Oddly Normal (Book 3)

Oddly Normal, Book 3Oddly Normal, Book 3 by Otis Frampton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In the third book of the Oddly Normal series, Otis Frampton’s titular character faces challenges and searches for answers. With quality artwork that enhances the story of Oddly, her friends, her enemies, the world of Fignation, and the impact of the narrative; this installment is a great continuation of the young adult series.

Taking up exactly where the previous book ended, Oddly and her friends enjoy a game of rocketball. However Oddly’s half-witch status once again results setting up the next conflict she must rise to, a broom race. But instead of acceptance from her peers, Oddly finds out that one of her teachers has been behind the attacks by her classmates. With her friends help, Oddly discovers a connection to her parents and confronts her teacher for answers.

In this third book, Frampton begins to address the inciting incident of the series and a powerful antagonist that Oddly confronts for the first time. After the challenging results of Oddly’s confrontation with her teacher, she decides it’s time to focus on finding her parents even if it meant failing at attempting to use magic. However, her Great Aunt prevents her to try any magical solution while encouraging her to live a normal life and giving both Oddly and the reader something to think about.

After two books of exposition in beginning the series, Otis Frampton introduces conflict into the Oddly Normal story arc. With more information on Oddly’s parents as well as a potential ultimate antagonist at the heart of the mystery of their disappearance, the narrative stage has been set for further conflict and the resulting character development for Oddly and her friends. Oddly Normal Book 3 is a critical installment in the series in which the overall story changes things from being introduces to conflict, Frampton makes this change very well making the reader want to get their hands on Book 4 sooner rather than later.

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The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan

The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of ReaganThe Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan by Rick Perlstein
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

The Invisible Bridge is an apt title for the latest installment of Rick Perlstein’s historical series on the rise of modern conservatism in American politics. After the scandal of Watergate, the Establishment of the Republican Party was desperate to repudiate its former head and his politics while the right wing looked to give American “a choice, not an echo”. The showdown between President Gerald Ford and Governor Ronald Reagan was thought a cakewalk by the political and media establishment who had not learned the lessons from 1964 and beyond.

Like the previous two book in the series, Perlstein shows that politics and history do not occur in a vacuum as cultural, entertainment, and societal issues during the middle part of the 1970s are covered and how they related to political scene of the time as well. In the wake of Watergate and the resignation of Nixon, the Democratic Party was so certain of victory in 1976 that numerous candidates entered to win the nomination and a sure term as President, only for a complete unknown to the Establishment—Jimmy Carter—to come out with the nomination. Yet the main thrust of the entire book is the 1976 nomination fight between Ford and Reagan; how it came about, how it was contested, and how it ended at the Kansas City convention.

Although history and politics are central to this book, Perlstein doesn’t shy away from giving biographies of the three important individuals of the period: Carter, Ford, and Reagan. The portraits those biographies provide are for the most part not very pretty, especially for those who idolize Ronald Reagan as Perlstein doesn’t pull any punches about his life. But for those who think Perlstein out to get Reagan, the image Perlstein shows of Carter is anything but rosy or positive and gives a hint about how he’ll portray the 39th President in his next book which will not make Carter fans very happy as well. Of the three major figures in this book, Gerald Ford comes out the best though in a way Perlstein gives the impression that Ford was more an individual desirous of pity than praise.

I began this review by saying that The Invisible Bridge was an apt title for this book and the reason was that not until looking back from the perspective of 1980 and beyond did anyone see that in 1976 when Ford won the Republican nomination that it was pyrrhic victory by a moderate conservative of a party increasingly controlled by the far right conservatives. Only in hindsight could the pundits and historians see the once hidden bridge of how the crushed right wing of 1964 had taken over by 1976, that bridge was one man who it turned out won by losing.

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Blood Stain (Volume One)

Blood Stain Volume 1Blood Stain Volume 1 by Linda Sejic
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An out-of-work college graduate with a chemistry degree has been trying to find a job for two years and desperately reaches out to her last chance, a rumored mad scientist with a creepy voice. This intriguing story idea is the basis for Linda Sejic’s Blood Stain (Volume One), a paperback imprint of Sejic’s webcomic of the same name.

Elliot “Elly” Torres is a twenty-something who does not know what she wants to do with her life or what use her chemistry degree will be to find a job. Living with her mother, sister and brother-in-law, Elly is drifting through life from failed job to failed job while being addicted to online gaming until her mother has to go to the hospital and her sister Claire gives birth. These changes put the entire family in financial straits and Elly has to help make ends meet, it hasn’t gone well for a variety of reasons. Finally in desperation she inquires on a years old job posting from her old college, it’s then that her life gets really interesting and seemingly in jeopardy.

That short description of the first chapter of Blood Stain only gives you a glimpse of what actually transpires in this volume of Sejic’s work. What I can’t elaborate on is the varieties of humor interwoven throughout the approximately 100 pages of story nor the fabulous characters of Elly and her sister Claire that dominate most of the story nor their interactions, which only add depth to their characterizations. In fact the one thing I forgot to mention above in my description is that all the male characters that appear are secondary in this chapter to both sisters, who’s interaction with and reaction to one another drives this first chapter of Sejic’s larger work. It is only when the scene shifts to Elly’s new work place that the rest of the eventual main cast is introduced.

Comics in all forms depend on three things: characters, story, and visuals. Sejic’s art is fantastic not only in her characters but also the scenes in which she sets that add atmosphere to the scenes and layers to the story in their own way. In addition to her work on the story itself, the end of book bonus material finds Sejic showing the creative process of how Blood Stain came about not only the story idea but how ideas turned to sketches that turned to pages. Not only do readers see the evolution of Elly and her two fellow “cast” members, but long time readers of the webcomic get the added pleasure of seeing some of Sejic’s non-continuity one-shot images of humorous and/or sexy nature that she has been inspired to create through her own imaginative process on paper instead of just on their computer screens.

As a longtime fan of Linda Sejic’s webcomic, I could not wait to have Blood Stain (Volume One) in my hands and to see the story in paper. It’s hard for me to articulate to those who have never heard of the webcomic or of the author about why they should buy this book, so I hope at least those who are intrigued by this review will at least search out the Blood Stain webcomic and view it for themselves. That way Linda Sejic’s work will speak for itself more than I ever could.

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Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America

Nixonland: America's Second Civil War and the Divisive Legacy of Richard Nixon 1965-72Nixonland: America’s Second Civil War and the Divisive Legacy of Richard Nixon 1965-72 by Rick Perlstein
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Is Nixonland a time or a place? Back in 2008, Rick Perlstein stated that between 1965 and 1972 when Richard Nixon rose to not only the Presidency but achieving the third-largest percentage in election history that Nixonland was brought forth and has been our country ever since. Over the past 8 year, Perlstein has been proven correct.

After the catastrophic defeat of Barry Goldwater in 1964, many assumed that the conservative wing of the Republican Party had been thoroughly reputed and would recede to the background of American political life. Then Watts occurred days after the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and liberalism started unravelling both domestically and in Vietnam. Watching these events was a man thought a political afterthought, Richard Nixon.

Through four elections cycles over seven years, Nixon used the remnants of the conservative insurgence still controlling the state party conventions and his own narrative message to achieve not only a political comeback but a historical reelection victory. But what ultimately helped Nixon the most was the division of nation in two between a progressive driven liberal “popular” culture and those reacting about how fast and how far those progressive steps had gone. It was this latter group that Nixon convinced to join him while the Democratic Party descended into chaos on the national level not once but twice over the course of two Presidential elections.

Over the course of 748 pages of text that covered mostly 7 years, showed how the political atmosphere of the time but of our time was born. The political rhetoric of 2008, 2012, and even 2016 is wholly seen in 1966, 1968, 1970, and 1972 born by the campaigns and speeches by one Richard Nixon and numerous Democrats. In fact the foolish of Democrats in response to this rhetoric that can sometimes still be seen today in 2016 is described in full detail within Perlstein’s text. Of the remaining 131 pages, it is stock full of notes and citations of a well-researched book about the birth of modern American political culture.

For those living the United States, we’re still in Nixonland and if you want to know how American politics entered this 24/7 heated political atmosphere then I recommend that you read this book.

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