Sunday, 29 December 2013

Review: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

The name Maggie Stiefvater is enough to get me to pick up the book. Sadly, for me, The Dream Thieves didn't meet the high standard set by The Raven Boys. Many books suffer by what I call the "sequel syndrome," where the sequel can't hold a candle to the original, and unfortunately, I think The Dream Thieves fits this description.

It seems as though Stiefvater wrote The Raven Boys without realizing how much character development or details were needed to create this world. Maybe she wrote The Raven Boys without knowing just how big the series would be and so she left much of the characterization up to reader's imagination. Whatever the season, a sequel shouldn't carry THIS much detail and weight in comparison to the first book; it should be more evenly spread out over the series. The sheer volume of detail was exhausting and diminished my overall enjoyment of the book. I felt like we were finding out traits and quirks about the main characters that should have appeared in the first book.

The Dream Thieves does have an intriguing premise, so it IS worth the wait to get to the exciting bits at the end. The book's plot is darker and more complex, and the exciting end battle submerges the reader in the realm of the fantastic. It ends with a to-the-death match that will have you anxiously turning the pages to see what happens next.

Readers beware that this is a TEEN book (not YA). There's [many] F-bombs, drugs, violence, and other subject matter that is considered inappropriate for younger audiences. The supernatural takes on a larger role in this book, with Ronan able to dream things into existence and with the ley lines feeding powerful and dark events. It's not just the continuation of the Cabeswater/Glendower plot; there are several story arcs interwoven throughout the book, including romances, betrayal, and murder.

Despite my qualms with its length and the distribution of content, The Dream Thieves is a great book for teens and the series is definitely a must-read. Maggie Stiefvater is one of the top teen writers today. The book ends on another cliffhanger, guaranteeing that I will return for the next book. Ultimately, this is an exciting story that makes for a thrilling read.

3 Stars.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Review: Rip Tide (Dark Life #2) by Kat Falls

Rip Tide is the second book in Kat Falls’ Dark Life series. This sci-fi/dystopian YA novel is set in a world made up of land-dwellers, ocean-dwellers, and uncivilized "barbaric" people who are suspicious of everyone else. The division of people adds an interesting quality to the book and seems to comment on how we as humans fear and thereby cause conflict with people who are different from us. The book is accessible to both male and female readers and is full of suspense, excitement, and dangers found deep in the ocean (drowning, monsters, hypothermia, etc). Who doesn't love a good scene where the character almost gets eaten by a murderous squid? 

If you enjoyed Rick Riordan’s son-of-Poseidon type of mythology), you’ll enjoy this series. Some people possess “dark gifts” which are supernatural talents that make them slightly more than human. The main character, for instance, possesses an ability to use sonar. Technology is now capable of providing humans with a substance that when inhaled, allows a person to breathe underwater. 

There’s sea monsters, mystery, kidnapping, and murder. There’s also a light teen love story accompanying this action/adventure story, but it’s definitely secondary to the storyline. When Ty and Gemma accidentally uncover an entire settlement that was trapped and sunk to the bottom of the ocean (a chilling scene involving frozen corpses found chained inside the homes of their sunken township), they find themselves part of a dangerous plot as they attempt to rescue Ty's kidnapped parents. 

I jumped into this series with Rip Tide, but the book is fairly accessible for new readers. The plot is slightly complex, despite the length of these novels. The conspiracy aspect and the different types of people in this aquatic world require a slightly more advanced reader who can handle a multi-layered plot. 

An interesting book to say the least, full of colourful characters and featuring the dark and deadly side of the ocean-- without frightening young readers. I loved the setting and the world that Kat Falls created. She is a skillful writer and I look forward to reading her latest book, Inhuman.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Review: The Fault in our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars is a heartbreakingly beautiful story.

It is a YA novel about two teenagers who both have been diagnosed with fatal illnesses. This is a love story, a story of survival, and a story of pursuing moments that make life worth it.

I was reminded of Jodi Piccoult's heart-wrenching My Sister's Keeper in the way that we see the world-altering importance of having people who love us stick by us no matter what.

It's not a happy read, as books about kids with cancer cannot be, but it is enlightening. Everyone knows someone who has been diagnosed with cancer, but unless you've had the illness, you can never REALLY understand. Having cancer and knowing someone with cancer is very different. Green allows us a glimpse into that experience. The sympathy, the hopelessness, the struggle, and the disdain for the world and the unfairness of it all is very moving. It was nice to understand just a little bit better and be able to better appreciate what people go through.

The book ends all too abruptly for me, but I have no other complaints. John Green is an amazing writer and he's written a sweet, but tragic tale with room for smiles, for tears, and for catharsis in seeing these brave teens rise above something awful and unstoppable. This is a novel that all young people should read. It's a wonderful piece of fiction and soon to be yet another YA page to screen adaption.

After reading this book, I DESPISE the tagline for the movie poster, but that's just my opinion. Here's to hoping the movie doesn't destroy the power of the book, as My Sister's Keeper did.

4 stars. A YA must-read.

Review: Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

Hyperbole and a Half is the funniest book I have read in a very long time. It is exactly my type of slightly immature, slightly sarcastic, and very witty humour and I identified a lot with Brosh's hilarious narrative voice. The book is essentially a memoir, told in a mix of small textual paragraphs and graphic novel-style. It discusses real life events that happened in Brosh's life, such as the struggles of training and living with her dogs, struggling with depression, familiar childhood antics and stories like getting dental surgery, the world-ending desire for cake, being lost in the woods, and so, so much more. As a human being, you will be able to appreciate and relate to what Brosh is saying and drawing.

DO NOT READ THIS BOOK IN PUBLIC IF YOU HAVE ANYTHING AGAINST GRINNING AND/OR LAUGHING LIKE AN IDIOT WHILE READING. This is NOT a Go Transit Quiet Zone-type of book. You will laugh. You WILL love everything about this book. You have been warned.

If you, like me, slightly live under a rock, you will vaguely recognize the drawings from many Internet memes. The book partly draws content from the original blog by Allie Brosh called Hyperbole and a Half. There's plenty of new content, though, so if you are less embarrassing than myself, there is still much to love about this book.

I didn't know what to expect with this book--but it certainly wasn't to read about a book that was so down-to-earth, so relatable, and so entertaining that I now plan to happily harassing every person I know to read it. Now. Stop all reading plans and go buy this book. Thank you.

Allie Brosh is hilarious. She is the voice of reason as we question our motives in our most ridiculous or terrible moments. Why DID we repeatedly just not pay that bill or return that movie?

She is the friend we wish we had, making us laugh, making us cry, and making us appreciate the world for the good and the bad. She explores the dark and embarrassing corners of our own minds through her expressive drawings and her honest words.

I read this book in one sitting, but the chapters make it great to read it in chunks or return to our favourite stories again and again. The book is aimed at young adults--there is content that is inappropriate for younger readers (ie. swearing, serious subjects like depression, etc). It reads better for a young adult audience anyway--someone who is young, but has experienced enough of life to know just how bullshit the world can be. Fortunately, Allie Brosh has turned that bullshit into a brilliant book that will leave you smiling. All. Day. Long.

Five stars. Hell, six stars. This book is going on my favourites list!

(Note: I do not own these images. They were easily located in a Google search. They are here for personal use only, to further my point that Allie Brosh is absolutely hilarious). 

Friday, 20 December 2013

Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Maggie Stiefvater is a must-read author for this generation. Not only is she charming and a down-to-earth in person, but she's a talented writer. Stiefvater's words flow across the pages, constructing an addictive story that will have you reading late into the night.

Although the subject matter isn't really my thing (witches, psychics, ghosts), The Raven Boys is a thrilling story and I enjoyed reading it very much. The premise of the story is this: the daughter of a psychic befriends attractive group of boys from elite prep school and follow clues on a supernatural treasure hunt of sorts. Murder, mystery, and danger surround a ghostly legend, along with the supernatural, tarot cards, psychic readings, and black magic rituals.

Stiefvater impresses me not only with her ability with words, but also with her ability to create very different stories. Lament sounds very different from the darker and more sophisticated-sounding The Scorpio Races. I liked The Raven Boys not only because it's not as pre-teen-ish sounding as Lament nor does it use overdone tropes like werewolves as she does in her Shiver trilogy. There's just more to this book than Lament or Shiver.

This story has a small romance component, but the story largely focuses on murder and the mystery. There's twists and turns, violence and social issues, ghosts and other spooky stuff. This is a great teen read for people who love a good supernatural story. I enjoyed it more than the supernatural drama in Beautiful Creatures and it's written much better than the ultimate teen supernatural book: Twilight. All in all, a great teen book and a good choice to get young people reading something of substance.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Review: Allegiant by Veronica Roth

"I fell in love with him. But I don't just stay with him by default as if there's no one else available to me. I stay with him because I choose to, every day that I wake up, every day that we fight or lie to each other or disappoint each other. I choose him over and over again, and he chooses me."

I had high hopes for the final book of the Divergent series. I loved Divergent, enjoyed Insurgent, but Allegiant was only good, not great.

Normally, the history of the characters/ the world occurs early in the series, but we get most of it in Allegiant. As I waited three books for the dramatic conclusion to the series, the informational part of the narrative bored me to the point of annoyance.

With a pub. date in 2013, Roth cannot claim The Hunger Games had no influence whatsoever in Allegiant. I found this book to be very similar to Mockingjay in both the state of the heroine and in the rebellion against the corrupted government (with the opposing power not looking so competent either). If you want an exciting, fast-paced, flowing narrative, read Mockingjay instead. Essentially, Allegiant could have used an editor with a stronger hand. I would made many cuts to the editorial to make this book more concise. The tendency toward unnecessary detail in the mundane affected the book's overall impact.

Then again, Allegiant does go to darker places than Mockingjay. There is more vivid detail in the horror and there's more BANG in the violence. There's more death and far more tragedy. This book has no short of injections, guns, explosions, betrayals, suspense, and tragedy.

My biggest complaint is the fact that there were too many enemies! I was getting whiplash as Roth makes you hate and distrust one person after another. It made the narrative seem a little aimless and not as effective as it could have been. For example, the ending sees a reunion between Four and his mother--after we're made to dislike her for a book and a half. Let's pick a villain and build on him or her. The multiple villains makes for too many flat characters.

I won't spoil the ending. Allegiant might have bored me for most of the book, but around page 280, shit really hits the fan. Excuse the language (but there's no other way to describe it). More than the heart-pounding conclusion, Roth makes a very bold choice in her story arc that I did not see coming. When Roth is writing action, she's a powerhouse author. Bold, breathless, and brilliant.

Regardless of the fact that Allegiant was a little dry to start, it is the final book in a popular series. You, like me, NEED to finish the series. It might not be AS good as the first two books, but it's still definitely worth your time! Allegiant is dark and violent. It's filled with twists and turns, and the ending will leave you with a hole in your chest--and not just because the series is over.

Fortunately, the movie is coming... and with the competition of Catching Fire (click to see the trailer!), I think there is a VERY good chance that Divergent (the movie) will not let fans down.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Once Upon a Time S03E11 "Going Home": The mind-blowing winter finale that will have you questioning if anyone cares at all

***Warning: This review contains spoilers***

Well, that was a stressful sixty minutes.

I'm not going to go over the whole episode, because this one was JAMMED packed full of twists and turns, ups and downs, and moments where I was totally shocked, smiling, or grumbling at the screen. This episode was possibly the best one of season three--and thank god it was only the winter finale, because the ending is absolutely heart-wrenching. My dad tells me that as terrible as the cliffhanger was, the episode was really good because "at least they're out of the goddamn jungle!" I have to agree with him there...

Here are just some of the bigger points on my mind after watching Once Upon a Time, Season 3, Episode 11.

Snow and Charming do NOT say any variation of "I will always find you."

Snow reassures her daughter that it will be okay and that the future is not always what we expect it will be, but that Emma will have a happy ending. Snow and Charming both insist that Emma should have hope, no matter what. Much of the episode dances around the importance of having hope. But apparently, as they stand at the town line to say goodbye, having hope does not include the hope of being with your family. 

Snow and Charming will always find each other, but they feel no need to find their daughter or their grandson. Have hope, dear daughter. We're going away to another land, we'll be separated all over again, you're not going to remember us, and we won't make any promises to see each other again. At all. Even though we've been making them all along.

REALLY?! No one thinks to offer this hopeful statement? Emma really needed to hear that this isn't goodbye.

Henry is oddly calm and quiet about the whole goodbye event.

I wonder if Henry is quiet on screen because the actor is obviously going through an exciting time in one's childhood where the voice is wonky and speaking is awkward. But...could he not pretend to cry? Could he not look a little sadder? Could he not have given Regina a more desperate, emotional goodbye hug? He watches Rumplestiltskin die, he says goodbye to his adopted mother, his family, and his friends, but everything is cool.

Henry seems to react more to the fact that Emma forgets the cinnamon on his hot chocolate, than to the idea of leaving everyone behind. What happened to your dreams of going to the Enchanted Forest and riding horses and sword-fighting?!

Get the hell off the ground, Belle, and pull your shit together

Poor Belle. She watched the love of her life die before her eyes, and worse, she was frozen and unable to stop it from happening. They're unfrozen and Belle, understandably, goes to pieces. Nobody asks if she's okay. No one comforts her or really even looks at her.

And even NEIL, Rumple's own SON is oddly uncaring about his father's death. His comment about Rumple's dying a noble death was a little too conversational. Essentially, his tone implied this twist on his words: My dad just died. Well, at least he died so that we could all live. Moving on... what's next, guys?

Belle is a sobbing, broken mess on the street, but--REGINA! You've been quiet these last ten seconds, are YOU okay?

Cursed life? Sure, I'll take it

Emma has spent three seasons bitter about the fact that a curse ripped her away from her family. She has witnessed how terrible it was not to remember who you are, even if not remembering was easier. Emma knew how important it was not to be under a curse. Her entire EXISTENCE is about being the saviour; about BREAKING the curse that made everyone forget. Not remembering who you are means no happy endings. But when Regina offers her a variation on the curse to forget her past, she's all on board. Henry, of course, stands contentedly next to her, also not objecting to forgetting who he is and his past.

Even if Emma accepts the cursed life because it's the easier choice...what about HOPE?! Hope that one day, your family will find you. She just made it a lot harder on herself.

Oh wait, I forgot: her family has no interest in finding you.


This is a pretty awesome hashtag. I'm VERY excited about the newest villain: the wicked witch of the west! FINALLY! The merry old land of Oz!

At the same time... after the Evil Queen (evil, powerful, breasts all over the place), Cora (absolutely immoral, power-hungry, blood-thirsty woman), Pan (the most annoying and heartless child in the history of the world) bad can the Wicked Witch be?

Hopefully the enchanted forest has a good bucket of water somewhere...

Emma... please take a better look at the stranger at the door

Sure, the jerk grabbed you and kissed you. But... did you REALLY get a good look at him? He's got #GoodForm

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Review: Somebody, Please Tell Me Who I Am By Harry Mazer and Peter Lerangis

In Somebody, Please Tell Me Who I AmBen Bright makes a decision that not many people can understand: to volunteer to be a solider. When all of his friends are going to college, Ben has known that this is what he wants to do. I'm not a supporter of war, but I can appreciate his decision and his courage.

The book is quite short at just over 140 pages and is divided into "Before," "During" and "After" the incident where Ben loses his memory. The action moves quickly and the reader is spared the gory details. It is also interesting to note that as soon as Ben is injured, the protagonist becomes a minor character for the rest of the book. The story becomes about how his friends and family handle how Ben's decision to join the army and his resulting injuries from his time in Iraq have turned him into a shadow of the person he was before. It's quite heartbreaking.

Guilt, anger, fear, and hope are all working against Ben's family and friends as they attempt to cope with his condition. Arguably the decision to go to war and the risks associated are ones that will not only ruin your own life, but the lives of everyone around you. This is a story about a boy who made a very brave choice, but a choice that has devastating consequences.

The story ends on a hopeful note as Ben makes progress with his recovery, although the ending is rather abrupt. At the centre of all the devastation is Ben, and just as his near-death experience was the cause of a lot of dysfunction and despair, his recovery might allow for the damage to be repaired.

An interesting book, but the reader will have many unanswered questions at its conclusion. This YA novel is short, sweet, and to the point. It is an easy read and portrays the ugly realities of going to war.

Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

A touching, memorable, and gripping story about finding hope, happiness and power in a seemingly hopeless world.

Markus Zusak writes a tragic, yet wonderful, and heartfelt story about a little girl growing up in World War II, Germany. As many books on this tragic moment in our history, Zusak's story stands out from the crowd. This is a must-read book for young adults and adults alike.

The Book Thief is narrated by Death and follows the life and struggles of nine-year-old girl Liesel. Death is neither evil or good, but simply someone fulfilling his role in the world. Death makes a point in revealing important events to come, but never the manner in which they will occur. I think this narrative style is fitting for the time period, because we all know the devastation that is coming, we just don't know when or where or how it will strike. If anything, this technique built more suspense as I dreaded the inevitable as I fell in love with the characters.

Zusak shows the other side of Germany--the people who protected their Jewish friends and risked everything to do so. It shows the German people who didn't agree with the Nazis, who wanted no part in the war, and the effect of the war on these innocent German people (hunger, bombings, and death), and it shows how people express their refusal to give into despair.

Liesel's theft and reading of stolen books is representative of the power of words in Nazi Germany. Words can destroy a country, but they can also provide hope and relief from despair. For all the terrible words that Hitler puts out in the world, Liesel steals some of them back. Reading bonds her with her foster father and it allows Liesel to bring comfort to crowds of people waiting in the bomb shelters. Zusak shows that the power of words is endless.

Although the book is slightly long, everything about the book makes the length justifiable. The writing is accessible for the younger audience, the characters are interesting and well-rounded, and the story is hard to put down. The writing is vivid, without delving into the gory details as Zusak gives the reader just enough to be able to construct the horrors on your own.

I have not seen the movie yet, but I do hope it will encourage people to read the book. It might taken readers a little longer to get through, but it's definitely worth it. I hope that the film is a faithful adaption. Catching Fire certainly set the page-to-screen adaption bar extraordinarily high.

5 stars

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Review: The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron

The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron is a YA novel published by Scholastic Inc. in 2012. It is aimed at readers ages 12 and up, but due to the language, I'd recommend this book to readers who are advanced at age 12. The language is similar to something like an amateur version of the language of Tolstoy or Edith Wharton. The language came across as a little off-putting to me, largely because it did nothing for the likability of the protagonist.

Katharine Tulman is a little spoiled, a little self-centred, and a little rude. She is poorly treated by her aunt, who is also her guardian, and she is treated like a servant girl in her own home; poor little rich girl! She is a difficult character to like, but she DOES redeem herself by the end of the novel, transforming from an entitled girl of misfortune to a heroic and brave young woman.

The characterization of Katharine's mad uncle was interesting, but at times, a little off-putting as his character and his background wasn't really developed. Sometimes I even found the uncle to be a touch offensive. I have a grandparent with Dementia--this character comes across more as silly than unstable. As this novel is aimed at a younger audience, I think the author chose to keep the text very "PG" and light, and while I can respect that, his madness needs to have rhyme and reason. I'm sad to say he wasn't a very convincing character who harboured my interest or sympathies--usually he harboured my disdain.

While the analogy of the clock bound up with one's sanity was very good, and as the action leading to the end of the book was gripping, the character development was lacking and I found the "romantic, London language" to affect my enjoyment of the text.

I think this book would have done better if it had been written for an older audience. Considering the themes and some of the shocking revelations, it could have been a teen read. I think it would have been much better as a teen read.

I didn't dislike this book, but it was nothing special for me. The beginning is a little dry, and I dislike books where I need to work to like the protagonist, the book picks up about halfway through and sets up a promising sequel. A Spark Unseen was published Oct 2013 by Scholastic Inc.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Review: Smile by Raina Telgemeier

Did you have any kind of orthodontia growing up? Here's a book about a girl who's had it 50 times worse than you! Raina's experience is cathartic for the reader--whether the reader is pre or post-orthodontia hell.

This is a fantastic middle grade graphic novel. Kids who have had a dental emergency, getting or has braces, or is having some dental work done can appreciate Raina's fears and what she goes through. Raina trips on the sidewalk and suddenly is faced with major social anxiety. She loses her confidence and her ability to smile willingly. Smiling is hard when you're young and vulnerable and your mouth is full of metal.

Poor Raina sees a myriad of dental experts, has multiple surgeries, as well as braces, headgear, elastics for her cross-bite, a retainer, and fake teeth. As a kid who had to suffer through having my overbite, cross-bite, and uneven teeth fixed through years of pain and metal in my mouth, I felt for Raina. Her pain was my pain.

Mouth hurts so much that you're whole head hurts? Check.
Mouth hurts so much you can't chew bread? Check.

Young readers can recognize their own insecurities, fears, and problems in Raina's story. No matter what kind of embarrassing things happen to you, life will go on with people who you can really count on; people who can really make you smile.

This is a wonderful story. Easy to read, accessible, heart-wrenching, and sweet. Smile can be enjoyed again and again. Young girls in grades six and up will enjoy this story. Raina Telgemeier has written a charming graphic novel that tells the story of a young girl growing up and how growing up is never easy.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Review: Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg

A book that's both relevant and meaningful in today's society. Openly Straight discusses the very relevant subject of sexuality and coming to terms with one's identity outside of labels and expectations of who should be. It is about dealing with sexuality and learning to deal how others handle the subject of sexual preferences.

The main character is a homosexual teenager who chooses to go from being open about his sexuality to not telling anyone.

The main character struggles with the concept of living without a label--or at least, without the label he wants. By choosing not to tell others he's gay, he attempts to become someone new. He wants to see what it's like to live a life where being gay is just one little part of who he is.

I love that this book exists. It is so, so important in a world where kids are bullied for being different and where being gay, or bi, transgender, etc. is feared.

That being said, I found the narrative to be a little dry. The writing wasn't very gripping, and I think it was largely because the YA genre kept the story from reading too dark for the audience. This book would have likely been more effective written for an older audience.

My other problem with the book was for a story that gently nudges the reader into becoming a more understanding and accepting person, I was a little offended to see that word "retard" still made it into the text. If the use of word was important to the text or the development of the characters in some way, it would be one thing. However, the word was brandied about in casual conversation by one of the characters and posed no relevance to the surrounding text. It just seemed a little hypocritical and I think it's just as offensive as calling someone a "fag." The editor REALLY couldn't sub this word out? Really?

It's not the most gripping read, but it wasn't bad. A little dry at times and I wish the protagonist let the reader in a little sooner in the novel. The ending is more powerfully written and was a much better read.

Hopefully young readers can take something away from this book. Kids need to realize that their words hurt. That words like "gay" and "fag" can cut like a knife. These words are unacceptable. Get a thesaurus, world. This is 2013.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Review: Jedi Academy by Jeffrey Brown

I love, love, LOVE this book. A middle-grade graphic novel with personality, a unique idea, wit, intelligence, and great Star Wars humour. I have minimal knowledge of Star Wars, but that didn't make the book any less enjoyable. The characters--human, alien, and droid--are recognizable, from ewoks to wookies to Darth Maul faces. If nothing else, they can learn a great deal from this book and be more eager to watch the films.

The humour of this book was a huge factor of my enjoyment. Brown makes many jokes about Yoda's age, his H.P.Ms (hmms per minute) and his aloofness. He jokes about how anyone could understand a wookie, about the Force, and many other parts of Star Wars culture. The book had me grinning like a fool through most of it, and chuckling quietly during my morning commute.

Roan's experience at Jedi Academy is so incredibly relatable to kids everywhere. It covers a multitude of social issues and childhood experiences that EVERYONE goes through. Roan's perseverance and courage and attitude are admirable.

Roan transfers to Jedi Academy, starting late into a new school. He's thrown into the deep end and feels very insecure and out of place. He is unsure of who his friends are and how to make friends. He worries about making bad impressions, of failing, and of disappointing others. He also develops feelings for a girl, makes enemies, and finds ways to get involved and be happy at school. The book teaches kids important life lessons like how to deal with bullies and how to deal with the ups and downs of being the new kid and of not fitting in. It teaches you that even when life throws you a curveball, things will work out. I am impressed by the gentle life lessons that are woven into every page.

Not only is Jedi Academy funny and relatable, but you can share with the next generation the wonderful franchise that is Star Wars. The book IS middle grade, but I enjoyed it as an adult. It speaks to both boys and girls, although I feel Star Wars will weigh better with middle grade boys.

I read this book in one sitting. It's written in journal and regular graphic novel format, and the book has a tiny section at the end that encourages kids to start journalling on their own--a very healthy exercise! The drawings and hand-written journal entries are endearing and better the reading experience and makes it easier to relate to Roan as someone just like them.

I absolutely LOVED this book. It's one of the best books I've read in a long time, and I think it's the best title that Scholastic has published this year!

I'm putting this book up in my ranks alongside JK Rowling and Rick Riordan!


Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Review: The Bridge from Me to You by Lisa Schroeder

Looking for a light summer romance read? This could be the book you're looking for. I'll admit the cover and the synopsis make it seem like a tame, cutesy read--but it was better than I expected. I'll give it a 3/5.

Most of Lauren's narrative is written in poetry, using experimental line breaks that express emotion and meaning. It's an interesting quirk of the story. Lauren's poetic chapters expresses psychological and emotional distress through the words she writes in her journal. Don't let the poetry sway you in the wrong direction--it's easy to get used to and it's free verse, so you don't have to work at understanding it. It's not irritating and it doesn't detract from the story.

High school girls will like this book. It's a gentle high school romance story. Colby is the star of the football team, but he's not a typical jock. Many girls will be able to relate to Lauren's crush on Colby as so many of us have had a crush like this in our lifetime. These are relatable characters in a charming small-town.

There's not a lot to this book, but it's a sweet read. It's about recognizing the difference between right and wrong by knowing its important to follow your heart and make yourself happy in life. It's about learning to accept and love the family you have. It's about learning to overcome whatever challenges life throws at you. And it's about the importance of friends, and of following your own dreams.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Review: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

The Maze Runner by James Dashner was a surprise to me. I appreciated the unique plot and the characterization of the novel, but to be honest, I got a little bored toward the middle of the book. It was the exciting ending of the book that changed my mind with an explosive climax that changes this book from a slightly dull PG-13 dystopian novel into a horrific climax that will have you on the edge of your seat.

The Maze Runner is a great novel for teen boys, which is perhaps why I struggled a little with the content. Dashner writes a dystopian society of boys who live a caged existence, forced to navigate a dangerous maze filled with half-machine, half...something disgusting and weird creatures. The Grievers require some imagination on the part of the reader, but it's not hard to imagine the horror that facing such a monster would cause.

The allegory of the maze is timeless in its ability to cause feelings of hopelessness and panic. To solve the puzzle of the maze is the point of the boys' existence and there are greater forces at work who are willing to spill a lot of blood to create obstacles for the boys before they can solve the puzzle. The maze isn't the only evil--there's also the creators of the maze. I won't even go into the creators; you'll have to read the book to find out how twisted this dystopian world has become.

The movie is coming in 2014 and it's sure to be a hit. Dashner is very detailed in his writing and he writes with such vividness that it's easy to put yourself in the Glade or staring death in the face within the maze. Dashner has created a thrilling adventure of survival, of friendship, and of determination. There's mystery, violence, and danger. Hopefully the screenplay is just as thrilling!

This book reads great for a male, YA audience who love books with adventure, suspense, and who can handle some violence. There's quite a lot of humour that boys would appreciate as it feels realistic in how boys talk to each other. The characters use hillbilly-ish jargon for curse words and other crude terms and it interjects some humour into the book. There's very, very little in the way of romance, too, which a male audience will appreciate. Especially if you, like me, are getting a little sick of the love triangles...

The Maze Runner is dark like The Hunger Games, but it's a little more far-removed from a future dystopian society. James Dashner has written a nail-biting book that will almost guarantee you'll be ordering the next book immediately after finishing the first. All in all, I'll give a 3.5/5. It lost some points for a slow middle portion, but the story is gripping and the ending is stunning.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Review: Any Man of Mine by Rachel Gibson

I don't read many romance novels and I'm incredibly picky about what I do read. I can't stand anything resembling Fifty Shades of Grey and I'm not big on the classic mass-market romance novel writers like Nora Roberts or Danielle Steele. I picked up Rachel Gibson many years ago and since then, I've read everything she's ever written, usually multiple times. Gibson writes for the younger adult woman who likes a little plot, a little disaster, and a little fun. I love that Rachel Gibson has written several mini-series and connected some of the characters in her many different books. What's more, is Rachel Gibson writes a fantastic mini-series about a group of good-looking Canadian hockey players. Any Man of Mine is a part of the Chinooks hockey series and not only do I feel it's the best in the series, but it's the best of everything she's written. 

Sam is a famous hockey player for the Chinooks. He met Autumn at a very low point in his life and the end result of their fling is their young son, Connor. Autumn is a strong, confident, and sometimes stubborn single mom who has yet to get over Sam abandoning her. The story that unravels is one of making a choice to forgive and forget, and one of being able to accept someone truly being able to change. 

I love the interactions between father and son and the way that Autumn cannot help but fall back in love with Sam. Is he not the Canadian woman's dream: a sexy, rich hockey player who is a good father, and undeniably, utterly and completely in love with an average woman? 

There are some familiar faces from the other Chinooks books, as well as some NHL player name-dropping. Rachel Gibson is a perfect summer read. The intimacy of the characters is important, but not the central focus of the novel. There's something substantial in the plot to appreciate and her books are fun, witty, and leave you with a very sweet happily-ever-after.