Fangirl, Vol. 2: The Manga by Rainbow Rowell & Sam Maggs

Fangirl, Vol. 2: The Manga by Rainbow Rowell & Sam Maggs

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 8. Involving the art world (both writing and manga art style!!)

Other Possible Prompts: 4. Title starting with the letter “F”, 11. A book with less than 2022 Goodreads ratings, 43. Author who’s published in more than one genre, 45. A book with illustrated people on the cover, 52. Published in 2022

Ahhh, Fangirl. The comfort food of books. This story is one of my favorites to absorb around the holidays, in particular, but given this recent release of Volume 2 of the manga version, I’ll read this in the dead of summer. Or pretty much anytime at all!

This second book picks up mid-emergency dance party – a first sweet moment between Cath and Levi. Their flirtation builds in this second book, with Levi requesting that Cath read him her fanfiction, and Cath helping him study for class. Levi is always hanging around her dorm room, it seems, but Cath doesn’t really think it means anything… and Levi belongs to her roommate, Reagan, right?

Even when I read volume one, I felt like the decision to make Fangirl a manga series was an odd one, and this book doesn’t really shake that for me. Of course, I’m still enjoying it, because Cath is every book nerd ever and this story is the warm hug we all need. But, I’m definitely not a manga reader in my everyday life, and I don’t necessarily think the art style translates well with the tone of the story. Manga to me speaks of action and harsh lines, something sharper. Fangirl is a warm, soft hug.

That said, Maggs is a fabulous artist. This is certainly no criticism of their work. It’s impressive art that I do certainly still enjoy from that objective point of view.

This is one of my favorite chunks of the book to read normally, so naturally I really liked this one. It’s really, really short though. I bought the Kindle edition and read it on there, and I couldn’t believe when less than an hour had gone by and I was already done. I thought the other one had taken me a bit longer, and I figured that, given the time between books, there would be a lot more content here than there was. From what I understand, there will be two more volumes.

These are my major thoughts, which I’m sure seem very critical for a four star rating, but truthfully it’s very difficult to mess up Fangirl. It’s just one of my favorites, and I can’t imagine reading it and not getting that warm and cozy feeling from it in any form. It’s a cute story, with great characters, and the perfect ambience. I can’t wait for volume three.

Have an awesome week, friends!

My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris

My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris

Rating: 2 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 49. Book title starts with the same letter as your first name

Other Possible Prompts: 22. An unlikely detective, 45. A book with illustrated people on the cover, 50. A person of color as the main character

I know this is going to be an unpopular opinion, but I just didn’t dig this one. The art style, the flow of the story…none of it was for me, though clearly it’s not bad – as evidenced by the thousands of positive reviews and ratings.

10-year-old Karen comes home from school one day to find that her upstairs neighbor, Anka, has been murdered. Anka didn’t entirely have her wits about her, having experienced a great deal of trauma during the Holocaust, but when her death is ruled a suicide, even Karen knows there’s something afoot. Now, with her mother sick and her brother acting strangely, monster-loving Karen sets out to discover the truth about what happened to her neighbor.

This book takes a long while to settle in. The story gets there eventually, and becomes easier to follow, but I really felt like I jumped into something from nowhere. I think Ferris also makes a lot of unnecessary comparisons and analogies both through her text and her art that do not contribute much to the story. It’s an twisting narrative to try and track, that’s for sure. And unfortunately, once I finally sunk into it, it was over: the big secret is not revealed, the story not complete, with a second novel to be released (looks like it’ll be out September 22, 2022…five whole years after the first publication!). Sadly, I don’t think it held my attention well enough to have me waiting for volume two with bated breath.

I really didn’t enjoy this art style. I can 100% acknowledge the talent – the pen and lined-paper drawings are nothing short of impressive, but it really didn’t do it for me. Based on the cover, I was kind of expecting more of a dots/comic book style, which I might’ve preferred, especially in this noir/crime/horror genre. Still very impressive, but notably not my cup of tea.

Anka’s story is the most riveting piece of this book, and I do believe it was always intended to be the focal point. Her life history and her story in Berlin is wildly interesting to follow and includes some of my favorite illustrations throughout the book. The point of tracing her steps is, of course, to find motivation and suspects for her suspicious murder. Anka lived a troubled life, to say the least, and there are plenty of people in her story with motive. I would read this snippet as a full novel, easily. It’s Karen that kind of ruins it for me.

I know Karen is supposed to be representative a lot of things; her narrative is supposed to connect the past and present – but I just don’t like her very much. While she’s pitiable, she’s not relatable. She’s passing through life rather than living, which makes her a better vehicle for telling Anka’s story. I feel bad for saying it, though.

It’s really hard to criticize this book in a way that makes sense, because I think a lot of people are going to be like, “Well that was meaningful because…” – and I don’t disagree. That’s the hard part: I can see what Ferris was trying to do here, I just didn’t really like it. I guess that’s what I’ve been getting at this whole time. I can see why people enjoyed this, but I can also see all the reasons why I didn’t. It was 100% not what I was expecting, and I’m definitely upset that I’m in it for two books if I want the full story (that was unexpected, and I’m very sorry for the books original 2017 readers!!).

So no, I’m not recommending this one today. I hope I have a better review for you next Tuesday! Enjoy the rest of the week, friends!

Heartstopper: Volume 4 by Alice Oseman

Heartstopper: Volume 4 by Alice Oseman

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 26. Has an “Author’s Note”

Other Possible Prompts: 5. Chapters have titles, 9. A book that sparks joy, 33. A bilingual character, 40. A book with photographs inside (though it’s a stretch!), 43. An author who’s published in more than one genre, 45. A book with illustrated people on the cover, 52. Published in 2022.

EEEEEEE. I know I’ve never actually taken the time to review the Heartstopper series’ books individually, but I hope that my excitement for it has ooozed out when I mention it here and there. I LIVE for the release of these sweet, sweet books.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of picking up Alice Oseman’s darling work, start with Heartstopper Volume One. The internet comics turned graphic novels tell the story of Nick and Charlie, two boys who go from rugby buds to boyfriends and have the most heart-melting romance. Volume four takes us through a journey with Charlie’s mental health, navigating the words I love you, and speaking up for yourself even when words are hard to say.

As I’ve mentioned in previous book lists, the thing I love most about Heartstopper is what a wholesome, feel-good story it always is. It’s real: there are negatives, especially negative people, that hurt Charlie and Nick because of their relationship and their sexuality. But a lot of these representations are just really healthy relationships and positive examples of same-sex couples. I don’t think you see that kind of representation enough in literature, and I hope we see more of it in the coming year. What we read about lgbtq couples shouldn’t always be negative: I think it’s important to show them in a positive, healthy light, too.

I sobbed through much of this book, to be frank. Even in just two colors, I can’t help but tear up over the images of love, family, and even struggle that Oseman always nails in her depictions. Charlie’s struggle with his mental health and eating disorder was gut-wrenching, but it was handled so well within the pages, with true mindfulness that his story is not everyone’s…I cannot sing the praises of this book, and this series, enough. Every story Oseman puts forth hits on an important topic of conversation (coming out, mental health, codependency, homophobia, family relationships) in a way that is met with support and warmth by her characters, but reality and a great message throughout. It’s a talent, and I think it’s a huge part of what makes her work so appealing to such a large group of readers.

To say I squealed with delight upon reading *the* very author’s note in question for this prompt would be an understatement. Heartstopper is being made into a Netflix series! I simply cannot wait to see this play out on screen. The wholesomeness is just going to be too much to take. THRILLED. The cast is adorable.

Heartstopper comes with my highest praise. I know it probably seems exaggerated after such a long string of five star reads this month, but I really love this series and I always have. Check it out if you haven’t already, especially with Valentine’s coming up!

Have a great week (and month – happy February!) friends!

The Comic Book Guide to Growing Food by Joseph Tychonievich & Liz Anna Kozik

The Comic Book Guide to Growing Food by Joseph Tychonievich & Liz Anna Kozik

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Hello friends! Today I have the most untimely review for you, maybe ever: The Comic Book Guide to Growing Food, right at the beginning of the cold season! At least it’s a positive review, right??

I think I mentioned in some recent posts that I have been super into houseplants lately. Well, my cats, it turns out, are not super into houseplants lately. Eloise (or Squeeze, as she is more affectionately referred to) has thoroughly enjoyed throwing my pot of Moses-in-the-cradle on the floor, as well as monching on my window leaf plant, which has now been relocated out of the reach of a Squeeze. So when I was visiting Gibson’s last week my sister convinced my to get this lovely comic book introduction to growing things outdoors, where Squeeze cannot harm them.

I am someone who has always assumed they have the opposite of a green thumb, one that kills everything it touches, so I think that just about accurately conveys how much gardening knowledge I have. I’ve always been confused by when you plant things, how people keep it straight how often you water things, and oh my god, don’t even get me started on fertilizer. But this book? This book is a gem. I have never been more enthusiastic about raised beds. I almost drove my ass to Home Depot the second I finished this thing, and I rent, people.

Jokes aside, this book is super cute. It’s written as an actual story between two characters, Mia and George, as Mia learns to start her first vegetable garden with help and guidance from her neighbor and gardening guru, George. It makes for an amazing beginner guide, as well as a palatable introduction to gardening with a purpose! I can’t even tell you how much this simplified my questions about gardening, and got me excited to start.

George has some super helpful cheat sheets in here that you’ll absolutely love if you are as much a beginner as I am. What kinds of vegetables are easy to grow for beginners, how you know when you’re watering too much or too little, and how to harvest your bounty: it’s all in here. While I read this book cover to cover today, I also know that when spring rolls around, this is going to be one of the first books I pick out to get me started on my first garden as a real. Adult. Human. You can use it both ways, I would say.

Additionally, the art style in this? Adorable. Mad props to Liz Anna Kozik, who I am reading actually does specifically science-y and environmental comics, which is super cool. You can tell in her drawings that she knows what she’s talking about, but it also makes for some gorgeous spreads. Like, I would love to have some of these images framed, honestly.

Highly recommend The Comic Book Guide to Growing Food! Maybe just not in November. 😉 Grab a copy now and get ready for the spring, maybe? Anyways, I can’t wait to use this guide to start my own garden next year, as I know it was definitely comprehensive enough to get me started and to see some success. While we’re on the subject, anyone have some great gardening books they can recommend?

Happy November pals, and have a wonderful week!

In Love & Pajamas by Catana Chetwnyd

In Love & Pajamas by Catana Chetwnyd

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Time for a mini-review! Catana Comics are some of my absolute favorites. This particular collection of her little gems focuses on that comfy level in relationships: that point where romance is eating a huge meal of junk food together and sleeping on the couch in sweatpants. Being comfortable with one another is the ultimate intimacy.

Every time I have the fortune of reading some of Catana’s comics, I desperately want to share them with others. Instantly sharing and texting them to my boyfriend and anyone else who might see the humor in everyday love. She accurately captures true love in the most wholesome of ways.

I can’t wait to read so much more of what Catana creates. Very few comics hit this chord for me – I love a good humorous comic, but some of these speak to me on a whole other level full of love. You can tell the love between her and John is real and pure.

An advance copy of In Love & Pajamas was provided to me by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks

Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The temperature dropped by like, two degrees, so I’m ready for fall now and PUMPKINHEADS IS THE PERFECT AUTUMN READ. This quick little graphic novel was infused with pumpkin spice and falling leaves, I swear.

Deja and Josie have worked at an epic pumpkin patch (that more captures the entire spirit of fall, honestly) every September and October for three years. Their friendship has blossomed over that time, but they always say goodbye every Halloween and part ways. This year, their senior year and the last year they’ll be able to spend working at the patch, Deja is on a mission to get Josie to talk to the girl he’s been quietly crushing on the whole time – and they go on one epic fall adventure on their very last day to get there.

My biggest, and really only, complaint with Pumpkinheads is how short it was! It took me like an hour to get through, but I could’ve read that book until November. It really captured a spirit I’ve been searching for the past few weeks as we move into colder weather, Halloween stores are opening, and kids go back to school. I highly suggest picking it up mid-October.

The characters were absolutely adorable. Josie and Deja really did become whole and rounded, even in the short time we had with them (this had been my biggest problem with Mooncakes, another great fall read: see that review here). I think that might be because of the heavy focus on just these two: no characters other than them were given more than a frame or two, and certainly not without them in it. While I love good supporting characters, I think they made a good decision here that only added to my enjoyment of Pumpkinheads. I could buy into their friendship and bond with each other because it was evident in the way they interacted and the history they shared; I didn’t need to see so many ways they worked together because they were already friends and they sold me on that. It was just feel good, from start to finish, and gave you that happy glow of knowing people just fit.

The art in this book was just phenomenal. Everything from the style to the warmth of the colors screamed cozy and I was all about it. I think Rowell and Hicks really knew what they were shooting for and how they wanted the reader to feel while they read, and they nailed it. It’s hidden in every detail.

I’ve essentially given you zero reasons not to read Pumpkinheads, so you’ll be glad to know you can already pick up a copy: it was released August 27th! Book best served with pumpkin pie and a blanket scarf. 🙂

Mooncakes by Wendy Xu and Suzanne Walker

Mooncakes by Wendy Xu and Suzanne Walker

Rating: 4 out of 5.

As I’m sure the name “The Charmed Librarian” suggests, I love anything witchy! So when I saw the cover for Mooncakes I just couldn’t resist.

Werewolf Tam has returned to their hometown to deal with a mysterious demon in the woods. Teen witch Nova is still around, doing her magic apprenticeship with her grandmas at their magic bookshop. When the pair of childhood friends reunite in their effort to stop an evil force much bigger than they imagined, sparks fly in an adorable romance full of magic and whimsy. 🙂

This graphic novel is the perfect Halloween read! I was so excited to see that its release date will give readers the time to enjoy it and get in the Halloween spirit. I love a little magic in my books all year long, so I enjoyed it in mid-August all the same!

I have to share this little tidbit from the letter to the readers: Mooncakes was written by best friends. As Xu and Walker moved far apart, they used a creative partnership in creating Mooncakes to keep their friendship alive, and I could see it on every page. The connection between characters, the way they felt about one another and interacted, was really sweet and earnest and I was glad I began the read knowing this about them and their story!

I particularly loved the cast of characters in this book: Tam and Nova were lovely, but they were supported by friends and family with a lot of heart. I loved Nova’s grandmas sweet and supportive demeanors, and her friend Tat played the perfect friend role, without jealousy or confrontation for Nova’s new romantic relationship and rekindled childhood friendship. It was a feel-good book, if only for the sweet way these characters took care of each other.

There is also something wonderful to be said about the diversity of these characters! All but Tat are part of Chinese-American culture, giving shape to the name of the story. Tam is non-binary, both characters are queer, and Nova is hearing-impaired. I loved it – it was really authentic, and gave the story some awesome representation.

My biggest complaint, and the reason I didn’t give this book five stars, is because I felt like those characters lacked a certain depth. You don’t see it often with graphic novels, but I think there’s a level of character development required to really get absorbed into any book. I need to feel connected and attached to them. I didn’t get enough background to Nova and Tam’s story, didn’t get thrown straight into the witch and werewolf world like I wanted to, and my feelings about the book reflect that. The story is clearly coming-of-age set on a magical stage, and I think it sets the scene for more. There’s a lot of room for growth in a sequel story, or a whole series of adventures, and I would certainly read them!

Mooncakes will be available on October 15, 2019! An advance copy of the book was provided to me by the publisher through NetGalley for review.