Friday, August 15, 2014

Unwritten: On To Genesis

The Unwritten Vol. 5: On to Genesis Mike Carey and Peter Gross

Back story time! Through some fairly fun hijinks (involving explosions, the Cabal, and Madame Rauch), we see more of what Wilson Taylor was up to, both in the time before Tommy Taylor, but also in how he raised Tom and Lizzie. And the Cabal kicks its game up a notch.

So it doesn’t do much to develop overall plot, but it continues to answer some questions, and the back story is awesomely f-ed up. I like it involves comics-as-literature, and I like the introduction of The Tinker--an old-timey over-the-top superhero. It answers A LOT of questions and raises even more as the world and plot really start to make sense.

Book Provided by... my local library

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Steal Like an Artist

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative Austin Kleon

Who ever had this one checked out before me left a some sticky arrows in the front cover, which was good, because I ended up using them.

This book is a short read--lots of graphics, fun typography, and white space, with some good advice about how to be creative and make your art.

Kleon’s basic point is that nothing is new anymore, so steal inspiration from things you enjoy. As he reminds us, even the Beatles started as a cover band. Also, if you steal from 1 person, that’s plagiarism. Stealing from many is research.

He tells the reader to think about the flaws you see in your favorite artists work--what could have been done differently? If they were still alive, what would they make today? If your 5 favorite artists got together and made something, what would it be? And then he tells us to go make those things.

I also like that he tells us to give our secrets away. Part of it is building a name for yourself, but he also reminds us that Martha Stewart built an empire on telling the world how she does stuff.

It was a great read and well-designed, with a lot of advice and inspiration on how to go out and make art. I really loved it and now I need my own copy to mark up and reread on a regular basis.

Book Provided by... my local library

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Last Gleaming

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight Volume 8: Last Gleaming Joss Whedon, Georges Jeanty, Scott Allie

So, Twilight would have been a logical conclusion to the season, but no, this one’s all about consequences, so it takes a bit of a left turn here in a way that actually works.

So, Buffy and Angel can never just be happy--no when they had superpower sex they created an entire universe, and Buffy then abandoned it to return to Earth. But nature, even on other planes, abhors a vacuum and, well, there are consequences to creating a universe, and there are consequences to abandoning it. It all ties back to the seed of wonder--the root of magic on Earth that turns out is physical object… and it’s in Sunnydale.

The question is what to do with it--protect it? Destroy it? Give it away? The gang goes back to the beginning--back to Sunnydale and back to the Protector, who is an awesome bit of “casting” on the part of Whedon et. al. Some very nice parallels with the beginning of the series (and by that, I mean the first season that was on TV beginning of the series).

And of course, at the end of Twilight, we had Spike show up in a goddamned spaceship piloted by giant cockroaches because OF COURSE SPIKE NOW HAS A GODDAMNED SPACESHIP PILOTED BY GIANT COCKROACHES. (This makes me joyously happy, both for the WTF?! factor, but also because I just love Spike. Who doesn’t love Blondey-Bear?)

Things never go right in Sunnydale, and what happens there is devastating on so many levels, making it surprisingly satisfying end to the season, and perfectly setting up the Angel & Faith spinoff.

And oh man, I thought this season dealt well with the consequences of creating a slayer army? There are MAJOR consequences to what goes down in Sunnydale--ones that are going to haunt Buffy & Co. for a long, long time.

Book Provided by... my local library

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Hollywood Sisters: Caught on Tape

Here's another reprinted review from the much-missed Edge of the Forest

The Hollywood Sisters: Caught on Tape Mary Wilcox

Life in Hollywood can be crazy, but for Jessica Ortiz, it’s not tabloid party-girl crazy. In this third installment of The Hollywood Sisters, Jess’s romantic complications continue, an overzealous tour company is eluding the police, plus there’s always drama on the set, and not just the scripted kind.

Jess’s TV star sister, Eva, has decided that, in order to speed things up on the Jeremy front, it’s time for fake-boyfriend Heathcliff to appear in person. Only she cast the brother of Jess’s creepy ex-boyfriend.

Not only has the Golden Tours bus company figured out where the Ortiz’s live, they’ve been pulling into the driveway! And it’s not just the Ortiz’s house—somehow this tour group even knows when gated houses are open, and always when the police are on the other side of the neighborhood.

Meanwhile, on the set, Lavender’s ex-boyfriend is pulling some very nasty, and very public, practical jokes on her. Jess knows it’s Murphy, but how is he getting onto the set? And how will she find out when she’s spending all of her time avoiding this week’s Very Special Guest Star?

A light, quick read, Caught on Tape shows the craziness of life in Hollywood, while featuring well-grounded characters that non-starlets can identify with. Jessica solves mysteries through observation and quick thinking. I also appreciate that her frequent poems read like they were written by the teenager she is. Overall, Hollywood Sisters is a very entertaining and fun series for tweens and teens.


Book Provided by... The Edge of the Forest, for review

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Monday, August 11, 2014

Martin Bridge: Out of Orbit

This review originally appeared in the sadly long defunct Edge of the Forest. I'm reprinting my last few reviews there so they're still available

Martin Bridge: Out of Orbit! Jessica Scott Kerrin, illustrated by Joseph Kelly

The latest volume in the adventures of Martin Bridge gives the reader another two tales about Martin, a sort of elementary-aged every-boy. In the first, Martin’s classmate Harper, is always telling outlandish lies that Martin’s friends actually believe—things like Harper is getting a jet pack bike or that his father is really a spy. Although it is not explored in the context of the story, Martin’s main annoyance with this is that Harper’s stories often steal attention away from Martin. However, we do explore why Harper tells the tales he does. In the end, Harper’s story-telling is as very useful skill to have.

In the second story, Martin gets hurt while trying to emulate his favorite superhero, Zip Rideout. This prompts much soul-searching as to why comic book heroes and TV characters never get hurt, although they are often involved in situations where injury is bound to happen. Luckily, the creator of Zip Rideout is coming to school, so Martin can ask him some very pointed questions.

Kelly’s black-and-white graphite and charcoal illustrations break up the text nicely and add to the story—especially when illustrating how Martin pogo-sticks out of his tree house.

Martin’s problems and achievements are ones that kids will easily be able to relate too. Although he learns some good life lessons, the stories do not read as didactic—they are fun and enjoyable. Sure to be a hit with boys and girls alike.

Book Provided by... Edge of the Forest, for review

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Friday, August 08, 2014

Lover's Dictionary

The Lover's Dictionary: A Novel David Levithan

Levithan makes the jump from YA to adult with something breathtaking in its simplicity and originality.

The story is basic enough, a couple, you and me, how we met, how we fell in love, how we moved in together, how we met each other’s friends and families, how we spend our time. You drink too much. You cheated on me. I don’t know if I can get past it, how we get past it.

But it’s not told in a basic manner, rather it’s a dictionary, in alphabetical order, with parts of the story coming out for each definition. Some definitions are a sentence or two. Some last for a page. What I really love is when the same part of the story is used for different words, with the story continuing, or emphasizing details that changes the meaning, and our understanding of it.

deciduous, adj. I couldn’t believe one person could own so many pairs of shoes and still buy new ones every year.

fluke, n. The date before the one with you had gone so badly --egoist, smoker, bad breath--that I’d vowed to delete my profile the next morning. Except when I went to do it, I realized I only had eight days left in the billing cycle. So I gave it eight days. You emailed me on the sixth.

It’s a short book-- only 211 pages, with most pages only have a paragraph on them, but it takes awhile to read. There are lines you have to read between and fill in, the story is out of order, and part of you just wants to savor the way it unfolds before you.

Ever since Boy Meets Boy, I’ve loved Levithan’s love stories, and this one is no different, even if it is between adults and is a bit more cynical (but just a bit--there’s still the wide-eyed exuberance, even if it’s a little quieter--it’s just hiding under the surface a bit.)

I love the craft of this one, but it’s Levithan’s writing and story that make it go beyond gimmick into something worth taking the time to savor. (Seriously--there’s a reason it’s an Outstanding Book for the College Bound)

Book Provided by... my local library

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Thursday, August 07, 2014

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Twilight

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight Volume 7: Twilight Brad Meltzer, Georges Jeanty, Joss Whedon

So… Dawn + Xander sitting in a tree K-I-S-S-I-N-G. hee hee.

Ok, back to the main plot-- Buffy and Willow have to clean up the mess they unleashed in Tibet, but Buffy’s suddenly developed some startling powers--like being able to fly. Meanwhile, Willow’s figured out that the Scoobies are missing some key characters and is trying to find them--only to discover that slayer cells around the world have been attacked and decimated. Meanwhile, it’s time for the big Buffy/Twilight showdown only… the results aren’t what anyone was expecting (Well, maybe Twilight was.)

And hoo-boy, the reveal of Twilight is something else. (Not only in identity, but the dialogue in that moment is pretty awesome and classic.)

There are some old slayer legends that need to be brought to light, because when Buffy made all the potentials slayers, there was some MAJOR blowback, and that’s why Buffy has powers, that’s why Twilight’s been doing what he’s doing, and that’s why, when they finally meet, something REALLY big happens.

(Also, I’m still laughing at Dawn’s well-placed “Ben is Glory?” line. Perfect.)

Consequences, consequences, consequences. I think that’s what this season does better than most of the TV seasons did. (With the exception of Season 6.) Buffy changed the world-- there’s a reaction to that. And what Buffy and Twilight do, well, there’s major blowback to that as well.

Book Provided by... my local library

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Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Fool

Fool: A Novel Christopher Moore

What Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal did for the gospels, Fool does for King Lear.

I originally picked this up because when I saw Moore had a new one out, The Serpent of Venice*, I put a hold on it, only to discover it was a sequel. So, of course I went back and read Fool.

Now, I’ve never read Lear, but that’s ok. Moore’s book might have been smarter and funnier if I were more familiar with the source material, but it’s plenty smart and plenty hilarious without it.

Basically, Fool is a hilarious retelling of King Lear form the Fool’s perspective. The Fool sees everything around him, and in Moore’s version, ends up driving most of the plot (with some help from the Weird Sisters, on loan from MacBeth.)

Much like Lamb, while the commentary and the book are very smart and well done, it’s also super-raunchy and full of swearing, sex, and anachronism. This is Moore at his best. Slightly offensive, very “earthy” and extremely smart. This reminds me that Moore is one of my favorite authors for a reason.

*If Fool = Lear, I assume Serpent of Venice = Merchant of Venice

Book Provided by... my local library

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Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Unwritten: Leviathan

The Unwritten Vol. 4: Leviathan Mike Carey and Peter Gross

Tommy’s been told to go to the source, which is Moby Dick. Yes--they’re off hunting the elusive white whale. Meanwhile, Pullman (and his creepy wooden hand) meet a super-creepy puppet maker. But the real meat of the story is when Tom gets sucked into Moby Dick, which has his dad playing Ahab and Frankenstein’s Monster lurking in the shadows. By the end, Tom has figured out some really big clues to WTF is going on here. And it’s totally awesome (in every sense of the world.)

It ends with some random animals climbing an endless staircase, featuring our favorite surly rabbit from the issue at the end of Inside Man.

I really like the direction this series is going in, and what it says about the importance of story. I'm also impressed how long it took for Carey and Gross to explain this world, and what they were doing. It says a lot about their level of craft that readers have held on for so long without understanding the basic premise of the story. The payoff is definitely worth the wait.

Book Provided by... my local library

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Monday, August 04, 2014

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Retreat

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 Volume 6: Retreat Jane Espenson, Andy Owens, Joss Whedon

Harmony’s PR campaign and Twilight’s army have forced the slayers into hiding. They’re losing members left and right and go to Tibet, to find Oz, to have him teach them how to suppress their magic. It doesn’t go well. Twilight’s still onto them. But hey! There is redemption for one character! Plus, OZ!

Oz is married and has a kid and Willow has some issues. She’s jealous he gets a “normal” life. She wants that, but also feels it’s fake, because who is she without magic? What is she without magic? Can she suppress hers like the others? Does she even want to?

There are also some major consequences for their actions that are worth considering.

I feel like this volume is a turning point for the series, because it’s where Buffy really has to start facing the consequences of what she’s done--creating an entire army of slayers upsets the balance and there’s a price to be paid for that. The full ramifications still have to be explored, but this is where you see that turning all potentials into Slayers might not have been the happy ending it appeared at the end of the TV-run.

Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.