Books

Books

Thu
25
Jun

Fold Up Some Fun with DC Super Heroes Origami

DC Superheroes Origami Superman Batman Wonder Woman Critical Blast

When I was a kid, I learned how to make paper airplanes. I can now make three different kinds -- the basic kind, the skinny basic kind, and the one that somewhat looks like a Star Trek scout ship. When pressed, I can make a paper sailboat (or maybe it's a hat), and once I made a swan. I don't think paper fans count.

That's me.

And then there's John Montroll.

John Montroll is the author and designer behind DC SUPER HEROES ORIGAMI. Which I absolutely had to have, because I'm a fifty-years-in-the-making fan of all things DC Comics. And I thought it would be fun to share this with my seven-year-old through art projects of origami.

I learned that I knew nothing about folding paper -- but that I could be taught.

Sun
21
Jun

Big Smo Presents Momma Smo's Kuntry Cookin'

Big Smo Momma Smo Kuntry Cookin Cookbook

I've been blessed by God with a GRITS -- a Girl Raised In The South. I've got the waistline to prove it. Which is why, when she asked me to write a review on her newly purchased cookbook, I was only a little disappointed.

It wasn't that there was anything wrong with the book itself. It's just that there were so many non-surprises for me in it, because they were things I have on a regular basis: things that were regular Sunday dinners, things that were made on a weekend that carry the family through to Tuesday -- with tupperware contained lunches to boot!

Of course, we're also familiar with Big Smo, the fledgling country singer, through his reality show, and the food from Momma Smo -- June Smith -- is as regular a character there as anyone else, as any viewer can tell you.

Tue
09
Jun

Stephen King's Finders Keepers is half thriller, half literary satire

Finders Keepers is part of a trilogy of Stephen King books that started with last year’s Mr Mercedes.  In Mr Mercedes, a madman named Brady Hartsfield drives a stolen car into a crowd of people waiting to get into a job fair at City Center.  Brady taunts a retired police detective named Bill Hodges to come out of retirement to stop him from killing again.  Hodges (along with his associates Jerome and Holly) manage to stop Brady, who ends up in a coma after Holly gives him a thorough ass kicking.  . 

Fri
05
Jun

Pyron's Lucky Strike Magical Story with Emotional Impact

Lucky Strike Bobbie Pyron Arthur Levine Scholastic Critical Blast

"Losers and weirdos stick together through thick and thin. Amen."

That's the unifying credo between brainiac preacher's daughter Genesis Beam and Nate Harlow, the unluckiest boy alive. Nate's notorious unlucky streak comes to a head when he's playing miniature golf -- on his eleventh birthday, on the eleventh of the month -- and he gets hit by lightning.

After his miraculous recovery, Nate's luck starts to turn around. It's little things at first, but it starts to grow and grow until people are simultaneously awed by him and afraid of him. And the more popular he becomes, the less time he wants to spend with Gen, cutting her off from the only friendship she ever shared.

Mon
01
Jun

Surviving Santiago will be a delight for readers this summer!

Surviving Santiago Miller Lachmann review Critical Blast

I can't deny, my childhood was pretty great.  My parents gave me everything I needed, and a lot of what I asked for.  Don't get me wrong, I wasn't a spoiled brat, but I was mostly happy.  That said, my teenage years were a bit of a mess.  There were years of ennui and general angst.  Much of it was from a lack of female companionship at a young age.  It took me time to grow into myself and develop enough confidence and personality to get out and meet people.  I grew up in the '80s and early '90s which was a time of huge changes in pop culture and politics.  In my mind, it's every bit as seminal a time as the late '60s.

Mon
01
Jun

The Art of Lying: YA Author Paula Stokes

Paula Stokes author YA Goodreads Liars Inc The Art of Lainey Critical Blast

Young Adult Literature. It's been officially a thing now for a handful of years, offering up stories that appeal to young and old alike, featuring young protagonists in a variety of plots.

Paula Stokes is carving out her own place among the pantheon of YA authors, with two novels, LIARS INC and THE ART OF LAINEY from Harper Teen. I first met Paula in St. Louis, and was glad to get in touch with her on the release of LIARS INC to discuss the YA market and get some insights into her own process.

I was fortunate enough to be one of the early proofreaders on LIARS INC, what feels like so long ago. What was going on back then that provided the inspiration of Max's story?

Mon
01
Jun

Liars, Inc. Autographed by Paula Stokes

Liars Inc Paula Stokes sweepstakes autographed Critical Blast contest

This contest has ended. The winner is:  ANN F. of WAPPINGER FALLS, NY.

 

For fans of Gone Girl, I Hunt Killers, and TV's How to Get Away with Murder.

Max Cantrell has never been a big fan of the truth, so when the opportunity arises to sell forged permission slips and cover stories to his classmates, it sounds like a good way to make a little money and liven up a boring senior year. With the help of his friends Preston and Parvati, Max starts Liars, Inc. Suddenly everybody needs something and the cash starts pouring in. Who knew lying could be so lucrative?

When Preston wants his own cover story to go visit a girl he met online, Max doesn’t think twice about hooking him up. Until Preston never comes home. Then the evidence starts to pile up—terrifying clues that lead the cops to Preston’s body. Terrifying clues that point to Max as the murderer.

 

Fri
22
May

I Am Princess X a Fast Paced Scavenger Hunt of Life and Death

Princess X Cherie Priest Critical Blast

Imagine you created a comic book character with your best friend. Nobody saw it but you. And then your best friend dies.

Now imagine a few years later your comic book character starts to pop up on stickers and posters. And there's a web comic featuring your hero, in a story that's eerily close to real life events.

This is the situation May finds herself in when she returns to Seattle for the summer to stay with her father. Years before, she and Libby bonded over a character they created called Princess X, clad in a ball gown and red sneakers, and carrying a badass katana sword. May did the writing, Libby did the drawing. And then one night Libby was in the back seat of her car when her mother drove it off a bridge.

Thu
21
May

Kiera Cass's The Heir Kicks Off Sequel to The Selection Trilogy

The Heir Kiera Cass The Selection Trilogy Critical Blast

*WARNING: This review has spoilers for THE SELECTION trilogy. It will NOT spoil the newest book, THE HEIR. *

As someone who absolutely loved Kiera Cass’s THE SELECTION trilogy, I was so excited when she announced a follow-up book, THE HEIR. However, I was also a bit nervous; spin-offs can be a hit or miss, and since the trilogy ended very nicely, I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one.

I am happy to report that I just finished THE HEIR, and it did not let me down.

Wed
13
May

Woven - A Tale Worth Unraveling?

Woven Book Michael Jensen David Powers King Magic

The underlying theme of the book, Woven, is about passion. Passion to become your own person, passion to fall in love, and passion to achieve your goals. Even though the setting for the book is unconventional, the drive behind the book is undeniable. With the book, my editor received a note emphasizing the author's own struggle and passion to create this mystical story. It, in and of itself, is a woven journey on the road of life to get this book published and ends up being a soul-strengthening tale of overcoming odds. Just one day before the book was set to be released, it was pulled because of the author's personal life choices. Despite this defeat, the author faced down these injustices, garnered international attention, and managed to draw the interest of the biggest publishers in the US.

Mon
27
Apr

Make Time for Paige Britt's Lost Track of Time

Lost Track of Time Paige Britt Scholastic Critical Blast review

When you initially fall into Paige Britt's THE LOST TRACK OF TIME -- and make no mistake: you fall into this book, you don't just dip your toe into it -- you may, if you're a reader of some experience, find yourself in familiar territory. So familiar, in fact, that I kept waiting for Norton Juster's Milo to drive past looking for the off ramp to THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH.

Which I should now clarify by saying that THE LOST TRACK OF TIME is absolutely nothing like THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH; it's more a literary fraternal twin, if anything. But I digress.

Sun
12
Apr

In the House of Leviathan is a beautifully realized horror novel

In The House of Leviathan by B.D. Bruns

Printed by: World Waters

$15 on Amazon ($9.99 for Digital)

When I started to write this review, it occurred to me that I haven’t reviewed a novel in a long time.  The last time was probably 15 years ago when I was still at Rutgers for a "Criticism" class I was taking under the terrific Terry Teachout.  Just as an aside, Rutgers has a great journalism program, and they really shaped the writer I am today.  So if you like my reviews, you can thank them.  If you hate them, you can blame them.  I prefer not to take personal responsibility for my actions…

Wed
08
Apr

Wild Ideas

Wild Ideas Book Review Critical Blast

"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it.” ― Neil deGrasse Tyson

I'm a third-grade teacher, so I have the pleasure of teaching science regularly in my classroom. Unfortunately, in a day of state testing and Common Core standards, science doesn't receive quite the emphasis it deserves. Mix this with attacks from groups that don't believe in science and it's a scary world in which we live. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of crackpots out there, but solid work following the scientific method should be applauded. I tell my students all the time that magic is just science we don't already understand. I believe we should be leading our youth towards careers in science; that's where the jobs are.

Let me tell you about a wonderful starting point to interest children in science.

Sat
14
Mar

Stan Silas Rides the Dark Cute with Titan Comics' Norman

Norman Titan Comics Stan Silas Critical Blast

There's a lot of wrong ways you can go when you want to blend 'cute' and 'dark'. Ted Naifeh gets it right with COURTNEY CRUMRIN. So does Roman Dirge with LENORE.

Stan Silas takes things a step further with his Chibi characters living in a CALVIN AND HOBBES-like world, in the Titan Books publication, NORMAN. The titular Norman is a cute little 8-year-old blonde-headed boy with an imaginary friend. It just so happens his imaginary friend to urge him to kill people, and taunts him about getting caught.

Tue
10
Mar

Get into Bone with "Out of Boneville":The Tribute Edition

Bone Trade Comic Book Jeff Smith

Wait, are you telling me you haven't read Bone? Really? Okay, stop reading this right now. Go! Go, buy Bone. Go buy this trade right now and come back. I'll wait here.

Oh, you're back? Great. Now, let me tell you why you need to keep buying Bone for your grandparents, your parents, your children, your nieces and nephews, and for yourself. I originally read Bone in black and white about a decade ago. Simply put, I loved it. It was funny, heart-warming, and sweet. I was in college at the time and remembered loving the simple, but wonderfully written story about this little creature, Bone, and his adventures. It brought me back to a time of well-crafted fairytales. Jeff Smith weaves a web that enthralls the reader into needing “just one more issue!” Going back to it a decade later, I knew there was no way the story could possibly hold up to the standards I had set in my head years ago.

Thu
05
Mar

Nightmare Nurse and Deadman take spotlight in Justice League Dark: Paradise Lost

When the New 52 was announced, Justice League Dark was one of the titles I was most excited about. Part of that was that I really loved Shadowpact, and this seemed like the natural evolution of that series. And adding the Justice League name would be good on getting that book a little more attention. I also liked Peter Milligan's work on X-Statix and Human Target, and Mikel Janin is one of my favorite artists.

Mon
23
Feb

Mark of the Thief on the Mark?

Mark of the Thief Jennifer Nielsen Book Roman Historical Fiction

Getting middle schoolers to read is as easy as pushing a boulder up a hill with an anvil attached to your back as monkeys bounce on your head. I would know, I teach them. It's just a generalization, but the majority of them claim to have much more interesting things to do then sit down and read a real, page-turning, wood-fiber-smelling, honest to God book. And I'm not too big to admit, when I received the book in the mail, I had wandering thoughts of seeing if I could just download the book on my iPad and read it. Seriously, who carries around a book in the hand anymore? But as soon as I opened the first page and the waft of new book smell carried through the air, I remembered how wonderful it was to hold a book in your hand and feel the weight of the author's words printed on paper. It caused me to wonder if my students ever knew the enjoyment of trying to figure out how to transport books with them so they would have it on hand for any free moments to read just a few more pages.

Mon
23
Feb

Pip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures Breathes Life, Youth into Urban Fantasy

Pip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures Scholastic Jackson Pearce Maggie Stiefvater Critical Blast

Spiderwick has an alternative source of facts. Fablehaven has competition. And Hagrid wipes a tear from his eye as he adds a new volume to the summer reading list for the Care of Magical Creatures.

This is all due to one Pip Bartlett, a young girl who lives in America which is exactly like the one we know -- except for the zoology, which has been expanded to include magical creatures. Despite all this magic that people have everyday contact, there is an unshakeable disbelief in Pip's claim that she has the ability to talk with these creatures like some eldrich Doctor Dolittle. Perhaps that's because she can talk with the creatures and understand them, but they're under no obligation to obey what she tells them.

Mon
23
Feb

Batwing goes Into The Dark as his series ends

I actually am amazed that Batwing lasted as long as it did. The fact is managed to reach 34 issues (36 if you count the 0 issues and the Future's End special) is a pretty astonishing feat. Batwing seemed perpetually on the low end of the sale's chart, but DC stuck with it for a long time. Batwing started as a member of Batman Inc stationed in Africa who would deal with villains and problems in that region. It was a very unique book, and I thought Judd Winick did a great job with it.

Wed
18
Feb

Is Damian: Son of Batman the Future of Gotham?

Damian Son of Batman DC Comics Critical Blast Andy Kubert

During Grant Morrison's rather insane run through the BATMAN series a while back, there were two issues that seemed a little off: BATMAN #666 and BATMAN #700. These featured a rather violent Batman a generation into the future. We learned that this Batman was the grown Damian Wayne, and he seemed a little off in the head (he talks to a cat named Alfred) and he's got a bit of an invulnerability power not seen before. Morrison seemed to be messing with our heads with this, because some time after that, in current continuity, Damian was killed at the hands of his mother, Talia al Ghul.

With Damian's recent resurrection -- and with super powers, no less -- it seems almost a certainty that this Batman is an established future, much the way that Jason Todd's death became an established past with statements made in Frank Miller's BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS.

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