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Cheshire Crossing

What do Alice Liddel, Wendy Darling, and Dorothy Gale have in common? Well, everyone thinks they’re crazy. Each girl has claimed to have gone to a different world and had fantastical, yet harrowing, adventures. They are sent to Cheshire Crossing under the pretense of getting the best medical care. However, Dr. Rutherford, the director, and Miss Poole, their nanny, actually BELIEVE the girls. Dr. Rutherford believes he can teach the girls to control their powers to step in and out of alternate realities – and whatever other powers they may develop. Alice, having none of it, tries to escape. As Wendy and Dorothy try to stop her, the girls accidentally unleash the Wicked Witch upon Neverland, where she teams up with Captain Hook. Can three untrained girls and their nanny possibly have a hope of fixing their mistake?

Nancy reviewed this one for School Library Journal, and at her encouragement I took a stab at this one too. Andy Weir and Sarah Anderson are a lively creative team. They took the question of “What happens after happily ever after?” and decided that for these girls, ever after was not so happy. They are a little more grown up, and perhaps a little more hardened, than you remember, though they have not lost their original charm. It made for a fun romp across the real world, Neverland, Wonderland, and Oz.

I have to admit, like Nancy, it too left me a little confused as to which audience it was meant for. The writing and themes were undoubtedly for a YA audience, but the illustrations skewed years younger. If I didn’t know any better, at first glance I’d say it was a middle grade graphic novel, because of the straightforward panel layout, rounded forms, exaggerated features and facial expressions, and bright colors. In this way, this graphic novel is not as effective as it could have been. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I could have because I couldn’t get past the disconnect between the writing and the art.

For the target audience (I’ll say upper middle grade to YA), Cheshire Crossing is a fun, empowering take on classic female characters, and going off the cliffhanger ending, with much more in store.

– Kathleen

Weir, Andy, and Sarah Andersen. Cheshire Crossing. 2019.

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The Perineum Technique

Contemporary video artist JH and Sarah met on a dating app, and hit it off right away. They meet on Skype regularly for hook ups. Though Sarah is elusive, cold even, JH can’t stop thinking about her, and starts to become obsessed. Despite his best efforts, he can’t seem to convince her to meet in real life. When finally she does cave, she asks him to meet at a swinger’s party, and asks a vow of abstinance lasting months while she’s on vacation. JH will do anything she asks, if only for the chance to get close to her. When she gets back, will they finally have a chance?

This is a very adult graphic novel that focuses on the juxtaposition of emotional intimacy in the age of online dating. We only focus on the “relationship” from JH’s point of view. We see him struggle with trying to connect to Sarah, but just like him, we readers are left to wonder about and draw our own conclusions about how Sarah is feeling. The most effective panels are of JH, alone, staring at his computer screen or his phone, waiting for an answer.

Though there is nudity, there is very little explicit sexual content. Instead we experience JH and Sarah’s sexual acts through visual metaphor, some of which are JH’s video art pieces. I found the cliff sequences quite clever: JH and Sarah are falling down a cliff, holding onto swords or daggers that make marks in the cliff face. For the most part they are parallel to each other, but sometimes they cross. Sometimes the sword or dagger marks wobble with increased or decreased frequency. To me this suggests the level of excitement or involvement that both parties have in the sexual act.

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Page 76 of The Perineum Technique, showing one of the visual sexual metaphors.

Though some of the mind games shown here probably went over my head, as I’ve never dated online, I was impressed by the artwork and the alternative ways that sexual acts were portrayed. We see two young adults struggling to find what they need, when they might not even realize they need it. Though I tend to roll my eyes at the “intimacy vs. technology” cliche, I found this one to be the most effective I’ve read so far.

– Kathleen

Ruppert & Mulot. The Perineum Technique. 2019.

Norroway (Book 1): The Black Bull of Norroway

Sibylla is not your usual little girl. She craves adventure, not a husband. When she goes to see a witch with two of her peers to get her fortune told, she asks, “Will I ever get to sail a ship?” The amused witch tells her instead that she will marry – the Black Bull of Norroway. He is supposed to be a terrifying legend. Sibylla, however, isn’t fazed. When the Black Bull does indeed show up at her doorstep when she’s older, she readily packs her bags and goes with him. He is on a quest to break the curse that was put on him, and do to that, he needs a bride, a sword, and a shield. Sibylla is the required bride, but she’s ready to prove that she’s so much more than that. She puts her foot down and travels with him across Norroway, searching for the last elements and trials he must endure to break his curse.

I absolutely adored this graphic novel, adapted from a Scottish fairy tale, written and illustrated by two sisters named Kit and Cat Seaton. I’d say it’s middle grade to young adult, but I found it entertaining as an adult. Sibylla’s no-nonsense and tenacious personality was a big draw for me. She and Bull are a lot alike, but they also learn a lot from each other throughout this story. This is only the first volume, with (hopefully!) many more promising adventures ahead.

As such, the full backstory of Bull’s curse is only hinted at, and the repercussions of the curse on those close to him aren’t yet fully unfolded. Many times in fantasy, when there is a curse involved, it only involves and affects the one person on whom the curse was placed. Here, the curse affects multiple people, adding an extra layer of intrigue. By doing this also, it emphasizes the fact that the actions of one person have consequences for many. Very rarely do our choices impact only ourselves. I appreciated this aspect of the story most, and would be looking forward to more for that alone…

… If it weren’t for the art, too. It’s delightful! I don’t think it is watercolor, though there is an airy quality about it all the same, like you would get with watercolors. Both human and bull characters are adorably animated and expressive, bringing the story to life. The backgrounds and landscapes remind me almost of ancient Asian paintings. There is a soft and calming quality about them, much like those old works, that I enjoy.

This is the first installment in what promises to be a delightful series, filled with intrigue, adventure, and two stubborn heroes learning to live with and like each other. I am highly anticipating the second volume.

– Kathleen

Seaton, Kit & Cat. Norroway (Book 1): The Black Bull of Norroway. 2018.

Cosplayers

Annie is a cosplayer – she makes costumes for fictional characters and dresses up like them for conventions and for fun. Verti is a photographer and aspiring videographer. They meet and become friends. They spend a summer together making videos, posting them on YouTube, and attending conventions to meet other fans and participate in cosplay contests.

There isn’t so much an overarching story here as it is a series of related vignettes. There is very little plot, character development, or conflict. There really isn’t that much about cosplay. To me, it felt like a few stories about two flimsily-written girls and their screwing around over a summer – and they happen to like anime and cosplay. The hows and whys are omitted, plopping us right in the middle of their story (such as it is) without exposition. There are some stabs at themes of loneliness, attachment in the digital age, and even existentialism, but they felt half-baked and tossed in because, “Why not?”

The art is subpar. It’s drawn simply, which provides easy access to the book, but I found it overly simple. Many panels are one color, or two variations of, and it sort of reminded me of two-color prints. Normally I would have enjoyed it more, but the writing was so paper-thin I just couldn’t get into it. Overall, I found this one really frustrating and disappointing – I am wondering why it was so hyped.

– Kathleen

Shaw, Dash. Cosplayers. 2018.

Guest Post on Perspective of a Writer

Graphic novels have been growing in popularity but it seems at times that a prejudice against them remains, with a lingering doubt about their literary merit. So when Dani from Perspective of a Writer asked me to share a post on her site about my passion for graphic novels, I was happy to oblige.

As a former elementary teacher, and now a current teen librarian, I want to let readers know of this genre’s merit and direct them to novels that will make them fans if they weren’t already. Get ready to find out examples of books that I put under the categories: Diverse Reads, Dark & Disturbing, Real & Gritty and Classic Superhero. Please take a look at my Ultimate List of Graphic Novels!

-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.

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!

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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!

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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

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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.

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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

Top 5 Wednesday: Bookish Things You’re a Grinch About

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

I had a really nice post scheduled for today, but I had to reschedule it when I saw this prompt. I laughed pretty hard. Grade A Grinch right here. I hate the holidays. I hate the stress of gift-giving, I hate that we spend a literal entire day baking every year, I hate that my mom has 17 boxes of decorations that ALL have to get put up EVERY YEAR, and most of all, I hate how materialistic it all is.

But I know no one wants to hear me be a Grinch about the holidays because I’m apparently a total killjoy, so y’all can hear me be a Grinch about book things instead!!! (It’s my gift to you. Enjoy)

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5. Boring starts

My reading time is severely limited. I have two part-time jobs, art commissions to keep up with, and now a wedding to plan. I don’t have time to waste on boring books! I used to stick ’em out, but I don’t have the patience anymore. My new rule is, if it doesn’t grab me within 3 chapters, I’m done!

4. Slooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooow moving

This goes hand in hand with the first one. I actually don’t mind slow-moving novels. It’s when graphic novels are slower paced that I start chomping at the bit. This is probably because I’m so used to reading superhero comics that, by nature, are fast-paced. Slow-moving graphic novels seems like an oxymoron to me!

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3. Formulaic plots

I hate guessing how the plot is going to go, then being right. Some plots you see over and over and over again. Shake it up, people!!!

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2. Poorly designed covers

Like… did you even try???

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1. Mainstream fiction

You know what I mean. Those authors who put out 3 books every year and whose names take up half the cover. I read one Danielle Steele novel and that was more than enough for me. Call me a hipster, but I hate reading what everyone else reads!!!

So there you have it! A gloriously Grinchy post =P What are you a Grinch about?

– Kathleen

Revival Conclusion

My love affair with Revival has drawn to a close. When I discovered the series a year ago, there were six volumes already out, and I eagerly looked forward to the next two volumes as the story came to an epic conclusion.

Volume 7: Forward

There are entirely too many plot threads and characters in this next to last volume for me to imagine them adequately wrapped up in the upcoming final volume. Not only that, we were introduced to a few more…an Amish assassin and her daughter. What???

Now, I really enjoyed the what he/she wanted in life vs what they got storylines. Reality can end up being very different than what you envisioned, so this was great character development for some of the Wausau residents.

General Cale has rounded up the ghosts and continues to keep the Revivers in a holding facility, and it is unclear as to how much she really knows, and the motivations for her villainy. The ending of this volume throws everything into chaos, with many characters on the run. Not many puzzle pieces have fallen into place for me yet, so the ending of this series is anybody’s guess. I look forward to seeing how Seeley and Norton plan on wrapping up this intriguing series and hope that my favorite characters have a worthy conclusion to this mystery.

This is a picture of me!! I won a contest to have my cameo drawn into the last issue!

Volume 8: Just Stay A Little Bit Longer

The last volume was a poignant ending to the complete series, and felt true to the beginning. The series had such a promising start, and while I struggled a bit in the middle wondering where the mystery was headed and the climax was a bit rushed, it came together beautifully at the end.

There was a lot to cover in the conclusion of the series, as General Cale, the splinter militia groups and the escaped Revivers are in the woods and preparing for battle. Dana has finally put together the clues of who killed her sister Em (which made her a Reviver) and confronts that person (I resisted spoiling it for you!). She learns the connection between Em’s dead former lover Professor Weimar, the killer, and yet another character we have met; as the trio that caused the whole Reviver phenomenon.

Dana, the pregnant(!) Em and her killer head to the river to try to rectify the damage and stop the carnage, as death and chaos erupt nearby. Sacrifices are made, yet parting words of love are shared and the uneasy allegiance they had to strike to stop the madness works. The two page spread of an imagined future between two of the characters was so beautiful, that I teared up, and reread it several times simply to experience it’s emotional power again.

A sweet two year flash forward continues to show the resolution of the character arcs, and while one of my favorites didn’t live, their death was not in vain. A tease of a possible continuation of the story concludes this powerful and complex rural noir series.

As icing on the cake, I won a contest to have myself drawn in as a cameo in the last issue, and was thrilled to portray a doctor in two panels in the last pages. I will be talking about this honor and showing people my picture in the book until my dying day. Not only was that opportunity the very coolest, it was in one of my absolute favorite graphic novels!

I will be keeping my eyes out for future work from the skilled team of Tim Seeley and Mike Norton.  These talented men created an amazing fictional world that kept me enthralled for a year, for Seeley knew how to create a thrilling series, and Norton’s fantastic illustrations elevated the story to new heights.  So, if you  haven’t already, read for yourself the entire thrilling mystery!

-Nancy

Review of Deluxe Editions One, Two and Three.

How I got picked to get a Revival cameo.

*Disclosure- The Deluxe Edition Four is not out until May, but I used the cover, as that is how I have organized past reviews. (Look at the hands on the left, for it looks like two hands holding each other- symbolism??)

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