Thursday, May 28, 2009

In Review: Going Bovine

Recently, I've started to think about how to structure my book reviews. In this new world order, I wanted to briefly summarize the book in one paragraph, before moving onto some personal considerations in the second. This also makes it more of a personal description of the book than I actual review, I realize, so I should probably stop writing "In Review". My new format however, is pretty much shattered with the next book I want to talk about. Going Bovine by Libba Bray, an intense work of young adult fiction, defies being summarized. The book is many things. It's a character study of it's protagonist Cameron. It's sort of a funky watercolor journey through issues of mortality. It has a lot of crazy characters who pop in, sometimes only briefly, sometimes coming back again and again. Not being a teenager anymore, I can't really say that this books speaks for me. If I had been a teenager when it came out, I'd say this this job probably would have done the best job.

Going Bovine deals with some serious issues; Cameron's disease is extremely rare, yet it gives him a unique perspective and attitude where we can laugh with him instead of feel sorry for him. In many ways, the Cameron at the beginning of the book is struggling for an identity. Oddly, his sickness is what gives him a self-image. I feel like I'm trying to make the book "deep" when it's actually one of the funnier books I've read. Every situation is dealt with in this sort of snarky tone that makes you root for Cameron throughout the story. If I had to be nitpicky and tell you one thing I didn't like, I'd probably go with the character of Gonzo. Gonzo, the video gaming dwarf, becomes Cameron's buddy after meeting him in the second chapter. He's one of the first surreal elements that Cameron starts to deal with. He didn't, to me, seem like a character who went to high school. I pictured him more of a gruff old man who hung around the school trying to peddle drugs and video games on the playground. He would make me laugh, too, but I just couldn't shake the feeling that he was often out of place.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

In Review: Castration Celebration

Castration Celebration blurs the line between adult and young adult. Follow the exploits of main character Olivia as she orchestrates her summer musical project, the titular Castration Celebration. Olivia hates men. Her ultimate male example, her father, let her down by cheating on her mother. This point factors into her writing, naming the main character of all things Dick. Dick’s not a great male character. Along with his dumb friends, Biff and Sluggo, the trio serve as examples of what the man-hating Olivia thinks of boys. Pretty graphically at that. Olivia doesn’t hold back her punches when writing the sordid tale, with lyrics and situations based on what is happening at the summer musical camp.

It’s hard to really bond with any characters in this book. In particular Olivia, who is more of an outright brat that tortured protagonist. She’s quick to judge others and isn’t above exploiting things to make her musical great. I wasn’t really finding anything redeeming about her standing out during the first half of the novel. None of the other characters are really fully developed enough for me. I ended up liking Max the most, but didn’t really learn a lot about him other than how he felt about Olivia. I did like the explicitness of the book, including the best song sung by Dick’s friends appropriately titled “Horny.” It’s a good read, but not necessarily the type of book reread over and over or even recommend to a lot of your friends.

In Review: Batman- Scarcrow/Two-Face Year 1

Really this review has to happen in two parts because this is a collection of two different stories (one of which happens to involve 'Two-Face' ... and irony isn't lost on me). The first tale, Bruce Jones' attempt at rewriting the origin of the Scarecrow, doesn't really work at all. The story tries to draw parallels between Batman and Scarecrow (they both wear MASKS! for instance. Really, that's all he had...), creates a mystery about Crane's ancestors, and introduces this bizarre child abuse for Crane that has pretty much never been introduced before. It stays true to Crane's role as an academic, but ew... I think the whole "He killed his grandmother" part was kind of genuis, but using birds to do it? It was just bizarre. And Mark Sable's art made it more bizarre. It really doesn't fit into regular continuity, just because Crane is more of a villain who attacks out of curiosity than some sort of sadistic need. And he's killing people here. Like a crazy person. I didn't hate it, I just really didn't like it, either.

The Two-Face story? Genuis. Sean Murphy delivers a tale that fits into everything we already know- Dent gets his face scarred by acid, had anger issues before, made enemies as a D.A., but it also completely flips it upside down. It introduces a rival D.A. trying to usurp Dent's position who basically engineers all the stuff behind the scenes. It's also implied that Dent starts killing gangsters (and look for a 'cut in half' theme subtly) BEFORE he gets scarred, which to me helps define his character in an entirely new way. The story also stays true to the tradition of "The Long Halloween" and mentions a few times (not to an annoying level) the 'Holiday' killer, which true Batman fans will get a kick out of. Jesus Saiz's art keeps the story on track and visually interesting. It's worth the buy just for this part of the story, which works well as Part 2.

Review has been submitted for LibraryThing, Facebook's Virtual Bookshelf, and Random Buzzer's Reviews. Still to come: Sophomore Switch. Reading Now: the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Summer Reading Blues... and Hope.

So, the Summer Reading Website, as of right now, still does not work. It was supposed to work at the beginning of May. It's almost the end of May now. I'm trying to hype people up teens at my library for it, but it's kind of hard when they want to sign up and they can't. The incentives still haven't come, and we keep getting e-mails about how there's less and less of them with each passing week. It's getting kind of sad. At least, fot his librarian right here.

Despite this bad news bear, I am still trudging along with summer reading plans. I have a host of summer events planned at my library, including some sponsored art programs and some movie nights. Still I'm planning more. I just e-mailed my supervisor a proposal for a "Teen Summer Reading Club" - sort of a forum for teens to sit in a small group and talk about what they all are reading. The club would have 7 official meetings, 5 of which occur early in the summer reading process, the final 2 being towards the end (near my planned ending party). I'm hoping my boss goes for it. I think it will be fun for everyone.

What am I reading? I know you're curious. Next up on the block is "Sophomore Switch" - another Candlewick Press book. In the fall I went to a publisher's presentation, and Candlewick's was the best. They made me want to read "Swim the Fly" and "Sophomore Switch". So far, my new book is much better than my last one. I'm really digging Emily, the English character. She is fun to read about. I'm alread over 100 pages into it. You'll of course get a review when I'm finished but I'm smelling a rave!

Monday, May 18, 2009

In Review: Swim the Fly

I had very few expectations for this book, which is good in hindsight. It was very underwhelming. I think this might be a good example of a "boy book" - a book geared towards young male adolescents who may not necessarily read all the time. The humor was very low brow. Our hero, the protagonist Matt, poops himself pretty early on. While he's dressed up a girl. Hilarious! ... just not for me. I didn't hate the book, but there were few moments to really enjoy. The way Matt and his friends talk to each other is also not how real boys would speak. They use a lot of made up slang words to replace what teenagers would actually say, which is much more annoying than it is endearing. Matt's grandfather and his wacky obsession with his newly widowed neighbor is more bothersome than diversive. I also think it took too long for the ACTUAL love story to develop, which happened far more towards the end of the book than it did towards the beginning. It's not a bad attempt; but it's definitely more 'tween' than 'teen' - and hey, I was just looking for something a little more grown up.