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review 2016-12-31 00:00
The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch, Volume One: At the Edge of Empire
The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch, Volume One: At the Edge of Empire - Daniel Kraus I had no idea what I was getting into with The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch, but I wanted something fun and splashy to end 2016 and this sounded like it would be just the thing, with a little gore thrown in as a bonus (it had been a rough year).

Zebulon Finch is the darkest thing I've ever read in young adult. The books for that age range tend to delve deep into emotion and pain, but rarely do they go into the specifics of violence and horror that Zebulon witnesses and commits. On top of it you also have extended discussions on the terrifying processes of decomposition and aging. The horror! There is some humor to lighten things up, but not enough to take away the disturbing impact of what's going on.

Our anti-hero is Zebulon Finch, an amoral teenage thug who ends up shot in the back in 1894 when he's seventeen. He sits up a few minutes later, dead but still walking. The story tracks his movements from that moment to America's entrance into World War II. Along the way he ends up in a sideshow, works with a scientist who studies his condition and goes mad, fights in World War I and tries to build a life for himself in NYC and Hollywood. Misery and violence accompany him everywhere no matter what he tries to do.

There are moments of pure ick and, though this has nothing to do with The Walking Dead it has a similar pattern of progress being made until a reset button is hit and Zebulon ends up alone again. He doesn't feel like a hero, but he's drawn to do something, anything, with the strange existence he was given that has a purpose.

The pace can slog and like every teenager Zebulon tends to complain a lot: his skin not clearing up, his parents being weird, losing the girl, having his penis come off inside a woman
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review 2016-03-31 22:31
At the Edge of Empire
The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch, Volume One: At the Edge of Empire - Daniel Kraus

This is the type of book where it's either your cup of tea, or it isn't. I personally enjoyed this book very much, from the writing, to the characters, I thought it was really interesting.

The main complaint with this book is that it dragged on and didn't go anywhere, and I can understand why. The purpose of this story is to tell the life of Zebulon Finch, as narrated by Zebulon himself. It takes you from his childhood, to when he ran away from home, to him becoming a gangster and so on.

I enjoyed the writing of the novel, as well as the pace. With the exception of Zebulon getting extremely horny every once in a while at the sight of an attractive girl, there wasn't any purple prose, there was enough to paint a picture and keep things interesting. Zebulon's narration of his life was witty and honest, he didn't sugarcoat anything, even if it meant showing him in a bad light.

Every person that Zebulon meets serves a purpose in shaping in his character, and all of these people come back to him throughout his life and change it again. Every character in the story is different, has different personalities and stands out, I was actually able to remember them throughout the story. Sometimes these characters turned out to be exactly how you thought they would be, and sometimes they were a surprise and turned out to be someone completely different.

I liked the fact that the story actually acknowledges that Zebulon breaks every law of science and actually makes an attempt to discover as to how Zebulon is still functioning even though he is dead. The story doesn't ignore the fact that Zebulon's body is decaying because he is dead, how the sun and hot lights affect him, how he looks compared to everyone else.

Not every character that is introduced in the story is meant to be liked, in fact, most of them are terrible people, and yet, I didn't find myself hating them the same way that I have a burning hatred for two dimensional characters in other novels. You could understand them, for example, the Barker, he was a terrible man, but it was hard to hate him. He was struggling to survive, just like everyone else was, he did what he had to in order to survive. Zebulon himself isn't a very likeable person to begin with, and yet throughout the story, I didn't find myself necessarily liking him, but I could understand him as well as why he did the things that he did. He tried to right his wrongs throughout the novel, he tried to become a better person despite the fact that he failed continually. Every character in this book changed in some way, whether it was for the better or for the worse, they changed, and personally, I felt the character arcs were perfect.

The situations that Zebulon found himself in were especially interesting, so interesting that I had to plan time to read this book because once I started I couldn't stop reading. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but I would recommend giving it a shot just to see if you're interested.

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review 2015-08-13 21:28
Trollhunters by Daniel Kraus and Guillermo del Toro
Trollhunters (Spanish Edition) - Daniel Kraus,Guillermo del Toro

Trollhunters is being classified as a YA read, but I think I would recommend this book more toward the Middle Grade age children, 10-15, whichTrollhuntersIll01 makes sense as that’s the age range of the characters in the story. The co-author’s did a spectacular job of not talking down to their target audience, while also not writing a story that spoke over young teen heads. The pacing was action packed, and humorous. In fact, if I were going to critique the flow at all, I could say that the writing was so fast paced that at times I felt like I was missing something important, or only absorbing 80% of the story because everything just kept barreling forward.

That would be my only thought that could be considered on the negative side. Surprisingly, because I was nervous about it, I actually found that I liked Trollhunters more than I thought I would. It starts off in 1969 with Jimbo and Jack, Doctor X and Victor Power as they call themselves. The prologue sets up the story, gives us a quick dip into the underworld that Del Toro and Kraus have created, then moves on to present day and picks back up with Jim Jr. Reading about Jim and his best friend Tub takes us back to high school, bullies, and the struggles of just not fitting in without turning it into a serious book. Don’t go into this thinking that it’s about serious real world topics. The story is lighter than that. It’s funnier. The characters are exaggerations of real world types, which really fit with the fantastical troll storyTrollhuntersIll05.

Another aspect of Trollhunters that I really liked was the inclusion of a strong female character. There weren’t many girls, only one actually, but Claire was pretty spectacular. She was smarter, stronger, more assertive, unafraid and unapologetic. She could be charmed by snakes, because nobody is perfect, but once she realized that she was being manipulated she wasn’t afraid to stick up for herself and for her friends. I applaud the authors for giving little Jim a spectacular yin to his yang. I also applaud them for writing a unique female character, down to her style of clothing, her accent, her physical appearance… and then letting you see how all of her strangeness was beautiful. I hope as our children grow up, the next generation of readers, these types of women/girls become the norm because this is who I hope my daughter emulates.

Lastly, I am such a fan of illustrated fictional books. I don’t mean like Charlotte’s Web, or typical young child chapter books. Those are wonderful too, come on. Who doesn’t love Charlotte’s Web… but I mean the books with true artwork. Glossy pages, serious attention to detail, true TrollhuntersIll03beautiful artwork. Probably my absolute favorite representation of exactly what I mean is A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness and Illustrated by Jim Kay. Trollhunters contained such amazing full color artwork. You couldn’t help but pause each time one came up and stare at them, there was such detail. Each troll looked different, just as they should, and the images are as vibrant as described inside the pages. They are the perfect accompaniment to the story.

Basically, Trollhunters contained a cast of crazy characters as unique as those from Goonies with a plot that felt like a throwback to the 80’s Little Monsters (Howie Mandel, Fred & Ben Savage, monsters under your bed…). The trolls, one in particular, was as sweet and lovable as Ludo from Labyrinth. Trollhunters may be, in my opinion, targeted for that Middle Grade crowd but I think anyone who enjoys as fast, fun, magical read (either by yourself or with your kids) will be surprised by how much they enjoy this story, even if they’re (like me) hesitant to start it at first.

Thank you to Dysney-Hyperion for offering an advance copy of this book, in exchange for an honest review.

If you like this review, check out others like it at Badass Book Reviews.

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review 2015-07-29 02:29
Child me would have been utterly creeped out by this
Trollhunters - Guillermo del Toro,Daniel Kraus
Excellent blend of creeping horror and adventure. They type of book I would have hated as a child but all my friends would have loved.
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review 2015-05-25 00:00
Rotters - Daniel Kraus,Kirby Heyborne “People don’t see as much as you think.”

I just didn’t find this story as impressive as some people did, which is why I gave it three stars.

Joey Crouch is a sixteen year old who lives with his mother in Chicago until his mother dies in a car accident. He’s sent to Iowa to live with his father, but he’s never met him. His father is very weird, to say the least. At first, his father is gone a lot and Joey isn’t sure why and there’s never food in the house. Their house smells like rotting flesh and the smell sticks to his body when he goes to school. In school, he’s teased and bullied; his classmates call his father the trash man and some kick Joey in the balls just for the sheer pleasure of causing Joey pain. One of his teachers is abusive and likes to embarrass Joey in front of his class. He’s miserable and several times, he calls his Chicago friend Boris for help with no luck. Joey discovers what exactly his father does for a living and decides he wants to prove to his father that one, he’s not a wimp and two, he can be good at father’s job.

Joey is one of those characters that you’re not sure if you want to feel sorry for him or if you want to knock some common sense into him. The characterization is very well done – vivid personalities that leave you feeling frustrated and angry.

At times, the story was absurd, especially when his father was trying to teach him to dig faster, so he’d bury his homework six feet in the ground and woke him up at sunrise to retrieve his homework before school started. Who does that? That’s the weird father-son bonding that went on.

I listened to the audiobook and the narrator did an OK job. I heard about Rotters from my father. He read it and wouldn’t stop talking about it. He couldn’t believe it was classified as a YA book because of how graphic it was. He’s a horror fan and he said it was almost too graphic even for him to finish. That immediately got my attention, so I had to read it and find out for myself.

This wasn’t as gory as I was expecting, which made me feel a little disappointed. I was expecting a gory horror novel that would be both fascinating and gross, but it wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong, it has graphic descriptions of corpses including the conditions of their bodies and in some cases, how they died. Those descriptions didn’t happen until later in the book.

The first half of the book was depressing since Joey was dealing with his mother’s death and having to uproot his life to live with a man he’s never met. The second half was the graphic part and more of the reason why I wanted to read it in the first place.

There were several times when I zoned out because I lost a little bit of interest. It’s not the best horror novel I’ve read, but if you like bizarre novels where characters are doing things you wouldn’t believe, then it’s worth the read.
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