Slender Reeds by Gregory

This is a story of the Hebrew people living, in slavery under the rule of Pharaoh Ramas, struggling to hold on to God’s promises and a mother’s hope to save her infant son from sure death by the hand of an Egyptian soldier.

Slender Reeds
Jachebed’s Hope
by Susan Gregory
Barbour Publishing, Inc.
November 2016

Jachebed is a young Hebrew woman, living with her mother Elisheba, married to Amran, a godly man who believes in the one true God of the Hebrew people. These people are living in slavery under the cruel rule of Pharaoh Ramas.

Shephrad is the daughter of the High Priest Nege. Nege is an evil priest and very cruel to his daughter. After a severe beating, she runs away from home. She is found, near death, by Jachebed and her mother. They befriend the young girl, teaching her to be a mid wife.

Ramas is concerned about the large Hebrew population and orders his solders to kill every male child up to the age of three years. Jachebed has a young son she has been hiding. A lot of the Hebrew mothers have lost sons and she is afraid someone will tell the solders about her son. She is a weaver of reed mats and baskets. She will make a water proof basket and send her son adrift on the Nile River. She has observed that Pharaoh’s daughter and her ladies bathe daily near the reeds. This will be a good place to place her son. Hopefully he will be discovered by Princess Meril and not eaten by the crocodiles that inhabit the Nile River.

A very interesting read. This is the first book I have read by Ms. Gregory, but look forward to reading more in the future, Highly recommend the book.


Mary Asher, the Golden Reviewer, is a founding book blogger for BookGateway.com and has generously provided this review. She describes herself as “an 86 year young great-grandmother and an avid reader.”

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

FIGHT! #2 (Nobrow Serial Box) by Teagle

Diablo isn’t a bad guy. Never mind his name, his look, his character that he wrestles with. He just wants to be a good guy for once.

FIGHT! #2
Nobrow Serial Box
by Jack Teagle
Nobrow Press
September 2012

This story is very Wreck It! Ralph-ish in Diablo’s “I’m bad but that’s good…” focus. He’s a wrestler and the son of a wrestler. Because of his red skin, horns and ability to breath fire (which I guess means he actually is a medieval demon) is called “devil” and plays the bad guy. He’s about to retire and in his final fight he faces eye ball headed twins who go to town on him. The fight starts out like a normal match but quickly it becomes clear that the twins want to kill him. The crowd sees him getting beat down and slowly turns in his favor. Emboldened by the positive cheering he fights back.

After the fight, we find an injured devil who just wants to be judged by the content of his character rather than the character he plays in the ring. He seems to be a young man (since he lives with his mom) and deals with insecurities that a devil in his shoes may. If this isn’t making a ton of sense or sounding like a very good story we have a lot in common.

I know that Nobrow allows their artists to create whatever stories they want to. I think this sounds better in thought than practice. Editors do a great job of helping focus stories; not just holding artists back ala “the man.” Art doesn’t need an editor necessarily. But graphic novels really do. This one does. It’s a meandering, non-sensical, rough cut story that goes almost nowhere. I didn’t care about the characters and didn’t get the metaphor or point of Teagle making the devil good and the bad guy [mild spoiler] look like a modern surfer Jesus, but is a drunk “good wrestler” who is really bad but no one knows it.

This is my second book from Nobrow and the second time I’ve been very underwhelmed. I’m not a fan of the content or the execution of the stories.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Happiness 1 by Oshimi

Makoto Ozaki made the choice to live. Now he has to live with it.

Happiness
Part 1 of 3
by Shuzo Oshimi
Kodansha Comics
September 2016

A vampire is loose. Makoto Ozaki is a young high school student who goes out one night to get a movie and ends up getting attacked by the vampire. She gives him the choice to live like she lives or to die. He chooses life. The rest of the manga is about Ozaki’s evolution into a vampire.

Previously bullied, now Ozaki fights back and accidentally finds himself in a position of power. He also finds that food isn’t satisfying. In fact, he finds a strong pull towards blood. As relationships change – that’s the main point of this story – and he grows we find a completely different Ozaki than we start with. But there is quite a bit of information that is hidden and surely to be revealed in the coming books. For instance, the cover has the female vampire that converts Ozaki but we see her only twice and we learn nothing about her. If my description of this story was all it was I’d be interested to see how it goes. But it doesn’t.

My main issues are with the unnecessary mature parts of the story. The mature rating of this book is due to the violence (in the vampire scenes) and also the sexuality. In one uncomfortable scene Ozaki masturbates to a PC monitor, taking time to pull down his pants and face the monitor. Fortunately we don’t see anything else. There is also where he get’s the smell of blood from while at school – clearly from girls who are on their periods. I found these distractions to be more young teenager fantasies than good storytelling.

The art is well done, exciting and conveys the story very well.

There are other parts to this story but I’ll not be reading them. The story barely gets going in volume 1 and the extra material don’t excite me.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

La La Land Review

A love story. But not the one you think it is.

[SPOILERS ABOUND] The first scene of the film sets the stage for a fun reintroduction to Hollywood musicals with a single shot dance number on a gridlocked freeway, but the story actually starts when we see Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) meet for the first time. Preoccupied when traffic finally moves a few spots, Mia doesn’t move forward fast enough so Sebastian honks long and hard at her before passing her – and her up raised middle finger. And so we are introduced to the two main characters in this highly lauded film who we will watch develop from strangers to friends to lovers to something else over the course of a year.

Why this movie won seven Golden Globes, among other awards, is clear from the opening song to the surprising ending.

First, this movie is amazingly charming. Overflowing with nostalgia of Hollywood’s golden ages of musical films and a love of creativity and the arts that exudes from (in-movie) film scene to jazz music. Constant references to the great actors, films and musicians accompany the dreams that Mia and Sebastian have – Mia to be an actress and Sebastian to open a jazz bar. Watching Gosling and Stone sing and dance in the twilight in the hills of Hollywood is fantastic!

As the movie progresses, and the seasons change, so too does the love story between Mia and Sebastian evolve. [EXPLICIT SPOILERS] By the end of the film, in the final act, the two lovers are on the edge of achieving their dreams… and the end of their relationship. This is where the film falters and the second reason why I think so many in Hollywood loved it so much.

The lesson we learn in this film is that we can follow some of our dreams, but not all of them. After a tender scene where Mia and Sebastian tell each other that they will always love each other, we find ourselves 5 years later after Mia becomes a successful actress. We see her perfect life where she was able to achieve her dream and just as our happiness for her is almost complete we see her kissing a different man and we meet her daughter with that man. The moment we realize that Mia choose her film dreams over her love for Sebastian is the moment the film loses its luster for me.

Hollywood may love this decision because perhaps many who have been successful have had to make similar decisions. Perhaps they see this sacrifice as worthy because of the achievement. My dream or my love, but not both. Maybe it makes them nostalgic and feel better about their choices. Whatever emotions it prompts in Hollywood, it prompts very different emotions in me: pity and sadness.

This isn’t Rick and Ilsa’s ending in Casablanca, which is also bittersweet and doesn’t end happily ever after. There are no political under tones, no sacrifice for a cause as great as the Allies war effort in WW2, or even the ambiguity accompanying whether or not they truly loved each other out were better off with someone else. La La Land’s ending is the sudden introduction of a new love interest making it clear that the sacrifice of Mia and Sebastian’s relationship by Mia was solely for personal ambition.

If Mia and Sebastian truly loved each other, and would have been overwhelmingly happy, as we see in a sad montage of the film re-imagining each scene working out perfectly for their relationship to have been successful, including a home as a family and even a son, the loss of their relationship is far sadder than not being an actress or owning a jazz bar. To give up possible life-long fulfilment and happiness to chase after fleeting fame and riches is sad to me.

Not just me. As Mia kisses this new man, my teenage daughter watching with me cried out, “what?” My wife left dissatisfied with the ending as well. It wasn’t a happy one from their perspective. Because loving relationships and family are a higher goal than getting a job.

Hollywood clearly doesn’t agree. And we don’t have to. Lovers of film, including of musicals, as I consider myself to be, may not enjoy the whole vision of the director to enjoy the film and appreciate that it was made at all. Stone and Gosling do an outstanding job – Gosling really was playing the piano the whole time! – singing and dancing their ways into our hearts.

While I didn’t like the ending it is clear that director and writer Damien Chazelle was successful on at least two fronts: making the musical popular again and making the audience, including me and my family, fall in love with Mia and Sebastian.

4/5 stars. Language, including the f word, GD, and others. Mia moves in with Sebastian prior to marriage. Drinking alcohol. No nudity or sex scenes.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

Department Zero by Crilley

Multiple dimensions, the end of reality and all worlds, plus Cthulhu.

Department Zero
By Paul Crilley
Pyr
January 2017

Harry Priest is a crime scene cleaner. It was as close as he could get to being in law enforcement. He’s called to a scene that defies logic – it’s so graphically gross. He is sent off the scene by Havelock Graves, someone who works for something called ICD (Interstitial Crime Department). When Harry accidentally kills a member of ICD, Graves brings him on as a replacement/ bait and he soon finds himself embroiled in an interdimensional battle to save all of time and space from the monsters written of by H.P. Lovecraft.

Good comedy usually has a funny character and a straight character, but this book has two so-called comedians. Everything they say is sarcastic and rude to each other. By the time I got to the midpoint of the book, I came to believe that Harry and Graves are essentially the same person. And when everyone in the book is equally sarcastic no one becomes likeable. It’s like bad cop, bad cop. One of these guys should have been the good cop. I stuck it out to see how it went – partially because of the inexplicably close relationship Harry has with his daughter and the hope that he and his estranged wife may work things out. No spoilers!

In the end, we have an interesting idea, cool settings, fun gadgets, a main character that is easy to like because of his family, and a lot of cliché writing. If expectations are lowered to this point, then this book can be entertaining. But for the most part, I’d recommend re-writing Harry to remove the sarcasm and give us an “every man” to root for.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

The Journey of Captain Scaredy Cat by Andrés & Wimmer

There are three areas that a children’s book must excel at, and where this one fails: language, story and artwork. So if the story doesn’t matter, the artwork isn’t important and you don’t mind pausing the story to explain the words used then this book is for you.

The Journey of Captain Scaredy Cat
Somos8 (Book 21)
Written by José Carlos Andrés
Illustrated by Sonja Wimmer
NubeOcho
April 2016

The story is supposed to encourage children who deal with fears to cover come them by asking the question, “is this fear real?” and then responding, “[thing] isn’t real” three times. This idea isn’t a bad one. Many times, a child’s fears are irrational. Ghosts? Sure, they aren’t real and self-talk is helpful in overcoming that fear. Vampires? Werewolves? Yes and yes. In fact, those are the three fears that Captain Scaredy Cat faces.

The problems start when the author starts the book out with the captain being scared of real things and it continues when any adult recognizes that children have fears that are all too often actually real. Death? Abuse? Fighting with siblings? Divorce? Yes, yes, yes, yes and more. And saying, “divorce isn’t real! Divorce isn’t real! Divorce isn’t real!” isn’t helpful. This logic applies to the things that Captain Scaredy cat is inexplicably afraid of as well: his clothes, his height, his shadow, the size of his shoes. How does saying, “It’s not real!” help any of his stated fears? They don’t. If a child is afraid of ghosts, well the refrain may work. But not so much for real fears.

If your child is afraid of ghosts, by the way, I wouldn’t recommend this book anyway. The very well done art can be terrifying for younger children. The ghost was his blanket that inexplicably turns into a giant monster ghost. The vampire and werewolf are similarly giant and scary. I have four children. I’ve never once, when one of them were afraid at night, thought, “I should show them scary pictures! That will help!” A shadow or the hint of a scary thing would be much more effective without actually causing fear in the viewer.

The choice of language used in the book is poorly selected. Odd words, including words not usually used by children (or even many adults) leaves the adult reader to explain words rather than moving through the story. Do you normally refer to “rancid” milk? Me either. I know that’s a thing, but a child may better understand “spoiled” or “rotten” milk leaving them free to follow the story.

In my experience with my children and with working with children for more than a decade I can tell you I would not show this book to them or recommend it to parents dealing with fear. The message is a good one for dealing with not real fears and in those cases I could see me asking guided questions like the book does, “Are ghosts real?” Then a refrain like the one included may help. Otherwise, I would pass on this one.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

17×23 Showcase #1

An anthology by five artists who have ten pages to tell any story they want to. Unfortunately, most don’t actually tell a story as much as color in pages.

17×23 Showcase #1
by Isaac Lenkiewicz, Kyle Platts, Henry McCausland, Nick ‘Showchicken’ Sheehy, Joe Kessler
Nobrow Press
November 2012

From the start, the book seemed to celebrate a lack of clarity and purpose. There is almost no narrative in the stories. The art is interesting and visually most of the stories are appealing. But like the story about cardboard boxes, the vicious drum playing bird, or the son of the moon, there wasn’t much that made sense. A fact that most likely made the artists more satisfied with their work as they celebrate this anti-narrative achievement.

Being fifty pages with almost no dialog a reader can finish in only 15 minutes without any real effort. That same reader will, if they are like me, shrug, set the book down and move on to a better graphic novel.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

40 Days to a Joyful Motherhood by Humphrey

Adult coloring books are all the rage right now. They have complicated, detailed designs that help calm and focus and ultimately reduce stress. Coupling this with a daily devotional sends like a great idea. But it isn’t done well at all.

40 Days to a Joyful Motherhood
Devotions and Coloring Book to Nourish Mom
by Sarah Humphrey
Abingdon Press
August 2016

See the included picture for example of how this utterly fails at being a coloring book. This is a random picture that is very representative of what can be found. The drawings are sparse and uninteresting. They are all hearts and flowers with very little detail and no difference between pages. There is a ton of open space. Nothing that makes the artist do fine designs or focus on the miniscule details.

The cover design is more detailed than almost every page inside the book.

I’m very disappointed.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

The Dark Blood by Smith

darkbloodRham Jas Rami is on a mission that only he can do. But he is going to need help. And he is going to have to complete it quickly.

The Dark Blood
by A.J. Smith
Heads of Zeus
December 2016

In the second installment of the Long War, the title moves from Brom (the Black Guard) to Rham Jas Rami (the assassin with uncanny powers) who is the only person who can get past their dark magic and kill one of the Seven Sisters. All the living characters from the first book continue their story as well, including interesting intersections between them as knights confront Free Company barbarians, southern warriors against merchant cities, and the introduction to a new race and participant in the Long War and perhaps the last Old Blood.

What I enjoy about this book is that while characters do rise and some die, they all evolve. They aren’t the same caricatures of fantasy heroes that serve their function and then pass away. They also aren’t morally ambiguous. I love that several characters who are enemies, remain enemies, but join the battle against the dark god who is trying to win the Long War. Why? Because right or wrong outweigh nationality. And good characters are good, bad characters are bad. I find this better and more enjoyable, like Tolkien, rather than the moral mess that Martin has started (but not finished.)

I’m very much looking forward to the third installment. This is epic fantasy in a very well crafted world with characters I enjoy reading about.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Humble Comics Bundle Doctor Who presented by Titan Comics


Humble Bundle – one of our favorite sites for PC and Android games, books, and comics where a portion of your payment (you choose the amount) goes to support charity – is hosting a new Doctor Who comic bundle! Go check it out while you have a chance!

This collection is in our opinion a must buy. We’ve purchased the bunch and found some favorites. One of them is the San Diego Comic Con 2015 exclusive story featuring several fan favorite Doctors.

We weren’t able to attend Comic Con in Sand Diego so getting our hands on this special was a bonus! It features the 12th Doctor and Clara visiting Comic Con to take selfies… actually to introduce the reader to the characters. We get a very Galaxy Quest-ish story about an enemy that shows up with the convention goers thinking its part of the show. (In another very short story we see the War Doctor on Marinus for another clipped intro to that under-developed character. It is only 6 pages.)

What we liked about this aren’t the stories, per se, but the fact that a whole new group of fans may be introduced to the Doctor in a couple iterations.

Get the whole set for a crazy good price – while you can.

The Humble Comics Bundle: Doctor Who presented by Titan Comics

Truly Dalek-table comics. It’s about time (lord) for the Doctor Who Comics Bundle to regenerate! This incarnation, it’s a multi-volume collection from our friends at Titan Comics. It’s only available for two weeks, so don’t blink and miss it!

Pay $1 or more for Doctor Who: Agent Provocateur #1-6, Doctor Who: Rippers Curse #1-3, Doctor Who: When Worlds Collide #1-3, Doctor Who: As Time Goes By #1-4, Doctor Who: Fugitive #1-4, Doctor Who: Through Time and Space #1-6, and Doctor Who: Body Snatched #1-2.

Pay $8 or more and you’ll also get Doctor Who: The Forgotten #1-6, The Girl Who Loved Doctor Who, Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor Vol 1, Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor Vol 1, Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor #1 (mini-series), Doctor Who: The Eighth Doctor #1, Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor #1, Doctor Who: SDCC Exclusive 2015, and Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor #16.

Pay $15 or more for all of that plus Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor Vol 2, Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor Vol 2, Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor Vol 1, Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor #1 (ongoing series), Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor #11, Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor #11, Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor #6, and Doctor Who: The Third Doctor #1.

Pay $1 or more. Together, these comics would cost over $209. Here at Humble Bundle, though, you name your price of $1 or more!

Read them anywhere. These comics are available in multiple formats including CBZ, PDF, and ePub, so they work on your computer, e-readers, iPads, cell phones, and a wide array of mobile devices! Instructions and a list of recommended reading programs can be found here.

Support charity. Choose where the money goes – between the publisher, Titan Comics, and BBC Children in Need. For details on how this works, click here. If you like what we do, you can leave us a Humble Tip too!

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