#Review: Cici’s Journal by Joris Chamblain #GraphicNovel #ChildrensLit

I do a lot of reading for collection development in my school, and this week I’m in the mood of working smarter not harder – there just ain’t enough time to read and review all of the things that I want to! So, I have decided to start working some of the titles the read  for work into the blog. First up is Joris Chamblain’s beautiful graphic novel Cici’s Journal, which follows a young and aspiring writer as she investigates the mysterious people in her neighbourhood.

ciciTitle: Cici’s Journal

Author: Joris Chamblain

Publisher: First Second

Publication Date: November 7, 2017

Genre: Comics, Graphic Novel, Middle Grade Fiction, Children’s Fiction

Themes: Friendship, Family

Features: Writing exercises, Drawing exercises.

My Rating: 4.5 / 5


From Goodreads…

Cici dreams of being a novelist. Her favorite subject: people, especially adults. She’s been watching them and taking notes. Everybody has one special secret, Cici figures, and if you want to write about people, you need to understand what’s hiding inside them. But now she’s discovered something truly strange: an old man who disappears into the forest every Sunday with huge pots of paint in all sorts of colors. What is he up to? Why does he look so sad when he comes back?

In a graphic novel interwoven with journal notes, scrapbook pieces, and doodles, Cici assembles clues about the odd and wonderful people she’s uncovered, even as she struggles to understand the mundane: her family and friends.

My Review

I have a confession to make before I start this review – I initially requested this title from NetGalley, was turned down, and then shamelessly waited until it was purchased by the public library so that I could borrow it. I REALLY wanted to read it. You see, within our district we have bee having a debate about children’s journal/ diary books (Big Nate, Dear Dumb Diary, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dork Diaries, etc.) and whether or not they appeal to the lowest common (read crass and bawdy) denominator, or if they can have more value than being lumped in the class of ‘at lest they get kids reading’. With journal in the title, I was convinced that Cici’s Journal was going to be another text to enter this fray. Thankfully I was wrong.

Instead of being met with a book that plays on cheap jokes, stereotypes and crude humour we are presented with a story that is deep, insightful, and encourages readers to consider the impact of their actions on others. Our three leading ladies are complex and entirely individual, and all have distinct passions, talents, and ambitions. They all have different family dynamics, and how these circumstances impact behaviour and development is subtly explored.

I was initially struck by the blended delivery, with large portions of the book taking the form of a traditional text narrative relayed in notes, on journal pages, and even as simple back story as opposed to being a straight up graphic novel. The transition between the two mediums is always at an appropriate time, like when details are needed to the carry the story or set up the plot, and the transition between textual and visual representations just seem to flow. The switching back and forth between text and comic creates a dynamic reading experiences, and forces you to be engaged and observant, rather than simply along for the ride or there for the pictures.

On that note, the artwork itself is absolutely beautiful. The colours are vivid, there is a clear distinction between what is Cici’s voice and what is story telling, and the panel layout is easy to follow. The full page spreads are expressive and tend to focus on thinking or emotional moments rather than action, and the use of light and dark is is incredibly effective in setting moods. I was absolutely floored by Michael’s artwork in part one, and would go so far as to describe it as cinematically gorgeous.

In part one, The Petrified Zoo, readers are introduced to some lofty concepts like memory and nostalgia, loss of community icons, communicating the thoughts and feelings that are hardest to verbalize, and finding the courage to try new things. Now add in the fact that the story revolves around the children of a community banding together to help an old man and I’m 100% on board. Part two, Hector’s Book was just as good! It tackled subjects including the loss of loved ones, PTSD, toxic friendships, and navigating the transition from elementary to middle school. With topics likes these, I have to say that I’m impressed – especially when the target age group starts around 10. Comics or not, this ain’t no cotton candy reading!

However, when reading The Petrified Zoo I made note that I was uncomfortable with how easily and frequently Cici intentionally deceived her mother. And more to that, how often she expected her friends to participate in the deception. But, I was pleased to see this issue wholly addressed in part two with some pretty serious and realistic consequences. While I don’t necessarily agree with lying being part of our heroines identifying character traits, I do think that it is good character building and provides many impactful and teachable moments.

Finally, I absolutely loved the creative writing tips and techniques embedded throughout the stories. Everything from the imagination games to the character development cards, to the research and daily journalling can all be easily applied in practice. Whether readers are engaging in these activities on their own, or they are being lead through the book in a class, all of the prompts are fun and easily enacted. I can see curriculum connections in a great many areas – Language Arts, Health, Social Studies – and genuinely think that this would be an interesting book to consider for course inclusion.

Would I recommend this book? A million times yes! And not just for teachers, but for kids too – it’s so good! This is definitely one of the more sophisticated graphic novels on the market for children right now. Whether or not this is a book for seasoned readers or for those branching out from comics into more textually based works, Cici’s Journal is sure to appeal to a wide range of readers. I am curious to see what further instalments have in store, especially with regards to the relation between the girls and the unfolding drama between Cici’s mom and Ms. Flores.


#BlogTour #Review: The Betrayal by Anne Allen @rararesources @AnneAllen21

The Betrayal Banner

Today I am delighted to host a stop on the blog tour for Anne Allen’s latest instalment in The Guernsey Novels – The Betrayal. Falling somewhere between a cozy mystery and full blown historical fiction, Fiona and Leo’s stories will draw you in and hold on tight until the very end.


The Betrayal Cover LARGE EBOOK (1) Treachery and theft lead to death – and love

1940 – Teresa Bichard and her baby are sent by her beloved husband, Leo, to England as the Germans draw closer to Guernsey. Days later they invade…

1942 – Leo, of Jewish descent, is betrayed to the Germans and is sent to a concentration camp, never to return.

1945 – Teresa returns to find Leo did not survive and the family’s valuable art collection, including a Renoir, is missing. Heartbroken, she returns to England.

2011 – Nigel and his twin Fiona buy a long-established antique shop in Guernsey and during a refit, find a hidden stash of paintings, including what appears to be a Renoir. Days later, Fiona finds Nigel dead, an apparent suicide. Refusing to accept the verdict, a distraught Fiona employs a detective to help her discover the truth…

Searching for the true owner of the painting brings Fiona close to someone who opens a chink in her broken heart. Can she answer some crucial questions before laying her brother’s ghost to rest?

Who betrayed Leo?

Who knew about the stolen Renoir?

And are they prepared to kill – again?

Purchase Link – http://myBook.to/TheBetrayal

3D Cover x 6.small

A Triple Celebration and a Price Reduction!
For this week only, until 18th February, the price of books 2-6 of The Guernsey Novels is only £1.99/$2.99, with book 1, ‘Dangerous Waters, remaining at 99p/99c
This is in celebration of Anne Allen’s birthday, the 6th anniversary of the publication of ‘Dangerous Waters’ and the recent publication of book 6, ‘The Betrayal’.


When I first came across the blurb for this book, I just knew that I had to read it and that it wouldn’t sit long on my TBR pile. With a modern murder mystery rolled together with the WWII occupation of Guernsey, it looked like my dream book – I wasn’t disappointed!

The opening scene with Nigel’s murder, and the subsequent introduction of the Renoir, is one that certainly catches the attention. I was instantly drawn in to the mystery, curious about how the Renoir got there, and desperate to know how Fiona’s evaluation went in London. I was curious too, as to why someone would have known about the Renoir but never moved to claim it before the business sold and things got complicated.

The tension created between the parallel plots – Nigel’s murder, locating the Renoir’s owners, and learning Leo’s fate – ensured that the book moved along at a breakneck pace. And, while I am not normally a fan of too much romance mixed in with my murder, the relationship between Fiona and Michael provided some much needed relief from what would have otherwise been an oppressively dark and saddening tale.

I enjoyed John’s character immensely, and think that it was a smart move to have a different ‘investigator’ for each plot – Fiona for the Renoir, John for Nigel and Leo, and the detective for Nigel specifically. This meant that each element was able to receive the attention that it deserved and it never felt like anything was getting left behind. I was initially hesitant about Nigel’s involvement a la ghost form in the initial stages of the book, but the reality is that we all process grief differently and sometimes people do have experiences like this. Whether you take him as an actual ghost or lean towards considering his presence and subconscious manifestation while processing information, the nub and jib of it is that his continued presence in the story genuinely works!

On the other hand, I was expecting a little more action when it came to actually taking down Nigel’s murderer. After all of the lead up, the trap itself felt far too brief! I was hoping for some big reveal, giant plot twist, or massive action scene and instead we were given something perfectly realistic! I can’t be too upset with the neat and tidy ending though, because it’s actually great. I’m just a little salty and don’t like it when things are wrapped up all perfect. It’s actually the perfect book for when you want a a little drama but still want to be lifted up at then end.

I really appreciated how much attention was given to depicting life on Guernsey, both past and present, as it truly instilled a sense for the people and pace of of life on the island. Given that I’m from Alberta, where a 3 hour drive to the next nearest city is pretty common, I really enjoyed the sense I got for how small Guernsey is and one’s ability to navigate the entire island with with relative speed and ease. Now add in all the talk of architecture, historical villas, beaches and cliff sides and it’s impossible not to fall in love with the imagery.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely! It deals with some of my favourite topics, is incredibly well written, and somehow manages to remain light and approachable while dealing with some pretty weighty themes. Well researched and fast paced, The Betrayal is sure to have a little something for everyone.

Author Information 

Iphoto for email Anne Allen lives in Devon, by her beloved sea. She has three children, and her daughter and two grandchildren live nearby.  Her restless spirit has meant a number of moves which included Spain for a couple of years. The longest stay was in Guernsey for nearly fourteen years after falling in love with the island and the people. She contrived to leave one son behind to ensure a valid reason for frequent returns.

By profession, Anne was a psychotherapist, but long had the itch to write. Now a full-time writer, she has written The Guernsey Novels, six having been published and the seventh, The Inheritance, is due out in 2018.

Social Media Links

 Website: www.anneallen.co.uk

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Anne-Allen-Author-176883759173475/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AnneAllen21

Many thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for organizing this tour, and to Anne Allen for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

#Review: Hearts of Resistance by Soraya M. Lane #HistoricalFiction #WWIIFiction @Soraya_Lane

Today I have the pleasure of sharing a 4.5* review for Soraya M. Lane’s outstanding WWII novel Hearts of Resistance. Deeply emotional and equally action packed, this novel is sure to please lovers of thrillers, historical fiction, and women’s fiction alike.

heartsTitle: Hearts of Resistance 

Author: Soraya M. Lane

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Publication Date: January 10, 2018

Genre: Historical Fiction, WWII Fiction, General Fiction

Themes: WWII, French Resistance, Romance, Survival, POW, Friendship

Features: N/A

My Rating: 4.5/ 5


From Goodreads…

At the height of World War II, three women must come together to fight for freedom, for the men they love—and for each other.

When Hazel is given the chance to parachute into Nazi-occupied France, she seizes the opportunity to do more for the British war effort than file paperwork. Alongside her childhood friend, French-born Rose, she quickly rises up the ranks of the freedom fighters. For Rose, the Resistance is a link to her late husband, and a way to move forward without him. What starts out as helping downed airmen becomes a bigger cause when they meet Sophia, a German escapee and fierce critic of Hitler who is wanted by the Gestapo. Together the three women form a bond that will last a lifetime.

But amid the turmoil and tragedy of warfare, all three risk losing everything—and everyone—they hold dear. Will their united front be strong enough to see them through?

My Review

Oh my word, I don’t even know where to begin with this book. From the writing through to the characters, I was absolutely entranced from the first few words and refused to put the book down again until it was finished. Hazel, Sophia, and Rose were so compelling and had such strong elements of authenticity that I had to keep reminding myself that this was a work of fiction.

The choice to follow these three women from different backgrounds and at different times really worked to create a more wholistic idea of who and what the women in the French Resistance were. The constantly shifting perspectives kept things lively, and really helps to establish a sense of the enormity of their task. It was neat to see their individual stories come together, although I personally would have preferred for their stories to join up sooner just to have a little more time spent behind enemy lines.

Each of the three heroines is clearly defined, and not once do their characters, thoughts, or actions blend into one another. I enjoyed the amount of back story that was provided for each – Sophia’s upbringing in a wealthy Nazi family and her secret supports of Jews, Rose’s luxurious life and traumatic losses, and Hazel’s comfortable English life and feminist awakening – as the time spent on each drives home the losses and risks undertaken by each.

Although Hearts of Resistance is a more character based tale than my typical WWII picks, it still contains ample detail revealing the depth of Lane’s research. From the BBC broadcasts to the ciphers written on silk, and from the drop process to the physical components of the radio it is clear how much attention was paid to detail. I was fascinated too by the activities undertaken by the Maquis to hinder the Axis response to the Normandy landings, which meant that I have to see if this particular aspect was based in truth. This might not be a big secret by now, but I just love it when a work of fiction pushes me down the road of genuine research!

Nerding out aside, this is ultimately a tale of courage, survival, and loyalty. It explores the depths of morality and conviction under the most trying of circumstances, and it drives home that even in the face of loss that there is always something to fight for. But most importantly, this is a book that highlights the strength, determination, and empowerment of women at the most critical of times.

Would I recommend this book? Oh hells to the yes! Hearts of Resistance is another expertly crafted work of historical fiction that is sure to appeal to a broad range of readers. It has a little something for everyone including espionage, action, romance, and a little feminist kick. Buy it, borrow it, love it! This is one you won’t regret picking up.

Many thanks to Soraya M. Lane and Lake Union Publishing for providing a copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Cheesy Goodness Tag

Hello book nerds! I’m back with another fabulous tag,

Firstly, I want to thank Jenna at Bookmark Your Thoughts for tagging me in The Cheesy Goodness Tag. This was created by Sydney from Fire and Rain Books, and as this is a new tag I would love to see it go super far!

Thanks again love for tagging me in this epic tag…a tag about cheese (which I love)…brilliant!

The Rules

  1. Pingback the original creator (Sydney @ Fire and Rain Books) so she can see all your cheesy goodness answers.
  2. Pingback the person who tagged you (as per usual).
  3. Have fun!



pride and prejudice

Okay, I couldn’t find a cover that I liked for this one, so an old title page will have to do. But Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is hands down my favourite classic novel. I have read and reread my copy (okay, copies) of this so many times, more than one has worn out. My dream is to one day own a first edition… But I’ll need a whole lot more skrill in the bank before I even go there. In the meantime, I will settle for having the scene in which Liza Bennett rejects Mr. Darcy’s first proposal silk screened on a scarf and a beautiful leather bound that has a place of honour on my shelf.




I understand that some of the nuance was lost in the translation of this one, but I bawled my face off anyways. Filled with the highest of highs and heart wrenching lows, I was completely captivated. It was so good, in fact, that I haven’t been able to bring myself to read the sequel because I am scared that it will fail to live up to how amazing the first instalment is. Get ready to out yourself through the wringer, because The Art of Hearing Heartbeats is worth it.




Hated it… like, to the point where I couldn’t get past the first 100 pages. All my friends were raving and I couldn’t get past the icky, crazy, unhealthy relationship. I mean, I hated Twilight, and the fact that this started as Twilight fanfic didn’t help it’s cause at all. However steamy the erotic bits might have been, I could never get on board.




Kathleen O’Neal Gear and Michale Gear! My absolute favourite writing duo, the reason why I have a degree in Anthropology, and the reason why I was thrown out of many a class room for reading ‘inappropriate materials far above my grade level’. I have read everything the pair has ever written, and will continue to do so for as long as they keep writing.




Okay, so this is where my uber-nerd rears it’s ugly head. The book that makes me want to travel the most is the Cotton Nero a.x Manuscript. Weird, I know – but amazing. It makes me want to get my butt back to UK, plunk on my wellies, and go trecking through some (irate) farmer’s fields trying to retrace the path to the green chapel. Seriously though…. you know you want to!




I know this ties in with my Blue Cheese pick, but I love to hate Twilight. I read the series only after it became insanely popular and I wanted to know what all the hype was about. And, in a super pretentious and rather dick-like undergrad move, a class of us took it upon ourselves to send and red-pen edited version back to the publisher. Once again, icky unhealthy relationships fuelled my dislike, especially since it’s marketed to young women, and things may have spiralled out of control from there.

NOTE: I promise no other books have been mailed back to publishers with edits! I blame this episode on wine and college and rage.




Book version only – I kinda love Tris and Four. The movie didn’t get the same reaction out of me, but Theo James makes up for that a bit. Running a close second are the Harry/ Ginny and Ron/ Hermione pairings from Harry Potter… and we may as well include the Aragon/ Arwen romance in LOTR.




I will never stop loving this collection, nor The Light in the Attic or The Giving Tree. I still read these to my students, and their reaction and wonderment is much the same as mine at their age. So, so, so much love!




Okay, so maybe this one applies to almost anything Joe Sacco. Too many people write off his work as being ‘silly comics’. But seriously, with works like Foot Notes in Gaza, Palestine, and Safe Area Gorazde from the cover are you might be expecting some graphic ‘Historical’ retellings in comics format, but instead you are hit with some deeply human stories that make you rethink conflicts, how media portrays right and wrong, and how we come to our labels of aggressors and victims.




This iteration of the Joker had my skin crawling. Ten ways of twisted and incredibly well done… but seriously f’ed up! Now add in the art work with that creepy smile, and this was one of the few comics that I will only every read once. Heebie Jeebies officially achieved!


If you haven’t been tagged and would like to do this, I officially tag you too!

Thank you again Jenna for tagging me – I had a great time going through some of my favourite titles, and may have even broken out a bottle of wine and a mini cheese board while writing.

The Bookish Naughty List Tag

Time to confess all of my bookish sins!

The tag was originally created by A Page of Jenniely and I was tagged by Inge @TheBelgianReviewer to do it. So, let’s go…


1. Received an ARC and not reviewed it: Eek, I have few that I’ve received that I haven’t gotten around to reading yet. It’s only been a few months (okay 3) for one of them, and about 2 weeks for the other two. But it will happen!

2. Have less than 60% feedback rating on NetGalley: Nope! It takes some insane self control though not to request everything that I want to, but that pesky archived by date keeps me from loading my boots…

3. Rated a book on Goodreads and promised a full review was to come on your blog (and never did): Nope, but I have a fair few that I put the star rating in on Goodreads right after I finished them and never got around to adding the full review on.

4. Folded down the page of a book: Yep. But never on an ARC, library book, or book that I bought new. I only fold pages on books that were bought from a charity shop and already tatty to begin with!

5. Accidentally spilled on a book: I am loath to say that I have… and often. Hi, my name is Jessica and I am the worlds biggest Klutz. Spills include soup, coffee, dry rice, cooked rice, spaghetti WITH meat sauce and so much more. I have also dropped a few in the tub when I’ve attempted some jacuzzi reading.

6. DNF a book this year: None this year (thank goodness we’re only a few weeks in). Although, I did have 2 last year. One by choice, and another where the Galley had a built in kill date that I failed to finish reading before it kicked in.

7. Bought a book purely because it was pretty with no intention of reading it: Often. And I am not ashamed of it. As someone who collects rare and antiquarian books I regularly buy books with pretty gilt bindings. I have never read a one of them!

8. Read whilst you were meant to be doing something else: Guilty as charged! This tends to crop up when things like house work, laundry, and reports for work need doing…

9. Skim read a book: Is it fair to say not since university? I skim read a fair few during my undergrad, but everything I have picked up since has been because I wanted to.

10. Completely missed your Goodreads goal: Yup! Last year was my first year trying out the Goodreads challenge. I wanted to read 100 books – which was a foolish goals as I started half way through the year. I think I fell about 40 short!

11. Borrowed a book and not returned it: ….Er, never from a library. But say if a person moves away and you forget to bring it with you when you go to visit…

12. Broke a book buying ban: Isn’t that what NetGalley was invented for?

13. Started a review, left it for ages then forgot what the book was about: Yes, and that reminds me that I have about three on the go right now… Thank goodness I take notes!

14. Wrote in a book you were reading: Write in? No, never. But if the question were do you use sticky notes I would have an entirely different answer.

15. Finished a book and not added it to your Goodreads: Yes, but if memory serves correct it was only because I couldn’t find them on Goodreads… or because it was something I didn’t want the world to know I was reading! **cough cough – smut when the hubby is gone for long stints for work – cough cough**

I TAG the following bloggers/blogs but feel free to ignore if you don’t want to do this :