Lumberjanes Series Overview

lumberjanesA summer camp for “hard-core lady types”, filled with bear-women, dinosaurs, alternate time dimensions, and a whole lot more crazy supernatural stuff, is the setting of Lumberjanes. Lumberjanes is a graphic novel series created by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, and Brooke A. Allen. Lumberjanes is chaotic and full of the unexpected, and it’s great. It follows five best friends, April, Molly, Mal, Jo, and Ripley, during their time at summer camp, which is way more magical (literally) then they ever could have expected. And for the most part, they just roll with it, which makes for some great adventures.

The characters, both main and supporting, are diverse and well rounded. There is a lot of representation going on in these comics, which is great, especially for an all ages comic. One area of representation that I was very pleased to see was LGBT+ because it’s largely absent from most all ages/kids media.

The supernatural aspect of the story is really enjoyable. It’s a bit random and not always super explained, but it’s always really fun and just seems to work. You never know what kind of supernatural antics will occur, but whatever they are, you know they will be enjoyable, even if they don’t totally make sense.

One thing that I think is a really nice touch is the way they work the Lumberjanes earning badges into the story. For each story arc (which lasts a few comics each), there is a page at the begging detailing a badge they are working on. The story somehow ties into that. It’s an interesting take on the idea of scouts earning badges because with the Lumberjanes, the requirements for getting a badge are never as straight forward as it seems.

Being a comic series, the art is an important aspect. And honestly, I have mixed feelings about this. Their isn’t a constant artist/style for the series, and while I’ve never read an issue where the art was bad, there have been some that just didn’t feel like Lumberjanes to me. Sometimes the art is fairly realistic, sometimes it’s more stylized, so it’s really a matter of personal preference whether or not  you like the art in a specific issue. Overall though even when I’m not  a fan of the art I still love reading the comics because the story and the characters are always great.

Lumberjanes has been around for a little while now, there are currently 33 issues of the main series comic, with the 34th being released later this month, as well as a spin off series and some one-offs. This may be a bit overwhelming for some new readers, but as far as comics go it’s not really all that much, plus it would be pretty great to be able to read that many back to back without having to wait.

Overall Lumberjanes is a really fun read that’s doing some great things in terms of representation and overall is something I highly recommend.

-Angela J.

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

incarceron_catherinefisherThe first book in a series, Incarceron by Catherine Fisher tells of a prison world ravaged by poverty and despair. It is separated; a dark world with great technology. Outside the prison, people live a life of luxury. Claudia, a girl from the outside world, and Finn, a boy from the prison, are the main characters in this story. They meet through a magical stone they find in their respective places. With it, Claudia discovers that Finn was originally from the outside world. Later, Claudia recognizes him as her previous betrothed. This motivates her to get Finn out of the prison. A complicated process, the book follows the hardships Claudia and Finn face for his escape.

This novel has a great premise and fine element of mystery. Unfortunately, there were several flaws present in the book. The characters, Claudia and Finn, did not develop over the course of the novel. Also, there were many instances in which the story lagged; the book could have been shortened a little bit. Otherwise, the story keeps you reading till the end in order to see what will happen. Even though there is a conclusion, there is a little bit of a cliff-hanger. There is a second book, called Sapphique, and I would recommend it for anybody who enjoyed the first one.

Incarceron is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded from Overdrive

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

rithmatist_brandonsandersonMany years in the future there exists a place, so similar to the world we live in now, but also so different. For in this future world, magic exists. Not magic, exactly, but Rithmatics, the ability to bring chalk drawings and lines to life in fantastic ways. Rithmatists don’t get to decide to master this art, they are given the power at their Inception ceremony when they are young. If one is granted the power, they train for a few years before going off to fight in the Hell-ish land known as Nebrask. If one is not granted the power, they must live their life as an ordinary person, having no connection to this powerful art of Rithmatics, no matter how much they wish to. That is the case for the young Chalkmaker’s son, Joel, who wants more than anything else to master Rithmatics, but is shut out due to his lack of Rithmatic abilities. That is, until Joel finds himself in the middle of a series of strange kidnappings, seemingly committed by a Rithmatist, and he may be the only one who can solve them before it’s too late.

I was very impressed with The Rithmatist‘s ability to not be cliché. Brandon Sanderson does an incredible job leading the reader on to believe something will happen and then creating a completely different turn of events. While this can be disappointing at times, it helps to keep the story from being predictable. Another unique aspect of this book is the fact that there are lessons on how to draw Rithmatic lines in between the chapters, detailing different defenses and attacks, which helped me to picture the story and it’s Rithmatic scenes.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book to people who love Science Fiction or Fantasy, or just books in general, because it truly is fantastic.

Evan G., 8th Grade

The Rithmatist is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, by John Boyne

boyinthestripedpajamas_johnboyneTo Bruno, Out-With was not a good place. That was where his family moved, away from their perfect life in Berlin. It was all because of Father. Father soon got a pressed uniform and the title of Commandant, which Bruno’s grandmother despised. And then the Fury came to visit, and right after, they moved from Berlin to Out-With. Gretel, Bruno’s older sister who was a “Hopeless Case,” later said it wasn’t pronounced “Out-With” and the man people saluted wasn’t called the “Fury,” but Bruno knew he was correct nonetheless.

Bruno hated his new life at Out-With, being removed from his friends and confined to the general vicinity of the house. He had no friends here, since Gretel was too focused on her dolls and Lieutenant Kotler to pay Bruno any mind. Plus, the house was no longer a five-story structure like the house in Berlin had been. And soon, Mother and Father made Gretel and Bruno attend lessons under Herr Liszt, but they had to learn history, not art and poetry like Bruno wanted.

Bruno, however, began to learn other secrets about his new life, about Maria the maid, Pavel the server, about the people on the other side of the fence that he could see from his bedroom window. The people who all wore the same striped pajamas every day and who were never invited into his house, though the soldiers were somehow invited to the other side of the fence.

This novel was a poignant tale of the Holocaust. Told from the perspective of a naive nine-year-old, the whole situation was simplified to the greatest degree, which amplified the story in my opinion. This book has been on my “to-read” list for years now, and I am fortunate I finally got a chance to read it. In reality, it is a simple read, but the themes presented deal with the moral issues of the Holocaust and thus make this novel suitable to at least a middle school audience. That being said, as a junior in high school, I still found this book touching and would definitely recommend it.

– Leila S., 11th grade

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded from Overdrive

The Hunt Trilogy by Andrew Fukuda

thehunt_andrewfukudaAnother world of fantasy is combined once again with modern science-fiction. Andrew Fukuda’s three book series (The Hunt, The Prey, and The Trap) adds a little more suspense, imagination, and creativity to the bestselling genre. Just think of The Hunger Games, Divergent, Legend, The Maze Runner, and the Twilight series blended together into 960 pages of extraordinary story.

Seventeen-year-old Gene wakes up every night before going to school, frightened of his true identity being revealed. Once dawn arrives, everybody calls it a “day” to sleep, unless they want to be burned alive by the scorching sun of daylight. As you may have guessed, this is a story about a race of vampires. They are classic vampires that despise sunlight and water, have super strength and speed, fangs to bite down on the rawest meats, and most of all, a delectable craving for the blood and flesh of humans. Of course, Gene is a human out of the millions of vampires around him, and little does he know about the cat-and-mouse game he is about to take part in.

With a Hunger Games-like setting of participants being picked into joining a Heper Hunt, also known as a human hunt, Gene and a few others are chosen to hunt humans and eat as many as possible to be crowned the victor. Obviously, Gene is the only one who cannot eat someone of his own kind. During the training sessions before the hunt, Gene goes unnoticed and is able to communicate with the humans that will be eventually eaten by the vampires. He finds answers to his many questions and is even more curious about the history of the two races. Is there something missing from the evolution of humans and vampires?

The Heper Hunt is only a part of Andrew Fukuda’s trilogy, and he takes you into an amazing world of vampires, similar, yet quite the opposite to human society today. This is a plot that will keep you reading until the ultimate finale that holds all of the unanswered questions. I would recommend this book to ages 13-16 and give it an eight out of ten for its shocking conclusions and mysteries.

-Riley W.

Andrew Fukuda’s Hunt Trilogy is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Welcome to the Dark House by Laurie Faria Stolarz

welcometothedarkhouse_lauriestolarz“In my hefty elf sack, your nightmares now keep. Better think twice before falling asleep.” -The Nightmare Elf

This chilling, nightmare-filled story takes place when seven fans of the famous horror film director, Justin Blake, enter an online contest. They are required to write about their worst nightmare, and the winners get the chance to stay at his legendary B and B, Dark House, featured in his movies. The fans also get to meet the famous man and sneak a look at his upcoming movie. Delighted to find they have won, the horror hopefuls Ivy, Parker, Shayla, Frankie, Garth, Natalie, and Taylor set out to have the scare of their life. Spending a weekend in the Dark House appeals to most of them like a vacation home, filled with effects that make the house really seem haunted and mysterious. However, their fun and games take a twisted turn when they are taken to an abandoned amusement park. Embodying the spirit of Blake’s movies, the park is like his own movie set with his wildly creepy characters running around. The seven lucky winners discover they must face their worst nightmares and survive them if they want to be set free.

This book grabbed my attention right from the start. It’s description of horror and thrill left me wondering about my own nightmares. I knew I sure wouldn’t last one night in that house, not with its scare tactics and lonely halls. Stolarz uses her characters’ different perspectives to create this nail-biting world. As a big fan of horror stories, I was really anxious to see how the ending wrapped everything up. I have to say I was a little disappointed that I was left with so many unanswered questions, but overall the plot line was very intriguing.

I encourage readers who like to be scared to give this book a try. I know some horror stories are a gamble because it doesn’t end the way the readers hope. But Welcome to the Dark House is definitely one of my favorites and I would love to read it again.

-Sabrina C, 11th Grade

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

schoolofgoodandevil_somanchainaniIn the school for Good and Evil, there are two friends: Sophie, a vain young woman who believes she is good, and loner Agatha who does not like others. They live in what appears to be a perfectly normal town. Except, two kids always go missing once a year, taken to the School of Good and Evil by the school master.

That night rolls along again, with Agatha and Sophie being taken away. But something seems wrong: Sophie, the “good” girl is taken to the School of Evil. Agatha, the “evil” girl, is sent to the School of Good. The girls go through their classes, trying everything in their power to get switched to their rightful schools until they break into the Headmaster’s office who gives them a task that, if completed, will send them home. For example, what is Sophie’s task? Sophie must do something no evil student has done before: Find love.

Soman Chainani weaves a terrific story of love and fantasy and adventure. With plot twists at every turn you never know what is going to happen next. This book is perfect for one of those lazy days when you feel like picking up a long book. It takes you though many adventures and even has you thinking about your own personality. All in all, this is a very well written book.

-Ava G.

The School for Good and Evil is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download from Overdrive.