Fangirl

Score: lemon_1small lemon_2small lemon_3small lemon_4small out of 5 lemons

Just stamp “Rowell fan” on my forehead, and be done with it! I devoured this book. If only I didn’t have those pesky adult responsibilities, I would have read this in one sitting! The quirky tone of this book, charismatic and realistic characters, and marvelous fanfiction scripts made this book for me. Halfway through, I was inspired (more like, compelled) to Google if Rowell would consider writing and publishing the Simon novels separate from this story (even for its Harry Potter likeness). One can hope! Readers like me would be first line!

Background Blurb: From when I was 14 years old, I was obsessed with fanfiction. Literally, obsessed. This was around the time I discovered the video game franchise, Kingdom Hearts, due to the release of the first game and my love for anime began to truly blossom. As a young girl, I watched Toonami and Sailor Moon, Pokemon, Dragonball Z, Trigun, Cowboy Bebop, and on, but it wasn’t until Inuyasha that I wanted to explore these animated worlds more creatively as a writer and reader. Then, I moved onto Harry Potter fanfiction, and slash. There is something about the tension between the hero and dark rival that inspires other sorts of tension *cough* sexual *cough*. Drarry will forever be in my adolescent heart, and it has carried on into adulthood. There are some wonderful writers out there who started with fanfiction, and no, I’m not talking about Stephanie Meyer. (Side note: The Lemon Librarian does NOT refer to fanfiction lemons.)

 
That was a big piece of the book I enjoyed – the fanfiction and excerpts from the original books and stories Magicath wrote with her sister. Admittedly, I was gushing. It was interesting how they would sometimes apply to the main character’s journey. I wish there was a bit more of it, considering the book is titled “Fangirl”. That’s what brilliant writers do – they leave you wanting more! I almost felt like Cath in the book, who could do get enough of the characters. She felt so immersed in her characters and writing that she neglected her real life responsibilities. But sometimes, that’s how we feel – like we want to escape. Life can be hard sometimes.

Not sure what I can say about this book that hasn’t already been said, but I can reiterate that if you enjoy realistic fiction, fanfiction, romance, college stories, and fictional characters struggling with family baggage and mental disorders – all flavored with Rowell’s charming and eccentric style – then you should read this one. It’s a keeper! Purchase for your library and personal bookshelves.

Though, I did deduct a star for its slow start and unclear direction of the story. Plus, I would have enjoyed hearing a bit more about the main character’s coursework, since I felt much of the book stressed the importance of a personal assignment, but never got around to discussing it as much as her fanfiction. I wanted more of that – personal preference.

Overall, well done with 4 out of 5 lemons! I’m onto Rowell’s other books. Look for those reviews to come!

Olivia

Score: lemon_1small lemon_2small lemon_3small lemon_4small lemon_5small of 5 lemons

The best stories are the ones a reader can pick up and enjoy again and again. That is how I feel with Olivia. My version of Olivia contained a read-aloud CD, so I read the story for the first time with the audio from Dame Edna, who is quite the character. The music of the audio was perfect for the reading experience. It was slow at times, but expertly captured the fanciful tone of the story.

Summary: Young Olivia is good at so many things, such as wearing people out, like her brother named Ian, mom and dad, dog named Perry, and cat named Edwin. She is a fan of many activities like dress-up, going to the beach, and imagining life as a ballerina. Olivia has so many adventures every day.

As a pen-and-ink story, Olivia was whimsical, humorous, and clever. The author used minimalist colors and gray tones, but purposefully used the color red to draw attention to specific pieces and details within illustrations. The color red was used to illustrate the joy and energy of the character, who was inspired by Falconer’s niece. The illustrations paired well with its words, and I enjoyed different styles used in illustrating, such as with the portraits from the museum (Autumn Rhythm #30 and Ballet Rehearsal), Olivia’s drawings and paintings, and gradients.

Examining the simple story, the picture book captures the energy and exuberance of a young child through all the various activities, from sand castle-building to portrait-viewing experience. A young child can find a friend or his/her self in the little piglet. The text is brief, but interacts well with the illustrations. Falconer masterfully utilizes the composition of a page while maintaining the focus on Olivia.

lemonade-308970_640Overall, the artistic style is appropriate, creative, and works well with subject. The format, the typography is a bit small and may be used with older elementary readers. The layout is purposeful and cleverly arranged. The text and images complement each other, and as a reader, I was impacted by this story, as this was a story I shared with family and friends, something I wanted to pass on as a treasure. This book is clearly deserving of its Caldecott honor! A story like this is timeless for children (ages 3-7). 5 out of 5 lemons! Which means–it’s the perfect glass of lemonade!

Monster High: Hopes and Screams: An Original Graphic Novel

Score: lemon_1small lemon_2small lemon_3small out of 5 lemons

Starting as a paranormal-inspired fashion doll franchise,Monster High has exploded into a collection of goods from toys, animated online shorts, films and television shows, video games, books, and now–an original graphic novel. Fans of the series will enjoy this full-colored spin on the unique monster dolls as they are brought to life via comic in a spooktacular telling. This graphic novel stars several characters from the series, such as Frankie Stein, Clawdeen Wolf, Draculaura, Cleo de Nile, Deuce Gorgon, Lagoona Blue, Abbey Bominable, and Ghoulia.

Full of original, goofy puns, chapters of the graphic novel focus on a specific characters. Within these chapters, the stylish characters navigate through Monster High, proving that even though they are monsters, they can still relate to the average teenager. Cleo has boyfriend troubles, Draculaura tries to manage everything at once, and Abbey tries to reconcile a friendship conflict. They value their friendships, help each other out, and reach for their hopes and screams.

With complete exaggeration to the teenage figure, these dolls convey a scary message. If these monsters are more normal than they appear, are they to resemble the normal teenager with their big hair, eyes, and lips, caked make-up, and unhealthy tiny waist? Is this a standard to look up to? Is this some sort of subliminal message? These character designs can be chalked up as pure fantasy, but they may carry a larger impression on young readers. Don’t blame the artist – the doll was created that way!

I found this read to be enjoyable and recommended for younger readers, from preteens to early young adults. The composition of the full-colored pages is carefully constructed, and I enjoyed the “behind the scenes” pages at the end. Fans of the franchise will like this. However, it lacks any substance, and attempts to be trendy and fashionable than deep. The comic is basic with one-dimensional characters, predictable stories, and unnerving underlying messages. Three of five lemons.

Stuart Little

Score: lemon_1small lemon_2small out of 5 lemons

What a bizarre read.

Understand, this is a fantasy book. Suspend disbelief at the parents’, community’s, and strangers’ responses to Stuart Little, a mouse who stands two feet tall, who sleeps in a cigarette box and lives with his family in New York City. He delights in sailing boats in the park, landing in misadventures with the house cat, Snowball, and beautiful bird, Margalo. For children, this may be an imaginative treat. It’s a short classic story with charm, little thought, and strange events.

This book left me mystified. I found the narrative disjointed, as the story randomly bumbles along, describing Stuart’s misadventures with becoming lost in the house, sailing straight and true, nearly being killed by garbage truck, not-so invisible miniature cars, one little person named Harriet, and a random journey to find the misssing Margalo. This lacks the emotional impact of E.B. White’s classic, Charlotte’s Web, a favorite of mine. Though, I liked Stuart Little and his silliness as a sailor, teacher, and nutty little mouse.

Like Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little included original black and white line drawings from Garth Williams, who also illustrated the Laura Ingall Wilder’s Little House series. These delightful illustrations complimented the story and highlighted various dilemmas of the little mouse, like getting ready in the morning, leaving home, and traveling to find a missing friend. These illustrations were one of my favorite things about the tiny book.

I thought this book was going somewhere–not sure where, but somewhere–and then it ends. It simply ends. If you’re looking for conclusion, you won’t find that here. You never know what becomes of Stuart’s journey, Margalo, or even little questions about Harriet’s being or how humans can birth mice…

In the end, this little literary experience of Stuart Little earns little lemons, due to its lack of cohesion, answers, and conclusion. Two out of five lemons for its charm and interesting characters and events, but it would have benefited from a tight ending and more congruity between scenes.

Unearthly (Unearthly #1)

Score: lemon_1small lemon_2small lemon_3small lemon_4smallout of 5 lemons

Reading this book after the paranormal romance Shiver (and frankly that past read being a disappointment), I was a bit anxious. This is a book I’ve been wanting to read for a few years, but hadn’t gotten around to it. Finally, I found some time, and I wish I would have read it sooner!

Unearthly follows your atypical teenage girl slash half-angel, Clara, who is coming into her own… angel wings. Clara begins having visions about her destiny and a boy standing in a forest fire. After the visions start and clues begin to surface, Clara and her family move to an unknown snowy country town. Determined to make sense of her angelic purpose, she befriends mysterious and handsome, Christian while dodging the encounters with the rugged Tucker. Pulled between duty and love, Clara resolves to make a choice.

This is the angel story I chose to read over any of the other contenders. Let’s chat about character development, which this story oozes! As the main protagonist, readers are welcomed into the mind of Clara, as she agonizes over what she is meant to do and what she wants. Clara’s thoughts are narrated throughout the story as she stumbles through her understanding with the aid of her new friends. She makes errors, learns, and recovers. She balances angelic perfection with human error. Her character is flawed and likable, as she navigates first love, friendship, and responsibility she is unable to turn away from.

While the other characters don’t develop as much, the reader is given insight into their feelings, thoughts, and motives. The theme of family largely embodies this work, as Clara’s angelic strong mother. Her mother has reasons for her unyielding treatment of Clara, as she coaches her daughter through trials without revealing her unknown secrets. Her relationship with her brother is typical sibling, as they help each other out when necessary, such as with flying, but frequently bicker when it comes to sports tryouts, laying low, and poor decisions.

What had me was the story. Sure, you may think you can predict this read – go ahead and try – but Cynthia Hand will turn it around and keep you guessing. The romance and love story is pure enjoyment. I was pulled into the birthday dates, fishing, and sweet adventures. The romance is slowly developed with great care, which is most-appreciated! Insta!love is a thing I despise! While teenage love is intense and inspiring, Hand knows how to masterfully progress relationships. And those witty plot twists at the end – thank you! Keep them coming!

However, that boring conclusion was unnecessary. The author could have removed the last couple of pages, left readers on a shocking cliffhanger, and it would have been more exciting. The story did not need a dry narrative about Clara taking a shower and reminiscing on the turn of events. Don’t slowly end the drama with this trivial nonsense. End on a tortuous cliffhanger and open book two with this drivel.

Now a fan, I’m eager to read book two and uncover more about the nature of angels, the consequences of Clara’s choices, and further courtship between characters. SO! Four out of five lemons, but this is a true winner in the angel/paranormal romance genre for young adults.

New Year, New Goals

Happy New Year, folks! I hope everyone had a safe and fantastic holiday. Around the holidays, I tend to relapse on posting and focus on personal obligations. It was especially busy due to being away to celebrate my mother’s birthday and attending a family wedding. After the whirl of holidays, I was able to establish my goals for 2015.

First off, I’ve set the number for my reading challenge of the year. In 2013 and 2014, I decided to read 50 books. This year, I’m aiming for 50 books as well. I may decide to extend this reading challenge further should I find I’m able to. Goals should be realistic and obtainable, so while I want to challenge myself, I want to ensure my success rather than failure. Reading 50 books in a year means at least 4 books a month or 1 book a week, sometimes 2. That seems doable!

Feel free to send me suggestions, or books you would like for me to review.

If you have a goodreads account, go ahead and set up your challenge here: https://www.goodreads.com/challenges/3082-2015-reading-challenge

2015challenge

Other goals, I would like to further expand this blog and my branded identity. I have some ideas in store for weekly segments and reviewing other materials related to children and teens. Professionally, I would like to gain more experience working or volunteering with children and teens, as well as land a librarian position, as I graduated from Library School last month.

Other than that, as a big proponent for health and fitness, I am maintaining my exercise with POPilates and a low-carb lifestyle. Always remember to take care of you! I also would like to practice more yoga and relaxation techniques.

Speaking of which, I completed a paper last semester by selecting books for an early elementary school audience on the topic of exercise. I will update this week about that project and brief reviews on those three resources!

Leave a comment and let me know what some of your goals are for this year! 

Fairy Tale Comics: Classic Tales Told by Extraordinary Cartoonists

Score: lemon_1small lemon_2small lemon_3small lemon_4small lemon_5small out of 5

61I9UGXa2PL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Seventeen classic fairy tales are envisioned by a host of talented artists in this comic book compilation. All of the tales are illustrated utilizing unique techniques aligned with the exceptional artist’s style. Many of these artists have been nominated and/or received literary and art awards for their work. Some tales are adapted and retold with clever and fun division from the original recordings. Most of the original content is maintained in this child-friendly retelling. Even gruesome bits of the stories are expressed appropriately to maintain a suitable tone for young readers. Honestly, I appreciate the adaptations, due to some questionable, dark, and wicked elements of the originals that were first intended for adults.

20141230_105414Tales and Artists:

When a book compiles a series of comics from outstanding artists, it can only be a treat! The variation between comics delights readers with its stunning arrangements, colors, dialogue, and sometimes wordless narrations. To highlight some names, Brett Helquist, illustrator for many books like A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, creates a beautiful rendition of Rumpelstiltskin with its realistic characters, clear composition, and straightforward dialogue. (Though, I would love to insert a strong comment on the treatment of women in fairy tales.) Raina Telgemeier, author of the three graphic novels Smile, Drama, and Sisters, designs an amusing telling of Rapunzel with the heroine saving the prince and escaping from her tower prison. I very much enjoyed the work of Luke Pearson, cartoonist of the all-ages Hilda comic serieswho illustrates The Boy Who Drew Cats comic from the Japanese tale as told by Lafcadio Hearn. I had never heard this tale before and adored the humor, artistic style, panel arrangement, and surprise ending. Another favorite of mine is The Prince and the Tortoise, adapted from the 1001 Nights tale as told by Jean-Charles Mardrus, and illustated by Ramona Fradon, script by Chris Duffy, colors by James Campbell, and letters by Jack Morelli. This superstar collaboration envisioned and organized a humorous and complete story of three sons who marry due to the fate and a young son and tortoise who teach an important lesson about the nature of beauty and judging by appearances. At the end of the book, a bit of information and background is given about the contributors. I would have liked to know more about their artistic style and choices in creating the comics for the book.

The tales in this compilation are a blend of well-known tales from Brothers Grimm, recognizable stories, non-European tales, and male and female protagonists. The original tales may or may not be known to children, who may not be able to note deviations in these adaptions. This is a wonderful introduction to fairy tales through an accessible media form, which will be appreciated by children and intermediate readers. The comic form allows children to discover a story by deciphering the words and images while familiarizing themselves with elements of the traditional fairy tales.

In addition, I highly appreciate the editor’s note from Chris Duffy at the end of the book, which explains the selection of tales and includes a minor bibliography. I will link the electronic resources on this blog post:

  • gutenberg.org
    Project Gutenberg offers an extensive online collection of copyright-free works, including some fairy tale books. Try searching for the phrase “fairy tale” and the country or region of origin.
  • surlalunefairytales.com
    SurLaLune Fairytales is an online fairy tale resources, offering many of the classics.
  • pitt.edu/~dash/folktexts.html
    Curated by D. L. Ashliman, the Folklore and Mythology Electronic Texts compile folklore and fairy tales from all of the world.

lemonade-308970_640Because of the perfect score, this book earns a big cup of LEMONADE! This is a successful comic compilation from brilliant artists powerfully capturing the elements of the original tales and transforming them into an accessible book for children and intermediate readers. I recommend this book for your home or library book shelves.