Wednesday, December 27, 2017

End of Year Survey 2017

Here we go! This is the 8th annual End of Year Survey that was started by Jamie of The Perpetual Page-Turner. I didn't bother last year (since I only read 3 books... *cough*), but this year was a little more productive, reading-wise. So, without further ado, here's what I read in 2017:

2017 Reading Stats

Number of books you read: 24
Number of re-reads: 0
Genre you read the most from: fantasy

Best in Books

1. Best book you read in 2017? 
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson.

2. Book you were excited about & thought you were going to love more but didn't? 
The New Hunger by Isaac Marion. I'm glad I read it, but I didn't like it as much as I thought I would.

3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read? 
The Princess and the Penis by R. J. Silver. I enjoyed it way more than I thought I would!

4. Book you “pushed” the most people to read (and they did)?
Come on... I don't have that kind of influence! Nobody even reads this blog anymore...

5. Best series you started in 2017? Best sequel of 2017? Best series ender of 2017?
Best series starter is Scott Westerfeld's Spill Zone. I only read one prequel this year. No sequels at all.

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2017?
I'd love to read more from Aaron Corwin... but he hasn't written anything else!

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?
I went on a graphic novel kick at the end of the year... and now I'm hooked! Roller Girl was the best one I read in 2017.

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?
One Trick Pony by Nathan Hale.

9. Book you read in 2017 that you are most likely to re-read next year?
I don't re-read. Who has time for that?

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2017?
A Day of Signs and Wonders by Kit Pearson. The watercolour look fits with the story perfectly.

11. Most memorable character of 2017?
Ix'thor from Brimstone and Marmalade by Aaron Corwin. (Okay, so the story's from 2013... but it was the most memorable character for me in 2017.)

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2017?
I didn't read any books this year where the writing really wowed me.

13. Most thought-provoking/life-changing book of 2017?
I don't think any of my reads this year really fall into that category.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2017 to finally read?
The New Hunger by Isaac Marion. I loved Warm Bodies so much, you'd think I would've read this prequel ages ago!

15. Favorite passage/quote from a book you read in 2017?
Nothing is permanent. Not even the end of the world. ~ The New Hunger by Isaac Marion

16.Shortest & longest book you read in 2017?
Shortest: The Log Goblin by Brian Staveley (12 pages).
Longest: One by Sarah Crossan (400 pages).

17. Book that shocked you the most?
The Beach at Night by Elena Ferrante. Mostly because you don't expect to find the word "shit" in a children's picture book.

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!):
Soupy and Jack from Soupy Leaves Home by Cecil Castellucci. I don't know if it was intended as a ship or not... but I shipped them anyway!

19. Favorite non-romantic relationship of the year:
Nora and Addis (sister and little brother) from The New Hunger by Isaac Marion.

20. Favorite book you read in 2017 from an author you’ve read previously:
A Day of Signs and Wonders by Kit Pearson. I prefer some of her other books with fantasy elements, though.

21. Best book you read in 2017 that you read based SOLELY on a recommendation from somebody else/peer pressure:
I don't succumb to peer pressure! Never mind the fact that this requires you to have peers to pressure you. Not that I'm peerless. Ahem... What was the question again?

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2017?
This was kind of a dry year for fictional crushes. I wasn't that keen on anyone.

23. Best 2017 debut you read?
I didn't read any.

24. Best worldbuilding/most vivid setting you read this year?
Fish Girl by Donna Jo Napoli & David Wiesner. Being a graphic novel helped... but the setting (an old house converted into an aquarium as a boardwalk attraction) was pretty unique in and of itself.

25. Book that put a smile on your face/was the most FUN to read?
A Wee Book o Fairy Tales in Scots by Matthew Fitt and James Robertson. It was hard to read... but fun, too.

26. Book that made you cry or nearly cry in 2017?
Brimstone and Marmalade by Aaron Corwin. Nearly. My eyes got misty, I'll admit.

27. Hidden gem of the year?
From 2017? I don't know. Any of the titles I'd consider hidden gems (Brimstone and Marmalade or The Princess & the Penis) were written in previous years.

28. Book that crushed your soul?
The New Hunger, I guess. I wouldn't say it crushed it, though; maybe just bruised it a bit.

29. Most unique book you read in 2017?
The Princess and the Penis. Come on. How often do you get to read about a character that's an actual dick?

30. Book that made you the most mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?
If I Wake by Nikki Moyes. The bullying/suicide angle was handled atrociously. Plus, I got attacked by a fanpoodle for sharing my thoughts. A bitter taste all around for this one.

Looking Ahead

1. One book you didn’t get to in 2017 but will be your number 1 priority in 2018?
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. It's been sitting in my TBR pile for way too long.

2. Book you are most anticipating for 2018 (non-debut)?
Naomi Novik's Spinning Silver sounds intriguing.

3. 2018 debut you are most anticipating?
C. G. Drews's A Thousand Perfect Notes. I've read her blog for years, so I'm curious to see how her style will translate into novel form.

4. Series ending/a sequel you are most anticipating in 2018?
The second installment of Scott Westerfeld's Spill Zone graphic novel series.

5. One thing you hope to accomplish or do in your reading/blogging life in 2018?
Read more books that I actually enjoy.

6. A 2018 release you’ve already read & recommend to everyone (if applicable):
I haven't read any 2018 releases yet.

And here are a few more stats, just because I felt like it:

Type of Book

graphic novel: 8
picture book: 5
poetry: 1
prose novel: 6
short stories: 3
verse novel: 1

Genre

contemporary: 4
fantasy: 9
historical: 3
memoir: 1
post-apocalyptic: 3
science fiction: 4

And there you have it! My year in books. Head on over to Jamie's site where others have linked up their surveys.

Happy reading in 2018, everyone!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Review - Roller Girl

Roller Girl
by Victoria Jamieson
Date: 2015
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
Reading level: MG
Book type: graphic novel
Pages: 240
Format: e-book
Source: library

The Newbery Honor Award Winner and New York Times bestseller Roller Girl is a heartwarming graphic novel about friendship and surviving junior high through the power of roller derby—perfect for fans of Raina Telgemeier's Smile!

For most of her twelve years, Astrid has done everything with her best friend Nicole. But after Astrid falls in love with roller derby and signs up for derby camp, Nicole decides to go to dance camp instead. And so begins the most difficult summer of Astrid's life as she struggles to keep up with the older girls at camp, hang on to the friend she feels slipping away, and cautiously embark on a new friendship. As the end of summer nears and her first roller derby bout (and junior high!) draws closer, Astrid realizes that maybe she is strong enough to handle the bout, a lost friendship, and middle school... in short, strong enough to be a roller girl.

In this graphic novel debut that earned a Newbery Honor and five starred reviews, real-life derby girl Victoria Jamieson has created an inspiring coming-of-age story about friendship, perseverence, and girl power!

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This will likely be my last read of the year, so I'm super happy it was such a good one!

I'll admit to being swayed by the Newbery sticker on the cover. I've had pretty good luck with Newbery Honor and Award winners, so I expected this would be an enjoyable read. I just wasn't prepared for how much I would like it.

The story is so well done, incorporating aspects of roller derby into a contemporary tale about friendship and growing up. Astrid's issues with her friend Nicole rang so true. Sometimes we do change as we grow up, and that can make friendships change... or even suffer. I thought this part of the story was particularly well done. I also loved all the roller derby stuff: the funky names, the attention-grabbing outfits, the rules of the game. If there's one downside to this book, it's that girls reading it might start begging their parents to let them give roller derby a try. It looks like so much fun!

The illustrations were absolutely adorable. Astrid's facial expressions captured her moods and her character perfectly. Some of the graphic novels I've read recently have been done in monochromatic palettes. But Roller Girl is in glorious full colour. (When there's a character named Rainbow Bite, why would you not take advantage of that?)

I'm so glad I picked up this book. I wish it had been around when I was a middle grader. Who knows? Maybe I would've ended up a roller girl, too!

Plot: 5/5
Characters: 5/5
Pace: 4/5
Writing & Editing: 4/5
Illustration: 5/5
Originality: 5/5

Enjoyment: 5/5

Overall Rating: 4.75 out of 5 ladybugs

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Review - The Log Goblin

The Log Goblin
by Brian Staveley
Date: 2015
Publisher: Tor Books
Reading level: A
Book type: short story
Pages: 12
Format: e-book
Source: Tor.com

On a cold winter's night, a goblin is caught stealing firewood. Then things start getting weird.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I don't know. This story didn't really thrill me. It's extremely short, and while it did establish a good setting and painted the character of the goblin fairly well, there wasn't that much plot. The whole thing reads more like a scene from a story rather than a whole story.

I guess the point is about appreciating the little things and living in the moment. Still, I would've liked a bit more plot to help flesh things out.

Quotable moment:

I caught him the next night. I stayed up late, waiting inside until full dark, then pulling on my coat and boots to go stand guard. It was cold enough that the snow squeaked. The stars were knife-sharp. I waited with my hands stuffed in my pockets, shivering and feeling foolish. I was about to head inside when I heard him coming, huffing and cursing and muttering as he made his way up out of the woods, struggling through the deep drifts toward my shed.

Plot: 2/5
Characters: 3/5
Pace: 4/5
Writing & Editing: 4/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall Rating: 2.86 out of 5 ladybugs

Review - Spill Zone

Spill Zone (Spill Zone #1)
by Scott Westerfeld
illustrated by Alex Puvilland & Hilary Sycamore
Date: 2017
Publisher: First Second
Reading level: YA
Book type: graphic novel
Pages: 224
Format: e-book
Source: library

Nobody's ever really explained the Spill. Was it an angelic visitation? A nanotech accident? A porthole opening from another world? Whatever it was, no one's allowed in the Spill Zone these days except government scientists and hazmat teams. But a few intrepid explorers know how to sneak through the patrols and steer clear of the dangers inside the Zone. Addison Merrick is one such explorer, dedicated to finding out what happened that night, and to unraveling the events that took her parents and left her little sister mute and disconnected from the world.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

It's been a while since I've read a book that has me really looking forward to the sequel. I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. It turned out to be a sort of post-apocalyptic thriller with some very creepy creatures. I can't wait to see where this one is going next!

Addison supports herself and her little sister by taking pictures (illegally) inside the Zone. Her forays into the wasteland are interesting enough... but now we've got a plot thread involving the North Koreans (who had their own Spill) and some sort of superpowers.

Some of the images are pretty disturbing, and there's quite a bit of foul language (so if you're sensitive to that, you might want to give this one a pass). I'd say it falls within the young adult category because of these things.

There are so many questions I want answered. What exactly did the Spill spill? What happened to the animals and people within the Zone? What's the deal with Addy's little sister? Where is this all headed?

I guess I'll have to wait until 2018 to find out!

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Pace: 4/5
Writing & Editing: 4/5
Illustration: 4/5
Originality: 5/5

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall Rating: 4.13 out of 5 ladybugs

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Review - One Trick Pony

One Trick Pony
by Nathan Hale
Date: 2017
Publisher: Amulet Books
Reading level: MG
Book type: graphic novel
Pages: 128
Format: e-book
Source: library

The aliens have arrived. And they’re hungry for electricity. In the Earth of the future, humans are on the run from an alien force—giant blobs who suck up electrical devices wherever they can find them. Strata and her family are part of a caravan of digital rescuers, hoping to keep the memory of civilization alive by saving electronics wherever they can. Many humans have reverted to a pre-electrical age, and others have taken advantage of the invasion to become dangerous bandits and outlaws. When Strata and her brother are separated from the caravan, they must rely on a particularly beautiful and rare robot pony to escape the outlaws and aliens—and defeat the invaders once and for all.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

First, let's get the weirdly sexist blurb out of the way. This book is not about Strata and her brother. In fact, it's not even just Strata and her brother who get separated from the caravan. Their male friend is with them as well. I have no idea why the blurb makes it sound like a brother/sister act, because in reality, Strata saves the day while the boys do nothing helpful; in fact, they manage to get themselves captured and nearly killed.

So, setting that aside, what do we have? A pretty entertaining graphic novel. It's funny that I picked this up at the same time as Doug TenNapel's Ghostopolis. Both had a sequence with an unusual horse saving its teenage rider from a group of monsters using the exact same trick. The panels were almost identical! Whether Hale read Ghostopolis and decided to use the same sequence, I don't know; I just thought it was an amusing coincidence.

Unlike Ghostopolis, this is a darker story, even though it's intended for a younger audience. The post-apocalyptic landscape was creepy, and the aliens (called pipers because of the pi-pi-pi noise they make) were downright horrifying. I'm kind of glad this one was done with a monochromatic scheme, because full colour might've given me nightmares.

The story was quite imaginative, and I liked the whole idea of the world that was built here. I do have one major complaint with the story, however, and that was the ending. It was way too abrupt. If there was ever a book that needed an epilogue, it's this one.

My other complaint is about a minor (but still irritating) issue. This graphic novel had the smallest text I've seen so far. I couldn't even read it on a 21" monitor without having to zoom in. That's part of the reason why it took me so long to get through it, even though it's fairly short. Zoom, scroll, click... It was kind of a waste of time. And it's not like there wasn't room for larger text. I have a feeling that if I'd read this in physical form, I would've needed a magnifying glass.

All in all, this is a cool story with decent characters and some wonderfully horrible villains. Oh, and a title that makes perfect sense once you read the book. But I won't spoil that for you. Go check it out for yourself!

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 3/5
Pace: 3/5
Writing & Editing: 3/5
Illustration: 3/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall Rating: 3.25 out of 5 ladybugs

Friday, December 8, 2017

Review - Ghostopolis

Ghostopolis
by Doug TenNapel
Date: 2010
Publisher: Graphix
Reading level: YA
Book type: graphic novel
Pages: 272
Format: e-book
Source: library

Imagine Garth Hale's surprise when he's accidentally zapped to the spirit world by Frank Gallows, a washed-out ghost wrangler. Suddenly Garth finds he has powers the ghosts don't have, and he's stuck in a world run by the evil ruler of Ghostopolis, who would use Garth's newfound abilities to rule the ghostly kingdom. When Garth meets Cecil, his grandfather's ghost, the two search for a way to get Garth back home, and nearly lose hope until Frank Gallows shows up to fix his mistake.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

WARNING: Minor spoilers! To read the version with spoilers hidden, check out my review at Goodreads.

This was a surprisingly quick read for the length of the book, but that's probably because this graphic novel's a bit lighter on text than some of the others I've read. The synopsis made it sound like a fun read, and it was... in places. But the book had some problems. Plus, I don't think I was the intended audience.

At times, I wasn't sure what age group this book was aimed at. Some of the subject matter was heavy (a kid with a terminal illness, as well as the relationship between Frank and his ex), and that threw me because my first impression was that this was a middle grade title. It's actually supposed to be aimed at teenagers, which is a bit confusing, given some of the humour that seems like it was directed at 10-year-old boys.

The characters were a mixed bag for me. Some were incredibly creative (especially in the afterlife realm), but others were annoying and left me kind of cold. Frank, in particular, I didn't really like; he came across as a petulant little kid, though he was supposed to be a mature adult. Claire's werewolf uncle was actually pretty hilarious (I want a book just about him!) and the villain was suitably nasty. The skeleton horse was probably my favourite character, even though he didn't talk. Garth, though, as the main character, was kind of underdeveloped. And I had a big problem with his illness.

See, he doesn't appear to be sick. He's supposedly dying (from what, we're never told), and yet he doesn't have any symptoms. He doesn't appear to be having any sort of treatment, either. Unfortunately, this makes the whole illness aspect seem like a cheap plot device (especially when he finds out that there's going to be a cure for his disease, so he's not going to die after all). I don't think this would play very well to kids who are actually sick.

Overall, I have mixed feelings about this one. The world-building is cute and some of the characters are amusing, but I felt like it was aimed at much younger readers and I can't get behind a book that trivializes serious illness.

Plot: 2/5
Characters: 3/5
Pace: 3/5
Writing & Editing: 2/5
Illustration: 3/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall Rating: 2.5 out of 5 ladybugs

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Review - Soupy Leaves Home

Soupy Leaves Home
by Cecil Castellucci
illustrated by Jose Pimienta
Date: 2017
Publisher: Dark Horse Books
Reading level: MG
Book type: graphic novel
Pages: 208
Format: e-book
Source: library

Pearl -Soupy- Plankette ran away from her abusive father, but has nowhere to go until she stumbles upon a disguise that gives her the key to a new identity. Reborn as a boy named Soupy, she hitches her star to Remy -Ramshackle- Smith, a hobo who takes her under his wing. Ramshackle's kindness and protection go a long way to help Soupy heal from her difficult past. But Ramshackle has his own demons to wrestle with, and he'll need Soupy just as much as she needs him.

Set in 1932, this is the story of two misfits with no place to call home, who build a relationship during a train hopping journey from the cold heartbreak of their eastern homes toward the sunny promise of California.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this one, other than that it's a historical graphic novel. It takes place during the Great Depression, and offers the reader a glimpse of the hobo lifestyle.

At first, I wasn't thrilled with the style, as it appears to be monochromatic. It is... but those colour palettes change throughout the book. While we never get true full-colour illustrations, the pops of contrast work well enough to highlight certain important objects and plot points in the story.

The book is a little light on plot, and I didn't really find the ending believable (given Soupy's reasons for having left home in the first place); it just seemed a little too neat and convenient to me. The characterization was also mixed. I thought Soupy could've been developed a little more, given that she was the main character, and I also would've liked to learn more about Professor Jack (that guy's got to have a backstory). Ramshackle was probably developed the best, although he came across as a little too philosophical for my taste (and I'm not sure how that would play with the book's intended audience).

The real strengths of this one are its setting and history. I learned things I didn't know about riding the rails, and about hobos themselves. Did you know there's a difference between a hobo, a tramp, and a bum? Well, there is, as one character explains. There's also a neat glossary of hobo symbols at the end, so you can go back and see the messages that Soupy and Ramshackle encountered on their journey.

Overall, it was a decent read, but not one I'm that excited about. It had its moments of lovely writing, and a good historical foundation, but the story itself wasn't that memorable. I can see it as a good addition to a history class for middle graders, though.

Plot: 2/5
Characters: 3/5
Pace: 2/5
Writing & Editing: 4/5
Illustration: 3/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall Rating: 2.86 out of 5 ladybugs

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Review - Wires and Nerve, Volume 1

Wires and Nerve, Volume 1 (Wires and Nerve #1)
by Marissa Meyer
illustrated by Douglas Holgate
Date: 2017
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Reading level: YA
Book type: graphic novel
Pages: 238
Format: e-book
Source: library

When rogue packs of wolf-hybrid soldiers threaten the tenuous peace alliance between Earth and Luna, Iko takes it upon herself to hunt down the soldiers' leader. She is soon working with a handsome royal guard who forces her to question everything she knows about love, loyalty, and her own humanity. With appearances by Cinder and the rest of the Rampion crew, this is a must-have for fans of the series.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

First, a disclaimer: I'm not a huge fan of The Lunar Chronicles. In fact, I could only push myself to get through the first two books. But since I'm on a graphic novel kick at the moment, I thought I'd give this one a try.

Presumably, you don't have to have read any of the books in the other series for this one to make sense. All the characters are introduced at the beginning, and we're given a basic run-down of the events that took place in TLC. So even though I hadn't read Cress or Winter, I still understood what was going on.

Unfortunately, however, I just didn't care what was going on. The whole thing fell kind of flat for me, and I think that if I hadn't read Cinder and Scarlet, it would've been even worse. The characters are so underdeveloped that it made it really hard to care about them (especially the ones I wasn't familiar with). Iko herself was actually one of the worst. I knew her as a fun little robot who loved to gossip and play dress-up and dream of a certain handsome prince. But that's not really what we get here. I'm assuming her personality is supposed to be the same as before, even though she's in a new body, but I didn't really get that. Maybe it's the graphic novel format, but I didn't think any of the characters were developed particularly well. Iko, as the main character, should have more personality; unfortunately, her character development seems to rely too much on her arc in TLC... so if you haven't read any of those books, she's probably going to come across as quite dull.

As for the plot... well, there sort of is one, but it cut off at the weirdest place, just after the main conflict had been set up. I don't know if this is a comic book thing or what, but it just seemed weird to me. I'm used to stories having some sort of resolution to the main plot; even if there's a cliffhanger, there are usually other ends that are tied up before the next book. That's not the case here. We're introduced to the main problem (which is pretty much summed up in the blurb for the next volume), and then the book just ends.

I wasn't a fan of the art. It seemed too simplistic, and way too comic-bookish. The onomatopoeia didn't need to be written out as much as it was. The text was difficult to read, even on a 21" monitor, so trying to read this one on an e-book reader would probably be next to impossible. I also didn't like the monochrome palette; it was kind of boring (though I've just come off of two beautifully illustrated, full-colour graphic novels, so that may be colouring my judgment a little).

All in all, this is a series that will probably only appeal to fans of The Lunar Chronicles. If you haven't read any of those books, I'd recommend doing so first before trying this series.

Plot: 2/5
Characters: 3/5
Pace: 2/5
Writing & Editing: 3/5
Illustration: 1/5
Originality: 2/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall Rating: 2.13 out of 5 ladybugs