May 4, 2016
Trouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly
Promoted as Sherlock meets Veronica Mars meets Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Trouble is a Friend of Mine is a quirky, edgy mystery with a really great cast of characters. Zoe made a relatable character and was often the voice of reason (a voice that mainly went unheard, but still). Digby had some definite Sherlock vibes, but while he clearly had boundary issues, he wasn't a BBC Sherlock or Sheldon Cooper caricature - he may have been brainy and weird, but he was still a fairly typical teenage boy. Even the mean girl wasn't quite as terrible as she could have been. I mean, she was pretty terrible, but not 100% irredeemable.
Oh, and Felix may have been my favorite. And his dad was pretty awesome, too.
The mystery itself was solid. Frankly, I didn't expect any of the twists and turns that took place throughout the book. I also like how the mystery built; first they're looking for a missing person, then there's the weird cult and all kinds of criminality going on around them. By the time the story ends, the mystery is wrapped up neatly and, for the most part, satisfyingly, while a new mystery is planted for another book. This new mystery: I'm not sure if it will be the main mystery of the next book, or a series arc, but it looks like it will be a good one.
All in all, Trouble is a Friend of Mine was a fun read and a nice change-up from the more drama- and dark-filled YA novels I've been reading. And the characters were pretty great - I'd want to be friends with most of them.
Find this book in our print and digital catalogs.
March 14, 2016
The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman
The Book of Blood and Shadow is like two books in one: first, you have Nora and her friends, their lives, how they deal with school and relationships. Then you have a mad dash through the streets of Prague searching for mysterious clues to an ancient puzzle, which once solved, can give a glimpse into the divine.
Nora's past involves a tragedy that she keeps to herself. Her parents are lost in themselves, leaving Nora as an afterthought. Nora, a bit of a Latin prodigy, was admitted to a prestigious school on the other side of town, disconnected enough from her world that no one knows about her past. There she becomes best friends with Chris and his girlfriend, Adriane. Fast forward to Nora's senior year, where she is interning at the local university where Chris is attending, and they both assist a professor in translating and transcribing 400 year old Latin texts, along with Chris's roommate, Max. They're attempting to break a code that has puzzled the best mathematicians and code breakers for four centuries. Nora finds the key to breaking the code, and the wrong people notice, leading to the death of her best friend. To avenge Chris's murder and clear Max's name, Nora and Adriane head to Prague, where the Latin texts were originally written. There, they stumble through clues that lead to an unexpected ending.
The first half of the book feels like a typical real-life-issues young adult novel. The characters struggle through evolving relationships, family issues, and the question of their future. You get to know them and connect to them, the whole time knowing that one of them will shortly die while another is blamed for that murder. The first page opens with these bombshells, quickly followed by a flash-back that leads up to this big moment. After that, we get to the mystery in Prague, where Nora and Adriane search for Max and hide from more than one secret society that wants to hinder or hurt them.
The mystery and historical portions of the story were fascinating. Wasserman does a great job of describing a scene and really getting you attached to the characters. The only thing I wasn't terribly fond of was the religion angle; at times it felt like Wasserman was getting a bit heavy handed with the atheism, while at other times she provided an interesting focus on historical and current Judaism and the mysticism tied to the ancient relic they were searching for in Prague. Like The Da Vinci Code and The Golden Compass, the religious aspect of the book could potentially turn off readers.
I really enjoyed this book and I would recommend it to anyone who loves a good mystery or treasure hunt. Wasserman included a lot of real historical information about Prague, plus the impossible code they were trying to break is actually real - and still unbroken. It was great learning about a part of the world and a part of history that I wasn't familiar with, that of Prague during the Renaissance. The Book of Blood and Shadow is a very cool book and a great read.
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February 9, 2016
Valentine's Review: To All The Boys I've Loved Before
To All the Boys I've Loved Before is the story of Laura Jean Song Covey, who is about to begin her junior year in high school. The three Song girls - Margot, Laura Jean, and Kitty - have been extraordinarily tight since their mother died years ago. Margo, the eldest, is about to leave for her freshman year of college at Saint Andrews in Scotland, leaving Laura Jean to take over the big sister role.
The year starts off with a bang for Laura Jean. Over the years she wrote love letters/goodbye letters to the boys she's loved to provide herself with closure. Once she wrote the letters to the boys, she seals them up, addresses them, then sticks them in a hat box in her closet. They were never supposed to be seen. But on the first day of school, Laura Jean finds out that her former crushes have received their letters.
I had some trouble with this book initially - I really don't handle embarrassing situations well (be they fictional, real life, or my own), and boy does this story start off with a doozy. But after getting over that hump, the story was touching and sweet and funny. I really enjoyed the characters and their growth.
Laura Jean discovers a lot about herself, as well as a few of the boys, and I liked how much she grew. I know some people have been a bit shocked by the ending (no spoilers here!), but I liked where it left off. Also, it doesn't hurt knowing there's a sequel (P.S. I Still Love You). I can't wait to see these characters again and find out what happens next!
January 8, 2016
Graphic Novel Review: Nimona, Story and Art by Noelle Stevenson
The graphic novel debut from rising star Noelle Stevenson, based on her beloved and critically acclaimed web comic, which Slate awarded its Cartoonist Studio Prize, calling it "a deadpan epic."
Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson. Featuring an exclusive epilogue not seen in the web comic, along with bonus conceptual sketches and revised pages throughout, this gorgeous full-color graphic novel is perfect for the legions of fans of the web comic and is sure to win Noelle many new ones.
Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren't the heroes everyone thinks they are.
But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona's powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.
Oh my word, I loved this book! The story takes place in a sort of medieval, magical land that has refrigerators and pizza delivery and dragons. The story is heartfelt and I may have teared up once or twice, while at other times I struggled to hold in my giggles since I was reading it in public.
The art is fantastic and the story is lovely. I read a library copy, but this one is going to have to be added to my personal collection. Highly recommended.
September 23, 2015
Spooktacular Pick: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
“Move, hunt, kill. Like lather, rinse, and repeat.”
-- Kendare Blake, Anna Dressed in Blood
Anna Dressed in Blood is the story of Cas, a high school ghost hunter, and Anna, the ghost he's on the hunt for. Cas's job is to kill the dead, so he has no intention of letting Anna stick around the house she's haunting. But killing Anna isn't easy, and eventually, Cas isn't certain he wants to.
This book was described to me as a cross between Supernatural and Scooby Doo, which I can totally see. Cas (come on, Cas?!) is very Dean-like, if Dean's mom lived instead of his dad, and he had no Sammy to hunt with him. Cas is cool. I like Cas. Anna's pretty cool, too, for a dead girl from the fifties. I love how she changed from ghost-girl to ghost-hulk depending on the situation - it made her a really fascinating character.
Blake pulls no punches when it comes to violence, like for reals. If you have a weak stomach and are easily squicked out, you may want to skim some of these sections. Things get pretty darn gruesome from time to time, and they're hard to stomach. But, as always with me, it's the horrible things that people do that cause me more trouble than the things the monsters do.
Great Halloween option for weenies like me who don't like straight-up horror. Spooky, creepy, eerie: yes; gross, violent: sometimes; scare me into putting the book in the freezer: no.
July 10, 2015
Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry
"Anyone seeing those three teenagers smiling the kinds of smiles they wore would run in terror. Benny was counting on it." --Jonathan Maberry, Rot & Ruin
This story takes place 14 years after First Night - the night when anyone who died turned into a zombie. As the night went on, more and more people died, and thus more and more people became zombies. Now Benny is 15, the year when you either get a job or your rations get cut. After trying out a few different occupations, he ends up apprenticing to his brother, Tom: a zombie bounty hunter.
But there's more to Tom's job than Benny could have guessed. Tom doesn't just kill zombies, but he specializes in closure. Learning Tom's job teaches Benny about the ways of this world that the people in town don't talk about, and he also learns the meaning of life and humanity.
I'm not a fan of the zombie genre - or the post-apocalyptic or dystopian genres either - but this was a really good book. It's not just a zombie slasher novel, though there's plenty of that; Maberry looks into the emotions and mind sets of people living years in survival mode and the morality of killing zombies who once were people, too. It's a story of loss and fear and, ultimately, courage. Maberry also asks the question: Who's the real monster, the zombies who kill mindlessly or men who are capable of reason and still do awful things?
I'd definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves a good zombie book or movie. I'd also recommend it to fans of The Hunger Games - those who dug into the story of a world-gone-wrong and a teenager's fight to make it a better place. I'll close with a quote that epitomizes both Katniss' journey in The Hunger Games and Benny's here:
“Often it was the most unlikely people who found within themselves a spark of something greater. It was probably always there, but most people are never tested, and they go through their whole lives without ever knowing that when things are at their worst, they are at their best.”
**The 5th book in the Benny Imura series, Bits & Pieces, will be published in late September.**
May 29, 2015
Jackaby by William Ritter
Jackaby (Jackaby #1)
By William Ritter
“Hell of a sight. She let out a scream and just fell to pieces. Can't say I blame her. Like I said, this sort of thing is not for the female temperament." He directed that last sentiment at me, making eye contact for the first time.
"I dare say you're right, sir," I conceded, meeting his gaze. "Out of curiosity, though, is there someone whose temperament you do find suited to this sort of thing? I think I would be most unnerved to meet a man who found it pleasant.”
William Ritter, Jackaby
Jackaby is a detective mystery set in the 1890s in the New England area. Jackaby is a detective with some very Sherlockian attributes: he's more focused on *what* he's seeing than *who* he's seeing; he has no real idea of the correct way to interact with others, which often makes him come across as rude; and he wears a funny hat. Ways in which Jackaby is different from Sherlock? Well first off, he doesn't see all the minute details of a situation - the ordinary things others would overlook despite their significance - and leaves that to our narrator, Abigail Rook. Also, he's a seer. He sees the impossible like kobolds and banshees and the like, which the people of Ritter's world do not know about nor believe in.
Abigail Rook is like Sherlock's Watson; she acts as our narrator and she assists Jackaby in his investigation. She finds a job with Jackaby after newly arriving in the States. She's originally from England, the daughter of a scholar and archaeologist, who wanted nothing more than to join her father in his adventures, but was told that wasn't a place for women. She ran away from school to join a dig for dinosaurs, but the experience wasn't what she was hoping for. Rather than giving up on her own adventures, though, she stuck out her time on the dig, then got on a boat to America.
The action of the story only takes place over the course of a couple days. There's a murder, one that Jackaby concludes was committed by a supernatural villain. Jackaby and Abigail follow the clues to the big reveal at the end. And I must admit, I actually guessed the culprit pretty early, but since that never happens to me, I assumed I was wrong. Does it count if I figure out the whodunit if I don't believe I figured it out?
Jackaby was a fun story, and lighter than the gorgeous yet dark cover art would lead you to believe. It had it's dark moments, of course; it is a murder investigation after all, but overall the tone was light and often humorous. There were multiple interesting supporting characters, with a decent mix of males and females. All in all, I really enjoyed this book and look forward to more stories in this world.
Book #2 in the Jackaby series, Beastly Bones, will be published in September of this year.
April 22, 2015
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
“To really be a nerd, she'd decided, you had to prefer fictional worlds to the real one.” Rainbow Rowell, Fangirl
I'm not sure I know how to put into words the love I have for this book and the joy I took in reading it. I devoured it the way that Magicath's fans devoured her entries of Carry On, Simon. I felt connected to Cath in a way that I haven't felt connected to a character in...well, maybe ever.
I don't want to go into too many details, since so many of the situations that affected Cath and who she was and how she related to the reader felt more powerful for me not knowing about them in advance. But a quick rundown: Cath, full name Cather Avery, is an identical twin (her sister is Wren), a freshman in college, and a majorly popular fan-fiction author of Carry On, Simon (fic for Rowell's fictional story-within-a-story creation that is similar in feel and popularity to the world of Harry Potter).
Fangirl follows Cath as she struggles through her freshman year. The story sucked me back into my college years (which aren't terribly far removed, but still pre-YouTube) and the excitement and anxieties (especially those) related to that time in my life. And if I had known that fan-fiction was a thing, I totally would have been involved in it; maybe not as a writer, but definitely as a reader. So while my experiences weren't like Cath's, I feel like we're almost a little kindred.
I don't feel like I'm doing this review justice; it may be too close still for me to coherently express my feelings, other than grunt "unngg, LOVE." But I will add this: Levi is my new book boyfriend. He rates right up there with Gilbert Blythe and Forney. No, actually, he wins.
P.S. I love the fact that this is a stand-alone novel, that the story is complete and I don't have to wait for the next installment, but I do wish it could go on (I guess that's what fan-fiction is for).
P.P.S. Isn't that the best cover ever? I think it's the best cover ever.
P.P.P.S. If you love Fangirl and wish you could read Simon Snow’s story, you’re in luck! Rainbow Rowell is writing the fantasy story, Carry On, from Fangirl and it will be published in October 2015! *kermitflail*