Title: Sisters
Author: Raina Telgemeier 
Genre: Graphic Novel, Young Adult, Middle Grade
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: August 26, 2014
Rating: ★★★★

Raina and Amara are sisters. They go on a road trip with their mom and younger brother, Will, from California to Colorado for a family reunion. There are flashbacks throughout the story of their relationship. When Raina was little she asked for a sister and then she got one. But she wasn’t the best friend she thought she would get. Amara cried and whined a lot, and she didn’t want to do the same things Raina liked. They also had to share a room. They had different opinions on pets, with Amara wanting a snake and Raina being terrified of them. When Raina gets her own room, Amara is finally given a snake for a pet. But it needs to be fed live mice which their mother doesn’t want to do. They take it back to the pet store but it slithers out of the bag and into the car, disappearing for a long time. In the end, Raina and Amara have to learn that though they don’t get along all the time, they have a special sister relationship. 

This is a really funny graphic novel. It’s the follow up to the book Smile, which is about Raina getting braces. This story also deals with think that kids experience, such as wanting a sibling and going on family road trips. Neither of these things turn out as planned either, since Raina and Amara don’t get along, and they don’t have a good time on the trip. 

Though I don’t have any sisters, I really enjoyed this book. It’s very funny, and has Raina Telgemeier’s familiar style. I hope she makes other follow up stories. 

Finding Audrey

Title: Finding Audrey
Author: Sophie Kinsella
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: Doubleday
Release Date: June 9, 2015
Rating: ★★★★

Audrey has severe anxiety after an incident at school. She always wears sunglasses so she doesn’t have to make eye contact with anyone. Her mom can be extreme at times. She doesn’t want Audrey’a brother, Frank, to play video games anymore. When taking them away from him doesn’t work, she threatens to throw his laptop out the window. Meanwhile, Frank is supposed to be competing in an online gaming competition with his friend Linus. But when Linus comes to the house Audrey changes. Linus becomes the one person who Audrey can open up to. 

I really liked this story. The characters are relateable for a variety of readers, since there was both a boy and girl main character. Also, the mother was worried about Frank playing too many video games, like many parents. 

The parents are featured prominently in the story, so it would be good for parents of young adults to read too. 

I also like that the incident that Audrey had at school isn’t explained. Only the aftermath is shown in the story. It keeps the story moving forward and gives it some mystery. 

This story is different for Sophie Kinsella, since she normally writes adult fiction. This book is very successful though, so I hope she writes more YA in the future. 

Archie: Volume 1

Title: Archie Volume 1: The New Riverdale
Author: Mark Waid, Fiona Staples
Genre: Graphic Novel
Publisher: Archie Comics
Release Date: March 29, 2016
Rating: ★★★★★

Archie and the gang are updated in this new graphic novel series. Archie and Betty have been dating since they were kids. But one day there is a “lipstick incident” and they break up. No one knows what the lipstick incident was, and they aren’t telling. Meanwhile, a new girl moves into town: Veronica Lodge. Archie gets a job at the construction site for the new Lodge mansion. But that night, while cleaning up the mess he made during the day, Archie accidentally turns on a machine that destroys the house. Archie decides to make it up to Veronica by doing everything for him. Betty and Jughead don’t like the way Veronica is using Archie, so they make a plan with Reggie to break them up. 

I loved the new artwork in this graphic novel. It’s updated and modern. 

In each comic, Archie speaks directly to the reader, often to introduce the story. I love how this brings the reader right into the story and creates a connection between the reader and the characters. 

There was a lot of background given for the characters that I haven’t read before. The origin of Jughead’s name is revealed, as well as Veronica’s entrance to Riverdale. 

There are many diverse characters in the new Riverdale, including Sayed, a Muslim student and Shiela, an Asian girl. This is an important feature in this contemporary story. 

I’m really excited about the new Archie. This graphic novel is a great introduction to the new series.

The Jungle Book (Manga Classics)

Title: The Jungle Book
Author: Crystal S. Chan
Genre: Manga, Graphic Novel
Publisher: Udon Entertainment
Release Date: April 28, 2017
Rating: ★★

The Jungle Book has 7 different stories in it. The first is “Mowgli’s Brothers,” which is about Mowgli, who grew up with wolves. The next is “Kaa’s Hunting,” and it is about how Mowgli used what he learned from Baloo and Bagheera to defeat the snake, Kaa. In “Tiger! Tiger!” Mowgli moves to a human village and he has to kill Shere Khan, the tiger, to prove his worth. The next 4 stories aren’t about Mowgli. “The White Seal” is about a unique white seal who looks for a safe island for the seals, away from human hunters. “Rikki-Tikki-Ravi” is about a mongoose who saves his human family repeatedly from cobras. “Toomai of the Elephants” is a boy who has a deep connection with elephants. “Her Majesty’s Servants” is about animals in a military camp who question why they fight with each other. 

I have never read the original Jungle Book, so I didn’t know what to expect from this graphic novel. I watched the Disney version when I was little, but I don’t remember all the details. 

I was confused when the story drifted away from Mowgli. I thought he would be more prominent in the story. The final four stories which were about different animals were a little disjointed. They didn’t relate to each other or the previous stories about Mowgli. 

The one common theme that I found throughout the stories was animals versus humans. In some of the stories the animals worked with humans and sometimes they were against them. It was an interesting relationship that changed over time. 

I was disappointed in this story. The pictures were good, but the stories just weren’t for me. 

The Truth About Stacey (Baby Sitters Club Graphic Novel #2)

Title: The Truth About Stacey (Baby Sitters Club Graphic Novel #2)
Author: Raina Telgemeier, Ann M. Martin
Genre: Graphic Novel, Middle Grade, Young Adult
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: June 30, 2015
Rating: ★★★★★

Stacey McGill has diabetes. she has to go to New York City for a lot of appointments. Her parents want her to go to a special doctor who they’ve seen on TV. But Stacey wants a second opinion. Meanwhile, the BSC has new competition, The Baby Sitters Agency. The Agency has older sitters who can stay out later, driving away some of the BSC’s clients. The girls have to come up with a clever way to save the BSC.

This story deals with the serious issue of Stacey’s diabetes. Though she was ashamed of it at first, the baby sitters accept her when they find out. They don’t think it’s a big deal, though Stacey was afraid they wouldn’t like her when they found out. Stacey also demonstrates her maturity and independence by taking her health into her own hands when she tells her parents she wants to see a different doctor from the one she picked out.

The babysitters have to be very creative when trying to save their club. They learn that the truth is the best policy, when they have to expose the secrets of the Baby Sitters Agency when a child is in danger.

This graphic novel is another great adaptation of the original Baby Sitters Club.

Beauty And The Beast: Belle’s Tale 

Title: Beauty and the Beast: Belle’s Tale
Author: Mallory Reaves
Genre: Manga, Graphic Novel
Publisher: Tokyopop
Release Date: March 28, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

Belle lives in the French town of Villeneuve with her father. Belle is considered an outsider to the other villagers because she is always reading and inventing things to make her life easier. When her father goes on a trip to the market, she asks him to bring back a rose. But when his horse returns without him, Belle knows he’s in trouble. The horse leads Belle to a castle where her father is being held prisoner by the Beast. Belle tricks her father into trading places with her so she will stay at the castle and her father can return to his home. The Beast lets Belle out of the cell, and gives her a bedroom, where she meets the personified household furniture. Belle soon learns that the Beast is just a misunderstood man who has been cursed to live as a beast.
Beauty and the Beast is my favourite Disney movie. I was so excited about the new movie and these manga adaptations

The pictures of the characters are very true to the new movie. Though the drawings of furniture are exactly like the movie, Belle still has a manga look to her. She has big eyes, but she looks like Emma Watson in the movie.

One thing that bothered me was the position of the dialogue in some frames. Since it’s a manga, it has to be read from right to left, but some frames had the order of the text going from left to right. This was a little confusing and it slowed down my reading.

There is also a sequel to this manga that tells the Beast’s side of the story!

Ten Tiny Breaths

Title: Ten Tiny Breaths
Author: K.A. Tucker
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Atria Books
Release Date: February 12, 2013
Rating: ★★★★★

Four years ago, Kacey was in a car accident that killed her parents, her best friend, and her boyfriend. Her and her younger sister, Livie, were sent to live with her aunt and uncle. But when Kacey turned 19, she found out that her uncle had gambled away their inheritance. She takes her sister and moves to Miami after her uncle tried to molest Livie. Soon, Kacey becomes friends with her neighbour Storm and her 3 year old daughter. Storm gets Kacey a job as a bartender at the strip club where she works. Kacey’s other neighbour, Trent, is a very attractive man who moved in just before she did. They meet many times in the laundry room, at the gym, and at the strip club. Kacey falls for him, but Trent has a mysterious past. Kacey keeps her dark secrets from him too so she doesn’t think anything of it, but soon their nightmares threaten their relationship.

This is a great book. The characters are well developed. Everything spirals out of control for Kacey, and her sister is a good foil for her. Livie keeps everything together when Kacey can’t.
At times, the story was very dark. Kacey has severe PTSD so she makes a lot of bad decisions. This also caused a lot of tension in the story between the characters. But the ending was so shocking, that the build up was worth it.

I was suspicious of Trent from the start, but I didn’t think his background was going to be revealed. There is a great twist that reveals everything at the end.

This book is very well written. I’m glad it’s the beginning of a series so the story of Kacey and Livie will continue!

Thea Stilton and the Hollywood Hoax

Title: Thea Stilton and the Hollywood Hoax
Author: Thea Stilton
Genre: Middle Grade, Children
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: May 31, 2016
Rating: ★★★★

The Thea Sisters return in this mystery. They go to Hollywood to visit Jenna, their friend, and her sister Terri, who works at a film studio. They get to visit the set of The Powerpaw Mouselets. They watch some filming, including scenes with the famous Johnny Ratt. But one night when Terri is working late, she is locked in a closet and the film is stolen. Meanwhile, the princess of Mousitania has gone missing. The Thea Sisters have to help Terri find the missing film so she doesn’t lose her job, as well as keeping an eye out for the princess.

Like the other books, there are many mouse references. They say other mice are “squeaking” instead of “speaking,” and their investigation has “more holes than a slice of  Swiss.” There are also mouse versions of celebrities. The famous actor is Johnny Ratt instead of Johnny Depp, and the director of a movie is Ratatino rather than Tarantino. They also pass the Mouselor on the street, who is like the Bachelor.

This was a clever mystery. I couldn’t figure out what happened and was surprised at it. This is a good story, which would be great for middle grade readers!

Gotham Academy Volume 2: Calamity

Title: Gotham Academy Volume 2: Calamity
Author: Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher
Genre: Young Adult, Graphic Novel
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: March 16, 2016
Rating: ★★★★★

The kids of Gotham Academy are back again. Maps is still joking around, creating rhymes about imaginary adventures that have yet to happen. Olive’s mother has just died. She goes to see a psychiatrist, Professor Strange. But she thinks she sees her mother. Her mother was the villain Calamity. Buildings are still being set on fire and Olive is certain that she sees her mother’s ghost. With the help of Colton, Pomeline, and Maps, Olive ventures into Arkham Asylum to find the truth about her mother. 

This volume was much more exciting than the first. The characters were introduced in the first graphic novel, so the new plot could begin right away in this one. This was also a very funny story. Maps added some comic relief too. 

I was glad that there was more of Arkham Asylum and Gotham City in this story. Batman’s son made an appearance as well as one of the Robins. Maps even dresses up as Robin, fulfilling her sidekick role. 

I really enjoyed this graphic novel, and I’m excited to read the next volume!

Fierce Kingdom

Title: Fierce Kingdom
Author: Gin Phillips
Genre: Fiction, Thriller
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Release Date: July 4, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

Joan and Lincoln were leaving the zoo when it happened. Four-year-old Lincoln had been playing with his “guys,” his superhero toys, in the sand when his mother said they should go. The zoo would be closing soon. She kept hearing popping noises, like fireworks. But she didn’t realize what it really was until she saw the bodies on the ground near the exit. She ran when she saw the the gunmen. She carried Lincoln and they ran to a hiding place in an empty animal enclosure.

This story is very realistic right now. These kinds of shootings happen all too often. I think it would be especially scary in a zoo, because there are so many hiding places for both the shooters and the victims.

There were other people hidden in the zoo along with Joan and Lincoln, but I don’t think they were as necessary to the story. I felt more of a connection to Joan because she was the main focus of the story. There was also the hint of the backstory of why the shooters did this. It would have been interesting to know the full story, but it was never told.
Lincoln added some comic relief to the story. He made jokes to make his mom laugh. But I would cringe when he would speak to loudly, possibly alerting the shooters to their position.

I was holding my breath for a lot of this book. It was very thrilling, but I wish there was some more explanation of why the situation happened.