Posted in Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: The Magnificent Monsters of Cedar Street by Lauren Oliver

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*No Major Spoilers*

Cordelia Clay loves the work she and her father do together: saving and healing the remarkable creatures around Boston at the end of the nineteenth century. Their home on Cedar Street is full to the brim with dragons, squelches, and Diggles, and Cordelia loves every one of them.

But their work must be kept secret—others aren’t welcoming to outsiders and immigrants, so what would the people of Boston do to the creatures they call “monsters”?

One morning, Cordelia awakens to discover that her father has disappeared—along with nearly all the monsters.

With only a handful of clues and a cryptic note to guide her, Cordelia must set off to find out what happened to her father, with the help of her new friend Gregory, Iggy the farting filch, a baby dragon, and a small zuppy (zombie puppy, that is).

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First off, I’d like to say, if you are a fan of the monsters and creatures in the Harry Potter universe, this theme gets expanded tenfold. Even though most monsters are only mentioned in passing, I feel this monster-filled world is just as fleshed out as in Harry Potter.

To imagine our world is filled with creatures that are only featured in mythology and fairy tales reminds me of the Pokemon video games, just without the animal abuse. The world feels so strange and alien since Cordelia was sheltered growing up in a house full of monsters.

One small nitpick I had early on was the similarities between the father and daughter’s names. I had to go back and reread sections because I got the two mixed up. Although to make up for it, I’m impressed at how the author gets us to bond with Cordelia and Cornelius and makes the disappearance more impactful without wasting our time.

As Cordelia’s search for her father and the monsters continues, I love all of the hijinx and misadventures the characters get into. In one case, Cordelia finds herself at a traveling circus that boasts a freak show of monsters. For Cordelia to think this circus as her monsters almost instantly, shows how young and somewhat immature she is.

I love the ending of this story, it wrapped everything up all nice and neat. Everyone learned from the struggles faced on the adventures shows through. Even Cornelius learns from his mistakes and moves on from the loss of his wife. So if you’re looking for a novel with a happy ending, you’ll find it here.

Although I know this is a children’s chapter book, I feel the issues discussed are appropriate for all ages. Friendship, racism, and growing up in a world that looks down upon the “lesser than”. Big issues discussed in appropriate ways.

I would recommend this for lovers of fantasy, monsters, and a coming of age story that’s worth the read. The Monsters of Cedar Street is a fun read for readers of all ages.

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Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: The Green Ember (The Green Ember #1) by S.D. Smith

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*No Major Spoilers*

Heather and Picket are extraordinary rabbits with ordinary lives until calamitous events overtake them, spilling them into a cauldron of misadventures. They discover that their own story is bound up in the tumult threatening to overwhelm the wider world.

Kings fall and kingdoms totter. Tyrants ascend and terrors threaten. Betrayal beckons and loyalty is a broken road with peril around every bend.

Where will Heather and Picket land? How will they make their stand?

“All of life is a battle against fear. We fight it on one front, and it sneaks around to our flank.” He paused, looked kindly at her. “Yes, Father. I understand.” “I regret many things I’ve done,” he said, “but most of all I regret those moments when I said to Fear, ‘You are my master.”
S.D. Smith, The Green Ember

If you have even heard of the classic children’s book, Watership Down, then I would add The Green Ember to your “to be read” list! This novel runs in a similar vein to Watership Down in that it’s about displaced rabbits who have to fight for survival. Although not as dark or grim as the classic, The Green Ember tells a story of survival, betrayal, loss, and overcoming obstacles.

The story is mostly told from Heather’s perspective, even though Picket sits in the narrator’s seat from time to time. Heather and Picket’s learning about how the real world for all rabbits really works, and their family history, feels genuine and real.

I enjoyed this story a lot, all of the characters are well developed, and the history for the rabbit colonies was well fleshed out. I could tell the author put a lot of love and care into the mythos of this world. My most memorable character other than the siblings was the wise elderly rabbit, Maggie Weaver. She is a mother/grandmotherly figure to those who live in the community. She is the fastest sewer, and she gives the rabbits a shoulder to lean on when times are rough.

!!This might be a small spoiler, so be warned!!

Near the end of the novel, Ms. Weaver makes an astounding speech to all of the rabbits. Reminding them she is just another elderly rabbit. She doesn’t see herself in this grandiose way that the rest of the colony seem to view her. She lost her husband in the fall of the last king, and she reminds the other rabbits that she is no one special.

This is a children’s illustrated chapter book. However, I listened to the audiobook and the audiobook was just as amazing as reading the ebook. I would definitely say that this novel is appropriate for most ages. The violence is PG, or in video game terms E10+. There is no bad language, so the only thing for parents to worry about is violence.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed The Green Ember. I would highly recommend it for a nice family read. I would also recommend this for lovers of fantasy, animal protagonists, and of course, rabbits.

Posted in Book Reviews, Graphic Novels, Manga

REVIEW: Onibi: Diary of a Yokai Ghost Hunter by Atelier Sento

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*No Spoilers*

Part fantasy, part travelogue, Diary Of A Yokai Ghost Hunter follows the adventures of two foreign visitors as they tour Japan. When they buy an antique camera along the way, they discover they can capture images of Japan’s invisible spirit world. The forgotten spirits they meet can be kindly, mischievous, and some, downright dangerous.

Everywhere they go from forests to Shinto temples to fishing villages they are met with Yokai, the Japanese word for supernatural monsters, ghosts, and demons. The subject of Yokai is wildly popular right now and is featured prominently in books, websites, and online videos. Google receives thousands of searches on the topic daily.

Readers 10-18 who cherished books like Cool Japan Guide and Diary of a Tokyo Teen will delight in this comic book style adventure. The graphic novel format will appeal to diehard anime and manga fans while stressing the importance this ancient spirit world is to the Japanese culture.


Rating: 4 out of 5.

I enjoyed this manga, it has a different art style for sure, but don’t let that detour you away from this graphic novel. The art style looks like it was sketched with colored pencils. It makes the adventure feel realistic.

I enjoyed seeing all of the different areas of rural Japan, and how unique and different each town or village can be. It’s amazing at how a small island can have so many different environments. From mountainous forests to the sulfur flats and fishing areas. This manga covers the gambit.

I never felt like the main characters were in any real danger. The only time I ever felt uneasy is when the locals were being creepy and telling the two main characters about the Yokai that had been spotted in the area.

However, I still enjoyed the manga and all of its whimsical adventure. I would highly recommend this for lovers of legends, folklore, traveling, and manga.

Posted in Book Reviews, Novels

ARC REVIEW: Miao-Shan: The Awakening by G.A.M. Morris

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*No Spoilers*

**I was given a copy of this novel by the author**

***Miao-Shan: The Awakening will be hitting ebook shop January 15 2019***

When ten-year-old Chow Lei witnessed her parent’s brutal murder at the hands of Hong Kong Triad members she was emotionally scarred for life. Her grandmother adopted her and attempted to help Lei heal emotionally, but only when Lei joined a Shaolin Kung Fu school did any emotional healing occur.

After a year of training, her grandmother reluctantly agreed to send her to the Shaolin Temple. Lei had continued to improve at the Temple to further her Kung Fu training as well as learning compassion towards her peers. At the Temple, she was renamed Miao-Shan, from a legend about the Chinese Buddhist Goddess of compassion, Guan Yin.

This novel isn’t the kind of story I’d read often. I find the culture gap to be intimidating. However, with this novel, there is a helpful list of key terms and important historical events relevant to the story. Having that there helped me understand the slang terms and historical events of the time.

Watching Lei, soon to become Miao-Shan was fulfilling as well as entertaining. Watching her grow as a person who has seen things that no one ever should make her journey more relatable.

This novel has a cast of loveable characters. Even when the story shifts to the leader of the triad’s perspective, seeing where he started and how the triad brainwashed him makes him a more personable and likable character that’s easier to understand.

One of my favorite parts of this story is how Miao-Shan grew up at the Temple and gained a friend in a young boy named Lee. Even though Lee took the vow of celibacy when he became a monk, I wanted the two to be a romantic couple. They had really good chemistry, and their friendship was really heart-warming.

When you’re finished reading this story you won’t find any loose ends, everything wraps up nice and neatly and is presented in a likable and fulfilling ending. This was an entertaining read for all adults to enjoy.

All in all, I enjoyed this read. Sure it was a bit of a rough start getting used to the slang and culture of the story, but once I got the hang of it, I enjoyed this novel in its entirety. I would recommend this novel for lovers of martial arts, historical fiction, and Oriental literature.

Q&A with G.A.M. Morris

Buy on Amazon!

Posted in Book Reviews, Novels, Short Story Collections

REVIEW: Straight Outta Tombstone by Various Authors

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*No Spoilers*

Come to visit the Old West, the land where gang initiations, ride-by shootings and territory disputes got their start. But these tales aren’t the ones your grandpappy spun around a campfire unless he spoke of soul-sucking ghosts, steam-powered demons, and wayward aliens.

Here then are seventeen stories that breathe new life in the Old West. Among them: Larry Correia explores the roots of his best-selling Monster Hunter International series in “Bubba Shackleford’s Professional Monster Killers.” Jim Butcher reveals the origin of one of the Dresden Files’ most popular characters in “Fistful of Warlock.” And Kevin J. Anderson‘s Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I., finds himself in a showdown in “High Midnight.” Plus stories from Alan Dean Foster, Sarah A. Hoyt, Jody Lynn Nye, Michael A. Stackpole, and many more.

This is a new Old West and you’ll be lucky to get outta town alive!

I don’t read short story collections very often, I find it difficult to jump into a new story after I feel like I know the main characters. However, when I saw this cover at my local library and saw the cover art, I was sold on the concept.

I enjoy the weird wild west genre. Two genres that are polar opposites colliding for one epic story is fascinating to me! This book has fun with the genre, and it’s an enjoyable read!

All of the short stories in this collection are good, but I had some favorites. And some stories that didn’t impress me. These are all good stories in total, but some just didn’t catch my attention.

My Three Favorites (in no particular order)

  • Bubba Shackleford’s Professional Monster Killers by Larry Correia – The first short story in this collection had charm and had my attention from the beginning. The characters were interesting, and I felt the stakes were dire. I would like to hear more from Bubba Shackleford sometime.
  • The Treefold Problem by Alan Dean Foster – A giant mountain man helps a family who is about to lose their home. I felt like this was inspired by Paul Bunyan, the famous lumberjack. I enjoyed the heart and good feelings in this short story.
  • High Midnight by Kevin J. Anderson – I love film noir. This is the story of a zombie detective who lives in a sort of purgatory with all kinds of monsters and the occasional human. The town is throwing a Wild West-inspired celebration. When things start going south, it’s up to our zombie detective to figure out the mystery.

My Three Least Favorites (in no particular order)

  • Chance Corrigan and the Lord of the Underworld by Michael A. Stackpole – This short story had promise, Chance investigates a mining town to figure out what’s going on. With robots guarding the mine, Chance finds a familiar face running the operation. I think this would have been better if it was its own novel. I felt like the ending was rushed and forced. The way this story ended left me disappointed.
  • The Greatest Guns in the Galaxy by Bryan Thomas Schmidt and Ken Scholes – This is the story behind the cover art. Two aliens come to Earth in the 1800s in search of entertainment. However, when greed gets in the way, it’s up to them to deal with the consequences of their actions. Another interesting premise and I felt like the two aliens that caused the mayhem didn’t learn anything in the end. They just call their friends to help them and boom, everything’s fixed. I found the ending to be unsatisfying and I was disappointed.
  • The Key by Peter J. Wacks – The English Crown hires two hired guns to protect this mysterious object called “The Key” from the Russians. With help from some of history’s famous figures, can the gunmen keep the Russian invaders at bay? I felt like this story belonged somewhere else. This was more British undercover mission than western. I enjoyed the premise and ending well enough, but the lack of the Wild West left me bitter.

I would recommend this book to lovers of westerns, science fiction, fantasy, and short stories. This collection was a perfect addition to my Weird Wild West shelf. I would also recommend this if you are looking for new authors or authors you already enjoy.

More Short Stories HERE!