Unicorn Power (Lumberjanes #1), by Mariko Tamaki & Brooke Allen

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What the junk?! There’s a new Lumberjanes NOVEL for middle-grade readers hitting stores this October! Even if you’re not a hardcore lady type, this book will have readers in stitches as they follow Ripley, Molly, Jo, Mal and April on an all new adventure as they  attempt to scale a massive mountain. As usual, things don’t go quite as planned and lots of weird stuff happens. My inner X-Files nerd loves this series for that reason.

Written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Brooke Allen (one of the series’ original creators), there are plenty of zany adventures, wicked-awesome catch phrases and hilarious moments that keep the plot humming along. I read an advanced reader copy earlier this summer and couldn’t put it down.

What in the Joan, Jett? There’s Unicorns?!

Did I not mention that? Apart from the always charming girl-power heroines, adding unicorns into the mix of supernatural creatures that the girls encounter was lots of fun. The storyline felt whimsical, just like the graphic novels, which I appreciated since I am such a huge fan of the series. There were all sorts of hilarious details, like beautiful unicorns that smell terrible and bizarre camper badges too.

Friendship to the Max!

One detail that I loved about this book was the ability to learn more about each character through the detailed backstory. In the graphic novels, there are lots of fascinating reveals too, but I found that in this medium, there was an even greater opportunity to reveal more through changing point of view and narration. Through the varying narrative voices, this new instalment of Lumberjanes has a lot of cool moments that add a whole new level of enjoyment to the reading experience.

Fantastic Illustrations!

Have I mentioned yet how much I love the illustrations? Scattered throughout the prose, there are lots of illustrations that could have come right from the graphic novels themselves. It was fun to read a scene and then see an imagining of what it might look like, since I’d already read the graphic novels. Truthfully, I’m a sucker for sketches or other elements that give a text greater depth, because it makes the whole reading experience feel richer.

Should you read this book? Um, yeah. If you like girl-power narratives, high-stakes adventures or just stories about lots of weird things happening, this book is for you!

 

The Witches of New York, by Ami Mckay

Book Review

 

Normally, I don’t like to choose big historical tomes for a plane ride regardless of how long the flight might be, but on a recent trip to Norway, this book caught my attention. And since today is my birthday, I thought I’d take a minute to talk about one of my favourite books I’ve read this year. …Maybe it was because it had a supernatural element woven into the plot that made me take the risk, but I’m certainly glad that I did. The Witches of New York is not only beautifully written, but it is also a wild historical adventure.  One that, admittedly, made me wish for an extra hour on that plane!

The Supernatural Sisterhood

IMG_6400Forget about The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants,* The Witches of New York features (mainly) three witches living in New York City and it is at least in part a story of their lives as they try to make an honest living in their tea shop, Tea and Sympathy. There are plenty of seances, ghostly encounters and other strange sprightly occurrences to keep the reader turning pages. What I loved though, is the narrative about women’s rights that also gets woven into the storyline, whether it is through the mention of the Suffragette movement or the more immediate struggles that Eleanor, Adelaide and Beatrice face as they strive to provide certain banned services to the women who frequent their shop looking for more than tea and gossip.

A Hair-Raising Mystery

As if fantastic girl-power narratives aren’t enough, on another level, The Witches of New York features an intricately designed mystery that unfolds as the characters are brought together. At first, I was daunted by the number of characters that are introduced at the beginning of the book. If they hadn’t each been distinct and interesting, it might have counted against my enjoyment, but as I watched the characters gravitating towards one another and learned of their interconnectedness, I couldn’t help but feel a surge of excitement.

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Verisimilitude in the City

Amidst the exciting setting and plot, the elements of verisimilitude were an added level of intrigue. Embedding bits of “newspaper” and pages from spell books or want ads created a thoroughly fascinating, multilayered world. This, paired with a whole cast of loveable characters makes The Witches of New York a totally engrossing read. Even if you don’t like historical fiction, this book is too magical not to read.

 

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*Actually, don’t forget about The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants. I love that series too, for its’ fun, girl-power awesomeness.

 

 

Gorgeous Graphic Novels You Should Pick Up Today

  1. Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson – Even though it’s not a new graphic novel, I have to mention it, because it is just that awesome. Shapeshifters, weird -technology AND an evil genius who might not be that evil? Yeah. If you haven’t already, just go and buy it. Read it and then read it again.
  2. Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride, by Lucy Knisley – I’ve read ALL of Lucy Knisley’s graphic novels so far and this one is equally fantastic. With her sharp wit and funny, relatable stories about getting married, I loved dipping back into Lucy’s continued saga once again.
  3. Rolling Blackouts: Dispatches from Turkey, Syria and Iraq, by Sarah Glidden – I picked this book up because of the art on the cover, but I fell in love with the beautiful artwork. This book showed me so many different perspectives; through the narrative it feels like Sarah Glidden takes you along on her adventure.
  4. In Real Life, by Cory Doctorow – As a sci-fi fan, I was drawn into the engrossing online world of Coarsegold Online, but I was fascinated by the way that Cory Doctorow examines not only adolescence, but also poverty and culture-clash.
  5. Lumberjanes, by Grace Ellis & Noelle Stevenson – Hardcore lady-types rejoice! This series is a fun, fantastical and perfect reading material for anyone who likes strong-female-oriented narratives that involve all manners of supernatural coolness.
  6. ApocalyptiGirl: An Aria for the End Times, by Andrew MacLean– As we follow Aria and her cat Jelly Bean through the apocalyptic landscape, we discover that Aria is on a mission. This fast-paced adventure has it all: sci-fi awesomeness, creepy aliens and some seriously action-packed scenes.
  7. Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat!, by Kate Leth – a fun, fast-paced story that is equal parts witty and thought-provoking, I couldn’t put it down. Sure, Patsy may have (literally) escaped Hell, but now she’s just trying to be normal in New York City. Naturally, hilarity ensues.
  8. SuperMutant Magic Academy, by Jillian Tamaki – set in an academy for SuperMutants, there are science experiments gone awry, a new kid who is also a fortune telling cat and a plethora of zany antics that still feel so true to the high school experience. Funny, poignant and beautifully illustrated, this is a great book to pick up if you love all things weird and wonderful.

What graphic novels do you love?

 

Diary of Anna the Girl Witch

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Anna the Girl Witch, by Max Candee is an interesting weaving of fiction and folklore. Although it had a slow start, the mystery surrounding Irvigne Manor and Anna’s heritage drew me in. As an orphan, Anna never knew her parents but instead was raised by Uncle Misha and Mama Bear in the Russian wilderness. On her thirteenth birthday, Anna is about to discover that not only is she not an orphan, but her family is more than a little bit strange.

An Unusual Sidekick

Samwise Gamgee and Hermione have nothing on Squire.  Sure, they may be loyal, but can they fit into a backpack? One of my favourite characters in this book was Squire, a disembodied hand. Maybe it’s the fact that for a “sidekick” character, a hand is unusual, but I also felt that the author still manages to infuse such warmth into his character without actually showing any facial expressions or body language other than bobbing and tickling. I think what I liked about Squire was that despite his macabre appearance, he isn’t scary or evil. He’s just…unusual.

A Sneaking Suspicion

The best part of any children’s book (I think) is the sneaking around that occurs as the story progresses and this book was no exception. Whether she was sneaking out to the forest to light a candle and discover more about her family or tip-toeing around the expansive orphanage in Geneva, Anna seems to always find a way to duck the rules and in the process, she takes the readers with her.

A Complex Character

Throughout the book, Anna struggles to uncover who she really is (other than being a witch, of course). While she ultimately discovers that there is a little bit of good and not-so-good in everyone, I thought that the portrayal of her struggle was honest. There were several times where Anna has impulses to do things that aren’t so heroic, but I think that her role models –Anne Frank and Malala Yousafzai — tempers her development and gives the reader a deeper understanding of who Anna is becoming.

If you love a good middle-grade mystery with some supernatural intrigue, then be sure to pick up Diary of Anna the Girl Witch!

What are your favourite supernatural sidekicks?

Court of Thorns and Roses, by Sarah J. Maas

When you’re on the road as much as I’ve been in the last few weeks, a good audiobook is pretty much key to not going totally insane. I’m happy to say that Court of Thorns and Roses proved to be the perfect antidote to road-craziness. Borrowing from classic fairy lore, this story follows Feyre, a tough huntress who refuses to let the tough circumstances of her family’s life crush her. When Feyre is forced to go and live in the faerie lands after she mistakenly kills a fae, Court of Thorns and Roses is equal parts romance, fantasy and mystery.

Fabulous Fantasy Elements

There are certain rules of writing fairy stories that I’ve read several times – the heroine is usually met by a dashing Fae lord who she DEFINITELY doesn’t like (but will later fall in love with), there are some bargains made (always always a raw deal) and usually an evil fae queen is involved. In many ways Court of Thorns and Roses doesn’t stray from these elements at all, but Sarah J. Maas adds in lots of original details that kept the story feeling unique.

A Steamy Retelling

When I first realized that this was a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, I wasn’t sure what to think. I’ve studied a lot of other retellings during my Master’s year, and not all of them were all that scintillating. However, the slow-blooming romance between Feyre and Tamlin was definitely a wild ride:

“We moved together, unending and wild and burning, and when I went over the edge the next time, he roared and went with me.”

What kept me listening was also the mystery of the blight and Feyre’s adventures in the woods with Lucian as she learned about her new surroundings. Plus, I love that Maas has mixed the world of the fae with a fairy tale classic and added in that element of steamy romance that isn’t always present in fairy stories.

An Overall Good Time…

…Not just because of the “steamy bits,” but because the characters were lovable and the plot was so fast-paced that I wanted to just keep on driving around the block to hear more of the story. If you’re a fan of fairy tales or just like a good YA/NA romance, check out Court of Thorns and Roses, because I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

What is your favourite New Adult book?

 

 

 

Throwback Book Club: Vampire Academy

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Confession: I’ve never read Vampire Academy. I know, I know. It was a big movie ten years ago…but…it just fell off of my radar and I never read the series. Then, one day last week, I picked up a copy at my local thrift store because, well, why not? When I discovered the #throwbackbookclub organized by EmmaBooks, Adam Silvera and Michael BookLion I knew that I had to give Vampire Academy a shot…

Told from the perspective of Rose Hathaway, Vampire Academy is the story of Rose and her best friend Lissa’s return to St. Vladimir’s Academy after being on the run for two years. Rose, a half-vampire, half-human dhampir must protect Lissa (a full vampire) from the constant threat of the evil Strigoi; what they learn is that inside the academy might be just as dangerous than the outside…

A Whole New (Vampric) World

9781595143600I’ve read a lot of vampire books during the whole “glittering vampire” phase, but what I liked about this one was the unique use of vampire lore to create an entirely different world. Creating different kinds of vampires like “Strigoi” (the evil ones), “Moroi” (the royal ones) and “Dhampirs” (the half-human guardian ones) added a whole new dimension to the story.

Cool Narrative Devices

Richelle Mead also uses some interesting devices with narration. Although the narrative is told from Rose’s point of view, because she has a connection that allows her to see inside of Lissa’s mind, we are transported to Lissa’s point of view occasionally too. I thought this was a clever way to work with point of view. This and the fact that the mystery was drawn out slowly made Vampire Academy a quick read.

Girl Buddies Rule

My favourite part of this book was Rose and Lissa’s friendship. Even though there is romance in this story, the narrative mostly revolves around best friends and what it means to be a good friend. I think that this is a great message to have in a YA book, because while romance is always fun, it’s also awesome to see girl BFFs represented in a positive, non-catty light.

Girls rule!

What books have you been meaning to pick up but haven’t yet? Have you read Vampire Academy? What did you think of it?

Persuading Austen, by Brigid Coady

A book Review

As a Jane Austen fan, I knew that for this week’s Waiting On Wednesday, I had to read Persuading Austen, which is a modern retelling of Persuasion. Luckily, I was given an Advanced Reading Copy in exchange for an honest review!

In this version, the Elliots are a family of actors, except for Anne who must take care of her frivolous father and sisters. Just like in the original, Anne was in love with Wentworth, but persuaded to leave him by her Aunt. When Austen Wentworth, now a sizzling hot movie star comes back to star in a new production of Pride and Prejudice, will Anne set aside her pride and win him back?

Literary Geeks Will Love This

Apart from the story keeping relatively close to the original Persuasion (for the first part of the book), there were so many fun references to other Jane Austen novels. I loved this nod towards the originals, because it added an extra layer of depth to the reading experience for fans of Jane Austen’s work. In particular, Anne works for The Northanger Agency, there’s a new production of Pride and Prejudice and Wentworth’s first name is even Austen.  That being said, if you aren’t a lover of the classics, there is plenty to keep you turning the pages (quickly).

A Plot that Sizzles

Perhaps my most favourite element of this story was watching Annie crawl out from under the dominating shadow of her family and become her own person. I felt that Brigid Coady did an excellent job of providing Annie opportunities to achieve her goal only to pull them just slightly out of reach each time.  Even better, the tension between Anne and Austen keeps the plot sizzling along. It made for an exciting and fun read that I could not put down.

If you like remakes of the classics, or even just a witty, fun romance then pick up a copy of Persuading Austen when it comes on sale July 18th!