Monday, April 18, 2011

Review: The Night Bookmobile

On another stumble through the library, I noticed a book by Audrey Niffenegger in the graphic novel section. I loved both of her novels - both The Time Traveler's Wife and Her Fearful Symmetry - and was intrigued to see what she would do with the graphic novel format.

The plot of The Night Bookmobile is mysterious and enchanting - a woman comes across a bookmobile late late at night, and when she enters, she realizes that she has read all the books on its shelves. The book is a short read, and yet it's compelling. Any book lover can understand the woman's motivations. As a librarian (ok, at least technically), I felt instep with the woman's desire to be close to those things that had provided her with her wealth of knowledge, her personality, and her drive. The ending is a surprise and a bit jarring, but it is one that the reader feels coming almost from the beginning.

I have since made two of my coworkers read this book (it takes no time at all to breeze through, and I'm pretty sure this was the first graphic novel that either of them have ever read), and they both enjoyed it as well. If graphic novels scare you off, think of this one more as an adult picture book. This one is worth adding to your collection and coming back to from time to time.

5/5 stars

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Review: Good Neighbors

I recently stumbled upon the podcast Geek's Guide to the Galaxy and have been devouring the past episodes. I find the hosts interesting (although a little too true to the geek stereotype, and I often find myself shouting at the radio that they're wrong about things they know nothing about, like the entire horror genre, but I digress) and informative. For a podcast hosted by an author and an editor, you would assume that all their guests would be in the book world, but that pleasantly isn't the case.

Holly Black, author of the Spiderwick Chronicles, amongst other things, was a guest about a year ago. I enjoyed her episode very much, and although I wasn't left with a strong desire to read her most famous works, I was intrigued by her description of a graphic novel series she had written called Good Neighbors. She hooked me with the premise - a woman goes missing, and her husband is blamed, but their daughter believes that there are more supernatural things at work - and when I saw all three books in the series sitting next to each other at the library, I pounced.

I am glad that I took out all three books at once, because I'm not sure I would have made the effort to go back for them otherwise. I was simply not wowed by this series. The concept itself is very cool and the writing was good enough, but the art is just as important as the story in a graphic novel, and that's where I felt this one fell short. I had a hard time telling characters apart at times, and some characters seemed to change specific characteristics (the things you need to tell people apart!) from scene to scene.

Although, to be truthful, part of the problem may just be that I don't care that much for fairies (or faeries, or however you want to spell it). There are just so many supernatural creatures out there to read about, and fairies have always been pretty far down on my list. I don't care much for the fairy plotlines in the Sookie Stackhouse books either. I will say, though, that Holly Black has clearly made a spot for herself in a world filled with supernatural stories. I have had her book Tithe highly recommended to me, so I think that will be my next try at her work.

2/5 stars

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Review: Ship Breaker

I've been hearing such amazing things about author Paolo Bacigalupi for a while now, and I walk by his novel The Windup Girl every day. When his YA novel Ship Breaker came up on the list for our YA book group, I was happy to have a reason to finally read him.

And can I say how happy I am that I did? Less than half-way through Ship Breaker, I had to buy a copy of Windup Girl because I loved his writing so much. His descriptions of a world in which the environment is battling back against us and people work in harsh conditions make everything seem disturbingly real.

Nailer, our protagonist, lives and works on a beach on the Louisiana coast, scuttling through ducts on a grounded oil tanker, dragging costly metals like copper back to the surface to sell. When a city killer storm (the kind of storm that has made this world rebuild New Orleans three times) rolls through and the beach community gets destroyed, Nailer and his friend Pima venture down the beach to see what washed up during the storm. What they find, though, is one of the nicest ships they've ever seen, a true bounty of scavengable material. Of course, they find something more precious than even they expected, and then Nailer is forced to leave the only home he's ever known to protect it.

There are many things going for this novel. First, the main character is a boy, so rare in well-written YA. Second, there are no creatures to deal with (genetically-designed half men aside), and the frighteningly real environment and plain human nature are the things that cause trouble. Third, this is a world that it is easy to imagine could come about, and thinking through how we could get from here to there is a great exercise for kids. There needs to be more of this in YA - good, straightforward sci-fi storytelling.

5/5 stars