Review | The Avalon Chronicles Vol 1: Once in a Blue Moon

When Aeslin Finn was a little girl, her parents read to her from a magical book called The Avalon Chronicles. But that was a long time ago. Now a teenager, Aeslin is about to discover just how magical she and that book really are. Transported to the world of Avalon, she discovers a kingdom in need of a Dragon Knight – and the last dragon, Blue Moon, is waiting for her!

Rating: 3 out of 5.

While I felt this was a good start to a new series, it didn’t quite live up to what I was expecting. I really liked the premise and the twist regarding the books, but while the beginning and ending went really fast for me, the middle dragged a bit. I didn’t really feel like I could connect with many of the characters and their motivations. Still, for someone looking for a hero’s journey type fantasy quest in a graphic novel, they would probably really enjoy it. For me it was just ok and I probably won’t be continuing with the series.

Happy reading!

Review | Buffy the Vampire Slayer Vol 1: High School is Hell

Go back to the beginning as the critically acclaimed pop culture phenomenon Buffy The Vampire Slayer is reimagined under the guidance of series creator Joss Whedon!

This is the Buffy Summers you know, who wants what every average teenager wants: friends at her new school, decent grades, and to escape her imposed destiny as the next in a long line of vampire slayers tasked with defeating the forces of evil…only this time around, her world looks a lot more like the one outside your window.

Eisner Award winner Jordie Bellaire (Redlands) and Russ Manning Award winner Dan Mora (Go Go Power RangersHexed), along with series creator Joss Whedon (Marvel’s The Avengers), bring Buffy into a new era with new challenges, new friends, and a few enemies you might already recognize. But the more things change, the more they stay the same as the Gang faces brand-new Big Bads, and the threat lurking beneath the perfectly manicured exterior of Sunnydale High confirms what every teenager has always known: high school truly is hell.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Whoa. Going into this I knew that it was a modernization and that it was remixing the BtVS universe a bit, but there are a LOT of changes. You could honestly go into this with no knowledge of the existing Buffy universe and enjoy it, but there are tons of references and Easter eggs if you are a fan of the canon universe. I did really love the modernization but definitely spun for a loop with some of the events that happen in this volume. I’m both excited and scared to see what happens next!

Happy reading!

Blog Tour | Just Pretend by Tori Sharp | Review + Playlist

Fans of Real Friends and Be Prepared will love this energetic, affecting graphic memoir, in which a young girl uses her active imagination to navigate middle school as well as the fallout from her parents’ divorce. Tori has never lived in just one world.

Since her parents’ divorce, she’s lived in both her mom’s house and her dad’s new apartment. And in both places, no matter how hard she tries, her family still treats her like a little kid. Then there’s school, where friendships old and new are starting to feel more and more out of her hands.

Thankfully, she has books-and writing. And now the stories she makes up in her head just might save her when everything else around her—friendships, school, family—is falling apart.

Author Tori Sharp takes us with her on a journey through the many commonplace but complex issues of fractured families, as well as the beautiful fantasy narrative that helps her cope, gorgeously illustrated and full of magic, fairies, witches and lost and found friendships.

Book Links | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Book Depository | Indigo | IndieBound

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I was really enamored with this graphic memoir from the start because I was able to identify with the way Tori coped with what was happening in her life. While I didn’t have the same experiences as her when I was her age, writing and reading were my escapes when I dealt with my own issues, so it was something that really resonated with me. That 7-9th grade range is a difficult time for many kids, especially when you have so many different issues going on. I really enjoyed the mix of seeing Tori’s life and day to day mixed with her stories when she escaped into them. The story lines in some ways had parallels as Tori navigated her real life and attempted to survive and juggle everything going on. The art style was bright and vivid and perfectly suited both the real life and the fantasy.

Tori Sharp is a Seattle-based author-illustrator and swing and blues dancer with a BFA in sequential art from SCAD. You can find her online at http://www.noveltori.com and on Twitter @noveltori. Just Pretend is her debut graphic novel.

Author Links | Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

I also had fun putting together a playlist on Spotify with some songs that I felt fit some of the feelings I had when reading this book. I’ve included it below!

Make sure you check out the other stops on the tour too! Happy reading!

Review | Isola Vol 2 by Brenden Fletcher, Karl Kerschl & MSASSYK

ISOLA returns!

Following a brush with death, Queen Olwyn and Captain Rook find themselves far off course, without supplies or any hope of breaking the evil spell trapping Olwyn in the form of a magical blue tiger. The companions will face grave new threats and uncover long-held secrets in their quest to find Isola, the land of the dead, where they hope to return the Queen of Maar to human form before war breaks out.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

While I did enjoy this second volume of Isola and definitely want to see what happens with the characters in further volumes, the events of this one did leave me somewhat confused. I feel like this series would have really benefitted from a prologue or backstory set up on the world. We run into a number of different clans or peoples and having no knowledge about the structure of the world really shows in this one. The art and color stories are amazing and I would likely pick them up just for that. I’m hoping that in the next volume we get more information as in this one it did feel like a bridge volume where a lot of things started, but were not wrapped up.

Happy reading!

Review | The Girl From the Sea by Molly Ostertag

Fifteen-year-old Morgan has a secret: She can’t wait to escape the perfect little island where she lives. She’s desperate to finish high school and escape her sad divorced mom, her volatile little brother, and worst of all, her great group of friends…who don’t understand Morgan at all. Because really, Morgan’s biggest secret is that she has a lot of secrets, including the one about wanting to kiss another girl.

Then one night, Morgan is saved from drowning by a mysterious girl named Keltie. The two become friends and suddenly life on the island doesn’t seem so stifling anymore.

But Keltie has some secrets of her own. And as the girls start to fall in love, everything they’re each trying to hide will find its way to the surface…whether Morgan is ready or not.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Having previously loved Molly Ostertag’s other work I was super excited to get the chance to read this one and it did not disappoint! This story had the perfect level of real world conflicts mixed with some magical aspects as well. It’s a Sapphic love story as well as a story about changing friendships, families and more. As always I enjoyed Ostertag’s vibrant art style and colors and loved how the setting and people were depicted. While a number of heavier topics were touched upon such as parents divorcing or Morgan’s inner conflict regarding her sexuality they were all handled really well. The story itself was very touching and whimsical, showing Morgan’s growth through the summer as she came to know herself better as well as those around her.

Happy reading!

Review | The Secret Garden: A Graphic Novel by Mariah Marsden & Hanna Luechtefeld

Green-growing secrets and magic await you at Misselthwaite Manor, now reimagined in this graphic novel adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s tale.

Ten-year-old Mary Lennox arrives at a secluded estate on the Yorkshire moors with a scowl and a chip on her shoulder. First, there’s Martha Sowerby: the too-cheery maid with bothersome questions who seems out of place in the dreary manor. Then there’s the elusive Uncle Craven, Mary’s only remaining family—whom she’s not permitted to see. And finally, there are the mysteries that seem to haunt the run-down place: rumors of a lost garden with a tragic past, and a midnight wail that echoes across the moors at night. 

As Mary begins to explore this new world alongside her ragtag companions—a cocky robin redbreast, a sour-faced gardener, and a boy who can talk to animals—she learns that even the loneliest of hearts can grow roots in rocky soil.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

As someone who read The Secret Garden when I was much younger and know that there are certainly problematic elements to the original story (which is purely attributed to the time in which it was written) this was a good example which contained the basic and main plot while shedding those elements. As a good introduction to the story and the overall journey, I felt it was pretty good. The art isn’t as vibrant as I personally would like with a story featuring a garden, but that’s a me thing. I did really enjoy the whimsy in the drawings of flowers and animals, plus the noticeable changes in Mary as she grew over the story.

Happy reading!

Review | Cici’s Journal by Joris Chamblain

Cici dreams of being a novelist. Her favorite subject: people, especially adults. She’s been watching them and taking notes. Everybody has one special secret, Cici figures, and if you want to write about people, you need to understand what’s hiding inside them. But now she’s discovered something truly strange: an old man who disappears into the forest every Sunday with huge pots of paint in all sorts of colors. What is he up to? Why does he look so sad when he comes back?

In a graphic novel interwoven with journal notes, scrapbook pieces, and doodles, Cici assembles clues about the odd and wonderful people she’s uncovered, even as she struggles to understand the mundane: her family and friends.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I reallly enjoyed this story about Cici, her friends and the mysteries that she discovers and feels compelled to solve. At times she goes to the extreme to do this and learns the consequences of putting these mysteries above all else. She has struggles with friends, her mom and life in general while also navigating the mysteries and writing in her journal. Her journal itself includes pictures, drawings, newspaper clippings and other mixed media elements that will draw in readers and make it feel like an interactive experience. There are also a couple pages that younger readers could customize to feel like they are part of the story. The artwork (as well as what is included on the journal pages) is beautiful and full of whimsy, with a softer color palette that perfectly suits the story and Cici’s style.

Happy reading!

Review | Zatanna and the House of Secrets by Matthew Cody & Yoshi Yoshitani

Welcome to the magical, mystical, topsy-turvy world of the House of Secrets, where Zatanna embarks on a journey of self-discovery and adventure…all with her pet rabbit, Pocus, at her side.

Zatanna and her stage magician father live in a special house, the House of Secrets, which is full of magic, puzzles, mysterious doors, and storybook creatures-it’s the house everyone in the neighborhood talks about but avoids. Not that Zatanna cares, though, because she is perfectly content.

But at school one day, Zatanna stands up to a bully and everything changes- including her friends. Suddenly, Zatanna isn’t so sure about her place in the world, and when she returns home to tell her father, he’s gone missing, lost within their own home.

With thrilling twists from writer Matthew Cody and dazzling artwork by Yoshi Yoshitani, Zatanna and the House of Secrets will delight readers at the turn of every page-and the opening of every door!

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I found this graphic novel to be very cute and while the bulk of it is more fantastical, there are definitely some real world middle school age issues that Zatanna deals with at the same time. The art style was cute and colorful, so it will definitely draw the eye. I would have liked some things to have a little more attention paid to them, such as the sub-plot with her friends and the events that happened with them. If someone is looking for a magical graphic novel with vibrant art and a great story for younger readers, I think this is a solid choice.

Happy reading!

Review | Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani

Priyanka Das has so many unanswered questions: Why did her mother abandon her home in India years ago? What was it like there? And most importantly, who is her father, and why did her mom leave him behind? But Pri’s mom avoids these questions—the topic of India is permanently closed.

For Pri, her mother’s homeland can only exist in her imagination. That is, until she find a mysterious pashmina tucked away in a forgotten suitcase. When she wraps herself in it, she is transported to a place more vivid and colorful than any guidebook or Bollywood film. But is this the real India? And what is that shadow lurking in the background? To learn the truth, Pri must travel farther than she’s ever dared and find the family she never knew.

In this heartwarming graphic novel debut, Nidhi Chanani weaves a tale about the hardship and self-discovery that is born from juggling two cultures and two worlds.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I really enjoyed the story about the choices we make, how life may be different in different countries and the different rights women may have in different cultures. In it we follow Priyanka (or Pri) who is a normal teenager in many respects but also struggling with a number of questions she has about her mother’s past and about where she comes from. She knows little of India and as the story goes on finds that she wants to know more.

I did enjoy the touch of supernatural/magical aspects and found that it was a good plot point once it got to the resolution, but getting there was a little confusing. I would have liked a little more backstory than the brief explanation that was given towards the end. Still, I found it to be an enjoyable and touching read.

Happy reading!

Review | Stargazing by Jen Wang

Moon is everything Christine isn’t. She’s confident, impulsive, artistic . . . and though they both grew up in the same Chinese-American suburb, Moon is somehow unlike anyone Christine has ever known.

When Moon’s family moves in next door to Christine’s, Moon goes from unlikely friend to best friend―maybe even the perfect friend. The girls share their favorite music videos, paint their toenails when Christine’s strict parents aren’t around, and make plans to enter the school talent show together. Moon even tells Christine her deepest secret: that she sometimes has visions of celestial beings who speak to her from the stars. Who reassure her that earth isn’t where she really belongs.

But when they’re least expecting it, catastrophe strikes. After relying on Moon for everything, can Christine find it in herself to be the friend Moon needs?

New York Times–bestselling author-illustrator Jen Wang draws on her childhood to paint a deeply personal yet wholly relatable friendship story that’s at turns joyful, heart-wrenching, and full of hope.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

As I’ve enjoyed some of Jen Wang’s work before I was sure I would enjoy the art in this one, knowing that it had some personal elements to it made me even more excited to get to it. I was not disappointed at all with this one. Not only does it perfectly depict some of the struggles and emotions that young teens/tweens deal with when navigating friendships and finding their place among their peers – it also touched upon some large issues in the element that was Moon’s sudden health condition. I also really loved some of the cultural aspects that were included, such as different experiences that Asian Americans may have, as well as their family dynamics. There were moments that were joyful or funny but also some that tugged at the heart for both Christine and Moon while they figured out their emotions, friendships and life in general.

Happy reading!