Hold Me Closer, Necromancer (Necromancer, Book 1)

Hold Me Closer NecromancerHold Me Closer, Necromancer (Necromancer, Book 1) by Lish McBride (2010)

ISBN: 978080509098
Pages:  343
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company

Samhain “Sam” LaCroix is a regular guy working at a burger joint until a random encounter with a customer goes very wrong. That customer, Douglas, just happens to be a Necromancer who raises the dead for a price. What Sam doesn’t know is that he too is a necromancer and now Douglas wants his power. Douglas will do anything in his power to make sure Sam does what he wants, to the peril of those closest to Sam. Sam has a short time to figure things out and outwit Douglas and needs to rely on his friends and family to save him.

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer is a fun romp with things that go bump in the night. The prose utilized by McBride is entertaining and makes this a thoroughly enjoyable read. Many of the usual suspects are included (werewolves, witches, fairies, etc.) in the story with some interesting additions like a werebear. While completely entertaining, there is definitely a dark side to this tale. Not only is Sam hindered by good intentions and trying to outwit a maniac, he is also dealing with secrets from his family’s past. While intended for an older teen audience, this is a fun read for adults as well.

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer is a William C. Morris YA Debut Award Finalist for 2011, and also is on YALSA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults (2011) and Top Ten Books for Young Adults (2011) book lists.

Score: 5 out of 5

The Infernal Devices: Clockwork Angel, Vol. 1

InfernalDevicesThe Infernal Devices: Clockwork Angel, Vol. 1 by Cassandra Clare (Story) and HyeKyung Baek (Illustrator) (2012)

ISBN:  9780316200981
Pages:  240
Publisher:  Yen Press

Tessa Gray thought she was starting a new life in London, but she never thought things could go so horribly awry. Not long after she arrives in London, she is kidnapped into London’s Downworld. Downworld is the sordid supernatural underbelly of London, filled with vampires, werewolves, and people called Shadowhunters. Tessa learns that she has been taken to be the bride of someone called “the Magister.” A couple of young Shadowhunters came to her rescue and took her to recover at a place they refer to as “The Institute.” Once here, Tessa learns more about Downworld and that she herself is not a regular human (called a “mundane” by Shadowhunters). At the Institute, Tessa is taken under the wing by two young Shadowhunters who each teach her more about their world and what it means to be a Shadowhunter. A mystery must be solved and the Institute is in peril of being closed, and Tessa is the center to it all.

The dark world created by Cassandra Clare is brought to colorful life by HyeKyung Baek. The characters literally come alive on the page in each panel. Baek has perfectly melded the fantasy world created by Clare with Victorian London. The story and art together pull you into the dark world of The Infernal Devices. To offset this, there are some moments of humor interspersed throughout. The art and narrative compel you to keep turning the page to find out what happens next. Although the source material was written for teens, this adaptation is more appropriate for older teens due to some of the more violent and somewhat graphic portrayals of scenes from the book. Adults will also find this manga enjoyable and definitely a page-turner.

Score:  4 out of 5

Natsume’s Book of Friends, Vol. 1

NatsumesBookofFriendsNatsume’s Book of Friends, Vol. 1 by Yuki Midorikawa (2010)

ISBN:  978-1421532431
Pages:  208
Publisher:  VIZ Media

Takahashi Natsume can see spirits and demonds that are in hiding from humanity. This gift has always kept him separate from other people and he has been very much alone. Due to his gift, Natsume has been sent from one relative to another and ends up living in the same town as his grandmother, who seems to have shared his gift. They now also seem to share something else – The Book of Friends. Unbeknownst to Natsume, his grandmother (who also felt alone) captured the names of spirits in demons in her Book of Friends so she would have power over them. Natsume finds the Book of Friends and is on a quest to give the spirits and demos their names back. He gets some help and advice from a yokai he unwittingly set free who was trapped in the form of a Lucky Cat who he calls Nyanko Sensei.

On the surface, Natsume’s Book of Friends is a story steeped in Japanese mythology. However, there is much more to the story. This is very much a study of human nature and how people relate to each other. The art style reflects Natsume’s softer side. Midorikawa uses shading very effectively to soften the world of Natsume, which accentuates his own soft personality. This series can be enjoyed by teens and adults alike, with something inside that everyone can relate to. It also affords a great look into the fascinating world of Japanese mythology.

Score:  4 out of 5

Rotters

RottersRotters by Daniel Kraus (2011)

ISBN: 9780385738576
Pages:  448
Publisher: Delacorte Press

Joey Crouch’s life is turned upside down when his mother is killed in an accident.  He is sent to live with the father he doesn’t know in a small Iowa town.  Not only does Joey have to deal with being the new kid in town, but also the son of the “Garbage Man.”  Joey discovers his father is not only eccentric, but also a “Rotter” or grave robber.   Soon, Joey is learning the family business and is embroiled in the macabre goings on in the world of Rotters.

Rotters is not for the light of heart.  This dark look into the world of those who rob from the dead is an interesting study of the human condition.  Looking beyond the macabre, there is a good story about a father and son learning to love one another and also about how the past never really stays in the past.  A thrilling horror for both older teens and adults.

Rotters is the recipient of ALSC’s Odyssey Award in 2012 for the best audiobook produced for children or young adults.

Score:  4 out of 5

Soulless: The Manga, Vol. 1

SoullessVol1Soulless: The Manga, Vol. 1 by Gail Carriger (Story) and Rem (Art)

ISBN:  978-0316182065
Pages:  240
Publisher:  Yen Press

In this alternate history tale vampires, werewolves, and anything else that goes bump in the night is part of everyday life. Alexia Tarabotti has some problems, mainly she has no soul. She is what is referred to in polite circles as a preternatural or if you want to be vulgar, soulless. While at a bore of a dinner party Alexia was enjoying a perfectly good tea in the library when a rogue vampire comes out of nowhere an attempts to bite her. She takes matters into her own hands and defends herself with some strategically placed hair stakes. Things go from bad to worse as Lord Conall Maccon appears to investigate the incident. Lord Maccon is appointed by Queen Victoria to investigate all matters of the supernatural in London and he doesn’t like Alexia (or so he declares). Werewolves start to go missing and rogue vampires are showing up in the oddest places and it appears Alexia is in the middle of this mystery. Alexia cannot ignore these strange occurrences and involves herself in this investigation and perhaps with Lord Maccon as well.

The witty prose created by Carriger is translated perfectly in graphic form by Rem. The art style fits perfectly with Carriger’s creation and absolutely makes the characters jump from the page and come to life. There is such vitality to this adaptation that makes one want to read more. This manga series is definitely geared more for adults, due especially to some of the romance elements towards the end of the original novel. However, older teens will definitely enjoy this as well. Soulless was awarded YALSA’s Alex Award (books written for adults but have teen appeal) in 2010. If you enjoy witty prose and enjoy things that go bump in the night, this is definitely a book to devour. The only bad thing is waiting for the next volume.

Score:  5 out of 5

What Was She Thinking: Notes on a Scandal

What Was She Thinking: Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller (2003)

ISBN:  0805073337
Pages:  258
Publisher:  Henry Holt

Barbara Covett is a single and rather lonely teacher at St. George’s school.  When Sheba Hart joins that staff as the new pottery teacher, Barbara takes notice of her and anxiously waits for Sheba to notice and become friends with her.  As their friendship develops, unbeknownst to Barbara, Sheba also began a relationship with one of her students, Steven Connolly.  When the affair is discovered and Sheba’s life is turned upside down, Barbara is there to take care of Sheba and chronicle her secrets.

Written as a personal chronicle of scandalous events, Heller presents facts from the narrator, Barbara’s, point of view.  The reader is painted a picture of the steadfast Barbara and often spacey and selfish Sheba.  Some of Barbara’s past is revealed, but ultimately she makes herself out to be some kind of heroine of the narrative.  What makes this such a fascinating read is that Heller leaves the audience hang as to the outcome of events.  It is a novel that makes one look deeper into the circumstances and makes one think deeply about events and the various relationships in the story.  A definite interesting read that will make you think.

Score:  4 out of 5

Blue Exorcist, Vol. 1

blue-exorcistBlue Exorcist, Vol. 1 by Kazue Kato (2011)

ISBN:  9781421540320
Pages:  200
Publisher:  VIZ Media

Rin Okumura was raised by Father Fujimoto, a famous Exorcist along with his twin brother Yuki. Rin has a short temper, which gets him into trouble often. After a horrible fight with Father Fujimoto, Rin learns the horrible truth about his past – he is the son of the Demon Lord Satan. Whenever he unleashes his father’s sword, his full demon powers come to light by giving him a blue glow and a tail. Satan takes advantage of a weak moment and takes over Father Fujimoto’s body and attempts to unleash hell on earth. Rin stops Satan’s attempt by unleashing his demon powers and closing the Gehenna Gate. Father Fujimoto does not survive the encounter, which Rin blames himself for. When visiting his adoptive father’s grave, Rin swears to become an Exorcist to put an end to Satan. To do this, Rin must attend the mysterious True Cross Academy. Once there, Rin learns that his brother has known about their demon heritage and already is a talented Exorcist (and his teacher). As the story continues, Rin uncovers more secrets and faces his own inner demons while making new friends and continuing the fight to defeat Satan.

Kato has created a most interesting world in Blue Exorcist. He borrows from Christianity, Judaism, and Buddhism and intertwines it with Japanese mythology. You will also see some interesting characters like Mephisto Pheles (Mephistopheles from German folklore and Faust) pop up throughout the series. What really makes this series so engaging, is the characters and their relationships to each other. Rin makes one think about what truly is “evil” and if one can be more than what they are told they are or can be. This is also a story about true friendship and bonds forged through difficult situations. Kato lightens the story with some humorous situations and fanciful drawings. An added bonus to the manga volumes are the character biographies and Illustrated Guide to Demons. They offer some additional background to the most fascinating world created by Kaue Kato.

Score:  5 out of 5

Library Wars: Love & War, Volume 1

Library Wars: Love & War, Volume 1 by Kiiro Yumi (Story and Art) and Hiro Arikawa (Original Concept)

Pages: 200

ISBN: 9781421534886

In an alternate Japan, the Library is the last defense against censorship of books.  Iku Kasahara has dreamed of joining the Library Defense Force ever since high school when a treasured book she wanted was saved by a member of the Defense Force.  Now that she is making her dream a reality, it is obvious that she is going to have to work harder than she thought.

An interesting look at what could happen if the government would begin to take an active role in what it’s people were allowed to read.  This is very similar to Fahrenheit 451 (which I recommend reading as well), but it is a story of its own.  The story focuses on Kasahara who is having a somewhat difficult time making her dreams come true.  The characters are well-developed and fleshed out.  I found the story to be a cautionary tale as to what could possibly happen if we allow others to dictate what we read.  This is a great read for young adults and librarians alike.

The art style is not typical of shojo manga as you can tell the difference between the male characters and there are no sparkles or flowers in the background.  There are many close-ups to facial features which aids in character development.  It also guides you to sense what the character is feeling.  While there is not much action, the action that is there is drawn clearly.  The subject matter can be serious, but Yumi is able to add a little comedy to the mix, which adds some playfulness.

Score: 4 out of 5

Kissing Coffins (Vampire Kisses, Book 2)

Kissing Coffins (Vampire Kisses, Book 2) by Ellen Schreiber (2005)

Pages:  176

ISBN: 9780060776220

This installment of the Vampire Kisses series takes off from the end of the first book.  Raven is ecstatic – she has finally found someone like her (goth) and he likes her.  The only problem now is that Alexander has taken off for parts unknown, leaving Raven wondering what exactly is going on.  After doing some digging, Raven discovers that Alexander is in Hpsterville and incidentally she has an aunt living there.  She takes off in search of her love and finds herself in trouble and only Alexander can save her.

It is obvious that this series is four younger teens.  There is little emotional development and depth to the characters.  The exposition is limited and the characters have very shallow emotions.  Schreiber has seen fit to hit us over the head with the fact that Raven is goth and drops punk bands names like no tomorrow.  Kissing Coffins is a quick read with little depth.  However, it is something for the younger Twilight fans to read.

Score: 3 out of 5

The Elusive Bride (Black Cobra Quartet, Book 2)

The Elusive Bride (Black Cobra Quartet, Book 2) by Stephanie Laurens (2010)

Pages: 464

ISBN: 9780061795152

The second installment of the Black Cobra Quartet follows the journey of Major Gareth Hamilton (for the backstory, see the synopsis for Book 1) and his copy of the letter.  After their brief meeting, both Major Hamilton and Emily Ensworth, niece of the Governor of Bombay, have an instant attraction.  When Emily learns that Major Hamilton has left she does all in her power to discover his destination and beat him there.  What she doesn’t know is that he is on a mission to destroy as many of the Black Cobra cult as possible.  As soon as Major Hamilton espies Emily on the dock, he saves her from certain death.  He decides the only way to keep her safe is for her to join him on his journey north to England.  As they elude danger and political intrigue throughout the middle east, it becomes apparent that they are more than attracted to each other.

While there are many exotic locations and much action, this novel falls short.  The main characters are somewhat unbelievable and annoying at times.  There is plenty of action but the descriptions are too long and one loses interest.  Laurens began each chapter with a journal entry from Emily.  Frankly, I could have done without these entries.  They seemed to make the chapters continue forever and served little purpose.  This book was fairly tedious and not one that I would recommend.

Score: 2.5 out of 5