Friday, January 28, 2011

Graphic Friday: The Stuff of Legend Book 1: The Dark

Author:  Mike Raicht and Brian Smith
Illustrator:  Charles Paul Wilson III

Summary:  The year is 1944.  As Allied forces fight the enemy on Europe's war-torn beaches, another battle begins in a child's bedroom in Brooklyn.  When the nightmarish Boogeyman snatches a boy and takes him to the realm of hte Dark, the child's playthings, led by the toy soldier known as the Colonel, band together to stage a daring rescue.  On their perilous mission they will confront the boy's bitter and forgotten toys, as well as betrayal in their own ranks.  Can they save the boy from the forces of evil, or will they all perish in the process?

The Dish: When I first saw the cover, I was curious by what a walking teddy bear would be doing in an adult graphic novel.  Like most people who enjoy graphic novels, I would believe a teddy bear (especially one that can move about) would be in a juvenile or children's graphic novel.  So automatically, I wanted to know more about the storyline.  Max, the teddy bear, is one of many toys owned by a boy in 1944 Brooklyn.  It is at night that dark tendrils come out of the boy's closet, snatching and pulling him inside.  We later learn that the tendrils belong to none other than the Boogeyman himself.  Why he wanted this particular boy is not explained, but I'm confident there will be much more to that story when Book 2 comes out.  

It is when a group of eight toys and the boy's dog, Scout, led by the boy's current favorite toy only known as the Colonel enter the Dark that readers see the transformation of the toys into more realistic forms.  Max becomes the size of a grizzly bear, the Colonel, the Indian Princess, the Jester within the Jack-in-the-box, and the dancing doll Harmony all appear human-sized with human bodies, Percy the piggy bank is changed into a real pig wearing pants, and Quakers a wooden duck becomes a real duck.  It is my guess that this is either a show of the Boogeyman's power or the power of the realm of Dark itself.

Also, I thought it interesting that Wilson chose to keep all of the pages in sepia tones rather than full color.  Perhaps it is reminiscent of wartime in which so many things were considered too precious to be used so freely, or maybe it establishes the time period in a sense that most printed material was only available in these tones.  No matter what the means, I believe it does show the grave situation that the small group of toys are in and reflects the seriousness of what is transcribed in the story.  

This kind of story is definitely not an average children's tale even though it involves a child's toys and possessions.  It makes me remember when I and my friends would play out whole stories with our toys, even battles and fights just as this Brooklyn boy did.  The Stuff of Legend will make you think again about those stories and battles involving children's toys and imagination.  I eagerly await the release of The Stuff of Legend: Book 2.

What toys or books do you remember as being your favorites to play with or read as a child?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"Waiting On" Wednesday: A Discovery of Witches

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's "Waiting On" Wednesday selection is:

A Discovery of Witches
By Deborah Harkness

Publication Date:  February 8, 2011 by Viking Adult

From Publishers Weekly~
In Harkness's lively debut, witches, vampires, and demons outnumber humans at Oxford's Bodleian Library, where witch and Yale historian Diana Bishop discovers an enchanted manuscript, attracting the attention of 1,500-year-old vampire Matthew Clairmont. The orphaned daughter of two powerful witches, Bishop prefers intellect, but relies on magic when her discovery of a palimpsest documenting the origin of supernatural species releases an assortment of undead who threaten, stalk, and harass her. Against all occult social propriety, Bishop turns for protection to tall, dark, bloodsucking man-about-town Clairmont. Their research raises questions of evolution and extinction among the living dead, and their romance awakens centuries-old enmities. Harkness imagines a crowded universe where normal and paranormal creatures observe a tenuous peace. "Magic is desire made real," Bishop says after both her desire and magical prowess exceed her expectations. Harkness brings this world to vibrant life and makes the most of the growing popularity of gothic adventure with an ending that keeps the Old Lodge door wide open.

How can I not want a book that combines two of my favorite subjects, namely a library and the supernatural?   Not to mention it sounds like a good thriller, perhaps similar to The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Cat's Out of the Bag!

Author:  Rita Mae Brown
Summary:  Small towns are like families: Everyone lives very close together...and everyone keeps secrets.  Crozet, Virginia, is a typical small town--until its secrets explode into murder.

Crozet's thirty-something postmistress, Mary Minor "Harry" Haristeen, has a tiger cat (Mrs. Murphy) and a Welsh corgi (Tee Tucker), a pending divorce, and a bad habit of reading postcards not addressed to her.  When Crozet's citizens start turning up murdered, Harry remembers that each received a card with a tombstone on the front and the message "Wish you were here" on the back.

Intent on protecting their human friend, Mrs. Murphy and Tucker begin to scent out clues.  Meanwhile, Harry is conducting her own investigation, unaware that her pets are one step ahead of her.  If only Mrs. Murphy could alert her somehow, Harry could uncover the culprit before another murder occurs--and before Harry finds herself on the killer's mailing list.

The Dish:  I love a good mystery as much as the next amateur sleuth, but the majority of my mystery media choice has been either through television series, like Murder, She Wrote or Diagnosis Murder, or films, such as Murder by Numbers or Kiss the Girls.  The only way I usually came across mysteries in books were those involved in plots of fantasy and science fiction novels, and the mystery was usually just part of the central story not the focus.  Wish You Were Here is the first actual book falling into the Mystery genre that I have read, and I enjoyed it immensely.  

I had been searching for a mystery series that I could actually delve into that would pique my interest, and while some suggested mysteries centralized around food or baking, I had another interest in mind.  Rita Mae Brown's books always sounded intriguing to me whenever I visited either the bookstore or the library.  True, there are similar series such as Lillian Jackson Braun's Cat Who series, but from what I read in the summaries for the Cat Who books, the protagonist just owned two cats.  They weren't really involved in solving the mysteries.  Anthropomorphic characters, when written well, can often make a story even better, and I believe Brown has done that with Mrs. Murphy and Tee Tucker.  

When people start turning up dead in Crozet, Mrs. Murphy and Tee Tucker are already on the case right alongside their beloved master, Harry.  It is these two that start to do the actual snooping even before Harry can find a connection between those who had been murdered.  Through the animal grapevine, Mrs. Murphy and Tucker learn clues about the victims and are off to investigate.  What I find most endearing about the entwining conversations between Harry and the other people of Crozet and Mrs. Murphy and Tee Tucker is how the animals are always trying to get the humans to understand them and what clues the animals find.  There are obviously some language differences, but that doesn't deter Mrs. Murphy and Tucker especially when Harry's own safety is jeopardized.  

I admit Mrs. Murphy is perhaps given more loyalty than is normally attributed in cats, but I believe it shows just how much she cares for Harry.  Cats are independent by nature, but as shown in Wish You Were Here the right human will be able to earn the loyalty and love of a feline.  It is interesting to see how Harry takes both Mrs. Murphy and Tee Tucker almost everywhere she goes, even accompanying her at work, though in a small town like Crozet, the animals' presence is not a concern for the people who do visit the post office.  Brown does create a diverse cartel of characters in the townspeople of Crozet and even includes a list of those main characters after the acknowledgements.  It's rare and refreshing to find that in most books these days, so readers are able to keep track of who is who in Crozet.  

On the overall mystery, I had a hunch about who the murderer was, but there was enough to actually have several suspects in mind; only one of the people I thought was a suspect was questioned by the sheriff.  I definitely attribute that part of my deductive mind to watching many hours of Murder, She Wrote, and I'll thank my mother for that.  I'm thrilled to say I have definitely found my mystery series, and I will be reading more Mrs. Murphy Mysteries in the future.  Thank you, Ms. Brown for creating such a delightful trio of characters as Mrs. Murphy, Tee Tucker, and Harry.  

By the way, it was actually this television movie inspired by the books that had me curious about the Mrs. Murphy Series.  

What mysteries get your detective minds going and your powers of deduction flowing?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Coming Soon (And Very Soon!)

Title:  The Last Unicorn Graphic Novel
Author:  Peter S. Beagle
Art by:  Renae Del Liz and Ray Dillon

Summary:  Whimsical. Lyrical. Poignant. Adapted for the first time from the acclaimed and beloved novel by Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn is a tale for any age about the wonders of magic, the power of love, and the tragedy of loss. The unicorn, alone in her enchanted wood, discovers that she may be the last of her kind. Reluctant at first, she sets out on a journey to find her fellow unicorns, even if it means facing the terrifying anger of the Red Bull and malignant evil of the king who wields his power.

I cannot wait to read this comic in its entirety!  It's due to be released on January 26th, but in order to benefit Peter Beagle more, I recommend getting it from Conlan Press which is where I'll be getting my copy from soon.  Although I already own the first few issues of the comic, I still want to have a complete graphic novel of the story on hand, especially since it's in hardback format.  There will be a future review here, and I'm looking forward to reviewing this artistic rendition of one of my favorite books.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Graphic Friday: Beasts of Burden

Author:  Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson
Summary:  Welcome to Burden Hill--a peaceful suburb like any other with white picket fences and vibrant green grass--home to an unlikely team of paranormal investigators.  Black magic, demonic frogs, and zombie roadkill are just a few of the problems plaguing this seemingly sleepy little town.  With the human residents unaware of the danger, it's up to a determined crew of dogs (and one cat) to keep their community safe.

The Dish:  I came across Beasts of Burden when doing a random search on Amazon for a different graphic novel title for my library's collection.  Being a doglover and a catlover, the cover immediately caught my attention with the six members of the Burden Hill section of paranormal investigators, particularly their leading figure of Ace, the Siberian husky.  When the title was on our next collection development list, I immediately requested it for the collection.  The book itself is told through stories, or rather events, revolving around supernatural beings that the group of six encouter.  Although the stories are connected overall, I actually favor the episodic format which allows for readers to pause easily, and with this type of material, sometimes readers need to pause.  If you are an animal lover, particularly of the dog and cat variety, some of the stories will tug at your heart. 

What really drew me into the story were the main characters: Ace-the brave Siberian Husky, Rex-the Doberman Pincher with a bark worse than his bite, Pugsley-the sarcastic Pug, Whitey-the eager Jack Russell Terrier, Jack-the stand-up Beagle, and Orphan (AKA the Orphan)-the Ginger Tabby and sole ownerless member of the group.  Each character has their own unique personality that makes them stand off from the others, though I will admit I sometimes got Whitey and Jack confused by their similar coloring.  The introductory story revolves around Jack's doghouse being haunted by the restless spirit of a dog, and it is here that readers also meet the Wise Dog, one of a society that practices and trains in means of dealing with the occult.  It isn't until a later story that the Wise Dog offers to train the group into becoming other Wise Dogs (and a Wise Cat, in Orphan's case).  And apparently their home of Burden Hill is ripe with paranormal activity, thus the Wise Dog's interest in bringing the group within the society.  

I was a little puzzled by the lack of human interaction with the group especially with their owners.  In fact, we do not even see the human owners at all throughout the book.  The only humans that are shown are those usually involved in a case that the Burden Hill group is investigating.  True, the focus is on Ace and the others as they are doing this all to protect their neighborhood, but I am curious to see who they are protecting aside from the neighborhood animal inhabitants.  Hopefully, their owners will be shown further into the story, and I am looking forward to the next book of Beasts of Burden.

Edit: Who knew Gene Ambaum of Unshelved fame would review the same title on the same day? :)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sometimes It Takes the Unexpected to Find What You Really Need

Author:  Dakota Cassidy
Summary:  Marty Andrews sure is having a bad week.  First, she’s bitten by a mangy mutt while walking her teacup poodle.  As a result, her salon-perfect blonde hair begins darkening by the day to something that’s sooo not in her color wheel.  Her moodswings have turned her into The Hormonal Hulk.  Worse yet, the hair on her legs is growing at a rate even a body slam into an entire vat of wax couldn’t cure.  Last, and most important, her dream job as a sales rep for Bobbie-Sue Cosmetics is going to hell in a handbasket…

The only high point is Keegan Flaherty, the drool-worthy man who shows up at her door.  Of course, he’s clearly insane.  Keegan claims that he accidentally bit Marty, and since he’s a werewolf, she is now, too.  Red meat cravings aside, Marty refuses to believe a word until a kidnapping makes her realize there’s more at stake than her highlights.  And she must put her out-of-control life in the hands of the man who makes her blood run wild in more ways than one…

The Dish:  Okay, I have a confession to make.  My guilty reading choice is paranormal romance novels.  Regular romance just doesn’t do much for me, there has to be the added element of the paranormal or supernatural to make a title in the Romance genre seem intriguing to me.  And I have been eying The Accidental Werewolf for quite some time now just because the summary roused my curiosity.  And the cover is quite eye-catching as well in a nice almost metallic purple.  If you sell or know someone who sells Mary Kay or Avon products, I’d recommend this little romp to them just for a lark. 

Marty is adorable in her own bizarre way, though she is quite obsessed with the color wheels of Bobbie-Sue Cosmetics.  With a company name like “Bobbie-Sue”, I’d almost expect her to be selling door-to-door in Georgia, Alabama, or another of the southern states.  But you have to admire a woman who knows what she wants and is determined to get it, and in Marty’s case, that desire is to obtain Sky Blue status as well as a sky-blue convertible that goes along with the rank.  Perhaps her goals are a bit material, but Marty is willing to put in the work hours, and beyond, in order to achieve that goal. 

It is when Keegan Flaherty enters the picture that the path to achievement becomes rather bumpy for Marty.  Being one to take responsibility for his actions, Keegan is determined to assist Marty’s transition into the life of a werewolf.  Even if he has to constantly lock horns with her to get her to focus.  As one would guess, he is the drop-dead, most gorgeous hunk you ever did see, but then again what main male character in a Romance novel isn’t?  I’ll admit it would be a nice change to have a bit of variety in the way of males, but Keegan has his merits.  And while Marty does get under his skin, he manages to get to her in ways that just make her ask a bunch of questions, which in turn drives him crazy.  It’s nice to see a couple with a healthy dose of mutual nuttiness. 

Overall the story is cute as Keegan takes Marty from New York City out to the Poughkeepsie area after someone attempts to kidnap her.  This is not only for her protection but also to introduce her to the life of the werewolf pack that has yet to have a human changed into a werewolf within the past few centuries.  I thought this was an intriguing idea of Cassidy’s since most other werewolf novels, whether romance or urban fantasy, usually have the werewolf gene transferred at least half the time through attacks on humans.  It seems as though while Keegan’s immediate family accepts Marty readily, the rest of the pack as well as the overseeing Lunar Council is slow to accept a virtual outsider within their midst.  I won’t spoil the story further, but I definitely enjoyed The Accidental Werewolf.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Talk is Cheap to a Werewolf

Author:  Carrie Vaughn
Summary:  Kitty Norville is a midnight-shift DJ for a Denver radio station—and a werewolf in the closet. Sick of lame song requests, she accidentally starts "The Midnight Hour," a late-night advice show for the supernaturally disadvantaged. After desperate vampires, werewolves, and witches across the country begin calling in to share their woes, her new show is a raging success. But it’s Kitty who can use some help. With one sexy werewolf-hunter and a few homicidal undead on her tail, Kitty may have bitten off more than she can chew…

The Dish:  The overall story was likable for the most part until the very end when the "big reveal" occurred and Kitty had to face down those that were supposed to be her protectors.  Vaughn has a unique writing style as well as a different take on the overall structure of the werewolf pack dynamic.  While I do not fault her for this, I have to say I prefer a more positive structure that has less...potential negative effects on the lower-ranking members. 

The alphas were perhaps the least likable characters, if you could find any reason to like them at all.  I realize that in normal wolf packs, alphas must show and reinstate their dominance over the other members of the pack on a regular basis, but I would not call it "bullying" as Kitty even points out in the story.  When I think of the alpha male and female of a werewolf pack, I would like to believe they are more fair judges than "it's my way or the highway" because of the air of humanity that is still present within them.  In Kitty and the Midnight Hour, the alphas are pretty much all bullies, especially the alpha male, Carl, who likes to throw his weight around as well as have any of the females in the pack whenever he wants.  Meg, the alpha female, is probably the biggest witch you will meet when it comes to werewolf packs with the exception of Reina, the original alpha of the St. Louis pack  in Laurel K. Hamilton's Vampire Huntress series. 

Kitty is an excellent character to watch grow from the omega of the pack to something more and able to depend on herself more than the pack.  Given her circumstances, I can understand her choice in doing so, but somehow I don't feel it's easy to live as a solitary wolf.  However, due to the disappointment of the ending of Midnight Hour I don't think I'll continue on with the rest of the books in the series.  I had hoped to find a werewolf series I could really sink my teeth into, pardon the pun, but I'd rather stick with Vaughn's short stories instead of the novels. 

Have you ever read a book with a good start only to be disappointed by the ending?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Random Thoughts: New Year, New Post, New Resolutions!

Time to say goodbye to the old year and hello to the new!  2010 was a very good year for me as I finally found my home library and a new home as well.  It has been an exciting run so far, and I look forward to what we have on hand for 2011.  I have to say I am so very excited about this year mostly because of the prospective projects for my section of the library.  However, that is only one part of the excitement. 

It's time again for New Year's Resolutions to be made, and I plan on keeping them this year.  Last year, my resolutions had to do with 1) obtaining a full-time library job and 2) doing well for all of my coworkers.  This year, the resolutions are more personal and have less to do with work (though I still plan on doing my best to help make the library looks fabulous). 

Resolution 1:  I plan on making time every week to start and finish at least 1 book on my To-Be-Read List. 
Reason:  Last year, I started actually making a list of books that I have either read or want to read, also making note of which ones are available in the library.  I want to make a point of checking off more books from that list this year, and if I can make that possible I will be thrilled.  That also means I can start adding MORE books to the list for next year.

Resolution 2:  I plan on walking on a regular basis.
Reason:  During library school, I was able to take Aikido on a regular basis and it made me feel excellent and just more productive throughout the week.  Since there is no dojo for Aikido within a reasonable driving distance, I must have some form of exercise until I can locate a different style of martial arts.  Walking should be a reasonable exercise to do, and if I want to have a higher impact, I could always use some handweights while walking.

Resolution 3:  I plan to write at least once a week for 2 hours.
Reason:  Writing has been a part of my life ever since middle school, and I feel I've grown as a writer since starting out.  College and library school really helped my writing style mature, but I know there is still a lot of room for growth.  Keeping the mind of a student always willing to learn and listen is one of the best ways to both grow and gain experience alongside knowledge.  I miss being able to obtain the state of mind in which I feel am almost in a trancelike state where it is just me and my computer.  It is my hope that I'll be able to do so in disciplining myself to write each week. 

What are your New Year's Resolutions if you care to share?
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