5 stars · Fantasy · fiction

Teen Titans Volume 1: an interesting reboot series

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Teen Titans: Volume 1

Damian Knows Best

author : benjamin percy

illustrator : jonboy meyers

pages : [paperback] 144

summary :

As a part of DC Universe: Rebirth, the son of Batman, Damian Wayne, joins the Teen Titans!

The Teen Titans are further apart than ever before…until Damian Wayne recruits Starfire, Raven, Beast Boy and the new Kid Flash to join him in a fight against his own grandfather, Ra’s al Ghul! But true leadership is more than just calling the shots–is Robin really up to the task? Or will the Teen Titans dismiss this diminutive dictator?

The team will have to figure this out fast, as a great evil from Damian’s past is lurking around the corner, ready to strike at the team’s newest leader and destroy the new Teen Titans before they even begin!

The newest era of one of DC’s greatest super-teams begins here in Teen Titans, Volume 1: Damian Knows Best! Written by Benjamin Percy (Green Arrow) with spectacular art by newcomer Jonboy Meyers.

CollectingTeen Titans 1-5, Rebirth

review :

I love Teen Titans. I love the DC Rebirth event. I love this volume.

Damian Knows Best kicks off with a nice kidnapping of all of the team members and only gets better and more complex from there. Starfire, Raven, Beast Boy, and Kid Flash are all older (though not necessarily more mature) than thirteen year old Damian. He knows what he wants, and maybe not necessarily what he needs. With a team put together, he’s determined to keep all of them alive–knowing that big enemies are coming toward them, both because of and in spite of them.

I loved the character arc throughout this volume for Damian, aka Robin, aka the son of Batman. He really grew on me, from this obnoxious, egotistical little kid to a strong, brave (still really short) kid. He’s put up with so much in life. I love how glimpses into his upbringing are given without the typical info-dumping that typically happens in comics. Instead, it’s introduced gradually and seamlessly into the plot.

Apart from that, I love how every version of Teen Titans I read involves its own take of the team members. Not only stylistically with the character sketches but little tweaks with how they hold themselves, present themselves, though the core of their personalities and who they are always remains the same.

This volume also has amazing, complex, and a little bit terrifying villains. I love how nothing was simple. I loved the big battles. I love that the Titans aren’t all-powerful and still have a few things to work out between themselves to become an even greater team.

I’d definitely recommend this volume, both to fans of the Titans and those who’d never been introduced to them at all. This is one you can read with no background info and absolutely fall into. The universe and plot set themselves up so nicely, the art is amazing, and the characters are addictive. I need more!

5/5 stars

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2 stars · fiction · science fiction

Clean Room Volume 2: interesting, not captivating

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Clean Room: Volume 2

Exile

author : gail simone

illustrator : jon davis-hunt

pages : [paperback] 144

summary :

Journalist Chloe Pierce had no idea that her fiance Philip’s decision to pick up a book by enigmatic and compelling self-help guru Astrid Mueller would change her life forever–by ending his! Three months after reading Mueller’s book, Philip had blown his brains out all over Chloe’s new kitchen and something in that book made him do it.
Now, Chloe will stop at nothing as she attempts to infiltrate Mueller’s clandestine organization to find the truth behind Philip’s suicide and a “Clean Room” that she’s heard whispers of–a place where your deepest fears are exposed and your worst moments revealed.

This volume features a spectacularly disturbing standalone issue that delves into the depths of Astrid’s terrifying personal history and explains why demons have haunted her since birth.

review :

Clean Room: Volume 2, Exile picks up immediately after volume one. There’s intrigue and monsters, gory and vivid panels on nearly every other page, and a lot of questions still to be answered. Unfortunately, many of them continue unanswered throughout the entirety of this volume, but I suppose that’s what volume three is for, right?

Exile follows a lot more of Astrid’s story, and speaks more about her followers as well. Actually, there’s almost nothing new exposed about Chloe, the would-be journalist from volume one who I thought was intended to be the main focus of the series. The view flips between her and Astrid often, but rather than giving an all-encompassing view, this only ensures that readers never really get the full picture of what is going on.

Which means that little to no answers are given in this volume, at least until the very end. The conclusion of this volume hints that all will be revealed, or at least placed out in greater detail, in the next set of issues. Still, it would be nice to be thrown a little something every once in a while, apart from gratuitous violence and proving just how far these monsters are willing to go to harm these people. Again, there are the chillingly creative panels where the monsters demonstrate just how monstrous they can be.

Still. I would have been more pleased with this follow-up if it was more story and answers (or, even, more interesting questions) than perpetuating over and over again the power these monsters have to manipulate the people. That was clear from the first issue. Now it’s become redundant.

I’m determined, though, to see this through to the end, because it is an interesting concept, like nothing I’ve ever read before, and I want to see where they take the story. I’ll be going on to volume three.

I’d recommend this volume if you really like horror and gory intrigue. It definitely isn’t the type of graphic novel for people looking to read something happy.

2/5 stars

2 stars · fiction · science fiction

Clean Room Volume 1: a very gory, not very great, graphic novel

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Clean Room: Volume 1

Immaculte Conception

author : gail simone

illustrator : jon davis-hunt

pages : [paperback] 160

summary :

Journalist Chloe Pierce had no idea that her fiancée, Philip’s, decision to pick up a book by enigmatic and compelling self-help guru, Astrid Mueller, would change her life forever: by ending his! Three months after reading Mueller’s book, Philip had blown his brains out all over Chloe’s new kitchen and something in that book made him do it.
Now, Chloe will stop at nothing as she attempts to infiltrate Mueller’s clandestine organization to find the truth behind Philip’s suicide and a “Clean Room” that she’s heard whispers of–a place where your deepest fears are exposed and your worst moments revealed.

review :

I started reading this series because my library let me know about an app called Hoopla, where I can download a certain number of titles per month with my library card. This comic popped up under the popular section, I saw that all three volumes were available for download, and in I dove.

I’m still not quite certain what I’m getting myself into.

Clean Room: Immaculate Conception relies on an interesting mix of intrigue and horror to pull along the story. So mysterious, in fact, that I’m still not altogether certain the story needs to be stretched so far. Many panels are meant to convey that there are things going on that the reader doesn’t know about, that the characters haven’t yet pieced together, and that they hadn’t decided to give us all of the details on yet.

This volume has an interesting ending, giving just enough that I immediately downloaded the next volume. But it didn’t leave me sitting with anything particularly worthwhile. Nothing that I might want to recommend, or think about afterward. I can sort of see what lengths the comic is trying to reach toward–an interesting kind of twist on people being able to see monsters, and what exactly those monsters are, and how they factor into the mythology of the world.

Still, I feel like this volume reads mostly like horror, from the gruesome panels contained within. If you have a weak stomach, or don’t want to be scarred for life by the admittedly inventive and creative terrors living in these pages, stay away. If you like that sort of thing, maybe you’ll like Immaculate Conception more than I did.

2/5 stars

1 star · romance · young adult

once and for all by sarah dessen is, for once, 1/5 stars

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once and for all

author : sarah dessen

pages : [hardcover] 358

memorable quote :

It’s about the courage to go for what you want, not just what you think you need. 

favorite character : ira

summary :

As bubbly as champagne and delectable as wedding cake, Once and for All, Sarah Dessen’s thirteenth novel, is set in the world of wedding planning, where crises are routine.

Louna, daughter of famed wedding planner Natalie Barrett, has seen every sort of wedding: on the beach, at historic mansions, in fancy hotels and clubs. Perhaps that’s why she’s cynical about happily-ever-after endings, especially since her own first love ended tragically. When Louna meets charming, happy-go-lucky serial dater Ambrose, she holds him at arm’s length. But Ambrose isn’t about to be discouraged, now that he’s met the one girl he really wants.

Sarah Dessen’s many, many fans will adore her latest, a richly satisfying, enormously entertaining story that has everything—humor, romance, and an ending both happy and imperfect, just like life itself.

review :

This is the first Sarah Dessen book I’ve ever read that I wished I DNF’d.

love Sarah Dessen. I think a lot of YA readers go through a phase between those pre-teen and teenage years where they discover Dessen, and her writing, and the wonderfully beachy, romantic, comedic, quirky books she writes. I love how each of her books references characters in the others. I love that feeling that there’s this town where all of the people are meeting and falling hopelessly, madly in love with one another in adorable ways.

I didn’t get any of that from Once and For All.

To be fair, I knew nothing about this book going in, because since high school Sarah Dessen has been on my auto-buy list. New book coming out? Say no more. I’ll end up reading it at some point. Quite the feat, because I can only name two contemporary writers on that auto-buy list, and not many more where I’ve loved their books. Contemporary, usually, isn’t the genre for me. I saw a copy of this book at my local Target that was autographed, freaked out a little, and immediately knew it had to come home with me. And so it began.

Once and For All is about Louna, who works for her mother’s wedding planning company even though she’s cynical about love because of a certain tragic backstory and doesn’t plan to follow the career past her last summer before college. Which was a little disappointing, because I feel like there was so much focus on her job, and it would have been nice if she’d been a little more enthusiastic about it. After all, she’s annoyed whenever anything goes wrong or a certain someone bumbles through her day, but she’s never happy about . . . anything. Even if it isn’t a lifetime career goal it would have been nice to see her involved, maybe with the creative aspects, or . . . Actually, I don’t think we were given any indication of what Louna would like to do besides this. And it’s fine, not to have your life set in stone when you’re eighteen, but it would have been better to know what she’s passionate about, or even just likes, rather than her moping around all of the time.

Another huge chunk of the plot concerns a bet that seems like a common staple in romantic comedy movies but I’m not sure I’ve read about in a YA book before. Rather than taking an unexpected or even whole-heartedly romantic turn like I’d hoped, it turned into something very predictable, very cliche, and very disappointing.

I may be one of the rare ones who doesn’t need to sworn over the romantic lead in my contemporary romance to ‘get it’. All I need is a good character. And I’m not sure I got even that much. Ambrose is very . . . quirky. And so not ready for a serious relationship, which I guess would be the only thing to save Louna from a certain tragic backstory.

Which . . . I’m not certain of how that was meant to fit into the rest of the plot. It happened five months before the book starts, I think, but everyone is already pressuring her to move on and basically find true love when she’s barely eighteen. Everyone in this book, Louna and Ambrose included, just needed to take a little time to just sit back and enjoy themselves a little.

While it was boring, the writing wasn’t absolutely terrible. I’ll still try more of Sarah Dessen’s books in the future. But I’m afraid that, now that we’ve hit book thirteen, if she doesn’t mix something up, the stories will always end up this bland.

1/5 stars

 

5 stars · children's books · fiction

imaginary fred by eoin colfer & oliver jeffers is the book all kids and grown-ups need

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imaginary fred

authors : eoin colfer & oliver jeffers

pages : [hardcover] 48

summary :

A quirky, funny, and utterly irresistible story from Eoin Colfer and Oliver Jeffers, two of the finest children’s book creators on the planet.

Did you know that sometimes, with a little electricity, or luck, or even magic, an imaginary friend might appear when you need one? An imaginary friend like Fred.

Fred floated like a feather in the wind until Sam, a lonely little boy, wished for him and, together, they found a friendship like no other.

The perfect chemistry between Eoin Colfer’s text and Oliver Jeffers’s artwork makes for a dazzlingly original picture book.

review :

I never had an imaginary friend when I was younger. Maybe because I had books instead.

That sounds incredibly corny, but it was true. Whenever I was lonely, I could always find someone to be friends with me, and maybe fictional characters are their own kind of imaginary friends. I’ve been obsessed with them long enough to not really know the difference.

Imaginary Fred is an amazingly cute, quirky story about what it is to be a friend, what it is to be recognized, and what great things the imagination can do for you. Sam has always wanted a friend, and Fred has had many people befriend him during his imaginary friend gig . . . but they all, inevitably find real friends for themselves. And forget all about him.

Sam and Fred have an amazing relationship and friendship and I love all of the messages told in this story. I don’t want to spoil any of them (and, really, this book is short enough, so you need to go and read it yourself if you’re so curious, and just because it’s that good). Messages about friendship, about identity, creativity, love, caring, altruism . . .

And, yes, I know children’s books always have some kind of hidden agenda, right? They’re always trying to teach something. Or at least a lot of tiny little things. Imaginary Fred does it right because while the messages aren’t hidden, they aren’t spelled out for the kids, either. It lets younger readers do all of the critical thinking on their own.

But, really, the illustrations and story are cute enough for readers of any age.

5/5 stars

 

2 stars · fiction · young adult

I Hate Everyone but You

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i hate everyone but you

authors : gaby dunn & allison raskin

pages : [arc] 352

summary :

Dear Best Friend,
I can already tell that I will hate everyone but you.
Sincerely,
Ava Helmer
(that brunette who won’t leave you alone)

We’re still in the same room, you weirdo.
Stop crying.
G

So begins a series of texts and emails sent between two best friends, Ava and Gen, as they head off to their first semesters of college on opposite sides of the country. From first loves to weird roommates, heartbreak, self-discovery, coming out and mental health, the two best friends will document every moment to each other. But as each changes and grows into her new life, will their friendship be able to survive the distance?

review:

I received an ARC from Wednesday books in exchange for my honest review. 

I was so excited to read this book, because books with a unique text format are always something that I’m going to reach for an try out. I Hate Everyone But You is told in text messages and emails between two best friends who are separated from one another by over 3,000 miles as they navigate freshman year at college. All of the exploration, romance, and fun that comes with attending college, wrapped into an important relationship between two teenagers.

Unfortunately, it was a cute concept with little execution.

Before getting into that, I would like to note what I did love about this book. I loved that Ava, one of the main characters, has a variety of disorders–I say variety because she mentions problems with OCD, anxiety, and depression, though we can’t be entirely certain what her diagnosis is. I don’t say I loved this because I want anyone to go through this–mental illness is horrible. But it’s so rare to find YA in which a main character having even one of those mental illnesses isn’t the actual plot of the book. Yes, it certainly affects Ava, and the course of the novel, and even Gen, but this isn’t a book about OCD, or anxiety, or depression. It’s about Ava and Gen. And I loved that. The characters don’t define themselves by these illnesses, and knowing how many younger readers will be picking up this book because the authors both publish videos on YouTube, that’s an incredibly important message to send out.

The thing that had me most reluctant to review I Hate Everyone But You is because I could never quite find the plot in it. The way that it ends, the authors may be setting up for a possible sequel, because it just ends. Many things that I thought might be resolved, like romance and personal issues that I won’t get into for fear of spoiling anything, tapered down to a rushed ending.

Throughout the novel, it was extremely hard to discern one voice from the other. Ava and Gen blended together so completely that I often had to check the names in the headers of their emails to determine who was who. As best friends, I know their writing would have some overlap, but with such distinctive personalities, their text speech should have differed more as well. The texts were more confusing to read than the emails, as using icons next to their names was a cute idea but forced me to triple-check which icon belonged to who each time a conversation started.

And then there was the date rape joke.

We arrived at ZBT to a line of freshman pledges handing out tropical punch and leis. The party had a jungle theme and probably at least one case of date rape. (I’m joking. I hope.)

(This is a quote from the ARC, so I plan to check this quote against the finished copy when the book is released on September 5th.)

I simply don’t understand when people will stop thinking that rape jokes are funny. With all of the other huge issues in this book, with Gen and Ava navigating what is appropriate/inappropriate to say in LGBTQ+ spaces–those conversations were great. I feel like these lines by Ava could have sparked another discussion. One that reiterated how not okay it is to make light of date rape, because there are still so many men and women whose experiences and traumas are invalidated.

That was the biggest problem I had with this book.

I know many readers and reviewers will also feed into the controversy of YouTube personalities filtering into the publishing industry these days. I’ve personally never watched either author’s videos, but I feel like that shouldn’t matter. Whether someone has striven to become an author since they were a kid or they only decided to write because they already had a fanbase, the book is still going to be judged on its own. I Hate Everyone But You just didn’t hold up for me.

Is this the last we’ll see of Gen and Ava? Maybe not, if this book does well. But it’s certainly the last I’ll see of them.

2/5 stars

 

2 stars · fiction · young adult

She, Myself, & I by Emma Young: bland writing, cool concept

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She, Myself, & I

author : emma young

pages : [hardcover] 384

favorite character : rosa

summary :

Ever since Rosa’s nerve disease rendered her quadriplegic, she’s depended on her handsome, confident older brother to be her rock and her mirror. But when a doctor from Boston chooses her to be a candidate for an experimental brain transplant, she and her family move from London in search of a miracle. Sylvia—a girl from a small town in Massachusetts—is brain dead, and her parents have agreed to donate her body to give Rosa a new life. But when Rosa wakes from surgery, she can’t help but wonder, with increasing obsession, who Sylvia was and what her life was like. Her fascination with her new body and her desire to understand Sylvia prompt a road trip based on self-discovery… and a surprising new romance. But will Rosa be able to solve the dilemma of her identity?

review :

I received an ARC of She, Myself, & I from BookCon and while I am exceptionally thankful for that, it in no way affects my review.

I wanted to love this book. From the minute I read the summary, I knew I had to get my hands on it, and my friend and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time during BookCon to grab an ARC. I guess the only book I could possibly compare it to is that Meg Cabot novel about the girl who has her brain placed inside the body of a celebrity. This is nothing like that.

Rosa is in many ways a typical teenager. Her brother is simultaneously annoying and a best friend; she has friends online across the world she’ll probably never meet in real life; her parents hover a little too much. But she’s also been diagnosed with a real, debilitating, terminal illness. Her independence has slowly been taken away by this neurological disorder that isn’t ever named (so far as I know) and the specifics of which remain vague. Still, it’s shown that the longer it progresses, the less Rosa has a chance at life.

Until tragedy strikes, and one family is losing their teenage daughter. But for Rosa, this means she might get to live.

I love how She, Myself, & I addressed so many questions that there aren’t really answers to–ethical, spiritual, physical. One brain, one body–so is it all Rosa? Is anything left of the dead girl? As painful as it was, I loved that struggle, because it made it feel so much more real. Rosa’s questioning her own soul, what it means now that all that’s left of her old self is her brain.

While the ideas and themes were great, the writing just didn’t do it for me. The dialogue was fairly bland and the writing was quick, simplistic, and not very descriptive. The romance felt a little forced for me, less insta-love and more like Rosa picked the best out of all of her options and simply went for it. I didn’t feel much chemistry between them, and honestly thought it would have been more interesting had they remained simply friends. The book didn’t particularly need the romance; it didn’t improve from it, and Rosa is already dealing with so many other changes I feel like the focus should have remained on them.

There were a few other plot points that fell flat for me, but I won’t mention them because I don’t want to give out any spoilers. That’s because I know there will be people who love this book more than I did. I really want to read more of Emma Young’s writing in the future because I can see the potential here and feel like her perfect book for me simply hasn’t been written yet.

I probably won’t go around recommending this book, but I’ll certainly hand it off to someone else so they’ll have the chance to read it.

2/5 stars