Monday, March 2, 2015

Graphic Novel Review: "Adrian and the Tree of Secrets" by Hubert

Oh, Adrian.  He's a sad, lonely boy who lives with his overbearing strict mother and goes to a super strict Catholic School.  He has been daydreaming about Jeremy, one of the cool kids... and by chance gets to know him a little bit.  One thing leads to another secret thing, and well...  word gets out and that isn't good for anyone.

I really had high hopes for this one.  The art is really beautiful and I know I saw a good review of it in one of the journals.  Aside from being a little choppy and confusing in the set up, I was enjoying getting to know Adrian and Jeremy.  I thought it was going to a completely different place.  Well, it didn't.  The end panels were a complete and total disappointment.  I shut the book with a "WTF?".

I do think this could serve as a bit of a reflection for some teens, but I'd really rather this be a kick off for a conversation or something.  It definitely illustrates the very real issue of gay teens turning to suicide after feeling isolated by their community.  But it just doesn't go far enough.  Also, I understand that this is translated from the French, but the title is also a bit of a stretch.  It implies more than there is... and I wish there were more.

Adrian and the Tree of Secrets
by Hubert
Arsenal Pulp Press, 2014
124 pages
Source:  Library


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Audio Book Review: "Slaughterhouse-Five" by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Where the hell do you start in trying to break this book down into a synopsis?  The plot barely exists.  There is no real timeline.  There really aren't many characters.  The one, main, character is a man called Billy Pilgrim.  Billy has had many different moments in his life, many of them monumental and not all of them were on this planet.  He did survive the firebombing of Dresden in World War II.  He survived a plane crash.  He survived being taken to the planet of Trafalmadore.  He eventually died as expected, in exactly the way he had seen in his future during one of his time travels.  So it goes.

It all sounds rather absurd, doesn't it.  The thing is that it is genius as well as absurd and that is why it is brilliant.  The story dissects Billy's life into these timelines which instead of running all together in one long life line, run parallel or even on top one another.  The things that happen in one part of his life flow into another part - and this is the time travel.  That instant connection.  Then the entire book is told in moments.  It is explained the the Trafalmadorians  believe that life is just moments, perfectly structured in the way they are supposed to be.  One can see all the moments together.... and when one dies, they live again in another moment.  So the entire book is told in these moments, where people die but come back in another moment, in another way.  So now put all of that in context of war - against a horrific bombing that killed more people in one blow than Hiroshima.  Its mind bending.

This audio was narrated by Ethan Hawke, who I must say, has a very lovely voice.  I did not mind him telling me the story of Billy Pilgrim while I sat in Boston traffic.  The only thing that I would have preferred in this recording was if each disc was broken down into shorter tracks.  This is because I bought I super cheap car stereo, and if I am able to fast forward within a track - I haven't figured it out yet.  But I loved that there was beginning and ending music for each disc, so I knew when to change it out.  Such a small thing that makes such a difference.

by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
Narrated by Ethan Hawke
Random House, 2012.  First published in 1969
Caedmon/HarperCollins (audio) 2003
275 pages
5 discs
Source:  Purchased New in print/Library audio


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Giveaway Time! ARC of "Death Marked" by Leah Cypess (US Only)

Here's the thing.  I'm super excited about this book because I loved Death Sworn - which says a lot because fantasy is not my chosen genre.  I'm getting better at it, but still.  As it so happens, I found myself with an extra copy of this ARC and would like to send it to one of you lovelies!  This is going to be a quick giveaway, and unfortunately, I am only able to ship to a US address.  So go ahead and enter -Good Luck!

What is the book about?  From Goodreads:

At seventeen, Ileni lost her magical power and was exiled to the hidden caves of the assassins. She never thought she would survive long. But she discovered she was always meant to end up powerless in the caves as part of an elder sorcerer’s plan to destroy the evil Empire they'd battled so long. Except that Ileni is not an assassin, and she doesn't want to be a weapon. And, after everything, she’s not even sure she knows the truth. Now, at the very heart of the Empire—its academy for sorcerers—the truth is what she seeks. What she finds challenges every belief she holds dear—and it threatens her fledgling romance with the young master of assassins.

Leah Cypess spins an intricate and beautiful conclusion to Ileni's story. In the end, it may not be the epic decisions that bring down an empire, but the small ones that pierce the heart.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Book Review: "Stealing Parker" by Miranda Kenneally

Parker was on her way to getting everything she wanted.  She was a good Christian girl involved in the church, the star of the softball team, she beat her closest competition to win the valedictorian  honors, and she has already been accepted at Vanderbilt for the fall.  But then her mom dropped a bombshell - she came out as a lesbian and moved out with her girlfriend - and Parker's world crashed down around her.  Her friends dropped her and started talking about her behind her back, even suggesting that since she is so good at softball, she might be gay too.  So Parker decides that since her dad isn't noticing much anymore, she's going to try to make a few changes and prove that she isn't her mom.  She quits softball.  She kisses a few guys.  And then....  she starts kissing a guy she probably shouldn't, while thinking about kissing a guy that she definitely shouldn't.

This is a companion novel to Catching Jordan, which I really liked.  I was so afraid through the first quarter of this book that it was going to be pretty much the same sort of story... and so relieved that it wasn't.  Parker has her issues, and she doesn't deal with them in a healthy way at all.  But then again, who is she going to turn to?  Pretty much everyone (except her awesome best friend Drew) left her and she was doing the best she could I guess.  I had concerns about how badly she wanted to prove to people that she wasn't gay like her mother.  I felt like she was being homophobic with that sentiment, but it was explained that she had no problem with her mother's sexual orientation but was really upset that her family was torn apart.  Then, later on, a close friend of hers comes out to her and she is super supportive and I was thankful for that.  Beyond that, Parker is supposed to be super smart - top in her class - but makes some super stupid decisions.  (Plus all the confusing feelings on homosexuality... it was kind of like two different people mashed together.)   It takes her such a long time to come around and finally regain some of her self-esteem.  A lot of this comes from a new/renewed friendship with Corndog (yes, Corndog.  There's a story there, its cute, go with it.)  That's all I'm saying about him.

I will say that Jordan from Catching Jordan shows up in this book, along with a few more favorite characters.  I know I'll read more in this series, and I'm reading it in order - but you don't really have to.  I'm not sure this is the best book to read that deals with being the child of a newly out parent.  I am still a little conflicted about how that was handled.  But I will say this is a good book that deals with feeling completely lost and alone, and getting back on the right track.

Stealing Parker
by Miranda Kenneally
Sourcebooks, 2012
242 pages
Series:  Hundred Oaks #2
Source:  Library


Monday, February 16, 2015

Book Review: "What I Thought Was True" by Huntley Fitzpatrick

It is the summer before senior year, and Gwen Castle thinks she knows pretty much what's in store.  Things don't change much on the island....  the summer people come in, the islanders (like Gwen, her best friend Vivian, and her cousin Nic) do their jobs to help their families make ends meet.  At least Gwen will be away from those rich kids from school... especially Cassidy Somers.  But when Cass shows up on the island - working (!) - Gwen isn't sure what to think or feel.  Things start becoming apparent from all directions that things are changing... is this a good thing?

This is an interesting story because while it is a romantic story, it isn't all rainbows and unicorns.  There is a lot of tension to work through.  Gwen has been hurt in different ways in the past, and she needs to work through that before she can bring down her walls of protection a bit.  Cass (I hate that name, but whatever) is not exactly what he seems either, and holy cow does he get some gold stars for putting up with Gwen's crap and sticking it out.

This is also a good reminder of how things are not always what they seem...  and goals and expectations can change.  You are never stuck in a situation unless you've resigned yourself to be.... you can always take steps to change your future.  It isn't easy, and you may have to ask for help (and not a lot of people like to do that) but you have to be honest with yourself and the ones you love.

I did like this book, but I did have some issues with it.  I found it more than a little frustrating that Gwen had this big secret history with a couple of the characters, and everyone knew the basics of that except me until halfway through the book.  Then, weird flashback scenes would happen that filled in details to what I'd already guessed.  It was just kind of weird and left me feeling a little disconnected and wondering what was going on - what were the motivations here.  It does end up being a decent summer love story, but you have to work for it more than I was expecting.

What I Thought Was True
by Huntley Fitzpatrick
Dial, 2014
422 pages
Source:  ARC from a friend


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Book Review: "Glory O'Brien's History of the Future" by A.S. King

Glory O'Brien is days away from high school graduation when she and her best (read: only) friend drink a few beers and also the remains of a petrified bat.  You read that correctly.  After drinking the bat, Glory and Ellie start seeing things...  if they look at a person, they can see that person's entire history and their future.  But they don't see anything when they look at each other, and Glory doesn't see any future events when she looks at her father.  Does that mean that she has no future, no descendants?  Is her destiny really to end up like her mother who committed suicide thirteen years ago?

This is such a crazy premise, and for a short bit at the beginning I almost gave up on it.  But I've read A.S. King before, and thankfully I trusted in her and her gritty, non-traditional storytelling.  Because this is worth sticking through to the end.  I really loved how this all came together.  Glory is so lost, still mourning the loss of her mother - and not just the day to day, although sure - but more of just having her around to talk to.  Someone to really talk to, and not just bullshit.  Nobody around her even mentions that her mother is gone and why... as if ignoring it makes it go away or makes it better or something.  This is a scary time for Glory too - graduation.  The big ceremony which means "welcome to your future, what have you decided to do?"  because she doesn't know.  She doesn't know if she has a future.  So Glory is examining her past, finding new ways to connect with her mother and force difficult conversations with her dad.

In the meantime, she and Ellie are seeing visions of the pasts and futures of those around them.  I loved that their visions were so completely different.  Ellie is self-centered and shallow, and those are the kinds of things she sees in her visions.  Glory recognizes and feels pain and sees that in her visions.  Glory is able to put together a timeline of events in the future based on her kinds of visions, which get pretty intense and are fascinating.  Another theme which runs through this book is feminism and not giving into the male-dominated consumerist ideal for what others think women should want, feel, look like, etc.  It is brilliantly done....  Glory is such a strong character, even if she doesn't realize it herself.

I really think this could be an excellent book for a book club or discussion group, but only for teens (or even adults) who aren't afraid of a darker tale that gets a little unusual in spots.  This wouldn't be for younger teens or reluctant readers at all.  If the reader liked Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith, this would be a sure thing.

Glory O'Brien's History of the Future
by A.S. King
LBYR, 2014
307 pages
Source:  Library


Monday, February 9, 2015

Graphic Novel Review: "Loki:Agent of Asgard - Vol.1 Trust Me" by Al Ewing

Oh, Loki....  you are just too much damn fun!

This book collects the first five issues of the Loki: Agent of Asgard story.  At this point in time, Loki is now a young adult and is working for the All-Mother.  Working as in completing missions...  which tends to include sending wayward Asgardians back to Asgard where they can now be in prison for whatever.  If he doesn't do this, he will be sent to Asgard's prison.... if he does, he is rewarded by having one crime from his past erased from the history and memory of Asgard.  However, he tries one last trick to see what the All-Mother might be hiding and this truth stops him right in his tracks.

The truth of the matter is that I am still fairly new to the comic scene - but I have read enough Thor books here and there to have actually understood some of the contributing story lines that were referenced.  Note that I said some and not all.  Enough, I guess.  I still had some questions, but I think I will always have some questions!  In any event, Loki is awesome.  He is the best sort-of villain around....  he is so funny and quick!  I really like how this is drawn too.  I mean, I wasn't looking to see Tom Hiddleston drawn onto the pages (not that I would have minded per se) but this Loki is his own.  I kind of like how Thor is this big broody guy who is pretty much chugging mead all the time - I don't know, I thought it was funny.

Basically, this is for Marvel/Loki/Thor fans (although there is a scene in Avengers tower too).  I'm not sure this is a good place to start getting into this world, but if you already know you way around (even just a bit) you'll be okay.

Loki: Agent of Asgard Vol. 1 Trust Me
by Al Ewing
Marvel, 2014
140 pages
Source:  Library


Thursday, February 5, 2015

Book Review: "Catching Jordan" by Miranda Kenneally

All the hard work and practice is finally paying off.  It's senior year and football captain and quarterback Jordan Woods is ready to lead the team to the State Championship, and hopefully land herself a spot on her dream collegiate team - Alabama.  Yes, you read that right - herself.  Jordan is, in fact, a girl.  And she has earned her position on the team and the respect of her coach a teammates...  teammates who are also her best friends.  They all have her back when gorgeous Ty Green shows up on the field - a new transfer student from Texas who also happens to be a great quarterback.  Jordan is instantly attracted to Ty, something she has never felt or dealt with before.  She's got to get it under control before it affects her plays on the field, her future with Alabama, and her friendships with her teammates.

I think I may have a little bit of a problem...  and I totally brought this onto myself.  You see, I read Kenneally's Breathe, Annie, Breathe and loved it.  I knew that it fit into this Hundred Oaks series of books, being the most recent, but thought that it didn't matter which order the books were read.  And honestly, it really doesn't - unless you are a bit of a freak like me.  Reading this book, I kept trying to remember characters and relationships of people who hardly appeared  in Annie, even though it doesn't really matter.  I finally allowed myself to let the crazy go by assuring myself that I was going to read all of the books in this series, in order - and probably re-read Annie again too.  Because the thing is, these books are fun and cute and I like that every once in a while (or more often than that sounds).  Who knows - maybe there will be another installment by the time I actually get to do this?

So, going the long way around to it, I really had fun with this book.  Jordan is so confident and controlled at times and so adorkably awkward in others that I just want to hug her and make her my friend.  There is one scene that takes place in a Home Ec. class with Jordan and her super-best friend Sam in which I was crying from laughing so hard!  I really enjoyed this, and am looking forward to more from Hundred Oaks!

Catching Jordan
by Miranda Kenneally
Sourcebooks Fire, 2011
283 pages
Series:  Hundred Oaks #1
Source:  Purchased New


Monday, February 2, 2015

Book Review: "Salt & Storm" by Kendall Kulper

Sixteen year old Avery Roe knows what she was born to do, and she cannot wait to fulfill her role as the Witch of Prince Island.  She can feel the magic in her bones, and looks forward to taking over for her grandmother - only her mother is doing everything to stop this from happening.  She has taken Avery away from her grandmother, and set curses so that Avery cannot see her and that no one can help her reach her grandmother.  But once Avery has a frightening dream that tells her future, she becomes desperate.  She meets Tane, a tattooed harpoon boy from one of the whaling ships in the harbor and it seems like maybe he can help her, but she has to be willing to help him too.  Can she trust him?  Can he really help her become the witch of Prince Island?

Avery is an interesting character.  She is quite determined and singly focused - and boy is she angry with her mother.  But she allows this to keep her a little too narrow minded and unable to see the big picture or other possibilities.  Tane has a way of opening this up to her.  He is pretty cool, actually.  I also really enjoyed the historical angle of this book - as the whaling industry in New England in the late 1800s is something I don't know nearly enough about and while some liberties were taken (as explained in the Author's Note), I really enjoyed spending time in this environment.

I had some small issues with the story though.  I thought that Avery and Tane's relationship was a little rushed.  Also, the beginning of the novel was a little bit on the slow side.  But the pacing picked up as the novel progressed, and I was completely wrapped up in it all throughout Part Three which delivers quite an emotional punch for an ending.

I would give this to fans of historical fiction/romance, especially if they don't mind a little magic mixed in.

Salt & Storm
by Kendall Kulper
Little, Brown and Company, 2014
403 pages
Source:  Purchased New

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