Mini Review – Saga Vol. 1 & 2 by Brian K. Vaughan

I have to admit to my heart not being into writing book reviews for the past few weeks. My life has been quite topsy-turvy this month. I’m currently dealing with all the emotions that followed meeting my biological family for the first time, only to come home to one very sick kitty.

Our older cat, Isabel, has been struggling with a lot of gastrointestinal issues over the last seven days, and has needed a lot of love and attention (as well as multiple trips to our beloved veterinarian, and one stint at the ER vet). We’re currently waiting for the Prednisone to kick in and hopefully help ease the symptoms, as our vet thinks we are dealing with inflammatory bowel disease. If she isn’t any better by Monday, they will probably want to do a biopsy to rule out cancer.

Also on Monday my father will be entering the hospital for a 3-day stay for a heart catheterization after cardiac symptoms recently re-appeared. Hopefully we will know by Monday afternoon if he needs a stent, or another bypass.

Needless to say, this will be a short review!

Saga, Volumes 1 & 2

Author: Brian K. Vaughan
Illustrator: Fiona Staples
Publisher: Image Comics
Genre: Graphic Novels, Science Fiction

Marko and Alana’s love story reminds me of an intergalactic Romeo and Juliet. Alana is a soldier from Landfall, a planet this has been at war with the citizens of its moon – Wreath – for…well, for a very, very long time. The Moonies are magic wielding and the Wings are brutally nationalistic and militaristic. Within that context, you have this duo that are so funny and lovable that you can’t help but root for them as they hustle to try to get out of danger and protect their newborn child. They love each other. They argue and bicker, they get on each other’s nerves. But the love they share is pure and true, and is an inspiration, considering their people hate each other’s guts.

Most definitely not for a young audience, you never know quite what you’re going to see when you turn the page. Ghost children/babysitters missing the lower half of their body, Robotic royalty with TV heads, a lie detector cat, torsoless sex workers, there is definitely some odd stuff in this graphic novel series! If Saga were a movie, it would be directed by Quentin Tarantino.

The grandparents come on the scene in Volume 2, and the family dynamic is oh-so-wonderful! In Volume 2, we also get the back story on how Alana and Marko met…it was definitely not instalove.

The narrator in both volumes is their daughter Hazel, which is brilliant. And also a relief, her narration makes it quite clear that she lives at least into young adulthood. You see, one of the main reasons Marko and Alana are being chased is due to Hazel. Her very existence undermines the ongoing war, and defies the odds, as it had been believed that a “Moonie” and a “Wing” could not conceive healthy children together.

The cast of supporting characters are equally interesting: freelancers The Stalk and The Will, Robot Prince IV, Marko’s scorned ex-girlfriend Gwendolyn, and Marko’s parents. It makes for quite an adventurous….Saga.

Top Ten Tuesday: Fandoms

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the theme is Top Ten Fandom Freebie.

This will be my last post for the next week or two, as I will be taking a hiatus for Spring Break. And what a fun topic to talk about before going on a break..FANDOMS!!! Narrowing it down to my Top Ten was quite a challenge, so I have a few runner-ups as well.

Studio Ghibli

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I love all of Studio Ghibli films, and have for years! For those who haven’t heard of Studio Ghibli, you will probably recognize at least one of the movies that they have made: My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Ponyo, The Secret World of Arietty, Spirited Away and Kiki’s Delivery Service. A majority of the films made by the studio are written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki.

Harry Potter

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I am most definitely still a Potterhead, ever since I read the first Harry Potter back in college, not too long after it was first published. I love the books and movies.

Superheroes

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Okay, I’m cheating by combining Marvel and DC together, but I love them both! Although, Marvel definitely has a slight edge. My current favorites in the superhero universe are: Ms. Marvel comics, Wonder Woman (especially the upcoming movie!), Supergirl, Flash, Doctor Strange, Thor….okay let’s just say that I love them all (except for possibly Hulk).

Hamilton

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There are times I feel like I live, breathe, and sleep Hamilton. The music is on in our home 24/7 some days, and it just gives me all the good feels when modern-day politics make me want to hurl. And with the recent release of a new batch of tickets, I am so excited that I will FINALLY be going to see it on Broadway!!!

Once Upon a Time

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The last two seasons have really grated on my nerves, but I still have a soft spot for a show based around fairy tale retellings. If Lana Parilla (Evil Queen/Regina) ever leaves OUAT, though, I’m out.

Jane Austen

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“How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book.” ~Jane Austen, 1813

More than two centuries after the publication of her most well-known book, and she still inspires millions. Preach it, sister.

Star Wars

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I have to admit to leaving this fandom during the dark years that were The Phantom Menace and Revenge of the Sith. Honestly, I still don’t particularly like any of the prequels. But I was won back, and then some, with The Force Awakens. And Rogue One was also pure amazingness. I’m still devastated that we lost Carrie Fisher last year.

Lost

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This one is more of a flashback and paying homage to a past fandom that has fallen by the wayside since Lost wrapped up. I used to have so much fun thinking and hypothesizing about each and every episode! I still love when Lost characters pop up elsewhere, and I like tuning in to Hawaii Five-O occasionally just to get my Daniel Dae Kim and Jorge Garcia fix. When I first spotted Henry Ian Cusick on Scandal, I was SO thrilled, and equally disappointed when he left the show. Naveen Andrews will forever be my favorite, despite his underwhelming adventure that was Once Upon a Time in Wonderland.

Lunar Chronicles

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Some of my favorite fanart I have ever seen is done by those in the Lunar Chronicles fandom!

Gilmore Girls

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What bibliophile doesn’t love Gilmore Girls? I still have the Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge tucked away that I chip away at every so often, and I have always loved the fast-talking duo, and all the pop culture references that get worked into the show.

Runners-Up:

There are three hugely popular fandoms that I am incredibly late to the game for, but slowly getting drawn in:

  • Game of Thrones
  • Sherlock
  • Doctor Who

I know, where have I been?

And a few other fandoms that just missed the cut:

  • West Wing – I will always, always love West Wing. Now I’m regretting not putting it in the Top Ten!
  • My Little Pony (I enjoy this one with my daughter)
  • Friends
  • Hunger Games
  • Lord of the Rings
  • Percy Jackson

Top Ten Tuesday: M’s Favorite Graphic Novels

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme is Favorite Graphic Novels. We all love graphic novels in this family, but there is one person who consumes them more than anyone else at the moment: my 9-year-old M. So, this week, I bring you M’s favorite graphic novels! I’d say she has pretty good taste, wouldn’t you?

Sisters, Smile, Drama, Ghosts…Everything written by Raina Telgemeier! Her whole list would be dominated by Raina’s books, so we decided to group them into one category. I believe she has read all of them, including the reinvention of The Babysitter’s Club in graphic novel form (she reads the original Babysitter’s Club books, too).

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Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm. M just read this for the first time last week, and it was a big hit. It is also quite relevant to her life at the moment. Sunny Lewin is packed off to Florida to live with her grandfather for the summer…in a 55+ retirement community. My parents just moved into one such community last year, The Villages in Florida, and we visited for the first time in December. M could relate quite well to Sunny’s feelings in the book – especially in regards to the pull-out couch!

Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi. I’ve talked briefly about the Amulet series on my blog before. Actually, a few of the books in this TTT were also featured on my Back-to-School TTT in August! The illustrations in Amulet are breathtaking, I love Kazu Kibuishi’s artwork. The story is great, too!

Thea Stilton Graphic Novels by “Thea Stilton”. M came to these late, and they fill the need for quick and easy fluff books. I’m not the biggest fan, but I get her need for comfort books that can be read quickly.

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El Deafo by Cece Bell. Another graphic novel enjoyed by both of us. You can find my review here.

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Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson. During the Scholastic Book Fair, M’s 3rd grade teacher picked out this book for the classroom library specifically with M in mind. Isn’t that sweet? This was one of her favorites over the summer, and she is currently waiting patiently for a classmate to finish reading it so that she can borrow it from her teacher again.

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Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust by Loic Dauvillier. I have to admit I was a bit surprised, and pleased, to see this gentle but important graphic novel make her Top Ten list. Our family was directly affected by the Holocaust; my husband’s grandmother made it out of Germany in time, but most of her family did not. M knows about this, but she is a sensitive kid who relates very strongly to her Jewish identity, so we tread carefully with books about the Holocaust. She has been asking to read The Diary of Anne Frank lately, but we decided to start with this book first, and the I Survived book that also takes place during WWII.

Superman Family Adventures by Art Baltazar. A fun series that brings in the whole Super family (Superman, Supergirl, Jimmy, Lois, etc) for an all-ages audience.

Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson. Another amazing series the whole family loves! We’re currently up to Volume 6. You can find my earlier review here.

Heavenly Nostrils by Dana Simpson. The covers and titles for these graphic novels are too cute! How can you not love a series featuring a unicorn named Marigold Heavenly Nostrils?

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Have you read any of these, or do you have a child/niece/nephew/relative who has? I look forward to reading your TTT posts, and feel free to leave a link in the comments!

Book Review – El Deafo by Cece Bell

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Title: El Deafo
Author: Cece Bell
Illustrator: Cece Bell
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
Genre: Graphic Novels, Memoir, Middle grade, Own Voices

There are a lot of absolutely wonderful middle-grade graphic novels out there, and El Deafo is no exception. This one is stellar.

First, let me be completely honest. I never read comic books or graphic novels as a kid. Up until a few years ago, I had never even picked one up.

However, I married a guy who loves graphic novels. Slowly, but surely, because I will read almost anything if it sits in front of me long enough, I gave them a try, starting with V is for Vendetta. And then the Sandman series.

So, when my daughter first started expressing an interest in graphic novels a year or so ago, I began to pick up the middle-grade ones. And that is how I came to read El Deafo, after seeing it on a library reading list. I studied Sign Language during undergrad, and visited Gallaudet University, one of the only university’s in the world designed to be barrier-free for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. One thing that I learned is that there are lots of different ways to be deaf. In the author’s note at the end of El Deafo, Cece writes about the differences in deafness, and about Deaf Culture, where sign language is the main way to communicate and deafness is seen as something that shouldn’t be attempted to be “fixed” with cochlear implants and other devices.

Cece Bell makes it quite clear in her Author’s Note that her experience as portrayed in her book is her experience alone, and shouldn’t be viewed as “right or wrong” from anyone else’s experience or perspective. I actually loved her Author’s Note almost as much as the whole story, and it is definitely not something you should skip over at the end when reading El Deafo.

In this semi-autobiographical graphic novel, we are introduced to the story of a young rabbit named Cece who  loses her hearing after a serious illness at a young age. It is the story of a girl – rabbit – growing up with a serious hearing impairment: how she felt, and how she handled the insecurities she felt when people treated her differently.

I loved how so much of the story is a humourous take on her personal journey through early childhood – particularly the elementary school years. First, she attends a school for deaf children, which is where she learns to lipread. However, her family soon moves to a new town and she has to leave the school that she loves. At her new school, Cece uses what is called a Phonic Ear, a bulky device that helps her hear the teacher. Cece creates a superhero alter-ego, El Deafo, to help cope with the trials that come along with adjusting to a new school and trying to make new friends while also getting used to the Phonic Ear. We get to see Cece’s innermost thoughts and daydreams as she interacts with her family, friends, and teachers. The illustrations are thoroughly appealing and incredibly cute, I really love that Cece choose rabbits instead of people for this book.

In El Deafo, we get to spend six years with Cece Bell. I wish it was more! Cece the rabbit is resilient, heart-warming, and incredibly funny. El Deafo, which is both written and illustrated by Cece Bell, is a beautiful gift for children and adults alike.

To wrap up, here’s a short review from my 9-year old M, and her thoughts on El Deafo:

I really liked the book because I like to read about people who are different from me. It helps me understand more about how others view the world. And I loved the drawings! Cece Bell is a really good illustrator. I give it 5/5 stars.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

A Few Graphic Novel Mini-Reviews for #DAReadaThon

Ms. Marvel, Volumes 2 – 5

Author: G. Willow Wilson
Genre: Graphic novels, Comics

I reviewed Volume 1 of the Ms. Marvel series a few weeks ago. After reading that one, I definitely wanted to continue with the series! I found the perfect opportunity to catch up on some of the later volumes on New Year’s Day, during a 9-hour drive home from Florida to North Carolina. Here is a very quick run-down of what I thought of each of them.

Volume 2: Generation Why – What an excellent sequel! The Inventor storyline continues into Volume 2, and one of my favorites, Wolverine, makes an appearance in this one! The Wolverine cameo and Ms. Marvel’s fangirl reaction was a ton of fun to read. And Lockjaw! I’m personally not a fan of big, slobbery dogs, but I’ll make an exception for Lockjaw. I also love how G. Willow Wilson writes Kamala as a character who is both an incredibly strong female superhero, and a teenager dealing with teenager problems. The positive message at the end alluding to the stereotypes against the millennial generation….EXCELLENT! Rating: 4/5 stars

“A hero is someone who tries to do the right thing, even when it’s HARD. There are more of us than you think.”

Volume 3: Crushed – The Ms. Marvel volumes keep getting more and more fun! This volume was Valentine’s Day themed and featured a cameo of Loki (adopted brother of Thor) and the God of Mischief. There was also an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D bonus comic at the end, which made me all the more interested to watch the TV show. Rating: 4/5 stars

Volume 4: Last Days – By far, my favorite of the series so far. Titled Last Days, this is the Secret Wars story arc that spreads across the Marvel Universe. But what I love about this volume is not the tie-in to a huge Marvel universe event, but the hyper-local focus on Kamala, her friends, family, and hometown. Most especially, the relationship and bond between Kamala and her mother. This volume was very much about relationships, and it was so, so  good. Rating: 5/5 stars

Volume 5: Super Famous – I’m kind of confused about the back story of what takes place in the Secret Wars in the greater Marvel universe, which occurs between Ms. Marvel’s Volume 4 and Volume 5, but it doesn’t seem to have a huge impact in Ms. Marvel’s Jersey City. Volume 5 picks up 8 months after Last Days, and Kamala is officially part of the Avengers, which creates a lot of difficulties in balancing school, superheroing, and family. Super Famous also marks the beginning of a new story arc featuring Hope Yards Development & Relocation (HYDRA). The new character additions, Mike and Tyesha, are both awesome. Although I am definitely shipping on Bruno and Kamala, Mike is very, very cool. Rating: 4/5 stars

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Bookish Gifts for 8 Crazy Nights

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the theme was Top Ten Books I Wouldn’t Mind Santa Leaving Under My Tree. Since we don’t have a tree, or get visits from Santa, I thought I’d change it slightly to reflect our Chanukah celebrations!

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10 Bookish Gifts for 8 Crazy Nights of Chanukah!

Folio Society Books!

I love these beautiful publications, and would love to receive a few more! These are three that I have been ogling for a while:

  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison
  • Emma by Jane Austen

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Hamilton: The Revolution

By Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter. Because I love all things Hamilton!

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Game of Thrones Collection

By George R.R. Martin. I desperately want this cloth-bound boxed set that includes the first five books of the Games of Thrones series!

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March, Books 1 -3

By John Lewis. John Lewis is one of my idols, and a true American hero. He is the only speaker from the 1963 March on Washington that is still alive. I consider the world lucky that John Lewis chose to document his time during the Civil Rights movement in the way he did, in a series of graphic novel memoirs. I will definitely be reading these in 2017, and would love to own them!

Leigh Bardugo Boxed Sets

I would love these two boxed sets, of the Grisha Trilogy and the Six of Crows Duology.

Harry Potter!

I have read HP multiple times, but the more I see the illustrated editions, the more I would like to own them!

What books are on your wish list lately? Happy Holidays!

Diversity Spotlight – 15 December 2016

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Diversity Spotlight Thursday is a weekly feature hosted by Aimal @ Bookshelves and Paperbacks. Each week, you discuss three books featuring diverse characters or authors, that fall into each of following three categories:

  • A diverse book you have read and enjoyed
  • A diverse book that has already been released but you have not read
  • A diverse book that has not yet been released

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Ms. Marvel: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson

Kamala Khan is an ordinary girl from Jersey City — until she’s suddenly empowered with extraordinary gifts. But who truly is the new Ms. Marvel? Teenager? Muslim? Inhuman? Find out as she takes the Marvel Universe by storm! When Kamala discovers the dangers of her newfound powers, she unlocks a secret behind them, as well. Is Kamala ready to wield these immense new gifts? Or will the weight of the legacy before her be too much to bear? Kamala has no idea, either. But she’s comin’ for you, Jersey!

I loved the first book in the Ms. Marvel series, and we have volumes 2 – 5 out from the library right now! You can find my review here.

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Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

In Caitlin’s world, everything is black or white. Things are good or bad. Anything in between is confusing. That’s the stuff Caitlin’s older brother, Devon, has always explained. But now Devon’s dead and Dad is no help at all. Caitlin wants to get over it, but as an eleven-year-old girl with Asperger’s, she doesn’t know how. When she reads the definition of closure, she realizes that is what she needs. In her search for it, Caitlin discovers that not everything is black and white—the world is full of colors—messy and beautiful.Kathryn Erskine has written a must-read gem, one of the most moving novels of the year.

It’s not often you come across a book that is from the perspective of a girl with Asperger’s. A story that also covers the aftermath of a school shooting, and how on family deals with it. I plan on reading this one before the end of the month for #diversitydecbingo.

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Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl’s struggle for justice. Movie rights have been sold to Fox, with Amandla Stenberg (The Hunger Games) to star.

A book inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement? Yes, please!