Monday, May 4, 2015

Book Reviews: "Things I Can't Forget" and "Racing Savannah" by Miranda Kenneally

This post is going to be a little different.  I read both of these books in the same day as part of Dewey's 24-hour Readathon.  Normally, I would never read such similar books so close to each other...  mostly because I try to make it a point to mix it up a bit.  But I really like these books (they are part of a larger series of interconnected books) and they really seemed to fit my mood during the Readathon.  Actually, they were perfect and maybe I need to reconsider my need to always mix it up. 

In Things I Can't Forget, we meet Kate Kelly.  She's always picked on by classmates for being a "Jesus Freak", but she stands by her beliefs.  Things that happened recently though are giving her major inner turmoil:  she and her best friend were involved in a situation that has ultimately driven them apart and for which Kate feels extreme guilt.  She is trying to work through her guilt by looking for forgiveness from God.  She is spending the summer working at the summer camp run by area churches.  This is where she went when she was young, and she has fond memories - including her very first (and only) kiss.  Imagine her surprise when her partner in that kiss, Matt Brown, is also working at the camp!  He is working through issues of his own, but maybe together they can see their way free.

This was an interesting book for me, because I usually stay far away from any books that deal specifically with issues of religion and faith.  This is handled so well here though, that it ultimately was something I needed to read.  The overall theme, the one thing that Kate needs to learn, is that one person's truth is not another person's truth and that's okay.  Kate was so sheltered and naive that I really enjoyed watching her grow.  And I of course loved seeing Parker & Will from Stealing Parker play a decent role in this story as other counselors at the camp.  

Racing Savannah moves a little more into the future, and starts to look at the next group of juniors & seniors at Hundred Oaks High.  Not much of this story takes place at school though - rather this is centered at Jack Goodwin's horse ranch and various horse tracks in Tennessee and Kentucky.  Savannah has just moved to the ranch as her father is newly employed by the Goodwin family as Head Groom.  Savannah hopes to work as an with the horses to help raise money for her struggling family.  Jack and Savannah are the same age, and have an instant connection....  but there are rules that the family cannot be involved with staff on a personal level.  So Jack and Savannah are toeing a delicate line...  one wrong move could be the end of Savannah's father's job - a job he desperately needs.  

This was great.....  I really loved Savannah.  She is talented enough to do the jobs with horses that are not typically held by females, and she fights for her fair opportunity.  When Jack tries to date her, but only in secret - she stand up and says that's not good enough for her.  She deserves more.  Yeah!  I had a little issues with minor points in this book - like small things needlessly repeated or that Savannah and Rory (Will from Stealing Parker and Things I Can't Forget's younger brother) become close friends really really fast.... but its okay.  Everything else makes up for it!  

So now I am completely caught up in the Hundred Oaks series, though I think I want to at least skim through Breathe Annie, Breathe again.  The next book, Jesse's Girl is due out in July!

Things I Can't Forget
by Miranda Kenneally
Sourcebooks Fire, 2013
308 pages
Series:  Hundred Oaks #3
Source:  Library

Racing Savannah
by Miranda Kenneally
Sourcebooks Fire, 2013
286 pages
Series:  Hundred Oaks #4
Source:  Purchased New


Thursday, April 30, 2015

Graphic Novel Review: "Lumberjanes Vol 1: Beware the Kitten Holy" by Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis

Welcome to Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's Camp for Hardcore Lady-Types!  Meet April, Jo, Ripley, Mal and Molly (and their camp counselor Jenn) as they get ready for a summer of fun together earning Lumberjane badges.  Oh, and they are also working on a quest involving three-eyed animals, puzzles to solve, and of course the warning - Beware the Kitten Holy!

This volume collects the first four comics - and I wish it had more!  I'm so not done reading this... not at all.  What's not to love?  It has everything - kicky characters, funny dialogue, colorful & expressive artwork, and shout outs to female leaders and pioneers in their fields!

This is really the comic that people have been talking about for awhile, and I'm thrilled that there is finally a volume collecting the issues!  I don't even want to say anything about what actually happens in this volume...  just trust me, and go out and read it.  It is fantastic!  I can't wait for Volume 2!
Lumberjanes Vol 1:  Beware the Kitten Holy
by Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis
Boom! Studios, 2015
128 pages
Source:  Library


Monday, April 27, 2015

Book Review: "The Geography of You and Me" by Jennifer E. Smith

On one of the hottest days of the year, and the power goes out in all of Manhattan.  In just so happens that Lucy is stuck in the elevator at this moment.  She is stuck with only one other person - Owen, the son of the new building superintendent.  They are soon rescued but as they are both on their own, they decide to ride out the blackout together.  The hours they spend together end up being far more important to each of them than they realize.  Even so, it may all be for nothing.  Lucy's family suddenly decides to move overseas, and Owen and his father leave New York for points unknown (but probably on the west coast).  They try to keep in touch through postcards and email...  but does distance doom this relationship before it even has a chance?

This is slightly different from the usual YA cute romance stories.  First of all, these two characters hardly spend any time with each other at all.  The story is told in alternating points of view, but not in first person.  And the timeline is completely two steps forward, one step back with jumps forward in time and then past tense back to the last bit.  None of this is bad, mind you.  Its just a little different - which I really appreciated.  I was looking for a light romance, and I really enjoyed how the writing in this made it a little more than "just another fluffy read".

The Geography of You and Me
by Jennifer E. Smith
Poppy, 2014
337 pages
Source:  Purchased New

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon Master Post

Here we go!  Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon is here!  This is my Master Post, meaning that I will just update this page throughout the day, instead of making separate check-in posts.  I will also be checking in via Twitter (oh, and probably InstaGram too).

While I am participating as part of my extended graduation celebration (during which time I will be doing all of the things I've missed while in school), I am technically still in school right now.  Next week is the last week.  Sooo...  I'm not really going to name "goals" and such, because honestly I do have to make sure that I've all set with my school work too.  So basically, my goal is just to read as much as I am able.  I'll keep track here:

8am - Let's get started!  

12 noon - 
         Pages read - 314
        Actual time spent reading -  3 hours 24 minutes
        Current Book - Things I Can't Forget by Miranda Kenneally
        Book(s) finished -  Lumberjanes Vol. 1:  Beware the Kitten  Holy
        Current state of things -  I'm still in my pajamas, reading in bed.  I have been good about getting up and moving around every so often, but am going to need a shower soon.  I don't think I can stop this current book though - so the shower will be after I finish.  Lumberjanes was fantastic!!  I absolutely loved it - I am so glad I started the readathon with that one!

4 pm - 
         Pages read -  610 
        Actual time spent reading -  5 hours 55 minutes
        Current Book -  Just finished one, so need to head back to the pile and pick my next read!
        Book(s) finished - Lumberjanes Vol. 1:  Beware the Kitten  Holy, Things I Can't Forget, Make Me a Woman
        Current state of things -  Feeling a little tired - might need to take a little nap.  I really liked Things I Can't Forget, but Make Me a Woman didn't really work for me.  Nice art, but confusing and rather blah.

8 pm - 9 pm
         Pages read -  835
        Actual time spent reading - 8 hours 46 minutes
        Current Book - Racing Savannah
        Book(s) finished - Lumberjanes Vol. 1:  Beware the Kitten  Holy, Things I Can't Forget, Make Me a Woman
        Current state of things -  Well, I totally missed my planned 8pm check in - whoops!  I'm really into this book right now....  I was nervous reading another book by Kenneally, um, *today* but its really working for me.  It's kind of perfect for a readathon!  I'm just going to get right back at it....

12 midnight - 
         Pages read - 970
        Actual time spent reading -  10 hours 8 minutes
        Current Book -  Anything Could Happen
        Book(s) finished - Lumberjanes Vol. 1:  Beware the Kitten  Holy, Things I Can't Forget, Make Me a Woman, Racing Savannah
        Current state of things - Made it until about 11:30pm, and had to call it a night.  This has been a complete readathon win for me though, probably a personal best!  Many many thanks to the wonderful women who organize this huge event.  

4 am -    I'm totally and completely asleep right now.  
         Pages read - 
        Actual time spent reading -
        Current Book - 
        Book(s) finished - 
        Current state of things - 

8 am - The Big Finish!
         Pages read - 970
        Actual time spent reading -  10 hours 8 minutes
        Current Book -  Anything Could Happen
        Book(s) finished - Lumberjanes Vol. 1:  Beware the Kitten  Holy, Things I Can't Forget, Make Me a Woman, Racing Savannah 
        Current state of things - Didn't quite wake up in time to read this morning...  but now I have to get back to my schoolwork - I am SO READY for my very last week of grad school!  Congratulations to all the participants of this readathon!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Book Review: "Make Comics Like the Pros" by Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente

I found this book to be incredibly interesting, even for as a newbie comic reader myself.  I hadn't really given it much thought exactly how comics come into being...  honestly, I just pictured those kids who doodled comics at recess just grown up, still doodling but with bigger and better ideas.

So, yeah, I learned a lot here.  Unfortunately, I only read this in little bits and pieces over a very long time frame (in between school work and the like).  I think I would have preferred to read this in a more focused manner.  I do not intend to create any comics myself, but I read this with the teens of my library in mind - and I think this could be a great place for someone to start if they are seriously considering this as a career choice.

Best part - the authors, comics superstars in their own right, brought in Eisner-Award winning cartoonist Colleen Coover to demonstrate what they are talking about by actually creating a comic right inside this book!  I enjoyed seeing the collaboration process play out...  I mean, how often do you get to see that happen?  Fantastic.

Give this to the teen or adult who is interested in making their own comics.

Make Comics Like The Pros
by Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente
Watson Guptill, 2014
152 pages
Source:  Blogging For Books for an honest review


Monday, April 20, 2015

Graphic Novel Review: "Drinking at the Movies" by Julia Wertz

Drinking at the Movies is a graphic memoir in which author/artist Julia Wertz chronicles her move from San Francisco to New York City in her mid-twenties.  I totally found this title in kind of a roundabout way...  I read a list on Mashable called "13 Graphic Novels Every Memoir Lover Should Read".  I saw some books there that I've already read and loved (Hello Tomboy  and Hyperbole and a Half)  One of Wertz's more recent books, The Infinite Wait and Other Stories, was on this list...  but I couldn't find it in my library system.  I could get this one though.  So I did.  Obviously.

ANYWAY.  Julia decides to go to New York and just kind of see what happens.  She's already committed herself to creating comics... but she still needs to find places to live and quick jobs to make some money to support her booze and cheese habit.  She has a great sense of humor, and shares some great awkward and funny situations in which she's found herself.

I probably could have read this in one sitting, but I didn't and I think that probably worked better.  It doesn't seem like this was written purposefully to be bound together in a book like this.  It feels more like it is a series of comics that follow her timeline and are assembled in order, and I like that.  A couple of times, a particular event or situation was discussed two times, but each time was from a slightly different angle or revealed something new about the moment.  It is kind of broken up into seasons too, which I kind of used as "break" points while reading.

This is a great book to hand to a graphic novel/graphic memoir reader, especially if they are graduating college and making a big move.  This covers that point in time where we don't really know what we're doing but we're going to go somewhere and do it anyway.

Now, I've got to work on the selector in our library for adult graphic novels make some other titles available.  I don't think it will be too hard... she just requested this author's Fart Party book(s) from out of our network!

Drinking at the Movies
by Julia Wertz
Three Rivers Press, 2010
192 pages
Source:  Library


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Book Review: "Can't Look Away" by Donna Cooner

Torrey Grey is a vlogger, famous for her beauty & fashion YouTube channel.  She's only 16, but has thousands of subscribers...  and she loves the attention as it has always been pretty positive.  Then Torrey's little sister is tragically killed by a drunk driver.  As if that isn't horrible enough, her fans start to turn on her and all that attention isn't so much fun anymore.  Torrey and her parents move to Texas to be closer to family, and Torrey has to build up her in-person popularity again before she can deal with her online public.  It doesn't take long to figure out that not all the haters are trolling her comment section...  she's got some haters right there in her new school too.  What is more important to Torrey - dealing with her grief and guilt surrounding her sister's death, or making sure she is part of the popular group again, haters be damned?

I really thought this was going to be a different kind of book...  I thought it was more about cyber-bullying, or bullying in general.  And while it is about that, in a secondary way, this is really about loss and grief.  Torrey is an incredibly unlikable character.  She is shallow and selfish and snotty and I hated her.  She is just not my kind of girl.  She can't even deal with her sister's tragic death without making it about her.  Ugh.  Ever, ever so slowly, she does start to transition and think outside of herself.  Enter Luis - the cute boy at school who's family runs the funeral parlor.  He is so patient with her, and really is unrealistically mature and even mannered but that's okay because we like Luis.  Torrey absolutely does not deserve Luis, and I'm not sure why he bothers with her, but he does and he helps her through her issues.

The thing is that Torrey equates her personal value with her social standing, both in real life and on the internet.  Clearly, this is not healthy.  Especially when both of those things go down the tubes.  And yes, people are mean and cyber-bullies do come out and say awful things about her...  but this story is about her growing from her personal loss, finding value in herself and surrounding herself with people who value her as a person as well.

This will go over well with younger teens - say 13-16 or so - who enjoy realistic fiction, sad books, or have a fascination with internet celebrity.   Side note - very cool discussions and descriptions of  el Dia de los Muertos.

Can't Look Away
by Donna Cooner
Point, 2014
265 pages
Source:  Publisher for honest review


Monday, April 13, 2015

Book Review: "Playing a Part" by Daria Wilke

Grisha's life is in upheaval.  The Moscow puppet theater that has always been his home, and he loves the magic he finds there.  But at the same time, one of his favorite people in the theater - an actor named Sam - is leaving.  Sam is a gay man, and can no longer live where he is beaten in public for holding a man's hand.  Young Grisha is just starting to thinking about his own identity, and Sam's leaving throws him into turmoil.  Especially when this coincides with hurtful homophobic comments from his grandfather, bullying from former friends at school, and his only friend's approaching surgery.

The fact this book exists is a pretty amazing thing in itself.  It was first published in Russia at the same time that "gay propaganda" was outlawed.  So I applaud the author and her publisher in Russia for this.  This is also the first young adult novel from Russia to be translated into English, which is another very good thing.  For these reasons, I really wanted to love this book and excitedly recommend it to all.....  but I can't do that.

I'm not sure, but I think something vital was lost in translation.  There are some really awkward passages as well as some very confusing scenes and lack of continuity within a scene.  Almost all of the dialogue felt weird to me.  Even though this is told from Grisha's point of view, I still felt strangely disconnected from him.  Even though I know a little bit about the cultural climate in Russia when this was published, nothing in the book even makes me feel like this is set in current times, which also felt strange to me.  I will say that some of the descriptive passages were quite lovely, which is what makes me think that the problem is in the translation.  I also would have appreciated an author's note or even an editor's note or something to indicate the history of this book or the current situation for gays in Russia for the American teen reader for whom this translation was published.  Unfortunately, this novel was ultimately a disappointment for me.

Playing a Part
by Daria Wilke
Arthur A. Levine, 2015
161 pages
Source:  Finished copy provided by publisher for honest review


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Book Review: "The Phantom Tollbooth" by Norton Juster

Milo comes home from school one day to find a tollbooth in his room.  Not knowing what else one could possible do with a tollbooth, he gets in his toy car and drive through it....  and this leads to a magical adventure full of curious characters, princesses that need rescuing and ending the war between two leaders.  This is a highly imaginative tale that has delighted readers for over 50 years.

Small confession:  I had never read this before.  Ever.  I have a vague recollection of watching a movie version?  Or was there a TV series based on this book?  I don't really remember.  Besides, my memory ends when he goes through the tollbooth.  I have always wondered why that was - why couldn't I remember what happens on the other side of the tollbooth?  I think I've got it now, or at least a pretty good idea.

I have always been a very literal person.  I've learned quite a bit about when to be literal and when not to be so much, but I think I had a lot of trouble with this when I was younger.  Therefore, I think that even if I saw this on TV or as a movie (or maybe because of this) I didn't understand the puns and word play that is all over this book.  Now, of course, I see its brilliance and the humor - it really is fantastic.  But I think that then, probably not so much.

I think this is perfect for older middle grade readers or younger teens... unless this is being used as a read aloud and the adult is there to explain any phrases or jokes that could be missed by a younger reader/listener.  I'm really glad I finally read this - it is a treasure of the English language!

The Phantom Tollbooth- 50th Anniversary Edition
by Norton Juster
Knopf, 2011.  First published 1961
279 pages
Source:  Copy provided by the publisher

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