Review: Bingo Love by Tee Franklin (Author), Jenn St-Onge (Artist), Joy San (Colorist), Cardinal Rae (Letterer)

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Published: 20 February 2018

Publisher: Image Comics

Category: Graphic Novel/Romance/LGBT+ (Lesbian/Pansexual)

When Hazel Johnson and Mari McCray met at church bingo in 1963, it was love at first sight. Forced apart by their families and society, Hazel and Mari both married young men and had families. Decades later, now in their mid-’60s, Hazel and Mari reunite again at a church bingo hall. Realizing their love for each other is still alive, what these grandmothers do next takes absolute strength and courage.

From TEE FRANKLIN (NAILBITER’s “THE OUTFIT,” Love is Love) and JENN ST-ONGE (Jem & the Misfits), BINGO LOVE is a touching story of love, family, and resiliency that spans over 60 years.

Rating:  4 Stars

Hazel, or Elle, and Mari meet during a time when it’s was especially difficult to love someone of the same gender. Despite this, a relationship is kindled between the two that sets the foundation for a lasting connection that spans decades.

There’s a lot of questioning going on in the story, particularly for Elle in her later years, as she decides what to do regarding her husband and family of over fifty years when Mari reappears in her life. The situation is a difficult one: what to do, what to say, how to handle her own feelings versus those of the people around it. Some scenes are more difficult to read than others because I felt a stomach pinch, sympathizing with Elle as she debated these paths.

We don’t see too much of Mari’s side of the story, whether she struggled with questioning her sexuality or her life. There are a few lines when Elle asks her questions about her choice to leave her husband so willingly, but these are next to nothing throwaway lines and we never see him or get any real sense of Mari’s life during her and Elle’s time apart.

There’s some technology mentioned near the end of the story used to cope with what I believe is Alzheimer’s that was interesting, if potentially heartbreaking. The very beginning of the book and the very end are set about twenty years from now, so whether it’s viable or not is questionable, but for the place it had in the story, I thought it worked fine.

There’s something of a bittersweet ending awaiting, though it is well worth any tears that may be shed in the reading.

 

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from Image Comics in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

 

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Review: The Book of Pearl by Timothée de Fombelle, Sarah Ardizzone (Translator), Sam Gordon (Translator)

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Published: 6 February 2018 (first published November 2014)

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Category: Fantasy/Young Adult/Cultural (France)

In prose as magical and intricate as the tale it tells, Timothée de Fombelle delivers an unforgettable story of a first love that defines a lifetime.

Joshua Pearl comes from a world that we no longer believe in — a world of fairy tale. He knows that his great love waits for him there, but he is stuck in an unfamiliar time and place — an old-world marshmallow shop in Paris on the eve of World War II. As his memories begin to fade, Joshua seeks out strange objects: tiny fragments of tales that have already been told, trinkets that might possibly help him prove his own story before his love is lost forever. Sarah Ardizzone and Sam Gordon translate the original French into a work both luminous and layered, enabling Timothée de Fombelle’s modern fairy tale to thrum with magic. Brimming with romance and history, mystery and adventure, this ode to the power of memory, storytelling, and love will ensnare any reader’s imagination and every reader’s heart.

Rating: 4 Stars

The Book of Pearl started out a little rough for me. It opens with a fairy having given up her powers to save the life of a prince she loves. Typical fairy tale stuff, right? The writing in this prologue or whatever you want to call is felt unfinished, or perhaps translated badly, because it read like the literary version of a kaleidoscope being shaken up and you’re trying to see where the pattern is in everything.

After getting through it, however, I found that the writing was so much more enjoyable. There were some mysterious elements and people whose identities were obscured, but events and revelations began to unfold in an engaging manner.

I assumed, from the description, that a lot more time would be spent in the marshmallow shop. When that turned out not to be the case, I was a bit disappointed. Joshua’s journey does go all over the place, considering he ends up enlisting during WWII. The fairy tale elements that he finds, whether a story book or a mermaid scale, don’t initially come across as a quest for proof of his world. The two examples I mentioned he encounters by accident.

Even as the book didn’t turn out as I expected, I found myself wanting to consume it, to figure out who these characters were, to see what kind of ending was in store.

There were different points of view throughout, but only one told from the first person perspective. It was that one that was the least clear or concise for me. Everyone else ended up having a distinct identity and more than a few interconnected stories, but the man that narrated “I” and was the author of the in-story “The Book of Pearl” felt forced. His function seemed to be to insert the reader into the story, but that was accomplished without his presence. His separatness took me away from Joshua/Ilian and Olia’s story.

That aside, I think this story had a lot of interesting points and strengths regarding the power of fairy tales and what they mean to people. Stories, beliefs, their power can go so far, even so far as to break a curse and reunite lost lovers if only you’ll believe.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Review: Chaotic Good by Whitney Gardner

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Published: 13 March 2018

Publisher: Knopf

Category: Young Adult/Contemporary

Cameron’s cosplay–dressing like a fictional character–is finally starting to earn her attention–attention she hopes to use to get into the CalTech costume department for college. But when she wins a major competition, she inadvertently sets off a firestorm of angry comments from male fans.

When Cameron’s family moves the summer before her senior year, she hopes to complete her costume portfolio in peace and quiet away from the abuse. Unfortunately, the only comic shop in town–her main destination for character reference–is staffed by a dudebro owner who challenges every woman who comes into the shop.

At her twin brother’s suggestion, Cameron borrows a set of his clothes and uses her costuming expertise to waltz into the shop as Boy Cameron, where she’s shocked at how easily she’s accepted into the nerd inner sanctum. Soon, Cameron finds herself drafted into a D&D campaign alongside the jerky shop-owner Brody, friendly (almost flirtatiously so) clerk Wyatt, handsome Lincoln, and her bro Cooper, dragged along for good measure.

But as her “secret identity” gets more and more entrenched, Cameron’s portfolio falls by the wayside–and her feelings for Lincoln threaten to make a complicated situation even more precarious.

Rating:  4 Stars

CW: bullying including cyber bullying, doxing

Ever since I read Whitney Gardner’s book You’re Welcome, Universe, I’ve been a fan of her writing because the style is comforting. It’s an easy one to pick up and put down, like a well worn shirt or blanket you can pull on when you’re in need of comfort and just want to relax.

Her newest book embraces geek culture and follows main character’s journey through it, a journey that it a lot of fun, but also touches on the darker side of the Internet and the anonymity it lends to cruel people.

There are moments in the book that were uncomfortable to read, including Atomix Comix worker Brody’s anti-female rhetoric and the troll emails that Cameron receives online, including but not limited to death threats. Those emails, comments, blog notes, and moments at Atomix Comix when when no one stood up to Brody made for a tense atmosphere that had the hairs on the back of my neck up, even from the comfort of my couch.

There are also amazing times to be found. The geektastic moments range from ones that even a casual fan will get, such as Dungeons and Dragons campaigns and Final Fantasy name drops, to more subtle references such as a podcast warning townspeople not to visit the local dog park (Welcome to Night Vale fans represent!).  There was also some multi generational bonding over D&D with Cameron’s dad and his friends for a scene that I liked.

This was a fairly short book so while the writing was a style that I like and the pacing was good, it still felt like something was missing. Things happened, things were resolved, but almost a little too easily. Cameron’s difficulties with the online trolls and the information that they leaked gets moved on from with relative ease. The person who leaked her phone number initially is never revealed as far as I could tell, though I could make some guesses. There’s also the nature of Cameron’s dressing as a boy and how gender is portrayed as a strictly boy/girl. I think there’s more that could have been done with this part of the story, especially considering the feelings that Cameron goes through toward the end when the big reveals are starting to happen.

If you’re a fan of geek culture, want to get a look of interspersed pages of Whitney’s comic book style art, or want to find a new author good for a chill read, pick up Chaotic Good. You may consider picking up your own d20 by the last page.

 

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

 

The Fantastic Flying Book Club Blog Tour: The Heart Forger by Rin Chupeco – A Review, Favorite Quotes, & A Giveaway!

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Thank you to the Fantastic Flying Book Club and Kathryn Lynch from Sourcebooks Fire for allowing me to join the blog tour for The Heart Forger and for sending me a copy of this book to review, respectfully. Tea’s story, beginning in The Bone Witch, continues in this sequel that continues the dark path Tea began and walks ever further down as her asha powers grow.

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Kobo  –  iBooks  –  Indiebound

Published: 20 March 2018

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Category: Fantasy/Young Adult

In The Bone Witch, Tea mastered resurrection―now she’s after revenge…

No one knows death like Tea. A bone witch who can resurrect the dead, she has the power to take life…and return it. And she is done with her self-imposed exile. Her heart is set on vengeance, and she now possesses all she needs to command the mighty daeva. With the help of these terrifying beasts, she can finally enact revenge against the royals who wronged her―and took the life of her one true love.

But there are those who plot against her, those who would use Tea’s dark power for their own nefarious ends. Because you can’t kill someone who can never die…

War is brewing among the kingdoms, and when dark magic is at play, no one is safe.

Rating: 5 Stars

As terrifying as the descriptions of Tea are, as much horror as the citizens of the world might have in regards to bone witches and her in particular, there are moments when the reader sees a softness to her personality. Whether it is through the eyes of the Bard, who is telling the story as a third party observer, or through Tea’s first person perspective, moments like leaning into a loved one or flying with her daeva (azi) juxtapose with this fearsome image that others have and that Tea herself often embraces.

The dual perspective was one of my favorite things from The Bone Witch and I was glad that it continued in The Heart Forger. It’s interesting that the Bard, the person who is ostensibly telling Tea’s story as an impartial party, lets slip their own judgement at times. You get a sense of what they think of Tea’s actions as they go; not just being kept in the dark about her plans, but about what those plans are once unveiled. Why they’re surprised anymore I’m sure I don’t know, but I was amused and intrigued because the Bard, for their flaws, was still a great perspective to read.  The flow of the words, the attempt at being the reader’s eyes into the world while still having their own opinions slipping through (as I mentioned), combined to support a style that was easy to slip into from Tea’s emotional first-person perspective and back out of again.

Emotional may not be quite the word I’m looking for her. Conflicted or troubled may be better. Tea’s powers are far stronger than expected, as anyone who has read The Bone Witch started to find out, and they keep growing. What they will allow her to do, who they allow her to be or who they allow her to control, all of the facets of this building force are both awe inspiring and frightening. It’s not just the power the Tea has to contend with, but more “mundane” aspects, such as a loved one’s death she might not be able to prevent or reverse, that develop her into a complex and still relatable character. She’s equal parts sympathetic, concerning, enviable, and more.

Rin Chupeco has a real gift and I love her Bone Witch series. The world building, the discussion points, character development, all make a series that I look forward to reading more of. There’s one book left coming out next year (The Shadowglass, 2019) and I know I’ll be sad when it happens. Will Tea find peace? Will the darkness consume her? Who the heck knows? Does Rin? What does she have planned?? **FLAILING**

 

Favorite Quotes

 

These are some of my favorite lines from throughout the book. Would any of these quotes make your own list?

 

“The dead do not need rest,” she told me, “only the living believe the grave can bring you peace.”

 

All that was left of it was the gem that gleamed brightly in my hand. It is odd, I thought,  how something so beautiful can come out of something so grotesque.

 

“For far too long, I have been sheltered from the realities of my own kingdom, Tea. I cannot rely on books and advisors to tell me how to rule. How can I govern wisely if I have none of my own experiences to fall back on?”

 

You murdered him,” I whispered.

“I saved those soldiers.” She stood, the man’s heartsglass in her hands. She watched the light from it fade, lips twisted in grim satisfaction. “It is all a matter of perspective.”

 

She had healed them with her blood and a touch, but she remained fractured and broken herself, the never-healing scars inside her soul bearing the names of friends long gone.

 

About the Author

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Despite uncanny resemblances to Japanese revenants, Rin Chupeco has always maintained her sense of hummus  Raised in Manila, Philippines, she keeps four pets: a dog, two birds, and a husband. She’s been a technical writer and travel blogger, but now makes things up for a living. The Girl from the Well was her debut novel. 

 

 

Giveaway

 

  • Prize: (1) winner will win a copy of THE HEART FORGER; (1) winner will win a copy of THE BONE WITCH; and (1) winner will win the 3 crochet dolls – Tea, Fox, and Azi

 

  • Open International, Starts 3/20, Ends 4/3

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

 

 

Tour Schedule

 

March 20th

Pink Polka Dot Books– Welcome Post

March 21st

Confessions of a YA Reader– 10 List
Magical Reads– Review & Creative Post
Vicky Who Reads– Guest Post

March 22nd

Jrsbookreviews– Review
A New Look on Books– Meet the Characters
Susan Heim on Writing– Review

March 23rd

That Bookshelf Bitch– Review & Interview
Here’s to Happy Endings– Style Board
Keep Reading Forward– Guest Post

March 24th

Flying Paperbacks– Interview
Storybook Slayers– Review

March 25th

Tecsielity– Meet the Characters

March 26th

The Hermit Librarian– Review & Favorite Quotes

Northern Plunder– Review
NovelKnight Book Reviews– Guest Post

 

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Review: Honey by David Ezra Stein

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Published: 27 March 2018

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Category: Children’s Picture Books/Animals

This sweet companion to David Ezra Stein’s award-winning Leaves celebrates the joy of savoring something you love.

Bear is ravenous when he wakes up from his winter sleep and has one thing on his mind: honey! Alas, it is too soon for honey, so Bear tries hard to be patient. The world around him is waking up, too, and he soon remembers all the other things he loves, like warm grass, berries, and rain. He’s almost content, until, one day, he hears a welcome buzzing sound . . . and finally it is time for Bear to delight in the thing he relishes above all others–and it is as warm, golden, sweet, and good as he remembered.

Rating: 5 Stars

The followup to David Ezra Stein’s book LeavesHoney expands upon a young bear’s life experiences. Whereas in the first book he saw autumn and leaves falling for the first time, now we get to see him looking forward to the ultimate tasty bear treat: honey!

The art style was very mellow and the colors very evocative of the time of year that Bear is waking up to. I loved the dreamy quality that the author had to each page’s picture. The smudgy quality was sweet and had me smiling.

Story wise, this book is very simple, which fits the audience that it’s marketed to. While this is a companion book, it wasn’t wholly necessary to have read the previous book to pick up on the story line of this one. The language is simple enough that a child could read this for themselves or read along at bedtime. The ending was a bit nostalgic, which I’m not sure younger readers will pick up on, though it was nicely emotional for me.

Bear’s personality and adventures in life would be great for more books and I hope to see them in the future. Until then, the rereadability is here and that’s a great quality in a book.

 

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from Penguin Young Readers in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

 

Moonstruck, Vol. 1: Magic to Brew by Grace Ellis (Author), Shae Beagle (Illustrator), Kate Leth (Illustrator), Caitlin Quirk (Illustrator), Clayton Cowles (Illustrator)

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Published: 27 March 2018

Publisher: Image Comics

Category: Graphic Novel/Fantasy/LGBT+

Werewolf barista Julie and her new girlfriend go on a date to a close-up magic show, but all heck breaks loose when the magician casts a horrible spell on their friend Chet. Now it’s up to the team of mythical pals to stop the illicit illusionist before it’s too late.

The first chapter of the brand new, all-ages magical coffee-laden adventure from Lumberjanes creator GRACE ELLIS and talented newcomer SHAE BEAGLE.

Collects issues 1 through 5

Rating: 4 Stars

The broader setting of the story has a lot of potential. There’s quite a pantheon going on in this town, everything from werewolves to centaurs to Medusa creatures and more. There were more that I didn’t quite recognize, some I did but couldn’t remember the name for, and none of it’s weird. There’s not much interaction with humans as far as I could tell, at least not worth mentioning except in the last few pages. It was fun seeing the different beings interacting, whether it be snakes hiding under someone’s hat or someone else spontaneously turning into a bat, almost every panel was full of life.

Something I like is that the writers thought about real world diversity (racial diversity, body types, etc.) as well as creature diversity. The lead character, for example, is a plus-size werewolf named Julie, a Latinx lesbian who’s just beginning a new relationship with fellow werewolf Selena, a black woman. Julie’s centaur co-worker, Chet, is also Latinx, I believe, though I’m not 100% sure about that.

Moving on to the story itself, aside from these aspects. I liked the energy between Julie and Selena. It was kind of a nervous, blossoming relationship kind of energy that was sweet. Counterpoint to that lightness is Julie’s anxiety about standing up for herself which is tied into her werewolf identity. There are a few times throughout the book when other characters call her “wolfy” or similar terms which seem derogatory in this world and the manner in which it’s being said. There’s not a lot of direct time spent on this, which I thought was a shame.

Chet’s questioning of their identity after the magic show and its results was heartbreaking. There were some feelings I had about the reactions to it from Julie and from Selena, either of which were slightly different, and I think show different viewpoints on what identity means to people. I think it was at this point that I realized there were some deeper storylines this book glanced over, but didn’t dig into when it could’ve. It was fun, but didn’t develop what it could have.

I mentioned diversity earlier and I also wanted to mention the detail I saw paid in the book. I loved what the writers/illustrators did, particularly such as the theater scene. Julie, Selena, and Chet go to the magic show in an old theater, where Chet is able to settle into the seats because the armrests rise up to accommodate centaur bodies; there is also space for mermaid/siren specific wheelchairs. I don’t know that these species were meant to stand in for specific disabilties or body types, so don’t take my assumptions as gospel, just an observation.

I was fairly content with the story up until the end. This volume was decently plotted, with a few slightly confusing panels, but it was the ending where I had the biggest problem. It was solved much too quickly and easily. It was, almost literally, a Scooby Doo ending and it was such a disappointment after such an enjoyable read.

I’m hoping the storytelling improves in volume 2. There were some great story elements brought up, real world touchstones that could be interesting storylines if given the attention. As it stands, Moonstruck is a fun, fluffy read with cute art that’s a nice way to spend a couple hours without worrying about a convoluted backstory or complicated world building.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Image Comics, in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Review: Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card, Vol. 1 by CLAMP

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Published: 19 December 2017 (first published 2 December 2016)

Publisher: Kodansha Comics

Category: Manga/Fantasy/Romance

At long last, CLAMP’s beloved shoujo manga series Cardcaptor Sakura is making a triumphant return with the Clear Card Arc. Sakura Kinomoto is now in middle school when Syaoran returns from China! Things have been calm, leaving the Sakura Cards unused, but she’s plagued by mysterious dreams about the cards turning clear. It seems like her adventures are beginning once again when this dream becomes true!

In volume 1, Sakura is happier than ever to find that Syaoran has returned from China but is shocked to see that the Sakura Cards have turned clear! …And why is Syaoran acting so strange? Read it to find out!

Rating: 5 Stars

I am a huge fan of anything Clamp puts out. I remember watching the original Cardcaptors series when it was on t.v., though admittedly the dub was a bit comical. *lol* Suffice it to say, when I saw that there would be a new anime (already watching it on Crunchyroll!) and then that this volume was available on NetGalley, I leaped at the chance to review it.

Since it’s been awhile since I’ve read the earlier books in the series, I was glad there was a recap of characters for the Clow Card arc and the Sakura Card arc. Visually I could identify them, but names and bios were a big help. This definitely isn’t a book you’re going to be able to get into unless you’ve read the previous arcs, even with this catch-up portion. The funniest part of the intro is that Cerberus is “narrating” and making sure you know what’s up! If you know anything about this little guy, you’ll be able to picture the scene more accurately and laugh your head off.

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The personalities of the main characters are all back and very similar to their past selves, but you can see how they’ve evolved a bit. They’re still children, after all, so I don’t expect to see them all grown up. Sakura, Tomoyo, and Syaron are entering their first year of middle school, which makes them around twelve years old. Clamp’s art style, their subtle shifts of mood and more, enable the reader to see different emotions and really feel them: Sakura’s joy, Syaron’s concern, and Tomoyo’s unbridled enjoyment of life and her best friend.

The plot starts out very similar to the previous arcs, in that the cards have something happen to them (they appear, Sakura needs to change them from Clow to Sakura cards, etc.), so I knew a bit about where things would go. However, this arc seems like it might be a bit more emotional veering toward dark. By the end of volume one it’s clear that this enemy is more dangerous than before and now Sakura doesn’t even have her cards to back her up.

There’s also secret keeping going on from two of Sakura’s allies and that felt like a foreboding moment, when we realize that something is going on behind the scenes and that it will definitely impact Sakura more directly before long.

There’s such a cliffhanger at the end that I really wish, at times like this, that I could read the original language so I could pick up the currently published Japanese editions!

 

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.