Category Archives: book review

A Foolish Mortal’s Haunted Mansion Reading List

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Find a comfy reading spot, and peruse through some of the newest books for all ages inspired by Disney Parks’ Haunted Mansion. Image: Lisa Kay Tate

Originally ran in GeekMom Aug. 26. 2016.

Disney Parks’ Haunted Mansion has already been giving fans of this classic attraction a wealth recently-released books and comics based on the mansion’s legends, lore, and 999 happy haunts.

These include the start of a young readers’ novel series, a five-issue comic book story arc, and beginning readers’ picture book. For those building their spooky book collections, here’s the some of the latest in this famous residence’s tomes:

Tales from the Haunted Mansion Volume 1: The Fearsome Foursome by the ghostly librarian Amicus Arcane (as transcribed by John Esposito and illustrated by Kelley Jones). This beautifully-designed book tells the tale of four horror story-loving middle schoolers who lose their clubhouse to a freak storm (Arcane may or may not have taken credit for) and just happen to come across invites to an even creepier venue. Once there, they learn they might be the subjects of some new tales. The recommended age range is 8 to 12, so the story and writing level are geared toward that group. It also doesn’t focus on any well-known mansion residents. Older readers may find this an easy afternoon escape, but it would really be nice to see a Haunted Mansion novel geared towards older teens and adults. Those tales could be gothic and potentially terrifying.

Disney Parks Presents The Haunted Mansion picture book is illustrated by James Gilleard, based on both the ride and its well-loved “Grim Grinning Ghosts” theme song with lyrics by Xavier “X” Atencio and music by Buddy Baker. This simple book, accompanied by a CD of the song, is the first of Disney Parks Presents series of attraction-based books. The book gives families with beginning readers a chance to relive the ride and enjoy Gilleard’s eerily adorable drawings. Not only is this a wonderful gift for Haunted Mansion fans, but if upcoming books in this series are as well done as this one, this will be a series worth collecting, whether or not you have young readers at home.

Marvel’s Disney Kingdoms: The Haunted Mansion by Joshua Williamson and Jorge Coelho. This comic book’s story is a pretty familiar scenario, with a young boy being lured into a seemingly abandoned old mansion to help lift a curse on its ghostly residents. The story is a good read for tweens and up, with Easter egg-filled illustrations. Better than the story, however, are some of the variant covers, especially the one by Skottie Young, for those lucky enough to find it.

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Skottie Young, Katie Cook and Brian Crosby are among the talents found on variant covers of Marvel’s Haunted Mansion comic series. Covers © Marvel.

For those who want a couple of different comic looks at the Haunted Mansion, there are two other comic series inspired by the attraction.

The first, also a Disney Kingdoms series, is Seekers of the Weird by Brandon Seifert, with illustrations by Karl Moline and Filipe Andrade. The story follows a brother and sister trying to uncover the disappearance of their parents in the setting of a strange, perilous museum. The story itself isn’t that memorable, but the incorporation of some of Disney imagineer Rolly Crump’s original ideas for a never-created attraction Museum of the Weird, precursor to the Haunted Mansion, is worth a look.

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The Haunted Mansion has been a favorite topic for artists and writers well before this latest wave of books. However, you might have to raid a few catacombs to find a couple of these.

Slave Labor Graphics released eight issues of its Haunted Mansion comic book series starting in 2005, featuring individual short stories by various artists based on the mansion’s most famous “happy haunts.” A lot edgier than the Disney Kingdoms series, these tales range from the downright spooky to a witty appearance by Roman Dirge’s Lenore: The Cute Little Dead Girl and a sweet tale of why the cowardly groundskeeper and his pup continue to visit the mansion nightly. The first six issues can be found in a collected edition, Haunted Mansion Vol. 1, Welcome Foolish Mortals, but the final issues might be harder to come by. These are some of my favorite Haunted Mansion stories, and some of the most imaginative. This one is more than worth hunting down.

Finally, for those wanting a behind-the-scenes guide, author and imagineer Jason Surrell’s books include The Haunted Mansion: Imagineering a Disney Classic released in 2015. This is actually the 3rd edition of his The Haunted Mansion: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies, originally published in 2003. I recommend the latest edition, as there are plenty of updates.

There is also the rarer The Art of the Haunted Mansion version by Surrell in 2003, the same year the forgettable Eddie Murphy movie hit the screens. I’ve even seen prices for this hardback edition range from just over $100 to $700. The Haunted Mansion: Imagineering a Disney Classic, on the other hand, is about $15 on Amazon.

One non-Disney publication, The Unauthorized Story of Walt Disney’s Haunted Mansion by Jeff Baham, is available, but it does get a ghostly hitchhiker-worthy thumbs up from imagineer Rolly Crump, who provided the forward for this book.

Hopefully, there will be more to come of Haunted Mansion reading material in the near future, so be sure to clear out a shelf in the library.  This shouldn’t be a problem, as book lovers and Haunted Mansion permanent residents agree: “There’s always room for one more.”

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Image © Marvel.

Cooking with the Kitchen Overlord: A Parent/Kid Whovian Food Review

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Originally ran May 30, 2015:

Images: Lisa Kay Tate

I recently had the privilege of talking with Kitchen Overload creator Chris-Rachael Oseland about her work on a “Regenerated” edition of her popular Dining with the Doctor unofficial Doctor Who cookbook for GeekMom.

The book, funded with the help of a Kickstarter campaign through June 2, will offer more than 140 Whovian recipes, including 60 from the original cookbook and more than 60 new recipes, high-quality photography, interior artwork by Tom Gordon (illustrator for Oseland’s Kitchen Overlord’s Illustrated Geek Cookbook), bonus chapters for cocktails and Fish Fingers and Custard, and an updated index with dietary restrictions.

“Dining With the Doctor: Regenerated is going to be a brick of a book because I’m including a recipe and mini recap for every episode of series 1-8. So if you’re into NuWho (the 2005 reboot onwards) I’ve totally got you covered,” Oseland said.

Oseland also shared a few favorite Whovian recipes for myself and my family to try out, and the Minion Feeding 101 clan was more than anxious get started.

We had been familiar with Kitchen Overlord for sometime, and even used The Doctor’s Yorkshire Pudding recipe during Christmas dinner. This was the first time, however, the girls took on the task of creating a recipe themselves.

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Five-year-old Erin took her job of creating Zygon French Bread Pizza Heads very seriously. That didn’t mean she couldn’t sneak a few mini-pepperonis.

The first recipe we attempted was the Zygon French Bread Pizza Heads. This was the easiest of the three, and the best suited for my youngest daughter, Erin, a recent Kindergarten “graduate.” My only part in the process was slicing the bread and peppers, and adding the “nostrils” afterwards. Erin adeptly arranged the Zygon heads, and followed the recipe perfectly with the cheese, pepperoni and roasted pepper placement. She was extremely thrilled at these coming out looking close to the ones in the official recipe, and couldn’t have been happier if she’d made a perfect soufflé.

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My awkward little eggs, compared to the official image from Oseland’s beautifully crafted recipe. They were, however, still extremely nummy.

I tried the Deviled Ood With Horseradish and Bacon myself, primarily because it allowed me to face long-time culinary fear — hard boiling eggs. I’ve been able to get away with shoddy boiling jobs during the annual Easter egg hunts, but I really wanted to get this one right. The filler mix was easy enough, and temptingly good. If I didn’t want to go Whovian, I would have just mixed the egg whites, bacon, cucumber and basil in with it to make a sandwich spread…which I may do in the future, because it IS that good.

Now here’s the embarrassing part….of the three recipes Oseland suggested, it was the “grown up” who messed hers up the most. Despite thinking I have followed every “how to boil an egg” instruction to the letter, my poor Oods’ heads looked like they were still waiting for their skin to clear up after those awkward teen years.

I also didn’t realize until after they were half-consumed how squishy I had their heads, so they weren’t only battling a skin condition, they were getting over that adolescent Ood baby fat. Poor things. Despite this, they were still presentable, and very edible.

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Molly, now 14, spent her last day as a 12-year-old perfecting the art of dough-making…with a little help from official “glaze-master” and companion, Erin.

My oldest daughter, Molly, wanted to do the Pull Apart Bow Tie Rolls, because the little scientist in her wanted to see the process of making dough from scratch. She also confirmed, of course, that “bow ties are cool.” I was at first worried about her attention span in making the bread, but creating dough by scratch worked perfect for the tween. She got to take an hour break, to play on her “three Ps,” Pinterest, Polyvore, and Pottermore,” before getting to punch a big wad of dough. The assembling of the bow ties was also great fun for her, and they looked really good.

They turned out really nice, and the consistency and taste of the bread was wonderful. We saved them, and had them for her birthday breakfast with tea the next morning. And, she made them, all by herself…almost. Little sister insisted on helping so much, we designated her official glaze-master. She handled the task like a true companion. Better, actually (we don’t always have the highest confidence in the Doctor’s people collection).

This one turned out to be our favorite recipe of the three, and we plan on making this one again soon.

Once we successfully created all three recipes, my girls offered their official on-the-record opinions:

“The recipe was fun to make, and it was really, really easy. I thought the dough would be hard to make, but it wasn’t at all. I was very happy with the way they came out. It was delicious. My favorite thing about making it was eating it!”

— Molly, age 12

“I thought these pizzas were really tasty. I really liked putting the cheese on them the most, but I also liked eating the pepperoni when we were putting them on the heads.”

— Erin, age 5 (who I estimate consumed a good two Zygons worth of mini-pepperoni pieces)

The final consensus from all of us was the recipes were simple, but not “simplistic.” There was actually something to them, not just a configuration of prepackaged foods made to resemble a pop culture character. The only one to actually come close to this description was the pizza bread, but that was a perfect fit for the busy hands and easily-distracted mind of an active five-year-old.

As for my older daughter, the bow ties were easy enough to not get discouraged, but involved enough to not be bored. Plus, you can never go wrong with “The Doctor” in our household. Most importantly, though, everything we made was genuinely yummy. Everyone in the family enjoyed all three recipes. Cooking and baking are fun, but what good is a recipe if you can’t have just as much fun consuming it?

Other books by Chris-Rachael Oseland we recommend. These aren’t “kids” cookbooks either, but recipes that are just fun to make and eat for geeks of all fandoms.

Other books by Chris-Rachael Oseland we recommend. These aren’t “kids” cookbooks either, but recipes that are just fun to make and eat for geeks of all fandoms.

The entire Minion Feeding 101 wholeheartedly recommends cooks of all ages and levels check out Oseland’s books and website to find a fandom befitting their culinary and pop culture tastes.

We’re looking forward to picking up a copy of her “Dining With the Doctor: Regenerated Edition” next year, as well as “going on an adventure” with another favorite of ours, Bilbo Baggins and crew with An Unexpected Cookbook: The Unofficial Book of Hobbit Cookery.

One of the best ways to maximize that important dinner-table family time is to get my girls in the kitchen beforehand taking part of the process. These were a perfect excuse to get them laughing together, talking about their day, arguing over who the best “Doctor,” is and just enjoying each others’ company. This isn’t easy with two strong-willed kids separated by seven years.

Being able to compare the results of their labor, and be proud of learning something new  and showing it off to Dad, Mom and Grandpa was a positive as well. Plus, this gave them a huge pool of ideas for parties, summer projects and other boredom killers.

When else can you get to hear at the dinner table, “can I have another Zygon?”

Find more great recipe, tips and product reviews on Oseland’s Kitchen Overlord website, or pick up her books online at Amazon.

Read the entire interview with Oseland at GeekMom.

— Lisa Kay Tate

Five Offbeat Books To Help Readers Discover The Bard

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Titan brings English Language Sherlock to U.S, U.K. Readers…At Last!

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Finally, there’s an English language BBC series-based Sherlock Manga in the works.

This original Japanese language Manga version of BBC’s Sherlock will get an English version for US and UK readers this summer. Image: Young Ace!

This original Japanese language Manga version of BBC’s Sherlock will get an English version for US and UK readers this summer. Image: Young Ace!

After unsuccessfully searching for the book at local venues, we went online to find this beautifully-illustrated piece by Manga artist Jay was only available in Japanese. Despite my daughter still wanting it for the artwork and the hopeful optimism that she will learn Japanese (a goal she still maintains), I balked.

Somehow, I felt, a story this originally interpreted will make it’s way into the hands of English-speaking readers.

As a fellow lover of all Sherlock Holmes stories (modern and classic), I really kind of wanted to get my hands on  this as well, but eventually forgot about it among the busy misadventures of my everyday life.

Thanks be to Titan Comics, this Manga will be released this June in the United States and United Kingdom in an English language version. The original artwork

Artist Alice X. will give her well-loved images to Titan’s Manga Sherlock English Language version. Images: Titan Comics

Artist Alice X. will give her well-loved images to Titan’s Manga Sherlock English Language version. Images: Titan Comics

by Jay will still be part of this adaptation with script by Sherlock series writers Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, but there will also be more content exclusive to this new version. This includes covers and art by artist Alice X Zhang, and if her absolutely gorgeous covers with Titan’s Doctor Who comics line are any indication, these should be spectacular.

The comic has offered in a limited edition “English/Japanese” bilingual version, with the help of Gatiss and Moffat, by the English Agency in Japan, but it isn’t an easy find for UK and US readers.

Even though Series 4 of television’s Sherlock isn’t scheduled until 2017, at least Sherlock fans can be treated to a new look for a familiar adventure this summer.

Keep Reading:

mangarecommendationsWhile we’re still waiting for this much-anticipated volume to hit the book shelves, here are four other Mangas I recommend that even non-Manga readers should love:

Batman: The Jiro Kuwata Batmanga (DC Comics) These retro-style stories date back to the 1960s when Kuwata wrote a 53-chapter serial for a manga magazine. Now, these stories are available in three beautiful paperback volumes for Batman fans of all generations.

Star Wars Manga (Dark Horse). In 2015, Hisao Tamaki put out a Manga interpretation of Star Wars A New Hope, based directly on George Lucas’s script. There have since been Manga interpretations of all the first Star Wars episodes by a variety of artists like Toshiki Kudo, Kia Asamiya, and others. Like everything else Star Wars, chasing down and collecting this entire series is half the fun.

Big Hero 6 (Marvel). Anyone who saw Stan Lee’s “cameo” in the Disney animated film Big Hero 6, should realize the hit movie is Marvel. The movie is based on a 1998 Manga-style, relaunched via Marvel in 2008 by David Nakayama and Chris Claremont. This original Tokyo-based story will give readers a closer look at the edgy adventure that spawned one of Disney’s cuddliest characters, Baymax. Although Marvel doesn’t plan on creating any new comics featuring the Big Hero 6 team, there are newer film-based Manga adaptations by Haruki Ueno from Yen Press.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (Disney Press). In 2005, The Tim Burton cult classic film got some Manga treatment, suitable for younger readers. Although this one-shot is only a simple interpretation of the film, the Manga style images are a wonderful tribute the imagination and characters created by Burton, including Jack Skellington, Sally and Oogie Boogie. Perfect for any Burton fans in need of drawing and sketching inspiration.

— Lisa Kay Tate

Doodle Lit Gives Readers of All Ages Interactive Experience

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Doodle Lit

Catch the Doodle Bug with Doodle Lit, the recent publication by the creators of BabyLit.

The colorful simplicity of the Jennifer Adams and Alison Oliver BabyLit series has been introducing beginner readers to the world of classic literature since 2011, by teaching simple concepts like counting, weather, colors, and opposites with classics like Pride and Prejudice, Dracula, Alice in Wonderland, and Anna Karenina.

Now, readers of all ages can increase their literary appreciation through the ageless practice of doodling with their interactive book, Doodle Lit.

The book includes several doodle prompts based on the works of authors like Jane Austen, William Shakespeare, Lewis Carroll, Bram Stoker, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling, Charlotte Brontë, and others.

Doodlers can doodle some autobiographic sketches inspired by illustrations from Jane Eyre’s life, compose a Shakespearean-style love letter, try their hand at tattoo design inspired by Moby Dick character Queequeg, and even “Hot Rod” up an 18th century buggy.

Both Adams and Oliver explain the importance of the act of doodling in the book’s introduction, as well as what this simple artistic practice means for them.

“Doodling is such a simple form of being creative,” Adams says in her introduction comments. “When you doodle, you usually allow yourself to do it freely—you’re not worrying about trying to make a final piece of art or worrying what someone else will think.”

This book maintains the simple look of the BabyLit series, only in the black-and-white line style indicative of the many popular “doodling” books available from different authors and publishers.

Another nice feature are the periodic “historical footnotes” included throughout the book. Young doodlers can learn such diverse facts as what a scrimshaw was to sailors and what the national bird of India is (peacock), as well as which Brontë sister wrote what.

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Fans of the BabyLit series will recognize the clever minds behind Doodle Lit.

Although the BabyLit series is geared towards toddlers and beginning readers, don’t make the assumption that Doodle Lit is also just for children. The book may be created with the intention of helping get kids more excited about classic books, but this is something even adults will love doing.

Young children will relish the sheer pleasure of coloring, drawing, writing, cutting out masks, and creating collages using classic literature as source material. Tweens and teens can even get into the prospect of adding their own contemporary creative aspects to timeless classics. This will even be a gateway for young adult readers to be inspired to learn more about the stories and books behind these projects.

For adults, it is a chance to rediscover the classics they may have already read, as well as have an incentive to read those classics they may never have gotten a chance to yet. This would be a fun coffee table book to add to now and again, or you could keep a set of drawing implements nearby for guests to contribute their own “works of art” to a favorite story.

Adams has written two classic lit-inspired books for adults, including Y is for Yorick: A Slightly Irreverent Shakespearean ABC Book for Grown-Ups Hardcover, which would be fun companion gift with Doodle Lit.

There are plenty of books and authors who seemed to be noticeably missing from this series. J.R.R. Tolkien and Jules Verne come to mind, but there is only so much space in one book. This volume is primed for follow-ups; maybe with some focused on specific genres, like poetry or science fiction. Adams and Oliver have certainly opened up the possibilities.

Whether Adams and Oliver ever decide to create a second Doodle Lit volume is up to them, but as for the reader, the question remains “To “Doodle” or “Not To Doodle.”

The answer is clear—and written plainly on the cover—by all means, “Doodle.”

“When you’re young, you’re smart enough to know that art is fun,” Adams says in the introduction. “When we get older, sometimes we forget that. Art is fun. Just doodle.”

Review originally ran in GeekMom on June 1.