Thursday, July 10, 2014

Review: The Here and Now

Title: The Here and Now
Author: Ann Brashares
Genre: ya, sci-fi, romance
Published: 8 April 2014
Pages: 242
Rating: 3 / 10
Challenges: NetGalley Reading Challenge
Full Disclosure: I received a copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Follow the rules. Remember what happened. Never fall in love.

This is the story of seventeen-year-old Prenna James, who immigrated to New York when she was twelve. Except Prenna didn’t come from a different country. She came from a different time—a future where a mosquito-borne illness has mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins.

Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules: never reveal where they’re from, never interfere with history, and never, ever be intimate with anyone outside their community. Prenna does as she’s told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth.

But everything changes when Prenna falls for Ethan Jarves.

From Ann Brashares, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, The Here and Now is thrilling, exhilarating, haunting, and heartbreaking—and a must-read novel of the year. (from GoodReads)

My Review: This is a really difficult review to write. I actually finished the book over a month ago, but I kept putting off writing the review because I really, really didn't like it. I was so excited when I was approved for Anne Brashare's new book on NetGalley! I loved the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, so I expected to enjoy this story as well. Here's the thing, though: Prenna is really boring and dumb. Reading everything through her eyes was incredibly frustrating, because I wanted to shake her and point out all the clues that she was missing. I was also not a big fan of the romance. Ethan is a "nice guy," and while Prenna swooned over him from day one, I found him seriously suspect. By the end of the book, I felt as though I had read a story about Ethan's journey rather than Prenna's. Is it possible for a male character to be both a Mary Sue AND a Manic Pixie Dream Girl? The only thing I really enjoyed was the paradoxical implications inherent in time travel, and I really didn't feel like that was explored enough.

That said, I'm positive this book would be a big hit with my students. Between the pseudo-science, the dystopian future, and the romance it pretty much hits every YA trope on the BINGO card. The ending also leaves the story up to serialization, but I think it works better as a stand-alone.

Other Reviews:

If you have reviewed this book as well, leave me a message in the comments and I'll link to your review.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Tune in Tuesday: Heathers the Musical

Last month Jon and I went to New York for a few days. The impetus for the trip was the impeding end of the Colbert Report, for which Jon secured tickets after news broke that Stephen Colbert would be taking over for Letterman. In addition to that taping, I talked him into seeing Heathers: The Musical. I first heard about this potential disaster over a year ago, and I did not have high hopes. If you haven't seen the movie from the 80's, check it out on YouTube. It's one of my favorite black comedies and an inspiration for other films, such as Mean Girls and Jawbreaker.

The musical is nothing short of brilliant. I didn't have high expectations going in (especially given how cheap tickets turned out to be), but both Jon and I were completely blown away by the cast and the songs. I'm still singing them now, weeks later, and we've even ordered the soundtrack. (Fair warning: this musical is VERY MUCH NSFW.)

Here's a medley of a few songs being performed on stage (so you can get an idea of the set and costumes):

This is "Candy Store," one of Jon's favorites:

And "Dead Girl Walking" (my favorite):

If you have a chance to see this musical, DO IT!

Review: Black Canary and Zatanna: Bloodspell

Title: Black Canary and Zatanna: Bloodspell
Author: Paul Dini
Artist: Joe Quinones
Genre: graphic novel, fantasy
Published: 27 May 2014
Pages: 144
Rating: 10 / 10
Challenges: NetGalley Reading Challenge
Full Disclosure: I received a review copy of this OGN from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Black Canary. Zatanna Zatara. Two of the DC Universe's brightest stars join forces to combat a deadly new threat-a chilling supernatural foe that preys on their weaknesses and unleashes their awesome powers against each other.

A year ago, Black Canary infiltrated a gang of female criminals set to pull a dangerous heist at a Las Vegas casino. Its leader was skilled in hand-to-hand combat and with more than a passing interest in the occult, specifically black magic, one nasty customer. Rather than be taken by Canary or the law, she went to her death, vowing she would get revenge on Canary and her own former gang members. Now, a year to the day later, death stalks those gang members, and Canary must turn to her friend Zatanna to help investigate. (from GoodReads)

My Review: Compared to what's happening in the rest of the DC New 52 right now, this OGN was a much-needed breath of fresh air! The story opens with a meet-cute on the side of Mount Everest that gives readers a basic understanding of our two leads: Dinah is tough and no-nonsense, while Zatanna is unsure of herself and her abilities, but willing to take a risk. There's a sisterly vibe established here that stays with the girls throughout the rest of the story. They tease each other, but there's also a mutual trust and respect that readers can see forming from the get-go.

The "Bloodspell" referenced in the title comes from a heist that Black Canary is a part of several years after that initial meeting. Tina Spettro has brought together a group of girls to help her rob the casino of her one-time lover, and she uses black magic to ensure that they won't betray her. The heist goes sideways and Tina ends up dead, but not before an excellent and pun-filled fight between Tina and Dinah takes them all over Vegas. A year later, Dinah realizes that the other girls involved in the heist are dying under suspicious circumstances and she calls on Zatanna for help.

There are several things in this story that made me smile: the lack of pre-52 continuity (Ollie and Dina are still together!), cameos by other JLA members (Superman, Elongated Man, Hal Jordan, a pretty funny/awkward introduction to Martian Manhunter), the father-daughter dynamic, the fact that Zatanna's idea of a "road trip" includes a self-driving car, the clever uses of Zatanna's powers...I could go on, but one of the highlights is undoubtedly Joe Q's art. I loved his covers on the previous run of Captain Marvel and was really looking forward to seeing him take on interiors. I wasn't disappointed! He draws female superheros in a way that makes them look beautiful and strong without being overly porny. Dinah's muscles were believable and awesome, and both leads wear their fishnets without looking ridiculously sexy. They also seem to be genuine friends who enjoy hanging out together. It made me really miss the Stephanie Brown/Kara relationship in the old Batgirl series.

Basically, it's a light-hearted story with great cartooning from Joe Q. If you're looking for an introduction to superheros or just want to have fun with characters you love, check it out.

Other Reviews:

If you have reviewed this book as well, leave me a message in the comments and I'll link to your review.