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May 2021

The Montague Twins (Vol. 1): The Witch’s Hand

Alistair and Peter Montague are orphaned twin brothers who love to solve mysteries. They’re living with David, a professor, his wife Sandy, and their daughter Charlie, who is just as into mysteries as the boys are. One summer day, David insists they take a day off to have some good, clean fun. They take turns deciding what to do, and end up at the beach. It’s there that they see an anomaly in the sky above the lighthouse – that turns out to be the doing of a witch. David, Sandy, and David’s assistant Rowan then tell the boys that they have magic and must use it to solve the mystery. Being magic users themselves, David instructs Rowan to teach the teens magic as both a practical teaching exercise and to study the boys. Who is the mysterious witch? What does she want? Can the teenagers gain enough control over their power to find out?

I’m striking out lately! I don’t have the patience for mysteries, it seems. I feel Nancy would like this one much better than I did. It’s very much reminiscent of the 50’s era Hardy Boys, but with touches of modernity and the paranormal: the focus is on the mystery much more than anything else. Still, the characters have their unique and modern struggles. It’s interesting to see these issues through the lens of time.

The art also evokes old mystery illustrations and cartoon shows such as Scooby Doo. The figures are very geometric, with sharp angles. The color palette is dark and mysterious, but also has a pastel or sepia quality to it. It feels like you’re reading an older book even with the modern elements in the story.

Overall, this mystery is sure to please teens and adults who like paranormal elements in their mysteries (emphasizing the mystery bit) and those who like The Hardy Boys.

-Kathleen

Page, Nathan, & Drew Shannon. The Montague Twins (Vol. 1): The Witch’s Hand. 2020.

Jupiter’s Circle

After recently finishing Jupiter’s Legacy, I was intrigued to read the two prequels which detailed the six heroes’ early days. While Mark Millar remained the author, the artist switched to Wilfredo Torres, with the two covers by original artist Frank Quitely.

Book One

Told in six chapters, the chapters center on the other four members of the team besides the married couple, The Utopian and Lady Liberty. Set in the 1950s and 1960s, the Union of Justice team members are still grappling with their new identities and the fame that goes along with their powers.

The book opens with the reveal that Blue Bolt is gay, who is trying to hide that fact from his team. J Edgar Hoover tries to blackmail him, and he tries to commit suicide under the strain of his secret, but the team supports him and Blue Bolt gets his revenge against Hoover.

The Flare has a mid-life crisis and begins an affair with a nineteen-year-old girl who idolizes him, so he leaves his wife and three children for her. A horrible accident shows the true colors of his young girlfriend, with his loyal wife coming back to him. This story infuriated me- he didn’t deserve the second chance his wife gave him after so publicly flaunting his new romance. Asshole.

Skyfox and Brainwave have never gotten along, as Skyfox is always baiting Brainwave. Known as a playboy, Skyfox finally falls in love but Brainwave lays in wait, looking for a way to finally get back at Skyfox. Although both men are jerks, Skyfox deserves what happens next to him.

There was definitely a Mad Men vibe, with lots of smoking by everyone (it was actually funny seeing the heroes with cigarettes) and the sexism. On a side note, in the original series, a seventh person from the boat group was featured- they looked younger, like a teen. This character has never been seen or mentioned again. I hate when there are inconsistencies like that. The art by Torres is solid, but part of my lack of excitement is because I am comparing it to Quitely’s art that helped define the series. That’s why I hate when artists change within a series, people get attached to a certain art style and it’s hard to accept the next style even if it is good.

Book Two

There is a true shocker in this book, as it is revealed that The Utopian, married his fiancé upon first returning, when you assumed he and Lady Liberty had married immediately.

The rest of this second book deals with the fallout of Skyfox leaving the team because of his broken heart, and how he gets mixed up with some Vietnam War and Civil Rights protestors. He briefly reunites with the team, just for a final confrontation with Brainwave. Skyfox is then cast out, becoming a villain.

Because of the recent Netflix series (which was very uneven, but I will save my thoughts for a future post Edit- it was recently cancelled so I’m not going to bother writing a post about the tv series) these four books have been repackaged online on Hoopla as Jupiter’s Legacy Book One and Two, with the original two as Books Three and Four. While I understand the reasoning for doing so, reading it in that order does a disservice to the series, for these prequels are rather trite and soapy, so if you read them first you might not want to continue to the better two. Miller is planning a sequel, Jupiter’s Requiem, which I’d be curious to read and hope that the entire series as a whole lives up to the promise of how it began.

-Nancy

Fitz/The Flare, Walter/Brainwave, George/Skyfox, Sheldon/The Utopian, Grace/Lady Liberty, Richard/Blue Bolt

Witch Hat Atelier (Vol. 2)

Coco and her cohort discover that the portal they fell through at the end of the last volume led to a magic maze, which is guarded fiercely by the dragon that’s hounding them. Agott, Tetia, and Richeh think it’s Coco’s fault they’re trapped. When they bed down in a safe place for the night, Tetia conjures a soft, warm cloud (a spell of her own creation!) for them to sleep in. That gives Coco an idea. What if they used Tetia’s spell to lull the dragon to sleep and sneak past it towards the way out? It will take many spells drawn in tandem for it to work. Can the girls get out?

Meanwhile, Master Qifrey has made a discovery while looking for the girls. Both the Brimmed Caps (evil witches who shield their faces) and the Knights Moralis (kind of a police force for magic users) could be after Coco – for the same reason. How can he keep her safe so she can learn magic and free her mother?

This manga likes to leave off on middle-of-the-story cliffhangers between volumes. It took me a minute to remember what happened at the end of the last volume and thus make sense of the beginning of this one. It ended much the same way as the first: that is, we wrapped up the arc started in Vol. 1 in the middle of Vol. 2; the middle of Vol. 2 started a new arc, ended in the middle of that arc, and will conclude at the beginning of Vol. 3. This is unlike other manga I’ve tried which wraps up each arc neatly within the volume. I hope I don’t have such a long stretch between this volume and the next!

We continue the world-building here with a society of both evil witches and the knights who keep magic users in line. It will be interesting to see how they operate and what their interest is in Coco. There is also some character development and backstory, regarding Agott in particular, that will make for a fascinating foil to Coco.

I said in my review of Vol. 1 that I liked the classical attention to detail to everyday items and chores. That is shaping up to be a common theme in this manga. One of the “lessons” Qifrey teaches Coco is to use magic for everyday applications so it “sticks.” As a result, he asks her to be in charge of a meal, which means practice for her, and gives us an idea of how magic is used for cooking in this world – and what kind of food they eat!

To me, this is a fantasy manga reminiscent of both Harry Potter and The Rithmatist (Brandon Sanderson), with the slice of life elements of A Bride’s Story, which I’ve grown to love. Looking forward to the next volume!

-Kathleen

Shirahama, Kamome. Witch Hat Atelier (Vol. 2). 2019.

Library Lovers Book Tag

I am a librarian- how have I not done this tag before?? I was inspired by the brilliant Rachel of Life of a Female Bibliophile, who in turn was inspired by BookStackAmber (whose site I got the header picture from).

How often do you visit your local library?

All the time! Of course, I work at a library…

Are you the type of person who checks out more books than you know you can read or are you someone who only checks out the exact amount of books you intend on reading before they are due?

I typically have several books going at once- a graphic novel, an audio book for my work commute, and a print book. As for due dates, that’s what renewing is for!

All the books!

How old were you when you got your first library card?

My mom brought me to library regularly as a child, I don’t remember not having a card, but I would assume kindergarten.

Do you go to your library looking for a particular book or do you check out anything that peaks your interest?

Both- I love to browse, so typically it’s some titles I had in mind but also ones that capture my interest at the moment.

Do you use your library to check out just books or do you also check out dvds, audiobooks etc.?

I check out everything! Books, movies, music, audiobooks, hotspots, and magazines. I like physical books the best, but I also use Hoopla for a few online books.

If only I had a magic bag to fit in all the books I check out!

From what section of your library do you check out a majority of your books? ( YA, middle grade, adult, nonfiction.)

This blog proves I read a lot of graphic novels, but I also read a mix of YA, historical fiction, thrillers and non-fiction. I’m pretty evenly divided with my book genres ( I post all my reviews on Goodreads, but mostly graphic novels are on this blog).

What is your favorite part of using your local library?

I adore reading, but truth be told, I don’t own a great many books (but still more than the average person). I buy my children a lot of books, but I get a majority of my reads for free from the library. When I was growing up libraries didn’t have the programming they do nowadays, so I enjoy creating programs for the teens I work with, attending adult programs myself and when my children were younger taking them to story time.

I am not tagging anyone in particular, although I’d like to see how my writing partner Kathleen would respond. So, please go ahead if you are interested, and share your library love!

-Nancy

Truer words have never been spoken!

Thirsty Mermaids

From Kat Leyh, best known for Lumberjanes, comes this story of three mermaids who use a spell to turn into humans and party on land for one night – so they think. Pearl, Tooth, and Eez wake up the next morning in an alley with a wicked hangover and the realization that they don’t know the spell to turn them back into mermaids. Vivi, the bartender from the night before, takes pity on them and takes them in. There’s a stipulation, however. Pearl and Tooth must get jobs to pitch in with rent while Eez figures out how to turn them back. Can they make it on land, or will they go back to the sea? Will they even want to?

This wasn’t one for me. I tried and failed to get into Lumberjanes at the suggestion of a coworker, but it just didn’t work for me – and neither did this one. The premise is trashy, in my opinion. The three main characters desperately want to go on land… to get drunk? I can understand the desire to experience things on land, but surely there could have been other ways of getting them there other than a desire to party. Then again, I’m not the target audience for this book and have never been a drinker, so this could be just me.

Now, this DID get better as it went on. It became a sweet story of acceptance, openness to new experiences, and making your own “pod” – or found family, for those who don’t speak mermaid 😉 It touches on issues such as body dysmorphia and anxiety. There is excellent LGBTQA+ and POC representation. The fantasy aspects of the story take second place to the “real world”, interpersonal, and inner conflicts of the characters.

I never felt like I got past the initial premise, so the second and third acts weren’t as effective for me as they could have been. Teens and young adults will likely take no issue with this, and find it uproariously funny to boot. They will fall head over heels for the characters, all their struggles, and all the ways they hold each other together.

-Kathleen

Leyh, Kat. Thirsty Mermaids. 2021.

One Soul

Eighteen different lives- one soul.

This ambitious book weaves together eighteen different lives, spread out through the centuries to tell a singular tale. Each page has nine panels, with the neighboring page having the other nine, thus you see eighteen lives at once, all in a similar time period of their lives. Author and illustrator Ray Fawkes created a unique mosaic, the small stories coming together to tell a grander one.

How you choose to read the story can vary, and quite honestly can be frustrating, until you find a system that works for you. After flipping through the book to get an idea of the structure, I ended up starting at the beginning and choosing one life to concentrate on and then proceeding chronologically through the book, eighteen times over. One life ends early, the panels going black to symbolize their death, with the other lives ending as various times, with one woman being the longest-lived. As you flip through the book, even if only concentrating on one panel at a time, you will start to notice patterns and themes in all eighteen lives as they proceed through life. My advice is to read this book in several different sittings, it will blur if you try to read it in one fell swoop.

The stories take place all over the world in all different eras. We start with a hunter and gatherer and end with a modern-day individual- with sad and happy stories, some people finding happiness while others endure brutal ends. They all start as innocent babies and due to circumstances and/or choices they all diverge and travel different paths until their lives end. The narrative becomes poetic, even more so when I decided to read some stories backward.

The black and white drawings were simplistic, but captured enough of the different time periods to give their stories an essence. At times the faces seem contorted and misshapen, and I found drawings of the hands to be especially blocky. Perspectives shift in the panels, sometimes to good effect, other times it seemed off. Names, locations and years are not given but you can surmise enough information to understand.

While religion was not touched on deeply, the title makes you think about the universality of life. While the eighteen lives here were all different, the goals of finding love and fulfillment are ubiquitous to all. This is a challenging book to read, and might not be to everyone’s liking, but I found the concept interesting enough to persevere.

-Nancy

18 different panels- 18 different lives

Magus of the Library (Vol. 4)

Theo returns to Aftzaak after passing his kafna exam for his training! Not only did he pass, but so did everyone he met on the road and in the exam: Ohgga, Natica, Sala, Peperino, Mihona, and Alv. As he meets the rest of his cohort, he begins to wonder anew how he fits in among them. As their entire first year is spent in training, he has some time to get to know them. Their class is led by Professor Xtoh, a hard and firm woman who does not tolerate softness. It’s during the Matriculation Ceremony that Theo sees Sedona again – as the head of the Protection’s Office. He meets her afterward and offers to return the book she gave him, but she encourages him to keep it. He vows to meet her again after he becomes a kafna. Will he be able to keep his promise?

I wasn’t expecting this series to have this big an ensemble cast of characters. It was a little overwhelming for me. The chapter breaks each had a few characters and bios on them, which did help, but I feel that a “cast of characters” page in volumes going forward would be very beneficial.

The most fun thing for me in this volume were the flipped gender roles. Theo is assigned a room with the only two other boys who passed the kafna exam: Alv and newcomer Sumomo. While very smart, he is intimidated by women as he comes from a family almost exclusively of kafna! At one point he explains how the women in his family had to become almost aggressively assertive so they would be taken seriously. The context of this passage is comical, but it was funny in part because it’s true!

Other than that, the poetic prose and rich lore and artwork keep me coming back. Looking forward to more!

– Kathleen

Izumi, Mitsu. Magus of the Library (Vol. 4). 2020.

Jupiter’s Legacy

When I saw a picture of hunky Josh Duhamel dressed as a superhero in a long grey wig, I was intrigued with this new series he was going to star in. Then I heard it was based off a Mark Millar graphic novel (which could be wonderful or terrible- there is no in-between) I wanted to give the source material a read before I committed to this series that premiers today on Netflix. It starts with a common trope- can the next generation of superheroes live up to the original heroes?

Book One

Starting in 1932, we are given a brief origin story, drawn as a throw back to the pulp-style comics that were churned out in the 1920’s & 1930’s with a vibe similar to Doc Savage, The Spirit or The Phantom. This sepia-toned introduction then contrasts sharply with the brightly colored modern day, filled with jaded Millennials who are second-generation heroes, who are all children from the original six. Chloe and Brandon, the young adult children of Utopian and Lady Liberty, are bored and resentful and absolutely not living up to their potential. Utopian’s brother Walter, who has amazing powers himself, starts to slyly convince his nephew Brandon that he should overthrow his parents and the entire world government. Leaving Chloe in the dark about his evil plans, Brandon convinces his fellow super-powered assholes they should take control and then they all do terrible terrible things.

Secretly pregnant, Chloe escapes and hides out with her boyfriend Hutch, who is the son of a former villian. Their son Jason turns out to have epic powers that they try to hide, but when Brandon’s leadership proves to be a disaster (no big surprise) this little family begins to make plans when they are discovered.

The art by Frank Quitely is very strong- capably going between the different time periods and showcasing the two generations and the many characters. He has a distinctive sketchy style for faces. Most pages have a four or five panel layout with only a few splash pages per chapter. This universe stands alone- it’s not a copycat of Marvel or DC- and was fully fleshed out.

This first book was a great introduction to the characters and story and I’m ready for more!

Book Two

Chloe, Hutch and Jason are on a quest- to find or rescue so-called former villains, who are actually good compared to the super-powered “heroes” in charge now. This book moves fast through the adventures of assembling a team and Hutch finding an additional surprising ally. Brandon and Walter continue their evil ways, and finally its showdown time. Chloe comes face to face with her brother and exacts revenge in regards to what he did to their parents.

This story arc was rushed, there were threads in the narrative that were left hanging and some character’s powers were either too much or too little with no consistency. There were some interesting aspects of the story that could have been expanded such as the alien connection, but a feel-good bow was added to the conclusion to wrap up everything. However, I was a fan of how Chloe, Hutch and Jason all picked up the mantles of family members they wanted to honor, and are planning a better future for themselves and the world.

The art remained a strength- I enjoyed all the varied costumes and some interesting backgrounds were drawn in. The cat and unicorn panel was a stand-out in the story, it was unexpected and fun. Plus, I liked the ongoing joke that simply wearing glasses was an adequate disguise (hello Clark Kent!).

This two-volume series definitely has me interested in following the Netflix series. In fact, I picked up the prequels, Jupiter’s Circle, and look forward to the sequel Jupiter’s Requiem coming out soon.

-Nancy

The Witcher (Vol. 2): Fox Children

Geralt and his traveling companion – the dwarf Addario Bach – embark upon a ship bound for Novigrad in exchange for their services. The crew is on a rescue mission and they need protection. They are looking to recover the elf girl Xymenna, daughter of fur tannery heiress Briana de Sepulveda, who was kidnapped by a vulpess. Geralt instantly claims they are mad: a vulpess is a rare creature, but deadly in that she fights with illusions and deception. The crew and the Witcher bicker as the ship steers ever more slowly into the swamp and eventually loses its’ way. Now they must band together to decide what’s real if they are to make it to their destination alive.

I’ve been reading the Witcher novels, which prompted me to pick the graphic novel series back up. The thing I enjoy most about this universe are the very gray areas in which it operates. There is no truly good character or creature, nor truly evil character or creature. The art reflects that with blocky figures and backgrounds and stark shading, creating an ominous atmosphere which forces you to guess character’s intentions. It was a fast, quick read (unlike the novels in my experience, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing) that would be good for the beach 😉 Looking forward to more!

– Kathleen

Tobin, Paul, and Joe Querio. The Witcher (Vol. 2): Fox Children. 2015.

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