Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Sculptor Book Review

Title: The Sculptor
Author: Scott McCloud
Publisher: First Second
Publication Date: February 3, 2015
ISBN-13: 978-1596435735

496 pp.

ARC provided by publisher via NetGalley


Comic book authority Scott McCloud wrote and illustrated the graphic novel The Sculptor, his first work of fiction in over 20 years. The fact that it's already in development for a film should give you a clue that it's a hot property.

David is the titular sculptor, a once-rising artist in the New York art scene. But he's kind of a dick and he alienates his patron and most of his friends. Now he's broke and desperate. So, of course, he makes a deal with a devil.

The Sculptor is an amazing piece of work, a Faustian tale for the 21st century. David is flawed, certainly, but flawed in the way most artistic types are. He cares more about art than people. But then he meets Meg, an aspiring actress, with flaws of her own, and David begins to regret his deal with the devil.

Readers will fly through near-500 pages of the graphic novel as they are pulled into David's story. Scott McCloud's illustrations aren't perfect (one panel of Meg in a coat makes her look like she weighs 200 pounds), but they convey plenty of emotion and action and beauty.

A tip of the hat to McCloud for giving The Sculptor a diverse cast of supporting characters. It is, after all, New York City. Which brings me to my quibble. There is at least one crowd scene that takes place in the streets of New York and all the faces in the crowd are white. All of them. Even the ones in the back that are just circles. After the inclusiveness of the rest of the book, it was jarring to me. (Most people won't even notice this, but that's another blog post.)

But overall, The Sculptor is a stellar graphic novel and should be read by all people who care about what art means and what it takes to create. It's the kind of book you'll think about for days after and will want to share with all your friends so you can talk about it together.

Bonus video: Scott McCloud discusses The Sculptor






Sunday, March 22, 2015

Wildlife Book Review

Title: Wildlife
Author: Fiona Wood
Publisher: Poppy
Publication Date: September 16, 2014
ISBN-13: 978-0316242097

400 pp.

ARC provided by publisher


Wildlife is Australian author Fiona Wood's US debut, and my love for Australian YA grows.

Wildlife is a dual narration novel, with Sibylla telling one story and Lou telling another. Both live in the same dorm during a wilderness semester at school, which is a pretty interesting background to begin with. The teens are supposed to learn appreciation for nature and self-reliance, but of course they learn so much more.

Sibylla is a bit of nerd, but recently became popular due to a fluke that got her a modelling gig. Now cute-boy Ben is unofficially her boyfriend and out in the woods, kissing may become something more.

Lou is an outsider, literally and figuratively. She's the new girl at school and she deliberately pushes away any attempts at friendship. That's because Lou has had her heart broken, in the most tragic way possible.

But Lou can't help observe the dynamic between Sibylla and Holly, Sib's toxic best friend. And she can't help becoming friends with Michael, an outsider himself who's on the autism spectrum and who had relied on Sib to help him fit in.

Sib's torn between her raging hormones and her brain telling her that Ben isn't really boyfriend material. She's torn between following Holly's lead like she always has and finally standing up for herself.

How Lou and Sib slowly learn to trust each other and become friends is a compelling read, a read that young women who are learning who they really are and what they really want will appreciate.

I'd recommend Wildlife to readers who liked Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo or Panic by Lauren Oliver.


Bonus video: Fiona Wood discusses Wildlife


Sunday, March 15, 2015

Soppy Book Review

Title: Soppy
Author & Illustrator: Philippa Rice
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Publication Date: December 2, 2014
ISBN-13: 978-1449461065

108 pp.

ARC via NetGalley

"Soppy" is something that's overly sentimental and it's a word used more in the UK than the States

So it makes sense that the writer/illustrator of Soppy, Philippa Rice, is from the UK.

Soppy started out as a webcomic and the book is a collection of those comics, plus new stuff. It really isn't a graphic novel as it mostly lacks a narrative, but the nearly wordless collection of comics does show the story of two people who love each other and who learn to live together.

There are the sweet, tender moments shared of just being together, cooking, sleeping, watching tv. There are moments apart, moments of regret, moments of anger. But mostly the soppy stuff.

So if you're not familiar with the webcomic, don't go looking for a story here. But if you're looking for quiet moments of couplehood, then this is it. I don't want to call it a Love Is ... for the 21st century, but it did remind me a bit of that.

Soppy would make a delightful gift for the romantic in your life.


Soppy Book Trailer:

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Where'd You Go, Bernadette Audiobook Review

Title: Where'd You Go, Bernadette
Author: Maria Semple
Narrated by: Kathleen Wilhoite
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Publication Date: April 16, 2013
ISBN-13: 978-1478978947

Listening copy via public library


Where'd You Go, Bernadette was a 2013 Alex Award winner, which means that it's an adult book with teen appeal. Which means it's a book that it is little edgy, a little twisty, a book that you can read for fun without having to write a paper about it. But that doesn't mean that it won't get you thinking.

Maria Semple has written a satire about tech culture, helicopter parenting, and Seattle. It's also a commentary about the nature of art, the loneliness of genius, and the bonds of family.

The story is told through a series of email correspondence, magazine articles, doctor's reports, and the narration of Bernadette's teenage daughter, Bee, who is trying to piece together the puzzle of her mother's sudden disappearance. There isn't much of an actual mystery, but rather misunderstandings both comic and tragic. But mostly comic.

It starts when Bee gets straight A's and calls in her parents' promise for a special present. Bee wants to go to Antarctica. This puts Bernadette into a panic because she's become something of a hermit, but she agrees to go. And cue series of mishaps.

Bernadette comes off as unlikeable, petty, agoraphobic, brilliant, funny, lonely, and completely devoted to her daughter. Yay! A fully dimensional female character who isn't always nice! You're not supposed to like her all the time. But the point of the novel is that by the end, you understand her.

Kathleen Wilhoite is absolutely amazing in her narration. She handles the different types of correspondence and their many characters with aplomb, giving voice to the humor without losing the pathos.


Book Trailer for Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple:


Sunday, February 22, 2015

El Deafo Book Review

Title: El Deafo
Author: Cece Bell
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
Publication Date: September 2, 2014
ISBN-13: 978-1419712173

248 pp.

ARC provided by publisher

I am so happy that Cece Bell's El Deafo got some Newbery love as it was named an Honor Winner earlier this month.

This graphic novel is funny, sweet, honest, touching, and true. It deserves all the accolades and awards and fans that it has.

Cece Bell got meningitis when she was four years old and became profoundly deaf. She has used this life experience to create El Deafo, which was the nickname she gave herself. She went to a regular school and to help her hear the teacher, she wore a Phonic Ear. The device amplified the teacher's voice, but unknown the the teacher, Cece was able to hear the teacher wherever she went throughout the school. Including the bathroom!

Cece thought of this as her superhero power, but it was a secret power that she didn't share with anyone. She was ashamed of the Phonic Ear and of being different.

The story centers on how Cece dealt with being different when she desperately wanted to fit in and how she learned she could have friends by being herself.

The artwork is perfect for tween readers, bright and colorful, and anthropomorphizing the characters into rabbits is a cute way to emphasize ears and hearing.

While El Deafo is specific to a hearing disability, it is universal in its story of being proud of who you really are. Put this in the hands of fans of Raina Telgemeier.

Bonus video: Cece Bell discusses El Deafo



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