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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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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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Bad Machinery, Volume 5: The Case of the Fire Inside

Bad-Machinery-5Bad Machinery, Volume 5: The Case of the Fire Inside by John Allison

Oni Press, 2016.  978-62010-297-8

Synopsis: Love seems to be in the air for Mildred and Sonny. He’s fallen for a girl that seems to have literally stepped out of the ocean and she’s developed a crush on a boy she met in Saturday detention. On the other side of the equation, Linton and Jack want to do is play video games with their mate while Lottie and Shauna are offering Mildred different opinions about what to do and say to Lee. And who exactly is the wild man in a fur cloak and what does he want with Sonny’s dream girl?

Why I picked it up: I’m totally, utterly, and completely addicted to this series.

Why I finished it: I’ve noticed that the last few volumes that Allison has been branching out and featuring different members of the mystery-solving sextet, this one shining a spotlight on cousins Mildred and Sonny. What was most amusing to me was the difference in the family dynamics in the Haversham/Craven households versus that of the Wickle, Finch, and Grote homes. Mildred’s parents are activists that seem to buy into just about every sort of ‘necessary’ lifestyle change (Mildred isn’t allowed to play video games, she needs to observe a strict vegan/vegetarian diet) and sheltering their daughter from the world around her. Sonny’s parents appear to be more laiez-faire in their parenting style, allowing their son to spend an afternoon at a local swim park with his friends by themselves. And though all teens think their parents are on the weird side, it’s easy to see that their motives are driven by love. This volume is perhaps more angst-y in its portrayal of teenage love exuding a sort of Romeo and Juliet motif – it’s not tragic, per se, but both Mildred and Sonny’s relationships do seem to have some element of fate attached to them, particularly in relation to Ellen (Sonny’s mystery girl) and Lee’s sort-of ex-girlfriend Sasha. Allison also adds a mythical element to the story by playing on the legend of the Selkie, a creature most commonly found in Scottish folklore. As an American reader, the Selkie legend was somewhat foreign to me, but fortunately it’s easy to grasp (unlike trying to figure out the family trees of Greek and Roman gods – that’s a mental work out….) and Allison does a superb job of intertwining the tragedy of the Selkie legend with that of the exploration of teenage love.  Those readers who are already fans of the series will likely eat up this novel as eagerly as the previous four; it’s a quick-witted, fun, fantastical, and sometimes dark look at how we are shaped by the world around us.

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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Bad Machinery Vol. 3: The Case of the Simple Soul Review

bad-machinery-3Bad Machinery, Volume 3: The Case of the Simple Soul by John Allison

Oni Press, 2014. 978-1620101933

Synopsis: The Tackleford gang is back with a new case that demands solving! When Tackleford’s derelict barns begin going up in flames, Linton and Sonny are on the case with a moderately mysterious new friend. Paths cross, however, when Lottie and Mildred meet a terrifying yet misunderstood creature living beneath a bridge! Throw in an overly enthusiastic Fire Brigade, a transforming skate ramp, and a new French teacher and you’ve got the kind of charming genius that can only be found in John Allison’s BAD MACHINERY. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: This was a splurge purchase at a book sale after trying (and failing) to remember the name of the comic.

Why I finished it: I was hard pressed to find the actual mystery in this installment of the series. The mysterious barn fires start out as a prevalent plot point, but it sort of fades into the background behind the other plotlines. Granted, the case does get solved in the end, but it doesn’t seem like our sleuths really have much interest in solving the case that they seem to have happened upon. Mildred, Charlotte, Linton, and Sonny all spend a significant amount of time trying to fill the void left in their groups by Shauna and Jack, who are now dating (and they are totally my OTP of this series). So in that aspect, Simple Soul is more about transitions than it is about finding an arsonist. Allison has found a different rhythm for his characters this time around, showcasing their struggles with the end of the year at a new school, changing friendships, new romances, and the general angst that comes from being an almost teenager. Yet, the comedic timing and the offbeat humor continue to shine through which is what makes the comic so likable. The volume also includes another edition of Charlotte’s explanations of British Idioms and a collection of hand-drawn husbands by Charlotte and Mildred. Overall, it’s a great, fun read that continues to see our characters growing up and learning more about life – which, it turns out may or may not be hazardous to your health.

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 4: The Case of the Lonely One by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 5: The Case of the Fire Inside 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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Bone, Volume 9: Crown of Horns Review

bone_9Bone, Volume 9: Crown of Horns by Jeff Smith

Graphix, 2009. 978-0439706315

Synopsis: It’s full-fledged war as Briar, the rat creatures, and the Pawan army storm the city of Atheia. The Bone cousins, Thorn, and Gran’ma Ben are all there to defend the Valley and stop the return of the Lord of the Locusts. When Thorn goes inside a ghost circle, she hears a voice urging her to seek the Crown of Horns. What follows is another dangerous journey for Thorn and loyal Fone Bone as they race to the sacred grounds of the dragons, searching for the one thing that may save them all. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: EPIC CONCLUSION TIME!

Why I finished it: I think the descriptor “epic” gets thrown around quite a bit when we’re talking about finales, but I think Smith actually pulls it off. The reader has officially peeled all the layers back from the story and gotten to the core. Action, drama, and humor take center stage as we follow our heroes through the final battles and an emotional homecoming. It’s hard to talk about this last volume without giving too much away, but needless to say that Smith has wrapped everything up nicely. There’s a bittersweet feel to the conclusion, but really, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Like any series, it’s hard to say goodbye to the characters we love. We feel like we’ve gone through everything with these characters and we don’t want them to leave, but we have to trust that they can look after themselves without the reader peeking in at their lives. This series more than deserves every award and accolade it’s received. I’ve said before that this book has more than earned its place on my shelf, and it’s a series I will happily recommend to readers of all ages.

Other related materials: Bone, Volume 1: Out from Boneville by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 2: The Great Cow Race by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 3: Eyes of the Storm by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 4: The Dragonslayer by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 5: Rock Jaw: Master of the Eastern Border by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 6: Old Man’s Cave by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 7: Ghost Circles by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 8: Treasure Hunters by Jeff Smith; Bone, Prequel: Rose by Jeff Smith; Bone: Tall Tales by Jeff Smith and Tom Sniegoski; Bone: Quest for the Spark Books 1 & 2 by Jeff Smith and Tom Sniegoski; Zita the Spacegirl series by Ben Hatke; The Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi; Knights of the Lunch Table books by Frank Cammuso; Cleopatra in Space series by Mike Maihack; Nnewts books by Doug TenNapel; Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel

 

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Razzle Dazzle Unicorn Review

razzle_dazzle_unicornRazzle Dazzle Unicorn: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure by Dana Simpson

Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2016. 978-1-4494-77912

Synopsis: When your best friend is a unicorn, there’s never a dull moment. Whether it’s competing with the Christmas tree as to who is sparklier, bonding with a goblin who likes to steal socks, or making friends with a lake monster, Phoebe and Marigold make the most of every day.

Why I picked it up: I love how funny and fun this series is!

Why I finished it: Unicorns are creatures that require lots of attention and care, as the reader has learned thus far. But once you prioritize the fact that your best friend is a unicorn, everything sort of falls into place. We start off with some holiday stories (that remind us that the holiday season is (perpetually) just around the corner) and move through the latter half of the year until we once again find ourselves at Camp Wolfgang. Simpson’s humor and art are what really make this series shine (literally and figuratively) and the multi-generational jokes are well-timed throughout this collection. This volume sees Marigold interacting a little more with Phoebe’s parents – the unicorn develops sparkle fever and has to stay home from taking Phoebe to school, during which time Phoebe’s mom must entertain the beautiful creature while she recovers. We also learn the difference between a common orn and a unique orn (Marigold obviously falls into the latter category), and that it is important not to confuse the two. It’s a smart, funny series that will have you laughing out loud and enjoyed by unicorn lovers of all ages.

Other related materials: Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson; Unicorn on a Roll: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure by Dana Simpson; Unicorn vs. Goblins: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure by Dana Simpson; Big Nate books by Lincoln Peirce; Alien Invasion in my Backyard: An EMU Club Adventure by Ruben Bolling; The Ghostly Thief of Time by Ruben Bolling; Babymouse series by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm; Hamster Princess books by Ursula Vernon; Zita the Spacegirl series by Ben Hatke; Cleopatra in Space series by Mike Maihack; The Princess in Black series by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale; Lunch Lady books by Jarrett J. Krosoczka; Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi; Stinky Cecil books by Paige Braddock

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