Tuesday, September 20, 2016

iZOMBIE 1-4 by Chris Roberson

I am a HUGE fan of the iZombie television show. Before the show premiered, I read an article (Though I cannot remember what it was) that listed the differences between the show and the graphic novels of the same name. Even so, I wanted to read the series myself.

It turns out that the show didn't take much from the graphic novels, aside from a title and the concept of a zombie who eats brains and gains the memories from the brains' owner. There are far more differences, such as:
  • The main character's name: Gwendolyn Price/Gwen Dylan in the comic, Olivia "Liv" Moore in the show
  • Gwen works and lives at a graveyard, obtaining brains from the corpses. My concern had been that the formaldehyde used in preservation would make the brains inedible, but it's actually an organic cemetery that doesn't preserve bodies, which seems odd. Is that an actual thing? She paints the memories she gains. Liv works at the coroner's office and obtains brains there. When Liv eats a brain, she gains talents and personality traits as well as memories.   
  • The universe of the comics contains many supernatural creatures besides zombies, such as vampires, werecreatures, ghosts, mummies, etc. The TV show wisely focuses solely on zombies, though part of me would appreciate the chaos of multiple monsters. 
  • In the comics, Gwen is friends with a ghost named Ellie and a wereterrier named Scott. They were both wisely omitted from the show. Liv's friends from the show: Peyton, ex fiance Major, and coworkers Ravi and Clive are not featured in the comics, but for a reason.
  •  The reason is that Gwen doesn't retain many memories from being alive. Her family and friends believe she is dead, and she doesn't remember them anyways. Liv remembers everything from her former life, and none of her friends and family (Save her boss Ravi...this was written a while ago because now a lot more people know as of the completed second season) know that she died and became a zombie. 
The first book, Dead to the World, introduced the characters. Gwen, Scott, and Ellie were trick-or-treating when they encountered a mysterious man.
You have to appreciate Gwen's Shaun of the Dead

Gwen eats a brain later and discovers that the mysterious man murdered the brain's owner in some sort of ceremony. The man turns out to be a mummy named John Amon who teaches Gwen the nature of zombies. See, there's this whole oversoul and undersoul thing.  Oversoul is the brain: "thoughts, memories, and personality." Undersoul is the heart: "appetites, emotions, and fears." Ghosts are bodiless oversouls. A bodiless undersoul is a poltergeist. Vampires have an oversoul, but drink blood because they lack an undersoul. The opposite, having the undersoul but seeking the memories of the oversoul is the zombie.

Meanwhile, a pair of hunters comes to town and starts to take out the local vampire population. One of them, Horatio, asks out Gwen. This is somewhat distressing to Scott, the wereterrier friend who has a crush on Gwen. I'm going to admit that I don't remember everything that happened and in which book. At some point, Gwen remembers her younger brother. Scott the wereterrier meets him and falls in love with him. The brother makes a pact with a comic book writer to be possessed with the spirit of his character, who is actually real and kind of homophobic, which messes up their relationship (That old cliche again!) Ellie the ghost makes friends with a Frankenstein monster and they end up falling in love. The mummy guy turns out to be kind of evil and a zombie. Also, his former friend has been working on a plan to summon a big bad entity that will destroy the world.

Out of the two, I definitely prefer the TV show. It's more streamlined and funny, though I would probably be super stoked if Rob Thomas brought on a wereterrier. The novels were not completely without their own charms. However, the lack of Ravi was unforgivable.  

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

"You may think you know the story. It goes like this: once upon a time, there was a sixteen-year-old girl named Jane Grey, who was forced to marry a complete stranger (Lord Guildford or Gilford or Gifford-something-or-other), and shortly thereafter found herself ruler of a country, She was queen for nine days. Then she quite literally lost her head....
We have a different story to tell...."
My Lady Jane is a VERY loose account of Lady Jane Grey's nine day reign as Queen of England. In real life, Henry VIII had been King, he married Catherine of Aragon, she gave birth to a daughter, Mary. Henry was not pleased with the lack of a male heir, so he decided to put a ring on his mistress, Anne Boleyn. Unfortunately, England was a Catholic nation and divorce wasn't allowed. Ever the resourceful once, Henry decided to start his own church and have all the divorces he wanted. Poor Anne only gave him one daughter, Elizabeth, before losing her head. His third wife finally gave him a son, Edward. After a few more wives, Henry dies and leaves Edward in charge.

Edward grew ill, and it was soon discovered that he would die. To keep England from falling under Catholic control, Edward changed the line of succession. Instead of going to Mary, the crown would go to his cousin Jane. Mary doesn't take it well, raises an army, and takes the throne back. Jane and her husband Guilford end up losing their heads.

My Lady Jane is, somewhat surprisingly, a comedy. Less surprisingly, it accomplishes this by taking a lot of liberties with the actual history. The main players are all the same. The religious war has been replaced with a battle over shapeshifters. E∂ians are humans who can change into animals. There is a party that opposes them, that believes they should all be killed. King Henry VIII surprised his country by turning into a lion to maul an unfortunate messenger. Unfortunately, he has passed away and left the country to his only son Edward. Edward has recently found out that he is ill with the Affliction, and it's getting worse. His chief advisor urges him to name a successor.

The country would normally go to Edward's oldest sister Mary, but she is strongly against E∂ians. His advisor Lord Dudley's solution is to leave the throne to Edward's sensible cousin Jane. Jane would marry the advisor's son Gifford, and the throne would pass to any male heirs that they produce.

Lady Jane Grey is not well known at court. She has a profound love of reading, and a dislike for parties. She's a girl after my own heart. Jane has been engaged several times, and her fiance always fell into some misfortune. She doesn't think that the new engagement will be any different, but the wedding is scheduled to take place in only a couple of days.

Her fiance, Gifford (He prefers G, but I don't), is also not well known at court. He has a pretty good reason, though: he is an E∂ian and spends his days, from sunrise to sundown, as a horse. Unlike other shapeshifters, he can't control his changes. Gifford is in love with Jane from the moment he sets eyes on her, but she thinks that he finds her ugly. Jane is offended by Gifford's "hobbies." He has worked hard to maintain a reputation as a lady's man in court, but it's a front to cover up his terrible secret: Gifford writes poetry which he reads in taverns.

In spite of being prepared for the "special hug" that comes after marriage, Jane and Gifford do not consummate their marriage. Instead, they live together rather tensely. He makes fun of her books, she makes fun of the fact that he is a horse. They bond on their Honeymoon by taking food and supplies to a village that was attacked by rogue E∂ians. When they finally start to like like each other, they find out that Edward has died. Jane is now the Queen of England.

As it turns out, Edward isn't actually dead. His favorite dog, Pet (Short for Petunia) turns out to actually be the daughter of one of the stablehands. Pet informs Edward that Dudley has been poisoning him in order to make him appear ill. Edward manages to escape the turning into a falcon and flying away.

Jane is advised to pass the throne to Gifford, but she refuses. This makes Gifford's father angry and hurts G's feelings a bit. Unfortunately, as Jane is being crowned Queen, Mary is gathering an army to fight her. Soon enough, Jane and Gifford are thrown in the Tower of London waiting to get their heads cut off, and Dudley is at Mary's side. This is basically where the real story ends. Fortunately, this one has a happier ending. 

I really loved My Lady Jane. It's really very funny, and I loved the anachronistic humor (There were constant jokes about things not being invented yet). Jane and Gifford were super cute together, even when they were being kind of infuriating. I may have spent the majority of the book wanting them to just kiss already. At least they fared better than their real counterparts. There was a part where they were locked in the Tower, and Gifford carves Jane's name in the wall of his cell, and I was Googling the real story, and...
I'm not going to lie, this made me sob a little. Aww, poor Gifford/Guildford! Poor Jane. Thankfully, as I said, we get a much happier ending here. My History degree is crying a little bit, but the rest of me is satisfied.

Patsy Walker A.K.A. Hellcat, Volume 1: Hooked on a Feline by Kate Leth and Brittney Williams

I knew Patsy Walker best in the form of Trish on Jessica Jones. Trish is actually really awesome, but I was a little skeptical about the comic. I don't know why I was, because it was absolutely delightful.

The plot involves Patsy putting her life back together after spending some time in Hell. While she was otherwise occupied, Patsy's frenemy Hedy has republished the old comics based on Patsy and her friends. Patsy's mother gave her the rights to the series, and Patsy hasn't gotten any money from the deal.

She could really use the money as She-Hulk had to let her go from her detective agency, and she also has to stop living in the supply closet. Patsy manages to bounce back, befriending a telekinetic almost-villain named Ian and moving in as his roommate. As Hellcat, she manages to fight and then befriend people with powers. This gives her the idea to open a job agency to pair people with powers with employers. It's a good solution, as lots of people with powers don't want to fight or commit crime, they just want to make a living.

It turns out that the people that Hellcat has been fighting are being recruited. A mysterious person has been seeking out people with powers on the internet. They have to prove that they are bad by committing a crime, then they can join the group. This person promises them anything that they need: a car, money for student loans, etc. It's up to Hellcat to stop this villain's evil plot!

Patsy/Hellcat is such a spunky and enthusiastic character, so I loved her. My immediate thought was that I wanted her to hang out with Squirrel Girl. Lo and behold:

I want to hang out with that squad. Hellcat was just as good as my beloved Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, and made me laugh just as much. I love the lightness they bring, and I'm definitely excited to have another series to read. I'm also very excited to read the next issues because:
Jessica Jones!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer

"I know it can be empowering to some, but I hate that word in all its forms. Survive. Survival. Survivor. Blah! So temporary and meaningless. 'Congratulations! You didn't die! At least not yet! But you will! Oh, trust us, you most certainly will!"

Spontaneous is a book that starts with a bang...literally. A member of the senior class explodes during pre-calc, just bursts into blood and little pieces. A second senior explodes soon after, then a third. The FBI gets involved, and theories of terrorist activity are thrown around. It's all a dead end because the kids have nothing in common. Boys or girls, all different races and body types, the only common denominator is that they were members of the senior class.

Our main character, Mara, is present for several of the explosions. She gets a mysterious text early in the crisis that reads:
You were there for both of them. That must have been invigorating.

So weird, right? The text turns out to have been from Dylan, a fellow senior with a serious reputation. There are two rumors about him: 1. He burned down the local convenience store and 2. He impregnated his ex-girlfriend with triplets. Mara and Dylan start to date; he clears up the rumors and takes her around in his dead father's ice cream truck. They are fairly cute together, though weirdly so.

After so many explosions, no one is any closer to figuring out why the seniors are exploding or how to stop it. The government gathers them all in a tent to do experiments, even hunting down any seniors who skipped town, as well as kids who would have been in their class who moved away. The school had shut down permanently, with intentions to destroy the building. Classes were to resume in a vacant mall nearby, but the seniors weren't invited. Mara decides to take some initiative and set up a school so that her class can graduate. Her parents always phrased it like once they get their diplomas, the explosions will just stop. They manage to get some funding, hire a couple teachers, a lunch lady, and a janitor, and school is back in session.

Even the laziest seniors start to realize that attending school is better than staying home all day. The classes are fun and interesting, the food is gourmet, and the class has become internet sensations. Explosions even stop...until they don't.

This book was pretty funny, pretty weird, and pretty darn difficult for me to write about! Mara was funny and weird, but I thought she was sort of ridiculous when she decided that she caused the explosions. Her best friend was a cool, level-headed girl and I really liked her. I'm probably a terrible person, but the explosions were both really gross to read about and also kind of funny. The ending is more open than I would have preferred, and there were some lulls in the book that lost my attention, but it was still a stellar read.

I received my copy of Spontaneous from Edelweiss, courtesy of Dutton Books for Young Readers. It's available for purchase now.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love by Sarvenaz Tash

"When you live for stories, when you spend so much of your time immersed in careful constructs of three and five acts, it sometimes feels like you're just stumbling through the rest of life, trying to divine meaningful narrative threads from the chaos. Which, as I learned the hard way this weekend, can be painfully fruitless. Fiction is there when real life fails you. But it's not a substitute..."

Graham and Roxy are best friends. They have been best friends since Graham moved in next door when they were eight. She asked him what Hogwarts house he would be in (Ravenclaw) and he loved her ever since. Now, Graham and Roxy are sixteen. They moved from Harry Potter to comics, especially The Chronicles of Althena*. The two also created their own comic, which Graham writes and Roxy draws, called The Misfits of Mage High.

Graham has decided that he will tell Roxy how he feels at the upcoming New York Comic Con. It seems like fate when it is announced that the author of Althena, Robert Zinc, will be on a panel for the movie adaptation of his series. All Graham has to do is camp out overnight with his friend Casey, convince Casey to give him his ticket for Roxy, then get Roxy to skip school on Friday for the panel. So easy, right?

Unfortunately, Graham's plans implode. After spending the night on the street, the ticket line turns into a mad rush when it opens. Graham and Casey leave empty-handed. Thankfully, they still get to spend time at Comic Con with Roxy and her friend Felicia. It's Felicia's idea to take part in speed dating (A teens session, don't worry). Graham makes friends with a fellow Athena fan (Who managed to get into the panel) named Amelia. To Graham's horror, Roxy meets a handsome British guy named Devin, and they are acting a little too friendly for his comfort.

Poor Graham's Robert Zinc plan fell through, and now he has to witness Roxy flirting with another guy. He expects that things will turn around Saturday, when he planned to surprise Roxy with a John Hughes panel (Graham's deceased mother was a huge John Hughes fan, and Roxy and Graham watched her old movies). It's just his luck that Devin is also there on Saturday, and again sticking to Roxy's side. Our boy then decides that the perfect demonstration of his love is to purchase an original page from Althena from the auction for $500. It's at this point where I started to worry about the kid. Oh, honey, no.

Graham was okay, but sometimes ventured over into "nice guy" territory. He and Roxy have a lot in common, they have been friends for years, and he wants to explore something more. The problem is that he never thought that Roxy might not want that, not to spoil anything. He was also kind of grating when he was upset about Devin. I can't imagine that he had any fun at Comic Con with that attitude, and he really did it to himself.

The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love is mostly nerdy fun. I really wish that The Chronicles of Althena was real, because it sounds awesome. I expected that the book would be cute and sweet, full of geeky love. It's much more complicated than that, but in a good way. There's a happy ending, but maybe not the one that you might expect.

*The Chronicles of Althena is a comic series about an alien named Althena whose only knowledge of Earth is what she saw in 80s science fiction films. She often shapeshifts into characters from the movies, though she can't change her earlobe, which is always green. On their first day at the con, Roxy dresses up as Althena as Pris from Blade Runner, and Graham dresses as Althena as Mad Max. 

I received my copy of The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love from Sarvenaz Tash as part of the Spring Young Adult Scavenger Hunt. It's available for sale now.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Down With the Shine by Kate Karyus Quinn

"May all your wishes come true, or at least just this one..."

Lennie Cash has dealt with a lot in her life. Her father is Leonard Cash, the infamous criminal who took her along as he robbed toy stores and Chuck E. Cheeses. Now, teenage Lennie lives with her mentally unbalanced mother and her uncles. The uncles are well known for brewing moonshine, the family business. Because of this, Lennie doesn't have a great reputation at school. Also, if that isn't enough, her best friend was just murdered.

Dylan's murder inspires Lennie to rebel just once. She drugs her uncles and steals three jars of shine to take to the popular Michaela's party. The kids all drink, and Lennie gets them to make the traditional wish. It's all good fun, or so she thought.

It turns out that the wishes, all of the silly, harmless wishes, came true. Her uncles thought that they told her years ago about the powers her family possess (It turns out that there was a silly misunderstanding; her uncle tried to tell her, she thought it was the Sex Talk and said that her other uncle already told her). When they perform the wishing ritual with the moonshine, the wishes actually come true. Because Lennie granted more than three wishes, the powers passed on to her.

Now, everything is a mess. Michaela's party is still going because she wished that it would never stop. Anyone who tries to leave becomes terribly ill. It's a battleground in there. There are gangs of teenagers at war with each other. Most of the wishes were harmless, such as the girl who wanted to be a cat or the boy who wanted to be a sexy old man (Seriously). Then there is the guy who wished to be a giant bat monster, and the surprisingly dangerous boy who wished that everything he touched turned into Cheetos.

Lennie is also dealing with the fallout of two other wishes. Dylan's twin brother Smith made a wish against her, along the lines of wishing that she would get what is coming to her because he blames her for Dylan's death. Lennie told him that he could lead her into Hell hand in hand. Now, Smith has an uncontrollable, painful desire to hold Lennie's hand, and once he does, they are stuck. Meanwhile, Lennie wished that Dylan were alive and safe in her bed. It's up to Lennie, Smith, undead Dylan, and the horribly awesome W2 (Who wished for brass balls and she talked him into steel ones) to save the day and reverse the wishes.

I am a big fan of Kate Kyrus Quinn's books, and Down With the Shine did not disappoint. My favorite part connected the book with her other two:

And then there were his obsessions. The ones he knew of, but couldn't find. A girl who stayed forever seventeen by making a cruel bargain with other girls so she could steal their bodies and their lives, a boy with the power to absorb bullets and magically heal, A girl who grants wishes through moonshine...

Down With the Shine was an inventive fairy tale of a story. I remember mentioning in a review that teenagers probably shouldn't be trusted with magic, and I stand by that statement. At least it's very entertaining to read about the crazy wishes. The story takes a crazy turn towards the end, but I kind of liked it.

I received my copy of Down With the Shine from Edelweiss, courtesy of HarperTeen. It's available for purchase now.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You by Lily Anderson

"This was so much bigger than the monkey bars. This was the Rebels versus the Empire. This was the Doctor versus the Daleks. This was Ripley versus the Xenomorphs.
This was a real, true, full-scale war..."

The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You ended up surprising me. At first, it sort of annoyed me. It's based on Much Ado About Nothing, and the Beatrice (Here, she goes by Trixie) and Benedick (Ben) characters are savage. Every interaction explodes into a fight. In my opinion, it's mostly Trixie's fault. She takes every little comment as an insult and shoots back twice as hard, often going for very personal stuff (His mom leaving his family, his friends turning on him). I'm not saying that Ben is innocent in all this. He keeps up his side of the fight. They just can't seem to get along, they are too different...or too similar.

The kids in the story attend a school for geniuses called Messina Prep, or the Mess. It's highly competitive to the point that the school posts rankings every week. Ben's best friend Cornell is number one, Trixie's best friend Harper is two, Ben is three, and Trixie is four. She vows to change that by the end of the year so that she graduates in third place and can rub her victory in Ben's face. Their rivalry started when he pushed her off the monkey bars and broke her arm, and Trixie will not rest until she wins. 

Things start to change when Harper and Cornell finally get together. They have been dancing around each other for a long time, and he finally asked her to the Harvest Festival. The only thing in the way of their adorable, nerdy love is Ben and Trixie's inability to get along.

At the festival, Harper and Cornell are having such a good time that they end up forgetting about Trixie. She ends up alone in the surprisingly scary haunted house and has a panic attack. Thankfully, a kindly axe-wielding clown escorts her to safety. She actually became attached to her rescuer, to the point that she considers seeking him out as a possible romantic prospect. Imagine her surprise when she finds out that the clown was Ben, and she had been insulting him to his masked face. After that, Ben and Trixie no longer fight. He just ignores her, and vice versa.

In a moment of Shakesperian hijinks, Trixie overhears Harper and their other friend Meg discussing her. They lament how tragic it is that some poor young man is in love with her. There is no way she would ever return the sentiments, she would likely end up mocking him. It could be tragic...he might even kill himself! Who is this poor, lovelorn young man? None other than Ben!

Before, Ben couldn't say a word to Trixie without getting his head ripped off, but now she is civil, even nice. She lets him share her Spiderman umbrella when they walk to class in the rain. She lends him her Buffy comics and he introduces her to Saga. When they were arguing, they got on my nerves, but they made me squee a bit with geek cuteness.

Trixie still isn't ready to tell her friends, or, God forbid, her parents, about her new friendship. Ben buys her a ticket to the Winter Ball and it seems like they might actually be a couple. She buys a new dress, geeks it up, then all hell breaks loose.

Throughout the year, students have been put on academic probation for cheating. It was a couple of athletes and a D&D kid, nobody that they knew well. The Mess is a demanding school, so it's not too surprising. When Jack, twin brother of the class president, is suspended, everyone starts to pay attention. At the dance, Trixie finds out that everything was pinned on Harper. It looks like she framed her classmates for cheating. She is expelled, and Cornell doesn't stand up for her. (This is definitely a better scenario than the one from the play, which involved the Harper character being framed for having sex with a guy who wasn't her fiance. An update was definitely required.) It lands on Trixie to solve the mystery and clear Harper's good name.

Like I said, the book grated me at first, like an episode of  The Big Bang Theory. It's all smart people, Doctor Who, comic books, banter, blah. After I really got into the book, and Trixie and Ben chilled a little, I really loved the story. There were full on smiles and giggles on my end and, of course, happy tears. It's really cute and funny and led to me binge-reading the Saga graphic novels. I highly recommend it!

I received my copy of The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You through the Goodreads First Reads program in exchange for an honest review. It's available for purchase now.