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!

Related Reviews/Books:

COMING SOON!!!

Book Review: Magonia

Magonia

Details:

Title: Magonia

Author: Maria Dahvana Headley

Publisher: HarperCollins

Release Date: April 28 2015

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Science Fiction (kind of), Romance

Pages: 309

Synopsis:

Aza Ray is drowning in thin air.

Since she was a baby, Aza has suffered from a mysterious lung disease that makes it ever harder for her to breathe, to speak−to live.
All the doctors can do is give her drugs and hop they keep her alive. So when Aza catches a glimpse of a ship in the sky, her family chalks it up to a cruel side effect of the medication. But Aza doesn’t think this is a hallucination. She can hear someone on the ship calling her name.

Only her best friend, Jason, listens. Jason, who’s always been there. Jason, for whom she might have more-than-friendly feelings. But before Aza can consider that thrilling idea, something goes terribly wrong. The sickness catches up with her.

Aza is lost to our world.

And found in another.

Magonia.

Above the clouds, in a land of trading ships, Aza is not the weak and dying thing she was. In Magonia, she can breathe for the first time. Better, she has immense power. And she can use it to change the world.

As she navigates her new life. Aza discovers that war is coming. Magonia and Earth are on the cusp of a reckoning. In Aza’s hands lies the whole of humanity−including the boy who loves her. Where do her loyalties lie?

 

My First Thoughts:

The book cover is absolutely beautiful, it definitely drew me in and convinced me to buy the book. I was also interested in the premise of the story and it read very science fiction to me, which surprised me since I found it in the bestseller section of the bookstore and not a lot of science fictions make it there for young adult.

Story Breakdown:

“I’m neither a genius nor a kid destined to become a wizard. I’m just me. I read stuff. Book are not my only friends, but we’re friendly. So there.”

Aza Ray is a fifteen year old girl with a history of hospitals, a disease so rare that they named it after her, and enough snark and literary references to make someone’s head spin. Her attitude stems from the knowledge that any day she can die, at any moment her heart will stop because she can’t get enough air. She can’t breathe right on Earth and her body shows the signs of it, pale skin, blue lips, veins showing clearly through her thin skin. But she’s strong, she’s been living for more than any doctor thought she would or could, and even after she leaves Earth her strength keeps her from going insane. Aza is a strong heroine that survives the world of Magonia with her snark and determination. She’s the kind of young heroine that tries to do everything by herself until she needs help, and she rarely likes asking for help. She’s a fast learner and a fighter that doesn’t give up when the game changes or all hope seems lost. Sure she has her up days and her down days, but what fifteen year old girl doesn’t? Aza is a very realistic teenage girl that had a rough life, but a loving family.

“I keep waiting for Aza to fall out of the sky and into my arms. I know I sound unbelievably sexist saying that, but I keep wrongfully imaging catching her like a fireman outside a window.

Just thinking this way makes me want to bang my head against the floor.”

Jason is Aza’s best friend, the boy who dressed in an alligator suit and walked miles to go to her birthday party when they were five. He has a quirky character that knows so many factoids, has connections in all places and the brain power of Einstein, and the habit of reciting the numbers of pi that he knows when he panics. Reading from Jason’s point of view every once in a while was refreshing, and Headley did an amazing job keeping his character masculine and separate from Aza. His character may be a little unrealistic in some respects, but really anything can happen and all of his quirks just add to the depth of his personality. He’s a loyal friend that refuses to give up on Aza and does everything in his power to find her, because a life without her is no life at all.

Usually I don’t talk about book themes because they’re usually s subtle that it really isn’t worth it. However, there were a few themes in this book that really stood out and impressed me.

The first theme that was shown was not only gay couples, but gay couples raising a child. I’m not going to say who or anything, but I loved how the author just brought this up in her book. Most authors either force two same sex characters together, or do it so subtly that not many people remember them or the relationship. Headley, on the other hand, makes two of her supporting characters gay and gives them real important parental roles in the story, to show that even gay couples can raise a child up right. This wasn’t a real important theme, but it made me really happy to see it show up in a bestselling and popular book.

Another theme, which is much larger, is environmental changes and the impact of human development on the environment. I know, most of the time this theme isn’t well liked in books because the author just shoves it down your throat and gripes about the same thing all the authors are griping about. However, in this book it actually plays a big role in the story and how it develops. Headley also shows the impact human development has had on the environment, especially on animals that we might not know are actually there. For those who are environmentally conscious, or a student of ecology, some of the things she mentions might be a big eye opener.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

Magonia = Treasure Planet + Any other pirate literature+ Birds + Harmony + Creative license + A hyperactive imagination

This story was bloody fantastic. There were so many literary references, like Little Woman, Harry Potter, and Moby Dick to name a few. The characters were so different, unique, and all around likeable. Aza was a strong heroine but knew when she needed help, even when she didn’t always like asking for it. She was also confused, because her life got turned around during a naturally confusing part of childhood. She goes about the confusion well though, not letting it get to her and really shows her character development at the end when she finds her own clarity and answers. She’s snarky, but she’s also kind and always thinking about others, especially those that are not normally thought about. She’s strong but she also has very real weaknesses that she has to overcome on her own.

And Jason, he was definitely refreshing and it was fun reading through his perspective every now and then. He was a male character that wasn’t naturally strong or macho. He was an odd guy that learned pi to impress a girl and then recites it as a panic reaction. He has flaws, very real but manageable flaws that he has to push pass in the story to find Aza. He also doesn’t ignore or try to hide his flaws, everyone knows and he doesn’t care.

The other supporting characters are all pretty realistic, and their actions follow up with what you know of them. Each of them is also different, so that you can remember who is who and not confuse them with another supporting character. And they all add some sort of color or fun to the story that makes their roles that much more important for the supporting cast.

The world building in this story was amazing. The sky is a big empty place and Headley painted it with enough detail to get the ideas across, but left enough room for the readers to paint the finer details. The world she builds is definitely the product of an overactive imagination and a world that any kind of child or creative person would love to see. She also does make an attempt to explain some of the “technologies” and techniques that she uses, and she explains them in a way that doesn’t make the reader feel overloaded with information. Just little explanations here and there, like bread crumbs that lead to the bigger picture.

Speaking of bread crumbs, Headley is another one of those authors that doesn’t tell her readers everything up front. She leaves little details here and there that allow the readers to try to figure out some of the bigger plot points, but not in an obvious way so that most readers know what’s going to happen several pages before it does.

And don’t get me started on the amount of creative license that she used in this story. Fan-bloody-tastic! Most of the time poets are the only ones who use creative license, the ability to ignore the laws of spelling, formatting, and grammar, to add to the literary work, but authors can use it too. Most authors don’t because they view it as unprofessional or something, but Headley uses it a lot in her story to set the mood and drive the feelings home. Never have I seen a young adult book that uses so much creative license, but in a way that actually adds to the story and the reading experience; it was my favorite part of the novel.

Final Thoughts:

I absolutely loved this story, from the characters that run around to the world that Headley builds around them. I also love the fact that her idea for this story came from lore and history, and she actually references some of the things she read and researched in the story itself. It amazes me when authors take an idea from mythology or lore or even early history and just run with it, and that’s what Headley did. This story was definitely a ‘what if’ kind of story that wasn’t half-done. I wouldn’t call this story science fiction, at least not true science fiction, because the author doesn’t completely explain the “technologies”, techniques and the people she created. It’s more of a fantasy set in a real world setting with things that seem kind of high tech, but not really. In fact Aza has a great line that really explains it, “Fine, Jason. It’s magic. I can’t really help you. I don’t get it either.

The only thing I have to complain about is that there were times in which I had to turn off the more logical part of my brain because some of the things Headley describes wouldn’t actually work scientifically. I’m not saying that she explains things wrong, but because of all the science classes I have taken I think of a lot of the more minor details, consequences, and such, like infection and how the anatomy would work. But honestly it doesn’t happen often and all of the creative things she writes and the formatting she uses totally overshadows most of it!

Rating(s):

4.5/5

The only reason this book doesn’t get the full five out of five is because of the times I had to turn off the logical side of my brain that knows a lot about biology, anatomy, marine biology and environmental science. But the overall story was beautiful, funny, and heartbreaking. The author knew how to play with emotions and to write to those emotions. I loved all the references that she dropped, and some of the smaller ones appeared so subtly that sometimes I had to read over it again to catch it. I can’t get over how much I enjoyed Aza and Jason’s commentary as they told the story, some points even made me get teary eyed. The romance between them didn’t take precedence, instead it acted like a seasoning to an already amazing dish that just enhanced the original flavor. I loved all the things the author did to set the mood and add to the reader’s experience, and I loved the world that she created. There’s also so many good quotes in this story, about life, love, confusion, fear−you can find a quote for just about anything. I suggest this book to anyone, young and old, because it’s definitely a refreshingly different young adult book.

Related Reviews/Books:

Coming soon!

Book Review: Sea of Shadows

Sea of Shadows

Details:

Title: Sea of Shadows

Author: Kelley Armstrong

Publisher: HarperCollins

Release Date: April 8th 2014

Pages: 406

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Paranormal, Horror

Synopsis:

In the Forest of the Dead, where the empire’s worst criminals are exiled, twin sisters Moria and Ashyn are charged with a dangerous task. For they are the Keeper and the Seeker, and each year they must quiet the enraged souls of the damned.

Only this year, the souls will not be quieted.

Ambushed and separated by an ancient evil, the sisters’ journey to find each other sends them far from the only home they’ve ever known. Accompanied by a stubborn imperial guard and a dashing condemned thief, the girls cross a once-empty wasteland, now filled with reawakened monsters of legend, as they travel to warn the emperor. But a terrible secret awaits them at court—one that will alter the balance of their world forever

My First Thoughts:

Honestly, it was the cover that grabbed me more than anything else. It was not until after I bought the book that I actually read what the story would be about…oops! But from looking at the cover I could tell that it would be a fantasy with more Asian elements than Western, which I don’t see that often, especially in Young Adult books! And for those who can’t tell, I know it took me a while of just staring at the cover like an idiot to figure it out, but the red swirl in the middle has a bird’s head, which may represent the phoenix.

Story Breakdown:

This story has four major characters, well six if you count the animals. Moria and Ashyn are twins from Edgewood that were originally born in the Northern part of the kingdom, they are known as the Keeper and the Seeker. Since birth, these girls have been trained in ways most other girls can’t imagine, like battle field medicine, weapons handling, and rituals to quiet the dead. Yea, that’s right these girls can hear dead people and it’s their job to please them and protect the village people from vengeful spirits. Moria is the Keeper, she and Diago, her Wildcat of the Immortals, are charged with protecting the village of Edgewood from vengeful spirits during the Seeking. Ashyn is the Seeker, she and Tova, her Hound of the Immortals, are responsible for going into the Forest of the Dead and finding the bodies of the criminals sent there to die. When she finds the bodies, she is supposed to perform a ritual to help quiet the damned. The girls may be identical in appearances, but their personalities are completely different. Moria is headstrong, wild, and a bit reckless, taking life into her own hands and living as she pleases. Ashyn, on the other hand, is a shy hopeless romantic wanting a fairytale love but never actually expecting one, and who tries to follow things to the letter and beats herself up if something goes wrong.

The other two main characters are Gavril and Ronan. Gavril Kitsune is a young man from a warrior family sent to Edgewood to guard the Forest of the Dead after his own father, an ex-Marshal, was sent there to die. The Emperor was the one to send Gavril there after convicting his father to death, pretty sick, right? Ronan, the character you meet in the prologue, is a poor thief that was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Him, along with some of his family, gets sent to the Forest of Death to be eaten or killed by the fever there, but he was able to survive.

Every book has underlying themes that aren’t always the main focus of the story, and this book is no exception.

“Anything new is frightening to the superstitious mind”

The beginning of the quote makes an excellent point. Anything new, whether it be food, people, places, or experiences, frighten us because we are creatures of habit. So if something happens to us that we can’t explain right away, we like to jump to conclusions that are usually a bit more creative or imaginary than what actually happened.

“Your coloring is a product of your climate. As are your slow wits.”

Within this insult is a lesson, no matter where you’re from or live, you are a product of the environment around you. Your behavior, speech, beliefs, mannerism, style of dress etc. are shaped by the people around you and the place in which you live. Everything that you gain, usually, makes you best suited for the life you choose, or the life that chooses you.

“Filial piety comes before everything, even obedience to the empire.”

This theme sort of sneaks up at the end, but it really helps tie in the Asian elements in the story. Filial piety, loyalty/respect for one’s father, elders and ancestors, was part of the philosophy of Confucius, which came about during the era of China known as the Hundred Schools of Thought. Basically, it is a philosophy in which you listen to the commands of your father over those of the Emperor. This way of thinking, maybe not in its original form, was really ingrained in Asian cultures and still persists today.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

I will admit that I had a little trouble getting into this book, mostly because it had been a while since I read a fantasy novel so I had to change my mind set. After I got into the swing of things though, it was a lot of fun to read. The story has elements of horror that aren’t overly gory, and honestly the author could have put more descriptions behind the gore if they wanted to make their readers squirm. The story reads like a traditional older fantasy, like the ones my dad reads all the time. Unfortunately, because it’s similar to that style of fantasy, I can imagine a lot of complaints of it being too boring or slow. The romance in the book isn’t overflowing or unrealistic, it took the backseat to the other genres for a good majority of the book. Howeveer, there were some people who complained that there wasn’t enough romance in the book. Honestly if your life went to Hell in a handbasket, would you seriously be putting the moves on some guy or would you focus on trying to survive?

I really enjoyed how this fantasy had more Asian elements than Western. Most fantasies that I have read seem to have more European influences, like clothing, mannerisms, scenery, lore, etc. but this book seemed to have very few of them. The capitol of the Empire was described with more Asian styled architecture and place names. Ancestral worship, or respect, was and still is pretty big in Asian cultures around the world. Even a lot of the warrior family names that were mentioned had more Asian influences, like Kitsune or Tatsu. Though, what I found interesting was how the first names of many of the characters mentioned sounded more Western, especially European.

Final Thoughts:

If you are not one for fantasies like The Wheel of Time or Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, then you’ll probably find that this story is too long and boring with not enough action to drive you to the end. If you hate cliffhangers, then don’t read it. If you want instant gratification, then don’t even think about picking up the book. But if you love traditional fantasies, don’t mind cliffhangers, and are patient, then this book will probably be a good pick for you.

I really enjoyed this book. I will say that it’s not going on my shelf of ‘Greatest Books Ever’, but the story was worth it. The book was different, definitely not a hardcore fantasy, but enough to introduce younger readers to that part of the genre. And I loved the blending of Asian and Western themes, the story’s version of zombies, and watching the relationships between the characters develop under stress.

Rating(s):

4/5

The story had a great idea with interesting characters and minute details. I can’t say this enough, but I loved the more Eastern/Asian themes in the book because they definitely made this book unique compared to others like it. I found the characters’ reactions and personalities under stress to be pretty accurate and interesting to read. The amount of creativity that went into this story, designing architecture, government, society dynamics, families, creatures, and settings was fantastic. However, I wished that the author spent a little more time describing certain actions, mostly the more ‘gory’ bits of the book. Armstrong uses enough detail to give a rough outline, but I think that adding a little more detail would have played up more of the horror side of the genres. I would have loved to have enough detail for the zombies and the other creatures that they fight so that I could be scared along with the characters, but I can also see why she didn’t do that.

Related Review(s)/Book(s):

coming soon!