Amulet: Firelight Review

amulet_7Amulet, Book 7: Firelight by Kazu Kibuishi

Graphix, 2016. 978-0-545-43316-7.

Synopsis: Emily, Trellis, and Vigo believe they finally have a clue about how to defeat the Elf King, but the advantage could come at a high cost. The place that the trio must search has been known to be a dangerous place for stonekeepers and could help the stone get a mental hold over their keeper. Meanwhile, Navin and Aly are running into some troubles of their own. It seems that the Elf King has raised the bounty on their heads and they must outwit numerous bounty hunters if they are going to reach Frontera.

Why I picked it up: I had to catch up since Book 8 is coming out in September!

Why I finished it: This series keeps getting better and better as it goes on, not to mention the plot becomes more and more complex as the reader journeys further into the world. Previously, Emily has been confident that she will be able to resist the voice of the stone. The spirit begins to show her visions of a life that she could have had if her father had survived the car crash, a life that seems to spark further conflict within her. Trellis and Vigo have warned Emily about her ability to resist the temptation to surrender control to her stone, but she still feels she has complete control. The reader has been hearing about the dangers of listening to the spirit within the stone, but it has become much more real now that our heroes are getting closer and closer to finding answers. Navin, Aly, and General Pil are having some issues of their own, starting with needing to find transportation to Frontera. But the friends they make along the way prove to be helpful allies. They remind Navin about the importance of family and help to give him the courage to forge ahead though the circumstances seem to change moment by moment. Kibuishi is going a little bit darker in this installment, and I have a feeling that things are going to get worse before they get better. He’s continuing to add depth to the characters and giving us more reasons to root and cheer for them. It’s an engaging read that will have fans on the edge of their seats waiting for more.

Other related materials: Amulet, Book 1: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi; Amulet, Book 2: The Stonekeeper’s Curse by Kazu Kibuishi; Amulet, Book 3: The Cloud Searchers by Kazu Kibuishi; Amulet, Book 4: The Last Council by Kazu Kibuishi; Amulet, Book 5: Prince of the Elves by Kazu Kibuishi; Amulet, Book 6: Escape from Lucien by Kazu Kibuishi; Amulet, Book 8: Supernova by Kazu Kibuishi; Explorer: The Mystery Boxes by Kazu Kibuishi; Flight Explorer, Volume One edited by Kazu Kibuishi; Zita the Spacegirl graphic novels by Ben Hatke; Cleopatra in Space graphic novels by Mike Maihack; Babymouse graphic novels by Jennifer L. Holm & Matt Holm; Bone graphic novels by Jeff Smith; Missile Mouse books by Jake Parker; The Secret Science Alliance books by Eleanor Davis; Dragonbreath books by Ursula Vernon; Big Nate books by Lincoln Pierce; Chickenhare by Chris Grine; Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot graphic novels by Dav Pilkey, illustrated by Dan Santat

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Big Nate: What’s A Little Noogie Between Friends? Review

big_nate_whats_a_little_noogie_between_friendsBig Nate: What’s a Little Noogie Between Friends? By Lincoln Peirce

Andrwes McMeel Publishing, 2017. 978-1-4494-6229-1

Synopsis: Lately it feels like Nate has been on a losing streak – literally. His soccer team loses to a team with a record of 0-60, the basketball team gets pounded by a future superstar, and his beloved Jenny is moving to Seattle. What is it going to take to make Nate feel like a winner again?

Why I picked it up: I wanted a quick read to take with me on a weekend trip.

Why I finished it:  At its heart, Big Nate is a much about friendship as it is about anything else, and in this volume of collected comics it looks like friends is what Nate needs most. Because, really, who else is going to make him feel better when it seems like the whole world is falling apart? While Teddy, Francis, and Chad don’t always share Nate’s world view, they are always there to put things in perspective – whether Nate will come around to their point is anyone’s guess. Like Nate, we have all experienced the frustration of having a losing season with our sport team or had a hard time transitioning when a friend moves away. But we can have confidence that there will still be friends and teachers there to pick us up when we are down and support us through the good and the bad and the things that we think are pretty much the end of the world but probably not really…maybe. What I liked about this collection was that it felt like it was growing up a little bit. Nate may be perpetually in middle school, but that doesn’t mean Peirce can’t grow him and the other characters as the comic goes on. The stasis is what makes the comic fun, but it is the little truths about life and growing up that help to make a connection with the reader. It’s another quick, humorous read that is guaranteed to help make the reader feel like a winner even when they are down in the dumps.

Other related materials: Big Nate: Revenge of the Cream Puffs by Lincoln Peirce; Big Nate: I Can’t Take It! by Lincoln Peirce; Big Nate’s Greatest Hits by Lincoln Peirce; Big Nate: Welcome to My World by Lincoln Peirce; Big Nate: Say Goodbye to Dork City by Lincoln Peirce; Big Nate: The Crowd Goes Wild! by Lincoln Peirce; Big Nate and Friends by Lincoln Peirce; Big Nate: Game On! by Lincoln Peirce; Big Nate Makes the Grade by Lincoln Peirce; Big Nate: Great Minds Think Alike by Lincoln Peirce; Big Nate Out Loud by Lincoln Peirce; Big Nate: Thunka, Thunka, Thunka by Lincoln Peirce; My Weirdest School books by Dan Gutman, illustrated by Jim Paillot; Timmy Failure books by Stephan Pastis; Middle School books by James Patterson and Chris Tebbits, illustrated by Laura Park; Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney

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Crogan’s March Review

crogan_advenutures_2Crogan’s March (The Crogan Adventures, Book 2) by Chris Schweizer

Oni Press, 2009. 978-1-93496424-8

Reviewer Note: This book was republished in 2015 as The Crogan Adventures: Last of the Legion, which is a color edition of the same story.

Synopsis: Peter Crogan’s five years of service in the French Foreign Legion is only weeks away – but will he stay or will he go? Staying means that he could be promoted to an officer. Leaving for home is a little bit more questionable. But when he gets caught up in a battle with the local warlords intent on pushing out the Legion, Peter’s only decisions have to do with how he will stay alive.

Why I picked it up: I loved Crogan’s Vengence and I am always a sucker for well-researched historical fiction.

Why I finished it: Schweizer has creatively set up some context to these adventures by having them told to two young Crogan descendants by their father, who presents the tale as a means of teaching his sons some life lesson. It seems to do the trick, for the most part, and it helps to give readers an extra frame of reference for how all of the stories in the series are going to be tied together: a sort of oral family history that is being passed down through the generations. I’ve always loved family stories myself because there was always some element of magic to them. I liked recalling how I was related to a great aunt that was part of some great historical event or even learning about the ‘simpler times’ during which my parents, grandparents, and great grandparents grew up. Schweizer isn’t going to far as to deliver entire life stories, but the very small snippets that we are told are enough to make us know and love the characters – not always an easy task. Peter Crogan is well liked and respected by both his fellow Legionnaires and the commanding officers under whom he serves. The reader can easily tell why the commanders would want him to stay on, since he inspires the type of courage and spirit that the French Legion was hoping to inspire when the men eventually got to wherever they would serve. Readers can relate to the sort of tough decision that Peter is faced with and the inner turmoil that haunts him as he finds himself the lone survivor of his regime. The black and white panels convey well the gritty nature of the story and its setting in the North African desert, transporting the reader almost literally into the pages of history. It’s a fun read that is recommended for those that love an edge-of-your-seat adventure and fans of historical fiction alike.

Other related materials: Crogan’s Vengeance (The Crogan Adventures, Book 1) by Chris Schweizer; Crogan’s Loyalty (The Crogan Adventures, Book 3) by Chris Schweizer; Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales books by Nathan Hale; Guts & Glory books by Ben Thompson; Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani; Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin; The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi; Guys Read: True Stories edited by Jon Scieszka; Lost Trail: Nine Days Alone in the Wilderness by Donn Fendler with Lynn Plourde, illustrated by Ben Bishop; Lily Renée, Escape Artist: From Holocaust Survivorto Comic Book Pioneer by Trina Robbins, illustrated by Anne Timmons and Mo Oh; Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks

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The Nameless City Review

nameless_city_1

The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks, color by Jordie Bellaire

First Second, 2016. 978-1626721562

Synopsis: Kaidu is an outsider in the Nameless City. Though his people, the Dao, have ruled the city for the last 30 years, there is still tension and unease between themselves and the Named (the residents of the city). He meets Rat while out wandering the streets alone and though the two come from very different backgrounds, they grow to become friends.

Why I picked it up: This is another book that has been in my ‘To Be Read’ stack for a while.

Why I finished it: What really drew me into the story was the mythos that Hicks has incorporated into this world. It is an old world that was built up through a cycle of peace and conflicts that is the hallmark in most any genre. When we first meet Kaidu and Rat, their town is experiencing a definite tension in the wake of 30 years of harmony, not to mention the existing tension between the Named, the Dao, and the other nations that have previously occupied the city. The friendship between Kaidu and Rat is somewhat of an anomaly, but Kai seems to have convinced the young orphan that he also has a vested interest in the city and that he also cares what happens to its inhabitants. Kai’s character development focuses quite a bit on the notion that he is not like the rest of the Dao: he wants to forge his own path and find his own place in this new world after deciding to leave his homeland. Rat, on the other hand, is simultaneously fighting to stay alive and struggling with where her loyalties lie. She clearly isn’t a fan of the Dao (or perhaps any of the other previous non-Named inhabitants), but she finds herself beginning to trust Kai and relishes being able to teach him how to navigate the streets of the City. Hicks’s art has a feel reminiscent of the Avatar: The Last Airbender series. The use of choppy uneven outlines mixed with sharper, finer details and Bellaire’s bright colors make this a fun read that will be enjoyed by readers of all ages.

Other related materials: The Stone Heart (The Nameless City, Book 2) by Faith Erin Hicks, colors by Jordie Bellaire; The Divided Earth (The Nameless City, Book 3) by Faith Erin Hicks, colors by Jordie Bellaire; Four Points series by Hope Larson, illustrations by Rebecca Mock; Avatar: The Last Airbender books by Bryan Konietzko, Michael Dante DiMartino, Gene Luen Yang, and Gurihiru; The Legend of Korra books by Michael Dante DiMartino, illustrations by Irene Koh; Delilah Dirk books by Tony Cliff; Five Worlds series by Mark Siegel and Alexis Seigel, illustrations by Xanthe Boruma, Matt Rockefeller, and Boya Sun; Mighty Jack series by Ben Hatke; One Trick Pony by Nathan Hale; Cleopatra in Space series by Mike Maihack

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Rise of the Jumbies Review

MG-Baptiste-RiseoftheJumbiesRise of the Jumbies (The Jumbies #2) by Tracey Baptiste

Algonquin Young Readers, 2017. 978-1616206659

Synopsis: Even though Corrine has tried to get on with her life after banishing Severine, her neighbors are still distrustful of her because she is half Jumbie. So when Corrine is blamed when the village’s children begin to go missing, she decides to seek the help of the mysterious Mama D’Leau, who sends Corrine and her friends on a journey across the ocean that will change them forever.

Why I picked it up: I heard an interview with the author on NPR and my husband thought it was a perfect pick for my blog.

Why I finished it: Corrine doesn’t feel as strong and as brave as she was when the reader first meets her in The Jumbies because her world has been shaken, so it seems appropriate that the book begins with an earthquake. Corrine just wants people to trust her again, but the prejudices against Jumbies run deep in their village. Mama d’Leau seems to be Corrine’s chance at redemption, but the old Jumbie is crafty and seemingly unscrupulous: she offers to help Corrine and her friends if they will retrieve a stone that was lost to her. What the children see on their trek across the ocean is almost as eye opening as the realization that Corrine is half Jumbie. Baptiste’s broaching of the subject of slavery is a tough topic – something that was spoken about in the NPR interview – and it isn’t easy to present it to middle readers. Plus, it’s not exactly a topic that gets brought up in every day conversation. Yet, the way the story is constructed, Baptiste is able to show us the horrors of the slave trade without making things so ugly that it overshadows the rest of the plot, which is still full of the same magic and mythos as its predecessor. It’s a fantastic adventure that leaves room for even more Jumbies stories.

Other related materials: The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste; Akata Witch by Nnedi Okafor; Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okafor; The Nest by Kenneth Oppel, illustrations by Jon Klassen; Tumble & Blue by Cassie Beasley; Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder; Beyond The Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk; Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai; Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai; The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street by Lindsay Currie; Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani; Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan; The Girl Who Drank The Moon by Kelly Barnhill

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The Jumbies Review

jumbies_1The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste

Algonquin Young Readers, 2015. 978-1616204143

Synopsis: Corrine La Mer isn’t afraid of anything – until the day she meets Severine. Severine is charismatic and beautiful, but she’s also part of an ancient race that occupied the island from before men came: the Jumbies. When Severine reveals that she plans to rid the island of all humans, Corrine and her friends must find a way to stop the Jumbie before she drastically changes everything they know.

Why I picked it up: I heard an interview with the author on NPR about her second book Rise of the Jumbies and my husband thought it and Jumbies were a perfect pick for my blog.

Why I finished it: Jumbies is a magical, supernatural tale that draws on the mythology of the Caribbean and features an array of creatures that are guaranteed to make one want to sleep with the lights on. Corrine, despite having heard some of the stories, doesn’t truly believe the Jumbies could be real until she meets Severine and she begins to work her way into Corrine’s life. She may not be afraid, but her ability to sense danger tells her that something is wrong. Her courage is truly tested as the story continues, giving the reader the sense that despite adversity, it is possible to overcome even the most difficult obstacles. We identify with Corrine, Dru, Malik, and Bouki because there are times when we are also afraid and unsure of ourselves; but it is our reliance on our friends that will get us through even the most dire of circumstances. Baptiste is a gifted story teller, transporting us to a tropical island whose culture is infused with magic and mysticism. The reader can almost feel the sea breezes and feel the sand between their toes. It’s a fast read that is bound to be liked by even those of us who aren’t overly fond of ghost stories.

Other related materials: Rise of the Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste; The Nest by Kenneth Oppel, illustrations by Jon Klassen; Tumble & Blue by Cassie Beasley; Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder; Beyond The Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk; Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai; Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai; The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street by Lindsay Currie; Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani; Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan; The Girl Who Drank The Moon by Kelly Barnhill

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Turtles All The Way Down Review

turtles_all_the_way_downTurtles All The Way Down by John Green

Dutton Books for Young Readers, 2017. 978-0525555360

Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis. Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts. from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: It was a selection for one of my book clubs and I figured it was time I got around to finally reading Green to see what made him so popular.

Why I finished it: I fully expected an emotional punch from Green, being familiar with the premises of most of the rest of his body of work. I did get the emotional punch I was expecting, but the book didn’t hit me the way I thought it would. Aza suffers from extreme anxiety and depression issues and the thoughts that worm their way into her brain make it often impossible for her to seem like she is anything but self-absorbed and maybe a little out of it – something, I am sure, thousands of readers experience every day. What gets me about Aza is her mental illness and that’s really the beauty of the book. Green, who also suffers from mental health issues, reaches past Aza’s issues on the surface and really confronts what it can be like to live with a mental health disorder. He doesn’t stigmatize the issues, nor does he go at it from a purely clinical angle like most of the rest of popular media. The readers gets the feeling that he is writing from the perspective of someone who has been there, someone who has reached into the deepest, darkest places in our brain, past all of the hangups and insecurities, and helped us find a light at what seems to be a gradually shrinking tunnel. Turtles truly captures what it is like to be stuck in your own head, with no real language or emotions with which to describe how we are thinking or feeling. I’m so happy that Green wrote a book like this because I think it will better help us understand how those with mental disorders are suffering and gives us insight about how we can best show our love an support. For more cool John Green Stuff, check out his website – the vlog is pretty awesome.

Other related materials: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green; Paper Towns by John Green; Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan; An Abundance of Katherines by John Green; Looking for Alaska by John Green; The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephn Chbosky; Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher; Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow; Every Last Word by tamara Ireland Stone; A List of Cages by Robin Roe; Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

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