This book started out as a three-star book. It was humorous, and the writing style was witty and engaging. I liked main character Deb's observations oThis book started out as a three-star book. It was humorous, and the writing style was witty and engaging. I liked main character Deb's observations on weddings, mud runs and the like.
The mermaids pushed it firmly into two-star territory. The introduction of the fantastical element was abrupt, rather jarring, and not entirely well handled. Main character Deb started getting a bit preachy, a bit less likeable. But the book still had legs - it could still go.
The ending is what made this a one-star book. What. The. Fuck. What a cheap, utterly worthless way to end a book. If I tried that shit in my sophomore creative writing class in college, my professor would have flunked me after laughing in my face. And I would have deserved it. Not cool, Lydia. I would have thrown this book across the room if I hadn't been listening to it on my phone.
Read instead: The works of Carl Hiassen Big Trouble and Tricky Business by Dave Barry...more
I'm reviewing both "Boxers" and "Saints" here, because really they are one book, in two volumes.
There are a lot of graphic novels about wars - DeogratI'm reviewing both "Boxers" and "Saints" here, because really they are one book, in two volumes.
There are a lot of graphic novels about wars - Deogratias, Maus, War Brothers, War Dogs, etc. - and this one is certainly not a superfluous repeat of any on them. First of all, it deals with a war I certainly never learned about in school - the Boxer Rebellion. Secondly, the magic-realist elements of the gods and saintly apparitions that help and motivate the two protagonists.
I liked that this book showed the human side of people on both sides of the conflict - a boy who fights to protect China from foreign influences and a girl who becomes a Christian to find a belonging she lacks in her family. The story never resorted to false equivalency, however - Bao's actions are definitely wrong, despite his understandable motives. (view spoiler)[ Vibiana is no saint, but she never shoots praying civilians or sets fire to a church full of women and children. (hide spoiler)]
Read if you're a history buff, or if you just like a good story.
Recommended for fans of: Maus Deogratias War Brothers ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I like my magical realism more the more "real" and less "magical" it gets in general - weird for a fan of fantasy, I suppose - and "Far Far Away" fitsI like my magical realism more the more "real" and less "magical" it gets in general - weird for a fan of fantasy, I suppose - and "Far Far Away" fits that bill nicely. The only paranormal element in this otherwise realistic novel is the author's choice of narrator - the ghost of Jacob Grimm, as in "The Brothers Grimm." I hadn't an inkling why the author chose this narrator until the book was close to done, but the contrast created by having a normal, modern-ish, midwestern (?)teenager's life narrated by a three-hundred-year-old German ghost was intriguing from the beginning.
The plot of the novel is also mostly realistic. Young Jeremy Johnson Johnson has some typical teenage troubles - he's considered a nerd by others, he has a crush on popular and vivacious Ginger, his mother left the family - and he also has some less typical ones - his father is so depressed he can't leave his room, and the bank is going to repossess his bookstore/house. It's only about three-quarters of the way through the book that it takes a turn for the dark and strange, though the narration is so heavy with foreshadowing that it was almost a relief to finally know what was going to happen. When the book's true conflict finally emerges, and (view spoiler)[ Sven the baker captures Jeremy and Ginger to hold them in his basement (hide spoiler)] the choice of Jacob Grimm as narrator made sense, and the fairy-tale theme that had been running through the book came to a head.
A strange book, for the more thoughtful teen, but well written and highly recommended.
Recommended for fans of: Dandelion Wine Something Wicked This Way Comes Where Things Come Back The Kings and Queens of Roam["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This book left me torn. On one hand, the art is top-notch, face-meltingly amazing and deserves five stars. The story is what took this down to three sThis book left me torn. On one hand, the art is top-notch, face-meltingly amazing and deserves five stars. The story is what took this down to three stars. It felt like Alice in Wonderland, but without the whimsy or charm. The titular Cursed Pirate Girl is hard to get attached to -- she's not very human, she doesn't have much of an emotional range, and she's too good at everything. But the art is good enough that you should read it anyway -- It's surreal, Heironomous-Bosch-like in its hallucinatory feverishness, and amazingly intricate. ...more
Vic McQueen is an average girl with a seriously abnormal ability -- when she rides her bike, she can open a bridge through space to find lost objects.Vic McQueen is an average girl with a seriously abnormal ability -- when she rides her bike, she can open a bridge through space to find lost objects. When Vic tries to use her gift to find "trouble," she comes face to face with the equally gifted, and utterly evil, Charles Manx. Charles Manx uses his car like Vic uses her bike, but instead of finding lost things, he spirits children away into Christmasland, where they never grow old, never feel sorrow, and lose their humanity to become sociapathic monsters. Vic escapes Charles Manx, only to have her life scarred by the echo of Christmasland. When Charles Manx returns to target Vic's son, she has to pit her magic and courage against Manx's for the stake of her son's soul.
I really, really, liked this book, and if you like Stephen King's works, you probably will, too. It has that Stephen King flavor -- strange magic overlayed over realistic life -- but it's a bit more restrained. Don't get me wrong, the violence can still get super graphic, but where King would go over the top and get almost ridiculous, Hill keeps it a bit more down-to-earth. A bit. The climax still features (view spoiler)[ a circus full of corpses and a moon with a human face screaming obscenities. (hide spoiler)] The strength of the book was truly the characters, who are flawed, human, very three-dimensional and in our good-guys' case extremely likeable. The villains are also human and intriguing, but also completely evil and chilling. I loved Hill's work on Locke and Key and this book does not disappoint. I'll be picking up Horns and Heart-Shaped Box later.["br"]>["br"]>...more
Roam is a dying town in the middle of a dense forest, blighted by the crimes of its founder. In this town live two orphaned sisters -- Helen, who is tRoam is a dying town in the middle of a dense forest, blighted by the crimes of its founder. In this town live two orphaned sisters -- Helen, who is tragically ugly, and Rachel, beautiful but blind. Out of bitterness, Helen begins to lie to Rachel about everything, the town, the forest and even about her own face. Eventually, Rachel makes a decision that Helen doesn't expect and their twisted relationship finally snaps.
This book showcases a lot of the problems I have with magical realism as a genre, in that the plot and characters are completely secondary to the mood and atmosphere that the author is trying to create. Every person in this book seemed less like a character and more like a symbol that the author was moving around the landscape. A good example of the almost complete irrelevance of characters in this book was the Chinese element of the story. Several characters are Chinese-Americans, but this adds absolutely nothing to the story. Seriously, they could have been replaced by characters of any ethnicity and it still would have been exactly the same. I guess Roam's boom as a silk producer would have made even less sense, but that wasn't very important either. Here, I'll do it right now. For "silk," substitute "ivory." Now Roam raises elephants! Everyone is from India! And the story has no significant changes.
The plot of the book weaves past and present together to try to make the connection between Elijah McAllister's past sins and the sad story of Helen and Rachel -- his descendants -- but I honestly don't see any cause and effect relationship. Shouldn't a curse resonate with the crime that cased it? For a book that actually works past events into present plots very well, I'd recommend Holes by Louis Sachar, which is actually very tightly constructed. Here, the past just...hangs around pointlessly like the many, equally pointless ghosts that hang out in Roam. Yes, there are ghosts. No it's not important. The ending, while predictable, felt very rushed to me and unsatisfying, like the author was trying to tie up events and wasn't sure how to do it.
Read these instead: One Hundred Years of Solitude Pedro Paramo House of the Spirits Life of Pi
Jacob Portman is a typical disaffected upper-class teen drifting through life, but he has a rather atypical grandfather. When Jacob was young, his graJacob Portman is a typical disaffected upper-class teen drifting through life, but he has a rather atypical grandfather. When Jacob was young, his grandfather told him wild tales of his youth, fighting monsters and living with a group of incredible children on an island in Wales. Stories that Jacob has long since stopped believing...until something terrible happens that sends him searching for the lost island of his grandfather's youth. What Jacob finds will change his life and his understanding of reality forever.
I liked this book, but it has some minor issues. Let me get into detail. I really liked the beginning of this book, where Jacob's grandfather's background is a mystery and his death ignites this investigation into his past. That was great and the eerie, old photographs really enhance the atmosphere.
When Jacob goes back in time and meets the 1940's X-Men, I got a little less happy with the book. It seemed very "Camp Halfblood" to me. The book was suddenly bright and comic-booky and the characters seemed to flatten out dramatically. For example, Emma and Jacob's romance is super forced at the beginning. The whole ecology of wights, hollowghast and ymbrynes would be better off unexplained. Laying it out like that took a lot of the menace out of the situation. Also, making Dr. Golan the *very same wight* that is stalking Jacob around the island? Comes out of nowhere. Badly handled. Still a good book for fans of character-driven, atmospheric fantasy.
After a near-death experience, Pierce is still struggling to piece her life back together. While she was dead, Pierce saw the world of the afterlife,After a near-death experience, Pierce is still struggling to piece her life back together. While she was dead, Pierce saw the world of the afterlife, and who was waiting there for her -- a mysterious man. Now that she's back in the land of the living, the man is still following her, bringing misfortune with him.
I couldn't get past the weird juxtaposition of a realistic teenage life and a very Greek-style underworld complete with boats and an angel of death style dude on a horse. There's a parody novel called "Awoken" where a girl falls in love with Cthulu, and this book reminded me of it -- not in a good way. Falling in love with a representative of Death itself should be a bit less of a typical angsty teen romance.
Cullen Witter is a seventeen-year-old living in small town Arkansas, where the biggest risk is getting stuck in the rut of daily life. Until, that is,Cullen Witter is a seventeen-year-old living in small town Arkansas, where the biggest risk is getting stuck in the rut of daily life. Until, that is, his brother Gabriel disappears, and the town goes crazy over sightings of a supposedly extinct woodpecker. As the stories of Cullen's friends and acquaintances come together in unexpected ways, will the intersections bring Gabriel back?
The subject of this book - dealing with a disappearance - is not that unusual, but the manner of the telling is. Most of the story's action takes place within its protagonist's mind, yet the author makes that mind a very rich and interesting place to visit. Unlike many other YA books I've read, I found myself noticing the words the author was using, because he has such a unique and poetic style. Much of the time, authors who try for poetic turns of phrase end up sounding pretentious, but in this story it felt authentic and right for the character. My one quibble with this book is that I felt the ending was a little rushed.
Recommended for fans of: Invisible by Pete Hautman (although that is much more depressing)...more
Every night for moths Conor's been having the same nightmare, where a monster takes his mother away from him, so when a monster actually shows up outsEvery night for moths Conor's been having the same nightmare, where a monster takes his mother away from him, so when a monster actually shows up outside his window at 12:07 he isn't surprised. But it isn't the same monster. This monster is even worse, because it has come to force Conor to tell the truth -- about his mother's sickness, and about himself.
This book is very high-concept -- one of those young adult books that make more sense to adult readers. Despite the interiority of the book -- that it takes place pretty much inside Conor's head -- by the end I still felt that Conor was a bit of a cipher. Also, the ending was pretty much a foregone conclusion, which limited the drama and pathos. Overall, I found the writing style to be a bit stilted, fable-like and almost heavy handed -- which is what kept this book from getting a five from me -- but it was exquisitely written, nonetheless.
Recommended for fans of: Invisible by Pete Hautman The Sandman graphic novels by Neil Gaiman...more