Monday, November 29, 2010

The Long Haul by Anthony Johnston drawn by Eduardo Barreto YP FIC JOHNSTON

The days of the lawless West are coming to an end and former outlaw Cody Plummer wants one last big score before he fades away. A secret federal money train carrying 1.9 MILLION!!! dollars* is heading across the wilderness and Cody has a plan to make sure that the 1.9 mil never sees its destination. The one problem is that the train has been designed to be completely impervious to robbery. With a group of former outlaws Cody has to rob the unrobbale train.

This is a clever, fast-paced graphic novel that is half western, half heist story, and all awesome. The art reminds me of the classic comic artists of the 60s and 70s, so while it is never incredibly stylized it tells the story well and brings the characters to life. The heist itself is the big draw, because you will be wondering how they will pull off the impossible score until the very last pages. The majority of the book (like any good heist story) is the job set up with the last chapters being the payoff of the score in action. A great read for fans of the Oceans 11 style movies or comic fans wanting something a bit unique.

*That would be $33,625,614 adjusted for inflation!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

NPR's Best Teen Reads of the year

The venerable folks over at NPR have graced us with an end of year reading list of the best that YA literature has to offer. Personally, I am shocked not to see Mockingjay (YP FIC COLLINS) or The Monsters of Men (YP FIC NESS) on the list, but the list does have some great reads. Check it our yourself at:

Night Fisher by R. Kikuo Johnson YP FOC JOHNSON

Loren Foster lives in paradise, but isn’t all that impressed. He and his father moved to Hawaii 6 years ago and Loren still feels like an outsider drifting through his life towards the end of school and an uncertain future. His best friend is pulling further away and his attempt to reconnect with Loren through the popular pastime of hard drugs threatens to derail all their lives. A smart, beautifully drawn look at the wasteland between adolescence and adulthood.

So after all the cheery talk in my summary you might be surprised to learn that this is not a super bleak look at the ruined lives of broken teens. It is a realistic look at teenage apathy and dealing with finding your identity while trying to form connections with the people around you. The completely black and white art is super stark and helps get across the point of isolation and looks amazing. The line work and design of the book are really good (this isn’t always the case with “SERIOUS” comics). and the book would be worth checking out even without the great characterization This is a really great book for fans of mature, realistic comics.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Beautiful Dead: Arizona by Eden Maguire YP FIC MAGUIRE

The Beautiful Dead, a group of zombie/angel(they are resurrected dead like zombies but have super cool angel powers) teens, are back and Darina has to solve another mystery before time runs out and all of the Dead have to return to limbo. This time it is the mystery of Arizona, and her suicide that may be murder, but it’s hard to solve the mystery of a zombie/angel girl that seems to hate you and vice-versa. To solve it Darina will have to unlock the secrets of Arizona’s past and find the truth before time runs out in this thrilling paranormal romance mystery series.

The first Beautiful Dead book Jonas was a fun but flawed read. Some characters seemed flat but the cool powers and fast plot made it a good light mystery read. Fortunately, Arizona is even better. We see Darina starting to change and grow (which I had mentioned I was hoping for in my previous review!) and get to know more about the zombie/angels and their mysterious leader Hunter. I think this is going to be a really good series for fans of fast passed mysteries or looking for a new paranormal romance.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Crazy by Han Nolan YP FIC CRAZY

Life is crazy sometimes, but for fifteen-year-old Jason life is crazy all the time. After the sudden death of his mother Jason is the only one left to care for his father who is slipping quickly into mental illness. Fortunatley, Jason has several friends to help him through. Unfortunately, they are all in his head.. The newest voice in his head, you the reader, are told all about his best friends: FBG (Fat Bald Guy) with a Mustache, Aunt Bee (yes from Mayberry), Sexy Lady, and Crazy Glue. They all help him feel better about his life and get through the day, but as his entire life falls apart he finds he’s going to need help from friends that exist outside his brain to make it through.

This is a really great look at living with mental illness. Jason uses his wit and humor to make the fear and loneliness bearable, which keeps the book from becoming bleak and hopeless. It is only as the novel progresses that the reader sees how tragic Jason’s humor is, because he is using it to deny reality just as his father is. The author has Jason’s ‘voices’ talk like characters in a play with a script layout. This was a great idea and really makes the book feel unique. Even when the book is through I can’t say for sure if Jason is ‘crazy’ or not. What is and isn’t ‘healthy’ or ‘normal’ is questioned in the book but the author allows you to come up with your own answers. I was really impressed with the respect he shows the reader in crafting some complex characters and serious situations, but not being afraid to let the reader draw their own conclusions. If you like authors that look at troubled teens with a humorous eye, then you would be insane not to read Crazy.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Girl, Stolen by April Henry YP FIC HENRY

Sixteen year old Cheyenne Wilder is having a rough day. She’s feeling really sick and her mom was just running into the store to get some medicine when the car she is laying down in is stolen with her stolen along with it. Now a car thief has become a kidnapper and the stakes just became life and death. The one thing that is keeping her alive also keeps her from escaping: Cheyenne is blind. She wants to trust a captor who seems to want to help her, but trust is a deadly luxury. Cheyenne is blind, seriously ill, and running out of time in this nail biting, pulse pounding thriller.

This novel starts tense and ratchets up the suspense quick. The relationship between Cheyenne and her nicest kidnapper Griffin is a great way to keep the conflict fresh. The back and forth between the two of trust and doubt is exciting and moves the dram forward really well. The characters feel like humans that are making horrifically bad decisions driven by greed rather than inhuman villains. This actually makes the book scarier, because you can see how this could happen to anyone in bad enough circumstances. A good thriller, kept from being great by being sort or predictable and having the ending feel rushed, BUT a really fun read for people wanting something fast, fun, and interesting.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Annexed by Sharon Dogar YP FIC DOGAR

Peter van Pels lies in a ‘hospital’ in a concentration camp designed to eliminate his people from the Earth. As he is ravaged by disease he remembers his terrifying and maddening ordeal of hiding two years in an attic growing from a boy into manhood stuck endlessly with his family and another: the Franks. As time goes on his loneliness and anger is softened by the optimism, hope, and gentle spirit of Anne Frank. You’ve heard her story, now see it gan through the eyes of the boy she loved.

This book, like Anne Frank Diary of a Young Girl (949.2 FRANK) is incredibly powerful, sad, nut ultimately uplifting. It is a fictional story based on real events so it is not the historical document that Anne Frank is, but it still has an impressive power and beauty like Anne Frank. My only criticism is that the story starts sort of slow, because Peter is very quiet and inward focused. However, this pays off because when Peter does slowly open himself up to romance with Anne it makes it all the more important and powerful. I urge anyone that hasn’t read Anne Frank to read it and when they are done to read Annexed. It really is a worthy companion piece and conveys the true horrors of genocide and the inspiring strength of a people that refused to be erased from history.The author has also included information at the end on what is fact and what is fictionalized and how she developed the fiction, which is very helpful for readers.