Callie loves theater, but she's no actress. She loves being part of the stage crew, creating the props and setting that transport the audience into th...moreCallie loves theater, but she's no actress. She loves being part of the stage crew, creating the props and setting that transport the audience into the story. Her middle school is putting on Moon over Mississippi, a play about the Civil War, and Callie has grand ideas that have to fit into a middle school budget. However, she's also struggling with her long-time crush on Greg, who just broke up with his girlfriend. At first, he seems interested, but then he blows Callie off. Is it because she's into drama? Younger than him? As she struggles with being angry at Greg and still liking him, she throws herself into working on the play. It's there that she meets cute twin brothers, Justin and Jesse. Justin is outgoing, loves theater, funny, and gay. Jesse is shy, smart, and just as talented as his brother, but unwilling to audition. Callie and the twins spend the school year becoming friends and traversing all the challenges that can be thrown at a drama department. Callie also starts to feel something more for Jesse - but does he like her back?
This was a quick, fun read that's full of all the awkwardness of being a teenager in love. Everyone has a little bit of drama (ha-ha) and I appreciated that being gay was not the issue of the book, but just part of the overall plot. I loved that Callie came through, after many moments of heartbreak, and realized that she didn't have to be someone's girlfriend. My only beef with this book is that the drama department was so amazing... what middle school has this sort of theater, budget, and supplies? I'm not sure why the setting wasn't high school, though I think in many school districts, that'd still be pushing it. Well, maybe this is the sort of drama department that schools should aspire to. We should all have working cannons!(less)
This book has an intriguing concept - our main character, A, wakes up in a new body every day. A ages just as we do, and A can only occupy bodies that...moreThis book has an intriguing concept - our main character, A, wakes up in a new body every day. A ages just as we do, and A can only occupy bodies that are his/her same age. On day 5994 of A's life, s/he wakes up in Justin's body and meets his girlfriend Rhiannon. S/he falls in love with her during that day. She is the first person A tells his/her secret to. And they try to make this relationship work.
So there's the concept. But I really just didn't like the book. Why? I found the concept more than a little creepy. I didn't care for A or Rhiannon. A seemed preachy, but constantly broke his/her own rules about how to live the lives s/he gets for a day. I suppose this was to emphasize the importance of his love for Rhiannon, but it just made me dislike A. And the stalking... oh the stalking! It was awkward from the get-go and got so much worse as time went on.
Really, this book seemed like it was more an opportunity for Levithan to do a variety of character studies and show how we have a lot more in common than we think. And I liked the lives that A got to look in on. That was probably my favorite part of this book. But it doesn't make for a great overarching story.
While I found myself waffling when I listened to this - is this a good book and I just don't like it? - the ending hammered home that it was just not good. Spoilers ahead, so look away or stop or whatever if you don't want the ending spoiled.....
Okay, so apparently there are others like A, who can skip Quantum Leap-style from body to body. We find this out just as the book is ending and the scary Reverend that Nathan (a boy A occupied and used to seek out Rhiannon early on in the story) has confided in is actually a person like A. And the Reverend is full of menace and threat and... well, that's about it, because A runs out on the scene where the Reference confronts him/her. And that's it. He tells A that it's possible to keep a body indefinitely and control how long s/he stays. And A freaks, runs out, seeks answers through an email we never get to read. End of book. Well, that and A sets Rhiannon up with the perfect boy on the planet, who makes mix tapes for his parents' anniversary and is always there for everyone and is in a band and has a beautiful, romantic treehouse. This ending is slapped on and leaves you with the feeling that there was supposed to be more... a lot more. But why it ends the way it does is beyond me.(less)
When Klaus Voormann wanders into a seedy Hamburg nightclub, he discovers the most amazing English band and has to share the news. He brings his long-t...moreWhen Klaus Voormann wanders into a seedy Hamburg nightclub, he discovers the most amazing English band and has to share the news. He brings his long-time friend Astrid Kirchherr, a photographer and art student, to the club, where they listen to a new band called The Beatles. From these first few sessions, Astrid and Klaus quickly become friends with John, Paul, George, and Stuart Sutcliffe, the bass player. Astrid influences the band's look with her photos, her sense of fashion, and, of course, the haircuts she gives them. At the heart of this story is the romance between Astrid and Stuart, the fifth Beatle. Told in short narrative bursts, this book documents their brief but powerful relationship, up until Stuart's death. Readers will learn a bit about the history of The Beatles, and their time performing in Hamburg. We see the run-down clubs the band played in, the seeds of The Beatles imagery, and the relationships between band members. Told in black and white, this graphic novel's art is warm and has the feel of a charcoaled page, ready to smear under your fingers. I didn't know much about The Beatles' history when I read this, but I came away wanting to know more about Astrid, Stuart, and the band's time in Germany. While the story can make leaps in time that are a little difficult to follow, it's still an interesting read that tells a story not commonly known.(less)
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)
So I looked at my review of the first volume, which I'm shocked was all the way back in 2008... can that be right? I was kind of harsh. Having watched...moreSo I looked at my review of the first volume, which I'm shocked was all the way back in 2008... can that be right? I was kind of harsh. Having watched the anime, I have fallen in love with Ouran High School Host Club, so I decided I needed to go back and read the manga. And now I love it. Maybe it's being more aware of the different manga genres that they joke about. Or maybe I have an easier time following the story, now that I've seen it played out on TV. I don't know, but whatever it is, I adore it.
Stories in this volume include the club trying to keep Haruhi's gender a secret during the school's physical exams (a favorite of mine!), the twins fighting, the club accepts a new member - Shiro - as Tamaki's apprentice, and the club vacations at the Ohtori Aqua Garden - with disastrous results. We learn a little about the twins' history and see a few touching moments mixed in with the chaos.
Bisco Hatori's asides are funny and let you know you shouldn't take anything too seriously. If you want a fun, light read in manga, this is great!(less)
I really enjoyed the first collection of Matt Wagner's Madame Xanadu. This one didn't do it for me though. The story follows Madame Xanadu as she does...moreI really enjoyed the first collection of Matt Wagner's Madame Xanadu. This one didn't do it for me though. The story follows Madame Xanadu as she does some old-fashioned detective work in 1940, following a series of mysterious deaths and reliving memories of her life in Spain during the Spanish Inquisition.
I thought the plot dragged on, with occasional highlights, such as cameos from Dian Belmont and Wesley Dodds. The storyline following her time in Spain was fairly predictable - no big revelations when Nimue's nature causes problems with the Inquisition! The dialogue is also pretty bad - particularly the scene with the showgirl and Richard Miller.
Most of all, I didn't like the artwork. It felt very messy and busy, particularly compared to Amy Reeder Hadley's gorgeous work in the previous volume. Some of the characters' expressions were hilarious given the context of the scenes. For example, when Nimue's lover has been taken by the Inquisition and a neighbor confronts her with this news, her expression reads as... sleepy.
This mysterious killer releasing his demon dog to kill a man... cross-eyed? Detecting a bad smell?
And good old Tomas de Torquemada... Indiana Jones-style face melt? Look at those teeth, they're horrifying!
With a subpar story, dialogue, and artwork, I'd say this one is skipable. I'm hoping the next collection is better than this one. I like the Madame Xanadu character, but it felt like she didn't have to make much effort here to solve the mystery and defeat the villain... because who doesn't have mummified shards from the brain of a kraken lying around? Seriously. I feel that Wesley Dodd's and Dian Belmont's perspectives would've been much more intriguing than what we get here.(less)
I knew what I was getting into when I started reading If I Stay. I knew it would be a tear-jerker and that there would be a wonderful romance in jeopa...moreI knew what I was getting into when I started reading If I Stay. I knew it would be a tear-jerker and that there would be a wonderful romance in jeopardy and that, at the center of it all, would be a girl deciding if she would live or die. And normally I don't like reading books like that... I don't like books designed to make me cry. Maybe that's because most of the time it seems like the sole purpose of these books is to get you through a box of Kleenex, and not to establish characters, tell a story, or give you a new perspective. So I'm not sure why I checked out If I Stay, other than that I knew I had a lot of driving to do and wanted something recent to listen to.
I'm glad I did read this - it's a good story and I think it has a greater purpose than just being a cry-fest. I'm just not quite sure what that is. There are a lot of layers in this books - first and foremost, the fact that Mia and her family have been in a horrific car accident, leaving her alone (should she choose to live).
And then there's her relationship with Adam, which is both complicated and wonderful... sometimes maybe too wonderful IMHO. I appreciated the way Forman depicted the strain on their relationship as they pondered Mia's impending acceptance to Juilliard.
And then (no and then!) there's Mia's family. Again, I thought they were just too many kinds of wonderful. Maybe this was to balance out the awful thing that happens to Mia or maybe I've just read too many YA books with horrible parents, but it just kind of strained credibility that everyone was so wonderful and supportive and really cool. That doesn't mean her family wasn't incredibly likeable... they were unique and fun characters. But sometimes I thought that they were so great just so you'd feel even worse for Mia.
And somewhere in there is friendship and weird antics (a punk band makes a sneaky diversion in an attempt to get Adam in to see Mia in the ICU) and a bit about the afterlife.
So yes, there are many layers to this book. I think that this book sometimes felt like an exercise in creating characters. We learn about Mia in fractured bits and pieces and she recalls moments from her life and flashes back to them, all while lying in a hospital bed or in surgery. And those flashbacks serve as short stories that develop the friends and family in her life. Mia's decision to continue living or to die serves to connect all these fragments.
I didn't mind this storytelling technique - I like jumping in with a character and learning more about them as we go. I think what bothered me was the way some characters were too-perfect. And I just didn't feel like this would be very memorable. Still, as far as tear-jerkers go, I'm glad I read this one.(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)
I kind of didn't know what to think of Solanin when I started reading it. I had seen the great reviews and that it was highly recommended, but I kept...moreI kind of didn't know what to think of Solanin when I started reading it. I had seen the great reviews and that it was highly recommended, but I kept putting off reading it. When I did start, it was hard to connect with the characters. It seemed odd, because here are people asking the same questions I've asked myself so many times, and even still ask myself. Or I think about these questions for the people in my life - are they happy? Is this what life is about? Will I be doing this job for the rest of my life? Is this what it means to be an adult? Is there something more?
So I'm not sure why it took me so long to click with these characters! Perhaps its because we don't know much about them until much further into the book - we just know their circumstances. Meiko is working in an office building and she hates her job. She's been out of college for awhile and is the "responsible" one in her relationship - her boyfriend Taneda works part-time as a graphic designer and talks about getting his band going full-time again, but he's pretty aimless. Or so it seems. They have the same group of friends from college, who also happen to be in Taneda's band, and they're all wondering about their place in life. Meiko surprises herself and her friends when she suddenly quits her job and decides to spend a year being free, hoping to discover something that sparks her passion. Quitting her job sets a series of events in motion, forcing each of the group to ask themselves about what's important to them and what are they willing to sacrifice to keep that thing going.
I don't know if I'm being very clear in my description... this book is about living. It's about choosing what to do with your life and following through. And it's about friendship. I really liked how Meiko's mother tells her and Taneda that life isn't always about taking the difficult path - that happiness is actually easier to find than you think. Once you get to know these characters, to understand them, you can really get immersed in the story. As the author explains, these aren't larger-than-life characters; they're meant to be real people that can easily fade into the background. And what happens to them is beautiful and sad and wonderful.
On a quick note, the artwork here is amazing. It's filled with detail but also simple. And the moments where the band is playing really evoke the passion and power you can feel when you're creating something. Towards the end of the book there's a performance and the way that the lighting works and the characters move and drip with sweat... it just shows the passion that they're seeking in life.(less)
Let me preface my review by saying that I first read this series when I was in high school and I loved it. My best friend recommended it and we refere...moreLet me preface my review by saying that I first read this series when I was in high school and I loved it. My best friend recommended it and we referenced it all the time... though with some knowledge that this was somewhat cheesy writing. There were lots of jokes about guys with beautiful, steely blue eyes. But I remember thinking that the books were somewhat scary, contained a great mix of fantasy and reality, and Julian had that bad-boy/demon thing going for him, like Jareth in Labyrinth, but without the weird age difference!
So when the series was finally reprinted, I was really excited to read them again and see how my adult-self compared with my teen-self. I'm sorry to say that I don't think this series aged that well. It's not just the early 90s references... I felt like there were a lot of problems here. Like the characters feeling like stereotypes for the first half of the series. Or the language that they used sounding like it wouldn't come out of a teen's mouth now or 16 years ago. And Jenny... what did she see in Tom? She feels so flat throughout the books, which I suppose is somewhat the point. She does develop somewhat and becomes more independent, less reliant on her friends' strengths and Tom being her protector. I suppose I just got annoyed with her incredible "goodness" - I mean, who's really that good?
I should balance this review out by saying that I still did enjoy rereading this series... it just felt more like a guilty read! I think that for those Twilight-readers this is an excellent collection to move on to; even though it's populated with the troubled, beautiful, immortal bad boy, it revolves less around being obsessed by this boy and more about friendship and inner-strength. Jenny's not the strongest of heroines, but she still becomes "her own master." As a librarian, I'll be recommending this book to those still looking for something after Twilight, but also to those looking for a good haunted house story, something to do with nightmares, or something that doesn't include vampires! (less)
It all goes by so quickly, and I was sad to see the series end, but loved reading it! This is a thick issue and it wraps things up for almost all the...moreIt all goes by so quickly, and I was sad to see the series end, but loved reading it! This is a thick issue and it wraps things up for almost all the characters. It's Scott at some of his most awkward ("but it was horrible for everyone and that includes you") and epic. Ramona still kicks a lot of ass. As always, there are lots of excellent references to movies, video games, and other awesome stuff. Just so I don't spoil anything, I'll say that this is a great ending that was really satisfying... we all live in our own heads, but how much do we let other people in?(less)