Thursday, June 30, 2016

Archer Coe & The Thousand Natural Shocks: Throwback Review

   Once again due to Summer Reading I will be posting a throwback review from my now defunct blog "Shut Up And Read Something."


    Archer Coe & The Thousand Natural Shocks, by Jamie S. Rich, which is set for release today tells the story of a hypnotist (stage name The Mind's Arrow) and his entanglement in a series of grizzly murders that are clearly the work of a serial killer. The question the reader must answer is whether the serial killer is a separate individual or whether Archer has just totally lost his mind and is killing people without having any memory of it.
     Well, that's ONE of the questions the reader has to answer. There are others, such as who is Hope, the mysterious wife of a wealthy banker who hires Archer to cure his wife of her "frigidity?" 
     Why does Hope seem to think she and Archer were once friends when he has no memory of ever meeting her? Who is the large foreboding man who seems to be following Archer everywhere? How come Archer can talk to cats? And the question I kept asking myself throughout the entire story: why is this crap so needless confusing!?
   Don't get me wrong, Archer Coe starts out really strong and has a ton of potential. The art style is just beautiful and the film noir story line and characterization really had me in its corner at first.... but them came the talking cats (which I normally love, taking cats are rad) and the stereotypical jerk cops and by the time Archer started having a bit of an acid-trippy mental meltdown, I was kind of over the entire thing, to be honest.
     It was a great, solid start that went very quickly downhill for me.

Final Rating: 2/5 bookmarks. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Follow the White Rabbit: Throwback Review

   As some of you may know, summer is the busiest time of year for public librarians due to most of us hosting Summer Reading Programs in our libraries. I have been CRAZY busy the last couple of months, and have not had a chance to finish any of the 12 books I am currently reading (yes, I am reading 12 books at the same time. What? Like that's weird????) so today's post is throwback review. It was originally posted in 2015 in my old, now defunct blog "Shut Up And Read Something" which has not been updated in ages and will not be updated ever again. 
   So, without further ado, here is my review of Follow the White Rabbit by Kellie Sheridan. Enjoy!


    Full disclosure of librarian shame: I have never been a fan of Alice in Wonderland. I found both Alice and Through the Looking Glass to be silly, sort of pointless, and pretty much boring. 
    Even the movie versions have not been favorites, as much as I love Disney cartoons and anything with Johnny Depp's gorgeous face attached to it.
    I have to say though, Kellie Sheridan's Follow the White Rabbit seems to be a very promising (if far too short) re-introduction into the world of Wonderland.
The story takes the original, familiar tale and moves a couple hundred years into the future, into our time - a time of turmoil in Wonderland. It seems Alice's first visit changed the very nature of the physics of this strange world, turning it into something at once more mundane and also extremely delicate and fragile. Animals can no longer speak. Magic seems to have all but vanished. Things now make sense... which in Wonderland, is absolute nonsense.
    But, there are rumors... whispers that somewhere in a far off place there is a "new" Alice. A girl who must be found and brought back to restore the balance of unbalance if the desperate citizens of Wonderland have any hope to save their world.
   Sheridan does a good job of re-creating the old story... leaving it up to the reader to figure out who the old beloved characters might be (yes, there is a mad hatter, some queens and a white rabbit) while re-vamping them in a way that makes them completely new and fresh.
    My biggest gripe is that at only about 100 pages, it reads more like a short story than a real book, and it was over WAY before things got really interesting.

Still, I'm actually looking forward to the second part, Awake and Dreaming if it ever gets an actual publication date, which it still does not have. 

Final Rating: 3/5 bookmarks.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Asylum



    Let's start with the fact that Asylum by Madeline Roux was billed as something "for fans of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children," (which I loved, by the way). That was the pitch given to me by NetGalley when I downloaded the ARC ages ago, and then also by GoodReads not nearly as long ago, when I decided to finally read it. In fact, it's the major reason why I decided to read it. It's the reason my boyfriend decided to buy a copy for himself and check it out too. Descriptions of the book made it sound like I would get an adventure story with lots of cool, creepy old pictures to add flavor to the tale.
    Man, was I led astray.
    First off, there are very few pictures used in the book, one appears every couple of chapters at most. Second, these are not the cool, vintage found photographs that were used in Miss Peregrine. These are modern stages photos made to look vintage with technology. Most are pretty bland, and not creepy or spooky, despite the artists' best efforts.
    Second, the story itself is kind of boring. The book suffers from the problem of being aimed at teens but being written in a style that would appeal much more to tweens and middle-graders. There is little suspense and the focus is much more on the main character's experiences at summer school and trying to date his cute new friend than in telling us anything of the actual story.
   Plus the plot is incredibly basic: ***kids at boarding school for the summer are housed in what used to be an insane asylum... bad things happen... stay tuned for the sequel! (drum-roll!)*** Nothing REALLY happens until about the last 10 or so chapters and then the author leaves us with a conclusion that is such a sad ploy to try to get you to read the next book that it makes the reader kind of angry!
   In all, there is nothing new, original or really very interesting at all here. I finished the book without excessive eye rolling, and did genuinely want to know what the heck was going on, but the ending killed it for me. I no longer care what happens at this asylum.

Final review: 2/5 bookmarks

Monday, June 20, 2016

Solace



     Oy. I don't even know where to begin with Solace by Therin Knite. Let's see if you can keep up with me, guys: We begin in the USA in the year 2026. A war has been raging for almost 2 decades. Russia, China and the USA are all involved, but somehow this is not considered the 3rd World War. Our main character, Corina Marion, who is 16 has never met her father because for her entire life, he has been somewhere in China helping the war effort as a Red Cross doctor who for the last several years has also been a prisoner of war. As the book starts, Corina and her mother receive the news that he has now died, in the POW camp of an undisclosed illness. Corina is not upset that he is dead. Rather, she is angry that everyone expects her to be so much more upset over the death of a man she has never met and has no connection to.
     At the funeral, we meet a mysterious old man who offers Corina the chance to travel back in time and actually meet her father. His only rules are: don't tell him who you really are, don't try to change his mind about joining the Red Cross, and don't do anything to prevent his dying in the POW camp.

****Some Minor Spoilers Ahead****

     Ok....are you with me so far? Because I was scratching my head through the entire book. First off, what the heck kind of genre do we categorize this as? It's sort of dystopian, but not really. It's sort of fantasy... but not really. It's kind of sort of maybe sci-fi... but not really.... and it's both speculative fiction and alternative history at the same time since the war technically begins in our past (around 2010) but also carries on well into our future.
    Then there is the actual time travel itself. According to the old man, nothing Corina does will significantly alter the future-slash-present UNLESS she convinces her dad not to go off to war. But both Corina and her dad Luther go about changing ALL KINDS of history, from saving people from a fire they did not originally survive to straight up murdering a bunch of people (oh yeah, it gets dark guys). And yet, according to the old man, none of that actually matters, so it's cool.
     Also, both Corina (who is constantly described as a tiny and frail little girl) are apparently ninja assassins because they are CONSTANTLY not only beating the crap out of everything that moves but also getting the crap beaten out of them. And I mean CONSTANTLY. Corina ends up traveling to 3 different time periods and all 3 are a total bloodbath. Fight after fight after fight after fight. It got to bee just so redundant!
    But you know the thing that bugged me the most? It was the author's stylistic choice that the first sentence of EVERY SINGLE CHAPTER tells you everything (or at least the single most important thing) that is going to happen in that chapter. There were also way too many subsections in this book, which was again, a style choice, but also really annoying. It made the book readable... I mean, I finished it, right?... but also made me roll my eyes quite a lot.

Final review: 2/5 bookmarks for being just too weird to function.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Phoenix Comic Con Report #2




      Last week you guys got to see the gorgeous love of my life in his splendid Cosplay togs. Today I want to talk to you guys about my own cosplay experience and why I love Phoenix Con so dang much!
      First off, I will note that I am plus-size, full-figured woman. I wear a size 16 and am 5 foot 2 on my really good days. Though I love dressing up in costumes, and do so a lot for my library programs, I have always hesitated to try cosplaying at a real con because to me, it always seemed like the realm of the super hot, scantily-clad size 0 model types who actually look like they were hand drawn by Disney animators. However, after attending Phoenix Comic Con last year and being struck by the overwhelming positivity of the attendees, I thought why the heck not. 
     It also helps that my very skinny boyfriend (who I outweigh by anywhere from 65-80 pounds depending on whether his Crohn's disease is flaring) is CONSTANTLY telling me I am beautiful and encouraging absolutely every darn thing I choose to do. Plus he dressed up too, so I felt alright about it. 
     Of course, I knew I was not about to wear a nearly naked outfit, because even when I WAS skinny, that was just never me. So I thought about it and thought about it, and decided to go with a Disney character, because I simply adore all things Disney and Disney adjacent. I didn't want to go with anything super mainstream, so I chose the gypsy Esmeralda from Hunchback of Notre Dame. I like her because she is sassy, beautiful, and if you squint hard enough I actually do sort of look like her. 
     For my second outfit I went my absolute childhood hero. When I was a kid, all the other little girls wanted to be teachers and ballerinas and princesses. I only ever wanted to be Carmen Sandiego. I know, I know, she was not exactly a "hero." I mean, she did steal stuff for a living. BUT, she was about the only Latina animated character I had ever seen, and she was incredibly smart and resourceful and also managed to be completely beautiful and stylish. 
    I had no idea if anyone would even guess what my outfits were supposed to represent, if anyone would care or even remember Carmen, and I know Hunchback is a lesser known Disney film that most kids probably have not seen, but I did it anyway. Here are the results:

The real Esmeralda. 
Me as Esmeralda.

Me as Carmen Sandiego
 
My hero, Carmen Sandiego 
     I have to tell you, the reception I got was unbelievable. People not only recognized who I was supposed to be, but they would get so excited to see me and run after me to get photos! It was an absolutely amazing experience! My absolute favorite moment of all though, was when a little girl, about age 7 came running up to me and asked to get her picture with me as Esmeralda. Her giant smile when I let her hold my tambourine and the big hug she gave me convinced me I am now a cosplayer for life. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Ocean at the End of the Lane




I started writing this review a few minutes after I had finished this book and then I realized that maybe that was a mistake, because I think I needed some more time to process what I had just read, so I had to leave the review and come back to it after a little bit of time had passed.

Of course, I was expecting The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman to be lovely, because let's face it, it's Neil Gaiman and he is amazing. The hardest thing about reviewing this short little gem for you all was how to talk about it without giving too much of it away, because I feel like no matter how I describe it for you, you sort of just have to read it to get it.

The core of this book is magic: the magic of childhood, of memory, of being an outsider, not just in the world at large but an outsider in your own family, and occasionally an outsider in your own life. The book of course takes place in the English countryside, which is perfect, because I have always believed that the English countryside is magical. (Having now had the opportunity to see it with my own eyes, I believe it even more wholeheartedly.) A man, whose name we never learn, is home for a family funeral after a long absence and decides to take a walk down the lane to see what is left of his childhood. He knows the house he grows up in is long gone, but he has fond memories of an old farm where he used to play with a girl named Lettie. Lettie would take him to a pond on the property and tell him that it was her own personal ocean.

Now, as an adult he sits by the "ocean" and is suddenly flooded with memories he has long forgotten. Memories of magic, a family of incredibly special and powerful women, a monster, childhood traumas, and so much more. This experience raises so many powerful issues for the readers. Issues about our memories, our childhoods, the people who come into and out of our lives and the huge differences between how we see the world as children and how we see them as adults. y

My favorite quote from the book sort of sums it all up for me. It happens when Lettie tells our young protagonist, “Grown-ups don't look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they're big and thoughtless and they always know what they're doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. Truth is, there aren't any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world.” I think that sort of says all that needs to be said. Go read this one. have tissues handy.

Final rating: 5/5 bookmarks




Thursday, June 9, 2016

Phoenix Comic-Con 2016 Report #1

As you all know if you check in to the blog semi-regularly, I had the opportunity to attend Phoenix Comic Con from June 2nd to 5th.
     I love going to this convention because not only is it a ton of fun, but I also always end up learning a lot of great stuff that I can then bring back to my library and turn into super fun programs for my patrons. For the next couple of weeks the Thursday post will not be a book review, but instead will be some things about Comic Con, what I was up to, what I learned and what I plan to steal and turn into a library program.
   But first, COSPLAY! I have loved dressing up in crazy costumes since I was a very small kid, but I have never been brave enough to cosplay to a convention. This year, I was completely shocked when my boyfriend, who is by nature a very shy and reserved person suggested we might want to give it a shot. We decided to try 2 costumes each, but nothing that really matched because we're so not "that" couple. So he decided to do Kakashi Hatake from the Naruto anime, and because I have always been obsessed with Buffy The Vampire Slayer and constantly tell him how much he looks like my favorite character, Spike, he decided to do it for me, and cosplayed Spike (at a con that was attended by James Marsters, who played Spike. Here are the results:



The real Spike. 
My own personal Spike.





The Real Kakashi
My boyfriend as Kakashi


I think he did a pretty darn good job! What do you guys think?

Next Thursday: my own Cosplay and the story behind that!


 


Monday, June 6, 2016

Cinders & Sapphires



    Books are like food. Some are Thanksgiving dinner; filling and delicious with a lot of fixings and sides. Some are popcorn; light and fluffy without any real substance but dangerously addictive. Cinders & Sapphires* by Leila Rasheed is total popcorn, but it's delicious, hot, movie theater popcorn with extra butter and I truly enjoyed it.
    The book, which is the first title in the "At Somerton" trilogy, is definitely for the Downton Abbey lovers and Jane Austen aficionados out there. A rich Victorian family has just returned to their palatial estate in the English countryside after spending many years in India, where the patriarch, Lord Averley held a government post. His return home however, is marred by rumors that he did something terrible to disgrace himself while abroad, and he quickly marries a wealthy woman of high stature in order to save face... and save the mansion since his good-for-nothing heir has basically been spending like a drunken sailor on leave while he has been gone.
    Of course the new wife is awful, and has an awful daughter with an awful ladies' maid and together they set about to make the lives of the two Averley sisters as miserable as possible. Meanwhile every single member of the household has all kinds of secrets: there's a secret interracial love affair, a secret love child, a secret gay relationship, and many, many secret crushes.
     The book is extremely soapy, and a teeny bit melodramatic, but it never once made me roll my eyes in horror, and believe me, I am a world-class eye roller.  The book is very much outside my comfort zone since romance novels are not something I normally gravitate to, but this was not really a romance novel, more a study in the dangerous politics and class structures of the time it is set in. i am actually dying to read the next book in the series! **

Final Rating: 4/5 bookmarks.








*: Please note, this book is also available under the title "Secrets & Sapphires" in the UK and elsewhere, "Cinders and Sapphires" is the US title published by Disney-Hyperion.

**: Please note, there are 3 books in the series, but the 3rd is not available in hard format, only as a Kindle e-book.