Highlights: May 2019

Well okay, so we had to get a couple more snow storms in April just to be spiteful. But now, CERTAINLY, it has to be Spring time for good! With more opportunities to spend time outside (and the promise of Summer coming), we have some books that we can’t wait to read!

Serena’s Picks

9780425281291_StormCursed_FCO_mech.inddBook: “Storm Cursed” by Patricia Briggs

Publication Date: May 7, 2019

Why I’m Interested: My beloved Kate Daniels urban fantasy series just recently concluded, so I’m now only left with one remaining current favorite: the Mercy Thompson series. I also read the “Alpha and Omega” offshoot series, but, oof, I had some major problems with the last book. And what’s worse, those problems directly connect to this series as well. It’s the sort of thing that likely won’t come into play, but I’m still curious to see how this book is handled, being the first one now since the horrid reveal in the other series. The last couple of books have been fairly up and down for me as the author has been experimenting with adding different POV chapters into the story. Here’s to hoping that this is a return to the good ole Mercy-focused books we had earlier in the series!

40006251Book: “The Living God” by Kaytalin Platt

Publication Date: May 21, 2019

Why I’m Interested: I confess: a large portion of my interest in this book has to do with the striking cover. Which is a weird thing for me, I know, since I rarely like books with models on the cover. But there’s something very atmospheric about this one that I find pretty striking. The story description itself is rather confusing to me, but it has to do with two mages, Saran and Keleir, who each have their own distinct magic. When Saran loses her abilities, however, she has to seek out new answers for how to save Keleir from the dark fate of being coming the Living God. Whatever that means? In this case, the increased mystery is intriguing!

40523458Book: “Kingsbane” by Claire Legrand

Publication Date: May 21, 2019

Why I’m Interested: I didn’t love the first book in this series. I didn’t hate it, but there were several sticking points that I struggled with, most having to do with the way the story was being told, more than the story itself. But when I received a ARC of this in the mail, I decided to give it another go. At least one of the storylines, that of Eliana, still intrigues me, especially now that the (way too obvious, in my opinion) secret of her past has been exposed. Rielle’s story…eh, we’ll see! There have definitely been series out there that have improved as they went along, so here’s to hoping this is one of them!

Kate’s Picks

41068144Book: “Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered: The Definitive How-To Guide” by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark

Publication Date: May 28, 2019

Why I’m Interested: “My Favorite Murder” is one of my very favorite true crime podcasts, and one of the reasons for that is because of the hosts. Karen and Georgia approach the stories they cover with compassion and a bit of humor, but never at the expense of the victims or the horrors they have to endure. Along with that they are very open with their own lives and the various struggles they’ve had to endure and overcome. One of their big pieces of advice on the show is ‘fuck politeness’, as in if you are in a situation where you feel like you may be in danger, don’t worry about being polite, advocate for yourself and get out by any means necessary. I can’t wait to see how they apply their various experiences and ethos’s in book form. While I’m sure it won’t be applicable to everyone (so many self help books aren’t), I look forward to their wit and insight.

40867676Book: “The Night Before” by Wendy Walker

Publication Date: May 14, 2019

Why I’m Interested: I enjoyed Wendy Walker’s previous book “Emma in the Night”, so when I saw she had a new book coming out I put it on my list. In “The Night Before” is about two sisters, Rosie and Laura, who have led fairly separate lives and are trying to forget their problematic childhood. After Laura moves in with Rosie and her family the tension is high, but it’s when Laura doesn’t return from an Internet arranged date that things start to take a dark turn. Now Rosie has to try and figure out what happened to her sister, and what kind of trouble she may have found… or caused. The dangers of Internet dating meets suburban angst? I’m so there.

36285129Book: “Let Me Hear a Rhyme” by Tiffany D. Jackson

Publication Date: May 21, 2019

Why I’m Interested: It’s full disclosure time. “Let Me Hear a Rhyme” is probably not going to make it up on the blog, if only because it’s not a thriller, horror, or graphic novel, and with all the options coming out in the coming months I feel like I need to focus on my genres. But, that said, Tiffany D. Jackson is one of my favorite YA writers writing today. And I have already read “Let Me Hear a Rhyme” thanks to the kind people at Edelweiss+. Guys, it is so good. Taking place in Bed-Stuy in the 1990s, “Let Me Hear a Rhyme” follows Qadir, Jarrell, and Jasmine, three teens reeling after the shooting death of Jasmine’s brother Steph. Steph was an up and coming musician who had big dreams, hoping to make it big like fellow Bed-Stuy rapper Biggie Smalls, who was also killed too soon. Qadir and Jarrell cook up a scheme to make sure that Steph’s music is heard, and they try to market his songs as if he’s still alive, looking for a record deal. Meanwhile, Jasmine wants to find out what happened to her brother. This book is raw and powerful, and it has not only a lot of good points about social justice issues that are still relevant today, it has some great 90s music nostalgia.

What books are you looking forward to this month? Let us know in the comments! 

Baby/Pregnancy Books: Part II

So, surprise! I had a baby last month! And in honor of my little one, and to acknowledge that alongside all the great fiction books I’ve read and reviewed over the last 10 months the fact that I’ve also been obsessively researching baby information, I’ve decided to dedicate my two posts for this week to four of my favorite pregnancy/baby-related reads. It really shouldn’t come as a surprise that, as a librarian, reading was/is my go-to coping method when the first-time mom anxiety hit(s) and there are a lot of resources out there. Some were ok, some seemed like a textbook for scare tactics (I’m looking at you “What to Expect” series), but these four were pretty solid for me specifically. Now, of course, pregnancy and parenting is all very individualized to how people approach life and children, so massive warning that these fit what I was looking for and in no way reflect some type of be-all, end-all to the the vast, VAST expanse of resources and approaches on these topics. So, that out of the way, here are the second two I’m highlighting.

25923717Book: “The Science of Mom: A Research-Based Guide to Your Baby’s First Year” by Alice Callahan

Publishing Info:Johns Hopkins University Press, August 2015

Where Did I Get this Book: own it!

Book Description: It seems like every time a new mother turns on her computer, radio, or television, she is greeted with news of yet another scientific study about infancy. Ignoring good information isn’t the right course, but just how does one tell the difference between solid studies, preliminary results, and snake oil?

In this friendly guide through the science of infancy, Science of Mom blogger and PhD scientist Alice Callahan explains how non-scientist mothers can learn the difference between hype and evidence. Readers of Alice’s blog have come to trust her balanced approach, which explains the science that lies behind headlines. The Science of Mom is a fascinating, eye-opening, and extremely informative exploration of the topics that generate discussion and debate in the media and among parents. From breastfeeding to vaccines to sleep, Alice’s advice will help you make smart choices so that you can relax and enjoy your baby.

Mini-Review: So while my first two recommendations on Wednesday had to do with birth and labor, these two books have to do with early infancy and the millions of questions that come with it! I read both of these books when I was pregnant, so at the time, while I knew the information would be useful, I was also coming from a purely theoretical viewpoint. Now, after the fact, I find both of these even more useful. Again, surprising no one, this book focuses on analyzing the research behind the many, MANY recommendations that come with early infancy. And with recommendations comes debate, especially as, if you ask any woman, especially those from different generations, these recommendations are constantly changing. How do you know which to follow and which may be just the most recent “fad?” Well, truthfully, we’re all just guessing. But this book does a good job of really looking at the research behind the current recommendations and letting new parents get at least a better understanding of what the debates are and some basis for coming to their own conclusions. I’ve referenced it a few times now when trying to make decisions about my baby.

39784002Book: “On Becoming Baby Wise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep” by Robert Bucknam & Gary Ezzo

Publishing Info: Hawksflight & Associates, Inc, September 2006

Where Did I Get this Book: own it!

Book Description: The infant management concepts presented in this book have found favor with over two million parents and twice as many contented babies. On Becoming Babywise brings hope to the tired and bewildered parents looking for an alternative to sleepless nights and fussy babies. The Babywise Parent Directed Feeding concept has enough structure to bring security and order to your baby’s world, yet enough flexibility to give mom freedom to respond to any need at any time. It teaches parents how to lovingly guide their baby’s day rather than be guided or enslaved to the infant’s unknown needs. 

The information contained within On Becoming Babywise is loaded with success. Comprehensive breast-feeding follow-up surveys spanning three countries, of mothers using the PDF method verify that as a result of the PDF concepts, 88% breast-feed, compared to the national average of only 54% (from the National Center for Health Statistics). Of these breast-feeding mothers, 80% of them breast-feed exclusively without a formula complement. And while 70% of our mothers are still breast-feeding after six months, the national average encourage to follow demand feeding without any guidelines is only 20%. The mean average time of breast-feeding for PDF moms is 33 1/2 weeks, well above the national average. Over 50% of PDF mothers extend their breast-feeding toward and well into the first year. Added to these statistics is another critical factor. The average breast-fed PDF baby sleeps continuously through night seven to eight hours between weeks seven and nine. Healthy sleep in infants is analogous to healthy growth and development. Find out for yourself why a world of parents and pediatricians utilize the concepts found in On Becoming Babywise.

Mini-Review: For a book about sleeping, there sure is a lot of talk about breastfeeding in that book description. I am definitely of the mindset that”fed is best” so take this recommendation for what it is and not any grand statement in favor of exclusive breastfeeding or any other “stance.” No, what appealed to me about this book (beyond the obvious of course! I mean, who doesn’t want their baby sleeping through the night as soon as possible?!) was the nice balance it seemed to strike between hyper scheduling feeding/sleeping and some type of more “baby led” or attachment parenting style. Using the tips from this book, the baby is less on a schedule than on a routine or rotation of activities. I’ve found this so, so helpful! Not only do I feel like nighttime feeds have become more manageable more quickly, but as a panicky new mother, I felt like I had a better guess as to what was actually going on when my baby cried than I would have had otherwise. I really can’t recommend this book enough, regardless of how you feed your baby. With its emphasis on full feeds (rather than “snacking” where the baby eats in short bits and then wakes up 30 minutes later and its a constant, exhausting cycle), I fully believe this booked helped me not lose my sanity in the early days. It took some early commitment, what with keeping baby awake to eat and letting baby fuss a bit in bed, but I do think it set us all off on the right track.

 

Baby/Pregnancy Books: Part I

So, surprise! I had a baby last month! And in honor of my little one, and to acknowledge that alongside all the great fiction books I’ve read and reviewed over the last 10 months the fact that I’ve also been obsessively researching baby information, I’ve decided to dedicate my two posts for this week to four of my favorite pregnancy/baby-related reads. It really shouldn’t come as a surprise that, as a librarian, reading was/is my go-to coping method when the first-time mom anxiety hit(s) and there are a lot of resources out there. Some were ok, some seemed like a textbook for scare tactics (I’m looking at you “What to Expect” series), but these four were pretty solid for me specifically. Now, of course, pregnancy and parenting is all very indivualized to how people approach life and children, so massive warning that these fit what I was looking for and in no way reflect some type of be-all, end-all to the the vast, VAST expanse of resources and approaches on these topics. So, that out of the way, here are the first two I’m highlighting.

16158576Book: “Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom is Wrong – and What You Really Need to Know” by Emily Oster

Publishing Info: Penguin Press, August 2013

Where Did I Get this Book: own it!

Book Description: Pregnancy—unquestionably one of the most pro­found, meaningful experiences of adulthood—can reduce otherwise intelligent women to, well, babies. We’re told to avoid cold cuts, sushi, alcohol, and coffee, but aren’t told why these are forbidden. Rules for prenatal testing are hard and fast—and unexplained. Are these recommendations even correct? Are all of them right for every mom-to-be? In Expecting Better, award-winning economist Emily Oster proves that pregnancy rules are often misguided and sometimes flat-out wrong.

A mom-to-be herself, Oster debunks the myths of pregnancy using her particular mode of critical thinking: economics, the study of how we get what we want. Oster knows that the value of anything—a home, an amniocentesis—is in the eyes of the informed beholder, and like any compli­cated endeavor, pregnancy is not a one-size-fits-all affair. And yet medicine often treats it as such. Are doctors working from bad data? Are well-meaning friends and family perpetuating false myths and raising unfounded concerns? Oster’s answer is yes, and often.

Pregnant women face an endless stream of decisions, from the casual (Can I eat this?) to the frightening (Is it worth risking a miscarriage to test for genetic defects?). Expecting Better presents the hard facts and real-world advice you’ll never get at the doctor’s office or in the existing literature. Oster’s revelatory work identifies everything from the real effects of caffeine and tobacco to the surprising dangers of gardening.

Any expectant mother knows that the health of her baby is paramount, but she will be less anxious and better able to enjoy a healthy pregnancy if she is informed . . . and can have the occasional glass of wine. 

Mini-Review:  As a librarian, I feel like I have a lot in common with the author and her emphasis on research-based decision making. Working in an academic library, none the less, I spend a solid chunk of my time teaching students why it is important to find research to back up their own thoughts and opinions and how to distill that information into choices that are reflected in their work. This book has an incredible wealth of information from someone who has spent the time to really analyze what studies are really saying about pregnancy and decision-making, all presented through the lens that each expectant mother will need to ultimately make whatever decision feels right and most comfortable to her. For me personally, it really helped re-focus my attention on aspects of pregnant life that do require new approaches but also took a lot of fear out of the millions of warnings out there that make pregnant women feel like everything and anything is crazy dangerous for them and their growing baby. It’s all too easy to live the full 9 months feeling like every little thing could be the WORST THING EVER and you’re a BAD MOM if you do such and such thing. This book really helped me give myself a break from much of this. For others looking to know what the science is behind the general recommendations that “everyone knows to be true,” this is a great book to really dig deep. And yes, justify a glass of wine now and then!

16144855Book: “A Good Birth: Finding the Positive and Profound in Your Childbirth Experience” by Anne Lyerly

Publishing Info: Avery, August 2013

Where Did I Get this Book: own it!

Book Description: Most doctors are trained to think of a “good” birth only in terms of its medical success. But Dr. Anne Lyerly knows firsthand that there are many other important elements that often get overlooked. Her three-year study of a diverse group of over one hundred expectant moms asked what matters most to women during childbirth. The results, presented to the public for the first time in A Good Birth, show what really matters goes beyond the clinical outcome or even the usual questions of hospital versus birthing center, and reveal universal needs of women, like the importance of feeling connected, safe, and respected.

Bringing a new perspective to childbirth, the book’s wisdom is drawn from in-depth interviews with women with a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences, and whose birth stories range from quick and simple to complicated and frightening. Describing what went well, what didn’t, and what they’d do differently next time, these mothers give voice to the complete experience of childbirth, helping both women and their healthcare providers develop strategies to address the emotional needs of the mother, going beyond the standard birth plans and conversations. Transcending the “medical” versus “natural” childbirth debate, A Good Birth paves the entryway to motherhood, turning our attention to the deeper and more important question of what truly makes for the best birth possible.

Mini-Review: Yes, yes, again with the studies. But this was one big study conducted by a doctor on women’s experiences with labor, specifically. The author was recognizing that while medical professionals focused, rightly for the most part, only on the outcome of labor to establish whether a birth was “good,” many women, asked later would mention a variety of things that contributed to their feelings on their labor experience. The book is broken up into section that deal with these larger areas (like communication, safety, control, etc) and got into the different, smaller details that influenced how women felt about these larger topics and their birth. The really great thing about this book, I thought, was the way it always circled back to the idea that every woman is going to need different things to feel like she had a “good” birth, and that in a society that is largely fixated on the “right way” to have a baby, we are often losing focus on the fact that the whole idea of a “right way” is a fool’s errand to begin with. One that is often used to shame women about their choices, rather than support the variety of ways that work for the many, many different women (and births!) out there. After having my baby, this book seems even more valuable, as I can still find myself having the tendency to feel guilty about some of the aspects of my labor. But this read is a good reminder that there is no need for that.

 

Rah Rah for RA!: Urban Fantasy and Other) Books

Occasionally we here at Library Ladies get an email asking for some Reader’s Advisory. Sometimes it’s a general ‘what should I read next?’, and sometimes it’s a specific genre or theme that the reader is asking for. We do our best to match the reader to some books that they may like based on the question they give us. 

Hello,

I recently read a Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness and enjoyed that very much. I like urban fantasy that features a protagonist who may have supernatural abilities, but either struggles to use them or is challenged to solve problems without them. Madeline Miller’s Circe was another recent favorite. She was a character who had potion-making abilities, but she had to learn through trial and error over centuries exactly which amount of which herb produced which effect. She also could not rely exclusively on magic to solve every challenge she faced.  On the flip side, I like urban fantasy that features ordinary people who outsmart/outmanoeuvre the villain who may have supernatural abilities, i.e. a werewolf ( like Stephen King’s Silver Bullet) or a vampire ( think Van Helsing Vs. Dracula).  I will also add that I don’t like zombies because I like my monsters/villains to have a personality. Looking for adult fiction, btw.

I hope that is enough information. Let me know if it isn’t…

Best,

T.L.

Hi, T.L!

It sounds like you have a large swath of interests within the genre, and that’s great! Going by what you’ve laid out in the email, we’ve come up with a few options that may appeal to you.

9317452Book: “The Peter Grant Series” by Ben Aaronovitch

When talking about characters who have to adjust to newly found powers, Aaronovitch’s “Peter Grant” books may be a good fit. Grant is an officer in London’s MPS, and after having a run in with a ghost he is transferred to a division of the Force that deals with all things supernatural. He himself doesn’t start out with powers, but becomes an apprentice wizard once he joins this team. The series follows Grant as he deals with a number of mysteries and conflicts, from warring River Gods to serial killers to magical attacks, Grant has to adjust to a world he didn’t know existed. The best part is that this is a series, so if you like the first book (“Rivers of London” or “Midnight Riot” if you’re in the U.S.) you will have a few more to sink your teeth into!

31147267Book: “The Changeling” by Victor LaValle

Victor LaValle is an author who has consistently come out with stories that deconstruct well explored tropes and injects them with themes of social justice and long unnoticed voices. “The Changeling” is a modern day fairy tale/dark fantasy that is set in New York City, and it involves a humble book seller named Apollo and his wife Emma and their new baby. But when the wife starts to think that their child isn’t really their child, and something truly awful happens because of this belief, Apollo has to go on a journey to find Emma, and perhaps find their child as well. Along the way he meets magical figures, haunted places, and has to contend with a world he knew nothing about. With elements of Changeling folk lore and inspirations from the book “Outside Over There” (and in some ways the movie “Labyrinth”, in turn), “The Changeling” is a mysterious and dreamy book that brings fairy tales to a modern time and place.

11250317Book: “The Song of Achilles” by Madeline Miller

We put this out there because of your enjoyment of Miller’s newest book “Circe”. Miller does a similar treatment with this book, this time exploring the myth of Achilles and his lover Patrocles, and the tragedy that awaits them during the Trojan War. Miller once again uses her immersive and engrossing writing style to put her own spin on a long known epic, and gives the characters more complexity and depth than the original source material does. Both Achilles and Patrocles are given quite a bit of plot to work with, and their relationship is slowly developed and gets the reader fully invested, even though the foregone conclusion of what’s going to happen to them is always lingering. It also explores Achilles’s strengths and weaknesses as a being that has God-like abilities, except for his one fatal flaw. It’s a story that may need to be read with tissues at the ready, but it’s also one of great beauty and power.

35297405

Book: “School for Psychics” by K.C. Archer

What happens when you take a plucky con artist with some psychic powers, and put her in a school that nurtures people with these powers? You get “School for Psychics”, a fantasy story with a New Adult twist. Teddy has always used her innate abilities to read people to grift them out of money, but after she’s had one too many run in with the law she finds herself recruited by the U.S. Government for a top secret program. This program takes psychics of all types, from empaths to pyrokinetics to soothsayers, and hopes to train them to serve the United States at the highest levels of government. As Teddy slowly learns to harness her powers, she moves closer to accepting a very dangerous assignment that could cost her everything. This is a fun and fast paced thriller with people trying to hone their talents, and figure out where they belong in the world.

What books do you recommend for people looking for stories with supernatural, or non-supernatural, main characters? Let us know in the comments!

 

Say NO! to Snow: Books To Bring Back Spring Feelings

Well we know that we live in Minnesota, but honestly, it’s hard not to be discouraged when a giant snowstorm comes through your state and dumps a lot of slushy, cold, and somehow brown snow on your head in the middle of April. Because of this frustrating turn of events, here are some book titles that will hopefully remind the winter doldrums that Spring is supposed to be here.

2998Book: “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Publishing Info: William Heinemann, 1911

Because what says Spring more than a garden filled with flowers? That isn’t to say that the garden in this novel started out that way, at least when first introduced. But when headstrong orphan Mary Lennox arrives on her uncle’s estate and finds him to be isolated and her wheelchair bound cousin tucked away, she soon discovers a long forgotten garden that becomes a symbol of imagination and hope. This classic has endured in the century since it was first published, and has become a well loved tale of family, love, and not giving up on the kindness of those around you. The regrowth and rebirth of the garden is the perfect image to say goodbye to winter.

16143347Book: “We Were Liars” by E. Lockhart

Publishing Info: Delacourte Press, 2014

Though this technically takes place in summer, any warm weather is looking good at this point. If you like the sound of a summer beach home right now, and are looking for a YA thriller with a lot of twists and turns, “We Were Liars” could be a good escape from the lingering cold. Cadence Eastman is a wealthy and privileged teenage girl whose family has gone to their summer estate on an island every year. But during her fifteenth summer something happened to Cadence that she can’t remember. As she tries to adjust to being back on the island and fall back into routines with her friend group called The Liars, including cousins Mirren and Johnny, and family friend Gat. But it seems like everyone may be hiding something from her. And Cadence wants to find out the truth of what happened, and hopes that she and her fellow “Liars” can help her remember.

11504610Book: “Hades: Lord of the Dead” (Olympians #4) by George O’Connor

Publishing Info: First Second, 2012

It may be called “Hades: Lord of the Dead”, but this children’s graphic novel is really about Persephone and her journey to the Underworld to be Hades wife. This is an adaptation of the tale of Persephone, who was taken to the Underworld to become Hades wife, and her absence left her (domineering) mother Demeter so distraught she brought eternal winter. The deal made between Persephone and her mother eventually led to the explanation for the change of the seasons, as when Persephone returns to her mother’s side, Spring arrive. While some people don’t like the Persephone and Hades romance, at it’s heart it’s a story about change, transition, and growing up, and O’Connor does a good job of giving Persephone, the goddess of Spring and also the Queen of the Underworld, some agency in her story.

27333Book: “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson

Publishing Info: Houghton Mifflin, 1962

A bit of a downer to put on this list, but still far too relevant to ignore, “Silent Spring” is the legendary environmentalist book that opened people’s eyes about the consequences of pollution. Rachel Carson wrote this book as a warning to America about what chemicals in our environment can do, and because of it many reforms were passed to help ease the damage that corporate interests were doing to the world around us. It also helped lead the charge in developing the EPA. One of the things that people associate with spring is the sound of the bird songs that happen after our avian friends have returned from a long winter away, and the title alone gives a chilling idea as to what it would mean if the birds, thanks to DDT and other pollutants, were no longer around to listen to. Given that there are more concerns about environmental issues being raised and the consequences of pollution on our world, “Silent Spring” is still an important read.

What books get you in the mood for Spring? Let us know in the comments!

Happy Birthday Batman!: Essential Batman Reading For His Birthday

On March 30th, 1939, “Detective Comics” introduced the world to Batman, the Caped Crusader known for fighting petting criminals and mental patients so that Gotham City would be a safer place! We kid, we kid (kinda). We’re both Batman fans here (though Serena is decidedly #TeamSupes when it comes down to it). Since it’s the brooding billionaire’s birthday this year, here are some essential takes on Batman through the decades. Happy 80th, Batman!

19030845Book/Arc: “The Dark Knight Returns” by Frank Miller

The 1980s was a serious shift for comics, with titles taking on darker and more existential story lines. One of those seminal comics series was Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns”, which brings a middle aged Bruce Wayne to it’s pages. Gotham is being overrun by a gang called The Mutants, and Bruce Wayne decides that it’s time to bring Batman back to try and get some justice. But age and time has taken it’s toll, and Bruce isn’t certain he can do this alone. Especially when old foes start to come out of the woodwork, and have decided to take this moment to wreak as much havoc as possible. But it’s when Superman is enlisted to fight back against Batman as ordered by the Government that things take a real turn for the dramatic. Miller’s story is a favorite with many fans, and it brings darkness that hadn’t really been seen with Batman up until this point. While it isn’t one of Kate’s favorites, it’s hard to deny the impact that this story had for Batman in the years to come.

96358Book/Arc: “The Killing Joke” by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland (Ill.)

A controversial title to say the very least, Alan Moore wrote this essential, dark as night one shot story that changed the course of a few of the Batman characters in significant ways. The Joker is up to his old tricks, and this time he decides to hit Batman where it really hurts: by hurting his friends. Yep, this is the story where Barbara Gordon is shot in the spine and then, potentially, sexually assaulted. It is absolutely a rough read (and so on brand for Moore, who is one of Kate’s problematic faves in the comics biz), but it did so much for Batman stories from then on out that it has to be included. It gave Joker his most accepted back story that influenced Tim Burton’s “Batman”. It gave us Oracle, the superhero Barbara turned into after she was paralyzed, who became arguably the most powerful of the Bat Family because of her hacking and information skills. “The Killing Joke” has its detractors, and rightfully so. But its influence is indisputable.

106069Book/Arc: “The Long Halloween” by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale (Ill.)

While many people think of the deranged super villains that Batman fights, sometimes we forget that he also has helped take down organized crime syndicates in Gotham. The Falcone and Maroni Families takes a prominent role in “The Long Halloween”, a collection where Batman has to try to stop a mob war all while trying to figure out who is killing people on each holiday of the year. Not only do the crime families and their intricacies get a big slice of the plot pie, this is also the collection that give Harvey Dent his most complex and accepted back story as he goes from idealistic district attorney to crazed criminal. It should also be noted that this is a story arc that gives Bruce and his lady love Selina “Catwoman” Kyle a fairly functional relationship! Well, as functional as the two star crossed lovers can be, anyway. And keep an eye out for a whole slew of enemies like Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, and, of course, The Joker.

51078Book/Arc: “Knightfall” by Chuck Dixon, Jo Duffy, Alan Grant, Dennis O’Neil, and Doug Moench

Bane gets no respect when it comes to his movie counterparts. In “Batman and Robin” he was a weird street punk turned feral roided out monster, and in “The Dark Knight Rises” he is relegated to a crony role to Talia Al Ghul of all people! Is that any way to treat The Man Who Broke The Bat? “Knightfall” is the story line that introduced Bane as the first adversary who could not only intimidate Batman, but to put him out of commission when he broke his back on his knee (which “The Dark Knight Rises”, admittedly, adapted properly). Bane is a super genius as well as being suped up on Venom, a man who was born in a prison and had to serve the time his parents had racked up. He is a formidable foe to be sure, and to take down Batman and put him on the sidelines for an extended period of time? THAT is impressive.

107032Book/Arc: “A Death in the Family” by Jim Starlin and Marv Wolfman (Ill.)

We tend to think of Batman as someone who always comes out on top. But there was one time that when he failed, it was the worst failure he could have made. And that was when he couldn’t prevent the death of Jason Todd, aka Robin. Jason Todd was always a controversial figure in the comics; he was the second Robin, and a very different character from Dick Grayson, whose shoes were already VERY big to fill. The fans didn’t care for him, and when the creators gave the fans the chance to vote on whether he lived or died, he was given a resounding death sentence. Unfair? Perhaps. But it was one of the most powerful stories because Batman was bested when the stakes were at their highest. This storyline has been alluded to, if not directly addressed, in newer iterations of Batman mythos, and while they tried to replicate it with “Death of the Family” (and the death of Bruce’s son Damian), the initial power and gut punch of “A Death in the Family” will probably never be replicated.

39018271Book/Arc: “The Court of Owls” by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo (Ill.)

The New 52 was the expansive reboot series DC did in the 2010s, and The Court of Owls is arguably the best story line to come from this era of Batman comics. It’s a little more secretive and clandestine than other Batman villains. Usually the villain is apparent and in our face. But with the Court of Owls, very little is known about the Illuminati-esque secret society that may be pulling the strings in Gotham City. Even Batman goes in with very little information, and can’t rely on his vast (and sometimes SUPER convenient) knowledge when facing off with these foes. It’s nice to see Bats at a disadvantage every once in awhile, and The Court of Owls puts him at a vast one.

What Batman stories are your favorites? Let us know in the comments!

 

Highlights: April 2019

Ok. The days are getting longer. Easter is this month. Surely, surely spring is finally on its way! No, no, we DON’T want to talk about the blizzard that struck last April. And frankly, “April showers” even sounds fine by us. As long as the precipitation is in liquid form! As we patiently continue to wait for the return of the warm weather, here are some books we are looking forward to this month!

Serena’s Picks

39735900Book: “Through the White Wood” by Jessica Leake

Publication Date: April 9, 2019

Why I’m Interested: For one, look at that beautiful cover? You know I’m always a sucker for covers that don’t feature models, but this one in particular stands out with its deep blue tones and the striking white eagle. I’m pretty sure I requested this one based only on that cover. But the story itself also sounds intriguing featuring a young woman in Russia who has the ability to control ice. After tragedy strikes her village and she finds herself an outcast, she becomes caught up in a events taking place on a much grander scale where her abilities are not to be feared but instead could be the saving grace for her entire country.

39863306Book: “The Sword and the Dagger” by Robert Cochran

Publication Date: April 9, 2019

Why I’m Interested: Another intriguing cover, but I’ll admit to being drawn in mostly by the book description itself for this one. Set during the Crusades (in), an unlikely trio, a Christian princess, her fiance, and a Muslin assassin (definitely in), find themselves on a shared journey to intercept Gengis Khan (soooo in). That also all sounds completely bonkers, so I’m really curious to see where the story goes. Obviously, with the make-up of the group itself, I expect there will be a lot of conversations about faith, friendship, and loyalty, so I’m also intrigued to see how those aspects of the story play out. It seems like it could too much to tackle in one book (and of course I always have fears of love triangles with things like this), but I’ll remain optimistic.

40618519Book: “The Unbound Empire” by Melissa Caruso

Publication Date: April 25, 2019

Why I’m Interested: I’ve loved the first two books in the “Swords and Fire” trilogy, so it’s no wonder that this, the final book in the series would make its way on this list. One of the things that has impressed me most about this developing trilogy is how the stakes have risen with each book. That being the case, I’m so excited to see where this finale will take us! The groundwork for a huge conflict has been laid out, with Amalia and the fire warlock Zaira at its heart. But there are also political ramifications for society as a whole that have been building up: how will the lives of the bound Falcons look going forward? I’m also curious to see where Caruso will take the romances in this book. The second book pretty much did the impossible by introducing a love triangle that I didn’t immediately hate. But sticking the landing is everything for something like this, so we’ll just have to wait and see!

Kate’s Picks

40776737Book: “Alien: Echo” by Mira Grant

Publication Date: April 9, 2019

Why I’m Interested: It’s true that Sci-Fi isn’t really my bag, but I am a big fan of Mira Grant and pretty much everything that I have read by her. So I am more than willing to give “Alien: Echo” a try! When twin sisters Olivia and Viola move to a new planet colony with their xenobiologist parents, they expect it to be like other missions their parents have participated in. But when a new threat is found in the form of a new alien, and chaos suddenly takes hold, Olivia has to use her own knowledge of xenobiology to keep Viola and herself safe. Grant is always so creative with her world building, so I’m very excited and hopeful that “Alien: Colony” will be another fun ride from her.

41806986Book: “Little Darlings” by Melanie Golding

Publication Date: April 30, 2019

Why I’m Interested: I’m a big ol’ sucker for a changeling story, so I of COURSE am very intrigued by the premise of “Little Darlings”. Lauren Tranter is the new mom of twins Morgan and Riley, and while she loves her babies she’s been worrying about them since their birth. While at the hospital she thinks she saw a woman try to take her children and replace them with two different beings, and while everyone thinks she imagined it, she’s been on alert. So when the twins disappear for a bit while she takes them to the park, her worst fears may be coming true. The twins, however, are recovered, but when they are returned to Lauren, she sees two babies that are not her children, even though everyone else thinks everything is fine. It sounds upsetting and creepy, and I can’t wait to see how it messes with my head.

40065317Book: “The Invited” by Jennifer McMahon

Publication Date: April 30, 2019

Why I’m Interested: Jennifer McMahon has been pretty hit or miss for me in the past, but when she’s on she is ON. Because of this, I am absolutely going to see what she can do with a haunted house story like “The Invited”. Married couple Helen and Nate have left the city life in hopes of building a new life and house in the countryside. The property has a tragic past, in which a woman named Hattie died on the land a century prior. As Helen starts designing the house and it starts to go up, the tragic history of Hattie and her descendants starts to be uprooted in more ways than one. A haunted house you move into is one thing, but it’s a pretty fascinating idea to be building a house that appears destined to be haunted.

What April new releases are you looking forward to? Share in the comments below!