Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Persy -- Wednesday Scrolls -- RAMFAP MONTH!

Okay, so maybe it's not as important as the caps make it out to be. At least, it's not life-threatening. Just very very cool, and very very important.

I have decided to make July the OFFICIAL Reread-As-Many-Favorites-As-Possible Month! RAMFAP Month, for short. This is going to be a thing FROM NOW ON. And you all have to participate, so don't leave me alone in this.

It's simple. Around now, you start picking what books to put in your lineup. If you're anything like me, you'll realize that there's waaay too many to read in just one month, but don't let that stop you! Just put your priority favorites at the top and see how far you get. We can even make it a competition: who can read the most favorites in Ramfap Month (should we shorten it even more to RM?)? Or if you want to be more relaxed, don't sweat it and just read one or two favorites. The important thing is to reread A favorite.

I'm going to make this an open Facebook event, and I'm also talking about it in my book vlogs. So here's what I want YOU to do: "join" the event on Facebook (just search for RAMFAP Month and if you can't find it, let me know); make a video response to my vlog about MY favorites with a list of the favorites YOU'RE going to read in July or post here or on the Facebook event about what favorites you're going to read; tell aaaall your friends; and GET EXCITED.

You guys really can't leave me alone in this, because it's going to be AWESOME. And I really want to know what your favorites are!


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Arty -- Half-Human, edited by Bruce Coville

I admit that I'm not a huge fan of short stories.  Unless they're brilliantly told or written by one of my friends, I just don't care to read them.

But I have a weakness for half-human, anthro-something types.  So when I saw this at a library sale, I picked it up.

I think this may be my first anthology - if not, then it's been a looong time since I've read anything like it - but from what I gather from Percy's reviews, it was a pretty typical collection.  A few stories were reeeally good, a few were just 'meh,' and the rest were okay.

My favorite, surprisingly, was by Jane Yolen.  I say surprisingly because I've read a couple of her books and haven't been overly impressed.  But her story, 'Centaur Field,' about a baby centaur (naturally) was surprisingly good and realistic.

My other favorite was 'The Hardest, Kindest Gift' by Bruce Coville himself.  It's quite a bit more complicated than 'Centaur Field,' but it's really very, very good and the mystery unfolded itself beautifully.  I liked the unique take on the fallen angel love interest.

Also good - 'Scarecrow' by Gregory Maguire.  You might know Maguire for Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.  His story - about, naturally, a scarecrow come to life somehow - was taken from a sequel to Wicked he never published.  It's really fun to read - kind of macabre, kind of philosophical, kind of just fun in a sober sort of way.

And 'Princess Dragonblood' by Jude Mandell was cool.  There were times when the pacing went way too fast, but the idea was just awesome.  It starts out as your typical fairytale, but then Princess Eleanor grabs a sword and starts swinging and just never really stops.  (But she's not an annoyingly talented warrior babe, which is refreshing.  She just knows how to fight.)  The ending, while a bit easy, was good.

Speaking of warrior babes, Tamora Pierce has a story in here, called 'Elder Brother.'  Now, unlike 95% of the female reading population, I can't stand Tamora Pierce.  Her story, though, started out terrifically - a tree turned into a man!  A man-tree!  I LOVE trees!  A tree walking around in the form of a man?  This had to be good.  And it was for a while.  And then the tree-man - Qiom - met a young man named Fadal.

Spoiler alert, just so you know.  But I have to rant.  It's not that big of a surprise when you think about it, anyway.

Qiom has ended up in a place where women have to bundle up (a Middle-Eastern sort of city).  And Fadal is - guess what! - a woman dressed up in man's clothes to escape the oppression!

Reeeeeeeally, Pierce.  What is this, your literary signature?  I can understand her pretty much creating the clothes-switching subgenre in fantasy, but come on.  And it's not that I wouldn't have given the twist a chance, but there was no real reason for Fadal to be a woman.  Except that it got her and Qiom out of their world.  And there were so many other ways that could have happened.  It's just annoying.

Anyway.  Spoiler alert aborted.

The rest of the stories were so-so.  'Becoming,' by Nancy Springer, was an interesting take at a daughter of a Gorgon in modern-day New York.

'Linnea' by D.J. Malcolm could have had promise, but I didn't especially care whether Linnea, the MC, lived or died, which sort of hurt the execution.

'Water's Edge' by Janni Lee Simner also could have been really good - selkies!  Nobody writes about selkies!  But it was just okay, too, also due to an MC I couldn't care less for.

Tim Waggoner wrote 'Soaring,' which I really expected to like - about Icarus, a boy with wings (surprise, surprise).  It was better, but still not especially enthralling.  I just wanted to smack Bethany for being so annoying.  And the ending was a bit weak.

'How To Make A Human' by Lawrence Shimel was a depressing bit of humans-are-worthless-animals-are-awesome poetry which left me with a bad taste in my mouth stylistically as well as thematically (apparently you can just write some blocks of text and then separate them into lines and call it poetry).

So, if you're in the mood for some half-human tales, then... well, I recommend a couple stories.  But it's not a must-read by any means.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Persy -- I Am Here! Vol. 1 by Ema Toyama

I have this unwritten rule for myself that I don't review manga or graphic novels, because I can't help but feel like I'm not qualified. But why shouldn't I be? I'm going to DO IT! (in other words, I don't feel like putting the effort into writing an actually coherent review about a book, and would rather gush incoherently about something else).

Hikage Sumino is not just an introvert, and she's not even all that shy. She's just invisible. She often gets counted off as absent because the teachers don't notice her, and no one ever gets her name right. She's okay with it, though, because she has her internert friends, "Black Rabbit" and "Mega Pig," that always comment on her blog.

But then one day, one of the most popular guys at school talks to her -- and knows her name! Realizing her chance, Sumino begins to try and step out of the shade into the sunlight, but it's not as easy as it sounds.

I picked this up on a complete whim (wanna know the full story? Watch the video). After flipping through it and falling in love with the artwork, I bought it, took it home, and tried to resist the temptation to read it immediately. I got one or two lessons of geometry done before I gave in and read all 404 pages. I am so glad I picked it up, because I think it's going to become one of my favorites.

It's the cutest thing ever (except maybe The One And Only Ivan), with absolutely beautiful art. That's one of my main requirements for a good manga (or anime, for that matter): lovely artwork. I'm not a huge fan of the goofy style; I like prettiness. And that's one thing I Am Here! has.

Also, the characters themselves are adorable. Sumino can be painfully shy without being painfully annoying, and I can even sympathize with her and cheer her on. Black Rabbit and Mega Pig are also fun and each have a distinctive voice, and Teru and Hinata (the two popular boys) are both pretty cool and pretty darn cute.

I Am Here! may not be the most original school life manga, but it's definitely got something, and I'm definitely hooked to it (now I just need to find the second volume for cheaper than eighteen dollars, 'cause that's ridiculous).


You might like this if you: like shoujo, school life manga or anime; like pretty art or cute characters; need an uplifting little story to cheer you up or keep you going; or if you're invisible and need a few pointers (though you're on your own for the whole getting-the-popular-guy-to-talk-to-you-first thing).

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Arty -- Swear To Howdy by Wendelin Van Draanen

You remember back when I did the review on Flipped and I kept raving about how much I love Wendelin Van Draanen?

No fear.  I still love her.  Probably even more now.

Swear To Howdy is about friendship.  It's about two young boys, Rusty and Joey, and all the lovely little issues that young boys tend to get into.  And it's about the trouble they fall in when they take keeping each others' secrets too faithfully.

Sound pretty typical?  Sounded like it to me.  But, as usual, Wendelin Van Draanen has a spectacular writing voice - even when writing preteen Southern kids - and she keeps you entertained with delightful little anecdotes until - of course - she pulls out all the stops and kills you with a massive plot twist.  It's a short book, but it's worth every page.

First, my pet peeve: characters.

Rusty is a great MC.  He sounds real.  His friend is the ringleader, but, unlike a lot of books, Rusty is no pushover.  He goes along with Joey because he wants to, and he comes up with his own ideas, too.  He's a refreshing MC and a refreshing little kid.

Joey is your typical leader-not-follower, but he still sparkles with life.  I understood why Rusty followed him - he's a fun guy, and if I had been his friend when I was little, I might have gotten into a lot of trouble, too.  I loved the rest of Rusty's family - his sister, his mom, his dad.  And Joey's family felt real, too - I don't want to say too much, because half the fun of this book is learning as you read.  But Van Draanen pulled it off really, really well.

At first, the structure of the book felt like it was just going to be a bunch of little short stories, almost.  Nothing seemed really related, except that after almost every incident, Rusty and Joey would 'swear to howdy' that they wouldn't tell about the other's involvement.  And then it all started coming together, and little pieces of the plot connected, until...

WHAM.  Your breath is knocked out of your lungs.

Again, not going to say too much.  But... that plot twist, and what followed, was so well-executed.  So horrible and to read.  I mean, it really hurt me.  All those seemingly insignificant events had made me like Rusty and Joey and the rest so much, and when that Plot Twist of Doom came...

Okay, I won't tell you anything more about the book.  Except to read it.  Because it really is good.  Got it?  READ THE BOOK.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Persy -- The One And Only Ivan by K.A. Applegate

In my mind, K.A. Applegate is the queen of terrifying young adult scifi books (Remnants), but The One And Only Ivan proves how talented she truly is.

Ivan is a gorilla. He lives in something akin to a circus, with his friends Stella the elephant and Bob the dog. Julia, the daughter of the janitor, often visits him and brings him paper and crayons. Ivan is an artist.

Then one day a new baby elephant arrives, Ruby. She becomes popular, but is very sad and misses her home with the other elephants. She challenges Ivan to remember his own past life before he was captured by the humans. And then Stella makes him promise something that will change all their lives.

This sounds like it's all going to be about animal rights and how evil the human race is, but it's really not. There are good humans and bad humans; they don't all get lumped together as beings of pure evil.

Basically, I can break this book down into the following words: adorable; charming; awesome; spectacular; perfect; adorable; charming. Adorable and charming are repeated because it is so adorably charming.

Ivan is just a big sweetie, and Stella's character is wise and wonderful. Ruby is pretty cute too. Bob is awesome. Julia is nice. And even though the plot might be far-fetched, K.A. Applegate pulls it off.

The One And Only Ivan is very short and very sweet. It's definitely the kind of book I'll read over and over again, and you should too.


You might like this if you: like gorillas; like elephants; like adorable sweeteness; are looking for something short but enjoyable; or if you want to have your mind blown by Katherine Applegate's flexible writing.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

April Review!

Hola, everyone - Arty here, starting off April's review!

I did even better in April than I did in March, at 25 books, six of which were manga. 

Best April Book: While I liked most of the books in April, not a whole lot of them really jumped out of me as terrific.  So the best book was probably The Scorch Trials by James Dashner, the second book in the popular dystopian Maze Runner trilogy.  The Maze Runner was interesting but not thrilling.  But The Scorch Trials was really, really good.  It even managed to horrify me at a few points, which is not an easy thing to do.  And the ending was a beautiful cliffhanger.  This is how you write the middle book in a trilogy.

Honorable Mention: That would probably have to be A Tale Dark and Grimm, by Adam Gidwitz.  This is an absolutely terrific little book, retelling a bunch of the Grimm fairytales as if Hansel and Gretel were the main characters throughout.  It's way better than it sounds.  Read it.  It's not long.

Worst April Book: Why, what do you know, another book from my history curriculum makes the Worst list.  Roll Of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor is a classic, which is probably why I disliked it.  I never quite understood the characters, and the latter half of the book was one big massive depression-fest.  Especially the ending.  I'm all for realism, but not for books that end without giving you a little hope.

Dishonorable Mention: A Kiss In Time by Alex Flinn.  After the mild disappointment with Beastly, I still expected more from this retelling of Sleeping Beauty.  Instead, I just cared less and less and less as the last pages draaaaaaaagged on.  It started great, but ended with a whimper.

Pretty good stuff - can't wait to see about May!

Hey, it's Persy's turn. Yaaay. I'm a little tired right now.
I only read 13 books in April (four were manga/graphic novels), but my page count adds up to 3,589, more than March, so I'm okay with it. Lots of books were pretty good, but really only one was made of pure awesome (see below).

Best April Book: House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer. Wowza. READ IT, Y'ALL (don't let it's popularity deter you).

Honorable Mention: Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer, Hana-Kimi Vol. 3 by Hisaya Nakajo, and A Well-Timed Enchantment by Vivian Vande Velde.

Worst April Book: No books were really awful this month, but I suppose Wallflower Vol. 6 by Tomoko Hayakawa was a bit of a disappointment.

Dishonorable Mention: ...I don't have one (cue shock and awe) *is shocked and awed*

Looking forward to May (and school ending)!