The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Genres: Childrens, Fantasy, Horror, Mystery
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: September 30th 2008

3 OUT OF 5 STARS

“It is neither fair nor unfair, Nobody Owens. It simply is”

After his family is murdered a babe is adopted by the spirits of a graveyard. He is christened Nobody Owens. The book follows his adventures while growing up in a graveyard and facing the dangers of the world outside.

The book covers a large portion of Bod’s life. It starts when he is an infant and follows him throughout his childhood. It might seem like this would mean the book is fast-paced and focuses on only Bod’s most exciting moments; but unfortunately the book is aggravatingly slow. It was especially hard to get through the first half.

The chapters are excruciating. Chris Riddell drew very few images for this book because there are very few chapters. It is a shame that we do not get to see more of his fascinating imagery. At one point a chapter dragged on for 73 pages, and keep in mind the entire book is not quite 300. A few more chapter breaks might have made the book feel a bit quicker and less like a slow trudge.

Aside from Silas, Nobody and Jack. the characters feel a bit tossed together. Scarlet in particular feels misused. She pops in and out of the story whenever it is convenient. I suppose real life is like that but in the novel it just feels a lot like she was rushed and Gaiman wasn’t quite sure where to end her.

The book could have been much improved if things were a little more explained. It feels as though Gaiman has this wonderful world in his head, but didn’t bother to put it on paper. The nuances of the world are barely touched upon, things seem to happen with no explanation. There are monsters and different sorts of people but Gaiman barely brushes over that and by the end of the book it’s still not quite clear what’s what. The world-building was weak despite the fact that the ideas were obviously there.

It is a book about growing up and moving on, and in that respect it performs quite well. It does have a slightly nostalgic feeling and touches on what it’s like to grow up. It’s whimsical and at times fun but overall it just is. It’s not outstanding or terrible. It’s unremarkable and inoffensive, a slow start but a good enough read. Not Gaiman’s best work but certainly not his worst either.

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Read this if you’re a fan of: The Darkest Part of the Forest

Warrior Cats: A Vision of Shadows by Erin Hunter

Genres: Childrens, Animals, Xenofiction
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: March 15th 2016

2 OUT OF 5 STARS

“Embrace what you find in the shadows, for only they can clear the sky.”

The clans have lived in peace for many moons since the great battle, however, a new prophecy threatens to destroy the peace. A time of great change if coming for cats of all clans, and they’ll need to figure our how to find what’s in the shadows if they want to save themselves.

Though the Warrior Cats series is long running, it’s never been amazing. A Vision of Shadows is perhaps one of the weakest books in the main series. It opens with a prophecy, as all the arcs do, but then it’s pretty stagnant. There’s a lot of walking, then a short bit of action before more walking. Opening books are traditionally more exciting, if I was not already invested in the series I wouldn’t have made it to the end, which does show some potential.

The characters aren’t as robust and relatable as they should have been. Alderpaw definitely has a personality, but it doesn’t have levels. The same goes for Needlepaw and Sparkpaw, they aren’t well-rounded characters despite being the protagonists. Worse off are Cherryfall and Molewhisker who have almost no character traits at all. There was a good opportunity for Hunter to use older characters, or at least characters with substance in Cherryfall and Molewhisker’s place.

As mentioned before the ending is the highlight of this book. It finally feels like something is happening. Granted, the book ends immediately after the most exciting moment, but promises that the rest of the books in the series could be better.

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Read this if you’re a fan of: Survivors

Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman

Genres: Childrens, Fantasy, Humour, Illustrated
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: January 1st 2013

5 OUT OF 5 STARS

“‘You have your milk,’ he said. ‘Where there is milk, there is hope.’”

Mother has gone away, Dad is in charge and there is no milk left for breakfast. In the morning, Dad sets off to the corner store to get some milk. It takes him ages and ages to return, what could he have been doing all that time?

Aliens, dinosaurs, pirates, ponies and time travel, Gaiman has created an absolutely hilarious adventure. Riddell’s work is whimsical and often incorporates the text of the story.

The narration in the story is excellent, and very much feels like a story being told out loud. Indeed it would make an excellent book to read aloud to children. There were numerous colourful characters and references poking fun at Twilight and My Little Pony. Despite being short and extremely fast-paced, it’s an easy book to get lost in.

This book is fun for all ages, suspenseful without ever being frightening, and weird without ever being disturbing. Most importantly it’s absolutely hilarious. Adults and children alike will be able to appreciate Gaiman’s clever humour along with Riddell’s fantastical illustrations.

A quick and fun read.

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Read this if you’re a fan of: Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes

 

Warriors: Tallstar’s Revenge by Erin Hunter

Genres: Childrens, Adventure, Animals, Xenofiction
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: January 1st 2013

1 OUT OF 5 STARS

“Sandgorse chose his own destiny. Why should he get to choose yours, too?”

When Tallstar is just an apprentice tragedy strikes Tallstar is determined to blame a rogue, Sparrow, and needs revenge. He will have to leave his clan and family if he is to punish Sparrow properly. Along the way Tallstar will discover that sometimes your friends know you better than you know yourself.

This is definitely one of the weakest Super Editions Erin Hunter as written. The age old adage “show don’t tell” seems entirely lost on this novel. Characters are meant to be the best of friends suddenly over very few interactions. The two characters barely know each other and I’m supposed to believe their ond is more powerful than anything because the book tells me so.

Unlike the other Super Editions I’ve read it does very little to give insight into Tallstar’s life. Why does he become leader? He doesn’t seem like the sort of cat that deserves the position but the book conveniently skips over any development straight to his leadership ceremony.

It dawdles far too much on his appreticeship and his travels and it makes his development seem sudden. Tallstar spends a huge portion of his life seeking revenge and in a split second he decides not to, which is reasonable, but he’s also totally fine with how things have changed.

It was a good premise, but it would have done better as a single book in an arc. As a super edition it tried to cover too much and left the characters and relationships suffering for it. We hardly see any growth, the book just tells you how the characters have grown without any evidence. Erin Hunter has written plenty of better super editions and if you’re not a completionist, feel free to leave this one out.

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Read this if you’re a fan of: Crookedstar’s Promise

Warriors Cats: A Path of Stars by Erin Hunter

Genres: Childrens, Xenofiction, Animals
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: September 1st 2015

3 OUT OF 5 STARS

“A word that reflected the kinship he felt with those he hunted and fought beside. ‘They have their own Clans.’ He meowed suddenly.”

The cats have begun to settle into their different groups. Rules have been made and followed by the group cats. The rogues are not as happy. A dangerous cat called Slash is determined to make trouble for the clans. He is more cruel than any cat they’ve faced before. If the group cats want any chance of surviving Leaf-bare they must work together.

Meant to be the finale the the prequel arc, Path of Stars falls short. It is quite a fast-paced and interesting story. The problem is that the series promised to demonstrate how the clans became the well-oiled machines they are in the rest of the series and it doesn’t quite manage that. It’s easy to see the ghosts of the ideas. There’s faint references to mentors, medicine cats and deputies, but nothing is ever concrete. A naming system is never developed. We don’t really get a full sense of all these traditions and rules becoming official.

The ending, while bittersweet, feels like it cut the entire story short. So many ends are left untied. Even if there were plans to continue with these characters it feels as though the arc is left unfinished. The villain isn’t quite dealt with, the clans are not quite formed. Romances feel rushed or unfinished. So many questions about the lore that SHOULD have been answered in this prequel are left hanging. It was entirely enjoyable as a story, but as an ending it was handled poorly.

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Read this if you’re a fan of: Crookedstar’s Promise

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Genres: Childrens, Fantasy, Horror, Illustrated
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: 2002

3 OUT OF 5 STARS

“’Because,’ she said, ‘when you’re scared but you still do it anyway, that’s brave.’”

The locked door leads straight into a brick-wall, or at least it did until Coraline opened it again. On the other side is a world much like her own, populated by her other mother and her other father. They’re nearly the same as her real ones, save for the fact they have black button eyes and are much more exciting. It’s a nice place to visit, but Coraline doesn’t think she’d want to stay. Her other mother has other plans. She wants Coraline to stay. Forever.

A short book with a small cast which Gaiman has written fantastically. Coraline manages to be heroic without ever seeming too old. The other mother and her creations are all fabulously twisted. The cat is just as a cat should be, mysterious, aloof and just slightly affectionate.

The world Gaiman spins is whimsical, but not large. The book is simple and straight forward (as children’s books often are) but that didn’t damage it’s pleasantness. It’s fast pace both helps and hinders the tale. While there is barely time for a dull moment so much is left unanswerd and unexplored. What is the Other Mother, what is the tunnel. Gaiman has set up a world and left a great portion of it a mystery. A few more explanations, or even a more clear-cut ending would have made the book quite a bit more enjoyable.

Delightfully creepy if a bit of a bare-bones tale. As stated before the characters ARE wonderful, but some are barely fleshed out. Coraline has depth but even her real parents don’t feel quite real. The story was also rather predictable. It would have been nice to see a bit more flourish to create depth in Coraline’s real world, and perhaps a bit more mythology to support the tale. As it is the story was exciting but feels slightly hollow at the end.

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Read this if you’re a fan of: Alice in Wonderland

The School for Good and Evil: The Last Ever After by Soman Chainani

Genres: Childrens, Fantasy, Fairy Tales, Romance
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: July 21st, 2015

4 OUT OF 5 STARS

“Of all the tales in all the kingdoms in all the Woods, you had to walk into mine.”

In the thrilling conclusion to the trilogy, Agatha is forced to face not only villains old a new, but one of the most powerful evil witches of all, her best friend Sophie. Both girls thought that they had found their Ever After, Agatha and Tedros in Galvadon, and Sophie stuck with the School Master. Their book has other ideas. Their story won’t close, and without new stories, the world of magic and fairytales is dying. It’s up to Agatha and Sophie to find their real Ever Afters and close their story before it’s too late.

Despite being a children’s novel and having quite a few faults, The Last Ever After is a joy to read. It’s hard to be critical on such a whimsical adventure that brings fairy tale characters old and new into a fun school setting. The character development is a little lacking, particularly with Sophie who seems to swing wildly from one end of the spectrum to the other, but at least they avoid the “strong” female characters trope. Both girls are allowed to be weak, vulnerable and real without being pathetic and useless.

It’s refreshing to see a book that writes the love of friendship as importantly as romance. That true love doesn’t have to be kisses, and that the person who understands you best doesn’t have to be your partner. As well, the romance is very well written for a children’s novel. Tedros and Agatha are far from perfect together, but it makes their relationship far more lovable. An excellent story about overcoming outward appearances, finding true love, and that happily ever after isn’t always so easy.

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Read this if you’re a fan of: Cress

Warriors: Crookedstar’s Promise by Erin Hunter

Genres: Childrens, Xenofiction, Animals
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: July 5th 2011

3 OUT OF 5 STARS

“I will be loyal to my Clan above everything. What I want doesn’t matter. The Clan must always come first.”

Another Warriors Super Edition! This time we follow Stormkit on his journey to become Crookedstar. After permanently disfiguring his jaw, Stormkit doesn’t know if he’ll ever be a proper warrior, but he dreams of a strange cat who tells him of his destiny. He will be the greatest leader any clan has ever seen, if only he wants it enough.

Crookedstar is another cat with a tragic life, the main culprit being his terrible mother. It’s painful to read about how she treats her kit. Unfortunately after he gets through that the most interesting part of the novel is over. It’s easy to guess what happens in his life, and it doesn’t give us many twists. Unlike Bluestar and Yellowfang (other Super Edition stars) most of Crookedstar’s life is obvious. There’s not much new information except the involvement of Mapleshade which was dense at best. It seems unlikely that Crookedpaw would so readily believe her. The peak into the life of RiverClan (one of the less involved clans in the main stories) is a fresh take on it. Ultimately it’s a solid installation to the series, but not a remarkable book on it’s own.

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Read this if you’re a fan of: Bluestar’s Prophecy

My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

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Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mental Illness, Death, Romance
Publisher: HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: January 1st 2015

2 OUT OF 5 STARS

“Anyone who has actually been that sad can tell you that there’s nothing beautiful or literary or mysterious about depression.”

Ayzel doesn’t have a lot going for her in life. An infamous father, a mother who ignore her, classmates who pay far too much attention and absolutely no friends. The only problem is that she’s too nervous to do it along. Using the internet she finds a partner to take the plunge (literally) with her. However as the date of their death gets closer things start to change for Ayzel, and she wonders if she can change them for her partner as well.

An excellent depiction of depression (for about half the novel) in not only the nerdy outsider Ayzel but also in the handsome, well-off Roman. It was brilliant with it’s descriptions of depression and wanting to die. The characters were lovable enough, you felt their pain. Ayzel’s odd obsessions were a little overdone. Her love for physics and classical music felt a little hammy.

[SPOILERS START]

I cannot say that I didn’t love reading this book but the ending was majorly disappointing. The characters overcoming their depression could have been a decent end, as could the one of the characters going through with it or both. What was not an acceptable end was love curing Ayzel of depression. She fell in love with Roman and within less than a month was smiling and wanting to live and planning her future. It was such a fairy tale ending it made me sick. We never see Ayzel getting closure with anyone but her mother, and Roman. Ignoring her father who is the most important.

[SPOILERS END]

It was a very well written book, and a book I loved reading. It did have quite a few severe problems though that made it look like depression was a little too romantic. There was no reason to twist this into a love story at all.

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READ THIS IF YOU’RE A FAN OF: 13 REASONS WHY

Four by Veronica Roth

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Genres: Young Adult, Dystopian, Science Fiction, Short Stories
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: July 8th, 2014

3 OUT OF 5 STARS

“I am not Tobias Eaton, not anymore, never again. I am Dauntless.”

The mysterious Dauntless boy, love interest to our heroine. His story is finally fully revealed through four short stories and three scenes retelling parts of Divergent from his point of view.

It’s an enjoyable read, but a quick one and I feel like nothing is actually gained from reading it. We know Four’s story already from the series, this reveals it in more detail but really adds nothing important. We know Four and other than his childhood he’s not that much different from Tris. So similar that their POV narrations in Allegiant sort of blurred together. At this point it really feels like the series is beating you over the head with it’s themes.

I enjoyed it, and I can see people becoming absolutely obsessed with this book. It’s the sort of series that will easily find people to love it (read: Hunger Games) but ultimately having finished the series I feel like it has been just that. Enjoyable but not interesting.

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READ THIS IF YOU’RE A FAN OF: DIVERGENT