Monday, January 26, 2015

Convergence (The Zodiac Legacy, Book 1) by Stan Lee, Stuart Moore, and Andie Tong

Stan Lee (yes, that Stan Lee) makes his prose novel debut in this series starter starring Steven Lee, a fourteen-year-old Chinese-American kid on a school trip to Hong Kong. Steven and his classmates are on a tour at a museum, but Steven seems to be the only who who notices their tour guide's odd, even suspicious, behavior. After hearing some muffled screaming, the tour guide abandons the class, and Steven decides to follow her deeper into the museum, where he nearly stumbles into a decidedly strange scene.

Every 144 years, a burst of energy that gives a person born in the corresponding year the power associated with of one of the animals of the zodiac is released. A rich and powerful man named Maxwell, however, is trying to claim all the zodiac powers for himself. The tour guide, whose real name is Jasmine, and one of her associates manage to stop Maxwell before he can absorb all the powers. Some of the power escapes, entering Steven and some other teens around the world.

Now Steven, Jasmine, and tech guy Carlos must travel around the world to find the newly empowered hosts before Maxwell does. As they gather together, they must learn to harness their powers and work together to have a chance at defeating Maxwell. But Maxwell is a war contractor and his minions are very well-trained.

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Book Review: At Drake’s Command by David Wesley Hill

At Drake’s Command:The adven­tures of Pere­grine James dur­ing the sec­ond cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tion of the world (Vol­ume 1) by David Wes­ley Hill is a his­tor­i­cal fic­tion book fol­low­ing the adven­tures of a sailor on a voy­age with the famous Fran­cis Drake.
Pere­grine James is hav­ing a bad day, he is on his way to get whipped in the pub­lic square for steal­ing, or rather falling for a rich man’s daugh­ter. Craftily he offers him­self to a pass­ing com­man­der as a sailor. The com­man­der is none other then the famous Fran­cis Drake, on a mis­sion from the Queen of Eng­land her­self, and decides that flog­ging will cer­tainly show the char­ac­ter of poor Perry James.

Perry, a cook, comes aboard Drake’s ship, the Pel­i­can, even though nei­ther he nor any­one from the crew knows where they’re going.

At Drake’s Command:The adven­tures of Pere­grine James dur­ing the sec­ond cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tion of the world (Vol­ume 1) by David Wes­ley Hill is a fas­ci­nat­ing, well writ­ten novel which I found inter­est­ing and infor­ma­tive. I have always had a fas­ci­na­tion with Fran­cis Drake, ever since I did a report on him in 5th grade. I still remem­ber the fas­ci­na­tion with this man who pirated for the Queen of Eng­land.

I still have my project (a slides drawn on a plas­tic role for an over­head viewer — a pre MS Office PowerPoint).

As I men­tioned, this is a well writ­ten book with a fas­ci­nat­ing glimpse into life aboard the s hip of Cap­tain Drake. The author cer­tainly seemed to have his research, but doesn’t go on mono­logues to prove so, he sim­ply weaves his find­ings into the narrative.

Mr. Hill used his research to envi­sion what sailors we know of might have been like, when­ever he could he used the names of those who were actu­ally on the voy­age to add to the authen­tic­ity of this fic­tional story. The author does ask the reader to rely on too many instant aces when the pro­tag­o­nist is either lucky, charm­ing or brave to pull him­self out of hotspots. As a new man on the ship I could believe those occur­rences once or twice (and that stretch­ing it), but the rest of the crew would have thrown him overboard.

This is a well writ­ten, fast paced and enjoy­able novel. I espe­cially loved the cho­sen occu­pa­tion of the pro­tag­o­nist, a cook, or a sea-cook, being a fan of Trea­sure Island I thought the homage to Long John Sil­ver as a wink and a nod to the genre.

  • 424 pages
  • Pub­lisher: Temur­lone Press
  • Lan­guage: English
  • ISBN-10: 0983611726
Article first published as Book Review: At Drake’s Command by David Wesley Hill

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner

Standish Treadwell can't read, can't write, Standish Treadwell isn't bright. At least, that's what his teachers and classmates think. The truth, of course, is much different.

Standish's dyslexic brain does operate on a slightly different frequency than everyone else, that much is a given, but he's anything but slow. His hyper-vigilance gives him an extraordinarily sharp & vivid insight into the world around him.

And what a world it is.

Don't be fooled, Maggot Moon is no syrupy, coming of age story. Standish doesn't find redemption in a group of misfit friends, he doesn't grab the eye of the girl that's way out of his league, he doesn't score the winning touchdown to the cheers of his newly-converted classmates. No, there's none of that predictable claptrap in this novel. No happy endings in Zone 7.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Manhunt by Kate Messner

I totally judged this book by its cover. It features three kids in a foreign city in all-action poses. They seem to be on the trail of some bad guy and they look determined to get him.  I thought to myself that it was worth a try.

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Cavalier Mr. Thompson, by Rich Tommaso

I've recently been reading various collections from the golden age of comic strips: Hal Foster's brilliant work on Prince Valiant, Alex Raymond's gorgeous high-wire act that was Flash Gordon, Chester Gould's brutal, elongated tales of crime in Dick Tracy-- and they all have a similar approach to storytelling, a kind of loping, stretched, and suspended sense of narrative, where each storyline follows many threads and multiple characters, all brought together by chance and all with their own stories to tell. Reading these strips brought to mind Rich Tommaso's graphic novel The Cavalier Mr. Thompson, a crime comic on the surface, but so much more once you delve into its pages.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

ARES: Bringer of War by George O'Connor

George O'Connor has been busy retelling the Olympic myths using graphic novels for a while now, and the good folks at First Second books have been doing a great job getting the books out. They even have a website for the entire collection. What O'Connor is doing is fascinating. He's not just telling the original versions, but through his artwork and dialogue, is reimagining the stories in a more fleshed-out way.

I am obliged to say that when it comes to Ares, a bunch of the flesh ends up dead in the battle of Troy, since O'Connor chose to inject The Iliad into this book as a means of focusing on Ares, the god of war. While the "facts" from The Iliad are there, rather than focusing solely on the actions of the men on the field, O'Connor focuses on the proxy battles being fought among the gods and goddesses, with an emphasis on their desires and interferences. Further, in an interesting take, O'Connor tackles "daddy issues" in this book by depicting Ares's uneasy relationship with his father, Zeus, and the relationship between Askalaphos, a son of Ares, killed in battle. Whereas Ares thinks Zeus doesn't like him much, and gets confirmation from Zeus, Askalaphos thinks Ares is indifferent to his fate, but we see Ares both mourning and enraged by his son's death in battle.

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Monday, January 12, 2015

The Ploughmen by Kim Zupan

In Kim Zupan’s The Ploughmen, there is no country for good men. No easy virtue, no simple truth. Only the land and the loss and the learning to live with it. The high lonesome of the Montana sky, an emptiness formed anew in all who inhabit its vistas.

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Friday, January 9, 2015

Play me Backwards

Play Me Backwards

For fans of Andrew Smith's WINGER and GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE comes the latest YA novel by Adam Selzer. PLAY ME BACKWARDS is a hysterical look at the senior year of a slacker named Leon Harris.

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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

King Dork, Approximately by Frank Portman

King Dork, Approximately is Frank Portman's third book. His second book is Andromeda Klein and his first is King Dork (see SETH CHRISTENFELD's GLW review here). King Dork, Approximately is the sequel to that first book, King Dork, which I highly recommend you read first. (I also think you should read Andromeda Klein, but not because it has anything to do with the respective King Dork's, but merely because it is, in my humble opinion, the finest of Portman's work.)

If you haven't read the original King Dork, you may safely continue reading this review, but I would move forward with caution. I will try to write the entire review without revealing any juicy or surprising details contained within the first volume, but I may not succeed. If I have to reveal something important, I will introduce it by shouting "SPOILER ALERT!" and jumping up and down while waving my arms. Still, you could miss it if you're reading cavalierly or if you get bored with what I'm saying and decide to skip ahead a couple of paragraphs. So be attentive, ok?

The King Dork books are narrated by Thomas Henderson who, because of the alphabetic proximity of their names, is best friends with Sam Hellerman. Thomas and Sam are in a band whose name changes rather frequently. In fact changing the band's name is whole point of being in the band as, at the outset of King Dork, neither Sam nor Thomas own instruments or know how to play the instruments they lack.

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Wednesday, December 31, 2014


Death Coming Up the HillLife is a balancing act for Ashe whose parents have stayed together only because he was born.  Their conflicting opinions of the state of the world in 1968 have pulled them in opposite directions.  Ashe is definitely caught in the middle.

Each week Ashe's history teacher posts a number on the chalkboard.  It's a number all too familiar to Ashe - the U.S. casualty total from the fighting in Vietnam.  Ashe listens to news reports, watches his mother protest the war, and agrees that keeping up his grades so he can go to college and avoid the draft is the best plan.  In the midst of the war abroad, the race war is being fought here at home.  The events of 1968 include the Black Panther movement, the protests and assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the assassination of Bobby Kennedy.

Ashe is pulled in yet another direction when he meets Angela.  Her brother is fighting in Vietnam but hasn't been heard from in months.  Ashe sees the strain it puts on Angela and her family as they wait to hear if he will be reported dead, a captured POW, or MIA.  He'd love to introduce Angela to his parents, but since racism is yet another divisive issue between his parents, he must keep his relationship with Angela to himself.

Author Chris Crowe uses a unique and challenging format for his tale.  DEATH COMING UP THE HILL is told in narrative haiku.  The spare language is precise and powerful.  Readers should be sure to read the Historical and Author's Notes at the end to fully appreciate the complex challenge Crowe faced in creating this amazing work.

Previously posted:


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