Amulet: The Stonekeeper is a very strange but beautiful graphic novel

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Amulet, Volume 1: The Stonekeeper

author : kazu kibuishi

pages : [hardcover] 192

summary :

Graphic novel star Kazu Kibuishi creates a world of terrible, man-eating demons, a mechanical rabbit, a giant robot—and two ordinary children on a life-or-death mission.

After the tragic death of their father, Emily and Navin move with their mother to the home of her deceased great-grandfather, but the strange house proves to be dangerous. Before long, a sinister creature lures the kids’ mom through a door in the basement. Em and Navin, desperate not to lose her, follow her into an underground world inhabited by demons, robots, and talking animals.

Eventually, they enlist the help of a small mechanical rabbit named Miskit. Together with Miskit, they face the most terrifying monster of all, and Em finally has the chance to save someone she loves.

review :

Amulet: The Stonekeeper is a really interesting graphic novel that sets up an intriguing world, but doesn’t stand well on its own.

This graphic novel is filled with gorgeous illustrations that really stand out more than the text, mostly because the fantastical creatures and world that Emily and Navin accidentally fall into comes into play very quickly in the novel. Besides, it felt like half of the panels had no text to them at all, so you need the illustrations to keep the story moving onward.

Most of the creatures in this other world are terrifying–I’m not sure of the age range to recommend this book to because of how frightening these things are to look at. Plus, they’re intent on either kidnapping or killing these kids–I’m not certain which is truer–and mange to take away their mother in a very gross and horrific way.

Still, one of their closest allies is an adorable robot bunny, so I’m not sure of what angle the author is going for here. So many characters are introduced, and all set up to do . . Something. The plot remains a little mysterious even when this book concludes. I know that there are several more books, and here was enough to interest me just from this first installment, but I feel like the series could have been condensed if we’d just been offered more information here. I have no idea of why the amulet is important or does what it does. Why Emily and Navin are involved. What this world is. What these creatures are that are working against them. There are so many questions that, despite the gorgeous visual world-building, I needed more physical answers to keep me rooted in the story.

While I’d recommend this book, I’d say try to hunt down the first few of the series at the library, so you can read them all at once and see if the story really is for you.

3/5 stars

 

Forget Me by K. A. Harrington

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Forget Me

author : k. a. harrington

pages : [hardcover] 288

favorite character : evan

summary :

An edge-of-your seat psychological thriller with a romantic twist

On the three-month anniversary of her boyfriend Flynn’s death, Morgan uploads her only photo of him to FriendShare to get some closure—but she’s shocked when the facial recognition software suggests she tag him as “Evan Murphy.” She’s never heard of Evan, but a quick search tells her that he lives in a nearby town and looks exactly like Flynn. Only this boy is very much alive.

Digging through layers of secrets and lies, Morgan is left questioning everything she thought she knew about her boyfriend, her town, and even her parents’ involvement in this massive web of lies.

review :

I’ve picked up a few different young adult mysteries lately and have been really interested in getting more into the mystery/thriller genre. I think it’s interesting to see how stories like these can really grip you, shock you, and pull you into the narrative. Unfortunately, though Forget Me had a great start, it ended up being a big disappointment.

Morgan’s boyfriend, Flynn, was killed in a hit-and-run. Worse, she witnessed the accident. But when she uploads a picture of him as a memorial to a website and is asked to tag his picture with some other boy’s name, a boy who looks exactly like Flynn, she wonders if he’s really dead at all. Or if the accident wasn’t what it seemed.

Throughout the book, there are all of these hints at some bigger picture story happening and the pieces don’t fall into place until the finish. Which, y’know, is expected in the mystery. But Morgan’s town has been run into the ground because the big company that used to employ so many townspeople has shut down. I thought that there was going to be a whole conspiracy surrounding that, because it seemed like most of the people working there were scientists. I figured there was some genetic testing going on there or a crazy answer like that would be found in the mystery. What the plot really builds up to, though, is less satisfying.

I won’t give away the ending. But I will say that Forget Me really fell when it came to pacing. So much of the middle of the book fell flat while Morgan was navigating the mystery. And then, in the last 20 or so pages, so much information was randomly packed into them. Pieces that had no build-up to them whatsoever and seemed much too convenient, and unsatisfying, an answer to all of the intrigue and quirky clues we’d been getting throughout the novel.

I’m going to keep on reading mysteries, but won’t be recommending this one.

3/5 stars

Reign of Shadows was a Rapunzel retelling that’s both amazing & disappointing

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Reign of Shadows

Reign of Shadows #1

author : sophie jordan

pages :  [hardcover] 304

memorable quote :

Life is full of regrets.
They’ll cripple you if you let them.

favorite character : luna

summary :

Seventeen years ago, an eclipse cloaked the kingdom of Relhok in perpetual darkness. In the chaos, an evil chancellor murdered the king and queen and seized their throne. Luna, Relhok’s lost princess, has been hiding in a tower ever since. Luna’s survival depends on the world believing she is dead.

But that doesn’t stop Luna from wanting more. When she meets Fowler, a mysterious archer braving the woods outside her tower, Luna is drawn to him despite the risk. When the tower is attacked, Luna and Fowler escape together. But this world of darkness is more treacherous than Luna ever realized.

With every threat stacked against them, Luna and Fowler find solace in each other. But with secrets still unspoken between them, falling in love might be their most dangerous journey yet.

With lush writing and a star–crossed romance, Reign of Shadowsis Sophie Jordan at her best.

review :

There were some parts of this story that I loved so much. Parts where I wanted to toss the book in the air while I celebrated how wickedly awesome that new detail or plot point was. And then something would happen that would be utterly predictable, or just a little cringe-worthy, so, slowly, my enthusiasm waned.

So. Rapunzel is my favorite fairy tale, hands down. From the creepy old versions right up to Tangled, it’s my thing. I’m kind of even working on my own version of it.

Luna is awesome as a Rapunzel heroine. She can handle her own in any situation, even though she’s barely left her tower throughout her life. Basically, if I had to be stuck in this terrible world filled with a perpetual night, I’d want her as an ally because I’d probably get out of it alive. Unfortunately, as soon as tall and brooding Fowler showed up, there was insta-love all over the place. The kind where Fowler, in his half of the chapters, gets very angst-y about how he’s never going to even care for someone again, much less love them. You’ll see how well that turns out.

However, I did enjoy the dual narration. They each had their different life experiences in this horrible world so it was interesting to get a more complete view of it by cobbling together their thoughts and memories. But there were a few plot twists dealing with them that were so heavily foreshadowed, I was not surprised in the least. I was actually kind of surprised that I was right about what was going to happen because I was hoping I was being tricked, in some way.

The thing I have most of a problem with, I think, is that this is supposed to be a duology and it could all be one book. I reached the ending and feel like I didn’t get to the meat of Reign of Shadows yet. It still felt like an introduction to only the superficial problems this kingdom is facing. It makes me worried that too much is going to be packed into book two. The cliffhanger ending here is frustrating because it reads more like a chapter ending with a cliffhanger than an actual conclusion to a book.

I’m definitely going to read the sequel, just to see where things go, but I won’t be purchasing it for myself.

3/5 stars

A Wind in the Door is a confusing sequel to A Wrinkle in Time

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A Wind in the Door

Time Quintet #2
Book 1: A Wrinkle in Time

author : madeleine l’engle

pages : [hardcover] 224

summary :

It is November. When Meg comes home from school, Charles Wallace tells her he saw dragons in the twin’s vegetable garden. That night Meg, Calvin and C.W. go to the vegetable garden to meet the Teacher (Blajeny) who explains that what they are seeing isn’t a dragon at all, but a cherubim named Proginoskes. It turns out that C.W. is ill and that Blajeny and Proginoskes are there to make him well – by making him well, they will keep the balance of the universe in check and save it from the evil Echthros.

Meg, Calvin and Mr. Jenkins (grade school principal) must travel inside C.W. to have this battle and save Charles’ life as well as the balance of the universe.

review :

When I recently read A Wrinkle in Time because my friend suggested it to me, I was shocked to reach the end of the book and realize that there were four more companion books created after that original story. Unfortunately, A Wind in the Door is a little too slow and uneventful for my taste.

This companion book captures the same whimsical tone present in its predecessor but tries, perhaps a little too hard, to be as deep and meaningful as A Wrinkle in Time can be. The themes and morals were overtly obvious in this story, to the point where I’m not sure a child would enjoy reading it without thinking they were being preached to.

New, mystical characters joined the children on their journey, as well as surprising allies, like their principal Mr. Jenkins. Maybe to teach children that principals aren’t so bad, after all?

Although the events of the story moved sluggishly, as Meg and Calvin team up with the others to try to save Charles Wallace, the ending was incredibly rushed. Meg needs to complete three tasks to save Charles Wallace and after the second one I think the third is packed into just two pages, not the dozens the other two were afforded. We barely get a glimpse at the aftermath and the book is already over.

I’m not sure, really, what the other companion novels will be about, but I might give them a try. These aren’t my favorite books but their whimsical adventurous nature might appeal to some readers.

3/5 stars

 

 

Children’s Book Chat: The Pied Piper’s Magic

6334420Lately I’ve needed to read several children’s picture books for school. Here I’ll jot down my thoughts about them, whether I’d recommend them or not, and if I’d have liked to see it in a classroom or as something for kids I know to read.

The Pied Piper’s Magic by Steven Kellogg.

-This is a retelling of the Pied Piper like you’ve never seen it before, and not only because the main character and piper is an elf named Peterkin.

-The story was a little odder than expected. The pipe doesn’t play music; it plays words into the air, which can sometimes be flipped around to magically transform things into something other than what they originally were.

-The illustrations are very vivid, with wonderful colors and words piped by Peterkin woven into the backgrounds in very interesting and cool ways.

-Reading this aloud to a child would be a chore because of all of the words spelled out in the books (like r-a-t-s which can’t be read as rats) though it would teach younger kids more about spelling and how different words can look and sound similar.

-Because the story focuses so much on words and not real “magic” like might be anticipated from the cover, it’s less magical than grammatical.

I think this book could be useful when children are beginning to learn to spell and write, though it wasn’t a favorite of mine. I wouldn’t want to have to read it aloud (some of the words spelled out are quite long, when they’re repeated several times!) and kids might be confused when trying to read it themselves. Still, the pictures are really captivating, and of course there’s a happy ending to look forward to.

Tarnished by Kate Jarvik Birch

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Tarnished

author : kate jarvik birch

pages : [hardcover] 304

favorite character : missy

summary :

Freedom comes at a cost…

Ella was genetically engineered to be the perfect pet—graceful, demure…and kept. In a daring move, she escaped her captivity and took refuge in Canada. But while she can think and act as she pleases, the life of a liberated pet is just as confining as the Congressman’s gilded cage. Her escape triggered a backlash, and now no one’s safe, least
of all the other pets. But she’s trapped, unable to get back
to Penn—the boy she loves—or help the girls who need her.

Back in the United States, pets are turning up dead. With help from a very unexpected source, Ella slips deep into the dangerous black market, posing as a tarnished pet available to buy or sell. If she’s lucky, she’ll be able to rescue Penn and expose the truth about the breeding program. If she fails, Ella will pay not only with her life, but the lives
of everyone she’s tried to save…

review :

I was so excited to get my hands on Tarnished because with the ending of Perfected, the first book, I absolutely needed to know what was going to happen next in Ella and Penn’s story. While I feel like Tarnished suffered from second-book syndrome, it really did a great job of building itself up to a conclusion in what I’m pretty sure is a trilogy. I guess I’ll need to wait for book three to find out if I’ll get all of my answers there!

In Tarnished, Ella’s story begins in Canada, where she’s being looked after as a fugitive pet. She desperately wants news of what is happening to Penn back in New York because of what happened during their escape. She teams up with an unlikely ally to smuggle herself back into the United States, not only so that she can reunite with her boyfriend but so she can expose the kennels and win freedom for herself, and other pets, once and for all.

I think what’s unfortunate for this book is that there are several others extremely similar to it that came out around the same time it was published. Just one that comes to mind is The Jewel; I’mc certain there are many more. I don’t understand what it is about authors who were all tempted to write about the forced enslavement/servitude of girls, all with an insanely creepy edge, but Tarnished manages to stand out so far because Birch really talks about the politics that go into play when some standard like this is being ‘normalized’ in society. It’s kind of scary, knowing that this same thing happens, with different results, in reality. Ella doesn’t know who to trust because the politicians are the ones who own all of the pets, the police are being bought, and half of the population doesn’t consider pets like her to be even close to human. Her actions bring about a kind of unrest that isn’t exactly foreign in the US today.

Although pieces of this book were predictable, perhaps because the genre has become so over-saturated, Tarnished still kept me on my toes. I wanted to know what was going to happen to the girls because even when I knew something terrible was going to happen, I didn’t know how that horrible moment would take shape. I think some readers might be slightly put-off by how naive Ella seems to be. But she’s been cloistered throughout her entire life so, really, it doesn’t make sense that she would put together answers that the reader will inevitably guess at. I want Ella to get her happy ending, after all of the horror she’s endured and had to learn about, just as much as she wants it for herself.

This book was a quick read, with some great action and an interesting premise. I’d recommend it.

3/5 stars

Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George

Silver in the Blood

Silver in the Blood #1

author : jessica day george

pages : [hardcover] 358

favorite character : lou

summary :

Society girls from New York City circa 1890, Dacia and Lou never desired to know more about their lineage, instead preferring to gossip about the mysterious Romanian family that they barely knew. But upon turning seventeen, the girls must return to their homeland to meet their relatives, find proper husbands, and—most terrifyingly—learn the deep family secrets of The Claw, The Wing, and The Smoke. The Florescus, after all, are shape-shifters, and it is time for Dacia and Lou to fulfill the prophecy that demands their acceptance of this fate… or fight against this cruel inheritance with all their might.

With a gorgeous Romanian setting, stunning Parisian gowns, and dark brooding young men, readers will be swept up by this epic adventure of two girls in a battle for their lives.

review :

I first heard about Silver in the Blood because I’ve read some of Jessica Day George’s work before. She tends to publish works influenced by fairy tales, which are always my absolute favorite stories to read. Coupled with this gorgeous, intriguing cover, I had to pick this up when I finally spotted it at the library.

Silver in the Blood is nothing like I anticipated. Although it has a slow pace, it has an interesting setting, premise, and characters. Leading ladies Dacia and Lou are polar opposites; Dacia is outspoken and wild whereas Lou is quiet and prone to panic in social situations. From the very beginning, I related and loved Lou. I loved how her character developed and rooted for her from the start. I do think that her personal journey went on a little quickly, though of course there are mysterious forces at work in this book so I’m assuming that ‘magic’ aspect might have had an influence on her personality. Because that was never expressly started, I had a little issue with it.

I don’t think that I would have enjoyed this plot so much if it hadn’t been for the setting. Not only was it fantastic to read a book set in Romania, because there aren’t many of those on my shelves, but both ladies are well-bred women at the end of the 1800s and have several social stigmas to fight against. I love how neither of them differed to men or once considered her limitations (apart from some complaints about how their dress limited their movement!). Lou and Dacia need to keep their reputations pristine in society, of course, but they find ways around that and, when it comes to their true happiness, neither seems to care what ‘society’ thinks of them.

The magical aspects of this book are fantastic; I won’t go into it in detail because it takes practically half of the book to get to the great reveal to the girls about what their family is. And I’m thankful I didn’t read the book summary before I picked it up, or else it would have all been spoiled for me before I’d be able to read and use context clues to figure the mystery out for myself. It’s utterly disappointing that they’d have so much detail on the summary when they know readers won’t get to it for hundreds of pages!

There were many tiny details that frustrated me because I wanted further explanation; I didn’t know until I finished this book that it was obviously setting itself up for a sequel. While I do think that an entire, faster-paced story could have been told about this world and these characters, I’ll be picking up the sequel. Now that the basics of the story have been established, I’m hoping that the plot will really pick up speed!

3.5 stars