Category Archive – Must-Read Fiction

Reading Recluse- A New YA Blog in Town

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Hi Everyone,

 

I wanted to introduce you all to a new YA Blog in town. Two of the teens that frequent the Pleasant Ridge teen book club recently started their own blog called, “Reading Recluse.” I asked them to provide a short bio and this is what they had to say:

“Hey we’re Jen and Shruthi! We are avid Potterheads who recently decided that we need a hobby. Since we both happen to enjoy reading, we decided to start a book blog to catalogue all our thoughts and opinions of the various books we are reading.”

Check out their blog at https://readingrecluses.wordpress.com/ and these two recently reviewed contemporary novels:

 

Ramona Blue by: Julie MurphyRamona Blue

American Girls by: Alison Umminger

 

American Girls

 

 

 

Week of Geek: Pride Month Recommendations Part 1: Graphic Novels

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Hi again Geeklings!  Happy June!

And of course, June means Pride Month!  That magical time of rainbows and love and equality and being who you are.  Whether you identify as LGBTQ+ or not, there is something for everyone this month, and plenty to celebrate and to contemplate as we all move forward.

Last year I wrote a few posts about favorite LGBTQ+ characters in fandoms (you can read the posts here, here, here and here).  This year I thought I’d tweak that format a little bit and focus on just recommending the heck out of our collections, because we have A LOT of pride friendly reading, watching and listening materials.  Like, a lot.  So let’s break it down these next few weeks and show you what we’ve got.

This week, let’s start with graphic novels, because they’re awesome.  Graphic novels have often explored people of all colors of the rainbow.  Like other forms of media it can be slow to catch on (hello Comics Code), but unlike others it often doesn’t get quite as much scrutiny as movies or TV shows, so it can take a few risks now and then.

Let me start you off with a few personal favorites…

Jem and the Holograms Jem and the Holograms Vol. 1: Showtime by Kelly Thompson – I’m biased on this one, because I’m a kid of the 1980s and I watched the original Jem TV series, so of course I was stoked that they were getting a reboot (the live-action film doesn’t count).  And I was not disappointed with Thompson’s new take.  Smart, funny, oh so colorful, dramatic in all the right ways, and with great characters and family themes.  It was a blast to read.  It makes the list because they did a new take on one of the band members, Kimber, who in this version is gay.  Not only that but she and Stormer, from rival band The Misfits, are crushing on each other.  *gasp*

Jughead Jughead Vol. 1 by Chip Zdarsky – One of the orientations that still hasn’t had a lot of representation (and that’s saying something) is asexuality.  When Archie comics decided to relaunch itself back in 2015 with new series and new takes on characters, Zdarsky officially confirmed that everyone’s favorite burger-loving, crown-wearing sardonic teen was indeed ace.  Honestly, it was obvious throughout the character’s 77 year history that dating is not a priority for him, so it was a natural evolution.  The series is funny, zany and plain fun.  Volume 2 was especially interesting, as we find Jughead unwittingly on a ‘date’ with a certain teenage witch.

Batwoman Batwoman: Elegy by Greg Rucka – Batwoman was always a bit player in DC Comics until the New 52 Relaunch in the mid 2000s, when the new improved Kate Kane was revealed to be a lesbian.  This volume is a great place to start, as it goes over Kate’s history and how she came to be a caped crusader in her own right.  She lost a lot by coming out, but she also gained a lot, and has been cleaning up the streets of Gotham ever since.  Another series to try is DC Bombshells, which has Batwoman, Wonder Woman, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy (who are both queer themselves) and a whole host of other DC superheroes fighting during WWII.  It’s retro and exciting.

AvengersAvengers: The Children’s Crusade by Allan Heinberg – No list of LGBTQ+ graphic novels would be complete without the Young Avengers.  As their name implies, they’re a group of younger Marvel superheroes.  Two of the biggest standouts in the group are power couple Wiccan and Hulkling, longtime boyfriends and teammates, but their roster soon grows to include America, who is a butt kicking Latina lesbian.  I’m going to recommend The Children’s Crusade as a starting point, because it’s a really interesting story and features a lot of cross over with teams like the Avengers, the X-Men and X-Factor (who also have their own gay couple).

So there are a few personal recommendations, but for a broader look check out the list below…

I really want to read Moonstruck, Nimona, Bingo Love, Midnighter and Apollo and Secret Six.  Time to pull out my summer reading supplies (lawn chair, hat, sunscreen and footrest), I won’t be moving for a while.

Stay tuned all through June for more lists and more great reads and watchables.  Have an awesome month, remember summer break is coming (and the Teen Challenge), and until next time, End of Line.

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Week of Geek: A Brief History of Anime Fandom

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Hiya Geekling!  Enjoying the warm weather?  Ready for summer (and by extension, school to be over)?  I know I am.

So I just got back from Anime North this last weekend.  Had a lot of fun, learned some new things, got a little puppet-type critter that I hope will sit on my shoulder during my visits with the public and will delight young and old alike.  Good times.

But one of my favorite things I did this weekend was attend a panel on anime fandom in North America, presented by these guys.  I like fandoms, I like fans, I like history, and I like anime so this was a win win win win.  And in the interests of public service, I thought I’d pass some of the interesting tidbits I learned on to you guys, ’cause I’m nice like that.

So first of all, fandom for Anime on this side of the globe is much older than most people would expect.  A lot people think that it really took off in the early 2000s (or if you’re old like me, you peg it somewhere in the 1990s).  North American fans of anime have been around for about 60 years.  WHAT?!  But one of the reasons most of us may not know that was because being able to access anime was much more difficult back then than it is now.  You basically had to hope it was on broadcast TV or you had to know a guy if you wanted to see it.

One of the big things to kick it all off was a little show called Astro Boy.  It aired on NBC in 1963 and actually beat The New Adventures of Superman in the ratings.  It was followed by Speed Racer in 1968, and then more shows followed, so a lot of Baby Boomers grew up with anime shows.  Funny thing; we had protesters on Sunday convention, but the panelists pointed out that that was nothing new; there were protesters back in the 60s.  TV watch groups wrote a scathing review of Speed Racer back when it first aired.

So there’s that.

In the 1970s you got giant robots coming on the scene with Shogun Warriors.  These were toys that were popular even without a show to back them up.  The first mini festival for anime fans was held in that decade.  The first English language manga, Barefoot Gen, was published.  After Star Wars became huge a lot of related-anime was released, like Battle of the PlanetsGalaxy Express was the first anime movie to get a theatrical release in the US.  The show Star Blazers aired in 1979 and became so popular it spawned it’s own fanzine and it’s own mini cons.  It was during this decade that you got to see the first anime cosplayers at these events (though the term ‘cosplayer‘ didn’t really come into use until 1984) and where you got the first real divide among fans between heavily edited and dubbed English versions and the original Japanese versions of anime.

On to the 1980s.  Now we have Japanese arcade games and laser disc games coming onto the scene, as well as home video in 1984.  Voltron aired that same year.  Yamoto Con was the first official con in North America.  More magazines, model kits and shows came out during this decade.  You could conceivably come home from school and watch an afternoon of anime shows.  The term ‘Japanimation‘ was first coined in the 80s.  Akira was given a theatrical release in 1989 and that was a pivotal moment.  It was a film that made even the staunchest of critics, the ones who insisted all of this was ‘just for kids’, take notice and realize we had a genuine art form on our hands.

Then the 1990s, when things got even more mainstream.  It was rough for the first part of the decade because of changing economics in both the US and Japan, making it more expensive to buy and produce shows.  Some toy stores went out of business during this time, and despite studios attempting to crack down on them, bootlegged VHS tapes, merchandise and fan dubs were pretty rampant.  But when production costs went down things got much better.  Stations like the Sci Fi Channel, Toonami on the Cartoon Network, YTV and Global were all known for airing anime on television.  Sailor Moon and Pokemon came out during this time and exploded in popularity.  We had anime-inspired movies like The Matrix.  It was starting to take off globally too.Image result for anime meme sailor moon

In the 2000s though, pretty much any barrier that had existed to keep you from getting into anime dissolved.  In the early part of the decade you could still watch stuff on TV and in cable packages.  We had new franchises like Cardcaptors and Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, which was the #1 show on Cartoon Network across all demographics, even with a Japanese theme song (that hadn’t happened before).  DVDs and Blu Rays changed the game, as they took up less space, were often less expensive and could include both subtitles and dubs.

And then came the internet.  Good heavens, the internet.

That brought anime fans together worldwide, and made it so much easier to promote conventions.  Before we had search engines we had websites like Anime Web Turnpike, which listed all the anime-related sites you could visit (back in the days when the internet was small enough you could list certain sites on one page).  Fansites and webcomics exploded.  From 2000 – 2006 there was a huge spike in peer-to-peer file sharing and fan subs.  There was also an explosion of conventions and memes.

Then from 2007 to 2008 there was an anime crash, due to low-quality and much too expensive DVDs causing certain companies to fold, including Bandai.  But what emerges from that?  Crunchyroll.  We now have other online streaming services like Funimation, Netflix and Amazon Prime, often airing their episodes within a few weeks of them airing in Japan, or sometimes the next day.

And that brings us to now.

WHEW!

OK, that was REALLY fast and short, but you get the idea.  Anime in North America has a long and rich history, not just confined to the last couple of decades.  And the main thing to realize now is how much more accessible everything is; we can now watch and discuss these series as they air, which is really cool.

Anything else I left out?  Post away in the comments.  Have a great week Geeklings, and until next time, End of Line.

Week of Geek: Ani-May, My exploration continues…

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Hiya again Geeklings!  Hope your May is going great.  I mentioned before it’s MerMay, but did you know it’s also Ani-May?  A celebration of all things Anime and Manga?  It’s true!  And with Anime North coming up this weekend I thought I’d check back in with my Part-Time Otaku status and see what else is out there apart from my usual go-to series; Sailor Moon, Black Butler and Yuri on Ice.  Still love ’em all, but… what else we got?

A lot, it turns out.

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So, what’s new?  Well, as a teen librarian, I try to pay attention to new teen books coming down the pipelines (makes sense), and one I keep hearing about is a new (at least to North America) manga series called Isekai Izakaya “Nobu”.  The description immediately caught my attention.  It’s set in an Izakaya, which is basically the Japanese equivalent of a pub.  But it’s front door opens onto a parallel world, some sort of European-esque fantasy type realm (there are two moons in the sky, so it’s not here).  So the people who live there get to try these Japanese dishes they’d never get access to otherwise.  I haven’t read the manga yet, but there is an anime version of the series on Crunchyroll, Isekai Izakaya: Japanese Food From Another World.  I watched the first two episodes; the actual animated part is pretty short and the episodes basically consist of a couple of guys losing their minds over the food and drinks at this pub.  But the way they describe the food is delightful, especially from the perspective of people who’ve never had these kinds of dishes before. I’ve talked about food before on this blog, but really is there ever a bad time to talk about food and fandom?  I think not!

And in honor of that I’ve updated my Geek Cooking list.  Plus, we’ve got a ton of books on Japanese food.

I’ve also started a series called Magical Girl Ore (or Mahou Shoujo Ore).  This is a weird one, but a totally tongue-in-cheek and hilarious play on the Magical Girl trope.  It centers around Saki, a 15 year old girl who discovers that her mother was a Magical Girl, and is passing the torch on to Saki (along with a gruff Yakuza-type ‘sidekick’).  But when Saki transforms for the first time she… well, she turns into a guy.  A very muscular guy still dressed in frills and bows.

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That’s just one of the many ways this series subverts it’s own genre.  I’m five episodes in and I’ve discovered it also plays with love triangles, cute demons, things with tentacles and even making anime itself.  I’ve laughed out loud quite a few times and I’m loving the characters.  (A couple words of warning though; I haven’t been able to find a rating on this series, but from what I’ve watched there’s swearing, some violence and it can get pretty suggestive, so head’s up.)

And for manga, I’ve started reading Blue Exorcist.  This one’s got more of a horror element to it, as it features a boy named Rin who discovers that he is literally the spawn of Satan.  But, deciding he wants none of that, he agrees to train to become an exorcist so he can defeat the demon within.  That alone would be enough to peak my curiosity, but as I’ve been reading I’ve discovered there’s also family secrets, a really elaborate and quirky school and interesting characters.  Colour me sold.  (Funny though, I’ve had to re-read a couple of parts because I’m still getting used to the right to left style; ‘Oops, wrong order, try again’).  It also has an anime series if you want to give that a try (Crunchyroll has both subtitled and dubbed versions).

So in the spirit of all of this I decided to look at some sources online and find some great anime series and manga titles that teens (you guys!) can start out with if you’re just dipping your toes into the format.  I’ve compiled two lists.

Any favorites of yours, Geeklings?  Post away in the comments or on WriteIt.

Here at VPL we’re hard at work on year 2 of Vaughan Fan Con, so keep an eye out for that.  Have a great week everybody, and until next time, End of Line.

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Week of Geek: For when you’re too young to see Deadpool 2…

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Hiya Geeklings!

So, let me guess what some of you may be thinking.  The big geek news this week is the release of Deadpool 2, which is obviously the sequel to the smash hit Deadpool, a film finally worthy of the Merc with the Mouth (the less said about X-Men Origins: Wolverine the better).  BUT, for anyone out there younger than 18, there be a problem; the movie, like it’s predecessor, is rated R.

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Yup, sorry guys, you gotta be 18 to see it unaccompanied by a guardian or parent.  And as a full-fledged adult who has seen the original, let me tell you, that R rating is well earned and the sequel is not going to be any more sanitized, so I have to agree.  And I also agree that to give the character anything less than an R rating would not do him any justice.

Quick history: Deadpool is actually a total ripoff of a DC character.  He was ‘inspired’ by Deathstroke (not to be confused with Deadshot, from the Suicide Squad), a villain from New Teen Titans, and at least in the beginning both of them were pretty interchangeable.  Same style of costume, same MO, same skills, same superpowers, just… same, same, same.  Even their alter-ego names are similar; Wade Wilson (Deadpool) and Slade Wilson (Deathstroke).  If you look at them side by side the comparisons become painfully clear.

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But as the character developed, we discover that Deadpool has one extra superpower over his predecessor; comedy.  Deathstroke is a pretty humorless guy, but Deadpool is not only hilarious but also completely off the wall, often speaking to the audience or having full on conversations with the voices in his head.  It’s these qualities that helped him become his own character, one that’s fairly divisive but to his fans he’s the bomb.

Though you may be too young for the films, fear not!  We have stuff for you to read that will tide you over until the day comes.  We have some YA graphic novels that, while still violent, don’t quite cross the line into ‘only for adults’ stuff.

Deadpool Deadpool Vol. 1: Dead Presidents – “Dead United States presidents, from George Washington to Gerald Ford, have been resurrected – and that’s bad. The Marvel heroes can’t be the ones to stop them… Someone is needed with the reputation, skills and plausible deniability to take out these com-monsters in chiefs. Be here as Deadpool de-un-deadifies ex-Presidents left and right…matching wits with Tricky Dick Nixon, fighting a grudge match against Honest Abe Lincoln, and battling Ronald Reagan – in space! COLLECTING: Deadpool 1-6.”  The first volume in the Marvel NOW! era of Deadpool is as wacky as that summary suggests.

Deadpool Deadpool Vol. 5: The Wedding of Deadpool – “The day of Deadpool’s wedding has arrived! It’s the biggest wedding since that one guy married that other guy as Deadpool and his mysterious bride tie the knot in a tale by Gerry Duggan, Brian Posehn & Mike Hawthorne. Featuring stories by every writer to ever pen Wade’s series to celebrate this magical occasion! Then, the Deadpool Annual answers the most asked question since Deadpool’s new series began. Whatever Happened to the White Caption Boxes?’ Collecting: Deadpool 26-27, Deadpool Annual.”  Who is the mystery bride?  Read to find out!

Deadpool Deadpool: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – From Goodreads; “It begins with a lost Deadpool adventure from the groovy seventies as DP hits the streets with Power Man and Iron Fist! But when the threat the Trio-For-Hire faced resurfaces in the modern day, Deadpool must track down his old pals for a rematch!
Then, when Deadpool’s past in the Weapon X Program returns to haunt him, he recruits fellow Weapon Plus alums — and reluctant allies — Wolverine and Captain America! In the heart of the enemy’s clutches, the three get sucked deeper into the mysteries they uncover — but when the heroes learn that Deadpool’s past has been weaponized, can they unite to take this new threat down in time?”  One of my favorite Deadpool storylines is when you throw his antics in with the other Marvel characters.  It makes for great dynamics.

Spider-Man/Deadpool - Kelly, Joe Spider-Man/Deadpool Vol. 1: Isn’t it Bromantic? – “The Webbed Wonder and the Merc with a Mouth are teaming up for their first series EVER! It’s action, adventure and just a smattering of (b)romance in this episodic epic featuring the WORLD’S GREATEST SUPER HERO and the star of the WORLD’S GREATEST COMICS MAGAZINE. Talk about a REAL dynamic duo! COLLECTING: SPIDER-MAN/DEADPOOL 1-6”.  The first volume in a series where the two most quippy superheroes ever team up?  Count me in!

Hawkeye Vs Deadpool Hawkeye vs Deadpool – “Meet Hawkeye: ladies man (‘ladies man’ because the ladies love to hate this man), mighty marksman and, most importantly, Avenger. He’s the only guy on the team without any powers, though. Then there’s Deadpool. He can be shot, stabbed and punched in the face, but nothing can keep him down. What do they have in common? Halloween in Brooklyn, and a S.H.I.E.L.D. espionage mystery that has both heroes racing the clock! But will Deadpool and Hawkeye kill each other before they figure it out? Collecting: Hawkeye Vs. Deadpool 0-4”.  Another great dynamic to be had here.

Any books I missed?  Are you bummed about the rating for the Deadpool films?  Sound off in the comments or on WriteIt!

Have a great week Geeklings, whip up some chimichangas, and until next time End of Line!

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