Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Cardboard by Doug TenNapel YP FIC TENNAPEL

Mike’s out of work, out of money, and fast becoming out of hope.  With his wife gone and life seeming to slip out of control he’s forced to give the World’s Worst Birthday Present to his son Cam: a cardboard box.  When they realize that the cardboard is magic and anything they make with it comes to life, they break the cardboard magic rules and make a magic cardboard maker out of cardboard to make endless cardboard creations.  Mike learns the folly of disobeying Cardboard Rules when the snooty rich kid Marcus steals the cardboard maker and begins making an evil cardboard army.  

This is a very close to great (and often great) graphic novel form TenNapel.  I quite enjoyed his previous book Bad Island but complained that it was too short (right here).  Cardboard feels much bigger both in its page count, but also in scope.  It has amazing designs, loads of twists, suspense, action, laughs, and pitch perfect cartoony style art.  Then why would I say it isn’t a capital ‘G’ Great Graphic Novel?  Unfortunately in several important scenes TenNapel commits the sin of telling us exactly what the characters think through a speech.  Mike does it. Cam does it. Marcus does it.  Even the evil cardboard monster does it.  I often look to Jeff Smith’s magnum opus Bone when I read TenNapel’s work.  Both are fantasy/humor hybrids with a cartoony style, but Smith allows much more subtlety in the dialogue and lets his excellent facial work tell a lot of the story.  What is a bit galling is that TenNapel’s drawing skills exceeds Smith’s in many ways.  He really doesn’t need clunky speeches for us to get emotion or spell out the book’s themes.  However, with all the wit in ingenuity in this title readers will truly enjoy the book anyways.  It’s just that this book is so close to being a perfect graphic novel gem, the (very) minor flaws do standout. 

Fortunately, the strengths standout too.  The book keeps new ideas and developments coming fast and is endlessly visually inventive.  The huge array of cardboard creatures keeps getting better and better, and the final action packed chapters have loads of grisly cardboard carnage.  The humor is really strong throughout as well.  It’s really the best book of its kind since the Bone series and is a must read for any graphic novel fan.

You can check our catalog for Cardboard here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Mythos Academy Series

Mythos Academy Series
by Jennifer Estep

Touch of Frost
Kiss of Frost
Dark Frost
Coming Soon...Crimson Frost

This series also focuses on mythologies, like the Percy Jackson and Kane Chronicles Series by Rick Riordan, the Oh.My.Gods. Series by Tera Lynn Childs, and the Wildefire Series by Karsten Knight. The main character, Gwen Frost, does not believe that she belongs at the Mythos Academy. Unlike the other "Spartan, Roman, Celt, Valkyrie, and Amazon" students, she is just a "Gypsy" girl. Gwen cannot fight, she can just touch people and objects and "know" about them. After her mother's death, though, her grandmother felt it was important for Gwen to attend the academy. The students at Mythos Academy learn to enhance their skills to fight the "Reapers of Chaos," the followers of Loki, who want to free Loki and spread chaos over the world. When some weird things start happening at the academy, Gwen will find out that her skills may help her more than she thought, and she finds that she will need her new friends, and crush-worthy Spartan, Logan Quinn, to help her fulfill her legacy. This legacy, though, will also make her a prime target for the reapers.

I found myself really enjoying this series. Gwen Frost is a very likable character, and you really find yourself routing for her. You know that she has a lot of to learn, as the other students in the academy have been training for years and years, but Jennifer Estep does not let Gwen just suddenly "have" the powers that she will need. She will have to develop them over time, just like the other students (she does have an edge, though). I also enjoy the little red herrings that Jennifer Estep leaves around, so you cannot assume that you have figured out who the bad guy is until the bitter end.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Adaptation by Malinda Lo YP FIC LO (Sadly Nic Cage doesn't play twins that are writing the very book you are reading)

Something is wrongs with the birds. Great flocks of birds are diving into airplanes crashing dozens, killing thousands.  Reese thought it was just something on the news, weird, scary, but far away.  Then a bird flies through her windshield and when she and her (secret) crush David wake up they’re in a military hospital.  After a seemingly miraculous recovery she returns home and nothing is the same.  She feels eyes watching her everywhere.  Her search for the truth sends her headlong into a mysterious and beautiful stranger, Amber Grey.  As Reese struggles with feelings she’s never expected she falls deeper into a dangerous conspiracy with GLOBAL implications.  Feelings aren’t the only thing that’s changing in Reese, she’s changing…adapting, but to what and FOR what?

Malinda Lo has me hooked.  This start of a series has me NEEDING to know what happens next, which honestly surprised me.  The book starts well and then sort of seems to lose direction when Amber and Reese meet.  Since it is a fairly realistic (and well written) look at intense infatuation that actually sort of works for the overall narrative.  Reese is distracted form her main goals and the story follows that, but as much as I liked the romance elements I kept wanting to jump back into the conspiracy stuff. Fortunately, the book acquits itself nicely when it gets back on track.  The sense of tension and dread is well developed.  Lo makes the environmental catastrophe and widening conspiracy super chilling.  I love a good WHO CAN YOU TRUST!!!? book, and this one pays off in spades.  The characterization, dialogue, and scene building are all top notch too.  Reese is a great head strong protagonist with a likeable wit, Amber is an alluring enigma, and David is smart, funny, and relatable.  Also, mad props for Lo including a male Asian hero!  Sci-fi can always use more non-sidekick characters from diverse groups.  Last but not least the special powers that Reese and David start to develop and interesting and Lo does a great job of revealing them slowly and leaving you wanting more, which is what sequels are for!  Adaptation is a great contemporary sci-fi novel with some darned good writing and clever ideas.

You can check our catalog for Adaptation here.

Vampires VS Werewolves: THE VOTES ARE IN!!!




Team Edward and Team Jacob will need to shake hands, agree to disagree, and hug it out, because the long national nightmare is over. That's right folks, we have a TIE!  So apparently werewolves and vampires are equally wonderful...democratically.  So if anyone ever tells you that your vote doesn't count remember this day, the day vampires and werewolves TIED!

In a particularly awesome note we did have one write in for "Unicorns :)".  To our awesome anonymous unicorn fan out there I strongly recommend Zombies VS Unicorns (feel free to read my review here).

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield YP FIC ROSENFIE

Amelia Anne is dead but she isn’t gone quite yet.  Becca is ready to get away.  Get away from her small town and everyone that knows her, but the sudden violent death of a stranger keeps Becca stuck as her life seems to spiral out of control over a long summer.  She soon learns that she has more in common with a dead stranger than anyone she thinks she knows and loves, and that the people around her know more about the stranger’s death than they’re letting on.

This book is a weird hybrid between small town coming-of-age tale, gritty murder mystery, and poetic look at the similarities and differences between love, sex, and death. That may seem like an odd combination, and at times it does veer perilously close to melodrama, the end result is an original and powerful look at the perilous period between adolescence and adulthood.  The book occasionally gives chapters from Amelia Anne’s point of view, teasing the reader with knowledge the main character doesn’t have.  This also highlights how much Amelia and Becca have in common and how (and this is sort of a major theme of the book) people that never even meet in life can be connected by death and how violence has ripple effects no one could ever anticipate.  The slow reveal of what REALLY happened to Amelia really builds the tension and having the mystery develop from two points of view makes the story richer and more entertaining. 

Honestly, I had a hard time liking Becca at first because she’s going through a hard time and doesn’t handle it all that well at first.  Also, I immediately liked Amelia Anne and that made the comparison sort of unflattering, but Amelia is several years older than Becca and as I read on I started to see why the death of a total stranger was having such a bizarre effect on Becca. It’s to the author’s credit that she never spells it directly out for the reader and allows you to figure it out for yourself what lies beneath the surface. The prose is truly the shining star of the book.  Rosenfield makes the ordinary seem vital (which is crucial in a book that takes its time to build to any climax) and is able to slowly unfold a moment with her words.  I think Ellen Hopkins fans will appreciate this book (even though it isn’t in verse it’s beautifully written words often feel like poetry), but it moves slower than some of her novels.  It’s dark, sad, and offers no easy answers, but I think honest books about violence ought to be complex.  A very good and very rewarding read that isn’t for everybody, but that will stay with everybody that reads it.

You can check our catalog for Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone here.

Blood Ninja III: The Betrayal of the Living by Nick Lake YP FIC LAKE

The evil Lord Oda is dead (after already being dead, then undead, and now totally dead), but Taro’s greatest challenge is still ahead.  He must vanquish a dragon in order to get permission to marry the girl he loves.  Wait fighting dragons to win the heart of a fair lady is supposed to be for knights, nit vampire ninjas!?  Taro is doomed!  As if that wasn’t enough to worry about the dead are rising.  No, not vampires, ZOMBIES!  The super, evil and very creepy Kenji has crawled back from the dead and is raising an army of corpses to destroy all he sees.  OH!  Also, Taro’s very own flesh and blood family plans to betray him!  Being a vampire ninja in feudal Japan is ROUGH!

Vampire ninjas VS Dragons and Zombies!  What’s not to love!? This is a great finale to a wonderful action series.  This book, like the two before it (read my reviews here and here), have loads of fast paced action and ultra-violence, perfectly evil villains to root for, and enough plot twists to keep things interesting.  Also, Nick Lake does a nice amount of research to make the Japanese setting feel real and authentic.  Basically the Blood Ninja series is like a super awesome manga series without the pictures.  It doesn’t have the most realistic characters, but they aren’t boring or entirely one note either.  The heroes are almost always outmatched and that makes for tense and exciting action sequences.  The romantic plot does get a little sparkly when Taro learns that he can’t be with Hana without turning her into a vampire, but that never drags the plot down to a soap opera.  This is a must read for fans of action, manga, or historical-fiction-fantasy-horror.

You can check our catalog for Blood Ninja III here.