The Drawing Lesson: A Graphic Novel That Teaches You How to Draw
by Mark Crilley
(Watson-Guptill, 2016, 144 pages)
Young David spies 20-something Becky sketching a tree in a park. He strikes up a conversation and soon convinces her to give him a drawing lesson. Due to David’s persistence, one lesson leads to another and then another. Becky teaches him about shading, understanding light and shadow, using negative space, checking proportions, and creating a composition. In the end they go to the art museum where David combines all of his skills to draw Bertel Thorvaldsen’s sculpture Hebe, the goddess of youth. The Drawing Lesson is a fun and effective way through a visual story to help people develop the skills to see things as an artist does and draw what they see.
Paper Girls, Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan; illustrated by Cliff Chiang and Matthew Wilson
(Image Comics, 2016, 144 pages)
I grabbed this off the shelf at my public library because it caught my eye and I’d been wanting to check it out; especially since one of my co-workers, Kelly, was a fan of the series. Brian K. Vaughan, the author, is also the mastermind behind the graphic novel series Saga (which, if you haven’t read you’ve no doubt heard about). He has such a way with crafting stories that you’re always intrigued to see where he’s going to take you next. This remains the case in Paper Girls. It was so far from what I thought it was going to be… but it captured my interest and I’m so curious to see how he ends things!
Paper Girls, Vol. 1 takes place in the late 80s and introduces us to a group of four pre-teen girls who each have a newspaper delivery route. They meet up early in the morning on November 1 and notice that things are a little “off.” They try to get to the bottom of things but find they don’t really have any frame of reference for what’s going on. I saw a review that mentioned this would be an ideal read for fans of the Netflix show “Stranger Things.” I definitely agree.
Paper Girls, Vol. 2 by Brian K. Vaughan; illustrated by Cliff Chiang and Matthew Wilson
(Image Comics, 2016, 128 pages)
I can’t really say much about this one because I don’t want to ruin volume 1. Just know you’re following the girls as they continue on their journey to try and figure out what happened that fateful morning of November 1.
Worst Class Trip Ever by Dave Barry
(Disney-Hyperion, 2015, 224 pages)
A chaotic class trip to DC starts on the plane ride there, when an 8th grader named Wyatt and his friend Matt are convinced that these two suspicious men are carrying a detonator to possibly blow up the White House. They decided to take matters into their own hands (literally) and a few fellow classmates get involved. Are they going to be able to save the day?
If you are looking for a book with a hysterical, steady-paced story that has an unexpected twist, this might just be what you are looking for. It is not realistic but it is just plain fun. A great read for juvenile comedy fans.
Batman ’66 Meets Wonder Woman ’77
by Jeff Parker & Marc Andreyko; art by David Hahn & Karl Kesel
(DC Comics, 2017, 144 pages)
The first half of the book is set in the 1960s as a female thief aided by Catwoman steals a rare book of maps from a man’s safe. The female thief grabs the book and escapes with a man in a car (who we find out later are Ra’s al Ghul and his daughter Talia). Feeling set up, Catwoman joins Batman and Robin to try to capture them. Batman flashes back to his childhood as young Bruce Wayne tries to stop thieves from stealing a similar rare book. As a boy he had been aided by Wonder Woman, who apparently never ages.
The second half of the book is set in the 1970s. Batman has retired from crime fighting, but comes back to help Nightwing (formerly Robin) and Catwoman find Ra’s al Ghul and Talia, who have resurfaced after a decade on Paradise Island (home of Wonder Woman). Batgirl also becomes involved in the pursuit, but the writers erroneously refer to her as Batwoman (two different superheroes, people)! Interestingly, over the course of the comic, Catwoman takes on each of the forms of her 1960s Batman tv series actresses—Eartha Kitt, Lee Meriwether, and Julie Newmar—respectively. I enjoyed volume 1 and plan to pick up volume 2 when it’s available. Recommended for fans of both classic Batman and Wonder Woman tv series.
4.5/5 stars (lost 1/2 star for calling Batgirl by the wrong name)
The Mothers by Brit Bennett
(Riverhead Books, 2016, 278 pages)
I decided to listen to the audio of this book and I am so glad I did. The talented narrator was able to use different voices to portray the different characters. She really brought the story to life. When I first started listening I was worried that it would be a story that would not hold my attention, but I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly it drew me in.
This novel touches on aspects of life that I think many people can relate; the longing for close friendships, a parents’ love, trying to find a place in this world, and even sometimes having to make decisions that could possibly have a lifelong effect on you and/or your loved ones. Bennett writes this story beautifully. She is a great new voice with a compelling debut novel. Definitely an author to keep an eye on.
Star Trek: Boldly Go, Vol. 2
by Mike Johnson and Ryan Parrott; art by Megan Levens and Tony Shasteen
(IDW Publishing, 2018, 144 pages)
Star Trek: Boldly Go features characters from the new films (primarily Kirk, Spock, Uhura, Scotty, and Spock’s father, Sarek) along with those from the Starfleet Academy series, also written by Mike Johnson. It comprises four main stories in different settings—a peace conference focusing on the relationship between the Federation and Romulans; Spock and Uhura helping to rebuild new Vulcan; the mystery of the stolen captain’s chair from the Enterprise that is being repaired; and the search for a woman whose young daughter reports her lost. I enjoyed all of the stories, but the endings of the first two were a little disappointing. Fortunately, each story got better as it went along. Recommended to Star Trek fans of the original series and new films.
Sourdough by Robin Sloan
(MCD, 2017, 272 pages)
I enjoyed Sloan’s previous book, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, so when I heard that he had a new book coming out I immediately added it to my “to-read” list. Then it seemed like it was getting blurbed and buzzed about all over the place so I grabbed it off the shelf when I was at the public library (#librarylove). Sloan has a knack for writing unique books with a quirky twist and his sophomore novel only proved that.
Our protagonist is Lois, a software engineer whose life is pretty dull. She works and then she sleeps. Her job has gotten monotonous and she’s not really even seeking out pleasure in her life. But then one night she decides to try delivery from a “restaurant” in her neighborhood. It offers 3 things on the menu, a sandwich, soup, and then a combo called the “double spicy.” It’s as if the food changes her life. She starts ordering it every day and fosters something of a relationship with the two brothers who run the operation. When their visas expire and they have to leave, they make the decision to leave their sourdough starter with Lois, their “#1 eater.”
Lois has never made bread, but the responsibility of keeping the starter alive prompts her to start. At that point there’s no turning back. The bread is amazing and as she gradually introduces it to the people in her orbit she is encouraged to try selling it at the local farmers market. When she auditions for a spot she finds herself selected for an underground market that’s not open to the public. People are doing all kinds of experimental things with food down there… and her contribution is her sourdough (compliments of the unique starter that was gifted to her) and the robot arm she tries to program to help her make it.
It’s hard not to just try summarizing the book. But at the same time, the book isn’t the easiest to summarize. Sloan has a way of deconstructing our society and the things that fascinate us that intrigues you and keeps you reading. If you’re looking for an entertaining read Sloan is your guy. If you also happen to love reading about things that are food-related (which is ALWAYS me) you’re in for even more of a treat (and some sass toward “foodies”).
For a more in-depth breakdown of the book you can check out this review from the LA Times.