Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Foiled by Jane Yolen

This graphic novel, by award winning Jane Yolen (illustrated by Mike Cavallaro) just proved to me once again that American graphic novels and Japanese graphic novels are not created equal.  I really enjoyed the story and the main character; a spunky high school girl who fences.  But I didn't like how quickly it all ended.  American graphic novels all seem to have non-endings.  What I wouldn't give for a real story arc.  Something that spans at least 40 volumes or more . . . although I did just find out that Jane Yolen does at least plan to have this be a 2 volume novel.  Guess I'll wait to pass judgement until the next one comes out.

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins ★

Mockingjay is the third book in Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy.  The first two books were phenomenal and I was greatly anticipating the final wrap up in book three.  Sadly, everything that could have gone wrong for these teenagers did.  The all too realistic psychological trauma of being forced to fight other teenagers to the death combined with the horrors of war were too much for the characters.  There isn't much of a happy ending here.  But there is, thankfully, an end to many of the things that made life so incredibly difficult for the people in these books.  Maybe Suzanne Collins will revisit this world later so that we might see that the dismal hope at the end of this book created a better present for future generations.

Books in the Hunger Games Trilogy:

Book 1: The Hunger Games
Book 2: Catching Fire
Book 3: Mockingjay

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Inside Story by Michael Buckley ★

After waiting over a year for book eight in the continuing fairy tale saga of The Sisters Grimm, I finally got to read The Inside Story!  It only took me two hours, but considering I started it at midnight last night with the intention of only reading one chapter to "see what it's about" (or so I told Tyler) it was a truly enjoyable two hours!  I really do love these books about two little girls descended from the Brothers Grimm who solve fairy tale mysteries.  As books for a younger audience the plot is a bit simplistic and the heroine has a lot of "lessons" to learn, but I truly love the characters and I'm constantly chuckling or even laughing out loud.  I keep waiting for these books to go big like Harry Potter or Twilight, but even if they never do they'll always be classics to me!  I can hardly wait to read these to my children!

The Sisters Grimm
The Fairy-Tale Detectives
The Unusual Suspects
The Problem Child
Once Upon a Crime
Magic and Other Misdemeanors
Tales from the Hood
The Everafter War
The Inside Story
The Council of Mirrors

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Rule of the Bone by Russell Banks ★

When my friend Chris recommended this book to me he said that he had read it at least six times in his life so far.  Since I'm almost positive I've never read a book that many times I was a little wary.  Even more so when the critical acclaim on the back cover lauded the novel as a modern Catcher in the Rye.  Since I hated that book I thought I would probably hate this one too.  Plus there wasn't a single fairy or castle throughout.  :)  What there was, was a lot of sex, profanity, weed, theft and abuse in the life of a young, teenage dropout named Chappie.  And I loved it.  And I completely understand why Chris has read this book six times.  This book has so much to offer in terms of understanding our society and ourselves that I think any re-reading would give you something completely new to take away.  Chappie is the unlikeliest hero I've ever encountered in fiction, but for me he is a classic example of salvation, love and friendship.

" . . . so this one day I was standing alone dribbling water from a pail onto the plants like I-Man'd showed me and I flipped my head to chase off a mosquito and saw dreadlocks swirling through the air in my shadow.  Then I looked down at my arms and hands which were like coffee-colored and when I saw I didn't look like a regular white kid anymore I put down the bucket and did a little Rasta dance right there in the sunshine.  It's funny how when you change the way you look on the outside . . . you feel different on the inside.  I was learning that it's true what I-Man'd said, if you work at it long enough and are serious you can become a brand-new beggar . . . " (p. 313)

Disclaimer - I wasn't joking about the profanity and drug use etc . . . proceed with caution.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder ★

Inside Out was a breath of fresh air after reading James Dashner's The Maze Runner.  Which is interesting, considering there was not one bit of fresh air throughout the entire book.  Imagine a giant cube made of metal with pipes and air ducts that must be cleaned and polished to keep the rust and rot away.  Prophets foretell of something called the "outside" which can be reached through the mysterious and elusive gateway.  This is Trella's world, and everything is about to change.  Taking an amazing leap, Maria V. Snyder enters the world of young adult science fiction very gracefully.  If you're looking for post-apocalyptic puzzle fiction, read this!

Read-a-Likes: Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, The Maze Runner by James Dashner and to some extent The Uglies by Scott Westerfeld.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

I'm usually a huge fan of books like this.  Basic plot: a group of teenage boys have their memories wiped and are thrown into a giant maze crawling with strange, deadly creatures called grievers. Figuring out why they're there, who created the maze and what will happen when or if they ever solve it is the challenge.  I understand that this might be an extremely confusing and traumatic experience for the boys; however, it really shouldn't be for the reader.  Over half the dialogue goes back and forth between "What's going on?!" and "Why won't anyone tell me what's going on?!"  The other half consists of something similar to "He thought he remembered something about his past but it terrified him so he decided not to share the information."  Not even with the reader, apparently.  Sadly, there is a second book.  Happily, I probably won't be reading it.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Homeland: The Legend of Drizzt Book I by R.A. Salvatore ★

Tyler has long been a fan of R.A. Salvatore's Forgotten Realms series (set in the D&D world).  For awhile I was buying him a lot of Salvatore books about someone named Drizzt; a young Drow prince and dark elf who is banished from his home in the vast underground city of Menzoberranzan who goes on to have lots of adventures slaying things and being pretty darn awesome in general.

Well this extremely popular series that has spawned fan fiction for over 20 years is finally accessible to people like me!  That is - those who love investing 30 minutes in a graphic novel but who aren't necessarily willing to read a book 5,000 + pages long just to relate to their spouse better.  I'm very impressed with how well done this is!  The artwork is beautiful and the story adaptation is fantastic.  Even better than the handsome prince and intriguing plot, however, is the fact that I finally understand why I bought Tyler a panther figurine for our anniversary a few years ago!  I highly recommend Drizzt's tale to fantasy and graphic novel fans alike.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Insatiable by Meg Cabot

There was a time in my life when I was addicted to a soap.  I didn't have a job and my only daily pleasure came from the hour that I spent glued to the TV hoping, nay praying that at least one part of the story would advance this week.  I was usually disappointed.

When I saw that the infamous Ms. Princess Diaries herself had written a vampire novel, I checked it out from the library as a joke never actually intending to read it.  Unfortunately for you all, the night before I was going to return it I read a chapter . . . and then another . . . and well, one thing led to another and the Prince of Darkness and a very sexy vampire hunter were both offering, nay begging and praying that cute, little psychic Meena leave her day job as writer for a vampire soap and choose to become a vampire princess or a sword swinging vampire hunter with (snickers) Alaric Wulf (more snickers) instead.

Cliche characters and their cheesy names aside, I must have enjoyed something about this book since I'm actually looking forward to the next book set to come out summer 2011.  Honestly I think it's because I'm a little fascinated with the way the book ended . . . or with the fact that it didn't end at all and is in fact stringing me along in classic soap opera fashion.  I guess in some ways it really was insatiable.  :)

Meena Harper Novels