The Blood – Monstress Vol. 2

33540347by Marjorie Liu (writer) and Sana Takeda (artist)
Graphic Novel
5 of 5 stars
This is a review of issues 7-12

The first volume of this comic was my top read last year and I have been waiting for this installment ever since!

Volume one was a whirlwind of characters, backstories, adventures and world-building. I fell so hard for this story I was in a tailspin for days trying to process what I’d read and the fact that I’d be waiting six months for volume two.

This world of matriarchal societies and religions is full of war and chaos and Maika Halfwolf is our access point. She is bonded to a terrifying demon/monster inside her and it is this that spurs armies to hunt her and allies to hide her as a key to–probably the apocalypse, nobody really knows. In this installment Maika is still uncovering secrets from her mother’s past and what her own identity is. We get to see much more of the world–oceans, pirates, cursed isles–and I loved all of it!

Maika’s relationship with the monster inside her takes center stage this time as we learn about its past and what might come of their strange relationship. Kippa and Master Ren refuse to abandon Maika, although her violent episodes happen more frequently. The new characters we meet endeared themselves to me instantly! And although it ends with another cliff-hanger, it’s not too harsh.

Now that the world is established I felt it was easier to sink into this volume. It wasn’t as hard to keep track of all the different forces at work. Everything I loved about the first volume was expanded upon here and I can’t wait to see how this story unfolds!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Monstress: The Blood is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • Nimona by Noelle Stevenson – Decidely more lighthearted than Monstress, this explores similar themes from a quirky perspective. Nimona is a shape-shifter who apprentices herself to villain Lord Blackheart. He quickly realizes there is more to her than a desire for villainy. See my review here.
  • The Female of the Species – A YA novel that tackles a murder, rape culture, and sexism through the eyes of three senior students in a small town. See my review here.
  • Lady Snowblood: The Deep-Seated Grudge Part 1 by Kazuo Koike – An accomplished assassin, Lady Snowblood is finally ready to take down the men responsible for her family’s deaths.

What’s new this month

It’s almost time for fall releases but these are some interesting reads to tide you over til September!

329560088/1 – Sour Heart: Stories – by Jenny Zhang

A collection of seven stories about immigrants coming to terms with their families, cultures, and identity in 1990’s NYC. Renowned for her poetry, this is something new for the author and I’m intrigued the themes of family history complicating your present. This is coming out under Lena Dunham’s new imprint so I’m also guessing feminism and sexuality will be explored too. Waiting to see what else is in store with this read!

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

320517208/15 – Wicked Like a Wildfire – by Lana Popović

Two sisters, two gifts, and a secret family curse. Iris and Melina have different powers that let them control beauty. For Iris it’s glasswork, for Melina it’s music. But their mother has rules: don’t tell anyone about your gifts. Don’t fall in love. Their quiet small-town life is rocked when their mother is attacked, and the sisters begin uncovering family secrets to find out why and whether the powers that have bonded them will rip them apart. Sounds like a good debut to me!

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

327136628/16 – Crushed: A Graphic Memoir – by Trinidad Escobar

This sounds so interesting and bittersweet! The story of Trinidad’s adoption by a California family and her quest at age 25 to discover her biological family’s roots to better understand herself. While her life in America was full of love, she feels out of place, and dark visions plague her mind, distorting what’s true. When she visits the Dorognas in the Philippines, they are more than happy to give her the stories of their lives to help her piece together who she is.

More here: Goodreads and Tattered Cover

327117018/22 – Dress Codes for Small Towns – by Courtney Stevens

I met the author at an event a few months ago and what she told me about this book put it on my list! “It’s the small town from Footloose but about queer identity instead of dancing.” Preacher’s daughter Billie has her group of friends that gets into trouble and always looks out for one another. But when Janie Lee tells Billie she’s in love with Woods, Billie realizes she might be in love with both of them. I love groups of friends, I love Billie’s hesitance to mess with the group dynamic, I love that this will explore fluidity instead of labels. Sign me up!

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

323362768/29 – Wonder Woman: Warbringer – by Leigh Bardugo

I am not really a superhero fan, but I have to admit I’ve been loving the Wonder Woman projects this year! This origin story follows Diana, Princess of the Amazons and destined to become Wonder Woman, and Alia, the girl Diana saves, who is a descendant of Helen of Troy, a Warbringer. Diana’s choice to save Alia will force them to face and fight all kinds of enemies who want to decide the Warbringer’s fate. Friendship and superpowers and adventure from one of the queens of fantasy!

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

Orange: The Complete Collection

25667474by Ichigo Takano
Graphic Novel
4 of 5 stars
(This is a review for all 5 volumes of Orange)

My lovely friend and CP Meg rec’d these to me and they are so cute! Coming off the utter story hangover that is the film “Your Name” this was perfect!

This story arc is about a group of high school friends who befriend the new guy at school. But Naho receives a letter from herself ten years in the future, warning her that tragedy strikes, and she must do everything the letter recommends if she wants to save Kakeru’s life. Skeptical at first, Naho quickly realizes everything in the letter comes true, and if she doesn’t act quickly, Kakeru will be lost to them again.

26247042The friendships are fantastic and the slow-burn, awkward romance between Naho and Kakeru is so adorable! It’s a story about how the seemingly mundane moments in everyday life can matter so much, and that it’s important to be there for your friends and not entirely wrapped up in yourself. It hits the heavier moments with grace and provides plenty of humor too. I had so much fun speeding through these! The first three volumes are bound in one book, and the remaining two are in the second volume.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Orange is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm – This cute, nostalgic story features children dealing with serious situations regarding addiction and how they can learn to cope with them. See my review here.
  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli – Simon isn’t exactly “out” and the only person he can truly be himself around is Blue – the boy he’s been emailing that he’s crushing on so hard. As he and Blue try to figure out each other’s true identities, Simon has to be brave, especially since another guy at school is threatening to expose his secret. See my review here.
  • The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord – Paige’s boyfriend drowned in a freak accident the previous summer, and now she’s facing junior year as The Girl Whose Boyfriend Drowned, with a side of anxiety. Her attempt to make a better year for herself doesn’t go as planned, but that’s kind of a good thing. The friendships in this story are wonderful! See my review here.
  • This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills – When Sloane falls in with a new group of friends she finds herself on a quest to save a painting by their deceased mother that has gone missing. Another story about how it’s the in-between moments that build a life. See my review here.

Awakening – Monstress Vol. 1

29396738by Marjorie Liu (writer) & Sana Takeda (artist)
Graphic Novel
5 of 5 stars
This is a review of the first 6 issues of Monstress

When I finished this story I was incoherent for hours. It felt like I’d been waiting for this to be made for years without knowing it! I picked it up months ago and I have no idea how Janella was so calm after she read and asked if I’d gotten to it yet and I said, “Oh, I will soon!” (months later)

This is phenomenal and quite possibly my favorite read of 2016! Every page had me enthralled — the art is rich with detail and beauty, the story is dark and captivating, the characters come alive with every panel.

We meet the Arcanic Maika when she is nude and chained, about to be sold as a slave to humans–and this is not the first time. But we quickly learn something else is at work, and once she begins to orchestrate her escape there isn’t a moment to breathe until the last page!

Maika’s mysterious past comes to light, always raising more questions than answers, especially when it comes to the strange power lurking inside her. Sharp and aloof, she is unable to keep allies away from her. Whether that is her closest friend Tuya or Kippa, a fox Arcanic she rescues. There are wonderful twists and surprises within these pages, but the basic plot follows Maika Halfwolf as she tries to uncover her dead mother’s secrets and avenge her murder.

I definitely do not want to spoil this collection! Aside from intense world-building, plot, and pacing, the themes of war, power, racism, slavery, and what makes a monster hit you hard with unapologetic candor. Yet another bold move is a 95% female cast coupled with intersectionality that is hard to find in YA novels.

Reading this called to mind Mad Max: Fury Road–I honestly have never read anything like this that could have me tearing up, laughing, or sweating bullets at any given moment.

There are already several more issues out if you just can’t wait, and I would guess the next bound volume will be released summer 2017. I can’t recommend this enough!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Heartless is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • Batman: Hush by Jeph Loeb (writer) & Jim Lee (artist) – I haven’t read nearly enough graphic novels but I love the art in this one and the story intrigued me as well. All your DC favorites are here to deliver exactly what you’d hope for from a Batman comic.
  • Nimona by Noelle Stevenson – Decidely more lighthearted than Monstress, this explores similar themes from a quirky perspective. Nimona is a shape-shifter who apprentices herself to villain Lord Blackheart. He quickly realizes there is more to her than a desire for villainy. See my review here.
  • The Female of the Species – A YA novel that tackles a murder, rape culture, and sexism through the eyes of three senior students in a small town. See my review here.
  • Nevernight by Jay Kristoff – Mia Corvere apprentices herself to the Red Church in hopes of becoming a skilled assassin that can avenge her family’s murder. See my review here.
  • Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith – This is the third installment in J.K. Rowling’s crime novel series and it’s by far the darkest. If you want a thriller mystery that makes you a bit uncomfortable, try this out. See my review here.
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – This novella is one of my favorites. The unnamed narrator describes experiences from his childhood and realizes with increasing alarm that the strange and deadly things happening were not in his imagination as his family insisted. See my review here.


Nimonaby Noelle Stevenson
YA Fantasy/Graphic Novel
5 of 5 stars
Debut graphic novel – May 12, 2015

I know I’m late to the party on this one, but better late than never, right? I first saw Stevenson’s artwork on the cover of my copy of Fangirl and I thought it was cute. Then I started following her on Twitter and she’s hilarious. Then I finally grabbed this! I’ve only read a handful of graphic novels, but I want to read many more of them now – this is so fun! (With biting commentary as well).

There’s so much to love about this story: Nimona’s unconventional appearance and moral compass for one. Her relationship with Blackheart. Her crazy cool shapeshifting. Blackheart’s ties to Goldenloin. A world of knights, swords, science, technology and magic. Humor alongside sharp observations. And of course the art itself. Is this a “traditional” story format? Yes. Does that make it weaker or predictable? Nope! Genre conventions here are purposeful and fun, which is just the way I like it.

Sure, there’s a message here, but it doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the story. Nimona and her world will pull you in for a rollercoaster ride. Laughter one minute and brain-teasing sobriety the next. It’s hard to say more without spoilers, so just go read it, okay? Anyone who loves fantasy or superheroes and villains will love this!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Nimona is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Stevenson’s website is here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • Vicious by V.E. Schwab – College roommates Victor and Eli conduct an experiment regarding superpowers with disastrous (and compulsively readable) results. They didn’t expect to succeed. Now pitted against each other, “hero” and “villain” take on new meanings. See my review here.
  • Carry On by Rainbow Rowell – Also the supplier of Rainbow Rowell’s art, this is eerily similar to Nimona (destined hero Simon Snow must deal with his obviously super-evil roommate Basilton Grimm-Pitch while at magic school). Although it takes its time to get going, the last third or so is quite fun. If you liked the Blackheart-Nimona-Goldenloin dynamic you will love this. See my review here.
  • Bones & All by Camille DeAngelis – Maren has a slightly complicated issue for a 16-year-old: she tends to eat anyone she cares about. When her mother abandons her, Maren sets out to find her estranged father and whether or not she’s truly a monster. See my review here.
  • The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie – This short book is packed with pirates, betrayal, and adventure! Cas trains sea monsters to defend cargo ships, but the Pirate Queen Santa Elena has decided Cas can train a sea monster for the pirates instead. See my review here.

Sunny Side Up

24612600by Jennifer L. Holm (author) and Matthew Holm (illustrator)
Children’s Lit
5 of 5 stars

This book. Is. Terrific. We found this on an end-cap during a bookstore event and made the best impulse buy of the year! This all-color children’s graphic novel set in 1976 addresses some surprisingly tough issues as 10-year-old Sunny spends a month with her grandpa in his retirement community. Sunny thought her family would take a beach vacation this summer, but it turns out she’s sent to her grandpa’s, alone, with nothing but old people and cats for company. But then she meets Buzz, who introduces her to comic books, and she begins to figure out why she’s with her grandpa, and that the reasons for her lack-luster summer aren’t her fault.

So much of this story is told not through dialogue, but through the art itself. It feels like an authentic preteen girl’s point-of-view, and there is humor and sadness in equal measure, much like Pixar’s film “Inside Out.” Sunny feels the invisibility of being a child, but her blunt questions come out at just the right times. The subtle commentary on feminism and comic book heroes is on point, and the characters come alive quickly. This is a semi-autobiographical story intended to help kids feel comfortable discussing their own feelings about serious family issues, and I think it achieves that. You can read it in an hour and it’s both funny and emotional. I loved this and could not recommend it more!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Sunny Side Up is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s store website, here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • Smile by Raina Telgemeier – A harrowing story of 6th-grader Raina as she deals with an injury that requires multiple rounds of braces and finding out who her real friends are. This comes highly recommended, though I haven’t read it myself yet.
  • Coraline by Neil Gaiman – When Coraline’s family moves into a new house, she discovers a secret way to live the life she’s always dreamed of. But then the Other Parents want her to stay forever, and she has to find a way to save herself and her family.
  • The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick – This got some attention from the film adaptation (excellent) a few years ago. Hugo fixes his father’s old automaton and meets a famous film-maker through his new friend Isabelle. An interesting weave of original material with historical events, and fully illustrated.
  • How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell – A hilarious and touching account of Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III and his unconventional love of dragons. Hiccup recounts these adventures as an adult, complete with illustrations and commentary. The film varies greatly, but the original material is the entire basis of what you may already know and love.

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