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!!!

Book Review: Santa and the Christmas Dragon

santa-and-the-christmas-dragon

NOTICE: I was given a free copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review, which reads as follows:

Details:

Title: Santa and the Christmas Dragon

Author: Amanda Roberts

Illustrator: Cherith Vaughan

Translator: Yaqian Gong

Lineart: Ruth Silbermayr-Song

Publisher: Two Americans in China Press

Release Date: September 1st 2016

Genre: Children’s Book

Pages: 32

Synopsis:

Ming the Christmas Dragon
Helped Santa pull his sleigh.
She brought Christmas to China.
Oh, Hip-hip-hoo-ray!

明和圣诞龙
帮圣诞老人拉雪橇
她将圣诞节带到了中国
欧,嘿嘿呼啦啦!

Once upon a time, Santa brought Christmas to China. But how did that happen? Thanks to a little dragon named Ming, Santa, the elves, and all the reindeer are able to learn about Chinese culture and gain the friendship of mighty dragons to help spread Christmas cheer throughout the world!

This beautiful bilingual children’s book – presented in English, Chinese characters, and Chinese pinyin – is sure to delight readers young and old as they learn about spreading holiday cheer and learning about other cultures!

很久很久以前, 圣诞老人将圣诞节带到了中国, 他是怎么做到的呢? 这要感谢一条叫做明的小龙, 圣诞老人, 小精灵, 和驯鹿. 他们学习中国文化, 获取了大龙的友谊, 将圣诞节日的喜悦传播到全世界.

这本美妙的双语儿童书—由英文, 中文汉字, 中文拼音组成. 可以让老少读者一起感受分享节日的喜悦, 并学习到他国的文化!

My First Thoughts:

I’m always looking for children’s books to review just because they brighten up my day and not enough sites review them. But I thought that this story would get me into the Christmas mood and I was curious as to see how this story unfolded.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

The first thing I’m gonna do is geek out a little bit and start out with some trivia. The average human has an easier time learning a second language before their teenage years. After they become a teenager the language centers of their brains start to become more rigid making it harder for them to learn a second language, that’s why it’s difficult to retain any Spanish (or whatever second language you took) after high school or college. However, if a child learned a second language before their teenage years it is easier for them to learn more languages, even after they become an adult. Sure, maybe you’ve retained a few choice words in another language (I myself swear in Italian from time to time after playing Assassin’s Creed) but most people cannot speak the language fluently or even semi-fluently if they learned it after becoming a teenager.

With all that said, I was tickled pink to see the Chinese words and characters written a long side the English words. It was so interesting to see how English translated into Chinese and how different they looked side-by-side. And I could definitely see how useful this book would be if a parent were thinking about teaching their children Chinese, or if they wanted to teach them English. Seeing the translations together and the teaching that could be done with it adds an extra element to this story that not many children’s books have.

The story itself is really cute. It teaches children that not all kids find value in the same things. For example, kids from the Western world might find a lot of enjoyment out of toy trains, robots, stuffed animals and dolls. However, this book shows that Chinese kids might find enjoyment out of completely different toys such as paper kites, oriental dolls, flutes, etc. Overall, it shows that a child’s taste for toys, like anything else, is influenced by their environment and not every child grows up in the same conditions. It also teaches kids a little bit about conflict resolution and comprise. Santa had to find new solutions, such as comprise and adapting to new sets of rules, to the problems that he faced in the story.

The illustrations were rather pleasing to look at. Most of the character drawings were simple, while some of the background drawings were a bit more complex. The coloring was also well done, with nice shading and attention to detail when needed. The illustrator did a fantastic job incorporating traditional Chinese art with their own, though a bit more simplistic than what you would see hanging in an art gallery. The illustrations also followed the mood of the story very well, the images were a darker when the mood was a bit more solemn and they were bright when the mood was cheery.

Final Thoughts:

This book is absolutely fantastic, and I totally recommend buying this, especially if you have children. It’s a fun story to read out loud, it amused my boyfriend and me when I read it aloud to him. The pictures are nice to look at and it’ll bring enjoyment to not only kids, but probably most adults as well.

If you want to teach your kids either English or Chinese, this story is definitely going to help them learn. It does a fantastic job keeping both translations of the story side-by-side, so that you can compare the two. And let’s be honest, it’s pretty nifty to own and read a book that’s also written in another language.

Ratings:

Story: 5/5

If you’re looking for a good Christmas gift for your kids, grandkids, or a friend’s progeny, then look no further! This book will make an excellent book for any child how loves to read, be read to, or wants to learn another language. I highly recommend reading this to your kids or grandkids on Christmas Eve or Day to get them into the holiday spirit, and to provide a laugh or two before the family comes over.

Illustrations: 5/5

I can’t say enough about the illustrations, but the illustrator did a fantastic job bringing this story to life with their art. The colors and styling not only do a wonderful job accenting the story, but they’ll definitely draw the eyes of any child, so be prepared to stare at the same page for more than a few minutes!

Related Reviews/Books:

COMING SOON!!!

Book Review: Empire of Storms

empire-of-storms

Details:

Title: Empire of Storms

Author: Sarah J. Maas

Previous: Queen of Shadows

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Date Released: September 6, 2016

Genre: NEW ADULT, Fantasy, Romance, Action/Adventure

Pages: 693 (Hardcover)

Synopsis:

The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those who don’t.

As the kingdoms of Erilea fracture around her, enemies must become allies if Aelin is to keep those she loves from falling to the dark forces poised to claim her world. With war looming on all horizons, the only chance for salvation lies in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.

Aelin’s journey from assassin to queen has entranced millions across the globe, and this fifth installment will leave fans breathless. Will Aelin succeed in keeping her world from splintering, or will it all come crashing down?

What I first Thought:

So I’ve been waiting for this book for almost a year and the wait almost killed me. I made sure that I got this book the day it was released so that I could read it before the spoilers started pouring out all over the internet. I was actually driving back to school that day after a long weekend of packing, and I added an extra hour and a half to my drive time so that I could go to Barnes & Noble. I actually almost didn’t get it that day, because the B&N that I went to didn’t have the books out, even though their computer said it was displayed in the YA section. I was so mad because they’re usually pretty good about getting popular books out on the day of the release, but I ended up finding the book! It was just lying on the help desk, all by itself in a random stack of books, so I grabbed it and bought it. My expectations were pretty high, fueled by the wait and excitement; I absolutely love Maas’s work!

Overall Thoughts/Opinions:

WARNING: When reading this book, I suggest you find a seatbelt and strap yourself to whatever surface you’re reading on. And please keep your hands and feet inside the ride at all times!

You think I’m kidding, right? No seriously, do yourself a favor and buckle yourself in for the adventure, it is one fantastic thrill ride!

Sarah J. Maas took my expectations and laughed at them as Empire of Storms stomped them into the ground and used them to lift off into space. Translation: the book was bloody fantastic and went way above what I had expected. Typically, I find that when I read long series, normally having more than three books, the later books are much weaker than the first ones. However, Sarah J. Maas has broken that norm for me. I have found that as this series progresses, it gets better and better with each book that Maas rolls out! Her writing, world, and characters improve with each installment and she leaves me craving for more and more.

This book is definitely going onto my favorites’ shelf. There are way too many reasons as to why it belongs there and why you should read this book too. I won’t be able to list everything, but I’ll try to sum things up as best as I can. And I apologize in advance if I ramble and this becomes rather long-winded!

What I love most about Maas’s stories are her characters, whether they’re main characters or minor ones, they’re always well done. This book is no different. The characters from book one are still developing, becoming more and more rounded as their journeys unfold. Her newer characters are developing beautifully as all the character storylines converge. The interactions between the vastly different characters are realistic as well. Maas shows that the stress and death is really putting a strain on the characters and their relationships. The novelty of this grand adventure pretty much disappears as the story progresses, as the characters realize just how impossible everything seems to be and how unlikely their story will end happily.

There were times in which I could see where Maas wanted to go with the story, accurately predicting certain events and character reactions. However, there were still many turns that I didn’t see coming and I enjoyed the good few shocks that I had. I thoroughly enjoyed the details and events that I saw resurface from previous books, riddles and passing words finally taking shape and making sense in this installment. I believe that this really shows how long Maas has been planning this series and that she knew what she wanted to do with it from the beginning.

I’ve also really enjoyed how much Maas has expanded her story. If she wanted to, she could just stick to Aelin’s point of view and the story would still be entertaining. However, she chooses to tell this story from more than one character from different sides of the major conflict, which really helps to round out the story more. She decides to show you what happens on the different sides instead of just telling you why something happened or that it happened. Some stories don’t really need that kind of coverage, but I think it really works out for Maas’s series, especially for Empire of Storms.

The action in Empire of Storms is non-stop, there’s hardly a break between each conflict our characters face. For some people, this may be a deterrent because it doesn’t give them enough time to absorb anything. It’s possible people might find the action too much, wanting a lot more substance between each major action sequence. For myself, I enjoyed the pace of the story and the amount of action written. If Maas added more ‘substance’ between the big sequences then the book would probably be close to 1000 pages. I wouldn’t mind a book of that size, but I’ve heard people complaining about the current books being too long already.

Last thing, I have to rant a little. This book is listed as a Young Adult book, however, I have to severely disagree with that listing. Growing up, YA never really touched on sex. Sure, there were times when it would briefly mention that the characters had sex or the main characters would talk about it. There were even times when the reader would just assume that the characters had sex based on their previous actions. But YA never really had sex scenes, and Empire of Storms definitely has sex scenes that might not be appropriate for some readers. The few sexual scenes aren’t nearly as detailed as erotica or the cheesy romance novels, but it’s more than causal too. I have no problem with these scenes, but I feel as if the marketing category should be changed to New Adult instead.

Final Thoughts:

This book defied all expectations that I had. It was absolutely fantastic and the more I read Maas’s new work, the more impressed I am with how far she’s come.

If you were on the fence about Queen of Shadows read this book! Continue the series, because Empire of Storms answers so many questions and really does a wonderful job of moving the overall story along. You’re emotions will be toyed with, there may be tears of laughter or sadness, or both. It’s an intense read that won’t be easy to put down, I know I had issues getting the motivation to go to class a few times. I don’t suggest people starting this book if they know that they’ll be busy for an extended period of time.

If you really loved Queen of Shadows, then what are you waiting for? Clear your calendar, pick up the book, and dive right in! Don’t be shy! And start reading before the spoilers find their way to you and ruin your experience!

If you’ve never read the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas are have been intrigued by my review, please pick up the series. The first book may be rough for you, but by Empire of Storms you’ll understand where I’m coming from. Also, it’s a good series to dive into if you have a lot of time to kill reading!

Rating:

5/5

I absolutely love Sarah J. Maas’s writing, she’s one of my favorite authors at the moment, and this book is going onto my favorites list. Her characters have grown up so wonderfully, they’ve made me laugh, smile, and cry as I’ve followed their development. The interactions between the various characters were entertaining and very believable, especially as the danger really started to push in on them. I’ve been able to predict specific events, but I’ve still been surprised more often than not, which thrilled me to no end! Again and again I’ve been impressed with Maas, and she has yet to disappoint me!

Book Review: The Jewel and Her Lapidary

The Jewel and Her LapidaryDetails:

Title: The Jewel and Her Lapidary

Author: Fran Wilde

Publisher: Tor.com

Release Date: May 23rd, 2016

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Novella

Pages: 90

Synopsis:

The kingdom in the valley has long sheltered under the protection of its Jewels and lapidaries, the people bound to the singing gemstones with the power to reshape hills, move rivers, and warp minds. That power has kept the peace and tranquility, and the kingdom has flourished.

Jewel Lin and her lapidary, Sima, may be the last to enjoy that peace.

The Jeweled Court has been betrayed. As screaming raiders sweep down from the mountains and lapidary servants shatter under the pressure, the last princess of the valet will have to summon up a strength she’s never known. If she can assume her royal dignity, and if Sima can mas the most dangerous gemstone in the land, they may be able to survive.

My First Thoughts:

I ran across this book at Balticon 2016 in Baltimore Maryland. I was working as a volunteer there and I had some time to take a look at all the book and author stands there. I found this book at a table with a bunch of books by other authors, and something about the cover drew me. I’ve seen other stories that deal with the power of gems and crystals, but this story appeared to be different and it really intrigued me.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

It’s been a while since I’ve read a novella, and honestly, I had to read this book a couple times before I wrote this review. I didn’t reread it because I couldn’t understand the story, oh no! I reread this story so that I could absorb everything I could of the tale and the world the author created. Like I said, it’s been a while since I’ve read a book that was less than a hundred pages, so I wanted to make sure that I didn’t miss a beat and gave this story a proper review.

I find that some short stories are really hard to get into, especially if they’re set in a world that hasn’t already been established. However, Fran Wilde did a fantastic job creating the world of her story in so few pages! There was culture, history, and whole customs described as the story unfolded that really opened up the word for the reader. And it was so interesting that she chose to start her story with a little entry from a fictional tour guide book about the area the story was set in. Even as the story goes on, Fran Wilde evenly breaks up the story with these little entries that tie in with the rest of the story. It was interesting to read the entries that are about the present day Jeweled Valley and their various landmarks and then read about the story set way in the past. It was as if the author went to this fictional Jeweled Valley, looked at all the landmarks and noticed that they’re all connected, and thought ‘hm, there must be some sort of story behind all these, I wonder what it is’. I’ve never run into that kind of storytelling before; it was rather fun and spoke to the historian in me, since I would do something similar when I’m out exploring. Sure, it was a little off putting at first, but I really got into shortly after the story started.

The pacing in the story was wonderful as well. There was a definite rise, a final conflict, and then a conclusion and all within ninety pages. Now, the conclusion is a bit open ended because there are still parts of the story that some readers may want to be told. However, I found that the author did such a fantastic job with her characters and her storytelling, that if readers really paid attention, then they can guess how the rest of the story would end without being told. That’s a wonderful, and rare skill amongst authors to be able to weave their story so well that the readers know how it ends without being told.

Speaking of her characters, Lin and Sima were just wonderful to read. Both girls seem rather small, without a lot of strength or inner power when the story first begins. However, as the conflict unfolds these girls really bloom and it was exciting to see their transformations under stress and dire circumstances. Each girl reveals an inner strength that was dazzling to see, and actually rather motivating, showing that someone that was weak like them could come out stronger through the harshest adversities. It’s through the two of them that Fran Wilde really showed the readers the culture of their world, and just what it meant to be a Jewel and a lapidary.

Her idea about the gems and precious stones actually speaking to people and using them to affect other individuals was brilliant! Sure gems and precious stones have been used in similar fashions before in fantasies and other stories, but this was the first time that they were given such character. It was the first story that I read in which a person could hear a normally inanimate object speak to them, and that they could speak to the object and either be controlled by it or use it to control other people, or protect them. Wonderful concept indeed and it was fun thinking about all the ins and outs about it. Personally, I would have liked there to be more explanation behind the gems mentioned and why they had their affects, for instance, blue topaz whispering courage while battle opal spoke vengeance. However, the lack of that information doesn’t affect the story, now if it were longer then maybe. Knowing that the author spent some time with a jeweler, it would be interesting to know if there was a process or reasoning behind the gems she mentioned and their powers.

Final Thoughts:

This novella is a wonderful read for any fantasy lover! It’s a nice, short story to read in between larger novels or to curl up with on a rainy day. I would recommend this book to anyone; really, I doubt that there’s a reader out there that I wouldn’t recommend it to. Fran Wilde’s storytelling is beautiful, her attention to detail is spectacular, and I would just love to see a glimpse of her mind one day. I would love to pack up my bags and visit this Jeweled Valley she described so well, but alas it’s impossible.

Rating(s):

4/5

The Jewel and her Lapidary is a beautifully written novella that just swept me off my feet, both times I read it! Lin and Sima were just marvelous, and they shined along with the world Fran Wilde created. After reading this fantasy I can’t wait to get my hands on her other novels and read them too!

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COMING SOON!!!

 

Book Review: Blue Spots

Blue SpotsDetails:

Title: Blue Spots

Author: Nicoline Evans

Illustrator: Senyphine

Publisher: Morris Publishing

Released Date: April 11, 2015

Genre: Children’s book, poetry

Pages: 42

Synopsis:

(As written on goodreads)

Blue Spots is a story for people burdened by sadness. In a city where it takes place, emotional scars appear on the characters as blue spots. In our world, these marks are internal and invisible, but in this book they are external and displayed for all to see. They symbolize the various forms of sorrow a person might encounter during their lifetime. My intention when writing this story was to instill hope. I hope it gives those who live with sadness the courage to persevere through their darkest times.

What I First Thought:

I bought this book with several other books from Nicoline Evans from Philcon in New Jersey this past October. The cover looked beautiful and Nicoline told me about the project she was working on with this book as the first of many. After hearing what she wanted to do, making a children’s book for every emotion, I decided that I wanted to help her out and see this series come to life.

Overall Thoughts/Opinions:

This book was absolutely beautiful and wonderful to read. When I first read it, after buying it from the author herself, it brought tears to my eyes. Being in public, I didn’t want to visibly cry, but boy was it hard to keep my cheeks dry.  The story really spoke to me and the art was breath-taking.

When I read this book a second time, months and several terrible events later, I cried again. Sure, the first time I read this book I had quite a few blue spots myself, but by the time I read it again I had several more and the message really spoke to me.

Growing up I developed a ‘keep calm and carry on’ attitude, which basically meant that I cried when necessary, but if something needed to be done then the tears were saved for later. While this attitude helped me in some situations in which I had to keep my head, it made grieving and handling sadness really hard when I had nothing else to do. And lately, I’ve had a real issue with that. With not much to keep me distracted from my grieving and sadness, I’ve spent an unhealthy amount of time thinking of everything that has lead to my sadness and everything that I could have done differently. This isn’t always a bad thing to do, especially in small doses. However, I haven’t been able to do it in small doses and my pain has only accumulated, making things worse because I can’t let go.

Unfortunately, I see many people do the same. We, as humans, don’t handle grief or sadness very well. Some people try to ignore it while others wear it on their sleeves to get attention from the people around them. Some people even let their blue spots rule their lives, using them as an excuse not to succeed or move on.

After reading this book a second time my outlook of my sadness, my blue spots, has changed. I no longer see them as failures, imperfections, or reminders of sadder events. I now see these as proof that I have survived my grief, reminders that I’ve grown stronger as an individual. And I believe the message of this book is one that every child and adult alike should learn, that sadness is just another small part of the larger story that is your life. So if one day you’re completely covered in blue, you can say to the world that you have lived and survived all that was thrown your way.

The illustrations for this book were amazing! They kind of reminded me some of Tim Burton’s style of drawing, where the characters were long limbed and the surroundings had a lot of curling lines and designs. I really liked that Senyphine made the heads larger than normal portions, seeming to focus more on their faces, which is usually the first thing we see of a person or where we focus. The coloring in this book was beautiful too. The shades and colors really matched the mood and added to the story as well.

Final Thoughts:

Read this to your kids! Read this to your friends. Read this to your parents. Read this to your lover. Read this to yourself. Find an excuse to buy the book and read it! The message is absolutely wonderful, one that I wish I had learned sooner, and is applicable to any age. While it looks and reads like a children’s book, any adult would enjoy it too. The poetry is masterful and the illustrations go so well with the story, from the designs to the coloring. This book is absolutely perfect and I would love to see more of this from Nicoline Evans.

Ratings:

Story: 5/5

Fantastic and easy to follow. The story is beautiful and shows the readers a lesson that may appear to be simple, but many people either never learn or forget over time. It brought tears to my eyes and I’m sure it will bring many more as I read it as a reminder to myself. I believe this would make for an outstanding gift to any child, or a thoughtful one to any person you know going through a hard time.

Illustrations: 5/5

I’ve already spoken a lot for the artwork in this book. Senyphine is a wonderful artist with a style that I would love to see again in other books! Her coloring and detailing were superb, making every page harder to look away from, but I wanted to see more and more. I still want to see more of their work!

Related Books/Reviews:

nightmare before christmas

Graphic Novel Review: The Courageous Princess vol. 1

Courageous Princess vol.1

Details:

Title: Beyond the Hundred Kingdoms (The Courageous Princess #1)

Author:  Rod Espinosa

Publisher: Dark Horse Books

Release Date: Dark Horse Books

Genre: Graphic Novel, Fantasy, Action/Adventure, Young Reader

Pages: 245 pages

Synopsis:

Once upon a time, a greedy dragon kidnapped a beloved princess . . . But if you think she just waited around for some charming prince to rescue her, then you’re in for a surprise!

 

Princess Mabelrose has enough brains and bravery to fend for herself! From a mighty dragon with an army of troll to a tyrant tiger king, Mabelrose meets each challenge with pluck and intelligence, winning the help and friendship of the many kindred spirits she encounters in her quest to find her wat home.

 

My First Thoughts:

So I found this book while I was at the beach over Christmas and I’ve been meaning to read it for a while. After finals and packing up my dorm room, I really wasn’t in the mood for a book so I decided to go with a graphic novel! Out of my huge stack this one jumped out at me first.

 

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

This is by far the cutest story that I have read in a long time! For a children’s book, this story really took me by surprise and held my interest until the very end. There were some parts of the story that seemed to be a bit rushed or sudden, like there could have been more development. However, since this is a children’s story, I understand that a child wouldn’t necessarily notice or care for more development, they would want to jump straight into the action. With that in mind, Espinosa does a wonderful job setting up his world and characters enough without boring the reader. He also does an excellent job pacing his story as well, making it the action fast enough to keep up with a child’s attention span, but dragging it out enough to fit older readers as well.

I really enjoyed the world and characters that Espinosa created. His idea of a world in which every fairytale occurred, but you follow the stories of the children and grandchildren of those characters, was fantastic! It wasn’t spelled out, it was a happy little discovery after quite a few name drops were made and little elbow jabs to the original stories. I was actually really thrilled when I discovered that these characters were related to the ones that I grew up reading about in their fairytales, and I always wondered what it would be like if they all lived in the same world…

Anyways, I absolutely loved the characters! Mabelrose and her parents stole my heart in the first few pages of the story. Their relationship was so loving and adorable that sometimes I couldn’t help my slight happy squealing! Princess Mabelrose really surprised me, and I guess it’s because she isn’t your typical princess. She’s a bit of an outcast when it comes to royalty, not super proper or wearing the latest up to date fashion, but her interests and curiosity were quite genuine and so were her attempts at making friends. Still, I was surprised by how much courage she had in the beginning of her ordeal, I surely thought that it would take a rather defining moment for her to develop the courage she had. Instead, she relied heavily on her faith (something else I haven’t seen in a while) and took matters into her own hands. It was her stubbornness and independence that really won me over, making me wish that I had her along with Princess Leia when I was growing up!

I also enjoyed some of the themes that I found in the graphic novel. There was bravery in the face of danger, but also other lessons buried in this Coming of Age story. One lesson that really surprised me was keeping faith in your darkest hour. It’s been a while since I’ve seen something like that in a story, especially nowadays. I found it charming though, because a specific faith was never mentioned and it was clear that there was more than one that the characters, and supporting characters, believed in. It was a nice change to read a story that used faith to help their characters, and not see conflict between the various faiths. It was wonderful to actually read true coexistence amongst faiths.

Final Thoughts:

I recommend this graphic novel to any parent looking for something to read to their younger children, or for children that want to get into comics. Sure, there’re no super heroes and it’s set in a fairytale world, but Mabelrose is a wonderful role model for young girls and boys. The princess is the embodiment of courage and faith, showing that even in the toughest times you can do something great if you’re brave enough to try. I also recommend it to anyone who loves fairytales and wants a light graphic novel read! Not every reader has to be a child.

I do have to say that if reading about a story that focuses heavily on faith makes you uncomfortable, then this might not be for you. While no specific faith is named, there are at least a few different ones running around and the main characters do pray a lot throughout the story. It’s something that you can’t really skip either, because it’s one of the larger themes of the story.

Rating(s):

 

Story: 4/5

For a book targeted for children the story is pretty solid. There were some parts that seemed a little rushed that could’ve used some extension, but children wouldn’t really notice that anyways. The characters each had their little quirks that really made them lovable and enjoyable to read, even the minor characters really stuck out to me.

I’ve seen some complaints about the amount of praying in the story. Honestly, for me, I actually enjoyed how much the main character prayed and relied on her faith to help her find strength. It was also nice to see more than one religion in the story and not one bashing the other, just a subtle example of coexistence.

Illustrations: 5/5

I really enjoyed the art; it brought me back to my childhood when I would read illustrated children’s stories with similar art. I loved how simple the style was. Everything was simplistic, and the artist used color to really make the characters stand out. I also loved how the story used colors and shades to set the mood as well, something that can be hard to do sometimes with a simplistic art style.

Overall: 4.5/5

All in all, this will definitely be one of the stories that I’ll read to my kids one day!

 

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COMING SOON!!!

Book Review: Fortunately, the Milk

Fortunately the MilkDetails:

Title: Fortunately, the Milk

Author: Neil Gaiman

Illustrator: Skottie Young

Publisher: HarperCollins

Release Date: September 17th 2013

Genre: Young Reader, Fiction, Action/Adventure, Science Fiction

Pages: 113

Synopsis:

“I bought the milk,” said my father. “I walked out of the corner shop, and heard a noise like this: T h u m m t h u m m. I looked up and saw a huge silver disc hovering in the air above Marshall Road.”

“Hullo,” I said to myself. That’s not something you see every day.” And then something odd happened.

Find out just how odd things get in this hilarious story of time travel and breakfast cereal.

My First Thoughts:

This book was loaned to me by my boyfriend’s younger brother who was shocked that I never read a book by this author. He was adamant about me reading this book, and the cover of the book looked amusing enough to excite my inner reader!

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

Oh my…that was bloody fantastic! The story, the characters, the illustrations, all of it was amazing and I don’t know where to begin!

Even though this book was short, full of more illustrations than words sometimes, it told a story and really showed its characters better than some of the much longer books that I’ve read recently. The dad was a fantastic and witty storyteller, always thinking on his feet and going with the flow. The young daughter was serious about her music lessons while her brother was more interested in video games, but they both were attentive listeners to their father’s tale.

The story was quite a delight and always on the move, I never knew what to expect next. Time travel, dinosaurs, pirates, aliens, natives, and an angry volcano. This story had it all and I couldn’t guess what would happen next, which was extremely exciting and fun! I loved Gaiman’s use of creative license, how his words sometimes portrayed the action he was describing. Never once did I break from the story. Instead he used his creative license to make the words flow with the story and guide the reader along at the necessary pace.

And the illustrations that went with the story were amazing! The character designs were unique and fit each one, or group, rather well. They were the embodiment of imagination gone wild and they were fun, just like the story. I loved how Young used pen and ink to create such broad yet detailed, neat yet messy (but not lazy) images that went perfectly with each page. And I loved how sometimes the pictures told more than the words on the page, or lack thereof.

Final Thoughts:

I have to say that my boyfriend’s younger brother has fine literary tastes! I laughed and smiled throughout the entire book! It was so much fun to read and honestly it made my day. I can’t wait to read this to my own kids one day.

This story is a fantastic, fun adventure to read to your children, especially before bed to get their imagination going for dreaming. And let’s be honest, you don’t need kids to read this book. If you’re an adult I won’t judge you if you read and enjoy it, because I certainly did!

Rating(s):

Story: 5/5

I’m in love with Gaiman’s writing! This is the first story in a while in which I couldn’t guess anything that was going to happen. It was entertaining, but also gripping as I wanted to know what happened. I applaud Neil Gaiman in his ability to introduce so many characters and create such an elaborate story in so few pages. While I wasn’t on the edge of my seat, I was just as excited to turn the pages and see what would happen next to our heroic and witty dad.

Illustrations: 5/5

Skottie Young was phenomenal with his illustrations, they fit perfectly with this crazy, witty story. I loved how he used pen and ink to bring these characters and scenes to life, and I will definitely be looking out for more of his work!

Overall: 5/5

This is totally going into my favorites!

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COMING SOON!!!