Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Shut Up! This Is SO DANG CUTE!

Andi Watson's graphic novel Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula is not only a major departure for the author/illustrator, but it might just be the most adorable thing you read all year. This book somehow manages to take vampires and other assorted undead creatures and simple pen and ink drawings and turn them into something cute, light and colorful.
That's not to say the book is in any way cloying or infantile - the story has some real meat to it, especially for tweens who might be experiencing some of the same issues as the princess herself. You see, Princess Decomposia is an only child, and her father is very sick. So sick, in fact, that he can't run his kingdom, leaving his young daughter to not only look after his health, but also completely run all the affairs of state. This leaves Decomposia busy, tired, and kind of lonely, as the only people she ever speaks to are servants and old moldy (literally, in some cases) foreign dignitaries. But, when the palace chef quits and Dee hires a handsome young vampire with a sweet-fang, her life starts to change.
Of course, dear old dad, who might not be quite as sick as he would like people to think is not happy with the new addition to the staff and does his darnedest to get him fired. It all culminates with a sweet and hilarious visit to the upper world (on Halloween, of course) and a lot of valuable life lessons learned by all.

Final Verdict: get the hard cover for the kids, and make sure you read it too, for the laughs.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

6 down, 44 to go...

Alright, so it is the second weekly update on how I am doing on this 2015 reading challenge posed to me by my cousin. This time I have checked off: a book with a one-word title, a book with non-human characters, and a memoir.

Let's start with my one-word title: Possess by Gretchen McNeil. The book is  a paranormal mystery centered around Bridget Liu, a half-Chinese half-Irish Catholic high school student living in San Francisco. As the book opens, Bridget's dad (a psychiatrist) has been recently murdered by one of his deeply disturbed patients, and Bridget has also discovered that she is an exorcist. She is being guided by the Monsenior of her parish, who is her confidant and mentor as well as a priest, Father Santos, who has been sent by the Vatican to determine if she is legit.
Overall, Possess is a very standard paranormal teen read. There's a little romance thrown in and even a sort of lopsided love triangle of sorts. What I didn't like is that none of the characters really seem to have much depth to them at any point in the story. Even Bridget is a rather flat leading lady, although she was just interesting enough to keep me reading through to the end. Nothing really new or innovative here, but ok for an airport read or something along those lines.

Brand new in print and chock full of non-human characters is the latest installment of the terrific series American Vampire by Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque.
In this part of the saga we are getting closer to modern times. The book opens in 1965 Kansas where our leading lady Pearl is now running a sort of halfway house for persecuted vampires of some rare and unusual breeds.
Of course, Skinner Sweet makes an appearance but he is no longer the Big Bad we have come to know and loathe. This time there is something even more evil out there, forcing Pearl and Skinner to team up if they are to have any hope of staying alive.
In my opinion though, this has so far been the weakest entry into the series. By trying to make Skinner a good guy, or at least not as terrible of a guy, he loses a huge chunk of his character. He's sort of weak and one-dimensional here with very little of the joy for chaos he used to possess. The art work is still spectacular, but I am really hoping once we REALLY get to meet this new Big Bad we will go back to having some fun like we used to when this series was still fresh and new.

Finally we have the memoir: The Other Side of the Wall, author Simon Schwartz' own account on what it was like growing up in Berlin before the wall fell. Highly reminiscent of Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis this is really the story of Schartz' parents and how, despite growing up in communist East Berlin, they made the difficult decision to flee to the west.
Suitable for tweens, it's a good introduction into the great division that existed for people who literally lived just a few city blocks apart, but whose worlds could not have been further apart because of the ever-present wall.
I recommend it as a first look at that bizarre epoch in history for anyone curious about it, especially kids.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

3 down, 47 to go

Ok, so those of you who checked in last week know I was challenged to read 50 books by my cousin Ruben (hola primo!) and I accepted his challenge. As of 1/7/15, which is when I am writing this post, (ah the time-travel magic of the interwebs) I have read 3 books, so my sheet now looks like this:

So what did I read and how was it? Well, I'm about to tell you!

My first book was the "book set in a different country." I traveled all the way to Scotland (and all the way back to medieval times) and read Enter Three Witches by Caroline B Cooney. The book is basically a retelling of Shakespeare's Macbeth as told by a brand new character, the lady Mary who is a ward of the Macbeth's and the daughter of the thane of Cowdor.
I found the book to be a very fast read, as it is written at about a 5th grade level. It's a good introduction to the play for a young audience, with a little extra romance thrown in. I also liked that it focused on characters who were not in the play - Lady Mary, one of Lady Macbeth's ladies-in-waiting Ildred and a sculler maid, Swin; sort of as if the events of the play were a minor inconvenience in the lives of the castle's servants.
Thumbs up, especially for the younger tween audience.

Next, I tackled "a graphic novel," because as you all know, I love me some graphic novels. In this case I read volume 3 of Ai Yori Aoshi (True Blue Love) by Kou Fumizuki. It's your basic Japanese romance - a wealthy young woman from a VERY prominent family is promised in marriage at a very VERY young age to a wealthy young man from another very prominent family. He leaves the family due to abuse, but she continues to pine for him until she finds him as an adult and they begin a courtship.
This series has a LOT of fan-service, which for those of you not familiar, means a lot of gratuitous close-ups of butts and MASSIVE boobs. Aoi is a basic stereotype of what Japanese society views as the perfect woman - dressed in traditional clothes, soft spoken, meek, shy and virginal, while her fiance Kaoru is your typical manga dude, skinny, nondescript and a basic bland "nice guy."
Still, there are funny moments and the peripheral cast of characters (especially the members of the school photography club) have a lot of heart.

Finally, I read "a book that became a movie" by choosing Logan's Run by William F. Nolan. I saw the movie a long, LONG time ago and I wanted to see if the book was similar. It is with a few major exceptions.
First, in the movie, you get to live to 30. In the book, your death date comes at 21.
Also, the film goes into a lot more detail about how it is that residents of this future dystopia are put to "sleep." The book doesn't touch on that AT ALL. You reach 21, you turn yourself, you die. There is no elaborate ritual discussed in these pages, leaving everything up to the reader's imagination. Also, I did not know this, but the book had two sequels. And I hear rumors that the movie will be remade starring Ryan Gosling... anyone know if that's true?
Overall, it was a quick read, and it's always satisfying to me to read old dystopia and see how the world of today compares to what they thought the world would be like back then. According to this the government should have been overthrown by teenagers about 15 years ago. Also, if this had come true I would have been dead for 13 years already. Gross!

Currently attempting: a book with non-human characters and a book with a one-word title. Let's see how I do!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

And now for something completely different....

Well HELOOOOOO there! It's 2015 and this year I was challenged by my favorite male cousin (the only other massive reader in the family) to the 2015 reading challenge from 9 gag. You may have seen it online. It looks a little something like this:

I accepted his thrown-down gauntlet and as of my writing this post, on 1/7/15 I am 3 books in.
There are 50 books on the challenge, and 52 weeks in the year, so for a while at least, my posts will be all about what I am reading in order to fulfill this challenge.
Stay tuned!!! Next blog post will review the first 3 books from the challenge. WOOT!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Shut Up! Judas Lives.

FINALLY! Something that I have not read a million times before. I was not sure what to make about this story featuring characters from the New Testament of the Bible and I was pleasantly surprised with almost every page.
A major word of caution about Judas: The Last Days by W. Maxwell Prince - if you are very religious, or easily offended this book WILL offend you. Probably a lot. I mean a LOT. If you're not easily offended, the story is intriguing and highly original. The main character, as you may have already guessed, is Judas Iscariot, the ultimate symbol of betrayal and greed. Judas is still alive in modern day America. He, along with the other Apostles was rendered immortal upon the resurrection of Jesus and has been living with the guilt of his actions for 2,000 years. All he wants to do is die, but there is no force in the world that can even injure these men, let alone allow them to die, so Judas is seeking out the Librarians; a shadowy race of trolls who are the keepers of all the knowledge in the world, hoping they might know of a way to release him from his life.
On his journey he runs into some very familiar men depicted in some decidedly unfamiliar ways. Apostle Matthew is a drag queen who runs an inter-species brothel. Apostle John The Less is a drug addicted pedophile. And Paul of Tarsus is the president of the United States. Also, they're all kind of assholes. ESPECIALLY Paul.
Add some top-notch illustrations, a little gay Jesus sex and a lot of philosophy and theology and you get what turned out to be one of my favorite graphic novels of the year.

Final verdict: buy the hard cover if you're not squeamish.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Shut Up! This Is Shockingly Good!

I seriously thought I was going to hate this. Like, really HATE this. From the cover and the art I thought this was going to be some cheesy story about some bear/monkey-looking girl growing up in a quaint bear/monkey-people village and learning nice trite lessons about life. Instead, Henni by Miss Lasko-Cross turned out to be REALLY interesting (aside from the weirdo character design. Seriously, what is WITH the bear/monkey-people?) touching on religion, faith, family, extremism, the role of women in society and so much more!
Henni, the main bear/monkey woman, lives in a village completely controlled by the church. So much so, that residents truly believe that leaving the village and setting foot in the world beyond means instant death. One of her first memories is of her mother betraying her father as a heretic, which leads to his death. Fast forward to Henni, (who has a terrible habit of questioning pretty much everything) being prepped for a traditional arranged marriage. When Henni learns one of the church's dark secrets, she flees and learns that leaving her home is NOT the end of the world.
Sadly, Henni ends up in an even worse place and begins to uncover even darker secrets about her people and their society, while at the same time finding a glimmer of hope that her father might still be alive.
My biggest complaint about the book (other than the terrible character design. Seriously dude, I HATE these drawings!) is that it was way too short, giving barely a glimpse at what the story has the potential to become.
Final verdict: I would totally buy it in hardcover, but I don't want that incredibly ugly drawing in my house.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Shut Up! And Battle The Squid Lords

Despite the fact that Ben Templesmith's The Squidder uses sci-fi tropes that have at this point become a bit cliched, the amalgamation of these elements somehow still manages to make for an interesting story.
Yes, we have an Earth (at least we assume it's Earth) that has been taken over by evil alien overlords. Plus we also have a genetically engineered super soldier who is humanity's only hope. There's even a weirdo cult that worships the evil alien overlords. Yes, we have seen all this before dozens of times, but something about the way Templesmith meshed the elements together just sort of works.
Even the artwork, which I actually kind of hated totally works with the tone and feeling of the story it's representing. Everything in this world is sort of squiggly and dark, just like the Squid-looking aliens that have taken it over.
Be warned though, this is not one for the faint hearted or weak-stomached. There is a LOT of blood and guts and one tastefully rendered sex scene. Oh, and a lady gives birth to a HUGE sword. From her vagina. Ew.
Final verdict - if you don't buy it, definitely check it out from the local library. It will keep you entertained.