Review: “A Torch against the Night” (An Ember in the Ashes #2) by the wonderful Sabaa Tahir

I know that my next review isn’t supposed to be out until next week, but after reading this book I just had to write my opinion on this. This hasn’t been published a whole week and it sounded like a good idea to buy it soon as I could.

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Review: “An Ember in the Ashes” (An Ember in the Ashes #1) by the wonderful Sabaa Tahir

“An Ember in the Ashes” by Sabaa Tahir. This is a novel that I’ve been waiting an eternity to get to ever since I spotted it on the shelves and read the back cover. If you know me really well, I used to see fantasy as this cookie-cutter genre. I despised reading such novels because I always assumed that all it involved were kings, dwarves, elves, and dragons and such. And…yeah you can argue I wasn’t that far off.

But then last year I reviewed a certain novel that’s become a favorite of mine called “The Young Elites” by Marie Lu. And in case you haven’t read the review (not that you can’t via the link but still), you know how much I love it! 😀

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Top 10 LGBT YA Novels I Recommend

Before you read, I’d like to dedicate this post to all the families and victims hurt in this morning’s tragedy. For those who for some reason haven’t heard, a lone shooter mercilessly massacred fifty people and injured just as many at a gay nightclub (called Pulse) in Orlando, Florida. Police are still investigating into further detail, but it is a known fact that this wasn’t just a random shooting. This was a hate-fueled attack meant to kill and harm innocent people.

If anyone is reading this, don’t pray for repentance or hate, but pray for the families and friends that have been affected by what many are calling the worst mass shooting in United States history. Do not call for gun control. Reports are coming in that the gunman was posing as a security guard and guns were not allowed in the club. If there is anything we should call for, it’s for the acceptance of LGBTQA+ people everywhere, and to fight homophobic attacks like this with love and understanding.

To everyone affected by the shooting, everyone is hearing your cries. And to everyone else, I have a quote for you from a Holocaust survivor named Henry Golde, “Hate is nothing, and love is everything.”

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          Gay literature is an iconic part of the LGBTQA+ community, especially towards teenagers and young adults, so in celebration of LGBT Pride Month, I’ve decided to make a Top 10 list for the best gay young adult novels I wholly recommend. Now, there are a few rules to this for anyone who’s reading. The first rule is that these entries have to have an LGBT person as the protagonist and not just as a side character. Second, it cannot be explicit and must be readable for anyone from fourteen to even nineteen years of age. And third, having no more than two of an authors’ works is acceptable by my standards because granted, I haven’t read every gay book for young adults; heck I’m even including ones I’ve reviewed on here already. And keep in mind that this is a recommendation list and not a list of the greatest LGBT young adult novels.

With that said, here’s the Top 10 List of LGBT YA Novels I Recommend.

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Thoughts on ‘The Boy and the Beast’

For anyone who doesn’t know the name Mamoru Hosoda, he’s a critically acclaimed Japanese director whose written and made recent but wonderful anime classics such as “Wolf Children”, “Summer Wars”, and the wonderfully titled and well-known anime film “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time”, all three of which I have seen and hold dearly to my heart. “Wolf Children” is a touching story of family and coming of age (as well as a fan-favorite for furries such as yours truly), “Summer Wars” is a science fiction adventure great for watching on July evenings, and “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time” is a cult classic for time-travel stories. And later last year, Hosoda released another potentially timeless classic for anime fans called “The Boy and the Beast”.

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Review: ‘One Boy’s Shadow’ by Ross A. McCoubrey

It really surprises me how I haven’t ever heard of ‘One Boy’s Shadow’ since it was published a few years ago. Granted, it isn’t as famous as recent young adult novels on Bestsellers lists, but it really surprises me it isn’t more well-known, especially since it involves three very popular demographics: supernatural, gay, and coming-of-age literature. The author, Ross A. McCoubrey, meshes together these three topics into a novel with amazing characters, a heartfelt story of love and loss, and made me want to appreciate those who I love and love me.

So what’s the story? Caleb Mackenzie is a fifteen year-old boy whose family recently moved to a small town in Ontario, Canada. Instead of missing his old home in Halifax, he quickly makes some new friends, one of them being a boy his age named Shane. As their friendship quickly becomes more than that, Caleb learns from him that his new house has a secret.

You see, Caleb’s family’s new home is a cottage on the outskirts of town called the Wakefield House, and it has a grim past. In 1943, the Everett family owned the house, and one of the sons there, another closeted teenager named Toby, disappeared without a trace. Over the decades, various future owners of the house have reported strange noises and sighting, and it isn’t long before our main character begins hearing his name, “Caleb”, along with unknown gunshots. Wanting to know more, Caleb, his older brother Blake, Shane, and another friend of theirs named Ryley, must band together to dive into the mystery of Toby’s disappearance, learn who murdered him, and possibly lay the young ghost to rest.

Whenever I hear about romance novels involving ghosts and demons, there’s always the catch of either a sappy love triangle, misunderstanding clichés that cause the couple to break up, cheesy dialogue that stems on ‘Twilight’ bad, or even all three combined. ‘One Boy’s Shadow’ doesn’t have any of that. First of all, the characters in this are one of the most genuine people I wish were real. Almost every word, every bit of dialogue, and every action and reaction they have are what make this novel great. Our main couple in this treat each other like a real couple should, whether it be in fiction or even with a real significant other. Both are trusting, empathetic to their feeling and the feelings of others, and work off of their personal interests like bread and butter. They tease each other, go on long walks by themselves, and support each other when they’re down.

My most favorite side character would go to Caleb’s older brother named Blake. I like Ryley and how good of a companion he is for our main leads, but it’s Blake whose stood by his younger brother throughout his life. He’s the older brother that has a smart tongue and is a ladies man but McCoubrey went the extra mile and created one of the most compassionate, caring, kind-hearted brothers of a main character. If I ever wanted to have an older brother, it would definitely be Blake Mackenzie.

And then we have the ghost himself, Toby. Much like Caleb and Shane, Toby’s personality shines in every paragraph and sentence. At first we don’t know much about him at the beginning of the story save for him saying Caleb’s name and an occasional strange occurrence, but we want to know more about him as the novels continues. We later learn that he had a secret relationship with another boy when he was alive. Without giving too much away, I felt unbelievable sorrow in my stomach as I read on.

That’s what I probably like about ‘One Boy’s Shadow’ so much. The teenagers in this talk like real teenagers, the adults in this talk like real adults, and the mystery kept me reading through until I finished the final page. I wanted to know what happened to the poor boy, wanted to know if he’d find peace, and know if Caleb and Shane’s coming out would be met with welcome arms not just to Caleb’s parents, but to their school.

Ross A. McCoubrey is a Canadian author I’ve never heard of before, but after reading ‘One Boy’s Shadow’, I guarantee I’ll read his next novel. Ross, if you’re reading this, I cannot wait.

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If you have any questions or already have an opinion on the novel, feel free to leave any comments. Thanks!

Review: ‘Seconds’ by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Scott Pilgrim fans rejoice as I read a graphic novel* made by the famous cartoonist named Bryan Lee O’Malley. I personally never read his ‘Scott Pilgrim’ series, but after reading one of his newest graphic novels recently, I’m a little curious. The one I’m reading today is a timeless yet modern supernatural graphic read simply known as ‘Seconds’ by Bryan Lee O’Malley.

Katie is the owner of a popular restaurant in town named Seconds, and dreams of owning another restaurant after spending four years of her life renting the place. She tries to renovate a run-down spot named Lucknow, but has trouble coming up with the money after so many things start to get in her way, like her boyfriend breaking up with her, contractors paying too much, and realizing both Lucknow and Seconds have house spirits that guard their homes.

After a new waitress at Seconds named Hazel gets badly burned, a guilt-ridden Katie suddenly find a mysterious girl in her room with a mushroom in her hands along with a notebook. The girl reveals herself to be the house spirit of Seconds named Lis, and tells Katie to eat the mushroom, write down a mistake, and wake up to the mistake being erased. She write down that Hazel never got burned, and to her shock, Katie wakes up the next day to see Hazel’s burns gone.

Suddenly, after finding more of the mushrooms under the restaurant’s floorboards, Katie begins eagerly making massive changes to her life, despite Lis’s warning not to tamper too much with her life. Of course Katie ignores her, and soon finds her life and her world spiraling out of control. With the help of the waitress Hazel (who tells Katie of house spirits in the first place) and Lis, it’s up to Katie to make things right.

Main characters are an important piece of writing, and Katie here is probably the highlight of ‘Seconds’. She has everything a memorable character should have. She’s optimistic, sarcastic, a goofball, quirky as a twenty-something woman, and selfish, but never to the point of being an anti-hero. She’s shown to have a good heart, be very determined to construct her new restaurant, and knows when she’s made a mistake that needs to be fixed, even if it may not need to be fixed. In fact, Katie often reminds me of an older version of the protagonist in ‘Coraline’ by Neil Gaiman.

The drawing in this is nothing short of spectacular. The artist’s favorite color in this is obviously red, but the angles and coloring in this gives way to wonderful designs and characters with personalities. The style even allows for good comedic edge without making the characters look like something out of the funnies in a newspaper. A good example would be with the waitress Hazel, who’s considered to be the most beautiful in the restaurant, yet is unbelievably shy and awkward to the point where her reactions always made me grin. Even the design given to Lis is pretty neat, as she comes off as creepy and intriguing at the same time.

It is amazing how much detail and imagination is in ‘Seconds’. Not just the restaurant, but also the book feels like an otherworldly modern place. The climax alone rarely uses words from the narrator, and constructs a visual medium for what the lesson is: we cannot fix everything that is broken, and the past is in the past.

Are there flaws? A few. But they’re more humor-wise where a couple of jokes felt inconsistent or unnecessary. For example, I found it weird how the narrator of ‘Seconds’ sometimes broke the fourth wall with Katie, yet she ignores him/her throughout most of the time until the end. It’s still funny with her reactions, but feels like something from another book.

Also, I’m gonna sound unfair, but I didn’t think Katie’s ex seemed interesting.

Back in the 20th century, graphic novels weren’t considered a form of art yet because of them being seen as childish and innocent. Then came works such as ‘Maus’, ‘Nordguard: Across Thin Ice’, ‘Blacksad’, and even ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. the World’. And much like ‘Seconds’, they came with clever writing, a solid sense of humor, wonderful artwork, good storytelling, and likeable characters. And while ‘Seconds’ has a few basic flaws, and I never read O’Malley’s ‘Scott Pilgrim’ series, I may thanks to the second thoughts ‘Seconds’ gave me.

*To answer your question, yes I will review graphic novels for Reader’s Boulevard, as long as it meets the criteria of being more than 150 pages in length.

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If you have any questions or already have an opinion on the novel, feel free to leave any comments. Thanks!