Greer is a self-described “dumb teenager” at the mature age of fifteen. In the Last of Will, she breaks the fourth wall by asking “I still can’t fathom how you got in here to watch this train wreck unfold. Seriously, I don’t recall sending out invitations. But since you’re here, try and keep up.”
Greer’s father Will is newly unemployed from his long-time accountancy position. Good thing Greer’s mother still has income from her florist shop. However, money is tight. When Will’s unemployment is about to run out, he impulsively gets a job as a gravedigger, which was a job he held in college. His first job is to carry a man’s ashes home to his family beginning the crazy road trip with Greer, which is the center of this novel.
Greer is the perfect teenager: sarcastic, witty, somewhat manipulative, who overthinks every event and decision within her life. Greer is us all—either now, soon, or in the past. Reading her story was laugh-out-loud funny in spots and heart-breaking in others.
Here is Greer’s assessment of world history, “I mean, yeah, some vaguely interesting stuff happened along the centuries, but all I remember after a chapter is that most wars are about land or religion, most geniuses come off as initially crazy, and most conquerors are shorter than you’d expect.” A succinct explanation of both history and Game of Thrones!
If you think the two quotes above are funny, then you will enjoy this teen/young adult’s journey across the country. 4 stars!
Thanks to Black Chateau and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
No Saving Throw is a cozy mystery set in the nerdy world of Dungeons & Dragons. If the D&D term “No Saving Throw” is unfamiliar, it means you can’t roll the dice to prevent or mitigate the awful thing that just occurred. Also, it means this book may not be a good choice for you.
Autumn is the owner of a gaming store especially role-playing ones like Dungeons & Dragons. When a gamer dies, Autumn decides to protect her gaming friends, and her store’s reputation, by finding the murderer herself.
No Saving Throw’s setting in high school makes the book seem very young adult. Descriptions of scenes are scant and similar to Adventure games like you enter a dark room. For old school nerds like me, it was fun to spot the old television, movie and game Easter eggs. The mystery was easy to solve—but not Scooby Doo level easy. I wanted to understand the core group’s motivations, which were only here almost as an afterthought. Since this is only book one of a planned series, I hope that issue will be addressed in the next book. If you are into gaming or just can’t stomach another knitting or bookstore cozy, this book will be a pleasant read. 3 stars!
Thanks to Diversion Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
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In Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale, Catwoman’s backstory is revealed and it is harsh.
Catgirl Selina’s mom brings home a new abusive boyfriend every month until she settles on Dernell. Dernell is physically and emotionally abusive to both Selina and her mother. However, when his cruelty impacts another, Selina runs away from home.
I didn’t know before reading it but this book is published as a young adult comic. I don’t believe teen Catgirl is an example of a good role model. She is a thief. None of the events you would expect, like rape and trafficking, happen to Selina after she runs away from home. She is portrayed as happy living on the street. I know it’s a teenage fantasy but I wouldn’t let my daughter read it.
The backstory of why Selina has a connection to cats and Bruce Wayne is interesting to explore. Making Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale a 4 star read for adults. I’m looking forward to the next volume continuing Catgirl’s transformation into a full grown Catwoman.
Thanks to DC Ink and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
I started by reading just the first chapter of A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World to see if it was something I would enjoy. I then spent every waking moment where I wasn’t driving, working, or taking a shower, reading it until it was over.
The world is ending with a whimper. Seventy years previously, mankind stopped being fertile and multiplying. Griz is one of the few teenagers left. Living with his family on a remote island off the coast of Scotland, Griz’ friends are his two dogs, who are siblings Jip and Jess. Jess is a rare female dog in a world where dogs were eaten for food.
Griz’s family includes his father, his brain-damaged mother, his older sister and brother. When a stranger, world-traveler Brand, lands on their island, he is welcomed suspiciously for the possibility of trading food for a much needed windmill motor. However, when Brand leaves like a thief in the night, he takes Griz’s beloved dog, Jess, with him. Griz decides that that act is his line in the sand that no one should cross. He takes the family’s boat to give chase to Brand and bring Jess home.
A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World is more Homer and less Walking Dead. There are no zombies in sight (thank goodness). It is a first-person coming of age quest novel. While I mentioned Homer, it can also be compared to several of the superhero movies so popular right now. There are clear heroes and villains. Griz is focused on his goal and is willing to put up with any challenge to achieve it. The ending is excellent too. While this has a rather slow pace, it is never boring. However, it has more of a literary fiction vibe and so may not be a good fit for thriller fans. In addition, the foreshadowing was annoyingly obvious. But it is definitely worth the time invested. 4 stars!
Thanks to Orbit Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
So you are not an early adopter (or you have been hiding under a rock) and are just now trying to join the Fortnite craze. The 100% Unofficial Fortnite Essential Guide will catch you up to speed quicker than just learning by playing (like all those first players had to do).
The guide begins with which console is best and continues with comprehensive instructions on controls, movement, combat, looting, building materials, and weapons. All instructions includes copious amounts of picures making this a good guide for kids. The only negative is the maps change frequently so the ones in the books will probably not be of much use. However, the Guide is still recommended to noobs of all ages. 4 stars!
Thanks to Becker&Meyer Kids and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Fans of the Hunger Games have found a new book series to love with Apocalypse 5.
Sometime in the future, the world’s scientists are trying to develop a team that can fight any type of calamity that might cause an apocalypse on Earth. Teams of five young people are placed into all kinds of virtual reality situations: fires, aliens, and advanced weaponry. The catch is if they die in the virtual war, they also die in real life. The latest team has lasted 18 months of daily virtual skirmishes.
The action doesn’t stop in Apocalypse 5. There is also a romance and an underlying mystery. There is truly something for everyone in this book. The characters are well drawn and you empathize with their stories. 4 stars!
Thanks to Black Spot Books for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
If you are a young adult and are not adopted, you may enjoy Outpost Zero Vol 1, a space opera set in the far future.
Sometime in the future, Denis and his wife, Jann, are on the Discovery Team, who look for life on their alien planet. Their 14-year-old daughter, Alea, wants desperately to join them so she secures a spot as an intern for the Team. Alea’s boyfriend, Steven, believes the Discovery Team is too dangerous but Alea isn’t swayed.
The family lives in the Outpost, an artificially created biome that allows humans to live in a large domed city on an alien planet. When Denis and Jann are outside the biome, they see a fast approaching weather cell that may spell doom for the biome and the humans that live inside.
Outpost Zero Vol 1 has a good plot for young adult readers. There is a mystery but I don’t want to give any spoilers. The artwork is fine. The color palette of dusty blues and greens fits the mood inside a biome. However, I disliked this quote by Alea regarding the head of the biome who took in her son after his parents were killed, “What I mean is, do you think the Chief would do anything for Sam? Even though he isn’t really hers?” Jann’s response is even more insensitive to adoptive families, “Well, I think—she cares about Sam, wants him to succeed. Loves him like her own son. But when a child’s yours from the start—when they come from you…there’s a bond you can’t get any other way. It’s just the way it is.” This discussion wasn’t necessary to the plot and will hurt people’s feelings. I can’t recommend this book. 2 stars.
Thanks to Image Comics and Edelweiss+ for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
Medallion of Murder is another excellent entry in the young adult mystery series, Nefertari Hughes.
Terry, a female high school senior, has many balls in the air. She is still getting used to her leg prosthesis, deciding what to make her career after high school, and dealing with her widowed father’s romance with the mother of her best friend, Maude. Oh, and she has superpowers that she uses to fight crime at night.
Awad is a friend of Terry’s that works by day as a hieroglyph translator and by night as a member of the Illuminati. While looking for a cursed medallion, he disappears. Terry and her friends Maude and Fraser take on the medallion search while also looking for Awad.
I started reading the series with Medallion of Murder and wished I hadn’t. I think the spoilers in this book will make reading the others later a pointless exercise. Plus there was a large number of characters’ backstories to memorize in the first tenth of the book. However, the breakneck speed of the action makes this a fun young adult mystery. The book’s characters compare their earlier adventures to Scooby Doo. I agree. It’s just pure light-hearted fun. Here is one secret you won’t have to search for—this is a great read for adults too. 4 stars!
Thanks to Xpresso Book Tours and the author for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
There is a blog tour giveaway for the entire series including this book plus a $25 Amazon gift card. It closes on October 11, 2018.
Rett and Bryn continually awaken in the apocalyptic future in the Echo Room.
Step 1: Rett wakes up in a locked metal room with no memory of how he got there. He has blood on his clothes and hands. Soon he sees Bryn, who is also locked in the room with no memory of how she got there. As they talk, they discover they are both from the government-run shelter for abandoned youth, Walling House. Rett tries to discover a way out of the room. He finds a broken lock on one door. He finds hidden doors to two other rooms. However, there is no food or water immediately available—just a bin filled with empty water bottles and another with strangely glowing green tubes. The only clue is the phrase “SCATTER 3” on one of the walls.
Step 2: Explore. Get scared. Repeat Step 1. Rett and Bryn learn a bit more with each repetition.
The mystery is intriguing. The setting in a wrecked near future world is eerily unsettling. Even though it’s marketed as young adult science fiction, the Echo Room works well as an adult thriller too. While the pacing slowed a bit in the middle, the plot kept the reader engaged. The book will make a great movie someday. It is perfect for fans of puzzles and intriguing situations like in the Maze Runner.
A sequel is hinted at toward the end. I’m looking forward to that book. This one deserves 4 stars.
Thanks to the publisher, Tor Teen, and NetGalley for an advance copy.
Sheets is a heartwarming graphic novel about the unusual friendship between a grieving girl and a lonely ghost boy.
Marjorie’s mother is dead and her father is so depressed that he barely leaves his bedroom to eat. The family’s laundry is run before and after school by Marjorie. The mysterious Nigel is trying to convince Marjorie to give up the laundry’s lease so he can open a yoga studio and spa.
In the meantime, Wendell lives in Ghost Town. At 11, he is having trouble making friends. He decides to ride a train out of town and ends up in Marjorie’s town. When they meet, their adventures begin.
Sheets is perfect for young and middle school readers. The words are scarce and the pretty pastel pictures tell much of the story. The moral is nice and doesn’t seem forced. 3 stars.
Thanks to the publisher, Lion Forge, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Equal parts Alice in Wonderland and the Lord of the Rings with a pinch of politics and religion plus maybe some leftover LSD from the 60s. Rice Boy is a true quest tale with the survival of the world at its core.
The One Electronic, T-O-E for short, is looking for the true messiah. The past 3,000 years have been filled with one fake after another. If T-O-E stops searching for a messiah, he will die. One day after the latest messiah has died, T-O-E asks Rice Boy to be the next messiah. All Rice Boy needs to do is meet with the Tree Keeper downstream in the Dorlish Wood. Rice Boy refuses and T-O-E leaves. Soon, Rice Boy decides to go on a quest to the Dorlish Wood. He meets Gerund going the same way on a quest to kill the Bleach Beast. They decide to journey together. There are two sinister foes, Golgo and Dolly on Rice Boy’s trail.
I love Alice in Wonderland and have read a multitude of remixes and updates of it. Rice Boy is the best of the bunch. It has the feeling of Alice in Wonderland (everything is just enough similar and just enough off to give a feeling of discomfort). The art is brightly colored. The tale is just bizarre enough. The mash-up of religion, politics and fantasy really works to create a deliciously different fairy tale.
While marketed as a young adult title, I would recommend it for anyone who enjoys fantasy and especially those who are bored by the similarity of so many recent plots. Rice Boy is magnificently unlike everything else. Plus at 460 pages, it is well worth the price tag.
Thanks to the publisher, Iron Circus Comics, for an advanced copy.
City 1 is a surreal fast-moving episodic Sunday Comics-style manga.
Nagumo (20) doesn’t have her rent money. She tried to double her money by playing the horses and lost. Her landlady, called the Granny, is insistent. Niikura, Nagumo’s best friend cannot loan her the rent money. Nagumo goes through many schemes trying to pay her rent. Granny is a street brawler (literally).
City 1 contains twelve 12-page stories. All involve city life and build on each other. Some are ironic, some are humorous but all do not seem like traditional manga.
I’m not sure if the problem is in the translation or me not understanding Japanese culture well enough despite my worship of Studio Ghibli and mecha anime. Do Japanese really touch the gills of a shiitake mushroom or rub an eraser to relax? City 1 is clearly meant to be a madcap comedy. It fell short of that for me. However, tastes vary so I’ll give this comic 3 stars.
Thanks to the publisher, Kodanska Comics, and NetGalley for a copy.
Combine Lord of the Flies and Mean Girls. Stir in a pinch of the Stanford Prison Experiment and you have Damselfly, a new young adult novel.
A teenage fencing team from an expensive prep school is stranded on a deserted island after the crash of their private aircraft. Soon their society is splitting into factions based on skin color and trying to find a mysterious island inhabitant.
This is a contemporary update of the Lord of the Flies. It includes some interesting backstories of some of the participants’ life before in the prep school. While it is a quick read, I think it adheres a little too closely to the original. It is only recommended to readers not familiar with the original. 3 stars.
Thanks to the publisher, Scholastic Press, and Goodreads for holding the giveaway where I won an advanced copy of this book.
Drawing chibis (big heads and small bodies) that are seen in manga is easy and cheap if you use Chibi!: Official Mark Crilley How-to-Draw Guide. All that is needed is some nice bristol paper, a regular pencil, a pencil sharpener, several pens with a variety of tip sizes, a 15” clear ruler, some kneaded erasers and some practice time.
Mr. Crilley starts simply with the basic chibi girl and boy including their hairstyles, clothing and manga emotion symbols. In Part 2, he includes some more advanced poses like panda, fox, witch, fantasy, kissing and action. The chibi dog, cat and robot are adorable. Part 3 gives 78 ways to use your new drawing abilities including cards, signs, t-shirts, stickers, buttons, rubber stamps, pop-ups and calendars. My favorite, and sadly lacking, ability was to create a chibi that looks like a real person.
Chibi!: Official Mark Crilley How-to-Draw Guide would be an excellent gift for the manga fan in your life. If they are already into producing art, it would also be nice to include those items listed in the first paragraph that they are lacking. I have been asking my daughter, an A+ art student in high school, to make my face into a manga character for my blog. She has let me down for over 13 years. Now I can do it myself…with substantially more practice.
I would highly recommend purchasing the paperback version of this book. The kindle version is hard to read on a kindle as some of the illustration break over several pages. On a larger tablet, the kindle version is fine. However, if the reader wishes to use tissue paper to copy the chibi examples to get a head’s start on their own drawing (please don’t judge), a tablet won’t be easy to use. 5 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Impact Books, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
There is also a review of a more traditional art instruction book using pencil located here.
With dyed blond hair and a hostile resting face, Imamura is finally graduating from his high school as Again Vol 1 opens. He transferred to the high school three years previously but had neither made friends nor joined a club. Imamura has also made no plans for his future career or schooling after high school ends. After the graduation ceremony, Imamura is thinking about the Ouendan (pep) club that he could have joined but didn’t. When he tries to climb through a window into the old Ouendan club room, he is seen by Akira, who is meeting her boyfriend. When Akira sees Imamura, she runs in fear and trips down a staircase. Imamura also trips and lands on top of her, knocking them both out.
Imamura wakes up with his mother calling him to go to school. He realizes that it is three years earlier and he is reliving his entire high school career. He realizes that this is his chance to make better choices including joining the Ouendan. Akira’s tale is also told but in less detail. While berating Imamura for forcing her to fall down the stairs, she accidently joins the Ouendan too. The rest of the novel addresses typical high school rivalries and romances.
The cover artwork using pastels and watercolors is beautiful. The interior art uses cross hashing to make various shades of gray. However, the drawings appear somewhat muddled. There is nothing within the plot to mark it as original. The abrupt end of Again Vol 1 forces me to give this volume 3 stars. Hopefully, Vol 2 will have a more complete story.
Thanks to the publisher, Kodansha Comics, and NetGalley for an egalley.
A fun “King of the Nerds” meets Jeopardy summer camp is the setting for this entertaining young adult romance.
Ever Lawrence is determined to make her own way in life. She won’t become a lawyer like her Dad, a local community theater actress who sells real estate like her Stepmom or join the Air Force like her Mom. She loves Octavia Butler’s novels and decides to get a free scholarship to the only school that has a Science Fiction Literature degree, Rayevich College. Taking a test and writing an awesome essay gets her into Camp Onward where at least one attendee will win the coveted scholarship at the conclusion of the camp. The contests required to win vary between the physical and the intellectual. Ever tries not to be distracted by her growing attraction to one of the other campers, her strange roommate and even stranger resident adviser.
Not Now, Not Ever is a humorous take on Much Ado about Nothing. However, I enjoyed the frequent Oscar Wilde quotes and pop culture references even more. The characters are believable and the finale is great. The machinations of some of the campers are laugh-out-loud funny. Even though I am far from a young adult, I loved the characters, plot and the setting. 4 stars!
I won an advanced reader copy of Not Now, Not Ever in a Goodreads giveaway but that has not impacted my review. This book will be released on November 21, 2017.