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Book Review: The Secret of the Silver Mines (Dylan Maples Adventures #2)

I didn’t know that this was part of a series when I first requested it but luckily it was perfectly fine as a standalone read. It’s a young adult adventure novel, but I definitely got the feeling that it was aimed at younger young adults than myself. The main character is 12-year-old Dylan Maples, so I assume the target audience is around that pre-teen age, too.

Dylan’s father often moves around for his work, which is as a lawyer. They’re now moving to Cobalt, in north Canada. “Hicksville”, as Dylan calls it. It’s only for a few months, but Dylan is dreading leaving his friends behind. Cobalt is bound to be so boring. How will he ever survive?

But of course, Dylan finds adventure in this seemingly sleepy town. As usual, I won’t tell too much of the plot, but I will say that Dylan finds himself in the middle of the law suit his dad is working on.

Dylan makes a friend in Cobalt, too – Wynona. He meets her almost immediately, though they don’t become acquainted until a little later on. Their relationship remains platonic, though it is fairly obvious that there are some deeper emotions.

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Personally, I found this to be quite a young book. It included a huge amount of similes and metaphors and what I’d consider ‘simplistic’ writing. It wasn’t bad, it just felt like it was a bit too young for me to enjoy.

For a younger audience I could see this as being quite interesting, though I found it a little slow at times. 3 stars.

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Graphic Novel/Illustrated Memoir Review: A Fire Story

This is similar to The Best We Could Do in that it is both a series of comics and a memoir. It’s the story of the Californian fire, and how it affected Brian Fies and his wife’s lives.

Fies begins by illustrating how the couple awoke on the night of the fire, and how they began to frantically yet methodically pack up their belongings. He details the escape, the bewilderment they felt and the huge sense of loss. Later, he really emphasises how much a person grieves for the loss of their home and belongings. It’s not the value that’s important, it’s the memories.

Throughout the book there are also several other people’s experiences. Some were also in their home at the time of the fire, while others were on holiday abroad, watching the events unfold through social media. All of these accounts had one particular thing in common: they all mention how they did not expect to be gone from their homes forever. They thought they would be able to return soon, and did not plan on leaving everything behind for the final time.

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This was a fantastic book. Fies included little comics illustrating “a day in the life” after the fire, where the little, seemingly insignificant things reminded them of their loss. He also follows up with the process of reconstructing their house – and outlines some of the difficulties they never expected to face.

The art was lovely, with enough detail to clearly illustrate the events. The dialogue was perfect and sounded completely authentic, and expressed the emotions well. 5 stars.

Book Review: Finding Grace

Yesterday I finished Finding Grace, a short historical fiction book I was given the chance to read thanks to NetGalley. It follows Grace, a thirteen-year-old girl living in a Belgian convent in 1975. She was left on the steps as a baby, along with her disabled sister, Dotty. But Dotty recently died, and everything is changing.

Grace is moved to the girls’ boarding school dorm. She soon becomes close with Fran, but also has a few run-ins with the stuck up Deirdra. While helping Fran with a history project Grace discovers an old journal kept by one of the nuns at the convent during the war. It tells her horrific story of abandonment, rape and loss.

All the while, the girls are trying to find out more about Grace’s past, and avoid the wrath of the horrible Sister Francis. Eventually Grace does get some anwswers, but they were certainly not the ones she was looking for.

I’m not usually very interested in historical fiction but I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Even though it was short, the characters were well developed and the plot was exciting and intriguing. I felt immersed in the setting, and felt empathetic for Grace. I actually felt quite invested in her and her search for knowledge.

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There were a few typos and such, but as this is only a review copy I can’t be sure whether the final publication will include them. It was a quick, interesting read, a good introduction to historical fiction. 4 stars!

Book Review: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

I’m a bit late to this party, but I finally read it! It was released a while ago now, and I’ve been trying to get it finished for some time, but life got in the way. Anyway, here is my review at last.

Throughout a decent chunk of the novel, I felt like there actually was no plot. Not in a bad way, but it was almost just a narration of Eleanor’s life. The writing was so interesting and Eleanor so unique as a character that I liked that, though. And then a plot did start to develop, albeit not a particularly active one. As in, it was mostly about the past, not something that actually happened during the story. Like usual, I won’t say too much about it.

Eleanor is a very strange individual, with absolutely no social skills whatsoever. It’s rather comical at first, her attempts at everyday life quite laughable. But it’s later revealed why she has such difficulty, and I found myself feeling incredibly bad for her. Her story is sad, and although I had guessed at what had happened, her personal revelation was huge. After a failed attempt at ‘fixing’ her life, Eleanor finds herself at rock bottom. But miraculously, she has someone to help her, who cares about her well-being. With his help, Eleanor learns some new coping mechanisms, and begins to rebuild her life.

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I really liked this book, and the writing was great. Eleanor’s personality was conveyed through the writing perfectly. 4.5 stars.

Book Review: All Rights Reserved

I finally got round to finishing this book a little while back, and I am so glad I did! As usual, I will avoid going into too much detail regarding the plot so as to prevent spoiling it for any potential readers. 

The protagonist in this novel is Speth. Her name was chosen for it’s low price – the world she lives in charges citizens for everything. After the age of 15, a special cuff tracks speech, gestures, purchases and so on, and fines the individual accordingly. It’s copyrighting to the extreme. And, sadly, it really doesn’t seem all that far-fetched.

Click on the image to be redirected to the Amazon product page.

On Speth’s fifteenth birthday, she has her speech prepared and sponsors ready with products to advertise at her party. But a friend of hers suddenly takes a drastic move, stunning Speth into silence. And so, unintentionally, Speth begins a revolution.

Speth continues to uphold her silence, even when offered money and even attacked. Miraculously, she runs into a near-mythical group of people – the Product Placers. Nobody has ever seen them before. There is no footage of them, even in this world of constant monitoring and recording. And, even more miraculously, is that the Placers decide to help her.

Along with her own issues, Speth is trying to solve problems in her own home. Her parents have been taken to repay an old, old family debt, while her sister has been sued for looking too much like a famous actress. People – the Silents – begin to look up to her as a leader, and there are lawyers who are willing to pay good money to stop her “rebellion”.

There is a lot going on in this book, as you can probably tell from this brief summary. The development of Speth’s relationships is really interesting, considering she can’t speak or communicate in any way. I was also really quite surprised with how the romantic plot went, honestly. And toward the end… there is a huge blow. I definitely was not expecting that to happen.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. It took me a while to get round to finishing, but not because I found it tiresome or anything like that. I found myself actually struggling to put it down as I got toward the end, which sounds really cliche but is the honest truth. It was so realistic and plausible, scarily so. 5 stars for this.

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Book Review: The Sisters of the Winter Wood

I’m going to avoid discussing the plot too much so I don’t spoil any potential readers (and I do recommend you read this!).

This book is set in Dubossary, narrated alternately by Liba and Laya. Liba is the older of the two, the only children in their family. They are Jews, and while this book was hugely about their faith and discrimination against them, it is not only about that. This book was like a new fairytale. It had magic in every page, and was genuinely exciting to read. There were tragic elements, tons of romance, and even a sense of suspense.

The girls are left in their home alone when their parents rush off to Kupel in a family emergency. But just as they plan to leave, the girls’ Mami decides it’s time to tell her daughters who they really are: a bear and a swan.

As I said, I will not delve into the story too much. But I really loved the story involving Laya and the Hovlin brothers, as well as Liba’s own internal struggles. Laya’s romance at the end of the book was, in my opinion, a little rushed and unexpected, but that’s the only real downside I have.

The writing was lovely – it included Yiddish and Hebrew dialect, which was translated in the Author’s Note at the end. (A quick side note; I actually read the entire Note, which is

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really quite rare for me.) And Laya’s account, in particular, felt so poetic. She was definitely my favourite character, as much as I love Liba, too. And the relationship between the girls is so, so lovely. No matter how much they try to push each other away, they are always there for each other in the end.

As I enjoyed this book so much, I tried to talk about it with my boyfriend. However, I soon discovered that describing this story is really quite a feat. It was full of little details and twists that just made the story.

I really liked this book. As I only received an ARC and not a final edition, I didn’t have the official layout, which I can imagine may add to it also. Even so, I’m easily giving this 4.5 to 5 stars.

Book Review: Rosewater

After I signed up to review this book, I started seeing it everywhere. But sadly I did not really understand the hype.

This book takes a whole new perspective on ‘sensitives’ and mind-reading abilities, with the cause being an alien fungus. I liked this – I especially liked the amount of detail included, the scientific terms and explanations.

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But as far as the actual plot is concerned… I was completely lost. I was bored, and I had no idea who was who by the end of it. I just got too confused by it all. There were emotional moments, but I never really connected with the characters. This may all just be my own personal preference – I’m sure other people will enjoy it far more than I did. But I did not particularly enjoy it, sadly, and am giving it 2.5 – 3 stars.

Manga/Graphic Review: Seto Utsumi, Volume #1

This manga was comprised of seven chapters, each containing a separate story. Well, story is not quite accurate… Each chapter is really a new conversation between the two teens as they sit by the river after school. They talk about anything and everything, from girls to bullies to ghosts. It’s sweet at times, when the boys’ affection for one another is made apparent, even without them actually voicing it. They tease each other endlessly, argue and taunt each other, but all in good humour.

Some of the things they talk about did seem rather shallow to me, and the way they spoke was a little strange to me. I get the feeling that this is aimed more at readers who understand the culture a bit more and can relate to the characters.

Personally, I found the book a little boring overall. There was no real plot, which can be nice sometimes, but just felt a little… lost here. Sometimes the boys spoke about interesting topics, but I would have liked to hear more about their personal lives, their emotions and fears.

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This was a strange read, honestly. I didn’t particularly like it, though I didn’t dislike it either. I just didn’t really connect with the characters or enjoy it that much. 2.5 stars.

Manga Review: Sota’s Knife

This manga is about a young man called Sota who is working as a kitchen hand in a restaurant in Japan. He dreams of reviving his own family restaurant, and stays late most nights to practice his own cooking.

In this, Sota meets several challenges, mostly cooking-based. They all have some sort of sweet, positive answer or conclusion, and Sota uses his passion for cooking and his father’s and friends’ advice to find the answers without any external help.

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The grammar wasn’t perfect, which I believe may be due to translation errors. I also didn’t find it that easy to follow at times, and some of the speech bubbles weren’t placed particularly clearly. The writing itself was a little hard to go along with too, honestly, and it wasn’t the most exciting manga. But there weren’t really any overwhelming faults, so I’m giving this 3 stars.

Graphic Novel/Comic Book Review: Open Earth

This is only a short book, and my review is also only going to be short.

Basically, this focuses on members of a human colony who have left Earth. The teens in this colony are the first generation of Earthlings not born on Earth. The main character – who’s name was rarely mentioned – strongly wants to create new customs and culture, as she believes the Earth culture is what led to the planet’s ultimate demise. Her parents are more interested in preserving old cultures, though, and find her ideas of ‘normal’ to be quite extraordinary.

There wasn’t much of an overarcing plot really, only the story of the girl and her many lovers. Basically, her and her whole friendship group are all in a polyamorous relationship. There are a lot (and I really do mean a lot) of sexual scenes, but they are written in a way that normalises the behaviour.

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The girl realises she has a different connection to one boy in particular, and wants to move into his home after his sister moves out. But this makes the others fear that they’re going to ‘couple off’ and cut them out of their lives.

It was a pretty strange book, honestly. It’s good to be normalising different relationships such as this, but I didn’t see any other plots really going on. 3 stars.