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Tag Archives: Mystery

Tournament of Books Round 1: I Am Princess X vs. Bone Gap

Within the first few pages of I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest I was giddy. It is the story of a i am princess xgirl looking for her best friend who has supposedly died in a car accident 3 years ago. The storyline becomes increasingly interesting as we watch May, our detective, sift through the pieces of a web comic that she believes is being written by her dead best friend, and is the key to possibly finding her… alive. The coolest part about this book is really the graphic novel pages that are sandwiched between different parts of text. This element of the novel really made me feel like I was solving the pieces of the web comic with May, giving me an almost video game-esque feeling.

The one major downfall with I Am Princess X is the lack of character development. I kept thinking I would get to a point where the characters might have a meaningful conversation, or let a smile or frown linger just a little too long. I wanted something beneath the surface of the mystery driven plot. I wanted some kind of depth! Instead of that, I got to solve the puzzle with the characters. While that was fun, it was not enough to make this book a winner over Bone Gap.

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby was just WOW. Within the first few pages, before we are even introduced to the plot, Laura Ruby’s vivid imagery had my full attention. At first glance,bone gap this is a book about a missing woman, and a young man’s journey to find her. However, you simply couldn’t take just one glance at this book if you wanted to. With alternating points of view between Roza and Finn, our missing girl and the young man on the “journey,” but we also read from some of the supporting characters from time to time. These alternating points of view not only leave us begging for more at the end of each chapter, but they also let us peek into each character’s beautiful, crazy mind.

At its core, this book is about finding yourself, the difference between looking and seeing, how we treat women, and where we find hope. Oh, and did I mention the magical realism aspects that make this novel feel like the most exhilarating dream you’ve ever had? Well, there’s that, too.

For me, Bone Gap was an obvious winner.

WINNER: BONE GAP BY LAURA RUBY

Reviewed by Jordan Bumber, Westmont Public Library

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2016 in Book Review, Tournament of Books

 

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Boxers & Saints vs. Far Far Away

As I write this up, I have a confession: Like Brandi before me in her decision regarding Fangirl vs. In the Shadow of Blackbirds, I don’t know which book I will pick yet. I’ve always been someone who has to talk things out before I can come to a decision and until I finish this post, I will be in as much suspense as you are right now reading this – except I can’t scroll down to the last paragraph to peek at the final answer! Enough delay, on to the analysis.

eye-in-woundI think I will analyze in the order I read these, so let’s begin with Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang with coloring by Lark Pien. I read these for the first time back in October and loved learning about a part of history that I knew next to nothing about (and the little bit I do know is from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so it doesn’t count, right?). If you can untangle it from the magical realism, Yang has packed a ton of historical detail into both the story and the illustrations. After reading both volumes, I felt I had a fairly clear picture of the causes and course of the rebellion. Yang isn’t just talking history though. Boxers & Saints has a lot to say about faith, loyalty, belonging and compassion. Choosing to make this a duology strengthens every theme Yang explores because we see how those themes thread through both Bao’s and Vibiana’s very different journeys. What struck me the most on this first read through, in fact, were full page spreads that echoed one another in each volume – on pg. 282 of Boxers and pg. 158 of Saints. In each case, that full page spread stops you dead in your tracks. In Boxers, it’s a portrait of “Guan Yin, the Goddess of Compassion – the goddess with one thousand eyes to look for suffering and one thousand hands to relieve it.” In Saints, it’s a portrait of Jesus as he speaks to Vibiana and commands her to “Be mindful of others as I am mindful of you.” Each figure is surrounded by hands that all have an eye in a center of their palm – an image that speaks strongly of compassion – and each portrait is surrounded plotwise by events that lay bare the lack of compassion that war requires.

On my second read, I mostly found myself contemplating two things that Karyn Silverman over at Someday My Printz Will Come (http://blogs.slj.com/printzblog/2013/11/25/boxers-saints-or-what-defines-book-anyway/) commented on. One was whether Bao and Vibiana are actually seeing visions of Gods and Saints or if they are simply a little crazy. Are they just trying to find comfort and direction and, without any reliable adults to turn to, creating their own spirit guides from the corners of their minds? I doubt this reading would ever have occurred to me on my own, but, for me, it deepened the themes of faith and belief. The other think Karyn mentioned was Lark Pien’s coloring and on the second time through – the coloring is brilliant. The majority of the panels in both volumes are done in muted, sepia tones. In Boxers there are pops of color for when the Boxers become Gods, blood, and occasional pivotal panels – one of soldiers in uniform, another of Bao backed by fire. Then comes Saints, and the only color pops are the gold that Pien has used for the spirits Vibiana sees – bringing home the contrast these ghostly visits bring to Vibiana’s cramped, narrow, bleak life.

But enough about Boxers & Saints. What about Far Far Away by Tom McNeal? I faced a bit of a conundrum far far awaywhen reading this one – I had read so much about it online that I already knew major plot points, most importantly, the identity of the villain, the Finder of Occasions. I was worried this would ruin the suspense of the book for me, but it turned out not to bother me in the slightest. In fact, I loved seeing the clues that had been laid to the Finder’s identity all along – piecing together the puzzle of how the Finder came to terrorize Never Better. I had read a lot about how many weren’t sure this was suitable for under a certain age, and, while the Finder’s methods are certainly disturbing, I was relieved that there was not appreciably gory violence involved. Far Far Away contains elements from two of my favorite genres, mystery and fantasy, so I went into this match expecting it to walk away the easy winner. However, fairy tales form the backbone of this book and, in the end, I think that’s why I didn’t connect with it as much as I had hoped. The characters didn’t feel full except for Jacob Grimm and Jeremy and while that wouldn’t bother me so much in fairy tales, which are constructed around archetypes, in a novel it bothers me much more. The women in particular seem to be either perfect (Ginger, Jenny Applegarth) or terrible (Jeremy’s mother). McNeal has written a great book here, but since I have to pick only one winner, the flat characters knock this one out for me.

So, there you go – I’ve talked myself to a winner: Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang for the successful meshing of fantasy and history in service of theme and for that brilliant coloring by Lark Pien.

Winner: Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang, coloring by Lark Pien

boxers and saints

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2014 in Book Review, Tournament of Books

 

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So YA Like…the Alex Rider Series

If you have teens that are crazy for the Alex Rider series and are killing time before the next one comes out in November 2009 check out these titles.  These books are character driven mysteries and adventure stories.  They geared towards boys but can appeal to any action and thriller fans.

accelerationAcceleration Graham McNamee

Stuck working in the Lost and Found in the bowels of the Toronto Transit Authority for the summer, seventeen-year-old Duncan finds the diary of a serial killer. He follows the clues in the diary that lead him to two victims.  Duncan must find a way to watch both girls while managing to keep his job.

Blade: Playing Dead Tim Bowler

A fourteen-year-old British street person with extraordinary powers of observation and self-control must face murderous thugs connected with a past he has tried to forget, when his skills with a knife earned him the nickname, Blade.

Death and the Arrow Chris Priestley

After his friend Will, a pickpocket in London in 1715, is murdered as part of a series of mysterious deaths, fifteen-year-old Tom Marlowe asks his friend Dr. Harker to help find the killer.  This is the first in the Tom Marlowe Adventure trilogy.

Down the Rabbit Hole: an Echo Falls Mystery Peter Abrahamsdowntherabbithole

Like her idol Sherlock Holmes, eighth grader Ingrid Levin-Hill uses her intellect to solve a murder case in her home town of Echo Falls.  This is the first in the Echo Falls Mystery series.

First Boy Gary Schmidt

Dragged into the political turmoil of a presidential election year, fourteen-year-old Cooper Jewett, who runs a New Hampshire dairy farm since his grandfather’s death, stands up for himself and makes it clear whose first boy he really is.

Payback Andy McNab

As teenage suicide bombers terrorize England, seventeen-year-old Danny tries to help his grandfather, an ex-SAS explosives expert falsely accused of being a traitorous spy by the government’s intelligence agencies.

rashRash Pete Hautman

In a future society that has decided it would “rather be safe than free,” sixteen-year-old Bo’s anger control problems land him in a tundra jail where he survives with the help of his running skills and an artificial intelligence program named Bork.

Raven’s Gate Anthony Horowitz

Sent to live in a foster home in a remote Yorkshire village, Matt, a troubled fourteen-year-old English boy, uncovers an evil plot involving witchcraft and the site of an ancient stone circle.  This is the first volume in the Gatekeeper’s series.

SilverFin : a James Bond Adventure Charles Higsonsilverfin

Young James Bond, while attending boarding school at Eton in the 1930s, must battle against an insane arms dealer who, by using killer eels, is attempting to create a race of indestructible soldiers on the eve of World War II.  There are four books in Young James Bond series

The Recruit Robert Muchamore

James is recruited into CHERUB, a secret division of MI5 which consists of teenage spies. He successfully completes his training and goes on his first mission.  There are seven books in the CHERUB series.

The Road of the Dead Kevin Brooks

Two brothers, sons of an incarcerated gypsy, leave London and travel to an isolated and desolate village, in search of the brutal killer of their sister.

supernaturalistThe Supernaturalist Eoin Colfer

In futuristic Satellite City, fourteen-year-old Cosmo Hill escapes from his abusive orphanage and teams up with three other people who share his unusual ability to see supernatural creatures, and together they determine the nature and purpose of the swarming blue Parasites that are invisible to most humans.

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2009 in Booklists

 

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