Mini-Reviews: Heartstopper Vol. 1, Super Chill, and Heavy Vinyl

Heartstopper, Vol. 1 by Alice Oseman
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 2018
Source: Won in Alyssa’s giveaway!

Charlie, a highly-strung, openly gay over-thinker, and Nick, a cheerful, soft-hearted rugby player, meet at a British all-boys grammar school. Friendship blooms quickly, but could there be something more…?

Charlie Spring is in Year 10 at Truham Grammar School for Boys. The past year hasn’t been too great, but at least he’s not being bullied anymore, and he’s sort of got a boyfriend, even if he’s kind of mean and only wants to meet up in secret.

Nick Nelson is in Year 11 and on the school rugby team. He’s heard a little about Charlie – the kid who was outed last year and bullied for a few months – but he’s never had the opportunity to talk to him. That is, until the start of January, in which Nick and Charlie are placed in the same form group and made to sit together.

They quickly become friends, and soon Charlie is falling hard for Nick, even though he doesn’t think he has a chance. But love works in surprising ways, and sometimes good things are waiting just around the corner…

Okay, so I’ve been anticipating Heartstopper since approximately forever, and I finally got the chance to read it when I won Alyssa’s giveaway! I was about 99.9% sure that I would love this book to pieces, and I was correct.

I absolutely loved Charlie and Nick and all of the little interactions that they had. Watching Charlie fall for Nick and Nick fall for Charlie was just… so… cute. This is the most adorable, wholesome friends-to-(not quite yet)-lovers story, and it also does a great job of really subtly addressing a bunch of important topics like consent and how to be a good ally.

I’m so mad that it ended on that cliffhanger because I need to know what happens next.


Super Chill by Adam Ellis
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 3, 2018
Source: Borrowed

From former Buzzfeed illustrator Adam Ellis comes a collection of autobiographical comics that follows a year in the artist’s life.

Adam’s comics deal with weightier topics like seasonal affective disorder and struggles with self-esteem, while also touching on the silly and absurd—like his brief, but intense obsession with crystals. With a bright, positive outlook and a sense of humor, Super Chill tells a story that is both highly relatable and intensely personal. 

I’ve been a fan of Adam’s comics since he worked for Buzzfeed, so I was pretty excited to find his book available on Hoopla. I already knew that I liked his art style and his sense of humor, so there wasn’t much of a surprise there. Like with most comic collections like this, there were some that I really enjoyed and some that I didn’t.

The ones I enjoyed were the ones I related to most, like the comics about Gudetama, Dr. Feelbad, and moms with wrapping paper. Some comics seemed to go on a bit long, though, and others I just didn’t really react to. That’s to be expected, though, and I’d still recommend this one if you’ve previously enjoyed Adam’s work.


Heavy Vinyl, Vol. 1 by Carly Usdin
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: April 10, 2018
Source: Borrowed

When Chris joins the staff at her local record store, she’s surprised to find out that her co-workers share a secret: they’re all members of a secret fight club that take on the patriarchy and fight crime!

Starry-eyed Chris has just started the dream job every outcast kid in town wants: working at Vinyl Mayhem. It’s as rad as she imagined; her boss is BOSS, her co-workers spend their time arguing over music, pushing against the patriarchy, and endlessly trying to form a band. When Rosie Riot, the staff’s favorite singer, mysteriously vanishes the night before her band’s show, Chris discovers her co-workers are doing more than just sorting vinyl . . . Her local indie record store is also a front for a teen girl vigilante fight club! 

Follow writer Carly Usdin (director of Suicide Kale) and artist Nina Vakueva (Lilith’s World) into the Hi-Fi Fight Club, where they deliver a rock and roll tale of intrigue and boundless friendship.

Heavy Vinyl is a super fun story about a group of crime-fighting record store employees in late 1990s New Jersey. It’s a great concept and I loved the setting (never thought I’d see an NJ Transit train in a graphic novel, but I did), the representation, and all of the characters. It also gave me a huge rush of nostalgia for the 90s!

The only reason I didn’t give this five stars was that I felt the resolution of the mystery was a little odd. It didn’t make a ton of sense to me, but I also feel like that wasn’t the point of this graphic novel, so I’ll let it slide. I’m excited to read the next volume and also happy that it coincides almost exactly with me finishing this one.


Have you read any of these books? Have you read any good MG recently?
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Book Review: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Links: AmazonTBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: March 1, 2012
Source: Borrowed

Greg Gaines is the last master of high school espionage, able to disappear at will into any social environment. He has only one friend, Earl, and together they spend their time making movies, their own incomprehensible versions of Coppola and Herzog cult classics.

Until Greg’s mother forces him to rekindle his childhood friendship with Rachel.

Rachel has been diagnosed with leukemia—-cue extreme adolescent awkwardness—-but a parental mandate has been issued and must be obeyed. When Rachel stops treatment, Greg and Earl decide the thing to do is to make a film for her, which turns into the Worst Film Ever Made and becomes a turning point in each of their lives.

And all at once Greg must abandon invisibility and stand in the spotlight.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is one of those books that I’ve put on my TBR and then taken off and then put on and then taken off seemingly countless times since it came out. I put it on my TBR because I liked the cover. I put it on because I saw a good review one time. I put it on because it has an interesting name. Every time, I took it off because I knew I wouldn’t actually like it.

And yet I checked it out from the library.

And, entirely unsurprisingly, I didn’t actually like it.

First things first, I was bored. I mean, books about cancer and death aren’t usually my cup of tea, but at least they’re not usually boring. You’d think, with all the filmmaking and the illness and Greg being a generally terrible person, that I might actually feel something other than boredom while listening to do this audiobook. You’d be wrong.

Actually, you know what? That’s not true. I felt annoyed. And not for the reasons that I’ve most commonly seen in the negative reviews I’ve read. Those reviews rightfully point out that Greg is awful, that the book uses a terminally ill teenage girl as a plot device, that the way the author continually refers to his book as horrible is pretty cringey… and all of that is true. But what really bothered me about this book was all of the casual racism that continually goes unchallenged.

And for every argument, there’s a counterargument, so I’m sure you could argue that this book is absolutely not racist at all or something. But I’m just going to say that I, a white person, knew that this book was written by another white person as soon Earl, a black character, made his first appearance.

Let’s talk about Greg first. He’s grown up in a loving, at least reasonably well-off family with parents that are still together. Both of his parents care about him a lot, but his mom especially is very involved in his life. Greg is also white, and so are basically all of the other characters in this book. The lone main character of color is Earl, Greg’s best friend, who is… a caricature at best, and an incredibly racist stereotype at worst. Because Earl is the opposite of Greg. He really has no adult supervision in his life. His father is completely out of the picture, his mother is an alcoholic who spends all of her time on the computer upstairs, his brothers sell drugs, their house is falling apart, and THE WAY THEY TALK. Did you know that you can write dialogue with a character of color without resorting to cringey stereotypes? I think Earl is the only character in this book who ever uses slang, and it’s the only way he ever talks. I hated it.

Add to that the completely unnecessary discussion on how bisexuality isn’t real and I’m just… heavily sighing. Like, there’s not even a bisexual character in this book. There’s just this random conversation where Greg and Earl talk about how bisexuality can’t be a thing because then you’d want to have sex with literally everything all the time and it made me so angry.

Now, you may notice that I’ve addressed Greg (the “me” in the title) and Earl and yet I have hardly any mention of “the dying girl.” This is because, despite being a titular character, she barely exists. I mean, sure, the plot kind of revolves around her, but she could be anyone. All she ever does is giggle and go to the hospital. Rachel and her illness only exist to further Greg’s character development. It really reminded me of All the Bright Places, in which Finch and his mental illness only exist so that Violet can react to them.

This book really just made me sad, and it’s not because of the cancer or anything else that was supposed to make me feel something. No, this book made me sad because I think it could have been a great concept, but it was absolutely ruined by almost everything that happened. As I finish up this review, my computer is telling me that it sounds “disappointed,” “sad,” and “confident” in what I’m saying. Good. I guess I’ve gotten my point across.


Have you read Me and Earl and the Dying Girl? Is it on your TBR?
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Book Review: Seriously… I’m Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres

Seriously… I’m Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: AmazonTBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 4, 2011
Source: Borrowed

“Sometimes the greatest things are the most embarrassing.”

Ellen Degeneres’ winning, upbeat candor has made her show one of the most popular, resilient and honored daytime shows on the air. (To date, it has won no fewer than 31 Emmys.) Seriously… I’m Kidding, Degeneres’ first book in eight years, brings us up to date about the life of a kindhearted woman who bowed out of American Idol because she didn’t want to be mean. Lively; hilarious; often sweetly poignant.

I want to start off by saying that while I’ve enjoyed what I’ve seen of Ellen, I don’t really go seeking her out. I mean, I’ve seen a lot of clips from her show and I think she does a great job. She’s funny and she seems like she’s a really nice person, but I don’t go out of my way to catch her show. And yet I decided to listen to Seriously… I’m Kidding.

I’m not really sure what I expected with this one. A memoir, I guess? This is more a collection of funny thoughts that Ellen had and decided to compile into book form, but I’m fine with that. The book is literally called “Seriously… I’m Kidding,” so it’s not like I was expecting a serious piece of literature.

This book is very short (the audiobook is only like three hours long), which means that I don’t have a lot to say about it. I stand by my original point that Ellen is funny and seems like a nice person. I enjoyed her rant about showing up on time for parties, but I think my favorite was the casino chapter. As someone who was recently in a casino for the first time and yelled at for doing something I didn’t even know wasn’t allowed, I could totally relate.

I might check out Ellen’s other books at some point, but mostly, I’m just pleasantly surprised at what a fun book this was to listen to while working.


Have you read Seriously… I’m Kidding? Is it on your TBR?
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Book Review: What If? by Randall Munroe

What If? by Randall Munroe
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: AmazonTBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: September 2, 2014
Source: Borrowed

Randall Munroe left NASA in 2005 to start up his hugely popular site XKCD ‘a web comic of romance, sarcasm, math and language’ which offers a witty take on the world of science and geeks. It now has 600,000 to a million page hits daily. Every now and then, Munroe would get emails asking him to arbitrate a science debate. ‘My friend and I were arguing about what would happen if a bullet got struck by lightning, and we agreed that you should resolve it . . . ‘ He liked these questions so much that he started up What If.

If your cells suddenly lost the power to divide, how long would you survive?

How dangerous is it, really, to be in a swimming pool in a thunderstorm?

If we hooked turbines to people exercising in gyms, how much power could we produce?

What if everyone only had one soulmate?

When (if ever) did the sun go down on the British empire?

How fast can you hit a speed bump while driving and live?

What would happen if the moon went away?

In pursuit of answers, Munroe runs computer simulations, pores over stacks of declassified military research memos, solves differential equations, and consults with nuclear reactor operators. His responses are masterpieces of clarity and hilarity, studded with memorable cartoons and infographics. They often predict the complete annihilation of humankind, or at least a really big explosion. Far more than a book for geeks, WHAT IF: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions explains the laws of science in operation in a way that every intelligent reader will enjoy and feel much the smarter for having read.

For this review, I’m throwing it way back to 2007 when I was obsessed with xkcd. So was one of my friends, and we did things like printing the comics out to hang in our lockers, doodling the comics in class, and referencing the site in casual conversation. Senior year of high school, he signed my yearbook with a recreation of one of the comics. I may have had a panel of the ball pit comic as my Livejournal icon for a while. When I say obsessed, I mean obsessed.

So when I saw that Randall Munroe had written a book, I did what anybody who obsessed over someone a decade ago and hadn’t thought of them since would do — I completely ignored it. I mean, I’d seen it on Goodreads. I’d seen it in stores. I’d thought about reading it, but then I thought, “Sara, what if it’s terrible and it completely ruins your teenage years for you?” Then one day I just decided to go for it.

It wasn’t terrible.

It wasn’t great, either, but it wasn’t terrible.

I think, more than anything, it showcases how intelligent Munroe is. When faced with these questions, his mind goes to absolutely ridiculous lengths to answer them. He’ll provide a quick answer as to what would happen, and then branch off into the effects of that, and the effects of that, and the effects of that… until basically the entire planet is destroyed or humanity dies out. This was fun for a few of the questions, but a little much for the rest.

I’ll probably read Munroe’s other book at some point, but I feel like they’d be better spaced out than read back-to-back.


Have you read What If? Have you read xkcd?
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Book Review: My Squirrel Days by Ellie Kemper

My Squirrel Days by Ellie Kemper
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: AmazonTBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 9, 2018
Source: Borrowed

Meet Ellie, the best-intentioned redhead next door. You’ll laugh right alongside her as she shares tales of her childhood in St. Louis, whether directing and also starring in her family holiday pageant, washing her dad’s car with a Brillo pad, failing to become friends with a plump squirrel in her backyard, eating her feelings while watching PG-13 movies, or becoming a “sports monster” who ends up warming the bench of her Division 1 field hockey team in college.

You’ll learn how she found her comedic calling in the world of improv, became a wife, mother and New Yorker, and landed the role of a bridesmaid (while simultaneously being a bridesmaid) in Bridesmaids. You’ll get to know and love the comic, upbeat, perpetually polite actress playing Erin Hannon on The Office, and the exuberant, pink-pants-wearing star of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

If you’ve ever been curious about what happens behind the scenes of your favorite shows, what it really takes to be a soul cycle “warrior,” how to recover if you accidentally fall on Doris Kearns Goodwin or tell Tina Fey on meeting her for the first time that she has “great hair—really strong and thick,” this is your chance to find out. But it’s also a laugh-out-loud primer on how to keep a positive outlook in a world gone mad and how not to give up on your dreams. Ellie “dives fully into each role—as actor, comedian, writer, and also wife and new mom—with an electric dedication, by which one learns to reframe the picture, and if not exactly become a glass-half-full sort of person, at least become able to appreciate them” (Vogue.com).

I’m a big fan of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (I actually dressed up as Kimmy for Halloween), so I was curious about Ellie Kemper’s memoir as soon as I saw it in my library. And, after reading it, I really like her. She comes across as a really down-to-earth, genuinely nice person who hasn’t been corrupted by having a super popular show on Netflix.

But being a really down-to-earth, genuinely nice person doesn’t necessarily make for an interesting memoir. Now, don’t get me wrong, Ellie is funny. The way that she tells the stories of what’s happened to her over the years is hilarious. She can take a normal day and make it funny, and that’s great.

But does it need a whole book? I’m not so sure.

On the one hand, I was happy to read a memoir that didn’t involve anything dark. Like, literally anything at all. Ellie projects a very upbeat, sunny personality in everything that she does, and her book is no different. The parts of her life that she’s chosen to share in this book are just as cute and quirky as you might expect. But, on the other hand, reading one cute, quirky story after another gets a little tedious. Can anyone’s life really be that perfect?

Overall, My Squirrel Days is well-written, it’s a refreshingly positive memoir, and it’s very, very reminiscent of Kimmy Schmidt. I enjoyed it quite a bit, but everything was so happy and so quirky and so perfect that I don’t think it’ll leave a lasting impression on me.

I’d recommend this if you’re a big Ellie Kemper fan, but if you’re not? You can probably skip this one.


Have you read My Squirrel Days? Do you like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt?
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