"review" · arc · fiction · series

{book} a new(er) Flavia de Luce

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust

A Flavia de Luce Novel, book 7

By Alan Bradley

ARC via NetGalley w/ gratitude to Delacorte Press*

Release Date January 6, 2015.

“Hard on the heels of the return of her mother’s body from the frozen reaches of the Himalayas, Flavia, for her indiscretions, is banished from her home at Buckshaw and shipped across the ocean to Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy in Toronto, her mother’s alma mater, there to be inducted into a mysterious organization known as the Nide.

“No sooner does she arrive, however, than a body comes crashing down out of the chimney and into her room, setting off a series of investigations into mysterious disappearances of girls from the school.”–Publisher’s Comments

I hadn’t expected another Flavia de Luce novel so soon, if at all. The Dead in their Vaulted Arches (Delacorte 2014) closed the overarching mystery of Flavia’s mother and suggested closure for Flavia’s antics in Bishop Lacey, thus relieving the small English village of more dead bodies. I’m not complaining. In fact, I was quite giddy to see As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust show up on NetGalley. While there was no expectation we would get a glimpse of Flavia’s new situation (as suggested in The Dead), there was a curiosity of how life at Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy would go. It goes well…that is, the story goes well.

One of the things I appreciate most about Alan Bradley and this series of his is his consistency of character. Sure, Flavia has grown over the course of several books, she is essentially a self that never fails to saturate the narrative in that lovely singularly dark way of hers. As it is, Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust opens with one of the most delicious Prologues ever. Bradley excels at opening a novel. The atmospheric arrives in the first sentence and settles in for the long haul. Where first person narratives splinter into multiple voices for set descriptions and the like, the de Luce novel never shifts from Flavia’s macabre and chemistry-obsessed point of view—which can be frustrating at times. She gets distracted by life-things instead of focusing solely on the case at hand. Neither is her distraction a complaint. The novels are character driven and if you’ve haven’t a fondness for Flavia near the beginning of the series, you are not going to be reading Chimney Sweepers.

We may think we have an inkling of the how the mystery will be solved, tracing the evidence as Flavia observes (straightforwardly or obliquely), Flavia will eventually withhold a conclusion. You’d think I’d tire of this formula, but I’m much too pleased that Bradley only withholds in a believable way and doesn’t cut corners by resolving the mystery in a leap even too imaginative for the clever heroine he’s constructed. No, much of the mystery of how the case will be solved is in the unpredictable nature of those life-things I mentioned. Flavia has a want to like people and belong. She requires sleep and emotions and the personalities of other characters. Bradley creates some interesting characters in Chimney Sweepers, many of whom are of Flavia’s ilk, defining Flavia’s difference in a newer way. We get a novel launching a query into whom Flavia really is and is to become. How much is she like her elder female relatives? What boundaries will she risk?

How much can one year change?

Bradley leaves some loose ends; relationships are still troubled; uncertainties still linger—some, anyway. What Bradley certainly does do is demonstrate an exhilarating ability maintain a good mystery in his heroine and her adventures. You can leave off at The Dead in their Vaulted Arches if you like and imagine the what-comes-next, or you can extend the anticipation another book, because I wasn’t expecting the way the what-comes-next is framed by this new conclusion in the Flavia de Luce series.

I really am curious: How much will one year change?

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*I received the Advanced Reader’s Copy in exchange for a fair review and nothing more.

 

"review" · arc · concenter · fiction · juvenile lit · recommend · sci-fi/fantasy · series

{book} charis: journey to pandora’s jar

of note: A good friend introduced me to her friend Nicole Walters via Facebook fairly recently. Nicole is publishing her first middle-grade novel and Leah knew N and I would very likely be interested in a story involving a strong female protagonist and Greek mythology. Nicole generously allowed me to read Charis in return for a free and unbiased reading and that is what follows, that is always what follows.

CHARIS titleCharis: Journey to Pandora’s Jar by Nicole Walters

published via BookTrope

ARC via e-reader

In many respects, 13-year-old Charis Parks is your typical girl: She goes to school, has friends, a crush, and is bright and sassy. In popular story, she is not so typical: One parent is white, the other is not, and the two adults have an easy affection between them and they attend to their children, too. Charis’ elder brother, though teasing, is kind and loving, and the depiction is mutual. Then there is that thing with her unusual birthmark which points to a destiny upon which the future of our world hinges.

When Pandora’s Jar was opened those many, many fateful years ago, Hope did not fly eagerly outward  into the world with the demons of chaos and instead was trapped inside when the lid was replaced. Pandora and the Jar were lost and with its return comes the one who was born to open it. It is up to Charis to release Hope and thus counteract the terrible curse the Jar has wrought on humankind.

The nefariously cast Hades has plans of his own for the Jar. He also has some very creepy henchwomen, the Erinyes Sisters. They are deliciously menacing figures, who are, at turns, also quite humorous. I adored them. Hermes, Athena, and Nike are determined to thwart Hades and see the Jar opened and Hope restored. Persuading the Fates and Charis to their cause, it is a race to recover the Jar. They have five days—the time span of the novel.

“I’m no damsel.”~Charis

Charis is someone portrayed as heroic without requiring a predestined quest to save the world to define her as such. Walters does not write a prophesied figure who needs a lot of convincing and employs excessive angst in the matter of destiny. It’s lovely. Now, that isn’t to say Charis does not have an occasional doubt, nor does it mean she doesn’t cry. She cries frequently—a nice (unusual) trait in a young hero.  A key personality trait for this hero is her curiosity. A curious mind is one that is taken with observing, questioning, and confronting the world. This is one of the traits belonging to world-changers and hope-bringers. It is beautiful to see it celebrated rather than criticized or hated—especially in a female figure.

Having a nearly 13-year-old girl, I know the age hosts the courageous and the articulate. I am also well acquainted with Charis’ repetitive use of “What tha?” Walters renders the middle-schooler and her world marvelously; though I did question every one’s ability to express themselves so well, but reluctance is an enemy of time when pacing and book-length is of import to middle-grade (one of the reasons I love reading it).

Where Rick Riordan comparisons will be inescapable, Walters favors a fluid writing style over amping up the adrenaline to compel her audience. This isn’t to say she does not provide great action. However, I do prefer the dark tension of that opening sequence to the cross-cutting effect found later in the novel. Of course, Riordan is not only about the ticking clock, so how does Walters do with the Greek myth in present day story? She is smart with it. One of the most enjoyable aspects to the novel is how Walters knows when to elaborate, and which details require prose or witty conversation or dramatic exchanges. She successfully contrives reasons and venues in which to share the myths that fuel the context and conflict in the story.

Gabe is a sweetie and the since-childhood-best-friend who is not Charis’ crush. The downplay of this romantic interest is handled rather deftly without eliminating possibility. And Gabe should add interest for male readers, who should enjoy the lovely insight into a powerful girl regardless. My only catch is how easily Gabe is maneuvered into a full-fledged side-kick role. And in some regards, Charis appear too clean; the plot points too well-finessed for an older audience. It has a very straightforward villain-hero dynamic; strong enough a dynamic at times to brush aside what the stakes truly are. The stumbling blocks placed in the way of recovering the Jar are unsurprising and not terribly threatening; then, perhaps the Reader is meant to be lulled by the “of courses” before that unanticipated ending.

Charis is a delight; and that smooth clean delivery is one of the reasons why. I do have to say I am more taken with the characters than the adventure itself, but such is where I found myself the most charmed. The writing in the mirror, the young eyes looking out upon the world and being affected by it. I worried a little that the premise is too juvenile in point of view: the sense that the world is worse than it ever was and more in need of hope than it ever has been. And then I recall the audience that Walters ever keeps in mind. It is just right. A darkling world in need of the hero pursuing a solution that will break its curse. The young (and old) should be so empowered. I am, just as the novel is, drawn to the pursuit of Hope and the longing for it to be just as part of the consciousness of our world as those other inmates of Pandora’s Jar. Charis already provides a positive image for which to strive: a loving home and friends and a fierce and articulate young lady activated for the good of mankind.

There is a thoughtfulness to the writing that is quiet beneath the smooth entertainment of the reading experience. I love that in a storytelling. Nicole Walters is a debut author to watch, one who has written herself very nicely into the middle-grade set with this smart and entertaining read.

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recommendations: girls & boys; ages 8-13; for those who like good female protagonists, positive family portrayals, seeing the mean girl get her comeuppance, and both the grotesque and glorious figures of Greek mythology.

of note: There were notations for illustrations which I cannot comment upon, except to say that they promise to be a nice addition and I am curious about them. Too, have you noticed how lame most self-published covers tend to be? I was so pleased when this cover popped-up in my message box! I asked after the artist/designer and he is Nicole’s brother. Nice.

once7mainbanner200

  meets w/ the once upon a time challenge.

"review" · arc · comics/graphic novels · concenter · juvenile lit · recommend · series

{comics} welcome back to Hereville

Thanks to Abrams and NetGalley I got a sneak peek at the sequel to Barry Deutsch’s Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword. It should be noted that the advanced copy/peek was pre-color and still sketched at the end, so I cannot speak to the color throughout or any detailing toward the end, but I can say that it is drawn and formatted consistent to the first book (that is good news, by the way). Love the cover.

 

How Mirka Met a Meteorite by Barry Deutsch

Amulet Books (imprint of Abrams), 2012. 128 pages.

Mirka is back, and she’s still the only sword-brandishing, monster-fighting Orthodox Jewish girl in town. Or so she thinks.

When a misguided troll aims a meteor at the witch’s house, the witch grabs hold of the closest thing possible to transform the flying, flaming rock-and that would be Mirka’s hair. The meteor is changed, all right: it’s now Mirka’s identical twin.

Doppelganger Mirka, vowing to be a better version of the real girl, sets out to charm all of Hereville, including Mirka’s own family. Our heroine challenges the meteor girl to a three-part contest . . . and the loser will be banished from Hereville forever!—publisher’s comments.

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How Mirka Met a Meteorite picks up after the events in the first, unsurprisingly grounded. So while she finally has the sword to fight dragons, she is stuck in the house—knitting. Before she gets unleashed on the world (trading curtain rods for an actual sword) it is a nice time for those new to Mirka to get to know her. You should really read the first, but Deutsch acquaints (and reminds) readers just who our lovely protagonist is. And it becomes of vital importance to know who Mirka really is—for Mirka and her family and friends.

“Isn’t there anything special about me at all?”

How Mirka Met a Meteorite provides a very nice exploration on identity, of knowing who you are and who you want to be; the things you wish you were good at, and the things you already are good at—and the things you are actually good at. It’s a nice exploration because Mirka is funny and earnest and so so brash! And her half-sister Rachel is so sweet and earnest and wise. And it’s a nice exploration because the adventure that facilitates it defies expectation. Mirka is one of a kind.

 

{page 87 (via bk site, see below). I really appreciate what the fluidity, his lack of hard edged (or any) paneling, does for the story. for instance, the bottom half of this page could be read chronologically or in simultaneity.

How Mirka Got Her Sword is a success and I was pleased to find Mirka’s encounter with the Meteorite as thoroughly enjoyable in story and illustration. I am eager to see the effect of some of the sequences in book form (and with color) even though they were still fun to view in my Adobe Reader–Deutsch does movement really well. And expression. For example, the above image emotes and storytells quite effectively without text or true context (though I’m sure you are recalling the publisher’s synopsis).

That previous characters return is of no surprise, but Deutsch does thread elements and references from the first, like the very covers, the ball of yarn, grapes, a pig, and I find Mirka knitting very amusing. I enjoy Deutsch’s sense of humor and his imaginative flair; as well as his inclusion of that charming little Totoro doll on Rachel’s bed (43). And those glimpses into the culture and language of our Orthodox Jew protagonist?–yeah they are still present and influential to the story. Thank you Barry Deutsch for offering us something so different from our standard fare.

How Mirka Met a Meteorite is a delightful follow-through of How Mirka Got Her Sword. I am very much looking forward to exploring it again with you upon its release in November.* So mark your calendars for the 1st (or pre-order/request).

*convenient timing for Christmas? I think so. This is one of those series you should be adding to your shelf; for your young person and you.

recommendations… ages 8 & up;  girls & boys; readers of comics or no; lovers of tales, fantasy, the comedic, the cultural, and/or the highly dramatic yet short lived games of chess. this one is for fans of Jimmy Gownley’s Amelia Rules! without a doubt, and I would add that Jeff Smith’s Bone fans would probably like it, as well as Will Eisner’s (as his illustrations certainly came to mind during the read; and coincidentally, he speaks to this in the interview below).

of note: this review is my pleasure. I was not paid or bribed in anyway. one of these times, though…

my review of Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword.

do checkout Hereville.com

{all images belong to Barry Deutsch (found via the book’s site)/Abrams; after the cover, (1) penciled title page. (2) from page 87. visit the site for more images and information about the author/illustrator}

I found this great interview on the Hereville site; thought I would embed it here, too.

I love his suggestion that we exchange “strong” for “rich” in reference to female characters.  and hey, he went to Portland State, too!

he does school visits, so Portland friends, check that out.

"review" · arc · fiction · juvenile lit · sci-fi/fantasy · series

{book} the invisible tower

The nearly-twelve daughter inhaled The Invisible Tower, and said she was already for the next. Too bad since Otherworld Chronicles book one was only just getting published. How did I feel about it?

 In Artie Kingfisher’s world, wizards named Merlin and fire-breathing dragons exist only in legends and lore—until the day a mysterious message appears in his video game Otherworld springs to life.

You are special, Arthur, Says the mysterious message in his game. In one week’s time you will come to me at the it.

Cryptic clues lead Artie to a strange place called the Invisible Tower, where he discover the fantastic destiny that awaits him…

Brimming with powerful sorcerers, ancient magic, and life-changing quests, Otherworld Chronicles is perfect for Rick Riordan, Artemis Fowl, and Ranger’s Apprentice. The first book in this explosive tween trilogy brings the heroes of Arthurian legend to brilliant new life–and the promise of greater danger to come will leave readers breathless for the next volume.–back cover.

I’d been wonder when Arthurian legends would make the rounds in popular juvenile fiction. I understand Meg Cabot has modernized the lore for teen girls and Mary Pope Osborne plays with it a bit (near the beginning at least) with The Magic Tree House for the early chapter books set.

Nils Johnson-Shelton traps Merlin in a tower that has since taken on the appearance of a gaming store in Cincinnati, Ohio–exotic right? He can’t leave, but Artie when comes along, he finally has hope of escape. And why Artie? because he is the genetically replicated (not cloned) sibling of the original King Arthur. Yep, Artie was adopted. Better, there are other coincidences and encounters involving other paralleled Arthurian characters.

Unlike Rick Riordan who educates as he goes, Johnson-Shelton dives right in, and readers will need to do some research on their own. I know a reasonable number of the stories and characters, but I get the feeling I am missing quite a bit. But do you have to know any of the stories to enjoy the read? Not at all.

Gamers will take a special liking to the Otherworld Chronicles because well, access to the Otherworld is via a portal or a gaming console. The virtual representation is a mimicry of an actual overlapping yet paralleled world. There are exchanges between the two worlds and even though some do not care for the idea, they are interdependent. What excites Artie’s adoptive father is Otherworld’s clean energy. Oh yeah, there is a strong eco-message, too.

There are a lot of pop culture references and slang and high-action sequences. Excalibur is painfully convenient, essentially gifting Artie with all the info and skills he needs, but I don’t think young reader’s will mind. There are the bad-ass, the creepy, the ignorant/helpless adults, and a nerd who gets muscles, confidence, and very likely a girlfriend by the end of the Chronicles.

If you are a grown-up who is curious how Johnson-Shelton translates the stories and characters, I would love your thoughts on it. Otherwise, this is most certainly a book for tweens–boys and girls alike! I don’t think it will have the timelessness of Ranger’s Apprentice, or the massive myth-adventure appeal of Percy Jackson and series, but for your reader’s looking for a quick, adrenaline read, pick this one up from your local Library.

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The Invisible Tower (Otherworld Chronicles, book 1) by Nils Johnson-Shelton

Harper (HarperCollins), 2012; Tradepaper, 333 pages, ARC

N was lent this book and in turned handed it to me, no compensation involved.

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good for the Once Upon a Time VI Challenge

"review" · arc · fiction · juvenile lit · recommend

{book} remarkable

This book came to me by way of a friend of a friend of a friend (the wife of a teacher of the daughter). It’s an Advance Reader’s Copy as the release date is April 2012. Put a note on your calendar!

In the mountain town of Remarkable, everyone is extraordinarily talented, extraordinarily gifted, or just plain extraordinary. Everyone, that is, except Jane Doe, the most average ten-year-old who ever lived and the only student not admitted to Remarkable’s School for the Remarkably Gifted. But everything changes when the mischievous, downright criminal Grimlet twins enroll in Jane’s school and a strange sweet-toothed pirate captain appears in town.

Thus begins a series of adventures that put some of Remarkable’s most infamous inhabitants and their long-held secrets in danger. It’s up to Jane, in her own modest style, to come to the rescue and prove that she, too, is capable of some rather exceptional things. –publisher’s comments/back cover.

If Remarkable sounds a bit silly and fun and lesson-y, it is the first two things. Lizzie K Foley has a flawless style: the writing is clean and the reading effortless; the setting and the characters are beautifully rendered and humorously imagined. Seemingly disparate actions/lines smoothly come together in a enjoyable conclusion where lessons are learned but not obnoxiously served.

Natalya’s teacher mentioned her a time or two to his wife. His wife finished Remarkable and thought N would very much enjoy it, too. She did. She read excerpts to me in her excitement, and the humor was spot-on. N likes absurdity just as much as her mother. When I tell you N mentioned Alex and the Ironic Gentleman by Adrienne Kress, you should know this is an incredible honor. It was the fully realized characters who were both extraordinary and marvelously familiar, but completely amusing. And it was the various lines trekking along that you are unsure of, but come to be woven quite perfectly.

An adult will likely solve some of the mysteries, expect some of the trajectories beforehand, but such does not detract from the read. Miss story time with your Grade-Schooler or Middle-Schooler and do not want to read a “classic”? This one is a good time.

When N was handed this, and she read me the synopsis, I wasn’t sure what teacher and wife were trying to say. Do they think N is remarkable and that is why she came to mind (which she is by the way, of course she is), or do they think she is more like Jane in a sea of extraordinary people feeling all alone in her ordinariness? The wondering was rendered moot. Remarkable doesn’t care who you are so much as it wants you to live your best life, to find yourself and be brave and pursue yourself whole-heartedly. All three parts are equally difficult, but incredibly worth it. This is why N comes to mind for me: an intelligent and creative young lady in her first year of middle school who is determined to be her oft strange self (no matter how much ‘contrariness’ figures in).

Jane struggles with not being remarkable. She isn’t even unremarkable–that is her Grandpa John (whom I love!). Jane is painfully average, as you will come to know. She is so average, it takes her average mind to puzzle out the goings-on. She is one of the most unheroic and heroic protagonists in a juvenile adventure you are likely to read. Foley is gorgeously consistent with her characters. Jane’s woes will likely not feel unfamiliar to most. But Jane isn’t the only character with struggles. The remarkable have difficulties all their own.

What if something or someone (by all accounts) should be remarkable but is not?__What if the person you are crushing on doesn’t find your particular gift all that interesting? And what if you realize you are not good at much else, especially those kinds of things that would woo the other? What if you ignore other people’s good sense and think you are a genius at everything anyway?__What happens when others consider their genius more valid?__What if you were so remarkable very little could impress you, and few would be unimpressed by you?__What if you had other interests, would you be allowed to pursue them? What are the pressures of being genius?__What happens if you cannot pursue who you are and/or make use of your gifts?__What happens when you do not receive the recognition or reward you deserve or desire?

The exploration of these (few) questions are painless if not actually pleasurable. With each character drawn forward we experience smiles, sadness, winces, and hope–“bad guys” and good alike. The characters are memorable: my favorites: the psychic owner of the pizza parlor, the elder brother, Dr. Pike, Grandpa John, the twins, and Ms. Schnabel. Jane comes across as unremarkable in that she comes in and out of the story quietly–normally–but she isn’t forgettable. The individuality is great, but what is wonderful to visit is how each character comes into contact/relationship with another. 

For all the fun to be found in Remarkable, Foley doesn’t go too over the top nor gets lost in her own cleverness. It has lessons if you want them, commiseration when you need it, but it is over-all a good clean fun adventure with a creature in the lake, a diabolical machine, a love-struck teenager, and a school teacher pirate. Do visit Remarkable when you can.

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recommendations: girls and boys, “gifted” or no, avid-reader or no, upper elementary-thru-middle-school; reads humor, adventure, pirates, charmingly strange, light-but-not-fluffy; young writers will be inspired by the characters, the transitions and intersections, the overall structure, and the relief from weighty metaphor and poetics.

of note: the teacher lent this with the understanding that (reading enthusiast) N would pass it along to another, keeping record in the inside cover. Lovely, unintentional marketing, and one that is hard to fault with such an accessible book as Foley’s.

also, “The Inspiration for Remarkable in the Author’s Words” as found in the front of the ARC was a lovely addition. Learning about the author’s two remarkable older sisters (multi-lingual, photographic memory & model, star basketball player) and of Lizzie who “was the small, plain dorky sister who wore an eye patch in elementary school and always had a bad haircut (sometimes self-administered)” was a good way to start the book. But the last lines are particularly note-worthy: “Jane’s ordinariness doesn’t keep her from having good friendships, real adventures, or a rich life. My ordinariness never has either.” I hope this will be included in the final copy, even if it would be found at the end. It won me over before I had even begun.

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Remarkable by Lizzie K. Foley

Dial Books for Young Readers (Penguin), 2012.

paperback, ARC, 325 pages.

"review" · arc · foreign · non-fiction · recommend

{book + tv} the beauty, the sorrow & the abbey

The British television series Downton Abbey peaks all sorts of interests in its viewer-ship. I, for one, am obsessed with the costuming. And then there are the sets. I have also, like many others, taken an interest in the variety of perspectives woven into the show. Not only the ones between and within the classes, but of this latest turn in season 2: of World War I.

At the end of last year I received an ARC for Peter Englund’s The Beauty and the Sorrow (as translated by Peter Graves, Knopf 2011), I’ve yet to properly finish it and write a review worthy of it; yet I can confidently recommend it just the same. Englund’s rarefied approach to non-fictional historical texts is a refreshing one. He has taken recorded history/primary sources via journals, letters, photographs, etc. and pieced them into a chronological narrative. His sources are diversified so as to cover the personal experiences from as many perspectives as Englund could manage. He is deft in introducing and following a large cast.

A highly original and revelatory narrative history of World War I that brings into focus its least examined, most stirring component: the experience of the average man or woman.

To create this intimate picture of what war was really like, Peter Englund draws from the diaries, journals, and letters of twenty individuals. They hail from Belgium and Denmark, Austria and Hungary, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, and Venezuela. Some fight on the Western Front, others in the Alps or Mesopotamia; some never see a battlefield. There is a twelve-year-old German schoolgirl, an English nurse in the Russian army, a French civil servant, an American woman married to a Polish aristocrat—all of whom will be united by their involvement, witting or otherwise, in The Great, and terrible, War.

A brilliant mosaic of perspectives, the narrative reads with a depth of feeling and an evocation of time and place we might expect of a novel, and allows these twenty men and women to speak for not only themselves, but also for all of those who were in some way shaped by the war, yet whose voices remain unheard. –publisher’s comments.

The author himself is not without a voice. He shapes the narratives into an accessible translation of personhood, time, and place. Englund returns the voices from the past into flesh, capturing personality, individual voice.

People behave in unanticipated ways; there is as much base behavior as heroism. Mr. Englund discussed the soldiers who actively tried to catch a venereal disease from prostitutes as a way to evade service at the front. “The most grotesque expression of this can be seen in the trade of gonococcal pus, which soldiers buy and smear into their genitals in the hope of ending up in hospital,” he writes. “Those who are really desperate rub it into their eyes, which often results in lifelong blindness.”–Dwight Garner *

The imagery culled from the front, no wonder these men’s desperate aversion. The juxtapositions (like base/brave) ground the experience of The Beauty and the Sorrow.

Englund quotes directly from his sources in an elegant fashion. He also provides footnotes with contextual information, interesting facts. They enter/read like a person following along with you who is familiar with the greater scope of the events and can interject historical perspective; he explains who particular figures are; makes asides, etc.

One of the things I find remarkably vivid is how no one could really understand what was going on and how it came to be so. Some had ideas, of course. The explanations and motivations vary. And then it is the war, no mistake, and what next? What now? Englund haunts the text with pervasive themes/emotions: fear, confusion, courage, bigotry, helplessness, awe… The chaos and coincidence are breath-taking. Englund provide context, and you may draw from your own history lessons, but none of it lessens the effect of each individuals own limited perspective. The war becomes a human story–the day-to-day, and less a fascination with political maneuvers, propaganda, battle myth, and statistics (although such fascination is involved).

The transition from the old ways of doing war and the new are remarked with some humor and horror. The assinine blundering at great cost to the common people. The criticisms are unmistakable. Englund comes across as one who aligns himself less with the writers of history and more with those who actually suffered it. This and the voices of the individual men and women and children are incredibly compelling.

If you’ve an interest in World War I, avid or no, The Beauty and the Sorrow is one you’ll enjoy. I think you’ll find it an interesting companion piece to Downton Abbey.

*Dwight Garner has written a brilliant The New York Times review of this book, “Mass Slaughter on a Personal Level” (Nov. 2011), please read it and continue to seriously consider adding this book to your lists.

Ian Thomas’ review, “The Beauty and the Sorrow: An Intimate History of the First World War, by Peter Englund”, for The Guardian (Nov. 2011)

another review by me likely to come, after I reach that ending Garner promises.

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{image: 1– Carnival Films Production filming Downton Abbey, in the foreground:Thomas (Rob James-Collier), 2– Hardcover, Knopf 2011}

"review" · arc · comics/graphic novels · recommend · sci-fi/fantasy · wondermous · young adult lit

{comics} womanthology: heroic

Womanthology is a large-scale anthology showcasing the works of women in comics. It is created entirely by over 140 women of all experience levels, from young girls who love to create comics all the way up to top industry professionals. All of the short stories will center around our theme for this volume; Heroic. There will also be features, such as Professional How-Tos, a Kids/Teens section showcasing their works and giving tips, as well as a section dedicated to some Iconic female comic creators of the past, such as Nell Brinkley, and much more. Profits of this book will go towards the Charities of GlobalGiving.org.” publisher [IDW publishing] comments.
I heard mention of Womanthology a while back, I believe it was on The Mary Sue; and they’ve since hosted a preview. Recently I encountered it on NetGalley, and w/ IDW’s permission I caught a glimpse of what is to come this month! I can’t wait to get a hold of the whole book. Womanthology has a blog, so check it out, they hosted a preview, here. Meanwhile, let me share my free and honest glimpse of this excellent collection of comics created by the females of the industry.
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Super Less Hero : story by Kelly Thompson, Art by Stephanie Hans : p. 5-12.
This story is a gorgeous lead, all the way around. The art, color, lettering, the story is wonderful… It is waiting to be unseated as my favorite.
—–Each contribution shows its creators at the bottom of the page, where you are introduced and can then follow-up via their website information; a touch of loveliness there.
—–there are “Womanthology Statistics” here and there, balanced within & between comics, at bottoms of pages. p. 10: “Contributors come from over 11 countries; and range in age from under 10 to over 70.”–exciting, right?!
The Spinster : by Ming Doyle, pencil, ink, writer; & Jordie Bellaire, colorist : p. 29-31.
A classic and classy story that has you smirking at ridiculous social/gender expectations.
—–lest you mistakenly believe that all comics involve are a writer and an artist: you’ll meet those skilled in lettering, pencils, ink, color, editing. Plenty are skilled in multiple ways, like Kate Leth who is a writer, penciler, inker, and colorist. Womanthology: Heroic would show off the different facets of comic work and their collaborators.
——there are “Pro-tips” tucked in corners, laced along edges; they range in type, like drawing, editing, writing… p. 12:
“Don’t give up. Everyone who can draw beautifully now was a beginner once. And don’t get frustrated if your work doesn’t yet look the way you want it to. Perseverence is the most important skill you’ll need, and it’s one you can start using right now.” –Laura Morely.
——-check out the extended preview on the blog-site. You’ll note the range of style and story. All center around heroic and are female-centric. I adored Renae de Liz and Nei Ruffino’s contribution (of which I am unsure of the title, High School?) featuring a non-thin heroine called Lady Power Punch (the result of a last minute scramble for a name). She is an awesome figure in red and gets crap for not being empty-headed or Barbie-esque in proportion. It is a smart and beautiful comic that shows off positive girl values, great story-telling, and fantastic color. (p. 18-22)
——-there are How-Tos; Interviews; a section on “Women in the Past.” Womanthology proves itself to be an ambitious project, without being burdensome.
   Womanthology : Heroic is project worth spending time with, lover of comic or no. It isn’t only about informing us or contributing in support of the women in the comic realm, but to share a love of the comic arts–where it just so happens to have a place for women and their stories, too.
   So, I only had a taste (pages 9-34), and then the previews. It was enough to hook me and share it. The release says February 07, 2012–er, tomorrow. Keep your eyes out for this collection, make sure your Library is going to have this, and think about ways you can support them in any future projects, as I hope Heroic will not be the last we see of Womanthology.
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Womanthology: Heroic ed. Barbara Kesel.
contributors credited: by Camilla D’ Errico, Ann Nocenti, Anya Martin, Barbara Kesel, Kimberly Komatsu, Gail Simone, Trina Robbins, Samantha Newark , Renae DeLiz,Ming Doyle, Colleen Doran, Fiona Staples, Stephanie Buscema, Bonnie Burton.
to be released Hardcover, 300 pages.
{cover & banner-work (1st/last images) by Renae de Liz. other images are attributed their creators, and can be found via womanthology.blogspot.com}