Friday, April 30, 2010

Geting into "The Dark" ~ The Stuff of Legend

After finishing Ms Trigiani's Valentine books, I can focus on some of the titles School Library Journal sent me to review. While I still have yet to write the professional review, I just finished a re-release of a graphic novel called The Stuff of Legend. The first part in what I'm guessing is a 2-part series, the Stuff of Legend is... well, beautiful. It's kind of dark, kind of childlike, and all the characters are well, ... awesome. My favorite in the story is the well-spoken hatchet-wielding Jester who looks like a harlequin from hell. I also give major snaps to the nightmare-tranny-inspired Boogeyman, who looks like he was straight out of a "goth" challenge from RuPaul's Drag Race. One of the characters even dies towards the beginning of the book. By being ripped in half. This book is obviously not for children, even though it's about toys coming to life. I might even buy the second part (instead of getting a free library copy... d'uh!!) because I loved it so much. This edition, with the journal entries in prose-form in the back, adds a sort of background fleshed out background to the tale. Here's a pretty cool image for you to dwell over:

Thursday, April 29, 2010

IN REVIEW: Brava, Valentine

In Adriana Trigiani’s follow up to Very Valentine, Valentine Roncalli is back in Italy and attending her grandmother Teodora’s wedding. Teodora is planning on staying in Italy after the wedding and settling down with her new Italian husband. This means the family business that they share, the Angelini Shoe Company, is without its long-time manager. Valentine, as Teodora’s apprentice, was always expected to take over. When Teodora and Valentine meet to discuss the business’s future, Teodora shocks her granddaughter by including her grandson and Valentine’s almost-estranged brother Alfred as the company’s new Chief Financial Officer. Just last year, Alfred had tried to convince everyone that the best option for the shoe company was to sell it’s long term location in Greenwich Village and perhaps even shut down the not-so-profitable operation altogether. Valentine wonders as she and the rest of her family depart Italy how she could ever successfully work with her brother on a day-to-day basis.

Valentine has two things that are really bothering her. The first is Gianluca, her new step-grandfather’s son who tried to romance her the first time she came to Italy. It seems he hasn’t forgotten his intense attraction to her when they meet again. After a near-miss post-wedding, their mutual attraction still isn’t fulfilled and he takes center stage in Valentine’s thoughts. The other thing plaguing Valentine is the launch of her new economic shoe line, the Bella Rosa. As she prepares to look for manufacturers abroad, she uncovers a family secret. This secret takes her to the shores of Buenos Aires and to meet some extended family members she never knew existed. When Gianluca surprises her during her trip, things definitely heat up. But Valentine’s commitment to work starts to get in the way of her love affair very quickly. Will Valentine be able to resolve work and romance?

I enjoyed this book slightly more than Very Valentine. Many of the smaller elements really worked for me; Valentine's gay friend Gabriel moving into their Perry Street home, her sibling's affair, and the subplot with her renewed friendship with ex-boyfriend Bret. All this goes in the background while Valentine takes center stage, trying to move forward in both her professional and romantic life. While Valentine doesn't know what she wants in the latter, she definitely is a lot more focused with the Angelini Shoe Company in this tale; her focus made me like her more as a character. The loss of one of my favorite characters at the end is sad; it also helps propel the story to a new level. I really liked this story. I hope Valentine Roncalli comes back with her fabulous shoes again soon.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Brava! Brava!

Just one week left for the tea contest, so I am hard at work on reading Brava, Valentine. While I was initially worried I wouldn't be able to finish the book and review it in time, I'm finding Brava, Valentine to be a much more enjoyable read. Like the first book, it opens with a marriage; this time, Val's grandmother Teodora in Italy. Teodora throws Val a curve ball by giving her the family shoemaking business... but making her villainous brother Alfred the Chief Financial Officer of the company. The book continues many of the plot threads from the first book. While it's referential, you can probably enjoy the sequel without having to read the original. I think it's a true strength of the story. I'm off to Staten Island again tomorrow, so hopefully I'll finish the book and review this week. Be sure to follow my progress (and become my friend) on Goodreads.

I've been donating some of my graphic novels to the library, mainly to shorten my collection. It was getting kind of out of control. I might be doing a few retro-graphic novel reviews. The one I'm most excited about is re-reading Chuck Dixon's Robin Year One and telling you guys how awesome it is. If this would be helpful or something you'd like to read about, be sure to comment or send me an e-mail. School Library Journal has been sending me many graphic novels to review, so I'm sort of getting a feel for reviewing both the story and art within the texts. I mean, I always kind of did it in my head. So now it's nice to have a professional excuse.

With the Summer Reading season gearing up (and Book Expo America just around the corner! You KNOW I'm going!), I've been thinking about what I'd like to tackle for reading-wise. I'm probably most excited to read a book titled Countdown by Deborah Wiles. Scholastic provided me with an ARC. Other than that, I'm kind of open to reading the possibilities. Titles can be adult or young adult... heck, I'll even take children's literature suggestions. I haven't been keeping up with the publication news like I should be. A fellow librarian gave me Split by Swati Avasthi, so that may also be a contender after "Brava." What are y'all reading?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

VINTAGE SERIES: Kitty Pryde & Wolverine

One of the few treats of being a librarian, and a librarian known for reading graphic novels in particular, is that when I request that the library get a trade paperback that I want, they usually follow through. Such was the case with today's In Review title, Kitty Pryde & Wolverine. This story, published in the mid-80s, is notorious in X-Men history for containing a pretty big moment in the life of Kitty Pryde. It's also noteworthy that, up until 2007, it was very difficult to find it as a collection you kind of had to scour comic book shops/comic book conventions and try to find the six original issues. Having waited to read this title since I was 16 or so, I can tell you... it was actually pretty much worth the wait.

The story opens with Kitty having just been dumped. X-Men powerhouse Peter Rasputin broke up with after returning from the Secret Wars crossover, convinced that his falling in love with an alien healing babe had forcibly removed his love/flirtation with Kitty. She packs up and heads home to Deerfield, Illinois that same afternoon. This is where our story begins. She's wearing a hideous '80s ice skating costume that's pink and black. She decides to surprise her dad at work, thinking to herself that he has seemed to be under a lot of stress lately. Using her ability to 'phase' through solid materials, she inadvertently eavesdrops on her father and his new business associates, Japanese gangsters who have purchased the bank her dad formerly owned. Her father, in an effort to protect her, sends her home. He has to go to Japan to sort out some more of the potentially illegal business venture, and Kitty decides to stowaway on the plane. As his daughter and as a trained X-Man she figures that she'll be able to get her dad out of any trouble he's in. By the end of the first issue (or 'chapter' in the collection), she realizes her dad isn't being coerced by the crooks; he's in face in league with them. One of the baddies, a ninja named Ogun, notices Kitty both by her phasing power and her strength of spirit. He wants Papa Pryde to hand his daughter over as a part of the deal. After using some sweet ninja moves on him, Ogun makes Papa Pryde reluctantly agree.

Ogun attacks Kitty. Weakened and exhausted from both her flight and her short Japanese adventure, the ninja easily overpowers her. While the next part is somewhat unclear, it seems that Ogun somehow psychically connects to her in an attempt to 'link' them together. Basically his mind and will become a part of her, and she becomes a badass ninja in a little under a week. He also uses a katana to cut most of her hair off, giving her a pretty sick '80s 'do. Before Ogun managed to nab her, she tried to call Professor Xavier in America. It's a good thing Wolverine picked up the phone, because at this point in the story he arrives in Japan. He eventually figures out that Ogun, a former teacher of his, has Kitty against her will. Using his animal instincts, he tracks Ogun down... only to get attacked by someone with all of Ogun's moves, but a girl and half his size. After an extended fight, the ninja's mask is removed to reveal Kitty Pryde. When Wolverine hesitates, Kitty slices the sword right through him in one of the more memorable panels in the book.

As Wolverine's healing powers slowly do their thing, Kitty slowly reverts to her old self. Yukio, a Japanese friend of Wolverine's, helps hide them out in one of the Clan Yashida safehouses. She also continually hits on Wolverine the whole time. He rebuffs her advances because he's in love with (and still dating) Mariko Yashida, Yukio's employer. For a short hairy dude, Wolverine has a lot of women trouble. Despite the fact that he should be taking it easy, he uses this time to push Kitty to her limits. His hope is to make her strong enough to resist Ogun's lingering influence. While Kitty initially acts like a complaining 15 year girl, she eventually rises to the challenge... surprising even herself in the process. She decides the only way to really get over Ogun's possession is to face him once and for all. It's a battle she might not win. Wolverine doesn't let her face their mutual foe alone, however, and by the end... the two X-Men prevail.

This story is sort of famous for Kitty's transformation from the young teenage superhero ingénue into the adult X-Man to reckon with that she is today. She also decides she's no longer a 'Kitty' but a 'Cat' ... and one who likes the shadows at that. So, she becomes 'Shadowcat' finally solidifying a codename (she'd previously taken the names 'Ariel' and 'Sprite' ... ick!). The story is surprisingly NOT as dated as you would think. You also don't need a wide knowledge of the X-Men to enjoy the story, since it focuses only on two characters and essentially tells you all that you need to know about them. Chris Claremont is at his peak here; you can tell he loves Kitty Pryde, and it shows in particular in this international graphic adventure.

Monday, April 12, 2010

IN REVIEW: Very Valentine

Valentine Roncalli’s little sister just got married. This has the Queens-born 33-year old single woman reflecting on her life; her only major romance in ended several years ago and she unexpectedly switched careers to be an unofficial apprentice to her shoemaking grandmother not long after. With the threat of her family’s custom wedding shoe business going under, it’s time for Valentine to step up. And step up she does. Valentine decides to take the Angelini Shoe Company into the 21st Century, both by designing a brand new shoe that can be mass marketed to a larger consumer base and by competing for a coveted window display in Bergdorf’s for the upcoming Christmas season. While she attempts to step up her game professionally, she also has to deal with several dramatic changes to her personal life. A man, Roman Falconi, a chef in one of Little Italy’s hottest new restaurants, takes an interest in her and they start dating. Not too long after, Valentine’s father is tragically diagnosed with prostate cancer. As the expectations in her life continue to build and build, she takes a business break and jets off to Italy with her grandmother for shoemaking supplies. She’s disarmed by how much the trip relaxes her; her grandmother opens up to her like never before and she meets Gianluca, a man who makes her question her new relationship back home. Will her shoes win the window? Which man will she end up with?

Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani is a light and quick read. This book is full of fashion, romance, and class. You’ll be disarmed by just how much you’ll enjoy this title. Trigiani accurately captures the craziness of a close-knit Italian family, the whirlwind and confusion of a brand new love, and the professional frustrations of a working artist. She is strongest when she delves into the intricacies of the shoemaking profession, highlighting little known facts about what goes in to making the perfect pair of pumps. If you’re looking for a great inside scoop into the Greenwich Village and Little Italy area of New York City, the book also mentions and features many real-life locations. The descriptions of the food are mouth-watering, and the recent paperback release features many new recipes you can try making at home. I recommend Very Valentine; In fact, I think you’ll fall in love with it.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Bookmooch, and it's Waaaaay Past Valentine's Day

I don't know if you've been reading the humble ol' blog here for awhile, but if you remember an entry about two years back I had a brief stint with celebrity when I started blogging about how much I loved the website Bookmooch. Then I moved to New York and stopped doing it, since a full-time job meant I couldn't take weekly trips to the post office. Well, I just moved. My new post office is on my way to the subway. And I started spring cleaning my books. I have a few ARCs from my Top 10 list I'm looking to unload, and I've already been hit up for my copy of The Doom Machine. If you do want to read any of those books, creating a Boomooch account and requesting them there is the best way to get a free copy. My username on the site is vampireeat

I am stillStillSTILL reading Very Valentine. I know... I suck. I have started setting a "read a chapter a day" goal for myself. I didn't do this before because I knew I wouldn't follow it, but I'm committed because now it's April and I want to go get it, and the sequel, before April is over. I promise this is not an April's Fool joke. I do actually intend to one day finish the book. Fer realz.