Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Kamen Volume 2 by Gunya Mihara

Kamen Volume 2 by Gunya Mihara
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kamen (2)

First off, I love the art in this series! Volume two is battle intensive, well, really one big battle from beginning to end. I must admit to being a bit confused at certain points not sure which side was which at various points, especially the beginning. It does take a long time for the main characters to appear, both Simba: the female general and the man with the mask. Once they appear in the story it was easier for me to follow, being that I myself am not all that military minded. However, this is great historical fantasy manga. Even though lots of war, no bloody violence, and the story keeps a fast pace and is exciting. No real character development is added in this volume but we do get to know more about the masters of the "Nen Arts" as several warriors from both sides enter into this dimension during the battle. As the book nears the end focus is once again on The Masked Man and the conclusion leads us to believe the next volume will contain more character focus. I love the masked man and his sentient mask and can't wait to find out more about them.

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The Harlem Hellfighters by Max Brooks



The Harlem Hellfighters by Max Brooks
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is an incredible story I've never read about before. I had heard of it but it was fascinating to finally get the full details of the story. The book is well-written and while being an historical account of the all-black regiment is also an horrendous depiction of the ghastly racism that was so rampant in the US at that time, seething unfiltered straight into its military. The book is done in black and white which is a wise choice as it is incredibly violent, holding back on none of the gruesome deaths and injuries incurred during war and especially this type of trench warfare. The story is an accurate depiction of what the 369th Infantry Regiment experienced from the days of recruitment to their return to the US, but it has been fictionalized into a story with characters who are amalgamations of various types of real-life people, though a few historical characters do appear. I found the book very interesting and an engrossing read, but felt it was too long as there were parts here and there when I started to loose interest and saw myself looking at how much longer the book was. It was a detailed story but I think it may have gripped me more emotionally had it been shorter. Again the story deals with many military aspects of the war and I think the book is best suited for those who first have an interest in WWI, then secondly in the other topics covered here. This is a must have title for libraries though.

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Clockwork Game: The Illustrious Career of A Chess-Playing Automaton by Jane Irwin



Clockwork Game: The Illustrious Career of A Chess-Playing Automaton by Jane Irwin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Absolutely awesome. A fascinating historical fiction that runs from the mid 1700s to the 1850s as it chronicles the fascinating "life" of a sideshow attraction billed as a clockwork automaton that could play chess by itself. Crossing paths with famous people throughout this time period from the German Empress Maria Theresea to Napoleon Bonaparte to Edgar Allan Poe, this makes for riveting reading. I'm well-read in the Victorian Era, and while this mainly takes place before that time, I'm still surprised I'd never heard of it before. This curiosity held people fascinated with whether it was real or fake for 85 years! Irwin has written a truly epic graphic novel that contains so much intriguing historical details and a fascinating plot that keeps even the reader guessing until the reveal (for one who doesn't know the historical outcome). The artwork is incredibly detailed and a pleasure to behold, making the reading go at a pace slow enough to thoroughly take in the illustration. I was completely satisfied when I'd completed the story to only find an incredibly rich page by page "Notes" section that contains detailed historical annotations and author's input on where she took artistic license and where regrettably she had to leave some parts of the story out. This is an adult book but is sure to be a hit with ages teen and older.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Art Schooled by Jamie Coe

Art Schooled by Jamie Coe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wonderful art and highly entertaining. There is no indication that this book is autobiographical but one can't help but think so while reading. Coe's art style is wonderfully comic and cartoony while being radical and risque. The "art-style" nudity and language make this a certain mature read and perfect fit for the so-called "new adult" crowd. The story is funny, touching and ironic and it examines the eccentricities of art students, the various stereotypes, a country boy's thoughts on the new experiences he meets such as modern art, veganism, psychobabble and finding himself a weirdo among the "weirdos". There were a couple of spots where I felt the story wandered a bit but otherwise I had a great time reading this and mulling over what Coe is perhaps saying about university and young people on the path to becoming who they will be. I'd certainly read more of his work.

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The Wake by Scott Snyder

The Wake by Scott Snyder
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Whoa! Absolutely amazing! Just seeing Scott Snyder's name and reading the premise had me excited to read this and it more than lived up to its expectations. A science fiction story that starts off with a glimpse into the future then the first half takes place during modern day with the second half jumping back to the future and continuing on. At around 260 pages, this is an epic novel with plenty of plot and action. I felt like the characterization of the Lee from the first half was much more indepth than the futuristic Leeward, at least I was more taken with her, but the book just totally blew me away and I kept thinking I could see this as a movie the whole time I was reading. Actually as I first started reading, "The Abyss" came into my mind. The creatures are quite cool and creepy though I found they did look a lot like The Trench from Aquaman: The New 52. Totally awesome reading that had me glued to my seat with spectacular artwork; this is an epic story and a beauty to behold.

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How to Be Happy by Eleanor Davis



How to Be Happy by Eleanor Davis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this. It's a bit weird and different but, yeah, I liked it. A collection of short stories, drawings and sketches that centre on the things people do trying to make themselves happy. I found the main theme to be the difference between ideology and reality. A woman is telling a friend of her deep, dark, black hole of depression and the friend sympathises that she understands, she's been there, that is until she went Gluten-Free. Then in the last frame we see the depressed woman in the supermarket desperately holding a loaf of gluten-free bread. Another is futuristic where a sister lives in a dome, farming, growing organic fruits and vegetables. Then she returns home when her father is dying. Home is the city where people where environmental suits, her sister here can't afford to buy organic fruit. The dome-living sister is hit with the reality that the suffering still exists even when she doesn't see it in her way of life and her beliefs can't be upheld here. It does go deeper still. All the stories make one think this way. I'll say a few went over my head and not all are as depressing as the two I described. The sketches between the stories give a more uplifting pause. I'm not a big fan of Davis' art but it is bold and eye-catching, the palate is warm with reds, orange, browns and yellows which adds a different nuance to what the themes are saying; bringing the feel of life to melancholy stories. I like it but it is *very* different from her previous books for young children.

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Julia's House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke



Julia's House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is published under First Second's new picture book line. First Second publishes graphic novels and this picture book could be debated as to whether it is picture book or graphic novel. It is *indeed* a picture book. Large fully illustrated pages with small lines of text per page and yet the text is not linear along the top or bottom of the page. Like a graphic novel, the text (and sometimes illustrations) are in frames. Personally, I think that most picture books are often one pane graphic novels. Onto the story. It's quite simple; Julia brings her house to the shore, puts up a sign inviting lost creatures and doesn't have long to wait before a cat shows up, and then a troll, then a mermaid, etc, etc until the creatures are causing havoc in her house. The story is mediocre but the illustrations are absolutely gorgeous!! No one can look at this book and not be captivated by the art. A lovely, handsome book with an ok story.

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