Book Review: In Real Life (Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Square Fish

Pages: 175

Release Date: February 13th 2018

Summary:

Anda loves Coarsegold Online, the massively-multiplayer role playing game that she spends most of her free time on. It’s a place where she can be a leader, a fighter, a hero. It’s a place where she can meet people from all over the world, and make friends. Gaming is, for Anda, entirely a good thing.

But things become a lot more complicated when Anda befriends a gold farmer–a poor Chinese kid whose avatar in the game illegally collects valuable objects and then sells them to players from developed countries with money to burn. This behavior is strictly against the rules in Coarsegold, but Anda soon comes to realize that questions of right and wrong are a lot less straightforward when a real person’s real livelihood is at stake.

Review:

This is an interesting short read with gorgeous art and a well-intentioned message – I just think it tried to cover too much in a short space.

After a school visit from one of the organisers of Coarsegold Online, Anda starts playing the game with a group of female gamers. I enjoyed this aspect of the story: it touched on sexism and misogyny in gaming and Coarsegold offered a safe and welcoming space for female gamers. This was really interesting and was great for Anda’s character development.

We then get to the point of the story: Anda meets Raymond, a gold farmer in the game, who’s an overworked teenager in China in real life. Gold farmers in games are often from third world countries and they collect in-game items and valuable objects to sell to other players for real life money. Anda’s friends in the game point out how that’s not in the spirit of the game and they start targeting groups of gold farmers. However, when Anda speaks Raymond, she sees the terrible predicament he’s in: he needs this job to survive, not in the game but in real life.

Anda then decides she has to help him in some way. She tells Raymond that he and his friends should demand healthcare from their employer, which of course leads to him getting fired. Anda spreads a message among the other gold farmers to try and find Raymond, who turns up at the end and says he’s got a better a job now. And that’s basically it.

Everything felt a bit simplified when this is a complex issue. While I know there were good intentions there, I just don’t think it all came across well. Anda’s help came across more as some kind of white saviour complex and it only made matters worse for Raymond: nothing she did really helped him, though I see how she was changed for the better by meeting him and gaining some understanding of another country and culture.

On the plus side, there was a positive message about female gaming and feeling comfortable with yourself, and the art by Jen Wang is just fantastic. I think this book was too short to really explore all the issues it wanted to and it just wasn’t for me.

Book Review: The Prince and the Dressmaker (Jen Wang)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: First Second

Pages: 288

Release Date: February 13th 2018

Summary:

Paris, at the dawn of the modern age:

Prince Sebastian is looking for a bride―or rather, his parents are looking for one for him. Sebastian is too busy hiding his secret life from everyone. At night he puts on daring dresses and takes Paris by storm as the fabulous Lady Crystallia―the hottest fashion icon in the world capital of fashion!

Sebastian’s secret weapon (and best friend) is the brilliant dressmaker Frances―one of only two people who know the truth: sometimes this boy wears dresses. But Frances dreams of greatness, and being someone’s secret weapon means being a secret. Forever. How long can Frances defer her dreams to protect a friend? Jen Wang weaves an exuberantly romantic tale of identity, young love, art, and family. A fairy tale for any age, The Prince and the Dressmaker will steal your heart.

Review:

This was a really lovely, modern fairy tale with beautiful art and a great message about being yourself and accepting others.

Sebastian is a prince by day and Lady Crystallia by night. Frances is his new dressmaker who longs for her talent to be recognised, but this can’t happen while Sebastian’s passion for dresses stays secret.

This was a really cute story with important undertones. I loved the fun the two had designing dresses together, going to parties and just generally bonding. It was great to see a story that breaks gender norms and shows another side of life. In this book, clothes don’t have a gender, dresses aren’t just for girls and society has to learn to accept that. Sebastian loves getting dressed up and that’s all there is to it: no big deal.

The friendship that bloomed between Sebastian and Frances was really sweet and it was great to see their relationship grow and strain under the weight of their secrets. By the end of the book, you’re hoping they’ll sort out their differences and get together, and that society/Sebastian’s father will get over any issues they have with a prince wearing dresses.

The artwork is really stunning and I loved seeing Frances’ new creations and Sebastian transform as he wore them. The colour scheme is really beautiful and the character’s faces are so expressive you always know exactly what they’re thinking.

This a beautiful book with a fun story and great message that I hope a lot of people will read.

4

Book Review: Nimona (Noelle Stevenson)

Publisher: Harper Teen

Pages: 262

Release Date: May 12th 2015

Summary:

Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson. Featuring an exclusive epilogue not seen in the web comic, along with bonus conceptual sketches and revised pages throughout, this gorgeous full-color graphic novel is perfect for the legions of fans of the web comic and is sure to win Noelle many new ones.

Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t the heroes everyone thinks they are.

But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona’s powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.

Continue reading “Book Review: Nimona (Noelle Stevenson)”

Book Review: Lumberjanes, Vol 3, A Terrible Plan (Noelle Stevenson)

Publisher: Boom! Box

Pages: 112

Release Date: April 5th 2016

Summary:

IF YOU GOT IT, HAUNT IT!

Trying to take advantage of the first quiet day at camp in a while, Mal and Molly’s date takes a bizarre turn with the appearance of the Bear Woman! Back at camp, Jo, April, and Ripley must stay on their toes as they try and earn every badge possible, which ends up being a lot harder than any of them ever planned.

Review:

As usual, this is a mini review as it’s another volume in a series.

The Lumberjanes are back and they’re just as fun and weird as ever. I enjoyed the first story a lot: it’s a bit like a Halloween special, with the girls sat around the campfire telling ghost stories. This was a cool opportunity to tell some wacky stories and have some different art styles too.

The remaining stories returned to the main plot. The girls may have defeated a couple of deities but they’re still at camp and now they’re behind on getting their badges. Jo, April and Ripley try their hardest to earn badges in a range of fun activities, including cake decorating and extreme scrapbooking.

Meanwhile, Mal and Molly’s date takes a strange turn as they end up trying to best a bunch of dinosaurs alongside the Bear Woman. Those two are definitely the cutest couple and I hope they can get a peaceful, normal date at some point in the future!

If you’ve enjoyed the previous books then you’re sure to love this one. I’m interested in seeing where this new story arc goes and will be reading Volume 4 when I get my hands on it.

4

Book Review: Ms Marvel, Vol 2, Generation Why (G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona and Jacob Wyatt)

Publisher: Marvel

Pages: 136

Release Date: April 7th 201

Summary:

Who is the Inventor, and what does he want with the all-new Ms. Marvel and all her friends? Maybe Wolverine can help! If Kamala can stop fan-girling out about meeting her favorite super hero, that is. Then, Kamala crosses paths with Inhumanity — by meeting the royal dog, Lockjaw! But why is Lockjaw really with Kamala? As Ms. Marvel discovers more about her past, the Inventor continues to threaten her future. Kamala bands together with some unlikely heroes to stop the maniacal villain before he does real damage, but has she taken on more than she can handle? And how much longer can Ms. Marvel’s life take over Kamala Khan’s? Kamala Khan continues to prove why she’s the best (and most adorable) new super hero there is!

Review:

I just love new Ms Marvel.

But I don’t love reviewing graphic novels – as I’ve said before, it’s like reviewing chapters of a book – so I’m just going to do a quickie of how awesome this second volume is.

  • Kamala is in it and she’s just as amazing as ever. She’s funny and nerdy and passionate and just the best
  • Wolverine is also in it. I felt so happy for her to meet him!
  • Lockjaw! I mean, enough said really. He’s so huge and cute and awesome
  • There were some interesting plot developments that I didn’t see coming
  • The general message was a really good, although it did get a bit heavy handed with the speeches and things towards the end

This was just brilliant and I can’t wait to read more of Kamala’s story.

4

Book Review: Lumberjanes, Vol 2, Friendship to the Max (Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Watters, Brooke A. Allen)

Publisher: Boom! Box

Pages: 112

Release Date: October 13th 2015

Summary:

FRIENDSHIP TO THE MAX!

What a mystery!

Jo, April, Mal, Molly, and Ripley are not your average campers and Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady-Types is not your average summer camp. Between the river monsters, magic, and the art of friendship bracelets, this summer is only just beginning. Join the Lumberjanes as they take on raptors and a sibling rivalry that only myths are made of.

Review:

I enjoyed this book but this will be a brief review as I feel I already said a lot of what I wanted to say in my Volume 1 review. That’s what I find hard about reviewing graphic novel volumes: it’s like reviewing a few chapters of a book at a time, instead of the whole story.

So once again the gang are back and getting themselves into trouble. This time there’s dinosaurs, mythical gods and the mother of all sibling rivalry to contend with. I still love the relationships, the gung-ho, in your face action and the overall positive, happy feel of the book.

There was a joke in the first story that actually made me laugh out loud and I immediately had to show Nathan it because it made me chuckle so much. There was also a cliffhanger bit that made me gasp and *forced* me to read another issue before bed.

This is a series that I’ll definitely be carrying on with, and if you’re looking for a fun, colourful book with strong female friendships then I’d definitely recommend it.

4

Book Review: Scarlet Witch, Vol 1, Witch’s Road (James Robinson, Vanesa Del Rey, Javier Pulido)

Publisher: Marvel

Pages: 112

Release Date: July 19th 2016

Summary:

Witchcraft is broken – and the SCARLET WITCH is on a journey across the globe to fix it. From the back alleys of Manhattan, to the serene Greek Isles, to the bustling streets of Hong Kong, Wanda will have to face down her foes and find out who her true friends are. But as Wanda solves magical crimes and pieces witchcraft back together, the most important question remains: Who is the mastermind that broke it in the first place?

Review:

I love the Scarlet Witch’s character and was excited when I unwrapped this Volume 1 on Christmas Day. I’m not sure it really lived up to expectations though.

To start with the art, the book is stunning. The different artists give the book an inconsistent look but it’s actually the best thing about it. The Greek issue was probably my favourite: the colours were gorgeous and just everything about it was beautiful.

Sadly, I just didn’t think the stories were as good as the art. The main problem for me was that the climax always felt the same: whatever happened, the Scarlet Witch just did a spell, which looked pretty but was ultimately boring to read. I wanted more from it and it just wasn’t there, which is a shame.

So this one wasn’t for me. It looks good but I just didn’t find it interesting, and I don’t think I’ll be reading the rest of the series.

3

Book Review: Lumberjanes, Vol 1, Beware the Kitten Holy (Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Watters, Brooke A. Allen)

Publisher: Boom! Box

Pages: 112

Release Date: April 7th 2015

Summary:

FRIENDSHIP TO THE MAX!

At Miss Qiunzilla Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s camp for hard-core lady-types, things are not what they seem. Three-eyed foxes. Secret caves. Anagrams. Luckily, Jo, April, Mal, Molly, and Ripley are five rad, butt-kicking best pals determined to have an awesome summer together… And they’re not gonna let a magical quest or an array of supernatural critters get in their way! The mystery keeps getting bigger, and it all begins here.

Review:

This was a Christmas present from Nathan, and the sneaky guy bought me Volume 2 the other day and stuck it into my TBR pile when I wasn’t looking. Lucky I enjoyed this one and want to read the next!

This is a colourful, whimsical tale about a group of girls at Lumberjanes camp, making friends and earning badges and investigating the mysterious things that keep happening. I liked that you’re just plopped right into the middle of the story: there’s no slow introduction of characters or anything, it’s just BAM we’re in the middle of the forest fighting three eyed foxes. As you do. It definitely grabbed my attention.

I loved all the girls in the group and loved their diversity even more. They’re all very different and I think there’s someone there for everyone to connect to. My personal favourite was April, who might be the smallest in the group, but she had no problem beating a giant statue in an arm wrestle. Ripley was a little annoying to me but hey, we all have a friend like that tin the group.

The art style is quite cartoony, very fun and colourful and I really liked it. It reminded me a lot of Adventure Time, not just the art but the phrases and maths and science etc. “Math and science and logic TO THE MAX!”

I loved the puns, the female friendships and I especially liked the interaction with the boys camp. The introduction of their camp leader was my favourite bit: he’s got his rather stereotypical notions of what boys should be doing, and it doesn’t involve being clean or baking cookies like his campers do. Best line of the book: “I AM GOING TO CATCH A FISH BY WRESTLING IT AWAY FROM A BEAR”. Proper made me chuckle.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about the book at first but it definitely grew on me and by the end I was hooked. I’m intrigued to know what’s going on and I’m lining up the second volume to be read already.

4

Book Review: Baker Street Academy – Sherlock Holmes and the Disappearing Diamond (Sam Hearn)

* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Scholastic

Pages: 126

Release Date: October 6th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

John Watson has barely settled into his new school, Baker Street Academy, when his teacher announces a trip to one of London’s top museums, home to the world’s most famous jewel. But it’s been stolen! When police catch the thief it seems the case is closed. Can Sherlock Holmes uncover the mystery behind this extraordinary gem?

Review:

I wouldn’t say I’m the biggest Sherlock fan, but I know of him, of course. I read The Hound of the Baskervilles when I was younger and I’ve seen various adaptations too. But when this was pitched to me as a middle grade graphic novel of Sherlock and Watson in school, it sounded too fun to resist.

John Watson is the new kid at Baker Street Academy, but he soon finds friends in the mysterious and super smart Sherlock Holmes and confident Martha Hudson, and an enemy in James Moriarty. When a school trip to a museum ends in a heist, the trio set out to expose the thief and recover the famous stolen jewel.

I loved the style of the story, the way it’s pieced together through different media: John’s narration and blog entries, drawings and speech bubbles, news reports and school notices. It made the storytelling really varied and exciting. The art was spot on: it really captured the characters traits in their facial expressions and  brought the story to life.

While this is for younger readers, I felt there were little nods to older readers there too, with lots of Sherlock references that adults could enjoy even if the kids might not get them all. It was fun to see the characters in a different kind of setting, and I liked that Martha was part of the team too, not just Sherlock  and Watson. The mystery was interesting and actually had me fooled with its red herring, so I was very impressed by that! It’s a complex mystery but not so much that younger readers can’t get their heads around it.

This is a fast paced, fun and really visual story, and one that’s sure to entertain younger and older reader alike. A must read for any budding young detectives, especially ones with Sherlock fans for parents!

4

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Tales of Yesterday

Book Review: i love this part (Tillie Walden)

Publisher: Avery Hill Publishing

Pages: 68

Release Date: November 13th 2015

Summary (from Goodreads):

Two girls in a small town in the USA kill time together as they try to get through their days at school.

They watch videos, share earbuds as they play each other songs and exchange their stories. In the process they form a deep connection and an unexpected relationship begins to develop.

Review:

This is my first review in a long time. With NaNoWriMo last month and going back to work, I’ve not had much time for reading or blogging. But I did find a few minutes to sit and read this little gem, which Nathan picked up for me at Thought Bubble this year.

I was a little worried about writing this review, as this is one of those books where I feel there’s probably so much more to it that I haven’t got, and I’ll just sound stupid when I review it. But oh well, I’m doing it anyway!

This is a short coming of age love story between two girls in a small USA town. The sparse dialogue tells the story succinctly and also makes it kind of haunting. The art is simple and stunning and stays with you when you’ve finished reading. The two girls appear as giants at first, towering over buildings and mountains as they are consumed by their developing feelings for each other. As their relationship gets more complicated, the world shrinks around them.

This was a really quick read, but one I can see myself returning to lots. It’s amazing how heart breaking something can be in just a few pages and sentences. I look forward to reading more of Walden’s work.

4