Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Zero Gravity - Astronaut Academy

Title: Astronaut Academy zero gravity
Author: Dave Roman
Level: 10-14
Location: graphic novel j astronaut vol.1

Zero Gravity is the first book in a new series of graphic novels that take place in space. This one is older than our other space related graphic novels. The story focuses on the students, who seem to all have crushes on other students, and teachers of the school. The dialog in the book was a bit awkward. It reads almost like it was translated from Japanese, the way people for whom English is a second language might translate literally or phrase words differently. I tried to think of it as being translated and that helped some. Also the story itself did not flow smoothly to me. Each chapter is started by a character introducing him or herself and speaking from his or her view point. Eventually characters are introducing themselves for a second or third time. While there was a story line it felt disjointed. We never find out why Hakita Soy came to astronaut academy and are left guessing about why he is sad. There is some humor. The drawings were good and the black and white panels are easy to follow. So Zero Gravity is alright, but I would rather read the younger space graphic novels Missile Mouse or Zita the Spacegirl. I haven’t ruled out giving the second volume a chance.

Bottom Line: I was looking forward to reading Zero Gravity, the first book in the Astronaut Academy series, which focuses on the students and teachers at the school. I am a bit disappointed due to awkwardness in the dialog and story line. Also with so many graphic novels in color this one is black and white. It is older than other space graphic novels (10-14). I didn’t hate it, but I would much rather read Missile Mouse or Zita the Spacegirl. I’m hoping the second volume will redeem the series for me.

And Then There were Gnomes- Guinea Pig Pet Shop

Title: And Then There were Gnomes- Guinea Pig Pet Shop Private Eye #2
Author: Colleen Venable
Level: K-3
Location: Graphic novel juvenile guinea vol.2

This series takes place in a pet shop with a variety of animals whose cages are mislabeled. Sasspants the guinea pig is a voracious reader, which is probably why that cage has the correct animal label. Hamisher, the hamster wants to be friends with Sasspants and is constantly making up mysteries to be solved so he can be the sidekick. So when a real mystery does need to be solved it takes a bit of convincing for Sasspants to get involved. Will they be able to solve the mystery before all the mice disappear?

Bottom Line: This is a short, humorous, graphic novel for the younger readers who like rodent pets (mice, hamsters, guinea pig and chinchillas) and mysteries. There are plenty of details in the pictures to add to the story and the panels are easy to follow. A rising second grade and fifth grader gave it two thumbs up.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Beauty Queens

Title: Beauty Queens
Author: Libba Bray
Reading Level: Young Adult
Location: YA Bray

Printz Award winner Libba Bray, begins her latest novel, Beauty Queens, with the dramatic plane crash of an entire plane full of Miss Teen Dream contestants. Those who survive find themselves on a deserted island with no adults or food and worst of all, no beauty products! Led by Miss Taylor Rene Krystal Hawkins from Texas, the girls focus on staying pageant-ready by practicing their dance routines and relishing all that weight they are losing. But the island is not entirely uninhabited and these Miss Teen Dreamers are in more danger than they ever imagined. As despair and hunger set in, the girls begin to drop their fake personalities and all that competition to band together and survive in style, learning about themselves in the process. Will the Miss Teen Dreamers make it off the island to write a tell-all book about their experiences? Will they fall for some hot, reality-show pirates? Will they break a nail in the process?

I am a huge Libba Bray fan and have adored her other novels, so I was fairly confident I would feel the same about Beauty Queens. From Bray’s snarky humor to the “commercials” for various beauty products like “Lady Stache Off” and reality shows like “Captain Bodacious IV: Badder and More Bodaciouser,” that appear between chapters, this book was a lot of fun from start to finish. I really did not think I would get attached to any of the characters since they are all beauty pageant contestants but Bray deftly reveals their real personalities and the various reasons they got into pageants. I have to say, I loved all the characters in the end, even the super ditzy one. If I were on a deserted island, I would definitely want Taylor Rene Krystal Hawkins on my side; maybe she could teach me to break the bad guy’s necks.

One of my favorite things about this novel is Bray’s message that you don’t need Lady Stache Off, eye creams, wrinkle-remover creams, tanning creams, bleaching creams, breast implants, breast reduction, butt implants, lipo, botox or anything designed to make all girls look like cookie-cutter, carbon copies of each other. It’s good to be different. So when our society tries to put you in a box and make you conform to our social mores or our narrow standard of beauty, be confident and live the life you want. I am thrilled that Bray delivered her message in this hilarious, exciting romp with some amazing beauty queens. Oh, and she does throw in some hot pirates!

The Bottom Line: Beauty Queens is just amazing! Libba Bray does a great job of delivering a hilarious story and great characters while simultaneously slamming our image-obsessed, reality show culture. This is a book that makes you proud to be a girl, no matter your age, and I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Missle Mouse Rescue on Tankium3

Title: Missile Mouse Rescue on Tankium3
Author: Jake Parker
Level: juvenile
Location: juvenile graphic novels

Missile Mouse Rescue on Tankium3 is just as great as the first Missile Mouse. It has colorful, easy to follow panels of intergalactic action. In this story Missile Mouse takes on King Bognarsh, who has enslaved an entire planet and Blazing Bat, who has been hired to kill him. In the last story Missile Mouse’s partner turned out to be a traitor. This time he is reluctantly paired with a robot when he would rather work with something that has a brain, heart, and conscience. He soon changes his mind when he realizes Agent 44 has his back. The drawings still have a Star Wars feel. The story moves along quickly and is over too soon. How long will we have to wait for the next Missile Mouse?! A least there is a bonus. Check the back of the book for a guide to Missile Mouse’s universe. It includes weapons and ships.

Bottom Line: Another solid Missile Mouse story from Jake Parker. The story is constantly moving with plenty of action and colorful panels of creatures from other planets. Anyone who liked the first book in this series will like Rescue on Tankium3 also. I loved it!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Title: Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth
Level: Young Adult
Location: YA Roth

Divergent was being compared to Hunger Games before the book ever came out so for those of you who are wondering just how alike they are, here it is. Both are dystopian young adult books with adult crossover appeal. Each has a female main character who is separated from her family, faces tough situations and decisions, is disliked because of where she is from, has an ally die, and a least one person who wants her dead. Unlike other popular teen series the main character in this one has only one love interest and it’s more realistic. I found this refreshing.

The dystopian world in the book is divided into five factions that eradicate those qualities they believe were responsible for the world’s disarray, meaning they live their lives based on one aspect of human personality. At sixteen everyone takes an aptitude test to help them determine which faction they belong in. Then at a Choosing Ceremony all declare which faction they want to belong to. Once the ceremony is over those who transfer factions might not ever see their families again. The choosing is the easy part though. If they don’t pass the initiation they could become factionless, which is described as worse than death. Tris, the main character, has a bit of a different experience with the aptitude test, and isn’t sure which faction she will choose until she cuts her hand for the ceremonial drop of blood into her chosen faction’s bowl.
Initiation begins for Tris as soon as the last sixteen year old has chosen a faction. Within an hour she’s not sure she will survive it. The faction doesn’t seem to stand for what she thought it did. She’s not sure who to trust and knows if the secret she is trying to keep hidden is discovered everything could be over for her. Luckily for Tris, she has an unknown ally. She is surprised on Visiting Day when her mother shows up and even more surprised by what occurs during the visit. By the time she realizes who her ally is she also knows something is not right and whatever that something is, it’s growing.

Bottom Line: Divergent is an action packed dystopian novel. When I reached the last hundred pages I couldn’t put the book down! If you liked the Hunger Games series you will probably like this series also. Be aware this is not a copycat so it isn’t going to be just like the Hunger Games. While both have a female main character, a love interest, and a need to stay alive all of these aspects are very different in Divergent. Even the violence is different. I liked the Mom in this book, but to write anything about her would give away part of the plot. She is an unexpected, but welcomed personality in the story. The ending was left so open I am interested to see what direction Ms. Roth will take with the second book in the series. I will be recommending this book to many teens and adults.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Title: Passion a fallen novel
Author: Lauren Kate
Level: young adult
Location: YA Kate

Passion is the third book in the Fallen series. This series is based around main characters that are fallen angels and the mortal one of them loves, Luce.
The series in two minutes: In Fallen Luce was drawn to both Daniel and Cam. She fell for Daniel, but had to leave the Sword & Cross school when she unknowingly told Sophia Bliss something that could put her life in danger and could lead to a final death. In Torment Luce started to learn about angels and Announcers. She was troubled by Daniel’s distance, questioned his love and anguished over family she lost in past lives. In Passion Luce visits past lives to learn about her love for Daniel and his undying love for her. She is determined to find something that will help them stay together in the present. But there is someone who doesn’t want to see Luce and Daniel together.

Spoiler Alert: If you have not read the first two books in this series you may want to skip to the bottom line. You may remember the ending of Torment had Luce jumping into an Announcer and then the other angels and Nephilim following her. Passion begins with the introduction of a new unnamed character who says he is taking care of things himself. It is obvious that everyone else at the meeting is terrified of him. From there we are back with Luce as she comes through the first Announcer on her search to figure out a few important things about herself, her lives, and her future.

There is a good amount of Announcer travel in Passion. Luce gets a glimpse into some other lives as she tries to figure out why she loves Daniel and why he loves her. All the while Daniel is desperately chasing her through Announcers missing her by minutes. The other angels are trying to find her also because if she changes anything there will be a ripple effect through time. So just how many times can you watch yourself die or relive the anguish of losing the one you love because of your actions before wondering if it’s worth continuing? Both Luce and Daniel learn something from their past lives. I found the visits to past lives interesting, but I like historical fiction. If the time travel is not something you enjoy reading, be warned almost the entire book will be just that.
There is a character who shows up in Luce’s Announcer claiming to be there to guide her. He’s a bit creepy. At times he seems helpful, but he also seems to get upset with Luce so I had to wonder just what he was guiding her toward. Make sure to pay attention to this character.

Bottom Line: Some series can maintain the same quality and interest level throughout all of the books. Others seem to lose it in one book and make the reader wonder if they should continue with the next in the series. Passion is the book in this series that just doesn’t live up to the standard. The majority of the book takes place through Announcer travel to past lives of Lucinda and Daniel as she learns about their love and he tries to find her. While I enjoyed this aspect of the story, there came a point when I wondered how long it was going to continue before they would discover what they needed to learn. After all Luce has a “guide” in her Announcer. Once Luce realizes she will always love Daniel and everything they go through in each life is worth the small amount of time they have together the story really gets moving. We learn about the angels' fall from Heaven and what someone is doing to keep Daniel and Lucinda apart. I’m glad I read Passion, but I can’t say I enjoyed it as much as the previous titles in the series. Leaving a couple past lives out would have helped it. I won’t give away the ending, but I expect the final book in the series, Rapture, to be action packed.