Showing posts with label school. Show all posts
Showing posts with label school. Show all posts

Early Book Review: RWBY: Vol. 1 The Beacon Arc by Bunta Kinami

RWBYVol. 1 The Beacon Arc by Bunta Kinami is currently scheduled for release on July 21 2020. In the world of Remnant, monsters known as Grimm wreak havoc. They’re kept in check by Huntsmen and Huntresses, highly skilled warriors experienced in monster extermination who utilize their special abilities on the field of battle. Ruby takes her first step on the road to becoming a Huntress by enrolling at Beacon Academy, eager to take on the battery of tests, challenges and difficulties that follow. Ruby knows her talents will take her to her goal, but is she ready to clash with Weiss Schnee, haughty scion of the Schnee Dust Company?

RWBYVol. 1 The Beacon Arc is a solid start to an engaging story. A few very important characters are introduced and fleshed out in the midst of settling into school and a very dangerous mission. I think story did a great job of introducing the world this all takes place in, and the characters in their strengths and weaknesses. I liked the variety of personalities and skill sets and think that it does a good job of interesting readers that might never have heard of the series previously. The art is nearly perfect, although I will admit that I occasionally had trouble keeping track of who was who in some of the action scenes, because there was just so much going on. I think this promises to keep newcomers to the RWBY Universe and long time fans happy and entertained. 

Book Review: Ao Haru Ride, Vol. 1 by Io Sakisaka

Ao Haru Ride, Vol. 1 by Io Sakisaka is a popular shojo manga series that was adapted into the Blue Spring Ride anime. In high school, Futaba gets a second chance with her first love, Kou. Futaba Yoshioka thought all boys were loud and obnoxious until she met Kou Tanaka in junior high. But as soon as she realized she really liked him, he had already moved away because of family issues. Now, in high school, Kou has reappeared, but is he still the same boy she fell in love with?

Ao Haru Ride is a story that felt very classic to me. Girl that wants to fit in, but does not want to quite be the stereotype that she would need to act like to really fit the mold. Figuring out who she really wants to be, and how she wants to interact with other people. Trying to decide is Tanaka is who she thinks he is, and then where she stands with him, is at the heart of the story. However, being herself and figuring out the importance of how she interacts with others and being herself is a close second in importance. The story was classic for young adult literature in general, and this style of manga. I liked the art style, it was consistent and showed the emotion, motion, and mood of each moment very well. 

Ao Haru Ride felt familiar and comfortable. It is classic high school story of finding yourself and figuring out what you want and who you want to be.

Early Book Review: Not Your Idol, Vol. 1 by Aoi Makino

Not Your Idol, Vol. 1 by Aoi Makino is a manga style graphic novel currently scheduled for release on June 10 2020. It is a psychological suspense series about a girl who has given up her life as an idol after being assaulted by a fan. After that day, she stopped being a girl. In the wake of an assault, Nina Kamiyama, a former idol in the group Pure Club, shuns her femininity and starts dressing as a boy. At high school she keeps to herself, but fellow student Hikaru Horiuchi realizes who she is. What secrets is she keeping? The shocking drama starts.

Not Your Idol is a well drawn and suspenseful story. I liked the pacing, including the action and the character backstory and development. I really enjoyed the character dynamics of Nina/Karen and how her life and perspectives have changed over time. The issues of sexual assault and related issues are handled very well, and how different people react to them is an issue we all need to think about. The story is very engaging, and kept me turning pages to learn more about the characters and what might happen next. It is not an easy read, as there are a number of tough moments and some things that survivors might find very triggering, and others will find upsetting. However, it is well written and I am very eager to see where the story goes from here, and learn more about the major players as the story continues. My only complaint is the cliffhanger that the volume ends in. Be prepared to be left wondering, and eager for the next volume. 

Not Your Idol is an intense and engaging read. I look forward to seeing what happens next.

Book Review: In His Kiss (Unrequited) by Ava Alise

In His Kiss is the first book in the Unrequited series by Ava Alise. "This was a mistake" were the words that sunk my entire world. Jordan should have been my first, he was already my everything. My best friend, my secret crush. We were closer than siblings. Our family's weaved together an intricate pattern of lines never meant to be crossed, until that night. We had a bit too much to drink and the heated way he stared at me made me feel that we could finally be something more. Things got a little out of hand and once the kissing started I didn't want it to stop. The time felt right and I gathered courage and told him how I felt. If only I knew how awkward things would be the next morning.

In His Kiss 
is a book that had me almost constantly holding my breath waiting for something horrible to happen- and each time the the issue was less horrible than I expected. It is emotionally charged and draining, but in the best way. Xia and Jordan have been best friends forever, and each crushing on the other almost as long. When things heat up the insecurities and family struggles they each have are the first barriers to their happiness, but not the last. I do love that they talk to each other, even if they delay it too often. There is just so much going on for all the characters, and one of the twists I considered right away- but some of the moments were really unexpected. Their friends and family are also well developed, and have so much going on in their own stories. I will admit that there were moments that I found Xia and her reactions to be immature, but this is also about college age characters and their is self-awareness about maturity levels that really balanced out those moments of annoyance.  I am invested in this circle of individuals, and am very much looking forward to the next book, which the afterward promised me. 

In His Kiss is an intense read with a happy ending. I enjoyed the read and look forward to more.

Book Review: Love Me, Love Me Not, Vol. 2 by Io Sakisaka

Love Me, Love Me Not, Vol. 2 by Io Sakisaka is a graphic novel continuing a young adult manga story. Fast friends Yuna and Akari are complete opposites—Yuna is an idealist, while Akari is a realist. When lady-killer Rio and the oblivious Kazuomi join their ranks, love and friendship become quite complicated! Love and friendship have become quite complicated for these four friends. Yuna has fallen in love with Rio, but he has feelings for Akari that he’s never been able to express. While Yuna keeps his secret, Akari makes a move on the person she’s interested in.
Love Me, Love Me Not, Vol. 2 is a good follow up to the first volume, but it did not grab me and keep my interest as much as the first. It took me a couple pages to remember all the details of who everyone was and where we left off. Once I was back in the swing of things there were emotions, angst, and teen conflict left and right. Yuna and Akari come to some conclusions and are working toward being more honest with themselves about their emotions, and in some cases more open with others. There were heart wrenching moments, and some that have left me as confused as the characters in the story. I think readers that enjoy character angst and emotional struggles will want to keep reading this series, and will enjoy it. 

Early Book Review: Blue Flag, Vol. 1 by KAITO

Blue Flag, Vol. 1 by KAITO is a young adult manga that is currently scheduled for release on May 10 2020. It’s the last year of high school, and love is in the air. Romantic feelings that have been building up over years of friendship come to light. When Taichi’s classmate Futaba asks him to help her confess to his best friend, Toma, it sparks the catalyst that begins the sweet and heart-wrenching journey of their third and final year of high school.

Blue Flag is a well written and drawn story. I liked the art style, and how no character is too perfect or bad. They are all just high school students trying to navigate school, relationships, and their own feelings. They are each complex characters, and changing as they grow and figure out who they are, what they like, and who the like. At that age these things are all moving targets, and  think the story does a good job of illustrating that. Taichi is getting a better understanding of some of the choices he has made, and how he appears to others. Futaba is trying to come out of her shell and be a stronger person, and Toma has secrets he is not ready to share. Watching their interactions with each other, and the larger scope of schoolmates and family, was fascinating and I cannot wait to see what happens next. I will admit that I saw some of the complications or secrets coming, but I so enjoyed the ride. My only issue with the story is that it ended just as things were getting good and I really want the next book.

Book Review: The Family We Make by Dan Wingreen

The Family We Make by Dan Wingreen is a contemporary romance. Spencer Kent gave up on love a long time ago. As a twenty-eight-year-old single father with a fourteen-year-old son, Connor, he knows his appeal to the average gay man is limited, and when you factor in his low self-esteem and tendencies towards rudeness and sarcasm, it might as well be nonexistent. But that’s okay. A man is the last thing Spencer needs or wants.Tim Ellis’s life is falling apart around him. After four years of hard work at college, he finds himself blacklisted from the career of his dreams by the professor he refused to sleep with and abandoned by the boyfriend he thought he was going to marry. Even though he was lucky enough to land a job at a bakery, he still feels like a failure.Tim and Spencer’s first meeting is filled with turbulent misunderstanding, but Tim makes a connection with Connor through a Big Brother/Big Sister program, and both men put aside their mutual dislike for his sake. By letting go, they may help each other find their way into a life they never could have imagined.

The Family We Make is a sweet romance that spends as much time on character development as it does the romance. I enjoyed how well developed the major and secondary characters were. I also thought knowing the inner insecurities and anxieties of both Time and Spencer made their relationship and interactions even sweeter.  This book ticked all the boxes for what I enjoy in a slow burn, friends to lovers romance, and a single father romance. I loved getting to know the characters, and thought everything was very well done. However, I have to admit that for some reason I just never connected with the story. At about the halfway point I started to get bored. I kept reading, because I did want to see how it all played out and I wanted to see the HEA- but I caught myself skimming descriptions and Spencer's latest worries until the end. I am not sure if I just was not in the mood for the book or style because I could find nothing actually wrong with the book. It just left me a little uninterested by the end.
The Family We Make is an emotional romance that hits several great tropes, and has very well developed characters. 

Book Review: Kakushigoto: My Dad's Secret Ambition Vol. 1 by Kouji Kumeta

My Dad's Secret Ambition Vol. 1 by Kouji Kumeta is a manga style graphic novel. Kakushi Gotou is a single father with a secret: He’s a top-selling manga artist of a raunchy series that perhaps isn’t suitable reading material for his young daughter, Hime. So he does what any doting father would do, he hides it all from her, no matter the hi jinks that ensue!

My Dad's Secret Ambition is a book that hit some really good notes. I liked the single father struggling to do right by his daughter, and the lengths he would go to in order to keep her happy and healthy. The social gaffes and caste of characters were interesting, but I was rarely fully engaged in the story and found myself having to go back to re read or look closer at a picture to decide if I missed something. The artwork style is nice, but it just did not match up with my personal preferences consistently. I did like the personal notes and writings from the author, which put some on the scenes and moments in context and made it more interesting. 

My Dad's Secret Ambition is a good graphic novel, with some really good moments. It just did not wow me after having read some absolutely fabulous ones recently.

Early Book Review: Love Me, Love Me Not, Vol. 1 by Io Sakisaka

Love Me, Love Me Not, Vol. 1 by Io Sakisaka is currently scheduled for release on April 10 2020. Four high school friends share the springtime of their youth together. Fast friends Yuna and Akari are complete opposites—Yuna is an idealist, while Akari is a realist. When lady-killer Rio and the oblivious Kazuomi join their ranks, love and friendship become quite complicated!

Love Me, Love Me Not is a sweet story of four high schoolers trying to figure out what they want from love, friendship, and themselves. I liked the way the characters were different from each other and none was perfect. I enjoyed the art style, it did not stand out as unique, but did a wonderful job of capturing the moods and emotions of the text and characters. The four major characters all had moments when they absolutely shone, and others when they showed their flaws. I think the self doubt and worries were all very realistic and the story covers Yuna and Akari facing some of their issues in how they see themselves. My biggest complaint is the big reveal and cliff hanger ending opening up more questions than were actually answered in the story. Of course, thes just means I need to read the next one, but still. AS a whole I really enjoyed the story, and am glad that I read it.

Love Me, Love Me Not is a young adult graphic novel that will appeal to many. I enjoyed the story and will be keeping an eye out for volume two.

Book Review: Komi Can't Communicate, Vol. 1, by Tomohito Oda

Komi Can't Communicate, Vol. 1, by Tomohito Oda is a young adult magna. The journey to 100 friends begins with a single conversation. Socially anxious high school student Shoko Komi’s greatest dream is to make some friends, but everyone at school mistakes her crippling social anxiety for cool reserve! With the whole student body keeping their distance and Komi unable to utter a single word, friendship might be forever beyond her reach. Timid Tadano is a total wallflower, and that’s just the way he likes it. But all that changes when he finds himself alone in a classroom on the first day of high school with the legendary Komi. He quickly realizes she isn’t aloof—she’s just super awkward. Now he’s made it his mission to help her on her quest to make 100 friends!

Komi Can't Communicate is a graphic novel about finding your place in school, and I really like that it shows how different the way people feel can be from how they are perceived by others. I think readers of all ages can identify with Tadano on some level. He just wants to get through school unscathed, but things are not all that simple. In real life they never are either. Befriending Komi might not be good for flying under the radar, but it does help her start toward her own goals for school. I really liked that we get to see multiple perspectives, which gives the reader a bit of room to wonder how much of the story might be different from another view, and how much of their own worries or fears are fueled by similar assumptions and misperceptions. Aside from all that heavy stuff, there was also a good deal of humor and funny moments, and I found the read engaging and entertaining. I enjoyed the artwork very much, and think the line work did a great deal to add to the emotion and overall story through out. I thought the cast of major characters was well done and fun, and I look forward to seeing more. I did find the ending a bit abrupt, like maybe the last couple pages and back cover were missing from my digital copy, but that could have just been a clever hook to make me want the next installment even more. 

Komi Can't Communicate is a fun and engaging read. I think most middle schoolers through adults would find something entertaining and relatable in the read. 

Early Book Review: Don't Check Out This Book! by Kate Klise

Don't Check Out This Book! by Kate Klise is a children's book currently scheduled for release on March 10 2020. Consider the facts: Appleton Elementary School has a new librarian named Rita B. Danjerous. (Say it fast.) Principal Noah Memree barely remembers hiring her. Ten-year-old Reid Durr is staying up way too late reading a book from Ms. Danjerous's controversial "green dot" collection. The new school board president has mandated a student dress code that includes white gloves and bow ties available only at her shop. Sound strange? Fret not. Appleton's fifth-grade sleuths are following the money, embracing the punny, and determined to the get to the funniest, most rotten core of their town's juiciest scandal. 

Don't Check Out This Book! is a read full of punny names, and a healthy dose of humor. I really enjoyed the letter based format, and think that it portrayed the personalities and intent of the characters very well. I liked how well the different tones and voices were done, even with variation in stationary and handwriting to make them each stand out. I like that while some of the personalities seem over the top, I have actually met people like most of these characters. The story seems simple, but covers a lot of ground. THere is the importance of following the rules, but knowing that there is a time to question them and follow your own heart and mind to do the right thing. There is supporting others in doing the right thing, the importance of the perfect book, and how some people crave power and prestige more than the good they could do with it. The balance of humor and important ideas is so well done that it does not feel like preachy or heavy handed, which can ruin a read for some readers (like myself). I hope just as many parents, educators, and school board members read this as children because there were moments that felt all to real. I really enjoyed the read and was reminded how much I have enjoyed Klise's work. 

Don't Check Out This Book! was a great story that I think kids and adults can enjoy on their own and to spark conversations. 

Early Book Review: Snapdragon by Kat Leyh

Snapdragon by Kat Leyh is a magical realist graphic novel about a young girl who befriends her town’s witch and discovers the strange magic within herself. It is currently scheduled for release on February 4 2020. 

Snap's town had a witch. At least, that’s how the rumor goes. But in reality, Jacks is just a crocks-wearing, internet-savvy old lady who sells roadkill skeletons online—after doing a little ritual to put their spirits to rest. It’s creepy, sure, but Snap thinks it’s kind of cool, too. They make a deal: Jacks will teach Snap how to take care of the baby opossums that Snap rescued, and Snap will help Jacks with her work. But as Snap starts to get to know Jacks, she realizes that Jacks may in fact have real magic—and a connection with Snap’s family’s past.

Snapdragon was so much more than I expected. When I first started reading I thought I was going to get a typical story about a young adult dealing with fitting in and finding friends, with a dose of not judging a book by its cover. That is all there along with so much more. Snapdragon is trying to find her place in a new school and makes a friend that is struggling to find their place just as much as she is. Being yourself and standing up for yourself and others is fully in play here and very well done. I was worried that the town witch story line was going to by typical, but I should have known better. Jacks is different, no question about that. I loved watching Jacks and Snap forge a connection and each get more out of the friendship than they expected.  I really enjoyed how frank and openly the LGBT aspects of the story were handled- it was refreshing. I loved the art style, and think that the colors and motion on each page added a great deal to the feel of the story. I just really enjoyed this read and already have a few young readers that I would like to recommend it to.

Snapdragon is a great graphic novel for middle grade and older readers. I love the way a variety of subjects were covered and blended together. It is a wonderful read.

Early Book Review: Jinxed by Amy McCulloch

Jinxed by Amy McCulloch is a middle grade series starter that is currently scheduled for release on January 7 2020. Lacey Chu has always dreamed of working as an engineer for MONCHA, the biggest tech firm in the world and the company behind the “baku”—a customizable “pet” with all the capabilities of a smartphone. But when Lacey is rejected by the elite academy that promises that future, she’s crushed. One night, Lacey comes across the broken form of a highly advanced baku. After Lacey repairs it, the cat-shaped baku she calls Jinx opens its eyes and somehow gets her into her dream school. But Jinx is different than any other baku she’s ever seen…He seems real. As Lacey settles into life at school, competing with the best students in a battle of the bakus that tests her abilities, she learns that Jinx is part of a dangerous secret. Can Lacey hold on to Jinx and her dreams for the future?

Jinxed is ba well written start to a new series. Lacey is a smart and determined middle school girl, who has her faults and makes mistakes but tries to to the right and best thing. The world and character building is well done, feeding readers the information they need at a good pace, neither overwhelming them with too much information at once or making them wonder if they missed something. I liked Lacey's character and the relationships she maintains or builds with those important to her- even if she makes some mistakes along the way. I liked the premise and the execution of it.  I thought that the technology in the story is well done, and not unrealistic when the story on how and why it was developed in considered. I would not be surprised if someone was already working on something of this nature. The implications of the technology is also well thought out and positioned in the story to be game changers.The characters are all complex, and even the ones we only see in passing feel complex and multi layered- leaving them plenty of room to play major roles in the upcoming books. My only complaint with the story is that it does end with a cliffhanger. The majority of the story is wrapped up and crisis managed, but there is a big new problem to deal with. I cannot wait for the next book so I can read all about what happens next. 

Jinxed is a very well written middle grade novel with great series potential. I am eager to see where Lacey and the other characters go from here. 

Early Book Review: Elizabeth Webster and the Court of Uncommon Pleas by William Lashner

Elizabeth Webster and the Court of Uncommon Pleas by William Lashner is a middle grade novel currently scheduled for release on October 15 2019.  Elizabeth Webster is happy to stay under the radar (and under her bangs) until middle school is dead and gone. But when star swimmer Henry Harrison asks Elizabeth to tutor him in math, it's not linear equations Henry really needs help with-it's a flower-scented, poodle-skirt-wearing, head-tossing ghost who's calling out Elizabeth's name. But why Elizabeth? Could it have something to do with her missing lawyer father? Maybe. Probably. If only she could find him. In her search, Elizabeth discovers more than she is looking for: a grandfather she never knew, a startling legacy, and the secret family law firm, Webster & Son, Attorneys for the Damned. Elizabeth and her friends soon land in court, where demons and ghosts take the witness stand and a red-eyed judge with a ratty white wig hands out sentences like sandwiches. Will Elizabeth's father arrive in time to save Henry Harrison-and is Henry the one who really needs saving?

Elizabeth Webster and the Court of Uncommon Pleas has a wonderful premise and I greatly enjoyed the character building. I liked Elizabeth, she had the blend of spunk and vulnerabilities that rang true for a middle school girl. Her family and friends were nicely rounded with much more depth than I usually see in novels for this age group. I liked the relationship between Elizabeth and Natalie, and how two girls celebrated their differences while keeping their friendship. I also enjoyed the relationship Elizabeth had with her mom and step father- that they clearly cared about her and let her be herself and express herself was wonderful. I was glad to see that there was some humor, and plenty of odd visuals sprinkled through the story. Although I have to admit that I sometimes found myself skimming some of the descriptions so that I could get back to the plot and action a little quicker. I liked the variety of twists and turns in the story- solving the mystery surrounding Beatrice's death, finding Elizabeth's father, and so on. I liked that it was not a simply solution, but at the same time it really felt like a long read. It also felt like it was clearly a set up for a series, and while I am intrigued by the secrets Elizabeth's mom might be keeping, I am not sure that all the build up was enough to really hook me. It was a good read, it just did not capture my attention the way I expected something with this blend of coming of age, mystery, and supernatural secrets to.

Elizabeth Webster and the Court of Uncommon Pleas is a a novel that the upper elementary and middle school set will enjoy. I liked the premise and the execution- but it was a book that I could easily put down when I needed to.

Early Book Review: Unplugged and Unpopular by Mat Heagerty Tintin Pantoja, Mike Amante

Unplugged and Unpopular is a graphic novel written by Mat Heagerty and illustrated by Tintin Pantoja and Mike Amante. It is currently scheduled for release on October 15 2019.  

Erin Song lives in a digital world. Everyone has a phone, a tablet, a computer—more screens than you can count. Even with a world of information at her fingertips, Erin can’t figure out the secret to popularity at her clique-y junior high school. So when uber-popular Wendy asks for help cheating on a test, Erin jumps at the opportunity. This could be her big break! Unfortunately, she gets caught, and her parents ban her from all her devices. Suddenly, Erin Song is the only girl in the world who’s not allowed to look at a screen. And that’s when Erin notices something funny: small, furry aliens making humans disappear with a weird device Erin’s never seen before. No one else notices them, though—except Erin’s grandmother and two old men who run the local library. They’ve discovered that the aliens are using screens to control the human race, tricking them into thinking they aren’t really there—and that anyone who’s been abducted never existed. Now it’s up to Erin and her grandmother to save the day! But without technology on their side, do they stand a chance?

Unplugged and Unpopular is a graphic novel for the tween set. Let's start with what I thought were the best aspects of the story. I thought the story was fun, and many readers will enjoy it. The desire popularity and discovering what is really important is a big part of Erin's story, andI thought that aspect was handle very well. Also, the way many people treat children and older adults was sadly a little too close to the truth for my peace of mind.  I liked the art style a great deal, it capture the intent and mood of the story well and frankly was the high point of the story for me.  It was similar in style to some of my favorite graphic novels, so it was familiar and comfortable to me. If I were reviewing only on the art the book would have gotten more stars.

Now, for the things that bothered me as I read. While I do think the dependence on technology is a good starting point, because it is clearly a large part of society right now, I thought it was a little heavy handed and frankly wrong on some aspects. I feel like the author has not been in a library for many years, because librarians tend to be on the forefront of tech- because patrons will have questions on how to use it and they need access to the more accurate and current information possible to do their jobs. Yes, there are librarians that are not well versed in tech, but I have yet to see a library with no computer screens or tech available for staff or patrons. Also, I found the no-screen thing extremely ironic as I was reading a digital galley rather than a paper one. 

Unplugged and Unpopular is a well drawn graphic novel with a fun story. I did not love it, but think some readers will enjoy it more than I. 

Early Book Review: Outlaws (Royal Academy Rebels) by Jen Calonita

Outlaws is the second book in the Royal Academy Rebels series by Jen Calonita. It is currently scheduled for release on October 1 2019. I do highly recommend having read the first book in the series before this one. It would be good to have read the Fairy Tale Reform School series as well, but that is not quite as important as Misfits.
After being banished to the Hollow Woods following their discovery of Headmistress Olivina's secret villainy, a note from an ally urges Devin and her friends to go in search of Red Riding Hood, who they believe can help them figure out what to do next. Instead, they come across a troupe of fairytale vigilantes, including a former Royal Academy princess, Robin Hood, a pirate named Corden, and more. Alongside their new vigilante friends, Devin and her crew come up with a plan to expose the truth about Olivina to all of Enchantasia, or risk their homeland falling under villainous rule once and for all.

Outlaws is a good follow up to Misfits. Devin and her  band of friends face fresh dangers and discover more about themselves, each other, and the world they live in. The addition of Tara and her friends make things more complicated, but so much more fun and interesting. The skills of the new teens added to the story were very cool, and I liked getting more of the back story of how things reached the point where Devin and gang were banished. I enjoyed seeing the adventures they jump into, and the way they solve things with quick thinking, friendship, and being good people rather than brawn or deceit. I think the dangers and  problems they face were well done, and I liked how they did not always handle themselves perfectly but figured it out as they went, just like most of us do with much more mundane issues. I found the conclusion to be satisfying, while leaving plenty of curiosity for what what might happen next but not dangling on a cliff. I look forward to following this series on to its conclusion.

Outlaws is exactly what I was hoping for and expecting from Calonita. I love the world and character building she does, and I think fans of the Reform School series will love this follow up just as much.

Early Book Review: The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner

The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner is a middle grade to young adult graphic novel that is currently scheduled for release on September 3 2019. Thirteen-year-old Moth Hush loves all things witchy. But she’s about to discover that witches aren’t just the stuff of movies, books, and spooky stories. When some eighth-grade bullies try to ruin her Halloween, something really strange happens. It turns out that Founder’s Bluff, Massachusetts, has a centuries-old history of witch drama. And, surprise: Moth’s family is at the center of it all! When Moth’s new powers show up, things get totally out-of-control. She meets a talking cat, falls into an enchanted diary, and unlocks a hidden witch world. Secrets surface from generations past as Moth unravels the complicated legacy at the heart of her town, her family, and herself.

The Okay Witch is a a graphic novel that takes a classic trope- underappreciated and bullied kid turns out to have powers- but magic does not instantly make everything better. I liked the way Moth and her friend CHarlie are written. Neither are perfect but both are trying to be the best people they can, and trying to find themselves in relation to their parents and in spite of them. I liked the larger story- setting their family drama and inner struggles against the history or the town. I liked seeing how history directly affects the present- and the characters in the story. I think the attitudes of the other kids- and a good number of the adults- were spot on with what I have seen in the world. My only complaint with the story is that I wanted to keep going. I want to see Moth and Charlie continue to grow, I want to see more about their families and the possible changes that are made, I just want more. That is not to say that there was anything lacking in the ending- the conclusion wrapped things up nicely- but did leave some room for sequels. I cannot end this without saying how much I loved the art style, I really enjoyed every page visually. Facial expressions and movement were conveyed perfectly and the images just made me happy.

The Okay Witch was an amazing debut graphic novel from Steinkellner and I think it will appeal to middle grade and older audiences. I look forward to seeing more from them in the future!

Early Book Review: Something Is Bugging Samantha Hansen by Nancy Viau

Something Is Bugging Samantha Hansen by Nancy Viau is currently scheduled for release on August 28 2019. Ten-year-old Samantha Hansen loves science! In the beginning of fourth grade, she never let a moment go by without talking about rocks. Now she’s back with a new obsession: insects! Upon learning that the local apiary is for sale, she goes into action to save the honey bees. Will her someday boyfriend Todd or her best friend Kelli be part of her plan? Will That Kid Richard get in the way? Sam’s lists of insect facts and funny thoughts highlight her quest to keep the bees in the community, the challenges she faces at school, and her ongoing struggle with her temper. Join Samantha as she looks to science for answers and does her part to change the world. 

Something Is Bugging Samantha Hansen was a read with some good points, and some low points. I really enjoyed that facs about bees and other insects were part of the story. I also liked that the larger idea of friendship changing and having more than one good or best friend is possible. Most of all, I liked the encouragement to get involved with causes that are important to you, such as saving the bees. The dealing with frustration and anger, counting and channeling the energy towards better things, were fairly well done as well. The friendship battles, dealing with changing interests, new friends, and peer groups seemed very accurate to me- as a mom and someone that has worked in an elementary school. All of that was what kept me reading. I was a little annoyed with the 'boyfriend' seeking, and the leaning on the idea that a boy teases a girl because he likes her. Can we not continue with that? I would much rather boys learn to give their attention in better ways, and girls not be in the position where they have to deal with that or be tasked with changing that boy's behavior by giving him the attention they want. I think that sets a bad president for both boys and girls. I also had some trouble becoming engaged with the story as a whole- the writing style just did not click with me, but I think that is more a matter of personal preference than anything wrong with the technique. 

Something Is Bugging Samantha Hansen is an interesting early chapter book that will strike a chord with some readers. The story just did not wow me, despite some very well done aspects.

Book Review: The Mortification of Fovea Munson by Mary Winn Heider

The Mortification of Fovea Munson by Mary Winn Heider is a middle grade novel. Fovea Munson is nobody's Igor. True, her parents own a cadaver lab where they perform surgeries on dead bodies. And yes, that makes her gross by association, at least according to everyone in seventh grade. And sure, Fovea's stuck working at the lab now that her summer camp plans have fallen through. But she is by no means Dr. Frankenstein's snuffling assistant! That is, until three disembodied heads, left to thaw in the wet lab, start talking. To her. Out loud. What seems like a nightmare, or bizarre hallucination, is not. Fovea is somebody's Igor, all right. Three somebodies, actually. And they need a favor. With a madcap sense of humor and a lot of heart (not to mention other body parts), this is a story about finding oneself, finding one's friends, and embracing the moment.

The Mortification of Fovea Munson is honestly one of the strangest books I have read in the very best ways. What starts off as a almost standard story, middle schooler having trouble with friends and family trying to get through a summer that is certainly not going as planned turns into a madcap adventure with singing heads and a mystery to solve. I love that the mix of real and what the heck is so well balanced. Life can be pretty strange when you are at that age, but I do not remember it ever being that crazy. I thought that Fovea was a very realistic character- with parents that embarrass her and sometimes fail to hear her (which is how most kids feel) and facing friendships changing and having trouble with her classmates in general. I think most readers can sympathize with her on those fronts, even if they have never faced problems quite as unique as Fovea's.  At the same time, the talking heads, blackmail, spunky grandmother, and the less typical aspects of the story keep the readers moving forward, trying to find solutions, and pondering what they might do in such a situation. I was engaged through the entire read and think that most other readers will be as well.

The Mortification of Fovea Munson is a wonderful read with a balance of realistic problems and unbelievable details and moments that come together perfectly. I recommend this read to middle grade readers and older.

Book Review: Pennybaker School is Revolting (Pennybaker School) by Jennifer Brown, Marta Kissi

Pennybaker School is Revolting is the second book in the Pennybaker School series written by Jennifer Brown and illustrated by Marta Kissi. While newcomers might get the gist quickly, I recommend reading this series in order to fully enjoy the uniqueness of Pennybaker school and those that work or attend there.

Sixth-grader Thomas Fallgrout is finally settling in at Pennybaker School, home of student unicyclers, thespians, acrobats, and other classmates with unique and unusual gifts. After a bit of an unusual start to the school year, things are finally starting to seem normal. As normal as they ever could be at this decidedly unusual school, anyway. Until his Facts After the Fact (aka History) teacher Mr. Faboo goes missing, right in the middle of his favorite lesson of the year, leaving the class not a clue as to why or how. And his Four Square (aka Phys Ed) teacher introduces a new unit that is decidedly distressing. And Thomas’s neighbor, the formerly friendless Chip (he of the wacky sock collection), swoops in and bonds with all of Thomas’s friends, leaving Thomas in the dust. This year is getting out of control, and it’s up to Thomas to take matters into his own hands. It’s time… for a revolution.

Pennybaker School is Revolting is a fun story about friendship and figuring out the important things. Thomas is still struggling with the strangeness of his school, and his best friend. But, the a teacher that has gone missing and a series of events that leaving him with what is important to him. Thomas is trying so hard to find his place in school, with his friends, and who he wants to be and how he wants to be seen. This is all on par with what kids (and some adults) really struggle with on any given day. However, sometimes it did seem a bit much for me, but I am well past the target age and well into the stage where I no longer really care what people think about me- well most of the time. I enjoyed the black and white illustrations, and thought they add a nice touch and some additional humor and information to the story. I did like the craziness that happens in the story, and enjoyed the read. I just did not love it like I did the first book in the series.

Pennybaker School is Revolting is a good story about friendship and coming into your own. I think there are many readers that will enjoy it, and maybe see something of themselves or their worries inside.