Comics Roundup #4:

Good morning, beautiful comics people!

The sky is blue, I saw some daffodils today, and my favorite writer Kelly Thompson is teasing a secret new project on Twitter. I will be glad for anything she chooses to put forth, but I am desperately dreaming of a reimagined Nancy Drew? Maybe? PLEASE?

Also, Ta-Nehisi Coates is writing Captain America. Every once in a while there is a piece of news that makes me think that perhaps we don’t live in the WORST nightmare timeline, but rather the medium-worst. 10th-worst. In the worst timeline, we’d never get such a wonderful gift.

Anyway, onto other things: what I’ve read this fortnight!

The Long Ones

Image result for the prince and the dressmaker Image result for speak emily carroll Image result for spinning tillie walden Image result for taproot Image result for shattered warrior

I got my hands on a copy of The Prince and the Dressmaker a little early, and I loved it precisely as much as I thought I would. From the moment I first held that library book in my hands, I knew that I would need one to call my very own ASAP. It’s a gorgeous, weighty book in addition to being a gloriously fun read. I would recommend this to anyone, and although it is mainly shelved with teen books, I think it would be an excellent middle grade read as well. Speak, the graphic adaptation of the seminal teen novel, is breathtaking in its scariness, and while I am a self-professed Emily Carroll fanatic, I think, objectively, that she was the absolute perfect fit for this project, and her talent for absolutely freeze-in-place terrifying images carried the text into 2018 perfectly. Those were the two most perfect books I read this time around, though I liked Shattered Warrior much more than I believed I would (thanks in part to Molly Ostertag’s great illustrations) and liked Spinning by Tillie Walden fine, though the art style makes it hard to follow the story and distinguish which character is which. The only miss for me among the standalone books I read this month was Taproot. This is a classic example of good concept, poor execution. I appreciated the love story, but the plot was incomprehensible and the worldbuilding was poor. I hope to see this creator build on this book in the future.

The Short Ones

Image result for batgirl vol 3 mindfields cover Image result for Kim Reaper Image result for hawkeye my life as a weapon Image result for runaways vol 5

 

I finally finished the Stewart run with Batgirl vol. 3, and while I will always have a place in my heart for this version of Barbara Gordon, I am glad to be done with it. Elements of this run were far too cutesy and “current” but I still thought it was fun, and I am excited to see where Hope Larson takes the characters in the newest iteration. I also continued on with my slog through the post-hiatus Runaways with Runaways vol. 5, and I have to say that I’m excited to see what happens when Victor shows up on the Hulu series. He’s probably my favorite character. I’m still a big fan of this series despite the unfortunate and distracting art style. Same goes for a new series I started last week, Kim Reaper. I loved this first book a lot even though it is drawn in a way that would not normally entice me. My girlfriend LOVES this one, and I get why: it’s campy and silly while still being about death. What’s not to like?

And finally: Hawkeye vol. 1. This has been on my list since the beginning, and I finally made time for it. I’m glad I did! It is a hugely popular and much-loved title. Do I like it better than other books I’ve read about Hawkeye? Probably not. At this point I need to admit to myself (and to all of you) that men as superheroes simply does not light up my life the way, say, Kate Bishop does.

(Kate Bishop is everything, and I won’t hear a single word against her.)

That’s it for February! A piece of exciting personal news: I’m now a reviewer for No Flying No Tights, a wonderful graphic novel review site for librarians/teachers/book-buyers. When I have new reviews up, I’ll link them here! I’m reading some great stuff right now, so you’ll be able to see those reviews over there posthaste.

If you have any bones to pick or reading recs to share, please do so!

Comics Roundup #3: Wickedness, Divinity

Welcome to mid-February, aka The Worst Month Ever…

…usually! For me, it’s been a lovely (and weirdly warm) couple of weeks filled with awesome comics.

First off, in book news: I’m SO excited that Melanie Gillman’s As the Crow Flies was named a Stonewall Honor Book at yesterday’s ALA Youth Media Awards. It’s awesome to see small press publications winning mainstream awards, and C. Spike Trotman & co. deserve a ton of credit for the work they do. Congrats to all!

Alright, let’s dive in to my current reads!

Image result for wicked and divine vol 1Image result for wicked and divine vol 2 Image result for wicked and divine vol 3 Image result for wicked and divine vol 4 Image result for wicked and divine vol 5 Image result for wicked and divine vol 6

I eschewed all of my actual goals for this month once I started reading The Wicked + The Divine. Y’all, I was completely hooked. There are points throughout the series where I felt like I had almost no clue what was happening, but it was chaotic in an exciting, diverse, and hilarious way. It’s charming without being excessive, complicated without being boring, and cutting-edge without being (too) smug. I LOVE this book. So excited for when it eventually resumes.

Image result for archie vol 2 Image result for flintstones vol 1 Image result for batgirl vol 2 Image result for slam vol 1

The other volumes I read this month are a mish-mash of things I’ve been meaning to read. I’m still loving the Archie comics, and trying to grow less surprised about how much I love them. I read an awesome piece about how this new, edgy Archie brand came to be, and I just think every day about how brilliant Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is. In related vintage-turned-edgy news, The Flintstones has been getting a ton of press lately for being…weirdly good. After reading, I get it! It examines the elements of the original TV series we took for granted as cartoon silliness (the animals-as-appliances thing, for one) and extrapolates all of it into a surprisingly complex story with funny moments as well as serious ones. I don’t necessarily think I need to read more of this one, but this first book was interesting!

Moving on to girl power: I found Batgirl vol. 2 forgettable, and I see why this series fell short of most people’s expectations. Sitting here now, I’d have to flip through the book again to remember a single plot point. Oh, wait! There is one: her ex is back in town, and he’s an absolute archetype of the dashing-but-douchey leading man. No thanks! I also found Slam! to be overly…straight. My girlfriend described it as “The Whip It of graphic novels.” What roller derby team is made up entirely of straight girls (or at least girls who don’t talk about their significant others). It was totally distratcing despite the beautiful illustrations and sweet story.

That’s it for me so far! May I catch up to my goals in the second half of the month.

 

2017 Favorites and New Year’s “Readolutions”

2017: (nearly) vanquished!

It’s been quite a while since my summer roundup review, and I’ve been using that time trying frantically to finish all of my overdue library books and complete my Goodreads 2017 Reading Challenge! I set a goal of 50 books read in 2017, and I have read 61 books so far. I’m hoping for one or two more before the year finally closes.

on January 1st, I decided that I would review every book I read this year on Goodreads so that I can readily reflect on them and share my reading experience with other book nerds. What began as a last-minute resolution became a really handy tool for me as I moved into my position as a professional librarian and began spending every day discussing and recommending books. I definitely want to keep this up in 2018 and I cannot recommend it enough!

I did have some standout favorites this year. Of the 61 books I’ve reviewed thus far, 15 earned 5-star reviews. They are:

The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill

Bone Gap by Laure Ruby

The March Trilogy by John Lewis

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash

Paper Girls vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan

Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans by Don Brown

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

The Nest by Kenneth Oppel

On Writing by Stephen King

Roller Girl and All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson

Looking at this list, there are some similarities that stand out to me. Most obviously, the majority are graphic novels. I read a lot of graphic novels and comics during the first part of the year as part of a presentation for a collection development class, but it sparked an interest in the medium that carried through the entire year. I love books that are surprising and original, and they get extra points if they’re written especially with child audiences in mind. I find that graphic novels written for children are some of the most engaging, thought-provoking, and carefully designed pieces of literature out there today. I really had my eyes opened to that this year, and I’m pledging to continue learning and reading about graphic novels in the year to come!

This brings me to my New Year’s “readolutions” for 2018. I always have tons of goals for myself when it comes to what I’m reading, but my lackluster summer reading list led me to narrow it down to just 2 tasks this year.

  1. I will complete the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge. I will write about each task as I complete it and post it here.
  2. I will read 100 comics and graphic novels.

When I mentioned that second goal to my friend Stephanie, she asked me how I was going to define “one comic.” would I go by issues, or volumes, or…? I decided that I was going to be flexible about it and define each “item” I buy or check out of the library as one comic. So if I check out a single issue, that’s one. If I check out a volume, that also counts as one. It’s definitely an imperfect system, but I think it’ll be easiest for me to keep track of items rather than issues. If anyone has challenged themselves to read more comics, I’d love to hear how you did it! You can follow my progress here–I’ll do monthly round-ups of what I’ve read.

I’m so excited to move into this new year of reading, and I’d love to hear from others with reading-related resolutions this year!

 

 

 

 

 

Review: Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Note: this review contains minor plot spoilers for this book. 

dumplin

Hi, friends! I hope everyone has had a wonderful summer! I’ve been doing tons of reading during my lunch breaks and (meager) down time at home, and I am currently working on a post that will summarize that experience and share some of my favorite and least favorite titles! Before that comes out, though, I wanted to talk about a book I just finished, which I have been dying to talk about with literally every person I see. That book is Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy.

My girlfriend, who is also a children’s librarian, recommended this book to me soon after it came out two years ago. It’s a big deal for a YA book to earn her stamp of approval–she’s delightfully discerning and critical when it comes to material for kids and teens–so I shuffled it up my “To-Read” list accordingly. I finally picked it up from the library, however, when I found out that there’s going to be a film adaptation coming out soon.

Guys, I am so glad I did.

For those of you who don’t know, Dumplin’ is about a teenage girl named Willowdean Dickson who lives in Clover City, Texas. Will is fat, and unapologetically so, although she does struggle with insecurities and fears related to how other people perceive her body. While the press around this book focuses on Willowdean entering a beauty pageant to combat those insecurities, the real story of Dumplin’  is that of Will’s relationships with her friends and family. She has a thin and beautiful best friend named Ellen, a crush on the cute guy at work, and a beloved aunt who passed away six months prior, leaving her alone with her emotionally distant mom. This story could have easily focused entirely on the details and intrigue of the pageant Miss Congeniality-style (minus the whole “undercover spy” angle), but the depth and richness of the book really lies in how Will relates to the people in her life.

The two things I appreciated most about Dumplin’ were 1) the interesting details we get about even minor characters, and 2) the clarity and care the author dedicates to Clover City as a setting. I’m fascinated by the ways an author describes and illustrates where their story takes place, and it’s obvious that Julie Murphy dedicated a lot of love and energy to Clover City. Something as simple as describing the location of The Chili Bowl relative to Harpy’s (two fast food joints that feature prominently in the story) made me feel like I could really drive around this town. Similarly, characters that could have been flat stereotypes–the ugly loser, the cute jock, the evil stepmother–all get personalities, complexities, and their own inner lives. I was particularly struck by the parents, who so often get used as cheap plot devices in teen novels. When Mitch’s father chooses to eat dinner in front of the television, or when Willowdean runs into Bo’s family at the mall, I felt like I was peeking back in time at real interactions I could have had with the parents of my friends, who always loomed large in my life. It was so refreshing for every character to feel like someone I could actually know.

Aside from the parts of Dumplin’ that impress me from an adult reader’s perspective, this book also gets at deeper, more emotional parts of me. Something I keep coming back to with newer YA titles, which I also mention in my review of The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli, is this question:

how would this book have affected me when I was a teenager?

I think any adult reading YA without this question at the forefront of their minds is totally missing the point. Ultimately, our opinion of YA, however loudly expressed in review journals or on Twitter, cannot outweigh the needs and interests of real-life teens. For me, Dumplin‘ would have been absolutely life-changing. A fat protagonist pushing back against her mother’s disappointment and fear, kissing cute people, and forging genuine friendships with other girls? I want everyone between the ages of 13 and 17 to wake up with a copy of this book under their pillow tomorrow. I really do.

One last note: after I finished reading this book, I Googled Julie Murphy to find out more about her work. I learned that not only was she a librarian like me, she’s also from my hometown (Bridgeport, CT). As if that wasn’t inspiring enough, she also wrote her first novel during NaNoWriMo, a challenge which I have attempted to complete, in some form or another, every November for the past ten (!!) years. Like many bookish folks, it has been my dream to write a novel for my entire life, and I think I finally have a story floating around in my brain that’s worth exploring. So in the year of our Lord 2017, I’m going to really buckle down and do the dang thing. NaNoWriMo 2017, here I come! Thanks for the inspiration, Julie Murphy!