Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Agnes Quill - An Anthology of Mystery (2006)

It seems to me that some of the graphic novels I have read have would be good bridges to encourage graphic novel fans to also read novels. This one, though, would introduce readers who have not tried graphic novels to a whole other world of books.
Agnes is a teenaged detective who has inherited the ability to see and communicate with spirits. "Did grandfather feel these spirits as strongly as I do now? I never considered how spirits have a physical presence, but I guess they really do."
She takes most of her cases for pay but some she takes to help spirits who can't pay her. In one case, she tracks down the legs of a man who was the victim of a magic show gone bad. He knew they were still around somewhere and needed Agnes' help to find them. With assistance of a spirit named Beatrix she tracks them down to a maniacal robot who is controlling a boy to collect body parts for him. This could be a very dark storyline but Agnes truely cares for the spirits and is generous with her help.
I highly recommend this book to graphic novel fans and to readers who haven't enjoyed one yet.
My rating for this book: +++++

Monday, April 28, 2008

Sunrise over Fallujah (2008)

"But over and over I thought that we were in a war of complete randomness. Death was hiding in every shadow, lurking along every roadway, flying through the midday air. It came suddenly and randomly. There was no logic except the constant adding up of numbers. How many are dead? What are the names? Where are the pictures for the hometown papers?"
This latest book by Walter Dean Myers takes place in Iraq. Robin, nicknamed Birdy, is attached to a Civil Affairs unit. They don't see as much action as the infantry but are responsible for trying to communicate with locals. They have medical personnel and a translator. Birdy sends letters home to his uncle who served in Viet Nam (Fallen Angels) because he knows that only someone who has been in war can understand his experiences and feelings.
This is an outstanding book that gives the reader a taste of what the war in Iraq must be like. I recommend this book to everyone.
My rating for this book: +++++

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Murder Mysteries (2002)

If a stranger offers to tell you a story, you may end up learning a lot more than you bargained for. In this case, a young man waiting for a flight to his home country, England, is asked for a cigarette in exchange for a story. Having just returned from a disturbing encounter with a woman from his past, he gives the old man a cigarette and listens to a story of angels and murder. But these are not cute little angelic angels. One of them, named Lucifer (familiar?), charges Raguel with the task of learning who murdered another angel named Carasel. Raguel interviews angels to learn who were the last ones to see Carasel. Along the way we get an idea how things such as Love and Death may have come into existence and why.
I found this novel a bit disturbing since it involved touchy topics of religion and sex but I had to read it to the end to find out how it ended.
My rating for this book: +++

Monday, April 21, 2008

Pedro and Me (2000)

Judd Winick, the author and illustrator of this graphic novel, agreed to be a participant in the MTV series The Real World in 1994. He roomed with Pedro, a smart, funny, attractive young man who is HIV positive. Pedro has devoted much of his time to speaking to kids in school to educate them about HIV and AIDS. By accompanying him to these events, Judd learns about aspects of the disease and he becomes aware of the stigma suffered by its victims.
"I'm open-minded. I got that way because of my parents. They weren't hippies, just decent and reasonable loving people. You didn't have to be a weenie liberal like me to accept someone like Pedro."
It's amazing how wrapped up you can get in a story, even if it is in graphic novel format. You read the words and then pause to study the characters faces and the emotions there. I highly recommend this book to anyone.
My rating for this book: +++++

Touching Spirit Bear (2001)

Fantastic book!
Cole is angry. His father is angry, drinks, and beats him. His mother drinks and doesn't stop the beatings. Cole is so angry that he beats another boy, Peter, badly enough he suffers brain damage. Some people believe that prison is too good for Cole but some don't. They feel that a system known as Justice Circle might come up with an alternative that could have better results. Peter's parents and lawyer, Cole's parents and their lawyers, two Tlingit Indians, several other people from the community, and the judge meet to discuss Cole and his problems. Their solution is banishment to an island in Alaska to live by himself for one year.
"Everyone thought he felt sorry for what he had done, and going to this island was his way of making things right. Nothing could be further from the truth. To Cole, this was just another big game."
Of course, the first thing Cole does when left on the island is burn down his shelter and supplies. That'll show them! An unusual species of bear, known as the Spirit Bear, shows up on the island, and darn if it doesn't show Cole any fear. How dare it! Cole fashions a spear from a sapling and the next time that bear shows his face, Cole attacks him with the spear and a knife. Cole is rescued two days later after laying on the beach with broken ribs, pelvis, leg, and arm. Not being able to move and suffering unimagineable pain might make some do serious reflection.
I highly recommend this book to readers who enjoy survival stories and satisfying endings.
My rating for this book: +++++

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Blue Bloods (2007)

If you've read the "Twilight" series by Stephenie Meyer and are eager for more young vampire action, here you go. Melissa De La Cruz's book takes place in New York City and the characters are members of the oldest and richest families of that city. Schuyler is not rich but her family is an old one (they came over on the Mayflower) which gives her standing in the ultra-exclusive school, Duchesne. Strange things are happening to her including blue lines appearing on her skin. She invited to a meeting of The Committee with many of her schoolmates and her suspicions are confirmed. They are all vampires.

"What about the sun? Doesn't it like, kill us?" [Bliss] asked, between bites. The steak melted on her tongue, cold and tart.

"Are you shriveling up and dying right now?" Mimi snickered. "All of us go to Palm Beach every Christmas. Hello!"

Schuyler and her friends become aware of a threat to the Blue Bloods that originates from the beginning of mankind. De La Cruz links vampire mythology to Bible tales to explain the difference between the good vampires (Blue Bloods) and bad (Silver Bloods) originates from Satan and the archangels. This book does not have an ending but leads you directly to its sequel, Masquerade, which I am going to read next.

My rating for this book: ++++

Monday, April 7, 2008

Twisted (2007)

This book by Laurie Halse Anderson reflects the incredible pressure on teens these days. Tyler has a LOT of pressure from all sides: his father (under a lot of pressure at work and taking it out on his family), he's on parole (for vandalism which he only did to get attention from his peers), his sister (attending his school and getting into a relationship with his best friend), Bethany (his old bully's twin sister AND the daughter of his father's boss, who finally notices he exists), classes (his father made him take as many AP classes as allowed including Calculus). When he is wrongly accused of posted compromising pictures of Bethany on the web (after pulling her out of a party and driving her, her brother, and his friends, all passed out drunk, home), it seems he has felt the load of the last straw. He pulls a gun out of his father's drawer, loads it, and puts the muzzle in his mouth. Does he pull the trigger?
My rating for this book: +++

Saturday, April 5, 2008

A Step from Heaven (2003)

This is an award winning story of a young girl whose family moves from Korea to the United States when she was 4 years old. Her family suffers a lot of stress because of their financial situation which contributes to her father's alcoholism and abuse of his wife. Regardless, Young Ju attends school and learns everything from scratch like what Crayons are for and how to speak English. By the time she completes ninth grade, she has the best grades of her class. She makes friend with an American girl and truly becomes American from her example (luckily a good one). There are many examples of the particular experiences of immigrant children like helping their parents deal with authority figures. She feels she has to lie to keep her American friends from meeting her Korean family and keeping her Korean family from learning what she is doing with her American friends. I think teens who have immigrant families would relate to this girl and find hope and joy in her success.
My rating for this book: +++