Saturday, July 31, 2010

Book Review: Vows, Vendettas and a Little Black Dress

Title: Vows, Vendettas and a Little Black Dress
Publishing Company: Mira
Release Date: 06/01/2010

Kyra Davis, I blame you... for getting me so into another series that I feel that I have to rush out & boy every single book. When I got this book from the vine program, I wasn't aware that it was the fifth in a series. I wouldn't have immediately guessed it from the writing- it was smoothly written enough to where even a new reader like myself could get drawn into it. Now I just have to read everything else so I can get the whole story.

Sophie Katz isn't your typical San Francisco native. Not only is she a well published author, but she also has a penchant for getting herself into trouble. On the night she discovers that one of her best friends is getting married to the man of her dreams, her friend Dena is shot in the back. Despite a long list of lusty encounters, everyone initially seems to be at a loss as to who would do such a thing. Well, until they discover that one of the wives of Dena's ex flings (who didn't tell her he was engaged) has a vendetta against Dena & her shop!

I loved this book. Seriously. It's fantastic & if not for that pesky interruption I call work, I'd have kept at this book & read it in one go. I loved that I was able to pick up the fifth volume in a series & be able to keep up with everything that's gone on so far. Sure, I did occasionally feel like I'd missed out on some obvious references to past books, but overall the book was fantastic.

I loved the characters, loved the storyline, loved the writing... EVERYTHING! I also loved that the character of Sophie was half black & Jewish, but didn't make a huge deal out of it. It was great. The book might be a little fluffy for some mystery readers, but it still doesn't detract from how much I enjoyed this book.

So yeah... the storytelling styles of Kyra Davis is going to be putting a huge dent in my wallet. I simply *have* to have the previous four books in this series!

(Book provided by the Amazon Vine Voice program)

Friday, July 30, 2010

Book Review: The Best American Comics 2010

Title: The Best American Comics 2010
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: 10/05/2010
ISBN: 9780547241777

One thing is absolutely certain. Comics are more than just ink & paper, a source of superheroes & villains, or a way to amuse children. Comics can appeal to all audiences & contain all sorts of plotlines, from funny to sad to the strange. In the 2010 collection of the Best American Comics anthology, we get to see 25 comics (some of which come from larger works) that run almost the full gamut of reader emotions.

The comics collected in this volume range from the truly bizarre The Night of Your life to the Hurricane Katrina comic A.D.: New Orleans after the Deluge. Along with these comics there are also ones that have gained quite a bit of widespread media attention, such as the excerpts from Crumb’s The Book of Genesis & O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The Universe. There is truly something here for just about every audience.

Rather than list each comic, I’m going to highlight a few of the ones that I personally liked the most. All of the comics were incredibly well done & Gaiman (the celebrity editor for the book) did a fine job of collecting & organizing the set- it is just that listing them all would take up too much space.

My two favorites of the book had to be Asterios Polyp & The Night of Your Life, with A.D. coming up as a close third. The Asterios Polyp excerpt had such a wonderfully fun art style that allowed artist Mazzucchelli to shift from humorous to lighthearted to sadder scenes. He isn’t nailed down to any one specific style- I was pleased to see that just as each character had their own personality, the art styles also differed.

The Night of Your Life was another of my favorites. In it the artist Reklaw illustrates various different dreams, each with their own surreal stories. The artwork was wonderful, but I especially loved how Reklaw was able to bring each dream to life without making the dream dull or too strange to relate to or understand in some format. That’s a feat that is no doubt incredibly difficult, yet Reklaw manages to make it look easy.

I also enjoyed A.D. as well as the 9-11 based story The Alcoholic, both managing to entertain as well as pull at our emotions. With A.D. I was able to feel worried for the two men trapped in the flood, refusing to leave everything they own behind & it made me wonder what I would have done, if I were in their shoes. I also enjoyed having my heart broken by The Alcoholic, an excerpt set during 9-11, with the main character having to not only figure out how to cope with such a traumatic event but to also help another deal with the loss of her husband.

Not all of the stories were my cup of tea, but I could really feel the emotions behind each one. I loved how the artwork & storytelling styles changed with each tale. This is not only a book to collect but something that you lend out to friends so they can learn to appreciate how varied the world of comics really is.

(ARC provided by NetGalley)

Book Review: The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner

Title: The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner
Author: Stephenie Meyer
Release Date: 06/05/2010
ISBN: 031612558X

I'll admit that while I didn't really like Twilight all that much, I was vaguely curious about this book. After all, it was the one thing my older sister really wanted as a late birthday present. (I've yet to hear her reaction to the book.) Since it was so short (only about 180 pages) I ended up reading it during my register shift at the bookstore. I ended up getting more drawn into it than I did Twilight, but somehow the book just seemed to be lacking in some areas.

TSLoBT follows the titular character as she struggles to survive in a flock of ruthless fledgling vampires that were turned by a creator they've never really met for a purpose none of them are even aware of. Bree knows that there's something not quite right about the entire situation, but she's determined to make the best of it. She manages to escape most of the in-group fighting by hiding behind Freaky Fred, then hunting with her friend Diego. It's during one of their nightly hunts that she & Diego have a close run-in with the sun (they've been told to expect to burn up if the sun hits them), only to discover that almost everything they've been told is a lie.

I'm not that overly familiar with the series, but I am aware of the storylines for the books. With that in mind, I have to say that I didn't really feel like I missed much as far as the Twilight story stuff goes. It's just that there's so many things earlier on in the book that were glossed over, stuff that I wish I had been able to read about. We're given only passing reasons for why Bree left home & while I can understand why the book focuses more on the current situation at hand, I really feel like it would have benefited the story if the characters had been more expanded on. I got the impression that Bree had been turned relatively soon before the story had started (about a few weeks beforehand), so I wish that the story had started with her being turned- it'd have build a little more suspense that way.

As it was, some of the more serious stuff felt sort of flat & while I did enjoy it enough to give it a B- (hey, it was short & to the point), this book feels like it will really only be truly enjoyed by die-hard Meyers fans. On a positive note, you don't have to have read the Twilight series multiple times in order to follow along with the story, but I get the impression that it helps. What I can say about this book is that it is making me think that I need to take another look at the series to see if my appreciation for this book can translate into my liking the Twilight series more.

Grade: B-

Book Review: Hollow by Jena Morrow

Title: Hollow: An Unpolished Tale
Author: Jena Morrow
Publication Date: 05/01/2010
ISBN: 9780802448712

It isn't common for me to cry upon reading a book, but it does happen. It is incredibly rare for me to start crying within the first 15 pages. This book made me cry huge open tears of sorrow that someone had to live like this. As I continued to read on, I was struck by Jena's strength & faith in God. It is inspiring to see someone in such a dire situation attempt to overcome such a horrible situation.

Ever since she was 3 years old, Jena has believed that she was fat. Not slightly chubby. Not pleasingly plump, but fat. From that moment on she's struck by the desire to watch every piece of food she eats... if she eats at all. Meals are a battle for her. Jena cannot even eat a piece of cake with her friends without her inner voice chastening her for it. Her anorexia follows her for several years into college despite her friends & professors attempting to help her. Eventually she is pressured by her family to seek professional help. At this point Jena is nineteen years old and weighs ninety-one pounds.

I want to put a copy of this book in the hands of every single teenager in North America, if not beyond. It doesn't matter what their gender, age, or religion is. This book is quite possibly one of the most moving biographies I've read in years. I have never felt the pressure of anorexia or bulemia- I'll admit that my disorder seemed to run in the opposite direction. Yet this book managed to make me feel every pain, every emotion that Jena felt. Not only did this book make me cry in the first 15 pages, but it made me cry several more times during my read.

This book was so gripping that I found myself unable to tear myself away from it. Rather than go to bed at my usual bedtime, I found myself reading the pages of this book with a vengeance. I couldn't stop reading. Jena's road to recovery isn't a pretty one. There's no waking up one day & suddenly finding that she can eat a full meal without agonizing over it. Her road to recovery is long & painful. This book was inspiring & I believe it will be for many readers. You don't have to be a Christian to appreciate the message in this book (although it helps).

Now for my only critique. I would have liked a little bit more detail during the book, especially towards the end. Jena's message came through loud & clear, but I would have liked for a little more detail here & there. Other than that I have to say that I have no real complaints. The sheer emotion packed into this slender novel overrode any other critiques I might have found otherwise.

Whenever I feel in a rough spot or need to rejuvinate myself, I'll try to stop & remember this book. I can honestly say that I do plan on not only recommending this book to several of my coworkers at both jobs (hospital & bookstore), but to also recommend it to friends & family. Even if they don't have any eating disorders or any problems, they more than likely know someone who does- this book will help them understand that person.

Jena, I want another book out of you. This one was fantastic.

Grade: A

(ARC provided by NetGalley)