Lumberjanes: Unicorn Power!

Lumberjanes: Unicorn Power! was written by Mariko Tamaki and first published in 2017. It’s a middle grade fantasy story based around the excellent comic series of the same name. The book forms the first part of a planned series, though at the time of writing no further instalments have been announced.

Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types is the most epic summer camp that you can imagine. Its purpose is to teach the young Lumberjanes that go there every important survival skill they will ever need – from sailing to fondue making. But the most vital lesson that it teaches the girls who stay there is the importance of friendship, which is something that the six members of Roanoke house understand all too well.

While trying to earn their Living the Plant Life badge, April, Jo, Mal, Molly and Ripley make an exciting discovery. There are unicorns in the forest, and they smell like armpits and anchovies. When the girls follow a unicorn back to its herd, they make a second discovery: an immense mountain made of purple crystal that does not show up on any map.

The discovery gives April an opportunity that she can’t ignore. As an avid badge collector, she would love to earn the Extraordinary Explorers medal, and climbing an uncharted peak seems to be the perfect way to do it. Yet, in her excitement, she blinds herself to the dangers. It’s not long before the Lumberjanes find themselves trapped and injured, with no one knowing where they are. Has April’s ambition spelled the end of the Lumberjanes, or will the girls be able to work together to find a way back to camp?

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Lair of Dreams

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for The Diviners. You can read my review of this novel [here].

Lair of Dreams was written by Libba Bray and first published in 2015. It is a fantasy story, set in New York during the 1920s, as a mysterious and possibly supernatural plague causes fear to spread throughout the city. The story does not really stand alone as it picks up shortly after its prequel, The Diviners (2012) left off. A third instalment of the series, titled Before the Devil Breaks You, is due for release next month.

Now that Evie has revealed her power to the world, she has found herself an overnight sensation. Labelled as the Sweetheart Seer, she soon gains a weekly radio show and her life becomes an endless cycle of mysticism and revelry. However, her glamorous new lifestyle has caused her to push her old friends away. Evie’s friends think that she’s changed but they do not understand why it is that she drinks. It’s to blot out her memories of her terrible battle against the spirit of Naughty John.

Meanwhile, a new threat has struck the city. People in Chinatown have begun to be stricken by a deadly disease that causes them to fall in a deep – and eventually fatal – sleep. As the sickness begins to spread, people fear that the Chinese may be the cause and violence against the immigrants starts to rise. In her nocturnal journeys, a young dream-walker named Ling encounters Henry and reluctantly helps him in his search for his lost love. The two of them do not realise that their quest will bring them face to face with the terrible cause of the affliction.

However, the sickness isn’t the only strange thing to strike close to Evie’s home. Sam has found a new lead regarding Project Buffalo and discovered that his mother’s research may have had something to do with a nationwide hunt for Diviners. Yet what could the Shadow Men want with people with powers like his own, and how does it all connect back to the increasing sightings of a man in a stovepipe hat?

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Moribund

Moribund was written by Genevieve Iseult Eldredge and first published in 2017. It is an urban fantasy story about two fae princesses battling to stop a monstrous plague from being unleashed on the world. The novel forms the first part of the Circuit Fae series and its sequel is planned for release in March of next year.

Following a terrible train accident, Syl Skye has found herself as somewhat of a social recluse. Her former friend and rescuer Fiann has become a local hero and media darling, while Syl is merely known as the girl who survived. However, her memories of that night are vague at best and she can’t get the faint memory of another girl – one with dazzling eyes – from her mind.

Syl does not realise that the derailing was no accident. Former dark fae princess, Rouen, has been stripped of her title and forced to become a sluagh huntress – dead to her people and forced to obey the every command of her master, Agravaine. In order to purify their dying home world, Rouen has been forced to hunt down and kill all of the sleeper princesses of the fair fae. Unfortunately for Syl, she is the last.

However, the two girls quickly find that they are irresistibly drawn to one another. Rouen cannot defy Agravaine’s direct commands but she knows that she has to find a way to teach Syl to control her powers. However, Agravaine has a terrible power of his own – a plague known as the Moribund that merges circuitry and dark magic to control its host. When Agravaine unleashes the Moribund on the school, Syl and Rouen know that they must find a way to stop him. If they don’t, it could mean the end of everyone that Syl cares about…

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Lyra’s Oxford / Once Upon a Time in the North / The Collectors

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier instalments of this series. You can read my review of these novels [here], [here] and [here].

As there’s only a month to go before Philip Pullman releases his new and exciting novel, I thought that I should probably finish off my series of reviews of His Dark Materials. In previous posts, I’ve already taken a look at the main trilogy – Northern Nights (published in America as The Golden Compass – 1995), The Subtle Knife (1997) and The Amber Spyglass (2000) – but today I’m going to be looking at the three companion stories that complement these.

All three shorts were published in separate short volumes – Lyra’s Oxford (2003), Once Upon a Time in the North (2008) and The Collectors (2014). They are each set in a different time period, with Once Upon a Time in the North and The Collectors being prequels to the main series, and Lyra’s Oxford set some years after the events of The Amber Spyglass. The collections also contain a number of other titbits, ranging from maps to newspaper clippings, some of which are reported to tie into Pullman’s upcoming The Book of Dust trilogy.

Lyra’s Oxford contains a short story called Lyra and the Birds, in which Lyra and Pantalaimon manage to protect a witch’s dæmon from a mob of angry starlings. The dæmon has come to Oxford in search of an alchemist who can save his partner’s life, however Lyra soon grows suspicious of his story. The alchemist is reported to be an unstable individual and there is clearly something that the dæmon is hiding from her. Just what is the dangerous secret that he is protecting?

Once Upon a Time in the North focuses on the adventures of a young Lee Scoresby and his dæmon, Hester. Scoresby has recently won a hot air balloon in a game of cards and is using it to explore the world. In this early adventure, he finds himself caught in a tense political situation that involves a politician who wants to wage war against the armoured bears, and a murderous gunslinger who bears a grudge against Scoresby.

The Collectors paints the creepy tale of a man who has come into possession of a pair of works of art – a painting of a young woman and a bronze statue of monkey. It is rumoured that if the two are separated, they will eventually find their way back to each other. However, the strangest thing is that when the collector shows the painting to his friend, he recognises the young woman as a former lover. Yet how can that be when the portrait is over eighty years old? The answer is stranger than he ever could have imagined…

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Minecraft: The Island

Minecraft: The Island was written by Max Brooks and first published in 2017. It is a fantasy story based around the immensely popular video game, focusing on a youth who wakes up to find themself in a strange world. The novel proclaims that it is the first official Minecraft novel, though at the time of writing no future instalments have been announced.

A youth finds themself drifting in the ocean with no idea of who they are or how they came to be there. As they swim, desperately searching for land, they eventually come across an island and head to it in the hope of finding answers. However, this is where everything takes a turn for the odd. Everything on the island, from rocks to trees to animals, seem to be made up of cubes.

To the youth’s horror, they discover that they have also changed. They have become some bizarre fingerless mutant with a square body and blocks for hands. Unable to manipulate things in the usual way, they learn by trial and error that they can only eat certain objects that they find, and that others can be combined into new items by passing them from hand to hand.

As night falls, they discover that the island is full of danger. Zombies, spiders and explosive “creepers” appear in dark areas and seem desperate to hunt them down. To survive in this strange world, the youth realises that they need to use their power to combine blocks to create shelter and weapons. With this knowledge in mind, they set out to learn the mechanics of the world and craft themself a home.

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One Of Us Is Lying

One Of Us Is Lying was written by Karen M McManus and first published in 2017. It is a mystery novel set in an American high school, where four students find themselves suspected of murdering one of their classmates. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to read any of McManus’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Bronwyn is a diligent student with high hopes of getting into Yale. Cooper is a brilliant pitcher who is already been scouted for several baseball scholarships. Addison is the beautiful homecoming queen with a perfect boyfriend. Nate is a known drug dealer, one slip-up away from being sent to juvie. Simon is the notorious editor of the school’s gossip app.

All five students find themselves in detention when banned mobile phones are planted in their bags before a spot check. While the students believe themselves to be victims of a practical joke, things take a sinister turn as Simon suddenly goes into anaphylactic shock and dies in the room. While it looks to be a tragic accident, it turns out that Simon’s water had been spiked with peanut oil – something that he was deathly allergic to.

As no one else could have entered the room, it seems clear that one of the four others must have poisoned him. Suspicion grows as it is discovered that Simon had dirt on each of them and was planning on making it public. As Simon is renowned for always being right, it’s clear that none of the suspects are as clean as they first seemed. Every one of them hides a secret, yet would any of them be prepared to kill to protect it?

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Legion

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier instalments of this series. You can read my reviews of these novels [here], [here] and [here].

Legion was written by Julie Kagawa and first published in 2017. It is the fourth instalment of The Talon Saga, raising the stakes as Talon finally reveals their terrible plan for world domination. As this novel follows on directly where Talon (2014), Rogue (2015) and Soldier (2016) left off, I’d recommend reading the novels in sequence if you want to have any idea of what’s going on.

The Patriarch has been defeated and the Order has fallen into disarray, but it came at a terrible cost. Garret won the duel but still fell to his treacherous commander’s blade. As he bled to death in the middle of nowhere, his salvation came from an unexpected person. Riley offers his blood for transfusion, saving Garret’s life. However, the implications for him doing this are unknown. Garret is a human and Riley is a dragon. There is no way of knowing if he will survive, or what will become of him if he does.

However, Ember and the Rogues do not have time to find out. When a small town is wiped out in a sudden accident, they know that Talon must have something to do with it. What they discover chills them to the core. Talon have completed their army of Vessels – soulless clones bred purely for war – and Dante will be the one to dispatch them to destroy the last vestiges of the Order.

Ember knows that they must stop them, even if it means forging an alliance with their enemy. However, the Vessels aren’t the only threat. When she is taken captive by Dante, she meets the Elder Wyrm for the first time and learns of her true plan. Ember has a vital role to play in the Elder Wyrm’s schemes – one that will mean a fate worse than death for her…

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Moonlocket

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for Cogheart. You can read my review of this novel [here].

Moonlocket was written by Peter Bunzl and first published in 2017. It is a steampunk novel targeted at middle grade readers, focusing on two young protagonists as they attempt to outwit a master criminal. The novel forms the second instalment of The Cogheart Adventures series and is preceded by Cogheart (2016).

Although he has been welcomed into John and Lily’s home, Robert still does not feel welcome. He mourns for his father and feels nothing but animosity towards his mother – the woman who abandoned him when he was just a baby. However, everything changes when he sees a ghostly figure in the window of his old home. On investigation, he comes face to face with a dangerous vagabond and slowly starts to realise that there is more to his family than he ever realised.

The stranger is Jack Door – an infamous escape artist and thief – who was imprisoned after he managed to steal the Blood Moon Diamond right off the head of the Queen’s mechanical elephant during the Jubilee. He has now escaped from prison and is searching for his prize, and has reason to believe that Robert’s mother has hidden it from him.

Robert knows that they can’t let Jack get his hands on the diamond. With Lily and Malkin at his side, he travels to London in search of the jewel and his long-lost mother. His only clue is a broken locket and the mysterious cipher that it contains. However, he must be careful. Jack Door is a dangerous man and would stop at nothing to beat them to his treasure…

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Young Adult Comics

graphic-novels

I haven’t had time to prepare a proper review for today as I’m currently studying for an exam. Don’t worry though – so long as I pass, everything should be back to normal for next week!

Anyhow, instead I thought I’d use today’s post to talk about something a little different. If you follow me on Goodreads, you’ll already know that I’m also an avid comic book reader. While comics are a bit more mainstream now than they once were, they’re still often looked down upon as being of lesser value than other forms of art and literature. This is quite frankly crazy – as with the novels that I’ve reviewed, the quality of comics can vary quite wildly between titles, writers and artists.

Therefore, I thought I’d use this post to talk about my favourite comics for middle grade and young adult readers. Everything on this list (apart from Nimona) is an ongoing series so you should be able to find them at your local book store, library or comic book shop. I also should note that all of these series are all Western comics. While I do also read manga, these days I’m more of a Western comic book reader and so I’m not up on the most recent Japanese titles to recommend.

Anyhow, let’s start with some Marvel comics!

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Northern Lights

northern-lights

Northern Lights (or The Golden Compass as it is known in America) is really a book that needs no introduction. It was first published in 1995 and forms the first part of Philip Pullman’s epic His Dark Materials trilogy. The novel is followed by The Subtle Knife (1997) and The Amber Spyglass (2000). It has since been adapted into many formats, including a film and graphic novel, and a companion series has recently been announced with the first title due for publication at the end of this year.

Since the death of her parents, Lyra Belacqua has been raised at Jordan College and is content roaming the roof tops and fighting the travelling Gyptian kids with her friend, Roger, and daemon companion, Pantalaimon. However, nothing can last forever. Roger mysteriously disappears one evening and, shortly afterwards, a beautiful woman named Mrs Coulter expresses an interest in adopting Lyra. Although worried about her friend, Lyra is excited to live with such a beautiful and intelligent woman. However, the Master of Jordan expresses concern about Mrs Coulter’s intentions. He gifts Lyra a rare truth telling device called the alethiometer and makes her swear to never show it to her new guardian.

The longer that Lyra spends in Mrs Coulter’s home, the more that she realises that the woman isn’t as kind as she first seemed. When Lyra discovers that she is directly linked to the Gobblers – a group of kidnappers who may be responsible for Roger’s abduction – she runs away and sets off on a journey of her own. Her goal is to save Roger and then head North in search of her Uncle Asriel – a prisoner of the panserbjørne – and deliver the alethiometer to him.

However, Lyra’s journey is filled with danger. Armoured bears, warring witch clans, and the terrible secret behind the Gobblers all stand between her and her goal. Most mysterious all is the nature of Dust, unexplained particles that drift down from the Northern Lights and stick to adults. Is it true that they pour from a parallel world? And if so, what are Lord Asriel’s plans for it?

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