Mindy shares this review:
My family discovered this story a few years ago during a road-trip stop at a popular restaurant and gift shop franchise where you can actually rent audiobooks on CD then return them at another location anywhere in the country. It delighted us that this alternative take, or prequel, on the lost boys, Peter Pan, pirates, magic, plus mermaids and a jealous fairy was equally appealing to the males and females, young and old, riding in our car. No one wanted to miss a single word as our car rolled along and it really helped pass the time! We even couldn’t wait to get up the next morning from our hotel beds to hit the road and continue listening!
My kids have since taken up the reading of the complete series of five tales that concluded publication in 2011. This first audiobook is nine hours long. I’d say this is the best road-trip audiobook ever and have recommended it to a lot of grandparents and parents seeking something to please whole carloads.
The book has boundless high-seas adventure, a mystery, and a heroic quest complete with a strong teen female character named Molly plus plenty of swashbuckling danger. Readers will learn the origin of the stardust that enables Peter and his friends to fly, and we get to know characters who feature in the timeless J.M. Barrie story Peter and Wendy. Humorist and novelist Dave Barry is a great storyteller and has ensured that the laughter almost never stops; Ridley Pearson’s skill with fantasy and fast-paced suspense is as adept in this young adult title as in his many books for adults.
Lizzie shares this review:
Dead is a Battlefield is the 6th installment in the Marlene Perez’s Dead Is series. In this book, Daisy passes the point of view to Jessica. I found it interesting how Jessica was mentioned in the first five books before becoming the main character.
The plot begins with Jessica entering high school as a freshman. Her best friend, Eva, joins the mix as you learn more about what Jessica has been thinking while we’ve been following Daisy. As the plot continues you learn more about the new characters that belong to her generation.
The character’s personalities are laid out right in front of us from page 1. Jessica is characterized as the popular girl, but after reading a little more, you see her quirks. All together the characters have general personalities, but the author added little differences.
The setting is a small town named Nightshade. The town is located in the state of California, which gives it a beach-y feel. Not only is the beach theme great, but Slim’s Diner is still included in the story. Slim’s is a classic diner with it’s own invisible man!
Since Jessica is only just entering high school, one of the themes seems to be trying to fit in. Jessica was the most popular girl in her middle school, so she’s unsure what her place is in her new school.
The only problem with this book and series is that the story moves too fast. The reader could get lost and confused if the page isn’t reread sometimes.
I would give this book 4 stars. The characters are given great personalities along with interesting backgrounds. The plot drags the reader in from start to finish. The setting fits the story. Altogether, this book is a great read.
Check the WRL catalog for Dead is a Battlefield
Lily shares this review:
This is the 3rd book of the Books of Bayern series.
Razo has been underestimated his whole life because of his height and seemingly careless personality. Even he believed that all he was really good for was giving people a good laugh. That is, until burnt corpses start showing up, implying that the military company he is in has a fire witch in their midst. The Captain of the Guard notices that Razo has an uncanny ability of observance and employs him as a spy.
My personal favorite of Hale’s Books of Bayern, River Secrets is an epic tale full of mystery, adventure, humor, and romance.
Check the WRL catalog for River Secrets
Laura shares this review:
If there are graphic novel fans out there who really like Scott Pilgrim but would prefer a little less plot and a lot more fighting and jokes, this book was made for you. Sharknife, Stage First is a frenetic, fun, and sassy volume filled with game references, youth culture, eggroll-seeking monsters, and a fortune-cookie powered superhero. Any pretense of seriousness is immediately put to rest on the first page when a character breaks the fourth wall to introduce herself and the town she lives in.
Chieko Momuza is a self-described “spazz-banana living in a cyclone of hyper.” Her father Raymond owns a Chinese restaurant that had the misfortune of becoming THE place to be in town. Why is this unfortunate? Because formerly the hottest spot in town was a smoke shop owned by a man named Ombra. Occupation: gangster. Like any respectable bad guy, Ombra can’t pass up the opportunity for a revenge plot. In the spirit of the best James Bond villains, his plan is ridiculous, obsessive, and bizarre: he plants mechanical monsters into the walls of the restaurant that come alive when they smell food.
Fortunately, the Momuzas have a bus boy, Ceasar (sic), who turns into a powerful being named Sharknife when he consumes one of Chieko’s fortune cookies. He fights off the bad guys and Ombra sends more, better ones. That’s it, the whole of the plot. This is a fun story, folks, not a deep one. These fights, which take up most of the space in the volume, are what you are paying the price of admission for. Interspersed in the action are sly gaming homages such as health bars, power ups, and key combinations for special attacks.
The lettering for the sound effects reverberates throughout the art with each crash and hit performing the sound for you through movement and line energy. Characters even step (or are thrown) in front of the sounds, and the text occasionally layers on top of several panels, fully integrating into the noisy landscape.
This is certainly a fast read with the only disappointment coming at the end of the book when you run out of pages. Fortunately there is also another volume to consume.
Recommended for fans of Scott Pilgrim and other hyper-but-clever teen literature. Not recommended for anyone who would grit their teeth at hearing someone say “oh noes!”
Search the WRL catalog for Sharknife.
Lizzie shares this review:
“Alchemy: the mystical power to alter the natural world; something between magic, art and science. When two brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric, dabbled in this power to grant their dearest wish, one of them lost an arm and a leg…and the other became nothing but a soul locked into a body of living steel. Now Edward is an agent of the government, a slave of the military-alchemical complex, using his unique powers to obey orders…even to kill. Except his powers aren’t unique. The world has been ravaged by the abuse of alchemy. And in pursuit of the ultimate alchemical treasure, the Philosopher’s Stone, their enemies are even more ruthless than they are…”
Fullmetal Alchemist is an amazing story so far.
The two main characters, Edward and Alphonse Elric, are really interesting. They both are very brave and caring. Neither of them would put someone’s life on the line on purpose. The major difference between the two brothers is that Edward becomes angry easily, while Al is more calm.
The main plot point is centered around Edward’s attempts to bring Alphonse back to his body. They are aiming to find the Philosopher’s Stone.
Altogether, I hope to read more of this series. I have really taken a liking to it.
Check the WRL catalog for Fullmetal Alchemist.
Lily shares this review:
The sequel to The Goose Girl, Enna Burning is about a feisty, strong girl named Enna. She was one of the workers that Isi (Ani) lived with in her months of hiding, and since then their friendship has remained – even though Isi was returned to her rightful place as princess. Enna learns the lost language of fire, against Isi’s warnings, and begins to use her gift to scare away the enemy troops camped at Bayern’s borders…
Enna Burning is a story that proves that the best friendships endure and that you can never judge a book by its cover.
Check the WRL catalog for Enna Burning.
Jessica shares this review:
Given the multiple starred reviews of this realistic fiction read, I had fairly high expectations. And it didn’t disappoint.
Eleanor is an outsider who dresses strangely and is a target for bullying with her curly red hair, curvy build and freckles. Her home life is nothing short of a nightmare, and with no friends to turn to, Eleanor is completely alone. Park is well adjusted, and though a bit different with his Korean heritage, accepted. His parents are as in love as the day they met, and outside of getting his driver’s license, Park wants for little.
Needless to say, it’s not love at first sight. But Park’s inner kindness comes through, and he gives Eleanor the empty seat on the bus next to him. While the two remain silent at first, Park begins to notice Eleanor reading his comics through sideways, downcast glances. To his own surprise, Park starts bringing Eleanor comics to take home and read on her own. From that point on, a fairly unpredicted relationship begins to emerge. The comics progress to mix tapes and even more heart-turning, conversation. And all of a sudden, Park wonders how he didn’t fall head over heels for Eleanor the day she stepped on the bus.
With more in common than most, Eleanor and Park develop a strong bond that keeps them together through all the high and lows in Eleanor’s life. Unknowingly, Park provides Eleanor with an escape from her terrifying stepfather and secret home life. For once, Eleanor begins to feel safe and loved and cared for. But with so many factors in the works throughout the novel, something is bound to test their commitment and pull them in opposite directions. For two sixteen year olds, they show a remarkable level of depth and emotion. Rowell has truly managed to craft an imperfect love story that will leave readers with both smiles and tears. Even romantic skeptics will enjoy the push and pull and leave cheering on the unlikely couple.
Check the WRL catalog for Eleanor and Park.
Lizzie shares this review:
This manga follows the life of twins Yukio and Rin, who happen to be sons of the demon lord, Satan. Of the two, only Rin was cursed with Satan’s powers.
The plot begins with Rin learning that he is half demon. After this occurs, he decides that he will become an exorcist and defeat Satan since Satan killed his foster father. He follows his brother Yukio to True Cross Academy, which is where he will learn to become an exorcist.
The characters in this graphic novel have interesting personalities. Yukio, for example, is smart and shy, but is confident when he’s teaching his class. Rin acts goofy, but is serious when needed. So, each character has a personality that changes and is well-rounded.
In conclusion, I enjoyed this graphic novel very much, and I am hoping to read more like it.
Check the WRL catalog for Blue Exorcist.
Lily shares this review:
A twist on the classic fairy tale, The Goose Girl is about an unusually gifted princess who takes a long journey to an unknown country to meet her betrothed. On the way, mutiny arises within her guard. Before she knows it, Ani is running for her life with no one to protect her. She makes her way to Bayern, the country of her betrothed, only to find the rebels within her guard making themselves at home. In order to lay low she finds work as a goose girl and discovers a family in her fellow workers. Suddenly, word spreads that Bayern is to be at war with her home kingdom. Ani must face her fear of discovery and death to stop the massacre of her people.
This romantic adventure is a beautifully crafted story of betrayal, trust, and finding your own strength.
Check the WRL catalog for The Goose Girl
Melissa shares this review:
Teenager Lex Bartleby has gotten in trouble, serious trouble, more times than her parents can handle. As hard as it is for them, they send her to her Uncle Mort’s for the summer, hoping he can help her work out a better release for her destructive behavior.
Lex doesn’t understand why she’s so angry all the time, but nevertheless dreads the trip to her uncle’s. She’s prepared to hate every minute she’s away from her twin sister, Cordy.
It turns out, though, that Uncle Mort has experience with angry teens–in fact, he seeks troubled kids out for a pretty special job. Mort is a Grim Reaper, and he finds that kids with Lex’s issues make great apprentices.
Lex is surprised to find that she has a natural ability to quickly free the soul from the deceased–and for once in her life she has lots of friends who seem to understand her. As an added bonus, those wild urges to act out start to fade as soon as she starts working as a reaper.
When the Junior Grims notice a series of suspicious deaths, Lex and her partner Driggs, try to figure out what’s going on. It looks like someone has gone rogue and is killing off people whom he or she thinks deserve to die–murderers, liars, cheaters, etc.–which is something Lex has struggled with ever since her first day on the job. Why shouldn’t these bad people get punished for their deeds?
The book answers some questions, but definitely leaves enough open that you’ll have to read the sequel, Scorch. Thankfully, that book, too, is in the library collection.
The world-building and explanation of how the Grims collect and deliver souls to the Afterlife is fascinating. And the wide assortment of characters in the town make for interesting reading. The author writes with a nice mix of humor and action. I couldn’t help but turn the page to see what would happen next.
Check the WRL catalog for Croak
Check the WRL catalog for Scorch
Lizzie shares this review:
“Humankind is down to just a few thousand people who live in a city surrounded by three concentric walls. The walls protect them from their enemies, the ravenous giants known as the Titans. The Titans appear to have only one purpose: to consume humanity.”
Attack on Titan is a bloody manga with an abundance of death. This manga is full of adventure, emotion, and lots of gore. It all starts when a certain titan kicks a hole in the outer wall.
The main character, Eren Yeager, is a relatable punk with a serious attitude. After enduring the worst moment of his life, Eren proclaims that he will kill every titan in existence. His drive is one quality everyone talks about throughout the book. Another great thing about this book is that the side characters are shown and explained. Unlike other books, they continue to use side characters instead of dropping them halfway through the book.
The theme of this manga is survival. Since titans have almost wiped out mankind, people have to learn how to protect themselves and what it means to truly live. Though survival is important, people still ruin relationships with others who could very well save their life. In this manga, everyone has their own bad quality.
The plot of humanity being close to extinction is a very overused topic, but this manga is a little different. Instead of starvation or alien-like creatures coming to kill humanity for some reason, they have human-like creatures attacking them.
Altogether, this first volume really stuck out to me. It has its fantastic main and side characters, each with their own unique qualities, along with a thriving plot that keeps the reader wanting more. I rate it 5 stars.
Check the WRL catalog for Attack on Titan
Never fall in love with someone who has chosen to die.
Palmares Três is a futuristic Brazilian pyramid city, a vivid backdrop for this young adult novel. After global catastrophe in the distant past, humanity has rebuilt pockets of civilization, but with a lingering mistrust of new technology and a twisted political system born out of the times of chaos. Genetic modification has extended lifespans, creating a culture and a political system that doesn’t begin to take you seriously as a mature adult until you’re in your thirties.
And every few years the youth elect, in a spectacle reminiscent of early seasons of American Idol, a Summer King who holds the title for one year before the reigning queen slits his throat in televised public sacrifice. Yes, if you can imagine Ryan Seacrest hosting an Aztec ceremony—and really, it’s not so hard—you’ve got a good handle on politics, Palmares Três style.
The king’s death reinforces his choice of the next queen, but he doesn’t really have a choice. It’s all bloody political theater that plays to the young crowd and reinforces the ruling matriarchs. Until Enki, who is gorgeous and talented, a candidate from the lowest class of Palmares Três society. His wild popularity is probably the first sign that the city’s government might be massively out of touch with its citizens.
June Costas, the narrator, is a young, ambitious artist who is just graduating from street graffiti to installation art that challenges the city rulers. (One of her projects is the body-mod shown on the gorgeous book cover: patterned lights embedded under her skin.) She starts out just another young woman screaming with the crowd, but her art catapults her into the public eye, a complicated relationship with the Summer King, and a whole world of things she did not want to know about how her city is governed and about what it’s like to love someone who plans to die. Even June can’t figure out whether Enki is in this game for a few months of privilege, access to limited-edition body-modifying tech, and fans lining up to be his lovers; whether he truly has a death wish; or whether he’s figured out some new way to serve the city they both love.
This is a serious-minded take on art and politics, acts of rebellion, and using your own life (and) death as a canvas. Johnson writes vivid, sensual prose steeped in Brazilian phrases, dance, and song. Palmares Três culture, at its best and worst, comes to life in lots of little details. The worldbuilding reminded me of Nnedi Okorafor’s alternate Nigeria in The Shadow Speaker, but this book is aimed at older teens and young adults. Although most of the words eventually make sense from context, I admit, I could have used a glossary. But what this book could really use is a playlist—after reading about the ways Palmares Três kids blend music and art and political protest and dance, you’ll really want to queue up a samba.
Check the WRL catalog for The Summer Prince.
Jessica shares this review:
Get ready for a fast paced, post-apocalyptic thrill ride. Author Aguirre appeals to a wide range of readers in this first of a planned trilogy, which has ample amounts of action, suspense and adventure.
The world now isn’t a place we would easily recognize. The ruins are all that remain, along with the violent gangs who inhabit them and the underground subcultures living in communities known as “Enclaves.” However, roaming the underground tunnels is another set of creatures as well. Known by members of the Enclaves as “Freaks,” these creatures are absolutely zombie-like, with a lust for human flesh. In this frightening view of the future we meet Deuce. She exists within the Enclave, a strong and dedicated member who lives for her coveted position as Huntress.
The Enclave has assigned the role of Hunter/Huntress to members of the community who will defend them against the “Freaks.” On her naming day, after fifteen years of training and waiting, Deuce is assigned the role of Huntress. Ever diligent and never questioning, she takes on the role with fervor. But everything begins to slowly change when she is partnered with another hunter, Fade. Fade is an outcast who arrived at the Enclave after surviving for years on his own topside. Never fully accepted and a self-made loner, Fade still possesses a unique skill set that is highly valued—fighting and killing. Together, Deuce and Fade begin to make notable discoveries about their leaders and start to get a glimpse of the dystopian society they have called home for years. After a devastating event forces Deuce and Fade to be banished from the Enclave, they must learn to survive not only the topside gangs, but the “Freaks” who have found their way up as well. An ideal read for fans of The Hunger Games and Graceling.
Check the WRL catalog for Enclave.
Melissa shares this review:
This debut novel by Carrie Harris is fun—if, like me, you enjoy the occasional zombie book!
High school junior Kate Grable is the football team’s student trainer. She is hoping that the experience will help her get into a good medical school, but up until now she’s pretty much just been in charge of the Gatorade cart.
One afternoon she notices a bunch of unlabeled bottles in the coach’s cabinet. She suspects they are steroids until one of the players collapses at a party. Kate swears the boy is dead, until he lurches to his feet and walks away. He can’t be dead if he walked away, right?
After a few more players show the same grayish skin and dead-like symptoms (like trying to munch on other students), Kate is ready to think the unthinkable. Something has turned these players into zombies.
Before the whole town comes down with the zombie infection, Kate has to find a cure. And if she manages to get a date to the homecoming dance in the meantime—so much the better!
The books are fast-paced and easy to get into. It isn’t particularly scary reading about zombies running loose in school. And while there is a certain “ew, gross” factor, even that is handled with humor. Add that to the usual high school angst, and friendships, and crushes…. it makes a great introduction to a series of books about geeky Kate and her high school adventures. I wonder what will happen next to this aspiring medical student!
Check the WRL catalog for Bad Taste in Boys.
Jan shares this review:
“Daddy does not know what it is like to have to be a father to your mother. “
It is always an adjustment when a parent is deployed, but what happens when a family is held together by one parent and that parent leaves? In Joseph by Shelia P. Moses, Joseph’s father is deployed to Iraq and his mother, a drug addict, cannot cope. In fact Joseph, a boy mature beyond his years, ends up looking after her. When they are evicted he gets a chance to go to a better school although he is terrified that his new friends will learn that he and his mother are living in a homeless shelter. Joseph is torn; he is a good student who wants to do well in school and wants to take up tennis again, but he also wants to protect his mother and is suspended for three days for fighting with boys at school who insult her. Joseph’s parents were estranged before his father went away but the deployment makes it impossible for his father to offer any support to Joseph, except financial support. And that goes wrong when his mother uses Joseph’s father’s money to buy drugs rather than food or utilities. Joseph’s father knew about his wife’s problems and was trying to get custody of Joseph, but had missed two court dates because he was deployed, so may never get custody.
Joseph is a gritty book, not holding back from Joseph’s mother’s degradation and the negative effects on Joseph. Joseph’s mother is not at all likable, while his father is physically distant and therefore unable to help. Joseph is all alone. When some of his old school mates pick another fight with him: “When they read me my rights they say I can make one phone call, but I have no one to call. Daddy is halfway around the world; Momma’s cell phone is off.” p75
Ultimately it is Joseph’s Aunt Shirley who saves him until his father returns, showing the importance of extended family in this sort of situation. When a military family are in crisis like this there are programs and people who are meant to help. I know that sometimes they are not as helpful as they are meant to be, especially in a case like this where Joseph and his mother live away from a military base. Isolated families face the same pressures in having a parent deployed but it is more likely that they will fall through the cracks and be missed by the military assistance.
I recommend this book for adults and older teens who want a glimpse into the sordid life of addiction and the effects on children. It doesn’t talk a lot about what many people think of as a military lifestyle but does highlight that thousands of American children, far from military bases, have been affected by the recent wars as they have seen a parent leave.
Check the WRL catalog for Joseph
Mindy shares this review:
Where’d You Go, Bernadette is a laughable and adventurous satire packed with hilarious characterization and witty dialogue mostly in the epistolary fashion using email correspondence, letters, police reports, report cards, and other documents. Modest readers might find some strong language offensive yet very in-character when utilized.
You’ll find hilarious characters, some to love, some to hate, and some to drive everyone crazy! Semple pokes fun at Seattle’s subcultures of anti-fashionable, pro-geek, tech-talking, community-oriented, hyper-diverse, ultra-green, alternative-lifestyle embracing citizens. Semple herself is a transplant to the Seattle region from Los Angeles, as is the character Bernadette, where she wrote screenplays for “Beverly Hills, 90210,” “Ellen,” “Mad About You” and “Arrested Development.”
Caution, spoilers (because the events are revealed asynchronously and non-chronologically): Bernadette Fox has escaped her failed career as a genius architect by isolating herself in a crumbling fortress of a home where she can’t sleep and torments herself with self-pity. She’s become so anti-social that she’s hired a virtual assistant to handle even the most mundane logistics of her life. For years, her precious 15-year old daughter Bee has been Bernadette’s only reason for living. Bee’s been promised this trip to Antarctica as an award for her perfect report card (Her Microsoft-guru dad can afford it). Now, she’s having a panic attack brought on by the prospect of accompanying Bee through the sea-sickening Drake passage, “the roughest and most feared water in the world,” and this leads to a series of outrageous circumstances that culminate in a final resolution that just might restore Bernadette’s artistic passion.
The narration, and actual singing, by actress Kathleen Wilhoite, is extraordinarily energetic and adds much to the listening experience of the audiobook version, which I was whizzed through completely enraptured with joyous laughter. When hearing her voicing the hysterics of the ‘gnats’ (aka the condescending moms of Bee’s classmates at Galer Street School), I was reminded of Tea Leoni’s over-the-top character in the movie Spanglish.
Check the WRL catalog for the print version, too.
Jan shares this review:
I found this book difficult to read, not because of the length of the book or the complexity of the language – because it is a short and quick read – but because it too realistically portrayed details of my husband’s recent deployment to Afghanistan, although he is now safely home.
Jess’s dad is in Afghanistan and she lives with her mother and toddler sister at invented army base, Fort Spencer, in Florida. She and her friends Meriwether and Sam have set up an unofficial charity to raise money in Florida to donate supplies to a girls’ orphanage in Kabul, Afghanistan. Meriwether wants to stop working on the project and spend the rest of her summer sailing and swimming like usual. But Jess constantly looks at the photos and videos of the children they are helping and feels compelled to get more money for them.
A detail this book captures, that books set earlier miss, is the immediacy of electronic communication. Soldiers have always written letters home from war, and letters from Civil War and World War I soldiers are now important and poignant historical documents. Will a transcript of a Skype session ever be seen as history? Can a Skype transcript even exist and can streaming video be saved? When you expect instant electronic communication from someone in a war zone at a certain time every day or at an expected frequency, if it doesn’t arrive, its absence carries a burden of worry. In the first few pages Jess says, “His email is there. I check the date and time of his note. As of this morning, Dad was still alive in Afghanistan.”
That turns out to be an ironic statement as they soon discover that a surge is underway and there have been several explosions in Kabul, including at the orphanage. The explosions over 7000 miles away in Kabul turn Jess’s life upside down. There are injuries and deaths and some people in her community blame her for the military being anywhere near the orphanage, endangering themselves and the orphans.
Operation Oleander is an up-to-date book that captures a slice of military child experience. A child with a deployed parent may be interested in the book’s perspective, although they may find it too raw and difficult to read, although it describes no graphic violence. And thankfully, most military children don’t have to deal with so much tragedy. It includes details about the expectations for extra responsibilities when a parent is away, such as Jess’s father teaching her specifically how to add gas to the lawn mower and turn off the water main before he goes away. For every reader Operation Oleander also asks profound questions about blame, accountability, unintended consequences and our obligation to each other as human beings.
Check the WRL catalog for Operation Oleander.
Jessica shares this review:
For the scientists at Little Cam, a top-secret research compound hidden deep within the Amazon rainforest, immortality is no longer an ambition but a reality. With the creation of Pia seventeen years ago, the scientists achieved their dream after more than a hundred years of experimentation. Hidden away from the world at Little Cam, Pia has always considered her life to be perfect and absolute. But one night curiosity takes over, and she dares to venture outside the facility through a newly created opening in the fence. Once on the other side, Pia is so transfixed by the freedom of the jungle that she fails to notice a native boy, Eio, and runs right into him. Soon, Pia is discovering a new community of people, a different way of life and emotions that she never knew existed. The tropical forest and its native Ai’oan inhabitants along with handsome Eio all call to Pia in a way the compound never has. As the story progresses, the history and happenings at the research facility become strikingly more disturbing, and shocking secrets about Pia’s creation are revealed. When every ounce of her morality and humanity are questioned, Pia is torn between the life she is expected to live and the one that speaks to her heart.
Check the WRL catalog for Origin
Laura shares this review:
If you asked people what they think of when they hear the term “American mythos” many would undoubtedly call to mind Cowboys and Indians and other aspects of the Wild West, unaware of the vibrant and complex stories and traditions of Southern Folklore. Bayou is a beautifully-rendered Alice in Wonderland-style fairytale set in Mississippi during the Depression. It is a uniquely Southern world, filled with mud and Spanish moss, concurrently embracing and fighting against the legacy of slavery.
The story centers on Lee, a young black girl, who is friends with Lily, the white daughter of the woman who owns the farm where Lee and her father live. Lily is snatched and swallowed by a monster from the bayou, named Cotton-Eyed Joe, and Lee’s father makes a convenient suspect for the local law officers when she is reported missing by her mother. In an effort to get her friend back, and free her father before he gets lynched, Lee follows the monster into the brackish water, and finds herself in an alternate but parallel world. The inhabitants of this world are human-like, but their physical bodies have been replaced by various characters drawn from Southern myths. She meets Bayou, a swamp dweller who, despite his giant stature, is cowed into submission by the Bossman and his lackeys through their brutal enforcement of the law. Despite his fear, Bayou sees the need and determination of Lee to find her friend Lily and decides to help her, although not without trepidation.
Any story that starts with a lynching and exposes the varied responses of people to such brutality isn’t going to pull punches. But what is most chilling about its narrative is that Bayou doesn’t make the humans into caricatures. The people in the normal world are just that: normal. They are all believable products of their time and environments, and that is clearly reflected in the social interactions between the characters. Young and old, black and white, rich and poor, everyone seems to know who is in power and the potential consequences of any action that might upset the current balance. In the parallel world, characters are taken to their extreme with Jim Crows, Golliwogs, and Confederate officer hounds, but it’s the similarities rather than the differences between the two worlds that are most striking.
Bayou’s injections of race, religion, poverty, and the blues contribute to an important and uniquely Southern voice in fantasy and graphic novels. The storyline and imagery can be disturbing and unsettling, but these aspects give meaning and power to the book’s message. Both written and drawn by Jeremy Love, the use of color enhances the atmosphere, bathing the images in deep gold, dusky pink, and brownish-green. Recommended to readers of fantasy, graphic novels, and southern fiction.
Check the WRL catalog for Bayou
Jessica shares this review:
5 pilasters! 6 pilasters! 25 pilasters! (Shouts from the crowd), 1 Keystone, says Kestrel. 12 keystones! 13 keystones! 15 keystones! 25 keystones! (Shouts from the crowd), 50 keystones, says Kestrel. And so it ends. Kestrel, the General’s daughter, has just made a very public display of wealth, desire and in the eyes of those around her in public square, a sizeable mistake. She has participated in her first slave auction (much to her own surprise) and not to the disinterest of those with questionable stares. And she has purchased her first slave…but at an incredibly high and unexpected cost. Why? Because the auctioneer proclaimed the one thing Kestrel could not ignore; the slave could sing. And there is nothing more in the world Kestrel loves than music, even if it’s one of the things her people dislike most about the population they conquered years ago and enslaved. Kestrel is among the upper-most class of the Valorians, a people known for their rough natures, war fighting skills and commitment to conquering the lands and people that lay beyond but within their reach. But she is distinct, she is different. Kestrel doesn’t long for a prestigious military career like her father, or a marriage to another elite society member like her friends. She yearns only for her piano and the ability to play whenever she wants. And so, with the hope of perhaps finding a kindred spirit, she buys Arin, a Herrani slave. But Arin isn’t what she expected and his distant reserve and hard headedness along with a blatant refusal to sing make Kestrel doubt her already questionable decision. And doubt it she should, for Arin has his own secrets and agendas he brings into the General’s home. As things begin to spiral out of control for both Kestrel and Arin it seems they are also realizing they might have a closer connection than either could have dared imagine…and it could mean the end for both of them.
Check the WRL catalog for The Winner’s Curse.