Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category


You Review: The Walled City – Ryan Graudin

Saturday, November 15th, 2014

Reviewed by Sophie Knapen

The Walled City has three rules: Run fast, trust no one and always carry a knife. But what happens when you decide to break the second rule. When Jin’s family sells Jin’s sister Mei Yee, Jin decides to go after her, into the Walled City. A city without laws and run by the Brotherhood and street gangs. Teens have to run drugs or work in brothels to make their money, or they hide, like Jin does. But when Dai comes along and gives her a chance to find her sister, she decides to break her second rule. She trusts Dai and begins an exciting race against the clock to escape the Walled City itself.

The Walled City was real in Hong Kong.  It is gone now but human trafficking is not. This book shines a light on human trafficking but lets you enjoy the story at the same time.

At first everything was a bit confusing. I wasn’t sure where they were and what the characters were thinking about, but after reading a few chapters things became more and more clear. I didn’t fully understand everything until the end. I did like the characters because you could read from 3 perspectives: Jin, Dai and Mei Yee.

You really have to want to understand this book because it’s not an easy read. But once you get it, it becomes really interesting and you want to know all the answers.

I am glad I read this book. You just really have to give the The Walled City by Ryan Graudin a chance because once you do it only gets better.

You Review: The latest releases, reviewed by ABC customers.

Ebook of The Walled City available here.  Ryan Graudin also wrote All That Glows (ebook here), with the sequel All That Burns expected in February 2015.

Book Review: Iron, Or The War After by Shane-Michael Vidaurri

Saturday, October 25th, 2014

Reviewed by Michael Minneboo

Iron: Or The War After is a graphic novel by Shane-Michael Vidaurri. It’s an espionage thriller with a poetic quality, taking place in an anthropomorphic world.  That’s right: the characters are animals like bears, frogs, rabbits and goats. All walking on two legs, of course. Their natures represent human kind with all its complexity and nuances.

When the rabbit Hardin, an intelligence spy from the Resistance, steals information from a military base of the Regime, his actions set off a chain of events that reverberates through the ranks of both sides, touching everyone from the highest ranking officials to his own son, who desperately wants to follow in his father’s footsteps. Who the hero or the villain is depends on which side you are on, really. A high-ranking officer like tiger Captain Calvin Engel could at the end of the story be considered a traitor to the establishment.

Iron: Or The War After is Vidaurri’s first book as an author and artist. He has worked as a colourist and cover artist for publishers like Dark Horse, Image and Archaia. He also wrote and illustrated the first issue of Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Witches.

The poetry is in Vidaurri’s wonderful art. The New Jersey born artist makes aquarelles with a monochromatic colour scheme. To tell his story about war and betrayal, Vidaurri uses earthly and cold colours like blues and greys to capture the cold of winter, occasionally placing a big splash of bright red in the form of a red cardinal or blood spatter. The visuals make reading this graphic novel a real treat and the interesting page layouts add a stilled quality to the book. The story has a tight plot, yet the visuals leave a lot of room for the reader’s interpretation.

Michael Minneboo is a journalist specialised in comic books and visual culture. Read more of his work on his excellent website, www.michaelminneboo.nl.

You Review: Rooms by Lauren Oliver

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

Reviewed by Marianne van der Wel

Richard Walker has died. His ex-wife Caroline and their children, Minna and Trenton, have just arrived at his country house for their inheritance. But they are not the only ones in the house.

Long-dead former residents Alice and Sandra are there as well, watching while the Walkers try to sort through the detritus of Richard’s past.

All of them are haunted by secrets of their own, secrets that are trying to get free, because everything surfaces in the end.

Rooms by Lauren Oliver is set up like a house tour. You slowly go through it. In each new room memories resurface and the characters move towards the inevitable revelations of their secrets. All the characters reveal a bit of their stories at a time. At the start it feels a bit fractured, but once everyone has had their first say, you can start to see the bigger picture.

In the beginning of the story I did not like any of the characters. They all seemed petty and self-absorbed. But as it unfolded, my dislike of them became less. You get to know them and they become more human. Unfortunately, this made the beginning of the book a bit dull, and even irritating at times. I’m glad I kept reading, though. It’s a tragic story, with its own sort of happy ending. It’s the best the characters could have hoped for.

In the end I really liked this book. There isn’t much in the way of character development, but that is not what it’s about. You have to give the character a chance to tell their story. And this story is told in a very natural way. You can feel the slow build of nothing to suspenseful, and finally the satisfaction of knowing that everyone is where they should be. This is a very special kind of ghost story.

You Review: The latest releases, reviewed by ABC customers.

There is no ebook of Rooms available yet, but there are ebooks of Lauren Oliver’s previous work: Before I Fall, Delirium (but not the rest of that series, sadly), Panic, Liesl & Po and Spindlers.

You Review: The Perfectionists – Sara Shepard

Saturday, October 11th, 2014

Reviewed by Esmée de Heer

Welcome to Beacon High, hell on earth for underachievers. The Perfectionists by Sara Shepard, who you know from the hit series Pretty Little Liars, tells the story of five girls who get fed up with Nolan Hotchkiss, the richest kid in all of Beacon Heights. Nolan is the worst kind of rich kid, one who uses his money to humiliate others and to always get what he wants. No wonder they want to kill him. The girls come up with their devious plan during Film Studies, taught by their oh-so-hot, but oh-so-bad teacher Mr. Granger. But when they execute said plan during a party, things go horribly wrong. Nolan ends up actually dead and the girls are being set up by the murderer, whoever that may be.

The book is a solid mystery and definitely reminiscent of Pretty Little Liars. The high school drama is unescapable and the love triangles are aplenty. There is enough juicy gossip to make the book last and every girl has her own secret and reason to want to get revenge on Nolan.

While reading The Perfectionists you do have to ignore some of the obvious flaws. Of course it makes sense that the girls wouldn’t be able to go to the police, because the police is in on the conspiracy. Of course the girls also all have difficult home situations and not a single adult is to be trusted. And of course they all have at least one boy swooning over them! What would a mystery be without a litte (read: a lot of) romance? But at the same time the book is fun and suspenseful and all the characters are different and interesting enough to make it work.

The setting of Beacon High as a high school where excelling is equally and maybe even more important than just being pretty was refreshing, and the girls are not just empty headed vessels for pretty clothing. They deal with pretty big problems besides their every day teenage problems, and the author comes up with detailed back stories that still leave plenty of room for future mysteries. The Perfectionists is a great beach read and a definite must for anyone who loves previous work of Shepard. The mystery will definitely keep you turning pages and when you’re done, you will want even more.

Blogmistress’s note: The Perfectionists was supposed to be published in the summer of 2014, but, as you can see, has been significantly delayed.  In fact, the US edition shows both a publication date of this month AND May 2015.  Go figure.  The UK edition shown above can be ordered now, though, and delivered within the week (if we don’t have it in stock).

You Review: The latest releases, reviewed by ABC customers.

Esmée, together with Charlotte, runs the Bored to Death Book Club. Head on over to see if you might like to join them!

There is no ebook available of The Perfectionists yet (…see my note on publication date confusion above), but there are ebooks available of her previous works: The Heiresses, Pretty Little Liars (and other books in that series) and The Lying Game (and other books in that series).

Book Review: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys – Gerard Way, Shaun Simon and Becky Cloonan

Friday, October 10th, 2014

Reviewed by Michael Minneboo

Before we get down to the nitty gritty of The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, lets enjoy this video by My Chemical Romance first:

I hope you like the song and video, because the song, and the album that it is on, Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys are actually the prequel to the comic, written by Shaun Simon and Gerard Way, who is the lead vocalist of My Chemical Romance and comic book writer of interesting stuff like The Umbrella Academy.

(Fun fact: comic book author Grant Morrison also makes an appearance in the music video. He’s the bald bad guy killing the Killjoys.)

The comic picks the story up a decade later. You see, the Killjoys were a team of revolutionaries who lost their lives while saving a mysterious young girl from the tyrannical mega corporation Better Living Industries. Today the Killjoys live on in memory, as BLI widens its reach and freedom fades. The girl is now grown up and in her late teens. A new group of revolutionaries, who live in the desert and get their inspiration from the original Killjoys, think the Girl is their saviour. It’s a role she doesn’t know anything about, but when the story unfolds she will play a pivotal role in the revolution against oppression. The group of outlaws consists of a bunch of narcissistic teens that seemed to be worried more about their hair looking good than the victims they shoot. As characters, these outlaws aren’t very interesting, and as a reader I didn’t care that much about their fate.

The trade paperback The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys collects all the six chapters of the story. Not knowing beforehand the comic was a sequel to a record, I felt kind of lost in the first two chapters, getting to know this Strange New World of Way and Simon, but I got into the groove of the story soon enough and especially enjoyed Becky Cloonan’s energetic art work. Cloonan seems to take some visual cues from manga comics even though she uses the grammar of American comic books.

Basically, there are three storylines that unfold simultaneously. The first storyline concerns the Girl coming of age and finding her destiny. The second storyline is about Korse, the Scarecrow that originally killed the Killjoys (Grant Morrison in the video). He’s a homosexual who has a secret relationship that gets discovered by his BLI employees. For Korse there is no alternative than to go head-to-head with the head of the company. The third story arc is about two porno droids trying to escape Battery City. I found their journey to be the most compelling.  Interestingly, it is the droids that show the most human emotions.

Stories such as these always call to mind outstanding literary narratives such as Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and 1984 by George Orwell. To me, Killjoys is just another modern-day, blockbuster variation on the dystopian future as depicted in these aforementioned classic novels. The BLI corporation on the surface seems like another version of Big Brother as it runs Battery City, in which regular citizens are like enslaved consumers, living in fear for breaking the law set by BLI. Draculoids and Scarecrows enforce this law. They are scrupulous and scary employees of BLI who wear white masks and heavy artillery. In Battery City everything seems easy and secure. People can erase their emotions through tablets and get off with porn droids. As BLI considers emotion to be a weakness, whoever steps out of line gets neutralised.

It’s not hard to recognize in BLI’s wish to strip citizens of their individuality and making them into mindless consumers, a nod towards the way the Western world is heading today, which makes this futuristic story quite relevant. Nowadays, big corporations seem to be more powerful than governments. Citizens are brought up to be compliant consumers. With our everlasting addiction to our smart phones, apps, the web and other consumer products, it seems that the vision of the citizen-as-robot the comic book makers present us doesn’t seem to be too far off reality as it is.

Having said that, even though the art work looks good and on the whole The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys is an enjoyable read, because it plays with familiar dystopian tropes I did feel like I’ve read this story already, many times before.

Michael Minneboo is a journalist specialised in comic books and visual culture. Read more of his work on his excellent website, www.michaelminneboo.nl.