Monthly Archives: October 2015

ARC Review – Breathe by Anne-Sophie Brasme

1504766Title:  Breathe

Author:  Anne-Sophie Brasme

Rating: ★★

Synopsis: Breathe is the haunting confession of nineteen-year-old Charlene Boher. From her prison cell, Charlene recounts her lonely adolescence. Growing up shy and unpopular, Charlene never had many friends. That is, until she meet Sarah, a beautiful and charismatic American-French girl who moved back to Paris for high school. Much to Charlene’s shock and delight, the two girls quickly develop an intense friendship. With Sarah by her side, Charlene finally begins to feel accepted and even loved.

However, after a brief idyllic period, the girls’ relationship becomes rocky and friendship veers towards obsession. As Sarah drops Charlene for older, more glamorous friends, Charlene’s devotion spirals into hatred. Unfolding slowly and eerily towards a shocking conclusion, Breathe is an intense, convincing portrait of a possessive and ambiguous friendship.

Huge thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book for review!

River’s Review:

Well this was an odd little book and I’m not totally sure I enjoyed it. The cover is gorgeous and I love toxic friendships that end in murder stories and with the promise of enough substance for a movie I was willing to give it a try.

Sadly it fell a little short of my expectations.

This book is an English translation of a French novel written by the author when she was only 17. For a teen writer I do think that this a rather mature. But it does lack in some places and I’m not sure if the translation is to blame or what.

This story starts out with the main character, Charlene, in jail. She’s thinking about about what got here there. She starts with her childhood, how she was loved but never really felt it, believed it, or cared. She talks about her first real friendship and how after her BFF left she went on to a new primary school where she lagged behind her classmates in maturity. Everyone was “blossoming” and Charlene was a stick-straight as the boys. She wanted to mature and wasn’t and that caused her to isolate herself. At one point she tries to kill herself (by running too hard and letter her asthma knock her down), but everyone thinks it’s an accident… except for Sarah.

Sarah is an enigmatic girl. She’s wise beyond her years, beautiful, and everyone adores her. She sees through Charlene’s “accident” and confronts her, vowing to basically save her from herself. The two become best friends and Charlene spends all of her time with Sarah and Sarah’s mother who… basically has a revolving line of men coming into her bedroom. Sarah’s life is very liberal compared to Charlene’s unhappy parents and annoying brother. Charlene is enchanted with Sarah and lets Sarah have complete control over her.

After a summer vacation the two girls grow apart. Sarah finds Charlene to be immature. She’s discovered boys and the power that she has to manipulate those around her. Charlene becomes obsessed with Sarah, following her, watching her, and it’s really weird. Charlene starts to talk about a voice inside her compelling her to be with Sarah. And eventually Sarah “saves” Charlene again and becomes her friend but she’s a huge bitch to Charlene and at this point I was just so confused as to why Sarah kept Charlene around. All she did was saw awful things about her and push her around. I guess she enjoyed the power she had over Charlene, but it was just weird. Charlene finally was breaking out of Sarah’s control when she met a boy, a really nice boy, but Sarah eventually lured Charlene back in and Charlene’s obsession had become hate and she formulates a plan to kill Sarah and does so…

and that’s the end.

Like great plot but I just wanted more. More depth, more craze, more obsession. And that’s why I think that a movie fleshing this out will be good. I can already see it in my head and I plan to watch it. But as a book… I don’t see how it can really stand on it’s own in the current world of YA. All I kept thinking about while I was reading this was that Dangerous Girls did it so much better (now THAT is a book I’d love to see turned into a movie!).

But I’m sure that at the time this was written, and the fact that it was written by a teen… that it was quite brilliant then.

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ARC Review – Romancing the Dark in the City of Light by Ann Jacobus

21525983Title:  Romancing the Dark in the City of Light

Author:  Ann Jacobus

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: A troubled teen, living in Paris, is torn between two boys, one of whom encourages her to embrace life, while the other—dark, dangerous, and attractive—urges her to embrace her fatal flaws.

Haunting and beautifully written, with a sharp and distinctive voice that could belong only to this character, Romancing the Dark in the City of Light is an unforgettable young adult novel.

Summer Barnes just moved to Paris to repeat her senior year of high school. After being kicked out of four boarding schools, she has to get on track or she risks losing her hefty inheritance. Summer is convinced that meeting the right guy will solve everything. She meets two. Moony, a classmate, is recovering against all odds from a serious car accident, and he encourages Summer to embrace life despite how hard it can be to make it through even one day. But when Summer meets Kurt, a hot, mysterious older man who she just can’t shake, he leads her through the creepy underbelly of the city-and way out of her depth.

Huge thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy for review!

River’s Review:

This book… was a weird one for me. The first half was terribly boring and I struggled to get myself to read it. Once I was actually reading it I had trouble putting it down. And then about half way through I really started to like it. The second of the book is much stronger than the first half and I think that there should have been a few more hints in the beginning that something a little more “other-worldly” was going on.

I really… I don’t know if enjoy is the right word, but appreciate books that deal with suicide. I find the subject important and one that needs to be talked about. I was once told by someone that I cared about that I “reminded them of a past love” and that the person was gone because they’d killed themselves. This has stuck with me since I heard it (over 10 years ago). How could I be like someone who killed themselves? I’ve never been suicidal or even really thought about it. I’ve had a few bouts of depression here and there and have some anxiety issues but to be compared to someone who’s killed themselves… it’s just always been there with me. And I sometimes wonder if that’s part of why books that deal with suicide intrigue me as they do.

So the suicides that occurred in this book, Kurt’s purpose, Summer’s struggled with drinking and her own depressed thoughts… they worked for me. I loved the way that everything was tangled together and how we see different sides of the characters. The thing that didn’t work for me so much at times was the writing style. It was abrupt and boring at times. And beautiful and flowing at other times. I wish it had been a little more consistent.

I did enjoy the characters though. Mooney was a sweetheart and total inspiration. Kurt was a total scumbag. And Summer was just a girl who struggled with life, her family and herself.

ARC Review – The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

23830990Title:  The Rest of Us Just Live Here

Author: Patrick Ness

Rating:  ★★★★ / ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: What if you aren’t the Chosen One? The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death? What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life. Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions.

Huge thank you to the publisher for letting me read an advanced copy of this book!

River’s Review:

This book was SO MUCH FUN! I’ve actually never read a Ness book before (I know, sue me, but they’re LONG…) and I need to fix that soon. I really enjoyed this book. I liked the way it was written, I liked the magical realism and all of the characters were really awesome.

This is a story about the people that are NOT involved with saving the world. The Harrys, the Buffys, the Sam & Deans. Those guys, they save the world. And they’re pretty awesome at it. But what about the guys who aren’t saving the world? The regular old guys that just have to sit by and watch those other awesome dudes save the world? Sure, the muggles in The Chosen One stories don’t always know about the conflicts, the vampires, the witches, but they do have some sense of the fall out (gas leaks, water mains bursting, random never-before-heard-of-illnesses killing off the local folks). I loved that in this book they KNEW about the zombies and ghosts and vampires that were invading the world.

And they knew that they couldn’t do anything about it because it wasn’t THEIR story.

In this book there’s The Chosen Ones (refereed to as the Indie kids, which cracked me the HELL up because I was kinda an indie kid in college even though I would NEVER have admitted it) and then The Rest of Us. The main characters are The Rest of Us: Mikey (who has OCD), his older sister Mel (who’s recovering from an eating disorder), his younger sister Meredith (who just struggles with being 10 years old and wanting to go to her favorite boy band concert), his neighbor and best friend Henna (who struggled with her super religious parents), and his other best friend Jared (who is half god and worshiped by cats. And also gay). Everyone has their faults, they deal with them in strange ways, and help each other out. They live, laugh, fight, love and wonder wtf is going on in their town THIS time.

I think what I loved the most about this was how it was at times just a normal contemporary dealing with issues that a lot of teens face (and are just becoming things that are “okay” to talk about and seek help with) but then in the background there’s the freaking end of the world! And Indie kids are dying and saving the world and the sections that were about the Indie kids just SLAYED ME. I loved the writing and the mix of mystical with the contemporary and how it was all just so normal. A lot of it made me laugh, a lot of it felt like an inside joke that I was IN on and I loved it.

Overall I’m not sure how this compares to Ness’ other books, but for me this was a great introduction to him.

Sam’s Review:

I admit, I haven’t read a lot of Patrick Ness’ works, and the ones I have read I’ve either absolutely adored or been completely ‘meh’ on. I took a gamble with The Rest of Us Just Live Here after hearing about it at Frenzy Presents (hosted by HarperCollins Canada) and I can honestly say I thought this was quite the fun book! Patrick Ness is fantastic at immersion in his stories, crafting weird and wonderful scenarios, and this book was no different.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here focuses on those who are not “The Chosen One.” The ones who have to suffer the consequences and actions of “The Chosen One” as they fight to protect the world around them. Some days are more catastrophic than others, and this idea is done with a lot of humour. You can also tell Ness is a huge Buffy nerd, because there are some references in the novel that just prove that point and drive it home!

Although I’ve given you a small glimpse on what the book is about, it’s hard to really categorize what it is supposed to be. Is it fantasy? Paranormal? Contemporary? The Rest of Us Just Live Here really is a mish-mash of genres rolled into one engaging package. I admit, the use of genre bending threw me off once in awhile, and I’d have to reread parts to make sure I understood what Ness’ intention was. I admit, I did find parts of the novel dragged, but for me it was this weird level of rollercoaster enjoyment, where it felt very up and down. Ness’ has a very unique writing style, and it’s definitely not for everyone (hence why some books have worked for me and others haven’t).

It’s weird to say, but I actually loved the plotline with the indie kids more than I did the Unchosen Ones. There was so much satire and humour in those moments, and when the indie kids plot mixed together with the Unchosen Ones plotline, that was when I found the book the most enjoyable and entertaining. The bit with the Finns? Absolutely genius. But when it was just about the day-to-day with the Unchosen Ones, I did find at times that the book wasn’t always as gripping as I wanted it to be. I also didn’t find the main characters to be as interesting compared to the Chosen Ones, and again that could have been more me than the book given that I was more interested in the satire side of the novel.

That being said, I think that this might be one of Patrick Ness’ most unique books to-date, but it did not top A Monster Calls, which still remains my favourite book of his. I think that if you’re a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Joss Whedon style humour, you’ll find a lot to enjoy in this novel, but the story part I think will be quite hit-or-miss for some readers depending on what kind of expectations that have for this book. Truthfully, this to me isn’t the Patrick Ness book to start with (I still say The Knife of Never Letting Go or A Monster Calls really is where to start), however, I think this book will be quite the hit with those can appreciate the playfulness that Patrick Ness infuses into this world. I just wish I had liked the characters a lot more.

ARC Review – Wolf By Wolf (Wolf By Wolf #1) by Ryan Graudin

24807186Title: Wolf By Wolf (Wolf By Wolf #1)

Author: Ryan Graudin

Rating:  ★★★★★

Synopsis: The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule the world. To commemorate their Great Victory over Britain and Russia, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The victor is awarded an audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor’s ball.

Yael, who escaped from a death camp, has one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year’s only female victor, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele twin’s brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael’s every move. But as Yael begins to get closer to the other competitors, can she bring herself to be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and complete her mission?

Huge thank you to The Novl for sending me an ARC of this book!

River’s Review:

OMG THIS WAS SO GOOD ALL THE STARS!!!!

This had everything I love! Racing, kick-ass girls, sibling relationships, a not horrible not IN YOUR FACE romance! Alternate history! IT WAS SO FREAKING COOL. I don’t remember the last time I was so INVESTED in a book like this. I was literally shaking with adrenaline during the racing parts and crying at the end, and smiling at Lowe and SCREAMING at the betrayals and filled with SO MUCH HATE over the horrors of the Third Reich.

I’m not usually that into historical fiction, or even alternate history historical fiction. Lately I’ve been REALLY into dark contemporary, but sometimes I need a break. And in between I like to throw in some fantasy, historical, sci-fi… so when I got a copy of this book I was THRILLED! I really enjoyed Graudin’s earlier book, The Walled City and while I enjoyed it, I didn’t LOVE IT WITH ALL MY BEING. So I went into this book expecting it to be awesome, but not AWESOME, but… it was AWESOME TIMES A MILLION.

I feel like the two things that really struck me were the stories behind her wolves and the story behind who Yael herself was. I loved how she struggled with who she was because she couldn’t even remember her own face. I loved how she clung to her wolves and how they formed her current identity. I really loved her relationships with both Felix and Lowe. I liked how there was depth to many of the racers and that a lot of them weren’t just faceless contenders. I love that even though this is a book about a life or death race it didn’t feel like any of the other books out there that are about life or death races. And I really loved the revelations at the end. And I am damn curious to see how a sequel will spin out.

Writing reviews for books that I LOVELOVELOVED are always the hardest. And I basically just want to say: I LOVE THIS BOOK AND YOU MUST READ IT THIS OCTOBER OKAY?!

ARC Review – I Crawl Through It by A.S. King

23203744Title:  I Crawl Through It

Author: A.S King

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Four talented teenagers are traumatized-coping with grief, surviving trauma, facing the anxiety of standardized tests and the neglect of self-absorbed adults—and they’ll do anything to escape the pressure. They’ll even build an invisible helicopter, to fly far away to a place where everyone will understand them… until they learn the only way to escape reality is to fly right into it.

Huge thank you to The Novl for sending me a copy of this book!

River’s Review:

Ya know despite how weird this book was and how little sense it made at times, I actually enjoyed it. I found myself starting it and being totally lost and hoping that it was going to have some huge AH-HA moment in the end where everything was cleared up and I just kept going and it was weird because it just FLOWED. And while I could probably spend a long time trying to puzzle out ~the meaning~ behind everything, I’ll leave that for someone’s English 101 class.

This is my first A.S. King book. I’ve heard that her books are weird, but I’m down for weird books! I used to be a huge book snob and would only read really weird books! And this was weird and it was supposed to be weird but at the same time I’m surprised at how easy it was to read. And I enjoyed it for that.

I honestly don’t know what else to say about this book. I can totally see why some people hated it and why some people couldn’t finish it, but I’m glad that I gave it a shot and I’m interested in checking out King’s other work.

Blog Tour – Fable Comics edited by Chris Duffy, and an Interview with Mark Newgarden

23310728For those of you who haven’t seen First Second’s series of comics adaptations of classic children’s literature,  you’re missing out on unique collections. There’s Fairy Tale Comics, Nursery Rhyme Comics, and thanks to Chris Duffy and a bunch of talented artists and writers, we have Fable Comics.

For this blog tour, Gina from First Second asked a variety of bloggers to interview a contributor from this collection. I was asked to interview Mark Newgarden for his contribution ‘Man and Wart,’ which unlike a lot of the fables in this collection is one penned by Ambrose Bierce, famous for stories such as Chickamauga.

Let’s jump into this interview, shall we?

1) Hi Mark! Could you share with our readers a bit more about yourself and some of the works that you have produced?

MN: I’ve done all sorts of crazy things over the course of my career. I’ve worked on comics, magazines, movies, animated cartoons, ads, toys, gadgets and off-Broadway comedies. I co-created Garbage Pail Kids. I wrote a book about the history of fake vomit and sneezing powder. I designed merch for Pee-Wee Herman. I worked on Microsoft Word. I’ve written columns, essays, criticism, histories and scripts. I’ve also written fortune cookies, bubble gum wrappers and Snapple bottle caps. I had my own syndicated weekly comic strip. I had my own Cartoon Network show. I’ve been employed as an illustrator, editor, art director, creative director, director of animation, creative consultant, designer, muralist, curator, teacher and executive producer – but basically, I’m a cartoonist. Lately, I’ve been half of the team (with Megan Montague Cash) behind the award-winning series of Bow-Wow wordless kid’s comics from Harcourt and Roaring Brook Press. And I’m also half of the team (with Paul Karasik) behind the long-awaited How to Read Nancy- The Elements of Comics in Three Easy Panels coming soon from Fantagraphics Books.

2) What influenced your art style?

MN: Twentieth century cartooning, mostly. Man and Wart has a joke-like structure and I wanted it to read like someone was taking you aside and spinning a funny little story, one-on-one at the kitchen table. Since I was aiming for an informal and free-flowing visual feel, I opted for 99 cent store materials like ruled yellow legal pads and colored pencils instead of the usual art supplies. And I tried to keep my finished drawings simple, loose and spontaneous (never as easy as it should be.)

wart2

3) Why did you select Man and Wart by Ambrose Bierce as your fable for this project?

MN: A) Bierce was a wonderfully dark, satiric writer who sadly isn’t read much these days- so I’m pleased to pass along a small slice from someone I greatly admire.

B) It was a story about big noses and I like to draw big noses.

4) Two part question! Where does your inspiration come from when penning your own comics?

MN:  An empty page and a deadline.

How does it feel to adapt someone else’s story?

MN: I felt responsibility to the story (and to Bierce) to get it right. Comics are all about elimination- condensing information to the essence- and since Man and Wart was already a very concise text to begin with, it seemed ideal. So it mostly came down to working with Bierce’s over-the-top dialogue and finding a panel rhythm and page rhythm to serve it up it most effectively.

5) What prompted you to use the color red so boldly in Man and Wart? Was there symbolism behind this choice or was it something to draw the reader’s eye in?

MN: I mostly used red as a graphic device to emphasize certain words in the conman’s spiel (and obviously also to connect both characters by the big red warts on their big fat noses.)

6) What do you hope readers will take from reading and visualizing Man and Wart?wart1

MN: Whatever Ambrose Bierce had in mind in writing it.

7) Why did you feel it was important to contribute to a work like Fable Comics?

MN: Fable Comics editor Chris Duffy is a colleague from Nickelodeon Magazine days (and an old friend before that.) He’s been doing such a good job with this series of nursery rhyme, fairy tale (and now fables) comics adaptations, that I’m just pleased to be a part of the mix. We need more quality projects like these!

8) Do you have anything else to share with our readers?

MN: I am currently getting up a National Order of the Man and Wart with an exclusive membership, solely limited to intelligent and altruistic enthusiasts of this venerable and historically significant text, regardless of age, sex and proboscidean endowment. If every Fable Comics reader can send me $5.00…


 

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I want to extend a huge thank to Mark, Gina and First Second for providing me with an ARC of Fable Comics, as well as their time and patience in setting up and contributing to this interview! If you want to see more stops along the blog tour, check them out below! You can also check out our review here.

 

ARC Review – Fable Comics Edited by Chris Duffy

23310728Title:  Fable Comics

Editor: Chris Duffy

Rating:  ★★★

Synopsis: From classics like “The Tortoise and the Hare” and “The Grasshopper and the Ants” to obscure gems like “The Frogs Who Desired a King,” Fable Comics has something to offer every reader. Twenty-eight fables from different cultures and traditions are wonderfully adapted and illustrated in comics format by twenty-six different cartoonists. Edited by New York Times bestselling Fairy Tale Comics’ Chris Duffy, this jacketed hardcover is a beautiful gift and an instant classic.

Huge thank you to First Second for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Fables! Fables are pretty rad, and for younger readers, this collection is a great way to learn about fables through much looser and fun interpretations. It also allows readers to get exposed to a variety of different artists and styles, and I generally love collections like this, though some versions of the story worked better for me than others.

My favourite stories in the collection were “The Fox and the Grape,” “Leopard Drums Up Dinner,” “The Hare and the Tortoise”, “The Sun and the Wind,” and “The Hare and the Pig.” These particular stories stood out much more to me than a lot of the others, though if I am being honest, I wasn’t as familiar with the group of artists in this collection with the exception of Vera Brosgol (whose work I adore) and those who have worked on the Adventure Time comics. Some of the art in this collection jived with me, and some with it didn’t, which I think is the ultimate issue with this collection.

Regardless, I think this collection has so much to offer younger readers, especially those who may not be as familiar with the fables in question. I really enjoyed how accessible each author attempted to make the fable they worked on, as well as the twists of humour to keep them interesting and fresh. If you have a younger reader in your life, this is a great and approachable way to expose them to fables.