Wednesday, December 28, 2016

My favorite reviews of 2016

This is sinfully self-indulgent: a list of my favorite reviews that I wrote in the past year.  To be quite frank, I find it easier to write a critical review than a gushingly positive one.  This is not out of spite, but due to the fact that as a pessimist, it's difficult for me to praise without sounded hackneyed and silly.  Bless Tumblr and fandom in general for coming up with #allthefeels, because I can just tag my positive reviews with that and you know where I stand.

However, when I'm giving a negative review, I do try very hard to demonstrate why I didn't like the book.  That's not to say you shouldn't read it, or that you can't like it.  Some of my favorite books are ones that my coworkers intensely dislike.

On this list you'll see a mix of positive and negative reviews.  I really enjoyed writing them, and I hope you enjoy reading them.

Ocean of Storms by Christopher Mari and Jeremy K. Brown

Yes, I included this one solely for the gif of Bear from Armageddon.

Sad Perfect by Stephanie Elliot

This book just made me angry, and I was also irritated by the fact that the author and her agent were tweeting me about how I got the book on Edelweiss.  Um, I'm whitelisted for your publisher?  No, I cannot make everyone else whitelisted for your publisher.  That's not how it work.  I am but a lowly blogger/librarian.

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

This was actually pretty harrowing to write, because I'm in the minority opinion here.  I think this review made a lot of people upset.  But I'm learning to be okay with that.

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

I had such high hopes for this book.  Such high hopes.  HOPES DASHED.

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerry Maniscalo

Raise a pitchfork for historical inaccuracy sacrificed for zingy, quick-reading chapters.

Batman Vs. Superman as destroyed by Zack Snyder

I obviously had a lot to say about this film, and my family and immediate friends were getting tired of hearing it.  So I put it here.

A Tragic Kind of Wonderful by Eric Lindstrom

PLEASE STOP MAKING MENTAL ILLNESS QUIRKY IN LITERATURE.  CEASE AND DESIST.


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

How to be a Princess

I told myself I wasn't going to write about Carrie Fisher's death.

So I'm not.  I'm going to write a little bit about her life, and how it shaped me growing up.

I grew up watching Star Wars.  I knew that Leia was pretty.  I knew this in a factual way, like how you know the sky is blue or that water is wet.  I loved her because she was brave.  Because even after being intimidated by a power-tripping guy in a plastic bodysuit and tortured by the world's scariest torture droid, she never betrayed her cause.  She fought for freedom with everything she had.  Even though she grew up a Princess, and became a Galactic Senator, she cared about everyone.  The Hoth Rebel base crumbled around her, and she stayed.

And then she got older, and no less admirable.  She lost everything--her brother, her husband, her parents (both sets!), and her son.  But she kept fighting.  She believed in hope.  She believed in other people.  She had faith and she had love.

When I found out (became aware?  I don't know) that Carrie Fisher had bipolar disorder, it made me feel less alone.  My brother has bipolar, as many of you know.  I felt like it was this massive thing in our lives that no one else understood.  Until I realized that even though people have famous parents and play famous movie characters, they are victims of wonky brain chemistry just like the rest of us.

And even though BPD has a high suicide rate, she made it.  Her life was rough and hard and awful, but she survived it and she made us talk about mental illness.  She was brash and sassy and more than happy to call out the haters and the doubters and that particularly vile breed of human: the weight shamers.  Carrie told us that it's okay to be weird and imperfect.  She literally gave the middle finger to society demanding that she sit down and be quiet.  Carrie dared us to talk about our problems and to laugh about and to keep living, because the other options are grim indeed.

So live.  Fight.  Hope.

Top Five Middle Grade Books of 2016

Don't worry, I read a lot more than five middle grade books in 2016, but a lot of them were either backlist or ARCs.  These are my five favorites published during the actual calendar year.


Ghost by Jason Reynolds



Castle Crenshaw, AKA Ghost, is fast.  He has to be.  But his running has a purpose, so when he sees kids in fancy outfits running in circles (what a waste!) he wanders over.  Coach recognizes Ghost's talent, but can Ghost hold up his end of the bargain in order to stay on the team?  


Booked by Kwame Alexander



Nick and his best friend Coby dream of competing in a national soccer tournament.  But life isn't a fairy tale--Nick has to deal with school drama, family drama, and girl drama.  This novel in verse is a great successor to The Crossover.


Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes



For Deja, the idea of looking at the New York City skyline and seeing two tall towers is a strange one.  She knows something bad happened on September 11, 2001, but not any of the details.  And why won't Pop talk to her about it?  This is an extraordinarily important novel for children born after the towers fell, or those too young to remember.  For those of us who lived it and watched it live, we have a responsibility to explain it to this next generation.  This book is a great way to start the conversation.


Unidentified Suburban Object by Mike Jung


Chloe Cho is very, very, VERY tired of being the only Korean American girl in her town.  She's sick of being compared to famous violinist Abigail Yang (because all people from East Asia are music prodigies!) and she wishes her parents would actually talk about life in South Korea and give her some cultural background.  Well, Chloe's going to get some cultural background, all right, but it's definitely not what she expected.  A delightful book by the equally delightful Mike Jung.

The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks



This solo effort by Faith Erin Hicks is brimming with adventure and action.  Hicks weaves the multicultural aspects of the titular Nameless City into the story effortlessly, and the characters are refreshingly non-pasty.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Allegedly



There are very few books that have left me stunned after I read the last word.  I mean actually stunned into silence.  Allegedly is one of them.

Mary Addison is famous, and not in a good way.  When she was nine years old, she was tried and convicted of killing three-month-old Alyssa.  Mary is black, and Alyssa was white.  Mary's spent her entire adolescence in a sort of solitary confinement she calls "baby jail"--the system could never let a baby killer go free, but neither could they put a nine-year-old in with all the other female inmates.  She explains,
"Understand, there's a big difference between baby jail and juvie, where the rest of the girls in the house come from.  Juvie is for badass kids who do stuff like rob bodegas, steal cars, maybe stupidly try to kill someone.  Baby jail is for kids who've done way worse, like me."

Now, Mary is at a home, which is the least "homey" place she could be.  A tracking device encircles her ankle, and all of her movements are logged and cross-examined.  Ms. Stein uses the girls in her "care" as unpaid drudges, and does little to monitor the threats simmering just below the surface.  But, she does get to go out and work at a nursing home, where she steals time with her secret boyfriend, Ted.

When Mary finds out she's pregnant, her already surreal life becomes even more complicated.  There's her hallelujah-just-pray-it-out-don't-talk-about-the-bad-stuff-see-you-next-week mother, who was nominally babysitting Alyssa when Mary allegedly killed her.  There's Kisha and Marisol and the other girls in the house, who target Mary and her roommate, the quiet, mousy New Girl.  There's Ted, who supports Mary and wants to run away with her and who steals prenatal vitamins so their Bean can grow strong.  Ted, who's too good to be true.  There's the question of getting her GED and passing the SAT and getting into college, which is what Mary wants more than anything. Except maybe to keep her baby.

Who would let an alleged baby killer keep a baby of her own?  Desperate, Mary contacts a program that helps people who have been abused by the justice system.  As Bean grows larger in her body, Mary has to decide whether or not the awful truth about that night is worth telling.  And if anyone will believe her.

Allegedly is a book that truly has it all: engaging characters, a twisty plot, an examination of racial politics and social (in)justice, and a clear, strong voice.  I could hear Mary and Ted and Kisha and New Girl in my head.  Jackson has crafted characters that are so real that they will walk around inside your head, fighting and screaming to be let out, long after you finish the book.  She also deftly examines the inequalities in the "justice" system--one that would condemn a nine year old girl as a murderer because she is black and the baby she allegedly killed was white.  Mary, who was still a baby herself, had people literally calling for her blood.  It's sickening, but it's also searingly honest.  Mary is automatically guilty because of the color of her skin.  This happens every day, and it needs to stop.

And then, as I said on Twitter: Holy Mary, Mother of Plot Twists.  Cue the jaw drop and stunned silence and frantic applause.  Yes, it's that good.

While I've already awarded Angie Thomas' The Hate U Give the Morris, the Printz, the National Book Award, and the Coretta Scott King, I'm wondering if I can co-nominate Allegedly.  Ah, whatever.  Book awards make me cranky anyway.  What you really need to do is pre-order or ask your librarian to pre-order Allegedly and be stunned by what Tiffany D. Jackson has crafted.  And then hopefully she will write even more mind-blowing books.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

Please do not let my incoherent, fumbling review of this book put you off.  It's what happens when I read something exquisite--my brain cells short out.  Just remember: in 2017, you have a date with Allegedly.

I received an ARC of this title from the publisher.

Friday, December 23, 2016

DNF: You Are A Badass



This seemed relatively normal for a pep-talk book.  And heaven knows I need pep talks.  But I don't do well with therapy or affirmations or positive thinking or any of that.  I expected this book to be a bit different.  I mean, it has a curse word in the title.  How woo-woo guru could it be?

You have no idea.



This is nothing different from any other self-help book out there.  I was looking for something positive that would boost my self-esteem.  Something funny.  This is funny, but not funny ha-ha.

From the get go, Sincero (honestly, is that her real name?) asks you to just believe in the power of her book.  Because it changes lives!!!  She no longer lives in a crappy apartment because all she did was BELIEVE that she didn't have to live in a crappy apartment.  But that's not all--she got over her aversion to the notion of a higher power, and thinks that a Source Energy (insert your deity of choice here) gives you the power to make yourself awesome.  Or at least rich, since that is a huge part of the book, from what I noticed in skimming.  It is super important to make six figures and drive a fancy car and eat fancy food and travel the world, because money makes you SOOOO HAPPEEEEEEEE!!!



I don't believe that.  At all.  That is one of the dumbest things I have ever heard.

But wait!  The only way to get ALL THE MONEY and drive fauncy cars is to make sure that your vibrational energy is really high, because then The Universe (caps necessary!) will "rise up" to match your vibrational energy with its own vibrations.



I'm sorry, am I on drugs?  Is this author on drugs?  Are all the people who think this book is so amazing ON DRUGS???

I guess if you like this sort of thing, you'll ... like this thing.  If your idea of reality does not include taking out a personal loan to buy a BMW because that will motivate you to get a good job, then you should probably skip this.  Even if it does have a vaguely quirky title.


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Mini Review: The Wizard of London

Mercedes Lackey's Elemental Masters series is not great literature.  It will not win prizes.  But it is my trashy addiction (with trashy being used in the most loving way, of course), and I need some solace in these dark days of winter.


Ostensibly a retelling of "The Snow Queen," The Wizard of London is a charming, if exceedingly scatterbrained, book about Talented children and Indian expatriates in Victorian London.  Lackey seems mildly obsessed with bringing Indian characters into her books.  While she always treats them with respect, they often take on the aspect of the magical Eastern guru.  And calling the master and mistress of the boarding school Sahib and M'sahib is uncomfortable in the extreme.

However, the characters are fun, if not totally fleshed out.  Sarah Jane hails from Africa, where her parents use missionary work to cover up their identities as Elemental Masters (humans with the power to control one of the four elements: Air, Water, Earth, or Fire).  Sarah, however, doesn't have Elemental power, but she certainly has something.  So her parents send her off to England to a school run by Frederick and Isabelle Harton, Talented humans whose powers are called "Arcane."  It's not really explored nearly as much as I wanted it to be, but the concept of being Talented just means you're drawing on different sorts of power.  For example, you might be able to talk to the dead, or read minds, or see feelings.  Elemental Masters dish out the power in a flashier manner.

Nan, a street waif, stops by the school one night, hoping that the rumors of a food hamper for the poor are true.  They are, and what's more, Sarah senses Talent in Nan as well.  After a hairy escape from some child buyers (Nan's mom is pretty awful), Nan enrolls in the school as well, and she and Sarah become best of friends.  Each girl  has a bird companion--Sarah has a grey parrot and Nan a raven from the Tower of London.

As their Talents become more pronounced, someone begins to notice them and their power.  Despite being children, they are a threat.  And so traps are set, rescues are made, and powers are discovered.  Isabelle is furious that someone would attack children, and realizes that the key to finding the culprit lies with the so-called Wizard of London, Lord Alderscroft.  The cold and unapproachable Alderscroft is also the turd who threw Isabelle over as a girl, making it very clear that he changed his mind about loving her solely due to her low social standing as a vicar's daughter.  He now only keeps company with a similarly frigid woman named Lady Cordelia, who is an Air Master and his mentor.

In truth, Lady Cordelia is totally, supremely wicked (but you knew that already, didn't you?  Morals in most of Lackey's books operate in absolutes).  After learning how to wield Ice Magic from a mysterious power in the Alps, she has twisted her power to keep herself young and beautiful.  However, she realizes that she can only gain so much power as a woman in Victorian England, so she hatches a rather bizarre scheme to groom Alderscroft and then steal his body.  She's done much the same with many orphans and urchins--taken their lives and imprisoned their ghosts as servants.  But now, with Sarah's ability to communicate with the dead becoming more powerful, and Nan growing into her role as a warrior, Cordelia is threatened.

We have some fun romps with Robin Goodfellow, a murderous ghost, and the Wild Hunt, but the ending of The Wizard of London rushed up on me suddenly and was over before I could say boo.  I was hoping for  much more resolution, since the characters really did have a lot of potential, especially Nan and Sarah.  However, I can forgive this, because reading Lackey is a cozy and safe experience.  You can curl up with a book, knowing just what to expect.  Fluffy fantasy with a dose of sassy women characters.

I came back to work today to check out the next book in the series, Reserved for the Cat, since I still need more bibliotherapy.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Top Ten YA Books of 2016

These posts are always so hard!  Just ten?  ONLY TEN???  This is where my heart starts going all Mr. Darcy on me: "In vain I have struggled; it will not do.  I need more than ten options, ardently!"

Let's see if I can pull this off.  I am limiting myself to books published in 2016 that I read in 2016 (so the ARCs I read in 2015 don't count).

(in no particular order)

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova

I didn't review this book here, but I did a joint review with Drea and Faythe over on Teen Services Underground.


Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood.


A contemporary YA that I loved (IS THIS AN ALTERNATE UNIVERSE???) written by a librarian.  Winner winner chicken dinner!

Scythe by Neal Shusterman.



Finally!  Dystopia done right. *shimmy dance*

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston


Yes, this book is about rape.  But it's also about agency and determination and friendship.  You need it.

Still Life with Tornado by A.S. King


I'm starting to think that it is impossible for me to feel anything but frantic love for A.S. King's works.  This one is slightly less surreal than my all-time favorite, I Crawl Through It, but it's heartbreaking and just weird enough.

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard


After going on a self-imposed exile from fantasy YA (too many love triangles, too many bad boys, too many characters who think they're ugly but are in fact total babes), I picked this one up.  WOW.  WOW WOW WOW.  I am dancing with impatience for Windwitch.

The Lie Tree by Francis Hardinge


As with A.S. King, I will read and love anything Hardinge writes.  I had the extraordinary pleasure of meeting her (and her fabulous hat) at ALA Annual 2016, and yes, I geeked out big time.  The Lie Tree is a fantastic exploration of truth, Victorian moral hypocrisy, and archaeology.  Trust me: Hardinge makes it work.

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab


Monsters and humans in a post-Apocalyptic America?  Yes, please, and thank you.

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi


This is the book equivalent of a luscious chocolate mousse topped with whipped cream and fruit and maybe some raspberry coulis because why not?  It's sensual and beautiful and it makes me have all the feels.

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis



Most teen revenge novels involve pranks with lipstick or the classic bucket of blood.  Not here.  We have a killer on our hands, and the problem is--well, it's kind of hard not to empathize with her.

Argh!  It was so hard to choose!  Plus, I had to leave out at least three completely mind-blowing books that I read this year because they're not out until next year!

What were your favorite YA reads of 2016?









Monday, December 19, 2016

Jinx

"To lose one parent may be regarded as unfortunate; to lose both looks like carelessness."  The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde.



The Urwald is not an easy place to stay alive.  Both of Jinx's parents died of Urwald-related calamities.  Werebears are awfully hungry creatures, you know.  And in between their dying, each surviving parent remarried the next person in line, as it goes in the townships of the Urwald.  So it was that Jinx was left as the owner of his own hut and with two thoroughly nasty stepparents.  And then the hut burned down.

The new hut belonged to the stepparents, and since Jinx was one more mouth demanding semi-regular meals of toad porridge and root stew and other Urwaldish fare, they decided to take him out into the Urwald, leave the path, and let him die.  Killer forests and the beasts within are quite handy for murderous, stingy adults who inhabit these stories (I'm sure this is some sort of fairy-tale metaphor for something weirdly Freudian, but I don't want to get into that sort of thing right now).  The one thing to remember when venturing into the Urwald is to never stray from the path.  There is a truce between humans who use the path and the wild denizens of the forest: you stay on your path, and we'll keep to ourselves.

In order to ensure his stepson's quick demise, Bergthold drags Jinx off the path, where, surprisingly, they encounter a man.  Simon is a wizard, though he does not look it, lacking the usual long flowing beard and tall pointy hat. He offers a silver penny for Jinx, and when Bergthold tries to get three silver pennies, Simon leaves him to the trolls.  He and Jinx return home to a positive fleet of feline life, and Jinx begins his life as Simon's servant.

Although he's not particularly nice, Simon doesn't seem exactly evil, either.  It helps that Jinx can discern a person's feelings--they appear like a color around the person's head.  He can also speak to the trees in the Urwald, and they fear only one thing: the Terror.  Although Simon can become irritated, he never has bloody knives pop up around his head like the evil Bonemaster, another wizard in the Urwald.  Simon teaches Jinx a bit of magic, but then performs a strange spell on him, depriving him of his sixth sense for feelings and leaving him feeling very hollow indeed. When Simon's wife Sophie finds out about this, she is furious.

So Jinx runs away, and almost immediately is set upon by a rather friendly robber named Rowan.  Strangely, the trees point to Rowan as the source of the Terror, but Rowan is under a curse that prevents him from talking about his own curse (which is a handy bit of magic).  The boys also meet a young, spunky lady named Elfwyn, who happens to be the granddaughter of a local witch, Dame Glammer.  They all visit the witch to figure out how to break their curses, but she's really rather useless at giving advice.  Instead, she prefers to fly about the forest in her butter churn and threaten to eat cursed children.

Finally, Jinx, Rowan, and Elfwyn journey to the place they've been told never to seek: the Bonemaster's lair.  Don't go getting any ideas that the Bonemaster has just created stories about himself to keep people away: this wizard is a vicious, amoral murderer.  Will the three children be able to escape and break their curses?

Jinx is a charming fantasy with enough familiar elements of magical tales that a young reader will be comfortable navigating the landscape, but the characters are original and very, very funny.  I cannot wait to see where Jinx's adventures take him next!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World

Reviewing a book that I love intimidates me.  I don't feel worthy of it.  I have been staring at an intimidatingly blank screen for several weeks, willing something--anything--to percolate from my brain down into my fingers and out onto this page.  But nothing witty or deep or writerly is coming.  Oh well!  That's okay!



As women, we are expected to be perfect all the time.  I have always noticed that women who wake up from a night's sleep on television, in a movie, or even in commercials, are perfectly coiffed and ready to take on the day.  Even in sleep, we must conform to society's standards of beauty.  But I don't.  My hair sticks up, my skin is blotchy, and sometimes I get this weird pillow-line that runs down my right cheek, giving me a foregleam of wrinkles to come.  I'm not conventionally pretty, and for a long time I worried about that, until I started asking, "Whose convention is it?"  I slowly began to comprehend that not conforming to societal standards is not a bad thing.  Why should I be squeezed into the mold of something I don't agree with?

I've always been a rule-follower.  A good girl.  I'd like to still think that I am a good person, but I do not wish to blindly follow cultural and societal rules that make me miserable.  Rules like:

Don't say what you think.
Don't question anything.
Don't eat that Rice Krispie Treat.
Don't like Starbucks because only basic girls like Starbucks and being basic is The Worst.
Enjoying what you eat is bad.

All of those rules?  They're exhausting.  They bleed the life out of women.  And then when we try to staunch the flow of blood, we're shamed and reprimanded.

Why can't you just shut up and scrub the floors?
Who asked you, anyway?
No one will ever love you.

For a long, long, long time, I never considered myself to be a feminist.  I thought it was like taking a blood oath and not shaving and stuff.  I didn't think that with my beliefs, I qualified to be feminist.   But I am.  I am more of a Bad Feminist along the lines of Roxane Gay, but bad feminist is better than no feminist at all.  Still unsure about what it means to be a feminist?

Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World, edited by Kelly Jensen, examines intersectional feminism through diverse lenses and demonstrates that there is no One True Way to be a feminist (or Feminist, whichever you prefer).  Every single piece in this book resonated with me deeply.  I am honored to call the editor and some contributors my friends, and everyone else is someone whose opinions I respect.

To summarize the book would be to steal the wonder of reading it from you, but I would like to highlight a few of my favorite pieces.  It goes without saying, I think, that all of the artwork is magnificent.

"I Have Always Eaten the Bread" by Lily Myers.

As a person who constantly battles disordered thoughts about eating and her body, this piece soothed me.  Myers artfully examines and deconstructs the demonization of food and the female body.

"The Likeability Rule" by Courtney Summers.

I am a huge fan of Courtney Summers and her books.  Huge.  This is mostly because of the so-called "unlikeability" of her main characters.  I suffer from the agonizing self-doubt that comes from worrying if everyone likes me.  I don't like being with other people because I think they don't like me.  So I look up to Courtney's characters.  They are brave and strong and true.  They know that "the sole purpose of a girl's existence is not to always be liked above all else."

"Faith and the Feminist" by Kaye Mirza.

This was, by far, my favorite piece in the entire book.  It spoke to me.  I've always worried that what I believed precluded me from saying "I am a feminist."  The ever-gracious and lovely Kaye brought me to tears with her conclusion:
"Your faith is not a weakness.  It forms who you are, your hopes and your fears and your dreams for a better future.  It is your experience, the fuel for your voice and the reason why you reach out to hear and boost other voices.  Our feminism rests in our faith.  And there is nothing secondhand or shameful about that."
Reading this stories made me feel closer to each writer.  I am so grateful that they shared these thoughts and parts of themselves with everyone.  The power of women's narratives and voices is inescapable.  When voices are raised together, they cannot be drowned out.

I received an ARC of this title from the publisher.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

What I'm Reading Wednesday

I can't seem to whittle down the amount of books I read at one time.  It's really a bit frightening.




The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli.  I just kind of love Becky Albertalli.  And not in a weird way.  In a I'll-totally-read-whatever-she-writes way.  And since I've never had a Golden Oreo, I think we're good.


Natural History by Justina Robson.  One of the sci-fi writers I follow on Twitter recommended this when it was an Amazon deal.  Either Charlie Stross or John Scalzi.  Anyway, I automatically bought it and it's definitely one of those Big Idea Sci-Fi books.  And I need that now.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill.  I loved Barnhill's Iron-Hearted Violet and need to backtrack and read The Witch Boy, and this smashing fantasy adds to her draw.


The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey.  This sounds rather lurid--two women (possibly) kidnap and torture a young girl.  I believe this is one book where Alan Grant doesn't play a huge role, which saddens me, but I do like his stand in, the solicitor.



Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake.  Intricate and bloodthirsty so far.  I love it.


Jinx by Sage Blackwood.  I just finished Miss Ellicott's School for the Magically Minded (out next year) and loved it so much that I went straight to the shelf to grab Jinx, which had been on my TBR for ages, anyway.  I love this too.  I may be addicted to Sage Blackwood's writing.


Monday, December 12, 2016

Comics Trade Round-Up: Squirrel Girl, Hellcat, and more!



Runaways: Battleworld by Noelle Stevenson, Sanford Greene, and John Rauch, plus loads of other writers and artists for Secret Wars: Secret Love #1

This is super-delightful.  I never read the original Runaways series, but I am rather proud of myself that I recognized some of the characters.  Set during the events of Battleworld, Runaways follows first year students at Victor Von Doom's Doom Institute, a sort of Hitler Youth training ground, but just substitute "Von Doom" for Hitler.  At the end of each year, there is a final exam that's done in teams, but because Jubilee and Sanna got into a massive hallway fight involving ice shards and extreme mayhem, they're in detention.  Which means they're going to miss the final exam.

Thankfully, Amadeus Cho, totally still a superhero with his geeky powers, overwrites the robot teacher's programming, and the students make it to the test on time--only to discover that they are teammates.  This does not go well.  It gets worse when Jubilee's best friend and ex-girlfriend, Pixie, is eliminated.  It gets even worse than that when Amadeus slips them into an unused portion of the battle game and they discover that all of the students who die in the exam die in real life.

Now on the run from Valeria Von Doom, the diminutive headmistress, and ever-faithful, ever-so-not-taking-a-joke Bucky Barnes, a rule-following senior, the Runaways must a) survive and b) let everyone at the Doom Institute know what's really going on.

The banter is snappy, the relationships are realistic, and the action scenes are frantic and full of energy.  I have to say, I'm kinda hooked.

This trade also includes some issues from Secret Love, and the amazing short by Jeremy Whitley (author of Princeless!!!) featuring Misty Knight and Danny Rand is included.  It's just ... it's perfect.  I love it.


Moving on to the free Halloween special Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by the inimitable Ryan North and Erica Henderson...

This is not a drill!  This is a CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE Squirrel Girl comic involving a man made out of bees that he psychically controls.  Ergo, it's amazing.  My brother gave this to me a few months ago and I just got around to reading it.  Whoops!  If you can find it, read it.  It will make you happy in these dark, dark times.  Because a) squirrels, b) puns, c) Deadpool trading cards, and d) CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE OMG!!!



Patsy Walker, AKA Hellcat! by Kate Leth and Brittney Williams

I'm not sure when or why, exactly, I became a Kate Leth fan.  It may have been when I decided that the majority of my favorite comics writers and illustrators (and prose authors, for that matter) are Canadian, and I followed a bunch of them on Twitter.  I went into Hellcat knowing zilch about the character, but Leth does a fantastic job of writing Patsy so that you don't feel hampered if you're a newbie.  This comic is extremely fun, nicely referential, and wonderfully illustrated by Brittney Williams.

Times are economically tough for She-Hulk, and Patsy is let go as a private investigator for the legal firm.  This also means she needs to stop sleeping in the storage unit that she has appropriated for her home.  Patsy ends up rooming with an Inhuman named Ian, whom she had previously talked down from pulling off a bank heist.  Patsy's really good at turning sort-of-inclined-to-bad Inhumans into helpful and nice Inhumans.

But!  As she walks around New York City, everyone seems to know who she is.  As it turns out, her childhood friend ("friend"?) Hedy Wolfe has republished the old Patsy Walker comics against Patsy's wishes.  Can you imagine walking around with everyone knowing you as the star of a teen romantic comic book series?  That sounds worse than whatever Patsy had to deal with while in Hell.

I would like a Hellcat/Squirrel Girl team-up comic, please and thank you.


Ms. Marvel, Vol. 4: Last Days by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona

The effervescent Ms. Marvel series gets dragged into Marvel's Secret Wars event, but Wilson handles the end of the world with grace and heart.  As Kamala Khan faces the end of the world, what decisions will she make?  With her personal hero and mentor Carol Danvers at her side, Kamala tries to fortify Jersey City against the coming apocalypse.  But when there's a giant planet hurtling toward the Earth, there's not a lot she can do to fix things.  There's an extremely touching scene between Kamala and her mother, and the ending is the perfect mix of sadness and hope.  Really lovely.




Sunday, December 11, 2016

2017 Diverse Reading Challenge

I'm joining the 2017 Diverse Reading Challenge that's being co-hosted by Read.Sleep.Repeat and Chasing Faerytales!

Check out the post here!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Mini-Review: Trapped (Shipwreck Island #3)

The Shipwreck Island series by S.A. Bodeen is one of my go-to series for reluctant readers and kids looking for shorter adventure books.  However, the third entry in the series, Trapped, is definitely the weakest, as it zips off on a strange tangent that doesn't really gel with the story so far.  Basically, we've gone from Gilligan's Island to Lost in Space without much of a transition.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Spindle Fire

It is never a good sign when you attempt to write a book review and realize that you have blocked off all memories of the book in question.  Or that the book was so unmemorable that it just oozed out of my brain and into the ether.  I had to actually go check the Goodreads synopsis for Spindle Fire to remember what I was going to write about.  Er, rant about.  Because holy weird retellings, Batman.  I simultaneously have no words and many, many words.

We all know* Jane Austen's inimitable line about men in possession of large fortunes needing wives, and her categorization of such as a 'universal truth.'  I propose another such truth, but this one related to fantasy and fairy-tale retellings.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that the majority of books that retell fairy tales will be epic fails, so you should probably just go reread something by Robin McKinley instead.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Drop of Night

This book is scoring off the charts on my "What the heck just happened????" meter, so I'm going to just dive in without any preamble.  I'm not sure if I could put together a coherent introduction anyway.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Scythe

Thou shalt kill.

There is no more aging.

There is no more sickness.

There are no more accidents.

But there is death.