Graphic Novel Review: Food Wars! Vol 1 & 2 by Yuto Tsukuda and Shun Saeki

I like food so I thought I’d give Food Wars! a try.  I thought the first volume was okay, but it didn’t blow me away.  Soma’s family owns a diner, and Soma’s number one goal in life is to be a better cook than his dad.  I love this storyline; it kept me reading The Prince of Tennis for a long time (and I need to catch up on that one!).  I’m not sure why I find this trope so appealing, but it is one of my favorites.  The protagonist working to hone his skills, hoping to one day surpass the person who taught him almost everything he knows, yeah, I really like that.

Read more

Spotlight and Giveaway–Afterparty by Ann Stampler

 

Ann Stampler stopped by the virtual offices with a quick This or That as she celebrates the release of Afterparty.  Check it out, and then enter the giveaway below.

City or Country?

City. I like to visit country, especially country with a beach. But I prefer living in town, where there’s a lot going on. And especially in my town, where we have some many different cultures all mixed together.

About the book:

A toxic friendship takes a dangerous turn in this riveting novel from the author of Where It Began.

Read more

Graphic Novel Review: Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Faith Erin Hicks and Prudence Shen

 

Title: Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong

Author: Faith Erin Hicks and Prudence Shen

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

 

You wouldn’t expect Nate and Charlie to be friends. Charlie’s the laid-back captain of the basketball team, and Nate is the neurotic, scheming president of the robotics club. But they are friends, however unlikely—until Nate declares war on the cheerleaders. At stake is funding that will either cover a robotics competition or new cheerleading uniforms—but not both.

It’s only going to get worse: after both parties are stripped of their funding on grounds of abominable misbehavior, Nate enrolls the club’s robot in a battlebot competition in a desperate bid for prize money. Bad sportsmanship? Sure. Chainsaws? Why not. Running away from home on Thanksgiving to illicitly enter a televised robot death match? Of course!

In Faith Erin Hicks’ and Prudence Shen’s world of high school class warfare and robot death matches, Nothing can possibly go wrong


Review:

I have to admit that I wasn’t too eager to dive into Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong, and I don’t know why.  I think that the synopsis just didn’t grab my imagination.  A surprise day off due to power issues at work prompted me to pick this up, and I’m glad I did.  This is such a fun read, with plenty of humor to keep the conflict between Charlie and Nate from getting too intense. 

At the beginning of the book, when the cheerleaders were forcing Charlie to run for Student Body President, I just wanted him to tell them to go jump off a cliff.  He gets caught up in an election campaign that he wants nothing to do with, and it is destroying his friendship with Nate.   Nate only wants to win because he’s discovered that the Student Body gets to decide whether funding will be available for the cheerleaders’ new uniforms or his beloved robotics club.  Charlie doesn’t care one way or the other, except that the cheerleaders freak him out.  They are like ninja cheerleaders – they are scary and they get what they want, and what they want are those new uniforms!  As Nate’s war on the cheerleaders, and Charlie, by association, heats up, Nate doesn’t hesitate to pull out all of the stops, and many of the stops are embarrassing to Charlie.  The pony incident when he was little certainly didn’t need to be plastered all over the high school walls for everyone to see!  I enjoyed Nate and Charlie’s friendship, and how they interacted with each other.  Even when they were so pissed that they were driven to pummel each other, it was evident that they didn’t really want to ruin their friendship.  They are so different that they complimented each other, and I thought they made a great team.

When it’s apparent that the election isn’t going to have the desired results, Nate figures out another way for both sides to get what they want.  It requires working together, and the cheerleaders need mucho convincing.  Through all of the negotiations, it’s obvious that Charlie has a lot more on his mind than robots or uniforms.  He’s been having a hard time forgiving his mom for leaving him and his dad and moving to California.  He’s resentful of his dad, too, for never being home.  Charlie has a lot going on, and his way of dealing with his problems is to ignore them.  He is passive aggressive to both parents, and even though he wants to give them a piece of his mind and make them understand where he’s coming from, he just can’t find the words.  Instead, he hangs up on his mom a lot, and then avoids her calls.  I found him a very likable and sympathetic character, and kept hoping he would find the strength and courage to let both of his parents know how badly they had let him down. 

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong is a fun, humorous read about robots, scary cheerleads, and all of the important relationships in the lives of two unconventional friends.   Friendship is work, especially when you don’t always have the same goals, and this book captured the ins and outs of working through adversity through the magic of spot on prose and expressive illustrations.  Highly recommended.

Grade:  B+ / A-

Review copy provided by publisher

Interview with Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks, Creators of Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong

Please give Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks a warm welcome! They are visiting the virtual offices to chat about their graphic novel Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can each of you describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

Prudence Shen is a caffeine-addicted, camera-toting work in progress. She’s never met a library book sale that wasn’t her jam.

Faith Erin Hicks is a small human from planet Earth. She is addicted to diet coke and making comics. She is always sleepy. Also hungry. Cats

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong?

Pru: Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong is about loving your friends even when they’re jerks, building robots, and how through teamwork and car theft, anything is possible. Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong is also about how everything goes completely and totally wrong, and how sometimes that’s okay.

Faith: Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong is a graphic novel about Nate and Charlie, childhood friends and (in Charlie’s case, unwilling) adversaries in a school election gone horribly wrong. There are geeks, cheerleaders, evil plots and it all climaxes in a 50 page battle bot fight scene. You must read it to believe it.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

Pru: Nate and Charlie are basically the worst parts of my personality split across two people. The idea in general came from watching way too many battlebot highlight reels on YouTube, and having a deep fondness for teenaged romps and road trips.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Charlie?

Pru: Hesitating, uncertain, improving.

Faith: Tall. Depressed. Sweaters.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If Nate had a theme song, what would it be?

Faith: Haha, I’m just going to take a wild stab in the dark and say Anna Eng by They Might Be Giants. I’m curious what Pru’s choice would be …

Pru: I personally think Marina and the Diamonds, "Oh No!"

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Charlie is never without.

Pru: $1 in change; something drilled into him by his dad in case he needs to make an emergency pay phone call, nevermind he has a cell.

Faith: His legs. … oh, that’s two things. His right leg.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things will you never find in Nate’s backpack?

Pru: I feel like Nate’s that kid who never has any cash, a working pen, or clean paper to write on. Probably all of his schoolwork is just filled with marginalia from incidental writing needs.

Faith: Probably a sports team uniform or some kind of sports-related magazine. A complete DVD collection of Saved by the Bell (although that would be hilarious). A note to his parents apologizing for his behavior. ;)

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

Pru: The news, insomnia, and books I read as a kid. I was just rereading Farmer Boy this morning, actually.

Faith: My top three cartoonist influences are Jeff Smith (Bone), Naoki Urasawa (Pluto) and Hiromu Arakawa (Fullmetal Alchemist). I also like animated shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender and Gravity Falls. Authors I like are Maggie Stiefvater, Lloyd Alexander, Diana Wynne Jones and Stephen King.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to work?

Pru: I have to write at a desk or table, must have music, and it usually helps if I’m supposed to be doing something else that’s due on a really tight deadline, because that seems to be the magic bullet for actually getting me to write.

Faith: Diet Coke! My drawing desk! A good audiobook to listen to while I draw!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

Pru: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. If you haven’t read it, you absolutely must.

Faith: I blubbered like a baby throughout Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. That was an amazing book.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

Pru: Little House in the Big Woods is the first one I remember vividly, although almost everything I read between the ages of 6 and 8 were foundational things that would build into a lifelong love.

Faith: I was a pretty voracious reader as a kid due to growing up without a television. I honestly can’t remember what books really sparked my love of reading, but I remember what books really inspired me to want to create my own stories and especially stories starring awesome girl characters: the Vesper Holly series by Lloyd Alexander. They’re fun, awesome, Indiana Jones type adventure books, starring an amazing heroine, perfect for nerdy 12 year old tomboys like me.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

Pru: I’m lucky enough to travel quite a bit. This year I’m hoping to get to Morocco and Shanghai.

Faith: … or drawing? ;) Draw and write more, I guess! I definitely should try and develop more hobbies. When I’m not working, I try and go outside (I like running), explore the city I live in (Halifax), and get fresh inspiration for more stories. I should maybe take up knitting …

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can order Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the links below:

About the book:

You wouldn’t expect Nate and Charlie to be friends. Charlie’s the laid-back captain of the basketball team, and Nate is the neurotic, scheming president of the robotics club. But they are friends, however unlikely—until Nate declares war on the cheerleaders. At stake is funding that will either cover a robotics competition or new cheerleading uniforms—but not both.

It’s only going to get worse: after both parties are stripped of their funding on grounds of abominable misbehavior, Nate enrolls the club’s robot in a battlebot competition in a desperate bid for prize money. Bad sportsmanship? Sure. Chainsaws? Why not. Running away from home on Thanksgiving to illicitly enter a televised robot death match? Of course!

In Faith Erin Hicks’ and Prudence Shen’s world of high school class warfare and robot death matches, Nothing can possibly go wrong. 

Cover Shot! If I Fall by Anna Cruise

Cover Shot! is a regular feature here at the Café. I love discovering new covers, and when I find them, I like to share. More than anything else, I am consumed with the mystery that each new discovery represents. There is an allure to a beautiful cover. Will the story contained under the pages live up to promise of the gorgeous cover art?

I love the colors on this cover for If I Fall by Anna Cruise.  Very pretty!

In stores April 2013

 

Meg Calloway is at the edge.

Reeling from her parents’ sudden divorce, fifteen-year old Meg has never felt more alone. Her father is about to marry a woman she can’t stand and her mother’s only companion is an endless supply of alcohol. When Aidan Westwood, an older boy at school, shows interest in her, she grabs on and doesn’t let go, thinking he’s exactly what she needs to help stem her loneliness and despair. She quickly learns that Aidan lives a darker, more dangerous life than she does and the more isolated she feels from her family, the more willing she is to step into Aidan’s world.

As Meg drifts further from her friends, she tries to find comfort with a boy who is opening her eyes up to new things, none of them good. Will she listen to those around her who are warning her that she’s headed down a path of self-destruction?

Or will she fall too far…too fast…too deep?

Review: Dance of Shadows by Yelena Black

 

Title: Dance of Shadows

Author: 

Yelena Black

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Vanessa Adler isn’t so sure she really belongs at the School of American Ballet. But dance runs in her family. It’s been a part of her life for as long as she can remember. Her grandmother and mother were prima ballerinas, and her older sister Margaret was, too. That is, until Margaret mysteriously disappeared from school three years ago. Vanessa is heir to the family’s gift and the only person who can fulfill her sister’s destiny. She has no choice.

But she never could have guessed how dangerous the school is. The infamous choreographer, Josef, isn’t just ruthless with his pupils, he guards a sinister secret, one in which the school’s dancers-prized for their beauty, grace, and discipline-become pawns in a world of dark, deadly demons.


Review:

I struggled with Dance of Shadows, and finally threw in the towel at 72%.  I hate not finishing books, especially books that I have been anticipating with great enthusiasm.  A paranormal romance with ballet dancers?  That sounded intriguing, and like something new, something that I haven’t read before.  It was with great dismay that I discovered how wrong I was.  This book reads like so many other YA PNR that it’s one big, yawn inducing cliché.  Boarding school setting? Check.  Distant, self-absorbed parent? Check.  Mysterious boys?  Check.  Dreaded insta-love at first sight. Uh, yup, there’s that overused trope, too.

Vanessa has enrolled at the School of American Ballet, determined to discover the fate of her missing sister.  Margaret has been missing for three years, and her family is desperate to find her.  Everyone assumes that she caved under the stressful demands of the elite dance school, but Vanessa is skeptical that she would just disappear without a word.  Once she’s at school, however, she begins to wonder.  The instructors are demanding, there is more competition than she expected, and she learns that numerous other girls have disappeared just like Margaret.  Still, Vanessa isn’t totally convinced that her sister had a breakdown and ran away.

As she settles into the daily routine at school, weird things start happening.  Her new friend disappears.  Vanessa zones out when she’s dancing, and sees shadows moving eerily around her.  There are those strange blood stains on the dance floor, and every time the school tries to put on a production of The Firebird, something happens to the ballerina cast in the lead.  When Vanessa is cast as the firebird, she starts to fear for her safety and sanity, too.

The pacing of Dance of Shadows is slow, slow, slow.  It didn’t hold my attention.   I felt like I’ve this story a hundred times already, which wouldn’t have been such a big deal if something  actually happened.  Vanessa is a tedious heroine who doesn’t speak her mind and just goes along with the crowd.  She’s a sheep who has fallen instantly in love with Zeppelin Black, big man on campus.  Without ever speaking a word to him, she has fallen under the spell of his long, lean good looks.  Ugh.  Really?  When he does start paying attention to her, he is so hot or cold that any girl with an ounce of self-respect or common sense would have realized that he’s a jerk and moved on to greener, friendly pastures.  But no, every time he snaps his fingers, Vanessa has to run to him and relish in every scrap of attention he flicks her way.  Because he’s gorgeous.  Dislike.

The secondary characters were all one-dimensional, cookie-cutter stereo-types, bland and without personality.  Not one of them memorable or even worth mentioning.  The same can be said about the older students and Zep’s  ex-girlfriend, who are Vanessa’s rivals.  Because there is no development for them, I didn’t care about them or understand any of their motivations.

Unfortunately, this story about ballerinas and the mysterious school they attend left me disinterested and hard-pressed to keep reading.  Dance of Shadows had a lot of potential, but for me, it fell short of expectations.

Grade:  DNF

Review copy provided by publisher