Thursday, August 31, 2023

Book Review: SpongeBob SquarePants

When SpongeBob SquarePants debuted in 1999, the fun-loving, pure-hearted title character took the world of animation by storm, riding a virtual tsunami of praise. As the 25th anniversary of the show nears, it’s time to look back at where it all began and revisit all the adventures from the best episodes.

In SpongeBob SquarePants: The Unauthorized Fun-ography, award-winning author Paul Volponi presents the first ever “biography” of the show, exploring its origins and providing insight into the characters, the episodes, the voices, and the fans. From jellyfishing with Patrick Star and irritating Squidward Tentacles, to flipping krabby patties at the Krusty Krab and attending boating school with Mrs. Puff, this book covers it all.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Book Review: You Are What You Watch

Virtually anyone who has ever watched a profound movie, a powerful TV show, or read a moving novel understands that entertainment can and does affect us in surprising and significant ways. But did you know that our most popular forms of entertainment can have a direct physical effect on us, a measurable impact on society, geopolitics, the economy, and even the future itself? In You Are What You Watch, Walter Hickey, Pulitzer Prize winner and former chief culture writer at acclaimed data site, proves how exactly how what we watch (and read and listen to) has a far greater effect on us and the world at large than we imagine.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Book Review: Not That Fancy

The best things in life are really not that fancy. This photo-driven book featuring all-things-Reba invites you to get back to the basics of life: fun, food, friends, and family. In her first book in over two decades, actress and country music legend Reba McEntire takes you behind the scenes and shares the stories, recipes, and Oklahoma-style truths that guide her life.

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Book Review: Superman - The Harvests of Youth

Despite being a superpowered teenager, high school has been pretty normal for Clark Kent; but his idyllic life is wrenched away when the death of a classmate rocks all of Smallville. As he and his friends grieve, the challenges they face become darker, more complex, and deeply insidious. Clark feels completely out of his depth when Smallville’s latest threat proves that it takes more than fists and laser beams to save the day. For the first time in his life, he must grapple with life’s biggest questions, and confront his own mortality (or lack thereof) to become the hero his beloved town needs.

Acclaimed GLAAD media award-winning writer and artist Sina Grace tells the deeply moving and quintessential story of teen Clark Kent and the town that must overcome grief and hate to restore hope.

Superman: The Harvests of Youth will be published on October 3, 2023. DC Comics provided an early galley for review.

Grace's artwork along with the colors by Cris Peter capture that small town, midwestern vibe. They contribute to establishing the setting of Smallville which has always been a critical element to the young Superman mythos. Growing up in the Bronze Age of comics, Superboy's adventures were very much a mainstay of my reading. So, in some respects, this book radiates the feeling of "being home".

Grace has also tapped into the high school vibe quite well. Clark, Pete, Lana, Chloe, Gil and Amy all act and sound like teenagers of the most recent generation. The story is clearly set in recent times, with gaming consoles and cell phones and fancy coffees all part of these teens' lifestyle.

The main story line is a heavy one, showing that even the greatest of powers are of little use in certain situations. The themes are something that will especially resonate with younger readers- those who have grown up in the 21st Century with all the challenges their generations have had to endure. It is very much a story of innocence lost and having to wrestle with the complex issues that come with growing towards adulthood. At one point, Clark and Lana are talking about how Clark's parents advised him to cope with the situation. Clark tells her that his parents never had to deal with this stuff when they were young. This sentiment rang true to me. Yes, in the 80's I had classmates in high school who passed before graduation, but it was mostly due to automobile accidents and the like. We compartmentalized emotions and feelings, instead focusing on moving forward. Maybe that isn't always the right way to deal with situations.

Superman: The Harvests of Youth tells a solid story and will definitely resonate with the right audience.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Book Review: The Hexologists

The Hexologists, Iz and Warren Wilby, are quite accustomed to helping desperate clients with the bugbears of city life. Aided by hexes and a bag of charmed relics, the Wilbies have recovered children abducted by chimney-wraiths, removed infestations of barb-nosed incubi, and ventured into the Gray Plains of the Unmade to soothe a troubled ghost. Well-acquainted with the weird, they never shy away from a challenging case.

But when they are approached by the royal secretary and told the king pleads to be baked into a cake—going so far as to wedge himself inside a lit oven, the Wilbies soon find themselves embroiled in a mystery that could very well see the nation turned on its head.

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Book Review: High Bias

The cassette tape was revolutionary. Cheap, portable, and reusable, this small plastic rectangle changed music history. Make your own tapes! Trade them with friends! Tape over the ones you don't like! The cassette tape upended pop culture, creating movements and uniting communities.

This book charts the journey of the cassette from its invention in the early 1960s to its Walkman-led domination in the 1980s to decline at the birth of compact discs to resurgence among independent music makers. Scorned by the record industry for "killing music," the cassette tape rippled through scenes corporations couldn't control. For so many, tapes meant freedom—to create, to invent, to connect.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Book Review: Historically Black Phrases

Black vernacular doesn’t often get its due—despite its enormous influence on mainstream culture—but Historically Black Phrases is here to give Black language its flowers. A celebration of more than two hundred staples of Black conversation—from church sayings and units of measure to compliments and reprimands—this sharp and witty guide explores the unique importance of Black expression and communication. It offers definitions and notable pop culture moments, as well as tips on pronunciation and usage of phrases. In addition to the phrases, short essays offer insight on different facets of Black language from scholars, entertainers, and pop culture commentators.

Authors, journalists, and hosts of the award-winning podcast FANTI, jarrett hill and Tre’vell Anderson examine each phrase with humor and cultural precision, making Historically Black Phrases a vital ode to how Black language influences the world.

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Book Review: Glitter and Concrete

From the lush feather boas that adorned early female impersonators to the sequined lip syncs of barroom queens to the drag kings that have us laughing in stitches, drag has played a vital role in the creative life of New York City. But the evolution of drag in the city—as an art form, a community and a mode of liberation—has never before been fully chronicled.

For the first time, journalist and drag historian Elyssa Maxx Goodman unearths the dramatic, provocative untold story of drag in NYC in all its glistening glory. Goodman ducks beneath the velvet ropes of Harlem Renaissance balls, examines drag’s crucial role in the Stonewall Uprising, traces drag's influence on disco and punk rock as well as its unifying power during the AIDS crisis and 9/11, and culminates in the era of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Book Review: Starter Villain

Charlie's life is going nowhere fast. A divorced substitute teacher living with his cat in a house his siblings want to sell, all he wants is to open a pub downtown, if only the bank will approve his loan. Then his long-lost uncle Jake dies and leaves his supervillain business (complete with island volcano lair) to Charlie.

But becoming a supervillain isn't all giant laser death rays and lava pits. Jake had enemies, and now they're coming after Charlie. His uncle might have been a stand-up, old-fashioned kind of villain, but these are the real thing: rich, soulless predators backed by multinational corporations and venture capital.

It's up to Charlie to win the war his uncle started against a league of supervillains. But with unionized dolphins, hyper-intelligent talking spy cats, and a terrifying henchperson at his side, going bad is starting to look pretty good. In a dog-eat-dog a cat.

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Book Review: Night Train to Nashville

In another time and place, E. Gab Blackman and William Sousa "Sou" Bridgeforth might have been as close as brothers, but in 1950s Nashville they remained separated by the color of their skin. Gab, a visionary yet opportunistic radio executive, saw something no one else did: a vast and untapped market with the R&B scene exploding in Black clubs across the city. He defied his industry, culture, government, and even his own family to broadcast Black music to a national audience.

Sunday, August 6, 2023

Book Review: Black AF History

America’s backstory is a whitewashed mythology implanted in our collective memory. It is the story of the pilgrims on the Mayflower building a new nation. It is George Washington’s cherry tree and Abraham Lincoln’s log cabin. It is the fantastic tale of slaves that spontaneously teleported themselves here with nothing but strong backs and negro spirituals. It should come as no surprise that the dominant narrative of American history is blighted with errors and oversights—after all, history books were written by white men with their perspectives at the forefront. It could even be said that the devaluation and erasure of the Black experience is as American as apple pie.

Friday, August 4, 2023

Book Review: I'm a Fan

Sheena Patel’s incandescent first novel begins with the unnamed narrator describing her involvement in a seemingly unequal romantic relationship. With a clear and unforgiving eye, she dissects the behavior of all involved, herself included, and makes startling connections between the power struggles at the heart of human relationships and those of the wider world. I’m a Fan offers a devastating critique of class, social media, patriarchy’s hold on us, and our cultural obsession with status and how that status is conveyed.

Sex, brutality, politics, work, art, tenderness, humor—Patel tackles them all while making the reader complicit in the inescapable trap of fandom that seems to define the modern condition.

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Book Review: The Last Devil to Die

It's rarely a quiet day for the Thursday Murder Club. Shocking news reaches them—an old friend has been killed, and a dangerous package he was protecting has gone missing.

The gang's search leads them into the antiques business, where the tricks of the trade are as old as the objects themselves. As they encounter drug dealers, art forgers, and online fraudsters—as well as heartache close to home—Elizabeth, Joyce, Ron, and Ibrahim have no idea whom to trust.

With the body count rising, the clock ticking down, and trouble firmly on their tail, has their luck finally run out? And who will be the last devil to die?