Genre: Adventure


Nimona by Noelle Stevenson | Mini Book Review

July 3, 2017 Book Review, Graphic Novel, Young Adult 1 ★★★★★

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson | Mini Book ReviewNimona by Noelle Stevenson
Published by HarperCollins on May 12, 2015
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Graphic Novel
Pages: 272
Format: Hardcover
Source: Gift from Secret Sister
Amazon Barnes & Noble Add to Goodreads
5 Stars
Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson. Featuring an exclusive epilogue not seen in the web comic, along with bonus conceptual sketches and revised pages throughout, this gorgeous full-color graphic novel is perfect for the legions of fans of the web comic and is sure to win Noelle many new ones.

Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren't the heroes everyone thinks they are.

But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona's powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.

I’d never ever been interested in graphic novels. Sadly, I fell prey to the assumptions that come with the word “graphic”. Instead of pictorial representations of stories, I was thinking “graphic” in the negative context, so I never felt inclined to pick one up. I was also convinced that there was no way I’d be reading an actual story with any depth to it. I’ve always assumed that stories took back seats to the illustrations as far as graphic novels are concerned. I’d been seeing so many friends fall in love with spunky heroine Nimona, however, that I decided I’d trust them and give it a go!  Nimona may have been my first graphic novel, but it certainly will not be my last!

Nimona was a fast and entertaining read. I really liked the illustrations for the most part, and Nimona’s snarky, take-no-crap attitude was very refreshing and also hilarious. I liked her a lot. The story, which centers on villainous shenanigans, was deep enough that I felt like it was an actual story and not a series of pow!s, bam!s, and zap!s, but not so deep that it was too complicated to illustrate. You can’t expect the amount of depth from a graphic novel that you can from a 500-page fantasy, but I did feel like this story had enough meat to it that it will stick with me.

I’m so glad I gave Nimona a try! I can tell that I will never prefer graphic novels to traditional novels, but it’s so nice to add some variety to my to-be-read list. Sometimes I like something a little fluffier or something that can distract me for a day, and that’s why I’ve come to appreciate graphic novels. It also helps that I’m artsy. lol. I think Nimona was a great gateway graphic novel for me. I enjoyed the characters, the story, the storytelling, the illustrations, and the kind of book I could read very quickly and enjoy over the course of a few hours. It reminded me of watching a movie, and that was very fun for me.


Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter | Mini Book Review

October 13, 2014 Book Review, Young Adult 4 ★★★★½

Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter | Mini Book ReviewUncommon Criminals by Ally Carter
Series: Heist Society #2
Also in this series: Heist Society
Published by Disney Hyperion on June 21, 2011
Genres: Adventure, Contemporary, Mystery
Pages: 298
Format: eBook
Source: Bought from Amazon
Add to Goodreads
4.5 Stars
Katarina Bishop has worn a lot of labels in her short life. Friend. Niece. Daughter. Thief. But for the last two months she’s simply been known as the girl who ran the crew that robbed the greatest museum in the world. That’s why Kat isn’t surprised when she’s asked to steal the infamous Cleopatra Emerald so it can be returned to its rightful owners.

There are only three problems. First, the gem hasn’t been seen in public in thirty years. Second, since the fall of the Egyptian empire and the suicide of Cleopatra, no one who holds the emerald keeps it for long, and in Kat’s world, history almost always repeats itself. But it’s the third problem that makes Kat’s crew the most nervous and that is simply… the emerald is cursed.

Kat might be in way over her head, but she’s not going down without a fight. After all she has her best friend—the gorgeous Hale—and the rest of her crew with her as they chase the Cleopatra around the globe, dodging curses, realizing that the same tricks and cons her family has used for centuries are useless this time.

Which means, this time, Katarina Bishop is making up her own rules.

I have really missed Ally Carter’s writing. She writes characters you love and stories you wish you were a part of. It’s been way too long since I read Heist Society (and LOVED it), so I was worried I would not remember enough to know what was going on or who everyone was. Seriously, though, it was like being reunited with old friends. We just all picked up right where we left off. Oh, how I have missed Kat and Hale and all their thievery and romantical tension! Uncommon Criminals was just as wonderful as I hoped it would be.

I mentioned in my review of Heist Society that I thought Uncommon Criminals would contain a little more romance, and I was right. But again, it was not even close to being the focus of the story. And again, I loved it. The mission and the mystery were much more integral parts of the story, and I was extremely satisfied. The tiny bits of sweet romance left me swooning and excited to see what the next book brings.

Kat has changed a lot since the last book. She’s grown up a lot, and has gained this strong independence. She knows she can succeed on her own, and has actually ruffled some feathers by performing missions without her team. I liked her independence, but was also a little sad that she felt too good for the team that made her successful in the first place. I love how her friends fought for her, though. Rather than being mad and saying, “We’re done with you.”, they did everything they could to help her this time around. These people are true friends, and I wish I had some people like this in my own life.

We do not get to see as much of everyone this time around, which was a little disappointing. Kat was the main focus, with a little here and there from Hale. Gabrielle was kind of an afterthought, and the other boys mostly fade into the background. If I had not gotten to know all of these characters so well in Heist Society, I would have no complaints now. But I missed them this time. Still, though, I really like Kat and Hale is adorable, so it’s not like I’m complaining all that much anyway.

Ally Carter is an amazing storyteller. She writes books that read like movies, and her plots are always full of excitement, humor, and even some tenderness. I’m so in love with these books, and am really sad there’s only one left (although I’ve heard rumors that Ally is writing another. Who knows?)! I recommend this trilogy to everyone I know, and can’t wait until I have time to read Perfect Scoundrels!


Nil by Lynne Matson | Book Review

May 15, 2014 Book Review, Young Adult 13 ★★

Nil by Lynne Matson | Book ReviewNil by Lynne Matson
Published by Henry Holt Books for Young Readers on March 4, 2014
Genres: Adventure, Romance, Science Fiction, Survival
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: From the Publisher
Amazon Add to Goodreads
2 Stars
On the mysterious island of Nil, the rules are set. You have one year. Exactly 365 days--to escape, or you die.

Seventeen-year-old Charley doesn’t know the rules. She doesn’t even know where she is. The last thing she remembers is blacking out, and when she wakes up, she’s lying naked in an empty rock field.

Lost and alone, Charley finds no sign of other people until she meets Thad, the gorgeous leader of a clan of teenage refugees. Soon Charley learns that leaving the island is harder than she thought . . . and so is falling in love. With Thad’s time running out, Charley realizes that to save their future, Charley must first save him. And on an island rife with dangers, their greatest threat is time.

Any book that is marketed as “Survivor meets Lost” has some pretty gargantuan shoes to fill. And honestly, I think this might have hurt Nil, because I went into the book with really huge expectations. I am a Survivor fangirl, and got addicted to Lost very quickly. So I was expecting to fall head over heels into crazy love with Nil. And I didn’t. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. The premise sounds AMAZING, right? People are randomly showing up on this unknown island and have a year to get off or they die. I mean, what a unique and creative idea! That’s why I was so drawn to the book in the first place, I just feel like I wanted more from it. More details. More surviving. Less of what we got.

2. I really, REALLY did not like the romance aspect of the story. It completely overshadowed the craziness of the Island. The great thing about Lost was that the island was a character. It was the main character. Everything that happened was because of the island. Nil needed that same treatment. I did not care about the lovebirds, I did not believe in their love story of convenience, and I got really annoyed by the fact that Thad kept not wanting to get off the island because he did not want to leave Charley. Are ya kidding me? He wants to risk his life and, ultimately, die to spend a few extra days with a girl he has known for less than a month? Less than a few weeks? I don’t like dumb characters. It would have made so much more sense for him to do everything he could to get off the island and then hope the same for Charley. Because then they might have a chance. And I got so tired of hearing how hot he was and how long and lean her legs were. And her hair. And blah, blah, blah.

3. I feel like a lot of time was spent reading about the characters as they ran as fast as they could to try and catch an exit portal to escape. There is only so much an author can do with running scenes.

4. I did like the society on Nil. The teens who live there all pull their own weight, have different talents that make life easier or more comfortable, and all look out for one another. I liked that they set up searching groups for exit portals and did everything they could to try and help people get out. I like that they keep track of who makes it off the island and who doesn’t. They really care about one another, and I felt like these friendships made me care much more about the people involved.

5. I’m not sure whether or not I liked the dual point of view from Thad and Charley. I don’t like dual POVs unless they are done really well and add something to the story, rather than rehashing things we already read about. Sometimes the dual point of view was enlightening, but other times I found it to be predictable and re-hashy.

6. There were so many characters that nobody really got enough time spent on them for you to care about them individually. I liked a couple people here and there, but I could not even remember their names. For this reason, I wish more focus had been placed on surviving instead of the people and the romance.

7. I loved the mystery and intrigue of the inner workings of the island. I love puzzles and figuring things out. I wish more time had been spent on this.

8. Everything ended SO FAST. You’re kind of left hanging, yet there’s no sequel.

Basically, Nil had large shoes to fill before it even hit the shelves and I feel like it suffered as a result. I wanted a crazy, twisted survival story and got a lukewarm instalove instead. The story had SO much potential, too. Yes, there were some good moments, but I was disappointed overall.

This book is a 2014 debut


My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George | Book Review

March 31, 2014 Book Review, Classy Considerations, Middle Grade, That Artsy Librarian 1 ★★★★★

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George | Book ReviewMy Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
Series: Mountain #1
Published by Puffin on 1959
Genres: Adventure, Survival
Pages: 192
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought from Amazon
Amazon Add to Goodreads
5 Stars
Terribly unhappy in his family's crowded New York City apartment, Sam Gribley runs away to the solitude and danger of the mountains, where he finds a side of himself he never knew.

I read this book for my children’s literature class as part of my library and information science grad program. One of our assignments was to write a professional book review (like one that could be published in Publisher’s Weekly or Kirkus) of one of our books for the semester, and so I chose to review My Side of the Mountain!

Roughing it in the mountain wilderness never sounded so appealing! Sam Gribley, tired of his monotonous life in New York City, runs away with his parents’ permission to live a simpler life, equipped with only a few of the bare essentials. This is his account, written as though he were talking directly to the reader, of his yearlong adventure in the Catskills Mountains. He tells of his fight for survival, battles against the elements, love of nature, and wild animal friends. He describes his experiences of making fire, building a shelter, finding food, hunting animals, making clothes, and ultimately discovering what he is truly capable of. Readers are also along for the journey as Sam captures, raises, and trains a falcon named Frightful to be his constant and devoted companion. Mixed in with his exciting feats are pieces of advice he has for the reader on surviving the wilderness such as, “…the more you stroke and handle a falcon, the easier they are to train.”

Jean Craighead George has created a wonderfully timeless escape for readers, both male and female, even though the story is about the experiences, thoughts, and feelings of a young boy. The scenery leaps off the page, and the coordinating drawings and diagrams help the reader picture different contraptions Sam builds and also the wildlife of the region in which he lives. Young readers will open their imaginations to the possibilities found within the pages, and more seasoned readers might have to suspend a little disbelief while reading about some of Sam’s escapades, not to mention the fact that his parents let him go on such a dangerous adventure. In any case, Sam Gribley’s adventure will have readers tearing through the pages, and leave them dreaming of going on one of their very own someday.


A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle | Book Thoughts

March 27, 2014 Book Review, Middle Grade, That Artsy Librarian 2 ★★★

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle | Book ThoughtsA Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Series: The Time Quintet #1
Published by Square Fish on January 1, 1962
Genres: Adventure, Science Fiction, Time Travel
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought from Amazon
Amazon Add to Goodreads
3 Stars
It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.

"Wild nights are my glory," the unearthly stranger told them. "I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me be on my way. Speaking of way, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract".

Meg's father had been experimenting with this fifth dimension of time travel when he mysteriously disappeared. Now the time has come for Meg, her friend Calvin, and Charles Wallace to rescue him. But can they outwit the forces of evil they will encounter on their heart-stopping journey through space?

A Wrinkle in Time and I, sadly, did not click. I found it to be rather boring and, at times, confusing. I read it for my children’s literature class, and am so glad I did because it gives me more credibility in the field of youth services librarianship. I’m sad I didn’t love it, though, because it’s a classic that has been well-loved for a very long time! I’ve decided to not write a formal review and instead, have chosen to post some of my thoughts that I was required to write for my class. Please feel free to chime in with your thoughts on the book!

This book focuses a lot on the battle between good and evil, which I have always enjoyed. These children are really put to the test as they participate in this battle. Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Who all represent a kind of messenger from something good, whether it be a Heavenly place or somewhere else. I think it’s up to the reader to decide what “good” comes from, which can facilitate a lot of interesting discussions.

Battles between good and evil usually bring with them Christian or other religious undertones. I can pick out a lot of Christian themes especially, including the mention of Jesus. Light and dark, Heavenly messengers, resisting temptation, and the mention of books in the Bible also show up in the story. The books of Isaiah and John are quoted. This book has been challenged before, and I can see that these themes might be the reason. At the same time, though, I’m not sure all children would pick up on them.

Children will be able to relate to homely little Meg and misunderstood Charles Wallace. I think they will also enjoy the love within this family, which is another huge theme in the story. Love conquers all. I can see that their imaginations will be stimulated, however, I don’t think I would have been a science fiction lover if I had started out with this book. I enjoyed The Giver and The Time Machine much more.


The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan | Book Thoughts

March 10, 2014 Book Review, Middle Grade 5 ★★★

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan | Book ThoughtsThe Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Series: Percy Jackson and the Olympians #1
Published by Disney Hyperion on January 1, 2005
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Mythology
Pages: 416
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought it!
Amazon Add to Goodreads
3 Stars
Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school... again. And that's the least of his troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy's Greek mythology textbook and into his life. And worse, he's angered a few of them. Zeus' master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect.

Now Percy and his friends have just ten days to find and return Zeus' stolen property and bring peace to a warring Mount Olympus. But to succeed on his quest, Percy will have to do more than catch the true thief: he must come to terms with the father who abandoned him; solve the riddle of the Oracle, which warns him of betrayal by a friend; and unravel a treachery more powerful than the gods themselves.

(I read this book for my children’s lit class as part of my fantasy unit. I’m not really going to review it, but more discuss my thoughts on it.)

I really, really love greek mythology and I studied a lot about it in elementary school. I thought Riordan’s idea put a really fun spin on those myths. I enjoyed seeing the “familiar” faces of Zeus, Poseidon, Medusa, and others show up.

I really loved Grover, Percy’s satyr companion. He’s kind of wacky and silly, but an absolute delight to read about. I was so-so on Annabeth, Percy’s partner in crime. And honestly, I’m not really in love with Percy himself yet. Grover made the book for me. I feel like I would have liked this more as a younger child. I had a hard time relating to the characters. They acted really young, whereas some books for kids seem to have characters that span a variety of age groups.

My favorite theme of the book is a mother’s love. Percy’s mother is a wonderful sweet and caring woman, who is married to an absolute idiot. He is skummy and sleezy and abusive. He smells horrible. And Percy always wonders why such an amazing person would put up with it. It’s not until later in the book that he discovers why, and I ended up really loving the tender moment that discovery created.

Even though I had some issues with the book, I am definitely interested in continuing the series. I’m intrigued by some of the other story lines, and I’m excited to see Percy grow up a little.


Inner Child: The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo | Book Thoughts

March 3, 2014 Book Review, Book Thoughts, Inner Child, Middle Grade, That Artsy Librarian 5 ★★★★★

Inner Child: The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo | Book ThoughtsThe Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
Published by Candlewick Press on September 9, 2008
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy
Pages: 272
Format: eBook
Source: Bought from Amazon
Amazon Add to Goodreads
5 Stars
Welcome to the story of Despereaux Tilling, a mouse who is in love with music, stories, and a princess named Pea. It is also the story of a rat called Roscuro, who lives in the darkness and covets a world filled with light. And it is the story of Miggery Sow, a slow-witted serving girl who harbors a simple, impossible wish. These three characters are about to embark on a journey that will lead them down into a horrible dungeon, up into a glittering castle, and, ultimately, into each other's lives. What happens then? As Kate DiCamillo would say: Reader, it is your destiny to find out.

While it is a TON of work, I am so thankful that my children’s lit class is forcing me to read so many of the books I missed out on as a kid. The following is not really a review, but more of my thoughts on the book from an educational perspective.

I love how the author speaks to the reader directly, either to ask them to think about what is happening on a more psychological level, or just to explain a complicated word she has used in her story. I think this is a wonderful way to write to children, as it includes them and makes them a part of the reading experience.

There are so many beautiful messages and lessons that can be found if you really think about the symbolism of this story. I can think of so many discussions that could be built off of the quotes below:

Finding/being oneself:

Reader, you must know that an interesting fate (sometimes involving rats, sometimes not) awaits almost everyone, mouse or man, who does not conform.

Despereaux stood before the Mouse Council, and he realized that he was a different mouse than he had been the last time he faced them. He had been to the dungeon and back up out of it. He knew things that they would never know; what they thought of him, he realized, did not matter, not at all.”
I particularly love this quote. It is so symbolic of our trials and tribulations changing us as we learn and grown from them.

Love:

Reader, you may ask this question; in fact, you must ask this question: Is it ridiculous for a very small, sickly, big-eared mouse to fall in love with a beautiful human princess named Pea? The answer is … yes. Of course, it’s ridiculous. Love is ridiculous. But love is also wonderful. And powerful.

Did you think that rats do not have hearts? Wrong. All living things have a heart. And the heart of any living thing can be broken.

There is a danger of loving: No matter how powerful you are, no matter how many kingdoms you rule, you cannot stop those you love from dying.

And hope is like love … a ridiculous, wonderful, powerful thing.

Reader, nothing is sweeter in this sad world than the sound of someone you love calling your name. Nothing.

Being discouraged:

Reader, do you believe that there is such a things as happily ever after? Or, like Despereaux, have you, too, begun to question the possibility of happy endings?

There is a lot of talk in the story about our actions having consequences, no matter how insignificant we think those actions are at the time.

Every action, reader, no matter how small, has a consequence.

Light and dark, and the symbolism of each: Light is thought of to be happiness and goodness. It’s music. It’s love. Dark is considered to be scary, evil, and sad.

Stories are lights. Light is precious in a world so dark.

“I think, said Roscuro, “that the meaning of life is light.”

That is, Pea was aware suddenly of how fragile her heart was, how much darkness was inside it, fighting, always, with the light. She did not like the rat. She would never like the rat, but she knew what she must do to save her own heart.

The world is dark and light is precious. Come closer, dear reader. You must trust me. I am telling you a story.

Basically, I loved The Tale of Despereaux. Despereaux is adorable, and when he fell in love with the princess I just melted. I feel like this book has a lot for everyone. Girls will love this royal story, filled with a castle and a princess and love. Boys will love the brave Despereaux and his journey to the dungeons to save the princess. Parents will love this because of all the hidden messages they can share with their children, as there are quite a few teaching moments. Some of these lessons are simply beautiful, and are a nice reminder for kids and adults alike.