LumberJanes

aprilThe LumberJanes is a strange but fun graphic novel suited for tweens.

The girls in the comic are quirky, diverse, and have hilarious one liners like “I have many skills. Falling is among them.” They make fairy tale references as they battle mysterious wildlife and often exclaim the names of famous women where there would normally be an “oh my God”. A lot of the references might be lost on kids but they are amusing for readers who recognize the names.

Why are hipster Yetis so odd?

Because they can’t even.

The graphic novel is broken lumberjanes1-e1406304295769down into chapters based on the badges the girls earn as LumberJanes.

While it has the pace and interest level appropriate for ages 10-13 the girls do use words like “jerk”, “stupid” and “what the junk” in place of swears and I know some parents might object to it.

It’s off the wall and has no real explanation in Vol. 1 for why there are 3 eyed beasts and possessed boy-scouts…but if you like fun stories about adventurous girls this is worth a look.

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Unspeakable

cover artCaroline Pignat brings to life a historical tragedy and fictional love in Unspeakable. Similar to the story in the film Titanic, but undeniably original, this novel captures the fear, pain, and survivor’s guilt from the shipwreck of The Empress of Ireland.

“No, the waters didn’t take me that night, but I was drowning, still, in survivor’s guilt” (pg 176)

The friendships and romances are memorable. Learning about Jim’s perspective gradually as Ellie reads his journal is heartbreaking as we see the lost opportunities that so many people suffered.

The class divide on the ships makes you think about society and priorities. In shipwrecks, and in life, it is more dangerous to be in the lower class. Having a protagonist who grew up wealthy but is disowned and needs to work as a stewardess (in a time that was like serfdom) allows readers a view of the larger picture. She sees the contrast all the more starkly, making the transition.

“We write our lives by the choices we make. Like it or not, that becomes our story”

Ellie is a strong character who keeps her integrity through hardships. She experiences more hardships than many could bare but keeps her wits about her, stays true to herself, and fights for what is important to her. She is ostracized for her teen pregnancy, hounded by reporters for being one of the few survivors of disaster, and judged for following her heart. She makes mistakes, but the way she deals with them make her a good role model for readers.

A fantastic read for fans of adventure, survival stories and romance.

The Voice Inside My Head

cover artS.J. Laidlaw’s The Voice Inside My Head is a mystery that’s packed full of  emotions. The novel has adventure, comedy, and a deep sadness.

Luke’s quest to find his missing sister results in him getting to know her better than ever. He sees what she would have been like if she wasn’t burdened with all the responsibilities of caring for him and his parents. His love for her, and unwillingness to give up on finding what happened to her drives the reader to NEED to know too. You can’t put the book down without knowing.

Pat is the absent character, who we get to know without truly meeting. Everyone and everything in the novel is framed by their relation to her. She is adored by some, and despised by others, but everyone feels passionately about her disappearance

For a book  primarily about the loss of a loved one, with a heavy focus on alcoholism, The Voice Inside My Head is a light, enjoyable read. The characters speak in diction that allows you to hear them as individuals. There are quirky, funny people making their way through this serious story.

Luke has internal dialogue with Pat that could cause some debate for readers. Is it his subconscious feeling guilty about the way things were between them? Is it her spirit speaking to him? There’s no definite answer but we learn a lot about their relationship either way.

Family dynamics are contrasted on numerous occasions. Luke’s dysfunctional family makes Jamie’s look wonderful, but then Luke is grateful that he has more than Zach.

I look forward to discussing the characters and the issues they face in my book club this summer. This book has been selected as an honour book for the CLA Young Adult Book Award.

The Shadow’s Curse

Amy McCulloch’s sequel to The Oathbreaker’s Shadow had many of the elements I loved in the first installment. The unique ways she incorporates magic into her fantasy world continue to impress me. There remains something profound about being literally bound by your word and being haunted by broken promises. She takes this further in the sequel, with pieces of the ones who break the oath going to comfort and protect the jilted party. It recognizes that there are layers in people, and that a part of someone didn’t want to break their promise and would do anything not to hurt the one they have hurt. Beautiful metaphors all over this text.

I found the nomadic people’s view of the city dwellers and farmers interesting. The idea that they had captured and enslaved the land in an unnatural way makes the reader think about modern life from a new perspective.

Many of the characters are misguided and make foolish, selfish or reckless decisions. It’s didactic in the way they recognize their mistakes and in many cases atone for them. However, it’s written in such a way that it is not a boring lesson on keeping your word, or being careful who you offer your loyalty to. There are moments of suspense and exciting action.

I think this would make an excellent role playing video game. There would be shadows and consequences based on the player’s choices within the game. The setting would be beautiful and the fight scenes or sage tricks would be challenging.

I think with some editing this duology could have been one great novel. I’m not convinced it needed to be two and would strongly have preferred they work better independently if there had to be more than one book.

Saving Houdini

Micover artchael Redhill’s novel Saving Houdini is a fun, old-fashioned time travel tale. There’s a nostalgic tone throughout the book. Instead of missing the technology and luxuries of his time Dash soaks in the wonders of the past. There’s a nice steady pace, with details about flavours and smells that enhance the train-jumping action.

This book was submitted to me as one targeted to teens, but I would argue it is best suited for pre-adolescents. 10-12 year-olds will enjoy it the most. That’s the age where kids (especially boys) develop an interest in magic tricks and dream of running away for an adventure, but know deep down they’d miss their family. The novel is perfectly suited for them, with a glimpse of a famous magician behind the scenes, and adventurous kids their age getting into a little trouble. There’ s nothing in this that would be inappropriate for a younger audience, and I think they would enjoy it more than most teens. However, if a young teen was looking for a clean read with time travel, magic tricks or friendship I would recommend it to them.

Boundless

Kenneth Oppel is one of those authors that I always look forward to when I have a daunting To Be Read pile that I must review. His book is often the treat I give myself as a reward for slogging through the ones I’m less enthusiastic about.

His activecover art imagination is apparent in the wondrously complex and fantastical train that forms the setting of the novel Boundless. Imagine a train that has the class divide of the Titanic, with luxurious lounges and restaurants followed by crowded steerage. This clash of the social statuses would be enough of a setting but not for Oppel. He adds a circus and a booby-trapped funeral car fit for a pharaoh.

The landscape surrounding the train is filled with even more outrageous and interesting things. Many creatures from North American legends play a role in the tale.

Oppel’s adoration of the classics in seen once again in this book. In his other series he explored the young life of Victor Frankenstein. In this novel he takes an interest in the picture of Dorian Gray. His new interpretations of well known works is interesting in that most of his readers will be too young to have read the originals; so his versions become their truth. People tend to bond with the first version of a story they hear.

His sense of adventure has not dwindled. Train jumping, police chasing, avalanche falling action fills the story with an urgency that slows only for the boy to wonder at the injustices that he was unaware took place on his father’s train. Will is much like the princess in old tales who learns about the peasants she once took for granted but now feels a responsibility towards.

This is a good book, as anticipated. I think it will be most popular with older children and young teens.

Tomorrow’s Kingdom

If you haven’t read the Gypsy King read that first.

Maureen Fergus hooked me with the first two installments of the trilogy so I was excited to dive into the final book. Like the other books in the series, Tomorrow’s Kingdom is an exciting fantasy adventure.

The idea of a lost royal child having a unique perspective towards peasants, servants, and outcast tribes that will unite the kingdom is a bit cliche, but I must admit I enjoy it. There’s modern sensibilities towards prejudice and class divide injected into a setting of castles, corsets, horses, and adventure.

The romance is steamy but not explicit. The war has action but is not gruesome. These factors make the book appropriate for teens although I think many adults would enjoy it as well.

The villains are despicable men who are greedy, misogynistic and violent but they are also believable. They have reasons to be the disgusting people they are, formed by both nature and nurture they are well rounded characters.

This is a series I would recommend to readers looking for historical adventure, strong female characters or medieval fantasy. The fantasy elements do not play a large role, so it would appeal to people primarily interested in adventure who don’t mind a touch of legend or a sprinkle of magic in a story.