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Blue Bottle Mystery - The Graphic Novel: An Asperger Adventure

Blue Bottle Mystery - The Graphic Novel: An Asperger Adventure - Kathy Hoopmann I read this graphic novel through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I love graphic novels and was eager to read this one that is described as an Asperger's Adventure. This is a short, but decent graphic novel introduction to what it is like to live with Asperger's Syndrome (AS). Ben has AS and him and his friend Andy find a blue bottle. Is there a genie and are their wishes being granted? All of a sudden Ben's life changes very dramatically in a short period of time. This story uses magical realism to convey what it is like for Ben to interact with teacher's, friends, and family as they all learn that he has Asperger's. However, this story only scratches the surface of what it is like to live with Asperger's, yet the graphic novel approach is nice. The illustrations are decent, but nothing glamorous. Overall, it is worth the short read for graphic novel enthusiasts.

Trashed

Trashed - Derf Backderf I've come to really love Derf as a comic artist and writer. He writes what he knows and he does it so well. I loved My Friend Dahmer as well as Punk Rock and Trailer Parks, but I'm not sure his writing style would suit others as much as I find it enthralling. His characters have such personality, they are realistic, bold, and darkly humorous. Trashed is equal parts memoir, fiction, and informational text. I think it would be good for a high school audience or adults open to dark humor. I found all of the facts and statistics about consumerism, trash, and our environment engrossing and sad. Everyone should read this and feel worse about our consumption and the rate at which we discard stuff. His art is characteristically his and so well done. My one critism is I found that Derf repeated some of the facts and I got annoyed reading something over and over again, however for a younger reader it would drive the point home, it would depend what age audience this is geared towards. For those who've enjoyed Derf's other work this is a must read. For anyone who throws stuff in a garbage can, which is everyone, you will learn some dark truths about trash.

I read this ebook via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Last of the Sandwalkers

Last of the Sandwalkers - Jay Hosler Release Date: April 7, 2015
ARC received from First Second

This book was an awesome surprise! I loved the concept of using beetles to tell a story of scientific inquiry. I enjoyed the fictional elements of the traveling family of beetles, but I learned so much about insects, their anatomy, environment, predators, and more while following their adventures. It is an interesting and inspirational graphic novel. The artwork is deft and provocative and easily aids the learning experience while retaining the graphic novel feel.

This graphic novel is perfect for teachers and librarians looking for Common Core titles for middle and high school students, especially for reluctant readers. Non-fiction and fiction and perfectly combined in this book. Highly recommended for young scientists and adults who want to remember the importance of making discoveries.

V-Wars Volume 1: Crimson Queen

V-Wars Volume 1: Crimson Queen - Jonathan Maberry Fans of The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman will also enjoy this dystopian vampire graphic novel. Robert Kirkman and Jonathan Maberry are actually good friends in real life and their writing styles have some similarity. Yes, this is vampires not zombies, but it is gritty and smart in a market that has been flooded with vampires for many years.

Be prepared for lots of blood, but also a strong social commentary regarding politics and the media. We often believe exactly what the media tells us about something, but the people with the most influence tend to have control over the media and TELL US what to believe. What if the media told us all vampires are bad, but all vampires really weren’t bad? That is the basis of this story and one I found very compelling. Excellent artwork. Strongly recommended for adults and older teens looking for a new graphic novel series.

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Fat Boy vs the Cheerleaders

Fat Boy vs the Cheerleaders - Geoff Herbach Release Date: May 6, 2014
ARC received from Source Books

Gabe is an overweight, class clown who is in the marching band. His mom left him and his dad and now Gabe lives with his dad and his once bodybuilder grandpa. He eats badly and drinks too much soda. His closest friends, employer, and even teachers all call him “Chunk.” While doing a report on soda, Gabe makes the decision to cut back and start changing his lifestyle, but then he finds out the summer marching band program has been cut and all the profits from the soda machines that were going to the band have now been given to the cheerleaders new dance squad. Gabe is on a personal mission as summer begins to get the marching band program back and to lose weight. During his campaign he makes new friends, learns a lot about himself, and becomes a stronger more independent individual.

This is a well-written and refreshingly realistic fiction story from the perspective of a young man truly coming into his own. The story is told in a recollection from Gabe to a police officer, who is interviewing Gabe after an altercation and theft of a soda machine. This is a humorous and quick read that portrays the hardships of friendships and growing-up. Gabe realizes his old friends call him Chunk and his new friends call him Gabe and with that realization he sees he can be just as judgmental calling cheerleader’s bitches and jocks, jocks. Gabe also finds romance with a girl named Chandra that he initially didn’t like because of her goth exterior, but soon he sees the person under the façade. This is a well-developed collection of characters from quarterback R.C. III who isn’t as close with the jocks as he is with the geekers, to the big-boobed dance coach, to the weird speedo wearing grandpa who is whipping Gabe into shape and cooking him healthy meals.

If you have ever felt different, had some hard family times, or just wanted to stand up for something you believed in, this story has a little bit of everything. You root for the underdog and realize just how far someone can come when they truly want to make a change. Fun, insightful, and highly recommended.

Jasmine and Maddie

Jasmine and Maddie - Christine Pakkala Release Date: April 1, 2014
ARC received from Boyds Mill Press at ALA Midwinter
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Jasmine just moved to town and lives in a trailer park, which she finds super embarrassing. Maddie lives in a large house with a big family where she is not as perfect as her older sister who sets the ideal example in her home. When Jasmine starts the eighth grade at their small Connecticut school all the popular girls just flock to Jasmine. Maddie however, has one good friend who is usually too busy to hang out with her, which makes Maddie jealous of how easily Jasmine has blended into their school. Jasmine is sympathetic of Maddie’s awkwardness, but not sympathetic enough to not steal from her because she is more affluent than Jasmine. Jasmine liked to think of it as Robin Hood stealing from the rich, and all she wants to do is help her mom pay the bills.

This is a story about friendship and coming of age trials told in alternating perspectives between Jasmine and Maddie. This is a very realistic portrayal of the middle school ups and downs girls have and how everyone feels awkward about something, be it where they live, how they live, how they dress, who likes or doesn’t like whom, etc. Just because Maddie lives in a big house and her family has a decent amount of money, doesn’t mean she is automatically happy. Jasmine is going through some sad times after the loss of her father and we see the state of her family grieving and the problems of other families in her trailer park.

The two girl’s stories are united by poetry assignments in their English class. We get to read the poems they are studying and the poems they are writing and see some true emotional outpouring. The book climaxes with a Poetry Café at the end of the book where all their grieving and frustration can be read aloud. This is a quick, light read for middle-readers that young adults will also enjoy because of the timelessness of feeling so emotionally raw. A highly recommended realistic fiction read.

Why We Broke Up

Why We Broke Up - Maira Kalman, Daniel Handler Reading this book is like watching a car accident. You see it coming, but you can’t prevent it. In retrospect we see all the reasons a relationship came to an end, but during the relationship we just assume things will get better. We push things to the back of our minds; ignore the obvious, but often all the little things become very important. I loved Min’s anger and she did have a right to be angry! I loved the realness of her story. I loved the supporting characters, her friends and his friends, and how they came from two different worlds. It was so obvious to everyone around them that their cliques were completely separate and yet we watched as everything unraveled.

I’ve read reviews that reading the extended letter can be a bit hard to read, but as I listened to the story I didn’t have any complaints about long paragraphs and tedious texts. As Min describes each object there is a beautifully rendered image in the book by the illustrator, Maira Kalman. The art give emphasis to the significance of each object in Min's life. If you listen to the audiobook like I did, you will hear each object being thrown into the box with real animosity, brilliant! A great realistic fiction, romance story that is very powerful.

InterWorld

InterWorld - Neil Gaiman, Michael Reaves This book was true young adult, science fiction. I admit that at times I got very confused and frustrated by the concept of multiple dimensions, with some being more progressive in the sciences than our world and others embracing magic more than our world. Because of the multiple dimensions, there are multiple versions of Joey. I liked the different personalities and how each was well-defined by the authors. J/O is part computer (science) and Jo has wings (magic). I loved Hue, the multi-dimensional life form; he was like a cute science fiction puppy. I found the villain, Lord Dogknife, a bit ridiculous, but Lady Indigo was a good nemesis. Even though I got frustrated at times following Joey through worlds I found myself smiling at the ending and realizing I had grown attached too many of the characters. This would be a good read for young adult, science fiction enthusiasts.

I won the sequel, The Silver Dream (An Interworld Novel), from a Goodreads Giveaway and plan on reading it soon.

Orleans

Orleans - Sherri L. Smith This book is amazingly written! Fen and Daniel are two very distinct personalities that the author alternates between. The language Sherri Smith used to differentiate the two characters helps create an understanding of the two distinct worlds within The Wall and outside The Wall without even taking place in the Outer States. Fen speaks with a more native tongue and Daniel has more educated language having grown up with all the perks of luxurious living that Fen hasn’t as part of her tribe. Fen is a fierce young girl on a mission and she understands her world and respects the law of the land. Daniel is clearly out of his element, scared, and realizes he has taken on a very large task. The world building is dark, yet beautifully rendered and completely believable. I thoroughly enjoyed that there is no romance between Fen and Daniel, the story revolved around an otherwise plot, which has its own twists and turns I couldn’t have imagined. This book was powerful in the same manner as the Printz Award Winner Ship Breaker, so if you liked that book, this is a must read. A highly recommended and unique new dystopian story.

Liberty

Liberty - Annie Laurie Cechini I heard this book referred to as a space opera and I’ve never read one before, so I looked it up. It is like a soap opera, in that there is melodramatic adventure set in outer space. That sort of defines this story, but it really is much more than that because it fits nicely into the well-established young adult genre where there has to be just enough romance, action, and devastation. There is not a lot of space travel in the YA genre and this was a fun and refreshing read that held my interest.

I admit I didn’t get off to a good start with this book. The introduction of the entire crew in the first two chapters was a bit overwhelming. Also, I don’t like when author’s use made-up curse words, in this case flark and skud, it just gets on my nerves. However, when I continued reading I found a really compelling story that was a fast, action-packed read. Dix and Berrett’s time on Earth was well-developed and I enjoyed the world-building from both slums to modern paradise. The conveyances they used to fly in were all intriguing. Each member of the crew had their own distinct personality and I really grew quite the affection for Hobs, Dix’s scientist friend who is working on replicating the Eternigen. Dix bumbled a bit and I wished she didn’t, but alas a young captain might have those moments because none of us are perfect. A good YA, science fiction read.

Free copy received for an honest review.

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The Walking Dead: The Road to Woodbury

The Walking Dead: The Road to Woodbury - Jay Bonansinga, Robert Kirkman In this follow-up to The Rise of the Governor we follow a rag-tag group of survivors as they go from one encampment to another. Lily and Josh have more than friendship developing, Megan and Scott will do anything to get high, and Bob is an old military medic who drinks too much. They leave a bad situation, only to find a worse situation in Woodbury with the Governor.

I can’t say this book is what I expected. The beginning was very slow. There really wasn’t much traveling or plot building. Once the characters got to Woodbury the story got much more interesting as the Governor’s world invaded the characters psyche. The story was then about the savagery of the fighting arena and how it came to be. There wasn’t really much hope in this book because as a prequel to the graphic novels we already know the future is grim. I struggled between 3 and 4 stars. I like The Walking Dead series so much and I will inevitably read another book when it comes out, yet the story wasn’t very strong. They would have had more success if they did other backstories, like Michonne or another noteworthy character, rather than introducing characters who minimally interact with the Governor and aren’t main characters in the story line.

Alice in Zombieland (White Rabbit Chronicles)

Alice in Zombieland (White Rabbit Chronicles) - Gena Showalter What I expected: Alice in Wonderland, but with zombies in Wonderland.
What I actually got: A teenage, high school drama reminiscent of Twilight where there are zombies instead of vampires.

Alice Bell’s father is a little crazy; he sees monsters and won’t let his family out after dark. After a terrible accident Alice starts to question if her father was actually seeing monsters. Now in a new high school Alice meets a bunch of teens with bad reputations. She has a weird mental connection with their leader, Cole, and she is instantly attracted to him. However, there is also Justin who is a “good boy” who is interested in her. As she gets wrapped up with Cole she realizes there is dark underbelly of zombie fighting and not everyone is on the same side.

This book was super frustrating. If the book had a more appropriate title this book wouldn’t have been that bad. Literally the only things even remotely referencing Wonderland are the name Alice, Alice sees a rabbit in the clouds, her best friend is named Kat, and Cole occasionally wears a baseball hat. I had a very hard time getting over that this wasn’t what I wanted to read. The author has a new twist on the zombie genre where the zombies are spiritual beings, this is an intriguing concept and I wanted to read about it. However, there is too much high school drama for me. Who is dating who, who likes who, who started a rumor about someone, etc. The tie-in to Wonderland is really absurd and in my opinion an afterthought to help market a rather plain zombie book in a growing market. I will not read the pre-planned sequel with an equally awesome title.

Origin

Origin - Jessica Khoury Release Date: September 4, 2012
ARC Received from Publisher: Razorbill

Pia lives with a team of scientists in a compound in the middle of the rainforest. They have genetically created her to be immortal from a plant found in the rainforest. They tell her she is "perfect" and she is the future, but she is not as arrogant as you might expect. Pia, who just turned 17, begins to question her confinement, her surroundings and her life. She sneaks out and meets a native boy, Eio, and finds out there is much in question at her facility.

This debut YA novel has tons of creativity made all the more interesting by a location I haven’t seen much in YA, the Amazon rainforest. There are great descriptions that make it easy to immerse yourself into the landscape. The storyline is thorough, which is so important when tackling science and genetic engineering. Just when I started to question something, the author covered it so there were no loose ends. There are some animal testing scenes that are a bit intense, but it is in the nature of scientific study and one of the main things that the protagonist begins to question. I found all the characters well developed, the incorporation of native tradition and folklore imaginative, and the lesser known corporation responsible for the compound, Corpus, was a foreboding presence in the background. Romance, mystery, and intrigue all make for a fast-paced and dynamic read.

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The Obsidian Blade

The Obsidian Blade - Pete Hautman I thought this might be interesting given the science fiction, time travel aspects, but it was just weird and unfulfilling. Tucker’s dad, a preacher, goes up on the roof and mysteriously disappears only to re-appear with a young girl named Lahlia and have lost his faith in God. The book starts off interesting as Tucker’s parents leave because his mom is ill and Tucker has to go live with his Uncle. Tucker discovers the Diskos (time travel portals not seen by everyone and in weird places). Once Tucker and Lahlia travel through the Diskos this story goes all wrong and wacky. The worlds, time periods, and different people pass as quickly as they are introduced. Time passes in bunches and the characters are aging, but you have no idea how they’ve aged.

This book leaves the reader with tons of questions and no answers as the story spins more and more out of control. I just didn’t care to keep track of what was happening. Once Tucker left our world, the world building was lacking and ultimately that was what left me uncaring. Then there is the whole underlining religious content that makes up a lot of the storyline. Some people might not like its treatment, but I have no idea where the storyline was going to know if I cared or not. I will not be continuing this series it was just not enjoyable for me. However, the audio version of this book was very well done and I really liked the book cover.

The First Days: As the World Dies

The First Days: As the World Dies - Rhiannon Frater There is a reason this book was originally self-published, it's not very good. It is my least favorite zombie book with a female heroine. You may think there aren't many strong female leads in zombie books, but there are a lot.

I thought the characters (Katie and Jenni) were very contrived and forced. I don't mind at all that the main characters are a lesbian and battered wife, it's a new angle, but they were just too high school-ish in their petty relationships with each other and the men in the book. One minute they are crying and kissing each other and the next they are cursing and shooting zombies in the head; it seemed like a really bad action movie.

Modelland

Modelland - Tyra Banks I tried. I really tried giving Tyra the benefit of the doubt. I read the first 60 pages and it was just to poorly written to continue. It was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets Cinderella in a dystopian mess. It was written by someone who thinks they know what teens want, but really has no clue. She probably read some YA books like The Hunger Games, saw there was a bit of a formula, grabbed some ideas from some classics and then just started writing. Modelland was just outrageously bad.

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