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Bite-Sized Book Reviews: DEAD WEIGHT: MURDER AT CAMP BLOOM and BINGO LOVE

Comics and MangaKristina PinoComment
dead weight murder at camp bloom cover.jpg

Dead Weight: Murder At Camp Bloom by Molly Muldoon, Terry Blas, and Matthew Seely

To be released April 2018. 

If you enjoy a good murder mystery, this book is definitely for you. Served with body positivity, diverse characters, and beautiful art and coloring. A group of teenagers at a weight-loss camp witness a murder at the hands of a counselor, but can't identify exactly which one. Now they can't trust any of the adults, but they still intend to find the killer and bring them to justice. Great characterization and design really make this story shine. Great for fans of Lumberjanes or any other away camp setting in their comics.

cover by Genevieve FT

cover by Genevieve FT

Bingo Love by Tee Franklin, Jenn St-Onge, Joy San, et al. 

Released Valentine's Day 2018. 

Hazel and Mari met as young teens, become instant best friends, and fall in love at exactly the wrong time. Their families don't accept their love, and they go their separate ways, start "traditional" families of their own, and begin to grow old. Decades later, they meet again at the same place they met the first time around - church bingo. Is it fate? This beautiful romance spanning a lifetime explores love at different stages of life, the needs and desires of older women which are frequently under-represented, and how attitudes and conventions have changed over time. 

Bite-Sized Comics Reviews: DRAMA and ROLLER GIRL

Comics and Manga, BooksKristina PinoComment

Drama by Raina Telgemeier (2012)

Drama follows middle schooler Callie and her friends in stage crew and drama putting on a production of Moon Over Mississippi. The overarching plot is how Callie's into set design and she wants the show to look Broadway-worthy, but more than anything this story is about friendships, working hard, and the trials and tribulations of middle school life. Telgemeier really shines here in her realistic portrayal of kids and young teens, and her depictions of a diverse range of characters. Great read with something to say about working hard, evaluating self worth, empathy, acceptance, and doing what makes you happy.

 

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson (2015)

In Roller Girl, we see just how much it matters to surround yourself with an amazing and diverse support group (read: girl gang), especially if you're a young girl whose identity has basically revolved around one friendship. Astrid watches a roller derby bout for the first time and decides then and there she wants to go to her local team's roller derby camp. Her best friend decides to go to dance camp instead, and she's left to navigate all these new experiences alone. Astrid makes new friends, learns new skills, and most importantly, learns a lot about herself. This all-ages read is all about girl power, teamwork, resolving conflicts, and celebrating differences, and it's absolutely brilliant. Also, I definitely want to go watch some roller derby for real, now.

Bite-Sized Book Reviews: HEIR TO THE EMPIRE, THIS ONE SUMMER, and CONFESSIONS OF A SHOPAHOLIC

Books, Comics and MangaKristina PinoComment

I don't think the three books I'm looking at this time around could be any different from each other, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Star Wars: Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn

It was a long time coming, but I've finally started reading the Thrawn trilogy! This book takes place five years after the events of the last Star Wars film (at the time of writing, that's Episode VI) when Leia is pregnant with her and Solo's twins, and Luke is trying to figure out how to become a better and stronger Jedi so he can lead and teach others. We meet a few new characters, including the kick-butt Mara Jade and the super strategist Grand Admiral Thrawn, from whom this book trilogy gets its name. I guess I should also clarify this book is classified as non-canon now.

Thrawn is hell-bent on destroying the New Republic with the goal of restoring the Empire to glory. It's well-paced and fun to read, and the author really has a great sense of the characters. If you enjoyed the movies, you should have no problems diving into these and actually seeing the scenes play out in your head.

Being the first of a trilogy of books, it should be obvious that Thrawn is no chump. The danger he poses to the main characters feels real and bears a lot of weight because you know their problems aren't over with the first book. Very exciting, because we know that they're going to pull some fab narrow escapes and fancy maneuvers to get out of each scrape. And that's one of the things I love most about Star Wars.

This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki

This graphic novel was gifted to me by my fellow Rioter and Panelteer Brenna, who got me as her gift exchange recipient person. I pretty much started and finished it on the very day it was delivered to my door.

Rose and Windy are pals who see each other every summer at this beach-side cottage getaway along with their families. They're 15 in this story, which makes them a little too old for some things they always enjoyed doing, but too young for some of the teen-age/new adult/parental drama that's going on. The book has this quiet sort of atmosphere to it - it's hard to explain, I just felt "quiet" reading it. It isn't colorful and the panels are hand-drawn and everything has this awesome mix of manga-like toning and brush strokes like an ink painting.

There is and there isn't an over-arching plot: there's stuff going on, but the focus is more inward, more on the two main characters and how they're dealing with all the stuff going on around them than the events themselves. And of course, how they help each other deal. The book touches upon some of the bigger issues that plague teens at their age, like sex and gender, as well as the different kinds of relationships they may have with their parents.

Great book about growing up, and gorgeous presentation by First Second and everyone who participated in its design.

Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

I picked this up at my village library because, more than anything else, I was surprised to see it there. Being in Japan, and out in the countryside, a lot of the books in the English language section are either cook books, picture books, children's fiction, some middle grade and young adult, and a good chunk of classics. I didn't expect to see fiction about a stylish London girl who is up to her eyeballs in debt because she can't resist shopping despite being a financial journalist and really knowing better. It seemed fun and random enough that I grabbed it.

I've seen the movie adaptation once, a long time ago, and I was surprised to find that the book was much kinder to the protagonist. At least, my vague memory of the film is I spent a lot of time cringing and feeling really embarrassed for her, but I liked this book version much better. Rebecca is quite silly and easily distracted most of the time, but I enjoyed her internal monologues and day-dreaming. Fine little fluff, easy to read, had some laughs.

Don't jump into this expecting anything deep or some complicated plot - it's a fun read and things just kind of happen. The entire thing is written in the present tense, which I'm not really used to. I mentioned before I picked this book up because it surprised me to see it at my local library, but there's more: I also grabbed it because I like to drop wild card books that I normally wouldn't into my reading pile now and again. Variety is the spice of life, right? Anyway, am glad I picked this one.

Comic Book Review: TEEN TITANS: EARTH ONE, vol. 1

Comics and MangaKristina PinoComment

A new original graphic novel in DC's popular "Earth One" series, TEEN TITANS: EARTH ONE follows in the tradition of SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE and BATMAN: EARTH ONE, both of which were #1 New York Times bestsellers.

The Teen Titans never felt like normal kids... but they had no idea how right they were. Their seemingly idyllic Oregon upbringing hides a secret -- one that will bring killers, shamans, and extraterrestrials down on their heads, and force them into an alliance that could shake the planet to its foundations!

Superstars Jeff Lemire (ANIMAL MAN, GREEN ARROW) and Terry Dodson (WONDER WOMAN) reinvent DC's youngest heroes, with an all-new mythos in an all-new world!

The great team working on this: Jeff Lemire (writer) Terry and Rachel Dodson (art), and others: Cam Smith (on ink with Rachel), Brian Anderson (on colors with Terry), and Jared Fletcher on letters.

I should start this review off by saying that besides what I've gleaned from episodes of the Teen Titans cartoon from way back, I actually don't know much about these guys. I know they're kids with powers, and they face problems that range from "typical teen issues" to mega-villains. And some of them are sidekicks, though in this graphic novel there's a noted lack of those in particular. I picked this book up because it looked like a good way to get a fresh start.

On that front, I think this book is great. You get a full introduction to most of the main characters, where they come from, how their lives were before they gained their abilities, and a tiny glimpse of where they're going from there - all wrapped up in a neat package. The comic is easy on the eyes, and easy to follow in general. As far as I can tell, it doesn't rely on any prior knowledge (being an Earth One title, the creators can basically do what they want), but readers who have more background are likely to find a lot of references to the larger world these characters belong in (in other iterations, anyway). In that sense, it's probably safe to say this is a book that's friendly towards new fans and also fun for older ones, if the older ones can deal with a full GN of origin stories.

The characters are believable and it's clear the team here is in touch with what works in young adult storytelling and what doesn't. The art lends itself to this as well, changing in style and fluidity throughout the volume. The coloring, everything, the entire ensemble works towards this organic, constantly morphing sort of style that I think speaks to the lives of teens, and it's all held together with great dialogue.

The book is well-paced, and ends in not so much a cliffhanger, but a very intriguing scene that really made me want to read on. It's a good balance of feeding us information without getting all mucked up in too much exposition, where moving the story forward was a higher priority than explaining every little thing in minute detail, and I liked that. As a new reader, I mean.

Also, I like the different take on Raven, who I remember being a darker character, more demon-like. In this iteration, she's this gorgeous Navajo girl and I don't want to get any more spoiler-y than that. I guess if you've been a fan of other iterations of Teen Titans you'll probably have a different opinion of her, since I understand a lot of the drama of her character would change in this way. But I like what I saw, at any rate. Maybe I'm just tired of overly dark characters? Also, I guess there are a lot of clichรฉs lumped in with her new heritage - but that's neither here nor there.

Anywho, this book is out today, November 25th, and you should at least consider giving it a shot. There's a lot of great potential for the future, since, again, the creators can do what they like with the story. By the end of the book, it's hard to tell what's going to happen next, and I think that's a good thing, considering the main characters are a bunch of scared teens.

Disclaimer/transparency: This review is based on my experience reading an ARC via Netgalley.

Final note: if you think there's an essential Teen Titans comic I should read, let me know in the comments or via social media! I'm always looking for new things to check out, and a personal recommendation would be awesome. <3

Bite-Sized Book Reviews: DARTH VADER AND SON, VADER'S LITTLE PRINCESS, and GOODNIGHT DARTH VADER

Books, Comics and MangaKristina PinoComment

In case you couldn't tell, the theme this time around is Jeffrey Brown's graphic novels about Darth Vader in a zany alternate world where he gets to raise Luke and Leia. Though I read Vader's Little Princess a while back, I read the other two more recently, and decided I may as well review them all together. By the way, I've also read Jeffrey Brown's Jedi Academy and wrote my thoughts on that earlier this year.

Darth Vader and Son and Vader's Little Princess

I have a lot of the same things to say about both of these books, so I'm going to review them together. In each, we get to see mostly the relationship between Vader and the respective twin implied by the title. A lot of the scenes in the book come straight out of the movies, but with a bit of humorous parenting added. Iconic lines, locations, characters, and lead-ins to what ended up being important conversations in the films were adapted to parenting, or botched by one of the kids. Many new scenes were also made up, of course, such as Leia getting dropped off at school or learning to pilot.

If I really had to choose just one of the two, I found Leia's way funnier, and I feel like Brown got so much more creative with it than with Darth Vader and Son. Some of the themes Princess dealt with extended beyond the little moments with a young kid, and spanned into "she's growing up too fast," which Son didn't. Either way though, both are fantastic, warm-fuzzy-feeling, and make great nightstand table or gift books. I highly recommend them for Star Wars (old and new) fans of all ages - even folks who don't really know the franchise.

Goodnight Darth Vader

I was so happy when I learned this book was a thing - it was just released this week. Though the other two books I talked about above had brief other-twin-cameos, they largely dealt with Vader's relationship with just the one sibling. In Goodnight Darth Vader, we get to experience bedtime stories as told by Big Daddy himself to both of the twins at bed time. Sure, it isn't the Luke and Leia antics I was hoping for, but it's still a surprisingly sweet book that brings up a ton of characters and aspects of the Star Wars universe in the context of hitting the ol' hay. Cameos include Han Solo and Chewie, Ahsoka Tano, General Grievous, Admiral Ackbar, and even Sebulba. Brown dug deep and wide to include all sorts of characters and create funny scenes about what they all do when it's bed time.

As with the above books, I recommend this one for all ages and all levels of Star Wars know-how.

Link Bits: 05/19 - JUST IMAGINE...

LinksKristina PinoComment

[It's Monday again....!]

Just Imagine...has been revealed as the 4th book in the Hello Kitty graphic novels series, but its release is all the way in August. What a long wait! Ahh! Anyway, this book will feature contributions from its regulars: Ian McGinty, Jacob Chabot, and Jorge Monlongo; plus some new people: Sarah Goodreau and Giovanni Castro.

Jen Campbell has finished writing The Bookshop Book and it's slated for release October 9th. Read more about it at her blog.

A teaser trailer was released for Disney's upcoming live action Cinderella film, and it leaves much to be desired. Not giving an inch!

Listen to a bestseller for $7.49 at audible.com!

Friday Things: 05/18 - Freddie Mercury graphic novel bio, THE MARTIAN film, and why you shouldn't add oil to pasta water

LinksKristina PinoComment

[Another week has come and gone... next week is Sports Day already at my school. This year is going by pretty quickly...!]

On Books and Comics:

"25 Movie Cameos by the Authors of the Original Books" at MentalFloss.

A novelization of The Dark Crystal is slated for release June 4th. Nerdist reports that this release will also incorporate over 20 pages of never-before-seen notes from Jim Henson.

(via GalleyCat) Bluewater Productions released a comic book biography of Freddie Mercury as a new entry in its Tribute series of graphic novels last month. See the full press release. Affiliate link: Buy it for Kindle.

Newly restored and reprinted Tarzan In the City of Gold comics are out now, and you can see a preview over at Comics Alliance.

I didn't know that Andy Weir's The Martian was being made into a film, but I'm happy to know that now. And it appears that the project may involve Ridley Scott and Matt Damon.

On Disney:

Cute nail design idea: Mickey ice cream bars.

The Disney Parks Blog shared its top 10 most healthful eats at the Disneyland Resort. Good to know! Now they just need to share a similar list for Walt Disney World Resort.

Other:

Mayor Bill de Blasio is taking some pointers from Sweden and implementing Vision Zero in an effort to eliminate (or at least reduce) traffic death in New York City.

Today I learned that we shouldn't add oil to pasta water.

Tutorial for making a Rainbow Jello Shot Cake. Yes!

[Have a great week!]

Friday Things: 05/10 - bookish parodies, an excerpt, and the story of Nellie Bly

LinksKristina PinoComment

[It's a beautiful Saturday, so let's bang these out shall we...?]

On Books and Reading:

Olde Book Pillow Classics

They're books. That you can sleep on. Because they're pillows! Click on the image to be taken to the listing on ThinkGeek. :)

There's a new graphic novel out that I'm dying to read, but I'll settle for an excerpt for now. This One Summer, by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki.

John Green discusses why adults dig YA fiction.

This post on BookRiot is over a month old, but it touches on something I plan to vlog about soon: likeable/unlikeable characters. Linking doesn't necessarily mean I agree with everything stated, just that I think it's a good and interesting discussion.

On Music:

(via C|Net) The Game of Thrones theme as you've never heard it before: on wine glasses.

A new line of Disney soundtracks, called The Legacy Collection, will be released to celebrate film anniversaries, and The Lion King is getting the re-release treatment first with 30 minutes of never-before-released score.

Apparently, Miami is ranked the third most stressful US city to live in, owed in part to the high cost of living.

Great little list on BookRiot of bookish song parodies. I have to agree with the post author, I can't even with some of these.

This is important:

If you're a bit confused about what's going on with Net Neutrality and all that, Vi Hart explains it fantastically well in this video.

Fantastic read on FlavorWire about an overlooked woman in history. I quote: "A pioneering female journalist at a time when women were relegated to the lifestyle section, Elizabeth Jane Cochran, writing under the pen name 'Nellie Bly,' pulled off stunt journalism that entranced America and had its part in shifting the world a bit."

[Enjoy the weekend!]