Book Reviews

Archival Quality by Ivy Noelle Weir (Author), Steenz (Illustrator)

Archival Quality by Ivy Noelle Weir (Goodreads Author), Steenz (Goodreads Author) (Illustrator)Rating: 🍁

I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

This is not a book I can honestly recommend.

The main character is very unlikable. She is: immature, stubborn, willfully ignorant, self-indulgent, and as other reviewers have pointed out, emotionally abusive. She is offered help constantly but always refuses it and instead flips those offers on their heads in order to accuse the people who are trying to help her. She also mistakes anger for determination.

At one point she fully admits that she doesn’t want help and that apparently what she needs to do to feel better is to lash out at people? Again, that’s emotionally abusive.

There’s also a small hint of romance that is not believable because it plays out like a fantasy from the main character’s mind. The person who seemingly has a crush on her lists qualities that she has NOT displayed up to that point in the book, and it just sounds like he’s saying what she’s wanted to hear all along, which is a lie.

The most enjoyable aspect of this book is found in the character design. The cast was diverse (including body types) and a lot of thought was put into the outfits and their bright colors and patterns.

But I was often pulled out of the story because the action was sometimes hard to understand, and the transitions from scene to scene were too abrupt. I found myself flipping back and forth in multiple occasions, trying to figure out if I had missed something. I hadn’t, it was just a sudden transition.

The story itself (archivist at a museum helping the ghost who haunts it) is not a bad pitch; it is the reason why I wanted to read this, after all. But the execution could be much improved.

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Book Reviews

Watersnakes by Antonio Sandoval

Watersnakes by Antonio Sandoval

Rating: 🍁🍁🍁🍁🍁

I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

This is my first introduction to Antonio Sandoval and I need MORE. 

Watersnakes could very well fall into the Weird Fiction genre. It’s hard to say much more about it without spoiling anything, but everything in this story is intentionally calibrated to make it as dreamlike, surreal, and mildly unsettling as possible.  

As summer is ending, Mila, the main character, meets Agatha, a zany pale-haired girl with unbearably attractive teeth. Her teeth are important objects in the story, which makes the whole package all the more oneiric. As summer ominously shifts into autumn, Mila falls into a number of nightmareish supernatural events. 

Just let yourself fall into this story like you would into a nap. Take the unusual things the characters say at face value, and feel free to glean your own meanings from there. (I haven’t checked if the author picked specific dream dictionary symbols but I wouldn’t be surprised if he did.) 

The art keeps it gothy with a limited color palette of stark blacks and whites and highly desaturated neutrals accented with turquoise skies and shadows, plus the occasional spatter of bright red or dark orange blood. (On that note, there are a handful of gory scenes at the end but I found them easy to stomach and I usually can’t handle that sort of thing.)

Agatha reminded me of the many paled-haired girls in dark gothicy settings such as: The Girl from the Other Side, Moorchild, Kigeki, and The Water Mirror. If you enjoyed any of those, chances are you’ll enjoy this too. 

I would recommend this to: fans of the gothic genre, someone looking for a trippy comic, and people who like dark artwork. 

This book comes out on November 20th!

Book Reviews

A Quick & Easy Guide to Queer & Trans Identities by Mady G, J.R. Zuckerberg

A Quick & Easy Guide to Queer & Trans Identities by Mady G, J.R. Zuckerberg

Rating: 🍁🍁🍁🍁

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Everything I know about trans people is thanks to a friend who had an angelic level of patience to explain it all to me. I cringe to think of the ignorant things I asked her back then. For this, I hold her in very high regard, especially since learning of how unfair and emotionally exhausting it is to have to explain your existence to someone. 

So I picked this book up wondering if it would have helped to educate me back then, instead of asking my friend all of those questions. The answer is: sort of. 

This book is FOR queer kids/people. It is aimed at people who are already exploring or questioning their identities, rather than at the caring but confused friend/family member who would like to learn more, or the casual reader who is passingly curious on the subject. 

For that purpose, it is lovely. I just imagine a queer kid in a library, feeling lost and not knowing who to go to for guidance or companionship, and finding exactly the warm embrace, acceptance, and confirmation they needed from this book.

The story is told through a pet snail, who is teaching the wild snails about humans. In between the snail teachings are tiny bits of this idyllic place populated by “Sproutlings”, forest creatures who will serve as examples to further explain what the snail says. The main topics are: gender identity, gender expression, dysphoria, asexuality, relationship advice, and coming out. 

The art is very soothing. The lines are very round, soft, and squiggly. The dominant color is pink, accented with purples and yellows, with the Sproutling chapters in blue-greens to set them apart.  

At points I sensed a bit of “the expert blindspot” (when someone is already an expert at their subject and they teach the material in a way that is obvious to them, while being unaware of the many questions that a novice will have). But that is why this book is aimed specifically at LGBTQ kids. They already know about some of these terms and don’t need the basics explained to them.

This subject is unfathomably broad and the book can only briefly touch on so many subjects, but it would be lovely to see sequels of this where they go more into depth for each respective topic they already introduced.  

The book ends with a handful of self-reflection activities that may help kids practice what they’ve just read/learned. 

I would recommend this to anyone who is exploring or questioning their identity, and to a mindful friend or family member who wants to learn more about what their loved ones may be experiencing (with the reservation that this won’t answer all of your questions). 

This book comes out on April 23rd, 2019! 

Book Reviews

Little by Edward Carey

Little by Edward Carey

Rating: 🍁🍁🍁🍁🍁

I won an ARC through Goodreads Giveaways in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Riverhead Books!

Little is one of the best books I’ve read not just in 2018, but ever.  (It also has one of the best first paragraphs I’ve ever read on anything.)

This is a fictionalized account of the life of Anna Maria Grosholtz, more commonly known as Madame Tussaud but also known as Marie. I’ve never been to the museums and never felt compelled or fascinated by wax figures, but even so,  this book will make you understand why people find them enthralling.

What is special about Little is that quirky gothicness that isn’t terribly dark or horrific. (Tim Burton-esque would be an okay comparison, for example.)

The story begins with Marie’s childhood in Berne, Switzerland, where she meets Dr. Curtis, a somber man who finds bones comforting and lives in a dreary house full of wax body parts. Marie is naturally attuned to this particular brand of wonder and eventually finds comfort in body parts and wax as well.

Her story is divided into the main chunks of her life: childhood, teenage years (some of which she lived in Versailles), young adulthood, etc.

The book contains tons of illustrations by Edward Carey. The drawings are understood to be drawn by Marie, who is an artist of more than only wax, and they mostly have an eerie, borderline unsettling quality that magnifies the gothic mood of the story.

This really is an excellent book. It’ll make you experience a lot of gloomy but delicate feelings, which is a very rare combination to find in any form of media.

I would recommend Little to: anyone looking for quirky gothicness that isn’t terribly dark, someone who hasn’t read something uniquely curious in a while, and fans of historical fiction.

Book Reviews

Goldie Vance Vol. 2 (Goldie Vance #5-8) by Hope Larson, Brittney Williams, Sarah Stern

goldie vance 2

Rating: 🍁🍁🍁🍁🍁

I loved this volume of Goldie Vance even more than the first one! This one has a space-related mystery once more, and the colors are just as delicious as last time.

Something really exceptional about this series (and this volume in particular) is it shows awesome women succeeding in various roles and careers. Their self-worth isn’t presented as something that is determined by comparing themselves to other women, they all just made different choices and all of them are valid! This includes: an astronaut trainee, a mermaid performer, a bathing suit designer, a detective, and beauty pageant contestants.

I wish Goldie Vance would’ve existed back when I was twelve.

Highly recommended! (p.s. if you like Lumberjanes, you’ll love this too!)

Book Reviews

Lumberjanes, Vol. 8: Stone Cold by Shannon Watters

lumberjanes 8

Rating: 🍁🍁🍁🍁🍁

In this volume of Lumberjanes, sadly we don’t yet get to see the start of Barney’s time at camp. I’m really looking forward to seeing that, but we’ll get there eventually.

This volume is focused on Diane’s (Artemis) struggles and it includes a lot more characters from Greek mythology, including a gorgon and Diane’s family.

The friendship lessons are focused on forgiveness, learning to work as a team, and parental/familial struggles. Again, Lumberjanes manages to touch on universally relatable lessons all while making you feel warm and fuzzy and inspiring you to be a better person and a better friend.

If you’ve stuck with Lumberjanes this long, you’ll love it as much as the rest. 🙂

Book Reviews

Goldie Vance Vol. 1 (Goldie Vance #1-4) by Hope Larson, Brittney Williams, Sarah Stern

Goldie Vance Vol. 1 (Goldie Vance #1-4) by Hope Larson, Brittney Williams (Illustrations)

Rating: 🍁🍁🍁🍁🍁

I kept seeing Goldie Vance pop up in my recommendations, and for good reason!

Goldie works in a hotel doing I don’t even know what, because she’d rather spend her time solving mysteries there!

She is energetic, quick to connect the dots, and is highly motivated to continue chasing leads even when everyone else (including the official hotel detective) doesn’t seem super concerned about solving the problem.

Goldie Vance doesn’t seem to ascribe to the principle of Occam’s razor, because the solution turned out to be way more farfetched than I could have ever imagined; but they made it work! It was quite fun.

Also, the art is lovely. It has that satisfying retro pop culture bubblegum feeling, and the colors are delicious to look at (they remind me of Smarties!).

Highly recommend it, one of my favorites this year! (as if it wasn’t already obvious by all the exclamation marks in this review)