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Battling Boy

Link to this review in the form of a comic strip by geneambaum tagged coming of agesuperherographic novel


Link to this review by rose tagged coming of ageparanormalromance

Bethany, Gabriel, and Ivy are all angels sent to restore faith in a small coastal town. At first the flood of colors, sounds, and smells is shocking; they’re not used to their now-human bodies’ senses, and their only reference point is the empty whiteness of Heaven. Ivy and Gabriel long for Heaven, but Bethany wants to enjoy every minute of her time on Earth. Gabriel and Beth go to school where Gabriel is the new music teacher and Beth is a new student. Beth makes friends and adapts to school life easily. She is drawn to Xavier Woods, a popular boy whose girlfriend died in a fire and whose best friend was killed when he fell off a roof. As she begins to wonder if she has a future with Xavier, even though human/angel relationships aren’t allowed, horrible things start to happen in town: a suicide, a murder, and fires.

Why I picked it up: I love reading different authors’ takes on angels. They’re always different! They can been secretive, fallen, gentle, conquerors, magestic or sad.

Why I finished it: Once I “met” Jake, I knew I had to keep reading. The angels have a bad feeling about him, and they know dark forces are gathering. Jake really started the conflict going. Once he started giving Beth bits of prose about angels, I needed to know how much did he knew.

And I’ve read the two sequels, Hades and Heaven. I can honestly say the whole thing comes to a great, satisfying conclusion.

I’d give it to: My friend Alisa, a hopeless romantic who absolutely loves Jane Austen’s books and Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables. I think she would like the love brewing between Xavier and Beth, with Jake serving as the bad boy third wheel.

When We Wake

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged science fictioncoming of age

Tegan is hit by an assassin’s bullet meant for a politician. One hundred years later, she wakes up as a ward of the Australian military, the first person to be successfully woken from cryostasis. All her family and friends are dead. The earth is in the throes of serious ecological problems; refugees fleeing rising water are filling camps and living in deplorable conditions. The military keeps a tight grip on Tegan, but she carves out a little space for a life even though religious zealots deplore her “second life” and want her to die again.

Then she learns that the military has a sinister plan for her and the cryostasis process.

Why I picked it up: I had read Healey’s previous two books Guardian of the Dead and The Shattering. Both stories were infused with Maori and Aboriginal Australian culture and folklore, which is unusual, so I was willing to give this one a try.

Why I finished it: Healey’s future world is taking concrete steps to deal with ecological issues. For example, they reuse all human fecal matter as a fertilizer called “humanure.” No one eats meat anymore, as calories that would go to feed animals are more efficient when given to humans directly, though rich hypocrites and religious zealots are exceptions. I also liked that Tegan is a big Beatles fan and uses their music in several situations to help her out of a jam — to stay awake for an escape attempt, she sang all the songs on the Beatles album Revolver through three times in a row.

I’d give it to: Katie, who would love that Tegan takes care of her problems herself. She does find time for a romantic relationship, though, which Katie would like, too.

Reality Boy

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged coming of age

Gerald’s family participated in a reality TV show when he was five. A professional nanny came to work with his dysfunctional family, but she struggled to help them. Gerald became known nationwide for defecating all over the house, including on the dining room table, on camera, to get attention.

Now, ten years later, his family is still dysfunctional, Gerald is wrapped up in protecting himself against his psychopathic sister and their enabling mother, and he is still known at school as “the Crapper.” He tries to work out his anger with a therapist, but he feels like he’s about to break. Then he meets Hannah, Register Girl #1 at the food service kiosk where he works. She has issues, too, but he begins to lower his guard around her.

Why I picked it up: A.S. King (Please Ignore Vera Dietz, Everybody Sees the Ants) brings realistic, troubled characters to life with unexpected touches.

Why I finished it: Both Gerald and Hannah have home lives that have made them feel like they live on the edge of society and are ready to break down under the strain. Their relationship, completely organic and believable, starts when she works register #1 and he takes register #7. They notice each other across the counter while serving nachos and hot dogs to overheated kids. They team up to fight off others’ unfair judgments of them.

I’d give it to: My co-worker Ryan, who reports on the various reality shows he watches at the lunch table. He might appreciate the behind-the-scenes look at how reality producers stage scenes, and what happens to the “stars” after a show airs.


Link to this review by danritchie tagged romancecoming of age

In a small suburb of Chicago there are two pizzerias, Demarco’s and Angotti’s. Both are family owned and run, and each family has a deep dislike for the other. Sixteen-year-old Jules Demarco has been in love with Sawyer Angotti since sixth grade. But Sawyer, like his entire family, is forbidden to associate in any way with the Demarcos, especially Jules, because Sawyer’s grandfather and father know of their special friendship and fear the two will somehow reconnect.

Then Jules begins having visions of a horrific accident: a snowplow crashes into the Angotti’s restaurant, followed by an explosion, and then nine body bags placed in the snow (one of them is Sawyer’s). Jules is determined to find a way to prevent it in spite of the families’ dark history of hatred for one another.

Why I picked it up: McMann’s Wake Trilogy is one of my all time favorites, and when I saw this was the initial offering of another trilogy, I grabbed it.

Why I finished it: After being close friends, Sawyer hasn’t spoken to her since seventh grade. Yet Jules is obsessed with finding a way to protect him. She systematically analyzes each scene of her vision, determines who is involved, when and how it will happen while constantly dealing with the fact that she might be going insane. When she manages to alter the vision slightly, her resolve trumps her fear of being labeled a lunatic.

I’d give it to: Monique, who loved Dead to You. She will enjoy the similarly complex family dynamics — the Demarco’s possible history of depression and hoarding; Jules’ dad’s erratic behavior; Jules, her brother Trey, and younger sister Rowan’s unquestioned support for each other.

City of Spies

Link to this review by billba tagged graphic novelhistorical fiction

It’s 1942. Evelyn Weiss’ mother is long dead, and her handsome father has been through a half-dozen wives, each more beautiful than the last. Evelyn is lonely. She draws superhero comics where she saves the day as her heroic father’s spunky sidekick.

When he leaves on his latest honeymoon, she goes to stay with her Aunt Lia in New York City. Lia is spoiled and fancies herself an artist, but she’s lonely, too.

Brendan is a cop, kept out of the war because of his flat feet. He wants to catch spies like his brother in the FBI, but so far he’s only netted a suspicious jaywalker and some purse snatchers.

Evelyn makes friends with the son of the apartment building superintendent. They make a game of catching spies, but then they stumble upon what might be the real thing. They tell Brendan, but who will take two kids and a 4F who keeps crying wolf seriously?

Why I picked it up: I like almost every First Second book, but the first few pages felt amateurish, so I filed it away. Only when I picked it up again on a recent purge of books in my office did I realize that the first pages are a comic-within-a-comic, the one Evelyn draws. I’m sorry for doubting you, First Second.

Why I finished it: This book is a love letter to Tintin, one of my all-time favorites, with artwork, timing, slapstick humor, and exciting adventure that all feels very familiar without being derivative. But then it goes deeper into real human attachment, plumbing emotional depths that would have given Hergé the bends.

I’d give it to: Aspiring cartoonist Jeanette, who will both identify with Evelyn’s urge to turn her life into comics and appreciate the action scenes, which utilize rapidly changing points of view to create a cinematic feel. And she and I can both learn from the coloring, which helps set the many moods of this perfectly executed story.

Adventure Time Volume 1

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged fantasygraphic novelhumor

Background: Finn (a human boy) and his best friend Jake (a dog with stretchy powers) have magical adventures in the Land of Ooo that often involve the Ice King (a sorcerer who is always stealing princesses because he wants to marry one), Marceline (a rocking vampire who eats the color red), Princess Bubblegum (yes, she’s made of gum), BMO (a talking, handheld video game system), and Jake’s girlfriend, Lady Rainicorn, a Korean-speaking unicorn-rainbow.

The evil, undead Lich follows a snail out of the bag of holding where it’s been imprisoned. It sucks the entire planet into the bag, including Finn, Jake, and all of their friends. Finn and Jake manage to make a small hole in the bottom, but even after escaping they can’t defeat the Lich on their own.

Contains Adventure Time 1-4 and Adventure Time Free Comic Book Day Edition.

Why I picked it up: My daughter and I love the cartoon.

Why I finished it: I love Princess Bubblegum. As she’s flying into battle beside Marceline and Desert Princess (who maybe should be named Dessert Princess, but I digress), this is what she screams at the Lich: “You want some science in your face?”

But there’s a lot more to love. The colors really pop, the book keeps the same intelligent, berserk tone as the cartoons, and there’s a gallery of comic book covers in the back of the book by indie comics favorites like Jeffrey Brown and Scott C.

I’d give it to: Lily, who takes judo with my daughter and me. She’d love the part when Princess Bubblegum tries to train BMO to fight. BMO is not very good at punching or throwing, but he’s awesome at using verbal battle burns.

Spümco Comic Book

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged humorgraphic novel

A collection of funny, tasteless comics starring Jimmy the Idiot Boy.

Why I picked it up: I enjoyed John K’s Ren & Stimpy, but I LOVED The Ripping Friends. (The latter was so strangely masochistic that I still can’t believe it ever aired on Saturday mornings.)

Why I finished it: The opening page is a comic called “Young Jimmy Peels a Scab.” Utterly disgusting, even though it was black and white. After reading “Remote Control Jimmy” I handed the book to my daughter (11), telling her it was the grossest comic I’d ever read. She made her “gah! just ate a lemon” face and went back to watching Project Runway. But then “Nutty the Friendly Dump,” the last story in the book, forced us to reevaluate our earlier judgement.

I’d give it to: My grandmother. There’s so much poop in these pages I’m not sure who could handle it, but she used to be a nurse so I know it will both make her laugh and get her telling war stories. Then I’m going to leave it on the back of our toilet with our collection of books on bodily functions and digestion.

You're All Just Jealous of My Jetpack Comics

Link to this review by sarahhunt tagged humorcomic strips

A collection of comics that Gauld did for The Guardian’s book section’s letters page. Some are especially literary (like the title strip) while others are less so. They are all delightful.

Why I picked it up: I have had lots of his comics tacked over my desk and love his diagram-like strips.

Why I finished it: Some strips I’d missed and lots that I could read over and over, all with deceptively simple-looking art that perfectly supports his punchlines.

I’d give it to: Chris, who would use many of the strips in displays even though they will be more challenging and abstract than most Unshelved Book Club comics.

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