ETJ Writes

Archive for the tag “Book Reviews”

Dreamer Review

Hello Friends!

I’m so excited to see everyone here, and to present you with my review of Dreamer! (It’s also posted on Goodreads, so be sure to head over there and add the book to your β€œwant-to-read” shelves.)

I first came across Ja-Mel Vinson because of his ARC unboxing video that popped up in my twitter feed, and his genuine excitement and enthusiasm about his story caught my interest.

I also thought the cover was really neat and conveyed an air of mystery and wonder, so when an opportunity came along to review Vinson’s novel, I jumped at the chance. I feel that reading this book has given me a better understanding of Vinson’s brand as an author, and re-introduced me to a genre I’d almost forgotten about.

You may have noticed the picture that accompanies this review – in one of my livetweets from my reading sessions, I said that I hoped people would be eager to cosplay Vinson’s characters, and since I dabble a bit in the art myself, I thought I might as well lead the charge on that one. I had a lot of fun putting this together, so without further ado, let’s get to my thoughts about Dreamer.

Dreamer Dreamer by Ja-Mel Vinson | Category: NA/YA
Genre: Urban Fantasy
(Age range 14–25)
3.5 stars out of 5.

ja-mel-vinson

**Note: I received an ARC for this blog tour that in no way influenced my honest review**

β€œDreamer” tells the story of Maya, a young adult whose troubling dreams begin to unfold in reality just as she embarks on her college adventures. Soon she discovers long buried secrets and a host of dangers that affect the lives of everyone she cares about, and in the middle of it all is the mysterious Lucent, whom Maya feels strongly compelled toward, for reasons she doesn’t understand.

I did like this novel. The opening of the story definitely grabbed my attention, and though I’m not a huge fan of first person POV, in this case that actually helped me to sink into Maya’s perspective and really believe the story was being told by a young lady and not the male author.

For the first six or so chapters, I had a hard time connecting with the story, particularly because of the rather high stakes presented with very little build up, but when the corset dresses were introduced, things began to click into place for me, and I realised that with its large cast of strong female characters, sparkly transformative powers, and animal companions that are more than they seem that “Dreamer” falls into the same category as “Cardcaptor Sakura,” “Tokyo Mew Mew,” or “Sailor Moon.” I felt like I was reading an anime in novel form, and that was only reinforced more and more as the book went along. Once I was able to visualise the novel in that way, the rest of the book made a lot more sense, as the storytelling tropes and plot devices of the genre sometimes referred to as β€œmagical girl anime” rely on a set of very different rules that are not typical to your average western YA novel.

I very much enjoyed all the strong friendships the characters have, and the underlying mystery surrounding Lucent helps drive the story and keep it interesting. There are a few big plot twists and key events that Vinson pulled off nicely, and the way “Dreamer” ended was quite well done. For a story that foreshadowed rather a lot, and explained even more, I still found myself pleasantly surprised that I hadn’t quite predicted how everything would turn out.

Another aspect I enjoyed was the writing. “Dreamer” has good, clear prose interspersed with more poetic lines that demand attention without tipping into purple prose. It’s very easy to imagine what the characters look like, and my favourite bit of description comes from Chapter 10:

β€œThe moon moved with its star-servants but remained higher and closer and larger to the eye. Atop its stellar seat, it commanded attention while clouds grew and shrank like animals bound by a leash. The moon was the ringleader, wielding power over everything, presumably even the bestial and elongated vapors that drifted ahead of it.”

(As an aside, having read the story, the cover is very symbolic of quite a few different events that happen, and I can see why Vinson is so thrilled with it.)

The one thing I was curious about was how the Tri-Curve looked, and upon reaching out to the author, he kindly provided me with a graphic which greatly helped to visualise it properly, and I’ve included my stylised version of it in this review:

Now, the world of Dreamer is similar to ours, but also quite different, with a large set of internal rules and in-depth history, and because of this, there is a lot of exposition to explain how everything works. At times this really slowed the pace of the story, and dragged out scenes longer than they needed to be. At some points, explanations are included very organically in the story, through training sessions, or information presented in class through learning games, but at other times, the story would be progressing, a new element would be introduced, the plot would pause as Maya reflected on it, and then the story would resume. For me, this resulted in uneven pacing that lacked urgency, especially when new expositional information continued to be introduced near the end of the story.

Overall pacing was also a little stilted, and I felt like the story really began once we reached chapter 12, which made the preceding chapters feel like backstory, or at least story arcs that could have been told at a later point to preserve the forward motion of the narrative. (Not that the novel ever came to a standstill, but sometimes I felt as if it were in slow motion.) I often felt that I was waiting for the plot to really kick in. Because of this, my actual rating for β€œDreamer” comes to a 3.5, although I am giving it 4 stars since I don’t believe the quality of the novel merits only a 3, and there’s no option for including half star ratings.

All in all, I think this book is something 14-16 year me would have loved, given my (somewhat concerning) obsession with anything anime at the time, and I don’t doubt that other teens and young adults will enjoy it and relate to the characters and their friendships and conflicts. I’m looking forward to what Vinson produces next, and believe that his storycrafting can only continue to advance.

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(So there you have it, my review of Dreamer by Ja-Mel Vinson. I wish him much success with the launch of his debut novel, and many thanks to Shealea for making this whole blog tour experience very smooth and easy to navigate. (Launch post and other bloggers on the tour here.)

Don’t forget to join in on twitter March 2nd, 2019 for a live chat regarding Dreamer, and a chance to win a signed ARC of the novel!

 

 

Happy reading!
ETJ

7 Swashbuckling Tales Celebrating International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Yo, ho, ho, me hearties!

In honour of β€œInternational Talk Like A Pirate Day” below be ye finding a treasure filled list of me favourite pirate tales for me second lot of themed book recommendations. Plunder yer local library or bookstore for 1, 2 or all of these outrageous yarns, an’ be swept away on the tides of adventure!

ARRR!


The Pirate Meets the QueenThe Pirate Meets the Queen by Matt Faulkner | All ages
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This exciting tale tells the story of the real life Pirate Queen Grace O’Malley who was a feared corsair all her life and respected by everyone she met – even Queen Elizabeth!

Born in Ireland in the 1500’s, Grace quickly carved out a reputation for herself that was unmatched in that part of the world for centuries. Readers will delight in the captivating true story paired with stunning illustrations that bring to life the seas of 16th century Ireland in vivid detail.


Peter PanPeter Pan by J.M. Barrie | 3-4th Grade+
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Everyone remembers the fearsome Captain Hook from this timeless tale. Without his relentless pursuit of Peter the fantastical world of Never-Never Land wouldn’t be half so captivating.

A menace to Lost boys, Indian girls, and his own crew alike, the only two inhabitants not afraid of Hook are Peter…and the hungry crocodile.


The Legend of LukeThe Legend of Luke by Brian Jacques | Ages 10+
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Beloved children’s author Brian Jacques delivers a superb tale of mystery and heartbreak told through the eyes of Luke, the father of the Infamous Martin the Warrior of Redwall Abbey.

After losing his tribe to a vicious Pirate Captain, Luke makes it his life’s mission to right the wrongs done against him and gathers many steadfast companions along the way.

(A great many of the Redwall tales also feature pirates – “Mariel of Redwall”, “Triss”, and “The Pearls of Lutra” are 3 notable stories in the series.)


Treasure IslandTreasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson | Ages 10+
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The quintessential pirate tale, this epic classic has it all: mystery, intrigue, double crossing, pirates, a long forgotten secret, swashbuckling action, and most important of all – buried treasure!

Join young Jim as the ransacking of his mother’s inn plunges him headfirst into a dangerous and thrilling world that he must navigate expertly – or perish.


Tedenbarr of Have LathTedenbarr of Have Lath by Esther T. Jones | Grades 6+
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Tedenbarr might have journeyed safely to the Eastern Kingdom and back, missing out on the adventure of a lifetime if the Black Sailed Pirates – absent for 15 years and suddenly returned, hadn’t attacked and sunk the cargo ship he was on.

As he makes his way home after his narrow escape from their deathly clutches, Tedenbarr hopes to stay clear of their destructive path – but no one can outrun the Fraecana forever…


One PieceOne Piece by Eiichiro Oda | Ages 12+
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A charming & hilarious – often brash, sometimes heartbreaking, but always dramatic – saga, this manga hailing from Japan tells the story of Luffy, a pirate boy with a stretchy rubber body, whose aim is to enter the Grand Line, reclaim Gold Roger’s hidden treasure known as One Piece, and become king of the pirates.

Along the way, Luffy collects a staunch cohort of friends and allies who never fail to fight by his side against the corrupt navy and the evil pirates of the high seas.


Under the Jolly RogerUnder the Jolly Roger by L. A. Meyer | Ages 12+
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The third in a meaty 12-book series, Under the Jolly Roger follows Mary β€œJacky” Faber’s adventures as she is dubbed a pirate, loses the love of her life to another, classier girl, and becomes captain of her own ship before half the book is through.

Leaving her past behind won’t be easy, but Jacky must do it if she is to embrace her destiny, and truly become the woman she is meant to be.

(A note to parents – although the publisher’s suggested audience is middle school ongoing, the themes and subject matter of the series might best be suited to 10th – 12th readers and up.)

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5 Great Thought Provoking Books About Freedom

Hello Friends!

Welcome to the first in a series of theme based reading recommendations. Whether you’re reminiscing over old favourites, or looking for something new to add to you or your family/friend’s bookshelves, the books mentioned below are sure to delight and entertain.


Twice FreedTwice Freed by Patricia St John | Grades 3+
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A captivating tale that follows Onesimus, the unrepentant slave of Philemon, who doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about this β€œgospel” that’s come from Israel. Afterall, if his master is a new, better person now, shouldn’t he free Onesimus?

A wonderful story based around real biblical figures, “Twice Freed” should be on every child’s bookshelf.


Molly BannakyMolly Bannaky by Alice McGill | All ages
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Set in the early days of Colonial America, this beautifully illustrated children’s storybook explores the past of indentured servitude that brought Molly (the grandmother of the renowned Benjamin Banneker) to America where she met the kidnapped African prince who became her husband.


The circle of shadowsThe Circle of Shadows by Jenny Robertson | Ages 8+
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A masterfully written story, short yet breathtaking in theme, scope, and prose, “The Circle of Shadows” is about a young Gaelic boy captured by the Romans and thereby brought into the hearing of the truth of the gospel.

Although he never forgets his homeland, Dercc comes to realise that the dark arts practiced by the druids are the true chains binding his people, and the freedom he so desires is not physical but spiritual.


Tedenbarr of Have LathTedenbarr of Have Lath by Esther T. Jones | Grades 6+
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Tedenbarr has been a slave all his life, but when the opportunity unexpectedly arises for him to seize his freedom, Tedenbarr finds himself caught between the taste of a life he’s never had, and the friends he will have to leave behind if he pursues this sudden turn of good fortune.

As he wrestles with this dilemma, Tedenbarr finds himself on the adventure of a lifetime, new adversaries and allies alike appearing at every turn.


Ben-Hur: A Tale of the ChristBen-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace | Grades 7+
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This list wouldn’t be complete if it didn’t include the classic, β€œBen Hur.” Revolving around Judah, a young Jewish man living during the time of the new testament, the story takes us on a fantastic journey of love, betrayal, and redemption.

(More interesting still is that the author starting working on the book almost as a mental exercise, and ended up professing faith during the writing of it). The galley scene aboard the roman ship was masterfully depicted on film in the 1950’s, and serves as a powerful reminder of both the cruelty and kindness of men.

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