Graphic Novel Review: The Dreamer, vol. 1 by Lora Innes

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Originally a webcomic, this print volume of The Dreamer includes issues 1-6!

Cliffhanger! Oh, this was so good. I think it’s my favorite graphic novel ever.

Beatrice Whaley is your basic average 17-year-old girl whose goal is definitely not to save the world. She has a good group of friends, love of the dramatic arts, and workaholic parents. Things are looking up for her when she nails the lead role of Juliet and her 4-year crush Ben finally asks her out. But Bea really couldn’t care less about these victories, because she’s in love with a Revolutionary War soldier.

The night before, Bea had a dream unlike any other. It felt so real. She was kissing a Revolutionary War soldier. And every time she sleeps, the “dream” picks up where it left off. She learns that the soldiers name is Alan Warren, a compatriot of Nathan Hale. In the real world, Beatrice visits her mom’s event at an art museum, and sees a painting called “The Death of Warren.” She must get back to 1776 and warn her new beau before it’s too late!

I loved this graphic novel to bits. The Revolutionary War came alive for me through the vivid illustrations and suspenseful plot. I really like the author’s timeline of the American Revolution in the beginning of the book. Beatrice was a relatable, funny heroine and the supporting characters were all wonderfully developed. But beyond that, the art is stunning and each page is a masterpiece. Every aspect of the book drew me in. I even got my mom hooked on this series, for crying out loud.

But I have one burning question: who is she going to choose? The 18th century apple farmer-turned-soldier or the 21st century quarterback-turned-thespian?

Love time travel/romance? Love American History? (If not, do you want to love American history?) Then, HELLO! Read this book!

 

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5/5 stars!
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Book Review: Defiance by C.J. Redwine

Summary: 

Sixteen-year-old Rachel Adams knows her courier father, Jared, isn’t dead. But he was sent out on a mission 60 days ago and hasn’t come back. In their dictatorial city-state of Baalboden, the law demands that someone be pronounced dead if he hasn’t returned in 60 days. In their society, women who aren’t “Claimed” (married) must live under the supervision of a male “Protector.” It’s against the law for women to walk the streets alone – with a penalty of death. Rachel’s new Protector, Logan McEntire, knows this all too well. His mother was killed by Baalboden’s leader – Commander Chase – for walking to the market alone to buy her son food. Violently made an orphan, Logan was shown kindness by Jared Adams and appointed his apprentice. Now it’s Logan’s task to protect Jared’s daughter.

Rachel would be fine with her new Protector, if she hadn’t confessed her love for him two years ago, only to have him deny her. But none of that matters now. Rachel is a girl with a mission: to escape Baalboden’s confines and find her Father in the Wasteland that lies beyond. But she’s caught making an escape attempt and the Commander makes a bargain with Rachel and Logan: journey through the Wasteland and bring him the package that Jared was meant to deliver. As Rachel and Logan make escape plans of their own, they begin to rediscover one another and their old friendship. Rachel readies herself for the trip by practicing her combat skills with various weapons. Logan spends time building tracking devices and other inventions that could help them be ready for any scenario. But not even Logan’s brilliant logical mind could plan for what the Commander does next.

Review: 

Yes! Fiery redhead heroines for the win! I’ll probably never turn down reading books with gingers on the cover. <–Just kidding. But that’s definitely a selling point. Seriously, though, this novel was fast-paced and riveting from the start. It didn’t take hundreds of pages to get interesting, but made me want to read on after page one. I rarely see an author just dive into the main plot right away.

Another thing that made this book stand out to me was the alternating 1st person POV between Rachel and Logan. As much as I loved Rachel’s bravery, her thoughts became very dark and vengeful as tragedy after tragedy happened around her. But I liked her loyalty, spunk, and defiance (pun intended). She is more of a tomboy (like myself) in a world where women only go to school to learn etiquette. While the other little girls played with dolls, she played with weapons and learned self-defense.

As much as I liked Rachel, my favorite character was Logan. He’s the perfect combination of genius and softie. I kept thinking he’s like Spock with emotions. I liked seeing how he gradually realized he was falling in love with Rachel. It’s rare to hear a male point of view in female-centered ya novels these days. Especially with a girl on the cover, I didn’t know I would be hearing Logan’s side of the story. But I’m so glad the author chose to do this!

This was an exciting dystopian novel that really didn’t fit into a genre. The author describes it as “post-apocalyptic” but there are elements of fantasy (a wingless dragon living under the earth), sci-fi (technological gadgets), and historical, since the world feels medieval. There are no phones, computer, cars, or even lightbulbs. Women’s role in Baalboden society was also very unique. If I have any complaints, I would have liked to learn more about that, and about how Baalboden was started. The town’s name implies that the Cursed One (the wingless dragon) is some sort of demon, but hopefully these questions will be answered in Book 2: Deception.

4.5/5 stars

Book Review: A Daring Sacrifice

**Warning: Contains minor spoilers!

I thought I’d buried my conscience the same day I’d buried the chopped remains of my father’s tortured body, gathered after he’d been drawn and quartered. 

Juliana lived a peaceful life in medieval England. Her father was Lord of Wessex land, a prominent nobleman, and Juliana lived lavishly in a castle. Her whole life is upended when Juliana’s uncle usurps her father’s position. Juliana is forced to live with the peasants – poor and disenchanted with high taxes – in humble forest huts. Her father leads a rebellion against the new Lord Wessex, but is captured and brutally killed. Juliana is believed to have perished in the fray, but she lives on in hiding with a group of peasant companions, including the fatherlike Bulldog and his young son, Thatch. Juliana is full of anger and resentment towards all nobles. She spends her days masquerading as a boy, hunting and stealing from the rich in order to feed her homeless friends. Her actions earn her the name of the Cloaked Bandit, and she is a wanted criminal. But Juliana is no match for her Uncle or his guards. There have been some close calls, but she is too good to be caught. Until someone even stealthier than Juliana comes along.

Lord Collin Goodrich is returning home to his estate when he is robbed by a mud-faced bandit. There’s something curious about him: his eyes are too bright and his face too pretty. Collin figures out that the lithe bandit is actually a woman! He allows the criminal to escape, only to follow her and take her back to his home. When he realizes that the “Cloaked Bandit” is Juliana Wessex, a lady of noble birth, Collin is astonished. He remembers her from childhood, when he made a joke about her strawberry-colored hair. [Note: Gingers rule! I’m so happy that Juliana was a strong, survivalist ginger (as I am one myself). Her hair became a character of its own in the book]. Collin is immediately taken with the red-haired beauty, and vows to convince Juliana that not all noblemen are evil. They make a deal to live in each other’s worlds for a week. But can Juliana’s true identity remain secret forever? What will become of her peasant friends? Can Lord Collin earn her love and trust? Read A Daring Sacrifice to find out.

I should note that this book is the second in the “Uncertain Choice” series, but can completely stand on its own. I didn’t read the first book and I had no trouble following this one. It seems like the two have completely different characters and plots, but are both set in the same time period and world.

As for the time period, I would like to clear something up. A lot of people seem to be saying that the book is historically inaccurate, in terms of vocabulary and torture methods. Although the setting is supposed to be Medieval England, the author stated in an interview that her Young Adult books are treated more like fantasy than historical. Keeping that in mind, I had no problem with the historical discrepancies that some found so troublesome.

Now, getting into the nitty gritty. I LOVED this book. At 220 pages, it is one of the shortest YA books I’ve read, but it packs a mean punch. The story is fast-paced, exciting, and poignant. Of course, the book is marketed as a romance, and though the love story is sweet and captivating, it does not overshadow a very powerful message. That message – if you couldn’t guess from the title – is sacrifice. Sometimes the greatest act of love is sacrifice. Two young people, aged just seventeen (Juliana) and twenty (Collin) learn to sacrifice their comfort, pride, and very lives, for the sake of a greater good. There is a passage where Juliana talks about the emotional trauma and beauty of Collin sacrificing himself for her, despite the fact that Juliana confessed to not loving him, which broke his heart. This passage could have easily been talking about Jesus Christ, which brings me to the faith element of his book.

Juliana and Collin are both religious, which I imagine is a correct depiction of Medieval English society. Thus, they discuss God, His will, prayer, and Collin utters “Blessed Mary” a lot when he’s in distress. Juliana spends time talking to God and grappling with stealing; she’s starting to question if this method of achieving justice is right in the Lord’s eyes. In fact, when Juliana is staying with Collin, she tells him that one of her favorite parts of her stay has been to pray in a house of worship, because she’s only talked to God in the woods for so long. So the characters definitely know God and He’s a part of daily life. I liked seeing this; it sets a good example for young people, having characters include God in their thoughts and decisions.

The story was told in first-person point of view, alternating between Juliana and Collin. This spiced things up and made the story more unique than other YA books. The two perspectives were done well because Juliana and Collin had completely different voices. It wasn’t obvious that both their parts were written by the same author. Their inner voices showed so much depth and personality for such a quick read. I only wish I had gotten some more pages, but the story did not seem rushed at all.

I hope my review will make you want to give this book a try. If you like Christian YA historical/fantasy romance, but want something a little different than usual, this book is for you!

5/5 stars

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Book Review: Into the Dim

 

I slammed through what felt like the world’s largest plate-glass window. Except I was the one who shattered into a million pieces. 

Time travel: some people love it, some people hate it. Some people, grounded in logic, refuse to believe in it. But all agree that it must be pretty darn painful.

Sixteen-year-old Hope Walton was one of those people, until recently. Her mother Sarah has just died and her estranged Scottish aunt Lu invites hope to come visit her in the Highlands. Begrudingly, Hope accepts. (Though who would refuse a free trip to one of the most beautiful places in the world?) Oh, right, Hope also suffers from severe chlostrophobia.

When she arrives, Hope meets her aunt’s caretakers, Mac and Moira MacPherson, and their bubbly but tough granddaughter, Phoebe. They seem to know something about Hope’s deceased mom, but are not saying. Later, Hope is out for a horse ride when she stumbles upon an attractive young man who was taking her picture. There’s an instant connection, but she can’t remember where she knows him, despite her gift of a complete photographic memory. That night, she snoops around her aunt’s mansion, and discovers some bizarre artifacts and machinery. On cue, her Aunt Lu arrives with Phoebe’s brother, the stoic Collum MacPherson, and explains to Hope that her family are time travelers. Hope’s mother is trapped somewhere in Medieval London, and it’s up to the three teens – Hope, Collum, and Phoebe – to rescue her. Awestruck but intrigued, Hope agrees to join the mission. She finally feels a sense of belonging around these people, something she’s missed out on her entire life having been adopted and shunned by her father’s family. Will the trip be successful? What historical figures will Hope encounter? Read this book to find out!


“You think bell-bottoms are worse than velociraptors?”

“Infinitely.”

This book had its moments. It was funny and corny and somewhat predictable. But my only real gripe is that it started out a little slow. I wanted to put it down. Fortunately, a book has to be completely terrible for me to do that. And this book was not terrible. It ended up being terribly awesome!

The author was so invested in the characters that plot sometimes took a backseat, which I didn’t mind. As long as the characters were thinking, growing, and believable, the logistics of the plot didn’t have to make sense at every moment. I loved these characters and I felt like I knew them. What more could I ask for? I rooted for the romance, but there were enough twists and turns to keep me on edge. And boy, there were more action scenes in here than I’d seen in a long time. I didn’t have a problem with how the time travel was rationalized. I just went with the flow. All time travel is far-fetched, but when you can get past that, the history really comes alive. I can tell the author did a lot of research and learned a lot about the time period. Now I’m more inclined to research and learn about Jews in 1100s England, Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine.

4/5 stars.

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Book Review: The Passion of Dolssa

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Summary:

In the 13th century, a Friar set out to write a book. It is the story of a rare and holy friendship between two young women, a poignant and unbelievable tale about the aftermath of the Albigensian Crusade (an inquistion of pious men and women deemed “heretics” by the Church). He questioned publishing the manuscript, hid it, and was killed before he had time to decide what to do with it. The medieval manuscript was discovered in the 21st century, updated, and published. You are holding that book in your hands.

In 1241, Dolssa de Stigata is an eighteen-year-old, noble young lady, living in Tolosa (modern day Southern France) with her mother. She began having visions of the Son of God, talking with her as if to a friend. Word spreads of her mystic abilities, and people come to hear her preach. When the Dominican Friars hear of Dolssa, they sentence her and her mother to the pyres.

Miraculously, after watching her mother burn, Dolssa escapes death and flees into the wilderness. Unable to fend for herself, she questions her escape. She has no more visions of her beloved Jhesus.
What good was it to evade the flame if she is only going to die cold, alone, and without shelter?
Meanwhile, in the seaside village of Bajas, seventeen-year-old Botille Flasucra is just beginning to find her place. Botille and her two sisters have finally settled down and made a home for themselves and their drunk father, who was a soldier in the Albigensian Crusade. The sisters run a local tavern, and Botille has gained some notoriety and respect by playing matchmaker on the side. One day, she is asked to go on a two-day journey to fetch the nephews of a widowed vineyard owner. Along the way, she encounters a dead girl, lying facedown in the mud. She refuses to abandon her or give up her identity. Soon, she learns the young woman’s name: Dolssa. And incredible miracles follow her to the town of Bajas.

Dolssa recovers at the hands of the Flasucra sisters. She regains her relationship with Jhesus, and begins to perform miracles for the townspeople. Botille and her sisters are changed by Dolssa’s presence, too. But the threat of Inquisition looms as Friar Lucien’s search leads him closer and closer to Bajas.

Review:

This is what reading a book is supposed to be like. The author should introduce the reader to the storyworld like he or she has lived it. The characters should grip your heart and never let go. The words should make you feel something other than the tug of weary eyelids. It should be like watching an addictive film, or a roadside accident from which you cannot turn away. Julie Berry does all this and more with The Passion of Dolssa.

The book leaps between different points of view, but for the majority of the time, Botille is telling the story. Botille’s voice felt just modern enough to hold my interest, but ancient enough to steep me in medieval times. She certainly has the spunk and recklessness of a seventeen year old. Her dynamic with her older and young sister feels true to life, no matter what century you live in. Sisters support, tease, and cry together, especially ones who’ve lost their mother so young. Through Botille’s eyes, the townspeople of Bajas are captured spectacularly. They are intriguing and funny, heartwarming and backstabbing. But the entire time I read this, I felt like I was living among them.
Dolssa’s words are few but powerful. I admired and felt her connection to God. I became infuriated at her and grieved with her. Though this book deals heavily with Christianity, this should not be a put-off for someone of another faith. The author strikes a good balance between illustrating the true intentions and message of Christianity through Dolssa and Botille’s actions, and documenting the perversion of the religion (whether intentionally or not) by the inquisitors.
Heavily researched, the author provides an extensive historical note, glossary, bibliography, and further reading at the end of the novel.

Definitely one of my favorite books this year.

5/5 stars

Book Review: All We Have Left

“People do terrible things. People do beautiful things. It’s against the backdrop of evil that the shining light of good shows the brightest. We can’t just focus on the darkness of the night, or we’ll miss out on the stars.” 

Alia Susanto and Jesse McLaurin: two lives that were destined to entwine. Alia is sixteen years old in 2001, a high school student struggling with family, identity, and faith. Her dream is to be a comic book artist, but her parents have other ideas and refuse to sign her permission slip, allowing her to enroll in a special art program at NYU. On the morning of September 11, Alia takes a big step in her faith. She decides to begin wearing a head scarf as an act of submission to God. She detours to her father’s office on the way to school, planning to make one last argument for him to sign the permission slip. So a little before 9:00am, she walks into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. When the first plane hits, Alia gets stuck in an elevator with a blonde-haired, sullen, eighteen year old named Travis. The two of them must work together if they’re to make it out alive.

Jesse comes from a broken family. Her brother Travis died when she was two years old, a victim of the attacks on September 11, 2001. He was inside the North Tower when it fell, but no one knows why. Not her whirlwind mother who is always out or her Muslim-hating drunk father who shirks his work responsibilities. The only place Jesse feels safe and alive is climbing. On a mountainside, everything looks the same and she feels the closest to God. But soon she lashes out at an unsuspecting town building with her vandal boyfriend. As Jesse works to redeem herself through volunteering at the Muslim Peace Center, she begins spending more time with Adam, the dark-haired, blue-eyed climber she didn’t even know was Muslim. Meanwhile, Jesse’s parents are on the verge of divorce, and feels the need to uncover Travis’ mystery more and more. What was he doing in the World Trade Center anyway?

This book is essential reading for every modern young adult, most of whom are probably too young to remember that fateful day. The characters were compelling, even if they acted a little mature for high schoolers sometimes. Each chapter alternates between Alia and Jesse’s point of view, a clever device that increases suspense and parallelism. The delicate topic of 9/11 is in good hands with Ms. Mills. I could tell the book was thoroughly researched. Jesse and Alia’s personalities are fully realized and I could identify with elements of each girl. For example, Alia’s superhero alter-ego ‘Lia’ was a really creative touch. I would like to pick up a graphic novel about Lia myself. Jesse’s hobby of climbing was unique, and I loved the description of her surroundings every time she climbed. I do wish there was a little more info about the girls’ family lives, but overall everything was explanatory and the connections were well done. The messages of recovery, redemption, and healing shine through in the end. I hope everyone who reads this book learns that there were angels walking among the towers that day. By pressing practice acceptance, showing the same bravery they did, and helping others, we honor their lives. It’s our job to remember their lives. And never forget.

Verdict:

I give All We Have Left a solid…

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4/5 stars

What did you think of this book? Would you read it? Let me know!

Book Review: Siren’s Fury

***Spoiler’s ahead if you have not read Storm Siren***

In the second book in the Storm Siren trilogy, Nym has just saved Faelen from a terrible war, and killed the evil, world-dominating Draewulf. With the help of her trainer (and love interest) Eogan, she has learned to control her Elemental powers. Eogan has been named king of his home world of Bron. The storm finally seems to be calming in her tumultuous life. Until she realizes Draewulf is not gone forever. And he’s about to do more damage than ever before. Because he’s living inside Eogan’s body. First Draewulf takes Nym’s powers. But he wants the entire kingdom of Bron.

Nym and her only ally, Princess Rasha of Cashlin, sneak aboard an airship (!), in hopes of following Draewulf and stopping him for good. Nym reconciles that she may have to kill him, for there is no hope of drawing him out of Eogan’s body. She’s seen Draewulf shape-shift into people before, and the results weren’t pretty. As Nym holds the knife to the body of her beloved trainer, Rasha stops her from doing the deed. Because the Luminescent princess knows that there’s a chance Eogan is still alive, and just unable to surface. Desperate for a way to free Eogan, Nym must decide how far she’ll go to stop Draewulf. The snaking Lord Myles offers her help, but Rasha warns her against accepting. Meanwhile, Bron wants to go to war and Draewulf unleashes a new wraith army. Can Nym take on these dark forces alone? And without powers? Read Siren’s Fury to find out.

I almost put this book down after less than 100 pages. It started off slow, and nothing was really happening. The action, romance, and beautiful setting of the first book were completely absent. We leave the wonderfully imagined kingdom of Faelen for a stuffy airship. (This is the first fantasy I’ve read with airships – pretty cool). Bron is not much better, with its militaristic socialism. On the plus side, this book endeared me to the previously repulsive characters of Lord Myles, and even – most surprisingly – Draewulf. We are treated to more of their backstories in this volume. The climax was spot on and very exciting. I liked the Christian lesson that Nym learns the hard way. I just wish there was more action all the way through, and I missed the characters who died in book one. Perhaps it’s because I read this a number of months after the first one, but I just could not get into it.

2.5/5 Stars

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Let me know your thoughts on this read!