Showing posts with label print book. Show all posts
Showing posts with label print book. Show all posts

Monday, December 31, 2018

Newsprints by Ru Xu


Rating: WARTY!

Despite her name, author Ru Xu grew up in Indianapolis. This graphic novel depicts a newsie - a newspaper delivery 'boy' named Blue, who is really a girl in disguise. She dresses as a boy so she can be involved in the preferentially male newspaper industry. As you might guess, this is not a modern tale. These days she would start her own blog. Blue is an orphan, and despite the push to have her, as a girl, do girly things to help the war effort, Blue has managed to escape all that and push equality to the fore, but she pushes a little too hard and a rival newspaper delivery gang resents her poaching on their turf. In process of escaping their pursuit, she discovers an old factory, which has a resident. In the course of interactions with this older man, Blue also meets crow, another person with something to hide, and a friendship develops.

I'd like to be able to commend this in some ways, but it really didn't have much of a story to tell. I wasn't appalled by it, but neither was I enthralled, so I can't say this was a worthy read I'm sorry to report.


For the Love of God, Marie by Jade Sarson


Rating: WARTY!

This novel announces itself as a winner of a graphic novel contest (Myriad First Graphic Novel Competition, 2014), but I couldn't see why. Maybe it was the only entrant? Marie is a good Catholic girl; id est a Catholic girl who is good at making people happy by granting them sexual favors and who sees this as, kind of, doing the work of god. That was it. It was boring, pointless and unentertaining. With a name like Sarson, maybe the writer was stoned when she dreamed this up? Or un-Henge-d? I dunno. Just making wild guesses, but there was no substance to this - 'nothing to see here' kind of thing. It could have been funny, but it wasn't. It could have been deep but it was shallow. It could have been philosophical but it was too sexualized. In the end it was nothing. I can't commend it.


Saturday, December 29, 2018

The Great Pet Escape by Victoria Jamieson


Rating: WORTHY!

OK, so I'm willing to admit that I may have overdone it with the graphic novels lately! Anyway, here’s another one, this time aimed at a younger audience, but which entertained me despite that! It was amusing, decently-written, and contained some fun antics. I think kids will love reading or better yet being read to about the escape plans of these classroom pets, especially if you sit ‘em on your knee and activate the story by jogging the kid around a bit to match the pets’ escape activities. I commend it as a short, but colorful and fun story.


Miss Don't Touch Me by Hubert, Fabien Vehlmann Kerascoët


Rating: WORTHY!

Set in 1930s Paris, this was a fun "naughty" (but not too naughty) novel about a young girl Blanche, who sees her sister Agatha murdered by the 'Butcher of the Dances'. No one will believe her, and Agatha is written-off as a suicide. Losing her job as a maid, Blanche seeks work at the Pompadour, an elite brothel, and the only place which might take her in. She's almost laughed out of even there, but once taken in, quickly establishes herself as a mistress of untouchability and the virgin dominatrix.

But she hasn't forgotten her sister and slowly begins to unravel the brutal crime, while fending off assaults from patrons, unwelcome attempts at relieving her of her prized virginity, and shifting allegiances among the call-girls. This made for a different and fun read and I commend it.


The Song of Aglaia by Anne Simon


Rating: WORTHY!

Based loosely on Greek mythology, this rather crudely-drawn graphic novel was a weird and wonderful exploration of the adventures of Aglaia, a sea nymph who is seduced and abandoned by a merman know as Ethel...no, I made that last bit up. There was a merman though, and the pregnant Aglaia is exiled from Oceanid by her cruel father and finds herself wandering until she's made welcome at Mr Kite's circus (yes, that Mr Kite!) and becomes friends with its star, Henry the waltzing horse. But it doesn't end there. It gets even more bizarre!

This first solo graphic novel by Anne Simon traces Aglaia's fall and rise and was a fun and different read from the usual retelling of myths. I commend it.


The Mental Load: A Feminist Comic by Emma


Rating: WARTY!

Written and illustrated by "Emma" and translated from French by Una Dimitrijevic, this is a book about how women are put upon from birth by gender discrepancies and pigeon-holing in how we're raised, perceived, and employed, but there is nothing new in here. Or at least there wasn't for me, so I found this boring. The author apparently has nothing fresh to say and no new humorous or stinging facet to put on it, and the guys to whom this might be new and fresh (and even instructional) are never going to read a book like this, not even if it's a graphic novel.

Worse than that, I also found it to be rather offensive in the implicit assumptions employed by the author that men are all alike and all are unilaterally abusive to and of women, even if only passively. I'm not like that and I do not enjoy being lectured to, that I am. I don't claim to be perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but neither am I the cartoonish, stereotypical, club-wielding Neanderthal that seems to be the author's opinion. I do not imagine for a minute that I'm alone in these sentiments, either.

The author is a computer technician living in Paris and I felt sorry that she has evidently been hanging out with entirely the wrong people if this narrow window she exhibits is her honest perception of life. I agree with her insofar as I would say there are still people who need to learn these lessons, and most if not all of us still have learning to do, both male and female, but this was published in 2018 as though it were 1958, without any acknowledgement that things have changed. Not enough, by any means, but certainly further than this book seems to be willing to allow.

People who write like this used to be part of the solution, but now, in continuing to write like this in 2018, they are part of the problem. You cannot fix a pendulum that has swung too far in one direction by swinging it equally far in the other. You fix a problem like that by nailing it in down the middle and never letting it swing again.

By writing as though nothing has changed in the better part of a century, this author merely demonstrates that she hasn't learned this important lesson, and that she needs to find better people to associate with if she truly is experiencing problems like this as we move into the finale of the second decade of the twenty-first century. At the very least, she desperately needs a more nuanced shtick to purvey if she wants to really make an impact and thereby a difference. I cannot commend a biased, blinkered, and insulting book like this.


Nancy Drew Girl Detective #14 Sleight of Dan by Stefan Petrucha, Sarah Kinney, Sho Murase, Carlos Jose Guzman


Rating: WARTY!

This was one of three Nancy Drew graphic novels I'm reviewing today. It's also the last Nancy Sue I'll ever read. I never read any of the original novels, and prior to these three graphic versions, I'd seen her in only two movies, once an older 'original' and the other a 2007 knock-off starring Emma Roberts who is evidently a lot more charming and mature in her movies than in real life as judged by her 2013 Montreal fight.

None of these graphic novels were particularly interesting to me, although younger readers might enjoy them. Again, this particular one was nothing to write home about. The color by Guzman, the art by Murase, and the writing by Petrucha and Kinney were all workman-like and nothing special, and the story was quite predictable.

Nancy-Sue, nuttily-named Ned, and some dude named George go to see Dan Devil's magic show. His assistant vanishes - and doesn't reappear. Of course Nancy can't not get involved. An encounter with a hungry anaconda somehow persuades her to become his new assistant. Ri-ight!

Isn't it weird how, in these stories, predators are always, but always, hungry? Judged by its ferocious and unnaturally lively pursuit of Nancy, the reptile evidently hadn't eaten in months. Boring. The largest anaconda is the green anaconda and it is not known to eat people or even large prey save for rare occasions. After a meal, an anaconda can go for six weeks before needing to eat again, so this story is not remotely realistic and is downright misleading, in fact. Shame on the authors. Inventive they may have been, clueless they definitely were. No commendo!


Nancy Drew Girl Detective #13 Doggone Town by Stefan Petrucha, Sarah Kinney, Sho Murase, Carlos Jose Guzman


Rating: WARTY!

I can only give pretty much the same review for this one that I did for the previous volume out of three I read recently. I never read any of the original Nancy Drews (and I'm starting to be glad about that!) although in July of 2017, I did positively review a book which told the interesting story of how the Nancy Drew books came about.

My only experience of her prior to these graphic novels was via two widely disparate movies, one an old one, and one a much more recent version which actually wasn't too bad. None of the three graphic novels were particularly interesting to me, although younger readers might enjoy them. This particular one was nothing to write home about. The color by Guzman, the art by Murase, and the writing by Petrucha and Kinney were all workman-like and nothing special, and the story was unsurprisingly predictable.

Nancy Sue and the absurdly-named Ned Nickerson, who sounds like a character out of the Monty Python sketch 'Election Night Special' are out and about when they encounter an apparently lost dog. They drive out to a remote village and return it to its owner only to discover the entire village is deserted except for the owner, who is absurdly mean. Of course, she did it! Boring.

These books never explain why it is that Nancy doesn't simply call the police. You'd think the writer would at least offer a token explanation for why she cannot, but no - that's too much to ask for. And what? And entire village goes missing and no one notices? Not the police, not relatives, not delivery people? No one?


Nancy Drew Girl Detective #11 Monkey Wrench Blues by Stefan Petrucha, Sarah Kinney, Sho Murase, Carlos Jose Guzman


Rating: WARTY!

This was one of three Nancy Drew graphic novels which I decided to take a look at, having never read any of the original Nancy Drews and having seen her in only two widely disparate movies. None were particularly interesting to me, although younger readers might enjoy them. This particular one was nothing to write home about. The color by Guzman, the art by Murase, and the writing by Petrucha and Kinney were all workman-like and nothing special, and the story was quite predictable.

Nancy and her mechanic, Bess, drive a car in a race of supposedly environmentally-friendly vehicles. Naturally someone is trying to run Nancy off the road and naturally Mary Drew (or is it Nancy-Sue?) escapes scot-free and solves the 'puzzle'. Boring. Can't commend this one.


Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge


Rating: WARTY!

This was a graphic novel that was too cute for its own good, so I have little to say about it. The main character with the ridiculous name of Paige Turner, newly arrived in New York City, experiences trouble adjusting and takes a rather cowardly retreat into her sketching, but in the end her retreat changes into an advance. The story was trite, predictable, and offered nothing new. I can't commend it.


About Betty's Boob by Vero Cazot, Julie Rocheleau


Rating: WARTY!

Translated by Edward Gauvin, this graphic novel tells of betty's cancer and left radical mastectomy, and of her losing her job and her boyfriend. The blurb suggests that this is the best day of her life though she doesn't know it right away, but I have to add that it was not a good day of my life when I read this because I didn't feel it was bringing anything new to the table despite it's almost dedicated pursuit of different story-telling methods, including cartoonish exaggeration (crabs invading her body seemed a bit gauche) and even surrealism, such as her boss growing to a larger than life proportion as he fires her for being lop-sided. That's a thing?

It's one thing to inject humor into a sad story, but it's another entirely to demean and ridicule the import of a story by larding it with farce. I couldn't get with this and cannot commend it as a worthy read.


Troublemaker by Janet Evanovich, Alex Evanvovich, Joelle Jones


Rating: WARTY!

Illustrated by Joelle Jones, this is a classic example of it's not what you can write, but who you know. The blurb doesn't even pretend that daughter Alexandra Evanovich (or Evanvovich as idiot Amazon, known for screwing-up of author's names, has it!) had any writing involvement at all although she's credited with it, so maybe she did contribute. We'll never know. But what a great way to get your foot in the door, huh, on the fly leaves of your mom?

I thought I could kill two birds with one stone here, reading an Evanovich, which I'd really had no interest in because her titles are far too gimmicky, and seeing what her daughter might have contributed, and all in a short graphic format, but it was a complete fail! I should have paid closer attention to the blurb: "Alex Barnaby and Sam Hooker are back together and fighting crime the only way they know how - by leaving a trail of chaos, panic, and disorder." Yep, that's how to successfully fight crime all right! Not! In the end it was nothing worth my time.

The first problem I had was with how the two main characters are set up. Masculine Sam is the leading man - the daring racecar driver. Alexandra Barnaby is his lackey. No surprises there. It's about what I'd expect from someone of Evanovich's generation, where playing it safe and by the numbers is an unwritten rule. So, a man has gone missing and since all police are pretty much universally useless in these interfering meddler stories, twin clowns Barnaby and Hooker evidently have to go deep into the "underbelly of Miami" (which in this era of climate change is actually underwater), delving int "Voodoo, explosions, gift-wrapped body parts, and a deadly swamp chase." Yawn. This novel sucked, period. That's all it merits as a review. I'm done with these two authors. Nothing to see here. Moving along.


Sky Doll by Alessandro Barbucci, Barbara Canepa


Rating: WARTY!

Written and illustrated by both Barbucci and Canepa, this story tells of Noa, a life-like female android, otherwise known as a sky doll, and as such, having no rights. She serves the state, but gets other ideas after encountering two people who aid in her escape after which she begins to learn that there is more to her than meets the thigh.

I was unimpressed by this story and I believe (it was a while back since I read it), that I ditched it DNF. I can't commend it. It had so much potential, but that seemed to be lost under cheap genderist superficiality. You'd think the female contributor would have done a better job.


Spellbound by Blake Charlton


Rating: WARTY!

There's not much to say about this that I didn't cover in the negative review of volume one of this trilogy. In volume two we abandoned Nicodemus altogether at least as far as I read, which was not very far because, despite a really quite engaging beginning, it rapidly descended into one of those love-hate romances which I despise.

It's set ten tears after the first volume, which struck me as very strange, and Nicodemus, the boy wizard who lived from the first volume, was barely mentioned, much less actually appeared in the part I read. After a great start, the story began obsessing on this healer woman named Francesca DeVega, who had interested me to begin with, but who then became involved in this 'roguish' pilot who reappeared in her life, and I couldn't stand to read this anymore. Based on my short acquaintanceship, I cannot recommend this, and I'm done with this dreary and unimaginative author.


Spellwright by Blake Charlton


Rating: WARTY!

I picked up the sequel to this without realizing it was a sequel - once again Big Publishing™ failed to disclose on the front cover that it was volume two of a trilogy. Despite this dishonesty, I started reading it and enjoyed the opening chapter, so I decided to get the previous volume - this volume - from the library and read that one first. I ended up enjoying it sufficiently to want to go back to volume two and continue reading that, although the entire story was rather ponderous and overall left a bad taste.

In this volume we're introduced to Nicodemus who is the usual hobbled wizard in this kind of story. In his case though it has a twist in that spells (for reasons which went unexplained) are wrought in the muscles of the body and involve words which then migrate to the hands where they can be used. Bizarre, yes, but that's how it was. So Nicodemus's problem was that he was dyslexic, and therefore could not cast spells reliably - and sometimes cast them dangerously. He was the Seamus Finnigan of this story. Harry Potter's Finnigan may well have been named after Seamus Finnegan, an Irish playwright, but Nicodemus was initially interesting to me because of this twist.

As is the case in most every wizarding story, Nicodemus was the savior of the world because of his 'defective' condition. He'd been rendered this way because some other wizard was sucking the magic out of him. Albus Dumbledore - er, the aging wizard - who has taken a special interest in Harry - er Nicodemus - of course keeps him in the dark, so when all hell breaks loose, Nicodemus doesn't have a clue and has to figure it out himself with the aid of his male and female companions, one of whom is a powerful wizard herself, and just like in Harry Potter, friends are being murdered, and Nicodemus has to go on the run. Unlike with the Rowling stories, this all happens in book one.

here's something I've warned about before. The problem with pronouncing the word 'shone' as 'shown' instead of pronouncing it like you'd pronounce 'one' ('shonn'), as many Americans do, is that sometimes it bites back. On one page, I believe in this volume, but perhaps in volume one, I read, "A wall of silvery text shown down from the other side of the door..." Clearly this was intended to be 'shone down'. Not 'shown', but when pronounced incompetently, leads to a different word and a different meaning! Beware the language, fellow writers! Rein it in before it rains on you (or at least that's what it will tell you is falling on your back...).

So apart from the dyslexia which I found interesting, there really was nothing new here that we haven't seen before. I was able to read all of this and get back to volume two, but things continued to go downhill, only more rapidly. On that basis, I'm going to rate this negatively because it really didn't live up to its potential, it was boring in parts and brought to the table very little that was fresh. I cannot commend it, especially in light of how volume two went.


Spit and Passion by Cristy C Road


Rating: WARTY!

This is yet another LGBTQIA coming of age graphic novel and while I'm pretty sure I;m not the audience the author was seeking to impress, I'm sorry to have to report that I was not, in fact, impressed by it.

I've read many of this kind of autobiography, and they've all had a story to tell, but whereas some are outgoing and relatable even for a cis male(!), others are more a personal or even self-centered odyssey which don't seem interested in opening up or being inclusive in any way. These may well play to a segment of the population, and if they do, that's fine, but if they do, I'm not a part of it, not even indirectly, so I can't speak to it. All I can relate is what it said to me and in this case, it said very little of interest, nothing that was new or engaging.

I hate to be negative about a book like this, but I guess you can't love 'em all, especially not if the author doesn't seem interested in being loved as a writer or artist and who, instead of bringing an audience in to share her story with her, seems more interested in what's almost an internal monolog, rattling on without caring if there's an audience tuning in or not which to me, frankly, seems a bit creepy. i mean, whatever trips your ship is fine, but I've never seen the point of writing any story, fiction or no, if all you're going to do is tell the same story that's already been told and add nothing new or particularly interesting, so against my ordinarily natural inclination, and while I wish the author all the best in her endeavors, I can't rate this as a worthy read.


Rohan at the Louvre by Hirohiko Araki


Rating: WORTHY!

Also known as Toshiyuki Araki, this author's oddball graphic novel tells of a young man's arrival at a boarding house where he encounters a mysterious divorcée, with whom he has an oddball but platonic relationship. Rohan himself wants to be a manganeer of course, dreaming of creating his own comic book. It is this, rather than Rohan himself which attracts the attention of the divorcée, despite her violent treatment of his first effort - because he drew her as a part of it. In a moment they have together, she reveals to him the story of the most evil painting ever put on canvas, and which is kept locked-away in the darkest corner of the Louvre.

A decade later, Rohan discovers that the painting this woman told him of actually exists, and is everything she claimed for it! Beautifully illustrated and artfully told, this was an enjoyable and wistful fantasy tale in more than one way. I commend it as a worthy read.


Becoming Unbecoming by Una


Rating: WORTHY!

Most people outside of Britain have never heard of the Yorkshire Ripper aka Peter Sutcliffe, who attacked women over the decade from 1969 to 1980. He was stopped only when arrested for using false license plates on his car. The entire inquiry was a farce of incompetent British policing. Sutcliffe had been interviewed some nine times during the lengthy inquiry and not once actually suspected of being the perp. Even after his arrest, he was able to slip away from police and hide incriminating evidence under pretence of having to take a leak!

The fact that many of his victims were prostitutes meant that police did not give this murderer the attention required to catch him. This is all disturbing, but not nearly as disturbing as the fact that he somehow got to be that way in the first place. Unfortunately, that critical factor is not explored in this story - not for him, nor for the perps who assaulted the author.

This autobiographic novel is set in 1977 after Sutcliffe had assaulted several women and murdered at least two, and yet was still several years away from being caught. The author was twelve and became herself the victim of assaults. Though fortunately not fatal, they nevertheless left an indelible mark. These parallel stories build slowly, and sometimes the reading was frankly boring. Other times it was highly disturbing in a way that complacent people need to be disturbed if this continuing abuse of women is to be stopped, so this is an uncomfortable read, as it ought to be, but one that also ought to be required reading. I commend it.


Baby Monkey, Private Eye by Brian Selznick, David Serlin


Rating: WORTHY!

Created by married couple Selznick and Serlin, this is a fun children's book which follows PI Baby Monkey on several jobs, all of which seem to follow a curiously rote format. He has a problem reported to him; he reads books; he takes notes, he has a snack; he puts on his pants; he follows footprints, and nails the perp every time!

Have you lost your marbles? Er, jewels? Baby Monkey will find them with horse-sense (the zebra did it). Spaceship stolen? Baby Monkey won't space out! Pizza gone missing? Baby Monkey will slice and dice it and blow through the bologna. With Selznick's striking illustrations and Serlin's repetitive and instructional prose, any enterprising young child can learn to read more good with a book like this! I commend it as a fun read for young children and their grown-ups! You can read an amusing interview about the making of Baby Monkey here: https://www.shelf-awareness.com/max-issue.html?issue=270#m575 (URL good as of this posting).


Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Daughter of the Centaurs by Kate Klimo


Rating: WARTY!

I'm not normally given to reading this kind of fantasy, and I should have known better, but I picked this up because the blurb looked interesting. It began well, but took a rather downward turn once the main female character with the unfortunate name of Malora encountered the centaurs. I can't take centaurs seriously; they're asinine on the very face of it, but like I said, I let the publisher fool me with a blurb. Shame on me!

This girl had lost all her family to some large, bat-like predatory flying creatures, and was living alone with a growing herd of horses on the plains for three years until she was around fifteen, when she became a captive of the centaurs, the very people who apparently wiped out a lot of humans many years ago.

When her mother sent her from the village shortly before it was wiped out, she warned Malora to steer clear of these people, but the girl ran into a hunting party by accident. I had no idea if the author planned some sort of YA romance here between horse girl Malora and centaur prince Orion (seriously?!) which would not only be distinctly perverse, but would be insane given how cruel the centaurs have been.

I'm guessing there was some sort of back-story which would explain how humans persecuted centaurs and they fought back, thereby absolving them of genocide, but the premise still seemed thin to me and it failed to explain Malora's asinine and contrary behavior once she became their captive.

The author owns horses, so I'd tend to bow to her superior knowledge, but this one paragraph I read was nonsensical, especially if you're someone who knows horses. Malora has only been living with these horses for three years. She started out with just this stallion she was riding, but a wild mare took up with them shortly after Malora struck out on her own. The author tells us this pair (the stallion and the Mare, not Malora and the stallion!) produced six foals - in three years.

That struck me as too much too quickly, so I looked it up and it turns out that horse gestation is variable, but runs around 340 days - a lot longer than humans and very nearly a whole year. Twin foals tend to be rare in the horse community, so how they managed six foals in only three years is a mystery to me, especially given that foals in captivity tend to be weaned at a minimum of three months. In the wild I am guessing the weaning would take longer and that the mare is unlikely to be receptive to mating again while still feeding a foal.

It looked worse than that on first reading because it looked like they had produced twelve foals in that time period, but on re-reading the paragraph, I understood the latter six were over a longer time frame. Still, those first six are not credible in such a short time and an author who knows horses ought to have known this. Either that or should have written the paragraph more explicitly, if that's not what she meant.

When you create a world like this, it needs to hang together within its own framework. You have to consider how the population of living things in a world evolved together. You can't just put random things in there and have it make guaranteed sense. I had this same problem with James Cameron's Avatar. I loved the movie, but the world being so relentlessly hostile made no sense at all.

Neither does it make sense to have creatures prey on humans with such dedication. That's why the bat-creatures in this novel were too much. Any organism that overruns its food source inevitably becomes extinct. The same thing is going to happen to us if we're not careful.

If humans were all but wiped-out by the centaurs, then the bat creatures would have died out had their food source been humans. If they had survived by taking other prey, which we know was readily available, then why suddenly turn to scarce humans? It made no sense. Any author creating a fantasy world needs an understanding of science and of biology and evolution in particular. They would create much more engrossing worlds if they had such knowledge. This author does not, but it wasn't actually that which turned me off this story about a quarter the way through it.

What went wrong here was that yet another female author trashed her own female main character. This author turned her Malora from a reasonably tough and self-sufficient girl into a simpering fangirl in the space of a few paragraphs.

She was captured by the centaurs because they had run her (along with her horses) into a dead-end canyon which was then hit with a flash flood. A bunch of her beloved horses drowned. There's a paragraph where it describes her seeing all the corpses, yet instead of being intensely upset and in turn, angry with centaurs, she has no sadness and no anger at all. Instead she begins to idolize the centaurs. Barf. Totally unrealistic even for a fantasy novel.

Listen Kate Klimo and clones: if you'd wanted some horses dead and the main character to take up with the centaurs and make it realistic, why have the centaurs responsible for the death of the horses? Why not have Malora trapped by a flash flood which had nothing to do with the centaurs, her horses dying, and prince Orion swoop and rescue her? At least that would explain her selling out afterwards. If you wanted any tension between them, create that later from something else. This isn't rocket science! As it is, you wrote a sorry-assed simpering YA love story and it sucks.

That was it for me. And that's it for me reading anything else by this author who evidently has nothing to offer that a hundred other female writer clones don't have. if all you've got is poor writing, half-assed 'plotting', and pathetic female leads, get a clue. Do something the others are not doing: write well, make your female main character strong and at the very least street smart and don't have her do dumb-ass things - or at least let her learn fast from doing dumb things and become smart. And Good Lord don't have her start out strong and independent and then become a total wet rag as soon as a guy shows up. There are a lot of authors out there I haven't read. I see no point in going back to try something else from one who has proven to be a poor author when there are new voices to be heard. I'm done with this one.