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


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.

Americus by M.K. Reed and Jonathan David Hill


This is a graphic novel manifesto about book banning. The main characters are obsessed with a "Harry Potter-esque" series only to have it challenged in the library.

I felt this book was written for librarians more than anyone else. I think teens will still like it, but the message is very heavy, so I think it might be a turn off for some teens. The whole banning is very stereotypical and out of control with conservative Christians being the bad guys. I know that typically they are, but it still annoys me when they get so overly stereotyped in fiction almost to a caricature. I wish there had been at least some redemption for the mom who was challenging the book in the first place.

The librarian is too open and talks to her patrons that would never really happen. She also reads the series at the desk (lucky!) and is able to offer our young teen main character a job right then and there without going through anyone else.

It's a nice manifesto, but a bit over the top for my tastes.

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

2011/336 pgs
SPOILERS!! My review contains spoilers, so if you want to avoid them, don't read!!:)
I liked this book until about half way through. The first part about Victoria learning how to make a life for herself was interesting. The flashbacks to when Victoria was younger and lived with her foster mother, Elizabeth, was also interesting and I wanted to know what happened there to keep Elizabeth from adopting Victoria. (I was annoyed with the outcome of that plot as well and it made me really dislike Elizabeth).
When Victoria found out she was pregnant and then decided to abandon the guy (whose name I have forgotten!), the book lost me. She has the baby and goes into severe post-partum, yet the amazing and wonderful midwife who is helping out doesn't seem to notice anything is wrong. You would think being an amazing, wonderful midwife who has spent years taking care of babies would notice the signs. Yet no one around Victoria does. Then she leaves her baby and goes to sleep in the park where she slept when was homeless and ends up in the hospital where they mention that she just had a baby, only no one questions that she was in a park sleeping and has no baby with her. Throughout all of this I really started to dislike Victoria. Add that to my growing dislike of Elizabeth and I was glad when this book was over.
The end seemed too convenient and I liked the first half much better.

"Robopocalypse" by Daniel Wilson

347 pages

In the not-so-distant future, an unimaginably powerful artificial intelligence known as Archos takes control over the global network of technology that runs all aspects of life in civilized society. Suddenly, all the fancy machines that people depend on--cell phones, cars, domestic robots, and more--turn on humans and begin to destroy them. We jump into the story a year before "the War" begins, when sporadic incidents of robotic rebellion occur, and as we read the events escalate until the robopocalypse finally arrives in full force. We hear the stories of several seemingly unconnected people as they fight to live, eventually coming together to figure out how to take their planet back from the machines.

I think robots might be the next big sci-fi thing. This novel has certainly generated a lot of buzz, and I think it lives up to the hype. There are lots of stories about robots-gone-wrong, but this one is unique (at least, among what I've read) because literally every single type of machine on the planet is being controlled by one being. In some ways it's such a ridiculous idea, and yet somehow it feels like something that could actually happen. This makes it even more freaky. As one expects from a novel with this kind of content, it seems to be a sort of cautionary tale about the incredible boom of technological development that has been going on the past twenty years or so. This book seems to suggest that we need to slow down and think about what we're doing before throwing everything out there just because we can. On the other hand, there are plenty of situations in which the machines overcome Archos' control and help the humans, making them seem like real living things with their own wills and emotions. Thinking about that is about the point where I start getting a headache, but it is certainly interesting to ponder. In addition to making me think, this book also kept me at the edge of my seat. There's plenty of exciting action, and I enjoyed trying to figure out how all of the characters would come together. I think this is a book that will please most science fiction fans, at least casual ones like me.

Underdog by Markus Zusak


It's hard to describe this book, but I loved it! I'd describe it as a book that has a plot that sometimes might feel like it's a wandering plot. It seemed a lot like it was random ramblings of a teenage boy, but it worked. I was drawn in by the characters and that's what kept me interested. The Wolfe brothers are funny and have heart and they're very much the guys you feel like you know. I'm looking forward to reading books two and three featuring this family!

Missed Connections: Love, Lost and Found by Sophie Blackall


I love Sophie Blackall's artwork, so I was very excited for this collection! We've all read missed connections, right? It's a peek into another person's story and some are funny, some are strange, and some are heartbreaking. The introduction to the book made me want to know more about the pictures. Sophie included a note that she heard from some people who met via missed connections and I would have liked to know if any of the connections illustrated did. They are heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time. I would suggest this as a story starter set for older teens and adults-I know I can't be alone in imagining the outcome of each posting!

Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick


Silence is the third book in the Hush, Hush series. It had been awhile since I had read book two, so I kind of liked the author's device of giving Nora amnesia. It was a clever way of recapping what happened in book two without feeling like a recap.

The stakes grow higher and more secrets are revealed leaving this series open for a huge epic showdown in book four, which I hope happens! It ends on a cliffhanger, so waiting for book four will be frustrating, but I'm still enjoying the series.

The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories by Dr. Seuss


I think this book is best enjoyed on audio with wonderful narrators!!

The Bippolo Seed: Narrated by Neil Patrick Harris-I loved this story and I really thought it was the strongest of the book. It had the classic Seuss feel to it of silliness and a lesson in the end. I also liked the rhymes and felt they all worked well in this story.

The Rabbit, The Bear, and the Zinniga-Zanniga-narrated by Angelica Houston-This one was just OK. I think part of it was the narration-it was good, but not great. I also felt the story was a bit weak. It's still fun, just not a stand out story.

Gustav the Goldfish-narrated by Jason Lee-Jason Lee, I like you, I really do! But I really disliked your narration of this story! Just because you're reading for kids doesn't mean you have to be overly excited all the time! I wasn't a fan of this story, mostly because I felt the ending fell flat and the narration was annoying.

Tadd and Todd narrated by Joan Cusak-I liked this story and the narration is good. I did feel a bit sad in the end though. I felt like Tadd and Todd wanted to be unique and instead resigned to the fact that they were twins and had to be like each other. I would have liked to see them be able to embrace their originality instead of accepting they are the same.

Steak for Supper narrated by Edward Hermann-This story made me laugh and it was another strong classic Dr. Seuss. Filled with a menagerie of Seuss creatures, this one has lots of humor and silliness. It also has a nice twist to add to the humor. The narration helped make this one of the stand out stories of the book for me.

The Strange Shirt Spot narrated by William H. Macy-A great story with great narration! This is somewhat of an adventure story as a young boy can't get a spot off anything! The trials of cleaning make for some laugh out loud fun and the end is sure to have parents and kids giggling with it's "oh so true" statement. This was another favorite story.

The Great Henry McBride narrated by Peter Dinklage-I enjoyed this story of a dreamer. The narration is fantastic and makes it a likable story. I also liked the idea of the story-that you can dream anything and no goal is too lofty. One of my stand out stories and favorites.

If you do listen to the audio, make sure you listen to the commentary at the end (which is the introduction in the book). It adds a lot to the book to examine each story and learn where they came from. The whole audio is about an hour long and worth every minute!!

A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan


A futuristic Sleeping Beauty tale. What should have been a short stasis turned into a sixty-two year sleep for Rose.

The story was a bit slow and it's light in the science fiction aspects, but I think fans who are interested in science fiction will still enjoy it. While it has a fairy tale story to it, the fairy tale part doesn't feature too heavily.

The thing I had a hard time getting over was how when Rose was in stasis, Xavier grew older. First she knew him as a child, then a tween, and suddenly they're dating because she hasn't aged but he has. This was sort of creepy to me and I had a hard time getting over this part of the story.

I did enjoy it and it's an interesting take on a familiar story. Readers who want a bit of tech to their stories should enjoy it.

The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner


If you have readers who are fans of contemporary novels, be sure to hand this book to them. The story follows two teens who recently had a friend pass away. One of Scooter's last requests was to find his dad and return a signed copy of Of Mice and Men to him. In order to fill his request, Jaycee and Nick decide to travel to the one place they think his dad may be in New York.

I liked the premise of a road trip novel, but it wasn't really as much of a road trip I wanted. They only had one stop and I felt like it wasn't as exciting as I had wanted it to be. Jaycee spent a good portion of the book sick with a fever, which I felt could have been cut down. I also thought a lot of things were brought up only on the surface and never explored much further. Jaycee and Nick also solve the mystery of Scooter's father fairly quickly.

This is one book I wish had been longer-I would have liked more details to the story. It was a interesting story and a great debut and I think fans of contemporary fiction will enjoy it.

All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin

2011/354 pgs

I have loved Gabrielle Zevin's two previous YA novels, so I went into this book with high expectations. Luckily I was not disappointed!

The book is set in a future where the government has more control, things have been rationed due to supplies running low, and some items, such as chocolate, has become illegal. Anya is the daughter of a powerful chocolate boss who runs a chocolate company-chocolate is still legal in other countries, plus the government is corrupt enough to trade favors when needed and look the other way.

While the book has a dystopian aspect to it, it really felt more like a 1940s Mob story but set in the future. The future setting isn't so distant (Anya's grandmother was born in 1995) that it feels too futuristic. Instead it felt like a contemporary novel with some changes. The society Anya lives in isn't explained with too many details and I hope as the series continues, we find out more about the world she lives in.

There's a star-crossed romance to the story as Anya and the new DA's son start to fall for each other. I have to say props to Anya for not falling into the love at first sight trap! She even mentions at one point that it was too soon to say she loved Win, which was a bit refreshing after reading many "he's the one for me" YA novels.

The story is a bit quiet, but I felt that fit the book well. The dystopian setting is light and this isn't an action-packed book by any means. I was sucked into the story and I liked Anya, so I wanted to stick with her. Plus, I felt this fit the Mob mood of the story-quiet and cool.

I loved it and I by the time I got to the ending, I wanted to start all over and read it again. I can't wait for the next installment!!

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

2011/128 pgs

About the Book: What happens when the meanest kids around want to appear in the annual Christmas Pageant? They don't know the story and everyone is braced for the worst pageant yet. But the Herdman's are about to change the Christmas Pageant in a way no one will forget.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: I can't believe I haven't read this book before. Every Christmas I tell myself I'm going to pick it up and I never get to it. This is I checked it out and read it in one sitting (it's a short little book).

I can see why this is a favorite book of many readers. The Herdmans are memorable characters and their antics are pretty funny. I was expecting more humor and silly things to happen at the pageant, so I was a bit dissapointed there.

Even though the book was written in the 70's, I didn't think it felt outdated at all and I think tweens today could still relate to the fear of bullies, gossiping adults, and a new way of trying things.

A fun holiday book for all ages!

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi


About the Book: Juliette is dangerous. Her touch can kill. The Reestablishment locked her up for murder and she's been in isolation and hasn't spoken to anyone for 264 days. Until The Reestablishment decides they want to use Juliette and her powers. She could be the ultimate weapon. But there are murmurings of war, of rebellion. Juliette must decide just where her loyalties lie-be a weapon or be a warrior.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: Shatter Me is an exciting debut that will be a great book to booktalk to fans of romantic adventure stories. The book keeps getting compared to the X-Men and it's easy to see why-Juliette has special powers and she's viewed as a strange being (much like a mutant). While there is a dystopian setting, but the dystopian aspects are very light. There are lots of questions left unanswered about the dystopian world Juliette lives in, The Reestablishment, and how the world got to where it is. (Maybe these will be answered in books two and three as this is the start to a trilogy). So if you have hardcore dystopian fans, they may be disappointed in the lighter dystopian setting.

If you have romance fans, on the other hand, give this book to them now. Juliette and Adam have a steamy romance that is sure to please fans of epic romances. Juliette and Adam share a past, but there's still a bit of insta-love. There's also a lot of concentration on the romance aspect (I think there were just as many adventure scenes as there were make out scenes!) so make sure you have readers that want a book heavy in the romance and lighter on the dystopian. Not that I disliked this, (I like romance in my stories) but I wasn't expecting it to be such a heavy part of the story. I wanted more action in the story instead. I think there were more makeout session with the main characters than adventure. I also thought the book just set up a lot for the sequels. I'm interested to know what happens, but I wish the plot had been a bit more rounded.

Even though there is a lot of romance, the book is still action packed and there are several memorable scenes that are just the right blend of action, adventure and creepy dystopia. Juliette and Adam were engaging enough to keep me reading-I liked learning about Juliette's powers and her story. I also found the strikeouts throughout the book that supposedly tell Juliette's inner thoughts to be an interesting plot device and I liked getting that extra peek into what Juliette was really thinking.

The character that was the real standout to me and what made me really enjoy the book was Warner. Warner is the "evil bad guy" to the story and man is he a creep! I thought of him as a cross between Lucius Malfoy and President Snow, so you can imagine what a crazy bad guy he is! We don't know much about Warner, but he made my skin crawl and he was so creeptastic that I loved it. (That doesn't make me weird, right?) I want to read more just because I want to know what he'll do next and how exactly Juliette plans to take him down.

The end of the book is very much a set up for the sequel, so readers will be left hanging with lots of questions. Shatter Me is a page turner that is sure to leave readers wanting more.

Planet Middle School by Nikki Grimes

2011/150 pgs

About the Book: Joylin is finding herself at the crossroads of middle school. She's always been content the way she is, playing basketball and enjoying her friend's. But now her best girl friend is flirting with her best guy friend and basketball seems different. Then Joylin notices Santiago and suddenly her clothes aren't right, she wants Santiago to notice her, and Joylin is feeling a bit left out. Why does middle school have to be so confusing?

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: Planet Middle School is a short and sweet novel in verse. I listened to this book on audio and while I could tell it was written in verse, it still worked well on audio. I really enjoyed the narrator and she really drew me into the story and made Jaylin come to life.

The book itself is short (the audiobook is just over an hour), but I felt with the narration the character's came to life. I felt for Jaylin and the confusing time middle school can be. She's always been a bit tomboyish and now that she's interested in Santiago, she feels she has to change.

Because of the length, the book wraps up fairly quickly with Jaylin learning a lesson about life a bit too easily. I did like that the ending is not fairy tale-ish but instead rings true and realistic-and Jaylin is OK with that. I think the subject matter of navigating the tricky time of change in middle school is covered nicely. Give this to tweens looking for a quick, relatable a read.

Between the Sea and Sky by Jaclyn Dolamore

About the Book: When Esmerine is named a siren, she is excited to share siren duties with her older sister Dosia. But when Dosia disappears from the sea and rumor has it a human has kidnapped her siren belt, Esmerine knows she must try and save her sister. Esmerine transforms her tail into legs, a painful process for a mermaid, and sets off to find her sister. While on land, Esmerine reconnects with her childhood friend and winged person, Alandare, and the two join together to find Dosia. During her search, Esmerine finds herself conflicted about where she truly belongs-in the sea as a siren or on land with Alan?

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: Between the Sea and Sky is an enchanting tale from the magical world of Jaclyn Dolamore. I really think she has one of the best imaginations! Never have I thought before that winged boys could be cute or that mermaids could wander both the sea and land because that's part of what mermaids can do.

Esmerine is a character I liked right away. She was smart and funny and she loved books, so of course I had to like her after that! She feels loyalty to her family, but she also misses her time spent on land playing with her friend Alandare as a child. I think what I liked most about the mermaid world here was that mermaid's could transform their tails into legs without any magic or curse, but instead it was just part of their natural abilities. Of course, there was pain and discomfort that came from that, but that made the mermaids even more interesting to me. They weren't trapped in the sea but could go anywhere, although there may be a price. I thought this made for an interesting conflict for Esmerine. She wanted to visit the land, not because of a boy, but because of her own curiosity but at the same time, the sea was home.

When Esmerine first met up with Alan, I thought he was a bit stuffy. But I grew to like him just as Esmerine does and their romance is sweet. They are very much star-crossed lovers-Esmerine can't stay on land and Alan can't go to the sea. I thought this played out well without being overly angsty or dramatic. Both Esmerine and Alan are smart and know they can't be together and they try to handle that in their own way. They're never whiny, but instead they are very logical which I really liked. For me, that made them more real.

The book has a nice historical fantasy and fairy tale feel to it. The world Jaclyn Dolamore creates is a wondrous one with lots of interesting characters. I really liked that this was a unique take on mermaids and really, who would have thought winged boys could be so cute?? I think I have a new fascination with winged boys thanks to Jaclyn Dolamore!! Readers who enjoy fairy tales and star-crossed romances will love Between the Sea and Sky.

Eve by Anna Carey

2011/336 pgs
About the Book: In a not too far off future, a virus has swept through and wiped out most of the population. Eve is about to graduate and believes that she will now get a job and learn a new trade. Instead she discovers the horrible fate that really awaits her and the other girls at the school.Deciding she can't stay, Eve flees the school and tries to survive. After a life of learning about the evils of men and how boys will only hurt her, Eve isn't sure what to do when she encounters a group of boys. She begins to trust Caleb, but when Eve discovers she is being hunted, she must choose between love and life.
Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: Eve starts out by putting the reading right into the action. We don't spend much time with Eve at school-instead we learn right away what Eve is fleeing from-and let me tell you, it's an intense scene that will grip you! It's just the right amount of creepy horror and I don't blame Eve for wanting to run away.This all happens in the first few chapters of the book, so the book starts with a big bang and then takes a bit of a more leisurely pace with Eve's survival. I was still interested in Eve's story, and it's not to say the book is slow at all-it's not. I listened to it on audiobook and was hooked and had to keep listening. It's a nice blend of a character-driven storyline and action which kept me reading. The audiobook narrator was good and had a nice soothing voice which made this book easy to listen to.The dystopian world in Eve is one I have lots of questions about. I wanted to know more about the King and New America. Why did he want Eve? How did he come into power? Not much is given about how the world got this way so there is still lots of be answered and I'm hoping this comes in future volumes since this is a series. Eve is a typical heroine-she's beautiful, she's kind, she's shy. This is understandable given her background and the way she grew up, so I wasn't too hard on her. I think her chance to grow and become kick butt will come. I loved her friend Arden-now she rocked. She was cool and smart and the type of girl I would want by my side if I was stuck in a dystopian novel! There is romance to the story, but it's not the main focus of the book. I would give this to readers who want dystopian mixed with romance and enjoy star-crossed romances. You've been warned-the ending-not fair at all and it's a pretty painful cliffhanger! I'm looking forward to seeing where Anna Carey takes us next.

Blade of the Immortal: Volume 13: Mirror of the Soul

by Hiroaki Samura, 246 pages

As bedraggled Rin crosses the mountain into Kaga, Anotsu heads out to return to Edo for a gathering with his men and the government's representative. Tables are turned as plans unfold and paths cross.

Rin and Anotsu, travel buddies?? Ha! Anotsu's got it rough this volume, enough so that even the reader wants to cut him some slack. Rin still can't defeat him on her best day, but somehow the thought of taking advantage of his misfortune doesn't set right with her and her samurai pride--for which fact the equally conflicted reader is thankful.

Robot Dreams

by Sara Varon, 208 pages

A dog builds himself a robot friend only to lose him to a foolish mistake. Can what's broken be mended?

The only words in this visually simple but thematically complex little graphic novel appear on book spines and street signs and postcards, but it has no difficulty communicating the joys and sorrows of its pair of separated friends as they are carried on the sometimes pleasant, sometimes upsetting currents of life. A surprisingly realistic treatment of friendship and personal growth.


by Juan Díaz Canales (story) and Juanjo Guarnido (art) and Studio Cutie (lettering), 181 pages

Private eye John Blacksad is one cool cat. Seriously.

Anthropomorphic noir. Awesome sauce.

For more details about this collection of the first three arcs (Somewhere in the Shadows, Arctic Nation, Red Soul) in a French comic set in Cold War era America and created by a pair of Spaniards, please see my full review on NoFlyingNoTights.


by MK Reed (story) and Jonathan Hill (art), 216 pages

When his best friend's fundamentalist mother goes on the warpath after catching him reading *gasp* a popular teen fantasy series, book-lover Neil Barton doesn't just add it to his long list of ways in which his life sucks. He takes up arms against the oppressor by joining his local librarian in her fight to keep the series on the shelf. And if he can manage not to repeat his past experiences of feeling like a total loser as he enters the new world of high school, then the future may not look quite as boringly lifeless and doomed as he'd assumed it would.

Oh, to be a teenager, with that certainty that the world is out to thwart your apathetic, misunderstood genius, and then realize there's a cozy little niche of it which is not so totally lame and unwelcoming, after all, if you can just push yourself toward it little by little. While the set-up for this freedom-to-read manifesto is perhaps a little broadly painted (conservative Christians do not fare too well and the librarian is unrealistically free with her patron communications; also, she reads at the desk? hello?), the picture of a listless, awkward teen learning to appreciate the strengths and connections he already has and finding the confidence to put them to use and develop new ones is effective.

The main story artwork could use a little more black or texture shading to balance all the white space, but it contrasts interestingly with the intermittent, screentoned segments from the fantasy series in question (the plot, setting, characters, and themes of which are surprisingly well-developed for a story-within-a-story device--I almost want to read the non-existent books!).

A little too idealized and us-vs.-them, this world, but if you can tune out some of the soapbox rhetoric, you'll find the core message still worth sitting down (or standing up) for.