Mini-Reviews: Heartstopper Vol. 2, Cat’s Cafe, & Ghosted in LA Vol. 1

Heartstopper, Vol. 2 by Alice Oseman
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: July 11, 2019
Source: Purchased

Boy meets boy. Boys become friends. Boys fall in love. An LGBTQ+ graphic novel about life, love, and everything that happens in between: this is the second volume of HEARTSTOPPER, for fans of The Art of Being Normal, Holly Bourne and Love, Simon.

Nick and Charlie are best friends. Nick knows Charlie’s gay, and Charlie is sure that Nick isn’t.

But love works in surprising ways, and Nick is discovering all kinds of things about his friends, his family … and himself.

Heartstopper is about friendship, loyalty and mental illness. It encompasses all the small stories of Nick and Charlie’s lives that together make up something larger, which speaks to all of us.

This is the second volume of Heartstopper, with more to come. Volume two collects all of chapter three from the ongoing web series.

Charlie and Nick are so cute! I loved watching their relationship develop. It’s so healthy and supportive and great. I loved that Nick and Charlie never pressure each other about anything. Everything is on their terms and it’s just so rare to see two characters in a relationship being on the same page. I loved it.

I also loved watching Nick come to terms with his sexuality and how he wants to define it. I think this is the exact kind of story that the world needs right. It’s a wholesome, fluffy story that seamlessly weaves in some deeper themes in a really natural way.


Cat’s Cafe by Matt Tarpley
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: May 26, 2020
Source: ARC via Netgalley

Serving up more than just coffee and tea, Cat’s Café  provides its cast of adorable characters a gentle, supportive space and a hefty serving of the warm and floofies.

Welcome to Cat’s Café, a neighborhood coffee shop where all are welcome! Based on the popular webcomic, Cat’s Café introduces readers to the adorable denizens of this world. There’s Penguin, who has a bit of a coffee problem; Rabbit, whose anxiety sometimes overwhelms him; Axolotl, whose confidence inspires his friends; the always-supportive Cat, who provides hot drinks made with love and a supportive ear for anyone’s troubles; and many, many more. With a sensitive take on real issues and a gentle, positive outlook, Cat’s Café is about the power of acceptance, friendship, and love … and delicious cups of coffee.

This book (or collection of comics, I suppose) starts off as probably the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. Cat owns a cafe, Penguin drinks a lot of coffee, and all of their cute friends did cute things that made me smile.

Then it became apparent that many of the characters were struggling with their mental health and coping mechanisms and that was unexpected but very appreciated! I related to Rabbit’s anxiety most of all, and I really loved the message that it’s okay to be sad, it’s okay to be anxious, it’s okay to cry… and it’s okay to lean on your friends for support.

This was a really great collection and if you love cute animals, you’ll probably love it too.


Ghosted in LA, Vol. 1 by Sina Grace
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: May 14, 2020
Source: ARC via Netgalley

Daphne Walters moves to Los Angeles and finds that the only ones who can help her find love and live life to the fullest are the ghosts of her new home!

In Los Angeles, finding an apartment is killer—unless you live with the dead. Daphne Walters moves to Los Angeles for her boyfriend Ronnie, ready to live her happily ever after. But when happily ever after turns into happily for a month, she’s stuck in a strange city with no friends, family, or prospects for fun. Desperate to escape the lingering ghost of Ronnie’s presence everywhere, Daphne sets out to explore the city—and ends up encountering ghosts of a more literal kind! Rycroft Manor is abandoned, beautiful, and haunted. Will the dead be able to help Daphne find the life she’s been missing in the big city? From GLAAD Award-nominated Sina Grace (Iceman) and illustrator Siobhan Keenan (Jem and the Holograms) comes a story about learning how to make friends, find love, and live life to the fullest with a little help from some friends whose lives didn’t end at death.

Collects Ghosted In L.A #1-4.

I absolutely loved the concept of this graphic novel: a young, disillusioned (yet still hopeful) college student moves into a haunted mansion. The first volume of this graphic novel features several very different ghostly characters, all with their own backstories and problems.

The thing is, the backstories are the majority of the plot. I felt like we barely got introduced to these characters before the graphic novel had ended.

This one was fun, but I think I’ll need to read more of the series before really making a judgment.


Have you read any of these books? Have you read any good graphic novels recently?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Weekly Update

In case you missed it, here are this week’s blog posts:

I’ve been reading:

Recently acquired:

  • nothing this week!

1 thing this week:

  • I started cross stitching again, which I haven’t done in years. I’m having so much fun with it!

Song of the week:


How was your week? What’s the best thing you read or listened to? Anything interesting happening in your life? Let’s talk in the comments!

Find me all over the internet: Goodreads | Twitter | Bloglovin’

Mini-Reviews: Blowout, How to Do Nothing, & The Great Pretender

Blowout by Rachel Maddow
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 1, 2019
Source: Borrowed

In 2010, the words “earthquake swarm” entered the lexicon in Oklahoma. That same year, a trove of Michael Jackson memorabilia—including his iconic crystal-encrusted white glove—was sold at auction for over $1 million to a guy who was, officially, just the lowly forestry minister of the tiny nation of Equatorial Guinea. And in 2014, Ukrainian revolutionaries raided the palace of their ousted president and found a zoo of peacocks, gilded toilets, and a floating restaurant modeled after a Spanish galleon. Unlikely as it might seem, there is a thread connecting these events, and Rachel Maddow follows it to its crooked source: the unimaginably lucrative and equally corrupting oil and gas industry.

With her trademark black humor, Maddow takes us on a switchback journey around the globe, revealing the greed and incompetence of Big Oil and Gas along the way, and drawing a surprising conclusion about why the Russian government hacked the 2016 U.S. election. She deftly shows how Russia’s rich reserves of crude have, paradoxically, stunted its growth, forcing Putin to maintain his power by spreading Russia’s rot into its rivals, its neighbors, the West’s most important alliances, and the United States. Chevron, BP, and a host of other industry players get their star turn, most notably ExxonMobil and the deceptively well-behaved Rex Tillerson. The oil and gas industry has weakened democracies in developed and developing countries, fouled oceans and rivers, and propped up authoritarian thieves and killers. But being outraged at it is, according to Maddow, “like being indignant when a lion takes down and eats a gazelle. You can’t really blame the lion. It’s in her nature.”

Blowout is a call to contain the lion: to stop subsidizing the wealthiest businesses on earth, to fight for transparency, and to check the influence of the world’s most destructive industry and its enablers. The stakes have never been higher. As Maddow writes, “Democracy either wins this one or disappears.”

One of my goals for 2020 is to read as many of the Goodreads Choice Award nominees from 2019 as I can. First up was Blowout by Rachel Maddow. Despite being pretty liberal, I’ve never actually watched Rachel Maddow, so I didn’t really know what I was getting into here.

I’m not incredibly interested in the oil industry or anything, but this book was fine. Maddow is obviously very intelligent, she’s a good writer, and the book comes across as incredibly well-researched. The problem I had with it is that it’s long, not necessarily in page count, but just that it goes on and on and on and on. I found myself kind of zoning out when the book would get a little rambly, but something would inevitably pull me back in later.

Interestingly, the part of this book I found most interesting was on Russian spies. Maybe that’s the kind of book I should have been reading instead.


The Great Pretender by Susannah Cahalan
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Source: Borrowed

From “one of America’s most courageous young journalists” (NPR) comes a propulsive narrative history investigating the 50-year-old mystery behind a dramatic experiment that changed the course of modern medicine.

For centuries, doctors have struggled to define mental illness-how do you diagnose it, how do you treat it, how do you even know what it is? In search of an answer, in the 1970s a Stanford psychologist named David Rosenhan and seven other people — sane, normal, well-adjusted members of society — went undercover into asylums around America to test the legitimacy of psychiatry’s labels. Forced to remain inside until they’d “proven” themselves sane, all eight emerged with alarming diagnoses and even more troubling stories of their treatment. Rosenhan’s watershed study broke open the field of psychiatry, closing down institutions and changing mental health diagnosis forever.

But, as Cahalan’s explosive new research shows, very little in this saga is exactly as it seems. What really happened behind those closed asylum doors, and what does it mean for our understanding of mental illness today?

As a book about David Rosenhan and his “pseudopatient” experiment, I can’t say that The Great Pretender really succeeds. It’s messy, it goes off on tangents, it frequently repeats itself, and (possible spoiler?) it doesn’t really have a conclusion.

As a book on psychiatry as a whole, I think it’s a lot more successful. Cahalan covers a lot of ground, and while it’s often confusing and kind of meanders around (as I said, frequently repeating itself), it’s also incredibly interesting. I feel like I learned a lot about the field of psychiatry and almost like I read a mystery.

When it comes to the actual advertised topic of this book, it almost feels like Cahalan ran out of material. Maybe this would have been better as a long academic paper than a nearly 400-page book.


How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: April 9, 2019
Source: Borrowed

This thrilling critique of the forces vying for our attention re-defines what we think of as productivity, shows us a new way to connect with our environment and reveals all that we’ve been too distracted to see about our selves and our world.

When the technologies we use every day collapse our experiences into 24/7 availability, platforms for personal branding, and products to be monetized, nothing can be quite so radical as… doing nothing. Here, Jenny Odell sends up a flare from the heart of Silicon Valley, delivering an action plan to resist capitalist narratives of productivity and techno-determinism, and to become more meaningfully connected in the process.

It seems like forever ago when I put a hold on How to Do Nothing. It ended up coming in during the first couple weeks of isolation, and what better time, really, for a book with that title. Nobody’s doing anything right now.

The thing about this book is that it’s less of “an action plan to resist capitalist narratives of productivity” and more of every pretentious thought the author had after thinking, “yeah, I should write a book about how much better I am than everyone else.”

Really, I appreciate what she was getting at. I think it’s important to disconnect from technology, appreciate nature, and get back to basics. I think it’s clear that Odell can write well, but overall, I found this book incredibly disappointing.


Have you read any of these books? Have you read any good nonfiction recently?
Let’s talk in the comments!

Find me all over the internet: Goodreads | Twitter | Bloglovin’

Weekly Update

In case you missed it, here are this week’s blog posts:

I’ve been reading:

Recently acquired:

1 thing this week:

  • We got approximately three snow flurries on Thursday, so my office building had a delayed opening on Friday and several people decided they’d rather work from home. So different from anywhere else I’ve lived. (Though, honestly, if I could do my current project from home, I might have taken the excuse to stay in my pajamas and pet my cat all day.)

Song of the week:


How was your week? What’s the best thing you read or listened to? Anything interesting happening in your life? Let’s talk in the comments!

Find me all over the internet: Goodreads | Twitter | Bloglovin’