Title: The Moviemaking Magic of Star Wars – Creatures and Aliens
Author: Mark Salisbury
Release date: previously released in 2018
Genre: pop culture
Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers – an imprint of ABRAMS
(Finished review copy sent courtesy of ABRAMS).
THE MOVIEMAKING MAGIC OF STAR WARS: CREATURES AND ALIENS provides an in-depth look at what goes into creating the vast array of Star Wars characters you see on the big screen. From Yoda’s early concept art, to interviews with Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), to how the makeup and prosthetics were applied, this book is full of behind-the-scenes information that Star Wars fans of all ages will love to read!
Firstly, the book begins by stating each movie and the creatures that have a feature spot in the book. This was really handy to me because if I don’t know the name of the creature, but remember the movie it was in, I can look it up here.
From there, the book dives right in and gives backstory and history about each movie. Each intro page includes exclusive art. This is where fans of all ages will enjoy this book; whereas older fans may be more interested in the behind-the-scenes, younger fans will enjoy the art and the fold-out pictures. (See examples below). Almost every page includes fun, unknown facts about creatures and aliens, and some even have interactive elements like the fold-outs.
Below is an example of a “Force Fact.” I had no clue that a remixed donkey bray was used for the Tusken Raider yell! 😂
As the book progresses, you’ll see beautiful full-page pictures, behind-the-scenes photos, interviews with cast and crew members, fold-outs, fun facts, and more! Some of my favorite behind-the-scenes sections were the Ewok mask room and the Porg designers (see below).
All-in-all, THE MOVIEMAKING MAGIC OF STAR WARS: CREATURES AND ALIENS is an exciting book that’s just perfect for any Star Wars fan. You’ll love all the information about movie-making you didn’t know, seeing early concept art, and seeing how your favorite Star Wars creatures were made. I definitely recommend this book for Star Wars fans!
THE MOVIEMAKING MAGIC OF STAR WARS: CREATURES AND ALIENS receives 5 stars out of 5.
TITLE: The Phantom Forest
Author: Liz Kerin
Release date: July 16th, 2019.
Genre: YA epic fantasy
Trigger warning: mild gruesome descriptions
(ARC sent courtesy of Inkshares and Liz Kerin).
THE PHANTOM FOREST is one of those rare books that will have you thinking about it days after you’ve finished reading. From the emotional journeys the main characters go through, to the incredible world-building, THE PHANTOM FOREST is a haunting tale that will captivate you from page one. It is beautifully written and the mythology introduced is unique and like no other YA book I have read before. I predict that Liz Kerin’s debut novel will be the next hit book among young adult fans.
Here’s a short summary taken from Amazon:
Every tree in the sacred Forest of Laida houses a soul. And each of those souls will return to the mortal world for many future lives. But not all of them deserve to.
Seycia’s father told her this story as a child―a story of the most holy place in the Underworld, the Forest of Laida, where all souls go to rest before embarking on a new life. But Seycia’s father is dead now, and his killer has put a target on her back.
After she is chosen for her village’s human sacrifice ritual, Seycia is transported to the Underworld and must join forces with Haben, the demon to whom she was sacrificed. Together, they journey to the forest in the Underworld where all souls grow in a quest to destroy the tree of the man who killed her.
If you aren’t already hooked, I hope you will be by the end of this review. I can’t profess my love enough for THE PHANTOM FOREST. It was dark, rich, spooky, mysterious, intriguing, captivating, deathly, and overall, a beautiful story. To top it all off, it has one of the most genuine romances I’ve ever read.
If I’m honest, I have never been a fan of YA books that have more of a horror or dark vibe, but THE PHANTOM FOREST has completely changed me. Bring on the dark books, because I haven’t enjoyed a story this much in a while. I stayed up past two the first night I started this book – I couldn’t stop reading it.
Let’s talk a little about the main characters and what is interesting about them:
Seycia is a girl whose parents were killed by General Simeon, the man who rules their “city.” When Simeon shows up in the city and recognizes Seycia as the girl who he let escape on the day of their murder, he wants her brought to his manor. Seycia fights back, and as punishment, is forced to become the sacrifice to Dohv (think a Satan-like figure). When Seycia reaches the Underworld, she is found by a mysterious demon called Haben. Together, they make a pact to journey to the Forest of Laida to destroy Simeon’s tree (which houses his soul), and to destroy Haben’s so he can finally be at peace. But things happen along the way that cause a change in the plan set forth by Seycia and Haben, and their new feelings for each other prove to be dangerous since Dohv is always watching. [No spoilers, I promise!] She is a strong girl, but not kick-a$$ like what seems to be the norm now. Not that I have anything against that, but I liked that she had flaws and was still discovering her strength and what she could accomplish on her own.
Haben is a demon who is forced by Dohv to accept the sacrifices that General Simeon offers to him. He wishes to escape his horrible fate, so when Seycia comes along, he decides to spare her. I can’t say much about Haben, other then the fact that he is a sad soul. He isn’t like the swoony men that seem to predominate YA literature right now. He is conflicted and flawed, and handsome in his own way. What I liked best about Haben and Seycia’s eventual relationship is that it is natural, and Seycia doesn’t see Haben’s flaws or scars, but sees the man that he used to be and believes that he still feels like that.
Miko is Seycia’s brother and tries to stop General Simeon from taking Seycia. The two are very close. The story does shifts to two points of view, where we see Miko’s attempt to band together with other village members to attack Simeon and stop his reign of terror. His events eventually coincide with what Seycia is doing in the Underworld, and we see both their chapters intertwine toward the end. The only single thing I wasn’t a fan of throughout the book was going back to Miko’s POV. I was so enthralled with Seycia’s journey that I didn’t want to stop reading about it. As the action picked up, though, I really enjoyed reading how Miko and Seycia’s stories weaved together.
(The reason I put “mild gruesome descriptions” for the trigger warning is because the book does go into detail about what happens when Haben’s evil demon form receives its first sacrifice, but it is only about half a page. There is also a scene where a demon is being “tortured” by scarab beetles, but again, it is only half a page. By skipping over these scenes, you really don’t miss anything important. So, if you don’t feel comfortable reading them, you won’t miss anything important to the plot. I was fine with this, but I figured I’d better put this for others.)
If I had to say what books THE PHANTOM FOREST was like, it would be these: it’s like THE HUNGER GAMES was set 200 years earlier and people still believed in magic, the demons from THE SCREWTAPE letters were more modernized for this time period, the epic journey through Mordor from LORD OF THE RINGS is extended, we get a more twisted glimpse into the Underworld from HERCULES, and it twists in certain mythological elements from history. Basically, THE PHANTOM FOREST can appeal to people of all different ages because it has these themes that weave in and out of the story; and people who may have not read a book like this can relate it to other portions from different books.
It is harder to write a review without any spoilers, but I think that you all need to read this book for yourself so you can see just how incredible it is. The writing is beautiful and like I mentioned before, the story is so captivating. I know I’ve already talked about the romance, but it was superb. It wasn’t forced, it was natural, and the way that they genuinely grow to care for each other is lovely. Again, no spoilers, but the ending destroyed me. You’ll have to read it for yourself to see what happens!
All-in-all, I predict great things for THE PHANTOM FOREST. The story is vividly haunting, and will stay with you for days. I highly recommend it to any fan of young adult literature. I hope that THE PHANTOM FOREST will get the hype it deserves!
THE PHANTOM FOREST receives 5 stars out of 5.
Title: THE REVOLUTION OF BIRDIE RANDOLPH
Author: Brandy Colbert
Release date: August 2019
Publisher: NOVL (Little, Brown Young Readers)
Genre: YA realistic fiction
Trigger warnings: mentions of violence
(ARC sent courtesy of TheNOVL).
THE REVOLUTION OF BIRDIE RANDOLPH is a story of a girl searching for a sense of freedom, and a way to follow her own heart while still making sure her parents are happy. This is a lovely, fast-paced story that so many young women and men can relate to. Brandy Colbert has written a great new young adult realistic fiction book that you’ll want to read all in one sitting.
Here’s a short summary taken from Amazon:
Dove "Birdie" Randolph works hard to be the perfect daughter and follow the path her parents have laid out for her: She quit playing her beloved soccer, she keeps her nose buried in textbooks, and she's on track to finish high school at the top of her class. But then Birdie falls hard for Booker, a sweet boy with a troubled past...whom she knows her parents will never approve of.
When her estranged aunt Carlene returns to Chicago and moves into the family's apartment above their hair salon, Birdie notices the tension building at home. Carlene is sweet, friendly, and open-minded--she's also spent decades in and out of treatment facilities for addiction. As Birdie becomes closer to both Booker and Carlene, she yearns to spread her wings. But when long-buried secrets rise to the surface, everything she's known to be true is turned upside down.
As you all probably know by now, I don’t read too many realistic fiction books – but, I had seen Brandy Colbert’s new book and it looked really interesting to me. So, I decided to sign up to review an early copy! I am really glad that I was given the chance to review it, because I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The only other YA realistic fiction book that I liked this much was THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR by Nicola Yoon. In fact, if you liked that book, then you’ll most likely enjoy THE REVOLUTION OF BIRDIE RANDOLPH as well! In terms of pacing, relatable characters, and swoony romance, I predict that Brandy Colbert’s book will be a new favorite among YA realistic fiction readers.
The story centers around Dove (also called Birdie), and her struggle to tell her parents that she wants to date a boy who they may not approve of. His name is Booker, and even though he is nice to Dove, his past could still prevent him from ever being with her. The story also discusses the return of her aunt Carlene and why Dove’s family is so stand-offish toward Carlene. This proves to be an incredible plot twist that I never would have seen coming in a million years. Brandy Colbert did a great job at not dropping any hints about the plot twist until right before it happened, so it kept me on the edge of my seat throughout my whole read-through. (And yes, I did read it all in one day 😂).
Dove also encounters her ex-boyfriend when she goes to take an SAT prep class, and discovers something that she did not expect. (No spoilers here!). An intriguing cast of characters help – and sometimes hurt – Birdie along her journey: her mysterious aunt Carlene, her best friend Laz, his funny mom Ayanna, Dove’s mother and father, her ex-beau Mitchell, and more!
The only thing I wasn’t really a fan of is isn’t even an issue with the book, but rather I was a little angry at a specific character. I was upset at how hard a time Laz gives Birdie just because her family and life seems to be more stable than his. He is queer, and is struggling with coming out to his parents. Still, I thought that he should have been more understanding to Birdie since he knew that she is having a hard time too, and especially since they are best friends. I definitely think that Laz’s attitude didn’t help Birdie’s situation either, since she was looking for support. They were both looking for validity for their actions, and didn’t realize that other people can be having problems too. I do think that Laz realizes this by the end of the story, and he and Birdie kind of “make up.”
Also, aunt Carlene is such a great character. A central plot to the story is how she is recovering from being an addict, and how she wants to be a part of Dove’s life again. She’s funny, witty, and helps Dove to break out of her shell and to be the best person she can be. Another character I liked was Dove’s dad. As she starts branching out and doing more fun things – in addition to being a smart, “perfect” student like her mom wants her to be – Dove’s dad is very supportive of this. It seems that Dove’s mom has pushed Dove to be a good student, and while Dove is appreciative of this in some form, she wishes that she hadn’t missed out on doing fun, normal teenager things. I liked that Dove’s dad helped Dove find a happy medium between the two.
Once the book releases, I will add on to my review and discuss some of my favorite parts in the book and Dove’s change in character throughout the story.
All-in-all, for me not being a big fan of realistic fiction books, I really did enjoy THE REVOLUTION OF BIRDIE RANDOLPH! Like I mentioned above, Brandy Colbert does a great job at hooking the reader. She introduces so many plot twists and surprises that you can’t help but keep reading! You’ll fall in love with Birdie as she goes through things that many teenagers can relate to. Both adults and teens alike will love this book, and I definitely recommend it!
THE REVOLUTION OF BIRDIE RANDOLPH receives 4.5 stars out of 5.
(All opinions and views are my own, and I always review honestly while trying to be kind and diplomatic. I support and appreciate the efforts of the authors whose books I review, and I highly recommend reading a book for yourself to form your own opinions of it. Thank you for reading my review!)