If not Watchmen, what? What to hand to new comics readers

In our last post, we discussed why Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen may not be the best choice for a reader new to the format of comics. In this piece, the staff at No Flying No Tights discuss best practices for encouraging new comics fans and what to recommend instead of Watchmen.

Introducing new readers to comics

Nic: When it comes to recommending graphic novels to someone who’s never read the format before, a few things I consider are:

  1. What kinds of books do they usually read? My aunt is a big James Patterson fan, and especially likes the ones about “those kids with wings,” so I gave her the first volume of the Maximum Ride manga as a present. She’s new to graphic novels, but she’s enjoying it.
  2. I would tend to avoid giving them non-linear, confusing, or very meta books as their first exposure to graphic novels. I think part of the reason that Smile and El Deafo work so well as introductory titles is that they demonstrate that graphic novels can tell a straightforward story that is just as easy to read as a traditional novel or memoir. (Plus, cool art!)

Adriana: Nonlinear comics can be the right first comics for some folks, so I don’t completely discount them when giving suggestions. I’ll second Nic’s point that getting a feel of the other media people already enjoy and using that as a jumping off point is the way to go. Even something as straightforward as “You like this movie? Well here’s the comic it’s based on,” can get the ball rolling. Though I try not to be so 1-to-1 about it for the sake of showing the variety available in comics. The Goon is a great suggestion for folks who enjoy a mix of horror and humor, “old-timey” aesthetics with anachronistic elements, or who spent a lot of time watching Elvira introduce B-movies. Long story short, a few decent reference questions will always steer you in the right direction.

Renata: There’s not any ONE comic/graphic novel I’d hand to a reader who’s never gotten into comics; Like Adriana suggests, I’d definitely do some kind of reference interview and tailor their first graphic novel to their own interests.

I’d also try to suss out why they never read comics before. Are they a young reader whose parent doesn’t think comics count as “real books”? (That was me!) Are they a grown adult who has some lingering snobbery on the subject of comics counting as “real books”? Are they a woman who got some rude treatment from comic store boys and got turned off the medium? Do they struggle with understanding what order to read panels in? Did they just never have access, since their small town library didn’t have any graphic novels and they didn’t want to spend money buying comics?

It also depends if I’m making a suggestion as a librarian to a patron, or as a friend to a friend, because with friends (or extreme library regulars), I know enough to say “If this is confusing, just ask” or to guess what they might struggle with or might not appreciate seeing.

Megan: I think asking a reader new to graphic novels about the books they enjoy is really important, and their tastes would dictate what I recommended. I also agree that you should recommend works that are fairly linear and straightforward and don’t require a lot of special comics knowledge to read them. I think offering works that are colorful and have good artistic flow (i.e. no overly complex panels that show action well—although I acknowledge that’s probably subjective) will help engage new readers. I think personal narratives can be a good start because they tend to be pretty accessible because they are grounded in situations and worlds people are already familiar with and don’t necessarily require a huge investment for the reader (i.e. they don’t necessarily have to be familiar with a whole new world and will not usually start a long series). Basically, I think any story with a good set of relatable characters and awesome art are great starting points; there are lots of comics in most genres that fit those general parameters.

Robin: A few other aspects I consider are what makes them like a story (a novel, a movie, a TV show, a game). Is it the dialog? The world-building? The sense of place or setting? Do they want a fast moving plot or a lingering pace? Movies and television can also give you a good sense of what kind of visuals they like.

On getting started with superheroes

Roy: As for good choices: it depends on what the reader was interested in, specifically. If someone was interested in superheroes, I think I’d look to standalone stories of characters that don’t need much explanation. Batman, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, Superman… all of them have great stand alone stories, and all of them are big enough parts of the cultural consciousness that you don’t really need to provide a lot of background context. I think something like the Trinity by Matt Wagner is a good introduction to superhero comics; it’s not grimdark, it’s stand-alone, it provides an introduction to how the characters see each other, the visuals are interesting without containing bizarre/hard to follow panel layouts, and it tells a fun story. All Star Superman might be another good selection (although Quitely’s art makes this one hard for me to really recommend). For Marvel, Ms. Marvel, maybe?

Thomas: All children should undergo mandatory Batman: The Animated Series viewings before experiencing any deconstructions of superheroes.

Renata: I agree Ms. Marvel is a great one for starting off in superhero comics. Sadly out of print but I also think a lot of Marvel’s “Season One” books are good choices, especially if someone is interested in a particular hero/team and doesn’t know where to start. The convoluted backstories of superheroes are something that intimidates a lot of would-be readers, so it’s great to be able to bypass as much of that as possible.


Robin: If they’re fans of Homicide: Life on the Street or The Wire, you might easily get them hooked on Gotham Central (written by Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker and drawn by various artists) as a way into superheroes. If they got turned on to superheroes by the snarky banter of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye should match what they’re hoping to find.

On starter comics outside of superheroes

Adriana: I find The Goon series by Eric Powell, Tomboy by Liz Prince, the Lumberjanes series, and Fun Home by Alison Bechdel tend to be well received by folks new to comics. They each can appeal to a relatively wide demographic depending on which element you focus on (horror, humor, memoir, queer representation, etc.) I used to recommend Craig Thompson’s Blankets off the bat, but have found it intimidating for new comic readers on size alone.

Renata: I agree that Smile and El Deafo are great picks for younger readers. I’ve been giving Chip Zdarsky and Erica Henderson’s Jughead comic to a lot of Riverdale fans, but I know it’s funny and weird enough that it stands on its own as a pretty delightful book. (And also is different enough from the show that it could actually be disappointing to readers looking for something exactly like the show. But I think it’s enjoyable enough to recommend separate from the show.)

For an adult reader, I’ll make a case for Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home as well—the story is engaging and the mixed media-ish art is intriguing. It demonstrates ably why some stories are, in fact, better told in graphic form than plain prose.

Dani: I go with Smile, March, and Y: The Last Man. Fables for English majors. (Mostly because it’s fun to see their faces when I tell them that the Big Bad Wolf’s real name is Bigby and he’s married to Snow White. Oh and that the Prince (spoiler) that she married is the same one in all of the other stories.)

Thomas: Sometimes the issue comes down to comfort with navigating the comics page, and I like to recommend Shaun Tan’s The Arrival for new comics readers. The story is wordless but universal, playing on relatable themes of arriving in a new location and feeling alien. Raina Telgemeier’s Smile, Drama, and Sisters, Cece Bell’s El Deafo, Liz Prince’s Tomboy, Jeff Smith’s Bone, Kazu Kibuishi’s Amulet, Jeremy Whitley’s Princeless (drawn by various artists), and Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese, The Shadow Hero (drawn by Sonny Liew), and Boxers & Saints have done plenty for creating new comics readers, though “agreeable Middle Grade/Young Adult” is a hard comics genre to resist. (I recommend the series Three Thieves by Scott Chantler and Hereville by Barry Deutsch join this pantheon in readers advisory lists.)

Megan: I second March, Lumberjanes, El Deafo, Tomboy, Gene Luen Yang’s work, and Raina Telgemeier’s work as good starting points. I would put forth Faith Erin Hick’s work (her stories tend to be full of humor and offers a variety of genres). For personal narratives, I would suggest Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis.

Thomas: Megan just reminded me—Faith Erin Hicks’s The Adventures of Superhero Girl is an ultimate recommendation (among her other great comics). Superhero fans get a humorous, Canadian spin on tropes, and non-super-fans get a humane new-adult tale. Everybody wins!

Robin: For new readers who may be skeptical about superheroes, I think it’s even more important to check with the person about what genres and other titles they enjoy. If they really dig 1999’s The Mummy, they may well love Tony Cliff’s Delilah Dirk series.

Thanks to Nic Willcox, Adriana Marroquin, Renata Sancken, Megan Rupe, Roy MacKenzie, and Thomas Maluck, and Dani Shuping for chiming in on this discussion.

What are your tried and true first titles for new readers? Why do you feel they work best? Let us know in the comments and together we can help create new readers of comics every day.

Roundtable: Adult Content in Comics

As more and more libraries collect comics for adult readers, content present in any library’s collection can be increasingly intended solely for adult readers. What’s visually presented on the page, from sex to violence to drug use, may push a title into an adult collection while complex and dense storytelling may indicate a title’s audience is likely to be readers over eighteen.

Some of the most popular series in graphic novel collections, from The Walking Dead to Saga, contain both explicit violence and sex. While one library may have an established graphic novel collection in their adult shelves, others may keep them in nonfiction sections while other institutions interfile teen and adult titles given limited physical space.

What are librarians to do with mature content? What kind of lines can be drawn between what makes a title for teens or for adults? We here at No Flying No Tights today are comparing notes, discussing best practices, and tackling challenge fears in order to illuminate the best way to select and maintain a collect for adults that includes content the equivalent of an R-rating or higher.

Where and how does your library shelve adult titles? How does the mission of your library support maintaining an adult collection?

Garrett: We shelve adult titles in with all graphic novels that aren’t catalogued as juvenile titles. Our mission statement involves language such as “to be the greatest benefit to the greatest number in the community,” so we don’t particularly discriminate when it comes to collecting material that’s considered “adult.”

Allen: Our library shelves graphic novels in the adult collection if the themes and content present in the material is too strong for the Teen Collection. Usually, this has more to do with themes of sexuality and nudity rather than violence. For example, The Walking Dead is actually shelved in our Teen collection. For the most part, if titles in the Teen collection are thought to be too much for the area, they get moved to the Adult collection. This also applies to the Juvenile collection. If someone believes the content doesn’t fit the collection, it gets bumped up to a different age group.

Nic: Our library has a Juvenile and a Young Adult graphic novel collection, but does not have one for adults. If a title is ordered or donated, but then determined to be too “adult” for the YA section, I often send it to one of the other branches of our library system that does have an Adult GN section. That way, patrons can at least get it pretty easily through interlibrary loan.

Robin: In my library, we have graphic novel collections for each age range: kids, teens, and adults. That way we can collect most any title and be sure it has a place to go in the collection. We consider collecting graphic novels to be the same as other media we collect, from films and television (which share a similar visual aspect) to our traditional book collections. Having a section in each age range means our browsers have some sense immediately of who the audience for the titles are.

Does (and if so, how does) your collection development policy enter into how adult titles are collected and where they are shelved?

Garrett: Surprisingly (and, frankly, refreshingly), the bulk of our collection development policy simply consists of the ALA’s Freedom to Read Statement, and the Library Bill of Rights. The only circumstances in recent memory of someone objecting to material we’ve purchased comes from staff.

Allen: We don’t have a hard and fast rule in our collection development policy. Like Garrett, we employ the Library Bill of Rights when developing our collection. There are processes in place if someone wishes to challenge the material’s home location, and staff (and management) act accordingly.

Nic: Because our library doesn’t have an Adult GN collection, we do not knowingly purchase any graphic novels that we don’t think we could put in Juvenile or YA.

Robin: Our collection development policy makes few mentions of age range, except that we aim to support kids and teens in our collection. In one particular note, when discussing intellectual freedom, we explain, “The selection of materials for the adult collection is not restricted by the possibility that children may obtain materials their parents or guardians consider inappropriate.”

When it comes to mature content, especially when it is in images on the page, what are your rules of thumb about what is teen appropriate and what is adult? What kinds of content are considered specifically for adults?

Megan: As a reviewer, I’d say detailed nudity tends to automatically bump a graphic novel into the adult section for me. I think this decision is partially cultural: nudity in films tends to push the rating into R and above, and so I follow similar guidelines when I’m reviewing. When I’m reviewing comics for No Flying No Tights, my decision also has a fair bit to do with the context. If the story has shown to have other warnings (like heavy violence for example), that will also influence my decision.

Allen: Nudity is certainly a concern, especially since it tends to be more stigmatized than violence. If the nudity presented in the work is anatomically correct, that’s usually enough to get it sent to the adult collection. Again, violence isn’t so much a concern. The Walking Dead’s depiction of human on human and human on zombie violence has proven to be the limit for the collection. I would never put a series like Crossed in YA. Or anything else Garth Ennis has done, for that matter.

Nic: Manga with brief nude scenes that don’t show genitalia, especially in a context that doesn’t directly involve sex, might squeak by into the YA section. But if genitalia are shown, or female nipples appear for more than a quick glimpse, or if characters are clearly having sex on the page, that’s unlikely to go into our collection. Sexual assault, if not covered in a very sensitive way, is also likely to keep a book out of the YA section. For example, we don’t collect The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series, in which a character uses rape to punish another character. I also chose not to include the manga World War Blue because one of the “good guy” characters harasses and gropes the teen girls he is supposed to be teaching to the point at which they are uncomfortable around him, but he is never called out on it and faces no consequences. In this case, it’s not the behavior alone—groping and harassing girls—that made me rule out the series, but the fact that this behavior is viewed so uncritically that the series seems almost to be condoning it. While I can imagine non-sexual violence that is too extreme for our YA collection, I haven’t actually encountered it often. The other thing I tend not to collect is graphic novels that simply don’t seem like they’d have much teen appeal—those aimed at adults, sometimes including storylines that are specific to adult characters, like midlife crises, marriages dissolving, dealing with one’s own adult kids, etc. And I generally do not collect seinen or josei manga, though I would be willing to consider a specific series if it wasn’t ruled out by one of the aforementioned policies.

Robin: Our teen collection is pretty broad in terms of what’s allowable, but the explicitness of an image plus the frequency and context can well move it into the adult section. As an example, we have Takehiko Inoue’s REAL in our teen collection, and it does feature full frontal nudity of a young man in its pages. However, it is one image, it is not at all sexual, and it is part of a contemplative moment in the character’s mental state. So, for us, that’s okay to go in teen.

How much weight do you give the context of an image within a narrative? How do you deal with concerns that someone might flip through a graphic novel and see something explicit, and then raise objections, versus the people who check out and read the whole story and thus see the images in context?

Allen: When reviewing titles for the Teen collection, I certainly try to see where the content, be it violence or fan service, fits in the greater narrative. It’s sometimes easy to spot when a manga, for example, is of the ecchi type where the whole point of the work is to offer sexualized material. A series like Food Wars! Is filled with fan service material for the first few volumes, but that they are intended as bits of comedy and not the driving force of the narrative. Prison School would be a challenge to justify because of the intensity of the adult material. A casual flip through any one volume would make it easy for someone to develop a snap judgement.

Nic: This is tough. I am certain that some patrons, if they were to go flipping through every book in the YA graphic novel section looking for content they found objectionable, would absolutely find it. Still, we can’t let the specter of that possibility hover over us when we’re collecting. On the other hand, a single very explicit scene can keep a book out of the YA section—this happened after another staff member flipped through the yaoi manga Blue Sky and strongly objected to an explicit sex scene. It also happened when I ordered a volume of manga which would have been fine for the YA section on its own, but which turned out to have a preview of Monster Musume in the back that featured more sexual content than we felt comfortable putting into the YA section.

Robin: I agree with Nic that worrying about challenges before they happen (especially when they might never happen) is a dangerous way to collect. I am lucky in that I am able to move a title to adult (or up to teen from the kids collection) if we discover an image or scene that we didn’t realize was within a text. Because of that ability, I do feel more leeway in ordering titles, looking them over when they arrive, and making a decision as to where they belong audience-wise. I do also, as I said above, try to consider what the readers are comfortable with and try to let their reactions and title requests lead me to where a title belongs. I have in the past bought a series requested by a teen reader but put it in adult due to content, knowing full well that they would find it easily on the adult shelves.

How do you weigh violence versus nudity or explicit sex? In many media, comics included, consumers think of violence as more okay to include that full frontal nudity or sexual situations. Do you think of comics in the same way? Would you argue they should be treated differently?

Megan: I would say that, yes, I mostly evaluate comics similarly to other forms of media. Nudity, particularly detailed, tends to make me rate content as mature. I think this decision partially has to do with what my colleagues will have to face when trying to determine where to place something; depending on the community, I think it is important to consider patrons’ perceptions.

Garrett: I would argue that it’s a cultural phenomena that can trace its roots to the Puritans as to why violence seems to be more tolerable in our society than sexual imagery. I don’t particularly think they should be treated any differently than other forms of media. However, images have a way of being perceived as more powerful than words. For example, at my library, it’s usually staff who object to content. I can’t remember any specific graphic novels that were objected to, but there was a Sally Mann photography book that recently caused a big stir. It always boggles me how the most torrid and sexually explicit novels would never provoke such controversy…it’s always the pictures.

Allen: Oh, absolutely comics are treated the same way. I find it frustrating that I’m more nervous about including Food Wars!—a wonderful manga about a cooking school which features amazing food art AND recipes with a sprinkling of fan service—than getting the latest volume of The Walking Dead. I have a harder time with manga than graphic novels because I think it’s harder to explain to a parent unfamiliar with the genre that the stories and content come from a place that is culturally different from our own. Our Puritanical leanings towards sexual content is at odds with other cultures that have more relaxed attitudes on sex—be it presented as the ultimate expression of love between two characters or as a punchline. As much as I’d like to see a more growing mainstream acceptance of manga and the culture from where it comes from, it’s got a serious uphill climb.

Nic: I kind of wish this weren’t the case – why should violence be more acceptable than naked bodies, which are totally natural things that literally all of us have under our clothes? Why should violence be more acceptable than healthy, consensual sex? (Though it’s true that a nude scene or sex scene may also include problematic sexualization and objectification.) That said, it is more common for me to decide not to collect a graphic novel because of sexual content than because of violence.

Robin: It’s irksome that nudity will always cause more of an uproar than violence. I try to be consistent in my selection and try to consider violence as much as I consider nudity, partly because I’ve had parents tell me they’re more concerned about the former than the latter. I have moved a title from teen to adult because of the violence included, and I have no qualms about doing that. I also, as stated above, have a few titles that have frank nudity in them in teen because the story overall is definitely teen and that one image isn’t going to warrant it being in the adult collection.

I am, as you all have experienced, more likely to hear comments from staff about nudity or sex than I have ever heard from the public. I try to approach it as a teaching moment, as a time to explain a bit more to the staff about why we’re collecting a comic with this content and its placement in the collection. My comparisons are to the movies and television we also readily collect, from The Walking Dead to Queer as Folk to Sex and the City. If we have those titles on our DVD shelves, I feel it’s fine to collect similar content in the graphic novel format as long as it’s placed in the appropriate age range collection.

Are there any titles you would just never be able to have on your shelves because of the content? What prevents their inclusion?

Allen: Prison School, Senran Kagura, Monster Musume just to name a few. These volumes contain a significant amount of nudity and fan service that just wouldn’t fly despite their popularity. To even think of seeing them on my shelves makes me laugh. On the other side of the spectrum, I don’t think I could get away with having Inio Asano’s A Girl on the Shore because of its honest depiction of heavy topics like bullying and teen sexuality.

Nic: Saga and Monster Musume are just a couple of the ones with more sexual content than we would put in YA. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, for the treatment of rape. We also don’t have The Walking Dead, mostly for the violence. We don’t feel too bad about not carrying popular adult GNs because interlibrary loan is very quick and easy in our library system, and is heavily used by our patrons, so they can and do get Saga, The Walking Dead, and other titles that way.

Robin: There are a few yaoi titles over the year’s that I couldn’t justify, not because they were guy on guy action but in that the ratio of explicit sex to plot made them a bit too lopsided for our adult collection. When yaoi was the new and exciting romance to hit comics, we had a substantial collection on our adult shelves. if a title veered toward underage characters and played around with troubling consent scenarios, then we’d pass.

What advice would you give librarians who want to include more explicit content in terms of how to arrange their collections and consider titles?

Garrett: Firstly, I would advise never pandering to your audience. As long as you respect the people you serve, as well as respecting their intelligence and maturity, you can challenge them with any kind of content you want. Secondly, I would suggest that you simply not call out explicit titles. If you are collecting for an adult collection, then why call specific attention to a book or put it in a specific section simply due to its content? I would hazard to guess that the majority of adult fiction or film sections in libraries across the country make no special effort to separate and distinguish explicit content. If you work at a library where all the erotica is shelved in general fiction or even marked as romance, there’s no reason to single out comics as any different than anything else on the shelves.

Professionally, we can’t make value judgments or assumptions about other people’s tastes, and, in my opinion, that includes making similar value judgments about content.

Nic: I think that if it’s in an adult graphic novel section, pretty much anything goes. I wouldn’t put special labels on books with especially explicit content or shelve them separately. I would be prepared, though, to explain your library’s collection development policy and possibly the rationale for choosing explicit titles, since patrons might be more likely to challenge these books than other materials.

Robin: I very much agree with Garrett. I encourage collectors to think about the other visual media they do collect, including film, television, art books, and to use those as a yardstick for what’s included in your adult comics section. Sometimes just turning to thinking of comics in relation to other image based works is more helpful than thinking of them in relation to romance novels or print fiction.

What about titles that include fan service—especially when it is not actual sex acts but detailed, sexualized art (often female characters, but not always)? Is there fan service that you consider too much for a teen collection? Too much even for a library collection, even if it’s in the adult collection?

Garrett: I’m going to stick to my philosophical guns here and simply state that unless a work has been deemed by a professional librarian to be not worthy of inclusion in a collection for whatever reason, then there’s no reason to consider it special or unique or meriting extraordinary placement.

I would hope that any particular librarian would understand their community well enough to make informed decisions about what kind of content is best suited for their own shelves. That will certainly be different, depending on the readers in the community.

Allen: It really depends on the level of fan service on display. There are a lot of manga that feature its female characters in compromising positions, but their significant body parts are either covered or not anatomically correct. If I see a manga employs this sort of fan service, and based on its context, I might not have a problem with adding it to the Teen collection. Fan service in this case is more of presenting the sexual context as some sort of joke. However, for books like Monster Musume and Highschool DxD where the fan service includes anatomically correct bodies and bawdy humor on practically every page, it really wouldn’t be something that would last long in a Teen collection. And then there’s manga like How To Build A Dungeon—a seemingly innocent sounding story about an evil wizard who builds a dungeon in order to strike back at those who defeated him. It doesn’t seem so bad at first, but what the “16+” rating on the back cover doesn’t tell you is that the book is really an erotic thriller featuring explicit sex scenes.

Nic: I mostly treat fan service the way I treat other nudity on the page. If it’s anatomically correct with genitals, it’s probably a no-go for the YA section. If it’s panty shots, that’s probably fine. That said, I would hesitate to collect a manga where most of the humor or a large part of the plot revolved around this kind of fan service.

Robin: Overwhelming fan service (detailed drawings up a girl’s skirt examining every fold of her panties, or extreme detail of a girl’s breasts through a shirt) tends to make me move a series up to adult. For me, it doesn’t make any difference if it’s for a joke or not—if it’s that explicit, I won’t place it in the Teen collection. I have found over the years that teen guys interested in those series will find them. I have also seen first hand how that level of fan service, often shared around a group of friends and loudly discussed, will make other teens, especially younger teen girls, understandably uncomfortable.

Do you treat sexual content differently if it is, for example, a romance where the sex is a significant focus of the story being told, or an action thriller, where sex is included but not the actual point of the story? Is there a kind of story where more sex, or more explicit sex, is allowable?

Nic: I might be willing to allow for a little more sex in a genre that I want to have represented in our collection. For instance, I have had some trouble finding LGBTQ love stories in manga that don’t include nudity or sex scenes (possibly just due to what is carried by our distributor), so I might let a little more sexual content than usual slide just so that I can have some LGBTQ love stories alongside all the straight love stories on the shelves.

Robin: I agree that if the story and character development is being told through the sex, as with stories like Fumi Yoshinaga’s Ooku and even Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie’s Lost Girls, I’m more likely to consider the title for our collection. If the sex is more gratuitous in that it’s not the focus of the story, it may make me think through where to place such a title. With, for example, the unedited version of Masamune Shirow’s Ghost in the Shell manga, which included one very explicit sex scene in the middle of a narrative that otherwise doesn’t include any sex, it was a bit of a question as to which version of the manga we could collect. The sex scene is ostensibly about character, but also debatably so. So I can see both sides of why a library could or could not justify collecting the unedited version. I’d have to consider my community, their interest in that title, and where to shelve it if we did get the more explicit version.

Thanks to Garrett Gottschalk, Allen Kesinger, Megan Rupe, and Nic Willcox for contributing to this discussion.

YALSA Hub Challenge: Update #8

Checking in with our challenge participants!

struts and FretsAbby

Tracking her reading: at Goodreads

Read so far: 18 of 25

Comments: Beneath a Meth Moon was an easy read, very good for reluctant readers.  I would have liked to see more of her transition from casual meth user to suddenly begging on the streets.  I felt like the author brushed over that a bit.  Generally, the book just felt too short to do justice to the problem of addiction, but it was a good start.  I would definitely recommend it to teens.

October Mourning also fell a bit flat for me.  The Matthew Shepard story is definitely one that deserves exploration and attention, but I found myself not connecting with the poetry in this book at all.  The emotions felt a little forced.  I also just read a Wreath for Emmett Till, which is similar, but that book was so much more effective.

Lastly, I finished Struts and Frets and loved it.  The voice felt very true to life, the story was compelling, and I loved the music references.  Here’s hoping that book leads some teens to the Pixies.

Up next: I’m working on Code Name Verity right now, as well as I Hunt Killers.  So far, I’m finding Code Name Verity hard to get in to, but I hear that will pass soon.



Tracking her reading:

Read so far: 10 of 25

Comments: I just finished up The Raven Boys and I have a serious crush on Maggie Stiefvater right about now.  That woman can write!  I thought her departure from the alternating narrators worked just fine.  And now I wait until September for the next book. I listened to The Scorpio Races a few months ago and it was wonderful how different this book was from that one.

I reread A Flight of Angels for the challenge and I still feel really ho-hum about it.  I reviewed it for NFNT and I was so excited… Rebecca Guay is one of my favorite artists.  But the entire book as a single piece didn’t work for me.  The stories were uneven and the overarching was… meh.  Alisa Kwitney’s story was probably my favorite – because I like a very similar episode of the Twilight Zone.


Tracking her reading: here at NFNT

Read so far: 21 of 25

Comments: Sparks: The Epic, Completely True Blue, (Almost) Holy Quest of Debbie
Having just complained that I haven’t really enjoyed many of the books I’ve read for this challenge, I opened up Sparks and loved it.  In the best possible way, Sparks reminded me of an ABC Family Show.  I say in the best possible way, because that could be taken as a really back-handed compliment, and I mean it sincerely (as someone whose DVR is filled with a lot of shows that air on ABC Family).  It’s got a sense of humor, it is filled with characters whose voices ring true, and is a coming out story that I recognize.  It also feels a little bit like I think some of the zanier nighttime adventures in Perks of Being a Wallflower might have gone.  Also, as someone who was friends with people who formed their own religion in college (no eating cheese in April, no wine coolers on planes) I found Bluism awesome and now I want a blue Buddha to hang from my rear view mirror (or possibly sit on my desk at work and confuse all my co-workers).

Every Day
I’ve finished the book and I’m still not quite sure what I think about it.  It’s interesting, but I’m not sure I think it works.  I’m fine with suspending my disbelief to read a book – I read way too much fantasy for that not to be a skill I’ve honed – but I kept being really distracted by the complete lack of explanation for the central conceit of the novel (that he swaps bodies every day).  I kept wanting to know why it seemed to be so geographically limited, or how it worked, or if A was an alien of some kind (parasite?  symbiote?  what would be the evolutionary point?).  I was also distracted by how incurious the characters in the book seemed to be about the hows and whys of his condition – I understood why A wasn’t because the things that are part of your daily existence always seem normal to you, but the lack of curiosity from the other characters who find out struck me as really odd, because I would have a lot of questions.

I also got to the point where I felt a little brow-beaten by the message of the book – I kind of wanted to shake it and say, ‘I get it, love the person, not the packaging.’  I think the lack of explanation of what was going on made the message more obvious in a way that didn’t help the book – I wanted to work for it a little more, or have there be more nuance maybe?

That said, there were moments when I found the language of the book really beautiful, which I hadn’t been expecting.  I like David Levithan but I don’t tend to think of him as necessarily literary.

So yes, interesting, if not completely successful (for me).

Wonder Show
I’m having a moment where I wonder if I read the same book as everyone else.  Mostly I feel like nothing happened, and while that’s not necessarily a flaw in a novel, generally speaking books in which nothing happens need to have something else going on like an exploration of a time and place, or the growth of a character.  Theoretically, I suppose Wonder Show was an exploration of the dying world of the traveling circus in the 1930s, except it kind of wasn’t because nothing really happened.  She shows up, she’s there for a few weeks, she leaves, they come after her (for reasons I find compltely unfathomable).  I don’t feel like anyone really learned anything about either each other, themselves, or the world around them.  And, it wasn’t as if the prose was so deathless that you read it for the sheer beauty of language.

Like I said, I don’t feel like I read the same book everyone else did because nobody else seems to have had this issue.

Up next: Not sure what’s up next.  I tried to read Tell the Wolves I’m Home and while I’m going to give it a little longer to get going, about 40-50 pages in I’m wildly unenthused and taking a break with Eleanor & Park (so awesome! just like everyone said it would be).  The three award winners I did want to make sure I read were Bomb; Gone, Gone, Gone; and October Mourning.


Tracking her reading: at her library tumblr

Read so far: 15 of 25

Comments: I finished Dodger, which I found delightful (even though, GASP, I’ve never actually read any Dickens.)

I also just finished listening to The Watch that Ends the Night, and though I was skeptical at first (simply because it’s hard to make something fresh about the Titantic), I really enjoyed it.  (Also, that cover is gorgeous.)  The audio was full cast and very well done, and I was very impressed by the writing and structure in particular.  The framing of the story, which gives the undertaker sent out to retrieve the bodies a significant voice, and the leap of giving the iceberg itself a voice, both worked unexpectedly well.  I highly recommend it as a way to get deeper in to the true story, and I also highly recommend reading the entertaining and thorough accompanying notes, which help the reader discern what is fact and what is embellished.

On a side note, Wolf describes historical fiction as a bird in a birdcage, where the history is the cage and the fiction is the bird.  I loved that.

I too got distracted by other titles: book club books (Unwind and Breakfast at Tiffany’s this time around), and Eleanor & Park (SO GOOD).

Up next: I’m about a quarter of the way into Seraphina now (and loving it).


Tracking her reading: at Goodreads

Read so far: 10 of 25

Comments: I am late in replying because I am ashamed in my total lack of progress.  I think I’m one further than last time, but I gave myself a break for my birthday to read whatever I wanted.  I totally binged on things that I had reserved ages ago, intriguing books, and basically anything that I didn’t “have” to read.

I read: Titanic: Voices from the Disaster.  I had read pieces of it before and great reviews, so I’m glad I read it.  The true accounts from actual survivors lend a brilliant authenticity to the book.  I could see history buff kids getting really into it.  At the same time, I encounter a lot of reluctant readers, and I’m not sure even this crazy disaster would be enough to pull them into something that dense.  But, I liked it.

Up next: I’m halfway through 8 or so books. So, if I can ever buckle down, it should move very quickly…


Tracking her reading: here at NFNT

Read so far: 10 of 25

Comments: For some reason I haven’t been able to finish the final book in the Protector of the Small series. I feel like I already know what’s going to happen, so I keep reading other stuff.

I’m gonna keep whittling away!

Up next: Once I’m done those I’ll move on to some audio books and draw for a bit. I have The Watch that Ends the Night and Code Name Verity all ready to load.

Extra discussion: What to read if you’re struggling

Sarah: We’ve got 2 months-ish, after all.  But, I think I’ll need some extra motivation.  Can anyone give me their absolute favorites that I will delight in reading?  Because I feel like I’ve already read everything that I’m really excited about, and I’m feeling blah about a lot of the others.

Sheli: Sarah, I wouldn’t feel bad at all. I’m in the same boat. I keep diving into other books.

Sarah: Thanks, Sheli!  I feel better knowing I’m in good company.  I’m going to keep at it, too.  We can do this!

Emma: I agree that it was hard to find books to read in this challenge.

One problem I had, that others probably don’t, is I don’t like books that are too creepy or about zombies.

That said, I really liked The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson (although I confess to skimming through some if the tenser, grosser parts).  I also liked Struts and Frets by Jon Skovron a lot. A great boy voice.  And I adored Friends With Boys by Faith Erin Hicks.  Don’t know if you’ve read those yet, but I recommend them if you’re looking.

Petra: Some of it depends on what kinds of books you like (and what you might have already read), but I would recommend:

  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (WWII pilots & spies – deserves every accolade it has received)
  • The Diviners by Libba Bray (will introduce awesome 1920s slang to your vocabulary + creepy supernatural villain)
  • Heist Society by Ally Carter (very Oceans 11-ish)
  • I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga (very very creepy, but incredibly well done – I just finished the sequel which ended on the world’s most aggravating cliff hanger)
  • The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (pranks! at prep schools! girl who outsmarts the old boys club!)
  • All the Tamora Pierce books, for nostalgia if nothing else.

Sarah: Thanks, Emma and Petra, for your awesome suggestions.  I think that’s where my big problem comes in with the challenge- I actually read most of those pre-challenge!  So, I think I spend half my time looking at the lists thinking about how nothing sounds as interesting as the ones I already loved (I hunted down Maureen Johnson at ALA 2 years ago and got a signed ARC of The Name of the Star, and pretty much all of your suggestions grace my bookshelves even though I’ve been cutting WAY back on buying books since working in the library.  But you have to own your favorites, right?)

That said, I haven’t read either Struts and Frets or The Diviners, so I am reserving those, stat.  Thanks for putting up with my whining, guys!  I am now re-energized and raring to go.  You guys are the best!

Petra: This has been a large problem for me with the challenge.  The books that were likely to appeal to me I had already read – some in ARC form months and months and months ago.  I forced myself to read a lot of the award winners just because it was an interesting challenge, and a good way to make myself read outside my comfort zone, but some of them have been a real slog.

Roundtable: Eisner Award Nominee Reactions

eisnerawards_logo_2The Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards nominees for 2013 have been announced! We reviewers here at No Flying No Tights decided to gather together and do what comes naturally to any fan: debate the choices,  consider this year’s categories, speculate about titles missing from the roster, and give out kudos to all the nominees (highlighting our favorites.)

The nominees announcement is here, and the complete list of nominees is here.

Note from the editor: Having been on the inside of this award as a judge, and just as a librarian using the list every year, I frequently feel that the nominations are ultimately more useful even than the winners.  The nominees are all worth our time and consideration, which is part of why considering this list is so much fun.

First, the kudos

BabymouseforPresRobin: I’ll start. I was pleased as punch with the kids comics categories (both of them).  I was so glad to finally see Babymouse nominations (and am a bit amazed it took so darned long), and I’m happy that the TOON/Candlewick books are getting strong notice.

Snow: My main focus, as you all know, is kids’ comics, so I was THRILLED with the kids nominations, especially in the Early Reader category. I can’t believe that it’s taken the comic industry this long to realize that Babymouse is brilliant (or that it exists, even, but that’s a different rant), but at least they’ve finally joined in the love. I was also very excited that Kitty & Dino got a nod. I really love that beautiful, almost wordless picture book graphic novel. It’s funny and gorgeous and the recognition is well-deserved.

Sheli: Fantagraphics and Image should be so stoked right now. They took the lion’s share of the nominations, with Marvel making an appearance (largely for Hawkeye) and DC just getting a cover nod.

That’s crazy and awesome.

Hilda-Midnight-Giant-cvr1-540x703Jennifer W.: I loved Hilda and the Midnight Giant and I was surprised and thrilled that the kids agreed with me. Usually they won’t check out oddly shaped or different graphic novels. The Oz adaptations have also gone really well – I have a group of elementary-aged girls reading them and I just got some boys interested who liked the “scary pictures”.

Jenny: As for things I’ve read, I’m happy to see King City, Saga, Sailor Twain, Blacksad: The Silent Hell, The Unwritten, Nononba, and Amulet and their various creators nominated.

I’m eagerly looking forward to reading many of the other titles on the list when I can (I’ve got New York, Mon Amour at home right now, am on hold for A Chinese Life, and look forward to seeing how the Adventure Time comic compares to the cartoon), but it would be nice to see more variety.

Traci: I am super excited about Hawkeye – I just got and read the trade paperback at my library, and wow is it funny.  I was lol-ing all over the place!  And, I really love the Adventure Time comics and Darth Vader and Son, too.

InfiniteWaitAnd, I was super, super excited to see that Julia Wertz’s book The Infinite Wait and Other Stories was nominated.  What a really awesome book.

And…Wizzywig…and Comics Alliance!

And now, for the criticism

Robin: While I loved Ichiro, Annie Sullivan, and the A Wrinkle in Time adaptation, and am very happy to see those titles pulled out for notice, I felt that in general the teen category was 1) generally a good bit younger than most titles teens actually read and 2) once again woefully lacking in manga.  No one at the Eisners seems to remember that teens read a whole lot of manga, of all the age categories.

Snow: I’m okay with the teen nominations, in general. I haven’t read any of the Adventure Time comics yet, but the others in the teen category were ones I liked, even if I still don’t think the A Wrinkle in Time adaptation is really necessary. (But it is pretty!) I do agree with Robin, though, that manga just isn’t being given the attention it merits based on usage by the target audience.

Sheli: I read a post earlier that noted how odd it was that Saga makes such a clean sweep, but then there’s no love for Fiona Staples in the art category.

As always it’s a bummer that manga is regulated to the Best US Adaption of International Material. Then again, with the manga craze having calmed down, I’m having a hard time thinking up 2013 series that my teens fell in love with. Any reminders would be appreciated.

Gail: As I love Saga and we are publishing an article on Fiona Staples in our upcoming book on Canadian Identity in Comics, I was pleased to see how many nods went to that title but dismayed that she was shut out of the illustrator category.

Jennifer W.: I don’t think of A Wrinkle in Time and Annie Sullivan as teen titles – I put them both in juvenile. The teens at my library read manga and superhero comics. It’s really hard to get them to read graphic novels (except Faith Erin Hicks, who’s always popular)

IchiroRuss: I’ll chime in and agree that the teen list is a little wonky.  How do the Adventure Time titles (which I otherwise dearly love) get nods in both the kids and teen lists?  Of the things listed there, I would only put Ichiro and  Spera in teen.

Jenny: But I, too, frown at the lack of individual recognition for Fiona Staples and at the big gaping hole that is manga.  A huge percentage of what I read (for me, for fun) is manga, and I read A LOT.  There is so much wonderful stuff out there!  Why isn’t it better represented?!

Robin: One thing about the lack of manga, at least from my own experience judging, is that judges are selected with different interests and experiences in mind, including having someone who’s a manga fan or at least significantly aware of manga.  If you look at this year’s panel of judges, there doesn’t seem to be anyone who stands out as a manga fan per se, but that could just be the bios.

My year the judges created the manga category (Best U.S. Edition of International Material — Asia) for the first time, in 2007, and I’m glad its there, but I do sometimes wonder if it makes it more likely for judges to leave manga out of other categories.  But that is just speculation — I also know that so much is discussed during judging that we will never know, and I trust the judges to have done a considerate job.

Jenny: From what you and other Eisner veterans have said before, Robin, judging sounds like a lot of hard work!  I imagine it probably is just a matter of not having a big manga reader on the panel this year.  I know my own reading habits have some pretty sizeable interest gaps (superheroes! horror!), so I’m sympathetic.  We’ve had some really swell manga titles come out already in 2013, though, so hopefully there’ll be a bigger field recognized next time.  *crosses fingers*

I’d wondered about the separate category for manga being both a big plus and a little minus, too.  But I’m glad it’s there, as well.

Traci: I wished that the TOON book of Benjamin Bear had been nominated; it’s been my favorite of the Toon books so far.

I was surprised that none of the New 52 was nominated for anything?  Did I miss something?  I just really enjoyed the Court of Owls storyline and Animal Man and Swamp Thing, so I was just surprised that my opinion doesn’t dictate award nominations.


ParentsGuideComicsRobin: Super excited to see both Sailor Twain and Crogan’s Loyalty pulled out for recognition as well — I’ve a personal connection to both creators at this point, and I couldn’t be happier for them!

And, probably like everyone else in the world, I’m totally excited to see all the love for Hawkeye and Saga.

In terms of art, I’m particularly glad to see David Aja recognized for Hawkeye and Becky Cloonan for Conan and The Muse.

Sheli: I loved seeing Bandette, Adventure Time, and Sailor Twain make the cut. Really, there’s not a lot I’m not supportive of. It’s no shock to say I loved Saga and Hawkeye. I also love Hickman and Brandon Graham, so it’s celebration times all around!

Robin: Even if Snow may not want this aired, I am sad to see that her and Scott Robin’s excellent A Parent’s Guide to the Best Kids Comics did not pick up a nomination.  I’m biased, I know, but I believe it deserved the nod at the very least!

Gail: Absolutely love Hilda and the Midnight Giant — rooting for her!

I want to echo Robin’s comment about A Parent’s Guide to the Best Kids Comics — it definitely deserved to be nominated.

Allen: My brother did one of the comics in the Where Is Dead Zero anthology 🙂

Traci: First off – just to echo everyone else – A Parent’s Guide to the Best Kids Comics should have been nominated!  I put our reference copy in my Juv Comics section, and it gets so much use!  Parents and kids really love it!!

HawkeyeJenny: I am extra impatient to read Hawkeye now, thanks to all the excited reactions from the NFNT crew.  I hope my hold comes in sooooon.

Snow: Jenny, I’m with you! Where’s my Hawkeye? *runs off to check library hold list…again*

YALSA Hub Challenge: Update #7

Checking in with our challenge participants!


Tracking her reading: at Goodreads

Read so far: 16 of 25


Juvenile-in-justice_coverJuvenile in Justice – It was really hard to get my hands on this book. I tried to buy it for my YA room and was told we couldn’t get a copy, plus no one in my system has it. I finally managed to snag a copy through ILL. It was a tough book to get through. I went from hating the juvenile delinquent system to horror at the actions of these kids. The photos are both gorgeous and disturbing. I found myself hanging on to it to show coworkers and friends some of these haunting images. I finished in over a week ago and it is still very much in my mind.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl – I loved this. I was giggling from page one, despite the bit about the dying girl. The voice of the main character feels very realistic. Greg is snarky, self-deprecating, and confused about life. He has no giant epiphany moment, which I was expecting and would have made the book less real to me, so I was happy about that. This was just an absolutely hilarious read that also managed to make me cry at the end. I cannot recommend it enough.
Lioness Rampant – I finally finished the Alanna books! I loved them all the way through. I enjoyed that these books were more about telling the story of Alanna’s life than setting up a plotline. Pierce takes her time with each of Alanna’s quests and travels, making each chapter an enjoyment, rather than having the reader race to the end of the book just to see what happens. It was all about the journey here, which is the same for Alanna herself. Although, I did race to the end of each of these. I couldn’t stop myself.
Up next: I’m now working on Dodger and I Hunt Killers.



Tracking her reading:

Read so far: 4 of 25

SeraphinaComments: I’m working on Wonder, which I hadn’t planned on reading. However, the author is speaking at Tacoma public library this weekend and I wanted to attend. I’m nearly finished listening to it and it is wonderful but… I’ve spent almost the entire time crying while I read. Maybe it’s a little too close to having a kid – people tell me all the time that I’m suffering from being a new parent when I get weepy or overly worried. But I remember how it felt to have all those tests to see if you were high risk. And it makes me really thankful to have a child who has so few problems. And there’s the beauty of this family and August’s friends… They’re such wonderful people. Of course, now I’ve gotten to a chapter that I suspect will feature an animal dying and I had to turn it off. I was called in for jury duty last week and have been on a case almost the entire time, which has been a little harder to do than I thought. It was on the way in to this hopefully last day of the case that I got to this chapter and I couldn’t go in a sobbing mess. If anyone in the group has already read Wonder, how much more crying am I going to do?

Oh, and since we didn’t talk last week, I finished Seraphina and LOVED it! Yes, it was a slow book. But t was amazing and worth it. I’m excited for the sequel. The cast of characters, particularly her grotesques, made it for me. I adore Lars. I think what gave me fits with this book was that the world was so fully realized that the references were hard to understand. The saints, the language, I just had a hard time getting used to it. Now, of course, I’m wondering what a sackbut instrument is. And I’m having a hard time with the spelling, since I listened to this one too. The way that Orma is pronounced on the audio made me think his name was Alma. Anywho… More dazed and confused Orma please! Once I got past the language, it was amazing. The characters are so fully realized and the setting so detailed, it’s a world you can easily get lost in.



Tracking her reading: here at NFNT

Read so far: 18 of 25

PureComments: Annie Sullivan & the Trials of Helen Keller

I thought the way the panels were used, and the way that the art illustrated Helen Keller’s growing awareness of the world around her was very clever, and possibly one of the best/most visceral interpretations of that process that I’ve ever come across.
On the one hand, this is the first Alex award winner I’ve read this year that I actually thought had a shot at appealing to teens. On the other hand, I finished it last night and had no impulse to go look up when the sequels are coming out, or go stalk her author site to find out where she is in the writing process.
I had continuity/character development issues with this book. I felt like characters would make leaps of logic that I understood because I am a reader and the leaps of logic adhered to the narrative conventions of this form of novel (obviously there’s a conspiracy, obviously there’s a counter-insurgency movement, obviously X/Y isn’t dead), but it didn’t make sense for the characters in the novel to be making those A to K leaps of logic. Also, I completely failed to understand what was so special about Pressia (one of the main characters) that made everyone want to protect/follow/defend her.
I will say, I also had gross-out issues with the novel. The mutations edged over the line of too gross for my personal taste level, without quite compelling enough of a plot to get me past the ick-factor (unlike, say, The Marbury Lens which was also way over my personal horror line, but the writing and the story were so compelling that I could get past it).
Final analysis – it was fine as an example of a slightly more grown up dystopian novel, but on the whole I would recommend Hunger Games instead (not that they have similar plots at all, but they have a kind of similar vibe?).

To be very snide, I feel as though I have learned an important lesson about tolerance. Okay, I think it’s fair to say I did not love this book. It’s also fair to say, I didn’t hate it. Mostly I kind of wished it wasn’t about the main character, and that all the side characters got more screen time.

My problems with this book were two-fold. (1) I really disliked the voice of the narrator for the August sections of the book on the audio. This has nothing to do with the quality of the book itself, but required something of an act of will to continue listening to the audio (for anyone else – eventually you get to other narrators). (2) I kept being told that August was a ‘cool and funny’ kid by a variety of different narrators in the book. The problem was that the August sections of the book never really demonstrated that for me, so it became an endless cycle of tell-don’t-show, and for a book that’s going to be centered around a central message of ‘don’t judge a book by it’s cover’ then the central narrator does in fact demonstrably have to be a cool and funny kid.

The White Bicycle
I really loved this. This was somewhat unexpected since my initial impression from the cover copy on the book was that it was going to be entirely too earnest and ‘feel good’. But, the voice of the narrator is wonderful, and I liked being inside her head. I think that perspective is what makes the book work. And, while I don’t really have anything to compare this to, the narration and the voice felt very authentic.

Up next: Sparks: The Epic, Completely True Blue, (Almost) Holy Quest of Debbie



Tracking her reading: at her library tumblr

Read so far: 13 of 25

20130408-124232.jpgComments: I finally finished two of the Great Graphic Novels picks — Trinity and Annie Sullivan. I decided that while I admired a lot of the parts of Trinity, especially the explanations and visualization of science, on the whole it didn’t quite gell for me. I wanted to be more invested in the people and the discussion of the consequences of this weapon’s creation, and I just wasn’t via this particular text.

On the other hand, I really enjoyed Annie Sullivan. I loved the way the title depicted Helen Keller’s world with vague colors and shapes, and the careful structure of the panels was beautifully done. I also like that it’s simple enough for younger readers to get in to but also sophisticated enough to work well for teens (and adults.)

I also finished listening to Wonder, which I enjoyed more than I thought I would despite feeling a little bit like I was Learning a Valuable Lesson by the end. For the tweens and young teens its aimed at, I think it will mostly work, but I do feel as Petra feels — we’re always told how great Augie is, but much less shown it, and I felt like the concluding “Oh Captain My Captain” moment was a bit over the top.

Up next: I’m about half-way through Dodger, and from there I’m not yet sure



Tracking her reading: at Goodreads

Read so far: 7 of 25

MeandEarlandtheDyingGirlComments: I did finish Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl, and it was fantastic. It was completely authentic in the voice of a teenage boy (and all that comes with that), and it was emotionally weighty without being melodramatic. Totally awesome.

Up next: I’m halfway through 8 or so books. So, if I can ever buckle down, it should move very quickly…


Tracking her reading: here at NFNT

Read so far: 10 of 25

ProtectoroftheSmall4Comments: I’m wrapping up the Protector of the Small series now. It’s great fantasy, but I loved Alanna a little more. I find that I respect this main character, Kel, a crazy amount, it just isn’t quite as captivating as the Lioness.

Up next: Once I’m done those I’ll move on to some audio books and draw for a bit. I have The Watch that Ends the Night and Code Name Verity all ready to load.


Tracking her reading: at Goodreads

Read so far: 7 of 25

Comments: Okay, I’m admitting defeat. Between reviewing and writing and everything else, I’m giving up on the challenge. There are several books that are going on my to-read list, but otherwise, I’m done at 7 books (my count once I finish Moonbird).

Extra discussion: are these books wow or just ok?

Petra: I feel as though all of my reviews of the challenge books are somewhat negative. I like books, really, I swear. I even like books that were on this list, it’s just I think I’d read most of them already before the challenge started.

I loved all the Alanna books – I grew up on the Alanna books and have read and reread them so many times I can practically quote them whole sale. I was thrilled that Tamora Pierce won.

I loved Code Name Verity (print & audio) and I’m eagerly anticipating the companion book that’s coming out this Fall.

Seraphina was one of my favorite fantasy books of the year.

I was totally sucked in by I Hunt Killers, and I’ve read The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks more than once. Heist Society is a series I stalk. And while I liked Scorpio Races more than Raven Boys, that’s just a matter of degree.

Sarah: I’m right there with you, Petra. I grew up with Tamora Pierce books, sobbed through Code Name Verity in record time, and sped through Raven Boys, I Hunt Killers, and The Disreputable History. However, I had read all but I Hunt Killers before the challenge. Still, I feel like most of the ones I hadn’t read yet, I don’t love. Which is why I have a huge pile of books that I’ve started and not finished… and my number is very slow to go up.

Petra: Glad to hear it’s not just me.

I did enjoy Me, Earl & the Dying Girl (a lot more than I enjoyed Fault
in Our Stars – which are fascinating as a pair of books that approach a similar subject matter is such totally different ways). And, as I said, I unexpectedly really liked The White Bicycle, even though I really really didn’t anticipate.

YALSA Hub Challenge: Update #6

Checking in with our challenge participants!


Tracking her reading: at Goodreads
Read so far: 13 of 25

InTheHandoftheGoddessComments: I am finally tackling the Alanna books.  I read books 2 (In the Hand of the Goddess) and 3 (The Woman Who Rides Like a Man) and loved them.  I didn’t love the first book, which I read about a year ago, but these two were both so compelling, I read them in nearly one sitting.  I am working on Lioness Rampant tonight.  I love seeing a female protagonist who doesn’t take any crap from any of the men in her life, including the crowned prince.  While I definitely want to see her remain her own woman, I’m rooting for George.




Tracking her reading: at Goodreads

Read so far: 12 of 25

Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen KellerComments: I just finished Dodger which I enjoyed immensely. I loved the language, the winks and nudges from Pratchett, the sly humour, the involvement of key historical figures, and some folkloric ones as well. 5/5

I also just finished Anne Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller. Not a new story for me but it was intriguing to see how the graphic novel married Anne’s past with her tribulations with Helen. This was definitely Anne’s story rather than the usual focus on her student. I was not all that excited with some of the illustrations — the blobs did not work for me at all. I gave it a 3/5.



Tracking her reading: here at NFNT

Read so far: 14 of 25

DodgerComments: Ha!  I just finished Dodger tonight more out of a sense of duty than real enjoyment.  It’s not that I don’t think that it’s a good book, or that I don’t understand why other people really liked it, it just didn’t work for me.

I think I finally tracked my lack of enthusiasm for the book down to the fact that Pratchett is very consciously recalling a Dickensian style, and if you like Dickens that’s really going to work for you…unfortunately Dickens has never been one of my favorite authors so it mostly didn’t work for me.  Although, that said, I loved the character of Solomon – I could have read an entire book just about him and his past and perambulations around Europe.

I enjoyed Terry Pratchett’s other recent foray into non-Discworld writing, Nation, a lot more.  But, as I said, this was really just a book that didn’t work for me.  I understand why everyone else really liked it, because it was very well written, and the random historical figures who kept popping up were entertaining.

I also finished Where’d You Go Bernadette? last week, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Up next:  Next up, Pure, I think?  Possibly also Wonder on audiobook.



Tracking her reading: at her library tumblr

Read so far: 10 of 25

Wonder by RJ PalacioComments: I have not done as much reading as I might this week because I’ve been reading for my book club (reading To Kill a Mockingbird for the very first time, which horrifies many of my colleagues that it’s taken me this long, and yes, I love it just as much as everyone said I would.)

However, I have been listening to Wonder, which I was worried would be overly preachy and determined to teach me a lesson, but it’s turned out to be less that and more just a well-done portrait of a young man, family, and school.  It’s younger than many teen books I read, and thus borderline kids and teen, but I’m glad I’m listening.  The audio is also multiple voices, which is very good (although they do pull the animated movie trick and have a grown woman voicing the ten year old boy, which is just slightly distracting to me.)

Up next: Trinity I have to finish for our ongoing conversations about the Great Graphic Novels Top Ten at Good Comics for Kids, and then I’ve got the same stack staring at me from last week.  Not sure which I’ll pick up first — perhaps I’ll give Dodger a go since folks have been discussing it this week and I’m wondering how I’ll react to it.



Tracking her reading: at Goodreads

Read so far: 6 of 25

I Hunt KillersComments: I did a couple of my re-reads for my overall goal, but I don’t want to count those in my 25.  So, I only read 2 new titles.

However, I enjoyed Prom and Prejudice.  It was full of whimsy and fun.  I always like adaptations of Pride and Prejudice, and this one was pretty well suited for the teen audience.  However, like the cover, the whole book actually felt pink.  But, that was exactly what I needed because I had just finished:

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga. Creepy, creepy, creepy!!  I spent the whole second half of this book shrieking at every disturbance and hiding under the covers.  Some of the more graphic moments made me feel a little woozy, but I couldn’t put it down.  I don’t know if I can handle the second one, but if I feel the desire to be terrified, I’ll definitely pick it up.

Also, I reread the first 2 of the Alanna books by Tamora Pierce, and they were just as good as I remember.  Whoo!  Girl Power!



Tracking her reading: here at NFNT

Read so far: 3 of 25

Comments: I’ve been mum (and will continue to be) because maybe….maybe I’ve been reading books that aren’t on the list…

Up next: Once I’m done my current book, I’ll get back on the YALSA reading track with Pierce and some Daredevil. They’re staring at me judgmentally.



Tracking her reading: at Goodreads

Read so far: 6 of 25

Comments: I finished the Vietnam series, including the fourth book, though it isn’t one that’s mentioned in the challenge. I like that the series worked sort of like manga series do — basically one story in four volumes. Books 2 and 3 can be read on their own, but to understand book 4 and to get the full impact of the series finale, you really need to have read the first three. It wasn’t a cheery ending, not that I was expecting one, but it was a fitting ending.

To continue the depression spiral, I also read October Mourning, which was…okay. I actually wish Newman had made it more about her. The final poem, where she talks about visiting the fence where Matthew died, was very personal and powerful. The others were interesting, but many of them lacked the gut-punch of emotion that I think would have made the book blow me away. I do love that she included not only a great intro and afterword, but also source notes for quotes and ideas and a guide to poetic forms used.

Last night I picked up The White Bicycle, figuring I’d read for a bit and then finish it today, but I ended up reading the entire thing in one sitting. Brenna’s story is an excellent look at an older teen’s need for independence, something all teens — not just those in the spectrum — can identify with. She has a good way of balancing musical descriptive language with the blunt way Taylor has of looking at the world around her. Unlike other books I’ve read featuring autistic or Asperger’s teens, I didn’t feel like the reader was being encouraged to think, “Oh, the poor dear, she just doesn’t understand.” I was able to see things through Taylor’s eyes and her confusion was my confusion. Well done and, imo, deserving of the honor.

Up next:  I’ve got Moonbird and We’ve Got a Job checked out at home and Enchanted, The Name of the Star, and My Friend Dahmer waiting for me at the library, so one of those will likely be what I pick up next.

YALSA Hub Challenge: Update #5

Checking in with our challenge participants!


Tracking her reading: at Goodreads
Read so far: 11 of 25

aristotleanddanteComments: I finally finished Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe and loved it.  I sat down yesterday to read another 25 pages and ended up finishing the last 200 in one sitting.  It was a really sweet story with realistic voices and, while I did cry (because I’m sappy like that), it wasn’t as sad as I was expecting.

Up next: I’m working on Every Day and Dodger now, with I Hunt Killers, and Code Name Verity coming up.


Tracking her reading: at Goodreads

Read so far: 26 of 25 (flourish!  Our first finisher!)
Comments:struts and FretsI’ve read 26 and, even with rereading a couple things, had a hard time reaching that number. There’s nothing else I want to read or reread.
Favorites?  I really liked Bomb which is not one I would have picked up on my own. Although I think I liked it more for having read Trinity first. They complemented each other well.
I was really happy to have an excuse to read The Name of the Star and even more happy to read it right before the sequel came out, so I didn’t have to wait.
And Struts and Frets I’d never even heard of and just loved, particularly a realistic portrayal of a guy and that guys think and feel things too, something I think is often not shown.
Dislikes? I didn’t really like Girlchild. Well written but a little to unrelentingly depressing for me.  I also didn’t enjoy Dodger that much. Maybe it was just not the Discworld I was expecting?  It just seemed to lack Pratchett’s usual clever turns of phrase.


Tracking her reading: at Goodreads

Read so far: 10 of 25

stargazing dogComments:

I have quite a few titles coming from my library system so should have more read next week. I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Book Store (so much so that we are reading it in both of my book clubs: Young Adult and Adult) and shed a tear when I finished Stargazing Dog. It was melancholy but quite poetic for me. I enjoyed the illustrations as well.

I also finished In Darkness. I appreciated the read but I did not like it for reasons that I can not fathom. It has many elements that I like in books but it did not pull together for me in the least.

Up next: Dodger, Enchanted, A Flight of Angels, The Round House, and Every Day awaiting my reading pleasure.


Tracking her reading: here at NFNT

Read so far: 12 of 25

MeandEarlandtheDyingGirlComments: I enjoyed Me and Earl & the Dying Girl a lot.  I was fascinated by how nominally this book and The Fault In Our Stars share the same narrative base, but went in such such different directions with the idea.  I liked this more than I liked TFioS – but I think I was also just kind of underwhelmed by TFioS after of all the hype that it got.  Again though, this is not a book I would ever have picked up to read without the challenge, and I’m glad I read this, so kudos to the challenge for expanding my horizons.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore: Font geeks of the world unite, this is your book (although, that said, for a book where the grand reveal is all about being a font geek, the book – at least my copy – didn’t tell me what type face it was printed in; I was disappointed). I enjoyed it – it works better than a lot of books of it’s ilk (it’s ilk being the grand mystical adventure type books of which The Eight is a silly but good example, and The Da Vinci Code is a wildly popular but kind of terrible example – see also The Rule of Four, and Book of Blood & Shadows).  However, it suffers from the same problem that all books like that suffer from, which is that it is basically impossible to make the reveal as cool as the centuries long quest (Alias is a good example of an epic level of fail on the final reveal – this is better, but not as good as the reveal in The Eight).

I’m not entirely sure about it’s teen appeal – but I am also judging it based on what I would have enjoyed as a teen, not on any actual current acquaintance with real live teens.  So, in the final analysis:  I really enjoyed it, not sure what teens will think of it.

I’m also about 50 pages from the end of Where’d You Go, Bernadette? (which again, I’m enjoying, but cannot picture appealing to teens).

Up next:  I have Sparks: The Epic, Completely True Blue, (Almost) Holy Quest of Debbie sitting on my bookshelf, so maybe that.


Tracking her reading: at her library tumblr

Read so far: 9 of 25


I ended up listening to all of Libba Bray’s The Diviners, even though I have already read it, because everyone was talking about how excellent the audio recording was and I ran out of books to listen to, so…It was excellent!  January LaVoy did an outstanding job.  I got to see a little bit of an insider look while attending ALA Annual in how they created the audio for The Diviners, and it was fascinating to me how they chose to use one reader rather than many for a book that, obviously, has so many distinct voices in it.  LaVoy just knocks it out of the park.  (And since I also had to listen to The Scorpio Races for my teen lit book club, I was in audio heaven, really.)

I zoomed through Me & Earl & the Dying Girl this week in about a day, and it was thoroughly enjoyable.  I agree with Petra that it’s a similar but very different take on the teen-with-cancer trope, and I loved the voices of all the characters.  There are various issues floating around, but none of them are treated as so weighty as to disrupt everyday life, nor are grand lessons learned — just small, but no less, important ones.

I’m a bit more than half-way through listening to R. J. Palacio’s Wonder, and then I only have one title left to listen to (woe!)

Up next: I’m still struggling to finish both Trinity and A Flight of Angels (that’s never a good sign, especially with graphic novels, and they keep staring at me accusingly from the stack in my house.)  I’ve also got I’m a bit more than half-way through listening to R. J. Palacio’s Wonder.Boy21, Dodger, and The White Bicycle checked out at the moment, so we’ll see which grabs my attention next.


Tracking her reading: at Goodreads

Read so far: 3 1/3 of 25

Comments: I read the first Vietnam book (I Pledge Allegiance) yesterday. It was a fast read and I definitely see why it’s a Quick Pick — lots of action, a good guy perspective, sharp focus on the plot. I appreciate that Chris Lynch highlights both the horrors of war and the ambivalence of the military members, as well as the camaraderie and connection that the boys find in the service. He also points out the fascination of war and the power it gives warriors to control life and death, which is an important and realistic point to include. (And, as a Navy brat, I must admit, I enjoyed revisiting Navy life through Morris’ eyes — there’s nothing like the smell of the sea surrounding a steel ship and Lynch does a good job of capturing the feel of the deck rolling under your feet.) The only thing I wish was that Lynch had set things a little more firmly in time. I couldn’t get a clear grasp of when the story was taking place, which is something I look for in a historical title.

I’m going to pick up book 2 tonight, with some reluctance. My father doesn’t talk about Vietnam much, so I don’t know much about his experiences. Like Ivan in book 2, Dad was in the Army in Vietnam (he joined the Navy later) and was pretty young. On the one hand, I’m interested to see some of what Dad might have seen, but I’m also not sure I want to know much more about what my sweet, funny, creative father went through that was bad enough that he only occasionally mentions a story from that time, many of which are especially horrifying when related in the matter-of-fact tone that comes with distance and time and my family’s black sense of humor.

Up next: The Vietnam books are quick reads, so I’ll get those read this week. Additionally The White Bicycle and October Mourning both came in at the library and they are short too, so I’ll get started on them next.

YALSA Hub Challenge: Update #4

Checking in with our challenge participants!


Tracking her reading: at Goodreads
Read so far: 10 of 25


BombI finished Somebody Please Tell Me Who I Am.  I agreed with someone who posted before (sorry I can’t remember who).  Good storyline, good characters, but the focus was too widespread.  Zeroing in on one character might have helped develop the story better or just making the book longer.  I enjoyed the different voices but wanted more.
I also finished Bomb, which I really enjoyed.  It did what Trinity did not do well enough – develop characters and a story.  There were Russian spies, which I loved hearing about as I have a bit of a crush on George Smiley from Le Carre’s books.  It wasn’t bogged down by the science, but still explained things well enough.  I do wish that there had been more graphics.  The photos were condensed on one or two page spreads at the beginning of the chapters.  It would have helped the overall design of the book to spread them out more, maybe have some scientific illustrations, letters, or other memorabilia pictured, etc.  Basically I wanted Trinity and Bomb to be one book.

Up next: I’m still working on Dante and Aristotle Discover the Universe.  It’s excellent, but I am anticipating it being sad at some point, so I’m having trouble making myself pick it up again once I’ve put it down.  I’ve also started Every Day, which is David Levithan and therefore great and Dodger.  Terry Pratchett is the best.  Always.


Tracking her reading: at Goodreads

Read so far: 6 of 25

Comments: I did a lot of starts this week but no finished reads so I am static this week. Hopefully this week I will finish most of what I started and be ecstatic (pardon the pun).


Tracking her reading: here at NFNT

Read so far: 10 of 25

Comments: Nothing new this week – although I’m about 85% of the way through Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, and about 50% of the way through Me, Earl & the Dying Girl.

Up next: Me and Earl & the Dying Girl.



Tracking her reading: at her library tumblr

Read so far: 7 of 25

monstrous beautyComments: I finished listening to Monstrous Beauty in one fell swoop, which was a great way to resolve all the suspense toward the end of the story.  First, it was an excellent audiobook, and Katherine Kellgren did a fantastic job as the reader.  Second, I like how horrific and creepy Fama made the mermaids and the general sea lore — ghosts and murder and prejudice abound, and thus the book deftly avoids any overwhelming cheese factor.  It’s also not, ultimately, a love story, but more of a coming of age for our main girl.

I also zoomed through Where’d You Go Bernadette? in about three days, and it was DELIGHTFUL.  Hilarious and spot-on spoof, plus just enough character depth and weight to make you care about the madcap plot.  You DO want to know what happened to Bernadette, and not just because of a clever plot twist or scheme.  I did wonder how much teens would enjoy it — it won an Alex — in that yes, there is a teen character, but the majority of the book is from and about middle age.  I’d love to hear from teens who’ve read it as to how well it worked for them.

Up next: Listening to the Diviners still, and have started Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.  But first I’ve got to re-read The Scorpio Races for my book club.


Tracking her reading: at Goodreads

Read so far: 4 of 25

SilenceofourFriendsComments: I had some minor setbacks when a few of the more popular winners were due back to the library with waitlists but I hadn’t finished them yet.  So, I’m back on the list for In Darkness and Bomb and will finish both of those later in the challenge.  However, a number of winners came in for me, so I read The Silence of Our Friends and The Flight of Angels.

I felt really moved by The Silence of Our Friends.  It’s based on the story of the author’s father, with some details changed to protect identities, artistic license, etc. and the Civil Rights Movement down in Texas in the 60’s.  It was very realistic, portraying the difficulties and choices people faced during that time.  I immediately put it on the Staff Picks shelf when I was done with it, but it’s definitely for the older or more mature teen audience.

The Flight of Angels was OK.  It felt like it was trying too hard, but that could be just me.  I thought it was interesting how they melded all those authors together, and it was fairly seamless from the reader’s end.  I just never really got into most of the stories.  The drawings were beautiful, though.

Up next: I’ve also started several others, so those could be finished at any time!


Tracking her reading: here at NFNT

Read so far: 6 of 25


So I feel like I’m going to completely cheat by running right through the Edwards Awards.After all these serious reads, I just wanted something fun and quick, and lo and behold, there’s 8 Tamora Pierce books on the list. So I’m going to finish The Woman Who Rides Like a Man tomorrow, and be halfway through the Protector of the Small series by week end.
It seems really in my favor, because I’m a big Tamora Pierce fan, and the only titles they included were the only two series I haven’t tried by her (dabbled in some, devoured others). And though there are some pieces of the writing that aren’t as strong as her more recent works, by god they’re exactly what I wanted to read.

Up next: More Tamora Pierce!


Tracking her reading: at Goodreads

Read so far: 3 of 25

Comments: On vacation, lucky girl.  She will report in when she gets back!


YALSA Hub Challenge: Update #3

Checking in with our challenge participants!


BombTracking her reading: at Goodreads
Read so far: 8 of 25

Comments: I got behind in my reading this week.  I’ve started Bomb, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, and Somebody Please Tell Me Who I Am.

I have a problem reading just one thing at a time, so I haven’t finished any of them.  All three are very good so far.  Bomb is, so far, what I had hoped Trinity would be.  It delves more into the story behind the bomb and the people who worked on it, adding in the Soviet spies who were trying to steal information.  Much more interesting to read.  I’ll hopefully have finished one or two by next week.

Up next: I’m working on Bomb and then will be moving on to Dodger, because Terry Pratchett is the best.



MoonbirdTracking her reading: at Goodreads

Read so far: 20 of 25

Comments: Doesn’t everyone read more than one thing at at time?

I just finished Moonbird which was enjoyable, although didn’t strike me as a teen read.  I’ve just started Wonder Show and was going to tackle Dodger this weekend. Also, I broke down and ordered a copy of Juvenile In Justice because it was the only way to get my hands on a copy.

I’m up to 20/25 but, A.) I read a lot of graphic novels and re-read some books (which go faster), and B.) I get completely driven when I have a task like this and have been doing almost nothing (no, not even work) for the last month.

Up next: Dodger.


penumbra-cover-flip-light-320Tracking her reading: at Goodreads

Read so far: 6 of 25

Comments: I have started three books (Stargazing Dog, In Darkness and The Round House) and finished Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. I thoroughly enjoyed Sloan’s novel and we are now reading it for both my adult book club and my young adult book club (all adults reading YA literature; we have been going strong for over two decades – a ya lit course in library school that did not want to go away!).



love and other perishable itemsTracking her reading: here at NFNT

Read so far: 10 of 25


Prom & Prejudice (Popular Paperbacks):
Cute.  It stuck a little too closely to the original story for me – I like it was just translating P&P to modern setting without actually doing a lot of work to create new characters.  I thought placing it in a prep school was clever, and the big prom as the central event worked for me.  It was fun and fast, but I wasn’t blown away by it.

Love & Other Perishable Items (Morris)
I was less bothered by this book in retrospect than I was while reading it – this is mostly because I now know how it ends, whereas I didn’t while I was reading.  I think part of my problem was that the reviews/blurbs I saw for this book all presented it as a kind of Sarah Dessen-y romance, and I spent 5/6 of the book being really creeped out by the idea of a 21 year old guy hooking up with a 15 year old girl (and, since he does in fact engage in a sexual encounter with a 16 year old co-worker – it’s Australia it’s legal there – I wasn’t sure where the book was going with the central relationship).  SPOILERS . . . . in the end he doesn’t hook up with the 15 year old protagonist – he recognizes that they have a connection, but that she is too young and that he is moving backward not forward if he tries to wait for her.  I found his story arc more compelling than hers – she felt like a very generic teen character in that kind of novel – but I didn’t find either story arc all that interesting.  In the final analysis I was somewhat underwhelmed by this book – it was fine, but nothing particularly special.

Up next: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore (Alex) 48 pages in, and I’m enjoying it.



InDarknessTracking her reading: at her library tumblr

Read so far: 5 of 25

Finished In Darkness, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and am very glad to have been forced to read by this challenge.  This was a book that I kept looking at and thinking, “great cover!,” and then never actually picking it up to read.  The writing was top notch (as is to be expected for the Printz winner), and I enjoyed the way the two threads of the stories intertwined.  Like Petra, I’d be curious to know how the book was received in Haiti, or by Haitian readers, just because I wonder how representative they feel it is.

Started listening to Monstrous Beauty, and I am enjoying it, although not totally blown away.  Creepy and a refreshing change from magical mermaids — this one is more harsh, more horrific, and I like that.

Up next: possibly Boy21 by Matthew Quick, or one of the others from the stacks accumulating on my floor!



enchantedTracking her reading: at Goodreads

Read so far: 3 of 25

Comments: I’m also reading a few at a time, so I only finished Enchanted.  However, I’m reading In Darkness, Trinity, and Bomb.  I’m loving Bomb, but I’m not getting into the other two yet.  I really enjoyed Enchanted, though.  It was a clever blending of fairy tales, although I didn’t find the second half as compelling as the first.




Tracking her reading: here at NFNT

Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen KellerRead so far: 3 of 25


Annie Sullivan and the Trial of Helen Keller. I really liked this. I thought the way they depicted blindness made me better able to put myself in Helen’s shoes. It also made me appreciate how crazy difficult Anne Sullivan had it. I had no idea. I’m also really happy to see an OGN come out of the Center for Cartoon Studies. I can’t wait to see what else they do.

Up next: Code Name Verity. It hasn’t grabbed me yet, but I’ve been assured that it will. So, I’ll just keep reading!



somebody1Tracking her reading: at Goodreads

Read so far: 3 of 25

Comments: I finished Somebody, Please Tell Me Who I Am, which I liked, but I wonder if that was mostly because there really isn’t anything else like it (yet). I felt there were too many points of view for such a short story and wished that some of the characters had had a little more room to breathe. But, other than that, I did enjoy getting to know them all.

Up next: I’ll be on vacation next week and I won’t be able to check in. I’m taking The Diviners, Code Name Verity, and The Raven Boys with, but I’m also taking a stack of review copies I need to get through, so who knows what I’ll actually finish.


YALSA Hub Reading Challenge: Update #2

reading-challenge-logo-participant-smallChecking in with our challenge participants — how are things going?



Tracking her reading: at Goodreads
Read so far: 8 of 25

TrinityComments: I just finished Trinity, as well, and had the same reactions as Robin (see below).  Interesting science-wise, beautiful illustrations, but it took me a lot longer to finish than any of the other graphic novels this time around.  It moved slowly and there was no story.  I just started Bomb, which is much more fascinating.  I’ll update you when I’ve finished it.

I also finished Where’d You Go, Bernadette off the Alex Awards list, which I keep bringing up.  It was one of the most enjoyable adult books I’ve read in ages.  I highly recommend it.

Up next: I’m working on Bomb and then will be moving on to Dodger, because Terry Pratchett is the best.


Tracking her reading: here at NFNT

Read so far: 12 of 25

Comments: I read The Miseducation of Cameron Post over the weekend and didn’t love it.  Not that it wasn’t written well.  It does a great job of describing a specific time and location.  I think its that a rural setting, 20 years ago really didn’t speak to me in an urban setting in present day.  It felt almost boring to me, weirdly like nothing happened in the story.  I did feel it lacked an effective climax to the story.  So even the, I guess, climactic end, didn’t feel built up enough for me to feel it.

Up next: Am currently listening to Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian and reading Struts and Frets.

I’m still having an awful time getting my hands on Juvenile In Justice.


Tracking her reading: at Goodreads

Read so far: 7 of 25

Comments: Traveling for the moment, but I’ll update next week in more depth!

Up next: I will be reading In Darkness for my YA reading group next week and Dodger just arrived from the library so will be reading both when I return from Reading Week. I will also be reading A Flight of Angels.


Tracking her reading: here at NFNT

Read so far: 8 of 25


Friends with Boys: I loved this.  My only complaint was that I wanted more, which isn’t really a complaint so much as a plea for a sequel (she’s got 4 years of high school to get through, there could be at least 3 more books in that series).

Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb: I’m with Robin on this, it was oddly dry.  There were parts of it that I really liked – I liked the domino metaphor that they used to explain the chain reaction; and I liked the framing metaphor of being Prometheus creating a new fire for the world/the standard omg what have we done.  But, it was incredibly text dense.  I wasn’t really sure why they’d bothered to make it a graphic novel it was so text dense.  It felt very much like a text book, but not one I could imagine any teacher accepting in a bibliography.  Robin tells me that this publisher has the express aim of creating graphic novels that can be used as serious non fiction resources for research papers, which possibly explains some of the dryness of the text, but I still can’t picture a teacher accepting this as a reference material.  Maybe I’m being too narrow minded about it.

My Friend Dahmer: Interesting.  It felt very confessional, almost inside a therapy session.  I’ll confess to not actually knowing much about Dahmer other than that he was a serial killer, so learning more about him was interesting.  I thought the note the author put at the beginning that specifically stated that as soon as Dahmer started killing the author lost sympathy with him, and that this shouldn’t be read as an apology for Dahmer.  I wondered about that when I read it in the foreword, but having read the rest of the book I understand why he put it there, because it could very easily be read as an excuse for Dahmer’s actions.  Honestly, and this is partly because I’m not really a graphic novel person, I found the foreword and notes at the end more interesting than the main text.  That being said, I’m glad I read this, and I would never have picked it up to read without this challenge.

Up next:

Some iteration of:

  • Me, Earl & the Dying Girl (I’m very curious how this compares to Fault in Our Stars by which I was seriously underwhelmed)
  • Sparks: The Epic, Completely True Blue, (Almost) Holy Quest of Debbie (honestly I have no idea what this is even about, but the title is awesome)
  • Love and Other Perishable Items
  • Prom & Prejudice


Tracking her reading: at her library tumblr

Read so far: 4 of 25


Somebody, Please Tell Me Who I Am: I really enjoyed this title.  It’s not an easy read due to the subject — traumatic brain injury — but it’s very well written and packs a lot into a few pages.  I was impressed with the economy of the style and Mazer’s ability to really define characters in a few vignettes.  Also, given a topic that could easily be ridiculously preachy or maudlin, this book is refreshingly not that at all.

My Friend Dahmer:  I’ll say more about this over at the Good Comics for Kids roundtable in a week or so, but for now — deserving of all the praise its gotten, and fascinating.  In a way, I found the notes and the additional information just as enthralling as the main story simply for learning how to present memories coherently and as truthfully as possible.  I think it likely belongs where we shelve it, in our adult collection, but I think a lot of teens will find it enthralling as well.  (Also, as I was just finishing reading The Talented Mr. Ripley for my film/book discussion group, this has been a strangely in sync week of reading for those two very different looks as the psychology of killers.)

Trinity: I’m half way through this one, and I admit, so far, I’m kind of meh.  Perhaps it’s because I know a fair amount about the subject already — the race to build an atomic bomb, the various scientists involved, the politics — but while this title excels at presenting and explaining the actual science, the story behind the creation of the bomb is dry and too much of a lecture for me.  These scientists were complex and interesting people, as were their circumstances, and I’m finding way too much telling and far too little showing going on in terms of the personalities.  I want more of the human side of the story, not just the scientific discovery.

Up next: Gearing up for In Darkness next, I think.


Read so far: 1 of 25

Comments: I have a few books in progress, but I just finished Dodger by Sir Terry Pratchett.  It was funny and sometimes sweet, and so very Victorian London.  I had thought that it would have a more overt nod to Oliver Twist, but the small details here and there were even classier.  What can I say?  I love Terry Pratchett.

I know I missed the first post, so I wanted to mention my plans.  I’d like to do 25 with no re-reads.  However, I’m hoping to read some in addition.  Specifically, I want to re-read Code Name Verity because it was my vote as the best book of last year.  Not best in a happy-go-lucky way, but in a sob like a baby for hours way because of how well it was written.  I’d also like to read some of Tamora Pierce again because she was my absolute favorite author starting at age 9.  Even better, she’s still in my non-ranked Top Ten.

So, I’m currently at 1/25.  However, I’m going to get serious now, so watch out!  Serious reading about to commence.

Up next: I’ve now started In Darkness, but I tend to read several books at once, switching with my moods.  I have a giant stack of awesome to choose from, so I’m not worried.


Read so far: 1 of 25

anniesullivanComments: So I finally have a plan of attack!

I’m not going to reread any book that I’ve already read for the challenge. Which means half of the GGNs are out. The other half are all checked out, so I have to wait my turn. Mixed with those I’m going to track Best Fiction, Printz, and maybe a couple Amazing Audios while I’m drawing. It’s nice to feel organized.

1/25! My Friend Dahmer had a ‘hold’ status, but was on the shelf!

That was…unsettling. Is also makes me feel really guilty. There’s plenty of high school social outcasts that I came to mind while I was reading. The book is pretty good at giving you the okay to tell an adult when you’re worried for fellow students. I can’t do anything now, but I like that if I was a teen reading this, the narrator gives me the go ahead to act on my uncertainties.

Up next: Annie Sullivan.


Read so far: 2 of 25
Comments: I finished Titanic: Voices from the Disaster on Saturday and, while I enjoyed it (I always like a good disaster; though perhaps reading it on the same day I went to see The Impossible was a bad idea), I’m not sure what the nonfiction committee saw in it. It’s a solid book about the Titanic, but it doesn’t break any new ground as far as I can tell. I’d like some insight in to why they picked it as a finalist.

Yesterday I read The Silence of Our Friends, which was just hanging out on the shelves at the library waiting for someone to check it out. I really liked the personal take on the Civil Rights Movement. I felt that Long’s story was touching without being maudlin and did a good job of portraying everyone as real people struggling to do what is right, even as they aren’t always sure what that is. My main “complaint” with the story was that I wanted it to go on; I wanted to know more about the people in the book.

Up next: Somebody, Please Tell Me Who I Am.