Tag Archives: book reviews

Depression & Other Magic Tricks by Sabrina Benaim

Title: Depression & Other Magic Tricks
Author: Sabrina Benaim
Genre: Poetry, Health, Mind & Body
Publisher: Button Poetry
Publishing date: 22nd of August 2017
ISBN: 9781943735204

Synopsis: Depression & Other Magic Tricks is the debut book by Sabrina Benaim, one of the most-viewed performance poets of all time, whose poem “Explaining My Depression to My Mother” has become a cultural phenomenon with over 50 million views. Depression & Other Magic Tricks explores themes of mental health, love, and family. It is a documentation of struggle and triumph, a celebration of daily life and of living. Benaim’s wit, empathy, and gift for language produce a work of endless wonder.

My Review:

Depression & Other Magic Tricks explores themes of mental health, love, and family. Many of the poems you find in this book has previously been performed at button poetry, and now you can get your hand on them in the written form.

While reading this book, I found that reading each poem out loud gave a lot more of detail and I do not think any of the poems in this book ever were supposed to just sit on the page. These poems are supposed to be read out loud, they are supposed to be performed, it is the sound of each word and each pause that gives the poem their power.

There were many good poems in this collection, some poems I came to adore, and there were some poems I did not care for. If this collection lived up to the hype “Explaining My Depression to My Mother” created, I am not sure, but the poem was in this collection too. After reading the whole collection I do not think that each and every one of the poem lived up to “Explaining My Depression to My Mother”, but I found quite a few favorite poems.

My short list of favorite poems from this collection: “unrequited in nine acts” (below), “On getting over you for real” “on releasing light”

On overall I thoroughly enjoyed reading this poetry collection, with it highs and lows, its battles and triumphs. The topics were easy to relate to and the issue of mental illness was overlying through the whole collection.

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Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball by Laura Ellen Anderson

Title: Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball
Author: Laura Ellen Anderson
Genre: Children’s Fiction
Publisher: Egmont UK
Publishing date: 5th of October 2017
ISBN:9781405286725

Synopsis:Welcome to the world of Nocturnia, where darkness reigns supreme, glitter is terrifying, and unicorns are the stuff of nightmares! Amelia Fang would much rather hang out with her pet pumpkin Squashy and her friends Florence the yeti and Grimaldi the reaper than dance at her parents’ annual Barbaric Ball.
When the King’s spoiled son Tangine captures Squashy, Amelia and her friends must escape the party to plan a daring rescue. In their race against time, they being to realize things in Nocturnia may not be quite what they seem… Join Amelia on her very first adventure. She won’t bite!

My Review:

In Nocturnia  everything sparkly, fluffy and cute is considered terrifying, which is a great premise for a comical book about nocturnal creatures. This premise intrigued me to pick up this book for my autumn reading roll. This book was fun and easy to read, but on certain topics it did disappoint.

One of the disappointing part of this book was the absentee parenting trope which tends to be a viral infection in literature for children. I understand the need for absentee parents, and it can be done well, like in Coraline by Neil Gaiman. In Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball the absentee parenting troupe was borderline neglect, the mother is insanely self-absorbed caring more for her looks and her social status before her daughter. At one point the mother gives away her favorite chair and Amelia’s pet pumping away to the kings spoiled-rotten son. when Amelia refuses she is told not to cause a scene and sent to her room. The father seems to be more concerned about his crossword puzzles than his family and is a stereotypical never-in-the-kitchen male. This is empathized by Amelia’s bafflement over the first time her father put a teacup in the sink on his own. In our day and time where social norms and gender-roles are being challenged, reverting back to stereotypes in children’s fictions will not help us grow a new generation with good and open values.
The bottom line regarding this issue is that I think this story had a lot of unexplored potential.

That aside I found the illustrations in this book nothing short of amazing. They are simple and very cute, and they do their job well of complimenting the story and it’s themes.
Another good point about this book is the humor, which is at some points a little over the top hilarious with words like “darklings” and “diephone” and so on and so forth. In the beginning I found the puns a little annoying, but as I read on I go used to them. I can imagine that the humor will be just the perfect cup of tea for it’s intended audience (which is middle grade), but as an adult reader it took me a while to get used to them.
This book can easily be compared to the Hotel Transylvania movies with it’s vitty language and puns, and I think they are reaching for the same type of audience. And I only wish that Amelia’s parents would have taken a tiny straw out of daddy Count Dracula’s overprotective parenting book.

Book Review: The Thunderbolt Pony

Title: The Thunderbolt Pony
Author: Stacy Gregg
Genre: Children’s Fiction , Middle Grade
Publisher: HarperCollins UK, Children’s
Publishing date: 5th of October 2017
ISBN: 9780008257026

Synopsis: A dramatic and emotional story about one girl’s determination to stand by her beloved animals – and her refusal to give up, even in the face of impossible odds.

My Review:

The Thunderbolt Pony is a good story for any animal lover. It is a cute little story about Evie’s journey across the earthquake torn South Island of New Zealand, accompanies by her three animal friends. Her pony Gus, her dog Jock and her cat Moxy
I did enjoy to read the story through the girls eyes, and her troubles and challenges seemed real. However I found the beginning of the story a bit hard to get in to, as I found it a bit implausible that a 12-year-old girl could pin point the exact moment she developed her OCD. Don’t get me wrong, the story was very touching and seemed logical of how her father’s declining health to cancer cased her to develop OCD, but I found that part implausible.
That did not stop me from continuing reading the story, and I did enjoy that the author spent a lot of time showing how an illness like OCD can affect people, even in crisis and I think we need more books that empathize this.
In the end it was a very moving story and I enjoyed to spend time with Evie, Moxy, Gus and Jock, and it emphasized the fact of not leaving anyone behind and that pets are part of your responsibility even when a disaster hit.

Ink in Water by Lacy J. Davis

Title: Ink in Water
Author: Lacy J. Davis & Jim Kettner
Genre: Biographies & Memoirs , Comics & Graphic Novels
Publisher: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.
Publishing date: 1st of October 2017
ISBN: 9781626258310

Synopsis: At once punk rock and poignant, Ink in Water is the visceral and groundbreaking graphic memoir of a young woman’s devastating struggle with negative body image and eating disorders, and how she rose above her own destructive behaviors and feelings of inadequacy to live a life of strength and empowerment.

My Review:

As much as I wanted to enjoy this book and get carried a way with it, it took me a very long time to get into the story. The narrative is very straight forward with little distracting decor and it was supposed to be a touching story. Or, I thought it would be a touching story, instead it was a hard and gritty narrative of a very real battle with mental illness.

The rawness of the narrative and the very relateable additional issues that often tag along with mental illness made this book very hard for me to read. The story convey in a very real and hard way how mental illness can be there even if you are obviously unaware of it for a while.

IT shows how, even when you know you are sick, the biggest challenge of the battle is not the disease itself but recovery part. Mental health issues, like eating disorders, depression, OCD, they become a part of you and who you are. The disease become part of how you see yourself and you identity, and how are you supposed to recover from your identity?

Davis goes all the way out to show how real her struggle was and she is in not painting any rainbows or making any face-saving promises or painting rainbows. Yet her strong narrative still warrants hope and I would recommend the book for anyone who knows someone or themselves struggle with an eating disorder.

Kettner’s gritty artwork throughout the novel aids to the harsh narrative without sugar-coating anything. Nothing in a story like this needs sugar-coating, even if it makes the story harder to read, and both the author and the illustrator knows this.

Book Review: Kakieland Katastrophe – Hotel Transylvania

Title: Kakieland Katastroph
Series: Hotel Transylvania #1
Author: Stefan Petrucha
Genre: Graphic Novel, Children’s Fiction
Publisher: Papercutz
Publishing date: 12th of September 2017
ISBN: 9781629918082

Synopsis: The debut Hotel Transylvania graphic novel based on the movies! Horror author Stephen Cling visits Hotel Transylvania to try and prove monsters are still dangerous. Dracula, his daughter and her family, and the Drac pack are anything but! However, when a human child goes missing, it is up to Drac, Mavis, and the rest of the Hotel crew to locate the child before their monstrous reputation gets them chased out of town.

My Review:

Kakieland Katastroph is a rather short comic book with about 64 pages. the story contains the same quirky humor of the two very popular and successful movies. The art work, as expected, is a bit of a downgrade, but it is still neat and adds to the story.

In the story we meet the familiar characters from the movie as they are running a hotel in a monster-friendly (or not so monster friendly world). It takes place at some time after the second movie ended.

The story feels a bit rushed at times, which probably could have been avoided by adding a couple more pages, I would have liked the story to be longer. This is the first volume of a series and hopefully the story progression in the next chapter will be a bit more natural.
As a fan of both the movies I found this book very entertaining and I enjoyed reading  it, and I look forward to the next installment.

Serafina and the Black Cloak

Title: Serafina and the Black Cloak
Author: Robert Beatty
Genre: Children’s fiction, fantasy
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Publishing date: July 14th, 2015
ISBN: 9781484709016
Purchase Link: Amazon.co.uk

Synopsis: “Never go into the deep parts of the forest, for there are many dangers there, and they will ensnare your soul.”
Serafina has never had a reason to disobey her pa and venture beyond the grounds of the Biltmore estate.There’s plenty to explore in her grand home, although she must take care to never be seen. When children at the estate start disappearing, only Serafina knows who the culprit is:a terrifying man in a black cloak who stalks Biltmore’s corridors at night. Joining forces with Braeden Vanderbilt. Braeden and Serafina must uncover the Man in the Black Cloak’s identity before all of the children vanish one by one.
Serafina’s hunt leads her into the very forest that she has been taught to fear. There she discovers a forgotten legacy of magic. In order to save the children, Serafina must seek the answers that will unlock the puzzle of her past.

My Review:

This book had a huge marketing hype around it. All the marketing, the intriguing description as well as the book-cover got me very excited about this book.
In many ways this book would be better off had the author invented a fictional family to go with the castle. Instead he chose to go with the family who are historically linked to the estate, and then he throws history all over the place. Of course all historical fiction does fictionalize a lot of things, but their fictional facts should in some fashion be linked to actual historical facts or theories.
The characters were easy to enjoy but they were a little flat. The mysteries are a bit simple and the books targeted audience (8-12 year olds) wouldn’t have much trouble figuring out the mysteries presented in the book. That is everything except Serafina’s own “past” which is barely foreshadowed at all and is just info-dumped on the reader in the end. Though it is pretty clear what she is, or it is very well displayed by the books illustrations, but the whole why and whens are just dropped in the end.
That aside, this is a book that can be enjoyed, particularly by it’s targeted audience, but the hype around it is insanely overplayed. This is a normal mediocre book which could have been much better had the story been a little more complex and with more colorful characters. If the novel had been longer and there had been more space for the character’s to evolve, this would have been a superb book.
By all means, this book turned out to be a huge disappointment.

Se the astonishing book-trailer below (I would watch that movie):

Come Out Tonight

Title: Come Out Tonight
Author: Bonnie Rozanski
Genre:
Publisher: Biting Duck Press
Publishing date: August 3rd, 2015
ISBN: 9781938463228

Publisher Description:: Sherry Pollack is a brilliant scientist working for a high-pressure translational medical research lab, where she has helped bring to market a new sleep aid called Somnolux. All of that is destroyed when she is assaulted and left in a persistent vegetative state. Her loving boyfriend and the detective assigned to the case both struggle to find her assailant and to bring Sherry back.
Their research leads them to an array of unlikely suspects and to increasingly worrying discoveries about Somnolux. The surprise ending may make you wish you could never sleep again.

My Review:

To start of this review I would like to compliment both the writing and the narrative, as they carry the story on in a brisk pace. The story is told in a split narrative between a detective Donna Sirken and Sherry’s boyfriend Henry.
Though the premise of the story is very intriguing and I was very excited to read this particular book it just didn’t do it for me. The story was a little predictable, and the characters just didn’t evoke enough emotion for me to pay attention to them. At certain points on the story the characters had emotional outbursts and internalization of thought, as to reveal certain character traits, but they weren’t done in a very masterful way and instead of enriching the story they made the story feel clipped.
The story is sold as a hard sci-fi, which is another one of the reasons I picked it up. Come Out Tonight is not a hard sci-fi, it lacks a lot on the technological side to qualify as such. It is more of a light Science Fiction thriller, and I think it even could have passed as just a normal Crime/Suspense Thriller.
The book could also have had a more interesting cover. Though I picked this book purely for its premise, I do believe that some people will put this book down purely based on its cover.

The Hollow Moon

Title: The Hollow Moon
Series: Aoleon The Martian Girl #3
Author: Brent LeVasseur
Genre: Children’s science fiction
Publisher: Aoléon Press
Publishing date: February 8th, 2015
ISBN: 9780986208232

Synopsis: Gilbert finally gets his chance to learn to skyboard. However, things go horribly wrong and they are chased by the Royal Paladin guard.

My Review:

This is the third installment in the book-series, and all though there is much more action in this one I found myself loosing interest. It is a perfectly fine story, but it did no captivate me in any way. The artwork is still fine, and it is a story that promotes a kick-ass female superhero, which is great. The overall story still lacks direction, which is one of the reasons I feel like I’m losing touch with this story. The good thing about this story is the characters, it is easy to care and fear for them. Another positive thing is that the speed picked up, and the story unfolds faster than in the previous one. There are two more books in the series and I hope the last two books will provide more sense of purpose.

Author info:

Mr. LeVasseur enjoys crafting good stories based on lovable characters designed to translate well to multiple media formats such as books, games, movies, and toys.
He lives in New York when he is not commuting between Southern California and Olympus Mons, Mars. His hobbies include writing, 3D animation, musical composition, and intergalactic space travel.
He also enjoys various sports such as skiing, running, and exospheric skydiving.

Warning Cry

Title: Warning Cry
Series: Guardians of the Wild #2
Author: Kris Humphrey
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Stripes Publishing
Publishing date: July 6th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1847156051
Purchase Link:

Synopsis: When a raven drops a white feather at the doorstep on the day of your birth, it is a symbol of your destiny. You are a Whisperer – a guardian of the wild.

My Review:

I did read the first book in this series and it was not my favorite book, but I decided to go ahead and give the second book a try, as it might grow on me. It didn’t. There are too many unanswered questions from book one and they continue into book two without any offer of any explanations. As one book in a series it is to be expected that there have to be some open treads for future installments to carry on from, but this book/series just leave too many of them. Somehow it makes the story float all over the place and I, as a reader, have no sense of progress and no sense of direction. A good book leads the reader on the way to the answer, a great book tricks the reader and leave in a few lies, this book just throws out a million questions and offer no explanations.
To look at the positive side of things I want to say that the pace of the story and the narration is intriguing, it does offer the reader some sort of comfort and familiarity. The cover is gorgeous, and for younger readers I think this chaotic book might just work, it just didn’t work for me.

The Luminess of Mars

Title: The Luminess of Mars
Series: Aoleon The Martian Girl #2
Author: Brent LeVasseur
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher:  Aoléon Pres
Publishing date: February 23rd 2015
ASIN: B00S70U8NE

Synopsis: Gilbert gets to visit the Martian Space Academy (Aoléon’s school) where he encounters Aoléon’s nemesis, Charm Lepton and her friend Quarkina, as well as receiving a history lesson on the Martian people by Plutarch Xenocrates.

My Review:

The book is fast paced and full of adventure just like the previous one. The author has successfully created a resourceful and high energy superhero. For the most part the writing is to the point, but sometimes it seems like the plot loses its grasp on the story and it sort of waddle around, and at some points I think it would have done better with stronger editing.
The graphics are still fun, but I still think they speak more to the younger part of Middle Grade readers rather than the older part. The graphics follow the style of most modern cartoon shows for children.
One thing I really dislike about this series is its clunky and awkward title format. The title format makes it hard to distinguish each volume from the other, and I think it would have benefited from sticking with a traditional graphic novel format or just given each installment a title and call it a series like all other books.

To end the review on a positive note I did enjoy the story for what it was, and I think the writing will be engaging for children who are just starting to read on their own.

Author Bio

Mr. LeVasseur enjoys crafting good stories based on lovable characters designed to translate well to multiple media formats such as books, games, movies, and toys. He lives in New York when he is not commuting between Southern California and Olympus Mons, Mars. His hobbies include writing, 3D animation, musical composition, and intergalactic space travel. He also enjoys various sports such as skiing, running, and exospheric skydiving.

Connect with Brent:   Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Aoléon: The Martian Girl