Sky Without Stars by Jessica Brody

Sky Without Stars (System Divine, #1)Sky Without Stars by Jessica Brody
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a YA space Sci-Fi that is a reimagined and futuristic take on Les Miserables. Let’s just appreciate that strange meshing of worlds for a moment.

Overall, I enjoyed this novel, including the multiple POVs and the fascinating world/universe. Occasionally, it felt a big sluggish, and I think in this instance, the story would be better if it was tighter and the pacing faster. Probably the 3 POVs ended up slowing the story down, though I found them quite interesting and necessary to showing the depth of the world.

This story is also a bit rambling at times, and I did zone out occasionally and have to force myself to refocus. It’s occasionally guilty of throwing too many unnecessary details at you at once, which becomes too much to absorb, but then it recovers pretty quickly. In addition, the plot lingers at times, when it should just press forward, so instead of an action-packed adventure, it sometimes feels like more of a character study.

Despite some of those issues, I enjoyed the character building and growth, though with a novel of this size, I do wish it had run even a bit deeper than it does. I’m happy this is a series, because I think this is a good step in the right direction, and I’m curious to see what comes next. I remain very hopeful that this is one of those series where the first book is busy laying the groundwork, but it’s the later books that make you love the world beyond compare.

—the French influences
—the wildly different worldviews of the 3 POVs
—the social hierarchy

—more diversity
—more twists and surprises
—more complex relationships between characters

This is a great pick for YA Sci-Fi and fantasy fans, as well as for those that like unique retellings/reimaginings, and/or multiple POVs.

Pages: 592

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The Iliad by Gareth Hinds

The IliadThe Iliad by Gareth Hinds
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I love this concept of telling the story of the Iliad using a graphic novel, but I confess that I did still struggle to push through this, often caught myself skimming, and probably didn’t absorb much of it. It wasn’t at all what I was expecting, as it has very text heavy panels and the art is a bit rough around the edges, with an almost biblical feel.

It can be a challenging read in its original format, with all of the different characters. They did a good job of trying to include identifiers to help you recognize certain characters, and they even included a character key/chart at the start. However, if you aren’t the type to just memorize all the names, facts, and pictures, it’s a bit like information overload. You aren’t going to remember any of it when you actually need it.

In other words, they did everything they could to help me successfully read this graphic novel, but I still fought against the archaic language and overwhelmingly quick introduction of characters whom I was just expected to know.

The panels are very text heavy, and while I understand why, it became tiring. I think this is like a retelling of the Iliad with pictures, and I wanted a true graphic novel format, which might have been unreasonable of me. What I really hoped for, when I opened this one, was for the story to be broken down into easy to follow scenes and everyday language. But maybe I was asking for and expecting too much from this particular piece of literature. The original is a bear, and on some level, this graphic novel does make the story more readable and interesting. However, I’ve come to realize I’m just not that interested in reading this story again. It was painful and confusing enough the first time I read it in the full text version.

I think what they did was try to stay true to the original, and while this would be handy in a school or research setting, when you are forced to read or study the original version, I didn’t enjoy revisiting this story as an adult. I just wanted to really be able to wrap my mind around it and enjoy the story, but I found it tedious and often confusing. Most of the time, I wasn’t sure who was who or what was really happening and why, which I hate to confess, since I’ve studied the original Iliad before (sorry, mom!).

Thank you to Netgalley, and the publisher, for allowing me to read an advanced copy. This graphic novel will be available tomorrow, on March 12, 2019. If you are currently reading or studying The Iliad, then I definitely recommend this as a tool to help you better understand the literature. It would be absolutely great for that purpose. For all others, this one is for either big fans of ancient lit, or those who love to bury themselves in overwhelming details about characters and Gods. It’s definitely not for your average graphic novel reader, who will likely find this version to be tiresome.

Pages: 272

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Island Book by Evan Dahm

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


This graphic novel kicks off with a whole lot of telling and backstory, which is disappointing, but still, I was interested in where this might go. Somewhere around panel 40, this becomes more interesting. Luckily, with this simple format, you can progress to that panel quickly, so just hang in there through the rocky start.

The artwork is very simple and clean with mostly muted colors that I really enjoyed. It gives everything a nice, moody feel. There’s actually a lot of visual depth in the scenes, and you can feel the action and motion in the drawings, especially in terms of the movement of boats and water. Honestly, the artwork is probably my favorite things about this one.

In the first 40 panels, most of the characters look identical, so that is confusing. However, the side characters from the first world don’t really seem to have names, personalities, or much of a purpose, other than to interact with Sola, the MC, so once you figure out which one is Sola, the scenes start to make more sense.

I think that the simple format and storytelling is good for the intended audience, overall. This just completely lacks character development and clarity in the world building, other than what you can guess at from what you see in the artwork. It basically becomes a long journey with multiple stops to add new underdeveloped side characters. The dialogue tends to be a bit vague and often awkward or cheesy. It doesn’t always move the story forward effectively. I have to confess that I liked the wordless panels the best.

The end is pretty confusing, anticlimactic, and disappointing. You don’t get any true answers, and if it’s trying to express a deeper message, the younger intended audience isn’t going to get it. I’m 38, and read a lot, and I was completely unconvinced of any deeper meaning or message. I felt like I just went on a long, useless journey. Sure, it was interesting, when I thought it was building to something, but once I realized there wasn’t going to be any true plot development or resolution, I just had to force myself through to the last panel.

Still, despite these many concerns with the format and storytelling, something is compelling about this one. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is, other than I enjoyed the otherworldly quality and adventure of it. It’s best for young readers who are new to graphic novels, and it likely won’t have as much appeal to older graphic novel fans who like to read across age categories, particularly teens and adults, as we tend to expect a more solid storyline and some actual character development.

Thank you to Netgalley, and the publisher, for allowing me to read an advanced copy. This graphic novel will be published on May 14, 2019.

Pages: 290

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Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Where'd You Go, BernadetteWhere’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is awkward and quirky, in the best sort of way. I confess, I was along on the ride more for the amusing character interactions and relationships, rather than for the mystery, but the mystery was interesting, overall.

This was very different than what I expected, which tends to be a good thing.

Pages: 330

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