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Plotted, by Andrew DeGraff (book review) – mapping literary landscapes

book cover of Plotted by Andrew DeGraff published by Zest Books | http://BooksYALove.com reviewBefore and after of Robinson Crusoe‘s island,
Moby Dick and the ship chasing him,
Huckleberry Finn‘s meandering voyage down the Mississippi with Jim…

Happy book birthday this week to Plotted: A Literary Atlas!

I liked it so much that I almost posted this recommendation well before its publication date, but rescheduled so as not to whet your appetite for these uniquely visualized story-maps before you could actually acquire this fascinating book.

Enjoy literary maps of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol  and of Richard Adams’ Watership Down  in this free preview from the publisher, then go get this book to see all the intricately detailed maps, so evocative of each of the 19 books selected while using no quotations at all.

Do you create mental (or actual) maps as you read a book?
**kmm

Book info: Plotted: A Literary Atlas / art by Andrew DeGraff, essays by Daniel Harmon. Zest Books, 2015.  [artist’s site]  [publisher site]  [time-lapse artist’s video] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Mental maps created by reading stories blossom into intricately designed maps on the page in this “literary atlas” covering 19 selections from ancient days to the present, as seen through one artist’s eyes.

Whether mapping the movements of selected characters (as in his panels for A Wrinkle in Time) or conveying a wider sense of the book’s narrative (like the Kafka story, “A Report to the Academy”), DeGraff includes numerous details from each work in his hand-painted maps.

Says the artist, “These are maps for people who seek to travel beyond the lives and places that they already know (or think they know). The goal here isn’t to become found, but only to become more lost. Like a poorly informed but over-confident urbanite, I seek to help you get more lost.” (Introduction)

Wander through Elsinore act by act with the many characters of Hamlet, travel the Mediterranean with Odysseus, and trace the complicated path of true love in Pride and Prejudice. Essays by Daniel Harmon accompany each nearly wordless map-set which brings fresh views of stories for readers to consider and appreciate.

Chrononauts, by Mark Millar and Sean Gordon Murphy (book review) – time travel with swagger

book cover of Chrononauts by Mark Millar and Sean Murphy published by Image ComicsTime-travel suits (with longlife batteries),
Science-genius buddies (with a wild streak),
Televised first time jump (with non-scientist commentator),
What could possibly go wrong?

Traveling back in time to film the world’s most important events as they happen, a jump goes wrong so Danny heads to ancient Samarkand to rescue Corbin, only to encounter an armored motor defense!

These best friends are making the most of time with attitude to spare, even if time-hopping to outsmart Roaring 20s gangsters and attend epic concerts wasn’t in their backers’ business plan. Now, if they could just fix what went wrong in their personal and family lives before they began time-tripping…

Ask for this September release at your local library or independent bookstore – because today is National Comic Book Day! No surprise that this mile-a-minute adventure has already been optioned for a movie deal.

So, if you had a time travel suit, where would you go?
**kmm

Book info: Chrononauts / Mark Millar; art by Sean Murphy. Image Comics, 2015.  [author site]   [artist site]   [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Their time-travel suits can take them back to film important world events, but two science genius buddies find it impossible to remain mere bystanders in history.

Corbin’s marriage and family both lost out to his obsession with inventing the chronosuits, while Danny’s womanizing leaves few who’ll weep if he doesn’t make it back from time-traveling.

Transmitting live video of landmark historical events proves the chronosuits’ worth so when Corbin’s signal is lost, his best friend jumps back to rescue him in 11th century Samarkand, right into a skirmish between motorized forces!

Without the cameras on them, Drs. Quinn and Reilly have some fun with places and persons, knowing that they can time-walk away when the going gets rough. But they have left behind family issues – and bosses waiting for marketable history footage – in their own present-day.

Will these smart guys use their time-suits to repair the broken relationships in their personal pasts or get greedy helping themselves to the riches and experiences of every civilization before now?

Wait, what about the consequences of changing history – for everyone stuck in the present!?

The first four issues of the epic webcomic are published together now to give the full arc of this time-hopping buddy adventure in a single volume.

I Am Princess X, by Cherie Priest & Kali Ciesemier (book review) – missing friend, comix clues

book cover of I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest, art by Kali Ciesemier, published by Arthur A Levine BooksTwo wreck victims, only one body in the car,
dreams of her best friend swimming to safety,
nightmares because she didn’t…

May knew in her gut that the fish-nibbled body found with Libby’s ID wasn’t her best friend, the other outsider who’d drawn Princess X to go with May’s stories from grade school onward.

Nightmares for 3 years, then a shiny new Princess X sticker shows up near their favorite coffee shop – you can start reading their story in a free excerpt.

Here’s the comic that sprang from the world that the two friends created in younger years, but it’s only part of this mystery/missing my best friend story.

Have you got the guts to search for the lost keys that could bring your friend back from wherever?
**kmm

Book info: I Am Princess X / Cherie Priest, art by Kali Ciesemier. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2015. [author site] [artist site] [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: New Princess X art is appearing after its artist was declared dead, so co-creator May is on the hunt, trying to find Libby using webcomic clues and neighbor dude’s tech skills before “The Needle Man” finds them!

Her best friend and comic co-creator supposedly died 3 years ago, but through her parents’ divorce and moving yet again, May still dreams that Libby escaped the sinking car. In Seattle with her dad for the summer, the teen is surprised to see Princess X stickers and graffiti in places where she and Libby hung out.

Sure that Libby is drawing Princess X again online, May asks tech whiz Patrick to help her uncover exactly who is behind the webcomic, but his research alerts a dangerous predator.

Is Libby truly alive and sending Princess X messages to May?
Can May and Patrick interpret and follow the clues in the comic?
Can they outrun “The Needle Man” before he kills again?

This novel about friendship blends with a graphic novel celebrating empowerment for a wholly satisfying story about trust, sacrifice, and persistence. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

MPH, by Mark Millar (book review) – street drug faster than speed

book cover of MPH by Mark Millar, art by Duncan Fegredo, published by Image ComicsTrapped in Detroit slum,
finding a magic pharmaceutical way out,
with a ticking clock to fuel their Robin Hood ways.

One bottle of MPH lets Roscoe, Rosa, Chevy, and Baseball run and rob faster than the human eye can see. Those 31 little pills help them ransack the banks that made millions by sending jobs overseas, give money to the downtrodden, and get the whole FBI on their trail.

Positive visualizations, a taste for the finer things of life, and a sense of duty to do some good for others while the MPH lasts – not your everyday thievery with these young folks who know their fast-running time is limited and that adding anything to this amazing drug could end it faster.

Phenomenal artwork, use of color, and panel placements (there’s this one I’m remembering – epic!) make MPH a must-read graphic novel; check out the alternate covers, too.

If you could slip between raindrops without getting wet, where would you go?

**kmm

Book info: MPH / Mark Millar; art by Duncan Fegredo. Image Comics, 2015.  [author site]   [illustrator site]   [publisher site]   Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher, via NetGalley.

My book talk: A mysterious drug gives super-speed powers to four friends who leave behind the drugs and guns of their Detroit neighborhood to rob big banks, give money to the needy, and grab the good stuff before that tiny bottle of MPH is gone – but where did it come from?

Learning that his boss set him up for a drug bust to get his girlfriend, Roscoe is finally desperate enough to take a pill from the prison pusher, a pill that freezes time so that the young man can escape and run miles before the next second ticks.

The young man easily convinces Rosa, her brother Baseball, and longtime pal Chevy that MPH will let them take what they want, share with those who need it, and still be richer than Roscoe’s vision board ever promised – as long as they can do it before those 31 pills are gone.

Robin Hoods on a nationwide robbery spree, the four are chased by the FBI who have an unlikely ally in a man who’s spent 30 years in solitary confinement.

No warning labels on this bottle, so adding drugs, alcohol, or jealousy could be deadly….  Graphic novel greatness.

 

Manga Classics: The Scarlet Letter (book review) – adultery, shaming & revenge!

book cover of Manga Classics  The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, adapted by Crystal S. Chan, script by Stacy King, art by SunNeko Lee. Published by Udon/ MorpheusA husband missing at sea ,
a forbidden relationship,
one parent punished, the other unknown…

As an error in judgment leads to years of being outcast, Hester must wear the scarlet A for adultery, yet refuses to unmask the father of her child.

Ask at your local library or independent bookstore for this clear retelling of the Hawthorne classic, whether you’re returning to a favorite tale or reading it for the first time.  And if The Scarlet Letter is a school assignment, read the complete original text here for free – getting the story and characters firmly in mind with this manga will make things much easier!

Yes, this book is in true manga format, like Manga Classics: Pride and Prejudice,  so start at the back (helpful refresher on format-reading there) and dive into this Puritan-era conflict between passion and society’s expectations.

How long can revenge brew without burning the soul?
**kmm

Book info: Manga Classics: The Scarlet Letter /  Nathaniel Hawthorne; adapted by Crystal S. Chan, English script by Stacy King; art by SunNeko Lee. Udon Entertainment/Morpheus, 2015.  [publisher site]  [series Facebook page] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: The red A for adultery blazes upon Hester Prynne’s dark clothes, but another has a burning coal in his chest as the unwed mother bears her shame in the Puritan village alone… for now.

Hester wasn’t in love with the older scholar she married at her parents’ insistence, but after his disappearance at sea, she found happiness with another man. Pregnant and judged as a sinner, she is scorned and shunned, especially when she won’t say who Pearl’s father is.

A learned man arrives in the New England village and begins keeping company with their inspiring young pastor. As Rev. Dimmesdale becomes ill, mysterious Dr. Chillingsworth seeks secrets.

Praised for her needlework through the years, Hester is still shunned.
Growing into a lovely and rambunctious child, Pearl is thought to be evil.
Is there any escape for the repentant?

With SunNeko’s art to enhance the carefully adapted text, this true manga (read from back to front) brings new life to Hawthorne’s classic tale of love, passion, and revenge.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

So many stories

Looking through oval window into gallery at Rembrandt's house in AmsterdamGaze out?
Peer inward?
Focus on something unseen?

Art, music, and books can help us do all these things.

But please don’t let preference for favorites keep you from trying new genres and types of books!

Grab a graphic novel like Harlem Hellfighters by Max Brooks and Canaan White to go into WWI trenches with underappreciated African American heroes – these aren’t “just comic books” for sure.

Read books aimed at younger readers that can bring important issues and hard truths to light. Like Water on Stone by Dana Walrath gives voice to victims of the Armenian Holocaust.

If you think all novels about death are depressing, reconsider with funny yet realistic Finding Mr. Brightside by Jay Clark.

So, about my photo here: I visited Rembrandthuis to see how the great artist lived and worked, others were there for his paintings up close, a few were obviously dragged there by art-loving companions.

Standing in his recreated studio was decidedly worth climbing all the narrow, twisting stairways. But I was most pleased by seeing how the same etching looked when printed on different papers – the same story, with a slightly changed look.

How have you experienced different stories lately?

Staying off the tourist track in Amsterdam and meeting booklovers from all over (hi, Izzie and Mom and Dad!),
**kmm

League of Regrettable Superheroes, by Jon Morris (book review) – 100 also-rans from real comics!

book cover of The League of Regrettable Superheroes by Jon Morris published by Quirk BooksKid Eternity for justice!
Moon Girl fighting crime!
3-D Man against bad guys!
Who???

Jon Morris has spent years locating and verifying these not-very-super characters on his Gone and Forgotten blog – now, he’s collected them into a book filled with pages of rare comics, from the Golden Age to now.

Just published yesterday, this encyclopedic array of one hundred has-beens is a must-have for comic fans. Ask for it at your local library or independent bookstore.

If you were inventing a new not-so-superhero, what powers would s/he have?
**kmm

Book info: The League of Regrettable Superheroes / Jon Morris. Quirk Books, 2015.  [author blog]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: For every blockbuster action superhero, there are scores of not-so-super characters who tried and failed to make an impact in comics – a veritable League of Regrettable Superheroes, in fact.

This colorful compendium of so-so superheroes is divided into chronological sections: the Golden Age of Comics (1938-1949) with a propensity for Nazi-hunting during World War II, the Silver Age (1950-1969) with gimmicks galore, and the Modern Age (1970-present) with grim and gritty storylines.

The 100 regrettable superheroes are arranged alphabetically in each age, with full-color comic pages, date of first appearance, and more.

Meet Captain Tootsie, Kangaroo Man, Speed Centaur, and early female superbeing Fantomah of the Golden Age. Puzzle over the mindset of the creators of Congorilla and Pow-Girl of the Silver Age, as well as Brother Voodoo, Squirrel Girl, and Thunderbunny in the Modern Age.

There were also groundbreaking superheroes who never got the recognition they deserved, like Nelvana of the Northern Lights (a Canadian pre-Wonder Woman superhero). Many of the early characters in this book are now in the public domain, so revivals of Nelvana, DollMan, and others may appear in new incarnations.

A must for any comic fan and an interesting look at the concerns of mainstream society during each age, The League of Regrettable Superheroes captures fleeting pages from America’s collective youth.

Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson (book review) – graphic novel villains with a grudge

book cover of Nimona by Noelle Stevenson published by HarperTeenA shapeshifter ready for battle,
a good guy and a bad guy with long shared history,
many secrets… many, many secrets!

Like any good sidekick, young Nimona is right in tune with her boss’s mission of revenge, but sometimes it’s hard to tell who’s running this operation.

Read the first three chapters of this May 2015 graphic novel here for free to meet the shapeshifter and the villain she chooses, then ask for Nimona at your local library or independent bookstore – before Sir Goldenloin and the Institute get to them first!

Would you rather be sidekick to a villain or to a hero?
**kmm

Book info: Nimona / Noelle Stevenson, art by Noelle Stevenson. HarperTeen, 2015.  [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Villainous Balister Blackheart thinks he needs no sidekick in wreaking havoc, but shapeshifting young Nimona convinces him that she can help him get revenge on the Institute and Sir Goldenloin.

Never mind that Nimona’s origin story changes every time she tells it or that Sir Goldenloin assures her boss that he didn’t plan to ruin Blackheart’s chances to be a good hero during a training joust, the Kingdom and the Institute are going down!

Fire-breathing dragon overhead or shark in your tent? That’s Nimona.
Infiltrating the secret labs of the Institute? Our pair of baddies together.
Trying to find out where their youthful fondness for one another went? Goldenloin and Blackheart.

All is not as it seems in this graphic novel which began as a webcomic – and the leaders of the Institute want to keep the Kingdom’s people in the dark about their real purpose forever! (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

U is Universal car competition for Lowriders in Space, by Cathy Camper; illustrated by Raul the Third (book review)

book cover of Lowriders in Space by Cathy Camper, art by Raul the Third, published by Chronicle BooksThree friends with a dream,
ready to work hard
to drive their lowrider into orbit!

Enjoy cool cars, playful science, Spanglish conversation (and lots of glossary notes about both), and the pride of lowrider creators as Lowriders in Space takes off.

The publisher provides a free preview of the first pages here  so you can see Raul the Third’s art as you meet Lupe, Flapjack, and Elirio.

Ask for this fun graphic novel at your local library or local independent bookstore and head for the Universal Car Competition to ride “bajito y suavecito!”

Working together on a special project – share your story in the comments, please!
**kmm

Book info: Lowriders in Space /Cathy Camper; illustrations by Raul the Third. Chronicle Books, 2014. [author site]  [illustrator site]  [publisher site]  [book trailer] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Three friends who love custom cars work together to build the best lowrider in the galaxy so they can win enough money to open their own garage.

Lupe, Flapjack, and Elirio admire lowriders that zoom and drift, but they love cars that drive low and slow – bajito y suavecito.

This girl mechanic, expert car-washing octopus, and mosquito car-painter are so tired of working for others in the barrio. If they can win the Universal Car Contest, they will be able to open their own garage!

Can Lupe make the abandoned old junker run again?
Will Flapjack’s eight arms be enough to clean it up?
Does Elirio have time to paint their lowrider brighter than the stars?

A box of rocket parts and lots of determination add to Raul the Third’s ballpoint pen art with Sharpie accents and Cathy Camper’s mix of Spanish, English, and super science in this first book of a graphic novel pair.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

G is Garage Band, graphic novel by Gipi (book review) – guys+music=rock band?

book cover of Garage Band by Gipi, translated by Spectrum, published by First Second Books One borrowed garage, four teen guys,
four instruments, four opinions,
their own garage band!

The new band’s problems, from equipment problems to practice schedules, mix with Gipi’s gritty sketch-plus-watercolor art to show just how far four working-class Italian teens will go to make their music.

This 2007 graphic novel is still in print, definitely worth your time to read.

Have you ever given it your all striving for a goal?
**kmm

Book info: Garage Band / Gipi; translation by Spectrum. First Second Books, 2007.  [artist/author info – English]  [artist/author blog – Italian]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: When a blown amplifier short-circuits their band’s big audition, four Italian teens must decide whether their integrity or their potential rock music future is more important in this graphic novel by Gipi.

If he’ll stay out of trouble, Giuliano can use his dad’s old garage – perfect place for the band to practice! Also a refuge from the not-so-wonderful family lives of the four guys in the band: Giuliano (obsessed with his music even more than with his girlfriend), Stephano (obsessed with dread diseases after his brother died), Alex (obsessed with all things Nazi after his father fled), and Alberto (obsessed with his father’s precarious health).

Stefano’s dad gets the guys a chance to have a record company listen to their demo songs, so that means lots of practice.

Then their old amp shorts out and can’t be fixed – now what?
“Borrowing” some equipment, that’ll work!
But who they borrow it from…

Italian graphic novelist Gipi’s edgy line art and earth-based watercolors convey all the grit of working class kids trying to make music and make sense of the world on their own terms. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)