Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Bloody Horowitz by Anthony Horowitz

This was an absolute delight to read. Anthony Horowitz delights the reader with 14 tales of horror. The first story is written as an introduction. I was a little puzzled by that particular tale because it was difficult to determine if it was a real introduction or not. By the end, I was certain that this was just a taste of what was in store. Most of the stories had twists I did not expect (some I was able to figure out as I read them). I think most readers will find this book enjoyable. The tales are twisted and frightening just enough. They are slightly more graphic than most children's tales but not so graphic that it needs a warning label.
There are some really interesting concepts in the stories, such as an ebay site where you can sell your children to the highest bidder. The stories could lead to some really interesting discussions.
My goal is to get my son to read the story about the horrible 14 year old who got exactly what he wanted (and his aunt and uncle did too). Like all good tales, there are some morals to these stories. Others, however, are just devilish fun.

Monday, November 8, 2010

With The Light

This book was the first graphic novel I have ever found in the parenting section of the library. I thought it was such a cool idea that I picked it up without really looking at what it was about. With the Light is the story of a couple in Japan who has had their first child to find out he has autism. If I understand correctly this is volume 1 and out there somewhere is a volume 2.
This story was amazingly touching. I told my husband it was too hard to read because it made me want to cry. As a parent with a child with autism it hit too close to home. I was thoroughly impressed with the challenges they faced and how difficult it is to just raise a child in Japan. There are no disability laws like in the United States but the parents came up with creative ways to give their son the best they could. That didn't mean they were super parents - they made mistakes. They had thier problems but the best part is they never really stopped being a family (once they figured out family was worth fighting for).
It's a tough book to read, emotionally but well worth it. I look forward to finding the second volume and seeing how the boy grows up.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

I am a rebelious reader - even against myself. It seemed the more I wanted myself to read the juvenile genre and finish the list of books I wanted to read - the less interested I was in reading them. I guess that's a strategy that just won't work. I love finding new books and I love the library (which is why I never read anything I buy - weird problem I have).
I found Cassandra Clare's Clockwork Angel in the list of new books at the library and tucked it under all the other books I wanted to read. With the book due Saturday, I finally picked it up and started it yesterday. Cassandra Clare is such a great storyteller. Her plots are thick and full of action. There are a ton of twists and turns (many you don't expect at all). She mixes fantasy, horror, romance and action into a runaway train - once you start you just can't stop. To my dismay, I finished the book today after starting it less than 24 hours ago (all 476 pages). She writes her books in trilogies so no problem - all get the next one except it's has yet to be published (drat).
For those not familiar with Cassandra Clare - her first series was the Mortal Instruments which introduced the world of the Shadowhunters - warriors created by angels to hunt demons. The books were amazing, in fact I am considering re-reading them just to get my fix until books 2 and 3 come out in her newest series The Infernal Devices. These books are "prequels" of a sort. They are set in 1878 and follow Tessa Gray as she discovers what she really is. In this book - she comes to London from America to find the brother who sent for her is missing. She, also, discovers that she can become anyone. She is rescued from the evil Dark Sisters by the Shadowhunters and it just goes from there.
Tessa just wants to be a normal heroine like the ones she reads about in books. She wants to be swept away by a dark and brooding hero and be happy. She never expected to have to fight demons to save herself and her brother. It's an interesting mix and really thought provoking concept - in this first book Tessa has her entire world turned upside down with no sign of it ever being righted. She is talking with another character about her discovery that she is not human and he replies "You've always been what you are. That's not new. What you'll get used to is knowing it." I like this idea - She's not different but her knowledge of herself is different - makes you think it can be applied in so many ways.
I really recommend this book and I'll even recommend it's sequels - I have that much faith in them.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Book of Dragons by E Nesbit

The first story in this collection answers the question I asked previously about The Book of Beasts by E. Nesbit (it was that story). I couldn't understand why a picture book was included in juvenile reading lists. The reason - the story was originally published as a juvenile story. The Book of Dragons is a great collection of dragon stories. I was even more impressed to find that E Nesbit wrote these stories in 1899. They are timeless tales. The language never felt odd like some stories written in times past.
The dragon stories are varied from tales of St. George to a story of siblings who set off to find the north pole (it felt as if it could be modern day). Any child who loves fantasy stories will enjoy this book.
I am picking up another E Nesbit book and can't wait to share that with you.

Friday, October 15, 2010

School's Out by Wanda E Brunstetter

I have not read anything by Wanda E Brunstetter prior to this book but I know she is a very popular author in our area (I can't speak for anywhere else but her books always have waiting lists at the library). This is her first children's book and I must say it was good. It's the first in a series.
This book follows Rachel Yoder while on summer break. Rachel is a nine year old girl who's famliy is Amish. I have read a few Amish books so I have a basic understanding of a fictional version of that society (having never met anyone who is Amish - I can't say whether or not they are accurate). This book didn't really require an understanding of the culture. Wanda E Brunstetter made everything understandable in a way that didn't feel like a lesson. The Amish have their own language - sort of a German-English hybrid. I liked how the author gave a translation without it feeling like a translation.
Rachel Yoder is a very likeable character. She wants a skateboard for her birthday, would love to be able to wear pants and drive fast in a convertible. She's a typical nine year old girl who lives a unique life. I highly recommend this book and look forward to another edition.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Gingerbread Cookie Murder

This book consists of three stories by three authors - Joanne Fluke, Laura Levine and Leslie Meier. I am a huge Joanne Fluke fan so I couldn't wait to read this book (if you haven't noticed I have gotten a little bored with juvenile books). Last time I got one of these sorts of books with Joanne Fluke I just read her story and returned the book to the library. However, what I have waiting for me is juvenile literature so I thought I would read the remaining 2 stories. They were wonderful.
Joanne Fluke writes the Hannah Swenson cookie books. All the mysteries center around Hannah's Cookie shop in small town Minnesota. I love the character and the included recipes are always a happy bonus. Hannah is a woman after my own heart. She spends her day surrounded by cookies (and a few kookys), believes that chocolate can solve anything and is courted by 2 of the most eligible bachelors in town. They are great guys who appreciate Hannah for who she is and they even deal with each other. She's a real character. Her family is a fun addition to the stories. In this story, Hannah has a neighbor who bought his condo after winning the lottery. He is found murdered in his apartment when the police come to get him to turn down his Christmas music and laser light display. I won't say this was my favorite story because it was so short. As a fan of the books, I felt there was something missing but that was due to the length of the story not that it wasn't well written.
The second story by Laura Levine followed Jaine Austen who was visiting her parents in a retirement community in Florida. I really enjoyed this introduction to Jaine and her life. Laura Levine was amusing and engaging. This was a nice compliment to Joanne Fluke's story.
But before we could die from tooth decay because the stories are so sweet Leslie Meier sweeps us into a slightly darker Christmas tale of a boy who is kidnapped. Where the other stories remind us that families are quirky, this story reminds us that family is important. This somber tale was quite enjoyable and really left me feeling more sentimental than the other two.
I really look forward to reading more by Laura Levine and Leslie Meier and now have to wait for Joanne Fluke to put out another book (why can't authors write faster - really).

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Discworld Graphic Novels by Terry Pratchett

I am not sure I am going to become a Terry Pratchett fan but this book was enjoyable. I find his imagination to be fun and full of adventure. I have yet to read one of his novels (I have seen a couple of films based on his works).
This story follows Twoflower as he goes on vacation. That is a very funny idea for a book because his vacation becomes a huge adventure but he never stops being a tourist. He meets Rincewind, a failed wizard who has a great spell stuck in his head. They go on this great journey to all sorts of faraway lands and meet all these people. Rincewind has to save the world from crashing into the sun but doesn't really want to be a hero.
I can't really share much more since it's a graphic novel. The pictures are fascinating. The concept of discworld is amazing. The world is a flat land that rests on 4 elephants all standing on the back of a large turtle. This is a no holds barred story and touches on all sorts of mythology and concept. I think I may try a novel in the near future and see where it goes.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Gypsy Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

I was a little disapointed with this book. It was obviously written long after the first book so some of the language had changed (the same language that had made the first one a little outdated) but there were also some subtle modernization. The first book was obviously set in time it was written so to have the book go from the 1960's to the 1990's was a little unsettling especially since I read them back to back. Most children may not pick up on these things but as an adult reader it was a little distracting.
With that said, however, the plot was still just as good. The Gypsy Game kind of faltered for the children as a real life drama took over but the book never let down the reader. I especially liked Ms. Snyder's discussion about what Gypsy life was like and the hardships that particular group of people have faced. I like the realism and the hidden education in the book. This would be a great book to talk about prejudice and oppression.
There are so many themes in this book that make it wonderful. This time you meet Toby's father who is a very eccentric artist. It's an interesting contrast to his best friend Ken who's parents are practical and well-to-do. The two ends of this spectrum are nicely balanced and really are more subtle. There is no beating the reader with a cause. Ms. Snyder talks about homelessness when Toby runs away and ends up living in an abandoned house with three homeless people.
This is a really powerful book and a great sequel.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Two things ran through my head as I read this book 1). I had read this book as a kid and 2). this book was on the 2009-2010 banned books list for occult themes. I didn't exactly remember the book but there were little passages that caught at my memory. The biggest thing was I had read the book during the same time "Walk Like an Egyptian" was popular - which also caused that song to pop into my head at random times as I re-read the book.
As for the banned booked issue - I found that really sad because this is a really good book. It doesn't encourage children to suddenly worship the devil (or Egyptian Gods), it encourages imagination, play and learning but I'll get more into that in a moment.
The book I have in my hand says the copyright date is 1976 but has a note about being a 1968 Newberry Honor. I don't know when it was first written/published and the only importance about that is that some of the language is a little odd, especially since one of the main characters is a Negro girl. Negro is just not a word you hear all that often in modern literature. Aside from a little language "barrier" you would not guess that this book wasn't a modern book. The kids don't own cell phones or play on the computer but then so many fun tales omit this part of our culture anyway (Harry Potter wasn't looking up spells on Google).
The story follows twelve year old April as she is forced to live with her Grandmother in an apartment in some place that is not exactly disclosed but doesn't seem to have snow. April's mother is a starlet in the making and has sent April off so she can make her career. April has an amazing imagination and makes fast friends with Melanie, a girl in her apartment building.
In exploring her new neighborhood, April (and Melanie) discover a magic land (okay it's the yard behind an antique store). This yard is only accessible through a broken part of the fence. In the yard, the find a bust of Nefertiti which sends the girls on an adventure starting at the local library. They learn everything they can about Egypt and play act it out in the yard with Melanie's 4 year old brother Marshall.
I can see where some people might think that pretending to be ancient Egyptians is occult like but the truth is everything they play is rooted in fact. They pretend to be Priestesses and even include a few other kids from the neighborhood. They don't believe it's real. Every story must have a climax and this one begins when a child in the neighborhood is murdered and everyone believes it's the old man at the antique store. The kids are stuck between trying to be safe and continuing a game that makes these children feel at home.
It's a really good story and I am so glad that Ms Snyder wrote a sequel which I will be picking up next. I was a really imaginative child and having people who understood that imagination would have been the best treat I could ever have had - not all of us are so lucky to have friends who would recreate a world with you. For those who might be concerned - at no time do the children believe it's real, however when they add in the Oracle, they begin to wonder if they have gone too far.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Warriors (manga) by Erin Hunter

I, originally, tried this book in paperback form but I just couldn't get into it. The books are fine and the writing is good - I just could not connect with a main character that is a cat. It just boggled me.
I was interested to see how the Manga version would work (manga=graphic novel). I enjoyed it. This format gave me the images my mind just would not produce. I don't think it would be my favorite but then they all can't be.
This short book follows Graystripe as he tries to escape from the Twolegs who have captured him (he was captured by an animal shelter and then adopted to a family). He takes another cat with him as they try to return to his clan in the forest.
I can't help but empathize with the family of twolegs he left behind but maybe that's because I really am a cat person. I, also, found some fault with the story line but most of the target audience should be fine with the story.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Hellboy - Seed of Destruction

I love the Hellboy movies. I am a huge Del Toro fan (the man who directed the movies) but even more so I love the character that is Hellboy. He's witty and human despite the fact that he's a demon from Hell.
I can guess that this is the book that inspired the first movie. The plot is not exactly similar but enough that you can put two and two together and get about 3 1/2. The book shares some of the origin of Hellboy and follows him as he tries to uncover what happened to his "father". The story includes Abe and Liz but they are so secondary that you are left wondering why anyone bothered with them in the first place - they really are just tools to move along the plot.
I have to say I prefer the movie but then graphic novels really have a problem when it comes to development. I love graphic novels but they don't have the same character insight and they really have a far more basic plot than a book or movie. They are similar to tv shows in that they rely on longevity. Graphic Novels are never meant to stand alone (with a few exceptions).
With all that said, I can't really share the plot with you because it's such a small plot that anything I share would ruin it. I did love it. Hellboy is still Hellboy and I look forward to future stories and future movies now that you mention it.

The Dark Tower - The Gunslinger Born/The Long Road Home

I was looking forward to The Dark Tower graphic novel series. The original books are quite good (The Gunslinger is a little dry for me but had some great passages). This story is right out of Wizard and Glass when Roland tells his ka-tet about his beginning as a gunslinger and his great love Susan Delgado. This is that story. If you have read Wizard and Glass then there will be no surprise. However, the pictures are worth the time to re-read the story. This graphic novel gives Roland's story more depth and humanity.
For those not familiar with the Dark Tower books, this story is about an ambitious 14 year old boy, Roland Dechain. He is training to be a gunslinger. In this world, time has passed and reverted to a strange time of kingdoms where knights are gunslingers. Relics of the old world include tanks and oil fields. There is a great war going on between the Affiliation and John Farson. John Farson is a great and evil man who appears to be a tool for the Crimson King. Through this story, all this is hinted at. You learn about John Farson but the real story behind the war is fairly muttled.
Roland is goated into testing to be a gunslinger by his mother's lover. Her lover is no other than the Man in Black who will be Roland's nemesis through the entire series. The plan was that Roland would be killed or exiled, allowing the bad guys to have one up on the good guys. Instead Roland is successful, so much so that his father worries he will be killed and sends him and his friends on an errand to count horses in a neighboring kingdom. This is not a fools errand but is suppose to be seen as such - the boys are there to see if John Farson is tapping into the oilfield there.
It's a good introduction into this world. It's quite different from the books which start sort of in the middle and work both ways. The graphic novels are suppose to be the back story that is only hinted at.
This story is continued in The Long Road Home. I found myself struggling to remember this story only to find that this part of the tale was never told in the books. I like this. As I said these novels are the back story (I didn't know that until I read the second book and the really interesting commentary from those involved). These back stories can only add depth to an already deep character. Roland comes across as heartless in the books only to surprise the reader with his compassion. These graphic novels will tell the reader why Roland is so hard and how he came to be on the journey he is on.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Kick-Ass by Mark Millar & John Romita Jr

This was one of those books I picked up because I had seen the movie. It was rather entertaining. I am not sure I really liked it because I really liked the movie and they are not the same. The movie had more of a happy ending (though how can anyone say that ending was happy). The plot line of Big Daddy and Hit Girl was rather sad in the book. Instead of being a cop on a mission, he turned out to be a really sad comic book nerd who taught his daughter how to be a superhero just for fun. I think the movie did it more justice by making their story more heroic.
I, also, was a little saddened by the fact the hero did not end up with the girl in the book. Granted, the book was more realistic - the movie was more romantic and followed a more superhero theme (the hero always gets the girl even if he can't be with her).
In either form, this is a great story. The idea that a normal person can be a superhero and the realistic view of what that means. Dave becomes a superhero only to end up in the hospital after his first attempt at heroism. He talks about why there aren't superheros because of this exact reason. He also talks about the addition being a superhero is. It's a really touching story that opens doors up to the average person. I don't recommend donning a costume and beating up bad guys but you don't have to turn a blind eye to the crime in your neighborhood. Perhaps it's my small town naivete that leads me to believe that if we all looked out for each other the world would be a better place but then again no one said it was wrong.

30 Days of Night by Steve Niles & Ben Templesmith

I didn't really like the movie 30 Days of Night and now there is a sequel coming out. I saw the book at the library and thought maybe there would be something else about the story that made is so popular (it has a huge following).
I still don't get it. While the premise has so much promise - the story fell flat. In fact I think the movie might have done it more justice. In really great horror movies you find a connection to the characters - whether it's with the hero or the villian. There is something that draws you in and makes you want to follow the story. This story I just wanted to end. There were strange sub-stories that went nowhere - perhaps they are meant to have more meaning in future issues. The real disappointment is that you don't care about any of the characters. The sheriff had the potential to be a great hero but you don't know anything about him. His role in the book is really flat and you don't care that in the end he sacrifices everything to save the town.
You don't even like the villians - well that's not true, you just don't care. Who are they? Yes they are vampires and have come up with this great idea to play for the 30 days when there is no sun in this Alaskan town. There is a build up - that V is coming. Who cares? Who is V - by the time he shows up no one cares. He hates the idea and thinks everyone is stupid - and he's right because we don't care about them either.
What's really sad is that this has a following. The pictures are confusing and I can't really tell one character from another. The plot is flat even though it could have been great. I understand that there is a need to seperate the girly vampire stories from the scary vampire stories but please - this is just ridiculous. I am looking forward to a vampire story worth my time (okay there are some out there I read but the vampire is really losing it's reputation).

Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

I actually read 2 of these graphic novels - Welcome to the Jungle and Storm Front Vol 1. I had read Storm Front in paperback a year or so ago and had not found myself really wanting to read more. It's funny how a graphic novel can change that. I now find myself wanting to read another Dresden File book. I can't remember what I didn't like about Storm Front but it could have been more about my mood than the book it's self.
Welcome to the Jungle is a pre-quel that Jim Butcher wrote exclusively for graphic novel. It's an introduction to Dresden. We follow him track a supernatural killer who has blamed the murder of a zoo security guard on a gorilla. I appreciate Jim Butcher's ability to craft a story. You really feel like Harry Dresden is just a normal person who happens to be a wizard.
In Storm Front, you learn more about the man behind the magic and you really see him as a PI. He's hated by all (why is that a popular theme in PI stories) but he doesn't really let that stop him. Storm Front is not for the faint of heart - the story centers around the murder of lovers who have had their rib cages explode (for a lack of better description). The pictures are a little graphic but I can guarantee the written word was more so.
I had that graphic novels don't always complete a story and now I have to wait to see if the library gets more (and I remember what happened in the first book).

Pinocchio Vampire Slayer by Van Jensen & Dusty Higgins

I needed a break from Juvenile fiction and jumped at the chance to read a bunch of new graphic novels from the library.
This books is cute in a way. The idea of Pinnochio as a vampire slayer is really an interesting idea. The book is drawn in black and white giving the story an old fashioned feel.
I love stories that play with your idea of what a character should be like. In this version, Pinnochio never got to be a real boy. Guipetto was murdered by vampires leaving a very bitter wooden boy who uses his nose to stake the very monsters that took away his father. He's not alone - he has a team consisting of The Blue Fairy and Mr Cherry a carpenter.
Because graphic novels are so short there's not really much I can say about the plot that wouldn't be telling.
I highly recommend this little treat.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Vampire Kisses by Ellen Schreiber

I am not positive whether this book is juvenile or young adult. The character is in high school but the books are rather short and simple for the young adult genre. Either way - it's a really good series.
Vampire Kisses follows the story of Raven who is the only gothic girl in her entire upscale (white bread) community. Her best friend Becky is the other outsider. Raven dreams about being a vampire. She finds herself sneaking into the local "haunted" house, only to find it's occupied by Alexander. Alexander is about her age, from Romania and Raven's dream come true. Turns out he's a vampire but he's madly in love with her.
The romance is really secondary to the difficulty of being an outsider. Raven is so caught up in the dream she living that she has to learn what the reality of the situation is. Raven and Alexander live in two different worlds and neither of them are old enough to make it right. It's a real twist on the whole coming of age genre.
Despite the whole Twilight feel - this book is completely different. Alexander is a bit brooding but he is 17. He has to make really tough decisions and always puts Raven first. There is a little mystery and a little danger but the story really is about having a relationship with someone you really connect with but can't really be with in the world's eyes (neither sets of parents have any problem with the relationship). It's also about growing up and discovering who you are.
I just finished the 6th book and in it Raven is challenged to discover what she wants to be when she grows up. It's an interesting plot because Raven always thought she would be a vampire when she grew up but it's not as easy or as likely as she had dreamed. Being a vampire won't necessarily pay the bills.
I look forward to the next book (and many books after). I really think this is one of the better vampire YA series out there - so much better than the ones that have gotten all the publicity. Ellen Schreiber has a wonderful way of getting to the heart of the matter and giving the characters depth.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Artemis Fowl by Eion Colfer

Every time I read one of the Artemis Fowl books, I am struck by how the world of books is really a game of chance. Eion Colfer's books are amazing and yet I think they get overshadowed by other series. This series is often recommended for those who enjoy Harry Potter and need something to read. I am glad to see the recommendation but I think it gets lost in the Harry Potter world. Artemis Fowl is nothing like Harry Potter except that they are both young english men who have dealings with a fantasy world.
Artemis Fowl is a young criminal mastermind who decides to reconstruct his family's fortune by capturing a leprecon. What he gets is not what he expects. For those who have not read a single book in the series I will not spoil the fun as I have just finished the 7th book. Artemis grows as a boy and doesn't really ever feel that he's not in control (even at 12 years of age). He's a smart boy who uses every resource he can get his hands on whether he should or not. I love the play on the technology and the fact that the fairy world is just as technologically advanced as the human world (okay - they are more advanced but that's just a technicality). There's a mix of magic and machine as Artemis goes from challenge to challenge. I appreciate that Artemis takes responsibility for his actions and never doubts himself or those around him. Even in this newest book, when Artemis succombs to the dreaded Atlantis Complex which slowly causes him to lose his mind - he doesn't lose himself the way other books lose their characters. He's not a whiny mopey teen, in fact his maturity is endearing.
Artemis Fowl is a "villian" but you can't help but relate to his life. He's not out to conquer the world - he just wants to put his world right. He makes choices based on what he thinks will have the best outcome for him but it's not as selfish as it seems.
I don't think Eion Colfer is sneering at his success but I wish his books would have the same draw as some of the other books have gotten. I look forward to seeing Artemis on the big screen someday.
On another note - Artemis Fowl is now in graphic novel form. I believe there are 3 but I have only read the first one. It's a good interpretation of the book but I still recommend the full novel - there is so much internal dialogue that you don't get a full picture of Artemis and his struggles.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Colorado Kid by Stephen King

Granted this is not a juvenile book but I can't help when requested books will come in from the library. This is a short, easy to understand book so it could easily be read by a juvenile. This book is not your typical Stephen King. I wanted to read it because I have fallen in love with Haven on the Syfy channel which is based on this book. I was a little nervous that it might ruin the show for me - like give me the answer to the mystery. The book was good maybe even great but I haven't really decided yet.
The book is a story told from two elderly newsreporters (at a very small newspaper in a small town)to their young intern. The story they tell is about a man who is found on the beach 25 years earlier. No one knows really how he died and he had no identification. They tell her how they discovered his identity and all the little mysteries they solved but in the end - there is only mystery no solution.
In someways, I really liked that it wasn't all neatly wrapped up in a bow - it allows me to come up with my own solutions. But then I really am not one who likes an unanswered mystery so I suppose it's a good thing I really like the TV show.
It's a well composed story so I definetly recommend it.

The Secret Science Project that Almost Ate the School by Judy Sierra

This book was another one of those picture book shockers. I don't know how these books get on the juvenile reading lists. You may have a child who finds this book to be too young but it was nonetheless funny. The little girl in the book does not want to do a science project for the fair and finds the perfect one in a mail order advertisement. What she gets is a slime monster that eats her family and follows her to school (where it eats her teacher and fellow classmates). It's a cute story that opens up a discussion about consequences for not doing your work.
Judy Sierra wrote the book in rhyme and it really helped the story flow. It was rhythmic and entertaining from page one to the end.

Graphic Novels

I understand that graphic novels have a bad reputation of being a cheap and lazy sort of book but I disagree. I read my first graphic novel in junior high. Our school librarian had the Elfquest collections (I am not positive they were called graphic novels in that day). These were books that basically housed several comic books that completed most of a story line. I loved them so much I bought several Elfquest comic books. Then the comic books went away - I am not certain they were no longer being made, I just could no longer get them. So with that, my interest in comic books went away.
While I was in college, the movie Schindler's list came out. There was a big display of like-minded books at the bookstore and one of them was Maus by Art Spiegelman. If you have not had a chance to read the two Maus books he wrote - find them. Art Speigelman uses the "comic" medium to tell the story of his father's experience as a Polish Jew during the time of WWII and a little beyond.
I can't say it threw me back into the world of the graphic novel but I did manage to find a novel sized edition of the Elfquest books. That book sat proudly with my Maus books on my bookshelf for my son to discover years later.
It was my son who actually pulled me into the world of the graphic novel and it didn't hurt that graphic novels were making a comeback. He loves series books such as Inu-Yasha and Pokemon (in fact last year he had the flu and was sick for a whole week, during that time all he read was graphic novels - we were begging the librarian for more and more because he was reading them so fast).
What I have found is that graphic novels are just a different approach to a story. You can still find the typical superhero novels but they are so much more than that. There are historical graphic novels (some fiction, some non), classics in graphic novels (from horror/mystery to children's classics), romance, adventure, and anything you can think of. So many popular books are being redone as graphic novels.
Graphic novels can be a great gateway into reading.
For younger readers I recommend:
Cirque De Freak by Darren Shan
Courtney Crumin by Ted Naifeh
The Good Neighbors by Holly Black
Vogelein by Jane Irwin
Marvel 1602 by Neil Gaimen
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
selections by Shannon Hale
Selections I haven't read yet for young readers:
Warriors by Erin Hunter
Alex Rider by Anthony Horowitz
Hardy Boys
Nancy Drew
For older readers:
Maus by Art Spiegleman
Watchmen (you really had to live during the 80's to understand this book)
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (the 2 novels she wrote were turned into a movie)
Anita Blake books by Laurell K Hamilton
Mercy Thompson by Patricia Briggs
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (I tried reading this book but it was awful. However it's really popular so I added it here)
One's I haven't read yet:
Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
Gunslinger by Stephen King
Circle trilogy by Ted Dekker
Odd Thomas books by Dean Koontz
As you can see there is a large library of graphic novels out there and more and more keep coming. These books we found at our local library. Because they are such quick reads I don't purchase many graphic novels. Those we have purchased my son has read over and over. Manga books (ones from Japan or in the style of) are often backwards to what is "normal" in America. They are a little tricky to read but still well worth it.
I even found a parenting book in Manga style and will talk all about it when I have read it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Leaping Beauty by Gregory Maguire

This is a cute collection of fairy tales that Gregory Maguire re-wrote for the animal kingdom. Many of the endings are familiar but not all end the way the traditional story ended.
The stories are short for short attention spans and filled with the humor that Gregory Maguire is famous for. The stories are rather silly and the characters are a mishmash of animals. For example - the story of Hansel and Gretal is now Hamster and Gerbil with their beaver father and skunk step-mother (who really is a nasty character).
The stories lose a lot of their morals typical in fairy tales but they are a good time for all.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Ghost of Fossil Glen by Cynthia DeFelice

I love reading a book and then discovering it has sequels. This is one of those books and unfortunately, the sequels were not on my list so I have to wait until the next library trip to get them.
The Ghost of Fossil Glen follows the story of Allie, an 11 year old girl with a very active imagination. However, what happens to her is not a figment of her imagination but a very real and very frightening experience. While playing in Fossil Glen, Allie starts hearing a voice - not voices just one. Then she comes home to find a journal giftwrapped with her name on the box. This is just the start of the mystery. Allie discovers a girl her age disappeared from Fossil Glen, a few years earlier. What happened to this girl and was her disappearance a crime?
Cynthia DeFelice pulls the reader into a ride that is sure to please. I love how she touches on important matters without making them the focus of the story - for example, how do you know who your real friends are? This is a question even adults ask. Allie says "When you start to see ghosts and hear voices - that's when you find out who your friends really are."
Another topic is about imagination. Personally, I have a great imagination and think it should be considered a great atribute. Sadly, not everyone feels this way. So when does imagination become lying and when is it not appropriate? I really think that we praise some people for their imagination and force it away from others - which is not really fair. This world can made for dreamers too!!!

Lives of Extraordinary Women by Kathleen Krull

This is the only non-fiction book on my list. I am not really one who reads non-fiction cover to cover. I really prefer getting all my non-fiction via Discovery Channel. This book, however, is a great exception.
Lives of Extraordinary Women covers the lives of 20 women who influenced history. Some are quite familiar such as Cleopatra and Joan of Arc but others are lesser known such as Wilma Mankiller and Jeannette Rankin. I was impressed by the cultural variety of the book as well as the realistic picture painted of these women. Some were not your fairy tale women who fought proudly - some were actually quite vile when it came to women's rights or the way they lived. I could really appreciate the work the author did. She even clarified some more fictional aspects of some of these women's lives.
I really appreciated how she wrapped up their lives in a few short pages - giving enough detail to understand the woman's significance without droning on. It gave me a taste to learn more which is always a good thing. I don't think this is the ultimate report writing book but enough to give a child a chance to find someone of significance. The book is somewhat in chronological order since some of these women were alive at the same time. Some were in politics, some were political activists and others were explorers. I can't imagine there isn't someone in the book that won't strike a cord with every reader.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall

This book was so good I devoured it and then got online to see if there would be more Penderwick books. There will be more but the next one is not coming out until 2011.
These books are going to be classics right up there with Little Women and Pippy Longstocking. The tales are timeless and touching. In this sequel, the girls are faced with their father dating, a crush from the boy across the street and a new neighbor. The chemistry amongst the characters is amazing and realistic. Makes me want to have four girls (or three sisters).
Another thing that is fun about these books is Jane, the third sister, is an avid reader and often brings in quotes from other books such as Magic by the Lake and The Little Princess.
Jeanne Birdsall's writing is smart. A little latin, a little classical reference but I never get the feeling she's writing above my head (as happens with some writers). I don't know the latin but I get it's meaning (and it's not dumbed down for the reader either). It's a great work of literature and the only regret I have is that I didn't read it sooner.... but then it would be a longer wait for the next book.

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall

Reading this book, I would have sworn it was written decades ago instead of a few years ago. It stems from a simpler time and is timeless. The story follows four sisters as they vacation in a cottage behind a mansion. The mansion houses a very cranky woman and her son who fits right in with the girls.
The story has such great themes from family honor to standing up for yourself but they are wrapped up in imagination and innocence. Each sister has her own personality and challenge but it doesn't distract the reader from the whole story of their summer vacation.
I am not sure how a boy would respond to this book but any girl out there can find themselves in this book. I can definetely see why this is a must read book and can't wait to start on the sequel.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Whales on Stilts by MT Anderson

Holding the book in my hand, I just wasn't sure it was for me. The cover seemed a little to science fiction for my taste and I struggled to get myself to open it. In laid a case of "don't judge a book by it's cover." Though the book seems science fictiony - the truth is it's rather funny. I chuckled several times. The premise is silly but then so are so many other stories that fall into this category.
Lily goes to work with her father one day to discover his boss is really a human whale hybrid and plans to take over the world with his army of whales on stilts. To help her save the day are her two best friends Katie and Jasper, both of them famous adventurers with their own series of fictional works. The story is simple - the good guys stop the bad guys and the laughter does not come from failed attempts or mistakes that they make but from quick wit and the author's little random bits. For example, Jasper's fan club is sponsored by a Ovaltine knockoff which appears here and there - similar to a 1950's tv show.
I think my favorite line is - Katie shrugged. "With fiends like these, who needs anemones?"
Another thing about this book is it's touching way it pulls in other topics. Such as a scene where Lily saves Katie and the authors of Katie's books come in and say that Lily can not be the hero because she's not pretty enough. Katie defends Lily and they talk about having your own story. Katie says "It's your story. You have to realize that it really is. It's only when people realize that the story can be about them that they can start to change things."
This book is like a Bugs Bunny cartoon - simple enough for the youngest reader but the adults will get more of the jokes. In this case, the jokes are very clean but may not be understood by readers who haven't been exposed to movies and tv from the 50's.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Fairy's Mistake by Gail Carson Levine

This book is part of a series titled The Princess Tales. Each book is a retelling of a fairy tale. This is a short, sweet book with an interesting twist. Rosella and her twin sister Myrtle are bespelled by a fairy. Each time they talk something comes out of their mouths - for Rosella it's jewels and for Myrtle it's creepy crawlies. What happens is an interesting journey for all three parties (the fairy included). All of the books in the series are just as interesting. I expect them to replace the fairytales of our youth.
With that said, I highly recommend Gail Carson Levine - her books are well written and entertaining. She has even written a book for teens on becoming writers themselves and that was an amazing book.

Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black

I finished the last book of both Spiderwick series'. I am a little sad to say goodbye. The books are wonderful and even the movie was great. The first series follows the story of Jared, Simon and Mallory as they discover a fantasy world just under the surface of our world. In the Beyond the Spiderwick, the trio is joined by Jules, Nick and Laurie (technically it's the other way around). The kids are forced to battle this other world to save ours but lightly sprinkled throughout this series is a touching story about what it means to be family and what it means to sacrifice. The kids learn so much and pull the reader along with them on a very bumpy ride. This book is simple enough for an early reader and is broken up with pictures to help keep the book from becoming too confusing. The writing is witty and appropriate. The book is action packed but not too scary for a young reader.

Lionel and the Book of Beasts by E Nesbit

E Nesbit's name comes up on a number of must read lists for children. I was a little shocked when the librarian handed me a colorful picture book instead of the novel like juvenile book I had imagined it would be. Nonetheless, the book was on the list and I read it. It was fun. Little Lionel wakes up one morning to find he has been made king - his great great great great great grandfather was the last king and since then the people of his kingdom have been saving up to buy him a real crown. Lionel's grandfather (many greats) had been a wizard and so had a magical library. In that library was the Book of Beasts and whatever page Lionel turned to released the Beast on the page. It was alright until he got to Dragon. Lionel was forced to save his kingdom from his mistake. It's a short happy book with large colorful pictures and well worth it's place on the must read books.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Never Trust a Dead Man - Vivian Vande Velde

This was such a cute book and so worth it's recommendation. Though it sounds like a horror story - it's not really. The book follows Selwyn who is falsly accused of murder and his punishment is to be buried in the tomb with the body. A witch rescues him and helps him solve the murder in exchange for years of service. Selwyn agrees and she brings back the dead boy in the body of a bat. I can not say hilarity ensues but what follows is a touching and entertaining story as Selwyn discovers people are not who they seem to be and there were plenty of secrets in his village. At under 200 pages it's not for the youngest reader but the language is simple (even if some of the names are not) and it's neatly broken into 22 chapters so a strong younger reader could really enjoy it. I would put the level at about 4th grade but the story would interest older readers as well.
Enjoy reading!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Are You Scared Yet? Haunted Houses

This is a new series by Robert D. San Souci. I picked it because it's a collection of scary short stories which is what my son likes best. However, the book sat there for a couple of weeks so I thought someone should read it. The book has 10 short scary stories all centered around houses - even though with some of the stories it's a stretch. They were all well written with a good combination of fright and relief so that even the youngest reader won't have nightmares. Not all of the stories have a happy ending though and that made for a good mix. The book is considered middle grade (4th-7th) but has a simple enough style that a younger reader could read the book. It's not a short book at nearly 300 pages but it is broken into 10 stories so no one tires. I am interested in seeing where the author is going to go with the series. I was not familiar with him but it seems he quite a selection of scary stories. I did attempt some reading outloud to my son and found it worked well except my son didn't come across as that interested but then we were in the doctor's office.
One thing I really appreciated about the book was the diversity of the characters. It seemed that the author managed to touch on all the "major" cultures. I was rather impressed that he didn't fall into casual stereotypes either. This could be a good classroom story book with some follow up on cultural ghost stories - The Tea House being a good crossover story since it touches on some asian folklore. All in all I consider this a good read and for those adults out there who disagree, remember it was written for children so get over it.

Juvenile and Young Adult Books

I love getting books from the juvenile and young adult book sections of the library. Some may think it's a little weird but when you think about some of the most popular books lately have come out of the young adult genre - Harry Potter and Eclipse. However they are not the only great books on the shelves. For the next month (in theory 3 weeks since that's how long the check-out is at our library), I plan on reading a large stack of Juvenile books and sharing here. I will then share them here. Some of the books I have selected have come from well known authors in book children and adult genres, some come highly recommended from various child must read lists and the rest I find on my own. Because I am starting with Juvenile I expect myself to read the books rather fast so there will be quite a variety popping up here. After that I will move to my Young Adult list of must reads and see where I go from there. I want to spend some time this fall reading some of the classics as well - such as Alice in Wonderland and Wizard of Oz. If any one has suggestions I am willing to try them.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Passage by Justin Cronin

I had seen Justin Cronin on GMA promoting this book. What interested me was a phone call from Stephen King as Mr. Cronin is being interviewed. Stephen King said that Justin Cronin had brought the vampire genre back to where it was meant to be. I had to read the book. It wasn't what I expected, however.
Justin Cronin's writing is lyrical and full of flavor. While the book did have vampires it's not the sort of story you'd expect. The vampires are not your every day Draculas but more Nosferatu - feral and bloodthirsty. I will not kid you - the book is long. I was amazed at it's length because it just didn't feel like a nearly 800 page book.
The story starts out with the Army working with a scientist who is trying to uncover a cure to death. What he discovers is a virus that turns people into vampires. The Army sees an opportunity to make new soldiers and supports the experiments. Unfortunately, the vampires escape and infect the world. The story becomes less about the vampires and more about surviving this new world that is haunted by vampires in the dark. The characters are forced to make a journey in search of salvation. I can't say it's a happy book or that everyone will appreciate the ending. But the journey with the characters is well worth it all.
The book is reminiscent of many Stephen King stories - The Stand, The Dark Tower and even a little Langoliers. It also has a taste of Michael Crichton with his government ruins the world feel. It's not a horror book in the sense that it's bloody and heartracing. You get swept into the book but it's tasteful - the characters are real and the story is not convoluted with sex and violence. It has a touch of passion but mostly a strong pull into the lives of those who are in the story.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Spirit Bound by Richelle Mead

Unfortunately this is another sequel but I highly recommend this series. The back of this particular book has a quote about this being an heir to the Twilight throne. This series is so much better than Twilight could ever be. The books follow Rosemarie Hathaway as she attends a secret school for Moroi (vampires) and dhampir (guardians). Rose is a dhampir and her best friend Lissa is a Moroi, but not just any Moroi - the last of a royal blood line. This book has some teenage romance but follows the girls as they struggle to survive in a changing world that is filled with dangerous vampires they call Strogoi.
This particular book is the 5th of the series and it is heartbreaking. Not to spoil too much but Rose is stuck trying to make her relationship with a Moroi work while trying to save Dimitri, her former and greatest love. It has a little teen drama but this is so much more serious than Bella and Edward's little on again, off again relationship. More importantly Rose is a strong character and is not afraid to take a few lives as she fights to find her place in this world.
The first book is Vampire Academy and I really strongly suggest giving it a try.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Keys to the Kingdom - Garth Nix

Unfortunately, this is a time of sequels - not the easiest books to share. The Keys to the Kingdom is a series of 7 young adult fantasy books that start with Mister Monday and end with Lord Sunday (as you can see the books are titled after the days of the week). Young Arthur is approached by a strange man one afternoon as he is having an asthma attack during a PE run. Arthur is going to die and so has been selected as the Rightful Heir to the Architect. In true fantasy form, Arthur is transported to another dimension and has to fight the ruler's of the seven days to give back control of "the House" to the will of the Architect. The book is full of mystery and suspense as this young boy (who's about 12) is forced to give up everything to save the world he loves.
The book is reminiscent of A Wrinkle in Time and The Neverending Story - giving a new breath to an old genre. Knowing how it ends only encourages me to share this series. I will say the ending is not what I expected and not as happy as I would have pictured but it reminded me of the stories of my childhood.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs

Silver Borne is the 5th book in the Mercy Thompson Series. I have to say I love this series. Mercy Thompson is the ultimate woman - she's an auto mechanic who can't see to stay clean and pretty. She doesn't wear heels and yet she seems to function in the dating world just fine. She's dating her neighbor who just happens to be the Alpha Wolf of the local Werewolf pack. Oh, did I mention she can turn into a coyote. For those who love fantasy books - this is a great one and definitely therapy for those into the Twilight saga. Mercy is all woman and yet she's strong and her men are not stalkers (well unless they are stalking her but she doesn't date those guys). She literally kicks butt. The trouble she gets into is action packed and filled with all sorts of fantasy. It also helps that this is set in Washington (Tri-cities in the better half of the state). I love seeing my home state referenced in books and this one is my favorite. Silver Borne may actually be my favorite so far but then it's the freshest in my mind. For those who have not read any of the books I won't go into any details that might spoil prior books (sorry about ruining the dating part but you know early on he's the one she's going to pick). There is something about Werewolves that are better than Vampires in the dating world - they are loyal, fierce, warm and may even fetch your slippers - what else do you need in a man.


I am an avid reader and love to share the books I read. Most people tire of hearing me talk about my latest book (I challenge myself to read 100 books every year so it's a lot of book talk). This year I have not been reading as much as I would normally and needed motivation to read again (okay - who really needs motivation to read a really good book). I will share the good and the bad of all that I read here. I hope you enjoy this as much as I will.