Title: Miles Morales: Shock Waves Author: Justin A. Reynolds, Pablo Leon, Geoffo (Illustrator), Ariana Maher (Letterer) Genre: comic book; middle grade; superheroes; sci-fi Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Miles Morales is a normal kid who happens to juggle school at Brooklyn Visions Academy while swinging through the streets of Brooklyn as Spider-Man. After a disastrous earthquake strikes his mother’s birthplace of Puerto Rico, Miles springs into action to help set up a fundraiser for the devastated island. But when a new student’s father goes missing, Miles begins to make connections between the disappearance and a giant corporation sponsoring Miles’ fundraiser. Who is behind the disappearance, and how does that relate to Spider-Man?
Review: 3 stars
I think this was one of my first actual comic book-esque experiences. I love the Spiderverse movie and wanted to see if the Miles Morales books stood up to that. I enjoyed the story, especially the snippets of his family and home life, but I did not like the format. That’s on me.
The story begins talking about Hurricane Maria, and I liked the contemporary, real feel of that – like a superhero and his family trying to do a fundraiser for Puerto Rico. It grounded the story for me in a really cool way.
After that, we meet Miles’ new friend Kyle, and her dad, and this is where the story takes off. Kyle’s dad works for one of the really important businesses where all villains come from in comic book movies. Said villain (soon to be understood as such) tells Kyle’s dad that he’ll sponsor the Hurricane Maria fundraiser. Then we don’t really hear much more about that.
Miles does his spidey-thing and meets up with Peter Parker to talk about growing pains. I enjoyed this too – a teenager would still need a mentor, and in this universe, Miles doesn’t have an Iron Man to connect to.
Overall, it took me a second to figure out how the petty crimes Miles is trying to stop connected to the overall arching plot point (the business). I liked the reveal, and the questions this reveal brought up, especially with Kyle’s Dad being a victim of it.
I would absolutely attempt the next one, but I don’t think comics are really my thing.
Title: The Witch’s Heart Author: Genevieve Gornichec Genre: fantasy; mythology retelling (Norse); romance; paranormal (witches); LGBT Synopsis: (from goodreads) When a banished witch falls in love with the legendary trickster Loki, she risks the wrath of the gods in this moving, subversive debut novel that reimagines Norse mythology.
Angrboda’s story begins where most witches’ tales end: with a burning. A punishment from Odin for refusing to provide him with knowledge of the future, the fire leaves Angrboda injured and powerless, and she flees into the farthest reaches of a remote forest. There she is found by a man who reveals himself to be Loki, and her initial distrust of him transforms into a deep and abiding love.
Their union produces three unusual children, each with a secret destiny, who Angrboda is keen to raise at the edge of the world, safely hidden from Odin’s all-seeing eye. But as Angrboda slowly recovers her prophetic powers, she learns that her blissful life—and possibly all of existence—is in danger.
With help from the fierce huntress Skadi, with whom she shares a growing bond, Angrboda must choose whether she’ll accept the fate that she’s foreseen for her beloved family…or rise to remake their future. From the most ancient of tales this novel forges a story of love, loss, and hope for the modern age.
Review: 5/5 stars
** spoiler alert **
The way the author weaves this modern retelling around the saga inspired Norse myth is fantastic. I love the way it starts and then begins again so many times. Ever since watching The Haunting of Hill House, I think of the line Nel says at the end, “Time is like confetti” a LOT. This book brought me back to this idea so often as we learned more and more about Angrboda’s saga.
On her own, Angrboda seems to have this amazing arc of humanity in her own right, she’s the one Odin couldn’t kill, the one who heals, the fierce mother, the independent woman, and the Mother Witch. It takes her a while to figure out who she is, but being on that journey with her is wonderful.
Having read this after growing up with Norse myth and the Marvel Universe, this is a refreshing take. In all versions of her story, she is a fierce mother. I love Angrboda’s relationships with Hel, Fenrir, and Jormundgandr. She may be the “mother of monsters” in myth, but in this story, she is just their mother, and wants nothing more than to fiercely protect. The betrayal and hurt is palpable when her children are taken. The writing is so strong and so vivid, it was excruciating to read.
In more recent Norse retellings, it’s Thor the hero, or Loki, the love ale trickster, or Odin, the benevolent. In this, they are not how they’ve been portrayed in the MCU. Thor is a a menace at best, a villain at worst; Loki has many faces, and the hurt and betrayal he is capable of shocked me. Odin seemed to be the most straightforward.
One of my favorite dynamics was between the women— Skadi, Sigyn, Freyja, Gerd, Angrboda, Hel, the she-wolf. There are so many instances of strong women being at odds with one another, but in the end, coming together anyway. Skadi helps Angrboda even though she doesn’t know her, Gerd teaches Hel nailbinding, Freyja helps Angrboda figure out seid again even though they are absolutely on opposite sides, and Angrboda and Sigyn come together in understanding before Ragnarok.
I appreciated that not everyone got a full blown ending too, just pieces of story as told by someone else. Like Gerd, she wasn’t given a redemption, just a final sentence or two from Skadi to help Angrboda come to a decision about understanding and forgiveness and where she stands. Sigyn too, after Loki’s punishment doesn’t really get any final ending either, just an unspoken second chance after Loki is killed in Ragnarok.
I think my favorite scene in the novel is when the bonds are broken and Angrboda is reunited with her sons. It was so touching and sweet. The notion that the brothers stayed in contact with one another, and that they did not hold anything against their mother — in fact calling her, “Mama” to start, was so comforting.
Overall, I think the cyclical nature of this book is what kept me so intrigued. The language and storytelling was just plain beautiful.
Title: The New Kid Author: Jerry Craft Genre: YA graphic novel; realistic fiction; code switching; Black culture Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Seventh grader Jordan Banks loves nothing more than drawing cartoons about his life. But instead of sending him to the art school of his dreams, his parents enroll him in a prestigious private school known for its academics, where Jordan is one of the few kids of color in his entire grade.
As he makes the daily trip from his Washington Heights apartment to the upscale Riverdale Academy Day School, Jordan soon finds himself torn between two worlds—and not really fitting into either one. Can Jordan learn to navigate his new school culture while keeping his neighborhood friends and staying true to himself?
Review: 5 stars
Jerry Craft created something really special with The New Kid. I loved every moment of this book. This had something for everyone, but I thought it was really wonderful as a magnet school teacher. It reminded me that I should always be learning, trying to be better – not just a surface ally for different communities.
Jordan goes to a private school and immediately feels the effects of having to code switch between his home life and his school life. He meets a lot of interesting people along the way – some good natured, and some not. There’s a teacher that always calls the minority students by the wrong name. There’s a POC teacher who always gets called “coach” even though he isn’t a coach. There are some really great friends made along the way too.
When Jordan meets up with his grandfather, his grandfather makes this analogy to Jordan’s Chinese food ordering past. He tells him that he doesn’t necessarily needs to just like one thing, and somethings can be combined. This helps Jordan come to terms with his white friend, Liam, and his Black friend Drew, being in the same circle. It also helps him reconnect with Kirk, his Washington Heights friend. He learns he doesn’t have to have just one kind of friend, and doesn’t have to keep all of them separate.
The New Kid is a really great medium for young readers who go through the educational systems we have in the US. Magnets, privates, charters – these can all be isolating places, and the way Craft writes it is really raw, illustrative, and clean.
Title: Under the Whispering Door Author: TJ Klune Genre: fantasy; paranormal (ghosts); romance; LGBT Synopsis: (from Goodreads) When a reaper comes to collect Wallace Price from his own funeral, Wallace suspects he really might be dead.
Instead of leading him directly to the afterlife, the reaper takes him to a small village. On the outskirts, off the path through the woods, tucked between mountains, is a particular tea shop, run by a man named Hugo. Hugo is the tea shop’s owner to locals and the ferryman to souls who need to cross over.
But Wallace isn’t ready to abandon the life he barely lived. With Hugo’s help he finally starts to learn about all the things he missed in life.
When the Manager, a curious and powerful being, arrives at the tea shop and gives Wallace one week to cross over, Wallace sets about living a lifetime in seven days.
By turns heartwarming and heartbreaking, this absorbing tale of grief and hope is told with TJ Klune’s signature warmth, humor, and extraordinary empathy.
Review: 5/5 stars
This is an interesting book to help cope with loss. It wasn’t what I expected to walk away with after reading it, but even now, a few weeks later, I keep thinking about this book.
This book is a sweet and slow read. I took my time, and I’m glad I did. I savored the character developments, the themes, and my own emotional process.
I don’t really have more to say about this – Klune is great at creating full and rich characters, and the storytelling is super strong. What I really walked away with were my own feelings about grief, processing, and moving on. Super powerful.
Title: The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina Author: Zoraida Cordova Genre: new adult; fantasy; magical realism; dual POV; paranormal; contemporary; horror Synopsis: (from Goodreads) The Montoyas are used to a life without explanations. They know better than to ask why the pantry never seems to run low or empty, or why their matriarch won’t ever leave their home in Four Rivers—even for graduations, weddings, or baptisms. But when Orquídea Divina invites them to her funeral and to collect their inheritance, they hope to learn the secrets that she has held onto so tightly their whole lives. Instead, Orquídea is transformed, leaving them with more questions than answers.
Seven years later, her gifts have manifested in different ways for Marimar, Rey, and Tatinelly’s daughter, Rhiannon, granting them unexpected blessings. But soon, a hidden figure begins to tear through their family tree, picking them off one by one as it seeks to destroy Orquídea’s line. Determined to save what’s left of their family and uncover the truth behind their inheritance, the four descendants travel to Ecuador—to the place where Orquídea buried her secrets and broken promises and never looked back.
Review: 5 stars
There was a lot to love in this book. When I started this book, I was still coming off the high of Mexican Gothic by Sylvia Moreno-Garcia and wow was I in for a treat. This book captured some of that magical realism and horror that I was jonesing for after MG, but in a completely new and captivating way.
Inheritance is a Dual-POV book and flashes forward and backward in time with Orquidea being one perspective (the past) and Marimar being the other (the present). These perspectives overlap and fill in a lot of the blanks that arise, but it takes some time (about 50 pages or so) to really figure out what’s happening. There is a lot of mystery and unanswered questions until the last 75 pages or so, and I can understand how that might be a turn off for some readers. But I really enjoyed the ride.
Right away, we’re introduced to a TON of characters. All of Orquidea’s descendants. Then even some ghosts from her past. We learn right away that she’s dying and everyone needs to go back to the family homestead to figure out what to do next. Like I said, we meet a TON of people in this instance.
However, Cordova gives us some clues as to the ones we really need to pay attention to: Rey, Tatinelly, and Marimar. While all the other family members are important for various reasons; grudges, hope; music; future plot points, the three that matter are given some space to be introduced. They’re also singled out with flowers / buds growing out of their skin. This includes, after she is born, Rhiannon (Tatinelly’s daughter).
But when Orquidea refuses to answer questions, dies, and then literally turns into a tree that burns down the family house, it gets chaotic. Years pass and lives move on, but there’s this itch that the three main members can’t shake. And then when Rhiannon is like 7, all of the predictions, secrets, and prophecies come back to get them.
Some of the previously introduced family members are killed in mysterious ways (remember, future plot point) and Tati, Rey, and Marimar think they’re being stalked. Everyone comes back to the family house (that Marimar rebuilt over the last few years – she’s the matriarch now) to regroup.
In between all of the present-day stuff, we learn about Orquidea, bastard daughter of the waves, born cursed. Her childhood story is just as appealing as the present-day narrative. We learn that she talked and bartered with a river monster god when she was a child, and then runs off with the circus after being little more than a Cinderella type character with her step-family (and mother).
Along the way, we also learn about Marimar’s family – her mother who died in a drowning accident, mysteriously. Marimar’s goal is to learn more about her father – someone Orquidea refuses to talk about her whole life, even into her death.
Rhiannon can speak to the dead, and the flowers, and kinda everything? She hears Orquidea as a tree and tells the rest that they just need to try harder. Her character is kind of amazing, actually. The childlike wonder that we’re all born with never goes away, and hers is enhanced by the magic of her family – something no one really, truly, understands.
When they travel back to Ecuador to scatter the ashes of one of those dead family members (again, future plot point, remember?) they meet Orquidea’s youngest step sister and learn even more about the quest they’re all on. Tati, Rhiannon, Rey, and Marimar all go. It’s here that their powers (the flowers/buds in their skin) make most sense. It’s also here that they finally learn the secrets of Orquidea Divina and her first love.
Marimar learns more about her father, Tatinelly figures out her power, and all of them figure out how to connect to the tree back in their family home – their grandmother’s essence.
Honestly, I loved this book. I would read any off-shoots that came from this, but I think it was so well-written that I doubt there will be any.
Title: The Alpha’s Warlock Author: Eliot Grayson Genre: paranormal romance; fantasy; shapeshifting; adventure; mystery Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Cursed, mated, and in for the fight of their lives…
Warlock Nate Hawthorne just wants a cup of coffee. Is that too much to ask? Apparently. Because instead of precious caffeine, all he gets is cursed by a pack of werewolves who want to use him for his magic. Now the only way to fix the damage is a mate bond to a grumpy and oh-so-sexy alpha in the rival pack, who happens to hate him. This is so not how he wanted to start his day.
Ian Armitage never intended to take Nate as his mate. The Hawthorne family can’t be trusted. Ian knows that better than anyone. The fact that he’s lusted after the way-too-gorgeous man for years? Totally irrelevant. Ian’s just doing what is necessary to protect his pack. This whole mating arrangement has nothing to do with love and never will. That’s his story and he’s sticking to it.
Nate and Ian will have to work together if they have any hope of staving off the pack’s enemies and averting disaster. That’s assuming they can stop arguing (and keep their hands off each other) long enough to save the day…
The Alpha’s Warlock is an explicit M/M paranormal romance featuring a snarky warlock, a brooding alpha werewolf, knotting, enchanted socks (long story), and a guaranteed happily ever after.
Review: 4/5 stars
Content Warning: childhood-into-adult abuse by a parent; attempted rape (if I remember properly)
I loved the character weaving in this story. We start with Nate, the not-so-great warlock in this really horrible situation, and when he gets free, he finds himself with nowhere safe to go but to the werewolves. The way this story creates moments for the characters to develop is so well done. Nate and Ian definitely fulfill the enemies to lovers trope – with Ian being the broody, always angry one and Nate being the soft one in need of reassurance.
I did NOT mind those cliche roles in this story. Where in some cases that “omg I need someone to tell me I’m good enough” role is so annoying because that’s the extent of it, Grayson actually does something with Nate’s character. Nate’s balance of trauma and humor (sometimes as a mask for that trauma and sometimes just because his inner monologue is hilarious) is refreshing. He’s not all “save me” and he isn’t all “I can do this on my own” either.
Ian’s “hate that I love you” is obnoxious at times, but only because it’s not in Ian’s point of view. That’s the idea, I guess, but I hate it at times.
Overall, the story was GOOD. It was a good mystery / adventure. It was funny, it was silly, it was loving, and it was healing. Sometimes wild, but so good.
Title: The Mystery of the Moon Tower & The Curse of Crystal Cavern Author: Francesco Sedita, Prescott Seraydarian, Steve Hamaker (Illustrations) Genre: MG graphic novel; adventure; quest; mystery Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Book 1: The Young Pathfinders is a graphic novel adventure story featuring a diverse group of kids thrown together in a summer camp project. Researching their town’s history leads to a mysterious, abandoned castle that was once home to an eccentric inventor, and may still be home to great treasure.
Book 2: Fresh from their hair-raising adventures in The Mystery of the Moon Tower, Kyle, Vic, Beth, Harry, and Nate are now hot on the trail of something big! A secret staircase leads down into the unknown, setting them on an exciting chase for clues left by the wealthy explorer Henry Merriweather, who was rumored to have hidden away a priceless treasure. Are the legends real? Where will the five friends end up? And what dangers will they encounter along the way? Because as they’ve come to learn, everything comes at a price…
Review: 3 stars
These were fun, MG graphic novels. The first book picks up en media res and then jumps to the present where we’re introduced to the new kid, Kyle. He’s quickly taken in by other Pathfinders at a summer camp and they become friends. There’s a rating scale on who can talk to who (cute and funny) and then all of the sudden, C rating kids are talking to A ratings kids with no problem. The actual camp life is not developed much at all because almost immediately, this new found friend group of 6 are all thrown onto this quest for a treasure that really isn’t introduced.
The rest of book 1 (TBC’d in book 2) is about said quest. They go all around the town, looking for clues and end up at the millionaire town-founder’s mansion. Here they learn that the last living descendent is stuck trying to find enough money to save the mansion, or risk handing it over to some quarry developers.
There’s a fun element of magical realism that begins here, sort of. The gang is able to see the past, in these really cool visions at just the right time in their journey. This element of past brought into the future is really interesting to me. I like that the dead speak to the living, even if the kids aren’t sure why or how.
This magical realism is never really developed, or explained, the kids just kind of go, “Uh, sure, this is what life is now, right?” and continue on with the quest.
The quest itself is very scavenger hunt. I like that aspect too. It could be realized in a school setting or a small town to be repeated if someone had enough time. The kids all have their own skills that aid in the quest (Kyle can sketch and draw anything they see, one of the girls has a knack for numbers, the other girl is a history buff, the two other boys are 1. comedic relief and 2. kind of a builder / maker). This allows for everyone to A.B.R (always be ready) for whatever comes next.
I would absolutely read the 3rd book in the series, just to see how the quest turns out! Can the kids save the town, or will it end up in the hands of developers hoping to modernize it?
Title: The Meaning of Myth: With 12 Greek Myths Retold and Interpreted by a Psychiatrist Author: Neel Burton Genre: mythology; psychology; nonfiction; Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Not just the stories, but what they mean.
What is myth, and why does it have such a hold on the human mind? How does myth relate to near forms such as legend and fairy tale, and to other modes of understanding such as religion and science? What is a hero, what is a monster, and what function does magic serve? How has our relationship with myth and mythology changed over the centuries? And are there any modern myths?
These are a few of the fascinating questions that psychiatrist and philosopher Neel Burton explores in the first part of this book. In the second part, he puts theory into practice to unravel 12 of the most captivating Greek myths, including Echo and Narcissus, Eros and Psyche, and Prometheus and Pandora (see the full contents list below).
These myths have been haunting us for millennia, but are they really, as has been claimed, the repositories of deep wisdom and mystical secrets?
This was a really fun and engaging read from start to finish. For those interested in mythology and in psychology, this book is broken down into two sections:
The meaning of myth
In part 1, Burton spends a good chunk of time breaking down the idea and concept of mythology and it’s importance in the classical world. This is hugely important for people who (no shade) rely on Percy Jackson to understand mythology. This will provide a good primer-level background for life, definitions, and key roles for myth in the golden age of Greece. A reader will need all of this to beat understand part two.
In part 1, I particularly loved his chapter 8 on Magic and the tropes in our lore. He writes, “Magic is fading or has been banished from the land, which is in deathly decline—caught, perhaps, in a perpetual winter—and the hero is called upon to rescue and restore the life-giving forces of old. There is, of course, a glaring parallel with our own world, in which magic has been slowly driven out, first by religion, which over the centuries became increasingly repressive of magic, and more latterly by science, which, for all its advantages, struggles to meet our emotional needs.” In each chapter, he explains elements or themes of importance, and explains how they are still relevant thousands of years later. He also provides images to solidify his claims, which I enjoyed greatly.
In part 2, he takes some of the most famous myths (Medusa, Theseus, Odysseus, Pygmalion) and first retells them from the original sources and then begins to analyze them. For some, this may seem redundant as these myths are quite popular but for me (a life long reader of myth), I quite enjoyed the retelling. I don’t think a book like this could get away without the retelling aspect.
Each chapter is set up with a detailed retellings from as far back a source as possible, Plato’s Republic, Ovid even. And then, Burton provides an image inspired my the myth (sculpture, painting, etc), and then his analysis begins. Much of it is grounded in historical context from Greco-Roman society, and then he branches into a more modern take— why we still read them today and how they’re still archetypes for people, relationships, case studies, etc.
Not once did I feel like this nonfiction text was over my head, using jargon I didn’t understand or couldn’t comprehend. I enjoyed this reading from start to finish.
I received this copy from NetGalley for an honest review.
Title: Anya’s Ghost Author: Vera Brosgol Genre: graphic novel; ya fiction; mystery; horror; paranormal Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Anya could really use a friend. But her new BFF isn’t kidding about the “Forever” part.
Of all the things Anya expected to find at the bottom of an old well, a new friend was not one of them. Especially not a new friend who’s been dead for a century.
Falling down a well is bad enough, but Anya’s normal life might actually be worse. She’s embarrassed by her family, self-conscious about her body, and she’s pretty much given up on fitting in at school. A new friend—even a ghost—is just what she needs.
Or so she thinks. Spooky, sardonic, and secretly sincere, Anya’s Ghost is a wonderfully entertaining debut from author/artist Vera Brosgol.
Review: 4 stars
One of my students told me to read this because I’d really like it. When I started reading it, I understood why. It’s dark, it’s sarcastic, and it’s full of horror-adjacent content. I didn’t think it was scary–scary, but the concepts within it (falling in a deep hole with no one around to save you or hear you scream, becoming haunted by a ghost, and then being chased by one) are all in there.
The student who told me to read it is a first generation immigrant from Russia. This book hit home for him, because Anya goes out of her way to get rid of her FOB status and become “American.” My kiddo recognized that in himself. The way Anya develops over the course of the book, from trying to be cool by smoking and thinking everything is lame, changes when she’s confronted with “everything she’s ever wanted.” She realizes that sometimes appearances are deceiving and not everything is as it seems.
What struck me the most is Anya’s crush, and how that storyline plays out. I was not expecting him to be a player and for his uber popular girlfriend to literally be standing outside the bedroom door while he hooks up with another girl. That was rough. But that’s really what turned everything around for Anya, a really cold bucket of water over her head.
I loved the way things got out of control. It was a slow spiral that ended up being almost fatal to her family. But that’s when she takes back the control and does what she needs to in order to protect herself, her family, and kind of everyone else at high school.
My student really liked it, but the one thing he really hated was that Anya smoked. “That’s gross.”
Title: Meant to Be: If the Shoe Fits Author: Julie Murphy Genre: romance; humor; new adult; contemporary Synopsis: (from Goodreads) After having just graduated with a degree in shoe design, and trying to get her feet on the ground, Cindy is working for her stepmother, who happens to be the executive producer of America’s favorite reality show, Before Midnight. When a spot on the show needs filling ASAP, Cindy volunteers, hoping it might help jump-start her fashion career, or at least give her something to do while her peers land jobs in the world of high fashion.
Turns out being the only plus size woman on a reality dating competition makes a splash, and soon Cindy becomes a body positivity icon for women everywhere. What she doesn’t expect? That she may just find inspiration-and love-in the process. Ultimately, Cindy learns that if the shoe doesn’t fit, maybe it’s time to design your own.
Review: 5/5 stars
It’s not often that the plus size girl gets a whole ass romance plot (and isn’t just a side character) but this one is good! Cinderella meets the Bachelor meets Devil Wears Prada.
The step family in this Cinderella tale isn’t terrible, the Bachelor isn’t terrible, and neither are all the women in the show. The fashion industry isn’t full of superficial 2D characters that hate on sight. There’s a lot of meaningful depth and love in the relationships and characters in this book. I enjoyed watching each of the characters – the main and the sides – get unraveled. They were all so different in personality and expression.
Lots of really strong storytelling and good messaging in this book with an amazing love story woven in there too. In this book, the plus size girl gets a HEA.