Amy Says Read This

Seriously, you should totally read this.


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The Princess in Black by Shannon & Dean Hale & LeUyen Pham

Image from Goodreads.com

Image from Goodreads.com

Hale, S., Hale, D., & Pham, L. (ill.) (2014). The Princess in Black. Candlewick Press: Massachusetts. ISBN: 9780763665104

Annotation: When the monster alarm rings, Princess Magnolia jumps into action and transforms into her monster fighting alter ego, the Princess in Black!

Reaction: In this short beginning chapter book, the Hales introduce readers to the wonderful character of Princess Magnolia, who is a perfect, pink-wearing princess, until it’s time to kick some monster tush. Then it’s time for Princess Magnolia to don practical shorts, boots and a cape in black.

One of the best things about this book is the way Princess Magnolia embraces both sides of herself: the girly, super feminine princess and the strong, capable, monster-tush-kicking superheroine. I recently came across a great article about how it does a disservice to children and women to treat girliness as being less good than tomboyishness, and I think, in light of that, the Hales have done something remarkable here. This is a book that tells children that being feminine and wearing pink is great! And so is going out and saving the kingdom from monsters! The two aren’t mutually exclusive, and that’s a great lesson.

On top of that, the story is engaging and funny, and though this story is pretty brief, the Hales have managed to create fully realized characters and a world around them. The illustrations are bright and colorful and add a lot of whimsy and humor to the text.

I really, really hope there are going to be more adventures of Princess Magnolia/the Princess in Black. The Hales have only begun to scratch the surface in this one.

Media used: watercolor and ink

Author’s Website

Illustrator’s Website

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Sex Criminals: One Weird Trick by Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky

Image from Goodreads.com

Image from Goodreads.com

Fraction, M., & Zdarsky, C. (ill.) 2014. Sex Criminals, vol. 1: One Weird Trick. Image Comics: ISBN: 9781607069461.

Annotation: Suzie has the power to stop time when she has sex, and she thought she was the only one until she met Jon. Together they come up with a plan to save Suzie’s beloved library, using their superpowers to rob banks.

Reaction: Describing this book to people is ridiculous. Because the premise is RIDICULOUS. It’s crazy and weird and totally awesome. It’s so much fun to read (as an adult! This is definitely not one for kids, and I wouldn’t even recommend it to a teen [but I also wouldn’t stop them from checking it out if they found it]). As my husband and members of my book club can attest, I’m not usually a huge fans of things that can be described as “weird,” but this book manages to find a great balance between weird and not-weird that really works for me.

The two main characters are great, and I would like to go out for drinks with both Suzie and Jon. And, not gonna lie, I fell a little in love with Jon the first time we meet him, too. His Lolita quoting is so sexy, and Fraction and Zdarsky perfectly capture that moment between Suzie and Jon. Honestly, it made me want to read Lolita, which is not a book I’ve ever harbored a secret desire to read.

My buds, Matt and Chip, actually do a great job of portraying their burgeoning relationship for the entirety of the book. I enjoyed watching it unfold and develop, and I especially love their epic first date when they spend a lot time talking and getting to know each other. It just feels very natural and genuine to me, and it makes me really excited to see where Matt and Chip take them in later volumes.

I also really like the way Suzie breaks the fourth wall to speak directly to the reader, which is something I feel like I’m seeing a lot more often in various media, and it super works here. It really helps make the story feel intimate and as if Suzie’s having a conversation with a good friend over drinks. I also like how Suzie will actually insert herself into scenes from the past as she narrates. I find it clever and fun, but I also have a little bit of a girl crush on Suzie, so I’m not sure she can do any wrong in my book.

I know this review has already turned into an ode to how much I loved this book, but we have to talk about the art. It’s amazing. It really helps sell this ridiculous story. I really like the classic pinup vibe of the character designs and that they look like normal people. Suzie and Jon are hot, but not supermodel, superhero hot. They’re regular people hot (and most of Jon’s appeal comes from his humor and intellect). Zdarsky does really interesting things with the characters’ flashbacks, and the stopped time scenes are crazy cool. I also love the coloring here. I love everything. It’s all good.

So, you know, read this. But only if you don’t mind copious amounts of doin’ it in your comics.

Author’s website (Incidentally, Matt Fraction is married to the excellent Kelly Sue DeConnick.)

Illustrator’s website

(Contributed to Cannonball Reads 7 as part of my 52 reviews in 52 weeks. I’m a little behind.)


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The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie

Image from Goodreads.com

Image from Goodreads.com

Gillen, K., & McKelvie J. (Ill.) The Wicked + the Divine, vol. 1: the Faust Act. Image Comics: 2014. ISBN: 9781632150196

Annotation: Every ninety years, twelve gods come back to earth. Two years later, they are dead. In 2014, Laura is obsessed with the recently returned pop star deities and will do anything to get close to them.

Reaction: This book is excellent if you, like me, love the mythologies of religions all over the world and enjoy seeing modern uses of ancient gods. They’re very like fairy tales in that way for me, and this book does some wonderful, modern things with these relatively obscure gods and goddesses. This is not to say that you have to be super into mythology to get this book; it would definitely appeal to urban fantasy and superhero comics fans, as well. Gillen & McKelvie have pulled a lot of things together to create something fantastic, all while using a diverse cast of characters, including a couple of gender bending deities. And seriously, their lady Bowie!Lucifer is inspired, and I cannot wait to meet the male Inanna (one of my favorite pre-Christian goddesses).

I really appreciate the story centering on Laura, and that we get this crazy escapade from the perspective of a normal girl. She really helps ground things into the “real world,” and it is completely wonderful that they use a lady of color for this pivotal role. I think the creative team has done a great job of reflecting the diversity of London (and I also really enjoyed the story’s skeptic pointing out that a white girl as a Japanese Shinto deity might be problematic). The writing in this is just so smart and witty, and the art fits so well with it.

My favorite thing about the art (and something that Gillen points out in his Writer Notes about the issues), is how McKelvie really captures facial expressions. There are some panels where the characters face conveys so much and is so perfect for that moment in the story. It’s subtle and completely awesome. But you know? The big moments are great, too. McKelvie and their colorist does a great job of giving those “holy shit is getting real!” moments the impact they deserve. And I love the juxtaposition of the quiet and the major. This is probably the kind of thing that it would be really easy to give your reader whiplash with, but pacing in this never feels frenzied to me.

I finished my first read-through of this on a plane, and it was everything I could do not to slam it down on my fold out tray in anguish at the thought of having to wait any length of time for the next installment. This is another one I’m debating about single issues vs. collected paperbacks. I absolutely love it, and I really don’t know that I can wait another 5 or 6 months for the next collected volume.

Author’s website, where you can read the “director’s commentary” on the individual issues of this (search for “Writer Notes”).

Illustrator’s website

(Contributed to Cannonball Reads 7 as part of my 52 reviews in 52 weeks.)


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Pretty Deadly by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios

Image from Goodreads.com

Image from Goodreads.com

Pretty Deadly, vol. 1: The Shrike by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios (ill.). (2014) Image Comics: ISBN: 9781607069621

Annotation: Young Sissy, the girl who wears a vulture’s skin, and blind Fox travel through the Western frontier making their living telling the story of Ginny, Death’s daughter, who rides the world doling out vengeance.

Reaction: I’m not sure why I never put two and two together before this, but, dang, do I love a graphic novel Western. Like, love. Adore. Wanna read them all. I love seeing different artists’ interpretations of my native land (I’m a desert girl, through and through), I love reading how authors incorporate the history and legends of a place into a new creation, and I absolutely adore cowboy iconography. Give me a good cowboy character in a story, and you pretty much have me, hook, line and sinker. So for that alone, this book was really going to appeal to me, and add in a woman writing team and a few kickass lady characters, and this book would have to actually legit suck for me to hate it. It doesn’t suck. I loved it. I wanted to eat it up and cuddle with it and linger over it.

I think DeConnick has written a really solid origin story with this volume, and I enjoyed the way Ginny’s mythology and Sissy’s life entwined. This was a great way to introduce a bunch of characters, who I hope will turn up again in future volumes, and to set up any future adventures Ginny has. I loved that the ladies really took the lead in this story, and except for blind Fox, the men pretty much took a backseat to the women. And while I hesitate to call this a multicultural title, DeConnick does give a pretty meaningful role to Sarah (is that her name? I don’t have the book in front of me and nothing I’ve found on The Internet mentions her), Fox’s black lady-friend, who also happens to be a total badass. I hope future volumes include even more diverse characters.

The art in this is also fantastic. Rios does a great job bringing the desert to life and Jordie Bellaire’s colors (another lady on this team, woot!) are crazy good. All the art is lush and detailed and really helps draw you into the story, and I found the team’s use of panels (lots of small panels indicating rapid movement and long narrow ones to pick out pivotal moments) really propels you through the many action sequences. My only complaint is that Rios (or someone) is a huge fan of the EXTREME CLOSEUP, and I feel like at least once very two page spread there was a panel or two drawn really close into whatever’s happening. Unfortunately, it almost starts to feel like one of those “Do You Know What This Is?” games where stuff is really highly magnified and looks completely alien; most of the time I could not tell what was happening in those close up panels. Thankfully, the surrounding panels usually did a good job of giving me an idea of what was happening, but it was off-putting and pulled me out of the story every time it happened.

Overall, this was a great read, and I’m definitely looking forward to what comes next. I also think it would be really interesting to compare this Western to another Western from Image East of West, which also uses Death as a character. This is a book I would give to adults or older teens who love Westerns, fantasy or strong heroines. (I wish more people would ask me for graphic novel recommendations; there are SO MANY goods ones out right now!)

Author’s website

Illustrator’s Flickr

(Contributed to Cannonball Reads 7 as part of my 52 reviews in 52 weeks.)


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The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Image from Goodreads.com

Image from Goodreads.com

Carson, R. (2011). The girl of fire and thorns. New York: Greenwillow Books. ISBN: 9780062026484

Annotation: Elisa is God’s Chosen One. She is also a terrible princess, fat, and married for political alliance. When she is kidnapped by zealots, she has to figure out how she can help save the kingdom.

Reaction: I really enjoyed this book, and Elisa has a great voice. I love how frank she is and how determined she is to become a good queen. Carson does a great job of showing the atransformation Elisa goes through to become a leader, and though she does go through a physical change, the biggest changes are mental and start even before her appearance changes.

And while there is some aspect of romance in the story, it is almost incidental to the rest of the plot. I was a bit concerned when Carson seemed to be setting up a love triangle, but let me tell you, she took care of that in the most shocking way I’ve ever seen.

I want to read the rest of the series, and I hope that they are as enjoyable as this one.

Author’s Website


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Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times by Emma Trevayne

Image from Goodreads.com

Image from Goodreads.com

Trevayne, E. (2014). Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times. Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 9781442498778

Annotation: Jack is tired of being ignored at home, so when he overhears a magician offer to train him, Jack is determined to make it happen. He follows the magician through a mysterious doorway, leading him into a different London and on a great adventure.

Reaction: First, let me say that I love love love the cover of this book. It is so beautiful and magical and mysterious, and it is the reason I picked this up and checked it out in the first place.

This book is in a genre called Steampunk, and Trevayne does a great job of introducing the reader to the fantastical world she has created. Her descriptions of Londinium are very vivid and really make you feel like you’re right there with Jack. The steampunk elements really help to highlight how different Londinium is from London, and I love the idea of a fairyland where all the creatures are living machines. The mechanical fairies, in particular, are a nice touch.

Trevayne populates Londinium with a cast of creative and clever characters. I loved the clockwork girl, and the Lady’s capriciousness made her genuinely scary, but it was Lorcan the magician who really turned out to be the most frightening character. He quickly reveals to the reader how jealous he is of the Lady’s affections, leading him to a deep hatred of Jack that only grows over the course of the book. He is the biggest threat to Jack, and I felt like he might really do some damage to Jack or his friends.

This is a fun, fantasy adventure that I think would appeal to boys and girls in 4th-6th grades. The steampunk elements could appeal to Doctor Who and Warehouse 13 fans. It was a quick read and a nice twist on a typical “lost in Fairy land” kind of story.

Minor spoilers below: Continue reading