Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Mangaman by Barry Lyga and Colleen Doran

Ryoko Kiyama, the title character of Mangaman by Barry Lyga and Colleen Doran, doesn't really think much of it when he falls through a rip in reality and into another world. He's a manga character. This stuff happens to him all the time.

But the new world he's fallen into is very, very strange. Everyone is so . . . rounded. And they think monsters and karate fights, sweat drops and surprise lines, are incredibly weird and he's nothing but a freak. Only one girl, Marissa, seems to like him exactly the way he is. But the rip between his world and hers is starting to close. He has to make a terrible choice. Should he stay with the girl he's falling in love with? Or should he go back to his own familiar world, and leave her forever?

If you love manga, this book is for you. It both honors and pokes fun at the crazy conventions of manga, and what we think of it, and it's also a great love story. With bonus monsters!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Where there is no imagination there is no horror--Arthur Conan Doyle

I am not a big horror fan.  It's either way too nightmarish and scary or so gruesomely over the top that I'm bored.  But since I am in the mode of "expanding my literary horizons", I decided to read Andrew Smith's The Marbury Lens.  And I have to say that it didn't take long before I was absolutely freaked out--the book jacket says "Sixteen-year-old Jack gets drunk and is in the wrong place at the wrong time" but that doesn't begin to describe the terror of his kidnapping and torture at the hands of a sexual predator named Freddie (way creepier than Krueger).

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Stepping back to New Orleans

I love historical fiction, a little celebrated teen genre and I'm especially excited by an author new on the scene, Ruta Sepetys.  You may have read or heard about her award winning first book, Between Shades of Gray.  If so, you are familiar with author's unflinching look at tough times.  In this book,  Ms. Sepytys gave us a harrowing look at a little discussed time in recent history.  How many of us know that millions of intellectuals from the Baltic states were deported in the Stalin era to work camps in Siberia where many of them perished? The main character in that book is a Lina, a girl from Lithuania who hopes to attend a top art school in her country before she and her family are forced to leave their home on a long train ride, not knowing where they are headed to or whether they will ever see their home again. It's an unforgettable story.   In her latest, YA novel,  Out of the Easy, the setting is closer to home, in fact it is in the United States.  But, it takes place in the most unique city in our country, the mix of cultures that is known as New Orleans.  The main character, Josie, is the daughter of a prostitute in the 1950's underworld of New Orlean's French Quarter.  Josie is familiar with the world her mother lives in, but there is another world she has been exposed to, the world opened up to her by reading books.  She lives and works in a book store, a haven provided to her by a kindly bookseller and his son.  Does she dare hope to go to a fancy college in New England and can she extricate herself from the messy world her mother has entangled her in?  Josie is a strong and inspiring character and you will wish you could be her friend.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Locked up, and nowhere to go!

Teenager Alex Sawyer has been framed for murder, and he's going to the most brutal prison imagineable. Except at this prison there are horrors lurking in the dark and in the shadows that nobody (not even the sadistic cruel prison guards) can possibly explain.

This is the set-up for the teen fiction book "Lockdown" by Alexander Gordon Smith.

Our hero Alex is actually a bit of anti-hero: he is caught early in the story stealing items with his buddy. But Alex is not evil, and he is certainly not a murderer. But that's what happens when he is framed and sentenced for murder. Alex will spend his days in Furnace, a massive underground prison built in rock and miles from civilization.


The horrors that await Alex are beyond imagination. he juveniles are required to slave away all day with pick axes as they build new rooms, and sadistic guards can torture and hurt them at will. The facilities leave nothing to be desired: blood soaked cells, sloppy bug infested food, murderous gangs, and oh yeah, genetically mutated killer dogs and people roaming the hallways at night dragging victims for unspeakable terrors.

It's a pretty exciting book!

Lockdown is riveting from start to end. The outlook seems bleak and there appears almost no hope for anyone, although there are glimmers of hope as Alex finds possible ways to escape. The characters come alive with a great balance of terror, action and horror. Alex turns out to be a young man of good character and morals and despite the previous crimes in his life, nothing seems to justify the world he must inhabit now.

This is the first in a 5-book series called "Escape from Furnace." The writer Alexander Gordon Smith is from England although you wouldn't really know it from the writing or the dialogue.

This is a great series for fast paced thrills. Following Alex on his attempt to escape from Lockdown makes for engaging reading. It is a book you will find hard to put down.

-By William