Wednesday, July 19, 2017

#ComicsWednesday: Goldie Vance Vol. 1 by Hope Larson and Brittney Williams

If you grew up on a steady diet of Nancy Drew and Scooby-Doo, and are particularly drawn to stories about plucky girl sleuths, I highly recommend Goldie Vance Vol 1. by Hope Larson and Brittney Williams.

Marigold "Goldie" Vance lives with her father at the Crossed Palms, the resort hotel that he manages. Her mom works at a mermaid club downtown. Goldie valets cars and helps the in-house hotel detective solve small mysteries. Charles, the in-house detective, encounters a case he can't crack, so he agrees to mentor Goldie in the art of sleuthing if she helps him solve the mystery.

This comic is set in the Sixties, the heyday of girl detectives. Goldie is the child of an African American father and a Caucasian mother. Goldie's friends and coworkers at the hotel, as well as hotel guests, are refreshingly diverse. The color scheme is light and fresh, and it lends well to the relative innocence of the setting. Both Larson and Williams have said that they are planning to keep this series lighthearted. They will not explore the racism and difficulties of that time period.

This comic is recommended for ages 11+ by the publisher, though I think younger kids could enjoy it as well. You can find Goldie Vance Vol. 1 and Goldie Vance Vol. 2 in the Teen Zone Graphic Novel section here at Carnegie-Stout.  I would definitely recommend Goldie Vance to any readers who like a good mystery, miss Veronica Mars, or wanted to be Nancy Drew when they grew up.

- Libby, Youth Services

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Staff Review: Romancing the Throne by Nadine Jolie Courtney

Ever since I saw the 2004 romantic comedy The Prince & Me in theaters, I have been a sucker for the "ordinary girl + prince" plot
combo. I have read my fair share of romance novels revolving around that plot and I have watched all of the made-for-TV movies. I watched the live stream of the royal wedding in 2011. When I saw Romancing the Throne by Nadine Jolie Courtney on our cart of new YA books, I knew I had to read it.

Charlotte and Libby are sisters who are different in lots of ways. Libby is studious, serious, and artsy. Charlotte is popular, fashion forward, trendy, and oh, yeah, she's dating Prince Edward, heir to the British throne. When Libby ends up switching from her all-girls school to Charlotte's elite boarding school, she is thrown into a world she has a hard time understanding. Charlotte and Edward break up, and he seems to be spending more and more time with Libby. Two sisters should never fall for the same guy, but sometimes love grows where you least expect it.

I enjoyed this book immensely, and it's probably only partially because I'm biased about the plot. Having the book told from Charlotte's point of view brought in a perspective about this rom-com plot that I hadn't previously thought about. What happens to the family of the person dating royalty? This book was about that "ordinary girl + prince" trope, sure, but that seemed secondary to the sisters' relationship. It reminded me of The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan or The Heir and the Spare by Emily Albright.

If you like romantic comedies and are intrigued by modern royalty, this is definitely one to check out. I'm not just saying that because there's a character named Libby either. :D

-Libby, Youth Services

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

#ComicsWednesday: Princess Jellyfish by Akiko Higashimura

When I'm stressed, something that always helps me relax is to watch a video of jellyfish swimming. They're both comical and elegant, and if I ever win the lottery, I'm going to Palau to swim in the lake filled with jellyfish that don't sting you. It's safe to say that I like jellyfish, probably a bit more than most people, but compared to Tsukimi, the main character of Princess Jellyfish by Akiko Higashimura, I'm barely a fan.

When Tsukimi was young her mother took her to see jellyfish in an aquarium, which happened to be their last outing together before her mother became very ill and died. Tsukimi clings tightly to the joy of her visit to the aquarium by learning everything she can about jellyfish. Unfortunately, an obsession with jellyfish combined with severe social anxiety means that Tsukimi grows up to be an otaku (a geek or nerd, think Big Bang Theory).

Luckily, Tsukimi finds her community within Amamizukan, a shared house for women in Tokyo. All of the residents are women, all are socially awkward and unfashionable, and each has her own unique and all-consuming passion. Society refers to them as fujoshi (meaning female otaku). They call themselves "amars" or "nuns" because the last thing that brings them together is that they live "a life with no use for men."

One night after a particularly disappointing social failure, Tsukimi visits a neighborhood aquarium shop to talk to the small spotted jellyfish in the window display, whom she's named Clara. However, Tsukimi discovers that a moon jellyfish has been added to Clara's tank, creating a dangerous situation for her favorite jellyfish. Tsukimi draws on every ounce of bravery she possesses and confronts the fashionable young man working in the shop to save Clara's life. It's not enough, until a stylish young woman passing by steps in and negotiates a diplomatic solution that results in Tsukimi taking Clara home to Amamizukan, along with her knight in shining, six-inch stilettos.

In the morning, Tsukimi discovers that her rescuer is actually a stylish young man in drag named Kuranosuke (or Kurako when dressed as a woman). Friendship, politics, romance, makeovers, a fight against gentrification, and hijinks ensue, all blending together to form an upbeat and charming story told over the course of eight double-size volumes.
Like many manga that we see in English translation, part of the story has been adapted to a one-season anime, which I can also recommend. However, before you take on either version of this story I should warn you that one character is drugged and led to believe that he was raped by the main antagonist of the series. It's a disturbing enough event that some might prefer to avoid this otherwise enjoyable story.

~Sarah, Adult Services

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Staff Review: A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline
Christina Baker Kline, author of the runaway bestseller Orphan Train, is back with a fine new novel, A Piece of the World. The impetus for this new work was Kline's interest in painter Andrew Wyeth's relationship with a considerably older woman, a native Mainer named Anna Christina Olson. Christina, as she was known, is the subject of Wyeth's most famous painting, 1948's Christina's World, and in her new novel, Kline brings the enigmatic Christina to life.

She does a bang-up job of it too, alternating chapters that propel us through Christina's young adulthood with chapters narrating her initial introduction to Wyeth (when she is 46 and he just 22) and their ensuing friendship. At age 46, Christina's life is solitary and hard. She lives without electricity or running water and has suffered since childhood from an undiagnosed condition that eventually reduces her to crawling on her arms, dragging her legs behind her.

Crushed by a huge romantic disappointment in her youth, Christina spends the bulk of her days caring for her crumbling old farmhouse and her brother Alvaro, who works their farm. Their days are not often visited by joy. Enter the energetic and idealistic Andy Wyeth, who is artistically intrigued by the Olson house, its occupants, and the surrounding landscape. Soon he is painting there every day, which he continues to do for the next thirty years, often painting Christina and Alvaro. Not included in the book but adding to its poignancy is the fact that upon his death at age 91, the famous and wealthy Andrew Wyeth, happily married with his own large family, chose to be buried beside Christina and Alvaro in their humble family plot.

Kline paints her characters with the same magical precision Wyeth's paintings are known for. She paints the landscape uncommonly well too, vividly evoking the sometimes-harsh, always beautiful Maine coast. Most touching of all, Kline imbues the physically disabled Christina with dignity and grace, the very qualities Wyeth ascribes to the awkward woman in his paintings. Christina's life was difficult, her days filled with pain, but she enjoyed 30 years of friendship with a remarkable man and was immortalized in one of the world's most famous works of art.

~Ann, Adult Services

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

#ComicsWednesday: Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 by David Petersen

When I was in fourth grade, I discovered the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. I devoured them, reading what my library had and then begging for my own copies. I continued to read them until the last book was published in 2011, just after Jacques had passed away. When I needed a medieval fantasy series about sword-wielding mice to fill the Redwall-shaped hole in my heart, Mouse Guard stepped in. Specifically, the first volume: Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 with story and art by David Petersen.

In this volume we are introduced to the characters and world of the Mouse Guard series. Our main trio, Lieam, Kenzie, and Saxon, are members of the eponymous Mouse Guard. The story involves espionage, intrigue, crabs, a mouse with a peg leg, a giant snake, and much more. The world-building in this series is, in my opinion, perfect. Petersen's art creates a rich and vibrant atmosphere, and his style is fairly unique.

The Mouse Guard series by David Petersen is one of the best comic series I have ever read, hands down. The art is beautiful, the story is intriguing, and the world is immersive. This comic is truly an all-ages comic, though the publisher recommends it for ages 8 and up. You can find it in both the general Graphic Novels section and the children's Graphic Novels section here at Carnegie-Stout. And if you like Mouse Guard, do me a favor and check out Redwall, won't you?

-- Libby, Youth Services

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

#ComicsWednesday: Patsy Walker, A.K.A Hellcat! by Kate Leth, Brittney Williams, & Megan Wilson

When it comes to superhero comics, I prefer my stories to be optimistic, fun, and, well, heroic. Not necessarily heroic on a save-the-world scale; I'm every bit as happy to see a superhero who tackles smaller crimes and everyday injustices. In other words, I absolutely love Patsy Walker: A.K.A. Hellcat! and if you're looking for something fun to read this summer, you should definitely add it to your list.

Some readers will be familiar with a different version of Patsy Walker from Netflix's series Jessica Jones where the character goes by the name of Trish Walker, Jessica's adoptive sister. In fact, the character of Patsy Walker has been around since 1944 and has gone through many changes over the last 70+ years. Don't worry about all of that history and backstory though because this is a perfect jumping-on point for new fans.

I first met Patsy in a two volume She-Hulk series written by Charles Soule where Patsy worked as a private investigator for She-Hulk's law office. That series ended with Patsy being laid off, allowing her to start up a new business providing assistance to people with superpowers who need a job other than superhero or super villain. There are currently two volumes available, with the third (and sadly final) scheduled for publication this August.

This series is written by Kate Leth, who before writing for Marvel posted comics about her life and her work in a comic shop online. I've been a fan of her quirky sense of humor for years. Brittney Williams is the illustrator and I enjoyed her cartoony and cute style. Some readers were put off by her use of chibis, but it really worked for me. The bright, cheerful colors were done by Megan Wilson and they really added to the series's overall tone.

~Sarah, Adult Services