Monday, January 8, 2018

Review - Lumberjanes

Lumberjanes (Lumberjanes #1)
by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Watters & Brooke A. Allen
Date: 2014
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Reading level: YA
Book type: graphic novel
Pages: 27
Format: e-book
Source: library

WHY WE LOVE IT: Five best friends spending the summer at Lumberjane scout camp...defeating yetis, three-eyed wolves, and giant falcons...what’s not to love?!

WHY YOU’LL LOVE IT: It’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Gravity Falls and features five butt-kicking, rad teenage girls wailing on monsters and solving a mystery with the whole world at stake. And with the talent of acclaimed cartoonist Noelle Stevenson, talented newcomer Grace Ellis writing, and Brooke Allen on art, this is going to be a spectacular series that you won’t want to miss.

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Jo, April, Mal, Molly and Ripley are five best pals determined to have an awesome summer together...and they’re not gonna let any insane quest or an array of supernatural critters get in their way! Not only is it the second title launching in our new BOOM! Box imprint but LUMBERJANES is one of those punk rock, love-everything-about-it stories that appeals to fans of basically all excellent things.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Our library needs to seriously get with the program. This is the only volume they have, even though it looks like most of the installments were published in 2014 and 2015. On its own, it's not very impressive. There are too many characters (some with weird speech affectations), and we jump into the end of the action... only to be told what happened earlier. It's an illustrated story, for goodness sake; if this isn't the place to show rather than tell, I don't know what is.

The illustrations are cute, but nothing special. Maybe I just didn't have time to get attached. I actually like the backgrounds better than the characters themselves.

Since these installments are short, I wouldn't mind reading some more to see if the characters or story grew on me. But I wasn't that enamoured with this one to want to seek out the rest. If the library gets the sequels in the future, I might pick them up. Otherwise, I probably won't bother.

Plot: 1/5
Characters: 2/5
Pace: 2/5
Writing & Editing: 3/5
Illustration: 3/5
Originality: 2/5

Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall Rating: 1.86 out of 5 ladybugs

Review - The Stonekeeper's Curse

The Stonekeeper's Curse (Amulet #2)
by Kazu Kibuishi
Date: 2009
Publisher: GRAPHIX
Reading level: MG
Book type: graphic novel
Pages: 219
Format: e-book
Source: library

In this thrilling sequel to AMULET #1: THE STONEKEEPER, Emily and her brother Navin head for Kanalis, a beautiful and mysterious city of waterfalls, where they hope to find the antidote for the poison that felled their mother. That cure lies in the eggs of a giant serpent atop Demon's Head Mountain, but the kids' archenemy, Trellis, is headed for the peak, too. A battle that will engulf all of Kanalis is looming. It's up to Em to triumph over evil while controlling the amulet's power... without losing herself!

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This was definitely weaker than the first volume. More graphic, too, with some of the scariest illustrated villains I've seen in a while. However, it reads pretty young. I know it's supposed to appeal to kids, but a tween telling her mom to basically go away and let the kids handle things because it's too dangerous is way too unrealistic for my taste.

While this series is aimed at middle graders, the plots and themes are kind of simplistic and unsophisticated. The robots and Miskit (What the heck is he? A robot? An animated toy? He heals, so I'm assuming he's organic, but... I don't get it.) were one thing in the first book, but now we've got talking animals and trees, and I'm finding it all just a bit silly. I probably won't be continuing with the series.

Kids might like it, though...

Plot: 2/5
Characters: 2/5
Pace: 2/5
Writing & Editing: 3/5
Illustration: 3/5
Originality: 2/5

Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall Rating: 2 out of 5 ladybugs

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Review - NewsPrints

NewsPrints
by Ru Xu
Date: 2017
Publisher: GRAPHIX
Reading level: MG
Book type: graphic novel
Pages: 208
Format: e-book
Source: library

Blue is an orphan who disguises herself as a newsboy. There's a war going on, and girls are expected to help the struggling economy by selling cookies. But Blue loves living and working at the Bugle, the only paper in town that tells the truth. And what's printed in the newspapers now matters more than ever.

But Blue struggles with her secret, and worries that if her friends and adopted family at the Bugle find out that she's a girl, she'll lose everything and everyone she cares about. And when she meets and befriends Crow, a boy who is also not what he seems, together they seek the freedom to be their true selves... and to save each other.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Thank goodness there's going to be a sequel! I was a bit worried there for a moment...

This is one of the better graphic novels I've read. With its sort of steampunk 1920s setting and nicely drawn illustrations, it's a fun book. While it wasn't the most original in terms of some of the themes (i.e., girl pretends to be a boy so she can actually do stuff in a rather sexist world), it had a decent plot (though not what the synopsis led me to expect). Some of the characters were a bit of a miss for me (the mayor was kind of inconsistent, which didn't make him very believable), but others were downright cool. Crow was absolutely precious and had some of the best lines; I'll be picking up the sequel in the hopes that we get some more of his story!

Overall, this was one of the more engaging graphic novels I've read in the last month or so. I read much of it in one sitting, eagerly turning the pages. It's definitely one to check out, if you like this sort of format and are looking for an entertaining experience.

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Pace: 4/5
Writing & Editing: 3/5
Illustration: 4/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 5/5

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 ladybugs

Review - Sunny Side Up

Sunny Side Up (Sunny #1)
by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm
Date: 2015
Publisher: GRAPHIX
Reading level: MG
Book type: graphic novel
Pages: 224
Format: e-book
Source: library

Sunny Lewin has been packed off to Florida to live with her grandfather for the summer. At first she thought Florida might be fun -- it is the home of Disney World, after all. But the place where Gramps lives is no amusement park. It's full of... old people. Really old people.

Luckily, Sunny isn't the only kid around. She meets Buzz, a boy who is completely obsessed with comic books, and soon they're having adventures of their own: facing off against golfball-eating alligators, runaway cats, and mysteriously disappearing neighbors. But the question remains -- why is Sunny down in Florida in the first place? The answer lies in a family secret that won't be secret to Sunny much longer...

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Well, that was underwhelming.

After reading the note at the back, I understand the message the authors were trying to get across. Unfortunately, that message was wrapped up in a disjointed, boring story that didn't really engage me at all. I wasn't all that impressed by the illustrations, either; maybe they just weren't my style.

Overall, I don't know if I'd recommend this book. There've got to be better ones out there with a similar message. For this age group, entertainment is important; if kids don't want to read (or finish) a book, the message will probably be lost on them.

Plot: 1/5
Characters: 2/5
Pace: 2/5
Writing & Editing: 3/5
Illustration: 2/5
Originality: 1/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall Rating: 1.86 out of 5 ladybugs

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Review - The Dam Keeper

The Dam Keeper (Dam Keeper #1)
by Robert Kondo & Dice Tsutsumi
Date: 2017
Publisher: First Second
Reading level: C
Book type: graphic novel
Pages: 160
Format: e-book
Source: library

Life in Sunrise Valley is tranquil, but beyond its borders lies certain death. A dangerous black fog looms outside the village, but its inhabitants are kept safe by an ingenious machine known as the dam. Pig’s father built the dam and taught him how to maintain it. And then this brilliant inventor did the unthinkable: he walked into the fog and was never seen again.

Now Pig is the dam keeper. Except for his best friend, Fox, and the town bully, Hippo, few are aware of his tireless efforts. But a new threat is on the horizon—a tidal wave of black fog is descending on Sunrise Valley. Now Pig, Fox, and Hippo must face the greatest danger imaginable: the world on the other side of the dam.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

WARNING: minor spoilers - To read this review with the spoilers hidden, check it out on Goodreads.

When I checked this e-book out from the library, I didn't realize it was based on a short film. It does have a very cinematic look to it. The illustrations were probably the best part of the book.

Pig is left to be the dam keeper after his father disappears, and it's up to him to keep the fog at bay. It took a little while for me to realize that the characters are all children. You'd think that a town wouldn't leave its survival up to a young anthropomorphized pig, but I guess we have to suspend disbelief a little bit.

By the time the book ended, the story had only just begun. We've gotten to know the main characters (Pig, whose father was the original dam keeper; Fox, his best friend; Hippo, Fox's friend, who's a bit of a loudmouth blowhard; and now Van, who's some sort of unhinged lizard--and probably my favourite character so far), and we've followed them past the dam into what should be a wasteland... but it turns out that there's more beyond the dam than Pig's father let on.

The art is really beautiful, and I was engaged enough by the story that I wouldn't mind reading the next installment when it comes out later this year.

Plot: 3/5
Characters: 3/5
Pace: 3/5
Writing & Editing: 4/5
Illustration: 4/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall Rating: 3.38 out of 5 ladybugs

Monday, January 1, 2018

Review - The Stonekeeper

The Stonekeeper (Amulet #1)
by Kazu Kibuishi
Date: 2008
Publisher: GRAPHIX
Reading level: MG
Book type: graphic novel
Pages: 193
Format: e-book
Source: library

After a family tragedy, Emily, Navin, and their mother move to an old ancestral home to start a new life. On the family's very first night in the mysterious house, a strange noise lures them into the basement, where Em and Navin's mom is kidnapped by a humongous, tentacled creature and dragged down behind the basement door.

The kids give chase down a twisty spiral stairway and find themselves in a strange and magical world below. Most surprising of all, it seems that their great-grandfather, who was an inventor and puzzle maker, was there before them – and he's left some unfinished business.

Now it's up to Em and Navin to figure out how to set things right and save their mother's life!

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This graphic novel starts in on the action within the first few pages and never stops!

The beginning is a little heavy for kids (think: what happens to the parents in many an animated Disney movie), but the rest of the story has plenty of crazy creatures and adventures to keep its target audience entertained. I found the "chosen one" thing to be a little cliche, and it led to more questions (why Emily and not Navin, for example), but I'm interested to see where the story will go next.

Like some graphic novels in a series, there's no real ending to the story here. By the last page, the kids are still trying to accomplish their goal; they've just moved on to a new locale. I'm not the biggest fan of this sort of thing; I like the books I read to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. But the illustrations are nice enough and I'm intrigued enough by the storyline to want to find out what happens next, so I'll probably check out at least the second book in this series at some point.

Plot: 3/5
Characters: 4/5
Pace: 4/5
Writing & Editing: 3/5
Illustration: 3/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall Rating: 3.38 out of 5 ladybugs

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

End of Year Survey 2017

Here we go! This is the 8th annual End of Year Survey that was started by Jamie of The Perpetual Page-Turner. I didn't bother last year (since I only read 3 books... *cough*), but this year was a little more productive, reading-wise. So, without further ado, here's what I read in 2017:

2017 Reading Stats

Number of books you read: 24
Number of re-reads: 0
Genre you read the most from: fantasy

Best in Books

1. Best book you read in 2017? 
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson.

2. Book you were excited about & thought you were going to love more but didn't? 
The New Hunger by Isaac Marion. I'm glad I read it, but I didn't like it as much as I thought I would.

3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read? 
The Princess and the Penis by R. J. Silver. I enjoyed it way more than I thought I would!

4. Book you “pushed” the most people to read (and they did)?
Come on... I don't have that kind of influence! Nobody even reads this blog anymore...

5. Best series you started in 2017? Best sequel of 2017? Best series ender of 2017?
Best series starter is Scott Westerfeld's Spill Zone. I only read one prequel this year. No sequels at all.

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2017?
I'd love to read more from Aaron Corwin... but he hasn't written anything else!

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?
I went on a graphic novel kick at the end of the year... and now I'm hooked! Roller Girl was the best one I read in 2017.

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?
One Trick Pony by Nathan Hale.

9. Book you read in 2017 that you are most likely to re-read next year?
I don't re-read. Who has time for that?

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2017?
A Day of Signs and Wonders by Kit Pearson. The watercolour look fits with the story perfectly.

11. Most memorable character of 2017?
Ix'thor from Brimstone and Marmalade by Aaron Corwin. (Okay, so the story's from 2013... but it was the most memorable character for me in 2017.)

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2017?
I didn't read any books this year where the writing really wowed me.

13. Most thought-provoking/life-changing book of 2017?
I don't think any of my reads this year really fall into that category.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2017 to finally read?
The New Hunger by Isaac Marion. I loved Warm Bodies so much, you'd think I would've read this prequel ages ago!

15. Favorite passage/quote from a book you read in 2017?
Nothing is permanent. Not even the end of the world. ~ The New Hunger by Isaac Marion

16.Shortest & longest book you read in 2017?
Shortest: The Log Goblin by Brian Staveley (12 pages).
Longest: One by Sarah Crossan (400 pages).

17. Book that shocked you the most?
The Beach at Night by Elena Ferrante. Mostly because you don't expect to find the word "shit" in a children's picture book.

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!):
Soupy and Jack from Soupy Leaves Home by Cecil Castellucci. I don't know if it was intended as a ship or not... but I shipped them anyway!

19. Favorite non-romantic relationship of the year:
Nora and Addis (sister and little brother) from The New Hunger by Isaac Marion.

20. Favorite book you read in 2017 from an author you’ve read previously:
A Day of Signs and Wonders by Kit Pearson. I prefer some of her other books with fantasy elements, though.

21. Best book you read in 2017 that you read based SOLELY on a recommendation from somebody else/peer pressure:
I don't succumb to peer pressure! Never mind the fact that this requires you to have peers to pressure you. Not that I'm peerless. Ahem... What was the question again?

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2017?
This was kind of a dry year for fictional crushes. I wasn't that keen on anyone.

23. Best 2017 debut you read?
I didn't read any.

24. Best worldbuilding/most vivid setting you read this year?
Fish Girl by Donna Jo Napoli & David Wiesner. Being a graphic novel helped... but the setting (an old house converted into an aquarium as a boardwalk attraction) was pretty unique in and of itself.

25. Book that put a smile on your face/was the most FUN to read?
A Wee Book o Fairy Tales in Scots by Matthew Fitt and James Robertson. It was hard to read... but fun, too.

26. Book that made you cry or nearly cry in 2017?
Brimstone and Marmalade by Aaron Corwin. Nearly. My eyes got misty, I'll admit.

27. Hidden gem of the year?
From 2017? I don't know. Any of the titles I'd consider hidden gems (Brimstone and Marmalade or The Princess & the Penis) were written in previous years.

28. Book that crushed your soul?
The New Hunger, I guess. I wouldn't say it crushed it, though; maybe just bruised it a bit.

29. Most unique book you read in 2017?
The Princess and the Penis. Come on. How often do you get to read about a character that's an actual dick?

30. Book that made you the most mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?
If I Wake by Nikki Moyes. The bullying/suicide angle was handled atrociously. Plus, I got attacked by a fanpoodle for sharing my thoughts. A bitter taste all around for this one.

Looking Ahead

1. One book you didn’t get to in 2017 but will be your number 1 priority in 2018?
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. It's been sitting in my TBR pile for way too long.

2. Book you are most anticipating for 2018 (non-debut)?
Naomi Novik's Spinning Silver sounds intriguing.

3. 2018 debut you are most anticipating?
C. G. Drews's A Thousand Perfect Notes. I've read her blog for years, so I'm curious to see how her style will translate into novel form.

4. Series ending/a sequel you are most anticipating in 2018?
The second installment of Scott Westerfeld's Spill Zone graphic novel series.

5. One thing you hope to accomplish or do in your reading/blogging life in 2018?
Read more books that I actually enjoy.

6. A 2018 release you’ve already read & recommend to everyone (if applicable):
I haven't read any 2018 releases yet.

And here are a few more stats, just because I felt like it:

Type of Book

graphic novel: 8
picture book: 5
poetry: 1
prose novel: 6
short stories: 3
verse novel: 1

Genre

contemporary: 4
fantasy: 9
historical: 3
memoir: 1
post-apocalyptic: 3
science fiction: 4

And there you have it! My year in books. Head on over to Jamie's site where others have linked up their surveys.

Happy reading in 2018, everyone!