Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Doom Patrol Vol. 1: Brick by Brick by Gerard Way, Nick Derington, and Tamra Bonvillain

"The world is hard and unforgiving, it can change you. Because we're made up of all the things that happen to us. The good things fill your heart. But the bad things, and what we choose to do with them, really make us who we are..."

Okay, so this was a weird one and I'm not sure I grasped everything that went down. I'm not at all familiar with Doom Patrol, so I don't have any prior knowledge coming into this. I liked My Chemical Romance, so the Gerard Way factor was a positive, and it did look intriguingly weird.

Casey is a semi-weird ambulance driver. She lives with her cat Lotion (Which is like both the best and worst name at the same time somehow). Then, one night, a strange new dispatcher sends Casey and her partner to help someone. The person isn't there, but they witness a robot man getting run over by a truck. Casey takes the robot parts back to her apartment. Soon after, her roommate gets exploded by a singing telegraph girl, who becomes Casey's new roommate. Then things get weirder...

The new dispatcher is actually not a dispatcher, but Danny. Who is Danny? Well, Danny is technically a where. Dannyland is this place where a bunch of people live who are also Danny and Danny is also technically in the back of Casey's ambulance. It's complicated. Also, Casey is a comic book character in Dannyland and Danny brought her to life and sent her into the real world. Now, it needs her help because these creepy dudes, the Vectra, want to use Danny to generate more people so they can turn them into meat for their alien/robot/whatever fast food restaurants. (I know, so cliche, right?) Danny needs Casey to gather the Doom Patrol!

The other members of Doom Patrol are the robot man, who is called...Robot Man, Pilot Larry Trainor, who is possessed by a negative spirit and turns into Negative Man, Flex Mentallo, a strongman who Casey meets in Dannyland, and Jane, who is busy forming a cult because one of her personalities has taken over. Oh, there are also these little asides featuring Niles Caulder, AKA the Chief, who originally founded the Doom Patrol. Thank you to the DC Wiki for filling in some of my blanks. Anyways, from what I understood, it was pretty good. 

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

"The thing about a spiral is, if you follow it inward, it never actually ends. It just keeps tightening, infinitely..."

It's hard to believe that The Fault in Our Stars came out five years ago! I didn't even realize how much I missed John Green until I started Turtles All the Way Down. Maybe I never mentioned this before, but I love John Green. All of his books are fantastic, as you can see from my reviews of: The Fault in Our Stars, An Abundance of Katherines, Will Grayson, Will Grayson, and Paper Towns (I have also read Looking for Alaska-actually, that was my first John Green, but I haven't written a review.) I think I say this with every book, but Turtles All the Way Down is the best one yet.

The main story focuses on Aza Holmes. Her best friend Daisy decides that they should team up to find missing local billionaire Russell Pickett after he flees his home to avoid embezzlement charges. There is a $100,000 reward for any information leading to his capture. Daisy wants them to get that reward, and the first step in the plan is for Aza to reconnect with her old friend, Pickett's son, Davis.

Aza and Davis reconnect so well that they begin dating. The entire time, Aza keeps looking for his father, even after Davis gives them money to stop investigating. She made a promise to his preteen brother that she would find their father, and she intends to keep that promise.

The less dominant, but always present, part of the story is Aza's mental illness. She suffers from anxiety and OCD. Her disease causes her to obsess over getting Clostridium difficile, or C. diff, a type of bacterial infection. These intrusive thoughts lead her to constantly opening a callus on her finger, forcing the blood out, changing the Band-Aid, then repeating the whole thing over again.

Rather than romanticizing her mental illness, Green shows how Aza's disease hinders her detective work. He also touches a bit on the subject of drug treatment. Aza is often called out for not taking her prescribed medications. She claims that they make her less like herself. At his lecture, Green stated that he fully believes in medication to treat mental illness, that they can and do help sick people live their lives. In fact, Aza skipping her meds is part of what leads her into a downward spiral. 

What I also liked about Turtles All the Way Down is how the story focuses on Aza. I keep thinking how if it was told from Davis' perspective, it might have been a lot like Green's previous male-narrated stories. She might have been cast as the manic pixie dream girl (Though to be fair, I'm rethinking that term). It's a book that shows one girl's struggles with mental illness. Personally, I have struggled with anxiety and depression, and could definitely relate with Aza. I definitely understand the desire to have a normal brain instead of a malfunctioning one. It's a meaningful story told with Green's signature style and wit, and I loved it.

Here's a picture of my own personal copy of Turtles All the Way Down with all of my favorite parts/quotes marked:
Also, I had the opportunity to attend John Green's promotional tour in October. You can read about it here.

A Night with John and Hank Green Tour 2017

To help promote the release of Turtles All the Way Down, John Green did a tour with his brother Hank. I had to attend, even though the closest venues were over three hours away. I live in Toledo, Ohio, and I bought a ticket to the event in Cincinnati. It was a long drive, especially all by myself, but the show was amazing and I'm glad I got to see it. Here's some pictures I took and highlights of the show:
I was very worried about finding parking. I'm actually constantly stressed about parking every time I go anyplace new. There was a spot open right by the tour bus and it wasn't blocked by an orange cone. I was worried that it was a trap of some kind, and sat in my car for a couple minutes because I thought I would need to move, but it turned out to just be lucky timing, I think.

We started with John Green reading from Turtles All the Way Down. He read the end of chapter five, from pages 45 to 47. It's a good choice for a reading. Then he talked a bit about the book, Aza, and mental illness.

Dr. Lawrence Turtleman gave a scientific lecture. It was pretty silly.

After that, John and Hank sat down and answered audience questions. My picture of this is terrible. This was the part where one audience member had a special question for his girlfriend, who he met at the John Green event for The Fault in Our Stars. I'm so clueless sometimes and was actually wondering what he was going to ask her before my brain turned on and was like, "Ooooh." Anyways, they got engaged and it was fairly adorable.

That's from John Green's Twitter page.

After that, Hank Green played some songs for us. There was a funny one about how the universe sucks. We did a bonding exercise where we sang "Sweet Caroline" but we had to keep completely silent during the "Ba ba ba" parts. The show ended with a singalong that John said is his anthem of 2017, The Mountain Goats' "This Year." It's a lovely song, and very inspiring actually.

"I am going to make it through this year if it kills me"

Here's the swag bag that came with the ticket price.

Contents of the tote: autographed copy of Turtles All the Way Down (My second autographed copy), program, and tour poster. The tickets weren't terribly priced, considering you also got the book and considering how popular the Greens are.

I decided to buy the special limited print poster. It's really cool, though I bent it in half trying to store it in my tote.

So, I'm definitely glad I decided to attend the event. At first I was going to rent a hotel room to stay in after the program, but I decided to just drive home. It was kind of a mistake. I kept drinking bottles of water and singing Fall Out Boy lyrics in my head to keep going. "If I can live through this, I can do anything..." Shut up, it inspires me. My biggest regret is that I wanted to make my famous sugar cookies for John Green, but decided that I probably wouldn't be able to get them to him. There was a table to give them gifts, though...maybe next time? 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys: The Big Lie Vol. 1 by Anthony Del Col and Werther Dell'Edera

In the same fashion as Riverdale comes The Big Lie. Here, Joe and Frank Hardy are suspects in the murder of their father, Fenton Hardy. He had been a cop under trial for corruption, and the shame seems to have led him to shoot himself. The comic opens with Joe and Frank under interrogation. They had been at the Bobbsey twins' party during the murder, but there was an hour of time where nobody could place them.

The whole thing is actually a plan masterminded by Nancy Drew. They are trying to make the police suspect the Hardy boys and meanwhile they are trying to find the real killer, who they suspect is another cop. The three teen detectives have to get their hands dirty to catch the real murderer. They cheat in an underground poker game in order to get on the radar of the Rovers, major drug dealers. It becomes even more complicated when it seems like Nancy's father, Carson Drew, was involved in the corruption and may even be the one who killed Fenton Hardy.

It's all incredibly gritty detective stuff. Plus, they all have smart phones now. There are references to other retro children's book characters, the Rover Boys, Tom Swift, and the Bobbsey Twins. The whole thing ends with the Hardy Boys and Nancy catching the killer, but hints at even bigger corruption and darker forces orchestrating the murder. Which leads to the second volume of the series.

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

"He was tired of everyone believing they knew everything there was to know about him, as if a person never grew, a person never changed, a person was born a weird and dreamy little kid with too-red lips and stayed that way forever just to keep things simple for everyone else..."

Bone Gap is the typical small rural town. The people all know each other, and they know everything going on. They know all the rumors, such as the one about the ghost who eats leftovers at the house it haunts. Most of the rumors in Bone Gap involve the fields of corn. They say that the corn talks. Some even say that the corn walks around on its own.

Brothers Finn and Sean have lived in Bone Gap their entire lives. Their father is dead and their mother ran off to marry an orthodontist. Sean had been planning to go away to medical school and become a doctor. He gave up his dreams to take care of Finn and make sure that his younger brother graduates high school. Where Sean is responsible and serious, Finn is dreamy. He never meets anyone's eye. Everyone talks about how handsome Finn is, but also how strange he is.

Things shifted when the boys found a girl in their barn. Rosa showed up out of the blue...and disappeared the same way. During her brief stay, Sean lightened up, even laughed. Finn also had a bond with Rosa, as did everyone else in Bone Gap. It was a great blow when she left. Finn adamantly insists that she was abducted. Nobody believes him, especially because he can't describe the kidnapper's face. All he can say is that the man looked like a scarecrow. The man who kidnapped Rosa keeps confronting poor Finn, threatening to hurt him and everyone he loves if he doesn't stop looking for Rosa. Unfortunately, no one else ever sees the man.

It turns out that Rosa was abducted. A strange man took her and has been holding her in a series of strange places. Every day, the man asks the same question, "Do you love me yet?" Rosa tries to escape, to break out, find a weapon, even stabs the man. In spite of her efforts, she keeps waking up in a new place, still captive.

Meanwhile, Finn starts to spend time with a girl named Petey, the beekeeper's daughter. She is known for her bad attitude and her unusual face. Finn and Petey have lots of late night adventures riding Finn's mysterious horse (It's a very fancy horse that just showed up in their barn) through cracks and into alternate dimensions, or something equally odd. Because Finn is really pretty and Petey isn't traditionally attractive, the rest of the town thinks that he is using her. She starts to agree, but not in the same way as everyone else.

Bone Gap was such a weirdo of a book, and I was there for it. It's got that whole magical realism thing going for it. It's been a while since I've actually read it, but believe me, it was good.  

Friday, December 15, 2017

A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland

"One great fear to rule your life. One great fear to take it. There was no escaping her fate and no way to save the members of her family from theirs; this Esther's grandfather had told her since she was a child..."
The center of A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares is the Solar family. They have been cursed by Death himself. Reginald Solar met a man during the Vietnam War who he believed was an apprentice to Death. Since then, every Solar has been cursed with one great fear. That fear will consume them and eventually be what kills them.

Esther doesn't know what her fear is yet. Her twin brother Eugene is afraid of the dark. Their house is full of lamps and candles, and every light switch is taped on at all times. Shadowy creatures come from the dark trying to take him away. The twins' father developed agoraphobia. One day he went into the basement and just never left. He stays down there, all alone, surrounded by Christmas decorations. Despite suffering multiple strokes, he refuses to leave. Their mother is afraid of being unlucky, something that started after her husband went into the basement. She spends all her time and all the family's money at the casino. She also spent a thousand dollars on a rooster that is supposed to be a goblin.

Because of this somewhat interesting family life, Esther dreams of moving out on her own after high school. To fund this dream, she sells secret underground baked goods to her classmates. Sugar and junk food are banned, so she makes a decent profit. One day after selling her wares at her grandfather's nursing home, she encounters a boy she once knew: Jonah Smallwood. She loved him in Kindergarten and they were really close, but he moved away suddenly. Now, he is crying and bruised at the bus stop. He proceeds to con her out of her newly earned $55, her grandmother's bracelet, and even her fruit roll up. It's a non-traditional way to start a romance, that's for sure.

Jonah is the one who convinces Esther to face her fears. He had also taken her notebook with her list of fears. She decided to write down anything that seemed mildly frightening. Then she could avoid said thing and it would never become her great fear. Jonah has the idea to conquer each of the fears. Esther figures that if she takes enough risks, Death will start to pay attention and she can make him reverse the curse. With Jonah's help, she conquers one fear every Sunday, starting with #50: lobsters.

This book was terribly charming. I LOVED Esther and Jonah. They were adorable. Jonah rescues a little kitten he ran over with his moped, and he names the disabled baby Fleayonce Knowles. Esther constantly wears costumes, dressing like Wednesday Adams, Eleanor Roosevelt, or Indiana Jones. The interactions between Jonah and Esther's father are also really sweet. Jonah is incredibly kind to him, promises to eat dinner with him. She tells him that he doesn't have to do it, but Jonah likes her dad. You can tell that her dad appreciates the company, which kind of breaks my heart.

There was also a lot of dark stuff. I didn't expect so much darkness, including a very upsetting suicide scene. The ending is also kind of ambiguous about whether the Solar curse was real or not. Was it a curse placed by Death himself or a family history of mental illness, self-fulfilling prophecies, and coincidences? There isn't a definitive answer, and it kind of feels like the book is trying to have it both ways. I didn't really mind, though. I enjoy the openendedness.

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.