Friday, March 16, 2018

Really Short Reviews: Ghosts, Cats, and Dressmakers

The Prince and the Dressmaker
Jen Wang
Release: February 13, 2018
Goodreads Amazon
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.

This graphic novel is the most heartwarming graphic novel I've read in a while. There's something so delightful and whimsical about this story of a seamstress with dreams of being a great fashion designer and a prince with dreams of wearing those designs. The friendship in this books is what makes the story as magical as it is. I loved how this book approached the topic of identity and deconstructed accepted gender norms. Also, the illustrations were very excellently done and complimented the story well.

  4 / 5 Stars

Archival Quality
Ivy Noelle Weir and Steenz
Release: March 20, 2018
After losing her job at the library, Celeste "Cel" Walden starts working at the haunting Logan Museum as an archivist. But the job may not be the second chance she was hoping for, and she finds herself confronting her mental health, her relationships, and before long, her grasp on reality as she begins to dream of a young woman she's never met, but feels strangely drawn to. Especially after she asks Cel for help…

As Cel attempts to learn more about the woman, she begins losing time, misplacing things, passing out—the job is becoming dangerous, but she can't let go of this mysterious woman. Who is she? Why is she so fixated on Cel? And does Cel have the power to save her when she's still trying to save herself?

I've been waiting to get my hands on this graphic novel since it was announced. As much as I was into the story of a girl working at a haunted museum and trying to find out information about a ghost that is haunting her, I unfortunately I found the execution pretty meh. I wanted to love it. I did. But I just was bored throughout the whole thing. Plus, the ending felt rushed and anti-climatic.

I did love the character designs and how diverse the cast was though. Unfortunately, they just felt flat to me. I also liked the mental health rep in this graphic novel and how the author explored how people with mental health conditions have been treated and mistreated throughout psychiatric history. I can see lots of people really liking this but it just wasn't for me.

ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley

  2.5 / 5 Stars

Herding Cats
(Sarah's Scribbles #3)
Sarah Andersen
Release: March 27, 2018
Sarah's Scribbles,  Goodreads Choice Award for 2016:  Best Graphic Novels & Comics

". . . author Sarah Andersen uses hilarious (and adorable) comics to illustrate the very specific growing pains that occur on your way to becoming a mature, put-together grownup. Andersen’s spot-on illustrations also show how to navigate this newfound adulthood once you arrive, since maturity is equally as hard to maintain as it is to find … "
--The Huffington Post

Sarah valiantly struggles with waking up in the morning, being productive, and dealing with social situations. Sarah's Scribbles is the comic strip that follows her life, finding humor in living as an adulting introvert that is at times weird, awkward, and embarrassing.

I have loved each and every Sarah Scribble's collection made and this one was no different. I always find her content to be funny, relatable, and relevant. I know when I pick up a book by Sarah Andersen that I will come out of reading it in a better mood and with sore sides from laughing. I'd recommend these comic based on their hilarity alone.

This collection also included an essay portion about Making Stuff in our Modern Era that I found to be an interesting read and super relatable. We've all come across trolls on the internet but it was interesting to see the creator side of things as the author talked about her anxiety and exposing one's self on the internet when everyone is a critic. It made for a thoughtful read.

ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley.

  4 / 5 Stars

My reviews of other books in this series:
Adulthood is a Myth by Sarah Andersen
Big Mushy Happy Lump by Sarah Andersen

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Early Review: The Wolf Lord by Ann Aguirre


The Wolf Lord
(Ars Numina #3)
Ann Aguirre
Release: March 14, 2018
Goodreads Amazon
ARC provided by the author 
Roguish. Reckless. Unreliable.
Raff Pineda has a certain reputation among the Animari. He’s the one to call if there’s a party starting, not the man to rely on when all hell breaks loose. Though he’s nominally the leader of the Pine Ridge pack, he defers to his second on the tough calls. Raff prefers to live fast and hard and keep his heart hidden, but a certain Eldritch princess won’t fall for his usual tricks, and their contract political marriage may be anything but convenient.

Ambitious. Elegant. Isolated.
Princess Thalia Talfayen may not have been raised by a witch in a tower, but she’s spent the last few decades locked up for a failed insurrection. Plotting and scheming comes naturally to her; personal connections do not. Since she’s come this far in her unstoppable quest to claim the silver throne, she won’t hesitate to do whatever it takes to unite her people, even if that means giving herself to the big bad wolf…

Marriage of convenience isn’t a trope I read very often since you mostly find it in historicals, but it worked well in the Fantasy future of the Ars Numina world. Princess Thalia leads one of four factions of Eldritch which are now fighting for the crown Thalia’s father held before he allied with the Golgoth to disrupt peace talks and got himself killed. Thalia fears she’ll be forced to marry one of the other faction leaders to unite the Eldritch unless she can enlist outside help. Which leads her to propose an alliance with Raff.

Each book in the series has a different feel because they're set in different parts of the world and focus on different supernatural groups. I loved learning about the Eldritch, even though their patriarchal society is not particularly likable. They're long-lived and fond of their traditions, which is why Thalia finds herself in a crumbling castle surrounded by antiques. It's a stark contrast to the high tech modern world in which we saw Raff in The Demon Prince. I liked seeing the regular guy side of him as well as the general though.

I enjoyed Raff and Thalia's romance, which is pretty tame compared to the previous one, but what impressed me most about The Wolf Lord was the twisty political plot. This book does a lot to advance the series story line that centers around the war between supernatural factions. I'm loving the Ars Numina world and I'm really looking forward to seeing what happens next.


My reviews of other books in this series:
The Demon Prince

Friday, March 9, 2018

Weres Wanna Know: How do you diversify your TBR?

It's Women's History Month, a time of year when we see a lot of  Best [insert genre here] Books by Women. I've seen the statistics and I understand the need for these lists, but it's still so bizarre to me. I almost exclusively read books by women. Not intentionally, but I would guess I read 5 books by men every year. I counted my 2017 list and I only read 2 out of just over 100 total books. (Unless you count Ilona Andrews who is a husband and wife team. Then it's 6.)

So I've definitely got women covered, but I think I only read 4 books by POCs and 2 or 3 by queer authors last year. Again it wasn't intentional, but I should definitely do better. And those are a little trickier to count because I don't usually read an author's bio before I pick up the book. And even if I did, there's no reason the authors need to tell you their sexual orientation or their ethnic background in their bios. (I think the idea that Own Voices is a label you can only assign yourself is kind of profound.)

I was actually surprised when I found out how few POC authors I read last year because I do feel like I read diverse books. For example, one of the things I love about Nalini Singh is how effortlessly diverse her worlds are. And stories about aliens and supernatural creatures are almost always allegories for racism (or some other -ism.) But I want to support new authors and I want the publishing industry to do representation better. So I suppose what I'm looking for is a way to balance it all.

And here's where I need some suggestions. Given that I'm such a mood reader I can never stick to a monthly TBR list and that I don't read a lot of YA, which is where I see the most Own Voices books, how do I do better in 2018? Give me book recs from marginalized authors. Tell me your favorite tracking methods or where you discover diverse books.

How do you diversify your TBR?

We're participating in the 2018 Discussion Challenge.
Check out all the March discussions!

Thursday, March 8, 2018

RTFB Manga Edition, Vol. 1: Yona of the Dawn, Vols. 1-9

I've recently been getting manga ARCs to review and I've been trying to figure out the best format to review past volumes of the series that have more than five volumes. So I'm going to be trying a Read This F@!%ing Book type format for these longer series. I think it will work great but it will work especially the best for series that aren't completed because I can come back and write another post like this for the next few volumes in the series. So let's see how this works, shall we?

Yona of the Dawn, Vols. 1-9
(Click book cover to go to Goodreads page)

Today, I'm going to be reviewing one of my most favorite manga series ever, Yona of the Dawn. This is the first in a long line of series where the anime is what inspired me to pick the manga up.  

Yona is a shoujo manga that currently has twenty-five volumes out in Japan of which ten of those have been translated to English. The current translation release schedule is such that we get a new volume every other month.

Okay. I'm going to admit now that I have a soft spot for reverse harem stories and Yona of the Dawn is hands down my all-time favorite out of the ones I've read. It starts out a bit slow and a bit cliche but by the third volume I was in for the long haul. It’s just SO good. And the anime is freaking fantastic!

Best Rendering of a Common Story Trope.
While the story/idea behind this manga is not an original one in the manga world, it is one of the best versions of that idea I've ever read. Yona is the story of a former spoiled princess on the run after witnessing her father's murder. This series is all about her adventures in learning how to fight and gathering the descendants of the legendary Four Dragons to regain her throne. It's full of action, laughs, and a swoon-worthy slow burn romance! The way this manga mixes history, mystics, and comedy is what truly makes it a masterpiece. Add in that subtle touch of romance every now and then and you can't help but be hooked.

The Characters are A+ Awesome.
The story is intriguing but the characters are what makes this anime so great. I adore all seven of them! They are rather lively and likeable, while also being unique and interesting in their own ways. Every character has a different personality, some even being from tropes you don’t see all that often in other series. What I love is that each character has their own story and they only push the narrative and the character development forward.

Yona is pretty much one of my favorite female characters of all time, she starts off weak and fragile and becomes this independent, strong, and caring leader. Her development is done in a such a way that it feels realistic. She's not immediately a badass and has to rely on Hak, who IS a goddamn badass, a lot in the beginning.

I love the interactions that Yona has with Hak and the Four Dragons and the interactions they have with each other! The character development in Yona alone from the beginning makes it worth the read but the other characters also have just as great arcs. *hugs Shin-Ah hard* I could probably write an essay on each of this characters and I'd do it gladly!

Yona and Hak, the Most Shippable of Ships.
Okay. That tagline is a bit misleading. While there are some hints of a romance between Hak and Yona, it's not the main focus of the story. But I am here for it! And that romance is not what I love the most about them. They've been friends since they've been young and they're loyal to each other despite the fact that they tend to drive one another crazy at times. They truly care for each other and will try to protect each other even though Hak is technically Yona's designated guardian. They would do anything to help the other and it's just a really nice thing to see in a manga. I ship it! I ship it so hard!

The Anime is Definitely Worth A Watch!
I watch a lot of anime but I don't often add physical copies to my anime collection. I own both seasons of Yona of the Dawn on blu-ray because I love it so much. The adaptation from the manga is practically perfect and the animation is beautiful. I can't recommend it enough. It ranks high in my list of top five favorite animes of all-time.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Show Me Yours: 20th Century Historical Paranormals

Show Me Yours is a twist on the list post where we give you a few books we like and ask you to recommend a Read Alike. We created it a few years ago and decided it was time to bring it back.

Today's post was inspired by a Twitter thread from author Kristen Callihan, who was rereading the Roaring Twenties series and looking for similar books. I was trying to think of other historical fantasy or romance set in the 20th century and couldn't come up with much either. Here are the ones I know about:

The Roaring Twenties series by Jenn Bennett
The books that inspired the topic are some of our all-time fave PNRs. Set in Prohibition-era San Francisco, each book follows a different member of the Magnussen family of bootleggers. Check out our RTFB post.

The Roaring trilogy by Colleen Gleason
Also mentioned in that Twitter thread was another Prohibition-era trilogy. It's a spin-off of Gleason's Gardella Vampire Hunter series, which I haven't read but I know some reviewers who loved it. I put these books on my TBR as soon as I saw the blurbs.

The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell
The main character in The Last Magician is a thief specializing in magical artifacts. She travels back to 1902 New York to steal a book and save magic. Book two in the series comes out in October.

These two are on my TBR list. Have you read them?

Iron Cast by Destiny Soria
Set in 1919 Boston, Iron Cast features two best friends who perform a magical stage act at a club owned by a gangster.

Odd & True by Cat Winters
Growing up, True's sister Odd told her stories of magic and monsters. In 1909, Odd arrives at her door with a suitcase full of weapons and says the monsters are coming.

Now it's your turn. Show Me Your Twentieth Century Historical Paranormals!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Release Day Review: Burn Bright by Patricia Briggs

Burn Bright
(Alpha & Omega #5)
Patricia Briggs
Release: March 6, 2018
Goodreads Amazon
In her bestselling Alpha and Omega series, Patricia Briggs “spins tales of werewolves, coyote shifters, and magic and, my, does she do it well” ( Now mated werewolves Charles Cornick and Anna Latham face a threat like no other–one that lurks too close to home…

They are the wild and the broken. The werewolves too damaged to live safely among their own kind. For their own good, they have been exiled to the outskirts of Aspen Creek, Montana. Close enough to the Marrok’s pack to have its support; far enough away to not cause any harm.

With their Alpha out of the country, Charles and Anna are on call when an SOS comes in from the fae mate of one such wildling. Heading into the mountainous wilderness, they interrupt the abduction of the wolf–but can’t stop blood from being shed. Now Charles and Anna must use their skills–his as enforcer, hers as peacemaker–to track down the attackers, reopening a painful chapter in the past that springs from the darkest magic of the witchborn…

Disclaimer: This review will be spoiler free, but does reference events in the latest Mercy Thompson book, Silence Fallen. If you're not caught up on either series, I recommend this reading order provided by the author herself.

Burn Bright takes place just after the events in Silence Fallen. With the Marrok out of the country on a vacation after dealing with the ordeal with Mercy, Charles has taken up the temporary role as Alpha of the Aspen Creek pack and a phone call from one of his father's Wildlings leads him and Anna on an investigation that just escalates from there. I know I say this every time I read a book in these series, but I loved everything about this one! I read it pretty much in one sitting and I was hooked from the start.

One of the things I've loved about the Alpha & Omega books is that we get to see a lot of the world because Charles and Anna are always traveling. This book felt like a throwback to the early Mercy books but with the A&O crew. We're finally back in Aspen Creek and this book delivers on feeding my curiosity about the members of the Marrok's pack.

We know that the Aspen Creek Pack is full of wolves that are wounded and broken and who wouldn't survive in any other pack. But what I didn't realize it that Bran's pack held even more broken wolves called the Wildlings who are too damaged to even interact with the pack. They are such intriguing characters! I loved learning more about them as much as I did learning more about Tag, Asil, Sage, and Leah.

Yeah. I just said Leah. If you would have told me that I would come to like and respect Leah after pretty much despising her character for the last fourteen or so books, I would have said you were crazy. But Briggs did the impossible. She may not have made me love Leah in this book, but I certainly respect her and even kind of like her now. We even got to learn more about Mercy's time in the pack which was interesting, as is everything with Mercy.

One thing I noticed a lot in this book was the emphasis placed on the bonds between mates. Many of you may not know but Patricia Briggs lost her husband unexpectedly in 2017. This is the first book published since she lost him and it was clearly influenced by his loss. I loved that it focused heavily on the different matings and bonds of the characters, even the ones who have lost their mates. Burn Bright was dedicated to her husband and it really was a fitting tribute to the man who was her own mate and such a delightful man in real life. RIP Mike.

This book was a real roller coaster of feelings for me. It made me laugh. It made me kind of tear up. And it had me on the edge of my seat a majority of the time reading it. The mystery was so good! I thought I had everything figured out and then I got hit out of left field with the reveal. I never saw it coming and all I can say is: Bravo, Patricia Briggs! Bravo!

The events in this book have consequences for both series and I'm intrigued to see what it does to this world. I think it's really going to shake things up.

ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley

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