Author: jumpingshelves

Emily Coleman graduated from Briar Cliff University with a degree in English. She currently lives in New York with her fiance and their cat. While reviewing books for her own blog, she reviews comic books for Comicsverse.com as well.

All Locked Up

There isn’t much more that can be said about Joe Hill’s Locke and Key series but I wanted to throw in my own two cents. Joe Hill is a favorite in this household; we’ve met him a couple of times. Gabriel Rodriquez was the co-creator with Hill and they made an incredible duo.

The comics medium relies heavily on dialogue, with little exposition to move the plot forward. This can make it feel as if information is being thrown at you, or one character is simply the “questions” guy or the “answer” girl. The benefits comics have is the artwork to act as exposition and bridge what is unsaid. This doesn’t always work in sync between writer and artist. But when it does, you know. There is magic happening in the first issue between Hill and Rodriquez. They dropped a horrific story in our laps and made it even harder to watch by giving us characters that are immediately human. They made us feel for the characters in the space of a few panels and that’s not as easy as it may seem.

The dynamics of this duo wouldn’t have been quite as explosive with one missing. The series works as a whole because of Hill and Rodriquez collectively. It’s tough to say one is better than the other. If Hill had partnered with a different artist, his writing would have stood out; and if Rodriquez had partnered with a different writer, his art would have stood out. Their collaboration together was the perfect storm.

Locke and Key follows a family after tragedy strikes and changes the family dynamic. Mom moves her kids to her late husband’s family home, Keyhouse, as per his wishes. Not only is the family dealing with their grief, but they now are dealing with the strange goings on Keyhouse has to offer. And it’s not for the faint of heart. This whole series is brutal and gory and heart wrenching. Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode are fighting for their lives, they’re fighting for each other, their friends, and their sanity. It’s survival against supernatural foes who have been waiting decades and centuries for the chance to escape.

Locke and Key is a top notch story from Joe Hill and an artistic masterpiece from Gabriel Rodriquez. It’s a great beginning series for new comics readers. Hill’s writing is easy to follow while still providing complete storytelling and Rodriquez’s art is crisp with details that don’t become cluttered or overwhelming. I’m ashamed it took me so long to read it but I hope you won’t wait much longer to read Locke and Key.

Body Modification

Emma Rios has accumulated a closet full of creative hats she’s been rotating through. In 2015, Rios and Brandon Graham co-created ISLAND MAGAZINE, with the distribution help of IMAGE COMICS. ISLAND MAGAZINE is an oversized comic anthology published monthly. I.D. was published in ISLAND MAGAZINE’s first issue and was published as a standalone trade in June 2016.

Rios used red and white throughout the entire trade. I couldn’t help but think of rust colored dried blood. It gives the story an unsettling quality go to along with the plot. The cover art are interlaced tubes that look like brain synopsis. The artwork is classic Rios style, detailed and busy. Each page is filled with overlapping panels and small, sometimes no gutter space between. She uses body language as much as the dialogue to portray the characters inner turmoil. Rios opens with two beautiful pages in bubble panels. The first bubble shows the three characters sitting at a café table but they are clearly strangers from each other. The next page is a three by five bubble panel spread of individual close ups. She’s biting her nails, he’s adjusting his glasses, Ze is sweating nervously. These two pages raise a lot of questions.

I.D. is about body transplants. Specifically brain transplants into a new body. It’s experimental and scientists and surgeons are taking volunteers. Charlotte, Mike, and Noa are the next round of volunteers to undergo this risky procedure. Each character confesses their reasons for it but it’s clear there is more to it for each of them. Rios shows this with the expert use of body language in relation to the other characters and the continued use of close ups. Each character acts pensive and guarded even after confessing their reasons for volunteering. Like there are more layers to each story. I haven’t heard if Rios has any plans to continue this story but has plenty of material to work with.

It’s hard to say I.D. is great because of its plot or because of its characters. Both are excellent. If you weaken one part or the other, the story would simply be okay. I’m very impressed with this work from Emma Rios. It would be great if she decided to continue this story but I get the feeling she’s done. And I also respect that. These characters are unique in their own right and the story is a big “what if?” It’s a fun “what if?” It’s hard to gush about this story without giving it all away but I want to gush, so please read it so we can gush together.

 

 

By Emily Coleman
(This review has been previously published and has been moved to this platform for your convenience.)

How They Survive

Essex County by Jeff Lemire has crawled into my blood, my veins, my very being, and changed me. And the daunting aspect of writing this review is, nothing I say will do this piece of literature the justice it deseessexcountyrves. Everything about Essex County and its characters is beautiful, and lonely, and stark, and satisfying, and real. There is magic flowing between these pages that made its way into my heart and mind and I know will never leave.

Jeff Lemire uses three short stories and two flash fiction stories to tell the lives of everyday characters living outside of Ontario, Canada. There is nothing easy about their lives but they bear it with solemn dignity. Lester is living with Uncle Ken after his mother passes away but Uncle Ken doesn’t know what to do with a kid and doesn’t understand Lester’s love of superhero’s or comics; Vincent and Lou played hockey together, then a betrayal kept the brothers apart until tragedy brought them back to the family farm together; and Mrs. Quenneville who visits her husband every week in the cemtry, a son living with her who wants nothing to do with her, and she is the country nurse who visits elderly farmers, the nursing home, the forgotten, with little appreciation. These may be three separate stories but Lemire has weaved and looped their lives into tangles and each character makes an appearance in each other’s stories. Because like any other small farming community, their lives are connected.

The two flash fiction pieces show a little earlier Essex County history. The boxing club was started by two best friends and meant as a simple pastime for the community and would remain a pastime no matter what; and Eddy Elephant Ears who spent the last 10 years in a coma after a violent car crash that killed his family, but it’s okay because he doesn’t remember them. Even Mrs. Quenneville makes an appearance in Eddy’s story.

Essex County is a portrayal of the heartbreaking and the heartbroken; through the ups and downs, each character has persevered until their end. There is a strong family connection as well. Uncle Ken might not know how to raise a child but he’s going to try beady little eyeshis damnest because he promised his sister he would. Jimmy might have messed up his chance of being a better father but he gives up his box of memories because the boys “still got a right to know who he is.” Mrs. Quenneville has made her patients her family whether they asked for it or not because her “patients are all I have these days. They’re like my family now, I guess.”
Lemire’s art is both loose and detailed. “Tales From The Farm” has an almost sketched quality while “Ghost Stories” seamlessly moves from present to past to present. Some panels are overlapped in the past and present simultaneously and some panels float away like the memories they are. “The Country Nurse’s” artwork is a little tighter from the first two stories. One artist element Lemire has mastered are the character’s eyes. I’ve never seen such emotion in beady little eyes. Lemire also uses numerous panels to evoke emotion like isolation and loneliness. Essex County is a quiet representation of everyday life and what they do to survive it.

 

 

 

 

By Emily Coleman
(This review has been previously published and has been moved to this platform for your convenience.)

Twelves Ways Into My Heart

1. Hannah Tinti is a literary lyricist I can’t get enough of.

2. Not many authors can turn prose into poetry but Tinti pulls IMG_2760it off like there’s nothing to it.

3. Samuel Hawley is one of the truest characters I’ve read.

4. Hawley’s “hits” and jobs don’t feel like they’re coming from a trained professional, but from a guy relying on his common sense, and becomes a professional because of it.

5. Lily is the perfect love story for Hawley.

6. Lily’s touch is all over Hawley and Loo’s lives and Tinti pulled it off without feeling overbearing or cliché.

7. Loo goes on a transformative journey as she learns of her father’s past, how she fit in it, and what their future relationship will look like.

8. Loo’s own love story is still open to possibilities.

9. Marshall is the love story that Loo needed.

10. Marshall goes on his own transformative journey as his life intertwines with Loo’s.

11. Tinti is masterful at making every character we encounter essential to the story.

12. This story will live in my heart for a long time, and I know it will live in yours as well.

 

 

 

By: Emily Coleman

The Hermit

The Stranger in the Woods caught me off guard. The back cover sounded interesting enough to pick up and while I don’t read much nonfiction, but one seemed worth while. Michael Finkel’s writing hooked me and I fell under a calming trance during the story.

As much as I love being with friends and family, I appreciate solitude. Nothing is better than a quiet apartment a book. And still better, my family’s farm in rural Minnesota. Moving to New York helped remind me what real silence is like. Whenever I visit home, I walk the perimeter of our property and listen to the quiet, feel the stillness, talk to the cats. The Stranger in the Woods is like that; its slow, its quiet.IMG_2714

Christopher Knight lived for 27 years in the middle of the Maine woods. He robbed local cabins to supply himself with food and provisions. Knight was finally arrested when he was caught stealing from a camp and forced to reenter society. The story itself is true so I don’t want to comment on it, but I will talk a little on the execution.

Michael Finkel starts the story with a fiction narration style about the night Christopher Knight was arrested. From there, Finkel devolves to facts about Knight’s court case, doctors diagnosis’ of Knights intense introvert personality, and his own fascination with the whole situation.It seems odd that Finkel would leave his family in Colorado to travel to Maine several times while Knight is incarcerated, until he reveals he’s a journalist who has written similar pieces about “hermits” for National Geographic. Finkel spends a decent amount of the book talking about hermits throughout the centuries and from different cultures. Knight doesn’t fit the hermit mold, and I think this is what interested Finkel. People didn’t know what to do with Knight. He committed hundreds of counts of burglaries but didn’t hurt anyone physically. No one even saw him physically. Half the victims didn’t seem to mind, given rural Maine’s own code of ethics, and the other half were furious with him. There was no clean cut way to convict him.

Knight was a mystery to everyone and Finkel portrayed him as such. At times I would admire Knight and in the next paragraph be reminded that Knight isn’t the nicest person. He wants nothing to do with other people and isn’t cowed into expressing otherwise. For the reader who sticks with fiction, The Stranger in the Woods doesn’t have a tangible ending like you expect from most fiction. Knight is adamant that him and Finkel aren’t friends, and Finkel should never contact him again. So Finkel goes home, and that’s the end of the story. Finkel saw Knight reintroduced to society through to the end and that’s probably as far as the story will go.

There wasn’t closure, per se. Knight has disappeared into society as best he can. His story is still a moral dilemma.I don’t know if I can whole heartily decide if he should have been punished or not. I can say with conviction that I thoroughly enjoyed The Stranger in the Woods. It reminded me that silence does still exist, and
how filling and calming silence can be. I sort of understand why Knight fully cocooned himself in the woods. His silent story made me nostalgic for the farm and I know my mother would love a visit from her bit city daughter.

Holy Sexual Awakening

I have a habit of not reading the back of a book before reading it. I read the back to decide if I want it on my shelf, but I won’t reacquaint myself with the story before jumping in. The back of An Almond for a Parrot says Tully Truegood will have a sexual awakening but I wasn’t prepared for how steeped the whole story would be in promiscuity. I couldn’t decide how I liked the book and considered once on putting it down early on, but I’m glad I finished it. The characters were good, Tully went through development, and the magical element enhanced the story.

During the eighteenth-century, Tully grows up an only child with a drunk father and aimg_2577 cook, who isn’t very good at cooking. She never leaves the house and remains uneducated until her father remarried an opinioned woman who brings with her two daughters. This is where I almost put it down, but unlike Cinderella, the new Mrs. Truegood and her daughters are accepting of naïve Tully. Mrs. Truegood find Tully tutors for reading elocution and her new sisters, Mercy and Hope, are there to show her how to wear her new gowns. Mercy is also instrumental in Tully’s sexual awakening. Not only does Mercy explain physical pleasure to Tully, she demonstrates it. It wasn’t the idea of two new step-sisters pleasuring each other that I had a hard time with, but (for lack of a better word) how horny Tully got. Granted she was 16 and the world literally just opened before her but physical pleasure was all she thought about. I don’t say sex because what was under a male’s breeches was still a mystery to her and she was focused on her nights with Mercy for the time being. I was surprised how eloquent Wray Delaney treated the sex scenes. And there’s a lot of them. But they never sounded vulgar. Delaney stayed with the time period and used terms like ‘purse’ and ‘maypole.’ When the sex was passionate for Tully, Delaney made sure her language reflected that so we were never taken out of the scene.

The magical element was subtle but played a huge part for the story. It wouldn’t have been the same without it. Tully is a seer. Since she was little she has been able to see the dead but she never thought much of it. Not until she starts training with Mr. Crease. He shows her how to control it and use it to her benefit, but also the benefit of himself and Queenie. Tully’s father being a drunk and gambled away all his money, married Queenie to settle his debts. Tully finds out Queenie is a courtesan and owns a brothel called The Fairy House where Mercy and Hope work. Tully leaves her father’s house to live at The Fairy House where Mr. Crease trains her to they can perform together at the masquerade ball for the opening of The Fairy House. Mr. Crease can’t explain everything Tully is able to do but together they put on a show for the elite of London, and thus starts her reputation of being a witch. This doesn’t stop gentleman for paying a handsome sum to spend the night with her.

The only thing that bothered me about the start of her career as a courtesan is she seemed to luck out. Her first client pays to take her virginity and pays to make her his full time mistress. While he is in London, she can’t be visited by any other man. And of course he is handsome and passionate and she falls in love with him. Her second client moves her out of The Fairy House to live with him in his estate and even furthers her education by teaching her French. She again falls in love and returns to The Fairy House with jewels and money after his death. It was all too easy and convenient. It’s not until her third client that she learns what it means to be a whore, continually sleeping with a man who reminds you he’s paid for this and expects you to be arm candy when seen in public together.

The more I think about the story, I like it. We watch as Tully starts as a sheltered young girl to grow into an opinioned young woman. Delaney did a great job moving the story forward with drama and even a little action. It was an historical fiction that was easy to read, even with the graphic sex scenes. They never pulled me out of the story and were suited for the plot. It was maybe too much of a happy ending with everything working out a little too perfectly, but it was hard not to be happy for Tully that it all came together.

Field Nurse’s Horror

The Fire By Night by Teresa Messineo is a historical fiction book about World War ll. It’s an event authors continue to use as their back drop, probably because of the savagery of it, the horrors of the Holocaust that continue to peak our morbid curiosity. Teresa Messineo doesn’t focus on the Holocaust, doesn’t even bring it up. Instead she tells us the stories of the field nurses. The women who volunteered, were sent overseas with the troops and set up medical tents img_2424amongst the fighting to care for the soldiers as soon as they were wounded. The Fire By Night follows two friends after they’ve been dispatched to their separate posts and the horrors they faced.

Jo and Kay met in nursing school and when they enlist together, they are sent to opposite ends of the world. Jo spends most of this story in France. She was left behind in a makeshift medical tent, waiting for the convoy to bring them to the hospital that never comes back. Kay is among thousands of people in a Japanese POW camp in Manila. While Jo stays busy keeping her six patients alive with her dwindling supplies, Kay reminisces about Hawaii before Pearl Harbor and write to Jo, knowing these letters will never reach her. Both women survive but will battle their demons while trying to figure out how to live in civilization once again.

Teresa Messineo managed to turn prose into poetry. Everything on the page was eloquent and gut wrenching. Messineo dug deep into what these women were thinking, how they were feeling, what they did to survive. My one critique of the story is from the middle; while chapters alternated between Jo and Kay, they became repetitive. Both women would feel such dismay, they wanted to give up altogether, but something would happen right at the end of the chapter, they would remember why they couldn’t give up and their spirits would be lifted enough to make it through to the next day. This went on for several chapters until both women were recused from their respective prisons.

It’s always good to stretch out of your genre once in a while. I’ve always enjoyed the historical fiction I’ve rea, I just have to remind myself not to take it as truth. Teresa Messineo’s writing easily makes this book worth reading. I really did enjoy seeing World War ll from a nurse’s point of view. Jo and Kay were strong and vulnerable in all the right ways. With The Fire By Night being Messineo’s debut novel, I can’t imagine what will be next.

 

 

By Emily Coleman