Book Review: Comics for Choice by Hazel Newlevant, Whit Taylor, and Ø.K. Fox

Comics for Choice by Hazel Newlevant, Whit Taylor, and Ø.K. Fox
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: August 2017
Source: Borrowed

Comics for Choice is anthology of comics about abortion. As this fundamental reproductive right continues to be stigmatized and jeopardized, over sixty artists and writers have created comics that boldly share their own experiences, and educate readers on the history of abortion, current political struggles, activism, and more. Lawyers, activists, medical professionals, historians, and abortion fund volunteers have teamed up with cartoonists and illustrators to share their knowledge in accessible comics form.

Comics for Choice is edited by Hazel Newlevant, Whit Taylor, and Ø.K. Fox, and contains comics from exciting cartoonists like Sophia Foster-Dimino (Sex Fantasy), Leah Hayes (Not Funny Ha-Ha), Anna Bongiovanni (Grease Bats), Jennifer Camper (Rude Girls and Dangerous Women), Ally Shwed (Sex Bomb Strikes Again) and Kat Fajardo (Gringa!, La Raza Anthology), and reproductive justice scholars like Rickie Solinger, (Reproductive Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know) Renee Bracey Sherman (Program Director, We Testify), and Dr. Cynthia Greenlee (Senior Editor, Rewire).


I didn’t really know what to expect when I checked this anthology out from the library. All I really knew was that it was a ton of abortion stories and that it would probably make me very, very sad. The thing is, while I can’t see myself ever getting an abortion (except in a very extreme case), I don’t think it’s my place to tell anyone else what they can or cannot do with their life and their body. That means that I’m very firmly on the pro-choice side of the debate. I thought it might be a good idea to expand my horizons a little bit and learn more about abortion.

Turns out that this book was possibly not the right place to go for that. First of all, there are a ton of stories here. A ton. Most of them are very, very short, and most of them feel like they were put together very quickly. There are a lot of misspellings and a lot of grammatical issues. A few of the stories looked more like drafts than finished art. It’s not the end of the world, I guess, but this is a book that’s been put out into the world for people to purchase. I expected more from it.

As for the stories, some of them hit me very hard. I can’t imagine being in the situation that a lot of these women were in and I can’t imagine how difficult the choice to get an abortion must be. I also found the stories from the abortion doulas and clinic escorts very interesting. I hadn’t even known that abortion doulas were a thing before I picked this book up! But some of the stories seemed to be there just to prove a point or push an agenda, which is something I don’t really appreciate, even when it’s a point or an agenda that I can get behind.

When this anthology was good, it was good. But when it wasn’t good, it was just disappointing. Overall, I think two stars is probably the best I can do here.

Have you read Comics for Choice? Do you have any recommendations for feminist nonfiction?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: Dodge City by Josh Trujillo

Dodge City by Josh Trujillo
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: November 6, 2018
Source: Borrowed

Dodge City is a YA sports comedy about making sense of a chaotic world and growing up against the insane backdrop of competitive dodgeball, told through the eyes of oddball Tomás and his teammates.

Life comes at you fast, but dodgeballs come way faster! Tomás is a teenage misfit, but when he joins the Jazz Pandas dodgeball team, he’s thrown into a family of oddballs and outcasts who are willing to do whatever it takes to win the summer regional dodgeball championships. Through a season of highs, lows, and blows to the face, Tomás might finally find a place where he truly belongs, and the person inside himself he didn’t know he could be.

I checked this graphic novel out from my library because, first of all, it looked like fun, and second of all, I more or less enjoyed the first several issues of Fence. A graphic novel focusing on dodgeball sounded like it would be a great time — after all, Dodgeball was one of my favorite movies when I was in high school.

The thing is, I feel like this graphic novel was a lot of nice art featuring a ton of diverse characters and not much else. There’s not much of a story aside from the dodgeball, and what little story there is is kind of choppy and confusing. This is definitely a fast-paced story, but it’s almost too fast for anything meaningful to happen. The characters aren’t particularly well-developed either — four issues in and I feel like I know them about as well as I did on page one.

All of that said, I don’t think this is necessarily a terrible graphic novel. There’s definitely potential for character development and for the story to improve, but I don’t know that I’ll be jumping at the chance to read any more of it any time soon.


Have you read Dodge City? Is it on your TBR?
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Book Review: Killing and Dying by Adrian Tomine

Killing and Dying by Adrian Tomine
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 1, 2015
Source: Purchased

Killing and Dying is a stunning showcase of the possibilities of the graphic novel medium and a wry exploration of loss, creative ambition, identity, and family dynamics. With this work, Adrian Tomine (Shortcomings, Scenes from an Impending Marriage) reaffirms his place not only as one of the most significant creators of contemporary comics but as one of the great voices of modern American literature. His gift for capturing emotion and intellect resonates here: the weight of love and its absence, the pride and disappointment of family, the anxiety and hopefulness of being alive in the twenty-first century.

“Amber Sweet” shows the disastrous impact of mistaken identity in a hyper-connected world; “A Brief History of the Art Form Known as Hortisculpture” details the invention and destruction of a vital new art form in short comic strips; “Translated, from the Japanese” is a lush, full-color display of storytelling through still images; the title story, “Killing and Dying”, centers on parenthood, mortality, and stand-up comedy. In six interconnected, darkly funny stories, Tomine forms a quietly moving portrait of contemporary life.

Tomine is a master of the small gesture, equally deft at signaling emotion via a subtle change of expression or writ large across landscapes illustrated in full color. Killing and Dying is a fraught, realist masterpiece. 

I found this book for $2.00 at my library’s annual used book sale. Being someone who generally enjoys graphic novels, I thought I didn’t really have a lot to lose by buying it. It took me a little bit of time to get around to reading it, but I finally read it over a couple lunches at work.

When I first started this one, I really enjoyed it. I liked “A Brief History of the Art Form Known as Hortisculpture,” mostly because I liked the twist at the end. It really did not end in a way that I expected, and I appreciated that. I also really enjoyed “Amber Sweet” and the more or less unexpected ending that one had as well.

The other four stories, though? I was not a huge fan. I don’t know if I’d really call them “darkly funny” like the synopsis promises. I didn’t find them particularly emotional, and, in fact, really felt very little of anything as I was reading them.

In the end, I’m not mad that I bought this, but it’ll be going to a Little Free Library or back to the used bookstore with me one of these days.


Have you read Killing and Dying? Have you enjoyed any great graphic novels recently?
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Mini-Review: Fante Bukowski by Noah Van Sciver

Fante Bukowski by Noah Van Sciver
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: July 22, 2015
Source: Borrowed

Noah Van Sciver’s latest graphic novella drops in on the life of the self-styled, aspiring young writer, Fante Bukowski, as he delusively makes his way to literary fame and fortune, one drink at a time. Living in a cheap hotel, consorting with the debased and downtrodden, searching for that golden idea that will rocket him to the success he yearns for as the great American novelist, and to get respect from his father once and for all. But, there’s just one problem: Fante Bukowski has no talent for writing.

If I had to describe the plot of this book in one sentence, it would be “an entitled man thinks the world should fawn over his terrible writing.” This is going to be a pretty short review because this is a pretty short book and I don’t have a ton of feelings about it. I think it’s one of those things you’re either going to like or you’re not.

I enjoyed this one at the beginning when it was really satirizing its subject matter, but as the book went on, I was just annoyed. I was annoyed by Fante’s attitude and his entitlement and all of the cliches.

At least I laughed exactly three times while I was reading it.


Have you read Fante Bukowski? Have you read any very strange books recently?
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Book Review: Slam, The Next Jam by Pamela Ribon

Slam, The Next Jam by Pamela Ribon
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: September 11, 2018
Source: Borrowed

In the fast-paced, hard-hitting, super cheeky, all-female world of banked track roller derby, two young women will need to balance the pull of budding relationships and family obligations with the demands and excitement of roller derby. 

After breaking one of the biggest rules in derby (not to mention an actual collarbone) Knockout and Can-Can are back on the track! But they have a lot of rehab to do, both on their battered bodies and their reputations in the league…will their friendship survive the dreaded derby drama?

From bestselling novelist, screenwriter, and Los Angeles Derby Doll Pamela Ribon (Going In Circles, Why Girls Are Weird) and artist Marina Julia (Lumberjanes: Faire and Square) comes the next chapter in SLAM!.

After being so pleasantly surprised by volume one of Slam, I was really excited to jump into what I thought was volume two. It turns out that while Slam: The Next Jam is technically volume two in the series, it’s also considered a new series and the numbering resets at one. As if that isn’t confusing enough, we’ve also got a new artist, so while the characters are sort of identifiable, they also look surprisingly different.

While the pacing in the first volume was fast, I didn’t feel as though the actual work was rushed. I can’t say the same for The Next Jam. Everything in this volume, from the artwork to the storyline to the character development (or lack thereof) feels like it was assembled in about five minutes.

I might have finished volume one of this graphic novel feeling impressed, but I just finished volume two feeling disappointed. I think it’s pretty safe to say that I won’t be continuing on with this one.

#mm19: diversify your reading


Have you read Slam? Is it on your TBR?
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ARC Review: Technically, You Started It by Lana Wood Johnson

Technically, You Started It by Lana Wood Johnson
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: June 25, 2019
Source: ARC from BookCon

When a guy named Martin Nathaniel Munroe II texts you, it should be obvious who you’re talking to. Except there’s two of them (it’s a long story), and Haley thinks she’s talking to the one she doesn’t hate.

A question about a class project rapidly evolves into an all-consuming conversation. Haley finds that Martin is actually willing to listen to her weird facts and unusual obsessions, and Martin feels like Haley is the first person to really see who he is. Haley and Martin might be too awkward to hang out in real life, but over text, they’re becoming addicted to each other.

There’s just one problem: Haley doesn’t know who Martin is. And Martin doesn’t know that Haley doesn’t know. But they better figure it out fast before their meet-cute becomes an epic meet-disaster . . .

As soon as I heard that Technically, You Started It was going to be a text message-based romance, it shot up to the top of my most anticipated list for 2019. I never got any response to my request for this ARC on Edelweiss (not that I’m surprised) but I did find it at BookCon and almost immediately sat down to read it.

I wanted to love this book so much. As I was reading, I kept telling myself (and saying out loud) that I’m a sucker for books with relationships that develop via text message. But this book didn’t meet my expectations. As much as I wanted to love it, I just didn’t.

Let’s start with the good — I love that this book is told solely using texts. There is not even a single line of description in this book — it’s entirely written in text message dialogue. Surprisingly, I didn’t really feel like I was missing anything from the plot. What was happening came across pretty clearly despite only seeing texts between two characters.

That said, the uniqueness of this book and my love of text-based romances wasn’t enough to save this book.

I think that the first problem I had with this book is that nobody, not even someone like me, a former Linguistics major, texts like that. These kids text in full, complete sentences. No emojis. 100% correct punctuation. No typos. It’s weird. I guess they do address it very briefly at the beginning of the book, but it’s still weird. Maybe they started out talking formally, but as time goes on, I would have thought they’d get more comfortable with each other and that would show in the texts. At least throw in some crying laughing faces or sobbing emojis or something.

The other thing that really bothered me was the constant miscommunication. The whole premise of this book is that Haley is talking to Martin Nathaniel Munroe II, a boy in one of her classes who wants to talk about the class project. The interesting thing here is that there are two boys in her class with that name, one of which Haley is okay with and one of which she hates. It’s painfully obvious from the first few pages that Haley is not talking to the Martin that she thinks she’s talking to. It’s even in the synopsis! This is the main conflict of the book, and it’s both frustrating and boring.

I think that this book would have been better if the entire plot weren’t in the synopsis! That said, I do have to give the author credit for writing an entire book in texts and very casually featuring bisexual and demisexual leads.

#mm19: diversify your reading

Have you read Technically, You Started It? Can you recommend any similar books?
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ARC Review: Love in the Friend Zone by Molly E. Lee

Love in the Friend Zone by Molly E. Lee
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: April 14, 2017
Source: ARC from publisher

The only thing worse than not being able to tell your best friend you’re head over heels in love with him? Having to smile and nod when he enlists your help to ensnare the girl of his dreams. 

Braylen didn’t even want to go to Lennon Pryor’s epic graduation-night party, but when Fynn begs her to be his “wingwoman,” she can’t deny him. Talking up her BFF—how he’s magic behind a camera, with a killer sense of humor and eyelashes that frame the most gorgeous blue eyes in the history of forever—is easy. Supporting his efforts to woo someone so completely wrong for him? Not so much. 

Fynn knows that grad night is his last shot before leaving for college to find true love. And thanks to Bray, he gets his chance with the beautiful Katy Evans. But over the course of the coolest party of their high school careers, he starts to see that perhaps what he really wants has been in front of him all along. Bray’s been his best friend since kindergarten, though, and he’d rather have her in his life as a friend than not at all. 

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains one epic party, complete with every high-schoolers-gone-bad shenanigan, and two best friends whose sexual chemistry is off the charts…if only they’d succumb to it.

After enjoying Molly E. Lee’s Ask Me Anything a few weeks ago, I was pretty excited to get an email offering Love in the Friend Zone. Friends-to-lovers is one of my favorite tropes, but I just couldn’t get on board with this one. I suppose I should say that this isn’t necessarily a bad book, it just wasn’t for me.

The first thing I want to mention is that there’s a whole lot of drama in this book with very little actual plot. The entirety of the plot is that Fynn has asked for Braylen’s help in hooking up with the girl of his dreams, not realizing that Braylen has been secretly pining after him for years. That’s it. That’s the plot.

Nearly the entire book takes place over a single evening — a party, to be exact — and it’s pretty much just one cliche after another that keeps these kids from getting together. In general, I don’t have a problem with tropes. What I have a problem with is when a book relies on one cliche after another to move its non-existent plot along, and this book was full of cliches. I don’t want to spoil anything, but there’s a scene where the lights go out, and I could have told you exactly what was going to happen because I’ve read it so many times.

Another thing I want to talk about is the friends-to-lovers trope itself. When it’s done right, I absolutely adore it. Some examples of books that have done it right are Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi, Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren, and Not So Nice Guy by R.S. Grey. The thing that sets these books apart is that the progression from friends to lovers feels natural. It’s not like a switch flips one day and both people are like, “whoa, I love you, where did that come from.” Here, I’d say that, for maybe 90% of the book, Fynn is entirely focused on a different girl, a popular girl nicknamed “Killer Boobs” who has a history of bullying his best friend. (So, basically a classic teenage girl stereotype.) Am I really to believe that Fynn just suddenly loses his feelings for this girl in favor of his best friend, who’s been there all along?

I feel like I can’t really say any more about this book without spoiling the whole thing, so I think I’ll just end by saying that I was really disappointed by this book. I think I would have liked it a lot more as a teenager than I did as an adult.


Have you read Love in the Friend Zone? What’s your favorite friends-to-lovers book?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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