Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Graphic Novel Review: Giant Days

I read a lot, and I read a lot of different things. But there are certain stories that just always do it for me in ways that others don't. Literary catnip.

Recent read Giant Days was pure catnip for me. Female buddy protagonists? Check. College setting? Check. Coming-of-age growing pains and awkwardness? You bet.

This series, written by John Allison and published by BOOM! Box, follows three young women who have become friends out of circumstance, rooming together at the English university they began attending three weeks ago. There's goth drama magnet Esther, tomboyish and exuberant Susan, and gawky former home schooled kid Daisy. Though they differ radically in personality and interests, they support each other through the pitfalls of starting college.  Over the course of this first volume, they go toe-to-toe against a bad case of the flu, chauvinist classmates, unrequited crushes, and unexpected reunions.

I loved pretty much everything about Giant Days, but what really made me happy was Allison's ability to balance humor and seriousness. Strong characterization and real feeling accompany the funny moments and add depth to the story.You laugh when Daisy accidentally takes Polish speed thinking it's medicine to help with her flu and ends up writing a novel in one night while holding a conversation with the pigeon outside her window. But a few pages later, you worry for her when she finds herself acting uncharacteristically at a rave.

I'm the kind of comics reader who insists on the art matching the story for quality, and Giant Days more than lived up to my standards. Animator Lissa Treiman (who has also worked for Disney Animation) brings the characters to life with her expressive, dynamic art. Colorist Whitney Cogar adds vibrancy to each page with her bright, saturated color choices. This is a book that's fun to look at and fun to read.

Recommended for fans of  Faith Erin Hicks (Friends with Boys) and of Lumberjanes.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Southern Fiction for Every Reader

By Jerome Azbell

From its roots in Virginia through Charleston and Nashville to Atlanta, Southern literature is a whirling mass of stories that tell a whole lot about either the South itself or how the world is seen through Southern eyes. Like any artistic endeavor, it has its rare gems mixed in with a lot of dirt and rocks. Depending on your tastes, though, you can probably find something in the Southern canon to suit your fancy.

For anyone with a pulse: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Lee’s book is required reading in many schools, and it has stood the test of time as one of the greatest American novels. Mockingbird is perhaps the quintessential Southern novel, especially of its time period. The backdrop of racism in the Jim Crow era blends with a tale of childhood in a different time. And then there’s Atticus Finch. This is required reading, pure and simple.
Also try: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

For “based on a true story” fans: All the King’sMen by Robert Penn Warren
This political tale is steeped in the culture of the Depression-era South. Warren writes of back-room deals, stump talks, and all the dirt a Southern Democratic campaign trail can muster. While it’s not explicitly stated, the book is considered to be a fictionalized version of the life of Huey Long. If you’re an audiobook aficionado, Michael Emerson’s version for Recorded Books brings the story to life.
Also try: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt

For fans of “traditional” Southern fare: Looking forSalvation at the Dairy Queen by Susan Gregg Gilmore
The coming-of-age, have-to-leave-this-tiny-town-forever-or-I’ll-never-be-anything trope is perhaps the most well-known in modern Southern literature. While the genre has expanded immensely, current authors still write this style of story. Gilmore tells a strong tale of longing, hope, and finding value wherever you happen to be.
Also try: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg

For literary fiction fans: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
Counting as Southern due to its authorship rather than its setting (Ann Patchett is based in Nashville, where she also owns Parnassus Books), Bel Canto is an amazing piece of literary fiction. It tells the story of a group of hostages along with their captors and the interpersonal relationships that come from such a unique situation. Highly recommended.
Also try: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

For fans of all things Nashville: The Taylor Jackson series by J.T. Ellison
Sometimes you’re just in the mood for familiar surroundings, and the Lt. Taylor Jackson series (of which this book is the first) provides just that. Ellison’s works generally use Nashville as their setting, although she has spun off into Washington, D.C., and also written with Catherine Coulter on an FBI series.
Also try: A Lasting Impression by Tamera Alexander

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Westerns, New and Old

When I think of Westerns, three names come to mind: Louis L'Amour, Zane Grey, and Max Brand.  When you browse the library or bookstore shelves, those fellas are very well represented, as they should be!  All three were excellent writers.  They were also very prolific, which sometimes makes it difficult to find the things that were written by other, also excellent, Western writers.

For example, James Crownover's Wild Ran the Rivers makes me think of L'Amour's How the West Was Won, and some installments of his Sackett series.  All feature families fighting the elements to carve out a life in the American West.

Then there's J. D. March's Devil's Own series, which stars gunfighter Johnny Fierro.  If you enjoy character-driven and focused fiction, this may be for you.  In the first installment, Dance With the Devil, Fierro's a burnt-out gunfighter who finds himself joining his estranged family to save his father's ranch.

Monty McCord's Joe Mundy also has quite a past, but he lands in the Sheriff's chair in Taylorsville, Nebraska.  Although he's not perfect by any means, he proves to be a tough but fair lawman.  Fans of Robert B. Parker's Westerns and Mysteries would enjoy this one.  Mundy's Law is the only installment in the series so far, but we hope McCord will write more!
I definitely get some Jesse Stone and Virgil Cole vibes from Mundy. 

Local author Mark Strength's Bonny Kate series takes place earlier, back when the frontier was much farther East, but plucky Tennessee legend Catharine Sevier's adventures will satisfy any Western fan. 

And finally, Michael McGarrity's Hard Country starts a family saga that begins in 19th Century New Mexico Territory.  The scope of this series is epic, spanning several decades and generations.  If you're looking for something both substantial and easy, Hard Country is an excellent option.

There are many, many more Western authors held by LPLS.  Some well known, some not so much.  While the list below isn't comprehensive by any means, it's definitely a start!

Clifford Blair
Johnny Boggs
Terrell Bowers
Doug Bowman
Max Brand
Sam Brown
Frank Calkins
Benjamin Capps
Forrest Carter
Tim Champlin
Jon Chandler
Al Cody
Brett Cogburn
Ralph Compton
Robert Conley
Ralph Cotton
John Culp
Tom Curry
Dan Cushman
John Edson
Loren Estleman
Cliff Farrell
Andrew Fenady
Peter Field
Earl Fisher
Merle Funk
Kelly Gast
Zane Grey
A.B. Guthrie
Russ Hall
Robert J. Horton
Terry C. Johnston
William Johnstone
Elmer Kelton
John E. Lewis
Giles Lutz
Martin Lee
Larry McMurtry
Clarence Edward Mulford
Nelson C. Nye
Lauran Paine
Robert B. Parker
Lewis B Patten
John Henry Reese
Dusty Richards
Les Savage
Robert J. Steelman
James Walker
Richard S. Wheeler

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Reminiscing Rickman

Alan Rickman 1946-2016
A few weeks ago we said goodbye to a great artist, Alan Rickman. He was a master of his craft with a list of memorable characters. He was our favorite potions master/tragic hero, our Sheriff of Nottingham, the blue caterpillar, the best Die Hard villain, Metatron, GQ's  Alexander Dane, and Judge Turpin of Sweeney Todd...Just to name a few. Each of his roles will stay in our hearts. Join the Linebaugh staff as we reminisce our favorite Rickman roles.

Kayla Turner:

Alan Rickman is one of my personal heroes. As an actress, he was a great inspiration. He was such a wonderful actor and a few months ago I discovered that he didn't start acting until he was almost thirty! That gives me a bit of hope for my own future in the business. Mr. Rickman's characters have a special place in my heart.

                                                                        Hewitt Spain:

I'm going to have to go with Alan Rickman's role as the Sheriff of Nottingham in the movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. I wore the VHS version of this movie out growing up largely because of his hilariously menacing performance. It had a huge impact on me by giving me interest in the Robin Hood mythos. Interest in how folk heroes speak for what is generally the most silent group when history is recorded, the common people. Of course I just thought it was a fun story when I was a kid, but this movie (largely because of Rickman's performance) along with others nudged me in the direction of my first love, history.

Garrett Crowell:
1992's Bob Roberts, featuring Alan Rickman in a supporting role as Lukas Hart III, the shadowy CIA guy attached to the neo-conservative Senatorial campaign of Tim Robbins' Bob Roberts character, is one of my go-to movies in an election year (usually screened alongside the excellent Wag the Dog) and it always makes me smile. Some of the best moments in the movie are Rickman's. I'm not giving them away, if you haven't seen it. (I will say that the IMDb's preview of the film has a good one.) This was only the third time I'd seen Alan Rickman in anything. The air of casual menace and boredom he exudes makes his performance stand out, even in a movie of standout acting.

I'm also going to mention 1989's The January Man. Rickman's the best thing in it, by far. An awful, overlong and trite movie that never figures out what it wants to be about. It has the good fortune of also having Alan Rickman as Kevin Kline's artist/painter friend, Ed, who gets the wonderfully nihilistic musing, "The world is either great or wretched, isn't it? So many people are just... finished." Flamboyant and silly, he's easily the best part of a bad movie.

In Dogma, he brought humor to the voice of God, explaining the relationship thusly: "Metatron acts as the voice of God. Any documented occasion when some yahoo claims God has spoken to them, they're speaking to me. Or they're talking to themselves." Definitely one of my top three Rickman roles.

                                                                        Jessica Bruce:
Where do I begin? If you know anything about me, you know how much of an impact his death had on me. I am an avid Harry Potter enthusiast, nerd, and fan. Most of my friends would call me obsessed...Actually they wouldn't because they are in the fandom right beside me. Needless to say, the Harry Potter series (books and movies) hold a very special place in my heart. I would say a good chunk of it is due to Rickman's role as Professor Snape. He didn't just play the part he brought that character to life. In my opinion, all of his roles lead him up to this one. He is an extremely talented actor who was often type-casted as in antihero/villainous roles. And for those of us who know the big spoiler, at the end of the series, we know that this was the perfect person to play Professor Snape. Due to Rickman's talent and passion this character leaped off the pages and into my heart. Thank you, Alan, for bringing Snape to life. You will forever be my favorite (and adored) Hogwarts professor. Thank you, also, for sharing a piece of yourself with us over the years as you shared your works of art with us. #Always

Kathleen Tyree:
Alan has been a frequent guest in our home.  Christmas time, he's always stopping in as Hans and Harry.  The Sheriff of Nottingham, Col. Brandon, Dr. Lazarus......he's one of those fellows (like Tommy Lee Jones and Edward Norton) that I can watch in anything.  He's that good, that versitile.
When my daughters & I were reading the Harry Potter series together, I didn't muse: "Alan would be perfect as Snape!"  For whatever reasons I didn't contemplate movies of my favorite books (don't get me started!).
But he was.  Perfect as Snape.

When I heard he had passed, I wore black (not typical) and was truely sad.  Death is a part of life, he had plenty to mourn him.... but a bit of tradition had left my world.  I started (re-)listening to the HP audio series that day.  Alan isn't in the cast (Jim Dale - so good!) but that's who I see when that quiet, sneering character drawls his lines, so uptight, angry, hurt....... Trust Snape?  #Always

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

No Capes, No Tights: Non-Superhero Graphic Novels

I've been a fan of comics since I was a little kid, picking up Star Wars and Archie titles from the local Piggly Wiggly. But as I grew older, I realized that not everyone read comics, or were even open to the idea of graphic storytelling. That makes me sad, because those people are shutting themselves off from so many stories they would potentially enjoy.

I think a lot of this resistance comes from the misconception that all comic books center around improbably-muscled dudebros who like to punch each other while wearing spandex. And while that's not a wholly nuanced version of what a superhero is, well, it comes off that way to a lot of people.

But here's the thing: I'm not really that into superheroes, either (though I'm trying to branch out and give them a chance), and I still manage to check out enough graphic novels to overwhelm me with reading material. So if you've been put off of trying comics because of the BAM! POW!-ness of it all, try one of these non-superhero titles.

Seconds by Bryan Lee O'Malley

Katie, a successful chef, makes a mistake that ends up injuring one of her restaurant staff. When a strange spirit shows up with a magic mushroom (not that kind) that promises to fix the mistake, Katie jumps at the chance to make things right. But the temptation to fix ever more mistakes becomes too much, and with every do-over Katie wreaks new havoc on her and her friends' lives, and must find a way to fix things once and for all. Bonus points to this title for being a standalone, so there's a low level of commitment and a satisfying conclusion. (This is by the same author who brought you Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.)

Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky
Suzie has a very special, very odd power: When she has an orgasm, time temporarily stops. She assumes that she is the only person who can do this, until she hooks up with Jon and discovers that he can, too. What do they do next? Conspire to rob the bank where Jon works to save Suzie's library from closing. I mean, of course. What else? This series mixes a weird concept and bawdy humor in with great characterization, and the end result is a unique comic. Probably not for everyone, but the people who get it, get it. Start with Sex Criminals, Volume 1: One Weird Trick.

Lady Killer by Joelle Jones and Jamie S. Rich
Josie is the perfect Midcentury homemaker, complete with flouncy dresses, homecooked meals, and the perfect part-time job to give her a little something extra to do: assassinate people. But when her employer questions her ability to juggle family and work, Josie must fight back and avoid being taken out. This title has lots of style and a cliff-hanger ending that leaves you begging for a second volume.

Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch
In this series you meet the titular Rat Queens, a rowdy, all-ladies adventuring and mercenary team. It's all very Dungeons & Dragons but with an irreverent twist. The tongue-in-cheek, geeky fun starts in Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery. 

Heart in a Box by Kelly Thompson
Emma's heart is broken, and she wishes she didn't have one, so she couldn't feel anything. We've all been there. But Emma, unlike the rest of us, gets her wish, and gives her heart away. When it's not what she expected, and she asks for her heart back, she discovers that it has been divided into pieces and scattered to  
people across the country. Thus begins a road trip to find all the pieces of her heart and put them back together. Bonus points for a really cute cat in this one.

Yotsuba&! by Kiyohiko Azuma
Finally, if you just want something super adorable and a little weird, try Yotsuba&!. It's a slice-of-life manga that's appropriate for all ages and follows the mundane but very cute adventures of a five-year-old girl. There's no intricate plot to speak of, but lots of humor arising from Yotsuba's childlike understanding (and misunderstanding) of the adult world.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Harry Potter for Adults

Yes, that's right, folks. There is a Harry Potter-esque trilogy in existence for your reading pleasure. I came across this book a few years ago in a bookstore. I was captivated by the cover art of this book, which lead me to pick it up and check out the synopsis. There was a list of quoted praise from various authors and reviewers on the back. I could not ignore the fact that three of my favorite authors had read it. I have, for you, the ones that stood out to me:

"The Magicians is to Harry Potter as a shot of Irish whiskey is to a glass of weak tea. ...Grossman's sensibilities are thoroughly adult, his narrative dark and dangerous and full of twists. Hogwarts was never like this." -George R. R. Martin, author of A Game of Thrones

"Most people will like this book. But there's a certain type of reader who will enjoy it down to the bottoms of their feet." -Patrick Rothfuss, author of The Name of the Wind

"If you like the Harry Potter books...you should also read Lev Grossman's The Magicians series, which is a very knowing and wonderful take on the wizard school genre."
-John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars

I mean I couldn't not read this book after those quotes, especially G.R.R.M's. His comparison was just too great. The timing/ release of the first book in the trilogy was perfect. Why? Because of people like me. Deathly Hallows hit bookstores on 2007. While the last movie of this worldwide series was getting wrapped up, Grossman releases The Magicians in 2009. Like so many others I was searching for something to fill that Harry Potter void with. Again, perfect timing! I fell in love with the wizarding world for the second time, but this time it was juicy.

So, what is it about? Well...
Quentin Coldwater is a high school senior with a secret obsession, Fillory. Fillory is a magical world in a series of books Quentin he has read since his childhood. His world changes when he receives an invitation to an exclusive school. Brakebills is a secret and exclusive school in New York, where one can receive top notch education in the practice of modern sorcery. And so begins our story. I could say more in this synopsis but I don't want to for fear that I might say too much. One needs to explore this world on their own as many have done with Harry Potter. 

I enjoyed this trilogy for many reasons but I will highlight a few. Quentin is not your typical "chosen one." In fact, he is what I like to call an antihero. Grossman obviously chose the not so traveled path with this series and that is why I loved it! If you are interested, SyFy has recently made this trilogy into a television show, Monday nights @ 9/8C.   Maybe one day I will discover my childhood dreams, of a magical world existing, will come true!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

What Jessica Read in 2015

Name: Jessica Bruce

Favorite new author or series you tried this year:
Author: Joe Hill
Locke and Key was recommended to me by quite a few friends and coworkers. I didn't know much about the series other than these 2 things:
1.) Everyone who read seemed to love it.
2.) Joe Hill is Stephen King's son. This was his first graphic novel series and it's a horror story/thriller.
I am a huge fan of anything with an eerie vibe to it. So I was pretty excited to jump right in. Joe Hill was quite impressive. Dare I say I might like him more than his dad? Ill say it... I sure did! His writing style coupled with the artwork made me think of Neil Gaiman. Hill, like Gaiman, has a way of making the story so believable it becomes tangible. And although the events in this story are gruesome at times, there is a fragile whimsical emotion that follows the reader. Part of that is a result of the artwork. I am of the opinion the art was needed for some of the difficult situations that arise throughout the story. It provided enough to have a visual without being too disturbing. If you like thrillers, you should make this your next reading selection.

Best book you read in 2015 that was released in 2015:
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
I had the joy of listening to the audio version of this book. Aziz narrated it and that made it all the more entertaining. I found the information in here very enlightening about todays dating scene. Ansari explores and compares various dating scenarios in different cities, states and even countries. He uses interviews, statistical studies, scientific professionals, and his own experiences to share how confusing and intimidating dating is in 2015.
MOVIE: Inside Out
This was, by far, my favorite movie this year. The characters/voice acting made this movie even more enjoyable. What I was most impacted by was the message. Pixar tackles a topic that is riddled with misconceptions; emotions/depression/sadness. By the end of the movie, one learns the importance of ALL emotions. Every emotion we experience, throughout life, is a patch sewn onto a quilt. That quilt of patches soon becomes the person you are. And that person is unique and beautiful; emotions and all!

Most surprising book you read this year:
Bird Box by Joe Malerman
Suspense and fear are around every corner in this book. The story is so simple and yet it terrified me. Why? Because it preyed on basic human fears. The fear of being alone. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the unseen. Fear of not protecting loved ones. Fear of losing control. Each of these creates the atmosphere surrounding Bird Box. From page 1, the suspense starts to build and turns into an avalanche. The build-up produces an ending that erupts in pure chaos and madness. Think you can make it through this one?

Best book you didnt think you would enjoy but did:
The Gunslinger by Stephen King
This was a reread for me. The first time I read this it frustrated the fire out of me. I wanted answers to all my questions and in order to get those answers I had to wait until I read the 3rd book. However, this time around it didnt bother me. I will be reading the rest of the Dark Tower series in 2016!!
MOVIE: Aloha
I have a new favorite movie and its this one.

Most interesting character you met this year:

Okay, so this is probably impossible, BUT what was your favorite book overall in 2015?
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
What a beautiful literary masterpiece. There are not enough words to describe my love for this story but I am going to try. This the story of a a boy, Daniel, who falls in love with a book. Daniel soon discovers that the books by this author are disappearing from bookshops and libraries. They are shrouded in a mystery just like the author who has also disappeared without a trace. Daniel dives into a dangerous quest to save his beloved book and author.

The story is contains everything: poetic writing, symbolism, humor, plot twists, romance, action, betrayal, beautiful character building, and so much more. For me the story was about falling in love with a book. You know the one...That first book you read that introduced you to the beauty of reading. It's the book you keep closest to your heart. A book you want to share with everyone and proclaim from the tallest building how much you love this book. It parallels the emotions one has when falling in love. And Zafon eloquently paints a beautiful picture of this parallel through his writing. If you have ever fell in love with a book, you MUST read this book. Note: This is a trilogy that can be read in any order. Here are the other 2 titles for those interested. Also the narrator for this series is wonderful. Superb voice-acting that adds another layer to this story.

The Prisoner of Heaven #3