Monday, January 25, 2016

Things I've Recently (25): Baby-Sitting Books

If you're new around here or I haven't done one in a while, Things I've Read Recently is a series of posts I do that are basically mini-reviews of books that I either forgot to review, didn't have enough to say for a full review, or just didn't want to do a full post about for whatever reason.

Sometimes I do themes!

Sometimes I think of themes AFTER I've posted one with a book that would fit perfectly with three others I have!

Sometimes I say heck with it and recycle a book from a previous post because it bugs me that I did that, and I don't have any other books that fit!

So, um. If you did read that post (and I will try and schedule this for pretty far in the future so it's been a while), skip the first book. The rest will be new ones.

It's now been well over six months, so it should be okay, right? And I want to link to this post in a future post, and I just started a new baby-sitting job, so let's do this thing.


Warning: Baby-Sitting May Be Hazardous to Your Health by Cynthia Blair

Published: January 23rd, 1993 by Fawett
Genre: YA/Upper MG Mystery
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 118
Part of a series? Yes, this is like 3 out of 5 of this "A Bubble Gum Gang Mystery" series.
Got via: It's a weeded library book, so a library sale.
Amazon / Abebooks

Summary (from goodreads): As far as Samantha is concerned, there are all kinds of mysteres. Can she handle baby-sitting as an after-school job? And why does the most popular girl in school actually want to be her friend? But the scariest mystery of all is also the most dangerous: someone is selling secrets at her dad's computer firm - and his business is in trouble. It's definitely a case for Samantha and her two other Bubble Gum Gang pals, but the price of finding the spy may be way too high...

Thoughts: Apologies for the awful picture. The biggest thing that annoyed me in this one is that one of the characters, Carla, is apparently fat and is dieting throughout the book to lose five pounds so her parents will throw her a frozen yogurt party. She's twelve. No one needs to be dieting at twelve. She's probably about to go through puberty! And seriously, look at the girl on the cover (the one with dark hair). She's tiny. Old YA books were awful to fat, or even chubby characters.

That was annoying, but luckily it didn't dominate the story, so I didn't have a stroke from the stress. Otherwise, I liked it alright. It's pretty dated (twelve year olds carrying purses!) and the plot is not nearly as dramatic as the summary, but I like mysteries, I like the "Girl gangs doing stuff" genre, and the baby-sitting angle is always pleasing to me, so in general, this one will probably keep its shelf space. I just wish it hadn't had the dieting subplot!

Katie's Baby-Sitting Job by Martha Tolles

Published: October 1st, 1985 by Apple Paperbacks which is (or was) a division of Scholastic
Genre: MG Contemporary/Mystery
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 124
Part of a series? Apparently there are two other books about Katie, but I only found that out looking at the author's books on goodreads. It functions as a standalone book.
Got via: It's a weeded library book, although I don't think it was from my library.
Amazon / AbeBooks

Summary (from goodreads): Katie was thrilled when Mrs. Stellan called and asked her to baby-sit for the evening. She had never done any baby-sitting before, but she was sure she could take care of four-year-old Annie. After all, Katie had watched her brother plenty of times. This would give her some real job experience - and she'd be paid for it, too!

But Katie's first baby-sitting job doesn't turn out the way she'd planned. Something is missing from the Stellans' house, and though it isn't her fault, Katie's sure everybody's blaming her.

It's bad enough that hardly anyone believes her - but now mean Michelle is telling everyone at school what happened. Katie knows she's got to get to the bottom of the mystery soon. Because if she doesn't, she may never be hired as a baby-sitter again!

Thoughts: Apologies for the pictures in this post, by the way. These old covers are hard to find good pictures of. While the last one is more unrealistic in plot (middle-schoolers finding actual criminals), this plot is actually pretty realistic. The steps taken by the characters are realistic to the age, with nothing they do really being beyond reality, and Katie's age of 12 or 13 isn't outrageous that she couldn't be baby-sitting a three year old on weekends and afternoons. Especially not considering they live very close to her own house, and her mother has just had a baby, and is therefore home most of the time, in case anything happened.

The writing has aged pretty well for a thirty year old book, and the writing itself has a lot of energy. It's easy to read, not a struggle or anything. Honestly, I don't feel bad about keeping this one in my collection. It was entertaining, and I think kids today could still enjoy it.

Baby-Sitting Is a Dangerous Job by Willo Davis Roberts

Published: First published in 1985, this edition was published in 1996, I believe. And there's going to be a new edition in April!
Genre: MG Contemporary/Mystery
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 161
Part of a series? Nope. Davis has another book with a character named Darcy, the View from the Cherry Tree, but I'm pretty sure they're unrelated.
Got via: Some yard sale, probably. There aren't any library marks.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): From the moment she set eyes on the three Foster kids, Darcy knew being their baby-sitter would be no picnic. But the pay was twice her usual rate, and the job was only for a few hours a day - surely an experienced baby-sitter like her could handle it.

But Darcy hadn't counted on the mysterious things that started happening at the Fosters' home after she took the job. She did everything a good baby-sitter was supposed to do: she didn't let the stranger claiming to be from the gas company into the house and she called the police when the burglar alarm went off in the middle of the afternoon. But that wasn't enough to prevent a baby-sitter's worst nightmare from coming true. Now it's up to Darcy to rescue the Foster kids - and herself - from three ruthless kidnappers.

Thoughts: First, check out this cover! It's actually pretty true to the descriptions of Darcy and the kids, especially Jeremy's shirt, but look at the littlest girls' dress. Who dresses a two and a half year old like that on a normal summer day?? She's going to be covered in dirt, grass stains, and mysterious stickiness in half an hour.

I recently talked about a Willo Davis Roberts book I reread and really enjoyed, and I don't think this one has aged quite as well. Like, Darcy's family doesn't have a microwave, and there's no particular reason for that. That made me giggle a little. One thing that didn't have me laughing was the child abuse plotline. Not of Darcy's charges, but of another girl. Darcy mentions that Dr. Foster, the childrens' mother, doesn't believe in corporal punishment, preferring psychology. She then says, "My folks used psychology on us, when they thought about it, but when that didn't work they reverted to old-fashioned methods of discipline, which had included paddling when we were smaller."

Meanwhile, there's another girl whose known to frequently run away because her father hits her, often leaving bruises. She says she's talked to the police before and her father says she's "incorrigible" and he only hit her when she "sassed him back", lying to the police also that the bruises were because she was clumsy. I realize this book was written a long time ago, but can we just talk about the total disconnect, that "old-fashioned methods" like "paddling" are okay on small kids, but hitting an older girl isn't okay? He told the police he hits his kid, and they believe him over her. Basically that boils down to, it's okay to hit your kids as long as you don't leave marks, but only until they get big enough to leave.

That's just... really messed up.

Otherwise, I enjoyed the writing. Roberts has a really good style of writing that I always enjoy, and while the plot is a little outrageous, it's fun for that. The reactions and behaviours of the kids is also fairly realistic, which helps. I will probably keep this one, because I like the author, but I wouldn't be so quick to let kids under my care read it, or to recommend it to others these days.

Maybe I need to start sticking notes in books like this with "not cool!" written on them, or something, lol. I hope if they released this today they'd edit that part so it was different. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it at all if they did, because the plot is quite clever, and Darcy is a really good main character. I know I would have loved this as a kid. I'm probably a worry-wart, but I do notice and think about things like that.

Edit: I wrote this about six months ago, and at the time I was unaware there is going to be a re-release of this book in April. It looks like several of Roberts' books are being given new covers and re-releases, and I am totally happy about that! I do wonder about those things, though, especially the child abuse plot. A re-release really changes this from talking about old book for nostalgia purposes to a modern book that kids will likely have in libraries and such again, and I wonder what message we send with this kind of thing if we present it without criticism. I'm not pro-banning, just pro-conversation. Food for thought.

Taking Care of Terrific by Lois Lowry

Published: First published in 1983, this edition was probably released sometime in 1984.
Genre: Contemporary MG, but upper MG riding the line between that and YA. If published today, it may be classified as YA.
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 168
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: It was weeded from the library, and I bought it.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound / AbeBooks

Summary (from goodreads): Fourteen-year-old Enid Crowley can't stand her name. When she takes a summer job baby-sitting young Joshua W. Cameron IV, Enid decides it's time for a change: she calls herself Cynthia, and Joshua becomes Tom Terrific. Every day they're off to Boston's Public Garden, where Enid hopes to meet people and find excitement.

It doesn't take long before Enid and her new park friends - Hawk, the saxophone player, and the old bag lady - are involved in the wildest adventure the park has ever seen. Their project is top secret. Nothing can go wrong. Or can it?

Thoughts: This is another one that I really enjoy, but I wouldn't recommend to kids under my care. The voice is lovely, because it is Lois Lowry, but some of the subject matter has not aged very well. For example, Enid signs a petition denouncing trans people, and although she doesn't understand it, there is a slur used. There are also mentions of "preverts" (spelled that way, don't look at me, spellcheck), diet talk that I'm really not fond of, fat camp for two children which makes my head want to explode. They are things that the acceptability has changed on over the years (over thirty!) and therefore, they'd probably be better read together with a child, taking time to explain how things have changed, and the attitudes people used to have, and how these things affect people today.

You know, responsible media stuff. However, not possible for children you simply care for, but don't get to keep, you know?

At the same time as there's the rather dated things, there are some things that are very truthful even thirty years later. One of the characters, Hawk, is black and when something happens with police, he's the one treated the worst, despite and this is a spoiler but it is a thirty year old book, people, despite being a Harvard professor. His very prescence in an old car in Tom's well-off neighbourhood is mentioned to be something that could cause people to be suspicious. It's horrible how thirty years later, those parts are still incredibly relevant and true to what people experience.

All in all, I really do like this one, both as looking back and as an adult, but I recognize the things that have changed that make me uncomfortable. It willl keep its shelf space, but will not be recommended to children today. Does any of that make sense??

Let's talk about the cover real quick instead.

(Image courtesy of Cliquey Pizza, which is a super cool blog, and hopefully they don't mind me borrowing the picture, because it's like the only one out there of it.)

Okay, so that thing where covers start yellow and then turn pink with age is totally a thing. This one has faded and gone pink, too, but you can kind of see how the back was this orangey-yellow colour. What's with that? I've totally got another one that did that in an upcoming post, too. Why do they go pink?

Have you read any of these? What do you think of the Willo Davis Roberts reprints?

Peace and cookies (but not before lunch),
Laina

Monday, January 18, 2016

Adult Review: Cleopatra's Daughter

When was the last time I did one of these? I don't think I even read an adult book in 2015! Let's see how out of practice I am!

Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran

Published: 2009 by Crown Books which is a division of Random House.
Genre: Adult historical fiction.
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 411 plus an afterword, glossary, and acknowledgements that take about 20 pages.
Part of a series? No.
Got via: It was sent to me for review consideration in like 2009. I am terrible, and I apologize.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Selene's legendary parents are gone. Her country taken, she has been brought to the city of Rome in chains, with only her twin brother, Alexander, to remind her of home and all she once had.

Living under the watchful eyes of the ruling family, Selene and her brother must quickly learn how to be Roman – and how to be useful to Caesar. She puts her artistry to work, in the hope of staying alive and being allowed to return to Egypt. Before long, however, she is distracted by the young and handsome heir to the empire...

When the elusive ‘Red Eagle' starts calling for the end of slavery, Selene and Alexander are in grave danger. Will this mysterious figure bring their liberation, or their demise?

Review: Honestly, I was a little afraid of this one. Not because I thought it would be bad or anything, but because sometimes I'm a little intimidated by historical fiction, and sometimes a little intimidated by adult books. It probably comes from being a young advanced reader as a kid, where I was convinced I needed to read certain books to "better" myself, and just not finding them that interesting. Now, on a less personal-time-with-Laina note, this is not like that. This is told in first person, which I think helps me a lot with connecting with a book when it's something outside my usual reading areas, and the majority of the book, honestly, is dialogue. Because it does have so much dialogue, it avoids having a slow pace by way of too much description, while still being vibrant, and making you really able to picture the setting.

Both the press stuff I was sent and some of the goodreads shelf say this is meant to be both YA and Adult fiction, and I don't think that is remotely true. While it has crossover appeal for sure, for most of the book, Selene is eleven and twelve. The book ends with her a little under sixteen, but the majority of it takes place while she's under thirteen. This is definitely not MG, and I think in the end, this is an adult novel with a very young protagonist, which is very different. I think mature teens could enjoy this, for sure, and it's a very approachable book, but it's not YA. The voice isn't YA, the age is wrong, and as much as YA deals with very mature and complex subject matter, it's handled differently.

Go into this expecting YA, you're probably going to be disappointed. Go into this expecting an adult book with a young protagonist, and possible crossover appeal for an older/mature teen audience, and you'll be golden, Ponyboy.

Plot Talk: Okay, asking me to describe a historical plot is unfair. I'm not great at either of those things! So, ah, basically Selene is Cleopatra's daughter with Marc Antony, and this is about what happens after she and her brother are taken prisoner by Octavian after their deaths. That is the best you're getting from me. Good plot, loved the Red Eagle subplot that was very exciting, but I am bad at describing plot and I just put lotion on the giant eczema flare on my arm and now it's all itchy.

Characters: This is a fascinating case where I both really enjoyed the characters and thought they were very unrealistic. Like, they are eleven and twelve for most of the book, but basically every child character acts like they're teenagers. And I understand they were very educated children who had a lot of pressure on them due to their parentage, but.. they're also twelve. There are just some things I don't think are realistic in their voices.

Okay, this is going to make me sound like I'm the one who's twelve, but let's compare the complete opposite end of the spectrum. You know the Royal Diaries series? Or any other series where they take historical girls and write "diaries" about them? There's actually a Cleopatra one, ha ha. I believe those characters are twelve much more than I believed Selene and her friends were twelve. Obviously this is going to be much more historically accurate, but there are times where character-wise, I can't get into a state where it doesn't take me out of the book.

Otherwise, I'm good. Selene has a very solid voice for the most part, and she's a very fascinating person. It's a lot of pressure just to have Cleopatra as a mother. Then to lose her parents at such a young age, having to deal with everything she has to deal with, and having to survive being taken prisoner by the man who essentially murdered her parents and conquered her home. How she lives in the Roman life while still being herself, but also essentially becoming a member of his family is an amazing story.

PG-13 stuff: This does have some heavy content. There's a good amount of violence, suicide, murders, torture, rape. Which is actually one of the things that make me not so happy - I'm sorry, but I just don't think an eleven year old is going to brush off an attempted rape like that. She only thinks about it like twice. I think it's unrealistic with her age, and honestly trivializes rape to some extant.

I also think that this isn't really a romance, despite the goodreads shelves declaring it so. I mean, dude, she's pretty much twelve for most of this book. She has a long-enduring crush, but that's not really the same thing, and the actual romance of the book doesn't really happen until the last chapter or two of the book, when she's fifteen/sixteen. I'm okay with that because, again, twelve, but it does lead to some InstaLove since the guy is like ten years older than her, in his twenties when she hasn't even hit puberty, and that would really weird.

Cons, complaints, bad stuff, etc.: What I mentioned was pretty much it. The voice, while lovely, could be a bit too old for the character at time, the attempted rape was not given enough weight, and that's about it. Not a fan of either of those.

Cover comments: I think this is a beautiful cover. It looks amazing. The colours are so gorgeous, the details are wonderful, and I think it suits the book perfectly. There's also a paperback cover with a blue and gold scheme that is just as pretty.

Conclusion: I'm glad I finally read this! I'll also probably be giving it to my mom to read because she thought it sounded interesting, too, when I described it. This was different from anything I've read in a really long time, and I really enjoyed it. I also loved the additional notes about the real people and history included so you could kind of see what happened to the characters, or at least their real counterparts.

It does lose a few points with me for the things I mentioned above, and I definitely don't think it's YA at all, but it is very good for what it actually is. This one gets four out of five roses from me, and I'm looking forward to reading the other book I have by this author!



Other notes:

- They sent me an actual Roman coin after I'd had this for a while. How cool is THAT for book swag?

- My pie chart is going to have more pieces this year!

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Monday, January 11, 2016

Things I've Read Recently (24)

If you're new around here, Things I've Read Recently is a series of posts I do that are basically mini-reviews of books that I either forgot to review, didn't have enough to say for a full review, or just didn't want to do a full post about for whatever reason.

I had this all ready to go and didn't post anything instead! So my intro talking about Christmas isn't very relevant anymore. Oh well, let's get this thing up anyways.

Let's start with:

The Crazy Case of Missing Thunder by Tony Abbott

Published: February 28th, 2012 by EgmontUSA
Genre: Contemporary Middle Grade/Chapter Book
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 101 pages
Part of a series? Yes, there looks to be at least 6 of these.
Got via: Library
Amazon / Indiebound / AbeBooks

Summary (from goodreads): Jeff, Brian, Mara, and Kelly are self-proclaimed goofballs. Since first grade these friends have been solving mystery among their schoolmates etc and now their reputation is expanding.

Rich kid Randall Crandall's horse, Thunder, goes missing and he calls upon the Goofballs to find him. Deciphering the clues that range from a flower delivery truck, a thunderstorm and a horse who's afraid of thunder, leads the Goofballs to recover missing Thunder, the flower-loving horse. In the meantime, they follow a trail of chomped-up flowers, disguise themselves as bushes in a florist shop and spend some time in a house that's bigger than the White House.

Thoughts: I grabbed this from the library for my Storytime graduate, and I wanted to pre-read it before I gave it to her mom. I liked it well enough. This reading level (it says ages 7-9) can be pretty basic and sometimes a little dry, but that's kind of just the territory. I thought this was cute. I've always liked detective stories in kids' books and I liked the way they solved the mystery, that it wasn't an actual crime or anything, and that the main character's mother drove them to meet their client. Touches like that are nice.

There is a touch of gross humour that I'm not personally a fan of, but kids would probably enjoy this. I also like that their group of friends seems to be fairly diverse, although the character development is not the deepest as this book is much more action driven. Which I wouldn't say is a bad thing - a lot of kids much prefer that. So, all in all, not my favourite, but certainly not awful or anything, and likely a lot more enjoyable for the intended audience.

Missing Monkey by Mary Amato

Published: February 25th, 2014
Genre: Contemporary Middle Grade/Chapter Book
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 116 in my copy
Part of a series? Yes, there's two others.
Got via: The library
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from the back of the book because it works better than the goodreads one): Twins Billy and Jillian want to be good, and that's a big problem.Why? Because their parents are famous crooks!

So the kids must do their good deeds in secret. Then their parents steal a monkey from the zoo to help them pick pockets. Now our heroes must find a way to return the clever animal, using disguises, inventions, and a wild game of Monkey See, Monkey Do.

Thoughts: I was recommended this one for a graduated Storytime kid, and I always pre-read before I give books to people. I quite liked this one. I thought the writing was good - chapter books can be a bit dry sometimes, but this one had a ton of personality and was really readable. I thought the premise was a lot of fun, too. It's silly and cute, and I enjoyed that though the narrator is Billy, a boy, his sister Jillian is very important to the story, too. It would be awesome if the book alternated POVs so the next one was told from Jillian's POV.

There's some toilet humour that some people won't love. That wasn't my favourite part, but I'm not in grade school! Also, personal bias? I hate monkeys. That's just my thing, though, and I enjoyed this regardless. I recommend this one.

Paddington Helps Out by Michael Bond

Published: Originally published in 1960, but the Kindle edition I read was released February 26th, 2012 by HarperCollins Children's Books
Genre: Contemporary MG
Binding: Ebook
Page Count: Apparently 148 pages, but I read an ebook so I have no idea.
Part of a series? Yeah, there are a lot of Paddington books.
Got via: I downloaded a free kindle copy from Amazon.
Amazon / Book Depository although the boxset here is probably cheaper / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): That bear is back again, and in this new edition of Paddington Helps Out, his attraction for near disaster is as magnetic as ever. Who but Paddington would set out to cook dumplings only to find himself chased from the kitchen by something so nasty only his resourceful friend Mr. Gruber can rescue him? And who else could get away with sawing his neighbor's kitchen table in two or flooding the launderette? These and other riotous adventures all find their way into Paddington's scrapbook and make for another delightful book starring this beloved bear from Darkest Peru.

Thoughts: My power went out for like three hours, and I had a laptop battery full-charged, so I read this and a short story before I ran out of battery, and had to switch to paper books. I don't read a lot of ebooks on my laptop, but I download free kindle books every now and then (and I did use them for school, too, because that was really helpful sometimes). I actually watch the Paddington cartoon a lot in the morning, and I had seen the television version of most of the stories in this book, which was amusing

I actually hadn't read one of these books before, but it had a very nice writing style. Definitely would be appealing to kids. It was a very cute way to pass the time, and I really liked seeing the origins of something I enjoy watching.

The Story of Diva and Flea by Mo Willems

Published: October 13th, 2015 by Disney-Hyperion
Genre: That brand of MG where animals can talk but everything is otherwise isn't fantasy. Like there's no magic or anything, animals can just talk to other animals (not people).
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: Goodreads says 80 pages and I don't have a copy to check so we'll assume that's right.
Part of a series? I wish! So far it doesn't look that way, but I would love sequels.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Diva, a small yet brave dog, and Flea, a curious streetwise cat, develop an unexpected friendship in this unforgettable tale of discovery.

For as long as she could remember, Diva lived at 11 avenue Le Play in Paris, France. For as long as he could remember, Flea also lived in Paris, France-but at no fixed address. When Flea passed Diva's courtyard one day, their lives were forever changed. Together, Diva and Flea explore and share their very different worlds, as only true friends can do.

Thoughts: I LOVE Mo Willems. I love Elephant and Piggie, I love the Pigeon, I love basically all his books. This is his first middle grade book and I immediately knew I had to get it.

This is like the perfect book between early readers and more advanced chapter books. It's long enough to be more of a challenge for readers looking for something more than your higher level beginner readers. It has the most absolutely beautiful illustrations. Full-colour illustrations can be a really great stepping stone for readers who want a challenge but still want awesome pictures. And it's Paris, guys. What better reason for full-colour illustrations than Paris?

Speaking of Paris, there are French words sprinkled here and there throughout the book. I think they are used just enough so they enrich the book without becoming overwhelming, and I believe there is a glossary at the back of the book? I could be wrong about that. If there isn't, the French is so well integrated into the book and explained in the text that I obviously assumed there was a glossary.

I have an almost 6 year old (SOB) coming to my Storytime who has a sister a couple years older than her, and I gave this to their mom. She thought they would both love it, since they're both big animal fans, and big Mo Willems fans. I think this would be great for that age range, if perhaps a little less challenging for the older girl. The older sister does like to read to the younger one, though, and this kind of book would be perfect for them to share together.

The only thing I warned them about was that the cat kills a mouse at one point, and it is shown in the illustrations. Could be upsetting for some kids. Otherwise, this talks about emotions and feelings, it talks about being brave and doing new things, and I absolutely loved it. The pictures are wonderful, full of expression and the Paris setting is beautiful. All in all, I highly recommend this one.

So what have you guys been reading this year?

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

YA Graphic Novel Review: Nimona

I have too many emotions. How am I supposed to write this???

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Published: May 12th, 2015 by Harper Collins, but it was originally available as a webcomic.
Genre: YA Graphic Novel
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 266 including thank yous and some bonus content
Part of a series? I WISH.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound / You also can read the first three chapters here, although keep in mind that the illustrations have been much polished for the published version.

Summary (copied from goodreads and mushed around to match the inside of the dust jacket): Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren't the heroes everyone thinks they are.

Explosions will be involved. Science and sharks will be, too.

But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona's powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.

Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await!

Review: Okay, but I did all that stuff up there and I still don't know what to say. I just liked this so much and I'm still having way too many emotions. Seriously, I'm just sitting here not typing anything kind of staring at the book and my notes and getting nowhere.

This is beautiful and different and funny and heartbreaking and I don't know how to word anymore. I want about six sequels, but also it kind of has a perfect ending so I don't want that to be messed around with. Maybe I just want like six more books from Noelle Stevenson immediately. Good thing I have Lumberjanes volume 2 waiting for me!

Plot Talk: This is like a kind of epic plot. This is like science-fiction meets fantasy. You have knights and super-computers, agencies for sidekicks and kingdoms, zombie movies and banks where you can deposit a chest full of gold and no one blinks funny. There is no definitive time period, especially since it's filled with clashing things like that, but takes elements of both those things, with settings and clothing and everything from all sorts of time periods including modern ones.

Like the summary says, Blackheart and Nimona start out by trying to conquer the kingdom, and uncover something much darker. The plot is easy to follow, but complex. It deals with the hidden secrets of the kingdom and the institute, forgiveness, and both Nimona and Blackheart dealing with their past. The ending is somewhat open-ended, but good. There's closure, but you're left with some questions. I always want happy endings because I'm a sap, but this is a satisfying ending, and I think it works very, very well, especially with the epilogue which I read is exclusive to the book.

Characters: Oh man, this is hard. Nimona, man. She's surprisingly blood-thirsty, something I don't think you see that often in female characters, complex, has a body-type you don't always see in comics in that she's a bit chubbier (awesome), secretive, not always likable - and I loved her. She's one of my favourite types of characters, and I really just loved everything about her, honestly.

Our other main character is Blackheart, who is technically the villain, but is more like the hero since we know he's doing the right thing after a certain point, and the "good guys" are actually not very good at all. He has very strong morals, talks about how much he takes responsibility for death done at his hands, even when Nimona essentially shrugs it off. He's also visibly disabled with a prosthetic arm, and possibly some shade of MOGAI*. That last bit could be me wearing shipper goggles, but there's a whole lot of subtext, okay?

Nimona and Blackheart's relationship is something really lovely in that there is never any hint of romance between them. The age difference is... let's just say it's VERY complicated, but their relationship is presented more as an uncle and a niece, or even a father and daughter. It's very "found family", has very tender moments, and it's very refreshing to see such a complete lack of romance, or sex, or anything beyond a deep, caring friendship.

Other characters are wonderful as well, and I really enjoyed how the book broke down the hero/villain archetypes, and what actually makes someone a hero or villain. The Institution is a really interesting concept. The side characters are interesting, and every character had a really cool design where everyone was pretty unique-looking.

PG-13 stuff: This is definitely a more mature book. With the format, there is violence and blood, and everything is somewhat more... if you'll excuse the pun... graphic. I think the bruising especially is amazingly realistic, but injuries and death happen in this. People get injuries, bruises, scars. Beyond that, the themes are pretty deep. There's forgiveness, corruption, manipulation by authority. They're all done very, very well, but some younger or more sensitive readers may not be ready for this.

Mild language, if that's a concern.

Cons, complaints, bad stuff, etc.: I actually wish the subtext had been laid out as text a little bit more because I honestly don't know if it's me or if it's what the book meant to do. I'd love to be able to recommend this as a book with a disabled MOGAI main character - how awesome would that be? - but I'm not comfortable doing that because it's not explicit.

I wouldn't have minded a few more women, and while the extras are often POC, the main cast lacks them beyond one character (who is awesome). Also, more fat people always, beyond just "chubby" or smaller fat people would be nice.

Cover comments: I think it's a beautiful cover. I adore that picture of Nimona because her body isn't "perfect", but she's obviously about to kick some butt and really happy about it, and the whole thing is engaging and well-designed.

Since I don't have an art section, I'll put it here: The illustrations are freaking awesome. They have a ton of personality, they're very pretty, and I really enjoy the style of them. They carry the emotion of the story when there are no words, and I have absolutely no complaints.

Conclusion: I am so glad I read this. I keep trying to say how good it is, and I've got nothing. The characters are great, the story is great, the relationships in the story are great, the art is great. This is just really great. I'm kind of destroyed, and I blame everyone who recommended this. I'm giving this one four and... between a quarter and a half rose. Probably more like a quarter because I should knock off points for the things I mentioned in the cons segment, but I'm rounding for emotional devastation.



Other notes:

- *MOGAI

First review of 2016! How'd I do?

Peace and cookies,
Laina