The Witch Boy by Molly Knox Ostertag

5 star Graphic Novel

The cover of this graphic novel caught my attention while I was volunteering at the library and somehow, it made its way into my car. I love how these things happen yet; it pushes the other books I want to read further behind. A witch boy. The title was interesting as I always thought that boys who were witches were called warlocks, at least that is what I remember from the show, Bewitched. The illustration on the cover is fascinating too. The boy seems to be doing something secretive, crouching in a corner, candles burning, reading a book. That look on his face, it’s as if he’s been caught or hears something. Then, there’s that shadow peering down over him. Yep, that dragon doesn’t look like the friendly type.

Magic is in Aster’s blood. Boys grow-up to be shapeshifters and girls grow-up to be witches and that’s how it has always been. There’s a whisper amongst their family, about how one member of their family defied the system and the price that he paid for it.

Aster would rather spy on the girls and learn witchcraft than be a shapeshifter. He knows he’s not supposed to practice the craft, he’s heard what has happened in the past, yet this doesn’t stop him. He wants to see if he can actually cast one of the spells that he has overheard.

The illustrations in this book are wonderful. The big text boxes with their bright colors, look amazing on the glossy pages. I was immediately draw in as this story moves quickly along as Aster temptation gets the best of him and he tries to cast his first spell.

Realizing that he’s now good at something, he needs to keep this a secret. I liked how he met Charlie and how they developed their friendship. I enjoyed how they fit together and that things didn’t escalade between the two of them. I loved how Aster continued to spy on the girls repeatedly, even though he kept getting caught. It was comical how persistent he was in learning more about witchcraft, all the while he was trying to be a shapeshifter.

The story picked up speed when one of the shapeshifter boys comes up missing and no one can locate him. Aster believes that he can find him BUT he must use the witchcraft that he knows, to do so.

It was a fun, entertaining read and I’m glad that it found its way into my car. I found out that this is a series, so I will be looking for the other books in this series.

Brave Face by Shaun David Hutchinson

5 stars Nonfiction

I knew this book was going to be rough, I had been warned but I knew that I had to read it for these are the types of books that I enjoy.  I don’t enjoy them for the struggles and the pain that the individuals go through but for a multitude of other reasons.

I enjoyed this book because it made me feel, it brought my emotions up front and center.  And boy, did I have plenty of emotions with this book.  Most of my emotions were directed at Shaun, whether I was ready to scream at him, be scared for him, frustrated with him, or I just wished I could reach inside the book, wrap my arms around him and comfort him.  

This book also showed me how resilient Shaun was. As I read this book, Shaun faced a lot of crappy situations but when all is said-and-done, Shaun persisted. Shaun experienced scrapes, bruises, and scars during the process, and he’s definitely a changed person because of what he went through. That to me says a lot about a person and I enjoy reading how these individuals find their strength and courage. As I read these stories, I feel like I’m part of the story.  I give them encouragement (sometimes more vocal then I should) and push for them to find hope, yet I know that I’m nothing but a voice talking to a book.

This book is also one that I will not forget.  I liked how Shaun warned his readers at the beginning of the book that it contains some difficult topics.  Shaun is being real; this is his life and he’s not going to smooth things over to make his readers happy.  This really happened according to Shaun.  So, deal with it. 

Shaun discusses in this book growing up, discovering his sexuality, how he came out, and his depression.  It’s pretty straight forward and there’s swearing, homosexuality, drugs, suicide, stealing, and some sex, so be willing to walk with Shaun as he covers what his life was like and how he survived.  I thought the novel was powerful and moving.  I realize the year on the calendar has changed, yet I wonder if things have really changed in how individuals are accepted.  Parents, peers, friends, relatives, and siblings all have an impact during this time.  I appreciate Shaun honesty and I appreciate that he shared his experience with others.

Shaun never felt good enough for anyone.  He’d start to get comfortable with someone and then, internally a switch would go off and he’d start waiting for the ball to drop.  It was too good to be true, something bad was bound to happen.  Shaun wanted to fit in with his peers.  Shaun wanted to like girls but when he was with them, it just didn’t feel right.  He lied to fit in but paid the price for it over and over again.  He knew he was different yet he didn’t know why.  Shaun had his own view and opinions and these clouded his mind and judgement.  It took him a while to figure out exactly what made him different and then, he needed to figure out what to do next.

A great read that will definitely leave a lasting impression.  Thank you, Shaun, for sharing your story with others.

Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake

4.5 stars YA

Who’s the liar?  Owen is her twin and they’ve been close growing up but she’s been best friends with Hannah for years, yet now Mara has to decide whose story she believes.  She can’t imagine that either of them would lie about the incident but as Mara watches and listens, she’s able to uncover the truth.

Ashley Blake does a fantastic job covering some difficult issues including gender identity and rape.  As these topics touch the lives of family, friends and peers, the author shows the reaction and magnitude that they have on the individuals involved.

The night of the party, Mara saw her brother drunk with Hannah. Later that night, someone told Mara that they saw Owen and Hannah together and they seemed fine.  Owen claims now that what happened that night, was a misunderstanding and things between Hannah and him weren’t fine that night. Mara’s thoughts were like a swing, as she goes back-and-forth between believing in what her brother says and accepting what Hannah says was the real story. 

Her parents believe Owen’s version of the story and they tried to use family pressure to persuade Mara.  I liked how serious Mara felt about the situation as things around her began to close in. I liked the character of Alex for he felt as confused as Mara but for different reasons.  This was a great novel that I highly recommend if you like to read these types of novels. 4.5 stars

The Whispers by Greg Howard

5 stars Children/Middle School

I absolutely got swept away in this children’s book and whether it was the Whispers, the hobgoblin, Riley’s “own condition” or the way Riley tried to unravel the mystery behind his mother’s disappearance, I had Riley’s back.  Since his mother’s disappearance, Riley’s life has gone off course and he’s the only one who can get it back where it belongs. 

They think Riley knows more about the day his mother disappeared and even though he tries to remember, he can’t remember much about that day.  One day she was here and the next day, she had vanished.  Riley is determined to solve this mystery and he’s determined to call upon the Whispers, to help him.

He’s been told that these fairies, need a tribute so they can do their magic and Riley is more than happy to provide them with one, if they can magically bring back his mother.  Riley and his dog, Tucker are quite the pair and when they go out hunting for the Whispers, my heart melted.  It was their anticipation as they got ready to embark on this journey, then it was the hope and the journey itself, as the two of them traveled out together, that swept me away. 

Riley is wrestling with many issues besides the disappearance of this mother right now. Things are stacking up and the pile is getting bigger: he’s trying to keep his sheets dry at night, his father is becoming more distant from him, Riley is getting tired of being bullied at school because of his “condition,” and now, he’s been told about the hobgoblin, the one who lives in the trees, where the Whispers live.  The Whispers, the only help that Riley feels he has and now, they are shadowed by a hobgoblin?

I really enjoyed this novel a great deal. It was a great mystery, fantasy, and adventure book.  I thought it emotional read as Riley dealt with his own feelings and the events in his life.  This book actually gave me the shivers a few times as some of the events occurring in it, surprised me.  I highly recommend it.

Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake

4.5 stars YA

Who’s the liar?  Owen is her twin and they’ve been close growing up but she’s been best friends with Hannah for years, yet now Mara has to decide whose story she believes.  She can’t imagine that either of them would lie about the incident but as Mara watches and listens, she’s able to uncover the truth.

Ashley Blake does a fantastic job covering some difficult issues including gender identity and rape.  As these topics touch the lives of family, friends and peers, the author shows the reaction and magnitude that they have on the individuals involved.

The night of the party, Mara saw her brother drunk with Hannah. Later that night, someone told Mara that they saw Owen and Hannah together and they seemed fine.  Owen claims now that what happened that night, was a misunderstanding and things between Hannah and him weren’t fine that night. Mara’s thoughts were like a swing, as she goes back-and-forth between believing in what her brother says and accepting what Hannah says was the real story. 

Her parents believe Owen’s version of the story and they tried to use family pressure to persuade Mara.  I liked how serious Mara felt about the situation as things around her began to close in. I liked the character of Alex for he felt as confused as Mara but for different reasons. 
This was a great novel that I highly recommend if you like to read these types of novels. 4.5 stars

I like these types of stories, where there are conflicts which the main character(s) try to overcome. I seem to gravitate towards these types of novels. I also think, that the messier they are, the more that I like them. Wow, I think that says something about me but I am not quite sure what? What about you? Do you like these types of novels or do you like to stay away from them?