I remember being really excited after reading reviews of this book. It's a retelling of Hans Christian Anderson's The Snow Queen, set in present day a...moreI remember being really excited after reading reviews of this book. It's a retelling of Hans Christian Anderson's The Snow Queen, set in present day and focusing on a girl named Hazel and her best friend, Jack. Everything about this book says I should like it - constant nods to classic fairy tales and current children's fantasy (Coraline and When You Reach Me are two that pop into mind). It's got a spirited girl as the central character. The writing is strong and can be funny, sweet, sad, and reminiscent of traditional fairy tales. Unfortunately, it just doesn't seem to work.
The pacing of this story just dragged. We spend so very long in the real world, hearing about how awful school and life in general is for Hazel. The fantasy elements were introduced too late - I would've liked them interspersed earlier in the book so that we had a clue that that's where the story was going. And the sentences, which were beautiful on their own, got clunky and repetitive. I get that you want to sound like a fairy tale, but there's a reason most fairy tales aren't a full-length novel. After awhile I imagined what this would look like as a graphic novel - it would reduce the long sentences, the flowery descriptions, and be able to sum that all up with pictures. I think it'd make a great graphic novel.
Hazel's relationships with her mom and Jack also bugged me. She's incredibly dependent on Jack, which got to the point of being awkward. I understand that he's her best friend and that he was the one person she felt she could count on, but this girl fell apart when he disappeared. And if I step away and say "This happened over the course of a few days", it doesn't feel nearly as dramatic and soul-crushing as it did hearing directly from Hazel. And then there was her mom, who just seemed so... unappreciated. I wanted to shake Hazel a lot and say "Hey, you've got a nice mother and potential friends and you're really just living in your own world." And that would be fine, because that's a set of issues Hazel has to work out. But really, they don't get resolved by the end of the book.
I wanted to like this, but the further I got into the book, the more I just wanted it to end. And even the ending was unsatisfying.
I felt a bit awkward with the whole mushroom/Brother Bullfrog scene. Just kind of... wacky... even for a Bloody Jack book. But I loved the time that Jacky spent traveling with the gypsies. And, as always, Katherine Kellgren is amazing when reading the audiobook.(less)
This is actually my first Libba Bray book and I loved it! I tried listening to the audio of Going Bovine and really hated it. Libba Bray reads this on...moreThis is actually my first Libba Bray book and I loved it! I tried listening to the audio of Going Bovine and really hated it. Libba Bray reads this one (no weird man voice!) and I loved the voices. Some of the accents were a little off, but all of the main girls were amazing.
Okay, so the basic plot... teen beauty queens, on the way to the Miss Teen Dream pageant, find themselves marooned on an island when their plane crashes. A handful of the 50 contestants survive the crash and are led by Miss Texas to survival. Well, it's a sort of survival. Because Miss Texas is so sure that they'll be rescued that she sets the group to practicing their pageant routines instead of trying to find food or shelter. But no one will be finding these girls because the island they've crashed on is a base for The Corporation (sponsor of Miss Teen Dream), where they are secretly planning a weapons deal with the sanctioned Republic of Cha Cha. Also, there are sexy pirates. And grub-eating. And snake explosions. And mustache remover for ladies. And a dance number. Seriously.
There's a lot going on in this book. A LOT! And I know that's driven some readers away, and I understand. This is a hectic book that wants to accomplish so many things. And really, I didn't mind that. I liked it. It meant I got to read about feminism, girl power, femininity, lesbians, transgender characters, racism, overachievers and nonconformists. And it was pulled off with humor, wit, and still left me really attached to these characters.
I really liked the twist on Lord of the Flies - one of the girls mentions that, while being stranded on island turned those boys into savages, it took being on this island for the girls to really discover and be themselves.
Fans of Christopher Moore's Christopher Moore books may really enjoy this one. Or Tina Fey fans.Tina Fey There's a similar level of snark and awesomeness.
I'm not really doing this book justice in my review. It's just... amazing. Go read it. Give it to girls in your life. (less)
I'm on the fence with Incarceron. Some things I liked, others I didn't. The scenario is excellent - this description reads like a checklist of all thi...moreI'm on the fence with Incarceron. Some things I liked, others I didn't. The scenario is excellent - this description reads like a checklist of all things Bonnie should get excited about in a book - a living, expansive prison, a mythical figure who once escaped, all-powerful keys, a society trapped in time (and a little reminiscent of steampunk), strong heroine solving a mystery and trying to get out of an awful arranged-marriage. Yes, all those things are good. Great, even!
But with all that, I still had a hard time getting into Incarceron. I felt like I was missing bits and pieces about the characters. That's not a great thing to complain about, since the characters are supposed to have an air of mystery to them. Part of the fun of this book is supposing if a character is who we really think they are. But still, I felt that many of the characters weren't well-defined and that they acted oddly. For example, why did Finn feel any sort of attachment to Keiro or the Sapienti (I forget his name)? Events felt a bit disjointed and I had a lot of trouble picturing the world of Incarceron.
And then there was the character of Incarceron itself, which I felt was left out for the most part. I'm wondering if Sapphique will explore the prison in more depth.
Still, for a book I had problems enjoying, I was still riveted by the ending. I'm just wondering if it was worth it to wait through 80% of the book to get to an exciting conclusion - which is also a cliffhanger.
Give this to fans of dystopian futures, lots of adventure (for girls and guys), and maybe steampunk. There's a nice mix of historical setting as well as gritty sci-fi.(less)
I was first introduced to The Last Unicorn through the movie. I think my sister and I watched the VHS until is was ragged. And then in high school I f...moreI was first introduced to The Last Unicorn through the movie. I think my sister and I watched the VHS until is was ragged. And then in high school I found out that the movie was based off of a book. I have bought multiple editions of this book because I love it so much. I found out about the comic adaptation a little more than year ago when one of the teens at my library very sweetly bought a copy of the first volume for me. All that is to say that I went into this book pretty much prepared to love it. And I do.
The story sticks close to the novel, not the movie, which I appreciated. I love the movie, but I also know that it's cheesy and has some grimace-inducing scenes - oh, the singing! The singing. So instead we get more of Schmendrick's history, the story of Hagsgate, and Lir is a little more fleshed out. Dialogue is often taken straight out of the novel.
The artwork does seem inspired by the movie, but cleaned up and less ridiculous. Parts are absolutely gorgeous - check out the Midnight Carnival and the cover for that issue with the creatures tangled in Mommy Fortuna's hair. I got choked up during the final battle with the Red Bull - the art just has an excellent sense of pacing. When I got to the guest art featured at the end, I couldn't imagine the book looking any other way than it does with Rene De Liz illustrating.
If there's anything I missed in this book, it was the way that the story is told in King Haggard's castle. I feel like that part of the story is glossed over in both the comic and the movie. Haggard is a fascinating but unexplored character, Amalthea is losing herself and falling in love at the same time, and Schmendrick and Molly are both trying to solve the mystery of the Bull's location. But this section of the tale gets rushed to the moment of finding the clock and the passageway and the final confrontation. I don't know if that's to be helped, but that's my complaint.
This is definitely on my wish list - time to try collection more of the individual issues!(less)
Yay, Amy Reeder is back! I love her work and this is no exception. I thought the story was good - a big improvement on volume two, but not quite as go...moreYay, Amy Reeder is back! I love her work and this is no exception. I thought the story was good - a big improvement on volume two, but not quite as good as volume one. This volume focuses on the relationship between Nimue/Madame Xanadu, and her sister Morgana. We get a lot of backstory about the two sisters. It comes in the midst of the main story, dealing with a 1950s housewife struggling with her life and - quite suddenly - with the supernatural. She seeks help from Madame Xanadu and this leads to a confrontation between Nimue and Morgana. Oh, and throw in John Jones, who's investigating a little Satanic cult! Yeah, seriously.
I enjoyed the main storyline, but I didn't know what to make of the secondary story, dealing with the sisters' pasts. You come away from that plot feeling sort of sorry for Morgana. She's not as talented as her sisters when it comes to magic and she's part of a family who's power is diminishing and who's time has come and gone. Nimue is depicted as the perfect sister and Morgana as the bitch. And she is... she's violent and crazed and vicious. And she's grieving the death of her son. But we have to reconcile this with her new appearance in the 1950s, where she's bursting people, Violet Beauregarde-style, as she gets her feet rubbed. So yeah, that's a little strange.
I did like the way that Madame Xanadu is and isn't a part of the 1950s lifestyle. Talk about a decade where she just doesn't fit. And yet, Wagner makes it work. I would recommend this volume... though I would recommend solely on the artwork, even if the story sucked. Which it didn't.(less)
When Elayne's father asks her to read a story the night before he goes into the hospital, she grudgingly agrees. It's a fantasy, about maids and unico...moreWhen Elayne's father asks her to read a story the night before he goes into the hospital, she grudgingly agrees. It's a fantasy, about maids and unicorns, but it's also a family history. Elayne is the descendant of a girl who promised to help a unicorn, should he need it. And suddenly Elayne is swept into a world of magical beasts, hunts, and a dangerous ruler determined to whip out the few unicorns left. It may be her destiny, but Elayne has no idea how to tame a unicorn or defeat a king.
Though fans of fantasy may enjoy this story, Humphreys' writing is clunky and the characters are one-dimensional. Elayne brings a modern teen's sensibilities to a medieval setting (we hear about how much her dress starts to stink after a few days, that she has no clue how to ride a horse, and how disgusting the food is - mostly meat and wine), and there are some funny parts to the story. We get a few chapters as told by Moonspill, an aging unicorn, and I enjoyed his perspective, but it wasn't enough to save this book. I would recommend it for upper elementary, except the author threw in a few colorful phrases that seemed entirely out of place. If you have a high demand for books with unicorns, perhaps get this, but it's not a must-have.(less)
A mix of historical fiction and fantasy, The Secret Journey of Jack London reimagines the writer's life, beginning with his adventures in the Klondike...moreA mix of historical fiction and fantasy, The Secret Journey of Jack London reimagines the writer's life, beginning with his adventures in the Klondike. Jack is 17 (a few years younger than the real Jack) and journeying with his aging brother-in-law in an attempt to strike it rich. While Jack is seeking gold in order to save his mother's home, his true purpose is to learn more about himself. The brother-in-law is quickly written out of the story and Jack instead teams up with two other young men. They navigate the Chilkoot Trail and White Horse Rapids and spend the winter snowed in an abandoned cabin. This would be the high point of their trip. When they do finally make it to Dawson, they are kidnapped and forced to pan for gold as slaves.
We've reached the halfway point of the book and you might be wondering where the fantasy comes in. So far, the story has stuck mostly to the facts, with minor tweaking here and there. But midway through, the story shifts, and Jack's camp is suddenly attacked by the Wendigo, a flesh-eating monster. He escapes with the aid of a wolf, Jack's mysterious guide that appears throughout the book, and a young woman named Lesya, daughter of a forest spirit. At this point, we've wandered into a bit of a supernatural romance, with Lesya teaching Jack about the "call of the wild" but also trying to keep him close to her.
Jack must escape the beautiful Lesya, avoid her insane father, and somehow defeat the Wendigo, before returning to civilization.
Expect a lot of action in this survival story, as well as beautiful descriptions of the wilderness surrounding Jack and his friends. The writing is good and I enjoyed Jack's sense of searching and the way the author played with the idea of people becoming feral in the wilderness.
Fans of books like The Monstrumologist may enjoy this. I'm not sure, however, that fans of London's works would pick it up. While there's a connection to his stories, I wonder if they would be put off by the monsters and spirits. The historical fiction and the fantasy elements don't mix well, making this feel like you're reading two different stories.
With more planned for this series, I would say that this isn't a must-have. However, if you have teens clamoring for more books that feature survival, adventure, or even looking for an Alaska-fix, this would be a good buy. Grades 7 and up.(less)
If you're looking for a mix of Lemony Snicket, Neil Gaiman, and Roald Dahl, then you'll find The Kneebone Boy to be a good fix. It features the Hardsc...moreIf you're looking for a mix of Lemony Snicket, Neil Gaiman, and Roald Dahl, then you'll find The Kneebone Boy to be a good fix. It features the Hardscrabble children, Otto, Lucia, and Max, three oddball British kids who live with their father, an artist who paints portraits of deposed royalty. Their mother mysteriously disappeared when Otto, the oldest, was only eight, and the other two children barely remember her. Rumors fly around their small town about the missing mother - was she murdered? Strangled by her own son? Or did the father kill her? Or has she just perhaps abandoned her family?
Regardless, it's been many years without their mother and the children have accepted life as it stands: Otto doesn't speak and constantly wears a scarf, Lucia speaks for Otto and fights to keep order, and Max is a quiet daydreamer who spends time on the roof, thinking. When their father is suddenly called to a job, the children are sent to London to stay with an aunt. But she's not home... she's out of the country. Suddenly the children find an adventure thrust upon them. They discover a mysterious great-aunt, who lives in a folly castle, a mysterious creature called the Kneebone Boy, a 25-toed cat, and the secret behind their missing mother.
The writing for this book is clever... sometimes a little too clever for its own good. While I enjoyed reading it, the language often made me want to take a break after a chapter or two. It's snarky and very conversational, often taking the time to tell us how the story should be composed (and why it isn't written that way) or reassuring us that it may sound like a ghost is in the chapter but, because it's a book about real stuff, there wouldn't be any actual ghosts. Except there would be, but in a later chapter. The pacing was also a bit slow, with a lot of build-up on how boring their town is and their family history. There's a point in the book where a short chapter is used to apologize for the slowness of the plot line, with promises that, since the reader was already hooked and wouldn't be stupid enough to put it down, the next part would be even more exciting. Well it was, but it all came very quickly, particularly compared to the start of the book.
The characters are terrific and the narration sets a great tone for the book. The resolution regarding their mother is not really a happy one, and while it answers a great deal of questions, I feel like it raised more that weren't addressed. The scenery of the book, from the Hardscrabble's house to the folly castle to the foggy beach and forests in Snoring-by-the-Sea are vivid. Overall, I would recommend this book, but wouldn't say it's a must-read. For grades 5 - 9.(less)
If you had told me that Creature Tech would combine a man's search for his faith in God, space eels, ghosts, aliens (including an alien Jesus!), demon...moreIf you had told me that Creature Tech would combine a man's search for his faith in God, space eels, ghosts, aliens (including an alien Jesus!), demon cats, giant praying mantis heaven, romance, and a heavy dose of sass, I would've tell you that it's not possible. You just cannot fit that much stuff into one graphic novel and have it make any sense! Well, for the most part, Creature Tech makes sense and is a moving, fun exploration of Dr. Michael Ong's journey through life.
Dr. Ong is the lead researcher/director of Creature Tech, an institute dedicated to cataloging hundreds of crates of alien, paranormal, and just plain weird stuff. Think of the warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Creature Tech exists in the tiny town of Turlock (ah, alliteration), a place full of hillbillies, church picnics, and museums devoted to the campy and mysterious. When Creature Tech opens a crate containing the "Shroud of Turlock," a vengeful ghost (are there ever other kinds?) named Jameson uses it to bring himself back from the dead, complete with his demon hand, and sets his plan in motion to resurrect the alien that killed him... a giant space eel! Yeah, see what I mean?
This book seems like it should be shaky. It's covering a fairly wild story mixing sci-fi and horror. To complicate matters even more, Dr. Ong struggles with his father, a pastor, and his own lack of faith. Science has become all-important to him, though what he sees at Creature Tech often defines explanation through science. Ong himself is transformed during the examination of the Shroud, when an alien destroys his heart and attaches itself to him. He and symbiote must work together and this unexpectedly brings up his lost faith.
I felt like this book could've been divided into a few volumes and really taken the time to explore some of the heavier issues TenNapel brings up. The one-liners spouted by Ong and Jameson are funny but lighten the mood too much. The artwork is excellent, particularly anything involving Blue, the praying mantis sidekick. While I don't think this is the greatest graphic novel of all time, it's one I would happily recommend.(less)
**spoiler alert** I went into this book prepared to dislike it. I had seen many official reviews saying this was an excellent debut of fantasy. But I...more**spoiler alert** I went into this book prepared to dislike it. I had seen many official reviews saying this was an excellent debut of fantasy. But I had heard from friends that it just wasn't that good. And there had been many comparisons to Katniss and The Hunger Games, and that's a difficult comparison to live up to. And in the first few chapters, I wasn't really into it. I disliked Katsa... she was angry and difficult to sympathize with. She also seemed to be oblivious to the rest of the world, a theme I keep seeing in female characters in many recent YA novels. But I was totally won over as the story and the characters began to develop. Okay, spoilers aheads....
I loved how Katniss changed and grew, but I also appreciated how she stayed very true to herself. As Randa's tool, she was manipulated and abused. It was difficult to understand how much of a struggle it was for Katsa to get out from under him. Honestly, I felt that was a part of the book that could've been developed even more. I had to regularly remind myself that Katsa had committed terrible acts for Randa and that was a major influence on her. So much of her anger, her inability to connect to people, and her fear of relationships I think stemmed from her being treated as a dog on a leash. I was impatient with her as her relationship with Po developed... I mean, here was someone kind, trusting, and obviously infatuated with Katsa. Why couldn't she commit to him? But she had also just found her independence, and all that Katsa knew of marriage meant being beholden to Po. I'm glad that she chose to be true to herself and that Cashore showed Po and Katsa passionately in love and able to draw on each other's strengths and trusts. Both were strong characters that learned to trust each other and grew as a result. I thought this was such a healthy relationship, particularly compared to other mainstream YA lit.
The audio was absolutely amazing. Katsa's explosion, Po's steady calm, the couple's warmth and humor were all there. I've been surprised to read that people didn't Leck was all that scary as a villain... but I found him terrifying! The voice work made him sound maliciously cheerful and friendly, and the scene in Po's castle leaves you with a sinking feeling that reminded me of Robin McKinley's Deerskin. I wonder if some of the people who were on the fence about this book might change their mind if they listened to it. There were so many moments that just became absolutely engrossing when I was listening (so much so that I needed to keep driving around to get through them): the last part of the trek across the mountains, the appearance of Leck, the moment that Katsa decides on her relationship with Po or when she finds him again towards the end of the book. Full Cast Audio always does a great job and they don't disappoint here.
So I've gone on and on about this and how much I enjoyed it. There are some areas where I thought the book was kind of weak. The pacing felt off... I think that was why it was difficult to empathize with Katsa as the book started, even though she'd had a fairly miserable life (I think it was when I got to see her relationship with Helda that things really clicked for me). It seems strange that I'd have to remind myself to be patient with a main character, though by the end of the book I really got a kick out of Katsa's impatience to get to Po. I also thought that the ending dragged on a bit... Po's blindness seemed an afterthought, a difficulty that their relationship had to overcome, but I wasn't sure that it really served a purpose other than just showing that Katsa could help him as he had helped her.
Okay, so all in all, this was an amazing book and an even better audio recording. I highly recommend it.(less)