Book review: Gothic Tales of Haunted Love by Hope Nicholson & S.M. Beiko

Gothic Tales of Haunted Love by Hope Nicholson & S.M. Beiko
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: January 23, 2018
Source: Sent by publisher

Gothic Tales of Haunted Love is a new comics anthology curated by Hope Nicholson (The Secret Loves of Geek Girls) and S.M. Beiko (Scion of the Fox).

In 1950s Vietnam, a lost soul comes to the aid of his lover’s field under attack by American troops.

In Victorian Boston, a new governess comes to care for the rogueish widower of a stately manor and his charming brood of children.

A fashion journalist lands the interview of her dreams – but it unearths the deadly secrets of Taiwan’s most popular fashion designer.

A Sioux elder revives a recently deceased woman who sets out to recover her lost love.

A Jamaican slave faces the horrors of her hateful mistress, on the eve of her liberation.

A Brazilian writer-in-exile discovers the dark history of an abandoned mansion inhabited by a charming and sensual ghost.

And a young bride spins a story of murder and deceit that paints her husband as a killer . . . but is there any truth to her tale?

Featuring 19 original stories from some of modern comics’ finest talent, Gothic Tales of Haunted Love collects fragments of lovers torn apart, romantic liasons with the unliving, ghostly revenge, and horrific deeds, in the vein of the short-lived 1970s gothic romance comics.

A foreword on gothic romance comics is provided by historian Jacque Nodell, and the collection also features a reprint of the 1970s Korean horror-romance comic “The Promise” by Sanho Kim.

I generally have mixed feelings about anthologies, but when I got an email offering me a free copy of Gothic Tales of Haunted Love, I couldn’t resist. After all, I’m on a huge graphic novel kick. Reading something that was at least a little out of my comfort zone didn’t sound so bad, either.

As usual, I had wildly varying thoughts about the stories in this anthology.

Crush by Janet Hetherington, Ronn Sutton, Becka Kinzie & Zakk Saam: ★★★★☆

I was getting some Sound of Music vibes from this one, and even half-expected some clothes made out of curtains, until the end. I did not see that ending coming!

Rose’s Heart by Colleen Coover: ★★★★☆

I wasn’t loving this one at the beginning. I thought it would go the very cliche way of Jim ending up as the villain, and I’m glad he didn’t. That ending, though, totally saved this story. My goodness!!!

Secrets in the Silk by Nika: ★★★★☆

This one was so much fun! Or, at least, as fun as murderous mayhem can be…

L’Heure Verte by Femi Sobowale, Caroline Dougherty & Zakk Saam: ★★★☆☆

I thought this story was cute, but the twist was (1) much less exciting than the previous three stories and (2) honestly kind of obvious.

Goldblind by Hope Nicholson & Scott Chantler: ★☆☆☆☆

I feel kind of bad, but I did not understand the point of this one. Like, at all.

Minefield by Hien Pham: ★★★☆☆

This is primarily written in Vietnamese, so I’m not 100% sure that I fully understand what was going on, but it made me very, very sad and I’m calling that a success.

The Return by David A. Robertson & Scott B. Henderson: ★★★☆☆

An interesting enough premise, but the execution was pretty cliche. It basically just followed every fable ever.

Green, Gold, and Black by Cherelle Higgins & Rina Rozsas: ★★☆☆☆

The art was great and the story was heartbreaking, but what exactly was the point? I feel like this was too big of a story to tell in this short amount of pages and it would have been improved a lot if it were at least twice as long.

Ladies of the Lake by Sarah Winifred Searle: ★★★★☆

I love twists on Arthurian legends, so this one was right up my alley. I fully expected that final twist, but still appreciated it. This one was a great story.

Fazenda do Sangue Azul by H. Pueyo & Dante L.: ★★★☆☆

There are some definite plot holes here when it comes to the ghost’s appearance (and actions), but I still enjoyed this one. Surprisingly, even with the torture and war and everything, it was pretty cute.

A Heritage of Woods by S.M. Beiko & Maia Kobabe: ★☆☆☆☆

Oh dear. This one was too much.I could have happily lived my life without seeing someone have sex with a tree.

Lovers’ Moon by Chris Stone & Dani Bee: ★★★☆☆

So, first of all, I’m not a doctor but I don’t think you get Graves disease from walking around at night. That said, this one had an interesting twist, and I loved the conversation between Andrew and John.

Mistress Fox by Megan Kearney: ★★★★☆

Another twist I didn’t see coming! I was already on board with the idea of the main character recounting her dream, but that twist really took it to another level.

My Heart Still Beats for You by Amber Noelle & Allison Paige: ★☆☆☆☆

I’m sorry, but is this the novelization of every text post from 2009 Tumblr?

One More Cup by Barbara Guttman: ★☆☆☆☆

I was 100% on board with this until the end. These tragic, supernatural love stories are just not my thing.

Ouroboros by Svetla Nikolova & LAB: ★☆☆☆☆

Not sure what’s up with all of these dramatically emo stories all of a sudden. This honestly reminded me of something that one of my more dramatic friends would have tried to convince me was amazing back in like… 2004. It’s everything she used to find on Xanga and covertly print out in the school’s computer lab. It wasn’t my thing then and it’s still not my thing now.

I Am the Song by Cecil Castellucci, Willow Dawson, Becka Kinzie & Zakk Saam: ★☆☆☆☆

What… in tarnation. There was no point.

What’s Best by Katie West, Ray Fawkes & Zakk Saam: ★★★☆☆

Interesting art style. Odd storyline. But above all else, this was entertaining.

The Promise by Sanho Kim: ★★★☆☆

I can’t really say that this is my favorite story that I’ve ever read, but I have to say that the soldier really got what was coming to him.

Grave Misfortune by Kitty Curran & Larissa Zageris: ★★★★★

I have never not loved something by these authors.

Overall: 2.65 stars, rounded up to 3

#mm19: one sitting reads
#romanceopoly: creature crescent


Have you read Gothic Tales of Haunted Love? Have you read any other graphic novel anthologies? Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book review: Sacred Heart by Liz Suburbia

Sacred Heart by Liz Suburbia
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: December 4, 2018
Source: Borrowed

The children of Alexandria are just trying to live like normal teens, and Ben Schiller is no exception. But her relationship with her best friend is changing, her sister is hiding a dark secret, and tragedy looms. Also: where are all of the parents?

Filled with teenage loves and fights and parties, Sacred Heart is part summer vacation, part End Times anticipation, and a landmark coming-of-age graphic novel. The punk-infused, character-driven storytelling and innate cartooning talent heralds Suburbia as a major new voice in comics.

I popped into my library a couple weeks ago to pick up a different book and saw Sacred Heart sitting on the YA graphic novels table. Since I am, in general, pretty into graphic novels these days, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to check it out. Well, I was wrong.

It hurt a lot to check it out, because this was just… not good.

Let’s start with the most basic of things you need in a book: the characters. So many of the characters looked so similar that I had a hard time telling them apart even by the end of the book. There are also so many characters involved that I had trouble keeping them all straight! Every character was a different “annoying teenager” stereotype.

Moving on to the actual plot, or maybe I should say the lack of plot: I’m not really sure what the goal was here. There are a number of plot threads here. There’s the fact that all of the adults have disappeared. The constant murders happening throughout the town. The typical sex, drugs, and alcohol mindset of the punk rock scene, which is only intensified because of the lack of parental supervision. There’s a friends-to-lovers plot going on that takes up a big chunk in the middle of the book and is then kind of forgotten about. Any of these ideas could have made for an interesting book, but the problem is that they’re all just kind of left hanging. Even at the end of the book, nothing is resolved.

The only other thing I want to address here is whether this book is age-appropriate for YA. I’m definitely not in favor of any kind of censorship, but I do think it’s important to know that this book is definitely upper, upper, upper YA. Like, constant references to alcohol and drugs. A ton of sex, including full nudity. A pretty steady stream of profanity. I’m a little surprised that my library shelved this in the YA section.

I’m really struggling to find something positive to say about this book. The only thing I can come up with is that it was nice that the main character had a dog. I just can’t recommend this graphic novel at all.


Have you read Sacred Heart? What’s the last book that really disappointed you? Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book review: My Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren

My Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: December 4, 2018
Source: Borrowed

Millie Morris has always been one of the guys. A UC Santa Barbara professor, she’s a female-serial-killer expert who’s quick with a deflection joke and terrible at getting personal. And she, just like her four best guy friends and fellow professors, is perma-single.

So when a routine university function turns into a black tie gala, Millie and her circle make a pact that they’ll join an online dating service to find plus-ones for the event. There’s only one hitch: after making the pact, Millie and one of the guys, Reid Campbell, secretly spend the sexiest half-night of their lives together, but mutually decide the friendship would be better off strictly platonic.

But online dating isn’t for the faint of heart. While the guys are inundated with quality matches and potential dates, Millie’s first profile attempt garners nothing but dick pics and creepers. Enter “Catherine”—Millie’s fictional profile persona, in whose make-believe shoes she can be more vulnerable than she’s ever been in person. Soon “Catherine” and Reid strike up a digital pen-pal-ship…but Millie can’t resist temptation in real life, either. Soon, Millie will have to face her worst fear—intimacy—or risk losing her best friend, forever.
 

I was on a book-acquiring ban when I first saw the ARC of My Favorite Half-Night Stand pop up on Netgalley. I was really tempted to request it anyway but decided to be mature and responsible and not bite off more than I could chew by requesting books I had no time to read. That said, I totally planned to check it out from the library as soon as it came out. Well, life got in the way. I ended up traveling a lot at the end of the year and I kind of forgot about this one until I stumbled across it while waiting in line to check out at the library.

The thing is, I almost always enjoy books by Christina Lauren. They’re one of my favorite author duos. Aside from Dating You/Hating You, I think I’ve rated everything of theirs either four or five stars. There’s just something about their writing style that puts me in a great mood, and I love that their characters are always charming, yet flawed. And their dialogue! It’s like reading an actual conversation.

Realizing that you might like a friend in a romantic way is always a weird feeling, and Christina Lauren captured that perfectly when Millie and Reid fall into their friends-but-sort-of-more arrangement. I appreciated that they didn’t play into the “we can’t because it’ll ruin our friendship” cliche — that always bothers me and almost always feels so unrealistic — and instead had Millie and Reid hook up and then try to fall back into their normal rhythm.

The online dating aspect was great! I’ve never tried online dating, never wanted to, and hope that I’ll never have to, because I find it absolutely terrifying. Nobody in this book had any (scary) disasters, though there was never a dull moment. I think, though, that the only part of the book I honestly took issue with was Millie (as “Catherine”) stringing Reid along for so long, and Reid continuing to message “Catherine” despite his growing feelings for Millie. I think I say this in most reviews of romances, but if they’d just been adults and talked to each other, they could have avoided a lot of unnecessary drama.

Overall, though, I really enjoyed this book! It was a lot of fun and it’s only made me more excited to read more from these authors.

#ps19: a book you meant to read in 2018
#romanceopoly: women’s ave


Have you read My Favorite Half-Night Stand? What’s your favorite friends-to-lovers romance? Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book review: Famous in a Small Town by Emma Mills

Famous in a Small Town by Emma Mills
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: January 15, 2019
Source: Borrowed

For Sophie, small town life has never felt small. With her four best friends—loving, infuriating, and all she could ever ask for—she can weather any storm. But when Sophie’s beloved Acadia High School marching band is selected to march in the upcoming Rose Parade, it’s her job to get them all the way to LA. Her plan? To persuade country singer Megan Pleasant, their Midwestern town’s only claim to fame, to come back to Acadia to headline a fundraising festival.

The only problem is that Megan has very publicly sworn never to return.

What ensues is a journey filled with long-kept secrets, hidden heartbreaks, and revelations that could change everything—along with a possible fifth best friend: a new guy with a magnetic smile and secrets of his own.

Emma Mills has been on my radar ever since I moved my blog to WordPress, but I never found any of her books at my library. That is, until recently, when Famous in a Small Town was prominently displayed on the new arrivals table in the YA section. I, of course, jumped on the chance to read it. Unsurprisingly, based on all of the positive reviews I’ve seen of her books, it was great.

I think my favorite part of this book was all of the friendships. Sophie has a great group of friends, all with really distinctive personalities. They have fun together most of the time, but sometimes they argue and fight and clash, and I loved that because it was so, so realistic. I also loved their group chat! I’m old enough that group chats were not a thing when I was in high school, but if they were… I’m pretty sure my friends and I would have had one like this.

I also really liked August and the whole “will they or won’t they” vibe he had with Sophie. He was also such a great person! He genuinely cared about his nieces, he wanted to do what was best for everyone else even if it meant doing something that would be uncomfortable or difficult for himself, and he’s just been through so much in his life.

The Megan Pleasant thing was interesting. It wasn’t really what I expected it to be, but honestly, that was a good thing. I did not see that twist coming and thought that it added another whole aspect to the book that made it even better.

I’m not really sure how to explain why I didn’t give this book five stars since I really did like it so much. Maybe because the whole fundraising thing, which was supposed to be a main point of the book, really felt like an afterthought? A few of the interactions between Sophie and August kind of rubbed me the wrong way, too, although I did like their relationship overall. I guess I could also say that the ending felt a little rushed? I’m not really sure, because all of these are pretty minor complaints. Whatever the reason, I liked this book a lot, but didn’t quite love it, so four stars it is.

I’d highly recommend it if you’re looking for a good YA romance.

#romanceopoly: read a sweet or small town contemporary romance


Have you read Famous in a Small Town? What about any of Emma Mills’ other books? Are they as good as this one?Let’s talk in the comments!

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