Saturday, November 12, 2011

"The Walking Dead, Volume 13: Too Far Gone" by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, and Cliff Rathburn

136 pages

This trade paperback edition combines issues 73-78 of this monthly Image Comics series. Former police officer Rick Grimes and his group of survivors have made their way through miles of zombie-infested wasteland to what seems to be a safe community...but as experience has told them, that doesn't mean that they can relax just yet. Rick has always been the group's fearless leader, but as they integrate into the new community, he finds himself more and more on edge. Others begin to question his ability to make decisions.

I can't get enough of this series. Just when I worry that the plot is going to start going in circles, they come up with something to keep it fresh. Also, I like seeing some cracks in Rick's armor in these recent issues. He's been incredibly strong up to this point, so it's nice to see that even he has a breaking point.

It's Kind of a Funny Story

by Ned Vizzini
(2010 | 444 p)

I'm an adult that reads quite a bit of teen fiction. I sidestep the stuff with too much angst, but overall I'm a fan. However, (full disclosure time) the first few chapters of It's Kind of a Funny Story about did me in. I was slapped in the face by what I could only assume was really bad writing. Case in point, this line from the first page of the book: "'Pass it, son' my other friend is like." It goes on like that for a while, and it hurt. I finally realized, though, that the author is showing us the world as seen by a 15-year-old boy suffering from depression. It's not supposed to be comfortable or nice. Once I got that and the story started to unfold I really was hooked.

Craig Gilner is a really smart kid who got into a really prestigious high school. Now that he's "made it," he's finding he can barely cope. His family is supportive, he has friends (of a sort), but life is quickly becoming something that Craig can't manage. When his thoughts turn dangerously suicidal he checks himself into the mental hospital in hopes that they'll have a "quick fix." He is admitted onto the adult floor because the children's floor is under renovations. Once Craig learns that there is no "quick fix" for chronic depression the healing really begins.

This story is, from my understanding, a semi-autobiographical account of the author's brief stay in a mental hospital. A few things are changed for the story. Young Craig Gilner, for instance, is only 15-years-old while Ned Vizzini was actually hospitalized in his early 20s. There's also the whole love story thing, which I imagine is made up (although I'd really like for that part to be true. It's adorable). Craig is a very lovable character and I really felt for him and his situation. I found myself cheering him on. This story does a wonderful job of showing that mental health issues are health issues, same as diabetes or heart disease. A much needed lesson for teens and adults alike.

Oh, and there's also a movie. It's pretty good, too.

Sandman Slim (Sandman Slim: 1)

by Richard Kadrey
(2009 | 388 p)

I've long considered myself to be a fan of urban fantasy. But I'm only now learning that there are actually two faces to the genre. You have the bohemian magical big city life (think de Lint's Newford series) and then you have the gritty, noir stuff. Sandman Slim clearly belongs in the latter. I wasn't sure what to make of this dark side of urban fantasy at first. So, quite rationally, I denied its existence for as long as possible. After finally sucking it up and reading a few of them I have to admit that this just might be my new guilty pleasure (literary-wise, at least).

Wil Wheaton recommended that I give Sandman Slim a try. (I like to say it like that because it makes it sound like Wil and I are tight when, in actuality, I'm just one of the thousands who stalks him on the interwebs.) The Wheaton raved about the Sandman Slim series and I thought to give it a go. And, I must say, so far Mr. Wheaton is one for one when it comes to book recommendations. Good job, sir.

The star of the story is Stark, a talented young magician who was very unfairly kidnapped by hellions. Stark survived eleven years in hell, serving as a tortured pet for Lucifer's top generals. Being mortal he shouldn't have made it a day "downtown," but it turns out that Stark is really tough to kill. He fights his way back to the surface to avenge the murder of his girlfriend. Only, as it turns out, revenge is never as simple as it should be.

This story is fast-paced and full of dark humor. Be sure to read it if you like that sort of thing.

Friday, November 11, 2011

"Before I Fall" by Lauren Oliver

470 pages

Samantha Kingston has it all: the most crush-worthy boyfriend around, three amazing best friends, and unmatched popularity at Thomas Jefferson High School. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it ends with a car accident that kills her.

But she gets a second chance. Seven chances, in fact. Reliving her last day during one roller coaster of a week, she works to figure out what is causing the cycle and how she can make things right.

I picked this book up because I thought the premise was interesting, but I didn't expect to like it as much as I did. I didn't like the main characters at first, and I'm still not sure what I think about Samantha--sure, she changes for the better, but who wouldn't when faced with death? However, the story itself kept me interested. When I heard that she relives the fateful day seven times I worried that it would get repetitive, but it doesn't at all. In fact, it's really interesting how tiny changes Sam makes from day-to-day have a huge impact on what happens later. It demonstrates how seemingly insignificant choices can make a big difference. Also, I liked the suspense that built up as I got closer to the conclusion and tried to figure out whether Sam would ultimately live or die.

"Dust and Decay" (Benny Imura #2) by Jonathan Maberry

519 pages

Six months have passed since the terrifying battle with evil Charlie Pink-eye and the Motor City Hammer in the zombie-infested wasteland of the Rot & Ruin. Six months since Benny Imura, his zombie-slayer brother Tom, and his now-girlfriend Nix Riley saw a jet heading east. Now, after months of rigorous training with Tom, Benny and Nix are ready to leave their home, follow the path of the jet, and search for a better future. Lilah the Lost Girl and Benny’s best friend Lou Chong are going with them. Things go wrong almost immediately after they leave, though. It seems that someone is following them--someone who doesn't want them to get very far. There are rumors that Gameland--where people are forced to fight for their lives in zombie pits--is up and running again. And, worst of all, it seems there's a chance that Charlie Pink-eye is still alive...and looking for revenge.

I love this series! It has a great characters and a perfect combination of heart and zombie-slaying action. I like that it's more complicated than men fighting zombies--in these books, the zombies are often far from the most dangerous things facing the main characters. There's a surprise at the end that sets up the next book in the series well.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Clockwork Angel

by Cassandra Clare p. 479
I enjoyed this book. It was a fun read. I don't usually read YA fiction or fantasy fiction (besides Tolkien and the Harry Potter series). What drew me in was it was set in Victorian England. I'm a sucker for almost anything Brittania related and especially in the 1800s. I liked how in this unlike many recent supernatural series vampires, werewolves, and witches are not just moody, but are actually unsavory Downworlders back to their bad, old supernatural selves. Tessa Gray the heroine is likable and has uncertainties and grows more brave, unlike your usual heroine who starts out as a bold soldier. She is unsure that women are even capable of being warriors at the beginning. There is the intriguing group of demon hunters who are kind of part angel and human called the Shadowhunters. The surprises in the plots development were well hidden I did not guess they would occur. Though there were many things about Tessa's background and her relationships with two of the Shadowhunters who are very different and Will and Jem, but it just makes me want to read the next book that comes out next month.

Monday, November 7, 2011

October Winners!

Here are the winners and total statistics for October! As you all know, this is my first month doing the stats, so let me know if I missed anything.

Most books read:
Jenny: 39
Sarah: 23
Heather: 14

Most pages read:
Jenny: 7438
Sarah: 6806
Heather: 4843

Most participation points:
Jenny: 40
Sarah: 23
Heather: 15

Review winner:
Jennifer H.: "In the Buddha's Words" (particularly the following line: "He was just a dude and he was most righteous.")

Total books read: 95
Total pages read: 26,304
Staff contributing in October: 7

Obviously, our numbers have slipped a bunch the past few months. Understandably, a lot of people are probably burnt out and things get crazy around the holidays, but I think we can rally! Of course, those of you who are still contributing are already doing your part, so feel free to put some peer pressure on your coworkers to get them to post their reviews!

It's a little late in the month to throw out a challenge, but I'm going to do it anyway (I think it's fair, since we're all just starting it). Extra points for...any book that has been made into a movie. Let me know if you've got an idea in mind for a future challenge! Thanks everyone!