High Fantasy, A Suspenseful Road Trip and a Comic Book

Book Series: The Dagger and Coin Series, by Daniel Abraham

Let’s be honest. We all have our favorite classic books, and we would love to be the person who reads only deep, “impactful” literature that appears in the Atlantic (or whatever). But sometimes you just need a story to hold your attention for a little while. It’s like food. You can only eat so much filet mignon and red wine before you need some beer and pretzels. If I had a nickel for every light fiction book I’ve devoured because I just needed five hours to not think, I could buy my next book.

That next book will be The Spider’s War, the final volume in Daniel Abraham’s five-part high fantasy saga, “The Dagger and the Coin,” just published this past January. With this series, Abraham has demonstrated deceptively masterful craftsmanship. The books read like any other light fantasy you might pick up off the shelf, but without the syntax errors and formulaic plot-lines that usually plague the fantasy genre. The characters are rich and complex, and Abraham treats startlingly relevant themes (such as the hidden power of a bank) with nuance and grace. Bottom line: if you just want a distraction, this series can give that to you. And if you want food for thought, you can have that too.


– David Shelton


Movie: Joy Ride, directed by John Dahl (and co-written by J.J. Abrams)

Ok, am I the only person who didn’t see or hear about this movie (came out in 2001)? I’d never heard of it before watching it with friends on New Year’s Eve a few years ago, and they put it on right after forcing me to watch Labyrinth for the first time. Sorry if you love Labyrinth, but after that, I didn’t have a lot of faith in their movie-picking choices. At this point, my husband had fallen asleep and I had drunk 3/4 of a full-size bottle of Martinelli’s by myself because as a nursing mom, I wasn’t drinking booze like everyone else (for the record, I finished the bottle, and it wasn’t my brightest moment). Anyway, this movie starts out kinda 80s/90s with two brothers on a road trip, and maybe it was just because I was expecting so little of it, but it was gripping the entire time. It’s perfectly suspenseful without being horror-y. The basic plot is about the brothers messing around on their radio making fun of some truckers, who may or may not decide to kill them for their pranks. It’s funny and believable, and you keep wondering, “are they actually in danger”? That’s the genius of this story. It really creeps up on you. It sounds like a ridiculous premise, but this movie really just impressed the heck out of me and continues to. I did not see it coming. At all. Also, cliffhanger ending, so you have been warned.


-Karissa Tucker


Graphic Novel: Daytripper, by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon:

I’m admittedly pretty embarrassed about how I used to look at the graphic novel. I thought comic books were a waste of time and a bunch of fluff. How could I not recognize the potential for amazing art used to tell poignant, gripping, and funny stories? blind reader snobbishness. Well, my eyes are opened to a whole new world. I’ve read several graphic novels recently including The Underwater Welder and The Gigantic Beard that was EvilThis genre is rich and rewarding, somewhere between literature and film.

Daytripper is a beautiful book. To begin with the art is stunning and beautiful. The artists are genius at using gesture and progression in each frame to tell a story in such a way that you almost feel you’re watching a movie. The story itself is about an obituary write, Brás, who aspires to become a “real” writer. His obituary writing naturally provides a theme of death and, necessarily, the life (quantity, quality, and content) leading up to the end. Each section/chapter is imaginative, profound and thought provoking. The only thing I regret is how fast the book went by, but it was an amazing experience and I’m sure I will re-read this one.


– Jessica Webster


A Guide to Life-enrichment, Some Outsider art, and a Supernatural Novel


Kind-of-a-book: Experience Passport by Alex Egner:

This little diary-pamphlet was designed to mirror a system of learning offered to students in the Communication Design program at the University of North Texas. Think of it as providing the growth experienced in art school without the price tag. Yet it covers more than fine art – it’s “part life coach, part Sherpa guide, part itinerary of amazing activities.” It’s “how not to be boring”, wrapped up in a cute slightly-larger-than-passport size book, complete with passport-like stamp stickers to mark completed experiences and page margins with those nifty patterns you find on real passport pages. Two examples of prompts in the book are as follows:
1. Watch three Academy Award winning films made before 1945. What stood out most about the film making compared to today’s cinema styles?
2. List three of your most strongly held convictions. Choose one, and using a minimum of 500 words, try to persuade yourself to change your mind.
I would love it if someone blogged their way through this entire book. I’m fascinated by how we change as people if we allow ourselves the opportunity to do so.
Karissa Tucker 
Artwork: The Electric Pencil Drawings by James Edward Deeds: 
An unlikely and lucky thing happened when a someone happened to stumble on this lost notebook filled with drawings. The drawings, most of people with cavernous, staring eyes, were colored onto pages of an old ledger from State Hospital No. 3 Nevada, Missouri. These drawings were found and eventually revealed to the art community as the “outsider art” of James Edward Deeds. Deeds was a patient at the State Hospital which housed mentally ill people at a time when electro-convulsive-therapy was coming into vogue as a treatment option.
Deeds drew obsessively during his time at State Hospital No. 3 and these remaining pieces are what is left of his work as a self-taught artist. The pieces themselves are fantastic. Mainly flat, colored, portraits mixed in with some animals and buildings, the images draw the observer in with their mystery. Several have words like captions such as “Why Doctor?”, “Look Out”, and the most emblematic from the collection “ECTLECTRC” with a picture of and the word “pencil” to the right.
I’m very interested in this idea of self-taught original artists who can create such incredibly imaginative work. Deeds was considered mentally ill, perhaps schizophrenic, and spent his life in an institution, yet he drew these pictures which are considered great and valuable works of art today (each two-sided drawing sells for ~16,000$). To see some of the pictures click here, a more in depth article can be read here.
– Jessica S Webster

Book: The Place of the Lion by Charles Williams: 

Williams is known for his ‘supernatural thrillers’, stories that take place in contemporary England, which is then filled with the supernatural. My friend said Williams, “wrote his doctrine in novels.” While Descent Into Hell is mostly contained within the mind, The Place of The Lion is a physical invasion of the Platonic forms, or the Celestial hierarchy, into rural England. Anthony and Damaris, both philosophers in the novel, find the things and ideas they have studied are coming from the ethereal into physical manifestations.
It’s certainly not the lightest fiction I’ve read. I found it helpful to be familiar with the Platonic forms and the celestial hierarchy of Dionysius, though without having read them, one can still appreciate Williams.

Richie Gowin