Remember The Baiji

“Remember, wisdom is attained by three methods: first, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third, by experience, which is the bitterest.”

A story of friendship and loss, The Baiji involves young Ai Bao and her best friend in the whole big wide world, Shu Rui, a girl with a beautiful smile and a weak heart. During the Spring Festival, the girls venture on a ferry ride over the Yangtze River, hoping catch a glimpse of Ai Bao’s favorite animal, an endangered species of river dolphin called the baiji. Will Ai Bao see the rare dolphin or is the baiji gone forever?

Read The Baiji this summer and leave an honest review!

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It is all for the bright!

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Book Review: Firefight by Brandon Sanderson

“You seem okay now.”

She toyed with her gun, flicking the weapon’s safety on and off, her eyes still upward. “It’s easier around you. I don’t know why.”

Well, that was something. It made me think. “Maybe it has to do with your weakness.”

Firefight by Brandon Sanderson

Firefight is the second book in The Reckoners series. The plot picks up where Steelheart left off and starts running. The characters travel from Newcago (Chicago) all the way to Babilar (the former New York City in this dystopian future.) New Epics (bad guys) are introduced, such as Regalia and Obliteration.

Sanderson’s intentional overuse of similes and metaphors remains charming, albeit a stretch at times. The comic aspects of the novel are off-set by the serious theme of weakness and the conflict of Prof’s struggle. Romance blooms, but it’s late and lazy.

The action scenes drag on at times, but quirky new characters like Mizzy and Dawnslight provided sufficient dramatic rest from the all out action. The plot roamed around aimlessly for a while, but then returned to center for the conclusion.

David is an endearing goof and remained static throughout. The biggest character arc was found in Prof, while Megan had an intriguing arc too, though the explanation of her powers was odd and hard to digest. Weaknesses of the Epics were investigated and David’s philosophy about them leaves the reader unsatisfied enough to run out and buy the next installment in the series, Calamity.

Sanderson is fun and games, with comedy and heart thrown in for free. And potatoes.

 Check out Brandon Sanderson!


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Comic Book Review- Ms. Marvel

When a strange terrigen mist descended upon Jersey City, Kamala Khan was imbued with polymorph powers. Using her new abilities to fight evil and protect Jersey City, she became the all-new Ms. Marvel!

So…I like comics now.

I never gave them a fair shot before, I admit. My brother was the comic book nerd, not me. A few years ago, my sons inherited some of his Spiderman comics. Recently, I picked one up and thought, ‘Spiderman’s my favorite, why haven’t I read this yet?’ So I did. And it was so fun! But so short! Word bubbles, art, witty banter (love that Spidey attitude), and lots of ridiculous action. But it’s over pretty fast. Oh well. There’re definitely worse things than a quick story with cool pictures.

Ms. Marvel is a reboot of sorts. The original Ms. Marvel, Carol Danvers, had a quite active existence in the Marvel universe. I did some research and here’s what stuck out to me about her—she started out in the Air Force, joined the C. I. A., was captured by  the KGB, took a position at NASA, fell in love with Captain Marvel who made her a Kree-human hybrid, worked as a feminist writer for the Daily Bugle, 52d97cc64c223_320773bfought lots of bad guys, was manipulated and seduced by a stalker named Marcus who impregnated her with a child who grew up into, uh, Marcus (?),  lost her memories after Rogue accidentally absorbed too much of her power, was rescued by Spider-Woman, fixed by Professor X, confronted the Avengers for abandoning her, turned into an alcoholic, joined AA, got better, and eventually turned down Captain America’s offer of membership in the new Avengers team.   

The new Ms. Marvel is a second-generation Pakistani-American high school student. She’s a nerdy high school girl who never felt like she fit in. She experiences boy-drama, deals with pressure from her family, school, and faith leaders. Kamala is a fangirl. She runs a website called Freakingawesome.com. Her thz1a7fjtjfavorite word is definitely ‘awesome.’ Oh, and her superhero schedule is quite full.

School, Avengers, my regular bi-weekly dungeon group in Ancient Scrolls Online…it’s all great, but it’s what Abu would call a problem of plenty. And the thing about a problem of plenty is…it’s still a problem.

-001, Ms. Marvel, 2016

Her powers are interesting. She’s an Inhuman with polymorphic abilities. She can stretch, expand, or compress her entire body or parts into any shape, has an accelerated healing factor which makes her extremely hungry and fatigued. Her body emits a bioluminescence when she uses her powers. Kamala can alter her physical appearance to mimic inanimate objects or other people. She’s vulnerable to EMPs and needs a special biokinetic polymer (super snot) suit that’s damaged by exposure to water.

One of my favorite volumes is 007: 2016. Ms. Marvel has an unexpected sidekick—Wolverine. He’s a totally miserable grouch and she’s, well, a giddy fangirl who says ‘awesome’ a lot. They beat up a massive alligator in the sewers of Jersey City and save the day. At least, for now.

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I highly recommend Ms. Marvel for younger teen girls, but also for all the adolescent boys out there. This girl is complicated in all the right ways. She’s anything but shallow, an everyday hero with real-life issues who learns how to balance her superhero activities and risks with her regular life. It doesn’t always work out. Teens can totally relate to her struggles, even if they can’t relate to shrinking to the size of a grasshopper. We all have battles to fight. Teens of faith may find Kamala especially relatable because they understand what it’s like to maintain question certain standards and question traditions that other students may not consider at all.

Well, I’m addicted.

Now I have a growing collection of female superhero comics—Spiderwoman, Supergirl, Batgirl, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Wonder Woman. (Feminist Confession Time– I have a soft spot for the Silver Surfer. But that means I can include the Invisible Woman from the Fantastic Four in my Tour of Women Superheroes!)

Find Ms. Marvel and become a comic addict.

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Book Review of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

The Cursed Child is a rehashing of the HP world, an epilogue, if you will, in screenplay format. Will everyone like it? No. Did I? Yes. Why, you ask? (Pretend I’m answering in a British accent, thereby sounding way more professorial and magical than I am.)

Why did I, D. Marie Prokop, like The Cursed Child?

Because, like the most recent version of Harry Potter, I’m a middle-aged, tired, over-worked parent who, deep-down, really wants her kids to like her. I also miss the glory days of inhaling children’s and YA literature as easy to digest and as undeniably delicious as Harry Potter. Though I am NOT off sweets as an adult, there are many things I miss about being young. As a parent of teens, The Cursed Child felt like J.K. included me in the story this time also. There were tears and stuff. Grown-up, muggle-style ones…

J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is unrivaled, in my opinion. Her fantasy story about an adolescent misfit wizard inspired millions of children to read fiction. Respect is due. And I hate to let a good story end. Therefore, I thoroughly enjoyed this epilogue-of-sorts. I also appreciated the format. I read a LOT, but I have a jam-packed life, and screenplays are much easier to digest quickly. I took it slow simply because I have a stubborn side that didn’t want the magic to stop. Again.

Anyway, I don’t want to give away any spoilers, so I won’t go into details. I’ll suffice it to say, the story was okay. Not fantastic, but okay. It was new-ish, with gobs of nostalgia to take you back in time without a time-turner. Remember Bane, Platform Nine and ¾, Dolores Umbridge, Cedric Diggory, the Mauraders Map, Moaning Myrtle, and the Invisibility Cloak?

Good times . . . again.

Quote #1

TROLLEY WITCH: These hands have made over six million Pumpkin Pasties. I’ve gotten quite good at them. But what people haven’t noticed about my Pumpkin Pasties is how easily they transform into something else . . .

She picks up a Pumpkin Pasty. She throws it like a grenade. It explodes.

Quote #2

HARRY: You really think this could all mean something?

HERMIONE (with a smile): It could do. But if it does, we’ll find a way to fight it, Harry. We always have.

 Harry Potter And The Cursed Child: The Play

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This Over-Zealous Jesus-Freak

Oh crap. The retreat. 

Kayla clears her throat in a vain attempt to make me feel guilty.  She’s bummed that I refused to go to some lame youth retreat with her this weekend.  My mother and my new step-father, Bob, are also disappointed. They were about to be outdone in their disappointment by this over-zealous Jesus-freak.

On The Outward Appearance, a YA Fantasy Short Story by D. Marie Prokop


On The Outward Appearance takes a brave and uncomfortable look at the human heart.

Please leave a review so others can discover this introspective tale that stares cynicism in the face and ponders the conclusion that good and bad aren’t as simple as they look.

Thankfully, neither is love.


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Tenderfoot by Abby Drinen Book Review

Told from rotating points of view, this YA Sci-fi journey story about troubled Earth teens who are pulled into another world to live carries the reader from one conflict to the next with riveting intrigue, unceasing action, and definite heart.

This first volume in the foreseeable series does quite a lot of foundation work, introducing the reader to the world of Enova, a place similar to Earth, but different in many important ways. The author switches between four viewpoints and only drops hints about their sordid pasts, leaving enough mystery to peek your interest, but holding back enough to keep you reading.

The four characters, two boys and two girls, are distinct, and begins with perhaps the most enigmatic, Linnea. Each of the Earthers are teenagers with a past they want to forget, and wake up one day in a new world where they find healing and happiness. But an assassination attempt on all four brings them together in a joint fight for their lives. Their Enovian guardians join them in the journey to find a safe place while the attack is investigated. The story focuses on this journey, with little rest for the weary, but gifted, characters. Even the ending gives them little respite before throwing another confounding twist into the mix, to be continued in the next installation of the Enova series.

Succinct writing, non-stop action, changing POVs, a colorfully created environment, and an undercurrent of mystery make Tenderfoot an enjoyable must-read for fans of YA Science Fiction.   

“No lights, no sound. But my skin knows this isn’t home. Why aren’t I afraid?”

Get Tenderfoot by Abby Drinen

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Stardusters by Megan Morris – Book Review

“The thing was, she had no idea how to move on from here.  She had no clue how to proceed with the rest of her life. The void that was left in her heart was an expanse the size of a canyon, and Erin knew that there was never going to be anything that could possibly fill that gaping wound.”

-Excerpt from Stardusters by Megan Morris

Stardusters is the first YA Sci-fi novel in a planned series by new Houston author, Megan Morris. It’s the story of a teen named Erin, a softball star and only child, whose mother is murdered. The loss is hard on her. Life gets even more complicated when she picks up a strange rock left at the scene of the crime and takes it home. The rock is made of star dust and causes strange things to happen to Erin. Soon she is introduced to someone who has been sent to guide her to a whole new world, the world of dusting. Her guide, a handsome young man named Jay, teaches her what Stardusters do and informs her that there is more to the world than she ever imagined. It’s the Stardusters job to protect worlds from rogue visitors who use star dust without authorization, possibly for nefarious reasons. Erin dives into her new responsibility with gusto, partly to escape her grief and partly to impress her handsome mentor. Eventually, Erin discovers information about her mother’s murder that pushes her to make some tough choices. Book One of this new series ends with a cliffhanger and an invitation to stay tuned for the next book—Wanderlust.

This author’s first novel succeeds in creating an interesting world (influenced by Doctor Who and other time-travel tales) and develops an intriguing plot line. The cover by Fiona Jayde Media is gorgeous. The characters are clearly described, relatable, and slightly complex. Erin’s intense grief is palpable and reads true, without turning cumbersome with over-description. The author successfully spreads out world-building information in digestible increments to avoid info-dumping. Conflicts keep the reader enticed and wanting to know more, especially though the blossoming romance, family secrets, and the hint of a conspiracy in the Stardusters leadership.

There are vast slews of commas missing randomly throughout the book, which is distracting; but overall, the grammar is acceptable. Some scenes in the story take place in present tense for a purpose, though their purpose is never explored in this volume. Also, the ending is abrupt, which makes Stardusters read poorly as a stand-alone novel. It doesn’t possess its own singular arc with a fulfilling conclusion and then offer clues for what readers should anticipate in the next adventure.

Fortunately there is more to come from this talented YA author!

Check out Megan Morris and Stardusters!

 

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Book Review- “Silence” by Shusaku Endo

“A great shadow passed over his soul like that of the wings of a bird flying over the mast of a ship. The wings of the bird now brought to his mind the memory of the various ways in which the Christians had died. At that time, too, God had been silent. When the misty rain floated over the sea, he was silent. When the one-eyed man had been killed beneath the blazing rays of the sun, he had said nothing. But at that time, the priest had been able to stand it; or rather than stand it, he had been able to thrust the terrible doubt far from the threshold of his mind. But now it was different. Why is God continually silent while those groaning voices go on?”

 

Set in Nagasaki, Japan in the early 1600’s, Silence is a historical fiction novel influenced by the true accounts of violent torture and ousting of Christian missionaries and other Western influences from Japan in the late 1500’s- early 1600’s. It is a fictional tale with names plucked from history through letters and other records researched by the author, a Japanese Catholic writer named Shusaku Endo (Volcano, The Samurai, Deep River.) Silence was written in 1966 and became a controversial book in the eyes of some Japanese Christians, who believe it didn’t offer enough devotion to the Japanese martyrs of Christ and proves the lack of faith held by the priests who apostatized under the regime of Inoue, who was infamous for hanging Christians from a rope over a pit for days–until they died.

The main character, Sebastian Rodrigues, is a devout Catholic priest from Portugal, traveling to Japan with fellow priest, Garrpe.  The duo hold quite a childlike faith at the start of the journey. The struggle to spread the Christian religion and also to maintain the practices of the oppressed believers in Japan, holding fast to their faith in secret, was real. Endo does not portray the priests as cowards, though their adamant faith in God begins to waver; and eventually, they wonder when–or if–God will act.  Or even speak.

The most memorable character, the story’s Gollum, adds further weight to the questions raised by this story chronicling the foreign priests’ struggle between faithfulness and apostasy. Kichijiro is a disgusting weasel who volunteers to be the priests’ guide. He comes and goes throughout the story. Though not a likeable character, Kichijiro cannot be ignored and plays an intrinsic role, akin to the fallen, tortured, former Hobbit from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.

One compelling scene occurs when Rodriguez imagines the face of Christ as he experiences his own torture, paralleling Christ’s suffering. The priest recites the liturgy of the Passion and reminisces on his many years of faithfulness to that face. Both torturous events end with similar concluding statements and the silence of God.

With an ending that may leave the reader with much to grapple with on a personal spiritual level, Silence is also a worthy read for anyone who appreciates historical fiction, Japanese history, the history of Catholicism, or stories about martyrs.


This year marks the 50th anniversary of the novel, Silence, and the soon-to-be-released film by Martin Scorsese based on the story (with Andrew Garfield from The Amazing Spiderman as Rodriguez, Adam Driver of The Force Awakens as Garrpe, and Yosuke Kubozuka as Kichijiro.)

Artist Makoto Fujimura has published a beautiful non-fiction book to help readers connect further with this tale focusing on the martyrs in Japanese history. A set of Fujimura’s unique paintings have been inspired by the novel as well.


It is all for the bright

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Book Festivals- From An Author’s POV

It’s hard being an author in public. Dang hard. You have to talk without cue cards. Smile through the pain, the hunger, and the awkwardness. Make jokes, possibly. And the worst part–you’re supposed to sell books!

But it’s worth it.

Here’s a blog post from one of my most trusted beta-readers and fellow Sci-fi YA author, Ethan A. Cooper (What Happened On My Space Vacation– my review is here), about his first experience at a book festival–the preparations, the excitement, and the lessons learned. He was lucky enough to have some awesome companionship, his 10-year-old daughter, Lily, author of The Journey.

Enjoy– Necrotic Times: First time in the author booth