Howard Wallace may wear a bathrobe for a trenchcoat, his office might be an old desk and a couple of buckets under a tree, but he cracks his cases, onHoward Wallace may wear a bathrobe for a trenchcoat, his office might be an old desk and a couple of buckets under a tree, but he cracks his cases, one way or another--if he can just manage to avoid getting hot water with the principal and his parents in the process. Unfortunately, his latest case has taken a turn for the personal side and to crack it, he may just have to risk everything.
Although this did remind me a lot of Half Moon Investigations (which I also like), I still found it funny and enjoyable. It may not be a wholly new trope, but I think it was done really well. Howard is what you might get if Nate the Great grew up a bit, with all the social awkwardness you might imagine a kid detective this committed to his work would face in a school setting. Although Howard may be an oddball, Lyall doesn't make him a complete goofball. He makes mistakes, but he's also very savvy a lot of the time. He may enjoy his noir detective schtick, incorporating lingo he's learned from his "research" library of old detective movies, but he's not a one-note character. He's got some vulnerabilities, he's got heart. I hope he will have more cases in his future. ...more
After being the sole survivor an unthinkable tragedy, Lizzie Scofield discovers that her brush with death has given her access to the spirit world thaAfter being the sole survivor an unthinkable tragedy, Lizzie Scofield discovers that her brush with death has given her access to the spirit world that will leave an indelible mark on her future, but is she ready for this kind of access and responsibility? At 17, Darcy Patel is in the unique position of being the toast of the YA publishing world with a fat contract for her supernatural romance Afterworlds, but as she heads into the murky territory of rewrites and revisions, she faces obstacles that cause her to question her vision and her creative process. Lizzie and Darcy's journeys will change them both---but where will this leave them?
I have been a Scott Westerfeld fan for a long time, and there are things that I love about this book, but as a whole, it's problematic. The story alternates between Darcy's story as the creator, and Lizzie's story as the protagonist of Darcy's novel. Lizzie's story--the Afterworlds chapters--I found really chilling and compelling, full of dark mystery. Darcy's story---the behind the scenes of the creative process and being an up-and-comer in YA publishing---was not very enjoyable to me. In the end, I guess I don't really *want* to see how the sausage gets made, so to speak, and it pulled me out of the other story--lessening the impact at times with overexplaining. I didn't enjoy the shop talk between the authors and especially did not enjoy the cringeworthy--and frequent--use of "protag" for "protagonist," the jokey knowing references to "YA Heaven" and fandoms of YA authors, etc. From the outside (in real life) I enjoy hearing stories of some YA authors writing in similar genres buddying up and hanging out in real life and sharing inside jokes-like the whole traveling pajama pants thing Sarah Mlynowski and others were doing at one of their book tours. It's less fun from this angle, where every move feels strategic, and about labels and marketing. If Westerfeld was looking to poke at the industry and how authors are treated--I think it worked, but it's a bummer for the reader, especially as a fan of a lot of YA fiction and a lot of YA authors.
As for all the discussion of cultural appropriation that comes up in the Darcy sections (Darcy's vision of the afterworld includes a character who is named after a Hindu death god), it's a complex and timely issue, and I'm sure it was well-intended, but it comes across as Westerfeld trying to either head off his own critics at the pass, or attempting to add some dimension to the other story without giving offense---in either case, it is more of a distraction than an enhancement to the story.
Of course, Rainbow Rowell's Carry On also told the story of a creator and her story, but one of the strengths Cath had in her case, was that in her parts of the story, we are treated to insight into her life as a writer but also as just a normal person with hangups and baggage trying to navigate a huge transitional point in her life--creating a counterpoint with the Simon Snow story that the reader can really get invested in. Although Darcy aso has personal issues she is working out over the course of the story, she never really feels relatable in the same way. She never feels fully real. Her life becomes so quickly absorbed into the publishing world, her new reality of book signings and author meet-and-greets over cocktails and her instant friendships with the other new authors she meets and the business part of that takes a front seat whie her biggest and most interesting personal conflicts with (no spoilers) get short shrift at best. At the end of the book, her motivations are almost more inpenetrable as her dreamy death god's, and the reader feels like they know more about how a book gets marketed than about who Darcy really is. Maybe that's the point--that she doesn't really know either, but unfortunately, there's just not a lot to invest in on the part of the reader either.
I have a few issues about the Lizzie side of the story, but I feel like they're mostly quibbles, and I don't feel like any of them are serious enough that these questions couldn't have been easily resolved (especially knowing what Westerfeld is capable of) if that had been the central story all along---and in finishing the book I was kind of disappointed in what might have been. Rainbow Rowell went on to write Carry On after Fangirl---maybe if we are lucky, some fuller version of Afterworlds will also come out one day. ...more
Supervillain Lord Ballister Blackheart may think he has a pretty good repertoire going as a lone schemer, but that was before he met Nimona, his biggeSupervillain Lord Ballister Blackheart may think he has a pretty good repertoire going as a lone schemer, but that was before he met Nimona, his biggest fan and aspiring sidekick. Together they might just be unstoppable, if Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and the Institute of Law Enforcement and Heroics can't find a way to exploit their biggest weakness---Nimona's unpredictability and murky past.
Naturally, Nimona plays with a lot of classic superhero story conventions, often turning them on their head: the hero/sideckick relationship, the origin story, the hero/villain relationship. It's true that a lot of this has been done before...hero stories have been around since the beginning of time, after all, but that doesn't make it any less enjoyable. It's especially gratifying to see a female sidekick who flies in the face of the expected script for sidekicks. She's much more of a Hit Girl than a Robin--just as volatile and dangerous. And--this may say more about me than the book, but I actually also really enjoyed the unexpected poignancy of Blackheart's character, who has more depth and is much less of a caricature than you usually get with a supervillain, and his complicated relationship with his greatest nemesis, Goldenloin.
My only complaint with Nimona is purely aesthetic, which might be a little nitpicky, but when we're talking about a graphic novel, I feel like it has to be addressed. I think the character design is is interesting, but would have liked to see it have a little more room to breathe with a larger format (or at the very least smaller margins/outer frames) and this might be the result of this originating as a webcomic, I'm not sure--the lettering choice made for difficult reading.
Recommended for fans of Carry On and Adventure Time who enjoy some sass and edginess with their fantasy.
The second book picks up from the first with a heightened sense of urgency and danger that continues straight through to the cliffhanger ending. JacobThe second book picks up from the first with a heightened sense of urgency and danger that continues straight through to the cliffhanger ending. Jacob and the rest of the Peregrine Peculiars are on the run and the Hollowgasts on their trail appear to have found a way to evolve. Fortunately for them, Jacob's abilities, and his control of them, has also evolved. Unfortunately for them...outrunning the Hollowgasts and Wights is not their only race against time. Miss Peregrine's very survival, and the survival of the other ymbryne guardians, is on the line.
In some ways I found the sequel more enjoyable than even the first book, with new characters introduced, a lot of interesting and unexpected twists and turns, and even bigger stakes. Now having some more information on Riggs' writing process with these books, I am especially impressed at his ability to make even the most bizarre things seem authentically entwined. Unfortunately, with so much plot, and so many new characters introduced at various points, I do feel that in this book some of the compelling characters from the first book get lost in the shuffle. At one point, I was trying to synopsize the action for someone and had to flip back to confirm one of the characters was still with the group, because they hadn't been mentioned or referred to for a long time. Basically, I think something's got to give...either the group has to split off so Riggs can alternate the story between the parties or the narrative has to stick closer to the original crew, because at this point, it feels a little like they're being shortchanged---as are we by being deprived of their company.
Huge adult/YA crossover potential, just as the first, for fans ofThe Night Circus and Circus Mirandus both....more
When I read Diviners I had to set a reading curfew for myself, because it was so creepy, I could not read it after a certain time of night. Libba BrarWhen I read Diviners I had to set a reading curfew for myself, because it was so creepy, I could not read it after a certain time of night. Libba Brary is known for her humor, but after the Gemma Doyle books and now The Diviners I feel like she rightly deserves a reputation for being the rising queen of the supernatural thriller as well. Believe it or not, LoD felt even more chilling in parts than the first book, unfortunately, the momentum in other parts suffers a bit.
In LoD, Evie has become a radio darling. On the outs with Will and actively avoiding Jericho, she has thrown herself into her new persona as "the Sweetheart Seer" of the airwaves. Will is on a secretive mission and Sam and Jericho are trying to keep the ship of the ever-floundering museum afloat. Some of the old crew are discovering new talents and abilities and Evie's absence from the scene leaves room for other relationships to develop. John Hobbes, the spectre of the first book, is gone, but a new evil emerges, attacking people through the dreamworld, spreading a sinister "sleeping sickness" through the city from which there is no recovery. As in the first book, issues of race and immigration tensions of the time are interwoven, as immigrants, and the Chinese population in New York in particular are increasingly blamed for the troubles. Although the threat of the second book is intriguing and just as creepy and ominous as you would expect, as mentioned before, most of the characters in LoD lose momentum. Evie is the worst version of herself---selfish, shallow, and quite possibly verging on actual alcoholism. In many ways she actually seems to have regressed since we last saw her, back to the Evie we met at the very beginning of the first book, and though there are hints that her behavior is in some ways an attempt to self-medicate after the trauma she experienced, we aren't given enough of her interior monologue to really sympathize with her. Memphis, Jericho, and Theta feel like they are shortchanged in the second book in favor of advancing the storylines of Henry, and a new character, Ling. Although Ling's storyline allows for some more behind-the-scenes insight of the Chinese experience in New York at the time, as a character, she's slow to warm up to. The new information on Henry is welcome, although his trajectory is also fairly self-destructive. Sam gains some refreshing vulnerability but the love triangle, in spite of some high-stakes complications in LoD, still loses something with Jericho featured so minimally and Evie losing our sympathy. If anything, LoD might be a case of too much of a good thing. For a story with so much to tell there are maybe too many cut-away scenes of sleeping sickness attacks and similar atmospheric foreshadowing passages that accomplish the same thing. Although Bray is an evocative writer, too many of these asides start to interfere with the pace and can make the wait for getting back to the main characters a challenge even for a loyal reader. ...more
I am a little ashamed to admit that I was not aware of the comic at all before picking up the book, and the format was n3.75 if I have to be honest...
I am a little ashamed to admit that I was not aware of the comic at all before picking up the book, and the format was not really what I had expected, but it won me over. Although it has much more of a vignette feel than of a longer format story, that tends to work well for school stories. There are a few misfires
Although there are both magic and mutants (mostly anthropomorphized animals, and a few people with X-Men style super abilities) in a way SMA reads more like Calvin and Hobbes than Harry Potter or your standard superhero comic (kudos to my husband for hitting upon the perfect analogy). Interspersed between pretty normal high school scenarios (unrequited crushes, body image issues, school dances, scamming teachers and the like) you get hit with surprising introspectiveness and darkness. Not every vignette is going to end with a punchline; in fact, many don't. The tone changes are kind of true to high school too, though. As the characters themselves comment on, in reality what is often hyped to be "the best time of your life" is pretty complicated, and sometimes pretty lonely, and you don't have to be Everlasting Boy to figure out. In some ways, it doesn't feel that far removed from the John Hughes universe. The adults seem a little sad and out of touch, the teenagers are prone to overanalysis, and everyone is kind of a misfit in their own way.
My biggest complaint with SMA is just that the true nerd in me was hoping for maybe a little more magic, but I am intrigued enough to be curious about the further adventures of Marsha, Trevor, Wendy, and their classmates.
Nigel may be 100 years old, but physically he's forever frozen in teenagerhood, and his vampire career seems to be stuck in the puberty phase as well.Nigel may be 100 years old, but physically he's forever frozen in teenagerhood, and his vampire career seems to be stuck in the puberty phase as well. The only thing worse than suffering the normal slings and arrows that befall a typical teenager is the added indignity of having all of the drawbacks of being a vampire without any of the perks. Things look up, however, when a new girl starts at his school who is exactly his (blood) type., but how can he win her over when he's awkward in both a human AND supernatural way? Nigel's story, told in a journal format and accompanied by a number of "Nigel's" sketchy illustrations, is more or less Diary of a Wimpy Kid if the Wimpy Kid happened to be undead, but with (ironically) a little less bite. ...more