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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Mini-Reviews: Heartstopper Vol. 3, Something is Killing the Children, and Happily Ever After & Everything in Between

Heartstopper, Vol. 3 by Alice Oseman
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: February 6, 2020
Source: Purchased

In this volume we’ll see the Heartstopper gang go on a school trip to Paris! Not only are Nick and Charlie navigating a new city, but also telling more people about their relationship AND learning more about the challenges each other are facing in private…

Meanwhile Tao and Elle will face their feelings for each other, Tara and Darcy share more about their relationship origin story, and the teachers supervising the trip seem… rather close…?

There’s this idea that if you’re not straight, you have to tell all your family and friends immediately, like you owe it to them. But you don’t. You don’t have to do anything until you’re ready.

After two volumes of Nick and Charlie being absolutely adorable, it wasn’t really a surprise to find some deeper themes in Volume 3. This volume follows the group through a class trip to Paris, along with all of the exploration they do and all the fun they have.

But despite all of the fun, Nick and Charlie do have to navigate some real issues in this volume. It’s definitely a darker feeling than the two previous volumes, but still so, so good. I can’t wait to see what comes next for Nick and Charlie. I may need to read Solitaire while I wait.

Content warnings for:homophobia, self harm, and eating disorder

Something is Killing the Children, Vol. 1 by James Tynion IV
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: May 26, 2020
Source: ARC via Netgalley

When children begin to go missing in the town of Archer’s Peak, all hope seems lost until a mysterious woman arrives to reveal that terrifying creatures are behind the chaos – and that she alone will destroy them, no matter the cost.

IT’S THE MONSTERS WHO SHOULD BE AFRAID.

When the children of Archer’s Peak—a sleepy town in the heart of America—begin to go missing, everything seems hopeless. Most children never return, but the ones that do have terrible stories—impossible details of terrifying creatures that live in the shadows. Their only hope of finding and eliminating the threat is the arrival of a mysterious stranger, one who believes the children and claims to be the only one who sees what they can see. 

Her name is Erica Slaughter. She kills monsters. That is all she does, and she bears the cost because it must be done.

GLAAD Award-winning writer James Tynion IV (The Woods, Batman: Detective Comics) teams with artist Werther Dell’Edera (Briggs Land) for an all-new story about staring into the abyss.

Collects Something is Killing the Children #1-5.

The first graphic novel series I read by Tynion was The Backstagers, which I absolutely adored. I’d seen the individual issues of Something is Killing the Children on Hoopla, but I hadn’t gotten around to checking it out yet. Luckily for me, the first volume showed up on Netgalley and I was able to read it all at once!

First things first, this is a very different vibe from The Backstagers. This isn’t cute and fluffy, it’s dark and gritty. It features monsters and death and blood and gore. But it also features a pretty cool monster slayer and it takes place in my home state of Wisconsin, so that’s always a win for me!

If you like Stranger Things and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you’ll probably like this graphic novel.

Content warnings for:blood/gore/violence/murder, homophobia

Happily Ever After & Everything in Between by Debbie Tung
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: June 2, 2020
Source: ARC via Netgalley

From the bestselling author of Quiet Girl in a Noisy World and Book Love comes a funny and adorable collection of comics about married life, specifically an introvert married to an extrovert! Debbie Tung’s tender, funny, and utterly relatable comics are the perfect gift for anyone in a relationship.
 

The comics in Happily Ever After & Everything In Between may be inspired by Debbie Tung’s marriage to her extrovert husband, but any couple can relate to increasingly relaxed anniversaries, slowly seeing more of each other’s weird sides, or the punishment for taking care of your sick loved one (catching whatever they had). Happily Ever After humorously captures what everyday love looks like—both the sweet moments and the mundane—making it a fitting gift for weddings, anniversaries, and Valentine’s Day.

I’ve previously read (and really enjoyed!) both Book Love and Quiet Girl in a Noisy World by Debbie Tung. When I saw Happily Ever After & Everything in Between show up on Netgalley, I knew I had to read it too. I was expecting that same relatable quality that all of Debbie’s books have, and it was there. But there was just something about this one that didn’t sit quite right with me.

I think there’s a lot of the “everything in between” and not as much of the “happily ever after” as I might have expected. For instance, there are a few pages where Debbie shows herself doing all the housework while her husband makes excuses for why he can’t help, or while he just sleeps on the couch. Was that supposed to be cute? Am I missing something?

Overall, this was fine, but it isn’t a book that I’m going to recommend anybody run out to buy. If you’re looking to get into Debbie’s work, I’d recommend Book Love as a better starting place than this.


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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Book Review: The Backstagers 2018 Halloween Intermission #1 by James Tynion IV

The Backstagers 2018 Halloween Intermission #1 by James Tynion IV
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 24, 2018
Source: Borrowed

With the days getting shorter and the nights getting SPOOKIER, the Backstagers are back for the Halloween season with all-new tales of terrors and creepy creatures. When Sasha accidentally falls asleep backstage, he ends up locked in the theater overnight! What lurks in the shadows, what terrors will he discover, and what the heck are the stage managers chanting?

From writers James Tynion IV (Detective Comics, The Woods) and Sam Johns (The Backstagers: Valentines Intermission), and artist Rian Sygh (Adventure Time Fionna and Cake Card Wars, Regular Show), this haunted oversized one-act is a night at the theater you won’t want to miss!

With back-up stories from artists Shan Murphy, Abby Howard, and Savanna Ganucheau this spine-tingling tale of the stage will leave you with goosebumps you can see from the back row!

I really enjoy the world of The Backstagers, so I was excited to find this little intermission on Hoopla! This is a single issue set in the magical Backstagers world over Halloween.

I have to admit that I was a little nervous about this one. Of all the characters, Sasha really isn’t one of my favorites, so I was a little apprehensive about this story that primarily features him. I didn’t need to worry, though, because this was super cute. I may even love Sasha now.

I really liked that we got to see more of the stage managers and I wouldn’t mind getting to know them even better. I also really liked the positive message in this issue! I said it already but I’m going to say it again — this was just so cute.

I haven’t checked out the Valentine’s intermission yet, but I really think I should.


#mm19: tricks and trades


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

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Book Review: The Backstagers, Vol. 2 by James Tynion IV

The Backstagers, Vol. 2 by James Tynion IV
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: February 13, 2018
Source: Borrowed

All the world’s a stage . . . but what happens behind the curtain is pure magic—literally!

Jory and the rest of the Backstagers have one goal this semester: to put on the best show their town’s ever seen. But best laid plans aren’t easy to achieve when there’s an entire magical world that lives beyond the curtain! When one of the actors suddenly goes missing, the Backstagers must band together to save their comrade and maintain the natural balance of . . . theater. 

James Tynion IV (Detective Comics, The Woods) and artist Rian Sygh (Munchkin, Stolen Forest) explore what it means to be an outcast looking to find one’s place in an earnest story of friendship and self-expression.

Okay, I think I’m officially on board with The Backstagers. This series is so cute, so positive, and so magical. In this installment, we learn a lot more about the magical underground theater world and the mysterious tech kids that disappeared all those years ago. The world goes a lot deeper than anyone previously thought, and it was so much fun!

The LGBT aspects that were sort of hinted at in the first volume become a lot clearer in this one, with two of the main characters getting into a relationship and one character casually referencing the fact that he transferred from an all-girls school to an all-boys school, thus implying that he’s transgender. The representation is done so subtly and I absolutely loved it! It’s never a thing, it just exists.

The only thing that I didn’t enjoy about this volume was that a lot of the action seems to happen off-page. Sure, I can make connections between events and figure out on my own what happened, but it’s a lot more fun to see these dramatic moments (such as, like I mentioned above, two of the main characters getting together) play out right in front of you.

Now I’m just sitting here waiting for my Hoopla borrows to reset so that I can check out the third volume of this series.


Have you read The Backstagers? Can you recommend any similar books?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: The Backstagers, Vol. 1 by James Tynion IV

The Backstagers, Vol. 1 by James Tynion IV
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: July 25, 2017
Source: Borrowed

All the world’s a stage . . . but what happens behind the curtain is pure magic literally! 

When Jory transfers to an all-boys private high school, he’s taken in by the only ones who don’t treat him like a new kid, the lowly stage crew known as the Backstagers. Not only does he gain great, lifetime friends, Jory is also introduced to an entire magical world that lives beyond the curtain. With the unpredictable twists and turns of the underground world, the Backstagers venture into the unknown, determined to put together the best play their high school has ever seen. 

James Tynion IV (Detective Comics, The Woods) teams up with artist Rian Sygh (Munchkin, Stolen Forest) for an incredibly earnest story that explores what it means to find a place to fit in when you’re kinda an outcast.

I first saw this graphic novel advertised in the back of something else I’d read and added it to my list to read eventually. I ended up remembering it while scrolling through Hoopla after all of my books were packed into boxes.

When I first started reading it, I wasn’t entirely sure what I thought. I mean, the idea of it is super fun! There’s this whole magical world (literally!!) behind the scenes at a school play. I hadn’t really expected the whole magical realism plot, but that didn’t mean that I disliked it. In fact, as the story went on, I think that made me enjoy this little graphic novel even more.

The characters are great and really easy to relate to. Even though they’re moving through this mystical world filled with magical creatures and moving hallways and just… the strangest things you’ve ever seen, they’re your typical, everyday teenagers and they just want to make sure that the school musical goes off without a hitch.

The story does move along pretty quickly without a ton of character development or worldbuilding, but it is only the first volume. I’m hoping that we’ll see more of that in the next volume, which I’m excited to dive into soon!


Have you read The Backstagers? Can you recommend any similar books?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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