Book Review: The Night Parade

the-night-paradeDetails:

Title: The Night Parade

Author: Kathryn Tanquary

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Release Date: January 5th, 2016

Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Cultural

Pages: 320

Synopsis:

The last thing Saki Yamamoto wants to do for her summer vacation is trade in exciting Tokyo for the antiquated rituals and bad cell reception of her grandmother’s village. Preparing for the Obon ceremony is boring. Then the local kids take an interest in Saki and she sees an opportunity for some fun, even if it means disrespecting her family’s ancestral shrine on a malicious dare.

But as Saki rings the sacred bell, the darkness shifts. A death curse has been invoked… and Saki has three nights to undo it. With the help of three spirit guides and some unexpected friends, Saki must prove her worth – or say good-bye to the world of the living forever.

My First Thoughts:

I found this book on Christmas Eve when I went up to Rehobeth Beach to spend Christmas with my boyfriend and our families. I’ve been trying to read more books for younger readers and this bookstore, Browseabout, has this wonderful section dedicated to those books. I’ve read a lot of books (manga) that come from Japan, but I’ve never read a book about a Japanese character in Japan written by an America author. I know, there’s this whole thing going on about readers attacking authors for misrepresentation, culture appropriation, and poorly done diversity. Honestly, I wasn’t afraid that this book wouldn’t do Japanese culture justice because it seems like the author actually live in Japan, teaching English to Japanese students and asked some of her colleagues to help with the manuscript. The Night Parade was advertised as being one of the employees’ top picks for the month and I decided to give it ago, to see for myself the quality of the book.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

For a first time author, this book is pretty fantastic! The Night Parade reads like if Hayao Miyazaki was asked to take the elements of The Christmas Carol and make his own story out of it. The descriptions were wonderful, just enough to describe the fantastical characters that Saki runs into without going overkill. As I read the story I could see the scenes play out before me, and for kids with better imaginations than my own I bet it would be fun for them to imagine.

In The Night Parade the main character Saki is really the only character that you read about through the whole story. None of the supporting characters really stay long, for instance a lot of the spirits she meets have brief appearance in the story. Her family and a village girl are the only characters that consistently keep showing back up, however, only the village girl has a major role. Saki’s family appears to be there for plot sake, but they play no real role in her adventures between the human world and the spirit world. This kind of story telling is not bad, especially when the major audience is younger readers. However, some older readers may find it a bit harder to read the book like this.

For adults, I imagine that Saki would be a little hard to follow because of her abysmal personality. However, I don’t that middle schoolers or younger would notice how annoying her character is at the beginning. For myself, I had a difficult time sympathizing with Saki because she seemed to make a lot of poor decisions for all the wrong reasons. Her personality does improve over the course of the story, much like Scrooge in The Christmas Carol, but it does take time before some readers begin to notice the change.

The pacing in this story is okay for a first time author. There are these long periods in between the intense action in the beginning, which can take some readers out of the story. For me, the pacing wasn’t too bad because I’ve read enough stories with similar speeds that it doesn’t bother me as much. However, for readers who thrive off of action, they may wither some in the long lulling periods, towards the end though the action picks up and stays pretty consistent till the end. Younger readers may find this pacing kinda boring, but I believe if read to or a loud, the pacing wouldn’t be much of an issue.

The one issue that I had with the plot was that not everything was fully explained. There were just things said or done that were briefly mentioned in the story with no follow through. It was as if the author wanted to write more on those issues, using them to drive the plot more, but then abandoned ship early and then forgot about them. There was even a character that all the spirits kept mentioning throughout the story but you or Saki never meet them, the character never shows up and plays only the role of a boogeyman. It was a little frustrating, because I wanted to see where the author took us with those things but they didn’t go anywhere, but I don’t think a child would notice these things as much.

Final Thoughts:

I’ve already recommended The Night Parade and even gave my copy to a friend of mine to read. She’s an exchange student from Japan who was eager to read the book because it is uncommon to see an American author write a story set in Japan with Japanese characters and culture. So I can’t wait to get her opinion on the book!

For young readers, I think this is a great book for them to read. It allows their imaginations to run wild, while showing them a different culture and teaching them various lessons. Depending on the age, it may be better for the book to be read aloud by an adult to combat the boredom that the pacing may bring. It would be a great book for a teacher to read to their classes, especially if they’re good storytellers.

I would recommend this book to adult readers who don’t mind a bratty main character. Saki does change, but her personality and actions may be too much for some older readers to handle before she starts to grow as an individual. For those who don’t like kids, or just the annoying ones, this book may not be the best pick for you.

Rating:

4/5

Overall this is a fantastic book, especially for a first time author! The storytelling had beautiful imagery and the descriptive language wasn’t too complicated or long winded. The various characters that our main heroine ran into were unique and interesting. Some minor characters were more memorable than others, but overall they were well done even though they didn’t stay long within the story. The pacing is a bit off and there were some aspects of the story that seemed more important than they were, or were just abandoned all together. However, for a first book the author did a fantastic job telling a story that reads like the brain child of The Christmas Carol and Hayao Miyazaki. I believe that fans of both will find enjoyment from The Night Parade!

Related Reviews/Books:

COMING SOON!!!

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Book Review: The Golden Day

The Golden Day

Details:

Title: The Golden Day

Author: Ursula Dubosarsky

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Release Date: April 28th 2015 (first published March 23rd 2011)

Genre: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Realistic Fiction

Pages: 149

Synopsis:

In a year that begins with the hanging of one man and ends with the drowning of another, eleven schoolgirls must embrace their own chilling history when their teacher abruptly goes missing on a field trip. What actually happened that day? Who was the mysterious poet in the garden? And most important, Who can the tell about it?

Part gripping thriller, part ethereal tale, The Golden Day is a poignant study of fear and friendship that, in beautifully crafted rose, reveals how a single shared experience can alter the course of young lives forever.

My First Thoughts:

I’m not usually one for thrillers or mysteries; they’re just not my normal cup of tea. This one, however, grabbed my attention and I decided to read it if not because of the author’s note at the end. I decided to give it a try and broaden my bookshelves some!

Story Breakdown:

The Golden Day is a story set in Australia during the late 1960s and mid-70s. The man focus of this story is on eleven little school girls and a day that changed their lives forever, and the events that followed. However, out of the eleven, only four girls get most of the spotlight: Cubby, Bethany, Icara and Martine. Through these four little girls the reader gets to see how such a traumatic event will alter their psyche, but also push them forward into adulthood, leaving scars that not even time may completely heal.

Overall Thoughts/Opinions:

I loved that this story was set in Australia, because I’ve been there before and I don’t read very many realistic fictions outside my own country, let alone on the opposite side of the world. However, it was very easy to forget sometimes that these little girls were going to school in Australia. It was only when they mentioned region names or the Aborigines that reminded me that the story was set in Australia. The dialogue in the story didn’t really reflect where the girls lived, there were only a few instances where they used different idioms or colloquialisms that I recognized as Australian or didn’t recognize at all.

This story had kind of a large cast of characters, and even though it wasn’t a long story it was still hard to keep the different characters separate from time to time. It also didn’t help that four of the little girls shared the same name and didn’t go by different variations of that name. They were all just Elizabeth, of the four of them only two really said or did more than the others, and one of them only had maybe one or two lines. The author also did a quick character description every time a new character appeared, nothing fancy, she just mentioned the color of hair and eyes, how their age appearance, and possibly what they were wearing.

For me, it was hard to connect with some of the characters, especially the victim of the event. There were times in which they said or did something that resonated with me, but then they would destroy it by doing or saying something that angered me. Honestly, I didn’t feel bad for the victim, because I didn’t really feel any connection or emotion for them. They had some cool ideas and words, but they also had some nasty traits that tainted their personality and didn’t make me feel sorry for them. I felt more emotion and pity for the little girls involved, especially for Cubby and Icara whose interactions seemed to be the most detailed and drove the plot of the story. You see more about their friendship and their reactions to the event than any other girl.

I believe the most interesting thing about this book was the idea of it and how the author created it. The author tells you how she came up with idea in the Author’s Note, but I’ll briefly sum it up. The idea of the little girls and their kind of school life came from the experiences of the author herself. As for the events in the story, they were inspired by different artworks about schoolgirls from different artists, and some of the tragedies that occurred in different regions of Australia, mostly of either missing persons or awful murders. Also, each chapter heading comes from the title of paintings and drawings by Charles Blackman, who’s painting Floating Schoolgirl, planted the first seed in the author’s head.

The one thing that aggravated me the most about this story, was the over use of the word said. As having gone through a number of writing classes, and being a daughter of an author, it was drilled into my head that while said is a good word, it is overused in concerns to dialogue. I was always taught to use words in place of said, especially during scenes with a lot of dialogue to help spruce things up. So it annoyed me when I read over several said’s on the same page. The author did use some other words, but her go to was said, which I understand doesn’t bother everyone but it bothered me.

Final Thoughts:

If you love mystery thrillers, then this book may be up your alley. The mystery isn’t as cut and dry as it may first appear. In fact, the ending took me by surprise and left me a little unsettled and lost. The ending isn’t black and white; it’s up to the reader to decide what really happened. So if you don’t enjoy those kinds of ending then you may not enjoy this book. The ending may have been done that way to intentionally make readers feel unsettled like the girls at the end. However, if you don’t like that feeling then you should steer clear for this book.

If you’re interested about the human psyche and how different people respond to the same traumatic event, then this book may be of interest to you. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if a teacher picks up this book and adds to their reading list for class, either for English or Psychology. While it isn’t full of psychology terms or theories, it definitely allows a person to see the different reactions as if it were a real experiment. As for English, having gone through several reading intensive English classes, including a few years of AP English, this book just seems like it would fit into those reading lists, especially if the class was exploring literature of different time period and/or from different countries.

Rating:

3/5

I believe that this story while interesting, is just a good, average book. It’s a nice quick read for anyone who needs a break between large volumes of books. The plot is very straight forward with very few, if any subplots. There are no scenes that some people would consider unnecessary. And it would interest anyone who is curious about a child’s psyche and how children react differently to the same event.

Related Reviews/Books:

Coming soon!

Book Review: I Heard the Owl Call my Name

I Heard the Owl Call my Name

So this is the first old story that I have reviewed for this site, wow it might actually be the oldest one that I review for a while!

Details:

Title: I Heard the Owl Call my Name

Author: Margaret Craven

Publisher: Dell

Release Date: 1973 (first published 1967)

Genre: Historical Fiction, Classic Fiction

Pages: 159

Synopsis:

“The Indian know his village and feels it.”

His village is more than the strip of land four miles long and three miles wide that is his as long as the sun rises and the moon sets. His village is the river and the black-and-white killer whales that herd the fish to the end of the inlet. His village is the salmon who comes up the river to spawn, the seal who follow the salmon, the bluejay whose name is like the sound he makes−“Kwiss-kwiss.”

“His village is also the talking bird, the owl, who calls the name of the man who is going to die…”

It was to this village that the white man Mark Brian came−to learn the meaning of life and of death…

My First Thoughts:

My dad has been harping on me for a while to read one of his books and before I went off to school he gave me this one to take with me. This story meant a lot to my dad, because both he and his mother, my late grandmother, both liked reading it. So I decided to read it so I could feel closer to the two of them, especially since I didn’t really get to know my grandmother very long.

Story Breakdown:

This story has a long list of characters that come and go throughout the story, but each of them are unique enough to remember as they’re mentioned. There are two main characters in this story, a young white priest and a young Native American man.

Mark Brian is given the opportunity to shepherd the people of Kingcome and the surrounding settlements. Being so young, and living in a more developed area, Mark has never had the opportunity to live in a place so close to nature and her way of life. Instead of making people feel sorry for him and his lack of abilities, he decides to learn what he can from the people around him and conquer his tasks on his own until he must ask for help. Quiet and respectful of the Indians, he observes them and tries to understand the sadness in their eyes and what it means to live in a world that is constantly disappearing. As he grows as a priest he learns the harsh and natural realities of death, and the way of life that has all been taken away from the natives of the land. Along his journey he also learns what he can of the tribe’s old way of life, before the White Man came and changed it forever.

The second main character is Native American by the English name Jim Wallace. When you first meet Jim he is a very quiet, very cautious man who doesn’t really trust Mark. Jim’s opinion at first is very low, thinking that as soon as Mark faces the normal day-to-day hardships that he would leave at the next opportunity. As the story progresses though, Jim sees Mark’s true nature and he goes from being judgmental to accepting. Jim also transforms from being a traditional man of the tribe to a more forward, open-minded man as his friendship with the priest grows.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

Not going to lie, the beginning was a little hard to get into because the writing style was not what I was used to. After a while though, I adjusted and really enjoyed this story. It felt like a breath of fresh air because it was so different than what I have been reading lately. The story wasn’t super complicated with lots of twisting passages that could lead to sequels, or tons of subplots to drag the story on. It was very short and sweet and to the point, with a nice straight path that lead to the end.

Another thing that I liked about it was the humbling affect that it had on me. It was a very calm read, and it was like stepping into an old black-and-white film or a John Wayne movie on the movie classics channel. I’m not sure how historically accurate it was, but to me it seemed to portray the native lifestyle very well and I believe that was what made it so humbling to me. It was especially sad to read about what the tribe’s history was and all of the cultural things they had to let go because the government told them to. It was so fascinating to read about some of the different traditions and stories, even if they weren’t from a real tribe. Some of their stories, especially about the swimmer, really stuck with me and made me think about their actual meaning.

The one thing I didn’t like about the book was the lack of description that I’m used to. A lot of books nowadays are full of descriptions, sometimes going a bit too far. However, this book didn’t lack imagery and world building, but it wasn’t done in such the grand scale that our books do now. The description was there, it was just very short and it set the mood more than the scene, which was a little hard for me to get used to.

Final Thoughts:

I can see now why my father and grandmother really liked this book. It was a really nice life journey to read about that made you see what some people went through and how one person can change a group of people, and how that same group can change the one. I definitely suggest reading this book outside of an English class on your own time because it was really enjoyable and different. The book had so many quotes that I loved that the side of the book is littered with tiny posted-notes, there were so many things said that could relate to current day. And this book, while short, really does put you through an emotional ride with ups and downs stretched out nicely within so few pages. It didn’t feel choppy or like whiplash, and the sad moments really punched you in the gut at times. By the end of the book I couldn’t read it while waiting for my classes because I would either partially cry or get misty-eyed. I’m really glad that my dad gave me this book to read!

Rating(s):

4/5

While it was a great story, I don’t think it quite deserves anything more than a four because of the difference in writing style and how hard it was for me to get into it at first. However, the story was really enjoyable after the first few chapters and was nicely paced. While there was a large cast of characters, each one had a purpose and played a major role telling the story and driving it forward. The history elements to the story were very nice, it added a quaint charm to the book and really helped immerse the reader into the settling. Overall a nice story to read during the fall as a nice break between larger novels.

Related Reviews/Books:

Coming soon!