Sunday, April 10, 2016

Tales From the Bookshelf - March Reads

Last month while I was working on the Month Long Weirdathon I took a break from writing about the other stuff I was reading, so even though we're already almost two weeks into April I'm going to share what else I read in March :D Spoiler- they're all comics >_>

Level Up, by Gene Luen Yang
Level Up, by Gene Luen Yang

Dennis Ouyang has always struggled in the shadow of his parents' expectations. His path is laid out for him: stay focused in high school, become a gastroenterologist. It may be hard work, but it isn't complicated … until suddenly it is. Between his father's death, his academic burnout, and his deep (and distracting) love of video games, Dennis is nowhere near where his family wanted him to be. In fact, he's just been kicked out of college. And that's when things get … weird.

Four adorable—and bossy--angels, straight out of a sappy greeting card, appear and take charge of Dennis's life. And so Dennis finds himself herded back onto the straight and narrow: the path to gastroenterology. But nothing is ever what it seems when life, magic and video games collide.

I'm a big Gene Luen Yang fan, and for the most part I really enjoyed this book. There were parts of the story I had trouble understanding, just because they were so different than my own experiences (yes I am self centered at times). For most of the book everything is just very black and white. Dennis loves video games but his parents want him to be a gastroenterologist, so Dennis decides he's never going to play video games ever again. I just think it's silly to villainize video games so much. Like that's cool if he wants to make his parents happy, but I don't think it means you need to cut out something you're passionate about because of it. Then again, my parents let me study theatre in college, so what do I know? After reading the book I did some nosing around on Gene Luen Yang's website and found this comic about the origins of him writing Level Up, and how his parents were similar to Dennis's. I know parents like this exist, but it was just weird for me to read about because I feel so strongly about ~following your passion~ and all that. Anyway, I'm glad Gene Luen Yang was able to pursue his passion in comics instead of something more "practical" like his parents wanted ;)

 Rating: 4/5 soot sprites

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Pages: 160
Published: June 2011 by First Second

Drama, by Raina Telgemeier
drama raina telgemeier

PLACES, EVERYONE! Callie loves theater. And while she would totally try out for her middle school's production of Moon Over Mississippi, she can't really sing. Instead she's the set designer for the drama department stage crew, and this year she's determined to create a set worthy of Broadway on a middle-school budget. But how can she, when she doesn't know much about carpentry, ticket sales are down, and the crew members are having trouble working together? Not to mention the onstage AND offstage drama that occurs once the actors are chosen. And when two cute brothers enter the picture, things get even crazier!

I really, REALLY wanted to like this book, since it's a graphic novel about kids doing backstage theatre and all, but it didn't quite hit the mark. Unfortunately the story is more about our boy-crazy main character, Callie, than anything else. This book focuses heavily on dating, and I'm not a prude or anything, I know middles schoolers date, but the way the characters handle these situations is just weird and stupid. At one point she's telling a friend that this guy she likes has never dated anyone before (gasp), and her friends response is "maybe he's a late bloomer?" These characters are 12! Since when does not having dated someone at 12 years old make you a late bloomer? Maybe 12 year olds really do talk like that, I don't know, its been a long time since I was 12. But even so I just think it's stupid to encourage that kind of idea in a middle grade book. Like if some actual 12 year old reads this and is like, "am I a late bloomer?" Because no! They're not! Anyway, moving on. Another part that bugged me is that Callie is the set designer for the school musical, and she's always talking about how much she knows about theatre, how she's going to make the best set and blah blah blah. I thought it was cool to see someone so passionate about theatre, but then she throws a fit because the drama teacher won't buy and let her include a REAL, WORKING CANNON for them to fire as part of the set. I know she's 12, but it doesn't take a genius to see why that's a bad idea. And she would have ideas like that all the time. Something I did enjoy was the art style, it's colorful and cute. I just wish it had been more about kids actually enjoying theatre.

 Rating: 2/5 soot sprites

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Pages: 240
Published: September 2012 by GRAPHIX

The Undertaking of Lilly Chen, by Danica Novgorodoff

Deshi Li's brother is dead—and unmarried. Which means that Deshi must find him an eligible body before the week is up. Lily Chen, sweet as a snakebite, needs money and a fast ride out of town. Haunted by the gods of their ancestors and the expectations of the new world, Deshi and Lily embark on a journey with two very different destinations in mind. They travel through a land where the ground is hard and the graves are shallow, where marriage can be murder and where Lily Chen is wanted—dead and alive.

Unfortunately this wasn't a winner for me either. The most interesting part was the artwork, but even that I had mixed feelings on. The watercolor backgrounds are stunning, but the drawings of the characters and things are sloppy and distracting. But let's talk about the story. Deshi plays a part in his brothers death, and feels like it's his responsibility see him into the afterlife properly by finding him a "ghost bride," a dead woman for his brother to marry (which is totally a real thing, read more about it here). After being grossed out by the already-dead options, Deshi decided he needs to kill a living girl to send off with his brother. This is where Lily comes in. While on his hunt for the perfect soon-to-be ghost bride Deshi meets Lilly, who decides to run off with him (not knowing what he's actually looking for) to escape her family. Deshi secretly plans to kill Lilly, until he falls in love with her. My major issue with this book was that their love story was not organic at ALL. They spend most of the book hating each other, until (SPOILER sorry) Deshi goes to Lilly in the middle of the night holding a knife above her, and they end up sleeping together instead. Didn't make any sense at all!

 Rating: 1/5 soot sprites

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Pages: 430
Published: March 2014 by First Second

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