Take A Peek Book Review: Comics Will Break Your Heart by Faith Erin Hicks

“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought. This week’s “take a peek” book:

Synopsis:

(via Goodreads)

Miriam’s family should be rich. After all, her grandfather was the co-creator of smash-hit comics series The TomorrowMen. But he sold his rights to the series to his co-creator in the 1960s for practically nothing, and now that’s what Miriam has: practically nothing. And practically nothing to look forward to either-how can she afford college when her family can barely keep a roof above their heads? As if she didn’t have enough to worry about, Miriam’s life gets much more complicated when a cute boy shows up in town… and turns out to be the grandson of the man who defrauded Miriam’s grandfather, and heir to the TomorrowMen fortune.

In her endearing debut novel, cartoonist Faith Erin Hicks pens a sensitive and funny Romeo and Juliet tale about modern romance, geek royalty, and what it takes to heal the long-festering scars of the past (Spoiler Alert: love).

My Thoughts:

Comic and graphic novel writer Faith Erin Hicks makes her debut in young adult fiction with Comics Will Break Your Heart, and does it beautifully! In this sweet YA novel, two teens from families with a long-standing grudge meet and connect one summer in Nova Scotia. Miriam’s grandfather co-created the TomorrowMen comics with Weldon’s grandfather, but sold his rights to the brand for only $900 many decades earlier. Since then, TomorrowMen has blown up with a huge fandom and a blockbuster movie in the works, and while Weldon’s family stands to profit hugely, Miriam’s will see not a dime, despite the 20-year lawsuit waged by her grandfather to undo the shoddy deal he unwittingly agreed to.

When Miriam and Weldon meet, they each carry their families’ baggage, but their mutual love of comics as well as their own personal struggles to figure out their futures draw them together and help them move past the animosity that’s lingered for so long. This is a quick, fun read, with touching moments too, and has some lovely scenes that highlight the intricacies and quirks of best friendships, relationships between teens and their parents, and the heartaches and worries that come with making decisions about where to go in life.

Comics Will Break Your Heart is also a terrific ode to the glories of fandom, culminating in a visit to (of course) San Diego Comic-Con. I’m sure everyone with a secret geeky obsession will relate to the characters’ reactions to entering geek heaven:

In a flash he saw everything as she saw it, the madness and energy but also the joyful heart of the convention.

“Oh, wow,” she whispered. “Comics made all of this.”

For more by this author, check out my reviews of two of her graphic novels, Friends With Boys and The Adventures of Superhero Girl.

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The details:

Title: Comics Will Break Your Heart
Author: Faith Erin Hicks
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Publication date: February 12, 2019
Length: 218 pages
Genre: Young adult
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Take A Peek Book Review: The Agony House by Cherie Priest

“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought.

Synopsis:

(via Goodreads)

Denise Farber has just moved back to New Orleans with her mom and step-dad. They left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and have finally returned, wagering the last of their family’s money on fixing up an old, rundown house and converting it to a bed and breakfast. Nothing seems to work around the place, which doesn’t seem too weird to Denise. The unexplained noises are a little more out of the ordinary, but again, nothing too unusual. But when floors collapse, deadly objects rain down, and she hears creepy voices, it’s clear to Denise that something more sinister lurks hidden here. Answers may lie in an old comic book Denise finds concealed in the attic: the lost, final project of a famous artist who disappeared in the 1950s. Denise isn’t budging from her new home, so she must unravel the mystery-on the pages and off-if she and her family are to survive…

My Thoughts:

Similarly to her work in the terrific I Am Princess X, in The Agony House author Cherie Priest tells a gripping story with comic book illustrations mixed in to tell a piece of the tale. When Denise discovers the hidden comic book in the creepy attic of her new house (which she bluntly refers to as a “craphole” at all times), the book seems to be a clue to the unexplainable events happening to the family as they try to make the old place livable once again.

Denise is a great main character — clearly very smart, devoted to her family, but unhappy with being dragged away from her friends back in Houston and forced to live in this awful house. As she settles in and gets to know some of the teens in her neighborhood, we get a picture of the devastation left by the Storm (as they refer to it), even after so many years. The book deals with issues around economic hardship, gentrification, and privilege, not in a preachy way, but by showing the struggles and resentments of the characters and the new understandings they need to reach in order to get along. The social lessons here feel organic and important to the story, and I appreciated seeing the characters come to terms with one another in all sorts of interesting ways.

I’d place The Agony House somewhere between middle grade and young adult fiction. The main characters are high school seniors, but the events and the narrative would be fine for younger readers, middle school or above, so long as they’re okay with ghosts and spookiness. I really enjoyed the comic book pages and how they relate to the main story, and thought it was all very cleverly put together. As an adult reader, I saw the plot resolution twist coming pretty early on, but that didn’t lessen the satisfaction of seeing it all work out, and I think it’ll be a great surprise for readers in the target audience.

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The details:

Title: The Agony House
Author: Cherie Priest
Illustrator: Tara O’Connor
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Publication date: September 25, 2018
Length: 272 pages
Genre: Young adult fiction
Source: Library

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Saga and Neverwhere: Cool-looking stuff that I read this week

Instead of writing lengthy reviews (as I have a tendency to do), I thought I’d share quick looks at two of my reading obsessions from this past week.

SAGA by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples:

I love Lying Cat. And that’s the truth.

What can I say about the glories of the Saga series? In a nutshell, this comic series tells the story of two star-crossed lovers, Alana and Marko. Their worlds have been at war for generations, and when they desert their respective armies and begin life on the run together, they’re hunted and despised by both sides. The world of Saga is utterly wonderful, with bizarre beings such as Lying Cat, a race of robots with TV screens for heads, an adorable little seal-like creature who’s dangerous AF, and so much more. The artwork is astounding, with a mind-blowing array of gorgeous, strange, and often disgusting creatures and people and planets. The storyline is intense and always surprising, with plenty of danger and violence, but also some truly funny dialogue and situations.

Take note that Saga is definitely NSFW — between gory violence and explicit illustrations of sex acts and genitalia, this isn’t something you want your coworkers reading over your shoulders. (Unless they’re very cool coworkers, but you might be at risk of violating some company policies… )

Saga is available as standard comic editions, but I prefer to wait and read the trade-paperback editions. The 8th paperback volume just came out this month, which is what prompted my Saga binge this week — I re-read #5, then continued straight through 6, 7, and 8. There are also deluxe hardcover editions available, and if I’m ever feeling super rich, I will absolutely treat myself to those as well.

Saga is amazing, people! Don’t miss out.

NEVERWHERE by Neil Gaiman, with illustrations by Chris Riddell

Neverwhere is a classic Neil Gaiman fantasy, originally written as a teleplay for BBC in 1996 before being turned by Gaiman into a novel… which he then continued to tinker with over the years, until now, more than 20 years since its inception, Neverwhere has been published in the author’s “preferred” version of the text, with gorgeous, haunting black-and-white illustrations by the talented Chris Riddell throughout the book.

Neverwhere is the story of Richard Mayhew, an every-man who stumbles out of his normal life and into the dark, hidden, magical world of London Below. Swept away from everything and everyone he thought he knew, Richard finds himself embarking on a quest with the Lady Door, a bodyguard named Hunter, and the mysterious yet dashing Marquis de Carabas. As they avoid the deadly assassins Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar, Richard and his comrades journey through sewers and non-existent underground platforms, meet angels and beasts, and visit the Floating Market. Finally, when Richard has a chance to return to his former life, he has to decide whether he really wants “normal” after all.

I originally read Neverwhere years ago, and gave it only 3-stars at the time. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure that I even finished it, since the last half of so of the book seemed completely new to me. The illustrations here really add to the story, bringing the strange characters to life and adding interest and intrigue to practically every page.

At its heart, Neverwhere is a portal story, where a character steps from our world into something new and different, facing dangers but also encountering wonders beyond imagination. Perhaps my appreciation for this type of tale has grown over the years, but I did enjoy the story a lot more this time around — and the illustrations definitely helped me get into the strange world of Neverwhere in a new and marvelous way.

For more on the artist’s process of illustrating Neverwhere, see this article. And below, enjoy a few snippets of pages from the book. (Click to view larger versions).

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Shelf Control #92: Locke & Key, volume 6: Alpha & Omega

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! Fore more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

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My Shelf Control pick this week is:

Title: Locke & Key, volume 6: Alpha & Omega
Author: Joe Hill
Published: 2014
Length: 192 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

The shadows have never been darker and the end has never been closer. Turn the key and open the last door; it’s time to say goodbye.

The final arc of New York Times bestselling Locke & Key comes to a thundrous and compelling conclusion.

An event not to be missed!

And about the series:

Locke & Key tells of Keyhouse, an unlikely New England mansion, with fantastic doors that transform all who dare to walk through them. Home to a hate-filled and relentless creature that will not rest until it forces open the most terrible door of them all…

How and when I got it:

I preordered this baby and got it on release day, January of 2014.

Why I want to read it:

This is so ridiculous. I read the first five volumes of the Locke & Key series as they were released — well, devoured them, really. And then some time went by, and then volume 6 was released, and I thought to myself that it would be a great idea to start the series again from the beginning so I could be totally in the moment and really savor the series finale. And of course, that never happened. It was a stupid vicious cycle — I was dying to read the conclusion, but wanted to reread the whole series, but didn’t have time to start again, but didn’t want to read #6 without starting again. On and on, until today! I’ve made finishing this series a New Year’s resolution a couple of times now. Maybe in 2018? For realzies this time.

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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

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Top Ten Tuesday: My top 10 favorites in graphic novels, comics, & illustrated books

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Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is All about the visuals: Top Ten Favorite Graphic Novels/Comics or Ten Comics on My TBR or Top Ten Favorite Picture Books.

That’s a pretty broad range of choices, but I think I’ll stick with my favorites in graphic novels (some of which might more properly be called comics, but I don’t mind lumping them all together, as people tend to do). I needed to expand the topic to include other types of illustrated books as well. You’ll see why.

Starting with the serious and historically important:

1) Maus by Art Spiegelman: This modern classic is a must-read.

maus

2) Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi: The story of a girl’s adolescence and young adulthood in Iran is moving and beautifully drawn.

persepolis

Moving on to more fantastical fare:

3) Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan (review): One of my favorites ever! I love this “saga” of a worldwide mysterious event that leaves exactly one human male left on Earth. Brilliant.

ylastman

And speaking of sagas by Brian K. Vaughan…

4) Saga by Brian K. Vaughan: Such a wonderful bit of storytelling — war, love, child-raising, plus wings and horns and TV monitors for heads.

saga collage

5) Fables by Bill Willingham: I love everything about Fables, except the fact that it ended.

fables storybook love

6) Buffy the Vampire Slayer (season 8, 9, 10) by Joss Whedon et. al.: No such thing as too much Buffy! The TV series may have ended after 7 seasons, but the official Buffy storyline lives on in comic book format. And don’t miss the spin-offs about Angel, Faith, Spike, and Willow.

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7) Alex + Ada by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn (review): I stumbled across this trilogy purely by accident at the library one day. The drawing are spare, but the storytelling (about a human and a robot who fall in love, and explore what it means to be a real person) is really terrific.

Alex + Ada

8) Through the Woods by Emily Carroll: Spooky, eerie stories and illustrations make this one a must (and a great gift for anyone who enjoys the darker side of life).

Through the Woods

Ack! I’m running out of room! So tied for number 9 (cheating!) are two different works that scare the pants off me:

9a) N by Stephen King: Oh my sweet heavens. This is a terrifying book. Nightmares, nightmares, nightmares. But read it anyway!

n-stephen-king

9b) The Locke & Key series by Joe Hill: I’m ashamed to admit that I STILL haven’t read the final volume in the incredibly creative and horribly creepy Locke & Key series. Mainly, I haven’t finished because it’s been too long since I’ve read volumes 1 – 5, and I think I need to do a re-read. But the books are so scary that I’m not sure I want to do a re-read! Seriously, I love Locke & Key, but they make me want to lock all the doors and windows and never, ever go near wells or keys.

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And finally, an illustrated novel:

10) Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick: Really, I’d pick just about any of this author’s three wonderful illustrated books (the others being The Invention of Hugo Cabret and The Marvels). I love how the drawings are part of the narrative itself, rather than simply decoration. Wonderstruck made me cry, so it deserves a spot on my top 10 list!

wonderstruck

What books made your list this week? Please share your link!

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Do you host a book blog meme? Do you participate in a meme that you really, really love? I host a Book Blog Meme Directory, and need your help! If you know of a great meme to include — or if you host one yourself — please drop me a note on my Contact page and I’ll be sure to add your info!

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Let us now praise gorgeous books

My photos simply won’t do this book justice, but I still have to share. I was so excited to get this delivered this week:

kindred-cover

It’s a brand new release — a graphic novel adaptation of the late, great Octavia Butler’s masterpiece Kindred.

A few more peeks:

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I hope to start reading this graphic novel this week. Kindred is an amazing book — if you haven’t read the original novel, do it now!! I can’t wait to see if the power and intensity of the book translate well into graphic novel format.

I’ll let you know!

Shelf Control #66: The Undertaking of Lily Chen

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! Fore more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

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My Shelf Control pick this week is:

undertakingTitle: The Undertaking of Lily Chen
Author: Danica Novgorodoff
Published: 2014
Length: 430 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

In the mountains of Northern China ancient custom demands that every man have a wife to keep him company in the afterlife.

Deshi Li’s brother is dead—and unmarried. Which means that Deshi must find him an eligible body before the week is up.

Lily Chen, sweet as a snakebite, needs money and a fast ride out of town.

Haunted by the gods of their ancestors and the expectations of the new world, Deshi and Lily embark on a journey with two very different destinations in mind.

They travel through a land where the ground is hard and the graves are shallow, where marriage can be murder and where Lily Chen is wanted—dead and alive.

How I got it:

I bought it.

When I got it:

In 2014, after reading a review soon after the book was released.

Why I want to read it:

It sounds great, doesn’t it? I love the idea of the ghost bride, as well as the combination of old traditions and new society. I’m always on the lookout for unusual graphic novels, and this one sounds like something really different.

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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • And if you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

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Thursday Quotables: Angel & Faith, Death and Consequences (Season 9, volume 4)

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Welcome back to Thursday Quotables! This weekly feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week.  Whether it’s something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, Thursday Quotables is where my favorite lines of the week will be, and you’re invited to join in!

NEW! Thursday Quotables is now using a Linky tool! Be sure to add your link if you have a Thursday Quotables post to share.

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Angel & Faith: Death and Consequences by Christos Gage and Rebekah Isaacs
(published 2013)

I went on a Buffy binge this week! I read a total of eleven volumes of graphic novels from the Buffy-verse — including Buffy season 9, Angel & Faith season 9, and a stand-alone Willow book. It might be weird to pick a quote from a graphic novel, but I can’t resist! It’s been so much fun to be back with the gang again. The comic series does an amazing job of staying true to the characters — their personalities, appearances, and speech patterns.

So, here’s a little snippet of a wonderful little Spike moment:

Baby slayers. I missed baby slayers. The angst, the attitude… bit like a soap opera with weapons.

What lines made you laugh, cry, or gasp this week? Do tell!

If you’d like to participate in Thursday Quotables, it’s really simple:

  • Write a Thursday Quotables post on your blog. Try to pick something from whatever you’re reading now. And please be sure to include a link back to Bookshelf Fantasies in your post (http://www.bookshelffantasies.com), if you’d be so kind!
  • Click on the linky button (look for the cute froggie face) below to add your link.
  • After you link up, I’d love it if you’d leave a comment about my quote for this week.
  • Be sure to visit other linked blogs to view their Thursday Quotables, and have fun!

Shelf Control #25: Pride of Baghdad

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Welcome to the newest weekly feature here at Bookshelf Fantasies… Shelf Control!

Shelf Control is all about the books we want to read — and already own! Consider this a variation of a Wishing & Waiting post… but looking at books already available, and in most cases, sitting right there on our shelves and e-readers.

Want to join in? See the guidelines and linky at the bottom of the post, and jump on board! Let’s take control of our shelves!

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My Shelf Control pick this week is:

Pride of BaghdadTitle: Pride of Baghdad
Author: Brian K. Vaughan (art by Niko Henrichon)
Published: 2006
Length: 136 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

From one of America’s most critically acclaimed graphic novel writers – inspired by true events, a startlingly original look at life on the streets of Baghdad during the Iraq War.

In his award-winning work on Y THE LAST MAN and EX MACHINA (one of Entertainment Weekly’s 2005 Ten Best Fiction titles), writer Brian K. Vaughan has displayed an understanding of both the cost of survival and the political nuances of the modern world. Now, in this provocative graphic novel, Vaughan examines life on the streets of war-torn Iraq.

In the spring of 2003, a pride of lions escaped from the Baghdad zoo during an American bombing raid. Lost and confused, hungry but finally free, the four lions roamed the decimated streets of Baghdad in a desperate struggle for their lives. In documenting the plight of the lions, PRIDE OF BAGHDAD raises questions about the true meaning of liberation – can it be given or is it earned only through self-determination and sacrifice? And in the end, is it truly better to die free than to live life in captivity?

Based on a true story, VAUGHAN and artist NIKO HENRICHON (Barnum!) have created a unique and heartbreaking window into the nature of life during wartime, illuminating this struggle as only the graphic novel can.

 

How I got it:

I bought a copy while browsing in the local used book store.

When I got it:

About a year ago.

Why I want to read it:

Y: The Last Man and Saga are two of my favorite series of all-times. This is a stand-alone graphic novel from the amazing Brian K. Vaughan, and it sounds really interesting and so different!

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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link below!
  • And if you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and have fun!


For more on why I’ve started Shelf Control, check out my introductory post here, or read all about my out-of-control book inventory, here.

And if you’d like to post a Shelf Control button on your own blog, here’s an image to download (with my gratitude, of course!):

Shelf Control

Thursday Quotables: Nimona

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Welcome back to Thursday Quotables! This weekly feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week.  Whether it’s something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, Thursday Quotables is where my favorite lines of the week will be, and you’re invited to join in!

NEW! Thursday Quotables is now using a Linky tool! Be sure to add your link if you have a Thursday Quotables post to share.

Nimona

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
(published 2015)

I loved this wonderful graphic novel, which features characters who turn stereotypes upside down, snappy dialogue, and a plot that’s constantly a surprise. Here’s a little taste of the relationship between Lord Ballister Blackheart and sidekick Nimona:

“I just don’t want you to get hurt!”

“Will you CHILL OUT? No one ever got killed with one little arrow!”

“Actually, they do. That is kind of the purpose of arrows.”

 

What lines made you laugh, cry, or gasp this week? Do tell!

If you’d like to participate in Thursday Quotables, it’s really simple:

  • Write a Thursday Quotables post on your blog. Try to pick something from whatever you’re reading now. And please be sure to include a link back to Bookshelf Fantasies in your post (http://www.bookshelffantasies.com), if you’d be so kind!
  • Click on the linky button (look for the cute froggie face) below to add your link.
  • After you link up, I’d love it if you’d leave a comment about my quote for this week.
  • Be sure to visit other linked blogs to view their Thursday Quotables, and have fun!