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Top 5 Wednesday

Top 5 Wednesday: Independent Ladies

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: favorite leading ladies who aren’t distracted from getting shit done by their love interest.

Princess Leia from Star Wars

Princess Leia was getting shit done before a certain flyboy and scoundrel came into her life! She was a member of the Imperial Senate and a member of the Rebel Alliance when she was just a teenager and later became a General of the resistance. Her romance and later marriage to Han Solo were fit in between her amazing adventures.

Wonder Woman from the Kingdom Come storyline

When a new generation of heroes was failing and an impending apocalyptic event looms, Wonder Woman comes out of retirement to retrieve Superman who was in seclusion to save the world. The two of them, plus Batman, put everything right again and only after that does a romance between Diana and Clark develop. Loved the epilogue of this story!

Tyleet from the ElfQuest saga

Tyleet is a favorite character of mine from the ElfQuest series who is kind, patient and steady. As a second generation of the Wolfrider clan, she was single for hundreds of years before she unexpectedly “recognized” (when two elves are drawn together to create a child) an older elf Scouter. Despite her subsequent pregnancy Tyleet remained true to herself and in helping neighboring tribes of humans. Scouter learned to help her instead of stopping her from assisting those he had previously viewed as the enemy.

Officer Dana Cypress from the Revival series

Inexplicably, twenty three people come back to life in rural small town Wisconsin.Their new existence sets the town on edge, with media scrutiny, a government quarantine and religious fanatics taking over the region. Officer Dana Cypress, a single mother and daughter of the sheriff, is asked to head the unit looking into this phenomenon. A problem arises when she discovers her younger sister is one of the “revivers”. She meets a scientist who is there to study the undead, and he becomes a love interest, but it is completely secondary to her solving the mystery.

Faith Herbert aka Zephyr of the Harbinger Renegades

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. In this series, Faith has taken a break from the Renegades to discover herself. She still fights crime, but works as a journalist as her alter-ego. A new romance with another hero Archer is hinted at but her friendships remain a priority. She is a worthy adversary of any super villain, with promising future story lines.  You go girl!

I love how all these women are examples of how a woman can remain true to themselves while in the midst of a relationship. Women should be partners with the men they love and not subvert who they are.  These five examples of independent ladies are fantastic role models!

-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

Top 5 Wednesday: Books to Give Realists as Gifts

I’m back with a T5W post, after a very long break from it!  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 creating a recommendations guide for a certain type of person. I am a practical lass, and a bit of a pessimist truth be told, so I am choosing books a realist would like.  For the last year and a half, ever since I discovered Briggs Land, I have been having a reading affair with Brian Wood who takes real and edgy to the extreme.

Continue reading “Top 5 Wednesday: Books to Give Realists as Gifts”

Top 5 Wednesday: Children’s Books to Read as an Adult

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme from Goodreads, created by Lainey from Gingerreadslainey and now moderated by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes. I am actually using last week’s prompt (don’t arrest me T5W police!) about children’s books that adults should read.

As a mother, former teacher, and now a librarian- I love children’s books! All of these books are worth revisiting as adults and should be read and re-read multiple times! I am sticking to picture books for the illustrations completely elevate the stories.

When Jessie Came Across The Sea written by Amy Hest and illustrated by P.J. Lynch

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This beautifully illustrated book shares the immigrant experience of many eastern Europeans through the eyes of Jesse, a Jewish teen, who is awarded a ticket to America. She reluctantly leaves her beloved Grandmother and travels on the boat that will take her past the awe inspiring Statue of Liberty to Ellis Island. Other passengers of various ethnic backgrounds are shown, and Jesse befriends a young man named Lou. Taken in by a dressmaker in NYC, Jesse sews lace, and by chance re-meets Lou and a romance develops. Years go by with Jesse learning to speak and write in English, and all the while saving money for a ticket for her Grandmother to join her. Jesse has put off marrying Lou until she is reunited with her Grandmother, so the final page of the reunion is lovely and heartwarming. I cry every time I get to the end of this book.

Pink and Say written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco

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Patricia Polacco has written many picture books that are beautiful, heartbreaking, and memorable but Pink and Say is the one that makes me cry every single time I read it. The author shares the story that she claims has been passed down through the generations from her great great grandfather Sheldon (Say) Curtis about his friendship with Pinkus (Pink) Aylee during the Civil War. Say is a teenaged white soldier from Ohio who is injured in battle in Georgia and discovered by Pink, an African American soldier and brings him back to his home to be tended to by his mother. While he mends, Say bonds with Pink and his family but the two young soldiers are eventually caught by Confederates and sent to the prison camp Andersonville. Pink’s fate breaks your heart, but Say keeps his memory alive as he survives the war, and the book puts a human face on the devastation of this terrible time in our nation’s history.

The Dark-Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural written by Patricia C. McKissack and illustrated by Brian Pinkney

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This is an outstanding collection of ten supernatural/horror stories for older youth. Author Patricia C. McKissack sets the African-American tales in the deep south, and the evocative back and white pictures by Brian Pinkney add atmosphere to these Gothic type stories. What really adds weight to the dark and spooky stories is that they are based on real happenings during the slavery era, in addition to stories on civil rights brutality and modern day lynchings. An eye-opening compilation that I highly recommend.

Jenny and the Cat Club written and illustrated by Esther Averill

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I adore these books about the shy black cat Jenny Linsky set in NYC. The books were old fashioned when I was a child, but have such enduring appeal. I read them to my children when they were younger and they loved the books too. The adventures that Jenny, her two cat brothers, and all the members of the cat club have are so flippin’ cute. This is the first of a series of books about the cats with The Fire Cat being the most popular. My teen-ager recently made a joke about the cats dancing the Sailor’s Hornpipe and red scarves…the stories stay with you!

The Old African written by Julius Lester and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

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Author Julius Lester and illustrator Jerry Pinkney team together again to tell a beautifully told magical realism tale for mature youth that is based on fact. The re-imaged story is based off the 1803 slave revolt in Georgia and mass suicide that occurred when newly captured Igbo people took over the ship that was transporting them to the various plantations that had bought them after they survived the Middle Passage.

As the Wiki article states “The event’s moral value as a story of resistance towards slavery has symbolic importance in African American folklore and literary history” and is captivatingly told by the talented author and illustrator. The leader of the slaves in this story is The Old African, who as a young man was kidnapped from his home along with his wife Ola. The Middle Passage is described in heartbreaking detail and does not shy away from the horrors of the conditions that were endured and the reality that women were sexually abused. We witness Ola committing suicide to avoid rape, and Jaja’s mentor Obasi being beaten to death.

Many years go by after he is sold into slavery, and Jaja is now an elderly man who is mute but has magical powers that he uses to help ease suffering on the plantation on which he lives. When an escaped slave is brought back and savagely whipped, he steps in to help, but knows his help has earned him a death sentence. He then leads a group of slaves to the ocean and leads them home to Africa. That the escaped slaves have a triumphant conclusion is symbolic for staying strong in the face of adversary and resisting oppression. I highly recommend this complex and thought provoking book, and would suggest it to readers who are ready to think critically about this book’s message.

Some honorable mentions would be all books written and illustrated by Virginia Lee Burton, especially The Little House and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane written by Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline.

If you haven’t read any of these books, make sure you check them out and/or revisit these books again if you’ve read them in the past. And most importantly- SHARE them with youth today!

-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!

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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

Top 5 Wednesday: Nostalgic Book Boyfriends

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme from Goodreads, created by Lainey from Gingerreadslainey and now moderated by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes. This week’s T5W topic is about characters you swooned over when you were younger!

History is my jam, so every single character is from earlier centuries. I loved me some historical fiction series, and read these books over and over (and over) again.

Almonzo Wilder from the Little House on the Prairie series. This guy was actually real, and truly a hunk. He saved a town from starvation, drove Laura home every week from her far away teaching job, and was willing to take the word obey out of their wedding vows! Hubba-hubba.

Gilbert Blythe from the Anne of Green Gables series.  I was reading the book series during the same time as the mid to late 80’s tv mini-series with Megan Follows and Jonathan Crombie so the handsome, kind and ever so patient Gilbert shall forever look like Jonathon.

Westley from The Princess Bride. While it was a book first, this is a major cheat, for it is Cary Elwes’s portrayal  in the movie that truly made my heart go pitter-patter. Look at the swoop of hair! So dreamy! I wanted to say “As you wish…” to Westley/Cary as he swept me away to a grand adventure.

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This is where my picks start to get embarrassing. The Sunfire series consisted of 32 books of questionable historical fiction. The main character was always a sixteen year old young woman at a pivotal time in America’s history that had to pick between two men who loved her. My favorite was the Jessica book set in 1873 Kansas and she had to pick between Wheeling Hawk or the widowed farmer Will. Spoiler alert- she choose Will and I was distraught. How could she not pick the far superior Wheeling Hawk? I mean look at those arms! For a funny review of this gem of a book read this post from Young Adult Historical Vault.

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I saved the worst for last. In addition to the Sunfire series, I was a fan of another atrocious historical series, White Indian. Set in New York State before the Revolutionary War, a white baby boy is kidnapped and raised by Indians to become a Seneca warrior. Renno was the greatest warrior of the tribe, and just happened to have blonde hair. My grandma had been reading this multi-generational saga and gave the books to my mom to take home and read herself. I swiped the first book and covertly read it in the car on the long way home from Florida. It had history, sex and  a hottie- I was hooked!

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So there you have it, my nostalgic boyfriends of yester-year. While I cringe at some of my selections, they all make me wistful for a time in which I was young and naive. But luckily for me, my real life boyfriend turned husband, turned out to be better than any of these book boyfriends! ♥

-Nancy

Top 5 Wednesday: Books Featuring Zombies!

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme from Goodreads, created by Lainey from Gingerreadslainey and now moderated by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes. This month’s T5W topics center around Halloween, and when asked to pick my favorite type of scary creature, I knew zombies was it!

Revival is a favorite of mine, and I have written a lot of posts about it. In this now completed series, twenty three people inexplicably come back to life in rural small town Wisconsin. The “Revivers” are not your typical zombies looking for braaaiins. Instead they quietly rejoin their former lives, not even realizing or remembering their deaths. Their new existence sets the town on edge, with media scrutiny, a government quarantine and religious fanatics taking over the region. The series is being developed into a movie through Shatterglass Films.

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The Walking Dead is the grand-daddy of all zombie series.  A fascinating premise, that is getting a bit long in the tooth now, but is still beloved by many. I list the three compendiums I have reviewed on my blog, but I have also been keeping up with the smaller volumes as they come out, and putting reviews up on my Goodreads account.

Compendium One (Volumes 1-8)

Compendium Two (Volumes 9-16)

Compendium Three (Volumes 17-24)

This book must be listened to on audio…it was beyond good. The story covers the history of the world wide war against zombies, and the narrative covers a reporter getting first hand accounts from survivors that tell about the beginning of the epidemic, the resistance, and the aftermath of the zombie catastrophe.  Some of the standout characters/stories were Todd Wainio, the Redker Plan, the North Korea speculation, the female Russian soldier, the pilot of the downed plane, and the family at the Manitoba campsite. A tiny criticism, is that I figured out every supposed surprise in the stories, and the connections between the world-wide characters strained credibility. The actors voicing the characters in the audio edition were perfect- Mark Hamill! Nathan Fillon! Denise Crosby! Jeri Ryan! Common! Alan Alda! I will definitely be listening to this story again and again.

Negan has been a prominent villain in the long running The Walking Dead series, and is a perverse mix of monster and savior. The question of how he became so twisted and his backstory during the zombie apocalypse is explained in this book that just came out the same week of Volume 28.

After is a strong collection of nineteen short stories about life “after” a catastrophic event. As with any compilation with various authors, some are stronger than others. One of the standouts was  After the Cure by Carrie Ryan. It  took the zombie story trope and subverted it. Vail is a teenager that was previously a zombie like creature but was given a cure to rehabilitate her. Society has a hard time accepting those rehabilitated people back into their communities, and the people themselves still feel some degree of hunger and a need to be back with their undead packs. Despite the melancholic nature of this story, there was a nugget of hope built into the end.

Who would have thought that zombies could be so appealing, but my reading list doesn’t lie!

-Nancy

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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