07. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Courtney, Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novel

Locke & Key, Vol. 6: Alpha & Omega by Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodríguez (Artist), read by Courtney, on 05/26/2014

The shadows have never been darker and the end has never been closer. Turn the key and open the last door; it’s time to say goodbye.

The final arc of New York Times bestselling Locke & Key comes to a thundrous and compelling conclusion.

An event not to be missed!

Collects Omega #1-5 and Alpha #1-2.

07. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Fiction, Mystery, Teen Books

Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, read by Courtney, on 05/26/2014

“We all have a secret buried under lock and key in the attic of our soul. This is mine.”

In May 1980, fifteen-year-old Oscar Drai suddenly vanishes from his barding school in Barcelona. For seven days and seven nights no one knows his whereabouts…

His story begins in an old quarter of the city, where he meets the strange Marina and her father, Germán Blau, a portrait painter. Marina takes Oscar to a cemetery to watch a macabre ritual that occurs on the last Sunday of each month. At exactly ten o’clock in the morning, a coach pulled by black horses appears. From it descends a woman, her face shrouded be a black velvet cloak. Holding a single rose, she walks to a gravestone that bears no name, only a mysterious emblem of a black butterfly with open wings.

When Oscar and Marina decide to follow her, they begin a journey that transports them to a forgotten, postwar Barcelona–a world of aristocrats and actresses, inventors and tycoons–and reveals a dark secret that lies waiting in the mysterious labyrinth beneath the city streets.

07. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Courtney, Fiction, Graphic Novel

The Tale of Brin and Bent and Minno Marylebone by Ravi Thornton, Andy Hixon (Visual Art), read by Courtney, on 05/20/2014

Brin and Bent are poolkeepers at The House for the Grossly Infirm. Their days are spent abusing the House residents with bleach and chlorine, spying on them through holes they have drilled in the walls. They do not know that someone else comes to the pool at night: Minno Marylebone, a child like no other.

Pure and beautiful, every night the child enters the water and becomes celestial, laughing and riding the currents as the pool turns into a sea. Then one night Brin and Bent find the wax that has spilled from Minno’s candle and decide to lie in wait…

With this dark yet achingly beautiful tale, Ravi Thornton takes the graphic novel to a new level. The combination of her deft and masterful writing with the stunning artwork of Andy Hixon creates a wondrous and dark experience.

07. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Mystery, Teen Books

She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick, read by Courtney, on 05/20/2014

Laureth Peak’s father has taught her to look for recurring events, patterns, and numbers–a skill at which she’s remarkably talented. Her secret: She is blind. But when her father goes missing, Laureth and her 7-year-old brother Benjamin are thrust into a mystery that takes them to New York City where surviving will take all her skill at spotting the amazing, shocking, and sometimes dangerous connections in a world full of darkness. She Is Not Invisible is an intricate puzzle of a novel that sheds a light on the delicate ties that bind people to each other.

07. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Courtney, Fiction, Graphic Novel

Lost at Sea by Bryan Lee O'Malley, read by Courtney, on 05/18/2014

Raleigh doesn’t have a soul. A cat stole it – at least that’s what she tells people – at least that’s what she would tell people if she told people anything. But that would mean talking to people, and the mere thought of social interaction is terrifying. How did such a shy teenage girl end up in a car with three of her hooligan classmates on a cross-country road trip? Being forced to interact with kids her own age is a new and alarming proposition for Raleigh, but maybe it’s just what she needs – or maybe it can help her find what she needs – or maybe it can help her to realize that what she needs has been with her all along. This special hardcover edition of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s classic coming-of-age graphic novel includes previously uncollected shorts and extra bonus material.

07. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Mystery, Teen Books, Thriller/Suspense

Dear Killer by Katherine Ewell, read by Courtney, on 05/18/2014

Rule One—Nothing is right, nothing is wrong.
Rule Two—Be careful.
Rule Three—Fight using your legs whenever possible, because they’re the strongest part of your body. Your arms are the weakest.
Rule Four—Hit to kill. The first blow should be the last, if at all possible.
Rule Five—The letters are the law.

Kit takes her role as London’s notorious “Perfect Killer” seriously. The letters and cash that come to her via a secret mailbox are not a game; choosing who to kill is not an impulse decision. Every letter she receives begins with “Dear Killer,” and every time Kit murders, she leaves a letter with the dead body. Her moral nihilism and thus her murders are a way of life—the only way of life she has ever known.

But when a letter appears in the mailbox that will have the power to topple Kit’s convictions as perfectly as she commits her murders, she must make a decision: follow the only rules she has ever known, or challenge Rule One, and go from there.

Katherine Ewell’s Dear Killer is a sinister psychological thriller that explores the thin line between good and evil, and the messiness of that inevitable moment when life contradicts everything you believe.

07. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Courtney, Fiction, Graphic Novel

Signal to Noise by Neil Gaiman, Dave McKean (Illustrator), read by Courtney, on 05/13/2014

Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean present their masterpiece in a completely remastered and redesigned edition overflowing with bonus material!

Somewhere in London, a film director is dying of cancer. His life’s crowning achievement, his greatest film, would have told the story of a European village as the last hour of 999 A.D. approached – the midnight that the villagers were convinced would bring with it Armageddon. Now that story will never be told. But he’s still working it out in his head, making a film that no one will ever see. No one but us.

Serialized in The Face in 1989, expanded and revised into a graphic novel in 1992, and adapted for radio in 2000, Signal to Noise has never stopped evolving. The bonus material in this first-time hardcover edition captures every leg of the journey, including three related short stories unseen in nearly two decades, an additional chapter created for the CD release of the radio drama, and a new introduction by Dave McKean along with the original by Jonathan Carrol and the radio drama introduction by Neil Gaiman.

07. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Fiction, Romance, Teen Books

Poison by Bridget Zinn, read by Courtney, on 05/12/2014

Sixteen-year-old Kyra, a highly-skilled potions master, is the only one who knows her kingdom is on the verge of destruction—which means she’s the only one who can save it. Faced with no other choice, Kyra decides to do what she does best: poison the kingdom’s future ruler, who also happens to be her former best friend.

But, for the first time ever, her poisoned dart . . . misses.

Now a fugitive instead of a hero, Kyra is caught in a game of hide-and-seek with the king’s army and her potioner ex-boyfriend, Hal. At least she’s not alone. She’s armed with her vital potions, a too-cute pig, and Fred, the charming adventurer she can’t stop thinking about. Kyra is determined to get herself a second chance (at murder), but will she be able to find and defeat the princess before Hal and the army find her?

Kyra is not your typical murderer, and she’s certainly no damsel-in-distress—she’s the lovable and quick-witted hero of this romantic novel that has all the right ingredients to make teen girls swoon.

07. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen Books

The Klaatu Terminus by Pete Hautman, read by Courtney, on 05/10/2014

In a far distant future, Tucker Feye and the inscrutable Lia find themselves atop a crumbling pyramid in an abandoned city. In present-day Hopewell, Tucker’s uncle Kosh faces armed resistance and painful memories as he attempts to help a terrorized woman named Emma, who is being held captive by a violent man. And on a train platform in 1997, a seventeen-year-old Kosh is given an instruction that will change his life, and the lives of others, forever. Tucker, Lia, and Kosh must evade the pursuit of maggot-like Timesweeps, battle Master Gheen’s cult of Lambs, all while they puzzle out the enigmatic Boggsians as they search for one another and the secrets of the diskos. Who built them? Who is destroying them? Where — and when — will it all end?

07. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction, Romance, Teen Books

Splintered by A.G. Howard, read by Courtney, on 05/05/2014

Alyssa Gardner has spent her entire life trying to separate herself from the legacy of her grandmother, Alice Lidell (i.e. the Alice of “Alice in Wonderland” fame). It’s bad enough that Alyssa hears the voices of insects and the occasional plant, she doesn’t need to be reminded that crazy runs in the family. Each generation of women in Alyssa’s family begins to go mad shortly after coming of age. Alyssa has been dreading what seems to be the inevitable. After a visit to her mother in the mental hospital, Alyssa becomes convinced that madness might not be at the root of all this. She instead finds herself stepping through the proverbial looking glass and stumbling into Wonderland. She accidentally drags her best friend/crush, Jeb, through with her. Once in Wonderland, she has to perform a series of tasks in order to break the curse that has been wreaking havoc in her family for decades. Unfortunately, it’s very seldom that anyone in Wonderland will tell her the whole truth about anything and there’s this gorgeous Morpheus character making things more confusing…Can Alyssa break the curse and free the remaining female members of her family? 

I liked this re-imagining well enough. Many of the updates from the original were rather inspired. The plot tends to get bogged down in endless details and the sexual tension, while entertaining at first, wears thin quickly. I really wanted to see Alyssa strike out on her own, but it didn’t really pan out like that. Slightly formulaic and a bit on the angsty side, Splintered is more a book for the die-hard paranormal romance fans looking to branch out from the high school setting.

07. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Apocalyptic, Courtney, Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Teen Books

Attack on Titan, Volume 01 by Hajime Isayama , read by Courtney, on 05/01/2014

I picked up this series because my teens are massive fans and our anime club has watched several episodes. The premise is interesting enough: a race of massive humanoid creatures known as Titans have destroyed enough of humanity that the entire remaining population lives within the concentric walls of a single city. One hundred years goes by without any attacks and humanity has developed a false sense of security. Eren Yeager joins the guardians of the wall and dreams of a life outside. Then the Titans return. Destruction and bloodshed ensue.

I didn’t really get into the manga and a lot of that might have been due to the translation. Unless the writing wasn’t very good to begin with. Sometimes it’s hard to tell. I kept stumbling across lines like “Your father, Dr. Yeager, said…” and unless there’s something seriously wrong with Eren, I’m guessing he knows that Dr. Yeager is his father. I might have forgiven it once, but it happened multiple times alongside other examples of clumsy translation. I’ll leave this one to my teens. 

30. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Courtney, Fantasy, Graphic Novel

Lucifer, Vol. 2 by Mike Carey, read by Courtney, on 04/27/2014

Book Two of the Lucifer series begins with Lucifer creating an entire universe outside of our own, complete with his own Adam and Eve. Universe building is cool and all, but there are parties in our universe that seek control over the new one. Mazikeen raises an army, which actually comes in handy. The Angel Michael’s daughter has a score to settle. Another angel takes out a contract on Lucifer.
A lot happens in this volume, but various story lines from the first book are starting to come together.

30. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Courtney, Dystopia, Graphic Novel, Science Fiction

Transmetropolitan, Vol. 2: Lust for Life by Warren Ellis, read by Courtney, on 04/26/2014

Volume two kicks off with Spider’s partner, Channon, moping over her boyfriend’s decision to download his consciousness into a sentient gaseous cloud. And it just gets weirder from there. Spider has some catching up to do after his self-imposed exile. He takes an extended tour of reservations, where ancient cultures are preserved (for better or worse). Volume two ends with Spider on the run from a variety of parties who want to see him come to harm (including a talking police dog with a serious bone to settle) and who somehow believe that he would actually care that they’re holding the cryogenically-frozen head of his ex-wife for ransom. They clearly don’t know Spider Jerusalem very well at all.
Darkly funny and full of surprises, volume two of Transmetropolitan doesn’t disappoint.

30. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Dystopia, Historical Fiction, Paranormal, Teen Books

Sekret by Lindsay Smith, read by Courtney, on 04/25/2014

Yulia’s parents used to be nomenklatura, members of the Soviet elite. Now, Yulia lives with her mother and brother, her father’s whereabouts unknown. They’ve been on the run, eluding the KGB, for several years. Then, on a day much like any other, Yulia uses her ability to read minds in order to get desperately needed supplies on the black market. Yulia senses something wrong and, before she can do anything about it, she is taken into custody by KGB operatives. It turns out that they had been specifically tracking Yulia for some time and not because of her parent’s former transgressions, but rather due to her psychic abilities. Yulia is forced to join a top-secret group of operatives with powers similar to hers. There, Yulia learns to block her own thoughts from being read and how to hone her own skills for the purposes of espionage. Yulia knows they have her mother and brother and she has been promised time with them as a reward for her cooperation. As if that weren’t incentive enough, the man in charge of their group, Rostov, is known as a “scrubber” and is able to “scrub” the thoughts right out of someone’s brain, only to be replaced with thoughts of his choosing. Yulia and her comrades manage to expose a traitor with connections to the CIA, only to discover that the traitor has had memories erased by another scrubber. This other scrubber appears to have even more power than Rostov. He’s also looking for Yulia. If this scrubber, who works for the enemy, is more powerful than the USSR’s scrubber, then Yulia’s not safe anywhere.
I found Secret to be both unique and fascinating. I’ve read quite a few books involving mind reading and other psychic powers, but this is by far the most realistic use of such powers that I’ve come across. The Soviet backdrop (a real dystopia!) is detailed and well-researched. Much of the plot centers around real events from the Cold War era (the space race, Cuban Missile Crisis). Further, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that the KGB was doing research on physic abilities during this era(mainly in response to the CIA’s MK-ULTRA program), which makes this a fantastic merging of the paranormal and the historical. A cliff-hanger ending sets this up for a sequel.

30. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Teen Books

Audacious by Gabrielle Prendergast, read by Courtney, on 04/20/2014

Raphaelle and her family have just moved to a new home, which means a new school as well. This time around, Raphaelle decides she isn’t going to be the trouble maker she was at all of her previous schools. This time around, she is going to be Ella and she is going to be as normal as can be. She’s avoiding the Catholic schools this time around though her perfect and popular younger sister is content to stick with the parochial trend. Her father is now teaching at a University, which keeps him busy. Her mother, who had to give up her job for the move, struggles to find a part-time job to keep her mind occupied. As it turns out, Raphaelle/Ella doesn’t find things much easier in a public school setting, but she does enjoy her art classes. It is during these classes that she meets a boy, Samir and starts falling for him. Samir falls for her as well, but matters are complicated by Samir’s family being strict Muslims, who are none too fond of the idea of their son dating a Catholic (or lapsed-Catholic) girl. Raphaelle gets fed up with the limitations of the labels people are given and creates an extremely provocative work of art for the school art show. This particular piece of art is shocking enough to have a part of it taken down. Raphaelle gets suspended and her teacher may be fired. Things are so bad, Raphaelle has to get lawyer. And then they get worse.
While the main focus point of this story is the censorship issue, it’s bolstered by a host of other issues. Raphaelle’s mother and sister each have their own serious issues, all of which go almost completely ignored by their father. Her relationship, already complicated by religious issues, is strained over and over again by a variety of circumstances and invokes themes of faith, prejudice, and intersectionality. Other characters, like artsy jock David, the art teacher’s disabled daughter, and others complicate and round out an already interesting story. It’s a novel in verse, so it moves extremely fast. Most readers will finish this one in an afternoon. The sequel, Capricious, is out now.

30. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Graphic Book, Memoirs

Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me by Ellen Forney, read by Courtney, on 04/19/2014

Art and madness. Do the two always have to go hand in hand? Is there a reason so many artists/writers/creative types struggle with mental illness? If they had been alive today, in the age of modern medicine and therapy, would they still have been able to create their masterpieces? Ellen Forney finds herself having to deal with this very issue as she, a long-time comic artist, is diagnosed as bi-polar. Forney doesn’t just tell her story; she does her research as well. Forney tells readers about the illness itself, the medications, side effects and so-called “mad” geniuses. Early on in her treatment, she worries about the medication taking away or diminishing her creativity. By the end, she has found a middle ground. Things aren’t perfect and never will be, but readers can tell that Ellen is going to wind up OK.
Marbles is a fantastic graphic memoir. Forney, who is an Eisner-Award winning cartoonist (and the artist for Sherman Alexie’s Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian) does an excellent job of demystifying this potentially devastating mood disorder by putting forth her story in a clear and concise narrative. It is abundantly clear that much of her progress is due to a talented doctor/therapist and a large support network of friends. Even so, it still took years to find balance and which serves as a good reminder to readers that these issues will not go away overnight or on their own. At times humorous, but always honest, this memoir is an excellent example of what the comic medium is capable of.

30. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Teen Books

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige, read by Courtney, on 04/18/2014

Poor Amy Gumm. She lives with her mom in a dusty old trailer park somewhere in rural Kansas. Her mom, when not too depressed to leave the house, is always out drinking. At school, things aren’t much better. Amy’s pregnant arch-enemy, Madison, likes to start fights and blame “Salvation Amy” for them. On the day that Amy is sent home from school for fighting with Madison, a storm is brewing. The storm turns into a tornado and whisks Amy, her trailer and her mother’s pet rat, Star, off to another world – Oz, to be specific. The first thing Amy notices when she crash-lands is that Oz looks nothing like it’s supposed to. As Amy begins to meet the inhabitants of Oz, she quickly finds out that her more famous Kansas predecessor, Dorothy, is the ruler of Oz. Her loyal companions are still loyal, but corrupted by greed and power. Dorothy has become something of a dictator dressed in gingham. The use of magic has been forbidden by all save Dorothy and her counterparts. The rest of Oz is suffering dearly. Amy is quickly apprehended by and then saved from Dorothy by a Wicked witch, Mombi, who represents the resistance. Amy has no choice but to join the resistance and they have only one main goal: to kill Dorothy.
This is a fun take on the Wizard of Oz story. Amy makes a good foil to Dorothy’s false cheeriness. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen Dorothy portrayed as a bad guy (the Fables comic series by Bill Willingham comes to mind), but she and her Oz counterparts are genuinely evil. I’m still a bit unclear as to how she made such a complete 180 from her original goody-two-shoes persona. Ostensibly, it’s the possession of magic that’s made her turn so evil, but for all I know, there might be more exposition coming in the subsequent novels. Either way, Dorothy and her entire gang make for some really creepy baddies. There’s plenty of action from beginning to end, but the pacing lags through the second half of the book. Some murky potentially-romantic entanglements drag the plot down further. It’s not nearly as much fun (nor as rooted in the original story) as Gregory Maguire’s work, but it will certainly still find a readership among readers who enjoy both a spunky female protagonist and retellings of classic stories.

30. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Teen Books · Tags:

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton, read by Courtney, on 04/13/2014

When Ava Lavender was born, there were those who thought her to be an angel. Doctors were baffled; there’s simply no explanation for a girl to be born with wings. Ava’s mother, however, is used to strangeness in her life. To keep Ava and her twin brother, Henry, out of the public eye, Viviane, their mother, sequesters them in their house on Pinnacle Lane. As Ava begins to grow into a woman, she begins to stray from the house, seeking the company of other teenagers and possible explanations for her strangeness.
Ava’s story doesn’t really begin with her at all. It begins several generations earlier, in a small French town where Ava’s great-grandfather makes a decision to move his family to New York. This family includes Ava’s grandmother, Emilienne and her three siblings. All of the children are strange in their own way and each, save Emilienne, dies after falling in love with the wrong people. Emilienne decides to bury her heart and marries a baker. They move across the country to Seattle and into the house on Pinnacle Hill. It is here that Ava’s mother, Viviane, is born. It is only a matter of time before love plays its cruel tricks on her as well.
This book is absolutely gorgeous. Magic realism is rare in YA lit and this is magic realism at its finest (for any age group). To even attempt to create a synopsis of the story is to leave out so much of the myriad elements that make this book so wonderful. The language is evocative. The characters are memorable. The story is haunting. Love and its aftermath are central themes in Ava Lavender’s story, but there’s so much more to it than that. This is a novel that demands to be reread. As painful as it is at times, I will still unhesitatingly welcome the strange and beautiful world that Ava inhabits.
(nb: if this doesn’t wind up on either the Printz and/or Morris Award/Honor lists, I will cry. Or just lose my faith in ALA awards committees altogether.)

30. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Courtney, Graphic Novel, Science Fiction

Transmetropolitan Vol. 1: Back on the Street by Warren Ellis, read by Courtney, on 04/13/2014

Journalist Spider Jerusalem has been off the grid for years. He’s got everything he needs to avoid humanity. Everything except for a completed contract, the remainder of which is now being called in by Jerusalem’s editor. Spider reluctantly moves back to the city, a futuristic hellscape of depravity and corruption. In other words, Spider’s back in his element.
I’ve read this volume before, but it was so long ago that I decided to reread it now that the library has the whole series. Transmetropolitan is hilarious, filthy, sacrilegious and all-around entertaining. Spider is a bit of a Hunter S. Thompson for the future, drugs, smokes and all. A great choice for cynics everywhere.

30. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Historical Fiction, Teen Books

The Freedom Maze by Delia Sherman, read by Courtney, on 04/08/2014

The year is 1960 and 13-year-old Sophie is being forced to live with her Aunt and Grandmother in rural Louisiana for the summer. Sophie, who usually lives in New Orleans with her single mother, is not happy even though it means she won’t have to worry about her mother’s criticism all summer long. Sophie’s aunt lives on what is left of the Fairchild family’s once-grand sugar cane plantation. There’s not much to do on the plantation, so Sophie spends her time outdoors exploring. On one of her excursions, she encounters a strange creature that grants her wish for adventure, family and friends. Sophie subsequently finds herself transported back in time to 1860. The plantation in 1860 is vastly different from the dusty, sleepy farm that Sophie had previously explored. This is the plantation’s hay-day; all the structures are new and solid, the atmosphere thrums with life. The Fairchilds have nearly 200 slaves working their crops and, when Sophie makes her first appearance, she is mistaken for a light-skinned slave. Realizing that attempting to tell her slave-owning ancestors that she’s traveled from the future would probably not make her transition any easier, Sophie begins to assume the identity of a slave.
Sophie’s journey is particularly fascinating because she originates from a pre-Civil-Rights-Movement South. Racism is still a part of everyday life even if slavery is a thing of the past. Sophie not only has to learn to fit in where she is uncomfortable, she experiences the bigotry first-hand. Sophie quickly discovers that the past is far more complicated than she had ever dreamed.
This book could have been a rip-off of other “modern-girl-travels-to-her-ancestors-past” books like Jane Yolen’s The Devil’s Arithmetic or Octavia Butler’s Kindred, but it most certainly is not. For one, Sophie is white, which takes her even farther out of her comfort zone. For another, Sherman weaves in themes from African mythology to paint a sophisticated portrait of a subjugated people. Linguistically, Sherman’s approach feels very authentic and she never shies away from the discomfiting details that flesh out daily life on the plantation. Sherman does, however, keep things appropriate for a younger audience by writing around some of the more violent aspects of antebellum life. It is still a sophisticated novel and will require a measure of dedication from readers, particularly younger ones. This book won’t have broad appeal, but it’s definitely worth a read.