The Hate U Give Review

the_hate_u_giveThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Balzer + Bray, 2017. 978-0062498533

Synopsis: Starr Carter and her childhood friend Khalil are on their way home from a party when the pair are pulled over by a police officer. The traffic stop takes a turn when Khalil is shot and Starr becomes the only witness in what rapidly escalates into a hate crime. In the aftermath of Khalil’s death, Starr must decide whether she will use her voice to speak out or to stay quiet and deny that she was even there.

Why I picked it up: It was a selection for my online book club.

Why I finished it: Given current events, this book and its subject matter hit me as a rather poignant commentary on how society treats each other. As a white girl that grew up in middle class neighborhoods, I didn’t relate to Starr, a 16-year-old black girl who lives in a neighborhood known for its crime and drug dealers. Yet, the differences in our races and backgrounds didn’t prevent me from understanding the struggle Starr is going through. Even before the shooting turns things upside down, she had to find a way to separate her home life and her school life – she lives in a questionable part of town but her parents have enrolled her and her siblings in an affluent high school whose primary population is rich white kids. Plus, her boyfriend is white, something she knows is not going to go over well with her father. The numerous cultural references to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (Starr’s favorite show), Harry Potter, Friday, and a slew of (mostly) nineties rappers help ground the reader – Thomas is giving us something familiar to latch on to in order to better relate the circumstances in which Starr finds herself. I thought it was especially apropos that Thomas used Tupac lyrics to push the main theme of the story: “…The Hate U-the letter U-Give Little Infants F***s Everybody. T-H-U-G L-I-F-E. Meaning what society gives us as youth, it bites them in the [butt] when we wild out”  (Thomas, 17). Pretty mind-blowing. So, really, if we think about all the forms of hate in the world, I think that it’s definitely a combination of nature and nurture, because we learn from both our immediate family and from our neighbors and friends. It makes one think about what we ourselves are putting out into the world that could end up biting back at us later. Granted, we cannot always show the compassion and kindness that we would like, but I still feel it’s an important message in a world that seems to be turning on its head as of late. It’s a powerful story about bravery and our ability to cope with tragedies in our lives.

Other related materials: Want by Cindy Pon; Flame in the Mist by Renèe Ahdieh; The Inexplicable Logic of My LIfe by Benjamin Alire Sàenz; History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera; 27 Hours by Tristina Wright; Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson; When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon; Queens of Geek by Jen Wildle; Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert; American Street by Ibi Zoboi; Dear Martin by Nic Stone; March books by John Lewis; Monster by Walter Dean Myers; Slam! by Walter Dean Myers

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Artemis Fowl: The Atlantis Complex Review

artemis_fowl_7Artemis Fowl: The Atlantis Complex (Artemis Fowl, Book 7) by Eoin Colfer

Disney-Hyperion, 2010. 978-1423128199

Synopsis: When Artemis commits his entire fortune to a project he believes will save the planet and its inhabitants, both human and fairy, it seems that goodness has taken hold of the world’s greatest teenage criminal mastermind. But the truth is much worse: Artemis is suffering from Atlantis Complex, a psychosis common among guilt-ridden fairies and most likely triggered in Artemis by his dabbling with fairy magic. Symptoms include obsessive-compulsive behavior, paranoia, multiple personality disorder and, in extreme cases, embarrassing professions of love to a certain feisty LEPrecon fairy. Unfortunately, Atlantis Complex has struck at the worst possible time. A deadly foe is intent on destroying the actual city of Atlantis. Can Artemis escape the confines of his mind-and the grips of a giant squid-in time to save the underwater metropolis and its fairy inhabitants? – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: After the cliffhanger in the previous book, I was eager to embark on another cat-and-mouse chase.

Why I finished it: Surprisingly, the plot doesn’t continue where it left off in the previous installment. Instead, we find our young genius suffering from a fairy form of PTSD, which unfortunately wasn’t that interesting of a plot. Coupled with the second storyline of a former criminal seeking to stage an elaborate prison break to get back to his family, this novel was sort of a disappointment. It’s important to have an awareness of mental disorders, like those Artemis is experiencing with the Atlantis Complex, but the way Colfer executed that bit of the story felt flat to me. Yes, we do get some Holly/Artemis shipping, but this book didn’t feel like it tied in very well with the rest of the series so far. Adding another criminal to the mix could have made it more exciting, but with the multitude of other characters in the Artemis Fowl universe it merely seemed lazy – almost like Colfer was running short on ideas. Colfer is at the point in the series where he isn’t pulling any punches with his readers: he’s assuming we’re already well acquainted with the general workings of this universe and we have a good understanding of the characters. So when the author introduces a new idea and a new character to the mix, we’re expecting more than the anti-climactic ending that we receive. If not for the Atlantis Complex bit, this book could have been a one-shot or a companion story that helped to further flesh out our heroes. As it is, the reader does get a sort of one-off feel from the story, but not one that satisfies the heightened sense of adventure or drama that in one of the hallmarks of the series. I’m hoping that the final stand-off we’re anticipating is better executed in the final book.

Other related materials: Artemis Fowl (Artemis Fowl, Book 1) by Eoin Colfer; The Arctic Incident (Artemis Fowl, Book 2) by Eoin Colfer; The Eternity Code (Artemis Fowl, Book 3) by Eoin Colfer; The Opal Deception (Artemis Fowl, Book 4) by Eoin Colfer; The Lost Colony (Artemis Fowl, Book 5) by Eoin Colfer; The Time Paradox (Artemis Fowl, Book 6) by Eoin Colfer; The Last Guardian (Artemis Fowl, Book 8) by Eoin Colfer; Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel adapted by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin, art by Giovanni Rigano, colors by Paolo Lamanna; Artemis Fowl: The Seventh Dwarf by Eoin Colfer; W.A.R.P.  books by Eoin Colfer; The Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer; Max Powers and Project Gemini by Keith Philips; The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud; H.I.V.E. series by Mark Walden; Inkheart by Cornelia Funke; Inkspell by Cornelia Funke; Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke

 

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Bad Machinery, Vol. 6: The Case of the Unwelcome Visitor Review

Bad-Machinery-6Bad Machinery, Volume 6: The Case of the Unwelcome Visitor by John Allison

Oni Press, 2016. 978-62010-351-7

Synopsis: With school out for summer holiday, Charlotte, Jack, and Linton are enjoying a long deserved rest from the rigors of academia and indulging in the delights of staying up late and getting up even later. But when a local celebrity ends up in the hospital after being found wandering around town (apparently out of his mind), the three young sleuths find that perhaps their holidays won’t be so lazy after all.

Why I picked it up: Because amazing-ness.

Why I finished it: This volume starts with a case already in progress, but due to “failed back-up procedures” the reader is only privy to the conclusion of the mystery. And I read through this entire volume not really giving much thought to the fact that Allison gave us only part of a mystery before delving into the main portion of the story…except that the end of the one story ends up being important for the other. But what really mystified me was that it wasn’t explained where Mildred and Sonny were spending their holiday until halfway through the volume when Mildred just sort of shows up at Lottie’s door. It was clear that there were members of the group that were out of town, but the only explanation given at the onset was where Shauna was spending her holiday. Or I missed something. Who knows. The reader gets to meet more of Linton’s family in this novel, and we learn where Linton may have gotten some of this appetite for solving mysteries and why he’s so desperate to find a mystery for he and Jack to work on during their summer break. It’s been interesting to see the group sectioned off a bit in the last couple of books so that we get some more in depth character development, which is one of the things I love about this series. Allison is growing his characters so that they are able to stand on their own and not just identify with being in a sextet. The ending gets a little bit MST3K, but even in its absurdity, it’s still 100% believable.

Other related materials: Bad Machinery, Volume 1: The Case of the Team Spirit by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 2: The Case of the Good Boy by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 3: The Case of the Simple Soul by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 4: The Case of the Lonely One by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 6: The Case of the Unwelcome Visitor by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 7: The Case of the Forked Road by John Allison; Scott Pilgrim books by Bryan Lee O’Malley; The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks; The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky; Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen; Adventure Time comics by Ryan North, illustrated by Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb; Adventure Time Volume 1: Playing with Fire by Danielle Corsetto; Adventure Time: Marceline & The Scream Queens by Meredith Gran; A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle, illustrated by Hope Larson; Lumberjanes comics by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Brooke A. Allen, and Grace Ellis

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Tucker Grizzwell’s Worst Week Ever Review

tucker_grizzwells_worst_week_everTucker Grizzwell’s Worst Week Ever by Bill Schorr and Ralph Smith

Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2017. 978-1449469108

Synopsis: Tucker Grizzwell is having a bad day…times seven. The school bully is out to get him after Tucker accidentally flung a dead beetle at him across the room. He’s got detention for almost blowing up the school during chemistry class. He misses the class field trip to the Planetarium because a kid got sick ON HIM on the bus. And when he tries to confide in his friends about the Jaws and Claws weekend with his dad, they don’t really seem to get it. Plus, there’s this Jaws and Claws weekend with his dad where he’s supposed to learn the skills every grizzy needs to know, and Tucker is less than enthused about having to kill his own dinner.

Why I picked it up: I think everyone has their own worst week ever – maybe more often than not!

Why I finished it: Most readers will identify with Tucker’s family issues and middle school woes. Adult readers will get a kick out of the interactions between the parents than younger readers, but I think that is one of the things that I enjoyed about this comic/book. We’ve all had to endure the unexpected surprise of a pop quiz or running into our mom at the mall when we told her we were studying or doing something silly to impress someone you like or even dealing with the questionable content being passed off as food in the cafeteria. Readers identify with Tucker’s need to be his own bear, to forge his own path that perhaps doesn’t include raiding campsites or dumpster diving like his dad. It’s easy for us to see why Tucker and his sister Fauna are confused by the words of wisdom offered to them by their father, especially when he seems to talk in circles. What endeared me immediately to the story and the characters was that it reminded me of the comics I loved reading in the newspaper growing up. I always looked forward to Hagar the Horrible and For Better or Worse and Zits because even though I didn’t get all of the humor, I loved following the daily lives of these imaginary people that were almost sort of kind of going through the same things I was going through. It’s a comic that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages, especially when we think things couldn’t possibly get worse.

Other related materials: Molly and the Bear by Bob Scott; AAAA!: A FoxTrot Kids Edition by Bill Amend; Big Nate books by Lincoln Peirce; Oh, Brother! Brat Attack! by Bob Weber, Jr. and Jay Stephens; Garfield comics by Jim Davis; Snoopy: Contact! (A Peanuts Collection) by Charles M. Schulz; Woodstock: Master of Disguise: A Peanuts Collection by Charles M. Schulz; Charlie Brown and Friends: A Peanuts Collection by Charles M. Schulz; Beginning Pearls: A Pearls Before Swine Collection by Stephan T. Pastis; The Croc Ate My Homework: A Pearls Before Swine Collection by Stephan T. Pastis; Skip School, Fly to Space: A Pearls Before Swine Collection by Stephan T. Pastis; When Crocs Fly: A Pearls Before Swine Collection by Stephan T. Pastis; The Mutts Diaries by Patrick McDonnell; The Mutts Winter Diaries by Patrick McDonnell

 

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The Knights of Boo’Gar Review

knights_of_boogarThe Knights of Boo’Gar story and art by Art Roche

Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2017. 978-1-4494-7987-9

Synopsis: Storm clouds hang over the kingdom of Boo’Gar. The cantaloupe crop has failed. There is no money in the treasury. Even kind old King Mewkus has started to doubt himself. Can things get any worse? Of COURSE they can! When Princess Phlema’s beloved goat is kidnapped, King Mewkus and his trusted wizard must assemble those fearsome warriors for justice—The Knights of Boo’Gar! There are just a few small problems. Sir Justin ditched the knights to start a boy band. Sir Daphne traded in her sword for a real estate license. Sir John shed his armor to become a tax attorney. That just leaves young (and short) Sir Rowland and his trusty pet turtle, Angelina. Okay … so maybe there’s a LOT of problems. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I like pun-ny books.

Why I finished it: I always love an original fantasy novel and Roche delivers in a big way. not only has he created a madcap kingdom with equally colorful characters, he gives readers an inspirational and imaginative story about courage. Things do indeed look dismal for Boo’Gar between the failed crops and the goat-napping, but despite Rowland’s hesitation he keeps persevering. He might not believe in his ability to retrieve Princess Phlema’s goat babycakes, but his adventures far from his farm give him the boost he needs to be able to save the day.  I loved that Rowland’s trusty steed is actually an ostrich named Tulip and his companion is a mild-mannered and loving turtle named Angelina – definitely not features of your traditional fantasy story! I also thought that Roche’s use of respiratory system parts and ailments for place and character names was clever, and he uses this humor to his advantage.  The mayhem and the silliness keep the reader wanting more, cheering for Rowland and Sir Crustos in their quest across the kingdom and back again in order to save their home. I’d give this to readers who enjoy play-on words, puns, and stories about unlikely heroes.

Other related materials: Diary of an 8-Bit Warrior books by Cube Kid; The Ranger’s Apprentice series by John A. Flanagan; Fablehaven books by Brandon Mull, illustrated by Brandon Dorman; The Inheritance Cycle books by Christopher Paolini; Inkheart trilogy by Cornelia Funke; The Underland Chronicles books by Suzanne Collins; Plants Vs. Zombies books by Paul Tobin, illustrated by Ron Chan; Geronimo Stilton and the Kingdom of Fantasy series by Geronimo Stilton; The Last Kids on Earth series by Max Brallier, illustrations by Douglas Holgate; Dragonbreath books by Ursula Vernon

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Feature Presentation: The BFG

The_BFG_posterThe BFG starring Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton, Jermaine Clement, Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall, Bill Hader, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Adam Godley, Michael Adamthwaite, Daniel Bacon, Chris Gibbs, Paul Moniz de Sa, and Jonathan Holmes

Amblin Entertainment/Walt Disney Pictures/Walden Media, 2016. Rated PG.

Synopsis: When Sophie witnesses the appearance of a Giant roaming the streets from the window of the orphanage, she is snatched from her bed and whisked away to Giant Country – lest she be telling anyone about what she has seen. But the Giant who kidnapped her turns out to be friendly, despite his size, and the two begin a friendship that will lead them to an adventure neither of them could have ever dreamed of.

I tend to be a purist when it comes to the book versus movie debate – I’m more apt to choose the book over the movie because I feel like the story becomes warped in its journey from page to screen. I perhaps wrongly anticipated that this would not be the case with The BFG; but then again, look at what happened with James and the Giant Peach (which had absolutely no resemblance to its source material after about 15 minutes). The BFG thankfully kept a grand majority of the main plot points: Sophie is an orphan who is kidnapped by the BFG, who lives in Giant Country in the company of some rather more unsavory child eating Giants and the two enlist the help of the Queen of England to help stop the child-snatching once and for all. The screenwriters inserted a bit in which the BFG had another child companion before Sophie that I suppose was meant to better flesh out the BFG as a character, but it made him more of a tragic hero than an unwitting hero. The BFG is meant to be a fun-loving but misunderstood character that overcomes bullies and becomes a functioning member of society; it doesn’t feel like the same story or character when he’s given a tragic past. I liked Ruby Barnhill as Sophie, but I spent a lot of the movie irked by the fact that she was trying to be Mara Wilson. True, she’s a girl who exhibits wisdom beyond her young age, but the movie makes her out to be more of a caretaker – she picks up the mail the matron forgets off the front mat, locks the door, and turns out the lights after everyone else is gone to bed. She seems to lack the child-like, earnest nature that was so endearing in the book. Even though I felt like the film fell short, there are still a lot of entertaining moments that will no doubt get younger viewers to giggle, most notably the scenes involving Frobscottle – a beverage that fizzes down and produces flatulence of epic proportions. So, if you were hoping for a great film version of our favorite childhood book, you’re going to be disappointed. If you are searching for a great family film with a positive message, then this is going to be right up your alley.

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Kung Fu Robot: How to Make a Peanut Butter, Jelly & Kung Fu Sandwich Review

kung_fu_robot_1The Adventures of Kung Fu Robot: How to Make a Peanut Butter, Jelly & Kung Fu Sandwich by Jason Bays

Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2017. 978-1449479633

Synopsis: Kung Fu Robot is an international machine of mystery and the savior of all things awesome and cool. He’s the world record holder for ice cream sandwiches eaten in one sitting, the reigning champion of continuous nunchucking, and once won a bronze medal for the simultaneous stomach rubbing and head patting. Together with his 9-year old sidekick, Marvin, he faces his arch-nemesis, Kung Pow Chicken: a robotically-enhanced, foul fowl bent on destroying the city’s peanut butter and jelly supply. Kung Fu Robot and Marvin must save the day . . .  and their lunches! – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I was not only intrigued by the title, but the app that went with the story.

Why I finished it: So, to be able to write about the full experience of the story, I downloaded the app so that I could experience all of the Kung Fu awesomeness while I was reading. Some downsides are that to use the Kung Fu Vision, the book has to be held flat for the camera to pick up the different QR codes hidden on the pages and the camera has to be held about a foot away in order for it to focus on the page. But really other than that, the app had a lot of really fun things that enhanced the reading experience: there’s a couple mini-profiles about Kung Fu Robot and Marvin, and there are three different games you can play that correspond with different fight scenes throughout the book. Plus, if you’re the type that loves to push buttons and sound effects, there’s quite a few pages in which strategically placed theme music and karate chops can be added by the reader. The games can also be played independently of the book and an e-book is also included within the app so you can have the Kung Fu action even when you’re on the go. And even without the app, the story is still jam packed with laughs, action, ninjas, and the foiling of evil plans to force people to eat sandwiches that are way less awesome than peanut butter and jelly. Kung Fu Robot is a likable hero that is often overly eager to share his love of lunch time essentials, but he definitely has his heart in the right place – especially when it comes to Marvin. Marvin is something of a worry-wart, but with his logic and quick thinking, you can be sure Kung Fu Robot will be able to save the day. Bays’ art is just as fun and action packed as his story, and it reminded me a little bit of Dexter’s Laboratory. It’s softer and has fewer edges than Tartakovsky’s art, but it still gives it that fantastic, adventurous feel. I’m excited to recommend it to reluctant readers because it has the interactive app that goes with it and even if you don’t or aren’t able to get the app, you can still experience the awesomeness of the story.

Other related materials: Diary of an 8-Bit Warrior books by Cube Kid; Diary of a 6th Grade Ninja series by Marcus Emerson; Secret Agent 6th Grader series by Marcus Emerson; Crime Travelers series by Paul Aertker; Phoebe and Her Unicorn books by Dana Simpson; The Bad Guys books by Aaron Blabey; Dog Man books by Dav Pilkey; Big Nate books by Lincoln Peirce; Hilo books by Judd Winick; Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by K.G. Campbell

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