Friday, January 24, 2014

Bad Machinery: The Case of the Team Spirit

British artist and writer John Allison started his web comic career earlier than most — back in 1998. Though his stories and characters have changed, he sets his serialized comics in the fictional English town of Tackleford. He currently has been working on a comic series called Bad Machinery, which follows six mystery-solving Tackleford teens, all students at Griswalds Grammar School.

If patiently reading a comic strip panel by panel on an electronic screen isn't for you, fear not; last year Allison released the first print installment of Bad Machinery, called The Case of the Team Spirit (YP FIC ALLISON). (Volume 2, The Case of the Good Boy, is due out later this spring.) My colleague Luke, our young adult librarian, reviewed Team Spirit back in July of last year and I have to say I really agree with his take on the overseas import.

It's hard enough that classmates Shauna, Charlotte, Mildred, Jack, Linton and Sunny are having to navigate both a new school year and a new school. Before they know it, they're all embroiled in the same extracurricular mess. The girls resolve to help an old woman whose house is threatened because it sits on the site of a planned football (as in English football, i.e., soccer) stadium. The boys, on the other hand, are investigating why the local football team seems to be truly cursed with bad luck.

This is a fun, fast read that rocks along with humor that's both silly and snarky. The wonderfully drawn illustrations (and accompanying sound effects) tell half the story; they crackle with energy. Though the style is Allison's own, the comic has a manga-like feel to it because of its mix of heartfelt drama and sly wit. But the teens' sarcastic (and entirely believable) repartee is definitely the star of the show.

Allison does a great job of conveying the relationships between his main characters, the way they both support and snipe at each other. In addition, he populates Tackleford with a colorful cast beyond the story's six young protagonists, and gives each character a distinct personality, even the minor ones like the local bully and the resident middleman ("Johnny Swaps").

Teens and adults alike will enjoy the adventures of these young sleuths. They'll have you chuckling aloud and rooting for them as they attempt to right wrongs and and, oh yeah, suss out the supernatural while mollifying their teachers and family. We can all relate, can't we?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Luke's Top Ten books of 2013 are:

Since everyone else in the world gets to opine on what the best YA books of last year were, I have decided to (humbly) offer my own list of MY favorite    titles.  Enjoy!

October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard by LeslĂ©a Newman YP FIC NEWMAN 
A beautiful and heartbreaking collection of poems about the sensless murder of Matthew Shepard.

Read my review here.

The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand by Gregory Galloway YP FIC GALLOWAY 
Adam Strand kills himself, but just keeps coming back.  If he can't figure out how to die, maybe he can figure out how to live.

Read my review here.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell YP FIC ROWELL

Two outcasts find love, but don't know how to hold onto it in this sad and beautiful love story.

Read my review here.
Cursed Pirate Girl by Jeremy A. Bastian YP FIC BASTIAN
A beautifully illustrated comic about a pirate girl with a curse and a great adventure.


Read my review here.
manicpixiedreamgirl by Tom Leveen YP FIC LEVEEN

Tyler loves Rebecca Webb, but has no idea who she really is.  Can he summon the courage to tell her and will eh like what he finds when he really gets to know her?

Read my review here.
Boy Nobody by Allen Zadoff YP FIC ZADOFF
He is nobody. A teen shadow assassin that goes from job to job killing whatever target he is assigned.  But the new target has him questioning his orders, something that could get him killed.

 Read my review here.
Wise Young Fool by Sean Beaudoin YP FIC BEAUDOIN
The court ordered diary of an aspiring punker and his (mis)adventures that lead him in juvie and looking at what went wrong.

 Read my review here.

The Waking Dark by Robin Wasserman YP FIC WASSERMAN
After the Killing Night, where five murders killed with no motive, the sleepy town of Oleander just wants to forget. But something has changed in the people, an evil has awakened, and it will destroy the whole town if it is isn't stopped.


 Read my review here.

Winger by Andrew Smith YP FIC SMITH
Ryan Dean is younger than all the other students at Pine Mountain Boarding School and both too smart and too dumb for his own good. He'll need all the help he can get of this sad, hilarious, ridiculous, and profound coming-of-(almost)age novel.

 Read my review here.

Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block YP FIC BLOCK
Pen's world (heck the whole world) turned upside down after the Earth Shaker.  Now her, a rag tag group of froends, and a dog eared copy of The Odyssey are all that stand between an army of giants, their psychotic leader, and the total destruction of the (rest) of the world.

 Read my review here.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Unwritten by Mike Carey art by Peter Gross SF CAREY

Tommy Taylor is a worldwide phenomenon.  The boy wizard that has repeatedly bested the evil Count Ambrosio is beloved by people of all ages across the globe, and even has a almost religious following among his most fanatical fans.  Tom Taylor is just the son of the author and coasting on his celebrity as the 'inspiration' for Tommy.  Then a woman tells him he has it all backwards.  He IS Tommy and fiction is far realer than any of us know.  Happy to write her off as a raving lunatic, Tom changes his tune when he becomes targeted by a secret society dedicated to controlling all human history and destiny by controlling the stories we tell. This starts an amazing adventure beyond truth, fiction, fantasy, or reality.

This series just keeps getting better and better! It starts as a mystery/thriller and the story keeps twisting and turning and adding all sorts of amazing new layers.  The slower start really lets you get to know Tom and watch him grow and falter. It helps build the relationships between Tom and his two companions to something of real substance. What makes the series so great is that Tom isn't just a reluctant hero, he's not necessarily even a hero at all.  He has been written to be a hero by his controlling, reality-altering father for ;the greater good', but he balks at heroism at every turn.  The book's villains are definitely capital E evil, and raise the stakes remarkably well.  However, Carey isn't afraid to upend everything and start anew with Volume 7.  The book feels epic in scope and grandeur, without ever feeling forced or corny.  It has a lot to stay about the power and source of stories and builds a fascinating and ever growing world of fiction that lies underneath our own.  You will find yourself finishing one volume and jumping to the next immediately.  You will also find yourself rereading several pages over and over, or even whole issues to relive a big moment.  This book has serious complexity and depth and challenges the very notions of what is fiction and what is real.  It does it all with a mix of action, adventure, romance, humor, and philosophy that is hard to match in comics today.  

The art took a while for me to really appreciate. Peter Gross isn't the flashiest or most detailed artist, but he really does work for this project.  He helps ground the book in a sense of reality, so when they interact with the world of fiction it feels momentous.  That's hard to do in a comic book, where we are used to impossible things on every page.  This is an absolute must read for fans of serious comics, and I think it will make a lot of fans of comics for anyone that gives it a shot.

SIDENOTE: We have volumes 1-7 and a sort of prequel called Tommy Taylor and the Ship that Sank Twice.  I'd wait to read it until you've finished Volume 6.  That was when it was published and it fits really well there.

You can find the first volume of Unwritten in our catalog here.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block YP FIC BLOCK

Pen has a story to tell.  Stories have power and hers may just save the world. At least what's rest of it.  The Earth Shaker ripped the world apart and the sea reclaimed the land.  all Pen wanted was to find her family, a home, but she'll have to make a journey first. An odyssey.  She'll make a new family, face down giants, and fight the man that destroyed the world. 

This is the best posy-apocalyptic reimagining of the Odyssey I've ever read! Sure, it's the ONLY one I've ever read, but that's just another point in it's favor.  Francesca Lia Block always writes beautiful stories with amazing descriptive prose that can pull you into any world or person she imagines, so it is no surprise she can make something as odd as a post-apocalypse Odyssey come to life. Like the Odyssey before it this book is really about the power of stories and storytellers.  It also goes deeper into what gives the stories power.  Things like hope, faith, loyalty, love, hate, death, and more.  It is also about how we make our own family's but are also tied forever by the family that made us.  If this all sounds pretty philosophical and heady, well, yes it is.  It's also beautiful and magical and filled with an unashamed wonder of words and magic.  It's a love letter to the power of belief and fantasy.  It's also a look at what happens when the good things in life are betrayed and twisted.  This won't be a story for everyone. It tosses and turns and gets twisted inside and out before it all comes back together.  For me that was a frustrating, but ultimately rewarding experience.  I realized I was taken on a journey, too.  Like Pen it was not the one I wanted, but it was the right journey.  If you want a very strange trip, I can't recommend this book enough.

You can find Love in the Time of Global Warming in our catalog here.