Review: Heartstopper: Volume One by Alice Oseman

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: Heartstopper
Creator: Alice Oseman
Series: Heartstopper #1
Genre: Romance
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Graphic Novel
Length: 278 pages
Publisher: Graphix
Release Date: October 2018
Source: Personal Collection
Recommended for fans of: adorable teen love stories

SYNOPSIS

Charlie, a highly-strung, openly gay over-thinker, and Nick, a cheerful, soft-hearted rugby player, meet at a British all-boys grammar school. Friendship blooms quickly, but could there be something more…?

Charlie Spring is in Year 10 at Truham Grammar School for Boys. The past year hasn’t been too great, but at least he’s not being bullied anymore. Nick Nelson is in Year 11 and on the school rugby team. He’s heard a little about Charlie – the kid who was outed last year and bullied for a few months – but he’s never had the opportunity to talk to him.

They quickly become friends, and soon Charlie is falling hard for Nick, even though he doesn’t think he has a chance. But love works in surprising ways, and sometimes good things are waiting just around the corner…

MY THOUGHTS

This is just a really cute love story with a unique monochrome art style. I found the story so wholesome and adorable and swoon worthy. I could gush on and on about how sweet this story is and I cannot recommend it enough for fans of YA contemporary romance and graphic novels!

ARC Review: The Dire Days of Willowweep Manor

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: The Dire Days of Willowweep Manor
Writer: Shaenon K. Garrity
Illustrator: Christopher Baldwin
Genre: Humor / Gothic / Sci-Fi
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Graphic Novel (eARC)
Length: 224 pages
Publisher: McElderry Books
Release Date: July 20, 2021
Source: Netgalley
Recommended for fans of: classic Gothic romance novels, satire

SYNOPSIS

Nimona meets Paper Girls with a literary twist in this wickedly funny graphic novel about a teenager who is swept up in a strange new universe and must save it from an all-consuming evil in order to return home.

One dark and stormy night, Haley sees a stranger drowning in the river. Since her greatest passion is Gothic romance novels, she knows her moment has come. But when Haley leaps into the water to rescue the stranger, she awakens in Willowweep. It certainly looks like the setting of one of her favorite books: A stately manor. A sinister housekeeper. Three brooding brothers. There’s even a ghost.

Except Willowweep is not what it seems. Its romantic exterior hides the workings of a pocket universe—the only protection our world has against a great force of penultimate evil, and its defenses are crumbling. Could cruel fate make Haley the heroine that Willowweep needs?

MY THOUGHTS

This YA graphic novel was very humorous and enjoyable. Haley, a high school student obsessed with classic Gothic romance novels, finds herself transported to a world that resembles her favorite books after saving a stranger from drowning in a river. I do think that readers need to be familiar with novels like Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre in order to fully appreciate the satire and jokes in the story.

I wish the plot was a bit more tight and focused. In addition to playing with Gothic tropes, the story also includes a sci-fi element with pocket universes and threats from another dimension. These different elements did not always come together cohesively. While many of the jokes had me laughing out loud, sometimes these humorous or melodramatic moments interrupted the pacing of the story.

I enjoyed this story and it kept me laughing from beginning to end, but I was left with a lot of questions about the internal logic of this story.

Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for the eARC.

Review: Spider-Verse by Dan Slott et al

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: Spider-Verse
Author: Dan Slott + many creators (see synopsis for full list)
Series: Spider-Man
Genre: Superhero
Audience: Adult
Format: Comics
Length: 648 pages
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Release Date: April 21, 2015
Source: comixology

SYNOPSIS

When the evil Inheritors begin exterminating spider-characters throughout the Multiverse, every single Spider-Man ever is needed to save the day! An interdimensional Spider-Army gathers to fight Morlun and his deadly family, but none of them is safe as the Prophecy comes to fruition! What will this brutal war for survival mean for Peter Parker and the rest of the spiders? Starring the Superior Spider-Man, the Ultimate Universe’s Miles Morales and Jessica Drew, Spider-Man 2099, Spider-Woman, Silk, Kaine, Scarlet Spider, MC2’s Spider-Girl, Spider-Man Noir, Spider-Man 1602, Spider-Ham, Spider-Monkey, Lady Spider, Spider-Punk, Spider-UK, a spider-powered Gwen Stacy…and hundreds more, from the beloved to the obscure!

Collecting: AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2014) #7-15, SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #32-33, SPIDER-VERSE #1-2, SPIDER-VERSE TEAM-UP #1-3, SCARLET SPIDERS #1-3, SPIDER-WOMAN (2014) #1-4, SPIDER-MAN 2099 (2014) #6-8 and material from FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2014 (GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY) #1

Written by DAN SLOTT, CHRISTOS GAGE, MICHAEL COSTA, DENNIS HOPELESS & PETER DAVID with SKOTTIE YOUNG, ROBBIE THOMPSON, KATIE COOK, KATHRYN IMMONEN, JED MCKAY, ROGER STERN, GERRY CONWAY, TOM DEFALCO & MORE

Penciled by GIUSEPPE CAMUNCOLI, OLIVIER COIPEL, DAVE WILLIAMS, PACO DIAZ, GREG LAND & WILL SLINEY with HUMBERTO RAMOS, ADAM KUBERT, MIGUEL SEPULVEDA, JAKE PARKER, DENNIS MEDRI, KATIE COOK, MARK BROOKS, DAVID LAFUENTE, SHELDON VELLA, BOB MCLEOD, PAUL SMITH, RON FRENZ & MORE

Cover by OLIVIER COIPEL

MY THOUGHTS

I read this hoping to find some scenes for my comic book class to compare and contrast with the Into the Spider-Verse movie. Turns out, they are very different! I now want to read more Miles Morales comics so I can find some better source material for comparison to use in class.

This is VERY comic book-y. I don’t know how else to describe the plot of vampire-like Inheritors manipulating the Web of Life and Destiny so they can devour all the spider totems in the Multiverse, leading to an inter-dimensional team-up of Spider-People. It was really fun to see the different iterations of Spider-Man interacting, but I understand why this plotline only exists in the comics.

My biggest complaint was about the format of the compilation. I would’ve preferred to read all of the issues chronologically rather than by series. Unfortunately comixology did not include a navigable table of contents, so there was so easy way for me to read these comics in the order I wanted to.

ARC Review: The Okay Witch and the Hungry Shadow by Emma Steinkellner

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆.5
Title: The Okay Witch and the Hungry Shadow
Author: Emma Steinkellner
Series: The Okay Witch #2
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Middle Grade
Format: Graphic Novel (eARC)
Length: 256 pages
Publisher: Aladdin
Release Date: July 6, 2021
Source: Publisher via Netgalley

SYNOPSIS

In this hilarious and heartwarming sequel to the bestselling and critically acclaimed graphic novel, The Okay Witch, half-witch Moth Hush uses magic to boost her confidence with disastrous results—perfect for fans of Raina Telgemeier and Molly Ostertag!

Moth Hush is starting to settle into her newfound witch heritage and powers, but life at school continues to be rough. Even her best friend, Charlie, doesn’t entirely understand what it’s like for her to always be the one who gets mocked, and things only get worse when Moth’s mom starts dating one of the dorkiest teachers in the school! Then Moth gets hold of a mysterious charm that can unleash another version of herself—one who is confident, cool, and extremely popular. What could possibly go wrong?

MY THOUGHTS

I love this middle grade graphic novel series!

Moth’s experiences are so relatable to middle grade audiences. In this book, Moth struggles with bullying and her desire to fit in with her classmates, even if it means compromising who she is and doing something dangerous. Moth makes mistakes, but she learns from them. This book also explores Moth’s race more than the first book did.

I liked the first book a little bit more, but this still knocks it out of the park. I adore watching Moth master her developing witchy powers while dealing with typical teenage issues in this heartfelt series. I recommend this series for all ages, but especially upper elementary and middle grade children.

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for gifting me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Fangs by Sarah Andersen

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: Fangs
Author: Sarah Andersen
Genre: Paranormal romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Graphic Novel
Length: 103 pages
Publisher: Andrews McMeel
Release Date: September 1, 2020
Source: Personal collection
Recommended for fans of: vampires

SYNOPSIS

A love story between a vampire and a werewolf by the creator of the enormously popular Sarah’s Scribbles comics.

Elsie the vampire is three hundred years old, but in all that time, she has never met her match. This all changes one night in a bar when she meets Jimmy, a charming werewolf with a wry sense of humor and a fondness for running wild during the full moon. Together they enjoy horror films and scary novels, shady strolls, fine dining (though never with garlic), and a genuine fondness for each other’s unusual habits, macabre lifestyles, and monstrous appetites.

First featured as a webcomic series on Tapas, Fangs chronicles the humor, sweetness, and awkwardness of meeting someone perfectly suited to you but also vastly different. Filled with Sarah Andersen’s beautiful gothic illustrations and relatable relationship humor, Fangs has all the makings of a cult classic.

MY THOUGHTS

Jimmy and Elsie have everything I am looking for in a relationship. I loved the way their relationship developed, and it just made me so happy!

This quirky, black & white graphic novel is so cute and LOL funny (I don’t even know how many times I laughed out loud reading these 100 pages).

Readers need to know that this is NOT a sequential storyline with an overarching plot; it’s more like a series of related comic strips depicting various snapshots of this vampire/werewolf relationship.

Review: The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: The Okay Witch
Author: Emma Steinkellner
Series: The Okay Witch #1
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Middle Grade
Format: Graphic Novel
Length: 272 pages
Publisher: Aladdin
Release Date: September 3, 2019
Source: Personal collection

SYNOPSIS

Sabrina the Teenage Witch meets Roller Girl in this hilarious, one-of-a-kind graphic novel about a half-witch who has just discovered the truth about herself, her family, and her town and is doing her best to survive middle school now that she knows everything!

Magic is harder than it looks.

Thirteen-year-old Moth Hush loves all things witchy. But she’s about to discover that witches aren’t just the stuff of movies, books, and spooky stories. When some eighth-grade bullies try to ruin her Halloween, something really strange happens. It turns out that Founder’s Bluff, Massachusetts, has a centuries-old history of witch drama. And, surprise: Moth’s family is at the center of it all! When Moth’s new powers show up, things get totally out-of-control. She meets a talking cat, falls into an enchanted diary, and unlocks a hidden witch world. Secrets surface from generations past as Moth unravels the complicated legacy at the heart of her town, her family, and herself.

In this spellbinding graphic novel debut, Emma Steinkellner spins a story packed with humor and heart about the weird and wonderful adventures of a witch-in-progress.

MY THOUGHTS

This middle grade graphic novel was absolutely charming and delightful! I loved Moth as she struggled to fit in at school and grow into her magic. Her new friendship with fellow outcast Charles was so sweet.

This story focuses on three generations of Hush witches. Each complex woman had a very different idea about what it means to be a witch and how to use their powers, but their desires made sense considering their different experiences.

The story explored many important themes for young readers, such as the idea that you are not bound by your legacy and can choose your own path instead. It also had an awesome ending! I can’t wait for the sequel, and I hope everyone reads this. Even though it is targeted for children, readers of all ages can enjoy and learn something from this graphic novel.

Review: The Shadow Threat (House of El #1) by Claudia Gray

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: The Shadow Threat
Writer: Claudia Gray
Illustrator: Eric Zawadzki
Series: House of El
Genre: Superhero/Science Fiction
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Graphic Novel
Length: 194 pages
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: January 5, 2021
Source: Personal collection
Recommended for fans of: Superman

SYNOPSIS

Zahn is one of Krypton’s elites: wealthy, privileged, a future leader. Sera is one of Krypton’s soldiers: strong, dedicated, fearless. Their rule – bound society has ordained that their paths should never cross.

But groundquakes are shaking the planet’s surface. Rebellious uprisings are shaking the populace. Krypton’s top scientists — Jor-El and Lara — conduct a secret experiment that is meant to reform their planet from the cellular level up. Zahn and Sera must join forces to investigate the hidden dangers truly threatening Krypton. In the process, they form a bond that will endure past the end of the world.

MY THOUGHTS

Superman is not my favorite hero, but I was interested in this prequel to Clark Kent’s story on Earth. This series provides a background about Kryptonian society and the unrest leading up to the planet’s demise.

I really liked the two main characters, Zahn and Sera. They come from very different backgrounds, but they are both dedicated to uncovering the truth and doing whatever it takes to save their planet.

This installment ends on a major cliffhanger, and there is so much to be explored in volume 2!

Review: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
Creators: Frank Miller, Klaus Janson, Lynn Varley
Series: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #1-4
Genre: Superhero
Audience: Adult
Format: Comics
Length: 224 pages
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: January 28, 1986
Source: Personal collection
Recommended for fans of: classic comic book characters

SYNOPSIS

This masterpiece of modern comics storytelling brings to vivid life a dark world and an even darker man. Together with inker Klaus Janson and colorist Lynn Varley, writer/artist Frank Miller completely reinvents the legend of Batman in his saga of a near-future Gotham City gone to rot, ten years after the Dark Knight’s retirement.

Crime runs rampant in the streets, and the man who was Batman is still tortured by the memories of his parents’ murders. As civil society crumbles around him, Bruce Wayne’s long-suppressed vigilante side finally breaks free of its self-imposed shackles.

The Dark Knight returns in a blaze of fury, taking on a whole new generation of criminals and matching their level of violence. He is soon joined by this generation’s Robin—a girl named Carrie Kelley, who proves to be just as invaluable as her predecessors.

But can Batman and Robin deal with the threat posed by their deadliest enemies, after years of incarceration have made them into perfect psychopaths? And more important, can anyone survive the coming fallout of an undeclared war between the superpowers—or a clash of what were once the world’s greatest superheroes?

Over fifteen years after its debut, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns remains an undisputed classic and one of the most influential stories ever told in the comics medium.

Collecting Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #1-4

MY THOUGHTS

While I am a huge fan of Batman the character, this is the first Batman comic I’ve read. I think it is especially important to consider context when reading this. This was the first appearance of the dark and gritty Batman we know today, representing a complete 180 from the campy and silly Batman of generations before. The Dark Knight Return also represents a shift in superhero comics being published for adult audiences.

When this story begins, it has been a decade since Bruce Wayne donned the cowl, but he can no longer ignore the growing crime gangs in Gotham or resist the call of his dark and violent nature. While this older and grizzled Bruce Wayne suffers an existential crisis, the world must decide if there is still a place for Batman.

The comic is very political. Gotham transitions to a new police commissioner, who has no tolerance for violence or vigilantes. Many pages feature “talking heads” giving news reports, to varying degrees of effectiveness. The new Robin is a girl, and she’s awesome. Some of the gangs and villains featured were bizarre, but this also brings back classic villains like the Joker. We also see what Superman has become in this new era.

I wasn’t crazy about the artwork, but the story was very well done. I can’t say that I was absolutely blown away, but I’m glad I finally read this seminal graphic novel. This earns a solid 4 stars from me!

Review: The Stonekeeper’s Curse by Kazu Kibuishi

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: The Stonekeeper’s Curse
Author: Kazu Kibuishi
Series: Amulet #2
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Middle Grade
Format: Graphic Novel
Length: 220 pages
Publisher: Graphix
Release Date: September 1, 2009
Source: Personal collection

SYNOPSIS

In this thrilling sequel to AMULET #1: THE STONEKEEPER, Emily and her brother Navin head for Kanalis, a beautiful and mysterious city of waterfalls, where they hope to find the antidote for the poison that felled their mother. That cure lies in the eggs of a giant serpent atop Demon’s Head Mountain, but the kids’ archenemy, Trellis, is headed for the peak, too. A battle that will engulf all of Kanalis is looming. It’s up to Em to triumph over evil while controlling the amulet’s power . . . without losing herself!

MY THOUGHTS

I liked this a lot more than the first book. With the groundwork laid in the first book that introduced readers to Alledia and the magic of the amulet, there was room for so much more world building in this installment. It was so fun to see an actual town full of magical characters, fearsome elves, and talking trees.

I also enjoyed the new characters and the character development. Emily struggles to take control of the Amulet and do the right thing, while Navin earns more agency of his own.

There was more action in this installment as well, and overall it was a more exciting and enjoyable read. I’m excited to continue reading this series!

Review: Lumberjanes, Vol. 2 by Noelle Stevenson et al.

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: Lumberjanes, Vol. 2: Friendship to the Max
Author: Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Watters, Brooke A. Allen, Maarta Laiho, Aubry Aiese
Series: Lumberjanes #5-8
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Middle Grade
Format: Graphic Novel
Length: 111 pages
Publisher: BOOM! Box
Release Date: October 13, 2015
Source: Personal collection

SYNOPSIS

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.

This New York Times bestseller and Eisner Award-nominated series is written by awesome all-star Noelle Stevenson and brilliant newcomer Grace Ellis, and illustrated by the tremendously talented Brooke Allen.

Lumberjanes, Vol. 2: Friendship to the Max includes issues 5-8.

MY THOUGHTS

Lumberjanes is fun and cute, but I’m not totally wowed by the storytelling in this series. Since this nicely wrapped up the plot lines introduced in Volume 1, I don’t feel compelled to continue with the series. I have the first two volumes in my classroom library for my comic book class, but I don’t see myself purchasing additional volumes in the series unless a high student demand develops.