Tag Archives: Reviews

Stories in Pictures

28 Mar

Wow, I feel like I didn’t sleep at all last night. It’s one of those grey, tired days where I’m just slogging along. It’s a good day to relax with something easy, something that’s just for fun. So I grabbed a couple of graphic novels from NetGalley and thought I’d give you all my thoughts here.

I love graphic novels. I’m a manga addict, and the American graphic novel can be equally enjoyable (frequently without the multiple volumes and cliffhanger endings that drive me nuts with the manga).

Windy Hollows

The first one I chanced across was one written for children, and connected to a video game. Windy Hollows by by Neo and Adira Edmund follows a group of kids on wild adventure. The publisher has this to say:

From the award-winning educational software and kid favorite gaming website Jumpstart.com, arrives the first ever Graphic Novel from JumpStart and Knowledge Adventure! Come visit Windy Hollows and follow our group of adventurers: Logan, Maggie, Nicolas, Selena and Poe as they arrive at Oakcrest School of Magic. They discover their teacher absent but left a note, “Will be back soon. Read your lesson books and DO NOT TOUCH ANYTHING!” Follow them as they venture into Windy Hollows and embark on a series of quests to undo a potion that went terribly wrong.

The illustrations in this one are pure eye-candy and will get the attention of the intended age group with no difficulty at all. The story moves along quickly and fully satisfies on many levels.

Sadly where it failed was in not giving kids enough credit. The text was so minimal, with a lot of reliance on telling the story through pictures. I tend to believe that kids will make the effort to read when given the chance to do so, especially with such great images to drive the story along. A bit more narrative or dialogue would have cleared up some plot confusion, and honestly would have engaged the reader much more than this volume does as it is.

So, my thoughts? It’s good, it’s fun, but could have been much better. On a scale of 1 – 5 I’d have to give it a nice solid 3 with a recommendation that it be used with those reluctant readers as an introduction into the world of adventure – and then follow up with something a bit more demanding.

The second book really caught me. “Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong” by Prudence Shen was excellent and Prudence just became one of my favorite authors.

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong

The publisher had this to say:

You wouldn’t expect Nate and Charlie to be friends. Charlie’s the laid-back captain of the basketball team, and Nate is the neurotic, scheming president of the robotics club. But they are friends, however unlikely—until Nate declares war on the cheerleaders. At stake is funding that will either cover a robotics competition or new cheerleading uniforms—but not both.

It’s only going to get worse: after both parties are stripped of their funding on grounds of abominable misbehavior, Nate enrolls the club’s robot in a battlebot competition in a desperate bid for prize money. Bad sportsmanship? Sure. Chainsaws? Why not. Running away from home on Thanksgiving to illicitly enter a televised robot death match? Of course!

In Faith Erin Hicks’ and Prudence Shen’s world of high school class warfare and robot death matches, Nothing can possibly go wrong.

Right from the cover I knew I was going to have fun with this one. The story starts out with what looks like a typical school story – rivalries, trying to impress the right people, trying to keep your head down in regards to the wrong ones. Trying to get ahead and to help your friends get ahead in the easiest possible ways.

And then we turned everything upside down, made allies out of the enemies, shoved the plot into a wild and crazy scheme that had no CHANCE of going right, or at least it looks that way, and oh yeah, wrecks Thanksgiving for multiple families.

Whew!

I loved it. I couldn’t put this one down. The illustrations caught the expressions perfectly, I laughed out loud more than once, and the ending was satisfying – and right. Not a stupid happily ever after but something a lot more real that works out for everyone involved.

Oh yeah, I’ll be back on this one. Prudence, you’re writing more, aren’t you?

So this one gets my highest recommendation for you graphic novel lovers, and hey, why not throw it at your teen that has a life way too busy to be reading books. I’ll bet they make time for this one.

Overall a lot of fun and on a scale of 1 to 5 I’d give this one a 7 at least. 😀

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Down South meets Japanese meets…STALKERS?

30 Jan

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Last night I finished reading “Til Grits Do Us Part” – a book I picked up for the title just because I have a fondness for grits even if I was raised above the Mason-Dixon line.

This is the third book in a series wonderfully titled as “Southern Fried Sushi” where apparently the main character, Shiloh, meets with more than her fair share of creeps of the criminal variety. I had a lot of mixed feelings about this book, but before I jump into that, let’s see what the publisher has to say:

Shiloh Jacobs is planning her wedding without family, without money, and without a clue—and trying to make a go of small-town Southern life. Until she stumbles on an unsolved case about a missing woman that makes her run in the opposite direction—right into the would-be killer’s web of plans. In the midst of sorting through her tragic past and strained relationships, Shiloh finds herself on the run from a madman—and hoping she can make it to her wedding alive.

I had to really think about what I wanted to rate this one, and much as I wanted to give higher than three stars, I just can’t.

I love the character of Shiloh. This is the third book and we’re following her as she’s stalked by someone who is sending her creepy messages and a whole lot of roses.

Shiloh is still very much a fish out of water as she’s gone from Japan to the deep south. At times the supporting cast (all very quirky and very distinct) come off a little TOO stereotypical. I like the addition of Shakespeare to redneck, but seriously, all of it got a bit…much…at times. If the author hadn’t grown up in the south, I would have thought that she’d gone a little over the top out of ignorance. Instead she brings out the marvelous quality of being able to laugh at herself. Besides, let’s face it – stereotypes tend to form because there’s a lot of truth buried in them.

The problem, much as I DO love the characters, comes in the pacing. More than once there seems to be a whole lot of things that happened between scenes that we find out in phone calls to Kyoko. And I’m not sure that everything quite clicked – she’s more irritated and annoyed by the stalking but there isn’t a whole lot of fear – and she seems more worried about her wedding than in what’s going on around her. Sadly all of this leads to choppy pacing and inconstant characterization that left me dissatisfied for the most part.

The situations she finds herself in are at times crazy and terrifying. But the true gold of this book are in the discussions where she talks about her fear of death and her friends and fiance provide something to think about. When the crises comes I’m thrilled by how she handles it and comes to trust the Lord in new and exciting ways.

OK, let’s bump this story up to 3.5 stars just for that.

I wish I could give better than this, but it’s a good read all the same. If you’re in the mood for a little deep south romantic suspense, give this a try.

[I got this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]