Sunday, February 22, 2015

El Deafo Book Review

Title: El Deafo
Author: Cece Bell
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
Publication Date: September 2, 2014
ISBN-13: 978-1419712173

248 pp.

ARC provided by publisher

I am so happy that Cece Bell's El Deafo got some Newbery love as it was named an Honor Winner earlier this month.

This graphic novel is funny, sweet, honest, touching, and true. It deserves all the accolades and awards and fans that it has.

Cece Bell got meningitis when she was four years old and became profoundly deaf. She has used this life experience to create El Deafo, which was the nickname she gave herself. She went to a regular school and to help her hear the teacher, she wore a Phonic Ear. The device amplified the teacher's voice, but unknown the the teacher, Cece was able to hear the teacher wherever she went throughout the school. Including the bathroom!

Cece thought of this as her superhero power, but it was a secret power that she didn't share with anyone. She was ashamed of the Phonic Ear and of being different.

The story centers on how Cece dealt with being different when she desperately wanted to fit in and how she learned she could have friends by being herself.

The artwork is perfect for tween readers, bright and colorful, and anthropomorphizing the characters into rabbits is a cute way to emphasize ears and hearing.

While El Deafo is specific to a hearing disability, it is universal in its story of being proud of who you really are. Put this in the hands of fans of Raina Telgemeier.

Bonus video: Cece Bell discusses El Deafo

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sisters Book Review

Title: Sisters
Author: Raina Telgemeier
Publisher: GRAPHIX
Publication Date: August 26, 2014

ISBN-13: 978-0545540605

208 pp.

ARC provided by publisher

Raina Telgemeier made her name with the Eisner-winning Smile, a middle grade graphic novel that perfectly captured what it's like to be different when you're not entirely sure you want to be different.

Raina has created another note-perfect graphic novel with Sisters, which this time explores the love-hate-barely tolerate relationship of sisters. Both Smile and Sisters are based on Raina's personal experiences and it shows in the honesty and humor of the books.

Sisters centers on Raina and her baby sister Amara, a baby sister she dreamed of having but the reality of her turned out to be much different. There are sepia-toned flashbacks of their early days together, the constant power struggle for attention and territory. But the main story is a road trip that the family takes to Colorado.

Family dynamics and drama are all here, from who gets to sit in which seat to what they eat on the road. There's not a lot to the plot, but that's not the point. It's the characters that matter and that readers will immediately recognize in their own lives.

Raina's art is fun, kid-friendly, and cartoonish. The ARC had partial color only, but the final copy has full-color. The characters and art work so well together, I didn't even miss the color.

Sisters is a winner and a definite must-read for fans of Smile.

Sisters Book Trailer:

Sunday, February 8, 2015

More Research Tools for Writers

A while back I wrote a blog post about research tools for writers, and I thought it was time to include some new ones to the list.

One of things I like to do is read up on a certain subject before I write about it. I may use Wikipedia for a brief overview (yes, librarians use Wikipedia), but then I may want a book for a more in-depth view. And if I don't want to spend money to buy it, or my local library doesn't carry it, I check Worldcat. Worldcat is an aggregator of libraries' catalogs so you can search a particular title or author and find out what libraries carry it. Worldcat lists most academic and public libraries, and a few specialty libraries, throughout the world. Is the only copy of a pulp novel you want to read before you finish your noir novel in another state? Then you can see if it's available for ILL (Inter-Library Loan). There's usually a small fee, and there's some restrictions on what items can be loaned, so check your local library for their ILL policy.

Maybe you prefer to do your research online, but you're having a hard time finding just what you need. Then check out the Internet Public Library. This website is maintained by a consortium of colleges and universities with information science programs. Students and information professionals vet websites and organize them by subject, such as Business & Economics, Social Science, and Arts & Humanities. They even offer a free (!) reference service.

If you really want to get in-depth in a subject and take a class in it, check out Gale Courses. See if your local library offers these free (!) 6 week online classes. New classes are offered monthly on topics such as graphic design, personal finance, and healthcare. They also offer courses on creative writing and publishing!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Carter Finally Gets It Audiobook Review

Title: Carter Finally Gets It
Author: Brent Crawford
Narrated by: Nick Podehl
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: April 7, 2009

I listened to this as part of Sync's audio summer promotion (yeah, it took me awhile to get to it). But it was pretty damn funny.

Carter is a freshman with ADD and a stutter, especially around girls. He, like just about any other 14 year old, thinks about girls ALL THE TIME. He has his friends who live to tease each other, an older sister who is completely embarrassed by him, and really no clue about what high school will bring.

The school year passes by through the sports Carter plays (or tries to play) and the girls he dates (or tries to date). There really is not much of a plot except how Carter tries to survive his freshman year.

Carter is honest, raunchy, occasionally sweet, and voiced perfectly by Nick Podehl. He brings a lot of swagger to Carter and knows just when to deflate that self-importance when reality hits Carter upside the head.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Prince of Venice Beach Book Review

Title: The Prince of Venice Beach
Author: Blake Nelson
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: June 3, 2014
ISBN-13: 978-0316230483

240 pp.

ARC provided by publisher

Robert "Cali" Callahan is a street kid. He ran away from a foster home in Nebraska when he was 14 and headed for sunny California. Now he's 17 and he spends his days surfing, skateboarding, and playing basketball with his friends.

But he'll be turning 18 soon and that means he doesn't have to duck social services anymore with the fear that he'll be sent back to Nebraska. He's starting to think about the future because he knows he can't always live in the tree house in a hippie's backyard.

Cali realizes that his one true talent is finding people. He knows everyone around Venice Beach and he knows how to get people to talk. So when a cop he knows asks him to be on the lookout for a recent runaway, and that there's some money in it for him for finding the kid, Cali does the job.

That leads to more jobs finding people. And Cali thinks that he could have a real future being a private detective. He starts taking GED classes. He designs a business card.

But then things become more complicated. The jobs he gets are shadier than he's prepared for and he ends up in over his head. Especially when beautiful runaway Reese Abernathy finds him first.

The Prince of Venice has a noirish vibe as Cali falls hard for Reese and gets caught in a web of lies and betrayals. It's a quick read that might appeal to reluctant readers, but I had a couple of quibbles with it.

First of all, the language is really flat. There's a lot of telling as Cali describes what he does and where he goes. Second, this is a extremely romanticized view of life as a street kid. I live near Venice Beach and I see these kids all the time. The casual drug use, the public urination, the panhandling ... all of this is missing from Cali's world. So if you're looking for a gritty tale of life on the street, look elsewhere.


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