Thursday, July 31, 2014

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

Through the Woods is a graphic novel made up of five short stories which mostly seem to take place in or around the woods. While these stories won't necessarily keep you up at night, there is definitely a creepy factor to them all.

The graphic novel starts off with the idea of reading in bed in the dark and thinking about what creatures might lurk in the shadows. The first story, "Our Neighbor's House," is about three sisters who are left alone while their father goes hunting. They are given strict instructions to head to their neighbor's house if he doesn't return in three days. When they ignore that direction, a stranger visits and the sisters start to go missing. The second story, "A Lady's Hands are Cold," is about a recently married woman who keeps hearing a strange song coming from different parts of the house. When she finally searches for the source, she makes a startling discovery. Story number three, "His Face All Red," is about a brother who doesn't believe the man in front of him is his brother, especially after what happened to them in the woods. The Fourth story, "My Friend Janna," is about a girl whose best friend used to pretend that she saw ghosts. After a trip to the woods, a strange presence seems to be lingering beside the friend. The final story, "The Nesting Place," is about Mabel's experience with her new sister-in-law and how the monsters her mother used to tell her about might not be stories after all.

The stories in the book are all interesting and a little creepy. Most, if not all of them, leave the ending sort-of open and up for interpretation although still pointed a certain direction. That adds to the eeriness of the story because you're left wondering what's really going on - in a sense, the story will haunt you since it's not neatly wrapped up in a nice bow. I don't think that these stories will give the reader nightmares, but they are certainly twisted. The illustrations add to the suspense of the story.

In the end, if you're looking for a twisted graphic novel with a bit of a creep factor, this is worth picking up. You'll have it read in an hour but the stories will stay with you longer.

Monday, July 21, 2014

These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

This is Science Fiction.  It is written in alternating voices of Tarver a career serviceman and war hero and Lilac, overprotected and wealthy daughter of THE CEO of apparently the only planet *terraforming corporation.  And, Tarver being interrogated.
Tarver meets Lilac when his protective senses kick in at a ball on board a spaceship in hyper drive.  A person who did not fit in with the others approaches her.  He rushes to her protection.  She did not need it and eventually brushes him off as beneath her after what he thought was an interesting conversation.  Shortly after the ship begins to quake and shudder and it is clear it is in trouble.  Folks are instructed to go their assigned escape pods and a stampede ensues.  Tarver sees Lilac in trouble once again, grabs her gets to the nearest escape pod and tries to launch.  It is Lilac's knowledge of the technology aboard that allows the damaged craft to launch and eventually land on an unknown planet.  This scene is very like the scene from Titanic.  Its just on a space ship instead.  The pair watch their ship fall apart and fall from the sky onto the planet.  While struggling to survive the pair save each others' lives multiple time.  Tarver has the survival skills and instinct to know what to do nest.  Lilac has tech knowledge and a lot of determination.  She did not want Tarver to see her as helpless.
While the pair assume the planet is terraformed and help is already on the way, there are dangers present not usually included on terraformed planets.  The plants are largely new to Tarver who has been to many planets and on many military campaigns.  And, Lilac is experiencing visions and voices that seem to be real and that eventually affect Tarver as well.  The pair head to the downed spacecraft hoping for survival supplies.  After removing as much as they can before rotting smell sets in and with Tarver severely injured and out of commission for a time they head to what they believe is a building of some type.  And so they explore and survive and seem to be lead in their actions by the voices and visions.  Perhaps there are living beings here trying to communicate.  What happens next is tragic beyond anything I've experienced reading in a while.  Lilac is not who she was at the beginning, and of course neither is Tarver, but he was not changed by the beings with the illusions and voices. Their relationship is a bit of a tragic romance the ending is for you to read. What the illusions and voices are have their own tragedy.  Those beings seem to me to be a nod towards Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles so I would suggest that as a next read for those who enjoy this novel.  They are eventually rescued by a corporate spaceship.  
*Terraforming is transforming a planet into an environment livable by humans.

Dear Zoe by Philip Beard

Here's a book often overlooked at our library that deserves to be read. When Tess's three-year-old half-sister dies tragically the teenager and her mother become deeply depressed from grief. Tess carries a burden of guilt as the result of the accident. Additionally, she already feels out of place in her mother's new family made of Dave, Em and Zoe and her mother. The tragedy makes her feel even more out of place. Tess goes to live with her unreliable father to escape the grief and depression of her family. While there, she tries to write a letter to Zoe explaining her grief, her guilt so she can move on finally. This novel alternates between the present where Tess gets to know and love a neighbor of her father's and her letter to Zoe where the whole story of the tragedy is told. It is a bitter sweet story that may make the reader teary eyed. She comes to a new understanding of her father and of the tragedy. She is able to share with her mother thus helping her as well. In the end, Tess returns to her home with her mother but maintains her relationship with her father and her new boyfriend. Everyone continues to heal and begins to move on with their lives, even Em who was pretty left out of every one's grieving lives even though this six-year-old was grieving too.


Friday, July 18, 2014

Sword Art Online by Reki Kawahara

The novel is no other than another spin off from the manga series. A sequel if you will.

A world famous video virtual reality game turns into a disaster as the creator of the video game announces that no one will be able to log out. And if they wish to exit the game, they will have to clear the 100 levels and beat the boss. If they die in game they die in real life!

Kirito a beta tester, knowing well of the game before hand, embarks into a journey (in the game of course) And try to clear all 100 levels. Other players join his cause and secrets are revealed as the game goes on!

This was a novel so there is no much to say about it art-wise. However there are good illustrations at the end of each chapter. I recommend this as a good read!

Monday, July 07, 2014

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

This novel is inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd who died before getting a chance to write it. Never having read anything by Dowd, I can't comment on how well author Patrick Ness captured the late author's spirit or style. Nevertheless, this is a powerful novel about a boy struggling with a parent's illness.

Conor's mother is sick. She has been for a long time and doesn't seem to get any better. Ever since she's been sick, Conor's been having nightmares. Now, though, he's having a new nightmare. This time around, the old yew tree that sits in the church cemetery by his house transforms into a huge monster that comes to visit Conor. It claims it wants to help Conor - who is dealing not only with a sick mother, but a school bully, a grandmother moving in whom he doesn't particularly get along with, and a father who left him for a new life in America. In order to help Conor, the monster yew tree is going to tell him three stories. After his three stories, Conor needs to tell his story and finally admit the truth that he isn't ready to face.

This story is a really quick read. The story that at times feels like a fairy tale or fable - especially the stories that the monster tells. The book is filled with eerie drawings, yet the book isn't scary in any way. The monster is just a vessel to get the stories and lesson. Each time the monster comes, Conor is dealing with something big - his grandmother's appearance, his father's momentarily return on top of his mother's declining health, and the bully's final move. Each story is a lesson to help him face not only the situation, but his big truth that he's avoiding. Although the stories are not the most clear-cut and Conor is definitely frustrated afterwards, it all makes sense at the end of the novel (as one would expect). This is a powerful story about a child dealing with a sick parent and the internal struggle that comes from that. Conor's whole life is changing, especially given the fact that his mother is dying. He sees his home life changing and even things at school because now labeled "he's the kid with the dying mother," which means he's treated differently. The book, come the end, forces Conor - and the reader - to face the truth about our feelings in a situations like this and how those feelings can be contradicting - both selfish and selfless at the same time. 

For the most part, it's not until Conor's truth comes out that the novel feels whole. Everything makes sense once the truth is out and the monster explains how it all fits. At that point you realize how strong the novel has been. Given how quickly this book reads, it is worth picking up.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

The Night Gardener - Jonathan Auxier

Molly and Kip are hired by Master Windsor to help out around the house.  While making their way to Windsor Manor they come across an elderly woman at a crossroads.  She will tell them the way in return for a few stories from Windsor manor.  Molly agrees and when they arrive they see a run down house with weeds and vines growing all over.  The most peculiar part is the tree that seems to be a part of the house.  They also see a figure running across the grounds in a top hat.  Mistress Windsor is not happy with Molly and Kip.  She claims she doesn't need any help, but after Molly tells her a story they are allowed to stay.  Molly does the laundry, cooking, and tucking in of Penny and Alistair.  Kip tends to the grounds and begins to make the house look normal.  Master Windsor comes home that Friday.  Later in the night Molly hears thumps from above and finds a black top hat.  She knows now the figure they saw on the night they arrived is real.  The next day she sees Master Windsor bring down sacks of money from a green doorway at the top of the stairs.  Her curiosity is starting to get the better of her and she wants to know what is up there.  When Kip waits for the post the elderly woman, Hester, comes looking for Molly.  Kip comes back and tells Molly Hester is looking for her.  They see the night man again and hear him digging.  They pass out and awake the next morning.  Molly goes about chores and hears Penny giggling behind the green door.  When she opens it there is a note for her from her parents.  Over the next few weeks Molly continues to get notes which she reads to Kip.  Mistress Windsor gets sicker and sicker as the weeks go by.  When the doctor can't find what is wrong with Mistress Windsor, Molly decides it is time to figure out who the night man is and what this tree really does.

I really enjoyed this story.  It is a good one to read around Halloween, and any time you want a scary story.  The adage "be careful what you wish for" kept going through my head as I was reading this book.  Everyone was getting what they wanted, and didn't realize until it was almost to late how it was affecting them.  Sometimes things are too good to be true, and with the Windsor's it almost cost them their lives.