Review: Locke & Key, Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill

  • Series: Locke & Key (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 152 pages
  • Publisher: IDW Publishing; Reprint edition (August 18, 2009)
  • ISBN: 978-1600103841
  • Source: Library

The Locke family’s life is shattered after their father is murdered by a high school student. The three children – Ty, Kinsey and Bodie- are uprooted, moving to New England to live in Mr. Locke’s family home in Lovecraft.  There, the children are forced to individually deal with the grief that surrounds their father’s death. Ty feels the most guilt, feeling solely responsible for his father’s death. While Kinsey was responsible for saving her younger brother, she feels guilt for not being as brave as everyone assumes. Poor young Bodie misses his father tremendously and is desperate for someone to answer his many questions about his father’s death.

Their new home, Keyhouse, is a dark and mysterious mansion. If you have the right key, the doors will open to something much more than a room.

Untitled picture

There, young Brodie finds a friend with a ghost that lives in a well.

Untitled picture There are many who are interested in gaining access to the keys that will unlock Keyhouse’s mysteries. There is an evil that lurks among the Locke children; an evil that has already resorted to murder once, not likely to stop at just one.


When I was planning this year’s Murder, Monsters & Mayhem, I knew I had to feature at least one review of Locke & Key. Now that graphic novels are starting to be noticed  more, this is definitely a series that deserves attention. This series is a must-read for fans of well-crafted horror. Hill’s chill-inducing storyline is further pronounced by the richly detailed and haunting illustrations by Gabriel Rodriguez.  Each character is expertly developed, both visually and in the written word.

Hill takes readers through a path that alternates between past and present, before and after Mr. Locke’s brutal death. This shifting of time adds a starkness to the storyline; the reader is jolted from past to present much like the Locke children were forcibly removed from a “normal” family life to a life far removed from anything and everything they knew.

Rodriquez’s illustrations add to the cold and dreary tone of the storyline. This certainly isn’t an uplifting read and the illustrations compound the dark and haunting move. There are some pretty graphic scenes, limited however as to only induce terror when appropriate.

This volume is a collection of the first six comics in the series. I do recommend holding out and reading the volumes rather than each individual comic issue. Additionally, I’d order the first several volumes for I can guarantee with certainty that this is a series that will capture your attention immediately. The Locke & Key series just proves that Hill’s talent has no boundaries.  Highly, highly recommended.


What are some of your favorite horror/supernatural comic/graphic novel series?




Review: Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

  • Age Range: 8 – 12 years (3-7th grade)
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: GRAPHIX (August 26, 2014)
  • ISBN: 9780545540605
  • Source: Publisher

Raina wanted nothing more in the world than to have a little sister. When her wish is finally granted and her sister Amara is born, life isn’t exactly what she thought it would be. Amara makes it pretty obvious that she prefers to spend time alone. Raina straps on her headphones, plugs in her Walkman, and disappears in her own world. As the years pass and a baby brother joins the family, Raina and Amara are no closer than before. Yet, when the family goes on a road trip from California to Colorado and things take quite a few unexpected turns, Raina and Amara decide to see past their differences and forge an allied front against the unexpected future before them.

As soon as I heard about this graphic novel I knew I had to read it. Having two sisters myself, I  wholeheartedly understand the the challenges Raina faced with the introduction of her younger siblings.  Telgemeier alternates between scenes of seriousness and laugh-out-loud humor to share her real-life relationship with her little sister. A sequel to her previous graphic novel Smile, Sisters continues Raina’s autobiographical journey in graphic novel format.

Sisters1Sisters 2

Although a bit lighter in tone than her other graphic novels, this heartwarming tale about family and sisterhood is sure to be a hit for fans of Telgemeier’s work, new and old alike.   Telgemeier shares the struggle between siblings in a fun and comical manner, using tone and language appropriate to the intended age group.  While it’s likely that readers will devour this in one sitting, Sisters is truly a book readers will pick up again and again.


After I read it this book, I encouraged my boys to do the same. While they are obviously brothers (and not sisters), it was my belief that the message would carry over. Here are their thoughts:

Justin (9): I liked it! Even though I’m a boy and have a brother and not a sister, I kind of knew what Raina and Amara were going through. Wait, am I Amara? I guess so, since I am the little brother. I mean, I understand wanting to do my own thing. I like to draw and do art projects and John likes to play video games and watch TV. I like my time to myself so I could kind of get both Amara and Raina’s side of this story.  I think it’s a fun book that all kids should read!

John (nearly 15): So I’m not the only one with an annoying sibling? Kidding! This was a fun and fast read. It kind of made me remember what I felt like when Justin was born. I had my parents to myself for six years before he came along! Thankfully we never had to share a room because that just wouldn’t work at all. I like that it was fun but had a message, too. Basically, you’ll always have fights with your siblings, but when life gets hard they are the one person you can turn to to hold you up. I think it’s cool how she’s reliving her childhood through graphic novels. I loved Smile and I really liked this one too.

There you have it! Three perspectives that, for once, agree on something: We highly recommend Sisters!


Review: Stumptown Volume 1 by Greg Rucka

  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Oni Press (April 5, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 1934964379
  • Source: Personal copy

Dex is a private investigator in a bit of a slump. Not only is business slow, but she in debt with the Confederated Tribes of the Wind Coast to a tune of $18,000. Sue-Lynne, head of the Wind Coast’s casino, offers to ignore the debt if Dex can find her missing granddaughter, Charlotte Suppa.  Unfortunately, Dex isn’t the only one trying to get their hands on Charlotte. Dex finds herself in more trouble than when she started…if that’s at all possible.

I started this series upon recommendation by Julie of Whimpulsive.  I was looking to introduce more graphic novels to my reading repertoire and Stumptown was a perfect fit! It combines my love of crime fiction with my growing adoration and appreciation of graphic novels.

What stands out about this graphic novel is the main character, Dex. She’s flawed, with a number of personal issues and demons to be faced.  These flaws, however, are what make her a genuine and believable character.  She’s tough, no-nonsense, but is still kind at heart (especially when it comes to her younger brother, Ansel, who has Down’s Syndrome).

The dynamic and skilled illustrations by Matthew Southworth are another aspect of this graphic novel that truly stand out. They not complement the tone and feel of the storyline but also add a bit of visual intensity. Southworth captures the Portland, OR setting quite well, the city coming alive on the page.


This is a series I definitely plan to continue. While the price point isn’t low, it’s well worth the value. This is a graphic novel I will repeatedly pull off of my shelf to pour through the pages. Highly, highly recommended.

Guest Review: Desmond Pucket Makes Monster Magic by Mark Tatulli

  • Age Range: 7 – 12 years
  • Series: Amp! Comics for Kids
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing (October 1, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 1449435483
  • Source: Publisher

Today, I’m excited to welcome my youngest son, Justin (8), for a guest review! He’s only reviewed a few books for me but, as he gets older, he’s interested in following his brother’s footsteps in providing fairly regular reviews for this blog. Take it away, Justin!

Even though I am only in third grade, there are a lot of things that the character in this book likes that I like too. Desmond is in sixth grade and loves monsters, just like me. He likes to create special effects and stunts to scare people. I haven’t done any of these things myself because I don’t want to get into trouble but that doesn’t stop Desmond! Luckily (like me!) he has a mom that sticks up for him and gets him out of trouble!  The problem with Desmond is that he is really smart and doing good things with his talent instead of bad. There are so many people who try to get him to do this, but Desmond is more interested in terrifying and scaring people.

One person is out to get Desmond and that is his principal, Mr. Needles. Mr. Needles knows Desmond is up to no good and really wants to catch him in the act. Desmond can’t stop misbehaving but knows if he gets caught he won’t be able to attend the class field trip at the end of the school year.  So, he is forced to enroll in three after school activities as a way to keep him out of trouble. Will it be enough to stop Desmond? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

My mom asked me to tell you why I liked this book. In addition to really liking Desmond, I also liked all of Desmond’s cartoons and drawings that are included. It reminded me a lot of two other series I like, Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Big Nate.  These drawings made the book seem shorter and made me want to read faster so I could get to the next drawing.

Also, at the end of the book Desmond tells people how to make monster magic (like making fake blood!) at home! I think this is probably the coolest part of the book. But I’m going to ask my Mom for permission first!

If you are a kid in third grade and higher and you like Halloween, monsters, and books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid I think you will like this book too! If you do, let me know, ok?

Thank you, Justin! Here is where I will add a bit of a parental advisory! Desmond’s antics are a little out of control at times! As Justin read, he and I discussed Desmond’s behavior and why it was inappropriate. I do highly recommend this book for the audience Justin suggests but with a caveat that you have a discussion with your child to remind them that Desmond is a fictional character, in a book, and why duplicating his behavior is ill-advised!

Mx3 Review: Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol

  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Paperback:224 pages
  • Publisher:First Second (June 7, 2011)
  • Source: Library copy

Anya is a student at a private school. She’s not proud of her Russian heritage; her family moved to the United States when she was five and Anya’s worked quite hard to get rid of her accent.  When introducing herself to others, she often Americanizes her last name, another attempt to escape her heritage. Her mother, on the other hand, wants her to embrace it; she arranged for Anya to attend this specific private school because a Russian boy of the same age was enrolled there.

One day, as Anya is walking through the park, Anya falls into a hole. She meets the ghost of a young girl who died in 1918. The girl, Emily, claims to have been murdered. She’s been hovering over her remains, unable to separate herself from the bones that remain. When Anya is rescued, Emily is able to “escape” due to one of her bones finding it’s way into Anya’s backpack.

At first, Emily is a welcome relief in a sort to Anya. She offers her the companionship she lacks, even assisting her in her school work, social life, and wardrobe.  Soon, however, Emily becomes a bit obsessed with Emily’s life, living it as her own in a sense. When Anya get suspicious she does a bit of research into Emily’s past, discovering that she isn’t the person she stated she was. Anya must find a way to detach Emily from her life before things get out of hand.

Anya’s Ghost is more than just your average ghost story, it is also a coming of age tale, in a sense.  Anya is a teen, insecure in her appearance and her identity. She has a curvy body and she’s desperate to fit in with the “in-crowd.” specifically one of the popular boys who seems to show an interest in her. Through Emily, and the experience she has with her, she learns to embrace her heritage, her identity, her being.

As this is a graphic novel, the illustrations are important.  Brosgol does a tremendous job detailing the emotion, the “feel” of the book by using gray-scale, not just black and white, to illustrate the story.


 All in all, Anya’s Ghost is a graphic novel that would appeal to fans of several genres, including mystery, horror, young adult, etc. How can you resist a book that Neil Gaiman refers to as “A Masterpiece?” Highly recommended.


Review: The Alchemist: A Graphic Novel by Paulo Coelho


  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne (November 23, 2010)
  • ISBN-10: 0062024329
  • Source: Publisher
  • Santiago is a Spanish shepherd boy who sells his herd of sheep to pursue a dream of discovering treasure in the pyramids of Egypt. He leaves everything he knows behind in order to pursue his dream.  He meets several people on his trek including a gypsy, a king, & an alchemist.  Each give him a “message” to aid him in his journey. Throughout this journey, Santiago comes across various obstacles.  Just when he’s about to give up and his spirit wanes, the messages of these individuals gives him the strength to strive forward. He eventually learns that the treasure he is seeking isn’t in a pyramid in Egypt, but within his own soul.

    I read the original version of The Alchemist several years ago and it remains one of my most treasured books.  The message it relays is simple and on the surface; the reader doesn’t have to delve far into the text to find it.

    When I learned a graphic novel of The Alchemist was to be released, I can’t deny that I was skeptical.  How would it be possible to transfer the message from a novel to a graphic format? 

    Daniel Sampere is the artist who rendered the graphic novel.  He quite literally brought the characters to life in his drawings. I was concerned that they would be misrepresented in this format, but he has picked up the very essence of the characters.

    My only complaint about the illustrations is how women are portrayed as having large busts and tiny waists.  While this is a common look of women in graphic novels, I think it took away from the feel & the character of the book itself. 

     I don’t believe the graphic novel should be read in place of the original.  While it does portray and represent the novel accurately, I believe there are key parts that the reader must invision and put to image on their own.

    Ultimately, I highly recommend the graphic novel version to anyone who has read the original novel.  Reading it reawakened my love of the novel and added a new perspective.

    Thank you to TLC Book Tours for giving me the opportunity to review this book.  Please be sure to check out the other stops on this tour:

    Thursday, December 16th: In the Next Room

    Monday, December 20th: Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity

    Wednesday, December 22nd: nomadreader

    Thursday, December 23rd: she reads and reads

    Learn more about Paulo Coelho by connecting with him: