Graphic Novel Review: Zodiac Starforce: By the Power of Astra

Synopsis:

They’re an elite group of teenage girls with magical powers who have sworn to protect our planet against dark creatures . . . as long as they can get out of class! Known as the Zodiac Starforce, these high-school girls aren’t just combating math tests. They’re also battling monsters–not your typical afterschool activity! But when an evil force from another dimension infects team leader Emma, she must work with her team of magically powered friends to save herself–and the world–from the evil Diana and her mean-girl minions!

From Kevin Panetta (Bravest Warriors) and Paulina Ganucheau (TMNT: New Animated Adventures, Bravest Warriors), this super-fun and heartfelt story of growing up and friendship–with plenty of magical-girl fighting action–delivers the most exciting new ensemble cast in comics!

First Thought:

I saw this the other day in a small local comic book store in Bethany Beach, Delaware. I like to support local businesses wherever I go and this one caught my eye. I always like a good magical girl story and this one caught my eye. So I decided to give it a try!

Overall Opinions:

I wasn’t very impressed. I’ve read and watched quite a few magical girl stories, it’s an interesting troupe that not everyone likes or can get right. Zodiac Starforce was just full of troupes from the genre and there wasn’t really anything new. Let’s check off the troupes, shall we?

The leader of the group has some sort of pink color pallet, either for her hair or outfit? Check. Leader is really nice and seen as flawless, or when MIA the team freaks out and thinks they’ll fail? Check. The thing that is different with Emma is that she is a woman of color, which was pretty cool. Also she obviously had some sort of PTSD thing going on in the story, but that was never really explored or touched on. She just was reluctant to get back into the swing of things with her friends and the whole Magical Girl Crusade, which you don’t see as often in the popular stories of the genre.

Next up, the girl with the pixie cut has reddish-brown hair and has water related powers? Check. Her outfit is arguably a blue or blueish-green? Check. She’s one of the smaller girls, height wise and has terrible luck with men? Check. Could she possibly be gay? Check. Savi was an okay character, but her boyfriend was used as a plot point and I didn’t feel like her romantic relationship with one of the other characters was really there. I thought it was cool that there was a gay relationship in the story, but it felt a little tacked on and I didn’t think it was handled correctly. Also, bonus, the modern planet for Pisces is Neptune, and in Sailor Moon Neptune was one of the lesbian sailor scouts.

Next! Can the one mostly red magical girl be seen as Asian or slightly so? Check. Does this character of long black hair? Check. This character really good at some sport and possibly had a falling out of some kind with the leader in the past? Check. Molly was one of my more favorite characters of the group just because she had some personality. Also, for whatever reason, she had the ability to open portals and banish the monsters which is normally an ability given to the leader, so that was something. Bonus: Aries’s ruling planet is Mars.

I think the one character that broke most of the troupes of the magical girl genre was Kim. She’s a punk-rock kind of chick that just wants to get the team back together and to keep her friends safe. Her relationship with her boyfriend is subtle at first and really adorable. She’s depicted as a butch woman but acts like a sweet dork. Kim is my favorite character because she was unique and straight forward.

Some of the other troupes include a group of clickish bullies who happen to be the villains in the end. Another was a magical girl gone rogue, trying to kill all other magical girls. A magical being is the one to give them their powers for no particular reason other than there are monsters about and an evil opposing force. Said magical being doesn’t really help them when needed and doesn’t play any real role in the story. Also magical girls are in high school, and started their careers at the beginning of high school.

Zodiac Starforce has a lot of troupes that aren’t used in a satirical or comedic way, which made the story seem unoriginal to me. For people who don’t read a lot of magical girl stories or only watched Sailor Moon as a kid would probably really enjoy seeing all these things and reading the story. Honestly, I think the story would have been better if it had started from the beginning and showed the building of their friendship and then the battle that put them into retirement. I spent so much time wanting to know what happened to Emma to make her feel so broken up about being a Magical Girl. You find out that she lost her mother, but how did she lose her mother? And why did the group break apart and not talk to each other until Emma was in trouble? There were so many questions that were left unanswered and the characters made so many references to things that I had no knowledge of. There was clearly a history between all the characters but it was never shown or talked about, which just weakened the overall story.

Ratings:

Art: 3

The artwork was okay. The character designs were pretty cool, especially Kim’s, but I wasn’t too impressed with their magical girl uniforms. I also wasn’t real impressed with the monster designs because they reminded me of the monsters in Steven Universe, they even had the gems that were related to corruption. The background wasn’t as developed and detailed as the main characters, even a lot of the unnamed or background characters were very nondescript and forgettable. Also there were details in the uniforms that didn’t stay consistent from panel to panel. The colors for this novel were various shades of pastel and red. Everything was either pastels or reds, which really overpowered some of the other colors. For instance, it took me a while to realize that Emma’s hair is blonde when she’s not transformed, but it was hard for me to tell because everything was so red or pink around her. Anyways, this wasn’t my favorite color scheme.

Story: 3

The story left something to be desired. First chapter you’re thrown right in two years after the girls gained their powers and saved the world. All you know is that they disbanded, people died, and they banished an evil goddess (Also where were the minions of that goddess then, hm???). Emma is very reluctant to get the team back together, possibly showing signs of PTSD, but not much is explained and you’re left wondering what exactly happened. You also start with some drama between some of the girls, but that is suddenly dropped and never touched upon again in chapter two. A lot of the story relied on coincidence to move the plot forward, which lead to unexplained entrances, characters, and events. The dialogue at times came off as too immature or Hollywood high school, so it didn’t sound natural coming from a group of girls that risked their lives to save the world and fought monsters on the daily. Most of the characters were extremely underdeveloped. The story was weak and was nothing to write home about.

Overall: 3

If you’re into Magical Girls and comics this might be a good read for you. It has strong leading women of color, an interracial gay couple, and a diverse line-up of characters. I’d be interested in reading the next volume, but I won’t go out of my way to buy it. I’ll read it if I happen to find it in a local comic book store.

Details:

Title:  Zodiac Starforce: By the Power of Astra

Volume: 1

Issue(s): 1-4 (plus bonus material)

Publisher: Dark Horse Books

Writer(s): Kevin Panetta

Illustrator: Paulina Ganucheau

Colors: Paulina Ganucheau

Letters: Paulina Ganucheau

Released Date: March 9th, 2016

Pages: 136

Genre(s): Young Adult, Fantasy, Magical Girl

Graphic Novel Review: Ms. Marvel vol 1

Synopsis:

Kamala Khan is an ordinary girl from Jersey City — until she’s suddenly empowered with extraordinary gifts. But who truly is the new Ms. Marvel? Teenager? Muslim? Inhuman? Find out as she takes the Marvel Universe by storm! When Kamala discovers the dangers of her newfound powers, she unlocks a secret behind them, as well. Is Kamala ready to wield these immense new gifts? Or will the weight of the legacy before her be too much to bear? Kamala has no idea, either. But she’s comin’ for you, Jersey!

It’s history in the making from acclaimed writer G. Willow Wilson (Air, Cairo) and beloved artist Adrian Alphona (RUNAWAYS)! Collecting MS. MARVEL (2014) #1-5 and material from ALL-NEW MARVEL NOW! POINT ONE #1.

First Thought:

My boyfriend has been reading this comic series for a while now and really enjoys it. At the time he started reading I had no interest in comics, but when he bought an action figure of the Kamala it peaked my interest. It wasn’t until after Marvel got thrown under the bus that I decided to read more of them, especially after I enjoyed reading the new Thor run!

Overall Thoughts and Opinions:

I really enjoyed this start to a new hero! I connected instantly with Kamala, more so than I have with a character in a long while. I related to her because of her relationship with her parents and how they treat her. In high school, my parents set hard expectations for me. They wanted me to get straight A’s and be better than what my brother had become, and at the same time they wanted me to be my own person and come up with my own ideas. However, whenever my ideas and thoughts didn’t agree with theirs that’s when they became disappointed in me and claimed I had changed or I wasn’t thinking clearly. So when I read the same thing happening to Kamala I instantly connected with her, especially when it was her mother who was giving her most of the grief and her father still showed her at least some support. And that’s what I like about Ms. Marvel and Kamala, there’s literally something for everyone to connect to the character with.

I really enjoyed seeing the steps that Kamala took to becoming Ms. Marvel. At first she tried emulating an established superhero because she didn’t feel like she could be a hero on her own. Then she starts to figure out that she could be a hero and you watch her try to figure out her new abilities and to control them. I loved the trial and error, and how Kamala actively works at improving herself.

Ratings:

Art: 4

I liked what Alphona did with the art. The characters weren’t super realistic, but they for the most part were well drawn and not overly sexual. In fact, all of the characters look either conservative or like normal high schoolers. Some of the bystanders and background characters look a little wonky, and by that I mean by that is they look a little too caricature-ish for me but not in a demeaning way. So occasionally I would be drawn out of the story but a background character because they stood out too much for no real reason. Herring did a wonderful job with the coloring though, I loved the bright softness to every page with no real hard shadows.

Story: 4

The story was pretty fun and entertaining. While there was some need for urgency at the end, overall the story was still pretty well balanced between comedy and action. The flow of the story was pretty smooth too, with a nice rising and falling action. I want to know how Kamala got her powers and what her strange encounter was in the first issue, but that reveal won’t be until later. Actually, with all that was going on with the story I didn’t spend much time wondering how it happened, I just wanted to see what was next.

Overall: 4

The story is pretty solid with an interesting mix of characters, relationships, and action. I can’t wait to see what the story holds and how the art will evolve!

Details:

Title: Ms. Marvel: No Normal

Book: 1

Issue(s): 1-5

Publisher: Marvel

Writer(s): Willow G. Wilson

Illustrator: Adrian Alphona

Colors: Ian Herring

Letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna

Released Date: October 30, 2014

Pages: 120

Genre(s): Super hero, Fantasy, Action

Book Review: In the Land of Broken Time

Note: I got a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review, which reads as follows:

Synopsis:

This book is about the adventures of the boy named Christopher, the girl named Sophia and retriever Duke. By chance they found themselves in a balloon, that took them into a fairyland, where mysterious events happen.
Children wanted to find the way home. The heroes had to solve a lot of mysteries.They learned interesting ways of time measuring and found a time machine.

My First Thoughts:

There’s always a special joy I feel when an author from another country asks me to review their work. There’s also the excitement of reading outside of what you would consider normal. After reading books that have saddened and/or infuriated me, I look forward to reading children’s books because they’re normally much simpler and fun. So I was more than happy to read this book as we drive through South Dakota on a long cross country trip!

Rating:

3/5

I was pleasantly surprised by In the Land of Broken Time. It’s definitely not the next Magic Treehouse, but it was interesting enough with subtle learning concepts that would make it a fun read for children and parents alike. The story concept was really interesting, the characters were fun, and the world building was quite imaginative.

Time was a big theme in this story. The authors build the world around time, going so far as using time related names for some of the characters and places. Throughout the story the readers get to learn about various different ways of telling time, such as using a sundial, hourglass, water clocks, and aromatic clocks. I honestly can’t name a book that talks about similar things, so I found it interesting to see how children may be introduced to suck clocks. There were times where it felt a little forced, especially the few times when the kids were explaining the more complicated mechanics of some of these things. It was a little unbelievable that these kids would know how an aromatic clock would work, even if they were only describing what they were witnessing.

Another big theme was friendship, and the authors draw two main messages from this theme. One, don’t judge a person by their outward appearance; you never know if a rough individual on the outside will be a great ally later. The second is that you should never let the rumors about a stranger shape your opinion of them before you lay eyes on them. These messages deal with one of the minor characters that ends up having a big role in driving the plot forward.

The characters were interesting enough. The children became fast friends due to circumstance, but their friendship also read genuinely enough too. Not much can be said about them because there wasn’t enough story to really delve into their personalities. In fact, I think the minor characters were given more depth and personality than Duke and the kids. This doesn’t really bother me, mostly because it’s hard to flesh out children characters and the authors needed to show why we would trust certain minor characters and not others.

Overall the story was pretty interesting and well written. There were times in which the language was a little advance for Christopher and Sophia to realistically say for their age. There’s some debate as to if some of the words used in the story would be too advanced for the target audience, but honestly I think a few challenging words would be good for young readers to encounter. The story itself is pretty simple; there are no complex reasons as to why events take place or why certain actions are made. If this story were for an older audience, I may take issue with the construction of the story, but I don’t know of many young readers that would sit there and poke holes in a fantasy story. Parents reading this story to their kids may see the plot holes or the utter leaps the story takes to get from one scene to another, but listening children will just go along for the ride.

The illustrations in the book are pretty nice. I especially love the color and detail that went into the cover; it’s one of my favorite covers! The illustrations in the story were cute and provided a nice break in the story on occasion; however, I just wish there were more of them in the story. The pictures were few and so sparsely laid out that at times I forgot there were any illustrations!

All in all, In the Land of Broken Time is an interesting and simple story about time and friendship. The ending is a bit abrupt, but the story has a nice overall flow that will keep children interested until the end. I highly recommend it to any young reader looking for a fantasy to read or for any parent-kid duo looking for another bedtime story! I can’t wait to read more from Mark and Maria Evan.

Related Reviews/Books:

COMING SOON!!!

Details:

Title: In the Land of Broken Time: The Incredible Journey

Author: Max Evan and Maria Evan

Illustrator: Maria Evan

Publisher: self published

Release Date: August 3rd, 2016

Genre: Middle Reader, Fantasy, Action/Adventure

Pages: 52 (eBook)

Graphic Novel Review: Thor: The Goddess of Thunder

Synopsis:

Who is the Goddess of Thunder?

The secrets of Original Sin have laid low one of Marvel’s greatest heroes. The God of Thunder is unworthy, and Mjolnir lies on the moon, unable to be lifted! But when Frost Giants invade Earth, a new hand will grasp the hammer–and a mysterious woman will take up the mantle of the mighty Thor! Her identity is secret to even Odin, but she may be Earth’s only hope against the Frost Giants. Get ready for a Thor like you’ve never seen before as this all-new heroine takes Midgard by storm! Plus: The Odinson clearly doesn’t like that someone else is holding his hammer–it’s Thor vs. Thor! And Odin, desperate to see Mjolnir returned, will call on some very dangerous, very unexpected allies. It’s a bold new chapter in the storied history of Thor!

First Thought:

I’ve been a fan of the movies for a while and I have read a few Marvel comics so far. I’ve yet to be disappointed, but I had been a little leery about reading any of their more popular or bigger name comics. Until recently, I hadn’t felt like I was ‘ready’ enough to full appreciate the more popular Marvel comics, looking back that might’ve been a stupid outlook. Long story short, I got angry after reading about the most recent misunderstanding that has thrown the company under the bus and decided to read one of their most popular titles at the moment. I read a lot of good things about Thor: The Goddess of Thunder and I thought, why not give it a try!

Overall Thoughts and Opinions:

Most of my experience with Thor comes from the movies, tv shows, and video games that he’s been in. I’ve read a few comics that feature him as a side character, but I have yet to read one with him as a main character. My knowledge of his character in the comics is limited, but I felt that this volume did a wonderful job of introducing this Thor, Odinson now, and the new Thor.

Thor, now Odinson in this line, had always appeared to be too overpowered for my liking. I enjoy his character in the things I’ve seen him in, but I always wondered what he would be without his power, without his hammer. The Goddess of Thunder introduces us to a broken, defeated Thor who can’t wield his magical hammer and who has to learn who he is without it. I rather enjoyed seeing that character development, seeing how attached he was to his hammer, how hard he would fight to prove himself worthy-to get it back, and ultimately give it up to someone else. I also enjoyed seeing him depicted as something other than an overpowered meat-head, true he’s still rather powerful but he’s more than that. You see recognition of past mistakes and transgressions, admitting that he was wrong or what he did wrong to those he hurt. Sure he still doesn’t quite get it sometimes, but he’s learning. You also get to see him adapt and welcome change, even defending it against powerful beings like his father, Odin.

I can see why some people might not like seeing a beloved hero lose his power and his name to another character. Why not call this Goddess of Thunder a feminine form of Thor or something else entirely? Why not give her a completely new hero identity and let Thor be Thor? Personally, I like this route. It allows a new character to try out the role that the original Thor held, and it allows Odinson the chance to be someone new, and maybe someone more like himself than the God of Thunder. I always enjoy seeing what happens when you mix a story up, so I’m interested to learn who Odinson will be without his hammer. So far I’m not disappointed in who he’s turning out to be or who this new lady Thor is!

The Goddess of Thunder doesn’t waste time in explaining who the new Thor is or how she came to wield the magical hammer, Mjolnir. Instead, it throws you straight into an action packed story with Ice Giants, an evil human company, and a powerful dark elf. Mayhem ensues as Thor tries to figure out her new abilities while saving Midgard from an army of Frost Giants. I enjoyed the little comments made by Thor as she figures out how to use the hammer. She has a fast learning curve, but she still experiences self-doubt as she fights Ice Giants and at times she wonders just who she is with and without the hammer.

Not a whole lot is shown about her personality, but I’m enjoying it so far. She’s strong and independent, but she’s not a shrew either. I’ve ranted about this before, but in the past a lot of strong independent women have been depicted with the same or equally unpleasant personalities. These strong women behave like the brutish military generals that are depicted all the time in media, which is also a horrible representation as well, and if they didn’t have these personalities then they weren’t considered ‘strong’. However, nowadays that characterization is becoming less and less popular and we’re getting strong female characters like the new Thor, who is strong but also full of self-doubt and compassion toward other characters. I also like that she considers herself a feminist, but isn’t some man-hating, bleeding, shouting feminist.

Ratings:

Art: 5

The art was fantastic! The character designs weren’t outrageous and seemed to really fit the characters well. I was pleased that Thor’s outfit wasn’t overly sexualized or revealing, her costume was conservative and practical, reminding me of the various Norse media that I’ve seen or read before. I would’ve been happier with a different chest plate, one that didn’t have actually breast cups, because I believe that it would be too uncomfortable and unpractical to have such cups. I also enjoyed the character designs for Odin and Freyja, they were ornate and powerful looking but still reasonable. Also, the various body types were great. Except for one character, and his was more comedic than anything, the body types were very realistic.

Story: 4

The story was pretty good, nothing amazing though. There was a lot of action and the story never really slows down much from start to finish. There’s nothing wrong with a lot of action, but it kept a lot of the questions from being answered. I understand keeping some questions for the next volume, but I felt there were too many. Some of the questions, I felt, could’ve been answered without breaking up the action and flow of the story too much. But I’m looking forward to reading the next volume of this story and discovering who this new Thor is!

Overall: 4.5

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed reading this comic and I can’t wait to pick up the next volume!

Details:

Title: Thor: The Goddess of Thunder

Book: 1

Issue(s): 1-5

Publisher: Marvel

Creator(s): Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby

Writer(s): Jason Aaron

Illustrator: Russell Dauterman (1-4) and Jorge Molina (5)

Colors: Matthew Wilson (1-4) and Jorge Molina (5)

Letters: VC’s Joe Sabino

Released Date: April 15, 2015

Pages: 136

Genre(s): Super hero, Fantasy, Action

Manga Review: Puella Magi Madoka Magica (vol.1)

Details:

Title: Puella Magi Madoka Magica (Vol. 1)

Chapters: 1-4

Written by: Magica Quartet 

Artist: Hanokage

Translation/Adaptation: William Flanagan

Lettering: Alexis Eckerman

Publisher:  Yen Press

Published: February 12, 2011

Pages: 144

Genre: Manga, Fantasy, Action/Adventure, Young Adult

Synopsis:

            When a new girl joins her class, Madoka Kaname thinks she recognize the mysterious, dark-haired transfer student from one of her dreams…a dream where she is approached by a catlike creature who offers Madoka an opportunity to change destiny. Madoka had always thought magic was stuff of fantasy…until she sees the transfer student fighting with the very cat being from her dream! And just like in Madoka’s dream, the cat gives her a choice. Will Madoka become a magical girl in exchange for her dearest desire? What will be the cost of having her wish come true?

What I First Thought:

            Last year my roommate convinced me to watch this show with her. The anime was fascinating and it broke me. When I found it on a shelf at my local Barnes & Noble I decided to read the manga, just to see how it compared to the anime.

Overall Thoughts/Opinions:

5/5

            I thought I was prepared enough when I read volume 1, because I had watched the anime, I thought that the big plot points wouldn’t affect me as much the second time. Oh, boy was I wrong! Nothing really changed, this volume is a pretty good adaptation of the first few episodes of the anime. With that said, I still squirmed at the same spots as the anime, and some of the emotional scenes actually affected me more than when I viewed it the first time. There were little changes between anime and manga, mostly in little character designs such as added weapons and minions.

I’m a little on the fence about the magical girl genre, mostly because if it’s not done just right then I end up hating the idea all together. I was drawn into this idea, however, because I heard it was a different, darker take on the genre, and they weren’t kidding either. Don’t let the cover fool you, this isn’t some cutesy story that’ll make you feel all good at the end of the day. It’s a story that will burrow in your head and remake you think about somethings that you might’ve thought were pretty solid.

I really enjoyed reading this volume and seeing the characters again. It has a really cutesy art style that may be a turn off for some, but it serves a purpose. Again, it’s not a super cute story like a lot of the magical girl stories are, it may look the part but beyond that it’s vastly different. I found it interesting how the artist took the scenes from the anime, because in the anime there’s a lot of psychedelic animation that was really trippy to look at. A lot of that feeling I think was lost from screen to page, but I loved how the artist still brought a lot of creativity from those scenes to life.

I don’t recommend this manga to the faint of heart. It’s gory with a lot of false hope and questions that aren’t answered until later. Some of the characters may seem a little cliché now, which may be a turn off for some people, but by the end they won’t be. If you want something different, and don’t mind a dark, hopeless story, then this manga may be for you!

Book Review: An Unlikely Friendship

Note: I got a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review, which reads as follows:

Details:

Title: An Unlikely Friendship (Book 1 of the Fidori Trilogy)

Author: Jasmine Fogwell

Publisher: Destinee S.A.

Release Date: April 8th, 2016

Genre: Young Reader, Fantasy, Illustrated

Pages: 118

 

Synopsis:

While living in the old inn of Nemeste, James discovers that he and his parents are not the only ones calling the inn home. On the third floor lives a mysteriously old lady named Rionzi DuCret. Though Rionzi is feared by the villagers and confined to her room, she and James strike up an unlikely friendship and soon discover that they have both befriended leafy, mushroom footed creatures in the woods called ‘Fidoris.’ But the friendship is threatened as Rionzi grows suspicious of James’s claim of a certain Fidori sighting. How could he have found out about her deepest secret? Have the villagers set a trap for her to finally prove that she is insane?

My First Thoughts:

I’m always looking for books for younger readers, because I understand that parents are always looking for books for their kids. So when the author came to me and asked for a review, I was pretty excited to read and share another kid’s book! After reading my last book, I was also looking for a light story full of fun and uplifting moments.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

Growing up, the only chapter books I read as a kid were Magic Tree House and the American Girl Dairies. I never read any of the others, so I don’t have much experience with chapter books for young kids. With that being said, I found that this story was very average and followed exactly as the synopsis read. There were no surprises or twists. The story just followed the given path, which is fine, but it didn’t add any excitement to the book.

Ms. Fogwell’s writing style is a little amateurish, which is understandable because it’s her first published book. Every new author’s first book is very stiff or reads a bit awkwardly, especially if the books don’t go through professional editing. With that said, even though the author’s writing voice sounds amateurish, it’s honestly not that bad. Mostly, there were just details and words that I don’t think a young kid would pick up or know. Also, the pacing of the story was very slow and might have a hard time keeping a child’s attention, but that’s dependent on the child. There was some action, but it was mostly a lot of conversation between the little boy and the old lady, which might not hold well with younger kids. Again, I don’t have much experience in that area. However, for future works the author can maybe step away from a more dialogue driven story and write with being the bigger driver.

Another thing that threw me was the end. When I got to the end of the book I wasn’t really left with the sense of ‘oooo! I need the next book!’ Instead, I felt a bit off put by the ending because it was so sudden and a little out of nowhere. I understand the pieces that lead up to the final reveal, but it didn’t really have much of an effect on me and it didn’t leave me wanting more. Now, I would like to continue with the story because I’m curious about where the author will take it, but that curiosity was not initially there when I finished the book. A younger reader may be completely different and beg for the next book right away, or they may feel a bit ‘so what’ and not bother continuing.

I think the reason why I do want to continue this series is because the author spent so much time with the area and the lore. I loved what she had to say about the Fidori and the world building she did in An Unlikely Friendship, but I’m not sure kids will have the same fascination that I do. I remember when I was younger I didn’t care much for all the background information, I just wanted action. However, I think that this book would be received better by younger audiences if it were read to them.

The illustrations were interesting to look at, but they didn’t always appear in the right place. Sometimes the illustrations for a certain scene would appear before the scene actually occurred, which through me off and out of the story a few times. I’m not sure why they were out of place, but if they were moved closer to their actual scenes then it they might better help illustrate the story.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, I’m not sure what kids would actually think of this book. I think the best approach, is for it to be read to children by their parents or teachers. I think that An Unlikely Friendship would be a wonderful book for kids to hear. However, if kids have to read this book on their own it may or may not have a hard time keeping their interest for all 100 plus pages.

For older audiences, if you enjoy magic and lore then this book may entertain you. There are some obvious flaws that the writer can easily approve upon with practice, but the world building is quite wonderful and the story would be interesting to follow or the lore alone. For those who aren’t into lore very much, then this book would not suit you very well.

Rating:

3/5

For a first novel, An Unlikely Friendship is a good start for Ms. Fogwell. The lore is interesting to read about and I’m curious to find out more about the Fidori! Her voice will grow with time along with her writing style; I hope to read her later books to see how she improves.

Related Reviews/Books:

COMING SOON!!!

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!!!