Amber Appleton is an unyielding optimist. Even though she, her mom, and her dog - Bobby Big Boy - live on a school bus, and her mom sort of sucks at b...moreAmber Appleton is an unyielding optimist. Even though she, her mom, and her dog - Bobby Big Boy - live on a school bus, and her mom sort of sucks at being a mom, and Amber's starting to feel like the walls are closing in, she still maintains a positive outlook on life. Amber volunteers at a local nursing home, helps teaching English at a nearby Korean church, and fights to keep her favorite teacher from losing his job. But when a fatal tragedy destroys Amber's life, she loses it. She is just a shell of her former self, and it's up to the people she's always cared for to help Amber.
It's almost impossible not to like Amber. As a character, her voice is strong, unique, and realistic. Great attention is paid to the surrounding cast of characters, making everyone - even the jerky jocks - realistic. Quick weaves together a story that involves poetry, religion, disability, and depression, without it ever becoming too overwhelming or preachy. I highly recommend this book!(less)
It seems like things couldn't get any worse for Anya. She hates her family - the greasy food her mother makes, her church where no one bothered to lea...moreIt seems like things couldn't get any worse for Anya. She hates her family - the greasy food her mother makes, her church where no one bothered to learn English, and the way her little brother gets away with everything. She's unpopular at school - maybe it's her body, or the remnants of her Russian accent, or that everyone thinks she hangs out with the one other Russian kid at school, a nerd named Dima. And Anya has no friends - no one to confide in or hang out with. So yeah, perhaps things couldn't get worse for Anya... until she storms off campus one day and falls down a well.
But somehow, at the bottom of that well, is the answer to all her problems! Well, sort of. There's a skeleton at the bottom of the well and attached to it is a ghost. Emily died ninety years ago and has been stuck in the well all those years. At first, Anya is terrified of her. But when Emily follows Anya to school and helps her cheat on tests and get noticed by her crush, well... maybe having an undead best friend is pretty awesome.
Except there's more to Emily's past than she's letting on. And pretty soon she's controlling more and more of Anya's life. Yeah, Anya was looking for a BFF, but Emily isn't kidding about the "Forever" part.
This book is amazing! The art is excellent - no stereotypical rail-thin girls with gravity-defying boobs. Brosgol represents lots of different body types and looks and Anya sports a chubby and pretty body. Her body image issues are worked out in the art and some of the storyline without ever being heavy-handed. The dialogue is spot-on. Anya's wit and sarcasm are perfect for a teenager and I never felt like Brosgol was trying to hard. And the story - I did quite the turn-about on how I felt about these characters as the story progressed. There's enough spookiness to appeal to fans of ghost stories, but I think this would be a story that's an easy sell to almost any reader.(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)
**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)
I was put off at first by I Kill Giants's artwork. I had trouble telling what was going on, both with the plot and the action on the page. But that pr...moreI was put off at first by I Kill Giants's artwork. I had trouble telling what was going on, both with the plot and the action on the page. But that problem passed very quickly as I got into the story. Barbara's life begins to fill out, helping to bridge those intentional gaps at the beginning of the book. We see her life at school, at home, the way she runs her D&D games, and the terror that lurks for her on the second floor of the house. As I began to see and understand the parts of Barbara's life that she wishes to hide from, I became completely wrapped up in the story. It was a little like dipping my toe in cold water and then dunking myself in... once I was acclimated, it was wonderful.
This is one of the saddest, sweetest stories I've read, and you don't expect it, particularly based on the artwork or when you know a bit about Barbara. You wouldn't look at this intense, off-putting little girl who loves D&D and knows her mythology and think that this will be a story about her dealing with death and family and anger. Or that the story could effectively bring in fairies and titans and have it still be as emotionally powerful as it is. It's a fast read, but I had to go back and start all over again once it was finished.
If you aren't a graphic novel person, this may be a good one to try. Have a little patience and you'll get a huge reward!(less)
Give a Boy a Gun tells the story of a Columbine-like school shooting. Gary and Brendan had suffered through years of bullying and abuse from classmate...moreGive a Boy a Gun tells the story of a Columbine-like school shooting. Gary and Brendan had suffered through years of bullying and abuse from classmates, were ignored by teachers and school staff, and considered themselves outcasts. They lash out during a school dance, locking the gym and taking everyone there as hostages. The book examines these events, as well as the years that led up to that night, by interviewing all the other characters about Gary and Brendan's childhoods and time in junior high and high school.
This was a tough read and I think it's an important one. Throughout the story, Strasser includes footnotes that list statistics about school violence, guns, and bullying. These are not obtrusive, and I thought they enhanced the story, further cementing it in reality. What I liked best about Give a Boy a Gun is that it presents multiple sides of most of the issues - no one group is clearly in the right. Not all of the football players are jerks and Brendan and Gary aren't glorified for their actions. Teachers that are seen by some as uncaring jerks get to express their own feelings and show their struggle with how to operate in the school. There are issues, though, where the author makes his opinion very clear (gun control, specifically). This book is an excellent way to start discussions on school violence, bullying, and guns.(less)
I was introduced to American Elf by a friend and have kept reading the daily strips for more than a year now. I really wanted to go back and read the...moreI was introduced to American Elf by a friend and have kept reading the daily strips for more than a year now. I really wanted to go back and read the comic from the start, though, and this book is the best way to do it (unless you have many, many hours to spend at your computer). I read this first volume on my lunch breaks, on and off, and it was always such a pick-me-up. I also would find myself thinking about strips later in the day, reflecting on them. I don't know if this is "deep" material, but it's hard not to feel a connection to James Kochalka and his family. He doesn't shy away from certain topics, which makes it all the more fun and wonderful... though it does make for an interesting glance by coworkers in the lunch room. Reading this is a lot like talking to a friend about what's happening in your life, when maybe you think your life is strange and maybe your relationships aren't working out and you're just not getting it, and then that friend says "yeah, me too!" Okay, it's not quite like that, but that's the feeling I got. I'm happy to be catching up to present day American Elf! (less)