Database Part 2

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

The Invisible Library (The Invisible Library, #1)Stay low, retrieve the book, and mentor Kai properly are all Irene believes this mission will require until staying alive also becomes difficult. 

Title: The Invisible Library
Author: Genevieve Cogman
ASIN:
B016JPTLJK

Genre: Fantasy, Sci-fi -> Steampunk, Mystery, Books About Books
Series: Yes; The Invisible Library

Publisher: Roc
First Publication Date: January 15th 2015 (352 pages)

Available Formats on Amazon:

  • e-book $2.99
  • Paperback $10.20
  • Hardback $35.08
  • MP3 CD $9.97
  • audiobook available through audible

Why I chose this book: 

This book has been on my ‘to be read’ list for quite a while and I have actually received a free copy of the fourth book in the series from Netgalley to read, so knowing I need to also expand on my Steampunk reading, I decided to read this book. 

Author Interviews:

Pan McMillan
Unbound Worlds

Significance:

This is the first time I’ve seen a book about this topic, and not a TV show, which I find unique. The concept of different realities connected by a library is quite outstanding. 

Awards: 

Amazon.com Best Books (Science Fiction & Fantasy, 2016)
Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Book List (2016)

Synopsis:

 

Irene is an agent for the Library, an organization connected to different realities and immune to time. The agents collect important pieces of fiction from these different realities to preserve books and stay connected. Her latest mission only just completed she is sent back out with a student, Kai, in tow to receive a significant copy of the Grimm fairy tales. Expecting a straightforward mission because of her extra companion, she is shocked to find herself throw into a version of London infected with Chaos, a dangerous man on the loose with connections to the library, and the book already stolen. 

Various London factions are searching and prepared to fight for the book. Irene and Kai will need to stay a step ahead of these different groups while also dealing with the strangeness that comes along with a world being Chaos-infected. In addition to all of this, Irene suspects that Kai is hiding something for her. 

Irene will need to solve the mystery while staying undercover and find the book first because it is not just her reputation at stake here, but the nature of reality itself and her very own life. 

Evaluation: 

This book is a wonderfully done steampunk novel, with not too much jargon. While with any steampunk novel there are new and interesting mechanics, this novel does not focus on them entirely and sticks mostly to the basics, with the few fun elements thrown in, such as attacking alligators. The language is not so detailed or explanation-filled to make a reader’s eye glaze over, but just the right amount, in my opinion. 

The concept is quite interesting and not the same as the TV show: The Librarians. While there are some similarities, such as people going out and collecting materials for the Library, the biggest differences are that this book has people gathering only books and they go to different realities with different levels of magic, science/technology, and chao-infection. These aspects create an interesting combination of fantasy and science fiction with characters zeppelins flying in the air, sponsored and supported by faeries. 

I also found the writing to be well done. One of my personal pet peeves is when the first book in a series feels like the first book — being more of the background and set up for the rest of the series, but this one could very well stand alone, if one didn’t mind the few little mysteries not yet solved. So, the main mystery is solved and there are only a few loose ends that will tie the series together, I’m guessing. 

There are fun characters, all of whom can be kept separate. There are a few too many side characters with little mention, whom I would forget about, but the following text would help remind who they are. Irene is a strong, smart main character, who has room to grow and learn, which we can see in the novel. Kai, is mysterious, with multiple sides, so learning about him is fun. There is also a famous private detective, who I’m hoping will appear in later books. The other female character is an agent of the library as well and of course, the rival of the main character. This irked me, because this book now doesn’t have any healthy female relationships. Hopefully the next book will improve on this. 

Other Reviews: 

Publisher’s Weekly
Smart Bitches Trashy Books

Appeals: 

London, Steampunk, Books about books, engaging writing, world-building, likeable characters, suspenseful tone

“Clues for the Future”

Dragons – stable, Fae – Chaos, Irene, Kai, book thieves, museum, cliche romance, refreshing dialogue, mystery stronger towards end, Aldrech — villain, 

Rating:

  • Quality: 4★
    The pacing did seem a bit off, slower to start, faster towards the end
  • Popularity: 3.5★
    May only appeal to certain people, but does have many reviews

Read-alikes

 The Rook (The Checquy Files, #1)Ink and Bone (The Great Library, #1)Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children, #2)Soulless (Parasol Protectorate, #1)

  • The Rook by Daniel O’Malley
    This book also features secret organizations, likeable female protagonists, and magic powers
  • Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine
    Both books focus on books with spies who steal books with a dash of magic in an alternate reality
  • Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire
    While this book has fairytale overtones, both have a female protagonist who travel to a different reality with magic written in an engaging way
  • Soulless by Gail Carriger
    Both book are steampunk with magical creatures included, featuring likeable female protagonists solving a mystery in Victorian London. 

Booktalking Ideas

One way to do this booktalk would be to talk about Irene’s mission. This may ne one way to start: “For Irene’s next mission for the library all she has to do is retrieve a book while mentoring a student, Kai. Simple, until she learns the book has been stolen, the person who owned was murdered, and practically all the factions of London are trying to get their hands on it. Maybe, not so simple…” 

Another way to look at this is coming from the Library aspect, explaining what the Library is and what work Irene does for it, ending with information on her newest mission and noting the obvious complications that will come with it. 

If I was to do the second option, I might also include this quote:

“We are the Library,” Coppelia pointed out. “What we don’t know, we research.” 

If I can, I would also say this one: 

Remind me why I took this job,’ Kai muttered. ‘People pointed guns at you. Right?’ ‘Yeah. Something like that.’ ‘And you like books.’ She glanced sidelong at him. He flashed a quick, genuine smile at her. ‘Yeah. That would be it.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. What did you think about the reveal about Kai? 
  2. What did you think about the side characters? Do you have a favorite? Who do you think will be in the next book?
  3. The 88th story gives us some background on our villain, but also raises more questions. What might you guess the tattoo on the librarians have on their back says? Do you think Irene is connected to the story? Do you have any other questions?
  4. The Library is an interesting organization that comes creepier as the story continues. Do you think the Library might have other motives for collecting books? How about making sure their initiates do not have any family?
  5. Will you continue the series? What do you think will happen? Do you think Irene will stay in this reality for a while? 
Database Part 2

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player OneWhen Wade finds the first clue towards completing the creator of the VR world of OASIS’s puzzle people attempt to kill him, even in the read world. 

Title: Ready Player One
Author: Ernest Cline
ISBN: 
030788743X (ISBN13: 9780307887436)

Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy
Series? No

Publisher: Crown Publishers
First Publication Date: August 16th 2011 (374 pages)

Available Formats on Amazon:

  • e-book $9.99
  • Hardback $20.43
  • Paperback $12.79
  • Mass Market Paperback $7.48
  • Audio CD $29.99
  • audiobook available through audible

Why I chose this book: 

I absolutely love this concept. Technology that seems within grasp, but we don’t have yet is so interesting to read about and I just had to read this one.

Author Interviews: 

Unbound Worlds

Significance:

This is one of those books that is significant because it introduces new settings and problems. There are not many books that deal with virtual worlds, so this is quite a unique book and outstanding because it can be read and enjoyed by a wide age range. Also, it is being turned into a movie.

Awards: 

Amazon.com Best Books (Science Fiction & Fantasy, 2011)
io9 Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of the Year (2011)
Alex Award (2012)
Locus Award Finalist (2012.4|First Novel, 2012)
John W. Campbell Memorial Award Finalist (2012)
Prometheus Award (Novel, 2012)
Reading List Award shortlist (Science Fiction, 2012)
Abraham Lincoln Illinois High School Book Award Nominee (2014)
VDL Green Mountain Book Award Nominee (2015)
New Hampshire Flume Award Nominee (2014)
Berkeley Summer Reading (2017)
 

Synopsis:

Why live in reality when you can live in virtual reality? In 2044, this is what people are doing. Actual reality is a downer, so many people are living in OASIS, a virtual reality game/program. Pretty much anything you can do in reality and in your dreams, you can do in OASIS. Why not travel space while dressed as cowboy when going to a planet composed of only arcade games? 

One of the most mysterious parts of OASIS is knowing that the creator has left behind clues to inheriting his fortune. The first person to get to the end of the clues will be inherit the fortune, but after many years, no one has even found the first clue. 

Wade is obsessed with the hunt. He knows everything about the creator of OASIS and his likes, which include everything from the 1980s. Unfortunately, he has no money to travel around OASIS and is stuck on the school planet or in his real-life trailer home.  One day he stumbles upon the first clue and stars up a world wide hunt once again. He finds out that normal people are not the only ones he has to worry about, because a power hungry company (IOI) is out to get him too and will do anything in order to get the inheritance at the end. Anything.

Evaluation:

 This book was a wild ride. There is so much information needed to understand the riddles given to aid people in their quests to find the egg so, I felt like I just had to hang on and enjoy the ride. 

I do not know 80s pop culture all that much. I recognize names and places, most of the games, but not to the extent of the characters. I sometimes found this to be a downside of the book because the author had to explain the games, the movies, pretty much everything so that the readers could understand. It adds to the book but, I also thought it took me out of the book. This is something some readers may either love, knowing the material or being able to look it up and experience, or may dislike because they do not understand or feel they need to take the time to look things up. 

Yet, the world in the book is so cool. The VR world is creative and may even be inspiring. The real world is definitely on the dystopian side, which gives the book an almost dual tone. There is such grittiness to the real world and then the VR world is fun and exciting with only imagination as the limit. The description of the world, I thought was well done and helped bring the readers into the world and help them see what was going on. 

The characters were diverse, not only in personality, but looks as well. Since the characters do not see each other in real life until the end, this is one of those books that teaches us that ‘beauty is on the inside.’ Also there is character growth. Wade goes from being a nobody -to- a celebrity. He has to deal with this change and he isn’t perfect. He has to learn from his mistakes and mature. He feels like a real person.
Since the characters are geeks, some with anxiety issues and afraid of the outdoors there are lots of issues that are brought up and addressed. I do feel some of these issues, such as Wade’s fear of going outside, aren’t addressed as fully as it could be. Trust is lost and earned and in OASIS one of the biggest pieces of showing trust is knowing the other person’s face and name.

Other Reviews:
 

Appeals:

computers, VR, adventure, action, 80s, rich detail, offbeat, intricately plotted, fast-paced

This is a great book for people who like technology and have a love for the 80s. 

“Clues for the Future”

OASIS, Wade Watts(Perzival), Art3mis, IOI -villain, trailer high-rises, 

Rating:

  • Quality: 5★
    This is pretty amazing.
  • Popularity: 4★
    This book can appeal to a wide range of people, but the 80s references may put off some

Read-alikes

Heir ApparentSword Art Online: Progressive, Vol. 1 (Sword Art Online: Progressive Light Novel, #1)Futuristic Violence and Fancy SuitsThe Impossible Fortress

  • Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde
    Both books feature gamers in a fast-paced, intricately plotted world featuring VR worlds. 
  • Sword Art Online by Reki Kawahara
    Both books take place in a VR world where gamers are at the heart of the story. In SAO, the creater is instead the villain.
  • Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong
    This book is also tech-heavy, although not in a VR world. It is still fast-paced and offbeat. 
  • The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak
    Both feautre sweet romances in coming-of-age stories with 80s references galore.

Booktalking Ideas

  • This book would be great with props, such as a VR headset where you can show it off and say “What if this could take you into a VR world that the whole world was connected to? What if you could be whoever you want to be? Would you prefer to go to school in VR? Well, in Ready Player One the characters experience all of this through this headset. 
  • The adventure is a huge part of the story and needs to be addressed, so I would definitely talk about the clues and the stakes at hand. 
  • I might also want to talk about Wade a bit and his feelings. 

“I felt like a kid standing in the world’s greatest video arcade without any quarters, unable to do anything but walk around and watch the other kids play.”

Discussion Questions: 

  1. How does the public school system in OASIS compare to the school system in our world? Is this something you feel could happen in the future? Are there negative sides? 
  2. Wade’s philosophy is “No one in the world ever gets what they want and that is beautiful.” What do you think about it? Is this something that describes his age or is it universal? 
  3. What did you think of all the 80s references? 
  4. OASIS has become part of daily life for people around the globe. What virtual realms do you depend upon? 
  5. Let’s talk about identity in virtual worlds. What do the character’s avatars tell us about how they perceive or wish they were? Do our appearances affect how we are perceived or worked with by others? What do you think about people who play as different genders? 

 

Database Part 2

John Dies at the End by David Wong

John Dies at the End (John Dies at the End, #1)  Don’t read this. Don’t get involved.
Sometimes not knowing is easier, while knowing what is out there will put you on a hit list. 

Title: John Dies at the End
Author: David Wong
ISBN: 
031255513X (ISBN13: 9780312555139)

Genre: Horror, Humor, Fantasy/Sci-Fi
Series? Yes; John Dies at the End

Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
First Publication Date: Aug. 17th, 2007 (378 pages)

Available Formats on Amazon:

  • e-book $9.99
  • Hardback $27.99
  • Paperback $9.98
  • Audio CD $26.57
  • audiobook available through audible

Why I chose this book: 

I have read David Wong’s Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits book and absolutely loved it. I recommend it to everyone. So, having heard about this one, and somewhat remembering the movie being mentioned when I was in high school, I’ve been meaning to read this one. As I have been in a horror phase, I decided it was time to break down and pick this one up. 

Author Interviews: 

Following the Nerd
Writer’s Beat

Significance:

The writing of this book is quite unique. Even the content and story were very different from what I normally see. Was also made into a movie!

Awards: N/A

Synopsis:
It all started on a regular night – David helping John’s band with their beginning scene at a party. After seeing his crush, Jennifer Lopez (no, not the actress), making out with some dude, David goes home to get a few hours of sleep before work. This is where things get weird. 
John calls David freaking out early in the morning/late at night and once David gets to his apartment, assumes John is high on drugs since he claims to be seeing things that aren’t there. John even admits to taking a drug from the Jamaican musician that was at the party. The drug is called Soy Sauce. David only hopes that the affects will wear off before their shift at their job, but it doesn’t and next thing David knows, they are at the police station giving statements about the party, since people have died. 
David is caught up in a weirdness tornado and even taking Soy Sauce himself doesn’t make anything make sense, instead it only opens up more questions. Who are the shadow people? What do the weird things want with their world? And will they ever live normal lives again? 
Evaluation: 
Loving David Wong’s other book Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits for over a year now raised my expectations of this book, one I have heard many good things about. Unfortunately, this book flopped for me. I could definitely see the appeal for some people, but the comedy portion was not funny to me. 
First off, the main characters are distinct from one another, although the side characters can sometimes run together. This could be because there are so many characters, some are only mentioned in part one or are introduced 2/3s into the book. For me, it was difficult to keep track of. 
The plot is done in an interesting way. There are two parts to this book and the first part truly feels separate from the rest of the book. The first part of the book is the introduction to the world and the characters to Soy Sauce and the mysteries of the world, while the second part is how they live their lives afterwards and more about the dangers of the world. The book could have been split into two different books and have still made sense. What ties them together is that David is telling this all to a reporter. 
The humor of the novel should also be addressed. While there were times the book provoked a single chuckle, most of the time I stared at the pages in confusion wondering if a section was meant to be funny. I have also never read a book that mentioned penises so much, ever. So, although there are times where it feels reading this book requires a certain amount of intelligence or open mind, there are other moments which seem made with 7th grade boys in mind. 
Another thing to note before recommending is the amount of gore and just plain disturbing moments in the book. 
Other Reviews:

Appeals:

 

lowbrow humor, satirical fiction, horror, HP Lovecraft, gruesome, offbeat, book to movie.

“Clues for the Future”

unreliable narrator, David Wong, Molly – dog, Amy – Big Jim’s sis, Undisclosed location, Soy Sauce – drug, penis jokes, 

Rating:

  • Quality: 3.5★
    I think more could have been done to improve it.
  • Popularity: 3★
    This is a book for specific people and not everyone.

Read-alikes

Welcome to Night Vale (Night Vale, #1)HorrorstörRampaging Fuckers of Everything on the Crazy Shitting Planet of the Vomit AtmosphereThe Last Days of Jack Sparks

  • Welcome to Nightvale by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor
    Both are quirky with dark humor, giving horror a different spin
  • Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix
    Both are “satirical, funny, horror novels” according to Novelist
  • The Rampaging Fuckers of Everything on the Crazy Shitting Planet of the Vomit Atmosphere by Mykle Hansen
    For people who liked the satirical and absurdness of John Dies at the End
  • The Last Days of Jack Sparks by Arnold Arnopp
    Both are horrifying, yet funny satirical fiction with unreliable narrators

 

Booktalking Ideas

One way of going about this booktalk would be to use what the official synopsis has, warning people from reading this book. “Don’t read this book. Even thinking about it, maybe too late for some of you, so forget about it. If you think you are being watched out, it may be time to change your name. If you truly feel compelled to read this story about David and John -fake names-, please just remember, don’t take Soy Sauce, the newest drug, and none of what happens in this book is David’s fault.”

Another way of going about this one is to focus on all of the weird, mentioning the Jamaican magician, a drug named Soy Sauce, Jennifer Lopez (not the actress), Molly, the shadow people, and screaming hamburger patties. 

“And watch out for Molly. See if she does anything unusual. There’s something I don’t trust about the way she exploded and then came back from the dead like that.” 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What did you think? Does this humor speak to you? 
  2. Do you think Molly the dog is the person who drove John and David back from the mall? 
  3. What do you think of the title? Do you think John’s death already happened and he  came back, will it happen in one of the sequels, or is it just a fun name?
  4. Knowing what Soy Sauce does, would you take it? 
  5. What do you think the sequel is about?
Database Part 1

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (2003) *Audiobook

The Time Traveler's Wife

Clare meets Henry when she is six and he is thirty-six, but they marry when she is twenty-three and Henry thirty-one. How is this possible?

Title: The Time Traveler’s Wife
Author: Audrey Niffenegger, Fred Berman (narrator), Phoebe Strole
ISBN: 1611744296 (ISBN13: 9781611744293)

Genre: Science Fiction (Time Travel), Contemporary, Romance
Series? No

Publisher: Highbridge Company
Audiobook Publication Date: August 19th, 2011 (538 pages/ 17 hours 43 minutes)

Available Formats on Amazon:

  • e-book $8.81
  • Hardcover $2.60
  • Paperback $2.90
  • audiobook available through audible
  • audio CD $30.97

Why I chose this book: 

I have heard many good things about this book and I was looking for something uncomplicated to listen to while doing chores and other things.

Author Interviews:

The Guardian

Significance:

This is a very unique way of treating time travel and significant the fact that I have never heard of it else where as a disease or something uncontrollable. The flow of the book felt very different.

Awards:

Alex Award (2004)
John W. Campbell Memorial Award Finalist (2005)
British Book Award (Popular Fiction Award, 2006)
Waterstones top 25 books of the last 25 years (2007, No 2)
Pajiba’s Best Books of the Generation (2007, No 06)
Today Show Book Club selection (15)
Book Sense Book of the Year Honor Book (2004.8|Adult Fiction Honor Book, 2004)
Great Lakes Book Award Finalist (Fiction, 2004)
Exclusive Books Boeke Prize (2005)
Locus Recommended Reading (First Novel, 2003)
Whitcoulls top 100, 2008 (14)
Guardian 1000 (Science Fiction & Fantasy)
Orange Prize Longlist (2004)
AAR Top 100 Romances (200428|Most Recent Rank – 2004, 72)
Amazon.com Best Books (2003)
AAR Annual Reader Poll ([HM] Best Alternate Reality, 2004)
Whitcoulls top 100, 2010 (3)
Sainsbury’s Popular Fiction Award (Best Novel, 2006)
Museums, Libraries, and Archives Society’s “30 Books Every Adult Should Read Before They Die” (18)
World Book Night selection (2012)
Arthur C. Clarke Award Shortlist (2005)


Synopsis:

Clare has known her husband, Henry, since she was six years old. Henry only met Clare when he was in his late twenties. This is not a strange arranged marriage, but a troublesome problem Henry has of time traveling. He cannot control when it happens, nor can he take anything with him when he does travel through time, making it a horrible affliction. The only bright side is that it helped him and Clare come together.

Most marriages have the normal marital problems, but Clare and Henry also have to deal with this additional problem that they cannot control. As Clare, an artist, and Henry, a librarian try to figure out their marital life around this difficult affliction, not only does Henry go missing at some of the worst times, but he also is only slowly gaining the memories Clare already has of them, making some conversations awkward. Will their passionate love for one another maintain their marriage, or will time travel pull them apart?

Evaluation: 

This was intense, but it was a subtle intensity. It had slow moving moments that let you really swim in the richness of the details but, this definitely had its interesting moments. This is a book set at a leisurely pace, that had I not been listening to it while doing other things, I might have disliked otherwise.
I listened to this while driving, cleaning, and working out at the gym and there were moments I was close to tears but had to hold back as to not be that crazy woman at the gym crying on the treadmill. This was very emotional and the narrators truly did a great job at gripping the listener and holding their attention. I absolutely adored the narrators and will look for more of their work to listen to and thought they did a great, albeit talked a bit slowly, so I had my speed at 1.5 or higher.

I definitely did have a few problems with this book, like cunt being used or how Claire was supposed to be this angel who could do no wrong or would remain faithful to Henry forever– even before meeting him in his present. I also thought the glorious details could drag. They were treat but more than once I would be driving and realize I had stopped listening, yet missed nothing. I still knew exactly what was going on, which leads me to believe there is a ton of repeating, which is annoying. I also thought that for a book called The Time Traveler’s Wife the wife, Clare, was rarely the focus of the book, since this book is practically all about Henry. Another big issue is the harmful stereotypes of the non-white characters, particularly Clare’s family’s servants.

Other Reviews: 

Publisher’s Weekly
The New Yorker

Appeals: 

heart-warming, emotional, books to movies, multiple perspectives, lyrical writing, character driven plot

Would recommend this to people with long car rides and a love for lyrical writing to get swept away in, but don’t mind the problematic details.

“Clues for the Future”

time travel genetic cause, librarian character, artist character, marriage focus, infertility

Rating:

  • Quality: 4★
    I really wish those problem details were fixed.
  • Popularity: 5★
    Does anyone not know about this book or movie?

Read-alikes

The Comet SeekersLife After LifeThe Night CircusNever Let Me Go

  • The Comet Seekers by Helen Sedgwick
    Lyrically written where time is fluid in these complex love stories
  • Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
    While not time travel, lives are still interrupted by death and then rebirth. Told in a thought-provoking tone like The Time Traveler’s Wife
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstein
    Written lyrically and almost believable even though magic (or time travel) is not real.
  • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
    Another book made into a movie, with a character-driven plot, lyrical writing, and emotional complexity.

Booktalking Ideas: 

As a character driven book, the characters are what the focus of the booktalk should be. I would describe Clare and Henry, as adults, and how they felt about each other when they first met each other, yet again as adults, which will open up the need to describe Henry’s problem.

“I won’t ever leave you, even though you’re always leaving me.”

After this quote I would explain the problem Henry has and how it makes their lives complicated. While this is talking about the plot, I would try to focus on the character’s emotions and thoughts about it.

And perhaps more quotes, because the writing is absolutely beautiful and that just might attract someone.

“Time is priceless, but it’s Free. You can’t own it, you can use it. You can spend it. But you can’t keep it. Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back.”

Discussion Questions: 

  1. What do you think about the title of the book now that you have read it? Is it aptly named when Henry and his time traveling is the focus? Or are we supposed to think of this as Clares love story? Or something else?
  2. Would you consider this type of time travel to be more fantasy or science fiction?
  3. How is Clare shaped by waiting and absence? How do these themes develop throughout the novel?
  4. Most of the time when Henry travels in time, he really dislikes it, but there are times he truly cherishes. Do you see Henry as a lucky adventurer or a victim of genetics?
  5. What do you think about time travel being a disease?
  6. Alba seems to have more control over her ability, thanks to Henry. Do you think her life will be easier than Henry’s life? What do you imagine her future to be like?
Database Part 1

Gangsta by Kohske (2014)

ギャングスタ 1 [Gyangusuta 1] (Gangsta., #1) Nic and Worick are ‘Handymen’ dealing with dirty jobs, but this next job, it might be too dangerous
even for them.

Title: Gangsta, Vol. 1
Author: コースケ (Kohske)
ISBN: 4107716252 (ISBN13: 9784107716255)

Genre: Graphic Novel, Thriller, Science Fiction
Series? Yes

Publisher: Viz Media LLC (American publisher)
First American Publication Date: February 18th, 2014 (192 pages)

Available Formats on Amazon:

  • paperback $9.45

Why I chose this book: 

I have seen a few episodes of the anime and I own the first book, although in the original Japanese. I picked it for this assignment, because I wanted to add a manga to it and this one is very clearly an adult one.

Author Interviews:

English Q&A over ask.fm with fans

*I couldn’t find anything else in English…

Significance:

This is a pretty brutal manga, not that that is significant, but it was still made into an anime which airred in Japan and also an American company (possibly more foreign countries). The manga is also published in many countries.
It features a deaf character, which is rare for manga, as well as characters with PTSD. The fact that the main characters are not teenagers and that this is so violent, is pretty unique.

Awards: N/A

Synopsis: 

Nic and Worick are an unlikely pair, but they where brought together and haven’t left each other’s side yet. They run a business together as ‘Handymen’ who take care of the dirty jobs in their town, whether it be sex or murder. In this crime polluted town, there isn’t much they haven’t seen or experienced, so it is hard to shock them. What may be a challenge or kill normal people, barely makes Nic break a sweat. So, when they receive a request from a cop they know, they are not too concerned.

The job? Take care of the new muscle in town that is threatening the gang hierarchy. Sounds simple enough, for these men, but they seem to have adopted a hooker after killing her pimp, gangsters are targeting the one non-discriminating hospital, and dangerous people keep popping up with super strength and speed, much like Nic. What happened to Nic and Worick to make them the way they are and will they be able to drive this enemy from their town?

Evaluation: 

What an explosively amazing book! This book is really gritty and dirty, which is even shown with the art style. The town almost seems like a playground for crime, with prostitutes working in alley ways, drugs being passed around normally, and police trying to keep the peace with the gangs in town. Our main characters, are not the traditional heroes who fight evil, but they work to maintain peace and for a price, becoming anti-heroes.

gangsta vol. 1 page

The characters are so awesome. You can tell that there are secrets to be revealed and growth to happen, but it will take more time than one volume can truly capture. They aren’t the squeaky clean characters many manga feature, but are rugged, flawed, and don’t blink at the thought of committing crimes (prostitution, murder, stealing), but there is a reason for them to live like this and it is being slowly shown.

I mentioned the art briefly, but let me explain more about it. The art is very clean cut with marks in the background to show the dirt (notice the ” on the walls in the picture to the right). There is definitely a mature look, but messy looking when there are flashbacks of horrid deeds. This is not pretty or beautiful art, but it has a charm to it.
Also, the fact that the sign language is put into black text boxes is a very cool distinction.

This does feel like a first novel though, meaning that it is the setting and background for the upcoming huge story. It is not as obvious as some novels, but the feeling is still there. Also, this book is quite mature, so I would recommend it to older teens and adults because of the nature of the book.

Other Reviews: 

From Novelist:

In this crime manga, familiar elements show promise that isn’t realized. Worick is a one-eyed gigolo with a traumatic past. Nic is deaf, swings a samurai sword, and has some superpowers. He’s a “tag,” wearing a dog tag that serves the neighborhood as a symbol to beware. Together, they’re the “handymen,” killers for rent from corrupt cops and residents of a bad neighborhood, alike. There mystery here seems artificial, with many open questions presumably left for future volumes, including questions about what Nic’s powers are and why he has them. Early on, the duo rescues Alex, a prostitute who becomes their secretary and an agent for the reader’s curiosity about Worick and Nic. Although the lack of substantial content is frustrating, the art’s nicely attitude driven and the guys are attractive in their suits and well-done manga hair. Much of the narrative revolves around violence and abusive sex, but it’s all shown with flair and distinctive images from Kohske, a relatively new manga-ka who began drawing in 2010. Perhaps this is fresher for the native Japanese audience, but U.S. readers can see this kind of thing weekly on TV with more satisfying plot structure. (Feb.) –Staff (Reviewed January 20, 2014) (Publishers Weekly, vol 261, issue 03, p)

Otaku USA Magazine

Appeal:

gritty, crude, illustrations, violent tone, deaf men, gigolos, manga

I do think this is a comic that can appeal to people who don’t read manga, but probably would stick more to those who at least read comics.

“Clues for the Future”

Nic & Worick (gigolo), Alex (prostitute), Human experiments, Handymen for hire, gang wars

Rating:

  • Quality: 5★
    Absolutely amazing
  • Popularity: 4★
    Many people may enjoy this.

Read-alikes: 

Deadman Wonderland, Volume 1 (Deadman Wonderland, #1)Tokyo Ghoul, tome 1 (Tokyo Ghoul, #1)Berserk, Vol. 1 (Berserk, #1)Cowboy Bebop, Vol. 1

  • Deadman Wonderland by Jinsei Kataoka
    This series also has gritty writing, and violent tone and illustrations
  • Tokyo Ghoul by Sui Ishida
    This features college students and older in a blood, cruel world, much like Gangsta.
  • Beserk by Kentaro Miura
    This is also a violent manga with a violent tone and gritty illustrations
  • Cowboy Bebop by Yutaka Nanten
    This manga has a gritty and mature writing style, but lighter on the violence.

Booktalking Ideas: 

This is a booktalk I would save for adults, just to be safe and not worry about the book getting censored. There are very mature themes in this book, so I would also feel the need to state that upfront.

One way to go about this book would be to showcase the plot, the action, and the fighting. Start from a bland position of calling them handymen working dirty jobs, then explain their first job in the book is to ‘take care’ Barry the pimp and his gang and how they decide not to kill Alex, the prostitute, instead taking her into to work for them as a secretary. I’d end this with an exciting bang, with Nina asking them for help since the hospital is being threatened and how when Nic seeing that a gangster is wearing dog tags like his, he starts to get excited.

Another way would be to focus on the characters themselves and get people to like them, if not connect with them. Worick, the fun-loving gigolo, Nic, the samurai sword wielding fighter, and Alex, the ex-prostitute. Explain how they are trying to survive in a cruel dystopian world and this is how they are doing it, although violently.

Discussion Questions: 

  1. This is definitely a cruel and horrible world to live in. Although we know little about the town and even less about the world, what are your ideas so far? Do you think it was a war that brought this on? Perhaps a government created drug?
  2. Nic and Worick are not the traditional good guys. They do murder and steal, regularly. Did this keep you from enjoying the book or the characters?
  3. In the fight in front of the hospital, the man fighting Nic shows that his dog tag says B/2 while Nic then smiles while showing his is engraved with A/0. While the story has hinted a bit about what these things mean, what are your ideas?
  4. What is your opinion on the artwork? Do you think it is too messy or too neat for this kind of manga?
Database Part 1

Lady Mechanika by Joe Benitez (2015)

Lady Mechanika, Vol.1: the Mystery of Mechanical Corpse (Lady Mechanika, #0-5)

The sole survivor of horrific experiments which left her with mechanic limbs and no memories, Lady Mechanika solves crimes while searching for her past.

Title: Lady Mechanika, Vol. 1
Author: Joe Benitez
ASIN: B06Y39X198

Genre: Science Fiction -> Steampunk, Fantasy, Graphic Novel
Series? Yes

Publisher: Benitez Productions
First Publication Date: Decembr 1st, 2015 (160 pages)

Available Formats on Amazon:

  • e-book $9.99
  • Hardcover $22.33
  • Paperback $19.97
  • Comic $24.95

Why I chose this book: 

I picked this book because I was to expand my comic knowledge and this is the first one I have seen with not only a female lead, but also with a steampunk setting and a fantasy twist thrown in.

Author Interviews:

 

PipeDream Comics

Significance:

While this isn’t the first Steampunk comic, they are not written often, so that would make this one unique, especially since it has a female lead. It also has beautiful artwork.

Awards: N/A

Synopsis: 

The sole survivor of a mad scientist’s inhumane experiments that have left her mechanical limbs, discolored eyes and no memories of her former life, she takes on the moniker that the tabloids have dubbed her, “Lady Mechanika.” She solves crimes that the police cannot and helps those in need, even in the most severe cases. While she helps people and solves cases, she never forgets her main goal: to learn about her past and how see ended up at the hands of a monstrous scientist.

Lady Mechanika hears about a girl who died at the Mechanika city train station and questions the doctor that found her, only to be told of the girl’s mechanical arms, a more crude design that Lady Mechanika’s own. So, she breaks into the Ministry of Health to examine the corpse, cannot helping but feel that this girl is her first clue towards finding out about her captivity. Before she has time to steal the corpse for further examination, an explosion knocks her back and someone else steals the body.

With the help of her, usually drunk, assistant and local inventor, Mr. Lewis she will search for more clues of this girl and where she came from, but will Lady Mechanika end up getting in over her head?

Evaluation:

I absolutely loved reading this graphic novel. My biggest wish was that it had been longer so that I wouldn’t have had to put it down so quickly. This is a series I definitely will continue further.

Some criticisms first :
Sometimes clothing would be torn in one frame then not in the next. I really only noticed because I read this on adobe digital editions which is ridiculously slow when flipping the page. I also thought it could get a little wordy and the text was small — again this might have only been an issue because I was reading on my laptop. The amount of text did seem excessive at times, but since this is the first volume, I feel there should be some leeway since the setting and background story of the main characters needs to be explained.

Now, onto the awesome stuff of this story!
I absolutely enjoyed the way steampunk is done in this comic. This was not just done in the way people dress, but is also shown in the way they speak, still very Victorian, and many standards.
The illustrations are beautiful and I literally wish I could own all of Lady Mechanika’s outfits. These different outfits also made the characters feel more real, because they changed clothing, which many comics or cartoon forget or don’t do for their characters. The illustrations though I had me reading the page then looking over the page again, so I could soak in the images once more.

image found on a Goodreads review

I feel like the plot is moving along at a good pace. I was never bored with the pacing nor did I feel like things were rushed, even though the arc is finished within this volume. There is still mysteries hinted as well as the over-arching mystery of Lady Mechanika’s past.

Other Reviews: 

CBR 
Graphic Policy 

Appeal:

steampunk, strong female lead, alternative history, fast-paced, beautiful illustrations, mystery, action

People who enjoy shows from the sci-fi channel or like graphic novels may really enjoy this one.

“Clues for the Future”

steampunk, fantasy, mechanical limbs, no memories, fight on a dirigible, Lady Mechanika, Mr. Lewis (sidekick & inventor), beautiful artwork

Rating:

  • Quality: 5★
    Absolutely amazing
  • Popularity: 3★
    This one is not very well known, not even on Novelist, but I think many people would enjoy it if they knew about it.

Read-alikes:

Girl Genius Omnibus Volume 1: Agatha Awakens (Girl Genius, #1-3)Rod Espinosa's Steampunk FablesMonstress, Vol. 1: Awakening (Monstress, #1)

  • Girl Genius, Vol. 1 by Phil & Kaja Foglio
    While the art is not as sharp-edged as Lady Mechanika, this is still steampunk with a strong female lead who is solving a mystery.
  • Steampunk Fables by Rod Espinosa
    This comic also features strong female characters in a Victorian steampunk age.
  • Monsteress, Vol. 1 by Marjorie M. Liu
    Set instead in Asia, this is a steampunk novel with a female lead and lavish illustrations
  • The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason
    Not a graphic novel, but a novel in case that is what someone wants. A female lead in a steampunk setting, mysteries abound and plot driven.

Booktalking Ideas:

This book deserves a way to show the pictures, so I would focus on the first few pages in the prequel and Lady Mechanika. Showing off the artwork might entice some readers. I’m not confident I could read quotes from this, so I would probably let the art speak for itself.

I would also focus on the plot and the mysteries that need to be solved. I would give a few clues: the earring taken, the corpse stolen, the mechanical arms, so that the audience could begin to consider suspects as I summarize the beginning of the story.

This is one I would booktalk to single patrons or groups if I had an overhead projector or something of the sort so I could show off the pictures and the characters.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Steampunk is not a genre that we see much of in mainstream media. What do you think of the genre or how it was portrayed here? Do you think it should be considered its own genre?
  2. Lady Mechanika wears dresses on normal days, but pants when working. Even the doctor’s little girl does not believe she is Lady Mechanika because she is wearing a dress when she meets her. Do you think dresses are Lady Mechanika’s disguise, much like Superman’s glasses, or is it a way to fit in with society? What do you think about her clothing choices?
  3. Mr. Lewis is there fighting by Lady Mechanika’s side, despite his past. What do you think about this? Do you think it may be a way for him to work through his issues?
  4. What do you think of the art? Do you like this style? Do you think Lady Mechanika is sexualized at all?
  5. Many stories leave cliffhangers in order to draw the reader into the sequel. What do you think of this ending? Will you read the next book or recommend it to someone?

 

Database Part 1

The Last One by Alexandra Oliva (2016)

The Last One
Zoo wanted adventure when she joined a reality show and she refuses to quit, but the world seems different now…

Title: The Last One
Author: Alexandra Oliva
ISBN: 1101965088 (ISBN13: 9781101965085)

Genre: Science Fiction – Dystopian, Thriller
Series? No

Publisher: Ballantine Books
First Publication Date: July 16th, 2016 (304 pages)

Available Formats on Amazon:

  • e-book $11.99
  • Hardcover $7.99
  • Paperback $9.89
  • Audiobook through Audible

Why I chose this book:

I wanted to expand my thriller and suspense repertoire and thought the reality tv element would be interesting.

Author Interviews: 

The Quillery
Aspen Words

Significance:

The mixing of dystopian and reality TV shows is something I have never seen before. This is also the author’s debut novel.

Synopsis: 

Twelve contestants take part of a survival reality TV show. They are sent out into the woods, cut off from the rest of society and given tasks to complete in order to win. Zoo is there to win.

Zoo joined this TV show because of doubts she has of her regular life. She wants to finally take a chance at something and prove to herself that she can do and be anything she sets her mind to. Unfortunately, the competition starts to get weird. She hasn’t seen a camera-person in a few days, nor cameras in the trees, and she isn’t sure if she is completing the current task correctly. The obstacles and props are getting disgusting and all too real looking…

Zoo begins to wonder if something else is going on. Is she still in the middle of a TV show or has the world been altered in some horribly devastating way?

Evaluation:

This was a fascinating novel. While the beginning can be quite confusing because the reader doesn’t know what is going on and time keeps skipping around, it fits in because the contestants do not know what is going on either. The whole question: Has the world gone through a catastrophe or is this just a game? plagues the reader and Zoo the entire time and it is gripping. If the reader is not confused, like myself, then the book may just seem like a waiting game as we wait for Zoo to figure it out.

The reality TV show aspect is a huge part of this novel, and I’m not sure if it was done the best. I did think the other contestants were mentioned weirdly. I get we were getting their names that the audience might refer to them as but, it was annoying at times. Also, occasionally their real names would be thrown in and I had to think/figure out who they were. Usually it made sense so, it wasn’t too bad just a little annoying. I would love to know all their real names so I wouldn’t have to reference them as ‘Black Doctor’ or ‘Asian Girl’. This portion I definitely think should be changed.

Zoo’s character growth is slow-building and done very well. I’m not sure if her mental health and stability will ever be the same again, but at least she is more independent, confident, and can survive anything.

I think the title aptly fits this as the TV show is trying to get a winner, the last one, yet because of the other things going on, Zoo is alone in the forest. I do not want to say more and unintentionally ruin the story, but the title and the bleakness of the of the cover fit this book very well.

Other Reviews: 

A young woman’s participation in a survival reality show conceals an actual apocalyptic event in the  outside world. Telling herself that she is after one last  big adventure before starting a family, Zoo (as she is dubbed by producers) decides to participate in a hard-core wilderness survival show. The  novel’s first narrative strand takes us through the  show’s initial week: we see a series of group and solo challenges, such as tracking animals and filtering water, accomplished in order to earn prizes. We are also introduced to the  reality show contestants, who are called by easy-label names like Asian Chick and Air Force. Zoo quickly rises as a leader among the  contestants—she’s easy to get along with and has “moxie.” But intercut with the  narrative of the  show’s first week is that of Zoo alone, on what she believes is a long solo challenge. Thinking that the  production team has cleared out entire towns and strategically placed corpselike “props” (complete with the  smell of decay), Zoo moves east in the  direction of her home, determined to be the last one  standing and the  winner of the  $1  million prize. In her debut novel, Oliva has written a book that is clever in the  best sense: she is able to skewer reality show culture and dystopian tropes while never letting concept or critique become more important than a good yarn. The  novel is thoroughly steeped in its times—the  use of a Reddit-like forum plays a key plot role—but unlike other dystopian novels, it doesn’t so much use contemporary times to warn us about potential future collapse as it shows what impact our times have on the  ways we think about identity and human relationships. An astute and compelling entry into the  post-apocalypse genre.(Kirkus Reviews, May 1 , 2016)

Star Tribune

Appeal: 

Strong female; Thought-compelling; Compelling writing; Dystopian – survival

This is for people who love suspense and don’t mind time shifts. There are many chapters that go into the past or shift to a different point of view, so readers need to be okay with that. This book would definitely work for younger readers looking to read an adult book.

“Clues for the future”:

realty TV show turned apocalypse; Zoo: what is her real name?; growth through survival

Rating: 

  • Quality: 4★
    A few tweaks here and there and it would be perfect
  • Popularity: 3★
    This hasn’t gained a following and may take some convincing to get someone to read it.

Read-alikes: 

The Country of Ice Cream StarDark MatterThe Fire Sermon (The Fire Sermon, #1)The Walking Dead, Book One (The Walking Dead #1-12)Into the Forest

  • The Country of Ice Cream Star by Sandra Newman
    Apocalyptic stories featuring courageous women who learn to survive.
  • Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
    This one is a bit of a stretch, but it is about a man trying to get back to his family, like how Zoo is trying to get back home, in a heart pumping way.
  • The Fire Sermon by Drancesca Haig
    Strong female character who learns to survive and changes herself as the story progresses
  • The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman
    This book brings zombies into play, but survival is the big issue with questions posed about human nature
  • Into the Forest by Jean Hegland
    Apocalyptic stories where wilderness survival is key

Book Talk: 

Zoo is alone in a forest with just the animals around her. She finds her own food, builds her own shelter, and keeps heading towards her destination all while trying to look presentable. Why? Because this is a survival reality TV show!

True, the task she is fulfilling now is a lot more difficult and vague than the previous ones. She also hasn’t seen any other contestants in a while, possible a few days, but she sees where the camera crew and probably hidden their cameras, so she must still be on track. Everything is fine!

Except, those props at that last destination looked and smelled so real. These deserted houses and corpses are so well done, Zoo didn’t think the studio had the budget for it. She is getting hungry since it has been days since they last gave out a prize of clean water or food and that period she got sick was pretty dangerous and she hasn’t seen her camera person since then…

Zoo is determined not to give up, nor call for help. She will prove to herself that she can do or be anything and has no reason to fear starting a family. She will survive this competition all the way to the end, no matter how realistic and scary it is getting. Her destination is ahead of her and all she has to do to win, is be The Last One standing, but when she finds a deserted town, perhaps she needs to rethink whether she is still on a show or whether something has gone astronomically wrong.

Discussion Questions:

  1. At what point did you know that the apocalypse really had happened and it wasn’t part of the show?
  2. Would you join a survival reality TV show, even after reading this book?
  3. Do you think Zoo knew something was wrong earlier in the book, but was forcing herself not to think about it? Or did the TV show manipulate the way she saw things?
  4. Do you think reality TV show manipulates and changes the way we think of real life? How about the contestants of the shows?
  5. What do you think of the title and cover? Do they fit this book?