Crossover: graphic novel by Kwame Alexander

5 stars Graphic Novel

This was fantastic!  You could really feel the energy and the emotions in this graphic novel which is an adaptation of the original novel with the same name.  I think kids will love this book.

This is not your typical graphic novel with text boxes, this graphic novel’s illustrations and text fill up the entire page.  Whether the page includes one illustration or four, it is the exact amount that is needed to get the point across.  With varying sizes of text, you will find yourself catching the rhythm of the book, as the story unravels. Using only shades of orange, black, and white, throughout the book, it’s amazing how captive you will become to Josh’s story.

You see, they were twins, Josh and Jordan.  Great basketball players who did a lot together.  Their father was a legend, on the court, many years ago.  Lately though, Jordan’s eyes have not been on the ball so much.  His eyes are on a girl and Josh feels ignored/left out/abandoned. Josh wants his father to intervene but his father won’t. Dad has some health issues that mom has been riding him on but dad says he’s fine.  I love the word play this couple speaks to one another. 

You can feel the energy soaring through the pages, the pain that’s growing inside of Josh, and witness the relationship that’s building between Jordan and his new friend.  The words were carefully chosen, they fit, they fit like a glove to make this graphic novel pulse.  

Then, he does it.  Josh unleashes his frustration and I hope that he feels better because everyone else doesn’t.  He’s done more harm then good and the repercussions of his anger, he’s paid a price for it. 

Excellent graphic novel!  Very powerful and is one that is definitely worth reading.   

Last Things by Jacqueline West

5 stars Fantasy

I really enjoyed the author’s use of language in this book.  I liked how they slowly explained the events occurring, without revealing too much, letting me become totally immersed into the drama.  I could feel the intensity and the energy of this book which I didn’t put down until I had finished it. 

I also liked that there weren’t many individuals to keep track of in this book.  Reading this on vacation, I didn’t want to have to resort to keeping a lot of notes on it while reading it.  I found that, I got so involved in reading it, I forgot to write down anything about it except for the first few pages.

The book centers around a girl named Thea who moved to Greenwood and lives with her Aunt Mae.  Aunt Mae has a reputation around town as being witch, or perhaps a lunatic.  Yeah, not a good one to have.  Some think it’s because she’s a drunk and when she’s like that, she likes to talk.  Her talking is not pleasant either.  Aunt Mae tries to warn individuals about things that she has seen, things that haven’t yet occurred and that doesn’t settle too well with some individuals.  Aunt Mae doesn’t move much from the couch, she keeps her bottle close to her and Thea makes sure that her aunt has a fresh supply.  

When we meet Thea, it’s Friday night and she’s headed off to the Crow’s Nest to hear the band, Last Things.  It’ll be a mixed crowd of high school kids to heavy metal fans.  Last Things is a local band and they’re becoming quite popular.  Anders started the group and when he plays, he gets lost in his music just like their fans get lost when he plays on stage. They put on quite the show and lately, the place has been packed.  

Thea stays off to the side when she watches the group perform, she hasn’t missed a show, since she got in town. Back at Aunt Mae’s, Thea has been stockpiling items outside, taking great care to secure these items, hidden from sight.  Why she’s doing this, I have no idea but the idea that she doing this to “lock them out,” intrigues me. Thea attends high school, where she doesn’t really fit in but she watches and she’s aware of her surroundings.  She keeps an eye on Anders, he’s different than the guy who everyone loves on stage on the weekends. Is this a crush or it is something else?  Does Anders even know about Thea?  I was beginning to wonder what their connection was.

Thea doesn’t spend much time at home but when she does, she talks with her aunt.  Thea and her aunt have a bond with “them.” Thea feels that “they” are becoming bolder and closer and Aunt Mae understands this.  What they are talking about and how this all ties in with Anders was getting quite interesting as Thea’s behavior was getting stranger. I was all in and I couldn’t put this book down.   

Thank you to Harper Collins and Epic Reads Insiders   for supplying a copy of this book to me for an honest review. 

Here in the Real World By Sara Pennypacker

5 stars Middle School

I really wasn’t sure how I felt about this book until I was a few chapters in and then, well I loved this book!  Ware had just witnessed his grandmother being whisked off to the hospital and now his summer plans were ruined.  He didn’t want his parent’s Plan B for his summer, that is, until he found a tree.  Climbing that tree was the beginning of Ware’s own Plan B.

Ware’s parents had a goal for the summer and they immediately found an alternative plan for Ware when his grandmother could no longer care for him over the summer.  Ware didn’t want his parent’s alternative plan, and he was now, begging and bribing his parents to change their minds. In the end, nothing worked.

Plan B. Most everything looked the same as it did years ago, as the building appeared before him.  Ware knew he couldn’t live out the rest of this summer at the Rec.  This was daycare and he was now 11 ½, this place is not for him. I loved Ware’s attitude; at times, he acted older than he was yet there’s still that child within him.  Ware finds his escape during exercise class, when he spots a huge tree in the lot next door.  Believing that the tree would provide the perfect cover, he scales it.  How long can Ware hide up in the tree?

Ware had studied medieval times at school and he was becoming obsessed with castles, knights and various items from that era.  His plans at his grandmothers to build a replica were now cancelled but now sitting in this tree, Ware remembered the church that was on this lot. Shock came over him, as he noticed that the church had been destroyed and was now lying in pieces.  Ware notices a girl digging in the dirt, behind the church.  Trying to remain undetected, Ware creeps closer yet the girls spots him immediately.

Instantly, Jolene take control of the situation. She announces that this area is hers and that Ware needs to leave immediately!  I thought this was funny when I first read it.  It totally took Ware off-guard.  I wasn’t expecting Ware to fight back but he did.  He also took control.  He told Jolene that the church was his and her response…..well, she would just have to see about that. 

I liked how the two of them fit together.  Ware needed a space and the damaged church provided that for him.  Actually, it provided more than just a space for him to hang out but I’m not going to spoil the book for you.  Jolene needed the space behind the damaged church.  You might be thinking, what is Jolene doing? Well, Jolene is having some issues at home so she needs this space behind the church. They also needed each other, sometimes more than the physical space.  There are also problems because the lot has a sign on it and the sign means problems for more than just these two.  

Jolene and Ware worked hard and tried to transform the area that they were now trying to claim as their own.  I enjoyed reading about this and how they got along.  The references to the baptistry, the “do-over tub, the “sinner” tub, and the moat made this a fun book to read.

I loved how Ware alluded his mother each day when she dropped him off at the Rec.  Ware wanted to tell his mother what he was doing but he overheard her talking one day and he now knows, that he can’t. He then tries hard to be a knight and abide by the Knight’s Code that he has memorized.  I really enjoyed it when Uncle Cy and Ashley were added to the story, they were wonderful characters and I feel that they added a great deal to the story.  

What an excellent story, I really enjoyed it.  It was crazy good!  The ending gave me goosebumps as I was shedding happy tears.

“don’t ask to be normal- you’re better than that.”

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.

Go With the Flow by Lily Williams & Karen Schneemann

5 stars Middle School/YA

I also found this book while volunteering at the library and I’m glad that I picked this one up. Now, I know graphic novels touch on a variety of subject matter but this subject matter is a first for me in a long while (thank you, Judy Blume). As I read this book, the first thought I had was, where was this graphic novel when I was younger?

In this graphic novel, a small group of high school friends come together to provoke a change. Abby, the artist in the group, is preparing for the chance to have a display in an upcoming exhibit in the library. The show features feminist voices and activism. Abby doesn’t realize it but today, marks the beginning of her display.

The three girls find Sasha, a new student, in the hallway needing assistance. The girls immediately sweep in, take her under their wings like good Samaritans, and usher her into the bathroom. They’re nice and honest with her and they don’t leave Sasha until things are under control. It’s now that Abby discovers the injustice that marks the beginning of her art display and the movement that she leads with her friends. As Sasha tries to cope with what has happened to her, the girls try to resolve the issue(s) that they no longer want to ignore.

The three girls welcomed Sasha to their group immediately and they come together to try to change the way that their school handles an issue that has been ignored for quite some time. While this task is underway, the girls talk freely about menstruation. This talk is not restricted, they are very open and sincere, they cover quite a few important issues surrounding this topic, issues that aren’t just mentioned but provide great detail and meaning. I loved the honesty and the emotions that came through this graphic novel. No one held back as they provided feedback or told their own stories as each topic was discussed.

This is an important graphic novel, one that covers a subject some individuals find hard to talk about. Why, it’s hard to discuss? There are a lot of different reasons but in honesty, it’s a topic that should be discussed more openly and honesty. I know, they show the movies and have the discussions at school, but to have a fictional graphic novel that covers this topic, in detail like this one does, is fantastic! Kiddos, to the author for writing such a great book. I highly recommend it.

Amal Unbound by Alsha Saeed

5 stars Middle School/YA

Amal’s dream of becoming a teacher were put on hold when she must stay home and tend to her mother, who has not recovered since giving birth to her fourth child.  Amal waits with anticipation for the day when she can return to school but an incident with a rich landlord/politician takes her even farther from her dream.  Yet, through it all, Amal continues to keep reaching for that dream.

Becoming one of his servants to pay off the debt, Amal works at his lavish estate and believes that she’s working off the debt, that the incident triggered.  This is a whole new world for Amal and I enjoyed how Amal handled herself.  Locating a library within the estate, Amal begins “borrowing” material until someone spots her and tries to stop her. When she located the library, the first thought that went through my head was Belle from Beauty and the Beast.  I imagined her reaction and amazement to be the same and that brought smiles to my face. 

Amal is wise and clever, which I feel gives her an edge.  She does what’s expected of her and she tries to stay out of trouble.  She just wants the debt to be paid off so she can return home and return to her studies.

I really enjoyed this book. I thought it was a fast read and I really liked the character of Amal. She was a bright individual, a character who matured in the novel and someone that I cheered for throughout the whole book.

Good Enough by Jen Petro-Roy

4 stars Realistic Fiction/ Middle School

I didn’t know what to expect from this book when I first started listening to it. I knew that I wanted to read it as it was on my TBR list but as I started to listen to it, I didn’t like how the book was starting out.  I continued listening and, in the end, I liked the rollercoaster ride that I took with Riley. 

When Riley was checked into the treatment center by her mother, Riley acted standoffish and I thought she wouldn’t make it.  She didn’t see herself belonging to the individuals on this floor.  She didn’t feel that she had an eating disorder and she believed that she would be in-and-out of the center within hours.  She hid behind the truth because she believed it, she’d convinced herself that she was normal, so why was she there? 

Riley liked salad and she liked to run.  Actually, I thought Riley was obsessed with running.  If you could look inside her head, you would see a different Riley but of course, you couldn’t.  Riley had convinced herself that what she was doing was normal because that was the world that she lived in. I could totally understand what Riley was saying and why she was saying it.  Riley had not just convinced me but I looked at Riley’s life and I saw things the way she saw them. While at the center, Riley was playing the staff and not being totally honest with them.  I felt that if she continued, they might just release her, and then what?  She’d go right back to being Riley and hiding her eating disorder.  Riley really needed to see that eating healthy wasn’t a bad thing, she needed someone to help her take those first few steps.

Being in treatment, Riley is able to take a few baby steps towards a healthy eating plan.  There are others in the program who are struggling, so she is not alone.  It’s not easy, every meal they struggled and there are the inner voices that haunt and taunt them, as their eyes glare down on their food.  It was the voices that got me as I listened to this novel on audio.  I don’t feel that I have an eating disorder but I could totally relate to what they were telling Riley.  I’m health conscious and I think about those extra calories before I eat them.

I thought she was making huge improvements.  Riley was starting to feel good about herself, she was learning to accept her new image, and Riley was living in a controlled environment, yet wait…….what would happen when they set her free?  I hate to be a Debbie Downer but let’s face reality here. What would happen when Riley gets released and she has to face her friends, her family, and the real world?  You have to consider this outside world influences Riley. How is she going to handle this?  Riley is a twelve-year-old teen and pressure is high at this age.  I, seriously had my doubts for Riley.  I wouldn’t be surprised or upset if Riley had issues once she is released. 

I like how this book addressed Riley’s eating disorder. How it began, her struggles and successes, and how her life was like outside the center. This was a great, realistic novel that I’m glad I read and would definitely recommend.  

Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson

4 stars Middle School/ Ya/ Children’s Chapter

I listened to the audio of this book and I thought it was really good.  The only issue I had was some of the voices on the audio.  It sounded like some of the voices were dubbed in, for they were louder than any of the other voices on the CD’s and it was annoying.  I enjoyed how the students discussed their opinions and their lives, and I enjoyed the discussion on the last CD.

As the students gather weekly in the Art room, they have become a small family.  They were chosen to be a part of this group and at first, they’re not quite sure exactly what their part is, in all of it.  They are a small group, a group of their own peers.  Meeting weekly to discuss anything they wanted, without any distractions or interruptions.

I like how the conversations started to change overtime.  They become more lucid and fluid, their tones changed and they started to care more for one another.  They weren’t just peers anyone but they became friends and sometimes they became brothers and sisters, someone they could depend and lean on.  They’re not all the same which makes their conversations interesting and sometimes intense. 

They’re kids, they speak from the heart and they show their emotions without warning.  It’s a great audio and it’s rather short.  The interview/conversation with the author at the end was interesting so make sure you stay tuned to that, if you listen to the audio.  I highly recommend the audio version of this book.      

The Devil’s Revolver by V.S. McGrath

4.5 stars Fantasy/Western

This was better than I imagined.  I loved the cover and that is what sold me on reading it.  The story is part fantasy and part western but the story is total enjoyment as Hettie tries to save her little sister, Abby.  Bonded with Diablo (a.k.a the Devil’s Revolver) Hettie unfortunately is walking into many situations blindly.  Her accuracy holding a firearm is one talent she can count on and one that she uses to her advantage.

I like how Hettie takes matters into her own hands.  She doesn’t wait around and hope for someone to help her out and she doesn’t whine, she moves.  She almost moves too fast, sometimes.  She immediately goes after Abby.  When she sees Ling in trouble, she steps in.  She’s not afraid of speaking her mind to anyone, she is herself. When bonded with Diablo, the unknown of what has occurred doesn’t shake her, she just continues on. 

With magic and loaded weapons, Hettie learns the truth behind Diablo and the price this demonic weapon carries. This was a high energy read for read and the magical aspects of the novel were entertaining.  I can’t wait to read what happens in the next novel. 4.5 stars

I received a copy of this novel from NetGalley and IBPA in exchange for an honest review. 

Wilder Girls by Rory Power

4.5 stars Fiction

Wow!  Let me see if I can find the correct words to describe this book: enticing, captivating, startling, and remarkable.  The more I read of this book, the more questions I had and the more I needed to know.  The females who lived on this island fought for their own survival, barricaded behind a fence, they fought to live, yet somehow the Tox had made its way into their compound, so what is the fence keeping out?  

They were all girls inside this huge house, originally labeled Raxter School for Girls, located on an island. What’s left of them, live in quarantine, staying alive by the rations supplied to them by boat and brought to the house by the Boat Girls and an adult, the only people allowed past the fence.

The authorities are still working on a cure and the girls were left in the dark about the Tox.  Waiting and living with their conditions, each of them are growing older and watching each other, as each one of them receives their own form of the Tox and have their “first.” Individually, as one of the girls begins twitching and then shaking, I was eager for what was about to begin but nervous and scared for the actual event to occur.  

The story is told by Hetty and compared to some of the other girls at Raxter, Hetty is down-to-Earth.  Byatt sleeps next to Hetty on the bottom bunk and Reese sleeps on the top bunk, you really get to know these girls in the novel as they are very close to one another.  One day, Byatt is missing.  How can she be missing when no one goes outside the fence?

The novel felt creepy and mysterious, like there was a big secret that no one was telling you.  What was beyond the fence was exciting and it felt like Little Red Riding Hood mother said, “stay on the path.” I really enjoyed the author’s writing, the imagery I had while reading was fantastic.  I liked the storyline and how, there were times that I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. This was one of those books that ran in a cycle for me, it was slow at times, then fast and this cycle continued as parts of the novel’s mystery was revealed throughout its pages.  There were a few times that I had to go back and reread a few things, but other than that, I really enjoyed this novel. 4.5/5

Thank you, Penguin Random House, for providing a copy of this novel to me in exchange for an honest opinion.