“New Boy” by Tracy Chevalier

(Author: Tracy Chevalier) + (Year: 2017) + (Goodreads)


Review:

This is the description that I read and therefore decided to read the book: Arriving at his fifth school in as many years, a diplomat’s son, Osei Kokote, knows he needs an ally if he is to survive his first day so he’s lucky to hit it off with Dee, the most popular girl in school. But one student can’t stand to witness this budding relationship: Ian decides to destroy the friendship between the black boy and the golden girl. By the end of the day, the school and its key players – teachers and pupils alike – will never be the same again.”

Add to that the fact that New Boy is a retelling of Othello, and you have a pretty curious premise for a book. Right?

In reality, the initial idea of the author was not necessarily bad. Some of the points that she made were also pretty valid and interesting. Ones such as racism, politics and hormone-based relationships.

However, the fatal flaw of the book was the fact that it takes place in a single day in the sixth grade. The story of Othello has no place among such young children, and neither do the author’s musings on politics, race and sex. I was a child not that long ago and I do remember what my interests were in the sixth grade. I can assure you that it was not kissing boys, thinking about “going all the way”; or about radicalism, the void between being a child and being a teenager and how to abuse my teachers.

“(…) [they] had only kissed when they played spin the bottle during recess – and then only twice, as it was shut down by teachers once they found out what was going on. But her response to O was not experimental. This is what I have been waiting for, she thought. This.

Really? You’ve been waiting for meeting a boy in the morning in the playground and becoming his girlfriend by lunch? How long has the waiting been going on for? The entire 12 years of your life, or what?

It’s in no way realistic that such young children would be experiencing any part of this book, which renders the book itself not as good as it could have been. The reason for that is that it takes a toll on the reader to try to accept the book as a union between its content and the figures that are enacting it. Yes, Chevalier has a good point about, say, racism in schools in America, especially so in the 70’s. But would the situation really look like that in a group of such young kids? Would they make up sly and elaborate plans to destroy each other? More so, would this story really have the time to develop in the span of a single day? Or would O and Dee’s relationship really happen the way it did? Would it happen at all? Because even the most outgoing of kids at that age from my school in the 2000’s were not really kissing, dating and discussing sex, unless it was rumors about which of the much older kids from the school are doing it.

Therefore, New Boy was just so implausible to me that I couldn’t enjoy it without groaning and rolling my eyes at scenes that were so out of place and unrealistic.

“Geekerella” by Ashley Poston

Geekerella(Author: Ashley Poston) + (Year: 2017) + (Goodreads)


Review:

Geekerella is a pretty cute retelling of the classical fairytale. I was immediately drawn to it because I’m a sucker for this type of books. I can say that although I have enjoyed similar novels more, I still liked Geekerella.

Since we are all familiar with Cinderella, I will not get into the story behind Geekerella, except that it’s obviously a modern-day version of the story, pumpkin truck and all.

I couldn’t help but draw a parallel between this and A Cinderella Story, one of my favourite movies during my pre- and early teens. Both movies approach the story in a modern way, but they don’t have much more than that in common. So in this sense, Geekerella succeeded in adding originality to the famous narrative.

I also liked the way the author built the main characters. They were well-written and thought-through. My favourite character, however, was one that might have gone under the radar. The dog. He was amazing. No… he was… a good boy!

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The characters that I didn’t like were also the ones that were not very well written, in all honesty. Like Elle’s mother or Darien’s father. They were pretty important to the plot. Just as Chloe was. And yet, all “bad” people in the book seemed a bit shallow and there were no real reasons for their actions. This was probably the main drawback in Geekerella. Once the story was adapted to modern days, it needed a valid reason to be the way it is. In the fairtytale, a character like the evil step-mother makes sense, but that’s not exactly so if the setting is contemporary. It needs a lot more explaining in order to seem as plausible as the feelings of Elle which were the result of her step-mom’s actions.

As for the fandom story. Well… I do believe in the power of the fandom, and I have been and still am in some fandoms myself. Yet, it seems a bit hard for me to actually imagine passion as strong as Elle and Darien’s. To know everything about a show in such extent, as well as to be completely submerged in the world of the fandom, seems a bit excessive and while I’m not judging or mocking anyone, I do admit that I simply have a hard time understanding it.

“Snotgirl, Vol. 1: Green Hair Don’t Care” by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Snotgirl, Vol. 1: Green Hair Don't Care(Author: Bryan Lee O’Malley) + (Year: 2017) + (Goodreads)


Review:

To say that I didn’t love this volume would be a lie. I don’t even think I’ve experienced such anticipation and excitement to get my hands on a comic book volume. And Snotgirl managed to deliver.

It’s safe to say now that I am a huge Bryan Lee O’Malley fangirl. His humor and satire are so on point, both here and in Scott Pilgrim. He manages to catch the gist of an entire generation and twist it up in such a way that you find it both funny and endearing, and, at the same time, you know what he is criticizing.

In Snotgirl, Lottie Person is very relevant to our daily experiences. She represents a huge percentage of the girls nowadays: those who are actually Lottie’s, those who want to be Lottie’s, and those who stalk Lottie’s on social media and both see through them and still find them entertaining. I’m pretty sure I fall into the last group, considering that I follow a bunch of beauty and travel bloggers on Instagram, just to find myself sometimes annoyed by how fake everything looks, and at the same time, to “Awww” at pictures of their cute purse-sized doggies and to take fashion advice. So when I say that I feel that this comic book is relevant, I’m convinced it is.

Lottie as a human being is a hot mess of bullshit. She reflects perfectly the fact that outward beauty can sometimes greatly overshadow the need to actually be kind, nice, or at least… “real”. I personally know people who appear as the nicest, most positive and fun people to be around. But once the phone is locked and no one is recording for Snapchat, they don’t really have much to say and the smiles have been used up for dog filters.

At the same time, Lottie is completely smitten with herself, with her problems, her needs, her obsessions, and she is greatly out of touch with the world. Contrary to what might come to mind from the title (at least it did for me), she is not a superhero. However, she is superweird. There’s still a lot that I want to learn about her and about her issues, so hopefully another volume is to come.

The secondary characters in Snotgirl are also very fun, my favourite being Coolgirl. Still, I think that Cutegirl was also hilarious, and although I didn’t like her as a person, I loved reading her mean humor.

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The best thing about this comic book, however, is the art. Both the illustrator, Leslie Hung, and the colorist, Mickey Quinn, did a fantastic job and it was a true pleasure to just stare at the pictures and drool. In fact… I’m pretty sure that the moment I find a proper quality picture of Lottie, I’m changing my phone background.

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Looking forward to Vol. 2!

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Good question, sister.

“Kingdom of Ashes” by Elena May

Kingdom of Ashes (Nightfall, #1)(Author: Elena May) + (Year: 2016) + (Goodreads)


Review:

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

I have been very, very cautious with vampire books in the last couple of years. In fact, I don’t remember the last vampire novel that I read, aside from re-reading The Historian and Dracula two years ago.

However, I read the synopsis of Kingdom of Ashes, and the many positive reviews, and I decided to give it a shot. And I’m glad I did!

This book reminded me why I love YA so much. It was very engaging and it kept me flipping the pages to a point where I skipped lunch with my colleagues in order to read on a bench.

The thing, which, for me, was very original and exciting, was the fact that every step of the way and every part of the narrative was cleverly thought-through. The author took all famous (and silly) vampire cliches and tropes and she turned them into an outspoken joke between the characters. Elena May managed to make everything that could have destroyed the book its exact opposite. For example at one point Myra tried to pull a Scheherazade on the prince and I was sitting there, worried whether this is going to be a real thing, because it was so obvious. And then the prince himself recognized and ridiculed it.

In terms of plot, there was one thing that was a bit of a cliched narrative and that was the fact that (while the book is obviously not doing the Scheherazade) it did go along the lines of Beauty and the Beast. Watching the movie right after finishing the book just made me realize it more clearly. However, I’m not sure that at a time such as ours where we are so over-saturated with pop culture, it’s possible to create anything that doesn’t borrow from absolutely anywhere.

Character-wise, I liked the fact that there was a game of black/white and shades of gray. Myra was on the same boat as me when I was trying to make up my mind about whether the vampires are all evil or all good, or those are concepts that don’t even apply to the situation. For example, many of the points the prince made on humankind were just as challenging as what can be said about vampires in terms of the book. In a world where vampires and humans co-exist and vampires have overtaken the world and wiped out a big part of the population, I think it’s still fair to say that that’s nothing humans haven’t done to other species or even to themselves. The only reason why people generally sympathize with people, and not, say, vampires or werewolves, is simply because we are people. But humans can be just as evil in a completely different way. For example, just yesterday a colony of griffon vultures in Bulgaria was completely destroyed by hunters who poisoned all of the birds. If that’s not monstrous, I don’t know what is.

Having said all of this, while I did sympathize with Myra at certain times, I didn’t necessarily think she was a nice person. Contrary to what I read in the reviews of people who thought she was selfish and self-absorbed, I think that was one of her most likable traits in terms of writing. She was a very realistic person, unlike the perfect/all-I-do-is-effing-magic heroines of other YA books. I wouldn’t like Myra as a friend, but I can read about her and think “Well… that’s true.” And her selfishness is something that can be attributed to most humans. The fact that she is so focused on her book and improving as a writer is to be expected from any person with any artistic capabilities. Then again, she was sometimes obnoxious and she did make stupid decisions, so I’m on the verge with her. But I am also known among my friends as someone who is specifically very demanding of female characters…

As is probably to be expected, I really liked Vlad, because I would say that I both appreciated his attitude, and got where he was coming from. He followed his set of rules and had a reason to act the way he did: I’m a vampire, my nature requires me to drink blood, so I drink blood. I like art, humans make art, I like humans. The end.

I am really excited for the next book in the series, I really hope it comes sooner, rather than later.

* I’m so happy vampires were just vampires, and not vampyrs, vampyres, etc. and magic was just magic instead of magik or magick.

“The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 4: Rising Action” by Kieron Gillen

The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 4: Rising Action(Author: Kieron Gillen) + (Year: 2016) + (Goodreads)


Review:

Yes! Thank the Pantheon, the art disaster that was the last volume has been put to an end. I couldn’t be happier to have the beautiful art back. Having read as many comic books as I have so far, I think that Jamie McKelvie’s art is up there at the top for me.

In every single frame the art is so astoundingly beautiful that I am even willing to forgive some of the flaws in the plot.

This volume convinced me that The Wicked + The Divine is following a simple story arc, using simple art (in the sense that there aren’t millions upon millions of layers, textures and so on), and following a pace that is neither too slow, nor too fast. While I think that this is a very safe recipe, it also makes it easier to follow through with the plots and to not create a mess of story lines that go no where. At the same time, the story does draw the reader in and keep their interest.

There are two things that I support, and at the same time, would not mind if they changed a bit:

  1. The pace: As I said, thanks to the medium pace, the story lines get resolved. However, 4 volumes in, we haven’t moved that much forward in terms of the plot. The character development is more vigorous, but the general aim of the book is somewhere in the distant future, because only at the end of this volume, do we see the end of the first act. Ananke‘s words at the end of Rising Action are ominous and predict that there is going to be a completely different big arc in the book, and one that will have a much bigger adversary.
  2. The character interactions: The characters have a set of relationships with each other worthy of a soap opera, but it’s actually really hard to find the motivation for their actions. Why these two hate each other and those two don’t is usually determined by the alliances and enmity which serve the author. Also, taking into consideration that they are in a constant war, they don’t actually have that much time to interact.

Thank being said, I love Laura’s team. But not Laura herself. He-he.

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