Review: The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter

The Strange Case of the Alchemist's DaughterThe Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jekyll, Hyde, Holmes, Watson, Rappaccini, Moreau, Frankenstein, and more – “The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter” is as delightfully intelligent and fun re-imagining of various classic mad scientist stories – combined with a wealth of other literary influences.

The adventure begins when Mary Jekyll, daughter of the renowned Dr. Jekyll, encounters the daughter of the infamous Mr. Hyde – a girl with uncertain connections to Mary’s own past. As the women find themselves involved in a murder investigation, they encounter a cast of familiar characters and begin to uncover the existence of a secret society with ties to all their lives.

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Review: “A.D.: After Death”

A.D.: After DeathA.D.: After Death by Scott Snyder

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read plenty of comics and graphic novels (and enjoy many of them) but every so often I stumble across a graphic novel that feels like it achieves a higher level of craftsmanship. I haven’t read much of Snyder’s work, but Lemire is a dependable favorite of mine in the comics world. And together, the two of them have constructed a truly fascinating work in “A.D.”

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Dear, Chester

Dear, Chester,

I’ve been thinking over the past two days about how it felt to hear that you were gone, and about all that I’ve heard, seen, and felt since then. I never met you, yet the news that you had died has left the world feeling like there’s a piece of it missing. And there is—you’re not here anymore. I knew you as an artist. And you were an artist, but you were so much more as well—husband, father, friend. Even though I never met you, I feel I did know you. That’s what art does—in its own way, art lets us know people, to understand some personal piece of who they are, and to connect across distance, across time.

Who cares if one more light goes out,
In the sky of a million stars?
It flickers, flickers.
Who cares when someone’s time runs out,
If a moment is all we are,
Or quicker, quicker?
Who cares if one more light goes out?
Well, I do.

“One More Light”

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In which I earn my MFA, have an irksome day, and articulate some thoughts on writing

I earned my MFA in creative writing this weekend. I’m told that the title for someone who has a master’s degree is (well… used to be) magister – which is a title that sounds cool, but isn’t really practical for daily use. However, it is a piece of information that I will treasure as I move forward.

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So… two years has gone by. Somehow.

In that time, I’ve grown significantly as a writer. I’ve stepped out into new types of writing – psychological thrillers, stage plays and screenwriting, pseudo-fairy tales. I’ve tried going to the page with ideas that scared me, that felt risky, that I didn’t expect to work. And regardless of whether all these attempts have worked, I tried them. I learned. I got better at what I do. I will continue to get better. And much of this is because I’ve had the chance to learn from some incredibly talented writers over my time in the Stonecoast MFA program.

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Review: Monstress, Vol. 2: The Blood

Monstress, Vol. 2: The Blood
Monstress, Vol. 2: The Blood by Marjorie M. Liu

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

*Received an advance galley from Image*

If anything, I would say that this volume is better than the first. I struggled a little in the beginning, just because the story is complex and it had been a while since I read vol. 1. However, I settled into the narrative pretty quickly.

Being a little more contained in scope, I found the storyline in vol. 2 to be easier to follow – not that the story in vol. 1 was bad – and part of it may just have been the fact that I was more familiar with the world this time around. Volume 2 also has a more intimate feel with high personal stakes for the protagonist.

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Review: Poe: Stories and Poems: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by Gareth Hinds

Poe: Stories and Poems: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by Gareth Hinds
Poe: Stories and Poems: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by Gareth Hinds by Gareth Hinds

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

*Advance copy received from NetGalley*

Hinds’s graphic adaptation takes some of Poe’s most well-known stories and poems and couples them with dramatic and wonderful illustrations. Exploring some of the possibilities of interpretation in regards to narrator and setting, Hinds helps bring Poe’s work to life in stunning visuals. Poe is a master – his language beautiful and chilling – and Hinds is able to accentuate Poe’s words in a way that complements the text.

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Review: My Favorite Thing Is Monsters

My Favorite Thing Is Monsters
My Favorite Thing Is Monsters by Emil Ferris

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Now, in all honesty, I don’t know if I can say that I “enjoyed” this. This is a harsh book. It is a dark book. It’s unsettling and populated with characters that are morally gray at best. It is also an incredible artistic achievement that effectively blends a wide range of influences into a cohesive and powerful narrative.

In a basic sense, “My Favorite Thing is Monsters” is a realistic, period-based mystery story with a young girl as the central protagonist. However, woven into this story are influences of classical art, magical realism, historical narrative, dreams, and – of course – monsters. But the first thing that is so remarkable about this book is the seamless way that these elements overlap and flow into each other. The edges are not clear. Karen – as the protagonist, narrator, and lens through which we witness reality – moves seamlessly from her immediate situation to wild fantasy in such a way that the reader cannot tell where one ends and the other begins. And as the real and the fantastic overlap, it creates a narrative that is neither real or imagined, but that is a fully-realized blending of the two.

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Review: Throne of Glass

Throne of Glass
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sarah J. Maas was strongly recommended to me as a writer before I picked this up, so I had high hopes going into this first book. There are a lot of elements here that are definitely hit-or-miss for me, but I’ve ultimately come down on the side of having liked the book. I know it was Maas’s first published novel, and I’m guessing that some of my complaints have to do with that fact. I can certainly appreciate that writing is a process of learning and development. So, let’s break it down.

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Review: Roughneck

Roughneck
Roughneck by Jeff Lemire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve felt for some time now that Lemire is brilliant, and this graphic novel continues to confirm my feeling.

Roughneck is a bleak, sparse story with a taste of noir mixed in. In its relatively simple plot, it tackles themes of family, violence, and redemption – capturing moments of real tenderness amidst the harsh environment and rough characters.

The art style wasn’t always my favorite – particularly in portrayals of characters’ faces. However, the art is used to great effect in conveying and accentuating the story. The use of color is particularly engaging. And Lemire’s portrayal of even the sound of walking – a recurring element – is handled to great effect.

The sum total is a gripping story of family ties and the consequences of past decisions. On the edge of civilization, the characters are left to face their own darkness as well as the violence that surrounds them. And these characters are not only defined by their own choices, but by the heritage they carry with them. The question at the core of the story is about this very heritage. Must family legacy define the present? Is it possible to escape a cycle of violence and desperate survival?

Set against a stark winter landscape, Lemire’s Roughneck is a gritty thriller with an intensely human heart.

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