Saturday, December 31, 2011

Locke & Key: Volume 1: Welcome to Lovecraft

by Joe Hill (story) and Gabriel Rodriguez (art), 158 pages

When their guidance-counselor father is inexplicably murdered by a student, the three Locke children and their mother move back East to live with their paternal uncle in the home their father grew up in. But Keyhouse has its own secrets and may not be quite the refuge they'd hoped for....

*shudder*

This Eisner-nominated series would be perfect Halloween reading. As Robert Crais states in the introduction, retreating to a town called "Lovecraft" after a personal tragedy is probably not the wisest of decisions. Not for the faint of heart, this, as the bullets and axes and other unpleasantly murderous implements are wielded early and often (though thankfully usually just off-panel). But if you can handle the bloody results, the scary story of a tightly-knit family under siege from an enemy most of them don't even realize is there will suck you in and keep you rooting for them. Unfortunately, their troubles have probably only just begun....

The Wallflower: Volume 27

by Tomoko Hayakawa, 162 pages

Embarrassed by the weakness she showed in front of Kyôhei at the end of last volume, Sunako freaks out and runs away to avoid having to see his sparkly person...and ends up working at a maid café filled with otaku. Also this time around, Sunako's susceptibility to spirit possession takes a new twist when her new tenant turns out to be a nicer person than she is; Sunako learns that eating nothing but ice cream all day while sitting on a huge block of ice is probably not the best way to deal with the sweltering weather; and playboy Ranmaru and innocent bystander Sunako get kidnapped by ransom- and revenge-seeking followers of one of his many, many exes. You know, just the usual.

Hee hee. Kyôhei and Sunako have had a lot more awkward moments lately, which makes me snicker. They may or may not ever get together, but either way I'm happy watching the silliness--whatever works for them works for me. And, yay, Princess (Ranmaru's open-hearted, intrepid fiancée) gets some acknowledgement from the one she loves. He always puts her off because he doesn't think he deserves her, but she's a stubborn girl. It also amuses me how helpless the boys are (or think they are, the spoiled whiners) when the girls are absent. But watching Kyôhei nearly take himself and half the kitchen out when he's so desperate for fried shrimp that he risks trying to make it himself and causes an exploding grease fire?--pretty priceless. :P

Fullmetal Alchemist: Volume 27

by Hiromu Arakawa, 221 pages

Everything comes together in this final volume. Fates are decided, sacrifices are made, and promises are kept and broken. Full of surprises till the last, this series about the bonds of family and friendship ends on a quiet note that makes good on the hope that has carried its protagonists this far and will sustain them into the future.

*sigh*

I don't want to say good bye! Instead, I'd like a volume-long epilogue so I can see how everyone's doing and what they're accomplishing and how they're growing. Or a whole second series. Yeah, that'd be ok, too. I wish! :) Arakawa does a surprisingly good job of working a decent denouement into this one, but there are so many characters I care about as much as I do the main brotherly duo that I want more than just a line or two and a candid photo of them in their new circumstances. Still, with so much information to hold together for 27 volumes over 9 years, I'm impressed she succeeded so well and can't fault her for not catering to my every selfish-reader whim. I guess I'll just have to be content with being able to come along for the wonderful ride it has been and hope that her newest series--about life at an agricultural college in Hokkaido (which is extra funny because the author always draws herself as a Holstein in the FMA extras)--gets picked up in English so I can see another side of her creative output.

The Parasol Protectorate: Book Four: Heartless

by Gail Carriger, 385 pages

Alexia has returned home to England, her council position, and her castle full of hairy werewolves, but she's getting quite tired of having to fend off the now constant attempts on her life. Why can't the blasted vampires just let her alone? Are they really so afraid of the impending addition as all that? And is it just her, or are they not the only ones out there making trouble?

Revelations about any number of people close to her give Alexia reason to pause, blink, sigh, and shake her head. Some also cause her to go on perfectly legitimate verbal tirades--and not all of them directed at her exasperating husband (for once!). Nicely balanced comedy and drama once again take the reader for a pleasant ride through a paranormally steampunked Victorian world where cutting barbs and social slights can be nearly as effective as a well-aimed parasol (Alexia's custom-made one shoots various poisons, projectiles, and an electromagnetic disrupter field). The next volume comes out in the spring (and so does the first graphic-novel adaptation, I think), so I won't have to wait too terribly long to have another fun, chuckle-filled evening spent curled up in my reading chair.

The Thirteen Clocks

by James Thurber, illustrated by Marc Simont, 124 pages

A wicked, sadistic Duke keeps his lovely "neice" Saralinda captive in his cold, gloomy castle where it is "always then and never now," the clocks all having stopped at ten minutes to five. Believing he has "murdered time," the Duke amuses himself by assigning Saralinda's many doomed suitors impossible tasks, confident they'll all fail and meet grizzly deaths (which they do). But when a handsome young prince in disguise decides to accept his challenge (and gets some unexpected help from the mysterious Golux), the Duke fears that time may not be as dead as he'd like.

Ooh, I love words! Thurber's wonderfully creepy cadences, sudden rhymes, rampant alliteration, and imaginative imagery and turns of phrase just make my brain happy and give me spooky goosebumps (particularly in the early passages where we are introduced to the Duke and his proclivities *shudder*). This is a dark, funny, twisty fairy tale for grown-ups and older kids who love language and enjoy a good dose of the heebie-jeebies.

Shirley

by Kaoru Mori, 195 pages

This is a collection of unrelated short stories about Victorian maids Shirley, Nellie, and Mary as they find comfortable homes, watch their young charges grow up, and deal with loveable aging pranksters.

Written before but collected and published after Mori's similarly-set, now classic series Emma, these are a nice glimpse into the author's developing interests and skill as much as they are a snapshot of an era. It's all a bit idealized, I'm sure, but I still love Mori's vision of the period and its society. Besides all the wonderful historical detail, she also has a habit of creating strong, independent women in charge of their own destinies in a time that was not always encouraging. Shirley's mistress is a perfect example of this. She lives on her own (with the new addition of young Shirley to help with the housework), runs a café frequented by flirtatious old men, and is frequently nagged by concerned relatives about her ever more likely spinsterhood. But she looks at her options, makes her own choices, and is happy. I don't know if Mori will ever return to any of these characters' stories, but I'd happily read them if she did.

Blade of the Immortal: Volume 17: On the Perfection of Anatomy

Hiroaki Samura, 182 pages

To find Manji, Rin and Hyakurin go looking for the man who saw him last, but Giichi doesn't exactly want to be found, either. And as one immortality test subject after another dies, Manji's emotionally distraught doctor begins to give in to his conscience, much to the impatient ire of the poor man's pragmatic, ambitious master.

What does Kagimura want with immortality, anyway? Is it for himself? His ideals? His leader? I can't figure him out, and that makes me nervous. Manji just needs to kick his behind and get the heck out of there. But one of the things I like about Samura is how he doesn't make his heroes perfect (even if they're practically indestructible). Manji's not too shabby with a blade, but his biggest advantage is being able to get back up when he should be toast--and that cat's already out of the bag with Kagimura, whom Manji knows is the better swordsman. We'll see, we'll see.

Blade of the Immortal: Volume 16: Shortcut

by Hiroaki Samura, 192 pages

Hyakurin gets a pink slip out of the blue and Rin deals with unexpected houseguests while our missing Manji finds the authorities have finally decided to try and see what makes him tick long after normal men's clocks have stopped.

Scalpels and microscopes are only the beginning for poor Manji, who's keeping a remarkably *meh, shrug* attitude about things until he can figure a way out for him and his as-yet-mortal co-guinea pig. Pain's nothing new to him, after all. But he does worry about his new comrade. And about what his cold, calculating captor plans to do with whatever knowledge his desperate men of science discover.

I wondered how long it would take somebody with some clout to catch wind of Manji's condition and start poking him with sharp pointy instruments. I think Kagimura just didn't believe it till he saw it with his own eyes. But now that he has, life is just going to get more complicated for everyone.

Blade of the Immortal: Volume 15: Trickster

by Hiroaki Samura, 218 pages

The Ittô-Ryû get more than they bargained for when they try to bait Manji. To thank Giichi for his assistance, Manji agrees to meet Habaki Kagimura, the authority controlling the Mugai-Ryû. And of course that doesn't go entirely as planned, either, only this time not in Manji's favor.

Meanwhile, in the prison below Edo castle a deal is being struck with the devil....

!&$#@*!!! Cockroach!! I knew he wasn't dead! And he's more horrible and terrifying than ever. *skin crawls* He makes me ill and I just want him to DIE!!!

Blade of the Immortal: Volume 14: Last Blood

by Hiroaki Samura, 251 pages

Conflicted Rin is forced into leading ill Anotsu's enemies right to him, but the fight grows more even with the arrival of a few familiar faces. The enemy of one's enemy is one's friend, no? At least till the threat is eliminated.

Reunions all around, this volume, as paths are taken and "choices" offered.

Vagabond: Volume 33

by Takehiko Inoue, based on the novel Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa, 202 pages

Kojirô, as he does everywhere he goes, instantly and effortlessly endears himself to the people of Kokura on Funajima Island, where he's made his new home. Meanwhile, a spiritually renewed Matahachi sets out to return the name he stole. And Musashi misses a date with destiny (ear plugs will do that) and slips namelessly out of the world for a while only to wander once more. Has he lost the light, after all?

The change to a future perspective the last two or so books has me both happy and sad: happy, 'cause I know storytelling Matahachi lives; but sad, because he seems to be saying the story isn't so pleasant from here out--what does that mean!? I don't know my Japanese history that well, so all the ominous comments frighten me, as they remind me this isn't a purely fictional tale where the author can make it all ok in the end; there is a set path he's following to its set destination and I don't know that I want it to go there!! Ignorance was so blissful, I could pretend it was possible for it all to be ok for everyone I care about, but now....

Now, I have to wait as patiently as possible for wonderful Mr. Inoue to write and draw some more books. After taking a break in 2010 to concentrate on his health and replenish his well of motivation, he announced in November that he has returned to drafting the series. Joy! I'm so glad he found his muse again and look forward to seeing just where he and history and creative license ultimately take dear Musashi and all those with whom he's crossed paths.

Long John Silver: Volume 2: Neptune

by Xavier Dorison (story) and Mathieu Lauffray (art), 50 pages

Events take even darker turns (and things were plenty dark to begin with) as the body count rises and tensions aboard ship reach--and then pass--the breaking point. Silver is not a good man. He is not a hero. And he will most likely be the cause of his own (and many others') unnecessary destruction in the end. But even self-loathing, money-loving, peg-legged pirates have soft spots. Good luck to the unwise man who thinks Silver's weakness is his own strength.

Yeesh. Dude had it comin'.

Uncomfortable to read in places and not always pretty, but the twisted story and atmospheric art pull you in and make you watch out for the next one, anyway.

The Finder Library: Volume 2

by Carla Speed McNeil, 636 pages

There may be no shared plotline in this second collection of stories set in the Finder universe, but they still share ideas and the presence--out front or in the background--of our titular hero / guide / everyman.

For more details, please see my full review on NoflyingNoTights!

"Everything Matters!" by Ron Currie Jr.

320 pages

For his entire life, Junior Thibodeaux has had a voice in his head. This is no typical mental illness, however, for everything the voice tells him turns out to be true. No matter how many times Junior tests the voice, it is always right. So that's why he despairs at the fact that the first thing the voice told him, as an infant, was that a comet will obliterate life on Earth in thirty-six years. Alone in this knowledge, he comes of age in rural Maine grappling with the question: Does anything I do matter?

The premise of this story is obviously way out there, and I love that kind of stuff. There's never any explanation for the voice, and I'm okay with that. I just enjoyed the story and wondered what I would do if I were in Junior's position. The story made me think about the meaning of life and all that good stuff as well. Very interesting!

"Ready Player One" by Ernest Cline

374 pages

The year is 2044. Things are not looking good in the United States, or the rest of the world for that matter. The Great Recession has devastated the planet, and almost everyone is having a tough time. In the real world, that is. Online, everything is different. OASIS is a sprawling virtual utopia where people are entertained, go to school, do business, and meet people from all over the world. James Halliday, the co-creator of OASIS and richest man in the history of the world, has just died. But he leaves behind one last legacy: a puzzle, embedded somewhere in the thousands of virtual planets that make up OASIS. Whoever solves the puzzle will win an unbelievable fortune, not to mention the fame and power associated with such a prize. Fast forward five years. No one in the world has found even the first clue to the puzzle. Like most of the world, seventeen-year-old orphan Wade Watts would do almost anything to be the winner. And he's got a better shot than most, as he's as obsessed with the 1980s as Halliday was. He's an expert on the 80s video games, movies, TV shows, and other cultural icons that the deceased genius used to create his challenge. And then, suddenly, Wade stumbles across the first piece of the puzzle. His work is far from over, however. In fact, the stakes get higher as Wade is pursued by a global corporation that will stop at nothing--not even real-world murder--to win the puzzle and gain control of OASIS. If they do win, they'll turn the available-for-all OASIS into a corporate money-making machine for the elite only.

This is definitely one of my favorite books from 2011. I've never read anything quite like it before: totally futuristic, but with a retro feel. It's so bizarre to be reading about the insanely awesome virtual reality technology being used to play Frogger or watch "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." I recognized a lot of the 80s stuff, but I missed some of the references since I was born in 1985. I had a lot of fun looking things up and adding old movies to my Netflix queue. I couldn't put the book down; it's nonstop action from page one to 374, but I didn't feel like it was too rushed, either. It's not often that such a thrilling book makes me think a lot, but this one certainly did. It brings up a lot of questions about virtual reality and the implications it can have on society. Is it unhealthy for people to live in a virtual world most of the time, or does it simply give people the opportunities to do things they can't do in real life? Does living in an online world cause people to care less about the real world? If so, is that good or bad? And who should pay for this thing--should it be free for everyone, or should there be a charge for it? All very interesting things to ponder, considering the increasing impact technology has on our lives. But, as much food for thought as this book provided, it's mainly just good, plain fun. I say it's a must-read for anyone who grew up during the 80s or is into video games, but even people who fall outside of those categories will enjoy it as well.

"Farishta" by Patricia McArdle

368 pages

Twenty-one years ago, diplomat Angela Morgan witnessed the death of her husband during the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut. Devastated by her loss, she fled back to America, where she hid in desk jobs at the State Department and avoided the high-profile postings that would advance her career. Now, with that career about to dead-end, she must take the one assignment available-at a remote British army outpost in northern Afghanistan. After her arrival, Angela finds that she has to fight to earn the respect of her colleagues, especially Mark Davies, a British major who turns out to be both her most loyal ally and her fiercest critic. Frustrated at her inability to contribute to the nation's reconstruction, Angela slips out of camp disguised in a burka to provide aid to the refugees in the war-torn region. She becomes their farishta--or "angel," in the local Dari language-and discovers a new purpose for her life.

This book sounded really interesting to me before I read it, and it had a lot of potential. It just sort of fell flat to me, though. I never felt like I really got below the surface of Angela's character, so I didn't feel a connection with her at all. Some parts of the story are slow and seem to drag on and on, and then all of a sudden a bunch of stuff would happen at once. I did enjoy getting a glimpse of what life as a diplomat is like, but I wish there was a better-developed story to go along with that.

Pie by Sarah Weeks

183 pgs/2011

This book will make you crave pie! You can't read this book without wanting to eat a slice of pie while reading. The secret piecrust recipe was left with Aunt Polly's cat Lardo, and no one knows what to do now that there's no more pies! The book combines a light mystery, family drama, humor, and lots of pie into a charming read. My favorite part was the description of the Blueberry Pie Award for Best Pie of the Year and the mock Blueberry groups that would form. It's a very tounge in cheek nod to the Newbery and librarians and avid readers are sure to laugh!

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

346 pgs/2011

A heartbreaking tale, Ruta Sepetys sets out to tell the stories of Lithuanians who were sent to the Artic Circle by Stalin. It's a peek into a little known aspect of history-I didn't really know anything about what had happened and I felt that the author's research paid off. She made this story really stick with you and come to life. The characters are rich and memorable-the man who winds his watch, the girl who talks to her dead doll, they're all very hautning. I think I would use haunting to describe this book as a whole. The only thing I had a complaint about was the ending-it was a bit too unrealistic and I wanted to know exactly what happened. But it's a fascinating historical read.

Stumbling Into Grace

240 pgs/2011

I first saw this book on a blog I read and I was interested. I'd been looking for a good memoir/devotional type book and I trusted this bloggers recommendation. I'm so glad I picked it up! Lisa Harper writes in an honest, engaging way that's relatable. I didn't think she was overly spiritual but just the right amount of honesty. I was a bit annoyed by the random mentions of things like "well, I don't drink" or "not that I do this or that" I hate when religious books have to put disclaimers into them. Other than that I really enjoyed this book and I'm interested to read more from this author.

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

228pgs/2011

This is an odd book to describe but a very engaging book to read. There are two alternating storylines that go back and forth. At first you're not sure how they will come together and the way they do may surprise you. Things are still left a bit open, but I like to believe in happy endings, so I will for this book! Who would have thought woodpeckers, mysteries, romance, angels, and kidnappings would come together to make a story? I'd give this one to fans of John Green.

Forever by Maggie Stiefvater

390 pgs/2011

I loved the first two books in this series, but I'm a bit torn on what I thought of this one. Part of me was thinking the book should have just been a standalone. Sure, there were things from book two that raised questions, but I didn't think I really needed them and I would have been fine with just Shiver. I like the addition of Isabel and Cole, but I felt like this book was just a lot of whining and worrying. Will they be wolves forever? What do they do about the upcoming wolf hunt? Will their romance last? I just found this book to be a bit annoying. Plus, there were still unanswered questions left at the end, so even though it's the end of the series, not everything is resolved, which is very frustrating!

"Madness: A Biopolar Life" by Marya Hornbacher

299 pages

When Marya Hornbacher wrote her first memoir, "Wasted", about her struggle with anorexia and bulimia, she did not yet know the underlying reason behind her eating disorder. Then, at the age of 24, she was diagnosed with rapid-cycle Type 1 bipolar disorder, the most sever form of the disease. Knowing what was wrong helped, but her life by no means settled down after that. For years, as Marya struggled to find the right combinations of medication and therapy, she engaged in self-starvation, drug and alcohol abuse, self-mutilation, and other destructive behaviors in reaction to her violently shifting mood swings. This memoir depicts her journey to rock bottom and back--more than once--and sheds light on what it's like inside the mind of someone with bipolar disorder.

There's a lot of mental illness in my family history, and it fascinates me. Though Marya's memoir is often difficult to read, I commend her for writing it. She comes across as completely open and honest, which made me feel invested in her story as I read. Watching her struggle is heartbreaking, but I think a lot of people will relate to her inner turmoil. Hopefully, her story has helped and will help people understand that mental illness is a real, biological problem that needs to be treated like any other disease, but with special considerations. The stigma associated with mental disorders is a lot better than it used to be, but it can and will hopefully improve even more in the future as we understand more about these diseases.

Friday, December 30, 2011

"Vast Fields of Ordinary" by Nick Burd

309 pages

It's Dade's last summer at home. He has a crappy job at Food World, a "boyfriend" who won't publicly acknowledge his existence, and parents on the verge of a divorce. All that keeps Dade going is the knowledge that he's getting away by going to college in a few months. Then he meets the mysterious Alex Kincaid. Falling in love finally gives Dade the courage to come out of the closet. But just when true happiness has set in, tragedy shatters the dreamy curtain of summer.

I really like Dade, and I'm glad that there's another realistic LGBT character out there that teens might be able to relate to. There are a couple of fantastic secondary characters as well. However, the plot just felt really choppy to me. Some parts seemed slow, and then all of a sudden a bunch of stuff would happen at once. I wasn't crazy about the ending, either. I thought it was worth reading, but definitely not one I was crazy about.

"The President's Vampire" (Nathaniel Cade #2) by Christopher Farnsworth

337 pages

In "Blood Oath," we met Nathaniel Cade. Cade worked for President Andrew Johnson after the assassination of Lincoln...and every United States President after that, right into the 21st century. He can do this because he's a vampire, bound by blood to protect the country's leader now matter what. After fighting off a biological attack in "Blood Oath," Cade and his young liason, Zach, are back in "The President's Vampire" to take on an even more sinister threat involving a secret, mysterious branch of the government and some supernatural beings who might be as dangerous as Cade himself.

I have really enjoyed both of the Nathaniel Cade books (the third, "Red, White, and Blood" is scheduled to come out in April). They're a fun combination of political thriller, spy novel, and horror tale. I've not come across a concept quite like it. It's refreshing to have a vampire who is a good guy but not the recently popular over-sexed beast. I also like the tone: there's plenty of humor and witty banter, but a darkness lies beneath it. There's a nice twist at the end of this one, too. Overall, a very entertaining beginning to what I hope will be a long series.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

"Three Cups of Deceit: How Greg Mortenson, Humanitarian Hero, Lost His Way" by Jon Krakauer

77 pages

Greg Mortenson, author of "Three Cups of Tea" and "Stones Into Schools," has built a global reputation as a selfless humanitarian and children’s crusader and been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Here, Krakauer claims that Mortenson is not what he appears to be. He writes Mortenson has not only fabricated substantial parts of his bestselling books but has also misused millions of dollars donated by unsuspecting admirers like Krakauer himself.

I loved the inspiring story Mortenson shared in his books, so I was terribly disappointed when I first heard of the allegations Krakauer was bringing against Mortenson. I read the book because I wanted to hear what Krakauer had to say and try to figure out if they had merit. After reading this book, I'm still not sure. Krakauer accused Mortenson of some pretty serious things, and it seems that he's done his research. However, he doesn't cite all of his sources (there are a lot of quotes from "anonymous"), so it seems like it's Krakauer's word against Mortenson's. There doesn't seem that there's any reason for Krakauer to make these things up. I assume that at some point some third party will investigate all of the allegations, and I'll reserve my final judgment until then.

"The Book of Holiday Awesome" By Neil Pasricha

179 pages

Wrapping a gift with that tiny leftover piece of wrapping paper. When the lights from last year all work. Successfully regifting an item. All of these happy observations are made in the latest "Book of Awesome" collection of books inspirited by Pasricha's blog, www.1000awesomethings.com. In the blog as well as his other books, Pasricha writes short, charming essays on all of the little things that make life beautiful. This collections consists of similar mini essays; the dfference is that, obviously, these entries are all devoted to the holidays. Christmas, Hanukkah, Valentine's Day, Independence Day, you name it. After I read this book, I totally found myself more aware of the wonderful little things that happen everyday. This is a great coffee table book, as it can be read in increments.

"My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One-Night Stands" By Chelsea Handler

213 pages

This book is exactly what it claims to be: a collection of essays about various one-night stands. I'd heard a lot about Chelsea Handler but never read anything she'd written or seen her show...and I wish I had stayed that way. I guess I expected that there would be some kind of revelation or meaning derived from all of the encounters described here, but I didn't get a sense of that at all. I did laugh a time or two at Chelsea's antics, but mostly I just shook my head. I feel like she's trying to prove that her lifestyle is empowering, but she just came off as obnoxious to me.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

"Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self" by Danielle Evans

229 pages

This collection os short stories offers a perspective on the experience of being young and African-American or mixed-race in modern-day America. Evans addresses the inequalities that these young people face, as well as more universal experiences such as family tension, broken hearts, and insecurity. I really enjoyed every single story! Some made me laugh and some made me sad. Some of them don't have conclusive endings, which usually bugs me, but it seems to fit for stories about young people whose futures are wide-open and uncertain. I like the way that the stories give me a perspective on the black/mixed-race experience but still offer something that I can personally relate to.

The Pink Party

by Maryann MacDonald Illustrated by Judy Stead 29 p.

This a book that would be good for girls who love Fancy Nancy books and looking for something else. Two best friends Rose and Valentina love the color pink! The more pink clothes and accessories the better. Well it starts getting competitive. When Valentina throws a pink colored birthday party Rose can't take it anymore. She refuses to go. It is a short story, but one with a fun picture and a lesson about friendship and jealousy.

Kel

Raj, the Bookstore Tiger

by Kathleen T. Pelley Illustrated by Paige Keiser 30 p.

I really liked this picture book and it is another one with a friendly tiger or at least a cat who thinks of himself as a tiger. Raj is owned by the manager of a bookstore. He thinks of himself as a brave tiger patrolling the bookstore and beloved by customers and the kids during story time. Then another bookstore worker brings his white fluffy cat Snowball. Snowball mocks Raj and tells him he's just a little cat not a real tiger. I also thought the illustrations were very cute.

Kel

Sea of Dreams

by Dennis Nolan 38 p.

This is an enchanting story without words of a girl who builds a sand castle and what happens when she leaves it for the day. It takes on quite a wordless adventure in a similar way to the Borrowers.
This picture book would be great for adventure lovers and those who like books in the style of Chris Van Allsburg and David Wiesner. Also it would be good for reluctant readers since there is no stress of actually reading, but is still a book.

Kel

Miss Lina's Ballerinas and the Prince

by Grace Maccarone Illustrated by Christine Davenier 37 p.

Apparently this book is a sequel and it was delightful. So I imagine the first one is as well. A class of little ballerinas are excited to find a boy is joining the class to be a prince in a recital. Though they are disappointed when he doesn't seem like a prince charming.

This would be good for girls, especially those aspiring ballerinas, and probably those Fancy Nancy fans. If you use it for a storytime you should probably practice pronouncing the French words used for ballet positions. Luckily, there is a glossary in the back of the book. It has a good lesson to not judge someone prematurely. The illustrations were cute and so was the story.

Kel

"Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" by Jonathan Safran Foer

326 pages

Oskar is an incredibly bright nine-year-old. His father died in the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center. When Oskar finds a mysterious key in a vase labeled "Black" in his father's closet, he embarks on a seemingly impossible mission--to find the lock into which the key fits. His mission, which he keeps secret, takes him all over New York City and brings him into the lives of all kinds of people who are on their ownamazing journeys.

This is one of the most beautiful, heartbreaking stories I've read in quite a while. I challenge anyone who is human to not fall in love with Oskar after just a few pages. I think Foer really captures Oskar's voice perfectly; he's very intelligent and it shows, and yet in many ways he is still charmingly childlike. Many of the secondary characters are very appealing as well. I also love the funky formatting--Oskar's scribbles, doodles, and photographs--that breaks up the text. What stands out the most to me about this book, however, is the way it made me feel, cheesy as that sounds. I can't completely explain it, but this story totally broke my heart and warmed it at the same time. Okay, enough of my mushy rambling--go read it yourself!

The Salmon Princess: an Alaska Cinderella Story

by Mindy Dwyer 30 p.
This picture book was a neat adaptation of the Cinderella story in Alaska. I really liked the illustrations, because it had somewhat a feel like totem pole style decorations. I liked the story itself too. It focused around a girl whose awful stepmother and stepbrothers make her constantly clean fish and keep her surrounded in fish guts. Plus they won't let her go to the Salmon Festival, because there are too many fish she needs to clean still.
This was a neat story. I liked that the shoe she left behind was a rubber boot that everybody. This would be a great story for a lot of children. I think it's best for school age, K through 5th grade. It would be a wonderful book for a teacher doing a geography lesson on the states or fairy tales.
Kel

Pirate Boy

by Eve Bunting Illustrated by Julie Fortenberry 29 p.
I decided I should read some new picture books in case someone comes in and asks for a suggestion when my co-workers who do the story time and children's' activities aren't available.
I picked up this one because I see Eve Bunting's name all the time in the children's books, but I don't think I'd read one of hers before. This book was fun, colorful, and sweet. It reminded me of the same theme as Love You Forever by Robert Munsch. The boy tells his Mom he wants to be a pirate. She says fine and that she will come and get him when he is tired of being a pirate. Then he asks many what ifs of dangerous situations he could get in which are pirate related - pirates, sea monsters, etc. His Mom has a solution for each one on how she could save him.
This would be good for any kid, especially those pirate fans I am sure are out there (I was one as a kid). Probably better for kids 10 and under. This would be a perfect fit for a mom wanting read a book to or with her kid.
Kel

Louis the Tiger Who Came from the Sea

by Michal Kozlowski Illustrated by Sholto Walker 30 p.
This picture book was a delight. It was kind of surreal with how calm the parents were about a tiger in their house. The tiger was very cute. I love a story with a tiger, especially when they are uncommonly friendly.
This is a cute book that would be good for any kid.
Kel

Back-to-School Rules

by Laurie Friedman Illustrated by Teresa Murfin 30 p.

This book is a fun way to teach the rules of school without it being a lecture. Instead a boy named Percy who loves school goes through the rules to get an A + and not get in trouble and most importantly have fun too.

This book would be great for any elementary teacher at the start of school, especially kindergartners. It would be good option for an school librarian to kindergartners or new kids. Also it would be good for parents and their early readers who are nervous about starting their school.

Kel

"Zone One" by Colson Whitehead

259 pages

An epidemic has ravaged Earth, sorting humanity into two types: the living and the living dead. Now the plague is receding, and Americans are busy rebuild­ing civilization. Their top mission is the resettlement of Manhattan. Armed forces have successfully cleared the island south of Canal Street—aka Zone One—but pockets of plague-ridden squatters remain. While the army has eliminated the most dangerous of the infected, teams of civilian volunteers are tasked with clearing out a more rare kind of zombie—the “malfunctioning” stragglers, who exist in a catatonic state, lingering in a place from their former lives. Mark Spitz is a member of one of the civilian teams work­ing in lower Manhattan. This novel takes place over three days, alternating between flashbacks of Spitz’s desperate fight for survival during the worst of the outbreak and his present situation.

I enjoyed this book, but not as much as most zombie stories I've read. Perhaps Colson Whitehead is just too smart for me, or my brain has been dumbed down by other stuff I've been reading lately, but I had trouble following this story and keeping track of what was going on. However, I think it's beautifully written, and I often got caught up in a paragraph just by the way it sounded (maybe this distracted me and was another reason why I had trouble keeping up with the plot...). I also like the idea of the "stragglers," who are unlike the undead I've seen in any other book. This is definitely a unique story, and perhaps I just need to read it again to see if I get a better grasp on it.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

"The Kite Runner Graphic Novel" by Khaled Hosseini;

136 pages

In this graphic novel, which is adapted from the bestselling book of the same title, Amir grows up in Afghanistan in the closing years of the monarchy and the first years of the short-lived republic. His most faithful friend, Hassan, is the son of his family's servant. One day, when Hassan is assaulted by bullies, Amir witnesses the attack but is too stunned and frightened to do anything to stop it. Overwhelmed by guilt, he doesn't want to be around Hassan anymore, as his friend reminds him of his betrayal. He shuns Hassan, leaving his friend wondering why Amir is angry with him. Then Amir´s relatively priviledged life in Kabul comes to a sudden end when the communist regime comes to power and his father takes him to the U.S. There Amir grows up, finishes school, and gets married. Through it all, he never forgets Hassan or lets go of regret for the way he left things with his childhood friend. After his father's death, Amir receives a letter from his father's most trusted business partner with news that makes him go back to Taliban-dominated Afghanistan in search of redemption.

"The Kite Runner" is one of my favorite books, so I had to grab this graphic novel when I saw it on the shelf. I love it when books I like come out in graphic novel format because they're a way for me to experience the story in a different way and to get a refresher in a time-efficient manner. This book definitely didn't disappoint me. I wasn't particularly impressed with the artwork, but that didn't bother me at all in this case. The story is so fantastic that I really didn't notice that the art isn't spectacular; in a way, the plain drawings allow the story to take center stage. And while some graphic novel adaptations lose something in the abbreviated format, this book sums up the plot of the original novel very well.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Pierre in the Air!

by Andrea Beck 29p.
This book was a delight. The story was cute and the illustrations are delightful. The story is of a poodle who is a born adventurer, but unfortunately his owner insists on keeping him at home or in hotels and making him get constant grooming. He is a determined dog and takes his travels into his own paws when they go to Paris for a dog show. Nothing is stopping Pierre from seeing the Eiffel Tower! Apparently this is Pierre's third adventure, I hope they are as cute as this story book.
Kel

Where's My T-r-u-c-k?

by Karen Beaumont Illustrated by David Catrow 31 p.
This was a cute picture book about a boy who's lost his beloved truck. The whole book rhymes and would be a great read for a resistant boy reader or to read to any boy or girl who loves trucks really. When all else fails you must learn sometimes you should blame the dog. The illustrations are funny and detailed as well.
Kel

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder

2011/336pgs



About the Book: Cam is a teen who is living with cancer. Her recent doctor visit didn't turn out well and she doesn't have much hope. But her mom isn't about to give up and convinces Cam that they should spend the summer in Promise, Maine, a place where miracles happen. Cam is cynical and doesn't believe in miracles, but in a town where flamingos visit and sunsets last forever, Cam has a summer to believe in miracles.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: Tough topics like teens dying can be hard to write well. Sometimes they can come off as too cheesy and corny and Nicholas Sparksy. Other times they don't feel real and you don't like the characters. Wendy Wunder manages to pull off a story that makes you care about the characters and feels real without veering into a cheese-fest.

Cam is a cynical character and at first I had a hard time relating her. But she grew on me as the novel went on. She was tough and smart and her sarcasm made me begin to like her. She doesn't always make the best decisions, but then, she's faced with a tough situation in life and it's hard to keep up hope. As she begins to trust others and let people in, she changes and began to like her more.

Her sister and mom are nicely fleshed out and great supporting characters. They struggle with trying to live as normal a life as possible while dealing with Cam's illness and loss of hope. Her sister is the one who starts keeping track of the miracles and some of her preteen innocence is sweet and charming. Asher, the love interest, is a bit too perfect. I liked Asher, but I wasn't exactly sure what he saw in Cam, especially since she was so gruff with him to begin with. I felt like their relationship never really developed in the way I wanted to watch it develop. Much of their relationship seemed very surface level and I just didn't believe that it was as deep as it was portrayed. I guess this was the most unrealistic part of the book and felt like it was there just because Cam needed a love story.

Also, at times the writing seemed a bit strange. It was written in third person, but there were times I forgot it was in third person and the descriptions and narration felt like it switched to first person. It was a bit jarring each time and I had to remind myself it wasn't told in first person. I don't know that many readers would notice this and it wasn't something that was that distracting and it didn't stop me from enjoying the book. It was just something strange I noticed.

The story itself is good and the author does a great job of infusing hope into an otherwise sad story and making the reader believe. Both Cam and her sister learn to accept everyday miracles, which is a great theme of the book, without the author really hitting you over the head with a message. I love the simple gesture of looking for everyday miracles.

If you have readers who like a good tear-jearker, The Probability of Miracles should be added to their reading pile.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"Double Dexter (Dexter #6)" by Jeff Lindsay

320 pages

Dexter, arguably America's favorite serial killer, is back.
He has recently become a father to tiny Lily Anne, who made him wonder if he could feel emotion and become part of humanity after all. But then he realized that although he feels what he thinks is love for Lily Anne (a completely new thing for him), the Dark Passenger has no intention of going quietly. Despite his recently discovered human feelings, Dexter can't help but continue his evening activities--that is, killing people, but only people who are killers themselves. And only when he is sure that all his tracks are covered, that he will never be caught. But then, one day, the unthinkable happens: someone catches him in the act. And that someone doesn't go to the police. Instead he stalks Dexter...and even begins to murder people in a Dexter-like fashion. Dexter has to find the copycat before he ends up in jail or dead.

I've enjoyed all of the Dexter novels, but this has to be my favorite, or one of my favorites. The plot is solid though not necessarily exceptional, but this one seemed to make me laugh more than any of the others (though, perhaps, this one has the benefit of being fresh in my mind). Lindsay is wonderful at weaving his dark humor into the creepy stuff. Dexter's amusing observations of the people around him not only crack me up but also make me think about human nature and why we behave in the ways we do. I'm really happy to find that the Dexter series continues to stay strong.

Monday, December 19, 2011

"Just Don't Fall: A Hilariously True Story of Childhood, Cancer, Amputation, Romantic Yearning, Truth, and Olympic Greatness" by Josh Sundquist

322 pages

When Josh Sundquist was nine years old, he found out he had a very serious cancer in his leg. His chance of survival was fifty percent. After chemotherapy was ineffective, Josh's doctors were forced to amputate his left leg at the hip. Then he still had to go through chemotherapy for another year to make sure that the cancer didn't crop up somewhere else. At the end of it all, when Josh finally had time to let it all sink in, he found himself looking at a future without soccer, running, or any of the other activities he'd lived for as an active young boy. There was one thing he could still do, though--ski. He discovered the sport shortly after losing his leg, and when he realized that he had a knack for it, he made an incredible goal: to reach the 2006 Paralympic Games in Turino, Italy. With years of training, his family's support, and unbelievable perseverance, Josh made it to the Games, but not without a lot of ups and downs along the way.

This memoir is super-inspiring. Josh writes about his experience with so much humor and wisdom that I not only laughed along with him but also got a new perspective on my own troubles. I felt like a big dork because none of my problems are close to what he faced when he had cancer and lost his leg, and yet I still find myself complaining about trivial stuff every day. In addition to giving me a reality check, Josh's story totally motivated me because, hey, if he can learn to ski with one leg, I can do a lot of the things I think I can't. On top of all the inspirational value, I just had fun reading this book. The pace is just right; there's enough detail to give readers a clear understanding of the story, but not so much that it gets dull. The tone works well, too. There's no glossing over of the tough parts, but it has an optimistic feeling overall. If you like memoirs, I suggest you read this book.

Mimi by John Newman

2011/144pgs



About the Book: It's been 157 days since Mimi's Mammy died. Her father only serves overcooked pizza for dinner and is always sad, her brother plays drums loudly every day and Mimi knows that her sister has a terrible secret (thanks to the peeks she has in her diary). As her family struggles to pull themselves together after tragedy, they learn to come together rely on each other and help each heal.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: Mimi is a sweet yet sad story about family and loss. Mimi is struggling to understand the tragedy of her mother's death and is feeling out of place as each of family members grieve in their own way. Her brother plays drums, her father is distant and her sister has a secret that she's afraid to tell others. Even though Mimi feels a bit lost, she's surrounded by a great support group of extended family. Her grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins each take turns caring for Mimi's family and give Mimi a piece of normalcy in her chaotic world.

Mimi can be a bit innocent and naive at times and sometimes the story is over the top (for example, when Mimi's teacher goes into labor in the middle of class). Some of Mimi's family members are a bit eccentric, but I felt this all balanced out well with the sadness of the story and offered a glimmer of humor and hope. I especially liked Mimi's friend who is always telling her silly jokes. The author includes side storylines on adoption, bullying and shoplifting, making the plot well rounded. I felt that with the additional subplots, no storyline felt overly dramatic, but instead offered hope to readers.

This is a sweet and sensitive tale great for middle grade readers.

Bleeding Hearts by Alyxandra Harvey

2011/289pgs




About the Book: As the Blood Moon is about to begin, vampires from all over the world are gathering near the Drake compound. But not everyone is happy with the invites and a mysterious new tribe that wasn't invited is looking for a seat on the council. Their plan is to kidnap Lucy, because she's close to the Drake family. Everything goes wrong when they wind up with Lucy's cousin, Christabel instead.

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: The Drake Chronicles is my favorite guilty pleasure series. I love the snarky, witty banter, the very hot Drake brothers, and the vampire mythos that Alyxandra Harvey has created. Each entry into the series is an engaging and entertaining read. I think Bleeding Hearts though is tied with book number one for my favorite in the series.

I loved that Lucy was back as one of the narrators. She continues to be my favorite character in the series, so it was great to get a peek into her world again. Reading Bleeding Hearts was like welcoming back my old friends and I was eager to read more about Lucy and Nicholas. (If Lucy ever breaks up with him, he's mine!:)

In addition to Lucy's narration, we also get narration from Lucy's cousin Christabel and Conner Drake. Of course romance ensues, because what would a book in the Drake Chronicles be without some romance? Conner and Christabel are adorable and I liked both of them immediatly. Christabel is always found with a book in her hand, she's read the classics hundreds of times, she quotes poetry and she's waiting for Mr. Darcy. Conner is a Sci-Fi and Fantasy geek who knows Firefly, Star Trek and Doctor Who trivia, who can easily fix computers, and loves comic books. Together they love all my favorite things so how could I not root for them?

There's a lot more than romance and Bleeding Hearts has plenty of twists and turns and surprises. Something strange is happening with Solange, there's a new tribe of vampires to deal with and Hel-Blar are on the loose. Lots of epic battles make this an action packed read. And that ending??? I need book five NOW!

Give this series to fans of vampire stories with a bit of snark and romance. Even if you're feeling a bit burned out on paranormal, give this series a try. Alyxandra Harvey successfully combines action and romance with a bit ohick-lit and a dash of mystery. Another fantastic entry into the series!

Book Pairings: Boys That Bite by Marianne Mancusi, Dead Is The New Black by Marlene Perez

Full Disclosure: Reviewed from e-book galley recieved from publisher on NetGalley

Sunday, December 18, 2011

November stats

Hi everyone!

I apologize for the super-lateness of the statistics! Here's what we've got:

Books read:
Jenny: 31
Heather: 17
Sarah: 16

Pages read:
Jenny: 7589
Heather: 5641
Sarah: 3759

Participation points:
Jenny: 32
Heather: 18
Sarah: 16

Totals:
Books read: 75
Pages read: 20,370
Participation points: 80


So, the holidays are almost here and everyone's busy, but post whatever reviews you can. Every review helps! Let's finish this year strong :)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Lady Julia Grey mystery series
















by Deanna Raybourn, 1,762 for these 4 titles


I previously reviewed Silent in the Grave, the first novel in this Victorian mystery series. Since then I have read the next four in the series. The Lady Julia Grey novels have a strong first person narration, which means all of the action is seen through the main character's eyes. Since Julia herself is forthright and adventurous this works well most of the time. She teams up with Nicholas Brisbane, a private investigator, when her first husband, Lord Edward Grey, is murdered. While on the surface these have a lighter tone, Lady Julia and Brisbane find themselves delving into the darker side of Victorian society, so it's not all tea and roses. The characters travel from London to the Middle East and from there to Darjeeling, a British outpost on the Indian border with Sikkim. These travels give an exotic flavor to the stories, which adds interest to series. Lady Julia comes from a long line of aristocratic eccentrics, so her family is full of characters who liven up the stories with their antics. This series reminds me quite a bit of Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody series, mixing adventure, history and witty social commentary in with the mystery elements. I'd favor Amelia Peabody over Lady Julia, however, because of Amelia's son Ramses Emerson---now there is a hero to savor----I think of him as Victorian version of James Bond. But that's another series.....


















































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tonight No Poetry Will Serve: Poems, 2007-2010

by Adrienne Rich p. 89
I enjoyed most of these poems. I liked the title poem "Tonight No Poetry Will Serve" and "Reading the Iliad (as if) For the First Time." Her descriptions can really bring scenes to life in Rich's poems. Sometimes her spacing confused me at the meaning of her lines. Though usually here poetry is very accessible.
Kel/scoutnell7

"Beauty Queens" by Libba Bray

396 pages

The fifty contestants of the Miss Teen Dream pageant are in big trouble. On the way to what was supposed to be their final competition, their plane crashes on a remote, deserted tropical island. The thirteen survivors find themselves alone, with no food, no water, and practically no makeup (gasp!). The girls have to get out of their competitive mindset and work together in order to live. And then, just when they think they're getting the hang of survival, a boat full of sexy pirates shows up. On top of that, strange things begin to happen...things suggesting that something sinister is happening on the other side of the island.

Oh, Libba Bray. How you make me laugh! I enjoy Bray's satirical humor, and this "Lost" meets "Miss Congeniality" story is full of it. Sure, the satire is heavy-handed, but it gets the point across. Although most of the characters seem to be just stereotypes at first (exhibit A: the gun-toting, Bible-quoting Miss Texas), the layers peel back as the story progresses and before long I was rooting for every one of them. The story is extremely far-fetched, but isn't that what fiction is for? I rolled with it. In fact, the ridiculousness is one of the things that entertained me the most. Anything goes with this story, so I had no idea what was going to happen next. The ultimate conclusion is a bit predictable, but I'd probably have been upset if it had ended any other way so I'm okay with it. The overall message--"be yourself and don't listen to what society tells you about your worth"--has been preached to teens quite a bit. It's nothing earth-shattering, but I don't think anyone expects it to be after seeing the cover and reading the description. It lives up to what it claims to be: a fun, engaging story that will entertain many adults as well as teens.

"Son of Neptune (The Heroes of Olympus #2)" by Rick Riordan

521 pages

Percy Jackson is confused. He just woke up from a deep sleep, and he doesn't know much more than his name. He's been told that he's a demigod, and somehow he knows how to fight, but he's all alone and doesn't know where he is. Somehow he makes it to Camp Jupiter, a Roman camp for half-bloods. He has the vague sense that he was at a camp like this before, but something seems off about Camp Jupiter. While there, he meets Frank, a klutz who doesn't even know which god is his dad, and Frank's best friend Hazel, the daughter of Pluto. Hazel's supposed to be dead, but she's been given another chance to make up for a huge mistake she made in the past. This mistake was part of the awakening of Gaea (Mother Earth, if you will), who wants to destroy the Greek and Roman gods alike. Now Percy, Frank, and Hazel have to work together to defeat Gaea's giant before he and the rest of Gaea's army get strong enough to take down the gods.

I couldn't get enough of the Percy Jackson series and it looks like The Heroes of Olympus books are going to be just as good. I love the idea--uniting the Greek and Roman demigods against a common enemy--and the way that it introduces new characters while letting us know what's going on with the old Percy Jackson characters. As an individual story, "Son of Neptune" is one of Riordan's best, in my opinion. The pacing is perfect--quick enough to be exciting but not so fast that it's hard to follow. It's full of that goofy, often cheesy humor of Riordan's and I love it. The characters are charismatic but also flawed, and therefore easy to relate to. I can hardly wait for the next book in this series to come out! Please write quickly, Mr. Riordan!

"Damn You, Autocorrect! Awesomely Embarrassing Text Messages You Didn't Mean to Send" by Jillian Madison

277 pages

The title pretty much says it all with this one. Madison collected submissions from followers of her well-known pop culture blog (I started to say "popular pop culture blog" but thought that sounded a little weird). The text messages are divided into categories like Parents, The Office, Love, etc. While I thought that about half were just ho-hum, there are some that totally cracked me up. This is obviously a quick read, and it provided a nice little bit of humor to my reading list. Since it can be read in tiny increments, I'm going to recommend it to my friends who are still in school or new parents because it can give them a quick laugh when they only have a minute or two.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

"Day" (Night #3) by Elie Wiesel

109 pages

In this conclusion to Wiesel's Night trilogy, a successful journalist and Holocaust survivor steps off a New York City curb and is hit by an oncoming taxi. Balanced between life or death, the narrator has to confront the issues from his past that he'd been running from. His loss of faith, which began when he witnessed the near-annihilation of his people, takes him to the edge, where he must decide whether to believe in God or not, and whether to keep fighting for his life or not.

Like the other little books in this trilogy, this one makes a big impact. Wiesel uses few words, but he picks good ones and lets them speak for themselves. This story examines how a person tries to move on and live a "normal" life after living through unspeakable horror. It reminds us that the tragedy is not over after the initial evil is subdued; for the survivors, the terror lives on for a long time.

"Dawn" (Night #2) by Elie Wiesel

96 pages

Elisha is a young Holocaust survivor and an Israeli freedom fighter in British-controlled Palestine. John Dawson is the captured English officer who is to be murdered at dawn in retribution for the British execution of an Israeli. Elisha is the one ordered to perform the execution of Dawson. This novel provides an hour-by-hour narrative of the night before the execution, while Elisha struggles with his anger about the past with his guilt about the present.

This novel is very short but also very powerful. It clearly demonstrates the effect that living through something as horrific as the Holocaust has on a human being. It also raises the question: what is the difference between retribution and murder? As Elisha shows, something changes in a person when they kill someone, no matter how justified the murder may seem to be.

Chicks Dig Time Lords: a celebration of "Doctor Who" by the women who love it




edited by Lynne M. Thomas and Tara O'Shea, 186 pages


Winner of the Hugo Award
I read this book about a year ago, when I first started watching Doctor Who with The Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith. All my friends said, "Oh, but you have to watch David Tennant as The Tenth Doctor. He's the best Doctor ever!" A year and six seasons later, I have to concur. They say you never forget your first Doctor, which in my case was Matt Smith, but Ten captured my geeky heart as soon as he said, "Allons-y!" Which in the Whoniverse means, basically, Run!

I recently read it again, and this time I got (almost) all of the references. This slim volume is packed with insightful essays from actors on the show, librarians, writers and other fans. It has its more serious moments, but mostly it's a delightful blend of pop culture analysis and sheer joy. And unless you've been living under a rock on Raxacoricofallapatorius, you will know that the male bastion of fantasy and science fiction starting cracking under the onslaught of female fans of The Lord of the Rings. Now the stone fortress of male geekdom has been breached, its walls shattered by hordes of female fans who celebrate Doctor Who, LOST, Buffy, Firefly, Game of Thrones and Harry Potter. The same editor has also published a book titled Whedonistas: a Celebration of the Worlds of Joss Whedon by the Women Who Love Them. Both of these volumes show the depth and diversity of the women who truly love fantasy and science fiction in any form. So, Girl Geeks unite! Our time has arrived!
























"Beautiful Chaos" (Caster Chronicles #3) by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

518 pages

Ethan Wate had almost gotten used to strange, impossible events happening in his small Southern town since he fell in love with Lena, a Caster. But now, after Lena has Claimed herself for both Light and Dark, things have gotten even more bizarre. Swarms of locusts, record-breaking heat, and devastating storms ravage Gatlin as Ethan and Lena struggle to understand the impact of Lena's Claiming. Even Lena's family of powerful Supernaturals is affected and their extraordinary abilities begin to dangerously misfire. Meanwhile, Ethan is having nightmares again, and whatever is haunting him is following him out of his dreams and into his life. On top of that Ethan feels like he is gradually losing his mind- forgetting names, phone numbers, even memories. Amid the chaos, it becomes clear that something-or someone-is going to have to be sacrificed in order to make things right.

I often have trouble following the plot in the Caster Chronicles books. There's a lot of jumping around and I guess I've missed a thing or two because I don't think I completely understand the supernatural world created by the series. At a few parts of "Beautiful Chaos," I was totally lost. That said, I am still totally hooked. The characters are a big reason for that. They're funny, charming, and easy to relate to. Also, I like that despite the seemingly straight forward groups of Light and Dark supernaturals, most of the characters actually fall somewhere in between. Sometimes the "good guys" make mistakes and sometimes the "bad guys" do good things. It's more like real life and it makes things interesting because I'm never sure what someone is going to do. The tone is another reason why I like the Caster Chronicles. It's dark and Gothic but also funny. There's a huge cliffhanger at the end of this one, so I can hardly wait for the next one to come out next year.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

"Scenes From an Impending Marriage" by Adrian Tomine

40 pages

At the request of his fiancee, Adrian Tomine set out to create a wedding favor for their guests that would be more fun and more personal than the typical chocolate bars and picture frames. What started out as a simple illustrated placecard soon grew into a comic book. These short strips chronicle the often ridiculous processes involved in planning a wedding, including hiring a DJ, location scouting, trips to the salon, suit fittings, dance lessons, registering for gifts, and managing parents' demands. I think they're really cute and funny! When I was planning my wedding, I kept thinking Why are we doing this, again? when it came to some ritual or tradition. Tomine illustrates these moments perfectly. The drawings are super-cute, too!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bake Sale by Sara Varon

2011/160pgs

I really enjoy Sara Varon's books and her art style (even if Robot Dreams made me a bit sad!)

Bake Sale is an adorably funny book about friendship. Cupcake has a pretty great life-his bakery is doing well, he's in a band, and he has a great friend in Eggplant. But lately he's been struggling to bake. When Eggplant suggests that Cupcake join him on his trip to Turkey. It turns out Eggplant is old family friends with Cupcake's hero, Turkish Delight and Cupcake is sure that Turkish Delight has the answer to his baking woes.

Cupcake ends up not being able to make the trip and instead discovers that he didn't need to travel far to find the answers he was searching for. The artwork is adorably cute and the story of friendship is a nice one. The ending comes a bit quickly which may leave young readers wanting more, but it's a nice addition to graphic novels for older tweens.