Book Review – Same Difference

TITLE: Same Difference
AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR: Derek Kirk Kim
FORMAT: Hardcover Graphic Novel
PUBLISHED: 2011

I came across this one at the library and I decided that since it was “Winner of the Eisner, Harvey, and Ignatz Awards” that I should at least give it a chance.  After all, the fact that there are more words in that sentence than in the title and author/illustrator of the book should mean something, right?

*cough*

So Same Difference starts with a group of friends but pretty much follows Simon and Nancy, who are dating.  Apparently Nancy’s been getting letters intended for some other girl…and responding to them.  Simon stupidly points out that they’re from the same town, and that leads the two of them on a quest to find the guy and come clean.

The story was…interesting.  There are some weird points – Simon ran into someone who had asked him out and there’s this thing about wishing he had dated her, or Nancy sort of flirting with the letter writing guy.  And there are some funny points – after they go to his house and don’t find him, they go to the store for ice cream…then hear his name paged and go sprinting across the store to look at him.

Visually, it’s well done.  The artwork is black and white, but done well.  The lettering is perfect.  (Hey, I’ve had some where the lettering was so bad I could barely read it.)  The story, though… Left me feeling settled but it didn’t wow me.

Like, I don’t feel like my time was wasted, but the story just was.  Apparently I’m missing what it was that wowed the judges for three different awards.

But, I don’t think it’s bad.  After careful consideration, and extra help from the visuals (it’s a graphic novel after all), I’ll give it a four.  Go ahead and read it, but I doubt it’ll be your favorite book.

Advertisements

BOOK REVIEW – Angry Little Girls

ANGRY LITTLE GIRLS –
Lela Lee
YA Graphic Novel
2005

So, I was looking for other stuff and I came across this book and I had to at least look at it. The book is dedicated to the author’s grandmother, and the little drawing of her grandmother was so cute that I had to check it out and look at it.

The book centers around five angry little girls. They are (in order of appearance):
Kim, the angry little Asian girl
Deborah, the disenchanted princess
Maria, the crazy little Latina
Xyla, the gloomy girl
Wanda, the fresh little soul sistah

The stories are cute. Teeter-Tottering and saying “You Suck” back and forth. Being unhappy with one’s own looks. Everything being gloomy. Arguments with a mother. Etc.

It’s a short book. And it’s definitely full of grump and snark.
So a rating. I think it’s cute. But I read it in like 20 minutes and I have no need to read it again. So if you want to give it as a gift to somebody who will laugh at it, go ahead. But I don’t know that this is a book that needs to be in everyone’s collection. So read it at the library or while sitting in the stacks at a used bookstore, but don’t buy it. 4/5.

Books Review – Diary of a Teenage Girl (series)

Diary of a Teenage Girl
Kim #1 Just Ask 2005
Maya #2 It’s a Green Thing 2008
Melody Carlson
Paperback

 

Okay, I got these two books from the library sale, thinking that they were one and two of a series. I got them home and got a better look at them and discovered that they are but they aren’t – the Diary of a Teenage Girl series is apparently four books each about several different girls (five for Caitlin) that are somehow, somewhat related (cousins, friends, students at school together) with a few interrelated topics: God, journalism, and, uh, being a teenage girl. Thus, what I really got was Kim’s first book and Maya’s second book but not two consecutive books. Alas.
I started reading Kim first and got about a third of the way through before I just couldn’t stomach it any longer. I don’t mind Christianity being a part of a story if it really helps the story, but I don’t go seeking out Christian fiction as a matter of course. I’ve found some gems this way [Note: Eric Wilson’s Jerusalem Undead series. Go. Read. It. Now.]. But for every book like the Mandie series, where the characters happen to be Christian, there’s a book like this that tries so hard to jam it down one’s throat that you can’t help but choke on it.
In Just Ask, Kim is dealing with several things – wanting to get a car, trying to be Christian when her heritage dictates otherwise (she’s Buddhist by heritage, adopted into a Christian family), etc. And when she gets a speeding ticket, her father makes her pay it off by doing an advice column in the paper he owns. (The advice column thing is apparently an ongoing thing in the series, since one of the other girls ends up doing a column of some sort, too.)
So the book didn’t start off horrible. It’s a diary format, so it’s first person, which drives me nuts, but how else would you write a diary? But the author used a remarkable amount of underlining in the book – moreso than in everything else I’ve read this year combined – and that drove me nuts. Then there’s her writing style.
Look, everyone. There’s a big difference in a character doing something because it’s the right thing, or learning a lesson because God wanted one thing, etc., and having couple characters try this passive-aggressive “I know she died, but God’s there, so it’s totally okay” thing. This reads more like a sermon than a YA book, and that’s really off-putting to me. Everything that was done or happened in this book suddenly because a relate-it-to-God sermon. They went and saw Passion of the Christ and it became a “it’s good for a church movie” conversation where she ends it feeling inadequate because she’s not Christian. I was raised Catholic and didn’t have that much of a religious discussion about the movie; ours was more along the way of “How could any person treat another person that way, theology aside?!”
So like I said, I got a third of the way through, and the combination of good-enough (as opposed to actually good) writing and beating one over the head with God God God (hitting one’s self with the book would have been less painful) was just too much and I gave up.
I put both of the books aside for a bit and then decided to try the other one to see if it was any better.
Maya is Kim’s cousin, and with her mother in jail for drugs and her father a famous pop star, so she moves in with Kim. And Maya is totally in to being green, so she gets her own column in Kim’s dad’s paper (how many columns does one paper hold!?). And she’s just found God (I always hate that phrase. Where was he? Behind the drapes?!), so now she’s trying to figure out how recycling and God fit together. Because, um, that’s a problem how?
So, four pages in, we already have to have the “are you a Christian” discussion. Now, let’s stop for a minute. I have never in my life walked up to somebody and asked them what their religion was unless we were in a forum specifically for that – like an academic religious discussion – but here we have strangers that are doing community service asking if they’re Christian. Maybe that’s the author’s experiences, but they’re sure not mine. And like I said, I’m so not a fan of God-in-your-face being the way you write a religious book.
I’d rather a character show me they’re a good person through doing than have them quote a book to me. I know Athiests that have read the bible, too.
Oh, and with Maya, we get that added bonus of her being psycho into being green. And everything I’ve just said about the “Christian message” we now get about the “green message” too. At the end of every chapter, we get a tip box about going greener. “If we could recycle one newspaper a week…” “…do you know the difference between greener cars?…” And that doesn’t count what you get in the text. “How can this city not have a recycling program!?”
So, yeah. I gave up on that book about 15 pages in, because it was clear that the style problems I found in the other book continued in this one.

On to the rating, I suppose.
I tried to offer these to a couple friends and despite being Christian and having attended religious high schools and colleges and whatever, even they refused them. I’m actually considering throwing them in the trash.

No, really.

So, uh, I guess I give them a 1/5. Just, don’t bother with these at all. Unless you need toilet paper or firewood.

Book Review – The Decembrists by Kimberly Richardson

roKimberlyRichardson-TourBadge500-300x227

Arranged in a chapter-a-month first person format that goes between the two main characters, The Decembrists tells the story of Sophie Joyce, a “young writer” (although she’s 37 and just now finishing her first novel), and Hilliard Ravensdale, a many times published author, who meet in a coffee shop following Sophie’s grandfather’s funeral and fall in love.

I’m going to stop you right there.  Because Sophie claimed she loved her grandfather and she was sorry that he was dead and all, but after the funeral, she went home, cried in her apartment for an hour – because it was cold?! – and then went to a coffee shop to sit in the land of the living.  Then she comments about shallow it must be of her to have to stay in the land of the living, even though she’s off for two days for bereavement.  And this is like, page four of the book.

I already hate Sophie.

I don’t care that she wants to be in the land of the living, but she’s so unaffected by her grandfather dying that she cries because she’s cold and then meets Hilliard in the coffee shop and goes on a date with him.  Let me tell you what I did when my grandmother died – I cried.  For three years.  I’m still crying.  Yeah, you put one foot in front of the other and life has to happen, but you don’t meet somebody and go on a date the next night.  You just don’t.

And Hilliard, well, he’s pompous and arrogant, and not unlike my last boyfriend.  And since these are all the qualities I hated in him, I’m not too pleased with Hilly, either.  (And what the hell kind of a name is Hilliard, anyway?!)  Oh, and in the beginning of the book, he establishes that Sophie’s black because, well, “I’ve never asked out a black woman before,” and “I never saw a black woman blush before,” and… gah!  Has he not seen black people?  And why was Sophie’s race so damn important when we don’t get any description of him at the same time?

So the story is a love story between the two of them [wtf], and it progresses a month/chapter at a time with the POV switching between the two of them.  Except that there’s not really any difference in the voice of Sophie or Hilliard, so if the chapter heading didn’t say a month and a name, you’d have to wait for them to say something like “Sophie’s birthday is coming up…” because there’s no other way you can tell.  Have I mentioned that reasons like this are why I’ve shied away from first person in the last few years?

I found some other issues with the book too.  In the exposition parts, the chapters are long and poorly organized.  Many of them could have – and should have – been broken up into a couple chapters.  They jump from one thing to another like crazy and just don’t flow well a lot of the time.  Also, Kim clearly is not a fan of dialogue tags – which is fine, I’m not either – but when you’re butting up what Hilliard said against what Sophie thought of the comment, you’re too busy keeping track of who’s talking to lose yourself in the story, which is what all of us want to do when we read something.

And there are some things that happen that just drive me nuts.  I know this is nit-pickey, but I don’t want to know who buys somebody’s tampons.  Ever.  (Unless I’m reading a coming of age book, I don’t want to read about periods, well, period.)  And not so nit-picky, Hil calls Sophie “Goddess” through most of the book.  I really dislike saccharine-sweet over-the-top pet names for couples in relationships.  And they’re writers.  I’m tired of reading books about writers when nothing extraordinary happens because of it (Stranger than Fiction is a great book about writers – something happens because she’s writing, as opposed to writing being all that happens.)

Anyway, as the book progresses, we eventually find ourselves reading things that they’re reading (ahem), and whatever they’re reading *should* be slightly indented as a block quote, but Kim et al have decided to change the font instead.  And it’s big and it’s ugly and it’s annoying to read for more than a sentence at a time.  (I would not ever, ever, ever read Hilliard’s stuff, btw.  Or his sister’s poetry.  Or…)

At chapter 12, the author messes with the book’s format a bit, and gives us a specific date instead of a month, and writes in third person.  We learn Hilliard’s secret… in a manner that I wish I hadn’t learned it in… and [removed because of spoilers].  Then there’s an epilogue in Sophie’s point of view, although it doesn’t say that, the worst name I’ve ever read in a book of fiction, and a nicely wrapped up twenty years following the story.  Just picture the bow in your mind, since Kimberly made sure that we had one.

Honestly, this book isn’t even a little bit my cup of tea.  According to the back of the book, “Award winning author Kimberly Richardson turns her literary eye to the world of sex, control, uprisings, secrets, and lies, all wrapped within a story worthy to be called modern Gothic.”  Yeah, all that stuff’s there, but it’s a friggin’ romance.  One more in the string of “hurtful man with woman who can’t seem to land anyone better.”  And I’m tired of this crap.

I’m giving the book a three out of five pages rating.  If you like that sort of crap romance, give it a read.  There’s a full story line here, although it needs a bit of polishing, and I’m sure there’s a niche for it that’s just not me.

522774_295266757254418_375784932_n

I don’t know why this is required, but here it is:

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book from Kimberly Richardson (independently of this)  and used in in conjunction with  First Rule Publicity and the author as part of a virtual book tour. I was not compensated nor was I required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

%d bloggers like this: