I’m not in school anymore, but I still like to learn about things. And I also like reading comic books, so I’m excited about the increasing number of nonfiction graphic novels. When done right, nonfiction graphic novels can be a great way to learn about a new topic in a fun, easily digestible way. I recently read Economix: How Our Economy Works (And Doesn’t Work) by Michael Goodwin and Dan E. Burr and Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm. I’d say their titles give you a pretty clear idea of what both books are about–how the economy works, and a history of the first atomic bomb–and neither subject was one that I knew very much about. They’re both somewhat intimidating topics to dive into, and I thought a graphic novel would be a good way to get a good introduction. I was right, although one of these books does a better job than the other.
One of the main reasons I was interested in reading Mermaid in Chelsea Creek by Michelle Tea was because of the cover blurb from Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket). His glowing blurb ends with, “I can’t keep still to write a blurb about it. Just read the thing, read it now.” In a sense, that is how I feel about Mermaid in Chelsea Creek as well. It’s a beautiful book, and part of me certainly wants to just shove it at everyone who passes by me.
But another part of me–the part that went to library school–knows that this is not a book for everyone. Let me tell you about it, and you can decide if it is for you or not.
The first thing to say about Stephen King’s Carrie is that most of the time, you’re already diving into the book with the knowledge that it doesn’t end well. Carrie does not have a happy ending, believe me. If you’ve heard anything about the young girl Carrie with mysterious powers, an overbearing (and extremely religious) mother and bullies to boot, you know that this book goes under the “Most Deaths Ever in the History of..Ever,” section.
But just because it doesn’t have a happy ending doesn’t mean it isn’t a compelling, heartbreaking and masterfully woven story with twists and turns and personality traits that fall perfectly with the characters, antagonists and protagonists alike. You see the characters either become sick and twisted, or have revelations about how Carrie is, in fact, human.
Whew! It’s been a minute since my last post here! Of course, I’m sure you all know there are other places on the internet where you can get book reviews, but I do want to use this blog to highlight favorites from NAFCPL’s Teen Scene! In 2014 I resolve not to abandon the blog again. Please hold me to this!
For starters, here’s a book I just read after seeing it recommended by several people.
As many of you know, I read a lot of comics. I do love reading about superheroes, but I’m also happy to see original stories with new characters, especially when the new characters are as much fun as Delilah Dirk. When we first meet the titular characters, Delilah Dirk is imprisoned in a Turkish palace after being caught breaking in, and Erdemoglu Selim is the lieutenant who’s been dispatched to interrogate her, because of his language skills.
Lieutenant Selim enters her cell, where she’s sitting on the floor and chained to the wall. He starts the interrogation by offering her tea:
Selim: I’ve made tea for you.
Delilah: No thank you. I only drink the blood of my enemies.
Selim: (shocked expression)
Delilah: Haha, it’s a joke.
Selim: I think that, in your position, it would be wise to maintain a less casual attitude.
Delilah: Mm. Yes. Absolutely. Done.
This is a perfect introduction to these two characters. Selim is very proper and very concerned about the quality of his tea. Delilah is a carefree adventurer, and she proceeds to impress the heck out of Selim by telling him all about her globetrotting adventures. She also tells him upfront that she’s planning to escape and that she’s very confident that the palace’s guards will be no match for her skills.
Later, as Selim relays this information to his superior, he’s scolded for humoring Delilah by believing that any of what she says could possibly have been true. But they’re interrupted by Delilah fleeing the palace. Selim’s superior decides that Selim must have had something to do with her escape, and sentences him to death. But Delilah rescues him, and both flee the palace together in Delilah’s flying boat (another unbelievable thing mentioned in her interrogation). Selim ends up tagging along on Delilah’s quest to steal some treasure back from the Pirate Captain Zakul.
I’ve seen this book compared to Indiana Jones, which I’ll buy to a certain extent. Both are comedic action stories about world traveling characters. I appreciate how Delilah Dirk uses a gender flip of the usual conventions for this type of story–Delilah’s the savvy swordswoman, and Selim is the meek tea brewer who’s in a bit over his head. But the story also creates a space for Selim to use his own skillset. Both characters learn from each other over the course of the story, which is both emotionally compelling and hilarious. A lot of the comedy comes from Cliff’s excellent artwork–he’s great at showing Delilah and Selim’s reaction faces. The story feels fresh, and it’s a great use of the graphic novel format.
Reviewed by: teen librarian Renata
Recommended for: fans of Indiana Jones, and anyone looking for an adventure
Before I get started, I’ll say two things: 1) Generally, I prefer not to read this kind of royalty-centric high fantasy; 2) I’m very susceptible to readers’ peer pressure. These things came into conflict recently, but I ultimately decided to read Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers because of reason #2 and despite of reason #1. Grave Mercy is not the kind of book I’m normally drawn to, but several people recommended it to me despite my usual preferences, and I’m glad I gave it a chance.
Grave Mercy is the story of Ismae, who lives in 15th century Brittany (a small kingdom near France). At the age of fourteen, her cruel father sells her off in an arranged marriage to a man who seems equally cruel, but Ismae escapes that fate by being taken to the convent of the order of St. Mortain, the saint/god of Death.
The abbess explains their order:
You would not expect a queen to wash her own clothes or lace her own gown; she has handmaidens for that. And so it is with us; we serve as handmaidens to Death. When we are guided by His will, killing is a sacrament. [...] If you choose to stay, you will be trained in His arts. You will learn more ways to kill a man than you imagined possible. We will train you in stealth and cunning and all manner of skills that will ensure no man is ever again a threat to you.
It seems that Ismae’s actual father is Mortain himself, and as such, she has certain abilities. She chooses to stay at the convent and serve Mortain. Initiates of the order serve Mortain by using their deathly talents to carry out espionage and assassin missions. They seek to protect Brittany from outside threats, such as England and France.
After three years of training, Ismae is sent out on a mission at the royal court. Her mission is to find and kill traitors to the crown. Her cover is to serve as mistress to Gavriel Duval, an arrogant soldier (and bastard brother to the duchess). The young duchess has many marriage proposals and many enemies, and Ismae has a lot of work to do to determine who she (and the duchess) can trust.
I won’t go into all the intrigue–it’s complicated, and it’s also not the kind of plot that holds my interest very well. But I still enjoyed reading Grave Mercy because I was so interested in Ismae and her deathly order. Her character has some interesting insights on life and death. I also liked all the action and cool assassin nun gadgets, like Ismae’s teeny-tiny crossbow.
Some of the language used by the characters is a little bit anachronistic, and some aspects of the story were just annoying to me… but overall, I really liked the character of Ismae and enjoyed reading about her adventures! I’m glad I stepped out of my literary comfort zone and tried Grave Mercy, and I’ll also be picking up the sequel, Dark Triumph.
Reviewed by: Teen librarian Renata
Recommended for: Fans of old timey fantasy type books (you know what I mean); fans of assassin nuns (or people who think they might be fans of assassin nuns, if given the opportunity)
This year, ALA’s Teen Read Week is October 13-19! Of course, I like to think that teens read every week, but sure, let’s take this week in particular to celebrate teens reading! *throws confetti* (Note: if you throw confetti in the library please pick it up afterward, out of respect for our maintenance staff.) You can vote for ALA’s Teens’ Top Ten through October 19th.
In the meantime, here are the books New Albany-Floyd County Public Library’s Teen Advisory Board chose as their favorites. They’re currently on display in the Teen Scene. Check them out! You might find a new favorite.
I loved Rainbow Rowell’s first YA book, Eleanor & Park, so I was eager to read anything else by her. And when I heard her newest book was called Fangirl, I jumped at the chance to read it. (Figuratively. It’s hard to read anything while literally jumping.) I read an advance copy of this several months ago and told all my nerdy friends to read it as soon as possible. The nerds of the world took this to heart and chose Fangirl as the first pick for the Tumblr Reblog Bookclub.