Book Review: The Deaths of Henry King & Fütchi Perf

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★ ★ ★

Without a doubt, this fulfilled my need for some dark humor in my life. It was just what I needed to help me get out of a book slump I was in for two weeks. The Deaths of Henry King by Brian Evenson, Jesse Ball, and illustrated by Lilli Carré. For me this was an introduction into the creators of this collaboration, and after reading this, I looked into more of their work because I wanted more. Lilli Carré’s illustrations are phenomenal, and she quickly became a favorite artist of mine after discovering her work in this book. This is not exactly a graphic novel, but it is sort of a small illustrated book with short paragraphs and gravestone-rubbing-style art. The Deaths of Henry King, simply put, is about one character dying over and over in some grim, but comical situations.

At certain points, I would make anyone around me listen while I read a few pages because it was too good not to share. Some grim, some hilarious, and some outright ridiculous deaths. Death by a cheddar cheese wheel? Eating six and a half pounds of glass? A visit from an angel that rips his heart out through his throat? It all happens within the 160 pages of The Deaths of Henry King.

The hapless Henry King, as advertised, dies. Not just once or twice, but seven dozen times. Each death a new demise, from the comic to the grim to the absurd to the transcendent and back again. With text by Jesse Ball and Brian Evenson complimented by Lilli Carré’s macabre, gravestone-rubbing-style art, Henry King’s ends are brought to a vivid life.

Hardcover, 160 pages
September 12th 2017 by Uncivilized Books

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★ ★

Fütchi Perf is Kevin Czap’s first long-form in print, told through a handful of short comics combined to assemble like an album. Set in Cleveland, in a near-utopian future, there are themes of community, feminism, and a diverse world that is accepting and letting the good flourish. It’s filled with close-knit friendships, life-changing basement shows, and a joyous artistic community. I am torn because this was close to a 3 star read but closer to a 2.5 because of some reasons that I’ll discuss further in the review–but I did like this, just not as much as I hoped. I read this not once, but twice, because I felt like the first time wasn’t enough to extract all that the comic had to offer–and still, I am a bit perplexed. It is disjointed with little story, and has a lot going on between the color palette, and crowded pages. I definitely felt a little claustrophobic while reading this, which added to the second time around reading it to make sure I didn’t miss anything. The artwork is cartoony with a vibrant bubblegum palette, displayed in flashes of scenes, that was fitting to the setting and the idealized, euphoria atmosphere of Cleveland.

I felt like this is one of those comics that really makes you stop and question a lot on how we think, the way society is verse how we would possibly like it to be, or how other’s may envision possible solutions to real life problems. I did love the premise of this, the characters, and all the diversity that is within it–you can feel the heart that went into crafting Fütchi Perf–but I had such a hard time really getting into it because of the layout, which did lower the rating I had in mind.

What if the future began in a small, queer, punk music show in the basement of a Cleveland, Ohio house? Romantic friendships, über-chic culture, magical solutions, kid think-tanks, and more. Fütchi Perf might not depict a perfect future, but its slice-of-life vignettes—drawn in a glorious, kaleidoscopic two-color palette—visualize a Utopian dream that seems almost real, but perpetually out of reach.

Paperback, 88 pages
October 10th 2017 by Uncivilized Books

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I received a copy in exchange for an unbiased review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

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Book Review: Everything is Flammable by Gabrielle Bell

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★ ★ ★

Sometimes funny, sometimes sad, and often relatable, Everything is Flammable is a graphic memoir with raw storytelling, and simple art. After her mother’s home is destroyed in a fire, Bell returns to her hometown in rural Northern California to help her mother get things in order and buy a new home. Spanning through one year and touching on issues such as anxiety, financial hardships, and a tenuous relationship with her mother, Bell’s humor and brutal honesty unfold into a profound memoir. While certain topics in this were at times difficult to read, I think Bell captures the overwhelming and uncertainty of anxiety and just going through life with it on top of dealing with anything else that comes along.

The beginning was like an small introduction into Bell and her life, before getting into the aftermath of the fire, which I liked because it gave the readers more insight into who she is. The characters were portrayed in such a way that by the end, you want to know more about them, and where they went from there. The artwork is simple, dark, and engrossing–I actually went back just look through the pages and appreciate it. Everything is Flammable is a well crafted graphic memoir that, more me, was just the beginning look into Bell’s work, and I look forward to checking out more in the future.

Synopsis

In Gabrielle Bell’s much anticipated graphic memoir, EVERYTHING IS FLAMMABLE, she returns from New York to her childhood town in rural Northern California after her mother’s home is destroyed by a fire. Acknowledging her issues with anxiety, financial hardships, memories of a semi-feral childhood, and a tenuous relationship with her mother, Bell helps her mother put together a new home on top of the ashes. A powerful, sometimes uncomfortable, examination of a mother-daughter relationship and one’s connection to place and sense of self. Spanning a single year, Everything is Flammable unfolds with humor and brutal honesty. Bell’s sharp, digressive style is inimitable.

Hardcover, 160 pages
Published June 6th 2017 by Uncivilized Books

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I received a copy in exchange for an unbiased review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Here and Gone by Haylen Beck

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★ ★ ★

Here and Gone is an unsettling and intense thriller that I wanted to love. The premise was intriguing, the pace set to keep me questioning and interested—and while I liked it, but at times I was skimming details that didn’t add to the story. While I am not fond of multiple POVs, I thought it was fitting with this story, reading the events through Audra, Danny, and Sean’s eyes build up throughout as it unfolded.

I was rooting for all of them, and couldn’t help but feel for each of them. I thought Here and Gone was well-written, fast-paced, and engaging. I am only left wondering about one character, but I thought it was a well-rounded ending. It’s a short, quick read that I finished in two sittings, and I will be on the lookout for more published by the author.

Synopsis 

It begins with a woman fleeing through Arizona with her kids in tow, trying to escape an abusive marriage. When she’s pulled over by an unsettling local sheriff, things soon go awry and she is taken into custody. Only when she gets to the station, her kids are gone. And then the cops start saying they never saw any kids with her, that if they’re gone than she must have done something with them…

Meanwhile, halfway across the country a man hears the frenzied news reports about the missing kids, which are eerily similar to events in his own past. As the clock ticks down on the search for the lost children, he too is drawn into the desperate fight for their return.

Hardcover, 304 pages
Published June 20th 2017 by Crown Publishing Group

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Book Review: Stirring Up Fun with Food by Sarah Michelle Gellar

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As a longtime fan of Sarah Michelle Gellar from back in her Buffy the Vampire days, I was thrilled to receive a copy of her newest cookbook, Stirring Up Fun with Food, published by Grand Central Life & Style. I love her enthusiasm when it comes to being in the kitchen as a family, and introducing her children to food in creative ways while keeping it healthy and simple. Organized by month, there are recipes for every occasion and theme, so the possibilities are endless and kid-friendly.

In January’s section, you’ll find quiche cupcakes that are light and flavorful, perfect for on-the-go during the busy week. March offers a delicious recipe for veggie egg rolls to make-at-home rather than ordering take-out—a little more involved, but a good way to get kids in the kitchen. In June, you can prepare coconut chicken fingers that not only the little ones will love, but adults will, too—paired well with a red pepper jelly or sweet chili sauce.

Each recipe includes ingredients, directions, serving size, and small blurb. While some recipes require as little as 5 ingredients and little prep time, it makes for fun and accessibility for everyone involved. I found some recipes better than others, while some weren’t clearly focused on fun and creativity—but overall it offers a great selection of projects and recipes for a family to enjoy. It was well crafted with time and quality, and Sarah and Gia did a wonderful job. It’s creative and cheerful, a cookbook that anyone with children would love to have in their home.

Synopsis

Why stop with making basic brownies? Why not put them on a stick and decorate them? Why not take boring broccoli and turn it into a yummy cheese muffin instead? Sarah Michelle Gellar learned quickly that to get her kids to be adventurous with food, she had to involve them in preparing it. She wanted that process to be fun and help them develop self-confidence, creative thinking, and even math skills! So Sarah and co-author Gia Russo came up with more than 100 fun food-crafting ideas that take basic food preparation to a surprising new level.

Hardcover, 288 pages
Published April 18th 2017 by Grand Central Life & Style

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I received a copy in exchange for an unbiased review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

 

 

Book Review: Food Anatomy by Julia Rothman

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★ ★ ★

A delightful visual tour through international cuisine, Food Anatomy gives insight into cultures without being overwhelming with information, and makes for an enjoyable reading and learning experience. This is one of those books that you have on your coffee table, and pick up to read a little before putting it down for another time, so read in small doses. It’s full of food basics and information on cuisines and manners around the world, told through a charming and colorful illustrated glossary with little facts. It’s like taking a tour around the world on manners and food, right from the comfort of your own home. Whether your interested in different cuisines or a foodie, you’ll find this to be a light-hearted food-filled read.

Synopsis 

Get your recommended daily allowance of facts and fun with Food Anatomy, the third book in Julia Rothman’s best-selling Anatomy series. She starts with an illustrated history of food and ends with a global tour of street eats. Along the way, Rothman serves up a hilarious primer on short order egg lingo and a mouthwatering menu of how people around the planet serve fried potatoes — and what we dip them in. Award-winning food journalist Rachel Wharton lends her editorial expertise to this light-hearted exploration of everything food that bursts with little-known facts and delightful drawings. Everyday diners and seasoned foodies alike are sure to eat it up.

Paperback, 224 pages
Published November 15th 2016 by Storey Publishing, LLC

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I received a copy in exchange for an unbiased review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

 

Book Review: The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride

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The Lesser Bohemians is the newest novel written by Eimear McBride, the author of A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, which won the Baileys Women’s Prize in 2014. This is the first novel that I have read by Eimear McBride, and it was quite the experience.

This story appears to be a simple love story between an 18-year-old Irish girl who arrives in London to attend drama school, and a successful actor who is 20 years older. There are complex layers that only begin when their relationship blossoms. It is a captivating story about fierce love, innocence, and discovery set in the mid-1990′s London. McBride writes prose that is musical and beautifully done, but the structure of the writing absolutely made my head spin. This novel is wonderful, but it requires a lot of focus and piecing together bits throughout because sentences are quite choppy and scattered. The style of writing is not one that I would particularly pick up and purchase for myself because of that, however it certainly is unique.

Synopsis

Upon her arrival in London, an 18-year-old Irish girl begins anew as a drama student, with all the hopes of any young actress searching for the fame she’s always dreamed of. She struggles to fit in—she’s young and unexotic, a naive new girl—but soon she forges friendships and finds a place for herself in the big city.

Then she meets an attractive older man. He’s an established actor, 20 years older, and the inevitable clamorous relationship that ensues is one that will change her forever.

Hardcover, 320 pages
Published September 20th 2016 by Hogarth

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Book Review: The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang

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★ ★ ★

The Wangs vs. the World is Jade Chang’s debut novel, released in early October with all the book circling social media.  It was One of Entertainment Weekly’s Most Anticipated Titles of 2016, and Barnes & Noble’s Discover Pick of Fall 2016. It is about Charles Wang, an immigrant businessman who built a cosmetics company and made a fortune building that empire, however he loses it all (right down to his last cent) when the financial crisis hit the United States in 2008. Being the prideful, self-made man that he is, he makes the decision that he wants to attempt to reclaim his family’s ancestral lands in China. Before that, he decides to take his family on a road-trip across America to pick up their oldest daughter, who is hiding in upstate New York due to a fallen career of her own.

Being one of the latest books out with a premise revolving around the economic downfall in 2008, I had The Wangs vs. the World on my anticipated reads of this year. It sounded like a humorous, touching riches-to-rags debut, but it didn’t live up to what I was expecting. It was a slow build-up in the beginning, which made it a bit of a struggle to get into, but it did pick up as the story furthered along. I thought the premise was interesting, but the execution was not as promising. There were parts in the novel that had lost my interest, or just didn’t fit into playing a role into the story-telling, in my opinion. However, while I did not like this book as much as I hoped, there were other aspects that made up for it–the characters being just that. I thought the variety of personalities and how well done they were made for a wild ride through the road trip with the Wang family. The characters are definitely what kept me reading, and while it wasn’t a favorite or one that I would pick up again, it was an entertaining adventure with family drama. I see why other readers loved The Wangs vs. the World, it just wasn’t for me.

Synopsis

Charles Wang is mad at America. A brash, lovable immigrant businessman who built a cosmetics empire and made a fortune, he’s just been ruined by the financial crisis. Now all Charles wants is to get his kids safely stowed away so that he can go to China and attempt to reclaim his family’s ancestral lands—and his pride.

Charles pulls Andrew, his aspiring comedian son, and Grace, his style-obsessed daughter, out of schools he can no longer afford. Together with their stepmother, Barbra, they embark on a cross-country road trip from their foreclosed Bel-Air home to the upstate New York hideout of the eldest daughter, disgraced art world it-girl Saina. But with his son waylaid by a temptress in New Orleans, his wife ready to defect for a set of 1,000-thread-count sheets, and an epic smash-up in North Carolina, Charles may have to choose between the old world and the new, between keeping his family intact and finally fulfilling his dream of starting anew in China.

Hardcover, 368 pages
Published October 4th 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

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I received a copy in exchange for an unbiased review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer

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★ ★ ★

I went into this expecting a captivating thriller about a child who goes missing one day at a local festival, and the story as it unfolds through both the daughter and mother’s perspectives. It is well-written, and the prose throughout is poetic, but it was a novel that left me unsatisfied by the ending. It was a book that I kept putting down, and took me quite a while to get through due to the pacing, and the mother’s point-of-view became difficult to read. I wouldn’t consider this an intense thriller, but it is a powerful story between mother and daughter with believable emotions when in a situation like Beth and Carmel. It was realistically portrayed with characters that give you an insight into having hope and faith through it all. I gave this 3 stars because I did enjoy it, but it wasn’t as much of a thriller like I had expected.

Synopsis

Newly single mom Beth has one constant, gnawing worry: that her dreamy eight-year-old daughter, Carmel, who has a tendency to wander off, will one day go missing.

And then one day, it happens: On a Saturday morning thick with fog, Beth takes Carmel to a local outdoor festival, they get separated in the crowd, and Carmel is gone.

Shattered, Beth sets herself on the grim and lonely mission to find her daughter, keeping on relentlessly even as the authorities tell her that Carmel may be gone for good.

Carmel, meanwhile, is on a strange and harrowing journey of her own—to a totally unexpected place that requires her to live by her wits, while trying desperately to keep in her head, at all times, a vision of her mother…

Hardcover, 336 pages
Published February 16th 2016 by Melville House

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I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: The Trees by Ali Shaw

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★ ★ ★

This was a unique concept with an intriguing premise. The cover is stunning, with a wolf made out of leaves. I thought that was cool and fitting into the story-line, and have to say it is one of the best covers I’ve seen this year. It is a different view about a post-apocalyptic world, and as someone who enjoys novels of the genre, I couldn’t wait to read what was in store with The Trees. The beginning is strong with vivid world-building, and an introduction to the characters to get an idea on who they are when it first begins. Within the first 100 pages or so, I was lost and overwhelming in the world that was becoming consumed by trees. Can you imagine an end to the world coming not from a plague of some-sort or global disaster… but by trees breaking through the ground everywhere, destroying anything in their path?

That is a eerie and frightening thought, and Shaw’s writing places you in the story as it all unfolds. It was interesting as the characters attempted to cope with what was going on in the world and come together to find their path through the destruction and chaos. To have a character who is a mother with an odd and different view on what was going on, that was unexpected. Adrien wasn’t an easy character to find relatable, and he certainly wasn’t always one that I rooted for, but I thought it was interesting to read this story with the contrast of characters and still being realistic-you never know how a person is going to react in such a bizarre and otherworldly situation.

Come just over half of the book, the pace and story-telling began to shift, and it was just difficult to get through it because it felt clunky, and as if the author didn’t know where to take the story and characters from there into the end At times it couldn’t keep me engaged so it took me a while to read through the entire book. While that was the only downfall, I did really enjoy this suspenseful, haunting novel.

Synopsis

The Trees. They arrived in the night: wrenching through the ground, thundering up into the air, and turning Adrien’s suburban street into a shadowy forest. Shocked by the sight but determined to get some answers, he ventures out, passing destroyed buildings, felled power lines, and broken bodies still wrapped in tattered bed linens hanging from branches.

It is soon apparent that no help is coming and that these trees, which seem the work of centuries rather than hours, span far beyond the town. As far, perhaps, as the coast, where across the sea in Ireland, Adrien’s wife is away on a business trip and there is no way of knowing whether she is alive or dead.

When Adrien meets Hannah, a woman who, unlike him, believes that the coming of the trees may signal renewal rather than destruction and Seb, her technology-obsessed son, they persuade him to join them. Together, they pack up what remains of the lives they once had and set out on a quest to find Hannah’s forester brother and Adrien’s wife–and to discover just how deep the forest goes.

Their journey through the trees will take them into unimaginable territory: to a place of terrible beauty and violence, of deadly enemies and unexpected allies, to the dark heart of nature and the darkness–and also the power–inside themselves.

Hardcover, 496 pages
Published August 2nd 2016 by Bloomsbury USA

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I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review. All opinions are my own.