Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Diviners by Libba Bray

“Oh, Evie, you’re too much,” people said, and it wasn’t complimentary. Yes, she was too much. She felt like too much inside all the time. So why wasn’t she ever enough?”

After causing a scandal in her small Ohio town, Evie is sent to stay with her Uncle Will in New York City. This "punishment" actually suits her just fine, as Evie is one of those young flappers. She imagines that her stay will be nothing but parties, time with her old pal Mabel, and her name in the papers. What she didn't count on was murder.

Bodies have been found around the city. Certain body parts are missing and there are strange symbols at the crime scenes. The police enlist Will's help. Will runs a supernatural museum, known locally as the Museum of Creepy Crawlies. He is aided by Evie, who has a supernatural gift. When she touches someone's belongings, Evie gets visions. This gift got her in trouble back in Ohio, but it will help her catch the killer in New York.

There are several other characters with powers in The Diviners. Evie encounters Sam leaving the train station after first arriving in the city. He can make himself invisible at will. She holds a grudge against him because he steals twenty dollars from her, but he gets a job at Will's museum and they have a cordial animosity. Memphis used to heal people when he was a child, but he lost the power. Now he's involved with a speakeasy, running receipts. His younger brother has a powerful gift that Memphis wants to hide from his very religious aunt.

The Diviners is a very long book, but also very entertaining. Evie can be a little frivolous at times, but you can tell her heart is in the right place. The story switches between her and several different characters, including the killer. Separate storylines end up intersecting and coming together, which I always like. I look forward to reading the next books in this series to find out what happens to Evie and the rest of the Diviners.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Things I'm Seeing Without You by Peter Bognanni

"Find out what you want. Find out what you don't want. Screw up some more. Get your heart broken again. Try to be decent along the way. That's how you make a life..."

Tess is not okay. Her online boyfriend Jonah just committed suicide. Out of grief, she drops out of high school and moves in with her estranged father. One of her first actions upon arriving is to symbolically purge herself of Jonah by literally dumping her laptop in the lake, after which she jumps in the lake herself. So, yeah, the poor girl has some issues to work through.

Tess' dad used her college fund to pursue his latest career path: funeral planning. He has mixed results. There was a dog funeral that ended with wasn't great. Tess ends up helping him plan a funeral for a prized race horse, and it's a massive success.

Tess partners with her dad with the agreement that he will pay back her college fund. Their newest venture: planning a life celebration for a former burlesque dancer before she succumbs to Alzheimer's. They grow closer, and things start looking up for her. Then she gets a Facebook message from Jonah. Impossible, right? Not so much. I'm going to spoil the plot twist, so look away if you don't want to know...

It turn out that part of the time that Tess had been chatting with Jonah online, she had actually been talking to his roommate Daniel. Obviously, this is deceptive and all kinds of messed up. Tess starts to talk to actual Daniel and together they work through feelings about Jonah and his sudden death, and it's kind of nice.

 It was nice to be able to see Tess' journey as she went through the process of grieving Jonah. I also liked seeing her bonding with her father. Things I'm Seeing Without You definitely seemed to try its hardest to be quirky and unique. I wasn't always feeling it, but it was still a pretty good story. There was a lot of hope in the ending, and I liked that a lot.  

I received my copy of Things I'm Seeing Without You from the Goodreads Firstreads Program, courtesy of Dial Books. It's available for purchase now.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

"LadyConstellation is the hero who defeats Eliza Mirk once a week and celebrates with her many admiring fans. She is beloved by all, even the villain, because without her the villain wouldn't exist.
I am LadyConstellation.
I am also Eliza Mirk.
This is the paradox that can never be solved..."

Francesca Zappia's first book, Made You Up was a beautiful, funny, and weird. I absolutely loved it. Therefore, I was beyond excited to read her follow up, Eliza and Her Monsters.

Eliza Mirk is the Weird Girl. She used to be normal, but now she is either ignored or ridiculed. To be honest, she doesn't really mind. High school is just something to get through until college. Besides, Eliza doesn't need friends in real life...she has plenty online.

She is the creator of the incredibly popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. Under the username LadyConstellation, Eliza publishes the comics, sells merchandise, and chats about teen soap Dog Days. Only her closest friends, Emmy, a 14-year-old college student, and Max, a twenty-something Canadian, know her true identity. Her parents and brothers also know about the comic, but not how big it is, or how important it is to her fans.

One day Eliza uncharacteristically defends the new boy in school against some bullies. He was writing fanfiction about Monstrous Sea, so Eliza considers it her responsibility to help. The bullies grab some of her rough drawings, and she ends up bonding with the new boy, Wallace, over the comic. Wallace is tall and big like a football player, but he never talks. He prefers to write notes back and forth. It turns out that he is also a major player in the online fandom as rainmaker.

Eliza doesn't want to tell Wallace who she is, but they continue to grow closer. He is writing a novelization of Monstrous Sea, and asks Eliza to read it and offer critique. She doesn't want to, but it turns out that his writing is amazing. She urges him to share it online. Wallace invites her to a Halloween party at a bookstore where she meets his friends, who are all very active on the Monstrous Sea forums. They get so close that they hold hands, he even talks about kissing her...which makes it so much harder that she still hasn't told him she is LadyConstellation.

I definitely related with Eliza, especially her view of high school. My teenage years were spent alone, although I didn't create any massive online universe. Unfortunately, I also didn't bond with the new boy in school and start an adorable, nerdy relationship. Eliza and Her Monsters was another fantastic novel from Francesca Zappia, and I highly recommend it. It's got funny moments and moments that made me cry when I read them on my break at work (Awkward). I must confess that I couldn't quite understand what we were shown of Monstrous Sea, but it sounded pretty cool. And, as always, I love me some nerds in love.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Meant to Be by Julie Halpern

"Fuck fate. Screw destiny. I'm team free will..."

Meant to Be offers an interesting future. A worldwide event known as the Naming resulted in every adult having a name suddenly appear on their chest. Now, the Names appear at some point after everyone turns 18. The Names, also known as Meant to Be's, or MTB's, belong to your soul mate. The Naming brings up lots of questions. Where did the Names come from? What if they leave as suddenly as they came? Most importantly of all, what about free will?

Agatha, better known as Aggie, is incredibly cynical about the Names, which she refers to as MTs (Empties). This is largely because her father ran off to be with his Empty, leaving Aggie and her mother alone. Thankfully, Uncle Jim moves in and helps with money and housework. He's a delightful man who writes romance novels under the name Savannah Merlot, none of which involve MTBs. Aggie's best friend Lish, however, is all about MTB's. She paid a lot of money to have her name scanned to find her MTB, Travis. He is coming to stay with her family for the summer, and she sees their relationship as leading to marriage, children, etc.

When the name Hendrix Cutter appears on Aggie's chest, she has every intention of ignoring it. Her goals are to hook up with her hot co-worker, Luke, at Haunted Hollow, the Halloween-themed amusement park where she works, and to visit Australia after graduation so she can pursue a job at their famous amusement parks. Everything seems to be going according to her plans, not destiny. She hooks up with Luke, and they start a semi-casual relationship. Still, Aggie finds that she can't stop thinking about one Hendrix Cutter. Who, as it turns out, lives in Australia...

This was a pretty fun story. Aggie was delightfully snarky. If I had to complain, I might say that there's a little too much focus on her large breasts. Also, there are a couple of fairly detailed sex scenes. So, proceed with caution on that front. In spite of those small quibbles, I really loved Meant to Be and its imaginative what-if scenario.

I received my copy of Meant to Be from Edelweiss, courtesy of Feiwel & Friends. It's available October 24th.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis

"Every book warns us at the beginning: All Rights Reserved. But I don't believe it. Every right will not be reserved. Our rights will not be reserved. We will be free..."

I used to love dystopian novels, but at some point over the last couple of years, I have grown tired of the genre. The bleak, futuristic visions of what could be inspired eyerolls instead of a desire to read the story. All Rights Reserved has an interesting premise, so I figured that I could give it a shot and see if dystopian novels have any future with me*.

The story is set in a future where new ideas are prohibited. Lawyers control the world, and everything is held under strict trademark and copyright laws. This includes all words and almost every gesture. People are free to use them until they turn fifteen. After that, they are fitted with a cuff that charges them accordingly. If for some reason their cuff fails, mandatory contact lenses shock their eyes if they try to speak.

Speth (It's a highly discounted name) is just about to turn fifteen and give her speech, a tradition for those coming of age. Right before the speech, her sort-of boyfriend Beeker kills himself by jumping off a bridge into traffic. In a moment fueled by grief, Speth decides that she will never say another word. Instead of a speech, she zips her lips, a gesture that is meant to belittle those in serious debt.

Now, Speth is known as the Silent Girl. That split second decision sparks a movement. Other young people follow her, and they start to be known as the Silents. Of course, there are consequences to revolution, even accidental revolution. Speth's sister, Saretha, is sued by a famous actress that she resembles. Because of the lawsuit, she can no longer leave the house for her job. The family is in debt because of an illegally downloaded song from a distant aunt. Their parents were taken into collection to pollinate crops with an eyedropper because almost all of the bees died. Speth could put an end to her family's troubles- her parents could come home, their debt would be erased, and Saretha could get her job back- if she would just give her speech. But she's gone too far to give up, and she realizes that it's about something bigger than her and her family.

All Rights Reserved ended up being a pretty good dystopian story. Like the best of its genre, it's all the scarier because it seems like it could happen some day soon. It made me think about having to communicate without speaking or making gestures. The idea seems mind-boggling. What is really interesting is how most heroines fight by actually fighting, giving speeches, doing things, but Speth starts a revolution by saying nothing. Young people follow her, and she is painted as their leader, but she never asked for it. She literally can't ask for it. (Part of me is amused at what the book might have looked like if it was narrated by a different character or outside narrator. "Speth says nothing. Speth still says nothing. Speth looks at me and says nothing...still.") This is the first book of a series, and while I like it, I'm still unsure whether I want to continue the series. Time will tell.

I received my copy of All Rights Reserved from Edelweiss, courtesy of Harlequin Teen. It's available for purchase now.

*I'm incredibly proud of this pun. So proud. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

"We're all messy. What kind of friends would we be if we demanded you only show us your prettiness? This isn't Instagram- it's real life. And real life is messy..."

Queens of Geek is a story about three friends from Australia visiting California for SupaCon, a comic books convention. It's narrated by the two girls, Charlie and Taylor. Charlie is a YouTube star who is gaining popularity for starring in a major horror movie. She is going to SupaCon for publicity, and also in the personal hopes that she can show she is over her ex (and co-star) Reese. Her fans still love "Chase," as they called them. They don't realize that Reese cheated on her and broke her heart.

Charlie brings her best friends Jamie and Taylor. Taylor has Aspberger's and anxiety issues. She is also head over heels in love with Jamie, who obviously likes her back. He is very sweet and sensitive towards her at all times. She is also very nervous about the future. They all plan to move to Los Angeles after graduating high school. Charlie will continue with her movie career, while Taylor and Jamie attend college. This makes Taylor anxious to no end. Leaving home freaks her out, plus she isn't even sure that she will get accepted to college.

SupaCon is meant to be their big celebration before graduation, but it also holds special meaning for Taylor. She is the number one fan of a series called Queen Firestone. She even made her own jacket so that she could cosplay it. Secretly, Taylor hopes that by meeting the creator of Queen Firestone, Skyler Atkins, it will mean that the future will be okay. Understandably, she is heartbroken when the plans fall through. Her friends urge her to enter the Queen Firestone SupaFan Contest, where the winner gets to attend the movie premiere and meet Skyler, but Taylor has her doubts. The thought of entering a cosplay contest and then being onstage for the trivia round with everyone watching is a bit overwhelming.

Meanwhile, Charlie is excited to meet one of her YouTube heroes, Alyssa. The girls share mutual appreciation for each others' work- and mutual attraction. It's exciting, but slightly dampened when Reese arrives. The production company wants them to play nice, but it's hard for Charlie. She has to balance her hurt from that heartbreak, plus anger towards Reese with her new feelings towards Alyssa and apprehension towards having another relationship in the public eye.

It's a really cute story. I know I've said it before, but I will repeat: I love geeks in love. So this book was basically perfect for me. I really like that there's a lot of inclusive elements to the story. We get characters with various ethnic backgrounds, various sexual preferences, and characters with mental illnesses/disorders. It could seem a little "After School Special," but the book handles it well. It doesn't clobber you over the head with it, it's just that some people are multi-racial/bisexual/have anxiety...and they are also people. It's a pretty cool message, and a pretty cool book over all.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Scooby Apocalypse, Volume 1 by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis, Illustrated by Jim Lee and Howard Porter

I loved Scooby-Doo when I was younger, absolutely loved. Come on, there was a talking dog, and a bunch of teens who chased after monsters and ghosts in their multi-colored van. I always loved guessing who the "monster" was at the end of the episode. There were many versions of Scooby-Doo, and I think I watched all of them. Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?, The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo, that weirdly 1980s A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, Scooby-Doo movies where they met the Harlem Globetrotters and other guests, even the Laff-A-Lympics. I was fairly obsessed with the character*, and I never even smoked any drugs whatsoever.

 The Scooby Apocalypse series seemed pretty intriguing, and my library's website had the first volume. It's sort of a grittier story. Velma works at a secret underground facility, the Complex. She and the other scientists have developed nanites and secretly slipped them into all of the people everywhere. It was supposed to make the population more peaceful, but she found out that they really are meant to control their minds.

Velma decides to inform the general public. She contacts a journalist to get the new out, one Daphne Blake of Daphne Blake's Mysterious Mysteries, a show that airs late at night on the Knitting Channel. Daphne and her cameraman Fred meet with Velma, who takes them back to the Complex to show them her evidence. On the way, they run into her fellow employee, Norville "Shaggy" Rogers. He's a dog trainer who is very close to Scooby, one of the dogs whose brain was enhanced for the smart dog program. All four of them, plus the dog, are in the facility's Safe Zone when the alarm goes off. The nanites have somehow been activated.

 What greets them outside the Safe Zone is terrifying. People have been transformed into monsters. The monsters have been killing and eating those who haven't transformed, and killing and eating other monsters. The gang ends up escaping the Complex in an experimental vehicle known as the Mystery Machine. They travel around, encountering more monsters, gathering supplies, and trying to contact other Complex locations to figure out a plan of action. In the meantime, they are being hunted by the monsters and a group of smart dogs looking for Velma to fix their implants and for revenge against Scooby, led by a dog named...Scrappy-Doo. That made me laugh. 

Scooby Apocalypse was definitely a unique take on the series. There's a pretty interesting mystery behind what is going on with the monsters. I'm not sure if I will keep up with the series, but I'll definitely consider if/when the next volume is on the library's website.

* My first ever compact disc** purchase was a compilation of Scooby-Doo themes called Scooby-Doo's Snack Tracks. It included a remix of the Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? theme, which I thought was awesome at the time. It probably wasn't.  (Never mind, it's amazing: #sarcasm...kinda)
** I am an old :(