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Thursday, August 25, 2022

The Unbalancing by R. B. Lemberg

The Cover to The Unbalancing by R. B. Lemberg

The Unbalancing: A Birdverse Novel

by R. B. Lemberg
Published by Tachyon Publications • September 20, 2022
ISBN 978-1616963804 • Paperback • 256 Pages

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Book description:
In this first full-length novel from the acclaimed Birdverse, new love blossoms between an impatient starkeeper and a reclusive poet as they try together to save their island home. Nebula, Locus, and Ignyte finalist R. B. Lemberg (The Four Profound Weaves) has crafted a gorgeous tale of the inevitable transformations of communities and their worlds. The Unbalancing is rooted in the mystical cosmology, neurodiversity, and queerness that infuses Lemberg’s lyrical prose, which has invited glowing comparisons to N. K. Jemisin, Patricia A. McKillip, and Ursula K. Le Guin.
“An enchanting world of star lore, magic and gender identity with a roster of heartfelt characters.” ―Tlotlo Tsamaase, The Silence of the Wilting Skin

Beneath the waters by the islands of Gelle-Geu, a star sleeps restlessly. The celebrated new starkeeper Ranra Kekeri, who is preoccupied by the increasing tremors, confronts the problems left behind by her predecessor.

Meanwhile, the poet Erígra Lilún, who merely wants to be left alone, is repeatedly asked by their ancestor Semberí to take over the starkeeping helm. Semberí insists upon telling Lilún mysterious tales of the deliverance of the stars by the goddess Bird.

When Ranra and Lilún meet, sparks begin to fly. An unforeseen configuration of their magical deepnames illuminates the trouble under the tides. For Ranra and Lilún, their story is just beginning; for the people of Gelle-Geu, it may well be too late to save their home.

About the Birdverse: The Birdverse is the creation of fantasy author R. B. Lemberg. It is a complex, culturally diverse world, with a range of LGBTQIA characters and different family configurations. Named after its deity, Bird, Birdverse shorter works have been nominated for the Nebula, Hugo, Tiptree award, and Rhysling awards. The Four Profound Weaves is the first full-length work set in the Birdverse.

One of the many reasons I find R. B. Lemberg’s writing so captivating is that they don’t weigh the reader down in details, be it their stark, to-the-point writing style, or their lack of handholding in explaining how the magic of Birdverse works. Rooted in deepname magic, the mythology of the people of this world and their deity Bird remain mostly unexplained, but Lemberg tells their stories in such a way that you feel you understand the complexities regardless.

The Birdverse is a world where queerness is the only way of life, and neurodivergency is understood and accepted. Frankly, it’s beautiful. When we are faced daily with hatred and anger, with politicians trying so hard to strip us of our rights, it’s so unbelievably refreshing to find characters and a world like this, where what makes us special and unique is celebrated instead of vilified.

With The Unbalancing, Lemberg tells a story of love, struggle, and sacrifice, but ultimately also of community, about how we are at our strongest when we can put our differences aside and work together. If you’re looking for a happily ever after, you won’t find it here. What you will find is a story of hope, even when things seem to be at their darkest. I won’t lie, I struggled through the beginning of the book; why, I’m not sure, but I didn’t find it as immediately engaging as The Four Profound Weaves, Lemberg’s previous Birdverse novella. However, I’m so glad I stuck with it, as the finale of the story, while heart wrenching, did leave me with that feeling of hope.

Can we also take a moment to appreciate the cover design and interior layout work of Elizabeth Story, because it is fantastic. I was blown away by the cover design for The Four Profound Weaves when I first saw it, and I'm so pleased to see that creativity being carried forward with The Unbalancing. I hope Story does the design work like this on all future Birdverse books!

Someday, I’d like to read more of the Birdverse. Originally told in short stories and poems published in various magazines online (The Four Profound Weaves was the first novella length story, and this is the first novel), I’d love for a collection to be published collecting all the previous works (I’m looking at you Tachyon Publications!). It is a rich and vibrant world that I hope to read more of far into the future.

The Unbalancing will be available September 20, 2022. I’d like to thank Tachyon Publications for the digital review copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Saturday, July 2, 2022

The Bone Orchard Mythos: The Passageway by Jeff Lemire, illustrated by Andrea Sorrentino

The Passageway The Passageway by Jeff Lemire
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

THE BONE ORCHARD MYTHOS: THE PASSAGEWAY is the start of @jefflemire and @andreasorrentinoart’s new shared horror universe being published through @imagecomics. Technically, this is the second release following a FCBD 2022 issue, titled PRELUDE: SHADOW EATER, but this is the first major release in the series.

John Reed, a geologist, is called to a remote island to investigate a mysterious, seemingly endless hole that has developed there. Once there he meets Sal, the caretaker of the lighthouse on the island. It’s pretty clear early on that something is not quite right with Sal, who has lived alone on the island for twenty-five years. John’s first night on the island is haunted by nightmares of his past, and the next day takes a turn for the worst when Sal’s true nature comes to light.

Much like PRELUDE: SHADOW EATER, the reader is not given much to go on with the story, having to fill in pieces of the story ourselves, which works to a degree. Everything happens so fast here, we aren’t given time to develop a connection to any of the characters, so it’s hard to feel concern for John, or really question what’s going on with Sal. I think if this OGN had been a little longer and we were given time to connect with these characters, the story would have resonated better.

Sorrentino’s art carries most of the story here, and is appropriately creepy AF. You really get a sense of the remote feeling being on this island would give you, and the horror imagery is really well done.

Overall, a good start to this concept. THE BONE ORCHARD MYTHOS will be continued later this year with a 5-issue miniseries called TEN THOUSAND BLACK FEATHERS, followed by another OGN, TENEMENT, in early 2023.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

The Dog and the Sailor by Pete Jordi Wood

The Dog and the Sailor The Dog and the Sailor by Pete Jordi Wood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Happy #pridemonth, y’all! I’ve got a treat for you! Pete Jordi Wood, who was studying folklore for a Masters degree in Illustration, discovered a long lost fairy tale that had a queer protagonist at its center. It turns out that Stith Thompson, part of the duo that created the Aarne Thompson Uther Tale Type Index, made a point of deleting any fairy tales that had positive queer characters, as he felt that queer people were a “perversion”, akin to bestiality and incest. Basically, one guy was unfortunately able to erase who knows how many queer fairy tales because of his bigotry.

So, when Wood discovered this long lost tale, about a young sailor who is able to able to resist the evil Sea Witch’s beauty, and therefore her magic, and save the kingdom, he jumped at the chance to translate and illustrate this fairy tale for a new generation to discover. It’s charming, the illustrations are fantastic, and it really is a true gem of a story.

#queerbookstagram #queer #lgbtqia #alphabetmafia #books #bookstagram #book #booklover #reading #bookworm #bookstagrammer #bookish #read #booknerd #bookaddict #bibliophile #booksofinstagram #instabook #readingtime #bookaholic #booksbooksbooks #readersofinstagram #booklove #instabooks #fairytale #queerbooks #frommybookshelfblog #frommybookshelf #happyreading

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Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Taxes and TARDIS by N.R. Walker

Taxes and TARDIS Taxes and TARDIS by N.R. Walker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Happy #pridemonth, y’all! Next up on my #pride readathon is TAXES AND TARDIS by N. R. Walker. Brent, a laidback jock of an electrician, finds in his new accountant, Logan, an unlikely attraction. Logan is nothing like the other men Brent usually finds himself attracted to: he’s a slim, glasses-wearing, Doctor Who-loving geek. But there’s something about Logan that Brent can’t help but find irresistible, and as the two men get to know each other more, they find neither can help themselves or their list and love for the other.

🌶 💙💙🌶

#queerbookstagram #queer #lgbtqia #alphabetmafia #books #bookstagram #book #booklover #reading #bookstagrammer #read #booknerd #bookaddict #booksofinstagram #instabook #readingtime #bookaholic #bookshelf #booksbooksbooks #readersofinstagram #booklove #instabooks #queerbooks #gay #romance #erotica #frommybookshelfblog #frommybookshelf

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Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Killer Queens by David M. Booher, illustrated by Claudia Balboni

Killer Queens Killer Queens by David M. Booher
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Happy #pridemonth, y’all! My next #queer read is KILLER ASSASSINS by @davidmbooher with art by @claudiabalboni, from @darkhorsecomics. Max and Alex, super queer reformed assassins, are just trying to make their way in the galaxy (and hide from their former, fluffy-monkey employer). When Alex’s old flame hands them what should be a simple rescue job, they jump at the chance for the money. You know these things are never that simple though. When the truth comes out about the nature of the job, Max and Alex need to decide between getting paid or helping take down a fascist, xenophobic dictatorship. What’s a queer to do?

It’s a fun, quick read full of one-liners and plenty of sass. The retro sci-fi pulp vibe is great. The entire creative team is #queer, too, which is a nice touch. I’d definitely pick up more volumes in the future, if they were to release any more.

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Saturday, June 4, 2022

Only on the Weekends by Dean Atta

Only on the Weekends Only on the Weekends by Dean Atta
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Happy #pridemonth, y’all! My next #queer read is ONLY ON THE WEEKENDS by @deanatta, from @balzerandbray & @epicreads. Told in verse, OOTW follows Mack, a hopeless romantic, as he navigates between the boyfriend he loves, K, who must be kept mostly secret because K is not out yet to his fellow basketball team, and his newfound romantic feelings for Finlay, the very out and trans actor in Mack’s father’s new movie. This is a charming coming of age story that deftly portrays the awkwardness and sometimes tumultuous emotions of young love. Woven through this is the idea of what it means to be masculine, something I think a lot of young queers can struggle with, but is an important conversation that needs to be discussed.

Like THE BLACK FLAMINGO, Atta is able to create a fully realized story using an almost minimalist approach by telling the story in verse, and like TBF, it works beautifully here. I’ll be honest, books told in verse don’t usually work for me, yet Atta’s storytelling keeps me engaged and I read this through in two sittings.

An excellent read if you’re looking for a coming of age queer love story this #pridemonth.

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Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Ordinary Monsters by J.M. Miro

Ordinary Monsters Ordinary Monsters by J.M. Miro
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

Y’all, I’ve tried. I’ve tried so hard to get into this book, but I just can’t. It’s been a couple of months and I’m only ~200 pages in and it’s just not working for me. I *really* want to like this book, but I think the biggest problem is I feel like I’ve already read this story before. It reads so much like The Nevers on HBO, along with characters who feel like they were pulled from other stories. I know I’m in the minority on this one, and I’m not DNF-ing it quite yet, I’m just putting it aside for right now. I’ll revisit it later in the year and see if it works better for me then.

Thanks to Flatiron Books for providing the ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe

Gender Queer Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Happy #pridemonth, y’all! I’m starting off my month long queer reading celebration with Maia Kobabe’s GENDER QUEER, from @onipress. In this intimate graphic memoir, Kobabe illustrates eir struggles, both personally and societally, with coming to terms with being both nonbinary and asexual. Kobabe is very frank in eir depiction of what ey went through during eir journey, and I greatly appreciated this frankness. As someone who struggles with their own gender identity, I found this book both enlightening and cathartic. It helps to know that I’m not alone in these struggles.

Unfortunately, GENDER QUEER has come under fire from multiple conservative fronts recently, with some government officials in Virginia going so far as to not only trying to ban it from schools and libraries, but to make it illegal for bookstores to sell the book, and to make it illegal for residents to even own the book. Why? Because this book speaks openly and beautifully about the possibility of being different from the “norm” and showing that the gender binary is an absurd notion. It’s frightening to me to see this level of hatred for those of us who are different, which makes it even more important for us to raise up books like this and pioneers like Maia Kobabe, so that our younger generations of queers know that they are not alone and that they have a place in this world.

Absolutely recommended.

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Thursday, May 26, 2022

Star Wars: The High Republic: The Edge of Balance, Vol 2 by Shima Shinya & Daniel José Older, illustrated by Mizuki Sakakibara

Star Wars: The High Republic - The Edge of Balance, Vol. 2 Star Wars: The High Republic - The Edge of Balance, Vol. 2 by Shima Shinya
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

STAR WARS: THE HIGH REPUBLIC: THE EDGE OF BALANCE, VOL 2 by Shima Shinya and Daniel José Older and illustrated by Mizuki Sakakibara, is, I believe, the last official release in the first phase of High Republic books. Picking up shortly after the events of volume 1, Jedi Knight Lily and her Padawan, Keerin, are doing their best to fortify the farms and temple on Banchii following the Dengir and Nihil attacks. When it becomes clear the Nihil still have a presence on Banchii and have disabled communication there, Lily travels to Starlight to inform the Jedi there of what is happening on Banchii, and to seek the council of her former master, Arkoff. As the events of FALLEN STAR are taking place in the background of this story, Lily finds herself forging a new path to protect the people of Banchii.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Beers & Queer History by Eric Cervini

Beers & Queer History Beers & Queer History by Eric Cervini
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Happy #pridemonth, y’all! My next #queer read is BEERS & QUEER HISTORY, a collaboration between @ericcervini and @millerlite. Cervini takes us on a tour of some of the more important gay and lesbian bars in the country, with short essays about each, accompanied by an illustration of the bar. Cervini also discusses the decline of the queer bar over the last couple of decades.

After reading this, it put me in mind of the local gay bars that we had here in Lansing and the sense of home and community they offered. I miss those days, hanging out, dancing, the drag shows, the mingling, and I’m happy that I’ve kept in touch with so many of those friends over the years.

A very quick read (the book is only 27 pages, illustrations included), it’s still a fun journey through a part of queer history that may never be the same again.

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Saturday, May 21, 2022

Trying by Kobi Yamada, illustrated by Elise Hurst

TRYING Cover

Trying

by Kobi Yamada, illustrated by Elise Hurst
Published by Compendium • December 15, 2020
ISBN 978-1970147285 • Hardcover • 48 Pages

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Book description:
How will you know what's possible if you don't try?

This is a story for anyone who has ever felt like a beginner, or had doubts, or worried they weren't good enough. It's a story for those who have experienced the pain of trying something new and not having it turn out as they had hoped.

Written by New York Times best-selling author Kobi Yamada, this captivating book celebrates the way failure is the just the beginning of the journey. With alluring black-and-white illustrations and a powerful message, this beautiful tale is about how failure has so much to offer--lessons that help us learn, grow, and discover all the amazing things we can do.

 
Trying, written by Kobi Yamada and illustrated by Elise Hurst, is a beautifully told and gorgeously illustrated story celebrating the power of failure. A young sculptor is frustrated by their apparent lack of talent as they look on to an experienced sculptor’s work and almost gives up on their dream. The experienced sculptor convinced them to keep trying, that each perceived failure is actually taking them one step closer to achieving their dream, as they learn something new from each failure.

As someone who suffers terribly from imposter syndrome, this story spoke volumes to me. Just like the young sculptor in the story, I often want to give up on learning something if I’m not perfect at it from the beginning, whether or not I’ve ever tried it before. Needless to say, this is one of those “children’s” books that can teach adults something too.

Elise Hurst’s illustrations are *stunning* and I found myself pouring over each, taking in the detail. Cover to cover, this is a spectacular book for anyone to read who struggles with trying something new.

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Thursday, May 19, 2022

History Comics: The Stonewall Riots: Making a Stand for LGBTQ Rights by Archie Bongiovanni, illustrated by A. Andrews

History Comics: The Stonewall Riots: Making a Stand for LGBTQ Rights History Comics: The Stonewall Riots: Making a Stand for LGBTQ Rights by Archie Bongiovanni
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Natalia and her friends are transported back in time with her abuela to experience the Stonewall Riots first hand in this middle grade graphic novel from the History Comics series, published by First Second Books. The teens meet activists such as Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, and begin to understand that there all different sorts of ways to protest and stand up for your rights.

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Friday, May 13, 2022

Devil's Reign by Chip Zdarsky, illustrated by Marco Checcetto

Devil's Reign Devil's Reign by Chip Zdarsky
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Having not read any of Zdarsky’s work on Daredevil, I wasn’t sure what to expect with this. Even though it’s basically a Civil War redux, I still found it engaging. Zdarsky has a clear vision of these characters and Checcetto’s art is top notch throughout.

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Thursday, May 12, 2022

Molly on the Moon by Mary Robinette Kowel, illustrated by Diana Mayo

Molly on the Moon

by Mary Robinette Kowal, illustrated by Diana Mayo
Published by Roaring Brook Press • April 12, 2022
ISBN 978-1250259615 • Hardcover • 40 Pages

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Book description:
Award-winning science fiction author Mary Robinette Kowal consulted with a NASA astronaut to craft her first picture book story, accurately describing how living on the moon differs from life on Earth. Beautifully illustrated by Diana Mayo, Molly on the Moon is the tale of two siblings adjusting to their new home.

When Molly and her family move to the moon, they can only pack the essentials―just one toy each for Molly and her baby brother, Luke.

Luckily, Molly has a big imagination. A packing crate becomes a fort, a tarp becomes a witch’s cape, and some cans become a tea set. Baby Luke, on the other hand . . . has blocks.

Molly doesn’t want to share. At first. But then she realizes that when you’re on the moon―or anywhere else―a big imagination and being with someone you love can be infinitely better than all the toys in the universe.

Inspiring and imaginative,
Molly on the Moon also includes fascinating facts about the moon’s environment, revealing how the differences in gravity, temperature, and time would affect our lives.
 
Molly on the Moon, written by Mary Robinette Kowell and illustrated by Diana Mayo, from Roaring Brook Press, is a beautiful story about the power of creativity, sharing, sibling love, and science. This is Mary Robinette Kowal’s first children’s book and it’s just a brilliant as any of her other books. I had not experienced Diana Mayo’s art before, but it is charming and captures Mary Robinette’s story perfectly. I appreciated the afterword from MRK discussing some of the science behind living on the moon in terms that young readers will understand. Yay science!!

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Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Dark Stars: New Tales of Darkest Horror edited by John F.D. Taff


Dark Stars: New Tales of Darkest Horror

edited by John F.D. Taff
Published by Tor Nightfire • May 10, 2022
ISBN 978-1250817327 • Hardcover • 368 Pages

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Book description:
Dark Stars, edited by John F.D. Taff, is a tribute to horror's longstanding short fiction legacy, featuring 12 terrifying original stories from today's most noteworthy authors.

Within these pages you'll find tales of dead men walking, an insidious secret summer fling, an island harboring unspeakable power, and a dark hallway that beckons. You'll encounter terrible monsters--both human and supernatural--and be forever changed. The stories in Dark Stars run the gamut from traditional to modern, from dark fantasy to neo-noir, from explorations of beloved horror tropes to the unknown--possibly unknowable--threats.

It's all in here because it's all out there, now, in horror.

Dark Stars features all-new stories from the following award-winning authors and up-and-coming voices: Chesya Burke, Ramsey Campbell, Gemma Files, Stephen Graham Jones, Alma Katsu, Caroline Kepnes, John Langan, Livia Llewellyn, Josh Malerman, Usman T. Malik, Priya Sharma, and John F.D. Taff.

Created as an homage to the 1980 classic horror anthology Dark Forces, edited by Kirby McCauley, Dark Stars also features an introduction by Josh Malerman and an afterword from original contributor Ramsey Campbell--a poignant finale to this bone-chilling collection. 

This delicious book of tasty horror morsels dropped this week from @tornightfire and it’s another fantastic addition to their growing library of releases. Josh Malerman says it best in his foreword, about how we are currently in the midst of a horror renaissance, and I couldn’t be happier. What I’m loving most about this new wave of horror is that so much of it reaches beyond the typical horror tropes and creatures, delving more into a psychological horror that plays with the reader's emotions and challenges what we have typically seen as horror. With an anthology like this, there are obviously some stories that resonated more strongly with me than others, but as a whole, this collection is a solid piece of creeptastic reading fun.

“The Attenionist” by Caroline Kepnes read more as a psychological piece than horror, but the impending sense of doom that pervades the story definitely left me feeling sufficiently creeped out.

In “A Life in Nightmares” by Ramsey Campbell, we witness the life of Maurice as it jumps from event to event through the lens of a fever dream made possibly real.

“Papa Eye” by Priya Sharma is not necessarily something I would consider as horror, but more of a folk tale about the burdens and joys of eternal life. I think.

“Volcano” by Alicia Llewelyn is a tale of cosmic horror that left me feeling a bit lost on where the story went, and while this is intentional, I always feel like I missed something obvious in these types of stories.

“All the Things He Called Memories” is classic Stephen Graham Jones and his genius in building an excellent tale, but this being my first COVID-related horror story, it may have hit a little too close to home.

“Trinity River Blues” by Chesya Burke is another story that I wouldn’t necessarily label as horror but more along the lines of urban fantasy about a woman who can see ghosts and is cursed by one. I think I would enjoy this one even more if it was fleshed out into a full length novel.

“The Familiar’s Assistant” by Alma Katsu - suicide by vampires. That is all.

“Swim in the Blood of a Curious Dream” by John FD Taff follows and creepy AF journey by a father and son after the mother’s death.

“The Sanguinstalist" by Gemma Files is another that doesn't necessarily feel like horror to me, but I would definitely be down for this to be adapted into a longer novel, or a series based in this world. Also, nothing is explained, which doesn't always work for me, but here it definitely does.

“Mrs. Addison’s Nest" by Josh Malerman reminded me of Stephen King in a way, as it deals with childhood friends facing their fears, which is something King does very well. Of course, Malerman handles this same idea perfectly, but in his own way, making something that feels familiar but is ultimately unique to him.

“Challawa" by Usman T. Mallik follows a Pakastani woman as she visits her small hometown with her husband, and things get... weird. Much like "Papa Eye", perhaps it's the folk horror that doesn't really resonate all that well with me.

“Enough for Hunger and Enough for Hate" by John Langan, where a woman confronts her brother's potential killer, is a great way to close out this collection. The suspense is great, and the tension that builds throughout is palpable.
 
Overall, a solid piece of reading. Tor Nightfire has continued to impress with with their releases so far, and with their first anthology, they did not disappoint!
 
A huge thanks to Tor Nightfire and NetGalley for supplying a digital eARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.
 
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Saturday, May 7, 2022

X-Men Legends, Vol 2 by Larry Hama, et al

X-Men Legends, Vol. 2 X-Men Legends, Vol. 2 by Larry Hama
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

X-Men Legends, Vol 2, collecting X-Men Legends (2021) #7-12. Seeing some old-school writers and artists get to bring some ideas from their original runs to life is cool, but I feel like this series will really only be appreciated by those of us who have been reading for the last 40 years or so. Still, a fun collection. The definite highlight for me is seeing Walter Simonson back on the X-characters. He was always a favorite of mine back in the day.

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Thursday, May 5, 2022

The World of Yaxin: Day of the Unicorn by Man Arenas

The World of Yaxin: Day of the Unicorn The World of Yaxin: Day of the Unicorn by Man Arenas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

@magneticpress is at it again, releasing another gorgeous volume! THE WORLD OF YAXIN: DAY OF THE UNICORN by @man_arenas is a beautiful dream of a book, both in story and art. On a magical island, a young fawn marvels at the birth of a unicorn and wonders at what their place will be in this magical land. Both lyrical and poetic, this book is a work of art and one of those books that seems to transcend the page into something marvelous. Highly recommended!

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Sunday, May 1, 2022

Knight Owl by Christopher Denise

Knight Owl Knight Owl by Christopher Denise
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In this adorable picture book, young Owl, who dreams of someday becoming a knight, learns that with strength and confidence you can be brave in the scariest of circumstances, and maybe even find some friends along the way.

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Thursday, April 28, 2022

A Mirror Mended by Alix E. Harrow

A Mirror Mended

by Alix E. Harrow
Published by Tor.com Publishing • June 14, 2022
ISBN 978-1250766649 • Hardcover • 144 Pages

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Book description:
A Mirror Mended is the next installment in USA Today bestselling author Alix E. Harrow's Fractured Fables series.

Zinnia Gray, professional fairy-tale fixer and lapsed Sleeping Beauty is over rescuing snoring princesses. Once you’ve rescued a dozen damsels and burned fifty spindles, once you’ve gotten drunk with twenty good fairies and made out with one too many members of the royal family, you start to wish some of these girls would just get a grip and try solving their own narrative issues.

Just when Zinnia’s beginning to think she can't handle one more princess, she glances into a mirror and sees another face looking back at her: the shockingly gorgeous face of evil, asking for her help. Because there’s more than one person trapped in a story they didn’t choose. Snow White's Evil Queen has found out how her story ends and she's desperate for a better ending. She wants Zinnia to help her before it’s too late for everyone.

Will Zinnia accept the Queen's poisonous request, and save them both from the hot iron shoes that wait for them, or will she try another path?

 
The follow-up to A Spindle Splintered, Alix E. Harrow's A Mirror Mended finds that Zinnia Gray has possibly come to the end of her crusade to save Sleeping Beauties from their preordained fates. However, that doesn't mean her adventure has come to an end, as she is pulled into a story not hers and comes face to face with the Evil Queen of Snow White's story. As in A Spindle Splintered, though, we learn that possibly the tale we thought we all knew about the Queen and Snow White may not be the full story, and in this Fractured Fable, the villain may not be as recognizable as we think.

Harrow's books are fantastic - she takes a story we're all familiar with and completely turns it on its beautiful, queer head and creates something still familiar, but oh so brilliantly fresh out it. I hope we'll be seeing more of her Fractured Fables throughout the years.
 
A huge thanks to Tor.com Publishing and Goodreads for supplying a digital eARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.
 
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Sunday, April 17, 2022

Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures: The Monster of Temple Peak by Cavan Scott, illustrated by Rachael Stott

Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures—The Monster of Temple Peak #1 Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures—The Monster of Temple Peak #1 by Cavan Scott
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I actually read the entire thing, but because there isn't a collected edition in the works since IDW is losing their Star Wars license to Dark Horse, I'm just using the first issue as a place holder for my review for the time being (it's almost funny, that this was originally supposed to be an original graphic novel that was then split into a 4 issue limited series, now possibly not to be recollected into it's original, intended format). This was an OK story, like most of the IDW offerings. They've all just been OK.

This volume centers on Ty Yorrick, a former Padawan now mercenary and monster hunter for hire. She's been one of the characters that I've found most interesting, as I'm always intrigued by the characters who are disillusioned with the Jedi and the Force. I'm glad that we were able to get a little more of her backstory here (we get to see some of her time as a Padawan, and a definitive event in what made her leave the order), and I'm hoping that we'll be able to see more of her in the future. The rest of the story here is fairly straight forward - Yorrick is hired to hunt down a mysterious monster that is terrorizing a settlement, but of course, nothing is as it seems, and the Monster of Temple Peak may not be who they think it is. I thoroughly enjoyed Rachael Stott's art in the series; I'd definitely like to see more of her work on Star Wars series in the future.

Unless you are a completist like me with Star Wars, you won't be missing anything from the main, overall story arc of the High Republic, but this was still a fun little side adventure.

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Friday, April 1, 2022

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

A Gathering of Shadows A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A GATHERING OF SHADOWS, the second book in @veschwab’s Shades of Magic series, picks up four months after the events of ADSOM. Delilah Bard has disappeared, Rhy is becoming accustomed to his new attachment to Kell, and Kell is trying hard to carry on a normal life after being barred from traveling between Londons. With the approach of the Element Games, where the best magicians from the neighboring lands come to compete, Rhy convinces Kell to secretly enter the games under an alias, just to break his monotony. When Delilah makes a surprise return, Kell must start to deal with his feelings for her, while still trying to come to terms with the repercussions of his actions that led to the closing off of the other Londons.

And didn’t Holland die…?

While this volume does suffer slightly from the “middle book of a trilogy syndrome” - existing for the sole purpose of making sure all the characters are where they need to be for the final book - it’s still a damn fine story. Schwab continues to develop her characters, sometimes in unexpected ways, and the result is superb.

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Sunday, March 27, 2022

Radiant Black Vol 2: Team-Up by Kyle Higgins, et al

Radiant Black Vol. 2: Team-Up Radiant Black Vol. 2: Team-Up by Kyle Higgins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

RADIANT BLACK continues to be excellent. This second volume delves a little into some mind bending backstory of what the Radiants are, and we get some history on Pink and how she came into possession of her Radiant. The writing is solid and the art is quite impressive - especially with the inter dimensional/intergalactic aspects. This will be a series I’ll be continuing to look forward to. Collecting issues #7-12 of the series from @imagecomics

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Friday, March 25, 2022

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

A Darker Shade of Magic A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC by @veschwab is easily one of my favorite books/series from the last several years. The idea of multiple Londons; magic users who can travel between these Londons, as well as use different forms or elemental magic; sassy, gender-bending thieves; many sided coats!; and some of the best character development and world building you’ll find in a book, all create fully engaged reading experience you won’t soon forget.

Kell, one of the last Antari - a magic user able to traverse between the parallel Gray, Red, and White Londons - and a member of the Maresh Empire royal house of Red London, normally just delivers correspondence between the rulers of the Londons. However, he has a penchant for smuggling goods between the Londons, something that has been forbidden since the fall of the fourth London, Black London.

Delilah Bard, a rough and tumble thief from Gray London (the London with no magic) who longs to be a pirate, finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time and ends up saving Kell’s life when one of Kell’s smuggling ventures goes wrong. The item that Kell is tricked into smuggling gives the sadistic rulers of White London the opportunity to conquer Red London, and it’s up to Delilah and Kell to turn the tide and defeat the Dane twins and take back Red London.

This book cemented VE Schwab as one of my favorite go-to authors. The story is original, the characters are compelling, the world building is thorough, and you will be left definitely wanting more of these characters and their world.

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Thursday, March 24, 2022

Star Wars: The High Republic: Midnight Horizon by Daneil José Older

Cover to Daniel José Older's MIDNIGHT HORIZON

Star Wars: The High Republic: Midnight Horizon

by Daniel José Older
Published by Del Rey • February 1, 2022
ISBN 978-1368060677 • Hardcover • 496 Pages

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Book description:
Centuries before the events of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, in the era of the glorious High Republic, the Jedi are the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy!

After a series of staggering losses, the Republic seems to finally have the villainous Nihil marauders on the run, and it looks like there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Until word comes of a suspected Nihil attack on the industrial cosmopolitan world of Corellia, right in the Galactic Core.
Sent to investigate are Jedi Masters Cohmac Vitus and Kantam Sy, along with Padawans Reath Silas and Ram Jomaram, all fighting their own private battles after months of unrelenting danger. On Corellia, Reath and Ram encounter a brazen young security specialist named Crash, whose friend was one of the victims of the Nihil attack, and they team up with her to infiltrate Corellia’s elite while the Masters pursue more diplomatic avenues. But going undercover with Crash is more dangerous than anyone expected, even as Ram pulls in his friend Zeen to help with an elaborate ruse involving a galactic pop star.
But what they uncover on Corellia turns out to be just one part of a greater plan, one that could lead the Jedi to their most stunning defeat yet....
 
Still not a fan of Daniel José Older's take on Star Wars. Midnight Horizon is full of plots that don't really seem to have much to do with the overreaching arc of the other High Republic books. There is an abundance of characters that are carryovers from his High Republic Adventures comic from IDW, so I feel if you haven't read that series, you're going to be confused about who these new characters are (I was - I've only read the first 6 or so issues, so didn't know who some of the characters even were in this book, which has not been an issue with the other High Republic books). While the book is YA, Older writes these characters in a far more juvenile fashion than they've been written by the other High Republic authors who have written the YA books. The shoehorned mention of the Halcyon seems so unnecessry (not necessarily Older's doing, but more Disney making sure the new hotel is name-dropped yet again in canon here).

The first 2/3 of the book is some convoluted story dealing with the Nihil possibly getting a foothold on Corelia, with Padawans Ram Jomaram & Reath Silas getting wrapped up with a security detail on Corelia, and something to do with Zeen portraying a pop star at a party to try to flush out the potential Corelian traitor? It all got overly complicated and none of it seemed to make much sense to me, quite frankly. It wasn't until the other Jedi showed up and the Nihil make their actual appearance that things begin to happen in the book and against the backdrop of what is happening at Starlight Beacon at the end of Fallen Star, events in the book finally begin to feel that they are going to have consequences to the main story line.

I hate to say it, but I feel like the biggest fan of Daniel José Older's writing is Older himself. He doesn't write other creator's characters well, and he overemphasizes his own characters. This is one of the few High Republic books that I feel could be skipped, and readers wouldn't necessarily feel like they've missed something in the grand scope of the story.
 
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Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Gallant by V.E. Schwab

Gallant Gallant by V.E. Schwab
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Schwab continues to impress with her genre-defying fantasies, this a Gothic tale of family secrets, ghosts, ghouls, and a battle against death itself. At the center of the tale, Gallant, an estate that sits at the edge of the land of the dead, and Olivia, an orphan who has long yearned for a family of her own, only to find that that family is nothing like what she imagined, but she may be the only one who can save them. The book itself is gorgeous, full of art and imagery that vividly brings the dark, haunted world of Gallant and Olivia's family to life on the page. I know this will be a book that I will enjoy revisiting in the future.

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Sunday, March 20, 2022

Spectacle, Vol 2 by Megan Rose Gedris

Spectacle Vol. 2 Spectacle Vol. 2 by Megan Rose Gedris
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The second volume of Megan Rose Gedris’ SPECTACLE doesn’t really do much to move the story along; if nothing else, there are more layers added to a secondary mystery that has no resolution come the end of this volume, let alone finding out anymore about who murdered Anna’s sister, Kat. So, there’s the continued murder mystery, a mystery concerning a demon who has something to do with Kat, a mystery concerning the circus possibly being cursed, and a mystery about when the twins were young girls and something to do with their grandmother. Lots and lots and lots of mysteries. And little to no movement of the story along this volume. My library doesn’t have the next volume, but I discovered the series is serialized on Gedris’ website, so I’ll pick it up there. I’m invested enough now to know what’s going on, I just wish it was moving a bit faster.

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Saturday, March 19, 2022

Ice Cream Man, Vol 1: Rainbow Sprinkles: Dr. Seuss Parody Edition by W. Maxwell Prince, et al

Ice Cream Man Volume 1: Dr. Seuss Parody Edition Ice Cream Man Volume 1: Dr. Seuss Parody Edition by W. Maxwell Prince
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Picked this up the other day because the cover caught my eye, and I’m really glad I did. Collecting the first 4 issues of the series, this gave me a horror-flavored Twilight Zone vibe. The stories aren’t necessarily connected, other than the eponymous Ice Cream Man, who more or less narrates what’s going on in each issue. There may be an overreaching arc, but that’s not made 100% clear in this particular volume. It’s definitely an odd collection of stories, but I enjoyed it enough to want to read some more, so I’ll be seeing if the library can get this one in for me. @imagecomics

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Monday, March 14, 2022

Star Wars: The High Republic: Trail of Shadows by Daniel José Older, et al

Star Wars: The High Republic - Trail of Shadows Star Wars: The High Republic - Trail of Shadows by Daniel José Older
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Just finished STAR WARS: THE HIGH REPUBLIC: TRAIL OF SHADOWS and it left me very… meh. Unfortunately, I feel this way about almost anything Daniel José Older writes for Star Wars. His plots are usually too big and scattershot, he focuses far too much on his own characters and not the overall cast at large, doesn’t write characters that aren’t his creations like themselves, and sometimes his stuff comes across more like fanfic than actual in-continuity stories, IMO.

I’m not even sure what the point of this series was. I thought it was supposed to be about Jedi Emerick Caphtor and private investigator Sian Holt trying to figure out what happened to Loden Greatstorm at the end of THE RISING STORM. There’s a lot of jumping around in the story, connecting the dots on stuff that didn’t actually seem all that important to the story, and then dropping what seemed like a possible love interest into the story that seemed very unnecessary. For a 5 issue limited series, I feel there were far too many subplots and if this had been tightened down to strictly the investigation, and one that did seem to have some solid resolution to it, I think this would have been far better. I don’t think anyone other than hardcore fans of The High Republic will find this as necessary reading; the casual reader can easily skip this series and not miss anything from the larger scope of the story.

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Monday, March 7, 2022

Secret Identity by Alex Segura

Secret Identity Secret Identity by Alex Segura
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I first heard about @alexsegurajr’s SECRET IDENTITY, a noir murder mystery set in the world of 1970s comic book publishers, I knew right off I wanted to read it. What I wasn’t expecting was in addition to the murder mystery, Segura also delivers a story dealing with the hyper-sexist world of comic books in the 70s (which is still prevalent today, unfortunately), as seen through the eyes of the protagonist, Carmen Valdez, who desperately wants to break into the comics business as a writer, but being a woman means that is almost impossible for her. When she is finally presented the opportunity to help create a female hero for the company where she works as a secretary, she thinks she’s found her chance. However, when she’s convinced by her partner, Harvey, to keep her part in the Legendary Lynx’s creation a secret and Harvey is subsequently murdered, Carmen must find out what happened to Harvey if she’s ever going to be able to prove she is really the brains behind the Lynx.

What’s already a great story is improved on with interspersed pages of the comic Carmen helped create. These glimpses into what The Legendary Lynx comics would have looked like just add more of a real-world feel to the story, which is already sprinkled throughout with the names of actual comics greats from the time.

As a lifelong comic book fan myself, I really enjoyed the setting for SECRET IDENTITY, and I wish I could actually read The Legendary Lynx. The murder mystery is well-paced, the characters are all fleshed out and feel real, the writing creates the dirty feel of NYC in the 70s… this is just a great book overall. SECRET IDENTITY by Alex Segura will hit shelves March 15, 2022.

A huge thanks to @flatiron_books and @goodreads for the advanced copy of SECRET IDENTITY in exchange for an honest review.

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Sunday, March 6, 2022

Spectacle, Book 1 by Megan Rose Gedris

Spectacle Vol. 1 Spectacle Vol. 1 by Megan Rose Gedris
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Anna and Kat are twin sisters working in the Samson Brothers Circus, Anna as a psychic and Kat as a knife thrower. However, when Kat is found murdered, Anna is put on the job of finding her murderer and it turns out there may be more to Anna’s “psychic” powers than anyone first thought. A fun start to the SPECTACLE graphic novel series by Megan Rose Gedris from Oni Press, there’s a little bit of murder, mystery, romance, supernatural shenanigans, and ghosts.

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Thursday, February 24, 2022

The Cat Who Saved Books by Sōsuke Natsukawa, translated by Louise Heal Kawai

The Cat Who Saved Books The Cat Who Saved Books by Sōsuke Natsukawa
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Books have a soul… A book that sits on a shelf is nothing but a bundle of paper. Unless it is opened, a book possessing great power or an epic story is mere scraps of paper. But a book that has been cherished and loved, filled with human thoughts, has been endowed with a soul.”

Just finished this little gem of book. Sosuke Natsukawa’s THE CAT WHO SAVED BOOKS is a love story to books and anyone who loves them.

After the death of his grandfather, high school student Rintaro Natsuki finds himself at something of a loss and not sure what to do with himself. To occupy the time until he’s to move in with his aunt, he keeps up his grandfather’s routine of running the family bookshop. One day, an orange tabby appears in the shop, requesting Rintaro’s help in saving some books from being imprisoned and thus begins this fantastic story of friendship and a shared love of books. A quick read, but delightful none the less. Translated by Louise Heal Kawai. @harperviabooks

An added bonus, this fits the January selection for @a.novel.concept’s #lansingreads22 2022 Reading Challenge: a book by a Japanese writer in translation. I discovered their challenge just recently, so I’m running a little late@to the party, but I’ll catch up!

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Thursday, February 17, 2022

Wicked Stepmother by Michael McDowell

Wicked Stepmother Wicked Stepmother by Michael McDowell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

No review because the publisher can't handle getting a bad review on one of their books, so I will no longer be reviewing any of their books, regardless of how much I enjoy it.

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Sunday, February 13, 2022

Recitatif: A Story by Toni Morrison

Recitatif: A Story Recitatif: A Story by Toni Morrison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

RECITATIF is Toni Morrison’s only short story and is a study in racial identity. The story of Twyla and Roberta bounces throughout their lives from when they meet as young girl at the St. Bonaventure shelter and again as they encounter each other at different points in their lives. Everything is told from Twyla’s first person perspective, and we see how racial tensions put a strain on their friendship built in the past. The important part of this story is that Morrison makes it very clear from the beginning that one little girl is Black and the other white, but she never makes clear which girl is which race, leaving it up to the reader to make their own decisions based on their own biases as to who is who. It’s a fascinating study. There’s nothing overt in either woman’s description, from either the time they are young girls or at any other point throughout their lives, that would point to either being Black or white, yet as the reader, I felt compelled to make a decision in my head, but I’ll keep that decision to myself. @aaknopf

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Saturday, February 12, 2022

Geiger, Vol 1 by Geoff Johns, Gary Frank, & Brad Anderson

Geiger, Vol. 1 Geiger, Vol. 1 by Geoff Johns
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was an unexpectedly great read! GEIGER, by Geoff Johns, Gary Frank, and Brad Anderson from @imagecomics, set in a near-future post-apocalyptic United States, is the story of Tariq Geiger and his mission to save his family from a nuclear bomb dropped in the Unknown War of 2030. Caught outside in the blast, Geiger survives due to the experimental cancer radiation treatments he was undergoing. Now it is 2050, and Geiger, known as the Glowing Man in urban legend, stands guard at the door to the nuclear shelter where his family has been locked away, waiting for the day that he can let them out safely.

This book sets up an alternate history, where in addition to legends such as Paul Bunyan and Johnny Appleseed, there are other urban legends woven into American history, called the Unnamed. In this alternate United States, these Unnamed seem to spring up during times of war, and the Glowing Man is just the latest of these legends. Future series will highlight these legends, such as Junkyard Joe and Redcoat. The storytelling in this initial volume is solid, and the art is great. Geiger is a great character design and looks fantastic when he unleashes his power. I’ll definitely be looking forward to the continuing stories set in this world.

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Gwen, in Green by Hugh Zachary

Gwen, in Green Gwen, in Green by Hugh Zachary
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

WTF did I just read?!

GWEN, IN GREEN by Hugh Zachary is the latest release in the Paperbacks From Hell collaboration, and I think this is one of the more whackadoo books in the series, and that’s saying something as there are a lot of weird books released in this series. There’s some pseudoscience about plants being telepathic, a touch of horror, and lots and lots of sex and outdated sexual ideas about women, which is specifically covered in the introduction by Will Errickson, who tries to explain away the way Gwen is treated as a timid sexually frigid woman as a sign of the times the book was written, while never touching on the fact that Gwen basically statutorily rapes all the 13 year old boys in town. I guess that’s ok because they’re boys? I’m pretty sure if the genders were flipped in that particular scenario, this book would have never seen the light of day in this series. Plus, maybe aliens? I don’t know. The Paperbacks From Hell have generally been a hit for me, but aside from the all-over-the-place writing and storytelling, I think all of the over-the-top sexual identity issues in this book really did not work for me, despite the introduction trying to warn me about this very thing. Perhaps this is one particular volume that should have stayed obscure.

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Saturday, February 5, 2022

Saga, Vol 9 by Brian K Vaughan & Fiona Staples

Saga, Volume 9 Saga, Volume 9 by Brian K. Vaughan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Saga continues to be one of the stronger graphic novels that I've been reading, and the ending to this volume... And a year hiatus to the series... ugh ETA: A year hiatus that turned into 3...

I knew the hiatus was coming after this volume, but I wasn't expecting this ending. Needless to say, there are several THINGS in this volume, especially ONE THING that happens at the end and if you're a fan of this series, you're in for a shock. That's all I can say, because SPOILERS.

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Saga, Vol 8 by Brian K Vaughan & Fiona Staples

Saga, Volume 8 Saga, Volume 8 by Brian K. Vaughan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Saga is another series that continues to surprise me with how much I enjoy it. I did not like the first volume of the collected editions the first time I read it, and set the entire series aside in my head. Cut to about a year later, and a friend convinced me to give the series a try again, so I picked up the first volume again and something clicked for me this time - the story really stuck with me (Vaughn's writing really hit home for me the second reading), and Staples artwork is spot on perfect for this story.

As the series has progressed, it has become way more timely and aware of what's going on in the real world today and bringing those themes into the story; themes of acceptance for those who are different (or lack of acceptance in some cases), trans rights, women's rights, etc. What started out to me as being a simple battle between two cultures who cannot accept each other's differences has become a story that is still about these problems, but one that is now holding up a mirror to what's going on in the real world. Staples art has continued to shine issue after issue and while there does seem to be a whole lot of nothing happening from one story arc to another, the storytelling is still strong and Vaughn continues to move the characters along, albeit at a slightly slower pace than I'd like, but it still seems to work. I'll continue to read this series as long as Vaughn and Staples continue to out out such strong work.

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Saga, Vol 7 by Brian K Vaughan & Fiona Staples

Saga, Volume 7 Saga, Volume 7 by Brian K. Vaughan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Saga is another series that continues to surprise me with how much I enjoy it. I did not like the first volume of the collected editions the first time I read it, and set the entire series aside in my head. Cut to about a year later, and a friend convinced me to give the series a try again, so I picked up the first volume again and something clicked for me this time - the story really stuck with me (Vaughn's writing really hit home for me the second reading), and Staples artwork is spot on perfect for this story.

As the series has progressed, it has become way more timely and aware of what's going on in the real world today and bringing those themes into the story; themes of acceptance for those who are different (or lack of acceptance in some cases), trans rights, women's rights, etc. What started out to me as being a simple battle between two cultures who cannot accept each other's differences has become a story that is still about these problems, but one that is now holding up a mirror to what's going on in the real world. Staples art has continued to shine issue after issue and while there does seem to be a whole lot of nothing happening from one story arc to another, the storytelling is still strong and Vaughn continues to move the characters along, albeit at a slightly slower pace than I'd like, but it still seems to work. I'll continue to read this series as long as Vaughn and Staples continue to out out such strong work.

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