Blue Bottle Mystery: An Asperger Adventure (Graphic Novel) by Kathy Hoopmand

cover78112-mediumI’m always impressed when an author can get inside someone’s head and give a little bit of their point of view. While this isn’t ever completely possible to do, I think the author does a decent job of it here.

It’s an interesting story, though at times it seems a bit too simply-written when the story doesn’t require it (like when two adults are conversing). But I think that’s so younger minds can absorb it. And maybe it’s part of the narrative, too.

Interesting that it’s written around the finding of the blue bottle – where all of the story has something to do with the bottle; yet none of it really does.

Of course, the main point is to tell the story from the POV of someone with Aspergers; and for that, I recommend it.

Thanks to NetGalley and Jessica Kingsley Publishers for a copy in return for an honest review.

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Comic Book Review: Unicorns vs. Goblins by Dana Simpson

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A cute book. Cory Doctorow (in his intro) is right – this has an appeal to kids and adults.

But I may not have loved it as much as he did. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fun book, and full of laughs. But I guess I didn’t think the laughs and insights were consistent. Is it bad that I measure a book of humor by how much I laugh out loud? There are some pretty funny cartoons that are interspersed with some that aren’t so inspired. This might be more suited for spreading out and reading cartoon by cartoon, rather than as a single read, since some of what make this collection less interesting is the tediousness of some of the themes throughout the book in how Phoebe and the Unicorn relate to each other.

Even so, it’s a good read – and I’d recommend it to someone who wants a fun read with a Calvin and Hobbes flavor.

Thanks to NetGalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing for a copy in return for an honest review.

Children’s Book Review: If I Had a Gryphon by Vikki VanSickle

cover80040-mediumSam is a girl after my own heart.

And I would have loved this book when I was her age.

Even dinosaurs weren’t exotic enough for me when I was young; just as her hamster seems a bit boring to Sam.

We love monsters. Fascinated by the gryphon, manticore, and chimera, to imagine these sorts of creatures is much more interesting than real animals (whether a pet or extinct). And the diversity of mythological creatures is amazing – especially for a children’s book.

And the rhymes and pictures (along with the animals) just made me smile throughout, reminding me of my love for fantastic creatures. It makes me wish my kids were still in preschool or kindergarten so I could read this to them.

Highly recommended – especially if you have a little one with a big imagination.

Thanks to NetGalley, Random House, and Tundra Books for a copy in return for an honest review.

Book Review: On the Origin of Superheroes by Chris Gaveler

originThis is a fascinating chronicle of the history of the superhero. I had no idea that by the time Superman came around, “superhero” had been in the vernacular for decades.

I mean, if you think that superheroes started in the 1930s and 40s with Superman and Batman, you’re a little bit off. Almost 20,000 years off. Since people have been communicating and telling stories, there have been superheroes. Chris Gavaler walks us through the last several millennia, discussing who these superheroes are, where they come from, why they’re here, and how they’ve evolved.

But this book had a different structure than I imagined. I thought it would be merely a history of fictional characters that fit the superhero mold of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. But it’s much more than that. It also places these heroes within the context of their environment and history and discusses the social issues that they encounter, fought against, or were oppressed by. It places these “super”heroes and “super”villains within their political and social context.

I guess it makes sense if you think about it, but there’s a surprising amount of theology in this book.

And superheroes are so political! So many seem to have been created in the cause of revolution. What is a superman? Are they fascist in adherence to carrying out a code that other people, or the government don’t agree with? We realize that there’s always been a gray area our (super) heroes operate in. Subverting authority and revolution always have two sides. Each are equally supported and vilified. Which is right?

Gavaler also teaches us that sometimes we need to fabricate our villains that produce the superheroes. The Native American were a people that we oppressed, but we hid that fact by building up American superheroes and making the indigenous peoples supervillains.  He then compares that frontier to the digital one on the Internet. Though he doesn’t spend enough time contrasting them, I don’t think. But while he doesn’t contrast the heroes and villains of the western frontier against he those of the digital as well as I’d like, he doesn’t pull many punches in, discussing the poor use of the Native American in pop culture – both in comics and movies.

Also fascinating are the roots of superheroes you see in gothic monsters. Batman anyone? This is even where Morpheus got his start; though as a Der Sandmann, a 17th century fairy that kidnapped sleeping children as food for his  own children.

He also discusses evolution, and what our future holds. Should we be afraid of an advanced race? Of robots that we’ve created? And it’s not all wild speculation. Will these future beings be “our descendants or our conquerors?” Included in this chapter is the obligatory discussion of duality. But under the umbrella of evolution it takes a different tone that I haven’t read about before. And eugenics! I had no idea that at the turn of the century (around 1900) there were organizations established to prevent “improper” breeding! That’s scary stuff.

Yes, Virginia, there are supervillains, and they didn’t come from comic books.

Plus he pulls in tons of references from pop culture for each of these. For example, for eugenics, it’s not just turn-of-the-century pulp fiction, but comic books, comic book movies, Harry Potter, Orphan Black.

And the next to last chapter – all about love, sex, and superheroes – covers a number of topics. The draw of the secret identity, the hypermasculinity of the superhero, and the pornographic history of both DC and Marvel comics. I didn’t know both publishing companies were borne out of soft-porn sleaze magazines. And it’s obvious that some comics can claim the ancestral roots of these stories.

And the last chapter addresses how the superhero is Other, yet is also always Us. That’s the power of the superhero. They are definitely (and obviously) super, where we are not; yet are eternally are definitely relatable to us in some way.

What especially interests me is the violence. That seems to me the most disturbing thread running through all our heroes – the absolute need to solve everything through violence. Or even, the requirement to solve these things through violence because it’s the only way. Several years ago, after watching the hopelessness in the film Sin City, I wrestled with this very thing. Primarily because this is my favorite genre – what do these stories then teach? And what does it say about me? I actually stopped watching superhero stuff for a while. Because this theme is even in the most childish of cartoons. I’m trying to remember how I reconciled it. I must have, though, since I’m still reading them.

Not sure how to recommend this. I loved it. But then this fits perfectly within my interests – superheroes and comics. If you like them, I think you’ll find this extremely interesting. But even if you don’t, there’s enough history, theology, and politics in this book that I would think it has a high range of appeal. Also, it’s well-written and accessible, which isn’t always true of scholarly non-fiction. So I guess I’d recommend it to anyone interested in superheroes, or anyone just interested in history, theology, or other branches superheroes cross.

Thanks to NetGalley and University of Iowa Press for a copy in return for an honest review.

Comic Book Review: The Little Black Fish by Bizhan Khodabandeh

  A good reminder that wisdom doesn’t always come with age. And that there comes a time when we have to make a break from our parents and make our own decisions.

And I want to say this all the time to people:

I’ll forgive you since you’re speaking out of ignorance.

I wonder if that would go over well.

It’s an interesting tale – and I like the art. Very simple, yet very artistic. The dialogue came off a bit odd, but I think that’s because of the translation.

The story just seemed to just end without an ending. I understand that it’s an adaptation, but I guess I’m used to morality tales with some kind of resolution. If this has one, its: If you question authority, search for truth, and practice self-sacrifice, your journey will kill you. I don’t think that’s supposed to be the moral. But maybe I need to compare it to the original story.

Thanks to Netgalley and Rosarium Publishing for a copy in return for an honest review.

Comic Book Review: Dead Man’s Party by Jeff Marsick

“Sometimes God’s just in a mood.”

Yup. 

And it’s not a good day for Ghost – no matter how you spin it. A contract killer with a death sentence. Who makes a huge mistake. 

This is a fast-paced, enjoyable comic. The art was pretty cool, bordering on photo-realism. For the most part – there were a few panels and pages that seemed like were rushed. 

But it is a pretty suspenseful, edge-of-your seat kind of story. 

Recommended. 

Thanks to NetGalley, Diamond, and Magnetic Press for a copy in return for an honest review.
   

Book Review: Otto Von Trapezoid and the Empress of Thieves by Jesse Baruffi

 This was so over the top and weird. I realize it was designed to be, but it still took a while to get used to. You’ve got to realize that it’s parody on the level of silliness of things like The Naked Gun, or Airplane. Once I realized that, it was a bit easier to read. Though as I continued to read, I got the feeling that it was trying to push into the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy area. It was good – but not that good. 

Some great quotes: 

“Nothing says caution like a gun that obliterates everything in its path.” 

(Living in North Alabama, I know several people that could live by that motto. Too bad that’s a mad scientist.)

“If any of you have gods to pray to, I’d suggest renouncing them before they disappoint you one last time.”

Then I got to the poker game and it got pretty funny. 

I have to admit, I didn’t laugh on every single page, but there were parts that had me cracking up. The villain Amadeus X. Machina was especially inspired. 

Some of it was pretty funny. But some of it just…wasn’t. There were parts that had me cracking up, but other parts that had me a bit bored. There were sweet parts that made me smile. But then even more parts that that left me feeling meh

Which makes it hard to want to get back to a book to finish it. 

As much as I enjoyed parts of it, it did seem like it took a while to read. 

Would I recommend it? Well, parts of the book were truly inspired and were enjoyable and hilarious. But, some parts, to quote the book, “felt empty, hollow, and tedious.” 

Thanks to NetGalley and Curiosity Quills for a copy in return for an honest review.