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.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

There Will Come a Time Book Review

Title: There Will Come a Time
Author: Carrie Arcos
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: April 15, 2014
ISBN-13: 978-1442495852

320 pp.

ARC provided by publisher

Carrie Arcos has written a quiet, sensitive novel about a quiet, sensitive protagonist. Mark is a gifted musician who lost his twin sister in a car accident. It's bad enough losing Grace, but since he was driving the car when they were hit by a distracted driver, he's lost in as much guilt as grief.

Mark has withdrawn inside himself as he goes through the motions of therapy. But when Grace's best friend Hanna discovers Grace's bucket list, she convinces Mark to join her in completing the list. Mark's not sure what to do about his complicated feelings about Hanna, either. His impulse is to push everyone away.

The novel is a poignant, believable story about loss and surviving. It's set in a suburb of  Los Angeles that one's not likely to see on reality television and Mark's family is a multicultural mix of Filipino and Caucasian. Kudos to Arcos (who is white) for showing another facet of life in L.A.

I'd recommend There Will Come a Time to readers who enjoyed Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard or Something Like Normal by Trish Doller.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Teen Titans: Earth One Volume 1 Book Review

Title: Teen Titans: Earth One, Volume 1
Author: Jeff Lemire
Illustrators: Rachael Dodson & Terry Dodson
Publisher: DC Comics
Publication Date: November 25, 2014
ISBN-13: 978-1401245566

144 pp.

ARC provided by publisher via NetGalley

I cannot begin to tell you how much I LOVED The New Teen Titans. I mean, seriously, this book saved me when I was a teenager. "A freak among freaks," Vic Stone says in the first issue and I knew this comic was for me. One of my proudest moments was getting a Letter to the Editor published. And here's me with Marv Wolfman at ComicCon a few years back:

Marv Wolfman was instrumental in defining my story sense, taught me how to develop character arcs, and showed me how comics could be smart, funny, and incredibly human.

Plus with George Perez's illustrations, The New Teen Titans was a thing of beauty from the cover to the last panel.

Then it started to suck. George left. Stories were boring. And I was in college by then. So yeah, time to move on.

The Teen Titans Go! animated show arrived on the scene, which I derisively called "Tween Titans," but then I watched a couple of episodes. The anime style and humor was cute and well-done, but it wasn't my Titans.

Then I saw the ARC for The Teen Titans: Earth One. And I hoped. I hoped the characters, reinvented as they were, were still true to their inspirations. I hoped the writing had the humor and angst I loved. I hoped the illustrations would be evocative of powerful world-building. I hoped this would be a Teen Titans that could save some other lonely teen out there.

I am happy to report that The Teen Titans: Earth One is pretty damn good. The artwork by Rachael and Terry Dodson is modern and exciting. The script by Jeff Lemire digged deep into Titans mythos and created a new origin story that paid homage and still created characters than stand on their own. The action is fast-paced, with just enough hints of what's to come (one word: Blackfire!) that I am waiting breathlessly for the next installment.

A couple of concerns, though. One is that without Robin/Nightwing, there is no clear leader. The obvious choice is that Cyborg will step up to the plate, but I'd like to see Changeling take the lead. In this incarnation, he's the most grounded and a genius, too, so he'd be a good tactician. And though I loved Garfield Logan's humor in The New Teen Titans, he could be more than comic relief here.

The other concern is Raven. I like the idea of making her Native American (although sorry to lose the Trigon backstory), but that can be tricky. The last thing any book needs is stereotypes of spiritual/mystical Native Americans.  So please, talk to some Native Americans and get their take on the characterizations before you proceed any further. (And if the writer ends up making her Trigon's daughter and Native American, that's just lazy.)

So if you were curious about this graphic novel, go ahead and pick it up. Longtime fans and newcomers alike will find a good read.

Bonus video: Jeff Lemire talks Teen Titans Earth One


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