RIPL Teen Book Reviews

"Iron Man 2.0: Palmer Addley is Dead" by Spencer, Kitson, and Di Giandomenico

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(Grade 7 and up) When Lt. Col. James Rhodes fights as War Machine, he becomes one of the world’s most powerful weapons. But Palmer Addley isn’t someone that Rhodey can fight through traditional means: after all, it’s difficult to confront an enemy who’s supposed to be dead. Follow War Machine as he searches for his illusive foe and fights to save lives as the stakes become ever higher. And even after an upgrade from Tony Stark, is War Machine powerful enough to stop a supernatural threat to reality?
I’m enjoying the new Iron Patriot series a lot (though there’s been a heaping helping of angst so far), but this series is entertaining in its own right. The thing that always interests me about Rhodes is that, in many ways, he’s a better superhero than Tony Stark. He’s more reliable (Tony, I love you, but you do flake out at times), he generally works better with others, and he usually doesn’t have as much drama going on his life to distract him from missions. (Of course, in Iron Patriot, that changes, which may be part of why it’s such a good series.) Basically, I’d like to see Rhodey get more credit for helping to save the world on a regular basis, and though this series didn’t last long, I’ll definitely be checking out the second volume. (4 out of 5 stars)
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Marvel; First Edition edition (October 12, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0785147497
  • ISBN-13: 978-0785147497 (Source of Publication Data: Amazon.com)
Do you read comics? If so, here are a few recent issues I’d recommend:
Deadpool: Dracula’s Gauntlet #1: Deadpool fights a vampire, then gets hired by Dracula to retrieve his fiance’s coffin. This limited series is hilarious: read this if you’re interested in vampires, minotaur fights, or zebra theft. 
Elektra #4: This series is as beautiful as it is fascinating. And we’re only four issues in, so it wouldn’t take long to catch up (hint hint…)
Harley Quinn Invades Comic-Con International: San Diego: Couldn’t go to Comic-Con this year? Well, at least this way you can (sort of) read about it as Harley, being Harley, causes mayhem wherever she goes in San Diego.
Mighty Avengers #11: The story here involves a flashback where Luke Cage’s dad and Blade investigate a mystery involving demons. A lot of people have issues with Greg Land’s art, but Al Ewing’s writing is worth sticking around for.
Ms. Marvel #6: Kamala and Wolverine team up! Ms. Marvel is actually as good as the hype—seriously, give it a try.
Original Sin #5 and Original Sins #3: Original Sin is this summer’s Marvel event, and the main series (which is called Original Sin, as you could maybe guess) has been a really interesting murder mystery so far. Original Sins, which features characters on the periphery of the main story, is sort of uneven, but I’m enjoying the Young Avengers story enough to stick around. (Why America Chavez isn’t in this is beyond me though—she showed up in the first issue, but that was it…)
Thor: God of Thunder #23-24: This series is beautiful, epic, and at times tragic, but always a fantastic tale of gods and monsters. 

Do you read comics? If so, here are a few recent issues I’d recommend:

  • Deadpool: Dracula’s Gauntlet #1: Deadpool fights a vampire, then gets hired by Dracula to retrieve his fiance’s coffin. This limited series is hilarious: read this if you’re interested in vampires, minotaur fights, or zebra theft. 
  • Elektra #4: This series is as beautiful as it is fascinating. And we’re only four issues in, so it wouldn’t take long to catch up (hint hint…)
  • Harley Quinn Invades Comic-Con International: San Diego: Couldn’t go to Comic-Con this year? Well, at least this way you can (sort of) read about it as Harley, being Harley, causes mayhem wherever she goes in San Diego.
  • Mighty Avengers #11: The story here involves a flashback where Luke Cage’s dad and Blade investigate a mystery involving demons. A lot of people have issues with Greg Land’s art, but Al Ewing’s writing is worth sticking around for.
  • Ms. Marvel #6: Kamala and Wolverine team up! Ms. Marvel is actually as good as the hype—seriously, give it a try.
  • Original Sin #5 and Original Sins #3: Original Sin is this summer’s Marvel event, and the main series (which is called Original Sin, as you could maybe guess) has been a really interesting murder mystery so far. Original Sins, which features characters on the periphery of the main story, is sort of uneven, but I’m enjoying the Young Avengers story enough to stick around. (Why America Chavez isn’t in this is beyond me though—she showed up in the first issue, but that was it…)
  • Thor: God of Thunder #23-24: This series is beautiful, epic, and at times tragic, but always a fantastic tale of gods and monsters. 

I was going through teen craft supplies a couple of weeks ago, and when I saw how many pipe cleaners we had (and wondered what we could do with pipe cleaners), I made this Charmander. Now I need to make Squirtle and Bulbasaur at home…:)

Graphic Picks #35 

Hi again! This week’s second Graphic Pick is Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe, with art by Roc Upchurch. This is one of the best graphic novels I’ve read in a long time, but it’s definitely not for kids. Adult language and humor means I’d recommend it to older high school students…though high school libraries probably won’t have it. So come to the public library and check it out, mature readers!

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Hannah, Dee, Violet, and Betty are adventurers: they go on quests, fight monsters, hunt for treasure, and basically live life to the fullest, which hasn’t made them terribly popular in the town of Palisade. The mayor and local business owners are tired of the Rat Queens and other adventurers’ guilds’ wild exploits and penchant for property damage, so each guild is given a quest, with the understanding that if they don’t complete it, they’ll have to leave town. So the Rat Queens set off to complete their quest, only to encounter an assassin and an angry giant Ogre.

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An epic battle ensues, and the Queens are soon back in Palisade, where they find that most of the other adventurers’ guilds have been killed by assassins like the one they defeated. Who hired the assassins? And once the Rat Queens find out who wants them dead, how will they stop them?

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I went into reading this comic knowing that I was probably going to like it, and I was not wrong. The Rat Queens are four awesome ladies who are by turns funny, powerful, smart, serious, tough, slow on the uptake, vulnerable, violent, and kind. The Queens are Strong Female Characters who are wonderfully well-rounded and interesting, and each member of the team brings a different skill set to the table. imageAfter reading the first five issues collected in the trade, I’m hopelessly hooked. I can’t wait to read more, and I hope this series continues for a long time. But as LeVar Burton would say, don’t take my word for it! Read it yourself.

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Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you again next week!

Graphic Picks #34
Hi everyone! This week’s first Graphic Pick is The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell. It contains some mature themes, but it’s also one of the titles selected by the Alex Awards this year, which means it’s a book for adults that will appeal to teens, and I definitely think that many older high school students would enjoy this. 
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Marnie and her younger sister, Nelly, have a big problem. Their parents—Gene and Izzy, who were abusive and addicted to drugs—are dead. To avoid being separated in foster homes, they bury them in the backyard. (The title of the book comes from Nelly’s worries about the mysterious deaths of bees throughout the world, though there’s also a bit of a mystery surrounding Gene and Izzy’s deaths, which Marnie doesn’t realize the solution to until nearly the end of the novel.)

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Together, Marnie and Nelly try to support themselves as best they can. Lennie, their next door neighbor, notices the absence of their parents and begins inviting them over for meals. The three become a kind of family, but Lennie has his secrets too, and when people start asking after Gene and Izzy, they’ll have to work together to keep the safe and happy life they’ve created from completely falling apart. 

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(Here’s a picture of a cabin that’s sort of how I imagined Lennie’s.)

This novel takes place in Scotland, so there’s some unfamiliar slang and expressions here that take some getting used to, but that won’t stop you from getting hooked on this book almost immediately. Before The Death of Bees, I’d never read anything about Scottish housing estates, and a quick search online produces images of homes a lot like Marnie and Nelly’s in inner city Glasgow:
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Marnie, Nelly, and Lennie are all fantastic, unique narrators, and now that I’ve finished this book, I miss their voices. The Death of Bees is a haunting, fascinating story about secrets, survival, and what family really means.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you again later today!

"Serenity: Better Days" by Joss Whedon, Brett Matthews, and Will Conrad
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(Grade 9 and up) Mal Reynolds and his crew on Serenity live from job to job, just trying to make it outside the influence of the Alliance on the edge of the ‘verse. Their latest job is to steal a powerful weapon, but the payment, once they recover it, isn’t at all what they were expecting: it’s millions more. Meanwhile, an Alliance soldier is looking for Dust Devils, a particularly militant brand of Independents who didn’t stop fighting until well after the war was over. As the crew of Serenity enjoys their new-found wealth with a vacation, enemies are closing in on them. What connection do Mal and Zoe have to the Dust Devils? And aside from the Alliance, who is pursuing Serenity?

This graphic novel is a short but sweet tale of our favorite space cowboys, (though if you love Cowboy Bebop, maybe second favorite). Though only three issues long, this is a fun series that showcases everything fans miss about Firefly, from the humor, drama, and great action scenes to the hints of romance and the bittersweet thrill of seeing characters who died in Serenity alive again, in comic form at least. (Check out the latest miniseries, Serenity: Leaves on the Wind, for more stories of our favorite Browncoats.)  While I’m not completely sure how they lost the money in the end (it looked like the Alliance took it), I’m glad that Serenity’s crew will keep flying together in graphic novels like this. (4 out of 5 stars)
  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Dark Horse Books; illustrated edition edition (October 7, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595821627
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595821621 (Source of Publication Data: Amazon.com)
"Strobe Edge" Volume 3 by Io Sakisaka
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(Grade 7 and up) Though Ninako and Ren agreed to remain friends even after she confessed her feelings to him, Ren’s been acting a bit strange lately. First he avoids her and will barely speak to her, but then he helps her hide from Ando after he unexpectedly kisses her! (On the forehead, but still, Ninako was a bit shocked.) But by the day of the Culture Fest, things are back to normal…sort of. After all, Ninako can’t change the way she feels about Ren, and she doesn’t want to either. Still, it can be hard to be friends with someone you’re in love with—especially when Ren offers to tutor Ninako and a friend before their makeup exam! Then, Ren, Ando, and Ninako all start working part time at the same cafe. Through it all, Ninako’s feelings for Ren remain the same…but how do Ren and Ando feel about Ninako?

This series continues to be an entertaining treat, and in volume four, it seems that Ninako is going to have some big decisions to make. As Ando reminds her in the last chapter, the fact that Ren has a girlfriend is a boundary that she needs to respect—and Ninako does, I think. In spite of how she feels about Ren, she honestly doesn’t seem to think that anything will ever happen between them—so when Ando confesses his feelings to her, she seems genuinely shocked. Readers will have seen that confession coming, though the fact that Ando’s first girlfriend, like Ninako, really wanted to date someone else makes it a bit surprising that Ando would make this offer. Ultimately though, I guess Ando got tired of waiting for Ninako to fall for him—and tired of watching Ninako’s unrequited feelings for Ren. I’m pretty sure I know what Ninako’s going to decide regarding Ando’s offer, but I’ll have to wait until I get around to volume four to see for sure. (4 out of 5 stars)
  • Series: Strobe Edge (Book 3)
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: VIZ Media LLC; Tra edition (March 5, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1421550709
  • ISBN-13: 978-1421550701 (Source of Publication Data: Amazon.com)
"Branded by the Pink Triangle" by Ken Setterington

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(Grade 7 and up) During WWII, the Nazis were responsible for the deaths of millions of people that they deemed undesirable or potentially damaging to their cause. Though the struggles of European Jews are well known, the violence and imprisonment that homosexuals faced during WWII was, for many years, barely acknowledged. This book tells the story of men who survived being branded by the pink triangle.

Prior to Hitler’s rise to power, Germany was far more accepting of homosexuality than many other nations: in the 1920’s in particular, gay men and women flocked to Berlin, where they could live their lives in relative safety. The city was even home to the famous Institute for Sexual Research, a unique collection that was the first target of Nazi book burning. But under Paragraph 175, a law which had made homosexuality illegal since the 19th century, the Nazis committed terrible atrocities. Here, survivors’ stories are shared with a new generation.

Branded by the Pink Triangle offers a unique look at the trials that gay men faced in Europe during WWII, and afterward, when it took decades before the suffering they’d endured in concentration camps was even recognized. The book focuses primarily on homosexual men, who were seen by the Nazis as damaging to society; lesbians, though labeled as being “anti-social members of society,” were not considered a threat, and Paragraph 175 referred specifically to homosexual men, not women. In their campaign against gay men, the Nazis were able to capitalize on long-standing prejudices against homosexuality, but by the end of the 20th century, monuments in various countries and Germany as a nation had begun to acknowledge this often overlooked chapter in the history of WWII. Told in clear, straightforward language, this book tells a story that should never be forgotten. (4 out of 5 stars)

  • Paperback: 196 pages
  • Publisher: Second Story Press (April 15, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1926920961
  • ISBN-13: 978-1926920962 (Source of Publication Data: Amazon.com)
"World of Trouble: The Last Policeman Book III" by Ben H. Winters

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(Grade 8 and up) There are only a few days left until the asteroid Maia collides with earth. But before that fateful Wednesday, Detective Henry Palace still has one mystery left to solve: where is his sister Nico? Last time Hank saw her, she and some conspiracy theorist friends were off on a quest to save the world by blowing up the asteroid. After leaving the relative safety of Police House in Massachusetts, Hank finds himself in Ohio, searching a police station that Nico and her compatriots were supposedly using as a rendezvous point. As days slip by and Henry’s search for Nico becomes more and more convoluted, he has to wonder: will he find her before it’s too late?

Quirk Books sent me a copy of World of Trouble to review, and as with the previous books in The Last Policeman trilogy, this one is simultaneously a thrilling mystery and a haunting meditation on what it means to be human, even (or maybe especially) when the world is ending. Hank Palace is a fantastic narrator, and his dedication to his cases—and to staying true to his principles no matter what—is downright heroic. In spite of the ever-present specter of Maia, this book kept me guessing until the very end. If you’re a fan of mysteries or dystopian fiction, don’t miss this series. (4.5 out of 5 stars)

  • Series: Last Policeman (Book 3)
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Quirk Books (July 15, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594746850
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594746857 (Source of Publication Data: Amazon.com)