The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Greblins | Book Review



The Adventure Zone by Clint McElroy, Griffin McElroy, Justin McElroy, Travis McElroy and Carey Pietsch, follows the adventures of three very different individuals who are trying to complete a simple mission, but get dragged into a much larger adventure. 

Tako —  an elvish wizard with a prideful personality, Magnus Burnsides — a human fighter that is pretty much the human version of a golden retriever, and Merle Highchurch — a dwarve cleric who seems to get the bad end of the stick. All they wanted to do, was rescue Merle’s cousin and get paid. Obviously, it became much more than that.

This beautifully illustrated comic book is an adaption to a Dungeon’s and Dragons podcast with the same name, that has a large fanbase emotionally invested in the journey of these three boys (Much like me and Critical Role — another D&D campaign available online).

As someone who went into the comic book story blind and with very little knowledge of the podcast I was immediately captivated by the characters personalities and their interactions with each other. 

Pietsch’s illustrations are beautiful and simple. Her cartoon art style truly matches the general gist of what “The Adventure Zone” is; goofy characters making poor and silly decisions while trying not to die.

You will laugh, you will gasp, you will hold your breath, but most importantly you will want to go on your own adventure.

My Rating: 5/5
Release Date: July 17, 2018
Publisher: First Second

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A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro | Book Review


“‘But tonight I'll go alone. You're about as stealthy as a lame elephant. See you later.’ She patted me on the shoulder and took off down the path, leaving me behind, both charmed and insulted. The side effects of hanging around Charlotte Holmes.”

“A Study in Charlotte” by Brittany Cavallaro is a modern twist on the adventures of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson (or at least their descendants). It is a thrilling adventure where readers will be pulled into the mystery of Charlotte Holmes.

James Watson was forced to move to a boarding school in Connecticut after earning a scholarship for rugby. There he meets Charlotte Holmes, the great-great-great-granddaughter of the famous Sherlock Holmes — a girl he used to dream up going on adventures with. When a rival student with suspicious connections to the Sherlock Holmes stories mysteriously dies , the pair decide to work together to solve the case and clear their name.

“The two of us, we're the best kind of disaster. Apples and oranges. Well, more like apples and machetes.”

Ms. Cavallaro’s fast paced story and quirky dialogue is able to replicate the atmosphere and the sensation of the well-known Holmes and Watson adventures. There is suspense, mystery, shock,  agitation, and relief.

“A Study in Charlotte” is told through the perspective of James, as he is trying to adjust moving to the middle of nowhere and near the father he is upset with. We get an insight of what it is to be young, frustrated, and scared with everything that can happen in one’s life. 

Fans of shows like Elementary and Sherlock, will be captivated by Ms. Holmes — a genius and violin player, who performs forensic experiments with a volatile temperament and a slight drug addiction, just like her famous grandfather. However, unlike Sherlock, she has a more human side to her —  filled with emotions she continuously tries to repress.

This novel is not a re-telling of the old classic, but a what-if future where the Holmes, Watson, and Moriarty all kept the essence of their famous relatives in a modern society. Ms. Cavallaro creates a beautiful what-if scenario of a younger super sleuth duo, with well-known Sherlock Holmes plots weaved into the narrative.

“We weren't Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. I was ok with that, I thought. We had things they didn't, too. Like electricity, and refrigerators. And Mario Kart.” 

While “A Study in Charlotte” is a YA novel , it is not a romance novel. It is about a fateful friendship that is brought to light as these two characters complement each other.

Ms. Cavallaro’s writing is fresh, fast, and gripping. Her characters are well-drawn and developed, and secondary characters are equally as important to the narrative as the main sleuthing duo. This is a book you will pick up, get gripped, and not want to put down.

My Rating: 4.5/5

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco | Book Review


 


“Everyone is a puzzle, Tea, made of interlocking tiles you must piece together to form a picture of their souls. But to successfully build them, you must have an idea of their strengths as well as their weaknesses. We all have them, even me.” 

“The Bone Witch” by Rin Chupeco is a dark fantasy novel mixed with various asian cultures that gives it a different feel from popular Euro-centric novels. It felt unique and new. However, an attempt to be out of the norm made the novel lose its mystery and tensions. 

Tea Pahlavi was 12 years old when she accidentally brought her older brother, Fox, back to life and learnt that she was a bone witch. Then, a veteran bone witch finds Tea and takes her away (and Fox) to be trained in the way of the asha — women who are proficient in magic. 

Once she arrives to the Willows, Tea begins several years of training in the way of the asha — in magic, song, dance, craft and battle — as she unravels the mysterious of what it means to be an bone witch and the new world she lives in.

“The Bone Witch” promises magic and a new world, but instead it gave occasional magic and an inside to look to the geisha-like asha. The way of the asha was beautiful, and Chupeco stayed true to what many maikos (apprentice geisha) go through — their lessons, their life, their requirements — but it focused too long on it, making the pacing of the novel suffer.

“Then perhaps we should carve a world one day where the strength lies in who you are, rather than in what they expect you to be.”

The story telling of the novel was new and unsuccessful. There was a future and a present storyline. At the start of each chapter we got a glimpse into the future — an older Tea. In this future she is exiled and telling her story to a young man as she brings to life the demon-like deava she was originally trained to destroy in her younger years. 

This glimpse into the future took away from any mystery, shock, and excitement the novel could have produced. This dual storytelling is tricky and it either can ruin the reader’s adventure or enhance it. In this case it was the former. 

Th diverse cast of characters were able to keep the story afloat after each chapter was essentially ruined by the future section at the start. There were characters of various ages, backgrounds and sexuality with different goals, motivation and interests that motivated them throughout the novel. Such as, Likhn — a young boy who wants to become a dancer asha more than anything in the world but cannot due to old traditions and Fox — a devoted and protective brother who is grateful at this new chance at life, but holds secrets and mysterious intentions. 

The novel occasionally was thrilling and as a whole it was a bit underwhelming, but it still showed promise. There are still questions to be answered and we still don’t know how and why Tea was exiled from the asha life. 

I look forward to see how Chupeco will continue the dual storyline and how she plans to end to bring them together.

“The first are performing asha, known for their dancing and their singing, though their magic may be weaker than others. The second are fighting asha, known for their magic and their prowess, though they may not be the most gracious of hosts. The third are Dark asha like us, the strongest of them all.” 

My Rating 3/5
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Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi | Book Review





“It wasn’t a romance; it was too perfect for that. With texts there were only the words and none of the awkwardness. They could get to know each other completely and get comfortable before they had to do anything unnecessarily overwhelming like look at each other’s eyeballs with their eyeballs.”

Mary H.K. Choi’s debut “Emergency Contact” modernizes the idea of getting to know and falling in love with someone digitally. It illustrates that many of the modern day young adults use text messages as a safe space to express thoughts and feelings they wouldn’t necessarily say vocally. 

Penny Lee heads to college in Austin, Texas to learn how to become a writer. While she is only about an hour and a half from her hometown, she feels like she is an eternity away — and it makes her happy. Penny is finally away from her mom — whom according to Penny was never really a real mother to her — and free to be her own person without having to worry about her mom.

There she meets Sam Becker, a boy who is surviving through a “god-awful” chapter of his life. However, Penny and Sam become friends due to a series of unbearable awkwardness and surviving a panic attack. Soon after, the two swap numbers and stay in touch via texts — getting to know each and using one another as emotional support that they were unaware they needed.

Ms. Choi’s attention to detail is the real magic of the story. The characters' actions and quirks are what truly fleshes them out. Penny is very organized and is over prepared — she carries a toiletries bag with medicine, band-aids, tampons, a stain remover stick, and so much more. It showed how she had to grow up before her time, because her mom wasn’t the type of mom who was prepared or grown up enough to care for a child. 

Emergency Contact is a realistic modern day story that had emotional depth and ends on a hopeful note — that even in our lowest of lows there is a chance to climb and you don’t have to do it by yourself.


This coming of age story is for those who are passed their “teen” years and are in the struggle of truly finding themselves while at university. Because lets be honest, you don’t truly start finding yourself until you hit your twenty somethings and even then it is just the beginning of a long road of discovery.

Personal Rating: 5/5

The Crowns of Croswald by D.E. Night | Book Review


This book was given to me byStories Untold Press in exchange of an honest review.


The minute the words— student, magic and school — compile into a sentence the mind immediately pictures a magnificent stone castle in the middle of nowhere in England and a boy with a lightning scar. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is considered a modern classic, and anything remotely similar may be accused of having a sameness. However, the concept of a school where magic is its main curriculum and a boy with a destiny is not new. Novels such as “A Wizard of Earths” by Ursula K. Le Guin (1968) and “The Worst Witch,” by Jill Murphy (1974) both follow a similar concept — the boy who lived is not an original idea per se, but the way the story was told was what made it memorable.

“The Crowns of Croswald” by D.E. Night follows the same suit.

When Ivy Lovely is forced to leave the house she grew up in, she finds herself enrolled in the Halls of Ivy, a school where students learn to master their magical blood and power the Croswald’s gems. There, Ivy starts unpacking a mystery around the school - paintings awaken, forgotten things are remembered and a dark magic brews. Through her studies and her adventures Ivy learns secrets about her past and the world she lives in.

The world of “Croswald” is rich with magic, mystery and adventure, both new and familiar. Ivy is a 16-year-old girl who thought she was nothing more than a scaldrony maid. When Ivy is exiled from her home in Surry for saving a little scaldrony dragon she is immediately pulls herself together and tries to move on— only to be swooped up by a magical cabby that takes her to a magical school. There, she begins her studies as a Scrivenist.

Lovers of YA and fantasy will swoon over Night’s magical creation. I know I did. She builds a complex fantasy world where pixie-like creatures are used as a light source, a magician’s ultimate goal is to be knowledgeable and ghosts are the executive chefs to every meal. Following common motifs and lore that come with magic school shenanigans — Ivy’s adventure is still unique and she stays true to her beliefs (which is always nice — not being swayed by the random “love interest”). 

Honestly, you will be won over by the intricate magic system and world revealed throughout the story. Unfortunately, this brilliance in the world building may sometimes be lost when common young adults tropes force themselves through the plot (*cough* random forced romance *cough*). There is also a strange blend of middle-grade and young adult in Ivy’s personality, in moments you feel that she is 12 or 13 in other she feels 16 years old.

While this blend may be strange it does not take away from Ivy’s story arc and wonderful character development. She, like any new-to-school-in-YA girl, struggles making friends and staying out of trouble. Ivy also teaches the audience that only persistence will get you what you want — even if it means getting your roommate locked in The Forgotten Room for several hours, which is a really nice message.

Overall, “The Crowns of Croswald” was a solid start to the Croswald series and I look forward to reading the sequel.

Rating: 4/5

Estranged by Ethan M. Aldridge | Book Review


The book was provided to me by HarperCollins in exchange of an honest review

Debut author-illustrator Ethan M. Aldridge will captivate readers with this full-color fantasy graphic novel that has all the makings of a classic, about a changeling and a human child who were switched at birth and must now work together to save both their worlds. Perfect for fans of Amulet.

Edmund and the Childe were swapped at birth. Now Edmund lives in secret as a changeling in the World Above, with fae powers that make him different from everyone else—even his unwitting parents and older sister, Alexis. The Childe lives among the fae in the World Below, where being human makes him an oddity at the royal palace, and where his only friend is a wax golem named Whick.

But when the cruel sorceress Hawthorne takes the throne, the Childe and Edmund realize that the fate of both worlds may be in their hands—even if they’re not sure which world they belong to.

I feel that I might be a bit biased considering I am a big fan of Ethan's art work. I actually own a few prints by him and hope to continue to grow my collection. This being said, I have had his book on pre-order since the day it was available and I was super excited when the ARC arrived on my door step.

The ARC is in black and white, which doesn’t let me see the novel in its full and magical glory - even though I've seen it on tumblr and his Patreon. 

What's nice about this middle grade graphic novel is that it teaches the importance of families. The ones we are raised in and the ones we chose. Through the story, Edmund and the Childe bring up what it means to be part of a family, and who really belongs to the human family. The Childe, who never really had that experience or relationship, learns that it means more than being born to someone - and honestly it is beautiful. 

The most majestic and unique part of this novel is that it’s 95% done with traditional water color illustrations. In a world where everything is digitized and on photoshop this little book is odd but perfect. Aldridge's art reminds me a lot of E. H. Shepard's Winnie the Pooh art style with the thick ink strokes and beautiful colors. 

It's truly modernized nostalgia filled with magic. 

I really don't want to spoil too much of the story, because it's wonderful and I want the whole world to read it. What you really need to know is that it is a fantasy story filled with changelings, golems, witches, sibling love, trolls, evil aunts, rats, fights and a DRAGON.

I look forward to reading it again in its full color glory. I also look forward to the second book - since there are so many loose ends that need solving!

Book Release: August 7th, 2018
My Rating: 5/5

Given to the Earth by Mindy McGinnis Spotlight | Penguin Blog Tour






GIVEN TO THE SEA

An expansive YA fantasy from an up-and-coming YA author, just right for Throne of Glass readers.
Loyalties collide, friendships are tested, and romance blooms in a dying world where the sea is rising - and cannot be escaped.

Khosa is Given to the Sea, a girl born to be fed to the water. Her body is to prevent a wave like the one that destroyed the Kingdom of Stille in days of old. But before being Given, Khosa must produce an heir.

Vincent is third in line to inherit the throne, a lesser prince in a kingdom where the old linger and the young inherit only boredom and a long wait. When Khosa arrives without an heir, Vincent knows his father will ensure that she fulfill her duty, at whatever cost. Torn between protecting the throne, and the girl whose fate is tied to its very existence, Vincent must find a plan that will allow him to keep Khosa and the kingdom . . . or decide what he's willing to sacrifice.

Dara and Donil are the last of the Indiri, a native race whose dwindling magic grows weaker as the island country fades. Animals cease to bear young, creatures of the sea take to the land, and the Pietra - fierce fighters who destroyed the Indiri a generation before - are now marching from their stony shores for the twin's adopted homeland, Stille.

Witt leads the Pietra, their army the only family he has ever known. The stone shores harbor a secret, a growing threat that will envelop the entire land - and he will conquer every speck of soil to ensure the survival of his people.


GIVEN TO THE EARTH

Duty, fate, desire, and destiny collide in this intricately wrought tale, perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas.
 Although she was born to save the kingdom by sacrificing herself to the rising sea, Khosa's marriage to King Vincent has redeemed her. As the Queen of Stille, she's untouchable. But being Queen hasn't stopped her heart from longing for the King's stepbrother, Donil. And it hasn't stopped her body from longing for the sea itself, which still calls for her.

 While Khosa is made to choose between loyalty and love, Dara is on a mission for vengeance. Years ago, the Pietra slaughtered the entire Indiri race, leaving only Dara and her twin, Donil, alive. Now, spurned by King Vincent, Dara has embarked on a mission to spill the blood of Pietra's leader, Witt, and will stop at nothing to show his people the wrath of the last Indiri.

 As the waves crash ever closer to Stille, secrets are revealed, hearts are won and lost, and allegiances change like the shifting sand.


AUTHOR BIO:

Mindy McGinnis is an assistant YA librarian who lives in Ohio and cans her own food. She graduated from Otterbein University magna cum laude with a BA in English Literature and Religion.







Check out the rest of the Penguin Blog Tour
4/3 – The Bookish Crypt 
4/5 – Bookworm Banter  
4/10 – Flyleaf Chronicles 
4/11 – Simply ally Tea 
4/12 – Rheya Reads 
4/13 – Netherreads