Thursday, July 10, 2014

Review: The Here and Now

Title: The Here and Now
Author: Ann Brashares
Genre: ya, sci-fi, romance
Published: 8 April 2014
Pages: 242
Rating: 3 / 10
Challenges: NetGalley Reading Challenge
Full Disclosure: I received a copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Follow the rules. Remember what happened. Never fall in love.

This is the story of seventeen-year-old Prenna James, who immigrated to New York when she was twelve. Except Prenna didn’t come from a different country. She came from a different time—a future where a mosquito-borne illness has mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins.

Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules: never reveal where they’re from, never interfere with history, and never, ever be intimate with anyone outside their community. Prenna does as she’s told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth.

But everything changes when Prenna falls for Ethan Jarves.

From Ann Brashares, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, The Here and Now is thrilling, exhilarating, haunting, and heartbreaking—and a must-read novel of the year. (from GoodReads)

My Review: This is a really difficult review to write. I actually finished the book over a month ago, but I kept putting off writing the review because I really, really didn't like it. I was so excited when I was approved for Anne Brashare's new book on NetGalley! I loved the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, so I expected to enjoy this story as well. Here's the thing, though: Prenna is really boring and dumb. Reading everything through her eyes was incredibly frustrating, because I wanted to shake her and point out all the clues that she was missing. I was also not a big fan of the romance. Ethan is a "nice guy," and while Prenna swooned over him from day one, I found him seriously suspect. By the end of the book, I felt as though I had read a story about Ethan's journey rather than Prenna's. Is it possible for a male character to be both a Mary Sue AND a Manic Pixie Dream Girl? The only thing I really enjoyed was the paradoxical implications inherent in time travel, and I really didn't feel like that was explored enough.

That said, I'm positive this book would be a big hit with my students. Between the pseudo-science, the dystopian future, and the romance it pretty much hits every YA trope on the BINGO card. The ending also leaves the story up to serialization, but I think it works better as a stand-alone.

Other Reviews:

If you have reviewed this book as well, leave me a message in the comments and I'll link to your review.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Tune in Tuesday: Heathers the Musical

Last month Jon and I went to New York for a few days. The impetus for the trip was the impeding end of the Colbert Report, for which Jon secured tickets after news broke that Stephen Colbert would be taking over for Letterman. In addition to that taping, I talked him into seeing Heathers: The Musical. I first heard about this potential disaster over a year ago, and I did not have high hopes. If you haven't seen the movie from the 80's, check it out on YouTube. It's one of my favorite black comedies and an inspiration for other films, such as Mean Girls and Jawbreaker.

The musical is nothing short of brilliant. I didn't have high expectations going in (especially given how cheap tickets turned out to be), but both Jon and I were completely blown away by the cast and the songs. I'm still singing them now, weeks later, and we've even ordered the soundtrack. (Fair warning: this musical is VERY MUCH NSFW.)

Here's a medley of a few songs being performed on stage (so you can get an idea of the set and costumes):

This is "Candy Store," one of Jon's favorites:

And "Dead Girl Walking" (my favorite):

If you have a chance to see this musical, DO IT!

Review: Black Canary and Zatanna: Bloodspell

Title: Black Canary and Zatanna: Bloodspell
Author: Paul Dini
Artist: Joe Quinones
Genre: graphic novel, fantasy
Published: 27 May 2014
Pages: 144
Rating: 10 / 10
Challenges: NetGalley Reading Challenge
Full Disclosure: I received a review copy of this OGN from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Black Canary. Zatanna Zatara. Two of the DC Universe's brightest stars join forces to combat a deadly new threat-a chilling supernatural foe that preys on their weaknesses and unleashes their awesome powers against each other.

A year ago, Black Canary infiltrated a gang of female criminals set to pull a dangerous heist at a Las Vegas casino. Its leader was skilled in hand-to-hand combat and with more than a passing interest in the occult, specifically black magic, one nasty customer. Rather than be taken by Canary or the law, she went to her death, vowing she would get revenge on Canary and her own former gang members. Now, a year to the day later, death stalks those gang members, and Canary must turn to her friend Zatanna to help investigate. (from GoodReads)

My Review: Compared to what's happening in the rest of the DC New 52 right now, this OGN was a much-needed breath of fresh air! The story opens with a meet-cute on the side of Mount Everest that gives readers a basic understanding of our two leads: Dinah is tough and no-nonsense, while Zatanna is unsure of herself and her abilities, but willing to take a risk. There's a sisterly vibe established here that stays with the girls throughout the rest of the story. They tease each other, but there's also a mutual trust and respect that readers can see forming from the get-go.

The "Bloodspell" referenced in the title comes from a heist that Black Canary is a part of several years after that initial meeting. Tina Spettro has brought together a group of girls to help her rob the casino of her one-time lover, and she uses black magic to ensure that they won't betray her. The heist goes sideways and Tina ends up dead, but not before an excellent and pun-filled fight between Tina and Dinah takes them all over Vegas. A year later, Dinah realizes that the other girls involved in the heist are dying under suspicious circumstances and she calls on Zatanna for help.

There are several things in this story that made me smile: the lack of pre-52 continuity (Ollie and Dina are still together!), cameos by other JLA members (Superman, Elongated Man, Hal Jordan, a pretty funny/awkward introduction to Martian Manhunter), the father-daughter dynamic, the fact that Zatanna's idea of a "road trip" includes a self-driving car, the clever uses of Zatanna's powers...I could go on, but one of the highlights is undoubtedly Joe Q's art. I loved his covers on the previous run of Captain Marvel and was really looking forward to seeing him take on interiors. I wasn't disappointed! He draws female superheros in a way that makes them look beautiful and strong without being overly porny. Dinah's muscles were believable and awesome, and both leads wear their fishnets without looking ridiculously sexy. They also seem to be genuine friends who enjoy hanging out together. It made me really miss the Stephanie Brown/Kara relationship in the old Batgirl series.

Basically, it's a light-hearted story with great cartooning from Joe Q. If you're looking for an introduction to superheros or just want to have fun with characters you love, check it out.

Other Reviews:

If you have reviewed this book as well, leave me a message in the comments and I'll link to your review.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Wednesday Comics for 25 June 2014

Batman #32: The penultimate Zero Year issue finds Batman being one-upped by the Riddler (again) before finding his hideout...and discovering that the Riddler is STILL one step ahead. There's a lot of tension building up, but considering the fact that Gotham is still standing five years in the future and all the major players are still alive, next month's conclusion seems pretty enevitable. Capullo's art is nothing short of amazing, and I'm impressed he's been able to consistently illustrate this series for so long. There's also a preview for the new Grayson series which seems interesting. 

Chew #42: I continue to love this series and everything about it. Tony is awesome and has really grown into a strong, confident agent. There are some nods to previous plot threads and hints (dire warnings?) about what is still to come. The highlight, however, will always be Rob Guillory's art:

That's a Quacken, but notice anything about the cephalopods around him? There was also a flash forward to issue 60 in one panel featuring gray-haired Tony. I'm relieved that he survives, but even more nervous about Colby's fate (especially given the "doomed weddings" book at his nuptials). Fingers crossed for a happy ending!

Justice League #31: The Forever Evil storyline is over (hooray!), but we're still dealing with the fallout. At least it's interesting! I'm really curious about Luthor's angle re: joining the Justice League, and I like the new "villain," Jessica, an unwilling barer of the Power Ring. Shazam is growing me, too, with his ping pong table obsession. 

Ms. Marvel #5: A perfect ending to this first arc, and the reveal of a villain weird enough to lead us into the next one. Kamala learns to use her powers to her advantage, and even gets a pretty cool costume (which I will be replicating for DragonCon). The family dynamic - especially the father-daughter heart-to-heart - is really touching, and a huge part of what makes this book so special. 

Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #6: The mini-series wraps up (mostly) happily, but still leaves the story open-ended enough for another volume (which, according to my sources, won't be happening any time soon). This issue seemed a bit short, but it could just be that there's so much that happened and it all jumbled a bit. Mal & co. have taken on two new crew members, and now there's a mysterious new person (a clone?) hot on their heels. I've really enjoyed getting back into the Firefly universe and am sad to see it end again, but at least we have new fodder for fanfic and the potential for another comic book series...someday. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

NYC 2014: Day Three

Today Jon and I mostly hung around Brooklyn. We went to a few comic book stores, found some interesting books, and made my traditional pilgrimage to the Way Station. We also went to the City Reliquary, which was full of interesting historical and cultural artifacts:

Brooklyn also has the best street art:

After spending the day in Brooklyn, we went to a live taping of the Comic Book Club podcast at a bar in Chinatown. I hadn't listened before, but I definitely will now! It was a lot of fun, and the guest tonight was Tom King, one of the writers on Grayson:

If you listen to the show, know that I was the only girl in the entire bar, and thus the only person clapping when the guys started asking about Dick Grayson butt shots. :)

I'm a Bill!

Which secondary Harry Potter character are you? Find out here!

Monday, June 09, 2014

NYC 2014: Day Two

Today Jon and I went to Midtown Comics, where we found some sweet variant covers:

I especially love the Katie Cook "Moooooo-n Knight." Most of these are by Scottie Young, so we can get them signed at Heroes Con in a couple weeks. 

For lunch, we went to this Southern fusion place, Vynl, that Jon found. I had the truffle mac & cheese, which was delicious, but my favorite thing was the ladies' bathroom:

That BeyoncĂ© mosaic was right over the toilet! They also played nothing but BeyoncĂ© in there. Jon said the men's room was the same, but with Michael Jackson. 

After lunch we walked to Hell's Kitchen for the event that was the impetus or our trip: The Colbert Report taping! We stood in line for several hours, but it worth it because we sat in the front row. We're going to watch tonight to see if we show up. 

Dinner was at a great ramen/dim sum place owned by a former Chinese child actor. :) Tomorrow: Brooklyn!

Sunday, June 08, 2014

NYC 2014: Day One

When I tried to document our trip to NYC last year, I didn't get very far. We'll see if this time goes better. :)

Jon and I woke up early, had some Sweet Hut buns (I seriously cannot wait until their Midtown location opens later this month), and drove to Hartsfield. Security has changed SO MUCH since last year: we were allowed to keep our shoes on, we didn't have to pull out our toiletry bags, and we were allowed to use  our phones (in airplane mode) during takeoff and landing. It's crazy. The flight was great - we flew Southwest, which we weird because they didn't assign seats. You just line up and sit wherever. 

When we arrived in LaGuardia, we took the bus/subway to Times Square and dropped our lone suitcase at the hotel. While we waited for check-in, we wandered around and saw the Puerto Rican Day Parade, the Lego Store, and Nintendo World:

After a nap and dinner (street car falafel, whut-what!), we went to see Heathers: The Musical. 

It was SO GREAT. Campy and hilarious and so so so much fun. The leads were amazing, and I will definitely be buying the soundtrack on June 17.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Wondrous Words Wednesday

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where you can share new words that you’ve encountered or spotlight words you love.

I found so many great new words while reading The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Creation!

1. "The ceiling was very low, with roots coming through, and everything had a genteel fade to it, the old lace and code-breaking machines, the anchors and heavy picture frames, the dinosaur bones and orreries." (12)

orrery - an apparatus showing the relative positions and motions of bodies in the solar system by balls moved by a clockwork

2. "In the midst of copper statues and fountains caked with verdigris rested three huge bathtubs." (58)

verdigris - a green or greenish-blue poisonous pigment resulting from the action of acetic acid on copper and consisting of one or more basic copper acetates

(I actually guessed this word had something to do with the color green just based on the root "verdi.")

3. "All traffic travels widdershins, September thought, giggling." (62)

widdershins - in a left-handed, wrong, or contrary direction

(This term gets referenced - and defined - later in the book, but I thought it was a great word! Also, a twitter friend of mine decided to start using it on the same day I found it in the book. That's quite a coincidence!)

4. "'The Changeling Recital at Dandytown Hall went off splendidly last week, featuring an orchestra of violins, oboes, one piano, a nickelstave, two tubas, a lorelei, and a full grummellphone section.'" (87)

lorelei - a siren of Germanic legend whose singing lures Rhine River boatmen to destruction on a reef

(Neither nickelstave nor grummellphone are in the dictionary, so I'm guessing they were made up. I ran into that A LOT in this book.)

5. "'My name is Doctor Fallow, and I am the Satrap of Autumn.'" (135)

satrap - the governor of a province in ancient Persia

6. "'Do you see an Order of the Green Kirtle on my chest?'" (166)

kirtle - a tunic or coat worn by men especially in the Middle Ages

7. "'What is an indirect dative reserved for things.'" (197)

dative - of, relating to, or being the grammatical case that marks typically the indirect object of a verb, the object of some prepositions, or a possessor

(Sadly, this is not the only grammatical term I've encountered recently that I didn't learn about in school!)

Those are the new words I learned this week! How about you?