Serena’s Review: “Poisoned Blade”

31226229Book: “Poisoned Blade” by Kate Elliott

Publishing Info: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, August 2016

Where Did I Get this Book: the library!

Book Description: Now a Challenger, Jessamy is moving up the ranks of the Fives–the complex athletic contest favored by the lowliest Commoners and the loftiest Patrons alike. Pitted against far more formidable adversaries, success is Jes’s only option, as her prize money is essential to keeping her hidden family alive. She leaps at the chance to tour the countryside and face more competitors, but then a fatal attack on her traveling party puts Jes at the center of the war that Lord Kalliarkos–the prince she still loves–is fighting against their country’s enemies. With a sinister overlord watching her every move and Kal’s life on the line, Jes must now become more than a Fives champion…. She must become a warrior.

Review: After finishing, and loving, “Court of Fives,” I immediately requested “Poisoned Blade” from the library, and last week it arrived! Full disclosure, I may have set aside other reading projects for the sole purpose of bringing this book with me on a trip to the cabin last weekend. It seemed like the perfect “mini break” read, and it didn’t let me down!

“Poisoned Blade” picks up immediately after “Court of Fives.” And when I say “immediately,” I mean that it starts the very night after the final scene in the previous book with Jes sneaking into the royal grounds to find and apologize to Kal. Needless to say, he doesn’t take this well. Luckily, both characters are written in a very relatable and believable manner. Jes feels bad for her decision, but doesn’t regret it and wouldn’t do things differently. Yes, it costs her her relationship with Kal, but she saved her family in the process. It’s refreshing to see a character in a young adult series who is so realistically portrayed with regards to the relationships in her life. Obviously, as saddening as it would be for her to lose the trust of a boy she was beginning to love but had only know for a few weeks, her priorities would remain with her beloved mother and sisters.

While “Court of Fives” wasn’t primarily focused on the romance between Jes and Kal, with their immediate falling out at the beginning of this book, Elliott opened up a lot of space for herself to dive more fully into the political intrigue and action of the world she has created. We are more fully exposed to characters who only existed on the periphery of things in the other book, like Menoe (the sister of Kal and new wife of Jes’s father), the royal couple, and their ailing son, Prince Temnos. I thoroughly enjoyed the expansion of the cast and the deeper currents that were exposed through Jes’s interactions with these groups. In every way, the choices that she is faced with both expand and narrow at the same time as she is made aware of the complicated web (Ha! Get it? “Web” because her nickname is “Spider?” I’m super clever…) of relationships, schemes, and history that exist.

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You don’t need to fake it, guys, I know I’m hilarious…(source)

The world-building is also expanded when Jes takes part in a traveling party that tours the outer reaches beyond the city. This opened up a lot of doors for further action and new challenges for our main character. Really, the action was upped big time in this sequel, and I thoroughly enjoyed all of it. Particularly, the spider scouts and their magical/mechanical spiders were more fully explored in this book, which I really liked, as they made such a brief appearance in the first story and left a lot of questions unanswered. Jes also spends a lot more time fully realizing the role she has to play and is much more deliberate with her choices, many of which are not easy and force her to behave in a way that she would have thought impossible in the previous book. I love it when the main character must slide into moral shades of grey!

This book embraced the strengths that were set up in the first, and then went wild with the world-building and the addition of multiple plot layers. I very much enjoyed the whole thing and strongly recommend it for fans of young adult fantasy series. This has been one of the more enjoyable ones of the last few years so far, and I’m excited to see how Elliott wraps the whole thing up! Sadly, I have to wait until NEXT JULY!

Rating 9: A strong sequel, probably even better than the first!

Reader’s Advisory:

“Poisoned Blade” is a new title and thus not on many Goodreads lists. However, it should be on this one “Non-Caucasian Protagonists in Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and Paranormal Romance.”

Find “Poisoned Blade” at your library using WorldCat!

Previously Reviewed: “Court of Fives”

Kate’s Review: “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Vol.1): The Crucible”

23308488Book: “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Vol.1): The Crucible” by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, and Robert Hack (Ill.).

Publishing Info: Archie Comics, August 2016

Where Did I Get This Book?: The library!

Book Description: On the eve of her sixteenth birthday, the young sorceress Sabrina Spellman finds herself at a crossroads, having to choose between an unearthly destiny and her mortal boyfriend, Harvey. But a foe from her family’s past has arrived in Greendale, Madame Satan, and she has her own deadly agenda. Archie Comics’ latest horror sensation starts here! For TEEN+ readers.

Compiles the first six issues of the ongoing comic book series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.

Review: Okay readers, listen up! It is my first post in the month of October, and I have a certain thing I do every year during my favorite month: It’s called Horrorpalooza and I will be reading all horror, all the time. Well, at least things that have to do with horror, be it the genre itself or stories about ghosts, ghouls, witches, zombies, and other things that go bump in the night. So we are starting this horror festival off right with “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Vol.1): The Crucible”. I had a couple of associations for Archie Comics’ magical heroine Sabrina “The Teenage Witch” Spellman from my youth. When I was in elementary school it was the plucky spin off character from Archie Comics. When I was a tween and early teen it was Melissa Joan Hart’s TV character who showed up on my TV every Friday night (until she went to college and the cast went through a huge overhaul. Forget that!). So when I heard about the newest version from Archie comics, and heard that it was supposed to be scary and horror based, I didn’t have big expectations. I figured it would be marginally creepy, maybe like “Scream Queens” level creepy, and that it would be kind of fun.

Oh my God. I was so, so very wrong. Because in the very first scene, Diana Spellman is running through the woods with her baby daughter Sabrina, hoping to save her from the family of witches she had unwittingly married into…. Only to have Edward, her husband, stick her in a mental institution after wiping her sanity from her.

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This is not the Sabrina of my youth. (source)

Friends, in this story arc, Sabrina is a teenage witch living in the 1960s and her aunts are brides of Satan. As she is approaching her sixteenth birthday she has to choose between devoting her life to Satan and witchcraft, or to pick a mortal life to live with her high school sweetheart Harvey Kinkle. But there is also the threat of Madam Satan, a powerful witch from the Spellman family’s past who is hell bent on revenge. This is some Anne Rice “Witching Hour” stuff here, guys, and let me tell you, it is done VERY well. It also caught me completely off guard, as I did not expect this dark, twisted story to come from ARCHIE COMICS of all places! Between Aunts Hilda and Zelda partaking in cannibalism and Sabrina herself casting spells that take away people’s free will, and Madam FREAKING Satan peeling people’s faces off (off page, thankfully) to place across her own mutilated face, I felt like I was reading an old school folk tale about witches in all their evil, nasty glory, and I was LIVING FOR EVERY MOMENT OF IT. Because “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” is a damn good horror comic, and I would even go so far as to say that it’s the best horror comic out there right now.

The twisting of the old Sabrina story is incredible, really. I love the new fun and funky witch stories that have cropped up in the 20th and 21st centuries, like “Bewitched” and the original “Sabrina” stories, but there is something to be said for some of the scary portrayals like “The Blair Witch Project” (and its recent sequel) and “The Witch.” By taking Sabrina Spellman, one of the tamest of witch stories, and making it into a Puritanical nightmare, Aguirre-Sacasa has made a new horror narrative that also, somehow, has its tongue planted firmly in cheek. There is something both upsetting and hilarious about seeing Sabrina Spellman ride a big black goat through the air as part of her “christening,” just as it’s unsettling seeing Betty and Veronica in Riverdale trying to raise a succubus to finally settle their feud over Archie once and for all. I was laughing and also freaking out about how royally screwed up this all was. We are following incredibly wicked characters, characters who commit heinous acts and commit themselves to what we are to believe is the worst kind of evil in this world, and yet they are so familiar and kind of devilishly fun in how they’ve gotten so twisted up. The only two characters that seem to have their original, fairly benign and caring hearts, are Sabrina herself, and her dutiful cat Salem. And my God was it just nostagia-filled loveliness to see that Salem is still there for his witch.

The artwork, too, is a sight to see. It was what really tipped me off right as I opened it that this was going to be something far greater than I anticipated. It looks like watercolor sketches, which gives the book an eerie and dreamy feel. Robert Hack has also been known for his other comic work, such as “Afterlife with Archie” and a few runs at “Doctor Who”, and his style really adds to the aesthetic of the story.

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(source)

I love the faded quality to it, with the splashes of realism when it comes to a book that Sabrina may be reading, or a very important moment or character. I find it gorgeous and I hope that Hack stays with the series in its entirety. I can’t imagine it with any other style.

So if you are looking for some serious hardcore witch stories this lovely October, “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Vol.1): The Crucible” needs to be put on your list. The tribute to old time witch mythos combined with a familiar, if not very inverted, cast of characters is an act of genius. Sabrina Spellman, I am so happy that this is what you’ve become.

Rating 10: A fun and incredibly disturbing horror comic for fans of old school witch and witchcraft mythology. The best horror comic being written right now, hands down.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” is fairly new and has not found its way on many lists yet. But check out “Best Horror Comics/Graphic Novels”, and “Witches and Other Sundry Spirits”.

Find “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Vol.1): The Crucible” at your library using WorldCat!

October 2016 Highlights

Fall is here. We have to admit it. While Serena dreads it, Kate lives for it! This month is Kate’s month, where she’ll be reading nothing but horror in her annual Horrorpalooza! (Serena will stick with her less traumatic genres, but might get a few spooks in here and there). But with the new month comes our list of Highlights of books that are coming out! Let’s see what we’re most looking forward to.

Serena’s Picks

23302838Book: “Goldenhand” by Garth Nix

Publication Date: October 4, 2016

Why I’m Interested: This is the most recent book in Nix’s “Abhorsen” series that started back in 1995 with the first book “Sabriel,” which was, and remains, one of my favorite fantasy books from my childhood. It’s always thrilling (and terrifying) when authors continue a series that has a lot of nostalgia attached to it. I read the second and third book in the series and was a bit less enamored, but as this features the same characters, I may need to do a re-read for this blog in preparation for this!

28321033Book: “One Was Lost” by Natalie D. Richards

Publication Date: October 4, 2016

Why I’m Interested: Ok, so this is verging into the “creep zone” for me, calling up memories of “The Blair Witch Project.” Several teens go on a hiking/camping trip into the wilderness, only to wake up one morning dazed and confused with their supplies, chaperone, and half their group missing and mysterious words scrawled on their wrists. What’s worse? Creepy dolls! Creepy dolls! This sounds like a bizarre hodgepodge, but I’m a sucker for stories set in the woods, so give me a cozy blanket and a cat, and I’ll attempt it!

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Book: “Yesternight” by Cat Winters

Publication Date: October 4, 2016

Why I’m Interested: This book is billed as a mystery, but I can also see why it is set to be published in October with some decidedly creepy elements. Set in 1925, the main character is a psychologist who travels to Oregon to work with school children. All does not goes as planned when she runs into a genius child who claims to be living a second life after dying decades earlier. I love books that cross-genres, as this one seems to be doing. History? Good. Mystery? Good. Creepy children?…um, good?

Kate’s Picks

Book: “Last Seen Leaving” by Caleb Roehrig 25036310

Publication Date: October 4th, 2016

Why I’m Interested: Teen mysteries and thrillers can be a dangerous game to play. While I have loved some of them, like “We Were Liars”, there have been real clunkers as well. But “Last Seen Leaving” sounds like it has some promise. Caleb’s girlfriend January has disappeared, and everyone thinks that he did it. He’s determined to prove his innocence, but is also hiding a big secret from everyone, possibly including himself. Okay, I’m sold. It sounds intriguing, and if it’s good it could be very very good.

29102955Book: “The Secret History of Twin Peaks” by Mark Frost

Publication Date: October 18th, 2016

Why I’m Interested: Well, for starters, “Twin Peaks” just happens to be my FAVORITE TV SHOW IN THE HISTORY OF EVER!! I was stoked enough when it was announced that it was coming back to TV, but when I found out there was going to be a book to get everyone caught up with what was going on in town in the past 20 years, I could have died. I love the show and I hope that Mark Frost (one of the producers) has some good fates for my favorite characters (Audrey Horne in particular).

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Book: “Feedback” by Mira Grant

Publication Date: October 4th, 2016

Why I’m Interested: Grant’s “Newflesh Trilogy”, about two blogging siblings who find themselves in the middle of a conspiracy in a post zombie-apocalypse society, is a very original and fun zombie series. While I was happy with how it all wrapped up for Georgia and Shaun Mason, when I heard that another series set in the same universe and on the same timeline was coming out, well, I was very interested. This series is apparently going to follow some of their competition, other reporters who may be finding other secrets of their own. I’m totally willing to dive back into this high tech zombie universe.

What books are you guys excited for that are coming out this month? Let us know in the comments!

Serena’s Review: “Lion in the Valley”

40495Book: “Lion in the Valley

Publishing Info: Atheneum, 1986

Where Did I Get this Book: the library!

Book Description: The 1895-96 season promises to be an exceptional one for Amelia Peabody, her dashing Egyptologist husband Emerson, and their wild and precocious eight-year-old son Ramses. The much-coveted burial chamber of the Black Pyramid in Dahshoor is theirs for the digging. But there is a great evil in the wind that roils the hot sands sweeping through the bustling streets and marketplace of Cairo. The brazen moonlight abduction of Ramses–and an expedition subsequently cursed by misfortune and death–have alerted Amelia to the likly presence of her arch nemesis the Master Criminal, notorious looter of the living and the dead. But it is far more than ill-gotten riches that motivates the evil genius this time around. For now the most valuable and elusive prized of all is nearly in his grasp: the meddling lady archaeologist who has sworn to deliver him to justice . . . Amelia Peabody!

Review: I’ve come to another conclusion for why I love this series so much (yes, these reviews are steadily devolving into “Amelia Peabody lovefests,” but who cares, I do what I want!) And that reason is that, much to my younger sister’s chagrin, as a kid I absolutely loved the 1999 “The Mummy” and insisted we watch it at least monthly for years. And much of my love revolved around the character Evelyn. I mean, I went on to become a librarian and dressed up as her for Halloween only two years ago, so…yeah, it’s kind of a thing. Anyways, as I read these books, I can’t help put picture Amelia as a kindred spirit for Evelyn and interchange their looks in my imaginary version of the character.

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Change out the name for “Emerson” and this is Amelia to a T! (source)

Another archeological season is upon the Peabody/Emerson family, and this year they have snagged the good stuff, receiving a permit to work on the much-desired and mysterious Black Pyramid site that they had been denied the year before. But, of course, much to Emerson’s continual despair, a dig is not a dig with Amelia without much mystery, drama, and a good murder or two.

But Emerson’s own passions are immediately involved with the attempted abduction of their young son, Ramses. However, much as this enrages him, he remains skeptical of Amelia’s “Master Criminal” theories regarding an unknown man who has set himself up as her personal nemesis. And in this case, I hear ya, Emerson! I, too, was a bit skeptical about the leaps of logic that are required to create Amelia’s “Master Criminal” plot, but, of course, Amelia is always right and I should trust! From a plausibility viewpoint as a reader, however, there might have been a few hoops too many that I was asked to jump through in order to buy-in to this concept.

In many ways, this story contained a lot more action than we’ve seen in previous books. Right away with the attempted kidnapping, things are now happening directly to the members of the main family itself, not hapless bystanders that we pick up for one novel’s worth of attention. The increased stakes here immediately make the story that much more thrilling. And, like I said in my previous review, Ramses has grown on me quite a bit, and his response to this particular incident was quite good.

As these stories are all told from Amelia’s perspective, we always view the story through her eyes and perspective. However, the mysteries themselves are often a few steps away from her own actions (though she, of course, always involves herself immediately). With this case, the mystery itself is largely focused on her; SHE is the action of the story. I enjoyed this quite a bit.

Without spoilers, I did enjoy the ending quite a lot, however I had a few qualms with bits of it. The “Master Criminal” himself was sufficiently creepy and I appreciated Amelia’s handling of herself during this section of the book. I wasn’t quite sold on the ultimate resolution of things. Amelia clearly doesn’t sit aside while things happen to and around her, but I feel that the story, and character, could have been better served if a few tropes had been avoided near the end. This is sufficiently vague as to be an annoying commentary, I know, but alas, it’s hard to discuss ending without getting into spoilers!

All told, I very much enjoyed this fourth book in the series. While I particularly enjoyed the direct focus of the mystery being on Amelia and her family, there were a few questionable points in the logic leaps required for Amelia/Emerson to put together the clues, and the ending maybe could have used a few more tweaks. But, if you’re reading this series and enjoying it, pick up this one immediately!

Rating 8: Yada yada, of course I loved it, yada yada!

Reader’s Advisory:

“Lion in the Valley” is included on these Goodreads lists: “I shot the Pharaoh – Novels on Egyptian Myths and Mysteries”, and “The Funniest Books Ever Written (Any Genre).”

Find “Lion in the Valley” at your library using WorldCat.

Previously Reviewed: “The Crocodile on the Sandbank” and “The Curse of the Pharaohs” and “The Mummy Case”

Kate’s Review: “The Couple Next Door”

28815474Book: “The Couple Next Door” by Shari Lapena

Publishing Info: Pamela Dorman Books, August 2016

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: How well do you know the couple next door? Or your husband? Or even—yourself?  

People are capable of almost anything. . . 
Anne and Marco Conti seem to have it all—a loving relationship, a wonderful home, and their beautiful baby, Cora. But one night when they are at a dinner party next door, a terrible crime is committed. Suspicion immediately focuses on the parents. But the truth is a much more complicated story.

Inside the curtained house, an unsettling account of what actually happened unfolds. Detective Rasbach knows that the panicked couple is hiding something. Both Anne and Marco  soon discover that the other is keeping secrets, secrets they’ve kept for years. 

What follows is the nerve-racking unraveling of a family—a chilling tale of  deception, duplicity, and unfaithfulness that will keep you breathless until the final shocking twist.

Review: Whenever I pick up a grit-lit thriller novel, I like to try and guess what the big messy twist is going to be. If I go off of logistics of the story and my previous knowledge of the genre, I can sometimes guess some of the twists and turns that are coming up. Barring, of course, that the author either does a really good job of concealing their twists, or brings twists out of nowhere that make little to no sense whatsoever. I can tell you that “The Couple Next Door” has a little bit of both, which flip flopped between the frustrating and the satisfying.

So even though the description is vague, I’m sure that you can guess that the terrible crime that is committed is that baby Cora disappears from her crib while Anne and Marco are at the dinner party in the adjoining home of the duplex. So the question becomes who is behind it? The police, specifically Detective Rasbach, is convinced that it has to be either Anne or Marco. I had made my own predictions about thirty pages in (as Serena can attest to, as she was there when I was spouting off my theories). I’m pretty happy to say that my predictions were pretty wrong, but that isn’t to say that this book wasn’t devoid of issues. Neither Marco nor Anne had a lot of shining moments, and I had issues with both of these characters and how they were portrayed. I’m glad that there weren’t any reckless depictions of post-partum depression, but Anne as a whole wasn’t very interesting, being an incredibly passive player in this entire thing. It’s not that I wanted her to go out and kick people’s teeth in until she found her baby, but I wanted more than her being in a constant state of victimization and having things happen to her instead of making things happen (except late, late, LATE in the game. But a bit more on that later). And then there’s Marco, who manages to make every single terrible decision a person could make in his situation, so while I know that we are probably supposed to feel a teeny bit of sympathy for him, boy I sure didn’t. One of the twists involving him was a surprise, but it made sense, and it just accentuated his stupidity even more. As for the side characters, they were fine, but they did feel like they were just the same old characters that we get in these stories: the slutty neighbor who doesn’t care who she hurts, the cold and judgmental in laws, and the hardened but nonetheless affected detective. They served their purpose, but they weren’t exactly reinventing the wheel, and when the protagonists weren’t really endearing themselves to me it was all the more glaring.

I also need to take a moment to lambast the ending. I am going to avoid giving spoilers here because I do think that this book is worth reading if you like thrillers and grit lit. But be warned, the ending is incredibly, INCREDIBLY tacked on and unnecessary. Especially given the implications that it has about other mental illnesses, as while Lapena was pretty good in her portrayal of post-partum depression she was not as great at other depictions of other disorders. When the big ‘final’ twist as referenced in the description came up, I was pretty miffed and turned off. It was out of place and aggravating. We didn’t need that one last twist. And it derailed the entire story for me.

Ridiculous twist aside, as I mentioned before other reveals and surprises made a lot of sense and did keep me on my toes. I thought that I would be able to predict a lot of it, but I found myself unable to put it down because of the need to now what was going to happen. Lapena does a very good job of parsing out her story, putting the pieces into place in a meticulous and well thought out way. I think that ultimately what I look for in a story like this is whether or not the plot keeps me guessing, and “The Couple Next Door” achieved that. If you are just looking for an entertaining thriller, and can look past the less fleshed out characterizations and ridiculous ending, “The Couple Next Door” is probably a good choice. I don’t regret reading it, I just wish that it had been a bit more.

Rating 6: The plot itself was pretty solid, but the main characters were lacking. Add in a ridiculous ending and it wasn’t what it could have been.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Couple Next Door” is included on these Goodreads lists: “Female Psychological Thriller/Suspense”, and “2016: What Women Born in the 1970s Have Read So Far This Year”.

Find “The Couple Next Door” at your library using WorldCat!

Serena’s Review: “The Copper Promise” Part 1: “Ghosts of the Citadel”

19847375Book: “Ghosts of the Citadel” by Jen Williams

Publishing Info: Headline, December 2013

Where Did I Get this Book: the library!

Book Description: It is said that the Citadel is haunted, and that anyone foolish enough to enter will never return. When a mysterious nobleman offers them a small fortune to explore its depths, sellswords Wydrin and Sebastian decide they can afford to be a little foolish – it’s a chance for adventure, riches, and they might even have a tale or two to tell in the tavern afterwards. But they will soon discover that sometimes there is truth in rumour…

Review: A few days ago, poor Kate was having to hear the long tale of woe from me regarding my latest book choice “The Copper Promise.” I remember specifically mentioning that I couldn’t quite put my finger on what the problem was that I was having with the book itself since it featured many of my favorite elements (a spunky heroine, a team adventure, strong high fantasy setting, etc). But for some reason the pacing felt off.

Well, the other day I was doing a bit of research into the book itself when I had a big “Aha!” moment: This book is a compilation of four novellas that were bound together to make the book “The Copper Promise!” It was really a light bulb moment, and now, with this in mind, I am going to move forward with reading/reviewing the book as it was originally published as four separate but serialized stories.

Right off the bat, it was a much more enjoyable experience re-approaching this series as novellas. Read on its own, “Ghost of the Citadel” is an action-packed, snappy-paced adventure story featuring three misfit characters. Tonally, this novella is closer to some of the fantasy of old that was much more campy and poppy. The world-building features classic monsters, fabled wars between mages and gods, and a mysterious Citadel that is the temptation (and seemingly always the death) of adventures throughout the realm.

Our adventures feature Wydrin and her partner Sebastian, a well-established mercenary duo on the look out for their next job. And a fallen lord, Aaron Firth, whose family was murdered and was run off his lands after suffering gruesome torture at the hands of his captor.

As this was a shorter novella, readers are thrown into the action with very little back story for any of these characters. We know a bit more about Firth from a prologue featuring him, but we pick up Wydrin and Sebastian straight from the tavern. I’m intrigued by the hints of backstory for them both. Sebastian heralds from a mountainous realm where he was once a member of an illustrious knights force, but was discharged for unknown reasons. Wydrin seems to have a simple reputation for being one of the best mercenaries out there Wydrin is the type of character who is right up my alley, so I was a bit disappointed by lack of backstory (even hints!) that we were given for her, other than that she is great at her job. Firth was honestly my least favorite character, but I feel like the series is setting him up for a redemption arc, of sorts, so I will wait to see what comes of that in the next three stories.

The story ends on a cliffhanger, so beware of that. But the cliffhanger, and the arc of the story itself, all feels so much more natural when read as an individual novella rather than a section of one book, so I strongly recommend trying to find the ebooks and reading the series in that version.

Rating 7: Once I got myself figured out, an enjoyable first installation for this 4-part novella series!

Reader’s Advisory: 

“Ghosts of the Citadel” isn’t included on any lists on its own, but compilation “The Copper Promise” is on these lists: “Best Fantasy Books by Women” and “Fantasy Standalone Novels.”

Find “Ghosts of the Citadel” at your library using WorldCat!

 

 

 

Kate’s Re-Visit Review: “The Complete Persepolis”

991197Book: “The Complete Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi

Publication Info: Pantheon, October 2007 (originally published 2003)

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: Here, in one volume: Marjane Satrapi’s best-selling, internationally acclaimed memoir-in-comic-strips.

Persepolis is the story of Satrapi’s unforgettable childhood and coming of age within a large and loving family in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution; of the contradictions between private life and public life in a country plagued by political upheaval; of her high school years in Vienna facing the trials of adolescence far from her family; of her homecoming–both sweet and terrible; and, finally, of her self-imposed exile from her beloved homeland. It is the chronicle of a girlhood and adolescence at once outrageous and familiar, a young life entwined with the history of her country yet filled with the universal trials and joys of growing up.

Edgy, searingly observant, and candid, often heartbreaking but threaded throughout with raw humor and hard-earned wisdom–Persepolis is a stunning work from one of the most highly regarded, singularly talented graphic artists at work today.

Review: Every year during Banned Books Week I try to read a book or books that have been banned or challenged. Because damn the man and all that. This time around I thought that it may be the right time to revisit “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi, a graphic memoir that has been praised for it’s genius and reviled for it’s content by some people, more recently by a college student in 2015 who wanted it (and other graphic novels) removed from the school curriculum. I first read “Persepolis” in 2009, when a co-worker at my then job let me borrow her copies of Parts 1 and 2, and I really, really liked it (as well as the film that was made based on the books), but had been meaning to re-read the story for a while now. So what better time?

“Persepolis” is a memoir that not only tells a very relatable coming of age story, it also charts a very turbulent time in Iranian history. Satrapi’s parents were militantly anti-Shah, the dictator whose policies oppressed and exploited many Iranians during his reign (a reign that the United States supported because of the profits to be made as a result), so when revolution came, Satrapi’s family had high hopes… But then, those hopes were dashed when fundamentalists took the country over, and war broke out between Iran and Iraq. Satrapi’s story is very straight forward and never delves into over the top dramatics, but through this simple telling also shows the horrors of the unrest during this time period. But along with that we also get the story of a girl who is sent to Austria to spend her teenage years, as her mother didn’t think she would be safe in Tehran anymore given Satrapi’s love of rebellion. So Satrapi tells a story of not fitting in in her home country because of her family’s ideals clashing with the new religious fundamentalism, but also the story of an Iranian girl in the 80s trying to fit in a predominantly Western society that doesn’t quite understand. Satrapi’s self awareness and honesty really drives this book, and so does her penchant for humor and tenderness.

Satrapi does a great job of showing the experiences of all people in Tehran, and while she never excuses the actions of the crueler and more violent people, you also can understand how Iran got to where it did. She also gives some history lessons in this book about the history of her home country and the Western interference that in part led to the Shah, which in turn led to the Revolution that, to her family, set the country back decades in terms of politics and civil liberties. I have some working knowledge of the history of Iran and the Iranian Revolution thanks to some books that I’ve read about it, but Satrapi does a very good job of contextualizing that through her own personal story, both in the midst of the struggles at home and then her own personal struggles in Austria, a place that was meant to be a safe haven but ended up being incredibly oppressive in different ways.

Satrapi is also very forthcoming about her own flaws and bumps in her life, always portraying herself as a human who isn’t perfect, and is trying to find herself. There were a few actions that she took in her youth that definitely made me wince as I re-read this book, as sometimes she did do things that were cruel or selfish. She makes no excuses for these actions, but the reader can’t help but feel sympathy for her because of the various experiences she had that led to these points. If anything it made her all the more relatable, because I’m sure many of us have done things that we are not proud of. She just has the courage to put these things out in the open.

And finally the artwork in this book continues to charm me the second time around. I love the simplicity of it all, a style that can portray a wide range of emotions and motivations, from humor and love, to abject fear and sorrow. The images juxtapose a time of war and ruin with a girl’s coming of age, and it is incredibly effective.

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The story itself is broken up into separate parts that all represent a key moment in Satrapi’s life, and I love how they all fit together as a whole while standing on their own as well. It’s such an interesting way to tell such a complex story, and I think that it works very well.

It’s really no secret why people want this book to be banned. From portrayal of Muslims as just normal people, to Satrapi’s frank expressions of her sexuality, to the negative lights that are shed upon Wester Cultures during the critiques of them, “Persepolis” has ruffled many feathers and will probably continue to do so. But it’s such an important and wonderful graphic novel that those who pass it over or openly condemn it are really, really missing out. It remains one of my favorite graphic novels, and I think that it should be required reading for both comics fans and history buffs alike. It was great revisiting “Persepolis” for Banned Books Week.

Rating 10: An astounding, personal, and fabulous graphic novel about coming of age in societal upheaval. Marjane Satrapi’s graphic memoir is insightful, tender, funny, and in some ways haunting. A must read.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Persepolis” can be found on the following Goodreads lists: “History Through Graphic Novels”, and “Comics and Graphic Novels by Women”.

Find “Persepolis” at your library using WorldCat!