Book Review: Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: May 7, 2019
Source: Borrowed

Laura Dean, the most popular girl in high school, was Frederica Riley’s dream girl: charming, confident, and SO cute. There’s just one problem: Laura Dean is maybe not the greatest girlfriend.

Reeling from her latest break up, Freddy’s best friend, Doodle, introduces her to the Seek-Her, a mysterious medium, who leaves Freddy some cryptic parting words: break up with her. But Laura Dean keeps coming back, and as their relationship spirals further out of her control, Freddy has to wonder if it’s really Laura Dean that’s the problem. Maybe it’s Freddy, who is rapidly losing her friends, including Doodle, who needs her now more than ever. Fortunately for Freddy, there are new friends, and the insight of advice columnists like Anna Vice to help her through being a teenager in love.

Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell bring to life a sweet and spirited tale of young love that asks us to consider what happens when we ditch the toxic relationships we crave to embrace the healthy ones we need.
 

I’m not sure what it was that drew me to Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me. It might have been the cover. It might have been the catchy title. It might have been the references to a toxic relationship and strong friendship from the synopsis. Whatever it was, this book ended up being one of my most anticipated of 2019.

I’m usually a little bit scared to read my most anticipated books, but I got an email from my library that this was due back in three days, and when I went to renew it, I saw that there were already four more holds on it. I ended up reading it all in one sitting and loving it so, so, so much. I’m not sure that there was anything about this graphic novel that I did not love.

Let’s start with the characters.

Freddy could be any teenage girl. She’s in a relationship with a really popular, really cool girl. She can’t believe that she’s captured Laura Dean’s attention, so she just kind of goes along with the poor treatment she receives in the relationship. Regardless of what else is going on in her life, she’s expected to be there when Laura Dean wants her, but she’s also expected to be okay with it when Laura Dean decides, yet again, that the relationship isn’t quite doing it for her and she wants to break up. Freddy doesn’t necessarily like it that Laura Dean treats her like this, but she also isn’t necessarily looking for more from life.

Laura Dean is, as you might think, kind of self-centered and seemingly oblivious to the fact that she’s treating Freddy really unfairly. She’s very popular with a lot of friends, yet she’ll call Freddy in a panic asking her to come over because she’s found herself alone for ten minutes. I almost felt bad for her at some points in the book, but then I remembered that I’ve been the Freddy in that situation and lost all sympathy for her.

There are some great side characters as well, particularly Freddy’s best friend, Doodle. Doodle and Freddy struggle a bit with their friendship throughout the course of the book as Freddy abandons Doodle over and over again so that she can spend more time with Laura Dean. Their friendship, though, was one of my favorite things about this book. I loved how it showed that despite arguments and people behaving badly and whatever other drama is going on in their life, your true friends will be there for you when you need them.

On to the actual story.

The truth is, there isn’t a ton of plot in this graphic novel. It’s mostly about Freddy’s relationships, both with Laura Dean and with Doodle. Freddy is addressing an advice columnist for a lot of the book, which I thought was a really fun and interesting way to frame the story. I often find myself bored when I read a character-driven story like this, but in this case, it really worked.

The last thing to mention, since this is a graphic novel, is the art.

I loved the art. I think I need to find everything Rosemary Valero-O’Connell has ever illustrated and read it because everything, from the art style to the way the panels were framed to the color palette, was amazing. This was probably one of the best-illustrated graphic novels I’ve ever read, and I just want to read more books like this.

In the end, would I recommend this? 100% yes.


Have you read Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me? What’s the last book that lived up to your (high) expectations? Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg

The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg
Series: Early Earth
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: December 20, 2016
Source: Purchased

In the tradition of The Arabian Nights, a beautifully illustrated tapestry of folk tales and myths about the secret legacy of female storytellers in an imagined medieval world.

In the Empire of Migdal Bavel, Cherry is married to Jerome, a wicked man who makes a diabolical wager with his friend Manfred: if Manfred can seduce Cherry in one hundred nights, he can have his castle–and Cherry.

But what Jerome doesn’t know is that Cherry is in love with her maid Hero. The two women hatch a plan: Hero, a member of the League of Secret Story Tellers, will distract Manfred by regaling him with a mesmerizing tale each night for 100 nights, keeping him at bay. Those tales are beautifully depicted here, touching on themes of love and betrayal and loyalty and madness.

As intricate and richly imagined as the works of Chris Ware, and leavened with a dry wit that rivals Kate Beaton’s in Hark! A Vagrant, Isabel Greenberg’s One Hundred Nights of Hero will capture readers’ hearts and minds, taking them through a magical medieval world. 

You might remember me reviewing The Encyclopedia of Early Earth not too long ago. I ended up buying The One Hundred Nights of Hero since I enjoyed both the art style and the subtle humor in The Encyclopedia of Early Earth, and I was not disappointed.

The One Hundred Nights of Hero is the story of a young woman, Cherry, who is married to an evil man, Jerome, who bets a friend that he can’t seduce Cherry while Jerome is away. If his friend, Manfred, succeeds in seducing Cherry, Jerome is willing to give him both his castle and his wife. When Cherry finds out about the wager, she knows that Manfred will do everything in his power to sleep with her, including by force if necessary. Luckily, her maid, friend, and lover Hero is a member of the League of Secret Story Tellers and weaves stories, night after night, to keep Manfred distracted from the seduction.

I loved the larger story here, including the positive portrayal of a f/f relationship in a time when that was not accepted, but what I really adored were Hero’s stories. The stories were empowering, fantastical, and whimsical. The stories could be a bit quirky and a bit sassy at times, but everything balanced so well that I don’t really have any complaints.

I had initially thought I’d rate this four stars, but looking back… there’s nothing I didn’t like, so it turns out it’s a five.

#mm19: through the years


Have you read The One Hundred Nights of Hero? What about The Encyclopedia of Early Earth? Let’s talk in the comments!

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ARC review: Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker & Wendy Xu

Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker & Wendy Xu
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 15, 2019
Source: ARC from BookCon

A story of love and demons, family and witchcraft.

Nova Huang knows more about magic than your average teen witch. She works at her grandmothers’ bookshop, where she helps them loan out spell books and investigate any supernatural occurrences in their New England town.

One fateful night, she follows reports of a white wolf into the woods, and she comes across the unexpected: her childhood crush, Tam Lang, battling a horse demon in the woods. As a werewolf, Tam has been wandering from place to place for years, unable to call any town home.

Pursued by dark forces eager to claim the magic of wolves and out of options, Tam turns to Nova for help. Their latent feelings are rekindled against the backdrop of witchcraft, untested magic, occult rituals, and family ties both new and old in this enchanting tale of self-discovery.

As soon as I saw this cover at BookCon, I knew that I needed to read this book. I made a beeline for the Lion Forge booth on day two of BookCon and was lucky enough to get a ticket for the ARC drop and signing.

This review is going to be very short because I feel like there’s very little that I can say about this one that doesn’t spoil at least something.

I loved the art style. I loved the characters. I loved the representation. The romance was adorable. There are some more fantastical aspects as well (one of the main characters being a werewolf, for example) that I felt were done really well. The family dynamics were also really great! I loved Nova’s grandmothers and how supportive they were.

I would absolutely recommend this graphic novel. It was just as amazing as I thought it would be. ❤

#mm19: diversify your reading


Have you read Mooncakes? What’s the last book you really loved? Let’s talk in the comments!

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Mini Review: Here by Richard McGuire

Here by Richard McGuire
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: December 4, 2014
Source: Borrowed

Here is Richard McGuire’s unique graphic novel based on the legendary 1989 comic strip of the same name.

Richard McGuire’s groundbreaking comic strip Here was published under Art Spiegelman’s editorship at RAW in 1989.

Built in six pages of interlocking panels, dated by year, it collapsed time and space to tell the story of the corner of a room – and its inhabitants – between the years 500,957,406,073 BC and 2313 AD.

The strip remains one of the most influential and widely discussed contributions to the medium, and it has now been developed, expanded and reimagined by the artist into this full-length, full-colour graphic novel – a must for any fan of the genre.

I feel like I’m starting a lot of reviews recently by saying, “I want to start off by saying…” but here I am again, starting by saying something. In the case of Here, it’s that I’m not reviewing this as a book, because there’s really not a story here. I’m reviewing this as an entertainment experience and a work of art. Because, the thing is, there are very few words in Here. This is a book about a room, or even a place in the world, over the course of billions of years.

It’s hard to put into words what exactly I thought about this book, mostly because I was so impressed that a room could tell a story without any set characters and with very little dialogue. Some of my favorite scenes were the ones where the same thing was happening in the room decades apart. I also loved the prehistoric scenes since they had some of the most beautiful artwork.

It’s rare for me to want to buy a graphic novel after I finish it, but this is one I’d love to have on my shelf.


Have you read Here? What’s the most unique book you’ve read recently?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book review: Lost At Sea by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Lost At Sea by Bryan Lee O’Malley
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: December 22, 2003
Source: Borrowed

Raleigh doesn’t have a soul. A cat stole it – at least that’s what she tells people – at least that’s what she would tell people if she told people anything. But that would mean talking to people, and the mere thought of social interaction is terrifying. How did such a shy teenage girl end up in a car with three of her hooligan classmates on a cross-country road trip? Being forced to interact with kids her own age is a new and alarming proposition for Raleigh, but maybe it’s just what she needs – or maybe it can help her find what she needs – or maybe it can help her to realize that what she needs has been with her all along. 

A couple years ago, I read the first volume of Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O’Malley. I enjoyed it, just as I’d enjoyed its movie adaptation, but I kind of ignored everything else he’d written. Fast forward a few years and Lost At Sea showed up at my library. I walked by it a few times before finally deciding to take the jump to read it.

At the beginning, my feelings toward this graphic novel were something like, “Hmm, this is fine.” As it went on, though, I began to love it so much. I’m not even sure how to describe what I loved about this book because it kind of snuck up on me. It’s like I was reading it, enjoying it but not feeling any strong feelings, and then all of a sudden my heart was exploding with love.

This isn’t a cute graphic novel. It’s sad and emotional and it deals a lot with the struggles of growing up. Emotionally, Raleigh has a lot going on, which is revealed piece by piece as the book continues. I appreciated that none of what’s going on was terribly dramatic — it was relatable, coming across like a story that could be about almost any teenager.

I loved the writing, I loved the art, and I loved all of the cats. I loved Raleigh and her new friends, and I think this book single-handedly pulled me out of my post-BookCon slump.

Highly recommended if you’re looking for a good graphic novel.

#romanceopoly: library


Have you read Lost At Sea? Is it on your TBR?
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Mini Review: Cat Detective by Meg Golding

Cat Detective by Meg Golding
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: Website
Publication Date: April 11, 2018
Source: Gift

From what I can tell, no official synopsis or information on this little zine exists, but let me tell you — it’s amazing. My boyfriend picked this up for me at a zine festival he went to a few weeks ago and I smiled from the first panel until the end. What would happen if a cat were a detective? Well… a lot of sleeping on the job, some poorly-timed naps, and a lot of playing with things that shouldn’t be played with.

I wasn’t going to write a review of a zine — after all, it’s only twelve pages — but this was just so cute that I had to let the world know it exists. I couldn’t find anywhere to buy the actual zine, but I linked to the website so that you can check it out if you’d like!

Do you read zines? What’s the cutest thing you’ve read recently?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book review: Bloom by Kevin Panetta

Bloom by Kevin Panetta
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: February 12, 2019
Source: Borrowed

Now that high school is over, Ari is dying to move to the big city with his ultra-hip band―if he can just persuade his dad to let him quit his job at their struggling family bakery. Though he loved working there as a kid, Ari cannot fathom a life wasting away over rising dough and hot ovens. But while interviewing candidates for his replacement, Ari meets Hector, an easygoing guy who loves baking as much as Ari wants to escape it. As they become closer over batches of bread, love is ready to bloom . . . that is, if Ari doesn’t ruin everything.

Writer Kevin Panetta and artist Savanna Ganucheau concoct a delicious recipe of intricately illustrated baking scenes and blushing young love, in which the choices we make can have terrible consequences, but the people who love us can help us grow.

As soon as I saw this book pop up in my library’s Overdrive, I knew I had to read it. That cover! I love it. Now, I might be a little biased because (1) I’m on a graphic novel kick right now, and (2) I read this while on an airplane headed to see my boyfriend (so I was already in a pretty great mood), but I thought this was the most adorable book. It’s possibly one of the best things I’ve read so far this year.

This graphic novel had everything I look for in a book: relatable characters, a slow (but not too slow) burn romance, some aspiring musicians, a guy who loves baking, and family relationships that actually make sense. I mean, I could hardly believe it. Not only were Ari’s parents actually present throughout the book, he actually had a good relationship with them!

Add to that the amazing art (and its very soothing color palette) and it’s really no wonder that I loved this so much. So much, in fact, that I don’t even really know what to say about it, other than I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.

#mm19: one sitting reads


Have you read Bloom? Is it on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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