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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Lives of Magic

cover artLives of Magic is a great urban fantasy for teens.

Lucy Leiderman uses magic as a metaphor at several points in the novel. When Gwen is overwhelmed by her emotions her power flares up uncontrollably. The fire within is expressed with actual fire. Turmoil seen with powerful physical ramifications. In many cases books and legends of people with supernatural powers have the powers start during adolescence, because this is a time when people discover new aspects of themselves, on emotional, intellectual and physical levels. Lives of Magic plays into this trope nicely.

Reincarnation is another supernatural element that gets metaphorical in this story. Gwen isn’t sure if her past self’s identity and feelings are truly her own. This becomes a debate of free will vs fate and nature vs. nature. She wants to be her own, new person who is not tied to all the mistakes and relationships of her past but isn’t sure if she’s free to follow a different path.

There is a nice combination of action, relationship drama, and supernatural wow factor in this novel. It is well rounded. She leaves potential for sequels without having an incomplete story arc.

T

Not Your Ordinary Wolf Girl

 

After reading a dozen bcover artooks I didn’t care for this one was a breath of fresh air. It was fun, suspenseful and I read it in two quick sittings. A perfect book for fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  A shy musician’s transformation in a werewolf is a light, fun, supernatural read  with a strong female lead. Some of the reactions of her friends were unrealistic and something we learn about the main love interest at the end made me rank it lower than I would have. Enjoyable but not overly memorable.

 

 

The Calling

This is the sequel to The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong, so go read the first book before my review or there will be spoilers.

The Calling was everything one can hope for in a YA paranormal series.

  • It has a strong female character whom fights to survive and protect her friends.
  • It has action and suspense
  • It has chemistry between characters

Many of the things that were hinted at in The Gathering become more clear and some of the questions are answered. I find the middle books in Armstrong’s series’s to be less strong than the introductions and conclusions but they are enjoyable none the less. It looks like the end of this series will be a mash up with her other popular series that began with The Summoning so I highly recommend that fans read that trilogy in preparation for the next book.

 

 

My beating teenage heart

*I received my beating teenage heart by c.k. kelley martin as a submission for the YABA

I think this book was awesome but marketed all wrong. The cover and title give the impression of a love story, or maybe sappy vampire fiction. NOT what this novel is about. Even the quotes on the back are all about Ashlyn, whereas the greater part of the book is about Breckon. I think that guys could enjoy this novel but like so many YA books it’s packaged in a way that only appeals to girls.

This book is not for tweens, or the squeamish. It involves the death of a child, grief, self-mutilation, suicide, drinking, sex, the molestation of a child, and very mature themes. Despite the gritty reality of Breckon’s story it is framed by a fantasy POV- a ghost or angel depending on how you look at it, watching over him as he falls into a self-destructive spiral. This sometimes lightens the mood, and sometimes makes it more eerie. The spirit observing Breckon has her traumas come back to her in waves of repressed memory as she sees his pain.

It’s a very dark novel, but it offers some hope. There are bits of humour, and good friends that make the darkness tolerable. I think this is a book that will be challenged in schools and libraries for being too shocking but I stand by what I said before about the value of books that deal with these issues.

The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong

Kelley Armstrong has wowed me once again with her novel The Gathering. Only a talented author such as herself can weave so much substance into a YA paranormal novel. The main plot is a supernatural thriller story rooted in Native American (& Canadian) folklore. The action is steady, and the tone is dark – with the death of a teen in the first chapter. The novel captured my attention from the beginning and never faltered. The characterization was strong for such an ensemble cast, with everyone having a little more depth than you often see in minor characters. Maya is a narrator that young girls will relate to, and guys will respect. I love that Armstrong is contributing another strong female character to the literary world, someone I think parents will approve of as a role model.

Prejudice is a prevailing theme of the novel. People are discriminated against or stereotyped for being native, newcomers, or tourists. Even the good characters fall into these misconceptions, but Armstrong’s stance against discrimination is clear. Alcoholism and poor parenting are also touched on in a thought provoking manner, but I’m disappointed in the characters for not dealing with this situation better. I was glad that despite other examples of unhealthy families in the novel Maya had well rounded, supportive parents that felt real. I read a blog post recently about how few GOOD parents get much attention in YA and I think hers are well written.

The challenges of male/female friendship, survivor’s guilt, date rape drugs ,and a number of other issues add a gritty reality to the paranormal tale.

I enjoyed that the novel was very clearly Canadian. As a nominee for the Canadian Library Association book award, I think having a Canadian setting is a point in it’s favour.

For more by Kelley Armstrong see my review of The Summoning

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

*I received The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin for free from Simon & Schuster Canada

I really enjoyed this book, even though I wasn’t thrilled about how it ended. I can’t believe it’s a debut novel!  Hodkin writes suspense really well, and left me eager for clues to Mara’s past.

Mara herself was a great character. Her mental instability, conflicted feelings about boys and loyalty to her family were portrayed
beautifully. I especially enjoyed her struggle with being diagnosed as mentally ill.

The dialogue between Mara and Jamie was more compelling for me than that between her and Noah. It was blunt, sarcastic and fresh.  Hodkin did a fantastic job at describing the roguish appeal of the bad-boy archetype, and I have no doubt many fan girls will fall for him.

This book is great for anyone who likes a combination of suspense and romance.

*Spoiler Alert* *Spoiler Alert* *Spoiler Alert* *Spoiler Alert*

I think that it would have been more successful for me and a brave move
in the current book market to leave out the supernatural part. I think
the book would stay with me longer if there were no supernatural powers.
I think if she had suspected powers and discovered it was madness it
would have been a sharper ending. That’s just me though and the real
ending was acceptable.