When Jamie Henry’s sister, “Crazy Cate” Henry went to jail a couple of years ago, everyone was happy. Cate had been notorious on a number of levels. Guys loved her, girls hated her, parents were uncomfortable around her. The final straw was a horrific fire at the barn where many of the town’s wealthy stabled their horses. The fire destroyed the barn, killed horses and left a girl in the ICU. Cate plead guilty and went to jail. Jamie and his adoptive parents were left to rebuild their family in the aftermath of the terrible crime. Now, however, Cate is out of jail and everything that Jamie has worked for, namely, a sense of normalcy in the face of a town that holds him almost as responsible as his sister for the crimes committed, is about to go out the window. Jamie’s had a tough time dealing with his sister’s absence, even if it does make life easier for the rest of the community. Jamie suffers from a condition that sounds an awful lot like a form of anxiety/panic and causes his hands and arms to lose all sensation. He even has special accommodations in place to get through a school day without the use of his arms. It had gotten better while Cate was in jail, but now that she’s out, the symptoms are back. Worse yet, Cate is calling Jamie and implying that she’s coming for him. Jamie is panicking – what does she want with him? Complicit is a short novel that packs quite a punch. Readers only have a small inkling of the circumstances surrounding Cate’s crime and the sibling’s past. Both Cate and Jamie are adopted and troubled, since their mother was killed before their eyes when they were young. They both see/have seen the same psychiatrist who has attempted to help both of them deal with their respective problems. As the novel unfolds, the reader gains insight into not only their past, but their relationship as well. The more we learn about Cate, the more we suspect that there’s more to her than meets the eye. Other mysteries pop up that apparently discredit the current interpretation of events. Then there’s the twist, and oh, what a twist. I had some suspicions regarding how things might play out, but I was still surprised by the end. This is an intense psychological thriller that doesn’t really feel like a thriller, which makes things all the more shocking in the end.
For all your physics-related emergencies, there’s only one entity to call: the FBP. Whether it’s just a localized loss of gravity or a full-blown bubble universe threatening to consume an entire city block, the FBP is there. Or they were until a mission goes horribly wrong and the political forces pushing for privatization get the perfect opportunity to discredit the FBP. Now, there are only a handful of dedicated agents left and the private industry is taking over. Adam Hardy has been dutifully serving FBP for years, but when he and his partner get caught up in a collapsing “bubbleverse”, Adam begins to realize that a conspiracy is at play and has been for years. Adam’s father died in a similar situation and the dots are now starting to connect for Adam.
This new comic series has a fantastic premise that is, by and large, well executed. The artwork is lovely and has a very organic feel to it, in spite of its somewhat unusual color palette. I didn’t really feel like I got to know Adam as a character very well, but there’s plenty of time for his character to develop. Adam’s new partner, Rosa, is a welcome addition to the otherwise predominantly male cast. FBP also gets bonus points for having not just one, but two POC main characters.
Sophie really, really wants to get kidnapped. As the rest of the town prepares to hide away their children before the School Master shows up to make his selection, Sophie is busy pulling the boards off the windows and readying her things. Every so often, the School Master sneaks through the small town, taking two children at a time; one good, the other evil. The kidnapped children are transported to The School for Good and Evil, never to be seen by their loved ones again. Unless they turn up in the storybooks that magically appear in the local bookstore. Agatha doesn’t believe in The School for Good and Evil. She’d much rather keep a low profile and continue living in the cemetery. Naturally, Agatha is a bit surprised when she sees a shadow whisking her only friend, Sophie, away. Agatha grabs onto Sophie and finds herself transported as well. Sophie is elated, until she is dropped off at the Evil school. Agatha is again surprised to find herself delivered to the Good school. Convinced that there’s been a clerical error of some sort, Sophie tries everything in her power to get herself into the School for Good. She doesn’t fit in with the Evil kids; Sophie would never dream of wearing black, after all. Agatha is in a similar situation. She’s uncomfortable with the frilly pink uniform and can’t fathom why all the other girls are so fixated on meeting their princes. It would appear, however, that once the decision has been made, there’s no going back, no matter how badly Sophie wants to end with her chosen prince. Poor Agatha wants nothing more than to go back home to her graveyard where she won’t have to deal with other people or wear pink everyday. Together, they try to find ways to either get back into the “correct” schools or go home.
This was such a cute book. It could easily have felt like a HP spin-off, but it never does. It incorporates tons of fairy tale tropes, but uses them in new or unconventional ways. The twist of the girls being in the “wrong” schools wasn’t a huge surprise, but it poses many interesting questions regarding the nature of good and evil. It’s obvious to the reader that Agatha is anything but evil, in spite of her appearance. Sophie is slightly more ambiguous. She comes across as shallow and inconsiderate, sure, but not necessarily evil. In fact, most of the “good” kids have very similar character traits. The Good school in general emphasizes the appearance of good while the Evil school seems more focused on mischief rather than anything truly evil. The point, of course, is that the kids are fulfilling the traditional roles in fairy tales, but the school presents its dual nature as a preservation of balance. I read this one for my middle school book group and the kids unanimously agreed that it was tons of fun. They loved the sense of humor and the offbeat plot. Frankly, I found it to be a refreshing change of pace in the magic/fairy tale genre.
At one point in time, Lex was a good kid. Now, she’s turned into a rage-filled delinquent. At a loss for what to do with her, Lex’s parents decide to send her off to her Uncle Mort’s place for the summer. Lex hates to part with her twin sister, but is given no choice in the matter. When Lex arrives in Croak, the small town Mort lives in, she discovers that any and all preconceived notions regarding her uncle were misplaced. As it turns out, Croak is a town exclusively for Reapers and her uncle is the mayor. Lex quickly discovers that not only does she have the ability to fulfill the role of a reaper, she’s actually quite talented at it. Just as she’s beginning to settle into a routine with her new partner, Driggs, something unusual begins to occur. Many of the lives Lex and co. have been sent to reap have an inexplicable cause of death. Lex and Driggs, along with their friends and Uncle Mort, make it their mission to find out more.
Croak was fairly amusing. The setting utilizes puns to a staggering degree and virtually every character is as sarcastic as the protagonist. The narrative moves quickly due to its sense of humor, but also suffers some when the humor starts to wear thin. I never felt like the characters were very well-developed. Lex’s “acting out” in the beginning feels antithetical to her character even before there’s any hint that being a violent kid somehow equates to a future as a reaper and, while she ceases to be particularly violent, there’s little other change in her character as the book progresses. Other characters are scarcely developed at all, particularly Lex’s twin sister, who appears to be included strictly for her scene at the very end. Most of my teens, however, loved this one. It was fun, but not fantastic.
Jersey’s life changes forever as a massive tornado bears down on her hometown of Elizabeth, MO. Jersey’s mother and sister are at dance practice when the sirens go off. Jersey makes it down to the basement in the nick of time. After the storm, Jersey discovers that most of her neighborhood has been completely demolished; the roads are impassible and all means of communication have been disrupted. A day or two later, she finally finds her step-father, only to be told that her mother and sister are both dead. Even worse, her grief-stricken step-father wants nothing more to do with her and quickly dumps her off on her long-estranged father; the father who walked out years ago and never came back. Jersey has no real desire to get to know him or his side of the family, but she really has no choice. As it turns out, her father is still a drunk and has remarried (to another drunk) and lives with his parents, his sister, and her family. Jersey is given a “bedroom” on the screened-in back porch. She is almost immediately taunted by her cousins, neglected by her father and largely ignored by her new grandparents. There is no love in this house and certainly no sympathy for a girl who has just lost all the family she’s ever known. Things only continue to get worse at her paternal grandparent’s house, so Jersey tries to run off, only to be sent off to her maternal grandparents instead. Jersey has never met this set of grandparents either; they had disowned Jersey’s mother long ago. All Jersey wants is to go back home and try to rebuild with her friends and even her step-father, but, once again, it’s out of her hands. Now, still grieving and nursing the wounds of her time at her father’s, Jersey feels more isolated than ever. Her mother kept these people out of their lives for a reason and Jersey is convinced that her mother would not have wanted her to live with them. The longer Jersey stays there, however, Jersey begins to discover that there really might be more than one side to the story of her mother’s upbringing.
So many terrible things keep happening to poor Jersey. As though losing one’s home isn’t enough, losing nearly all the family she’s ever known and then being sent to live with strangers who have exactly zero empathy make this a pretty depressing read. Even the step-father suddenly turns into a massive jerk, taking himself out of Jersey’s life altogether and preventing her from attending the funerals. There’s a bit of light at the end of the book, but by the time it appears, readers will wonder whether Jersey is even capable of perceiving it anymore. Few of the characters are particularly well-developed and Jersey’s mother’s motivations behind isolating the family are never made explicitly clear. Nevertheless, readers will still pull for Jersey to make it out of this mess without it destroying her.
A group of friends, Ethan, Elizabeth, Jackson, and Luke, are all seniors at Selwyn Academy, a prestigious art school and the filming site for the current season of “For Art’s Sake”, a competition-style reality show. No one in the group is competing in the show, but that doesn’t stop the show from interfering in their lives in a number of frustrating ways. Ethan, the narrator, accidentally witnesses the show being filmed and realizes that not only is the show impeding actual learning and creativity, it’s also mostly scripted. Ethan doesn’t hesitate to share this information with the group. When Luke’s critical review of the show is rejected by the school newspaper for being unfavorable to the show (and the school’s participation in it), the group decides they ought to do something to make a statement. It’s not until they begin studying Ezra Pound that they figure out how they’re going to make their statement. Inspired by Pound’s Cantos, the group creates the Contracantos, a delightfully funny and scathing long poem. They then illustrate, hand-letter, print, and distribute the first installment of the Contracantos. Then they wait for a reaction. Imagine their surprise when Luke, the poet of the group, is approached by the show’s producers and subsequently added as a contestant. With Luke gone and not speaking to the rest of the group, Ethan and his friends must find a way to carry on. Good thing they’ve got the help of a gerbil named Baconnaise, who will prove to be surprisingly heroic for a rodent.
I enjoyed this one quite a bit. Ethan and crew are an intelligent and sarcastic bunch. I can’t help but feel that the secondary characters could have been better developed, but they may also have been a stylistic choice as the narrator has difficulty viewing others as much more than an archetype. The idea of a reality show essentially taking over a school, no matter how artsy, is abhorrent to me. Of course, I’m not a fan of the reality show genre in the first place, so this book may have been preaching to the choir in that sense. It definitely has a satirical tone to it. The whole “vigilante” artist thing is quite clever even if it’s hard to imagine someone who writes poetry as being fodder for a reality show. A fun and engaging read, complete with amusingly-named house pets.
Ordinarily, I love anything in the Fables universe and the Fairest comics tend to be no exception. Until now. It’s not that the story arc is terrible, it’s just not that great. It’s also really tough to overlook the fact that the Fairest series was meant to shine a spotlight on the women of the Fables universe. Who takes center stage in this volume? Prince Charming. Yes, there is a female protagonist. Yes, she is capable of kicking butt. But it still reads like she’s there to be yet another love interest for Prince Charming. If this were Fables proper, this story arc might have worked all right, but in the context of Fairest, it’s almost insulting and definitely disappointing.
In the fall of 1898, a young ventriloquist named Ferret Skeritt falls from the sky in a hot-air balloon and lands on the house of a pair of elderly sisters in rural Nebraska. He sustains a broken leg and a few other injuries, but nothing is as broken as his heart. Earlier in the year, Ferret was anticipating the beginning of the Omaha World’s Fair, much like the rest of the city. At the time, Omaha was a much smaller and rougher town. Ferret makes most of his living with his ventriloquist act, thanks in no small part to his elaborate puppet, Oscar. For extra change, Ferret offers his services as a letter writer, specializing primarily in love letters. One night, while hanging around the theater, Ferret briefly meets a young, beautiful actress named Cecily. They don’t even have a conversation, but Ferret is a man obsessed. He eventually tracks her down in the fair’s midway and they begin to fall in love. Things seem perfect for a time. Together, they explore the fair.
Enter Billy Wakefield, one of the wealthiest men in Omaha and one of the principal financiers of the fair. He takes notice of Ferret and Cecily, invites them to his fancy parties, attempts to buy Ferret’s puppet. At first, Ferret, blinded by the early onset of love, fails to notice Billy’s interest in Cecily. Later, as Cecily’s health begins to deteriorate, Wakefield intensifies his efforts, promising medications and the best doctors money can buy. Ferret isn’t sure what to believe, but he doesn’t trust Wakefield (though he does take advantage of the fact that Wakefield is willing to give him a large sum of money for his puppet, Oscar). Cecily, on the other hand, agrees to travel with Wakefield to “take the waters” at various hot springs. Ferret wallows in her absence, but naively believes she’ll recover.
The first 2/3rds of this book is fantastic. I’m an Omaha native and a bit of a history buff, so I recall visiting the local history museum as a kid and being captivated by images of the Omaha World’s Fair. When I heard about this book, I knew I wanted to read it for the historical elements, if nothing else. The details of the fair absolutely met (and probably exceeded) my expectations. I loved trying to imagine how the pavilion would have sparkled in the sun with its white paint, dusted with crushed glass. The titular swan gondolas floated upon a massive lagoon that stretched the length of the main pavilion. On the fringes were the midway; the seedier (and more intriguing) parts of the fair. As readers, we take this journey alongside Ferret. As the summer wears on, the fair begins to lose its luster, much like the love between Cecily and Ferret.
To get into my issues with the final 1/3rd of the book, I would have to spoil several plot points. Suffice it to say, the last portion reads like an extremely long epilogue that takes place in the winter after the fair. Things get convoluted and the pacing becomes inconsistent. A good deal of the last portion begins to weave in some “Wizard of Oz” references, but their inclusion doesn’t make as much sense in the context of the novel. I think that if this book had ended prior to the last section, it might have felt much more cohesive. Still, it’s a mesmerizing read with vivid detail that has hints of The Night Circus and Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s YA work.
The election looms closer, Channon is back and Spider continues to be, well, Spider. This one feels more transitory than some of the other stories, but I do enjoy the world-building. The level of detail in this series is truly astonishing.
Spider is covering one of the biggest stories of his life- the upcoming presidential election. The only problem is that he’s having trouble keeping himself going. He’s got fame and fortune, but that’s what drove him to exile last time. So now he’s got a campaign to cover and both parties desperately want his support. This series continues to be both smart, scathing and hilarious.
David and Mara used to have a fairly ordinary life. Then, their older brother joined the armed forces and was killed. Now, the family is a complete mess. Over the course of their grieving, David’s parents first turn to the Evangelical Church for answers. It helps, to an extent. David is “saved” and his parents start to come out of their depression. David and Mara are taken out of the public schools and put into a religious homeschooling group. Over time, the church ceases to be enough for David’s parents and they find solace in a group that believes in the end of the world. Instead of calling it the “Rapture”, this new group calls it the “Rush” and claim to know exactly when it’s going to happen. David and his sister are dubious, but their parents appear completely convinced. As the date for the “Rush” draws nearer, David’s father becomes increasingly unhinged, speaking only in Bible verses. In the forty days before the “Rush”, David and his sister are asked to give up everything worldly to prepare for their salvation. Aside from not really believing that the end of the world is coming, David has some other problems with this situation. He’s a baseball star with college scouts following his every pitch. He’s got a girlfriend that he’s absolutely crazy about. In other words, he really doesn’t want to give up his entire life.
When the book opens, it is the night of the “Rush” and David and Mara have missed it. Instead of being at home with their parents on the night that they are supposed to be taken to Heaven, David and Mara have gone to an after-prom party and missed the deadline. When they return home, their parents are gone. No messages or notes. Their clothes laid on on the bed under the covers as though they had simply vanished. Needless to say, David and Mara are concerned. They don’t believed their parents have been “Rushed”, but something is clearly not right. Now they need to figure out what happened to their parents before word spreads that two teenagers are living by themselves.
The premise of this book is fascinating to me. I’m not a religious person, so it was interesting to see how a practitioner would view the world. Smith-Ready miraculously manages to keep this story from either glorifying or vilifying those of faith, but always remains critical of those who would use faith to achieve their own ends. I’m not 100% sold on the parents’ reaction to their eldest son’s death, but a catalyst was needed and grief is a powerful one. David and Mara make a great sibling team. David is a person of faith, while Mara is a skeptic who manages to play the part of a religious person to avoid confrontation with her parents. David’s girlfriend, Bailey, provides a great foil to David. Bailey is not religious either, but is curious and considerate when the topic of religion comes up, which happens frequently. I will admit that my brain fuzzed out a bit during the baseball-heavy portions of the book, but overall, this was a very engaging take on faith and religion. Would likely make a very good book club read.
The Midnight Dress is a gorgeously rendered tale of murder, friendship and sewing. When Rose arrives in Leonora with her father, she is not expecting to stay very long. She and her father have been driving around Australia in their RV for years, never staying in one place for very long. She grudgingly enrolls herself in the local high school and does her best to avoid everyone. She unwittingly winds up friends with Pearl Kelly, the lovely and gregarious girl who smells of “frangipani and coconut oil”. Rose is unaccustomed to having friends and her gruff demeanor is designed to keep it that way. Pearl has a way of getting under one’s skin though and, as the Harvest Festival draws nearer, Rose finds herself heading to the seamstress Pearl recommended to have a dress made. The seamstress is an elderly woman named Edie who lives in a giant, dilapidated house at the base of the mountain. She was once a dressmaker of some renown, but has since become regarded as a witch. Rose, in spite of herself, continues to come back, week after week to help Edie hand-stitch the beautiful midnight-blue dress that Rose will wear for the Harvest Festival parade. Through it all, however, the reader knows that one of these two girls will not survive the night of the Festival. Who, how and why remain a mystery.
Each chapter begins with a flashback showing a tiny portion of the fateful night, but the information is meted out so deliberately that the reader is driven to push on in order to find out how the pieces fit together. The rest of the story is told in a more linear fashion, but is no less mysterious. Pearl and Rose make such a wonderful pair. Pearl is sweetness, dreams and light. Rose is twilight, introspection and nature. Edie’s backstory expands the world inhabited by the girls. The landscape of their coastal Australian town is as much a character as any of the humans. While there’s nothing explicitly magical about this tale, there’s something about the writing that feels as though this might be magical realism. The narrative may move slowly, but this is not a novel to rush through. Readers who stick with it will be richly rewarded by the dazzling writing, vivid landscape, and memorable characters.
Clementine’s life is normal enough, even a bit boring. Then she meets Emma and everything changes. They are passionately in love. Then a mistake accidentally outs Clementine to her parents, which evidently makes everything fall apart. The next thing the reader knows; they are adults and one of them has died.
The first half of this graphic novel is beautiful. The illustrations are lovely. Then we get to the end and everything feels extremely rushed. The tragic death felt cheapened by being somewhat unbelievable (or was that just a translation issue? I can’t really tell). Overall, decent but not life-changing.
Sophie’s mother runs the only bonobo sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of Congo, so vacations spent with her mother are anything but ordinary. On one of her excursions outside of the sanctuary, Sophie comes across a man with a baby bonobo in a cage. Seeing the poor physical state of the young bonobo, Sophie decides to take matters into her own hands. She takes out her spending money and barters with the man. She arrives back at the sanctuary with a lighter wallet and a very ill baby bonobo who may not even survive without its mother. Sophie’s mother is infuriated as Sophie’s action likely prompted the man to poach more of the endangered species. A penitent Sophie is determined to be the best surrogate she possibly can be. Towards the end of her scheduled trip, her mother has to leave to take a group of bonobos to a release site upriver. Due to a variety of factors, the release cannot be delayed simply because Sophie’s flight is scheduled at the same time. Sophie doesn’t mind; it will give her that much more time to bond with the baby bonobo that she’s named Otto.
A few days after her mother leaves, civil war breaks out in Congo. The president has been killed and the resulting power vacuum has caused the UN to evacuate all westerners. Sophie is told she will be leaving early. When the UN van arrives, however, Sophie cannot bring herself to leave Otto and jumps from the van as it pulls away from the sanctuary. By the time she gets back, rebels have encroached on the sanctuary. Sophie manages to hide with Otto in an electrically-fenced enclosure. She’s temporarily safe from the rebels, but the adult bonobos are another story.
It quickly becomes evident that Sophie cannot stay, so she makes a daring escape and is followed by several of the adult bonobos from the enclosure. Together they make their way across the war-town countryside as they head for the release site where Sophie’s mother went. The journey takes Sophie across dozens of miles of the DRC. At every turn, Sophie is confronted with the realities of war: child soldiers, starving families, violent militia men, death, destruction.
Endangered excels because it focuses not just on the astonishingly-human bonobos (who share nearly 97% of our DNA) and their plight, but because it refuses to operate in a vacuum. The DRC is a country with a complicated history and is also home to the largest population of bonobos in the world. When a country with vast natural resources has been traditionally mismanaged by colonial powers, however, everyone loses. Sophie’s journey is harrowing, unexpected and strangely beautiful. The narrative moves quickly without sentimentalizing. Sophie is a relate-able main character; she often acts according to her heart, which opens the doors for consequences that are often surprising and formative. Readers will appreciate the swiftly-moving narrative that utilizes popular literary elements like survival and eluding armed militias and grounds them in a very real context. The ending ties up a bit too tidily and Sophie gets extremely lucky on more than one occasion, but these foibles can be easily overlooked. The rest of the story is totally solid though not for the faint of heart.
The hit, epic series about a sinister boarding school and the kids trapped there, trying to solve the mysteries of time and space – presented once again in a beautiful, oversized, deluxe hardcover format, with copious bonus material including sketches, character designs, cover galleries, and more.
I’m kind of feeling like E. Lockhart lulled me into a false sense of security with her more light-hearted previous novels. This one was devastating and I’m still kind of reeling from the final moments of the book.
Cadence Eastman Sinclair comes from an extremely wealthy family. The type that summers on a private island off the coast of New England. The type that plays tennis, owns pure-bred golden retrievers, and inherits mountains of money. These summers on the island are golden. Cadence and her cousins, Johnny and Mirren, are joined by Johnny’s step-father’s nephew, Gat and all four are roughly the same age. They call themselves the Liars and set themselves apart from the rest of the family.
Something terrible happens the summer they are all 15, but Cadence can’t remember any of it. All she knows for certain is that she had some sort of head injury that leaves her with devastating migraines. Two years later, she finally returns to the island to find a lot of changes. The Liars are still there and they are very much the same as she remembers, but the main house has been rebuilt, the family tiptoes around the events of two summers ago, and the family’s patriarch is showing signs of Altzheimer’s. Cadence is determined to uncover the truth about that fateful summer, but no one wants to talk about it. Not even the Liars. Everyone wants Cadence to remember things on her own.
Gradually, the memories start coming back and Cadence is able to begin piecing together the events that have brought the family to this point. As it turns out, some things really are so painful that the brain will block them out. I don’t envy Cadence on any level.
This is one of those books with a surprise ending. Some readers may figure it out, but I wasn’t one of them. It completely caught me off guard and left my heart hurting. It’s a brilliant book with fantastic and intriguing characters, even if they’re not always likeable.
Two girls survive a terrible flood in the Tasmanian bush and are rescued by a pair of Tasmanian tigers who raise them in the wild. Their story of survival is remarkable, as they adapt to the life of the tiger, learning to hunt and to communicate without the use of human language. When they are discovered and returned to civilization, neither can adapt to being fully human after their extraordinary experience. Totally believable, their story will both shock and captivate readers as it explores the animal instincts that lie beneath our civilized veneer and celebrates the ways of the tiger.
The latest manga masterpiece from the Eisner Award-winning creator of Tekkonkinkreet.What is Sunny? Sunny is a car. Sunny is a car you take on a drive with your mind. It takes you to the place of your dreams. Sunny is the story of beating the odds, in the ways that count. It’s the brand-new masterwork from Eisner Award-winner Taiyo Matsumoto, one of Japan’s most innovative and acclaimed manga artists. Translated by Tekkonkinkreet film director Michael Arias!
“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.