Serial Box #2: The Midas Flesh Vol. 1

Welcome to Serial Box! Here, I talk about comics that I've been checking out recently. This week:

Written by Ryan North
Illustrated by Braden Lamb and Shelli Paroline
Goodreads Description 
We've all heard of the Midas Touch. You know, the Greek myth about the man who did a number on himself by wishing everything he touched to turn to gold? Well, you haven't heard everything.

Joey and her space crew have decided to return to Earth--a planet completely sectioned off, abandoned, and covered in gold--to find out exactly what happened to this once thriving planet and see if they can use that knowledge against the evil empire that's tracking them down. As luck would have it, they just landed the most powerful weapon in the universe: some ancient dead guy's body.

The totally unpredictable first collection of Ryan North's debut original print comic book series The Midas Touch, featuring art by illustration dynamos Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb, will leave the reader reeling from start to gilded finish.
The first four issues of an eight-issue series, the first volume of The Midas Flesh is awesome. It's a totally original story, so there's no worrying about catching up or who or what you'll be able to recognize. I love the premise most of all: I was already familiar with the story of King Midas, so this was a really interesting twist on his story.

I've also been getting more and more into space stories recently. The Midas Flesh follows the pretty typical space opera plot of "rebels" vs. some kind of evil empire/ society/ fleet, here called "The Federation," so you know kind of what to expect in that field. Still, the mixture of futuristic with mythological keeps things pretty interesting and fresh, which was really nice. I'll be picking up the second volume for sure, but all eight issues are already out and available to read if you can track them down online or at your local comic shop.

Also, reading this is another tally towards my Diverse Books Challenge! So happy to see a Muslin girl named Fatty, short for Fatima, in this book. She's one of the three protagonists and has frequent speaking roles and is heavily involved in the daily activities of their ship. Ms. Marvel has been getting a lot of (very well-deserved) praise recently, but it's nice to see that more comic publishers are branching out as well.

 Volume 2 will be published on June 9th, 2015.


Serial Box #1: Marceline Gone Adrift #01

Welcome to the first installation of Serial Box! 2014 was a big year in comics for me, and I've had plenty of time to build up my collection of comic series both short and on-going.I've really enjoyed my sojourn into comics so far and I look forward to this segment where I get to talk about them!

Written by Meredith Gran
Illustrated by Carey Pietsch
Marceline is on a rampage for mysterious reasons, and the kingdom of Ooo is desperately scrambling to stop her. In trying to save both Ooo and Marceline herself, Princess Bubblegum accidentally propels Marceline into the farthest reaches of space...and strips her of her powers! Guilt-ridden, Princess Bubblegum sets off on a space rescue that’ll test the power of her mind...as well as the power of friendship.

The first volume in a planned series of six, Marceline Gone Adrift has grabbed my attention with just the first issue. I stopped by a new comic store this weekend, a little one in the town over, and decided to grab it. It's written by Meredith Gran of Octopus Pie and illustrated by Carey Pietsch.

The art and color palette are amazing; mostly pinks and blues (for obvious reasons, for those who are familiar with Adventure Time.) You can see more of Pietsch's work at her website to get a feel for it; it's very lovely. She's new to the Adventure Time series (besides a variant cover for Banana Guard Academy), which already has several other comic series out, but her character designs and expressions fit right in with the style of the show.

We're only just getting started plot-wise but already enough questions have been introduced to keep the series going. I'm sure that once we hit the second issue we'll start answering these questions, but until then we have a solid beginning. I look forward to issue #2!


Review: The Glass Sentence by S. E. Grove

Title: The Glass Sentence
Series: The Mapmakers Trilogy (#1)
Author: S. E. Grove
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Publication Date: June 12th, 2014
Page #: 493
ISBN: 0670785024

Goodreads, Author's Website

Goodreads Description
She has only seen the world through maps. She had no idea they were so dangerous.
Boston, 1891. Sophia Tims comes from a family of explorers and cartologers who, for generations, have been traveling and mapping the New World—a world changed by the Great Disruption of 1799, when all the continents were flung into different time periods. Eight years ago, her parents left her with her uncle Shadrack, the foremost cartologer in Boston, and went on an urgent mission. They never returned. Life with her brilliant, absent-minded, adored uncle has taught Sophia to take care of herself.
Then Shadrack is kidnapped. And Sophia, who has rarely been outside of Boston, is the only one who can search for him. Together with Theo, a refugee from the West, she travels over rough terrain and uncharted ocean, encounters pirates and traders, and relies on a combination of Shadrack’s maps, common sense, and her own slantwise powers of observation. But even as Sophia and Theo try to save Shadrack’s life, they are in danger of losing their own.
The Glass Sentence plunges readers into a time and place they will not want to leave, and introduces them to a heroine and hero they will take to their hearts. It is a remarkable debut.
A fantastic book. The worldbuilding was extremely rich and engaging, and I look forward to exploring more of this world in future books. Which is why I was a little upset and took issue with some of the turns that Grove took within the story.
Grove at points makes use of "deus ex machina," a term used to describe a seemingly impossible coincidence to get characters out of a sticky situation. The book starts out just fine, but these increase in number as the book continues.
I also feel that there were some plot points that were not followed up on, and some of the character's actions and decisions were not explained sufficiently or dropped entirely. Unfortunately, I cannot be specific with my examples as many occur in the second half of the book and would require spoilers, but I will say that even the title and tagline on the cover leave me at a loss as to how they relate back to the story.
The reason that I didn't dock more than half a star for these things, as well as the fact that I'm more disappointed than angry, is that Grove is clearly a fantastic writer and a brilliant worldbuilder. I hope that Grove has set aside some of these ideas to be resolved in later books, and that she wasn't pressured to send the final copy before it was time (no pun intended.) I also couldn't help but feel that she sold herself short at times, or wrote herself into a corner even though she pushed the envelope in every other aspect of the book.
That aside, these elements do not diminish how enjoyable it was to read the Glass Sentence. I am amazed that it's only Grove's first book. Aside from the worldbuilding, I very much enjoyed Sofia as a protagonist. She's adventurous and curious, determined and kind. The characters she meets along the way are also interesting, and compliment each other well. I have no complaints about any other aspect of the book (pacing, length, setting, etc.), and hope my lengthy paragraph above doesn't make it seem like I disliked the book. What I listed were my only issues with the book.
Hopefully some of the kinks iron themselves out and the second book is better than ever, but until then the Glass Sentence deserves the high praise it has been receiving and was a wonderful way to start off my 2015 reading challenge.

Five Stars!


2013 Round-Up: How My Challenges Treated Me

I participated in three reading challenges in 2013, none of which I completed, but I read some pretty good books last year that I might not have picked up if not for them. That counts as a success in my book!

2013 Goodreads Reading Challenge: I planned for 30 and ended up reading 38. I find it hard to make time to read at school, so I pack what I can (in between doing other things *ahemvideogamesahem*) during my breaks. I'm happy that I was able to make time for 38 books this year, and hopefully in 2014 I'll be able to up that to 40. I lament the fact that I may never return to the overwhelming succcess (in my book) of 52 books in 2012, but who knows! Maybe I'll finally get my butt in gear (and off Tumblr) in 2014.

Debut Author Challenge 2013: This... did not go well for me. The idea was to read books by authors whose first published works were released in 2013 and in that specific month if you wanted to participate in mini-challenges. This is simply too hard for me: my school library has no fiction to be found and the local public libraries are too out of the way to make travelling there convient. I never spend money on books and libraries don't often get books "in time" to make the mini-challenges. When they do, they are often snapped up quickly. They can also be hard to locate: my local public libraries don't have an easy was of looking up debut authors, and sometimes books from the previous year are mixed into the new sections.
Also... not many debut books interested me. I'd find a debut book, but the plot summary sounded too boring to me to attempt. It simply wasn't the challenge for me.
Still, I did get a 3/10, and those three were pretty good, so again I'm impressed that I did as well as I did.

YA/MG Fantasy Challenge: I made it 8/10, though if we would count Fables (whether or not your could consider it young adult is a bit dubious; it deals with pretty adult themes) then I roll in at a perfect 10/10.
I liked this challenge a lot, I really enjoy fantasy, and I finally got around to starting the Harry Potter series! I would participate again, but that isn't looking like it's going to happen. I would love to host it myself, but I think I'll have save for the future when my drive to blog is on more solid footing.

Review: Crash and Burn by Michael Hassan

Title: Crash and Burn
Author: Michael Hassan
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: February 19, 2013
Page #: 532
ISBN: 0062112902

Goodreads, Author's Twitter

Goodreads Description
On April 21, 2008, Steven "Crash" Crashinsky saved more than a thousand people when he stopped his classmate David Burnett from taking their high school hostage armed with assault weapons and high-powered explosives. You likely already know what came after for Crash: the nationwide notoriety, the college recruitment, and, of course, the book deal. What you might not know is what came before: a story of two teens whose lives have been inextricably linked since grade school, who were destined, some say, to meet that day in the teachers' lounge of Meadows High. And what you definitely don't know are the words that Burn whispered to Crash right as the siege was ending, a secret that Crash has never revealed.
Until now.
Michael Hassan's shattering novel is a tale of first love and first hate, the story of two high school seniors and the morning that changed their lives forever. It's a portrait of the modern American teenage male, in all his brash, disillusioned, oversexed, schizophrenic, drunk, nihilistic, hopeful, ADHD-diagnosed glory. And it's a powerful meditation on how normal it is to be screwed up, and how screwed up it is to be normal.
Crash and Burn starts right from the beginning and carries you through Steven's/ Crash's life all the way up to the end, combining to become a sort of autobiography-slash- journal. Reader's are given a chapter of life as it is for Crash, showing his day-to-day activities as he moves through life as a normal teenager after his not-so-average heroic break. This contrasts with pages of his book-within-a-book that's he's writing, his tell-all. And wow, does it pay off in the end.

You don't go into Crash and Burn thinking that it's going to be funny, witty, insightful, telling, truthful, or anything other than bone-crushingly sad. Because that's what books about almost-school-shootings and hostage students is supposed to be, right? Thankfully, for our sake, Hassan has given us something very, very  different.

Crash and Burn is bone-crushingly sad, at times. And it's hilarious and sarcastic, at times. It has its mundane and boring parts too. It all works out though, with Crash being one of the most realistic, insightful, interesting characters to come out of young adult fiction for a long time.

It's book like Crash and Burn that pull me back into young adult fiction in a world that trying to hawk "new adult" or sometimes just "adult" books to me. It challenges the idea that we aren't ready for things that are thrown our way, that even though there are people out there who look at us and figure that we're ready for this or not ready for that. It takes every single one of its 532 pages and introduces us to a character who's funny, depressed, sarcastic, loving, unloving, confused, high, drunk, and one of the closest fictional characters I've ever seen to a real, living person.

It was amazing.

Five stars!

Note: I wrote this review at least six months ago and did not publish it until now. Looking back (from July 2013) I still think that Crash and Burn deserves the full five stars that I gave it. It was one of the few YA books last year that I got through and was satisfied with having spent as much time on it as I did. However, I am going to come out and say that, looking back, I did have a few problems with how some girls/ women are discussed/ portrayed in the book. I would rewrite my review to go into specifics, but like I said I read/ reviewed it quite a long time ago, and don't think that I could do a new review justice. Just a heads-up that I had to get off of my chest.

The Validation of Comics

I've been setting up my Goodreads 2014 Reading Challenge recently, but I've been really stuck on just how low/ high to set my goal.
The reason that I feel so stuck on this is that each year I'm reading more and more comics, collected volumes at least. I have a nice, comfy collection in the bookshelf right next to my bed, Chew and Saga included, and a neat (and by neat I mean jumbled up among all of my other library books) pile of books that I got from the public library to read over break, Fables and Unwritten included.
There are a lot of them, not gonna lie. Chew has seven volumes out, so far, and the first five made their way onto last year's Goodreads Reading Challenge. Each one took me somewhere around an hour, maybe an hour and a half depending on how long I linger to look at the artwork.
When I did Goodreads Reading Challenges in the past, adding them to the list always felt like cheating to me. I read a lot of manga in middle school and early high school, which is where my comics kick really got started, and they were never really treated like "real" books, at least not by the people surrounding my me and my friends.
-Our little anime club was treated like a joke by the librarians (which, granted, we were, but there's no need to be rude about a bunch of middle school girls just having fun.)
-Public library manga collections always seem to be poorly taken care of and missing volumes (all too often number one? Really?)
-My friend was allowed to choose manga for an English project, but she had to read the entire series (at least 10+ volumes at the time) while all of the other students just had to pick one novel.
I've read dozens of volumes of manga in my life, but not one has made it's way onto my Goodreads account.
Why is that? Why is there this notion that comics don't count as "real" books, or that the time invested in reading them isn't the same as the time invested in reading a "real" book? How come they all need to be reclassified in school libraries and on recommended reading lists as "graphic novels" in order to be taken seriously by teachers, librarians, school officials, and parents?
The reason I'm stuck is because there's still that nagging feeling in the back of my head that I'm cheating on my Goodreads list by adding comics. I could spend days holed up in my room, pouring over volume after volume, and a part of me would still feel guilty, like those books "don't count" or "shouldn't count" towards my final goal because they're typically shorted, are full of pictures (duh), and manage to pack their plot into fewer words than other forms of storytelling.
I'm finally starting to come into my own about what books I want to read. I turned 20 late last year, and I'm moving away from the young adult genre not because I think that I'm "too old" for it (lies), but because many of the new stories coming have stopped capturing my interest. Comics are now filling that gap, and I know that to neglect them on my Goodreads simply because other people would think that I was taking the easy way out (people who have obviously never picked up a comic book in their life if they believe that) wouldn't be right on any level.
I've spent too long reading, and blogging, for other people, and both are hobbies that I need to reclaim for myself. This is how a start: a 40-book goal and an understanding that I have to start doing things for myself.


15 Day Book Blogger Challenge (5)

Day 5: Recommend a tear jerker

I'm notorious for never crying at books, so I really can't recommend any! Crash and Burn by Michael Hassan had some parts that really hit me and were hard to read, but it also had a lot of comical parts so I can't really say that it was a "tear jerker."