Carver: A Life in Poems by Marilyn Nelson
(Front Street, 2001, 112 pages)
The Nelson kick continues…
I loved this George Washington Carver biography told through poems. I feel like he’s a figure people think they know but he’s done so much more than many realize. I had no idea what his backstory was or all the things that he did. His story is inspiring – this quiet, religious, nature-loving intellectual was dedicated to doing what he could to help improve the lives of farmers through his research. He was also committed to the students at Tuskegee University and worked diligently to see them succeed.
This is a beautiful portrayal of his life that will only encourage you to learn more about him. Not to mention it will inspire you to continue reading the fabulous work of Marilyn Nelson 🙂
A Wreath for Emmett Till by Marilyn Nelson
(HMH Books for Young Readers, 2005, 48 pages)
This was the book that introduced me to the work of Marilyn Nelson. I was doing some research on the Coretta Scott King Awards and that is how I discovered this title which received an “Award for Author” Honor in 2006. Something about the way it was described compelled me to request it and I found it so incredibly heartbreaking and moving. The art that accompanies the piece was also very well done. At the end of the book there is an explanation of the poems (something Nelson does regularly and which is a feature I love) in addition to an explanation of the art.
This poem tells the story of Emmett Till’s murder while also reminding the reader of his humanity – it’s so easy to just hear the name, remember the story, and not think about him as a boy living in the world, as a son, as a man who didn’t get the chance to grow up. A Wreath for Emmett Till is aimed at younger readers and I think it powerfully combines history and poetry in a way that quickly captures the reader’s attention. This is one of those books that will find its way to my permanent book collection so I have it on hand when my daughter is old enough to read it. It’s hard to say I “enjoyed” it given the subject matter, but it was beautifully done and led me down a Marilyn Nelson path for which I am so grateful.
The Flintstones, Vol. 1 by Mark Russell; illustrated by Steve Pugh
(DC Comics, 2017, 168 pages)
One of my favorite co-workers, Kelly M, convinced me to pick up this graphic novel. I’d been hearing about it off and on but I wouldn’t necessarily have gone out of my way to pick it up for myself. Then Kelly pitched it and I figured I’d give it a shot.
This satirical interpretation of The Flintstones was entertaining and hit on a lot of issues you wouldn’t anticipate finding in a graphic novel about this classic t.v. show. You can check out a more in-depth review on Slate. Just know that I plan on seeing where they take the rest of the series 🙂 This was a quick read with surprising depth.
Hello, Sunshine by Laura Dave
(Simon & Schuster, 2017, 256 pages)
Hello, Sunshine is all about online culinary celebrity Sunshine Mackenzie. She has grown from a YouTube star to someone who is about to have her own show on the Food Network. Until someone makes it their mission to take her down in the most public way possible. Her social media accounts are hacked, secrets are revealed, and Sunshine winds up losing everything she’d worked for: her Brooklyn apartment, her career, and her husband.
Sunshine has no other choice but to head home, relying on the “kindness” of her sister to try and help her stay afloat. Sunshine attempts to find a way back to the life she’d built, but while she’s at it she discovers there were a lot of things in her life she’d been missing out on.
This was a quick read that I enjoyed picking up. The way the author touched on how social media influences the image we present to the world and the persona that we curate was well done without coming across as heavy-handed.
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 Vision (Vol. 2): Little Better Than a Beast
by Tom King; art by Gabriel Hernandez Walta and Michael Walsh
(Marvel, 2016, 136 pages)
Vision is an android, or synthezoid, created by Ultron (a bad guy), but who later defied his creator by joining the Avengers (the good guys). This is not a typical “superhero vs. the bad guys” story though; it’s the story of the Vision and the synthezoid family he created–wife Virginia and twins Vin and Viv–and their attempt to fit into a suburban neighborhood near Washington, DC. The Visions just want to be a normal family, but things happen, and people die. Violence is not the focus of the book though. It’s all about the relationships in this unconventional family and how they protect one another as any family would. I highly recommend this comic book series to anyone.
Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta
(Scribner, 2017, 309 pages)
I wasn’t blown away but it was an entertaining read.
Here’s the blurb from Amazon:
Eve Fletcher is trying to figure out what comes next. A forty-six-year-old divorcee whose beloved only child has just left for college, Eve is struggling to adjust to her empty nest when one night her phone lights up with a text message. Sent from an anonymous number, the mysterious sender tells Eve, “U R my MILF!” Over the months that follow, that message comes to obsess Eve. While leading her all-too-placid life—serving as Executive Director of the local senior center by day and taking a community college course on Gender and Society at night—Eve can’t curtail her own interest in a porn website called MILFateria.com, which features the erotic exploits of ordinary, middle-aged women like herself. Before long, Eve’s online fixations begin to spill over into real life, revealing new romantic possibilities that threaten to upend her quiet suburban existence.
Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta
(Scribner, 2017, 309 pages)
Mrs. Fletcher can kind of quickly be described as a novel about discovery. Eve Fletcher is about to find herself an empty-nester as she sends her son, Brendan, off to college. She has plans to take a class at the local community college and find other ways to entertain herself but then a text from an unknown number calling her a “MILF” opens the door to a world previously foreign to her. At the same time, Brendan is having a hard time adjusting to his new college life. While his mother is trying to learn a little more about herself and her sexuality, Brendan finds himself at odds with how to properly interact with the opposite sex.
There’s a lot more going on here than this summary can address. What I will say is that I think this would be a good book club selection because of the many issues brought up. I’ll end with the last section of the Goodreads summary:
“Sharp, witty, and provocative, Mrs. Fletcher is a timeless examination of sexuality, identity, parenthood, and the big clarifying mistakes people can make when they’re no longer sure of who they are or where they belong.”
I’m not sure about the word “timeless” in there, but I did think this was an entertaining read. 🙂
Mr. Rochester by Sarah Shoemaker
(Grand Central Publishing, 2017, 453 pages)
I will always love Jane Eyre (it’s even my default search when I have to test out the library catalog or a database 😉 ). It’s a classic that never gets old. I’ve read a number of Eyre-inspired novels that had something of a moment over the past couple years. This one takes a different approach in attempting to offer Edward Rochester’s back-story to better understand him. Shoemaker did a great job capturing the language and essence of Bronte’s world.
I was really into it at the beginning but the end of the book felt a bit rushed to me. Arguably, this was a text meant to provide Rochester’s origin story so it makes sense that most of the novel focused on his life pre-Jane. However, given the nature of this novel’s readership, it would have been nice to have a little more of the Jane/Edward relationship fleshed out. Even with that caveat, I think fans of Jane Eyre will appreciate this novel. Despite its “high” page count it was a relatively quick read.
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
(HarperTeen, 2018, 368 pages)
I was first exposed to Elizabeth Acevedo through her spoken word poetry and I kind of fell in love with her. When I found out she was going to be publishing a book I immediately put it on my “to-read” list so I was pumped when I got the chance to read an advanced reader copy of the title. Unsurprisingly, this is a novel written in verse. The “chapters” are short but pack a punch. It’s easy to want to read quickly but at the same time you appreciate what Acevedo can do with language.
The story follows Xiomara as she enters her Sophomore year in high school. Her mother is pushing her to get confirmed but Xiomara finds herself questioning if she actually has any faith. In the midst of this she’s also finding herself interested in a classmate, even though dating is strictly prohibited. One of the ways Xiomara channels her thoughts and feelings is by writing poetry in the journal her twin got her. This poetry is where she is truly free to express what is really going on within her. When she’s asked to join a slam poetry club as school she starts to realize that maybe she doesn’t need to keep her voice confined to the pages of her journal…
I really enjoyed this and think it will do well when it’s officially released in March. I strongly encourage anyone to check out her work. And if you’re into YA, poetry, and appreciate the written word you’ll tear through this novel.