Archive for the 'Co-reviews' Category

We Might Just Start a Jon McGregor Fan Club…

h1 Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

…Eisha can be President. I’ll be Secretary. (Hey, she can be in charge, as I’m a really good note-taker.) We’ll meet in the 7-Imp Treehouse. Snacks WILL be served.

It’s been a long time since I’ve done this, as I’ve been focusing so heavily on illustration at 7-Imp (picture books and illustrated novels), but I’m going to mention an adult fiction title today. And with the help of Eisha. You remember her, right? Oh you know you miss her. And it hasn’t been that long since she said goodbye.

There are reasons I stopped blogging about novels: Primarily, I burnt myself out on reading a novel and then turning right around to report on it. I still read ‘em, but I’m keeping them to myself. But Eisha and I decided to make an exception today. Rather, we decided back before Christmas to make an exception and accept an early copy of British author Jon McGregor’s newest novel, Even the Dogs. And that’s because we’re big ‘ol ginormous nerdy fans of his novels, and when he contacted us out of the blue to say he’d written a new one and would we be interested in reading it, why, we were most certainly intrigued. Eisha blogged here about his first book (2003), which she convinced me to read Way Back When (long before that blog post, which is itself rather dated anymore), and I fell in love with it just about as hard as she did. And then there was his exquisite, luminous second novel, So Many Ways to Begin (Bloomsbury 2007), which we…uh….tried to post about here. But Yours Truly screwed it all up. I’m a winner like that sometimes.

Bottom line: Jon McGregor, whom The Guardian has called “a hoarder, an omnivorous collector of perception and experience,” has become one of our favorite contemporary authors. So, hell to the YES we wanted to read his new book. And, as it turns out, the novel didn’t let us down. Read the rest of this entry �

One Impossible Visit Before Lunch with
Jarrett J. Krosoczka and the Lunch Lady
(“It looks like today’s special is a knuckle sandwich!”)

h1 Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

Jules: Eisha, holy guacamole! One of our favorite children’s book creators is here today, Jarrett J. Krosoczka. And it’s for such a very fun reason. He is going to tell us the story behind how he came to write his new graphic novel series, debuting this summer from Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, called Lunch Lady.

In Book 1, Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute (to be published at the end of this month), we find out that Lunch Lady, bedecked in her yellow suction-cupped rubber gloves, fights crime — but secretly so. The Breakfast Bunch at Thompson Brook School—Hector, Dee, and Terrence—do wonder what she does when she’s not a lunch lady and dishing out shepherd’s pie (“I bet she has a like a hundred cats!” Dee says). But little do they know she’s got the backs of the students, meeting up with Betty (her sidekick and herself a lunch lady) in the Boiler Room, to keep an eye on the school and any, ahem, robot substitutes who might be planning very evil plots. Well, little do they know until they decide to follow her one afternoon; Hector, after all, does wonder aloud one day if perhaps she’s “some sort of super secret-agent spy or something.”

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He’s baaaaaack: Co-review of Adam Rex’s new Frankenstein book with Kelly Fineman, Poetry Goddess

h1 Tuesday, August 26th, 2008


Your average, run-of-the-mill diet won’t work for witches, you know…
From the “Special Advertising Section” of Adam Rex’s
Frankenstein Takes the Cake

Jules: Excuse the decidedly uncreative post title. Not enough coffee yet. You think I’m joking with my severely cheesy “Instant Human: Just Add Coffee” mug? I’m not.

I’m happy to be joined today by Kelly Fineman of Writing and Ruminating in discussing the new monstrous poetry anthology from Adam Rex, Frankenstein Takes the Cake (Which is Full of Funny Stuff Like Rotting Heads and Giant Gorillas and Zombies Dressed as Little Girls and Edgar Allan Poe. The Book, We Mean — Not the Cake), the sequel to 2006′s Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich (And Other Stories You’re Sure to Like, Because They’re All About Monsters, And Some of Them Are Also About Food. You Like Food, Don’t You? Well, All Right Then) — both books published by Harcourt. (And how much do you love those titles, Jules? you ask. A whole heapin’ lot.) As I noted a few weeks ago here at 7-Imp, if you haven’t read that prequel, well there’s a hole in your life too big and awkward for us to even address. But Kelly has joined me today to talk about the new poetry anthology, so let’s get right to it…

This, by the way, is also posted over at Guys Lit Wire today if you’re so inclined to read it over there. But this post here includes pretty much sorta the same content and same images, so you get to take your pick.

Also: This may be the first and only time you’ll read the words “Adam Rex” and “The View” in the same sentence. I could have never predicted that.

Also: Adam Rex is a superspy.

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Blog of the Dead: Eisha, Adrienne and Little Willow
tri-review Generation Dead

h1 Saturday, August 9th, 2008

Seriously, it’s a great cover.How lucky am I? I convinced Adrienne of What Adrienne Thinks About That to do another co-review with me, and I also talked Little Willow of Bildungsroman into joining the fray. And we’re talking about Generation Dead by Daniel Waters, which is all about teenage zombies. How perfect, since we’re all so into supernatural YA fiction, right? Well… read on.

First, though, let me tell you a little about the plot: For no reason that scientists can determine, American teenagers have started coming back from the dead. They can walk and talk, but they don’t eat, breathe, or sleep. Since they’re obviously a little creepy, and there aren’t any laws in place to protect the recently-deceased, they face a lot of problems with discrimination, ridicule, and even violence when they try to go about their un-lives. Quite a few of them have started attending Oakvale High, because it has a reputation of being tolerant toward the Living Impaired. Goth-girl Phoebe is intrigued by the phenomenon, especially because one of her former best friends has become a zombie, and there are some painful unresolved issues between them. She’s also intrigued by the attractive Tommy Williams, who seems to function better than most of the zombies and has even joined the football team. Phoebe’s nice-jock friend Adam is less interested, because he’s recently realized that he wants more than friendship with Phoebe and is less than thrilled by having a dead guy as competition. Nevertheless, he agrees to join her in a new discussion group/work study program created by the Hunter Foundation to foster greater understanding between zombies and the living.

We avoided major spoilers here, so you should be safe. Also, this is cross-posted at Bildungsroman and WATAT, for your tripled enjoyment. Read on!

* * * * * * *

eisha: So, ladies. I’ll start off by saying that I liked this book. It has an interesting and original take on zombie-ism, and I thought the way Waters used it to convey ideas about prejudice, hate crimes, social law, and societal reform was pretty cool. Also, I think this is one of my favorite covers of 2008.

However, I didn’t love the book. There were some significant flaws in the writing, and in the plot, that kept me from fully immersing myself in the story.

Did I mention how much I love the cover?

How about you, Little Willow? What’s your overall impression?

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Edward vs. Jacob: The Great Twilight Debate
(featuring Eisha and Dana in the first ever
7-Imp Smackdown)

h1 Monday, July 28th, 2008

Seriously, people, do not even look below this line if you haven’t read the books but think you might someday. Spoilers abound, and we make no apology for it. How could we have a proper debate otherwise? Right? Anyway.

* * * * * * *

Breaking Dawn.Since my abduction into the Twilight cult a couple of months ago by my friend Dana Koster, I have frequently commented here on the way this series of books has taken over my life. I know I’m not alone. As Dana put it at her blog, there’s something about “the characters and the intensity of the relationships between them” that makes for very compelling reading. Compelling in the same way that, say, crack is compelling to some people.

The particular relationship that elicits our obsession the most would have to be the complicated love triangle that has formed between our mortal heroine Bella, her vampire boyfriend Edward, and her werewolf best friend Jacob. When last we saw them [SEE, SPOILERS STARTING ALREADY. GET OUT WHILE YOU CAN, TWILIGHT VIRGINS], at the end of Eclipse, Bella and Edward were engaged, with Bella having convinced him to turn her vampy after the honeymoon. Jacob, having confessed his love MANY TIMES and been ultimately, but sorrowfully, spurned by a very conflicted Bella, was wolfing it off into the hills, contemplating a future gone feral.

The fourth, and (sorta maybe) final book of the series, Breaking Dawn, is due to be released in a very few days. Dana and I have already reserved our copies for the local big chain bookstore’s release party* (look, she even found thematically appropriate earrings!) and are looking forward to devouring it next weekend, and then finally getting our lives back. But in the meantime, we keep getting into discussions (arguments) about what we want to happen in BD and which man (ahem) Bella should end up with – she’s firmly in Jacob’s camp, while I’m an Edward girl. Since the second edition of Eclipse comes with iron-ons so that readers can publicly declare their loyalty to Team Edward or Team Jacob, we obviously aren’t the only ones discussing (obsessing over) this issue. I mean, look at the response Robin got when she asked about it. So, I suggested we bring it to the blog in the form of a public debate, and see what happens.

(*Apologies, but I tried to reserve it at the local indie and they didn’t seem to understand that I needed it precisely at midnight on its official release date. I ordered something less urgent from them to atone, okay?)

* * * * * * *

New Moon (book 2)eisha (representing Team Edward): It seems almost superfluous for me to even have to state a position here, since Team Edward is SO OBVIOUSLY GOING TO WIN. I mean, hello, did you read New Moon? Bella CANNOT live without Edward. It has been scientifically proven, what with all her abdominal pain and needing to fall off motorcycles and cliffs to hear his disembodied voice in her head and all. It would be the highest of follies for Meyer to put us through reading about what losing Edward does to Bella, and then make us go through it again. Will not happen.

dana (representing Team Jacob): But that’s exactly the point! Love isn’t supposed to kill you and leave you broken, it’s supposed to raise you up and make you happy and not, you know, crush your identity. True Love is great and all, but is it really True Love when your boyfriend won’t let you see your friends? I mean, controlling much? At least with Jacob, Bella has an identity. She’s hurt, but she’s her own person. She has her own interests, she can see who she wants – she’s not a tiny moon orbiting Planet Edward, she’s just… her.

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Co-review: Eisha and Adrienne Adore Jenna Fox, and So Should You

h1 Monday, July 21st, 2008

The Adoration of Jenna Fox. Notice how the butterfly’s left wing is damaged.eisha: Hey, all. I talked the fabulous Adrienne of What Adrienne Thinks About That into co-reviewing The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson with me. Here’s the result. It’ll be cross-posted on both our blogs today (here’s the link to hers). We tried to avoid major spoilers, to keep it safe for anyone who hasn’t read it. We mostly succeeded. We also managed to work in references to a bunch of other similarly-themed YA books, so this is almost a reading list post. Yay! Enjoy.

* * * * * * *

adrienne: I go about almost nothing systematically, least of all my reading, which, for someone who considers herself a student of literature, is completely haphazard. My approach is to keep around large numbers of books I am interested in for one reason or another and then to wander from one book to another with no goal other than to consume as many as I possibly can while putting minimal effort into things like eating and cleaning my house. Over the last few months, though, I can’t help but notice that much of my reading has consisted of reading whatever Eisha’s been reading a couple weeks after she’s read it. I think there are two reasons for this: 1. Eisha is awesome, and 2. we both like the supernatural. (Speaking of which, Eisha, have you seen how the truth is going to be out there again this summer? So exciting–and OMG I love Scully’s new hair.) Anyway, this is how I read Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle trilogy, Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, and Daniel Waters’ Generation Dead. It’s also how I wound up reading The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson, a crafty bit of science fiction that hits the same territory as Nancy Kress’s Beggars in Spain and Nancy Farmer’s The House of the Scorpion in a way that won’t threaten people who are put off by the phrase “science fiction.” This sci fi deception begins with a splendiferous cover that screams “I’M COOL! I’M COOL!” in soothing blues and greens while staying completely true to the story and its themes.

Eisha, I’m going on. Want to hit us with a summary? Should we use Jules’ marquee tag to post a spoiler alert? Do you agree that Henry Holt and Co. should give jacket designer Meredith Pratt a raise and more covers to design? WHAT ABOUT SCULLY’S NEW HAIR????

eisha: You flatter me. But it’s true, we do have similar tastes in books (and apparently in defunct-TV-shows-making-a-big-screen-comeback, too – YAY!), so I totally love that you keep biting my reading list. Now we have SO MANY BOOKS TO TALK ABOUT. I’ll try to stick to Jenna Fox for now, though.

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Seven Impossible Tri-Reviews Before Breakfast #5: Featuring TadMack, Julie Marchen, and The Wild

h1 Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

Hey, folks. We’ve got a super-spectacular treat (for us) today. We have the extreme pleasure of tri-reviewing with the vivacious TadMack (a.k.a. author Tanita S. Davis) of… well, of lots of blogs, but we’re maybe most fond of Finding Wonderland, one of the other awesome two-girl book blogs we keep tabs on.

The book we’re talking about is Out of the Wild, Sarah Beth Durst’s follow-up to last year’s fun middle-grade modern fantasy, Into the Wild.

If you’ve read Into the Wild, you’ll remember that 12-year-old Julie Marchen, daughter of Rapunzel, lives with a bunch of escaped fairy tale characters and has to help keep guard over The Wild, the enchanted forest that is the source of all our favorite stories. It gets loose anyway, and she barely manages to rein it back in and save the citizens of her town from becoming characters themselves, having to re-enact the fairy tales over and over for eternity. But to do so, she had to leave her mother’s Prince – the father she’s never known – still trapped in his story.

In Out of the Wild, he is, without apparent explanation, freed by The Wild and deposited into Julie’s bedroom. While Rapunzel and the other escaped characters have had 500 years or so to acclimate to the real world and learn to blend in, Prince is still every inch the fairy tale hero. So when some weird stuff starts to go down, involving a kidnapped princess and a rogue fairy turning people into pumpkins, he jumps into action to save the day. But here’s the thing: every time one of the reformed characters does something fairy-tale-ish in this world, they make The Wild grow. So Julie takes off after Prince to try to control the damage his heroics are doing to their ability to keep it contained. Before too long it becomes clear that someone must have set these events in motion in a deliberate attempt to free The Wild, and Julie & Co. have to use every trick at their disposal to figure out how to stop it from taking over the world. Read the rest of this entry �

Three Short (For Us) Co-Reviews:
Tales of Mibs, Matisse, and Keeper

h1 Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008

Good morning, all. Here’s what 7-Imp has to offer today: Three short (for us) co-reviews of some new titles. One is for middle-grade readers; the second for YA readers; and the last one is an actual adult fiction title, making our count for adult fiction reviews a whoppin’ 24 now! Yes, we initially set out to talk about books for all ages at 7-Imp, but we’ve been slacking on our adult titles. Edward Hardy’s Keeper and Kid, our last review here, is one attempt to remedy that.

Savvy
by Ingrid Law
Dial Books for Young Readers
May 2008

This wonderful book was released in May, and Eisha and I have been sitting on ARCs for a while. Before we got to our review, it up and won a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor in the category of Fiction and Poetry. Savvy, unlike any other book you’ll read this year, tells the story of Mississippi, or “Mibs,” Beaumont. She’s about to turn thirteen, and in her family that’s when the savvy strikes. A savvy, in their world, is “just a know-how of a different sort.” Not knowing what her savvy powers will be—but knowing full well she’s likely in for a huge surprise, since her brother can cause hurricanes, her other brother creates electricity, and her mother is truly perfect—Mibs is just a tad bit anxious about the birthday event. It’s even difficult for her to make friends: “It wasn’t safe to invite anyone over with Fish and Rocket still learning to scumble their savvies; we couldn’t risk someone finding out, or getting hurt by sparks or storms if my brothers lost control.” Yes, that said scumble, which means to learn to use your savvy or work around it; with words like that, you can see that this one’s definitely a read-aloud CHAMP.

To make matters worse, Mibs’s father is in a terrible accident the day before her party, and she now longs to discover she possesses a savvy which will save her father’s life. When she finds out it’s an entirely different and unexpected one, she has to adjust, though in the process she comes to understand a bit about hearing one strong voice in her head—her own—and tuning out others’. And when she stows away on a delivery bus which carries pink Bibles, only to eventually be joined by the preacher’s son and his sister with Quite The Attitude—a bus that heads in the altogether wrong direction—she’s gotta find a way to get to her Poppa.

eisha: This was a fun read. It has that kind of folksy tall-tale language we both dig, with fabulously far-fetched metaphors like… oh, I’ll just open to a page at random… like this: “Momma exhaled a long, slow breath, like she was singing the last note of a lullaby, and my heart almost broke with the total sadness of it.” There’s also frequent use of delicious-on-the-tongue words like “persnickety” and “frou-frou frippery.” Awesome.

I also liked the concept. I love a story that can introduce a bit of the fantastical into an everyday setting, and this one pulls it off nicely. The idea of a family of extra-specially-abled people is irresistibly cool, but the author does a good job of painting a realistic picture of what that would really mean: balancing out the benefits of, say, being able to generate electricity or control the weather with the sort of drawbacks that any kid can relate too: being different from other kids, having to hide who you are to fit in, and having family members who can embarrass the heck out of you in public.

What did you think? Read the rest of this entry �

YA Co-Review: Debbie Harry Sings in French

h1 Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

Jules: Last week we talked gender politics and feminism à la E. Lockhart. This week it’s gender and sexuality and identity, issues deftly explored in the debut novel from Meagan Brothers, a Pushcart-Prize-nominated poet who, according to her bio, has made a name for herself in New York City’s spoken-word scene.

Apparently, this first novel of Brothers’, Debbie Harry Sings in French, is being released today (Henry Holt); Eisha and I shared an ARC of this title, which is why we’re able to tell you about it now (and the fact that we’re telling you about it on its very release day is a stroke of luck. We’re not normally this organized.) And, for the record, quoted excerpts in this post are subject to change, since we read an advance copy. Oh and also: As always, some plot spoilers are included below.

Brothers tells the story of sixteen-year-old Johnny. His father is dead, and his mother—as a result—descended into a depression she’s only now stepping out of when the novel opens. Johnny is picked on at his high school in Florida for wearing eyeliner and being all-around left-of-center, and he mostly hangs with his best friend, Terry. Eventually, Johnny ends up in rehab for alcoholism after his very own near-death experience (which impacts him — “some of the other Goth kids I knew were always talking about death in a weird, detached kind of way. It was like they wanted a zombie-movie version of it, not the real, messy, emergency-room version. I thought like that, too, for a while. But something changed, and I couldn’t think that way anymore.”)

Johnny’s mother sends him to live with his paternal uncle and his daughter (“Bug”) in South Carolina. It’s there that Johnny meets Maria. And Reading Rants put it so well that I must quote them here:

“It’s Love and Rockets at first sight, except for the troubling fact that Maria initially thought Johnny was gay. Why? Just because he likes to Robert-Smith-it up a little? Johnny knows he’s not gay, or he wouldn’t dig Maria so much. But what do you call it when you like girls, but you secretly want to try on that little white dress from the thrift store that looks exactly like the one Debbie Harry wears on the cover of Parallel Lines?”

I’m sorry, but that “Love and Rockets at first sight” bit made me happy. I used to be a fan when I myself was in high school.

So, right. Focus, Julie . . . Johnny falls for Maria and also falls hard for Blondie’s music (“Listening to Debbie Harry sing the French part of ‘Sunday Girl’ was somehow more reassuring than anything the counselors had told me so far”) — and Blondie’s “tough, but…really beautiful” stage presence. “It’s not like I just think of Debbie and, bang, I’m cured,” he tells his guidance counselor at school. “It’s . . . I dunno, meditation or something. If I’m in tough situation, I think about how cool and tough she is, and I try to be cool and tough, too.” Finding strength in that persona and how her music makes him feel, he eventually takes it a step further by dressing as her and, ultimately, entering a drag show. He also learns more about his father than he ever knew before while staying at his uncle’s.

So, what’d you think, Eisha? I was really wow’ed by this one, and if this is Brothers’ first book, I can’t wait to see what she does next. I’m probably getting ahead of myself, but there was one part of this book that I thought was so beautiful, I had to put the book down and just savor it for a moment. A great read overall, I thought. What about you? Read the rest of this entry �

YA Co-Review: The Frankie Mystique

h1 Thursday, May 15th, 2008

Jules: It’s been a little while since Eisha and I have done a straight-up co-review—just the two of us—of a YA title, but here’s one — E. Lockhart’s latest, at that: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (Hyperion, March 2008).

Fifteen-year old Frances Rose Landau-Banks—class of 2010 and otherwise known as “Bunny Rabbit” to her family—has just returned from summer vacation to Alabaster Prepatory Academy, the elite, competitive boarding school her father himself once attended. “Mildly geeky” before, she gained twenty pounds over the summer, “all in the right places,” and now has a figure that turns heads, the same brilliant mind and quick tongue she always did, and—this year—a new boyfriend, Matthew Livingston, a senior at Alabaster (though, as far as Frankie can figure out, “{t}he only thing {she} herself had done to facilitate the change was to invest in some leave-in conditioner to tame the frizz”).

Matthew’s circle of friends and social world, one of camaraderie, self-confidence, privilege, and ease, is one Frankie finds fascinating and non-existent amongst her female friends. While finding intriguing similarities between life on campus and Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon she’s studying about in her Cities, Art, and Protest course, Frankie has her own internal struggles about being attracted to Matthew, who is smart, handsome, and often endearing but who also refuses to let her into his inner circle of friends. (Matthew even loves words like Frankie, who likes to play with what she calls her own imaginary neglected positives, or INPs, meaning you take a negative word or expression whose positive is almost never used, and you use it. Or “you impose a new meaning on a word that exists but, through the convolutions of grammar, doesn’t technically mean what you are deciding it means.” Think turbed from disturbed or criminate—from incriminate—which she uses to mean “give someone an alibi.” The latter example is a fitting one, indeed, since Frankie herself becomes somewhat of a criminal mastermind herself during the course of the story.)

When she finds out that Matthew and his friends all belong to the Loyal Order of the Basset Hound, a secret society to which her own father belonged when he was a student years ago, Frankie’s interest is piqued. However, not only will Matthew and his friends not let her join; Matthew avoids the subject altogether, never once telling her about it. Thus challenged, she formulates a plan to anonymously work her way into the Bassets and convince them to perform a series of pranks on the school, ones which challenge the status quo socio-political atmosphere on campus. And she does this for many reasons — but primarily because she was tired of being Bunny Rabbit:

Not a person with intelligence, a sense of direction, and the ability to use a cell phone. Not a person who could solve a problem . . .

To them, she was Bunny Rabbit.

Innocent.

In need of protection.

Inconsequential.

* * * * * * *

So, Eisha. This was my first E. Lockhart book. Gasp! I really liked it. I did not expect the teen-feminist underpinnings (is she known for such things, and I’m just really slow?), and I really liked it. What’d you think? To say we have nui for this book (the neglected positive of ennui) doesn’t really follow Frankie’s grammatical rules for such creations, I suppose.

I guess I should quickly warn first: Some plot spoilers below.

Carry on, then.

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