Mini-Reviews: On a Sunbeam, Goldie Vance Vol. 1, & The Tea Dragon Society

On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 2, 2018
Source: Borrowed

An epic graphic novel about a girl who travels to the ends of the universe to find a long lost love, from acclaimed author Tillie Walden.

Throughout the deepest reaches of space, a crew rebuilds beautiful and broken-down structures, painstakingly putting the past together. As Mia, the newest member, gets to know her team, the story flashes back to her pivotal year in boarding school, where she fell in love with a mysterious new student. When Mia grows close to her new friends, she reveals her true purpose for joining their ship—to track down her long-lost love.

An inventive world, a breathtaking love story, and stunning art come together in this new work by award-winning artist Tillie Walden.

As I’ve come to expect with Tillie Walden, the art in On a Sunbeam is absolutely stunning. She has such a way with color palettes and using color to highlight emotion. Unfortunately, the art really stole the show, because the plot and characters left a lot to be desired.

The book really felt like 544 pages of really beautiful art with some words added in as an afterthought. Maybe that’s not a completely fair assessment, but I really felt like something was missing from this story. This was still a nice book, but at almost 550 pages, it’s pretty large to be missing a strong story.


Goldie Vance, Vol. 1 by Hope Larson
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 11, 2016
Source: Borrowed

GOLDIE VANCE IS ON THE CASE

Sixteen-year-old Marigold “Goldie” Vance has an insatiable curiosity. She lives at a Florida resort with her dad, who manages the place, and it’s her dream to one day be the hotel’s in-house detective. When Walter, the current detective, encounters a case he can’t crack, together they utilize her smarts, skills, and connections to solve the mystery…even if it means getting into a drag race, solving puzzles, or chasing a helicopter to do it!
 

Goldie Vance was the super cute detective story that I never knew I needed! I picked this one up from Hoopla on a whim and I’m so glad I did. Everything from the setting to the characters to the art was really well-done. My only criticism would be that everything that happened felt really convenient.

I’ve already borrowed the next volume and I’m hoping to read it soon!


The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 31, 2017
Source: Borrowed

From the award-winning author of Princess Princess Ever After comes The Tea Dragon Society, a charming all-ages book that follows the story of Greta, a blacksmith apprentice, and the people she meets as she becomes entwined in the enchanting world of tea dragons.

After discovering a lost tea dragon in the marketplace, Greta learns about the dying art form of tea dragon care-taking from the kind tea shop owners, Hesekiel and Erik. As she befriends them and their shy ward, Minette, Greta sees how the craft enriches their lives—and eventually her own.

I’d heard a lot about how cute The Tea Dragon Society was, and I have to say, it lived up to the hype. It was just so… nice. It’s very cute and full of casual diversity and characters who accept others just the way they are. And the dragons! These are the cutest little dragons I’ve ever seen in my life and I want one so badly.

This book was great, I just wish that it had been longer and more developed.


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: So You Want to Talk About Race & Stamped from the Beginning

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: January 16, 2018
Source: Borrowed

In this breakout book, Ijeoma Oluo explores the complex reality of today’s racial landscape–from white privilege and police brutality to systemic discrimination and the Black Lives Matter movement–offering straightforward clarity that readers need to contribute to the dismantling of the racial divide

In So You Want to Talk About Race, Editor at Large of The Establishment Ijeoma Oluo offers a contemporary, accessible take on the racial landscape in America, addressing head-on such issues as privilege, police brutality, intersectionality, micro-aggressions, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the “N” word. Perfectly positioned to bridge the gap between people of color and white Americans struggling with race complexities, Oluo answers the questions readers don’t dare ask, and explains the concepts that continue to elude everyday Americans.

Oluo is an exceptional writer with a rare ability to be straightforward, funny, and effective in her coverage of sensitive, hyper-charged issues in America. Her messages are passionate but finely tuned, and crystalize ideas that would otherwise be vague by empowering them with aha-moment clarity. Her writing brings to mind voices like Ta-Nehisi Coates and Roxane Gay, and Jessica Valenti in Full Frontal Feminism, and a young Gloria Naylor, particularly in Naylor’s seminal essay “The Meaning of a Word.”

This book was very, very good, to the point that I don’t really have anything to say about it. Oluo provides facts about and examples of racism, educates the reader on intersectionality and privilege, and shares a number of questions to think about in order to move forward.

Two quotes stand out for me:

“There is no neutrality to be had towards systems of injustice. It is not something you can just opt out of.”

“What am I thinking that this conversations says about me? Has my top priority shifted to preserving my ego?”

I think that everyone should read this book. And please, if I ever say anything racist or insensitive, don’t be afraid to call me out.


Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: April 12, 2016
Source: Borrowed

Americans like to insist that they are living in a post-racial, color-blind society. In fact, racist thought is alive and well; it has simply become more sophisticated and more insidious. And as award-winning historian Ibram X. Kendi argues in Stamped from the Beginning, racist ideas in America have a long and lingering history, one in which nearly every great American thinker is complicit.

In this deeply researched and fast-moving narrative, Kendi chronicles the entire story of anti–Black racist ideas and their staggering power over the course of American history. Stamped from the Beginning uses the lives of five major American intellectuals to offer a window into the contentious debates between assimilationists and segregationists and between racists and anti-racists. From Puritan minister Cotton Mather to Thomas Jefferson, from fiery abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison to brilliant scholar W. E. B. Du Bois to legendary anti–prison activist Angela Davis, Kendi shows how and why some of our leading pro-slavery and pro–civil rights thinkers have challenged or helped cement racist ideas in America.

As Kendi provocatively illustrates, racist thinking did not arise from ignorance or hatred. Racist ideas were created and popularized in an effort to defend deeply entrenched discriminatory policies and to rationalize the nation’s racial inequities in everything from wealth to health. While racist ideas are easily produced and easily consumed, they can also be discredited. In shedding much–needed light on the murky history of racist ideas, Stamped from the Beginning offers tools to expose them—and in the process, reason to hope.

Stamped from the Beginning is, I think, another book that everyone should read. It’s incredibly interesting, going deep into the history of racism in the United States. Kendi brings up many historical figures and analyzes their behavior to show whether they were segregationists, assimilationists, or anti-racists.

While this book was well-written and definitely well-researched, it’s also very, very dense. At nearly 600 pages (or 18 and a half hours on audio), it takes a long time to get through and left me feeling absolutely exhausted. This is a book that you need to dedicate some time to, but it’s worth it.


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: Beach Read, Get a Life, Chloe Brown, & Twice in a Blue Moon

Beach Read by Emily Henry
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: May 19, 2020
Source: Borrowed

A romance writer who no longer believes in love and a literary writer stuck in a rut engage in a summer-long challenge that may just upend everything they believe about happily ever afters.

Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.

They’re polar opposites.

In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they’re living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer’s block.

Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.

Beach Read was one of those very, very (very, very, very) hyped books that I was kind of afraid to read but picked up anyway because I had to know if the hype was deserved. I think that because of that, my expectations were a little high and that impacted my opinion.

I do love a “we were obsessed with each other but both thought the other didn’t care” storyline, and that’s one thing that Beach Read does really well. Another thing that the book does really well is the exploration of January’s complicated family life and the way that we learn more about our families as we grow older.

I loved January and Gus individually, I loved their history and their banter, but their actual relationship wasn’t my favorite. And, no spoilers, but that ending really left a lot to be desired.


Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Source: Borrowed

Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamorous family’s mansion. The next items?

• Enjoy a drunken night out.
• Ride a motorcycle.
• Go camping.
• Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex.
• Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage.
• And… do something bad.

But it’s not easy being bad, even when you’ve written step-by-step guidelines on how to do it correctly. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job.

Redford ‘Red’ Morgan is a handyman with tattoos, a motorcycle, and more sex appeal than ten-thousand Hollywood heartthrobs. He’s also an artist who paints at night and hides his work in the light of day, which Chloe knows because she spies on him occasionally. Just the teeniest, tiniest bit.

But when she enlists Red in her mission to rebel, she learns things about him that no spy session could teach her. Like why he clearly resents Chloe’s wealthy background. And why he never shows his art to anyone. And what really lies beneath his rough exterior…

Another book that I was kind of scared to read was Get a Life, Chloe Brown. So many people have adored and recommended this book!

I loved how cute and bantery this book was. The writing is really lighthearted and it flows really nicely. The dialogue feels really natural and Chloe absolutely felt like she could be a real person. (Red was possibly too good to be true.) The romance did end up coming together really quickly, though, and I’m not sure how I felt about that.

In the end, I liked the first half of this book more than the second half, but I had a good time with this book overall.


Twice in a Blue Moon by Christina Lauren
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 22, 2019
Source: ARC via Netgalley

Sam Brandis was Tate Jones’s first: Her first love. Her first everything. Including her first heartbreak.

During a whirlwind two-week vacation abroad, Sam and Tate fell for each other in only the way that first loves do: sharing all of their hopes, dreams, and deepest secrets along the way. Sam was the first, and only, person that Tate—the long-lost daughter of one of the world’s biggest film stars—ever revealed her identity to. So when it became clear her trust was misplaced, her world shattered for good.

Fourteen years later, Tate, now an up-and-coming actress, only thinks about her first love every once in a blue moon. When she steps onto the set of her first big break, he’s the last person she expects to see. Yet here Sam is, the same charming, confident man she knew, but even more alluring than she remembered. Forced to confront the man who betrayed her, Tate must ask herself if it’s possible to do the wrong thing for the right reason… and whether “once in a lifetime” can come around twice.

With Christina Lauren’s signature “beautifully written and remarkably compelling” (Sarah J. Maas, New York Times bestselling author) prose and perfect for fans of Emily Giffin and Jennifer Weiner, Twice in a Blue Moon is an unforgettable and moving novel of young love and second chances.

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Unhoneymooners and the “delectable, moving” (Entertainment WeeklyMy Favorite Half-Night Stand comes a modern love story about what happens when your first love reenters your life when you least expect it…

I was so excited to be offered an ARC of Twice in a Blue Moon, and then, for some reason, I had absolutely no desire to read it. I finally convinced myself to pick it up about nine months after it was originally published, and I can definitively say that it’s not my favorite of this duo’s work.

On the positive side, I can say that Christina and Lauren are great at writing emotional scenes. I felt everything that Tate was feeling. I was right there with her in London, I was on the movie set, I was in that truck. Their writing is always good. Even when I don’t particularly like one of their stories, I can admit that their books are well-written.

The thing that didn’t work for me in this one, unfortunately, was the premise. I love a good second chance romance, but regardless of how good Sam’s excuse was, I don’t think there’s any forgiving him for what he did to Tate. I kept waiting, but I never felt like he truly redeemed himself.

Onto the next Christina Lauren book…


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: 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?
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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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