Sunday, August 19, 2018

Review - Out of Body: A Disturbing Short Story

Out of Body: A Disturbing Short Story
by C. A. Hewitson
Date: 2016
Publisher: C. A. Hewitson
Reading level: A
Book type: short story
Pages: 7
Format: e-book
Source: Kobo

When Hutch dies from a heart attack and has an out-of-body experience, he gets a deathbed surprise like he never imagined.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I'm glad this wasn't any longer than it was (which was only a few pages; Goodreads doesn't even list a length). The full title according to my Kobo app is "Out of Body: A Disturbing Short Story", but the only thing I found remotely disturbing was the last line, because it showed a complete lack of learning on the part of the main character.

The writing is kind of disturbing, too, with lousy punctuation, stereotyped characters (the nurse is "a big, black woman by the name of Oprah with a wicked humor and heart of gold"... of course she is), and even a character smiling their speech (argh!), but what do you expect from a freebie that you can read in under five minutes?

I'm afraid this wouldn't entice me to read any of the author's other works. In fact, it'll probably cause me to avoid them.

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

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall Rating: 1.71 out of 5 ladybugs


Saturday, August 18, 2018

Review - M Is for Maple: A Canadian Alphabet

M Is for Maple: A Canadian Alphabet
by Michael Ulmer
illustrated by Melanie Rose
Date: 2004
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: library

Whether sharing the stories of Anne of Green Gables and Terry Fox, or revealing Canada's importance in growing grain that feeds the world, "M is for Maple" is a shining tribute to Canada. From British Columbia to Newfoundland, this Canadian alphabet book shares our nation's symbols, history, people and culture. In clever rhymes and informative text, author Mike Ulmer shares the unique details of Canada. Illustrator Melanie Rose has captured the beauty and splendor of Canada, from the Northern Lights to brave Mounties and the beautiful cities of Toronto, Victoria, and Quebec. Destined to become a national classic, "M is for Maple" is a treasure for Canadians young and old.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

The fact that this book is so old (and therefore a bit outdated) is probably part of the reason I didn't like it as much as I thought I would. Another reason is the errors in the text. Some of the poems are a bit clunky and wouldn't really roll off the tongue if you were reading the book out loud. And, finally, this is a pretty European-centred alphabet; lip service is paid to the Indigenous peoples of Canada, but they make up a very small portion of this book. Black culture has almost as much representation, with less history (proportionally speaking). While I'm not expecting to see "R is for Residential Schools" in a children's book, I do think the topic of the role of Indigenous peoples in Canada could've been more than a series of footnotes.

The outdated portions are a result of talking about current events or statistics (at least, they were current when the book was written). This could've been avoided by adding some dates, because as it stands, some of the statistics look like they refer to today.

There are a few errors, such as referring to the Salt Spring Islands (Salt Spring is one island, and is never referred to in the plural) and the bit about the inventor of the zipper. The book claims Gideon Sundback was Canadian. He wasn't; he was Swedish, and later had American citizenship. He was the president of a zipper company whose factory was located in Canada. Calling him a Canadian is a stretch at best, and outright inaccurate at worst.

For these reasons, I can't wholeheartedly recommend this book, which is a shame because there are some letters of the alphabet that have some really interesting factoids to go along with them. After reading the book and finding a few errors, though, I'm not sure if there are more inaccuracies hidden throughout the text. It makes me leery about giving the book to a child who might take everything in here as truth.

Quotable moment:

A is for Anne--that's Anne with an E--
a red-headed orphan who loved Avonlea.
The Cuthberts had thought they were adopting a boy,
but that red-headed girl would be their pride and their joy.

Premise: 4/5
Meter: 3/5
Writing: 2/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.71 out of 5


Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Review - Brain Freeze

Brain Freeze
by Tom Fletcher
illustrated by Shane Devries
Date: 2018
Publisher: Puffin
Reading level: MG
Book type: illustrated prose novella
Pages: 112
Format: e-book
Source: library

A little girl discovers that eating ice cream from her grandfather's old ice-cream truck gives her the power to travel through time, in this brilliant, funny and heartwarming story from bestselling author Tom Fletcher.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is an adorable novella about a 10-year-old girl who discovers that brain freeze from eating her ice cream enables her to travel through time in her grandfather's magical ice-cream van.

The subject matter seems young, although the length and the language used probably puts it more on the lower end of middle grade; younger kids would probably enjoy having it read to them, though. While parts of the story are a bit silly, the whole thing is entertaining, and Izzy's relationship with her grandfather is just plain sweet (pun intended).

The writing was just okay for me, and at times it is very British (in spelling, punctuation, and expressions), but it's not so much that it couldn't be understood by North American readers. I just love the illustrations, though; they add some more sweetness into what is already one of the cutest books I've read in a while.

Quotable moment:

'ISABELLE! Do NOT lick the floor!' Mum shouted as I began slurping up as much melted ice cream as I could before Dad hoisted me in the air.


Premise: 4/5
Plot: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Pace: 5/5
Writing: 3/5
Editing: 3/5
Originality: 5/5
Enjoyment: 5/5

Overall Rating: 4.13 out of 5 ladybugs


Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Review - Dreamfall

Dreamfall (Dreamfall #1)
by Amy Plum
Date: 2017
Publisher: HarperTeen
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 293
Format: e-book
Source: Amazon.ca

Cata Cordova suffers from such debilitating insomnia that she agreed to take part in an experimental new procedure. She thought things couldn’t get any worse...but she was terribly wrong.

Soon after the experiment begins, there’s a malfunction with the lab equipment, and Cata and six other teen patients are plunged into a shared dreamworld with no memory of how they got there. Even worse, they come to the chilling realization that they are trapped in a place where their worst nightmares have come to life. Hunted by creatures from their darkest imaginations and tormented by secrets they’d rather keep buried, Cata and the others will be forced to band together to face their biggest fears. And if they can’t find a way to defeat their dreams, they will never wake up.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

WARNING: Major Spoilers! You've been warned.

This is, without a doubt, the worst book I've read so far this year. It may also be one of the worst books I've ever read, but surprisingly, it's not for the reasons that usually make me hate books. This is going to be a long review, so buckle up, grab your marshmallow on a stick, and get ready for a roast.

While the premise of Dreamfall appears to be okay on the surface, it runs into problems almost right away, starting with the study/experiment. I understand that this is fiction, but when you're writing about medical matters, you need to somewhat stick to reality. And in the real world, you wouldn't do a study on one particular therapy for insomnia (in this case, a variation of electroconvulsive therapy) on a group of minors whose insomnia results from different causes. There's no way to account for variability in such a group. The kids in the study have conditions ranging from PTSD and narcolepsy with cataplexy to FFI (Fatal Familial Insomnia); so, before we even get going, the study is already comparing the outcome of a treatment on patients whose condition is caused by psychological factors to patients whose condition is caused by genetic ones.

So, with that shaky foundation, we're launched into one of the dumbest stories I've ever read. The problem with writing about nightmares is that they're totally subjective. What's scary for one person might not be scary for another, and since this is supposed to be horror, you need something that's fairly universal. Walking statues are not. Lakes of mucus are not. Clowns are definitely not. Heck, I've had nightmares about kittens. But if I tried to write that into a book, most people wouldn't be able to relate to my fear.

I think the best way to work through some of the problematic elements of this book is to discuss the characters. There will be major spoilers here, so you've been warned.

Cata

She's one of our point-of-view characters, a bland and generic heroine with such an indistinct voice that I kept forgetting when I was in her head. (She and Fergus, one of the other point-of-view characters, sounded exactly alike.) The only thing that reminded me that she was narrating were the unpleasant little comments that she'd make from time to time.

I’m disgusted with Remi’s defeatism when we’ve barely even tried.

She's got some sort of barely disguised racism going on, because the way she talks to Remi is pretty rude. And there's really no reason for it that I can see. What she calls defeatism, I call common sense. She makes up her mind early on that he's a bad person, and then speaks to him accordingly.

“For God’s sake, Remi, just shut up and push.” I place my hands back on the lid. “And really try this time instead of giving up before you’ve even given it any effort.”

Cata's backstory is stereotypical (complete with her father beating her with a strop; who even owns a strop these days?), and we never do find out what happened to her mother. Did her father kill her? You'd think that, if a woman mysteriously died and one of the kids came forward to say their father was horribly abusive, there'd be an investigation, whether the other kids denied the abuse or not. Anyway, Cata has insomnia because of PTSD, and she also dissociates from time to time (sometimes conveniently for the sake of plot complications).

Fergus

He's our second point of view character, and is also one of the insomnia sufferers participating in the study. If I can point to a favourite character in the book, it's probably him, but only because he didn't annoy me all to hell. He's probably the smartest one in the group (IQ notwithstanding... I'll get to that in a moment).

With a Scottish-Indian background, he almost feels like part of a diversity quota. His ethnicity isn't really relevant, especially since he doesn't know much about his background. (He made some comment about how destroying a Christian cross in a dream would cause karma or something. I'm pretty sure that's not how it works, and if he really did have a Hindu mother, he would've had a better understanding of the belief.)

Fergus has insomnia as well as narcolepsy and cataplexy. The narcolepsy isn't really touched on much, although the cataplexy is brought up. For whatever reason, he lies about it at the beginning and blames his passing out on blood sugar (as if cataplexy is somehow a worse thing to admit to than hypoglycemia). As far as I can recall, though, he only did this once. Mostly, when strong emotions seemed to be about to trigger an attack, he'd rub his tattoo and magically stave it off. (From what I know about this condition, I don't think he'd have it so easy. Even laughing can cause sufferers to keel over. Just imagine that. If you've ever tried to not laugh at something hilarious, you'll know it's next to impossible.)

BethAnn

We don't really get to know much about poor BethAnn before she's taken out in a hail of dream bullets. Because she's got anorexia, her heart supposedly couldn't take the stress of dying in the dream.

BethAnn's backstory highlights another problem in this book, which I'll talk more about later. Basically, she feels guilty because her younger sister drowned while she was babysitting her. Her arc is short, and ends when she steps in front of a bunch of bullets to try to save the others (the scene is so badly written, however, that it doesn't appear that they really needed saving--or that taking those bullets would've helped... so her sacrifice comes off as completely pointless).

Sinclair

Here's another stereotype: the rich, handsome bad-boy. Except Sinclair is, apparently, very bad. A psychopath, in fact. There are very few clues, other than when he kills a tiger that was trying to eat them and Cata makes a big deal about how it wasn't necessary. (It wasn't necessary because their escape was too easy and convenient, but I digress). Aside from flirting and making jokes, Sinclair doesn't really exhibit any inappropriate behaviour. One thing that the author could have done, if she indeed wanted to cast him as a realistic psychopath, was to have his heart rate different from all the other kids. Psychopaths have a lower resting heart rate, and often don't have their hearts speed up in stressful situations the way other people's do. In the study, though, the heart rate acceleration was consistent across all the subjects, which was a missed opportunity to give this character a little more realism.

His backstory is that he probably killed some kids, but his parents covered it up. I don't know why he has insomnia. A psychopath wouldn't lose sleep over killing people.

Remi

Oh, Remi. Poor Remi, the token black kid from "Africa" who speaks with an "African" accent... but with perfect English syntax (even though, as we find out later, he's from a former French colony). I was kind of offended by this character. He's written as if we're supposed to dislike him. He's intolerant of Ant, to the point where it isn't even realistic (yelling at the top of his lungs--in all caps--at the latter's counting rituals and taking it completely personally for some reason).

His backstory is that he's a genocide survivor. Why the author didn't just pick one of many real genocides is beyond me. Instead, she makes up a place called Matangwe, which we find out at the 65% mark is supposedly a former colony. I assumed it was a village, since, when I Googled it, I came up with a village in Kenya. So when he says he's from Matangwe in Africa, it just sounds like the author doesn't realize that Africa is a continent. Still, by making up a fictional place, it looks lazy, as if the author didn't want to do any research. When I looked it up, I found an article about five genocides that were still going on at the time this book was written. Three were in Africa. There was no need to make anything up, especially since the extent of Remi's "African-ness" was the colour of his skin (there are very few details given, and even the nightmare based on his experiences is so generic that it could've taken place almost anywhere in sub-Saharan Africa).

Ant/George

Yes, that's a spoiler. George doesn't even exist. I figured it out long before the characters did. George is basically just a figment of Ant's imagination, somehow manifesting as a real person that the other study subjects can see. This may be because Ant is a Mary Sue. Yes, a Mary Sue, not a Gary Stu. We find out almost at the end that Ant is actually a girl, not a boy as everyone had assumed. And she's not just a Mary Sue: she's an autistic savant Mary Sue.

We don't really know her backstory, other than the fact that she's got an IQ of 160, is autistic and has OCD, but eschews any sort of labels. (This character is probably going to be offensive to multiple groups, but I'll discuss that more later.) She's like a Swiss army knife, always there providing answers (or even weapons conjured out of thin air) whenever they're needed. I'm still not sure why she has insomnia. Maybe it's just due to anxiety.

In any case, her character is kind of inconsistent. At times, she's written as autistic... but only so that people can comment on it. Many of those traits sort of fall by the wayside later, and instead of coming across as autistic, she just seems... young. (She is, at thirteen, the youngest in the group.)

Jaime

He's the third point-of-view character, but he's on the outside. Jaime is a pre-med student, in the room where the experiment is taking place and watching everything that goes on. I do not like Jaime. He keeps doubting himself, deferring to the doctors who are running the study, viewing them like gods.

If this famous scientist hasn’t yet seen a pattern, who am I to point it out to him?

The thing is, the two doctors running the study are a couple of the dumbest doctors I've ever seen. If Jaime thinks he's not as smart as they are, then he's got a problem.

Anyway, Jaime's just there to observe, and yet the "genius" doctors do things like leave him in a room full of medically unstable teenagers while they go off to do a Skype call (I still don't understand why they had to leave a room full of computers to do that) and then yell at him when he has to defibrillate one of the kids to keep them from dying.

Which is why I am able to follow through, even when my peripheral vision catches Zhu rushing through the door, and I hear her scream, “Jaime! What the hell are you doing? Stop right now!”

Of course, he succeeds.

“Jaime,” Zhu says, her face drawn in wonder, “you just saved that boy’s life.”

She seems awfully surprised, doesn't she?

Jaime may be studying to be a doctor, but I sure wouldn't want him treating me. Before the previously mentioned incident, here's a little sample of his thought process:

What am I doing? I’m a premed student, not a doctor.

This boy is dying, a voice says from inside me.

If this doesn’t work and he dies, it could be blamed on me. If I do nothing, I’m blameless.

A life is in the balance.

This could cost me my degree . . . my entry to med school . . . my career.

If you stand by and let him die, you will never forgive yourself.

This could mean ending up back in Detroit.

Better to be safe than sorry.

And then the voice inside me becomes that of my dad’s. My dad, who was always proud of me, no matter what. I hear pride and amusement blend in his low baritone voice. When have you ever taken the safe way?

That is the push I need.

So, in other words, he'd been about to let the kid die to save his potential career. That's not exactly the sort of person I'd trust with my life.

There's also something that happens near the end of the book that just made me roll my eyes. Through a hacker friend of his, he finds out what's really in Sinclair's sealed files, and realizes he's a psychopath. When Fergus emerges briefly from the dream state, Jaime tells him about how the experiment went wrong and that the doctors are trying to find a way to bring them all out safely. And then he figures Fergus should know that they might all be in danger. Does he tell him Sinclair's a psychopath? Oh, no. That would make far too much sense. Instead:

I pray with all my heart he heard my last words: One of you is a psychopath.

Seriously, Jaime?! I almost suspect that he's a psychopath himself, after a stunt like that. It's like he wants to see what they'll do with that information, if they'll tear each other apart. Don't psychopaths love to create chaos?

Dr. Zhu and Dr. Vesper

These two... What do I say about these bumbling fools? They're like the medical equivalent of the Keystone Cops. Aside from the fact that their initial study premise is riddled with holes, they don't seem to know much about medicine in general. And they're so over-the-top dramatic that it made me roll my eyes (see quote above about Zhu's "wonder").

Vesper is staring at her like he’s challenging her to do something impossible. “Call it,” he urges.

She sighs and says, “As of seven fifty-five a.m., I declare all seven subjects comatose.”

When BethAnn goes into cardiac arrest, they do call the EMTs, but like every other medical personnel in the building, they're not much better.

The EMTs are there within seconds. I stand to the side, watching in horror as they take Vesper’s place, charge the paddles, and begin delivering shocks to the girl’s chest. After three attempts, they stop.

“No response,” one says.

“Try again,” Vesper urges.

They shake their heads. “It’s no good. She’s gone. She was past saving by the time we got here.”

You want to talk about defeatism? Those EMTs were called almost immediately when BethAnn went into cardiac arrest. They were there within seconds. But she was "past saving" by the time they got there? Remind me never to go to this hospital for anything; they sure don't try very hard.

There are so many medical things in this book that just don't ring true. Like people under general anesthesia being in REM sleep. Or Zhu having ventilators brought in just in case "care becomes extended". Ventilators are used when people have trouble breathing... not just because they're unconscious for a long time.


Okay... and now we get to the problematic aspects of this book. Aside from the Africa thing and the subtle racism, there's the undercurrent of judgment that runs through the text. One thing I found pretty offensive was equating the homeless with being dirty, shabby, and crazy.

His eyes look as mad as the homeless guy that sits outside the art supply store Mom goes to in Manhattan.

Considering that most of these kids have conditions that are described in the DSM... well, glass houses and all. And that brings me to my next point. This is a book that's probably going to offend those in the neurodiversity movement, as well as those who are often antagonized by those in the neurodiversity movement (the parents of kids on the low-functioning end of the autism spectrum).

“Like I said before, I’m not autistic,” Ant says, straightening his back and speaking forcefully for the first time. He looks Remi straight in the eyes. “I’m not autistic. I don’t have Asperger’s. I’m not obsessive-compulsive. I’m just . . . me.”

Remi looks at his feet, taken aback by Ant’s defense.

“Haven’t you ever heard of spectrums?” George continues, visibly controlling her rage. “Anyone with half a brain nowadays knows that everything falls on a spectrum. Sexual preference. Neurological normality. Who doesn’t have a bit of ADD or dyslexia or addictive personality? And if you don’t, I’ll bet you’ve got something else going on.”

When you do this, you basically deny the experience of anyone who doesn't share yours (which is something that a lot of people with high-functioning autism tend to do, which makes Ant/George's defense even more insufferable). Despite what Ant/George says, there is such a thing as neurological normality. But if you put everyone on a spectrum, you start to normalize whatever the problem is. Where do you draw the line for who needs help? You can't. As a result, some people won't get it.

This theme is continued with BethAnn, as well. Her sister was thirteen, "developmentally disabled", and drowned in the family's pool... which points to severe autism (drowning is one of the leading causes of death for people with autism). And yet, that diagnosis wasn't mentioned. Again, the lower end of the spectrum gets glossed over in favour of a glowing example of the extreme upper end (Ant/George, in this case), which is far rarer and wasn't even consistently written in this book.

Which brings me to the writing. Oh, my god. I have no idea how this got past any editors. The writing was stilted, juvenile, and downright annoying. If we're not being told what's supposed to be funny--

“My Little Pony . . . the stuff of nightmares,” Sinclair says, with more gallows humor.

--we're being treated to endless "said bookisms":

“I’m scared of heights,” Remi admits.

“Then don’t look down,” George instructs.

“Famous last words,” Sinclair mutters and continues shuffling forward at a snail’s pace.

“You have to go faster,” Fergus urges, peering nervously behind us as the humming nears.

(That's not a compilation, either. That's verbatim how it was written, with one said bookism after another.) It's almost as if this was an elementary-school writing assignment where the teacher asked the students to come up with as many synonyms for "said" as possible. This continually pulled me out of the flow, and made reading this book take way longer than it should have. Added to that was the author's insistence on preceding the dialog tag "yell" with a comma rather than an exclamation point. It made it really hard to get a sense of tone or urgency:

“Hold him still,” I yell...

Plum also has this weird relationship with contractions. They're just not there where they would seem natural, leading to a rather robotic feel in the narration at times:

This definitely isn’t the Void—it is too cold here.

The editing was crap. Sorry, but there's no other way to say it. When you have characters quoting conversations they weren't present for, actions that aren't consistent (like when the "slow-moving" zombie monks suddenly "raced" forward), and glaring repetition, it makes me wonder if anyone besides the author even read the book before publication.

“I know everyone wants to relax,” I say finally. “But we’ve lost two people. We really need to figure out what we’re doing here,” I say finally.

The tone is also really cheesy in spots. Cata's narration comes to a close with the following:

How long will our dwindling group survive? Can we hold out long enough for those outside the Dreamfall to rescue us? Or by the time they figure it out, will we all be dead?

In my head, this was followed by: Tune in next week to find out in--dun, dun, dun!--the Dumbest Series I've Ever Read! Yeah... that's not going to happen.

For a horror novel, this was not scary at all. In fact, the only thing that's probably going to give me nightmares is the acknowledgments page, where the author thanks her editors, beta readers, and even medical experts for helping her write this. I don't even know what to make of that. After reading this book, I'm tempted to think that all of those people must exist only in her own dreams. If not, I feel very sorry for the embarrassment they must be feeling to be connected to such a terrible example of YA literature.

Premise: 1/5
Plot: 1/5
Characters: 1/5
Pace: 0/5
Writing: 0/5
Editing: 0/5
Originality: 0/5
Enjoyment: 0/5

Overall Rating: 0.38 out of 5 ladybugs


Monday, August 13, 2018

Review - Fruits in Suits

Fruits in Suits
by Jared Chapman
Date: 2017
Publisher: Abrams Appleseed
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: library

Have you ever seen a banana in a bikini? Or a tangerine in trunks? What about grapes in goggles? In this uproarious follow-up to Vegetables in Underwear, kids will learn that there are many kinds of suits—including suits for swimming, surfing, sunbathing, and scuba diving. But can you wear a business suit to the beach? Fruits in Suits has the same irreverent silliness as Vegetables in Underwear and shows just how much fun swimsuits can be—and how important it is to hold on to them when you jump into the water!

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I've already read Vegetables in Underwear, so when I saw the sequel at the library, I had to check it out. Fruits in Suits is just as silly as the other book, although I did enjoy this one a little bit more. The idea of fruits needing bathing suits is pretty amusing. I especially liked the grapefruit, who was wearing an entirely different type of "suit".

This is a nice companion to Vegetables in Underwear. If you liked the silliness of that one, you'll probably enjoy this one, too.

Premise: 4/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 4/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 3.67 out of 5

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Review - World Without Darkness

World Without Darkness (Dam Keeper #2)
by Robert Kondo & Dice Tsutsumi
Date: 2018
Publisher: First Second
Reading level: MG
Book type: graphic novel
Pages: 160
Format: e-book
Source: library

Beyond the dam lies certain death—this is something every citizen of Sunrise Valley knows well. Yet, when a poisonous black tidal wave carries Pig, Fox, and Hippo over the dam and into the wastelands, they don’t find death. Instead they find bustling cities, each with their own dams. Pig can't help but wonder, who is the mysterious dam keeper behind it all?

But he doesn't have time to unravel this mystery. The wave of deadly black fog will return to Sunrise Valley in four days, and its dam can't withstand another assault. In a stolen truck and with a deranged lizard leading the way, Pig and his friends are in a race against the clock. but can they reach home in time?

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I didn't enjoy this one quite as much as the first installment. It's still a beautiful-looking graphic novel with a unique style, dreamy and colourful. But this one felt a little more aimless. I couldn't remember what the three friends were supposed to be doing, and the story didn't really remind us. They're trying to get back home, yes... but I can't really remember why they left in the first place. This book ends with a tantalizing hint of what's to come, but getting to that point felt like slogging through a whole lot of nothing. The mole princess (who's a rhino... I don't get it) and her weird little cult felt juvenile; that whole sequence was just a setup for the next installment in the series, and I could've done without it. Van the lizard is probably my favourite character, but he wasn't used as much as he could've been.

Overall, I was a bit disappointed. I've just come off of reading the first two books in the 5 Worlds series, and their complexity makes this one look weak in comparison. It's a pretty book to look at, and I'm sure when the series is complete it'll fit in nicely with the rest... but, on its own, it just doesn't seem like quite enough.

Plot: 2/5
Characters: 3/5
Pace: 2/5
Writing & Editing: 3/5
Illustration: 3/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall Rating: 2.88 out of 5 ladybugs

Friday, August 10, 2018

Review - The Cobalt Prince

The Cobalt Prince (5 Worlds #2)
by Mark Siegel & Alexis Siegel
illustrated by Xanthe Bouma, Matt Rockefeller & Boya Sun
Date: 2018
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Reading level: MG
Book type: graphic novel
Pages: 240
Format: e-book
Source: library

5 Worlds. 3 Unlikely Heroes. 1 Epic Battle for the Galaxy!

Oona Lee surprised everyone--including herself--when she lit the first beacon to save the Five Worlds from extinction. Can she light the other four beacons in time? Next stop, Toki!

On the blue planet, Oona must face the sister who left her, and bring to light the Cobalt Prince's dark secrets. Meanwhile, An Tzu is fading away as his mysterious illness gets worse. Will it stop him from joining the fight? Or will his unique magic be just what the team needs?

Jax Amboy is a hero on the starball field. But in a moment of real danger, will he risk everything to save his friends?

Oona must rely on some surprising new allies in order to stop a terrible plot from unfolding and continue her quest across the 5 WORLDS!

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I'm really enjoying the 5 Worlds series. Having read the first two books in the Amulet series as well, I can honestly say that this is the stronger of the two when it comes to middle grade, graphic novel fantasy.

The artwork is just as charming and immersive as in the first book. But the story is what really shines here. There are multiple complex threads woven throughout the plot, along with a creative cast of characters... including a formidable villain. While middle graders will probably enjoy this, I can see it having appeal for older readers as well.

I can't wait to get my hands on the next installment in this fun series!

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

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall Rating: 4.25 out of 5 ladybugs