Beast boy Loves Raven: Graphic novel review

Let me start off by saying that it felt like an eternity while I waited for this issue to come out. I was so excited when it was released! Outside of the Robin’s (mainly Grayson), Beast Boy and Raven are my absolute favourites.

The series by Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo is fantastic. I think it’s a good entry story for those who are new to DC comics because they take the time to introduce each of these characters throughout. As a DC fan I personally love this series and really want to see it continue. One of the other DC series I’d been into was dropped, which followed Damien Wayne and Johnathan Kent, so I’m really glad to see that the next issue in this series is titled Robin!

I don’t want to give away any major spoilers, but one of my favourite things about the artwork in this issue was how the panels slowly became more colourful whenever Beast Boy and Raven were together. Gar’s panels all have hints of green, and Raven’s purple, so the artist made it so that when the two of them are together these colours begin to show up in the same panels. It’s such a small detail but I absolutely loved it.


Also, Max and Damien are in this issue! I was so happy to see Max again. I can’t wait to see how everyone’s powers, relationships and journey’s develop in the next issue! It was also nice to see Damien again after the other series was dropped. He’s definitely grown on me as the newest Robin, and I find his interactions with the other characters in the DC universe hilarious, mainly because he comes across as such a serious kid.

Cruella – Disney Manga Review

I bought this manga for my niece (she’s 9), because I wanted to find an age appropriate manga for her to read and she is a HUGE Disney fan.

Cruella: Black, White, and Red by Hachi Ishie has lovely illustrations, which gave off a mix of the 80s and 90s manga styles. I liked the way the panels were laid out, and how the characters were introduced. I also loved the artwork for each chapter.

I’d like to start off by saying the manga is not an adaptation of the film.

The manga has 3 chapters in total, each covering a part of Cruella’s life, mainly focusing on her between ages 18-21. I actually liked that the book didn’t age her down because it was directed at a middle grade audience.

Horace and Jasper were well developed throughout, but I thought the one character in the leather jacket, who is mentioned by Jasper in a later chapter would be more prominent than they were. It seemed as though this character was being built up to be a major player and then he kind of just disappeared, and then Emilia was introduced. This leads me to the pacing, which in the first chapter I felt was fairly well done, however because the book is set at different points during Estella/Cruella’s years before she becomes a designer, I felt like too much was being crammed into these short scenes.

It almost felt like a manga short story collection instead. I’m not sure if this is supposed to be a one off, or a short series, but regardless I enjoyed reading it and I know my niece will love it. I just felt like it needed a little more story wise, so I gave it a rating of 4 stars on Goodreads. I also took into consideration that this is meant for young readers, so it’s possible some of what I felt was lacking is because this is a reimagining of a reimagined character…and I had expected it to cover pieces of the movie.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Overall I thought the book was fun, and I would definitely recommend it to young Disney fans who are also looking into reading manga.

One other thing I will note is that this book reads the same as Western graphic novels, versus a Japanese manga, like the Maximum Ride series and most Western made manga.

Meet MARGOT

I’m so excited that I finally get to share one of the projects I was working on! I play Margot on Mattel’s Polly & Friends!

This series was so much fun to record. I loved getting to talk to them team about Margot, and going over her lines. Seeing her in action is awesome, and her HAIR! They told me she had cool hair while I was recording, but oh my gosh…it’s adorable!

I saw the Polly Pocket doll of her on the weekend too! She’s so cute! I absolutely adore her!

Thank you so, so, so much Mattel for this opportunity!


October book haul

A bunch of the books I ordered arrived this week, on top of the ones I’d purchased in store. I am so excited to read them! Most of what I got was manga, but I also got the new Green Lantern thanks to my fantastic co-worker Scott! Thanks Scott! Oh, and I got two middle grade books that looked absolutely amazing.

My sister and I were freaking out over We Were There, which we read as kids. She loved the series, and Sand Chronicles. I also showed her the cover of Honey and Clover, which she thought looked super cute. I have to agree, I’ve always loved the art style of that series but I didn’t get a chance to read it when I was younger.

I’ll be sure to review all of these books once I’ve finished reading them, and I’ll try my best to keep these reviews spoiler free! I think I’ll have to put myself on a book buying ban until after Christmas, because I’ve already got two books that I’m going to be gifting myself, and I’m hoping that I’ll get gift cards from my family like I usually do…so that I can…buy more books.

What I really need is another bookshelf. I’ve been secretly thinking of how I can turn my brothers old bedroom into a library. I’ll of course keep his bed in there so he has somewhere to sleep when he visits, but like…perhaps I could just add two…or four shelves?

If I don’t convert his room into a library I might need to convince my sister that our game room could also double as a cute little library. It won’t be the Beauty and the Beast library of my dreams, but I think with the right décor and a little rearranging of the furniture, that it’ll look really cool.

If you’ve read my novel Vermin, you’ll know that there is a library on the top floor of the Crispin’s house. The library isn’t as pretty as the one in Beauty and the Beast, since they don’t live in a castle…but it’s cozy. I should try building it on the Sims4. I will if I have time. I’m mostly reserving my free time for reading and catching up on Netflix. I finally watched the final two episodes of Tokyo Revengers this week and cried. I wish there was an English translation of the manga because my French isn’t that great…and I don’t think my 9 year old niece should be translating that for me. I do have a French-English dictionary but the only books I can read in French well enough to understand are children’s picture books and middle grade graphic novels. Without pictures, I get stumped.

Well, I best finish my chicken nuggets. My sister was kind enough to share them with me. Also, if you liked the song in my reel it’s by Mitski. It’s called Working for the Knife. It’s really awesome. I’ve been listening to it while drafting some scenes this week.

Creating a Middle Grade Book Rec List

My sister-in-law requested some series recommendations to help expand my nieces love of stories, so I’ve been on the hunt for a handful that I can gift her for her birthday/Christmas.

In my adult life, after realizing how hectic the holiday season gets, I’ve tried to get gifts for my family members as early as September. With my niece I keep track of things that she mentions throughout the year and buy them later. Shopping early also stops my wallet from crying after the holidays. December is the busiest month of the year for me outside of work, so planning my gifts and getting them wrapped up by the end of November saves me time and alleviates stress.

One thing that I’ve noticed is that I have to get a really good feel for a book before passing it along to my niece. Often I’ll read them first, because I would hate to give her something that she might not enjoy, and on top of it something that might be too scary or too mature for her at this time in her life.

I’d say 9-12 is a hard age group to navigate when it comes to young readers, because on top of each kid being an individual with their own unique interests, there are also different levels of maturity in each of the books and series one might encounter when shopping in this section. I was definitely one of those kids who read books intended for an older audience between 9 and 13…however, much of these books were manga and graphic novels. My experience as a reader definitely effects how I approach recommending books for kids, especially kids I don’t know personally like my niece. That’s why I don’t like to recommend books I haven’t read.

For adults who aren’t big readers themselves, I can imagine choosing books for others is a challenge. I salute you. My personal recommendation, if you have absolutely no idea what to buy the bookworm in your life is to just give them a gift card for your local bookstore. It’ll save you the headache, and they can pick out something they like. You can always pair it with a bookmark, or a mug if you want the gift to feel a little more personal.

I’m thinking of reading through a handful of middle grade books over the next month so that I can get a good idea of what might actually peak my nieces interest. When I can’t think of a series, one thing I try to do is to recommend people specific authors who I’ve read extensively like Judy Bloom, Jerry Spinelli, or Kenneth Oppel. All authors who I’ve read multiple works from, and really enjoyed despite not all of their books being contained within a series.

There are just so many great reads to choose from, but each person has their own preference and I feel it’s important to take that into consideration.

Another little project that I’ve started is that I’ve been creating lists of middle-grade books based on certain topics such as sports, theatre, mystery, family, spooky, pirates…etc…because this can really help figure out what books to recommend. Once my list is a little more organized, I’m going to post it on my blog, with the description. This is is going to include a chunk of books that I haven’t read, but just because something isn’t my cup of tea doesn’t mean it isn’t good and I want this list to be filled with books that I can come back to with my niece or a family friend with kids and go, “You really like basket ball, there’s this entire series on that, or you can read this book over here where the kids on the team have to hunt down a thief.”

I love helping people find their next favourite book, so for me this is kind of just a fun little project to do in between working and writing. I hope this list is useful, and I can’t wait to add more to it as I go.

Stepping Stones by Lucy Knisley

Summary

Jen is used to not getting what she wants. So suddenly moving to the country and getting new stepsisters shouldn’t be too much of a surprise.

Jen did not want to leave the city. She did not want to move to a farm with her mom and her mom’s new boyfriend, Walter. She did not want to leave her friends and her dad.

Most of all, Jen did not want to get new “sisters,” Andy and Reese.

If learning new chores on Peapod Farm wasn’t hard enough, then having to deal with perfect-at-everything Andy might be the last straw for Jen. Besides cleaning the chicken coop, trying to keep up with the customers at the local farmers’ market, and missing her old life, Jen has to deal with her own insecurities about this new family . . . and where she fits in. –Goodreads

Thoughts

Stepping Stones was such a wonderful book! The illustrations by Lucy Knisley were lovely and the story was paced perfectly. I loved the development of each of the characters and how Jen navigated and adjusted to life on Peapod Farm.
From the moment I started reading I was already recommending this book to friends. It was excellent. Definitely one my top 10 middle grade graphic novels I’ve read this year.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

September Manga Reads

This month I’ve been trying to catch up on my manga TBR…and I actually got through it last night which now means I can order my next handful of books, hooray!

I read a variety of books ranging from thriller to romance, and I have to say I was extremely happy with each of these. Everything I read, I rated a full 5 stars.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Kings Beast Volume 2 & 3

I’m really enjoying this series so far. I’ve had a lot of fun revisiting Rei Toma’s world, especially from the Ajin’s perspective. The artwork is also stunning. I felt this third volume picked up immensely and I can’t wait to read the next. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but one of my favourite things that I noticed in this series is whenever Rangestu’s true self comes through, her eyes are drawn softly. She looks more like she did as a child, and more like her twin in these frames. It’s such a small detail but I absolutely love it.

A School Frozen in Time Volume 1

This first volume had me on the edge of my seat. I wasn’t expecting to have my heart racing, or to be so scared I couldn’t fall asleep! It was a really great read. I finished it in one sitting. It was very fast paced and the events leading up to this volumes climax progressed quickly. I would like to add at trigger warning as this book heavily discusses topics of suicide and self-harm. Please proceed with caution. I was expecting it to be sad like Orange or Your Lie in April, since Your Lie in April is by the same person, however…I had my pants scared off! So it is not at all some sad, high school, friendship manga. It made me care about these characters and then it ripped my heart out…in a good way!

A Sign of Affection Volume 3

This series keeps getting better and better. I really adore the artwork, and I think it’s so cute that many of the artists who work on the shojo romance series are friends. I’ve noticed their artwork being featured in each others manga’s! I think that’s so cool. It’s actually made me miss older series where having characters from other manga’s featured in a short was normal. It’s also lovely to see all of these artists uplifting and encouraging one another.

As I mentioned before in my review of the first volume, when reading A Sign of Affection, you can’t help but like Yuki. She’s such a fantastic character, and all the characters around her are equally likeable despite their flaws. I think that’s what I love most about this series aside from the beautiful artwork and the way the author uses the the silent spaces in the text and panels to show the reader Yuki’s perspective. It’s truly well done, and I appreciate the fact that I’m seeing more positive representation of deaf characters in books and film. I hope that this representation continues…it’s something that’s very close to my heart.

Love Me, Love Me Not Volume 6 – 9

The levels of cuteness in this series are too much! It’s so adorable. I can’t wait to get my hands on the next volume. I love how every manga I’ve read by Io Sakisaka is capable of stirring the many feelings that come with love, especially first loves. It’s incredible how she can do that every single time, with a new set of characters. I never feel like I’m reading the same thing twice, or seeing the same characters pasted into different books.

Daytime Shooting Star Volumes 10 & 11

I really don’t want to spoil anything for those who haven’t read this series yet, so instead of my usual rant about you-know-who (I’ll call them S), I’ll be focusing on how fantastic the character development has been. I can’t express how many emotions I’ve felt reading this series. Following these characters has been a rollercoaster! I highly recommend it but will note that the initial relationship in this series is toxic, and I just hope Suzume regains her self-confidence and finds her happiness.

Blood on the Tracks Volumes 2 & 3

This series is so good, but so creepy. I’m constantly at a loss of words while reading Blood on the Tracks. The way the artwork and the story come together to create this eerie…anxiety is incredible. Some of the images are so haunting, that I found myself focusing in on them. I will give a trigger warning for this series as well, as it deals with mental and physical abuse…and you see it more especially in the 2nd and 3rd volumes. The mother’s behaviour is extremely disturbing. There are so many red flags, I’m honestly so worried for all the other characters around her. I would highly recommend this for people who enjoy thriller and horror genres.

Blackbird Vol. 1 – Graphic Novel Review

Nina Rodriguez knows a hidden magical world run by ruthless cabals is hiding in Los Angeles. When a giant magic beast kidnaps her sister, Nina must confront her past (and her demons) to get her sister back and reclaim her life. – Goodreads

Let me start off by saying that the artwork for this graphic novel is absolutely stunning. That’s actually what drew me to it initially.

The colours, the line work, the character design, the detail…it’s so beautiful. I was blown away by how nice it looked and on top of that the story was good too!

I’d been meaning to buy this graphic novel for a while, but kept forgetting about it during the lockdown. I’d been given a gift card and decided to use it towards this book, and I am stoked to read the next volume.

There was also a Sailor Moon reference in here, which was too cute, especially since Nina has a talking black cat named Sharpie.

I think the only thing about this first volume, that I wish was done a little differently would be the hinted romance with Clint. Clint is a very compelling character, but I felt that in certain scenes his chemistry with Nina seemed forced, whereas in others it was perfectly. I know first books can be awkward at times, since the writers are still getting a feel for the characters, setting and plot, so I can understand why the balance was off in one or two places.

Other than that, I can’t wait to find out what happens next! I really enjoyed it.

Rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This to me is definitely worth 5 stars. The artwork was phenomenal, and the storyline was really cool. Honestly, I hope this gets picked up to be a television series because I would binge that so fast!

I loved Nina’s character, and liked how she narrated the story, and her outfits were incredibly cute. Everyone’s were! The colours and lighting were also perfect. It suited the overall atmosphere of the book, which for me personally when it comes to graphic novels is super important.

Mint Chocolate Vol. 2 – Manga Review

Summary

Nanami is not thrilled. In fact, she’s about at her wits’ end. Her crush is living in her house as her stepbrother, he keeps teasing her, and now he’s in the hospital?! Between unexpected guests, nursing the stubborn Kyouhei, and the approach of Christmas, she just can’t catch a break…Without a little bit of Kyouhei’s sweet chocolate, she just might break. – Goodreads


Thoughts

If you read my last review of this series, you will know that I found it very similar to Marmalade Boy, and felt that the pacing was a little off. If you haven’t read that review, that’s okay, to summarize one of the things I liked was that readers were offered insight into Nanami’s thoughts throughout the book, however I did notice that readers who had already been exposed to Marmalade Boy, seemed less likely to enjoy volume one.

Unfortunately, I found that volume 2 of Mint Chocolate also had the same awkward pacing as volume 1. The pace, really doesn’t allow for the reader to fully grasp where the characters are at in their development. Certain scenes felt very rushed, to the point where sometimes it felt like I had missed a panel or a page, but I didn’t. It mentions Kyouhei going to the hospital, and I don’t remember that at all. In fact, all I remember is him getting sick, and Nanami caring for him at home.

Another thing I found was I that I was getting bored during certain scenes. It tended to be the ones that were recycling material from other “and they were roommates” type manga’s. Truthfully the “and they were roommates” trope is one of my favourites but in order for it to work, the characters need to develop naturally, as does their relationship. Here, it seemed like Nanami and Kyouhei were being thrown into different scenarios like, being home alone together, someone having a cold, and Christmas and meanwhile the two of them remained in the same state. I could actually, relate more to Andou, Kyouhei’s friend thinking, “What is wrong with you two?”

In both the first and second volumes the seasons changed so frequently, that it’s nearly impossible to figure out how much time has passed. As a reader it seems bizarre that these large amounts of time keep going by but the characters still seem to be at the same stage they were in volume one. There just wasn’t any real character growth or development. The only thing that we were given was insight into Nanami’s dad dying and more reasoning about Kyouhei being hesitant about being in a relationship after his parents divorce. This insight was good, but it could have been executed better…and possibly not given to us so quickly?

By the end of the second volume, I was still debating on whether or not I wanted to continue this series. I have other series that I absolutely adored but am still trying to track down because of the manga shortage, which is why I decided to try some new ones, but…I can’t tell if this series is worth giving another shot.

That fact is, that I don’t dislike the characters. There are times when I find Kyouhei is unnecessarily mean to Nanami, and I can’t understand why she would have a crush on him, but I wouldn’t say I dislike Kyouhei. Out of all the characters, I actually prefer the oblivious parents and Andou. My only comment on Nanami’s friends is that two of them look like her, and it gets confusing in the panels they’re in. Her one nosy classmate from volume one seemed interesting, and I think it would have been nice to see her make a reappearance but it seems like many of the ther characters were brushed aside in order to squeeze in these different, fast paced scenarios during this volume.

Strangely enough, my favourite scenes were between Kyouhei and Andou. It was more interesting seeing the two of them discussing Nanami, versus following Nanami around while she got lost in her head thinking about whether or not Kyouhei liked her.

The very end of the Christmas scene was cute, but again it felt very rushed. I’m not going to give away any spoilers about the details of this scene, other than the fact that this portion was done well. The rest of the manga made me think of a poorly done retelling of Marmalade Boy and for the vast majority I was bored.

I honestly hoped the second volume would surprise me, and that the story would pick up but it just felt flat until that final chapter. There was no sense of urgency, or any tension between the characters, and when it comes to the many categories within the forbidden love trope, I feel that having that it is necessary.


Rating

How I do my ratings

5 stars means the book was fantastic and went beyond my expectations.

4 stars means the book was great.

3 stars means a book was good, but could improve in some areas.

2 stars means it was just okay.

1 star means it wasn’t for me.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

I’ve decided to rate volume 2 of Mint Chocolate a little less than volume 1. I feel like I’m being generous by giving it 2.5 stars, but I found that the first volume had more potential. This volume on the other hand, fell flat.

I still think that this series can redeem itself, and I truly believe that those of us who had already been introduced to Marmalade Boy when we were younger, already have high expectations for a shojo manga using this trope. However series like Andante, Me and my Brothers and more recently Love Me Love Me Not, have used this same branch of the forbidden love trope and all of them executed it flawlessly. Many focusing more on the characters personal growth than their living situation.

I would definitely recommend this series to someone who hasn’t already been introduced to this trope through Marmalade Boy, because I believe based on other peoples reviews, it is actually a good series, but when you’ve been exposed to other books within this trope, it feels lacking in comparison. I also don’t normally like to compare books when reading but because of the title in relation to the characters, and the whole set up it really makes it difficult not to.