Showing posts with label humor. Show all posts
Showing posts with label humor. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Emily and the Strangers Vol 1 by Rob Reger, Mariah Huehner, Emily Ivie


Rating: WARTY!

I must have slept through the nineties because I had never heard of "Emily The Strange" until I saw this graphic novel in my ever-adored local library. It called to me, but now I'm left lamenting what else is out there that I might never happen upon.

Emily, as represented in this short graphic novel, is completely lovable, from her 'tude, to the way she's drawn and colored. She's a perfect mix of Goth and Steamed-punk. I love her positive, if aggressive, attitude, her never-defeatist approach to life, and her very inventive G-Rated cussing, which was hilarious.

From reading around (yeah, I'm a shameless book slut!) Rob Reger's friend Nathan Carrico designed Emily in 1991 for a skateboard company(!). Reger created the designs, and he and Matt Reed brought them into the fashion world on T-shirts featuring this girl and 4 black cats (one of which no doubt had a ring-tailed lemur tail). Those cats have bred, because there are many in this story, and they're exquisitely depicted. I don't know anything about Emily Ivie, the evidently very talented artist, but co-writer (with Reger) Mariah (that's mar-eye-uh, not mar-ee-uh) Huehner describes herself as a "big old geeky nerd who loves talking about stories and storytelling." She lied! Her face isn't old and her eyes are very young which is probably why she can get inside Emily The Strange's head so readily.

This volume combines the first three issues of the Emily (and) the Strange(rs) mini-series in which her idol Professa Kraken dies, and she has the chance to win his octopod-inspired guitar - which is also conveniently haunted by his spirit. The story here is that Emily strives to win the guitar, and just as she is convinced she missed her chance, fate (and cats) conspire to put her in front. The odd thing, which I really didn't get, is that even though she won it, there's a condition attached to it: that in order to keep it, she must win the battle of the bands, for which the anti-social (if not sociopathic) Emily must put together an actual band.

The story then moralizes somewhat about team-work and 'can't we all just get along', so for me it lost some momentum at that point, but it was still enjoyable. I'd dispute that this is a young-adult story! It felt much more like middle-grade to me, but it was fun. The other characters in the band were interesting. There was the guy who factored into Emily's success in the guitar contest; I don't know what his angle is and I wasn't too fond of him. He's a fan, if not a stalker of Emily's, and he rather creepily named himself Evan Stranger (Even Stranger), but other than his weird addiction to Emily, he isn't strange at all.

There was also Winston and Willow, who are fraternal twins, but otherwise complete opposites, and there is Raven, who is a girl-bot which was made and then lost track of by Emily, and who is now working in a vinyl, record store where Emily encounters her again. She fascinated me, but got very little air-time. This band doesn't work until the final member turns up, the very orange Trilogy, and then they're winners all the way.

Now I'm interested in Emily. I'd like to read the story of her creating Raven, and also about her earlier history. I recommend this one.


Thursday, February 2, 2017

Doctor Kangaroo by Gerald Hawksley


Rating: WORTHY!

I've enjoyed several of these crazy Hawksley books. They're not much for being educational, but not every book your kid reads has to teach something. Sometimes silliness is a valuable lesson to learn. In this story, Doctor Kangaroo's patented treatment is to send every patient to bed with a bandage round their head no matter what their complaint.

What I liked about this story is that it didn't know when to stop. Even after the Kangaroo story it plunged into yet more silliness, which felt like getting a couple of bonus books. I recommend this one for the fun and general all-around goofiness. The artwork is rudimentary but no one in need of a book like this is going to care about that.


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

What This Story Needs Is a Munch and a Crunch by Emma J Virjan


Rating: WORTHY!

I don't know if Emma, a fellow Texan, whom I've never met, was a Virjan before she got married or became one afterwards, or has been one all her life, but do doubt her name has contributed to her sense of humor because this book for young children is hilarious. The author also illustrates it and the idea of a pig in a wig is genius. (And yes, I know it's probably pronounced veer-yan. I'm just larking about!).

The colorful drawings are simple and funny, very easy for young children to take in, and the rhyming text is likewise. I thought this book was inspired, and if your child likes this one, then there are many others to choose from: What This Story Needs is a Pig in a Wig, What This Story Needs is a Hush and a Shush, What This Story Needs is a Munch and a Crunch, What This Story Needs is a Bang and a Clang, and What This Story Needs is a Vroom and a Zoom. You get the pigture. Or is it a porktrait?

In this particular adventure, there is a picnic in the offing, and it sure enough gets offed by the unexpected thunderstorm, but that's only the outdoor part. The indoor part continues with the Pig in a Wig's animal friends, so all is not lost. I recommend this one.


Saturday, December 31, 2016

Miss Kane's Christmas by Caroline Mickelson


Rating: WORTHY!

Closing out the year on a nice positive note, This is a typical Christmas "need to change your outlook" kind of a story as exemplified in books such as A Christmas Carol, and in movies such as It's a Wonderful Life which I took delight in parodying last year, and Miracle on 34th Street, of which I think the original was better than the remake. It involves a couple falling in love in only two or three days, and a very pushy woman winning over a determinedly anti-Christmas single dad. So why did I like this one, and reject the other one I'm reviewing today? It's a matter of perspective. The other one put a completely unrealistic plot into a real life situation, and this one put a perfectly plausible plot (in the story context) into a fantasy. The latter works. The former never will unless you're writing an absurdist comedy and not a romance.

It's the very fact that this is a ridiculous fantasy that means you don't take it too seriously, which is why I don't get some of the negative comments I've read about this. It's like complaining that Cinderella would have been far too uncomfortable in glass slippers (when they were, in the original story, fur anyway!), or that wolves can't even talk, much less huff and puff, and blow down a house. You can't judge it seriously, and like a children's story, you need to accept it within its own frame of reference, not in some adult reality frame of your own invention. It feels rather like these critics are trying to argue that you can't change a young suicidal person's mind, so leave 'em alone and let 'em get on with it!

No, you don't let an otherwise perfectly healthy young suicidal person get on with it even if they really want to, and in a world where Santa is not only real, but has a family, you can't let a guy rob his kids of the fun of Christmas. You have to hold an intervention! This is why I can like this story and reject the other one, because within its fantasy world, this story was plausible and fun. Yes, Santa's daughter was pushy, but she didn't want to be there in the first place, and was focused solely on getting this task done and moving on. She never expected to be won over by this single dad's love for his kids or his level of patience with her. It wasn't great literature. It wasn't authentic reality. It was a fairy tale, and it was cute and fun and funny, and I liked it. That's all there is to it.


Monday, December 19, 2016

The Invisible Man by Arthur Yorinks


Rating: WORTHY!

Alas! Poor Yorinks! I knew him Horatio; a man of infinite jest, and here's another one: this guy, a fruit-seller in a market, finds himself becoming invisible, not metaphorically like in Jeanne Ray's Calling Invisible Women which I positively reviewed (yes I'm positive!) back in November 2016, but for reals.

He slowly starts disappearing, and his cat isn't at all happy with it. Despite visiting the doctor for advice, and pursing other ideas, he can't find a cure until something really rather miraculous happens! I liked the humorous idea, and the way it was written and presented, and I recommend this for a fun read with your kids.


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Manga Claus by Nathaniel Marunas, Erik Craddock


Rating: WORTHY!

Subtitled The Blade of Kringle, this isn't a manga, it's a regular graphic novel, but it's about ninjas, including ninja teddy-bears and a ninja Santa! Erik Craddock's art is great, and the story by Nathaniel Marunas is hilarious.

An aggrieved elf uses a bit of illegal magic to amp up a ninja toy, ordering it to go wreck the toy-building area of Santa's Workshop (a map is included!). The elf plans to come in later and conveniently save the day. Unfortunately, the ninja starts doing his job too well and somehow unleashes a hoard of ninja bears, who go on a wild rampage through the workshop. Only ninja Santa can save the day. Or can he?

This story reminded me very much of My New Fighting Technique is Unstoppable by David Rees, but without the bad language and with better art! I'm thinking mainly of the humor here because it had that same kind of off-the-wall snap to it that made you laugh out loud. I recommend this highly.


Saturday, December 3, 2016

Penny Arcade Attack of the Bacon Robots by Jerry Holkins, Mike Krahulik


Rating: WORTHY!

This is an amusing retrospective of comic strips done by these guys who obsess over video games. I'm not a video gamer: I get much more fun out of a good novel (writing or reading) than ever I have had from any number of dumb video games, but I understand the culture, and besides, this isn't a video game! It's a commentary of a host of them over several years, and it's really amusing, even if you're not familiar with the games, which I found to be a curious phenomenon. Some of the games I did have a passing familiarity with, others I could guess at, some I'd never heard of. I've played none of the ones mentioned here except Pac-Man, but I still enjoyed the attitude and observations. These guys have a great sense of humor and it shines through their work. Yes, some of the strips fell flat for me, but most of them - and sometimes surprisingly - did not.

I think to get the most out of this you have to be of a certain culture and a certain era, but I do recommend it one for anyone who knows a little about gaming culture, or who has geek blood, and I would particularly recommend it for for those who are immersed in the culture and consider themselves trivia buffs on the topic, but note that these comic strips are from the period 1998 through 2000, so they have nothing to say about modern games. They're exclusively about obsolete games, which might well be beloved by potential readers. I found it a worthy read, anyway. Besides, I loved the title!


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga by Koji Aihara, Kentaro Takemura


Rating: WORTHY!

This was educational (somewhat), humorous (particularly in the bathroom humor department, be warned), and entertaining, but it's really much more of a satire on manga than ever it is a how-to manual, although it does offer a surprising number of tips and suggestions.

Under the guise of explaining how easy it is to draw manga, the two authors/artists offer a commentary on the state of Japanese manga, what motivates it, and which trends are hot and cold, taking potshots at everything out there, including themselves. The line-drawing artwork is pretty decent and quite varied, and some of the stories they tell are pretty amusing. There is a distinct tendency towards bathroom humor and there is some quite explicit nudity depicted, so this isn't the book you want to give young children who may be displaying a flare for, or an interest in, comic book illustration.

That said I found it amusing and interesting and I'd recommend it for anyone who has a broad mind and is interested in manga.


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban


Rating: WORTHY!

Normally I avoid like the plague stories which feature striped socks on the cover - which is almost a genre of its own these days - but once in a while a worthy one comes along, and as it happens, this was a very short audiobook which I loved. Yes, there were bits and pieces which were less than thrilling, but overall, I loved the voice of this ten-year-old girl, Zoe Elias, who dreams big dreams but lacks the motivation to achieve them, as many in her age range doubtlessly do. Plus, she gets very little support from her parents who are bordering on being abusive, not in a 'physically beating their kids' sense, but in the case of her dad, having issues which need medical treatment he's not getting, and in the other case, a mom who works all hours and is almost not even a character in the story because she's so absent. Her dad being a conclusion short of a premise the reason her mother works so many hours, it would seem, since dad is profligate with money on those rare occasions he ventures out. I loved the reading voice of Tia Alexandra Ricci, and the sense of humor which ran through the narrative.

Zoe dreams of playing piano in Carnegie Hall, wearing a tiara no less!), but it's only a wild fantasy, which is squelched when her three-sheets to the wind father comes home with an electric organ instead of the grand piano she unrealistically demanded. But the organ does come with some free in home lessons, and so this is what Zoe has to deal with. That and Wheeler Diggs who is an oddball guy at school who befriends Zoe's dad more than he does Zoe, and consequently hangs at her house routinely after school instead of going straight home. Rightly or wrongly, Wheeler reminded me a bit of Heath Ledger's character in the hilarious movie Ten Things I Hate About You, which itself was loosely based on The Taming of the Shrew.

Zoe's Carnegie Hall moment comes actually in the form of a minor win after entering the annual Perform-O-Rama organ competition sponsored by the makers of the organ she's learning to play. All around, the story was engaging and funny - especially in regard to Zoe's take on life and on people. It was occasionally boring here and there, but overall, a worthy read.


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Bunnicula Strikes Again by James Howe


Rating: WARTY!

I never read the original Bunnicula, and I never will! This was evidently, thinks I, volume two, but in fact turned out to be volume six! I made it about half way through before giving up on it. All is not lost though, because this print book will go to a local library which has limited funds, so others will benefit from it! I hope!

The joke here is that the rabbit is a vampire, but not for blood - for veggie juice, sucking vegetables dry. It's hilarious - as far as the concept goes, and I can't speak for the entertainment value of volume one, but this felt like five volumes too many, and is a major reason why I don't typically like series! They're boring, and by nature are derivative and repetitive. That doesn't work for me. In this case, this one didn't go anywhere. I read fifty percent of this and quite literally nothing happened. It was a tedious diary of a kid and his dog lying around, running downstairs, running upstairs, spying on the cat, and lying around. Yawn. A good portion of it was references to, and recapping of, volume one, which is just cheating in my book, but it is a hallmark of series.

Based on fifty percent of this, I can't recommend it. It wasn't in the least bit entertaining.


Monday, November 14, 2016

Bad Machinery the Case of the Team Spirit by John Allison


Rating: WORTHY!

Note that this review is based on an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Bad Machinery is exactly what it says! It's totally bad-ass and hugely hilarious. But let's not confuse the case of team spirit with a case of liquor! These kids are only middle grade after all. This book, one of a series, is set in a Grammar school in England, and it's a locale with which I am intimately familiar having attended one myself. The story is set in Yorkshire, where my parents were born and raised, and I grew up next door, in Derbyshire. Non-Brits may need some remedial assistance on the lingo, but most of it isn't hard to understand. The graphic novel is evidently composed of webcomic dailies.

I adored this story. Every one of the characters is one I wish I had known at my own school, but alas and a lack of them was what plagued me there. Charlotte Grote, Jack Finch, Linton Baxter, Mildred Haversham, Shauna Wickle, and Sonny Craven are the weird, whacky, and charming students dealing with assorted life crises in their own peculiar ways. Sometimes their agendas conflict and other times they align.

The big deal is that a Russian owner of the local soccer club is trying to demolish houses to build a new stadium in their place, but this Russky seems to have pissed-off the mother of all bad luck, as becomes apparent when a satellite crashes onto the football pitch in the middle of a game, and assorted other disasters befall him. Plus Mrs Biscuits is also Russian, but not interested in rushing anywhere. She refuses to move from her home which sits, of course, right in the way of the Russian's plans to raze the land and raise a stadium. Two of the girls decide to make her the subject of a school project.

Each character has their own cross to bear. Shauna's, for example, is her slightly dysfunctional younger brother whose favorite non-word is BORB. Linton is plagued by his overly attentive mother and his fear that the beautiful new soccer stadium may never materialize. Sonny's father misses his own brutal grammar school days which appear to have been the inspiration for Michael Palin's Ripping Yarns, specifically the episode titled Tomkinson's Schooldays. Jack suffers an older sister who attends the same school and dispenses remarkable advice like, "It's a good idea to shave off your eyebrows" and "be sure to wear eye-shadow for gym." I fell in love with Charlotte though, disgusting as that is, since I'm old enough to be her father, but her sense of humor completely slayed me. She is the queen of bizarre observations and off-the-wall comments such as when she wants to discuss the procedure for extracting mothballs from moths.

The story meanders delightfully and abstrusely towards a satisfying conclusion. The art isn't spectacular, but it's serviceable and it got the job done for me. I haven't read any others in this series, but I fully intend to correct that oversight, first chance I get!


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Super Fish 2 The Stare Wars by Mary Lee


Rating: WORTHY!

This book is a riotous sequel to a riotous first book, and once again features the mysterious tiny super hero girl fish, who wears a mask and sports a cape? Our host this time is an octopus who we interrupt in the middle of making a sandwich - with real sand. You just don't get that kind of service nowadays.

The octopus seems quite obsessed with having staring contests, but I would caution you severely against getting involved in a staring contest with an octopus on a smart phone. It's a worse proposition than getting involved in a land war in Asia. The only person ever to have beaten the octopus in the staring contest is in fact: Super Fish! You knew it, right?

This was a fun addition to the series, and I think more fun than the first one. What's more, it featured actual sharks! Yes!


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Rosco the Rascal Visits the Pumpkin Patch by Shana Gorian


Rating: WORTHY!

Just in time for Halloween and in plenty of time for Thanksgiving, this is a middle-grade chapter book with some illustrations set around this time of year (assuming you're reading this in late October and you're in the northern hemisphere!). It has its roots in a real dog owned by the author, but the story is fictional. It's part of a series, and you can get another one in the series free by signing up for the author's mailing list.

Rosco (which I keep wanting to add an 'e' to so it looks less like a corporate name!) is in the McKendrick family, which consists of mom, dad, and two children, ten year old James, and seven-year-old Mandy. In this adventure, they visit the pumpkin patch where dad wants to procure a giant pumpkin to carve for Halloween. Rosco is a bit naughty at times, but it all comes from his desire to have fun and run-off excess energy. To be fair, he also has some very positive traits, though. He's very protective of children, and both his naughtiness and his protectiveness play a role in this story, as they enjoy the outdoors, take part in activities on the pumpkin farm, and get lost in the corn maze - which turns out to be fortunate for an even younger child who's in there, also lost. And very afraid. And hurt.

I'm not a big fan of "intelligent" dog and cat stories because in my sad experience the authors make them so human that they're no longer dogs or cats, so really, what's the point? In this case, though, I loved the way the author seems to get inside the dog's head, making it appear very human in a very doglike way, without turning it into a completely unbelievable human substitute. The story wasn't written for my age range, but even so it was fun, interesting, realistic, believable, and very entertaining. It carried positive messages and had a warm and happy ending. I recommend this for kids of all ages.


Monday, October 24, 2016

Dojo Surprise by Chris Tougas


Rating: WORTHY!

This story was an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher, and it's a little bit weird and off the beaten track, which is a good thing. I think that's why it appealed to me. it;s also part of a series of "Dojo" books, and I have to warn you that it did not look at all good on a smart phone, so you definitely want to read it on something else.

The kids of the Dojo Daycare want to throw a surprise birthday party for their rather nervous sensei, and their sneaking around does little for his mental health, but they succeed in creating the surprise using hard-won ninja techniques, and in the end have a great birthday party, and a much relieved sensei! I think it's fun and playful and very colorful, but be warned: it might put sneaky ninja ideas into young children's brains!


Monday, October 17, 2016

Ian at Grandma and Grandpa's House by Pauline Oud


Rating: WORTHY!

Note that this is an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher!

This is the story of my trip to my grandparents' house. Kidding! But I can't not review a book about a character who shares my name right? Ian is off to the grandparents for the weekend, and he packs his favorite book and his green gingham bunny. I want a green gingham bunny! He gets to his grandparents' house, which he is thrilled to visit, and he waves a cheery goodbye to mom.

Ian gets cake as his first meal. Does mommy know this is how they feed him?! Hopefully he'll have a good solid meal later and this is just a snack treat. At any rate, he gets to run it off in the park when they take curly for a walk. I'm not sure why the short-haired dog is called curly, but let's roll with it. Maybe his tail is curly? After the enjoyable walk they come home and make soup with fresh veggies! Yes, I knew there was more to this than cake! Ian gets a bedtime story and a nice nap. This is the way I like life! I wonder how the author knew?

This was fun, cozy, easy reading and a nice bedtime tale to put the little ones to sleep with. I recommend it.


A Gefilte Fishy Tale by Allison and Wayne Marks


Rating: WORTHY!

This might sound weird (then anyone who knows me will know this is par for the course), but a couple of days ago the term 'gefilte fish' was going through my brain. I know not from whence it came. Not on that day, but a few years back, I saw a greeting card in a store that featured 'gefilte fish' as part of a nonsense good wishes recital and I blame that for originally fixating it in my brain where it's been lodged comfortably ever since.

I know at some point - and assuming I live long enough - that it's going to come out in a story. All this, anyway, to indicate why I thought it was a good idea to read this young children's book beautifully illustrated by Renée Andriani, and rhymed to perfection by the Marks brothers, er, husband wife team! Although frankly, it might have been written by the Marx Brothers.

Bubba Judy buys a jar of gefilte fish, and all is well until they get it home and find they cannot get it open. This also turns out to be jar for the course as they resort to an assortment of friends to help undo it, and all of them fail. What's to become of it? Well you'll have an interesting time finding out. In addition to the story, you get recipe for gefilte fish mini muffins, which frankly sounds disgusting to me, but maybe they're nice. There's also an original song by Wayne Marks, Margie Blumberg, and Gavin Whelehan, and a very welcome glossary for the Yiddish-challenged, which includes me most of the time, although fans of Mel Brooks movies might recognize some of these words. I recommend this one for a fun read for kids and an educational experience!


Saturday, September 17, 2016

Totlandia Vol 1 by Josie Brown


Rating: WORTHY!

Totlandia was an oddball story that I ultimately ended-up loving. I don't quite know why except that it was funny and interesting and unusual. I have to wonder how the author ever came up with this story. Maybe she had some personal experience?

The story is the first of four very short books (100+ pages or so) in a series that covers several years of kindergarten. The 'onesies' is four volumes and there is at least two more volumes for the 'twosies'. While I'm not a fan of series typically, I might be persuaded to read more of this one if they're like the first, but be warned, the first volume ends on a huge cliffhanger, so you might find it very addictive! And there may well be four volumes for each of five years, which is quite a financial commitment to keep up with!

The Pacific Heights Moms and Tots Club is a very exclusive and snotty San Francisco daycare, managed by well-to-do and very elitist moms. You have to compete for one of the annual ten spots get in, and forget about it if you're a single parent or a working mom. You're automatically disqualified.

This novel focuses attention on four candidates, each of whom has a secret, such as one of them (Jillian) is about to undergo a divorce, another (Ally) is supposed to have quit her job a a big-wig in business, but is still secretly on the board - and she's single! A third is a guy who is ashamed of his wife jade, a former stripper and prospective porn actor and is trying to keep her out of things while having sex with one of the existing PHMTC moms to get an in (so to speak). Lorna's child may be a special needs kid, which would disqualify him, so there is lots of dirt to dish, and lots of secrets to be kept hidden.

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I really enjoyed the easy pave, the decent plotting, the good story-telling and the humor, so yes, this one is a worthy read.


Monday, September 5, 2016

Charlie Bingham Gets Clocked by Maggie M Larche


Rating: WORTHY!

I love books which have a title that makes it sounds like the author has done something perhaps she oughtn't! I mean did Maggie Larche really clock Charlie Bingham? That's what it says: Charlie Bingham gets clocked by Maggie M Larche! Seriously, this was a fun middle-grade book aimed at slightly mischievous, or perhaps slightly unlucky boys. Or perhaps both more likely. It's part of a Charlie Bingham series.

Charlie's friend Brad has a rather unruly pet lizard which secretes itself in his clothes when he heads out to school. Then it gets loose and hides in the teacher's old-fashioned alarm clock - the one with big bells on the top. Rather than reveal his reptilian pet is running around, Brad takes the clock and hides it in his backpack, intending to retrieve the lounging lizard later.

From this point on it's a bit like a game of pass the parcel, as they try to retrieve the lizard and return the alarm clock without being discovered! It doesn't go according to plan of course, and there are questions of trust and betrayal, but it all works out in the end. I liked it, and I think the intended age range will like it even more than I did, so I recommend this one for a fun romp for the intended age range.


Sunday, August 28, 2016

Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash


Rating: WORTHY!

This is the first of two memoirs I shall be reviewing this month. The other was The Midwife by Jennifer Worth One is a regular chapter book, the other is this one: a graphic novel in which the artwork is rudimentary. It looks like pencil and crayon, and so it looks like a young kid did it, but the thing is that it works for the story and I enjoyed it. This is evidently a memoir about a summer girls camp which Maggie attended and developed a crush on one of the older girls. The story is by parts hilarious and tragic, fun and disturbing. The disturbing part is that anyone would send their young, impressionable daughter to such a psychotic place! But she survived and lived to tell the tale, and it was a most engrossing tale. It's over 260 pages, but it flew by, and I recommend this one.


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Extra Credit Epidemic by Nina Post


Rating: WORTHY!

Errata:
"What will be doing on the phones?" (missing 'we')
"quiet, hereas if the media got a hold of it…" (whereas?)
"Van take the two steps down into the scoring pit and Taffy handed him a jacket from a bag." Wrong verb tense: 'took' required

This young-adult story began like it might be headed into science fiction territory, but it wasn't - it was just a really strong start to a fascinatingly fresh novel about a high-school senior who is anti-social and bordering on OCD, and who is obsessed with working in epidemiology which is, according to Wikipedia, "the study and analysis of the patterns, causes, and effects of health and disease conditions in defined populations."

The student, with the unlikely if not hilariously sweet-toothed name of Taffy Snackerge evidently has some good reason for her behavior, but this isn't really discussed in the novel except for hints that she was always this way. She has awesome parents who are out of the picture only because they're away travelling, so they play very little part in the story. Taffy is therefore home alone, and although she doesn't wear skirts, she does believe in skirting the rules at school which is, you just know it, going to get her into trouble with the prissy vice-principal.

One of the science teachers, Van Brenner, used to work for the local epidemiology department until they downsized, and now he's teaching science at the school and advising Taffy despite, or perhaps because of her rebellious streak, as she mounts her own investigation into a salmonella outbreak. The problem is that Brenner wants her to work with two other students, one of whom is a bit of a princess, so Taffy perceives. The other is a guy who apparently won't stand up for himself, and who really doesn't like science, yet Taffy is forced against her will to form a team with them and nail down the source of this minor outbreak of sickness which the local health department seems unable to pursue.

The first issue is that they all think they should use Taffy's home as their base of operations. They have calls to make to pursue their investigation of the incipient epidemic, but in this day and age of ubiquitous cell phone use (and each of these kids has one), this sounded lame to me. Why do they need to be at anyone's house?

This was a minor irritation - and nowhere near as irritating as the fact that the author evidently feels that italics have been for too long out of work, and absolutely loves to employ them at every opportunity. That itself would not have been so bad, but Kindle's crappy conversion process for their smart phone app rendered every italicized word in a smaller font and very faint, making it really hard to read. Additionally, it doesn't italicize superscripted words, so when I read "1st Offense: Minimum Two Detentions," all of it was italicized except for the 'st' after the number 1 (and the 'nd' after the two and so on). Fortunately, the story started out so strongly for me that I was quite willing to overlook these issues.

It was this strength and power which carried the story all the way to the end for me. Taffy is a go-getter and flatly refuses to let any obstacle stand in her way, including a vindictive vice-principal who has more vice than principles. She forms a relationship with the other two despite her dysfunctional social qualities, and she even begins learning how far out on the edge she is as she's slowly, but surely reeled back in by Taylor, with whom Taffy forms more than a friendship. Both Taylor and Gabriel are characters in their own right and don't let taffy hog all the center stage. The whole story is beautifully done, with smarts, with humor, with a sly sense of the absurd, and with a really good story underlying it all.

I would really love to know what triggered the author to come up with the idea for this one! It's been a long time since I've read anything like this, and this was a welcome breath of fresh air after reading what feels like far too many stories of late which start out well and go to hell. This one had everything I look for in a novel, including a truly strong female main character, and a curiously endearing title. I'm not a fan of series, but I would definitely read a follow-up novel about Taffy & Co if there ever was one. I recommend this one unreservedly.