Mini-Reviews: Check Please! Book 2, Camp Spirit, & Spinning

Check, Please! Book 2 by Ngozi Ukazu
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: April 7, 2020
Source: Borrowed

Eric Bittle is heading into his junior year at Samwell University, and not only does he have new teammates―he has a brand new boyfriend! Bitty and Jack must navigate their new, secret, long-distance relationship, and decide how to reveal their relationship to friends and teammates. And on top of that, Bitty’s time at Samwell is quickly coming to an end…It’s two full hockey seasons packed with big wins and high stakes!

A collection of the second half of the mega-popular webcomic series of the same name, Check, Please!: Sticks and Scones is the last in a hilarious and stirring two-volume coming-of-age story about hockey, bros, and trying to find yourself during the best four years of your life.

I loved that the second Check, Please! book dealt with some deeper themes while still being just as heartwarming and sweet as the first. Bitty and Jack are such a great couple, always communicating and being there for each other. Bitty’s baking is still front and center and I absolutely loved it.

In a possibly unpopular opinion, I thought the ending was really stereotypical and it wasn’t my favorite, but I didn’t dislike it enough for it to lower my rating.


Camp Spirit by Axelle Lenoir
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: March 23, 2020
Source: Borrowed

Summer camp is supposed to be about finding nirvana in a rock garden… But Elodie prefers Nirvana and Soundgarden. Can she confront rambunctious kids, confusing feelings, and supernatural horrors all at once?

Summer 1994: with just two months left before college, Elodie is forced by her mother to take a job as a camp counselor. She doesn’t know the first thing about nature, or sports, of kids for that matter, and isn’t especially interested in learning… but now she’s responsible for a foul-mouthed horde of red-headed girls who just might win her over, whether she likes it or not. Just as Elodie starts getting used to her new environment, though — and close to one of the other counselors — a dark mystery lurking around the camp begins to haunt her dreams.

This was a quick and easy read. The art was cute, the romance was done well, the story was… fine. I would have liked more elaboration on what was happening in the woods since it never felt fully explained. While I felt the actual camp counseling and the romance were fun to read about, I can’t say the same for the rest of the plot. The more supernatural aspects of this graphic novel were fun on the sidelines, but when they became front and center pieces of the plot, they fell short for me.

Overall, this was fun, but I’m not sure that I’d really recommend it.


Spinning by Tillie Walden
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: September 12, 2017
Source: Borrowed

Poignant and captivating, Ignatz Award winner Tillie Walden’s powerful graphic memoir, Spinning, captures what it’s like to come of age, come out, and come to terms with leaving behind everything you used to know.

It was the same every morning. Wake up, grab the ice skates, and head to the rink while the world was still dark.

Weekends were spent in glitter and tights at competitions. Perform. Smile. And do it again.

She was good. She won. And she hated it.

For ten years, figure skating was Tillie Walden’s life. She woke before dawn for morning lessons, went straight to group practice after school, and spent weekends competing at ice rinks across the state. It was a central piece of her identity, her safe haven from the stress of school, bullies, and family. But over time, as she switched schools, got into art, and fell in love with her first girlfriend, she began to question how the close-minded world of figure skating fit in with the rest of her life, and whether all the work was worth it given the reality: that she, and her friends on the figure skating team, were nowhere close to Olympic hopefuls. It all led to one question: What was the point? The more Tillie thought about it, the more Tillie realized she’d outgrown her passion–and she finally needed to find her own voice.

Spinning is the second graphic novel I’ve read by Tillie Walden (the first being I love this part), and I think I can officially add her to my list of favorite graphic novelists. There’s just something about her art style and the way she tells the majority of the story through the art rather than words that I love.

Spinning is the story of her years as a competitive figure skater. But it’s also the story of coming out, trauma, and growing up. This was an incredible book, and I can’t wait to devour everything Walden’s ever published.


Have you read any of these books? Are any of them on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Mini-Reviews: Spirit Hunters, A Dash of Trouble, & All My Friends Are Ghosts

Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: July 25, 2017
Source: Borrowed

We Need Diverse Books founder Ellen Oh returns with Spirit Hunters, a high-stakes middle grade mystery series about Harper Raine, the new seventh grader in town who must face down the dangerous ghosts haunting her younger brother. A riveting ghost story and captivating adventure, this tale will have you guessing at every turn!

Harper doesn’t trust her new home from the moment she steps inside, and the rumors are that the Raine family’s new house is haunted. Harper isn’t sure she believes those rumors, until her younger brother, Michael, starts acting strangely. The whole atmosphere gives Harper a sense of déjà vu, but she can’t remember why. She knows that the memories she’s blocking will help make sense of her brother’s behavior and the strange and threatening sensations she feels in this house, but will she be able to put the pieces together in time?

I don’t have very many thoughts on Spirit Hunters, aside from it being a lot spookier than I’d expected when I picked up a middle grade book! It left me, a fully grown adult, more than a little bit spooked. Harper is put into some intense and dramatic situations, and the book does not shy away from describing them in full detail.

Overall, I thought this book was really fun. I appreciated the diversity and the talk of accepting things that you might not understand. I don’t necessarily feel the need to read this book’s sequel, but I think it’s a great example of MG horror.


A Dash of Trouble by Anna Meriano
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: January 2, 2018
Source: Borrowed

Leonora Logroño’s family owns the most beloved bakery in Rose Hill, Texas, spending their days conjuring delicious cookies and cakes for any occasion. And no occasion is more important than the annual Dia de los Muertos festival.

Leo hopes that this might be the year that she gets to help prepare for the big celebration—but, once again, she is told she’s too young. Sneaking out of school and down to the bakery, she discovers that her mother, aunt, and four older sisters have in fact been keeping a big secret: they’re brujas—witches of Mexican ancestry—who pour a little bit of sweet magic into everything that they bake.

Leo knows that she has magical ability as well and is more determined than ever to join the family business—even if she can’t let her mama and hermanas know about it yet.

And when her best friend, Caroline, has a problem that needs solving, Leo has the perfect opportunity to try out her craft. It’s just one little spell, after all…what could possibly go wrong?

I thought that this book was really cute! I love that it took magic and baking and The Day of the Dead and mixed it with strong family relationships, but I did feel that the middle part of the book dragged. There were multiple moments where I wanted to yell at Leo to just tell someone what was going on so they could fix it!

I will acknowledge that I’m more than double this book’s target age range, though, so what was an issue for me might not be an issue for actual middle grade readers. Although I don’t feel any desire to continue on with the series, I would still recommend this book to anyone looking for a fun, magical MG novel.


All My Friends Are Ghosts by S.M. Vidaurri
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: March 17, 2020
Source: Borrowed

Effie is lost and only feels like a ghost – till she discovers an actual ghost school in the nearby woods and begins an unforgettable journey of self-discovery.

Effie is lost, and feels like a ghost. She skips school because she doesn’t think anyone will notice, and doesn’t feel like she belongs, or that school offers her anything that she wants. Simply, she has stopped trying. One day, when she realizes no one will notice, she escapes from her every day life… and discovers a ghost school in the nearby woods. But just as she’s beginning to learn all about the amazing things that ghosts can do – like possession, poltergeist-ing, demon magic and more – Effie is asked by her new friends to help track down a mysterious spirit that’s been spotted. But if Effie’s going to succeed, she’ll not only have to show her friends that she’s got something special,but also learn to believe she’s got it too.

Award winning writer S.M. Vidaurri (Iron, Steven Universe) and artist Hannah Krieger (Psychic Mansion) present a new original graphic novel about discovering what makes you special and helping others be seen for who they are.

Finishing out my three supernatural middle grade books is a graphic novel about a girl who befriends a bunch of ghosts. It’s very rare for me to say that a book is too fast-paced, but this was way too fast-paced. We jumped from one thing to another so quickly and so frequently that I wasn’t able to form any attachments to the characters or have any emotional reactions to the plot.

I think that the premise of the story is great. The art is a lot of fun. The theme of not giving up on your dreams is wonderful. The story just needed to be a little more developed and the pacing needed to be more even. This wasn’t necessarily bad, but it didn’t live up to my expectations, either.


Have you read any of these books? Are any of them on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Mini-Reviews: Moonstruck Vol. 1, The Steel Prince Vol. 1, & Check Please Book 1

Moonstruck, Vol. 1 by Grace Ellis
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: March 27, 2018
Source: Borrowed
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.

Collects issues 1 through 5.

I remember seeing Moonstruck floating around when it was first published, and I thought it looked so cute! I had totally forgotten about it until I saw it on Hoopla.

And it was cute. It features all kinds of mythical creatures, a ton of diversity, and great art. Where it kind of fell apart for me was in the actual storyline. Or maybe I should say lack of storyline? It was all over the place in terms of characterization and actual events, and the resolution at the end was really unsatisfying.

This was quick and cute, but I don’t need to keep reading this series.


The Steel Prince, Vol. 1 by V.E. Schwab
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: March 6, 2019
Source: ARC via Edelweiss

Written by #1 New York Times bestselling author V.E. Schwab and torn from the universe of the Shades of Magic sequence, this all-original comic book prequel to A Darker Shade of Magic is perfect for fans of bloody, swashbuckling adventure and gritty fantasy!

Delve into the thrilling, epic tale of the young and arrogant prince Maxim Maresh, long before he became the king of Red London and adoptive father to Kell, the lead of A Darker Shade of Magic!

The youthful Maresh is sent to a violent and unmanageable port city on the Blood Coast of Verose, on strict orders from his father, King Nokil Maresh, to cut his military teeth in this lawless landscape.

There, he encounters an unruly band of soldiers, a lawless landscape, and the intoxicatingly deadly presence of the newly returned pirate queen, Arisa…

Collects Shades of Magic: The Steel Prince #1-4. 

I like V.E. Schwab and I like graphic novels, so reading The Steel Prince seemed like a no-brainer. I was really excited when I saw it on Edelweiss as a new addition, and completely shocked when I was actually approved.

The story was a little jumpy, and I never say this, but I think the pacing was too fast. It was like a whirlwind of Maxim’s life with things happening almost like bullet points on a list. This, then that, then that, then this. I wasn’t a big fan of the art, either, which is very dark. I never really felt like sticking around to look at the images, which is kind of the main point of a graphic novel.

In the end, this graphic novel was fine, but I don’t feel the need to continue with the series.


Check, Please! Book 1 by Ngozi Ukazu
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: September 18, 2018
Source: Borrowed

Helloooo, Internet Land. Bitty here!

Y’all… I might not be ready for this. I may be a former junior figure skating champion, vlogger extraordinaire, and very talented amateur pâtissier, but being a freshman on the Samwell University hockey team is a whole new challenge. It’s nothing like co-ed club hockey back in Georgia! First of all? There’s checking. And then, there is Jack—our very attractive but moody captain.

A collection of the first half of the megapopular webcomic series of the same name, Check, Please!: #Hockey is the first book of a hilarious and stirring two-volume coming-of-age story about hockey, bros, and trying to find yourself during the best four years of your life.

This is one of the cutest things I’ve ever read. I went into it with basically no expectations since sporty graphic novels and I haven’t always gotten along, but this was just so cute.

I loved Bitty, I loved Jack, I loved all of the characters and all of the baking and all of the vlogging and I didn’t even mind the hockey. The art was absolutely adorable. And that cliffhanger!!

If there’s any character that needs to be protected at all costs, it’s Bitty.

Excuse me while I go read book two.


Have you read any of these books? Are any of them on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony & Rodrigo Corral

Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony & Rodrigo Corral
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: AmazonTBD • Goodreads
Publication: February 2, 2012
Source: Gift

After her mother died, Glory retreated into herself and her music. Her single father raised her as a piano prodigy, with a rigid schedule and the goal of playing sold-out shows across the globe. Now, as a teenager, Glory has disappeared. As we flash back to the events leading up to her disappearance, we see a girl on the precipice of disaster. Brilliant and lonely, Glory is drawn to an artistic new boy, Frank, who moves in next door. The farther she falls, the deeper she spirals into madness. Before long, Glory is unable to play anything but the song “Chopsticks.”

But nothing is what it seems, and Glory’s reality is not reality at all. In this stunningly moving novel told in photographs, pictures, and words, it’s up to the reader to decide what is real, what is imagined, and what has been madness all along….
 

The thing about Chopsticks is that it takes about a half hour, at most, to read this book. It’s mostly photos, drawings, ticket stubs, and souvenirs. There are only a few sentences of actual story, and yet, somehow, I completely understood what was happening.

Or, at least, I thought I did.

Because the other thing about Chopsticks is that at some point, you start to realize that something is off. And then you go back and you flip through over and over and over again trying to figure out what exactly happened to these two characters.

I’m not going to get into what exactly happens in this book, because I think a lot of the fun is in figuring that out for yourself. I will say that I think there are at least two different interpretations, but probably more. The more that I think about this book, the more I like it.

If you like stories that are told in an unconventional way, I would highly recommend this one.

#mm20: author introduction


Have you read Chopsticks? What’s the last unconventionally told story you enjoyed?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Mini-Reviews: The Fire Never Goes Out, The Woods Vol. 1, & An Embarrassment of Witches

The Fire Never Goes Out by Noelle Stevenson
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: March 3, 2020
Source: Borrowed

From Noelle Stevenson, the New York Times bestselling author-illustrator of Nimona, comes a captivating, honest illustrated memoir that finds her turning an important corner in her creative journey—and inviting readers along for the ride.

In a collection of essays and personal mini-comics that span eight years of her young adult life, author-illustrator Noelle Stevenson charts the highs and lows of being a creative human in the world. Whether it’s hearing the wrong name called at her art school graduation ceremony or becoming a National Book Award finalist for her debut graphic novel, Nimona, Noelle captures the little and big moments that make up a real life, with a wit, wisdom, and vulnerability that are all her own.

I’ve read many things by Noelle Stevenson but hardly knew anything about her, so when I saw this graphic memoir show up on my library’s Overdrive, I knew I had to check it out.

I think the first thing I want to say is that this isn’t a typical memoir. It’s a lot of doodles and sketches and early comics of hers with little wrap-ups of each year from 2011 to 2019. There’s nothing to really tie everything together and it comes across as a lot of anecdotes and lists of accomplishments. And that’s fine, I just had to adjust my expectations a little bit.

The book does have a nice discussion of mental health, and it was interesting to see Noelle come to accept herself and her sexuality. There are some definite content warnings here for self harm and overwhelming sadness. But overall, the book comes across as very hopeful.

I don’t know that I would recommend this to someone who’s not already a fan of Noelle’s, but if you’ve enjoyed her work and want to learn more about her, this might be worth a read.


The Woods, Vol. 1 by James Tynion IV
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: September 3, 2014
Source: Borrowed

On October 16, 2013, 437 students, 52 teachers, and 24 additional staff from Bay Point Preparatory High School in suburban Milwaukee, WI vanished without a trace. Countless light years away, far outside the bounds of the charted universe, 513 people find themselves in the middle of an ancient, primordial wilderness. Where are they? Why are they there? The answers will prove stranger than anyone could possibly imagine. 

This is the third of Tynion’s series that I’ve had the pleasure to start, and it’s also the one that takes the most effort to get into. It’s not that there’s anything overtly wrong with this series. It’s set at a high school that just, out of nowhere, gets plopped down into the middle of nowhere on an alien planet. As expected, things descend into chaos as the school’s administration tries to figure out what to do and certain students and teachers take things into their own hands.

This reminded me a bit of Something is Killing the Children, which is another of Tynion’s books that I’ve recently read. It took me a little while to separate the two in my head, but once I did, and once the story picked up, I really enjoyed this.

I’m curious to see where this story goes!


An Embarrassment of Witches by Sophie Goldstein & Jenn Jordan
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: March 3, 2020
Source: Borrowed

A coming-of-age urban fantasy set in a world full of animal familiars, enchanted plants, and spell-casting that explores the mundane horrors of breakups, job searches, and post-graduate existential angst.

Life after college isn’t turning out exactly as Rory and Angela had planned. Rory, recently dumped at the gate of her flight to Australia, needs to find a new life path ASAP. What do you do with a B.A. in Communications and a minor in Southeast Asian Spellcraft? Maybe her cute new housemate Guy is the answer she’s looking for (spoiler alert: he isn’t).

Meanwhile, Angela is buckling under the pressure of a high-stakes internship in a cutting-edge cryptopharmocology lab run by Rory’s controlling mother, who doesn’t know Rory is still in town… and Angela hates keeping secrets.

An Embarrassment of Witches is the story of two childhood friends learning how to be adults–and hoping their friendship can survive the change.

I checked out An Embarrassment of Witches on a whim, mostly because I liked the cover and the title, and it was mostly fine. It’s definitely not the greatest graphic novel I’ve ever read, but it’s also far from the worst.

I loved the color palette and the witches’ familiars. I loved the magical university. I loved all of the magical takes on our world, like Taco Spell instead of Taco Bell. What I didn’t love was the virtual absence of plot. This is a graphic novel that’s just about two witches in their mid-20s trying to figure out life, but that’s about it. I kept expecting some actual storyline to show up, and it never really did.

This isn’t a bad graphic novel by any means, but I’m definitely not recommending that anybody run out to the store to buy it.


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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