book reviews, Graphic Novels, spoiler free

The Tea Dragon Festival by Katie O’Neill

42369064.jpgThe Tea Dragon Festival by Katie O’Neill

Rating: XXXXX

Published September 17th 2019 by Oni Press

“Just because something comes easily to you, does not mean it has no value. You find it effortless because you love it, and that is why it is your gift.”

Rinn has grown up with the Tea Dragons that inhabit their village, but stumbling across a real dragon turns out to be a different matter entirely! Aedhan is a young dragon who was appointed to protect the village but fell asleep in the forest eighty years ago. With the aid of Rinn’s adventuring uncle Erik and his partner Hesekiel, they investigate the mystery of his enchanted sleep, but Rinn’s real challenge is to help Aedhan come to terms with feeling that he cannot get back the time he has lost.

I read The Tea Dragon Society earlier this year (review here) and absolutely fell in love with the wold Katie had created and was ecstatic to find a new book set in the world of the tea dragons, The Tea Dragon Festival, up on NetGalley! I was so happy when I was approved and dug in almost immediately.

If you’ve read and enjoyed the first book then you’ll be pleased to know that you can look forward to more of the same breath takin artwork and wholesome story. Equally, if this is your first foray into the world of Tea Dragons then never fear because this can absolutely be read alone no problem and is actually a prequel of sorts in that it’s set before the events of the first book and includes two characters we see in the second book, but they can easily be read in any order and still compliment each other.

The Tea Dragon Festival is filled with a brilliant cast of colourful and diverse characters, each more charming than the last, I particularly loved Aedhan and main character of sorts, Rinn, an aspiring cook who loves to gather fresh ingredients and help the people of her town. A new inclusion in this instalment which I really loved was the use of sign language which Katie has brought onto the page fantastically with the simple use of different coloured blocks of text to indicate if someone is communicating through sign and if they are signing and speaking out loud.

The Tea Dragon Festival by Katie O’Neill is out today and I highly recommend this beautiful tale. You can find it in the large hardback version, akin to the first book as well as digitally through both kindle and ComiXology (release for digital is dated as September 18th, tomorrow according to Amazon).

 

Tags

The Netgalley Book Tag

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I saw this tag on Charlottes blog, Charlotte Somewhere and knew I had to do it! I know not everyone is keen on Netgalley but I’ve loved using it, even if I do have a bit of a request problem because I just cant help myself!

Auto-Approved: Who is one author whose books you automatically want to read, regardless of what they are about?

Lauren James and Maria V. Snyder

Request: What makes you want to request a book on NetGalley?

I’ll either go directly to a book I’ve been linked to because I’ve heard of it or it sounds good ect or I have a bad habit (which I’m getting better with) of just browsing through requesting things that catch my interest or I’ve heard good things about.

Feedback Ratio: Do you review every book you read? If not, how do you decide what books to review?

Yes, even if I don’t finish it. I only post the review on my blog if I do though. The main reason I don’t get around to reviewing some are if they’re archived before I’ve managed to read them which has happened a couple of times.

Badges: If you could create one badge to display on your blog, what would it be for?

Sleep requester. I have such a bad habit of waking up in the night, being unable to get to sleep and just messing around on my phone for a bit but sometimes I end up on NetGalley and request things that I don’t remember doing the next day and then am confused/panicked when I suddenly get a load of approvals!

Wish For It: What’s one book you’re absolutely dying to read?

Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, The quiet at the end of the world by Lauren james or Navigating the Stars by Maria V. Snyder (I COULDN’T PICK ONE OKAY?!)

2018 NetGalley Challenge: What was the last book that you received as an ARC that you reviewed? If you’ve never received an ARC, what’s the last book you reviewed?

The Caged Queen by Kristen Ciccarelli You can check it out here
After reading The Last Namsara I was so excited to get my hands on a copy of this!

If you haven’t already done this and you want to take part consider yourself tagged!

book reviews, spoiler free

Bookshop Girl Review

36642932Bookshop Girl by Chloe Coles

Rating: XXXXX

Published: June 14th by Hot Key Books

“What do we want? Books! When do we want them? Forever!”

Bennett’s Bookshop has always been a haven for sixteen-year-old Paige Turner. It’s a place where she can escape from her sleepy hometown, hang out with her best friend, Holly, and also earn some money.

But, like so many bookshops, Bennett’s has become a ‘casualty of the high street’ – it’s strapped for cash and going to be torn down. Paige is determined to save it but mobilising a small town like Greysworth is no mean feat.

Time is ticking – but that’s not the only problem Paige has. How is she going to fend off the attractions of beautiful fellow artist, Blaine? And, more importantly, will his anarchist ways make or break her bookshop campaign?

I received a digital advance copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. When I saw the title of this book and the cute cover artwork I knew I needed to check this book out and I must be on a winning streak at the moment because I’m so glad I requested a copy.

Bookshop Girl is two things for me, one is a inspirational, little fluffy, fun, easy and enjoyable read and the second is a scarily arcuate representation of my town. I worked in a local pet shop that got shut down because rent’s became extortionate, foot fall in town fell and many more people go online or further afield and most of the time sadly independent retailers cannot compete so when the same thing looked to happen to Bennetts bookstore I immediately felt a connection there. It wasn’t just the retail climate that felt familiar either, although I’m a good 14/15 years older than the main character I remembered essentially being her. Sure the slang has changed and technology is vastly more superior but her essence and personality just felt so relatable to my “youth” (now I REALLY feel old). The surroundings and townsfolk seemed eerily accurate too, down the guy who used to try to hide things in his trousers to shop lift and the shops etc, I had to check the authors info page to find out how close she really lived to me because it felt like she could have easily written this about my town and I think that really helped connect me to this book in a way I might not have done otherwise.

Bookshop girl is a super laid back read and is, I think certainly for the younger side of the YA market with a sixteen year old protagonist and fairly light events which were no less meaningful for it. This book is heartwarming and just the right kind of funny, silly and cringe inducing and the couple of days it took to me read it just felt relaxing. The writing feels very arcuate to the age group (insert hello fellow young people meme here) and shows a lovely side of the “younger generation of today” instead of the bad image a lot of young people are unfairly branded with today. Paige Turner is normal, average and I love her for it because it helps hammer home the idea that anyone can help to make a difference if it’s something they care about.

I can see why some people, especially of my age, might find this a little too “young” for them but I throughly enjoyed it and can happily recommend it. I’m so happy books like this are being written, although we need the deep hard-hitting stories I feel like we also need books like Bookshop Girl too which address issues and current situations that I don’t think we see a lot of but that can still effect young people. Thank you so much to Hot Key Books and Net Galley for allowing me to read Paige’s story in time for its release date today!! Happy Book Birthday to Bookshop Girl and don’t forget if you’re attending YALC Chloe Coles will be attending the event and signing books on the Friday!

Until next time,

Jemma.

book reviews, spoiler free

The list of real things – Spoiler free review

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The List of Real Things by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald 

Rating: XXX

Published: March 29th 2018 by Hachette Children’s Group. (I received an ARC copy via net galley in exchange for an honest review)

“The captains of our lives were gone and so was the great safe boat of love we’d sailed in”

Grace knows the difference between what’s real and the strange ideas that float around in her little sister’s mind. Their parents died – that’s real. A secret hotel on the cliff-top where their parents are waiting – definitely NOT real. So when grief strikes again, Grace is determined not to let her sister’s outlandish imagination spiral out of control. But the line between truth and fantasy is more complicated than it seems…

This a very hard book to put my finger on. It’s a story of loss and trying to get through life the best you can and how these two very young people and the people around them deal with it. It’s not a book I would usually pick up but the synopsis drew me in with the promise of “The line between truth and fantasy is more complicated than it seems.” That being said this is very much a contemporary book but I did enjoy the way the “fantasy” is linked to the story although the is it/isn’t it real concept is a very well trodden troupe. Nether the less despite it’s faults this simple read has the power to inspire and comfort.

I found the writing a challenge to get on with at first. There is one scene in particular that stood out to me when two people are arguing and it’s literally just dialogue back and forth with nothing in between. I lost track of who was saying what and it felt it was lacking emotion with no description of how these two people were saying these words or what they were feeling as they said them. it felt especially strange as the author at other times feels like an absolute poet, this book is filled with some fantastic, very profound feeling quotes.  For example; “He was trying to look cheerful but sad people have invisible weights pressing down on them, and when they breathe in it sucks air out of the room and everyone feels it.” These kind of lines gave this book such an extra depth but it meant that at other times certain parts felt flat in comparison.

The plot for this book is rather simple, fairly predictable and a smidgen over done. Saying that however I did enjoy the way this particular idea was carried out. I will admit that I grew very frustrated with the plot for the first half, if not two thirds of the book as we would start done one part of the story and then there would be no real conclusion, no continuation, it would just end and something else would happen. On reflection I feel however that it did fit with the narrator being a fourteen year old, her mind didn’t focus on one thing too long if she didn’t deem it important, she would make her point and move on. Although these parts frustrated me I now feel that actually this may have been really clever.  The last third of the book played out very much as I thought it would from the beginning but I still found it mostly satisfying to get that conclusion and again the language and prose made this last part much more enjoyable. I will also add that this book made me cry at seven in the morning, I was a wreck. 

I found it hard to put my fingers on some of these characters. The narrator is Gracie who is fourteen and the story mainly focuses around her and her sister Bee who is six. The young age of the characters does make this book feel more like a middle grade book then YA but I’m almost thirty and it spoke to me so I feel this isn’t too much of a problem and just makes it a nice simple read. Bee did confuse/irritate me to begin with as the way she spoke was very strange and felt so unlike a six year old that I would often forget how young she was. “Quite right…and as you know under normal circumstances I wouldn’t dream of it, but Gracie this is an emergency of gargantuan proportions!” This is just one of the examples, Bee talks in large words, convoluted sentences and is a lot deeper than any six year old I’ve ever met. On reflection though I think this is meant to show that she is a little strange and perhaps picked up from spending a lot of time with her elderly grandfather. I got a bit more used to it in the end but it never really stopped pulling me out of my immersion if she went over the top a little too much. Gracie was a very stereotypical fourteen year old girl with a strange little sister and there was a point when I honestly hated her but I understand that she really is just a fourteen year old and some of this did some horrible, selfish things when we were younger we wouldn’t dream of doing now. Other characters such as their Uncle Freddie, Grandfather Patrick and Aunt Lucy felt like real people with a sprinkle of stereotypical sprinkled on top for flavour but this worked, especially with Aunt Lucy who I liked the ambiguous feel of.

I feel like for such a simple read I had to get quite deep with my reflections on this book to really get much out of some parts. It was nether the less though a sweet book all the same that does what says on the tin. Reminding me of a very simple, slightly differently themed Perks of Being a Wallflower. It’s a very hard book to classify as the plot and ideas are so simple but not necessarily inherently bad. There were parts I enjoyed, there were parts I didn’t but I mostly enjoyed reading it and do not regret doing so.

You can preorder this book with free shipping here and add it to your good reads here.

 

book reviews, Manga, spoiler free

Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card Vol 1

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Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card Vol 1 By Clamp

Rating: XXXXX

Published: December 19th by  Kodansha Comics – I was given a copy of this in an exchange for an honest review.

Key that hides the forces of dreams! Show me your true power! Release!”

At long last, CLAMP’s beloved shoujo manga series Cardcaptor Sakura is making a triumphant return with the Clear Card Arc. Sakura Kinomoto is now in middle school when Syaoran returns from China! Things have been calm, leaving the Sakura Cards unused, but she’s plagued by mysterious dreams about the cards turning clear. It seems like her adventures are beginning once again when this dream becomes true!

In volume 1, Sakura is happier than ever to find that Syaoran has returned from China but is shocked to see that the Sakura Cards have turned clear! …And why is Syaoran acting so strange? Read it to find out!

When I was younger I devoured every episode and film of the Cardcaptor Sakura anime and still proudly own every original UK available volume of the first two manga arcs series. I loved a lot of CLAMP’s work and Cardcaptor Sakura was my absolute favourite so it goes without saying that when it was announced in 2016 that one of my all time top magical girls would be back with a new manga and anime series I may have lost it a little and reread all the manga immediately and became instantly filled with nostalgia.

Clear Card overlaps just ever so slightly with the epilogue at the end of the last volume of Cardcaptor Sakura: Master of the Clow (the second and original final series of the manga) but it the overlapping feels natural and it wasn’t until I reread the last volume again that I even realised, it feels natural and is a good way to start this new series.

In addition to the overlapping we are also treated to a few pages of factoids about characters established in the previous books and what part they play in the story which is a fantastic idea for new and old readers. For the readers who are returning to the series it’s a good way to refresh the memory as the last book was published way back in 2000! This is also a good way to introduce new readers who may just be picking up these books for the first time and it means they can just happily buy this book and be relatively up to speed with the relevant information needed instead of having to put it back and read the other ten volumes first which a lot of brick and mortar book stores just don’t stock anymore. This makes the book accessible to everyone and is a great feature which is very on theme with the theme of the book itself as the recap itself is told by Sakura’s familiar Kero in his adorable winged teddy bear form.

It may have been (gulp) eighteen years since our last foray into Sakura’s world but absolutely none of the  feel of the book has changed. I was worried that, like many things remembered from childhood that my younger self may have put the series on a pedestal and recalled only the good and worried that my older self wouldn’t get the same enjoyment from it (a little like the first episodes of Pokemon or Power rangers which now feel rather cringe worthy to the twenty nine year old version of me). I was so glad to have been wrong. There is still the same humour and that light cutesy feeling to the whole story but with that underlying seriousness and threat that the original series did so well which I feel to be important in a story where the hero’s best friend makes her individual outfits for every occasion.

The pacing is managed well and as this volume is divided into chapters as they would have been released originally in serial form in the shojo manga magazine Nakayoshi, you can still enjoy the effects of some of the cliffhangers left at the end of each, even if it’s only for as long as it takes to turn the page I still find it thrilling to experience those jaw dropping moments mostly in the way they were intended. 

Much like the plot, art and general feel of the books the characters are still very much the same characters we came to know and love. Tomoyo is the adorable best friend who wants what is best for Sakura, still has a closet full of wonderful outfits for her and has not given up trying to film her best friends important moments. Kero is often playing video games and thinking about his stomach first making him still the most relatable character for me! As with his character previously Syaoran doesn’t say especially much but what he does say is important and he still carries that intense air about him, even more so in this volume because, as the synopsis suggests he certainly seems to be hiding something.

I’m delighted to add that although it really doesn’t feel like any time at all has passed we do have some new art and designs that are just gorgeous. Cardcaptor Sakura has always been a very beautiful manga but some of the updated designs just feel so new and fresh in a way that I think really brings it up to date in a way I hadn’t expected and am excited to see more of.

If you’re a fan of the magical girl troupe, either in anime or manga I highly recommend this be something you pick up, the anime episodes are also being released but there is always an extra depth and feeling in reading the original manga first I find and I believe this series to be no exception. Although I’ve gone on about my own nostalgia about this series and how it’s still very true to the older first books don’t let that put you off if this would be your first dip into the Cardcaptor world, it’s a brilliant jumping on point and one I certainly hope you’ll enjoy as much as I have.

This book is out now, you can grab your own copy with free shipping here and add it to your goodreads here.