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Ten Banned Books for Banned Book Week

Ten Banned Books for Banned Book Week

I love banned book week. It’s one of my favorite times of the year. Every year during the last week of October, the American Library Association raises awareness about books we’ve banned in America. These books are pretty much always banned for stupid reasons by well-meaning parents who probably need to read more and calm. the. BLEEEEEEP. down. Last year I wrote a post on Matter Deep’s site about why the commonly banned book, Looking for Alaska, is banned and why it’s important. I also shared an essay about the importance of letting teens tackle difficult topics through the safe distance of literature and the dangers of shielding them from these literary experiences. This year I bring you a list of ten banned books for all ages. I have read all of these books and suggest you read one or give one to a child to read this week.

A little Night Vale art from http://graphcolor.tumblr.com/

A little Night Vale art from http://graphcolor.tumblr.com/

10. And Tango Makes Three

Last year, this was Carly Strickland’s pick for her favorite banned book. It’s a picture book, the youngest recommendation I have here today, and it’s adorable. And Tango Makes Three is about a pair of penguins who love each other and raise a baby penguin. Why is it banned? Because the two penguins happen to both be boys. This book is beautifully illustrated, non-confrontational, and delicate about the subject of same-sex couples. Within the context of the story, it’s not a big deal that these penguins happen to be same-sex. The story is about families being more than blood—they’re what you make them. These two penguins adopt an egg and raise it as their own. It’s an adoption story.

936full-scary-stories-to-tell-in-the-dark-cover9. The Scary Stories Series

My brother and I had these growing up. They were awesome spooky stories with great illustrations. We loved to tell them at sleepovers and neither of us were scarred for life. Some places have banned them for being unsuitable for the age group (because post-2000, we shelter our children from the scary stories they so crave) and for being “Satanic” (because there are ghosts and undead monsters). My brother and I easily read these at 7&8 years old and neither of us became a Satanist or a paranoid schizophrenic. Kids like being scared by fiction. We knew the difference between fantasy and reality. Ghost stories are clearly fantasy. Face it, your kids should be more scarred by the evening news. Know your kids and watch what they read. If your kids can’t take it, don’t take it from other kids who can.

8. The Harry Potter Series

The Harry Potter series was the subject of a number of book burnings in the early 2000s. Southern Baptist churches really lead the charge. Where I lived in Massachusetts, nobody ever seemed to have a problem with it (maybe because we had the Salem Witch Trials to look back on and learn from); here in Alabama, however, a woman told my sister-in-law that once she finished the last page of the book, her soul would belong to the devil. More recently some attention-seeking teenagers from Arizona have decided to go to England and try to purge the devil who was brought there by people reading spells from Harry Potter (your insanity is a few years late, girls.) Harry Potter has been banned for portraying witchcraft in a positive light. Here’s the thing: most practicing witches, whether pagan or secular, don’t think sparks shoot out of their wands when they speak single words of latin. And here’s the more-significant thing: Harry Potter is a Christian allegory. JK Rowling believes in God. This series is beautiful and engaging and important. It teaches about love and death and sacrifice. It has inspired a love of reading in an entire generation, leading to the market surge of YA fiction and making books not just something for nerds anymore. Don’t take that away out of ignorant fear. It’s worth too much to lose.

7. The Wrinkle in Time Series

My teacher read the first novel of this series, A Wrinkle in Time, to my class in third grade. It was mind-blowing. I had never read a fantasy novel and I loved it. Later, when I discovered there were more books, I tore through the series. They were emotionally engaging and each book had a profound impact on my life. Still, since its publication in 1962, people have worried that it deals too overtly with the issue of evil and (in true Cold War paranoia) possibly promotes some communist sentiments. Jerry Falwell came out saying it undermined the idea of God and others found it too Christian. In 1990, a town in Alabama banned it because the book cited Jesus along with a list of philosophers. As you can well see, the banning of this book has been propelled by often contradictory waves of ignorance. Even without my need to stick it to the book-banners, I would recommend this series. And there’s a graphic novel now, for ESL students!

6. The Giver

This book has often been banned for the mild sexuality in it. I mean super-mild. I read it in the fifth grade at school. Others were upset that it depicted euthanasia and the “degradation of motherhood and adolescence.” So we’ve entirely missed the point. The Giver has also been condemned for featuring “new age” language like “transcendent” that the Bible tells us to avoid. You know what else is transcendent? Most of the events in the Bible. For me, The Giver was an important piece of adolescent literature. In a time when puberty was beginning for my classmates and so many of us were a mess of hormones and emotions, it was important for a novel to understand this awakening and to explain to us that while it may hurt sometimes, it’s necessary. The alternative is no good.

5. To Kill a Mockingbird

This book has been banned for the use of racial language. Yes. That’s the point. Morons.

part-time-indian4. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

This book includes violence, a bit of foul language, alcoholism, and tragic accidental deaths. It’s probably not a great book for a 6th grader, but for a 9th grader, the narrator’s voice is genuine. Last week a group of my students began talking about how they thought scholarships for Native Americans weren’t fair. A few days after they couldn’t understand why the use of peyote was illegal in America, but legal within the context of Native American religious ceremonies on reservations. It’s clear to me that the average white American high school students just. don’t. get. it. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian tells the story of Junior, a kid on a reservation, surrounded by alcoholism, stuck in a failing school, who leaves the reservation for a better education and is torn between the two worlds—and outsider in both. If you judge it solely based on the language, of course you’ll find a lot to hate. If you take into account that your kids hear these words every day on the bus and look at the book as a whole, you’ll find a lot to love.

3. Fahrenheit 451

Most of you know this book because it’s a classic. It has made a lot of eerie predictions about the state of modern fashion and media and is worth a read for just that alone. I just have to say that banning a book about a society that controls its populace by banning all books is one of the stupidest things I can imagine. You might as well stick a sign that says “evil fascist” on your chest, because you’ve become the villain of the book you’re railing against.

2. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Perks features sex, drugs, alcohol, suicide, and themes of mental illness. But it’s pretty much against all of those things. I know you’re probably sick of me calling books beautiful, but this book is beautiful. I read it in eleventh grade (borrowed it from my friend John; thanks John!) and it was one of the first YA books I read that felt real. It wasn’t the glossy sexualized high school experience of the Gossip Girl TV series. It was a book about teenagers (with problems, go figure) who acted like teenagers and made the same kinds of mistakes that teenagers often do. It was an incredibly emotional reading experience that I am grateful for. I tore through it in a night and I loved every uncomfortable moment of Charlie’s story. This book isn’t for 6th graders, but for a high school student struggling with depression, family tragedy, and introversion, it’s a beautiful and touching thing. For some of my peers, it has been therapeutic. Why would you take that away only to shelter your kids from the language they already hear and the situations they already see on prime time TV? At least here it has context and meaning.

1. The Things They Carried

This novel is not for young teens, but for emerging adults ready to start voting, it’s a must. The Things They Carried has been praised as one of the best war novels of all time. It’s a work of metafiction—a confusing jumble of truth and fabrication that somehow tells the most honest war story. Perhaps Rat Kiley and Kiowa never existed, but veterans of the Vietnam conflict praise this novel as being truthful in the way that it portrays the war. I think it is important for anyone who casts a ballot to understand what war is like and what it does to people. This is, by far, the most mature of my banned book recommendations, but as a teacher who wrapped up a 12th grade unit on it only this spring, I can tell you that my students loved it and they learned from it. Sex and profanity are terrible things, but you know what else is? War. If you expect them, in the next year of their lives, to be eligible to go to war, you should trust them to read this book and get something valuable out of it.

 

 

What is your favorite banned book? Why was it banned? Why is that stupid?

“Ah, the Shape of Things to Come” OR, How the 1960 Movie of The Time Machine Started With Good Intentions but Became Creepy and Flawed

“Ah, the Shape of Things to Come” OR, How the 1960 Movie of The Time Machine Started With Good Intentions but Became Creepy and Flawed

The Time Machine, one of the original “Steampunk” novels by H.G. Wells, has a special place in my heart. It was a major stylistic influence for Rescue OR, Royer Goldhawk’s Remarkable Journal, in that it is a frame story that begins with a nameless narrator and quickly delves into another narrator’s story– the main event of the novel. Today I watched the 1960 film adaptation and I have a bone to pick with it. I will warn that this comparison is going to be spoiler-tastic. This is all the warning you get. You’ve had a hundred and eighteen years to read the novel and fifty-three years to see the movie. At this point, if you complain, you’ll be like all of the people last month who got mad when people spoiled The Great Gatsby. Didn’t you read it in eleventh grade?

Time Machine (1960) 6

Rod Taylor looking like a 1960s Sci-Fi hero with his anachronistic haircut.

The novel of The Time Machine is essentially about the stratification of classes. The future that the inventor sees is the result of the working classes and the wealthy evolving separately. The wealthy never have to work or struggle to live, and– as a result– they devolve into complacent children– the Eloi. They are small, strange people with a simple language who do not read and do not even find their own food. The only sign that they are anything but happy little Boohbah dolls is the fear they have at night. Meanwhile, the working class has evolved into the Morlocks, a pasty  light-sensitive race of people that live in factories underground and continue their function of feeding and clothing the upper (literally) class. The only change is that they come out at night and kidnap Eloi to cannibalize. The poor are feeding on the rich for once.

The 1960 film adaptation of The Time Machine takes a very different turn on the themes of H.G. Wells’ speculative novel. The theme changes from class warfare to general warfare. It’s fascinating, early on, when a diversion is added to the inventor’s initial time travel; he stops off in World War I and World War II and finds himself horrified at how much worse the war-like nature of his countrymen has become. Despite the fact that the story seems to still be set in England (as evidenced by the blimps in World War II) yet nobody but the ginger has an appropriate accent, I really enjoyed this diversion. Of course, Wells couldn’t have written it as he wasn’t a prophet. It was a nice modern update. Then things got a little heavy-handed on the war side and soon the theme of the original source was completely thrown out.

Weena, the Eloi girl that the inventor befriends, is now a woman. The writers of the film make a major mistake in developing a romantic relationship between “George” and Weena, while still keeping a childlike casting and even having the inventor call her “just a child.” If she’s just a child, George, then you are a pedophile. Great job, MGM.

The writers of the 1960 film adaptation take it one step further, and in doing so, break the plot. Instead of the excursion into the tunnel being an attempt to find the time machine, the film has Weena kidnapped by Morlocks, damsel-ing her and changing the motivation for the journey itself. The way in which she is kidnapped is what breaks the conventions of the novel, which the writers still use without consideration for why they worked. You see, in the novel, the Morlocks live underground without light and come out during the night to kidnap their food source. In the novel, they are so light-sensitive that they are hurt by as little as a match-worth of light. This creates a truly horrific scene in the tunnel when the inventor is engulfed in pitch black, able to feel the hands of the Morlocks on him, but unable to keep a match lit for more than a few seconds. And he’s running out. The movie, however, has the Morlocks using an air-raid siren to hypnotize the Eloi into walking to their deaths, removing the need for the Eloi to fear the night. The Morlocks are shown in full light with their glowing red eyes that now don’t make sense (because glowing eyes would indicate the need for night vision), yet they are still repelled by a lit match. Things just don’t add up!

And then the movie makes its biggest misstep. George saves the Eloi, enlightening them, when he teaches a man how to punch. George, fraught with anguish that the world has been destroyed by nuclear war and violence, saves them by teaching them the lost concept of violence. *facepalm*

They flee the cave, and all of the Eloi, who have never before had to work or climb or even try to save someone from drowning, climb out of the tunnel without a second thought. Meanwhile, Weena, the prettiest woman, needs George to drag and push her up the tunnel. This, combined with the trope of the older, experienced man teaching the simple, helpless woman the ways of life and love,  made this movie actually more sexist than a Victorian novel.

From here the movie returns to the plot of the book. The Morlocks open the door to the time machine to trap him. He fights them off long enough to take off into the fourth dimension. He goes forward before going back to his own time. Nobody believes him. He leaves again. Roll credits.

A film adaptation that starts off with good intentions devolves into a contradictory mess with plot-holes and creepy romantic moments. While it is understandable that the film makers of 1960, one year into the early stages of the Vietnam War, might want to change the theme, they essentially broke the source material and made what started as an interesting piece of speculative fiction into a silly action movie.

10 Great Fiction Books for Teens

10 Great Fiction Books for Teens

This is not a list of best selling books for teens; a walk down the YA isle at Target could provide that. Instead, this list includes books that are great both in their craft and in their importance. Here you will find novels with heart and depth. This is a list of books that will impact the lives of teens beyond TV remakes and desktop wallpapers. Some of these novels are popular, but all of these novels are great.

10 Great Fiction Books for Teens

10. Jenny Pox

This is the only Indie novel on my list, partly because most of the Indie novels I have read are definitely genre fiction. This novel, Jenny Pox, by JL Bryan, is a fantasy novel, but it is also an important piece of literature about identity, guilt, and the gullible nature of our society.

Jenny Morton is a high school student in rural Georgia who is isolated from her peers by a deadly power. This curse, one that took her mother in childbirth, leaves Jenny lonely and plagued with guilt. When she meets Seth, a popular boy with a similar secret, she connects with another human being in a very special way. It’s the villain, however, that makes this novel impossible to put down. The wicked, manipulative Ashleigh shows a ruthless side of humanity and shines a spotlight on how easily we allow ourselves to be manipulated.

The Paranormals series is fun and addictive, but book one, Jenny Pox, is a work of art.

9. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

In the 11th grade, a friend recommended I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. It was the first novel I had ever read that acknowledged the realities of twenty-first century teens and celebrated the outcast.

Charlie is an introvert who writes letters to the reader telling the story of his first year of high school. Several months before, Charlie’s only good friend, Michael, took his own life. Charlie doesn’t think he can rely on his family for support because he believes that they just don’t understand him.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is at times funny, at times sad, and nearly always profound. It tells a story of abuse, drugs, sexuality, coming of age, and simply how awkward it is to be a teenager. The story is packed with references to movies, music, and books, and Charlie’s selections are all great. If for nothing else, read TPOBAW to make an excellent reading list.

8. Stardust

Stardust, by Neil Gaiman, is a difficult book to categorize. There is a trade paperback that is simply a novel, but the best edition of this book is the version that includes copious illustrations by Charles Vess.

vess_lionunicorn

Stardust, made into a movie in 2007 starring Michelle Pfiefer and Claire Danes, tells the story of Tristan Thorn, a young man with a strange origin who promises to venture over the wall to the world of fairy to fetch a fallen star for a girl he thinks he’s in love with. When he finds the star, however, he learns that she has a seemingly human form. Tristan journeys across the world of fairy with Yvaine, the star, and meets witches, pirates, and magical creatures.

The important part about Stardust isn’t the beautiful art or Neil Gaiman’s wit. Like with every great book on this list, it’s a coming of age tale. Tristan has to strike out on his own to find out what kind of man he ants to be. It also makes an important statement about the adolescent infatuations that we often mistake for love.

7. The Books of Magic

This is a comic book. There, I said it. The Books of Magic is a Neil Gaiman comic book/graphic novel about a young boy who looks like Harry Potter before Harry Potter and has the possibility of becoming a powerful sorcerer. It features four excellent artists (including Charles Vess!) and a whole bunch of DC Universe Cameos (like Zatana and Constantine).

BoM4mages

The boy, Timothy Hunter, goes on an almost Christmas-Carol-Like journey to become a well informed participant in his own fate. He is to be shown the world of magic before deciding if he wants to embrace his powers or reject them. It is a powerful story because, though everyone seems to have a strong opinion about what they want for Timothy, the decision is ultimately up to him.

It’s an important statement about our own fates: adults may all have grand plans for us, but when we come of age, the choice is ours. To find out what Timothy choses, you’ll have to read!

6. Ender’s Game

Ender Wiggin lives in a world that has survived an alien invasion. The the “buggers” are gone, the threat of their return little more than a spooky story to sell masks for kids. At the start of this Orson Scott Card masterpiece, Ender is chosen for battle school on a space station. The government needs him, and so Ender is whisked away at age six to train for military service. From the beginning it is clear that Ender is an extremely gifted child.

Whereas most of these novels are more traditional coming of age tales where a character learns what he/she is made of, Ender’s Game is a bit more complicated. Ender Wiggin grows into a leader of men, but his entire education is a manipulation by the military, shaping him into exactly what they need.

Oh. And Harrison Ford is going to be in the movie.

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5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian

Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian tells the story of Junior, a boy who lives in a reservation, surrounded by alcohol-fueled deaths and apathy. When Junior gets his mother’s textbook in class and realizes that his text book is that old, he gets angry and throws the book at his teacher. This action leads to Junior going to a public school off the reservation to receive a better education. As a result, he is an outcast in his white school for being a Native American and an outcast on the reservation for being a deserter.

Junior’s story is both tragic and hilarious. For reluctant readers there are also cartoons to break up the text.

4. Looking for Alaska

Looking for Alaska by John Green is set in Birmingham Alabama. In fact, as I write this post, I am sitting just up the road from the real-life boarding school that Green attended and based his setting for Looking for Alaska on. It is John Green’s first novel, and if you intend to read it, you had better buy some tissues.

Miles “Pudge” Halter lives in Florida, but decides to go to boarding  in Alabama. He is a bit of a loner, but his room mate is a trouble-maker who will not let Miles blend into the background. It’s when he meets a girl, Alaska Young, that his life is changed. Alaska is the definition of a free spirit and Miles is in love. Miles and company stumble through school, tangling with drugs, sexuality, practical jokes, and social drama.

And then something bad happens.

If I go any further and explaining why this novel is important, I’ll give it away. Read it and find out what happens.

3. Blankets

This is another comic book! Craig Thompson’s autobiographical graphic novel is a story of guilt and growth. Craig Thompson grew up in a conservative Christian home, being told that his art wasn’t important by Sunday School teachers and having guilt drilled into him. With different adults in his life preaching their own interpretations of the bible, Thompson, a child, is confused. A hilarious scene mid-book shows Thompson and his little brother getting into a pee fight (yes, it’s as bad as it sounds) that turns suddenly sad as they end the night washing off their shame.

As a senior in high school, Thompson took a trip to visit a girl he met at church camp, and through the story of these weeks and intermittent flashbacks, we see how Thompson was crippled by guilt, lost his faith, and found it again in more loving, accepting, and moderate terms.

blankets_03

2. Speak

Trigger warning- this book is about rape.

Melinda Sordino is entering high school as a pariah. At an unsupervised summer party, Melinda called the police. Melinda’s friends never stop to ask why, but join the rest of the school and openly shunning her. Over the course of the novel, Melinda slips into depression and self-neglect before clawing her way out of the darkness and coming to terms with her assault.

Speak is a book about very serious matters, but it is not without humor. Melinda’s insights on high school are biting and hilarious.

Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak is an important piece of young adult literature because rape is a very real problem that students need to be taught to approach with compassion. Most importantly, it teaches victims that the only way to take back power is through speaking out about sexual assault.

1. Paper Towns

That’s right, TWO John Green novels! I believe that John Green is perhaps the most important young adult writer since SE Hinton, and he’s loads more talented.

I firmly believe that Paper Towns is the standard of meaningful Young Adult literature. The characters are real and flawed and the high school drama– the stuff we hope to leave behind as adults– only serves the themes.

So much of fiction is filled with the paper girl, the indie head-f*** girl who is only flawed in a good way, and the wooden boy who only becomes a real boy through her off-beat shenanigans. This novel is about that flawed, sometimes dangerous fantasy. We see other people as animals or Gods, but Green wants us to see them as people. We may never be able to walk a mile in their shoes, but we can open our eyes and see.

 

Book Review: Exiled

Book Review: Exiled

 

 

I gave Exiled 4 stars on Goodreads, because they don’t support half-star ratings and because it was really closer to 4 than 3. Exiled is Merrick’s first novel and suffers from some of the same flaws that many first time novels do. It is a formidable first release and I enjoyed reading it. The beginning was a bit shakey for me, but half-way through, the story really comes into its own.

What I Liked:

The story was a creative, well-thought out idea. Chase Williams is a hunter, a group of magical humans destined to hunt demons. The mythology behind this is revealed through the story. When Chase fails to manifest an elemental ability on his fifteenth birthday at his coming-of-age ceremony, his arrogant father exiles him from their world. That coming-of-age ceremony is the key to this story and we see this line of plot follow through to its natural conclusion.

The hero is wonderfully flawed. With some Indie novels, you find a hero who is flawed in little, insignificant wants. Chase is cocky and closed-minded at the start of Exiled and his act-first, think-later attitude, which is not conveniently erased by the novel’s conclusion, gets him into a lot of trouble. His personality is consistent throughout the novel, making him a wonderful, mythic hero.

The supporting cast had some real gems, too. Vincent, the vampire, is one of my favorites. He is hard to predict, deliciously manipulative (anyone who has read Nick in the Olympia Heights series may have guessed by now that I find manipulative characters to be oodles of fun!), and  multi-faceted. He is a viscous killer and (rarely) a compassionate heart.

Certain parts of the plot felt like a real mythology. The fight with the troll, for instance, went through Chase’s laundry list of combat tricks and became seemingly impossible, before finding a creative solution.In this way, Merrick made Chase’s adventures feel Herculean.

What I Didn’t Like:

The beginning of the novel was rough. Too many sentences with similar structure threw off the flow of the writing. The plots itself raised little questions and didn’t propose a sense of mystery until thirty to forty percent through. This is a much longer read than similar genre fiction, so that was a long time to go with awkward flow and no real mystery. I put it down a lot during the early pages because not much was compelling me to keep going.

The beginning was dragged down by too many blow-by-blow fights. Chase gets into a LOT of fights. A lot. This is total man fiction, which works for Harry Dresden, but I needed to see some of the fights abridged. After the third fight in the book, I was ready to gloss over some of the details. They weren’t important to moving the story along and they began to feel repetitive. I’m as guilty as Merrick of writing blow-by-blow fights, but when I saw so many of them in one book, I began to understand why my editor doesn’t like the play-by-play.

Once we got into the big questions (who is kidnapping half-breeds and why?), the story picked up. At 75%, though, when Chase sees a change of setting, I really wanted it to be another book. What happens at that mark changes the feel of the book entirely and that shift happens too late in the game. It could have been another book– the last 25% of the novel spread out with extra obstacles and character bonding. Tiki, a character introduced at this point, seems interesting and teases that he can take care of himself in a fight, but we never see what he does in the fight to survive.

At this point in the novel, Chase begins to call his father “Riley.” That felt weird. It’s a first person narrative and he’s calling his father by his first name? It wasn’t well established that he called his father by his given name, so the switch only served to detach the character from his important relationship to the protagonist.

Other than that, my only other problem was the very end. It was too synopsy (I made up a word). If it had been labeled as an Epilogue, that would have fixed the stylistic change. Otherwise, I would have liked it to end at the section-break before. Merrick could have included what happened in the aftermath in the start of book 2 (called Shift, if you’re curious). The last few paragraphs shift tense, too. It was weird, but it would have had a simple enough fix. If Merrick had included Chase saying something that acknowledged that he was writing or telling the story (something like “and that’s why I told you this…” only better because I just wrote that in five seconds with my coffee), it would have explained the sudden switch and made it clear why everything until then was in past tense. No such explanation accompanied this switch, making the reader wonder if it was purposeful or not. I have no problem with tense changes, so long as I have no doubt that you meant to do it.

The Verdict:

Exiled may take you a little struggling to get started, but once you get into it, it’s a worthwhile start to a series. As I said before, it’s total man fiction. Read this book if you like fantasy, fights, monsters, and sassy girls in corsets kicking butt. Exiled by M.R. Merrick gets 3.5 stars and I intend to read Shift, the sequel.

Book Review: Olympus by Nathan Edmonson

Book Review: Olympus by Nathan Edmonson

★★★★☆

“Zeus granted immortality to two brothers and bound them to his service. Three thousand years later they serve him on Earth, hunting fugitives from Olympus, and maintaining balance and order between the human realm and the divine.”

I picked up Olympus, written by Nathan Edmonson, art by Christian Ward, at the Alabama Phoenix Festival in Birmingham, AL this year. Edmonson was there, selling comics, and the art immediately caught my eye. My copy is signed and I have to say, I do not regret the purchase.

Olympus is an independent comic, or at least it’s not Marvel, DC, or Darkhorse. Image Comics published the four series comic in 2009 and the trade is available for $14.99 on Amazon.com. The binding is excellent and the cover uses a mix of matte and glossy textures effectively. The trade includes a few pinups by guest artists, too.

The art was initially what grabbed me, but it’s also what sometimes makes this tale a four-star find. The line is loose, the colors are soft, and Ward employs color like a proper expressionist painter, favoring mood over reality and local color. Sometimes, however, the colors and the loose lines make it difficult to tell exactly what is going on. Action sequences are unclear. For some, this may not be a problem. For me, as an extremely logical, Athena-type, ambiguity makes me bristle.

Edmonson’s writing tells the tale of Castor and Pollux, the Gemini twins, cursed to live forever in the service of Zeus. In the opening scene the twins are at a club for New Years Eve. In a shocking early scene, the unfamiliar versions of these modern heroes shoot each other, point-blank, in public. Castor and Pollux can’t die, so they run around taking care of the remnants of a Greek Pantheon that has (mostly) locked itself away from contemporary earth. The brothers have well-defined, differing personalities and have adapted well to modern life. The real meat of the plot starts when a run in with the rogue god, Hermes, leads to the release of a much more dangerous foe. This enemy is where Ward’s loose, expressive art style really shines.

If you’re a lover of comics and Greek Mythology, Olympus is definitely one to check out. It’s a short, contained run that tells a fun story from start to finish. It’s funny, it’s epic, and the art is worth drooling at for $14.99.

Haven’t entered the Giveaway yet? Go here before Saturday, July 21, 2012 to enter!

 

Book Review: FairyLand

Book Review: FairyLand

★★★★★

My review of Fairyland, the 4th Songs of Magic book by JL Bryan. I got a sneak peek of this book before release and did some proofing for JL Bryan. This book is amazing, check it out on Kindle!

Note– My birthday joke was poorly planned. I didn’t realize when I recorded it that he would get the book out the day BEFORE my birthday. Thwarted! Meh, it was a lame joke anyway.

Book: Pretty When She Dies

Book: Pretty When She Dies

by Rhiannon Frater
★★★★☆

Pretty When She Dies is a bloody, violent, fiercely sexual vampire tale. DO NOT read this book if you have a problem with intense violence or sexuality. This is NOT a work of YA fiction.

 

Amilaya claws her way out of her own grave at the novel’s opening and spends the remainder of the book, metaphorically doing the same thing; that is to say that every page is a struggle for survival.

Rhiannon Frater succeeds in making blood and fangs sexy without resorting to soft touches and sparkles. While there are a disproportionate amount of unusual names in this book, and Amilaya’s life is one tragedy after another, the chemistry between Cian and Amilaya is undeniable. Frater doth protest too much to Cian being Amilaya’s type, because when blood-lust and plain ol’ fashioned lust meet,their differences don’t seem to matter.

The book contains a few awkward phrases and missing punctuation marks, but this is not devastatingly distracting. Sometimes Frater tells too much– having characters read too much in the eyes of their companions and explaining the motives of every character. The epilogue goes on a little longer than necessary, too. Despite these little hiccups, the novel clicks along and keeps you reading.’

Frater adds necromancy (and therefore Zombies) to the mix in this sparkle-free vampire tale. While the Vampires seem straight out of White-Wolf’s Vampire the Requiem/Masquerade, the addition of the Summoners stitched-together monsters keep it fresh.

What I enjoyed the most was the fact that one of the major characters in the novel is a little old hispanic woman. She’s a strong, useful character, too. Frater does not create a single character without a serious flaw. I have to show respect here. She makes me completely HATE a certain female character, before appreciating her loyalty and maturity at the end of the novel.

I’m not sure if I want to read Pretty When She Kills but only because I feel like Pretty When She Dies wraps up the story at an appropriate place. Still, if you like bloody, sexy, violent vampires, read Pretty When She Dies.