Monday, November 24, 2014

Graphic Novel Review: "Tomboy" by Liz Prince

Liz is born female, but it was clear very early on that she was definitely not a girly-girl who loved to play princess and wear pink everything all the time.  Or ever.  This is her memoir of growing up as a tomboy, and how she dealt with the bullying, the gender identity confusion, and everything else that comes along with just growing up.

The first thing I quickly realized was that this memoir was something I could easily relate to.  I did not have the same experience as Liz, but I always have found it easier to be friends with boys, and though I was never an athlete - I enjoyed playing kickball and getting dirty on the playground with the boys as opposed to sitting around on the swings with the girls at recess.  I just didn't have much in common with the girls and never (to this day) understood the cliques and social rules that came with the girl culture in my elementary schools.  To this day, I far prefer jeans and funky sneakers to dressing up and I very rarely wear make up.  But I really don't mind dressing up and do have a skirt or dress or two in my closet and do actually own makeup for special occasions.  I definitely was never bullied in the ways that Liz was, and I never questioned my gender identity.  But I think that she makes an excellent point of highlighting that it wasn't so much of being a girl that she didn't like, but more that she was always fundamentally opposed to the way that society and cultural "norms" defined what being a girl is supposed to look and act like.

I love that she drew her story out in a graphic novel.  I mean, it makes sense as that is her interest and all, but I love that this story is available to others in this format.  I cannot wait to add this into my library collection for teens!

*****
Tomboy
by Liz Prince
Zest Books, 2014
256 pages
Source:  Purchased New
*****


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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Audio Book Review: "A Clash of Kings" by George R.R. Martin

This second book in the Song of Ice and Fire series takes right up where the first left off....  but I started this audio such a long time ago, I kind of already forget where exactly that was.  This is not a bad thing - the story lines flow seamlessly between the two books (and the HBO series is also confusing my memory slightly, though it follows the books pretty closely).  This audio is 30 disks - so, yeah, it is a time investment.  SO WORTH IT.

We are still in Westeros, and the seven kingdoms are still reeling from the deaths of King Robert and Lord Eddard Stark.  Young King Joffrey sits on the throne, though rumors of his parentage are running rampant and argue that he isn't the trueborn king.  Lord Stannis Baratheon and Lord Renly Baratheon are raising their armies to vie for the iron throne, as the King of the North Robb Stark fights Lord Tywin Lannister (and is winning).  Jon Snow is venturing north of the Wall and is discovering the threats from the Wildlings and the Others.  Daenerys Stormborn is creating a name for herself across the Narrow Sea as the Mother of Dragons and is trying to raise an army and passage to Westeros so she may also vie for the Iron Throne.  Arya Stark is becoming quite the chameleon as she escapes King's Landing and tries to keep her true identity secret while also trying to return to Winterfell, not knowing that Winterfell has fallen to Theon Greyjoy.  Sansa Stark is still in King's Landing, betrothed to Joffrey and trying to find her own secret escape.  Tyrion Lannister is in a tough spot as the King's Hand - attempting to uncover secrets and alliances while keeping his own and save the city from rebellious citizens and the advancing armies.

I think I just covered the majority of what is going on here - but I'm sure I forgot quite a bit because there are about 100 characters and every single one adds something to the overall story.  Even if they only appear for a short time, they are significant - whether their significance is shown just yet or not.  It is the beauty of Martin's writing...  yes these books are huge but there really isn't any fluff.  It is a huge story, full of strategies, violence, sex, and motives.  No character is one dimensional.  There are twists that you just do not see coming.

I am completely caught up with the HBO series, but instead of rewatching seasons, I am reading the books.  I am a little surprised with the little changes here and there that the TV production has made.  Though I wonder if the things that I think are changes are really scenes that I didn't fully understand and therefore forgot about (I'm thinking specifically of something that is revealed as a connection between Jon Snow and Bran Stark, and how it is revealed.)  But I love the foreshadowing that is "hidden" in the book but was not necessarily divulged in the show...  something that I don't think happens for another book or two (I'm not sure) but involves a vision that Dany had in the House of the Undead and speaks to something that will happen to Robb in the future (not that she knows that yet).

As for the audio - I did not listen to the first, so I wasn't sure what I was in for.  The huge box of CDs from the library was a little intimidating.  I was also nervous when I saw that only one narrator was listed considering just how many characters there are.  Roy Dotrice did such a phenomenal job though!  I have no idea how he performed all the different voices so that the characters were so easily differentiated in my head - but he did!  It was so fun and enjoyable to listen to this story.  I would not hesitate to continue listening to these books on audio, especially as he continues to narrate.

*****
A Clash of Kings
by George R.R. Martin
Bantam, 2011  First published 1999
761 pages; 30 CDs approx 37 hours
Series:  A Song of Ice and Fire #2
Source:  Purchased print copy new, audio from library
*****

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Graphic Novel Review: "Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty" by G. Neri

In the summer of 1994, eleven year old Robert "Yummy" Sandifer made the cover of Time magazine:
content.time.com  Cover 9/14/94

Eleven years old.

He had killed a fourteen year old girl, and was killed himself.

Eleven years old.

This graphic novel takes a look at Yummy's life, and how he ended up in the position he was in.  Because, honestly he was only eleven years old.  A child.  A child who found a sense of belonging in one of the neighborhood gangs.  A child with a gun in his hand and something to prove.

This is told from the point of view of a boy around Yummy's age, who grew up in the same neighborhood with Yummy, and who's older brother was in the same gang as Yummy.  This boy, Roger, takes the reader through his inner turmoil over what happened - what it meant, what it means for the future, and how a kid like Yummy got caught up in it all.

The art is stark black and white panels that ooze emotion.  The character's faces - especially their eyes - clearly express their tension and fear with the reader.  This was a tragedy - but have we learned?  Have things changed?  Not really in this neighborhood, according to the author's note.
The events in this book happened twenty years ago, but the story and its themes are still relevant today.

*****
Yummy:  The Last Days of a Southside Shorty
by G. Neri
Illustrated by Randy DuBurke
Lee & Low Books, 2010
96 pages
Source:  Library
*****


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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Graphic Novel Review: "Peanut" by Ayun Halliday

Sadie Wildhack is starting at a new high school, and is understandably quite nervous about it.  She has always felt like she blended into the background at her old school so she decides to broadcast her fatal peanut allergy to her new classmates as a way to try and distinguish herself from the crowd.  The only thing is, Sadie doesn't really have a peanut allergy.  Oh, what a tangled web Sadie weaves....  it gets so big and out of her control that she doesn't feel like she can tell her new friends (and boyfriend) the truth of it all.  And then circumstances force her hand in a big, big way.

Who CAN'T relate to this story?  I mean, maybe we haven't necessarily gone to the extreme that Sadie has, but let's be honest here.  How many times have you been thrust into a new situation - say new school, new job, new club, new class - really new anything that has rocked you out of your comfort zone a bit?  Didn't you sit there, waiting for your turn to introduce yourself to the new person or new group and you start mentally working on a check list of "interesting" things about yourself to share?  It is in our nature to what to share the best side of ourselves, the things that we feel might be most attractive to others, and we want to be memorable.  But, unlike our new friend Sadie here, I hope we all try to remember to stay honest about it.

Sadie's really is a cautionary tale, reminding us to stick with the truth even if we think it is not as exciting as an alternative.  Her story is pretty funny at times, makes you shake your head in disbelief in others because you know you would have done something differently...  but you really feel for her in the end.

The art is fairly simple and straightforward, with the only true colors on the page used effectively to make Sadie stand out on the page.  The story is simple as well, so the art is used mainly as support and not to add additional meaning.  It does help with the pacing as the way certain panels were drawn definitely had me reading with more urgency than others.

In the end, this is a fun little cautionary tale that is everyone can relate to.  I am so glad I finally go to read the book with a peanut on the cover - I had been curious about it for far too long!

*****
Peanut
by Ayun Halliday
Illustrated by Paul Hoppe
Schwartz & Wade, 2012
216 pages
Source:  Library
*****

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Monday, November 10, 2014

Book Review: "Jane Austen Cover to Cover" by Margaret C. Sullivan

People generally don't just like Jane Austen and her works, they pretty much fall in love with her.  Some will even become interested beyond her published words and look to biographies, her letters, her unfinished pieces and more in order to better understand her.  This book takes a slightly different approach and looks at the book covers designed for the many editions of her six main novels and other works and what they say about Austen, the time of her writing and the time when the edition is published.  These books have been published nearly continuously for 200 years now and there have been many different styles and adaptations in that time.

This book comes to me at kind of the perfect time.  I am currently taking a class that looks at Modern Publishing and Librarianship and much of what is discussed here falls into what we've talked about in class.  For this reason, I would not say that this is a basic overview of just book covers.  There is more meat here.  There is discussion on the book publishing process, especially the negotiations between Austen and publishers regarding copyright and the physical design of the books themselves.  For fun, there are some light-hearted critiques of some covers that have made some, um, shall we say, interesting design choices?  I really enjoyed the section on adaptations regarding various adaptions like films, the Quirk series that includes the title Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, board books for very young children and those translated into other languages.

This book is also quite beautiful on its own.  In addition to all the full color renderings of many many book covers, there are also lovely quotes woven throughout the text.  The biggest danger here is that if you are anything like me, you will read through this book and make a shopping list of editions and covers you'd really like to have.  I mean, did you know that Marvel made a comic adaptation of some of Austen's novels a couple years ago?  I didn't...  and now I feel like I might need to check some of those out.  If you are a Janeite, or are into book design, you'll enjoy this one for sure.

*****
Jane Austen Cover to Cover: 200 Years of Classic Covers
by Margaret C. Sullivan
Quirk, 2014
224 pages
Source:  Publisher for honest review
*****

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Saturday, November 8, 2014

Book Review: "Adventure Time Crafts" by Princess Bonnibel Bubblegum with Chelsea Bloxsom

I am always on the lookout for new crafts to do with the teens in the library.  You may have noticed that I've started checking out books specifically for this purpose, and I think that I've found some pretty cool books.  I know that Adventure Time has been super popular, but I haven't seen an episode yet.  I know, bad YA librarian.  But I recognize these characters, and I wanted to see what craft ideas we could do in the library as part of a program, and what other crafts included in this book might make this of interest for teens to check out at home.
First - I just want to comment on the wide range of craft projects in this book.  There are sewing projects, knitting, nail art, jewelry, shrinky dinks and perler beads.  So, yeah, a little bit for everyone at different crafty abilities.  The step by step directions are written to be easily understood and templates are included along with how big to copy them so they will work well.

I'm pretty sure that I'm going to try to do the perler beads and the shrinky dink projects at the library.  I love the templates they've included and these can be done with a toaster oven and an iron.  I may even use some of the simpler sewing projects (like making a small character pillow) as a "learn to sew" program or series - I mean maker space programs are all the rage, right?  I think this is something I can handle... but I'll be sure to practice a little first!

I think there are lots of projects for teens to do at home or with their parents too, which gives this book value for our collection.  There is a pattern to knit a sweater or make a skirt or hat that I think some teens would love to do!  These three items are being worn by the cover model.

This is a great book full of ideas that teens will love with a few projects that can be done in the library and plenty to do at home!

*****
Adventure Time Crafts: Flippin' Adorable Stuff to Make from the Land of Ooo
by Princess Bonnibel Bubblegum with Chelsea Bloxsom
Potter Craft, 2014
144 pages
Source:  Blogging for Books in return for honest review
*****

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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Book Review: "Kiss of Broken Glass" by Madeleine Kuderick

Kenna got caught cutting herself in the school bathroom and is sent to a psychiatric hospital for mandatory observation for 72 hours.  She's upset that she got caught, she's upset at how she got caught and she's upset that she may lose the few friends she has while being locked away in the hospital.  But she's not upset that she was cutting.  She doesn't see anything wrong with it - everyone does it and she enjoys the rush.  She meets the others locked in the same institution for various reasons, some not for the first time, and she is forced to consider her actions... and what will happen when/if she gets out.

I really love novels written in verse.  The lyrical nature somehow lends itself easily to a more emotional personal response.  And this story is pure emotion as Kenna deals with her family history, her social situation, and her mental and emotional strengths and weaknesses.  This only deals with those 72 hours she is mandatorily committed to the hospital, and I really wish there was more - even if just an epilogue or something to say what happens next.

I have somehow always thought that cutting was a private addiction that was purposefully kept secret from others.  It is portrayed differently here - shared publicly (among friends) as some sort of status symbol and I find that to be incredibly scary and heartbreaking.

There are resources listed at the end of this book to help people addicted to self injury, for which I am thankful.  I hope that this opens some eyes to the dangers of cutting and encourages others to get help.

*****
Kiss of Broken Glass
by Madeleine Kuderick
HarperTeen, 2014
206 pages
Source:  Finished Copy from a friend
*****

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Monday, November 3, 2014

Graphic Novel Review: "Chopsticks" by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral

In the first few pages, we meet Glory Fleming who is a young piano prodigy.  Her mother has passed away and her father is her piano teacher and manager.  But she has disappeared.  Why?  What happened?  We then go back in time and meet Frank who moved in next door.  Glory and Frank have an instant connection through their different yet beautiful creative outlets.  So what exactly led Glory to disappear?

This is an amazingly beautiful book.  The story is told through photographs, newspaper clippings, IM chats, and artwork.  There is a haunting quality to it though...  who is telling this story?  Can they be trusted?  Is what we are seeing the truth, or the truth as interpreted by Glory or Frank?  We have also been given reason to believe that at least one of them is not a reliable narrator.

Therefore, the reader is left with decisions to make based on personal interpretation of the images laid before them.  How does the reader interpret the story?  Does this have a happy ending or not?  Because depending on the reader, the story and the ending could be either.  Or both.

For all of these reasons, I loved this book.  I have already read it twice, just to look for more within the images and the story!

*****
Chopsticks
by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral
Razorbill, 2012
272 pages
Source:  Library
*****


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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Book Review: "The Iron Trial" by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Callum Hunt tries his absolute best to fail his entrance exams.  His father has been preparing him for years to fail because even though he must take the exam, neither of them actually wants Call to go to the Magisterium.  But, Call failed at failing, so now he is there learning how to control his magical abilities.  He wants to hate it, because that is what his father wants - but, what if his father is wrong?  What if going to the Magisterium isn't so bad?  After all, he has finally found friends in Aaron and Tamara, and the Treaty is still in place so it shouldn't be that dangerous, right?

First of all, this book is co-written by YA Fantasy superstar authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare, so teens who love their books are going to go nuts for this.  However, this is written more for a younger teen and maybe even a tween audience, so I caution those readers to remember that when picking this one up.  Have patience though, because this is the first in a planned 5 book series and I suspect that the characters will age with each book, and the conflicts and situations will mature along the way as well.

Given that this is the first in a long series, it has a lot of set up to do and unfortunately I think this book - taken on its own - suffers a little for that.  There is plenty of world building, character building and histories to lay down as the foundation for the next four books and that can read a little slowly.  There are some exciting moments working in along the way, but some of it feels a little forced - like trying to keep the younger reader on edge while doing the hard work of developing this basis for the series.  That said, I think this has the potential of being a really great series, once it gets going.  This set up is not what I thought it was going to be, and I truly am curious to see how it will eventually play out.

*****
The Iron Trial
by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
Scholastic, 2014
295 pages
Series:  Magisterium #1
Source:  From publisher for honest review
*****

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