Fiction: Graphic Novel

Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 6: Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Just in time for the movie! Although now I know how it ends… But still!

I don’t want to give away anything in case any of you are going to see the movie – I know I am – so this is going to be a fairly short and vague review! When we last left Scott, he had hit a pretty low point. There was really nowhere to go but up! And even though things may or may not (I’m not giving it away!) work out for Scott and his friends, it’s a surprisingly thoughtful and insightful ending – I mean, look past the fights and surreal dream travel and trust me, it’s there!

I was sad to see it end, but I’m really looking forward to the film now (as long as they don’t screw it up, of course)!

My rating: A-

Fiction: Romance

Goddess of the Hunt by Tessa Dare

I think I say this every time I post about a romance novel, but I hardly ever read them anymore, except for Julia Quinn. But someone – and I’ll be honest, I have no idea who – recommended this one and I needed a mass market to get me over the free shipping limit on Amazon a while ago, so I tossed this one in my cart.

There’s nothing revolutionary going on here, but it’s certainly enjoyable enough. The hero is suitably brooding and handsome (though I have to wonder why there aren’t more easygoing, funny heroes in romance novels – much more appealing!) and the heroine is suitably likable and spunky (and here I have a slight bone to pick – how are we, the readers, supposed to identify with these constantly petite and gorgeous heroines who think quickly on their feet – where is the tall, average-looking at best, socially awkward heroine [i.e., me]?).

I think I came in in the middle of a series, though, as there were obviously other characters who had already had or were imminently destined to have their own romance novels – not that you particularly need to have the backstory to enjoy this one. The ending felt a bit rushed – I’m not sure Jeremy won’t lapse back into grumpy and overbearing once the honeymoon’s over – but it was an enjoyable enough bit of fluff.

My rating: C+

Fiction: What the hell did I call this last time?

Changeless (Book #2 of the Parasol Protectorate) by Gail Carriger

But before I read all those other books…I had to finish this one. And MAN, was it hard work! Harder than I’d been expecting, considering how much I enjoyed the first one.

Really the only thing I have to say is that, despite having a new mystery to solve, the introduction of a new and intriguing character, and more steampunky gadgets and even dirigibles, things seemed to kind of plod along. Also I’m being shallow here – and not taking it into consideration for my rating – but I didn’t like the cover as much as the first one.

Basically, I think this suffers from bridge book syndrome (also a distinct lack of Professor Lyall) and am more than willing to give the third book (Blameless, out in September, I think) a read.

My rating: C+

IR Historical Fiction

Quest for a Maid by Frances Mary Hendry

Liz lent this to me ages ago and I kept forgetting I had it! Finally this weekend, I sat down, determined to read it so I could finally, finally give it back to her. I was a little wary of it because of that cover – it does not look like a happy book, does it?!

But holy cow! They do NOT write books like this anymore. That’s meant to be a compliment if it’s not clear. It was amazing. I think it was written in 1988 or 1989 and it definitely has that quality of late-90s middle grade fiction. And again, that’s meant to be a compliment. Something about it – and I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to put it into words – made me think of classic books like Caddie Woodlawn, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, The Last Silk Dress, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, On Fortune’s Wheel, and, another one of my all-time favorites, A Murder for Her Majesty. And now I’m a little bit grumpy with my childhood librarian for never recommending this to me – I was 8 years old when it came out, exactly the right age to be reading this!

It took me a couple of chapters to really get into it – Hendry writes her characters’ dialect which is fairly thick Scots and it took me a while to be able to stop reading aloud in my head sometimes – but then I was hooked! The main character, Meg, is feisty and noble, as she should be and the secondaries are all very well fleshed out – evil when they should be and loyal when they should be. And, man, can she write a sailing scene! After the chase scene in Hugo Cabret, I think the last four or so chapters were the fastest I’ve turned pages in a long time.

My rating: A

Fiction: Graphic Novels

Scott Pilgrim, Vols. 1-5 by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Your annoying friend strikes again! Scott Pilgrim keeps coming up in recommendations for graphic novels (p.s. – if you have any, feel free to leave me a comment or an e-mail with them!) and when I saw that it was going to be a movie starring Michael Cera and directed by Edgar Wright (of Space, Shaun of the Dead, and Hot Fuzz fame), I couldn’t resist any longer. Not that I was resisting, I just hadn’t gotten around to it yet…

I bought the first one just to see how I liked it. Mistake! They take about an hour to read and then I was left longing to know what happened next for an entire night! I bought and mainlined the remaining five (the final, sixth volume will be released July 20) the next day.

So awesome! Scott Pilgrim, despite actually being kind of a jerk (as Kim Pine points out), is really likable and so are all his friends who are super-cool – the kind of cool where you really would love to hang out with them, but you’re probably not cool enough, but somehow that makes you want to hang out with them even more. And it has a touch of the surreal about it, but everyone in the book just accepts it as the norm which I really like.

If you’re a twenty-something indie slacker who’s in a band and destined to fight your girlfriend’s seven evil exes, this is the book for you! And even if you’re not, it’s still the book for you.

My rating: A

IR Fiction/Graphic Novel

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

I literally spent the entire last weekend reading. As you’ll gradually see over the course of the week. First up was this one which I’ve been meaning to read for absolute ages! What finally spurred me into action? A friend of mine mentioned that Hotson Jude Law was going to be appearing in Martin Scorsese’s adaption of this book. Well, if you know me at all, you know that I like to read the book before the movie comes out – for no reason other than to be that annoying friend you all have who says ‘Have you read the book?’ when you start discussing the merits of the movie.

I don’t think the movie’s even started filming, but I was also procrastinating reading a book that I have to read before Claire leaves, so I thought I’d dive right in.

And Oh. My. God. It’s brilliant. You’ll notice that I classified this as both fiction and a graphic novel (not that graphic novels aren’t fiction, but you get the distinction, I’m sure). There is text, but there are also large sections that are only illustrations – at one point, there’s a chase scene and I swear I’ve never turned pages so fast! Selznick’s style is very pencilly and cross-hatchy – I would liken him to Shaun Tan’s Arrival and Chris Van Allsburg’s The Mysteries of Harris K. Burdick (two of my absolute favorites, by the way – if you haven’t read them, I don’t think I can be your friend [also, forget The Polar Express, Harris is Van Allsburg’s masterpiece]).

Oh, yeah, and the plot is quite good, too, but mostly I think this book is about the visuals and it’s a stunning example of a blending of illustrations and text. It totally made me cry at the end.

But in a good way. You should definitely read it.

My rating: A

YA Fiction: Sci-fi/Fantasy

Lament by Maggie Stiefvater

I hate myself for liking this book. It won’t make you feel quite as dirty as the Twilight saga (I liked the first one, but by the end of the second, I just wanted to knock some sense into Bella and tell Jacob and Edward that they’d be better off with each other), but it is problematic.

And yet I want to read the second one – what’s wrong with me?!

Mostly, I feel like this is a book I would have written in high school; in fact, I’m sure I started writing a book very much like this when I was in high school. The heroine is Mary Sued up to the teeth – gorgeous, super powerful, amazing harp player, amazing singer; the two guy friends are gorgeous, super powerful, and amazingly talented musically; and there are faeries and Celtic  mythology everywhere!

Also:

  • The love triangle doesn’t quite work – Luke figures much more prominently in the story than James does, so we don’t really get to know James very well or see him interact much with Deirdre. In fact, he confesses his love to her via text message and then they basically don’t share a scene for the rest of the book.
  • The pacing is a bit off, too – everything builds very slowly up until the last fifth of the book and most everything suddenly gets resolved. A few plotlines are left unfinished, but I assume they’ll be addressed in the second book in the series.
  • I don’t really like Deirdre that much. She’s a bit too mopey and ‘Why me?’ and makes a few really stupid decisions. In fact, I had to put the book down before the last 75 pages and walk away for a week or two (to read Kathy Griffin’s book) before I could manage to go back to it.

And yet. I’m totally going to read the next one. Seriously, what’s wrong with me?!

My rating: C