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review 2018-07-13 16:10
When bad guys go good...mostly
The Bad Guys: Episode 1 - Aaron Blabey

The Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey originally had me quite frustrated because I felt that the labeling (the library's call number) misrepresented the content of the book. [Essentially The Bad Guys was labeled as a Young Reader meaning that the intended audience was anywhere from 2nd-4th grade depending on the reading level of the child. I feel that it was more accurately categorized as an Easy Reader (1st-2nd grade) which is quite different and generally means there are less words and more illustrations per page. I'm mentioning all of this because while it might not matter to some (like if you're not picking up books for your kid(s)) it may have an impact on others.] This is the first book in a series (6 so far) which follows a crew of 'bad' animals: a wolf, snake, shark, and piranha (who is the funniest and fartiest). The wolf decides to round up fellow bad guys to change their image and reform their behavior. He is initially met with skepticism but throughout the book the other members of the club start to come around to his side and become quite enthusiastic about the enterprise. Their first mission is to break 200 dogs out of an animal shelter but from the outset there are large obstacles in their path...mainly how 4 dangerous animals are going to get in the front door of an animal shelter. Cue the shark coming up with a rather camp solution... The appeal of this book rests mainly in its silly humor and quick pacing. Young audiences will surely gobble this up and ask for the next in the series immediately. 7/10 because it didn't totally blow me away but I could see myself reading more for a quick palate cleanser (I may or may not have read the #6 already).

 

Blabey's website with the total list of books in this series (as well as his Pig the Pug series which is great fun): Aaron Blabey books.

 

 

What's Up Next: The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Unruly Places: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities, and Other Inscrutable Geographies by Alastair Bonnett & When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

 

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2018-05-23 02:45
What's that joke about a gorilla and a typewriter?
The Murderer's Ape - Jakob Wegelius

I love a good Swedish to English translation (except for that one time I attempted Wallander) so I thought that The Murderer's Ape by Jakob Wegelius would be no exception. However, I cannot unequivocally state that I loved this book...or that I loathed it. The book is told from the standpoint of a gorilla who has been christened Sally Jones. She's been around humans her entire life and therefore not only understands what they are saying but can read as well. She's a gifted engineer who the reader discovers has the ability to figure out most mechanical devices be they accordions or airplanes. (This is integral to the storyline.) Her best friend is a (human) man she refers to as Chief and who took her on as a partner when he got his own ship. But all of this was before they ran into some trouble. Without giving too much away, the two are separated and Sally is forced to adapt in order to survive. At its heart, this is an adventure story with a lot of drama. What I enjoyed were the illustrations which were done by the author and accompanied the heading of each chapter as well as a gallery of character portraits at the very beginning. Some of the issues I had with this novel were in its dealings with race, religion, and ethnicity. It was hard for me to pinpoint if the problems I had could be explained by viewing it through the lens of the time in which the novel took place but I found them unsettling nonetheless. Overall, I wasn't totally blown away but I wouldn't throw it out of an airplane door either. 4/10

 

Source: American Library Association

 

Examples of the illustrations. [Source: Playing by the book]

 

 

What's Up Next: Golda Meir: A Strong, Determined Leader by David A. Adler

 

What I'm Currently Reading: The House With a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2018-01-03 18:05
Vivid worldbuilding with vintage vibes like a Wes Anderson film in book form.
The Wonderling - Mira Bartok

Disclaimer: reviewing a pre-publication digital proof via Netgalley, so not all images were available, some formatting and text may have changed,etc.

 

Reading like a classic children's novel, The Wonderling takes you on an illustrated, Dickensian journey of adventure, discovery, and identity.

 

The character who eventually becomes known as Arthur is a nameless groundling (a talking, humanoid fox child) in a nightmarish prison of an orphan's home. He's essentially good and proceeds through his adventures by being so pure, goodhearted, kind etc. etc. etc. that he wins out over the fiendishly unpleasant and evil cartoonish villains. So, like I said, classic kids lit. Think anything by Frances Hodgson Burnett, but with animal hybrids. Arthur is a bumbling but well-intentioned naif who goes about making friends and allies and more or less sailing through some admittedly hairy situations without much real danger or tension. Creepy settings, but not terrifying. Shoutout to his best friend, a tiny flightless bird-creature - she's an engineer-inventor and consistently saves the day and moves the story along.

 

The art is pretty, delicate, pencil-shaded drawings (though, as noted, not all of it was present in the proof copy). The story is slow, meandering and dreamy in a probably-intentional way. It's long (again, kids lit of the past-style), with masses of description, and will get varying mileage depending on the reader. If you adore illustrated classics, fantastical worldbuilding and simple, traditional stories, or your kid prefers dreamy fantasies of the past over fast-paced modern thrills, it'll be right up your alley. If you're an impatient reader, or giving it to a kid who's a reluctant reader or has trouble focusing, I doubt it'll hold your attention. Some good ideas around art, music, and hope expressed in a very simple style that either lacks in sophistication and depth, or is child-appropriate, depending on your perspective/age. I didn't adore it, but ten-year-old me probably would have happily spent the time to push through.

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review 2017-11-12 01:42
Impatient to read the next one
Hilo Book 1: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth - Judd Winick
Hilo Book 2: Saving the Whole Wide World - Judd Winick
Hilo Book 3: The Great Big Boom - Judd Winick

In an effort to expand my repertoire of graphic novels and maybe be more helpful when recommending books to my library patrons I took a trip to the shelves. I came upon a set of 3 books in a series written by Judd Winick and their covers were so eye-catching that I decided to grab all of them to binge. I'm grateful that I did because I breezed right through them and it's left me impatient for book 4 which comes out at the beginning of next year. The series centers around a character called HiLo (arguments could be made that it's written Hilo or HILO) who crash lands onto earth (and into our hearts) with The Boy Who Crashed to Earth. The title pretty much says it, right? HiLo looks like your typical kid except that he's super strong and extremely weird. He doesn't get why clothes are mandatory or that not everyone has superpowers like he does. Luckily, he makes friends with D.J. who is more than happy to show him the ropes and to absolutely have his back...even if that means fighting robots from another dimension. By the second book, Saving the Whole Wide World, their duo has expanded to include Gina who used to be D.J.'s best friend before she moved away. She's struggling with her own identity so it's challenging to try and sort out just what kind of a creature HiLo actually is...and if he's a hero or a villain. The stakes are higher and the danger is 100% real but it doesn't seem like there's anything that HiLo can't defeat...which brings us to the third book titled The Great Big Boom. There are magical warrior cats in this book. I don't think I need to say anything else because MAGICAL WARRIOR CATS. HiLo and his friends are going up against the ultimate baddie and it's only going to get worse which is why I'm practically vibrating with excitement over Waking the Monsters which is set for release on 1/16/18.

 

These books are full of heart and what it means to be a loyal friend no matter what (even if there are killer robots). The illustrations are 99% of the reason why I love these books. The colors, characters, and layouts are perfectly married to the hilarious, heartwarming prose. This is a solid 10/10 for me and I have been recommending it so much that now we only have book 2 sitting lonely on our shelves (they're going like hotcakes is what I'm saying). So catch up so that like me you can sit in anticipation for the 4th book to hit the shelves!

 

What's Up Next: Matt Phelan Masterpost

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That'll Improve and/or Ruin Everything by Kelly & Zach Weinersmith & I'm rereading Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie because I just saw the film :-D

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2017-09-01 16:00
Wildwood Chronicles Masterpost OR I can't come up with a clever title
Wildwood - Carson Ellis,Colin Meloy
Under Wildwood - Carson Ellis,Colin Meloy
Wildwood Imperium - Carson Ellis,Colin Meloy

I hadn't intended to marathon the books in this series but fortuitously I was able to get my hands on them only weeks apart. Therefore, I decided to lump them all together in one masterpost. You're welcome! Rather than showing the covers for the books, I've opted to give you a glimpse of the illustrations found inside before each book's review. **If you haven't read past the first book then I highly caution you about reading my reviews for the other 2 books. I've tried to stay spoiler free but there's only so much I can omit.**

 

Source: Pinterest

Wildwood by Colin Meloy with illustrations by Carson Ellis starts off the Wildwood Chronicles series which as far as I can tell consists of 3 books (although some websites confusingly say there are only 2). The first book follows Prue McKeel, an average 12 year old living in Portland...until one day her baby brother is kidnapped by a murder of crows. She and a semi-friend from school, Curtis Mehlberg, venture into the Impassable Wilderness in search of the baby and stumble across an entirely different world. It turns out that inside the I.W. there exists a magical place full of talking coyotes, magical sorceresses, mystics that commune with trees, and a gang of roving bandits. There is also a postman, a corrupt government, and territory wars. Maybe things aren't so different from what she's used to after all? No, it's completely different and Prue finds out that she's not as normal as she once thought...

 

Source: Pinterest

Continuing in Under Wildwood, we find our heroes separated and trying to reconcile themselves to their new existences. Prue is having conversations with the local flora and Curtis is trying to become the best bandit he can possibly be. We're introduced to new characters such as Mr. Joffrey Unthank who is the owner and operator of both a machine shop and orphanage (not necessarily mutually exclusive by the way) as well as Carol Grod who sports a pair of wooden eyeballs. The reader continues to learn more about the Periphery Bind which keeps the Impassable Wilderness and all its environs from encroaching on the Outside. There are assassins, Titans of Industry (capitalization very much required), and danger around every corner. This book marks the turning point into a darker tone as the battle between good and evil gets well and truly under way.

 

Source: Hoodline

All of this brings us to Wildwood Imperium which (from what I can tell) is the final book of the series. To some extent, all of the books have discussed politics in one form or another but this one is almost entirely about the political system (or lack thereof) in Wildwood and its environs. Prue is still on the lookout for the second Maker (the reader knows who this is and it's frustrating seeing the near misses) while the Verdant Empress speaks to the May Queen from a mirror on a nightstand. (You aren't confused you're just behind in the series.) This is the tensest (and longest) book of the lot and a lot of loose ends are tied up (like where all of the bandits went). (I still have a question about the Elder Mystic's whereabouts but maybe that's just me.) It doesn't feel complete to me though. There's still a lot that could be done with the characters in my opinion but based on what I've seen there doesn't seem to be any plans to continue the series. It's a shame because this married pair makes a powerful literary duo. (They're coming out with a new book on October 24th of this year entitled The Whiz Mob and the Grenadine Kid!)

 

Overall series rating: 9/10

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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