Books

Books

Fri
27
May

Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes

Girl Against Universe Paula Stokes

YA contemporary is usually not my thing; I do read it, but I'm definitely more of a YA sci-fi/fantasy girl. Also, as a licensed social worker and mental health advocate, I tend to be extra harsh when reviewing books that deal with issues of mental health, mental illness, and therapy. So when I started this book, I was a little hesitant - but by the end, I was asking, "wait, that's it?! I want more!!"

Maguire believes the universe is out to get her. After a string of bad luck and disasters - one of which killed her father, uncle, and brother in a car accident - Maguire has developed a plan to keep herself - and those around her - safe. Basically, she avoids the world by keeping to herself and adopting a series of paranoid rituals for situations she can't avoid, like school. Maguire's biggest fear revolves around being in any vehicle with anyone but herself.

Thu
26
May

LEGACY: MOTHER MINE is a worthy successor to the Destroyer series

A few months ago, I was fortunate enough to get a chance to review the newest The Destroyer book, BULLY PULPIT.  While I was doing the review, I had mentioned my love of “pulp adventure” novels, like THE DESTROYER and THE DEAD MAN.  The author suggested that if I liked THE DESTROYER so much, I might be interested in other pulp books like the CRAG BANYON  series and the LEGACY series which happens to be a spin-off of THE DESTROYER.  While I did enjoy the first two CRAG BANYON books, LEGACY really blew me away.
Tue
24
May

MISSING PIECES Finds Best Novel Slot for 2015

Missing Pieces Meredith Tate Best Novel 2015 Critical Blast

The Critical Blast Best of Awards added some new categories this year, among them Best Novel. And the first novel to win that category beat out (albeit narrowly) such books as WRITTEN IN THE STARS (Aisha Saeed) and ZEROES (Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, Deborah Biancotti).

Tue
17
May

Underwater Friends Cooperate to Return GAVIN'S GOGGLES

Gavins Goggles Critical Blast Book Review

Andy Lightner developed GAVIN'S GOGGLES: GOGGLES LOST AT SEA based on an experience he had with his family at the beach. In the fictionalized version of events, Gavin's goggles are lost to the tide, and get passed from one aquatic creature to the next as they try to determine what the things are and, later, how to return them to their original owner.

The story is told in a very light manner. Nearly all of the creatures have alliterative names, save for Pincher the Blue Crab and Bella Pelican, which makes it accessible to the very young readers. The book also comes with a set of ready-to-color illustrations at the end of the various sea characters who appear in the story, lending an interactive quality to the book.

Mon
18
Apr

Reeve’s RAILHEAD an Intergalactic Train Ride Across the Universe

Philip Reeve Railhead Critical Blast Dennis Russo book review

RAILHEAD by Philip Reeve is a sci-fi novel from Switch Press that takes place in the far future, across countless planets and star systems. And the fastest form of transportation? No, not by spaceship, but by train. Yes, train!

It seems that mankind has never lost its infatuation with travel by rail, and in this future so far removed from present day, planet Earth itself is basically forgotten, and only gone back to for a getaway.

Sun
10
Apr

A NEW LEASH ON LIFE helps kiddies play nice with puppies!

There are so many children’s books available to parents and educators that it can be a daunting task to pick something out the children in your life will love. Obviously, learning possibilities are an important aspect that many of us are looking for when we undertake this arduous process. It takes a skilled voice and practiced artistic touch to bring an engaging story to youthful readers and also offer a message of learning. A NEW LEASH ON LIFE is a fabulous example of the best the genre can offer.

Tue
22
Mar

Scholastic Book Review: Backstories - "Batman Gotham City’s Guardian"

Title: Batman: Gotham City’s Guardian

Author: Matthew Manning

Illustrator: Steven Gordon

Ages: 8-12 / Grade: 3-7

Retail: $5.99

Before you head out to the theaters to watch Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, take a look at the backstory for the mysterious Dark Knight Detective, Batman.

Mon
21
Mar

Scholastic Book Review: Backstories - "Superman the Man of Tomorrow"

Superman Scholastic Critical Blast

Title: Superman: The Man of Tomorrow

Author: Daniel Wallace

Illustrator: Patrick Spaziante

Ages: 8-12 / Grade: 3-7

Retail: $5.99

Before you head out to the theaters to watch Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, take a look at the backstory for the controversial Man of Steel himself, Superman.

Scholastic books offers a wonderful view into the backstory of the most iconic superhero in all of comics, in chapter form. With a forward by the last son of Krypton, that summarizes his journey, the book will enlighten your young reader. Ten short chapters provide insight on how Superman went from orphan alien, raised in Smallville, to beloved superhero and protector of Metropolis (and Earth)!

Fri
11
Mar

Review of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show FAQ: Everything Left to Know About the Campy Cult Classic"

Michael Rennie was ill
The Day the Earth Stood Still
But he told us where we stand
And Flash Gordon was there
In silver underwear…


The Rocky Horror Picture Show FAQ: Everything Left to Know About the Campy Cult Classic  by Dave Thompson

Published by Applause Theatre and Cinema Books

Cover Price: $19.99

Mon
07
Mar

Maguire's AFTER ALICE Heavy on Weird, Light on Wonder

After Alice Gregory Maguire

I have a confession to make. I've never read a Gregory Maguire book before. I know the name, I know the fame, and I've even seen the musical, WICKED, based on his novel of the same name. But I just hadn't sought out any of his works to try them in their written form.

And then I saw AFTER ALICE. When it comes to Alice in Wonderland books, I'm much like Mel Gibson's character in CONSPIRACY THEORY who, whenever he saw a copy of CATCHER IN THE WRY, he felt compelled to buy it. So I picked it up and looked forward to another trip down the classic rabbit hole.

Mon
29
Feb

CALIFORNIA: THE MAGIC ISLAND - ABCs no 123 - Fine by Me

Now, I’m a East Coast boy, but I’ve visited California a number of times over the years.  I’ve seen some amazing things in the state, both natural and manmade, so a book dedicated to saluting the state is reasonable idea.  CALIFORNIA: THE MAGIC ISLAND is an interesting read unlike just about anything else on bookstore shelves.  Try to get your head around a book fusing myth, history, ABCs, the animal kingdom, and a tour through the Golden State.  This might seem like a bit too much to contain in the pages of one book, but it’s all woven together quite well for the elementary school crowd.

Mon
29
Feb

Superman is the worst thing that happened to Lois Lane, according to author Tim Hanley

Investigating Lois Lane: The Turbulent History of the Daily Planet's Ace Reporter by Tim Hanley
Published by: Chicago Review Press
Cover Price: $17.99 (print or Kindle)

At the conclusion of his new book INVESTIGATING LOIS LANE, Tim Hanley writes, “Superman is the worst thing to ever happen to Lois Lane.  At the same time, he’s also the reason she exists.”  By the end of this excellently researched piece, I was forced to agree.

Wed
24
Feb

Fred Setterberg's SAM MALOOF a Clinic on Biographical Narrative

Sam Maloof 36 Views Master Woodworker

There’s a lot of ugliness in the world, as we all know. Missed deadlines and misanthropy. Bill collectors and bad attitudes. Snarled traffic and starving children. It’s enough to make a person want to crawl back into bed, positive that nothing you can do can effect change.

However, just as the seasons turn and their opposites are made apparent to the patient, there is also an opposite to the unsightliness of society, if only we can be bothered to actively look for it.

Tue
23
Feb

The Destroyer takes on religion, racism, and Jell-O Urinalism in his newest adventure

Destroyer 151 Bully Pulpit Warren Murphy Dick Sapir Remo Williams

The Destroyer #151: Bully Pulpit by Warren Murphy and RJ Carter
Published by: Destroyer Books
Cover Price: $8.99 ($2.99 on Kindle)

I love adventure "pulp" novels.  Series like THE DESTROYER feel like the adult versions of THE HARDY BOY CASEFILES books I grew up on.  I was surprised when Amazon tried to bring the genre back to life with THE DEAD MAN series a few years ago.  Sadly, these books didn't get all that much traction, but I did think they were worthwhile descendants of series like THE DESTROYER.   That said, THE DESTROYER is still the king to me,  151 books in the main series over the last 45 years. 

Mon
22
Feb

To All the Boys I've Loved Before - a cute but flawed YA romance

This was a really cute book that featured a really cute slow-burn romance. I loved the dynamic between Lara Jean and her two sisters and their father. I was happy to see that the book featured a functional, loving family (although I do get a little tired of the "dead mother" trope). The Covey family had their own holiday traditions and quirks, which to me made them jump off the page. Despite being close, each sister had secrets hidden from the others, which leads into the biggest thing I enjoyed about this book - the moral ambiguity. There were no clear answers, and lots of moral grayness.

However, I did have a lot of issues with this book. I think a lot of it is personal preference. There's nothing inherently wrong with it, this book was just not for me.

My biggest problem with this book was the misleading blurb. If you read the blurb of this book, you'd think the plot is this:

Wed
10
Feb

Scholastic to Publish Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts I and II

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

(New York, NY – February 10, 2016) Scholastic (NASDAQ: SCHL), the world’s largest publisher and distributor of children’s books, announced today that it will publish a script book based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts I & II, a new play by Jack Thorne. The Special Rehearsal Edition of the script book will be published in print in the United States and Canada at 12:01 a.m. on July 31, 2016. Published in hardcover under Scholastic’s Arthur A. Levine Books imprint, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (ISBN 978-1-338-09913-3; All Ages), the eighth Harry Potter story, will be priced at $29.99 U.S. and $39.99 Canada. The script eBook will be published by Pottermore simultaneously with the print editions by Scholastic in the US and Canada, and Little, Brown Book Group in the UK.

Tue
02
Feb

Critical Blast's Ballot for the Best of 2015

Critical Blast Best Of...

It's once again that time of year -- when we look back at the things we loved last year and try to determine which ones were the best of the best ("of the best, sir!"). The best movie, the best television show, the best books, the best comics -- and the people who brought them to us.

So, after a nomination process that makes the Iowa Caucus look like a standard up-or-down vote system, we've settled on the list of nominees below. But, we always recognize the fact that the readers may know better than we do, so each category has an "Other" option where you can put in what we missed.

Unfortunately, to avoid the potential for ballot stuffing (to the best of our abilities) the form below requires that you be logged into your Google account. If you don't have one (and why wouldn't you?) then you won't be able to participate.

So let the voting now commence...and good luck to all the candidates and write-ins.

Mon
18
Jan

Superpowered Teens Focus of Multi-Climactic ZEROES

Scott Westerfeld Zeroes Simon Schuster Critical Blast

When I first started reading comic books, one of my favorite titles was TEEN TITANS. Not because they were the sidekicks of the heroes, or even that they were close to my own age, but that they were kids with powers, and were prone to getting into (and reacting to) situations the way kids would react. There was impetuousness, recklessness, infighting, crushes, jealousies, and the formation of lifelong friendships.

So when I learned that UGLIES writer Scott Westerfeld (joined by Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti) had released a new book, and that this book was about teenagers with superpowers, how could I possibley resist? Hence, this review of ZEROES -- they're like heroes, only not.

Fri
15
Jan

STORM BUDDIES helps us realize: We ain't afraid of no storms!

Storm Buddies

Fear is a part of life.  Whether you’re young, old, or somewhere in between, there's probably something you fear.  As we grow older, many of these terrors are outgrown, although some stick with us throughout our entire lifetimes.  Conquering fear is a buzzword of the modern world, but in reality, management is truly the best medicine for those things that frighten us.  

Sun
10
Jan

Young Bruce Wayne Investigates Ducard Academy in Scholastic's Study Hall of Justice

DC Comics Secret Hero Society Study Hall of Justice

There's a new kid in school at Ducard Academy this year. His name is Bruce Wayne, and he's a little too curious for his own good. But he can't stop himself from getting involved from investigating the strange happenings: the bullies led by Bane, the gang of clowns who roam the halls, the always-angry Coach Zod, and the ever-present shadowy ninjas who stick to the shadows of the school.

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