Take to the Sky

It’s impossible to keep up with all of the incredible comics that come out each week. There is a constant stream of exciting new projects from industry heavyweights and emerging talents re-imagining beloved characters or creating entirely new stories, from the fantastical to the deeply personal. Whenever I talk about comics with another reader, I walk away with far more recommendations than I can hope to get through, leaving me with a “to-read” list a mile long. Recently I happened to enjoy two debut volumes, both about young women who can fly, that I’m quite eager to push into the hands of my friends and colleagues who love comics as much as I do. 

Riri Williams, aka Ironheart, is the comic book successor to Tony Stark’s Iron Man, but she is also so much more than that. Sure, she has the rad suit, the scientific brilliance, the loner instincts, and the quick quips, but that’s where the similarities with Tony end. Riri is a young woman from Chicago with some serious trauma in her recent past – she lost both her step-father and her best friend to violent crime. She also built her suit with far more limited resources than Tony had at his disposal. Riri managed to create her armor while a student at MIT, basically using supplies that she could discreetly pilfer from the school. 

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Eve Ewing’s Ironheart vol. 1: Those With Courage picks up after this origin story. Riri is now a graduate student at MIT and an ascending super hero, trying to maintain her privileged lab access while also preserving some semblance of control over her work and avoiding the intrusive meddling of school officials. She is clearly grieving the losses in her personal life and struggling to process the trauma she has experienced, while often refusing the help and counsel of those who care about her. And these are just Riri’s “small” problems. A new and mysterious threat has emerged that jeopardizes both the greater world and some of the people closest to her. 

I was thrilled when I found out that Ewing would be writing Ironheart. Ewing is, among other things, a brilliant playwright and poet. Electric Arches, her collection of visual art, prose, and verse about the city of Chicago, identity, and much more, is a stunning and beautiful work. I appreciate that Marvel has hired more black writers who bring new and important perspectives to these comics, but who also come from different writing styles and traditions. This of course includes Ta-Nehisi Coates, who did incredible work on Black Panther and is now writing Captain America, but also Roxanne Gay’s work on World of Wakanda and Nnedi Okorafor’s Shuri comic. 

PrintJoe Henderson’s Skyward is not quite as new – the first volume, My Low-G Life, came out a little over a year ago. Willa Fowler was born shortly before G-Day, the day on which Earth’s gravity abruptly and drastically reduced. This day was tragic for many people who were caught outside and floated off, never to be seen again, including Willa’s mother. But Willa, and many others her age, embrace life in a low gravity world. Rather than suffer through life as an earth-bound being, they are able to soar from building to building, enjoying a life without the constraints of gravity. 

 Yet all is not perfect in Willa’s life. She is disastrously awkward around her crush, she is desperate to see more of the world but is stuck in Chicago, and – worst of all – her father is agoraphobic. He has refused to leave their house in the twenty years since G-Day. Then, in an instant, everything changes. Her father reveals a secret that threatens to completely upend the only world Willa has ever known, a secret that puts Willa and the people she cares about in immediate and grave danger. 

I’ve only read the first of Skyward’s three volumes, but I was immediately taken by the world Henderson builds. There is an interesting treatment of class and corporate greed – the rich all wear gravity boots that allow them to live as if G-Day never happened, for a price. And the new threats and challenges that emerge from this world, such as growing food and preventing people from floating off to their deaths, are interesting and creatively presented. While I’m unsure of the scientific soundness, I also love the way that rainstorms are presented as a new, strange, and terrifying threat that I don’t want to spoil with more details. I can’t wait to continue Willa’s adventure and dive deeper into the weightless, yet menacing world that Skyward has built. 

Even as I write this, new comics are hitting our shelves, demanding attention. I’m eagerly awaiting Simon Says, a Nazi-hunting revenge story, Star Wars: Tie Fighter, which follows a group of the Empire’s elite pilots as they begin to question the Empire’s methods, and Wynonna Earp, following a descendant of the famous Wyatt Earp as she takes on new threats of the paranormal variety. I’d love to hear what comics other fans are excited about right now. Leave a comment and help me make my reading list impossibly long!    

Stay Home for This Challenge

Fall is my most favorite season. We get pumpkin spice, falling leaves, and furnaces kicking on. My sweaters and boots are so happy to see me and I’m whipping up soups and stews every weekend. And we get rain. Months and months of glorious, life-giving rain. I may as well call myself Shirley Manson because I’m only happy when it rains. Just kidding–but I do love a great rain shower and/or thunderstorm.

We also get a new reading challenge. Read the book, post a photo of it with #everettreads, and be entered into a drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card courtesy of the Friends of the Everett Public Library. Thanks, Friends! This month we’re going to read a book set in Washington State.

That’s right, dear reader. We get to stay home for this challenge.

You may have heard about a little book called Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple. I reviewed it a few years back and the film adaptation was released in August. While I still wholeheartedly recommend reading Bernie, I also think you should try these books set in our wet and wonderful Evergreen State. Just click the cover and be magically–okay, it’s HTML–taken to the summary and with a few more clicks you can reserve your very own copy.

FYI: some of these look really spooky, so if you are looking for some Halloween mood reading you might be able to check two boxes with one book.

I’m going to curl up with Useless Bay by M.J. Beaufrand. Shocking family secrets and a giant mystery on Whidbey Island? Count me in! What will you read for the October challenge?

Spot-Lit for October 2019

These titles – from established, new, and emerging authors – are some of the most anticipated new releases of the month, based on advance reviews and book world enthusiasm.

Click here to see all of these titles in the Everett Public Library catalog, where you can read reviews or summaries and place holds. Or click on a book cover below to enlarge it, or to view the covers as a slide show.

Notable New Fiction 2019 (to date) | All On-Order Fiction | 2019 Debuts

Percy Jackson: Books to Movie

Let me just start this by saying Percy Jackson was my Harry Potter growing up. So when I heard that a movie was being made. I. Was. Elated. Before I go on, I do want to say that this is only my opinion and I would recommend you watch the movie with an open mind. After all, I’ve heard a lot of good reviews for the movie from people who haven’t read the book. So it can’t be all bad, even from my jaded mind.

So spoilers ahead for the books and the movie Percy Jackson & the Olympians.

First up in this review are the Things They got Wrong.

The directors of the movie seems to have looked at “The Prophesy” and then tossed it out the window. It is not mentioned at all throughout the movie nor is the Oracle of Delphi. To add insult to injury, the actors are way too old to be twelve like they were in the books.

Then comes the big Minotaur scene. Book Percy is devastated when his mom disappears believing her dead. It is referenced multiple times in the next couple of chapters about how sad he is. Movie Percy seems largely unaffected by his mom’s death.

Another thing that really bugged me in that scene was that the Minotaur didn’t return to dust. It was just a dead body. Never mentioned again, luckily, we don’t even get to see another monster die, aside from Auntie Em and that’s just another whole thing.

The next big scene that they royally messed up was the Capture the Flag Stream Fight. Clarisse doesn’t exist in the movie, so instead Annabeth fights Percy. She hurts him and then gloats about it. He doesn’t even get the floating Trident above his head. He was told that in like the first 15 minutes of being in Camp Half Blood by Chiron. Therefore ruining another great scene.

The worst scene in the entire movie is when Percy has to decide who gets a pearl. In the book he decides to save his friends, there by showing his fatal flaw, something every demigod has. Percy is cursed/blessed with how he will do anything to save his loved ones. This scene showed how hard it was to choose between his friends or his mom. In the movie, he leaves Grover behind in favor of saving his mom. Completely going against the book and undercutting what was a major decision.

On a personal note as well as the last con, there is no playing with Cerberus scene. Arguably one of the best scenes in the book.  So that’s a huge mark against the movie.

Now on to the Positives.

The visuals they did for dyslexia as well as for Olympus are quite nice. Olympus looks quite pretty actually.

One of the First scenes in the movie is a new one. It’s a conversation between Zeus and Poseidon talking. Zeus threatens Poseidon. Poseidon denies the theft. It’s kind of nice to have this little family discussion.

Riptide is handed over to Percy with the accompany lines “This will help protect you” “This is a pen… A pen”. Given in this scene he doesn’t know that it’s a sword, it is quite hilarious.

In the Lotus Flower Casino and Hotel, Movie Percy and pals are given some candy shaped like lotus blossoms. We are then treated to what looks like a drug swirly light show. Which is better than the book where they just get sucked into the magic video games.

Another great thing is that you don’t have to risk your money on a movie you might not like because it’s free at the Library!

All in all, from a book to movie standpoint, it didn’t do well.  I’ll probably never see it in a good light, but I hold the books close to my heart. It’s probably better if you watch the movie while having zero knowledge of the books, you will likely enjoy it more

Spot-Lit for September 2019

Spot-Lit consults the big four book trade journals (along with quite a variety of other sources) while pulling these monthly lists together, and it is pretty rare when all four give a starred review to a title. So imagine our surprise to see Booklist, Kirkus, Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly all giving stars to: Quichotte by Salman Rushdie, The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott, Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz, and A Song for a New Day by Sarah Pinsker!  Other stellar releases include new books by Margaret Atwood, Ta-Nehisi Coates’s (his first novel), Man Booker International Prize-winner László Krashnahorkai, and more.

Click here to see all of the titles below in the Everett Public Library catalog, where you can read reviews or summaries and place holds. Or click on a book cover below to enlarge it, or to view the covers as a slide show.

Notable New Fiction 2019 (to date) | All On-Order Fiction | 2019 Debuts

Houston: City of Magic

Despite living in Washington for nearly 15 years, I still associate summer with heat and humidity. The Houston branch of my family will tell you that the weather there will give you a “nice summer glow.” I say the icky sticky makes showering a nearly wasted effort and breathing deeply indoors is a luxury taken for granted. After reading the first part of the Hidden Legacy series by Ilona Andrews, I now think of magic, mystery, murder, and mega romance when I think of Houston.

In this series, Ilona Andrews (pseudonym for husband-wife writing team Ilona and Andrew Gordon) invites the reader into a Houston we’ve never seen before. I’ll let Andrews explain:

In 1863 in a world much like our own, European scientists discovered the Osiris serum, a concoction which brought out one’s magic talents. These talents were many and varied. The serum spread throughout the world.  Eventually the world realized the consequences of awakening godlike powers in ordinary people. The serum was locked away, but it was too late. The magic talents passed on from parents to their children and changed the course of human history forever. The future of entire nations shifted in the span of a few short decades.  Those who previously married for status, money, and power now married for magic, because strong magic would give them everything.

Now, a century and a half later, families with strong hereditary magic have evolved into dynasties. It is a world where the more magic you have, the more powerful, the wealthier, and the more prominent you are. Some magic talents are destructive. Some are subtle. But no magic user should be taken lightly.

Magic rules the world. Families with multiple magic users over more than one generation can form a House. Houses almost come across like mob families in that they are very powerful and often skirt the laws–or break them entirely.

But what if you’re a magic user who has spent your whole life hiding your talents? Being a part of a House means you generally have at least one target on your back at any given moment. The more powerful the House, the more powerful your enemies. Sometimes it’s safer to live your life with your magic hidden, especially if your powers are not well-understood and strike fear into the hearts of established Houses. Because if you are feared, you could be taken out.

Nevada is basically a human lie-detector. Catalina is a siren; she can make anyone instantly love her. And Arabella can shift into a giant beast that cannot be physically restrained. Basically, if the government found out that the sisters had these extremely rare magical talents they would be locked away in secure facilities, forced to work for them.

Yeah. No thanks! I’d rather keep my secrets to myself, too.

But such is life for the Baylor family, who are not a House because they have kept the daughters’ abilities secret. Nevada, her maternal grandmother, mother, two sisters, and two cousins all live in a large warehouse that is part home and part headquarters for their family investigation firm. Grandma brings in extra cash retrofitting vehicles for Houston’s elite Houses, and Mom is a retired military sniper. Everyone pitches in with the family business, but none is more dedicated and shoulders the burdens like Nevada. Ever since her father died of cancer and left the business in her care, she has made it her personal mission to see the family business succeed.

To ensure continued success, Baylor Investigations has three rules everyone follows:
Rule 1: they stay bought. When a client hires the family, they are loyal to them.
Rule 2: they don’t break the law, keeping them out of jail and safe from litigation.
Rule 3: most important: at the end of the day, they still have to be able to look their reflections in the eye.

These rules pop up frequently, because the Baylors, and Nevada in particular, are constantly up against powerful and deadly forces who nearly always ask them to break their personal principles in order to stop catastrophic consequences.

Powerful rogue magic users are rampaging through Houston and threatening to topple the world’s House hierarchy. These acts of terrorism have the magic community and the general population on high alert. Enter Mad Rogan, one of the most powerful telekinetics on record. He is working on the fringes to stop the terrorists and crosses paths with Nevada. At first thinking she’s a part of the conspiracy, he eventually learns to work with her in order to stop anarchy and protect society.

This is a high-concept urban fantasy/romance series where the stakes are high and the characters are well-written and relatable, despite the whole magic thing. The first three novels follow the terrorism arc with Nevada and Mad Rogan the protagonists. The novella (and the soon-to-be-published next arc) follow Catalina and her own adventures.

I’m a sucker for a series that dedicates a book to each sibling in a large, loving, and somewhat looney family. But stretch that series out with multiple books per character in a way that doesn’t feel stretched out at all but in fact feels absolutely perfect and wonderful and I think I’m obsessed? Yes. I am here for it. And now that I’ve finished what’s been published so far in the Hidden Legacy series, I’m going back to the other Ilona Andrews series and seeing what trouble I can get into.

I recommend the Hidden Legacy series for fans of superhero comics and movies, those who dig a good family saga, romance lovers, and anyone who fell in love with Harry Dresden. But don’t stop there. Fall down the Ilona Andrews rabbit hole with me. You just know it’s going to be magical.

The Imperial Radch trilogy

The first book in Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch trilogy, Ancillary Justice (winner of the Hugo and Nebula awards) opens with the protagonist, Breq, taking on a complication to her revenge quest by helping a familiar figure lying near death in the snow. It’s a quest that’s taken nineteen years, which we’re introduced to when the end finally seems in reach.

Leckie splits the timeline to show readers Breq’s motivation in one chapter, her current progress towards revenge in the next, and back again. Each chapter explains more of the far-future Breq inhabits, while raising more questions and building foreshadowing.

Told from the perspective of a former warship AI, now stuck in one single human body, the Imperial Radch trilogy interrogates the horrors of imperialism, the ripple effects of care and kindness, the ethics of placing controls on a non-human sentient entity for the supposed safety of humans, and the classic science-fiction question of “how do we decide who is a person?”

By writing entirely from the point of view of an AI character, Leckie deftly places the answers to those questions in the hands of the subject itself.

Outside of the revenge quest, Leckie uses the future setting to explore the interaction of language and gender. The culture that builds AI warships exclusively uses ‘she/her’ in its official language. Over the story, Breq must use other languages, with a variety of pronouns, and avoid giving offense or making her culture of origin too apparent.

Her frustration over inconsistencies in cultural gender markers ties back to her identity struggles; Breq’s first two thousand years of life were spent with constant access to information networks and databanks, in which she could know the appropriate pronoun for anyone around her in multiple languages in a blink. Nineteen years in a single, isolated body, the arbitrary need to choose pronouns for other people and for self-reference constantly drive home how different she is from what she once was.

With a debut trilogy this fascinating and hard-to-put-down, Leckie has established herself as an author worth watching.