Jake Dobson is your typical nerd; works at the Near-Mint Rhino comic-book store in San Francisco. But when he finds a lost cell phone, he’s horrified to discover it’s full of snapshots of a murder victim. Suddenly he finds himself hunted by a vengeful hitman who wants his phone back… and Jake in a body bag! And then things start to get *really* complicated.
Description from Goodreads
Addison was the most promising artist of her generation. Her death, a fall from a bridge, is a crushing blow to everyone who knew her. The prologue explains that the author, Griffin, was intrigued by Addison and thus began interviewing a wide variety of friends, family, exes, teachers, family acquaintances, etc. to gain a better understanding of who Addison was and what led to her death. Did she slip and fall? Was it intentional on her behalf? Did someone want her dead? Accounts of Addison vary depending on who is being asked, though everyone seems to agree that she was a phenomenal artist with some serious mental health issues. The narrative of the book is entirely commentary from the people in Addison’s life and begins more or less at the beginning with Addison’s early elementary school years. Also included are examples of Addison’s artwork and photos of Addison throughout her life.
We may never really know what caused Addison’s fatal slip, but we do get a much better idea of who she was and what brought her up on that bridge. Addison comes across as the quintessential “manic-pixie-dream-girl”. Everyone seems to want to know her, but she’s frequently aloof. Her art is clearly the most important part of her life, so much so that people, even those she cares about, come in at a distant second. Those who don’t like her come across as jealous of her magnetism and talent. She was clearly not the easiest person to be friends with; being her friend involved a lot of work.
I’ve recently come to the conclusion that I don’t really get into books that have this many different narrators. It’s incredibly difficult for me to warm up to any of the peripheral characters as we only know them through their relation to Addison and not on their own terms. While I felt like I learned a lot about Addison, I never felt like I knew her as a person, which was likely the intent. This is, however, an interesting experiment in form. There were a lot of themes at play here: the cult of celebrity, the connection between mental illness and creative genius, the effects of being precocious in a city like New York… As a thought experiment, the novel works, but I didn’t really love it.
The mind-bending science fiction series FBP returns to the strange phenomena all over the world-and beyond.
Federal Bureau of Physics agents Rosa and Adam are invited to take part in an experiment that will test their limits and blur their concept of reality. And after a beautiful moment is shattered, Rosa and Adam get to see firsthand why Nakeet is known as the strangest town north of the 48.
Description from Goodreads
It began as a day much like any other. Tariq Johnson was walking home after a trip to the local market, something he had done dozens of times before. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a car pulls up. A white man gets out of the car and shoots Tariq. Tariq is dead by the time the EMTs arrive. The community, which is predominantly black, is thrown into an uproar. Violence is nothing new to the gang-ridden neighborhood, but this shooting is different. Tariq was only 16 years old and he was, by many accounts, unarmed. As the news picks up the story, it becomes apparent that this act of violence was about far more than just the two individuals involved. The incident quickly becomes national news and the lives of everyone connected with Tariq and his shooter are changed forever.
Tariq’s story is told from multiple perspectives, including his best friend, his family members, old friends, local gang members, the store clerk, the shooter’s friend who lives down the street, the girl who tried to give Tariq CPR…the list goes on. There’s even an Al Sharpton-type character in the mix. It becomes abundantly clear from early on that the narrative of the day’s events shifts significantly depending on who is doing the talking. The gang members want to believe that Tariq did have a gun and that he was planning on joining up with them, so his death signals an act of war to them. Tariq’s best friend wasn’t there, but can’t wrap his head around the idea of Tariq carrying a gun. The friend of the shooter swore up and down that he saw a gun in Tariq’s hand. Others are sure they didn’t see a gun; that Tariq had a Snickers bar in his hand instead. How It Went Down certainly feels timely and does much to emphasize patterns of racism, both conscious and subconscious. As with many other incidents like this (that were not captured on film), what actually happened is difficult to discern. Each narrator has a very specific point of view shaped by their perceptions not only of Tariq himself, but of the neighborhood and the stereotypes associated with young black men in living in poor areas like Tariq’s. Ultimately, there are only two people who have any real answers – the shooter and the shot- and neither one is talking. This is a great novel to teach the ways in which our preconceived notions can shape our interpretation of events, but it’s not the most literary of novels out there. It’s an important read, but only if the reader is willing and able to sort through a very large number of narrators only to find that there aren’t any “real” answers. In the end, I felt that it might have been better to develop fewer characters rather than confuse the issue further with so many individual points of view.
This charming little book is a three-way collaboration amongst artist Maira Kalman, writer Daniel Handler and the Museum of Modern Art. The theme is, obviously, “girls standing on lawns” and is illustrated by Handler’s poetic interludes, Kalman’s paintings and photographs of girls who are, quite literally, standing on lawns. Just about everyone who grew up in a household with a camera has one or more pictures of themselves in just such a setting. I know that I personally have many pictures of myself standing on a lawn (first days of school, school dances, etc.), as do my mother and her mother. These particular photos are all from a more distant past, largely the ’30s-’50s. Kalman’s paintings are her own take on some of the photos (the originals of which appear in the back of the book).
A very fast read, Girls Standing on Lawns is an interesting experiment in form. The short vignettes of text evoke a sense of potentiality for the girls in the photos. These girls are going somewhere, preparing for something – just as any of us would have been in our pictures. We don’t know who the girls are or where they’re from, but these snapshots into their lives reveal intriguing bits of personality and remind us of ourselves. Notes from the collaborators and credits for the artwork follow the main text.
In this post-apocalyptic wasteland, humanity has been stricken by a terrible and virulent virus. The remaining humans live in isolated pockets. When a group living in Manhattan loses contact with a group from Albany, a search and rescue party is sent out to see what the trouble is. Turns out that the the rest of the world is populated with fairies, trolls, and a wide variety of other “monsters” previously thought to belong solely to the realm of fiction. With humanity in decline, these creatures can now take back the land that they once ruled.
Considering all the one- and two-star ratings for this book, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn’t, you know, terrible. It wasn’t all that great either. I really wanted to like the comic that was billed as “Fables meets Walking Dead”. While that’s not entirely inaccurate, it also sets a pretty high bar that this comic ultimately can’t reach. The characters are hit or miss and the transitions between storylines are abrupt, even jarring. The artwork leaves a bit to be desired, but it’s not as bad as other reviewers on here make it out to be. All in all, it’s a clever premise with mediocre execution.
Althea and Oliver have been best friends ever since Althea moved in down the street from Oliver at the tender young age of six. Now in their senior year of high school, they are still inseparable, but complications are arising in their usually-easy friendship. Althea is starting to develop a romantic interest in Oliver. Oliver, while not adverse to the prospect of advancing his relationship with Althea, is busy dealing with a strange illness that causes him to fall asleep for weeks, even months, on end. Althea has been helping him through many of his episodes, but finds herself flailing in the meantime. She literally doesn’t know how to live her life without Oliver by her side. Oliver, on the other hand, is profoundly disturbed by the fact that he is missing vast chunks of his life. Even when he wakes up in the midst of a sleeping episode, he has no recollection of what has happened during his semi-conscious state. Right before one of Oliver’s episodes, he and Althea finally become physical. Then, of course, he loses consciousness and they are unable to even discuss what has just happened or what the next step will be. While Oliver is out, Althea does something that she knows she will regret, something that might ruin her relationship with Oliver forever. When Oliver eventually finds out, he is furious and attempts to cut Althea out of his life altogether. He decides to participate in a two-month sleep study in New York for those who have the same disease: Kleine Levin Syndrome, or KLS. When Althea figures out that Oliver has left town, she packs up her old Camry and heads off to New York to apologize and attempt to salvage her friendship.
Althea and Oliver’s story is completely unique. It’s easy to go into this book thinking that you know where it will end up, but this story never seems to go quite where you think it will. It’s not exactly a romance or a love story, but there’s a ton of heart. Althea isn’t always the most likeable of characters, but she’s absolutely relatable and her growth as a person is one of the highlights of this fantastic novel. Oliver’s development comes in fits and spurts, as could be expected for someone who literally loses months of his life at a time. The impact that Oliver’s illness has on Althea is almost as heartbreaking as its effect on Oliver, though I would hesitate to say that the novel is about Oliver’s KLS. In fact, it takes over half of the book to even get Oliver to the sleep study. In the meantime, Althea is learning to live her life on her own terms and not as Oliver’s counterpart. In New York, she makes friends of her own for the first time in her life and begins to realize that it might be possible for her to exist outside of Oliver’s shadow. Oliver begins to learn how to move forward in spite of an exceedingly uncertain future. Moracho takes some major risks with both of these characters, but they come out all the more realistic for it. Nothing is sugar-coated here. Althea and Oliver’s relationship is consuming, messy and complicated, much like real-life. Their story is simultaneously a train-wreck and a heartfelt bildungsroman. It’s not for every reader, but for the right readers, it’s utterly perfect.
Tana didn’t want to go to the party in the first place, especially since there was a really good chance of running into her ex, Aiden. When she wakes up in the tub the morning after the party, she’s more than a little embarrassed. Embarrassment, however, turns to horror as she walks out of the bathroom to discover that everyone who had been at the party with her is now dead; their blood soaking into the carpets. The only other survivors are the ex that she didn’t want to see in the first place and a trussed-up vampire. Realizing that what killed her friends is likely still around the house, she begins to panic. Fortunately for Aiden and Gavriel (the bound-up vampire), Tana can’t stomach the idea of leaving them to a similar violent fate and helps them escape from the house. The only place she can think of to go to is the nearby Coldtown, a quarantined area for vampires and those who are obsessed with vampires. It is obvious that Aiden has been bitten, so he’ll need to go to the Coldtown for sure. Tana gets scraped by a vampire’s tooth and might have gone “cold” (infected with whatever it is that causes vampirism) as well. The vampire Gavriel? Well, no one really seems to know where he came from, but it would appear that someone is out to kill him and he seems like a nice, albeit odd, fellow, so why not help him? The strange trio makes their way to Coldtown, but not without some difficulty along the way. Things in Coldtown aren’t likely to be any easier, but at least if Tana goes cold while she’s there, she won’t be worried about accidentally killing her father or little sister.
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a ton of fun and a smart spin on the vampire genre. This is a world where vampires are known to exist and Coldtowns have cropped up all over the place in an effort to contain them. Since vampires aren’t allowed to leave a Coldtown, they’ve turned them into a giant, nocturnal party scene. Live streams and vlogs keep the general public intrigued by showcasing the most decadent of their parties while the humans who have chosen to live in Coldtowns willingly offer up their blood to feed their vampire hosts. Tana’s journey is a bloody and dangerous one. She has no desire to become a vampire; honestly, she just wants her life to get back to normal. Or what passes for normal for a girl who is now motherless thanks to a rogue vampire. There’s a surprising amount of character development for a person in Tana’s position, which is another refreshing change of pace in this novel. Other characters are diverse and well-written. The story moves fast and it’s not even a series, so there’s really no reason not to spend a bit of time with this one. It doesn’t even matter if you’re still burnt out on the relatively recent glut of vampire novels; this one’s a winner.
Ganta is recruited into the Scar Chain, an antiestablishment group planning a mass prison escape. After a brief meeting with Shiro, he stands at a crossroads, but Nagi persuades him to take part in the escape. However, a traitor has already leaked the plan to the Undertakers, a unit specially formed to stamp out the rebels.
Ganta enters the Carnival Corpse, a battle between two Branch of Sin users. Ganta’s next opponent is a timid girl; can he even take her on? Meanwhile, deep in the bowels of the prison, the warden stands face to face with the Red Man. Who really murdered Ganta’s friends?
While on the hunt for the Red Man, Ganta is thrown into a battle exhibition called the Carnival of Corpses, in which he is matched up against the powerful Senji. The battle is intense, but even if Ganta wins, is he prepared for the consequences?
Mortal Heart concludes the amazing “His Fair Assassin” series. This time it’s Annith’s story. Annith was brought to the convent of Mortain (a pagan god of death) as a baby and has been living and training there ever since. She’s easily one of the most accomplished initiates, particularly in archery. Annith has been frustrated lately as her sisters Ismae and Sybella were sent out before her in spite of their minimal training. When a 15-year-old initiate is sent out instead of Annith, Annith begins to seriously question the abbess’s judgement. Then Annith finds out that the abbess intends to make her the next Seeress, a role that will necessarily sequester Annith in a closed room for the rest of her life, she is livid. The abbess gives her only one other option: if Annith won’t do as she’s bid, she will be forced to leave the convent for good. After a brief stint nursing the current Seeress back to health, Annith leaves the convent to track down the abbess, who is seeing to the duchess’s affairs. It’s time the abbess knew what Annith really thinks about the plans for making her Seeress. Of course, there will be more than a few surprises, revelations and adventures along the way. I’ve been loving this series from the moment I heard “assassin nuns”. Each one has centered on a different sister in the convent of St. Mortain and all three stories center around the court of Duchess Anne and their struggles to maintain Breton independence from the French. What is even cooler is that Anne was a real person and her fictional character dovetails nicely with her historical one. There are a few minor anachronisms/liberties taken with the course of historical events, but these are noted in an author’s note at the end of the book. Annith’s story was everything I had hoped it would be. She is every bit as strong, intelligent and skilled (even more so, really)as any of her predecessors, though her story is completely her own. It is, of course, fun and edifying to see Ismae and Sybella again, though through the eyes of someone else. Part of the joy of this series is how well-constructed and well-written it is. The books are long, but the pacing is swift. The voice of each character rings true and distinct. For fans of the previous two books, this is a no-brainer. For newcomers, well, they’ll be missing out on a couple of levels, but this book would even work as a stand-alone.
Mortal Gods is the second book in the Goddess Wars trilogy and, as such, picks up shortly after Antigoddess ends. At this point, the gods are not doing well. It turns out that forces more powerful than Hera and Poseidon are at work and continuing to drive the gods into their painful physical decline. Athena et al. may have won the first battle (barely), but the war is just beginning. Cassandra wants revenge on Aphrodite. Athena wants to find the other human weapon, Achilles, before Ares and Aphrodite do. What Athena and her crew don’t know yet is that Hera isn’t actually dead. In fact, she’s been healing ever since the battle. Which goes to show: never assume a mostly-immortal being is dead, even if it seems like they couldn’t possibly survive whatever befell them. Odds are good they’re still alive and plotting how they’re going to get you once they get their strength back. As the gods feel their bodies giving up on them, the reincarnated versions of Cassandra, Hercules, Odysseus and Achilles seem to be getting stronger and faster.
While I didn’t hate Mortal Gods, I didn’t really love it either. I do enjoy the characterization of the Greek gods, even though it’s really nothing new at the point. Blake’s versions feel much more true to their origins than other incarnations I’ve come across. There’s plenty of fighting and action, but now, easily a year after reading Antigoddess, I’m having trouble remembering what the whole war thing is about in the first place. I spent the first half of the book struggling to remember what happened in the first book and the second half waiting for something exciting to happen. There’s a lot of travel, speculation and training for fights throughout this installment, which is all fine and good, but I guess I felt like I needed more from this series. This is absolutely a “middle book” in the series; I doubt it would work as a stand-alone. Perhaps I’m just tired of series at this point, but it almost always feels like the second book in a series/trilogy/quartet/etc. winds up being somewhat disappointing. Time will tell if I decide to pick up the final book in this series.
>Through the Woodsb kicks off with an introduction that evokes the age-old fear of the dark and things that go bump in the night, which effectively sets the tone for the rest of this illustrated collection. They’re a gorgeously illustrated set of short stories with a distinctly disturbing vibe. Many of them feel like they could be fairy tales, but there are assuredly no happily-ever-afters here. From spiritualism gone wrong to fratricide, the themes of the stories are dark and uncomfortable though the tales are never gory. It’s an ideal collection for dark and stormy night and it’s short enough to actually be read in one sitting (just be sure to leave the light on).
Blackwell, SD is not your average small town. For one, it’s populated almost entirely by descendents of the Norse gods Thor and Loki. Matt Thorsen and his classmates Laurie and Fen Brekke are no exception. As far as Matt is concerned, the Norse myths are really cool, but they’re just stories. No one really believes them, right? Except that Matt’s grandfather does and apparently, so do many of the other town’s elders. When Matt dreams of Ragnarok (the end of the world, according to Norse mythology), he begins to realize that there might actually be some truth to these stories. Then, at a town meeting, everyone is informed that Ragnarok is real and that all the signs have been pointing to it happening soon. Descendents of the gods will be acting as their stand-ins as the battle commences. Unfortunately for Matt, he has been named champion. Now he needs to gather the rest of the godly descendents, starting with Laurie and Fen, distant descendents of Loki. Did I mention that Loki and Thor were enemies at Ragnarok? Yup, things are going to get really interesting for Matt.
Loki’s Wolves is a fun middle grade series opener in the vein of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. Parallels abound: a trio of magical kids (two boys and a girl, no less), one of whom is made leader by circumstance (technically against his will) and everything will be devastated if they don’t complete their quest. This is not to say that it’s derivative or anything like that, but it will certainly appeal to readers of both series. I personally had some trouble with the writing and a few plot points, but my middle grade readers loved the book through and through, so I suppose my issues are mere trifles. Overall, an entertaining and fast-paced read.
A teen, Ganta Igarashi, finds himself the lone survivor of the mass slaughter of his middle-school classmates. He alone saw the “red man” that laid waste to his peers. Needless to say, he is utterly shocked when he is accused and then convicted of the crime of killing all of his classmates. In this version of the future, Tokyo was previously destroyed by a giant earthquake, leaving the country devastated both functionally and economically. Somehow this lead to the construction of the first-ever, for-profit prison, Deadman Wonderland. There, prisoners are forced to run deadly gauntlets and engage in fights to the death (or debilitation) with their fellow inmates, all for the entertainment of the masses. In essence, Deadman Wonderland is not just a prison, it’s a demented amusement park where the prisoners are the main attraction. Prisoners have no choice but to participate or they’ll be poisoned by the suicide collars around their necks. Only by earning enough CPs (company points)can the antidote be obtained. Ganta quickly finds himself fighting for his life.
This is a truly bizarre and violent manga series, but it’s equally engrossing. Sure, the setting requires some suspension of disbelief, but it never fails to simultaneously entertain and horrify. It gets bonus points for introducing the concept of Foucault’s panopticon to manga readers. Definitely one of the more original manga series I’ve come across in recent memory.
Before being taken from her home by the town’s resident war hero, Judith had a promising life. She had decent, respectable home life and the love of her life showed signs of reciprocating those feelings. Now, she is the town pariah. She was able to eventually return to her community after being held captive for a couple of years. No one knows what exactly happened to her and she can’t tell them either – her tongue was cut out by her captor. Another girl was taken as well, but she came back dead. The townsfolk assume all kinds of things about Judith – that she was raped or otherwise defiled and that her lack of speech equated to a lack of intelligence. Complicating matters is the fact that the man who kept her in his rustic and remote cabin is the father of the boy Judith loves, long presumed dead after his disappearance. Judith’s own father died during the long search for his missing daughter and her mother’s heart has hardened after both ordeals. Judith is considered bad luck; few will even make eye contact, let alone speak to her. When word comes that the Homelanders are mounting an attack, however, Judith takes matters into her own hands. The town is saved, but not without exposing some deadly secrets.
Julie Berry has written a genuinely unique variation on the traditional historical novel. The time and place are both unspecified, though the signs all point to Puritan New England. The narrative is decidedly different, being broken up into brief vignettes, all addressing the boy she loves. As her story continues and her world broadens, so too does the narrative. The reader will not know exactly what happened to her up in that cabin and is thus left to draw their own conclusions, much like the townspeople who presume the worst. Bit by bit, however, past and present are revealed and intertwined to expose some of the hard truths surrounding this small community. I personally found this novel to be dark but refreshing for its quirky structure and setting. My teen readers (we read this for our high school book group) were of dramatically varying opinions. Some despised the structure and narration while others enjoyed reading something that challenged them a bit. Either way, we definitely had an interesting discussion.
Three interwoven, spine-tingling historical thrillers from the New York Times bestselling author of Incarceron.
Suspense, mysticism, and history encircle three separate but related narratives in this fantasy novel. Today, Sulis, a teenage girl with a mysterious past, arrives in Bath with a new identity, trailed by the person she’s trying to outrun. In 1740, Zac is apprenticed to an architect obsessed with Druidic mysteries, but has his own secret—and destructive—agenda. In ancient England, a druid king discovers the healing waters of a magical spring, where he founds a great city, and the heart of Fisher’s story. Through each voice, the mysteries are revealed, linking Sulis, Zac, and the king through the circles of time.