Category Archives: Reviews

3 Reviews: Homegoing, Tipping the Velvet, & A Silent Voice

homecomingTitle: Homegoing
Author: Yaa Gyasi
Date Completed: August 11, 2016
Format: Hardcopy
Rating: 4/5
Synopsis: Multi-generational story follows two half-sisters (one sold into slavery, one married to a British slaver) and their descendants.
Thoughts: Homegoing was absolutely beautiful. It was well written, and the style light enough to be quickly readable, but without the sacrifice of quality or depth. Each chapter focused on a different family member/generation, alternating between the two branches. The story did not get bogged down in detail, but looked at a highlight or defining moment of a given family member’s life. Even though each character only had one chapter, they are fully formed and fit within their time, location, and experience.

———————————————————————————————————————–

tipping-velvet-2Title: Tipping the Velvet
Author: Sarah Waters
Date Completed: September 1, 2016
Format: Audiobook
Rating: 2/5
Synopsis: Nan King leaves home to be the dresser for male impersonator, Kitty Butler. As the attraction they have for each other grows, Nan joins Kitty on stage. Eventually, their relationship sours, and Nan must make her own way in London.
Thoughts: The good – Sarah Waters did a phenomenal job with details. The characters were fully formed, settings and scenes are in-depth, but not overwhelming, and I liked the ease with which various characters wore their gender fluidity/identity. The bad – Nan was whiny, self-absorbed, shallow, and didn’t seem to be able to make the connection between her actions and the consequences they brought about. If I had read the book instead of listened to it, the book would have hit the wall multiple times because of Nan’s oblivious idiocy. She did, thankfully, experience some redemption and happiness at the end.

———————————————————————————————————————

silent-voice-4Title: A Silent Voice, Vol 4-6
Author/Illustrator: Yoshitoki Ooima
Date Completed: September 20, 2016
Format: Hardcopy
Rating: 4/5
Synopsis: Shoya continues to try to redeem his childhood actions, and build a friendship with Shoko, while relearning to interact with other childhood classmates.
Thoughts: I love, love, love this manga! It is full of feels, and can be painful to read at times. Shoya is still trying to figure out how to be a better person, and has a hard time of it because old classmates (who also implicitly or explicitly bullied Shoko) keep trying to pull Shoko back onto their orbits. No single character is good or bad; all of them are a mix of the two. Even Shoko harbors a darker side. A defining event with her, forces the other characters to evaluate their flaws and behaviors. Naoka is the only character who really drives me nuts. I know there has to be a backstory as to why she behaves this way, but she is selfish, petty, and cruel.

Save

Save

Save

Save

YA Quarterly Box #4

ya q 4

I’ve had this post partially written, waiting in the wings for the past three months. Given that my next YA Quarterly box arrived on Saturday, I need to get this post finished. It’s taken me this long because I got it into my head that it would take too much time to think through (even though the bulk of it was written ages ago). Horrible logic, I know.

I’ve been participating in Book Riot’s YA Quarterly box since it began last year. The 4th round was the first that made me squee upon opening it.  White Rabbit socks? Check. Postcard-size Enchanted Forest coloring pages? Check. We Are the Ants? Check…I was a very happy girl. More so when I realized that Ana of California used Anne of Green Gables as a starting platform. This was shaping up to be an awesome box.

Three months on, and I’ve read both books (one = love, one = meh), the socks are well-loved, and the postcards are uncolored because I haven’t made the time to sit down and do coloring of any kind.

—————————————————————————————————————————

we are antsTitle: We Are the Ants
Author: Shaun David Hutchinson
Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, 2016
Date Completed: January 24, 2016
Rating: 4/5

Synopsis: Henry has been abducted by aliens multiple times. This time, the aliens tell him the world is going to end and give him the choice to save it or destroy it. He has 144 days to decide whether to push the “save” button or not. Because of all the turbulence and changes happening in his life, Henry doesn’t know if he wants to save the world.

Thoughts:  The story is wonderful. The characters are perfectly imperfect. Beautiful, fractured, and broken people, each coping with their own demons and (perceived) faults and flaws. I also liked the ant analogy in the opening.

It was a fast read, but aspects of the story felt shallow or glossed over. In keeping a level of detachment and ambiguity with Henry’s mental illness, we never really get to go deeper. Readers are held at a distance, though this might be done on purpose since Henry holds everyone at a distance and doesn’t seem to be aware of having a mental illness.

—————————————————————————————————————————

ana californiaTitle: Ana of California
Author: Andi Teran
Publishing Info: Penguin Books, 2015
Date Completed: February 7, 2016
Rating: 2/5

Synopsis: Ana has been bouncing around foster families and group homes for 10 years. As a last chance, she is sent from East L.A. to a farm in Northern California for the summer. Will Ana be able to make a place for herself on the farm, or will she be sent to a group home when the summer is over?

Thoughts: Initially, Ana of California feels like Ann of Green Gables plonked down in Northern CA. The opening felt like it was picked up from Edwardian Canada and put down in CA – a copycat more than an adaptation or homage.

The book was bumpy, and I ultimately did not like it. There was too much hidden special – too many people with problems/secrets/double lives/hidden talents/hidden angst. One or two special characters are fine, but when almost all of the first and second players are special, it becomes overwhelming. Everyone starts feeling like a stereotype or cliche – or trying to prove they are not. Rye was one of the worst offenders. I did not like how she treated Ana and used her as a scapegoat. She was annoying, petty, and self-absorbed. Rye was NOT best friend material. Frenemy, at best.

3 Graphic Novels: Primates, The Lost Boy, & Rat Queens

primatesTitle: Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas
Author: Jim Ottaviani
Illustrator: Maris Wicks
Intended Audience: Older middle reader and up
Date Completed: May 19, 2014
Rating: 3/5
Synopsis: Primates shows the journeys Goodall, Fossey, and Galdikas took to become preeminent primatologists, and highlights their contributions to the understanding of that field.

Thoughts: Primates is a good introduction to these scientists, but it glosses over many details. The holes in the storylines/information bothered me, but when trying to cover three famous scientists and their contributions in 133 pages, details have to be left out. For the intended audience, Primates gives enough information to hook readers who might want to learn more. The bibliography lists other resources about each woman to that end.

The multiple comments regarding the lecherous tendencies of Louis Leakey detracted from the flow of the narrative.

————————————————————————————————-

lost boyTitle:  The Lost Boy
Author/Illustrator: Gary Ruth
Intended Audience: Middle Reader
Date Completed:  June 15, 2014
Rating:  4/5
Synopsis: Nate moves into a new house only to discover tape recordings tucked underneath a loose floorboard. In listening to the tapes, he learns about Walt, a boy who disappeared several decades ago. With the help of his neighbor, Tabitha, the two children embark on a journey to find out what happened to Walt and to save their town from dark forces.

Thoughts: I liked the pacing. The drawings/shadings set the tone beautifully. While readers are set down in the middle of the story, the tapes help flesh out the backstory, and the climax answers the initial question of what happened to Walt. The ending was left open, so hopefully there will a sequel.

————————————————————————————————-

rat queensTitle:  Rat Queens, Volume One: Sass and Sorcery
Author:  Kurtis J. Wiebe
Illustrator:  Roc Upchurch
Intended Audience: Adult/Mature
Date Completed:  June 15, 2014
Rating:  4/5
Synopsis: The four Rat Queens are ostensibly a mercenary group that protects the town of Palisade, but at the point the story begins, are pretty much hell-bent on carousing and mayhem. As punishment (the only other option being banishment), they are sent on a quest. The quest is not what it seems, and the Rat Queens spend the rest of the volume trying to solve the mystery and dealing with the repercussions of their actions.

Thoughts: What’s not to love about this? Rat Queens is a bundle of awesomeness. It’s crass and sarcastic, violent and bloody, and had me snorting at some of the comments the characters made.

3 Graphic Novels: Saga, Delilah Dirk, & Adele Blanc-Sec

saga1Title: Saga, Vol. 1
Author: Brian K. Vaughan
Illustrator: Fiona Staples
Intended Audience: Adult/Mature
Date Completed: March 18, 2014
Rating: 5/5
Synopsis:  Alana and Marco are from opposite sides of an intergalactic war. She is a prison guard, he a prisoner, and together run away to start a new life. The story starts with the birth of their daughter, Hazel, then follows them as they try to escape from multiple enemies. In addition to character dialog, Hazel provides narration that gives bits of insight into the future of her family.

Thoughts: I’ve always enjoyed a bit of space opera, and this one is akin to Romeo and Juliet (though hopefully without the untimely deaths of the two main characters).  The baddies aren’t one-dimensionally bad, and if you don’t exactly like them, you at least respect them.  Even the good guys have their own baggage. Stories are better when the characters exist in the realm of grey instead of black and white.

**Be warned that there are explicit scenes in the book, and I wouldn’t consider it appropriate for adults, possibly teens at the end of their teen years.**

——————————————————————————————————

delilah dirkTitle: Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant
Author / Illustrator: Tony Cliff
Intended Audience: YA
Dates Completed: March 24, 2014 & May 19, 2014
Rating: 3/5
Synopsis: Delilah Dirk is a daring adventuress; Selim is a mild-mannered Janissary with a deep love of quality tea. He gets swept up inadvertently into Delilah’s adventures and becomes her unwilling (?) accomplice.

Thoughts: I ended up reading this twice because I wanted to see if I could reconcile my opinion from the first reading (meh) with all of the glowing reviews I’d seen on other websites and blogs. My first reading impressions were that it lacked a cohesive plot and had no overarching goal to tie everything together. My 13-year old self would have absolutely loved it for the sheer adventure.

The second go-round left a much better impression. The art is wonderful, especially the landscapes. I like how the humor is shown/played. The lack of romance between the two was refreshing. This volume felt more like an opening chapter in a longer story – Selim gets swept up unintentionally, comes to grips with it, and joins Delilah. I think my previously poor opinion stemmed from the massive amount of stress I was under with graduate school, Girl Scouts, three children, and no time to get anything accomplished.

—————————————————————————————————–

adele blanc-sec 1Title: The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec
Author / Illustrator: Jacques Tardi
Intended Audience: Teen/Adult
Date Completed: May 27, 2014
Rating: 1/5
Synopsis: This book is split into two interconnected stories. In the first, a pterodactyl has been brought to life and is on the loose in Paris. At around the same time, Adele Blanc-Sec has arrived in Paris with a hostage in order to use said hostage as collateral to free an associate from prison before he is executed. Treachery is afoot and things don’t go as planned.

Shortly after the conclusion of the pterodactyl incident, the second story begins when Adele gets involved in an intrigue surrounding an ancient Babylonian statue. She is fueled by the realization that it is connected to her treacherous allies and the incident that caused her associate to be jailed in the first place. Adele discovers a sinister cult, and must find away to escape its clutches.

Thoughts: I did not like this book, and had to force myself to read the second story. Adele is unlikeable, and most of the male characters felt like variations of the same mustachioed suit and bowler. The first story was essentially two separate, and only marginally connected, plots – the pterodactyl and Adele. Except for some seemingly random insets of a wailing man, the pterodactyl plot line made sense. However, the reader was dropped into the middle of Adele’s plot with very little backstory to fill in the details. The second story was an improvement in plot line coherence.