Wednesday, May 24, 2017

#ComicWednesdays: Snow White: a Graphic Novel by Matt Phelan

Matt Phelan's re-imagining of Snow White is dark, but that's not a bad thing. The story isn't gritty or modern, there isn't any unnecessary gore or violence. The liberties he took make sense for the setting - Depression Era New York City. Snow is the daughter of the "King of Wall Street," but when his stocks plummet, they lose everything. The wicked stepmother poisons the father and chases Snow off into Hooverville. The re-imagining of the seven dwarfs as seven homeless kids, and the Macy's Christmas window as the glass coffin really stuck out to me. Phelan put a lot of thought and hard work into this adaption, and it shows.

The book is largely wordless, and Phelan's illustrations are shadowy and wonderful. The shaded black and white of the makes the pops of color stand out. The pinkish red of the pig heart, the bright red apple, Snow's red lips, the frosty blue Macy's window. It makes the happy ending stand out that much more as the last few pages of the book are in full color.

I would recommend this book to readers 10 and up, though it could be enjoyed by anyone who loves a good fairy tale. The themes are a little dark for anyone much younger than 10, and the wordless nature means that lots of context clues are picked up in the illustrations. Shorter attention spans might have a hard time looking for all of them. You can find Snow White by Matt Phelan in the Children's area of the library.

- Libby, Youth Services.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Staff Review: Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane

Sometimes it’s difficult for me to tell if I’m really enjoying a book while I’m reading it, until weeks later I find the story lingering in my mind. This was the case with Since We Fell, though it has less to do with Dennis Lehane’s writing style than it does with my not frequenting the mystery genre. When you’re trying out something new, there’s a give and take to whether the new stuff sticks or not. Often, the results aren’t settled immediately after finishing the book.

I’ve read a few other reviews of this book online. Some people claim that it took the story a while to get going when compared to other Lehane novels. I certainly didn’t experience that. I had the advanced reader copy on my phone and stayed up late a few nights reading it, ignoring the inconvenience of reading ten lines of text per page and staring into the vortex of the iPhone (sometimes with one eye shut) in the night bedroom. I often forced myself to stay awake to gather the next piece of the puzzle.

The book opens dramatically; our protagonist has a gun in her hand and she’s just shot her husband. She’s grappling to make sense of the discordant feeling of love she has for him. The gun has been used, and now we want to find out why. We jump backward in Rachel Child’s life to figure out how she got into this situation and what could have brought this unassuming girl to such violence.

The book has three sections with separate plot devices pushing the narrative. In the first, we get an overview of our protagonist’s developing years as well as the first intrigue that drives the plot—Rachel’s search for the father whose identity her mother kept secret. Toward the end of the first section, Rachel departs for a career as a reporter. She makes a name for herself covering large-scale events. She is sent to Haiti upon the catastrophic 7.0 magnitude earthquake to cover the devastation and subsequent cholera outbreak. After some extremely traumatic experiences and an emotional outburst on camera, she loses her job.

The second section attempts to restore some normalcy to Rachel’s life. She’s suffering severe panic attacks and stays mostly within the confines of her apartment, but she has a seemingly comfortable relationship with her new husband. He’s supportive of her fragile mental state and they share a strong connection. They get each other’s sense of humor, share the same friends, and catch each other’s pop-culture references. Toward the end of this section, as Rachel starts to work up the courage to leave their apartment, we begin to suspect that either her husband is leading a double life or Rachel’s paranoia is pulling her further from stability. This triggers the next mystery that continues through the third section.

The third section is the most action-packed and climactic of the book. Rachel is pulled into a dangerous world beyond anything the first part has set up. Murder, more mind games, and two ruthless men with guns keep this section moving along.

Since We Fell was a fast read, with a storyline full of intrigue and suspense and tied to relevant world events from the year 2000 on. Lehane’s characters share a sarcastic sense of humor and refer to pop culture from their formative years on (Radiohead, Tom Waits, BeyoncĂ©). My only gripe is, for all the background provided and events that happen to them, the characters lack depth. They’re written as if Lehane’s more concerned with making them hip than relatable. Rachel has suffered traumatic events, but panic attacks aside, we don’t sense any complex emotions. The characters tend most often to sarcasm and cultural allusion, which makes the dark story more fun, but leaves the characters themselves rather like clichĂ©s. The book could be taken to another level with a marriage of its wit to more complex psychology. That would make it another kind of novel though. What we have is still an expertly crafted, hip, and suspenseful storyline sure to be fun for fans of the genre.

~Ben, Adult Services

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

#ComicsWednesday: Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky

This week's #ComicsWednesday pick is very much Not For Children.

Sex Criminals, an Eisner Award-winning series written by Matt Fraction and illustrated by Chip Zdarsky, contains graphic nudity, sexual acts, drug use, and profanity, and is not something I'm likely to give to my mother. Seriously, if you think this comic might not be for you, you should check out some of the creators' other, more all-audiences-friendly comics. I'm definitely a fan of Fraction's take on Hawkeye.

If you're still with me, here's the short version: two people who have the ability to freeze time when they orgasm decide to use their power to rob banks in order to save a library. It's a concept that you'd expect in a raunchy direct-to-DVD comedy, and there is some juvenile humor. Overall Fraction and Zdarsky have a respect for their characters that lifts this story above the gutters.

In the beginning the comic's focus is on Suzie, the librarian, and Jon, who works at the bank. This is the beginning of their relationship, and readers learn about their pasts and their strange supernatural power along with the characters. As much as this is a goofy sex comedy, it's also a relationship drama. More than anything else though, this series has a sense of fun. You sense, as a reader, that Fraction and Zdarsky are enjoying the creative process.

I'd love to show you an example of the art because Zdarsky is very expressive and his use of color is phenomenal, but you'll have to check out the book to see it for yourself.

~Sarah, Adult Services