Friday, April 29, 2016

Jem and the Holograms #2: Viral

I am absolutely loving this graphic novel reboot of the old 1980s cartoon. Jem and the Holograms #2: Viral picks up where Showtime left off. 

Despite being disqualified from the Misfits Vs. competition for starting a food fight with the hosts, the Holograms' popularity is steadily rising. Unfortulately, not all is well with with the ladies of the band. Jerrica is feeling overwhelmed by all the duties that go along with managing (and also fronting) her sisters' band while trying to keep her identity as Jem a secret. This is becoming increasingly difficult with her investigative reporter boyfriend, Rio, poking around for an exclusive story. Kimber is depressed because things have not panned out so well with her starcrossed love interest (and also Misfits member), Stormer. Aja is caught up in a romance with Craig and Shana is (secretly) considering applying for a fashion school internship that will take her far from her sisters (and her band). Tensions are high in Camp Hologram. Seems the sudden fame may be taking its toll...

Meanwhile, at Camp Misfit, things are no better. The band's popularity has plummeted since the Food Fight Incident and they are taking the heat for everything that went down that day (even though it kind of was their fault, indirectly). The ladies are fighting amongst themselves and diva frontwoman, Pizzazz, is not dealing with her anger and frustration in the most constructive way. In attempt to turn the band's failing reputation around, the head of FiveByFive records assigns the ladies a new manager who definitely does not play by the rules (and is pretty much pure evil-at least so far).

Things come to a head when the two bands learn they will be sharing the bill of an upcoming tour. The Misfits crash a Halloween party hosted by the Holograms, hoping to dig up some dirt on their rivals, but end up fighting amongst themselves instead. Pizzazz storms off, Roxy and Jetta bicker about petty things, and Stormer finds Kimber and they have a very adorable make-up (and make-out) session. Meanwhile, Techrat snoops where he doesn't belong and discovers some very disturbing news about Synergy. 

The whole drama cumulates with Pizzazz getting into a car crash and sustaining potentially career-ending injuries to her vocal chords.

Can you say Cliffhanger?!?!?!

OMG!!! How can I wait until the third volume comes out?!?!?!?!?

What I really love about this series, aside from the colors (OMG, the colors! so pretty!!), is the character development. Unlike the old cartoon, where good and evil was very distinct and one-sided, these characters have actual depth. They're like real people. The "good guys" have flaws, make mistakes, get angry, and say/do things they regret. The "bad guys" aren't all bad and, actually, have a lot of heart (they just don't always show it). I especially liked the development of the Misfits in Viral, and look forward to getting to know their characters better in future volumes. In fact, they're quickly becoming my favorite part of the series.

Another great thing is the humor. I loved all the little jokes and quips. And the pop culture references (the Karate Kid bit was one of the best things about this book)!

This series just gets better and better! And I'm very excited for #3! --AJB 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

When We Collided, by Emery Lord

When I first started hearing about When We Collided, the third novel by Emery Lord, I worried it would be another Manic-Pixie-Dream-Girl-Meets-Unrealistically-Sensitive-Boy sort of story. You know the kind.

I mean, here we have Vivi, who breezes into town on a cloud of Marilyn blonde hair and magnetic energy. She carves her initials into trees, makes friends with strangers, believes in past lives, and dresses in ballet slippers and painted butterfly wings. She's artistic, she's quirky, she's charming. She's the sort of girl all the boys fall in insta-lust with, the type all the mousy wallflower girls aspire to be. She's Stargirl, she's Helen of Troy, she's the unattainable love interest in every John Huges movie, she's every female character John Green ever created. She seems too good to be true.

Then we have Jonah, the local boy who gets pulled into Vivi's orbit. He's quiet, contemplative, and very sensitive. He's mature beyond his years. He's also a fabulous gourmet cook. He doesns't have much experience with girls, doesn't really have time for them, and can't believe a girl like Vivi would even notice him, much less insert herself so dramatically into his life.

If that were all these characters were, I'd have lost interest in the book before the first 50 pages. But Vivi and Jonah both are more than they first appear. Far more.

Vivi has recently been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. She and her single mother have come to Verona Cove for the summer, in part, at least, to give Vivi a fresh start and help her escape the trouble she left behind in Seattle. Unfortunately, Vivi wrongly believes the "fresh start" bit to mean she can stop taking her meds. At first she's ok. But then the manic highs associated with her disorder start up again. In fact, it is during one of these highs that she meets Jonah and what is left his family. But for every high, an equal low awaits. Vivi's behavior becomes more and more unpredictable, cumulating in a violent confrontation with her illigtimate birth father and a near-fatal moped accident. 

Jonah too is dealing with more than a boy his age should have to. Following the death of his father, Jonah's mother descended into a severe depression. Most days, she won't even get out of bed. So Jonah has stepped up to care for his horde of younger siblings (make lunches, get them to their daily activities, mediate arguments, etc). He also must help with the family restaurant. He feels inadequate. Not only does he feel like he's failed to help his mom out of her slump, but he also feels there's no way he can fill the shoes his dad left. He can't be everything he needs to be. Some days, he feels his family is broken beyond repair and nothing he says or does can fix it.

I guess what I'm saying, is this: These characters have depth. They're more than the stereotype. More than the formula. And the author's use of alternating viewpoint chapters really helps the reader get inside the heads of both Vivi and Jonah. Despite their flaws and dramas, they're good for each other. They're what each other needed, at least for the moment. 

Being that this is a teen romance, there's no Happily Ever After/Riding Off Into the Sunset Together. Nothing is permanent. Vivi and Jonah must move on with their lives. But the ending is satisfying. A little cheesy, too. But satisfying. You get the sense that the characters will be OK even though they must part ways.

Overall, a good Beach Read. --AJB


Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

18405537Molly and Kip are siblings traveling from Ireland in order to find work. After leaving (or escaping as Molly knows it) the two set off across the English countryside in order to find work as servants. They find work in the home of the Windsors. As they approach their new home the feel something isn't quite right. The townspeople of have worn them numerous times to turn around and find work elsewhere. Not knowing if there is anything else the two head into the 'sourwoods' and arrive in front of a crumbling estate that is intertwined with a massive black tree. Work begins and the two feel there is hope on the horizon. This hope dwindles as Molly drifts off to sleep in her basement bedroom and hears a "thump, thump, thump" coming from above...

The Night Gardener is a great scary story for those readers that aren't too sure about scary stories (aka me). The book is set in a great time period, the late 1800's. It's a time of horse drawn carriages, when story tellers are still popular (remember there are no television sets), and dark mystery. Auxier does a great job of mixing these elements in throughout the story (Molly even asks the family's doctor about using leeches at one point). He has also created an amazing set of siblings that show such devotion and courage towards one another. I hope that my siblings may look to me as Kip looks up to Molly. This scary (but not too scary) book is located in the Tween section. If you are brave enough to give The Night Gardener a try you'll be lucky enough to notice that Oxford's copy has been signed by the author!


Enjoy!
-JAC

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Giver by Lois Lowry

You would think that since this was like my sixth time reading this book that the ending wouldn't frustrate me so much but it totally does.  I just want to shake Lois Lowry.  I hear that reading the quartet ties up Jonas's story but I'm so distrustful at this point that I refuse.  I refuse!


Honestly, this is a classic for a reason and if you haven't read it already, you should.  It speaks volumes that I have read it six times now.

Jonas lives in a futuristic world where there is nothing unexpected and everything is safe.  In the community, people are assigned their careers, apply for spouses and children, receive their meals from Food Delivery People.  Orders and reminders are broadcast over a speaker.  In the mornings, families share their dreams.  In the evenings, they tell their feelings.  There is no color, no weather, and no emotion.  When somebody commits a serious offense against the rules, they are "released."  Every home only has three books: a dictionary, a rule book, and a directory.

Jonas is about to turn 12, which every child born in his year does at the same time at a ceremony.  At 12, children are assigned their work and begin to train for their careers.  Jonas is nervous.  There is nothing that he is particularly interested in or good at, though he does well at most things and is open to possibilities.  But when it is his turn to receive his assignment, the Chief Elder passes over him completely.  Jonas's stomach automatically drops.  What did he do wrong?

But Jonas has been chosen.

The most honorable position in all of their community is that of Receiver.  The Receiver holds all of the memories of the imperfect past so that the other members of the community don't have to.  The Receiver has wisdom from the memories and is sometimes asked to give an opinion on a change in the rules based on this wisdom.  When Jonas begins to receive the memories, he begins to question the world around him and whether it is better than the way the world used to be.  Is it different Elsewhere?  How can he find out? -RYQ

Monday, April 18, 2016

Lumberjanes #3: A Terrible Plan

Telling campfire stories, going on a quiet picnic, spending the day earning the most boring scouting badges possible... Sounds pretty ordinary, right? Not if you're a Lumberjane!

In the third awesome installment of Lumberjanes: A Terrible Plan, Mal and Molly's date goes terribly awry when they follow Bear Woman through the Out Of Order outhouse (which is really a portal to another dimension). Here, they get chased by a pack of hungry raptors and must help Bear Woman complete a quest of utmost importance (for which they will earn their "Oldie But Goodie" badges for assisting the elderly). Meanwhile Jo, April, and Ripley spend their free day fumbling through seemingly-boring stuff like cake decorating, ballroom dancing, and scrapbooking in the hopes they will be that much closer to earning their bronze axes. You'd think such mundane tasks would be no problem for the girls of Cabin Roanoke. After all, they have outsmarted angry gods, bested zombie scouts, and successfully navigated deadly booby traps. As it turns out, ordinary stuff is easier said than done. Adventure and shenanigans abound for everyone, making for an extremely entertaining read.

The Lumberjanes series just keeps getting better and better. There are different artists this time around, so the book has a slightly different look to it. But the storyline and characters are still true to what made me love this series in the first place. I am anxiously awaiting Lumberjanes #4, which comes out in August. 

Lumberjanes: A Terrible Plan comes very, very recommended! But do yourself a huge solid and read the first two volumes first (you'll enjoy #3 a lot more with the background #1 & #2 provide)! --AJB

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Simon's Cat in Kitten Chaos, by Simon Tofield

Literally stumbled upon Simon's Cat: Kitten Chaos whilst straightening the Teen Area last night (some careless kid had left it on the floor) and, today, decided it must be a message from the Universe that I should review it on the blog. 

Ok, truthfully I was maybe feeling a smidge lazy last night and just didn't feel like walking the book allllll the way back to the To Be Re-Shelved area (to be fair, it had been a long day). This morning it was still on the Teen Desk, so I figured, "What the heck. I'll review it"

Most of you probably know Simon's Cat from artist Simon Tofield's clever YouTube videos detailing the misadventures of an always-hungry feline and his hapless owner. But did you know there were comic books to accompany the videos? There are. Several, in fact. And OPL owns a few. Notably, Kitten Chaos, in which our feline friend gets a new roommate: a frisky and feisty kitten. Wordless black and white illustrations tell the tale (tail?) of how our hero adjusts to going from an "only cat" to having a little sibling to pick on (and get picked on by). At first, he's annoyed. The  Kitten steals his toys, frames him for scratching what shouldn't be scratched, eats his food... Then comes the fateful day where Cat witnesses Kitten getting bullied by a larger neighborhood cat. And from that point on, things change. After the Neighbor Cat Incident, Cat and Kitten team up for some feline shenanigans. And, of course, Cat teaches Kitten how to beg for food.

Kitten Chaos wasn't as funny as the original Simon's Cat comic book, which I read in one sitting and laughed out loud (yes, literally) at until I cried. Mainly because a lot of the jokes had been done before. But it is still cute and humorous read. A great choice to pick up to pass the time. --AJB

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Heir and the Spare by Emily Albright

As we all know you don't get to pick your family. We get stuck with them. For Evelyn (or Evie as she prefers) this is just the case. With her father as her only family member, nineteen year old Evie is sent on a sort of scavenger hunt around the globe where she embarks on a quest to find out more about her mother who passed when she was a child and more about herself. Her first task is to apply (and be accepted) at Oxford University, for a girl born and raised in the States with no one she knows in England this is a little scary. Here she finds an amazing group of friends that take her under their wings and show her what life is like across the pond. Among these new friends is Edmund. Once she meets him, there is an instant love connection. However, a love story can not be open and shut when the guy you are crushing on is a prince.

The Heir and the Spare is a super cute love story that is a quick and witty read. I love the romance in the book, however it is even topped by Evie's personality and the road she takes to find out who she is. Evie is a strong character that you can't help root for (don't worry you may 'boo' her a time or two as well). We are all afraid of life sometimes and I think the author does a great job at portraying this through Evie and Edmund's relationship. Once you pick this book up off of our new shelf, you won't be able to put it down.

P.S. If you were (or are) a fan of the Princess Diaries or The Prince and Me this will be right up your alley!

-JAC