Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Becoming Holmes by Shane Peacock YP FIC PEACOCK

Sherlock Holmes is at a crossroads. At 17 is seems his life may be over before it has begun. He has lost or is losing all the people that tied him to his past, the only chances of love he ever dared imagine for himself, and his future is the darkest mystery he has ever faced.  There is only one thing that can, pull him for the darkness of despair, a case! And it is the case of his young career, the evil mastermind Malefactor has finally tipped his hand.  Now Holmes and Malefactor begin a deadly battle of wits.  If Holmes survives this he may yet seize his destiny as the world’s greatest detective.

This is in many ways a perfect ending to Peacock’s excellent series.  It finally brings Holmes to the position to become THE Sherlock Holmes we know from the original mysteries. It even very cleverly accounts for differences in the original stories and this series in a dramatically satisfying manner.  One of the things that works best about this series is the mix of the very real London of the time (complete with real historical figures) and the classic mystery style of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  The dark and dreary streets of London are one of the greatest characters in the series.  The greatest triumph is crafting a believable young Holmes and giving his story enough weight that it feels like an important addition to the Holmes legend. Which is why the surprise ending of this book may be a betrayal to fans of Sherlock Holmes.  Peacock has Holmes do something many fans would never accept.  I would say that Doyle’s Sherlock would not have done what Peacock’s Sherlock does, but I think Peacock has built his Holmes in a way that it is believable and works with the original Holmes’ stories too.  Some readers may feel this is cheapening Holmes, but I loved the alternate view of Holmes that Peacock crafted and feel like it is one of the finest Sherlock series besides the original books.  I highly recommend you start this series from the very first book and read until this final chapter.  

You can check our catalog for Becoming Holmes here.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Hellboy: The Bride of Hell and Others by Mike Mignola Illustrated by Rixhard Corben, Kevin Nowlan, and Scott Hampton YP FIC MIGNOLA

He was summoned from hell, but fights on the side of the angels. Hellboy continues his unending quest to fight all forms of evil in this collection of short comics.  He faces a carnivorous house, vampire Mexican wrestlers, space aliens that dabble in the occult, vengeful mummies, ghost cows, and even more!

The various anthology collections of Hellboy are always some of his most fun, weird adventures, and this is definitely towards the very top of his best shorts collection.  Mignola very rarely draws anymore, but he is so well respected in comics that he can get the best illustrators in all of comics to work with him.  Both Richard Corben and Kevin Nowlan were all but retired, and Mignola was able to convince them to draw full comics.  This makes for some of the most richly drawn, inventive horror comics being drawn today.  The stories are all short and pack a lot of great twists, gags, and sublime weirdness in as few panels as possible.  My personal favorites have to be the vampire ghost story and the story about the house that eats people. However all the other stories are just as perfectly bizarre. All in all this is a must read for fans of comics of all stripes, and might make a great stepping in point for people looking to get into comics.

You can check our catalog for The Bride of Hell and Others here.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand by Gregory Galloway YP FIC GALLOWAY

Adam Strand is bored.  So bored.  So bored that he wants to die. So he does. 39 times.  Each time he wakes up “good” as new.  Each time the people around him feel more and more devastated and he feels more and more drawn to die.  Only when another person needs him does he start to question his place in the world and what his absence would mean.

Fair warning: this is a frank and unapologetic look at the urge to die.  This is one of the least sentimental looks at suicide and suicidal thought I’v ever read, which makes it seem all too real. Adam pulls no punches and makes no apologies for wanting to die.  Thusly, he isn’t always the most likable or relatable protagonist.  However, he is clever and intelligent and his feeling of utter alienation and emptiness has been felt by a full 100% of the human population at least once during their lifetimes, so perhaps he’s so unsettling because in a dark and scary way he IS relatable. Galloway’s writing is excellent for the subject matter.  He is excellent at drawing the reader in then pushing the reader away.  This seesaw between interest and anger at Adam’s clearly selfish and devastating actions make for tough but fascinating reading.  Since we are stuck with Adam as our Point of View we have to deal with his apathy and lack of understanding.  This makes the book a character study of sadness and isolation that is hard to beat in YA literature.  I was very happy that Galloway introduced elements of self-awareness and growth slowly and organically.  You can’t have a kid kill himself 39 times and then meet a great gal or a true friend and then turn everything around.  At the same time, it would be irresponsible if the book didn’t address the harm in Adam’s actions and just reveled in bleakness and edginess. Fortunately, Galloway excels at avoiding either extreme. I think anyone that wants to read a incredibly well written book should pick this up, especially if they know someone that has or has had problems with wanting to die.  However, I don’t think anyone entertaining the thought of suicide should read this book until they’ve sought help first, because books like this can be triggering for people facing such thoughts.

As Galloway does at the end of this book I urge anyone considering harming themselves, or anyone that worries someone they know may harm themselves, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-784-2433 or visit www.suicidehotlines.com.   

You can check our catalog for The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand here.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

As with most of the books I read, I came late to the wildly enthusiastic The Fault in Our Stars party but better late than never. The novel, written by John Green, came out in January 2012 to pretty much universal acclaim, climbing the bestseller charts both here and in the United Kingdom as well as earning a New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice award.

Green is well-known for both his young adult books as well as his collaboration with his brother, Hank, the YouTube channel "Vlog Brothers," and the community that their online conversations have spawned, Nerd Fighters.

Anyways, back to the book. The Fault in Our Stars takes the trope of star-crossed lovers and transforms it into this astonishing lovely, heartbreaking piece of literature. It is Shakespearean in its execution, mixing romance, comedy, drama and philosophy into what is essentially a girl-meets-boy story. Except girl has Stage IV thyroid cancer and boy has already lost a leg to Osteosarcoma.

Yes, this is a book about kids with cancer. It's told through the eyes of the girl, 16-year-old Hazel Lancaster, who has to cart an oxygen tank with her wherever she goes. She meets the quick-witted, dashing Augustus Waters at cancer survivor support group. Their chemistry, apparent in their verbal exchanges (which are silly, sad and moving, sometimes all at the same time), is as certain as their diagnoses. As their friendship blossoms, we fall in love with the teenaged pair just as they fall in love with each other. They bond over Hazel's favorite book, An Imperial Affliction, which ultimately proves critical to how their own story plays out.

But let's face it. This is a book about kids with cancer. In our heart of hearts, we know, or at least suspect, what's coming. Green gives us an unflinching look at young love made all the more poignant by the vagaries of fate. This is a book for those ready for some intense feelings: Be ready to laugh, to cry, and to muse about mortality.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard by Lesléa Newman YP FIC NEWMAN

Then and Now -Lesléa Newman

Then I was a son
Now I am a symbol

Then I was a brother
Now I am an absence

Then I was a friend
Now I am a memory

Then I was a person
Now I am a headline

Then I was a guy
Now I am a ghost

Then I was a student
Now I am a lesson

On October 6, 1998 a 21 year old young man was brutally beaten, tied to a fence, and left for dead. Matthew Shepard became a symbol of victims of hate crimes everywhere and his case drew worldwide attention.  This book of poems from Lesléa Newman looks back at the crime, its aftermath, and the person behind the symbol.  Poems from the perspective of Matthew, the killers, the community, and the silent witnesses of the fence and other inanimate objects paint a chilling and heartbreaking picture of a life tragically lost.

This is an absolutely stunning work of poetry.  Lesléa Newman uses different voices, styles, and structures to approach the crime and tragedy form many different angles.  This works to make the story about more than a crime, but also to bring the person of Matthew to the forefront.  The poem above is an excellent example of her sparse language and use of pounding repetition to hammer hard truths home.  In other poems she uses a completely different style and structure.  She also uses poems taken from almost random inspirations like Now Showing, a list of film titles that appeared in theaters in 1998 formed into a poem. The variation is key to capturing different feelings, ideas, voices, and moods.  She does a wonderful job of giving voice to not just many people, but also things like the fence Matthew was tied to, the rope that tied him, the gun of his killers, their truck, the road they drove on, and more.  I think this should be read by just about everyone, because regardless of your feelings on homosexuality we can all come together to agree that no one should be murdered for who they are, what they believe, or how they love. This is a slender volume that you could easily read in a few hours, but will stay with you long after.  

You can check our catalog for October Mourning here.