, can Oracle save her team one more time? Can the superhero community survive without an Oracle?

This is the most high-stakes mission the Birds have yet. The tension radiates from every page as you race through, desperate to see what happens! The action scenes are consequently particularly good in this volume, mirroring the tension in the story. There is more to the book after the end of this story, including Huntress reigniting an old flame and Lady Blackhawk reuniting with some of her old friends from her WWII days! I’m always up for a story centering on Zinda ;D

This is unfortunately the last volume before the New 52 – the series was cancelled after this volume =( It’s a shame the end of the story wasn’t really wrapped up, though at the very end there is a joke recalling earlier volumes, which was fun. I’m really sad I’m getting to the end – this is my favorite series and I don’t ever want to run out!!! Stay tuned for the New 52 run!

– Kathleen

Simone, Gail, Ardian Syaf, Pere Pérez, and Stanley Lau. Birds of Prey (II, Vol. 2): The Death of Oracle. 2011.

A Tribute Anthology to Deadworld

The graphic novel series Deadworld and their titular character King Zombie has been around since 1986, and made zombies cool before The Walking Dead and World War Z. I’ve looked at some of the issues and amazing artwork of Deadworld before, but never read the series, so when this anthology became available on NetGalley, I was anxious to read it. While I was surprised that it wasn’t a graphic novel, instead it was a novella of eight short stories, I was pleased as short stories are a favorite genre of mine.

Before the eight stories there is an introduction by editor Lori Perkins, then a lovely tribute to comic publisher Gary Reed by Kevin VanHook and another tribute to the series by Thomas F. Monteleone with a shout out to the enigmatic King Zombie.

The Guitar Girl by Jason Henderson established an Old West feel in this story in the Deadworld universe. Dana, who tries to spread music and hope in a post-apocalyptic world, reunites a family.

Small Town Gay Bar by Andrew Robertson felt like an 80’s slasher movie, and required a suspension of disbelief as to how the zombies infiltrated this small Southern bar.

The Girl by Jennifer Williams had a dystopian feel with a mystical bent. Our plucky heroine didn’t get the glorious ending you were hoping for.

Home on the Range by Ken Haigh showcased the zombies as more a nuisance than a threat and had an innocuous ending.

Rearguard by Sarah Stegall had the best world building with a Creole family that truly seemed real. Ailing Harriet sends her grandchildren to safety with a box of family mementos while she stays behind. Her position as rearguard hearkens back to her days in the army as a young woman, and she takes out a zombie horde to keep her beloved family safe.

Gonna Get Close To You by Jamie K. Schmidt was on odd mashup of mob assassins, revenge and unrequited love. We get a reference to the Zombie King in this story and the idea that not all zombies are mindless minions.

Another Man’s Skin by George Ivanoff shows what family members will do for each other to ensure their survival. There is no room for sentimentality when you are battling the undead. Felt like a Twilight Zone episode with a twist I saw coming.

Pit Stop by Jeremy Wagner drops us in the middle of a post-apocalyptic world with Rhonda and two children trying to make it to safety. It definitely had a Walking Dead vibe and felt like it was part of a longer story instead of having a conclusion as the other stories did. Thus it was apropos that their was a mention that this story was an excerpt from Rabid Hearts. I was intrigued enough by this tale to want to know more about this story’s characters, so I’d like to know where to track down the longer story.

I enjoyed all the stories, as each writer added something strong to this Deadworld anthology. My interest has been piqued and I plan on tracking down some comic issues of the series next time I stop in my local comic book store. As my previous  T5W post shows, I am a big fan of the zombie genre, and this short story collection supplied by NetGalley for an honest review, was a welcome addition to my reading list!

-Nancy

Perkins, Lori, A Tribute Anthology to Deadworld and Comic Publisher Gary Reed. 2017.

Stranger Things

I finally watched both seasons of Stranger Things, and I LOVED it! I had heard good buzz about the show, and knew the sci-fi/supernatural show would be right up my alley, especially considering the show was set in the 1980’s (obviously the best decade to grow up in!). When my son Nick, home from his freshman year of college, said he wanted to watch it with me and my husband, I was sold. Our teen wanted to watch a series with his parents, and spend time with us! I was in a parental swoon of happiness! That the show happened to be fabulous was gravy.

I wish I was up to writing more about the series, but I’m currently having a bit of writer’s block. Despite me recently finishing my masters degree in library science, and theoretically having more time to write, I have a tsunami of commitments at work and home to deal with. In lieu of insightful commentary about Stranger Things, I will leave you with three absolutely hysterical video parodies of the first two seasons.

Sharing is caring!

Where is #JusticeForBarb?

Lucas’s parents share some #Truth!

I am so ready for season three! I can’t wait to see what direction they will go in next, especially as the child actors and actresses age before our eyes, as that might dictate certain plot lines.  Although I couldn’t summon up a lot to say in this post, I’d love to hear some feedback from others on what they liked or theories about next season.

-Nancy

Piper

I saw this adaptation of the Pied Piper of Hamelin a while back in a publication I get from work. It had a good review and I saw Jay Asher was one of the writers. I’ve read and enjoyed his YA novel, 13 Reasons Why, so I thought I’d give this a go.

The small village of Hamelin has a big problem. Their rat population has exploded, and they’re eating all the food. The local rat-catcher is quickly overwhelmed, and the populace worried they won’t have enough to eat in the coming winter. A well-dressed man comes to down, claiming he can get rid of all the rats. All he does is play his flute and they follow him – but his services are far from free. The townspeople are skeptical, but agree to his outrageous demands. He catches the eye of Maggie, a teenage girl living in the village. She is deaf, so is also an outcast, and she feels she’s found a kindred spirit in the Piper. But he has a dark side, and he will bring terrible pain to both her and the village.

I was terribly disappointed in this one. The pacing was choppy; there was some indication of time skips, but not all of them were explained, leaving the reader to figure it out. Characterization was alllll over the place. One moment, our main character is wandering the woods, dreaming of the man she wants to find and marry, and the next she is totally tuned into a very practical household task. This happens multiple times throughout the book and was very irritating. I realize they’re working off a very vague folk tale, but the ending to the original tale is more tied-up and satisfying than the end of this graphic novel.

I’m not entirely convinced Maggie’s deafness was handled correctly, or even there at all. She reads lips, and talks (it’s revealed that her deafness came as a result of a childhood accident, so she does know how to speak), but her speech patterns and bubbles are the same as everyone elses’. There are precious little context clues. Sometimes kids throw rocks at her to get her attention, or sneak up behind her, but that could happen to anyone. If I were to write a deaf character into a graphic novel, I would add more people correcting her pronunciation, and make her speech bubbles wobbly, maybe with a bit of a stutter, to indicate she’s not confident in speaking. I’d also add, you know, some sign language? Somehow??? Had I not been told by the book jacket she was deaf, I would have thought she was just a dreamy girl, totally oblivious to her surroundings.

I cannot fathom at all why this was so well-reviewed. Skip it entirely. It’s more infuriating than it is rewarding.

– Kathleen

Asher, Jay, Jessica Freeburg, and Jeff Stokely. Piper. 2017.

Strange Fruit

I was encouraged to read this book by my trusted Graham Crackers comic book store staff. Their synopsis: what if a black Superman landed in the segregated South during the 1920’s? They have never steered me wrong with my purchases, and I was intrigued at how a superhero origin story could be upended by racism. In fact the title of the book is based off the song made famous by Billie Holiday, Strange Fruit, which is about lynchings and bigotry (video link below).

This magical realism tale is based off the historical 1927 flooding that affected many towns in the South along rivers. Blacks were disproportionately forced to shore up the crumbling levies, and were the ones whose poor land was most often affected the worst when natural catastrophe hit (as the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans was hit hardest by Hurricane Katrina in 2005). As the threat of disaster looms in this story, and racial tensions are mounting, an explosion occurs nearby. An alien ship has crash landed and out climbs a naked black man, whose ship disappears into the river muck. Mute, he is confused as to why white men dressed in their KKK regalia attack him. Another black man grabs the Confederate Battle Flag they dropped to wrap around our naked hero, who is sometimes referred to as Johnson (this refers to something he needs to cover) or Colossus. This covering courts controversy in town as he heads to the library to gain knowledge about this strange new planet. Just when political, social and racial tensions are reaching their breaking point, the levy also breaks, and his immense strength is utilized to help save the town. There is a rather grim conclusion, with no satisfying hero’s arc or hints of redemption available.

The artwork is amazing. Reminiscent of Alex Ross’s artwork in Kingdom Come (that Mark Waid also wrote), JG Jones’s artwork is photo-realism in style, and cinematic in scope. The panels often look like they are painted movie stills, with incredibly realistic looking characters. I am reminded of Dorothea Lange’s photography work of the Depression-era poor when I see how some of the people and community are portrayed, and I’m sure photographs of that time period were utilized for research by the illustrator when creating this story. The hero’s depiction seemed a bit overdone at times, but the underlying sinister legacy of racism came through loud and clear.

Image result for strange fruit jones waid cover

However, the narrative turned out to be problematic at times. On my first reading, I thought the story was powerful and thought provoking, and I loved the artwork. But when graphic novels are multi-layered like this one is, I like to read it a second time and ponder the message more deeply, so I can better pull my thoughts together. The two men who wrote and illustrated the story were raised in the South as boys but are white men. So the question is can white men properly depict what blacks experience, since they are not writing from an #ownvoices perspective? I recently took a graduate class on diversity in young adult literature, and that was a topic that came up again and again, as white privilege is a very real issue. The book did have a foreword written by Elvis Mitchell, a black film critic, which helped give it some credibility, and he brought up that this story helps raise awareness of race in comics. Created with the best of intentions, but imperfectly framed at times, I found this book provocative and well worth reading, even if it just raises more questions than it answers. If any one out there has read this book, I’d love to hear what your thoughts were after you read it.

-Nancy

 

Unique Blogger Award

We were nominated for the Unique Blogger Award by manga fan, shaddowcat99, over at Exploring the World of Anime and Manga! You get brownie points for nominating us for our first award of the year =P Thanks for the nomination and for your friendly, conversational comments on our posts!

The Rules (copy pasted)

  1. Display Award
  2. Thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog on your blog. Try to include a little promotion for the person who nominated you.
  3. Answer questions they’ve written for you.
  4. In the spirit of sharing love and solidarity with our blogging family, nominate other bloggers and ask them 3 questions.

The three questions we were asked are:

If you could strike anything from existence; person, place or thing, what would it be?

Kathleen: The Cheetoh in Chief, Donald Trump. Hands down. (No picture for him. His stupid face has no place on our blog!!!)

Nancy: I stand in solidarity with Kathleen. Trump’s presidency is a disgrace.

What’s is the funniest new years resolution you have ever heard?

no_carbs

Kathleen: At first I thought my mom and her boyfriend’s resolution last year was funny. They went on a low-carb diet together. But it turned out to not be a joke. They’re a year on it and still going, which is great for them, but I have to buy my own buns whenever we make burgers!!! 😭

Nancy: This For Better Or For Worse comic is honest in how many people actually follow through on their resolutions. Despite that, I made my own 2018 goals.

Who was your biggest hero growing up, not now unless it hasn’t changed, but when you were a kid?

amy_jo_johnson_as_kimberly_hart

Kathleen: I adored the Pink Power Ranger (Mighty Morphin all the way) when I was a kid. She was so cool!!! She kicked butt just like the boys did. I would often pretend that I was her and beat the crap out of my mom’s furniture with my awesome karate moves X,D

Nancy:  Luke Skywalker! That’s why how The Last Jedi treated him is so painful to me. But that’s a post for another day!

Our questions for our nominees:

  1. Do you remember your dreams when you wake up?
  2. Do you listen to the radio? What kind of stations do you like? And what song makes you turn it off immediately?
  3. Describe your best friend. Why are you friends with him/her?

And we nominate:

For Tyeth at FTSabersite

Zeezee at Zeezee with Books

Paul Bowler at Sci-Fi Jubilee

Nicole at Booksinked 

Have fun with your questions! And thanks again to shaddowcat99 for the nomination!

– Kathleen & Nancy

T5W: 2018 Reading Resolutions

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

Hope y’all enjoyed the holidays and are starting the new year off the way you want to! New Years is a time to start fresh. Here are a few of my resolutions as they pertain to books and graphic novels!

how_to_read_a_pile_of_books

5. Read more!!!

No brainer, right? I devour plenty of graphic novels for this blog, and because of my work schedule, they’ve come to make up the bulk of my reading. Hopefully I’ll have room for some more novels this year!

aviation-budgeting-101-chart-accounts

4. Spend less on books

Really I’m trying to spend less on everything, because I’m saving for my wedding. Believe it or not, books are the easiest things to cut from the budget because I work in libraries =P

original-361037-1

3. Try some nonfiction

Let me tell you guys something about myself. I am a very, shall we say, safe person. I like routine. I do most things the same way every time. I stick with things I know I like. Example: I’ll order the same thing every time at a restaurant we frequent, whereas my fiancé will try something different every time.

I’m the same with my reading. I am a fantasy and comic book reader, and that’s about it. I don’t often go outside those boundaries. But this year I want to try to push myself to try a nonfiction novel in a subject I like outside my usual realms!

2. Expand fiction horizons

Please see above =P I have tried other genres before (romance, Christian, historical fiction) to mixed results. The one genre I think I absolutely cannot stand is mystery! Hopefully I find one this year that sticks.

Bromantic

1. Read more Marvel comics

Last, but not least, I should expand my horizons where it counts… read more Marvel comics! I’m a DC fan at my core but there are Marvel heroes I like. I’ll thank Nancy in advance for keeping me honest with this one 😉

Do any of you have bookish resolutions?

– Kathleen

Green Arrow (Return, Vol. 1): Quiver

Happy New Year, everybody! Let’s kick off the new year with a new (to our blog at least =P ) series! Part of this story was in the compilation volume For Better or For Worse, featuring my second favorite superhero couple, Green Arrow and Black Canary. I liked the art so much that I sought out the comic it came from!

Green Arrow is running around Star City once again. Only problem is, it’s not Connor Hawke. It’s Oliver Queen. As in, the supposed-to-be-dead Oliver Queen. He has absolutely no memory of the 20 or so years that have passed since his death. The last thing he remembers is going on a road trip with his best friend, Hal Jordan, one of the Green Lanterns. Oliver himself isn’t too worried about it at first. He’s trying to find the Star City Slayer, a villain who is kidnapping and killing children. The Justice League is extremely worried about him, and even Batman thinks it’s not really Oliver. Once it becomes clear that finding out what happened to him is linked to finding the Star City Slayer, will Oliver continue to deny his own mystery?

Wow! I have never read a Kevin Smith comic before, but now I want more!!! He writes Green Arrow with wit, humor, and heart. I laughed out loud more than once as I raced through the pages, desperate to know what happened to Ollie and how he came back to life. The tension between Oliver, the rest of the League, and the threat of the Star City Slayer is handled wonderfully. As I said, the art is what drew me to find this comic. It’s very clean. The lines are heavy, and the shadows are marked only with black areas. The anatomy is solid, and there are no unnecessary fan-servicey shots of female (or male, for that matter) parts. I’m stoked for the next volume and more of Oliver’s adventures!

– Kathleen

Smith, Kevin, Phil Hester, and Ande Parks. Green Arrow (Return, Vol. 1): Quiver. 2002.

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