Sunday, July 26, 2015

Exquisite Corpse Book Review

Title: Exquisite Corpse
Author: Penelope Bagieu
Publisher: First Second
Publication Date: May 5, 2015
ISBN-13: 978-1626720824

128 pp.

ARC provided via NetGalley

Fun fact: "Exquisite Corpse" was a game invented by Surrealists where a piece (of art, of literature) was constructed by each participant adding to what the earlier participant had created.
This French import by graphic novelist Penelope Bagieu plays with that conceit in Exquisite Corpse. Zoe is a "booth babe" with a ne'er-do-well boyfriend and no real direction in life. Then she has a chance encounter with famous author, Thomas Rocher.

Except she doesn't recognize Thomas as a famous author. And she certainly doesn't know that Thomas is supposed to be dead. All she knows is that she's met a lonely, kind of weird guy who treats her so much better than she's used to. But when she finds out the truth, everything about their relationship changes.

I absolutely loved the illustrations. Zoe is adorable. Color choices in each panel perfectly reflect mood and character.

The story, however, was a disappointing in the end. I don't want to give away the twist, but it was a "been there, done that" moment for me. I was waiting for another twist to elevate to something special, but no, that was it.

If you're looking for a quick read with great art, then give Exquisite Corpse a try. If you're looking for a story that's a little meatier, then look elsewhere.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Mort(e) Book Review

Title: Mort(e)
Author: Robert Repino
Publisher: Soho Press
Publication Date: January 20, 2015
ISBN-13: 978-1616954277

368 pp.

ARC provided by publisher

"I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords." 
Kent Brockman

Mort(e) by Robert Repino was an ARC I picked up at last summer's ALA Annual Conference and I finally found the time to read it.

I was intrigued by its animal apocalypse premise: superintelligent ants bring sentience to animals, who rise against humans in "the war with no name." A neutered housecat, Sebastian, becomes a soldier and possibly a messiah.

You don't expect something like that to be especially realistic, and the science given to explain how the ants brought about the war is nonsensical. The author would have better served his readers by making this a Great Unknown. (Not particularly spoilery: the ants put hormones in the water to mutate the animals. And yet it doesn't affect the humans. If you're going to put something in the water, why not poison all the humans and be done with it? The answer is spoilery, but basically it's because otherwise there wouldn't be a novel.)

But you either go with it, or you stop reading. I kept reading.

And it wasn't just the WFT moments that kept me reading. It was because of Sebastian, an ordinary housecat, who protects his family from intruders, enjoys a sunny square on the carpet, and becomes best friends with the neighbor's dog, Sheba.

When the war starts, Sebastian and Sheba are separated, and Sebastian is determined to find her, at all costs. His first moment of sentience was curling up with Sheba and promising her to protect her. That promise is what keeps him going through the war. When the war's over, Sebastian is recruited to head an investigation about a new biochemical weapon the last of the humans have developed. Sebastian figures his position might help him find Sheba.

I found Sebastian's journey, his loneliness, his tenacious hope to be heartbreakingly compelling. Would I have been as compelled if I weren't a cat person? I don't know. 

Mort(e) isn't going to be for everyone. But I would recommend it to readers willing to try something ambitious, a novel that aspires to blend together a parable about humanity's relation to nature, science fiction dystopia, and a criminal investigation story.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Time Machine Audiobook Review

Title: The Time Machine
Author: H.G. Wells
Narrated by: Sir Derek Jacobi
Publisher: Listening Library
Publication Date: June 11, 2013

Listening copy via Sync

H.G. Wells' The Time Machine is one of those science fiction classics that I just never got around to reading, so I thought listening to a free Sync copy would be a perfect way to finally get around to it.

I've seen the Hollywood movie adaptations (the Rod Taylor version is infinitely better than the Guy Pearce version) and knew the basic plot already ... Victorian inventor creates time machine that takes him millennia into the future where the human race has evolved into the docile Eloi and the subterrestrial Morlocks.

But this audiobook also has Sir Derek Jacobi, one of the top ten dulcet speakers of the English language. He reads this unabridged edition of The Time Machine with appropriate wonder, charm, and suspense. This recording is delight from beginning to end.

And speaking of the end, the Hollywood versions totally leave out a whole section of the Time Traveler's adventure after he leaves the Morlocks and Eloi. And it's as creepy as hell.

BTW, is it just me, or does the cover of the audiobook look like they were trying to invoke the Tenth Doctor (an inside joke for Dr. Who fans, who know that Derek Jacobi plays an important role in the Tenth Doctor's fate)?

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Landline Audiobook Review

Title: Landline
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Narrated by: Rebecca Lowman
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Publication Date: July 8, 2014
ISBN-13: 978-1427239327

Listening copy via public library

Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor & Park is still crazy popular, and maybe one day it'll be in the library long enough for me to check it out. In the meantime, I listened to the audiobook of Landline.

Landline isn't YA, although an argument could be made that it's New Adult since a good portion happens in flashbacks when the main character, Georgie McCool, is in college.

The conceit of the story is that Georgie's marriage to college sweetheart Neal is at a crossroads, a road that could split off into either divorce or reconciliation. And Georgie is able to talk to Neal -- the actual Neal she knew in college -- on an old landline phone.

Given that conceit, the novel is largely made up of long phone conversations. There's humor and regret and hope in these conversations as the Today-Georgie talks to Then-Neal. She knows the mistakes that she'll make and maybe, just maybe, this is her chance to let Neal go before she makes them. But maybe, just maybe, this is her chance to make things right.

It's a what-if concept that's intriguing and kept me engaged. Georgie and Neal are well-developed, complex, flawed people. There are solid supporting characters, too. Rebecca Lowman does a fine job with the emotion and angst of the story. What I felt her narration lacked, though, was the humor. Lines that I know would have gotten a chuckle if I had read them fell flat as I listened. Georgie makes her living as a comedy writer, after all, and that wry, dry personality needed to come through more.

So depending on the experience that you want, you may wish to read the book over listening to the audio.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children Book Review

Title: Beautiful Music for Ugly Children
Author: Kirstin Cronn-Mills
Publisher: Flux
Publication Date: October 8, 2012
ISBN-13: 978-0738732510

288 pp.

Copy provided via publisher

I picked up a copy of this title (signed by the author!) at the ALA Annual Conference last year, and though it's taken me awhile to get to it on my TBR pile, I am absolutely in love in with it.

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children is the story of Gabe, a high school senior who's looking forward to his post-high school life. He wants to put all the bullying and awfulness behind and start over in a new life. Because Gabe has spent the past 18 years as Elizabeth and now he's ready to transition.

His neighbor/friend/mentor John gets him a DJ gig on the local community radio station and a part-time job in an indie record store.  Gabe never thought transitioning would be easy, but his radio show becomes an underground hit. It's the one bright spot in his life, but he's scared he'll lose his fans if they found out about him.

Gabe's family basically ignores him, so he relies on his best friend, Paige, for support. Paige may just be into him, but he's kind of terrified to find out for sure in case he's wrong.

Then when he's finally outed and things turn violent, Gabe finds out who really stands with him.

Gabe's voice seems completely authentic, all the fears, hopes, insecurities, doubts, desires, and aspirations of any young person on the verge of a new life. There's humor, too, with Gabe's wit and charm.

Kirstin Cronn-Mills is straight, but she did her homework. She spoke with trans teens as she worked on the novel and Beautiful Music for Ugly Children ended up winning a Stonewall Award. (Just a reminder than you don't have to be X to write X. Do your research and have respect for that world and you can write from any POV.)

I'd recommend Beautiful Music for Ugly Children to readers who enjoyed Beauty Queens by Libba Bray or Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher.

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children Book Trailer:


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