Thursday, July 31, 2014

Sex Scenes for Teens

When I first read this week's review book, Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan, several years ago, I realized something about it... it contained the first gay sex scene I had ever read. (Granted, I had only read a handful of sex scenes in the first place, most of them from the Earth's Children series by Jean M. Auel.) So I wanted to address sex in teen books this week, because that's what I think of when I think of this book.


You know what's awkward for teens? Talking about sex. (Okay, that can be awkward for any age group.) You know what's a little less awkward? Reading about sex.

Think about it... you're a teenager, figuring out the whole "sex thing" from your equally clueless friends, euphemistic media examples, your parents' stuttering and mumbling about how you should practice safe sex, and weirdly omissive sex ed classes that mumble about how you shouldn't have sex at all. How are you supposed to sort out what really happens after the camera pans away and you hear bedsprings squeaking in whatever R-rated movie you happened to sneak into? (And don't tell me that porn will explain it to you... maybe some of the mechanics, but I hope you know better than to believe that most porn is a realistic depiction of a healthy sex life.)

Even worse, try being an LGBT teen. Sure, in recent years, it has been easier to find sex ed classes or counselors or even just friends who know more about sex between two men or two women or what kind of surgery transsexuals undergo, or any of the billion questions spilling out of that can of worms. But I probably don't have to tell you that it's dangerous in some places to come out, and asking questions about those things will out you if you aren't already out. Even in places where it's more accepted, it can be scary or embarrassing or just something you don't feel like everyone around you needs to know about. There are as many different experiences with this as there are people.

So where's a confused teen to turn? As is often the answer... well-written YA fiction. I'm not saying a novel should be a stand-in for good sex ed classes or mortifying heart-to-hearts with parents. I'm just saying, it's not really your mom's place to give you pointers on what to do with your hands when you're caught up in the moment, and it would be pretty awkward (borderline illegal, probably) for your health teacher to demonstrate interesting positions you might enjoy. (Side note: John Cleese is totally an exception. Totally NSFW; not for polite company.)

The neat thing about a lot of popular YA books is that teens really identify with them. They see bits and pieces of themselves and their friends and their families in the characters, and bits and pieces of their lives in the events of the books. So when they're reading about a character having a first sexual experience, or a fiftieth, or a new type thereof, they know they aren't alone. They aren't the only ones in the world who think they don't know what they're doing, or want something they think they shouldn't, or whatever their hangup is, even though it seems for all the world that they're alone, because nobody talks about these things.

It can be difficult to write sex scenes for adults, but for the most part, adults tend to know what to do and what they like and what they're willing to explore when it comes to sex. Teens are totally new to the topic and are just starting to consider options and learn about themselves in relation to others in this way. Which is why sex scenes for teens have to be so incredibly well-written. (It also helps to find a balance of detail to help the reader and discretion to keep it from being banned for being pornography, but if John Green's Looking for Alaska can be banned for the same reason because of a passage that includes "We didn't have sex. We never got naked." you probably don't have much of a shot at not getting banned if your characters are doing the deed.

So, teens looking for good sex scenes that will talk you through some anecdotal examples, try these out:

Before I Die by Jenny Downham (A terminally ill girl has a bucket list, at the top of which is to have sex.)

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan - this week's review book! (A totally inexperienced gay boy sleeps with his boyfriend, who is considerably more experienced.)

Bringing Up the Bones by Lara Zeises (After her boyfriend dies, the protagonist sleeps with a stranger.)

The Difference Between You and Me by Madeleine George (A totally-out lesbian and a closeted one meet in secret every week to make out.)

Doing It by Melvin Burgess (A boy desperately wants to lose his virginity.)

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (Not a huge fan of his main characters, but the sex scene... not bad. Really honest and, I don't know... normal. No stars-in-your-eyes stuff.)

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (Sorry to be a downer, but not all sex is consensual. The rape scene in this book is gut-wrenching enough to elicit the right emotional response, but not so much so that it's gratuitous. Having examples of rape is important in YA too, because non-experienced people might not even realize that what is happening to them is rape if they don't have solid, realistic examples to learn from.)

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer - No, seriously. (Really, I mean it. When Bella and Edward finally get down to business, it's not the worst sex scene I've ever read. Honestly. Just give it a shot. Really.)

So let the teens read sex scenes. You can't get an STD or get pregnant from a book, and it's one hell of a lot safer than letting them learn about sex by taking them to see 50 Shades of Grey in theaters.

What's your favorite book with a sex scene for teens? Let us know your recommendations!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

If I Stay Meet and Greet

So, I'm late on posting today, and it's a busy week anyway, so I'm posting a picture of what I did today!!

That is Gayle Foreman, author of If I Stay (which we reviewed almost two years ago, because we're hipsters like that.), and the lead actress of the movie, Chloe Grace Moretz.  I got stuff signed by both of them!!

Sooooo, stick around for the movie coming out on August 22.  We just MIGHT be giving something special away. ;)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Author Bio - David Levithan

David Levithan is a MUCH beloved author around our parts.  Mainly, everything he writes is magic.  But seriously.  I have yet to read something by him I don't love which why we recommend him again, and again, and again.

Levithan actually started out at age 19, with the Scholastic Corporation, working on The Babysitter's Club (A link, for all you youngins who have no idea what that is.)  He still works for Scholastic, editing in between writing his books.

You hear a LOT of other authors talk about him, always fondly.  I know he is the editor for Libba Bray's book and also was there when Patricia McCormick write Cut.  He edits for all these authors through a company he founded called PUSH, which promotes edgier and more controversial books for teens (which is kind of why we love him, isn't it.)

He's written SO MANY books, including Boy Meets Boy (his first, and the one we'll be reviewing this week), Everyday (his newest), and Will Grayson, Will Grayson (written with John Green, who is equally amazing.)

To learn more about him, go visit his website, or his facebook page, or his twitter.  Let's face it.  He's pretty much everywhere.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Review Me Twice - Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Mahoh

Ok, so, first things first.  This graphic novel is SOOO NSFW.  As I discovered... at work.  It was an awkward lunch period for me trying to hide the penis pictures on my Kindle.

That being said, I did enjoy the story. It was heartfelt and sweet and showed well what a lot of people who are gay go through.  Clementine has a ton of problems when her parents (inevitably) find out about her sexuality.  (Though, spoiler alert, it's the dumbest way possible because who walks around naked in their significant other's parent's house?)

I do think something is lost when viewed in black and white (I think all the copies are black and white, but I could be wrong.  I'd have to see a non-digital version.)  Either way, my Kindle is black and white, so I didn't catch onto things like... Emma's hair is blue, until the very end when Clem mentioned it.

I also like that Clem has friends outside of her girlfriend.  The passing of time is a little weird in this book.  One second she's 17 and the next second she's 30.  We really don't get any sort of real transition, it's just BAM all this time has passed.  It almost seemed like Mahoh got bored of writing and just wanted to hurry the story along (which is legit, because it was dragging a bit.)

Overall, the book wasn't bad, but it's not something I'd ever pick up again.

As many French books are, and as many graphic novels are, this is kind of a confusing book. And that's not good. Considering I was a French major and read almost any graphic novel I touch, me being confused by it is a bad sign. Not that I'm an expert on either of those things, but you shouldn't have to be.

Cassy's absolutely right... this is an absolutely NSFW book. The movie adaptation is NC-17; that should give you a heads-up. Also, French graphic novel about lesbians, did you miss that part? There's going to be nudity and sex and... a lot more of both of those.

I watched the movie, too... also confusing. And boring. But hey, indie film based on a French graphic novel about a lesbian relationship? You have to be part of a very specific audience to enjoy that. Granted, I am part of that very specific audience, so I guess you also have to really want to watch 179 minutes of an NC-17 movie with improvised lines, a sex scene that took 10 days to film (and that's only one of the sex scenes) with no hairstylist or makeup artist on set (which I actually think is pretty cool, but it was a little odd). But hey, it was the first movie adaptation of a graphic novel to win the Palme d'Or, so there's that.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Least Favorite Graphic Novel

Usually when Wednesday comes along, we let you know about the things that we love best.

But, this week, Alex and I figured we'd change it up a little and tell you our LEAST favorite.  And, since we're reading a graphic novel this week, the best idea was to tell you our least favorite graphic novel.

Ok, we shouldn't be surprised that the Twlight graphic novel was bad.  I mean, the books were terrible, so we shouldn't expect much more out of the graphic novels.  And I really didn't, storyline wise, but I figured that the art might be nice and, ok, there was a part of me that was morbidly curious.  So I read it.

I can forgive the bad story line that has even more plot holes than the original story (seriously.  Nothing about James & his crew at all until they're trying to kill Bella.)  But the thing that really annoyed me, really made this the worst graphic novel ever, was that the art was terrible.  Half the time, it looked like the characters were drawn over picture-like backgrounds.  It didn't look like anyone had actually drawn them.

Also, the white washing that happened in this book was so ridiculously bad.  Say what you will about the book, there is a surprising amount of diversity (well... at least in the movie, and Stephanie Meyer had a say in a lot of it, so I have to assume she approved of the casting choices.  It's not like she describes the characters in the book.)  Everyone was the same color, ethnic background.  I almost expected them all to be one gender!!!

Seriously, the books are terrible.  Don't even pick them up for the morbid curiosity.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Little Comic Fun

So, because I work at Barnes & Noble, you guys get a lot of info about the place (for instance, when I let you in about their summer reading program.)

I figured, since we're reading a graphic novel this week, I would bring up the super hero days going on at work!

This Wednesday we're doing Batman day and, if you are oh so lucky to live where I live, you could come in and see me in some awesome Batman stuff (and if not... well, I might post a picture.)

Do you like Superman?  Think DC is WAY better than Marvel?  Well, then head out to the DC comics days, Wednesday to Sunday.  There will be all sorts of DC Comics fun, not to mention special products on sale and some cool free prizes.

Alternatively, there's a Marvel Comics day, for all those DC haters.  On the second of August, you can come out and do all the same things the DC kids did, only cooler because you're Marvel.

And if you have kids, Frozen day is a big thing.  August first there's going to be all sorts of games an activities associated with Disney's Frozen.

I know this seems like one big paid advertisement, but I know a lot of you are comic fans out there, so I just wanted to keep you in the know.  There are more activities, events and themed days going on than the ones I've mentioned, but you'll just have to go to the website to find out about them.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Author Bio - Julie Maroh

This week, we're reading Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh (a graphic Novel, so you know it was Alex's week to pick. ;))

Maroh is actually French, and the book has been translated into English (and a few other languages).  The original title is Le bleu est une couleur chaude. Blue seems to be her first book, one that she stated writing when she was 19 years old.  It has been adapted into a movie and won an award at the Angoul√™me International Comics Festival in 2011.

Maroh is currently living in Angoul√™me, France.  This is her website, but it's in French, so unless you know French, it's unlikely you'll glean much from it.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Review Me Twice: The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

I like Laurie Halse Anderson. I liked Speak. I liked Fever 1793. I haven't read Wintergirls yet, but I bet I would like it. I also liked The Impossible Knife of Memory. I wrote all those redundant sentences for a reason: to emphasize the word "like." I don't love any of it, but I like it.

I was excited about this one... It's dark and scary in the "this happens to real people all the time" kind of way like Speak is. It calls attention to something I think is important and under-discussed (PTSD in veterans and how it affects them and their families).

I was totally with you, Laurie. I was. We were going great... and then the romantic plot (I can't decide if it's a "subplot" or not because it sort of takes over the whole book) started to feel way more girly than your protagonist has acted. Which I was cool with, in the sense that people change, especially when they're caught up in their first romantic relationship. And then... happy ending? What was that? I expected heart-wrenching and devastating. But maybe I just miss Game of Thrones. Still... what a weirdly misplaced-feeling happy ending.

Laurie Halse Anderson is an incredible writer.  Speak probably makes the top 10 of my favorite books because it was so well done (though, I admit, does hit you over the head a little with the tree symbolysm.)  Wintergirls was also incredibly well done.

And while I did LIKE The Impossible Knife of Memory, it just wasn't up to parr with her other works.  The characters were interesting, and I like that she isn't afraid to take PTSD on (because, let me tell you, I don't think we do NEARLY enough for our Vets and PTSD frequently isn't taken seriously and said Vets are referred to as sissies, or less tough because they're traumatized by their experiences.  Which is DUMB.)

I agree with Alex about the miss-placed ending and the romance though.  It kind of throws the book on a weird track and I'm not really sure if that's where I wanted to go.  There were some great moments with Hayley and her father, though.  Both scary and heart-stopping, and some incredibly wonderful.

Over all, I enjoyed it, because Anderson is just plain a good writer, but it certainly wasn't my favorite book by her.

Thursday, July 17, 2014


You may remember when Cassy talked about amnesia in literature. But today, I'm going to tell you about when characters do remember things.

Good writers know where to start their story, and it's never the actual beginning.

I think of this quote when I try to decide where to start a story.
If you really started "at the beginning," then you'd be
first inventing the universe. And nobody wants to read all that.

Which means we need to rely on methods other than starting at the beginning to tell us about the things that happened before page one.

Analepsis is the fancy word for flashbacks. If it's an internal analepsis, we're looking back on something that happened earlier within the narrative (something you've already read). External analepsis flashes back to something that happened before the story started (something you didn't get to read about).

There are many ways to present flashbacks. Maybe they'll come as a dream about something horrible in the past, like when Scott Pilgrim dreams about Envy Adams.


Sometimes characters just talk about something that happened in the past. If you're bad at dialogue, you should not attempt this as an exposition tool... people just don't have conversations like, "Hey, remember that thing we did on [date] in [place]?" "Oh, hey, yeah! That was when [person] did [activity] which caused [emotional response]!" Okay, sometimes we do. But it can look awkward on the page.

Side note: Are you guys as stoked about Maze Runner as I am?!?

Or you can get creative with your flashbacks... stories in the fantasy or sci-fi genres can use magic or technology to find ways to bring up memory or dreams or thoughts. You can find a reason to call back a character from the past, and in introducing them to newer characters who didn't know them, you can get a lot of details out. You can use the amnesia tactic that Maze Runner used, and anything leading up to page one has to be explicitly explained to the protagonist (and therefore to the reader).

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Favorite Book with a Flashback

Walk Two Moons has always been one of my favorite books.  It's really a book for all ages kind of book, because the girl is 12, so she's not quite a teenager, but she's not quite a kid anymore, which I think just makes the book all that more relatable.

Sal is going on a trip with her grandparents to see her mother (and Sal is going to try and make her come back, though she doesn't tell her grandparents that.)  Throughout the whole trip, she's telling her grandparents about one of her friends, whose mother also left, though for different reasons than Sal's mother.

Through these flashbacks we see the parallels to Sal's life, and Sal's troubles.  She also tells the reader about her life with her mother, and all the things that she grew up with and the places that she used to go.  Inevitably, the story takes place m
ore in the past than it does the present, but it is wonderfully balanced and incredibly written and definitely something that should be read by everyone.

Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five doesn't have so much "flashbacks" as it does "flash-arounds" because the timeline is all jacked up. The protagonist doesn't really stay in a linear timeline so you don't really know when the "present" is. This is the only Vonnegut book I've read, so I can't say whether I'm a fan of his in general, but I do think this is really excellent writing. I can't imagine trying to keep track of everything while writing like this, and I'm impressed, to say the least. There's just something about being able to reveal the right information at the right time that I don't have the hang of, and it's even more difficult when you've basically thrown your story's timeline into a blender and are reaching in for bits and pieces while it's still on.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Author Bio: Laurie Halse Anderson

Laurie Halse Anderson writes YA and youth fiction about hard-hitting issues. She is celebrated for her ability to face sensitive topics head-on without sounding preachy, didactic, or awkward. She accomplishes this real, honest voice by responding to every single message she gets from a teen (email, letter, whatever) and listening to what they tell her.

Speak (1999) (which you may recognize from the Kristen Stewart movie if not from the book) touches on several difficult topics, but centrally, rape. Wintergirls (2009) focuses on anorexia nervosa and bulimia. Even in her books that aren't problem novels, like her historical fiction novel Fever 1793 (2000) the protagonist has to deal with death and other issues.

This week's review book, The Impossible Knife of Memory (2014), deals with a parent who has post-traumatic stress disorder.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Review Me Twice - Jaina Proudmoore: Tides of War by Christie Golden

So part of the reason that Alex picked this book this week was because she wanted to know how the book holds up to a non-WoW player (that would be me.)

And, honestly, it wasn't terrible.  I got the big conflict and the creatures were all pretty stereotypical fantasy characters (Orks, Elves, etc.)  I know enough of about WoW to know who the "bad" guys and "good" guys are (Horde vs. Alliance), but that's as far as it goes.

I think there was a lot before this book that I didn't know about.  They kept referring to all these battles/conflicts that happened before the book and, honestly, I don't know if they're something that happened in the game, or if they're events I could find out about if I had picked up the series at the beginning.

I also didn't recognize anyone.  I get the feeling that, were I a WoW player, I would know who Jaina Proudmoore is and why she's important and who the Horde people are and... just generally what everything thing is and what it means.  There were a lot of words thrown around, taking for granted that the reader already knew it.

Overall, it the book was fine, enjoyable to read, but I feel like as a non-WoW player, I missed a lot of references and plot points in the book because I just didn't know.

I think it would have been helpful to have my husband read this book as well, because then we'd have the full spectrum of WoW familiarity. I play, but let's face it... I just got my first level 90 last week. I started playing shortly before Cataclysm dropped, but my husband started in vanilla, and he actually reads the quests he's accepting... I just sort of skim until I get to the number of objects I need to collect or the name of the guy I have to kill or talk to or throw a turnip at or whatever.

I had a vague familiarity with a lot of the characters and battles and history, but if the book didn't bother going into detail, I just assumed it wasn't important. And that technique worked really well for me. I don't think I'm missing much by doing that, and if I want all the details, I can go back and read all the other WoW books (or pay closer attention while I level my shadow priest).

The biggest surprise with this book was when I noticed the "New York Times best-seller" sticker on the front. I never would have guessed that. But either that means the vast majority of the 7 million players read the book (which I don't think is true) or it means the book works as a stand-alone story without having to earn the Loremaster achievement.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Writing Fiction Based on Video Games

I've been playing World of Warcraft for a couple years now... I played for a few months before I discovered that novels have been written about the lore behind the game. And that is one hefty lore, I tell you what.

As of March 2014, WoW had 7 million subscribers.
This means there are about 7 million people in the world
who know this dragon's name.
It's nothing new for novel versions to follow the popularity of a video game, movie, or TV show. Novelizations of other pop culture mediums are a great way to get non-readers interested in books. (It also gives fans something to do once they're max level and are waiting for the next expansion to drop... I'm looking at you, Warlords of Draenor, release date "on or before December 20, 2014.")

Most of the time, these novels are officially sanctioned by the creators of the video game in question, because fans will take the novels as canon and they should back up what actually happens in the game.

For example... this guy is one of my personal heroes. If you're totally lost after watching that, basically this was a guy at a panel at Comic Con asking the Blizzard (WoW) developers about the lore. He read the book The Shattering (by this week's author, Christie Golden) and he noticed that the character Falstad Wildhammer (who was on the Council of Three Hammers in the book) wasn't there in the updated version of the game, and he wanted to know why. The men who make this game for a living (who are amazing, don't get me wrong) slipped up and thought Falstad was dead. So this fan's attention to detail in both the books and the game led to the fix... and in honor of him, they actually copied his character, gave him a red shirt (because we call him Red Shirt Guy) and placed him next to Falstad in the game, with the title "Wildhammer Fact Checker."

So I guess what I'm pointing out here is sort of like life imitating art imitating like, except it's one form of art imitating another form imitating that first form. Each enriches the other, but either can be enjoyed on its own as well.

If you're interested, here's a list of novels based on video games (it includes all the WoW books). If you're the kind who keeps up with the gaming world, you'll notice that a lot of the games renowned for their complex and enjoyable storytelling are on this list: Silent Hill, Halo, Assassin's Creed, Diablo, Fable, Bioshock, Dead Island... Okay, I don't know about the game, but the trailer told such an incredible story, the game barely even needs to try.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Favorite Video Game Storyline

When video games first became huge, they were pretty basic, storyline-wise. A giant reptile kidnapped the princess; go save her. You're part of a pie-chart; avoid the ghosts and eat the fruit. A giant primate kidnapped the princess; go save her. You're a paperboy; deliver the paper. Play soccer. Play bowling. Play football. Play tennis. Stack the blocks and make lines of them disappear.

But with better technology came the ability to show more... everything. Actual dialogue can take place. Bigger, more detailed settings are possible. More complex over-arching storylines are actually doable.

Enough of my proselytizing... let's see which video game storylines are our favorites!

Despite having spent nearly 3 solid weeks of my life logged into WoW (seriously, the /played says 20 days, 7 hours, 34 minutes, and 2 seconds... but I'm writing this two weeks in advance) I can't choose WoW, because it has so much storyline. Several novels' worth, actually. And then some. A lot of some.

I haven't played Portal myself. I've watched my husband play it (and Portal 2) and no matter how hard he tried, I was exposed to spoilers, so I know the story, and I love it. I will not pass the spoilers on to you, but here's the jist:

Chell (the character you play) wakes up from stasis and is guided through tests by GLaDOS, a computer AI system. As Chell progresses, GLaDOS gets pretty sarcastic and sounds more... sinister. I can't really tell you much more than that, unfortunately. I can't even tell you to listen to the excellent songs from the credits of each game (but I'll link for those who don't care or already know: Still Alive and Want You Gone).

Call me predictable or a fan girl or whatever, but Final Fantasy X is my jam.  Now, you should know up front, video games aren't really my thing.  Don't get me wrong: I enjoy playing them, I like them, and I own more than a few, but at the end of the day, I get bored pretty easily (I think the last one I played all the way through was Lego Pirates of the Caribbean.)

But FFX was the first video game I ever bought with my own money.  It was the first game I ever played consistantly and, what's more, it's the first game I ever FINISHED.  Which is saying a lot, because the game isn't short.  It's a LONG freakin' game.  However, it was also a very snowy winter and my school basically shut down for the month of February.  So FFX it was.

Tidus comes from a different world and is dropped into his world in the future.  He doesn't know what's going on or where he is or why anything works the way that it does, but he meets great friends like Waaka and Yuna (the love interest), and LuLu, the girl who can kick your butt with fire.

I won't give any spoilers (if, for some reason, 12 years later you don't actually KNOW the spoiler), but it's sweet and complex and heartbreaking and pretty much just a wonderful story.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

From Page To Screen

So, at work, we constantly have these tables called "from page to screen" and on it we pile all of the books that have been turned into movies (or are about to be.)  Since we're talking so much about books that result from video games this week, I thought it only appropriate to give you a list of books that have movie companions.

I've listed this book on here more than a few times, and of course, we reviewed it awhile back, but I think it bears being repeated.  The book is amazing and, I can tell you, that the second book holds up to the first one.  I might even like it better than I did the first one.  This is definitely something you should read before the movie comes out in September.

This book is probably on my top 10 favorite of all time.  It's sweet and it's moving and it's so incredibly and beautifully written, it's impossible not to fall in love with it each time that you read it.  Narrated by Death, it's the perfect third person view.  It does have a movie already out on DVD, which I can really tell you if it's good or bad, seeing as I've never seen it, but definitely get your hands on the book first.

This is a great alien superpower book (and another that fell onto our review radar).  It's interesting and fun and really well done, but not so over the top that you can't take it seriously.  Apparently, it's also a movie, that came out in 2011.  Who knew?  So after you read the book (which you will love), take a look at the movie (which looks like it might not be terrible.)

This is one of the VERY few books that I actually enjoyed the movie better (though, how could you not with Renee Zellweger and Nicole Kidman.)  However, the book is well written and tells a wonderful story of two women, making their own way while the Civil War is going on. (and you can read our review here!!)

There are SO many books to movies.  So, tell me what movies you preferred over the books?

Monday, July 7, 2014

Author Bio: Christie Golden

Christie Golden has written over 40 novels, mostly in fantasy and sci-fi, many of which are based on video games. She has written books set in the worlds of Starcraft, Star Trek, Star Wars, and World of Warcraft (one of the latter will be this week's review book: Jaina Proudmoore: Tides of War). She very recently (two months ago) released another Warcraft book, Crimes of War.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Review Me Twice: Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, Vol 1

You know how, if you haven't read/watched/personally experienced a certain pop culture phenomenon after it has risen to enormous popularity and perhaps has been around for a while, you've picked up little bits and pieces here and there? Like, your friends talk about it, Redditors post about it, SNL makes fun of it, whatever, and you can't help but learn little things here and there. Well, that happened to me with Sailor Moon. I had never watched and episode or read a page, but I knew the names and looks of all the Sailor Scouts, I knew about the little cat Luna, and I knew Tuxedo Mask was this major romantic interest of some kind.

And that's basically all I learned from reading this book. So maybe Volume 2 would be more informative.

As you may have learned on Wednesday, I don't read manga. I know how (protip: backwards) but I just... don't. So that was a little off-putting to have to get used to that.

Finally, as a 27-year-old who doesn't know any 12-year-old girls and didn't like them even when I was one, I hate having to listen to this brat. Usagi (Sailor Moon) is so annoying. She doesn't like school. Her only real interests are sleeping and playing games (which she repeats a few times). There is literally an exchange between her and Luna (yeah, the cat) where Luna tells her it's time to fight the bad guy and Usagi actually whines about it. You're a Guardian, princess whiny-pants! GUARD!!!

So to summarize... I'm not a fan. But I'm not a manga fan or a Sailor Moon fan. So that isn't too surprising, I suppose.

I admit that I look at Sailor Moon with tainted eyes.  Also, I look at it with the knowledge of what happens later in the series.  Is Usagi whiny?  Yes.  Is she annoying?  Yes.  Does she eat a lot and do terribly in school and just want to spend her time in an arcade?  All true things.

And, if you don't know what she's like, the first book can be very off-putting.  But I DO know.  I know that the character becomes incredibly loyal and protective of her friends.  I know that Usagi eventually gets better at school.  I know that she stops whining about fighting and takes up the call like a champ and a proper leader.  So it makes me hate her maybe not quite the way that Alex does.

Plus, I grew up with her, so I admit, I definitely have the nostalgia thing going for me.  The books (and anime) are crazy and ridiculous and so sappy I can't even handle it sometimes... but I still can't help but hold a special place in my heart for it.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

What Is Cosplay?

When I think of Sailor Moon, I think of a lot of things, but one of them is cosplay. Cosplay is a compound word created from "costume" and "play" (as in role-play). It's when someone dresses up as a specific character from a movie, book (particularly comic books, graphic novels, and manga), video game, or TV show. I've heard it referred to as Halloween but more intense, because you're supposed to get your costume as accurate as possible and stay in character as best you can. Cosplay is huge at places like Renaissance Fairs and conventions like San Diego and New York Comic Con. (Fun fact: I'm totally cosplaying at NYCC this year!)

Sailor Moon cosplay (from here)

There's sort of a sense of pride that comes with great cosplay, because the best costumes are handmade. So now that I've explained what it is, I'm just going to share some of my favorite examples of cosplay.

Awesome Cosplay!
Green Army man! (source unknown)

Kick-Ass and Hit Girl (MTV's list)

...and Red Mist (same list)

These terrifying bastards from Silent Hill (from deviantart but I don't know who)

General Grievous (found on Reddit)

I particularly love this one...
Ramona Flowers from Scott Pilgrim (imgur)
because that's who I'll be for Halloween this year

And finally, proof that cosplay doesn't have to be intricate/difficult:
Leela from Futurama (found on Reddit)

Do you cosplay or wish you did? As whom and from what?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Favorite Manga

I was a manga whore when I was a teenager.  I probably read more manga/watched more anime than was entirely healthy for a kid, but that just means I am adequately prepared to tell you my favorite manga today!

Yuu Watase wrote Alice 19th, though she is more widely known for her series Fushugi Yugi.  I liked Alice 19th better, 1. because it was only 6 books long as opposed to 18, and I just liked the story line better than Fushugi Yugi.

Alice ends up having what are called "Lotus Powers," which basically means she can see into the hearts of people and heal them.  She inadvertently makes her sister disappear, and spends the rest of the series trying to save her.  Kyo is the boy she falls for, but inevitably can't be with because... well, reasons.  Mainly because it's Manga and there's always a reason your two main characters can't be together until the Last Possible Moment.

Overall, it's a good series, as Ms. Watase is prone to have.

I... don't read manga. I know, I'm a huge fan of graphic novels and comics and all sorts of other visual reading material... but I just don't read manga. I had a bunch of friends in high school who were really into the Japanese thing (anime, manga, Lolita, the whole deal) but I guess my inner hipster didn't want me getting into the same thing as everyone else. So if you need guidance on which manga you might enjoy, Cassy's your gal, not me. Sorry, guys!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Difference between Manga and Graphic Novels

We've read a lot of graphic novels on this blog.  And Alex did briefly discuss the differences between the two.  But why do we distinguish between the two?  Why are they considered two separate categories?  I mean, Barnes & Noble even shelves them in separate places (though, to be fair, one is shelved across the aisle from the other, but they're never mixed.)

They're from different countries.

Ok, so maybe this is the most obvious, but that doesn't make it less true.  Graphic Novels are (usually) American made.  They are read left to right, top to bottom because that's how the target audiences read.

Manga is Japanese, exclusively.  And it's read in the opposite direction.  You read the text right to left and, in fact, the books even open "back wards", or at least what Americans would consider backwards.  (This, actually, was not always the case.  About 10 or so years ago, the used to read like regular books, but it was decided that too much was compromised when they had to mirror it, so Manga started being printed in its original format.)


The artistic style of Manga vs. Graphic Novels is incredibly different.  Graphic Novels tend to depict real life, or at least in the sense that they look like people (big busted women aside.)

However, Manga is a bit more characterized.  The eyes are larger, the mouth smaller, the hair is usually not acting in the most normal of ways.  Their legs also tend to be longer and skinnier.  Just look at the differences between Wonder Woman and Sailor Moon.


Graphic Novels, while then can be, and have been, pretty dark in their storylines, they're still relatively family friendly.  All ages enjoy them in American, and a lot of them are directed at the youth.  That means things like sex, gratuitous violence, and excessive amount of bloodshed, are not found in American comics.

Manga doesn't have that same barrier that graphic novels do.  Part of that is cultural.  Americans are notorious for their prudishness, but part of that is that it's just a different type of media.  Manga frequently is explicit about violence and sex and, in fact, there is an entire subsection of manga called Hentai, that is manga pornography.