“Ted, the 5th grade genius and Veronica, his arch-rival, are constantly pranking each other. When the pranks spill over and ignite a grade-wide war, the teachers organize a girls vs. boys competition.”
This is a project I’ve been working on during 2020 with author Jamaal Fridge! I absolutely loved voicing his characters and discussing his work with him. It was so much fun and such a great learning experience as both an actor and an author!
You can find the audiobook on audible and read along!
I was engulfed by the pages of this book. Completely captivated by the imagery, the characters, the eeriness of the setting. The vividness of the passages was so intense, that when I was disturbed during my read I felt as though reality were a mere illusion. It created a haze, like a wonderfully, haunting daydream…and it lingered.
Over the years I’ve longed for a book like this. A book that made me want to devour every word. Where each sentence was worth losing sleep over…was worth losing track of time for.
The characters and setting felt real. I could see them, feel them, smell them. I got lost in this world which only existed for them, and I, merely a spectator was granted the opportunity to be invited inside.
It was dark. It was dark and yet, somehow as I read I begged for some way to illuminate it. For the glow to be a way out. For hope.
It’s hard to explain that last sentence without spoiling the book, but I truly believe this novel is worth reading.
Naomi was an excellent leading lady. She was smart, witty and extremely fashionable. She never bowed her head, always staying true to herself. Thinking through each of her actions as she tried to figure out how to both help and protect her cousin Catalina, and later Francis.
I also adored the strong bond between Catalina and Naomi. Being able to see Catalina through Naomi’ eyes, and how living with her husbands family had changed her was heartbreaking. To be able to see this beautiful, kind soul, withering away like that…I truly felt Naomi’s pain as she interacted with her cousin.
Francis surprised me. He appears weaker and more timid than Virgil, almost like if one were to compare say the classic trope of the jock and the nerd. I immediately liked Francis, mainly because of his name and the fact that he spends much of his time reading or drawing. His quietness was a comfort, which is strange because the silence in this house is so eerie. It was his small gestures that really made him stand out. Subtle actions, like lending Naomi his sweater, or driving her to town. Little things that truly showed the depth of his character.
I purchased a copy of The Gods of Jade and Shadow before I reached the conclusion of this book, and was again immediately drawn in by the passages. I may have found a new favourite author, which is a wonderful feeling. I love that these books are also #ownvoices and written by a fellow Canadian author. Initially I was drawn in by the title of Mexican Gothic, as I do enjoy gothic literature and thought it might be nice to read a modern take on the genre. I’m so glad I did because if I would I would give this book a 10 star rating. It was perfect. I wouldn’t change a thing.
To keep with the usual 5 star rating though, it gets a full 5 star from me. Well done.
All the chapters for The 5th Grade Challenge are up on YouTube! I had so much fun recording this audio book for Jamaal Fridge. He’s created a fun cast of character’s, I definitely recommend checking out his work!
I think my favourite scenes were between Amber and James, but I loved voicing everyone equally.
Stories like this are fun, exciting, and filled with a wave of emotions! Working on The 5th Grade Challenge reminded me of why I love to read so much! Voicing these characters rekindled that initial joy books used to bring me!
I decided to request an ARC copy of a book I auditioned for earlier this month and was accepted. I loved the passages for the little sister that I got to read for my audition.
I love audio book auditions because I get a sneak peak at new books before they’re even offered as ARCs and before I unbox them at work. One of my favourite things to do at my part-time job is unbox the new releases. It’s so exciting seeing that final cover design, and…the new book smell. It is a thing! It is so comforting. Old book smell is its own comfort, but to me the most comforting thing about an old book is the bends in the spine, the gently crumbled pages and the slight browning of the paper.
I’m so excited to read this book. I was actually going to buy it when it released and review it anyway! It was already on my TBR.
I was also accepted for a bunch of other ARCs, but I’m currently reading the one and am hoping to finish it by the end of the week so that I can post the review. I’m going to be reviewing the Anne of Green Gables manga sometime this month as well, since I was accepted for that.
Fun fact: I’m that typical Canadian who loves L.M Montgomery. Anne, Emily. My favourite adaptation of Emily was the anime actually! I liked the live action show and I’d actually love if Netflix picked it up and revamped it…but they should definitely do it the way the anime was done because it followed the books. No one was turning into a kelpie. I mean, yah I’m Scottish on my Dad’s side but like…the random Scottish folklore being thrown in during those later seasons was…out of genre for how the series started. If they’d always talked about her having second sight and such earlier on, it wouldn’t have been so random. I liked it, but the genre switch was completely random.
Anne with an E was definitely well done in my opinion. I know of a handful of people who didn’t like it because it wasn’t as light and cheery as the previous adaptations (I own a bunch of those on VHS). I have yet to see a version of Anne that I can say I absolutely hate. The films and Anne with an E in my personal opinion, captured Anne, Diana and Gilbert well. Actually, I’ve found that the show versions of Diana truly grasp how important her friendship is to Anne in a way that the films (mainly because of the time length) aren’t able to capture.
Well, that’s enough about Anne.
I’m looking forward to reading these ARCs! I have high hopes for several of these books, but I’m also a bit nervous. I’m always open to reading new authors but I’m not always open to delving into new genres. I read a fair amount of different ones and will read anything ranging from Middle Grade to General Fiction. I love comics. If I’m being 100% honest, I adore them. Still, for me its all about the authors writing style and how quickly I connect with the characters. The plot draws me in and entices me to read but the character’s are what keep me invested.
Fingers crossed I like them all! I’ve already had one disappointing review for this year and I definitely need to read something to make up for it!
Fun fact, I am a big Teen Titan’s fan…or should I just say DC? Most of the character arc’s I follow are either in the Batman universe (the Robin’s, Nightwing, Joker, Harley, etc) and outside of that I love the Titan’s, Justice League, Young Justice…etc. I like teamwork.
Anyway, I’ve been following Picolo for a while on Instagram. Actually, I think I found his work on pinterest first because I have a board dedicated to DC comics and fanart, and I’m pretty sure his work featuring the Teen Titan’s is what lead me to his other work (Icarus and the Sun).
When I learned that Gabriel Picolo had been hired by DC to share his versions of the Teen Titan’s I was ecstatic! I knew it was something he was passionate about and I couldn’t wait to see him bring the character’s to life.
On the other hand, I was unfamiliar with author Kami Garcia but I could tell upon reading Raven that she had a love for these character’s. When I went on to read Beastboy it was clear that these two were a destined duo! The artwork and writing style complimented each other perfectly.
When I first saw Picolo’s designs of Raven, I was pleased with the fact that he captured her overall aesthetic so well. Much like how Raven’s style and personality were captured in Titan’s on Netflix. There was care put into how she dresses herself, how she walks, the actions she takes to guard herself (and her heart). It was so clear to me that the designers (in the case of Picolo, the artist), not only understood who Raven was but cared about her character and how she blossoms as a person during her time with the Titan’s.
Similarly, Beastboy was portrayed in this comic series with just as much care. Out of the two books, I actually think Beastboy was my favourite. Everything about him was true to his character, even the little add-ons. His friends were likeable, and it is clear from the beginning that Garfield aka Beastboy had been “monkeying around” long before he was bit by that weird green monkey.
Now, if you’ve read my other comic and manga reviews then you’ll know that I love comics with superheros and cute love stories. So, it’s probably no surprise that I cannot wait until Beastboy Loves Raven is released!
Aren’t they adorable? These two are my favourite ship across all the DC comics (aside from Bruce Wayne and Selena Kyle). I love how Beastboy is so colourful, warm and bighearted. This is shown a lot through his comic. He truly cares for other people, which is why at times he puts up a front as a tough guy to protect himself.
Raven on the other hand wants nothing more than to love and be loved, but her origins…and mere existence, put those around her at risk. Despite wanting to be close to other people, she isolates herself out of fear. It’s only when she’s with an incredibly strong group of friends that don’t fall victim to her cold exterior, that she opens up and is truly herself.
My rating for Raven:
Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
Raven was almost there. I want to give it the full 5 but there were parts of the story that just didn’t do it for me. I honestly think it was because it was the first time these two had worked together on a project, along with trying to introduce these new character’s into the story. I much preferred the side character’s in Beastboy as they felt more integrated than they did in Raven. Raven/Rachel’s foster sister and love interest were alright, but honestly her foster sister stood out a lot more than the others in the story.
My rating for Beastboy:
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Beastboy hit all the marks. It was clear from the beginning who Gar was, and what the people in his life meant to him. He was a strong character supported by a cast of other strong character’s, which made for a fun story. I liked reading about him discovering his powers, and the consequences that followed because of it. I also liked that Deathstroke is lurking in the shadows throughout the story. The team (Garcia and Picolo) also did a good job at integrating Beastboy into a modern day setting. They gave me the, average teen just trying to navigate life vibe while still being true to this character which meant a lot to me as a fan.
I wonder what I should read next? My list keeps growing!
It’s rare that I give a series such a compliment but after rereading Scott Pilgrim after all these years, I think that the compliment is well deserved.
I loved the series as a teenager and of course watched the film, like most of my friends (back when we could still rent videos in person) and most importantly we felt apart of something. Scott Pilgrim was a Canadian story. We knew the places it referenced. We could hear them, smell them, taste them…and that longing for representation in a country that is constantly bombarded with outside influences in media was such a wonderful thing to have.
Reading it again (in three days!) I was drawn in more than before. Captivated even. To be a twenty-something figuring out life and love and jobs and navigating dreams versus expectations. It was too real. Way too real…and yet comforting. Watching Scott and his friends struggle was sadly comforting.
I loved that there was comic book an video game elements put into a graphic novel series that was in the end a love story. A love story that didn’t always feel like a love story (especially when Scott had to fight all those evil exes) but somehow managed to be one. I suppose it also acted as a coming of age story…a story about a boy and his band and his girlfriend and his roommate Wallace who will forever be my favourite character. I cannot believe I forgot how much I loved his commentary.
I think most of this series still holds up well today. It’s definitely 5 stars. It deserves it. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a comic book series with that amount of character development…and that is wild because I read a lot of them.
As we near the end of September, we are greeted with the warm comforts of Fall: pumpkin spice, reds, yellows, oranges and purples, scarves, hats and sweaters and cozy blankets for those chilly afternoons when we want to curl up with a book in our lap.
I find that I tend to read more in the Fall. I like being wrapped up in a soft blanket with a cup of tea or sitting up late at night with a book in my lap until I nod off to sleep. I also find that the books I read during the Fall tend to be either comforting or have me on the end of my seat, especially as October comes around.
Last night I started reading Mexican Gothic, which had me hooked in the first chapter. I also found my name in the book which never happens. Of course it was a reference to Elizabeth Arden and not me, Ardin but that is who I was named after so I like to think of it as…I was meant to read this book. It’s not every day I buy a book solely based on the title and synopsis. I got three chapters in before I fell asleep and it is exactly what I was hoping for. Gothic literature at it’s finest. I don’t know what it is about the genre that I like so much but it is one that sucks me in.
A slightly less spooky book that I think would be perfect to reread in the Fall is Fake Blood. The book makes so many references to Twilight and it’s a great read for a younger audience (ages 9-12). I had so much fun reading it and I’ve never read the Twilight series or watched or read Vampire Diaries. It was the perfect mixture of funny, sweet and spooky!
Another book which is for the YA audience is Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Now don’t be confused CAOS fans, this graphic novel isn’t chilling. It’s fun, it’s full of what I call Sabrina oopsies and Salem talks and is as sassy as ever. I also recommend Jughead and Sabrina because again Sabrina is absolutely hilarious along with all of the spookiness that goes on in Greendale. No matter how bad things or how big of a mess she makes she somehow manages to find a way to fix things (or at least temporarily).
I don’t know what it is about L.M Montgomery and Fall but I’m often drawn to her work at this time of the year. I suppose her stories, because of their familiarity in Canadian culture are comforting. Despite my love for Anne however I want to recommend Emily. I adore Emily’s story just as much. Her friendship with Ilsa, her unwavering dream to write. Emily is often viewed as rebellious by those around her but it is this side of her that makes her strong and resilient. I feel like she’s seriously underrated. A lot of people don’t know she exists, and so I think it would be nice to introduce yourself to Emily this October (there’s also an anime if anyone is interested).
Lastly a book series that I continue to recommend over and over, Monster. Monster is incredibly chilling, incredibly thrilling and is a story that draws you in with its characters and plot. Not only is it a manga, it’s a historical fiction set in Germany which follows a Japanese Doctor as he tries to track down a patient that he never should have saved. Trust me, this series will have you staying up all kinds of hours reading. You won’t want to put it down!
What books are you looking forward to reading this Fall?
The other day at work, a co-worker of mine was admiring this beautifully illustrated book cover. I wish I could recall the name of the book so I could show an example, but her comment really made me think. She said, “I’m so glad that they’re going back to the illustrated version of this cover. I hate how boring a lot of covers have been these past few years.”
The two of us then went on to discuss how, since the first Twilight book came out a lot of book covers began to mimic the style and then ultimately readers were bombarded with stock images and lifeless photographs. Now, not to bash the creators of those types of covers…I believe that the covers for Twilight and their simplicity was actually well thought out. The issue that we discussed was that it seemed as though the plan was to get readers to buy a book because it had a similar cover to that of the Twilight series, versus coming up with something significant to the actual story.
I can clearly remember being a 13-15 year old wandering around my favourite bookstores and sighing at the cover art. I know that they say not to judge a book but it’s cover, but it’s the first thing a reader sees, not the review. Not the synopsis. Not the first page. The cover is what’s put on display for us.
Illustrated covers have always captured my attention. For example, the cover of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. It’s absolutely beautiful. When I saw it, I immediately was drawn to the book! That is what a cover is supposed to do. It’s supposed to capture your attention.
The design itself isn’t too complicated, and yet it captures the eye. It stirs curiosity. It makes you wonder what’s inside.
Illustrated covers, in my personal opinion, do a better job of conveying certain types of stories. Especially within much of fiction. It makes them stand out more.
If you compare the classic horror book covers to current ones, you’ll find yourself greatly disappointed. A few of my friends who are avid horror readers lament over the lack of character given to horror books today in comparison to the ones printed in the 70s, 80s and 90s.
Look at this cover of Misery by Stephen King.
The illustrated version of this cover is eye catching, whereas the version with the snow covered cabin doesn’t peak my curiosity as much. It doesn’t pull me in as much. This however, is my personal opinion. I have however, seen some horror book reviewers (along with friends of mine who adore the genre) discuss this in more detail.
As YouTuber In Praise of Shadows states in the video, book covers are supposed to give the reader some indication of the genre as well as what the story is about. However in recent years they have had to scan the covers for small clues…such as a single word in a review in fine print on the cover like, “haunting,” “shocking” or “disturbing.”
The older covers made it very clear what the books were about. Right now all of the covers, across these vast genres are blending together in a mess of bright colours and large font.
This video really grasps what my co-worker and I were discussing the other day. At some point all the books blend together.
I know many people who believe that The Hunger Games and the Divergent series are the same, simply because of how the covers were designed. People who know nothing about the plots for either series. This assumption came with how the books were marketed. I know that when I first saw the Divergent cover, I thought it was a Hunger Games spin off series. That was until I read the synopsis. I remember being almost…frustrated by how so many of the covers that came out that year, resembled The Hunger Games (and Twilight). I was so frustrated by it I missed out on reading a lot of potentially good books, and lost interest in much of what was published that year.
Now, as someone who also reads comic books and manga, I know how much work has to go into the covers for those. I’ve seen examples of some of the covers done for the more recent releases of the Jughead comics. There were several options done for the front cover, before one was selected by the team as the perfect cover. Guess what? I bought that comic solely based on the cover art.
Based on the cover you already know that Jughead and Sabrina are going to get themselves into some kind of mess (or fun!). Your eyes are draw to the different parts of it. The colours are eye catching. It makes you interested in the story.
When I look at some of the books being printed over the last few years, my curiosity isn’t peaked. A catchy title may draw me in but it’s the cover that makes me flip to the synopsis to learn more. It’s the cover that captivates me visually and draws me into this world created by the author. It’s the cover fills me with excitement.
I’m not saying that today’s covers are boring or lacking creativity. I know that design takes a long time. I just think that the genres are all blending together…to the point where each cover is more or less the same.
Even earlier this morning while I was looking at books. I was trying to guess where they went in the store, solely based on the covers. The adult romance books and the teen romance books were all clearly romance however the contrast between them was almost non-existent. I wasn’t able to tell which was YA and which wasn’t. Normally the shirtless cowboys are a dead giveaway. Not anymore. The majority of the books that I assumed were adult romances were actually YA. Some weren’t even romance books at all. They were coming of age novels. I must’ve blinked the confusion from my face at least 30 times while going through these books.
The fact that myself and many other readers are excited to see these unique, illustrated book covers just shows how much is lacking on the shelves. We want books that upon first glance make us excited, curious and capture our attention. We want to run our hands along the covers as we examine every detail, before continuing our individual book choosing rituals. Reading is an experience and for those like myself who read a lot and collect books it is extremely sad when books lack character in their design.
Sure, we shouldn’t judge books by their cover but covers convey so much. Like they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.