Tag Archives: genre: adventure

The Thief and the Sword Review

cleopatra_in_space_2The Thief and the Sword (Cleopatra in Space, Book 2) by Mike Maihack

Graphix, 2015. 978-0545528443

Synopsis: A mysterious thief has stolen the ancient sword Cleo recovered in Book One: Target Practice, and she’s determined to get it back. But her teachers at Yasiro Academy forbid her from risking her life, so she’s stuck at school, trying to adjust to her newfound popularity and responsibility. And when she learns more about the prophecy that names her the savior of the galaxy, she must go on a dangerous journey to find the time tablets that could decide her fate… before they fall into the wrong hands! – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I was eager to read more about Cleo’s adventures.

Why I finished it: Cleo has certainly turned into one of the popular kids at Yasiro Academy, which on the one hand is pretty cool, but on the other it means there’s more pressure for her to perform; being a show-off both is and isn’t Cleo’s thing. Plus, it seems like she’s sort of over this story about her being the one that will save the galaxy. Maihack is doing more character building in this volume, continuing to flesh out our heroine and her friends; plus, this is our first peek at Octavian, the evil dictator that Cleo will eventually have to battle. The reader gets a little bit more background about Cleo’s friend and roommate Akila. What I liked about Akila’s story is that not only is she trying to prove herself just like Cleo, but because she grew up with stories of the prophecy, she seems to be fully invested in helping her friend reach her full savior potential. Zaid still seems to be sort of a wild card and I have yet to figure out if he has a larger role to play; he and Cleo seem to have bonded on their outcast status so I have a feeling we will be seeing more of him. There is a mention of the fact that all archives and current data are either in the process of being converted or are in a paper format, which obviously contrasts from the rest of the highly technological tools that are used in the far future. This book takes us into the library for the first time and Cleo gets a glimpse at books that hold all of the recovered knowledge that was almost lost. I like to think that perhaps this is a reference to the debate of paper versus e-books and possibly Maihack’s belief that paper books will always have a place and a use. The colors in this volume continue to be fun and bright, even in the red palate Maihack uses to define Octavian’s lair. There’s a unique palate for each setting in the book that helps the reader be able to define the different parts of the academy and the galaxy. It’s another fast-paced adventure that will have you eager for more.

Other related materials: Target Practice (Cleopatra in Space, Book 1) by Mike Maihack; Secret of the Time Tablets (Cleopatra in Space, Book 3) by Mike Maihack; The Golden Lion (Cleopatra in Space, Book 4) by Mike Maihack; Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke; Legends of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke; The Return of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke; Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi; Phoebe and Her Unicorn books by Dana Simpson; Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson; Explorer books by Kazu Kibuishi; CatStronauts series by Drew Brockington

 

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Feature Presentation: A Wrinkle in Time

a_wrinkle_in_timeA Wrinkle in Time starring Storm Reid, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Levi Miller, Deric McCabe, Chris Pine, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Zach Galifinakis, Michael Peña, André Holland, and Rowan Blanchard

Walt Disney Pictures/Whitaker Entertainment, 2018. Rated PG.

Synopsis: Following the discovery of a new form of space travel as well as Meg’s father’s disappearance, she, her brother, and her friend must join three magical beings – Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which – to travel across the universe to rescue him from a terrible evil. – from IMDB

I’ll be honest, I wanted to be excited about this movie. The novel has several stunning visual elements that I felt would have transitioned nicely to the screen. Sadly, that was not the case. Fans of the book will notice that there are some characters missing from the movie: her twin brothers Sandy and Dennys, and Aunt Beast (who is mentioned in passing, but does not play a role in the film). The Happy Medium is male rather than being female; Calvin is no longer a 14-year-old high school junior with a large family and a cantankerous mother; in the film, Mr. Murry has been gone for four years as opposed to months; Mrs. Whatsit is actually a centaur-like creature (as are the other Missus). It became more apparent to when I was watching the movie just how whiny and unlikable Meg is as a protagonist and a heroine. I understand the theme of learning to understand our faults and embrace them rather than conforming to an idea of what society thinks we should be, but it feels poorly executed. There is a scene in which the Missus show the children the effects of the Darkness on Earth – hate, jealousy, fear, and the like – that conveys humanity’s struggle with their own mortality and that we all fall prey to societal expectations. It’s wonderful, but the director fails to tie it into the rest of the plot. Yes, Meg could use a lesson in compassion, but it doesn’t seem to propel the story forward as it should. The relationships are somewhat awkward as well. Calvin and Meg’s crush on each other was more stilted that it needed to be, Calvin being portrayed as more of a doe-eyed love interest due to his popularity at school rather than the diplomat that will help the group navigate through the web of IT’s lies (for lack of a better phrase). The one bit I did like was that the Drs Murry adopted their children and gives support to the notion of belonging and love being the strongest of emotions. While the film is visually stimulating, the plot fails to hold the viewer’s interest and tell an engaging story, resulting in a movie that left me bored more than entertained.

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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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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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Solution Squad Review

solution_squad_coverSolution Squad by Jim McClain, art by Rose McClain, Serena Guerra, Christopher Jones, Joshua Buchanan, Shelby Edmunds, Jessica Lynn, Robby Bevard, and Paul E. Schultz

Solution Squad LLC, 2017. 978-0998942506

Synopsis: Follow the adventures of teen superheroes Equality, La Calculadora, Abscissa, Ordinate, Absolutia, and Radical as they use their math-based powers to solve everyday problems and even some extraordinary ones!

Why I picked it up: I heard McClain speak at a library conference this last summer and was intrigued by the notion of a comic being used to teach mathematics.

Why I finished it: As someone who found mathematics confusing and complicated in school (you would think it wouldn’t be that hard to plug numbers into a formula…), this book made me wish that my own teachers had been able to come up with some of the same creative concepts that McClain has conceived in Solution Squad. Using characters names and powers to reinforce basic principles, the reader is taken on a fun-filled mathematical journey that features some of everyone’s ‘favorite’ problems; for example, the two trains traveling at different speeds where one will eventually catch up to the other. McClain’s teaching expertise really shines in this book and in the lesson plans he has that will help other teachers be able to use his material in their own classrooms. I know I would have been a lot more incentivized by the comic angle when I was learning Algebra! And if you still aren’t that into math at the end of the book, that’s okay too. There’s still a lot of crazy adventures that will keep you guessing and maybe even playing along to solve the problems with our young heroes. It’s a great way to trick your brain into learning something new!

Other related materials: Everything You Need to Ace Math in One Big Fat Notebook: The Complete Middle School Study Guide by Altair Peterson, illustrations by Chris Pearce; Everything You Need to Ace Science in One Big Fat Notebook: The Complete Middle School Study Guide illustrated by Chris Pearce; The Everything Kids’ Puzzle Book: Mazes, Word Games, Puzzles, and More! Hours of Fun! by Jennifer A. Ericsson and Beth L Blair; The Everything Kids’ Science Experiment Book: Boil Ice, Float Water, Measure Gravity – Challenge The World Around You! by Tom Robinson; Klutz LEGO Chain Reactions Craft Kit by Pat Murphy; The Kid Who Invented the Popsicle and Other Surprising Stories About Inventions by Don L. Wulffson; Smithsonian Maker Lab: 28 Super Cool Projects by Jack Challoner; Hidden Figures: Young Reader Edition by Margot Lee Shetterly; The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Young Reader’s Edition by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Meeler, illustrations by Anna Hymas; Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women by Catherine Thimmesh, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

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Night of the Frankenfrogs Review

creeps_1Night of the Frankenfrogs (The Creeps #1) by Chris Schweizer

Harry N. Abrams, 2015. 978-1419717666

Synopsis: In Pumpkins County, weird things happen every day, but nobody ever makes a fuss. Nobody, that is, except the Creeps: Carol, a big-city girl new to Pumpkins County, who finds kindred spirits in Mitchell (monster expert), Jarvis (military brat with logistics know-how), and Rosario (girly girl on the outside, muscle underneath). The Creeps are on the case to figure out the spooky mysteries and still get to class on time. Last week it was a pudding monster. This week, it’s killer frogs—reanimated from the team’s biology class dissection experiment. Who’s behind the Frankenfrog attacks? The Creeps will track down the answers! from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: It’s the time of year for some creepy/scary stories!

Why I finished it: Schweizer has a gift for creating memorable and realistic characters that seem to jump off the pages and his first book in The Creeps series is no exception. Set in a town where the strange, kooky, and spooky go largely unnoticed, four brave sleuths are out to save their town from the odd creatures that would seek to overtake it. It was amusing to me that Carol, Mitchell, Jarvis, and Rosario seem to operate with a sense of disbelief that the citizens of Pumpkins County would let such creatures as a Pudding Monster go unchecked. But what our gang lacks in support from their peers they more than make up for in their uncanny ability to connect all of the proverbial dots. The art is bright and fun to compliment the prose, and the use of pseudo day-glo colors makes the book wacky, humorous, and a quick read that will get you in the Halloween spirit!

Other related materials: The Trolls Will Feast (The Creeps #2) by Chris Schweizer; Curse of the Attack-O-Lanterns (The Creeps #3) by Chris Schweizer; The Crogan Adventures series by Chris Schweizer; The Notebook of Doom series by Troy Cummings; Brain Camp by Susan Kim, Laurence Klavan, and Faith Erin Hicks; Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi; Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier; Harry Moon books by Mark Andrew Poe; Honey Moon books by Sofi Benitez; The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman; A Tale Dark & Grimm by Andrew Gidwitz; In A Glass Grimmly by Andrew Gidwitz; The Grimm Conclusion by Adam Gidwitz

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Feature Presentation: Trolls

Trolls_(film)_logoTrolls starring the voices of Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Zooey Deschanel, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Christine Baranski, Russell Brand, Gwen Stefani, John Cleese, James Corden, Jeffrey Tambor, Ron Funches, Aino Jawo, Caroline Hjelt, Kunal Nayyar, and Quvenzhane Wallis

DreamWorks Animation/Hurwitz Creative, 2016. Rated PG

Synopsis: When the ghoulish Bergens invade the Troll Village to steal its citizens for their annual Trollstice Feast, Princess Poppy recruits fellow villager/hermit/doomsday prepper Branch to journey to Bergen Town to rescue her friends.

I honestly don’t know what I was expecting from this movie, but it was definitely girlier than I anticipated. Maybe it was something about the metallic trolls farting glitter or the hugging/singing/dancing nature of the trolls themselves. Sadly, even Branch’s depressed mood and color scheme didn’t do much in the way of making it less girly. Nonetheless, the film’s upbeat energy and the character’s happy-go-lucky attitude is truly infectious even in the most dire of circumstances. Poppy’s self-confidence and positivity sharply contrasts with Branch’s curmudgeonly demeanor, even when he agrees to help Poppy save her friends from certain doom. The Bergens themselves are just as depressed: their only true joy comes from the consumption of Trolls once a year and, as King Gristle Sr. tells his son, there is no other way to be happy. In their own ways, both the Trolls and the Bergens are searching for happiness, but it seems that only one truly knows how to achieve it. While there are part of the movie that seem trite and overly optimistic, the message of perseverance is one that resonates with viewers of all ages and encourages us to see the bright side of life.

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