Sunday, May 31, 2015

Mini-Review: State of Grace

This was pitched as a utopia with a twist (not a dystopia with a twist).  And really, the setting is idyllic.  Summery all the time, eating delicious foods to your fill, jumping into azure waters ... it's like every Carribbean vacation commercial you've ever seen brought to life.  The mythology also intriguied me initially: all of the teens in this paradise worship Dot.  There are the Books of Dot, which regulate their lives.  However, this got hold for me really fast.  Normally, I enjoy books that gently poke and probe longstanding philosophical frameworks; however, the whole Dottiverse was saccharine and twee and simply trying too hard.

There's also the fact that pretty much all the main character, Wren, thinks about is "hooking up" and how she wants to hook up with this one guy (whose name is Blaze.  What in the name of Cthulhu?) because he's OMG SO HOT but he just broods and she's all "Hey cutie pie!  Why dontcha come play with me naked, huh?  Dot made my body so hot it's like on fire!  Tee-hee!"  Again, I understand the mockery of the vapiditiy of some of today's youth, but reading an entire book like this?  Sorry, I'm going to go jump off a cliff, and I don't think there will be a lovely azure pool to catch my decidedly not Dot-perfect body.  And it's not slut shaming, I promise you that.  It's the incessant inner monologue of the main character who's hyper fixated on TOTES HAVING FUN, some of which happens to include sex.  That's all.

But I made it through fourteen pages of Wren saying that Blaze's voice "made me all gooey" and "He's the kind of guy I like the absolute most."  I understand it's part of her character, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

I received an ARC of the US edition of this title from Netgalley. 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

I wish I could like every book I request, but...

... that simply isn't the case.  In fact, it can't be the case.  I don't want to like everything.  That would be exceedingly boring.

On the flip side, I understand that an author wants people to love her book.  Anybody and everybody, yes, please, and thank you.  And they know that not everyone will.  But as we've seen, particularly in the last few months, there can be serious clashes between author and reader.  Things get dirty on social media pretty quickly.

In case you haven't noticed (ha!), I do have quite a few negative reviews on here.  However, I try very, very hard to keep my criticism focused on the book and not on the person.  After all, I don't know the author.  Even my joshing of Rob Liefeld is more about his artwork featuring women with extra vertebrae and waists smaller than their necks.  That's the work, not the person.  I wouldn't know Liefeld from Adam if I met him on the street.  This may also be due to my inability to match names to people.  Instead I match book covers to book titles.  I'm really good at that.

TANGENT ALERT!  Sorry about that.

Anyway, I recently requested a lot of ARCs that genuininely interested me after perusing the synopsis, but after a few chapters--or even a few pages--I realized they weren't for me.  It's not as if I haven't been reading; I've been reading quite a lot.  It's finishing that gets to be tricky.

I have some reviews coming up that were originally in this post, but then they grew, and they grew, and they grew, and they became their own little entities, so check out what's coming up.  It'll be a slew of DNFs.  And not malicious DNFs.  Just a sort of weary DNF.

There were probably more that I gave the side-eye and simply didn't finish, but my mind is on the fritz.  The weather changed by forty degrees F, and not for the better, I assure you.  Think nor'easter in May.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Quick Review: The Woods Vol. 1: The Arrow

My neck hurts a lot today, and I'm not sure why.  This may add to my cranky apathy about reviewing.  Right now I wish I could just go, "Ehhhhhhhhhhhh" and be done with it.  But I suppose I should justify my "Ehhhhhhhhhh" feelings.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Quick Review: Prophet, Vol. 1: Remission

The publisher should have included a little tab of LSD (or your psychotropic hallucinogen of choice) with the trade paperback of this title, because I seriously, truly, and earnestly believe that the only way to understand what is going on in this comic is to have your brain fried, sunnyside-up.

On a super-duper-far-future-post-apocalyptic (how's that for hyphenation???) Earth, John Prophet awakens from stasis.  He has his tools to help him make his way across the blasted landscape of this alien Earth, where most creatures have four mouths or eight eyes or are just generally unpleasant.  Prophet eats a lot of raw meat, takes refuge in a city made of alien JELL-O, where he meets his first contact, an alien who he pays for intel with ... reproduction.  This scared me immensely until I realized that the Cthulhu-esque creature wasn't going to actually get it on with Prophet, but just handily remove some organ that is needed for their race to continue.

Wait a second.  If you're an alien ... how did your race survive if you needed an organ from an entirely different species on an entirely different planet?  Unless Prophet was carrying an alien organ?

See what I mean?

So he trek trek trek trek treks across the world and then his arm falls off but no big, he climbs up this big tower anyway and lassos a satellite.  Inside, he awakens the Earth fleet ... of John Prophets.

Prophet is a rather stoic fellow with the jawline of a Neanderthal and now the universe is FULL of him (them?)!  They all have to go on their own little quests, like floating through a contaminated space station, or hanging out with ship "Mothers" who look like wee little creepy ghosts.

There is just so much ... stuff ... in here that I don't know how people follow what's going on.  Why are all the live humans only men and the creepy ship people lady-ish?  Why do they eat each other a lot?  Why did the Earth Empire fall in the first place, and who set up these clues for the original Prophet template to follow?  Why can the robots regenerate?

The art is suitably chaotic and gritty.

I was so relieved when this was over.  Reading over some other reviews informed me that Liefeld originally created this, which would explain the lack of coherency, if the current authors are following his original vision.  I mean, if a person thinks that the human spine can torque around 300 degrees AND support breasts that are at least a Z cup, then yeah, I kind of get it.  But not really.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Bone Gap

Go read this book.

Wait, that's not a very informative review?  Rats.

If you like Neil Gaiman, you need to read Bone Gap.  If you like Stephen King, you need to read Bone Gap.  If you are looking for an author whose prose is so lovely that it makes your heart ache, you need Laura Ruby.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Quick Review: Nailbiter Vol. 1

This is my third stab at Joshua Williamson's work, and I'm not sure if it was the wretchedness of the first two or if I had too much coffee today or what, but I actually ... slightly liked this one.  I was entertained by it, let's say.  I don't think it is Great Comic Art or an Epic Storyline, but at least this one felt semi-competent and wasn't dead in the water thanks to utterly craptastic art (Ghosted, I'm looking at you).  Yeah, it's pretty formulaic, but that's kind of the definition of a police procedural.  It definitely wasn't as weird/boring as that weird space procedural comic I read and have now evidently blocked from my memory.

Saturday, May 23, 2015


Confession time: I thought Lian Tanner was a man.  This is entirely due to my own misreading of her first name as "Liam," and while I suppose a person of any gender can have any name, I didn't do my librarian due diligence and fact-check anything.

Anyway!  Lian Tanner is an Australian writer who wrote the Museum of Thieves books (which are still on my TBR--sorry!).  My supervisor speaks very highly of them, so I was pretty confident in requesting Icebreaker that I would get a good, solid story.  And I did.  But I do wonder a bit about the audience for the book.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Have you ever ...

... read a book that neatly removed the half-dome of the top of your cranium, gently extracted your brain, and then whizzed it around in a blender?

I just finished one.  I honestly don't know how I'm going to review it.  And all my puréed thoughts are slopping around in my head, making it nigh on impossible to properly finish any of my other reviews.  

Yeah, I know, this is just a gorier way of putting off a review.  But it feels appropriate.  

And the book?  Well, you'll just have to wait and see.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Rat Queens Vol. 1: Sass and Sorcery

Betty.  Dee.  Hannah.  Violet.  No, it's not the cast of Girls, you hipster weirdo.  It's the butt-kicking, booze-swilling, boundary-smashing Rat Queens, and they're out to party hard and slay some monsters.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

What I'm Reading Wednesday

I feel like my whole life has stalled and I'm just now kicking things back into gear.  Instead of working on books that I've already started, instead, I read new books, which I now must review.

I did start Neal Shusterman's Challenger Deep, which is exceedingly intriguing, and I'm always looking for a book that accurately portrays mental illness.  Hopefully this doesn't veer into the usual yay no meds! or yay positive thoughts! channel into which most books about illness tend to be funneled.

Other books still percolating are:

Mark of the Thief by Jennifer Nielsen

The Name of the King by Pat Rothfuss

The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas (I should seriously just buy this because I'm loving it)

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

Mind MGMT Vol. 3: The Home Maker

While I loved the last two volumes of Matt Kindt's extraordinary Mind MGMT, I felt a bit let down by the third volume, merely liking it instead of adoring it.  Kindt's art is marvelous, as usual, but since the story deviates from Meru's narrative and starts jumping around to various sleeper agents, I found it more difficult to hold on to all of the threads in the story.  This is, of course, made particularly difficult when the whole conceit of the series is that your mind cannot be trusted and neither can the story.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Depression, Awareness, and Literature

In case you missed it, head on over to Disability in Kidlit to read Kelly Jensen's moving, raw post about depression.

Kelly's post is amazing, because it hit me right in the gut, which was the intention.  I have depression.  Sometimes I feel ashamed of that, but most of the time, I fight it with vigor.  Right now, though, my strength meter is dwindling, like in a video game where the health bar goes down, down, down, and you need a power-up stat.  This doesn't just affect parts of my life, it affects all of it, including reading and blogging.  I see things differently when I'm in a depressive episode than when I'm not.  The books I want to read aren't dark, because then I'm drawn into a deep chasm that suffocates my soul.  Right now, I've got MIND MGMT next to me on the bed, because a) I love the series and b) it's totally due tomorrow, no renewals, no do-overs, nada.

So, instead, you can read Kelly post, and I reblogged it on Tumblr here and added some of my own thoughts.  The top part is an excerpt from the original post, which you should have been able to realize anyway because the writing is far better than mine, and the bottom is my reblog.  Follow me on Tumblr, by the way.  I don't post there too often but I do put up lots of nerdy stuff about cons and crafting and fandoms and so forth.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin if you're so inclined.  Then, you won't miss a snarky post or random post of randomness ever (unless you forget to check Bloglovin', in which case, it's all on you).

Monday, May 18, 2015

Monday Blues

I don't even have to work a full day today, but ugh, Monday.

This weekend I was mostly up visiting family in the hospital, so not much got done.  Then I stress-cleaned my apartment for about four hours.  Again, no reading.

I did skim through some of my ARCs to see what I should go for and what I should give to my teens at the library.  Everything looks much more manageable now!  Well, except for the e-ARCs.  Yeesh.  It's really overwhelming at times, and you really have to wade through some "eh" books to find the "AHHHHH!" books.  I've found massive, Koh-I-Noor-level gems of awesomeness in my ARCs, though, the latest being The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow.  You'll hear a variation on that approximately every other day until September.  Just pre-order it and I'll hush up.  I believe Erin will also be at BEA with ARCs of The Scorpion Rules, so snap it up!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Quick Review: Lazarus, Vol. 2

I read the original trade of Lazarus snuggled behind a bookshelf in my local Barnes and Noble.  The library didn't own it, and at that point, things were a bit more ... basic, shall we say, in the GN department.  While curled up, trying to look innocent, I devoured the first volume of this comic, and I wasn't quite sure why it was getting low ratings.  True, it wasn't the most original concept on the block, but it was engaging and the family drama was Serious.  I mean like Dynasty or Days of Our Lives level DRAMA.  I found that engrossing.

Now, almost a year (!) later, we've finally started buying the trades in the Lazarus series at my library, so I settled down to read Vol. 2: Lift last night.  I really enjoyed how the scope of the series expanded massively to show us what it's like if you're not one of the privileged Families, but rather the dirt they deign to acknowledge even exists.

In Lift, we're following two separate storylines that eventually converge quite nicely: Ever's job of protecting the family and hunting down her traitorous brother, and a few families' attempts to lift themselves out of squalor and work for one of the big families.  In order to do this, they have to traverse miles of unprotected terrain.

I particularly enjoyed the flashbacks of Ever speaking with her teacher--we see more of her humanity here, and it's a powerful contrast to the killing machine she is expected to be all the time.

If you're looking for something super-deep or super-out there, Lazarus is not your best bet.  But for me, it's like a favorite pair of jeans or kicks--I know I'll feel better after I read it.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Curious Incident of the Poop Log in the Toilet

Since I'm currently enmeshed in four different and equally engaging books, I don't have any reviews for you right now.  Instead, I thought I'd share a story from the front lines of librarianship.  Strangely, these situations are what make me really love my job, because seriously: where else but a library?

This whole situation should be prefaced by the fact that as a children's librarian, statistically, I'm going to deal with more poop, pee, and vomit than adult librarians (they generally have their own bodily fluids to deal with.  Brave souls).  I'm pretty used to it by now.

All of the full-time librarians at my library have to work one night a week, which I think is totally fair.  I work from 12-9 and take a "lunch" from 4-5 (because what is that, really?  It's a giant snack).  While on my break, a coworker stopped in and said I was missing all the fun.  Evidently an extremely loud and rude group of teens had just been kicked out of the library (this was a long time coming, let me tell you.  I've tried to engage them and they just walked away because they're so cool and I'm so lame.  I work with teens often and these kids were there just to aggravate us).  On the way out, they slammed into our automatic doors so hard that the doors flew off track.  I was seriously ticked and wondered why they didn't have more consequences for what they did.  But that's another story.

Everyone was just calming down after that when my nighttime regulars began to trickle in.  I also had a new family come in and get a library card.  They had a very small little dude--maybe two years old. He was adorable, but a wanderer.  Often, new patrons aren't aware of the 9-and-under supervision rule, so I guided (more like herded) him back to his adults and let them know that for his safety, he needed to be with them.

About every five minutes or so, I'd look up, and Little Dude would be around my desk and I'd have to take him back.  Finally, it seemed to settle down.

Just then, two more regulars came in.  They're actually really funny middle-school boys, and I don't ever have problems with them.  Their grandfather, who has some health issues, brings them, so he usually sits while they pick out books and movies and ask me questions like, "Do you have that movie where the guy gets kicked in the nuts?"

More time passed, and I was getting into my book-ordering groove when our circulation clerk came inching up to the desk, eyes wide.  I said, "Hey, what's up, Lou*?"  The following is an approximate transcript of the ensuing conversation.

Lou: "So, I was at the desk, and these two kids come up.  They tell me that one of 'em puked in the bathroom.  And I was like, 'What?  Puked?' dramatic pause

Me: "Mmm-hmmm.  Puke.  Did they leave? You need help?"

L: "No! So's I asked the one who puked what happened, and he said that they were in the two stalls in the men's bathroom, and the other kid was, uh, he was pooping, and the poop smelled so bad that the first kid puked."

M:  "Wow.  That's kind of impressive.  Are these kids about so-tall and with such-and-such colored hair?"

L:  "Yeah!  You know 'em?"

M:  "Yep.  They were just in here, so that was a lot to do in a short amount of time.  Do we need to do something in the bathroom?"

L:  "Well, that's just it: I asked 'em if there was a problem with the toilet and they said yes.  So's I went and got Emma and we went in together and there was this ... [holds hands about ten inches apart] LOG of poop in the toilet.  So I've been callin' everyone I can think of to come and clean it up.  I don't know what to do!  His poop was so big!"

M: "Um, did you tell their grandpa?"

L: "I didn't know they had someone here."

M:  "Don't worry, I'll get him.  You just do your thing."

Lou was totally shocked that I wasn't sympathy-barfing or something.  I will tell you that as a public librarian, you will see and do things that library school just doesn't prepare you for.  But they're valuable life skills.  I mean, if I ever have kids and one of them pukes or has a giant log of feces come out of his (obviously extremely flexible) intestines, I'll have to clean it up.  And this is ten times more likely to happen if you're a children's librarian.  You'll walk in the bathroom and be assaulted by the odor of a Toxic Diaper of Death.  Kids will just be walking and randomly spew (one just had too much chocolate milk).  Others will poop because they can't wait.  Kids need help from their grownups and if they don't get it, bodily functions will not wait.

I am now watching all the ex-wannabe librarians flee in terror.  Good.  You must be stalwart to do this job.  And you also need to be able to laugh at what happens.  A giant poop log is not the end of the world.  It is hilarious.  A vomit-inducing poop log is even funnier, because what else can you do?  I couldn't yell at the kid for having a bowel movement, because that's normal.  I couldn't yell at his cousin for puking, because that's also a normal reaction.  It's just ... life.

After poking around the library (we have a lot of pillars and randomly placed bookshelves that impede line of sight), I found Grandpa in the Teen Space.  I (rather nonchalantly, I thought), strolled in, straightened a few books, oh caught sight of him, and slipped over quietly.  I bent down and said, "Sir, did your grandsons tell you that one of them had been ill and vomited in the bathroom?"

Grandpa:  "No!  What happened?  They didn't say anything!"

Me:  "Well, I guess they informed the circulation desk that one of them had vomited because the other's fecal matter had a very strong odor.  I'm just worried that they might still be feeling ill and I don't want them to get any worse."

G:  "I'll go get them right away, thanks!" [pause]  "You know, we just ate KFC!"

Me:  "... alrighty then!"

As I was walking back into the children's area (our children's and teen spaces are separated by a room and a giant curvy wall), I saw one of the kids involved in the Poop and Puke walking with our Little Dude Wanderer from earlier.  I stopped and said, "What are you doing?"

Kid:  "Taking him to the bathroom."

Me:  "Do you ... know him?"

Kid:  "No, but his mom said I could take him."

Me:  "Oh, no.  He needs his mom."

Upon which the kid shoves the Little Dude into our bathroom and books it.  I head toward mom but she's already coming.  I dread going back into the bathroom, for yes.  Poor Little Dude couldn't get up on the toilet so he just peed everywhere.  By this time, the maintenance man had arrived and I asked if he could bring the mop into my section as well because the Holy Trifecta of children's librarianship had occurred: poop, puke, and now pee.  We just laughed and laughed and laughed.  Quickly, however, he soberly asked me how a kid could have that large of a poop.

I, too, wondered this.  The kid in question was relatively short.  Say, around four feet tall.  For a ten inch log of feces to come out of him means that said log was inside of him.  Wouldn't that look like a baby in the womb?  Is excess fecal matter stored in the limbs?  I couldn't wrap my head around it.  When checking the restrooms at night (I always think of how the siblings evaded detection in From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by hiding in the stalls with their feet up, so I open every door), I've found some pretty massive cylinders of dung.  And I always marvel at how someone carried that excrement baby around until leaving it as a gift in our toilets.

I had a good laugh about it, but soberly agreed when another coworker pointed out that at least we didn't have the fourth P: porn.

*Names have been changed.  What kind of person do you think I am?

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Right now...

... I am in the middle of several books with no end in sight, hence the dearth of reviews.

I am working on a tales-from-the-trenches post about a poop log, however.  You're welcome.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

What I'm Reading Wednesday

Sorry for the short post today, but I'm still in mild shock (the good kind) after finishing Erin Bow's The Scorpion Rules.  I want to post my review closer to the release date, but be assured that it is more amazing than you could imagine.

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby.  I've heard so many amazing things about this book, and I have a feeling that it's going to be one of those narratives that sneaks up on me and then sucker punches me, leaving me to moan in the fetal position until I get enough strength back to blog about it.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.  This is moving surprisingly quickly for a long, epic book.  And sometimes I just need to bury myself in a high fantasy epic.  And that time is now.

Ask the Dark by Henry Turner.  Lots of reviews are yelling about how amazing this is, but it still hasn't grabbed me.  I'll probably try a few more chapters and then make a decision.  

October Faction Vol. 1

I'd not heard of this comic before, and given my as of late dismal experience with the majority of comics I've been picking up, I didn't really have high hopes.

Color me pleasantly surprised.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Ghosted Vol. 1: Haunted Heist

Right, so I still have Nailbiter by Williamson on my to-read list, and I'll attempt it.  One last chance.  Maybe the old saw is right and the third time's the charm?

Or not.  You never know.  I was hoping for a good, spooky comic with Ghosted after the odd mish-mash story I read in Birthright.  I will say that the comic went by pretty quickly, but that's partially because I was reading to see if it got any better (no) and to see what else would get thrown at the reader (a lot of strange stuff).

Monday, May 11, 2015

Attempting a book when hormone levels are past high and at "homicidal"

This is generally a Bad Idea.  I read books that make me happy when I am having mood issues.  Or nice, soothing adventure novels with alien conspiracies, because those are wonderfully mind-numbing and amusing.  But woe betide the book that crosses me then.

The Witch Hunter, you're it.

Here's the funny thing about those chemicals: they make me completely irrational.  Or even more irrational that is my daily state.  So when I normally would have said to Netgalley, "No, I don't want to read that book," I said "GIVE ME, THAT I MAY TORTURE MYSELF."  And when I normally would have reasoned that having already read some politely scathing reviews of this book, I really shouldn't read it ... well, I went ahead and started it.  Warning: from here on out there be:

Lots of Monty Python references

If ye be courageous of heart, or just plain heedless of my ravings, proceed.

Friday, May 8, 2015


My last foray into Sherlock Holmes-inspired fiction (Lock & Mori) didn't go very well.  But I'd heard so many raves about Jackaby that I had to try it.

It.  Is.  So.  Good.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Championship B'Tok

So.  The Hugos.  Up until this year I was not aware that this was a vote-by-random-people-with-memberships award.  As I've mentioned, I'm not really an awards person at all.  I tend to disagree with all the award-winning choices and therefore don't put much stock in them.  It's very political ... which this year's Hugo Debacle (I think it deserves capitalization after all of the drama generated) aptly demonstrates.  Many other bloggers and authors have explained it much better than I can, but I was curious to read some of the short stories and novellas that were up for awards.

I'd read a book by Edward Lerner a long time ago: it was Fools' Experiments.  I remember that I didn't really like it because it seemed silly, but I had hoped that Lerner would grow as an author and clean up the writing a bit.

I think things got better.  They're not fantastic or mind-blowing or OMGREADTHISNOW, but I rather enjoyed Championship B'Tok.  I didn't realize that this is part of a ... how would I describe it?  A cycle?  A panorama?  A jigsaw puzzle universe consisting of different stories to flesh it out?  So my one major complaint about this is that it didn't really have an ending.  I am tempted to pick up a few more stories and novellas and see where this goes.

But dear sweet lord, this is one of the worst covers I've seen in a long time.
And I've seen some bad covers.
Basically, this is the story of alien invaders who got their butts kicked and were imprisoned on an outer planetary moon for their audacity.  Now, human political alliances are trying to work with these aliens, called Snakes by humans because CREATIVITY, but the Snakes have ideas of their own.  Concurrent to the ssssneaky plotting, one of the humans in charge of the colony gets embroiled in some good ol' galactic espionage.  As it turns out, we've found hints that our existence, and that of the Snakes, and of other species, seem to have been manipulated by an as-yet-unknown species we'll call the Interveners.  Who are they?  Where are they?  What is their purpose?

Okay, so this pulls A LOT from Revelation Space by Reynolds (please lord, go read that series first), but it didn't irk me as much as I thought.  The concept that humans are tiny pieces in a huge universe (or set of universes) controlled by an unthinkably powerful being or beings is a tale as old as time, no matter what you believe.

This is reinforced in the game, B'Tok, that's referenced in the title.  It's a four-dimensional game of strategy that relies on misdirection and subterfuge to conquer the other players forces.

Championship B'Tok is on the Hugo ballot as a "novelette."  Without getting too much into the whole Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies/Evil Puppies/Whatever Puppies debacle, I think it is a good idea to see what's out there, even if it is put forward by someone whose ideas or morals that you don't agree with.  In fact, I'd argue that that's even more important than reading something that's promoted by someone whose ideals you share.

But I'm still not reading any John C. Wright (his early stuff was nigh-incomprehensible to me, and now evidently he's had some sort of "religious epiphany" so ... no) and Vox Day is a particularly aromatic turd in the publishing world.  It's been far too long for him to fester in the public eye.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

What I'm Reading Wednesday

I have finally progressed in The Burning Sky!  It's hard not to, actually, because somehow I'm now like halfway done after reading for about half an hour.  It's addictive.  Yum yum parallel world fantasy yum.

Also currently reading...

Ghosted Vol. 1 by Joshua Williamson.  This is ... well.  I will say that it is engaging.  Mostly because I'm not quite sure where he's going with this because the main character (who is supposed to be Danny Ocean from Ocean's Eleven but can never reach that pinnacle of suave con man) accepts a job to steal a ghost, no questions asked.

Um, call Ghostbusters?

I did that Netgalley thing again (oops) and ended up with book two in a quasi-urban fantasy/alternate history/steampunk book (that's a lot of subgenres) with werewolves and alchemy.  It's The Undying Legion by Clay and Susan Griffith.  I like the idea of it, but a lot of the dialogue needs polishing and the supposed main characters are pretty flat.  The monster characters, on the other hand, are quite nicely done.  We'll see how this goes.

Still tiptoeing my way through The Unquiet by Mikaela Everett.

Finally, I started The Name of the Wind by Pat Rothfuss.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Dumplin' by Julie Murphy

I have been hearing nothing but awesome things about Julie Murphy's Dumplin' ever since, man, ALA Midwinter? Before then? I don't know. But it's about dang time somebody got a book with a fat protagonist right, and Murphy nailed it. I mean nailed. It.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Delicate Monsters

Every time I go to check out one of Stephanie Kuehn's novels, they're already checked out at the library.  If I do get my grabby hands on a copy, it's reserved and I have to bring it back right away.  So, alas, I've not finished either Charm and Strange or Complicit, but I did tear through Delicate Monsters as an ARC.  Maybe I'll just buy the other two.

I've heard raves about Kuehn's writing, and Delicate Monsters does not disappoint.  At first, I wasn't sure if I liked it.  Then I'd oscillate over to "Oh, I love this!" and then shimmy down to "Hmmm, I don't know."  It was a definite roller coaster.  Except this roller coaster doesn't have brakes to slow you down.  You just go over a hill and keep on flying.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Dogs of Eh

I'm always at a bit of a loss when teens or older kids ask me for "scary books."  Looking at the trends in YA publishing (dystopia, romance-faux-dystopia, realism with a healthy dose of chronic/fatal illness), it's probably due for another resurgence.  I remember books like I Know What You Did Last Summer being really popular when I was in middle school, but in my excessive nerdiness, I was too busy hunting down Wilkie Collins novels instead of reading pop teen lit.  I wish I had.

I've tried a few "scary" YA books recently, but nothing's really grabbed me.  The Merciless had good intentions, but a less than stellar execution (I did get Danielle Vega's newest book at C2E2 and it sounds really gooooood though!).  Wink by Eric Trant is fabulous but definitely more adult.

Allan Stratton won a Printz Honor for Chanda's Secrets, which I admit to not having read.  However, that lead me to expect a certain level of sophistication in the writing here.  I didn't find it.

Cameron's mother is always checking the cars parked on their street.  Are they being followed?  Has her ex-husband found them yet again?  The novel opens with her sudden conviction that yes, he has found them, and she hauls her teenage son Cameron out of the house and to a small New England town to escape this terrifying, abusive man who will stop at nothing to find them.

Let's see: how many horror story tropes can we cram in?  The only place available to live is an old farmhouse (check) managed by a taciturn and brusque older farmer who probably has secrets (check).  Rumors in the small town (check) swirl about a murder committed at the old farmhouse, which has an attic that's nailed shut (check) and a creepy cellar (double check).

Discount Double Check! If you're not a Packers fan, I'm sorry.
His first day on the bus, Cameron is taunted by the school bully Cody (yawn) and a kid named Benjie, who is "chunky" and "[smells] of stale sweat and breakfast cereal" sits next to him.  Obviously, Benjie is "gross" because he is fat.  Whoa, whoa whoa.  Stop.  No.  Not cool.  Stop using "fat," which is a descriptive adjective just like "tall" or "short" as shorthand for "gross ugly loser."  It's offensive and simply not true.

Cody makes Cam's life at school miserable, but also piques his interest in the history of the farmhouse.  After finding some creepy drawings in root cellar, Cameron begins to see a ghost.  Or does he?

The whole ghost thing isn't really that scary.  What's definitely played up is Cam's inability to distinguish between reality and imagination.  Who's really telling the truth?  Is his dad really as bad as his mom says?  Or is she just overreacting?  Is there really a ghost talking to him?  Or is he just imagining things?  

Far from acting like a teen in high school, Cameron speaks and makes the choices of a nine-year-old.  He's extremely juvenile and whiny.  It's just not a believable characterization.  

While an exploration of trauma and its effects on imagination and paranoia would have been intriguing. the story derails into what-the-heck land in its home stretch.  

I honestly don't know who this story would appeal to, out of the teens at my library.  The cover isn't particularly good (the Aussie cover is, however, fantastic!), but it did zip by pretty quickly.  I just can't recommend it in good faith.

I received an ARC of this title from the publisher.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

C2E2 Report

Warning: this post contains graphic novel content and a ton of geeking out.  Proceed at your own risk.

This past weekend, which seems an eternity ago thanks to a persistent and exceedingly unpleasant sinus infection, I attended C2E2 (Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo) for the third time. 

I admit that the first time I went, I was a little embarrassed.  I was a new librarian and hadn't fully embraced my geekery.  I still wanted to be "cool."  And then, after I went, and I saw people of all shapes and sizes and colors being themselves, doing what they love, and having fun, I was like, "I'm in."  Sign me up for the Geek Brigade.  I mean, look, it's not like my geekiness was any secret: I was named Madame Curie in the Senior Dumb Awards (I'm just amazed that my classmates knew who I was, as I took great pains to be invisible in high school).  But it was always something that I was embarrassed about, like, "Yeah, I love reading, but I just can't help it."  Now I'm all, "HECK YEAH READING!  YOU!  YOU THERE!  READ THIS BOOK AND THEN LET US SQUEE!"  

I blame Twitter and Tumblr for a lot of this.  But also just ... growing up and figuring out who I am and being willing to stand up for who I am.  

I apologize for the copious amounts of schmaltzy introspection, so let's talk pictures and what I did!  Unfortunately, I didn't make it to any panels this year.  It's a complicated story, so let's leave it at that. Also, I apologize for any shaky photos.  I either needed more caffeine or had had too much, as is my normal oscillation.  

You do not want to mess with this Wookie Warrior.  No.
He'll pull your arms off.
Let the Wookie win.

Stealth photo of Art Baltazar signing!  The man must be a machine, because every time I went through Artist's Alley, he was there.  

Matt Kindt!  If you aren't already reading Mind MGMT, stop.  Go buy or borrow it.  Read it.  Get back to me.

Me and Cap!  I could probably do a Peggy Carter cosplay ... hmm.

LEGO Jango!

Even Thor needs to find a bathroom.  All that coffee, you know.

Wampa attack!  Me and my little brother!

The most intricate cosplay I saw.

These guys were hilarious.  Love ya, Stormtroopers!

"Will somebody get this giant walking carpet out of my way?"

Single issues of Princess Ugg signed by Ted Naifeh!

I was really happy with the autographs I got, as well.  Friday evening, I simply sidled up to the amazing Gail Simone's line and had her sign Vol. 2 of Red Sonja.  When an author can make you enjoy a once tacky character who fights in a chainmail bikini, it's a win.  Gail is hilarious and you should totally follow her on Twitter.

Then I nipped by another booth displaying one of my favorite comics this year, Princess Ugg, and saw a rather dapper man sitting there quietly.  He wore a suit jacket and a bow tie.  Okay, look: I always imagined Ted Naifeh in guyliner and piercings and a general emo/goth look.  I mean, have you seen the hilariously goth-cute Courtney Crumrin?  Mr. Naifeh was so lovely to speak to.  

Saturday, I rushed Quirk Books' booth to have Ian Doescher sign my copy of Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope.  I'm obsessed with these.  

Alas, for the second year in a row I got to the lines for Pat Rothfuss and Scott Snyder right after they were cut.

I love just cruising Artist's Alley to take in all of the different talent out there in comiclandia.  I especially like watching artists just ... create while in between fans.  It makes my scalp prickle to watch an artist, with a few careful strokes of a pen or marker, create a piece of art.  

People watching is another huge draw for me at cons.  One thing I noticed the very first time I went to C2E2 was this sense of geek camaraderie.  No one really cared if you were fat and you were cosplaying, or if you were cross-playing, or anything.  It's a very "you be you" atmosphere.  I had no compunctions about talking with perfect strangers about their t-shirts or their cosplays or favorite authors.  However, I'm not naive, and I know that people do have less-than-stellar experiences at cons, which was why I was so happy to see this sign proudly and prominently displayed:

Bottom line: I am totally going back next year.  And probably to the Wizard World Con in Rosemont later this summer.

Circus Mirandus

It's no big secret that I don't like circuses.  Circi?  Whatever, I don't speak Latin.  What I do speak is the language of a strong, visceral dislike of clowns and a hatred of animal mistreatment.  Oh, and also the fetishization and commercialization of persons with disabilities as "freak show" members.

But have no fear.  Circus Mirandus is a perfectly lovely, charming book.  It's not so much about the titular circus as it is about the bond between family members and the power of faith.  When I say faith, I mean it in the sense of believing in something even though everyone else is telling you that you're wrong.  Faith means many different things to different people.  This isn't a Christian faith or a Muslim faith or a Zoroastrian faith: it's the faith that we have in those whom we love.  The implicit trust and belief that we have in them.