Category: book review

Graphic Novel Review: Sunken Tower by Tait Howard

Sunken Tower by Tait Howard. Oni Press, 2020. 9781620106877. 132pp. Dig is kidnapped by some red-robed cultists who throw him into an underground dungeon. The women in the next cell, Iana and Crina, tell him the tale of an inexperienced wizard who lost control of blood magic, sinking the tower and the city around it. He became a monster, and the cultists intend to sacrifice the three prisoners to it. (Iana then hands Dig a brochure. This is a fairly lighthearted, funny adventure, unless you’re a blood cultist.) It’s not long before the three have escaped their cells and retrieved Dig’s book of magic. Their plan: find the castle in the middle of the sunken city and climb to the top floor so that Dig can use his magic to blast them out. But all does not (of course) go according to plan. Many cultists die in very horrid ways, which would be horrific if this weren’t so damned cartoony […]

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Graphic Novel Review: Unrig: How To Fix Our Broken Democracy (World Citizen Comics)

Unrig: How To Fix Our Broken Democracy (World Citizen Comics) by Daniel G. Newman, art by George O’Connor. First Second, 2020. 9781250295309. 280pp. including notes/citations for each chapter and an index. Newman, who runs MapLight (maplight.org), lays out problems with our political system alongside examples of how they can and are being fixed. At the heart of most of the trouble is money, wielded by companies and individuals who can spend enough to determine who runs for office, gets elected, and writes US laws. The politicians they help elect then rig the rules in their own favor, and to favor the folks who help get them elected. Newman points to ways to unrig the system, including Seattle’s democracy voucher program, which allows candidates to fund campaigns without becoming beholden to those who finance their campaigns. (He highlights other ideas for clean elections too, which not only affect funding but also make politicians pay attention to the public as a whole.) […]

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Graphic Novel Review: Kusama The Graphic Novel by Elisa Macellari

Kusama The Graphic Novel by Elisa Macellari, translated from Italian by Edward Fortes. Laurence King, 2020. 9781786277169. 128pp. Lenz’s documentary Kusama – Infinity, and Kusama’s autobiography Infinity Net are the two main sources listed at the back of the book, but even if you’re familiar with both there’s a lot to love in Macellari’s colorful, well-designed graphic novel. (Is it weird that my favorite part of the book is Kusama’s deadpan face and the way Macellari draws Kusama at different ages?) The book opens with Kusama’s early life, including her unsupportive mother and going inside her head a bit to show her mental illness and obsessions. Kusama moves to New York in the late 1950s and works on art around the clock, anxious and detached. She’s driven and ambitious, and has quite a bit of success. (The book spends a few pages on her intense and platonic relationship with artist Joseph Cornell, which is lovely and sad.) After she returned […]

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Graphic Novel Review: InvestiGators by John Patrick Green

InvestiGators by John Patrick Green. First Second, 2020. 9781250219954. 201pp. including a few lessons in how to draw characters in the back. Investigators is the graphic novel Green has been working toward for years. It brings together the cute animals and workplace humor of his Kitten Construction Company and Hippopotamister in a fun, wordplay-filled mystery featuring two alligator investigators, Mango and Brash. The pair work for S.U.I.T. (Special Undercover Investigative Teams) to solve mysteries and fight “crime, corruption, and confusion.” The story starts with the pair going undercover at a bakery because world famous cupcake chef Gustavo Mustachio is missing, which leads them to another mystery involving the thingamabob invented at the Science Factory and the villain who wants to steal it. Oh and there’s also a shadowy, vaguely alligator-shaped figure forcing Gustavo to bake for his nefarious reasons (which will come into play in the sequel, which was just published). My favorite thing about the book, aside from the […]

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Graphic Novel Review: Aster of Pan by Merwan

Aster of Pan Volume 1 by Merwan. Translation: M.B. Valente. Originally published by Dargaud, 2019. 9781942367949 (the 2021 English translation). 200pp. Info at http://www.europecomics.com/album/aster-pan-v1/ though it looks like the digital versions have been pulled from the US market because a print edition by Magnetic Press is coming in Nov. 2020. That book will contains this and Volume 2. February, 2068, Fontainebleau Forest. Aster lives alone in a treehouse, surviving on what she can scavenge from the ruins of Paris and trade for in Pan, the farm town where her book-loving friend Wallis lives. Aster is all big gestures and toughness, though it’s clear she wants a family and longs to be a citizen of Pan. There’s a bear, a pirate attack, and a bit of politics before an “ambassador” arrives with tech and soldiers from the Republic of Fortuna, announcing that Pan will soon have the honor of joining their federation. The leaders of Pan aren’t happy, but they have […]

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Graphic Novel Review: Banned Book Club by Hyun Sook Kim and Ryan Estrada, illustrated by Hyung-Ju Ko

Banned Book Club by Hyun Sook Kim and Ryan Estrada, illustrated by Hyung-Ju Ko. Iron Circus Comics, 2020. 9781945820427. 192pp. This fictionalized memoir of Kim Hyun Sook’s life begins in 1983. It was the year she started college, and back then the US backed South Korea’s ruling military dictatorship. College campuses were the sites of protests that often turned violent. The government sometimes tried to silence students with violence and disappearances. Her first day at Anjeon University, Hyun Sook has to dodge Molotov cocktails, tear gas, and riot police to get through the main gate to her first class. She soon joins a masked folk dance club to stay out of politics, but even traditional dances are political. One of her new friends invites her to a book club, which sounds great. But she soon finds out the attendees read and discuss books that could get them arrested. At first Hyun Sook decides not to join. Bu her Shakespeare professor […]

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Nonfiction Review: Arabian Sands by Wilfred Thesiger

Arabian Sands by Wilfred Thesiger. Penguin Classics, 2008. 9780141442075. 347pp. including photographs and an index. “Arabian Sands describes the journeys I made in and around the Empty Quarter from 1945 to 1950, at which time much of that region had not yet been seen by a European.” (The Empty Quarter is a huge dessert in the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula.) Thesiger’s detailed account is full of vivid descriptions and immense hardship, as well as respect for and camaraderie with his Bedu companions. I loved the hospitality displayed by most who met Thesiger, though he did face danger from a few who were displeased with having a Christian in their land. There’s also a sadness around the edges of the journey — the oil companies are moving in and making deals, and Thesiger can see that the Bedu’s way of life won’t last much longer. This is one of my friend Mac’s favorite books. When he read a passage […]

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Picture Book Reviews!

Butts Are Everywhere by by Jonathan Stutzman, pictures by Heather Fox. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2020. 9780525514510. 32pp. Tired of poop books getting so much attention? Need to help the butt obsessed child in your life build their vocabulary? This is the book for you. Adorable illustrations! Fox also illustrated the amazing Llama Destroys the World.     Scaredy Snacks by Terry Border. Philomel Books, 2020. 32pp. On cleaning day, Sprinkles and her friends go to welcome Dr. Nuttenstein to the neighborhood. After they watch him bring a “monstrous” cookie to life, they get a little freaked out. Border creates the characters and props mostly from common household items (including snacks, of course). They’re hilarious and sure to inspire art projects.   Julia’s House Moves On by Ben Hatke. First Second, 2020. 9781250191373. 40pp. So many lost creatures live at Julia’s house, but it’s time to move on. And Julia has plans, as she always does. Which is great because as […]

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Easy Reader Review: If You Love (activity) You Could Be…

          If You Love Cooking You Could Be… (Ready To Read Level 2) by Elizabeth Dennis, Illustrated by Natalie Kwee. Simon Spotlight, 2019. 9781534454545. 32pp. If You Love Dolphins You Could Be… (Ready To Read Level 2) by May Nakamura, Illustrated by Natalie Kwee. Simon Spotlight, 2019. 9781534444690. 32pp. If You Love Video Games You Could Be… (Ready To Read Level 2) by Thea Feldman, Illustrated by Natalie Kwee. Simon Spotlight, 2019. 9781534443990. 32pp. If You Love Fashion You Could Be…. (Ready To Read Level 2) by May Nakamura, Illustrated by Natalie Kwee. Simon Spotlight, 2019. 9781534448773. 32pp. Each of these easy readers goes into a bit of detail about three careers, and has a list of more cool jobs at the back. The stars of each are Kwee’s happy, simple drawings. Everyone is smiling, and it feels like every little thing she draws is, too. The book full of dolphin love is probably my favorite […]

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Graphic Novel Review: Beetle & the Hollowbones by Aliza Layne

Beetle & the Hollowbones by Aliza Layne. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2020. 9781534441538. 256pp. Beetle loves hanging out at the mall with her friend Blob Ghost, which is good because BG can’t leave the mall. Beetle’s grandma keeps trying to teach her goblin magic, but Beetle doesn’t think potions are real magic. Her friend Kat has just come back to town to apprentice with her aunt, Marla Hollowbone. Kat’s having the kind of success with magic that Beetle believes she can only dream of, but it’s Kat’s life that’s the nightmare — Kat’s aunt is a seriously nasty piece of work, and that nastiness goes wide when she tries to force Beetle’s Gran out of her job and to destroy the mall where BG lives. Beetle has to save BG by finding a way for him to escape the mall before he’s buried in the rubble, and to save her friend Kat from her aunt, too. This is a […]

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