Review of the Starcatchers Series by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson

The Starcatchers series, written by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, includes Peter and the Starcatchers, Peter and the Shadow Thieves, Peter and the Secret of Rundoon, Peter and the Sword of Mercy, and The Bridge to Never Land. The books revolve around a mysterious substance called “starstuff”, a fantastically powerful material that transfigures everything it touches and bestows incredible power upon those who know how to use it. For thousands of years, batches of starstuff have fallen from the heavens to Earth, igniting a covert but desperate struggle between those who wish to protect its power and those who wish to wield it. For as long as starstuff has fallen to Earth, a secret organization of people who call themselves the Starcatchers have dedicated their lives to keeping the powerful starstuff out of the hands of the Others, untold evil forces that are both human and unearthly.

The dangerous struggle for control of Earth’s limited supply of starstuff throws Peter, a young orphan boy, and Molly Aster, the daughter of a prominent family of Starcatchers, together as they’re forced to defend themselves and their loved ones from greedy pirates, ruthless agents of the Others, and horrifying creatures of the shadows. Lives are changed forever as the fantastic power of the starstuff draws an unsuspecting Peter into a world he never knew existed, ensuring that both he and a certain island will never be the same again.

This series has been a favorite of mine for many years, and even as a teenager I like to return to the world of the Starcatchers every once in a while to revisit the story and characters. The books provide an amazingly imaginative origin story for Peter Pan‘s characters while at the same time weaving a new action-packed tale featuring lovable characters. The authors really made the familiar features of Peter Pan their own, and in every book they added another clue to leading to how events and characters of the play ended up the way we know them.

The books are all told in third-person point of view, switching between following the journeys of certain characters throughout each book. The chapters vary in length because of this, allowing the action to move along at varying paces as the authors switch between one character’s “point of view” to another. This technique does a great job of making the plot and tone feel more urgent in action scenes as the sections grow shorter and the narration moves swiftly from one aspect/view of an event to another happening simultaneously. This is also crucial to the layout of the books as each one (except the last book, The Bridge to Never Land) includes multiple plot lines taking place at the same time, though they usually converge at some point. There’s always a lot going on in this series, and it all ends up becoming connected by the end of each book.

What really stands out in this series are the characters. The authors do a wonderful job of making them come to life in colorful ways, both their original characters and those present in Peter Pan. Even the characters from the original play seem made anew, fitting seamlessly into the world the authors created. The writing is heartfelt and often funny, and the books always leave readers wanting to know more about what happened next. Following the journeys of the many different characters is an important part of what keeps readers interested, as well as the adventurous plots that the reader would never want to come to an end.

In addition to the books, a Tony-Award-winning play was also adapted from the original novel, Peter and the Starcatchers, titled almost the same– Peter and the Starcatcher. The play is unique in many ways– rather than using an elaborate set and special effects, it’s famously simple and uses an aesthetic designed to appear as if everything was sort of cobbled together out of found objects, such as from a shipwreck. Traditionally, a small cast of about a dozen actors plays nearly a hundred different roles, and the entire cast works together to act as narrators and to portray scenery. For example — the first half of the story takes place on a ship, and rather than using an enormous set piece, the play uses a few simple props to represent rooms and corridors, like stretching a rope in different ways to show a cramped room or a low crawlspace. It’s a little hard to describe, but the effect is amazing and truly unique. The play is heartfelt and extremely funny, and is a popular production for amateur theatre companies (especially high schools) to perform due to its versatility.

I would highly recommend the Starcatchers series, especially to young readers looking for their next fantasy adventure series.

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children introduces the world of peculiars, a secret group of individuals born with strange abilities and attributes that set them apart from the rest of humanity. Hunted by bloodthirsty creatures called hollowgast, peculiars are protected by women known as ymbrynes who can transform into birds and manipulate time. Ymbrynes– like the titular Miss Peregrine– watch over their wards inside loops, portals of safety where the same day is repeated over and over again. For hundreds of years, peculiars have lived inside these loops, never aging and sheltered from the threats of the outside world. But sinister forces threaten to destroy the world of peculiardom, and its inhabitants have no idea what’s to come…

Jacob Portman, the narrator of the story, grew up listening to his grandfather’s tales of the children’s home on a tiny island off the coast of Wales where magical children lived in paradise, watched over by their benevolent headmistress. As a child, he would hang onto his grandfather’s every word, relishing the tales of his grandfather’s brave adventures and extraordinary friends. But as Jacob grew older and his grandfather began to sink into dementia’s grip, he stopped believing the man’s fantastical tales– until a traumatizing night leads him to travel to that tiny island and see for himself– and suddenly, the stories don’t seem so implausible.

As Jacob is thrust into the mind-bending world of the peculiars, he discovers more about his grandfather and himself than he ever thought possible. With an intriguing narrative style and hauntingly fascinating vintage photography, Ransom Riggs takes the reader along for Jacob’s incredible ride, creating a vivid new world that’s unlike anything I’ve read before. Truly unique, this book (and the rest in its series) is hard to put down and is a must-read for anyone looking for a new YA fantastical adventure that’s different from the norm. There’s action, romance, mystery, and even some humor mixed in with an awesome cast of characters that will win you over from the start.

The narrative voice, in the first-person view of Jacob, is descriptive and articulate without forsaking the heart of his character. The author’s style is expressive and vivid, assisted by the distinctive addition of the vintage photographs interspersed throughout the book. The pictures are what truly make this series unique, and add a touch of stirring realism to the plotline. The book’s plot was written partially around the photographs that the author had found and included, and the rest of the photos were chosen because they fit what the author had in mind. I love this addition to the books, and they’re a big part of what makes the series unforgettable.

The world of peculiardom is a fascinating and multi-faceted one, and the farther you read into the series, the more wide and diverse it grows. Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children introduces the world well, but with each new book in the series, Ransom Riggs finds a new way to expand its borders. Its inhabitants are equally as diverse and fascinating as the world they live in, and I fell in love with all of them almost immediately. It’s interesting to read how their peculiarities can align with their personalities– for example; Emma, one of the main protagonists, sparks flames from her hands and is the fiery, determined leader of the group. Bronwyn, a girl with extraordinary strength, is the mother hen of the children and a natural protector. Each of Miss Peregrine’s peculiar wards has a distinctive personality, as does every new character they meet during their journeys. The variety of peculiar abilities and attributes of these characters is astounding as well.

One thing I love about this book and its series is the nature of the peculiarities. Rather than give his characters differing versions of “superpowers”, the author has created a group of people (and occasionally, animals) who simply possess attributes and abilities that place them (far) outside the realm of normal. Some of the peculiars can do things that seem familiar to us in the realm of science fiction, like Bronwyn’s strength or Emma’s fire. But more often, peculiars are born with other traits– like the mouth in the back of Claire’s head, the way Olive is simply lighter than air, or the bees that live inside of Hugh– that you won’t find between the pages of comic book. Their peculiarness is delightfully strange in a way that enhances the dark and supernatural feel of the story, which sets it apart from your average science fiction novel about kids with superpowers.

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is a darkly fascinating book that sets off an intriguing and endlessly riveting series. You won’t be able to get enough of this book and its peculiar world once you’ve fallen under its captivating spell, and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a series with a distinctive and enthralling concept.

Book Review of Kingdom of Ash and Briars by Hannah West

Book Cover of Kingdom of Ash and Briars shows a silhouette of a girl in the snowy woods
Kingdom of Ash and Briars

Kingdom of Ash and Briars is an engrossing fantasy tale that weaves in elements of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Emma, and Hua Mulan to tell the story of Bristal, a young woman who discovers that she possesses the power of an elicromancer. With her newfound talent for shapeshifting, Bristal must take her place as one of the last three elicromancers left in the realm to protect the kingdoms from a bloodthirsty tyrant who threatens all she holds dear. As she is thrust into a battle between good and evil that she hadn’t even known existed, Bristal uses all the strength and talent she possesses to prepare the kingdoms for a supernatural battle most don’t believe is possible. This book is darkly enchanting in more ways than one and kept me eagerly turning pages until the very end.

Kingdom of Ash and Briars not only manages to gracefully entwine nods to four different well-known stories into its plot but also creates an effortlessly fascinating new world to spin its tale within. The realm of Nissera and the history of the elicromancers are well-developed and provide the perfect backdrop for Bristal’s narrative, and if you love this novel, Hannah West continues to expand upon the world of Nissera and the elicromancers in several additional books.

I loved the amount of detail the plot of this book manages to include, which is truly impressive considering the number of different story elements it contains. The main narrative is engrossing and full, and the homages to Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Emma, and Hua Mulan serve to enrich the novel’s plot without encroaching upon the premise’s originality. Plot twists abound, and the author’s writing style kept me easily engaged throughout as well. Kingdom of Ash and Briars is written in first person, and Bristal’s determined and honest voice reflects her character nicely.

Bristal’s character is a tenacious, resourceful heroine whose strength and selflessness seems endless but who nonetheless feels very human, a balance that draws the reader into her story and helps readers sympathize with her pain and struggles as her tale unfolds. She faces insurmountable obstacles and is an inspiring model of perseverance, bravery, generosity, and astute intelligence. A good fantasy hero must be many things, and Bristal meets and surpasses these expectations. Despite her boundless tenacity, the character has moments of stark humanity that offset her strengths well amidst her heroics.

All in all, Kingdom of Ash and Briars is a wonderful read, and if you’re looking for a new fantasy adventure novel, fairy tale retelling, or YA romantic fiction novel, this book is sure to please.

Rim of the World

Alex (Jack Gore), ZhinZhin (Miya Cech), Dariush (Benjamin Flores Jr.), and Gabriel (Alessio Scalzotto) barely started summer camp when aliens start to attack Earth and cause havoc.

Things get even more weird when an astronaut gives them a key and tells them to go to JPL, a NASA facility, to get rid of the horrendous aliens. Dodging aliens, military units, prisoners, and other dangerous things, the kids trek 48 miles to get to JPL.

Along the way, great friendships are started and maybe a little awkward romance. Like, really awkward. So they begin the journey together, hoping to save the world.

This movie was not the best, but it definitely wasn’t that bad. The cast was really good and the action and adventure wasn’t all that bad. The movie was a little too straight forward for me, but if you’re looking for a bloody, friendship, action and adventure movie, then this one is a good idea.

I give this movie a 8.2/10 partially because I could kind of guess what would happen next but there were some parts where I was scared. Or maybe it’s because I scare often. There are cute friendship moments and bravery so it wasn’t bad. The movie overall was great, and all the cast members did a good job becoming their character.

I will warn you, this movie does have mild language in it, and parts of the movie are creepy, but if that doesn’t bother you, definitely watch this movie! Hope you like it!

The Lost Hero-book review

The Lost Hero is the first book of the Heroes of Olympus series, which is kind of like a spin-off of the original Percy Jackson And the Olympians. 

The story starts off with Jason, who has no idea where he is or what he was doing on a bus full of kids going on a field trip. He finds himself holding hands with a girl that he doesn’t recognize. He establishes the fact that there are about a dozen kids. He later finds out that he and his group of friends are all actually demigods and Jason gets in a fight with a Ventai or a Storm spirit named Dylan as it is referred in the book. He defeats the Dylan with a huge sword. A chariot arrives piloted by Annabeth Chase. She’s looking for her boyfriend, Percy Jackson, who has disappeared.  Everybody discovers they have superpowers. Piper can charm speak people and make them do what she wants, while Leo can control flame. You’d think this would make them happy, but it doesn’t. Piper has been having dreams of an evil giant who has captured her father, and she’s afraid she’ll have to betray her friends or the giant will eat her dad, while Leo is afraid to use his fire powers because he thinks they resulted in the death of his mother. Jason doesn’t remember his family, which in comparison seems like maybe it’s for the best—though he does figure out that Thalia, one of the Hunters of Artemis, is away. While they were in the camp they heard about a bronze dragon. 

Through various prophecies and surprise revelations and then more prophecies, the heroes discover that they need to go on a quest to rescue Hera, who is being held captive. Leo fixes a malfunctioning magical robot dragon named Festus to give them transportation, and up, up, and away they go, dragonning across the continent to Quebec, Chicago, Detroit—just all over the place. On their way they meet and/or battle lots of evil gods and mortals and critters. 

As they bump along they get even more prophecies and dreams and clues, and eventually put it all together to figure out that the earth mother, Gaea, is awakening, which is bad. Gaea has captured Hera, and plans to destroy her and use the energy to summon the giant Porphyrion, which will be even worse. They also meet Thalia (this, thankfully, is a good thing)—Jason’s sister—who tells them that Jason was given to Hera when he was two, at which point Thalia thought he was dead. Meanwhile, Piper decides that she can’t betray her friends, and tells everyone that her father is in trouble. So Leo, Jason, and Piper send Thalia to try to delay Gaea and Porphyrion while they go off to rescue Piper’s dad from the giant Enceladus.  

There is a big amazing super-battle with Enceladus, who loses like the bad guy that he is, because that’s what bad guys do. Piper saves her dad, Trevor McClean, and gives him a magical potion that makes him forget about the kidnapping and gods and all that because it was freaking him out, and no wonder. Coach Hedge takes Trevor under protection. Leo, Jason, and Piper scurry off to help Thalia try to prevent Gaea from waking. 

There is another even bigger, even more amazing super-battle with wolves and air spirits and so on. The bad guys lose because they are losers, etc. Hera is freed, Gaea doesn’t wake up, but Porphyrion gets away to fight another day. Curse you, Porphyrion. 

Once they get back to Camp Half-Blood, Leo starts to build a giant flying ship to take them on their adventures, using pieces from the broken Festus.  

Most importantly our heroes figure out that Jason comes from a whole other group of demigods who are children of the Roman, rather than the Greek, aspects of the gods. The Roman and Greek demigods were separated by the gods because they kept killing each other. But now Hera is trying to reunite them so that the seven demigods foretold by prophecy can kick Gaea’s earthy butt. Hera brought Jason to the Greek Camp Half-Blood to be a bridge to the Roman camp. Similarly, they realize Hera sent Percy Jackson over to the Roman camp, where he probably has amnesia. We have now run out of plot though, and won’t know for sure about Percy until the sequel (titled The Son of Neptune). I’d give this book a 8/10 because while it was thrilling I think it could’ve spent more time developing the characters, this book was overall great and I suggest you give it a read and check the out the sequel (The Son of Neptune). 

The Mortal Instruments: The City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

This book starts out relatively normal, a girl and her friend are entering a club called the “Pandemonium”.   It is written from two different views, one with Clary, the main character, and one with a demon boy. The demon is led into a closet by a very pretty girl.  Clary enters the closet and witnesses the “murder” of the demon boy. He poofs into magical mist and Clary gets a horrible phone call. Her mother is telling her to not come to the house, she sounds in danger and very scared. Clary goes back to her house, leaving her best friend Simon confused. She returns to see her house ruined, she is attacked by a Ravener demon, somehow managing to survive. She then meets Jace Wayland, a handsome boy who helps to bring her to the Institute, a magical place where Shadowhunters can stay. She stays there while she recovers as she was bitten by the demon.

She meets Hodge and then other people of the Institute. She then goes on a multitude of adventures with the other Shadowhunters, who are the people who hunt and kill demons, Isabelle and Alec Lightwood and of course Jace Wayland. Simon also comes on some of the adventures. Some of the adventures include defeating a Forsaken and traveling to the City of Bones and meeting the Silent Brothers. The story ends on a very interesting note, which includes lots of drama with her love interest and we uncover some new things about her newfound brother and her apparently dead father. I will let you read this and find out what truly happens.

I really enjoyed this whole book, it is the first in a six-part series (City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass, City of Fallen Angels, City of Lost Souls and City of Heavenly Fire). The series was introduced to me by a friend, who happens to show me most of the books that are now my favorites but anyway, I am really glad that she showed me this book series because I love it!

            It has many twists and turns. Some parts that warm your heart, make you angry or sad and just the parts that you can’t help but love. Cassandra Clare has also created some really unique characters. Overall, I would recommend this book and the rest of the series too.

I would give this book a 9/10

Bleach

Image result for bleach anime

The main protagonist (Ichigo Kurosaki) was born into a family of Quincys and Shinigami/ Soul Reapers (sworn enemies) which granted him the ability to see ghosts. When his family was attacked by a hollow, a young Soul Reaper by the name of Rukia Kuchiki showed up to the scene and was unable to protect Ichigo Kurosaki, therefore she was forced to pass on her powers to Ichigo with the stab of her sword which allowed him to protect his family and he was able to gain Soul Reaper powers in the process. With these powers he was able to protected innocent wandering souls from hollows and allow them to pass on to the soul society.

Ichigo then goes to a candy shop worker by the name of Kisuke Urahara (Formerly a captain of the 13 Court Guard Squads) in order to train and become good enough to save Rukia Kuchiki. After the training was complete Uryu Ishida, Yasutora Sado, and Orihime Inoue decided to come along with Ichigo with their new found powers in order to help save Rukia. After entering through a portal that leads them into the souls society with good friend of Kisuke Urahara, Yoruichi Shihouin (a cat) leads the gang to a house in the middle of nowhere to a person (Kukaku Shiba) that can get them through the border into the seireitei where Rukia is located. With the help of a cannon they made it through, but ended up separated where each one had to go through many obstacles to get to the location of where she’s being executed. Ichigo, after already fighting one soul reaper, encounters another but this one of captain class and ends in a stalemate. He wakes up and finds himself in an underground lair all healed up by Yoruichi who ends up being a woman who transformed into a cat. Yoruichi takes Ichigo to an underground training area to obtain his bankai (the 2nd release of his zanpakuto/ his sword) with only 3 days of training where it would usually take about 10 years for someone to obtain it.

After about 3 days he comes out of the underground training area. He ends up making it just in time to stop the execution and sets Rukia free. She then tosses her to Renji and he starts running away as fast as he could, leaving Ichigo to fend off the other Soul Reapers. After finishing with them he encounters a familiar face, Byakuya Kuchiki, and then ends up fighting where Ichigo ends up releasing his Bankai and winning the fight. Renji is still running away but the Soul reapers by the name of Gin Ichimaru, Kaname Tosen, and Sosuke Aizen arrives at his location and take an item out of Rukia called the hogyoku which is something that can grant the user immense power, and they run off.

After about 4-6 months later, Aizen returned with the hogyoku fully activated, completely crushed the 13 court guard squads. Ichigo then came in and destroyed him with the final Getsuga Tenshou. Ichigo ends up losing his powers by activating Final Getsuga Tenshou and ends up gaining them back in the end.

My thoughts on Bleach, overall it was a very good anime, the fight scenes were amazing, looked nice, and so much detail was put into them. I don’t think the rate of how fast Ichigo progressed was too slow or too quick, meaning it wasn’t rushed and took its time. I feel like Ichigo’s strength wasn’t too overwhelming and was only a little more than your average main character. But of course in the last arc The Thousand Year Blood War, he become extremely powerful. The character development was great. Uryu, Yasutora Sado, and Orihime Inoue were practically people brought closer together because of their abilities. They really ended up as good friends and they started becoming compatible together. Also Orihime, Yasutora, Uryu, and Ichigo were practically useless and now they’ve become strong and and able to handle themselves. The couple of things I didn’t like about Bleach was that about half of it was filler and the last arc (Thousand Year Blood War) was never animated. Overall I give it a 8.7/10

Review of The City of Ember, by Jeanne DuPrau

Lina is an artistic girl that lives in the city of Ember, going about her normal life as twelve-year olds do in the city, working at her newly assigned job.

She lives at home with her Granny and her baby sister Poppy. All is well, until the city of Ember takes a turn for the worse.

Only when the blackouts begin happening, more and more frequently, Lina decides that something should be done. She knows that Ember won’t last forever, and she believes there’s another city, at least in her mind, out there somewhere . . .

When she finds a document of mysterious instructions, she knows it means something. So with the help of her friend, Doon, they decipher the instructions, bit by bit, in hope of escape.

Rating: 4/5 stars. This book was interesting and made me think: could there possibly be a city like this constructed in the future? I liked Lina as a character and how determined and curious she was. However, the book was boring at the beginning for me, though you might think differently! I am definitely the type for fast paced stories. Also, I felt that the story didn’t tie up some loose ends that I was curious about.

Ages: 9-13. I would definitely reccomend this book to younger readers.

The Seven Deadly Sins(Season 1and 2): TV Show Review

Cover image features characters from the show The Seven Deadly Sins

The Seven Deadly Sins is about the country of Britannia in what seems to be set during the middle ages. The princess, Elizabeth stumbles upon the Boar Hat Tavern after running away from the kingdom. She ran away because the Holy Knights, who are the “supposed” guardians of Liones (kingdom in Britannia), attempt to overthrow the king. Elizabeth’s quest is the find the Seven Deadly Sins, the group that went rogue and murdered tons of Holy Knights in Liones only ten years ago. In the Boar Hat, Elizabeth finds Sir Meliodas, the captain and most powerful of the Sins. Little do they know that, the leaders of the Holy Knights Dreyfus and Hendrickson are attempting to bring back the legendary demon race by tricking failed Holy Knights into drinking Demon Blood. This not only makes them stronger but if their hate grows too strong, they will become a demon as well. Therefore, Meliodas, Elizabeth and the Seven Deadly Sins must take back Liones, the kingdom that framed them for a crime they didn’t commit, before the Grand Holy Knights can summon the demon race and end humanity.

Pros: This anime had a great story, which not only included great plot twists but also had loveable characters and a great sense of humor that anyone could adore.

Cons: Even though the story was fantastic, there are almost too many plot twists to keep up with.

Rating: 9/10

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse Movie Review

 

The Spider-Man franchise has been one of the most successful ones to date. Even the worst Spider-Man movie (Spider-Man 3, which us Spider-Man fans refuse to talk about) made a giant load of money at the box office. Now, we have Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. It’s been getting very good reviews from critics and audiences alike, and I’m here to share my thoughts on the movie. Is it as good as people are saying? This is my review of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

Plot: When a villain creates a machine called the Super Collider, all of the Spider People are put into the dimension where Miles Morales, a teenager who is on the path to become the next Spider-Man, lives.

Acting: All of the voice acting is great. No real complaints here. 9.5/10

Animation: The animation in this film is amazing. It feels like a comic book, and even has little comic book noise bubbles that pop up occasionally. The animation is  a sight to behold. 10/10

Action: The action sequences in this movie are well made, and you can actually tell what’s going on, but this is a given considering it’s most likely easier to animate action scenes than to film them. 9/10

Overall, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a Spider-Man fan’s dream. With a great cast, well thought-out characters, and great animation, I highly recommend you watch this movie.

Overall score: 9/10