I don’t think I mentioned this on the blog yet, but I spent the last two weeks writing two 20ish page papers about graphic novels. I can rattle off tiI don’t think I mentioned this on the blog yet, but I spent the last two weeks writing two 20ish page papers about graphic novels. I can rattle off titles, a brief history of the term, benefits of the format, the difference between graphic novels and comics (trick question!), and even how to develop a graphic novel collection at your library. Having become one of those experts on graphic novels without reading any graphic novels, I decided to read Jellaby yesterday. I also decided to cross-post its review as this week’s CLW post and my inaugural graphic novel review. (I could have merged this with another category, but graphic novels/comics are so unique I thought they needed a different category.)
Having read Kean Soo’s Eisner nominated graphic novel Jellaby (2008) in a couple of hours, I can see why Lea over at Library Voice selected it as a reluctant reader pick. How cool is it for a child who dislikes reading to pick up a title and be able to read it in a few days?
This story does not, however, start with Jellaby. It starts with a ten-year-old girl. Portia does not like her new school. In fact, almost everything about school bores her. Even having the freedom to write her book report on “Reason and Emotion: Classical and Romantic Philosophies in Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia” doesn’t do much to challenge Portia let alone engage her. Liking school is even harder when no one in school seems especially fond of Portia. With the added problems of a missing father and a busy mother, it’s no wonder Portia seems less than happy.
When Portia hears something outside her window in the middle of the night, she isn’t sure what to expect. But being a resourceful child, Portia takes a flashlight and goes out to investigate.
She finds a large purple monster who tries to eat said flashlight. Instead of being scared, or running away, Portia invites the monster inside and makes him a tuna sandwich. Suddenly Portia has exactly what she needed: a friend.
Matters get more complicated when Portia’s classmate finds out about Jellaby and insinuates himself into Portia’s decision to help Jellaby find his home. Thus begins a journey that, I should warn you, will not finish in this volume.
The illustrations are drawn primarily with purple, lavender, and black (with yellow and orange accents). I was impressed with how much variety Soo was able to get so much variation from such a small palette. I also liked the configuration of this graphic novel. The panels flowed in a sensible way so that sequencing wasn’t a challenge (sometimes I have a hard time reading comic book panels in the correct order). The writing is also large enough to make it easy to read without eye strain.
My Mom doesn’t agree with me on this–I think the word repulsive might have been used–but I think Jellaby is adorable—possibly cuter than either Portia or Jason, though I don’t know that they had a chance when being compared to a lovable, large purple monster. The story here is complex, but clearly plotted out, with a lot of fun characters. Like many other graphic novels, this title is one that will likely appeal to readers of multiple ages from a variety of age levels, which as far as book recommending goes, isn’t too shabby.
This is Kean Soo’s first graphic novel–hopefully the first of many about Portia, Jason and of course Jellaby. Oh, and Jellaby started out as a web comic which you can find at The Secret Friend Society along with Hope Larson’s comic Salamander Dreams which is archived on the site. ...more
Sometimes, when a book series gets really popular, writers will try to cash in by writing unauthorized guides to the story or books about the "scienceSometimes, when a book series gets really popular, writers will try to cash in by writing unauthorized guides to the story or books about the "science" behind popular fantasy titles. Then, rarely, you get a book like Bogus to Bubbly: An Insider's Guide to the World of Uglies (2008) that was actually written by the ultimate insider: Scott Westerfeld.
Uglies is a series of books (one trilogy and a companion book) about a world in the future where in order to prevent war and strife everyone gets plastic surgery to be beautiful and live long. Everyone else, by contrast, is ugly. That is the super, super short explanation of the series which is more complex. I don't recommending reading this guide before the series because it contains spoilers and, truth be told, unless you know you like the books this guide will not be that interesting.
Westerfeld explains a lot of things in this book. He discusses where the idea for the story came from, as well as how he thought of skintennas and the Rusties. Parts of the book also explain technology, history, and culture surrounding the worlds created in the Uglies series.
What I liked about the book was that it mentioned a lot about the writing process. While Westerfeld himself notes that it's hard to trace the origin of ideas, this book does try. It's interesting to read how a dentist visit inspired several aspects of the book while, thankfully, we are not the entire inspiration behind the Rusties. Explanations of names and slanguage were also very informative and interesting.
I was less enthralled by the technology information. It was fun to hear about the science of beauty, but the information about magnetic levitation, hoverboards and inventions got a bit, well, technical. Although I fully admit that could be me since Uglies is one of the few straight sci-fi series I read (I usually go in for fantasy which, having dragons and what not, is guaranteed to be less technical). There is also a bit of repetition with the books revealing much of what Westerfeld puts together in Bogus to Bubbly but that is probably inevitable with an insider's guide like this.
Aside from content, I liked the book's organization. It's written like a real guide with cross-referencing between sections and an index. The book also includes illustrations and maps which helped a lot to visualize the city as it was meant to be seen.
While the entire book might not be read-worthy for every fan, it's very likely at least one nagging question about the series will be answered in this book. Mine, for instance, being whether belly sensors were indeed belly button rings or not. Readers will also leave the guide with a new insight into how the writing process might work. On top of that, Bogus to Bubbly also includes a preview of Westerfeld's new series Leviathan.
My only serious regret is that the Awesome Librarian Clique only warranted passing mention (though since they didn't factor in the books at all, perhaps that is to be expected)....more
My mom reads mysteries, nothing else. Over the years, I've gained a fair bit of knowledge about the genre from performing reader's advisory for her toMy mom reads mysteries, nothing else. Over the years, I've gained a fair bit of knowledge about the genre from performing reader's advisory for her to bring home books she would enjoy. When a book is especially enticing, I will also try to read it. Such was the case with Cassandra Chan's debut novel The Young Widow and, now, her second Bethancourt and Gibbons mystery Village Affairs (2006).
Detective Sergeant Jack Gibbons usually works on cases surrounding the London area under Detective Chiefe Inspector Carmichael. However, when a small town in the English Cotswolds delegates an investigation to Scotland Yard, Gibbons finds himself driving the Chipping Chedding to investigate.
Man-about-town Philip Bethancourt, Gibbons' close friend (though not close to Jack's social status), is in Chipping Chedding before the investigation starts accompanying his girlfriend, Marla Tate, on one of her fashion shoots. Already being on the scene,Bethancourt sees no reason to not try and help the police investigation along. Bethancourt has, after all, been known to help Gibbons in past cases--no matter how much his dealings with murder might enrage Marla.
In the beginning, the police are hard-pressed to even say there was a crime. The middle-aged victim, Bingham, appears to have suffered from an unfortunate accident rather than foul play. As Gibbons and Carmichael go about tying up loose ends, they unearth more questions than answers. Who was the secret girlfriend that Bingham had driven to see on the night of his death? How had the quiet man managed to hide his vast fortune from all of his neighbors? Even though evidence is thin, it begins to seem that this routine investigation of accident is fast becoming a murder investigation.
The primary risk of a mystery series is that the plots, and on some level the characters, will veer toward the formulaic. Happily, Chan has no such problems. Village Affairs creates an entirely different plot and, to a lesser extent, a different tone than that found in The Young Widow. Even the landscape, Chipping Chedding instead of London, is unique.
While this novel continues to deal with Gibbons' and particularly Bethancourt's personal lives, Chan also dedicates a fair bit of time to creating entertaining characters to populate the story. A personal favorite is Clarence Astley-Cooper who acts as Bethancourt's gracious if eccentric host during the investigation.
My only qualm is that Jack Gibbons, my favorite of the duo, did not get as much "air time" during this installment as during The Young Widow though, of course, both characters were still extremely entertaining. Chan's unique verve and dry wit are once again present in her dialogue, once again providing a unique writing style in Village Affairs.
It was also interesting to see more about Philip and his girlfriend Marla, who actually plays an active role in the investigation this time. Their relationship, falling somewhere between ideal and dysfunctional, adds an interesting facet to Bethancourt's otherwise impeccably together character while acting as a foil to Gibbons (whom Marla hates). Unlike Bethancourt or Gibbons, Marla still seems to be proving herself as a character worthy of continuous appearances. Time will tell if her part will grow more prominent or less as the series continues.
While the core plot of Village Affairs is entirely self-contained, readers would be advised to start the series at the beginning as certain recurring themes might be spoilers if read out of order. Bethancourt and Gibbons can next be seen in Trick of the Mind (2008)....more
I am part of amazon.com's new Vine program. In exchange for reviewing products, I get stuff for free. One of my most recent picks was Marlene Perez'sI am part of amazon.com's new Vine program. In exchange for reviewing products, I get stuff for free. One of my most recent picks was Marlene Perez's book Dead is a State of Mind. Unfortunately, this book had a few strikes against it right out of the box. The first being that I was not expecting a young adult book. The second strike was that this book was actually the second in a series (the first book is called Dead is the New Black).
While I thought the title was amusing and could almost get past it being a YA book when I was hoping for a non-YA book, I couldn't get into this one. The story seems to stand alone, but Perez peppers the text with references that seem to be pointing to the first book. Unfortunately, not knowing anything about the first book just made the references confusing rahter than helpful.
I also wasn't a big fan of the writing. I suspect part of the problem was my not getting what I expected from this book. But part of the blame does have to lie with the book and its references to "rock hard abs" twice in the same chapter. I'm a big advocate of suggesting young adult books to readers of any age, but the bit of the writing that I did get throughhere seems like support for why some readers look askance at young adult fiction. ...more
Last Wednesday my CLW book was Vibes by Amy Kathleen Ryan (released 2008). I procured that book on the same day I requested a copy of Absolutely MaybeLast Wednesday my CLW book was Vibes by Amy Kathleen Ryan (released 2008). I procured that book on the same day I requested a copy of Absolutely Maybe by Lisa Yee (released Feb. 2009). While reading this book I was struck by the similarities between the two characters (apathetic/angry, fixated on eyeliner) and even the books themselves (the covers just seemed very close to me for some reason perhaps because I really liked them both). I don't know if it's relevant to the review, but I just wanted to get that out of the way.
Onward to the review:
Meet Maybelline Mary Katherine Mary Ann Chestnut ("Maybe" for short). Maybe was named for her mother Chessy's favorite brand of mascara and two of Chessy's favorite Miss Americas. Living above her mother's charm school, perhaps it's not surprise that a lot of what Maybe does is part of a backlash against her mother.
Chessamay Chestnut Abajian Wing Marshall Wing Sinclair Alvarez (and soon to be Himmler) is a serial marryer. Somehow she winds up married to every man she dates--everyone except Maybe's father who remains a mystery.
Most of the time, Maybe can deal with all of that. Sure, her mother's charm school students taunt her and constantly make fun of her baggy clothes and funky hair colors, but they don't matter. Neither do Chessy's not-always-so-gentle criticisms. Maybe is above all of that. At least until Chessy chooses her sketchy fiance over Maybe, which is the last straw and convinces Maybe that she has to leave her hometown. And her mother. For good.
So Maybe recruits her best friends Ted and Hollywood to go with her to Los Angeles to find Maybe's father. Once the trio gets to LA they soon realize that the search will not be easy. Finding money and a place to live is hard enough, but finding a man you know nothing about on top of that is even harder. While Ted is building his career and Hollywood is making a film, Maybe finds herself adrift in her search.
Along the way they encounter a lot of things: a screen idol, a Rolls-Royce, a taco truck. Eventually, Maybe finds the father she's been searching for albeit not where she had expected. More important than that, Maybe finds herself. Not the beauty queen daughter her mother wanted, or the angry Goth teen she became in response to Chessy's hopes, just herself: Absolutely Maybe.
Although this book is bizarrely similar to Vibes I'd say that Absolutely Maybe is for older teens. This novel is gritty. Nothing about Maybe's life is easy at the beginning of the novel. Even when she gets to LA, Maybe and Ted find themselves homeless and scrounging for meals. Yee handles all of this with enough gravitas to make it realistic and enough humor to make it bearable.
Maybe is a really fun character with lots of snark and heart, the only problem (and maybe this is me) was that I kept misreading her name as the word "maybe" which required some necessary re-reading. This story is also populated with some of the best side characters ever. To say Ted and Hollywood are awesome is to belittle the greatness of both characters. Ted's exhuberance and enthusiasm are infectious, coming straight from the page to the reader. And Hollywood is Hollywood. He was so well-realized as I read this story that when Maybe referred to his as "cowboy" it was enough to picture his entire personality.
I'm a bit torn about the ending of the novel because it is not the ending I wanted per se. In a way this further illustrates the "gritty" realism of the novel. I wanted the Hollywood/fairy tale ending whereas the book gave me a more realistic, still satisfying, ending. I am not, however, holding that against Lisa Yee or Absolutely Maybe. It just means this book requires more imagination about what happens outside of the pages.
An excellent coming-of-age novel, Absolutely Maybe is like nothing else, which is appropriate since Maybe is an unforgettable, unique heroine (and her friends are pretty memorable too)....more
Kristi Carmichael thinks she has all the answers, which is part of why she stopped caring about just about everything two years ago. She knows all aboKristi Carmichael thinks she has all the answers, which is part of why she stopped caring about just about everything two years ago. She knows all about her workaholic mother, absent father, and why the incredibly cute Gusty Peterson would never want to have anything to do with her. She can even understand the romantic thoughts and strange fantasies her friends Mallory and Jacob have for her. Of course, being psychic can have that effect on a person.
Part of having all the answers is being chronically unimpressed (definitely how Kristi feels about her free-spirited high school) and always playing by her own rules (that's covered by the padlock on her bedroom door and the cat she hides inside it, not to mention the found wardrobe).
But as the school year progresses, Kristi finds a lot of things happening that she didn't see coming--even with all the answers. The sudden return of her father, attentions from not one but two boy at school, and other surprises leave Kristi in a tailspin as she wonders if, maybe, the vibes she's been getting were more bogus than psychic all along.
Such is the premise of Vibes, Amy Kathleen Ryan's second novel (and the subject of a rumored movie adaptation according to Cinema Blend--although the fundamental inaccuracies of the basic summary there do leave me wondering about the accuracy of the rumor).
I realy liked this book. The fact that Kristi is psychic is treated as a normal event--not a big deal, no worrying about why she can read minds--which I enjoyed since mind reading usually supersedes plot when it crops up in non-fantasy books.
At 249 pages, the book goes by fast but the story is still deep. A strong point of Ryan's writing are the characters she has created. In the beginning of the novel Kristi and also the new boy at school, Mallory, are deeply troubled, something both teens try to deal with through anger. Kristi doesn't mince words when she tells readers all of the reasons she has to be angry (there are a few). However, as the story moves forward and Kristi realizes that reading minds isn't the same as understanding what people are thinking, she also learns that there is more to life (both good and bad) than she had first thought.
Because of her anger at, well, everything Kristi is initially not a sympathetic character. She is mean to her friends, her mom, and even strangers. Fortunately, because of the character development Kristi realizes this about herself and tries to do better.
One theme that the novel deals with well is self-esteem in that Kristi does have much at the start of the novel. Seeing herself as fat and ugly, Kristi doesn't find herself very surprised when she hears the word "sick" in Gusty Peterson's head whenever he thinks of her. Kristi's low opinion of herself is hard to shake even in the face of positive attentions from Mallory and, of course, her family. To some readers it could seem over the top, but the truth is I was right there with Kristi and when those things came up in the novel, it felt like Ryan was quoting a page from my own life.
The other theme that was handled really well in Vibes is the absent father issue. There was a point in time where books about single mothers would always idolize the absent father ("Dad is so much cooler than Mom. It's Mom's fault he left. If Dad came back everything would be better . . .") and that would be it.
Recently, however, I've noticed a trend where children of divorce or the like begin to see their family situation in a more realistic way (A Thousand Splendid Suns and Absolutely Maybe are just two books in this trend). Kristi misses her father terribly, and in many ways does idolize him, but only until he shows up again. Then it becomes apparent that there was more to her father's leaving that even a psychic could have guessed.
In summary, Ryan blends a lot of different themes and genres to create a new kind of story that readers (teen and otherwise) are sure to enjoy....more
Vincent H. O'Neil's inimitable beach bum/amateur sleuth Frank Cole is back in Reduced Circumstances (2007), his followup to Murder in Exile (2006). ThVincent H. O'Neil's inimitable beach bum/amateur sleuth Frank Cole is back in Reduced Circumstances (2007), his followup to Murder in Exile (2006). Things have quieted down for Frank since solving the Eddie Gonzalez case in Exile. In fact as fast as fact checking is concerned, business is just about non-existent.
Although Frank's peculiar bankruptcy case prevents him from earning too much money, he does still have living expenses. So, to deal with the light times as a fact checker, Frank finds himself working as a night dispatcher for the Midnight Taxi Service near his home in Exile, Florida.
The taxi stand is where Frank first hears about the kid. The young man was seen hailing a Midnight cab near a drug bust the night before--interesting but not exactly big news. Of course that's before a parade of visitors drop by the cab stand trying to find the kid and the MIA driver who picked him up the night before. First there's the private investigator from Atlanta, then the possible bounty hunters from Mobile, and finally the kid's girlfriend--a blond femme fatale of sorts who never seems to leave a fingerprint in her wake.
Suddenly Frank finds himself a person of interest on all side of the investigation despite having little in the way of information to share. Urged on by equal parts curiosity and necessity, Frank begins to investigate the kid and his mysterious disappearance trying to figure out why exactly so many people want to find him. And who, if any of them, want to find him alive.
Murder in Exile was a lot of fun. Amazingly, and happily, this installment in the series is even more enjoyable. The narrative also provides ample yet brief recaps of Frank's adventures in the first book for anyone who might be fuzzy on those early details. Reduced Circumstances is an interesting blend of character study and mystery. The elements for both are here and used well to create a breezy read that leaves readers with a satisfying investigation and more insight into Frank's personality and life.
Because Frank comes to the world of investigation from a fact checker's side of things, the novel also provides a unique look at the world of online research and a commentary on just how much information can be found online. O'Neil keeps these segments just the right length to stay interesting for the typical readers and any information professionals who should happen to pick up the book.
While the investigation wraps up nicely, the novel does still end with a slight cliff hanger that will leave readers eager for the next installment in the series Exile Trust (2008)....more